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EWASTE

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

By Clint Dehnert

I have never considered myself and environmentalist or “tree huger” on any scale. But with today’s society it is impossible to not at least be aware of some of the environmental  issues. One issue in particular has stuck in my mind since I saw a show about ewaste a few years ago. We live in a day and age that things that are here today, can be gone tomorrow. Things are changing faster than we have ever seen in the history of the world. In my research for this subject, I found a quote by a reporter at the New York Times that sums it all up; There is no heaven for cellphones.”

The information that I am bringing up is all over Youtube and Greenpeace’s website. We have recently started the holiday shopping season and witnessed “Black Friday” “Small Business Saturday” and “Cyber Monday.” Most of the hot products are electronics like big screen TV’s, Smartphone’s, and the tablet.

Every holiday season around Thanksgiving time you see the new technology hit the shelves and airwaves. With this all in the back of your mind, I ask, what happens to the old TV? What happens to the old computer or laptop?

According to Urbanmining.org 41.1 million computers, 20 million TV’s, and 100 million cellphones are being replaced every year. Only 13% of these millions of electronics are recycled and disposed of properly. To put it bluntly, we are polluting our entire world with toxic chemicals with our insatiable appetite for the latest electronic technology.

Even the recycling centers are a business. To keep profits up, some are breaking the law. After the good, reusable components are reclaimed; they are sending it to the same places that it would have gone if you would not have recycled it at all.    

The examples are in Asia and Africa where policy and regulation is nonexistent or not enforced in some cases. What happens there is what is polluting the environment as well as killing fellow human beings. It is what is putting toxic chemicals in our food chain.

Things like lead, mercury, cadmium, and other toxic chemicals are making it into landfills here in the U.S. Some of the components that are recycled are being burned to claim the precious metals and making it into the air and water supply in other countries. All water eventually ends up in the ocean doesn’t it? The ocean supplies food for all over the world right?  Having to have the latest technology is putting toxic chemicals in your food, water, and the air you breathe.

With the almighty dollar driving our every move, I noticed something in my research that was not stated on any of the sites. On YouTube, I found videos about extracting the minimal amount of gold that is in a circuit board. These videos have been viewed by over 160,000 viewers. Some of the videos that show what this is doing to the environment have been viewed by only a couple thousand. This extraction process utilizes things like Nitric and Hydrochloric Acid.

In this process, you can see the vapors (nitrogen dioxide)  spewing from the container and making it into the open air, this cannot be good for the environment, and in the end, us. I find it ironic that the very products that are causing this “ewaste issue” are a necessity so we can further pollute the vital resources of our everyday life. We need a new computer so we can watch a YouTube video with better picture quality on how to claim gold out of our old computers! See a pattern?


The Elvis Effect

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

The Energy Drink industry is a six billion dollar a year industry. Last year 230 million cases were sold worldwide. Kids are consuming as many as six of these energy drinks in a single day. I first noticed this about five years ago. A sixteen year old that is a friend of mines little brother could not start his day without a couple of “Monsters” in the morning. I knew some of the risks of consuming caffeine in large quantities, but the facts that follow are brow raising.

According to the above video 50% of kids are consuming one or more of the energy drinks on a daily basis. These energy drinks contain as much as three times the daily recommended caffeine amounts. Now multiply this by the number of cans that some kids are drinking, and you can see the reason for concern. The side effects of caffeine can and will be counterproductive to some medications. Today’s society is very worried about things like A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. I refer to this as the Elvis effect; stimulants to wake up and a downer to help you calm down and relax. A child is hyper, so they put them on medication to counter act this. Then, the child goes to the gas station or the corner store on the way to school and gets an energy drink.

According to my research, a 12 oz. can of soda has 35 mg of caffeine. An 8 oz. can of Redbull has 80 mg and the larger 22 oz. cans of energy drink have 150 mg of caffeine.    Parents do not let their child pound a couple Mountain Dews’ for breakfast, but yet the kids are getting their hands on energy drinks that are in essence two of them.

Overdosing on caffeine has major affects on the central nervous system according to Dr. Whiting.   Affects like anxiety, dehydration, insomnia, irritability, and nervousness. Does this sound familiar to you?

In addition to this it can be compounded with other ingredients like Guarana, Ginseng, and others that I could not find information on. One report I saw said that since caffeine leads to dehydration due to the increased urination, it can also affect bone development in younger children. This happens because vitamins and minerals like calcium are not in the body long enough to be absorbed.

These affects are so bad that to no avail, some states have tried to ban energy drinks all together. But some schools have been successful at banning them on campus. What some are proposing now is to regulate these products just like alcohol and tobacco. Since energy drinks are a nutritional supplement and not food, they are not under the same guidelines as soda and other soft drinks.

In most sports, not only is the branding everywhere you look on posters, billboards, trophy girls, vehicles, and safety gear, it is on the podium with the athletes that young kids idolize. In motocross for example, every rider has an energy drink or what looks like an energy drink of some kind in their hand and sipping on it.

There is a reason they have water bottles or cans with screw lids on them in their hand. It is not energy drink they are consuming. I would bet it is water or vitamin water. If you know anything about physical fitness you know that you avoid caffeine all together when you are training.  Again, everything in moderation and balance it out. If you are in need of a boost then feel free. Afterwards, you will need to replenish the nutrients and water that your body loses in the short run. Regardless of your thoughts on health, nutrition, and physical fitness, the energy drinks, and the associated problems they are causing, will be debated for years to come. Stay tuned.

By Clint Dehnert

I Want It My Way

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Written by: Kim Musel

No one wants the same thing that everyone else has, even if it is essentially the same thing that everyone else has.

Ford assembly line, 1913.

Image via Wikipedia

We all want to add our own personal touch to whatever it is that we have and there is barely an industry that has been immune.  I’ve listed some examples of our quest for individualization below:

  • Even before Henry Ford told consumers that they could have their car, the Model T, painted whatever color they wanted, as long as it was black, we’ve been trying to make things our own.  Today, you can not only have your car come from the factory any color you want on the outside, you have a choice of options on the inside.  The art of “tuning” vehicles has grown into a multi-million dollar business.
  • Don’t want same laptop that everyone else has?  Customize the cover of your laptop, changing it whenever the mood strikes you.  Want more RAM, a faster processor, a better video card?  No problem.  You can custom order what you want you for components and features based on your budget and your needs.
  • I personally think cherry pie is the bomb but you might like apple.  Groceries and food is probably the most customized industry on the planet if you really think about.  What other product can you buy that is more easily customizable?  If you don’t like the orange juice that is available, you can buy oranges and make your own.  Don’t want to make your own orange juice…there are a huge variety of choices in the fresh juice aisle or in the freezer section.  We’re very lucky to be here in the greater Madison area where we have such a great choice of fresh foods.
  • We’ve all heard the Geico commercial for the “name your own price” options.  These companies allow the consumer to customize their coverages and deductibles based on how much they are willing to pay.  Other examples are Nationwide offering a “vanishing deductible” and State Farm offering a safe driver rewards bonus by giving you a cash back reward for not having any accidents.  This trend in the insurance industry is not just for automobiles or homes however.  It also extends to health and life insurance.  For people who are unlucky enough to have to buy their own health insurance there are options for different coverages and deductibles based on your health and ability to pay.
  • Within home decorating there are websites that offer to make blinds and window treatments based on selections that are offered, or you can upload a design or pattern of your choosing to make a completely customized, one of a kind look.  The customized home décor options are growing as more and more people are wanting to redecorate or renovate their homes on a budget but still want to have it be their own.
  • Even within business to business selling manufacturers are offering customized options to their clients.  For instance, the company that I work for, Bock Water Heaters, offers the option for certain models of our water heaters to be sold in customized colors based on what the individual company buying them for re-sale wants.  You wouldn’t think that the color of a water heater would be that important, but as homes are being built in more efficient ways, the use of basements and utilities rooms are shrinking.  In Europe where the utility rooms with furnaces and water heaters are within the main living space of the house the color and look of even a water heater is important.

So I guess good ole’ Henry Ford was wrong.  I can have everthing and anything I want just the color, shape, size, flavor and price I want.

FRESH Fruits and Vegetables All Year Round!

December 7, 2011 1 comment

Written By: Jai Ingersoll

Open Source Collaboration ‘Windowfarms’

R&D-I-Y is a web platform with over 18,000 global people who are collaboratively innovating for environmental stewardship and quality of urban life.  Windowfarms is the alpha project the platform is currently being developed on.

Upon viewing an informative presentation on Ted Talks about Windowfarms, R&D-I-Y Open Source Collaboration looks to be the next wave of technology for our sustainable future.  Windowfarms applies open source software development techniques to physical systems development.

R&D-I-Y is currently developing hydroponic systems, as well as aquaponics, nutrient sources, solar, sensor systems, LED’s, and alternative energy.  Because food has become a global issue due to an increasing world population and the corporate industrialization of our food sources, food prices will continue to rise.  In order to make progress in the century, we as a global conscience can create inner dependency by using open source collaboration technology.  One way to accomplish this is through the use of hydroponics, where we can begin to take personal control over the nutritional value and price of our current food sources. Hydroponics is one of the fastest growing areas of patenting in the US right now.  Fortunately, with open source collaboration, the patents for Windowfarms are being shared so everyone has the opportunity to use the sustainable technology.

Purchasing a window farm is a fairly simple procedure overall.   The R&DIY kit includes pumping, lighting, reservoirs, root covers, nutrients and aquaphonics. The process by which it is ordered falls into yet another category of emerging collaborative trends called KickStarter.  As of today, Windowfarms has 1,456 backers with $232,974 pledged of their $50,000 goal!  The motto for KickStarter is “A new way to Fund & Follow Creativity”.  KickStarter is also an open source collaboration tool where you can set up an account with a new creation, and request that people send pledges to support and fund your project.  Some of the most funded projects include arts, comics, dance, design, fashion, film & video, food, games, music, photography, technology, theater and writing & publishing.

Check out Mashups website, for information about how to crowdsource funds for causes, creativity and startups.  Some of the sites they refer to are: Crowdrise, KickStarter, Profounder and GrowVC, as well as many other celebrity-endorsed crowdsourcing fundraiser charities, K-12 educators, and group buying innovators.