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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Lab Research, Physics



Sustainable Purchasing

My general impression of our society is that if corporations can exploit a resource to earn a profit, then they will unless there are measurable consequences – their bottom line is to maximize profit.

I also recognize that there are a lot of concerned people in this world who have gone to great lengths to either run a company that prioritizes maximizing social welfare over maximizing their profit margin, or to start an organization that certifies companies who consider social welfare.

The purpose of this page is to provide a guide of how to live life sustainably, so that neither the environment, animals, or other humans suffer as an expense of you enjoying life (for example, if you own an ipad, it was probably manufactured by a factory run by Foxconn, by workers who were being mistreated, so for you to enjoy having an iPad, someone had to suffer. On the other hand, if you bought some eggs from a local farmer who raises his own hens, you can enjoy a fantastic and fresh egg, and neither the farmer or the chicken had to suffer as a consequence of your enjoyment!)

Here are some companies that sell organic sweatshop free clothing, bedding, pillows, etc.
West Elm
I just got some sheets and pillows from here and they look great, pillows are nice and fluffy too! Not all their stuff is organic, you have to go to each section (e.g. ‘Bedding’) and select the organic subsection. Their organic products are GOTS certified, here is a summary of description of West Elm’s labels concerning sustainability.


Eating Healthy and Sustainably

I want to explain why I believe that it is important to primarily eat vegetables, and not more than a half pound of meat a week.

This 20 min TED talk by Mark Bittman explains the historical development of the typical diet in America, and why it is important for our health and for the environment to eat only 5 oz of meat a week, and to eat mostly vegetables.

This 20 min TED talk by Ann Cooper “Ann Cooper talks school lunches” explains how the meat and processed food that makes up our diet, and school lunches in our country, are not nutritious and contain large amounts of anti-biotics (the typical American eats 5 lb of anitbiotics a year in their meat). She explains the health consequences of this (according to the Center for Disease Control, 45% of Americans born in 2000 will have diabetes before graduating high school). She explains how this can be remedied (she fixed her school), but that it will take more money (currently on average school lunch costs $1 /day/child).

The reasons are threefold.

First, personal health. In the book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy a group from the Harvard Medical School outlines with scientific evidence a healthy diet. Their food pyramid is shown below and found on their website.

Second, climate change. Livestock production causes one fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases (see NY Times article). As such, avoiding meat consumption is one of the greatest steps an individual can take towards mitigating the effects of climate change.

Third, animal cruelty. The movie Food Inc. does a fantastic job of describing the conditions that the animals we eat are raised in. Here is the trailer for it. You can either buy it on this website, or find it on Netflix.





What Bike to Get?

I have gotten into biking this year, since I live 7 miles from school in a very bike friendly city (Boston). It is wonderful to have the regular exercise and some time to reflect on life each day. I have recently become interested in purchasing a new bike, and here is what I have found in my searches of what is a good bike to get:

Personally, I like to really push myself sometimes on my bike commute; see how fast I can keep my pace. Keeping a stopwatch going, and pausing it at stop lights gives a chance to compare times and be a little competitive with myself. Also, this makes for great exercise! Other times I take it more relaxed, but I still appreciate being in a more forward position on the bike to keep a decent pace.

I am also thinking that it might be fun to go on some several day touring trips, go visit NYC from Boston or something.

Finally, my budget for a bike is around $500, give or take a few hundred.

As Guillaume pointed out below, for the riding that I do, any new bike less than about $1200 is going to be a waste of money. However, there are a remarkable number of bikes that are of sufficient quality which you can find used on Craigslist for about $400-$700.

For my riding style, I have learned that the best bike for me is a lower end “endurance bike” or maybe a “sport race bike”. Different brands call it differently. The idea is that I don’t want a heavy touring bike (I am not going cross country on this thing), but I also need something that is strong enough to handle the weight of a bike rack with all my books (true race bikes are made too light for their frame to have this strength). The lower end race bikes will often have little pegs in the fork of the rear wheel up near the seat post. This means that the frame is sturdy enough for a bike rack.

The final criteria is sufficient quality in the bike components (shifters, gears, etc). Shimano is the industry standard for these, so that is the best bet for component brand. For road bikes, Shimano has 5 levels of quality – Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, and Dura Ace (from lowest to highest). Get Tiagra or better. There are two big reasons for this. One, the parts will last longer, are better made etc. Two, the shifters on Tiagra and up have a tab you can reach from the drop-down part of the handlebars; Sora shifters don’t have this so you will have to constantly change your hand position whenever you want to shift… not fun or safe. One other brand is also good for components, although they are smaller and thus less prevalent. Avoid Campagnolo because replacement parts are more expensive and not well stocked by most bike shops (it is an Italian brand)

The final issue is what brand of bike to get. There are 5 main brands I am aware of: Giant, Specialized, Trek, Jamis, and Cannondale. I looked at the bikes they offer, and these seem to be the appropriate bikes from each brand:

Giant OCR

Giant Defy 1

Specialized Sectuer

Specialized Allez (older ones have bike rack mounts)

Trek 1.5

Jamis Quest

Cannondale Synnapse (some models of the synapse are for racing, so look for the bike rack pegs.)

I just looked into getting my girlfriend a bike, and my friend from the bike shop strongly suggested the Trek 7.3 FX (the Trek 7.3 FW WSD is specifically made for women, but the normal version is fine for women as well). We just bought it and it seems like a fantastic bike. Basically it is like a road bike, but you can sit up a little more comfortably, it has a cross bar handlebar instead of drop-down, and the tires are a little thicker to make the ride less bumpy. It is also good for long trips like a 40 mile bike to the ocean the weekends; a very good all-around bike.

To learn what fit is best for you, this youtube video describes it very well.