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The Business Writer Blog

Month: November 2015 (Page 1 of 3)

Happy Thanksgiving! Your Turkey Leftovers Are Destroying The Planet.

Thanksgiving is, of course, the annual day of overdoing it. But that excess can be felt in more ways than a slice of pumpkin pie too many. We’re all prone to prepare far too much food than is needed — and a lot of that food isn’t eaten.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 35 percent of the turkey meat that Americans buy each year is thrown away, compared to the 15 percent of chicken meat that\’s typically wasted — and there’s good reason to believe the bulk of that turkey waste takes place around Thanksgiving, when the bird is most in demand.

All that uneaten grub adds up. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30 million tons of food waste get sent to landfills every year, and that waste is landfills’ second largest source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

What\’s the cost of all that wasted food? An estimated $165 billion per year. And consumers shoulder the largest portion of the blame, throwing out an average of $640 worth of food per household annually when, at the same time, some 17 million households are food-insecure.

Food Waste: Who\'s Wasting the Most?

Source: Fix.com

It isn’t all the bird’s fault, of course. JoAnne Berkenkamp, senior advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Food and Agriculture Program, believes that many families end up wasting food during the holidays because they\’re trying to accommodate guests’ wide-ranging dietary restrictions and taste preferences.

“People have really good intentions and some of those good intentions lead to food being wasted,” Berkenkamp told The Huffington Post. “It’s grounded in wanting to feel abundance and wanting to have a positive experience during meals at home. But we need to think about doing all of that without wasting more food and while enjoying the food that we have. ”

Our phones are increasingly able to help all of us do just that.

In a feature published last week, the non-profit food advocacy group Food Tank highlighted some 14 different apps that have been developed to help people toss out less food.

Among them, the USDA’s FoodKeeper app offers food storage and safety tips and can send expiration reminders to users. LeftoverSwap allows users to take a photo of their unused food and offer it to an interested community member. Reta allows users to keep track of the food in their refrigerator and helps them avoid buying food they don’t need.

California’s Feeding Forward and New York’s PareUp offer more localized solutions, and others, like Ample Harvest, are more focused on connecting food producers and retailers with food pantries and donation sites in their communities.

 

The goal they all share, Food Tank president Danielle Nierenberg explained, is making it even easier for individuals to make a real impact on an important issue.

“These are very simple things you can do that don’t impact your joy or pleasure around food,” Nierenberg said.

Of course, there are low-tech strategies to reduce food waste both around the holidays and year-round. Carefully calculating portion sizes and adjusting recipes accordingly can be helpful, as can offering to-go containers allowing dinner guests to take away leftovers to enjoy later.

Ultimately, it’s about increasing awareness of the problem, a battle Berkenkamp believes advocates are winning. At a time when more and more people are wanting to know where and how the food they\’re eating is made, it’s natural to expect that curiosity to extend to what happens to the food when we’re finished with it.

“I think we’re in the early phases of this issue coming into the popular consciousness,” Berkenkamp said. “And Thanksgiving is a critically important time to think of all this.”

Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Tips? Email joseph.erbentraut@huffingtonpost.com.

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Don\’t Buy Your Rich Friends A Tablet For Christmas

Tablets like the iPad and Amazon Fire might seem like the perfect holiday gifts, but think twice: New research suggests your friends have one already, especially if they\’re wealthy.

The Pew Research Center on Wednesday released an analysis revealing that 60 percent of Americans who make $75,000 or more own a smartphone, computer and tablet. Overall, one in three Americans own all these devices.

You probably could\’ve guessed that yourself, but the news arrives at an interesting moment for consumers: Tech companies are doing their best to offer new takes on the tablet in order to win your attention and cash.

While Pew\’s research indicates that many Americans are likely to own all three types of devices, companies like Apple, Samsung and Microsoft are trying to sandwich those categories together. Apple\’s new iPad Pro is marketed as a productivity beast that could replace your laptop, Samsung\’s gigantic Galaxy View tablet could be your next TV and Microsoft\’s Surface Book lets you rip the display right off the keyboard for a touch-screen experience.

If you\’re trying to chill in bed with some Netflix, you could probably hold your iPhone 6S Plus a little closer to your face and survive without an iPad.

Why the focus on tablets? Well, tablets have a less obvious purpose than phones or computers. If you\’re a smartphone user, you probably can\’t imagine life without your handset. At the same time, computers are productivity machines that speak for themselves. As smartphone screens get bigger, tablets become less relevant because they\’re really just giant phones. If you\’re trying to chill in bed with some Netflix, you could probably hold your iPhone 6S Plus a little closer to your face and survive without an iPad.

Pew\’s new report indicates that of people who own just one device, only 7 percent make that device a tablet.

Indeed, an annual financial report published by Apple in September shows that net sales of the iPad have declined since 2013, first with a 5 percent drop in 2014 followed by a 23 percent drop this year. Meanwhile, iPhone sales are ballooning.

You could think of this as a moment of transition for the technology you see on store shelves: A substantial portion of American consumers already own the devices they need, and companies are trying to make the tablet relevant with quirky new devices that turn them into something else entirely.

Of course, traditional tablets are sticking around for now. But for a sense of how they\’re valued, consider this: Amazon offers a Fire tablet that\’s cheaper than a new video game. Traditional tablets are officially in stocking-stuffer territory. And like most stocking-stuffers, they\’re probably bound to gather dust.

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This Shockingly Common Object Could Be A Key Weapon To Combat Climate Change

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of the key technologies that could help wean the globe off fossil fuel is probably at your fingertips or in your pocket right now: the battery.

If batteries can get better, cheaper and store more power safely, then electric cars and solar- or wind- powered homes become more viable – even on cloudy days or when the wind isn\’t blowing. These types of technological solutions will be one of the more hopeful aspects of United Nations climate talks that begin next week in Paris.

“If you are serious about eliminating combustion of fossil fuels to power anything – a house, a city, a state – you can\’t do it without (energy) storage,” which usually means batteries, said Carnegie Mellon University battery expert and inventor Jay Whitacre.

Former Vice President Al Gore, former U.S. Geological Survey chief (and current editor-in-chief of the journal Science) Marcia McNutt and others point to better batteries as one of the bright spots in the fight against climate change.

While batteries have been around for more than 200 years, this year the technology has amped up.

In October, an international team of scientists announced a breakthrough in overcoming major obstacles in next generation energy storage and creating a battery that has five to 10 times the energy density of the best batteries on the market now. In September, Whitacre won a $500,000 invention prize for his eco-friendly water-oriented battery. And in April, Elon Musk announced plans for his Tesla Motors to sell high-tech batteries for homes with solar panels to store electricity for night time and cloudy day use, weaning the homes off dirtier power from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

“The pace of innovation does seem to be accelerating,” said JB Straubel, chief technical officer and co-founder of Tesla with Musk. “We\’re kind of right at the tipping point where the current performance and lifetime of batteries roughly equal that of fossil fuels. If you are able to double that, the prospects are huge.”

At its massive Nevada Gigafactory, Tesla has started producing powerwalls to store energy in homes. They can\’t make them fast enough for customers worldwide.

In November, a Texas utility announced it was giving wind-generated electricity free to customers at night because it couldn\’t be stored. That\’s where Tesla hopes to come in – not just in cars, but in homes. Within 10 years, Straubel figures it will be considerably cheaper (and cleaner) to get energy through wind and solar power and store it with batteries than to use coal, oil or gas.

“What has changed is the Gigafactory,” said Venkat Srinivasan, deputy director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. “Two years ago I didn\’t think anyone would have thought you\’d invest $5 billion in a big (battery) factory.\'”

Tesla is using existing technology, just mass producing and marketing it. That\’s one of two key changes in the field. The other is work to make the battery itself much more efficient.

Start with that lithium ion battery in your pocket. It was invented by John Goodenough, a professor at the University of Texas. His next task is a safer battery that uses sodium, a more plentiful element that can produce a faster charge.

“Now I hope to help free yourself from your dependence on fossil fuels,” he said on the same October day he was awarded part of a $1 million innovation-in-alternative-fuels prize from Israel.

“I believe in the next year there will be a breakthrough,” he said. “I\’m hopeful, but we\’re not there yet.”

Glenn Amatucci, director of the energy storage research group at Rutgers University, called it “a race against time. Every day and every hour is critical in terms of getting an advance.”

But Goodenough is in a special hurry, working more than eight hours a day on his battery: He\’s 93.

There are many teams around the world working on breakthrough batteries of different types. One of the most promising materials is lithium oxygen, which theoretically could store five to 10 times the energy of a lithium ion battery, but there have been all sorts of roadblocks that made it very inefficient. Then, last month a team led by Clare Grey at the University of Cambridge announced in the journal Science that they had, on a small scale, overcome one obstacle so that its efficiency could compete with lithium ion batteries.

The potential gains in this technology are high, but it is still at least seven to 10 years from commercial availability, Grey said.

At Carnegie Mellon and Aquion Energy, Whitacre is honing a water-oriented battery with sodium and carbon. Others are looking at magnesium.

Tesla\’s Straubel sees all sorts of different battery possibilities.

“It\’s an ongoing revolution,” Straubel said. “It\’s a critical piece in the whole puzzle in how we stop burning fossil fuels completely.”

 

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KEXP Presents: Ought

Watch the Montreal punk band perform “Beautiful Blue Sky” live in a Seattle studio.

Google could be your next mortgage broker

Google is looking to make it easier for house hunters to find a mortgage.

Youth Lagoon: Tiny Desk Concert

Trevor Powers\’ new songs are more expansive and self-assured than usual, a transition reflected in this performance. In person, he\’s poised, appearing almost joyful at times.

Beethoven Symphonies At Carnegie Hall Via Berlin

From an all-Beethoven residency week, hear the storied Berlin Philharmonic play the profound Sixth and witty Eighth with conductor Simon Rattle.

Goofball Delivery Driver Leaves Package In Most Ridiculous Place

Delivery drivers usually leave packages with neighbors when you\’re not in. Not this goofball.

A driver making a delivery to a Birmingham, England, home Wednesday spotted an open second-floor window, and decided to try and throw the package inside. But he spectacularly missed, and it somehow ended up on the roof.

The homeowner returned to find a note from the Yodel delivery service saying he\’d missed the delivery and a scrawled message that read, “Sorry, top off your roof.”

The intended recipient of the package, named Ajmal Aziz on Twitter, posted a picture of the message — and the unreachable parcel — to the social media site on Thursday.

Yodel spotted the tweet, and has since apologized for its driver\’s actions.

A company spokesman later said the driver had been aiming for the open window but missed.

“It was obviously a silly thing to do and this is very embarrassing. To his credit, the driver returned to the house with some ladders in his own time to retrieve the parcel and apologize to the customer,” the spokesman told the Mirror.

“We have apologized and are sending a bouquet of flowers to the customer,” he added. 

Also on HuffPost:

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Patricia Barber On Piano Jazz

The singer joined Piano Jazz in 2002, the year she released her successful album Verse.

Jawbone lays off 15% of staff, signaling trouble

Read full story for latest details.

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