Global Conference on Climate Change: Can We Do Better?

December 9, 2009

Leaders from 200 nations around the world, environmental activists, scientists and leaders of industry are meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark for the better part of the next two weeks discussing how to lower global warming emissions and work together to stop pollution and global warming. 

The leaders who meet there will try to reach an agreement on issues of global warming that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which was established by the United Nations in 1997 as a way to combat global warming.  It expires in 2012.

The conference is billed as the “last, best chance to clinch an agreement” before the Kyoto Protocols expire.  But what exactly does that mean?

Environmental groups think it’s fundamental to any chance that we have for keeping our planet clean and operating with the same climactic rules that it has for hundreds of thousands of years. 

"We need to have a legally binding agreement to reduce carbon emission in developed countries as quickly as possible," says Charlie Kronick, climate advisor at Greenpeace.

In order to do that, Greenpeace and other groups argue that developing countries need to contribute to the cost for poorer, under-developed nations who are still struggling to get their economies operating.

Others suggest that even the most poverty-stricken countries are going to have to participate, in order to make the transition work. 

"What we're looking for in Copenhagen is a global partnership between the North and the South, between the developed, industrialized nations and the rapidly developing ones with the other developing nations also a part of that cooperative partnership deal, which is the only way we're going to deal with this," according to Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the U.N. Environment Program.

We are all going to have to work together and work fast.  Our world is changing, temperatures and climate conditions evolving and species disappearing at an alarming rate.  You’ll want to stay tuned here and at other green news sites around the Internet for the latest on how the talks in Copenhagen are going through December 19.

We can Greenify, but it will take every nation doing its best to stop global emissions and warming.


Our Amazing Planet

June 17, 2009

Do you mind if I take this one blog to just be amazed at the planet that we live on?  The fact that after being on this sphere for how many thousands (or millions, depending on who you believe) of years that we are still discovering new creatures, new geology, and new events here on our Earth is simply stunning to me.

This past week, there were a couple of interesting stories put on the internet.  These were more than just the “giant squid washes ashore on Thailand Beach.”  They were new discoveries about things going on in the world.

The first one that I saw was about clouds.  Apparently, a woman was in an upper floor in an office building in Iowa when she saw some unusual clouds passing by overhead. 

"It looked like Armageddon," said Jane Wiggins, a paralegal and amateur photographer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "The shadows of the clouds, the lights and the darks, and the greenish-yellow backdrop. They seemed to change." 

She snapped a few pictures and cloud experts, both professional and amateur, have been arguing about what classification, if any, these clouds fall under.  Clouds are normally classified as cirrus, which are high altitude wispy clouds. They are the highest clouds.

Cumulus are the mid-height ones, which are puffy and vertical and look at bit like popcorn; status, which the lowest clouds, Stratus often appear as an overcast deck. 

But Ms. Wiggins spotted what may be a new type of cloud.  And scientists are still scratching their heads about her photograph.

Also this week, an article spotlighting a glacier in Argentina is continuing to grow.  You read me right.  In spite of global warming and climatic changes around the world and in spite of ice shelves falling everywhere, the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina is one of only a few ice fields worldwide maintaining a nearly perfect equilibrium since measurements began more than a century ago.

"The glacier has a lot of life," said Luli Gavina, who leads mini-treks across the glacier's snow fields.

The Perito Moreno glacier is currently 19 miles long and getting longer by the year. 

These are just two small items.  There are literally millions of amazing things about our planet.  I bring them to your attention because sometimes, it’s just nice to take a break from all the doom and gloom to catch a moment of wonder and awe.  It’s a great planet.  And we’ve got to take great care of it. 


Painting your roof tops White?!

May 27, 2009

Yes, you read the title of this blog correct. White roof tops was a topic of conversation in London yesterday at a climate change symposium. In an effort to Greenify our nation, one of the outcomes of this symposium is that the Obama administration wants homeowners to paint their roofs an energy-reflecting white color.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu represented the United States at this London event. He also indicated that light-colored (or "cool-coloured") pavement and cars could also mean energy savings for our country.

Click here to read more about how the US wants to paint the World White, and the positive environmental effects these actions may have, in Tuesday's blog post on Yahoo Green.


Eat Your Vegetables - After You Grow Them!

May 1, 2009

Can we talk about vegetables today?  Many of us are putting in gardens this year.  We may or may not have grown our own vegetables and fruits in the past, but this year, by golly, is the year that Mrs. Obama said the President will be out with his basket and spade, and so we are determined to green up our back and side yards, add some herbs on a window ledge, or maybe even just do some jars of sprouts for salads. 
 
But what happens when you go out to check those little sprouts and see dark little crawly things hanging all over the tender leaves that you worked so hard to bring out of the ground?  You're going to eat these things, so you don't want to use something chemical-y, right?  But how green are those pesticides they sell for home garden use?
 
Most insecticides, both synthetic and natural, interfere with insects' nerve transmissions. DDT, lindane and Ortho cause insect neurons to fire randomly, causing spasms and death.  Sounds tasty, doesn't it?  Well, not really.

They're less harmful to mammals, but in the environment they break down into toxic chemicals that can last for decades, move into ground water, and poison all sorts of animals.

But having never grown chives that did not suffer the ravages of bugs that sucked the lifeblood out of them, leaving them yellow and dead, I personally am neither sympathetic to insects nor desirous of consuming nerve poisons, even in minute amounts.

Many of the newer green pesticides have a unique mode of action that targets insects to block a key neurotransmitter receptor site.

"The neurotransmitter in insects is called octopamine; it is basically the insects' version of adrenaline," explains Gary Stamer of Chemtec Pest Control, based in Saddle Brook, N.J. "The botanicals block the octopamine, resulting in a shutdown of the insect's nervous system. Since only insects have this receptor, there is no harm to mammals, birds or fish."

But how can consumers be certain how green their "natural" pesticide is? Check with the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America, which awards its Green Shield Certification (GSC) to services that use non-chemical approaches to pest control, and use approved pesticides only when necessary.

You can grow a garden, Greenify just a little and enjoy your own vegetables safely this summer, without poisoning yourself or the environment around you. 


America the Beautiful; Americans the Energy Conservationists!

April 24, 2009

I just finished driving across country from the East Coast to the West Coast, which I have done several times before.  Every time I do this, I notice something different.  This time, what struck me was the growth of alternative energy sources around the country.  We’re looking for alternative energy and it seemed to me, the answer is blowing in the wind.

I am accustomed to seeing the huge turbines in the desert surrounding Palm Springs.  They sometimes are turning but many of them are stilled and I’ve always wondered whether they are still due to lack of wind or lack of interest in making them provide clean energy to operate our cities?

I took a different route this time and saw wind farms where I had never seen them before including the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center.  This energy farm in Texas is the world’s largest energy producing wind farm with 735.5 megawatt capacity.  Texas is the state with the most wind farms in operation as well as the most farms under construction. 

I also saw wind farms in operation in Iowa when I was there last summer.  Minnesota and Oregon both also have large numbers of farms.

But the sight of these gentle-looking giants slowly turning, looking as though they will spring loose and roll away with the wind driving them always makes me wonder why we don’t have more of these?

The government has been pouring resources into renewable energy sources.  There is support for these programs and interest in them. Americans have said in surveys that they will pay more for green products.  This is one that ought to be supported.

Taking a coast-to-coast road trip is actually a fairly resource-intensive undertaking.  But my plans necessitated it, and I hoped some good would come it.  So thanks for letting me share these hopeful views of our country.  We can Greenify together, and we need to find answers.  This past week, I saw that process getting underway. 


A Greener View: Energy Efficient Windows

April 9, 2009

As a home or business owner, this year may be one of the toughest years you’ve ever faced.  You’d like to do something more to Greenify, but how can you spend money that you may need to pay bills and keep the business afloat?
 
You might want to look outside your four walls and consider new windows.
Thanks to the stimulus bill, homeowners can now claim a tax credit of up to $1,500 for new, energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights.  For businesses, it can be an asset to the business that will be quickly cost effective.  

This website, http://www.efficientwindows.org/ is sponsored by the government to provide information for homeowners who are trying to decide whether they can afford to make this commitment to energy savings this year, in this difficult economy. 
Who wouldn’t like to have fresh new windows to look out of or maybe a skylight overhead that brightens the day and allows you to fully enjoy a pounding rainstorm when it rumbles through? 

Whether we’re talking about adding double paned windows, tinted and treated glass, or skylights that eliminate the need for electrical lighting through a major portion of the day, these windows are increasingly valuable in the workplace and at home. 

The tax credit related to the current stimulus is to cover 30% of the cost of energy efficient windows, doors and skylights purchased and installed in 2009 to 2010.  The maximum amount covered, as previously mentioned, is $1500.  But even without the tax credit, these windows can save their owners hundreds of dollars every year in energy costs, whether it’s on heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. 

The website’s factsheet contains information and estimates about the cost savings in multiple areas of the country for your convenience.   Another factsheet details how to qualify for the tax credit.

Spending the money and upgrading to new energy efficient windows may also help Greenify the economy, since the stimulus is designed to work better if we all spend a little extra.  Wouldn’t it be great if we spent the money to buy something that could help cut down our carbon footprint and benefit everyone in more ways than one? 


Bush’s Greenification Legacy

January 12, 2009

With just days left in his final term, President George Bush is making an effort to Greenify his legacy: he’s designating three remote Pacific Ocean regions as national monuments, thereby establishing the largest marine preserve ever created.

The new Mariana Trench, Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments encompass 195,280 square miles of high seas barred from fishing, mining and other uses. 

The Mariana Trench is famous as the world’s deepest canyon at 36,000 feet and the surrounding area will be the largest of the three protected regions at 95,222 square miles.  It’s a natural wonder that most of us will never see, but home to billions upon billions of living organisms.  A chain of 21 underwater volcanoes and vents ring this deepest of all ocean floors.

Endangered birds, sharks, and other marine wildlife live within all of these regions.  The seven-island Pacific Remote Islands monument covers 86,607 square miles while he Rose Atoll is much smaller at 13,451 square miles.  The smaller monument includes the world’s smallest coral atoll which is just 15 acres.  “These locations are truly among the last pristine areas in the marine environment on Earth,” says James Connaughton, head of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.

The protected area eclipses the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument at 139,797 square miles, designated by President Bush in 2006, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Reserve at 133,000 square miles.

“Taken together, this president has protected far more of the threatened and vital places in the sea than any other,” says Joshua Reichert of the Pew Environmental Group, which advocates for conservation of ocean areas.  But not everyone favors the plan.

We feel the monument is not based on science and is a feel-good attempt by the administration to leave some sort of legacy on the environment,” says Wayne Heikkila of the Western Fishboat Owners Association, in Redding, CA.

While no one is suggesting that this means the Republican President will go down in history as a “Leader for the Environment,” it seems clear that if more world leaders would attempt to “feel-good” the same way, we’d have more Greenification at an international level, more inspiration to act for the environment by business and individuals, and generally, a world that more of us would feel good about.


Ready to Kick it Up a Notch on Greenifying?

December 28, 2008

Are you already a concerned Greenifying business owner who wants the company to be more environmentally friendly?  You’ve already put in the energy saving fluorescent bulbs and reset the thermostat to save money.  Now let’s go a little further in your commitment to the planet.

Check your carbon footprint.  There is many more ways to reduce your household carbon emissions. Find out more about your emissions and where you can best reduce them by using an online “carbon calculator.”  A list of those is found on the website of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Look into ride sharing or mass transit.  Over a quarter of the vehicle-miles travelled by households are for commuting to and from work – usually with one person in the vehicle. If business owners lead the way and encourage employees to follow, carpooling and mass transit could offer a huge reduction in carbon emissions. 

Plan and combine trips, too.  And talk to your employees about this.  Many times, an employee thinks “Oh, it’s just the boss’ vehicle.”  Remind them that in a recessionary economy, the money they save may provide their paycheck in the future.  And if they do combine and plan their trips better, they’ll help Greenify, as well.

Switch to green-power, too.  Contact your electricity provider to find out about the green power options available to you.  Many areas offer these services, and sometimes, all you have to do is check.

A more long term commitment to lowering the carbon footprint is a commitment to being in business a lot longer.


Greenifying in the New Administration

December 15, 2008

It is expected that President-elect Barack Obama will organize administration’s efforts toward the environment and energy in a different fashion than previous Presidents.

The President-elect is expected to announce his energy and environment team late Monday (December 15, 2008) in an afternoon at a news conference in Chicago.  This will be just the latest in the steady roll-out of his Cabinet, which is now nearly complete.

Obama is expected to name Carol Browner, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, as the head of a new policy council to coordinate climate, environment and energy issues; a so-called “climate czar.”

Browner was formerly the administrator of the EPA from January 31, 2001–June 27, 2003, under former President Bill Clinton.  She was the longest-serving administrator in the history of the agency, staying through both terms of the Clinton presidency.  She successfully fought off Congressional Republicans who wanted to gut the “Clean Water Act.”  She was successful, however, in working in a bipartisan manner to amend clean water statutes and the Food Quality Protection Act.

As EPA Administrator, Browner started the Agency's successful Brownfields program, which, during her tenure, helped facilitate cleanups of contaminated facilities, especially in urban areas, and which leveraged more than $1 billion in public and private funds for cleanups.  Browner is currently the chair of the Audubon Society; her term expires in 2008.

It’s widely believed that the return of a democratic president will signal future moves forward to a more green future in the years ahead for both homes and businesses.  Carol Browner may be part of those efforts.  Which may mean a Greenified 2009.


Greenifying as Winter Does Its Worst

December 9, 2008

Keeping walkways safe for customers is a challenge that many businesses face during the winter months, with or without snow.  But can de-icing be Greenified?   Ice on sidewalks, driveways and parking lots creates physical hazardous conditions for people, and legal hazards for business owners.  So what's the best way to de-ice without doing in the environment?
 
Snow and ice removal is best done non-chemically with shovel and plow but, admittedly, the results on sidewalks at least, isn't always adequate to ensure safety. Chemical de-icer and/or a grit like sand is often part of a comprehensive strategy to make getting around to do business a safe prospect.
 
Chemical de-icers work by melting snow and ice and forming a liquid brine. This brine seeps downward to contact paved and over impervious surfaces, spreads outward breaking the bond between ice and cold surfaces, and makes it possible to physically loosen and remove whole sheets of compacted snow and ice. Used in advance of icing conditions this brine can also prevent ice from forming on surfaces.

Salt or chloride based products are staples of the de-icer industry. Rock salt (sodium chloride) is among the best known and widely used products. Salt may be a fairly benign chemical in most environments under limited use. However there is considerable evidence of water problems associated with excess runoff of salt based materials.  Other products on the shelf will have labels saying, "Contains Primary Potassium Chloride & Secondary Urea Sodium Chloride". These are primarily fertilizers repackaged as de-icers. 

Product packaging may claim to be "non salt based" or "environmentally friendly".  It’s best to evaluate that claim by checking the label.  In fact, what we're looking for is an acetate product. CMA is the most widely tested and used de-icer in the acetates category. It is a natural acid that is soluble in water and it has chemical properties similar to vinegar.  Only labels with calcium magnesium acetate, CMA or another acetate based product is really the organic choice.

Always follow label directions when using a de-icing product. However, any de-icer that is mixed with equal parts of sand can help reduce the use of the de-icer and provide grit for added traction. You may want to consider choosing deep tray-type doormats with stiff bristles to allow people entering the building to brush off their shoes and boots before entering the building.

There is another possibility: heating the sidewalk.  This involves adding concrete pads at busy entryways.  Embedded within these insulated pads are flexible pipes for carrying hot water. The water gives up its heat to the concrete and prevents snow and ice from accumulating. But the energy costs and installation outlays of heated sidewalk systems need to also be taken into account. 

Greenifying and de-icing may not seem at first to be the best fit together, but with proper care, you can protect the environment as well as customers, even when winter does its worst. 


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