Environmentally-friendly entertainment?

I’m sitting here, watching the Borat movie on USA (don’t judge), and I saw an commercial for the National Geographic Channel‘s new show, “Hooked.”

I haven’t seen an episode yet, but by the commercial, it seems that it’s about fishing (duh).  And not any fishing, but virile man testosterone adventure fishing where they try to find large (and possibly exotic?) fish.

Do they throw them back?  That I don’t know.  But here’s what I think is weird about channels like National Geographic, Discovery and Animal Planet:

They broadcast really environmentally-unfriendly programming.

It’s not that I don’t watch “Deadliest Catch” and weep for crabs (because I also like to eat crabs), but I was really disturbed by the recent episode where we learned that if the boats don’t get to shore in time, the crabs die and are basically useless and dumped.  The futility and wastefulness of that made me uneasy.  I realize that overfishing is environmentally-irresponsible (I’m not saying that the captains on the show engage in this practice, only that, you know, it happens).

It was the logging show (“Ax Men?” I feel like there are two of these shows on different networks update: Ax Men is on the History Channel which is not necessarily pro-enviro, but it’s weird nonetheless) that really got me thinking about this.  I know that logging happens, I use paper, I print things at work… but I feel like it’s weird to have a show on a network that also showcases “green” programming and promotes environmentally-aware miniseries such as “Planet Earth.”

So what do you guys think?  Do you think the programming choices are weird?  Or is it just that these networks cater to all opinions, and chooses not to “force” environmentally-friendly programming on its viewers?  Is it irresponsible to broadcast a show focusing on logging (and getting the most work done to make the most money) without also letting the viewer in to the environmental impacts the practice might have?

Let me know in the comments.

Recycling Rundown

Nowadays you can recycle just about anything from yard waste to paper products to plastics.  Figuring out what materials your local curbside pick-up will accept is fairly easy with the help of the internet.

You can find your local recycling center by using this handy tool: Find a Recycling Center.

You can find out what items are picked up curb-side by using this handy tool: Who Picks Up My Recycling?

Once you establish what you can put out front on garbage day, remember to check every item before you toss in in with the trash.

Recycling Symbols:

Plastic containers are clearly labeled with  numbers 1-7.  Below find a brief overview of what each of these symbols mean.  Most curb-side recycling will collect all numbers except  6.

PETE 1 (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

Found in most single-use soft-drink and water bottles.  Also found in other household containers.

Recycled into fiber, carpet, and paneling.

HDPE 2 (High Density Polyethelene)

Found in motor-oil bottles, juice jugs, detergent bottles, and cereal box liners.

Recycled into other bottles, lumber, fencing, drain pipes, and floor tile.

PVC 3 (Poly Vinyl Carbonate)

Found in cleaning solution bottles, shampoo bottles, clear food containers, and sometimes windows and piping.

Recycled into lumber, mats, and highway fixtures.

LDPE 4 (Low Density Polyethelene)

Found in squeezable bottles, plastic bags, and carpets.

Recycled into garbage bags, bins, package padding, and floor tiles.

PP 5 (Polypropylene)

Found in medicine containers, some syrup or ketchup bottles, sipping straws.

Recycled into trays, pallets, and other plastic goods such as bins, wire covers, ice scrapers, etc.

PS 6 (Polystyrene)

Found in Styrofoam containers, Styrofoam cups, and other Styrofoam-like materials.

Difficult to recycle and non-biodegradable.  Avoid using PS 6 until better recycling programs are available.

7 (Miscellaneous Plastics)

Found in plastic items such as computer parts, 5-gallon jugs, and nylon.

Recycled into end-use products such as lumber and highway materials.

Number 7 plastics contain the group of plastics so often in the news for containing Bisphenal-A or BPA a type of Polycarbonate, or hard plastic.  Studies have shown that these types of plastics can leech hormones and other carcinogens into the environment making them dangerous for use around small chidren.  Many sites now list items that are specifically manufactured without the use of BPA.  One example of BPA-free children’s products can be found here.

10 Ways to be More Green

This Earth Day try some of these easy tips to be more eco-friendly in your daily life.

  • Eat More Vegetables! The Union of Concerned Scientists cites eating meat as the most eco-destructive activity in which humans take part.  The United Nations states that cattle-rearing generates more green-house gases than transportation.  If all Americans replaced just one meal per week with vegetarian food, the impact on the environment would be equivalent to taking more than a half-million cars off the road.
  • Eat Locally! As well as eating more vegetables, it’s important to eat locally.  An average dinner travels more than 1,500 miles from farm to your table. The environmental impact of this transportation is significant.  Check labels at the grocery store and opt for items that are grown close to where you live and choose items that are in season in your area.  Another option is to purchase fruits and vegetables from local farmers markets or co-ops.  Not sure where to go?  LocalHarvest.org has a list of local farmers markets across the US.

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  • Ditch those plastic bottles! Using re-usable water bottles filled with tap or filtered water eliminates thousands of bottles that would otherwise end up in a landfill.  Sigg makes a sturdy and user friendly reusable water bottle.
  • Ditch those paper cups! Most coffee shops now offer reusable options for your morning latte.  Buy a reusable travel mug and refill it when you get coffee.  According to statistics from Starbucks, if just 50 customers at each Starbucks location used a reusable mug, it would save over 150,000 paper cups per day which translates to over 1.7 million pounds of paper waste each year.  At the very least don’t take a sleeve or allow your Barista to double-cup your beverage!
  • Use reusable take-out containers.  If your favorite restaurant gives you your doggie bag in Styrofoam, consider bringing a reusable container with you and bringing home your leftovers in your own ware.
  • Reusable Lunch Containers.  Ditch that brown-bag and opt for a reusable lunch container. Try Lock & Lock containers they are BPA free and they give back to the community via treeplanting campaigns, senior citizen  events, clean water actions, etc.
  • Bring Your Own Bag to the Store.  The easiest approach is to buy a reusable bag at the grocery store, they usually sell for around 99 cents.  Get one!  If you would like something a little more fashionable, try Environsax reusable bags.  They fold up into small pouches that can be easily stored in your purse/bag for use at the grocery store/mall/skate shop/etc.  I always carry one with me in my purse and use it every time I make a purchase.
  • Use a cloth hand towel in your kitchen/bathroom.  Replace your use of paper towels with a cloth towel.  Worried about germs?  Buy 7 of them and put out a new one each day.  This will save you money and reduce the amount of paper waste headed to the landfill.
  • Carpool/Walk/Ride a Bike. Think about where you need to go and how you can get there in the most efficient manner.  Carpool to work, arrange your errands so that they are completed in one day or in a small number of places.  Take public transportation where you can.  If your destination is within a mile from your home, consider walking or riding a bike.  Unsure how to get to your destination via the bus/bike/walking?  Use Google Maps – they have options for driving, walking, and public transportation!
  • Recycle. This seems so obvious, but only about 32% of waste was recycled in 2006.  Cities are constantly expanding recycling programs.  For example, my city recently spread their program to include all plastic types except PET#6.  That means that I can recycle PET#1,2,3,4,5,7,8,&9 in my curb-side pick-up.  Check with your local recycling program to see what types of plastic you can recycle each week!

Replacing your current habits with only one of these can significantly improve your impact on the environment.  Try it out and I am sure you can find ways to decrease the amount of resources that you consume each day.

Price is Right Goes Green

I am sure you’ve heard it, Bob Barker signing off The Price is Right by telling folks to be sure to spay and neuter their dogs and cats.  When Drew Carey took over, he continued the tradition, and this Wednesday he is taking his ecological message a few steps further.

With Ed Begley Jr. guest starring, the Price is Right will feature Earth-Friendly products such as a Toyota Prius, an electric cart, cell phones made out of recycled materials, solar charging equipment, an electric bike, and a recycling cabinet.  The trips given away will be paired with carbon-emissions credits to offset the ecological impact of traveling.

While this is all, of course, in recognition of Earth Day, I hope that the producers see the benefit of being green and incorporate more eco-friendly products into future episodes as well!

What’s Up With Water Bottles?

I’m sure you’ve seen it, the crunchy-looking thirty-something coming back from yoga sipping on an aluminum water bottle as she gets into her Prius.

Pretentious? Perhaps. Trendy? Sure. Necessary? Absolutely.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, it takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture the plastic bottles that supply Americans with bottled water for just one year. That amount of oil is equivalent to the amount needed to fuel 100,000 cars.

Making matters worse, out of the billions of bottles consumed, only about 20% are recycled, with the rest making their way to landfills or even worse, to the world’s oceans.

Earth 911 makes an interesting argument by pointing out that if everyone in New York City alone gave up water bottles for just one week, they would reduce the number of bottles headed to a landfill by 24 million. Giving up plastic water bottles for a year would reduce the number of water bottles headed to a landfill by over 1.3 billion bottles.

But water in bottles is so much better/healthier/cleaner than my local tap water, isn’t it?

Probably not. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),  out of more than 100 brands of bottled water tested, the overall quality was “spotty” with a third containing contaminants. Tap water, on the other hand is a tightly regulated alternative. If you don’t like the ‘taste’ of your tap water, you can easily use a filter.

Water bottles have become such a source of wasted resources that some stores have refused to stock them.  Food Fight Grocery, an all-vegan grocery store in Portland, Oregon, recently stopped carrying bottled water.  Instead, the owners opted for a more eco-friendly alternative, Food Fight Aluminum Water Bottles.  They allow customers to refill them in the store at any time.

Purchasing a reusable water bottle such as the trendy Sigg bottles available here, is a great alternative to consuming water in disposable plastic bottles. You can refill it with tap or filtered water and can drink with a clear conscience, knowing that you did not contribute to the wasted energy or resources that go into the plastic water bottle industry.

Support your political party and get 10% off a Nalgene bottle

I really like Nalgene bottles, so much so that I gave one away last year, they just make sense.  Stop buying bottled water, spend a few bucks on one of these and a Brita pitcher and you’ll help reduce global waste.  OK, enough preaching, onto the actual story.

Because I’ve purchased from the official Nalgene website, I get their emails now and again.  It’s refreshing that a company really restrains themselves from bombarding my inbox with emails, Nalgene sends maybe four a year, but when they do, it’s usually some really good sale.  Yesterday I got an email with their newest promotion, possibly one of the more clever marketing ideas I’ve seen this year.  It caught my attention so much that I’m now telling you about it, which means their marketing director should get a cookie, or a gold star at the very least.  Check it out:

There is no official endorsement or sponsorship and Nalgene isn’t selling bottles with elephants or donkeys on them, but it’s a great way to push a product, give the consumers a discount and run a fun, interactive poll.  Offer is valid until November 3rd, find out if more Democrats or Republicans buy Nalgene bottles on their Facebook page sometime after the election.  Great marketing idea!  Visit www.nalgene-outdoor.com to order, use coupon code McCain on red 32oz widemouth bottles or Obama on blue 32oz widemouth bottles and receive 10% off.

What happens to those roadside political yard signs after November 4th?

The November 4th Presential election is quickly approaching and the marketing camps are in full swing. The nice part about most of the political marketing is that it’s very short lived, by this I mean you can change the channel if you don’t want to see a commercial, turn the page in a magazine or flip to a different radio station if you wish not to hear the advertisement. Even billboards along highways will soon be changed, but sadly, one marketing tactic won’t, roadside signs.

Signs
I’ve got no problem if you want to show the support of who you back for public office, but I start to take issue when the public highways are littered with rows upon rows of signs. Possibly the worst part is that as soon as one camp gets a new stretch bombarded with their signs, the opposing camp will start to put their signs up within hours. Not only are they ugly, it’s public land. Top that off with the fact that most of these signs are not made of recyclable materials and are hard to recycle and besides some weak attempt at advertising, you’ve created more landfill. Lastly, those so anxious to put them up never seem to be around to take them down.

Most cities, townships, boroughs, etc., all have guidelines and regulations about how quickly they need to be removed, but it’s very hard to enforce when there is no door to knock on to ask that they be taken down. Do we ask that political candidates go around pull them up themselves? Should they be fined?

How effective are they anyway? Has your opinion ever changed based on a yard sign? Have you ever driven past one and thought to yourself maybe I should look up information on this person?

The signs on a large part can be used for one thing or another long after the election takes place though, they just take thought. Here are four ideas that you can do with your political yard signs after November 4th.

Recycle them. They could be made of cardboard, plastic or some other material that may be easily recyclable. Contact your local recyclers and ask if they take them.

Trash bags. Some of the plastic yard signs are simple bags that get placed over two thin metal steaks placed in the ground. The metal stakes can be used as plant or tree supports in your garden and you can use the bag to put fall leaves in or as a small trash can in your home. Ironic huh?

Reuse the sign. It’s generally cheaper to print on two pieces of corrugated cardboard and stick them together around the stakes that go into the ground, if that’s the kind of sign you have you are in luck! Peal them apart and you can use them at a later time to announce a yard sale, baby announcement or some other event you need attention for at your house. Just grab a magic marker and have fun.

Pack them away. Over the years political memorabilia has become a sought ofter commodity, so if you feel like gambling and have the space, consider packing some of it away in hopes of profiting on it in the future.

In doing research for this article I wasn’t able to easily come up with any information or locations that openly took these yard signs to recycle, that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. Please take the time to contact your local plant to see if they take them. I’m also interested in what other creative ideas you have for reusing the signs for another purpose, so leave a comment!

Ride your bike to work and get $20 a month from Uncle Sam

Yesterday President Bush signed the Bicycle Commuter Benefits Act into law. This is pretty exciting stuff since I’ve been commuting to work on my bicycle three to five days per week for nearly four months now. The Bicycle Blog says,

The benefit — up to $20 per month — begins with the new year in 2009. Employers may reimburse employees, tax free, for “reasonable” expenses related to their bike commute, including equipment purchases, bike purchases, repairs, and storage if the bicycle is used as a “substantial part” of the commuter’s trip to work for the month.

They also have the nitty gritty info on the law itself, for those of you who wish to read it, and I suggest you all look into it.

$20 per month doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s on top of gas savings. My civic currently gets around 33mpg, my commute to work via car is 16 miles round trip, provided I don’t run errands before or after work or during my lunch break, I put about 80 miles on my car just driving back and forth to work. Doing the math, 80 miles is roughly 2.42 gallons of gas, I filled up last week for $3.35, a steal if you ask me (barf), so my commute to work via automobile costs me roughly $8.11. If I drive every day of the month, I spend roughly $32.44 per month, nothing to scoff at.

On the other hand, riding my bike 4 days per week will save me roughly 2 gallon of gas or about $6.70. I say 4 days because one day of the week it’s usually raining, I’m running late or just need a break from cycling. Some weeks I ride all 5 days, other weeks it may only be 3 days, so 4 is about my average. One month of cycling to work instead of driving will net me roughly $26.80 in gas savings, top that with the $20 that I hope to get my employer to pay for pedaling to work and I could be looking at an additional $46.80 per month! The money is supposed to go towards bike repairs, maintenance, and other items that support persons in commuting to work.

$20 will actually buy a decent amount of cool things that will keep you and your bike in tip top shape. Here are 10 great products that cost $20 or less.

Bicycle Tubes. As a commuter I always carry at least one tube with me. Honestly, I should probably have two at all times, but these are just part of the expense of riding a bicycle, thankfully they range in price from $3-9. My personal experience with them says stay away from the ones with slime inside, or labeled self sealing. Not only are the a pain to install quickly, when they get a hole in them, and they will, they leak a messy goo inside your wheel that takes forever to clean up and gets everywhere

Bicycle Pump. When you get a flat, you’ll need a way to put air back into the tube. Most compact pumps will fit easily into your travel bag while others will clip or bolt onto your frame so you don’t forget them. Costing between $11-20, this easily fits into the budget and is a must have. Additionally, a floor pump with a proper gauge is needed for anyone who rides a bicycle. Generally speaking, I re-inflate my tires every other time I ride. More air in road bike tires provides less rolling resistance and better tire wear too!

Bicycle Repair Kits. The $20 per month is supposed to go towards the upkeep of your bike, and you can’t keep up on it if you don’t have common tools. Bicycle specific repair kits can varry in range from a few dollars to several hundred, but the one pictured at left is only $16 and includes most of the basics, including a set of common allen keys, small crescent wrench, tire levers and a patch kit, all in a nice little bag so you can take it with you in case you break down on the rode.

Presta valve adapter. These things cost as little as $1.50 and will let you inflate your tires at a gas station if you are running Presta valves. Some are more expensive at about $7 and include a small key-chain with them, but whichever you choose to buy, get a few of them because you will loose them. I’d suggest keeping one in any and every bag you plan on commuting with, a seat bag (if you use one) and if you wear shoes with laces to bike in, consider lacing an adapter into one of the laces so you can be sure to always have it with you. Compact hand pumps, like the one shown above, usually only provide 80-90psi, most rode and commuting tires need 120-140. Use the pump to get you going again, use the adapter to finish the job off at the nearest gas station.

Bicycle Saddle Bag. You’ve got your tubes, tools and adapters, now you need an easy way to carry them all. A bicycle specific saddle bag will provide you enough room to store a spare tube, some tools, your house keys and maybe a cell phone as well. Best of all, you won’t ever forget to take the essentials along with you! Bags range in price from $7-50 depending what features you want and need. Look for one large enough to carry everything you need (obvious), but some other really nice features include being water tight, internal pockets to keep things organized, reflective stripes on the back and / or a hook for a blinky light.

Bicycle tail light. Blinking tail lights come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and range in price from about $5-25. Take that useless reflector that came with your bike off and invest in one of these. Look for a red one, 3-5 LEDs and one that offers a few different blinking patterns. The one I bought came with a mount to put it on my seat post, as the saddle bag I bought had every feature I wanted except a place to clip a blinking light to. When you install it, take note to where the on / off button is and practice turning it on while you are riding. You may leave for your commute while it’s still sunny out but half way home it could be pitch black. Also take careful note to what size batteries it takes and how they need to be changed.

Bar Tape. Most road bicycles use bar tape wrapped around the handlebars. After sweating on it for countless months, being caught in the rain and pulling on them while you climb that hill of death, it wears out. Reward your hands with some new tape. Ranging in price from $7-25 depending on color, material and add-ons. The ones pictured at left are about $8 and have a small amount of gel in them as well as reflective bar end plugs. There are also enough color combinations to make anyone happy. Changing your bar tape takes about 15 minutes and anyone can do it, your hands will thank you for it.

Bicycle gloves. For warmer weather I don’t like gloves, but now that fall is here, I wear a pair of thin, full fingered ones. Fingerless and full finger gloves offer a bit of padding in the palm and the back sides can be used to wipe the sweat from your face if need be. Prices range from about $11-45 depending on what season you are buying for. Most gloves tend to fall apart at the seams between thumb and forefinger so pay close attention to how it’s stitched in there.

Water bottles and cages. With prices starting at $2 for water bottles and about $3.50 for a water bottle cage, pick up several, these things don’t last forever. I generally like to have one bottle per day of the week and try to rotate them as best I can. While 99% of the time only water goes in my bottle, I don’t even want to think about all the rode grime that gets kicked up onto the mouth piece, so I wash them on a regular basis. Clear is also my color of choice, only because in a quick glance I can see how much I have left. Cages come in many shapes, sizes and materials. Tried and true aluminum and steel tend to be the cheapest but will destroy the outside of your bottles a little bit faster. Plastic ones do almost no bottle dammage but often don’t have as secure of a grip on the bottle, so find a happy middle ground when shopping. Bottles and cages come in a rainbow of colors to fit any style too.

Bicycle chain lube. In order to keep moving forward and shifting gears smoothly, your chain must be lubricated. WD-40 is not an option here, don’t use it. Lubes cost between $8-15 per bottle and a bottle should last a pretty long time. Start with a clean chain, common degreaser will work with water, then apply the lube. Every 2 weeks reapply the lube, more often if you are riding in the rain. Once every two months clean the chain and relube. By a lube that will fit your riding needs, as some are better for wet weather while others are better for shedding dirt and mud.

Other essential items that will need regular attention are tires, which range in price from around $25-60 per tire, so I didn’t include them in this list, but could be purchased by saving a few months worth of twenty’s. Lastly, there are a few maintenance items that are best left to the professionals, like truing a wheel. Most local shops charge $5-10 per wheel, depending how much you ride and over what kind of terrain, you could easily need this done every 6-8 weeks.

I’m really excited to hear that this bill has passed, hopefully my employer will hop on board in 2009 and I can start to collect. While it is true I save money and help out the environment, cycling to work does have costs to it that add up, and this little government kickback will most definitely help out.

Black and White

Prepare to be schooled. Legitimately.

On the second Tuesday in November, history will be made. America will have elected either its first African American president, more than 140 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, or the first woman vice president, nearly 90 years following the ratification of the bill that gave U.S. women the right to vote. It’s a spectacular opening of doors for future generations in America, and a new source of untapped talent for the highest offices in the land. Regardless of the scurrilous gossip strewn about the candidates personal lives, about the disagreements over flip flopping and petty fighting between party lines, there are real issues here at stake that actually matter to our lives and the lives of our children. As Lauren stated, it’s exhausting to witness the bickering, and maybe this is only another voice in the crowd of many. I’ve painfully recognized how uneducated and seemingly uninterested Americans are on the actual FACTS of this election. We have let our reality become distorted by the most backwards and terrifying process of dehumanization out there, the agenda of the corporate American press.

In an attempt to be as bipartisan as possible, I thought that I would try to outline some of the basic issues of both candidates and what they stand for. This is in no way a purpose for me to be stumping for either party (even though you know I’m not afraid to let you know who I support), this is simply an attempt to break down the basic facts. Just because you’ve always voted Democrat, or you’ve always voted Republican, does not mean that you should blindly support whomever that party has nominated. Do you agree with their stance on foreign policy? Their answer to the war in Iraq? Their energy policies? What about education? When it comes down to it, this is a personal decision, but one that should be an informed choice. We can’t base our sources of knowledge in hearsay, propaganda or in the opinions of spouses or parents or friends. I’ve done the gruntwork for you, and here it is. Make your own choices.

In black and white, I give you the facts:

  • Taxes

In comparison to the policies in place under our current administration, the McCain tax plan will reduce taxes by approximately 4.2 trillion. The Obama plan will cut taxes by 2.9 trillion. McCain’s tax cuts will hit across the board, with the biggest cuts going to the highest income households (top 1% of US citizens making over $1.2 mill/year), while Obama would give larger tax cuts to low and moderate income households and pay most of the cost by raising taxes on high income taxpayers (top 1% making over $1.2 mill/year). Both policies from both parties will substantially increase our national debt over the next ten years: McCain’s would increase our debt by $5 trillion, Obama’s by $3.5 trillion.

What does this mean for you? The typical American, middle class income (incomes of less than $200k yearly for individuals and $250k per year for married couples) will raise 3% with McCain’s plan. In comparison, with Obama’s plan, middle income households will see a boost of 5% back into their wallets.

Things to consider: National debt. Want to see how much we owe? Check this out. We need to pay taxes in order to dig ourselves out of debt and get this tattered economy back on it’s feet. Bigger tax breaks and higher spending pushes this debt onto our children and our children’s children.

(Please note, these are estimations based on currently proposed tax plans. Source: Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute and Brookings Institution)

  • Health Care

McCain proposes a refundable income tax credit of $2500 individually or $5000 for married couples purchasing health insurance. He believes that competition between insurance companies will lower the cost and improve the quality of health insurance. This, among other changes that McCain proposes, would cost the US deficit $1.3 trillion over ten years. Obama’s plan is to modernize the US healthcare system and make relatively low cost insurance available to everyone, along with subsidizing premiums for low and moderate income folks. This will cost the US deficit $1.6 trillion, but would also cover virtually all children and the majority of currently uninsured adults. McCain’s proposed plan would cut the number of uninsured people by a little over 6 million in ten years. Obama’s plan would bring the numbers of uninsured people down by 34 million.

(Source: Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute and Brookings Institution)

Things to consider: One in seven Americans are uninsured, living sicker and dying younger. Uninsured Americans effect everyone’s health coverage. Even the insured pay the price with crowded emergency rooms and escalating health care costs, which in turn make health insurance less affordable. The United States spends nearly $100 billion annually to provide uninsured patients with health services, often for preventable diseases or diseases more effectively treated with an earlier diagnoses. Can you guess where this money comes from, loyal tax payer?

  • Iraq

The basic discrepancy between candidates on this issue is whether or not to pull out from the war and withdraw our troups. McCain says fight it out, Obama says end it. McCain believes that it is our moral obligation to stay in Iraq until it is capable of governing itself and safeguarding its own people. He supports counterinsurgencies (sending additional troops) in order to control the population and violence in Iraq. McCain will promote efforts within the international community to support regional stability and to bolster Iraq’s economy. He also supports structuring the US’s military posture in order to put pressure on Iraq’s neighbors (Syria and Iran) to stop aiding Shi’ite militias.

Obama believes that we are in the midst of a war without end, and proposes a plan to finish it. He believes that our military resources are dwindling and leaving us less safe at home, and that with a responsible and phased withdrawal, both Iraq and the US will be better off. Obama’s basic plan will have brigades removed at a pace of 1 to 2 per month, to be completed in 16 months. He will also have a residual force remain in Iraq to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions as well as continue efforts to train and support Iraqi security forces with the support of the Iraqi government. Obama believes in a moral obligation to Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, providing $2 billion to support the millions of displaced Iraqi families while reserving the right to intervene militarily, with international support, to suppress potential genocidal violence within the country.

McCain highlights that the past year has shown a significant reduction in violence in Iraq, and he places the success on the shoulders of the troop surge. Obama supports redirecting our efforts towards Afghanistan where Taliban has since reemerged, pointing out that 2007 was the most violent year in Afghanistan since the invasion in 2001.

Things to consider: With hundreds upon thousands of innocent lives lost, almost 5,000 American soldiers dead since the start of the war, and $3 trillion in national debt… the cost of the war continues to rise by the second.

  • Environment/Energy Crisis

It seems as though major authorities on the environment and energy crisis don’t think that either candidate has enough policy in regard to these topics. It also seems that both candidates bleed into one another’s solutions, there is a meshing between sides. The major differences are that McCain is touting increased fossil fuel production and nuclear energy, while Obama emphasizes alternative sources and conservation to meet our energy needs.

McCain’s emphasis on increased production of nuclear energy and oil is based in a re-commitment in these energy sources. Nuclear energy produces zero emissions, and could decrease our dependency on foreign oil, however safety can be an issue due to the high levels of radioactivity that can be emitted from the waste (newer plants have a much better safety record, but it makes some reminisce about Chernobyl). There are also concerns about the cost of researching and building nuclear power plants. McCain’s plan also will give $2 billion per year in order to advance clean coal technology.

McCain supports off-shore drilling, deep sea drilling off U.S. coastlines in search of oil in order to increase domestic supplies. Increasing domestic oil production could put a patch on the situation we’ve found ourselves at the gas pump, however ecologically speaking, oil is a non-renewable resource and not a great thing to be dependent on, not to mention the threat of what oil spills can do to our environment. McCain has the idea of providing a $300 million award for “the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.” Anyone know how to make batteries?

Obama will back limited off-shore drilling, as he believes that oil companies should first drill on the 68 million acres that they have which are so far unused. Previously against the idea, Obama has recently said that he now believes a compromise will have to be made in order to prevent gridlocking between oil companies and the government. His main objective is that we need to reduce our dependency on oil completely and move towards new fuel choices and alternative energies. Obama’s proposed policies take it a step further by investing $150 billion over ten years in order to build a clean energy future, along with creating 5 million “green collar” jobs. As for an immediate solution, he’ll give a $1,000 emergency energy rebate to help families pay for rising bills, the money coming from oil company profits. Obama would mandate the auto industry in order to influence them towards making vehicles capable of running on alternative fuels, and increase federal support of mass transit. McCain is against these mandates, and once a cap and trade is implemented (keep reading…), would rely on the market to cultivate alternative energy itself.

Both candidates support tax credits to those that buy hybrid cars. Both support a cap-and-trade system that would place a cost on emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming, in order to encourage a shift towards renewable energy. Both also agree that regardless of the solution to stop the immediate oil bleeding from the gas pumps in America, something needs to be done to catalyze our shift from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.

Please see this as well as this for further info.

Things to consider: Where you’ll be in 2050 when the Arctic Ocean has completely melted, the glaciers are gone from the Alps, and over one million species of animals are extinct. I’ll be (hopefully) still kicking it at 68.

  • Education

The low standards that our education system has currently in place are dismal at best. American children rank 28th out of 40 countries in mathematics and 19th out of 40 countries in science. Education should be a top priority. Bush’s No Child Left Behind plan was a complete dud, most agree the reason for this is because it was neglected in funding. We have huge issues in America with teacher quality and accountability. (Although this article is Obama based, if you are interested in the current state of our national education system, it is phenomenally written, please devour.) McCain will work to improve the No Child Left Behind Law, Obama will fundamentally extricate it.

McCain doesn’t seem to have a clear plan in regard to changing our education system, although lets hope he focuses more on this issue with the addition of his running mate and mother of 5. He does believe that public schools need to be publicly accountable for test results. McCain supports the basis of using competition in order to obtain greater quality teachers, and thinks that if parents are unhappy with the public education of their children, they should be allowed to change schools. He’ll also reward teachers with individual merit pay. Obama‘s main concerns are in the US’s high school dropout rate (30%), quality of teachers, and extremely high college costs. He will work to create a voluntary national performance assessment for new teachers, as well as work with school districts to create a program for salary increases for accomplished educators that work to mentor new teachers. Obama will also enact an unprecedented American Opportunity Tax Credit of $4000 to families universally. He will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior year’s tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due.

Things to consider: Children are our future!

The basis of this article has grown out of Project votesmart. I believe that being informed is so important, and I am up for anyone willing to question. If we are open to it, we can all learn something here.

Signing off before my fingers fall off, as your CNN addict/political adviser chick, I bid you adieu…. DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!!!!

Naked hand soap dispenser on the cheap

I’m a guy in every sense of the word, but I do clean because no one wants their home to smell like a guy’s house. Fine, I clean, no big deal. Most cleaning products have a decent scent, in my case I prefer citrus, but none the less, a scent works for most of the areas that need to be cleaned. What I don’t like, is scented hand soaps.

When I’m in the middle of cooking in my kitchen, I wash my hands a lot to avoid cross contamination with regards to poultry, beef, cutting boards, knives, so on and so on. I don’t want my hands to smell like watermelon or spring rain or one of my all time hates, cucumber melon scent. Sorry, but if I’m making chicken piccata I’ve got enough aroma going on that none of those scents are going to help any.

So sometime ago while in a local store I happened to be in the cleaning isle and saw a company called Method, but the design of the products is what intrigued me as I was pretty sure they were designed by Karim Rashid – checking when I got home, I was right. As a consumer, my eye was caught so I looked to see what they offered. To my surprise, they made a manly product! Go naked is what Method calls their dye free, scent free line of home cleaners and hand wash go naked seemed to be made entirely for me. Being a thrifty consumer I also noticed the price was a bit steep, about $4 for a 12oz bottle. I bought it anyway, knowing that $4 purchase would all but eliminate the dread of having my hands smell like something other than just clean hands.

OK, I can’t be the first person to blog about go naked or even Method products, but I will now share an idea that I stole from friend and fellow Randomn3ss staff writer, Jessica. While in her kitchen maybe two years ago I noticed a thin, clear beer shaped bottle with a bottle pourer with some funky colored contents parked behind her sink next to the faucet. Asking what it was, she explained it was hand soap, bought in bulk and then filled into the glass container and topped with a typical bar liquor pourer spout.

So it took me two years or so to actually remember to do this, partly because I don’t drink so don’t often have the chance to get a glass bottle, and partly because I forgot about it. About two months ago this changed though when I bought some Jones Soda (blue lemonade is so good!) and instantly thought to save them. After enjoying a tasty beverage, I stripped the label, used mineral oil to rub off the stickiness left on the glass and sent them through the washing machine. I have a bag of pour spouts in the closet that I bought from the local restaurant supply store some time ago to use for olive oil and similar oils, so I was totally set, except for a refill of soap. You could buy these spouts online but it’s honestly much cheaper to hit your local restaurant supply store, after you figure in shipping, it’s almost never cheaper to buy these things there.

The last few times I’ve been to the store I’ve looked for the Method refill soap and have never seen it in go naked, last night I finally got lucky. It’s great to see a company understanding that a refill is not only appreciated by consumers but for us tight-wallet folks, we look for these deals. See, the 32oz refill has a suggested retail price of $6 from Method but my local store sells it for $4. It doesn’t take a math wizard to figure out that 32oz for $4 is a better deal than 12oz for $4. Now since I already had the Karim Rashid designed bottle, I could just fill it, but I really liked Jessica’s idea and had the glass bottle and topper for it.

Tonight I filled up the bottle and put the top on and really liked how the bubbles look so I snapped a photo and wanted to share this with you. If you buy a 4-pack of Jones soda or similar tasty beverage in a glass bottle, consider picking up some pour spouts and buy the refills of hand soap. Not only is it cheaper, it’s green, by reusing the glass bottles and the Method refills come in very minimalistic packaging that is also recyclable. Your wallet and the environment will approve this idea.

Thanks for the idea Jessica!