On December 15, 2011, the city council in Austin, Texas, voted unanimously to approve the Zero Waste by 2040 plan. And now the program is starting to take effect.
Starting with the comprehensive master plan (pdf), the executive summary:
Zero Waste is a design principle that goes beyond recycling to focus first on reducing wastes and reusing products and then recycling and composting the rest. Zero Waste works to redesign the system to mimic natural systems, recognizing that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and everything is a resource for something or someone else. Currently, Austin is estimated to lose over $40 million annually by sending materials that could be recycled or reused to area landfills.
Austin’s Zero Waste system will strive to recover that estimated loss and eliminate waste, or get darn close. This Plan defines success as reducing by 20% the per capita solid waste disposed to landfills by 2012, diverting 75% of waste from landfills and incinerators by 2020, and 90% by 2040.
Then, bringing the children into it with a program called Generation Zero. Offering educational programs at each grade level:
- Kindergarten – 2nd grade – classroom composting
- 3rd – 5th – learning about recycling
- Middle School – learn about landfills and visit a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)
- High School – history of trash in America
And, my favorite, offering discounts on the utility bill for reducing your trash. If you throw away more you pay more, allowing greener families to save up to $20/month:
- 24 gallon bin – $13.35
- 32 gallon bin – $14.60
- 64 gallon bin – $19.75
- 96 gallon bin – $33.50
This is exciting to watch Austin transform itself, starting from a very low recycling rate of 38% and moving all the way to zero waste.
Continue reading Austin, Texas, approves plan to become zero waste by 2040
Here is the perfect example of the obesity debate in America. Last Friday, the New England Journal of Medicine published the following:
The increase in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among both adults and children in the United States and other countries is considered a potential contributor to the obesity pandemic. Sugar intake from sugar-sweetened beverages alone, which are the largest single caloric food source in the United States, approaches 15% of the daily caloric intake in several population groups. Adolescent boys in the United States consume an average of 357 kcal of the beverages per day. Sugar-sweetened beverages are marketed extensively to children and adolescents, and large increases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages have occurred among black and Mexican-American youth
Which prompted a response from the American Beverage Association (ABA):
The fact remains: sugar-sweetened beverages are not driving obesity. By every measure, sugar-sweetened beverages play a small and declining role in the American diet:
- While Americans consume about 617 more calories today than they did in 1970, more than 90 percent of those incremental calories come from sources other than beverages.
- Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute about 7 percent of the calories in the average American’s diet.
- Caloric intake from sugar-sweetened beverages declined by more than 20 percent between 2001 and 2010, yet obesity rates continued to rise.
And the most interesting part is the disputed fact – is soda 7% or 15% of the American diet? The answer – it depends. The Journal said 15% in “several population groups” and hinted at children, minorities, and adolescent boys as those groups. While the AMA did not give details and so we can only assume 7% is for all population groups.
This type of confusing disagreement is common in the food industry. One obvious statement is blurred by a logical response, and the argument that wins isn’t the science – it’s the commercials on TV and packaging on food.
The best thing we can do is become more educated eaters and support scientific studies that can explain the truth. In the end, this may be like the smoking and cancer debate of the 1980s – where multiple attempts were made to confuse the public, but in the end the truth came out.
You can read the full piece in the New England Journal of Medicine or a summary at Time.com – and here is the ABA Press Release.
Continue reading Child obesity and soda – science says it’s a problem, soda companies say it’s not
A great idea to bring visuals into the classroom, from the Pinterest blog:
Not only are these Pinners sharing their knowledge and talents with other people, but they’re also using Pinterest as part of their classes. The teachers will be using their boards for everything from lesson plans, organizing class inspiration, showing off the results of projects (very useful for online education), class collaboration, and saving ideas for future classes. Because Pinterest is so strong in the Maker/Crafter community there is even a class on Pinning With Purpose: Telling Your Story On Pinterest!
For the DIY/Maker crowd, Skillshare has a craft semester that looks fun.
Continue reading Teaching class with Pinterest
I have to say this is pretty amazing. The WordPress blogging platform now offers artificial intelligence for proofreading, and we’re not talking any old spell checker.
Here is what this “intelligent proofreading” covers:
- Bias language
- Complex phrases
- Diacritical marks
- Double negatives
- Hidden verbs
- Jargon phrases
- Passive voice
- Phrases to avoid
- Redundant phrases
I bet this already exist in MS Word or Apple Pages, but I’ve never seen this on the web. It is taking my editing to a whole new level…in color:
The proofreading feature checks spelling, misused words, grammar, and style. You can tell the type of error by its color.
- Misused words and spelling errors are red
- Grammar mistakes are green
- Style suggestions are blue
For anyone who self-publishes on the web this is “just what the doctor ordered.” There is only so many times you can proofread your own content.
A little research shows that this feature is available using the JetPack plugin and comes from the technology After the Deadline which was purchased by WordPress.
Continue reading WordPress upgrades to ‘intelligent proofreading’ for spelling, grammar, and style suggestions
An intelligent essay from Pamela Hieronymi, professor of philosophy at UCLA, discussing the impact of technology on education:
A set of podcasts is the 21st-century equivalent of a textbook, not the 21st-century equivalent of a teacher. Every age has its autodidacts, gifted people able to teach themselves with only their books. Woe unto us if we require all citizens to manifest that ability.
Educators are coaches, personal trainers in intellectual fitness. The value we add to the media extravaganza is like the value the trainer adds to the gym or the coach adds to the equipment.
Just as coaching requires individual attention, education, at its core, requires one mind engaging with another, in real time: listening, understanding, correcting, modeling, suggesting, prodding, denying, affirming, and critiquing thoughts and their expression.
Well worth reading – Don’t confuse technology with college teaching
Continue reading A set of podcasts is 21st-century equivalent of a textbook, not a teacher
The term ‘carbon sink’ is becoming more common as we all gain the scientific education needed to deal with climate change and global warming.
According to Wikipedia, carbon sinks can be both natural and artificial. Both involve the process of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is called carbon sequestration.
The main natural carbon sinks are the oceans and plants, and with our planet covered in so much water, the oceans are the biggest sinks on Earth. The main artificial ones are landfills and the various carbon capture projects.
In those countries that follow the Kyoto Protocol, the use of artificial carbon sinks can serve as a way to offset other carbon use.
Of course, as we are pumping more carbon into the atmosphere our natural carbon sinks are ingesting more carbon dioxide:
Nature has her own way of dealing with excess carbon dioxide. When human activities spew CO2 into the atmosphere, plants absorb more of it than usual, leading to profuse growth. The ocean, too, swallows more than it otherwise would. Many scientists fret that these so-called carbon sinks risk getting clogged up. Some even suggest that this has already started happening. – The Economist
Some even estimate that the amount of CO2 absorbed by the oceans and plants has doubled. Nobody knows what this means, maybe it can continue and alleviate some of our carbon problems, or there could be a backlash effect.
For more on this, check out The Economist article, That Sinking Feeling.
Continue reading Our carbon sinks are absorbing twice as much carbon dioxide as they used to
If you’re looking for a quality list among all those top 10s, then this is the one. It occurs only once a decade and queries nearly 900 of the world’s top critics. The numbers are collated into the “Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time”.
The results are in:
And the loser is – Citizen Kane. After 50 years at the top of the Sight & Sound poll, Orson Welles’s debut film has been convincingly ousted by Alfred Hitchcock’s 45th feature Vertigo.
…Hitchcock, who only entered the top ten in 1982 (two years after his death), has risen steadily in esteem over the course of 30 years, with Vertigo climbing from seventh place, to fourth in 1992, second in 2002 and now first, to make him the Old Master.
I heard about this list through the Slate Culture Gabfest where it was remarked, “these movies are part of a great film education”.
How’s your education?
- Citizen Kane
- Tokyo Story
- La Règle du jeu
- Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Searchers
- Man with a Movie Camera
- The Passion of Joan of Arc
- 8 1/2
Continue reading Vertigo dethrones Citizen Kane as the best film of all time
The NASA Ames Research Center is known for establishing innovative partnerships and Pete Worden, the former Air Force general who serves as the Center’s director, is known as a maverick. Still, the latest joint venture to come to light has caught even some longtime NASA observers by surprise.
Under supervision from NASA Ames, inmates working in the machine shop at California’s San Quentin State Prison are building Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployers (PPODs), the standard mechanism used to mount tiny satellites called cubesats on a variety of launch vehicles and then, at the appropriate time, fling them into orbit.
Worden got the idea for the partnership with San Quentin while he was at a party, talking to the spouse of a NASA employee who happened to work as a guard on the prison’s death row. When the guard mentioned the prison’s critical need to establish innovative education and training programs, Worden, a former University of Arizona professor, said, “How about building small satellites?”
Keep reading: Space.com – San Quentin Prison Inmates Build Tiny Satellite Parts for NASA
Continue reading Prison inmates at San Quentin get contract to build satellite parts for NASA
Did you know that America had an Export-Import Bank?
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) approved a $922 million loan guarantee to support the export of three satellites and related equipment to the Mexican government for the MEXSAT regional mobile satellite system. Mexico’s Secretariat of Communications and Transportation will purchase the satellites from Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems in El Segundo, Calif. Boeing will produce two satellites with mobile service satellite (MSS) capacity and will subcontract a third satellite with fixed service satellite (FSS) capacity from Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Va.
The three satellites will be used to deploy the MEXSAT system, a next-generation, space-based communications platform that will help support social and economic development within Mexico. Various sectors will benefit from MEXSAT, including programs focusing on education, health care, disaster relief and rural telephonic service.
Mexico is one of Ex-Im Bank’s nine key markets and accounted for $8.3 billion of the Bank’s worldwide credit exposure at the end of FY 2011. In FY 2012 to date, the Bank has authorized approximately $1.8 billion in financing for U.S. exports to Mexico.
Source: Embassy of the United States in Mexico
Continue reading United States loans three satellites, worth $1 billion, to Mexico – MEXSAT