Archive for February, 2014

Change the World Wednesday – 26th Feb

Her avatar

Her avatar

A sad note to start of the day. Lois, of Living Simply Free and a regular contributor to CTWWs and other environmental matters has decided to step back from blogging. Lois has been an inspirational source of what can be done, and I personally will miss her well thought out and pertinent contributions. She explains all in a post New Adventures, then follows up with Paradise Lot – I Thank You

Lois, good luck for the future.

No wonder it died; half its guts are missing...

No wonder it died; half its guts are missing…

I had a drama on Monday, of course, it had to be a Monday; perpetuating the myth.

My PC died again. Third time in as many weeks. All this began to happen after Brazil suffered a pane (power cut) that affected half the country three weeks ago. I was forced to reinstall XP again, to compensate for the corrupt config.sys file. But it has led me to believe that my PC needs to be rePCed.

Now I am not going to rush off and buy a new one (ecologically unsound), I am opting for a reconditioned one for a quarter of the price. Also, the reconditioned one comes with XP, not the horrendous Windows 8 that would be forced on me if I bought new.

windows8-start-screen

I wouldn’t touch Windows 8 with yours…

I see they have put the ‘Start’ button back on, but why on earth up top, why not where people were used to it?

One of the things I hate about Microsoft is they force things upon you.

Like last night with my laptop at work, it upgraded IE, to 8. I didn’t want it upgraded and I couldn’t stop it. The only useful function for IE is to download FireFox; the programme is useless, pathetic.

</rant over>

Click on the banner for the full post

Now we must truck along. This week’s CTWW.

Water!

To begin, test your water conservation knowledge by taking this QUIZ.

 

THEN …

Install at least one low-flow aerator on a faucet in your home. These are relatively inexpensive from hardware stores and are easily installed (just screw them on).

 

OR …

If you’ve already installed aerators on your faucets, choose one other way to conserve water this week. Need some ideas? Eat no meat, pork or poultry (they all require a lot of water to produce). Reduce or eliminate spending (except for true essentials). Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap. Review your water bill history to determine periods of high use and make plans to reduce during those times (it’s also a good tool for determining leaks). Fix leaky faucets or toilets. Consider removing some of the lawn (or all of it) and planting native shrubs, plants, trees, etc. When refreshing your pet’s water, or changing the water in a fish tank, use it to feed your plants. Get creative and find a way to reduce your water footprint.

First part. Well, that was a failure – 1/5.

Second part. I have only one tap in the house, the kitchen sink, and it has an aerator. The other tap in the bathroom leaks, so I disconnected it because I never use it. Done √

Third part. In the heat of our present season, I take many brief showers to cool off during the day and night. I bought a large bowl to put in the shower to catch the run off, and that goes on my houseplants and garden. I am already eating less beef, so that is also a saving. I keep iced water in the fridge, rotating two bottles from the tap to the freezer to the fridge. My water bill is static, I always get charged the minimum, so my water use is below that level. Done √

Now I’m off, going to hunt a new PC.

 

Simple green Ideas

With technology advancing at an ever increasing rate, so many things become obsolete so quickly.

The old gramophone became the record player that became the tape deck, that became the CD player…

This obsolete technology is just waiting for ideas, just waiting for a new life.

radiocassette

 

typewriterinthegarden

Got one?

The use your imagination.

 

Monday Moaning

I must admit that I was stuck for something to moan about this morning, so I had a nap.

I often do this in the vain hope that inspiration will up and slap me silly.

It doesn’t always work, and it didn’t this morning. So I got up and made bacon and eggs for a late breakfast.

It was when I switched on the TV to watch as I ate, I heard a doctor talking

absolute unadulterated bullshit!

That was the inspiration I needed.

The programme was a popular live talk show shown throughout Brazil daily and the subject today was fat overweight  women and their self-esteem.

The doctor stated that “over weight was caused by people’s addiction to carbohydrates.”

Man has been using high carbohydrate food since he stopped being a hunter-gatherer and discovered agriculture; corn being the principle crop.

But prehistoric man never had a weight problem!

evolution_of_manprocessed foodThe weight problem didn’t start until man became addicted to junk food. Not only junk/fast/processed food, but still more recently than that.

All these and more have HFCS

All these and more have HFCS

The real overweight problem began when we began to meddle with GMOs, and further with the replacement of sugar in soft drinks (sodas) and other sweetened foods with HFCS.

These are the real culprits, particularly the latter.

To make it worse companies have produced diet and Zero soft drinks using artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, 200x sweeter than sugar. These sweeteners affect every organ in your body from the brain down. They disrupt thinking and learning, they play havoc with hormones and much more.

You have to look at why HFCS is a danger. Sugar (cane and beet) is almost pure sucrose, whereas HFCS is, roughly, 45% glucose and 55% fructose. YOUR BODY CANNOT PROCESS THE FRUCTOSE!

Therein lies the problem.

Once again we have the manufactures claiming HFCS is similar to table sugar, but independents say otherwise.

To hear a doctor spouting that carbohydrates are the problem, and ignoring the glaring fact that HFCS is by far the greater threat, makes me wonder where the medical profession has its head today; I believe well lodged in its nether regions.

There is another culprit, and that is we spend too much time on our fat acres and not enough time walking, working and exercising. Cars are the biggest problem there, but that’s another moan for another day.

 

Nature Ramble

One of the lesser known animals of the world is the lemur, it’s a primate and it lives only in Madagascar.

Tourism best hope for critically endangered lemurs

Madagascar’s lemurs – the world’s most threatened primate – could be saved from extinction by eco-tourism, conservationists say.

The big-eyed fluffy creatures are unique to the island but their numbers have declined dramatically in recent years.

Now researchers have unveiled a survival plan that combines tourism with increased conservation efforts.

There are over 100 species of lemur known to science, the majority of which are at dangerously low levels, largely due to habitat loss from illegal logging.

Madagascar is the only known home of these species as its unique location, split off from the African mainland, has allowed the primates to evolve in near isolation.

Political turmoil has enveloped Madagascar following a coup in 2009. As a result of the instability, illegal logging has increased on the island, a source of valuable rosewood and ebony trees.

Due to a lack of environmental policing, the habitat of the lemurs has been under constant threat and the primates are now one of the most endangered groups of vertebrates on the planet.

Over 90% of these species are at risk and are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN)’s red list of threatened species.

This includes over 20 species regarded as critically endangered, which is the highest level of threat.

Read more

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Satireday on Eco-Crap

funny-health-food

Make you Fink on Friday

Going ‘green’ is more than shopping at Whole Foods and driving a Prius

Environmentalism in the US today has come to simply mean buying the right products. What if you can’t afford them?

Fresh produce at Whole Foods. Photograph: Damian Dovarganes/AP

As environmentalism goes mainstream, corporations are marketing the word “green” as a panacea for the world’s climate crisis. Today the word describes a set of prescribed, mostly consumerist actions: buy local, organic and fresh; go vegan; eat in season; skip the elevator, take the stairs. “Green” has come to mean shopping at Whole Foods and possessing a Prius. Meanwhile, leading corporate polluters like BP and ExxonMobil place commercials on CNN advertising their “green” practices.

It should come as no surprise, then, that “green” lifestyles don’t resonate with low-income communities; being “green” involves a set of behaviors that are financially or culturally inaccessible to millions of Americans. This presents a major problem for the environmental movement. If it is going to be successful, environmentalism simply cannot afford to be demographically segregated or isolated from the pathos of economic disparity.

The environmental movement needs to do a better job of connecting issues of race, class, poverty and sustainability; in short, it has to become a broader social movement. And people of color need visibility in the movement. By that, I don’t mean Barack Obama presiding over environmental policy from the White House or Lisa Jackson heading the Environmental Protection Agency during Obama’s first term. I mean the recognition that sustainable survival practices in poor communities are just as significant as solar panels and LED lights. Ultimately this is where the citizenry of the planet can and must come together in order to move forward.

Read more

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Beating the System

iPad2

iPad 2

Earlier this month I posted on planned obsolescence.

Now while this post isn’t about that, it is about fixing modern IT devices.

Now I ask a question.

If you had one of these, and dropped it breaking the screen, what would you do?

Throw it away and buy a new one?

Or would you fix it?

Read this:

My quest to fix a broken iPad

After breaking her iPad 2 screen, Click’s LJ Rich decided to learn how to fix it herself.

Considering our reliance on smartphones and tablets, and their susceptibility to being cracked, it’s surprising there hasn’t been more of an outcry over why they are so difficult to fix.

I was crest-fallen when my iPad 2 fell on to a hard floor and the screen smashed so one day I tweeted idly asking whether I could fix it myself.

There it would have ended, except one of my followers tweeted me a link to a screen replacement kit for £15 – much less than the £200 I was quoted at the Apple Store.

I clicked, bought the replacement screen then realised I had committed to a mission to fix my own iPad.

So I visited iFixit.com – a crowdsourced website packed with tutorials on how to fix equipment.

The guide to how to fix an iPad 2 looked well laid out, but complicated and intricate. It was rated “very difficult”.

But I was determined that that wouldn’t deter me.

I’d spent £15 after all. Further research revealed tales of broken glass and an almost certain guarantee of breaking something. Not exactly encouraging.

My next port of call was the Restart Project – a group of volunteers who give amateurs advice on how to extend the life of their gadgets.

Heatgun fun

LJ uses a heatgun to remove the adhesive

Since last year, the movement has expanded to more than 40 countries, and they now offer “lunch hour” clinics in the workplace as well as holding evening and weekend parties. They offer advice on how to fix broken kit – and attendees accept the obvious risks involved in DIY repair.

Before we continue, some warnings: if you think you’re covered by a warranty you’ll probably want to take your broken gadgets back to where you bought them.

And the damage can be more personal – there is potential for electric shocks and bleeding fingers from broken glass.

I wasn’t put off – after all, my iPad is ancient, so I popped into one of their London events.

I didn’t fancy doing a job like this unsupervised, plus they’d agreed to lend me a heat gun, which is like an industrial-strength hairdryer.

I used the heat gun to soften the adhesive that sticks the device together. Once the glue softened, I used plastic and metal implements called spudgers to prise my much-loved gadget open.

The first incision was terrifying.

Francis, a “restarter”, kept an eye on me to make sure I didn’t hurt myself. I wore safety glasses, and used sticky tape to collect tiny broken glass fragments.

But important preparation such as reading guides, watching videos and memorising the steps in advance could not prepare me for the horrible reality of gouging out my kit.

Common mistakes

Restart offers lunchtime classes for people to pop in and fix gadgets

It was a taxing combination of brutal heavy-handedness and a delicate, dexterous light touch. Tablet repair is not a task I would encourage anyone to try without careful consideration and a healthy disrespect for the warranty.

Janet Gunter, co-founder of the Restart Project, wants more companies to think about people’s ability to repair their own devices.

“Stuff is getting more difficult to open and we’re seeing that in the events that we’re hosting. We’re going to reach a point where it’s going to be hard to help people fix things in a three-hour period.

“People always beat up on Apple but the point is everything is becoming sleeker, smaller, more sealed together and more difficult to open.”

I was determined – and finally removed the screen after three hours of prodding, poking, prying, scraping and applying heat. Everyone cheered.

After removing the glass I undid four little screws and gently lifted the screen to reach the touchscreen connector behind it. I pulled out data cables, and prepared to do it all again – this time backwards.

My tablet rebooted and connected to the web successfully.

I had avoided the most common mistake – breaking the wifi/bluetooth antenna stuck to the glass next to the home button.

But it was only a partial victory. During the removal of the glass, I’d severed the connection to one of the antennas at the top of the device. I couldn’t consider it a complete repair, and was a little despondent.

Professional tools

 

It worked!

 

Alex Perjescu’s company Lovefone repairs phones and tablets.

He was at the event and was impressed that I’d even attempt a tablet screen repair, let alone try to replace the GPS antenna myself. He found me a replacement antenna and we arranged to meet at the next Restart party.

The quest for a fully repaired tablet was back on!

Alex told me it was normal to break something on the first fix.

Read more

Read more

So it can be done! And, a lot cheaper than the professionals.

 

Change the World Wednesday – 19th Feb

No major problems this week.

The rain arrived, and we have had three days of cooler weather.

Two nights ago I had my first suco de goiaba (guava juice) from my tree, the ripe guava gave me enough to make a full glass.

Glancing around the tree, I won’t get a fantastic crop, but enough to make life interesting.

no-beefYou may remember a few months back, I rationed myself on beef because beef is the meat that requires more water and resources than other meats. Making the first and third week of each month ‘beefless’. Well, an update; I am not so rigorous with the beefless weeks now, not that I have given up, rather that I find that beef has taken a lesser role in my diet.

Without thinking about it, I rarely have more than two beef meals a week. My meat now is mainly chicken, pork or fish.

Even when I go to my favourite BBQ restaurant, I find myself enjoying the beef, but also eating more of the other offerings.

My trip to the dairy farm yesterday to enquire about fresh milk, led me no further ahead, the guy that does the business wasn’t in. So I’ll have to return. But the plan is still on.

Click on the banner for the full post

On with this week’s CTWW.

This week, pick up litter and dispose of it properly. As you go through your day, pay attention to the area and clean as you go. You might see trash as you walk between your car and your office. Perhaps you’ll see plastic bags, etc. in the parking lot of a market. If you enjoy nature walks, browse the side of the trail. Get your kids involved and take litter walks or organize a neighborhood cleanup of a local park. The idea, this week, is to rid the area of litter!

Well, Small must have her crystal ball out.

I have mentioned that we have lixo seletiva (a rubbish collection that just picks up recyclables) that passes each Tuesday. I now collect all my plastic, glass, metal and cardboard for this collection.

Yesterday, as I put my Tuesday rubbish out, I noticed that there was a lot of plastic strewn around my part of the praça (park) and in front of the bar. So I grabbed a large plastic sack and filled it just in time for the truck to pass. It wasn’t a big job, took me all of ten minutes, but it did clean the area up a little.

The orange posts make the bins a little more visible

The orange posts make the bins a little more visible

The job is not complete by any means.

Last week the council came and trimmed all the bushes that line the praça which made the horrible truth apparent; under the bushes it is literally littered with plastic bottles and disposable cups. I talked with the council workers who were cleaning up the praça and and painting the playground equipment and they have painted the posts with the orange rubbish containers orange to help with their visibility.

But as you can see there is a disposable cup right under the bin. Maybe it was an honest attempt to dispose of it properly, maybe just laziness.

There is a lot of work to be done educating the people here. But, things are becoming better, sometimes you see genuine efforts to put the rubbish in the right place.

 

Simple Green Ideas

Need a shelf in the garden, or on the patio?

Got one of those old wooden tables, you know the ones with turned legs…

Try this:

oldtablelegs

Dressed properly, could even be used in the house.

Monday Moaning

Stop Global Whining!

Everybody is hooked on plastic bags, on plastic packaging, etc. Although we have discovered that plastic bags only make up a small amount of the total pollutants (covered in a previous post), they are among the most visible.

We can find plastic bags hanging on trees and fences, blowing across the landscape, clogging ditches and waterways, choking marine life in the sea; not to mention the landfills are full of them.

Some countries have added a surcharge on plastic bags in supermarkets as a means of reducing their use. This has worked to a limited extent.

But we need to go further.

There is one country, and a most unlikely one, that has banned plastic bags of all types. You even get your baggage searched at the airport arrivals and any plastic bags are confiscated.

Think you can’t live without plastic bags? Consider this: Rwanda did it

As a post-genocide nation with a developing economy, Rwanda could have dismissed the bag ban as unnecessary. But it didn’t

A shopper carries her shopping with free supermarket shopping bags. Photograph: ANDY RAIN/EPA

On a recent trip to Rwanda, my luggage was searched at the border, and the authorities confiscated some of my belongings. No, I wasn’t trying to smuggle drugs or weapons. The offenders? Three plastic bags I’d use to carry my shampoo and dirty laundry.

You see, non-biodegradable polythene bags are illegal in Rwanda. In 2008, while the rest of the world was barely starting to consider a tax on single-use plastic bags, the small East African nation decided to ban them completely.

At Kigali International Airport, a sign warns visitors that plastic bags will be confiscated. Agents from the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) cut the plastic wrapping off negligent travellers’ suitcases. Throughout the country, businesses have been forced to replace plastic carrier bags with paper ones.

The ban was a bold move. It paid off. As soon as I set foot in Rwanda from neighboring Uganda, it struck me. It’s clean. Looking out the window of the bus that was taking me to Kigali, the capital, I could see none of the mountains of rubbish I’d grown accustomed to in other African countries. No plastic carrier bags floating in the wind or stranded on a tree branch.

Upon arrival in Kigali the contrast is even more evident. With its lovely green squares and wide boulevards, the Rwandan capital is one of the most beautiful cities in Africa. And it’s immaculate. Enough to teach a lesson to scruffy – albeit beloved – Western metropolises like New York or London. And the ban on plastic bags is just the start for Rwanda. It’s all part of the Vision 2020 plan to transform the country into a sustainable middle-income nation.

Eventually, the country is looking to ban other types of plastic and is even hinting at the possibility of becoming the world’s first plastic-free nation. Its constitution recognizes (pdf) that “every citizen is entitled to a healthy and satisfying environment.” It also underlines each citizen’s responsibility to “protect, safeguard and promote the environment”.

Throughout the world, many initiatives to reduce or ban the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags have been halted because of economic concerns. In England, for example, there is ongoing concern that a 5p levy on single-use carrier bags could harm small businesses.

Still reeling from a horrific genocide which resulted in the deaths of over 800,000 people in 1994, Rwanda could have dismissed the plastic ban as an unnecessary hindrance for its developing economy. It could have opted for a simple levy on plastic carrier bags, as have many other American cities. But the authorities’ main concern was the way in which plastic bags were being disposed of after use. Most were being burned, releasing toxic pollutants into the air, or left to clog drainage systems.

Knowing it lacked the basic facilities to sustainably manage plastic waste, Rwanda devised a clever strategy to turn the ban into a boost to its economy. The authorities encouraged companies that used to manufacture plastic bags to start recycling them instead by providing tax incentives. The policy also created a market for environmentally friendly bags, which were virtually non-existent in the country before the ban.

Now in its sixth year, the policy has proved efficient, if not perfect. Rwanda is starting to struggle with a lucrative black market for the shunned plastic bags. The excessive use of paper bags is also starting to raise concerns. But the mere fact that a developing country facing tremendous challenges has managed to enforce such groundbreaking legislation should make us wonder what the western world could achieve if the political will really existed.

000theGuardianLogo

Opinion:

If a country like Rwanda can do it, everybody can do it. Simple.

The problem is that we don’t really want to. Everybody moans and groans, and we pay lip service to the problem, but we don’t really want to give up such a convenience.

c_stop_global_whining

My message is Stop Global Whining and do it!

Only when we ban them completely will the problem go away.

plastic-kills-marine-life

sweepitunderthesea

Just because we can’t see it under the sea, doesn’t mean it’s not there!

 

 

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