Monday, December 13, 2010

Climate Talks Remains Nothing But Talk

No surprise here. No agreement will ever be made between participants of the ongoing series of summits ostensibly designed to find a solution to the ever increasing threat of greenhouse gases.
Here are the results of the latest ‘talks’:
- Stall tactics continue to allow industrialized nations to pollute and rape less industrialized nations of their resources
- Oil rich nations continue to extract non-renewable fossil fuels from the earth

As long as industrialized natins continue to pay out funds to less industrialized nations under guidelines of the Green Climate Fund or other funding procedure, industrialized nations will feel they are ‘doing their part’ to protect us and no further progress will ever be made. As it stnads right now the combined pledge of $30 billion since last year’s Copenhagen Summit has not been met.
Until health becomes more important than money there will be no change.
If world leaders were truly concerned about the effects of greenhouse gases on our environment and our health they would come up with a lasting solution.
Slowing down the current rates of pollution by the meager rates agreed on thusfar amounts to nothing more than a token attempt to show the world ‘something’ is being done.
It is a sad fact that no real improvement in the human condition has ever been made until a tragic ‘accident’ takes place. And there is no reason to expect this behavior to change now.
The best that we who depend on our leaders to do something can hope for is that we can survive whatever nature has in store for us.
So keep your emergency survival supply levels current and hang on tight.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

We Are Running Out of TIme

Interesting graphic. I found this on the internet and just had to share.

Solar Charging Tree

photo: Yarel Yair – Design Studio
Love this idea. This is showing some real promise instead of all the talk. Let’s get this thing going.
I have seen similar fake trees in California (palm trees of course) used to provide power for cell phone towers. They actually look pretty good and they blend in reall well with the surroundings.
Hopefully we will see shapes like oak trees, fruit trees, redwoods (probably too big) but the list is almost endless. Much better looking than some ordinary ugly stone/plastic/steel monolith towers all over the city.

A couple of ideals:
1 - these trees could be charging stations for pedestrians to charge their cell phones, cameras, mp3 players, etc.
2 – solar powered vehicles should have solar film built into their skin so we are not forced to maintain coal powered electricity generating power plants.
Now, if only we could get more widespread access to good-looking, longer-distance vehicles.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Coral-Like Living Skin for Buildings

Photo from Inhabitat

Researchers at the University of Greenwich in the UK are developing a carbon negative building material that would not only help fight climate change but protect the structures it is built upon. The material is made from protocells — super simple cells that have only the basic elements of life, yet are able to grow and multiply — that will capture carbon in their membranes and grow over time to create a hard, coral-like armor around or under buildings.

This, at first blush, may seem like a great idea and I don’t want to cast any negativity on it but several questions come to mind. Since the material is a living organism what is going to happen when its targeted building is completely covered? Will it continue growing, reaching out beyond the building into the surrounding environment? You have to look at this thing as weed vine, meaning it will need to be trimmed regularly. Perhaps a maintenance programming to keep it in check would be preferable to a carbon foot print, but I can’t help thinking it will cause other problems we may not want to deal with.

Also, when it comes time to demolish the building, will be too hard to break apart. And then the material will need to be disposed of. Of course we will hopefully be able to recycle the material.

I’m all for the continued research into this idea but I just don’t see this idea coming to fruition anytime soon.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Greed and Stubbornness Continue to Hold World Hostage

Climate talks in Cancun, Mexico will bring less chance of finding a solution to curbing greenhouse gas emissions than previous years talks. At the heart of the stalemate is what all sides see as a "balanced package". But what one side calls a balance is very different than what the other side calls a balance.

Why the rift and why are there opposing sides when the whole world wants the same thing? Money and action.

One 'side' is the poorer developing countries, on the other is the wealthier developed countries. Developing countries are demanding an increase in the amount of aid they receive from developed countries. Developed nations are demanding that emerging nations, like China and India, do more to curb their soaring greenhouse gas emission and to allow more oversight to ensure they are on course to meet their goals.

The bottom line is that the ability for all of us the world over to breath cleaner air is being held hostage by greedy and stubborn nations on both sides of the issue.

Hope is the driving force to continue these fruitless talks in an effort to reach agreements that both sides can accept. The expectations of a choking world that is suffering from increased flooding, droughts and heat waves are fading, but that hope is fading with each new round of talks.

I believe time could be better spent in educating the world population on how to deal with the calamities that are the result of increased carbon emissions. But, of course, that process would be stalled as well while we wait on decisions as to who will pay for it.

China Threatens Deliberate Release of Potent Greenhouse Gas

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Household Water Conservation Tips

Did you Know?
- A tap leaking one drop of water per second wastes more than 6 gallons of water per day. That’s 2,377 gallons per year!

- About 75% of indoor home water occurs in our bathrooms, and toilets are the single largest water users.

- Less than 3% of the water produced at a municipal water treatment plant is used for drinking purposes.

The Bathroom:
- Turn water off while brushing your teeth or washing your hands.

- Have showers instead of baths and keep them short (5-10 minutes).

- Install low-flow showerheads.

The Kitchen:
- Don’t run water contiuously while washing dishes or rinsing foods; use a previously filled sink instead with a quick rinse afterwards.

- Wash full loads and use shortest cycles wghen using dishwasher.

- Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator, instead of running tap water for a cold glass of water.

The Laundry Room:
- Wash dull loads and use shortest cycle

- Use cold or warm water instead of hot

Friday, December 3, 2010

Off the Grid: Portable Solar Chargers

Something we are constantly being reminded of on an almost daily basis is, we need to reduce our carbon footprint. The reasons are many and compelling. One of the largest contributing factors of that carbon footprint is power consumption in the form of electrical usage.

Electricity is not something anyone wants give up. And restructuring our habits to exclude something that has embedded itself so deeply into our everyday lives that we cannot imagine life without it is virtually impossible. We will always need and crave more electrical power. So, instead of continuing using traditional methods of generating electricity for our homes to recharge our portable electronic devices, let's take another step away from the grid with portable solar chargers.

By now most of should be at least familiar with the concept of capturing the sun's energy and converting it into usable electrical power. For those of you who don't, the basic idea is that a solar collector, also known as a photovoltaic solar panel, absorbs the sun's rays and converts it into electricity. They are becoming more and more prevalent on large buildings as well as homes. As usage of these solar panels become more and more common their price is coming down so that more of us can afford them.

Solar chargers come in all shapes and sizes from variously shaped plastic boxes to mats that simply roll-out when you need them. They are also lighter and more-compact than just a few years ago. These are great when you are in the back country camping or hiking. Portability is something everyone appreciate allowing you to carry them in your purse or backpack. Some are waterproof, they also vary in charge time and ability to work in less than sunny conditions. The very latest trend is to sew them into clothing, laptop cases, backpacks, and bike bags.

Right now you can purchase these thin-film devices online as well as from electronics stores for around $60 to $100. Or can choose to make your own.

Do It Yourself is becoming all the rage so why not jump in and try it yourself? Below are just a few sites I found to take you through the steps in making your own.

gives instructions on making a solar iPhone/iPad charger using an Altoids tin.

The website Popsci shows you how to make a solar charger.

If you are hanging onto rechargeable batteries, how about building your own solar battery charger.

And, if you are feeling really ambitious, how about a solar power generator?

Anything we can do to reduce our carbon footprint is a step in the right direction.

Tags: solar power,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dangerous Levels of Lead Still Found in Consumer Products

Isn’t anyone going to do something to stop the spread of this toxic element? We learned about the dangers of lead to our bodies decades ago. Why are we still dealing with this poison today in 2010?

Is lead really such an all-important substance that there is no suitable replacement for it? NO. Is it really so much cheaper to use than some alternative? Not when you factor in the cost of health problems caused by using it, which by the way does affect every single person in higher insurance premiums. But then again manufacturers must consider the health of consumers as secondary to their immediate financial benefits. Could this really be true? You betcha.

It is no surprise that lead is found in toys and other consumer products made before we knew about leads toxicity, but to allow these products to remain on the market is irresponsible.

Here’s where we have to test our desire to truly get rid of lead products. Would we really rather hang on to antiques knowing they poison everyone who handles them? Getting rid of them would harm antique stores, second-hand stores and junk shops world-wide, but these items are poison. Just how serious are we about protecting our children and ourselves? It’s a thorny issue.

There are products with lead concentrations of more than 700 times the federal limit. Some toys were found to have more than 50,000 parts per million of lead. Doesn’t sound like anything I want my kids to play with.

Typically, we have thought the only children at risk for lead poisoning are those who live in poor neighborhoods, where lead exposure has historically been more of an issue. But since the resurgence of decorating with slavage items many middle- or upper-class families are being exposed to the danger.

Children should never be allowed to come into contact with antiques or used products sold by a seller who is not regulated by a government agency such as the Consumer Product Safety Administration or the FDA. Used dishware and kitchen utensils should not be used for preparing, serving or storing food. Construction debris and salvage should be considered to have lead until proven safe.

For more details from the story go here.

Temporary Ban is Better Than Drilling

Hooray! There will be no more drilling for oil off the Atlantic coast waters. At least temporarily. Wouldn’t it be great if this was just the impetus needed to force development of alternative fuels? One can hope, right?

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said BP’s Deepwater Horizon massive oil spill showed that the administration needed "to proceed with caution" on expanding offshore drilling. (This type of disaster is what environmentalists have been warning us of for years.)

Why do we always have to wait for a huge disaster to occur before we listen?

I can believe in technology as much as the next guy but seriously, we have to take into account that humans get lazy and sloppy and the results can lead to disaster.

Of course there are always opponents. And of course they will cite monetary reasons to continue drilling instead of developing alternative plans. I mean come on, how lame is it to claim that the billions of dollars that oil companies would have paid to lease new offshore tracts would actually go to help balance the federal budget. As if that is what that money would be used for.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Economic Warfare

Photo by Jim Posth, Picture Arts

With glaciers, ice caps and permafrosts melting at ever-increasing rates, causing alarming rises in sea levels and shifts in the oceans’ currents, playing havoc with ocean temperatures, salinity and the livelihood of all earth’s water-dependent inhabitants (every single living organism); with motor vehicles, a status symbol of the modern capitalist-consumer age, an advertising-led and urban-sprawl necessity entering, filling, congesting our roads in hoards of hundreds by the minute, driving pollution and a giant oil-hungry machine that plunders and rapes our mother earth for all her natural resources, ensuring a quickened death to our home, are we throwing it all away? Are we burning it all down? Or are we simply guaranteeing a grim future for the few generations that will live beyond our neglect, our selfishness and our greed? We live on the bloated corpse of an economic system that is no longer relevant to our time, and – since its very first day – has been completely detached from the very home our race inhabits. Controlled by a small number of maggots feeding on its insides and poisoning us all, will we see the light and change our ways, before the nature that supports us is bled of all it has to lose? —Carlos Hurworth

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yellow Pages Suing To Keep Laying Trees to Waste

David at The Good Human reports that Seattle, Washington recently passed an ordinance that allowed residents to “opt-out” of receiving the Yellow Pages at their homes, something that neds to happen in every city and state in the country. Dex Media West, SuperMedia LLC and the Yellow Pages Association say that the ruling violates their First Amendment rights to free speech and it will hurt them where it counts – their wallet. The ordinance went into affect in October, but with this lawsuit pending it looks like it’s going to be a while before it can be enforced.

Each year, phone books require the destruction of about 19 million trees a year, 7.2 million barrels of oil, 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and the generation of 268,000 cubic yards of solid waste that ends up in landfills — not including the waste of the unwanted books themselves.

I agree with David, “there is absolutely no reason that paper phone books should be automatically delivered to every household in America when I would venture that the majority of us just walk them straight back to the recycling bin.” If you want a phone book just ask for it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where's the Love?

For the Love of Honey

I love Honey! Okay, who doesn’t, right? Sweetening tea has been a family favorite for longer than I care to admit, but how about some other uses? It’s been used for medicinal purposes for years and this great blog I just discovered uncovers some more unconventional ways to use honey.

Did you know that Honey the only food that will not spoil? Despite the rumors of a McDonalds burger lasting forever, it will spoil.

Lead in reusable grocery bags prompts call for federal inquiry

USAToday reports-
Lead found in some reusable grocery bags is raising concerns that the toxin could pose environmental or health concerns to consumers.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is asking for a federal investigation into the reusable bags following a series by The Tampa Tribune. The newspaper found lead in bags purchased at Winn-Dixie, Publix, Sweetbay, Walmart and Target.

Using reusable grocery bags was thought to be a great help in reducing the amount of plastic going into our landfills and the great Garbage Island out in the Pacific Ocean.

Reusable grocery bags make up 10% to 15% of the market, and could become as much of 25%. But other concerns have previously been raised about E. coli contamination in bags. For example, If you put a hunk of meat in one of these bags and it drips, contamination, is the bag is left unwashed, could lead to contamination onto unprotected produce.

Is lead so abundant in our production stream that we just cannot get away from it?

In June 2010, Dr Kristie McNealy reports, a notice of violation of California’s Proposition 65 made by the Environmental Law Foundations alleges that a number of popular fruit and juice products sold in the United States contain unacceptable levels of lead. The specific food categories tested included apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears and peaches (including baby food) and fruit cocktail.

The specific way that these products were contaminated is unknown. It’s possibly related to soil contamination caused by leaded fuel and lead arsenate, an insecticide used in fruit orchards in various parts of the world until 1955.

Though the use of lead paint was banned in 1978, it is estimated that nearly five out of seven homes in the U.S. still have lead based paint. Further, many common household products, even toys and jewelry, contain dangerous amounts of lead. In 2006, the CDC reported that 8 million pieces of jewelry were recalled due to dangerously high levels of lead. Cases of serious illness and even death have resulted from children swallowing small pieces of jewelry containing lead.

Lead is also getting into Urban Vegetable Gardens.

Hopefully, we have not already done too much damage to our planet and ourselves to recover from it. Keeping fingers crossed and trying not to do more damage is possibly the only left for us.

Tell us what you think. Have we poisoned ourselves beyond hope?

America Recycles Day – November 15, 2010

Held every year on November 15, America Recycles Day is a national campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling and buying products made with recycled materials. Buying recycled is the step that "closes the recycling loop." Let’s see what each of us can do to help spread the message.

10 great ways to celebrate America Recycles Day:
1 - Commit to recycle and buy recycled products both at home and at work or school.

2 - Learn what materials you can recycle in your community and do your best to recycle all you can.

3 - When shopping, purchase products that are packaged in materials you can recycle locally.

4 - Visit a recycling center in your area. See how your recycled paper and containers are sorted and prepared for manufacturing into new products.

5 - Read product labels. At your local grocery, department store or home improvement center, look for products with recycled content, and buy some. Look for “safe bets” that always have recycled content: steel, aluminum, glass or molded paper pulp containers (like egg cartons).

6 - Ask your local retailer to stock more products with recycled content, or write the manufacturer of your favorite products asking them to use recycled materials.

7 - Organize an event such as a display of recycled content products at your school, office, store or church, or a tour of a facility that manufactures recycled-content products.

8 - Learn more about how recycling helps preserve resources, protects the environment and benefits the economy, then teach some kids about the importance of recycling and buying recycled.

9 - Don’t forget waste reduction is important too. Look for ways to avoid making garbage — try composting.

10 - Visit the great outdoors and enjoy the clear air, clean water and litter-free landscapes that recycling helps make possible.

You can also get involved through social media to support America Recycles Day. Join the conversation using the #americarecycles hashtag on Twitter.

More Info at:

Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District

Seeing Nature Through Other People’s Trash

My wife and I enjoy hiking in the nearby mountains, and along the river that flows through the city, and along the sidewalks of our small town. The mountain trails are preferable because they are not paved. The trails along the river have recently begun to be paved (much to our disappointment) but is still enjoyable, and of course our towns sidewalks are made of concrete (hard on the feet and back), not quite as enjoyable but we get to walk along a road alongside a canal that has not been paved.

We try to walk a minimum of 10 miles a week, a loosely adhered to goal chosen because it is a round number and it is very attainable. Sometimes we actually are able to get in a few more miles, but not often. I know it isn't very much of a goal but with full time work and our hands full maintaining a 30+ year old house and our growing garden, we find time when we can. We enjoy it most when our grand kids and their parents are able to come along with us.

Over the years we have always found a certain level of trash thrown along the trail side and roads, but it seems lately that the trash problem is getting worse. There is simply more of it and in places we did not use to see it. The vast majority of what we find, as you may imagine, is in town and it consists mostly of fast food wrappers and cups. I don't know if people are thinking it's okay to toss this stuff out their window because its all bio-degradable or what, but, it is not okay.

Another, more disgusting, habit we are finding is pet owners allowing their pets to do their business and then just leaving it there. I know it's not pleasant to pick up after your dog, but why leave it there for someone else to deal with? That is just so not neighborly. Despite the signs, the doggy-poo bag dispensers people still allow their pets to 'dump freely'. And the worst of these people allow their pets to do it right on the trail. I mean, come on, have some courtesy!

The occasional diaper is even beginning to show its disgusting self. What are these people thinking?

We try to pick up after others for the sake of the environment and the general aesthetics of the view but some things we just refuse to handle.

I've never been able to figure out why some people think we live in a trash can?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cleaning Solutions for Dirty Windows

On the front page of Yahoo this morning I saw an article telling us of ‘8 clever solutions for cleaning windows’. Naturally, I just had to check it out to see if these 8 clever ideas were still pushing the chemically laden solutions or if they were getting on board with safer chemical free solutions.

Let’s examine them one by one: The numbered items are reprinted from the article followed by an alternative:

1. "My windows always streak after washing"
Use a window-washing squeegee with a smooth, soft rubber edge. Washing windows is a tiresome chore, but it’s even worse when your labors leave streaks on the windows. Here’s how the pros avoid streaking when they wipe off their windows: Use a window-washing squeegee with a smooth, soft rubber edge. (Or use crumpled-up black-and-white newspaper—avoid the color sections.) Dry a 1-inch (2.5 centimeter) strip at the top or side of each window and always start your squeegee there—starting on dry glass is one key to avoiding streaks. Don’t wash windows in direct sunlight, because quickly dried glass is more susceptible to streaking. Evenings or cloudy days are the times for window washing.

They mention a crumpled-up black-and-white newspaper, this is good. Newspaper ink is soy-based and therefore bio-degradable, hard plastic and rubber…not so much.

I use lint-free cloth from old clothing that I wash in my homemade laundry detergent that has not been washed or dried with fabric softener, very important as fabric softener residue will leaves streaks. Works great…the single best advice given here is to not wash the windows in direct sunlight. What is not mentioned here is the window wash solution…white vinegar and warm water.

2. "My blinds are dust magnets!"
Use an antistatic spray. To keep dust from piling up quickly, use an antistatic spray, such as Static Guard, on the window blinds right after you clean them.

Antistatic sprays are chemical based. Ethanol, Polyoxypropylene Methyl diethyl, Ammonium Chloride, Liquified Petroleum Gas. Is the dust build up really worth using this stuff? Dusting the blinds with a feather duster, a soft cloth and/or vacuum with an upholstery brush attachments works best. Here are some helpful tips.

3. "There’s mildew on my window frames"
Wash with a bleach-detergent solution. Black or gray mildew spots on wooden frames can be cleaned for good with a solution of 2 ounces (60 milliliters) of household bleach and 1 ounce (30 milliliters)of laundry detergent in a quart of water. Wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands, sponge the solution on the spots, let it sit for ten minutes, and then rinse thoroughly with clean water.

This one is pretty enviro-friendly. Note it is always best to clean window frames before cleaning window glass so solution does not spot glass panes. Helpful tips.

4. "My outside windowsills get dirty so quickly"
Apply a coat of floor wax. Because your exterior windows are exposed to the elements, they are subject to collecting a lot of dirt. But there is a simple way to keep your sills clean: Wipe on a coat of clear floor wax to protect them.

This one is acceptable but regular cleaning is best. Mix 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of ammonia in a bucket, wipe the window sills with a soft rag soaked in the vinegar/ammonia mixture and wrung out, get out an old toothbrush to get to those hard to reach corners then rinse with clean water. You can let it air dry or use a soft cloth.

5. "My shades are filthy"
Dust or wash the shades. Dust shades regularly with a soft cloth, a duster such as the Swiffer, or the dusting brush on your vacuum. (Be sure to dust both sides of the shades.) If they’re stained or spotted, it’s time for a real cleaning. Though you can wash them in place (with a drop cloth over the floor and furniture), it’s best to remove the shades. Place one shade at a time across a worktable covered with a plastic sheet or shower curtain. Wash vinyl shades using a sponge and a solution of 1⁄4 cup white vinegar in 1 quart (1 liter) of warm water. Washing them in the bathtub is even easier. Run some warm water in the tub, add a squirt of dishwashing liquid, and wipe each side with a large sponge. To rise, dunk them in clean water or hold them under the shower. Then wipe with a clean, soft cloth. Many fabric shades can also be washed, but take a close look at the care instructions before washing them. It’s best not to leave them in the water for more than a minute or so.

Swiffer products use chemicals to get the job done. Need I say more? Plus, buying these one-time-use products are not enviro-firendly. Follow the otherwise ‘cleaner’ method mentioned here and replace the unfriendly Swiffer for that soft cloth. And, again, do it regularly so dirt does not have a chance to build up.

6. "My windows get dirty too fast"
Change your heating and cooling system's filter. If the interior glass surface of your windows gets dirty unusually fast, you may need to change the filters on your furnace or air conditioner. Modern airtight homes trap more dust, pollen, dander, and other particles inside than ever before. Furnace and air-conditioner filters help trap that dirt and also extend the life of your appliances. Filters should be changed every month or two or anytime you can’t see light through the filter when you hold it up to a light.

This is actually the best advise. Regularly changing your filters gets rid of dust, pollen, etc before it can get re-circulated.

7. "Secondhand smoke is killing my windows"
Wash it with ammonia solution. To remove nicotine film or other grime from windows, you need ammonia. Mix 1 cup of lemon scented ammonia in 21⁄2 gallons (9.5 liters) of water and use this solution to clean the windows. The ammonia will cut through the grime, and the lemon scent will leave your house habitable.

Another safe enviro-friendly solution.

8. "My screens are filthy"
Remove and wash. The best way to clean window screens is to remove them from the window and wash them outside. Using abroad, soft-bristled brush, scrub both sides of the screens with warm to hot water and lemon-scented dishwashing detergent. Pick up the screen by its edges, hold it at an angle so most of the screen surface is facing the ground, and rap one edge lightly against a firm surface. This will shake loose any dirt. Rinse with a hose and air-dry thoroughly before reinstalling.

It seems we are getting more enviro-friendly. Several years ago these problems would have been met with much harsher methods. Most of these tips offered are getting away from chemicals although there are still a few of us out there who still hang on to the more convenient chemical-based sprays and wipes.

The only way we are going to get companies to stop selling these is to stop buying them. Speak with your pocketbook and companies will have to listen.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How Much Gift Giving is Going to End Up in Landfills This Holiday Season?

When Native Americans and the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving to commemorate hardships they had overcome, they began a tradition that is much anticipated here in America. And Christmas is, without a doubt, the single biggest worldwide celebration.

With these two holidays come a curious increase in the amount of consumption and its associated waste.

It is estimated that Americans waste 28 billion pounds of food each year and half of the paper expended in this country is used to wrap consumer products.

Let us all try to curb the mad consumption and see if we can get by with just a little less this year. This is a perfect time to show just how committed we are to reducing waste. Are we going to be waste-wise warriors or waste- wise wannabes?

Facts on Holiday Waste
From Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons - it all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. (EPA and Use Less Stuff)

In the U.S., annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons. (Use Less Stuff)

The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year n the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we'd save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. (Use Less Stuff) Consider sending an electronic card. The following are some examples of what is available on the internet:
American Greetings


if every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

At least 28 billion pounds of edible food are wasted each year - or over 100 pounds per person. (Use Less Stuff)

Half of the paper America consumes is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. (The Recycler's Handbook)

Christmas Trees
Each year, 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. (Cygnus Group). Of those, about 30 million go to the landfill. (Environmental News Network)

The average American spends $800 on gifts over the holiday season.

According to a national survey, 70% of Americans would welcome less emphasis on gift giving and spending. (Center for a New American Dream)

About 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. (EPA)

If each family reduced holiday gasoline consumption by one gallon (about twenty miles), we'd reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons. (Use Less Stuff)

I’m all for celebrating our traditions, without them life would be pretty boring, and disrespectful of those who sacrificed so much to get us to where we are today. But, let’s be reasonable in our consumption and make a conscious effort to cutting back on waste this year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Innovative, Reusable "Replenish" Spray Bottle

This bottle could revolutionize the home cleaning market.

Finally, an innovation in the right direction to help cut down on the amount of plastic we throw away.

Building a Sustainable World – Earth Policy Institutes Plan B

Earth Policy Institute (EPI) President Lester Brown says, “Saving civilization is not a spectator sport.” Check. Many of us already know this. The problem is getting enough people to believe it is a necessary undertaking and then getting us all to agree on how to do it.

EPI has dedicated itself towards building a sustainable future. They have addressed the need to act against the mounting pressures on our global environment and have attracted many industry leaders to formulate a plan to answer this call. That plan is called simply: Plan B.

One of the key components of Plan B, is to halt world population growth at no more than 8 billion by 2040.

Hold on a minute, halt world population growth at no more than 8 billion by 2040? Let’s put aside the ‘deadline’ for this fantastic undertaking and let’s ignore the stated limit of 8 billion people. Any talk of halting population growth is completely absurd.

This would not only require a tremendous effort to educate people everywhere on how this would work but it would require convincing them that it is necessary. Also, there are totally insurmountable obstacles concerning religious beliefs and cultural mores that would have to be overcome as well as many other objections and hurdles I cannot even begin to comprehend.

I do believe the people at EPI have placed themselves squarely in the same category as those who run around the street crying “the sky is falling”.

While their goal to “replace the fossil-fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy with a new economic model powered by abundant sources of renewable energy: primarily wind, solar, and geothermal” is a noble one, this population control thing is so far out in left field to be deemed laughable.

Mankind’s relationship with our natural support systems is deteriorating rapidly and perhaps desperate measures are required to overcome the rate as we are descending into our self-imposed oblivion, but forcing the end of population growth will never be an attainable goal.

We do need to get reproductive health care and birth control services to the more than 200 million women today who want to plan their families but lack access to the means to do so.

Nature has shown time and again its ability to adapt itself to changing conditions to ensure its survival. When the world’s population has reached that tipping point when our planet will no longer be able to support it nature will find a way to relieve the pressure. Whether it be through increased natural disasters or some ‘biblical plague of locusts’. Nature will continue long after we are gone. It’s a cold way of looking at the situation but nature can be pretty heartless. Plus, it is no colder than forcing birth control on our population.

Where Does Stuff Go When It Dies?

Great video from Annie Leonard describing the problems in making, using and disposing of electronics. Very well done. Bravo!

Take back laws, gotta love it.

Sweeping Report Details the Devastation of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Reported in POPSCI: “Environmental groups and wildlife conservation advocates have argued for years that Atlantic bluefin tuna populations are being devastated, but it was difficult to make a hard case. Now a group of investigative journalists have compiled their own detailed and damning report, as well as a companion documentary, tallying the damage done”.

This is the very kind of thing that gets my blood boiling. Authorities responsible for keeping track of fishing quotas and enforcing international regulations simply – and sometimes willfully – do not.

I have stated several times already that basic financial greed is killing us all and this is yet another example. I know many of you know this to be true and on some level I have to apologize for continuing to bring it up but, dammit, it still is true and still needs to be said.

In this particular case, that greed is leading to chronic overfishing which leads to a break down in our food chain. Evidently, the people in charge of this matter are more concerned with lining their own pockets with money than in fostering the long term health of our planet and therefore ourselves. Another display of disrespect for their fellow man.

This is a clear case that these people do not believe in the importance of maintaining a healthy and complete food chain, they do not believe that our planet (and mankind) will suffer greatly when that food chain dissolves, and their actions (inactions) show a complete disregard for international law and our ability to enforce it.

More from the site: “The report, compiled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), details the abuses carried out in the harvesting of Atlantic bluefin tuna, a marine delicacy that can grow to more than 1,000 pounds and live for up to 40 years – and fetch up to $100,000 per specimen at auction in Tokyo (Japan makes up 80 percent of the bluefin market). The report reveals an intricate web of interests ranging from government agencies down to fishermen and fish markets all willfully ignoring the rules for the sake of profit.”

These illicit practices, the report claims, extend to sea ranching, in which fish are kept in a series of underwater cages and nets, fattened up like cattle, and sold off at auction. Because ranching fish creates a problem for fisherman looking to appear under quota, they quickly figured out how to use the ranches to “launder fish,” falsifying fish counts and the weights of their catches. Barring that, a robust black market arose in loosely regulated places like Turkey and Tunisia, who would take un-counted, illegal fish off ranchers’ hands.

Reverse Osmosis Water Filters

We have one of these in our home, very necessary when you live in an area that has water that can only be described as the ‘hardest water in the country’.

When we first moved into this house six years ago we had no idea of the water situation (this house was scoped out and purchased for us by a family member without us ever having first seen it). We love the house for many reasons, water quality is not one of them.

The process of reverse osmosis purifies tap water by forcing it through a semi-permeable membrane that is designed to filter out bacteria and minerals. Without it you immediately, not so much taste as, feel the difference.

While it may produce what can arguably be called a more ‘pure’ form of drinking water…it still does not make the water more palatable. That is nothing against the filter process but against the water source. The process does not solve all water hardness problems.

There are methods of making tap water taste better but in some cases you simply need more than just coffee beans, tea bags or fruit and sweeteners.

In those case there are carbon water filters on the market that can be attached to your faucets, or you can go all out with the ‘how to purify water under survival conditions’ routine.

More and more homeowners, and even renters, are installing water filtration systems as a backup because we are learning far too often that the good money we pay to local water departments to have good tasting, healthy water to drink is just no longer paying off. So, why should have to buy bottled water? Because we keep polluting our rivers and streams. This has to stop. We can’t count on our local government’s to clean it up anymore.

Here’s an example of why we can’t count on them: 37 Missouri Drinking Water Systems Fail to Complete Testing.

And here’s an example of how depending on home builders and developers could leave you with a bad taste in your mouth: ‘Developer fined for failing to provide safe drinking water’.

These stories are becoming all too common.

So, the need for a water filtration system is real. And the choice of which water filtration system to choose depends on if you’re looking to rid of a specific contaminant or if you’re generally looking for cleaner tasting water. For a full description of home water filter choices see Best Rated Water Filters of 2010.

Polluting our water resources is just another way in which we show disrespect for ourselves and each other.

Mobil CSA

Holton Farms of Vermont has created a unique business model centered on access, with a mobile farm truck reaching clientele across the economic spectrum in different parts of New York city.

I love this idea. It appeals to me on several levels, it helps farmers stay in business and it helps urban dwellers gain access to fresher food. It can be adapted to every part of the country.

Let’s face it, a lot of produce we find in grocery stores is not all that fresh. You just know some of it has been sitting a little too long on the shelf. Ever pick up a carrot and it is so limp you can bend it in half? Not very appetizing. Or how about those wrinkled peppers?

Farmers markets, currently set up in city parks and along country roads, are great if you have transportation to get to them. But this distribution network could be expanded to neighborhoods where transportation is not available. There are many parts of every city where city bus lines just do not reach so a mobil produce truck would be ideal. CSA membership fees could help cover transportation costs and members could get a discount on the price of produce.

The drivers could also take orders for other specialized items to be delivered on the next trip, such as, baked goods, canned items, cut flowers, etc. the size of the truck would be the limiting factor put businesses on wheels sounds like a great idea.

Now if only we had non-polluting vehicles that would be exceptional.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Teach Your Children

Part of the responsibility of being a parent is to teach our children what we have learned from our life experiences. And one of the most pressing and difficult yet very necessary lessons that we, as stewards of this planet, need to pass on is how to treat the environment with more respect.

We hear phrases such as ‘green technology’ and ‘green methods’ and ‘green design’ all of which are indeed ‘designed’ to appeal to our general feeling of making positive progress towards becoming a more ‘environmentally friendly’ society. At first blush it appears that we are indeed reversing our past destructive trends and that we are finally on course towards a ‘green society’. But, is this hope warranted? Are we truly becoming green?

One industry leader defines ‘Green’ as “the design, commercialization, and use of processes & products that are feasible & economical while both reducing the generation of pollution at the source and minimizing the risk to human health & the environment”. This definition has its roots in the business model as evidenced by the words ‘feasible & economical’.

The idea of ‘feasible & economical’ underscores the most pressing issue that must be overcome in achieving a balance between the survival of the economy and the survival of the environment. And that is mankind’s propensity towards financial greed. I believe a balance can be struck. Unfortunately, I also believe there is still too much of an emphasis on becoming financially wealthy. And this drive typically leaves all other types of wealth by the wayside. One of those types of wealth is a thriving, sustainable, and richly diverse natural environment.

We need to take bigger steps towards truly becoming environmentally friendly. As long as financial considerations take precedent over environmental concerns we will never attain our goals of protecting the world we all live in. Oil rigs are still being erected despite the damage done, coal mines are still being dug despite the damage they cause and nuclear energy, solar power, wind power, wave energy, etc are still considered cost prohibitive.

Rallying behind a turn of phrase that serves business interests will only carry us so far. The real force behind any meaningful positive progress towards becoming a more environmentally friendly society falls to the actions and decisions made everyday by every individual. The old adage ‘there is power in numbers’ comes true here because in order for this to work we are all going to need to participate. It truly is the little things that add up to make a big difference.

Humans are cunning and just as resilient as nature herself and we will overcome the big environmental questions of the day. Of this I have no doubt. But until we place the well-being and survival of the environment above the business of making money we have to continue to ask ourselves ‘are we green yet?’

We cannot dwell on what we have not done in the past. Sure, we need to examine our mistakes in order to learn from them, but while we are doing this life is still moving on. We need to set an example.

Repurposing Items

I am a huge believer and practitioner of repurposing any item I can. I believe that every products container has more uses than the one it was designed for. It is our duty as consumers to learn other ways in which containers can be used.

For instance, as I go through my local grocery store I constantly look at how a product is packaged keeping my eye on how that container can be used after the product itself is long gone.

The most common products that come to mind are butter (margarine or near butter) containers. These are great for storing leftovers in the fridge. Just as larger sized Yogurt containers and even whipped topping containers. These plastic tubs of various sizes just scream out “don’t throw me away, re-use me”. Who needs Tupperware or Rubbermaid as long as these little plastic beauties are available?

The small glass jars of artichoke hearts, or yeast, or specialty jellies and jams are just right for making candles in. You can buy a bag of wax at any craft store and pour into your jar of choice in a pan of boiling water and within a few minutes you have a candle for the next time the power to your house goes out. There are a multitude of websites devoted to showing you what you need. Honestly, the double boiler thing is not really necessary.

You can paint these jars afterwards, you can wrap them in jute with a little watered down glue, you can even put contact paper on them to dress them up or leave the label on them if you want.

These jars can be used for keeping loose screws etc in them inside your junk drawer. Out in the workshop they can be used to hold small items. In the kitchen you can store leftover liquids in them. Your imagination is your only limit.

I use small one-cup sized jars to store hummingbird food in the fridge.

I cut milk jugs, vinegar bottles, bleach bottles in half and use the tops as funnels and the bottoms to store kitchen scraps to carry out to the compost pile.

I also use gallon milk jugs to water my house plants with and to carry water out to my bird baths every day.

The lids on some food jars have the little button in the center to be used to check for freshness, these jars are great for putting homemade jelly or other foods in. just put the food in when it is hot, close the lid and wait for the button to ‘pop’ inwards showing it is sealed.

The foil bags that coffee comes in, we use these empty bags to store homemade snacks in when we go hiking.

The tin cans that some foods come in, they are used to store craft items, same as with the small jars mentioned earlier.

Recycling, reusing, repurposing, whatever you want to call it can go a long way towards keeping items out of our landfills as long as possible. Let’s all chip in and help in any way we can.

What clever ways have you come up with to repurpose items? I'd love to hear about them.