Archive for May, 2010

We’re coming up on Week 7 of the Gulf oil spill, and now there’s talk the leak may not be plugged til August (LA Times, also see NY Times). There’s also news that BP knew about safety issues sooner than it previously let on (NY Times).

The spill takes a big toll on wildlife (Washington Post). It also mean no Arctic oil drilling til at least 2011 (LA Times).

Australia plans legal action against Japanese whaling (BBC).

The UK’s Royal Society will review its climate change message (BBC).

Beaches on the Cape took a beating from winter storms this year (Boston Globe).

The Air Force looks for alternative fuels (Boston Globe).

UVA fights an AG subpoena for a climate researcher’s documents (Chronicle of Higher Education).

It’s the perfect time of year to de-clutter. Donate or sell items you don’t need.

I was interested to see Matt’s post the other day because I had been considering mentioning this topic myself. So in the spirit of reusability, here’s a quick take. And it’s that good old-fashioned money could help him remember to bring in those bags more often.  At one grocery store, you get a credit of 5 cents per bag per trip. Meaning if you buy a bag for $1, you’ll have recouped your investment after 20 trips, and from then on just keep bagging those returns  While it’s a small amount, it does recognize the cost savings that reusable bags provide and passes some of those savings along to the customer. Plus the bags are sturdier and have a larger capacity than plastic bags, meaning an order that might require 5 or so plastic bags could be handled with maybe 2 reusable bags.

And in cases where you do forget reusable bags, many stores now collect plastic bags for recycling, helping to mitigate that issue. You could also reuse them in your home for something like a small wastebasket. But like anything, the more you reuse those bags, the easier it will be to remember.

If you’re like me, you often head into the grocery store without your reusable shopping bags. The question is at what point do you go back to your car and get them? At what point have you passed the point of no return and you need to use plastic bags?

And don’t even get me started on a quick trip to drug store or even an excursion to the mall to buy a present. My success rate of remembering to take in a reusable bag from the car to the store hovers near about 30 percent at those nongrocery stores. It’s not bad if I were a Red Sox player trying to hit a baseball, but I’m just a guy trying to cut back on wasting plastic bags.

My rule is that if I already have stuff in my hands or in the cart I won’t go back – possibly for fear of people removing things from my cart when I leave to get the bag from may car. And I’m afraid many people often leave their reusable bags at home and it’s not worth the gas (and time) used to go back and get it. We may have the right attitude, but we have poor execution. So, how could this be fixed?

Well, what about a bag co-op? What if you paid a fee (or better yet the stores paid it for you since they’re saving on plastic bags) of $10 per year to have stores provide your reusable bags – they scan a barcode on the bags and a card with your info and you’re basically checking out the bags. You can be in possession of up to 30 or so at one time before you have to bring them all back (just drop them off in a container in the front of the store, where someone later then scans the barcode so it’s known that you returned them). This service could be provided at every grocery store, drug store or shopping center but it could be under one giant umbrella service. Check out the bag at Shaws and return it at CVS? Not a problem since it’s all the same bag company.

Whaddya think? It solves the forgetfulness problem for sure – and plastic bags have already been banned in some countries, so we may need a solution to this problem sooner than you may think.

Now in week 5 of the Gulf oil spill, the Obama administration has harsh criticism for BP (MSNBC).  It’s also formed a panel to investigate the spill (Washington Post).  But it hasn’t quite lived up to the moratorium on new drilling (NY Times).

Louisiana remains devoted to oil (NY Times).

The LA Times looks at what’s happening in BP’s Houston offices and also notes that a solution may come from none other than Kevin Costner.

Ties to BP cause problems for the Nature Conservancy (Washington Post).

GM looks to get a charge from the Volt (MSNBC).

URI and FM Global win sustainable building awards (Providence Journal).  LA looks at developing a CleanTech corridor (LA Times).

In Mass, the AG calls for a review of the Cape Wind deal (Boston Globe), while Cape Wind also tries to strike a deal with NStar.  Also on the Cape, the Gulf oil spill brings back memories of a disaster from more than 40 years ago (Boston Globe).

Hawaii struggles to take out the trash (NY Times).

Britain wants the EU to push for more ambitious emissions reductions (BBC).

Chicago was the place to be for climate change skeptics (BBC).

Vines help to insulate exterior walls of your home from summer’s heat and winter’s cold.

A few news stories from the past few days.

The National Research Council urges Congress to act on climate change (NY Times). Speaking of environmental damage, just how big is the Gulf oil spill?  Some scientists claim the government is obstructing efforts to get an accurate picture (NY Times). And for all the talk of environmental risks, reliance on oil sands is growing (NY Times). And following up on a story from last week, despite heightened scrutiny, the Minerals Management Service approved initial permits to drill for oil in the Arctic.

We are so focused on how to contain the massive Gulf Coast oil spill that we at times have forgotten how we ended up here. While the present focus should be on stopping the spill, once that task ends we need make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Sure, you hear a lot about toughening up regulations but that’s only a portion of the answer. We need to move away from our dependence on oil. Politicians often insert “foreign” into that last sentence so that we can still have domestic oil, but where has that gotten us? Oil is threatening the entire seafood economy. And about a dozen people died in the rig’s initial blast.

This, of course, fails to even take into consideration the environmental effects of using/drilling for oil. Drilling for oil disturbs the aquatic ecosystem and using oil has any number of drastic consequences on global warming. Severe tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, heat waves – yup, blame oil for it. Oh, and don’t forget who the foreign oil funds – countries with ties to international terrorism.

So yeah, it’s safe to say we need to move away from oil consumption. And while I’m as outraged as anyone about the cost of Cape Wind being forced upon the customers, is it too steep a price to pay for clean air, less terrorism and a better environment? The answer is no.

BP’s latest effort at containing the oil leak seems to be succeeding (MSNBC). Still, its overall impact, especially underwater, remains to be seen (LA Times, also see the NY Times and Washington Post)

Speaking of water cleanup, the EPA has vowed an unprecedented effort to clean up Chesapeake Bay (Washington Post).

Differing views on climate change divide two MIT scientists (Boston Globe).  Speaking of MIT, the Globe also has an article on the school’s Clean Energy contest. And here’s an article about an entrepreneur promoting solar power (MSNBC).

The EPA moves to regulate large polluters (MSNBC).

National Grid signs a second Cape Wind deal (Boston Globe).

IPCC defends its work (BBC).

A lake in Africa reaches record-high temperatures (MSNBC).

One tip for a “greener” lawn: Don’t mow unless there’s rain in the short-term forecast.