Wednesday, December 31, 2008

VIDEO: Davos Open Forum 2008 - Climate Change Divide

Hi all. The following YouTube Video is from the Davos Open Forum 2008, conducted on January 26, 2008 in Switzerland. The Forum "offers a possibility for an open debate on globalization and its consequences".

I welcome you to watch the video. It is long (about 90 minutes), and it demonstrates the current orthodoxy around globalisation, economic development and environmental sustainability. I also welcome any comments and debate on the issues, particularly those that question the current orthodoxy, such as the whole notion of 'sustainability', what it means, and if it is just a smokescreen, or if it is actually viable. There is more information on the Forum below the link. Enjoy and please join in the discussion.

From the Davos Open Forum: The challenge of climate change is to find a coherent approach throughout countries and regions. There is a divide between the developed world, which looks at the creation of long-term sustainable and balanced evolution, and the emerging countries, which are under high pressure to deliver economic growth to allow them to tackle their social challenges.

1) How can the divide between developed and emerging countries be bridged, and how can the latter be better integrated into protecting global climate?
2) How efficient are the current climate protection policies of developed countries? Should states become carbon neutral and, if so, how?
3) With regard to the development of alternative sources of energy such as biofuels, what are the implications on climate change?

The Forum Participants

Luiz Fernando Furlan, Chairman of the Board, GALF Empreendimentos, Brazil
Ichiro Kamoshita, Minister of the Environment of Japan
C. S. Kiang, Chairman, Environment Fund, Peking University, People's Republic of China
Christian Mumenthaler, Chief Risk Officer and Member of the Executive Board, Swiss Re, Switzerland; Young Global Leader
Achim Steiner, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi


Sonja Hasler, Journalist, Swiss Television SF, Switzerland

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Save Money with Green Homes

Are you interested in a green home? Did you know you can actually save money due to lower energy costs? There are multiple factors that go into the design, construction, or remodeling of a green property to make it efficient and eco-friendly. First and foremost, the property needs to be energy efficient. Obviously, an energy-efficient home is a greener home, because energy efficiency is one way to lower the harmful impact of greenhouse gas in the environment. But the benefits don't stop there: greener homes are also more comfortable, healthier, efficient, and less costly to operate.

Think of the whole house as a system of components that all work together to create an energy efficient home. Overall energy efficiency can be impacted by heating, cooling (HVAC), ventilation (including indoor air quality, sealing, and insulation), and appliances. Making improvements to these systems can help to make a property more affordable, comfortable, and "green". Green properties are proven to be less costly to maintain because the energy bills are lower.

These same energy efficiency principles apply to all homes and buildings, new or old. A new property can be constructed as a green home, or an existing property can be renovated to become green.

Important Facts on Energy Use

Energy efficiency is so important because it is one of the primary ways to make a home more cost-effective to operate, and to lessen impacts to the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it's said that of the total energy consumed in America, about 39% is used to generate electricity (EPA[dot]GOV, 2008). And according to the US Department of Energy, as much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. And, residential cooling and heating alone makes up 20% of the United States' yearly total energy use (USGBC[dot]ORG, 2008).

The EPA says that 49.61% of U.S. energy electricity generation comes from coal, and another 3.03% from oil, and 18.77% from gas. This means the United States still uses fossil fuels for a majority of energy, and electricity consumption is an important portion of a consumer's environmental footprint (EPA[dot]GOV, 2008). Fossil fuels are considered to have one of the worst overall impacts on the environment.

FACT: The average household can be responsible for nearly twice the greenhouse gas emissions as the average car. The leading source of greenhouse gas emissions is energy production; whenever you operate any product in your home that runs on electricity, a power plant is most likely generating that electricity by burning fossil fuels (such as coal and oil), which produces greenhouse gases. (ENERGYSTAR[dot]GOV)

In addition to environmental issues, the rising price of fuel over the past few years has made the exploration of greener energy sources far more appealing to consumers. Heating a home with geothermal, solar, bio-mass fuel, or other alternative energy sources used to be a somewhat unique and expensive proposition. But increasingly, consumers are demanding alternatives, and the interest in the green movement and energy efficiency is no longer reserved to just a few die-hard environmentalists. The green movement is reaching a critical mass.

It's clear that making smart decisions about a home's heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big effect on utility bills. Whether consumers choose fossil fuel or an alternative energy source, the good news is that energy efficient options are no longer as difficult to obtain, or prohibitively expensive. It's possible to see huge reductions in energy consumption simply by using modern, more energy efficient systems, materials, and building processes. You can live a better life in a green home.

I'm Nestor Santtia, and I have 23 years of industry experience in homes and green building. I'm a General Contractor and a Certified Green Building Technical Professional, and a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Learn more about green living on my website at:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Biofuels: Creating Poverty and Environmental Degradation

Biofuels Vs Starvation by Sue Knaup

The mad rush for alternative fuel sources is leading us to yet another lemming leap as biofuel production increases deaths from hunger. Rising food prices as well as food shortages are causing a sharp rise in starvation rates around the world. While biofuel production is not the only factor in this alarming escalation, it is a significant one. For example, since 2006, a significant amount of land formerly used to grow food crops in the United States is now used to grow corn for biofuels and the percentage of corn going to ethanol production continues to rise, reaching 25% in 2007 (Kingsbury 2007).

Funny how engineers of this new fuel plan didn't consider the consequences of burning corn, one of the world's top staple foods. And as the United States loses two acres of farmland to development every minute or about one million acres each year (American Farmland Trust), isn't it strange that no one of influence considered the consequences of shifting the use of our precious remaining farm land from food to fuel production.

A few brave souls are standing up against this mad rush because its predictable results of increasing food costs and subsequent increase of hunger around the world are already playing out. In April 2008 at the Thirtieth Regional Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Jean Ziegler, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, called biofuels a "crime against humanity."

One, perhaps oversimplified, but memorable image is captured in this quote:

"Speculation and so-called Bio-fuels are leading us to a shortening of raw food sources world-wide. The consequence: Poor people go even hungrier, so that the rich can drive their cars in a supposedly environmentally friendly way. This shows the duality of the term bio-fuels. "Bio" means life. In this case, it is the life of those, who must give them up for our gas station fill-ups. Perhaps we should, as cynical as it sounds, indicate the usage of a car in terms of hungering people per one hundred kilometers. An SUV uses the equivalent of one year of a person's food needs for every full tank of bio-fuel. Depending on your driving style, every hundred kilometers you are using 0.2 to 0.3 people! I would rather stick to my bicycle."
- Marco Walter, Constance, Germany, 2008

Mr. Walter hits an important note here. Reducing fuel consumption is a far more ethical, long-term solution to the fuel crisis. In fact, the core principle of biofuels and other potentially harmful "solutions" is based on continuing our outrageous dependence on motorized travel.

Replacing just a fraction of the over 60% of trips that are less than five miles with bicycling and walking which burn no fuel at all, would significantly reduce fuel consumption and save households up to 20% of their expenses each year (learn more by visiting the "Shift to Bike" link below). Plus these active means of travel provide an easy way to weave healthy exercise into daily lives. And in dense cities where congestion is high and car parking rare, walking and biking are often faster than driving.

Such a shift would also reduce congestion, thus reducing the need to build more roads - an often overlooked siphon of petroleum. Of course, streets will have to be completed with safe and inviting provisions for bicyclists and pedestrians in order for such a shift to occur. Add a comprehensive system of public transit, including light rail, buses and free shuttles, all allowing bicycles onboard, and this shift from motorized travel could reach levels well over 50% as many cities are now enjoying around the world, including Manhattan, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. First we must open our eyes to the harm our fuel consumption is causing and then commit to reducing this consumption through more sustainable modes of travel.

Sue Knaup is the executive director of One Street, an international nonprofit organization that serves leaders of organizations working to increase bicycling. Most of her work involves coaching these leaders past common pitfalls so they can focus their energy on increasing bicycling. Find out more at

Article Source:

Harnessing the Ocean for Energy - A Viable Solution?

Ocean Waves As an Alternative Energy Solution by Samuel Lewis

Harnessing the vast power of the oceans' waves has recently gained popularity as a form of renewable energy that does not contribute to global warming. Seventy percent of the world's electricity needs are met by burning fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas, and these methods generate vast quantities of greenhouse gasses.

Hydropower has long been considered a renewable alternative, but the current technique for harnessing that power, namely damming rivers, can be extremely damaging to ecosystems, and nearly all of the suitable locations in the world have already been tapped. Now scientists and engineers are learning to harness the unending power of ocean waves, promising electricity generation with minimal environmental effects. None of the current wave power technologies create greenhouse gasses or pollution.

Many different technologies have been developed to convert waves into electricity. Two of the most promising technologies take advantage of the vertical motion of waves. The first of these is a buoy or point-absorber generator. These designs contain a fixed component and a floating component. Waves move the floating component up and down in relation to the fixed component, driving one of several types of systems. An arm protruding from the buoy can be attached to a crank, which then turns a mechanical generator. Similarly, self-contained hydraulic pumps can be driven by the motion of the buoy, then driving a hydraulic motor.

Yet another system uses the motion to pump pressurized sea water. This pressurized sea water can then be pumped through a turbine or even pumped onshore to drive osmotic desalination processes. Buoy generators are currently being used in several locations. Finavera has projects in waters off Portugal, Africa, and the North Pacific waters of the US and Canada. Oregon State University has a pilot project off the coast of Reedsport, and CETO, has a project running off Western Australia.

The second type of design that takes advantage of vertical motion is called an attenuator, also known as surface-following technology. Pelamis devices have cornered this section of the market, and virtually no other technologies are available. These generators derive their name from Pelamis platuris, a yellow-bellied sea snake, a fitting name considering the generator's long, narrow design, and its oscillating movements. The machine consists of long, buoyant tubes connected by two arms at movable joints. As the waves change the angle of two tubes with respect to each other, hydraulic pumps are compressed and stretched, driving hydraulic generators. These Pelamis generators are being used in the world's first commercial wave farm, the Agu├žadora Wave Park off Portugal, and also in the 3MW wave farm off the coast of Scotland.

The remaining wave-harnessing technologies, referred to as terminators, take advantage of the horizontal motion of waves. The oscillating water column design uses the motion of a wave-driven piston to drive pressurized air through a turbine, which in turn drives a generator. Overtopping is suggested for use either on or offshore, and involves funneling wave water into elevated reservoirs. Gravity then pulls water back downward, where it is funneled to drive a turbine, much as in hydropower dams.

The most famous of this type is the Wave Dragon off the coast of Denmark. The Wave Dragon includes two arms that funnel and amplify the waves before driving the water into the reservoir. Two very innovative designs, the Oyster and the Neptune, have been developed by Aquamarine Power. The oyster is a large plate mounted to the sea floor, whose back-and-forth motion is resisted by hydraulic arms which run a hydraulic generator. The Neptune uses underwater, bi-directional turbines to harness tidal energy.

To learn more about different alternative energy solutions, visit the alternative energy weblog.

For more information on alternative energies, including renewable energy solutions for your home and business, please visit the Alternative Energy Weblog at

Article Source:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

5 Household Tips for Going Green

5 Ways to Go Green & Save Money by Tracey A Edwards

Today it seems like everyone is going green, and no wonder, it's not only socially responsible it's also great for your pocket! Yes going green can save you money while making our earth better so why not start today. This article will show you 5 ways that you can step lightly on the earth while keeping more of your hard earned cash for yourself.

1. Cut down on your energy bills

One of the easiest things you can do to help reduce your bills and your carbon footprint is to cut down on the amount of energy you use around the home. This can be as simple as turning off lights as you leave a room or setting your thermostat a few degrees lower in winter and higher in summer. Switching your light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL's) will also save on your lighting costs.

2. Reduce the amount of water your use

By installing low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators you'll cut down on the amount of water to use and you won't even notice! These small changes are quick and inexpensive to install and will save you around half your regular water bill.

3. Find alternatives to using the car

If you live close to where you walk consider walking or riding a bicycle to work instead of taking the car. Not only is petrol expensive it creates a lot of unnecessary pollution that isn't needed. The other benefit to walking or biking is that you'll be improving your health and might even drop a few pounds!

4. Eat better

By buying fresh organic whole foods you health will improve and you'll be benefiting the environment greatly. Overly processed & factory made foods are bad for the environment and your health so head to your local farmers market instead of the grocery store for healthier alternatives.

5. Leave the bottled water alone

While purified water is good for you, the plastic bottles generate a lot of waste. You can help your budget and the environment by using a reusable water bottle (such as the trendy aluminum Sigg bottle) or installing a water filter to your current water supply.

You don't have to impact your lifestyle too much to go green and the benefits to your health, the environment and your hip pocket will be well worth the changes.

Would you like to learn how to save around $500 per month by going green? Visit for more information.

Article Source:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is This a Positive Move by Industry? Any Comments?

Halogen-Free Cables - Green, Safe, and Healthy by Tim Flynn

Perhaps more so today than ever before, the issues of health, safety, and environmental impact are top priorities for manufacturers of all types. The wire and cable industry is making significant advances in products and standards in order to satisfy these important needs. Halogen-free cables are an example of this type of industry advancement.

Halogen-free cables are manufactured without the reactive elements of the halogen family: chlorine, fluorine, bromine, iodine, and astatine. Halogens are an effective flame-retardant, so they have traditionally been used as insulation material. However, they can catch fire and in the event they do, the results can be catastrophic. While they're very stable in their natural state, halogens create highly toxic and corrosive fumes if burned.

The gases produced by burning halogens create an acid when mixed with even small amounts of water, like the moisture found in lungs, eyes, and throats. These chemical reactions can disorient and injure people who are trying to escape a blaze. Clearly, this creates a hazardous situation wherever an accidental fire can occur. On another note, halogen fumes from even minor fires can results in thousands or sometimes millions of dollars in corrosion damage to computer equipment and circuits.

The smoke and fumes are so harmful that governments and municipalities are moving to introduce stricter halogen regulations. Many European and other international countries have already banned the use of cables containing halogen from construction. Due to these increasing regulations, more and more manufacturers are making the switch to low-toxicity, halogen-free options.

Halogen-free cables offer the added benefit of being more environmentally-friendly. They emit considerably lower levels of carbon monoxide (CO) - sometimes as much as 360% less carbon output overall. Switching to these cables will help to minimize your company's carbon footprint and effect on global climate change. Additionally, halogen-free cables are low-smoke products because they produce far fewer air-borne particles.

Halogen-free cables are perfect for applications that require high performance and reliability while offering outstanding safety, like public transportation or busy locations such as airports and shopping malls. The blend of low pollution, toxicity, and corrosion levels and outstanding product quality make halogen-free cables an option that should be considered by anyone purchasing wire and cable products.

Tim Flynn is the President of Allied Wire and Cable, a leading value-added distributor of electrical wire, cable, tubing, connectors, and accessories, headquartered in Collegeville, PA. Tim, a graduate of Drexel University, has been President of AWC for its entire 20+ years in business, and he has guided the rapid growth of the customer-focused, relationship-based company.

Article Source:,-Safe,-and-Healthy&id=1812477

The Carbon-Silicate Cycle

Global Warming - A Geological Perspective by Gerald Allan Davie

The Carbon-Silicate Cycle.

A recent study by scientists at Columbia University have come up with an interesting method of removing atmospheric carbon, the aim being to reduce greenhouse gases and global warming. When CO2 comes into contact with peridotite, a rock commonly found in the Earth's mantle, but more rarely at surface, it is converted into inert and solid minerals such as calcite. The Sultanate of Oman has vast quantities of peridotite exposed at surface and geologist Peter Kelemen and geochemist Juerg Matter claim that the naturally occurring process can be supercharged to grow underground minerals that can permanently store two billion tons of CO2 emitted by human activity every year. Source -Reuters/IOL Timothy Gardner.

Al Gore has been campaigning for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and yet we are no closer to getting any meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However I am not going to take up the climate-change cudgels at this stage, but will dwell rather on an amazing system which, over the long term, ensures that Earth's climate remains within certain limits which keeps our planet habitable - the carbon-silicate cycle.

We might be able to negatively influence climate over the space of centuries or even decades, but if we look at the issues from a geological point of view, these human-induced perturbations in the grand sweep of geological cycles are inconsequential, and will not affect the long-term fecundity of the planet. We may however suffer tremendously during these short-term perturbations - an increase in 5 degrees will make vast portions of our planet uninhabitable.

Our distorted sense of importance as a species causes us to fret about our future on Planet Earth, but if we can accept that our predominance might be nothing more than a lucky roll of the evolutionary dice, and that the survival of the human species is inconsequential to future of the planet, then we can to some extent stop worrying about our supposed role in the grand scheme of the universe. Whether we like it or not, we will ultimately go extinct, but life in a myriad of different forms will continue through to the sun's ultimate supernova.

But let us move on from philosophy and speculation to some hard facts concerning our immediate environment and how Earth's climate is kept within those all important limits. Most of us are aware of continental drift and plate tectonics, where Earth's crust is recycled by subduction of plates along the plate margins. The sinking plate descends into the fiery interior of the Earth where it is melted, and its constituent elements returned to the rock cycle via volcanic action.

One of the most important elements in this cycle is calcium, used widely by organisms, including humans, to build shells and bones. Add some carbonic acid to the mix and one gets the formation of calcium carbonate - CaCO3 - the most prevalent form being limestones. Limestones are one of the most common sedimentary rocks and generally represent ancient coral reefs preserved in the geological record. The development of coral reefs sequestrates vast quantities of atmospheric carbon for millions, sometimes billions, of years until the limestones get caught up in the tectonic mill or become exposed to the agents of weathering and erosion. The more CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the faster limestone formation will occur, provided there is sufficient calcium available.

Question is, what is the source of the calcium? It is derived from igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks brought to the surface by volcanic action due to plate tectonics. The same eruptions that spew CO2 into the air deliver the chemical necessary to remove it, thereby keeping things in balance. Wow!

Now we need a source of the carbonic acid. The weathering of silicates - feldspars and micas - in common rocks such as granites and sandstones produces calcium, silicon, water and the all important carbonic acid. Now, as we have already seen, the more CO2 there is, the faster limestone forms, thereby removing the same CO2 from the system. Similarly the higher the concentration of CO2, the warmer the planet gets - an unfortunate fact which we are discovering to our cost. This leads to increase in evaporation which leads to increased rainfall and associated increase in weathering.

The greater the amount of weathering, the greater the formation of carbonic acid, which in turn leads to faster limestone production. This of course speeds up the removal of the CO2 from the atmosphere, ultimately cooling the planet. Cooling then reduces the rate of weathering, carbon levels rise and Earth warms once again. What a wonderful, self regulating, fantastic, system! But it takes more than a few decades or centuries to smooth out the variations in atmospheric carbon.

Cold comfort perhaps to know that ultimately the high carbon levels in the atmosphere will be removed due to the carbon-silicate cycle, but certainly not within the immediate future. Using peridotite technology may be a short term but expensive solution to removing carbon from the atmosphere, but clearly there is a far more efficient machine for doing this, although it is going to take several thousand years for those wheels to turn.

Gerald Allan Davie:

Article Source:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, December 29, 2008

Environmental and Social Change - What is the Zeitgeist? Part 1

Dr Robert Muller

When I first started putting this blog together, I felt it was important to establish some solid content from a range of different writers, in the hope of generating some dialogue on issues of great importance.

There have been some interesting comments, some strongly worded clarifications of misinformation and/or differences of opinion. This, I believe, is a healthy contribution to the debate on where we are headed as a species. As a PhD in Sociology, I have some very strong views on these issues as well as a broad historical view that I bring to the debate.

I would like to introduce a new series of articles to "The Zeitgeist is Changing" and I challenge you, the reader, to engage in the debate! I aim to be provocative, controversial and informative and to write in a way that engages everyone, not only academics. Below, you will find Part One of the series entitled: "Environmental and Social Change - What is the Zeitgeist?" I urge people of all beliefs and all backgrounds to engage and enjoy in an open and honest manner, challenging ideas and presenting alternative ways of thinking about the present and the future.


Let me begin by discussing the question, "What is the current Zeitgeist?"

We, in the western world, live in a social system which is dominated by a conservative economic and social agenda. This has been the case for about the last 30 to 35 years. This is our current Zeitgeist, an underlying philosophy and discourse that is dominated by big business interests, and governments that seek to line the pockets of big business. In this worldview, there is no room for environmental protection, no room for community, no room for collectivist ways of organisation such as co-ops, bartering systems, and so on.

And yet, the power of the elites is in collective organisation. Take the organisation of government. Essentially democratic government is about elected members of parliament coming together collectively in the House and making decisions for the electorate based upon collective deliberations through political parties. Another example is the inevitable practice of large corporations banding together to form cartels. OPEC is a perfect example of this practice, an organisation that collectively sets oil prices.

So, what is going on here? The elites are constantly talking down anything that even hints at collectivist organisation, and yet they practice it themselves. Let me give you an example that may clarify this contradiction, and lead to a better understanding of the current Zeitgeist.

The United States is constantly coercing most countries to lower trade tariffs and subsidies in order to free up the market and thereby to enhance trade. Some of the smallest and most vulnerable economies on earth are constantly cajoled into joining up to the 'free market bandwagon'. And if these countries are in debt, then they are virtually forced by the IMF and World Bank to pay off their debts through 'freeing' up their economies and engaging in free market trade. Many of these countries are forced to eradicate their natural crops, replacing them with cash crops to be traded internationally. This is not to the benefit of these countries, many of which become unable to feed their own populations, except through expensive imports, which puts them even further into debt. Ironically, the United States remains as the world's largest debtor nation, by far!

Ultimately, to constantly push the world towards free market globalised capitalism only benefits big business interests and the most powerful nation on earth, the United States. There is no pressure on the United States to pay off their debt. In fact, US debt has spiralled totally out-of-control since the advent of the current neo-liberal and neo-conservative era. Expensive wars, expensive energy and environmental degradation have taken their toll on the United States as well as the rest of the 'developed' world. This is the current Zeitgeist and the question to be answered is: Are we on the verge of a new era? A new way of thinking and living?

What do you think? Do you agree with the preceding analysis?

Let us debate these critical issues and make some plans for a sustainable future. I welcome your comments.

Here are some recent links that can help to clarify the issues or to muddy the waters. Take your pick!

Happy reading and commenting!

Dr Robert Muller.

Robert has a PhD in Sociology with an interest in environmentalism, social change, public health, and community resilience as well as the history of the hippie movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Does the USA Need a National Recycling Standard?

A National Recycling Standard by Joseph Winn

I recycle, at least, I try to. Lifelong dedication to the environment, and I still wonder whether that envelope I'm holding is accepted in our paper recycling program. Are the plastic windowed ones allowed? If so, does the window have to be under a certain size? What about shiny paper? Usually it is excluded, however, junk mail is specifically mentioned as accepted. Of course, that doesn't cover the plastics.

Bypassing the issue of the numbers, a separate discussion altogether, take the example of plastic shopping bags. These items must be deposited elsewhere for recycling (the thin bags get trapped in the machinery and clog it), even though they are tagged with otherwise-included numbers. Did I mention that if otherwise excluded items wind up in the recycling pile, the entire batch is considered contaminated and subsequently thrown away? No pressure. Move to another city and the accepted items are likely completely different. With such a convoluted system, what hope does the average person trying to do their part have?

Recent news reports claim that the incoming Obama administration will be appointing former EPA administrator Carol Browner as energy "czar" to "coordinate energy issues across the federal government" . An entirely new position in the United States, surely her responsibilities will solidify as she grows into her role. Coordination is a wonderful idea; by keeping a unified focus in all federal activities, real progress can be made in energy policy. Energy, however, is not nearly as closed a field as implied. To make substantive impact on the global environment, they will need to focus on all aspects of energy use, and guarantee that we are using our energy efficiently and intelligently.

This is where the stories converge.

Recycling, at its very core, is intended to reduce the need to expend resources in making something new when an already-produced equivalent exists. If one were to ask a person why they might use recycled paper, a logical answer may include the following: "So we don't have to cut down more trees". The same goes for bottled water or a can of soda - why go through the effort of producing more virgin plastic when a recycled bottle already sequestered the necessary energy? In essence, recycling is the act of being more intelligent with our energy (and resource) use.

Suddenly, recycling sounds like a topic upon which the administration will wish to focus, but how to do so? Waste services are privately owned enterprises operating independently or on contract with municipalities, not the federal government. It is doubtful they would be open to nationalization, nor is that necessarily a good idea, but what about some standards? Is there anything else the federal government has a hand in regulating by allowing its operation by the private sector? Bingo, organic foods. Currently, the USDA provides standards for independent certifying bodies to inspect operations for compliance. If approved, they are permitted to use the USDA Organic seal on their product, providing standardization and ease-of-use for consumers.

I propose a similar system for recycling. Instead of the current labyrinth of policies, simply have a universally-recognizable logo printed on all products meeting the federal government's recycling standard. The EPA (presumably the lead agency on the issue) will then go about assisting and approving existing waste disposal/recycling companies. Upon certification, they will be capable of processing a given criteria of materials, for example, plastics coded 1-6, clear and green glass, aluminum, and specific forms of paper, for all of their existing customers.

The difference now is that on the disposal end, we do away with the traditional recycling logo and affiliated marks, and replace them with a custom EPA Recycle logo, in the same vein as the USDA Organic logo. For citizens living/working within a service area of an EPA-approved waste disposal company, they can rest assured that if they place an EPA Recycle labelled product in their recycle bin, it will be properly recycled. Market forces will push waste operators to achieve the EPA distinction to accommodate the demands of their clientele, as well as product manufacturers adopting its use on appropriate products.

Such a system eliminates the consideration of plastic code numbers (many people don't even know they exist), cardboard versus paperboard recycling, or any number of other issues that can and do arise daily. Reference the success of the USDA Organic seal. Average citizens regularly seek out organic options, a change partially brought about simply by the addition of a standardized logo.

We have a golden opportunity ahead of us as we welcome a new administration strongly committed to the environment. A national recycling standard will help bridge the gap between the U.S. and Switzerland, the global leader, standing at 76% . As of 2007, the United States had a recycling rate of approximately 33%, a value needlessly diminished by confusion, contamination, and general ignorance of the current situation . Americans want to recycle, but when presented with a hodgepodge of policies nationwide, it can make even the most green of people simply throw it away.

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO GreenProfit Solutions, Inc., an environmental consulting and benefits firm specializing in assisting small and medium size companies in Going Green. You may contact Joseph at:

Article Source:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Environmental Consciousness for Project and Program Managers

Environmental Consciousness For Project and Program Managers by John P Reiling

Global warming and environmental consciousness is a worldwide concern that encompasses all industries -- project management included. With the ongoing debate over balancing technological success with environmental health, project and program managers are called to take action. The question, however, is how. How can project managers go green?

Project and program managers are all responsible for "delivering the goods" - for delivering the products of their projects and programs on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards. For programs, "delivering the goods" also entails the broader aspects of delivering on certain strategic goals within their organization. So, where does environmental consciousness fit into this scheme of "delivering the goods" for their projects and programs?

Here are a few things that can be readily incorporated into the thinking and actions of project and program managers, and how environmental consciousness can be incorporated into any project or program - easily and inexpensively - regardless how the discussions on the issue end up.

1. Establish best practices for recycling. It is usually quite easy to appoint someone at each location to take on this small but significant responsibility.

2. Consider the environment in all decisions. In checklists and meetings, discussions and briefs, papers and documentation, it is not much more effort to include environmental considerations.

3. Practice good conservation of heat and waste management, just as everyone would or should in our homes. This can be facilitated by appointing one team member at each location to take responsibility.

4. Incorporate environmental considerations into any product design. Major changes often spring from one very simple question. Making this a standard item for consideration can have a definite impact on achieving "green design".

5. Consider the end game on the product of the projects, such as "Will something need to be thrown away?" Doing a little brainstorming about this, perhaps at the same time other considerations are being discussed, can add a little "green consciousness" to everyone's awareness.

Project and program managers' ultimate goal is to achieve the results intended and to make sure they are documented correctly. However, it is notable that it is just as easy, if not easier, to execute on these responsibilities and still at all times maintain the highest level of accountability related to the environment. This way, project and program managers do away with the politics behind the issue and focus on their useful contribution to the preservation of the environment.

John Reiling, PMP, PE, MBA is an experienced Project Manager and certified Project Management Professional. John's web site, Project Management Training Online provides online project management training for PMP exam prep. John also writes regularly in his blog,

Article Source:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Michigan Passes Plan to Conserve Energy Resources

During September of this year, Michigan reportedly passed its first comprehensive energy plan. Legislators from both House and Senate passed Senate Bill 213 and House Bill 55214, which set up many programs, like setting the Renewable Portfolio Standards at 10 percent for the state of Michigan by the year 2015. This package also includes other energy efficiency guidelines, and waits only for the governor's signature to take effect.

The Senate Bill creates new alternative energy resource goals, and the House outlined a new energy efficiency program worth 200 million US dollars. (All of the Republicans present voted no on both bills.) The Senate voted 26-10, and the House 78-29 on the bill that would guarantee DTE and Consumers Energy 90% of the future energy market. This bill would end the industry's subsidies of consumer's rates. This bill also passed the Senate, 25-11.

Senate Bill 213 is 102 pages which discuss resources for achieving the 10 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard via dealings with solar, biomass, wind, hydro, geothermal, and municipal solid waste and landfill gas. The utility company, Consumers Energy, is going to have to build or buy facilities that generate 200 megawatts via renewable energy resource by 2013, and 500 megawatts by 2015.

By contrast, DTE needs to obtain facilities that generate 300 megawatts by 2013, and 600 megawatts by 2015. Both companies will be able to obtain deadline extensions from the Michigan Public Service Commission because of possible feasibility limitations, equipment costs and availability, transmission and interconnection, electric system reliability, and labor shortages.

Residential bills in the state will be capped with $3 each month, $16.58 for commercial secondary ventures, and $187.50 for commercial primaries or industrial companies. If the utility companies are unable to meet their deadlines, they will be unable to regain what they would spend on renewable energy resources.

DTE released a statement recently stating that the company had signed a long-term contract with Heritage Sustainable Energy, LLC, which will provide wind resources for the utility company. The contract is going to allow the wind farm to build a 6,500-acre facility in Richland Twp., Michigan. This is tied in with DTE's GreenCurrents renewable energy program, initiated before the legislation was passed. GreenCurrents was developed with the idea of letting customers choose whether they wanted to access their electricity from clean energy resources.

The program allows business customers to select a 1,000-kilowatt hour green energy block for an extra $20 a month, or to match 100 percent of energy used with renewable resources for an extra cost of two cents per kilowatt-hour. Residential users can purchase a block of energy for only $2.50 a month extra, or they can match their energy used with renewable energy for about $10 to 15 extra.

Heritage, in turn, is beginning the construction of Stoney Corners Wind Farm. The facilities will at first have two separate 2.5 megawatt, Fuhrlander 2500 wind turbines, and eventually grow to supply 5 megawatts.

Gretchen Vuvalgee shares information with homeowners. Check out:

Garbage Island - What is it and How Did it Form?

Plastic Soup - What is Garbage Island and How Did it Form? by Jennifer Shon

Picture this - You get up in the morning, brush your teeth and get ready to go to work. Grabbing your travel mug you head out the door to the office. The day is long so you order lunch from that place down the street. You finish up the day and head home, picking up some take out because your effort to cook, after such a long day, is really low. You get home, sit down to watch some television with dinner and finally wash your face and go to bed.

This day sounds innocent enough, typical of many people out there in the working world. How could a day like this contribute to what is known as Garbage Island? Or, more importantly, what is Garbage Island? The crew from wanted to find out and share their discovery with the world.

Garbage Island is a swirling current (called the North Pacific Gyre) approximately 1,000 miles off the shoreline of California where accumulated plastics of all shapes and sizes have floated to stay. Since plastic does not biodegrade but instead disintegrates into smaller particles, the ocean is the perfect catch basin for much of this debris. The crew on this mission discovered everything from birthday balloons to helmets to tires but the most frightening thing of all was the volume; the ratio of plastic to marine life in some areas was upwards of 1000:1. Yikes. So where did it all come from and how did it end up in the Pacific?

Go back to the day of the average person again and instead of being so vague let's detail some of the places in this story where plastics could have been used.

You get up in the morning and hit the off button of the plastic alarm clock beside your bed. Brush your teeth with a plastic toothbrush. Women apply makeup (housed in plastic containers, using brushes with plastic handles); men shave their face (using either an electric razor encased in plastic or a disposable plastic razor). You grab your insulated travel mug with the plastic lid, jump into the car (I can not even fathom how many plastic pieces are utilized in a car) and head into the office. Using your plastic badge you enter the building, sit down in your plastic based office chair, turn on the plastic based computer and work until lunch.

At lunch you order soup and a salad from the deli down the street; each are stored in a plastic container. You head home and stop for take out (in a Styrofoam [plastic] container of course) and turn on the plastic based television while eating. After an evening of scrolling through the channels using the plastic based remote you wash your face with that stuff you love that comes in the plastic tube and finally, go to bed.

On the lowest level this person used fifteen plastic based items in one day. As our society has become more disposable minded all of those items are built to wear out quicker, causing a need to repurchase and toss the old item. Many times this garbage will fall off a ship but more than not it comes directly from the land. This is possible even when we do not realize it is happening - next time you see a plastic bag floating in the breeze think about how far the wind might blow it before it stops, when a bottle whooshes into a storm drain after a particularly heavy rain think about where that waterway ends.

One of the quotes from the video series was particularly striking:

"Persistent Organic Pollutants are chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment" - United Nations Environmental Program.

Bio-accumulation is when substances like harmful compounds (toxins) amass, in diverse tissues of living creatures. In this example the obvious organism would be marine life but the chain of ingesting toxic chemicals grows as birds eat the fish, other fish eat the fish and humans eat the fish. Contaminates are introduced into our daily food supply and are seriously impacting sustained life of entire species on this planet (an example is when a bird goes out to eat and returns to feed their young, the young end up with stomachs full of plastic as opposed to the essential nutrients they need to survive and they perish as a result).

So what can we do? Can we physically clean up all the pieces that are already there? Unlikely. Can we make an attempt to stop putting more into the ocean? Absolutely!

The most important thing we can do with all non-biodegradable plastics currently available is extend their life span. When we act as consumers we need to think of the total life cycle of the item in question - how long do we intend to use the item, what do we do with the item at the end of its life? If we are throwing it away we should be conscientious as to how we do so - do we recycle our plastic or throw it in the trash, is there a way to reuse it, can we up-cycle the item into something functional that may last long beyond the initial intended life span?

Opening our eyes to the issue and reducing our dependence on disposable plastic products is the first step in fixing the problem and the video that shared is a fantastic eye opener. To learn more please visit the link below. Be aware that the twelve parts (plus the five minute extra) are an approximate run time of a little over an hour and some very colorful language is used throughout. It is well worth putting that aside to watch and learn.

For more information on the twelve part series please visit:

Environmental topics are discussed daily at:

Article Source:

Organic Clothing - Is it Always Safe?

How Safe is That Organic Clothing Label? by Bob Folkart

The passion for "green" or organic products is sweeping the US and the world. Consumers seek the word "organic" stamped on a broad variety of products including toys, bedding, clothes and food. Many people are trying to do their part to keep our environment healthy and clean by protecting our air, water, soil and food supply. Celebrities like Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Stella McCartney are wearing organic clothing and have made "green" an important mission in their life.

Organic food and organic clothing are two of the leading industries sought by eco-oriented customers. However, if we look beneath the comfortable organic seal, what we see may occasionally surprise us.

Consider that delicious, organically grown salmon fillet, rich in omega 3's. According to Consumer's Reports (December, 2008), "... the National Organic Standards Board recommended in November, organically grown fish may be fed non-organic fishmeal, which may be contaminated with mercury and PCBs". Their recommendation would also permit "... open net cages which can flush pollution, disease, and parasites directly into the ocean".

Now consider that soft, organic cotton blue tee you received for the holidays. Even if the cotton fibers are 100% certified organics, environmental issues may still remain. "... the use of toxic dyes and other pollutants such as PVCs damages our water, soil and food supply" (Vice President of Live Life Organics, Baltimore Sun, 2008). Additionally, was that tee shirt shipped in recyclable packaging? Were the tags attached with nylon or hemp?

Without extensive federal supervision and standards, the safety of organic fish and green apparel is never certain. Although there are some clear standards in the organic food industry, organic clothing regulations are essentially up to nonprofit consumer organizations like Green America, seeking voluntary compliance with their screening and approval procedures. However, on the positive side, the organic label can be just as comforting as you would like it to be.

So what about the organic salmon? Consumer Reports also indicated that only organic fish may be fed non-organic nutrients - in sole contrast to the feeding of all other organic food animals. And what about the soft blue organic tee shirt? Many organic apparel companies use non-toxic dyes like Green America's Ecoganik, Earth Creations, Live Life Organics and others. Soft organic shirts can "... be a good alternative for people who experience skin allergies from chemicals or pesticides ..." (Founder of BuddhiWear Organics, Baltimore Sun, April 2008). Organic clothing made from soft bamboo fiber is not only soft, but it has high moisture absorption and antibacterial properties that can naturally eliminate odor, according to SpiritMama, a green company that makes bamboo and organic cotton apparel.

So how safe is the organic clothing label? It may be just fine, but it really depends on how far you're willing to look beneath the surface!

Bob Folkart is Vice-President of Live Life Organics, a company devoted to encouraging the living of a passionate life through environmental awareness. Live Life Organics has created a range of organic clothing containing positive inspirational messages, that does not use toxic dyes, and includes a plantable hang tag that grows wild flowers. To view these organic products, go to

Article Source:

Paper or Plastic, Which is the Eco-Conscious Choice?‏

You're standing in the checkout line at the grocery store and you've made enough decisions for one day. You decided what you'll be eating all week and what you're having for dinner tonight. You've taken the time to choose which brand of non-toxic dish soap is more likely to cut grease. You even decided whether to pay with cash, a check, debit, or credit. But there's one more decision you've yet to make. When the question is asked, it can confuse and distress even the most seasoned shopper who cares about the environment. Yes, your last decision might be a tough one. Are you ready? Here it comes: "Paper or plastic?"

Many shoppers don't know which choice is better for the environment. After all, plastic is recycled, isn't it? Should we be cutting down trees to make paper bags? Grocers seem to prefer plastic. Does that mean it's better?

Plastic grocery bags are light, sturdy, and easy to carry because they have built in handles. They also have the added advantage of providing a bit of protection from foods that might leak. They're cheaper than paper. They require less energy to produce than paper bags. When they are compacted, they take up less space in landfills. And some supermarkets make it easy to recycle plastic bags right there at the store.

Unfortunately, plastics have many downsides. Plastic bags are made from non-renewable petroleum resources. They can be recycled, but not as easily as glass, aluminum, or paper, partly because the bags may be made from one of several different plastics. This makes separating plastics for recycling difficult. And for the most part, plastic must be recycled into a product for non food use.

Plastic production and processing require the use of toxic chemicals. Many manufacturing plants that produce these chemicals also produce hazardous waste and pollute the air. In 1986, the Environmental Protection Agency ranked the top 20 chemicals whose production generates the most hazardous waste. Five of the top six were chemicals commonly used by the plastics industry (propylene, phenol, ethylene, polystyrene, and benzene).

Some plastic bags are said to be biodegradable, but biodegradation takes place when air is present. Photodegradation occurs when sunlight is available. Most of the garbage we generate (about 95%) is landfilled. In landfills, garbage is buried beneath layers of soil where it's a little difficult for air or sunlight to reach it. The fact is, most plastic bags just don't degrade, even in a compost pile. Estimates say those plastic bags will take 1000 years to decompose. Others say they never will.

The truth is we use them once and rarely recycle them. Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic grocery bags a year. Only 0.6%-less than 1%, are recycled!

Plastic bags clog our sewers, pollute our rivers and lakes, collect on our beaches, churn in toxic islands of debris in our oceans, threaten our wildlife and our ocean life, and litter our land.

Brown paper grocery bags need to be so strong they are generally made from high quality paper with little recycled content. And though they are made from a renewable resource, trees take a long time to grow and paper mills pollute both the air and the water. Paper bags can be recycled. They are often used to make corrugated cardboard. Paper bags are also biodegradable, but again, the process is not facilitated in landfills.

So which should you choose? Neither, of course. You should carry reusable cloth bags. But if you don't have any with you, Whole Foods has made the decision easy. They've stopped carrying plastic bags.

"More and more cities and countries are beginning to place serious restrictions on single-use plastic shopping bags since they don't break down in our landfills, can harm nature by clogging waterways and endangering wildlife, and litter our roadsides," said A.C. Gallo, copresident and chief operating officer for Whole Foods Market. "Together with our shoppers, our gift to the planet this Earth Day will be reducing our environmental impact as we estimate we will keep 100 million new plastic grocery bags out of our environment between Earth Day and the end of this year alone."

"Doing away with plastic grocery bags won't just help protect marine life, it's a key move in shifting us away from a 'consume-and-dispose' mentality," said Lisa Mastny, editor of the Worldwatch Institute report Oceans in Peril. "Disposable plastic bags can linger in the environment for more than 1,000 years and are the major debris item found on the seabed, especially near the coast."

"During our International Coastal Cleanup each year, our volunteers find hundreds of thousands of bags on beaches and in the ocean posing a threat to birds, turtles and other marine life. As people continue to learn more about the impact their lifestyle has on the environment, we find they are looking for personal solutions to global problems," said Laura Capps, senior vice president of communications and outreach with Ocean Conservancy.

Last year, Whole Foods Market became the first and only food retailer in North America to offer 100 percent recycled fiber content paper bags, which also are completely recyclable and have handles. "I am not sure why anyone would think you can't make quality paper bags out of 100% recycled paper," says Deborah Horgan of Whole Foods. "I think ours are pretty good."

So do we. But Whole Foods agrees with us: reusable bags are the best. Whole Foods encourages their customers to bring in any kind of bag, used paper, plastic, cloth, even backpacks and baskets. They also sell a 99 cent "Better Bag," a reusable bag made from recycled plastic bottles.

So keep a stash of used bags in your car as well as your cloth or canvas bags. Reuse and recycle. We'll all get the hang of it. All we need to do is practice.

Michael Edwards is the chief editor of Organic Lifestyle Magazine, a free online magazine. Subscribe for free at:

Environmental Stewardship Initiative: Great for the Natural Resources of North Carolina

As early as 1998, the government of North Carolina has foreseen and seen the harmful effects that human activities will have on the environment. During that year, the lawmakers of the state had issued Executive Order 156, which challenged the state to protect the North Carolina resources and set an example for all other states to follow.

This challenge was gladly welcomed by a lot of agencies in the state - all who had also been planning on such an endeavor to focus on sustainable development while keeping everything green. A lot of projects were born while others were developed. One of these is the Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI).

ESI is a program under the wing of the North Carolina resources agency, which is also called DENR. The main mission is to aid all agencies or organizations to reduce their environmental footprints to pass regulatory requirements and give recognition due to those who were able to achieve and maintain such a very important environmental commitment.

The North Carolina resources are among the most beautiful and pollution-free in the entire United States because of the many agencies that work hand in hand to keep it so. Although it is a voluntary program, a lot of agencies have signed up, all wanting to keep the environment as healthy and pollution free as possible, with possible North Carolina restoration, if needed.

The North Carolina resources have benefited from the actions of this agency. The program has enjoined not only manufacturers in the state but also other agencies such as businesses, schools, government agencies, service providers, and non-profit agencies. Through efforts done to keep emission and energy usage within required limits, the North Carolina resources and environment are at the prime level now.

There are different levels available for an organization to apply for to help keep the North Carolina resource safe and unpolluted. Any of these levels has its own responsibility, goals, and qualifications. Of course, each application will pass through the rigid scrutiny of the DENR.

Organizations will usually start off as partners. This level is fit for those agencies who offer their commitment to comply with all the rules or regulations of the DENR, comply with the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System, and report the progress that the company or agency has done towards attaining all these goals each year. In turn, the DENR will assist the company in maintaining the EMS standard, offer specialized training and mentors for environmental stewardship, and other benefits.

Next off, the company can then apply as rising stewards. Not only does the company commit to comply with the laws of DENR, but it has to go beyond that compliance. Rising stewards have ISO 14001, which have been certified by a third party and/or reviewed (onsite) by the DENR. Not only are the rising stewards entitled to what the first level is entitled, but more benefits are given such as recognition of participation in the program with the award presented by no less than the DENR secretary.

The goal of each organization is to reach the level of steward. This role has the most prestigious but greatest responsibility towards the North Carolina resources.

Samson Paulotti writes about floods and water damage problem. See:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Palm Oil as a Source of Alternative Energy‏

Palm oil is currently the most commonly produced vegetable oil in the world. For many rural poor countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, income received from the production of palm oil is the sole source of income.

Palm oil is extremely versatile. While it is extremely high in saturated fats, it is almost solid at room temperature. However when heated, palm oil turns into a liquid. It is used for a variety of purposes, from producing margarine, to a source of alternative energy.

Palm Oil As Biodiesel

Palm oil is used as a fuel in biodiesel internal combustion engines. It is being researched as an alternative to crude oil for its benefits in reducing greenhouse gases and depleting the ozone layer. It is also a renewable source of energy, which means we can always get more; whereas energy sources such as crude oil are finite in their resources.

Greenhouse Gas Makes Palm Oil Inefficient

While it has been discovered that utilizing palm oil can help reduce greenhouse emissions, it is still not considered a safe alternative for the environment. In most cases, the bark of the palm tree is not used for anything, and is then burned as a bi-product of producing the oil. This actually emits more greenhouse gases into the ozone layer than we would save by using palm oil as a bio diesel fuel.

Oops! Palm Oil is a Finite Energy Source

We also need to evaluate how much forest clearing there is when we are trying to produce mass quantities of palm oil. If more forest is being cleared than being replaced, we have taken a renewable source of energy and turned it into a finite energy source.

Better Sources of Alternative Energy

There are other sources of renewable energy instead of bio diesels. We are currently actively researching wind power, solar power, and water power for lighting our homes and propelling our vehicles. While it is more difficult to harness the energy of wind, sun, and rain, it is a more environmentally friendly alternative to burning biofuels.

Biofuels Are Not The Answer

Many biofuels, while more environmentally friendly than crude oil, are still harmful to the environment. There is a lot of clearing of plant and forest life to obtain enough oil to produce a viable source of energy. A larger portion of the plant is wasted, as a result, instead of used. This results in a backup of waste, which takes up more space on our green earth.

Three fuels that don't take up valuable resources are wind, sun, and rain. If we could find an effective way to harness the power of the three main elements of life, we would have a viable energy source with infinite possibilities.

With over 40 years of experience, The Energy Superstore operates with a purpose; to enable residential, business and industrial customers to save energy in the most efficient and cost effective ways possible by providing audits, products, and recommendations.

The Demise of Brominated Products?

European Environmental Climate Sheds Uncertainty on Brominated Products by Mark Polasky, Ph.D.

The European Union's Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Waste in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directives earlier this decade added emphasis to the worldwide recognition of the effects that chemical compounds have on the health and safety of both humans and the planet. In response, several large corporations, such as Apple Computer, Nokia, Dell, and Sony Ericsson are developing phase out plans for brominated flame retardants (BFR's). While Nokia has already eliminated BFR's, Apple has made a commitment to ban all of them by the end of 2008, and Dell has pledged to do the same by the end of 2009.

In addition, antimony compounds, which are used as synergists with many brominated flame retardants, have come under close scrutiny. Antimony compounds are now on the European Union's list of high priority substances to be considered for inclusion on the RoHS list, which would ban their use in the 27 European Union nations.

Meanwhile, the Swedish government lifted its unilateral, limited ban on the use of the flame retardant Decabromodiphenyl ether (Deca-BDE) in textiles, furniture and some electronic cables in response to a legal challenge from the European Union. This eliminated the inconsistency between its ban and the positive results from a 10-year E.U. risk assessment of the material that did not identify any significant risks in its use. This has left the E.U. with the vexing problem of how to resolve the contradiction between the RoHS Directive's restriction on Deca-BDE and the positive scientific assessment of Deca-BDE.

Role of Eco-labeling

Eco-labeling, a voluntary system for identifying consumer products that avoid negative environmental effects, has also had a pronounced effect on the use of BFRs. Eco-labels are designed specifically to go beyond legal requirements like RoHS and REACH, and endorse best-in-class products and services that use advanced environmental benchmarks. Many eco-label systems prohibit the use of halogenated flame retardants in electronic products and require statements to eco-labeling organizations declaring their absence. Eco-labeling also plays a role in procurement, because various eco-label approved products and processes can be included as criteria in the bid process.

The result is a confusing set of standards for producers and consumers of BFR-containing materials and the requirement that many of these issues be resolved in a relatively short period of time. This has forced many manufacturers to implement crash programs to address the changes in policy and regulations as they occur.

Solution Trends

As brominated flame retardant materials are phased out, flame retardant suppliers are rolling out new materials to replace them. Since most of the current alternatives are less efficient than BFRs, these new flame retardants will be system-based. That is, a group of different flame retardants will be assembled based upon the customer's needs. However, this requires extensive R&D work to determine which system is appropriate. For consumers, a multitude of new options are available. Complicating matters is the fact that many of these changes occur with tight deadlines, leading to a mad scramble to find a system that works, not one necessarily optimized for the manufacturer's process and the product's end use.

Nanocomposite materials, especially clays and graphite, have shown promise as flame retardants. Nanocomposites work by creating a protective coat-like char and a cross-linking of the polymer matrix. This results in the formation of char and a reduction in the heat release rate. Char is the crust of partially burned material that forms on the surface of plastic material in a fire and robs the flame of fuel. Many companies have begun marketing nanocomposites concentrates as flame retardants, typically compounding them with magnesium hydroxide or aluminum trihydrate to improve overall performance.

Intumescent flame retardants, which foam up at combustion temperatures to help form a thick insulating char layer, have also seen a surge in activity. These FRs have limited applications due to problems with cost, poor processing, thermal stability, plate-out, and water sensitivity. Most of these flame retardants are either melamine or phosphorus-based compounds.

Tin-based flame retardants are seeing increased use as replacements for antimony-based materials. Tin functions as a char promoter in the resin substrate in both the vapor and condensed phase. Zinc stannate and hydroxystannate have been recommended for use as smoke, flame and carbon monoxide suppressants when used as a synergist with brominated flame retardants.

Overall, the changing environmental climate will continue to force both suppliers and consumers of flame retardants to improve on the impact that current materials have on the health of humans and the environment. This will require suppliers to constantly keep abreast of new developments in worldwide regulation of these materials as well as any new, more benign compounds that they can utilize to separate themselves from their competitors.

Nerac Inc. ( is a global research and advisory firm for companies developing innovative products and technologies. Nerac analysts deliver custom assessments of product and technology development opportunities, competitor intelligence, intellectual property strategies, and compliance requirements through a proven blended approach to custom analysis: review of technical knowledge, investigation of intellectual property, and appraisal of business impacts. Nerac deploys analysts in diverse disciplines to help clients discover new applications, serving as a catalyst for new thinking and creative approaches to business problems or identifying strategic growth opportunities.

Article Source:,_Ph.D.

CASE STUDY - New Eco-Community in Cornwall

New Purpose Built Eco Community Being Developed in Cornwall by Anna Barrington

Cornwall's first tailor-built "eco community" - described as an experiment in cutting-edge green and economical living and a potential model for the nation to follow - is coming to life in Hayle. The £3 million first phase of 12 houses is nearing completion in the Fairglen project, which is targeting near-zero energy bills for its occupants and is believed to be one of Britain's largest sustainable new communities currently under construction.

Its creators, Redruth-based Percy Williams and Sons Ltd, first conceived the £7.5 million scheme nearly a decade ago and have been working closely with the Government's Low Carbon Buildings Programme.

"What makes this scheme so unusual is that it is a whole collection of new eco homes - a mini- community - being designed and built at once, for the mainstream market, rather than the more typical schemes involving one-off individual properties for architects or wealthy clients," said Simon Williams, managing director of the developers.

"It is very much an experiment, with commercial gain not the immediate priority. Our company has been in business in Cornwall for nearly a century and we quite genuinely want to make a positive contribution to the continued advancement of sustainable living.We set out to see just how interested the public were in this concept - how ready they were to embrace the emerging technologies and buy in to the 'green' eco homes concept".

"We regard Fairglen as only semi-commercial from our viewpoint. The results will guide our future developments as a long-established home provider in Cornwall and will, we hope, act as something of a pilot for provision of new homes nationwide."

Seven of the three and four-bedroom houses now nearing completion off Loggans Road have already been sold. Buyers include the scheme's lead architect, John Stengelhofen, of Lilly Lewarne, who is relocating his family there.

Situated just off the coastal road to the beach, the new homes on the south-facing former nursery site benefit from "passive solar gain" - heating up naturally from the sun - and will use proven ground-source heat pumps, which extract heat for hot water and heating from boreholes 100 to 120 metres deep.

The properties have significantly higher insulation values than required under current building regulations, along with high efficiency heat recovery ventilation systems and photovoltaic roof systems. These systems achieve a net contribution to the national grid and effectively provide free electricity for residents. Features also include underfloor heating and rain water harvesting.

Mr Williams commented: "This is emphatically not just a token or a gesture in the direction of eco-building. The principle offers enormous gains for occupants and for the future of our planet. It is instructive, for instance, to note the current price of oil - at over a hundred dollars a barrel and rising - compared with the level of under 25 dollars when we first conceived the project!"

Fairglen is being built by John Nicholls Builders, of Goonhavern, and the five three and four- bedroom eco houses are still currently available in the first phase are priced from £250,000 to £330,000. A flood plain adjacent to the development is being converted by Percy Williams and Sons into a nature reserve.

Anna Barrington writes for Percy Williams and Sons. For more information about this development please visit Eco Homes in Cornwall. For latest news and happenings in the area please visit the eco homes blog.

Article Source:

Going Green - A Sign of the New Zeitgeist?

Going Green - Trend Or Lifestyle Change? by Teresa Cuervo

Due to environmental concerns and the energy crisis of recent years, it seems that "going green" is quite the buzz these days;from existing businesses becoming "green certified" and many others mushrooming as green businesses, the premise of going green seems to be getting quite the attention. In recent blogs that I have read there seems to be a consensus in the belief that I have had a while back ago: Is this really a trend or a lifestyle change?

It has been said that every trend or fad generally fades and dies, and to many this is no exception. For the true environmentalist, and other that have embraced this lifestyle before it ever became popular, tend to view this quite cynically and believe that the premise of "going green" is to a certain degree based on consumerism and not necessarily based on a change in people's lifestyle. Although I admittedly have not been the fervid environmentalist throughout, I do agree however, that words like "eco-friendly", "environmentally safe," and "green" or" green lifestyle "are used quite liberally these days to promote new services and products alike infuriating those who has been in the forefront of these pressing issues for years.

How can the consumption of products and the betterment of the environment be equated? Well, unfortunately and sadly ,we live in a highly acquisitive society and in a culture purely motivated by consumption, that maybe it is true that buying "green" products per se will not lead as a whole to saving of the planet, it can and has brought an awareness to the environmental issue. Although I don't dispute that yes, it is purely based on marketing, we have seen a spurt in demand for organic products.

This movement if you will is not generally a negative thing; it surely is a step in the right direction and ideally and yes I mean ideally, I believe that in order for real change to take place and certainly make a difference , (particularly where the environment is concerned) there has to be a dramatic shift in people's perception, habits and most importantly a renewed lifestyle change. Only time will tell whether and if these ideas will penetrate the American psyche so true change can possibly occur.

Every step although small is a step in the right direction.

Teresa Cuervo is an online marketer and recently established an online business. The business is mostly centered on organic cotton, primarily organic cotton bedding.

Article Source:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones

The Green Economy by Bruce Kaler M.D.

"We can't drill and burn our way out of our economic and ecological ills, but we can invent and invest our way out", says Van Jones, the author of The Green Collar Economy and founder of Green for All.

This guy doesn't need my help nor do I get any consideration for recommending this book. But this is a thoughtful straight forward view of how we can help the economy, create jobs, and retool America to get out of this economic slump while repairing the environment. That's an incredible task and often encompassing goals that seem contradictory. But it's do-able! There is hardly anything these days that is more important or has more far reaching effects on each of us who live on the "third rock from the sun". We are all citizens of a global community. What happens to one of us good or bad, affects the rest of us. Check this book out. It is informative, thoughtful and I think you'll find it eye opening just how simple the solution is to getting our efforts headed in an effective and more appropriate manner.

You'll find it a very educational and entertaining read. No matter how you voted in the recent election, it was very clear that the large majority of us were ripe for change. We have all seen how our daily lives have been effected by the environment, poor decisions and lack of responsiveness over the last few years. Nobody can deny we need some changes. Van Jones shows us how our goals to provide an better place to live, more jobs, security for our families and save the environment are all goals that can be accomplished together without sacrificing one over another.

The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones available on and bookstores everywhere.

Physician with over thirty years experience in both family practice and emergency medicine in both rural and urban settings. Dr Kaler is also author of the medical mystery thriller Turnabout by Bruce Kaler. Visit my website at

Article Source:

Utah Fights against the Destruction of its Natural Resources

Utah's campaign against the possible loss of its natural resources is a fight that every citizen wants to win. And little by little, they can see the fruits of their hard work.

According to EPA or Environmental Protection Agency, three out of 25 least polluted cities came from Utah. They are Logan on number six, Salt Lake City on number seven and Provo on number twelve. This is all because of its citizen's initiative to restore its natural resources. One good example is the Utah Moms for Clean Air. As the name states, it's a non profit organization consisting of mothers of the state who volunteered to protect the air against pollution for the benefit of their own families and to help restore health resources to every citizen. They primarily protest against air pollution that is believed to be one of primary reason of cancer and other respiratory health problems.

There's also another citizen alliance called HEAL (Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah) which is furthering the cause against nuclear and Toxic Waste. This is in response to President Bush administration's effort to study and lay the groundwork to develop and test new generation of nuclear weapons in the ground and rivers of Utah. The alliance believes that this will cause health problems to the citizen and destruction of its natural resources. The chemical toxins of nuclear weapons can damage their health. The testing of this weapon may also cause irreparable damage to the state's natural resources.

In the southern part of the state, there's an alliance of citizens against strip mining. Strip mining is the practice of removing first the soil and rock that lies on top of the target. Some citizens were forced to leave their homes due to strip mining operations. The operation annihilates streams and forests and causes extensive blasting damages to homes. The pollution in mining in preparation for coal in the market was believed to be one of the reasons of the rising of asthma rate in the community.

Citizens of Utah also believe that these types of activities are the ones responsible for fish kill and contamination of drinking water. They believe that heavy metals like arsenic, mercury and lead from mining site flow directly to Utah's watershed, leading them to gather altogether to plan for restoring the natural resources.

The State of Utah, specifically Salt Lake City has put up the campaign to restore its natural resources. The City's green campaign aims to conserve its resources, reduce pollution and ensure a healthy and sustainable future for its citizens. The city has taken comprehensive approach to environmental protection. This starts with promotion of alternative means of transportation, to conserving of water and energy, to high performance building and greenhouse gas emission reduction. These were all made possible through the support of citizens of Utah, who are serious in their efforts to preserve their own habitat.

As you can see, people have taken the initiative to restore their natural resources. Men and women, citizens and official are working together to win the battle against mounting pollution in the state.

Samson Paulotti writes about floods and water damage problem. See:

Environmental Concerns of Aquaponics

Aquaponics - Environmental Concerns by Amaete Umanah

Beginning in the 1980's many Asian and South American governments began a campaign to lend money and other support in a campaign known as "The Blue Revolution". It was widely recognized that the supplies of seafood from wild catch sources were drying up and it was felt that the best way to over come this was through the extensive expansion of aquaculture, the growing of fin fish and shell fish on farms.

Although the intentions were good and the technology was feasible the ecological ramifications were not fully understood and it took the Tsunami of 2003 to show the world just how much damage was being done to the coastal areas.

During the 1980's and the 1990's approximately 35% of all of the worlds mangrove swamps were bulldozed to put in place shrimp farms from Asia to Central America. Almost all of these farms were funded by local governments through loans from the World Bank. From the beginning world environmentalist began to warn of dire consequences if this practice were to continue. They pointed out that it was the mangrove trees in the swamps that protected the coastal areas from storms and erosion, but the warnings fell on deaf ears.

Another issue that was raised constantly was the fact that the toxic waste that settled into the bottom of the shrimp ponds would build up to a point where by after a few years the pond could no longer be used. The result was the farmers would just abandon those ponds and clear away even more mangrove swamps to build replacement ponds.

The destruction of coastal habitat was rampant and fast. In December of 2003 a catastrophe the likes of which modem man has never witnessed before unfolded in full view of television audiences around the world. A major earthquake off the coast of Sumatra set off a tsunami that completely wiped out much of the Asian shrimp industry and also killed hundreds of thousands of people. The fact that the farms were destroyed was one thing. This could be expected of anything built right on a seacoast and theoretically could be replaced.

The fact of the matter is, this is never going to happen because people and governments have finally realized the environmentalist were right. The lost of the protective mangrove swamps has been attributed to the loss of thousands of lives and villages as the tidal wave swept inland farther than any water had ever gone before. As a result almost every country in the world has now set in place strict laws governing the use of coastal mangrove swamps thereby eliminating these areas to be used to grow cheap shrimps in coastal ponds.

This now dynamically changes entire farm raised shrimp farming industry world wide. Without the ability to use the coastal areas the farmers in these countries must move towards more eco-friendly ways to grow the product. The cost of operations for them will now rise thereby leveling the playing field for shrimp farmers in consumer countries.

You can follow me and watch my progress as I start a new Commercial Aquaponics Venture on my website at You can also click on the upper tab that says "Blog" for more in-depth personal experiences and industry news.

If you have other suggestions/tips, I would love to hear it!

Amaete Umanah, Author.

Some articles are culled from my website

Article Source: