Free shoppping?

It’s that time again. Time to wander the aisles of the college town “free stores.”

These stores don’t pay rent, and the aisles move daily (if not hourly). The merchandise are the items the students don’t feel like taking with them. Walk around student neighborhoods as finals and graduation come to an end, and you’ll find all sorts of treasures. A couple months ago I got a “new” CD/tape/radio player that a neighbor had nicely set out on the curb (replaced with an iPod and speakers?). Then, a couple bike wheels. Today, a nice hand-vacuum.

So, help keep these items from the scrapbin of history; give them another life in your house.

The 15th Annual Bike to Work Day is Thursday, May 14th, 2009

The San Francisco Bay Area’s 15th Annual Bike to Work Day will take place on Thursday, May 14, 2009. Bike to Work Day is the premier bicycling event taking place in all of Northern California with all nine Bay Area counties participating in the celebration. The event is just one day of many events taking place in May as part of National Bike Month.

Complete details here:

Peets or Starbucks? An organic coffee review

[Note: This review is over eight years old. I hoped to update it, but haven’t got around to it]

Yesterday I stopped by my local Peets (Walnut and Vine, the original) to see if they had organic decaf beans (about 7:00 pm, very slow inside). The bean counter worker looked at the selection and said “No, not certified, but they’re all basically organic except for the certification.”

I said thanks and left the store, but a few doors away I was upset enough about his response that I decided to go back. I asked him what he had meant by “basically organic.” He said that they don’t really use any pesticides, that Peets is careful who they buy coffee from, and implied that therefore they used no/fewer pesticides. I asked if he could show me this in writing, and he went in the back to see. When he came out, he said they had nothing. I asked if the manager was in, and he went and got someone.

The shift leader (“I’m not the manager”) repeated his claim that all the beans are grown with “almost no pesticides.” I again asked if they had this in writing. She said no, but that was what they were told in trainings. (Peets website “Lean: How Coffee is Grown” make no mention of pesticides or organic farming practices.) I left with three of the workers there wishing me a good evening in tones that didn’t seem to convey any real sense of sincerity.

After this experience, I thought I’d see what response I got at the Starbucks down the street (Cedar and Shattuck, “Mortuary Mall” for those who’ve been in town a while). I asked if they had any organic decaf. The woman at the counter told me that no, while they had organic beans that were decaf, the decaffeinating process made them not organic. I said that the “Swiss water process” didn’t make it not organic, and she replied that Starbucks doesn’t use the water process, and she wasn’t sure why. We had a good, short discussion about how at least the beans were being grown in an organic matter, so it was better for the farms and farmworkers, even though at the last minute some chemicals got added to it.

I must say that I was pleased about the honesty I got from the worker at Starbucks. She said that she had convinced many people to get the chemically treated, formerly organic decaf beans, but was very clear on what made them non-organic.

By the way, both companies sell organic regular coffee, just not organic decaf.

So, bad marks for both companies for not carrying organic decaf. Peets gets serious bad marks for not even admitting that their coffee isn’t organic unless they can say so in writing, essentially trying to sell me that there’s no real difference except for the label, what I would consider deceitful marketing–and this all the way up to the top person in the store. Good marks to Starbucks for honesty and knowing what actually happens to their beans, and not trying to sell some that weren’t grown organically as “almost organic.”

Carbon sequestering in the seabed, nice video too

Science Friday, my favorite radio show when I’m not teaching on Fridays, had a great piece today on carbon sequestering on the ocean floor.

What if you could take CO2, pump it down a deep hole in the sea floor and turn it into something harmless? New research suggests the idea is not so far-fetched. David Goldberg, Taro Takahashi and Angela Slagle of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory published a study on the subject in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

Click the “Play” arrow on the lower left side to start the video. It does a great job of using breakfast cereals to help explain the process.