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.


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.


The Tale of a Greener Fish

June 26, 2009

Remember a few years back when we were all told we had to stop eating Orange Roughy or we might just run out. Permanently. You remember that, right? We all pitched in and started eating farmed salmon and catfish and a few other things to take the pressure off of fishermen and fishmongers to meet our demand.

Now a website is going to offer advice on which fish has a lower "carbon footprint," or perhaps more accurately, less swishy tail.

If someone asked you which fish of two fish, for instance a yellowfin tuna or a barramundi has a smaller carbon footprint could you tell them? Probably not. And neither could most professional chefs or restaurateurs. It's a hard question to answer, but now a Washington, DC based seafood distributor will unveil a rating system to helps chef compare the environmental impacts of various types of edible fish.

The "Carbon Fishprint" rating system is based on how much energy use and any other carbon-footprint factors were involved in producing the fish and getting it on the table.

Think about the possibilities: you are getting ready to go out for a nice, healthy fish dinner, and when you get there, your chef has chosen two or three fresh "catch of the day" fish selections specially selected for their sustainability and prepared to the highest standards possible. Wouldn't you feel better about eating that?

This is of course, just one more example of green marketing and what the color green can draw in. The studies have shown that environmental friendliness is a selling point that consumers are attracted to and that they are willing to pay a higher, premium price for goods that are organic, use less energy, are sustainably produced and otherwise more environmentally friendly.

By the way, the barramundi has the lower "Carbon Fishprint," rated at just 15, while the yellowfish has a "Carbon Fishprint," more than double at 40. You may want to order the yellowfin at your favor sushi bar a little more sparingly. You can visit ProFish's "Carbon Fishprint" on their website.


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. 


Trees: Greenifying the Old Fashioned Way

December 24, 2008

Have you planted a tree recently?  I ask with good reason.  Trees are one of our most important natural resources.  They provide shade, fruit and seed and oxygen regeneration services for all of us.  They are great places for birds to live and for people to sit under on a hot day.  And they are just plain beautiful.

“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.”  Those words were written over 100 years ago by Alfred Joyce Kilmer and they’ve never been forgotten.  Trees are truly lovely.

They are graceful in the summer as they sway in the breeze.  They are colorful as cooler temperature turns their leaves different shades of red and gold and everything in between. They are austere and dignified in winter as the snow falls on their stark empty branches.  And they are the first sign of spring, popping back to life with little bits of green with just the smallest bits of inspiration from a passing warm breeze.

In addition, trees can help lower your heating and cooling bills at home and the office.  By providing shade in the summer and a barrier against winds in the winter, they soften your carbon footprint. “If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less,” says Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research. “In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%."   They also add between $1000 and $10,000 in value to any property.

Trees are wonderful and needed everywhere.  Add a tree to the front of your business and it instantly signifies a more friendly atmosphere to customers.  It says “we are settled here” and in business to stay.  And it says that your business is concerned about the environment and making a contribution to a better planet. 

Trees are wonderful ways to Greenify the planet, your business, your home, the air and the view immediately before us.  They are contributing members of our earth and should be valued and taken care of as such.  Trees are one of the easiest and most wonderful ways to Greenify a business or home.


Green Business Alliance's Guest Blog on Farmers' Almanac

June 30, 2008

Easy Ways to "Greenify" Your Home 

Green Business Alliance’s Executive Director, Hilary Kusel, offers some helpful suggestions on how to Greenify your home for this special guest blog.
While reading Peter Geiger’s blog post on “Living Life Better,” I noted with interest that the 2009 Edition of the Farmers’ Almanac will contain tips on how to be green as well as how to conserve energy and water. Farmers’ Almanac has always had a focus on the environment, even before it was the ‘in’ thing. There is no doubt that living the green life has never been as hip as it is today. Along the lines of living green, here are a few helpful tips on how to Greenify your home. Some of the suggestions may seem subtle and even simple to implement, however they will make a positive impact on the environment and your place of residence.

Unplug appliances that are not frequently used. Many electronic devices and appliances, such as cell phones, computers, microwaves, dryers, televisions and more, consume energy even when turned off? While you sleep, when you go away, while in your house, and even when you are not, these appliances are using small amounts of electricity and costing you money. This phenomenon is known as phantom electricity. It can actually cost you a significant amount of money each year.

How can a device or appliance that is turned off use electricity? While “not on,” each device or appliance uses small amounts of energy in order to be ready to instantly work when it is switched back to the “on” mode.

To avoid phantom electricity usage, think about items that are plugged in to an outlet that you do not use frequently. Unplug them after each use. For devices or appliances that are used more regularly, consider plugging them into a power strip which when switched to the ‘off’ mode is actually not consuming electricity. The simple act of unplugging frequently can save you some money while reducing electricity waste and helping our environment. Start a new habit…unplug!


Plant trees and shrubs near your home. This can be fun for the entire family and great for the earth. Not only will the trees and plants provide shade and wind protection, but they can also save you money on your heating and air conditioning bills.

When you are deciding which types of trees to add to your landscaping, consider using native plants which have been growing in your area for hundreds of years. As a result, the native plants are adapted to the soil and climate in your area. They will likely flourish with less care (i.e. less water and fertilizer).

Filter your water rather than purchasing bottled water. The recommended water intake per person per day is about 60 ounces (between six and seven glasses). Water is a healthy and necessary daily drink to keep our bodies hydrated. However, the type of water we drink and the item from which we sip our water makes a huge difference.

The great part about making the decision to Greenify is that it is good for the environment, good for you and can be fun and educational for the entire family.

For more information on how to Greenify your home or business, please visit Green Business Alliance at www.greenbusinessalliance.com


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