The beauty of bamboo

seventh generation toilet paper package

I came across a brand called (ironically) Brandless. Their Facebook ad was effective enough that I clicked through.

The Brandless product that caught my attention the most? Toilet paper made from bamboo fiber!

Bamboo grows at a rate of up to 36 inches (91 centimeters) in 24 hours (source).

Think about it — a regular tree takes way longer to grow. If we converted all our forests dedicated to producing toilet paper into bamboo forests, we’d use up a lot fewer resources. Think: reforestation in a much shorter time period.

The amazing thing is that the price of this Brandless product is just $3 for 6 rolls. True, there may be just 12 sheets per roll, but it’s worth a try.

I haven’t signed on the dotted line yet — but I’m seriously considering giving this one a go.


Footnote: I took this photo of toilet paper at my local Whole Foods. Surprisingly, they do not sell bamboo toilet paper.

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The $200 cup of tea

macbook pro trackpad

I spilled tea on my trackpad. Then it started acting weird.

Dilemma: call my 2011 computer a loss and get a new one or have the old one fixed?

Fixing the old computer won the day.

$200 later, and it works just as good as new.


I love my old MacBook Pro. Years ago, I upgraded the memory and hard drive, and it still works fine. It’s fast enough for just about everything, and it even has a built-in CD-DVD drive, which comes in handy every once in a while. (I even used that earlier today!)

Kudos to Mac Outlet for the fine job.

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Wasted light

Denver gets most of its electric power from burning coal.

If Denver used less coal, our air would be cleaner.

Car dealerships use a lot of electric power every night after closing. They brightly light their parking lots and the inside of their showrooms.

I suppose they want to attract the buying public to their shiny new and gently-used vehicles.

But how many times do you see people stopping to look at those cars at night after closing? Never.

The idea is that drivers passing by will remember, “Oh, I passed by that group of shiny Acuras last night. Today, I need to see what they look like in the daylight!”

Really?!


So here’s the idea: if a study was done on the difference between minimal viable lighting for showrooms and car lots at night, and their current ultra-bright usage, the dealerships could be charged WAY more for any use above the minimum viable amount. Let’s say it might cost a dealership $100,000 more a month to burn all those lights instead of the current cost of maybe $3,000 more.

Each dealership would be charged individually and have its own base vs. ultra-bright rate.

This would be more efficient than a tax. The expenses to get this system going would be a one-time occurrence. A team of contractors could do the study. The power companies would get software created to do the extra fee charging. Those costs would easily be paid for out of the first few month’s savings.

If car dealerships decreased their zillion-kilowatt light shows, we might be able to see the stars again.

Denver already does this for water since we live in a dry high-desert environment.

Sometimes we all need a little push to do the right thing.

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The real costs of what you use

Here’s a fresh look at our use of resources, using mustard packets as an example…

When someone picks up too many mustard packets to go with their sandwich, they are causing a whole chain of excess waste:

  1. It takes labor, fuel, fertilizer, water and wear on farm equipment to grow mustard plants.
  2. Labor costs, fuel, wear on trucks and roads, wear on trains and tracks, or wear on planes and airports all go into transporting the ingredients for mustard from their sources to the factory.
  3. There are labor costs, factory space, machines, electricity, water, plastic and much more that go into producing mustard packets.
  4. Labor costs, fuel and wear on trucks and roads all go into transporting mustard packets from the factory to the distributing warehouse.
  5. Labor costs, fuel and wear on trucks and roads all go into transporting mustard packets from the distributing warehouse to the restaurant.
  6. Fuel and wear on vehicles and roads go into transporting mustard packets from the restaurant to your home or office.

You are right in thinking that all of this has to happen whether someone uses one mustard packet or four. But if everyone grabbed just one mustard packet instead of four — or one paper towel instead of four — the whole system would slow down and there would be fewer trucks on the road, less pollution and so on.

Join me in pausing to think about ways we can use just what we need.

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My water, not our water

Sign describing well water is used for irrigation

During my bicycle ride to work, I pass by a large cemetery with vast green expanses of lawn spread out among scattered memorial benches. (They have a rule against vertical tombstones.)

And they use their own well water to keep the grass a healthy and tranquil green.

But isn’t that water drawn from the same aquifer that surrounding neighborhoods use?

Apparently, when you use your own well water, you can water at the peak of sunshine exposure, when evaporation is at its highest. And you can water however many days a week you like.

Even worse, one neighborhood I ride through irrigates grass along the edges of their roads seven days a week.

The rest of us in suburbia are limited by Denver water authorities to three days a week and no watering between 10 am and 6 pm.

I’m not jealous of this extravagant use of water. But I find it interesting that these rules apply to only one set of users.

Life is always like that — one set of rules for one group and another set for another group — unlimited access to resources for one group and very limited access for another group.

You and I need to just accept this and ride on.

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Delete those photos

I love taking photos with my iPhone. It’s easy, fast and fun to grab quick pix that will remind me of enjoyable days or quirky stuff I see in this wild world.

a totally covered Toyota Land Cruiser But there is a downside — server farms. When people take six photos of something they only really need one of — and store them on the cloud — that’s six times more square footage of server farm needed. And six times more electricity needed to keep them there forever. And six times more hard drives that need to be bought by Amazon, Google or Apple.

So you — please delete those poor quality photos.

Just so that you know I am practicing what I preach, the above photo of a server farm is not hosted on my website. It’s hosted on another website. The article has interesting info that I never knew. (Thanks, Tek-Think. I did click on one of your Google ads as a way of saying that I appreciate the use of your photo.)


 

And for the really geeky tech people out there, I do know that those crappy photos are probably backed up forever, even if someone deletes them. But if they aren’t uploaded to the cloud before they’re deleted, we’re making some progress.

Also, geeky people, I know that it’s probably not a direct increase of six for 5 additional photos — but you get the idea.

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And we wonder why the sky is brown

emissionsI had a shocking realization the other day. I took our 12-year old Honda minivan in for an emissions test. (It’s required by law.)

The family transport vehicle (aka, “living room on wheels”) passed with flying colors. In fact, the margin between what was acceptable and what it produced was huge. And that’s with a relatively large engine — 3.5 liters that produces 240 horsepower.

Here are the results:

  • Hydrocarbons — just 2% of the fail amount
  • Carbon Monoxide — just under 3% of the fail amount
  • Nitrogen oxides — 28% of the fail amount

Obviously, the Colorado government needs to tighten its standards. Methinks the law makers have a bunch of weekend 1960s American cars with no emissions controls installed at all.

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Citizens’ Initiatives

dog poop bag dispenser

Our neighborhood has a few walking paths. And we walk along them, from time to time.

A very kind citizen put this “add a used newspaper or grocery bag dispenser for dog poop” dispenser along the trail.

Wonderful!

The local parks authority provides their own dispensers, but they have to spend labor hours, the costs of special poop bags and create pollution by a small pickup truck going along the trails to refill the dispensers.

It’s so much better for ordinary people to add their used grocery or newspaper bags to these simple-to-build dispensers!

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Great thinking

double-sided-receiptSprouts, a health-oriented supermarket with stores near us, has a great idea… double-sided receipts! I’m not referring to the kind with advertising on the back. These have purchase information carried onto the formerly blank side.

This will effectively save about twice as much paper as regular receipts. Yes, there is an infrastructure cost — registers that can print tape on both sides are probably more expensive than those that print only on one side. But that cost will eventually be made up. Or not. Even if it costs more money in the long run, that’s a nice investment in the health of our planet.

If you want to find your nearest Sprouts, click here.

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Artisan lip balm and whiskey

Burt's BeesBurt’s Bees was sold to Clorox. Small distilleries may be selling you whiskey that was mostly made in a giant factory.

You already know that all is not as it seems. But we are susceptible to good marketing.

The Denver Post reported on September 28th that many craft distilleries are using whiskey that is made in giant factories.  It may be a little disappointing to someone who spends $65 for a bottle of “hand-crafted spirits” to find out that they have bought something made in a massive factory.

People with chapped lips wanting something better than Chapstick have turned to Burt’s Bees for a long time. They have (and do) buy that brand because of its more natural ingredients and the company’s environmental responsibility. But did you know that Burt’s Bees was bought by Clorox in 2007? That’s probably not surprising to you. But we still like the idea that our purchase will be healthier and more responsible than something we buy from a big corporate global manufacturer. We also like the idea that our product is made in a small facility by local humans, rather than on some anonymous assembly line.

The only way to truly buy local and artisan may be to visit the factory to see how they make what you want to buy. And be prepared to pay double (or more) than what the national brand might cost.

Healthy and responsible is not cheap.

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