Tag Archives: eco friendly living

September 16th World Ozone Day

Today is the World Ozone day, on 19th December 1994 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 16 September the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date, in 1987, on which the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed. This commemoration around the world offers an opportunity to focus attention and action at the global, regional and national levels on the protection of the ozone layer. All Member States are invited to devote this special day to promotion, at the national level, of concrete activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the Montreal Protocol and its Amendment.

If you grew up in the 80’s and 90’s you might have heard about the hole in the Ozone layer. Which incidentally is not actually a hole, but an area in the ozone layer where ozone has been severely depleted; thereby allowing sun rays to pass through without much absorption or reflection. Each year for the past few decades during the Southern Hemisphere spring, chemical reactions involving chlorine and bromine cause ozone in the southern polar region to be destroyed rapidly and severely. The world reacted to this pretty much united by removing chloro-flouro carbons or CFC’s from spray cans, refrigerants etc. And the hole in the Ozone layer has been shrinking since 2006. By the end of 2009, the Montreal Protocol had resulted in the elimination of over 98 per cent of historical levels of ozone-depleting substances.

You can keep track of it on the NASA Website here.

Ozone Hole on the 12th of September 2010

Picture Courtesy NASA

The 2009 UN Climate Change Conference was held in Copenhagen on 16th September 2009 with the slogan “power Green Growth, Protect the Planet”. Countries agreed to work towards a common, long-term goal to limit global temperature rise to below 2° Celsius.

Climate Change and Actions to slow the Human impact

Climate change and global warming are divisive issues for many people still who remain skeptics in spite of what is happening around them. In some cases the belief is religious while in others it makes it easier to explain away our own reckless behaviors by putting it all on nature. Either way the reality is that there are visible changes happening all over the world from receding glaciers to mistimed monsoons, droughts etc… to stronger hurricane seasons.

Climate change is recognized as a major environmental problem facing our planet. Evidence is building that impacts are being felt in the form of melting icecaps in the polar areas and increased variability of temperature, rainfall and storms in virtually all regions.

Developed countries committed to establish and implement targets for greenhouse gas emissions, and a number of developing countries, including major emerging economies, agreed to implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions and to communicate their efforts every two years.

Countries also agreed on the importance of acting to Reduce emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), and to provide support for the most vulnerable to cope with climate change.

To support these priorities, countries pledged up to $30 billion a year for developing countries between 2010 and 2012, to be disbursed through a Copenhagen Green Climate Fund.

Countries also backed the goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020.

Environmental facts from the UNEP

  • Forests cover 30 percent of the planet’s total land area. The total forested area in 2005 was just under 4 billion hectares, at least one third less than before the dawn of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago.
  • The ten most forest-rich countries, which account for two-thirds of the total forested area, are the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States, China, Australia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Peru and India.
  • Six million hectares of primary forest are lost every year due to deforestation and modification through selective logging and other human interventions. More than one-third of all forests are primary forests, defined as forests where there are no clearly visible indications of human activity and where ecological processes are not significantly disturbed.
  • Primary forests shelter diverse animal and plant species, and culturally diverse indigenous people, with deep connections to their habitat.
  • Only 20 per cent of the world’s forests remain in large intact areas. These forests consist of tropical rain forests, mangrove, coastal and swamp forests. Monsoon and deciduous forests flourish in the drier and more mountainous regions.
  • Trees quite literally form the foundations of many natural systems. They help to conserve soil and water, control avalanches, prevent desertification, protect coastal areas and stabilize sand dunes.
  • Forests are the most important repositories of terrestrial biological biodiversity, housing up to 90 per cent of known terrestrial species.
  • Forest animals have a vital role in forest ecology such as pollination, seed dispersal and germination.
  • Trees absorb carbon dioxide and are vital carbon sinks.
  • It is estimated that the world’s forests store 283 Gigatonnes of carbon in their biomass alone, and that carbon stored in forest biomass, deadwood, litter and soil together is roughly 50 per cent more than the carbon in the atmosphere.
  • Carbon in forest biomass decreased in Africa, Asia and South America in the period 1990–2005. For the world as a whole, carbon stocks in forest biomass decreased annually by 1.1 Gigatonne of carbon (equivalent to 4 billion 25kg sacks of charcoal).
  • The loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than the transport sector.
  • World population currently stands at 6.5 billion people. It is projected to grow to 9 billion by 2042.  The expansion of agricultural and industrial needs, population growth, poverty, landlessness and consumer demand are the major driving forces behind deforestation.
  • Most deforestation is due to conversion of forests to agricultural land. Global removals of wood for timber and fuel amounted to 3.1 billion cubic metres in 2005.
  • Worldwide, deforestation continues at an alarming rate, about 13 million hectares per year, an area the size of Greece or Nicaragua.
  • Africa and South America have the largest net loss of forests. In Africa it is estimated that nearly half of the forest loss was due to removal of wood fuel.
  • Forests in Europe are expanding. Asia, which had a net loss in the 1990s, reported a net gain of forests in the past five years, primarily due to large-scale forestation in China.
  • Eighty per cent of the world’s forests are publicly owned, but private ownership is on the rise, especially in North and Central America and in Oceania.
  • About 11 per cent of the world’s forests are designated for the conservation of biological diversity. These areas are mainly, but not exclusively, in protected areas.
  • Around 10 million people are employed in conventional forest management and conservation. Formal employment in forestry declined by about 10 per cent from 1990 to 2000.

The theme for the celebration is “Ozone layer protection: governance and compliance at their best”.  Governments world over are encouraged to create programs or events to raise public awareness of the importance of protecting the ozone layer for present and future generations. These can include workshops, press conferences, competitions in schools, and university lectures by experts. The list of programs as conducted by different countries will be listed on the UNEP website.

Check out how countries world over are celebrating the World Ozone Day HERE

Sources for details – UNEP website

This is the symbolic representation of a ton of CO2 from the Copenhagen summit of 2009.

Check out Seal the Deal – website of the 2009 December UN Climate change meeting in Copenhagen

Global FootPrint Network: Keeping Tabs On Our Consumption

August 21st was EarthOvershoot Day! Wondering what that means? So did I. That is when I found this organization “Global Footprint network”.

So what is the Global footprint? In articles about reducing consumption we have all come across the term Carbon Foot print; when that is taken to a global scale it becomes the Global footprint for all inhabitants of our planet.

Every year, Global Footprint Network calculates nature’s supply in the form of biocapacity, the amount of resources the planet generates, and compares that to human demand: the amount it takes to produce all the living resources we consume and absorb our carbon dioxide emissions. Earth Overshoot Day, a concept devised by U.K.-based new economics foundation, marks the day when demand on ecological services begins to exceed the renewable supply.

This year August 21st is the day on which we exhausted our ecological budget for the year, with 4 months remaining in the year.

How is Earth Overshoot day Calculated?

Earth Overshoot Day shows the day on which our total Ecological Footprint (measured in global hectares) is equal to the biocapacity (also measured in global hectares) that nature can regenerate in that year. For the rest of the year, we are accumulating debt by depleting our natural capital and letting waste accumulate.

[ world biocapacity / world Ecological Footprint ] x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day Day

What is Happening?

As with everything else in the environment being aware and reducing consumption and waste will go a long way in reducing our impact on the environment. Global climate change is one of humanity’s greatest challenges; addressing it is key to our long-term well-being and the continued vitality of our societies.

I had a conversation with my friend about program on NatGeo about Human population explosion and how that could lead to chaos due to inadequacies of resources vs. population… Scary but possible unless Governments world over pay heed to the burgeoning population in its urban centers. In 2008 according to data collected most number of people worldwide were residing in urban areas; their populations were calculated to be around 6.6 Billion and this was estimated to grow by 1.5Billion by 2030! Our role in shaping the Earth is powerful, and the human footprint continues to expand.

What Can Be Done?

The Global Footprint Network aims at creating a world where everyone can live well, within the means of one planet, and it is going to take all of us pulling together toward this common goal.

The scale of our challenge is enormous. Nothing short of a revolution in our economies, societies, energy choices and lifestyles is required.

At Global Footprint Network our programs are designed to influence decision makers at all levels of society and to create a critical mass of powerful institutions using the Footprint to put an end to ecological overshoot and get our economies back into balance.
Check out this video on the importance of ecological footprints

Check out your Ecological Footprint here very interesting almost like an FB game! This is my Ecological Footprint! 4.7 planets is everyone lived like me!!

And you come away with the knowledge of what each of your actions cost.

Keep in mind we are already accruing a debt this year, be conscious of your consumption.

Live Green!

Sources:

Global Footprint Network

World Governments Fail to Deliver on Biodiversity Promises

Suggested Reading from Amazon:

Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth (New Catalyst Bioregional Series) (Paperback)

Sharing Nature’s Interest : Ecological Footprints as an Indicator of Sustainability

National Geographic’s List Of 10 Things To Save The Ocean

National Geographic has a list of 10 things which each and everyone of us can adapt and which will help in saving our oceans!You can read the deatiled list HERE A pictorial representation of the tips is below 🙂

1. Mind our Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption

2. Make Sustainable Educated Seafood Choices

3. Use Fewer Plastic Products

4. Help keep Beaches Clean, the trash on the beach invariably makes it to the Ocean

5. Don’t purchase products that exploit Marine Life.

6. Be An Ocean Friendly Pet owner – choosing pet food and litter responsibly. Also being aware of what fish to buy for your aquarium.

7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean

8. Influence Change in Your Community. VOTE – GREEN

9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly

10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life
All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants.

Check out this Video from the BBC about the threat faced by the shallow waters and the Coral Reefs:

The First EV Charging Station In North America

Edit August 18th 2010 – CORRECTION AS NOTED BY PGE – This is the first quick-charge station for electric vehicles in North America. There is already an established and growing network of standard charging stations in the Portland, Oregon area.

Oregon is for all practical purposes the Greenest state in the US and now it has the first Electrical charging station! I read in an Engadget.com article by Thomas Ricker that Oregon is touted to be where the most number of electric cars will make its debut. The charging station is located in the campus of Portland General Electric (PGE) in Downtown Portland and they are charging $3 for parking and the “Charging” is free to use as long as the automobile has a PGE sticker on it. The Takasago charging station manufactured by the NEC corporation can charge a Lithium Ion battery to almost full power in 20-30 minutes i.e. the time for a coffee break.

I have had this question in my mind about it being the first charging station, which is again based on a news bit from 2 years ago for Lake Oswego Oregon, a town outside of Portland where PGE had installed curbside charging stations in 2008. Read the article here just got me wondering whether they took it all down in the last couple of years, as this is now called the first one in North America.

The New charging station was inaugurated by Governor Ted Kulongoski,by charging a Nissan Leaf which he took for a drive and also put down a reservation for the Leaf. There are plans to install more than 2000 EV charging stations across the country, this is the first step in that journey.Looks like the EV’s will be on our roads soon.

Check out a video of the EV charging station on viddler

Check out the following articles for more details:

The was this article in Oregon live in 2008 about PGE charging stations in Oswego Lake just outside Portland, wondering what happened to it? Read the article here

The Oregon Live has a detailed article read it HERE

You can read the entire article on Engadget here

An article on inhabitat here

E-Cycling: Steps On How To Do It Right

Right off the top of the head if someone asks what is one electronic item most people use “The Cellphone” is sure to make the top 5, so will the Personal Computer or PC as it is referred to. This is the age of technology where distances have reduced to kbps and people talk across the world over VOIP. Technological advancement also meant additional products being brought by more people every year thus also adding to more electronic gadgets heading to the landfills.

Two million tons of tech trash ended up in landfills in 2005, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and only about 380,000 tons were recycled. If Americans recycled the more than 100 million cell phones that are no longer used, the amount of energy saved would be enough to power approximately 18,500 U.S. households for one year!

On Average people keep laptops for 3-4 years and cellphones are exchanged or trashed every 24 months! Imagine the amount of waste produced if they all end up in waste dumps! The first option should be reusing, You can either donate you used and working electronics to charitable organizations or you can find buyers for functioning second hand electronics easily online and there are also local stores which do the same. Make sure you erase the data multiple times before handing out any electronic items as most erase commands can be undone using strong programs and can lead to identity theft.  For more details on identity theft protection check this link

How can we best recycle our electronics?

Depending on where you live and the products you want to recycle, you can:

  • Find an e-waste collection event in your town – SEARCH HERE
  • Send your used tech stuff back to the manufacturer – SEARCH HERE
  • The Consumer Electronics Association , Electronic Industries Alliance , and Earth 911 Web sites identify electronic equipment recyclers in many areas around the country.
  • Head to a nearby retailer that accepts old electronics (Some have buy backs while others have postal e-cycling options, paid and for free..) – LOOK FOR STORES NEAR YOU HERE
  • With Cellphones and their chargers it is simple, most manufacturers have a mail in option to return your phone for recycling or you can find drop off points near where you are. What you need to do before you send it off for recycling:
    • Terminate your service.
    • Clear the phone’s memory of contacts and other stored information.
      • Manually delete all information, and follow instructions from your wireless carrier or the product manual on how to conduct a factory hard reset; or
      • Use data erasing tools that are available on the Web. One tool can be found here
    • Remove your SIM card and shred or cut it in half. If you are not sure if your phone uses a SIM card or if you need assistance removing your SIM card, contact your service provider or manufacturer.

With Computers too manually erase data using a strong tool like Eraser

To Donate Computers find an organization HERE
What all can be recycled?

  • Computers – CPU’s and laptops, mainframes, peripherals
  • Monitors – CRT’s and flat screens
  • Telephones, Cell phones and Telephone systems
  • Fax Machines and Central Office Equipment
  • Printers and Copiers
  • Televisions
  • Banking and Financial Equipment
  • Medical Equipment
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Electronic Circuit boards and components
  • Stereo Equipment, Games, PDA’s

Some facts about e-recycling:

  • In 2007, approximately 18 percent (414,000 short tons) of TVs and computer products ready for end-of-life management were collected for recycling.
  • Cell phones were recycled at a rate of approximately 10 percent.
  • Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 US homes in a year.
  • One metric ton of circuit boards can contain 40 to 800 times the concentrations of gold ore mined in the US and 30-40 times the concentration of copper ore mined in the US.
  • A recent, survey of three large mobile device recyclers indicated that in 2009 approximately 38% of mobile devices collected for recycling were reused/refurbished and 62% were recycled for material recovery.
  • The plastics recovered from cell phones are recycled into plastic components for new electronic devices or other plastic products such as garden furniture, license plate frames, non-food containers, and replacement automotive parts.
  • Cell phones have a number of different metals in them which can be recycled. For every million cell phones we recycle, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. Recovering metals from used cell phones can reduce extraction of raw metals from the earth.
  • The principal markets for refurbished cell phones extend beyond the US—availing access to modern communication technology to many people in developing economies with who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

Last but not the least keep in mind if and when buying new electronics be aware and look for electronics which:

  • Contain fewer toxic constituents.
  • Use recycled materials in the new product.
  • Are energy efficient (e.g., showing the Energy Star label).
  • Are designed for easy upgrading or disassembly.
  • Use minimal packaging.
  • Offer leasing or takeback options.
  • Meet performance criteria showing they are environmentally preferable.
    • Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a procurement tool to help institutional purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT also provides a clear and consistent set of performance criteria for the design of products, and provides an opportunity for manufacturers to secure market recognition for efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its products.

We can have the best programs and technology in the world but nothing matters unless each one of us takes responsibility for our actions. One cell phone, one battery, one PC at a time we can make a difference. Live Green!

Sources :US EPA Website

NRDC Green Living Guide

You can also recycle your cellphone here

USPS Postal recycling

Interesting Reads :

An Interesting article in wired.com

gDiaper Earth Friendly Diapers: An Eco-Friendly Choice

My little niece is almost 2 and she goes through 3-4 diapers a day now! When she was a baby the numbers used to be much higher and my sister was always looking for an alternative which made sense economically and environmentally. She has used cloth diapers as a replacement and what we discovered was it made better sense environmentally to use the disposable kind as the cloth one actually created a larger carbon footprint than the disposable one!!(Check out the video at the end of the post you will be surprised at what you learn!)

My mom says it gives parents a pass to take their time to potty train their little ones, she says in her childhood with out the security of the diaper most kids were potty trained by the time they were walking! Cloth diaper manufacturers do claim their users are potty trained a year earlier than disposable diaper users.

Disposable diapers made there appearance in various forms in the early part of the 20th century. In 1949 Johnson & Johnson introduced the first mass produced disposable diapers in the US. Since then it has become a staple in every babies life growing up. The US diaper industry is valued at 3.2Billion dollars annually; which amounts to around 18billion diapers which head to the landfill every year! Each one has an outer layer of waterproof polypropylene and an inner layer of fluff made from wood pulp plus super-slurper sodium polyacrylate (SAP) that can hold a hundred times its weight in water.

Those 18 billion diapers add up to 82,000 tons of plastic a year (want to calculate the amount of crude oil??) and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp — 250,000 trees. After a few hours of active service these materials are trucked away, primarily to landfills, where they sit, neatly wrapped packages of excrement, entombed undegraded for several hundred years. In raw form sewage is illegal in land fills, some how with diapers it is kind of over looked too!

World over all countries now have access to the disposable diaper which is seen as a boon to new parents who then don’t have to worry about leaks and mishaps. Approximately 50million diapers are said to be ending up in waste dumps world!

The Great Disposable Diaper Debate from the Sustainability Institute makes for very interesting reading.

gDiaper the Green Diaper

Anyways coming to the Earth friendly diaper The gDiaper The most eco-friendly diaper available, gDiapers provides parents with a diapering solution that is good for babies, parents and the planet. You can have the flexibility of a disposable diaper with a 100% biodegradable gRefill, or opt for re-usability with super soft and trim-fitting gCloth inserts.

What makes them special?

  • g stands for green diapers. gDiapers are breathable, 100% biodegradable diapers you can flush, compost or toss. gDiapers are designed to keep your baby dry and comfortable and the planet a little happier.
  • Home compost, toss, or flush the biodegradable gRefill for the smallest footprint on earth. gDiapers break down in 50-150 days.
  • gDiapers are plastic-free, elemental chlorine free, latex free, and perfume free.
  • Comes in 2 options – Choose from two guilt-free options: biodegradable diapers with our biodegradable gRefills or reusable cloth diapers with our gCloth inserts.
  • The company also has machine washable and colorful diaper covers which they call gPants to use with the gDiapers.

The gpants which are 92% cotton, 8% spandex, no elemental chlorine, no perfumes, no latex and no guilt, comes in 3 sizes small, medium and large – priced at 101$ for a pack of 6 and are on sale now for$70.00

The grefills and diaper cloths are priced from 15-30$ depending on the size and number of pieces in a packet.

A really Cute g Pant

I find the product very interesting and am recommending it to my sister, it is nice to start a Green life style real early, and cotton am sure should be much more comfortable for my little niece 🙂 What do you think? Live Green!

Source for Pictures and Information on gDiapers, refills etc >> www.gdiapers.com

A Very Interesting and educative Video about the impact of Diapers on the environment from the National Geographic Do check it out 🙂

The NonGMO Project: A Guide To Living Free of GM Products

I came across a very interesting and useful website today and decided on it as the topic for today’s post. I have been reading up about GM(Genetically modified) crops for some time now and have been writing about it too. The thing that worried me the most was that in the US we did not have a choice as to at least know what kind of food we were consuming. GM or non-GM does not seem to matter as far the FDA is concerned.

The Non GMO Project is is a non-profit organization, created by leaders representing all sectors of the organic and natural products industry in the U.S. and Canada, to offer consumers a consistent non-GMO choice for organic and natural products that are produced without genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technologies.

What does it provide?

It has a consumer section with an abundance of information about GMO products, a printable shopping guide with a list of brands which are non-GMO and tips as to what you need to look for etc…

The NonGMO Product website answers the question Are GMOs safe? as follows:
In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven safe. In the U.S. on the other hand, the FDA approved commercial production of GMOs based on studies conducted by the companies who created them and profit from their sale. Many health-conscious shoppers find the lack of rigorous, independent, scientific examination on the impact of consuming GM foods to be cause for concern.

The iPhone app for non-GMO shopping – There is an iphone app which verifies whether a product is non-GMO certified you can download it here

Check the website out and bookmark it (I already did). It has a lot of information and a lot of help if you care about what you eat. Being informed that is the least we should be expecting when making our choices. Looking forward to an informed and non-GM, Sustainable lifestyle! Live Green!

The Link to NonGMO Project.org

My favorite book to learn about the realities of Genetically Modified Crops

Genetic Roulette Digest

DeepWater Horizon Spill Threatens 8 National Parks

Today will be Day 75 of DeepWater Horizon Oil Spill. Even though the cap which is placed on top to capture oil is working day and night, the spill is still spewing oil into the Ocean. This week there was also the added pressure of Hurricane Alex stirring up things in the Gulf of Mexico. According to Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft “more oil than what would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool slipped by the cap on BP’s ruptured undersea well due to bad weather on Friday (1st of July)”. Bad weather has also resulted in the skimmers returning to the shores to sit out the wind in the high seas.

Newly retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen announced Friday that since June, the skimming capability in the Gulf has increased more than fivefold — from approximately 100 large skimmers to 550 skimming vessels of various sizes working to collect oil in all parts of the region now. To date, 28.2 million gallons of an oil-water mix has been skimmed from the Gulf’s surface.

Gulf of Mexico with its vast shore line and ocean wealth is also home to many national parks and 8 of them are in places which can be affected by the oil spill adversely. The reefs and marine ecology are in the impact zone and the effect of the Oil spill and the dispersant used will not be known for a long time.

These are the eight national parks that the U.S. National Park Service is monitoring for signs of damage from the Gulf oil spill:

1. Dry Tortugas National Park

Almost 70 miles west of Key West lies a cluster of seven islands, composed of coral reefs and sand, called the Dry Tortugas. Along with the surrounding shoals and waters, they make up Dry Tortugas National Park. The area is known for its famous bird and marine life, its legends of pirates and sunken gold, and its military past.

Coral reefs ring Fort Jefferson, a military fortress abandoned in 1907, now part of Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. Seven islands make up the Dry Tortugas, known for rich bird and marine life.
Dry Tortugas National Park has suffered no impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill thus far. The park remains open for visitation and all activities continue as scheduled. Nonetheless, the National Park Service continues to spend considerable time and effort in preparation for possible effects.

2. Big Cypress National Reserve

The freshwaters of the Big Cypress Swamp, essential to the health of the neighboring Everglades, support the rich marine estuaries along Florida’s southwest coast. Protecting over 720,000 acres of this vast swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve contains a mixture of tropical and temperate plant communities that are home to a diversity of wildlife, including the elusive Florida panther. In addition to panthers and alligators, the park’s swampy environment is also home to bobcats, black bears, herons, and egrets.

Though Big Cypress National Preserve is mostly inland, there are some coastal resources within the Preserve along the southern boundary. This estuary zone is protected by the Ten Thousand Islands of Everglades National Park.

At this time no closures have occurred in the Preserve in response to the oil spill. However, management personnel at the preserve are monitoring the situation in the Gulf closely.

3. The Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, boasts rare and endangered species. It has been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance, significant to all people of the world.

The south Florida national parks continue to carefully monitor response efforts to the oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Though not an immediate threat, the ongoing movement and spread of oil in the region has the potential to impact the south Florida coast.

4. Gulf Islands National Seashore

One of the Parks affected by the oil Spill already – Birds fly over Park Service facility on Santa Rosa Island, parts of which fall within Florida’s Gulf Islands National Seashore (file photo). Oil from the Gulf spill has reached the national seashore, including parts of Santa Rosa Island. The refuge remains open, but visitors can see offshore oil booms intended to keep the oil at bay.

Most of the oil that ends up on beaches arrives in coagulated clumps known as tarballs and moose patties, Park Service officials say. If these objects are spotted on the beach, a cleanup crew is dispatched to shovel them up.
PARKWIDE: Because oil can appear on park beaches at any given time, there is a National Park Service Public Health Advisory in effect until further notice parkwide.

Use caution, good judgment and stay informed:

• If you see or smell oil in the water or on the beach, avoid contact with water and report it to the nearest lifeguard or park ranger.
• Avoid direct skin contact with oil, oil-contaminated water, and tar balls.
• If you get oil or tar balls on your skin, wash with soap and water.
• If you get oil on clothing, launder as usual.
• Prevent pets from entering oil-contaminated areas.
• Do not fish in oil affected waters.
• Do not handle dead or dying fish, or wildlife.
• Leave the area if you experience difficulty breathing or any other symptoms. If needed, contact your doctor.

5. Padre island Seashore

Located along the south Texas coast, Padre Island National Seashore protects the longest undeveloped stretch of barrier island in the world. Here, you can enjoy 70 miles of sandy beaches.

As of now no oil has reached its shores and none is projected to reach its shores unless some major change occurs in status quo. It remains open starting yesterday after a short close down for Hurricane Alex. Check the website for any new info.

6. De Soto National Memorial

Gulf Coast waters are visible from this lookout point in Florida’s De Soto National Memorial, named for Hernando De Soto, the Spanish conquistador who explored much of the state in the early 1500s.The park, a popular fishing and kayaking spot, remains open and still appears to be unaffected by the Gulf oil spill.

Roughly 80 percent of the park is mangrove swamps, with the rest consisting of pine flatlands and mixed hardwood forests. Serving as nurseries for much of the fish in the Gulf, mangroves are crucial to the region’s ecological future—and to the fishing industry.

De Soto National Memorial has special living history presentations at specific times of the year. The Spanish encampment features daily presentations (weather permitting) from mid-December to the last weekend in April. The Last day of the living history encampment also includes a special reenactment of De Soto’s landing in 1539.

7. Jean LaFitte Historical national Park and Preserve
The six sites of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve represent a treasure trove of south Louisiana’s historical and cultural riches. People from nearly every country, ethnic group, language, and religion have come to the lower Mississippi River delta and left traces of their passing.

None of Jean Lafitte’s six sites are directly in the path of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The park’s Barataria Preserve is the most vulnerable site since it is linked to the Gulf of Mexico via waterways.

No oil from the spill has been observed in the preserve. Oil has fouled the shoreline of the Barataria Waterway about 12 miles south of the preserve boundary and has penetrated marshes on the north edge of Barataria Bay, about 15 miles south of the preserve. Booms are in place and cleanup is underway. Park staff continues to monitor the situation and work with experts to prepare defensive actions.
The park is home to songbirds, as well as swamp rabbits, mink, coyotes, and deer. So far, no animals that live in U.S. national parks have been affected by the Gulf oil spill, the Park Service’s Amzelmo said—but that could change.

8. Biscayne National Park
Within sight of downtown Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. Here too is evidence of 10,000 years of human history, from pirates and shipwrecks to pineapple farmers and presidents. Outdoors enthusiasts can boat, snorkel, camp, watch wildlife…or simply relax in a rocking chair gazing out over the bay.
Biscayne National Park has suffered no impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill thus far. The park remains open for visitation and all activities continue as scheduled. Nonetheless, the National Park Service continues to spend considerable time and effort in preparation for possible effects.

National parks in the Gulf area are home to many amazing animals, habitats, and cultural resources. Here are just a few that could be affected by the oil spill:

  • Sea-grass beds are important nursery habitat for sea turtles, young fish, crabs, shrimp, and many other crustaceans. They also provide an important food source for manatees. Oil will kill sea-grasses on contact and this community is slow to recover.
  • Salt marshes, which occur in back bays, provide a buffer that protects the mainland during storm events. They also offer foraging sites for all kinds of birds. If oil kills these plants in the marsh, the soil will destabilize and erode.
  • Mangroves are similar to salt marshes in that they provide a buffer between the sea and the mainland, as well as providing wildlife habitat.
  • Shipwrecks, archeological sites, Civil War defenses, historic structures, and other cultural resources tell the stories of past inhabitants and key moments in our nations past. Damage from oil and cleanup operations is a concern for these treasures.

The ecosystems and wildlife represented in the parks could provide the biological and genetic diversity needed when the spill is over – they will be the well-springs of resurgence in wildlife populations.

In reality from experience what is known is that the real effects of an oil spill cannot be fathomed by looking at statistics of oil being spilled and wild life showing up oil covered on the shores etc…

Exxon-Valdez results are the ones we have at hand as reference and you can read it HERE makes for really interesting reading…

Note – Clicking on the name of the parks will take you to the respective parks pages on the web and will provide you with the latest update as to the effects of the oil spill if any.

Read this article in Newsweek to see the projected effect on underwater organisms and habitat.

Source for this article Data and Pictures:

National Geographic

National Parks Service

Reducing Your CO2 Output and Energy Consumption Today

Until the day comes when we get a good chunk of our energy from renewable energy sources, the onus falls on us to reduce our consumption of energy right now. One thing we can all do is make our lives and homes more energy efficient.

According to studies an average American household spends about $2,o00 annually on energy and also creates more than 26,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Residential energy use accounts for about 20 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The market is flooded with new products, and techniques to make homes more energy efficient. These are some tips and tricks which are helping me, pick what will work for you, every little bit helps in reducing our CO2 addition to the atmosphere; no step is trivial.

These tips from Yahoo Green all together can help you save up to 275$ annually!

  • Reduce the brightness setting of your television. Select the “home” mode because the retail” or “vivid” mode (the default setting for most TVs) uses up to 25 percent more power, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
    While you’re at it, activate the energy- and power-saving modes on your TV and other appliances and save around $43.04 a year.
  • Did you know that Video game consoles, such as the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, use nearly the same amount of power when they are turned on and left idle as they do when you are actively playing a game or watching a movie.
    Save more than $100 a year by remembering to turn off your gaming system whenever you’re not using it.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water. You’ll reduce your bill by around $18.58 a year and it’s better for your clothes.
    Even just switching your temperature setting from hot to warm water can cut a load’s energy use by half, according to the Department of Energy.

Some myths about the CFL bulbs:

  1. CFL lamps have mercury so they are a major safety hazard- In reality they do contain trace amounts of mercury which according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is only equivalent to consuming a nibble of albacore tuna! and that too only if one does not clean using caution once the bulb breaks.
  2. CFL bulbs are not really energy efficient as they take more to manufacture and transport – The amount of energy required to manufacture, transport, and dispose of an item is called “embodied energy.” For a CFL, the embodied energy is about 4% of the bulb’s total energy use, according to an essay published in LD+A, the magazine of the Illuminating Engineer Society, last December. 

These are all tips available on the web, it is just a matter of searching for it and practicing it… I have adapted most of the things above that are applicable to me and my power consumption over the year has been reduced by around 400$ annually.

Along with power consumption I have also added the following to my daily routine :

Car pooling.

Reducing trips to get grocery

Walking where ever I can.

Closing the running water tap when brushing, shampooing etc…

Eating conscientiously (local grown etc..)

Going vegetarian most days of the week

In Summer I Love listening to the sounds of nature and also the fresh wind that blows through along with the sounds of my wind chimes.. Open windows and I use a fan when it gets a little too hot (beats the A/C hands down:) ).

A clothesline in the yard for summer

Native plants in my garden (more tolerant to the climatic changes)

Reduced Consumption

Reuse What I have at hand

and RECYCLE when ever possible!

I must have missed out on things for sure. Will add more in future. If interested check out this Yahoo Green Pledge You can Pick what you want to do out of the list of Green Options and it will tell you how much CO2 you will reduce annually from your share 🙂 I think it is mighty Cool!

Live Green!

Source Yahoo Green and EERE

This is a pretty cool tool I found on Amazon –

Energy Conservation Guide Wheel Spinning Info, Tips & Fun Saving Facts

Energy: Use Less-Save More: 100 Energy-Saving Tips for the Home (The Chelsea Green Guides)

Congratulation Virginia Tech Winners of Solar Decathlon 2010

CONGRATULATIONS Virginia Tech! Virginia tech’s Lumenhaus won the Solar Decathlon 2010 in Madrid Spain. University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim and the Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences came in at second and third places, respectively.

Virginia Tech team with the Solar Decathlon Trophy

Fachochschule fur Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin is announced the winner of the Solar Systems Award.University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim is the winner of the Electrical Energy Balance Award and also the Appliances and Functioning Award.

Over 190,000 people visited the Villa Solar 2010.The public’s favorite houses were the Fablab House from the Instituto de Arquitectura Avanzada de Cataluña and the SML House from the Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera.

The web’s favorite was Re:focus from the University of Florida. Congratulations also to all the young sustainable Green architects and creators of all the participating teams you are the hope of the future!

The Solar Decathlon

Solar Decathlon was held in Spain this year. For those of us who are hearing about it for the very first time it is normal to wonder “What is the Solar Decathlon?”

The Solar Decathlon is a competition organized by the U.S. Department of Energy in which universities from across the globe meet to design and build an energetically self-sufficient house that runs only on solar energy, is connected to a power grid, and incorporates technologies that maximize its energy efficiency.

In the final phase of the competition, teams will assemble their prototypes in the so-called Villa Solar. The prototypes designed by the participating teams will then compete in a set of ten contests (Decathlon) in order to demonstrate the self-sufficiency and energy efficiency of each house.”

History of the competition

The Solar Decathlon is held every 2 years; the first edition of the Solar Decathlon was held in 2002; the second in 2005; the third in 2007. The previous competition was held in October 2009 and 20 teams representing as many universities from the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Germany and Spain competed. The German team from the Technische Universität Darmstadt won the decathlon in 2009.

All of the competitions that have been held so far have been located in the National Mall in Washington D.C., and have resulted in great media and social impact, with more than 100,000 visitors attending the competition. This year the number of visitors alsmost doubled to 190,000 plus!

Europe is hosting its first Solar Decathlon; Villa Solar 2010 is being held in Madrid Spain and 17 universities have been shortlisted from across the world, they are the following in order of their final ranking- The top 5 also have the points they received. Virginia Tech won by less than a point!!:

  1. Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University 811.83
  2. University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim 810.96
  3. Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences 807.49
  4. Ecole national Superieure darchitecture de Grenoble 793.84
  5. Aalto University Finland 777.01
  6. Bergische Universitat Wuppertal
  7. Arts et Metiers Paris Tech
  8. University of Florida
  9. Unviversidad CEU Cardenal Herrera
  10. Fachchochschule fur Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin
  11. Tongji University Shanghai
  12. Universidad Politecnica de Catalunya
  13. Universidad de Sevilla
  14. Universidad de Valladolid
  15. University of Nottingham
  16. Tianjin University
  17. Instituto de Architecture Avanzada de Cataluna

Watch the Virginia Tech’s documentary about the Lumenhaus on Youtube


Virginia Tech Team and its Lumenhaus
Given Below is the Description given by the team about their project on SDEurope.org

The Concept

Inspired by the Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe, the house offers an open configuration which connects the houses inhabitants to the outdoors.

The Design

The interior and exterior of the house are joined together by a smooth transition when the Eclipses System is open, contributing to a feeling of transparency. When the weather is nice, the windows can be opened to expand both the physical and psychological appearance of the space. The floor of the house doubles in size, and the southern and northern walls disappear to make the rooms seem as if they have no barriers or limitations. The multi-layered wall-changing system allows for various forms of spatial organization and therefore different perceptions of the house. The central core plays an important role in allowing different configurations in the houses interior.

Each area of the house is set up for specific activities, but they are designed to be flexible and can be adjusted according to individual needs. For example, the doors within the central core incorporate the work area, storage and entertainment units, but may be shifted to close off the bedroom from the rest of the house in order to create a more private area. The kitchen can be transformed into a bar, and the dining table can be left outdoors during warm summer evenings. The modular design also means that the entire house is flexible and that multiple units can be connected or placed one above the other (connected by stairs) to create a house with 3 or 4 bedrooms.

The Technology

From its construction to its transportation, the house employs responsive architecture and other similarly advanced technological features.

Radiating heat in the concrete floor

The concrete floor features a radiating floor heating system. This heats the house through a geothermal pump, which draws in heat during the winter and cools the floor during the summer. This procedure requires less energy use, making the house more efficient. In addition, the geothermal heat pump produces hot water as a byproduct during the summer.

Photovoltaic System

The rooftop photovoltaic system has the ability to vary its angle in order to maximize the efficiency of the power gained from the sun. It is controlled through a computerized user interface that can be connected to an iPhone. In fact, the user can control all of the functions, including the Eclipsis System, the photovoltaic system, the temperature, the electricity and the entertainment devices, with the simple use of an iPhone.

Placed second overall and winners in Appliances & Functioning and Electrical Energy Balance

Rosenheim Placed Second

Stuttgart Placed Third

All the houses and the technologies used are mind blowing and very inviting to live in 🙂 Sustainable Green living sure looks like a safer future in these hands!

The rest of the videos and more can be found here http://vimeo.com/tag:solardecathloneurope

Source for pictures and info