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Spring Has Sprung or Did it Creep?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

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Here in the U.S. the first day of Spring (the Vernal Equinox) came and went on March 20, 2014; not that anybody around here noticed. To me, the first day of Spring is the day of the Tigers Home Opener. This year it was March 31, 2014 and the weather co-operated with temperatures in the 60′s.

The four seasons as we know them here in the U.S. are the well known Spring, Summer Autumn (Fall) and Winter, each being three months long. The joke in Michigan is that we have only two seasons; Winter and Road Construction. To prove this point, the Michigan Department of Transportation has released its map of construction projects for 2014. As a child I always viewed Summer and Winter as being much longer than Spring and Autumn. I think this has to do with the fact that here in Michigan winter weather begins long before the first day of winter and that school lets out long before the first day of Summer. When I lived in Florida there seemed to only be two seasons: Tourist Season (November to March) and Summer (April to October). Summer was when all the Snowbirds left and I could get into my favorite restaruants without a long line. It was also the only time we went to the Beach.

A scientist in Australia recently suggested that they need more than the traditional four seasons. Dr. Tim Entwisle thinks we need to break Spring into two seasons; Sprinter (early Spring) and Sprummer (late Spring), giving us a total of five seasons. He claims that indigenous peoples in Australia have up to seven seasons based on plant and animal life as well as weather.

The Union of Concerned Scientist feel that due to global Climate Change Spring arrives 10 days earlier than it used to in the 1950′s. They go on to say that this “Spring Creep” leads to late Summer forest fires, droughts and floods.

Any way you look at it. Spring is here and I couldn’t be happier. We are gearing up for one of our seasons, Rain Barrel Seasons. Pop over to MIRainBarrel.com and take a look at the upcoming Rain Barrel Events we have scheduled.


This Very Cold Winter is Good For the Great Lakes

Monday, February 10th, 2014


When you are outside and it is below zero and you are shoveling the latest snowfall in this record snowfall winter you don’t usually stop and think how all this cold and snow will affect your boating and swimming next Summer; but you should. The Great Lakes have been under significant strain the last few years with lake levels at historic low water levels.

Interestingly, the recent record low temperatures and the ice coverage that is the most in over 20 years will probably lead to higher lake levels next year. A recent satellite image from he National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that the ice coverage on the Lake Michigan is way above normal due to the extreme cold weather.

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According to NOAA’s Great Lake Coast Watch, about 45 percent of Lake Michigan is considered to be frozen. Lake Erie is about 95 percent ice-covered. Lake Superior is about 85 percent ice covered. Lake Huron is about 70 percent frozen and Lake Ontario is about 25% frozen.

A recent post by Lisa Borre in National Geographic’s Water Currents cites a report released by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA), a federally funded collaboration between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, a team of American and Canadian scientists explains the relationship among evaporation, ice cover, and water temperature.

Prior to this year winter ice cover has declined by 71 percent over the last 40 years, on average. Summer water temperatures and annual evaporation have increased due to climate change. Apparently water temperature and evaporation are important factors that affect the lakes water levels. While you would think that the ice cap by itself reduces evaporation, the study states that it is the fact that the ice cap makes the lake cooler, so it delays the evaporation until later in the summer instead of July, when it usually begins.

So, as you shovel that latest snowfall, just think warm thoughts of boating and swimming next summer in healthier and deeper Great Lakes thanks to the largest ice cover in 20 years.


U.S. Now World’s Largest Petroleum Supplier

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

frackingAccording to many reports, the U.S. has passed Saudi Arabia as the largest petroleum producer in the world. Reuters recently quoted the PIRA Energy Group’s report that stated that the U.S. has passed Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest oil and gas producer.To make matters even more bizarre, the U.S. is no longer the largest importer of crude oil. That title now belongs to China.

This has been made possible because of the growth in shale oil and gas production. According to PIRA’s October 15, 2013 Press Release, over one-third of U.S crude oil production and almost 1/2 of U.S. natural gas production is from shale. In the last four years, U.S production has increased over 3.2 million barrels per day. PIRA went on to say that this rapid growth is unparalleled in the history of the world, has covered most of the world’s growth in demand for the last two years and that the U.S’s position as the world’s largest petroleum producer should be secure for many years.

The Wall Street Journal said that this growth in U.S. production has affected U.S. imports of natural gas and crude oil. They have fallen 32% and 15%, respectively, in the past five years, narrowing the U.S. trade deficit.

On the surface this all sounds good. However, like many issues in the energy sector, things are not that simple and are not always what they seem. While some call this type of oil and gas product “non-conventional sources”, others call it “fracking”. Public support for this type of oil and natural gas production is waning. A poll last month by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that opposition to increased use of fracking rose to 49% from 38% in the previous six months.

In a new report, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) warns about the dangers of producing transportation fuel from oil shale. According to NRDC, studies conducted so far suggest that oil shale extraction would adversely affect the air, water, and land around proposed projects. The distillation process would release toxic pollutants into the air. The NRDC also states that in a well-to-wheel comparison, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from oil shale are close to double those from conventional crude, with most of them occurring during production.

Closer to home here in Michigan, things get even stranger. In 2012 and 2013 the state of Michigan auctioned off oil and mineral rights to state owned land in Oakland County. Oakland County is just north of Detroit and is home to over 1.2 million people (including my family) according to the 2010 census. It has 62 cities, villages and townships in its 908 square miles, 35.49 miles of which is water.

According to one newspaper, Jordan Development of Traverse City, paid the state of Michigan $33 per acre during an auction in May of 2012 for 18,347 acres of state owned mineral rights inside Oakland County. Unfortunately, many of these acres are either in parks or under the many lakes that dot Oakland County. Jordan has sunk one well in Indian Springs Metro Park and has leases in Kensington Metro Park.

In addition, Michigan Oil and Gas regulations allows “compulsory pooling“. Under this regulation, in some circumstances, a landowner may not prevent the development of oil and gas reserves that underlie their property. Instead, they are compulsory pooled with neighboring acreage to permit drilling. Furthermore, if hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used, there can be significant adverse effects on local water sources. According to Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, Fresh water is needed to hydraulically fracture a well. The quantity of water needed varies based on the type of well being completed with hydraulic fracturing. A vertical well that is hydraulically fractured may use about 50,000 to 100,000 gallons of water while a horizontal well that is hydraulically fractured may use up to 20,000,000 gallons of water or more. Withdrawal of water for oil and gas operations is exempt from the requirements of Michigan’s water withdrawal statute (Part 327 of Act 451 Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act (NREPA))

Traverse City-based West Bay Exploration Co. operates several wells in Southeast Michigan, including the Schoolcraft Well in Livonia, one under the former Northville Psychiatric Hospital and one under Eisenhower High School in Shelby Township. A West Bay spokesman has said that they have been 90% successful drilling in Southeast Michigan, averaging at least 200,000 barrels of oil at each site. Despite environmental concerns, the region’s benefits include jobs, royalties to the cities, state and landowners and locally produced oil and natural gas. According to one article in Crain’s West Bay sells its crude oil yield from the region to Marathon Oil Corp. to refine at its Detroit facilities and feeds its natural gas from sites such as Livonia and Novi into the pipeline of Consumers Energy Co. for distribution to other buyers. (It should be noted that both Marathon Oil Corp. and Consumers Energy are customers of Maxi Container.)

According to some reports, Jordan Oil of Traverse City, the company that bought all of the Oakland County leases at the 2012 auction, states that they will not use the water intensive “fracking” in Oakland County. However, they are only offering landowners $100 per acre for the mineral rights and can use Compulsory pooling to force landowners to accept a 1/8 royalty, which is reduced by the cost associated with drilling. According to some commentators, it can take up to 11 years before the pooled landowner sees any profit, provided, however, that the well is still producing. In fact, the Schoolcraft well used compulsory pooling to assemble the necessary 80 acres. Fourteen homeowners and the County Road Commission had a total of 11.85 of the 80 acres pooled under Order 10-2011 of the Commissioner of Wells. The pooled owners we also assessed with a 300% penalty, in essence they were charged with 300% of the drilling cost, 200% of the completing costs and 25% of the actual equipping costs. The Supervisor of wells capped production at 200 gallons per day and the costs at around $3,000,000. The pooled owners 1/8 royalty is paid after the cost and penalties are recouped. A barrel of oil is 42 gallons. If oil is $100 a barrel, 200 gallons is just under 5 barrels or around $500. If I did my math correctly (and please let me know if I didn’t) it would take over 17 years to recoup the $3,000,000 and that does not include the 300% penalty, 200% penalty or 25% penalty.

It seems to me that while the economic benefits to the economy from increased oil and gas drilling is significant, we need to take a better look at the environmental issues and the provisions forcing homeowners to allow drilling on their land without reasonable compensation. I would support having the amount of groundwater used for fracking to be part of, and not excluded from, Michigan’s Water Withdrawal Statute. I would also support a requirement that the drill operators be required to have evacuation plans,and more stringent safety protocols when drilling near schools, highways, parks, etc., especially in such densely populated areas as Southeastern Michigan. Finally, I would be in favor of the State of Michigan being required to spend part of the oil and gas royalties to further development of alternative energy sources, including solar and wind power.


Repairing the World – Reflections for the Jewish New Year

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

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As we are between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) I thought I would write about something very important to me. Traditionally this time of year is a time of reflection and repentance, looking back at our deeds of the last year. Indeed it is often referred to as the Ten Days of Repentance. It is a time to look within ourselves. It is a holiday that emphasizes teshuvah which is usually translated as repentance. Literally, teshuvah means to “return” or “to turn around”. It is not enough to turn yourself around, you need to turn around your relationship with others to seek better connection and communication, to increase empathy and compassion. It can also mean to turn around our relationship with the earth, with nature, with our fragile planet. This is particularly appropriate as Rosh Hashanah is also considered the birthday of the world, a celebration of the beauty of the world in its natural unspoiled state, a state that no longer exists either physically or morally. The world today is beset with problems both natural, geopolitical and economic. What can one person, or one company do to turn this around.

This leads to the concept of Tikkun Olam which means repairing the world. It’s meanings are varied, depending on which branch of Judaism you follow, which philosophers you like, if you are into Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) or how liberal or conservative are your political beliefs. The basic premise is that the world is broken and it is up to us, through our actions, to try to repair the world.

How can one repair the world? One act at a time. A word of kindness. A gift of charity. Visiting the sick. Mourning with the bereaved. Celebrating life’s pleasures and trying to ease the pain and burden of the people with which we come into contact.

I have tried to take this one step farther and incorporate Tikkun Olam into my daily business practices. My company, Maxi Container makes charitable donations of product to many groups. We have donated recycling containers to a Detroit School, donated containers to a project to collect backpacks and school supplies for children who cannot afford them. We have donated rain barrels to cities, schools, the Sierra Club Great Lakes Program and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

We make this philosophy part of our business model by promoting sustainability through the products we sell and how we conduct our daily activities. We recycle the paper, plastic, cardboard and Styrofoam generated at our office. We have replaced inefficient lighting in our warehouse with more efficient lighting, reducing our electrical usage by 50%.

During this time period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I will have attended a friend’s funeral and a family member’s funeral. I will have mourned with both friends and family. I will have also celebrated the Holidays with friends and family both at my temple and in the home. I will have spent time with my wife, children and grandchildren, as my oldest granddaughter prepares to start Pre-School. This juxtaposition of life and death of celebration and mourning, of the sacred (prayer) and the profane (business) just proves to me, even more, that we each can take actions every day of kindness and help repair the world.

I wish all my friends and family, and anyone who reads this blog, a happy and healthy New Year. L’shana Tova.


Maxi E-Commerce is Up and Running – The Impossible Only Takes a Little Longer

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

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We here at Maxi are very excited that our new e-commerce web site is up and running. It has been a long, arduous process with numerous starts and stops, but the vision we had three years ago is coming together. In designing the site we had several unique features in mind and were told by almost everyone that it was impossible to achieve. Well, to us at Maxi, being told that something is impossible just makes us work harder to make it happen.

We were told that our vision for our new warehouse and distribution center, with 28 docks, energy efficient lighting, high speed wired and wireless internet was impossible and we pushed ahead and made it happen.

We were told that our virtual remote desktop that gives our sales team real time inventory and sales information would not work. But with the help of the team at Polylogical Solutions (as well as our Creative Director Joshua Rubin) it works beautifully.

We were told that our MiRainBarrel concept wouldn’t work. Yet we now partner with several cities (including Huntington Woods and St. Clair Shores), churches, community based organizations, the Sierra Club Great Lakes Program and the Detroit Riverfront Conservatory and several great distributors including our good friends at B.A.S.C.O. and The Cultivation Station. New partners are approaching us all the time and since we started this program have sold over 1700 rain barrels.

We were told that our MiWineBarrel concept would never work. It is still less than two years old, but orders and recognition keeps coming in. Recently, MiWineBarrel CEO, Joshua Rubin and his wife Jessie were invited guests at Michigan Wines Gold Medal Reception where many of our wine industry friends and customers won medals for their outstanding wines.

Our E-commerce platform has several new, industry leading, one of a kind, features. On many items you not only see your cost for the item, but see your shipping cost as well. We have partnered with Con-Way Freight and the US Post Office to calculate shipping costs in real time. While this is common when buying shoes on Amazon.com, no one else we can find in the drum industry currently has this capability. After spending three years developing this, I understand why. The different sizes, weights, classes, etc. for the different types of drums we sell, makes it a very difficult, if not impossible project.

Once again, we proved them wrong! This time with the help of our good friend Mike Stover of Propel Pages. While not all the items have the shipping capability yet, our most popular items do. We will be adding additional items every week, if not every day.

Give it a try. Although it was impossible for us, for you it should be as easy as buying shoes on Amazon.com.


Visit our new website and check out the online catalog with shopping cart, we accept Credit Cards and PayPal currently.


Notes From The Capitol – 4th of July in D.C.

Friday, July 26th, 2013

As much as I am an American History buff, I have never celebrated the 4th of July in our nation’s capitol, until this year. My daughter Michelle, is starting an internship with Senator Carl Levin’s D.C. office, so Gail, Michelle and I decided to arrive a few days early and spend some time sightseeing.

Aside from the blistering heat, (low 90′s every day) it has been a thoroughly enjoyable time. (Apparently, citizens of the D.C. area treat the Heat Index they way we Michiganders brag about the Wind Chill. It is a staple of the local TV weather report.)

We stumbled into the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival. This year it was Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival. It featured highly skilled masters and apprentices from rural areas, as well as musicians, dancers, and artisans from more urban settings. The Festival program highlighted the vitality of this culture, including wonderful crafts such as baskets and saddles.

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But the highlight of the trip, of course, was the watching the fireworks on the National Mall. Sitting near the Capitol you see the fireworks behind and above the Washington Monument. Here are a few photos. Enjoy.

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We Mean Green!

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

In the heat of the summer we are outside at our favorite festivals and events promoting green living. I truly value all of the relationships we make – and lets be honest you aren’t really practicing what you preach unless you are hitting the streets and talking to people and getting involved. Maxi Container and our new sister company mirainbarrel are both committed to our local communities, (We recently had a workshop at Romulus Community Gardens too!). Whether it’s Joshua and Richard’s home town of Farmingtons’ Founders Festival or in farm country at the Lavender Festival in Armada, we simply make it happen. We bring affordable and Eco-conciouss products to help you garden, we select events that we think we fit but we are always open to new ones. If you know of an event in Michigan that you think we would like to exhibit at please send Joshua an email at joshua@maxicontainer.com

It’s all about the green, but not just the $ for us (that doesn’t hurt) but we are all about upcycling containers and making them Rain Barrels and Composters. They work great, and are an economical and sustainable decision any home-owner should invest in.

Not only to we go to festivals and events but we host our own. If you, your church, garden club, brownie troop, classroom, etc. are interested in learning more about rain barrels and composting with mirainbarrel please contact us.

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Please check out all of our photos on our Flickr.


Dispatches From Cape Town – Table Mountain

Friday, May 17th, 2013

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There are many things to do in Cape Town, but no visit is complete without ascending to the top of Table Mountain. This mountain, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, along with Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head dominate the city, rising 3562 feet above the city. It is part of Table Mountain National Park which creates a wilderness with significant bio-diversity in the middle of an urban area of over 3.5 million people.

The mountain get its name from the seemingly 2 mile level plateau at its top.

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While it appears level from the ground, trust me it is not.

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There 5 well marked trails on the mountain top and many viewing platforms from where you can see Cape Town, Camps Bay, and much of the Cape Peninsula.

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There are numerous routes to hike up Table Mountain, none of them easy. We took the Cable Car, which been in operation since 1929. It ceases operations when the winds are too strong. Michelle and her friends had previously hiked up the mountain. She was kind enough to ride the cable car with us when we visited.

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One of the other fascinating things about Table Mountain is it’s biodiversity. It has over 2,200 types of plants that are unique to Table Mountain. The Cape Floral Region is one of 6 recognized Floral Kingdoms and contains many unique plants, found nowhere else.

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There is also much history surrounding the mountain. Including the original inhabitants who grazed their cattle on it’s slopes and the first European to climb Table Mountain (Jan van Riebeeck). Even bungee jumpers, para gliders and base jumpers have used Table Mountain. Needless to say, we took the cable car back down.


Dispatches from Cape Town – Test Kitchen

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

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Those of you who know me well would never accuse me of being a “foodie”. While it is true that I am a complete “coffee snob”, many times I would prefer a slice of Pizza at Costco over a gourmet meal. Not that I do not like to eat. Those of you who know me are well aware of my weight struggles and my working with the people at Beaumont Hospital’s Weight Control Center. Needless to say, imagine my surprise at finding myself at Cape Town’s famous The Test Kitchen run by Chef Luke Dale Roberts. Last year The Test Kitchen was ranked the 61st best restaurant in the world.

My wife Gail and I are spending several weeks in Cape Town, South Africa visiting our daughter Michelle who is studying at the University of Cape Town (UCT) for a semester. Students tend to eat cheaply and quickly. Michelle has found several wonderful Farmers Markets to buy fresh ingredients to cook at home. One of them is located at The Old Biscuit Mill, in Woodstock. Also located there is The Test Kitchen.

The Test Kitchen offers a 3 course, 5 course or a la carte menu, as well as a vegetarian 3 course and a la carte menu. Gail ordered the Grilled Scallops which came with asparagus, tofu miso suke, braised scallop dressing, miso on toast, braised shitake, raw shitake. Michelle had a vegetarian tofu with 3 types of red cabbage. We all three shared a dessert. The presentation was as beautiful as the food was delicious. Here are some photos.

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Should you ever find yourself in Cape Town South Africa, I recommend highly that you try to get a reservation at The Test Kitchen. Here is a tip, while dinner reservations are booked several months in advance, you can often get a lunch reservation only a few weeks ahead of time.


Florida Red Tide Kills Hundreds of Manatees

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

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Red Tide is the scourge of west coast Florida beaches. For the many years I lived there, this almost yearly algae bloom would kill thousands of fish which would then wash up on the Gulf Beaches and stink. This year the Red Tide has added a new victim, the slow moving, graceful and beloved manatees of the Florida West Coast.

Apparently, Red Tide algae can be toxic when consumed by manatees, as it causes them to become paralyzed. The paralyzed manatees eventually drown as they cannot return to the surface for air. According to the Tampa Tribune, authorities believe that approximately 200 Manatees were killed this year by Red Tide. Even though the bloom has dissipated, manatee deaths can continue for several months as the toxins settle onto the Sea Grass, the manatees major food source. manatees are on the Federal endangered Species List and have been protected by Florida Law since 1893. The deaths this year have reduced the manatee population by approximately 10%.

As any Floridian can tell you, manatees are wonderful mammals. They are gentle vegetarians that can reach up to 13 feet long and weigh up to two tons. They are distantly related to elephants and aardvarks. Manatees have also been known to body surf or barrel roll when playing. They have no major predators, but their biggest foe is us! According to Save the Manatee Club, “Florida’s West Indian manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more. As with all wild animal populations, a certain percentage of manatee mortality is attributed to natural causes of death such as cold stress, gastrointestinal disease, pneumonia, and other diseases. A high number of additional fatalities are from human-related causes. Most human-related manatee fatalities occur from collisions with watercraft. Other causes of human-related manatee mortality include being crushed and/or drowned in canal locks and flood control structures; ingestion of fish hooks, litter, and mono-filament line; and entanglement in crab trap lines. Ultimately, loss of habitat is the most serious threat facing manatees in the United States today. There is a minimum population count of 4,834 manatees, as of January 2011.”

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has managed to rescue about 10 of the Manatees affected by Red Tide toxins. All have survived and 4 were recently released into a sanctuary away from the Red Tide and speeding boat propellers.

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Israeli Wine and the European Union

Monday, April 8th, 2013

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Earlier this month, 27 EU heads of mission to the Palestinian Authority signed a report that recommended strict labeling of settlement products, thereby encouraging a boycott similar to that imposed on South Africa during Apartheid. According to reports, EU officials are urging member states to label goods produced from Israeli settlements in the West Bank as either “Produce of the West Bank (Israeli settlement produce)” or “Israeli produce of the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

Without going into a further Geo-political argument about whether the Israeli Settlements in the West Bank are legal (under the Original League of Nations Mandate) or illegal (under current UN resolutions) the actions by the EU do little to help a complex problem and may hurt many of the people it was intended to help. For example, Psagot Vineyards and many other West Bank businesses employ thousands of Palestinians. In these business, Palestinians and Jewish settlers work side by side.

Yaakov Berg, founded Psagot Vineyards near Jerusalem almost a decade ago. Psagot now produces around 120,000 bottles of wine each year. Berg stated that “I didn’t kill anyone to take this land, I paid for it, and I provide good jobs for Palestinians that pay three or four times what they could earn elsewhere.” Berg’s wines have won several prizes in competitions abroad, including in France, and the winery has been a financial success. According to Berg, his Palestinian workers would receive NIS 1,000 (about $262) for they same work in Ramallah. At Psagot Vineyards they receive five or six times as much with insurance and social benefits. This is true for many other businesses in the area.

As an entrepreneur and an owner of a company that employs 20+ people of different races, ethnicity’s and religions, it seems to me that paying a decent wage, providing decent benefits, respecting each other and working together does more for the cause of peace and reconciliation than all the labels and boycotts put together. The EU should look to its own problems with the economies of Greece, Spain and Cyprus and the Euro instead of undermining a growing economy that employs Israeli’s and Palestinians alike in a misguided attempt to punish a whole region for the current failure of the Middle east Peace Process.

Here are some photos that I found online that showcase the Israeli wine industry. Enjoy!


Michigan Grape and Wine Conference A Big Hit

Thursday, February 21st, 2013
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My daughter-in-law Jessi Rivera at the Big Ten Baquet

 

This years Michigan Grape and Wine Conference was held at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the Campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. Those of you who know me know how much I love the other big state university (Hint: colors are Maize and Blue) that my daughter attends and that I attended. But, I have to admit that the conference exceeded my expectations in every respect.

First I need to complement the organizers, starting with Linda Jones, Karel Bush and Sherri Goodreau, the members of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council Industry Council and the members of the Michigan Grape and Wine Conference Planning Committee.

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Our sister company, miwinebarrel was the Keynote and Big Ten Banquet Sponsor. That meant that Maxi’s Creative Director and miwinebarrels’ COO, Joshua Rubin had to give a speech about our company. He gave a short introduction on our family history (think prohibition, bootleggers and Sicilian Spaghetti) and our numerous summer vacations that included visiting wineries in the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas.

I also have to comment on how good the food was at the Hotel and Conference Center. The lunch buffet was better than any conference I have been to.

“The Kellogg Center is home to an extraordinarily diverse, talented team of culinary professionals as well as a large support staff comprised of many students from MSU’s The School of Hospitality Business. With over 400,000 visitors coming through our doors annually, it is not unusual for our dedicated kitchen and banquet staffs to serve an average of 1500 meals per day, requiring a great deal of organization, planning, and most importantly, team work. The Kellogg Center also hosts a multitude of special events including the popular Visiting Chef Series, now in its 14th year, which brings award winning chefs from across the country to the hotel for interactive cooking”

The first night of the conference again had a Tour de Vin at the Welcome reception. I must give a shout out to all the of wineries that had exceptional wines in the tasting, although there were too many to mention them all:

Chateau Fontaine had a wonderful Woodland White, made from Auxerrois, a little known grape variety in this country, originally from France.

Here are some more photos from the event:

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Interesting Star Trek Label from Gravity Winery

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Our Keynote Bill Oliver from Oliver Winery explains how a small sleepy winery can be turned into a thriving establishment with distribution in 22 states!


Beach Erosion – When It’s Man vs. Nature – Nature Naturally Wins!

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

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I just spent another week in one of our favorite places, Sarasota, Florida. The weather was great and everyone had a wonderful time. My wife Gail and I lived there from 1978 until 1983, and have been visiting there every year since then. There have been many changes, new developments, buildings, hotels, shopping centers, etc. We have lost many of the old family stores and restaurants to have them replaced by newer fancier ones.

However, by far the greatest change that I see from year to year are the beaches themselves. This year it was even more pronounced due to the effects of Tropical Storm Debbie that swept through the area June 26, 2012. Ten to 30 feet of sand were eroded from beaches in Sarasota County.

Erosion of beaches is nothing new. There has been several attempts to replenish the beach and there is an official presentation on the City of Sarasota’s website about the Lido Beach Restoration.

As much as I love the beach, the fallacy behind any beach restoration or replenishment is that we can “fix” a naturally occurring process, the ever changing relationship between water, wind and sand. According to the Center for Ocean Solutions, coastal erosion is a natural process along the world’s coastlines that occurs through the actions of currents and waves and results in the loss of sediment in some places and accretion in others. Erosion is considered to to be sporadic and episodic. There can be large scale erosion in only a few hours with a severe storm (episodic) and different areas can erode at different rates even during the same event (sporadic).

Here are examples of erosion in the Florida Panhandle at Navarre Beach due to two hurricanes. The upper photo was taken on July 17, 2001, the middle photo was taken on September 17, 2004, one day after the landfall of Hurricane Ivan, and the lower photo was taken on July 12, 2005, two days after the landfall of Hurricane Dennis. This is a clear example of the episodic nature of beach erosion. (Click image to enlarge)

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Scientific American stated in its EarthTalk column that coastal erosion in any form is usually a one-way trip. Man-made techniques such as beach nourishment—whereby sand is dredged from off-shore sources and deposited along otherwise vanishing beaches—may slow the process, but nothing short of global cooling or some other major geomorphic change will stop it altogether. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between 80 and 90 percent of the sandy beaches along America’s coastlines have been eroding for decades. In many of these cases, individual beaches may be losing only a few inches per year, but in some cases the problem is much worse.

According to Stephen Leatherman (“Dr. Beach”) of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign, building a bulkhead or seawall along one or a few coastal properties may protect homes from damaging storm waves for a few years, but could end up doing more harm than good. “Bulkheads and seawalls may accelerate beach erosion by reflecting wave energy off the facing wall, impacting adjacent property owners as well,” writes Leatherman, adding that such structures along retreating shorelines eventually cause diminished beach width and even loss.

Other larger scale techniques like beach nourishment may have better track records, at least in terms of slowing or delaying beach erosion, but are expensive enough as to warrant massive taxpayer expenditures. Beach nourishment is the process of adding new sand to the beach profile in order to restore it to some former width. This is usually accomplished by dredge and fill operations with sand pumped onto the beach from an offshore source, such as sand bars or shoals. Beach nourishment is only feasible at the community level as large sectors (e.g., miles of the shore) must be nourished to be economical viable. In the early 1980s, Miami Beach was restored at the cost of $65 million along this 10-mile strand of shore.

There have been over 8 beach nourishment projects on Lido Beach at a cost of over $12 Million Dollars. However, the beach continues to erode. Here are pictures I took last week showing significant recent erosion on Lido Beach.

photo (8)

photo (7)

 

With the expected rise in sea levels and the increase in both the frequency and severity of storms being attributed to global climate change, one can expect that coastal erosion will continue to increase. The U.S. government’s Environmental Protection Agency states that if sea levels increase by one foot, would erode most of Florida Beaches 100 to 200 feet. They also believe that sea levels could rise as much as 3 feet over the next 100 years. The cost to replenish the lost sand would be $8 Billion.

While it is understandable that areas with expensive homes and condominium projects and whose economic base is dependent on tourism will continue to spend large sums on beach replenishment projects. While this may be futile in the long run, short term it still allows for a wonderful beach experience as these photos from last week will show.

photo (5)

photo (6)

Also, if you didn’t click the “sand” link earlier in the article, take a second to check out this cool slideshow. It gets up close with what our beaches are made out of, Sand of course!
Click here to view the slideshow.


Hey You, Get Off of My Cloud – There’s a New Type of Business Now!

Friday, December 28th, 2012

gray cloud icon

The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be. — Isaac Asimov – “My Own View” in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1978)

There has been much discussion lately of the need to reinvent your business model. Everyone from the Harvard Business Review Entrepreneur Magazine  and American Express consistently post articles dealing with corporate reinvention. They tout successful examples such as Apple, PayPal and Burberry.  Unsuccessful companies that used to dominate their respective industries  litter today’s landscape and bankruptcy courts, including such household names as Hostess, Polaroid and Borders.

Here at Maxi Container we have taken a long slow look at corporate reinvention and have made over our company significantly in the last 10 years. In doing so we have focused on our core competencies, looked for new markets, addressed bottlenecks in our management and operation, strengthened our fiscal controls, upgraded our truck and trailer fleet and adopted a wide range of new technologies to allow us to work smarter, faster and mobile with an emphasis on enhancing the customer experience and adding value to our products and services.

Some of the changes are internal and there is no need for discussion. Two of the biggest, our entry into new markets with our mirainbarrel and miwinebarrel subsidiaries, will be discussed in future posts. Our new e-commerce platform, which will debut in the future is another major reinvention.

However, one of the most interesting, challenging and rewarding changes has been cloud computing. This is a much overused term and can be defined in many ways. Here we use a combination of private and public  cloud storage, networking, desktop virtualization, and  software as a service to tie all of our various desk top computers, smart phones, tablets and laptops into a coherent whole. Furthermore, all of  our data is encrypted for privacy, protected from viruses and continually backed  up.  The service is scalable so as we add personnel or locations it is easy to tie them into the existing cloud and network infrastructure. Much of the credit for our adoption of this technology goes to my son, Joshua Rubin, Creative Director at Maxi Container, Inc.

As a result, any Maxi Container sales person or operations person has complete access to any and all information necessary to do their jobs at all times from anywhere. We use our private cloud and various apps such as, shared Outlook Calendars, Evernote, Dropbox, Adobe EchoSign and Kibits (a new collaborative app for android and iPhone) to create a truly collaborative workplace that increases our efficiency and creates additional value for the customer.

Quotes for unique products can be electronically signed and archived and are available 24/7, not just during office hours. Sales personnel have complete access to customer pricing and purchase history whether in the office, their vehicle, or on-site at a customer’s location. Purchase Orders can be processed in a variety of ways including email or Electronic Data Interchange. Payments can be made on mobile devices, PayPal or Credit Card . Several customers are using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to place orders and receive invoices and ACH transactions for payments. Checks are scanned in so they are credited to the customer’s account and deposited in the bank the same day as received. Our goal is to eventually equip drivers and warehouse personnel with mobile devises that move this efficiency and customer value throughout our supply chain.

This move has not been without bumps and bruises along the way.  There were the inevitable glitches, issues with data capacity and learning curves. We are still experimenting with how best to use our new tools and collaborative environment. However, every day brings more and more examples to light of how we can enhance the customer experience through collaborative work and cloud computing. You may never see it, but it will affect every aspect of our business as we move forward with our reinvented business model.

(Note: my apologies to the Rolling Stones for the use of their lyric from their 1965 hit, “Hey You Get Off of My Cloud” in the headline of this post. I just couldn’t resist, especially as it speaks to the encryption and privacy necessary for cloud computing to work. I am sure that this was the furthest thing from Keith Richards mind when he wrote the song.)


Death By Pastrami – New York’s Star Deli Closes After 75 Years!

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
Stage Delli Sandwich

A Typical Stage Deli Sandwich

Today, I am mourning the passing of a New York Legend. The Stage Deli, long a famous hangout of Broadway Stars, politicians, reporters, sports stars, reputed mobsters and tourists (including me), closed it’s doors a Midnight on November 30, 2012.  According to its website, regulars included Mayor LaGuardia, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen. Later Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson struggled to fit into its seats, but Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson fit in just fine.  Yankee catcher Thurman Munson, also frequently  visited the Stage, as did Liza Minnelli and Carol Channing. More recently Leonardo Di Caprio, Meryl Streep, Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick and Harvey Fierstein were frequent visitors. I first visited the Stage Deli in 1978, when a bowl of Matzo Bowl Soup, a cheese sandwich and a beer set me back over $20.00. While there I ran into former school friends who were in New York seeking fame and fortune on Broadway.

According to the New York Times, one of the current owners, Paul  Zolenge, cited the cost of doing business in New York. The landlord erected scaffolding in front of the restaurant a year ago, he said, and even though it came down in September, “we lost a whole year.” The rent had gone up several times in recent years, Mr. Zolenge said, and with the lease ending in a few months, he and his partner Steve Auerbach were expecting another increase. “We just couldn’t afford to keep it going any more,” he said.

I think that another factor figured into the Star’s demise. While some letters and bloggers stated a decline in quality or the long running  competition with the Carnegie Deli down the street, I think that the general societal change in eating habits also took its toll. According to Save the Deli Blogger, David Sax, foods like pastrami and kishke (beef intestine casings stuffed with brisket fat or chicken fat, matzo meal, onions and carrots) are delicious, but they’re not health food. As much as I love good Jewish Deli food, the last time I stepped foot into a deli (other than Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor) was several years ago on a family holiday to New York. And even then, we went to the Carnegie not the Stage.

Times and tastes change, but I will remember a more glamorous time, when the Stage Deli was the toast of New York.


Learn About Recycling Online

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

ReCommunity has put together an excellent resource on recycling. It covers, well … everything. I thought that it would just be a good resource for our readers. So that’s enough from me, here you go learn something about recycling:

ReCommunity Recycling: Education


S.S. Badger Owners Try Landmark Status and Earmarks to Scuttle EPA Coal Rules

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

The owners of the S.S. Badger, the last coal fired ship on the Great Lakes are at it again. Since 2008, they have known that their permit to dump over 500 tons of coal ash annually into Lake Michigan would be expiring this month. Yet they have done nothing to resolve the issue. Instead they have asked the EPA for a permit extension while they study a possible conversion to Liquefied Natural Gas.

Now, according to the New York Times the owners of the ferry have enlisted friendly congressmen to bury in a Coast Guard re-authorization bill now in final negotiations between the House and the Senate:

Curious language saying a “qualified vessel” shall continue to operate for its entire lifetime, “without regard to any expiration dates” on the permit it operates on.”

Since the S.S. badger was placed on National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2009, the language in this bill would allow it to continue to dump over 4 tons of coal ash per day into Lake Michigan without a permit.

While the re-authorization bill does not reference the S.S. Badger by name, the enumerated qualifications — including that it be nominated for or on the list of National Historic Landmarks — apply to only one vessel, the Badger.  As the Times points out,  Republicans supposedly put an end to special-interest language slipped into bills to benefit projects or employers in their districts when they took control of the House last year.  However, the sponsors of that language, two Republican representatives, Tom Petri of Wisconsin and Bill Huizenga of Michigan, say it is not an earmark because it does not mandate the expenditure of any federal money.

I may not be able to parse the nuance of congressional political speak as to what is or isn’t an earmark, but to me, the James Whitcomb Riley’s adage regarding looking and walking like a duck applies. Here is a piece of legislation that is slipped into a Coast Guard re-authorization bill that only applies to one entity and that would overrule the EPA permitting process. To me, that’s an earmark. The hypocritical argument that it is not an earmark because no federal dollars are expended  does not take into account the cost of cleaning up the 500 tons of coal ash that the Badger dumps each year.

Apparently at least one Senator,  Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, agrees with me. The Times quoted him as saying:

“If it walks like an earmark and talks like an earmark, it’s an earmark.”

Hopefully the Senate will stand firm and prevent the S.S. Badger from making a mockery of the EPA permitting process and finally take the steps necessary to either store the 4 tons of coal ash they create each day until it can be offloaded or convert to diesel power as have it’s competitors. No business should be protected from competition and allowed to continually pollute the Great Lakes because of it’s historic nature. We didn’t know better, or have better options than coal when the S.S. Badger first sailed on Lake Michigan. We know better now.

Let’s hope the Senate does the right thing and scuttles the offensive language.


Business Week Cover Proclaims – “It’s Global Warming, Stupid”

Monday, November 5th, 2012
Business Week Global Warming Cover

Businessweek Cover

In the wake of the severe damage to the East Coast from Hurricane Sandy, Bloomberg Businesseek took the unprecedented step to state categorically the “Superstorm” and the destruction and loss of life from the storm, was directly related to Global Warming”. The magazine lists the toll from Sandy as follows:

“At least 40 U.S. deaths. Economic losses expected to climb as high as $50 billion. Eight million homes without power. Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated. More than 15,000 flights grounded. Factories, stores, and hospitals shut. Lower Manhattan dark, silent, and underwater.”

In the article Businessweek cited:

  • Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota
  • Eric Pooley, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund
  • Mark Fischetti of Scientific American
  • Climate scientists Charles Greene and Bruce Monger of Cornell University

George Lakoff, professor of linguistics at UC Berkely states that Global Warming was the systemic cause of the storm.  Systemic causation is much more difficult to understand. He states:

A systemic cause may be one of a number of multiple causes. It may require some special conditions. It may be indirect, working through a network of more direct causes. It may be probabilistic, occurring with a significantly high probability. It may require a feedback mechanism. In general, causation in ecosystems, biological systems, economic systems, and social systems tends not to be direct, but is no less causal. And because it is not direct causation, it requires all the greater attention if it is to be understood and its negative effects controlled. Above all, it requires a name: systemic causation.

Many commentators and most Climate Change deniers seize upon the more commonly understood direct causation to say that there is no proof that Climate Change caused the recent droughts or that the warming of the ocean caused Hurricane Sandy to be more destructive than previous storms. Instead, if you look at the concept of systemic causation, there is little doubt that the warming of the oceans, and many other factors attributed to Global Climate Change, contributed to the increase in the strength of the storm, and to the loss of life and the billions of dollars in damage.

We need to take off our blinders and recognize that human activity has consequences. We believe in a sustainability model that reduces our carbon footprint while continuing to enjoy the benefits of our post-industrial, highly technological society. For example, I drive a hybrid SUV. It gives me all of the room and comfort of an SUV, but gets over 30 miles a gallon. Here at Maxi we recycle everything we can. Also, throughout the life cycle of our steel, plastic and fiber drums, and our IBC’s we preach reuse. It takes significantly less energy and carbon to clean a drum or IBC for reuse than to scrap the old and make a new one.

But there are many simple things that each of us can do to help reduce our contribution to Global Climate Change. There is a great list from Millie Jefferson, producer, Weekend America®, here are just a few of them:

  • Buy organic, local or fair trade goods. (Maxi buys fair trade coffee and tea)
  • Pay attention to packaging (That’s what Maxi Container is all about. Packaging matters.)
  • Ditch bottled water (see my numerous earlier posts about the evil of bottled water. Maxi uses filtered water for drinking, coffee and tea.)
  • Energy proof your home. (this will save you money as well. Maxi switched its warehouse lighting from Metal Halide to induction, saving 50% on energy costs.)
  • Use native plant species. (Maxi started MiRainBarrel to promote rain water harvesting and works with groups that promote native species for use in a rain garden.)
  • Switch water heaters to vacation mode.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. (The three R’s of Maxi are Reuse, Recondition,then Recycle)

We all have a part to play, we can all be a part of the solution. In absence of a national will to do the right thing and reduce the Climate Effects of our lifestyle, it is up to us as responsible citizens to step up and do, at a minimum, the little things that together can make a difference.


Maxi’s Upgraded Fleet Lets us Service Your Needs Better

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Those of you in the metro-Detroit area may have seen some of our new tractors, trailers and box vans as they make deliveries. If so, you would have noticed how nice they look. They are new, clean, efficient trucks designed to increase our efficiency, lower our fuel costs and emit less pollutants. They are also part of our strategy to provide the best possible customer service, including our industry leading just-in-time delivery programs.

What makes these new trucks and trailers different from our existing fleet? It’s simple. We do not own them, we lease them. As pointed out in a recent article in the October 2012 issue of Fleet Maintenance the question of whether to lease or own your truck fleet differs for each company. However, due to our growth over the last few years, the acquisition of a new warehouse and our commitment to customer service, we found ourselves needing a significant amount of new delivery equipment. Maxi met many of the criteria for leasing of delivery equipment as outlined in the article:

  • Our core competency is Industrial Packaging – not trucking.
  • We were better off investing capital into our new warehouse, new computer technology and new products, not trucks and trailers.
  • The value added services of a full service lease allows us to focus on customer service. When one of our new trucks needs service, it can be taken care of in the evening or over a weekend, not during the business day. If one of our leased vehicles needs extended service, we receive a replacement vehicle so our delivery schedule is not interrupted.

Our new trucks, tractors and trailers have been a great success. Our new trailers have GPS units that allow us to not only look at where they are, but we can track their utilization, turnover rates. As pointed out on the Xtra Lease web site trailer tracking allows us to:

  • Find under-utilized trailers and put them to work faster
  • Locate trailers easily for driver hook-up
  • Increase supply chain visibility
  • Keep customers updated on shipment status
  • Lower fuel consumption spent searching for trailers
  • Protect ourself from trailer and cargo theft
  • Reduce number of trailers purchased with better utilization
  • Gather detention data quickly to substantiate detention claims
  • Monitor high-value shipments using sensors and alert
Since our new tractors, trucks and trailers are covered by full service leases we can spend more time delivery products and services to our customers and less time in the shop. It also helps us with the regulatory compliance required under new and stronger DOT regulations of CSA2010. On top of that, our drivers love them too. Here are some photos of our new trucks.


Fall Beauty in My Own Backyard

Friday, October 5th, 2012
Gail Bennett on a Fall Walk

Gail Bennett on a Fall Walk

There are times I know that I am truly lucky to live and work in Michigan. One of those is when the trees in my neighborhood start to change color every fall. Usually, I am too busy to notice, driving frantically on the Metro-Detroit freeways between work and home. However, every week or so, my lovely wife Gail reminds me to slow and “smell the roses” or in this case, view the fall colors. Last weekend is was a long walk in a local park. Our home town of Farmington Hills, MI has done a very good job at preserving some of the “wild” nature of the area in a series of parks. One of our favorites is Woodland Trails, located just of Farmington Road across from the Orchard Ridge campus of Oakland Community College. This nature park, features a primitive-walking trail that winds through the 74-acre park. It includes meadows, hardwood forest, a pond, a river and creek just a few feet south of a very busy I-696. We spent a wonderful hour or so walking through the park. It was just the tonic needed to help me re-focus my energies on the important things in life, to stop and reflect on the beauty of the natural world and how lucky I am to be able to live in an urban area with such beauty a few minutes from my house.

Here are a few pictures. Take a minute and enjoy :)


S.S. Badger Greenwashing to Keep Dumping Coal Ash in Lake Michigan

Friday, October 5th, 2012

S. S. Badger

I have written before about the S.S. Badger, the last coal-fired ferry on Lake Michigan. (see my September 29, 2012 blog post. The EPA in 2008 gave the ships owners 4 years to comply with the Clean Water Act and stop dumping tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan. Instead of converting to diesel or some other fuel, the ship owners recently asked the EPA for a 5 year extension of their coal dumping permit citing the need to study a conversion to liquified natural gas. Now, they are stooping to greenwashing.

As reported by Dave Alexander at Mlive.com, the S. S. Badger has extended it’s sailing season to November 2, 2012, in order to ship parts for 60 wind turbines for G.E. The ferry owners claim that this is another reason why the EPA needs to extend their coal dumping permit allowing them to operate next year and beyond. Perhaps the irony of shipping wind turbine parts on the only coal fired ship on the Great Lakes, a ship that dumps tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each year, is lost on Lake Michigan Carferry. However it is not lost on me and some other commentators.

No amount of greenwashing makes their failure to comply with the Clean Water Act, seeking landmark status, or other delaying tactics more palatable. As the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal stated in a recent editorial: Lake Michigan Carferry needs to find a way to keep the ferry running without adding more coal ash to the lake. This has been going on long enough. No one argues that coal-fired power plants should keep operating because the technology they use has a historic status. Pollution does not deserve protection.

I agree. No amount of greenwashing should save Lake Michigan Carferry and it’s S.S. Badger from having to comply with the same laws as its competitors. The coal ash dumping must stop at the end of this season. They can use the off season to convert to diesel or find a way to store the ash on board until they can safely unload it. Enough is enough.

What do you think about the S.S. Badger story, leave a comment below or carry it over to Twitter @MaxiContainer


Detroit Curbside, Not too little too Late

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Finally, Detroit residents will be receiving curbside recycling. Actually some are right now;this Labor Day weekend Palmer Woods residents had their recycling carts delivered. What began about 4 years ago has grown to about 10,000 Detroiters, and hopefully one day all of Detroit will be recycling.

“Our goal is to get to a point where everyone in the city is recycling,”
Ron Brundidge, director of the Public Works Department.

In the suburbs of Detroit, recycling has been embraced my most communities, we have drop-off locations and curbside collection everywhere. Now finally Detroit will get to experience the joy of reducing waste through recycling. Education in schools and in the home is where it begins, hopefully a new generation of Detroiters will embrace the earth and environment. By practicing green ideals like recycling we can make change.

Source Article:
http://www.freep.com/article/20120825/NEWS01/308250050/Detroit-expands-curbside-recycling-to-Palmer-Woods-neighborhood?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p


S.S. Badger – Last Coal Fired Ship on the Great Lakes

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

For anyone who has used the car-ferry between Luddington, MI and Manitowac, WI there are numerous benefits to the trip. The trip, by ferry, is 4 hours.  By car it is 7.5 hours (not including stops). Travel by ferry has a nostalgic aspect to it. You get out of the car, walk around, get something to eat, gaze out at the beauty of Lake Michigan. There is a snack bar, a dinning room, video arcade and children’s playroom. When the weather is good, you can sun on a lounge chair on the deck. It sounds idyllic, so what can be bad.

Usually, any form of mass transit is better environmentally than using your own car. This is not the case with the S.S. Badger. The Badger is the last coal fired ship on the Great Lakes. It dumps 4 tons of coal ash per day into Lake Michigan. According to environmental groups, the ashes contain lead, mercury and arsenic and potentially could contaminate the drinking water supply of over 10 million people.

In 2008 the E.P.A. gave them 4 years to comply with the Clean water Act. Now the owners of the S.S. Badger filed for a 5 year extension of their permit to dump coal ash in Lake Michigan. They are basing their request on the complexities of conversion to liquefied natural gas at a cost of over $8 million, even though LNG is not readily available in the Michigan market.

The owners of the S.S. Badger have tried other tricks to prevent them from having to spend money to convert to a cleaner fuel. They tried having the ship declared a National Landmark and have pressed legislators in Congress from both Wisconsin and Michigan to grant it an exemption to the Clean Water Act rules.

As reported at MLive.com Alliance for the Great Lakes President Joel Brammeier thinks he has a simple solution to the Badger problems that will end the historic 50-year-plus coal ash discharges into the lake and keep the Badger operating and providing an economic boost to both states.

Instead of granting the Badger the five-year permit while Lake Michigan Carferry owners explore converting the 410-foot ferry from coal to liquefied natural gas, Brammeier made two suggestions.

• Convert the coal-powered steam ship – the only remaining one in the United States – to diesel engines.

• Develop a means to store the hot coal ash in the Badger’s hull to be offloaded and disposed after the ferry arrives in port.

Both these suggestions make more sense to me then trying a complex conversion to LNG. Diesel conversion has been done by other ship owners in as little as 6 months. Conversion to diesel could be completed in the off-season and be ready for next summer.  The EPA does not need to grant a 5 year extension to keep the $40,000,000 impact to the port communities and the jobs this makes possible. Instead they should deny the permit and demand either a conversion to diesel or the storage of the ash on board until it can be safely offloaded at port for proper treatment.


Unsung Heroes of Global Trade

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

A recent article by Tom Vanderbilt in Slate called the wooden pallet “the single most important object in the global economy. He claimed that  80% of U.S commerce is carried on pallets and that wood pallets account for  over 46% of U.S. hardwood production.

While the average U. S. consumer may only know wood pallets from their local Sam’s Club, COSTCO, or garden center, as a distributor of industrial packaging, we at Maxi Container, Inc. know just how important are wood pallets.  Almost all of our LTL shipments travel on wood pallets. We use wood pallets in our warehouse to help us properly stack the over 20,000 steel, plastic and fiber drums that we keep in stock. We also used old pallets to make our rain barrel stands that we sell at Green Fairs and through our mirainbarrel line of business.

However, after 20+ years in the industrial packaging business, I want to nominate another under recognized and often overlooked Unsung Hero of Global Commerce, the 55 gallon drum.  According to industry statistics over 24 million steel drums were reconditioned in the U.S. in 2011. In addition as of 2009 another 21 million new steel drums were manufactured in the U.S. As large as these numbers are, they do not include, Europe or Asia (including the emerging markets of China and India) were millions more steel drums are made and reconditioned.

Acids, adhesives, fuels, foods, hazardous and nonhazardous waste, oils and lubricants, paints and coatings, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and solvents are just some of the many items that are routinely shipped in 55 gallon steel drums. They myriad items shipped in steel drums continues to amaze me. Almost every product I see and use, at some point, was in a steel drum. Apple, orange and other fruit juices, Vanilla Extract, motor oil, gasoline, paint, adhesives, Window Cleaner and cleaners of all types, fragrances, soybean oil, chemicals to numerous to mention, used batteries and ballasts, soap and peanut butter to just name a few. As the pictures show, for every wood pallet, there are 4 steel drums. As I often say, without the 55 gallon steel drum industrialized society would grind to a halt.


University Of Michigan School of Arts in Ghana

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

U of M Art and Design Students in Ghana - August 2012

Back in March we donated a steel drum to the University of Michigan School of Art and Design. Ten students and their instructor were going to visit Ghana this summer to help local villagers make charcoal in a more sustainable manner. They promised to keep in touch and they did. I received an email from U of M School of Art and Design Detroit Connections Coordinator Charlie Michaels recently giving me a link to their blog.

The students are spending 3 weeks in Ghana this August. They are staying and working in Nungua, a village outside of Accra, with a local NGO called Cross Cultural Collaborative – Aba House as it is known in locally. From following the blog they are not only making sustainable charcoal from corn cobs. They are learning to make paper out of sugar cane, watch local artisans make beads from found plastic articles and to play the local games with the areas children.

From looking at the blog, this seems to be an adventure of a lifetime for these students.  Maxi is proud to have assisted them and we look forward to following their blog. GO BLUE! – even in Ghana.

Making Beads From Discarded Plastic

Making Beads From Discarded Plastic

Making Charcoal

Making Charcoal in Ghana