Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Sustainability at "the Costco"

Costco wholesale club continues to impress. While many other retailers are struggling to stay alive and relevant, Costco keeps chugging along at a 7% sales growth and an impressive 36 Price/Earnings ratio (32 PE based on foretasted earnings), a PE ratio reserved for rapid growing tech companies not the single digit PE where most retailers find themselves. Investors like this safe, rather counter-cyclical, recession-resistant steady growth company(NASDAQ: COST). Note the huge 4.7 PEG rate (multiple of PE to 5-year growth rate) suggesting an over-priced stock. But the company itself is impressive. At $300 per share and a market cap of $132B Costco continues to push all time highs.

Costco is also a big proponent of sustainability. In terms of paper and wood products (and the related requirements for their suppliers and Kirkland-branded products). Read about Sustainable forest products in November 2019 Costco Connection. As a wholesaler/retailer, Costco has to work through their supply chain, especially with the Kirkland-branded products. As it pertains to wood/paper/tissue, they are working through the certification organizations for trees, forest, etc.
"We believe that the best first step is to source these products from responsibly managed and certified forests. To achieve this, we employ forest management certifications through three leading groups: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), with a preference for FSC. Products that have these certifications have met strict standards to support sustainable forests."

Costco continues to push for better, more sustainable products. You don't have to go to the "organic" section of the store. Because of their buying power, you don't have to pay the Whole Foods' prices to get quality, organic foods. Each year, you find more and more shelves with the only options being "organic", "sustainably sourced", etc. You can spend less time reading the labels and more time packing your cart to the rafters!

The consumer has a cost-benefit and consumer-responsibility consideration. Is the special trip to Costco worth the extra time, and is buying a 5-year supply of something -- say toilet paper -- really the right way to purchase. We often car-pool and share. We don't need an entire box of printer paper, but dividing the box among 2 or 3 people works great. Kind of leaverage our buying power, while minimizing our footprint.

One thing that you gotta love about Costco, Starbuck's and other sustainably minded companies is their open statement about trying to figure it out together: "We do not have all of the answers, are learning as we go and seek continuous improvement."

[Costco's] Sustainability Principles
  • For Costco to thrive, the world needs to thrive. We are committed to doing our part to help.
  • We focus on issues related to our business and to where we can contribute to real, results-driven positive impact.
  • We do not have all of the answers, are learning as we go and seek continuous improvement.
[Costco's] Sustainability Responsibilities
  • Take care of our employees.
  • Support the communities where our employees and members live and work.
  • Operate efficiently and in an environmentally responsible manner.
  • Strategically source our merchandise in a sustainable manner.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Those Sneaky Climate Alarmists

A video came cycling around to me that provided gleeful evidence that the Climate Alarmists use sneaky methods to distort the information and make everyone shake in their boots because the world will end in less than 12 years. This guy, Tony Heller (aka Steven Goddard), even went so far as to create a tool to find the best point in any trend graph for best (mis)representing data.
As with many such reports, I would always like to find myself wrong, and to discover that I've become a Climate Alarmist for nothing. All that lost sleep, spending time developing business ideas and models that are both sustainable, politically viable, and profitable.
Sadly, Heller is simply a fraud. He used his own tool to make fun of activists, and to distract people from facts. Here is a great video by Mallan Baker that takes on a couple of Heller's debunk graphs to debunks the junk.
Why is Heller talking Continental US and pointing at specific US cities when we are talking GLOBAL warming. The US had some wicked hot years during the Dust Bowl, for example.

Wikipedia can be the best overview source for highly active and rapidly updated pages like these: Global Warming, Climate Change, Sustainability in general, and Climate Change Denial.
By now you know that everyone knows that there's global warming. Thermometers tend not to lie.
But I keep finding people who have been convinced that warming is not very much, or that it is a natural cycle to earth, or that humans are only responsible for a fraction of the warming we are experiencing.
Even the oil companies now acknowledge that there's global warming, but their business model is not conducive to any of the logical approaches to deal with the issue aggressively. In fact, according to internal documents, the oil companies have know for half a century that global warming was a byproduct of their product and hidden this from the public in order to protect their business-as-usual profits.

With current technology, we can easily measure the energy that comes from the sun, and the amount that is reflected back into space. All evidence shows global warming is happening, and at an accelerating pace. You can use lots of good data sources related to land, ocean, air, ice coverage, etc. Statistically, solar flares, volcanoes, El Nino and other major factors can be isolated; warming can easily be primarily attributed to human factors.

We don't have time to debunk the deniers, people and lobbyists who are paid by deep fossil interests. We need to go about becoming more sustainable, like as if our collective lives depend on it. Business-as-usual (oil, gas, coal) is unsustainable. Being unsustainable is something that must change, sooner or later. Being unsustainable has a way of becoming more and more expensive, and coming to an ungraceful end.

Fortunately, we will actually save money (i.e., more profits) from doing smart and sustainable things. Solar and Wind are now far cheaper than fossil fuels in most locations (even when combined with battery). Renewable energy is especially cheaper when considering all the externality costs of fossil fuels (pollution, health, national security).

Energy efficiency offers a perpetuity of savings. The greenest gallon of gas is the one never pumped, refined, shipped and burned. The greenest electricity is the negawatt. We also like Teleworking, the greenest commute is zero-distance which consumes no time.

Let's all start with those things that can be done immediately (within weeks or a few months) and those that offer a perpetuity of savings. We need to start putting the magic of compounding to our advantage, not toward more non-sustainable practices.

< * Notes & References * >
Wikipedia is a great source on Climate Change. Start with the Global Warming Book.
An excellent source for fact/fiction/myth is: (I've never seen anything there that was not supported with sources and provable with current data.)

The log entry for Baker video:
A few days ago, noted Climate Change commentator Tony Heller released a new video with some killer facts that completely exposes the conspiracy over climate change. Or does it? Let’s discuss. The Mallen Baker Show is aimed at all people who see themselves as change makers, with commentary on issues and change movements with a particular focus on climate change and environment, social issues, free speech and corporate social responsibility.
References in this video:
Tony Heller’s original video
The National Climate Assessment Report
Extreme heat and cold graphs
Wildfires analysis https://andthentheresphysics.wordpres...
Interview with Dr Ottmar Endenhofer, IPCC (in German) Integrated sea ice graph
Piecing together the arctic sea ice history

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Renewable energy of Wind and Solar no longer needs subsidies

Nice Bloomberg article here. Renewable of Wind and Solar are now cheaper than coal, oil, gas, nuclear. No big need for subsidies to make them competitive.
But, there's also no need, quite the contrary given the externality costs, for subsidizing fossil fuels!
Nice article with great graphics show the fall in price for wind and solar.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

That soda will kill ya!

Sodas will kill you, it seems. Sugar, hfcs, or artificial sweerners, all will shorten your life.!
This massive study in Europe followed almost a half million people for an average of 16 years, analyzing death rates. Drinking two or more sodas was correlated to many types of fatal illnesses.

Other studies have shown links to cancers and other ails.

Doctors recommend water instead.

Meanwhile, drinking a glass of beer or wine increases your life and (generally) improves your heath.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

What history suggests about +3 to +4 degrees in sea level rise!

Study of ancient caves in Europe show how high sea levels should rise when temps go up 3 or 4 degree C.
You can figure about 20 to 60 feet (7 to 20 meters).
A study published in Nature looks at what water levels might look like in a +3 world.
The article is summed up in Scientists discover evidence for past high-level sea rise.
Of course, you can always model the global warming on earth to see where we land with +2 or more degrees.
A scary study just out finds that ice sheets are melting from below at between 10 and 200 times faster than originally expected!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Sustainable Supply Chains: 75 including Ryder

Here are 75 supply chain companies as compiled by Inbound Logistics that have significant commitment to efficiency and sustainability in their companies and in the supply chain. Shipping companies include major shipping companies: packaging (FedEx, DHL, UPS), cargo and trucking companies.

Ryder Logistics has been honored with this distinction for 11 consecutive years. See here in business wire. Wow.

Some of the Ryder efficiencies include EV and Fuel cell solutions for (client) trucks.  But a critical first step in shipping is the efficiency of routing and shipping. If a "better" route can reduce the truck and driver time by 10%, the savings are huge. Provide that savings to thousands of client fleets, and Ryder really makes a difference.

Financially, doesn't Ryder (R) stock seem rather cheap, even after a big run up to $59 this week. Forward PE is 9, PEG 0.63, Dividend Yield is almost 4%. The company has orders/contracts for years, even decades.  I guess that's the impact of a little trade warring and economy slowing? Uncertainty can really whack out those companies in the middle of everything -- especially shipping and logistics companies.

Glad to have been associated with Ryder in the past.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Processed Foods will Kill ya

There's a great study out related to letting people eat processed foods, as much as they want, verses giving people healthy food... as much as they want.
Personally, I wonder if the salt alone is not part of the problem.
Those people who eat processed foods for the required 15 days, eat more and gained more weight.
This seemed like an exceptionally well designed study. One group did the 15 days healthy first, then junk-y food; the other group did the opposite.
NPR did a great go at the results of this study that was published in Cell magazine.
Looks like very good controls were used.
When on the ultra-processed foods diet, subjects eat more and eat more quickly. Really. The researchers thought that they might eat more rapidly because the processed foods required less chewing. All health and body weight markers sent along with the over-eating.
The supplement shows the menus each day for the ultra-processed foods and for the non-processed foods. Check out the pictures of 7-days of food each. Really interesting is the snacks in each case. Lay's potato chips, Planter's peanuts, Keebler's cheese 'n peanut butter crackers, etc. vs apples, almonds, etc.
As always in diet, the question is about organic vs. non-organic. First glance did not indicate organic on the healthy side?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Make your own fuel, while air conditioning (HVAC). Carbon Capture.

Imagine a great idea that is entirely possible with new technology coming down the pipeline from various sources. That is what an article in Scientific American by Richard Conniff envisions based on a paper published in the Nature Communications which proposes a partial remedy based on A/C units:  Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (or HVAC) systems move a lot of air. Dittmeyer, Klumpp, Kant and Ozin (2019) describe the idea of using renewable energy from solar, wind and water to produce immediate energy and also produce a portable fuel as the democratization of energy.

Basically, the idea is to take excess energy from the A/C condenser unit (heat dissipation in cooling mode) and extract hydrogen and carbon from the air and produce a hydrocarbon fuel. Sounds cool enough. And surprisingly not way-out there futuristic because some of the basic technologies are already developed. This is a great application of Carbon Capture and Sequester (CCS) technologies. It is extremely local, and would create a local fuel that could be portable (hydrogen and/or synthetic oil).

Personally, I like the fuel cell concept where the fuel cell uses hydrogen and can go basically instant-on, thereby serving as a backup generator. Energy (from any source) can be used to make hydrogen from air, water and other sources including methane and alcohol. As an example, a miniature fuel cell can be implanted into the human body with hydrogen as the fuel, and recharged through the skin (reversing the fuel cell process with hydrogen and oxygen on one side and water on the other); thereby creating a low toxic battery solution.

Implied in this article is the idea of using centralized power plants and then at the point of use, home or business, creating a CCS which also creates a local, portable fuel. This brings us back to industrial solutions where the CCS is done at the plant where about half of all the energy produced is lost (heat from turbines) and CO2 is intense vs the 410 (to 900) parts per million in the atmosphere (and in buildings).

Hidden in this whole discussion is that scenario that is here and now, not futuristic. Renewable energy is cheaper and massively cleaner than conventional energy, and it can be located anywhere. Storage, in some form, is really the bottleneck; and storage in the form of synthetic fuels is a really, really cool (partial) solution.


Dittmeyer, R., Klumpp, M., Kant, P., & Ozin, G. (2019, April 30). Crowd oil not crude oil. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-09685-x

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Microplastics everywhere... Blow'n in the Wind...

Here is an article in ARS Technica about an article in Nature Geoscience (2019) that talks about microplastics in the French The Pyrenees Mountains, a pristine place, except for, well, plastic!

The researchers made extremely controlled efforts to assure that they were not contaminating the samples gathered. But the plastics are coming in on the wind, and coming down (mainly, it seems) in perpetration. 

If microplastics are everywhere, then our impacts on the planet are far more, and far more prevasive than anyone has predicted. The ARS Technica article by  -
original article, remember the whole biomagnification thing. That's where fish each plants and plankton with plastics, Bigger fish eat those fish, and BIGGER animals like sharks, bears and humans, eat the biggest fish. The heavy metals, plastics and more will build up and up as they go up the food chain. And they tend to be retained at the highest order.

Sources: Nature Geoscience, 2019. DOI: 10.1038/s41561-019-0335-5  (About DOIs).