In a Greening World, Smog No Longer Means Profit

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Imagine that, as a business, you had to pay a service tax for every ecosystem you disrupted. In this hypothetical situation, all the money taken for this tax would be used to increase the productivity of the unsettled ecosystem, effectively creating a sustainable economic practice. While this seems like an awful burden for any business, our Earth provides innumerable amenities free of charge. From providing clean air to breathe to fertile soil for growing sustenance, high profit depends on high ecosystem productivity. But how much are these free services worth? Robert Costanza, an ecological economist, and his team tried to tackle this hypothetical, placing the number at around $33 trillion. That is roughly a third of today’s global Gross National Product (GNP).

As industrialized nations work to clean up their mess, China—the world’s biggest polluter—has only recently begun cleaning up its ecological nightmare. In terms of Air Quality Index (AQI), measured in parts per million, Chinese cities are permanently above what the World Health Organization considers healthy. In response, Chinese policymakers have finally created an initiative to reduce emissions. How bad did the AQI have to get before an initiative was created? This January, Beijing had a record-breaking AQI of 755. New York, by comparison, usually scores in the mid-to-upper 30s, a world of difference from Beijing’s 755.

Though China’s GNP is increasing, a study done by MIT found that air pollution cost the Chinese economy $112 billion in 2005 alone. Why? When smog—fog combined with smoke and other atmospheric pollutants—becomes too dangerous for public transportation to run, some major Chinese cities have to shut down, effectively halting factory work until the smog clears.

Not only do air pollutants in Chinese cities affect other regions in the country, easterly winds often blow higher atmospheric pollutants right across the Pacific Ocean to California. Commonly referred to as a commons, our atmosphere is shared by the rich, the poor, the powerful and the weak. What one country does to the air becomes a problem in another. So when China spews billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a global concern arises.

China is not the only country so heavily invested in coal. Surprisingly, universities all over the United States put their money into stocks of fossil fuel companies because they consider it a safe investment. However, a local CUNY program is trying to change the scene.

CUNY Divest is trying to persuade the CUNY Board of Trustees to halt all investments in fossil fuels permanently. Furthermore, the program is also working towards the complete withdrawal of the top 200 dirty investments, replacing a good number of them with renewable alternatives in the market as well as green infrastructure here at CUNY.

Whether it is the United Nations, 350.org, Greenpeace or any other activism campaign, no one seems to be able to convince most major corporations that green can also mean profit. Can a company actually profit from being green?

According to the World Wildlife Fund and the CDP, a company’s return on investment (ROI) after participating in green initiatives can reach up to 233 percent. This number is not fluff; there are plenty of examples of businesses that have reduced carbon emissions while also increasing profits. According to The Guardian, “DuPont, one of the early adopters, committed itself to a 65 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the 10 years prior to 2010. By 2007, DuPont was saving $2.2 billion a year through energy efficiency, the same as its total declared profits that year.”

A study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund also found that, “79 percent of U.S. companies in the S&P 500 reporting to CDP earn more on average from investments aimed at reducing carbon emissions than on their overall capital expenditures.” How does a company actually reduce emissions? It’s the small stuff. The easiest way to save money while reducing carbon emissions is to invest in LED lighting, which uses 7 percent of the energy incandescent bulbs use.

Companies can also utilize what’s known as source reduction to reduce packaging, carbon emissions and shipping costs. Perhaps the most successful electronics companies in the world, Apple, is also a leading environmental producer. According to Apple, “The packaging for the iPhone 5 is 28 percent smaller than the packaging for the original iPhone shipped in 2007. That means that up to 60 percent more iPhone 5 boxes fit in each shipping pallet and fewer boats and planes are used.” Apple also uses a marketing trick to advertise its green practices to increase revenue. With a market cap of $415.7 billion, Apple makes it clear that being green certainly pays off.

 

American Nutella (sadly) is riddled wit GMO ingredients. My quest to find an alternative.

Because I grew up eating Nutella quite literally every single day, learning that the American version had GMO’s in it (among other unhealthy oils) broke my heart. Because the spread is such a huge part of my life, I plan on eventually buying an 11 pound jar of Nutella direct from Ferraro in Italy once my smaller imported jar is finished. No. I’m not kidding. You can get one here if your family is a devout too, here. (While you’re there, read some reviews! They’re fantastic.)

Anyway, learning this horror has brought me to trying some other spreads in the meantime. Below is a list of all the other spreads I’ve tried and my honest opinions of them. I hope you find this to be useful in finding healthy and tasty alternatives to a not so healthy snack. Remember. I’ve been a diehard Nutella fan since I was 2, so I’m going to start by saying that there is NO equal alternative. It’s true. The European one is not only Non-GMO, its actually nutritionally healthier than its American counterpart. The best of both worlds.

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Key: Green means I plan to buy them again. Orange means that the taste was OK. Yellow means that they have questionable ingredients or origins. Red means it was horrible.

European Nutella [Middle] might not be the healthiest of all the choices, but I still cannot replace my childhood spread.

Barney Butter [Green bottle] tastes like peanut butter, to be honest. It’s really nice spread for a lunch sandwich with jelly. Not so great alone; though it isn’t bad! Just not something you could eat daily all by itself.

Barefoot & Chocolate Hazelnut Spread [Mmmm] by far was the best Nutella alternative. It tasted great and was GMO free. Ingredient wise, it pretty much across the board beats even the European Nutella. It has less sugar, fat, sodium; everything than Nutella did but I simply cannot give up Nutella just yet. Either way, this spread is something I will definitely buy again.

Brunette [Sold at Le Pain Quotidien] is actually a product I’m now greatly skeptical of. It tastes great. It has its own unique taste and it’s even edible on its own. However… There’s one ingredient that raises my brow: soy lecithin. Chances are, that’s GMO too. It even has a nice * to tell us that it’s not organic. I’d try it again if I could get the EU version.

“Imported” Hazelnut Spread [Pretend Italian Spread] from Gristedes is distributed by a company in New Jersey but an unknown company in Italy. That’s all I have to say about that. Assuming it’s actually from Italy and subsequently non GMO, it was a decent tasting spread. But that only raises my concerns.

Creamy Nuttzo [Colorful Upside Down Jar] was not bad. But it wasn’t good. It was one of those foods where you can eat it, but you’re not crazy over it. It’s certainly not sweet.

Justin’s Almond Butter [Packet] was eh. It wasn’t sweet and it was mildly good.

Rawtella [Not pictured because I refuse to buy it again] was absolutely horrendous when I tried it. In essence, it’s probably the most healthy of them all.

Now if I could only get my hands on this cookie spread.

Want to see where you’ve been for the past few years?

Unless you opted out of location history when you set up your phone,  your phone has been periodically tracking your location. Want to see for yourself?

On an iPhone with iOS 7, go to settings, privacy, location services, system services and click frequent locations. That’s it. You’ll be able to see a recent-limited view of the places you spend the most time at.

If you have an Android, you’re probably being tracked too. To see it on Androids, it’s just as easy but you’ll have to use a computer. You can see much farther back and you can see many more location plots than the iPhone users can – whether that’s bad or good is completely up to you.

google scary

First, go to this site: https://maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0/. Do you see where you’ve been today? If so, congratulations! You’re being tracked dozens of times a day by Google! Click “Show 30 Days” if you want to see a much better range of places. That’s about it! It’s pretty simple to see where you’ve been across a whole month!

If you’re like me however, you want to see it all. All the location history Google has ever picked up about you. I figure, since they’re tracking me anyway, I might as well make a cool map of the places I’ve been out of it!

On the same page, right click “Export to KML” and copy the URL. Paste it into another tab and change the “starttime” number to something drastically lower. If you want more detailed instructions on this first step, click here. The original source suggests using Google Earth but when I did that, I was able to see only a certain limit of points and trails. I want to see ALL of them. But depending on the amount of points you have, you might be finished with this step! Just use the slider to extend the amount of time it shows.

For me, though, I had to follow a few more steps. First, I downloaded and installed Python from here. Then I downloaded this script from here. Lastly, download this file here. Open up a command prompt and type: “[Find Python on your computer by going to the C: drive and looking for a folder named pythonXY. Click it and drag python.exe into the window] [Drag the script from wherever you downloaded it into the window] [Now drag the last file you downloaded here] [Drag that same file again here and change the “json” to “kml”] Click enter and it should create a file in the same folder as where you downloaded the json file.

It should look something like this: “C:\Python33\python.exe C:\Users\James\Desktop\latitude-json-converter-master\latitude_json_converter.py “C:\Users\James\Desktop\Location History\LocationHistory.json” C:\Users\James\Desktop\Location History\LocationHistory.kml”

Now fire up Google Drive. You’re almost done! Click here and follow the steps to get Fusion Tables into Drive.  You’re going to upload that converted file and wait until it finishes (Might be a few minutes depending on how many points you have) and that’s it! You’re done! Click “Map of Geometry” and you’ll see an insane number of points – You’ll notice how many points are centered around your work and home. Enjoy!

If I helped you at all with this guide, be sure to like this page on top of the site! And feel free to ask questions if you get stuck!

Update: If you want an easy way to see your location data without going through the above steps, click through to this site:

https://theopolis.me/location-history-visualizer/

 

Salt Stick Deodorant. It Really Freakin’ Works.

“Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY, Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearyl Alcohol, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, PPG-14 Butyl Ether, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Fragrance (Parfum), Dimethicone, Polyethylene, Steareth-100, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, BHT”

How many of those ingredients have you heard of?  Those are the ingredients of the deodorant I used up to the day my mom plopped one of these bad boys on the counter – simultaneously throwing out my normal deodorant.

Well have you ever heard of salt? It’s the only ingredient in this amazing product. It doesn’t stop you from sweating, but you wont smell.

But does it work? Yes. I’ve worn this stuff to present at competitions, the Bahamas, dates, graduation (For which, mind you, I was in a black robe in late June.) Hell, I even wore it to prom! This stuff works.

Sure, you have to rub the stuff profusely around your armpits. But who cares? I’d rather an extra 10 seconds putting on deodorant than aluminum bio-accumulating within my system.

I’d honestly write more if I needed to, but this review is simple. Your deodorant is horrible for you. This one isn’t. Yes. It works. That’s it.

LeftoverSwap – The most ironic food sharing system on the planet

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There’s a new app on the market called LeftoverSwap that would, in theory, greatly help the homeless and hungry find food without begging. But there’s one little catch. You need an iPhone. If you’re truly homeless, I don’t suppose you’d have enough money to waste on a phone with a whole set of bells and whistles, but alas, people have differing priorities and I shan’t judge.

Regardless, here’s the link to the app for iPhone (not yet on Androids): http://leftoverswap.com

My Thoughts: The Tempest at Shakespeare in the Park

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While educational standards are on the rise, Shakespeare is often still too daring for many to understand. Why? Often enough, the text of a play may seem intimidating even for versed readers because of the language structure and heavy vocabulary. This is why Shakespeare intended his plays to be admired at live performances. These performances would be laced with high humor for elitists and low humor jokes for laymen, respectively.
So when I say that the performance of The Tempest at Central Park was designed and preformed for all to enjoy, I truly mean it. For example, next to me sat a woman who presumably spoke no English and was wearing a SARS mask (Which by the won’t prevent the spread of disease by any means, no matter the good intentions) Though she understood nothing verbal, it was very apparent to me that she was enjoying the performance. Between the Mexican dancers, drumming group, senior dancers, singers, hip hop dancers and hundreds of other actors moving about the stage weaving inbetween lines of Shakespeare, who wouldnt be entertained?!

I give my sincere thanks to Public Works, and all the organizations that came together in such perfect harmony to put on such a performance.

(No worries guys, that photo wasn’t taken by me. Instagram.)

Why Garbage Pickers Are More Beneficial To The Earth Than You.

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Whether you live in an urban or suburban area, we’ve all seen them rummaging. What are they looking for? Well, recyclables if course! Whether their true passion in life is to rid the world of unnecessarily thrown out recyclable cans or they’re simply strapped for cash, these people are contributing to society more than meets the eye.

Each can they pick up removes about 14 grams of aluminum from being burned and each bottle saves 52 grams of plastic from being burned. That may not sound like a whole lot, but you’ll never see one of these people carrying around a single bottle ready to deposit it. You’ll see them haul around hundreds of cans and bottles at a time.

So how many cans are they removing from the millions? Let’s do some hypotheticals! It’s been said that you can make $5 and hour on average. That’s around 75 bottles, depending on if you get .05 or .10 on a can or bottle. Let’s say you do this for an 8 hour work day. That’s about 600 bottles a day. How many are there in NYC? let’s assume a whole lot. If you really pay attention, you’ll see them around.

I write this on my train ride into the city and I just saw one as I looked out the window. I suppose I’m a bit more keen to seeing them as I write about them. Let’s say the number is 400, but I’m sure there’s more through the entire city. That’s 87,600,000 cans a year taken out of the garbage! Or, by New York’s standards, 3 whole days of throwing out bottles. Damn NYC. I’m trying to make it sound significant! Quit throwing them out!

One man, interviewed by Brokelyn, has had no issue finding a stable source of income through this practice. “It’s his only source of income and he’s been doing it for 15 years. One morning this week, Ronald, who lives in the nearby Gowanus projects, had six large yard-waste bags full of recycling in two carts. He wouldn’t say exactly how much he makes, but he did say it’s enough to survive on without welfare or Medicaid. Although his collecting income allows for a steak “every now and then,” he mostly eats ‘pork and beans and franks.'”

If you want to read more on this topic: http://brokelyn.com/how-much-can-you-make-collecting-cans-and-bottles

So unless these people are harming you or your property in any way, let them be. If they have chosen your garbage can, they’re doing more good for this earth than you are.

Why are people such ungrateful twits in this godforsaken country? You don’t need a new computer.

So I was on some forum and I came across this commenter who wrote the following:

Crap shit old computer:

Processor: AMD A4-3400 APU Radeon(TM) HD Graphics 3.70GHz

Ram: 4.00 GB

You know what he was talking about? How surprised he was that a game ran on it.

Now, you don’t exactly have to know much about computers to know that the computer he’s bashing is not crappy nor shitty. If you look further into what he listed, the computer has 512MB of graphics memory and Direct X 11 capability. If you know anything about gaming, you can get away with playing most major games without any problems using that configuration! Hell! my computer is 1/4 that and mine does just fine with anything I throw at it.

But I only used him as an example to bring up a more important issue. Why is it that everyone has this annoying perspective that technology from the relative past is crap? (whether it be a year or 10, it doesnt matter.)

As I wrote before, (See for yourself how much has “changed”) my computers range from a 10 year old IBM laptop – That i’m typing on – to a 2002  iMac G4 to a 2005 Thinkcentre tower to a 2006 HP Tablet PC to a 2010 Chromebook. My school has computers ranging from when I was in Kindergarten to a select few with i5 chips.

I am able to clearly see and compare all spectrums of computing technology and i’m going to be upfront with you, reader:

There’s no goddamn difference! I swear.

All my computers can open up any website, play any video, open any document or play any game with equal stride. If they can’t? I sell them on eBay for a profit and move on to another.

Yet, all my computers are considered crappy to anyone I show, no matter which one. I throw out the word Pentium to them and they put on a face as if i’m lesser of a person than them. I say it has 2 GB of RAM and they outright laugh. It’s incredible!

And you’re right. If I throw in a third generation i7 chip at you, yeah, of course it’ll open it a site a few seconds faster or play a game at a better speed. Congrats. But if you’re just going to open a browser to watch a few videos or type a few documents, is spending the same amount of money as I got a CAR for on a laptop really worth it? Unless of course you’re going to be running Adobe Premiere, Inventor, and Photoshop at the same time, you don’t need it. 

So, to conclude, if a computer is not properly running at normal speed. It’s probably your fault, not the computer or it’s age. Stop watching porn, stop illegally downloading music – And get these two programs: CCleaner and MalawareBytes. Don’t reach for your wallet and buy a new computer because it’s not running as it did on day one – Unless you’re just going to throw it away to me. In that case, keep ’em coming!

Remember. These computers are designed to slow down over time. If you were a software maker, wouldn’t you do the same so you’d keep everyone buying the latest version so you don’t go out of business?! It’s genius! What do you think Apple does with their iPhones, iPods and iPads! Reinstall Windows if you have to. I don’t know! Do something!

It’s like buying car and after some time the air conditioner fluid runs out. Are you going to buy a new car?! NO. You’re going to bring it to a mechanic. Treat your computer like a car. Please. This country’s ego depends on it.

I love my Chromebook, but let’s compare it to a laptop from 2003

So I was given a “broken” IBM laptop to play around with.

All that I had to do was install Windows 7 to it and plug in the cable for the trackpad. After that, it was game on with my Chromebook CR48. Let’s compare.

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CR48 Running Windows 7

IBM T41P Running Windows 7

Windows Rating: 2.2 Windows Rating: 3.1
Wifi Test: 9.22 mbps Wifi Test: 15.5 mbps
2 GB RAM 2 GB RAM
16GB SSD 50GB HD
Intel Atom Processor N455 1.66GHz Intel Pentium M 1.7 GHz
12 Inch Screen 14 Inch Screen
3.8 LBS 5.3 LBS
Bluetooth Bluetooth
Rated 8 hours – I can confirm that it’s somewhere around there. Rated 6 hours – If you don’t have a crapped out battery like mine. I get an hour.
Graphics Storage: ZIP. None. Caput. Graphics Storage: 128MB
Cost to me: Free Cost to me: Free

So who wins in this case?

The IBM will be a fine laptop once I get a replacement battery for a whopping $20 on ebay. As you can see, it has a better Windows rating, better Wifi speed, same RAM (And both max out at 2GB), larger hard drive, better processor surprisingly, bigger screen, a convenient light to see the keys in the dark, and a ton more graphics capability (Something not often found on laptops.

The downside to the IBM? It’s ugly. It’s got that typical “I’m stuck in the 90’s” – Businessman look. I’d say it’s heavier, but i’m not one to complain about weight. But you go on Cnet and they’ll close the door on the laptop simply for that reason – No matter the capability. And sure. It doesn’t have a webcam. That’s why I have a phone.

Now, for the Chromebook, you’re right. It’s not supposed to be on Windows anyway. But until I was given the IBM, I didn’t have a computer with the capability to print (Until I put Windows on the CR48.) It’s much lighter, and has 3G capabilities. Battery as of right now is FAR superior, it has a webcam and it’s an attractive looking laptop. On Chrome OS, the laptop was perfectly snappy and could do any online docs editing and video watching.

I don’t have any complaints about either laptop. Neither win. They were made for completely different reasons. The IBM was made for business folk and the Chromebook was for the average user. They both do exactly what they were made to do. I just wanted to make a point on how laptops haven’t changed much. I mean, look at how far the mobile phone industry has come.

From Nokia’s to flip phones to blackberries to iPhones and Androids. No way could I even make a comparison with a phone from 10 years ago to today. They’ve evolved too much. On the contrary, laptops may have webcams, i7 chips, touchscreens or what, but in general, they haven’t really changed all that much. It’s like what they do with the iPhone. They make it slightly better, add a newer version of the operating system and call it new. Same thing with a laptop.