Tag Archives: Sustainable Living

The Green Car of 2011 Chevy VOLT

In early November 2010 the Chevy volt was picked as the Green Car for 2011 by the Green Car Journal. General Motors showcased the Chevrolet Volt with major fanfare at the Detroit Auto show of 2007 as a concept car, and as promised kept the launch date of end of 2010. When the Chevy Volt debuted in the Los Angeles Auto show it also won the “Car of the Year” – a first for a plug in Hybrid! This year the nominees including two hybrids, a high efficiency gasoline hatchback, and for the first time two electric cars.

The automotive press loves handing out awards, but this one is somewhat relevant because all the cars considered are practical, eco-friendly vehicles you might actually want to drive. Judges include gearheads Jay Leno and Carroll Shelby along with greenies like Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Motor Trend and Automobile magazines named the Chevrolet Volt “car of the year” earlier this week.

Chevy Volt via Wikipedia

Chevy Volt via Wikipedia

It is already on the roads in many parts of the country. The Volt looks pretty average from the outside except for the grille, but the interiors and its technology are revolutionary. The Volt charges up for a range of about 40 miles on battery power only; then the gasoline engine allows another 300 miles or so on top of that. It can be plugged in to a wall socket or a special garage recharger to “refuel”. To me it seems a tad too pricey at $40k plus.

I remember a line I read about the Volt when it first made its debut as the future of GM- the author of that article said “For GM, the Volt is meant to help change its image as a vendor or SUVs and other trucks, while giving it important technical know-how in fuel-efficient cars.” You can read the entire article here In many ways it is kind of a resurrection for the American Auto makers who were caught napping by the Japanese and other auto manufacturers in the race for a fuel efficient hybrid.

After all these good things today morning I read a rating from the ACEEE on the Green Car Book website – they have rated the Chevy Volt the lowest amongst Green cars at 48! They judge the new models on a point scale that includes not only fuel economy and tailpipe emissions, but also such relatively arcane measures as factory pollution and ease of recycling. At first glance I wondered what changed? then realized it was just how they were looking at it skewed. The volt’s gas engine gives a mileage of 35 mpg city/40 highway, which is nothing to write home about really. But what they have not taken into account is the fact that many a volt owner might never use the gas engine! and the Volt was given a 10/10 for being green by th car connection folks too!

Motor Trend magazine said“The genius of the Volt’s powertrain is that it is actually capable of operating as a pure EV, a series hybrid, or as a parallel hybrid to deliver the best possible efficiency, depending on the user’s duty cycle. For want of a better technical descriptor, this is world’s first intelligent hybrid. And the investment in the technology that drives this car is also an investment in the long-term future of automaking in America.”

I for one am very intrigued and would definitely take a look at the Volt before I decide as to which new car to buy, will just have to wait for the price to reach a little lower 🙂


Car connection for a Review of the Chevrolet Volt

Forbes article on the Green Car Books low rating

Low Power Computing A Green Wave in IT

IT or Information Technology and related services account for 2% of all Carbon emissions globally. The IMEC laboratory in Belgium has been developing microchips which can run on the tiniest amounts of power – like energy harvested from the slightest variations in the environment etc…

For any type of computing device to harvest this energy, its microchip must be able to work with so-called ‘sub-threshold’ voltages – voltages at which a normal transistor would turn itself off. The IMEC lab has come out with a prototype head band which monitors a patients vital signs and sends a wireless SOS in case of an epileptic seizure or a heart attack. Instead of being powered by batteries, it gets all the energy it needs solely from the warmth of the patient’s forehead. The thermoelectric generator is mounted on the forehead and converts the heat flow between the skin and air into electrical power.

Mr Gyselinkckx’s team expand the range of functions that can be achieved at sub-threshold voltages, they could revolutionize not only the market for niche headbands, but the entire world of computing.

“There is a tremendous drive today to reduce the power consumption of all kinds of electronics that we’re using – computers, cell phones, laptops”, says Mr Gyselinckx.

“The techniques we’re using to make ultra low power devices for body sensors could also be used in these applications.” It is an attractive idea – laptops that power themselves from the heat of your lap. But Mr Gyselinckx admits this is still some way off.

IMEC performs world-leading research in nano-electronics and nano-technology. Its staff of more than 1,750 people includes over 550 industrial residents and guest researchers. Imec’s research is applied in better healthcare, smart electronics, sustainable energy, and safer transport.

The idea is revolutionary and when fully viable will make a huge impact on the world of electronics.
A Video from the BBC

Read the entire article here

Source –


IMEC website

Ciralight’s Suntracker: Green Commercial Daylighting!

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has a working sustainability program in place and which keeps adding new green products to lessen its impact on the environment. In one of the updates we receive at the zoo about what was being done to lessen its Carbon foot print, a green product caught my eye – Ciralight’s Suntracker daylighting system – The speaker introduced it as “Skylights on Steroids!”

The zoo has installed Suntracker systems in the warehouse and the before and after pictures were stunning! Check them out below:

I found it very interesting especially the difference in the lighting, and the positive impact it would make on the environment. Once I got home it was one of the first things I looked up on the web.

What is Suntracker?

Ciralight Global, Inc. headquartered in Irvine, California, aims at bringing natural solar day-lighting indoors using their patented “Intelligent skylight” concept that utilizes a GPS unit that tracks the sun and a lens and mirror design that tracks, captures and magnifies the natural light produced from the sun at a level of intensity and clarity that makes electric lighting unnecessary during daylight hours. The result is a FREE green natural light source during daylight hours, which will lower utility bills, save energy, improve customer and employee satisfaction and enhanced performance in schools, factories and businesses that use the system.

All large scale stores like Sams Club, Home Depot etc School Gyms, Indoor stadiums etc. any building that needs to have lights on throughout the day can benefit from the Suntracker. The Suntracker like the name suggests tracks and uses the Free source of energy “the Sun” – and the light sensors help to turn your electrical powered lights off during daytime hours allowing you to conserve energy, save money and meet today’s energy efficiency standards. All buildings receive some amount of daylight, however, the term ‘daylit’ refers to buildings specifically designed or retrofitted to efficiently capture and distribute daylight as their primary lighting source. Up until now, that has been a very passive technique. Today, Ciralight has the innovative technology to bring daylight into a building in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible.

How does it work?

The Suntracker has a state-of-the-art solar powered GPS rotation control system to track the sun with a single mirror that effectively reflects sunlight into the building. The light passes through a thermal barrier, through a light well and a bottom light diffuser to effectively spread the light throughout the building.

The SunTracker tracks the sun from an hour after sunrise to an hour before sunset allowing the end user to turn the lights OFF during daylight hours.

Unlike the standard skylights the Suntracker Daylighting system keeps the light even throughout the day by tracking the sun. Compared to electric lighting, it produces illumination equivalent to 800 watts of fluorescent lighting, or more than a 1,000 watt metal halide lamp. Since it does not draw any line voltage, electricity costs for lighting drop to zero during the average of 10.5 hours a day that it reflects light indoors.

The combination of lumen performance, low operating cost, long life cycle and much lower heat generation is what makes the system so energy and maintenance efficient. The system is warranted for 10 years.

I am one of those who keeps up with the sun and grey skies make me dreary, so do dark rooms; love to keep windows open and the blinds pulled up, to let the sun in. Remember how there is always a tug of war for that corner cabin with windows! Scientific evidence shows that people feel, work and learn better with daylight than with electric lighting.

The zoo website reports that the environmental impact of the warehouse skylight installation is as follows:

The environmental impacts of this one project are:

  • Annual Carbon Emissions Reduction: 220,605 Lbs.
  • Annual Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) Emissions Reduction: 866 Lbs.
  • Annual Nitrogen Oxide (NO,NO2) Reduction: 425 Lbs.
  • Coal Burning Avoided: 47 Tons
  • Atmospheric Mercury Contamination Avoided: 2,227 Mg
  • Equivalent Acres of Forest Added: 27 Acres
  • Equivalent Number of Cars Removed From the Road: 19 Cars

The essence is that Ciralight Virtually eliminates the need for electric lighting during the daylight hours. Daylighting  reduces pollution and improves human output. Ciralight’s SunTracker high performance daylighting system produces up to ten times more light than a passive skylight and distributes light more evenly and over a wider area. Imagine what an impact it can make if a majority of the large store chains changed their lighting to Suntrack Daylighting systems! Green is the way to live.

Check out how it works here: Ciralight Demo
Check out a video about Suntracker from Ciralight Global


Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Sustainability Program

Ciralight Global Website

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!


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

Extinction of Many an African Species May Be As – BUSHMEAT

So why that title for today’s post you wonder? I read an op-ed on the BBC website by Mark Jones titled “Is Africa’s Wildlife being eaten to Extinction?” caught my eye to say the least. I have known for quite some time via National geographic and other nature channels that illegal Bushmeat trade was one of the major reasons for poaching in Africa, and had imagined that since it was well known it must be under control.

Educating the locals and providing them with alternate food sources etc… were the things I had read about. When I read Mark Jones write up I was stunned by the magnitude of the Bushmeat market. It was just not limited to Africa anymore; the bushmeat trade has gone Global and found a market outside Africa in the west!

Mark Jones says “It is now a multi-billion dollar international trade involving hundreds of species, from forest herbivores such as duikers and other antelopes to wild pigs, rodents, elephants and primates.

The exponential increase in the trade over recent years is being driven by demand from the exploding and ever more urbanized human population in Africa, and the increasing international value and demand for bushmeat products.”

What is Bushmeat?

In Africa the forests are referred to locally as “the bush” and anything that is caught from the bush is therefore Bushmeat or in French – viande de brousse. Traditionally almost all the local tribes have survived on Bushmeat for centuries and it is part and parcel of their way of living. What has changed over time is the loss of habitat and commercial hunting which has led to a steady decline in the number of species and its populations.

Illegal hunting for Bushmeat is rampant in many parts of Africa especially the Congo, where many a household depends mainly on Bushmeat for survival. Congo is almost always on the verge of anarchy because of its huge mineral wealth from cobalt all the way to gold and diamonds it is one of the richest African countries but the Congolese are leading a hand to mouth existence at best. Scientists have calculated that at the rate Congo is procuring Bushmeat the entire land would be wiped clean of wild animals by 2050! That would threaten livelihood of many of the indigenous people who depend on Bushmeat for survival.

Why is there a crisis?

Wildlife has been hunted for food ever since humans first evolved, and wildlife is still viewed as resource ‘free’ for the taking in many areas. Today in West and Central Africa, Bushmeat continues to be an economically important food and trade item for thousands of poor rural and urban families, and it’s a status symbol for urban elites trying to retain links to ‘the village’ – often commanding extremely high prices in city restaurants. Virtually uncontrolled access to forest wildlife (i.e., almost anyone can go hunting anywhere), rising demand for bushmeat, lack of economic options for rural and urban communities, the absence of affordable substitutes, the opening up of ‘frontier’ forests by logging and mining companies, and the complicity of government law makers and law enforcers, are the most important factors driving commercial hunting and militating against wildlife conservation.

Some facts about Bushmeat

  • Current harvest of Bushmeat in Central Africa is estimated to be around 1 million tons annually! This is equivalent to 4 million cattle! Congolese consume similar amounts of meat like Europeans and Americans, difference being it all comes from the forest.
  • Almost 24 million people live in and around the forest regions of Africa and most of them depend on Bushmeat as the major source for protein.
  • Primates and antelopes that are commonly hunted for meat, play an important -role in the forest by spreading the seeds of trees, vines and shrubs. Meat consumption may increase by 3% or more per year as human populations continue to grow and household incomes increase.
  • The most hunted wild species in Central Africa are duikers (forest antelopes), bush pig, pangolin, porcupine and small monkeys.
  • In Gabon, since agricultural production is low, the 1.5 million inhabitants depend almost entirely on Bushmeat for their protein intake.
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo has the highest Bushmeat consumption of the region. One study in the northeast found that two-thirds of households’ total cash income came from Bushmeat, fish and plants.
  • Bushmeat these days also includes Elephant, Apes and other protected animals.
  • Wildlife in Eastern and Southern African countries is increasingly being targeted, and Kenya is estimated to have experienced a loss of about 50% in its wildlife in recent decades, largely as a result of the bushmeat trade.
  • While most people are aware that elephants are poached for their ivory, many do not know that elephants are also a part of the Bushmeat crisis. One elephant yields thousands of kilos of meat, which may be easier to sell in markets than elephant ivory.
  • Humans share much of our DNA with great apes and monkeys like. Bushmeat hunting exposes humans to diseases carried by non-human primates, and vice versa.
  • Awareness and support for control of the bushmeat trade was virtually non-existent until the late 1990’s. Funding of a suite of studies and the efforts of a few key individuals have begun to change that. Now NGOs, governments, and the private sector are awakening to the challenge, and are currently seeking ways to understand and address the bushmeat crisis at local, national and international levels.
  • Working with logging companies to curb the export of meat from concessions is an essential step to conserving forest wildlife.

What Needs to be and Can be done?

Poverty and hunger are the underlying issues and without trying to resolve them I doubt the issues of Africa or any other place on earth can be solved. The Following are solutions suggested by the Bushmeat Crisis task Force (BCTF)

  • Employment of local residents;
    restricting human immigration to logging concessions;
    negotiating areas to be set aside and remain unlogged;
    prohibiting use of logging vehicles to transport bushmeat;
    and removing bridges along roads in already logged areas.
  • Increasing support for national and trans-border protected area networks and developing capacity at local, national, and regional levels is highly important.
  • Long-term support for protected areas including provision of well-equipped and trained anti-poaching units is a second clear priority for mitigating the commercial bushmeat trade.
  • Support environmentally sound economic development throughout West Africa and the Congo Basin.
  • Be the primary, reliable, credible source of information on the bushmeat issue (commercial, illegal and/or unsustainable) in Africa, Asia, Latin America and around the globe.
  • Use information to catalyze connections in the bushmeat arena, to support conservation on the ground.
  • Strengthen domestic and international policies focused on mitigation of the illegal, unsustainable activities related to bushmeat (government, private sector, etc.)
  • Identify and cultivate key decision makers that will advance our vision.
  • Respond to requests from key decision makers that result in the advancement of our vision.
  • Raise awareness of the bushmeat crisis and its implications among  (a) members (b) key decision makers (c) public in Africa and North America and around the globe.
  • Motivate and enable action addressing the bushmeat crisis.
  • Promote education and training opportunities to enhance member and partner capacity to address bushmeat.
  • Establishing an information database regarding the activities and impacts of the African commercial bushmeat trade (ecological, economic, and social).
  • Establishing mechanisms for information sharing among member organizations with the goal of increasing collaboration and effectiveness of field program actions and reporting/ evaluation of results.
  • Informing, raising awareness, and identifying support from key decision-makers regarding the scope and immediacy of the problem.
  • Coordinating cooperative public relations/ media campaigns to inform the public in the USA about the bushmeat crisis (including collaboration with member institutional/individual partners to develop similar, culturally appropriate, information campaigns in Africa).
  • Engaging African partners and stakeholders in the BCTF process.
  • Building and maintaining communications among members of the BCTF to facilitate collaborative policy, decision-making, fund-raising, and action implementation among the disparate members of the BCTF.
  • Developing linkages with parallel collaborative efforts emerging among African and European counterparts.

Unless one looks at the big picture it is kind of difficult to understand the impact of bushmeat trade. Species have functions: as prey for other species, seed dispersers or forest rebuilders. So reductions in certain species can have far reaching impacts on others, causing a loss of biodiversity and a crisis within ecosystems. In the UN’s year for biodiversity this becomes another issue which adversely effects biodiversity and species survival. Wonder what will be done and how soon.
Check out a video on Bushmeat crisis by the BBC:

Read the BBC article by Mark Jones here

Check out the Bushmeat Crisis task Force here

Another interesting article here

Zero Race: The Renewable Energy Car Race Around the World

On 16th August 2010 started a race of 4 teams with vehicles running on renewable energy which the organizers are calling Zero Race! The Zero Race Adventure draws inspiration from Jules Verne’s “Around the world in 80 days” by racing around the world in 80 days! The Race will cover 18,650 miles across the continents. The Sponsor’s include United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Sustainable Energy Europe etc…

The cars starting from Geneva Switzerland heading eastward will cross Berlin, Moscow and Shanghai and then travel by ship to Vancouver. From there they will continue along the west coast of North America all the way to Cancun, Mexico. In December, the vehicles will be shipped again to Portugal, and travel over southwest Europe to complete the final leg of the global journey. After 80 days, 30,000 kilometers through 16 countries and 150 city stopovers the race will be completed at the end of January 2011, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Swiss man behind “The Zero race” Louis Palmer is the first man ever to travel around the world in an electric car, he did it in 534 days which he named the Solar Taxi.

The mission of “The ZERO Race” is to educate, raise public awareness, inspire and help governments and people to take action towards a sustainable future.
(1) AWARENESS to prove that electric cars running on renewable energies provide a reliable and ecological solution for human transport and mobility.
(2) EDUCATION to raise public awareness worldwide about ZERO-emission technology and involve major government stakeholders.
(3) INSPIRATION to create new ways of thinking about mobility, cars and renewable energy.
(4) ACTION to show that practical solutions exist towards protecting the future of the planet and its inhabitants.

The ZERO Race will involve many public events, press conferences and spread the following messages on its global tour:

  • This is a race to save the world; it is a race for clean technology.
  • This is a race to Cancun to Seal the Deal at the UN Climate Change Conference.
  • This is a race towards the future and the future is Green.
  • This race stands for an ecological, economical and efficient lifestyle change: it is possible!Check out the route of the ZERO RACE:

The Teams:

  1. Orlikon Solar Racing Team from Switzerland
  2. Power Plaza Team From South Korea
  3. Team Trev from Australia
  4. Vectrix Team from GermanyWatch the TED Talk by Louis Palmer in Geneva 2009:

    Interesting Facts about the race:
  • The cars are required to carry two passengers and drive at least 250 kilometers at an average speed of at least 80 kilometers an hour.
  • This is the longest race of its kind.
  • The ZERO Race is a 100% carbon neutral event. All unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions generated in its planning and implementation will be compensated by purchasing offsets from a credible organization.

  • Competition Criteria
  • Reliability – based on vehicle performance assessed by the number of breakdowns or repairs needed during the Zero Race
  • Power and Speed – based on acceleration and range capacity to complete the Zero Race track (evaluation by a panel of race car drivers)
  • Energy efficiency – based on assessments by vehicle manufacturers and various other experts
  • Popularity of the vehicle, based on the judgment of the general public
  • Safety – based on evaluations by transport engineers
  • Design – based on opinion polls by spectators and the general public along the way

Louis Palmer aims to hold this race every two years, watch the website to see if the race passes your city. What a green concept to have a zero emissions race across the world!

The icing on the cake for me was when I read that the teams have also chosen an endangered animal from their respective countries to highlight the threat to biodiversity and raise awareness as 2010 is the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity.

The Korean team picked the Amur Tiger which has disappeared from their wilderness. The Swiss team picked a Dragon fly Sombre Goldenring,  The Australians picked the Golden green frog and the Germans have chosen a bird (will have to find out which one and will update that part 🙂 )

Check out their website for more details HERE

The Ultimate winner as the Zero Race team says will be Planet Earth! 🙂

KOMUNTO Winner Of The Equator Prize 2010

The 2010 Equator Prize was awarded to KOMUNTO (Komunitas Nelayan Tomiya) – The Tomiya Fishermen Community from Indonesia. KOMUNTO is a community based organization. It is made up of representatives of the fishermen groups from East Tomiya, Wakatobi, Indonesia.  The organization works  to encourage the independent administration of local natural resources to improve the well being of the fishermen. It was developed as a response to communities grievances about Foreign Commercial fishing, use of destructive fishing methods and an absence of local governing leadership to manage sustainable use of the Wakatobi natural resources.

Wondering what the Wakatobi natural resources are?

The reefs of the Wakatobi Marine Park is the 3rd largest in Indonesia and support a tremendously colorful cross-section of biodiversity. But its 3.4million acres of islands and waters support a fishing industry that, through destructive practices and overuse, has placed those same natural resources in danger.

Check out a video of the Biodiversity in Wakatobi Reefs:

The Equator Prize is awarded to recognize and celebrate outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation of biodiversity. As sustainable community initiatives take root throughout the tropics, they are laying the foundation for a global movement of local successes that are collectively making a significant contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Equator Prize nominations are accepted from three regions of eligibility within the equatorial belt (23.5 degrees north and south of the equator): Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition to worldwide recognition for their work, a monetary award, and an opportunity to shape national and global policy, all nominees are invited to join the Community Knowledge Service (CKS) and are profiled in the Equator Knowledge Zone (EKZ) database of practice.

You can find more details and past winners on the Equator Prize website HERE

Key Impact of KOMUNTO

KOMUNTO has been able to mobilize and organize previously isolated and scattered fishermen groups. Representatives of the organization are now leaders in their respective communities, encouraging the local population to decrease catch sizes, eliminate coral reef bleaching, stabilize fish prices, access capital for local development projects, and engage local government in management activities.


  • Local participation in zoning and spatial planning for the sustainable management and use of Wakatobi National Park
  • Establishment of three protected areas around the island of Tomia, declaring these sites as “fish banks” safe from exploitation and allowing for regeneration of fish stocks


  • Member groups make financial contributions to the organization through primary savings (simpanan pokok), a compulsory fee (iuran wajib) and a voluntary savings (simpanan sukarela) from each member
  • Financial contributions are also earmarked for members with special needs such as health, funerary reasons, weddings, and other traditional events
  • Development of an organizational cooperative through its economy division, providing savings and loans services and supporting trade activities


  • In 2007, the spatial zonation of Wakatobi National Park was signed and approved by the national government, with inputs from KOMUNTO


  • The KOMUNTO “fish bank” model has been adopted by other local fishing communities
  • In 2008, all twenty-seven KOMUNTO member groups (consisting of 418 families) formally that they share a common fishing approach, including the outlawing of explosives and sedatives

The KOMUNTO project and others like it, all need financial support to survive, check the Nature Conservancy. org website for how you can be of help. Congratulations KOMUNTO! Keep Up the Good work!

The following videos and books from Amazon make interesting study materials to learn about Coral reefs:

Coral Reef Adventure (IMAX) [Blu-ray]

Wildlife International – Creatures Of The Coral Reef

Water The Elixir of Life- Is It the Next Oil?

My better half who is immersed in the markets up ticks and down falls has told me many times over the years that in our life time we may see fights or wars over water, to me it sounded very far fetched 10 years ago, and then I started reading up on it. He send me the link to the Forbes magazine website early this year with an article titled “The Next Oil-Water” The article in reference was from the Mother Nature Network and was published on March 22nd which was incidentally World Water Day. WHO has been celebrating world water day since 2005.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi the Nobel Prize winning Hungarian Biochemist said “Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”

Water- the elixir of life which makes life possible on Earth, and that which makes Earth unique amongst the other planets in our solar system. We are by all estimates 75% water, our brain in itself is 85%water! Without water there would be no life and that is a fact. It is the reason why we send missions to the moon, mars and planets beyond searching, hoping that may be somewhere out there is another place like ours, special because it has water the sustainer of Life.

What really opened my eyes?

I grew up in Cochin a small coastal city in the Southern most part of India. I have lived my life without major issues related to water shortage, there were a few times when there would be a pipe that burst or something and we would go get water from a nearby well. Then I moved to the US and the only issues we have ever had has been when hurricane Ike’s remnants lashed through a couple of years back and brought down trees and power lines along its path… for a couple of weeks we were left without power and potable drinking tap water.

Early this year when I went to India to visit my folks, there were riot like situations happening in some islands adjacent to the city of Cochin and the cause was drinking water. The wells and the water tables in the islands are saline, leaving them dependant on the mainland for potable drinking water. With the city growing in leaps and bounds and the population bursting at the seams whatever water is available gets consumed before it makes its way to the islands. The people in the islands were fuming over the injustice they have been putting up with for decades… I remembered then that this was an issue when I was in school in the 80’s and probably even before that. For us mainlanders as long as it was not affecting us the issue seemed remote and something one the inside pages of the newspaper that we read and forgot.

One of the interesting things that caught my eye on the road in Cochin were the Tankers with “Drinking Water” boldly emblazoned on the sides. There seemed to be so many of them around! Each tanker carries Precious water for the residents who pay premium to get it 3-4 times a week! I was talking to a friend of mine who has always had a well with a never drying water table beneath, who mentioned that wells around were drying up in the wink of an eye without no reason at all… What we concluded was that probably the huge flats around had something to do with it?? Water tables are interconnected and when we break them I feel there must be some repercussion. Anyways so when I got back home and my husband gave me the link to the Forbes article, I started trying to find out how much water I was using in a day. I collected water in buckets to shower with, and kept track of the water I used to cook, tried to minimize use etc and when I triumphantly mentioned my effort to my better half her suggested I take a look at my water foot print a little more in detail. He said remember almost everything that we consume comes in contact with water before it makes its way to us!

So I thought well I need to find out for real how much water approximately I consume or use. On searching I found this website water foot print and I was astounded by the numbers and the realization of how far off my calculation was from reality. For me a cup of coffee was 1 cup of water, where as in reality to make that cup of coffee it takes approximately 140 liters of water! The sheer magnitude shocked me and made me realize like everything else the onus falls on us to take a stand and make sure we are making use of this elixir thoughtfully.

My water footprint was 801 cubic meter per year, what is yours? Find out here

Interesting and thought provoking Water Facts:

  • In the population of around 6billion plus people on our earth, 1 billion plus have no access to drinking water.
  • Around 1000 children die a day due to sicknesses from drinking non-potable water.
  • Oceans dominate the earth but only 1% of that water is fresh, accessible and potable.
  • Dry nations will increasingly abandon agriculture because of water scarcity, as is now happening in the Middle East and North Africa, and will turn to the water-rich countries for grains and other foods. This trade in comestibles—flowing from lush lands to parched places—has earned wheat, rice, and other crops the sobriquet “virtual water.”
  • The World Bank reports that a third of public utilities in developing countries lose up to 40 percent of their water due to poor infrastructure and mismanagement.
  • In 2007 the city of Atlanta was nearly brought to a standstill when Lake Lanier, the area’s primary water supply, dropped to its lowest levels in a century.
  • Every time you open a faucet, remember that you’re doing something beyond the reach of almost 3 billion people.
  • 2005–2015 is the International Decade for Action Water for life, we are half way through it is high time there is action. Like everything else every small step counts.
  • 4 of every 10 people in the world do not have access to even a simple pit latrine and nearly 2 in 10 have no source of safe drinking-water.
  • Harvesting rain water is a very sustainable way to save water.
  • Planting local plants and drought resistant varieties helps.
  • Taking shorter showers helps, keeping the tap closed while brushing teeth or shaving helps…
  • The steps we can take are myriad it is just that we need to do it, pay attention to the small things and make sure to follow through when we care about something which in this case is survival.
  • China, with 1.26 billion people, is the one area worrying most people most of the time, In dry Northern China, the water table is dropping one meter per year due to over pumping, and the Chinese admit that 300 cities are running short. Some Chinese rivers are so polluted the water can’t be used for irrigation!!
  • In India, home to 1.002 billion people, key aquifers are being over pumped, and the soil is growing saltier through contamination with irrigation water.
  • Israel (population 6.2 million), invented many water-conserving technologies, but water withdrawals still exceed resupply. Over pumping of aquifers along the coast is allowing seawater to pollute drinking water.
  • Egypt, whose population of 68 million may reach 97 million by 2025, gets essentially no rainfall. All agriculture is irrigated by seasonal floods from the Nile River, and from water stored behind the Aswan High Dam. Any interference with water flow by Sudan or Ethiopia could starve Egypt.
  • Mexico City (home to 20 million people) is sinking because the city sucks out underground water faster than the aquifer can be refilled.
  • In Bangladesh, what’s been called the “largest poisoning of a population in history” has 35 to 77 million people drinking arsenic-laced water.
  • 5 tips from the MNN network
  1. Reduce your current shower time by one minute
  2. Locate and repair silent toilet leaks.
  3. Water lawns on demand, not on schedule.
  4. Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth.
  5. Smart Dishwashing – If you’re doing dishes by hand, don’t rinse under an open faucet. Buy an in-sink rack, load your soapy dishes, and rinse by pouring hot water over the top or using a handheld spray nozzle. Have a dishwasher? Use the short cycle for all but the dirtiest dishes.
  • In developed nations such as Japan, the USA and in Europe, most water shortfalls arise from politically popular but inefficient subsidies and protections of agriculture, which accounts for 85% of freshwater consumption worldwide.
  • An apple is the result of 70 liters of water! and Wheat uses less water than rice to cultivate, almost 50% less! Can you believe that!
  • Why there can be strife over water? Consider: More than a dozen nations receive most of their water from rivers that cross borders of neighboring countries viewed as hostile.

A prime cause of the global water concern is the ever-increasing world population. As populations grow, industrial, agricultural and individual water demands escalate. According to the World Bank, world-wide demand for water is doubling every 21 years, more in some regions. Water supply cannot remotely keep pace with demand, as populations soar and cities explode.

The reality is that the water we take for granted can and will become not so cheap in a not so distant future unless we wake up to the fact that it is indeed a precious commodity now, not an unending source which will keep on giving. We need to take steps to make sure drinking water shortages do not start the next cold war scenario or unrest world over.

Our first step like everything else starts with ourselves, that small step we take in the right direction… like deciding whether to plant drought resistant vegetation, if guided by awareness that water is a very limited and precious natural resource… To get started check out your water footprint here am sure you will be as surprised as I was. Live Green!

Check out this presentation by professor Scott Fendorf of Stanford University about Southeast Asian water shortage:

Interesting reads and sources for the data in water facts:

Read the Forbes Article here

The UN WHO project Water For Life Booklet a must read

World Water.org dedicated to providing information and resources to help protect and preserve fresh water around the globe.

Arizona Agricultural University website

Why files

Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin

Drinking water and sanitation data

Check out rainwater harvesting here

Interesting Books from Amazon –

Your Body’s Many Cries for Water

Out of Water: From Abundance to Scarcity and How to Solve the World’s Water Problems

7Million Trees Planted Would You Care To Add One More?

When one looks around for a cause to support there is no dearth for causes and I find it really tough when the times got tougher economically to choose which charities to support etc… I try to do a lot of research when I decide where I want my money to go and my criteria are pretty simple and straight forward: I want max utilization of each dollar, I want to see results and yearly updates as to what got done. If these two criteria are met I mostly follow my heart and pay up what I can to support the cause.

Now one of my favorite causes has been protection /sustenance of the environment and on that front one of my favorites has been The Nature Conservancy and its Plant a Billion Trees Initiative.  

One Dollar One Tree One Planet what says it better and simpler than that? This is one of those endeavors am truly passionate about and wish that each of us could partake in. The Nature Conservancy began the Plant a Billion trees Initiative because the Atlantic forests have been so depleted that only 7% of it’s original area is left. The aim of the project is to plant 1 Billion trees in 7 years time to re-forest 2.5million acres of land! and till date they have managed to plant 7,054,098 trees. The trees being planted are indigenous and native only to these forests e.g the Guapuruvu tree

What can 1 Dollar buy in today’s world?

(as per a 2005 report from the World Resources Institute )
  • Bangladesh (Chittagong) 1 Dozen Eggs
  • Kenya 8 Cups of Milk
  • Ghana 2 1/3 Bottles of Palm Oil
  • Ghana 4 1/3 Bottles of Coke
  • Philippines 4/5 of a Big Mac
  • USA 1/3 of a Starbucks Tall Latte
  • Uganda 1/46 of a Bicycle
  • Bangladesh 1/3 of a Sari
  • Ghana 1 1/2 Pairs Rubber Sandals
  • Bangladesh 7 Bars of Soap
  • Ghana 87 Tablets of Penicillin
  • India (Andhra Pradesh) 1/2 Unit of Blood for a Transfusion
  • USA 1/150 of the Average Daily Cost of Nursing Home Care
  • Tanzania (Nzanza) 1/3 of a Liter of Pesticide
  • Ghana 4 1/3 Rolls of Toilet Paper
  • Ecuador (Quito) 1/500 of a Washing Machine
  • India (Andhra Pradesh) 2-3 Pieces Bamboo for Building
  • Uganda (Mbale) 1/1500 of the Cost of Building a New Home
  • India (Mumbai) 1/3 of a Regular Price Evening Movie Ticket
  • In the US the first thing for a dollar that comes to mind is a candy bar..
Bangladesh (Chittagong) 1 Dozen Eggs
Kenya 8 Cups of Milk
Ghana 2 1/3 Bottles of Palm Oil
Ghana 4 1/3 Bottles of Coke
Philippines 4/5 of a Big Mac
USA 1/3 of a Starbucks Tall Latte
Uganda 1/46 of a Bicycle
Bangladesh 1/3 of a Sari
Ghana 1 1/2 Pairs Rubber Sandals
Bangladesh 7 Bars of Soap
Ghana 87 Tablets of Penicillin
India (Andhra Pradesh) 1/2 Unit of Blood for a Transfusion
USA 1/150 of the Average Daily Cost of Nursing Home Care
Tanzania (Nzanza) 1/3 of a Liter of Pesticide
Ghana 4 1/3 Rolls of Toilet Paper
Ecuador (Quito) 1/500 of a Washing Machine
India (Andhra Pradesh) 2-3 Pieces Bamboo for Building
Uganda (Mbale) 1/1500 of the Cost of Building a New Home
India (Mumbai) 1/3 of a Regular Price Evening Movie Ticket

and if you spare that 1 dollar you can plant a tree which can:

Picture Courtesy Mauroguanandi

  • Trees are carbon sinks – A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs./year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings. To produce its food, a tree absorbs and locks away carbon dioxide in the wood, roots and leaves. Carbon dioxide is a global warming suspect. A forest is a carbon storage area or a “sink” that can lock up as much carbon as it produces. This locking-up process “stores” carbon as wood and not as an available “greenhouse” gas.
  • Trees Clean the Soil -The term phytoremediation is a fancy word for the absorption of dangerous chemicals and other pollutants that have entered the soil. Trees can either store harmful pollutants or actually change the pollutant into less harmful forms. Trees filter sewage and farm chemicals, reduce the effects of animal wastes, clean roadside spills and clean water runoff into streams.
  • Trees Control Noise Pollution -Trees muffle urban noise almost as effectively as stone walls. Trees, planted at strategic points in a neighborhood or around your house, can abate major noises from freeways and airports.
  • Trees Slow Storm Water Runoff -Flash flooding can be dramatically reduced by a forest or by planting trees. One Colorado blue spruce, either planted or growing wild, can intercept more than 1000 gallons of water annually when fully grown. Underground water-holding aquifers are recharged with this slowing down of water runoff.
  • Trees Clean the Air – Trees remove this air pollution by lowering air temperature, through respiration, and by retaining particulates.
  • Trees provide shade and keep temperature cooler – Shade resulting in cooling is what a tree is best known for. Shade from trees reduces the need for air conditioning in summer. In winter, trees break the force of winter winds, lowering heating costs. Studies have shown treed areas and bare areas can have up to 12 degrees difference in temperature during hot summer days.
  • Trees fight soil erosion and also add to your property value!

These are just some of the positives of planting a tree from the human perspective. Trees also provide shelter and food to myriad living beings from birds to rodents and insects. They are virtually small ecosystems. So if you have a dollar to spare do check out this LINK and make a donation. Nature conservancy is aiming to remove 10 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with this ambitious project, which will be equivalent to taking off 2 million cars off the road! The effects of this endeavor will make a positive impact locally as well as globally. The aim is to protect the 10 critical watersheds in the Atlantic Forests which provide water and hydro power to a population of 70 million! and as a result of this landmark endeavor they hope to create 20,000 direct jobs and 70,000 indirect jobs for them.

Atlantic Forests What and where are they? According to the biodiversity hot-spots websiteThe Atlantic Forest of tropical South America boasts 20,000 plant species, 40 percent of which are endemic. Yet, less than 10 percent of the forest remains. More than two dozen Critically Endangered vertebrate species are clinging to survival in the region, including three species of lion tamarins and six bird species that are restricted to the small patch of forest near the Murici Ecological Station in northeastern Brazil. With almost 950 kinds of birds occurring in this hotspot, there are many unique species including the red-billed curassow, the Brazilian merganser, and numerous threatened parrot species.

At a dollar a tree there can be no excuse if one really cares about the environment and wants to do something, it is time for action and we need to all make an effort now to make this a resounding success. Lets plant trees under whose shades we will never sit, so that the coming generations will have the shade and the cover they need to thrive in this blue planet we call home.

I have made my pledge I hope you will too… Giving up one or a couple of candy bars… a cup of starbucks coffee… it is a pretty simple choice if you ask me, a tree will keep on giving and It’s one of the best deals I have found that is so valuable yet costs so little… Live Green!

Check out Nature Conservancy’s video about Plant a billion trees project

Upcycling Wine Corks

Like the line from Tennyson’s poem The Miller’s daughter “After-dinner talk across walnuts and wine” it just makes sense  at least the wine does to me, the Walnut not so much :). To anyone who enjoys his/ her glass of wine it is evident bottles get recycled and the corks normally end up in the trash can. I have thought about what to do with them and keep them until the fill up a bag and then one day I throw it all in with the trash and start again.

As I was surfing the web I chanced across an article by Dave Chameides also known as “Sustainable Dave” titled “Don’t throw those wine corks away, upcycle them’ and that title piqued my interest.

His article helped me find a way to save the corks! Dave says “‘Thanks to companies like Recork, the answer to your problems lies only a post office or drop off box away. Recork will take back your natural corks, and make them into new shoe treads for a company called Sole. How cool is that? You can send your corks in (they’ll send you a free mailing label for 15 lbs or more), or better yet, you can find a drop off in your area and turn them in as you use them. According to their website, to date, they have upcycled over 8 million corks and planted over 2000 trees (they do that too).”

You can read the entire article here

I also found this cool video on using wine corks to make a board check it out below

And found this one from BetterTV which has a video on what one can do creatively with wine corks!

So next time you uncork the bottle of wine don’t forget to save the cork! Enjoy your wine and Live Green 🙂