Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sustainability Challenge - Week 2



Part 2 of your 10-week training


The 10-week training focuses on simple and easy to implement steps. This is week 2.

How did it go last week? Not that hard, was it? If you missed the first week, you can catch up here:

Week 1


How to save energy at home


Do you have to preheat the oven? Does the light have to stay on when you leave? What is the best temperature for your freezer? This week, you will learn how you can save energy and help the planet and your wallet.

Statistics show that Americans who are in the front row of "sinners" for energy usage are developing a mindset of change. Because it helps protect the environment but also because they can save money.

This week we will look how you can save energy. Consider how you want to use energy at home and in your household.

Basic exercise:


You have half an hour at your free disposal? Awesome! You could walk around your place and check where you can save energy - either by implementing new features or changing your habits. Be inspired and see if you can change something. The smallest thing helps.

  • Cooking: Most recipes ask for preheating your oven but it rarely is necessary. Stop preheating your oven and use residual heat by turning off your oven a few minutes before the time.
  •  Living room: It's a well-known fact that devices use power in standby. Switch to multi-plugs so you can turn off all connected devices with one click of the button. That can save up to $100 for five devices around 480 pound of CO2
  • Washing machine/dishwasher: Use only when the machine is full. Wash at cold temperatures. Germs that will not die at cold temperature will also not die from lukewarm or warm water. 
  • Bulbs: You have probably already done this. I only mention it in case you didn't because it's such an effortless way to save a lot of energy, and therefore money. 
  • Bathroom: Take more showers instead of bubble baths. That saves water and energy. If you want your skin and hair to love you, you can consider getting a shower filter (I use THIS one and it helped me give up on hot bubble baths). 
  • Fridge / Freezer: Check if they are set (like most) to unnecessary cold temperatures. 


Additional Tip

Switching to a clean energy provider does not cost much time and is a rewarding environmental measure. 

You can search for providers in your area https://www.green-e.org/certified-resources

How does this help the environment?

Saving energy is very helpful for climate protection. By reducing your carbon footprint, you contribute to the global CO2 reduction. 

A nice side effect is that you will save money.

Until next Sunday!

PS: If you missed the first week catch up here: Week 1


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Free 10-Week Sustainability Training

Sustainability Challenge No 1


Here is how it works:

  • each week (on Sundays) I post a new lesson
  • sadly, you must remember to come back (my personal blog does not have a newsletter service)
  • there are no sales pitches

Why am I doing this? 

Because it is right and dear to my heart. 

Free Sustainability Training


Small changes can have a huge impact. 

You are not a drop in the ocean - you are the ocean in a drop!

Many Americans feel that a lifestyle respectful towards our planet and its resources is important. On the other hand, it should not be too complicated, time-consuming or expensive. But they'd be willing to make changes if they knew how. 

This training takes your need for simple and easy to implement steps into account. 

So let's start this. Are you ready for your sustainability challenge? 

Sustainability in everyday life


Shop produce smarter


Mmmmhhh I love cherries. Those cherries are so nice. I love them year-round. 

The first week is about shopping produce. We all know our stores are full of fruit and veggies from overseas. And produce that is out of season or does not even grow where we live. 

With some offers, it's clear to us they have a negative environmental impact. And we don't buy them. 

More often we shop out of habit and miss that the onions are from South Africa and the grapes from Australia. 

Or we check for the "organic" label and overlook that our strawberries left a carbon footprint of the size of Bigfoot on their way from China to our shopping cart. 

And this is where we start. We start by raising our awareness and shop smarter. 

Exercise No 1:

For seven days, buy only regional and seasonal veggies and fruit. 

You can find a seasonal calendar HERE and there are plenty others on the internet. 

Take the time to study the country of origin and make sure you only buy seasonal, regional produce. 

Take mental notes of the items that would have landed in your basket that are not environmentally friendly. You will be amazed how many fruits are from different continents even in June. 

If you find real bummers you'd normally have purchased? Great! You've learned something and from now on will check the label twice before you buy. 

Exceptions


You love bananas, pineapple or something else that does not grow in your region? Allow yourself a few missteps. Just make sure you buy the organic version and truly enjoy it. 

Benefits


What does it for you and the environment? 
  • Produce that is in season has typically more nutrients. 
  • You help to save energy (short transportations, reduction of CO2). Seasonal also means that produce is not grown in greenhouses.
  • If you buy organic, it means no pesticides which helps bees and other insects. Organic food is also better for your health and often tastier. 
  • You help the soil. Ecological agriculture results in better soil. 

Enjoy your first challenge and the feeling of doing something good for your planet. See you next week? 

Part 2 will be available on June, 25th. You might be able to subscribe to the RSS feed (honestly, I am not sure if and how that works) or just bookmark the blog or follow me on TWITTER


Related articles: 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dead is the Princess

suicide

A Shannon Dermody Awareness project


Close this page now if you are a Disney fan.

Shannon Dermody has chosen a polarizing approach to raise awareness. It leaves you shocked, hurt - and touched. Perhaps that's what we need.

Aurorasa Sima Quote

We are visual creatures with a rapidly decreasing attention span. Way too often we sugarcoat, don't call things by their names, play evil things down and don't do everything we could to create change.

Generally, I have no "eye" for art (whatsoever) and I am not interested in sculptures, paintings, and pictures. Even I can see that these pictures are extraordinary, especially because they convey an important message.

Consider me touched, reminded, feeling guilty for not doing all I can. And angry that we as humans sometimes just s.... I mean: have a lot of potential for improvement.

Alcoholism


alcoholism
Snowwhite not having a good day

Rape

rape
Who was sleeping with that beauty against her will? Every 98 seconds!!!!! a US person becomes victim of sexual violence

Pollution

pollution
Ariel finding it difficult to swim

Police violence

police violence
At least 258 black male killed by police in 2016 reports the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database

Find the rest of this series on her homepage. I would have left "nicotine" out (addict talking) and added anorexia, depression and climate change.

Picture credits: Shannon Dermody via https://www.shannondermodyphotography.com


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Age bias and the case of the sausage slice

Picture credit: Wurstblog.de


The age bias


Hopefully, you will not feel let down by this article ... I struggled to find an appropriate title.

I considered calling it "old but cool" but I neither wanted to attract the "wrong" crowd nor put a label on myself and others. We all know that a sure sign of a person who is not cool is that they call themselves "cool".

No, I am not shooting at all the "influencers", "ninjas", people who wear sunglasses on their social media profile pictures and disruptors out there.

I am shooting at butchers, doctors, club owners and many others.

Age discrimination happened the first time to me when I was about 12. I am a vegetarian, but with a strong sense of fairness and equality.

In Germany, where I spent the first 44 years of my life, it is common practice that a kid who enters a butcher store receives a slice of sausage. It's like an unwritten law. You tiny? You get a slice!

Even when you are really little, the butcher (or salesperson) might walk over to your stroller, his eyes seeking the eyes of your parents to get permission TO HAND YOU A SLICE OF SAUSAGE.

Then over time, the slice gets smaller. You are puzzled but do not come to the right conclusion (like when you gained weight for the first time and did not understand how your winter coat can be shorter than last year). You have grown.

Aurorasa Sima


Inevitably, the day is approaching where you will not get one. It's a process. It does not happen overnight. First, you don't get a slice every time, then only if you stare at the butcher with evil eyes for quite some time until one day, finally, it's over.

No more sausage slice for you. No more grabbing in the toy jar at the doctor's office. No surprises in your menu. No cute drawing on your yogurt. No nothing. Ok, I am exaggerating but I trust you see how this is an emotionally painful topic.

Society has decided that I am "too old" for things. For a lot of things. Luckily for me, society has tons of idea what I am supposed to like now and how I can behave "age-appropriate".

It's not just sausage, oh, no!


The same applies to the way I dress, the books I am supposed to read, what's printed on my shirt (depending on if you are allowed shirts in your role at all) and if I may jump on one leg in public.

The worst thing for me is the music case. It's not as if my music taste changed to "old-fashioned" when I turned 40. It's not as if I stopped enjoying the feeling in a club when the bass penetrates your body, cleanses your brain ... you know? When you're in the "two drink" status where you are not drunk but just a little clubby.

Old people are not welcome


I am not sure we have this in the US (at least not in my area), in Germany, they have "Ü40". Once a week, people over 40 are welcomed to the club for a special party.

It's a splendid place to go if you like mainstream disco music from the 80ties and married guys trying to pick you up. The idea is great, even though it's sad that we would look like weirdos if we went to a regular club.

We never get tired of clichés, do we?

Something isn't right here.

I don't know about you, I will not have society decide which harmless things I can and cannot enjoy.

Oh and here is how I feel when you hit me with age-discriminating phrases like
  • Young lady (thanks for your evaluation, my self-esteem depends on it)
  • You look great for your age (you're annoying)
  • You don't look 30, 40, 50 (so? What if I looked my age?)
  • I like older women (interesting ...)

I can't be the only one who has grown older (and wiser I like to believe) and whose soul is unharmed. It can't be that all people's taste and likes change when they turn 40. Uniform, like zombie puppets.

You know you're getting older when the question "when will you get married" changes to "why did you never marry".

Grown-ups unhappy with the self-accepted rules society dictates often go around telling other grown-ups how they should behave. Social media is a perfect outlet for judging people - from whining on LinkedIn to the worst dress lists and shaming people for who they are.

I believe that happy people do not bother with mean comments from anonymous social media profiles, gossiping and such. It's easier to point finger at others than to change so that I don't blame people for being scared to focus on their own flaws.

I thought for a minute self-marketing would not come naturally in the sausage case.

But while I am finishing up this article, I realize how I can help people and how this article on my "unprofessional" blog fits perfectly with my profession by supporting people to:


Bottom line: You are you, I am me. Youth is not earned and aging it not an accolade. 


Monday, May 15, 2017

IoT and the Cost of Convenience

Credits: Withings/Kérastase/L'Oréal


Careful, your hairbrush is watching


Available this fall is a connected hairbrush that comes with a built-in microphone.

As reported by WIRED, as soon as someone brushes their hair, the hairbrush collects data.

The inbuilt microphone is said to listen to the sound of the brushing and identifies patterns in the movement. The microphone detects "manageability, frizziness, dryness, split ends and breakage".

Naturally, the brush has WLAN and an app that transmits the data. 

To me, these items are not just funny gadgets but also potential privacy- and security risks. Do you know what your brush records, how secure they store your data, for how long, etc?

After the last major Apple Update, I thought my IPad and Phone broke (something drained the battery) until Apple sent me a message they accidentally activated "backup" on all of my Apple devices. 

GIGS of data from my Apple devices (I feel a bit stupid admitting I have four as I feel writing this article with an apple watch on is on the verge of being hypocritical) were sent over the air by mistake. 

I have more faith in Apple's knowledge of IT security than in the IT security knowledge of companies specialized in shampoo and conditioner. Or freezers. 

People don't know which data is collected


Most buyers do not understand what data is collected by their household items. And if they do, they have to have faith in the vendor that
  • he can keep the data safe
  • does not secretly collect more data than agreed
  • does not sell your data
How far do we trust vendors who are keen to get to our data? In 2016, the company WeVibe had to pay a pretty heavy fine. They are selling smart vibrators and - without consent or knowledge of the buyers - collected data they shouldn't. 

WeVibe did not object to the accusations but pointed out that the data was stored "safe and anonymous". 

The risks of IoT


In the best case, you convey unpaid market research. In the worst case?

Wannacry a wake-up call?


Wannacry is the name of ransomware that recently attacked computers of people and companies who did not update their operating systems. Experts consider "wannacry" a "warning". Obviously, it had an emergency switch and could quickly and easily be stopped. 

The worm encrypted the data of the infected machine and displayed a message with instructions on how much bitcoin you have to pay to get your machine back. Some hospitals were affected too.

Having to pay ransom or loosing data is one thing. How about electricity? No air-conditioning in the middle of a heatwave?

And do you remember last October? When hackers launched an attack through the IoT? Millions of internet-connected household devices like printers, cameras were hijacked.A single printer has limited computing capacity, But 1000 or 10 Million?

Target of the attack was a DNS-service company called DYN, but as major corporations use the service, even sites like Reddit, Twitter and Spotify had been down. 

And even if you do not own internet-connected devices: In November of 2016 over 900,000 households were cut off from the internet (including telephony and tv)  after Telekom became target of a hacker and routers could not identify themselves to create a connection. 

Evidence smart gadget data


Two recent court cases are interesting. They show that also the government might be interested in data gathered by smart gadgets. 

CNN reports about a murder case in Arkansas. Authorities demanded access to Amazon's server because the suspect uses the smart loudspeaker Amazon Echo.  Amazon protected the data of the user (who in March 2017 agreed that the data can be accessed). How about 12 cases from now?

In a second case, referred to by the media as the "Fitbit murder", data collected by the fitness gadget of a murdered woman was key to refuting the false alibi of the murder victims husband. 

As I said in a different context: Data security is an illusion. Every piece of data that is stored somewhere can and will be misused at some point.

Everyone has to ask themselves: How much am I willing to pay for convenience? Not only professional hackers but also the government might be interested in your data. 

Do surveillance cameras everywhere give you the feeling of security? They just make me feel less (care)free. 

PS: Check Craigslist Chicago tomorrow for my Amazon Echo, smart coffee machine, and Bluetooth headset. I am not kidding.