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Joshua Zaffos' Posts

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Gearhead’s lament: What’s to be done with last year’s skis?

Todd Loose of Waste-Not Recycling holding chunks of metal salvaged from used ski gear. (Photo by Joshua Zaffos.)

You don’t need to spend much time on the slopes to know that winter sports enthusiasts are the ultimate gearheads. Beyond the outrageous fashion fads (neon one-piece, anyone?), design and technology breakthroughs allow manufacturers to roll out more lightweight and higher-performance gear every season.

The steady advances are great for bombing down runs on powder days and pretending you’re Lindsey Vonn. But the heaps of old skis, snowboards, and boots that get tossed into garages, sheds, and trash piles are a wasteful legacy. Notwithstanding niche craftsfolk who turn their share of old skis into fences and Adirondack chairs, much of this stockpile is destined for the landfill.

Greg Schneider is well aware of the problem. As recycling program manager for Snowsports Industries America, an industry trade group, Schneider has spent three seasons collecting castoff equipment from a handful of retail outlets in Colorado and Utah, and he’s already built up a 300-ton massif of ancient gear.

His next challenge? Finding a use for the stuff.

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Who needs Superfund when we’ve got reality TV?

By the end of the year, only $28 million will be left in the U.S. EPA's Superfund account. Superfund pays for the reclamation of abandoned toxic-waste sites, and $28 million barely affords a study just to figure out how to clean up one of the 1,200 deserted dumps wasting away in American communities. Money's tight to fund cleanups of Superfund sites like this one in Pennsylvania. Photo: U.S. EPA. How did Superfund, which used to have an annual account ledger of $1.5 billion, end up functionally bankrupt? Going back to 1995, the Republican-controlled Congress killed off the corporate "polluter tax" …

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Colorado’s proposed water projects could sink the environment

This March, the Denver Broncos football team agreed to spend $40 million on a seven-year contract with its new quarterback, Jake Plummer. Since winning two Super Bowls at the end of the 1990s, the Broncos have struggled just to make the playoffs. At his introductory press conference, Plummer predicted, "Winning a Super Bowl is what I believe we are going to do here." Denver: the mile dry city. Photo: NREL. Meanwhile, the state of Colorado is looking for its silver bullet. After an unprecedented boom in growth and tourism during the 1990s, the state is suffering an unprecedented three-year drought. …