Archive for the ‘#green2013’ Category

Undersea Freshwater Reserves Could Provide Water for Decades

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Freshwater is becoming a scarce commodity on Earth. Only 2.5% of the water on Earth is freshwater, and only 0.0325% of that is accessible for drinking. As the population continues to grow, the amount of usable water is quickly disappearing. Some scientists predict a World War could be fought over who gets access to clean water, and water conflicts are already in process in Syria. Thankfully, newfound reserves could sustain the world’s water needs for a while longer.

Researchers announced this week that they’ve probed the extent of freshwater reserves under the sea off the coasts of South Africa, China, North America, and Australia. Scientists have known about the freshwater pockets for some time but only recently discovered how large they are. Researchers estimate the pockets contain about 120,000 cubic miles of water. Each cubic mile is equivalent to 1.1 trillion gallons, enough water to satisfy all of the United States’ present water usage for about 9 days.

Since it isn’t as salty as seawater, the reserves would be easier and cheaper to desalinate for consumption. The researchers say these freshwater reserves could sustain certain regions of the world for decades. However, these underground puddles aren’t perfect. The water is briny and will require a fair amount of filtering. Additionally, several problems exist.

The first issue, extracting water from the reserves would be a difficult task. Described in the Huffington Post, “drilling for the trapped water would be an expensive endeavor, and engineers have only two options to tap it. They can build a platform out at sea and drill into the seabed, or drill from the mainland or islands close to the aquifers.” Secondly, these reserves are non-renewable sources of water. Our existing aquifers eventually get replenished by rainwater, but these newfound reserves are completely cut off from the hydrologic cycle, according to a paper published in Nature. They won’t get refilled until the next Ice Age, when sea levels drop low enough to expose them at the surface.

Although the reserves will be a great source of water, it’s just as important to continue being conscientious of our water usage. The water reserves can only be used for so long until they are gone forever, which is why water needs to be used wisely. Conservation is key!

FDA Agrees to Set Rules for Controversial Antimicrobial Agent

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Under a new court agreement with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Food and Drug Administration has agreed to issue a new rule governing the use of triclosan, a controversial antimicrobial agent used widely in consumer products, by 2016. Action on the drug is a long time coming, given that the FDA first proposed action in 1978.

Triclosan has been found in three-quarters of people whose blood, urine or tissues have been analyzed as part of biomonitoring studies, and it is also found in the environment, after having passed untreated through sewage treatment plants. There’s evidence that tricolsan may be an endocrine-disrupting chemical, messing with our hormones, and that it breaks down into dioxin, a known carcinogen. It’s also implicated in the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a growing health concern.

“It’s outrageous that FDA has waited 35 years to protect the public from this harmful chemical. This final rule should prohibit triclosan from use in soaps,” said Mae Wu, an attorney in NRDC’s health program. “Washing your hands with soap containing triclosan doesn’t make them cleaner than using regular soap and water. In fact, not only do soaps containing triclosan fail to provide benefits consumers might expect, they carry potential health risks.”

In general, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a safer alternative, and they need only be used when hot water and regular soap are unavailable. Most studies suggest thorough hand washing is the most effective and environmentally benign way to prevent the spread of germs.

Under pressure from consumer advocates, many companies have removed triclosan from their products, or pledged not to use it.

 

Green Gifts for the Holidays

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

It’s that time of year again. With Thanksgiving officially over, the search for The Perfect Christmas Gift has begun. Big name retailers are restocking their shelves for the Christmas rush with items everyone wants. But what about giving something uncommon this year? It’s time to think outside the box and get the special people in your life something unique. At Uncommon Goods, there are tons of unique products that aren’t only cool but are eco-consciously made!

The majority of products at Uncommon Goods are recycled or environmentally friendly. Thinking outside the box is something done well with the products at Uncommon Goods. Fire extinguishers are turned into color vases, recycled wine bottles turned into unique platters, and even kits on how to grow your own marinara sauce, and more.

The gift ideas are brilliant for any occasion and perfect for that special someone this holiday season. If you don’t believe it, check out the site for yourself.

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What’s the Most Important Thing Food Labels Should Tell Us?

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

The importance of food labels is a discussion that has been gaining importance over the past couple years. Voters agree that people have a right to know what they’re eating–if food is organic or if it contains genetically modified ingredients. While GMO labeling is at the center of the debates, there are other suggestions that many believe are worthy of noting on food labels.

Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota has three things he would like to see labeled.

“First, deforestation, yes or no?” he says. In other words, were trees cut down to grow this food? This has been happening in Indonesia and Malaysia to make room for palm oil plantations. According to Foley, he can’t think of a “bigger hammer to the environment” than deforestation.

Second, Foley continues, “How much water did it take, and from where?” Farmers around the world have been draining rivers and underground aquifers to water their crops at the expense of the land. “And No. 3, how much fertilizer did it take, and did you manage to keep it from running off?” Fertilizer runoff from farms has choked lakes and estuaries from China to the Chesapeake Bay. It contaminates our water supplies and damages the ecosystems with its excessive nutrient levels.

Another opinion from Tracie McMillan,author of The American Way of Eating, only wants to know if the people working the farms were paid a fair living wage. McMillan went undercover and worked in the vegetable fields of California to investigate fair wages for her book.

It would be great to see food labels on a grade basis of how farmers and the land are treated, but it is also important to keep labels simple and easy to read. There are several issues that probably should be labeled on food that would greatly influence what food we buy and how production of food is treated. But for now, the food label debate is still ongoing.

What are some things you would like to see on food labels?

New Technology Developed to Predict Wildfires

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Over 9 million acres in the US were burned by wildfires this past year. Wildfires are caused by mankind and natural causes, but regardless of their cause, once a fire starts, it tends to become uncontrollable and unpredictable. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, hope to create an advantage.

Teaming up with the University of Maryland, scientists have developed a technique that combines cutting-edge simulations of the interaction of weather and fire with newly available satellite observations of active wildfires. The simulations predict the path of wildfires based on weather patterns and landscape and can prepare communities to evacuate safely while natural disaster teams are ready for action before a fire reaches the area. The computer simulations are updated every 12 hours to provide current patterns of wildfires. “With this technique, we believe it’s possible to continually issue good forecasts throughout a fire’s lifetime, even if it burns for weeks or months,” said NCAR scientist Janice Coen, the lead paper author and model developer.

The researchers said that forecasts using the new technique could be particularly useful in anticipating sudden blowups and shifts in the direction of the flames. In addition, they could enable decision makers to look at several newly ignited fires and determine which pose the greatest threat. With this new technology, the potential to prepare for wildfires becomes an option, increasing the safety of communities in the area.

Take Back the Tap

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Take Back the Tap is a project aimed at eliminating plastic water bottles and increasing the use of tap water. Bottled water wastes lots of money on its production and reduces our natural resources as well, not to mention the impact of those plastic bottles increasing the size of landfills. One myth in defense of bottled water is that bottled water is healthier than tap water. Bottled water and tap water undergo similar regulations and water treatments, so the difference in safety really isn’t an issue. Take Back the Tap stresses that tap water and bottled water are one in the same, which only supports the need to eliminate bottled water production.

Take Back the Tap wants cities and college campuses to install refill stations in parks and around public areas for people to refill their own, reusable water bottles. The project also encourages the uses of tap water filters for those unsure of the local water’s safety. As stated before, there isn’t a difference between tap water and bottled water.

For more information on the Take Back the Tap project, follow the link for more information on bottled water facts and how your community or campus can get involved.

PhoneBloks: A Phone Worth Keeping

Friday, November 8th, 2013

The average American uses a cellphone for about 18 months before upgrading to a newer or better phone. The phones being thrown away at the end of this time period are usually perfectly usable, and cause a dramatic increase in electronic waste. In fact, 130 million cell phones are retired into landfills per year, in America alone. To reduce waste, several organizations like Umnicore, Coolaphone and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have made recycling cell phones easy. However, there are other options besides recycling becoming available.

PhoneBloks, a project in the making, is a remarkable idea to reduce waste while saving us money. The idea, with help from Motorola, gives the user the ability to customize their cellphone at will. When a phone is being replaced or upgraded, the main difference between the old phone and the new one is a couple small pieces. With PhoneBloks, the user can insert different blocks into the back of the phone giving people the option to customize their phone with the features they personally want. If new technology is available, instead of throwing out the phone for a new one, a person can upgrade what they have by ordering updated blocks. Simply take out the old block and insert the new one. Reducing electronic waste never sounded easier.

The best example for customization is the camera. Everyone uses a phone’s camera for different purposes. Some people have no desire for a camera on their phone at all. With PhoneBloks, if you don’t want your camera at all or want lower quality pictures to make room for other features like more gigabytes of storage, a smaller camera block can be inserted into the back of the phone, creating space for a bigger storage block. Likewise, if you wanted higher quality pictures, you may insert a bigger camera block for better quality pictures. This process is similar to, if not the same as, upgrading your phone now. The difference, PhoneBlok phones have a longer life and are customizable at will, saving you money and reducing landfill waste.

Check out their website for videos and more information on PhoneBloks.

Reducing Stormwater Overflow in CSOs During Rain Events

Friday, November 1st, 2013

CSO stands for combined sewage overflow. Simply, when wastewater headed to the water purification plant and rainwater also heading to the purification plant (all combined in one sewage pipe) cause the plant to exceed its capacity, the combined waters are instead diverted into the nearest waterway. This causes many health concerns and greatly pollutes public sources of water. To prevent CSOs, there are a few steps to be taken that will make a difference.

During storms and rainfall, the amount of water that purification plants take in is significantly increased, which is why purification plants exceed their capacity when taking on the normal amount of waste water, as well.

To reduce waste water runoff, do not take a shower, do laundry or wash dishes during rainfall. Doing so will help purification plants from overflowing and causing clean water from getting polluted by our waste. Not flushing the toilet would also be included, but when you have to go, you have to go.

Other ideas include directing rainwater from your gutters into rain barrels. Allowing water to be collected in rain barrels to be used later for watering a garden can greatly decrease the amount of water headed into storm drains. Planting vegetation around concrete surfaces or along the edge of your lawn will increase the amount of water absorbed during rain events–this is called a rain garden. Laying mulch on patches of soil will also prevent rain water runoff.

These steps may not seem like much, but their impact on protecting clean water won’t go unnoticed. It’s not just about protecting the environment, but the people that use it.

8 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Fruits & Veggies

Friday, October 25th, 2013

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Caught up in the busy hours of life, it can be easy to forget food purchased from a store or local farmer’s market. Looking at a tomato gone bad or another withered fruit, we have to consider the wasted potential of our fruits and veggies. To help extend the life of our food products, here are some tips on how to take care of them. And remember, always try to eat local and seasonal!

1)     Freeze Lemon and Lime Juice. Lemons and limes aren’t terribly expensive and occasionally, you can get a handful of them for little to nothing. Keep a couple lemons or limes that you plan on using soon in the fridge. Take the remaining lemons or limes and squeeze the juice into an ice cube tray. The juice will last for months and can be used in several of your cooking exploits!

2)     Protect Your Veggies. Fruits like bananas and apples emit an ethylene gas that causes vegetables to ripen faster. Keep the trouble fruits in a container of their own.

3)     Line the Bottom of the Crisper Drawer. Use paper towels to line your crisper drawer. Paper towels will absorb the extra moisture, preventing your veggies from going bad prematurely.

 

 4)     If You Don’t Line the Crisper, Don’t Use the Crisper. By some, the crisper is known as the vegetable graveyard. It’s easy to forget about the crisper and not lining it with paper towels will only make it worse. Instead, put your veggies in a plastic baggy, or not, and set them on a shelf in the fridge where you can see them.

 5)     The Fridge isn’t for Everything. Some fruits and vegetables do better at room temperature. Keep your avocados, tomatoes, onions, peppers and sweet potatoes outside the fridge, either on the counter or in another cabinet.

 6)     Freeze Your Herbs. Most recipes calling for herbs only want a dash of herb, leaving the rest of your freshly picked herbs to be forgotten and shrivel up. Herbs are a special ingredient that deserve better. Extend the life of herbs by chopping them up, putting the pieces in an ice cube tray, and then mix them with olive oil. Freeze the mixture, and then put the cubes into a zip lock baggy.  The herbs should last a few months and you won’t need to use as much olive oil in your recipes!

7)     Refresh your Carrots. If your carrots are looking brown and limp, peel the brown skin off and soak the carrots in ice water for a couple hours. The carrots will look good as new and perfect for eating!

 8)     Wash Only What You Eat. After purchasing a bag of fruit, like grapes and raspberries, it’s tempting to wash them all. Because, who wants to keep washing fruit every single time? Doing so may be convenient, but the added moisture on fruit we don’t intend to eat right away invites mold and will spoil faster.

Wasted Food Sparks Social Experiment

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Most of us were probably taught to finish all of our food so as not to let food go to waste. However, does this traditionally apply to grocery stores as well?

It’s been estimated that grocery stores in America throw out $50 billion worth of food annually, much of which is still edible and safe to eat upon being discarded. According to the National Resource Defense Council, supermarkets throw out about $2,300 worth of expired food daily. Now, just because something is expired doesn’t mean it isn’t edible. For some foods like meat and milk, the expiration date is one to be mindful of, but there are plenty of foods that are safe beyond their assigned date.

treasureBecause of the incredible amount of food being thrown out, Maximus Thaler, a man from Boston, has been dumpster diving behind supermarkets for years. While dumpster diving isn’t encouraged or legal in most places, Thaler has found thousands of dollars-worth of perfectly good food. Thaler has made plenty of dishes, including citrus salads, roasted purple potatoes, and pastas from the salvaged food. Thaler has opened an underground café where he uses salvaged food and customers may eat for free. Thaler wants to show society that it’s possible to feed hundreds of people without charging a dime. To find out more about Maximus Thaler’s project, please visit The Gleaners Kitchen.

What are some ways to save on food waste? How can you practice smarter consumption and decrease your waste output?