Friday, January 14, 2011
Any challenge to a property’s routine maintenance thus becomes a threat to self-worth, net worth, and an entire way of life. A lot of people here will give up their leaf blowers only when you pry them from their cold, dead hands (or, more precisely, from their Hispanic gardeners’ cold, dead hands).
The story describes a faceoff between a leaf-blower opponent and a gardener over the gardeners’ allegedly illegal blowing on a holiday—an encounter that a neighbor, Susan Kendall, captured on video:
Kendall pulled over and got out her Flip camera to videotape the encounter, and the gardener advanced on her, with his blower roaring, saying, “Get the police, I want to hear this from them!” By the time the police arrived, however, he had thought better of his position and peeled off in his truck.
The tale suggests that leaf-blower ordinances based on sound levels are impossibly hard to enforce, whereas demonstrating a public health threat—from particulate matter blasted into the air, for instance—is more enforceable but tougher to pull off. That hasn’t stopped an increasing number of cities—including, very recently, Coral Gables, Florida—from moving toward leaf-blower restrictions.
In the meantime, blower foes can humiliate their enemies by citing a city of Los Angeles study that “showed a grandmother using a rake and broom took only 20 percent longer to clean a test plot than a gardener with a blower.”
Read more: http://www.utne.com/Wild-Green/The-Leaf-Blower-Wars.aspx#ixzz1B2hLxCJY
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Got almonds? Almond milk makes a mustache, too.
The new darling on the dairy shelf is almond milk.
Two brands—Silk Pure Almond, from Dean Foods Co., of Dallas, and Almond Breeze, from Blue Diamond Growers, of Sacramento, Calif.—are waging a Coke-and-Pepsi style market-share battle in the supermarket. Almond milk's appearance in the refrigerated dairy case in 2010 helped fuel 13% growth in milk alternatives, a category where sales were flat the year before, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago market research firm.
Coke vs. Pepsi
Almond Breeze, from Blue Diamond Growers, and Silk Pure Almond, from Dean Foods Co., are battling it out in the dairy case.
Milk alternatives—creamy liquids derived from non-dairy sources—are on the rise, especially in households where people are lactose-intolerant or dairy-allergic. The food industry is quickly ramping up the options, offering milks derived from soybeans, rice, coconut, hazelnuts and even hemp. The sales growth follows decades of slow, steady decline in consumption of cow's milk in the U.S.
Almond milk has shot up from nowhere, appealing to shoppers like Tammy Wade, of Calvin, Okla., who first tried it about a year ago as part of an effort to eliminate dairy products from her diet. When she and her husband go grocery shopping, they often have to visit three different supermarkets to find it.
"A lot of times we find it's totally gone off the shelf," she says. "We try to buy it two at a time." They like to add almond milk to breakfast cereal and coffee, and they use it to make everything from mashed potatoes to chocolate cake.
Barry Lovelace, a fitness trainer and owner of a gym in Allentown, Pa., sometimes has difficulty finding almond milk in stores, and so he loads up when he can. He and his wife go through as many as six half-gallon containers a week. "It is such a hot item now," Mr. Lovelace says. "We will buy three vanilla and three chocolate at a time, as long as they have it."
Almond milk is made when roasted almonds are crushed to make almond butter, then mixed with water plus vitamins, stabilizers and, in some cases, a sweetener, such as evaporated cane juice. Compared with other alternatives, almond milk is especially low in calories: A cup of original-formula Silk Pure Almond contains 60 calories, compared with 90 calories for a cup of original-formula Silk soymilk and 130 calories for a cup of 2% milk. "It tastes incredible," says Mr. Lovelace, who used to drink rice milk and soymilk.
Consumers are paying premium prices for almond milk, in contrast to regular milk where grocers often cut prices, sometimes below their own cost, to lure shoppers. And dairy beverage consumption has been in a slow and steady decline in recent decades, with the average consumer drinking 20.8 gallons of cow's milk in 2008, down from 24.3 in 1994, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
Milk substitutes are tiny compared with the estimated $13 billion in retail sales of regular milk. Lower calorie and fat profiles are helping sales of some substitutes, as is the increasing attention to dairy allergies and vegan lifestyles.
Almond milk may also be able to draw consumers who drink the most established milk alternative, soymilk. Soy contains estrogen-like chemicals, called phytoestrogens, and heightened exposure to estrogen has been linked with increased risk of breast cancer. Researchers haven't established a direct correlation between phytoestrogens and breast cancer, and some studies even point to the possibility that soy-based phytoestrogens may decrease breast cancer formation, says Barbour S. Warren, breast cancer research associate at Cornell University. Still, given the uncertainty, Dr. Warren says women should consume soy-based foods in moderation.
Many Milk Mustaches
2% Cow's Milk
Almond milk in shelf-stable packages has been around since at least the late 1990s, when low-fat foods were in vogue and nuts were perceived as high in fat. Then, almond milk had a low consumer profile, but sales picked up in 2003 as low-carb eating became fashionable and snacking on nuts was encouraged.
Still, until almond milk was sold alongside traditional milk in the refrigerator case, "we knew our opportunity was limited," says John O'Shaughnessy, general manager of the consumer products division at Blue Diamond.
That's what happened by the end of 2009. The resulting consumer demand has surprised many supermarket chains, which normally track every nuance of consumer purchasing. Wegmans Food Markets Inc., headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., began stocking refrigerated almond milk last March. "It is outpacing the growth of every other non-dairy milk alternative we sell," says spokeswoman Jo Natale.
Whole Foods Market, of Austin, Texas, rolled out its own private-label organic refrigerated almond milk to stores in August. Errol Schweizer, senior global grocery coordinator says almond milk and coconut milk are both strong sellers. "The growth on both has been really surprising," he says.
Among the top 20 brands in the milk substitutes category, Almond Breeze and Silk Pure Almond currently rank fourth and fifth respectively, according to SymphonyIRI, which tracks food sales at major retail chains, except Wal-Mart. "The beauty of the almond milk category is that almonds are so familiar to consumers, and there's an expectation of great taste there," says Brooke Hansen, Silk brand manager. Silk Pure Almond's success is all the more striking during a period of subdued consumer spending. "It's a more challenging time for consumers to take risks" and try new products, she says.
Blue Diamond Growers began testing Almond Breeze in late 2008 in Florida markets with large Hispanic populations, a group with higher-than-average incidence of lactose intolerance. "It went gangbusters," Mr. O'Shaughnessy says. Encouraged, Blue Diamond rolled out Almond Breeze nationally in 2009 and today it is in more than 90% of U.S. grocery stores, Blue Diamond says.
By January 2010 there was a new refrigerated almond milk entrant—from Silk, a brand already known for soymilk. In March, it kicked off an advertising and promotion campaign, including TV and print ads and coupons offering 55 cents off a half-gallon of Silk Pure Almond. Sales were soon nipping at the heels of Almond Breeze, hitting $47.1 million in 2010, compared with $57.8 million for Almond Breeze, SymphonyIRI says.
Ever since, couponing and discounting has been fast and furious in a race to win new customers and build brand loyalty. "It's a dog fight," Mr. O'Shaughnessy says. If a customer buys some Silk Pure Almond, she may receive a coupon for Almond Breeze at checkout, he says.
Silk is already looking at the next potential milk alternative: This month, it has launched coconut milk in the refrigerated section of supermarkets and grocery stores nationwide. "We have high hopes," says Brooke Hansen, Silk brand manager.
None of this has escaped the notice of the dairy industry. Last spring, the Arlington, Va.-based National Milk Producers Federation, which lobbies for dairy farmers, wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration asking for a crackdown on use of the word "milk" on dairy alternatives.
In the letter, the federation president, Jerry Kozak, called almond milk and other alternatives "plant-derived imitation products." The letter says the products aren't as nutritious as cow's milk because they don't typically contain as much calcium naturally, but instead are calcium-fortified, and the body may not absorb as much of it.
"Soymilk is not an imitation," says Nancy Chapman, executive director of the Soyfoods Association of North America. "It has been used intentionally for hundreds of years" in cultures where dairy products aren't typically consumed.
Andrea Giancoli, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says while the body may absorb less calcium from a fortified product, it still absorbs "a substantial amount." "The difference is usually not enough to change your dietary choice," she says. She advises consumers shake the carton of a milk alternative well before drinking, because calcium can settle at the bottom.
Who's the Milkiest of Them All?
Based on a one-cup serving.
Almond milk, F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal (5)
Fat: 2.5 grams
Sugar: 7 grams
Vitamin D and Calcium: 25% and 30%**
Taste: Pleasantly sweet and nutty; nice almond notes
In Coffee: Smells great. Turns ordinary coffee into almond coffee.
On Cereal: Oh yes. Enhances but doesn't overpower a bowl of raisin bran.
Dunking Cookies: A sweet-on-sweet experience. Improved the cookie by adding the flavor of a nut.
Price***: $1.80 for 32 ounces
Fat: 3.5 grams
Sugar: 6 grams
Vitamin D and Calcium: 30% and 30%**
Taste: Slightly sweet with a slightly bitter, some say 'beany,' aftertaste
In Coffee: Very close to cow's milk, with similar taste and heft.
On Cereal: Dark-beige color makes it a tough sell for kids.
Dunking Cookies: An above-average cookie foil, close to cow's milk. Not too sweet.
Price***: $1.90 for 32 ounces
Fat: 2.5 grams
Sugar: 10 grams
Vitamin D and Calcium: 25% and 30%**
Taste: Pleasantly fragrant if a bit watery and sweet, with clear rice notes
In Coffee: Didn't quite hold its own against the coffee. Not very creamy.
On Cereal: Had a look and taste similar to skim cow's milk, added a not-unpleasant starchy note.
Dunking Cookies: Absorbed quickly, making for a soggy cookie.
Price***: $2.99 for 32 ounces
Fat: 5 grams
Sugar: 6 grams
Vitamin D and Calcium: 30% and 10%**
Taste: Strong coconut notes with a dairy-like tang. 'Tastes like coconut yogurt,' one taster said.
With Coffee: Seemed to separate, leaving a bit of a sheen on top. Not recommended.
On Cereal: Adhered well to flakes, but the thicker texture and tart flavor didn't marry well with raisin bran.
Dunking Cookies: Interesting flavor combination.
Price***: $2.55 for 32 ounces
2% cow's milk
Cow's Milk (2%)*
Fat: 5 grams
Sugar: 12 grams
Vitamin D and Calcium: 25% and 30%**
Taste: Rolls beautifully across the tongue. And the buttery shade adds to its appeal.
With Coffee: Transforms black coffee into something creamy without overpowering it.
On Cereal: A little plain-Jane next to cereal with almond milk.
Dunking Cookies: Still the gold standard
Price***: $1.25 for 32 ounces
* Brands compared: Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, original; Silk Soymilk, original; Rice Dream Enriched; So Delicious, original; Giant Food brand 2%. Results may vary by brand.
** Percent daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
***Retail prices in effect on Jan. 11, 2011, at Giant Food in Silver Spring, Md.
CASHING IN: An old iPhone can garner you some cold cash. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
Thanks to improved technology recycling programs across the U.S., disposing of broken, unwanted, or outdated electronics in an eco-friendly way has become much less of a hassle in recent years.
But how to get cash for old electronics remains a mystery to many folks, who often would rather just throw out old laptops, TVs, and iWhatevers than try to recoup a reward for recycling them. Specifically, figuring out how much an item is worth and how to get the most for it continues to trip up many would-be recyclers.
Since the weeks after the holidays are a prime time for discarding old electronics and replacing them with newer, trendier ones — all those e-presents sitting under the tree! — here are a few things to keep in mind when you want to make a quick buck off your old gadgets.
So what can I get?
Don't bother unloading your e-waste at a pawn shop, where you'll be left wondering if you've gotten a fair deal or not. Companies such as Gazelle, Nextworth, and YouRenew will gladly take a variety of old electronics off your hands and offer cash in return — or in some cases, gift cards or charitable contributions — based on market data and the condition of whatever you're trying to part with. If the item in question is in rough shape and cash isn't an option, they'll still help you recycle it.
If you ultimately decide not to sell through one of the above companies and would rather sell an e-castaway yourself via a website like Craigslist or eBay (or at a garage sale), it's still worth exploring their sites to figure out the worth of an item.
Based on information taken from Gazelle, below is what you can get for a variety of pre-owned items that are in functional condition and come with all accessories. These rates reflect the condition of the item, "poor" indicating serious wear and tear while "perfect" means the item looks brand new.
- Smart phones: iPhone 3G 16GB: $25 (poor condition) to $125 (perfect condition). Blackberry Pearl 8100: $0 (poor condition) to $24 (perfect condition).
- Digital cameras: Kodak EasyShare M580: $11 (poor condition) to $54 (perfect condition). Canon PowerShot SD600 Digital ELPH: $4 (poor condition) to $20 (perfect condition).
- Pocket video camera: Flip Video Mino: $6 (poor condition) to $30 (perfect condition).
- Laptop computers: MacBook Core 2 Duo T8300 2.4GHz 13.3" 160GB Super Drive: $45 (poor condition) to $223 (perfect condition). Dell laptop with Celeron D processor, 11GB hard drive: $0 (poor condition) to $49 (perfect condition).
- Gaming system: Microsoft Xbox gaming console: $4 (poor condition) to $20 (perfect condition).
- E-readers: iPad 32GB WiFi + 3G: $71 (poor condition) to $354 (perfect condition). Amazon Kindle 2 Wireless Reading Device: $11 (poor condition) to $57 (perfect condition).
- Video player: Roku Netflix HD Digital Video Player: $1 (poor condition) to $38 (perfect condition).
What affects the price?
The going rates for used electronics may drop significantly if you don't include things like the original packaging, cords, cables, cases, and instruction manuals. For example, the price of a pre-owned iPhone 3G in pristine condition drops from $125 to $115 if the original cables and AC adapter are not included.
And as evidenced above, the physical condition of an item plays heavily into how much you'll get back for it. A few deep scratches or a couple of dents can drastically lower the resale worth of an item, so it helps to take good care of your stuff if you're thinking about reselling it later on.
What about sensitive data?
Apprehensive about reselling used electronics, specifically cell phones and computers, because of all the data that are still alive and well inside them?
The companies mentioned above will erase any sensitive information on an item for you before it's resold, so no need to fret about doing it yourself. If you decide to sell an item through other channels, erasing data yourself can be an easy and inexpensive effort using free security programs (and no, deleting files won't make them completely disappear).
For cell phones, check out ReCellular's Data Eraser, and for computer hard drives, watch this excellent instructional video over at PCWorld. If you doubt your own data-erasing abilities, pay a quick visit to your local computer specialist.
What if I can't get cash for an item?
Have an old item that's beyond repair and won't sell on the secondhand electronics marketplace? In addition to recycling through Gazelle or other online companies, many retailers including Best Buy offer free or low-cost recycling programs that ensure an item won't be landfilled. For cell phones, the Environmental Protection Agency maintains a list of mobile providers that also have individual take-back/donation programs.
And if you can't get cash for an item because it doesn't work or is in complete disrepair, that doesn't mean you should just unload it at a nonprofit organization like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. These organizations are not e-trash depositories — their goal is to resell what's given to them, so if you donate an item, make sure it works. Otherwise, they'll have to pay to recycle it.
More from Mother Nature Network:
Sunday, January 9, 2011
President Obama's comments a few weeks ago commending the team for giving a "second chance" to quarterback Michael Vick drew more attention, but the president actually phoned Lurie to praise the Eagles for their pursuit of an environmentally friendly stadium.
Lurie and his wife, Christina Weiss Lurie, are retrofitting Lincoln Financial Field with wind turbines, solar panels and a biodiesel-reliant power plant with the goal of making it the first major U.S. sports facility to be self-sufficient on renewable fuel.
The Luries' ambitious timetable calls for everything to be ready at the 67,000-seat stadium by next season's NFL opener.
Eighty wind turbines along the upper rim of the stadium, 2,500 solar panels on an overhang and facade, and a 7.6-megawatt power plant in a parking lot are the latest examples of the team's greening effort. But it's a mission that began when the facility opened seven years ago and extends deep into its daily operations.
Nearly everything that can be recycled, from tarps to cooking oil, is repurposed. Much else is composted, including the unexpected, such as beer cups made of corn-based plastic.
Thanks to efficiencies, the stadium uses far less power now than it did when it opened, all from renewable sources — though some is purchased from outside.
"It's smart business because it saves money and protects us against a rate hike," Lurie said. "But in owning and managing an NFL team that's on national TV, to have that kind of iconic symbol converting to renewable energy, we hope it can be a good example and encourage other businesses to do even better than us."
Utility costs are the second-biggest expense for the team, behind payroll, said Don Smolenski, the Eagles' chief operating officer. The Eagles' power project is a partnership with a Florida company called SolarBlue. The company will invest $30 million to install the panels, turbines and power plant, which will run on biodiesel but can use natural gas as a backup.
In return, the Eagles have agreed to buy all their power from SolarBlue at a fixed rate for the next 20 years, saving the team about $60 million in energy costs. The Eagles estimate that the project will bring annual reductions in carbon dioxide emissions that are equivalent to taking 41,000 cars off the road.
The wind turbines will be the most visible part of the project. The team ordered a sleek helix design, rather than the typical propeller model, to reduce noise, protect birds and challenge the complaint that turbines are eyesores.
Such attention to detail, verging on the obsessive, marks the Eagles' "Go Green!" campaign, which despite its scope has largely been under the public's radar, according to local environmentalists.
"It's implemented each and every year with integrity, not just a flash in the pan, and it's not an effort to do one important thing and milk it for decades," said John Hanger, Pennsylvania's outgoing secretary of environmental protection. "They looked at just about every part of the operation at Lincoln field, at the behavior of their fans and employees."
The Eagles started small when the stadium opened in 2003, with blue bins next to trash cans in the offices. Now, 80% of the stadium's trash is recycled; 20% goes to the landfill — and the goal is zero.
The team takes its recycling bins and compostable tableware on road trips. It even tries to offset carbon emissions from its travel by planting trees outside Philadelphia and, more recently, in Louisiana.
If the team replaces a carpet, the contractor must explain how the old carpet will be recycled and specify how much recycled material is in the new one. The team is working with the restaurant that sells French fries at its concession stands to develop a compostable plastic cup for its melted cheese.
The grass clippings from the field are composted. Old cooking oil and grease are converted into biodiesel, which is brought back to power the stadium's lawn mowers. Leftovers from the kitchen are donated to local shelters, and food waste is composted.
Recycling bins are everywhere, but getting fans to change habits is difficult, said Kevin Hughes, the stadium's facilities manager. So all garbage bags are opened and waste is separated from recyclables. "Once someone throws it away," Hughes said, "we touch it again."
The Eagles are at the forefront of the NFL's greening effort. There's a monthly "green" conference call that about a dozen teams take part in to share best practices. The Super Bowl has a large-scale recycling and reuse effort.
Other teams have been in touch with the Luries, who never stop looking for new efficiencies.
"People are developing skins for buildings that can consume carbon dioxide," Christina Lurie said. "If that kind of thing becomes commercial, we want to be there for that too, continuously improving."
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