For a materials geek like me, the best part of the GoGreen conference in Seattle on April 4 was walking around the exhibit hall and talking to the people working the booths. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed hearing from local mayors about what their cities are doing. I’m encouraged by brands, from family-owned businesses to large corporations, that are taking a stand on politically-charged positions. When it comes to the role of materials in environmental sustainability, though, the exhibit hall was the place to be.
“Value investing” has taken on a new meaning recently, one unrelated to the traditional distinction between value and growth stocks. The global investment firm BlackRock has made headlines this year with some dramatic statements. Its most recent announcement on March 2 spoke out against companies that make and distribute guns and firearms.
I’m on the email list for Friends of the Earth, which means that I receive frequent messages imploring me to donate money to save national parks, protect bees, and fight the fossil fuel and mining industries. One recent email mentioned the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, appreciating Friends of the Earth members for their role in flooding the EPA with comments opposing the project.
I recently finished reading GreenBiz’s 2018 State of Green Business Report, where GreenBiz Group Chairman and Executive Director Joel Makower declared “two degrees and the SDGs” as the new manta for sustainable business. In case you don’t know what that means, two degrees refers to keeping global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius, the goal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), also set in 2015, cover a wide range of topics, from poverty and hunger to sustainable cities and responsible consumption.
Did you know that there is a machine in Seattle that can print solar cells, using a method that is much like printing newspaper? A long roll of plastic sheeting passes through the machine, which deposits silver-laden conductive ink to form electrodes, heats the ink to cure it, and then applies the active layer that converts energy from the sun into electricity. This technology, an exciting application for printed electronics, may very well pave the way toward affordable solar cells.
In my November 4 blog post, I mentioned my reluctance to read Radium Girls, the story of the teenage dial painters who worked with glow-in-the-dark, radium-laced paint, licking their paintbrushes to achieve a perfect fine point. The blog post concluded with the assertion that I should indeed read the book. I was right. Yes, some of it is truly horrifying and sickening. But this story is still relevant and more important than ever.
Did you know that store receipts made from thermal paper aren’t recyclable? They are apparently coated with bisphenol A (BPA) or bisphenol S (BPS), the same toxic additives that caused health alerts for reusable plastic water bottles. I want to do the right thing by recycling all the paper that I’m done using, but I’ve been unknowingly contaminating my recycling bin.
A story from Scotts Miracle-Gro illustrates the importance of transparency in communicating with customers, the challenge of distinguishing between perception and reality, and the difficulty that accompanies merely defending the science behind the story. It involves toxic algal blooms, a problem for which Scotts was unfairly blamed.
I kept a page from my local city newsletter that says, "Worldwide, it takes 2.5 billion acres of land just to grow the food we waste." Posting the page on my fridge helps remind me to do my part in avoiding food waste. I submitted two ideas that I've implemented in my own kitchen to the Quick Tips section of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. Months later, I received an email from the magazine saying one of them would be published in the September/October 2017 issue.
On my trip to Vancouver, BC earlier this summer, I made a point to notice materials. While browsing the gift shop at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a collection of earrings caught my eye. Although I own plenty of earrings – at least 25 pairs – I decided I had to buy these. They advertise being made from lead-free pewter and handcrafted in Canada, and the hummingbird is supposedly a symbol of good fortune. How could I not buy them?
Last weekend I completed a triathlon, my fourth to date. When people hear the word "triathlon" many automatically think of the Ironman, a competition consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile (marathon) run. My event was much more modest: 0.75-mile swim, 22.5-mile bike ride, and 4-mile run. This is slightly shorter than an Olympic triathlon (1.5-km swim, 40-km bike, 10-km run) but longer than most sprint distance events. How is the triathlon related to the title of this blog post? Keep reading to find out.
Peter Holgate conveys an air of confidence without seeming arrogant. His desire to achieve something “consequential” with his third startup drove him to found Ronin8, a company whose mission revolves around changing the world by changing e-waste processing. I met with Peter in his Vancouver, BC office recently to interview him for the book I’m writing on sustainable materials management.
I read a blog post recently that started with an analogy to laying tiles, something most people can grasp, but then shifted to engineering jargon. This strikes me as a perfect example of the challenge of understanding your audience. Are you writing for engineers who are experts in your field, or for executives who care very little about the technical details and just want to know how the new technology will save time or money?