Thursday, February 14, 2008

Want an Air Car?

No not flying cars just yet, but the Midi air car is a vehicle that runs on compressed air. Now of course the energy used to compress the air to begin with must be considered, but when I spoke with the owner of the company about 6 months back for an article I wrote about it, he mentioned that his eventual hope was that they would sell solar charging stations making it an extremely clean vehicle. And now, it looks like they may start selling the fist models in India within the year. Pretty cool (pun intended).

Live Sustainably



VD (no not that one)

I was just listening to the radio in the shower and heard a statistic that today, Valentines Day, $17 billion will be spent on flowers, cards, chocolates and little tiny stuffed bears. The piece went on to talk about the chocolate market, which gets cocoa beans from places in Africa like the Ivory Coast, where the majority of the workers are underaged minors. Kind of amazing to think that a greeting card company has somehow convinced us that on a certain day of the year, it is imperative that we buy gifts made by children in order to convince our significant others that we care about them. Does anyone else think this is nuts? $17 Billion? Imagine if that money went into schools, or solar research, or feeding the poor (preferably not minor produced chocolate though). I know that's naive because it doesn't really work that way, but talk about waste.

Now to the cards and gifts and flowers. Here in the US, most of the country is not in flower growing season, so most of the flowers purchased have probably come from fairly far away requiring a tremendous amount of energy to transport them to us. They probably come in a plastic and paper wrapper which in most cases will be thrown away. Most of the cards that are bought are going to be looked at once and thrown away, if not recycled, but most won't be. The store that sold the card most likely gave it to the buyer in a small plastic bag that most people will probably throw out when they get home. And I'm not even going to get started on the waste from those chocolate boxes.

I don't mean to be all bah humbug on romance by the way, I'm all for it (as much as someone who keeps his trash in the basement can be anyway). I'm just bummed out that the concept has been hijacked and turned into something involving consumption.

So what''s my suggestion? If you want to celebrate today, why not do something that doesn't involve simple consumption - make dinner, draw a picture, sing a song, show up at work and serenade someone, call out of the blue and simply tell them that you were thinking of them and couldn't wait until the end of the day to let them know, the list is endless. Just use your imagination and don't let the corporations tell you how you have to show your emotions. And better than all of these, do nothing today, but do something else 4 other times of the year and let your partner know that these "surprises" are in place of Vday because you don't need someone else to remind you when to act romantic.

Off to make a lovely bouquet of garbage for the missus.

Live Sustainably


P.S. And don't shoot the messenger, I was just passing along what I heard


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Compact

I had heard of this before, but didn't know much about it until last week. The Compact is a group of citizens that originated in San Fran about a year and a half ago, who pledged to buy nothing new for a year except food and items related to personal hygiene and safety - brake fluid, underwear (is that safety or hygiene?), toilet paper, etc.

I think this is a really fantastic idea and it seems to have caught on quite a bit. I'm now a member of their yahoo group and the amount of posts they generate are simply staggering. These people mean business. And the great thing is that since they are all in it together, they share ideas on how to get around purchasing problems.

Now for those of you who are thinking uggh, a year without buying anything, think again. They are just not buying anything new. I personally check craigslist for just about everything before I buy something new, simply to avoid all of the packaging and to take myself out of the production cycle. So they're not living frugal lives necessarily, just thinking more about their purchases and considering what's important.

Here's a great list i saw posted by one of the groups members. It was actually printed ona little credit card holder and was intended to make you think before pulling it out. This is waht was printed on the holder:

I want my money to support the environment.

* Is this purchase something I need?
* Do I already own something that will serve the same purpose?
* Can I borrow one instead of buying new?
* Can I make something that will serve the same purpose?
* Can I buy a used one?
* Would someone be willing to split the cost and share this with me?
* Can I buy or commission one made locally?
* Can I buy one that was made with environmentally responsible
* Can I buy one that serves more than one purpose?
* Can I get something human powered instead of gas or electric?
* Can I compost or recycle it when I'm done with it?
* Have I considered the impact on the environment of the full
lifecycle of it - did the manufacture or disposal of it damage
the environment?

Great questions and a really good list to go through before making a purchase.