Matt\’s Cuppa

My take on tea, technology, and our environment

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

GM, Non-recyclable Car Parts, And Microorganisms

Posted by telecommatt on January 15, 2008

Below is a quote from an email I received recently. Very cool stuff!

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a biofuels skeptic, but there have been
some positive developments in biofuels generated using microorganisms
to break down waste.

At the same time GM announced their biofuels strategy they announced
investment in Coskata, a biofuel startup using such a process:

Highlights from the article:
“It is enzyme independent and wouldn’t require the addition of any
extra chemicals or other pre-treatments. It consumes less than 1
gallon of water to produce the equivalent of ethanol;”

“In initial tests conducted by the Argonne National Laboratory, the
ethanol generated 7.7 times the energy used to produce it;”

“The proprietary process would be used to make ethanol from GM
facilities’ non-recyclable vehicle parts and waste” + “Coskata and GM
expect to have a pilot plant up and operating by the fourth quarter of

Regards, Grant

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OpenEco Energy Camp ’08

Posted by telecommatt on January 11, 2008

Emily Chang – eHub: OpenEco Energy Camp 2008

“An event designed to inspire you to make positive environmental changes at work and at home.”
Watch the opening session of OpenEco EnergyCamp and hear eco leaders such as L. Hunter Lovins, Adam Werbach, Ted Nordhaus, Michael Shellenberger and Dave Douglas, Sun’s VP of Eco Responsibility, discuss climate change and other current sustainability topics.

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Sony’s Version Of DRM-Free Not Environmentally Friendly

Posted by telecommatt on January 7, 2008

Sony may have the oddest plan ever for DRM-free music – Download Squad

Sony wants you to go into a bricks and mortar store and drop $12.99 on a plastic card

Okay, I’m not like most music consumers. I refuse to by CD’s because of the environmental impact of production, packagin, shipping, etc. And, of course, I don’t purchase DRM’d music. And I will never buy music from Sony-BMG because they just can’t seem to understand.

Does Sony really expect me to get in my gas-powered vehicle, and drive to an energy-consuming store to buy a disposable plastic card?? And it’s PLASTIC… From an environmental standpoint, I’m really not sure how much more stupid this scheme can get!

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The Story Of Stuff Is A Must See Wake-Up Call

Posted by telecommatt on December 6, 2007

Thanks to Andy McCaskey‘s excellent Slashdot Review podcast, yesterday I ran across one of the best short film documentaries that I have ever seen. It’s called The Story of Stuff. It’s about twenty minutes long, and it will change the way that you look at every modern manufacturing marvel that you’ve ever owned.

In the film, Leonard walks us through the life cycle of the “stuff” that we buy. Sounds boring? Nope! There’s enough cynicism thrown in to keep people age twelve and up amused for the full twenty minutes. And it’s all done in cartoon, so that takes care of anyone under under twelve and any healthy adult male.

You can view the film directly from the website. If you’d rather know what you’re getting yourself into first, you can view a two minute YouTube preview here.

The “cycle” is something we’ve seen before in business or economics classes:

Extraction – Production – Distribution – Consumption – Disposal.

The difference is that Leonard focuses on what happens between each phase, because they don’t just fit neatly together like they do in the text books. For example, between the production and distribution phases, there’s a whole lot of industrial and manufacturing waste that has to be put someplace.

She also looks at the context in which all this takes place. And that is often the scarier picture. The film highlights dependencies that occur between people and the “stuff” cycle. Our whole economy is dependent on the idea of planned obsolescence, and we’ve managed to drag most of the world in with us. If they won’t ride in our wagon, we make them push.

A lot of the film is stuff that we already know. It’s simply draws our attention to the wider context. Contrary to what people steering our economy would like us to think, none of this happens in a vacuum. We live in a world of finite resources and we’re burning through those resources at an irresponsible rate. So next time you buy a radio, think about who really paid for it.

If that last line didn’t make sense, what the film.

I sincerely thank Annie Leonard and everyone else who helped put together the film and the website. It’s not a comfortable message, but it’s one that we all need to hear.

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Breaking News – Climate Bill Passes Senate Committee

Posted by telecommatt on December 5, 2007

I received the following email from Environmental Defense today. I don’t normally do this, but I am going to publish the email in its entirety because ED does a better job of summing things up than I would. Please, send a message to your representative. Send messages to your friends. Help create awareness. We all tend to walk around going, “Well, I never get the opportunity to do anything that really matters.” or “No one ever asks my opinion about these things.”

This is it. This is that opportunity. Maybe the Climate Security Act won’t save the planet by itself, but it’s a big enough deal that it will make other things happen. This could be the big rock that starts falling down the mountain that creates the avalanche. But if we don’t do anything, and instead wait for other people to make things happen for us, we’ll have lost this opportunity and the momentum it could create.


Dear Matthew,

Today’s vote is historic.

Send an
Urge House leaders to act

Moments ago, the Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee passed the Climate Security Act, a
bipartisan bill that would set a hard, economy-wide cap on
America’s global warming pollution.

With the Senate having taken the first historic step of
passing a climate bill out of committee, it’s now time
for the House to act

Send an
. Urge your Representative to call
on House leaders to pass strong climate legislation.

This breakthrough in the Senate moves us closer than ever to
passing national global warming legislation. The bill is now
ready for a full Senate vote, which could come early next

While we can celebrate today’s victory in the Senate,
we have our work cut out in the House.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Energy and Commerce Committee
Chairman John Dingell have both pledged to vote on global
warming legislation this Congress.

But, Rep. Dingell’s committee has not yet circulated a draft
bill and it’s still unclear when we can expect a legislative
vehicle to start moving in the House.

Time is running out to solve the global
warming crisis. Waiting just two years to pass national climate
legislation would double the rate at which the U.S. will need to
cut emissions – from just under 2% a year to over 4.3% a
year – in order to bring emissions down to where they need
to be by 2020.

Send a
message today!
Urge your Representative
to call on House leaders to make global warming a top

This is a truly historic day and we wouldn’t
be here without your action and support.

But, we’ve still got a lot of work to do and we’ll need your
continued support more than ever.

In the meantime, please join me in celebrating today’s

Thanks so much for everything you do,

Steve Cochran
National Climate Campaign

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Mindmaps Create A New View Of Climate Change

Posted by telecommatt on December 2, 2007

Mind maps

Below are various mind maps created by Sharon Genovese (my mother) about global warming and issues related to it

These are really great, very informative mind-maps. If reading over and over about global warming has over-sensitized you at all, check these graphical representations out and reaffirm your commitment to a greener world.

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On The Future Of Food In A Warmer World

Posted by telecommatt on November 23, 2007

NPR : Will a Warmer World Have Enough Food?

Your most direct link to global warming may be the food you eat.

This is a really good article by NPR contributor Dan Charles. It’s a very broad article for a very broad topic, covering a little of everything from grocery stories to the soil quality in Africa. Charles brings home a very good point. Our approach to climate change cannot be 100% prevention.  Biofuels alone won’t save the human race. Changing peoples’ minds, changing peoples’ habits, even changing ways of doing things that have been in place for generations, all of these are part of making the human race sustainable.

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150 Fewer Plastic Trash Bags

Posted by telecommatt on November 17, 2007

Not much action in the blogosphere today. My feeds were pretty quiet all day, so I was doing some cleaning and started thinking about how many trash bags I use. I wonder if there’s a way to make reusable trash bags. Although, the heavy duty plastic ones are almost reusable themselves if your garbage isn’t too messy. Still, I think about every plastic trash bag I toss into my can, and that’s a lot of plastic! There’s got to be a way around using all that plastic.

That led me to thinking about work. I work in an office building. Every employee in my organization has a trash can and each trash can has a plastic bag in it. Each day, someone comes around and pulls out the old plastic bag and inserts a new one. This happens whether the trash can is full (which it usually isn’t) or not. That’s a huge amount of nearly empty plastic bags going into some landfill.

I was tempted to start thinking badly about the cleaning company and its employees for their wasteful practices, but they are not really to blame. If they didn’t do this, office workers would be up in arms over the janitors who weren’t doing their jobs right.

No, this is a case where change has to begin with us. I can’t point fingers at this cleaning company for doing what they’ve become expected to do. Instead, I’ve got to change my own expectations. What if I just didn’t put my trash can out when it didn’t really need to be emptied? I bet I could get away with my trash can being emptied twice a week. That’s saving three plastic bags a week for fifty weeks of the year. Just by doing this, I can save one hundred and fifty plastic bags from being tossed in a landfill!

I still haven’t figured out if there’s a reusable solution for my kitchen trash can, but if I get just one of my coworkers to change the way their office trash can is emptied, together we’ve used three hundred fewer plastic bags per year. And if we convert the, I don’t know, hundred and fifty people in our office? That is A LOT of plastic that doesn’t have to needlessly pollute our environment.

So, how often do you empty your trash at work?

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Go Media Green

Posted by telecommatt on November 10, 2007

Environment: Make Your Media Consumption Greener

Make your technology habits more ecologically friendly with technology blogger Steve Rubel’s simple writeup on how to go "media green."

What fascinates me about Rubel’s writeup is how many of these things were, if not impossible, then highly impractical five years ago. Downloading movies and television shows and subscribing to RSS feeds instead of newspapers are just two examples.

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Daylight Savings, Stressed Out IT Folks, And 3 Billion Kilowatt Hours

Posted by telecommatt on November 4, 2007

I love the fact that it takes us weeks to adjust to daylight savings as it is, and suddenly (well, as of last year) we’ve got to adjust to an adjusted daylight savings.

This year Daylight Saving Time went screwy. Or to put it another way,
Daylight Saving Time goes into effect this weekend. If this were 2006,
it would have happened last weekend. You can thank Congress for the

I have to say, we’re in a bad way if our technology can’t keep up with our government!

All of this might seem like mere trivia if it weren’t for the fact that
older PDAs, cellphones, VCRs, and pretty much any other device that’s
programmed to automatically adjust for Daylight Saving Time is now

To those of you who spent last week wondering around wondering what time it actually was, don’t worry– it’s over now! You can once again trust your trusty PDA, VCR, PC, etc.

On the positive side, environmental blog, Treehugger, points out the environmental savings we get from daylight savings. Personally, I think it’s worth a week of confusion and a few stressed out IT folks to get these results.

Dr. David Prerau, who was a consultant for Congress on this bill,
states that by adding this extra time to DST will shave one percent
– 3 billion kilowatt hours – off of the United
States’ power bill. Apparently DST has been credited with more
than just saving energy. It’s also been known to decrease crime
rates and the number of traffic accidents and increase participation in
outdoor activities.

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