Happy Earth Day! Take a stand with your money

Late last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a news release listing the 50 organizations that use the most electricity from green sources.

On Earth Day 2013, it’s appropriate to know who these companies are, and to ask: Why aren’t any Kentucky-based companies and universities on the list?

According to the EPA, here are the 10 companies that use the most annual kilowatt hours of green energy to power their operations:

1. Intel Corp.
2. Microsoft Corp.
3. Kohl’s Department Stores
4. Whole Foods Market
5. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
6. U.S. Department of Energy
7. Staples
8. Starbucks company-owned stores
9. Lockheed Martin Corp.
10. Apple Inc.

“We applaud the leadership demonstrated by organizations that are helping reduce carbon pollution and spur the growth of clean, American-made energy sources by increasing their use of renewable energy,” EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said in the news release. “As President Obama has made clear, clean energy is critical to our health, our economy, our security, and our ability to effectively address climate change.”

FYI: EPA defines green power as electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources.

Granted, the top 10 are all major corporations, or government agencies, with significant resources. Intel uses green power to cover 100 percent of its electricity load, according to the news release.  Apple, which is new to the top 50, now has 85 percent of its electricity used in the U.S. coming from green power.

But universities are scattered throughout the top 50. The University of Pennsylvania ranks 25th, and the University of Oklahoma is 34th.

On the list of top 20 universities, in addition to these two schools, fellow SEC member Tennessee ranks 10th.

To see all of the companies, universities and other rankings, go to EPA.gov/greenpower/toplists.

And then, use your buying power to tell companies, organizations and schools that green power matters to  you.

— Linda J.

 

Soon, you too will be able to make your own whatchamacallit right from your printer

I heard a story on NPR this morning about the falling price of 3-D printers and scanners and copyright issues.
Does anyone really think that Disney, et. al. won’t have an issue with people making their own plastic princess or Star Wars character?

I heard another version a week or so ago about the possibility of making a functioning gun with such a 3-D printer. The consensus was that at least at this point, no gun made in such a way would work.
The tack the companies making these printers and scanners take is how wonderful it would be for everyone to make their own version of things to save money or design them the way they want.
But nowhere have I heard anyone discuss the environmental side of this. First there’s the do-we-really-need-more-stuff issue, and then there’s the matter of of making your own whatever out of molten plastic.
Basically, with one of these printers, you scan the picture of the image you want to make, put it in the printer and it turns it into a 3-D image that is then laid down in hot plastic a few microns at a time.
In a few hours, ta da, you have your very own whatchamacallit, possibly for a fraction of the cost of going out and buying the real thing, which might or might  not be made of plastic.
And I’m guessing it’s not plant-based plastics steaming out of your $2,000 printer.
So there are likely to be chemicals steaming out and off-putting from your kid’s new toy.
The technology side of it is fascinating, I grant that. But really, do we need more plastic stuff?
— Linda J.

Welcome aboard, Mr. President

During the first four years of President Barack Obama’s presidency, he said very little about climate change, much to the dismay of most liberals.

While I’ve long known he accepts that climate change is real and based on science, taking this public step matters.

In three paragraphs about halfway through his second inaugural address Monday, he put it out there clearly and decisively.

Here’s the part of his speech Monday that dealt with climate change, thanks to the Washington Post for posting the transcript:

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.

We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries. We must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure, our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet… .”

He has tied the need for addressing climate change to future generations much in the way others have tied their concern for the debt and deficits to future generations.

If one is good for the future, why not the other? Because truly, debts and deficits won’t matter much of we destroy the only planet we have upon which to live.

Welcome aboard, Mr. President.

— Linda J.

 

How hot is it?

The language is a little salty, so proceed forewarned, but the message is dead on.

According to grist.org and ThinkProgress.org, Australia has added two temperature zones — at the top of the range.

It used to top out at 118. It now tops out at 129.

That’s significant. They didn’t add a degree or two, they added 11 degrees.

Here’s the “good” news:
“… the country does still have one thing going for it — its officials actually recognize the existence and impact of climate change,” said Grist’s Jess Zimmerman.

Can I have a woo hoo or an amen? It’s refreshing to read about officials who get that climate change is real and more importantly aren’t afraid to talk about it!

Nothing that drastic has happened here — yet, but the signs are there. We are certainly planting earlier and harvesting our garden later. How about you?

Also, the U.S. department of Agriculture last fall updated it’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map, adjusting Kentucky’s planting recommendations for the first time in a long time.

Even more recently, the National Weather Service said Lexington in 2012 experienced its second hottest year on record. It was the warmest year ever for Louisville and Bowling Green.

Given enough time and continued inaction, we will see permanent, if different, extremes  here, too.

Now, excuse me, please, while like Mr. Zimmerman, I go weep in a corner, thinking of the new normal for Australia’s people and koala bears.

— Linda J.

 

75 ways to live more sustainable in 2013

A friend posted this item on living sustainably from Sustainable Kentucky blog on Facebook with the caveat that she wouldn’t consider step #55, so of course, I had to see what #55 was.

I’m not doing that either.

Curious?

Some of the ideas are basic: Start reading labels, adjust your thermostat, stop using plastic bags and bottles, change to CFL light bulbs and the three Rs, of course.

Others are more interesting:

  • #3 Chart your chemical intake for one day; literally write down everything chemical you put in or on your body. Then start eliminating them, one at a time.
  • #27 Plant a garden and #12 compost. The two go hand in hand.
  • Then learn to #43 can, freeze, seal or dry the harvest from your garden.
  • #52 Learn to sew. #8 Buy second-hand clothing from consignment shops, and other places to find used clothes.
  • Here’s a painful one for lots of folks: #65 quit eating out. Cook at home. You’ll save a bundle and be healthier for it.
  • #67Avoid things packaged in Styrofoam and plastic.
  • #72 Eat seasonally and get to know your #75 local farmers.
  • A great one, if you can find such people: #68 Vote for candidates with good environmental records.

Oh, and #55?

“Become a nudist. Less clothes purchased from sweatshops, less energy and water wasted on laundry, less chemical exposure on your body, and more vitamin D, too.”

Check the list out and see what you can do. Have more ideas? Post a comment here or send me an email.

— Linda J.

 

A green resolution — or two

Since some people are searching for new resolutions for 2013, why not attempt to green up a part of your life?

Whether you are just getting started or have mastered the basics of the Three R’s (recycle, reuse and reduce) and need to take the next step, we offer 30 tips to help.

A commenter asked a while back why we don’t have anything about vegan living in it. Hmmm.

So now that’s tip 30! And here’s a Web site for explanations on being vegan, how to get started and how it can help the environment.

May you have a safe, happy and green 2013.

— Linda J.

 

 

Welcome aboard!

The Associated  Press is reporting that 4 out of 5 people now recognize the reality of climate change.

Notice I didn’t say “believe” in climate change. That’s because I won’t use that word with fact-based, scientific data.

Back to the AP story:

“Overall, 78 percent of those surveyed said they thought temperatures were rising and 80 percent called it a serious problem. That’s up slightly from 2009, when 75 percent thought global warming was occurring and just 73 percent thought it was a serious problem. …The biggest change in the polling is among people who trust scientists only a little or not at all. About 1 in 3 of the people surveyed fell into that category.

Within that highly skeptical group, 61 percent now say temperatures have been rising over the past 100 years. That’s a substantial increase from 2009, when the AP-GfK poll found that only 47 percent of those with little or no trust in scientists believed the world was getting warmer.”

Apparently, while some in this group won’t trust scientists, they do trust their own eyes:

One gentleman from Houston, said you can’t help but notice it.

“We use to have mild temperatures in the fall going into winter months. Now, we have summer temperatures going into winter,” Coffey said. “The whole Earth is getting warmer and when it gets warmer, the ice cap is going to melt and the ocean is going to rise.”

He also said that’s what he thinks is causing recent extreme weather.”

The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 points.

I say, welcome aboard, glad you all have joined the side of common sense.

— Linda J.

 

 

Now is the time to act in NY and NJ

OK, now that the election is over, can we please have an adult conversation about climate change?

Pretty please?

Climate change is real, it is not a hoax. The world is changing dramatically. Just ask folks in NY and NJ who never expected to have water in their homes, businesses and subways to the extent it happened. The water surged at the level it did because of rising sea levels.

Some are trying to get around the issue of how to deal with it by saying basically let’s not talk about why it happened, let’s just do something. But I don’t think that works.

As I tell my daughter, actions have consequences. They can be good consequences, or bad or somewhere in between. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Remember that from Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of motion in middle school science? How can you solve problems if you don’t know why something happened?

To President Barack Obama: congratulations on winning a second term. I was very pleased to hear you mention the climate in your speech (very) early this morning. It’s a start.

Now, it is time for you to take the lead on climate change,  something you failed to discuss during the campaign. I get it; you were being pilloried by the right for everything else, why give the climate deniers and Obama-haters one more sound bite?

But you have an opportunity, here, Mr. President. Hurricane Sandy’s overwhelming destruction should be used as an opening to re-make New York and New Jersey better, stronger and green. Use your powerful voice and speaking ability to rally the nation and use federal money to make it happen. If countries in Europe can put up gates to keep the water out, so can we.

And, please sir, don’t wait years like it’s taken in New Orleans. Grist.org published a story today about a Katrina-ravaged neighborhood that has been re-built into the largest solar project in Louisiana. That’s great, but Katrina hit in 2005.

Let’s not wait seven years to launch a new way forward in New York and New Jersey. Now is the time to act.

 

 

 

What to do with old pantyhose? Recycle them!

OK, ladies, listen up.

For those of you who haven’t found 20 other uses for old pantyhose, here’s an option that you might just like.

If you are like me, you have a drawer full of old hosiery, mismatched knee-hi stockings, and ruined tights that you’ll never wear again and the thought of dumping them into a landfill isn’t appealing.

Here’s how to get that drawer back and do something good for the environment along the way.

No Nonsense wants your old hosiery, any brand, size, type, condition you have.

They’ll ship it to a recycling company which will turn it into all sorts of things from park benches and playground equipment to carpet and toys, according to the company’s Web site.

Download a mailing label, ship them off, and be done with them.

Guess what I’m doing tonight?

— Linda J.

 

NYT op-ed nails it: Wolves matter in more ways than you might think

A New York Times op-ed on Sept. 28 lays out in very clear terms why wolves are an important and necessary part of our world and of their habitats and why the lifting of the endangered species protections could spell their doom in Wyoming.

And with a headline like this — ‘Why the Beaver Should Thank the Wolf’ — the piece, by author Mary Ellen Hannibal, should be the most-read online item this week.

It turns out, no surprise here, that wolves aren’t the worst of the food chain, valued only for their hides. They are an integral part of maintaining the ecosystem.

Since wolves were returned to Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s (they were wiped out in the early part of the 20th century), “scientists have noted an unexpected improvement in many of the park’s degraded stream areas.”

Animals behave differently when wolves are around, and that helps the vegetation and waterways. With predators around, for example, elk don’t have time to browse vegetation down to the ground, so the plants can reproduce, and the vegetation in turn stabilizes stream banks.

This is a good line: “The wolf is connected to the elk is connected to the aspen is connected to the beaver.”

That sounds fun, but it’s very serious.

The extinction of top predators, like the endangered wolf, will have repercussions far beyond the loss of one species. Their place in the planet’s ecosystem matters.

— Linda J.

 

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