Doing the dishes?

The Question: (from Europe)

Within a business / home environment what should be considered to be the least environmental pressing way of doing the dishes:

  • washing dishes by hand?

  • automated cleaning of dishes?
  •  buying disposable tableware, plates and cups?

My Answer:

There are so many variables here that no single answer will be the best choice. The impacts of each option above could be large or small depending upon context.

We need to dig a little deeper to find the best approach

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Five Tips for Low-Impact Living

There is a lot to think about when trying to live a low-impact lifestyle particularly if as I do you live in an affluent western society.

Without doubt our western lifestyle has evolved into something of a monster rapaciously consuming resources and spewing out pollutants at an exponentially increasing rate.  We know this is unsustainable, but how can you or I make any real difference?  Easy. Change happens when something better comes along. That ‘something better’ doesn’t just appear by magic it is pioneered by innovators and early adopters until eventually the idea reaches a tipping point, then everyone is into it.

After 25 years of studying and practicing architecture I’ve distilled five principles that underpin low-impact (maybe even sustainable) living principles for built environments.

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Base-load Solar Power?

The Question:

What steps are needed to make solar energy a cost-effective, base-load energy source?

(from North America)

My Answer:

Broad definitions of ‘solar’ and ‘baseload’ are necessary to best answer the question. Solar is not limited to photovoltaic panels and base-load (demand) is not necessarily a given, it can also be managed through increased systems efficiency. Continue reading

How Clean and Green is Coal Seam Gas?

There are conflicting claims about the greenhouse friendly nature of coal seam gas in Australia. In this article, Colin Hunt finds that the differences turn on assumptions about the quantity of gas that escapes to the atmosphere from coal seam gas operations and the gas’ global warming potential. He argues that both better measurement of the fugitive emissions of coal seam gas and an official update of its greenhouse potency are required. These recommendations have important implications not only for meeting Australia’s greenhouse targets but for the tax rates on emissions under the Clean Energy legislation.

via The Brisbane Institute » November 2011 Issue.

Out of the Blue – a new model for a resilient economy:

10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs Returning to business as usual as soon as possible was the mainstream mantra after September 2008; such was the shock of the collapse. A crash like that is never an easy time for considered reform and few countries had the resources to make any serious attempt in any case, so invested were we all in the good old days of cheap abundant energy and exponential growth. August 2011; here we go again?

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20s Plenty for Us

What a delight to stumble across the website of 20’s Plenty for Us!

My hypothetical Parallel Universe turns out to be in the UK…

In March 2010 when I first wrote about an imaginary futuristic world where the maximum speed of any powered road transport device is 30-km/h within urban areas the notion seemed plausible to me, but most readers politely suggested the idea would remain a dream.  It turns out that dreams can come true:  The 20’s Plenty for Us movement in the UK (20 mph = 32-km/h) appears to be gaining some real traction.

Already 5m residents live in towns which are adopting or have adopted this policy. Most importantly, through democratic debate those communities have decided that “20s Plenty Where People Live”. And it is those same communities who have then changed their behaviour to drive slower in residential streets and where people walk and cycle.

via 20s Plenty for Us.

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Planetize The Movement

“Drew Dellinger is one of the most respected and admired performers in the field of deep ecology / awakening / planetary work.”
– Rob Hopkins, Founder of the Transition Town movement.

“Drew is the Earth’s grapevine, the transcendent delivery man, the vocable giver, the dispatcher of the unremembered, the confabulating oath keeper, the stand-in for the intimate grief that holds us in thrall. His poems are bodies of light seen by startled new eyes and long after he speaks they weave the unconscious, stitching us to our collective and uncertain future.”
– Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest and The Ecology of Commerce

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Gil Scott-Heron: The Revolution must not be subsidised

Gil Scott-Heron

With the passing of poet Gil Scott-Heron this week, I’d like to dedicate a few lines here to reflect on his work, particularly his recurrent themes of freedom from oppression and peace. He died on Friday May 27 in New York after becoming ill during a trip to Europe.

Born in Chicago April 1st 1949 Gil was often called the godfather of rap for his groundbreaking spoken-word performances set to music, a tag he disliked. He recorded more than a dozen albums, but was probably best known for his 1970 song ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’.

“You will not be able to stay home, brother. You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out. You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip, skip out for beer during commercials, because the revolution will not be televised.” Continue reading

World Wide Washing Machines?

Hans RoslingHans Rosling is fast moving up my list of inspirational thinkers and influencers.  Not only does he have some of the best graphical data representation to be seen, he is also a highly entertaining and very compelling speaker.

His thesis on population really opened my eyes to another perspective on that question.

This TED Talk is yet another unique perspective on some of the issues and challenges of our times:

“What was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution? Hans Rosling makes the case for the washing machine. With newly designed graphics from Gapminder, Rosling shows us the magic that pops up when economic growth and electricity turn a boring wash day into an intellectual day of reading.” Recorded at TEDWomen, December 2010, in Washington, DC.

If I Could Be Anywhere…

Pacific Gyre

Floating in the Pacific gyre

My post on Garbage and Room Service introduced readers to the ‘Trash Hotel’ project and the mountains of rubbish in our oceans, particularly the huge – Texas size – floating archipelagos of plastic in the Pacific.

In a moving coda from TEDxGPGP, Jackson Browne plays “If I Could Be Anywhere,” a song he started writing last April [2010] aboard Mission Blue Voyage, the Sylvia Earle-inspired trip to brainstorm ways to save the endangered ocean. “If I could be anywhere,” he sings, “anywhere right now, I would be here.”  Have a listen:

If you’re as moved as I am by this song and the reasons it was written, what are you going to do about it?