Keeping an Eye Out for Those Who Don’t Greenify

December 17, 2008

The U.S. government has started a new most wanted list---for those who not only don’t Greenify, but who are accused of assaulting the environment.

These are environmental fugitives who do everything from smuggling chemicals that eat away the Earth’s protective ozone layer, to dumping wastes into oceans and rivers and trafficking in polluting cars.

While most versions of the “Most Wanted List” include those who commit crimes, the Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out a roster of 23 environmental thugs, complete with mug shots and descriptions of the charges at the EPA’s website.

One EPA enforcement official said those represent the "brazen universe of people that are evading the law." Many face years in prison and some charges could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, if they are caught.

"They are charged with environmental crimes and they should be brought before the criminal justice system and have their day in court," said Pete Rosenberg, one of the EPA’s directors in charge of criminal enforcement division.

One name on the list is John Karayannides, who allegedly helped orchestrate the dumping of 487 tons of diesel fuel-tainted wheat into the South China Sea in 1998. Karayannides is believed to have fled to Athens, Greece.

Also at large are the father and son team of Carlos and Allesandro Giordano, who were originally picked up in 2003 as owners of a company that was illegally importing and selling Alfa Romeos that did not meet U.S. emission or safety standards. The two men are believed to be hiding out in Italy.

The launch of the most-wanted list comes as EPA's criminal enforcement has ebbed. In the last 12 months, the agency has opened only 319 criminal enforcement cases, down from 425 in 2004. 

EPA officials defend the agency's record, saying the agency has focused on bigger cases with larger environmental benefits.  And now, they are giving people concerned about Greenifying a chance to keep an eye out for those who have committed crimes against the planet.


Two Quick Ways to Greenify Holiday Giving

December 3, 2008

If you’re like many Americans, you’re feeling the economic pinch this holiday.  Greenifying your gift-giving may help you feel a little richer in personal green. 

Have you thought about recycling gifts?  Yeah, sure, you’ve heard about re-gifting: rewrapping a gift you received but don’t care for in order to give it to someone it may be better suited for.  Re-gifting was made popular (and got laughs) on Seinfeld, the old NBC sitcom.

But maybe this year, you’ll consider buying items at second-hand stores.  Americans have been considered “under-consumers” for years, in that they didn’t use an item completely.  They threw things away or took them to second-hand stores well before their usefulness was finished.  Maybe it’s time you considered shopping in those stores.

Some things you can’t purchase at such a store.  You’ll not please the kids wanting a WII with an old VCR.  But if you’re looking for a back-up vcr for your business’ in-house security system, you will pay a lot less by purchasing a cast-off second-hand player in working order.  

Often these items are cast off early.  In some cases, stores have been known to clear inventory to charitable organizations.  If you can wait until after Christmas, many stores and households clear excess items that aren’t fully used.  (Some people never learn to Greenify.  It’s not in their nature.)  

At the very least, consider something made of recycled goods, like this Radio Flyer made of recycled plastic or a lovely star paperweight made of recycled blue glass. (They have them shaped like dolphins, too but that didn’t seem nearly as festive!)

You can teach your children a lesson about greenification by taking them shopping at a second-hand store, like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.  They’ll learn to appreciate the cost of goods, the fun of giving, and the value of a dollar while they shop.  It’s also a great time to talk about the value of conserving natural resources.

Even if the kids aren’t getting or giving second-hand gifts, give yourself or your spouse or someone else the gift of a recycled, second-hand item and feel the joy of helping Greenify the planet and the second gift of a lower budget.


Christmas Greenification: It Starts with a Tree

November 26, 2008

Christmas is when our culture seems to forget about honoring the earth and neglects to Greenify.  We hit our annual high for consumption.  We decorate bigger and brighter every year, we send cards that kill forest after forest, and we consume prodigious quantities of food and drink.  This holiday season, Americans will put millions of miles and thousands of kilowatts into lighting holiday trees, homes and businesses.  But there are ways to Greenify your Christmas at home and at work. 

One of the biggest symbols of the holiday is the tree.  Brightly decorated with lights, tinsel, and ornaments, can this symbol be made more green?  Yes.  First off, choose a real tree.  An artificial tree is primarily a petroleum product.  A real fir or spruce is exactly that: a real tree. It brings scent and cheer to what might otherwise be a dreary corner of the room. And at the end of the holidays, it can be taken to the county recycling effort and turned into mulch. 

What about the decorations?  How about buying LED lights?  They look the same as convention incandescent bulbs, but last longer and use 80 to 90 percent less energy.  They’re also safer since they barely warm up.  Also invest in timers to continue the savings by dimming the lights, inside and out, when everyone goes to bed. You’ll find plenty of uses for those, turning off lamps, after the season is over.

As for decorations, many people use the same decorations year after year, and that’s an excellent way to conserve.  If you’d like to have new decorations, edible decorations can be freshly made and shared with customers who come by the business (or friends at home) during the holiday season.  Or you might consider a “theme tree” and make doggie treat decorations using any of the dozens of recipes for doggie treats available on the internet.

Christmas can be a great time to Greenify and keep the spirit of the holidays alive.


Incandescent Bans: Why Wait to Greenify?

November 19, 2008

The end is near.  But that means that that Europe may begin to go green a little sooner.   

EU energy ministers have recently agreed to ban incandescent filament light bulbs across all 27 member states beginning in 2010.   That’s in addition to Australia, Cuba and the Philippines where bans have previously been announced to begin in the same year. 

Here in the U.S.A, we are coming a little late to the party because our ban doesn’t start until 2014.

The Energy Independence and Security Act, passed by the U.S in June 2007, requires 25 percent greater efficiency for light bulbs starting in 2012.  This will effectively ban incandescents. The EU's decision comes days before it lifts duties on energy-efficient bulbs imported from China.

According to the conservationists if the EU switches off incandescent bulbs, it will cut energy consumption for lighting by 60% and CO2 emissions by 30 million tons (out of the 4 billion tons emitted by the EU every year.   That’s not a lot, but it is still progress.

And no one says you have to wait to start conserving energy now.   Replacing old-style “filament” light bulbs with energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs can save you energy and money starting the moment that you install them.      

And who knows? By 2014, maybe the lighting industry will have come up with something even better.


Greenify your Life: Keeping It Old School

October 10, 2008

The “good old days” weigh heavily on modern life, don’t they?  In some ways, people didn’t think about how to Greenify.  They went around polluting without giving a thought to the need to Go Green.

But they also didn’t throw things away as readily.  It wasn’t a disposable society.  So let’s borrow a few thoughts from our parents.

When was the last time you went to a library?  These days, some of us buy every movie that comes out without thought for the fact that we rarely watch a movie more than once or twice and that the technology is moving so quickly that we’re now moving from standard DVD’s to Blu-Ray discs and making all those old movies obsolete in the bargain.  (With one billion DVD players out there, consider the impact on landfill alone.)

How about we go back to the library system?  We reconsider reading.  Borrowing instead of buying saves on paper, ink and printing costs.  Libraries are free and they are gateways to an old fashioned pleasure.  Of course in many modern libraries, there is a DVD section.  We could also borrow DVD’s from friends and swap them around readily. 

Maybe it’s time to go back to the old neighborly practice of borrowing power tools and other appliances?  It cuts down on your garage clutter and your carbon footprint, while at the same time adding to good feelings in the ‘hood when you return them on a timely basis.


Carbon footprint of six every day products

October 8, 2008

Do you ever wonder what the carbon footprint is of a gallon of milk or a fleece jacket or a six-pack of beer? If so, there was a very informative article in Monday's Wall Street Journal (October 6th). It was the cover story of the Environment Report section. Jeffrey Ball took an in-depth look at the carbon footprint of six products. Six Products, Six Carbon Footprints. Products we all know and probably use. Do you have a guess at how many pounds a Prius emits? What about laundry detergent? To find the answers to these questions and more read the article. You may be surprised at the carbon output of some of these products. Enjoy!


Green Communities

July 25, 2008

How much more Green could one be than to live in a community powered completely by alternative energy? There are several communities where you can do just that if you so desire.

Johnny Depp’s island may be getting most of the press this week. Three years ago, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star purchased a 35 acre island in the Bahamas. Now Depp is purchasing a solar hydrogen energy system from New Jersey engineer Mike Strizki. The system first generates electricity via solar cells. Excess electricity powers an electrolyzer which separates a tank of water into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is released into the atmosphere and the hydrogen is stored, to be used in the winter or other times when the solar panels do not generate enough electricity. The price tag makes this system less than practical for most, ranging from $250,000 - $500,000, depending on the size of the home.

Rock Port, Missouri has become the first US town to be solely powered via wind generators owned by the Loess Hill Wind Farm. The rural town of 1,300 is in the midst of 75 wind turbines spread over three counties. However, only 4 turbines are needed to power all of Rock Port.

Drake Landing, a bedroom community of 52 homes, in Alberta, Canada is powered solely by solar energy. 800 solar panels line garage roofs supply 1.5 megawatts of electricity on a typical summer day. The homes have other green features including upgraded insulation, recycled materials incorporated into the drywall, superior insulation and more.

Rizhao, China is another solar powered city. Solar water heaters are used by 99% of all homes and the price of a new solar water heater is very close to that of a conventional water heater. Solar energy also powers traffic and street lights as well as 60,000 greenhouses.

All in all, these are some exciting starts to Greenifying our communities!


Greenify Your Commute

June 18, 2008

The average price of fuel this week in the U.S. is $4.08 a gallon, well over a dollar higher than it was a year ago at this time. As high as that is for us, in Europe the average gasoline price is close to $9.00 a gallon.

If you Greenify your commute, you can save a little on gas and help save the planet at the same time.

Ten hour days, four days a week are now normal for city workers in Birmingham, AL. If you can convince your boss to let you do the same, you will save 20% of your fuel costs for the week, encounter less traffic since you will not be driving during peak hours (less traffic idling too!), and your place of employment will save on electricity costs – less AC will be used. If you want to maintain a five day work week, can you telecommute a day or two a week?

Walk or use public transportation. Since public transportation is not as convenient in most cities in the US as it is in Europe, this may not be a good option for you; but maybe that means it is time to start lobbying for more public transportation in your area.

Looking for a new car? Some employers (Google, Timberland, Patagonia, Bank of America to name a few) are offering financial incentives of up to $5,000 to employees who purchase either fuel efficient cars or alternative fuel cars. The top most fuel efficient cars include Smartfor Two, the Mini Cooper, Toyota Yaris, Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius, Honda Accord, Honda Fit, VW Passat Wagon, Ford Escape Hybrid, and the Ford Focus.

You can green your commute by keeping your car as well tuned by as possible – make sure your tires are properly inflated, regular oil changes, etc. A well maintained car will use 10% less gas than a car that is not taken care of.

And finally, car pool to work. One woman in my office bikes 4 ½ miles every day to a co-worker’s house and they ride in together with a third co-worker. Split three ways, gas prices are much more manageable and it is nice to have a little company on their 60 mile roundtrip.


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Go Green and Reduce Your Junk Mail

May 6, 2008

If you keep all the junk mail you receive this year, you will end up with about 41 pounds of useless paper by the time New Year’s Eve 2008 rolls around. The environmental and financial costs of junk mail are enormous, 100 million trees are sacrificed, the production and disposal of junk mail uses as much energy as 3 million cars, 44 million pounds of junk mail is never opened before it is thrown away and barely a third of the junk mail is recycled. Local municipalities will collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars to dispose of all this mail.

A few years ago, I remember reading in an environmentally friendly magazine (name purposefully withheld!) that they had determined that six subscription cards per magazine per issue was the ideal number. Apparently it was the most environmentally friendly and cost productive way they had to keep their subscription base. Well, lets see, at most I will use one subscription card. So that is 71 post cards a year I am throwing away- just me. This particular magazine has a paid subscription base of 350,000. That is almost 2,500,000 post cards thrown away- assuming that everyone who gets the magazine uses one post card!

The best way to Greenify and stop most junk mail from coming into your office or your home is to go to the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service website and ask them to remove your name from their lists. You should include every variation of your company name that junk mail comes to.

However, that will not rid you of all your junk-mail problems. If you order something from a catalog, the company will continue to send you more catalogs unless you tell the company specifically to remove your name from their lists. Also, when ordering, remember to include these important words: “Please do not sell, rent or give my name away to any other organization.”  I’m off to the DMA site to remove myself from mailing lists!


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