Not all “Green” Claims are Created Equal   Leave a comment

Posted November 15, 2010 by bluestew in General

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Today was a simple day making free fertilizer!   Leave a comment

I just raked leaves — lots of them — and put them in my compost bin.  I have a smallish yard, but with two VERY BIG oak trees.  Where I live, the oaks are the last trees to start losing their leaves.  The neighbor’s maple tree has already left half of its leaves in my yard, but fortunately, most landed in or near the compost bin, so I didn’t have to do much there.  It is the two big, sprawling oaks that leave their fall gifts everywhere (not to be confused with their late summer gifts, the never ending barrage of acorns).

Ah — the compost bin.  One of those so simple anyone could do it and not hardly cost a dime things.  I have a simple, free bin that I set up to one side of my yard in the spring.  It is a double chamber bin, and it is made out of a portable dog kennel that my neighbor (not Mr. Maple) put in the trash.  I recovered it, and used the folding panels as the sides and center of my bin.  This year, we are only filling in the left hand side, and next we will do the right.  I put every bit of scrap that I can from my kitchen in the compost — tea leaves, cucumber skins, apple peels, you name it (no citrus rinds, melon rinds, or meat product of any kind).

So today some of the leaves went in one bin.  Some in the other (to ‘seed’ the new bin for next spring) and the rest went in bags under the porch for next year.  In the spring, I expect to have nutrient rich soil to add to my veggie garden and flower beds.

Inspired?  Read more about how-to here.  There is never a wrong time to start composting, so  you might as well make a use for all those leaves you are raking!

Posted November 6, 2010 by bluestew in General

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Two Stories, One Basic Lesson.   Leave a comment

Competition is good for everyone, even when the government bets wrong

There are two interesting and counter point stories out today on the economics of renewable energy.  First, we have Foster Wheeler, a large Swiss manufacture of fossil fuel systems, reporting lower earnings.  Their story is that global policies in favor of renewable energy sources are causing weakened demand for their product.   Sounds good for the renewable energy team, right?

Well, not so fast.  We also hear today that Solyndra, a pioneer in cylindrical solar technology, is scaling back its operations ,reducing its production capacity, and eliminating over 150 jobs.  Solyndra received a loan of over $500 Million from the US Federal Government to build their Fab 2 plant and expand production.  However, they are closing their original Fab 1 plant, and concentrating all their production in the tax payer funded facility, while at the same time reducing operations and jobs.

Solyndra cites increased competitiveness in the solar market for their lack of ability to expand operations.  I am sure there is some truth to that.  But I also am left wondering if a venture capitalist or other private sector financier would have foreseen the same competitiveness, and been less likely to fork over $500 Million to fund an ill timed expansion than the federal government.

Solyndra’s technology seems like a major step forward in the solar energy field.  However, having the technology, and being able to economically produce and profitably sell the technology are a different kettle of fish.  The private sector will always be better than the government at identifying likely winners in the economics of energy – renewable or otherwise.

Even if the government bet wrong on Solyndra, I guess the folks at Foster Wheeler aren’t entirely wrong in their assessment that government policies make it tougher for them to compete.   But I think it just means that they don’t like sharing their slice of government pie.  While the fossil fuel industry has enjoyed years of various taxpayer subsidies around the globe, increasing the competition isn’t bad for anyone.  That Foster Wheeler and others now have to compete for government money as well as private financing and consumer dollars is in the long run a good thing for everyone.  The Foster Wheelers of the world will learn to add real renewable energy programs to their companies if they intend to have long and profitable futures.  The renewable energy companies will learn that government subsidies alone do not make a successful company.  Ultimately – all companies need to be able to respond to consumer demands, and do so in an economic and profitable fashion – or perish.

Today was a good day for the renewable energy guys, even if it was a bad day for Solyndra.


Posted November 5, 2010 by bluestew in General

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Just another green blog? I don’t think so.   Leave a comment

Given the right information, people will make decisions that are good for them and for the environment.

I am not an “Inconvenient Truth” zealot when it comes to the environment.  I don’t really buy all the Chicken Little stories about global warming.  .  I think that the earth has always gone through cycles of warming and cooling, and that we just have better capacity to measure it now.   I don’t think we should pass laws mandating CFL bulbs.  I don’t drive a Prius, and find the very idea of them to be a good idea run horribly amok, but they supposedly make people feel good.  (Perhaps someday I’ll share an entry on my feelings here, but let’s just say that Jeremy on Top Gear has it about right in this clip here.).  I don’t believe that people are ‘bad’ or ‘good’ depending on their ‘carbon footprint’.  To me, “Going Green” should not be a religion with all the requisite fanatics, zealots, and high priests.

I also fundamentally believe in the individual freedom of choice, and individual rights and liberties.  I get to decide what is right for me.  My family gets to decide what is right for it.  I believe that the government has no place in making the decisions in my life.  I don’t want the government telling  me who I can or can’t marry, what I can or can’t do in my bedroom, and what car I can or can’t drive.  As long as I am not directly harming others, these choices should be mine.  So – I don’t believe in any laws that tell me what light bulbs I can or can’t use.

So why am I writing a blog about saving energy, cutting emissions, and looking out for our environment?  Well – because it is the right thing to do.  For all the ‘sky is falling’ stories I don’t believe, I am equally as firmly grounded in the truth that the earth is a finite resource, and like all finite resources, it needs to be managed and attended to so that it can last as long a possible before we reach the ‘finite end’.  I believe that there are simple, common sense way that we can approach our environment that will permit us to be good stewards of the earth, leaving it here for future generations – including my kids, grandkids, and all their offspring.

To be good stewards of the earth, we need to be aware of the resources that we use, and how to use them more efficiently and effectively.  Can we (should we?) eliminate all use of non-renewable energy sources?  Or can we find ways to combine non-renewable with renewable sources so that over time we permit the non renewable to last longer, while finding suitably effective and economical replacements for them.

Ultimately I believe that people are free to make their own choices, but that people need good options to make informed choices.  We exercise our choices in three fundamental ways – at the ballot box, and at the cash register, and on the clock.  Time and money are our own limited resources and how we allocate each of them is a personal choice.  We need to be informed voters, and we need to be informed spenders, and we need to spend our time wisely.  People will not make choices that are good for the environment if they are not good for themselves at the cash register or take to much time to make happen.  If they can’t afford it, they won’t buy it.  But if people know there are cost effective ways and time effective ways to help the environment, they will be more likely to make those choices.

My goal here is to provide some useful information to help you make your spending decisions wisely when it comes to managing the finite resource called ‘Earth’.  What products and services are available to enable you to make better spending choices that also help the environment?  How much are you spending, how often, and on what?  Are these the choices that you want to make?  Of have you made them out of default because you didn’t know there was a better, cheaper way?  As we provide information, you can make better choices – and I hope ones that make you a better steward of the planet.

The name of the blog is BlueStew.  It is a portmanteau of Blue Steward.  Earth is the Blue Planet and we need to be good stewards of that planet – so BlueStew.  I hope you enjoy and come back often.