Monthly Archives: May 2008

Engaged Offsets

Traveling over the past week, I visited the queen of sustainable cities, Portland, Oregon and a prime example of Midwestern disinvestment, Hutchinson, Kansas. Getting there, I spent time in the Houston, Atlanta, Memphis and Kansas City airports and, according to the newly revamped TerraPass air travel carbon emissions calculator, emitted a whopping total of 7,066 pounds of CO2.

I am not about to see all my bike riding, recycling, second-hand shopping, local food buying, energy star appliance using and non-air conditioned house living get canceled out by a few flights. So I’m thinking of spending $39.60 to purchase carbon offsets from TerraPass. The offsets fund three different project types: clean energy (wind power), farm energy (methane power) and landfill gas capture. Sounds good, right?

Like many of you, I’m skeptical of the whole concept of carbon offsets. Although TerraPass claims that, “All projects are verified by an independent accredited organization according to a published offset standard and all verifications include site visits, audits of the project data and project monitoring equipment and practices relative to the standard used,” purchasing offsets still just feels like eco-consumerism with very little real impact.

Consumption

There’s a concept floating around that attempts to make carbon offsets more real and relevant –Engaged Offsets. The idea is instead of spending money to probably/maybe/sort of fund projects in far off places, spend money (and/or time) to fund projects that offset carbon emissions in one’s own community. Tree plantings are an obvious one, the Savannah Bike Co-op would be another good project to fund . . . Other ideas? I heard about a group while I was in Portland, that is trying to create funding mechanisms that link engaged offsets with green jobs -Now that would be something!

Cutting to the heart of sustainability

What lessons can be learned from studying a pocket knife made in the early 1900s? How can careful consideration of such a tool help us make better decisions today? Mr. Jalopy has the answers:

The market realities that forced the superior business model of integrity and serviceability have changed. Now, it is a choice that we must make. How many imported pocket knives do we want to buy over our lifetimes? How willing are you to support a local economy? How many shipping containers of cheap junk are you going to buy? Most importantly, wouldn’t you rather use an elegant tool each day than continually replace junk knives?

Read more on the Dinosurs and Robots blog here.

WSAV: “Recyclers trashing Savannah neighborhood”

picture-7.pngWSAV-TV reports residents of the Carver Heights Neighborhood are unhappy with the Sonoco recycling plant on Gwinnett Street. They complain that plastic bags become airborne, sail across the street and land in the residential area. While it’s likely that many of the invading bags originate from Sonoco, plastic bags can be found floating all over town like polyethylene ghosts. If we want to eliminate this scourge from Carver Heights and other neighborhoods, there are models we could follow.

But what can be done in this specific area? WSAV’s B-roll of Sonoco presented a familiar scene to those who take their recyclable materials to the site on weekends. There seems to be a certain mindset, which deduces that if something is not made of paper, steel, aluminum or glass, then it must be plastic. Items that have been misidentified as plastic — from my observations — have included fiberglass, asphalt shingles and even yard trimmings. The result is by noon on Saturdays, all this extra stuff has Sonoco’s plastic bins nearing capacity and material begins piling up around the bins. And that’s when the bags make their escape.

So what’s the solution? Hiring an attendant to keep things under control would seem to be the ideal situation. Installing signage to help well-meaning recyclers understand what is and is not plastic would help, too.

WSAV suggests heading a little farther down the street to the City of Savannah’s Recycling Education and Drop-off Center, which is attended Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and, Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. In addition to aluminum, steel, 1 and 2 plastic, corrugated cardboard and paper, the site also accepts scrap metal and appliances. Recyclers should be aware that the city’s operation does not accept glass is now accepting glass. Check the comments for the latest.

Local brew pub offers a better way to-go

Gene Beeco of Moon River Brewing Company reports the restaurant and brewery is now pouring into “corn plastic” to-go cups he describes as 100 percent compostable. He said, “We hope that other area restaurants will join us in our efforts, and I believe that in the future recyclable materials may become the law.” Beeco said Moon River runs through more than 52,000 cups each year.

A Plenty magazine story from earlier this month suggests that the “greening” of the restaurant industry is a growing trend that extends to national chains. In turn, the movement toward more environmentally-friendly cups, napkins, utensils and bags has spurred growth in the sustainable packaging industry, which is represented by groups such as the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

Switching to greener materials can represent an increased cost for restaurants. Will customers be willing to pay more if the expense is passed on to them? How many locals will decide to patronize a particular restaurant simply because it employs sustainable products and systems?

Finally, we are front page news!

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Over the last year, Sustainable Savannah has been mentioned several times in the pages of the Savannah Morning News, most often by award-winning columnist Bill Dawers. However, yesterday’s story about Coastal Commuters by Lauren Nardella marks the first time the site has appeared front page of the paper. This revelation also alerted me to the fact that Sustainable Savannah is now more than a year old. In recognition of the site’s one year anniversary, I’d like to thank everyone who has offered encouragement since last May.