Archive for the ‘consumption’ Category

Topher and Kerstin have created a very nice site to inspire people to transition to a zero-carbon lifestyle

Check it out… http://carbonbalancers.wordpress.com/

On that same note, we use Bonneville Environmental to buy our offsets, they seem to have a pretty robust system for making sure they are selling real offsets.

Another handy way to offset your CO2 is through your local power company. For example, in Utah, we can pay a bit extra on our power bill and then the power company buys wind and solar power instead of coal generated power for the amount of green energy that customers have paid for. To offset other CO2 emissions other than power usage, you can just buy extra power blocks beyond the amount you use for power. The outcome is less power bought as coal and more as wind and sun. This is a nice way to offset because it is a direct offset of CO2 emissions and is relatively local to one’s location. In Utah, the coal power comes from within the state and so has a direct impact on our air quality.  I’m not sure how this approach squares with the standard methods of offsetting emissions. Any ideas?


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There is a great article over at earthfirst.com about how hard it is to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives (link).

It is amazing to me that something so obviously terrible as the fact that we throw away billions of pounds of plastics a day should be controversial. To anyone who understands what sustainability means our current behaviors appear totally insane. If we ever make it to a sustainable future, it will be illegal to sell products in plastics that can’t be recycled and it will be illegal not to recycle. This isn’t a matter of violating our personal liberties or big government intervention, it is common sense. We live in an unstable system now where manufacturers can put their products in any packaging they want with no regard for the full lifecycle of the packaging or the products or the toxic byproducts that go into making them and are released when they degrade. In a sustainable future these things will as seem as bizarre and wrong-headed to our decedents as doctors prescribing heroin children for coughs does to us (yes that was common 100 years ago).

People concerned about the environment too often fall into the trap of demanding that everyone give up everything they have to save the world. While we seriously need to curb our unbridled consumptive habits, we have reached a point in our technological development that we can build a sustainable world and give everyone a better standard of living and a higher quality of life.

The problem is not that we use plastic – plastic is great for so many things – that’s why there is so much of it. The problem is that the plastic we use is toxic and gets thrown out instead of recycled when we are done with it.

In a sustainable future, plastics will be non-toxic we will all have desktop fabricators (link, link) to make the parts we need to repair the things we own by recycling the plastic we use ourselves. This may seem far-fetched now, but 10 years ago I don’t think most people would have believed you could get a phone that would show you the location of all your friends, in realtime, on a satellite map of your neighborhood (yes the iPhone does that).  The way these things become real is for people to demand that they become real. We need to have the vision and see a better future and then we need to educate our friends, tell everyone we know and demand that the people with power make rational decisions based on sound science.

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After living in Salt Lake City for 7 years, I finally got around to going to the outdoor retailers convention. This is one of those events that you hear so much buzz about and always kind of wonder what the deal is.

The Outdoor Retailers Show is like going to a huge REI where every product has its own huge display with all the newest toys. Half a city block’s worth of toys. Oh and they serve beer and cocktails and you can buy a lot of the stuff at half price at the end of the week. Holy shit, for a gear and tech head like me this is nirvana.

One of the amazing advances in gear lately is how light everything has gotten. Like Mammut is selling an entire quickdraw that ways less than a conventional oval carabiners.

The camping cookware from GSI Outdoors was also amazing. They make a super lightweight cooking pot that had 2 bowls and two insulated cups that fit perfectly inside of it — no more fighting to fit all that crap in your backpack, it all sits nicely inside the cooking pot. They had lightweight everything from completely flat fold-up spatulas to hip flasks. Stuff like this makes me appreciate that we really are living in the future we dreamed up reading sci-fi as kids. You start to see how you could soon have a completely bomber camping setup for any season that would pack down tiny and weigh 10 or 15 pounds – stove tent sleeping bag food and all. It completely redefines what adventures are possible.

I bought a full length insulated sleeping pad from Pacific Outdoor Equipment that weighs barely more than a pound,it was made from sustainably grown bamboo, and the price includes carbon offsets for the CO2 to produce it. Pretty sweet.

Another toy I couldn’t get enough of was the helmet camera from GoPro. GoPro ads show up in practically every Google search I do since I’m always researching camera gear and it was great to finally get a look at one. What they’ve done with the setup is amazing. The camera weighs just a little more than the 2 AAA batteries that run it, comes with a housing waterproof to 100′ and can take an hour of video or 2 hours of 3 megapixel stills at 1 per 5 seconds. All you do to run it is push a button. It attaches to pretty much any surface from a ski boot to helmet, plane wing, surfboard, motorcycle, you name it. It retails for $180 which is seems like a lot of money, but considering what you get is pretty dang cheap since for most digital cameras, just a waterproof housing costs 2-3 times that.

One shortcoming of the GoPro is that it is hardly low profile (I mean do you really want to look like a cyborg when you ski?), but since it is self contained, this is hard to get around. Another issue is that if the clamp or sticky-mount fails you loose the whole camera since its not like a typical helmet camera where there would be a cord running into your coat to the recorder.

Video Quality — The camera records mpeg4 avi files @ about 550×350 (can’t remember the exact specs). this is reasonable quality for online use and actually looked surprisingly good on the wide-screen tv’s they were showing it on. . Unfortunately, by their own admission, the video doesn’t look that great on YouTube because it gets recompressed. They didn’t seem to fazed by this and were encouraging people to use other sites that have less compression, but to to me this seems like a major shortcoming. I mean really, the only reason anyone is going to buy one of these is to put their video online to show off what they do and probably 99% of people putting video online use YouTube. If you make a camera that seems directly targeted at YouTubeusers, having video that isn’t optimized for YouTube seems kinda lame. But hey, this is thing is only a year old so maybe they’ll see the light.

As someone who always wants to buy digital toys with the most available options, part of me really appreciates the simplicity of the GoPro. It has 2 buttons, nothing to adjust and almost no settings at all — it only does what they sell it to do, take pictures and movies when you push a button. I’m sure this will be annoying after a while, but as a product development paradigm it seems like something useful to think about.

Its supposed to snow 40 to 50 inches in the next two days so I’ll take the camera for a ride and post the video soon.

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