December 27, 2006

Two Items on the Environment

I hate it when I have a logjam of things to write about; usually the result is that nothing at all comes out. I'm in the process of trying to clear the jam and let a couple logs through at a time. To whit:

We spent Christmas weekend with my parents, and on Christmas Eve Al and I had a grand plan to put The Beaner to bed early and then dash out to the 8:00 showing of The Good Shepherd while my parents kept an ear out for any cries from the crib. The Beaner cooperated by going down at the unheard-of hour of 7:05pm, but alas, our plan was wrecked when we discovered that was wrong: there was no 8:00 showing of The Good Shepherd at the local mall (the one with a Bible store but no Gap) on Christmas Eve. On our way back from the theater we stopped at the still-open Blockbuster and, after scanning the racks and considering both Scoop (me) and My Super Ex-Girlfriend (Al), finally rented The Al Gore Movie (actual title: An Inconvenient Truth).


I used to be all concerned about the environment and global warming and such in my 20s, but after protesting and writing letters to leaders and giving money to Greenpeace and all that, nothing seemed to come of it. Everyone seemed confused about whether global warming was even real... even though evidence of it mounted on an almost-daily basis. And, honestly, inertia overtook me. When nothing happened right away (either in the environment or in the fight against global warming), it became an easy issue to ignore. I know I should be using less energy, and what we do use should be from renewable sources—I go around turning off lights after Aura and Al all the time, I pay the extra $7.50 or so a month to get some of our electricity from wind farms, and I prefer to walk or use public transit instead of driving—but I also know I could be doing so much more.

I think that's partly why I didn't want to see this movie: I didn't want to face the fact that I wasn't doing all that I could... and I didn't really want to know how bad things were. They're bad, but the situation is not entirely hopeless. Everyone should see this movie, especially Americans. It's time we woke up and faced what we're doing to our planet—what we're doing to our OWN future, not just our children's—and to learn what we can do to reverse the trend, if not all of the effects. At the very least, we need to be talking about global warming—because as Gore says in the movie, nothing much happens in Congress unless an issue is on the tip of every constituent's tongue. This movie will get you talking, I guarantee.

The other environmental item I wanted to mention was this article in today's New York Times: Farmers and Conservationists Form a Rare Alliance. We need more partnerships like this one, where everyone benefits. We as Americans and citizens of the world need to value a clean and healthy environment—not just give it lip service, but attach an actual monetary value to it. It's a short article, and worth reading all the way through for the details about how the deal is structured and what benefits both the shorebirds and the farmers can expect to reap.

Posted by Lori at 10:01 PM
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April 13, 2007

The Axes of Environmental Impact has an interesting link today to a life-cycle energy analysis of reusable and disposable cups. Considering the much more energy-intensive process required to create the reusable cups, and the energy impact of washing them, it turns out that you'd have to use a ceramic mug more than one thousand times before it became a more energy-efficient choice than a styrofoam cup—and that's assuming a highly energy-efficient dishwasher.

I question the conclusion, however, that "[t]he lesson of this life-cycle energy analysis is that the choice between reusable and disposable cups doesn't matter much in its overall environmental impact." Doesn't this study just illuminate the energy impact of the various kinds of cups? What about the environmental impact of having to dispose of all those paper and styrofoam cups? Does the toxicity of the dishwasher soap somehow also outweigh the space required in landfills?

I have no idea, but I do wonder.

Posted by Lori at 12:09 PM
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April 26, 2007

Michael Pollan on the Farm Bill: Don't Be Fooled Again

Please, please go read You Are What You Grow in the New York Times Magazine. Some of its contents will be familiar to anyone who's read the absorbing, eye-opening The Omnivore's Dilemma, but it's more specifically about the farm bill—which Pollan argues should be called the food bill instead. An excerpt:

If the quintennial antidrama of the “farm bill debate” holds true to form this year, a handful of farm-state legislators will thrash out the mind-numbing details behind closed doors, with virtually nobody else, either in Congress or in the media, paying much attention. Why? Because most of us assume that, true to its name, the farm bill is about “farming,” an increasingly quaint activity that involves no one we know and in which few of us think we have a stake.

Au contraire, my friends who eat. Au contraire.

Posted by Lori at 5:57 PM
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January 5, 2009

Unsolicited Review: Starbucks Twist-Top Reusable Mug

One of the resolutions I didn't write down but made in my head this year was to generate less trash. We've already started bringing our own bowls to Tampopo (where they give a $.50 discount for doing so) whenever possible, and I decline plastic utensils, paper napkins, and condiment packets whenever I intend to bring food home to eat, but I've still been piling up a ton of plastic and paper just from one regular habit: Getting coffee at Starbucks.

My favorite way to drink coffee (and especially tea) is from a ceramic mug. My second-favorite way to drink coffee is from those paper Starbucks cups with the Solo lids. (I should note that I *hate* to drink tea this way; the only thing worse than drinking tea from a paper cup with a Solo lid is drinking tea from a Styrofoam cup, lid or no lid.)

The reason both paper and mug are fine for coffee has to do with the way I sip and savor my coffee. I like a bit of creamy foam or whipped cream on top of my latte/au lait/light mocha; it lets me start the savoring process without scalding my tongue. Usually by the time the foam or whipped cream is gone, the coffee is at the perfect temperature for drinking (provided it was hot enough to begin with). Plus, I'm a fan of the creamy. Just the way it is.

for here

Anyway, it's been so long since I used a travel mug that I'd forgotten *why* I hadn't used one in so long: namely, they generally provide crappy sipping experiences. (A secondary reason is that the travel mugs I own or admire are the wrong size, usually 16-20oz. when I need 8-12oz.) So with the secondary reason in mind and the primary reason long forgotten, I purchased an 8oz. travel mug with a twist top on Saturday.

8oz. twist-top travel mug

It came highly recommended by the barista, who said he loved his; it's a pretty color; the twist top is novel; it's the perfect size for a short latte. What's not to love? I found out on Sunday, when I got a short latte in it. The barista left a nice foamy top on the latte, which I had to sip down a bit in order to screw the top on. This turned out to be the only enjoyable moment of the latte-drinking experience, so I'm glad now for the overfill.

twist-top travel mug

After screwing the top on and twisting it open, I tilted the mug to sipping position... and nothing happened. I tipped it up a bit more. Nothing. I tipped it a bit more...and promptly scalded the back of my tongue as a rush of steaming-hot latte hit it. I spent the entire walk home trying to figure out how to sip from the damn thing, but I never achieved anything other than a dump down the gullet. I finally took the top off and tossed it into the back of the Beaner's tricycle, but I only got two sips before the latte level dropped to the point where I had to stick my nose all the way into the cup and upend it—essentially dumping it down my gullet again.

By the time I arrived home, I was pretty pissed off—and the primary reason for avoiding travel mugs was once again fresh in my mind. Given that this mug was useless with its top on (and even then only until half-empty), I might as well have brought a ceramic mug from home... if only I'd had one the right size for a short. FART.

While purchasing this disappointing twist-top reusable mug, I'd spotted another option that was appealing because it looked just like the standard Starbucks cup, only plastic. (I guess my subconscious was trying to alert me to the sippability factor, but my conscious mind ruled this option out because of size.) It was on the sale table, being holiday-themed, and I considered buying it for Al. I wasn't sure it'd be his thing, though, so I passed.

After consulting him and discovering that it indeed would have been to his liking, and after having the disastrous drinking experience with the twist-top mug, I walked back to the Starbucks with the holiday-themed, cup-style travel mugs and bought two. I still say it's too big for my daily short latte (it's 16oz., which is grande size), but it's nice for taking a homemade hot chocolate in the car. I tested it at my desk this morning, and the sippability is roughly the same as with a standard Starbucks paper cup with Solo lid.

grande travel mug

I also got another 8oz. mug with a flip-up plug; it's not as sure a bet on the sippability front as the grande cup, but given the placement of the flow hole, I have hope. If it doesn't work out, I'll be sure to rant about it here. Oh, and I gave the green mug to the nanny, who said she'd try it for tea. It's my guess that she'll be passing it on after one try, too.

Posted by Lori at 12:27 PM
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