Every Day is Earth Day!

April 24, 2012

Earth Day 2012 has come and gone. This past Sunday, April 22nd, countries spanning the globe came together in celebration of our planet. Reports say that more than 1 billion people across 192 countries celebrated Earth Day this year. Schools, Universities, Corporations, Individuals and Governments rallied, cleaned, celebrated and performed in honor of this 42nd annual event.

Disney Nature was in on the action as well with the premiere of their newest film, Chimpanzees. It has become a tradition for Disney Nature to premiere a film on Earth Day each year. They are a graphic and jaw-dropping reminder of how beautiful our planet is and how careful we must be with our precious resources.

We hope that you had a Green Earth Day and that one of your resolutions is to treat every day as Earth Day. We remind you to Greenify today for a better tomorrow!


Fish Farms in Coal Mines?

June 15, 2010

It's an interesting thought, isn't it?  Putting fish farms into spent coal mines?  I hooked you right in with that one! 

It's what they are thinking in West Virginia, where coal mines are famous for providing the livelihood of miners and their families.

Farmed fish are now accounting for about half of the world's annual consumption (mostly due to farmed salmon) of 110 million metric tons of fish.  The experts say, demand will soon exceed supply.  We're going to need more fish farms.

With an estimated 1,000 closed mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, some are beginning to look at those empty pits as future “fishing holes.”  Except the fish will be farmed and caught for consumers in grocery stores.

The Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, WV, estimates that turning mines into fish farms could generate hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds of fish annually.   And here's the best part: the particulars of mine water are especially conducive to raising fish.  Mine water temperatures hold steady at a brisk 56 degrees, which is impossible for human swimming but perfect for what else? Artic char, salmon and trout. 

It's an idea whose time has come.  When it was put forward in 1994, West Virginia dreamed of having hundreds of mines, but 16 years later, has only two.  America's fish consumption was not so great then, but now, demand is up. 

And to be sure, this may be not a case of “making lemonade from lemons,” but making dinner from leftovers found in a coal mine. 

Greenification at its best.


UPDATE FROM THE GULF: 12,000-19,000 Barrels of Oil Gushing Daily

June 3, 2010

It's now being called the “Worst Environmental Disaster in U.S. History.   The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana is still pushing oil out of the broken pipe, leaking and wreaking destruction on the once-clean gulf waters. 

British Petroleum, BP, is the company that owned the lease and the platform that exploded, starting the spill that has been going on for six weeks now.  The hard and painful news for most of us involves pictures of a massive oil plume, stretching across the water; ugly pictures of oil-soaked seabirds and dead fish; and the knowledge that wildlife in that area will suffer for years to come. 

At first, BP tried to contain the oil with booms, placing the massive sponges and blocks in the way of the plume in a painfully useless attempt to block the spread of the oil to beaches and breeding grounds of animals in the area. 

Then there was the dome.  BP lowered a huge dome over the well in an attempt to cap the well and stop the flow.  That didn't work either. 

The effort that followed was the “top kill” in which engineers tried for three days to top off the gusher with heavy drilling mud and junk to stop the leak.  After initial hopeful reports, we now know that is not working either. 

BP announced today that they have another plan.  Their latest attempt will be to send down unmanned robots to saw off the leaky broken pipe and cap it with a funnel that will then direct the oil to the surface and waiting boats. 

The company tried to reclaim the leaking oil with a funnel in the past, but ice crystals formed in the pipe and blocked the flow.   Why will this attempt be different?  The company intends to warm sea water and pump it into the pipe as well, preventing the formation of the ice crystals.  The soonest that this could work is four to five days.  Does that disappoint you? 

Then this could make you despair: the company says that the gusher may not be capped until August.  That news on Sunday amid the destruction, disappointment and misery that the spill has already wrought.

What can you do?  Only what you have been doing.  Try to think of your efforts as an “off-set credits” for the spill.  Put your best efforts into greenifying at home and at work in order to off-set the huge disaster that seems to be unfolding day by day to our great disappointment.   We can only do what we can do, but perhaps as a group, we can do the tiniest bit more as we watch this bitterly unhappy scenario continue in our world.


What Can We Learn from the Gulf Spill?

May 19, 2010

For the past three weeks, oil has been gushing out of a broken oil well at the bottom of the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico.  Thousands upon thousands of barrels of oil have poured out of that un-capped well after an explosion that killed as many as a dozen and ultimately sank the Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig owned by BP Oil Company. 

BP has promised to clean up the disaster, paying all costs and associated “legitimate” claims related to the loss, including over and above the $75 million liability limit imposed by U.S. law.  Members of Congress are already demanding confirmation of those promises, saying the American public has a right to know that the oil company will take care of this.

The oil company has now tried and failed at a couple of efforts to contain and manage the disaster.  They tried to lower a dome over the spill to stop the oil from spreading.  That failed when something like ice crystals formed as the boom was lowered towards the seabed.

They have tried to use booms to contain the spill and keep it from approaching the coastlines.  But tar balls are now showing up on beach areas off the coast of Alabama and other southeast United States locations.  Marine life is also being affected and we all know what that means: death and disease among vulnerable wildlife populations that have been coddled and cared for and lovingly protected from environmental abuse for decades are now at risk.

This past weekend, the oil company also attempted to attach another pipe to the free-flowing well at the bottom of the gulf.  They attempted on Saturday, but there was a shift in the platform beneath the water (at the exterior exit of the well) and they failed. 

There was word on Sunday that BP's efforts have succeeded: this will not cap the well, nor completely stop the leaking.  But it will siphon off a sizable percentage of the oil to a waiting vessel at the surface of the water, allowing the oil company to deal with that oil instead of spreading it on the water.  It's a small bit of good news, but it is all we have.

In the coming weeks, the oil company will probably be drilling a second well and while simultaneously attempting to cap the first one.  The cleanup has to get underway full swing.  The destruction of native habitats of sea life is going to continue and we're all going to want to go down to the Gulf, gather a few of these beautiful wild things and take them home.  We won't be able to, but we'll wish to take them home, clean their wings (and other parts) and nurture them back to health.

What we're learning in this scenario is that “worst case” can happen.  It can be horrifying and that writing a law that says “oh, yes, come drill in the healthy waters off our coast and if something bad happens, we'll only charge you XX dollars out of XXX,XXX,XXX dollars.”  That's what it's going to cost to clean up this mess.  That's the cost and threat of doing business with a high carbon footprint industry.  Because eventually, when they get this all cleaned up, we're still going to smell the oil in the air.  And it won't be pretty again, potentially for decades to come.


Greenify on a Personal Level

October 4, 2009

Want to do something small, important, and unseen to Greenify?  Change the tissue in your bathroom at home to a brand made of recycled materials.  

American bathroom tissue, okay, yes, toilet paper is a key issue in environmental circles right now.  The reason?  Brand name manufacturers of paper products, in their never-ending attempts to get us to buy their specific product, took it to the next level: three-ply tissue.

And it sold.  24 million packages of Quilted Northern Ultra Plush in the last year alone.  That’s a lot of tissue.  That’s a lot of trees.

The super plush toilet paper we love so much in the United States is made by chopping down old growth trees, grinding them up, spewing them through processing plants and stamping the stuff out into little squares that are rolled up onto long tubes of cardboard then sliced into the inches-long roll of multi-ply tissue that we’re all familiar with.  

Let me point out that Europeans use recycled paper to wipe.  Are they so much tougher than we are? Can they take it, but we need to be so much more pampered at such a higher price?  More to the point, can we afford to be this wasteful?  Bathroom tissue (rolled toilet paper and facial tissues combined) constitute 5% of the U.S. forest products industry.  Paper and cardboard use 26% and newspapers another 3%.  But is this a 5% we need to blatantly waste?

It turns out that 75% of bathroom tissue in commercial restrooms is made of recycled materials.  But when it comes to home use, American consumers believe softer is better.   We use the recycled products during work hours, but go home believing that “fluffy and soft is better.”   But “better” is also a lot harder on the environment.   

Here’s the bright spot on the horizon.  Kimberly-Clark has agreed to Greenify its practices.  By 2011, 40% of materials used in making their products will be recycled or from sustainable forests.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a sizable step in the right direction.

So the next time you’re in a forest enjoying the view, listening to the birds sing, and pondering the age of that beautiful pine or cottonwood or any other tree next to you, consider whether: would you rather look at that tree or use it in the bathroom?

 Trees, by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


Green Bamboo? …Maybe

September 11, 2009

Have you noticed all the green marketing around lately?  It’s on everything from clothing to clothing to coffee filters to recycled paper.  I’m not about to debate whether recycled anything is green, but let’s take a look at the claims being made about bamboo.

Bamboo, as you may be aware, is the woody stalk of a plant that grows so fast and using so little resources (very few nutrients and a small amount of water) that it’s being labeled as green.  It’s made into cutting boards, clothing, sheets, coffee filters, and flooring.  But are those products truly green?

Let me just ask you a quick question.  Have you seen any bamboo being grown commercially around where you live?  And have you checked the products certification?  There is no global certification standard for using responsibly produced bamboo, and until it’s developed, you may want to the producers for guidance.

Bamboo is popular in clothing, sheets, towels and other textiles because it’s cool against the skin, absorbs water well, and feels soft.  But the process of turning the woody stalks into silky fabric uses a lot of water, energy, and chemicals, according to industry insiders.   Laura Wehrman, owner of Tela Verde, a New York-based company that tracks sustainable textiles for the fashion industry says that it “does not meet the definition of sustainability."  She also says, it’s probably less of a planet-taxing alternative than non-organic cotton or polyester, and has the potential to be greener if manufacturing processes improve.

The group, “Oeko-Tex” certifies textiles that have met safety and environmental standards.  Consumers can check for compliance with this standard.

Bamboo flooring is also growing in popularity because of its low cost and durability.  The Forest Stewardship Council certifies environmentally responsible flooring. Look for the council's symbol when seeking out bamboo construction materials.

One product that is known to be on top of the “ecologically sound” movement is Bambu, a line of tableware available at Target and other retailers.  It is certified organic by a Swiss body, IMO.

Bamboo can be a smart alternative to wood products, but don't assume it's synonymous with sustainability. Most of it is grown and the products produced in Asia, where there is already concern that demand for it is causing clear-cutting of old growth forests. The carbon footprint of shipping it around the world is not insignificant.  So check with companies before you buy, and don't buy new if you don't really have to. 


Bottled Water Fizzles

August 18, 2009

Is your bottled water habit a bit, well, flat? You aren't alone. Budget-conscious consumers are weaning themselves off the bottle because of the recession. It's hard to think of another bit of recession fall-out so beneficial to our planet because we know what this means to our environment: Greenification.

Nestle, the country's largest seller of bottled water, has reported that profits for the first half of 2009 dropped 2.7 percent. This is the first decline in the company's numbers in six years and analysts have pinpointed the source as water.

Market researchers say it's an obvious place to cut. For thousands of years, people have drank water and they've done it without bottles involved. They've put their heads down to streams, locked lips on backyard hoses, and enjoyed pouring glasses straight from the kitchen tap. The bottling of water is an extremely recent phenomenon that has been dangerous for both people and the environment.

The danger for people is that bottled water doesn't contain fluoride, inserted for growing children's teeth. The danger for the environment came on the other end as 86% of plastic water bottles went in the trash, instead of into recycling efforts. They stuffed landfills to overflowing with lightning speed.

"I thought we'd never be able to impact sales of bottled water, and all of a sudden it's really gained momentum," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of advocacy group Food & Water Watch. "I think we're making real progress."

You remember the glory days of bottled H20, right? Sales of bottled water gushed 59 percent to $5.1 billion between 2003 to 2008, making it one of the fastest growing beverages. About 70 percent of consumers currently say they drink bottled water.

But the recession stemmed the tide. Nestle sells a variety of brands, such as Poland Spring, Deer Park, S. Pellegrino and Perrier. It was the only sector in Nestle's food and beverage group to post a decline in global sales during the first half of the year, down 2.9 percent because of weakness in the United States and Western Europe. Coca Cola is also seeing a softening, again in the bottled water sector of its business.

According to Jeff Cioletti, editor in chief of trade publication Beverage World, per capita consumption dropped from 29 gallons to 28.5. Cioletti said he doesn't believe the well will spring forth again anytime soon.

"There were sort of a lot of headwinds," he said.

That's right. Not just the economic downturn, but a campaign by environmentalists to get consumers to turn on the tap.

Government offices are now campaigning to cut off the bottled water and return to the tap. And some grocers are determined to at least stop selling imported bottled water after considering the carbon footprint that goes into producing, transporting and selling it.

According to Food & Water Watch, more than 17 million barrels of oil -- enough to fuel 1 million cars for a year-- are needed to produce the plastic water bottles sold in the United States annually.

So here's an idea whose time has come: since everyone's cutting back at home, this is the perfect time to kick your business' bottled water habit. Buy a distiller. Water: on tap to help you Greenify.


The Green Skies Overhead

July 23, 2009

If you’ve ever been prescribed a drug and listened to a doctor discuss the pros and cons, you know that very few drugs fix one problem without causing another.   We all know that’s called a side effect.   And now, we’re seeing what happens when the planet is given a dose of medicine and, too late, we are now finding out there are side effects.

If you recall the last global environmental crisis -- the hole in the ozone layer – it was caused by overuse of dangerous chemicals that depleted the ozone layer.  The chemicals were used in air conditioners, refrigerators, and insulating foam.  

In 1987, governments signed the Montreal Protocol, agreeing to reduce CFCs. Since then, this agreement has been a kind of bureaucratic miracle: Ninety-six percent of ozone-depleting substances have been phased out, according to the United Nations.   Unfortunately, the damage was done.

To fix that hole, something called hydrofluorocarbons were introduced.  They worked; the earth’s protective shield is recovering.  The United Nations says there is still a hole in the ozone above the South Pole, but global ozone levels are expected to return to their pre-1980 level by about 2050.

But.  You knew that was coming, right?  You knew there was a “but.”  And here it is: researchers say what's good for ozone is bad for climate change.

It turns out, in the atmosphere, the “prescription” for ozone depletion is acting like “super-greenhouse gases.”  Their heat-trapping power is potentially as high as 4,470 times that of carbon dioxide.

Reminds me of that childhood song about a “woman who swallowed a fly” and then swallowed a bunch of other things, too, all aimed at ridding her of that pesky fly that she swallowed.


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Fireworks Greenify the Sky

July 2, 2009

Have you given any thought to how to Greenify your July 4th Celebration?  There are several things to consider.  First off, the best July 4th celebration (because who wouldn't want to celebrate living in the USA with more people than ever before focused on reducing carbon emissions and greening their business and home lives!) is going to be a group celebration.  Fireworks are dangerous explosive devices, best left to the professionals and firefighters who protect our homes and businesses already.  They're also expensive and if you're keeping an eye on your wallet, the public displays are even better.
 
But fireworks are also messy.  Many of their components explode with bits and pieces of burning incendiary devices that smolder all the way to the ground.  The air pollution that they produce is visible.  We ought to be wiser and stop putting up these environmentally unfriendly displays of messy, dangerous, polluting explosives, but we just can't seem to help ourselves.  They are part of our annual national display in the United States and many other areas around the world.  So since we can't beat 'em, let's join them.  Let's go to the public displays put on by the city or municipalities.
 
It would also be best to take your own food.  You can prepare and bring your own picnic dinner to enjoy on a blanket or in the car at the display and avoid all those nasty paper wrappers, styrofoam anything, plastic water bottles, and other environmentally negative aspects of buying prepared meals from fast food restaurants set up for single occasions.  And you'll eat healthier and tastier if you buy fresh, organic vegetables or even grow your own. 
 
And what would you like to sit on?  My father had a personalized stadium seat cushion made just for him in his favorite college team's colors with his monogram on it.  I would know; I made it for him for Christmas one year.  You certainly don't have to go that far, but I still remember wrapping up in favorite blankets brought from home to watch fireworks in the next town over, when I was very young.  The blankets made me feel safer when the really loud fireworks went off and they made it easier for my parents to bundle me into the car for the trip back to the house.  I think that's why I enjoy watching fireworks so much more in a blanket and pillow from home these days.
 
When the fireworks are over, consider the cleanup.  Look around you.  Part of being an American is pitching in to help others.  Help yourself and your community by cleaning up the things you brought and encouraging others to do the same.  You'll make this year's July 4th celebration more personal, a little more old-fashioned, and a lot more green. 
 
By the way, there is hope that someday, the fireworks we love so much will themselves be much greener.

Fireworks, flares and other so-called "pyrotechnics" traditionally have included potassium perchlorate as the oxidizer, a material that provides the oxygen that fireworks need to burn. Perchlorate, however, is an environmental pollutant with potential adverse effects on people and wildlife. Pyrotechnics contain other ingredients, such color-producing heavy metals, with a similar potential.

Studies have shown that perchlorate from community fireworks displays conducted over lakes, for instance, can lead to perchlorate contamination of the water. But now researchers are developing new pyrotechnic formulas that replace perchlorate with nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose that burn cleaner and produce less smoke, according to an article in ACS's weekly newsmagazine, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).  So far, these green fireworks are in limited use because of their cost, but we hope that will change in time for July 4, 2010 to be a truly Greenified celebration. 


Cutting Noise Pollution thru Greenification

June 9, 2009

Have you heard what’s out there lately?  I mean literally.  Have you listened to the level of noise right outside your home or business?

Noise pollution is one of the most painful forms of pollution on a personal level.  It’s insidious, building slowly and as a result, there’s more of it out there than ever before.

The biggest creators of noise are often some of the most high-carbon-pollution creating industries, too.  In particular, such pollution comes from transportation systems, motor vehicle noise, and aircraft and rail noise.  Poor urban planning also blasts heavy sound abuse in our ears, since side-by-side industrial and residential buildings can introduce noise pollution into our home lives.

Other heavy-offenders are sources like car alarms, office equipment, factory machinery, construction work, groundskeeping equipment, barking dogs, appliances, power tools, overhead lighting hum, audio entertainment systems, loudspeakers and well, just plain noisy people.

In the past, it’s been hard to separate the noise from the people, so we suffered and wished for silence.  But these days, modern construction practices can restore the quiet indoors at least.

But how do we build barriers against the outdoor sound to cut as much as possible?  In our parents’ day, the answer was truly green: trees cut sound and they Greenify the plant.

These days, that’s still a viable solution, if you have the room and the support of your neighbors.  Trees beautify the planet, create oxygen, and provide natural homes for birds and other wildlife.   You can also purchase manmade materials for a sound wall, most often build of a renewable wood resource, or sometimes recycled plastic (certified “green!”) to absorb the sounds that pollute our planet. 

Either way, take time to consider noise pollution.  And find a green solution for yourself and those around you.


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