Container living

Just saw this article in the NY Times. The article reports on two communities that are finding creative ways to get around soaring rents: Containertopia, where techies live in 160-square-foot shipping containers, and homeless people living in boxes designed by artist Gregory Kloehn.

Check out the video above to see how these techies are living off the grid. This is cool in so many ways. I’m not sure I’d like pooping in a 5-gallon bucket (and I’m not sure if the toilet, stove, and solar panels are still workable now that they’ve moved into an indoor warehouse), but it’s really awesome that they’ve built this experience. According to co-founder Luke Iseman, the main problem with the outdoor setup was water. It’s fascinating not just for the coolness factor, but also for the learning factor.

Asians and dishwashers

I found this from Calvin at The dishwasher and the garbage disposal. The original article from the Washington Post is about how immigrants rarely use dishwashers: Washing their hands of the last frontier. The article says:

In many immigrant homes, the automatic dishwasher is the last frontier. Long after new arrivals pick up football, learn the intricacies of the multiplex and the DMV and develop a taste for pizza, they resist the dishwasher. Some joke that not using the appliance is one of the truest signs of immigrant heritage, whether they hail from Africa, Latin America, Asia or Eastern Europe.

Waste-to-Energy Plants

Waste to Energy Plant in Horsholm, Denmark

When it comes to green energy and green living, thank God for non-American countries.  Seriously.  China is winning the race for solar energy, while Europe, it seems, is pulling ahead on converting waste to energy.  Check out the NY Times article here.   

I’ve always been told that burning trash is terrible for the environment and that there is no way to scrub the airborn waste that such plants create.  Every time I throw something away, I’ve thought that it could only go to one of two places–a recycling plant or a landfill.  And since landfill garbage just sits there for years and years, I assumed that eventually everything would go to a landfill.  If you’ve ever been near Fresh Kills, it really begins to stink when the wind blows the wrong way.  Pretty bleak.

The Cove: bigWOWO's review

In accordance with FTC disclosure rules, I received a free copy of this movie.  I’ll try to be unbiased.  I thank Laurel at Take Part for sending it.

Before I begin, let me share why I was interested in seeing this film.  As you know, I’m a quiet environmentalist who is interested in preserving the earth.  I’ve blogged about fish and shark fin soup in the past, and I wholeheartedly believe that we all need to do more to protect our seas.  I also love eating fish, and I encourage people to consume fish responsibly.  Hearing that this film was set in Japan where I spent a year after graduation sealed my interest in finding out what this film was about.

Green Metropolis


Green Metropolis is a highly informative book.  It takes a serious approach to environmentalism–both in terms of reducing greenhouse gases and curbing our use of fossil fuels.  The author David Owen believes that contrary to popular opinion, cities like Portland, Boulder, and Seattle are not environmentally responsible since their per capita annual expenditure of greenhouse gases is high.  Owen’s contrarian philosophy is that cities should not seek to emulate Portland, but instead should emulate New York City–where people live in apartments, sidewalks are wide enough to support foot traffic, and most people get to work by a combination of walking and mass transit.  Because so many people in New York use the subway system, and because humans live in close proximity to one another in buildings that organize people in small spaces, New York’s per capita expenditure of greenhouse gases is the lowest of any city in America.

China Becomes #1 Car Market and #1 Export Nation

Cars, cars, cars

Cars, cars, cars

China in 2009 overtook the United States as the world’s biggest car market (thanks, King!).  It’s huge.  Never in history has any country surpassed the American car market.  This is great news for China, horrible news for the environment, and maybe even worse news for the world’s limited supply of fossil fuels.  I’m reading a book called Green Metropolis right now, and the stat they use is that America currently uses 25% of the world’s fossil fuels. 25%!   And we’re only a country of 300 million.  What is going to happen when a country of 1.3 BILLION suddenly adopts American lifestyles?  As a planet, we’d better find a way to stop this dependence on liquid energy.  I don’t know if this is good news for us.  Do they buy our cars?

Big Businesses and the Environment

I saw this Op-Ed in the NY Times a few days ago: Will Big Business Save the Earth.  It was written by Jared Diamond, the guy who wrote “Guns, Germs, and Steel.”  Check out the article.  His thesis is this:

The embrace of environmental concerns by chief executives has accelerated recently for several reasons. Lower consumption of environmental resources saves money in the short run. Maintaining sustainable resource levels and not polluting saves money in the long run. And a clean image — one attained by, say, avoiding oil spills and other environmental disasters — reduces criticism from employees, consumers and government.

Carbon offsets don't offset

Planes, planes, planes

Planes, planes, planes

I’m glad that some travel companies are finally stating that carbon offsets–those extra few bucks that are supposedly used to plant trees in order to “offset” fuel use and other carbon producing activities–don’t work.  This is especially true with flying; see the story here.  It’s about time someone said something about this. 

The question in my mind–a question that the article raises towards the end–is why don’t we have good, fast trains here?  When I was in Japan, there was the Shinkansen bullet train that moved so fast you would feel it in your ears.  It moves up to 186 miles per hour.  One could go from Aomori to Tokyo in just a few hours. 


Okay, I know I’ve been blogging negative like I’ve got a stick up my rear–I’ll explain later this week.  In the meantime, let me continue the trend…

I’ve been getting hit a lot by the new eco-movement.  I don’t know if this is the proper term for the movement, but you know what I’m talking about: the granola eating, “intentional living,” simplifying types who are always talking about living green and simple.  It’s not just environmentalism–I consider myself an environmentalist–it’s environmentalism on steroids.  The common trait proponents share is that this new agey philosophy runs their lives–they use terms like “simplify,” they focus on “kindness,” and they emphasize “compassionate living.”  They’ve meshed the whole environmental thing with Buddhist and yogic philosophies, and it’s become a huge movement, especially with upper class folk.