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The Top 10 Houseplants for Filtering Indoor Air

August 4, 2009 11:13 by human

Indoor air pollution is a common problem in today's world. Even in the cleanest homes and offices, numerous synthetic toxins can be released from paints, carpeting, furniture, and even cleaning products, and they can actually pose a great threat to you and your family's health.

Though the options for purifying your indoor air are numerous, one of the greenest ways to rid your home or office of indoor air pollutants is by placing various houseplants every 100 sqare feet. Be sure to keep some of these living greens around to limit the benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene you're breathing in every day.

1. Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron Scandens)

Description: The heartleaf philodendron is one of the most common houseplants, and it also is the best at filtering common indoor air toxins. Also known as parlor ivy, or the sweetheart vine, the heartleaf philodendron is very tolerant of a range of conditions, making it the perfect houseplant for beginners.

Care: Keep your heartleaf philodendron in regular potting soil that is slightly moist. For best results, grow in bright, indirect sunlight, warm temperatures and low humidity

2. Elephant Ear Philodendron (Philodendron Domesticum)

Description: Also known as spade leaf philodendron, the philodendron domesticum is best known for its narrow, arrow-shaped leaves that can be anywhere from 18 to 24 inches long. The philodendron domesticum flowers with white and green blooms, and can climb to a considerable height with support.

Care: The elephant ear philodendron grows best in moderate temperatures and light conditions. Regular potting soil that is kept moist and allowed to dry between waterings is best.

3. Massangeana (Dracaena Fragrans)

Description: Also known as the corn plant, or variegated dragon fly, this member of the Agavaceae family grows slowly and is characterized by central yellow stripes on each broad leaf. The dracaena fragrans also bears inconspicuous fruit and flowers periodically throughout the year.

Care: Keep your dracaena fragrans in moderate to warm temperatures and out of direct sunlight. The dracaena fragrans should be planted with regular potting soil and watered often so soil is always thoroughly wet or moist.

4. English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

Description: English ivy, also known as Canary Island ivy, is best known for its dark veined, distinctive leaves. Though it does not flower, the climbing vines of the hedera helix can be trained to form topiaries or allowed to cascade over pots. Though this plant is very effective in ridding indoor air of toxins, it is also very susceptible to pests and survives better outdoors.

Care: The hedera helix requires fresh air and bright sunlight. It also must be kept in cool to moderate temperatures and moist potting or gardening soil.

5. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)

Description: Native to South Africa, spider plants are very easy to propogate and are probably best known for smaller plantlets ('spider babies') that hang from the larger rosette. Spider plants sprout long, grass-like leaves, and flower small, white buds.

Care: Spider plants fare well whether indoors or outdoors as long as they are kept in a moderately cool environment and have access to direct sunlight. The chlorophytum comosum grows best in regular potting soil that is kept evenly moist.

6. Janet Craig Dracaena (Dracaena Deremensis)

Description: The Janet Craig dracaena is an easy to maintain, slow grower of houseplants. Known for large, glossy leaves that originate from a central stem, this houseplant can grow very tall, and works well as a floor plant.

Care: Another easy to care for plant, the Janet Craig dracaena grows best in low, or diffused, light. It can tolerate a wide range of conditions, but soil should always be kept thoroughly wet or moist.

7. Warneck dracaena or 'Warneckii' (Dracaena Deremensis)

Description: A native of tropical Africa, the Warneckii is a tree-like houseplant that can grow up to a height of 12 feet. The Warneckii is best described as a floor plant, with broad, green (or green and white striped) leaves that form a tropical cluster atop a long, thin stem.

Care: Though tolerant of drought conditions, the Warneckii should grow in a low-light area and be watered daily. This houseplant grows best in regular potting soil that is kept moist.

8. Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina)

Description: The fig, or ficus, tree is a very popular floor tree that rids indoor air of natural toxins. Though this tree can grow up to 50 feet wide and 100 feet tall, it is very well suited for inside the home for many years.

Care: The weeping fig should be kept moist, but not overly wet. If kept too dry, leaves will yellow, but if kept too wet, leaves will drop off. The ficus benjamina grows best in normal potting soil and full sun.

9. Golden Pothos (Epipiremnum Aureum)

Description: Also known as Devil's ivy, the golden pothos is a low-growing vine plant that is very easy to grow. With gold-marbled leaves, this native to the Solomon Islands has four varieties that all cared for in the same way. The different varieties include Pothos Gold, Pothos Marble Queen, Jade Pothos and Neon Pothos.

Care: This non-flowering houseplant is very tolerant, though it grows best in shaded, or low-lit areas of the home. Soil should be kept moist and allowed to dry between waterings.

10. Peace Lily or Mauna Loa (Spathiphyllum)

Description: The peace lily is best distinguished by its white, oval-shaped bloom that surrounds a white spadix. Dark green leaves can grow to more than 12 inches long, and overall height of this fragrant plant can range from one to four feet tall.

Care: Peace lilies grow best in bright, indirect light and moderate to warm temperatures. Regular potting soil should be kept evenly moist, but not overly wet. Allow excess water to drain from moistened soil. 


Tips for Greening Your Dorm Room

August 3, 2009 14:13 by human
  1. Keep it local
    Many college students want an "away from home" experience. Just don't make it a "shipping tons of stuff all over the country" experience. If it's your first year at school, try to obtain your furnishings locally when you get to school (See tips 2 and 3). If you're a returning student, think about local storage—many schools offer storage options.

  2. Use the used
    Sure, this may be your first home away from home, and we understand the urge to decorate with all the coolest new stuff from Target or WalMart. Just consider, for a second, how much waste that would mean, assuming most freshmen get relatively new stuff every year of school. See what we mean? Instead, why not check out great used sources of stuff, like local resale shops, eBay Local, and Craigslist. You'll be guaranteed to have a really unique room décor (see tip 10 to max this out), and you'll have money left over to throw wild parties (Um, we mean library study snacks).

  3. Capture the free
    Of course, while cheap used stuff is good, there is something better: Free used stuff. If you're a new freshman, check out Craigslist or Freecycle in your area to see if there are any items like beds, desks, or lamps that you can score for free. If you stayed at school over the summer for research or whatnot, your university may have a coordinated furniture recycling day. Or, you might just hang around during move-out and see what you can collect.

  4. Condition yourself, not your air
    One of the most eco-friendly things you can do as a student is to give up air conditioning. Many universities make it really easy for you to do by banning AC units in dorms. But that doesn't stop some crafty students from sneaking them in. The trouble is, there are millions of students all over the world, which means the potential for hundreds of thousands of energy-sucking AC units. Instead of AC, why not try opening a window, turning on a fan, taking a cold shower before bed, or studying outside. Of course, if you have to have AC for allergies or some other reason, be sure to get an Energy-Star rated low-energy unit.

  5. Be sure your fridge is cool
    Another big energy-sucker of dorms is the ol' microfridge. Of course, the best thing you can do is go fridgeless or check into a shared larger fridge (many dorms have shared kitchens with fridges). But if you must have a fridge to yourself, make sure it's energy-star or other low-energy certified. This can save you 50 percent of the energy use of regular appliances.

  6. Cook it right
    You may scoff at the microwave/toaster oven combo, but by combining these two cooking appliances with a cheap rice cooker, you've got nearly the perfect eco-kitchen. All three of these appliances boast high energy efficiencies relative to their big-kitchen counterparts (see the Getting Techie section). Take a look at the end of this article for some great cookbooks using just these mini-cooker powerhouses.

  7. Paper please
    Sure, it's not the sexiest of materials, but there are plenty of paper options for dorm decor that can be recycled when you out-grow them in a few years. Check out paper wall tiles from MioCulture, paper window treatments from Redi Shade, or make your own paper lampshades.

  8. See the light
    Halogen torchiere lamps are all the rage right now. They're super cheap, put out tons of light, and fit in a corner with ease. Unfortunately, some of them use hundreds of watts of electricity, and they've been known to cause fires. Stick with compact fluorescent light bulbs. The newer ones put out great light, use just a trickle of electricity, and last almost forever. This is one thing worth buying again every time you move; by leaving them for your next tenant, you'll be spreading the green love with every new apartment.

  9. Don't let the sheets hit the fan
    Linens for your new room will make up the bulk of the rest of your buying. When you look for sheets, curtains, or towels, go for organic cotton, if possible. It's still the same cottony goodness, but you'll rest easy knowing it's grown without nasty pesticides.

  10. Re-used doesn't have to mean re-pulsive
    Just because you got used stuff, doesn’t mean it has to be old and moldy. This is college. You're supposed to be wild and experimental. So go crazy. Why not try sewing some cushion covers, or pillows for that old couch. Or invite some of your new friends over for a painting party on that old dresser and table. Unleash your inner crafter with great magazines like Make, Craft, or Readymade.



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The Benefits of Trees

July 31, 2009 11:42 by Admin

Trees can add value to your home, help cool your home and neighborhood, break the cold winds to lower your heating costs, and provide food for wildlife.

The Value of Trees to a Community

The following are some statistics on just how important trees are in a community setting.

"The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day."—U.S. Department of Agriculture

"Landscaping can reduce air conditioning costs by up to 50 percent, by shading the windows and walls of a home." — American Public Power Association

"If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%." —Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research

"A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000." —Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers

"In one study, 83% of realtors believe that mature trees have a "strong or moderate impact" on the salability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98%." —Arbor National Mortgage & American Forests

"Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20 percent."—Management Information Services/ICMA

"One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people."—U.S. Department of Agriculture

"There are about 60-to 200- million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year, and saving $4 billion in energy costs."—National Wildlife Federation

"Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20 - 50 percent in energy used for heating."—USDA Forest Service

"Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism. Commercial retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent."—The Arbor Day Foundation

"Healthy, mature trees add an average of 10 percent to a property's value."—USDA Forest Service

"The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams."—USDA Forest Service

"In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension."—Dr. Roger S. Ulrich Texas A&M University

"Nationally, the 60 million street trees have an average value of $525 per tree."—Management Information Services

To help locate New York City's heritage trees, the City Department of Parks and Recreation conducted a program called the "Great Tree Search." New Yorkers looked for trees of unusual size and age, those linked with historic landmarks, and trees of unusual species or location. On Arbor Day, they held a big party to celebrate New York City's Great Trees.

After a tornado destroyed more than 800 trees in Cardington, Ohio, citizens organized a tree restoration committee which solicited donations and memorials. Volunteers who learned of the tree planting through local newspaper articles appeared on Arbor Day to wrap trunks, water, mulch, and stake 40 large trees which were planted along major streets.

Please visit Arbor Day Foundation to Donate today.  Also visit Motivators Promotional Products, to buy custom logo items to promote your business. Anytime you place an order for eco-friendly promotional items, Motivators will plant a tree through the American Forests Global ReLeaf Fund. It's just one simple way we can do our part in helping make a difference.

Buying a Water Filtration System: Determining Which System Is Best for You

July 30, 2009 15:57 by human

Head to your kitchen sink, turn on the tap and fill a glass with water. Now drink it. Did you have any reservations before taking that first sip? If you worry about water, you might find yourself wondering if you need a whole-house filtration system, or will a Brita filter suffice? Or will you end up going through so many Brita filters that a whole-house system is justified? Which is the greener choice? If you're concerned about the quality of your tap water, but are also concerned about the eco-impact of filtration systems, we have some answers for you.

Selecting a Water Filtration System: First, Determine Your Water Quality

Tap Water Is Usually Perfectly Safe To understand whether you should be in the market for a simple faucet filter or a whole-house filter system, you'll want to know a few facts about your drinking water. More than 90 percent of US water systems meet EPA's standards for tap water quality. In fact, municipal water is more regulated than bottled water in terms of safety and testing. We've been carefully trained by bottled water companies and others who have an interest in consumers mistrusting the tap to think that water from the faucet is bad for us. However, for the most part, tap water is perfectly safe -- and cheaper -- to drink and use for daily tasks.

Tap Water May Be Safe, But Still Taste Funny
Safe water, however, doesn't always mean tasty water. And some people want to rid their water of any lingering minerals and improve the taste of tap water by filtering it. Others live in an area with drinkable but less-than-excellent-quality water or an aging municipal water infrastructure, and so want to improve it. Still others use well water that could use one last filtration before making it into glasses and cooking pots. All of these situations are when filtration systems come in handy.

Read Your Local Water Quality Report
If you aren't sure about your local water quality, you can get a water quality report through the
EPA's website or your local city or town hall. For well water, you can check out EPA's website to determine the quality of private wells. Since water quality reports can be somewhat difficult to interpret, check out the Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water, which has put together a helpful, explanatory guide. The National Tap Water Quality Database also provide further info on understanding water quality and how it affects our health. Finally, Food and Water Watch is another good resource for information about understanding water quality and returning to the tap.

Which Type of Water Filtration System Should You Choose?

Do You Even Need A Filter?
If your water quality turns out to be fine, you may decide that you don't need a filtration system. This would leave you with the greenest possible decision – skip buying one at all. Alternatively, you might consider the age-old method of
distilling your own water. It's slightly more arduous than doing nothing or using a tap-mounted filter, but since it requires very little equipment, it's a very low-impact choice.


The Right Filter for the Right Contaminants
If you do decide some sort of filter is a must, there are some eco-factors to consider. The type of filter you pick will also be determined in part by the type of contaminants you want to remove from the water. When you read your city's water quality report or have your water tested, you'll see which contaminants you're dealing with, and which type of filtration system you need.

Whole-house filtration generally works better for removing things like sediment, rust, and scale. Tap-based water filters or pitcher filters work better for removing things like remove organic chemicals, industrial solvents and chlorine byproducts, which make your water taste better. So, in some cases, a whole-house filtration system will need to be supplemented with a tap- or pitcher-filter for better taste. Unfortunately, that would be a less eco-friendly scenario in terms of materials required to get your water cleaned up, but it still would be far better than the alternative of bottled water.

Whatever you choose, you'll want to lean towards systems that are National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) tested, as the NSF certifies filters based on the particular contaminants it reduces.

How a Water Filtration System Works

Pitcher Filters and Tap-Based Filters A Brita-style filter that attaches to your faucet, or a pitcher filter uses fewer materials upfront, but requires replacement cartridges. Brita now recycles cartridges, whereas many companies such as Pur still don't.

You can bypass the issue of recycling cartridges altogether by refilling your own. Most of these use activated carbon, which is carbon that has a slight electro-positive charge added to it so that it's even more attractive to chemicals and impurities. As water filters through the carbon, the negative ions of the contaminants are drawn to the surface of the carbon granules, and stick with the carbon instead of the water, giving your purified water out the other side of the filter.

Whole-House Filtration Systems
A whole-house water filtration system requires more materials upfront, but doesn't require the same level of materials replacement. Over the long run, the two tend to even out. A whole house filtration system purifies water throughout the house, from kitchen and bathroom faucets to toilets and laundry pipes. So anywhere water is used in the house, it is treated.

There are a few types of filtration systems used for whole-house. The most common are carbon filtration and reverse osmosis. The two types remove different containments, so your choice depends on what you find in reading your municipal water quality report. Reverse osmosis uses a membrane to filter water, leaving contaiminents on one side of the membrane, and letting cleansed water through to the other side. Both typically require filter changes, though some systems have a self-cleaning filter that eliminates that need.

Cost and Types of Tap- or Pitcher Water Filtration Systems

There are two main types of sink filters - pitchers and tap-based. With a pitcher filter, you pour water into the top half of the unit, the water drips through a carbon filter, the contaminants stick to the carbon and the clean water drips down to the bottom half of the unit. You can then pour right from the pitcher. A tap based filter screws on to your faucet. You can adjust it to an on or off position. When adjusted to an on position, water from the faucet runs through a carbon filter before coming out the other side into your glass.

A pitcher filter like Brita runs about $25 with three filter, and refills are about $30 for a 5-pack. An on-tap filter and refill filters run about the same price. The filters will last about a month. So an average annual cost is about $85 for the first year, and $71 for successive years, provided your pitcher or tap filter system stay in tact for awhile. You can cut that cost by refilling your filters yourself.

More expensive up front at $40, but of a very high quality, is the ZeroWater pitcher filter. It is certified to meet the highest standards for removal of lead, iron, zinc, and mercury, and was tested and shown to remove antibiotics, hormones and perchlorate. The company recycles its filters, and is working on a redesign of the filter so that it can be taken apart and refilled easily.

Measuring the environmental cost is a more difficult job, since the numbers aren't readily available to compare. However, there are some tools. Appropedia provides a carbon footprint worksheet to determine your carbon footprint when you use either Brita or Multi-Pure. You can use this tool for these two filters, and for other types, take the factors laid out in the sheet – such as your distance from the manufacturing facilities, your distance to the recycling facilities for the filters, how often you plan to recycle the filters and so on – and apply them to the other filters. It takes a whole lot of research an calculation, but if you're really curious, could help you determine if there is a significant carbon footprint difference between the filters you're considering.

Cost and Types of Whole-House Water Filtration Systems

A whole-house filtration system varies significantly depending on the type and size of the system. It depends on if you get under-the-sink systems, that purify the water going just to that outlet, or a system that purifies the water going into the entire house. While costs vary greatly, an average price for whole-house is between $1,500 and $3,000 if you purchase the system outright. Under-the-sink filtration systems can be quite a bit lower in cost - averaging between $300 and $500 - and it doesn't waste resources filtering toilet water or laundry water, which you may not need it to do anyway.

The filters usually last quite a bit longer than pitcher filters, as long as six months, or some don't need replacing at all, cutting down the cost significantly. Also, some systems like those that use reverse osmosis can be wasteful of water. You can get a listing of Gold Star Rated products by the Water Quality Association to help you make a decision.

Conclusion: Choosing the Best Water Filter for You

If the water in your area is already decently clean and you don't have an issue with the taste, then you can reasonably skip the filter altogether for the lightest footprint.

If you're concerned about the taste and a few possible contaminents that your water quality report says may be in the system, it's better to keep the smaller environmental footprint of using just a pitcher- or faucet- water filter for your drinking water needs, since washing, bathing and laundering with already good quality would be a waste of water filtration equipment. When a Brita or Pur cartridge can last anywhere from 1-3 months, the use of this method for drinking and cooking purposes works perfectly well.

If you're in an area where water quality is on the poorer side and you need cleaner water for use around the house, then it is worth investing in a whole-house filtration system since, in the long run, it will be more efficient and lower impact than a big pile of Brita filter cartridges.

Ultimately, a return to the tap is necessary, and thankfully in many instances you'll find that a water filter isn't really needed. But if it's better taste you're after, or have a real need to clean up your water supply, you have a solid selection of choices in front of you.

More on Water Filtration and Going Back to the Tap
Back To The Tap: Three Ways To Get Fancy Water, And Skip The Plastic Bottle
What's in the Water? Ask the National Tap Water Quality Database
Graham Asks: Can I drink the Water in New York City?
Great Chefs Prefer Tap Water


The Hype About Greenwashing

July 24, 2009 11:14 by human
Green news has been inundated of late with warnings to consumers to be aware of greenwashing. While consumers should read labels and be certain the products they buy are truly green, these warnings seem almost frantic in nature.

Greenwashing is when businesses label their products as green or eco-friendly when the products don’t actually meet these standards. It is about people being fooled into buying products that are not really good for them, or for the environment.

Consumers today should be savvy enough to navigate through advertising hype. How many people really think that sugary cereals are nutritious? Yet TV commercials and cereal box labels still want us to believe that sugary frosted cereals are “part of a nutritious breakfast.”

There are of course many more examples of advertising hype as we all well know, so shouldn’t the same hold true for eco-friendly products? After all, today’s consumer is demanding more and more of these products and so of course corporations want to package their goods to meet market demands.

Of course regulations and certification labels are helpful in identifying which products meet our green demands, just as any other product should follow the truth in advertising rules.

Currently the Federal Trade Commission Act requires that all advertising:
•    Be truthful and non-deceptive
•    Must have evidence to back up their claims
•    Cannot be unfair

Businesses can be forced to pay stiff fines and face penalties for not adhering to these guidelines.
Then there are cases where labels are technically truthful about their certification but the product may not actually meet the standards we may personally think they should.

A good example is the organic label. Many foods are labeled as organic but they are only organic in the strictest sense of the word. Many farms follow organic practices with their soil standards and so are able to be USDA certified as organic, yet they really follow factory farm practices in everything but their soil (the Cornucopia Institute is but one organization that follows organic farming claims and has great material about which organic products do not utilize humane farming conditions and are actually large factory farms).

These are cases where a certified label doesn’t really mean as much as we might hope it would.

In addition, greenwashing may not be a completely bad thing, but rather a symptom of the growing demand of consumers for products that are safe for our health and the health of the planet.

Many companies that have heretofore created toxic chemicals and products are now producing and advertising their green products. There are so many “green” products on the shelves of mainstream grocery stores, we don’t have to make that extra trip to the co-op or Whole Foods to buy laundry soap. It should only get better from here!

As with any product, we should be smart and savvy and we should read our labels, and we should also know what the many green advertising terms on labels mean.


How to Brighten Your Day and Help the Earth

July 23, 2009 13:09 by Admin

    We talk about eco-friendly options all the time here with our wide array of environmentally friendly promotional products, but last night I watched an episode of the Daily Show (a day late) in which Jon Stewart interviewed Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and heard a new an interesting idea to help the entire earth 'go green' in a way I had not heard of before. The conversation obviously went down a path of global warming and harmful emissions. Most of us have heard about the dangers that our future may hold if we don’t somewhat alter our lifestyles or come up with new energy saving or carbon-free solutions. But aside from turning off lights, carpooling, using ‘green’ products and a host of other suggestions, has anyone heard an innovative idea to help the entire earth get on the same page? Sure, wind turbines and solar panels are now being built much more regularly and certainly have had their impact. However, some of these solutions can be costly and therefore become more difficult to act on. Another problem comes from the space needed to create such energy grids. Steven Chu is aware of these obstacles and therefore has suggested some alternate ideas that can really have a substantial impact on our eco-system. For example, Chu suggests that when building a home or putting on a new roof to use a white roof instead of the traditional dark black or brown roofs that many of us are used to. Chu says that it costs no more to install a white roof than it does a traditional colored roof and it will not only help the earth by reflecting the sun light back into the atmosphere rather than them absorbing the heat and radiation, but it will also cut air conditioning costs, which is great for the homeowner and the environment because as Chu points out, the less you are using your air conditioner, the less you are using electricity, which in turn is of course helping the environment. With this idea in mind, Chu also proposes that roads are re-paved with an off-white or very light colored pavement. (Probably very similar to the color of a sidewalk so that it doesn’t blind drivers on sunny days) I had never heard this idea before, but it makes perfect sense. We already know that we are welcoming the suns rays and added heat when we wear black as opposed to white, and on a large scale this can have a significant impact on the earth’s climate and environment. It would be relatively inexpensive in comparison to some other solutions we know of and would even create jobs for those trying to make ends meet in a difficult economy. I am not entirely sure of all the parameters of the research that has been done thus far, so it is a little unclear as to just how many roads and roofs would need to be white, but Chu ended his interview on the Daily Show by stating that if this campaign were to be carried out, it would have a similar impact on the earth that taking 1 billion cars off the road for 11 years would have. That’s a very substantial impact for something that would not require a lot of money or a drastic change in procedure.



To Go Green You Must Find Your Personal Balance

July 20, 2009 12:47 by human

You're not going to upturn your life over night, you need to pick and choose.

Wa$ted! spent some quality time with a fantastic pair of sisters who ran a salon north of New York City, and we came upon the thorny issue of what to do when what you MUST do goes against what you WANT to do, in terms of the environment.

Jackie and Maria run a business, the Selah Salon, so they cannot just stop using certain products or change their ways. Their customers might leave, or they might not be able to achieve the same results. Annabelle and I were challenged to figure out inventive ways to help them lower their carbon footprint.

Luckily, we did, and Jackie and Maria did a great job as a result. With options from oil-spill mats made from human waste-hair to setting them up with a Mindardi Eco-Light system that not only saves them money and energy, but also makes their workspaces significantly better, we managed to lower their footprint while keeping their business model strong.

But there's another issue here, and that is one of balance. As we learned with the salon, you cannot just abandon everything you have been doing and switch to a fully green lifestyle overnight. Along with being expensive, it is impractical.

It is at this point that I would like to admit—a little proudly—that I am the owner of a 1978 Ford Bronco (image above) with engine and chassis upgrades that make it a real brute. Not the greenest car on earth, yes?

I out myself here as a gearhead to show that everyone—even green-lifestyle show hosts—needs to understand and find balance in their lives. And I will use my rip-snorting 351 Midland V8 to help explain.

My grandfather bought the Bronco new in 1978. He got it serviced, or did it himself—I come from good genes—with admirable punctuality for decades. Maintenance and upkeep will make a car a generational purchase, and that's one of the best ways to turn back the carbon-belching momentum of our disposable culture.

My grandfather lives in the mountainous west, where 5-foot snowdrifts on unplowed roads aren't so much a hazard as just a signal that winter's coming.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved that Bronco. I am pretty sure that by the early Eighties I was asking him if I could have it, easily half a decade before I would be legal to drive it.

And one fine day in 2000, he called me and said 'Make an offer.' He didn't just give it away—I come from good genes—but he let me know that he was honoring the promise that he made a hyper ten-year-old to let him have first crack at the Bronco when he himself was done with it.

So we settled on a fair price, and I spent some of my hard-earned money taking a well-cared-for but stock vehicle and making it a powerhouse and a head-turner.

Not sounding too green, are we? Granted. But here's my point: you have to find your balance, and it is personal to everyone.

My grandfather used that one vehicle for 23 years, which is the ultimate form of recycling: don't get rid of it in the first place. No environment-ruining manufacturing and shipping processes were made getting a new car to him every 5 years.

And when he was finally done with it, he didn't junk it or let it rot and rust. He passed it on: recycling within the family, mulching the family tree.

The upgrades I made actually increased the mileage. Yes, I made it rumble and cruise, and the thrust from 70 mph to 100—not that I've ever done that, heh heh heh—is insane. But under normal driving conditions, which is 95% of the time, I've gotten 10% to 15% better mileage out of it.

And I only drive it every once in a while, often when using the kinds of roads or terrain for which is was designed. This is not a commuter car. And when I am not in the Bronco, I am often on my motorcycle, getting around 50-mpg.

So that's one example of my balance. You can have it, too. Consider it a baby step on the road to more sustainable living:

  • If you can't upgrade to lower-flow faucets, buy soap from this guy,, who uses recycled packaging, rides a bike to power his mixers, and has a tiny carbon impact in his manufacturing.
  • If you can't buy a hybrid or heat your house with biodiesel, drive smoothly to lower your fuel usage and turn the thermostat down three degrees in winter—or better yet, get new digital thermostats that let you program more specifically and save energy throughout the season.

Jackie and Maria still bleach hair when they have to. It is, after all, their business. And for balance, they sweep the clippings, send them to an oil spill, and save the sea gulls and otters with recycled hair mats.

Balance. Get on board.

By Holter Graham
New York, NY, USA | Thu Jul 16 12:00:00 EDT 2009


Rivers shrinking: Flow of many rivers in decline

July 16, 2009 08:06 by human

WASHINGTON – The flow of water in the world's largest rivers has declined over the past half-century, with significant changes found in about a third of the big rivers. An analysis of 925 major rivers from 1948 to 2004 showed an overall decline in total discharge.

The reduction in inflow to the Pacific Ocean alone was about equal to shutting off the Mississippi River, according to the new study appearing in the May 15 edition of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate.

The only area showing a significant increase in flow was the Arctic, where warming conditions are increasing the snow and ice melt, said researchers led by Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

"Freshwater resources will likely decline in the coming decades over many densely populated areas at mid- to low latitudes, largely due to climate changes, Dai said. "Rapid disappearing mountain glaciers in the Tibetan plateau and other places will make matters worse."

Added co-author Kevin Trenberth, "As climate change inevitably continues in coming decades, we are likely to see greater impacts on many rivers and water resources that society has come to rely on."

While Dai cited climate change as a major factor in the changes, the paper noted that other factors are also involved, including dams and the diversion of water for agriculture and industry.

Nonetheless, he said, "long-term changes in streamflow should be a major concern under global warming."

Indeed, the researchers wrote that "for many of the world's large rivers the effects of human activities on yearly streamflow are likely small compared with that of climate variations during 1948-2004."

"This is an important paper with new findings that are relevant to the health of river ecosystems and the people who live near or rely upon rivers to meet water needs," said Margaret A. Palmer, director of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

"What is important from this study is these authors show that these decreases are due to a changing climate, not human activities like extractions or dam building, yet these changes will have impacts on humans and ecosystems because many of these regions have large populations and drought-stressed ecosystems," said Palmer, who was not part of the research team.

Among the rivers showing declines in flow, several serve large populations. These include the Yellow River in northern China, the Ganges in India, the Niger in West Africa and the Colorado in the southwestern United States.

On the other hand, areas with rising streamflow near the Arctic Ocean tend to have small populations.

There was considerable year-to-year variation in the flow of many rivers, but the overall trend over the period showed annual freshwater discharge into the Pacific Ocean fell by about 6 percent, or 526 cubic kilometers of water. That's close to the 552-cubic kilometer average annual flow of the Mississippi, the researchers reported.

The annual flow into the Indian Ocean dropped by about 3 percent, or 140 cubic kilometers. In contrast, annual river discharge into the Arctic Ocean rose about 10 percent, or 460 cubic kilometers. There was little change in inflow to the Atlantic Ocean, where increases in the Mississippi and Parana rivers were balanced out by decreases in the Amazon River.

A cubic kilometer is a cube one kilometer on each side. A kilometer is about six-tenths of a mile.

Discharge of river water into the oceans deposits sediment near the river mouth and also affects worldwide ocean circulation patterns, which are driven by variations in water temperature and salinity.

In the United States, the flow of the Mississippi River increased by 22 percent over the period because of increased precipitation across the Midwest. On the other hand, the Columbia River's flow declined by about 14 percent, mainly because of reduced precipitation and higher water usage.

Major rivers showing declines in flow included the Amazon, Congo, Changjiang (Yangtze), Mekong, Ganges, Irrawaddy, Amur, Mackenzie, Xijiang, Columbia and Niger.

Declines in the Niger River in the 1970s and 1980s in particular reflected the Sahel Drought, the paper said. In addition, the periodic El Nino cooling of sea surface waters in the tropical Pacific led to lower flows in the Amazon and higher ones in the Mississippi when the phenomenon was in effect.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.



Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

July 14, 2009 12:54 by Steve

Out of all the eco-friendly facts that I've come across, the two that are always the most mind blowing to me are the statistics regarding plastic water bottles and plastic grocery bags. We, as a society, are so accustomed to using these things on a daily basis, that in some cases, we don't even think twice about them. You're at the mall, and you're thirsty. Rather than going all the way upstairs to the food court, you choose to insert $1.25 into the nearby Dasani machine. Out pops your bottle, and you continue on your way. Either that bottle gets tossed in a mall garbage can when you're finished, or ends up in the car with you on your ride home. Maybe you'll remember to recycle it, but maybe you won't.

And then there's the grocery store. Sure you see those tote bags that everyone's seeming to carry, that you can purchase for anywhere from ninety-nine cents to four dollars. But it seems so much easier to just head to the check out and be done with your purchase. Grab the plastic grocery bags, and maybe you'll consider those tote bags for next time. It's the sad truth that these days most people think twice about it, but not many people change their ways. How can you help?

Choosing to give out custom water bottles at your next event will give people an alternative to buying ones that will just end up in the garbage. In today's world, with people thinking twice about their impact on the environment, it's likely that they'll use them. The same can be said about promotional tote bags. If people just keep them in the car after receiving them, there's a good chance that they'll remember to bring them into the grocery store with them. It's a small effort on every individuals part, but if we all make the effort, it will cut down on the amount of items that end up in landfills.

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Green Living: Improving Health for Today and Tomorrow

July 14, 2009 10:22 by Guest Contributor

Much attention has been paid in recent years to what seems to be a growing environmental conscience in the United States. Going green used to be considered expensive and a luxury for those who could afford the trend. Now it appears that we are learning that not only is adopting more environmentally conscious attitudes good for our economic situation, but also our….health? Yes, if we dig a bit deeper we can see that dirty industries and backwards policy is actually harming the health of the earth for our children and the health of her inhabitants today.

There are two levels of health consequences associated with dirty industry, both direct and indirect. The direct consequences are examples like increased asthma rates in areas with high smog indices. Chlorofluorocarbon release into the atmosphere has shown to decrease the filter of direct sunlight on the planet, resulting in more concentrated ultraviolet light reaching the surface of the earth. Perhaps it is no surprise then that in countries with depleted atmospheric gas, skin cancer rates are among the highest in the world.

The indirect health consequences are harder to see immediately, but closer examination reveals that these are, in fact, perhaps the most hazardous. Bi-products of dirty and backwards industries, such as coal and oil processing, include cancer causing substances like asbestos and benzene. A U.K. study conducted in 2002 indicated that coal and oil industry workers are at a much higher risk of developing  mesothelioma and leukemia.  Dr. Robert Taub among many other doctors who specialize in this area understand that these are substances that can be directly traced to antiquated pre-regulation equipment in industries whose environmental hazards are even more inherent.

Can we really afford to continue on the path we were on before? Investment in clean industry means not a healthier planet for our children and grandchildren, but also a healthier place for us to live today.

Written by James O’ Shea with The Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center. The Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center has long been recognized as the web's leading organization for relevant and authoritative information regarding asbestos and health complications associated with asbestos exposure. More information can be found at

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