Monday, April 22, 2013

15 Important and Untrue Environmental Facts for Earth Day

Today, April 22, is Earth Day.  You need the Earth, and if you use the Internet, you have developed a dependence on numbered lists.  So here is a list of facts to save the Earth, one untruth at a time.

1. I can recycle anything with recycly arrows and a number on the bottom of it.  My desire to recycle it makes it recyclable.
NO!  Motor oil has the arrows, but you can't just throw it the bin.  Some stuff will just mess up the process, like greasy pizza boxes and other food containers with residue. Paper cups aren't just paper - the waxy stuff makes them normal trash. Every area has different rules.

2. If you take the atomic material out of 100 atomic clocks, you can heat your home and your  subdivision with free energy for 5,000 years. Your house will then glow slightly for another 10,000 years.
NO! Experience has proved this one unworkable.  It turns out that atomic clocks just recieve a radio signal from a real atomic clock in Colorado.  The clock on your wall contains no fissionable material, even if you squeeze it very tightly :(

3. Recycling costs the city a ton of money, but that means it's good for us!
NO! The waste recycling company take recycling material for free whereas it charges by the ton for regular waste, so that's more money for other city services, like schools and enforcement services for cat taxes.

4. The city taxes cats.
YES! This one is actually true.  (However, it's not really about the environment, so it's procedurally incorrect even if it's substantially true).  It's $10 a cat if they are fixed.  The city occasionally may think your cat has regained her fertility. You can invite them over for an inspection, but the chocolates you bought for them will just get moldy. However, they will send you a new bill, with no discount for your efforts or the chocolates, and you won't be bitter, even after the second time it happens. You will resist the urge to pay it one dollar at a time.

5. When I get a lot of extra stuff to recycle, I can just put it in bags by the bin for collection.
NO! First don't use bags for recyclables (excepting paper bags for shredded paper). Only stuff in the bin gets collected by the automated trucks.  For large trash items in Durham, see bulky item pickup, in which you can see a picture of a truck with a cool claw that picks up big stuff. You probably shouldn't put out trash just to see the claw come by, at least not that often.

6. I can throw plastic and paper shopping bags in the bin. Again, my desire to recycle it makes it recyclable.
NO!  Take shopping bags back to your store's special bins for recycling bags (for example, at the Walmart entrance).  First put one bag inside the other.  Then put another bag around those. Repeat until you create a mega-bag the size of a small child.  Keeping it growing as you repeatedly forget about them, and then eventually take them to the store.

7. Toilets don't use that much water. 
NO! Toilets use a high percentage of household water.  Even if you have a high efficiency toilet, you can switch to an ultra high efficient toilet to save extra water.  This means fewer reservoirs and water processing plants have to be built.  So the city will help with the cost of installing a toilet.  You can get one free after a $100 rebate at Costco or Home Depot  (rebate form here).  You can install them yourself with basic tools, the supplies included in the toilet kit, some caulk, and a less than $10 water supply line.

8. Earth Day Mardi Gras
The day before Earth Day is Earth Gras. You should use as much energy as possible to show a big statistical drop in energy when Earth Day conservation starts.  Feeling successful about conservation is more important than being successful at conservation!  Turn on all of your lights.  Turn your air conditioning and heat on at the same time and run them against each other.  Turn the oven on and heat the house with it.  Leave the lawn mower running in the yard all day - make sure to defeat the safety features with duct tape to keep it going. Turn off the power saving options on your laptop.  Wash and dry all of your clothes with hot water.  Keep that bus pass in your wallet and drive everywhere.

9. It's fun to watch the sparks when you break fluorescent lights.  
Um, very NO!  Just like lead paint chips are delicious but deadly, fluorescent light pieces are bad for you. While spreading the word on energy saving features of these lights is common, the dangers are often just noted by a small designation 
on the bulb of "Hg" for mercury .
Fluorescent lights, both the long ones and the CFL (corkscrew) types, contain a bit of mercury in a gas form, so breaking them releases toxic gas.  Always take them to a hardware store to be recycled.  If you do break them, ventilate the area and take them to a facility like the household hazardous waste facility on East Club Boulevard in Durham.

Reducing this list from 15 to 9 items saved 40%. Of something. 

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IGDP: Questionable Lists. Unquestionable Progress™.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Duke party you didn't hear about. It still plays out pretty much the same.

We apologize for the unoffensive parties; we'll try harder next time- Duke University
The 1% have a right and a duty to party hard - Karl Marx

I think the recent hoopla over the  Duke Asian-themed party is missing a broader point.  We recently received an invitation to another party that seemed to stress the same format.  Take a tried caricature of a cultural idea, add sex, add booze and then you get a memorable party. It needs to be offensive enough to be memorable, but not enough to be picked up by the Associated Press; this is apparently the trickiest part.  We tend to get offended by the poor cultural taste, but the low taste in sex and booze is just old news I guess.   Two sober people not eyeing each other for later could still be some sort of format, but it just doesn't sell as well as the current cliches.  (I'm flexible - compromise on some decent wine and double entendres or something, but change up the current cliched ratio of respect to hormones a little bit).

Due to a fluke, we were invited to "plunder some booty" at  the sorority party called "Pirates of the Chi-O-Bbean" last week.  It seems to follow the same formula: Pirates + booty + bar = cultural cliche + sex + booze. Pirates aren't marginalized here, so we don't get offended by that (unless you count Somalis with machine guns as pirates instead of  Captain Hook. It is statistically likely that Somalis will be the focus of a Duke party eventually).  But the sex and booze is considered okay or at least cliche, so there haven't been any protests against the Chi-O party.

Here's the invite:

Some notes, from someone a decade or two past undergrad parties:

1. For purely anthropological reasons, I will see you there.  I don't want to be an undergrad partyer . I will be his bodyguard or his driver.
2. Could you please ask them to move the start time back a couple of hours?  11 is kind of late for me to start something and will make attending the after-after party almost impossible. And what is a Metro-8?
3. Please make sure they will have diet drinks available.
4. Do I have to show my abs in my pirate suit?  If so, I had better start exercising now.
5. How is dirty old man disgusting different from youngin' man disgusting?  Is it just the abs?
6. We can agree to disagree on changing everybody's ringtones to my parrot saying, "Rah! Make better life decisions!" as a way to greet them into their hangovers the next day. I think it was subtle and classy.  But for a few students, it literally scared some of the liquor right out of them, which was a net detriment to the overall, still classy, effect.

7.Did you get the "Yo ho" reference at the end?  I didn't at first.