But first . . .

MINIMUM DECENCY

So the House voted to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour – first raise in 10 years – and the Republicans in the Senate voted to block it. (Only 40, not 51, being needed to block.)

As the Center for American Progress notes: ‘Eighty-three percent of the American public supports this increase. But unfortunately, the Senate fell six short of the votes needed to end debate and move on. It will now take up a bill pairing a minimum wage increase with tax breaks for small businesses, at the insistence of a small group of conservative senators. In the past 10 years, Congress has given small businesses $36 billion in tax breaks. It has given itself $31,600 in cost-of-living raises. . . . Send a message to your senator voicing your support for a clean bill to increase the minimum wage.’

And now . . .

MY FRESHMAN NEIGHBOR

Freshman year at Harvard I was in Pennypacker Hall and Amory Lovins was in neighboring Hurlbut. (You can imagine the sophomoric jokes, though we were freshmen.) Then Amory dropped out because he was bored – Harvard was too easy – and went to Oxford, out of which he also dropped, and for the same reason.

As many of you doubtless know, he went on to change the world, inventing the concept of negawatts and much else and . . . well, The New Yorker has just profiled him in its January 22 edition which – in an annoying ploy to force you to buy the magazine – they do not post entirely online.

The author, Elizabeth Kolbert, quotes Wal-Mart’s VP for corporate strategy and sustainability (aren’t you pleased Wal-Mart has one?): ‘In a room of ten people talking about why it can’t be done, Amory is the one working on the five ways to get there.’ Elsewhere she writes:

A few years ago, Texas Instruments hired [Amory’s Rocky Mountain Institute] to help design a new chip-manufacturing plant in Richardson, Texas. It is expected to use twenty per cent less energy and thirty-five percent less water than a typical chip factory of comparable size. It also cost thirty per cent less to build.

“Amory doesn’t take a bullying, negative approach,” Paul Westbrook, Texas Instruments’ manager for sustainable development, told me. “He just says, ‘Here’s a better way, and here’s why it works.’ And you think, Well, we’d be kind of dumb not to do that.” One of the ways the new Texas Instruments plant will save energy is by capturing heat that normally would have been discarded as waste. “We implemented heat recovery, and, lo and behold, we didn’t need as many boilers,” Westbrook said.

Not only that, notes RMI, but by saving so much energy and money, Texas Instruments was able to keep its plant – and about 1,000 good jobs – in the U.S.

Amory basically trots around the world, huge briefcase under his arm, evangelizing for energy efficiency. (The huge briefcase stores reprints of various technical papers he hands people like me who can’t possibly understand them.) I am very proud of Amory. Read the profile. It will inspire you with hope and excitement for the future.

You might even redouble your own (already considerable) efforts at energy conservation – and recycling.

RECYCLING IN NORWAY

Karl Klaudi: ‘On the subject of setting up recycling for CFLs and such in local Wal-Marts, there is something similar ongoing in Norway. Some background: My wife and I recently moved to Norway from New Orleans. While still in NOLA, after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, we decided to do our part to help our ‘home,’ and one of the things we wanted to do was recycle. And by recycle, we just meant the basics – glass, plastic, aluminum, paper. But post-Katrina, recycling was simply not offered in New Orleans. (I’m not entirely certain it was offered before Katrina.) The closest recycling drop-off center was miles and miles outside the city. And so because it was not easy, we did not follow through on our intentions.

‘Flash forward a number of months – we move to Norway. Here, recycling is not an option, it is simply the way it is. In our house, we have three small bins in the kitchen: one for paper, one for organic stuff, and another for ‘other.’ These small bins are then emptied into much larger bins that are convenient to the neighborhood – and I have no worries that some indiscriminating garbage collector simply combines all into one truck. With a little more effort, we can further separate the ‘other’ trash into glass, plastic, and metals bins that are not as commonly found, yet still fairly convenient. All these different materials are then taken away for recycling. Most of the organic stuff becomes compost, while some is burned to generate electricity.

‘Anyhow, back to the CFL recycling at Wal-Mart idea. Here in Norway, when you purchase plastic bottles of Coke or aluminum cans of beer, you pay a small deposit. You retrieve the deposit by returning the bottle or can to your local grocery store, which has a little machine in which you feed all the cans and bottles and it spits out a receipt that is exchanged for cash. Every single grocery store has these machines. The whole process is so simple and easy that there is no reason not to do it. It helps to have a financial incentive, too. As far as I know, EVERYONE does it. Why couldn’t the same be done in America, with Wal-Mart leading the way?’

RECYCLING IN FT. LAUDERDALE
(or anywhere else)

Rod: ‘For batteries, go here to find where to recycle. For Ft. Lauderdale, to take one example, you will discover places like Home Depot, Radio Shack, Cingular and many others.’

Robert Haugland: ‘There is a website where you can search by ZIP code to find out where you can recycle just about everything, from household chemicals and motor oil to cell phones and computers: earth911.org.’

RECYCLING ON MERCURY

George:Tough Mercury Recycling Laws Backfire and Actually Increase Mercury Pollution.

☞ Well, yes and no. But it shows how complex is this problem of sustaining 6.5 billion humans, headed shortly to 9 billion, on a finite planet, without fouling it entirely.

Have a great weekend.

 

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