Swine Who?

May 11, 2009

By now, we've all heard about swine flu: an influenza that passes easily between the pig population and humans and was believed to be especially virulent and potentially deadly.  We saw as visitors arrived from international ports of call into our country wearing surgical masks as an effort to keep them from acquiring for themselves or passing the virus to others.  The government warned us about the symptoms and how to avoid this strain of influenza by avoiding crowds, learning to cough into our sleeves and wearing masks.
 
Where I live in Southern California, many people are concerned about pollution and particulate matter in the air during major fires.  During severe wildfires, many people protect their lungs by wearing such masks to keep out soot, ashes, and other minute bits of debris.   I guess that's appropriate because Los Angeles remains at or near the top of the lists of the most polluted cities in the United States.
 
But sad to report, these masks are also very useful outside of times when we are concerned about a global pandemic or being downwind of a large fire.   

Particulates are visible air pollutants consisting of particles appearing in smoke or mist. These particles come in "almost any shape or size, and can be solid particles or liquid droplets. We divide particles into two major groups," according to www.AirInfoNow.com. The big particles are between 2.5 and 10 micrometers (from about 25 to 100 times thinner than a human hair). The small particles are smaller than 2.5 micrometers (100 times thinner than a human hair). These particles can be dust, pollen, soot, smoke, liquid droplets, or  a wide variety of other compositions.  And they can harm our health, particularly the smallest ones that work their way deep into our lungs. 

The Environmental Protection Agency warns: "Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including: increased respiratory symptoms, decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, development of chronic bronchitis, premature death in people with heart or lung disease, and more.

It's hard to think that our air is so bad that we can't breathe it freely and healthfully, but when you see those surgical masks on people coming and going trying to avert swine flu, consider whether you may want to wear one until we can completely Greenify, or at least remove the grey from our air.


Plastic Bag Competition in Colorado Mountain Towns

February 25, 2009

Have you seen the latest news from Colorado? It's not having to do with the last snowfall. It has to do with going green! The headlines... Aspen vs. Telluride plastic bag competition expands - dozens of mountain towns compete to eliminate grocery bags. It seems that a small competition between two famous ski towns has, pardon the pun, "snow-balled, this year! They are all trying to replace plastic bags with reusable bags. What started off with Aspen and Telluride, now includes 26 mountain towns.

Here is Katie Reddings' article taken from the Aspen Times on February 23, 2009.

ASPEN — Last year’s contest between Aspen and Telluride to see which town could replace more plastic bags with reusable ones has grown to include 26 mountain towns.

Nathan Ratledge, of Aspen’s Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE), co-organizer of last year’s contest, said most of the towns sought out inclusion after hearing about last year’s contest.

“Everyone has kind of [joined] of their own volition,” he said.

The contest will run for six months, from March 1 to Sept. 1. In each town, grocery stores will tally the number of reusable bags used. At the end of the contest, the community that uses the most reusable bags per capita will receive a $5,000 grant from Alpine Bank to install a solar panel system at a local public school.

This year’s contest was organized by David Allen at Telluride’s New Community Coalition, with help from CORE and the Colorado Association of Ski Towns.

To publicize the contest, the Colorado Association of Ski Towns will spend $5,000 producing a television spot to be made available to all participating towns.

Also starting March 1, Aspen High School’s Earth Club will begin stocking several local hotels with reusable bags they have designed themselves, Ratledge said. The bags will be provided to guests for use on their shopping trips. Guests will have the option of leaving the bag for other guests, or they can purchase it.

Last summer, Aspen and Telluride held a plastic bag contest between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The two towns eliminated the use of an estimated 140,359 single-use shopping bags between May and September — or 284 bags per store per day. Telluride beat Aspen soundly, using more than twice as many reusable bags per capita during the contest.

This year’s contest includes the Colorado towns of Telluride, Aspen, Mountain Village, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Dillon, Frisco, Steamboat Springs, Grand Lake, Granby, Winter Park, Fraser, Estes Park, Crested Butte, Vail, Avon, Eagle, Gypsum, and Mount Crested Butte. Idaho participants include Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey. Also participating are Jackson Hole, Wyo. and Park City, Utah.


Environmental Case: Libby Montana

February 23, 2009

There is a little environmental lawsuit that is setting the stage for some big repercussions starting this week.  It pits the people of a small Montana mining town against a major chemical company facing federal charges of poisoning their homes and schools with asbestos.

Opening statements are scheduled in the case of U.S. vs. W.R. Grace and Co. and five of its executives, who are charged with knowingly exposing the residents of the town of Libby to the fibrous mineral linked to cancer.

The case stems from the mining for vermiculite from Zonolite Mountain near Libby.  The mineral was then processed into products used for plumbing insulation, fireproofing and gardening.  Mining began in 1920 and continued for about 70 years.  The company’s “Zonolite” brand insulation is in some 35 million homes in the United States.

"This trial is one of the most complex and creative criminal prosecutions in the history of environmental regulation," said Andrew King-Ries, an assistant professor at the University of Montana School of Law.

The problem is that the vermiculite from the Libby mine was contaminated with naturally occurring asbestos mineral fibers, which can be inhaled and can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.

Libby residents believe the pollution has killed at least 225 people and sickened about 2,000 more in the area.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy has placed a gag order on the parties involved, but court documents are revealing.

"The defendants in this case knew the dangers of asbestos they released into the Libby, Montana air, yet they concealed the dangers, putting local residents at risk while enriching themselves," prosecutors said in their trial brief.

Lawyers for Maryland-based W.R. Grace deny their clients conspired to release asbestos, arguing that most of the releases occurred years before an applicable law was passed in 1990.

"The government has illogically charged that the defendants conspired in 1976 to violate a statute that would not exist for another 14 years," Grace said in its trial brief.

Libby is a town of about 2,600 people located in a forested valley of the Cabinet Mountains, about 100 miles northwest of Missoula, Mont.


Greenify Your Construction Project: Future World

February 18, 2009

If you’ve never been to Hong Kong, let me paint a scene for you.  The city itself is like any major metropolis but set on a harbor.  The water there is an amazing shade of brilliant blue green, like the bright blue green of a peacock feather.  And buildings under construction are sheathed in scaffolding that is pale green. 

The reason?  Hong Kong builders use natural bamboo to build their scaffolding as high as they want.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon: earth-friendly bamboo being used to build lattices that construction workers stand on, as high as most metal construction crew frameworks built in this country.  Bamboo is really more than just breakfast, lunch, and dinner for pandas.

It’s also one of the most renewable of resources.  It’s being used in flooring, wall coverings and in kitchen-ware and cutting boards.  Bamboo is the largest of the woody grasses on our planet and the fastest growing.  A stick of bamboo is capable of growing 24 inches in a day, depending on soil, nutrients, and a steady supply of water. 

We may be seeing more of this wonderful plant as we grow together as a planet.  It’s a resource for the future and we hope you’ll consider it when the next opportunity to Greenify and grow your business comes up. 


Go Green: STAY HOME

February 17, 2009

Britain’s Prince Charles is about to embark on a 16-thousand mile “green tour” to South America next month that he hopes will draw attention to environmental sustainability and climate change issues.  But maybe the Prince could better Greenify by staying home.

The Prince is taking a 14-person entourage, including his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, valet and various attendants, and flying onboard a private jet with a VIP lounge, Master Suite, satellite phone, printer, fax and luxury leather seats.  The Prince’s aides say the tour would be “impossible without a private jet.”  He is, after all, a Prince, right?

Prince Charles has long been a champion of environmental issues.  He’s very well regarded as knowledgeable about plants and vegetation.  His spokesman says he was asked by the government to make this trip because of the “important issues” involved.   But is he apparently so focused on looking for the forest that he’s missing the trees?

British Labour MP Ian Davidson, a member of the United Kingdom Parliament's public accounts committee, called the cost absurd and said, “"At a time when the greed of bankers is causing much adverse comment, I would have thought that Prince Charles would have had more sense than to be so financially and ecologically wasteful."

His trip scheduled for March will leave a 322 metric ton carbon footprint.  The cost, according to London newspaper, “Mail on Sunday” is expected to be about $820,000.  A spokesman says he will “offset his carbon emissions.”  Does that mean he’ll drive a Prius while he’s on the ground?

Really, Your Majesty, do us a kindness and send a letter.  Better yet, Greenify and send an email.


Backyard Greenification is On the Line!

February 2, 2009

As you’re working on Greenifying your home and business, do you think about it as you toss another load of clothes from the washer into the dryer?  You might have to go to the hardware store and special order them, but clothespins and the clothesline used to be the most basic and utilitarian components of a backyard.

When Americans finally got a chicken in every pot and a washer and dryer in every home, clotheslines began to represent poverty. A laundry line in the backyard was the norm in the 1970’s, but in the last 20 years became “just something that the lower classes did.”  Communities outlawed them for the negative connotation that they offered to passersby. 

In doing so, it’s almost impossible to calculate how much energy has been used to dry clothes.  And most of those clothes could have been just easily and far more energy efficiently dried on a clothesline.  Did you know that dryers are by far the most wasteful appliance in the house, gobbling up 6% of your electric bill?

Now, a group calling itself “Project Laundry List” is successfully lobbying state governments to allow you to dry your duds any way you wish. So far, Florida, Utah, and Colorado have all supported "right-to-dry" laws. Change is in the wind, along with a lot more sheets, socks and underwear.

And just so you are aware, here are some clothes-conscious facts. Hanging your clothes on a line to dry is better for them. Colors linger longer, giving your clothes a longer life. The fabric holds up longer--dryer lint, after all, is nothing but a thin layer that has been sheared from your clothes. The high heat of a dryer can also play havoc with the size of your clothes, so that something with a perfect fit comes out misshapen or, worse, six sizes smaller.

So this year’s big push to Greenify might see you looking in grandma’s closet.  Keep searching, because grandma never throws out anything, including her clothespins.


Greenify by Cashing Out a Clunker?

January 29, 2009

A measure introduced this past week by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would establish a national voucher program to encourage drivers to trade in older, less fuel efficient cars, trucks or SUVs for a more fuel efficient vehicle.

It’s billed as the “Cash for Clunkers” program.  It would give drivers a credit of between $2,500 and $4,500 to turn in fuel-inefficient vehicles to be scrapped, and purchase a more fuel efficient vehicle. The traded-in vehicles would have to be drivable, have a fuel economy of no more than 18 miles per gallon, and have been registered for at least the past 120 days. Vouchers could also be redeemed for transit fares for participating local public transportation agencies. The program would operate for four years, from 2009 – 2012, and is expected to encourage the early retirement of up to one million vehicles per year.

This is Congress’ attempt at encouraging drivers to trade in less fuel efficient vehicles in a tough economic client. 

“If enacted, this bill would be an important part of helping getting America’s struggling automobile industry back on its feet – and help consumers who are concerned about covering the cost of buying a more fuel efficient vehicle,” said Senator Feinstein.

The bill would also…

  • Save an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 barrels per day of motor fuel by the end of the fourth year.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 6.6 million metric tons to 7.6 million metric tons, or the equivalent of removing 1.1 million to 2.2 million vehicles from the road in one year, (based on an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 vouchers issued per year).
  • Reduce nitrogen oxides, which cause ground-level ozone (a leading cause of respiratory health problems, like asthma), by 3,043 short tons (2,761 metric tons) by 2013, (based on an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 vouchers issued per year).

The senators hope this will compliment a new fuel economy law, which if passed, will raise average fuel economy standards for America’s fleet of vehicles by at least 10 miles per gallon over 10 years or from 25 to at least 35 mpg by the year 2020.


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.


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.


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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