Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Minneapolis Recycling - Sort it ...sometimes

Recycling is beyond important. The amount of glass, plastic, metal and paper that would otherwise end up in landfills is evident every time you drive through one of Minneapolis' many alleys on that area's recycling collection date. So, it would stand to reason that the city would make recycling as easy as possible for its residents. After all, plenty of other midwestern cities have adopted commingled recycling (where the city does the sorting for you) why not Minneapolis? Well, here's the explanation from the city:

Sorted recycling generates the biggest revenue. Revenue from recycling provides money for:

-Large item pickup
-The voucher program
-Clean City programs
-Ongoing operating costs

If the City of Minneapolis used single-stream recycling (all recycling in one bin, as some areas do), the higher cost of processing these materials would result in lower revenue, and possible cuts in other waste services.

OK, that makes sense. I really do appreciate being able to leave large items out and have the city take them, at no extra cost. Which leaves me with just one question ...if all recycling needs to be sorted by individuals, then where does the trash from the commingled recycling in city parks go? In those blue cans, conveniently placed all over heavily used public areas, we discard all of our recyclable waste all in one intermixed container. Is that recycling sorted by hand? ...or does the city have a machine for that?

This is not a complaint, just an honest question. If anybody knows the answer, please share! Ultimately, I'd like to see recycling made as easy as possible for everyone.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Offshore Wind Potential

Coastline touches more than half the United States and off those coastlines exists massive energy potential. Oil? Nope. Wind is the energy source and there is enough of it to power the entire country with energy to spare. In the video below, fast forward to the 4:46 mark for more on the power potential off-shore wind has to offer (or watch the whole video's worth six minutes of your time!):

(Video courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory or "NREL")

A lot of Federal money goes into subsidizing the current form of energy pouring in off our coastlines - and recently, onto our coastlines thanks to BP's colossal, on-going spill. Let's push our lawmakers to start redirecting those subsidies toward clean forms of energy, like the offshore wind turbines described in the above video. It's the only guaranteed way to prevent another oil spill like the current disaster taking place in the Gulf of Mexico.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Behind the "B16 Ten" Logo

The Big 16 appears to be over before it happened, which is a shame for an alum from the University of Iowa.

On June 11th, with Nebraska joining the Big 10 and seemingly assuring the destruction of the Big 12, many members of the sports world theorized the Big 10 would be adding as many as 5 teams, making it a 16-team league. Had that happened, the conference would be in need of a new logo. And within the day, a graduate student from the University of Iowa produced the image you see embedded in this column. His name is Chiraag (he asked that I don't use his last name) and he cobbled the could-be logo "just for fun."

"I thought I had an idea that worked for the Big Ten if they did expand to 16 teams ... and wanted to share it," said Chiraag. "I've been pleasantly surprised with all the support and compliments I have seen on many different online forums. Graphic design has always been a hobby of mine, and as a graduate of a Big Ten school (University of Iowa), this was a natural interest of mine."

Chiraag has not been in contact with anyone from the Big 10. If Nebraska is the only addition, it's likely he won't ever hear anything from the conference. However, should Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Missouri or any other combination of four teams end up joining the ranks, will Chiraag's hobby turn into a lucrative business brought about by the instant, info-sharing nature of the Internet? It'd almost be worth adding four teams to find out, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The "Pro-am" Journalist: Is it Safe to Eat?

Here's a quiz for all your bloggers and/or journalists out there: what do many bloggers feel entitled to that would also make most true journalists lose their job? Answer: publicly begging for payola. See exhibit A (the following stream of tweets from one weight-loss blogger)

On one hand, I can understand why this blogger was upset. They were essentially told they'd be getting something in exchange for a blog post advertising GNC products only to have GNC later back out. So what happened? Probably only the folks at GNC know, but since this is my blog, I'd be willing to venture a guess.

The upset blogger claims she wants to "review" GNC's products. Reviews are trusted to be as free from bias as possible - something that gives an accurate appraisal of something to help inform consumers of whether they should buy/eat/wear/travel to something. So, good reviews are obviously something a company likes to see written about their products. But what happens when those reviews or the reviewer is less than credible?

A lot of smart PR and marketing strategists will tell you that, given the savvy of the modern media consumer, the last thing you want is to have reviews look unauthentic. Some strategists would even suggest planting a poor review amongst a sea of positive reviews just to make those positive reviews appear more credible. So, knowing that those same savvy consumers might notice that this one particular "reviewer" only reviews what she gets for free - and assuming GNC knows that fake reviews can be more detrimental than beneficial - it's quite possible GNC said "thanks, but no thanks. We'll get our good reviews the old-fashioned way - with a solid product." Which led to this...

Of course, the whole thing could just be disorganization on GNC's part, but that's not the point. The point is, this blogger is unwittingly telling everyone that follows them on Twitter "hey, my blog is for sale! These reviews are bought and paid for and, let's face it, are really just more annoying advertising!"

To be fair, journalists are sent fee product for review on a constant basis. That said, the very thought of so publicly complaining about not getting free merchandise in exchange for a review would be abhorrent to any properly-trained journalist. And that's just it - the vast majority of everything published on line has no legitimate training behind it.

Check out this story from Ad Age on "Pro-am" journalists. If you don't have an account or don't want to log in, here's the paragraph that matters most from that piece. It's a quote from former New York Observer Editor Peter Kaplan:

"The relationship between the reporter and the editor is the one safeguard when it comes to the business of truth telling." In assessing the recent rise of so many content farms (large masses of content gleaned on the cheap from untrained citizen journalists), Mr. Kaplan referenced Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle," and perhaps minted a new quote for future observers: "What these sites are producing," he started before a long pause: "You know what it is? It's like sending unchecked meats out to the public."

That's precisely what the angry GNC blogger is providing - unchecked meats that might not be safe to eat. The blogger means well and could have written an honest review. But we don't know. And she represents an ever-growing demographic of "Pro-am" journalists with little or no training and just as much credibility.

None of this post is meant to dissuade anyone from serving as a citizen journalist. Instead, it's meant as a reminder of how important it is to get our information from credible, reliable, cross-checked sources. Our democracy depends on an informed public and that depends on reliable, well-trained journalists - not bloggers who throw temper tantrums every time a bone gets pulled from their teeth.