Julia L F Goldstein

How Are You Changing the World?

When Business and Personal Interests Overlap

Oct 11, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
There's something striking about taking a break from writing a white paper on lithium ion batteries to walk across the street and test drive a Chevy Volt. The  Volt, like all commercial electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, gets its power from a lithium ion battery.  As I learned while conducting research for the paper, the Volt is among several cars that run on batteries that contain a lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cathode, which provides better performance than the original cathode for lithium ion batteries, lithium cobalt oxide. As I've mentioned previously, back in 2011 I made the unfortunate decision to buy a VW TDI diesel vehicle. VW has agreed to buy back these polluting vehicles for a substantial sum, which I...

Where to toss that cup and spoon?

Sep 09, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
Last time I was at my local Yogurtland store, I noticed something new. They are always coming up with new flavors, so that isn't what I mean. When I walked over to throw away my cup and spoon, I saw it: a clear plastic cylinder that exactly fit my yogurt cup and special compartments in which to toss the spoon and napkin.  

I asked the manager about the bins and whether the new process was corporate-wide. He said the setup did come from corporate, but each store could choose whether to participate. I tried unsuccessfully to get data on how well the system is working. Perhaps they don't know, or the...

Using the Whole Carrot

Jul 20, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
Last summer I bought a juicer, with the intent of juicing our backyard harvest of grapes that are too small and full of seeds to eat whole, as well as the fruit from our two apple trees. Alas, the apple trees suffered from a fungus that rendered most of the apples inedible. We did, however have a bountiful supply of grapes, thanks to the unusually warm spring and early summer. I have a  feeling the 2016 harvest won't be as plentiful. The grape vines do look healthy, though.   The grape vines are growing well.

Once the grape season was over, I needed to justify...

A New Way to Process e-waste

Jul 07, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
Is there something wrong with a world where more people own cell phones than have access to running water? That statistic makes me aware that we, as a global community, need to work to provide more people with safe running water, and also that the production of consumer electronics contributes to the toxic environments in which many people in the world live. Beyond production of electronics, we need consider their disposal. As we ship our electronic waste (e-waste) to China and other countries where environmental regulations aren’t as stringent as they are in North America and Europe, we are subjecting workers to toxins and perhaps also leaching those toxins into their communities’ water supplies. What can and should we do about...

Do Drive on the Grass

May 29, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
In my last blog post, I promised to tell the story of my visit to Clearwater Commons in Bothell, WA, where you can indeed drive on the grass. Property owner Tom Campbell gave me a personal tour on a day when I really wished I had brought my jacket, as the temperature had dropped 20 degrees from the day before.Clearwater Commons is a very unusual "neighborhood." To reach it by car, I turned off from a suburban thoroughfare, complete with generic strip malls. Once I followed the dead-end side street for a quarter mile it was like being in the countryside, surrounded by trees and just steps away from a creek.The houses are built on pin foundations, which makes them...

Where does the rain go?

May 20, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
Did you know that stormwater runoff is the largest cause of pollution in Puget Sound? Here in Seattle, if it's not raining today, just look up the weather forecast and you'll see it coming. The traditional Seattle rain is often light enough to prompt a question of, "Is it raining?" You actually have to stand outside for several minutes to be sure. But we also get heavy rain, the type that flows down the street in a visible river and drenches you as you run across the street. Due to climate change, the Seattle area will supposedly see much more of this drenching rain. Where does the rain go after it reaches the ground? If it lands on dirt or vegetation, it...

A New Take on Solar Cells

Apr 18, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
Washington State has been behind in the race to adopt solar energy, and perhaps for good reason. Seattle is not known for having a lot of sunshine. Years ago I remember seeing a t-shirt that read: "Seattle Rain Festival, January 1 - December 31."But cloudy and rainy days do not preclude getting energy from solar power. Solar cells are actually more efficient, and degrade more slowly, the cooler the temperature. So by that metric, WA could be considered a better place for solar than AZ. Not that there aren't challenges in the Evergreen State. Those trees we love so dearly do block the sun from reaching solar panels, regardless of whether the sky is blue or grey. When I bought my...

What do the WA State Caucuses have to do with Sustainability?

Mar 28, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
First, a disclaimer: I am writing this post at the request of some of my followers who live in California (where I lived my entire life until 2014) and have never experienced a caucus, because they asked me to write a blog post about my experience with the Washington State Democratic Caucus. This blog is not intended to be political and does not endorse any specific candidates for public office. Shortly before the caucuses, I replied to a Facebook post stating that I was planning on attending and hoped that the discussion would be civil and informative. Indeed, it was. My neighbors and I do not agree on everything, including which candidate to support, but I was pleased that we could...

On Wine and Salmon

Mar 21, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
When you sit down to a glass of your favorite cabernet  (or whatever you prefer), you may be feeling virtuous that you are drinking a beverage that is good for heart health, or maybe you are just enjoying the moment. You probably aren't thinking about whether the wine is Salmon-Safe Certified. Why would you? What does it even mean for a wine to be certified as salmon safe, and why does it matter?The idea of salmon-safe wine doesn't make sense in the same way as dolphin-safe tuna. As far as I know, salmon aren't swimming in ponds or rivers on vineyard property. But there is a connection. Salmon are not only an iconic symbol of the Pacific Northwest, they are...

Upcyling, Downcycling, Recycling

Mar 14, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
When I replaced the cushions on my glider (see previous post), I dropped off the old cushions at the upholstery shop for a few days. When I came to pick up the new cushions I wondered what the shop did with the old ones. The answer was just as I feared. They threw them away, along with all the miscellaneous torn, stained, and faded fabrics their customers bring in for replacement. Wouldn't it be better to recycle them? Of course, but that takes time and money. The shop owner would be happy to separate recyclable materials into a specific bin if someone would come by and pick it up. That's the story behind a lot of do-good actions. Make it easy,...

Changing the Fabric

Feb 14, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
When I was expecting my first child, I bought a high-end Dutalier glider and ottoman. It was one of my favorite pieces of furniture - just as comfortable for sitting and reading a book as for rocking a baby.  But that baby is now in college (and his younger brother is in high school) and the original cushions have seen better days. We moved in 2014 and thought of selling or donating the glider, but we didn't want to part with it. So we installed it in the living room of the new house. A few months ago I finally decided to reupholster the cushions. They were really worn out - torn, faded, and just not fit for public viewing (see "before" photo). And...

Changing the World, One Flower Arrangement at a Time

Jan 27, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
Floral foam was a great idea when it was invented in 1954. It keeps cut flower arrangements moist for days while providing structural support to allow designers to create impressive displays. But 1954 was a long time ago. Today's senior citizens were children. Mr. McGuire had yet to tell Benjamin that the future was in "plastics." We as a society were blissfully ignorant of the health hazards inherent in the many novel materials that American ingenuity had brought into our daily lives. In an earlier post I wrote about formaldehyde lurking in particle board. Floral foam is made from phenol formaldehyde resin, a polymer (plastic) made by reacting phenol with formaldehyde. Phenol is an acidic compound originally extracted from coal tar but now produced...

Owning up to Responsibility

Jan 15, 2016 by Julia L F Goldstein
How can we as a society teach our children to take responsibility for their own actions when huge corporations refuse to take responsibility for theirs, even in the face of threats to human health? I recently read a New York Times article called "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare." The author tells the story better than I can, so I encourage my readers to follow the link. But here are some takeaways:DuPont held the city of Parkersburg, WV hostage for years.  Wilbur Tennant, a farmer who suspected that a DuPont landfill was responsible for the deaths of his cattle, found that no local politicians, doctors, or vets would listen to his concerns. He contacted lawyer Rob Billot and showed...

The Seafood is Safe - or is it?

Dec 02, 2015 by Julia L F Goldstein
I was relieved to read that Alaskan fish has tested negative for radioactive isotopes iodine-131, cesium-137, and cesium-134. Testing in 2014, and now this year, confirms no measurable levels of these isotopes. In case anyone has forgotten why scientists are testing fish for radioactivity, it's related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster following the tsunami in Japan in 2011. Personally, I wasn't worried about radiation in my Alaska king salmon, but perhaps some people were. In 2014, scientists reported trace quantities of radiation in coastal waters off British Columbia that they believe came from Japan. But these amounts were far less than 1% of the quantity of radiation the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows in drinking water and, in my opinion, nothing to get...

Blowing Smoke

Nov 04, 2015 by Julia L F Goldstein
High-tech Dutch fashion designer Anouk Wipprecht has created a dress that blows smoke when anyone gets close. Now, that could come in handy when walking in the wrong part of town, as well as prove interesting at a cocktail party. The concept is quite something. The dress is made from 3D printed lace made of polyamide and TPU 92A-1, a thermoplastic polyurethane that is the first flexible 3D printed material. It is completely malleable and supposedly feels like futuristic plastic. (That doesn't sound very comfortable, but comfort is not the goal of outrageous fashion concepts.) Proximity sensors and a smoke machine that produces silicon-based smoke complete the outfit. But here's where it gets even more intriguing. The dress was created for VW...

What Makes Clothing Smart?

Oct 21, 2015 by Julia L F Goldstein
I'm researching smart textiles for a client, and one of the first questions is how to define smart textiles. Everything these days seems to be claiming intelligence - our phones, our cars, our watches. I found this amusing definition: "They [smart textiles] can be described as textiles that think and respond to a situation." Wow. And I suppose the category of "ultra-smart textiles" covers those with an IQ over 130. That must be really humbling for some people, realizing that their shirt is smarter than they are. Seriously, though, we're talking for the most part about textiles with embedded conductive threads and integrated sensors. The "intelligent" part of the system, which collects the data and transmits them to a computer, is usually enclosed in a...

Pianos in the Parks

Aug 05, 2015 by Julia L F Goldstein
An unusual art exhibit is on display in parks throughout the greater Seattle area, and I am endeavoring to experience as much of it as I can. This is both an artistic and a musical journey, and I carry with me the sheet music to the Grieg Nocturne and Beethoven’s Fur Elise. The Grieg has special significance to me. When my parents sold their home in 2001, they gave the grand piano and most of the piano music to my sister, the professional musician in the family. I kept the Grieg Nocturne with the inscription “Happy Birthday” and the date. My piano teacher had given it to me for my 14th birthday. In 2003, when I decided to buy a piano...

The furniture finally arrives

Jun 30, 2015 by Julia L F Goldstein
If you follow this blog you may remember that months ago I talked about remodeling my laundry room and getting a standing desk. In June I finally closed on both of those. I'm not sure how the standing desk movement will develop. Is it just a fad or will standing desks take over offices everywhere? Research showing that just moving around for two minutes each hour counteracts "sitting disease" may slow down interest. But as for me, I like my standing desk. After months of standing at my kitchen counter, I've gotten used to standing to work. It's becoming a habit - when I sit too long anywhere I feel the need to get up and move.Here's the desk I chose, the...

Printing Light

Jun 17, 2015 by Julia L F Goldstein
Several years ago I was asked to write a column on printed LEDs. At the time, I couldn't find any good leads and ended up writing about a different topic. Well, perhaps now is the time. Startup Rohinni definitely has the "wow" factor going for it, with its claim to be able to print lighting and apply it to any surface. The technology uses an ink infused with microscopic LED particles. (Sounds like quantum dots to me). It is printed on a conductive surface, combine with some additional polymer layers, and then sealed. Simply apply a current to this "lightpaper" and it lights up.This sounds too good to be true, and perhaps it is. Apparently Rohinni still needs to overcome some...

Zentangle, Part 2

Apr 12, 2015 by Julia L F Goldstein
Once my curiosity was piqued (see March 18 post), I had to try Zentangle for myself. So I met with a local Certified Zentangle Teacher at a nearby Starbucks.* She explained to me how Zentangle is about the process, not the product, and why quality materials matter (more on that later). Then she talked me through the process of making my very first Zentangle. Starbucks is a quintessential Seattle place to meet, but isn't exactly conducive to a state of Zen. Now, I have been known to get so involved in my work while writing and enjoying a latte that I am unaware that the folks nearby, whose conversation seemed so distracting, left an hour ago.  Still, Starbucks isn't an ideal atmosphere,...