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Zero Waste: shave with an electric razor or a real blade

I’m willing to sacrifice a clean shave for the good of the planet. I have to if I want to be zero waste. All the options on the market involve disposable razors, the kind you throw-out after a week. It’s a minor thing but every bit counts when you’re trying to be zero waste. At a certain point all you have left to cut-out are the little things.

I’ve considered investing in a straight blade, barbershop style. One that I could sharpen myself and get the closest shave of my life. It sounds manly and tough, like teaching myself about knives will earn a boy scout badge. But I grew up in a peace-loving, near-hippy family and so I’m not used to any sort of weapon.

And my first alternative was already lying around in the bathroom – an electric shaver. I cut my hair with it and decided to try a shave with it. It’s not exactly the closest shave but it does the job. And I collect all the shavings for the compost. They disappear immediately in there, not like an ear of corn which take forever to disintegrate.

The only problem with this method is that it uses electricity, but I’m okay with that. I see the world moving towards all-electricity devices running on renewable energy. And since the power company allows me to pay more for renewable energy, it feels ok.

But I still look forward to earning that man badge and become the first person I know to shave with a real blade.

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Men, have you ever shaved with a real blade?

Ladies, do you have a way to avoid using a disposable razor?

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Toxicology ratings of smartphones – how toxic is your phone?

Here is a quality piece from iFixit that performs a chemical analysis on 36 smartphones. Which ones are the cleanest?

High technology feels so clean—no coal or steam or mess, just cool aluminum, sleek plastics, and polished glass. But that clean surface hides an interior that is far messier and more toxic…researchers took apart 36 phones and submitted their components to X-ray fluorescence spectrometry…then rated and ranked the phones on a scale of 0 – 5, lowest being best:

What kind of peanuts are these?

I finally went for it – I bought raw peanuts at the farmers market. For a few weeks I have been passing them by, watching the folks pick at them, selecting each nut one-by-one. Unsure of how they cooked them and a little afraid the rawness would get me sick. Then I bought some and they are amazing – like no other peanut I’ve ever tried before.

This happens a lot at the farmers market and is part of the joy of shopping there. Buying something new and learning how to prepare it. Learning that it tastes nothing like the stuff in supermarkets, and having your entire concept of something shattered. Which always leaves me asking – just what are they selling in supermarkets?

These peanuts are big and soft, white and oily. The taste is much the same as a store-bought peanut, only a little sweeter. The difference comes in the potency of each nut – so packed with nutrients that I can only eat a few. Have a handful and it’s like a full meal. My stomach gets an instant burst of energy.

I’m still in shock over this – I love peanut butter and have been eating it for decades. And now I learn, that like everything in life, there is a quality difference. According to one website, The World’s Healthiest Foods, “peanuts can be difficult to find in high-quality form.”

And what a difference quality makes. I’ve heard for years that peanuts are an excellent source of many nutrients, including protein. But not until I tasted fresh, local ones did I fully understand their strength. Wikipedia says they contain over 30 nutrients and WHFoods says they can help fight everything from heart disease to cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Of course, that all depends on the quality of the peanut. And now that I’ve tasted these I will never look at ballpark peanuts the same way again. Not to mention supermarket peanut butter.

More on Peanuts

To prepare them, I spread them on a pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees – shuffling them around at the halfway point.

Do you have a better recipe for preparing peanuts? – Please share in the comments.

It turns out that a peanut is a bean – a member of the legume family – and not a nut. It has many names across the world, including “goober” and “monkey nut”. It’s a small plant that grows 1-2 feet tall and produces flowers which grows just long enough to fall to the ground. It then buries itself underground and turns into a peanut.

The peanut is new to the world having been discovered in the New World and quickly spread across the globe – notably to Africa, China and India. The last two growing 60% of world peanuts which they don’t export, nearly all are consumed at home. The United States is the world leader in peanut exports.

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The post-PC era: smartphones and tablets use (much) less energy than laptop and desktop PCs

The smartphone revolution is spreading to every corner of the globe and, in 2011, an astounding 450 million smartphones were shipped. But what is the environmental cost of all these phones?

A piece from OPower looked into this and found some surprising facts. The first is that the iPhone 5 only uses $0.41/year of energy, and the second is a look at the post-PC era.

It turns out that smartphones and tablets are ultra-energy efficient compared to traditional consumer electronics – “A day spent web-surfing on a smartphone is a much more energy-efficient than doing the same on a traditional computer.”

 

 

Read the full article – Smartphones: smart for energy efficiency

Tortilla chips and cheap food

You could like chips and dip more than me, but it’s not likely. I can eat them everyday for months with an endless variety of dips. I love them…but I have a problem. All chips are made from cheap food – I can eat an entire bag, have an exploding stomach, and still be hungry.

It’s the sign of cheap food – eating and still being hungry. The equivalent of the worst blind date. You give up a whole evening, pay for dinner, and head home completely unfulfilled. Most people don’t think about bad dates when buying food, they only see price tags. The cheaper the item the better it is. But cheap food usually means low quality food. Something so empty of nutrients and vitamins, that we can eat – and eat – and still be hungry.

Unfortunately, the same is true for the expensive chips. I’ve tried them all, from natural food stores to Whole Foods, and even the farmers market – with the same result, overeating and still hungry. I was so upset and about to give up on chips and dip, when it occurred to me I could make my own.

Now, this is a serious commitment. Spending an hour of my time, sweating with a roller, to make something I can buy at the store for two dollars. But, being Sustainable Steve I had to try it, and so I bought a bag of whole wheat, and went through the process – kneading, rolling, and baking. My first taste was…amazing.

These are real tortilla chips with taste and flavor. No salt or chemical flavoring added. And I can only eat a few – no more than seven or eight at a time. Which completely changes my chip and dip routine – I’m eating less chips and therefore less dip. Feeling full and losing weight.

A great example of how cheap food has penetrated every corner of our lives. It seems like a simple thought – homemade tortilla chips – but I was so conditioned to think that’s impossible. With thousands of commercials ringing in my head – like Lays potato chips, “you can’t eat just one.”

I was convinced overeating chips was natural. But here I am, noshing on whole wheat delights, and wondering how I ever did it differently. Beware cheap food and commercials, they can trick you into believing anything.

 

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Getting used to Fall

A beautiful piece on the new season by Gina Dostler - Autumn Alignment:

I feel the coolness gently touch my face as it drifts through the window screen, and I know summer is coming to its end.

And though Indian summer hides in wait for its call to jump out and play its games with hot days and cool nights, my watermelon patch is privy to the cycle and has stopped flowering, concentrating the last bit of growth on the remaining fruit.

The autumnal equinox – Sept. 22 this year – indicates when fall begins, a time when day and night hang in balance, a side-by-side alignment of our world and the sun before our section of the hemisphere starts tipping away for longer nights and shorter, cooler days.

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National Park Service opens the country’s first “Net Zero” visitors center

A 7,000 square foot visitors center in the Santa Monica Mountains – just north of Malibu, CA – can survive off the grid. It has a 94-kilowatt solar roof array to power highly energy-efficient LEDs installed throughout the center. This is the first visitor center from the National Park Service to be “net zero”.

The site also achieved a LEED Platinum Certification by using environmentally friendly materials, incorporating natural light, using light dimmers during daylight hours, and by re-purposing the existing structures. They were originally horse stables for King Gillete – the razor billionaire from yester-year – and his mansion still exists in the 588-acre park.

The project was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – $9.5 million – along with matching funds from the California government and a local conservancy. All materials were made in America. The site will be managed by a joint public-private enterprise.

More on the park – King Gillete Ranch:

One of the most stunning locales in the Santa Monica Mountains, 588-acre King Gillette Ranch is located at the confluence of five major tributaries and offers a rare, unspoiled view of California’s rich archaeological cultural and historic resources. Its broad meadows and low ridgelines serve as a wildlife corridor. The ranch includes the 1928 mansion designed by Wallace Neff for razor magnate King C. Gillette…and includes hiking trails, beautiful grassy picnic areas, a pond and dormitory facilities for overnight educational camps.

 

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Zero Waste: coffee grinds for your garden

The key to being zero waste is finding all the little ways to avoid throwing things out. And sometimes that means taking things in too. Which is exactly what I do with coffee grinds. The little bit I create at home gets added to the garden, but it’s never enough. Every month I make a run to Starbucks for a commercial-size bag of coffee grinds. And that allows me to skip buying fertilizer at the store.

The science behind coffee grinds in the garden is pretty simple. It’s a rich source of nitrogen and minor amounts of other soil nutrients – phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper. The same items you will find in a bag of fertilizer at the store. But do be careful when adding coffee grinds to plants, as it might interfere with growth. It is best to place in the soil – tilling 6-8 inches deep – before or after planting.

And that’s perfect for me. I can avoid throwing away coffee grinds, avoid buying fertilizer at the store, and take in trash from other places. The local coffee shops throw away their grinds unless someone asks for them. And the baristas love handing them over because it means they don’t have to take out the trash.

It’s just one part of zero waste but it shows how easy it can be. Not to mention money saving – no more fertilizer – and helpful for the community. Can you believe I’m reducing the trash that Starbucks creates?

 

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The first step towards zero waste – reduce the amount of trash cans in your home

Living a zero waste lifestyle isn’t hard if you start simple. And the first step is to get rid of some of the trash cans in your home. Leave a few in the major areas and make sure to leave one for recycling. Soon you will find the majority of your trash to be recyclables and the trash you send to the landfill dropping like the rain.

When I made this change, I found a trash can in each room. Most contained only a few pieces that I had to empty every week. I thought about it and determined that the kitchen and the bathroom were key places to keep a trash can. Everything else was put in storage, or converted into a recycle bin.  The fewer trash cans freed up a little time and allowed me to focus on what I was throwing out.

It happened that I wasn’t recycling enough. I visited the website of my trash company and found their list of approved recyclables. I was recycling only half of what I could and quickly doubled the amount in the recycle bin. It’s amazing how this one step – reducing the trash cans – led me to the easiest and biggest step towards zero waste. I was halfway there.

The next step was a little harder. No big reductions, just making one small change at a time. I noticed my shampoo and conditioner bottles weren’t recyclable, so I switch to a brand that was. The little yogurt cups weren’t recyclable but the big ones were. I began paying attention to each item I was sending to a landfill, and found that each had a recyclable alternative.

And that’s it. The path to zero waste is simple and easy. At first glance it sounds like an extreme lifestyle and impossible to do. But it’s not and everyone I recommend this to is shocked at the simplicity. A little step in the green direction and we all do our part.

 

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More reading on zero waste:

 

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Third Industrial Revolution – led by renewable energy and the internet

Jeremy Rifkin is a renowned economist on the environment, author, and advisor to the European Union. And he has a theory about the next great movement of the world – The Third Industrial Revolution.

From Omega:

The great economic revolutions in history occur when new communication technologies converge with new energy systems. New energy revolutions make possible more expansive and integrated trade. Accompanying communication revolutions manage the complex new commercial activities made possible by the new energy flows.

Ushering in the First Industrial Revolution during the 19th century, cheap steam-powered print technology and the introduction of public schools gave rise to a print-literate work force with the communication skills to manage the increased flow of commercial activity (which was made possible by coal and steam power technology).

That was followed by electrical forms of communication in the 20th century – mass media – and energy powered by oil and the combustion engine. And now we are at the beginning stages of the third step, with renewable energy and the internet as the drivers of change.

Read his full piece – Five Pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution – to learn more, or watch this short video from CNN: