Saturday, October 4, 2008

Plastic bottles vs glass bottles vs aluminium (aluminum) bottles

I read an article today that said that it takes 1/5th of a litre of crude oil to make a plastic bottle. I've been wondering about glass vs aluminimum vis plastic so I did a quick scan around the web. This is what I found from the various propaganda out there.

  • Aluminium and glass seems to have higher embodied energy per litre of cotents than PET (plastic bottles) although I found a lot of conflicting information on this. I assume that's because glass is heavy, and that aluminimum is energy intenstive to make. (Embodied energy is a proxy for embodied carbon dioxide.
  • Reusing alumnimum cans apparently results in saving around 90% of the energy of producing those cans in the first place. This is only around 20% for glass (assuming the glass is reprocessed and remanufactures rather than reused in it's original shape).
  • Only 35% of PET bottles get recycled in Australia.
  • PET bottles are suspected to break down and cause nasty neurological and hormonal toxins when they are put into landfill, or resued for an extended period. There is much mixed information and potential misinformation about this, so as a general rule I avoid reusing them.
  • CO2 footprint is really driven by the distance travelled by the bottles when they are full because that's when they have greater weight.

My conclusions thus far

  • None of the packaging sounds very good.
  • Recycling rates are poor. The real way to avoid toxics and save CO2 is to recycle everything - take it home with you if you can't find a recycling bin.
  • If you are serious about saving the planet, drink tap water whenever you can intstead of buying the bottled stuff.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Trying to prioritise

An interesting little article about which industries produce greenhouse gases, and then how households produce greenhouse gases.

Every little bit counts, but it's useful to know which bits count the most and tackle them first.

In the Newtown Cottage we've done a good job of reducing our direct greenhouse emissions or buying offsets:
  • Electricity consumption is down and we purchase green energy in excess of what we use (meaning someone else also gets some green energy)
  • Car is offset by more than we use (we travel less than 1,500km most years)
  • Flights are offset

So while we've been patting ourselves on the back, this article reminds us that there's still a lot to do in the indirect area - primarily the goods and services that we buy. Another area of focus for all of us. Time to watch that Story of Stuff video again.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tackling this issue at scale

Newtown Cottage is a site designed to share a few ideas that renters can do to reduce, reuse, recycle etc.

I've now embarked on a much more ambitious undertaking which looks at giving people tools and thinking models to be resilient and lead resilient organisations. If you're conciencious and looking for something meaty to sink your teeth into, I'd recommend having a look:

I've also set up a feed in the right hand column of this site to pull recent stories out.

The story of stuff

An incredible useful video which explains a range of things which get people thinking more deeply about sustainability. It's about 20 minutes of short segments, and well worth the time and effort to watch.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Worth a look

I found an article about a couple in Christchurch New Zealand who are attempting to live for an entire year without contributing to landfill. It's an interesting concept, and logistically very difficult to the point that I can't imagine myself being able to pull it off in an urban environment. Worth a read.

Also from their site, I found a brilliant 20 minute video called The Story of Stuff. This is one of the best pieces I've seen on this - although it's a little skewed, it definitely makes things very clear and is worth a look.



Saturday, January 26, 2008

Retrofitting your old Weber to run on gas

You can't have a backyard in Australia without a BBQ... in fact I'm not even sure if you can have a apartment balcony without having a BBQ.

About 6 or 7 years ago I got given a used Weber steel kettle. Webers are great things - I had one on my roof in New York - when the twin towers came down and parts of steel Ibeams knocked down our fence, the Weber was still waiting ready to go - like cockroaches they'll survive the next Holocaust - marvelous... as I understand it Henry Ford created the charcoal briquette from the wood scraps and sawdust from his car factory which then ended up being the precursor to the Charcoal Kettle.

Anyway, after lending my Australian Weber to a bunch of randoms a few years ago I'd ended up with it back in my possession, by which time it occurred to me that briquettes are really painful to work with (which must explain why I still haven't had a housewarming BBQ), but also must be really bad producers of CO2. The end result is that I should really switch over to gas.

These days you can get a new fangled BBQ in steel with a range hood and all that good stuff for around $200-300, which is great, but it means you are consuming more steel, and have to worry about what to do with your old Weber. Will someone else use it as a charcoal consuming CO2 machine?

A quick bit of research showed me you can buy a tailor made gas kit for about $100, which had heaps of appeal, so I went out and bought one of those at my local AGL shop instead. Installation was easy, with about 4 screws holding the whole thing in place. They say that you get a similar flavour to the heat beads, so I'll try that out later and post the results.

A few pics of the installation are shown below for posterity and anyone thinking about buying a new gas BBQ. The whole job took me about 15 minutes, most of which was spent scratching my head needlessly, and it was all done on Australia Day - how appropriate.

Picture 1: use up the the last of your toxic heat beads
Picture 2: leave it for a few days then throw the gas burner in
Picture 3: work out which screws to use, and realise they're all the same and it's impossible to stuff this up - secure your bits
Picture 4: done deal, anyone got a full gas bottle?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sustainable agriculture

A bit over 200 years ago, Mathus predicted that the world's food supply would not be able to keep up with population growth. To date he's been proved wrong but a number of things are now threatening to change all that - including climate change, less predictable weather patterns and now the use of crops for fuel instead of as food.

This was a lead story on the national broadcaster last week: and if you follow this sort of thing is worth a read.

As part of my ranting and occasional campaigning on this sort of thing, I've become involved in a business which rejuvenates degraded landscapes and implements sustainable agricultural techniques to dramatically increase the productivity and drought resistance of that land. Irrespective of where your interest lies in the subject, it's worth a look, particularly if you are an active property investor or farmer: