Phone chargers, toothpaste tubes, ketchup bottles: can we offset pollution by lowering our expectations as consumers?

Our toothpaste is almost out and there is new and unopened rectangular box on the bathroom cabinet shelf waiting to be deployed fighting plaque and hidden incipient cavities. I am holding the old squeezed-out tube in my palm trying to guesstimate how much it weighs and stop to think for a moment: this very second, a new toothpaste is being opened somewhere around the world. How much weight in toothpaste caps does that amount to, globally? I can’t provide myself with the answer, but I can only imagine. Many, many cubic tons.

And then comes a follow-up question: would I agree, as a matter of principle, going through the small trouble of twisting-on a one-size-fits-all reusable cap on most – or all – of the toothpaste tubes that I buy in the future? How about using the same old cap on my future ketchup and shampoo bottles?

Being the environmentally-conscious person that I am, I wouldn’t mind at all to rinse off residue toothpaste or ketchup from an old cap and re-using it on the next bottle that I buy. Knowing that there will many hundreds of similar such products that I am going to consume throughout my life, it would give me a sense of pride to know that I could be responsible for removing a hundred kilos or more in plastic, out of the global pollution equation.

My hopes that the world will wake up to this possibility are not in vain. Few years ago there was a change in the way plastic bottles are made that must have resulted in a serious decrease in the amount of plastic being used to produce this commodity. Bottlers decided to save money by shortening the height of the caps and it makes perfect sense. They save money while decreasing the amount of plastic needed to produce a typical cap. Major soft drink companies like Coca Cola and Pepsico didn’t follow suit on their most popular products, but they can always opt in since there is now a viable example in Poland Spring bottled water and other brands.

There is always more than one way to cut costs and pollution. Mobile phone manufacturers and the electronic device industry in general, must have agreed that everyone- industry and consumers alike- would benefit from the use of standard micro USB chargers and data cables, which now conveniently arrive in the box or are sold as interchangeable items- cable and adapter. This move alone may as well have offset the cumulative of at least one day’s worth of pollution (my own totally unscientific guesswork) in some city East Asia, which is a major producer of phone chargers and cables.

What I am driving at here is that some sectors in the manufacturing industry don’t have to make far-reaching changes to do the environment, and all of us, the huge favor of cutting down the toxic fumes that come out of stacks that melt and mold plastic cables, wiring and casings. If there is a standardization in the production of interchangeable items – like phone chargers and bottle caps – companies can save money  while enabling willing consumers to decrease their footprint on the environment. The overall effect for the planet may be revolutionary and big data science will soon be able to demonstrate how much money we have, in fact, saved on medical expenses for diseases and injuries caused by toxic smoke.

The reality is, people discard many tons of plastic in toothpaste, ketchup and shampoo caps each day. It would be a sensible thing for the consumer to have the option of buying a variety of products without the cap, and there are millions of people who will go through the small “trouble”. Without the danger of non-food items spoiling because of air or light exposure or humidity, there is a vast area in consumer products that can undergo the change. All it would take is a major producer to test how consumers feel about the idea.  I believe that most producers will agree that their efforts to differentiate from the competition wouldn’t be hurt if they all used a universal cap- just like all Android phones use the same micro USB cable and charger.

If that were to happen now, many people would simply pick up a sealed tube from the row of capless tubes and head home to reuse the one-size-fits-all cap.

I think it’s worth the thought.

The world will never be at peace unless

War and violence will continue to sow despair around the world until the impressions that arise from the perceived and intuitively-felt global injustices are expelled from the consciousness. These impressions that are founded on the logical deconstruction of the factual situation in any given country, plus historical narratives written and told, are causing people to resort to extreme measures. How will everyone get a sense of global justice?

Continue reading “The world will never be at peace unless”

Friendship Farming for the Future of Now

Friendship Farming is about sustainable, eco and business-oriented growing of fruits and vegetables that is based on the idea of a community of individuals, who have a shared interest in modern village life, partaking in a joint business venture. The idea is for individuals and families to make a coordinated purchase of individual parcels of land in the countryside in order to cover a large area that would develop into a small community.  Continue reading “Friendship Farming for the Future of Now”

Navigating pitch-dark spaces with the use of stroboscopic LED clicks

Summary of findings of an experiment.

I thought it would be nice if I helped save electricity for my apartment building. It has five floors, double the mezzanines and a light fixture on each level. That is 10 light fixtures. People living on the first floor are wasting the electricity that is needed to illuminate the rest of the building’s stories- they go in and the light exceeds the time it has been programmed to remain lit- about 5 minutes. It brought to my mind that there are hundreds of buildings in Skopje (let alone in the world) that are brutally inefficient this way.

(Edit: 11 Nov 2015: I came across this text summing the findings of a research that pretty much tells what I am saying in the text and experiments below: Continue reading “Navigating pitch-dark spaces with the use of stroboscopic LED clicks”

Could Green-Pavers Decrease Global Warming?

I have noticed that some parking lots in Skopje, Macedonia are made of concrete pavement pieces that have holes in the middle. These pavers had been laid on top of soil, which naturally contains genetic material of vegetation. Some parking lots are half-green thanks to the vegetation sprouting from underneath the half-blocks. Rainwater and nearby water hydrants are irrigating the soil underneath, allowing for tufts of grass to project up.

I am certain that these green-pavers can make a dent in the greenhouse gasses problem. I am not an expert on the topic, but it makes perfect sense to me that asphalt and concrete don’t absorb the sun’s rays causing heat to levitate right above. Earth and green surfaces do absorb sun rays- that’s more than apparent. So why not go half way between asphalt and earth and pave parking lots, walkways and by-streets with green pavers?

Walkways can still retain their functionality- providing flat surface for pedestrians and cyclists, if one third of the width is covered in green pavers. To make these semi-green surfaces work, a hydration system would really do the trick, however, the ones found in Skopje are not irrigated from underneath and they still grow tufts of grass.

If cities move on to pave cross streets with green pavers, it may result in drivers discouraged from going too fast. Paving avenues and boulevards in this fashion may cause motorists to stick to one area of the road- by avoiding the pavers. Can this result in safer, less-erratic traffic?

These photos were taken in the winter period. There is a lot more vegetation sprouting in the warm season.

IMG_20140306_134112[1] IMG_20140306_134315[1]

Introducing the Skopje Velodrome

(Македонска верзија овде)

Skopje has a collective of bicycling enthusiasts that call themselves Na Tochak (On Your Bike). The group advocates cycling as a means of transport in the city and through its social-media page they invite people to the Critical Mass event – a once a month group bicycle ride across the streets of Skopje. The purpose of this public display of cycling is to raise awareness for the cyclists’ safety on the road, to call on the city of Skopje to improve bicycle infrastructure, to inspire new cyclists, to protest against pollution, and to keep the enthusiasm for this urban need going forward. Continue reading “Introducing the Skopje Velodrome”