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Articles in category "environment":

Biodiesel Homebrew Class Recap

· Posted Monday June 9, 2008 by jamie

41 brave souls came out to check out the biodiesel homebrewing class yesterday, presented by BioLyle at Suite133. We learned some chemistry, did some titration, checked out Lyle’s portable processor, and even made our own tiny batches of biodiesel in pop bottles. A good time was had by all, including (especially?) at the Paddy Coyne’s afterparty. Now we can all fight over the waste oil around town…

If you’re interested in getting involved in a co-op for biodiesel production, shoot an email to and we’ll get you in the loop!

(All pictures courtesy of BioLyle.)

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Sponsor a Birder!

· Posted Thursday May 8, 2008 by jamie

The Tahoma Audubon Birdathon is going on right now, and birders are accepting pledges for their birding voyages, either on a per-species or flat-value basis. This is one of TAS’s biggest fundraisers of the year, which helps support their mission to “conserve and restore ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and earth’s biological diversity”.

A certain occupant of ThriceAllAmerican HQ will be journeying from “Purdy to Paradise” this Saturday on a trip that typically sees over 100 species of bird.

If you’re interested in sponsoring a birder, contact TAS, or, if you want to support Melissa, shoot me an email.

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Tacoma Biodiesel Happenings!

· Posted Tuesday April 29, 2008 by jamie

There are two really exciting biodiesel events coming up June 8th, the first being a biodiesel homebrewing class to be presented by biodiesel guru Lyle Rudensey, and the latter being a free-free-FREE biodiesel party/mixer later in the afternoon. (That’s more in the vein of free as in speech, not as in beer. Anyone is welcome to attend, but you’re on the spot to pay for any food or beverages you wish to consume.)

Image courtesy ktpupp@flickr.

I’m especially excited about the homebrew class… Petrodiesel is getting up near the $4.50/gallon mark, and commercial biodiesel is in some places well over $5.00/gallon. (APP, as of writing, is still at $4.749.) The possibility of making fuel for $1/gallon, or even anywhere under $2, is really appealing even if it means more work for me. And price aside, use of virgin oilstock for commercial biodiesel, and its effect on food supply, deforestation, and biodiversity, are increasingly troubling…switching to a waste-stream source will be awesome.

So without further ado, more details!

Biodiesel Homebrewing Class
Sunday, June 8 , 2008, 10am – 4pm

A hands-on workshop to learn all the basics to make your own high quality fuel for about $1 per gallon. In this workshop you will do titrations, make small batches of biodiesel with different oils, and learn the tricks to make quality biodiesel every time. We will also operate a small-scale “Appleseed” reactor during class. This system will be compared with the automated BioPro system which the instructor uses to facilitate fuel-making for a Bring-Your-Own-Oil type coop. The class will also cover topics, such as chemistry of the reaction, quality control, vehicle compatibility, cold weather issues, methanol recovery, disposal of wastes, and how to run a successful coop.

Class Fee: $60 each or $100 for couples
To Register: PayPal to:, or online at:
Location: Provided upon registration
Instructor: Lyle Rudensey, M.Ed. aka “BioLyle.” Experienced biodiesel educator and biodiesel homebrewer for over 5 years.

Biodiesel Enthusiasts Afterparty/Mixer
Sunday, June 8 , 2008, 4pm-ish,
Paddy Coyne’s Irish Pub, 815 Pacific Ave, Tacoma

Following the workshop, we will be gathering at Paddy Coyne’s for drinks/food (no-host) and a chance to talk informally about biodiesel issues, network with other “enthusiasts”, and potentially even form some small homebrewing co-ops. Both class attendees and non-attendees are encouraged to join us, veterans and newbies alike! (Paddy Coyne’s is family friendly, so the under-aged are welcome.) No charge to attend!

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Tree Butchering on Stadium Way

· Posted Wednesday April 16, 2008 by jamie

I got a report and some pictures from Claudia that some of the trees along Stadium Way had fallen victim to something of a hatchet job.

Seems we’re perhaps seeing the reverse of the latest from the old Mattson Mansion site there, neighbors are complaining about the new trees being planted by historical destructionist and future McMansion resident Eric Russell. Here, the millionaires appear to be taking the trees down.

I believe these trees are location on public land. I think it also is worth mentioning that the Mayor’s “Green Ribbon” task force also set a goal of planting 200,000 new trees in the city to combat global warming.

Now, I will admit out front that I don’t know all of the details of what happened here closely, but Claudia’s contact at the city suggested that property owners were most likely able to get a permit to cut the trees, possibly in part because view properties are more highly taxed. (The only problem being that the Granville is subject to the 10 year tax abatement for downtown, multi-unit buildings.)

Pull it all together, and here’s what I find troubling:

I hope that I’m just jumping to conclusions, that this is all a big misunderstanding, that somehow there’s a valid reason beyond selfishness that these trees were cut down. But it’s hard to understand how in any world the public good should come after the individual good, why we should be allowing trees to get uglied all up while we’re saying we want more of them… And if it really is about selfishness, I hope we can find ways to keep it from happening next time, and the time after, and…

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My Truck Made the Paper!

· Posted Wednesday February 27, 2008 by jamie

Today’s Trib “top story” is a shocking indictment of the vanity license plates of Pierce County. Or maybe just a relatively cute/entertaining no-news day fluff piece. Anyway, the sidebar of the article includes some of the favorites found in a database of vanity plates issued in our county, and it includes the official lumber-hauler of the ThriceAllAmerican empire, my 1982 Toyota (bio)diesel pickup, commonly known as the Soyota. Boo-ya! My truck is famous!

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An Evening With Sustainable Farmer Joel Salatin

· Posted Tuesday January 29, 2008 by jamie

Yesterday evening, the Pierce Conservation District’s Annual Meeting featured Virginia farmer Joel Salatin. A self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic farmer”, Salatin has written several books of his own, but you’ve likely read about him in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

You might think that listening to a farmer talk about farming would be boring, but you’d be wrong. Salatin was funny, engaging, compelling, and ingenious, and truly connected with the crowd as he described his “grass farm”. Cows graze a small section of pasture at a time, being moved frequently so the grass is mowed but not damaged. Chickens come behind the cows (in the Eggmobile) to turn over cow pies and eat all of the bugs, helping to fertilize the ground and reduce disease. Pigs turn over compost piles made up of cow bedding and excrement (foraging for hidden corn). Forest is allowed to grow in fingers across the farm, encouraging birds and providing habitat for small woodland creatures that the racoons and coyotes can eat instead of coming after the chickens. It’s all very clever, extensively thought-out, and really helps to close the loop and make the whole farm more healthy and sustainable without feeding corn to cows, using antibiotics, irradiating meat, or other concerning “modern farming practices” that attempt to challenge nature with technology. (As Salatin pointed out, nature always gets the last move.)

I think what most struck me was Salatin’s invocation of morality. Here is this guy, an unabashed Christian farmer (he actually gave something of a benediction at the end of his presentation), yet…it seems so often that mainstream Christianity is at odds with the counterculture that is more likely to engage in organic farming, and this guy that is anything but a hippy. And when he started talking about morality, he wasn’t at all talking about anti-choice legislation, or the “protection of marriage”, or any of that: he was talking about being true to what nature intended. Not raising beef on single-purpose feedlots, or growing acres and acres in monocultures of corn and soy, but creating ecosystems where we allow cows to do what cows to best and chickens to do what chickens do best, etc. Probably the most powerful statement he made here was to discuss the “pigness” of the pig…now we’re almost talking in Hindu mysticism or something. But Salatin stated, and he’s right on with this, that when we stop seeing the pig for what it is, for it’s uniqueness, we’re on a slippery slope to not seeing other people as unique individuals, and just living in a homogenized world. Now we’re talking about a moral system I can get behind.

I’ve talked too long, but this really was quite an enjoyable presentation. I think everybody there left excited about what can happen to make local, sustainably-grown food more accessible in Pierce County. The time is definitely ripe. Apparently the Conservation Disctrict is already thinking of bringing Salatin back to help with some consulting work with local farmers on how to move in that direction. Neat stuff.

More about Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms.

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Excellent Tacoma Biodiesel News...

· Posted Thursday December 27, 2007 by jamie

Just received word in the last few days that Tacoma will be getting it’s first neighborhood commercially-operated biodiesel pump this Spring!

Propel Biofuels recently signed a contract with the Shell Station at 19th and Stevens to sell biodiesel, with plans for a Spring 2008 opening. They plan to sell B99 (99% biodiesel, 1% petrodiesel…it may as well be B100, but the fuel must be blended with some percentage of petrodiesel to claim a very stupidly written tax credit). The fuel will be produced by Imperium Renewables, which has been in the news frequently for their mega-refinery being built in Aberdeen.

There are some definite concerns over the fact that Imperium may import some Malaysian palm oil for the new refinery, which has led to a great deal of concern in the Northwest biodiesel community for the impact this will have on biodiversity. Biodiesel can and should be locally produced, from the ground to the pump. Representatives from the company have stated that the biodiesel being sold at the new pump will be made from canola oil grown in Eastern Washington and British Columbia, so I certainly hope they can keep their hands clean on this. (But as an aside, I’ve seen waste oil collection barrels all over town from Oregon’s SeQuential Biofuels, and it would be great to see somewhere to buy commercially produced fuel from waste oil around here.)

Tacoma currently has one biodiesel station just off I-5 at Port of Tacoma Road, operated by Associated Petroleum Products, which is owned by the Xitco family of Masa/Asado/etc. fame. APP also sells B99 at a second location in Fife. This new pump should provide some good competition for that venture (which will hopefully show in the prices), and it is great to see something opening up in a more residential area.

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Learn About Your Watershed!

· Posted Friday September 21, 2007 by jamie

The Chambers-Clover Watershed includes good portions of Tacoma, including most of North, Central, and South Tacoma (whereas Downtown and portions of the North Slope, East Side, Northeast, and South End actually fall within the Puyallup River Watershed). Perhaps you didn’t know that? Well, the chance is coming to learn more at a conference happening October 5th and 6th at PLU. There will be a series of presentations from watershed experts and citizen groups, along with a dedication ceremony for Pierce County’s Naches Trail Preserve in Frederickson. Registration is free through the 26th…

Here’s a flyer with more details:

Also, more details on the Pierce County Web Site.

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Could Faith Dairy Be Saved?

· Posted Monday July 30, 2007 by jamie

Kathleen Merryman writes in the TNT today that there may yet be hope for the survival of Faith Dairy, in one form or another. Not sure if it’s going to save my milk-in-glass-bottles, but apparently there is a movement afoot to save the dairy, being orchestrated by the Pierce Conservation District. Exact details are still not figured out, and hinge on who can be found to buy the land and what arrangement can be made, but the hope is that the dairy can be preserved in one way or another: potentially as a working farm, or at least preserving the buildings while letting the land go wild. The Conservation District has orchestrated similar farm purchases in the past, such as Inglin Dairy on the South Prairie Creek, which is being allowed to grow wild in order to restore salmon habitat. In the case of Faith Dairy, I think there is significant community support to keep the land in a single parcel, and hopefully keep a dairy operating. This place is an institution for Tacoma. The article suggests calling Monty Mahan at Pierce Conservation District to voice your support and join the effort: 253-845-9787. For those, like me, who prefer email, try

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Make Your Own Raingarden...

· Posted Friday June 8, 2007 by jamie

Heads up for a cool Pierce County presentation on rain garden installation. At some point we totally want to do this on the front planting strip between the sidewalk and street in front of our house. Lawns are so passe…

Rain-Garden Installation Manual for Homeowners
to be presented by author

On Monday Night, June 11th, from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm, learn the cutting edge!
Rain gardens are not just a landscape element. Curtis Hinman, WSU Faculty and Watershed Scientist, researches and installs rain gardens as one method to preserve our Puget Sound water resource. Vital for the 21st century home owner, low impact development (LID) specialists, and others stewarding the Puget Sound, you will receive the first release of the instruction manual. Use it to increase the value of your property and decrease the cost of yard upkeep. Install your own system or monitor a hired contractor. This session will be held at Pierce County’s Environmental Services Building in University Place just west of Tacoma. Refreshments will be provided by Stewardship Partners:

RSVP by calling 253-798-7028.

Seminar: Release of the Rain Garden Installation Manual
Date / time: June 11th, 2007 from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Location: Pierce County Environmental Service Building
To Participate: Pre-register or RSVP and get directions by calling 253-798-7028
Fee: $10 per participant includes materials and light refreshments

More information is available at:
Directions to the Environmental Services Building :

Update: WSU Pierce County has finally posted the manual to their web site. Head to their Low Impact Development site to download the manual (20mb).

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