Giving new life to used glass

A block of white “foam” sitting in a pool of water slowly and steadily sucked up the magenta-colored liquid. The foam, made almost entirely from recycled glass, can absorb water from around plants and store it until needed by the plant’s root system.

Earthstone, a Santa Fe-based company, hopes the new product will be an environmentally friendly boon to the agricultural/horticultural industry. Not only do the “growstones” hold the promise of diverting millions of glass bottles from the landfill, but the technology could create new, green jobs, increase harvests and reduce the amount of water used for landscaping and growing vegetables.

The company has been seeding the market, testing its new product with major growers, who are reportedly enthusiastic. Although the planned rollout won’t be until next spring, Andy Hernandez, director of operations at Earthstone, estimates the company is sitting on at least 50 truckloads of back orders. Growers, he said, “would buy as much as we could make…”

At a plant on Parkway Drive off Rufina Street in Santa Fe, Earthstone manufactures the foam blocks using technology developed by the company. Crushed glass ground into a fine powder the consistency of flour is mixed with a foaming agent and poured into ceramic molds, which are then heated to over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit in a railroad-car-sized kiln for up to 10 hours. The formula rises, creating a rigid foam that looks like a large loaf of freshly baked bread. Air released during the heating process creates bubbles in the material. The cooled cakes are ground into tiny bits for hydroponic uses or crushed into stones less than an inch in diameter for soil amendments. They can also be cut into abrasive blocks for cleaning purposes.

Hard-working and innovative folks. I only happen to know them in passing – from crews I had work on facility repair and maintenance. Their commitment to recycled products and green solutions is commendable.

Pic of the Day

Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

US President Elect Barack Obama embraces Iraq war veteran and Illinois State Director of Veterans Affairs, Tammy Duckworth, after the two placed a wreath at The Bronze Soldiers Memorial in honor of Veteran’s Day November 11, 2008 on the Lakefront in Chicago, Illinois.

Too many tears.

No family members sober enough to bring infant home

Indiana State Police said a father who was called to pick up his 1-year-old after the mother’s arrest for drunken driving was also allegedly intoxicated.

Police said Kelli Thompson, 24, was charged with driving under the influence after police pulled her 1996 Dodge minivan over at 12:45 a.m. Saturday morning in Schererville, Indiana.

Thompson, whose 1-year-old son was in the car at the time she was pulled over, called the child’s father, Robert Dereamer, 23, to take the boy home. However, police said he also allegedly had been driving under the influence when he arrived at the scene.

Dereamer was charged with operating while intoxicated and driving while suspended.

Officers said they phoned the child’s grandparents, who had also been drinking before they arrived at the scene. They were escorted home by Schererville police.

Phew! Does this little kid stand a chance?

Fighting the Taleban with literacy

Khalai Kohna High School in Lashkar Gah, the main town in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, is hailed as a success story.

It’s dusty and lacks power and drinking water and the children share books.

But it is open, giving several hours of education a day to more than 1,000 boys and, in the afternoons, more than 600 girls.

It is a rarity. The vast majority of children in Helmand cannot go to school.

Khalai Kohna managed to open earlier this year because Lashkar Gah is a bubble of relative security, even though it’s surrounded by the Taleban. One of the school’s science teachers, Abdul Raziq, says the fight against the Taleban must also take place in the classroom.

“If the people were literate, they wouldn’t have this insurgency now. That’s why I’m trying to do what I can to educate the future generation, so they can serve their country, instead of destroying it.”

Insight grounded in close-up experience. Something too often lacking in the American reliance upon TV Talking Heads.

Read the article. Reflect. Think about turning your opinion into politics.

Scientific community called to resolve debate on ‘net energy’

Net energy is a (mostly) irrelevant, misleading and dangerous metric,” says Professor Bruce Dale, editor-in-chief of Biofuels, Bioresources and Biorefining (Biofpr) in the latest issue of the journal.

Net energy is a metric by which some scientists attempt to assess the sustainability and ability of alternative fuels to displace fossil fuel but recent debate in Biofpr shows that scientists are undecided on its merits as a tool.

Instead, in a series of corresponding articles clearly stating the case for and against net energy, Professor Dale calls for a more holistic approach which takes into consideration issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, petroleum displacement and economic growth, particularly in the developing world. He is calling on the scientific community to come together to help establish, once and for all, parameters by which to calculate fuel efficiency by using not just one, but several metrics that can be used in conjunction to give a fuller picture…

He adds: “Net energy is misleading because it does not give us the whole story of a fuel but instead asks us to make a judgement using a very small component of the decision making process, albeit an important piece of a large jigsaw. When trying to determine whether a fuel is viable or not, we not only need to consider energy in versus energy out but also the overall context such as petrol displacement, land usage and economic growth – this requires a balanced approach with several metrics.”

I admit to a not-especially-diplomatic approach to the question. Most of those grounding their opposition to one or another alternative energy source in “net energy” metrics – who aren’t entirely in the pocket of the fossil fuel extractors – fall into the equally tiresome category of green weenie. My term.

I’ll follow the discussion with interest.

Grocery stores that are good for you

Daylife/AP Photo by John Reynolds

Let’s face it: Your weekly (or daily!) run to the grocery store is the foundation for your good health. So it’s thrilling news that the supermarket industry is on a health kick — these days you’ll most likely find organic produce and “natural” packaged foods at almost any store you go to.

Which chains are outdoing themselves to deliver the freshest and healthiest foods to you? And which ones provide the best tools to help you make smart choices? We asked six prominent health experts to help us pick the top 10 healthiest grocery stores out of the nation’s largest chains.

Click here for the list of the true standouts.

We do our weekly grocery shopping at two of these ten. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

I must admit it’s one of the fun adventures in my life as hermit. My honey and I plan the week’s menu on the fly. Centered on basics; but, the dynamic is governed by what looks good, what’s affordable and, always, what’s new?

1963 LeMans Tempest sells for HOW MUCH on eBay?

The eBay auction for this 1963 Pontiac LeMans Tempest started out innocently enough. Obtained after owner died. Appears to have original interior but no motor, no transmission. Body has a little rust and some dents. There’s stuff in the trunk, but no key to open it. Opening bid nine days ago was a mere $500…

The car’s plexiglass windows, unusual suspension setup and a dash plate bearing the name of a racetrack tipped the owner to its racing history. But what he didn’t know is that the car is one of only six 1963 Pontiac LeMans Tempest Super Duty coupes ever made…This one looks to have been driven by Stan Antlocer and was the fastest drag car in 1963 before disappearing.

Reading through the questions on the auction gives us reason to believe the seller truly didn’t know the car’s provenance. In his answers, he seems both surprised by the car’s potential value as well as overwhelmed by the attention. He turned down an offer of $160,000 to end the auction early because he feared getting negative eBay feedback. That decision paid off. With only seven minutes remaining, the highest offer was $95,000. When the virtual gavel fell, eBayer ccsi2000 had bought a very rare, if a little rusty, LeMans for $226,521.


Thanks, K B

What the rural French can teach New Yorkers

I once lived in rural France for half a year, in a region of southern Burgundy known to epicures for its fine cattle and wine. It was also known for being the French boondocks – we got the feeling from Parisian friends that they thought we were living somewhere vaguely akin to a suburb of Binghamton, New York…

My husband and I weren’t particularly green at the time, which was seven years ago. Nor was anyone else in that rural part of France, as far as we could tell. What they were was frugal. “Everyone has porcupines in their pockets,” a neighbor there once told me – in other words, it really hurt to reach for their wallets. That mattered when it came to plastic bags, because you had to pay for them at the store.

The store, E.Leclerc, was a sprawling emporium that sold household goods along with groceries – think Wal-Mart or Tesco, only with an entire aisle devoted to 23 varieties of yogurt. The store bags were plastic, but a thickish plastic, with sturdy handles. We always intended to put the empty ones back in the car for the next trip, but every once in a while, they were left behind in the pantry, and then we’d find ourselves in a bind.

The bags were maybe 30 cents each, but it wasn’t just the financial hit that made us waste all that time turning around to go home. It was shame.

Continue reading

Tyson lies – sues USDA to keep antibiotic-free label

In a baffling case of doublespeak, the world’s largest meat processing company Tyson Foods has publicly admitted to injecting chickens with antibiotics—but it’s suing the US Department of Agriculture in order to keep the Antibiotic-Free label anyway. And how does Tyson plan on getting around the fact that the label is a bold-faced lie? By manipulating legal jargon of course! Tyson is claiming that since its chickens are merely injected with antibiotics before they hatch, they’re not really ‘raised’ with antibiotics.

Maybe amidst all that rushing around to get the label passed, Tyson forgot to actually enact the label’s claim?

First time around, a compromise was reached to adjust the label, since ionophores aren’t used to treat human diseases. That label was “raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans.” Which of course, has now been found to be completely untrue. So now perhaps Tyson will have to renegotiate their compromise—but “injected with antibiotics before birth, but subsequently raised without them” doesn’t quite have the same ring.

The USDA hasn’t been a leader in courageous defense of food standards – in decades. But, these past eight years set a new standard for sticking their legs straight up in the air in surrender to sleazy agribusiness.

Tyson set the pace for lowering already-mediocre standards in their meat factories, founding the whole industry’s switchover to an illegal migrant workforce. Perpetuating an unsafe reliance on distorted food chemistry is just another day’s work at the Tyson chicken factory.

Thanks, Justin

Pentagon advisors: End the spending spree!

A senior Pentagon advisory group, in a series of bluntly worded briefings, is warning President-elect Barack Obama that the Defense Department’s current budget is “not sustainable,” and he must scale back or eliminate some of the military’s most prized weapons programs.

The briefings were prepared by the Defense Business Board, an internal management oversight body. It contends that the nation’s recent financial crisis makes it imperative that the Pentagon and Congress slash some of the nation’s most costly and troubled weapons to ensure they can finance the military’s most pressing priorities.

Those include rebuilding ground forces battered by multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan and expanding the ranks to wage the war on terrorism.

Business as usual is no longer an option,” according to one of the internal briefings prepared in late October for the presidential transition, copies of which were provided to the Globe. “The current and future fiscal environments facing the department demand bold action…”

Pentagon insiders and defense budget specialists say the Pentagon has been on a largely unchecked spending spree since 2001 that will prove politically difficult to curtail but nevertheless must be reined in.

Most important quote from the article? “A few cuts here or there won’t do the trick.”

No kidding. RTFA. It’s long and ain’t any of it out of line with common sense. Another quality missing these past seven years.