Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Top 10 Wastes

With Qaddafi strafing oil wells, gas prices pushing $4.00/gallon and the unfolding catastrophe at Fukushima, why aren't we talking about energy conservation?  Why don't I see any Jimmy Carter sweaters on our leaders or talk about turning off lights or lightening up on the gas pedal?  Even if no one in D.C. is doing their part, blogspot and I will do ours.


Here is my list of the Top 10 Silliest, Wasteful-without-benefit, Things-we-can-do-without, beginning with the 10th silliest:


#10.  Battery operated infrared wastebaskets.  Something designed to collect waste shouldn't generate it pointlessly.

#9.  Pre-packaged lettuce leaves.  Three times more expensive with energy-consuming processing and packaging.  I'm tough enough to tear my own leaves off a head of Romaine.  
Consumer Reports tested packaged lettuces in 2010 and found pervasive bacteria and fecal contamination.  The worst were those with spinach.  The solution?  Wash as soon as you get home, repackage and refrigerate, don't store very long...wait, then the advantage of pre-washed lettuce is what exactly?
 #8.  Battery operated toys.
Okay, there may be a minority of these that are actually FUN.  Most though are pointless noisemakers.  See my earlier post about choosing toys for your kids:  Educational Toys?
#7.  Circling the parking lot and idling just to find the very closest spot.  Not all walking has to be on a treadmill.
"Shoup studied a 15-block district in Los Angeles and found that drivers spent an average of 3.3 minutes looking for parking, driving about half a mile each. Over the course of a year, Shoup calculated the cruising in that small area would amount to 950,000 excess miles traveled, equal to 38 trips around the earth, wasting about 47,000 gallons of gas, and producing 730 tons of carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming."  From salon.com
#6.  Leaf blowers.  Use a rake or leave them be.

"An estimated three million leaf blowers currently pollute the U.S. Their numbers rise rapidly. Most newer and all older gas-operated leaf blowers have two-stroke engines. They are far worse than automobiles in terms of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, which create chaotic climate changes that now threaten continued human habitation on the Earth. Unique to the 2-stroke engine is the fact that 25 to 30% of raw, unburned fuel is spewed out its exhaust, approximately 1.5 gallons per hour of operation. Further documentation of the damage of leaf blowers is available from Zero Air Pollution at www.zapla.or and www.nonoise.org."  from energybulletin.net

#5.  Ethanol.  Don't call it fuel if it uses more to grow, harvest, process and transport than it generates.  Ethanol creates 1/3 less energy than gasoline.  And then there's the 54 cent/gallon federal subsidy.
"If the energy required to produce the ethanol is greater than the useable energy derived from ethanol in its end use, it becomes difficult to justify the production of ethanol regardless of the other costs. These calculations are complex and the results depend on the assumptions that are used. Two researchers, Pimentel (Natural Resources and Research, 2003) and Patzek (Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 2004), report numbers indicating that the energy used to produce ethanol is higher than the energy gained from burning ethanol, while two other researchers, Shapouri (The Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol, 2002) and Wang (Fuel-cycle fossil energy use and greenhouse gas emissions of fuel ethanol produced from U.S. Midwest corn, 1997), report the opposite results from their calculations. Further work is needed to refine these results."  From Suite101.com
#4.  Over-packaging, especially that nasty molded plastic stuff.   We should all carry razor blades, cut it off at the checkout counter and leave it with the stores. (Idea stolen from my daughter-in-law) 

#3.  Plastic grocery bags that hold no more than 3 items.  I often forget my "real bags" in the car but someone in D.C. and Salem ought to be encouraging us to use them, shouldn't they?
"Californians use 12 billion plastic bags every year. "  Just California?  From cawrecycles.org
#2.  Bottled water.  Roll back your calendar 20 years.  Wouldn't you have thought this was silly then?  Isn't it still?
Researchers have consistently found that bottled water is LESS SAFE than tap water (except where water is contaminated such as parts of the developing world), 1000 times more expensive and even more expensive in terms of energy expended to process, transport and dispose of all those bottles.


And the silliest way we waste energy is...

#1.  Spending over 3x more on federal highways ($42 billion) than we spend on rails and public transportation ($13 billion).  The best way to waste precious fuel I can think of.  See the numbers in the 2010 federal budget here.

I'm guessing there are a few thousand more that could be on this list.  It's time Obama, Kitzhaber and the other governors use their bully pulpits to encourage simple conservation measures.  Just ask us to help, Mr. President.  Please.