Saturday, January 5

New York Politicians Have a Long History of Questionable Actions

National Archives and Records Administration [Public domain]
Donald Trump is not the first New York Republican that might have not thought things through clearly. I just happened to run across the photo, above when checking into the World War record of one of my Great Uncles. It shows the funeral of Former NYC Mayor John Mitchel in 1918. As it turned out, after being the second youngest NYC Mayor ever and failing in a re-election bid, he decided to become an Army Aviator. He was killed when he fell 500 feet out of the cockpit of an airplane into an undrained swamp. Nope, there was not any seat belt being worn. I don't believe anybody was able to query him about what he'd been thinking.

Alternatively perhaps this illustrates why one ought to wear a seat belt when operating a motor vehicle. Apparently, there was a seat belt in the plane, but Mitchel didn't fasten it. You can read about him on Wikipedia, here.

In case anybody keeps tabs on such things, when Mitchel was a Republican, they were the progressives and the Democrats were mostly Tammany Hall operatives or Confederate sympathizers. Mitchel was endorsed by Theodore Roosevelt. Ironically, it was another Roosevelt, Franklin, that broke the power of Tammany Hall when he was New York's Governor.

Wednesday, December 19

Story on Straws

Chris made a very good point that there's a big fuss many places about plastic straws, noting "With all the hullabaloo about plastic straws, why is no one ranting about the plastic cups that go with the straws ? Those cups plastic cups are bigger in volume than the plastic straws! Doesn't make sense."

Well, that prompted me to do a little MORE checking on the subject. As it turns out, in one sense he's completely and absolutely correct. The straws that you get with your cold Starbucks drink are made of the SAME KIND of plastic as the cups. #5 Plastic, to be exact. What's more, #5 Plastic is most often used for the caps to bottles that are made of #2 Plastic, which is the same stuff that is used for plastic bags.

For whatever reason, the waste company in North Texas accepts #5 Plastic, while the one in Ocean Shores does not. Checking a list of places that accept #5 Plastic, I find that the closest location to Ocean Shores that accepts bottle caps is 80 miles away. Luckily, in North Texas, I find there's a place only 9 miles away that accepts plastic caps. Whole Foods. Straws, however, are a pariah in the recycling business, being treated even worse than plastic bags. As I understand it, Whole Foods won't take straws, though they take the #5 cups.

There's a good discussion of the problem with plastic straws at Earth911, here. In a nutshell, in most cases, places that take the same kind of plastic as the straws won't take the straws. Go figure!

Actually, Earth911 is one of the best recycling web sites I've found. While their recycling locations are as out of date as many of the other sites, they have good discussions about things LIKE plastic straws. They even have articles about the finer points of dealing with old antifreeze, here. I was unaware that some antifreeze is much less toxic that other versions - a good thing to remember if you have young children around. If your young kids grow up without dying from drinking antifreeze, you can thank a blog for letting it happen!

Thursday, December 6

Forget Global Warming, ACT NOW!

Plastic Bags Fill up our Landfills and Collect in our Oceans

There's been lots of news stories lately about global climate change and how humans are driving it. Well, perhaps that's so, and we can argue about details, but there's not really a huge amount most of us can do about it one way or the other in the short run. Mostly, people live wherever they live and they're locked into a relatively narrow carbon footprint. What's worse, is that all this focus on carbon emissions takes our attention off of stuff we CAN do to help our our planet at minimal cost and without global treaties. Hence, today's post title.

One example is the amount of oil we simply throw into landfills or dump in the ocean in the form of plastic bags, where it gets ingested by sea creatures or simply floats around in a giant garbage patch. A few localities have banned plastic bags. I'm not sure that is a good approach. I'd rather see a 25 cent charge per plastic bag imposed, with the revenues rebated to businesses based on their retail sales. In other words, places that sell a lot, but don't use plastic bags, would find a nice net revenue stream. I'm sure my loyal reader can think of lots of other revenue-neutral approaches, and anybody that really MUST use a plastic bag would still be able to do so, just as people can still smoke if they wish to do so.

Plastic Bags Not Welcome in Grays Harbor - What to Do?
The Gray's Harbor site that doesn't recycle plastic bags states:

"Plastic is a synthetic and highly malleable material made from a broad range of organic
polymers. Enough plastic is thrown away each year to completely circle the earth four
times. On average, an American throws away an estimated amount of 185 pounds of
plastic annually. Plastic is one of the types of waste that takes the longest to
decompose. On average, it takes plastic items up to 1000 years to break down fully.
Although certain plastics take less time, it still takes everyday plastic bags 10-20 years
to break down. A plastic bottle can take up to 450 years to finally decompose."

You might wonder why I bring this up now? Well, I've been doing a bit of investigation about plastic bags, and plastic bag recycling isn't a whole lot more realistic than the notion of "clean coal." Mostly, the hype about recycling plastic bags is a scam to make people not feel bad about supporting a form of pollution that could be stopped easily, and NOW. There isn't really a societal need for people to use large quantities of the things.

First off, most neighborhood recycling programs PROHIBIT plastic bags in that nice blue recycling container. It messes up their equipment. So, where DO put these plastic bags go? Well, thanks to the Internet, I went to the website that was printed right on a large plastic bag I was given that had junk newspapers inside. If you click on THIS LINK, it'll take you there. What's more, you can actually BUY the domain!

Golly, Plastic Bags are "Green" - if You Don't Actually Investigate
Further investigation through the Gray's Harbor site that tells me they don't accept plastic bags for recycling took me to another site that actually attempted to tell me where to take these bags. What's more, if you click on THIS LINK, it'll take you there. You can even put in your own zip or post code.

Well, at Least THIS Web Site has Information, Albeit Dated and Wrong Information

Unlike the first site, at least this one works. Unfortunately, it tells me that the nearest place to recycle my plastic bags is 25 miles away. However, that's not the worst of it. The Safeway really doesn't have a place to recycle plastic bags. Even worse, the JC Penney that's listed was closed over five years ago. I haven't checked at the Wally World, but I certainly don't recall seeing anything that looked like plastic bag collection. I also checked my zip in North Texas and it was similarly out of date, though at least the places that don't accept plastic bags are closer than their Washington State equivalents.

Still, we cyclists are not without our own resources. My bike bags are perfect for getting groceries and small hardware items. For bigger stuff, I bring my bike trailer or my back pack. What's more, since I still wind up getting plastic bags and plastic food wrap despite my best efforts, I save them to collect dog poop during daily dog walks. Sure, you can buy dedicated dog poop bags, but since they cost around 7 cents per bag, plastic store bags one gets without even trying are a better bet. After asking, I found that the local IGA gives a 7 cent rebate if you bring your own bag. Nowadays, the only time I get plastic bags there is when they forget to give me the rebate. In that case, I actually ask for them, noting they work for other purposes even if I don't need them for groceries. Many cashiers forget once. Few forget after I bring the subject up when they do. Ditto for the store manager who forgot - once. 

While it is fine to think globally about climate change, acting locally is something each of us can do each and every day. We actually have to act. In my Texas neighborhood, the local trash company has "leaf collection" days; they pledge the leaves will go to compost. Last weekend, there were hundreds, if not thousands of plastic bags with leaves in my neighborhood that wound up going to a landfill where the plastic will still remain after all of us have passed away. Sadly, kraft paper bags are easier to fill, but all that got picked up were my 20 bags, and 5 more from the neighbor across the street. One of the plastic bag neighbors actually caught up to the compost collection truck while they were collecting my leaf bags and leaves in order to complain they hadn't picked up his leaves which were in plastic bags. I stuck up for the garbage men, noting they could not dump his plastic into their truck since it would contaminate the compost. In my Ocean Shores neighborhood, there aren't even any "leaf collection" days and there's talk they will soon BAN plastic bags. Sheesh. It's why I'm composting as much as possible. Besides, the sandy soil in Ocean Shores needs all the help it can get.

With New Years coming up, it is an opportunity to resolve to simply stop using plastic wherever possible. Even for dog poop, I have found that my biodegradable compost bags will also work with dog poop, if there isn't anything better simply lying around.

Friday, November 9

Enlightened or Retrograde?

Lots of Bikes for Rent at Yosemite National Park
Recently, we visited Yosemite National Park. Besides the always-wonderful scenery, I noticed bicycle and pedestrian approaches that were both enlightened and somewhat odd for non-motorized visitors.

First, I noticed that the loop road to see Half Dome was closed to motorists. In addition, there were LOTS of bicycles for rent. Even though this was October, there were lots of them getting rented.

Second, I was struck by a STOP sign on the path to the Visitor center. It seems odd, and a bit antiquated, to expect the vast majority of travelers to actually come to a full stop just in case the occasional bus might be coming by. In truth, nobody stopped at the sign. Of course, there wasn't any protected tour buses nearby. This is a case where a "Yield" sign might make sense, especially with an advisory sign underneath that notes "Tour Buses might be passing at any time."

How Many Pedestrians do YOU Know that Would Come to a Full Stop Here before Proceeding?

Sunday, September 30

Sometimes They Act Like Jerks, Sometimes they Don't

One principle of staying safe as a cyclist, or as any sort of road user, is to keep your eyes and brain engaged. Last week, I was cycling along in Aberdeen, Washington. Suddenly, a lady ran a stop sign (there was no stop sign for me) without slowing and cut me off. Momentarily forgetting it wasn't a teachable moment, I yelled out the obvious as she zoomed by: "Hey, you just ran a stop sign!"

A few blocks later, another lady came up to her stop sign and I was able to proceed without any danger of impact. I waved at this second lady. The situations coming up to the intersection were pretty much identical in both situations. As the title says...

It was a fairly low stress reminder why you do not ride on autopilot. It is also a reminder of how cycling is fun and safe if you simply pay attention. I'd probably have been going ten MPH faster had I been motoring and avoiding the first collision might have been much more dramatic.