Archive for January, 2007

Biodiesel

Like I said before, I have a soft spot for cars. I said in the Tesla Roadster post that I “have a weakness for a good looking car”. Well, that weakness also extends to innovative automobile technology. As an example, I became way too excited when I first saw the commercial of the Lexus that parks itself.

Where is this all going? Well, for some time now, individuals have been creating an alternative fuel derived from plant and animal based oils. This mainly grass-roots movement has been building steam to the point that companies are now blending it themselves and selling the stuff at pumps. This product is called Biodiesel.

Biodiesel can be used to describe a wide variety of fuels. It is occasionally even used in the broadest sense to describe alternative fuels such as methanol. More specifically it is used to describe vegetable oils that are chemically converted to be suitable for use in non-modified diesel engines. Straight vegetable oils (SVO) or Waste Vegetable Oils (WVO) are distinguished from Biodiesel because they are unconverted. They are simply filtered to remove engine damaging particles. SVO and WVO are also different in that they are usually only run in engines or fuel systems that are converted to be able to handle the unique characteristics of unmodified vegetable oils.

Biodiesel uses oils from a wide range of plants to create fuel for vehicles. These include corn, rapeseed, soy, and even algae. This fuels produces far fewer toxins overall when burned. It lowers carbon monoxide, and aromatic hydrocarbons despite the fact that it produces more nitrogen oxide. And since the fuel is produced from plants that use carbon dioxide for growth, the fuel is carbon neutral.

Biodiesel is rated according to the amount that it is blended with regular diesel fuel. For instance a B20 blend would be 20 percent Biodiesel and 80 percent regular diesel fuel. The biodiesel pumps in our area pump B20 exclusively.

Like I said before, Biodiesel is becoming more and more mainstream. Even Willie Nelson has thrown his hat into the ring with “Willie Fuel“. Because of this, and also because diesel is naturally more efficient, diesel passenger cars have become more popular and are commanding higher prices. Volkswagen dealerships are able to sell cars sight unseen at sticker price. To compound the problem, Volkswagen is halting production of their diesel engines for a year to revamp the design to meet higher diesel environmental standards. Even used Volkswagen diesel trucks and rabbits from the 80’s are commanding impressive prices on ebay.

Biodiesel seems to be one of those solutions that address many problems without producing many complaints. I hope that Biodiesel usage expands.

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Featured Fundraiser-Visually Impaired Students – On the Go

Here is our first “Featured Fundraiser”. The Visually Impaired Students of Pinal County or “VIP” for short have become a model Phoneraiser Partner by getting the word out to their local newspaper as well as setting up collection boxes around their city. The group provides activities and excursions for visually impaired students who would not otherwise be able to participate.

The VIP’s have been a member of phoneraiser since last september. They raised over $100 last year and are on track to receive over $600 this year. Combined with some generous donations from their local lions club, they were able to take trips to the zoo, a historical museum, and a ranch with farm animals.

This group used some good techniques that we believe could be used for any organization trying to raise money through a phoneraiser. The big idea is to get the word out about your phoneraiser and make it easy as possible for people to donate phones and inkjets.

If you would like to donate phones or inkjets to The VIP’s, the following locations will accept them:

Coolidge Chamber of Commerce, 320 W. Central Ave. in Coolidge, Arizona or the Eloy Chamber of Commerce, 305 N. Stuart Blvd. in Eloy, Arizona.

The iPhone

The iPhone has arrived. It looks like one nice piece of hardware.

http://www.apple.com/iphone

All things equal, it is good to keep your phone as long as possible, but if you just can’t resist, remember to recycle your old phone! 🙂

Edit: The ETA for the phone is June. It will be run exclusively on the Cingular network in the U.S. More info here: http://blogs.zdnet.com/Apple/?p=372

Reduction of Household Waste (Recycling, Composting, etc.)

I just came back from a really great vacation up in New York State. The purpose of the trip was to see some family members I had not seen in a few years. The majority of my extended family lives there. Unfortunately, I am not able to visit as much as I like.

I ended up having a wonderful time, but I was also able to get a glimpse into New York’s reputation as the supposed “Home of Recycling”.

New York (or at least upstate New York) has set up a “pay per bag” system of trash disposal where a stamp is purchased for each bag of trash that is set out at the curb. This prompts people to minimize their trash by either recycling, reducing waste, or composting. This is done for a few reasons. Obviously it is better for the environment when fewer disposable one-time use goods are used or are recycled and composting replaces nutrients in the soil that would otherwise be lost in a landfill. Another big reason is that trash is expensive to get rid of, especially in New York. In the late eighties and early nineties, the limited landfill capacity in New York City famously led to barges searching along the eastern seaboard for a place to unload excess trash. 13,000 tons of residential waste is generated each and every day in New York City alone.

Although a trash tax on every bag of trash would be a hard sell elsewhere, it does seem to be forcing people to recycle. There are other ways to reduce the waste stream such as requiring multi-use beverage bottles instead of one time plastic or aluminium or requiring electronics to be recycled. Unfortunately, New York does neither of these (although they do still offer refunds on empties). In fact it’s recycling rates are much lower than the best cities for recycling including San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon. Both of those cities are recycling at a rate of about 50% of total waste with goals to increase that to 75%.

I would suggest to everyone that they take a preemptive step towards being less wasteful by using fewer one time use items such as paper towels, and also by recycling or even composting applicable items.

Don’t Trash It

Below is our first entry from a guest author. Matthew McClain has been with Phoneraiser for about a year and a half. He is the Operations Manager and oversees all of the operations of the company. He also happens to have a knack for writing.

Before I started working at Phoneraiser, I had no idea what cell phones were made of. Surprisingly, each cell phone contains no less than eight toxic properties. With more than half a billion retired cell phones in junk drawers across America, the impact on the environment could be devastating. The EPA website (www.epa.gov) provides some great information on electronics recycling. Here are a few of the highlights:

Cadmiumfound in chip resistors, infrared detectors, and semiconductors
Cadmium can accumulate in,and negatively impact, the kidneys. Cadmium is persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. The principal exposure pathway is through respiration and through our food.

Leadfound in glass panels in computer monitors and in lead soldering of printed circuit boards
Lead can cause damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, blood systems, and kidneys in humans. Lead has also been shown to have negative effects on the development of childrens’ brains. Lead can accumulate in the environment and have a detrimental effect on plants, animals, and humans. Consumer electronics may be responsible for 40% of the lead found in landfills. The principal pathway of concern is lead leaching from landfills and contaminating drinking water supplies.

Mercuryfound in thermostats, position sensors, relays and switches (e.g., on printed circuit boards), discharge lamps, and batteries. It is also used in medical equipment, data transmission, telecommunications, and mobile phones.
When mercury makes its way into waterways, it is transformed into methylated mercury in the sediments. Methylated mercury accumulates in living organisms and travels up the food chain. Methylated mercury can cause brain damage. The principal exposure pathway is through our food.

Hexavalent Chromium or Chromium VIcan be used to protect against corrosion of untreated and galvanized steel plates
Chromium VI can damage DNA and has been linked to asthmatic bronchitis. The major pathways are through landfill leachate or from fly ash generated when materials containing Chromium VI are incinerated.

Brominated Flame Retardantsfound on printed circuit boards, components such as plastic covers and cables as well as plastic covers of televisions
Although less is known about BFRs than some other contaminants of concern, but research has shown that one of these flame retardants, Polybrominated Diphenylethers (PDBE) might act and an endocrine disrupter. Flame retardant (Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB) may increase cancer risk to digestive and lymph systems. Once released into the environment through landfill leachate and incineration they are concentrated in the food chain.