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Reducing Waste…Or Not

September 6, 2012 Environment, Featured 5 Comments

A sign over drinking fountains in a building at Washington University School of Medicine caught my eye last recently.

ABOVE: At first glance a normal looking pair of drinking fountains at the Washington University School of Medicine.
ABOVE: The sign encourages users to refill water bottles, but you probably know how difficult that can be at a drinking fountain
ABOVE: This fountain has an area to make filling bottlers easy. If only more had this feature.
ABOVE: After getting a drink of water I went into the adjacent Barnes & Noble Cafe and ordered spinach & artichoke quiche for there. It was handed to me in a disposable plastic container and directed to the disposable plastic utensils.

I love the idea of encouraging the reuse of  bottles, I do that at home for water to go. Meanwhile the cafe is wasting plastic on customers eating there. Maybe get the cafe a commercial dishwasher?

— Steve Patterson


A Front Yard Vegetable Garden In Ferguson Missouri

In July one modest house in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson got the attention of many:

A Ferguson resident has won a battle with city officials that could be considered a matter of taste.

The resident, Karl Tricamo, had been feuding with the city for months over the vegetable garden he had planted in front of his house in the 300 block of Louisa Avenue.

The city saw the garden as a blot on the landscape and issued Tricamo a citation demanding he uproot the corn, tomatoes, sorghum, peppers and other crops sprouting there and, instead, seed the yard for grass. The garden measures 35 feet by 25 feet. (stltoday.com)

Other resources:

Numerous pictures were circulated on Facebook & Twitter as front yard gardening advocates celebrated this victory. But all the pictures concentrated tightly on the garden, I wanted to understand the context. I went to Google Maps but no streetview was available just an aerial.

The 45 degree view of the house in Ferguson, before the lawn was replaced with the garden. Click image to view in Google Maps.

I knew I wanted to see the garden and street in person but it’s a 12+ mile drive — and I don’t have a car. So I caught a bus at the North Hanley MetroLink station and I was within blocks.

ABOVE: The MetroBus dropped me off at Suburban Ave and S. Clark Ave, this is looking north on Clark
ABOVE: Looking west on Louisa St from Clark., nice but well-maintained homes. No manicured lawns.
ABOVE: Continuing on Louisa looking for the house & garden on the right.
ABOVE: I’m visiting on Monday August 20, 2012. The garden looks good to my eye given how dry it has been and how late in the growing season it is.
ABOVE: Lawn remains between the sidewalk and driveway
ABOVE: Another view

In an older neighborhood with mature trees locations for a vegetable garden are often limited, most vegetables need full sun.  I applaud Tricamo for fighting the City of Ferguson so he could grow food for his family.

— Steve Patterson


Did You ‘Dump the Pump’ Today?

Did you take transit today? Today is National Dump the Pump Day:

On June 21, 2012, American Public Transportation Association (APTA), in partnership with The Sierra Club, The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and public transportation systems across the country will celebrate the 7th Annual National Dump the Pump Day.

In these tough economic times with high gas prices, everyone is looking for a way to save money. National Dump the Pump Day encourages people to ride public transportation (instead of driving) and save money.

Riding public transit is an economical way to save money, particularly when gas prices are high. The latest APTA Transit Savings Report shows that a two person household that downsizes to one car can save – on the average – about $10,000 a year.

It’s been over two months since I sold my car. While there have been a few times I missed the easy mobility the car offers I love the greater financial freedom I have now. We all make trade offs in life, I just decided more money in my pocket was more important to me than 24/7 mobility. I’m still mobile, just on Metro’s schedule.

Most likely you weren’t aware of Dump the Pump Day. Even if you were you’d cite a long list of reasons why transit won’t work for you, why you must have a car. Here are some of the reasons to use transit:

Quick Facts

  • In 2011, Americans took 10.4 billion trips on public transportation.
  • 35 million times each weekday, people board public transportation.
  • Public transportation is a $55 billion industry that employs more than 400,000 people.
  • More than 7,300 organizations provide public transportation in the United States.

Public Transportation Helps People Save Money

  • Using public transportation is the quickest way to beat high gas prices.
  • According to APTA’s Transit Saving Report, a two-person household can save, on the average, more than $10,000 a year by downsizing to one car.
  • Public transportation provides an affordable, and for many, necessary, alternative to driving.

Public Transportation Provides Economic Opportunities

  • Every $1 billion invested in public transportation creates and supports 36,000 jobs.
  • Every $1 invested in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns.
  • Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business sales.
  • Every $10 million in operating investment yields $32 million in increased business sales.

Public Transportation Saves Fuel and Reduces Congestion

  • Public transportation has a proven record of reducing congestion.
  • The latest research shows that in 2010, U.S. public transportation use saved 796 million hours in travel time and 303 million gallons of fuel in 439 urban areas.
  • Without public transportation, congestion costs in 2010 would have risen by nearly $17 billion from $101 billion to $118 billion.

Public Transportation Reduces Gasoline Consumption

  • Public transportation use in the United States saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually.
  • Households near public transit drive an average of 4,400 fewer miles than households with no access to public transit.

Public Transportation Reduces Carbon Footprint

  • Public transportation use in the United States reduces our nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually. This is equivalent to the emissions resulting from the electricity generated for the use of 4.9 million households or every household in Washington, DC; New York City; Atlanta; Denver; and Los Angeles combined.
  • One person with a 20-mile round trip commute who switches from driving to public transit can reduce his or her daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds, or more than 4,800 pounds in a year.
  • A single commuter switching his or her commute to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10 percent and up to 30 percent if he or she eliminates a second car.

Public Transportation Enhances Personal Opportunities

  • Public transportation provides personal mobility and freedom for people from every walk of life.
  • Access to public transportation gives people transportation options to commute to work, go to school, visit friends, or travel to a doctor’s office.
  • Public transportation provides access to job opportunities for millions of Americans.
  • 83 percent of older Americans acknowledge public transit provides easy access to things they need in everyday life.

All the above reasons are valid, but it’s the cost savings that did it for me personally. I’m single but for many couples going from two cars to one gives them savings without giving up mobility.

– Steve Patterson


Readers: Ban Plastic Bags

ABOVE: Only 1-5% of plastic bags get recycled, which requires energy and expense

Last week readers voted in the poll and supported a ban on plastic shopping bags. Nobody has proposed such a ban but there is some support. The question is how it would play with the general St. Louis population?

Los Angeles will become the largest city in the United States to impose a plastic-bag ban, with some 7,500 affected stores and nearly 4 million residents. The city council vote, which took place Wednesday, sets in motion a months-long process including an environmental review, enactment of an ordinance, and a phase-in period that affects larger stores first, according to news reports. (Christian Science Monitor)

It’s time for St. Louis to actually take real action toward sustainability, not just have events to make it look like politicians are actually doing something meaningful.

Only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled worldwide — about 2 percent in the U.S. — and the rest, when discarded, can persist for centuries. They can spend eternity in landfills, but that’s not always the case. “They’re so aerodynamic that even when they’re properly disposed of in a trash can they can still blow away and become litter,” says Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. It’s as litter that plastic bags have the most baleful effect. And we’re not talking about your everyday eyesore. (Salon)

Here are the poll results from last week:

Q: Plastic shopping bags are banned in 75 jurisdictions in the US, should the City of St. Louis also ban their use?

  1. Yes 82 [59.85%]
  2. No 40 [29.2%]
  3. Maybe 9 [6.57%]
  4. Other: 4 [2.92%]
  5. Unsure/No Opinion 2 [1.46%]

The four “other” answers were:

  1. Stores should charge for bags and not give them away free.
  2. wouldn’t paper bags blow around like plastic bags?
  3. Stores should be encouraged to charge money for plastic/paper shopping bags.
  4. F*ck no, Steve. C’mon, man; what the hell is wrong with you? (I edited this to make it less offensive to some)

When stores try to do things on their own they get pushback from customers. Other than a ban cities could require stores to charge for bags. The stores would like to recoup the expense since bags aren’t free. Paper bags are heavier than plastic and thus don’t blow around as easily. A paper bag will break down quickly whereas a plastic bag takes thousands of years.

I ask that everyone keep their language here PG.

– Steve Patterson



Poll: Thoughts on Solar Panels In Historic Neighborhoods?

ABOVE: Bastille on Russel in Soulard

An interesting debate about solar panels in historic neighborhoods was in the news lately:

Bob Hiscox wants solar panels on his roof.

Energy costs are rising. Hiscox is increasingly concerned about the environment. And government rebates could help him fund the $45,000 cost.

But his building, the Soulard Bastille Bar on Russell Boulevard south of downtown, has a roof that faces the street. And that means his solar array would break neighborhood rules. Soulard, a national historic district, does not allow visible panels. (St. Louis battle over solar panels pits preservation against environmentalism)

Michael Allen has a thoughtful post on the subject, here is part:

The Soulard local historic district standards are not explicit about solar panels, which means that their installation requires a variance. The standards mandate that the character of sloped roofs be maintained through adherence to one of several times (sic) of approved roofing (most of which were not in use before 1900, I might point out). In a few instances, the Cultural Resources Office (CRO) has recommended that the Preservation Board grant a variance, and the Board has done just that. This time, however, CRO recommended denial of a variance based on the public visibility of the Bastille’s street-facing rear roof. (recommended –  Soulard Solar Collectors)

If you want to learn more here are some helpful resources:

I thought this would be a good topic for this week’s poll (see right sidebar). Poll results and my thoughts on Wednesday June 27th.

– Steve Patterson




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