My growing awareness of our diets’ impact on the environment

Last fall, I switched to a vegan diet briefly, before settling on pescatarian (a vegetarian diet, plus fish).  While I did this out of health concerns, this process has begun to open my eyes to the impact that animal-based foods have on our environment.  I’m still trying to figure out if there can be a balance, but do think it’d be better if I can get to a full vegan lifestyle.  Yeah…lifestyle.  Not just diet.  But that’s a ways off still.

So, what issues have been on my mind lately?  Well first, there was a great article in Outside Magazine about OR4, a wolf that played a large part in that species reintroduction into the wilds of Oregon.  The only real controversy regards the occasional wolf killing of livestock, sheep and cattle.  It’s rare, and farmers are financially compensated, but still, the bulk of objection to wolf reintroduction anywhere comes from that group.  It’s already been shown that wolves are beneficial to the health of the ecosystem in Yellowstone.  By having a meat-based diet and using animal products (wool), we’re indirectly having a negative impact on the health of the ecosystems we live in.

Another thing I’ve learned was just today, reading that over half (60%) of the lakes in New Zealand are deemed unsafe for humans to swim in…due to pollution from dairy farming.  Wow.  I have to assume that dairy production in the US has at least some similar effect, but I haven’t read anything about that yet, I need to learn more.

Of course, there’s the issue of methane produced by cows and its effect on global warming, too!

I’m realizing that to achieve my goal of protecting the environment to the greatest extent possible, I need to further reconsider my diet and not support industries that are directly harming it.  However, I don’t have a good sense right now of to what extent the production of plant-based foods negatively impacts the environment.  I know there are concerns about water usage (almonds, especially) and destruction of native habitat, but are there other issues I need to be more aware of?  The quest for knowledge continues.

Review: Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight with integrated solar panel

Goal Zero Torch 250 flashlightI love multi-function, high tech devices…so when I saw this new flashlight from Goal Zero, I had to pick one up and give it a try!  It features an internal, non-replaceable lithium-ion battery and multiple lighting and charging options.  At about $80 at Amazon, it’s hardly cheap…so is the cost justified?  Read on to find out…

Continue reading “Review: Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight with integrated solar panel”

Investing in chaotic times

The stock market got a little wonky there for a bit though has settled down…but it provided me with a good reminder to have patience and not panic.  If I had bailed when the market tanked, I’d have missed this latest recovery!  It’s important to not let little blips throw you off.

The best book I’ve read on this subject, by far, is MONEY – Master The Game by Tony Robbins.  As he often says, ‘success leaves clues’…he’s made a living (and a small fortune) by studying the success of others, and compiling that into a concise steps that others can follow to achieve similar results.  In this book, he took that same approach to financial planning, and it’s a great read.  One of the points he makes is that mutual funds are basically garbage…you’re better off just putting your money into an index fund (if you’re investing in stocks).  Warren Buffet recently won a million dollar bet involving exactly that…he bet that a low cost S&P 500 index fund would provide better results than a collection Protégé Partners hedge funds.  He won, with a 7.1% return compared to 2.2% from the funds.  Oh, and note that Buffet donated the winnings to Girls Inc. of Omaha, to help teen girls transitioning out of the foster system.  Anyway, the book is less than $15 at Amazon, it’s a small price to pay for the knowledge contained inside!

Using graphene to filter and desalinate saltwater

As the global population increases and water supplies become less predictable due to global warming, finding sources of clean drinking water becomes even more critical. Just ask residents of Cape Town, which expects to run out of water around April 12nd! The obvious solution is to desalinate ocean water, but that’s a very energy-intensive process. Well, researchers in Australia found a way to use a graphene film to act as a filter; its structure allows water molecules to pass through but blocks larger contaminant particles. Most membrane filters get clogged up quickly, but this one keeps working even as it gets coated in contaminants. It’s nowhere near a commercial product yet, but is a promising solution to a growing global concern.

(more at FastCompany)

The end of the road for the internal combustion automobile engine

The days of gas-powered cars are numbered. Sure, electric cars are cool and promising and are gaining in popularity worldwide, but an announcement by Volvo really helps make clear the powertrain of the future.  As reported by MotorAuthority, Volvo is no longer working on any next generation gasoline powered engines.  This doesn’t mean they’ll stop SELLING them any time soon…the current generation can last quite some time, I’m sure.  But they’re looking ahead, and they apparently don’t see the profit in developing new gas engines, not with the rise of electrics.  A big step, really, and one I expect other car companies will emulate.  Or…maybe it’s just a publicity stunt?  Volvo is owned by Chinese company Geely…so are they making this announcement for the eco-friendly news benefit, while actually planning to switch to Geely engines in the future if electrics haven’t reached the point needed by then?

Also in electric vehicle news…delivery company DHL did the math on Tesla’s new semi truck, and figured they’d break even on it in less than two years, compared to a conventional diesel truck.  For large companies that are willing to invest in capital equipment like this, switching their short/mid range fleets to electric is really a no-brainer!  It’s only a matter of time, too, before trucks like the Tesla are suitable for long-haul trucking.

Extinction nears for right whales

The news is bleak for North Atlantic right whales, a critically endangered species with only around 400 left.  After a year which saw 18 known deaths (most of which are due to getting tangled up in fishing gear), there have been no new calves sighted this year, worsening an already downward trend in births.  That kind of math doesn’t bode well for the future of this species.

The Boston Globe has a longer article on this if you’re interested.

Kids fighting to protect the climate for their future

Climate change is not something that will impact the old farts in Congress, which perhaps explain their inaction on the issue.  It will, however, greatly affect today’s children.  I’ve been watching an effort to use the American judicial system to force change on this issue, and while its original trial date of February 5th was delayed due to Trump tactics, that case is proceeding.  It’s worth reading more about at ourchildrenstrust.org.  From the website:

Their complaint asserts that, through the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.

The reason for this blog post though, is to raise awareness of a new initiative, this one targeting the government of Washington state.  Their approach is similar, arguing that the state’s actions,

…severely endangers plaintiffs and their ability to grow to adulthood safely and enjoy the rights, benefits, and privileges of past generations of Washingtonians due to the resulting climate change.

It’s hard to argue with this line of reason.  Well unless you’re a climate change denier of course!   Read more here.

The sound of silence

So I’m curious…has anyone heard of studies looking at the effect of spending all day, every day, in a noisy environment?  Not at a harmful level, but, say, music playing in the background all the time?  I’m really liking my new HomePod and realized that it’s basically playing music for me all day long, all the time.  I’m not growing bored with the stations like I did with Pandora (through the Amazon Echo), so I just leave it on.  I DO still get out to enjoy the silence on my long runs…just kinda a new thing for me, to always have music playing in the house…

Comment below if you have anything to add!

Review: camping mugs

No camping trip is complete without a good cup of coffee in the morning!  This is even more important when backpacking, as your surroundings are so idyllic that enjoying good coffee just caps off an already magical experience.  With that in mind, this review is focusing on my quest to find a really good backpacking mug for coffee and tea.

There are a few basic criteria any cup must meet.  First, it must be at least partially insulated…it gets cold in the mountains of Colorado!  Second, it must have a lid for sipping.  Lastly, it must have a handle that I can use to clip it to my pack if I feel like it (translation – if I’ve packed too much and don’t have space for the mug inside my pack 😉 ).  Shown above are my two current favorites.

GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug
GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug

Let’s start with the orange one, The GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug (starting at around $10 at Amazon, depending on color).  The soft outer shell doesn’t provide a ton insulation, but does prove sufficient.  it holds a cavernous 17oz, and has a sturdy lid – while the lid is just a friction fit, it’s snug doesn’t come loose.  Another nice feature is that the plastic inner cup is removable and you’ll notice it has markings on it for up to two cups.  This is especially useful if you’ve packed dehydrated meals and need to measure out hot water for those!  All in all, a robust, quality mug that I used a ton last summer.

New to the game is the Stanley Adventure Vacuum mug, a story double-walled stainless steel option.  At around $15 at Amazon, it’s more expensive than the GSI, but I have little doubt it’ll last longer.  It’s really tiny, with a measly 8oz capacity, but what drew me to this, apart from the double walled stainless construction, was its clever lid system.  There are two lids…one a sippy lid, the other a solid lid with a handle that a carabiner can easily clip to.  You can use either lid, or – this is the clever part – both lids at the same time.  So when packing, you screw the sippy lid on first, then the solid lid, and you’re good to go, with no concern about anything coming loose and falling off along the trail.

So, which is better?  Well I love the ruggedness and double-wall insulation of the Stanley and for car camping, it’s an obvious choice, even with its minuscule capacity.  But for backpacking, there’s one more important test:

The GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug weighs in at a featherweight 3.7oz.  It really is light, especially for its size.  Plus, it has a second function, to measure liquids to re-hydrate meals.  Bonus!

Ah, but then we get to the Stanley Adventure Vacuum mug, and its rugged construction really shows on the scales.  This mug holds half the amount of the GSI, but weighs more than twice as much!  8.5oz, that’s just over half a pound!

Sorry Stanley.  You’re an awesome mug and I love ya, but you won’t be joining me on any backpacking trips!  We’ll hang out car camping sometime though, I promise. 😉

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