Random Thoughts about Earth Day 20104022

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Most of you who read my posts will agree that I prefer environmentally friendly industries, transport, and food.  You also know that I grow quite a lot of my own food, and a guide will be published here, this coming Saturday, at 7:30 PM when I guest host What’s for Dinner.

However, I am not a fanatic.  I understand that there are tradeoffs that are essential to maintaining our standard of living.  One of them is the semi trailer and the truck that pulls it.  Ten or twelve years ago, they were very polluting, but with the new standards for low soot and sulfur emissions, they are not bad these days.

Here are my random observations about heavy industry, transportation, and personal consumption that might open some eyes, and perhaps make a difference.

The first is to recycle.  Here in this part of the Bluegrass, there is no mechanism for it, and I have put the pencil to the paper and found that it takes more gasoline to haul recyclables to a place that can utilize them.  This is wrong, and every effort needs to be made to facilitate recycling.  But this is much more difficult that most realize.

Let us take glass for an example.

There are thousands of kinds of glass, and the chemical composition can vary tremendously.  For example, window glass is quite different from Pyrex, and brown bottle glass is quite different from either.  Fortunately, all of those forms of glass can be remelted (with a relatively low fuel cost, and no raw material cost) and be spun into fiberglass insulation, that the insulation will last for decades, reducing the energy cost to heat and cool buildings for a long time.  This is good.  Essentially any glass is good for that recycling scheme.

Metal is also sort or easy.  We use mostly steel (with a very thin tin coating, and them some polymer to seal it) or aluminum for food and beverage containers.  Magnets can sort out the steel bits, and the aluminum falls into a different bin.  Recycling aluminum is extremely efficient, using only less that 5% of the energy originally needed to smelt it in the first place.  Iron is not quite so efficient, but my reckoning shows that recycled iron costs only about 15% of the energy to make new metal.

All of the metal making processes produce carbon dioxide, and the less of that can be made, the better.  Using recycled material cuts the amount of that very closely with the reduction in energy, so it is a very good double whammy.

Plastic is more problematic, since there are so many kinds.  Unless we find a way to separate them well, and find a way to depolymerize PETE, this will be a problem.

PETE bottles are generated by the billions, and we need to find a way to get this under control.  Currently, most of them are just landfilled, and that is a waste of resources.  I have recently learnt that new processes can not just recycle them, but disintergrate them into their monomers, and reconstruct them into new bottle.  Currently, the best that we can do is turn them into carpets and cheap suits.

Well, this is my take on Earth Day.  As soon as the rain goes away, I shall plant my garden, using a gasoline powered tiller, only once a year, and grow most of my own vegetables, and will use electricity to preserve many of them.  It is not an all or none prosiption, just the best balance that we can find in each, unique circumstance.

Warmest regards,

The Doctor

Crossposted at Dailykos.com

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10 comments

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  1. Warmest regards,

    The Doctor

    • Temmoku on April 23, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    we do what we can…and the ice has formed a pool of fresh water around Antarctica….notice nobody frets about the ozone layer any more, it is all CO2 and melting ice…we’re “F***ed” anyway.

    I recycle as much as I can…cans, bottles, plastic, clothing,batteries, cfl light bulbs and grow a veggie garden in the summer, but I use a lot more electricity now that I am retired and home all the time…so now I need to explore more ways to save. It still won’t be enough.

  2. neighborhood where I really don’t need a car. I slack a bit in the winter as I don’t like biking in the rain. I am going to get more rain gear for my bike and me and trick out my baskets for winter. I walk most places and find that driving and traffic are more and more unbearable and stressful. Were lucky I work at home and my husband’s office is only 5 miles from our house and he bikes it in the summer. The public transit system is great here it only 12 minutes to the city center.  

    I also am working on growing more of our food. Our 50 by 100 ft lot can actually grow a lot. We took out all our lawn and I have great dirt and raised beds each year I am getting more useful crops. I need to learn more about planting for all seasons how to effectively keep the garden producing. This year I tried over wintering cabbage, kale and cauliflower with mixed results.I buy local and organic whenever possible, It’s good way to eat what is in season and not rely on imported produce, I think it’s healthier too. More and more urban gardening happening and even lot’s chickens in our community.  

    Portland has a great recycling program they make it easy. As for energy used we have replaced our appliances with low energy models when we had to get new ones, and got good tax rebates. I also try not to buy plastic or use it. Hard to do as packaging is all plastic. We have a water filter on our sink and never buy bottled or soda’s. I bring my own bags to the stores (when I remember) so I’m using less paper. Most stores here use recycled paper bags and the state is thinking about banning plastic grocery bags.  

    My house is about 100 years old and it has a tin roof and was insulated with mashed up newspapers. We still have mainly lath and plaster. One of the problems with greening your house is that it costs so much. The programs to weatherize would require a lot of money upfront or huge increases in our energy bills. We have no debt and a manageable mortgage and in this economy people cannot afford to retrofit. Lot’s of people in my area are going solar in our case it would require a new roof, plus they help you by spreading the cost via your energy bill in our case natural gas, which we can’t afford.

    We also remolded our kitchen about a year ago and went totally green, from recycled old wood to green paint even used insulation that is non toxic. I live in a area that makes it easy, there are lots of good local outlets for green building clothing and furniture. Thrift stores abound. We do the best we can as you say, my city makes it easy.          

             

    • RUKind on April 23, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Let the shopping lists build up and take care of as many stops ae you can in one outing. It’s not a big deal but there are no big deals that will solve this problem. Our only hope is individual consciousness and discipline.

    We recycle, compost and do about 3000 sq ft of gardening. We started on Eliot Colemen’s Four Season HArvest and are realigining our raised beds to set up a four season system here in Plymouth.

    Plus no more lawn food. I’m replacing it with clovers. If the food part of the CPI keeps going up at its current rate, the front yard will be tomatoes.

  3. for the promotion!

    Warmest regards,

    The Doctor

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