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Friday, April 28, 2006

Thom Hartmann's political greenings

An interview with author, environmentalist and political activist Thom Hartmann

Air America radio host, phycoanalyst, rational man, and author Thom Hartmann is in town this weekend to discuss his book The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight and perhaps, spread a little environmental gospel.

We caught him between appointments and asked him about his writings, his politics and his hope for the future of our only planet.

The title of Hartmann's updated release, out this month refers to mankind's ravenous consumption of energy from coal, oil, gas, the "ancient" fossilized fuels, made of sunlight during Earth's prehistory 300-400 million years in the past. We consume these energy sources, Hartmann says, at an unprecedented rate. The fuel sources we've come to depend on for so much are finite, the author pointed out and it is not simply modern man that uses the these resources so recklessly but specifically our industrialized civilization which is largely at blame. Non-industry reliant agrarian peoples maintain make their living on current sunlight, power captured in the living wood, grass, plant and animal biomass.

As society uses the energy from this ancient sunlight we release methane, carbon dioxide and a host of associated pollutants, which poison the atmosphere, rivers lakes, land and oceans not only threatening the diversity of life both plant and animal but destroying species at an alarming rate. From the book's introduction, Hartmann makes the reality clear,

"In the 24 hours since this time yesterday, over 200,000 acres of rainforest have been destroyed...and more than 130 plant or animal species have been driven to extinction by the actions of humans.

We asked Mr. Hartmann if he thought that our modern world was over saturated with media coverage about the environment, pollution and toxic doom; if perhaps too much attention would cause a backlash in public opinion about earth warming and catastrophic Katrina like events. He replied that change always comes from the bottom up and "political environmentalism" was simply a way to mobilize a response to issues that must concern all of humanity. He went on to say that, dramatic population increases placed man face to face with so-called competing species. Evolution, which had taken billions of years to populate and diversify the planet's living biomes, would continue. Even if mankind succeeded in destroying most of Earth's species and survived, evolution would fill nature with other things that may or may not be good for us. In short, he said, "We're playing craps with the environment and evolution will sort it all out."

By Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

Read more:: collection of articles by Thom Hartmann and other writers,"Rants"

Related:: Mr Hartmann was invited to speak about his writings by the "Greater Largo Library Foundation kicking off its new Outstanding Author Series.

Hartmann's The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight inspired Leonardo DiCaprio's recent web video Global Warming

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4:47 PM

Monday, April 24, 2006

11th hour, new eco documentary

Press release: Tree Media Group 6-24-06

Leonardo DiCaprio to ProduceNew Documentary on Global Environment 

NEW YORK - Leonardo DiCaprio has begun production on 11 th Hour, a feature length documentary that will examine the state of the global environment, and includes visionary and practical solutions for restoring the planet's beleaguered ecosystems. The documentary will tackle an issue that DiCaprio has championed for years as it takes on a renewed urgency in the wake of recent natural disasters, and as increasing global abuse brings the future of our environment into greater question.

The film will be co-directed and written by Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners, co-founders of Tree Media Group. DiCaprio will produce, co-write and narrate the project. The team has previously collaborated on Global Warning and Water Planet , short films that can be seen on DiCaprio's eco-site, www.leonardodicaprio.org .

11 th Hour is being produced by Leila Conners Petersen and Brian Gerber for Tree Media Group, and Chuck Castleberry for the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

"Global warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity,"said DiCaprio. "We all have to do our part to raise awareness about global warming and the problems we as a people face in promoting a sustainable environmental future for our planet."

Adam Lewis, investor and environmentalist, came onboard very early in the financing of the film

Doyle Brunson, renowned poker player and long time environmentalist, who is also financing the film, said, "I know we'll be able to raise a lot of awareness for an issue that plagues our world and could have devastating consequences down the road if nothing is done."

posted HW
Greener Magazine

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9:06 AM

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Green grow the Mikhaila-chevs

Former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, his NGO Global Green USA and Brad Pitt have jointly announced recently that they are teaming up to sponsor a design competition to provide opportunities for talented architects, urban planners, designers, ecologists and students to put forward a creative yet practical vision for recovering New Orleans neighborhoods following last year's Katrina disaster You will need to pre-register in order to participate...Greener types need apply.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, Leonardo DiCaprio conveys a message as vital as any in this warming world, oil is everything.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

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6:23 PM

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Earth Day Army, a greener mission

Earlier this month the DOD reported to Congress its budget review for 2005. Among other things, there appears a detailed report on the Army's on going marching orders to “green up,” and their commitment to sustainable environmental stewardship.

Tomorrow, on bases throughout the world, communities of army personnel and civilian populations will celebrate Earth Day 2006. We thought we would look at the military and in particular, the U.S. Army's Earth Day observance. A simple Google search returned 66,000 references, we chose the first on the list, the USAEC - US Army Environmental Center.

Since the early 70s when the first Federal Government initiatives for environmental management were implemented, the U.S. Army has committed itself to the establishment of a greener, more environmentally sustainable work place. Not limiting themselves to just physical buildings and infrastructure, the Army maintains sway over a vast and varied landscape of facilities and lands, everything from urban settings to remote wilderness, even active overseas theaters of operation must comply to set environmental standards of practice.

We contacted Aberdeen Proving Grounds, since 1917, home to the Army’s Weapons Testing Command, located toward the northern end of Chesapeake Bay and more recently, command for the USAEC. I spoke with Robert DiMichele, Public Affairs Officer with the US Army Environmental Center who told me that the Army takes very seriously its charge to care for the environment. In their role as peacekeepers and defenders of American interests here and overseas, the Army maintains stewardship of land that is home to 188 endangered species. Managing a staggering 15 million acres in the United States alone, the Army maintains Environmental Defense Coordination in one hundred and fifty locations worldwide exercising responsibility at those sites for environmental cleanup and compliance, natural resource management, pest management and pollution prevention, their budget is $1.3-Billion annually.

Aside from any federal mandate the military and the Army in particular has a long held, even intimate awareness of its dependence on the natural environment. An army trains in, lives in and sometimes fights in the environment, any army so embedded in the natural landscape must not only be keenly aware of the environment, they must be certain of its continued ability to, “Sustain the Mission – Secure the Future.”

To this end the AEC has, for example, developed a command wide Environmental Management System or EMS, which essentially integrates environmental protection processes with standard daily, military activities. The results have been spectacular by any standard. The Hazardous Material Control Center HMCC tracks and recycles hazardous materials essential to army command operations such as:

  • oils for vehicles and helicopters
  • recycled antifreeze
  • grease products
  • spray paints
  • adhesives and sealants
  • hydraulic fluids
  • gear oil
  • insecticides
  • various type of alcohols
  • vehicle starting fluids

Another initiative called ACUB or Army Compatible Use Buffer System, partners the Army with various NGOs, non-profits, local government organizations and private individuals in order to acquire lands adjacent to essential Army installations. This creates environmentally sound buffer zones between civilian communities and the training base properties, like this one in Olympia, WA with which they share a border.

We began this piece expecting to report a story of Army activities in celebration of Earth Day 2006, what we found in its stead is a story about environmental care taking, mission commitments to ecological remediation and sustainable, proactive, earth regenerating due diligence by the Army's new breed of "Eco-Warriors, which occurs not for one day or even a week but day in and day out the entire year as the men and women of today’s Army make E-Day a mission imperative.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

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4:52 PM

Interview with NASA's NEEMO crew

Four astronauts turned aquanauts are living 60 feet beneath the ocean on a coral reef off Florida's Key Largo. They are there as the crew of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations , NEEMO. Their task is to live and learn in an environment as remote and extreme as any found in space. What these scientists learn may one day help us cope with environmental disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

Mission Commander Dr Dave Williams of the Canadian Space Agency and the other four aquanauts: Astronaut Pilot USAF, Colonel Ronald Garan, Mission Specialist Dr Timothy Broderick and Astronaut Mission Specialist Nicole Stott have been living in the underwater sea lab Aquarius since April 3. They return to earth's surface today after spending 18 days underwater.

We spoke with the crew of NEEMO 9 by phone on Tuesday, May 18th.

Greener: Good afternoon. Dr Williams, you are a physician and astronaut, now aquanaut and you were a Mission Specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia during the 16-day flight, called Neurolab. The first question I suppose our readers will ask is, what does living underwater have to do with space exploration, particularly how are these extreme but very different environments analogous?

Dr. Williams: Actually, the two environments are very analogous. In one situation, here underwater, we are as isolated from air and the other necessities of life as we were on Nuerolab. Yes, we flew a 16-day mission and here, we are 18 days on Aquarius, which does not have the same storage space. So, re-supply of consumables like water and food is part of the mission to simulate isolation, as we would experience it in actual space flight. We can use this undersea habitat platform to drive technology and manage hardware problems. Generally, it is a very worthwhile research platform.

We have to be constantly aware of our surrounding and self-reliant in all things so, what we have in Aquarius is as near a perfect lab as we can have on earth to test those parameters.

For instance, when we go outside the habitat to conduct our “sea walks” and do those experiments we are able to add weights to the body-analog to adjust our buoyancy to, for instance, zero gravity level which simulates outer space or we can add weights to more closely mimic the Moon’s gravity, or Mars’. This will help us make decisions about how we would technically proceed with exploration during space flights in the future, and this is driving new technologies such as those that will be bringing humans to the moon.

Greener: Dr Broderick, you are also a physician and surgeon. What is your role on board Aquarius and what does NASA hope to learn from the experiment, specifically what medical technologies are being developed?

Dr Broderick: As a surgeon, my role is that of mission specialist and crew medical officer. I am mainly on board as a medical/technical researcher and crewmember. The mission, from a medical technology standpoint, is largely based on partnerships between NASA and NOAA - which operates Aquarius - the military: U.S. Army and Air Force, Canadian companies and universities in Canada and the U.S. as well, which form a collaborative to develop robotic telesurgery/and medical telementoring techniques that can be employed clinically, here under sea and wirelessly from Ontario Canada by Dr Mehran Anvari.

For this mission aboard Aquarius we have added an artificial time lag, which represents the lag time to communicate from Earth to the Moon. This is the first time this has been done and strongly suggests we could anticipate having expert medical care for astronauts in the future, away from Earth.

Greener: What you’re saying then is that on future missions to the Moon and perhaps Mars, these technologies for remotely controlled robotic surgery might be successfully implemented.

Dr. Broderick: Well, yes and no. we don’t know yet what are the limits of ground based, time lagged, telesurgical techniques and the clinical outcome for astronaut patients. We are evaluating that now with these experiments. Communication to Mars is much longer and more difficult – some techniques that could be used to combat that latency with hardware and software procedures can be more easily addressed and demonstrated in this mission.

Greener: Colonel Garan, our readers cannot actually see your habitat underwater but we have satellite imagery , which shows your location on the edge of the continental shelf. What is the terrain like there and in particular, what experiments is NEEMO conducting outside Aquarius? What do you hope to learn about exploration techniques that will be valuable to future NASA missions on the Moon and Mars?

Colonel Garan: Habitat sits on the ocean floor in 60 feet of water in a deep-water coral reef. Just to the east, the reef drops off and gets very deep. This area will fall under exploration during the entire 18 days and, as we explore outside the habitat, it will all relate directly to actual space exploration. We also have a process, which applies to construction tests, and cooperative work techniques, such as tracking space walking crewmembers outside of the habitat. When go back to Moon, we plan to go further away from habitat and have larger crews. Objectives will be much more challenging and these experiments will help us learn how best to proceed as we explore extreme environments on the moon and Mars.

Greener: So, you want to know if, during future explorations, astronauts will have the option to keep crew members in the habitat while the other members of the crew are outside and would they be able to assist one another.

Colonel Garan: During Apollo, astronaut crews had to depressurize the capsule every time someone went outside to the Moon’s surface, we may not want to operate like that on the moon, going back there. We might have a decompression airlock that would enable crewmembers to stay aboard in a full atmosphere environment while other members exited the habitat through the airlock.

Greener: Which reminds me, I read about an open water hatch on Aquarius called, was it a “Moon Pool,” used to exit the habitat. We are an environmental magazine and I’m sure that our readers would like to understand how this opening in the habitat to the sea and the coral reef operates.

Colonel Garan: We call it a wet porch. Ambient water pressure at any depth of the ocean is equal in all directions so air pressure inside the habitat keeps water from coming in. It’s like inverting an empty glass in water; the trapped air keeps the water out. When they want to go outside on “sea walks,” crew members walk to one side, step into wet porch and they are outside of the vehicle. This allows the vehicle to remain pressurized at all times while crewmembers who remain inside are quite comfortable.

Dr Williams: One thing, you know, that is most noticeable and I remember distinctly from the orbital flight, is that when you are on the shuttle looking down at earth orbiting every 90 minutes, you see how beautiful and how very fragile our planet looks. At that moment, you cannot help but understand the concept of planetary stewardship. Earth is a small planet and we need to take care of our environment, including the oceans here on earth.

Greener: Well, we are out of time and you have actually anticipated my next question, which was to have been to the fourth member of the NEEMO mission crew, Nicole Stott who as a long-time certified diver is very familiar with the ocean environment.

I want to thank all of you and wish you the best in these last two days of your mission.

Take a virtual tour of the Aquarius Sea Lab

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

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12:10 PM

Monday, April 17, 2006

Call for writers

Press release: 4/17/06

Call for original content from writers and non-writers, on the subject of personal experiences with green choices.

The book, from Fulcrum Publishing in 2007, tentatively titled How Americans' Spending Habits Shape Our World by Sally and Sara Kate Kneidel.

Like our last book, Veggie Revolution, this book will be rich with "community voices," your voices - brief quotes or short essays from actual experience. If you try to use your bike or ride the bus instead of driving, we'd like to hear what that's like for you, good or bad.

The writing does not have to be perfect. A casual, conversational tone is often more effective. If you have comments that are journalistic or op-ed, that could work as well. Most pieces we use are 200-1000 words. Longer or shorter submissions may be considered if especially interesting or unusual.

Your green experiences do not have to be exemplary to make good reading. In fact, imperfect efforts are sometimes more interesting. As Kermit says, It's not easy bein' green.

Some topics we hope to read:

  • On transportation:
    any experience you have with hybrid cars, cars using biodiesel or greasel, mass transportation, walking or biking, communities designed to minimize travel to work and shopping
  • On green housing:
    any experience you have with energy-efficient construction, green building materials, living off the grid, living in a passive solar house, a straw bale house, a rammed earth house, earth bag house or other earthen construction, a recycled house (an older house relocated to a new lot), a home that shares walls and green space with neighbors, close to work
  • On green fabrics and clothing:
    organic cotton or wool, hemp, bamboo, recycled or vintage clothing, etc.
  • On the trade in pets taken from nature:
    tropical birds, reptiles, amphibians, etc., both exotic and local
  • On green diet choices:
    local, seasonal, vegetarian, vegan, pastured, organic, etc.
  • On green vacation choices:
    places you might volunteer to do environmental work, involving less fossil fuel for travel
  • On green career or volunteer choices, especially ones that you have chosen or considered: On deforestation by giant lumber companies for the paper industry, especially if you have worked in a chip mill or have personal experience with this
  • On problems and solutions related to world population growth, especially in terms of land use, fuel, energy
  • On globalization and sweatshops, especially if you have visited one
  • On the problems associated with huge corporations like Wal-Mart, International Paper, Smithfield, Tyson, etc.

The deadline is June (prefer early June). We can use your first name, first and last name, or you may pen anonymously. It's up to you.

Please send submissions to twogreenpencils@hotmail.com. Please include a statement, with your submission, saying that you (write your name and date) give us permission to use the piece in the book, specifically in How Americans' Spending Habits Shape Our World by Sally and Sara Kate Kneidel, from Fulcrum in 2007.

To help us distinguish submissions from junk mail, please put “book submission” in the e-mail’s subject line. Feel free to query first. Although we may not be able to use all items submitted we will do our best to consider everyone’s experiences as part of the overall project. We’ll also post any omitted submissions on our blog, http://veggierevolution.blogspot.com.

Notice to all contributors, although this is an unpaid opportunity, inclusion never the less will ensure that your experience may inspire millions of readers worldwide and possibly make a positive change in the world.

Sally Kneidel

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7:46 AM

Monday, April 10, 2006

Green heat is where you find it

Norwegians, ever inventive folks, have introduced a way to heat their homes and offices as they flush their toilets.

By employing a simple heat transfer system that uses refrigeration techniques the Norwegian company Viken Fjernvarme, Oslo Energy Company, is able to collect heat from Oslo’s sewage system and transfer it to a system of clean water pipes, which feed thousands of radiators and hot water taps throughout the city.

The pipes are built into a 300-meter long tunnel in central Oslo. Here they collect heat from the warmer sewage system and transfer it to pipes that serve the main steam heat distribution network. The typical heat differential between the sewage pipe system and the hot water system is almost 4 º Celsius or just over 39 º.
"We believe this is the biggest heating system in the world using raw sewage," Says Lars-Anders Loervik, managing director of Viken Fjernvarme.

The pump uses a system of compressors and condensers to generate 18 megawatts, enough heat energy to warm 9,000 flats or save 6,000 tons of oil a year, he says. The energy turned to heat is further augmented by local industrial waste incineration plants.

They also retrieve heat from the electricity used to drive the system’s pumps and condensers. About one-third of the calories come from this source and two-thirds from the untreated sewage waste of toilets, bathtubs, showers, sinks and just plain rainwater runoff. The wastewater goes into the system at 9.6 º Celsius and comes out at 5.7 º.

Dr Monica Axell, head of the International Energy Agency's heat pump centre, says the concept could be a feasible solution for many cities as long as they have the necessary infrastructure.

Reportedly, there are some problems however, that even masterful engineering cannot solve; the system has peak efficiency and then, at other times, vexingly low levels of heat collection. According to one plant employee, “When people have been out to parties there’s a lot of beer going into the sewer,” he says.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

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3:31 PM

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Green TV launched

The world's first environmental broadband TV channel is now on the air - and online.

With support from the United Nations, Green TV began broadcast operations from the U.K. earlier this month. Green TV is the first channel dedicated entirely to environmental news, features and reporting. The founders announced that their intention is to provide a venue for independently produced programming from NGOs, green corporate media sources as well as their own content. The broadcast network includes resources unique to the internet including a chat room, blog and searchable database that allows readers to access archived content at any time they find convenient.

Among the first programs aired on Green TV were pieces produced by environmental organizations Friends of the Earth, Water Aid and the European Environment Agency. Eric Falt, director of communications and public information at UNEP, said, "Green TV is a truly innovative project which will no doubt influence the field of environmental film-making and research. It will eventually offer a comprehensive 'one- stop shop' for environmental TV programming - something that has so far not been available."

The launch of Green TV has come, we think, at a pivotal moment in the current swell of interest in all things environmental. The developers want to hear from you, so take a moment to visit and tell them what you would like to see – The channel may be accessed online at http://www.green.tv/.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

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4:55 PM

Friday, April 07, 2006

Have you said "Biomass" lately?

2006 may go down in history as the year of biomass. In March, Florida's Governor Bush and the State legislature announced a new initiative to lead the nation in biomass energy production. Due to its large agriculture segment and growth forest industries, Florida ranks as the No. 1 biomass producer in the nation. At the same time, Florida ranks third in total energy consumption, and fifth in per-capita energy consumption.

Biomass, simply stated, is the total mass of plant material and animal waste, which can be converted to fuel or energy. Vegetative and animal waste has always been the source of available energy on the planet however, during the industrial centuries, energy, has been produced using fossil forms of the biomass, non-renewable sources including coal, oil, and natural gas. These energy sources are considered non-renewable and therefore not included in estimates of total biomass.

Until recently, biomass fuels such as wood and dung were considered the only reliable renewable fuels because the technology needed to release the energy stored in them was simply burning. 98% of biomass consists of low energy vegetative waste from crops such as sugar cane and corn stalks. A process to efficiently and cleanly extract the energy stored in this waste had been elusive, until now that is.

Working at The University of Florida Center for Renewable Chemicals and Fuels, Professor Lonnie Ingram - A member of the National Academy of Sciences - has succeeded in genetically engineered a strain of E. coli organism by cloning the unique genes needed to direct the digestion of sugars into ethanol, the same pathway found in yeast and higher plants. Inserting these genes into a variety of bacteria that have the ability to use all sugars found in plant material produces ethanol, a high grade, clean burning energy source.

According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report, ethanol generated from biomass could replace half of our country's imported petroleum. It is estimated that more than 1-billion tons of biomass can be produced in the United States each year, a new cash crop for struggling small farmers and a release from the costly and ecologically damaging process of finding and transporting increasingly rare fossil fuels.

To read more about biomass fuel technologies go to U.S. Department of Energy, Biomass Program.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

Read related:: Reuters :: Alternet

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2:42 PM

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Lawns lawns everywhere, & nary a drop

OK, so you've spent the last 2 weekends tuning, sharpening and generally getting your lawn tools ready for an all out, Easter weekend assault on your suburban turfdom.

Bags of fertilizer, weed 'n feed, cow manure and fresh Kentucky Blue Grass seed at the ready, hoses, sprinklers grass catchers and rakes at hand, you are prepared to make this year's lawn the best that nature, you and the big-box home store can devise.

Four out of five US households have private lawns, according to a 1998 academic study. They are typically about a third of an acre, and in 2003, Americans spent $38.4 billion tending those yards and gardens, about $457 per household, says the National Gardening Association.

There are 58-million home lawns, 16,000 golf courses and 700,000 athletic fields in the United States; stitched together with commercial site lawns and trimmed grass in municipal parks they would cover the state of Florida - trouble is, Florida doesn't have enough water to manage even 1% of that. In fact, in Florida, they are actively promoting xeriscaping; the use of drought tolerant native plants which thrive in natural settings without fertilizers, pest control and, for the most part, with minimal or no maintenance.

The picture above shows a xeriscaped lawn, which borders a natural inlet off the Gulf of Mexico. The owners rely on naturally salt tolerant clovers, fescue, daisy and chick weed to keep the lawn green, lush and healthy for both the land dwelling creatures, themselves and their pets, and aquatic denizens, the fish and sea birds living in and around the inlet.

Environmentalists say that the $40-billion lawn care industry has "greened" its way to the bank by overselling the idea that a perfect lawn is weed free and unnaturally carpet perfect. Before WWII clover was a mainstay of American lawns, comprising 15-25 percent of the mix. Clover is a useful plant, which fixes nitrogen from the air and deposits it in the soil where other plants, like fescue, can use it. Grass clippings also enrich the soil and provide natural mulch, holding in moisture and building a rich layer of composted loam.

"Until recently the American lawn industry routinely recommended nonnative species such as so-called Kentucky Blue Grass, that are difficult to nurture in much of the United States." says historian Ted Steinberg in his new book American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, (despite its name, Kentucky Blue Grass is native to the colder climes of Europe.). Steinberg is a professor of history at Case Western Reserve University cites a flood of graphic statistics to draw his conclusion that lawn mania has become a national preoccupation, one that threatens to play havoc with the environment.

About 75,000 Americas are injured each year while cutting grass making it the second most hazardous job behind shipbuilding.

Americans spill enough oil and gasoline just filling the tanks of their lawn mowers and other power lawn equipment each year to equal the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.

Running a gasoline-powered lawn mower for one hour creates the same hydrocarbon pollution as driving a car 93 miles.

Estuaries polluted by excessive fertilization and lawn runoff, pesticide buildup in soil and plant materials and the slow but certain elimination of native plant and animal species over a broad range of environmental biospheres have all been the direct result of our escalated quest for a perfect lawn.

However, the news is not all bad. Canada now has adopted limits on the use of some chemicals for lawn care and in the United States, some towns and villages are considering similar restrictions. While it is doubtful that retailers and manufacturers will voluntarily edit their advertising to place less emphasis on the use of chemicals, homeowners can choose natural remedies like cow manure and lime to feed their lawns. These naturally occurring substances are more compatible with the environment and, used sparingly, have little or no toxic effect.

For more detailed information on natural lawn care, contact your local extension service or you can visit The Audubon Society for a closer look at "what is a healthy yard."

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

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12:55 PM

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bush declares April, water conservation month

April 4:: Governor Jeb Bush declared April, Water Conservation Month in Florida even as conservationists and water managers around the state warn of future water shortages. Today's declaration makes Florida the first state in the nation to proclaim such a water conservation initiative.

Governor Jeb Bush today proclaimed April as Water Conservation Month. Together with 65 organizations from around the state, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) endorsed the proclamation, which recognizes the importance of preserving and protecting the quality and supply of Florida’s water for future generations.

“Through state and local partnerships, Florida is adopting smart management and conservation strategies, ahead of time, to ensure a reliable supply of water for the state’s natural resources and a growing economy,” said DEP Secretary Colleen M. Castille. “By using water wisely and planning for our future needs today, we can protect rivers, springs and wetlands while identifying water for society.”

Florida is home to 50,000 miles of rivers and streams, more than 700 freshwater springs and draws 92 percent of the state’s drinking water from underlying aquifers. The Sunshine State is recognized as a national leader in water management, conservation and reuse. DEP’s Water Reuse Program was honored as the 2004 WateReuse Institution of the Year, with reuse capacity of utilities around the state increasing in 2003 to more than 1.2 billion gallons per day. Reclaimed water from more than 460 domestic wastewater treatment facilities irrigated 154,000 residential lawns, 486 parks, 427 golf courses and 213 schools statewide.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

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11:04 PM


Recycling is the process of reclaiming materials ...and using them in the manufacture of new products, from The Dictionary of Sustainable Management.

Recently we visited a local collection event managed by county officials and volunteers to see for ourselves how one community tackles the problem of hazardous waste.

Much of the success of any community recycling program depends on communication, a collection schedule must be established and the community informed. Once established, a successful recycle program needs to be able to collect the greatest amount of recyclable materials form the largest segment of the community, at the least cost. To do this, our community has set up multiple channels for recycle collection:
  • Curb-side collection biweekly pick up of non hazardous household and business waste.
  • Recycling drop off centers which duplicate curb side collection, extending the service to remote areas of the community.
  • Rotating collection events such as the one we attended to collect special categories of waste materials not received by curb-side pick up or drop off centers. This list usually includes dangerous household chemicals, electronics, paint or petroleum products, fluorescent bulbs and devices containing mercury. More about this follows.
  • Vegetative materials drop off centers where a mulching operation can convert yard waste into reusable mulch.
  • Scheduled special location collections, such as elder or retirement communities where it might be expected that residents have limited or no transportation capability.
  • A network of secondary reuse locations such as second hand shops, donation centers and charitable organizations where used but still useful items can be recycled.

Once the collection channels are in place a functional recycling program needs a corresponding set of distribution channels. We'll look at that next week.

By mail, our office received a notice that a mobile hazardous waste collection would be scheduled in two weeks, near our office, in the parking lot of a local high school. All that remained was to call in the staff and start rounding up all those out dated or unusable computers, routers, keyboards and artifactual electronic detritus of an internet magazine. After loading our unwanted "haz" waste into the car, a short ride brought us to the collection center by 9 AM.

A volunteer greeted us with a smile, a copy of waste management's newsletter and asked that we pull forward to the next station where more volunteers were waiting to unload or recycle materials. The entire process took about 6 minutes from start to finish and we never had to leave our vehicle.

Later, we spoke with the site supervisors, Deb Bush and Joe Fernandez, who informed us that, although waste management personnel were at the location, they worked alongside volunteer students from the high school. The school's environmental sciences instructor Corine Coviello had arranged community service credits for participating students and, we suspect, a positive experience in community waste recycling.

Two other groups were helping that day: an unidentified group of citizens sentenced to community service for various, minor legal infractions and, most surprising, a group from Environmental Quality of Florida. The private company with offices nationwide, routinely assists local waste management facilities at recycling events. In fact, Mr. Fernandez, who attends the county's award-winning mobile HAZ-TO-GO service, told us that because EQ Florida personnel are considered first responders, they are deferred to by local fire departments should there be an accidental spill on site.

The event went off with out incident however, in fact most people we talked to had a great experience. The morning seemed almost festive as community; professionals, volunteers, students and citizens alike cooperated in a determined way to promote a cleaner, safer environment and better use of resources for everyone - at Greener Mag, well, we finally freed up some much needed office space.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

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10:06 AM

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The lady in green

New Yorkers have always stood by their Lady of the Harbor the Statue of Liberty, which, in turn, stands by them, proudly lighting the way for millions of new arrivals to America. Now that light will shine friendlier than ever. Yesterday Liberty completed its conversion to 100% renewable energy. The General Services Administration, which runs U.S. government facilities, has been switching over to green power for some time. Now, the GSA, along with the Park Service, have partnered to turn the newly refurbished National Monument into a truly green lady powered entirely by alternative "green energy."

Windmills in West Virginia and Pennsylvania will supply electricity to the national power grid that will exactly offset the amount currently utilized for the monument. That equals roughly the amount needed to light and power 1000 homes annually says Pepco, who currently supplies power to the Ellis Island facility. The GSA buys renewable energy credits which, in turn, means that that much less energy will have to be produced by the traditional burning of coal or oil.

The government has been slowly turning on the green power switch to all of its facilities over the past few years. Currently about thirty-three percent of U.S. Government power usage is offset with renewable energy credits. "It doesn't cost the tax payer extra," said one GSA spokesperson recently, "because we buy energy in bulk."

Although renewable alternative energy still accounts for less than 1 to 2 percent of the nation's annual consumption the trend is rapidly increasing and is expected to provide as much as twenty percent of America's need within 1 to 2 decades, thus significantly reducing our dependence on foreign oil and gas.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

Read:: Sustainablog :: Tree Hugger

some energy use statistics from the Christian Science Monitor

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