Posts filed under ‘Be Green’

The Vancouver Olympic Medals Contain Recycled Metal

I realize the Olympics ended yesterday, but I wanted to drop one final Vancouver Olympics secret. A week and a half ago, I did some research and crunched some numbers to get the value of an Olympic Gold Medal.

As our economy tightens its belt and the value of our natural resources strengthens, there is an increasing focus on reducing consumption while reusing and recycling where possible. The Vancouver games were no exception and they hold the title of the greenest Olympics to date.

The Vancouver medals range in weight from 500 to 576 grams. In a 30 part process that included 9 strikings, 1014 medals were created for the games. Part of the metal used was sourced from cathode ray tubes from old TVs and circuit boards from other discarded electronics. In fact, 6.8 metric tonnes of circuit boards were used.

The story behind the medals is almost as amazing as some of the athlete’s performances. If you’d like to see the story, you can watch it here.

Regardless of whether you believe in global warming or not, there is no doubt that our planet’s resources are endangered. That fact is one of the driving forces in the constantly increasing price of precious metals, oil, gas and other types of energy. Doing your part to reduce, reuse and recycle is good for the planet and will help your pocket book now and in the future.

Broken Secrets

Written By: Chad Upton

Follow @BrokenSecrets on Twitter

Sources: Teck Resources, Scientific American

Photo: Torben Bjørn Hansen

March 1, 2010 at 12:14 am Leave a comment

The Ideal Vehicle Speed for Best Fuel Economy

The precise number varies by car and environmental conditions, but the sweet spot is generally between 40-60 mph (65-95 km/h). Most small and medium size cars get the best mileage at about 50 mph (80 km/h).

A lot of factors affect the fuel economy of your car. Some of them don’t vary much with speed, such as the resistance of the engine pumps and accessories. Other factors, like the size of the frontal area and the drag coefficient create increasing resistance with speed.

The faster you drive, the more energy is needed to overcome the aerodynamic resistance of the car. Up to 40 mph, that isn’t really even a factor. So, if you’re driving a box then your best fuel economy is likely closer to 40 mph than 50. If you’re driving a teardrop shaped eco-car, then you’re likely closer to 60 mph. Of course, engine size and other factors are involved too. (more…)

February 25, 2010 at 12:01 am 6 comments

Some Rechargable Products Use Standard Batteries

I normally shave the old fashioned way, with shaving cream and a razor. Although, a couple times a week I use a rechargeable electric razor.

It doesn’t shave as close as a straight blade or cartridge razor, but it does shave time off my morning routine. It’s an easy way to catch up when I’m running behind or anxious to get working earlier.

I’ve had the same electric razor for about 10 years. I got it as a gift and it has worked really well, but its ability to hold a charge has degraded significantly since it was new. When it was new, I could travel for a week and not recharge it. Recently, it has required a charge after every use.

A couple weeks ago, it failed to run for more than a few seconds. I charged it again, and had the same result.

The internal rechargeable battery had finally failed. (more…)

February 16, 2010 at 12:27 am 1 comment

The Meaning of the Numbers Inside the Recycling Symbol

By: Chad Upton | Editor

I remember going to the grocery store as a small child. It seemed like we were there for hours before finally packing all of our purchases into large brown paper bags. A few years later they phased out paper bags over concern for the trees required to make the bags.  They were replaced with plastic bags and we have used them almost ever since. But, A few years ago, paper bags started appearing once again. Although they’re made from trees, those are pretty easy to grow compared to the raw materials of plastic.

It seems like everything is made from plastic now. I did a bit of dumpster diving tonight to find out how much. I went through my recycling bin looking for things with the recycling symbol on them — I guess that probably doesn’t really count as “dumpster diving.” These numbers only appear inside the recycling symbol on plastic products.

Plastic is a petroleum product, meaning the raw material used to create plastic is oil. It’s no secret that oil is one of the most in-demand natural resources and for a variety of reasons oil prices have sharply increased over the past 10 years. It’s not just the fuel companies who are affected by the increasing price of oil, but also plastic manufacturers. Both of these groups have to pass those increased costs on to their customers, and those businesses pass it on to their customers. Somewhere down the line, that customer is you and you’ve obviously noticed at the gas pump.

But, you may not have noticed the increase on plastic prices, at least not directly. Depending on where you live, you may have noticed a big or small push for you to use (or buy) reusable grocery bags. Of course these are great for the environment, but they also save the grocery store a lot of money on plastic bags, which have become significantly more expensive in the past few years. In some places, you even have to pay extra if you want plastic bags. (more…)

February 9, 2010 at 1:22 am 7 comments

Shop at Off-Peak Hours for Time Savings

I’ve said it before, I love bananas. But there is one kind of bananas I do not like, busy grocery stores!

I went to my local supermarket yesterday to pickup a few things. Being Super Bowl Sunday, it was pretty much the worst day to go grocery shopping. Normally, I would just go another day but I needed some things for later in the day (like most other people there I’m sure).

All the cart bumping and line shoving could have been avoided if I just went early in the morning or late the night before. That’s what I usually do — try to go shopping around 8pm-9pm, that includes any stores that are open late (ex. Target). Many stores are now until 10pm and some are open 24 hours. I try to take advantage of these hours since I usually get the store to myself. It actually makes shopping peaceful and efficient. (more…)

February 8, 2010 at 12:48 am Leave a comment

How to Accelerate and Slow Banana Ripening

I love bananas.

They are a nearly perfect fruit. They taste great. They’re fairly inexpensive. They have their own protective skin and they contain many nutrients such as: vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

But, if I had to register a complaint about bananas, it would be their shelf life. Keeping them perfectly ripe is a fine art — one worth mastering.

The first trick is something my wife, Kristen, taught me: don’t buy all your bananas from the same bunch! Pick a couple green ones and a couple that are ripe/near ripe. Then you have some you can eat right away and others that will be ripe when you’re ready for them.

The interesting part is that those two bunches are likely the same age. You assume the less ripe ones are newer, but the food distributors control ripeness. They have large, air tight banana ripening vaults that give them very precise control over banana ripening. They’re usually divided into multiple sections, so bananas can be kept at different stages of ripeness. If they’re selling a lot of bananas, they can accelerate the ripening so they will be ripe when they arrive at the store. If sales are slow, they can slow ripening to avoid waste.

How do they do that? (more…)

February 3, 2010 at 1:05 am 36 comments

Why Do People Eat Organic Food?

I have always enjoyed visiting my grandparents, something I probably didn’t and still don’t do often enough.

I have a lot of great memories from those times and spending time in my grandmother’s vegetable garden is one of my favorites. She had a huge backyard, almost half of it was a garden.

I didn’t actually like vegetables back then, but she had a secret raspberry patch. It was tucked away in the back of the garden, behind the shed. I’m not sure if she was trying to hide it, or just keep it separate from the main garden — raspberry plants are locally invasive, they can take over your entire garden if not pruned.

I could spend the whole day eating raspberries, fresh off the bush.

Some days, I did.

It was nature’s 7-11, a store full of squishy red candy, at the right height and the right price for a child.

I wouldn’t dare say they were “free” since there was a price to pay — raspberry bushes are very prickly. There are thornless cultivars available now, but it worked out OK. The thorns slow you down enough to swallow one raspberry before you pick the next. I’m sure that’s why nature put the pricks there. (more…)

February 1, 2010 at 12:12 am 1 comment

Organic Food May Contain Non-Organic Ingredients

Back in 5th grade, my school had cupcake sales. There were thousands of cupcakes. I don’t remember what we were raising money for, but I ate a lot of cupcakes and that was memorable.

Baking all of these cupcakes was a lot of painstaking work, but my mom was a really hard worker. She always made chocolate cheesecake cupcakes, which the parents and teachers ate up, literally.

They weren’t covered in icing sugar, they didn’t have multicolored sprinkles or glitter and that’s exactly what the kids looked for: sugar. If you’re punny, you might say the kids had more refined palettes.

Some of my favorite cupcakes were the ones decorated with those tiny silver balls. It turns out the FDA now considers them inedible, due to the small amount of metal in them. Now, they’re sold “for decoration only,” except in California where they’ve been banned since 2003.

They were considered edible back then, but that still doesn’t mean they were food. I ate LEGO a couple times back then too. Again, not food.

Real food isn’t made in a laboratory, although laboratories do produce some really tasty stuff. In an earlier post, I talked about the differences between natural sugar and synthetic sugar made from corn (high fructose corn syrup).

Experts believe that your body can’t control its absorption into your bloodstream, in an attempt to control your blood sugar, your body quickly converts it into fat, which happens much slower with natural sugar. This could be extremely dangerous, and its addition to thousands of foods over the past 35 years could be partially responsible for the obesity epidemic.

Last month, a research paper was published, focusing on one genetically modified type of corn. This study shows that pesticide residue was still evident on this type of corn and it causes organ failure in rats. Genetically modified food has a bad reputation and it isn’t always bad, there are many success stories and it occurs in nature too (not just laboratories). But, this study shows a clear example of genetically modified food at its worst.

Because of these dangers, there are a lot of people who try to eat natural foods whenever possible. Food labeled “organic”  is one way to identify real food. Many food products contain a lot of synthetic ingredients, growth hormones, pesticides and antibiotics. On the other hand, Organic foods generally do not contain any of these.

At least, that’s what I thought. I don’t buy a lot of organic food, but when I do buy a product stamped with the “USDA Organic” logo, I assume that it’s entirely organic. The truth is, the USDA actually has a list (PDF) of non-organic ingredients that are allowed in products that carry the “organic” label.

Here is a very small sample of some non-organic ingredients and some uses for them:

  1. Fish Oils (dairy, egg, sauces, jam, jelly, snack foods)
  2. Gelatin (yogurt, production of tea and wine, thickening agent)
  3. Orange Shellac (glazing or polishing organic fruits and vegetables)
  4. Enriched Inulin (baking, nutritional bars, yogurt, cereal)
  5. Whey Protein Concentrate (yogurt, protein supplements, baby food)
  6. Carnauba Wax and Wood resin (chewing gum, candy coatings, juice, cosmetics)

The USDA has approved these ingredients (and many others) because the organic food producers that rely on them have filed petitions asking for approval. The petitions usually cite a non-existent or inadequate supply of that ingredient in organic form. In other words, organic food contains 100% organic ingredients when those ingredients are available as organic products.

Written By: Chad Upton

Broken Secrets

[Available on Kindle]

.

Images: USDA,

Sources: The Daily Green, Dragee, International Journal of Biological Sciences, USDA Food List, HFCS

January 21, 2010 at 1:12 am 1 comment

Instantly Brighten Your Basement With CF Lights

This secret is great for garages, basements, crawlspaces and outdoor spaces — where you can always use more light.

This is a cheap and easy way to give you a light boost without installing extra light sockets.

Now, it’s no secret that the beautifully spiraled compact fluorescent (CF) lights use less energy than their incandescent counterparts, which saves you money and ultimately reduces our energy demand. But, even if you don’t care about saving electricity, CF lights may still benefit you.

When you replace an old bulb with a CF, take a close look at the socket. There is usually a silver sticker that indicates the maximum wattage light that can be used in that socket. Typical light sockets will be limited to 40, 60 or 100 watts.

You can replace a 100 watt incandescent bulb with a 26 watt fluorescent bulb, which gives you the same amount of light while using 25% of the energy the old bulb used. But, if you use a 42 watt compact fluorescent, you’ll still be well below the 100 watt max and the light will output the equivalent to a 150 watt bulb. Because the compact fluorescent produces more light per watt, you’ve got a much brighter room.

I use two of these lights in my garage light sockets and it makes a huge difference when I’m working out there. I also have one in my basement, which makes a big difference compared to the 100 watt incandescent it replaced — especially since there are no windows in the area.

I’ll remind you that it is extremely important to check the socket or fixture maximum and be sure the compact fluorescent bulb’s consumption is equal or lower (although the “equivalent” wattage will likely be higher, giving you more light).

BrokenSecrets.com

December 28, 2009 at 12:01 am 2 comments

Idling a Cold Engine Is GOOD For The Environment

You may notice when you start a cold vehicle, its exhaust is visible at first and disappears after a few minutes. Here’s why.

Technically, modern vehicles do not require much warm up time before you can drive them; advanced lubricants and materials allow the vehicles to be driven shortly after a cold weather start. Of course, you may want to warm your car for your comfort and surprisingly, to reduce emissions.

This is not intuitive, unless you understand the emission control systems on modern vehicles.

The first system is called Exhaust Gas Recirculation, and it’s probably obvious from the name: it routes exhaust gases back into the engine. The vehicle computer system monitors and controls this process to lower the amount of Nitrogen Oxides, precursors to smog and acid rain, that are created in the engine and then expelled from the tailpipe. Depending on your vehicle, this system will not operate in certain conditions, for example: low engine temperatures.

Vehicles also have a component in their exhaust system that converts various pollutants into less harmful gases with various catalysts. That conversion occurs in the catalytic converter, and that chemical reaction doesn’t happen when the catalytic converter is cold.

According to WP, some catalytic converters can take up to thirty-minutes to reach ideal operating temperature. That isn’t to suggest you should wait that long before driving your car — there are countermeasures in many cars that make it effective long before that.

When your car is at idle, it uses less gas and releases less pollution than when you are driving it. Getting your emission system to an effective point before driving it helps reduce overall emissions. For my car, it take about 3-5 minutes before the exhaust is invisible and that’s about how long it takes to clear the snow anyway. It’s not an exact science and it varies by car and by temperature.

BrokenSecrets.com

Sources:  WP, WP, WP, EPA, GM

Photo: steveyb (Creative Commons)

December 14, 2009 at 12:53 am 2 comments

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