Sunday, September 20, 2009

The little demons around us.

The New York Times has an article about the increasing electricity consumption of consumer electronics that are proliferating everywhere. Singular ownership is a central part of our existence, in the past a family would share a car, and now everyone one in the house gets a car. Getting a car is a rite of passage.

Interestingly, something as geeky as a computer where one item is sufficient is now at a place where individuals may have multiple. The same goes for console games as we all want the most unique games for each platform. What makes things fiendishly difficult is that things like remote controls mean that the device is never really turned off, just in standby. It's tough to remember to turn off the devices, like turn off turn off.

One of the things that motivates me is to turn off the device in a hard fashion because the LEDs at night are too annoying. I try to make sure my scanner is turned off, but I don't always remember to hard shut down my printer (though I may only use it once a week).

Some items with their painful start up times encourage us to keep things on, since who likes to wait. We need to move from "just in time" devices, to "just enough devices". from JITs to JEDs. Eventually the cost of power will correct this, but by then will it be too late?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

You Look Green, but are you really really green.

It's been awhile since I last wrote, but yesterday two articles really got me thinking. The first article was in the New York Times about how buildings that meet the LEED certification may not be that "green" in reducing the amount of energy consumed or carbon impact. So why get LEED certified if it doesn't make a different, this graf captured it well:

Builders covet LEED certification — it stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — as a way to gain tax credits, attract tenants, charge premium rents and project an image of environmental responsibility. But the gap between design and construction, which LEED certifies, and how some buildings actually perform led the program last week to announce that it would begin collecting information about energy use from all the buildings it certifies.

The air of responsibility is more important that actually being responsible. It's really interesting to see how much of an economic driver the certification is. Later that day, I saw this article about the ubiquitous SIGG bottles. These ugly bottles that resemble the same bottle I use for my camp stove fuel were all the rage when BPA became the latest fear mongering rallying cry to replace everything we own (remember when it was hip to have a nalgene, and everyone had to carry a nalgene bottle) and SIGG was there to fill the void. Well it turns out that SIGG was not as BPA free as they claimed.

I'm in no position to say whether BPA is dangerous or not, all I can do is quote others. But what does trouble me is that much of what we are looking for is a magic bullet to permit us to live the way we do. Case in point, my diminishing blog output is a result that I spend more time commuting, and that's by car. My schedule makes the choices of time vs energy vs carbon emissions difficult. So I drive more, I could move closer to work. That would be one possibility but that is a drastic move for the +10 miles I now drive. I could drive a hybrid, but the cost of obtaining the car both economically and environmentally outweighs the benefit.

A radical restructuring of our lifestyles is probably the only way, but it will require an adjustment to who we are as people, as humans. Not hopeful. I think I've mentioned that in the history of medicine no sexually transmitted disease has ever been eradicated. Some urges are too strong.

SIGG was brilliant in that their look and appearance were great signalers of being conscientious, of caring, of being in the know. But it's the quiet changes or not that make the difference. So beware of green claims, especially if they cost money and are worn like a merit badge. Things don't always appear as they seem, just ask the investors of Bernie Madoff.