Celebrating Eco-Progress: Starbucks

I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest, 90 miles north of Seattle, for close to 20 years, and in this corner of the world it’s almost unbearably cliché to blog about how much I love coffee.

Suffice to say, despite my February 2011 rant against my state’s coffee fetish

…I LOVE the java!

And, despite my preference for supporting local businesses, I even admit to loving that multinational megacoffeecorporation, Starbucks. (What can I say? I’ve tried many, many coffees from all kinds of roasters, some good, some bad, some ugly, but I always know, when I walk into a Starbucks, that I will like what they serve.)

And while they can certainly be doing more, Starbucks has incorporated sustainable practices in their operations, for years, and today I read about another new initiative, perfect for a new installment in my Celebrating Eco-Progress series.

Via GOOD.is:

Starbucks Is Funding Research That Would Turn Food Waste into Useful Stuff

Who’s got tons of old coffee grounds headed for the trash? Starbucks. And who’s got great ideas for repurposing waste? Scientists. It’s a promising match.

A team of researchers at the City University of Hong Kong are working on a new “biorefinery” that would turn food waste into something useful, and it’s been getting funding from Starbucks Hong Kong, which produces 5,000 tons of spent grounds and bakery waste each year.

According to a press release, the biorefinery (above) uses a mixture of fungi, which excrete enzymes that break down carbohydrates (like the ones in those coffee grounds) into simple sugars, which then go into a fermenter to become succinic acid. That succinic acid can then be used as an ingredient in a wide variety of products, including detergents, bio-plastics, and medicines.

Starbucks has been giving away, free of charge, sacks of spent coffee grounds since 1999, for use in composting, but this new effort is exciting for the decidedly larger positive impact it could have.

Way to go, Starbucks! Keep up the good work!

Round and Round


Eyecatchers: HOTTEA & Yarn Bombing

Earlier this month, I posted a Tweet of the Day installment that included a photo of some trees in Seattle that had been decorated rather colorfully. (the first photo included here)

I failed to notice then that the Tweeter referred to this as yarn bombing.

Fast Forward some weeks, and my 14-year old son tells me he wants to learn how to crochet and asks me if I know what yarn bombing is.

Well, all you have to do is type “yarn bombing” at Google Images and you can see that this craze, this meme of sorts, has gone global.

Fast Forward to yesterday, when, via Colossal, I came across a VERY cool new installation at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) by Eric Rieger, aka HOTTEA.

HOTTEA’s story, partly told here, started out like any other street artist. And yet risk-taking and run-ins with the law got old and some new ideas were born, starting with street works and leading to the MIA installation, which uses 84 miles of yarn.

Street artists making the move from graffiti to gallery has been a divisive trend for years now. The 2010 film Exit Through The Gift Shop, by street art legend Banksy, seems clearly critical, and yet it doesn’t outright condemn, for Banksy himself has made a lot of money from selling his work through the traditional gallery and auction channels.

In my opinion, artists have to make a living like everyone else, and the more street art sensibilities infiltrate the mainstream art world the better. Art carrying messages about social ills predates the street art movement, but street artists can help keep the tradition alive.

Back to HOTTEA, the MIA piece reminds me ever-so-slightly of the piece by Do Ho Suh that I blogged about a few weeks back, but I love it on its own merits, LOVE the intentional round patch of faux grass for viewing the installation as one would enjoy sunshine in a park, and the time-lapse video below of its assembly is a lot of fun.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Bellingham: Art Mecca?

Originally Published: November 12, 2009

The lede photo here is of the new Maxxi museum of contemporary art in Rome, which, according to The New York Times, opens this Saturday.

Not to be outdone by those elitist, eurotrash Romans, Bellingham will open its own new museum the very same day.

While Bellingham does have a vibrant arts scene, up to now, besides the grand Mt. Baker Theatre, it’s been a scene of smaller theaters (iDiOm, Upfront, Pickford) and art galleries (Allied Arts, Blue Horse, Lucia Douglas). In order to see anything resembling what the Maxxi will offer, a 90 mile trip to the Seattle Art Museum, at the least, was a necessity.

Enter the new Lightcatcher Building addition to the Whatcom Museum.


I think that’s pretty stunning, myself.

And, in true Bellingham spirit, the building, designed by Seattle’s Jim Olson, with its use of natural light and ventilation, radiant floor heating, rainwater catchment and green roof is slated to meet the standard for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.

That said, a new contemporary art museum needs more than a cool building. How exciting, then, to get advanced glimpses of at least one of the inaugural exhibits, a mysteriously beautiful installation titled Bloom: The Elephant Bed, by Seattle artist John Grade.


The city’s vision is for the Lightcatcher Building to be the centerpiece of a downtown arts and culture center, and from the looks of it they are off to a great start.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Bellingham and Me: Proudly Provincial

Originally Published: April 5, 2010

I like big cities, really, I do! Where I grew up, in Central New Jersey, I could drive 45 minutes to New York City, 60 minutes to Philadelphia, 3 hours to Washington, D.C., and 5 hours to Boston. One of the greatest things about living in Bellingham is that Seattle and Portland are only 90 minutes or 4.5 hours to the south respectively, and Vancouver is only 90 minutes north.

I love big cities…but I wouldn’t want to live in one.

For one thing, I’d miss items like this in the local paper:

Mallard Ice Cream to introduce new flavor at Sunday event

BELLINGHAM – An ice cream social to celebrate the naming of a new Mallard Ice Cream flavor will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 11, at The Leopold Ballroom, 1224 Cornwall Ave.

The new name and flavor will be kept secret until its Sunday debut. All that has been revealed so far is that the ice cream will be in honor of Kulshan Community Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that provides affordable homeownership to people of modest means.

I love seeing people I know wherever I walk, I love that there’s usually only 1 to 2 degrees of separation here, I love that it takes me no more than 15 minutes to get from my house to the farthest parts of town that I regularly visit, and most trips are 5 to 10 minutes, I love locally-owned businesses, like Mallard Ice Cream, that become community institutions.

I know these these things aren’t really nonexistent in big cities, but I sure wouldn’t like Bellingham half as much as I do if they didn’t exist here.

Gals + Bicycles = Menstrual Monday

Every once in a while, I’m contacted, via the form on my About page, and asked to help promote something or another. Usually I’m not interested, but yesterday, the following got my attention in a big, big way.

Cuz, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I HEART bicycles.

(All you Bellingham women out there, especially, check this out!)

Hi Fish and Bicycles,

My name is Kristen. I’m a co-organizer of a Seattle monthly women’s bicycle ride called Menstrual Monday. We are hosting our second annual all-lady alley cat bicycle race called Girls of Summer on June 23rd. Last year’s race was a big success — we got 46 racers out and had prizes for all of them. This year, we’ve added even more sponsors and have a great prize pile that includes a brand new road bike from Raleigh.

I’m writing today to ask for a favor. As I mentioned, we had a good turn-out last year and we’re looking to expand this year. We had only one rider from Bellingham, so we’d like to make sure that we’re doing a more thorough job of advertising this year. We searched google for Bellingham bike blogs and shops, and we stumbled upon your blog…

Say what you want about the bluntness of this group’s name, but they are AWESOME!

The Menstrual Monday gals are incredibly well organized (the list of sponsors alone is a testament, as it’s not easy to get sponsors in these tough economic times), their website has entertaining reports from their previous monthly rides, and it’s clear that they are having a great time, building community, and getting folks out of their cars, off their couches, and onto their bicycles.

Click on this ad for their upcoming Girls of Summer event for more details. Sounds like a GREAT time!

Tweet of the Day: @designrelated

VERY cool!!! I might have to drive down to see this in person.

Seattle: Victor Steinbrueck Park

Seattle Quintessence

Seattle Convention & Trade Center