Saturday, November 14, 2009

United Airlines' Unfriendly Skies

I like to think that bicycle-friendly cities and establishments are met with admiration and appreciation. While businesses that put out dog drinking water bowls on the sidewalk may get the nod from dog-owners, bicycle friendliness is a progressive act with environmental benefits.
Prior to my last trip back to NYC, my bicycle gang shipped a padded bicycle bag so that I could ride again. LAX long term parking drops me off at United Airlines with my bicycle bag. So far so good. United Airlines charges me $175 to check in my bicycle—that’s for one way. That's more than the ticket for my seat. With my car miles away in a lot, I am stuck at the check-in counter with a bicycle. I can’t bring it back to my car or lock it up at the airport, but if I do bring it, it will cost me $350. As I’m calculating this crisis in my head, the mean old UA staff that issued the ticket harrumphs at me for deliberating my financial demise. He gives me the number for a courier company that might hold it over the weekend for a couple hundred bucks. A younger UA employee pitied me and talked to his pals in baggage that agreed to watch and store my bicycle for free. I tipped the nice young man enough money for a 6-pack.
Guess who else charges $175 for bicycles? Other shitty airlines that don’t give a shit, like Delta Airlines. It’s clearly a penalizing deterrent to justify bad service. United.com site provides links to Fedex encouraging you to ship your luggage ahead of you. Certainly more convenient for United but how is that more convenient for me? What’s a fair price? I understand most airlines charge $20 for each checked baggage. Bicycles with case should weigh less than 50 pounds but they are a bit more difficult to handle. I think $50 is fair. And so does JetBlue and Virgin America.
If United Airlines was a motorist, he would be an old curmudgeon in a polluting Pontiac clunker. Instead of honking and high-beaming at cyclists like motorists tend to typically do, he pins cyclists against a tree at the knees. Unsatisfied with the helpless nature of the cyclist, United pulls down the cyclist’s pants then has a sidewalk sale to sell salvaged bike parts from the wreckage.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yellow Pages, "Little. Yellow. Different."


As print newspapers embrace and imitate the generic exit strategy of moving online, it is sad to see them go. While print may not be the most environmentally sound, the publication effects many families and the communities. Here's a brief list of prints that are flailing in the sea change of technology: Ann Arbor News, Asian Week, Bloomfield Free Press, The Bridge, The Capital Times, Christian Science Monitor, Kansas City Kansan, Kentucky Post, Rhinoceros Times, Tucson Citizen. Personally, in many cases, I just don't believe that there is enough content and useful information to fill a daily print issue. As such, papers are often filled with irrelevant ads and fluff. Turning the paper into "tabloid size" can only stave off extinction for so long.
My tilt today is not against newspapers but with the yellow pages, or super yellow pages, as it were. They used to stack of shoe box-sized phone books stack outside of my apartment building. This huge heap of phone books would seldom be taken into an apartment unit, usually by the old and digital illiterate. Then after a thunderstorm, the pile would turn into a heavy stinking pile of wet paper.
Prior to completely moving online, they forced their way into my home by shrinking the phone book into a 6x9 booklet (wrapped in plastic) that fit into my teeny mailbox. I must admire their thoughtfulness of only providing my with a "Midtown West: October 2009-2010" edition focusing on my local area and not all five boroughs. This little book is going straight to the recycling bin. They may have eluded death this year, but death is imminent.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Verdantic's Dream Car

Sometimes it seems that in order for something to be believably eco-friendly, it has to be ugly. Sure, there are beacons of beautiful eco designs, like Piano's California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Here's some ugly ones: solar vest, washing machine + toilet collabo and most of all, eco cars. Why does an eco car, electric vehicle or hybrid irrevocably have to be ugly or unsafe? Verdantic will be needing a car soon as I prepare my move back to California. Here's my car of choice: The Volkswagen Jetta TDI Stationwagen.
Here's some car dork mumbo jumbo:
-
Turbo compressor

-
1,968 cc 2.0 liters in-line 4 front engine with 81.0 mm bore, 95.5 mm stroke, 16.5 compression ratio, overhead cam and four valves per cylinder

-
Diesel fuel
-
Diesel common rail fuel system

-
14.5 gallon main diesel fuel tank 12.1

-
Power: 104 kW , 140 HP SAE @ 4,000 rpm; 236 ft lb , 320 Nm @ 1,750 rpm
- 2.0L L4 engine

Here's what I need to know about it:
- Turbo!
- 30 MPG city / 41 MPG highway
- Diesel and convertible to bio-diesel
- MSRP:
$23,870
- Engine sounds like a real car
- Looks like a normal car


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dirty problem, Cleaner solution: Pee Poople

To calculate the number of pet dogs in a populated area, you divide the human population by 2.65 then multiply by .534. For New York City's 8 million, that works out to 1.6 million pet dogs. Let's assume 90% of dog walkers pick up their dog'(s)' daily shit. Assume some are crazy enough to pick it up with a newspaper. Some may use bio-bags as well. I could go on to calculate the number of unpicked up turds per city block in NYC, but that's not exactly the point. Point is, that's at least a million plastic bags a day. Banning plastic bags in this regard will be a tough sell. I can't imagine President Obama picking up Bo's poop without plastic.
Meet the Peepoople. They developed a biodegradable bag to help sanitation in Africa. The bag serves as a toilet but when buried, it provides organic fertilizer for improved soil structure. Perhaps this innovation could help NYC reduce trash and enhance urban farming and gardening.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

HOGWASH: Marylhurst University's Online MBA in Sustainable Business

Blogger's foreword: I love school. I encourage everyone to take any opportunity to learn something new. That said, I was intrigued by this banner ad on treehugger today:
Marylhurst University's Online MBA in Sustainable Business
What's not to like?
1: Why go to classrooms when you can learn at home? Networking is a huge part of business school. If it's 100% online, you can avoid the awkward alcohol-infused social events intended for business networking. Experiencing the throes of presenting a gaudy group clusterfuct powerpoint in front of your peers is a must.
2: Not sure if executives at Fortune 500 companies love hearing from business-minded whistleblowing employees with 18-months adeptness in the following areas of expertise: renewable energy; public policy; green development; and natural and organic resources. 18 months of evening online eco-discussions won't make you a scientist--a verdanticist at best.
3: Being in the first graduating class of any program from any school will be frustrating. Accreditations from the NWCCU or the IACBE don't mean anything if only 4th-tiered schools are on the lists. Plus, I thought the MFA was supposed to be the new MBA.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Transportation Fatalities

Trivia: What transpired during the first automobile accident in the United States?
Answer: In 1896, the first U.S. automobile accident occurred in NYC where a car hit a bicyclist.
After hearing about what happened on the Metro in DC where at least 6 people died in a train collision, it may evoke some hesitation to riding subways and trains. Per year, 800 people die in train accidents. Although that may seem like a shocking figure, rail workers--not passengers--make of for the majority of the 800.
It's a little shocking, but less than 800 cyclist die per year. I expected a higher number. As opposed to a train passenger, a cyclist may have some control over his/her fate by wearing a helmet, being more alert and following traffic rules. By contrast, 35,000 people die in car accidents every year.
To put these number into perspective and the actual likelihood of death, the number of miles traveled should be taken into account. Clearly, airplanes are the safest with 200 deaths per year and a chock-full of miles. Between bicycles and cars, if we compare the 800 and 35,000 deaths to the number of miles traveled, that being 6 billion and 3 trillion respectively, cyclists are 11 times as likely to die as motorists. Adding to the odds against commuter cyclists, two-thirds of bicycle fatalities happen in urban areas.
I'm going to end this downward spiraling circular logic and arrive at some conclusions. I'm not going to stop riding my bike--not now, in fact, most bike deaths happen between June and August. Riding a bicycle can help riders stave off heart disease, America's greatest killer. The asshole in a Hummer is probably safest if it doesn't flip over. No one said verdancy is the safest way to travel, but I do have a heightened appreciation for the Subway. And when I'm behind the wheel of a car, I hope I never face the odds of killing a cyclist.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

2009 MLB on FOX Broadcast schedule

I'm not going to lie, but there's nothing verdantic about this post. Taking a nap while watching baseball out of one eye on a flatscreen is not the best use of energy. Could be worse, I suppose, but it is--personally--my favorite American past time.
FOX paid billions for all of the Saturday baseball games. It blacks out all televized broadcasts, except for one game per zone. Unfortunately, the larger market teams get aired most often, for obvious reasons of viewership and revenue. If I had to guess, it's most likely the Yankees playing some other overpaid team. This post is a helpful reference for Saturday matchups.

2009 MLB on FOX REGULAR SEASON BROADCAST SCHEDULE

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs

Atlanta Braves at Arizona Diamondbacks

Minnesota Twins at Tampa Bay Rays

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Philadelphia Phillies at Los Angeles Dodgers

Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox

Minnesota Twins at Seattle Mariners

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New York Mets at New York Yankees

St. Louis Cardinals at Cleveland Indians

Chicago White Sox at Milwaukee Brewers

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tampa Bay Rays at New York Mets

Los Angeles Dodgers at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Milwaukee Brewers at Detroit Tigers

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves

Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Arizona Diamondbacks

Saturday, July 4, 2009

New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies

Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins

Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Indians

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 – 8:00 PM ET

2009 MLB All-Star Game

Busch Stadium – St. Louis, MO

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New York Mets at Atlanta Braves

Baltimore Orioles at Chicago White Sox

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Oakland Athletics

Saturday, July 25, 2009

St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies

Minnesota Twins at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers

Saturday, August 1, 2009

New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox

Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves

Houston Astros at St. Louis Cardinals

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees

Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves

Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks

Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins

Saturday, August 22, 2009

New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox

Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers

Saturday, August 29, 2009

New York Mets at Chicago Cubs

Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers

Houston Astros at Arizona Diamondbacks

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Boston Red Sox at Chicago White Sox

Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians

San Francisco Giants at Milwaukee Brewers

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies

Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Atlanta Braves at St. Louis Cardinals

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals

Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins

San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Imagine NYC without 24-hour subways or newspapers

Riding around on my bicycle here in my NYC bubble, I don't know if gas prices have increased. I'm not even sure where to find the nearest gas station. When prices of goods and services around me increase, I get the feeling that prices have hit $4/gallon.
What is going on? New York Times went up 50 cents to reach $2. Next week, the price of postage will go up 2 cents to reach 44 cents. New York Times moving online is an unfortunate foretoken, but it has environmental benefits. As for postage, that's great if the 2-cent increase encourages people to write more emails instead and discourages junk mailers to blast credit card offers.
And then there's the subway. Paterson and state leaders' solution to an MTA bailout package is to allow a 25 cent fare increase to subway rides to $2.25; and a monthly pass will go up to $89 from $81. I'm going to blame Paterson for this mess--but I think Roger Toussaint may also be culpable. Here's what Paterson could've done to avoid this: when Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan was proposed in 2007. Paterson stutter-stepped and undermined congestion pricing. Aside from the $500 million in federal funding that NYC was eligible to receive, ridership could have increased. Now with service cuts, there is less of an incentive to ride. Still, it's better than Londoners, who pay by zones with fares up to £4, or $5.80/ride. Personally, my solution is to ride a bicycle, because you can't read the newspaper while you ride.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Greener sports

Many will not admit that baseball is a sport. I'm willing to call it a game. If baseball is a game, then I don't know what to call Nascar. By the way, Nascar should be NASCAR, because it is an acronym for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, but all caps are too obnoxious. There are many polluters in Nascar and it just wouldn't be as loud and exciting if they raced with hydrogen cars. As other auto racing circuits have taken steps towards greenery, Nascar has employed a green pace car: the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Next month, the Toyota pace car will make its debut at the Coca-Cola 600. It wasn't easy. The pace car had to pass a performance test of reaching 100mph within a quarter mile.
As for baseball, there is also a growing consciousness for the environment. The perfectly manicured fields of baseball should never be replaced--no matter how much water it needs; but perhaps something can done about depleting and endangering ash wood used for baseball bats. On Earth Day last week, I was proud to attend a day game at the new Yankee stadium to see the Oakland A's. I wrongly assumed that a day game would not be played under bright lights. Since it was cloudy and it drizzled the entire game, they turned on the lights. So much for that. I was surprised to see recycling and compost bins around the park. Judging from the contents thrown inside the receptacles, instructions posted above the bins were desperately needed. Can't expect NY inhabitants to know how to compost, much less rowdy Yankee fans. Plus, New Yorkers are accustomed to seeing garbage men throwing bags of recyclables into garbage trucks every morning. Even Whole Foods provides instructions on composting for its eco-friendly conduits. Without posting instructions, I don't believe the billion-dollar stadium is actually serious about composting.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bicycles helping RFID's poor image

A bicycle can make you a better person:
- it is good for your mental and physical health;
- it can give you a slimmer and more attractive physique; and
- it can make you feel good about yourself and your surrounding environment.
Bicycles can even make unsavory characters like RFID tags cool. Although RFID tags have developed a poor reputation for privacy and environmental concerns, they are being used as helpful devices to combat bicycle theft around the world. The UK, the Netherlands and in Portland, OR, RFID tags are attached to registered bikes to deter bike theft or to track their locations when stolen.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

RFID: more at stake than privacy

RFID, Radio Frequency Identification are those tracking devices that you see on the boxes of products. Sure RFIDs are a great way to run a business more efficiently. Using radio waves, they allow instant tracking for shipping, supply chain management and inventory tracking.
There are many types of RFIDs, but once these things are activated, they send signals and information about the consumer without consent. That's the crux of the privacy issue that it raises. Verdantic certainly appreciates privacy and annoymity.
But, RFIDs are bad for the environment. Researchers aren't sure whether RFIDs can cause cancer or harmful effects to your health. It might be like one of those situations where exposure to small amounts of toxins or BPA are totally safe according to the FDA. RFIDs can be difficult to spot. They usually look like a white padded sticker, but underneath is an integrated circuit with copper wires, an antenna and a battery.
So maybe these things can benefit the environment by enabling businesses to operate more efficiently. How necessary is it? As much stuff as we Americans buy, attaching an RFID to every product creates more waste. Waste of a precious metal and millions of tiny batteries--that should be properly disposed of--end up in our landfills. Unfortunately, you can't see them and they can't be recycled. In fact, they get in the way of recycling boxes. The tags left on cardboard contain metal and inks that complicate recycled feedstock. On steel, the copper can contaminate other metals. When left of glass, the metals can damage glass kilns while being harmful to recyclers and glass blowers. The same can be said for the PET or HDPE recycling process.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Interview: Heather Sperling, Food Writer

V: Heather, welcome to Verdantic. Thanks for contributing to my blog—I really appreciate this.
HS: Happy to help—it's actually quite appropriate as Earth Day so happens to be my birthday AND I've been posting for PlanetGreen.com AND I love the color green.

V: Perfect. Before we begin, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
HS: Sure, I was an editor of the food website StarChefs.com for over 2 years before moving to Chicago, where I currently write for a number of magazines and websites, including the Discovery Channel's green do-it-yourself website, PlanetGreen.com. I've always been enamored with food and drink, and I think that the green movement is THE movement of our age, so naturally I get quite excited when the two overlap—which, thankfully, happens quite a lot.

V: How has green movement and sustainability affected trends the food industry?
HS: Sustainability has become, without a doubt, one of the biggest trends in the industry. As far as food is concerned, the green movement is very much a grassroots movement, and chefs, restaurateurs, business owners, and food media have played essential parts in spreading the word and setting the example. Writers like Michael Pollan, chefs like Dan Barber and Alice Watersthey set trends through their restaurants and their writing, and help draw the public's attention to the big issues in sustainable eating. Of course, these are only three names in an astoundingly large network of people and organizations who are making the promotion of sustainable food their mission in life. As public awareness has grown, public expectations have grownand in the food industry this means that diners and consumers are savvier than ever, and expect more from producers, markets, and restaurants. A few years ago, we started hearing about the merits of grass-fed beef and organic milk; today a sustainably minded diner could think: "Sure, your arugula was grown on the roof of your restaurant and you cured this lamb bacon yourself, with no nitrates involved. That's great. But are you composting? Recycling? Serving fair-trade coffee and using eco-friendly cleaning supplies in the kitchen?" In the food world, the ante keeps getting upped.

V: What are some the most innovative concepts and trends that involve sustainable eating and sustainable food?
HS: The Blue Ocean Institute, an organization devoted to sustainable seafood, has a pretty amazing program called FishPhone. You text the name of a fish to a certain number, and you get a text message back with info about whether the fish is a sustainable choice, and if not, what good alternatives are out there. I've never done it, but I love that it exists. And it's a great example of the sustainability movement harnessing fairly innovative technology to make essential information easily accessible. A handful of high-end restaurants across the country (The French Laundry and Per Se) are putting in new water filtration systems that make still and sparkling water in-house. They're eliminate the carbon footprint of their water, while still being able to offer the bottled water that diners want and expect. And I love that restaurants are starting to compost. I was in Seattle a few months ago and over half of the 40-odd restaurants I visited told me that they're composting. Granted, Seattle has always been an uber-green city. But composting—especially in a restaurant—is a bit of a pain, and that's a huge percentage that are making the effort.

V: What is the future of the dining experience, in terms of trends?
HS: That's a big question, man. You mean in terms of sustainability and green stuff, right?

V: You’re totally right. Let’s keep it green.
HS: Sustainability is going to continue to be huge in the restaurant world. Restaurants will keep touting the local and/or sustainable products on their plates, and more chains will follow Chipotle's lead and start serving sustainably raised ingredients. Ordering whole animals and cooking head-to-tail (i.e. using every part of the animal) is a growing trend in restaurant kitchens, and in line with that sustainably minded, artisan approach we're seeing things like homemade charcuterie (made from the trimmings) popping up across the country. In a way, this part of the future of the dining experience is actually quite historical. Ordering a whole pig, breaking it down in-house, curing the jowl to make guanciale, using the fat back for seasoning, turning the head into headcheese—these acts borrow from culinary traditions that are hundreds of years old. Today they're gaining momentum, and are certainly part of the future of many American restaurants.

V: In what ways might energy and transportation affect our food?
HS: In the past year, we watched the prices of eggs, flour, and milk rise as the price of gas rose. The average cost of a slice of New York pizza rose by some crazy amount, and my favorite morning glory muffin at the greenmarket went up 50 cents. This is one basic way that transportation affects our food: when transportation costs fluctuate, food costs fluctuate too. And of course there's the issue of the carbon footprint. Industrial food production has a wildly huge carbon footprint, from factories that process food to the energy that goes into massive cow feedlots (which produce insane amounts of methane gas, by the way. Cow farts are astoundingly bad for the atmosphere).

V: How feasible is the locavore diet and urban farming movement?
HS: It's certainly possible to exist off a diet of predominantly local foods, though some places— like San Francisco and New York—certainly make it easier than others. But it can absolutely be done, especially if you make reasonable exceptions and allow yourself California olive oil or non-local citrus. There are many that would say this is anathema to the true locavore spirit, but I say it's just realistic. There's a good amount of info, support, and interest out there. For her book "Animal Vegetable Miracle" Barbara Kingsolver, and her family, spent a year eating only local foods. The Eat Local Challenge is a network of people and blogs who participated in a challenge to go locavore for a period of time in 2008. As for urban farming, I think it's excellent and essential on a social level—especially when it takes the form of school gardens or community-focused gardens. The Obamas' decision to grow food at the White House is certainly an exciting development. Hell, even people growing a few herbs in a container on a stoop is a step in the right direction, because it means that we're increasingly aware of the quality of our food, and where it comes from. I recently read that 43 million Americans plan to grow vegetables at home this year—7 million more than in 2008. That's huge!

V: What can the FDA or USDA do to help shape sustainable and organic foods?
HS: The USDA has set standards for organic certification (through an organization called the National Organic Standards Board), but they're widely considered to be faulty--or at least less stringent than they could or should be. "Organic" began as a counter-culture movement (counter to industrial agriculture) and grew rapidly in popularity in the last decade. When the government stepped in and regulated "organic," many of the existing practitioners and followers felt that the official standards were too lax, with too many loopholes. But ultimately the government regulation is an undeniably positive first step, and has done wonders for spurring consumer consciousness of organics. There is currently no FDA/UDSA certification for sustainability, but there are a number of NGOs that are totally focused on the subject. There are some great independent organizations dealing with sustainable seafood (which is nearly impossible to classify as organic, because most seafood is wild-caught, and even if its farm-raised, often the feed is made of wild-caught fish), like the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, the Seafood Choices Alliance, and the Blue Ocean Institute. The Cool Foods Campaign is devoted to spreading the word about the relationship between food and global warming and promoting eco-friendly, low-carbon-footprint foods. The Green Restaurant Association helps restaurants operate in a more sustainable way. Their certification process has been criticized as being too easy as well, but it's a start! The FDA and USDA have some hefty issues on their plates, what with the recent food safety debacles and the increasing problems with industrial agriculture. For now I think it's going to continue to be NGOs, chefs, writers and activists who really spread the word about sustainability. I should also mention that there are third party sustainable certification: Protected Harvest and Food Alliance are two major organizations that are providing sustainability certification to producers, stores, and restaurants.

V: Thanks again for your help. This content and your expertise are a great addition to my blog.
HS: The blog looks good, and I love that you reference that the A's happened to win the World Series in 1989 before launching into a remembrance of the Exxon Valdez spill. Nice personal touch.

V: Thanks for reading. Happy birthday on Earth Day!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Verdantic book review: Food Matters, by Mark Bittman

Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes
Mark Bittman (2009)

✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ 1/2 out of ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

In his new book, Mark Bittman, The New York Times' Minimalist, creates a two part guide to better food consumption. Food Matters, begins by examining the flaws and myths of the modern American diet. In this part of the book, Bittman explores sustainability and environmental issues of our food production, as well as the strategic communications and deception deployed by Big Food--oftentimes in cahoots with government agencies. Bittman spares us from reviewing the obvious problems surrounding animal cruelty or fast foods. Instead, Bittman builds on the confusion from the barrage of ambiguous food pyramids, nutrition facts, food studies, health claims and messages. He provides us with an excellent case of an unclear message from the FDA: reduce saturated fats and keep total fat consumption to less than 30% of your total calories. Rather, he makes it much easier to digest: eat fewer animal products and nutrition-poor (junk) food; and eat more plants.
Unlike authors like Michael Pollan--that refers to himself as a vegetarian in one chapter then eats cheeseburgers at McDonalds in another, then shoots and eats a wild boar at the end of the book--by no means is Bittman promoting or demanding a call to action for vegetarianism. But given the current health and environmental situation, Bittman delivers part 2 of Food Matters: a how-to guide for conscious eating. He proposes a better way to plan for meals--not just for dinner but for each meal over an entire month. What's more, Bittman includes more than 75 delicious recipes. Visit his column, The Minimalist, on the New York Times site, where Bittman has video tutorials on cooking recipes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Starbucks Shared Planet

Have you been in a Starbucks recently? How long has this "Starbucks™ Shared Planet™" signage and hoopla been going on? More importantly, how did I not notice? I searched through Starbucks' press release archive and couldn't find an announcement or explanation. Although I sense that it appeared overnight, it almost seems as if it was always there. It's a lot to handle. The concept is big and it has many leg, even if it may seem simple: You and Starbucks. It's bigger than you.
Shared Planet includes Project (RED). A nickel per purchase on your red plastic Starbucks gift card will save lives in Africa. Project (RED) collects the money for the Global Fund to go off to fight and save lives; but something tells me that while most consumers may know that AIDS is a problem in Africa, they don't know anything about the Global Fund. There's also aid towards rebuilding New Orleans, community involvement, environmental stewardship and ethical sourcing. Putting the onus on customers with, "whatever we do, you do" extends responsibility and awareness. Everyone should know more about what and whom they are supporting when they make purchases. I do believe that the Fair Trade coffee system has many flaws to it. It's a tough club for small farmers to break into. Fixed prices further commoditize coffee beans to the point of over-production. This reminds me of the corn farmers in the U.S. who are barely turning a profit on a market flooded with government subsidized corn. Farmers lose. Big winners are those that can enjoy cheap high fructose corn syrup: Coca-Cola and the fat on your ass. Likewise, Fair Trade coffee would provide overproduced and cheaper coffee for Starbucks. Even as the largest buyer of Fair Trade coffee, Starbucks has now upped the standards on coffee with Shared Planet. Bravo.

GM & Segway PUMA: no winner here


Today on the streets of NYC, GM unveils its collaboration project with Segway on a new 2-wheeler 2-seater vehicle. The PUMA, Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility, can reach 35 mph (no highway) and go up to 35 miles on a charge and cost 35 cents to charge.
Clearly, this vehicle has not be thoroughly thought through. Essentially, they're developing a new mode of transportation without a market, a place to travel or a plan for its release. The companies hopes cities or colleges will set up special PUMA travel lanes, like bicycle lanes. Sounds like more congestion to me. Can't blame them for trying and turning over a new leaf, actually this is commendable. This is a complete 180 from their reliance on heavy and large fossil-fuel cars and trucks.
Chris Borroni-Bird, director of the project for GM said, "Pumas might appeal most in densely packed cities in places such as India and China. There they would seem a big step up from bicycles. Americans, who are used to cars, might not take them as seriously." Exactly. He just admitted that this isn't a vehicle that America needs. Let's take look at some quick facts:
Fact #1: GM is running on $13.4 billion tax payer dollars.
Fact #2: Alternative transportation devices make sense since GM's domestic car sales aren't selling--almost down 50% this year.
Fact #3: No one looks cool on a Segway.
Fact #4: It is possible to look cool on a bicycle, unless you ride a folding one or a tandem.
Fact #5: But hey, GM bought out the Specialized bicycle company last year. (I know, I know. Bicycles are not nearly as profitable as EVs or Hummers)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Carbon Footprint Calculators

Brands have engaged us with many free calculators including calorie counters, BMI, credit and get-out-of-debt calculators. A carbon footprint calculator would seem to be unself-serving by discouraging purchases and thus lowering revenue. At first I doubted that any brand would attempt such a disruptive tactic to the point of irony, but I was wrong.
For an online company such as Yahoo!, their service requires a lot energy for its servers. Come to think of it, it could be to their benefit if consumers realized that browsing online or playing Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball is better for the environment, as opposed to carbon intensive activities such as quad biking or hopping on a Caribbean cruise.
Moving along on the spectrum of sensibility, I also found JPMorgan's calculator. There's an angle: they are selling carbon offsets. So actually, they are informing their clients of their environmentally-unfriendly deeds. Of course, we often see guilt being used by advertisers as a motivational device.
I wasn't impressed by HP's calculator. HP kept it pertinent by limiting their calculator for printing and buying HP stuff. I didn't make it through their entire calculator because it froze, but I suspect that they will tell me how much money I'm wasting, how bad my operations are for the planet and how much money and carbon emissions I can save by buying HP products.
Can you blame perspicuously bad companies from trying to look good? BP is trying. They also have a cutesy animated character named Professor B who provides tips on how to save energy and the environment. Each calculator has a specific call to action that results in more consumption, or at the very least, a better way to consume. I suppose a business purpose needs to be defined above all else. If anything, we should be grateful that at least a solution is offered and awareness is being raised.
My favorite calculator was on EarthDay. You get to pick an avatar and walk around the block as you figure out how many planets it would take to sustain your lifestyle. Sadly, it will take 4.6 planets if everyone lived with my consumption habits. I'm ashamed. It's the airplane flights, I tell you.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The zero-carbon activity paradox

It's April and boy is it wet outside. Which is worse: riding a bicycle in the winter and getting covered in salt or riding in the rain with toxic runoff from buildings spraying you in the face? It's time for more green roofs, people. Alas, let's find a new indoor hobby.
For the price of slightly more than a movie ticket, I bought a 4x4 Rubik's Cube. Over the years, the 2x2 and the classic 3x3 have offered me hours of entertainment and I trust that the 4x4 will present a greater challenge and countless hours of low carbon entertainment.
I learned the 2x2 and 3x3 in years prior to my web addiction. Now with the aid of websites and YouTube tutorials, this may only detract from the challenge and my toiling hours. A true geek would never stop after 4x4. The shopkeeper at the game store asked me if I wanted to spring for the 5x5. He added, "the 5x5 can be done with all of the algorithms from the 3x3 and the 4x4. Do you know the Rubik's Parity Theory?"
Ok..., time to leave.
It's not exactly zero-carbon, but neither is walking or bicycling which both require shoes that were made in China. The Rubik's cube is also made in China. It's made almost entirely of petrochemicals, but unless I develop a hatred for the cube, I can take pleasure in the fact it won't go leachating in a landfill any time soon. Surely, kWh's will be needed to power my laptop, my lamp, as I solve the cube. I may decide to play some intellectually stimulating music, perhaps classical!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

McDeceit: no Earth Day credit for you!

For Earth Day 2009, monuments from all corners of the planet will dim its lights for an hour to celebrate earth and emphasize the threat of climate change--from a research base in Antarctic to the floodlights at the foot of Great Pyramids of Egypt to the Colosseum in Rome to the Empire State building in New York and to the Acropolis in Athens.
The golden arches of McDonald's wants in on it too. Let's count them in for Earth Hour! After all, they've been making great strides towards being verdant. McDonald's will dim the lights of its golden arches at all of its restaurants.* Unfortunately, McDonald's does not have the legal right to order its franchisees to dim their lights. As a result, only 1.5% of McDonald's locations will be participating in Earth Hour.

* Offer valid at participating locations only. Prices may vary.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Paperless baseball cards and newspapers

This month began with an online outcry against United Airlines that touched upon paperlessness, followed by GE wasting paper and then by FedEx giving away free paper. Other paperless forms have taken shape this month, including cultural mainstays: newspapers and baseball cards.
Let's start with baseball cards. I still have my complete collection. Had I sold them in the early 90s, I might have been able to get a fair return on my debilitating habit of buying and collecting baseball cards. On a more positive note, the backs of each card gave me the gift and curse of a lifelong obsession for baseball statistical analysis. As a currency, baseball cards were over-printed and consequently devalued to worthlessness. For the 2009 season, Topps launched Topps 3D Live cards that come in ToppsAttax packs. A collector can hold up a card to a webcam and the featured player is brought to life in 3D. This will placate any baseball nut for hours, especially with fielding practice drills and detailed baseball statistics. Baseball statistics will live forever; but if baseball cards weren't dead already, this clearly marks the death its value on paper.
Now onto newspapers... If print is dead, just how dead is it, if it's still around? This month, the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Seattle's oldest newspaper, becomes the first major metro daily to go online--exclusively. While the Seattle P-I retreated to digital because of financial hardships, this could be the beginning of a trend for other newspapers to survive financially. Plus, with gadgets like the kindle, newsprint looks and feels more and more like a dirty mess. Unpopular magazines and newspapers may soon seem as distant as the days of when baseball cards were valuable.

Addendums for March

- Contrary to Verdantic's hopes and predictions last week, Exxon didn't do anything for the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill.
- Verdantic was recently confronted by a reader about what veganism or vegetarian has to do with verdancy? In other words, how is eating meat environmentally unsound, if it is a natural point along the circle of life?
Our world is no longer perfect, but if it were, animals could graze on grass and we could collect their manure to fertilize other produce. Unfortunately, a calf is ready for slaughter as soon as 14 months because it is loaded with hormones while it eats 25 pounds of corn per day. Thus, its manure is too toxic to use as fertilizer and also ruinous to wildlife in waterways. Starting from fresh and whole foods, the more a food is processed, the further it moves up the food chain. Since all farm animals eat corn, they have already progressed along the food chain. Moving up the food chain drastically reduces the food energy, while it requires more energy to produce and transport. In addition to wasting food, it is a waste of valuable calories, nutrients and natural resources.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The cheapest yet easiest on the environment

Who wants 47 miles to the gallon? Everyone. Who wants to drive a 2-cylinder engine that maxes out at 65 mph's? Mind you: it's 5 x 10 feet--just slightly larger than a queen size bed mattress with stingy crumple zones. At least 1,000,000 people on the wait list in India want one. The Nano is the answer to India's growing middle-class with demand for car.
Today Tata Motors announced the release of the Nano, the world's cheapest car. Although it's not a hybrid nor an EV, the 4-door Nano has the smallest footprint and turning radius of any car in the world. Its base model begins at $2,200, but heat, air conditioning and power brakes can bring it up to $3,800.
Citizens of emerging economies, like India, shouldn't be inhibited to achieve. For those that have already plundered, polluted and depleted, all we can say, "do as I say, not as I do." While they may have fallen into our pitfalls, they have succeeded in achieving an innovative solution that blows away the $12,000 Chevrolet Aveo.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Exxon Valdez 20 years later

Remember 1989? The Oakland Athletics won the World Series. In this coming week, it will be 20 years since the Exxon Valdez spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil on March 24, 1989. If Verdantic had 3 wishes, here's what would happen on Tuesday the 24th:
1. Exxon breaks ground on a bird sanctuary dedicated to the 700,000 birds that perished in the wake of the spill. Fortunately for Exxon, this PR blemish shouldn't affect their announcements for their whopping first quarter earnings in a couple of weeks.
2. No one buys and reads Exxon's drunk captain, Joe Hazelwood's book, The Spill: Personal Stories from the Exxon Valdez Disaster. The 288-page book is intended to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the spill and supposed concludes with his sincere apology. For Joe's sake, I hope he doesn't agree to any book signings events at Barnes & Noble.
3. Sarah Palin agrees to meet with media to discuss Alaska's challenges of both energy exploration and wildlife conservation. (Couric: Gov. Palin, what do you mean by "shoring up our wildlife"?)

Of course, I wish Exxon would spend more on cleaning up the mess that still remains. I did already mention that Exxon's $45.2 billion in profits for 2008 set a U.S. history record.

Let's observe...

1 million electric cars by 2015


Prior to his insensitive gaffe on the Tonight Show yesterday, President Obama unveiled a $2.4 billion grant with a goal of reaching 1 million electric cars by 2015. He might have been a little too funny with Jay Leno, but our charismatic leader opened his speech at Edison International saying, "it's always nice to get out of Washington for a little bit, recharge your batteries." The main components of the plan include the following:

* The Department of Energy is offering up to $1.5 billion in grants to U.S. based manufacturers to produce electric vehicles, and up to $500 million in grants to produce other components needed for electric vehicles; and
* The Department of Energy is offering up to $400 million to demonstrate and evaluate Plug-In Hybrids and other electric infrastructure concepts.

China's plug-in car is already on the market selling for $20,000 and plans to sell 350,000 by the end of this year. Ford plans to bring four new EVs to market between 2010 and 2012. If GM rebounds from its current crisis, it could have its Volt on the market within 2 years. That might help offset their H2's 13 mpg and 3.4 metric tons of carbon emmissions per vehicle per year. From the stimulus package, $7,500 tax relief for families that purchase electric vehicles. By some estimates, Obama has already detailed at least $12 billion in EV funding within the stimulus package. Together with the additional $2.4 billion, that sounds a tad better. As an academic grant, that's huge but pardon me for being desensitized to exorbitant pricetags, e.g., AIG's $180 billion or even GM and Chrystler's $17.4 billion.
Peanuts!
In his speech, Obama did also mention that we are importing more foreign oil now than we were on 9/11/2001. So how much money does the government get from import taxes on oil? That said, how much tax can be collected on Exxon's record-breaking $45.2 billion in profits in 2008?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nonrecyclable recycling at your neighborhood retail chain

Last resort should be landfill, but TerraCycle has a new solution for non-recyclable through convenient collection stations. TerraCycle collects unrecyclable products and creates them into new products, like gardenware, cleaners, handbags and office equipment. Pictured, the station collects tape rolls, caulking tubes, saw blades, paint brushes, chip bags, candy wrappers, fertilizer and soil bags, furnace filters and plastic bags.
TerraCycle locations were originally located at civic groups or schools, but has now gained greater reach and exposure thanks to partnerships with large retail chains such as Best Buy, Home Depot, OfficeMax and PETCO. The goal is to set up 10,000 stations at retail locations by 2010.
TerraCycle ensues its environmental quest with social responsibility: they will donate 2-6 cents to the charity of the collectors choice for each unit that enter the system. Not sure how effective or efficient this component might be, but then again, 6 cents can be considered as a lofty quarterly dividend on some stocks in today's economy.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Investing in the green

With blue chip stocks reaching all time lows and the resurgence of buying gold derivatives, making a profitable investment in a company is more difficult than ever. If you can't find a worthy investment for your money, might Verdantic suggest that you invest and support a green(er) organization?
CSR and green marketing can be deceiving, but how else should we judge the worthiness of an organization? Standards & Poor released its new service: S&P U.S. Carbon Efficient Index. With the help of Trucost, this index ranks companies in the S&P 500 by dividing an organization's carbon footprint with its annual revenue. In other words, how much pollution did you emit to make a buck?
It's not a perfect system, by far. GHG emission reports are not standardized. Further, it doesn't account for supply chains and outsourcing. That's like saying Nike is not responsible for sweat shops in Indonesia because they only buy the shoes but they don't own the factory. Unfortunately, the real bad guys are even allowed on the index. 100 of the most carbon intensive companies have been screened from the index so we looking at service sectors like insurance and banking as opposed to manufacturing and mining. I may have just ruined it for you, but it's a sign for better things to come and a handy shopping resource before you invest.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wall-E in good company

The Walt Disney Company unveiled its 3-5-year green strategy and plans to reduce its carbon footprint. By 2013, Disney announced that it will cut its emissions in half, reduce electricity consumption by 10% and halve its waste at its parks and resorts. Disney's long term goal is to net zero waste and emissions.
With summer around the corner, Disney's theme parks and resorts are still renowned for its 6-figure energy consumption and garbage generation. Disneyland will not be making any top 10 lists for green vacations, but it will be cutting its operating costs while reducing carbon footprints for vacationers.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Smells better on nice paper

Verdantic has mentioned FedEx twice; ambivalently at best but never in a positive manner. Fedex stores, formerly Kinko's, will help job seekers today (3/10) by offering one day of free resume printing. The service will offer up to 25 FREE COPIES of resumes submitted and picked up inside any of their 1,600 store for customers currently job hunting. "We understand that the economy has affected many people in a very profound way, and we want to help," said Brian Philips, president and CEO of FedEx Office.
With over 12 million unemployed Americans, this is a great service to our enocomy and country. It is certainly a better use of paper than GE's caper.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

GE: Let's blow a million pieces of paper!


http://ge.ecomagination.com/smartgrid/#/augmented_reality


This interactive content was brought to my attention by one of Verdantic's readers. On GE's website, there is digital hologram that you can make by printing out a "solar panel marker" on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. It doesn't provide any additional insight on the Smart Grid technology but it does look kinda cool. I won't hate you for doing it. Caveat: the solar panel marker prints bold black lines rendering the reverse side of the sheet useless. Thus, the printout may have to be discharged without the possibility of being re-used, so share your solar panel marker with a friend or co-worker.

Friday, March 6, 2009

And now, a Verdantic PSA on improving health & safety

video

I trust that my friends, cohorts, classmates and professors are respectful of bicyclists on the road; so instead, this message is intended for double-parkers, heedless car door-openers, cab drivers and FedEx truckers.

Nota Bene: dear NYPD, stop pulling me over. Know the law. I'm not trying to be a smartass when I tell you, "I am NOT required to ride in the bike lane."
102-a. Bicycle lane. A portion of the roadway which has been designated by striping, signing and pavement markings for the PREFERENTIAL or exclusive use of bicycles.

34 RCNY 4-12(p)(1) states that bicyclists should ride in usable bike lanes, unless they are preparing to turn, or are avoiding unsafe conditions (including but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, pushcarts, animals, surface hazards).
Bike lanes are far from safe in NYC--especially due to emissions from police horses in our lane. Therefore, bicyclists should not be willed to ride in unsafe bike lanes.

Economic necessity driving Americans towards Veganism

In our modern depression, those with homes should be thankful. With family budgets as tight as they are right now, American diets are changing. People were eating scraps and garbage during the Great Depression, but some of the finest Americana cuisine did result from the hardships.
  • Spam
  • Kraft macaroni and cheese
  • Bisquick
  • Ritz Crackers
  • Kool-Aid
Today, with fluctuating gas and transportation costs, ethanol affecting grain-based goods, Americans are eating more eggs, fresh vegetables and milk, while eating less meat, processed foods and snacks; buying less food for pets; and surprisingly consuming less alcohol. OK, "towards Veganism" might be an overstatement, but apart from animal compassion, this is a much greener and healthier way to live, especially if brand communications won't be contributing in this regard. Benevolent anti-obesity campaigns will never suggest a healthier diet, rather they promote exercise with sports celebrities. Obviously, a healthier diet would detract revenue from Pepsi's drinks and its Frito Lay chips--but not so much for its Tropicana division.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

'Smells better when wrapped in green

A recent study shows that while most Americans identify with the word sustainability, only half can define it. Good enough.

In The Hartman Group’s Sustainability Outlook: The Rise of Consumer Responsibility, the Bellevue, WA-based firm found that the ability to have some kind of afterlife is the packaging feature that matters to them most--recycling, that is. 75% ranked the ability to return a product’s vessel to the consumer marketplace via curbside bins as either “very important” or “important.” The feature that ranked next in packaging preference was biodegradability, 71%. Oddly, both these choices outranked minimal packaging, 62%, which one would think would require less recycling and biodegrading. That makes sense: the mantra of the 3 R's is working. First and foremost, reduce above all else.

The study proves that consumers want to be greener even if they don't know how or what it even means. At the risk of revenue loss or decrease earnings per share, brands will have to be more innovative with their packaging. Whatever motivates a brand towards verdancy, even monetarily, is a step in the right direction. Even Wal-Mart's lofty sustainability goals are endearing.

Wal-Mart’s environmental goals are simple and straightforward: to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy; to create zero waste; and to sell products that sustain our natural resources and the environment.

To their credit, Wal-Mart's 15-truck fleet has been retooled to run on used cooking grease, from oil left over from frying chicken in Wal-Mart delicatessens is a great concept. It lands on many parts of the circle of life in consumerism. The truck is fueled by grease from leftover grease that came fattened customers that paid for the overhead on the truck and fryer.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The 2009 Verdantic Cell Phone Awards

Something tells me that an early adopter doesn't wait for his or her cell phone carrier's offer of free phone every 2 years. In which case, greener cell phones are an excellent idea. Verdantic would like to acknowledge and award the following cell phones for its excellence in the following areas.The Samsung Blue Earth Phone.
- Best screenplay & Best special effects
It has a touchscreen that generates all of its required operating power from the solar panel built into the back. Not sure how this works inside your pocket or handbag but it'd be great to not have to deal with wall chargers. Plus, most of it is made from PCM, a plastic extracted from recycled water bottles.2. Nokia's Wooden Phone.
- Best picture & Best costume
This phone is made from sustainably harvested wood and it has an 8.0 megapixel camera. It kinda looks like a Tivoli radio, no?

3. Motorola Renew.
- Best director & Best actor

It's made from PCM plastics and it is certified Carbonfree through the carbonfund.org. The phone's carbon existence is being offset by Motorola. It's a damn ugly phone but it is the only phone that promises to be a good phone with its CrystalTalk technology.

* * * * *

And remember, throwing your phone and its batteries in the trash is illegal in New York City. Stores that sell batteries are required to accept them for recycling, so have them deal with it. And thankfully large retailers are required to accept and recycle plastic bags, but not type 1 plastics, from which PCM is harvested.

Paperless airline eBitching

Blogging live from SFO, the birthplace and haven of Verdantic. Getting back to NYC looks doubtful due to inclement weather on both ends. 4 flights from SFO-JFK have been canceled today but my flight in from Shanghai was thankfully rather uneventful. Nonetheless, I hate United Airlines. On both flights across the Pacific, we were informed over the intercom, “we will be serving a light lunch followed by a beverage, then followed by a light dinner.” Verdantic is all for smaller portions, dietary restraints and anti-obesity, but being hungry, trapped and staring at a mayonnaise sandwich and some shitty snacks is not okay. I also was bereft of my Economy Plus ticket and thrown into Economy. They didn’t budge when I spoke to them in Mandarin so I left and came back as a foreigner--clobbering them with English words and gestures until I got my Economy Plus ticket back.
Verdantic is not the letter writing type because I can get over things and not hold a grudge. Plus, writing letters is a waste of paper, unlike this web address printed on my boarding pass: GIVE FEEDBACK – WWW.UALSURVEY.COM. That’s a great way to make letter-writers to put away their watermarked letterhead stationery--full of plight--addressed to United’s CEO. It saves time and it has a lighter carbon footprint. On the other hand, there’s Verdantic and I promise that I will only abuse the privilege of this blog just this once. So, I hope the Groundswell monitoring operatives at United Airlines technorati-searches and finds this bit of consumer opinion and insight: United Airlines, you stink!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Faceless, but not spineless plastic people


Organizations such as the Progressive Bag Alliance/Progressive Bag Affiliates, American Chemistry Council or the Society Plastics Industry aren’t very visible, but their impact is plainly evident. It’s usually in the best interest of lobbyists or unsavory think tanks to fly under the radar. When they do appear, they spare no expense on PR. Where's the money coming from? Here's where: Advance Polybag, Inc., The Dow Chemical Company, ExxonMobil Corporation, Hilex Poly Co., LLC. (See also: TheTruthAboutPlasticBags.com), NOVA Chemicals, Inc., Superbag Corporation, Total Petrochemicals USA, Inc.
City after city has failed to impose a tax, deterrent or ban on plastic bags. Colorado as a state just totally failed. It's unlikely that the national small business association snubbed the regulations, but surely the plastic lobbyists are hard at work protecting their interests. Better Bags Colorado: these good guys are hard at work too and the truly progressive ones. The ban on plastic bags will inevitably happen one day and this will all seem so silly. Looking back, there once was a time where plastic bags were considered as toys. What is it about a plastic bag that makes it a progressive bag? Seriously, no matter how you frame it, plastic and progressive are two very different and non-interchangeable words.
China’s ban on plastic bags will save the country 37 million barrels of crude oil per year. This is an incredible feat that China enacted ahead of the first world, but it wouldn’t have been possible had it not been promulgated by a centralized totalitarian government. Well actually, Ireland, Rwanda and Bangladesh also made it happen. San Francisco, CA too, of course. Verdantic recognizes that the Chinese government does have its flaws, e.g., human rights or censorship. Sure China has many environmental issues that it still needs to address, but Verdantic is impressed with China when it wants to be progressive, i.e., the one-child policy. No other government could’ve pulled that off.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where in the world do people love Wal-Mart?

Today, Verdantic visited a Wal-Mart in XiaMen, China. Fortunately, it's 80 degrees and sunny in Southern China. Unfortunately, the pollution is more evident than ever when it's hot and muggy. As for the economic climate here, the current stimulus package in China jump-started its stock markets this week. By offering vouchers to millions of rural citizens to buy TVs and household appliances, the market reacted positively. On my visit to Wal-Mart, I stood at the precipice of the great environmental nightmare: China's rising middle class. Now equipped with purchasing power, they are quickly changing their consumption habits to mirror the American way of life. Although Wal-Mart is way over priced here, they deliver the American dream with authenticity intact. Seeing the outdated SUV trend that has captured the hearts and envy of the Chinese population and an IKEA selling shitty disposable furniture in DaLian yesterday was not encouraging either. Typically, doing business abroad requires the utmost sensitivity to local customs and culture, but in a market that seeks the American system of comfort and status symbols, the more wasteful and extravagant the better. Unlike India and China, who will see a 5% and 6% growth in GDP this year, Americans will see our failed model manifested in two emerging economies from the sidelines. What we're about to see is two economies—representing a third of the world’s population—being built on the reliance of consumerism and materialism. That is worrisome.