Sunday, April 29, 2007

Indulge Me...

at least a little bit. That's the charge being levied against those who are buying Carbon Offset credits, are very much like the indulgences that were purchased prior to the reformation. They are not wrong. And the low on sacrifice, heavy on the consumerism rings true. Old habits die hard, look at all the obese people who say they want to be thin....Human nature is a very weak willed thing, so I think there is a bit of people casting stones in glass houses. As I get older I realize the following:

"Good is the enemy of great" but "Best is the enemy of better"

Like a good coach, our aim is improvement, Kaizen in Toyota Speak, or a culture of continuous improvement. If Toyota dismissed all the legitimate criticisms of thy Hybrid program they would have never started, you can always ask me to be better, but you can never ask me to be perfect (and no, this is not going to anyone in particular who doesn't read my blog).

Let's focus on finding ways we can can lighten our carbon footprint, indulge me, but keep asking more, I know I will.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A green travelers guide...

Or just looking for greeness here at home Greenopia publishes a series of city guides filled with green stores for your shopping convenience....

Friday, April 27, 2007

Global Worming...

Last week on Earth Day, the New York Times had an Contributed OpEd piece by Amy Stewart on how different breeds of Earthworms might be canaries on the coal mine for the planet. We have polar bears who are getting swept away at sea, we have changing cherry blossom seasons. What other belleweathers do we have? Well I'm voting for fruit flies, everytime it gets hot, my apartment gets fruit flies. If I start having buzzing in my posts, you'll know why.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Better Hold Your Breath...

The World Wrestling Federation, ehmmm, I mean World Wildlife Fund has a very graphic illustration of how much carbon monoxide is produced by a car each day. Wow!

It's part of the WWF's campaign to highlight 20to20 or "20 ways to reduce your carbon by 20%" website at which is full of cool little tips to make your footprints lighter. Some have even been mentioned here before.

In true Web 2.0 fashion you can submit our own tips.

So time to start getting creative. Like stop using pencils.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"Let's be careful out there..."

I was just listening to the radio to hear that visiting journalist David Halberstam was just killed in a car accident just a hop, skip and a jump away from where I'm writing right now. Halberstam coined the phrase "the best and the brightest" when chronicling those who went to Vietnam. He later went on to write about sports, most recently about New England Patriots' coach Bill Belichick.

We take driving a car as an ordinary part of our lives, that we often forget that we can't let our guards down. Too many people have been lost due to cars. In the immortal words of the "Hill Street Blues" character Sgt. Esterhaus "Let's be careful out there."

Paying our way out of congestion....

Mayor Bloomberg is taking no prisoners by announcing on Earth Day (22 April 2007) a bold environmental vision for a growing New York City. Perhaps most controversial is a plan for congestion pricing for those cars entering Manhattan below 86th St of $8. There will be grumbles, but there should also be improvements if London is any indicator. Ken Livingstone recounts the trials and tribulations leading to hard won victories. Singapore has a similar policy, but I think Singapore runs so well, because well it's Singapore. I'll give updates when I get back from there.

So could we do congestion pricing in Car happy california? It wouldn't be city centers that need price control but the freeways (but then would that be an oxymoron?). So maybe payways are next? What are you thinking Mr. Governator?

C(h)arbon Free Chowing....

Today in San Francisco Chronicle's Michael Bauer's blog post, Michael talks about Incanto's Mark Pastore and his efforts at sustainable dining and service. Pretty impressive to see someone who walks the talk.

The growing "localvore" movement is pretty interesting, not sure it is universal as we've been able to use technology to transform previously unliveable places such as Arizona. But it's a start.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance

I know that people living in glass houses shouldn't cast stones, but here it goes. USA Today has an article about people taking steps to become greener, but to me the article is about people trying to assuage their guilt. I'm not perfect, but I'm not flagrant as well. Well read it and decide for yourself.

On a more postitive note, the article mentions a great site with great tips and education on how to be greener.

I keep reminding myself that progress is made in little steps, or in the words from an OK movie "Meet the Robinsons" "keep moving forward."

Happy Grandchildren Day! Free Light Bulbs (Time Sensitive)

This weekend in celebration of Grandchildren Day, the Home Depot is giving 1,000,000 Compact Fluourescent Lightbulbs away on Sunday April 22 details here. They're calling it Earth Day, but the question isn't really about whether the Earth will be here to be celebrated, but whether there will be Grandchildren who are happy to celebrate it.

It's like the safety instruction lecture on planes, in the event of an emergency, assist yourself first before assisting others around you. Well let's take care of our home today, so we can take care of our grandkids tomorrow. That is the generic grandkids, not mine right now, so no flood of comments asking for an update.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Second Life" carbon free style...

If you live in Silicon Valley, you have undoubtedly heard of Second Life, the virtual world where people spend real money, meet real virtual girlfriends (go figure that one out) and do lots of other things. My question is where do they throw their garbage out? Do they have virtual landfills? Virtual sewage, virtual smog?

But the next Green Revolution is "Second Life" carbon free. What can you do with things that have spent their first life being used. This being spring there have been a lot of posts on lifehacker on creating seedling pots out of newspapers. I've blogged that earlier. I've been reusing scratch paper, but that's easy. Those "Page a Day" calendars make great notepads. What are some other second lives that can be given to things we use but once? Can we do something with old pens? How about Long Play records. I've seen people make bowls out of old albums?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thoughts and Prayers go out..

Right when you think things can get better, you are violently reminded that sometimes you go backwards. My thoughts and prayers go out to those in Virginia as they deal with the senseless tragedy that took place yesterday.

I was in Colorado when the Columbine shooting took place, and remember the pain that occurred. It will take time for the healing.

In times like this, the question of "Why?" comes up. Sadly, to seek rationality when dealing with the irrational, is itself irrational.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

How tough it is....yet how much progress we've made..

I don't like to make light of tragedy and misfortune, so please don't take this post in the wrong way. As you might have heard, Governor Corzine of New Jersey was involved in an car accident last week, and this is not a post of see how dangerous cars are. It's part of life. No this post is about why it's even hard to do the right thing when we know better. According to news reports, Corzine was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. Now if someone of Corzine's intelligence and talents doesn't wear a seat belt, what number of people don't as well. The point of this, is that there are so many things in life that we know better, but for whatever reason we don't act better. That's sort of the point we're at with the environment, I'm not limiting to climate change, we really have a good sense of the impact we're having but we don't act differently. Often we think we're going to be lucky, but luck often runs out. But then again, I'd rather be lucky than good.

So can you change the seemingly unchangeable? Maybe not all at one, but you can make progress. Today was the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color barrier in major league baseball, and at baseball fields all over the country, players donned jerseys with the number '42' (Jackie Robinson's number) in rememberance and honor. 42 is the only number that has retired by all Major League Baseball teams. So today is also a reminder that people of all colors and ethnicities are represented in sports. Good Change happens.

P.S. Coincidence? '42' is the answer to life, the universe and everything

More on Tap Water at Restaurants.

Ever have one of those weekends where everything seems to tie in together. Well this is one of those weekends for me. First off the Wall Street Journal gets into the Mix (not sure how long this free link will last) about the increasing number of high end restaurants no longer offering bottled water.

Now this was really appropriate, since I kicked off this weekend with a very high end meal that was positively indulgent (remember the Compact says no new things, not that you can't indulge and indulged I did). And we immediately went for tap water. Now the WSJ article talks about people thinking that bottled water is healthier, which probably highlights the failure of our science education more than anything else. Water is not healthier per se, but it can taste different. You really can't get all your minerals from water at the concentrations we're talking about. And municipal water where it is flouridated is probably better for your teeth. But from an eco-perspective, the architecture of our pipes makes it more efficient. Also, anyone who has traveled around the world will be aware how privileged we are to safely be able to drink water from the tap. In China, hot water is de rigeur not only because of preference but it became a way to be sure the water was safe from microbes. Industrial pollution no, but that's a recent phenomenon. Note, when in China backpacking or outside of business class hotels, I drink beer which has necessarly been boiled as part of the process and the alcohol helps kill any bacteria. That's my story and I'm sticking with it. But somehow, what should be a source of national pride is thought of as unhealthy. You can argue taste and preference, but health, we've gone wrong.

So in another nights conversation we talked about how can we make people more green, and the key is that we need to figure out a way to not make people choose to be green, but be green by default. And getting rid of bottled water at restaurants is an example. Less choice maybe, but will people notice in the long run. So the question is how do we create invisible greeness?

Friday, April 13, 2007

You are what you don't drive..

The N.Y. Times today has a whimsical article (sorry, the Permalink part of the page was broken, so if this link doesn't work it's not my fault :)) about whether certain cars are "gay". It's an extension on the "You are what you drive" with the usual suspects being covered.

I wonder what not driving a car says about you?

Reaching a limit....

There's been a lot of talk that people don't care about gas prices anymore, since relatively it just isn't that much. But apparently in California there's a limit. The L.A. Times reports that drivers are searching for alternatives. So maybe calls for a gas tax would change behavior after all.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Really, this came after the other posts!

I just got some of my regular book spam from Borders, when a remembrance of Kurt Vonnegut was published, and I kid you not, this is the lead paragraph"

"I'm Jeremiah and I'm not talking about God being mad at us," novelist Kurt Vonnegut says with a straight face, gazing out the windows of the parlor of his Manhattan brownstone. "I'm talking about us killing the planet as a life support system with gasoline. What's going to happen is, very soon, we're going to run out of petroleum, and everything depends on petroleum. And there goes the school buses. There goes the fire engines. The food trucks will come to a halt. This is the end of the world. We've become far too dependent on hydrocarbons, and it's going to suddenly dry up. You talk about the gluttonous Roaring Twenties. That was nothing. We're crazy, going crazy, about petroleum. It's a drug like crack cocaine. Of course the lunatic fringe of Christianity is welcoming the end of the world as the rapture. So I'm Jeremiah. It's going to have to stop. I'm sorry."

KV wrote three columns every week for the old CDS, I could barely manage one every two!

Carbon Free Cobbler

What do we throwaway and what do we keep? What's changed over the years? For one thing, people use to repair shoes instead of buy new ones, but as shoes get cheaper and cheaper, it's hard to justify. However, there are those who are bucking the trend by trying to bring back cobbler businesses as detailed by the Associated Press as posted at Yahoo. (not sure how long the link will be good). I have been going to a cobbler in Mountain View for a while, I tried a guy at Stanford mall, but he went out of business. To be honest, it hasn't been driven so much by being eco, but being comfortable. An ex-girlfriend use to say "Key to happiness is low expecations and comfortable shoes." She was not wrong.

Maybe we need to add a fourth "R" to the Carbon Free Mantra, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle!

But then again some cobblers are best carbon full.

In case you didn't get it...

What does Kurt Vonnegut have to do with a blog on reducing Carbon on the planet, ehm everything. Big questions, big problems, funny non-answers. If you didn't get the last post. Read it again.

Another great Vonnegut story, in an article ("Newsweek?") he talks about his smoking and caffeine addiction, with the glorious line. "I have a soft spot for addicts." Coffee and Chocolate addiction OK, SUV gas addiction, Not! sorry.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In Memoriam, Kurt Vonnegut

Few people tackled the big issues of our time like Kurt Vonnegut. An icon to many of the Cornell Daily Sun staffers who followed him, his work reminded us that writing was there to make a difference, but it could be funny as well. Frighteningly prescient, he brought up the dangers of technology even before we knew the technology existed, much less be frightful. Nano-technologists (whent that was all the rage) use to talk about the "Ice-nine" scenario from "Cat's Cradle"

My fondest memory of a Vonnegut tale was when he reminisced about walking up State Street from downtown Ithaca after putting the "Sun" to bed and peace that drifted over him during that grueling (OK, I added the grueling) climb up east hill. It was a walk I made myself on occasions. There is a peace of mind of writing that is sent along it's way, probably not unlike sending your child off onto it's own, and it too having a life of it's own. But most of all, it's just remembering how much fun it was to be down there working on the paper.

Last year, I had the chance to go to New York City to hear Vonnegut speak at a reunion, and for various reasons, I deferred. I pause in regret. This blog is a regret avoidance mechanism for parts of my life, but not all.

Enough melancholy, go forth, have fun, and laugh. And as mis-attributed to KV, "wear sunscreen"

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Metered Car Insurance.

One of the frustrating things about car ownership is that it's a sunk cost, all you can eat model. Like buffets, it encourages over-gorging of whatever. In Washington State, there is a "Pay as you Drive" insurance pilot being initiated. Using a GPS system it tracks your mileage.

Apparently, Progressive Insurance (in this case an actually apt name, I had to deal with a settlement case with them so I should disclose any interest in how I perceive them) is trying such a system in Michigan and Oregon. A link is available in the comments.

'"Conservation" and "Conversation" share the same letters'

I just finished reading Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things"by John C. Ryan and Alan Thein Durning. It's a fascinating book in that it tracks what it takes to make things we take for granted from COFFEEE, cars, bikes, newspaper, the book, hamburger, sneakers, etc that you use in every day life. I always had my suspicions about the impact and energy it takes to make these things, and to be honest it's a bit of a downer to be reading all this. But it also opens up my eyes.

I wonder why I care about the environment or my surroundings, I don't have kids so it's not like it'll be my problem and I'm not deeply religious. There is no commandment "Thou Shall not rape and pillage the planet," but then I catch myself. It's not what's in it for me, but what's right. So while Stuff is descriptive, it's also prescriptive in the many little ways people can make a difference. Interestingly, Alan Durning also has been blogging about living "Car-lessly" after the family Volvo died, much how my loss of my Altima caused me to re-evaluate my car needs.

A sample of the book is available online. Check it out from your library if you can.

But my favorite line from the book is "Is it only a coincidence that "conversation" and "conservation" are spelled with the same letters?" This blog has been an exercise in that conversation in order to get conservation. I've always been a bit of alien in the technology world, where everything is driven by the next great product. I tend to avoid "status stuff" because I see the damage excessive credit card debt can do to people's freedom, and I'm if anything excessively enamoured of not being told what to do. I'm lucky that most of my expenditures deal with food, good or bad and that it is renewable in many ways. Though mass market meat (MMM) has a terrible impact on the planet.

Let's keep conversing and conserving until we figure things out.

Monday, April 02, 2007

We're addicted to batteries....

In Sunday's New York Times, there's an interesting article on the Master Lock company's new g.l.o. pad lock, that glows. I originally thought great, another thing that uses more batteries to go into a landfill, but to my pleasant surprise, it gets its electricity from a mechanical generation system. Pretty dang cool. I'm still not big on novelty for novelty's sake, and the price of twice as much is going to pain a lot of parents who really can't afford the extra expense. But at least it doesn't use batteries.

Growing up as a kid, and I'm showing my age here, batteries were a big deal. They were expensive, didn't last a long time and if a toy needed batteries, I just didn't get it. Now everything and I mean everything has batteries, and in the pursuit of wirelessness, there are more batteries. I broke down and got a cordless mouse and keyboard set, of course it needed batteries. Cordless phones more batteries. Handy dandy pedometere. More batteries.

We can't toss them in to the landfill (well we shouldn't) but we just need more. OUCH! I look around at all my toys (yeah yeah yeah, the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys) and I realized I need to go on a twelve step program.