Posts tagged Environment

Things that are just plain stupid

I consider myself to be a fan of bicycling.  I’m not perhaps the most hard-core messenger-criticalmass-mountain-biker, but as I don’t own a car and have a love/hate relationship with the Chicago bus system, I biked to work on a regular basis into December this past year.  But… well, then it was winter. In Chicago. And I’m just not that bad ass.

That being said, the birds are now chirping and the month of May has brought around the beginning of summer in Chicago like a fresh cup of coffee that slowly awakens the morning. That’s a terrible metaphor, but go with it, I’m tired (hence the coffee imagery).  And so, with summer, come the return of the bikers!

“Hurray!” says the environment!  “Bloody shit,” say thousands of drivers.

Now, I say this as a bike-lover myself… sometimes the bikers in Chicago make no sense.  Most cyclists are fine, but the ones who aren’t stand out and give a bad name to the rest of us.  For instance: Any biker who rides on Ashland Avenue. WTF? Why? Way to bike someplace where there is not only no bike lane, but there’s barely room for two cars, so that people have to swerve into other lanes to go around you. Oh, and way to do it at rush hour.

But fine. Sure. Mostly it’s just asinine nitpicky things that different bikers see different ways.  But one thing I just find plain damn stupid:

Where the FUCK is your helmet???

Honestly, driving to work this morning, I counted the cyclists I passed – of the 18 I passed, only 6 of them were wearing helmets.  And 4 of them were obviously a family biking to school.

One woman had her helmet with her, not on her head, but naturally instead in her bike basket.

YES. BECAUSE THAT WILL SAVE YOU WHEN THIS HAPPENS:

BIKE SMASHY

BIKE SMASHY

For realz.  This is just plain damn stupid.

All I can say is:

Helmets are hot

Helmets are hot

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A bit of hypocrisy to commemorate Earth Day

As previously stated, I have the pridenaypleasure of working for an environmental consulting firm.

Without getting into the dull details of what working at an “environmental consulting firm” actually entails, I’ll just clarify and say it means we do a lot of work with making sure people meet the lowest standards of environmental cleanliness.  None of this “activism” shit.

Anywho, despite this, the company is quite proud of its environmental stewardship, and actually does an increasingly proficient job of attempting to be “environmentally-yay”.  We collect rain water to reuse, compost food scraps, recycle up to 80% of all waste, and recently had 40 solar panels installed on the roof.  Overall, we do a fairly good job at the whole Earth-conscious thing for a mid-sized company.

Despite this, there still remains a few glaringly environmentally hypocritical aspects about our business, i.e. that our president prints out every. single. email. he receives (granted, on scrap paper, and sometimes 2 to a page).  Mind you, we email him all of his phone messages and Microsoft Inbox automatically saves your emails – inbox, sent, deleted – and you can search within your folders.

However, my favorite Walk-the-Walk: Fail occurs in the kitchen.  Again, as previously stated in past entries, I’m lucky enough to work at a company where lunch is provided several times a week.  The aspect that bugs me about this, though, is that despite the fact that we have about 30 plates sitting in our cabinets, nearly every. single. person. uses PAPER PLATES.

YAY Environmental Fail

YAY Environmental Fail

Recently, I made a comment to a coworker about how this bothered me (Okay,  fine, the comment was, “NO! Use a real plate, dammit!”), and she told me that her reasoning for using a paper plate is that she doesn’t have a dishwasher at home, and has to do dishes at night and would prefer to just throw out her lunch plate since she can.

The president of the company told me he rinses off his paper plate and then recycles it, because it takes less time to wash than a regular dish and then has the benefit of being recycled.

Now, granted, we don’t have a dishwasher.  I know it is far more efficient to wash dishes in a machine than by hand.  But, honestly?  Isn’t NOT using an object in the first time better than recycling it?  And, yes, I understand the idea of washing takes energy, but before you start chucking out every plate you own, imagine the energy which goes into collecting, transporting, recycling, drenching, cleaning, and bleaching the product before it’s turned into something else.  Then you have to turn it into pulp, and remake it into another product… before collecting and transporting it yet again.

I understand recycling is good… as an alternative to throwing things out.  But generally, if you have the choice to not necessitate us taking even more from the earth?

Um. My way of not using shit in the first place wins.

So, in observance of Earth Day, let’s stand back and take a moment to breathe in the glory of Environmental Stewardship Hypocrisy 101.

YAAAAAAAY EARTH?

YAAAAAAAY EARTH?

And I shall now step down off my self-righteous platform of sanctimonious indignation.

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Plastics make it possible… for us to smother ourselves?

Those who know me are aware that at my current place of employment, one of my tasks is writing and designing the newsletters that are emailed/faxed/printed every month/bimonth/quarter about goings-on in the environmental industry.  And those who know me even further are aware that I have things I choose to be incredibly anal and OCD-esque regarding.  For instance, while I choose to be anal towards the proper use of the word “whom” and other lame rules of grammar, I will probably never learn to correctly spell the word “definitely” on the first shot (yes, I typed it ‘definately’ there originally). *

One of things I’ve decided to embrace OCD with is doing the research for these newsletter articles.  The point that matters to me is namely that somebody reads these articles, and therefore I could potentially be the source of someone saying, “You know, I read somewhere that…” See that?? “Somewhere” could be within my reach of manipulation!  LOOK AT MY POWER!!!  Therefore, in my mind that means I better make sure this shit is as accurate as possible.

Fast forward to me doing a sidebar on why you should email us so that we can GIVE YOU FREE SHIT WITH OUR LOGO ON IT SO YOU REMEMBER TO USE OUR COMPANY. Specifically, this month, we’d like to give you reusable grocery bags, which is pretty bad assed and exciting. Instead of doing a lame article on how Maui has banned plastic bags in 2010 again, I decided I’d throw some paper v. plastic stats in there, since clients seem to enjoy clicking in to studies and stats like that.

And after spending far more hours on this than I should have, I have discovered this:  We’re going to fucking smother ourselves in garbage.

I mean, I figured that both paper and plastic bags are pretty wasteful, and – no surprise – they are.  But what’s shocking is just how insanely wasteful they are, and how we are burying ourselves in garbage.

The amount of energy it takes to create one bag (higher for paper), much less RECYCLE the bags (again, much higher required for paper) is already jaw dropping when you multiple it by the billions of bags used every. single. day.  Plus, the EPA estimates only 5% of plastic bags and 12% of paper bags were recycled in 2005.  Newspaper is recycled in the US an estimated 80% of the time.

Top that depressing news off with the fact the plastics can usually only be recycled into a lower grade plastic; therefore plastic bags, which are normally made of #1 and #2 plastics can only be recycled (“downcycled”) into plastics of lower grade than itself.  And this can usually only happen once.  My limited science readability tells me that this is because the bonds in plastic break while being recycled and cannot be reformed in the same way again. Yes, it’s way more complicated than that, but I refuse to attempt to exposit any further for fear of looking like a complete ass regurgitating sciencey knowledge.

Oh, and if biodegradable plastics accidentally get mixed in, the recycled plastic product is way less valuable. Plus regulations on food/soda/water bottles and containers are that they must be made of virgin resin materials, so nothing that ever touches food is going to be made from recycled materials.

So, therefore if

plastic bags : bad :: paper must : good,

right?

Well, actually, paper bags are arguably worse.  Not only, as reported before, does creating and recycling paper bags require significant amounts of energy to produce due to its materials and thickness,but they also require thousands of gallons more over plastic bags, and strip the land of natural resources in order to make sturdy, high-quality paper.  But the one good thing paper bags really have going for them is their reputation as ‘natural’ products that will decompose significantly faster than plastics in landfills.  So that’s gotta be something, right?

Mais, au contraire.

There are several studies and reports, including one study quoted by the EPA, which state that paper bags, due both to their thickness as well as the lack of light, air, and moisture in landfills, won’t actually decompose any faster than plastic bags in landfills.  Now, I take this knowing the study quoted here was commissioned by the french equivalent of Walmart (Carrefour), so they have a vested interest in finding plastic bags, which are cheap to buy/produce/transport, as the environmental winner, but their full conclusion was more along the lines of “Nothing Ever Goes Away; We’re Royally Fucked.” (Okay, maybe I read between the lines of the conclusion.)

On top of that all, if you compost paper bags (which I have done), apparently it releases twice the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as non-composting paper does.

But flipside the issues again and there’s the negative greenhouse issues of burning plastic bags. And the fact that plastics in landfills, no matter how much water, light, and air given, will never biodegrade completely, because small fibers always remain.

And then you just think of the fact that 95% of this shit just goes here anyways:

Massive Garbage Dumps That Go On Forever

Massive Garbage Dumps That Go On Forever

And then you realize that even if we stopped using plastic completely TODAY (which, for multifaceted and obvious legal, political and economic reasons, could never happen), this still wouldn’t go away for thousands and thousands of years.  And yet, we continue to consume upwards of 500,000,000,000 plastic bags Each. Effing. Year.

Sometimes researching shit like blows my mind and completely overwhelms me on its vastness scale.  Also because I don’t know if we’ll ever be ready as a global society to change our habits unilaterally fast enough to actually make a difference.

Le sigh, for the world.

* Fun sidenote: While I adore grammar, I am somewhat of a terrible speller.  I’ve improved greatly over the years, and I spell basic words properly most of the time (angry face to those who spell your/you’re either a) incorrectly, or b) ubiquitously as “ur”), even if I have to constantly pause and think “I before E, except after C….”  Despite this, in 4th grade, while I scored in the 99th percentile for all of my other standardized CAT** tests… er, in spelling? I scored in the 74th. Oops?

** Other fun sidenote: CAT = California Acheivement Test.  Where did I grow up?  Illinois.  Yeah. Riddle me stumped.

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Dear Bobby Jindal

Dear Bobby Jindal,

Um? Uhh? Hrruummm? Duuurrrhhh?

In the words of every American listening: “What the bloody fuck?”

You are going to point out how we should model our future in the government by… evoking as a role model what was possibly the worst domestic governmental failure in at least the last two decades (I refuse to put more brain power to this and think back further in history)?

Yes. Because what the people at the SuperDome who were lacking food, water, shelter, loved ones, and most of their possessions needed was… uh, less government?  WOOT!! TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY!!!

You have a brain the size and consistency of a packing peanut.

Love, Everyone.

Dear. Effing. God.

Watching Bobby Jindal talk to the American public like we are SEVEN YEAR OLDS, directly after watching the President of the United States address the American public LIKE ADULTS (and in fact, telling everyone that they should aim to be educated beyond high school), was one of the most ridiculous television juxtapositions I’ve ever seen.

Sometimes reality is more frightening than hyper-reality.

On the other end of the spectrum, who didn’t enjoy Obama’s response to Renewable Energy, which I believe was, and I quote: “WOOT, muthafuckahs.”

Too bad he didn’t mention geothermal energy by name, but… whatever.

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Environmental research can be scary

See, this is why I shouldn’t be allowed to work at an environmental company, because then I get to sit around and do ‘research’ on the new developments in the field, which basically allows me a lot of time on the internet.

Occasionally I stumble across interesting or hilarious findings, such as the Mafia racketeering wind power.

And then I find things like this, which leave me half super-horrified half, and laughing hysterically:

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