Eco-Believe IT!!!

Lauren Slezak

Cash For Trash

The Big Picture With Kal Penn Season 1 Episode 9 Cash For Trash
The video above is from the show The Big Picture With Kal Penn on the National Geographic Channel. It provided two subjects on recycling and reusing the materials we throw away every day.

1.) How Poop Could Help The Economy

In one year, the entire world can produce 1.9 trillion pounds of human excrement. But where does it all go? After you're finished with it, it usually goes to a waste water treatment plant where it is separated and the water is reused. After that, it can be buried, burnt, or it can be used as fertilizer. Burying it uses up valuable land space, burning it releases carbon dioxide, but using it as fertilizer can be very beneficial. But you may be thinking that it is unsanitary. This is not true. When separated from the water at the treatment plant, the finished product is dewatered so that all the pathogens are killed. Human excrement also has high levels of organic matter and nutrients that will help our crops grow. Plus, it's being given away! It's free! That means that farmers can save thousands per year on fertilizer by picking it up from the government. In turn, that can make our food cheaper from saved costs.

But why should this be interesting to anyone? Well, think about it. Since the fertilizer is free, costs would be cut down so our food would be cheaper. Also, it gets rid of the problem of the disposal of human waste, which is a huge deal. The excrement has to go somewhere, so why not put it to good use and put it back into the soil where it can improve our crops and make the soil healthy again?

I chose this topic because I thought it was very interesting when I first heard about it. I thought that it was a good sort of Innovation because it follows the exact definition of the word: a new idea or more effective process. This is a much better idea than just burying or burning it because we are actually putting it to good use and reintroducing it to the Earth.

2.) Earthships

What if you were told that you could have an off-the-grid, self sufficient house with high end appliances and the only utility bill you would ever pay was propane for cooking? But, it is made of trash? Well, that might not sound appealing but once you see what Michael Reynolds thought up, you'll be very surprised. By using everyday throw-away items like tires and glass bottles. Using tires to make a wall is actually extremely efficient because they are great insulators, meaning no heating or cooling bills!

This brilliant solution doesn't just cut down on the amount of trash going into landfills every year, it also makes living affordable. You can find the materials for a fraction of the cost of a regular house, cutting down the cost of living. This way, the builder can afford to have high-end luxuries like solar panels for energy, flat screen TVs, dishwashers, and any other 'creature comfort' you could want!

This was my favorite out of every news story I studied because it was so interesting how they could reuse ordinary man made things that we throw away every single day and turn them into a beautiful home that cuts down the costs of living while still providing high-end luxuries. But why should it be interesting to you? Well, would you like to live in a world covered in landfills? This would help us to be a much less wasteful species, and we would be helping the Earth, not just ourselves. But what does this have to do with economics and what category would it fit into? It could fit into many categories, like efficiency or household, but I thought that it would fit right into the category of Innovation. Somebody took the time to look at a pile of tires and decide that it could solve a major problem we have today. Reynolds was very inventive in using something we want to get rid of and making it into something that might be our future. Without housing or the building piles of trash to worry about, we would be more able to focus on the larger problems at hand.
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In the beginning, it may just look like an unappealing, muddy wall of bottles, tires, and other trash. But in the end, they are beautiful houses and worth the work.
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Earthships come equipped with their own filtering and feeding systems. The runoff water from your dishwasher and bathing is reused to flush the toilets. The waste created by the residents is filtered through the plants in a grey water system. After running through several plants the water is no longer toxic!
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3.) Ore Price Collapse Hits Minnesota's 'Iron Range'

The prices of iron ore, called taconite, in northern Minnesota have hit a low, dropping from $190 per ton in 2011 down to $60 per ton today. The main reason for this is that global demand for the good is down, especially from China. This drop in price has caused one of the six mining companies operating on the Iron Range to lay off over a thousand of it’s workers. But this doesn’t just affect the workers. As storeowner Doug Ellis says, “my business is built on mining money.” When the mines are having a bad time, the people living around them have an even worse time. When the people living near Ellis’s store can’t afford to buy the steel-toed boots and rifles, his business will take a hit.

I found this interesting because it can show what happens to an economy that is so dependent upon a single export. I also visited the Iron Range last year and they seemed to be doing fine, with just a little bit of trouble at the mines. I was shocked when I saw this specific area being reported on the NPR website. This fits into the category of Demand because it is the demand of iron ore that is affecting this region so badly. When China decreased it's demand for iron ore, the economy started tanking because that is their main, or only, export.

4.) Los Angeles City Council Passes $15 Minimum Wage

In the next 5 years, a $15 minimum wage will go into effect in the Los Angeles district, up from $9 currently. This sounds like great news for anybody who is currently working at minimum wage, but it sounds like a death sentence for many of the restaurants who already have slim profit margins. Restaurant owner Caroline Styne says that 95 cents out of every dollar made is used for rent, paying the waiters, and the food. She also said that up to 40% of the total expenses were just to pay for the labor. By raising the minimum wage, she might have to raise her menu prices up by 40% just to stay above water, something that would make eating out unappealing to customers. Less customers means less money, making it impossible to stay open.

The restaurant owners in Los Angeles said that 'it would be OK to have a higher minimum wage if tips counted towards it'. Unfortunately, California is a state where a worker cannot make less than the minimum wage. This would crush restaurants because they are already fighting to keep their heads above water. This would only make it worse.

But, it may change the restaurant structure a bit, becoming a bit more like European restaurants that have mandatory service charges instead of tips. In my mind, this relates to the category of Profit. It's not that the restaurants are making profits but that they are losing them and that this might make it even worse. I thought that it was a perfect economic scenario of what would happen if the minimum wage went up significantly. I expect this to cause a bit of a shock to the working system in Los Angeles for a while but they will eventually get used to it as the economy catches up.

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5.) Group Makes Character Key Part Of Reducing Baltimore Unemployment

In Baltimore, The Center for Urban Families is offering a course that helps those in the community change their lives for the better. Those in this program come from harsh backgrounds involving drugs and unstable families where they hardly saw anyone be able to keep a job. The class is held from 9am to 5pm so that those in the program can get used to waking up on time, getting to work, and taking care of their kids. They also learn the necessary life skills and attitude for a job. This may sound simple, but it has changed many lives over the past few years. A 21-year-old man named Isaac Cobb Jr. says that he started selling drugs at the age of 10 because all of his extended family was involved with gangs. While going through training, he realized that his 'tough guy' demeanor, picked up from his past life, would intimidate the employer.

The Center for Urban Families says that 300 go through this employment training each year and over 200 have found jobs! Of those 200 placed individuals, the average wage is $13/hour. Granted, some of the bad habits from before the training stuck and the people have had to be placed two, three, or four times. But by continuing this project, imagine what could happen.

This sort of training could turn around entire communities and possibly even lower the unemployment rate. Just think if we all tried to have a better attitude despite our background or even the place we are in right now. How much would your world change? And if those that were unemployed (or were employed but in a gang or other illegal work) all started working, imagine what our economy would be like in the near future. In the context of Unemployment, this would help tremendously.