Entries Tagged as 'Environment'

The Anti-Green – Junk Mail

Why does the United States Postal Service encourage companies to send “Junk Mail” by substantially reducing the costs of distributing it?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Sure, I understand that it may actually cost the post office a little less to distribute junk mail than it does to distribute first class letters and such — but take a look at how little junk mail you even look at… and how much ends up in your recycle bin (and I’m not even going to bring up the large number of people who probably don’t recycle since they don’t have curb-side recycling programs).

America needs to take action to reduce it’s carbon footprint — and as I have pointed out for the last few days it would be extremely easy to make a fairly substantial improvement without sacrificing anything most consumers care about — and in fact, it would probably improve the quality of life for most Americans not having a mailbox full of junk mail they have to sort through so as not to miss something that might be important.

Sure, the post office would probably have to raise the cost of postage, and possibly reduce the service level (hey — I have no problem with mail not being delivered on Saturday — of maybe being delivered only on alternate days or only a few days per week).  The overall effect would be a decrease in the waste (of natural resources and energy).

BANG!

In the Summer of ’62 the US military detonated a hydrogen bomb in outer space above the Pacific Ocean as part of a project code named: Starfish Prime.

There’s a good article on NPR you can read at:

A Very Scary Light Show: Exploding H-Bombs In Space on NPR


The Anti-Green – Architectural Lighting

It’s estimated that US electrical plants burn six million tons of coal daily to power unnecessary outdoor lighting — this estimate doesn’t include the wasted hydroelectric in areas like Las Vegas used to power unnecessary outdoor lighting.  Another estimate puts the waste at three-hundred twenty thousand kilowatt hours per minute!

Often called “light pollution” this unnecessary outdoor lighting could be produced by individuals or businesses and both need to take responsibility for adopting more sustainable lighting policies.

Earth Day this year illustrated just how much “needless” light we humans produce… and just what the potential savings and reductions could be.

Consider that electricity isn’t free; it has the initial cost of purchasing the kilo-watt hour of power and the negative impact it’s generation had on the environment (even in areas where wind or hydroelectric are used there are negative impacts to the environment — and power saved there could be routed to areas using coal or natural gas for power further reducing the carbon footprint).

This is an excellent area where it doesn’t take much to save a great deal.

First, think — if the light doesn’t serve a useful purpose, turn it off; or use it sparingly.  Put it on a timer or a motion sensor if you’re forgetful.

Second, consider the lighting technology.  Lights that need to be on quite a bit should use technology that’s efficient, like LED lighting.  Lights that are on occasionally could use (and recycle your existing CF bulbs — remember production and disposal of those lighting elements have an adverse effect on the environment).  For lights that are rarely on, and heat does not pose a problem re-using your existing incandescent bulbs might make sense.

Third, consider using solar powered LED lighting completely for outdoor lighting.  While the rechargeable batteries in those devices do impose potential environmental impact, properly recycled their impact is greatly mitigated by their years of service lighting without drawing power from the grid.

In commercial applications it’s probably a no win situation unless the business takes directed action to improve their lighting; and that might require local, state, and federal government taking action to make it fiscally desirable — a combination of taxes and tax credits.  Here we as individuals might want to take the initiatives to make heavy consumers of electricity pay a “waste” tax (users who actually produce real goods and services would have a threshold for the tax than those who simply consume it for eye candy effect).

I certainly believe that an individual or company should be able to purchase and use electricity for whatever purpose they desire; however, I also believe that individuals and companies that waste that electricity without providing benefit to society as a whole should shoulder the costs of the impact on the environment more than those who attempt to use resources responsibly.

The Anti-Green – Catalogs

Decades ago company after company mailed out or otherwise distributed large, printed, mail order catalogs.

The age of print advertising is gone, and the environmental cost of print advertising is horrific.

However, there appears to be many companies that don’t realize the impact of print advertising, nor do they understand that most (if not all) really don’t want (or need) a large mail order catalog.

Several months ago I ordered an item online from B&H Photo Video, and item which I researched online and located the “best” price using search engines.  I never requested to be subscribed to any postal mailing or email mailing lists — nor was there any obvious option to make sure that I was never subscribed to junk mail from B&H.

My feeling is that companies that do not believe that they actually represent a value to consumers are the companies that are quickest to force a subscription to any type of mailing list.  Companies who believe they offer something consumers want understand that consumers will come back and they don’t need to destroy the environment in order to attempt to promote future purchases.

For me, I’ll never purchase something from B&H Photo Video again.  I simply cannot support a business that engages in ravaging the environment [cutting down forests to produce paper, wasting energy to produce a catalog, wasting energy and polluting the environment to distribute that catalog, and further wasting energy to dispose of / recycle that catalog].

Do your part, take simple steps to make the world a better place — adopt more sustainable practices — join me in boycotting companies that don’t have a place in a sustainable world.

Gulf Oil Spill

Well, I’d say that the fact that BP stock is at a fourteen year low is karmic retribution for the way BP has been handling the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; but the stock price doesn’t really hit the company, and most of the large investors are likely to weather the stock price storm until the public forgets about what a horrible company BP is.

Though — the public might not forget too quickly, because the incompetence of BP has now put the problem squarely into hurricane season, and the $2.35 billion that BP has spent to date on the issue could be a pittance compared to what it might cost them if a tropical storm hits the Gulf… and of course the storms have started in what forecasters have indicated is likely to be a very active season.

The Incredible Shrinking State

Rising Temperatures, Disappearing Coastlines
December 8, 2009

Greenland and Antarctica hold the world’s largest reservoirs of fresh water, locked in their giant ice sheets. Global warming may cause large parts of these ices sheets to melt within centuries — changing the shape of coastlines around the world.

See the entire article on NPR.

Hurricanes

Meteorology is fascinating, and since weather is something that has thwarted human kind’s attempts to control and harness it since the beginning of time it’s something worth watching [closely].

Hurricanes [also known as tropical cyclones or typhoons] are one of the most devastating of storms Mother Nature throws at us; and on the Eastern Coast of the United States, the Atlantic Hurrican Season has started for this year and I thought I’d gather some information about hurricanes and put it here on my BLOG.

 

Overview

Named for Huracan, the Carib god of evil, the hurricane is an amazing yet destructive natural phenomenon that occurs about 40 to 50 times worldwide each year. Hurricane season takes place in the Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Central Pacific from June 1 to November 30 while in the Eastern Pacific the season is from May 15 to November 30.

Hurricane Formation

Due to the Coriolis effect, the regions between 5° and 20° north and south of the equator are the belts where hurricanes can form (there is not enough rotary motion between 5° north and south. The term cyclone is used in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea and the term typhoon is used in the Pacific Ocean north of the equator and west of the International Dateline.

The birth of a hurricane starts as a low pressure zone and builds into a tropical wave of low pressure. In addition to a disturbance in the tropical ocean water, the storms that become hurricanes also require warm ocean waters (above 80°F or 27°C down to 150 feet or 50 meters below sea level) and light upper level winds.
Growth and Development of Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

A tropical wave grows in intensity and then may grow to become an organized area of showers and thunderstorms known as a tropical disturbance. This disturbance becomes an organized area of tropical low pressure that is called a tropical depression based on cyclonic winds (counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere). A tropical depression’s wind speed must be at or below 38 miles per hour (mph) or 62 km/hr when averaged out over one minute. These winds are measured at 33 feet (10 meters) above the surface.

Once average winds reach 39 mph or 63 km/hr then the cyclonic system becomes a tropical storm and receives a name while tropical depressions are numbered (i.e. Tropical Depression 4 became Tropical Storm Chantal in the 2001 season.) Tropical storm names are preselected and issued alphabetically for each storm.

There are approximately 80-100 tropical storms annually and about half of these storms become full-fledged hurricanes. It is at 74 mph or 119 km/hr that a tropical storm becomes a hurricane. Hurricanes can be from 60 to almost 1000 miles wide. They vary widely in intensity; their strength is measured on the Saffir-Simpson scale from a weak category 1 storm to a catastrophic category 5 storm. There were only two category 5 hurricanes with winds over 156 mph and a pressure of less than 920 mb (the world’s lowest pressures ever recorded were caused by hurricanes) that struck the United States in the 20th century. The two were a 1935 hurricane that struck the Florida Keys and Hurricane Camille in 1969. Only 14 category 4 storms hit the U.S. and these included the nation’s deadliest hurricane – the 1900 Galveston, Texas hurricane and Hurricane Andrew which hit Florida and Louisiana in 1992.

Hurricane damage results from three primary causes:

  • Storm Surge. Approximately 90% of all hurricane deaths can be attributed to the storm surge, the dome of water created by the low pressure center of a hurricane. This storm surge quickly floods low-lying coastal areas with anywhere from 3 feet (one meter) for a category one storm to over 19 feet (6 meters) of storm surge for a category five storm. Hundreds of thousands of deaths in countries such as Bangladesh have been caused by the storm surge of cyclones.
  • Wind Damage. The strong, at least 74 mph or 119 km/hr, winds of a hurricane can cause widespread destruction far inland of coastal areas, destroying homes, buildings, and infrastructure.
  • Freshwater Flooding. Hurricanes are huge tropical storms and dump many inches of rain over a widespread area in a short period of time. This water can engorge rivers and streams, causing hurricane-induced flooding.

Unfortunately, polls find that about half of Americans living in coastal areas are unprepared for a hurricane disaster. Anyone living along the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean should be prepared for hurricanes during hurricane season.

Fortunately, hurricanes ultimately diminish, reverting to tropical storm strength and then into a tropical depression when they move over cooler ocean water, move over land, or reach a position where the upper level winds are too strong and are thus unfavorable.

 Hurricane Strength (Classification)

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is utilized to determine the relative strengths of hurricanes that may impact the United States coast. Since the 1990s, only wind speed has been used to categorize hurricanes.

  • Category One Hurricane
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 74-95 miles per hour
    Damage Category: Minimal
    Approximate Pressure: Above 980 mb
    Approximate Storm Surge: 3-5 feet
    Examples: Hurricane Lili (2002) in Louisiana; Hurricane Gaston (2004) in South Carolina
  • Category Two Hurricane
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 96-110 miles per hour
    Damage Category: Moderate
    Approximate Pressure: 979-965 mb
    Approximate Storm Surge: 6-8 feet
    Example: Hurricane Isabel (2003) in North Carolina
  • Category Three Hurricane
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 111-130 miles per hour
    Damage Category: Extensive
    Approximate Pressure: 964-945 mb
    Approximate Storm Surge: 9-12 feet
    Examples: Hurricane Katrina (2005) in Louisiana; Hurricane Jeanne (2004) in Florida; Hurricane Ivan (2004) in Alabama
  • Category Four Hurricane
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 131-155 miles per hour
    Damage Category: Extreme
    Approximate Pressure: 944-920 mb
    Approximate Storm Surge: 13-18 feet
    Example: Hurricane Charley (2004) in Florida; Hurricane Iniki (1992) in Hawaii; the Galveston Hurricane (1900) in Texas
  • Category Five Hurricane
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: Above 155 miles per hour
    Damage Category: Catastrophic
    Approximate Pressure: Below 920 mb
    Approximate Storm Surge: More than 18 feet
    Examples: Only three Category 5 hurricanes have struck the United States since records began: The Labor Day Hurricane (1935) in the Florida Keyes, Hurricane Camille (1969) near the mouth of the Mississippi River, and Hurricane Andrew (1992) in Florida

There is no Category Six for hurricanes. While some have suggested such a category, since only three Category Five storms have struck the United States, Category Five would appear to be more than adequate.

The Anti-Green – Postal Mail

Receiving postal mail, such as bills, statements, etc and making payments via paper check (either dropped off or mailed in) wastes an incredible amount of natural resources.

Like junk mail and advertisements you receive in the mail, your bills and statements require the use of paper and energy to produce them, energy to distribute them, and energy to properly dispose of and recycle them — plus your paper check payments require the same.

Electronic bills and statements provide you the same information in a form that is far more environmentally friendly.  The production and distribution of that information requires a fraction of the power sending out traditional paper would, and totally saves the paper.

Additionally, paying electronically further reduces the wasted paper and energy.

Most institutions offer statements and bills via electronic delivery at no cost, some even offer incentives such as statement credits or some type of bonus or reward for signing up for electronic statements; and you needed be afraid of electronic statements, you still have every protection that a paper statement would have offered to you.

As for electronic payments, there’s a number of ways in which you can do that…

You could authorize a company to automatically debit your account for the amount you owe.  There are there often used methods.  First, a company could issue an automatic draft against your checking account — that’s essentially like a paper check, though since Check21 it’s likely it would be transmitted electronically.  Second, a company could issue an ACH (Automated Clearing House) transaction against your checking (or savings) account — that’s presented to the bank generally though a purely electronic medium.  Third, a company could issue a charge against a major credit card account.

Personally, I’d be cautious about authorizing any institution to directly remove money from my checking (or savings) account; while there aren’t any real long term issues with them taking out too much, you might find that the time required to correct a mistake is quite long (and you don’t have use of the funds in question during the resolution period).  With credit cards, however, all the mechanism are in place to insure that if someone makes a mistake — you won’t be out the money (or charged any interest) while the error is being looked into and resolved.

Another (entirely different) way you could pay your bills electronically is by using a bill payment service.  Most financial institutions now offer free bill payment services and puts you totally in control.  You decide who to pay, when to pay them, and how much to pay them.  If the bank makes an error, they’re totally responsible for resolving it — and if they remove funds that you didn’t authorize, or in a way you didn’t authorize then they are responsible for the ramifications.  At worst this type of bill payment generates a paper check that’s sent out on your behalf; generally it’s totally electronic.

Another place to look for reductions in postal mail is to discourage companies to send you out anything by mail that can be delivered electronically (remember, in the United States, electronic signatures are legally recognized — faxes and physical signatures are no more binding that an “electronic” signature).  So the bottom line, companies that feel the need to interact with you in writing are simply showing you that they care little for the environment and do not wish to invest in the future.  My advice, look elsewhere and send them a clear message by terminating your relationships with them.

Finally, many people use postal mail to send pictures, greeting cards, personal letters, etc.  Sure, sometimes you’re going to have to — but have you ever considered that most people just throw those away, or put them in a shoe box at the bottom of the closet?  Consider sending what you can electronically — if they really want a picture printed, they can do that locally (for probably the same it would have cost you — and less than the postage you paid).

As I’ve said a number of times before… it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference.

Here’s what happens to most printed phone books…

If you advertise in a phone book, here’s where your advertising dollars are ending up — and you’re helping to destroy the environment as well; cutting down trees, wasting energy to produce and distribute (and recycle). Think about where you spend your advertising dollars and make both effective and green choices.

Phone books in a recycling dumpster in Milton, Santa Rosa County, Florida, US.

Northwest Passage

There have been a number of articles recently on the effect of global climate change on the arctic ice pack, and I guess you could say one of the “good” things that is happening is that a (Summer) shipping route North of the Arctic Circle may be a reality within the next few years.

While the melting of the ice pack might be good news for shipping and oil/gas exploration, it might not be a good thing for the world as a whole.

Remember, a large portion of the world’s population lives in coastal regions, not far above sea level — when the ice pack melts, that water goes somewhere — and, of course, that’s fresh water, so not only does the level of the oceans rise, but the salinity of the oceans goes down.

No one can really predict what these changes will have on the habitability of this planet long term, but along with the receding glaciers we have more evidence of rather dramatic climate change.  Whether these changes are a natural event, a natural even being accelerated by emissions, or purely cause by emissions may still be debatable, but whether or not it’s happening… that’s fairly well documented.

Of course, as I always say — many love to do the back-stroke in de-nile; or as other like to day, de-nile isn’t just a river in Egypt…