Saturday, April 22, 2017

Turn wastewater into gas for vehicles

Portland is in the final stages of a plan to convert methane from their wastewater plant into a fuel for buses. While the project will cost around $12 million, they expect the payback period to be only 3 years!

How sustainable is your diet?

We all know we should eat more fruits and veggies. Did you know it's also good for the planet? Take a look at the chart in this WRI report.

If becoming vegan feels like too much of a leap, just focus on moving down the food chain, eat less of the resource-intensive products. Your heart, your waistline and the planet will thank you!

Monday, April 10, 2017

James Hansen, climate scientist, not worried about demise of Clean Power Plan

James Hansen, formerly with NASA and one of the first public officials to warn about climate change, isn't too concerned that Trump might scrap the Clean Power Plan. He's been pushing a different solution: fee and dividend. We would basically assign to fossil fuels the total cost to society (building up over time) and then return that money to citizens. Imagine what a barrel of oil would cost if the portion of the US Military charged with protecting oil-rich countries and sea lanes was assigned to it. What are the health costs associated with burning coal? Interestingly some members of the GOP have proposed a similar approach.

Money talks so if you get the "externalities" embedded in the price of the product, it will change people's behavior. Years ago Sweden shifted most homeowners to biofuel for heating in one weekend by assigning a tax that made fossil fuels more expensive. That approach wouldn't be popular with the GOP but it shows the power of pricing. Shouldn't a product have to cover the costs it pushes onto society?
Legendary Climate Scientist Likes a GOP Proposal on Global Warming - Scientific American - News

Thursday, April 6, 2017

How to talk to people who think differently than you about climate change

The Association of Climate Change Officers has recently released research conducted by Yale and George Mason University on the 6 America's regarding climate change. The most recent article talks about how to approach people on the topic. It's important to understand where they are coming from and link your conversation to examples that will resonate. Their advice includes 'mind your demeanor' and 'never get in an argument.'

As a way of thinking, I would add the stakeholder engagement framework (not sure of its source) where you identify where someone is on this scale and where you really need them to be:

  • Stop it
  • Resist it
  • Allow it
  • Help it
  • Make it happen.

We may not need everyone on the planet to believe in the science. And creating an enemy is worse than respectfully 'agreeing to disagree' because it hardens people's positions and damages the relationship.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Employment insecurity has wide-ranging impacts

In my parents' generation, many people started with a big company and retired there with a generous pension. No longer. Now many Millennials have to cobble together a variety of part-time opportunities and passions to make ends meet. People get ground up in the gears of this new economy: technology, AI, globalization and lean-and-mean management. This article explains how this impacts longevity and creates problems at home.

Here in Yavapai County, official unemployment figures are low but U6, the measurement for unemployment which includes discouraged people who stopped looking for work and people who are forced to have part-time work when they want full time is much higher. Arizona has one of the highest unemployment ratings, although they have improved a lot since 2008.

Chart source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Recycling best practices

It's hard to get accurate data about our local recycling rates but we are probably around 10% recovery of recyclable materials. The Phoenix area is over 20%, thanks in part to composting. So what would it take to be a leader? Here's an article that claims 50-80% is a reasonable goal with existing technologies.

What can you do? Separating is key. When you take your recyclables to a Sedona Recycles drop off site, they get around a 98% recovery rate (note this only includes recyclables--not compostables). Waste Management's recycling rate is reportedly around 80%. Haulers that have your throw trash and recyclables into one bin are doing well if they can recover 20%. Until we have a compostables pick-up service, compost at home.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Haagen-Dasz and hedgerows help bees

Almond production in California has a horrible environmental footprint. In addition to needing water, the monocrop approach (planting the same crop as far as the eye can see) is hurting bees. Did you know that 90 percent of the honey bees get transported to those fields to pollinate the almond trees?Haagen-Dasz is taking the lead by preferring suppliers who plant hedgerows of flowering plants.