Category Archives: waste

eating local

You’ve heard that eating local is the thing to do.  But how about sourcing all your food locally – is that even possible?  From your tea/coffee to your starches (rice, potatoes, pasta), to your drinks.  I’m lucky if I can  arrive at 50% – and that’s in Northern California – where we have ample fruits, vegies, rice, wine, etc.

I would be fortunate to get 50% of my food intake locally.   Starting with my first morning routine: coffee.  How can I  get local coffee when the nearest coffee plantation is in Santa Barbara – 400 miles away?  … and they have 5 acres with beans selling at $60/lb.  How can 90% of consumers in 1st world countries get their coffee or teas locally? Where are the large tea/coffee plantations in the USA or Europe?

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Another consideration in going local on all  food is the seasonality.  It’s easier in summer, difficult in winter.  They say an apple stored in a warehouse for several months, is way carbon intensive than an apple shipped from Chile.  That gives me pause.  Maybe the best solution is dehydration or canning.  Freezing in my book uses way too much energy, although it is quick and convenient.

Again, I am spoiled in California – we have year round greens:  the Salinas valley on the coast has year-round moderate temperatures and hectares of greenhouses.

I think greenhouses, vertical and urban farming have tremendous bright futures as fresh, local food becomes more important to every human.

Is it really local?

The label ‘local’ and ‘regional’ are not regulated.  I don’t trust my local farmer markets anymore.  There are unlabeled white trucks from industrial farms 500 miles away pretending to be local organic farmers.  I ask questions and am connected with local farmers and CSAs where I volunteer and help out on.

For most people the best they can do is join a local CSA and  get to know their own local farmers and pay them fairly.   I find that many local farmers discard  ‘not-so-perfect’ food since customers won’t buy them – so you probably get a bounty of imperfect produce at  low cost.

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Here’s a great article on one European’s experience in sourcing all their food locally…German DW article

http://www.dw.com/en/would-you-eat-local-for-a-week-i-tried-and-discovered-what-eating-green-really-means/a-36751273

 

my eco-dilemna

I constantly live at the intersection of  mainstream or ‘alternative’ lifestyle. Living at WinSol,  there is no cost:  no energy bills, no garbage bills, no water bills, no sewer bills… nada!   Is that alternative? or just nice, even cool?  So when I go live in the mainstream for a few days, I quiet all my judgment, evaluations and comparisons. Over the years I have arrived at a state of equanimity: it just is. I used to just ‘let go’ but eventually found that letting go is the negative form of attraction and is as much of a trap as outright judgment is. So ’empty mind’ and ‘metta’ (as the buddhists say)  fills my mind and heart. But lately, something has come to the forefront of my mind, and I can’t let it go: crockpots!

Lately, I have circled around and focused on crockpots as being the poster child of our continued western decline.  A crockpot by its innocent self contains all the trademarks of our declining civilization going down the rabbit-hole.

At best a crockpot produces a beautiful savory food dish. At worse it could burn your house down. But it’s the space in-between where my judgmental mind can’t seem to let go. Maybe it’s this: in order for WinSol to have a working crockpot I would need to spend over $5,000 increasing my solar panels/controller/battery storage – just to accommodate a 1500watt constantly on electrical heating element. And maybe – just maybe – I am envious of mixing up a casserole, soup or other delicious dish, plugging it in,  walking away… and 5 hours later I can enjoy a savory dish. How convenient is that!!? But the ‘real’ price that I would pay for that is beyond my ‘alternative life style budget’ and WinSol’s philosophy.   Let me explain…

…First of all at WinSol, we live by the sun. We are immersed in the nuances and cycles of nature (real nature). One of our founding principles (WinSol’s manifesto) is that electricity cannot be used for heating and cooling. I’m about 95% there in reality – due to a small solar electric driven freezer.

On a technical basis:  WinSol’s current solar & wind electrical system cannot accommodate a microwave (high-surge induction load), or any electrical heating elements like a toaster, convection oven, space heater, or crockpot. I miss the convenience of a toaster more than anything, but have developed a work-around using a gas burner. I could probably develop an alternative to a crockpot using a pressure cooker or a double pot over a gas burner – but why?  I remember a past eco-dilemna that had to do with making bread….

Bread maker?   I think the easiest explanation for my behaviour change is an electric breadmaker. Before I moved to WinSol , I used an electric breadmaker twice a week to make beautifully home-baked, healthy bread without chemicals. But was it really ‘home’ made? I think it was closer to being ‘microprocessor’ made. A few years back, a friend and I decided to make bread the old fashioned way, and I reconnected with the passion of true artisan bread. There’s something
very cool and ‘right as rain’ about kneading, rising, kneading, rising and baking a loaf of bread from three ingredients… talk about being a purist!! And that’s really what an electric breadmaker and crockpot takes away – the artisan element.  (besides using a WHOLE bunch of electricity, high-embodied energy, shelf space, another convenience contraption, another appliance that’ll break and has designed obsolesce built in… geezh! tell me how you really feel :-)!

Artisans   What would our world be like without artists and artisans? As technology encroaches further and further into minimizing real artistry I will stubbornly cling to WinSol’s ‘alternative’ and artisan lifestyle and not enjoy the conveniences of crockpots.

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Sidebar….What’s ‘Alternative’ ?

Everywhere we hear ‘alt – right’, alternative news, alternative energy… I really dislike the word: ‘alternative’. Alternative to what? Is it a good or bad alternative? Does something really need an alternative? Isn’t it really just different rather than alternate?

Take alternative energy for instance. Most (all?) people know that alternative energy is that green stuff: solar, wind, geothermal. But oil, coal, natural gas are the REAL alternatives, because ALL our energy comes from our only energy source: the sun. One of my fun sound bites is: ‘Oil is renewable, you just have to wait a couple million years’.

So can we agree that ‘alternative’ is in the mind of the beholder?

two WOW’s

It’s a long time between my ‘WOW’s.  After decades and ramblings around, it takes something special & extraordinary to elicit this reaction. Here’s two in the last week:         1) DrawDown                           2) Scandanavian electric cars

Book

DrawDown is Paul Hawken’s latest (swan song?) endeavor along his philosophy of ‘natural capitalism‘ and ‘ecology of commerce‘… in other words they’re solution based. I’m a BIG fan of Paul over the decades, but he’s outdone himself on this one. I knew about drawdown a few years ago and could never quite figure out what it was about until recently. When I attended his sold out (250+) pre-release at the Oakland Impact HUB last week – a big WOW again. Paul’s original thinking and limitless passion are unique in the USA.  Dr. Michael Braungart told me 10 years ago that Paul was the best example of a ‘european eco-dude’ in our midst. I say that with all the love in the world:  a european eco-dude in our midst (sounds like a book or song title) is my way of saying forward thinking with social/economic/environmental balances on the cutting edge within a long-term systems thinking strategic view: like Michael’s green chemistry and C2C endeavors.

Drawdown’s mission & vision:

The Mission

Project Drawdown is facilitating a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions in order to describe their beneficial financial, social and environmental impact over the next thirty years.

The Vision

To date, the full range and impact of climate solutions have not been explained in a way that bridges the divide between urgency and agency. Thus the aspirations of people who want to enact meaningful solutions remain largely untapped. Dr. Leon Clark, one of the lead authors of the IPCC 5th Assessment, wrote, “We have the technologies, but we really have no sense of what it would take to deploy them at scale.” Together, let’s figure it out.

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This solution based book (database/case studies) and website (which is VERY deep) is a compilation of the world’s best think tanks and scientific research on carbon reduction projects. In 2001, Paul asked: …‘what are the top five things we should be doing to reverse the CO2 trend?’… no one knew. Fifteen years later, there was still no consensus.  Three years ago, Paul decided to assemble a team of researchers and scientists to answer this question, and he has succeeded. It’ll be interesting to see how the vested interests and climate change mafia (Paul’s words) aka IPCC will react to this seminal work.

In a nutshell, drawdown has three CO2 forecast scenarios: business as usual, adopting 80 solutions, optimistic adoption. In the latter, we could start actually REVERSING global CO2 buildup by 2045. WOW – who would’ve thought that was possible even in the next hundred years! Most pundits including the IPCC, Bill McKibben, etc… have stated that even if we stop all CO2 emissions right now, levels would not go down for hundreds of years. Paul Hawken says otherwise – and more power to him.

Quick summary (spoiler alert) is that even though Refrigerant management is the #1 solution (HFC’s are 100X+ more potent than CO2) combining (#6) educating girls and (#7) family planning makes it over 119 Gton of CO2 reduction, AND combining (#3) reducing food waste and (#4) plant rich diet wheat food also makes it over 136Gton of CO2 reduction. So focusing on women and food instead of energy and transportation would be a better start.

Thanks for refocusing us, Paul. He’ll be at several book signings in the Bay Area if you want to thank him personally…. I know I will, again and again. Stay tuned for Drawdown #2 as there are another 100 coming attraction (solutions) in the works by Paul and his team.

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Electric cars in Norway: 40% of all cars sold in Norway are electric. Norway has set a goal to be 100% electric cars by 2025. WOW. Considering that StatOil is one of the world leading oil producers, and that Norway isn’t exactly located in the sunniest climate = it’s an ambitious and admirable goal.  For starters:  “Earlier this year, Norway opened the world’s largest fast-charging station, which can charge up to 28 vehicles in about half an hour.”  So maybe Germany, China, California can take a clue from Norwegians and emulate them.

One a side note, a couple weeks ago California crossed a milestone and produced 50% of its electrical demand from renewables. And they said it couldn’t be done… by 2020! That’s our current goal: 50% of our energy from renewables by 2020. And we crossed that threshold three years early. Now the challenge is to increase its frequency and duration.

Slash waste

When I worked at Toyota (TMS)  20+ years ago, I remember seeing a guy in the dock area of the San Ramon PDC pounding away with a sledge hammer. When I walked over I saw he was smashing up perfectly good A/C units, water pumps, alternators,  etc.     I asked why he was doing that and got the standard response ‘that’s what they told me to do’.  When I asked the regional manager, he said they were destroying units so they couldn’t be resold on the black market!

In a recent NYT article (link here) it was the same scenario: Manhattan’s big Nike store was discarding outdated ‘Kobe’ gym shoes by the dozens, but not before someone slashed the entire shoe to render it useless. There’s actually a Federal law that requires this! Outrageous? It gets even better (worse!)

The reason apparel retailers slash their shoes, clothings, accessories is basically two fold: to stop counterfeiters and hawkers from reselling them, so they can’t be worn by people who are obviously unable to afford them.

These retailers had tried to donate outdated and discarded goods to the homeless in the past, but incidents like 2005 Katrina (when FEMA unloaded a warehouse stocked with counterfeit garments to evacuees) had the retailers up in arms and they lobbied for a federal law forbidding such ‘handouts’.

Now come-on…this is  un-common (non)sense! What in the world is the possible ‘good’ here?   besides profits of course…

The embodied energy and outrageous prices charged for these items is where the real ‘sin’ is, not the counterfeit/poor ‘can’t be wearing this’ market.

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I don’t know how to start a boycott, but we gotta get the word out about this and pressure these retailers and manufacturers to stop this obvious ‘over-the-top’ waste.

It’s not always just about business and fattening the bottom line and holding on to market share – sometimes it’s just OK to take a hit for the team, and do something good for the less fortunate. It’s up to the less-fortunate to figure out their ethics and moral code too – the hawkers who abscond the seconds & resell them for their own gains.

Heaven forbid that Nike should marginalize their next-gen gym shoe by selling off outdated shoes at a heavy discount or allowing poor people some uplifting grace by letting them feel like a ‘million bucks’. Please….

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Side note where is your data right now? :  If you think your data is safe on Amazon S3 or Google doc servers, think again.  Along with the Dyn outage last year (surprisingly co-inciding with another more famous hacker attack), this article details some of the risks (link here).