Friday, June 06, 2008

Green: You get what you pay for....

...when you pay other people to be responsible for your choices.

Remember back when it was so easy to be green? Fill your own containers at the Co-Op, compost the yard waste, separate the beer bottles by color...yeah.

You know why that was? Because back then we all lived a little closer, metaphorically speaking, to the point of origin, and everyday life was not as technologically supersaturated as it is now.

This isn't the 60's anymore. Not even the 70's. The ramifications of those early green choices are completely different now, in many cases. 'Green' means 'dollars' now, not just 'save the earth'.

Here's an example of what I mean:

I used to work in the cleanup and removal business. I've seen the end result of a lot of recycling operations. Once the valuable constituent- the chip or rare metal scrap or compressor tank or what have you has been harvested, the hulk-usually 80% of the mass- goes straight to the dump. Steel, aluminum and all. Plastics too. I was the one who took it there.

Yes, this is perfectly legal.

Ok, now let's say you decide to bust that appliance down yourself. A newer washing machine, say. With a chip. First of all, read up on those EPA regulations. And your covenant. And your zoning regulations. Now, separate and store:

  • Scrap steel, stripped of coatings and fasteners, if those differ in makeup
  • plastic, sorted by type (can you tell the difference?)
  • cadmium coated parts removed and stored for later pickup +transport cost
  • hazardous wastes removed and stored for later pickup+transport cost
  • rare metals set aside by type (less than 1% of the total mass)
  • glass, if any, sorted by type and color (pyrex and other safety glasses are not recyclable)
  • unrecyclable synthetics set aside for later safe disposal (more of these than you'd think)
  • copper, stripped of coating and fasteners etc.
  • aluminum, stripped of coatings and fasteners etc.
and so on, and so on....

Assuming you don't live in an industrial district, your local rare and non-ferrous metals reclamation point will be some miles away. With the cost of gas at 4.00 per gallon, is it worth your while to bring in .0o8 grams of platinum (or gold, or silver, or irridium or...)? Probably not. Store it up until you get enough to make it worth your while?
Over the course of your lifetime you will NOT consume enough to make it worth even a tank of gas.

There's a lot of steel (see fig. A) in a major appliance. The price of scrap steel is a variable...generally fairly low. Where do you store all that metal until you have enough to make a trip pay for itself? And by 'pay for itself', I mean, break even on the expense of operating the transport vehicle. You don't get paid for your time.

Do you have a truck? Because you'll need one. (Unless you hired me.) And a materials storage permit (and all the buildings and other infrastructure in place to comply with that permit) and a hazardous materials handling and storage permit, and a non-restrictive covenant, and a largish piece of property...

You live in an apartment?
Ooooooh, bummer.

Until I worked in the business, I had no clue either. I thought someone took that stuff and it ALL got broken down and went back into the raw materials stream.


This is they way you have to think now, from the smallest nicad battery to your family automobile. Simply choosing to recycle has a whole new host of attendant considerations than when it just meant 'separate your paper'. And recycling is only one small part of the 'green' equation!

The biggest mistake I see people making is assuming that anything described as 'Green' is automatically the sounder ecological choice. It simply isn't. These days, 'Green', as used by corporate America, has as much legal and semantic meaning as the term 'Guaranteed' does.

America and the market are very different places now. Minimizing your impact on the environment is no longer simply a matter of riding public transit or composting your yard waste. There are a million more technological layers between the market and raw materials now.

The very first thing you should do is go out there and learn what 'green' really means these days.
What the consequences of your choices will be.
Prepare to be appalled.

This post by Inner Voices would be an excellent place to start.


Well fucking done, Voices!!

Folks, THIS is why we blog.



  1. You know what chaps my little swede ass? The concept out there that somehow buying more shit makes you green. Just look at for proof there...not a whole lot being said about what we can do without! It's just, "oh these shoes are made from sustainable, recycled materials! BUY THEM!" and "this shirt is made from recycled yak's dung woven into plains grasses!!! BUY IT!!!" But nothing about "Here's how to make your posessions last for a decade or more" or "stop using your dryer in the warm weather, dipshit" sort of things.
    And guess why not?
    No one's making a fucking buck off it that's why.
    Just like why no one endorses breastfeeding loudly, or lo-intervention birthing. Ain't much process in what comes natural.

  2. * process = profit. Proooooffffit.

    Why do I always do that?!

    I'd also like to throw in that hybrids are beyond fucking inefficient and where the HELL do people think the electricity comes from? Cow farts???? (well, not yet, they're working on that) NO! NICE, CLEAN, LUNG KILLING AND AIR STRANGLING COAL, YOU WANKERS! Smug fucking hybrid owners....grrrr...

    Ok done promise.

  3. SSA: eggs ackley. not 'use a manual can opener' or 'maybe cathedral ceilings really aren't such a good idea' or even 'you don't really need to buy a new goddamn car every four years.'
    You know what, since Tom McCalls brain doesnt seem interested in taking the reins, maybe you should consider rallying a few of your friends around the ol' Ecotopian banner and...? Hm? whaddya say? It'd be like Kramer in Boca. Go for it!!

  4. My dad was a scrapper. He would buy little motors, throw 'em on a fire and cook the shit out of them and scrap out the copper. One day I moved into my house and there was a huge ass copier machine in the garage? Why? Maybe it died there. I gave it to dad who scrapped it out. This was in 92. Pretty sure it couldn't be done today.

  5. i used to do all that recycling until i followed the recycling truck to the dump...not the recycling eyes were opened to what was happening and now i just make better choices about what i buy in the first place...

  6. "If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down.”

  7. does that mean I can buy a Landriver after all?

  8. Landrover



    How rude

  10. If I gets a chance I'm going solar, not very efficient in wet Oregon but I need the roof fixed anyhoo.

  11. beast, I can't tell if it's you that smells that way, or the shirt. or...oh god, you're not wearing a shirt! THAT'S HAIR!! Oh good gravy, I swore that was a yak sweater.
    Boy is my face red!

  12. i think the p.t.b. should be listening harder to the folks at the FFA conventions or research team thingies they do in the high schools. those kids are smarter than you think and they can come up with some pretty nifty ideas.

    biodiesel - comes from veggies. yet we can't get congress to allow more testing to see if we can actually use it. dumbasses.

  13. We should have clothes that trap methane , that you could harvest at the end of the day to generate all you household needs . True, ones clothes would be inflated like a blimp by the time evening came round and it would probably be dificult to get in the door , but hell saving the planet isnt easy

  14. covenant? Do I need a rainbow from the big sky fairy to get permission to recycle, in addition to forms from my local governing body???

    And I thought we blogged to put up photos of drooling ugly people and freaks and creeepy dogs and genital periceings!

  15. gale: years ago my husband scrapped copper cable and used the same method- throw it in a fire and cook the crap out of it. not environmentally friendly, looking back, but damn profitable!

    daisy: that is exactly right. exactly. you make better choices at the store! gold star!! have a scooby snack!

    mj:...see it swim? do it in.

    ziggi: no. no you may not. you may buy ME a landrover, though.

    beast: step AWAY from the yak. the yak does not want to be your friend. the yak becomes disturbed when you follow him so closely. the yak is suspicious. the yak has switched to a high-protein diet to make you quit following him.

    retro: apparently it works there too, though. crap, where you are, wind turbines would be the way to go, huh?

    ssa: they all look like that in bournemouth. hairy, farting savages all running around with machine guns...sounds like Sumas, huh. smells like it too, probably.

    pink: you know what, you're right. i've seen some ingenious things put out there by schoolkids.

    beast: and when the wind blew, everyone would wobble and bounce off slowly and lay in big farty drifts against the hedges and the sides of buildings. then bad children would come along with lighters and it would become very ugly very quickly.

    cb: silly rabbit, a covenant is a set of 'rules' you have to comply with in order to own a house in certain neighborhoods. some neighborhoods won't allow you to park a truck out in the driveway or display a garden hose. some won't allow you to paint your house certain colors or have metal outbuildings. america the free!

  16. killer post! wish i was around this weekend to comment with ya'll! great, great, post... yeah, thanks for the link-a-tude!!!

  17. Oh, I'm going to be terribly awful here and you'll prolly all hate me, but I like the Hybrids. I drove one when I belonged to city car share, and I didn't have to gas it up EVER because all the around town driving (the little wheels turning) made it rev up more energy. So in effect I spent $0 on gas in it. I really like spending $0 on gas.

    That said, I live in Berkeley and worked for an organization that made me drive a huge SUV (to go pick up a GIGANTIC load of crap we needed for a tournament) and wear a sweatshirt with a big American flag on it...and the dirty nasty looks I got from drivers nearly killed me dead. NO FUCKING CLUE I was "one of them", just pure hatred. Is that really necessary?