The Waste Hierarchy

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

Marks and Spencer Shwop


Here is a ranking of possible environmental actions  in increasing order of environmental benefit

1. To burn material for energy is better than sending it to a landfill.

2. To recycle it is better than burning it.

3. To reuse material is better than recycling it.

4. To reduce the amount needed is better than reusing it.

5. To eliminate the need for material is better than reducing it.


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Posted: August 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

Applying the Idea of a Lean Startup with Sustainable City Building

Minimal Viable Products (MVP) should be at center of new business models according to Lean Startup author Eric Reis. What is an MVO you ask? It’s the most efficient, minimum product or service that can be developed to test a hypothesis about how users will interact with the innovation according to Eric Reis. He argues that new businesses don’t need to focus on fundraising, prototype production, and writing drawn out business plans. Instead, they should alter their products incrementally in response to consumer feedback. In the case of the lean city, he argues thatthe use of sensors and real-time data will enable city staffer to monitor key metrics and modify systems to improve performance. Other MVPs include reducing the amount of parking spaces and creating infrastructure that supports bike lanes.

Consider the following methodology which was cultivated by Boyd Cohen, Ph.D., LEED AP:

  1. Develop a hypothesis: By systematically and strategically removing parking spaces throughout the city and replacing them with green spaces and/or community spaces, we will increase the amount of residents interacting with each other on the same city block.
  2. Determine a set of metrics to test the hypothesis: Measure at different times of the day, on weekdays and weekends, the number of residents on the street before and after the test project. They could also measure the amount of time residents stay in the area before and after.
  3. Develop an MVP: In this case, I think the city (Vancouver, BC) did a good job with a very low-cost, low-impact test project (instead of trying to install 1,000 benches throughout the city all at once in the hopes that it would work).
  4. Measure the results: Using low-cost sensors and perhaps observers or even using a mobile app, apply the metrics in step two.
  5. Iterate: Leveraging the analysis in step four, experiment with similar models. For example, what would happen in the same location if they converted the space to a few stationary bikes or a mini art exhibit?
  6. Measure the results and create another MVP.

This framework is a way of seeing what works in what doesn’t in when transforming cities in to sustainable environments and it is done so at a micro level. Mr. Cohen concluded that this is a great way to utilize tax revenues for community planning that ensures mass benefit while cutting down on bureaucratic red tape.

     Many children in group homes are aware by both the caseworkers in the homes and by their foster parents that they are troublesome, which continues to perpetuate their thoughts and feelings of inferiority. Foster children must show that they are trustworthy before they can truly be loved by their new parents, but in the streets, kids are taught not to trust and remain emotionally detached as a way of protecting themselves. The end result can yield different outcomes where some kids are simply considered reserved and others have chronic social disorders.

     When children outgrow or leave the child welfare system, they suffer from a variety of emotional hardships that put them at a disadvantage. Since their home lives are often inconsistent, they’re forced to transfer schools and teachers more frequently than their peers(Rockoff and O’Donell, 2005). These factors affect their psyches and make learning more challenging than it is for most kids. Moreover, many homes are over-crowded and don’t provide conditions that are conducive to studying. However, when Jonathan Rockoff conducted several investigative journalistic initiatives with respect to public schools and youth group homes, he found that:

Many principals and teachers told him that youths living in group homes were good kids, and the educators were reluctant to specify issues except to say that group homes tried to enroll the kids without complete paperwork from their former schools. That said, some educators told us that the youths present serious discipline problems and drain the Baltimore County school system’s time and resources” (Rockoff, 2005).

 There are many other adverse psychological effects associated with abuse in youth homes. According to Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., in her op-ed The Foster Care System and Its Victims, one of the most overarching side effects is impaired brain development, which can impact a child’s cognitive growth, their language skills, and their learning ability (Babbel, 2011). Emotionally, these kids are more prone to have low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal tendencies, post traumatic stress disorder, trust issues, and attachment disorder. Kids who have been abused are more likely to resort to self-destructive behaviors as coping mechanisms which include smoking, drug use, overeating, and premature sexual promiscuity. Babbel also concludes that abused youth have a tendency toward antisocial and behavior which may result in juvenile delinquency (Ibid).

Homeless youth, regardless of abuse or not, tend to lack motivation since they were conditioned to give up trying. Fearful of poverty and loss, homeless youths are constantly overworking themselves to avoid future threats of homelessness. They have trouble forming healthy relationships, feel alone, and have extreme difficulty communicating with others. It’s clear that the depiction of group homes on the Wire is an accurate depiction of how they operate in contemporary American cities. It comes as no surprise that these facilities were the last place Randy wanted to lay his head at night because he experienced their woes at an earlier point in life. He knows what goes on, and because of his new reputation, his reasons to be fearful were legitimate. Their impact on his psyche is apparent from the onset of the fourth season and is reflected in his motivations to make money and avoid shelters at all costs. When his plans backfire and his goals are trampled in the final scene, one can’t help but be disheartened by how disadvantaged these youth actually are in group homes and how many obstacles they face in achieving a decent quality of life. Image

Many local departments of social services around the state of Maryland face an array of challenges, since quality group homes rarely have openings, which we saw in Randy’s case at the end of Season Four. At many poorly run homes, children are forced to deal with unsatisfactory care and the mismanagement of resources, which pertains to medical treatment, food, and clothing. Furthermore, homes are frequently understaffed which has caused many instances of assault by employees and residents that go unnoticed. Moreover, state regulators appoint unqualified operators who tend to ignore standard protocols. As a result many children are left neglected and outside of caretakers’ radar. It’s worth noting that the State of Maryland does not enforce training requirements for caregivers or conduct background screenings, which allows for individuals with criminal convictions to work at group homes. According to Jonathan D. Rockoff and John B. O’Donnel, who are staffers at the Baltimore Sun, there have been instances where boys were having sex with prostitutes and other women brought in by the staffers, while staff members themselves have been accused of furnishing drugs and alcohol to the residents (Rockoff and O’Donnel, 2005). The mere fact that the Department of Human Resources, the Department of Mental Hygiene, the Department of Juvenile Services, and the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth, and Families are all responsible for managing Maryland group homes substantially weakens the oversight capabilities and stalls the placement process of youth into foster care (Baltimore Sun Staff, 2001). Thus, not all youths are placed in group homes because they were without proper guardians; many are residents are there for reasons of abuse, neglect or delinquency (Rockoff, 2005). In addition there is no central clearinghouse of information about the quality of the homes, so social workers must rely on word of mouth when they are determining the placement of a child (Rockoff, 2005).


Migrations of different demographics to Baltimore City along ethnic, religious, and cultural lines have carried a great influence over the city’s neighborhood structuring and created a trend of constant interplay between the different groups that has fundamentally shaped the strucure of neighborhoods and the culture of the city. After WWII Hillbillies from Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia joined the Greeks, Irish, Italians, and Polish (pre 1920) as well as African Americans (Great Migration) to work in Baltimore’s factories. In the same way Catholic basilicas stood amongst Synagogues and Protestant churches. The fact that Baltimore city was the second largest portfor immigration to the United States is reflected in its contemporary demographic makeup of both the city and the county.

Roland Park was one of the first suburbs in the United States developed between 1890 and 1920 and marked the beginning of a gradual exodus out of Baltimore to suburbs. The initial movement was rooted in but not limited to racism as highlighted in Antero Pietila’s work Not in My Neighborhood. Later in the 1950s and 60s, Baltimore County saw small rural local transformed by the construction of McMansions, shopping centers, and light rail lines. Blockbusting was a common practice where many white property owners sold their homes since the influx of blacks, Jews, and other minorities was bringing down the costs of their property values in their former racially segregated communities. Zoning was also used to displace deteriorating communities in Baltimore to make room for new infrastructure, while gentrification projects cleared out old warehouse districts and residential areas to make for new retail projects such as the revitalization of the inner harbor. Consequently, minorities also wanted to escape the early phases of deindustrialization in Baltimore. This led to resegregation efforts by their white counterparts in Towson. In 2000, Lochearn was 77 percent Black and Randallstown 65.5. In the 1990s, real estate agents with ulterior motives began the practice of home flipping, which entailed purchasing abandoned homes at low costs from banks and re-selling them to African Americans and other minorities for much higher prices. Many of these measures worked to divide and re-segregate communities while drastically changing the landscape of Baltimore.

The flight to suburbs has had many ramifications for the city itself. Commuters who work in the city, but live elsewhere extract resources from the city without paying property taxes. This means that less money can be spent on educational, social, and development programs, to create better opportunities for much of the city’s troubled populace.