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Susie Cagle's Posts

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Could the sharing economy kill public transit?

Ken Schmier is a Bay Area transit guru. He's essentially responsible for the limitless Muni Fast Pass in San Francisco, and created the NextBus application in the 2000s to help people catch those ever-elusive city buses. But now Schmier is thinking transit may not be all it's cracked up to be.

abandoned bus

“Frankly,” the Bay Area attorney and businessman told Next City, “I think transit agencies are obsolete.”

Blame that damn sharing economy.

Schmier is now all about what he calls “Micro-Transit” -- in other words, ride-sharing, or turning regular cars into taxis.

sharing-economy-detailThe Bay Area already has Casual Car Pool, a long-standing ride-share project that relies on a vintage website and message board instead of the smartphones and big money of new ride-sharing ventures. It’s kind of an organized form of hitchhiking, and it really works.

Schmier wants to make this general idea more efficient, scalable, and tech-savvy. From Next City:

Read more: Cities

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Americans are consuming less high-fructose corn syrup

High-fructose corn syrup was our sweetener of choice in the late '90s, when we were all high on junk food and the potential for this crazy new thing called The Internet. Those were fast times!

Now we are jaded and less interested in the sweet stuff. According to the USDA, this year only 4.5 percent of the U.S. corn crop is expected to be used for production of high-fructose corn syrup, the lowest amount since 1997.

12-10-24banksysodaFuck you, soda!

Corn costs have tripled since 2004, making the syrup a less cost-effective sweetener. And some health advocates say efforts to combat obesity have helped to curb HFCS consumption, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s much-despised and much-lauded big soda ban.

From Bloomberg the news source, not Bloomberg the mayor:

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Manhattan micro apartments will come at a high price

Are you sick of micro apartments yet? Well, too bad. Yesterday New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the winner of a competition to design teensy live-in closets for an East Side apartment complex of 55 units. Here are drawings of the winning design, showing how an apartment might be adapted throughout the day:

adAPT NYC micro-unit design
From the Associated Press:

To make up for the shoe-box dimensions, the building will offer residents common spaces like a rooftop garden and lounge area on nearly every floor. The aim is to offer more such tiny apartments throughout the city as affordable options for the young singles, cash-poor and empty nesters who are increasingly edged out of the nation's most expensive real-estate market...

If the pilot program is successful, New York could ultimately overturn a requirement established in 1987 that all new apartments be at least 400 square feet.

A third of Manhattan residents live alone, and apparently hate the idea of communal housing, so Bloomberg says the city needs these units to "keep us strong in the 21st Century" with "new ideas" and the young gentry that hatch them. Young gentry like Manhattan resident Sam Neuman, who loves his tiny apartment, but not in a super-healthy way:

"I've developed this weird Stockholm Syndrome, which you identify with your captors," said the 31-year-old publicist. "When I go to other people's apartments, I think, 'Why do they need more than one bedroom?' I'm really very happy here. There's not really time to let things accumulate because ... where would I put them?"

Read more: Cities, Living

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Sierra Club OKs law-breaking in battle against Keystone

The Sierra Club seems like the kind of folks who button the top button, not the ones who hang out on the barricades. Until now.

For the first time in the hallowed green group's 120-year history, it will be engaging in civil disobedience at the Feb. 17 Washington, D.C., rally against the Keystone XL pipeline. Is the Sierra Club really getting wild? Well, probably not. The group won’t say what the civil disobedience will be exactly, but it will be invite-only (!), it's been approved by the board of directors, and it’s a one-time-only event.

A 2011 Keystone XL protest at the White House
A 2011 Keystone XL protest at the White House.

From the Club's Executive Director Michael Brune:

Next month, the Sierra Club will officially participate in an act of peaceful civil resistance. We’ll be following in the hallowed footsteps of Thoreau, who first articulated the principles of civil disobedience 44 years before John Muir founded the Sierra Club.

Some of you might wonder what took us so long. Others might wonder whether John Muir is sitting up in his grave. In fact, John Muir had both a deep appreciation for Thoreau and a powerful sense of right and wrong. And it’s the issue of right versus wrong that has brought the Sierra Club to this unprecedented decision. ...

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U.N. launches new fight against food waste

No one can agree on just how much food we're wasting. But it is so, so much.

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sporkist

The United Nations and its Food and Agriculture Organization say it's a third of all food produced, while other studies say it's closer to 40 or 50 percent. After it leaves the farm, a lot of food is chucked because it's not pretty, or it's past its expiration date, or it simply falls through the cracks. According to the EPA, food waste makes up 21 percent of the garbage bound for landfills in the U.S.

This is not news -- we've known for a while that our modern foodprint is massive. What's noteworthy is that people are actually maybe kind of starting to do something about it.

Today the United Nations launched a campaign to reduce global food waste, which it estimates at 1.3 billion tons a year.

"In a world of 7 billion people, set to grow to 9 billion by 2050, wasting food makes no sense -- economically, environmentally, and ethically," said U.N. Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

The campaign, "Think-Eat-Save," calls on eaters to take some logical steps -- steps so seemingly obvious that it's sad we need a campaign to promote them. E.g. make a shopping list and avoid impulse buys and "marketing tricks." Also: Freeze leftovers, donate to food banks, and don't be afraid to buy "funny" looking fruit and veg (if they even make it to the store shelves, that is).

Read more: Food

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Holy mackerel: Tiny fishes no longer sustainable in E.U.

Sustainable, healthy, cheap, and definitely not overfished! That's what we've been hearing about small, oily mackerel for years. Four varieties of mackerel have been listed as "best choices" on the Seafood Watch eating guide, and a fifth made the "good alternatives" list. Even Mark Bittman and Tom Philpott agreed on the virtues of mackerel over other less sustainable fishes back in 2009.

Please don't eat us!
simonburgess7
Please don't eat us!

But all that popularity hasn't been so great for the poor little mackerels in the Atlantic. Due to overfishing, they were just knocked off the U.K.'s Marine Conservation Society (MCS) list of best fish to eat. From The Guardian:

There has been an increasingly bitter three-year dispute between Iceland and the EU -- mainly the UK -- over who has the right to land the once-plentiful fish.

Conservationists fear stocks could be at risk after Iceland and the Faroe Islands dramatically increased their quotas in recent years. In 2011, 930,000 tonnes of mackerel were fished from the north-east Atlantic, but scientists claim the maximum that should be caught is 542,000 tonnes. ...

Read more: Food

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A be-nice, don’t-hog-the-road guide for cyclists

Pro tip: Here is how not to ride your bike in a city unless you want people to think you are a total dick.

To that end, Transportation Alternatives has a new Street Code for Cyclists handbook. It's specific to New York City's rules of the road, but a lot of what's in here is basic common sense for bicycling commuters.

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Sarah Becan

The No. 1 message: Biking may in fact rule, but pedestrians are the real road royalty.

We know -- and studies show -- that more bicyclists make cycling safer and safer cycling will encourage more people to get out and ride. This is a virtuous cycle that we can work together to continue. In this effort the public’s perception of cyclists matters as much as, if not more than, any new bike lane or scores of new riders. ...

Here’s a simple proposition: always yield to pedestrians. ...

Read more: Cities, Living

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Happy MLK Day! Now get off the couch and do the King proud

Most holidays are about taking a day off in celebration, remembrance, or acknowledgment. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. In other words, today is a day to celebrate, remember, and acknowledge through engagement with the community as opposed to the couch. You may be out of the office, but there is so much other work to be done.

13-01-18MLK

This is the 30th anniversary of the day honoring the activist, clergyman, and iconic civil rights leader, who was gunned down in Memphis, Tenn., at the age of 39. The day is meant to empower individuals and communities, and to create solutions to social problems. From community gardening to clean-ups to food service for the hungry, we know damn well there's far more to be done than we could hope to accomplish in just one day. But this one day is a good time to start.

Read more: Cities, Living, Politics

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There’s a hole in my plastic-bag law

Alameda County, Calif., where I live, has banned stores from giving out plastic bags as of Jan. 1. It's great news that was a long time coming, considering the county is home to eco-minded cities Berkeley and Oakland.

The county suffers from its fair share of local plastic bag pollution. “Each year, the equivalent of 100,000 kitchen garbage bags worth of litter end up in our local waterways, including an estimated 1 million disposable plastic bags,” says Jim Scanlin, manager of Alameda County's Clean Water Program. And without a water treatment plant, all that plastic flows directly into local creeks and San Francisco Bay.

Most businesses have switched to paper bags. But because of a loophole in the law, they actually don't have to -- they can simply call a plastic bag "reusable," like this awesome one I got from my local liquor store the other day.

photo (54)

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There’s too much garbage for just two garbage patches

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and North Atlantic Garbage Patch have some new competition from the south, where scientists have discovered evidence of a new floating garbage island off the coast of Chile.

South Pacific 2011_111611_version3

Scientists at the 5 Gyres Institute -- which tracks plastic pollution in all five swirling subtropical gyres -- discovered this mass of plastic by looking at ocean currents. This patch has accumulated in the South Pacific subtropical gyre, right around Easter Island. It’s the first documentation of a trash patch in the Southern Hemisphere.

This video shows the projected spread of plastic pollution over the next 10 years:

"To create a solution to an ecosystem-wide problem we must understand the scope and magnitude of that problem," said 5 Gyres Executive Director Marcus Eriksen. "It's our mission to be on the frontlines of that understanding, and to continue monitoring the most remote regions of the world's oceans."

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