Go on a Diet: Reduce you Carbon Footprint

Reduce your carbon footprint.

In the future (we don’t currently have a timeline for when we will be rolling out this service), the AIDG will be offering carbon credits that will allow individuals to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. But you don’t have to wait until then. There are things that you can do now to reduce your carbon footprint.

Take the Slate Green Challenge sponsored by Slate Magazine and treehugger.com for one.

Slate Green Challenge

To goal of the challenge is to get people to think about their carbon output and decrease it by 20% after 8 weeks. Compared to cutting out all carbs or doing caloric restriction, you’ll find this diet to be relatively pretty painless.

Start with a quiz (you have to register… bah!, but it’s quick), then move on to week one.

For extra motivation, read this great article in Good Magazine called Chasing Zero about Ben Jervey’s monthlong experiment to reduce his personal enviromental impact while living in surprisingly ecofriendly New York City. I don’t recommend carting about your day’s worth of trash though unless you are truly diehard.

From the Article: Cutting down on waste

The poverty trap: Every time you think you're out, they just pull you back in

The term “poverty trap” has a lot of definitions, but I like to think of it as a self-perpetuating system that keeps a person in poverty, the conglomeration of factors that keeps the little guy from getting ahead.

One cause of this poverty trap is the fact that poor folks often end up spending a lot more for products and services than people with more assets who a) can buy in bulk or b) can afford improvements that incrementally increase their standard of living.

An example of this phenomenon is energy use. In Guatemala, access to electricity is almost universal in cities, but reaches less than 50% of households in rural areas. Homes without grid electricity that use traditional alternatives for lighting such as candles and kerosene lanterns pay an estimated $11/Kh, about 80 times the price of electricity.

Here is a table from the Light up the World Foundation showing the differences in cost between kerosene, incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescents and LEDs after 50,000 hours.

Light Comparison Table

Lamp Type
Homemade Kerosene
Incandescent
Compact Fluorescent
WLED
$ spent after 50,000 hours
1251
175
75
20

Ouch! These data further underscore the need for more affordable access to basics services for the poor, particularly the rural poor who often have few options in the marketplace.

FYI here is a graph detailing how 4 energy sources, electricity, firewood, liquid propane gas (LPG), and kerosene, are used in Guatemala for lighting and cooking. Data from rural and urban areas are combined.

Composition of Total Energy Expenditures in Guatemala

Composition of Total Energy Expenditures in Guatemala. Source: World Bank, Household Energy Use in Developing Countries, 2000.

“Youth, Innovation and Development: a Global Perspective”: Conference Summary

Pete was invited to speak at the “Youth, Innovation and Development: a Global Perspective” conference at the World Bank this past Thursday. The following is a summary of the event as well as his remarks.

The purpose of the conference was to raise awareness in the international development community that youth are a powerful agent for change and that there needs to be a stronger investment in their human capital. (I’m pleased to say that youth at the Bank means people from 12-30. The UN has a different definition reaching up to 24.) The Bank also wanted to chance to showcase some of the amazing work that youth are currently doing in the field.

The reasons given for focusing on youth:

  1. In many countries, youth are the majority.
  2. Youth are no longer the “future”; they are the now (and affected now by development, social issues, etc.)
  3. Innovation so often comes from the young and in the area of development, their creativity and innovation is most needed now.

Continue reading

Pro-renewable energy legislation in Guatemala

I was talking the other day about how freer trade can be beneficial to a country’s development. I was specifically referring to the reduction/removal of duties and other trade barriers from commodities that help growth proceed faster (e.g. computers) and cleaner/greener (e.g. renewable energy technologies) and NOT agriculture. Then I briefly mentioned some of our issues in getting some basic commodities in Guatemala at reasonable prices.

I wanted to add some positive things that Guatemalan is currently doing. Guatemala does have some rather progressive laws on the books that promote new and renewable energy. An issue has been speedy and graft-free enforcement of these new rules and regulations.

Under the Law of Promotion of New and Renewable Sources of Fuel for projects or research in wind, solar, biomass, tidal or hydroelectric power, a registered renewable energy provider receives the following exemptions and benefits: Continue reading

Starting a business in Guatemala

I’m finally going to write up a summary of the World Bank “Youth, Innovation and Development Conference” that Pete spoke at this past week, but first I wanted to expand on something that he mentioned in his speech. Pete was talking about the difficulty in starting a business in Guatemala. I touched on this a little bit in this post: Just how hard is business incubation?, but I wanted to add more detailed information. Continue reading

Tech transfer and toxic trash: CFLs

Peter and I were having a conversation the other day about compact fluorescents (CFLs). We’ve begun seeing them more and more in our travels to Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Haiti. Most often these days, you see them in cafes/restaurant and hotels. As prices come down and the cost savings become more widely known, we reckon they will diffuse more widely in these developing countries.

This is great. CFLs have a longer rated life and use less electricity (about 1/4 less) than incandescent bulbs. Given their potential for decreasing greenhouse gases, a shift to CFLs (or even better LEDs) is a good thing.

But then we came to the question of disposal. Hmmm. CFLs contain trace levels of mercury. Now before you freak out and banish them from your home, each bulb contains about 4 mg of mercury. Your typical watch battery contains 25mg (ref). You should also know “that coal power plants are the single largest source of mercury emissions into the environment” (ref)
so using these more energy efficient lightbulbs reduces overall mercury pollution.

But back to disposal issues. It is recommended that you bring used bulbs to a disposal/recycling facility rather than just throwing them in the regular trash. Such facilities are typically unavailable in many developing countries. As an example, here is info from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on waste disposal in Guatemala. Continue reading

Why I'm a bigger fan of free trade these days

I’m about the commit a supreme act of heresy. I don’t think free trade is as bad as I once did. It’s a scary thing to admit, on par with confessing that you were once a New Kids on the Block fan (which I was).

Why I think free trade is still a destroyer of worlds

(I haven’t completely gone to the dark side!)

For one thing, if you are the little guy working in a sector that the U.S. and the EU protects with generous subsidies (such as agriculture), it is very likely that you will be outcompeted and pretty much crushed if free trade is allowed to proceed between the US and your country/region. See Life and Debt, a great movie about the failures of structural adjustment policies but also about how rapid trade liberalization hurt the Jamaican agricultural sector. Continue reading