Green-News: Thursday 7.31.08

He said the biofuels industry is working hard to ensure it is responsible and sustainable - claiming other industries are lagging far behind their efforts.

"Government should stop hiding behind tabloids and have the courage to encourage an industry that has done more than anybody to put the safeguards in place and to make a real contribution," Mr Hilton added.

Environmental Data Interactive Exchange wants to know what our readers think about Mr Hilton's argument.

Is the "fuel or food" debate redundant? Is it hijacking the debate about biofuels when there are other more important issues that should be discussed? Or are food prices a central concern when it comes to biofuels?
"Mr. Johnson has consistently chosen special interests over the American people's interests in protecting health and safety," Sen. Barbara Boxer of California told reporters. "He has become a secretive and dangerous ally of polluters and we cannot stand by and allow more damage to be done."

Boxer, who heads the environment committee, said Johnson had made damaging decisions on mercury, lead, toxic chemicals, drinking water standards, ozone air pollution and global warming.

She said these decisions were "harmful to the American people."

Boxer noted that last year, Johnson denied California's request for federal permission -- known as a waiver -- to impose tough new limits on climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks. That decision effectively blocked as many as 18 other states from doing the same.
Derek Mueller, a research at Trent University, was careful not to blame global warming, but said it the event was consistent with the theory that the current Arctic climate isn't rebuilding ice sheets.

"We're in a different climate now," he said. "It's not conducive to regrowing them. It's a one-way process."

Mueller said the sheet broke away last week from the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf off the north coast of Ellesmere Island in Canada's far north. He said a crack in the shelf was first spotted in 2002 and a survey this spring found a network of fissures.

The sheet is the biggest piece shed by one of Canada's six ice shelves since the Ayles shelf broke loose in 2005 from the coast of Ellesmere, about 500 miles from the North Pole.

Formed by accumulating snow and freezing meltwater, ice shelves are large platforms of thick, ancient sea ice that float on the ocean's surface. Ellesmere Island was once entirely ringed by a single enormous ice shelf that broke up in the early 1900s.

Green-News: Wednesday 7.30.08

"We need to reaffirm the principle of predictability," George David, chairman of United Technologies Corp, told the House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

"We need to say to our world that we are going to have a cost of carbon, whether it's cap-and-trade or a carbon tax," he told a hearing in Hartford, Connecticut, where United Tech, the world's largest maker of elevators and air conditioners, is headquartered. "There's got to be an understanding that the cost of energy is going to be high for a long time."

While oil prices have quadrupled in the last four years, he noted past price spikes have been followed by sharp declines.

David declined to back a particular approach for assigning a cost to emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas associated with global climate change.
Solar heat absorbed through windows and roofs can increase your air conditioner use. Incorporating shading concepts into your landscape design can help reduce this solar heat gain, reducing your cooling costs.

Shading and evapotranspiration (the process by which a plant actively moves and releases water vapor) from trees can reduce surrounding air temperatures as much as 9° F (5°C). Because cool air settles near the ground, air temperatures directly under trees can be as much as 25°F (14°C) cooler than air temperatures above nearby blacktop.

Using shade effectively requires you to know the size, shape, and location of the moving shadow that your shading device casts. Also, homes in cool regions may never overheat and may not require shading. Therefore, you need to know what landscape shading strategies will work best in your regional climate and your microclimate.
If you cannot get a recycle bin from the sanitation department, you may be able to purchase one from your local health food store or by visiting a recycling center in your area. Making sure that everyone in your family participates will help to do wonders for conserving natural resources not only in your city, but also around the world.

When trash is picked up from your home or business, it is taken to a landfill, where it is sometimes sorted so that sanitation workers can bring the 'good trash' back to factories. This process is rather tedious and sometimes empty glass bottles or paper plates and cups that should have been recycled go unnoticed. When you use your recycle bin, you are already separating the products that can be used again to make recycled grocery bags, coffee cups and glass products.

Getting your family or co-workers involved in recycling is a great way to reduce global warming as well. When trash is taken from your home and needs to be disposed of, it is often burned in order to be easier to work with. The gases that are given off during this process negatively affect the ozone layer, and make the layer weaker. This means that over time, humans could be even more exposed to the hazardous rays of the sun. This exposure causes more incidences of skin cancer and affects our produce crops, so learning to reuse products can eventually help preserve our world.

The Power of Cow Crap...

You hear a lot about converting meadow muffins into green energy. Carrie Cockburn of The Globe and Mail illustrates how it’s done. Take a look:

And TreeHugger breaks it down further:
1. BARN: Slurry of manure is washed and scraped from cow stalls into a series of sewage pipes that run under the barn. The manure is mixed with other food wastes.

2. DIGESTER: The slurry is heated to around 37 degrees and kept at that level for the five days needed for the microbes to decompose the cow dung. This process gives off methane gas, which bubbles through the slurry and is collected at the top.

3. DIESEL GENERATOR: The gas runs to the generator, where it is burned to produce electricity to power the digester and the farm, and to feed into the grid.

4. SOLIDS SEPARATOR: Leftover liquids are used as fertilizer and the solids are strained to make a material to be used as bedding for the cows.
No doubt, working at one of these facilities will land you on an episode of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe.

Green-News: Monday 7.28.08

Colorado: More than $1 billion in losses due to impacts on tourism, forestry, water resources and human health from a predicted drier, warmer climate.

Georgia: Multi-million dollar losses from predicted higher seas along Georgia's coast.

Kansas: Losses exceeding $1 billion from impact on agriculture of predicted warmer temperatures and reduced water supply in much of the state.

Illinois: Billions of dollars in losses from impact on shipping, trade and water resources. Warmer temperatures and lower water levels predicted for much of the state.

Michigan: Billions of dollars in losses from damage to the state's shipping and water resources. Warmer temperatures and lower water levels predicted for much of the state.

Nevada: Billions of dollars in losses from a much drier climate and pressure on scarce water resources. Water limitations could affect tourism, real estate, development and human health. Many western states may confront similar challenges.

New Jersey: Billions of dollars in losses from higher sea levels and the impact on tourism, transportation, real estate and human health.

Ohio: Billions of dollars in losses from warmer temperatures and lower water levels and the resulting impact on shipping and water supplies.
The report does not cover efforts to address the most plentiful greenhouse gas — carbon dioxide — or the biggest sources of it, transportation and electric power plants.

"If EPA wishes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond this point, it needs to consider additional policy options," the report said. Persuading companies to spend money on optional activities "presents a significant challenge to using voluntary programs as the current solution to reducing greenhouse gases."

The Bush administration has been relying largely on the voluntary programs to reduce carbon intensity — the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output — by 18 percent by 2012. That goal would slow the growth of greenhouse gases, but not actually reduce them.

The White House has rejected using existing law to regulate greenhouse gases from motor vehicles and smokestacks despite a Supreme Court decision last year saying it could do so.

President Bush and other world leaders at last month's G-8 summit in Toyako, Japan, made a commitment to a voluntary 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gases worldwide by 2050 but offered no specifics on how to do it.
Check your doors for a good seal: Check the seals on your refrigerator and freezer for a good seal by closing a piece of paper in them. If you can pull the paper out, it's time to adjust or install a new seal.

Keep it cool: Allow for 2 inches of airspace around the appliance and nearby walls and cabinets. Keep your refrigerator out of direct sunlight and as far away as you can from the dishwasher, stove and heating vent.

Turn off the icemaker: We know you love the crushed iced function, but you might want to reconsider going back to old-fashioned ice cube trays. An icemaker can increase a refrigerator's energy consumption by 14 to 20 percent. Yikes.

Set the temp right: Keep your refrigerator between 37 and 40 degrees F, and the freezer between 0 and 5 degrees F.

Vacuum the condenser coils: Once a year, pull your refrigerator out from the wall and vacuum the coils behind it.

Red Tomatoes!

Let’s see how my heavenly tomato is doing. Here was last week:

Now check out today:

And feast your eyes on these:

Yeah baby! In a couple days I’ll be the one feasting!

Green-News: Saturday 7.26.08

"This is a product that we don't believe meets our high standards for the general population, particularly for small children who are more sensitive," said James Gulliford, EPA associate administrator for the office of prevention, pesticides and toxic substances. "While there is little exposure today [to the pesticide], we don't think there's a need, a reason for any exposure."

A million pounds of carbofuran are applied each year in the United States, affecting less than 1 percent of the nation's farmed acres, according to the EPA, but it is used more heavily in developing countries on crops including rice, bananas, coffee and sugar cane. The EPA had indicated earlier this year that it would not apply the ban to imported food, but yesterday it said it will.

"This could have major ramifications around the world, as there are many countries that export rice, coffee and bananas to the U.S.," said Michael Fry, director of conservation advocacy for the American Bird Conservancy. "It's one of the most widely used pesticides in the world."
Charging for plastic bags at the supermarket works--people really do bring their own. Ten weeks ago Marks & Spencer instituted a 5 pence (10 cents) charge on plastic bags at its stores. Since then customers have used 70 million fewer bags. That's an 80% decrease in use. Who would have thought! These are among the first statistics showing the impact of banning bags and they are impressive. At the same time, the company has sold ten million of its own store-brand hessian green bags-for-life; donating the 1.85pence profit made on each one to Groundwork, an environmental charity--$400,000 so far.

The British Government, in its upcoming Climate Change Bill, has given the other big supermarkets until next April to switch over to charging. If they don't do it, the Government will set a mandatory fee for bags. A representative of British supermarkets has called this move "a steamroller to crack a walnut". Environmentalists are concerned that the over-packaging of food is a much more important issue--one the Bill does not address.
  • Granite countertops are growing in popularity, but the increased demand means deeper mining for granite—that sometimes digs up uranium! More from Kate Murphy of The New York Times:
“It’s not that all granite is dangerous,” said Stanley Liebert, the quality assurance director at CMT Laboratories in Clifton Park, N.Y., who took radiation measurements at Dr. Sugarman’s house. “But I’ve seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little.”

Allegations that granite countertops may emit dangerous levels of radon and radiation have been raised periodically over the past decade, mostly by makers and distributors of competing countertop materials. The Marble Institute of America has said such claims are “ludicrous” because although granite is known to contain uranium and other radioactive materials like thorium and potassium, the amounts in countertops are not enough to pose a health threat.

Indeed, health physicists and radiation experts agree that most granite countertops emit radiation and radon at extremely low levels. They say these emissions are insignificant compared with so-called background radiation that is constantly raining down from outer space or seeping up from the earth’s crust, not to mention emanating from manmade sources like X-rays, luminous watches and smoke detectors.

Green-News: Friday 7.25.08

Harnessing the power of the desert sun is at the centre of an ambitious scheme to build a €45bn (£35.7bn) European supergrid that would allow countries across the continent to share electricity from abundant green sources such as wind energy in the UK and Denmark, and geothermal energy from Iceland and Italy.

The idea is gaining political support in Europe, with Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, recently backing the north African solar plan.

Because the sunlight is more intense, solar photovoltaic panels in north Africa could generate up to three times the electricity compared with similar panels in northern Europe.
Plasma TVs, industry officials say, consume about four times the electricity as recharging a plug-in hybrid. Yet utilities have managed to cope with the increased loads as thousands of new televisions came on line…

…Some other factors that help cars are that, unlike TV, they aren't usually plugged in during peak hours. In fact, a big part of what defines peak hours is that everybody is watching TV.

You could also make vehicle chargers 'smart' in a way that you can't with TVs. If you want to watch a show now, you want it now. But a 'smart' charger could look at grid load and decide to start charging the car a hour later (when rates are lower, for example). As long as you program the charger to let it know when you need to have you car charged, there won't be any problems.
  • Rock Port, Missouri is planning to go totally wind-powered. They’re building four wind turbines to power their whole town. ENN reports:
Though the state may not be great for growing wheat or strawberries, Crawford said, "We're farming the wind, which is something that we have up here. The payback on a per-acre basis is generally quite good when compared to a lot of other crops, and it's as simple as getting a cup of coffee and watching the blades spin." Sounds a lot better than spending your days hunched over to pick berries from the ground.

Besides providing an environmentally-friendly source of power, the turbines provide an added bonus to Rock Port: cold, hard, cash. The wind farms are likely to bring in more than $1.1 million in county real estate taxes each year, and locals won't see an increase on their electricity bills for at least 15 to 20 years. We've got a feeling no one will be moving out of town any time soon - at least, not until the wind dies down.

Green-News: Thursday 7.24.08

Together they account for 6 percent of Earth's land surface and store 20 percent of its carbon. They also produce 25 percent of the world's food, purify water, recharge aquifers and act as buffers against violent coastal storms.

Historically, wetlands have been regarded as an impediment to civilization. About 60 percent of wetlands worldwide have been destroyed in the past century, mostly due to draining for agriculture. Pollution, dams, canals, groundwater pumping, urban development and peat extraction add to the destruction.

"Too often in the past, people have unwittingly considered wetlands to be problems in need of a solution, yet wetlands are essential to the planet's health," said Konrad Osterwalder, UN Under Secretary-General and rector of United Nations University, one of the hosts of the meeting.

So far, the impacts of climate change are minor compared to human depredations, the scientists said in a statement. As is the case with other environmental problems, it is far easier and cheaper to maintain wetlands than try to rebuild them later.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) announced today that the USA has overcome Germany as the biggest generator of wind energy electricity in the first half of 2008. This milestone, which was not expected until the end of 2009, comes as a result of the higher average wind speeds in the USA, since Germany is still the leader in installed capacity.

More complete survey results will be published in the next weeks. TreeHugger will follow up with an interview with a knowledgable AWEA representative who can inform us further on:
  • What this milestone means for the US and its energy crisis.
  • ``The Pickens Plan''--is this a viable plan and why?
  • The numbers/stats behind wind energy in the US and its phenomenal growth over the last year.
  • Why transmission is critical for wind energy.
  • The Department of Energy's 20% report, and its implications.
  • To help cut pollution for the Olympics, Chinese officials have implemented an odd traffic-reduction plan. Jake Hooker of The International Herald Tribune explains:
Mo, a member of China's volunteer militia, said his morning bus ride to work was ten minutes shorter than usual after — new traffic rules took effect Sunday to rid the city of its pollution.

"It's taken some pressure off the roads," Mo said. Chinese authorities have said the traffic measures, which allow cars with even and odd license plates to drive on alternate days, will cut automobile emissions by more than 60 percent and take half of the city's 3.2 million cars off the road.

Odd-even restrictions on private vehicles will be in place for the next two months during the Olympic Games and the Paralympics. Trucks producing high emissions have been blocked from entering Beijing since July 1.

On Sunday and Monday, the traffic appeared to have improved. Beijing drivers found a way to get to work. Drivers with license plates ending in even numbers placed notices on Web sites looking for cars with odd numbers, to set up car pools. Local newspapers reported a surge in bicycle sales and many people rode a new subway line that opened over the weekend.

Green-News: Wednesday 7.23.08

In addition, the children born after the plant was closed had 40% lower levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in their cord blood. All of the women in the study were nonsmokers. Peter D. Sly, head of the WHO’s Collaborating Center for Research on Children’s Environmental Health, was cautious about the results of that study however. Sly said that the results do not have implications for the more contemporary, coal-fired ability plants in China. Apparently, the Tongliang coal plant did not have pollution control equipment to limit the emission of pollutants like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee [Barack Obama] now calls climate change "one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation," and proposes cutting carbon emissions 80% by 2050. But as a state senator, from 1997 to 2004, he usually supported bills sought by coal interests, according to legislative records and interviews.

Obama is not the only politician whose public stance has shifted on global warming, which a scientific consensus says has been caused chiefly by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas. Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, who now backs limits on carbon emissions, was among 95 U.S. senators who voted in 1997 to oppose the Kyoto Protocol, an emissions reduction scheme that had been negotiated by then-vice president Al Gore.
According to a report commissioned by the Biological Farmers of Australia, sales at the farm gate last year were estimated to be in excess of $231,000,000 – an 80% increase over 2004.

The report also found an increase in the number of organic produce farmers, with around 5.2% growth per year. We now have 2750 certified organic operators. It seems the young 'uns are the trailblazers in this area, with the average age of an organic producer in Australia is lower than a non-organic producer.

Organic food is certainly catching on in supermarkets too, with over 500 different organic lines in fresh and grocery categories in major retailers.

Green-News: Monday 7.21.08

Large quantities of lead ammunition and fishing tackle are produced annually -- the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that roughly 72,600 metric tons of lead shot and bullets are deposited in the U.S. environment each year at outdoor shooting ranges alone. And while estimates of lost fishing tackle are much less, lead tackle also poses a potential toxicological threat. Lead (Pb) is a nonessential heavy metal with no known functional or beneficial role in biological systems. Although lead is relatively stable, under some environmental conditions (e.g., soft acidic water, acidic soil), lead objects can weather and the element can mobilize, spreading the toxic properties. However, the TWS/AFS technical review concludes that the greatest hazard arises from direct ingestion of lead ammunition and fishing tackle by wildlife, particularly birds.

Topics covered include the chemical properties of lead, sources and estimated quantities of lead originating from hunting, shooting and fishing, as well as the pathways of exposure and the effects of lead on plants, animals, and humans. Current regulations on lead ammunition and fishing tackle, along with alternative materials, are also evaluated.
The plaintiffs hope a favorable ruling would force the EPA to implement standards for every state, most of which have only vague limits on such pollution, said Earthjustice attorney David Guest.

The groups say rain sends the runoff, which includes fertilizers and animal waste, into rivers and lakes, contaminating waterways and nourishing algae blooms that poison the ecosystems.

"This is endemic throughout the United States," Guest said. "When you fertilize the water, it makes it so that only one instrument in the ecological orchestra can play. Where you used to have this vast ecological orchestra, now it's only the algae playing."
In what was described as the United States' first statewide "green" building rules, the California Building Standards Commission said the code would help reduce the carbon footprint of every new structure in the state.

According to a statement from the California State and Consumer Services Agency (SCSA), the code goes beyond existing standards, targeting a 50 percent landscape water conservation reduction.

The code also calls on builders to reduce energy use of new structures by 15 percent more than existing standards.

Other measures include encouraging greater use of recycled materials in carpet and construction materials, the SCSA.

Green Monster...

Let's see how my heavenly tomato is doing. Here's last week:

Now check it out today:

I'm convinced, this thing is a mutant.

Green-News: Wednesday 7.16.08

Air-quality data from a network of sampling sites have revealed intriguing results, Garrison said recently at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

For instance, Caribbean air samples during African dust events may hold two to three times as many microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, as samples taken from the same spot during other periods.

In Florida the Africa-influenced air conditions sometimes deteriorate below U.S. air-quality standards.

Air-quality testing in Mali, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Trinidad and Tobago has also revealed traces of pesticides, including DDE—a breakdown product of DDT, which is still used as an insecticide in some African countries.
"There's every reason to anticipate that it would be happening worldwide," urologist Dr. Margaret Pearle of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, one of the researchers, said in a telephone interview.

Not drinking enough water and other fluids or losing too much fluids through dehydration -- more likely in hotter climates -- can leave one's urine with higher concentrations of substances that can form kidney stones.

This is just the latest negative health consequence to be predicted due to climate change. Others include an increase in the many diseases spread by mosquitoes and other insects.

In the United States, about 12 percent of men and 7 percent of women experience kidney stone disease at some time.

The fraction of the U.S. population living in high-risk zones for kidney stones could grow from 40 percent in 2000 to 56 percent by 2050 and to 70 percent by 2095 if temperatures rise as predicted, the researchers said.
  • To save water a California couple stopped watering their lawn. So the grass turned brown, neighbors complained, and now the couple faces a $746 fine. More from Matt Weiser of The Sacramento Bee:
Before Hartridge could plan new landscaping, a neighbor complained to the city about her brown lawn, and the Code Enforcement Department slapped the family with a citation.

Their small brick home was declared a "public nuisance" in violation of city code section 17.68.010, which states that front yards "shall be irrigated, landscaped and maintained."

A $746 fine will be next unless they correct the violation.

"In order to make the lawn go, I would have had to keep watering it intensely, and since the drought was declared, I decided that wasn't a good idea," said Hartridge. "Honestly, I think there's a disconnect within the city about priorities."

Two weeks ago, The Bee reported that Sacramento's per capita water use is among the greatest in the world. Later that week, the same day Hartridge got the citation, an audit revealed that the city has lost or misplaced nearly 5,000 water meters, out of more than 100,000 it must install citywide to comply with state law.

"On one hand they're mislaying their water meters, and on the other hand they going out and putting enforcement on people who don't have green lawns," Hartridge said. "And there's water running down the gutters of my neighborhood every day."

Green-News: Tuesday 7.15.08

The ruling, which one environmentalist called "the legal equivalent of a dirty bomb," threatened to overshadow a separate decision Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to delay potential regulations for carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act.

Though many had expected the carbon dioxide non-decision, environmentalists were blindsided by the court's decision to throw out the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), a programme designed to reduce East Coast air pollution by cleaning up coal-fired power plants in the Midwest.

"It is without a doubt the worst news of the year when it comes to air pollution," says Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental group based in Washington DC.
The decision by Kamikatsu's mayor is partly economic. It costs the city less money to recycle and compost thoroughly than it does to incinerate the waste for energy.

But full responsibility for garbage falls on residents shoulders. The styrofoam trays used to hold meat have to be washed before being recycled; labels must be removed. Residents sort polyethylene teraphthalate bottles from other types of plastic containers because PET are more valuable. Pens and razors have boxes of their own.

Residents say composting and sorting does take more time, but they are more aware of what they throw out, what they use and how. The mayor of Kamikatsu says every community should follow his lead.

I’m not sure how to react to this, but apparently high gas prices curb the number of automobile deaths. Via Lloyd Alter of TreeHugger:

A new study indicates that high gas prices could reduce auto deaths by nearly a third, and even more among price-sensitive teenage drivers.

According to LiveScience, "Professors Michael Morrisey of the University of Alabama-Birmingham and David Grabowski of Harvard Medical School found that for every 10 percent increase in gas prices there was a 2.3 percent decline in auto deaths. For drivers ages 15 to 17, the decline was 6 percent, and for ages 18 to 21, it was 3.2 percent....

"I think there is some silver lining here in higher gas taxes in that we will see a public health gain," Grabowski said. But he cautioned that their estimate of a decline of 1,000 deaths a month could be offset somewhat by the shift under way to smaller, lighter, more fuel-efficient cars and the increase in motorcycle and scooter driving."

Green-News: Monday 7.14.08

  • Houston’s mayor claims that the EPA is underreporting pollution caused by refineries and chemical plants. Matthew Tresaugue of The Houston Chronicle reports:
"Up until now, the EPA has relied on rough estimates, and the companies themselves have done the estimates," Mayor Bill White said. "It's a simple request, but it's a very bold request. It's a request that will allow the people of Houston to know what's in their air."

The mayor said federal, state and local governments must have reliable data to make decisions regarding public health. The push comes as state regulators work on a new pollution-fighting plan for the eight-county Houston region, one of the nation's smoggiest.

It's also White's latest attempt to confront regulators in his fight over toxic chemical emissions. In May, the city challenged the permits from a nearby plant to force the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to limit the levels of the carcinogen benzene in the air.

"You can't overstate how important this is," Matthew Tejada, executive director of the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention, said of the mayor's request to the EPA. "It's going to change your calculations of everything. It will open a can of worms, but it needs to be opened."
The participants of the the German Cancer Research Center study included 60 vegans (no animal products consumed), 1165 vegetarians (eating eggs, milk but no meat) with the remainder described as "moderate" vegetarians who occasionally ate fish or meat. The health of these study participants was compared with the average German population. Living longer seems not to be exclusively related to eating meat, though, as the results for moderate vegetarians was not statistically different from those for vegan or strict vegetarian diets.

To the argument that it is not vegetarianism but a general interest in a healthier lifestyle which leads to such notable results, scientists reply with evidence that the majority of vegetarians do not cite health reasons for their lifestyle, but make their choice based on ethical commitment, environmental concerns or simply personal taste…

… Research by a team led by Professor Ibrahim Elmadfa at the University of Vienna found a much better than average intake of Vitamin C, Carotinoides, Folic acid, fiber and unsaturated fats. Where shortcomings may arise is for Vitamin B12, calcium und Vitamin D in a vegan diet. Astoundingly, however, study participants did not suffer from diseases, such as osteoporosis, typically related to inadequate intakes of these micro-nutrients.
Paper Towels - A waste all over the map. It's money that you don't have to spend, and trees that don't have to be cut down. Buy reusable and washable hand and dish towels instead.

Bleached Coffee Filters - Dioxins, chemicals formed during the chlorine bleaching process, contaminate groundwater and air and are linked to cancer in humans and animals. Look for unbleached paper filters or use reusable filters such as washable cloth filters.

Cling/Saran/ Plastic Wrap - Many people don't realize that cling wrap may be made with PVC. #3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) leaches toxins when heated or microwaved and it is an environmental problem throughout its lifecycle. Instead store things in reusable containers.

Green Leaves

Time to check in with my heavenly tomato! This was last week:

Now here it is today:

Behold, the power of tomatoes!

Green-News: Friday 7.11.08

Ironically, organic food may not necessarily all that good for the environment. Wired magazine, in fact, argued exactly this point a little while back, when they noted that people who are concerned about the environment should consider cutting out organic foods and sticking to produce and meats that don't have to travel a great distance from the farm to the market. Organic animal products require more animals taking up more space and producing more methane than their non-organic counterparts. Similarly, organic plants take more space and more resources than their non-organic counterparts. Even worse, they then require refrigerated trucks to transport their products to market, further deepening a rather large carbon footprint.

There are many reasons to go organic; personally, I won't eat non-organic strawberries or celery. That having been said, the next time you find yourself getting the stinky eyeball from some would-be eco-warrior because your oranges aren't organic, you might want to smile smugly to yourself. After all, you're taking one for the team.
"There is something that every hand in this area can do," said Rose Stallard, who is keen to enlist as many volunteers as possible to help tend the garden and its precious crops.

As she organizes a band of eager helpers to pull greens from the rich top-soil, Ms Stallard says food is more expensive than ever and neighbourhood shops are scarce.

"That's one cucumber you didn't have to pay 69 cents for," she adds, with a smile.

There are no fences but one local said greed had not been a problem.

"People are only taking what they need, because they know it's for everybody," he said.
3. Some schools are considering route changes that would create longer walks to the bus stop, raising safety concerns.
12. Gas theft is on the rise in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
14. The price of road salt for next winter’s storms is rising.
17. School lunch prices are going up.
24. Dallas-area residents are paying more to get rid of their garbage.
31. U.S. federal researchers cut back on ocean-going trips to study climate change.
35. Some police departments put officers on foot.
38. Yes, we have no cheap bananas today.
49. Meals on Wheels programs are losing volunteers.

Green-News: Thursday 7.10.08

Notice the dramatic difference in the amount of visible toilet paper. Ironically, it is the over-hung toilet paper that has both the most visible free sheetage and the least amount of sheetage free from the roll to do it. Now, this may not seem like a big deal on its own, but in these extra sheets lies your undoing.
  • Scientists are collecting cow burps to better understand how cattle-methane impacts climate change. Via the Environmental News Network:
Scientists around the world are studying the amount of methane in cow burps and Argentine researchers say they have come up with a unique way.

Attaching a red plastic tank to a cow's back and connecting it through a tube to the animal's stomach, scientists say they can trap bovine burps and analyze them.

"When we got the first results, we were surprised. Thirty percent of Argentina's (total greenhouse) emissions could be generated by cows," said Guillermo Berra, a researcher at the National Institute of Agricultural Technology.
The Lilypad is an amphibian (half aquatic and half terrestrial) city which will house about 50,000 inhabitants and will enable life in the heart of the subaquatic depths. This ecopolis will be “covered by a stratum of planted housing in suspended gardens and crossed by a network of streets and alleyways with organic outline” that will “create a harmonious coexistence of the couple Human / Nature”.
Be a switch hitter. Your parents may have been saying it for decades, but just in case they haven't, we will: Turn off the lights. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, commercial buildings account for 18 percent of the nation's greenhouse-gas emissions. A good portion of the problem is caused by leaving lights on in vacant rooms -- that's a habit shared by about 50 percent of us, surveys show. Switch off the lights whenever you leave your workspace empty for more than 15 minutes, and especially when you leave for the day. And while you're flipping switches.

Turn that computer off. Contrary to old wives' tales, shutting down your computer each day will not cause any damage. One caveat: Your IT department might want computers left on for nightly geek procedures. You could try to convince them to do their backups during the day instead. Either way, set your machine to go into sleep mode after 15 minutes of inactivity. Every PC left on 24-7 over the course of a year results in more than 1,000 extra pounds of greenhouse gases. Since there will soon be 1 billion PCs in the world, the widespread use of sleep mode could prevent the annual release of hundreds of millions of tons of global warming gases, saving billions of dollars in the process.

Green-News: Wednesday 7.09.08

These reductions will be accomplished through improvements to the heating, cooling and ventilation systems of municipal buildings. Repairs to firehouses, police precincts, city offices and courthouses, along with purchases of more fuel efficient vehicles will also help reduce emissions

Regarding the price tag for these efforts, the mayor said that the city should break even on its conservation investments by 2013. He added, “The city is doing its part. I hope the private sector follows our example finds conservation savings on their own.”

Perhaps if the city that never sleeps could shut out the lights every once in a while it would be a good place for the private sector to start.
  • Dell has teamed with the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired-Goodwill of Greater Rochester, New York to help recycle old computers. From the Environment News Network:
Goodwill stores in the area now accept everything from whole desktop computers to cables. The program is fulfilling a need in the community, according to A. Gidget Hopf, president and chief executive officer of ABVI-Goodwill.

The program is expected to take in 300,000 pounds of computer equipment in the first year. So far, two people have been hired to sort the collected materials. One is Jim Austin, 39, who is blind. He said he feels “very honored” to be asked to do the job and learn a new skill.
Want to help the country save a quick million barrels of oil a day? Drive 5% less. Slow down. Inflate your tires.

Those three steps would reduce U.S. oil consumption by 1.3 million barrels a day immediately, according to the Alliance to Save Energy, a conservation group running an efficiency campaign backed not only by environmental groups but also the auto and oil industries.

That's nearly twice the estimated daily oil production that could come from drilling in the Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to the government's Energy Information Administration.

According to Julius Pretterebner, a vehicles and alternative-fuels expert at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consultancy that does a lot of work for the oil companies, how fast people drive and how quickly they accelerate is responsible for 10% to 30% of fuel consumption.

Green-News: Tuesday 7.08.08

Remember that horrible heat wave in Europe in 2003 that killed thousands of people? Well, according to a new study by Andreas Sterl at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, and as reported by the AP, in a few decades, "People will look back at those heat waves and laugh, we will find (those temperatures) lovely and cool."

According to Sterl's models, by the end of the century, high temperatures for once-in-a generation heat waves will rise twice as fast as average temperatures. Chicago extremes will go to 115, Paris to 109, Los Angeles to 117 and Atlanta to 100 degrees.
On its final voyage, the 25-year-old, 370-foot Russian trawler Komandarm Shcherbakov collected 3,000 tons of blue whiting fish from Denmark's Faroe Islands and ferried the catch to Nigeria. Three months later, the rust-riddled vessel sailed into this port - to die.

In May, the vessel gunned its engines for the last time and slid up the beach alongside the skeletal remains of numerous other ships at India's biggest ship-recycling yard in the western coastal state of Gujarat.

Like many vessels of its era, the Shcherbakov has asbestos insulation in its engine rooms and elsewhere, according to the ship's chief mate, Andrey Potapov.

"They didn't know it was bad back then," he said.

The Komandarm Shcherbakov is just the latest character in an ongoing drama of foreign waste dumped on Third World shores, critics say. Environmental groups say there are 90 ships on Alang's beaches, none of which has been precleaned of asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or other hazardous material. PCBs were once used as fire retardants in paints, gaskets, cables and flooring.
Sheryl seems to always be thinking about the environment, so it’s not surprising that the talented planet-saver’s fashion line will rock an eco-twist. Never one to waste, Crow is even known around her hometown to donate bags and bags of unworn clothing to her local secondhand shop every six months.

No word yet on when the line will be produced, but a friend told Star magazine. “She’s heading to Australia in October to meet with her partners and start production.” We DO know that it will be a denim-based collection and will be named Bootheel Trading Co. By Sheryl Crow. I don’t know about you, but I could totally use some eco-friendly jeans!

Plastic Bag Tax?

The Los Angeles city council wants to impose a 25 cent fee on each plastic shopping bag. The Associated Press is on it:
If the full council approves the proposal, city employees would have to use reusable cups and plates whenever possible, Kandarpa said.

The city spends $20,000 per year on polystyrene products, said Neil Guglielmo, a recycling manager at the city Bureau of Sanitation. He told the committee plastic bags and foam food containers are not biodegradable, clogs storm drains and add waste to landfills.

Michael Westerfield, a spokesman for packaging company Dart Container, opposed the plan by arguing that by banning one product, "you're just going to replace the problem with another product."
And check out this article on plastic bags too: China's Plastic Bag Ban Will Save 37 Million Barrels of Oil.

The Green is Growing...

Heavenly tomato time! Here was my tomato last week:

And check it out today:

I'm growing a monster!

101 Ways to Live Healthy and Happy!

The Nursing Degree Network shares a whole bunch of ways we can all live better. Here are some I really liked. Have a look:
3. Not getting enough sleep: Even though you’re not putting anything harmful in your body, not getting enough sleep can be harmful to you.
8. Being negative: Get rid of negative thoughts and feelings, and you’ll find that a life filled with feelings of gratitude, optimism and perspective will make you more successful and happy.
22. Introduce natural light: Introduce natural light into your home or office to improve your energy level.
24. Eat organic: Organic foods actually promote good feng shui and good energy, so make sure your kitchen is stocked with organic vegetables and grains.
39. Meditation: Relax your mind and de-stress with these meditation tips.
45. Go to the bathroom: It’s important to have regular bowel movements, and holding it in too long can cause an infection. Go when you need to go!
50. Add garlic to your diet: Garlic "activates liver enzymes" which clean out your system and help you detox.
62. Spend time outside: Taking a walk outside or reading a book in your yard will quickly make you feel more connected to your community and nature.
67. Clean out your inbox: Organizing your inbox by deleting old messages and moving important e-mails to separate folders will help you focus and de-clutter your mind.
72. Open the windows: Let in some of the natural elements by opening a window…even if it’s raining outside. Breathing in fresh air will calm you down naturally.
83. Pick something you enjoy: If you hate yoga, don’t do sign up for a class just because you think it’s the right thing to do. You can detoxify with any kind of exercise, including organized sports or running.
89. Exercise at work: Desktop yoga and other simple exercises can be done at work, helping workaholics detox anytime.
101. Eat broccoli sprouts: Broccoli sprouts have more "cancer-fighting, enzyme-stimulating" nutrients than regular broccoli.
The one about the going poop made me laugh. If you need to remember to go to the bathroom—you've got major problems! Be sure to read them all.

Green-News: Wednesday 7.02.08

New data from U.S. government research shows that with agriculture using chemical fertilizers and herbicides, the U.S. food system contributes nearly 20 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions. On a global scale, figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say that agricultural land use contributes 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Organically managed soils can convert carbon from a greenhouse gas into a food-producing asset. Results from a 10-year study at the Rodale Institute (pdf file) showed organic systems have the ability to capture up to 2,000 pounds of carbon per acre per year meaning more than 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide are taken from the air and trapped in that field soil.
The theme of my speech is putting images with actions, connecting the light switch, if you will, to the polar bears. And Disney is quite a place to speak about images. It’s all about images here: the cast (which is how Disney refers to its employees) are well-trained on all aspects of the resort. The one character they all seem to know is Jiminy Cricket. He’s the character Disney uses to speak about green initiatives throughout the Disney family, and I must say all the family members seem to be interested in what he has to say, whether it’s the volatile organic compounds found in paint (Disney avoids VOCs in paint for this reason), to the sustainability of vegetation in the Animal Kingdom, or to the new type of fireworks the company is looking into to replace its iconic show each evening over the Magic Castle. There is a general sense of wanting to do more good.

Still, the biggest talk is about the baby elephant about to be born. After almost two years, his mother (it’s a boy) is ready–any minute now–to give birth.
The world's largest retailer said on Tuesday it had increased the number of local U.S. farmers that it works with by 50 percent in the past two years, and it would like to continue expanding that figure at a double-digit rate.

While Wal-Mart declined to provide an exact figure, it said it now works with "hundreds" of individual farmers, and this year it expects to source about $400 million in locally grown fruits and vegetables from farmers across the United States.

"When we're buying local, there are less trucks on the road, less miles that that produce is traveling and therefore less fuel," said Pam Kohn, Wal-Mart's general merchandise manager for grocery.
The vintage vehicle has been hacked to run on 100 per cent bioethanol fuel distilled from surplus British wine. The only problem is, it still only gets about ten miles per gallon, or roughly 4.5 bottles of wine per mile. But while it’s only slightly cheaper than pertrol, it outputs 85% less carbon dioxide — something the Prince is attempting to cut from his personal life by 25% by 2018. From the article,
“The grapes used for Charles’s fuel have already been fermented into wine on an English vineyard near Swindon, Wiltshire. Its owners bottle all they can, but cannot produce more than their EU quota. Rather than destroy the excess, the vineyard now sells it to the Gloucestershire biofuels supplier Green Fuels, where it is distilled."

Green-News: Tuesday 7.01.08

Most operated their air conditioners on a too warm setting in winter. Almost 25% of all people surveyed left their fridge open when unloading shopping. Nearly half hadn’t bothered to activate their home computer’s energy saver settings and close to three quarters of households turn off their television with the remote rather that at the power switch, leaving it on standby mode to guzzle electricity.

The survey found that while almost 70% of people used a clothes line to dry clothes it was low income households that more often or not chose to use an electric close dryer. This was also the case with age. Older folk were more diligent in hanging up clothes for solar dry whereas young people surveyed chose the dryer. Yoof were found to leave the fridge open whilst making sandwiches or prepping their breakfast.

Energy Saving Tips
In their media release (link below) EnergyAustralia suggest that 10 easy steps could have households saving over $600 AUD per year. For example, point 6. suggests that reducing showers by 2 minutes will save $100 alone. Getting rid of that second fridge that’s doing nothing much at all in the garage would save another 200 bucks.
Coexistence with mankind has given rise to the sort of tough plants that flourish despite the worst we can do — hoeing, pulling, burning and, more recently, spraying the fields with herbicidal chemicals. Weeds have adapted to every means we used to exterminate them, even turning the treatments to their own advantage. Attacking a Canada thistle (actually of Eurasian origin and a regular entry in “worst weeds of North America” lists) with hoe or plow, for example, may destroy the plant’s aboveground growth but leaves the soil full of severed bits of fleshy root, each of which may sprout a new plant.

A result of this history is that crops and weeds embody diametrically opposed genetic strategies. Over the centuries, we have deliberately bred the genetic diversity out of our crop plants. Creating crop populations composed of clones or near clones was an essential step in achieving higher yields and the sort of uniform growth that makes large-scale, mechanized cultivation and harvesting possible. Because weed populations live as opportunists, however, they must include individuals with the ability to flourish in whatever type of habitat we make available. They also need diversity to cope with the wide range of punishments we inflict. A patch of Canada thistles, if it is to survive when the farmer switches from hoeing to herbicides, must include individuals that develop a resistance to the chemicals over time. Weed populations that lacked the necessary genetic diversity faded from our fields, lawns and waste places; historians of agriculture can cite many such casualties.

The survivors are an astonishingly plastic group of plants. James Bunce, a plant physiologist with an office down the hall from Ziska’s, has been studying the effect on dandelions (that nemesis of the suburban greenskeeper) of atmospheres artificially enriched with CO2. He found in a series of trials that populations of the familiar weed evolve, changing physically to take advantage of this sort of resource enhancement, within the space of one growing season.
Call it a happy accident: Phytoplankton in tropical areas of the Atlantic Ocean may be helping to break down greenhouse gases.

After analyzing data gathered by airplane and in a lab at Cape Verde, a chain of Atlantic islands not far from West Africa, a team of British researchers was pleased but puzzled to find that ozone in the atmosphere near the islands had decreased 50 percent more than climate modelers had predicted. The reason, they think, is that phytoplankton produce chemicals like bromine monoxide and iodine monoxide that get pulled up into the atmosphere by all the water vapor that evaporates in a hot climate like Cape Verde. Once aloft in the low atmosphere, these chemicals can break apart ozone molecules. Not only that, says Alastair Lewis, of the U.K.’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science, but the byproducts of that first chemical reaction then broke down methane, a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, into non-harmful components.

Ozone is three atoms molecules of oxygen, O3, but some chemicals can break up that trio and steal one oxygen atom, leaving O2, which is just plain old atmospheric oxygen. That’s how CFCs harm the ozone layer, and why the Montreal Protocol of 1987 phased them out. The plankton-produced chemical in this study might be destroying ozone in the same way, Lewis says, but helping us instead of hurting. While ozone high up in the ozone layer protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, ozone in the lower atmosphere is a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.
The ban prohibits shops, supermarkets, and sales outlets from handing out free plastic bags and bans the production, sale, and use of ultra-thin plastic bags under 0.025 millimeters thick. It took effect nationwide on June 1.

Plastic bags, a seemingly minor commodity, have mobilized four powerful government departments in China. The State Council, China's cabinet, issued the bag ban earlier this year, and in May, shortly before its implementation, three other departments stepped in and imposed an auxiliary ruling to enforce the directive. The Ministry of Commerce, National Development and Reform Commission, and State Administration for Industry and Commerce set forth detailed stipulations on implementation and enforcement in the ruling, known as Administrative Measures for the Paid Use of Plastic Bags at Commodity Retailing Places.

China's central government dealt this heavy blow to plastic bags out of concern for the environment and a desire for greater energy savings. People in China use up to 3 billion plastic bags daily and dispose of more than 3 million tons of them annually. Most of the carriers end up in unofficial dumping sites, landfills, or the environment. Urban dumping centers and open fields alongside railways and expressways are littered with the discarded bags, mostly whitish ultra-thin varieties. Such scenes have generated a special term in China: "the white pollution."