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Over Three-Fourths of Readers Have a Christmas Tree

An aluminum tree at a friend's house
An aluminum tree at a friend’s house

More than three quarters of readers that responded to the poll last week have a tree this year:

Q: Does/Will your household have a Christmas Tree? If so, what type?

  1. Yes, artificial, green 27 [26.21%]
  2. No, no tree 24 23.3% [23.3%]
  3. Yes, cut from lot 22 [21.36%]
  4. Yes, artificial pre-lit, green 15 [14.56%]
  5. Yes, artificial pre-lit, white/color 6 [5.83%]
  6. Yes, artificial, white/color 3 [2.91%]
  7. Yes, cut it ourselves 3 [2.91%]
  8. Yes, living – will plant it after the 25th 2 [1.94%]
  9. Yes, other type not listed 1 [0.97%]
  10. Yes, aluminum w/light wheel 0 [0%]
  11. Unsure 0 [0%]

For those of you with cut trees you can recycle them, if you live in the city here’s the information accessed on Monday December 23, 20213:

Overview City residents can take the bare tree to one of three city parks to be recycled. Christmas tree recycling is available at the following three city parks:

  • O’Fallon
  • Carondelet
  • Forest Park

Preparation Remove ornaments, tinsel, lights and tree stand. Do not put the tree in a plastic bag or cover it. Wreaths and pine roping are not accepted at the sites. Instructions Trees can be dropped off at the following three park locations:

  • Forest Park, Lower Muny Opera parking lot
  • O’Fallon Park, West Florissant and Holly, picnic grounds #4
  • Carondelet Park, Grand and Holly Hills, area between gate & recycling containers

Drop-off dates Trees are accepted at these park sites after Christmas through the third week of January. 2012 dates are from Dec. 27, 2012 through Jan. 11, 2013. Trees may be dropped off at these locations at anytime. Fees No fees apply What to Expect Trees will be recycled into mulch, which will be made available to City residents.

I assume they’ll be doing this again this year, hopefully updating the website information will get updated.   No post tomorrow, I’m going to take a day off.

Enjoy the holiday, see you again on the 26th!

— Steve Patterson


Occasional Home Delivery Allows Me To Shop as a Pedestrian, Transit User Most of the Time

December 19, 2013 Environment, Featured, Retail 12 Comments

A reader brought up a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now. Moe asked how I’d get a Christmas tree home since I don’t have a car, here’s the thread:

Comments on Sunday's blog post with respect to delivery, click to view post.
Comments on Sunday’s blog post with respect to delivery, click to view post.

Moe expressed a common, but fundamentally flawed view: that everyone driving a car is more efficient than using delivery services. Researchers have been looking into this topic for a while and the results are interesting and surprising. From 2009:

Books are by far the most popular items purchased through the Internet. In just the past two years, the number of consumers buying books online rose by nearly 10 percent. Most patronize book “e-tailers” because of lower prices, but done right, online bookselling also has a smaller carbon footprint.

Like any good novel, the story of how a bookworm gets her book has a beginning, a middle and an end. A book destined for a brick-and-mortar store is printed, packed in bulk, transported by heavy-duty truck to a publisher’s warehouse, transferred to an intermediate warehouse or two, and delivered to the bookstore. Customers might then drive 15 or more miles round trip to purchase the exciting new title. A book sold online has a slightly different plot line: after arrival at the publisher’s warehouse, air or freight travel to a sorting center and individual repackaging, its dramatic finale is home delivery by light-duty truck.

Transportation is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions in both retail and e-tail product pathways. When purchasing a book from a bookstore, each household drives separately, but delivery trucks take purchases to many customers on a single route. There’s also a decent chance that the delivery truck is more fuel-efficient than your family sedan. UPS, for example, has invested millions of dollars in alternative fuel technologies, and as of 2008, its fleet included more than 10,000 low-emission, hydraulic, hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicles.

When it comes to packaging, however, brick-and-mortar bookshops generally claim the environmental edge. Shrink-wrapping, padding and boxing each individual novella, as e-tailers do, is hardly going to maximize materials efficiency and minimize waste. (Walking to a used bookstore, or downloading an ebook, will do exactly that—but we haven’t been asked about those options yet!)

Both online and brick-and-mortar booksellers operate climate-controlled storage warehouses, but retailers usually own or lease additional storage and distribution facilities. Likewise, the energy consumed to browse and purchase books online is much less than that needed to build, light, heat, and cool physical bookstores. By streamlining the purchase and delivery process, e-tailers minimize the need for buildings and their associated energy usage. (Sanford Magazine) 

Online retailer Amazon has been working to reduce packaging:

Launched in 2008 with 19 products, participation in the initiative has grown from 4 to over 2,000 manufacturers, including Fisher-Price, Mattel, Unilever, Seventh Generation, Belkin, Victorinox Swiss Army, Logitech and many more. To date, Amazon has shipped over 75 million Frustration-Free items to 175 countries.

Frustration-Free Packaging also reduces waste for customers. So far, the initiative has:

  • Eliminated 58.9 million square feet of cardboard
  • Removed 24.7 million pounds of packaging
  • Reduced box sizes by 14.5 million cubic feet

Amazon customers have helped guide the program with their ratings and feedback on product packaging. (Sustainable Brands)

Disclosure: I’m an Amazon (AMZN) shareholder.

Grocery delivery is another that is growing in popularity and researchers looked at this in a recent case study in the Seattle area:

Home food delivery trucks, they found, produce 20 to 75 percent less carbon dioxide than having the same households drive to the store. The variation is based on how close people live to the store, the number of people in the neighborhood getting food delivered and the efficiency of the truck’s route. (NPR: Grocery Home Delivery May Be Greener Than Schlepping To The Store)

NPR/TRF/Univ of Washington

What’s surprising is how home delivery results in bigger reductions in rural/suburban areas vs urban areas due to distances traveled.  If you take the time to think about it, it does make sense. Those who live in rural & suburban areas drive many more miles than those who live in more compact urban centers.

So yes, I do have items delivered at times. With roughly 80 units in our condo association, UPS & FedEx are here almost daily anyway. By shopping locally using my electric wheelchair, taking MetroBus &/or MetroLink to stores, I’ve reduced my carbon footprint substantially over driving a car for those trips. Having items delivered, especially the occasional large bully item, allows me to do most of my shopping as a pedestrian and transit user.

As an informed consumer, I do sleep better at night.

— Steve Patterson


Sunday’s Weather in Three Images

November 22, 2013 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Sunday’s Weather in Three Images

The weather last Sunday was crazy, including deadly tornados that caused extensive damage in Illinois. There was some wind damage in St. Louis, but no injuries to my knowledge.   I took three images in ten minutes that capture what I saw from our loft in downtown St. Louis:

Sunshine and dark clouds at 11:40:08am on November 17, 2013
Sunshine and dark clouds at 11:40:08am on November 17, 2013
Horizontal rain and hail at 1:44:58
Horizontal rain and hail at 1:44:58
Blue sky at 11:50:11am
Blue sky at 11:50:11am

That’s a lot to happen in just ten minutes! My heart goes out to everyone who lost family, friends, or property in these storms. Have a great weekend — no post tomorrow. New poll on Sunday though.

— Steve Patterson


New Pedestrian Access Route At Third Degree Glass Factory

The last time I was at Third Degree Glass Factory, about six months ago, I tweeted the fact it lacked an ADA access route from the public sidewalk to the entry. The entry walkway led to the side parking lot. Pedestrians arriving on foot, by bus, or those parking on-street had to enter via the parking lot. I never got a response to my tweet, nor did I follow up.

Recently heading home on the #97 MetroBus, I spotted work being done to build a pedestrian access routeI  I meant to return to check it out but it didn’t happen. Then yesterday I attended an event held at Third Degree. I’m pleased with the result. Like so many businesses, this isn’t something they naturally think of. Third Degree is great about teaching you glass blowing. If St. Louis had a law requiring such an access route their architect would’ve included it in their original project. We don’t, so it took a few years until I raised the issue.

The red arrow marks the entry
The red arrow marks the entry as seen from the bus stop at the public sidewalk
The  width of the new walk is minimal, but better than nothing. Had the city raised pedestrian access when planning something more generous & welcoming could've been built.
The width of the new walk is minimal, but better than nothing. Had the city raised pedestrian access when planning something more generous & welcoming might have been built.
The view from the entry shows the original walk leading to parking
The view from the entry shows the original walk leading to parking
Turning toward the street we see the new walkway to the public sidewalk. Circled in red is Metro long range planner Mark Phillips waiting for the #97 bus which showed up seconds later.
Turning toward the street we see the new walkway to the public sidewalk. Circled in red is Metro long range planner Mark Phillips waiting for the #97 bus which showed up seconds later.
The event I attended was a sustainability event, my table was on making St. Louis less car dependent
The event I attended yesterday was a sustainability work session, my table focused on making St. Louis less car dependent. Click photo for information on the event.

Kudos to Third Degree for listening and taking concrete action, pun intended. Now if I can only get the city/region to require such access when buildings are built or substantially renovated….

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Should St. Louis Sign The Water Consulting Contract With Veoila?

Next year St. Louis will turn 250 years old. In those early years St. Louis didn’t have a municipal water system, but for the last 178 years we have.

1764: The City of St. Louis is founded.
1831: The City of St. Louis contracts with Abraham Fox and John Wilson to build a waterworks.
1835: The City of St. Louis buys out the bankrupt Fox and Wilson, becoming sole owner of the St. Louis Waterworks. (St. Louis Water history)

ABOVE: Cover of American City: St. Louis Architecture.  Text by Robert Sharoff & photographs by William Zbaren
Cover of American City: St. Louis Architecture by Robert Sharoff & William Zbaren features a water inlet on the cover

With that long history comes old infrastructure. To get advice St. Louis issued a request for proposals to provide a “Operational Efficiency and Value Creation Analysis”:

The objective of the St. Louis Water Division is to retain a Consultant or Consultants with expertise in water system operations that can provide insight and new ideas, programs and approaches on ways to increase the Water Division’s efficiency and/or revenues in order to postpone or lessen future water rate increases and to improve customer satisfaction. The Cityand the Water Division for the most part would like to identify the ideas, have them bedeveloped into projects or programs and be implemented through Performance Contracting such that the City has no additional initial outlay of funds for capital projects or procurement of equipment or services. There will be some Non-Performance Contracting efforts that will result in delivery of a report with recommendations and a detailed implementation plan that can be executed by the SLWD or others

Sounds like a proactive step, but the winner of the bidding process, French firm Veolia, is viewed by some as a company that specializes in the privatization of public water systems. So the fear is a short-term consulting contract is the gateway to handing over a valuable city asset.

Mayor Slay is saying Comptroller Green has a duty to sign the $250,000 contract since it went through the bidding process. Meanwhile, Lewis Reed, President of the Board of Aldermen, is calling for hearings over the handling of the contract.

For months a grass-roots organization Dump Veolia has fought the contract at every step:

We are a group of concerned residents who want St. Louis to reject a proposed water consultancy contract with the French multinational corporation Veolia, the largest water privatization company in the world.? Learn what the campaign is about, who is mobilizing against Veolia, and why.???

The poll question this week is “Should St. Louis Sign The Water Consulting Contract With Veoila?” The poll is in the right sidebar, results to be posted on Wednesday October 20th.

— Steve Patterson