Monday, May 31, 2010

The Ultimate Guide to “Greening” Your Home (and the Juicy Tax Breaks, too)

There is a lot being said right now about "going green." Environmental awareness is growing, and many people are interested in having greener homes.

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50 Greenest Buildings Around the World

"Greenest" is, of course, always a highly subjective and nebulous term. An environmentally-friendly building encompasses an exceptionally broad spectrum of elements – with some excelling in a couple of areas but potentially in need of a boost in another.

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By Racheal Ashley

To become a qualified ENERGY STAR builder, a builder must construct a home that meets energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These houses must be at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC), and contain additional efficient saving features that typically make new homes 20-30% more efficient than standard homes.

The ENERGY STAR label identifies a house having passed all efficiency guidelines. Builders realize that homebuyers are increasingly interested in the value of green homes and efficiency is the place to start. This is because the energy used to run the house is often from the burning of fossil fuels from power plants. The burning of fossil fuels contributes to smog, acid rain, and risks of global warming. That is why it is so important to use less energy which equals less air pollution. With these benefits, many homes builders are choosing to partner with ENERGY STAR. The best way to make sure a house is efficient is to look for the blue ES label, which is the government-backed symbol for efficiency.

Any homes that meet EPA's guidelines and is three stories or less can earn the ES label including: single family, attached, manufactured homes, and low-rise multi-family homes, modular construction, log homes, and concrete homes. ENERGY STAR qualified new homes can contain a diversity of 'tried-and-true' efficient features that improved home quality, homeowner comfort, and lower energy demand while reduced air pollution.

Many home builders are realizing the benefits of building ES homes. For example D.R. Horton needed an edge to be successful in this challenging market. D.R Horton accomplished this by partnering with ENERGY STAR. They realized they must build the most efficient homes in the area to gain a leg up on the competition. This strategy not only made D.R Horton successful but benefited the homeowners' as well with providing them efficient homes that saves them money on their monthly energy bill. Now D.R. Horton new homes feature 100 percent ENERGY STAR qualified fixture package!

Many ES home builders have been recognized for their energy efficient building processes. Aston Woods Homes won the 2009 ENERGY STAR Leadership in Housing Award and has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This award distinguishes the important contribution Ashton Woods Homes has made to energy-efficient construction and environmental protection by building more than 1,202 ENERGY STAR qualified homes last year. These 1,202 new homes will save homeowner about $537,294 on utility bills every year!

Another winner of the Leadership in Housing Award is SummerHill Homes. SummerHill Homes has committed to building energy efficient homes. With ENERGY STAR qualified new homes for sale offering new homebuyers all the features they want in a home as well as the benefits of a green home. Plus energy-saving features come standard with SummerHill Homes like, energy efficient insulation systems, energy efficient windows, tight construction and ducts, properly-sized and installed heating and cooling systems, third-party verification of energy performance, and energy efficient products. Plus not to mention that such appliances qualify for an energy tax credit!

ES builders are realizing the value of adding energy efficient products within the new home. Pulte Homes new communities now include ES appliances as a standard in each new home for sale. According to the Department of Energy, all Energy Star appliances use 10-15% less energy and water then standard models when certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Appliances and lighting account for more than one-third of the average homeowner's utility bill according to the DOE. So including energy efficient appliances can translate into a considerable amount of savings. In Las Vegas, Pulte new homes for sale features LEED certification, is built under the Environments for Living® - Green Certified program, and is equipped with solar power panel roofs!

Many home builders are making sure to be ES qualified with energy cost on the rise, but one builder has been building green homes before it was trendy. With over a decade of building new green homes for sale and energy-efficient new homes, Pardee Homes has been a leader in building green homes with more than 24 LivingSmart and 14 California Green Builder-certified new communities (no wounder why California is one of the top Green building states). Starting in 1998 when Pardee Homes helped pioneer the EPA's Energy Star® program, by building energy-efficient homes that exceeded code by 15% or more. In 2009 Pardee Homes pledged 100% commitment to building "LivingSmart" homes in all future developments

Find homebuilder information as well as new homes, new condos, and planned developments.

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CASE STUDY: New Hotel in South Africa Leads the Way in Solar Power

By Dave Ackermann

With recent rises in electricity prices in South Africa, the country has been paying more and more attention to the implementation of solar power in households and workplaces. A new luxury hotel which has just opened up in Johannesburg has set the tone for the hospitality industry and implemented extensive measures to make use of solar panel power in their hotel.

The hotel in the spotlight is the DaVinci Hotel which is opening up in the upmarket area of Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg. The Legacy Hotel Group, which owns the luxury hotel worked in partnership with Kayema Energy and numerous international Solar power experts in order to design the substantially large and complicated solar powered water heating system.

The solar powered water heating system consists of a massive 117 flat solar panel collectors that will create enough hot water to enough to supply hot water for 138 rooms. The solar powered hot water system, which has the capacity to warm up 30 000 litres of water, will result in a 60% reduced energy bill for the hotel and substantially decrease the carbon footprint of the hotel.

The solar power system is not the only green initiative which has been implemented by the hotel. Other initiatives include a system that completely cuts electricity to a room that is not occupied at any time, the use of LED lighting all over the hotel, water saving shower heads and the use of non harmful building materials. The hotel's main restaurant named the Maximillien, is also designed and built with energy and environmental issues in mind. The restaurant floor is made from bamdoo, cleaning materials in the kitchen are all non-toxic and environmentally friendly and all other building materials used in appliances etc. are made from harmless eco-friendly materials.

Kudos must go out to the Legacy Hotel Group and everyone else who was involved in the building of this solar powered hotel. May many more households, commercial properties and hotels follow in their footsteps! Hopefully the government in South Africa will also join in the trend and start making appropriate rewards for people and places that make use of solar power.

Copywriter and SEO specialist

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Dealing With Overwhelming Drinking Water Problems in China

By Kristie Brown

When in China, you have to do as the natives do, and that means boiling tap water before you can drink it. Although some hotels and all restaurants offer boiled water to their guests, and you can buy bottled water, anything that just runs from a faucet is not safe to drink. Although the water is fine to bathe in, it is recommended that none of the water from the shower head be ingested for fear it will make you ill. Experts also say that tourists should use bottled water to brush their teeth. That's how lethal the local water is. There are definitely serious and widespread drinking water problems in China.

The lakes, rivers, and groundwater in China have all become very polluted by industrial and agricultural wastes and spills. All of this pollution coupled with China's high population and the millions of people who live in rural areas has created a problem that the Chinese government is working to alleviate. In addition, China does not have adequate natural sources of fresh water, and of the water they do have, 70% is so polluted that it's considered unsuitable for human contact.

Three and a half million tons of sewage is produced in China every day. This means that the country should have at least 10,000 sewage treatment plants in operation to treat even half that much. Unfortunately, they have far fewer than this number operating at this time. This means that scores of rural Chinese drink water contaminated with human and animal waste and filth. Even in the country's major cities, the municipal water pollution level is far higher than federal standards allow.

The largest cash crop produced in China has always been rice which is grown in paddies filled with water. With so much of the available water being toxic, people are reluctant to eat rice which may have been produced in unsafe water. This is devastating to the national income that depends heavily on rice production. People in China eat the rice and drink the water, and these things are responsible for outbreaks of serious diseases and other health issues.

Although government agencies are tightening industrial waste standards as well as those governing safe drinking water, the problem of polluted water in China has gotten so out of hand that it will take years and billions of dollars to get it back under control.

Looking for more information on municipal water systems? Visit for all your water purification needs including diatomaceous earth filters and municipal water filtration.

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Malaysia to Be Forestry Certified?

By Dylan Tanner

The global market for forest and wood products is worth over $300 billion (USD) per year. However, as an industrial sector it is highly sensitive to environmental pressures.

In March 2009, the US implemented the Initiative Against Illegal Logging (IALL) allowing for companies to be prosecuted for trade in illegal timber products. There are strong trends to adopt similar laws in the EU. In the wake of these EU moves, the government and forestry industry of Malaysia is attempting to negotiate an agreement with the European Union under which it guarantees that all imports of forestry products from the country are derived from legally harvested wood.

The EU imported roughly USD 500mn of wood products from Malaysia in 2009, making it the second largest market for the country after Japan. Fearing US-style legislation in the EU, under which importing companies would be responsible and liable for the legality of their wood supply chain, Malaysia is attempting to negotiate on behalf of its entire industry. The EU's legislative efforts are termed FLEGT - Forest Law Enforcement and Governance and Trade.

Under Malaysia's proposed agreement with the EU, imports from the country would be given an accelerated passage for its forestry companies. The EU has already signed similar agreements with several African nations and talks are underway with Indonesia at present. Talks with the EU's largest importer of timber products, China, however, remain some ways away. Predictably, NGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF are of the view that countrywide agreements will not eliminate the import of illegal product due to poor enforcement in exporting countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.

Dylan Tanner is an eco-entrepreneur and writer who founded the newsletters Asia and China Environmental Reviews and has been writing about environmental and social trends within a business context for fifteen years. His latest venture is a B2B directory of responsible and sustainable suppliers.

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Nostalgia? Returning to More Natural, Biological Technology in Farming

By Ali Withers

Farming methods may to modern eyes seem to have once been more natural but are we being romantic and nostalgic?

A great website that traces the history of the countryside and agriculture - - is an easily digested history of UK population and economic developments and their impact on farming from the days of Saxon England onwards.

One small example is the fluctuation in the country's woodland from approximately 11% woodland cover during the Roman period (100AD) to 15% in Norman era. It was down to around 7% by 1350AD, even less than today, and then climbed to a broadly stable 10% while the total length of hedgerow continued to grow as more fields were enclosed. Meanwhile there was from very early times an inexorable drift of population from the countryside to the towns and cities, which accelerated after c1750 and the onset of the industrial revolution.

Two more significant moments in history are the Second World War with the need to increase domestic food production and then, fuelled by a rural labour shortage, the development of the combined harvester. Add in population growth, the search for profit and the need to increase food production and the result is so-called agribusiness, getting rid of the hedges that used to enclose our fields and the woodland that got in the way of the big machines that allegedly made farming more efficient.

It's pretty clear, therefore, that producing food - farming - has always been driven by economics and by population changes.

So while in the past there may have been a better balance in the way farmland was used thinking nostalgically is something of a red herring. Farming is now and historically always has been a commercial activity. Urban population growth and production costs are the twin pressures to produce more from the same amount of land, especially on an island like Britain. They led in the 1960s and 70s to using more and more chemicals to get rid of pests and diseases and to increase yield per acre.

Then came the wake-up calls: the BSE and other scares, tales of hormones in our chickens, increasing evidence of chemical-induced carcinomas from our food. A couple of decades on and we no longer tolerate damage to people's health from chemicals in our food, or the threatened destruction of the environmental balance on which we all depend for life.

The growth in global communications and in global travel have also opened people's eyes to inequalities in both food production and people's access to enough food. It's becoming urgent that we balance the need for more food against the imperative to preserve the quality of the land it comes from. It's commonsense, it's not about nostalgia.

That's why the growing emphasis on sustained farming, organic and more natural agriculture and on biological agricultural products like biopesticides and biological yield enhancers that could arguably be as crucial to the small developing-world farmer as they are to bigger operations in the developed world.

It's about trying all kinds of things appropriate to the local ecology - as illustrated by this story about Zambian farmer Elleman Mumba a 54-year-old peasant farmer growing maize and groundnuts on his small plot of land in Shimabala, south of Lusaka. Feeding his family used to be a problem and the yield was very little. "We were always looking for hand-outs; we had to rely on relief food." With no oxen of his own to plough his field he had to wait in line to hire some, often missing planting as soon as the first rains fell. for every day of delay the potential yield is shrunk by around 1% - 2%.

In 1997, Mr Mumba, thanks to free training given to his wife, switched to conservation farming. It uses only simple technology, a special kind of hoe and Instead of ploughing entire fields, farmers till and plant in evenly spaced basins. Only a tenth of the land area is disturbed. it reduces erosion and run-off and in the first season increased his yield to 68 bags of maize - enough to feed the family and buy four cattle! (his full story is on the BBC Africa website).

That's what innovation, sustainable farming and thinking outside the box are all about. It's about economics and what works, not about nostalgia.

Copyright (c) 2010 Alison Withers

"Traditional" natural farming methods? Farming is and always has been an economic and commercial activity, an industry. While production methods may have changed to meet growing demand. Experienced consumer journalist Ali Withers argues that farming history is important to the new thinking about sustainable farming methods, the new, more natural biopesticides, biofungicides and yield enhancers and nostalgia is a red herring.

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Wildlife is Thriving in New York City

By BJ Adams

The infamous 'TriBeCa Coyote' of New York City was caught by police recently, apparently she wasn't clever enough to evade New York's finest. Wild animals are staking claim to the concrete jungle of Manhattan, and residents seem to be getting used to seeing white-tailed deer, red-tailed hawks, beavers and the wily coyotes; it endears most and reminds some that they are still a part of nature.

TriBeCa's one year old female coyote led police over a two-day chase throughout the neighborhood, she was finally trapped in a parking lot, where they shot her with a tranquilizer dart and took her to the animal control facility in East Harlem. Her fate is unknown, but she wasn't the only coyote sighted in the year. Coyotes are thriving in large part to their ability to adapt, and because their natural predator has almost been eradicated, the wolf. However, several wolves traverse freely in Los Angeles.

The environmental laws, wildlife refuges reserves, bans on pesticides and tons of city trash has resulted in a resurgence of wildlife. Once threatened species will continue to recover because of conservation measures, such as the waterways becoming cleaner, and greenways being built in and around the city. Development of faraway burbs tear up the land and flush out animals from their usual homes, forcing them to adapt or die.

Several centuries ago, New York City used to be a swampy marsh, and the landscape was covered with trees and a diverse cross-section of wildlife called this place home; mountain lions, wolves, wild turkey and bears used the area now called Manhattan as their stomping grounds. The waterways were a thriving sanctuary for shads and sturgeon. The Atlantic Flyway bird flew over New York City en route to the once lush marsh lands, which are now tenant buildings or parking lots. However, the unique geographical location of New York being between northern and southern climates creates a mild winter, which makes it easier for many species to survive.

No matter which wildlife has rebounded, more have declined and New York City will hardly be considered a dense, populated forest of centuries ago. But, eventually, if not now, New Yorkers will have to do some adapting of their own. The question is though, what sort of adapting is necessary? Instead of leaving their trash on the curb, should they hang their trash from ropes? If a moose should wander into the city, should New Yorkers bring out their hunting rifles? Or, should they just accept the fact that nature has a way of reminding us, every now and again, that we aren't the only ones in need of a safe place to live and to raise a family?

BJ Adams has a Bachelors in English Literature and a passion for travel. A freelance blog and web writer, BJ has published numerous pieces on travel and tourism around the world. Some of BJ's work can be found at

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CASE STUDY: A Sustainable San Francisco

By Betty Alberson

San Francisco is not only one of the five major cities that hosts the Green Festival each year in November, it is the birthplace. The Green Festival is a joint project of Global Exchange and Green America, celebrating what's working in the communities for people, business and most important, for the environment. Each year, San Francisco's Green Festival is held in November, and this year, 2010 will be held November 5th through the 7th at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center.

Ever since its inception back in 2002, The Green Festival has continued to expand in size and scope with more than 150 world renown speakers and over 400 green businesses that show how the Bay Area community and city departments can work together to make the city a healthier place to live. The Green Festival begins with finding solutions to help make all our lives better, both economically and environmentally.

Businesses along with individuals, and San Francisco's community leaders come together to discuss critical issues that will impact the United States and the rest of the world. Organizations and businesses will showcase their programs and products that will restore the planet and all her inhabitants.

Join the Green Festival at San Francisco's premier sustainability event, where you'll see the best in green. Enjoy the 125 renown leaders, authors and educators; exhibits; how-to-workshops; fun activities for kids; cutting-edge films; delicious vegetarian cuisine; organic beer and wine and a wide array of live music. You'll be able to shop at the unique marketplace of over 350 eco-friendly businesses selling everything from all-natural body care products and Fair Trade gifts to cotton clothing and beautiful kitchen tiles made from renewable resources.

Come recharge your batteries with all the inspiration, hope and practical ideas at the exhibits where you'll see the most recent developments in green technology and renewable energy; learn how to invest in you community; sample Fair Trade coffee and chocolate, which really do taste better, and learn how to green your home and avoid products made in sweatshops.

Here are a few facts concerning the Green Festival: it's the largest sustainability event in the world and continues to grow year after year; it's the only green event that screens all the exhibitors for the commitment to sustainability, social justice and ecological balance by using Green America's green business standards; they off-set 100 percent of the electricity emissions with clean, renewable energy and the walk the talk by getting closer to being a zero-waste event every year.

Having graduated with a Bachelor's in English Literature, and with nothing to do with it, Betty publishes a lot of her work online. For the past two years she had been a freelance writer on the side, and travels for a living. She will sometimes add information from her travels into her writings. More of her articles are located at

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Why is Protecting the Rainforest So Important?

By James Anthony Harris

Rainforest are subject to extremely high amounts of annual rainfall, and are usually located in tropical regions. There are two different kinds of rainforests - tropical and temperate. Tropical rainforests are usually very dense, and full of broad leaf trees. They are located 10° north or south of the equator, and are known as the "world's largest pharmacy". This is due to the fact that over one quarter of medicinal drugs and medicines used today originate from its plants. Temperate rainforests have an annual precipitation (rainfall) of at least 140cm, have an average annual temperature ranging between 39 and 54° F, and have closed canopies of trees that cover at least 70% of the sky.

Rainforests are home to half of all the living plant and animal species on Earth. It is estimated that there are as many as 80 different species of trees per acre. There is also an extremely diverse range of animal life found throughout the rainforest. The majority of these animals have had to evolve and adapt to survive in those tropical environments, and as such are unable to survive outside of their specific ecosystem. Some of these animals are toucans, parrots, sloths, gorillas and lemurs. Also, the vast majority of plants and vegetation used medicinally are found in the Earth's rainforests. With all of this, it is astounding that rainforests only cover 6% of the entire Earth's surface.

There are also a number of native cultures that live in and depend on the unique ecosystems of the rainforest. Most of these people have had little to no contact with any outside civilisations, and after hundreds of years with only the rainforest animals as neighbours; it is no surprise that they would be unable and unwilling to assimilate to modern times. These tribes have relied on the rainforest for every aspect of their lives, and are the most knowledgeable of anyone of the medicinal herbs and plants in that ecosystem.

Unlike those who take from the rainforest without considering the dangerous effects they could be inflicting, the native tribes are able to cultivate the land without upsetting the balance of the rainforest animals' and plants' ecosystems.

Over the years, the rainforests have been severely and negatively impacted by human interference. Some of the most detrimental activities include deforestation, logging, and urban development. As the world's population continues to rise, we will no doubt see more deforestation and devastation in this valuable ecosystem.

As a result of these activities, a number of plant and animal species native only to the tropical climates of the rainforest are now extinct, endangered or severely threatened. Medicines that have yet to be discovered are may be lost to us forever as a result of deforestation.

Knowing this, a number of organizations across the globe are working hard to do what they can to protect what's left of this remarkable, and extremely fragile, ecosystem. Some of the most well known of these organizations are The Rainforest Alliance Network and The Nature Conservancy. Visit their websites for more information on rainforest animals, and what we can do to protect them and their unique and valuable habitat. Read more on the protection of the rainforest at

The author answers more questions like these at

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Environmental Schemes and the Emergence of the Marine Stewardship Council

By Dylan Tanner

The problems surrounding depleting fish stocks around the world has been steadily increasing, and many companies are facing increasing pressure to promote environmentally friendly practices. A major high street retailer in Europe, Marks and Spencer has taken a step in this direction, as the company is collaborating with the WWF to sign a charter to protect Europe's waters from overfishing.

There are many third-party fishery environmental schemes in place around the world to tackle the dwindling fish stocks. The Friends of the Sea, initiated in 2005, works by approving products if target stocks are not overexploited and the seabed is not impacted by certain fishing methods. The Naturland Association promotes organic agriculture. Up till now they had only been concerned with aquaculture certifications. However, recently they initiated a wild fisheries certification scheme, starting with a trial certification programme in Tanzania on Lake Victoria.

Before the enactment of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in 1972, as many as half a million dolphins died. By the late 1980s, increased pressures by consumers led to the initiation of the 'Dolphin Safe Label'. This label was designed to certify that tuna was caught in a way that protects dolphins. This is based on the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP), a multilateral agreement under the IATTC Regional Fisheries Organization, or in line with a programme promoted by the Earth Island Institute (EII) a US based non-governmental organization.

In response to the growing demand in Japan for eco-labelled products, MEL-Japan was established in 2007 to support fisheries that work to conserve marine resources and the oceans. The objective is to foster and advance fisheries that actively address protection of marine resources and ecosystems by certifying such fisheries and differentiating their products from others with the Marine Eco-Label. The Krav is the Swedish certification for organic products. It includes all parts of the chain of custody, from the fishery to the retailers, and certification involves assessment of the fishery followed by individual vessel certification.

However, it was the Marine Stewardship Council that came out on top, in comparison to other assessed seafood eco-labelling schemes by a report commissioned by the WWF. According to the report, the Accenture Development Partnerships compared and ranked seven fishery certification schemes, including Friend of the Sea, Naturland, and Krav. The report found that except for the MSC, the other assessed schemes do not evaluate fisheries across all criteria to the extent required to support sustainable fishing and healthy oceans.

The Marine Stewardship Council is arguably the best known of the environmental schemes. It incorporates a process of third party certification of fisheries and supply chains, in addition to the use of labels. The MSC is an independent, global, non-profit organization and meets the highest benchmarks for credible certification and ecolabelling programmes.

Dylan Tanner is an eco-entrepreneur and writer who founded the newsletters Asia and China Environmental Reviews and has been writing about environmental and social trends within a business context for fifteen years. His latest venture is a B2B directory of responsible and sustainable suppliers.

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Why Are Antarctic Animals in Danger?

By James Anthony Harris

Antarctica has the coldest recorded climate in the world. A thick, solid sheet of ice covers all but a mere 2.4% of the continent's 14 million square kilometres. This remarkable layer of ice is on average 7000 ft thick and contains 70% of the world's fresh water. With the average monthly temperatures never surpassing 0°F, this icy desert makes for a very harsh living environment. As such, very few Antarctic animals survive above the water all year round. With this in mind, it is relatively surprising to find that beneath its frigid exterior thrives an ecosystem full of variety.

Unfortunately, the damage done to our ozone layer has had a serious effect on this fragile ecosystem. The holes formed in the stratosphere (a layer in the earth's atmosphere) cause a worldwide effect known as Global Warming. The ozone layer protects us from the harmful UV rays found in our outer atmosphere. When it is irreparably damaged, our world's climates start to change. Unfortunately for the Antarctic animals, one of the most noticeable changes happens to be occurring in their habitats.

The atmospheric temperatures are changing, and as a result, the ice sheet that makes up 98% of the continent is melting. As it melts, the freezing cold water mixes with the surrounding oceans, changing its temperature and salt levels. This is possibly the worst thing that could happen to this delicate ecosystem. The plants and animals that depend on this environment are unable to adapt fast enough to the changing climate and more and more of them are at risk of endangerment. Some of the animals in that ecosystem are extremely sensitive to their environment and cannot survive in water that changes by even a single degree.

As these animals attempt to adapt to these new changes, they disrupt the ecosystem even more. Some will try to find different feeding or mating grounds, while others will be unable to adapt and be left to die out. If even one of these animals changes its long-established patterns, the ecosystem would be upset. Similarly, the loss of a species would also be extremely detrimental to that environment. As the population of larger Antarctic animals diminishes, their prey would alternately flourish due to a lack of predators and then diminish due to a lack of food for their increased numbers. If were to happen to both predators and prey all throughout the ecosystem, the network would be irreparably damaged forever.

In the recent past, humans believed that the best means of protecting these threatened and endangered species was to place a calculated number of them into captivity. Unfortunately, as previously stated, not many of them are able to adapt to a new environment, and those few who can adapt are rarely able to be reintroduced to the wild. Also, those offspring born into captivity lack some of the basic skills of survival, as they learn from birth to rely not on their instincts, but on their captors.

This tends to lead to problems when they attempt to release them in the wild. The average life span of Antarctic animals that are captured or born in captivity is significantly less than those in the wild. As a result, holding them in captivity can sometimes reduce their expected life span to the point that not enough of them mature to an age in which they are able to reproduce. Without a balance between the number of deaths and the number of births, a species will quickly become extinct. You can read more about the plight of the Antarctic animals at

The author answers questions on wildlife and more at

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Connecting Nature and Health

by Tom Selwick

Nature and natural products are very popular throughout America and are growing in popularity as people are becoming more aware of the environment. This is not surprising as studies have shown that being near nature can improve your physical, emotional, and mental health as well as your overall well-being.

These studies have also discovered that the closer you are to nature, the healthier you will be. For example, this study found that people who lived closer than .6 of a mile to a park or wooded area were generally less depressed and anxious.

While the correlation between nature and health seems like common-sense, these studies were the first to actually put numbers on the relationship. Another study showed that there was less of a difference in health between the poor and the rich in places that were located near a green area.

Since these first studies, many other studies have been performed that have found similar results. The improvements in health were not only notable in medical records, but in each person's perception of their personal health.

It was interesting to note however that the health benefits of being near nature only appeared when the person lived closer than one kilometer. The area outside of one kilometer generally faced the same amount of depression and poor health.

The only exception was for anxiety disorders, gastrointestinal digestive disorders, and unexplained ailments. It was also interesting to note that the people who suffered most from lack of nature were children and the poor.

These studies were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The researchers had a more difficult time trying to decide which elements of nature had the biggest impact on health.

They were able to discover that increased amounts of natural sunlight had a profound effect on the severity of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is better known as winter depression or the winter blues. The light provides an increase in Vitamin D in the skin.

Studies on Vitamin D have shown that it can help people cultivate better moods and it will help people develop stronger muscles. Fresh air and the chance to exercise also have their obvious benefits.

However, many of the researchers suspect that most of the benefits that people receive from being out in nature have to do with the opportunity to de-stress. High levels of stress can do more damage to the body than many illnesses.

In the city, it is noisy, people have to watch out for their belongings and cars, and it is very easy to spend every spare moment running around doing something. In nature, it is quiet, you do not have to be aware of as many things, and you can have time to think while enjoying the beauty around you.

After these studies came out, several buildings in several cities tried to incorporate gardens into their architecture for their employees and visitors. However, further studies revealed that people have to pay attention to the nature around them.

If they are still thinking about work while they walk through the garden, their level of stress remains high and the nature around them does not give them very much benefit. However, these gardens can be effective if people pay attention to nature.

Another study showed that people who spend time in nature tend to be more social, generous, and cultivate a great appreciation of their community. These people usually had more vitality and energy as well.

Communities and cities are looking to curb the cost of health care of those within their domains. One option some of them have been looking into is providing more opportunities for more people to enjoy nature more often.

These cities have been planting more trees and building more parks in the hope that they will be able to lower costs and prevent illness. As a result, another research project took place that found that increased opportunities to be in nature for the citizens of a city resulted in lower crime rates, less violence, and fewer social problems within the area.

In the individual, aggression is also lowered tremendously. Children who have ADHD were also found to have higher levels of attention abilities after they were able to spend more time out in nature.

The benefits of nature to the individual and society are invaluable.

Tom Selwick has worked as a personal trainer for the last 14 years and written hundreds of articles about personal fitness. He recommends for your personal fitness needs.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The World's Greenest Homes Use a Combination of Technologies

By Bryan Kenny

What do the world's greenest homes sustain themselves on as far as generating power goes? Which of the green technologies that are out there are they running on? Which is the most efficient? Are they running completely on geothermal energy, using networks of pipes drawing off the Earth's heat? Are they purely solar powered by means of both active and passive solar energy? Are they completely geared for running on the electricity provided by wind-powered turbines generating power for the home? Perhaps they are run by a water-wheel driven type of system for all of their power needs? Can you guess the answer?

Well, truly, the world's greenest homes are those which actually put many angles of energy production to good use. For example, the heat and hot water could be provided through solar/geothermal means. With water coursing through a network of pipes driven into the ground, the Earth's heat can be transferred to the water running within the pipes which is then circulated throughout the house to supply hot water and also a bit of heat, while the passive solar energy heats up the home as well through strategic window placement and the use of insulated double or triple paned glass windows.

Besides that mentioned pair of hand-in-hand techniques, the world's greenest homes might also use active solar power (through the use of photovoltaic cells, otherwise known as 'solar panels') hand-in-hand with wind-driven electricity generation. When systems of extracting free energy from the environment can pair up and act as teams, energy efficiency just seems boundless. Through the use of multiple battery cells to store the accumulated electricity we can produce from the environment, and then regulate the current flow into the home, there seems to be an endless supply of harvested free energy taken from the environment for our personal use.

For this reason, the world's greenest homes are those which use the effect off a multi-angle approach to green living. It is this type of green energy efficient technology that works best - the system of them all working together. When designing a green home, it is best to use as many combinations of green technologies as you can - create redundant systems in case something might happen to one (like, a tree falling onto a solar array).

Once you have as many angles as possible set into place, all working together, one complementing the other, then you'll have one of the world's greenest homes. From there, self sufficiency and "off grid living" are quite attainable. All it takes is a willingness to diversify your sources, your resources of renewable free energy. After all, the more ways you can benefit from using the abundantly available and ever renewable resources of free energy, the better - am I right?

If you're interested in learning more about world's greenest homes and other things related to alternative energy, then you've got to check out the EcoPlusHome project.

Bryan Kenny and his family are an average North American family with one exception...they're living in the EcoPlusHome. The EcoPlusHome is a prefabricated home powered by alternative energies like solar thermal, geothermal and photovoltaic. Bryan and his family will show the world that it is possible to live self sustained for a 12 month period by showcasing their journey living in the EcoPlusHome on their blog.

Bryan and his family welcome you to join their journey to self sufficiency on their blog

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2009 - Another Great Year For the US Solar Industry

By Ray Boreham

While solar energy investment overall may have been down worldwide in 2009, the U.S. solar energy market continues to grow at a good clip. 2009 saw an increase in PV capacity of 38% despite the fact that the recession was still in full swing. Combining the results of both concentrating solar power and photovoltaics, solar electric capacity in the United States grew 37 percent, thanks mainly to powerful demand in the utility-scale and residential sectors. There's much to be optimistic about in the solar energy business, and here are some facts and figures from 2009 that show why.

Grid-Tied Showing Impressive Growth

Overall, there was a 38 percent growth in grid-tied photovoltaic installations, with grid-tied residential PV doubling to 156 megawatts (MW) from 78, but non-residential showed a slower growth rate, bring 2 percent less than 2008's growth figures. The utility sector showed the most impressive grid-tied growth, tripling from 22 to 66 MW.

There were mixed results for solar thermal, with solar pool heating growth down 10 percent from 2008 and solar water heating up 10 percent over the same period. The problems affecting the housing and construction industries were said to be responsible for the decline in solar pool heating growth. The U.S. solar thermal market is falling behind the rest of the world in growth figures, despite the fact that it has grown significantly more than in prior years. However, in the future, the market's expected to show 50 percent growth per year, most of that growth taking place in California, which is the largest part of the U.S. market.

Concentrating Solar Power On The Up-swing

Thanks in part to a development pipeline of greater than ten thousand MW, total U.S. capacity of concentrating solar power hit 432 MW, with 3 new CSP plants coming online. Utility companies are adding more solar to their energy mix and solar is the segment showing the fastest growth, with companies planning to increase the solar segment of their mix substantially over the coming years.

More Solar Means More Solar Jobs

With the solar industry showing an overall revenue increase of 36 percent, around seventeen thousand new jobs were added to the solar industry. The total number of workers now employed in the U.S. solar industry has reached forty-six thousand, with another thirty-three thousand being employed in related sectors.

Most solar energy companies report sizable increases in employees with more jobs expected to be added in the coming year. Increases in factory jobs mean increases in jobs out in the field, such as installers and designers. This is spurred on by increased demand for solar products in the U.S.

Despite the recent economic woes and the overall downturn in the economy, the U.S. solar industry continues to grow, even if that growth is not as rapid in some sectors as in others or as significant as in prior years. Could it be that the solar industry is indeed recession-proof? Well, not quite, but the fact that it can continue to grow even in a tough economy bodes extremely well for when the economy finally gets back on track.

Grab your FREE report and click here for more information about solar energy in 2009. Ray Boreham suggests you'll find a wealth of information and tips on solar and renewable energy at

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CASE STUDY: The Clean Energy Race - China Starts to Take a Lead

By John Howley

The Clean Energy Industry has become the fastest growing industry in the world. According to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trust, renewable and other forms of sustainable energy have experienced 230% growth worldwide since 2005. In 2009 alone - the worst economic year since the end of the Great Depression - new clean energy investments totaled $162 Billion. According to the Pew report, "the clean energy economy is emerging as one of the great global economic and environmental opportunities of the 21st Century."

Clean and sustainable energy is important not only for the health of the planet and the people who live here, but also because it is a great creator of good paying jobs. Over the past 10 years, job growth in the clean energy industry was higher than any other industry. Today more than 770,000 Americans are employed in the clean energy industry, including as scientists, engineers, electricians, machinists, technicians and in other good paying jobs.

China is starting to take a lead in this race to build a clean energy economy. In 2009 it invested $35 Billion in clean energy technologies, compared to $19 Billion by the US. It has created 1.2 million renewable and sustainable energy jobs. And it is starting to export its clean energy technologies to the rest of the world, including to the United States.

For example, a wind farm project in Texas caused some controversy recently because it would be financed in part with US government stimulus funds designed to create American jobs. But just as many jobs would be supported in China where the wind turbines would be manufactured. And California is planning to build a high-speed electric train system using technology, equipment and engineers from China. GE will license technology from China for the project. While GE is the world leader in old-fashioned diesel locomotives, it does not have the necessary experience with clean, electric locomotives needed for high-speed bullet trains that travel 215 miles per hour.

Does this mean that China is winning the race to build a 21st century Green economy? Can the US catch up?
China definitely making a move. Installed renewable generation capacity in China has grown by 79% over the past five years to 52.5 Gigawatts (GWs). That compares to 52.4 GWs of installed renewable generation capacity in the US, and a growth rate of only 24% during the same time period. At this rate, China will have more installed renewable generation capacity than the US or any other country in the world some time this year.

We should keep in mind, however, that the clean energy race is a marathon and the competitors are just getting warmed up. The entire world has installed only 250 GWs of renewable energy, which amounts to only 6% of total demand. More than 90% of that installed capacity is in G-20 nations. There is a long way to go in this race.

We should also keep in mind that China is a unique combination of emerging global superpower and low-wage developing country. At the same time it is trying to build a clean energy economy, it is struggling to build enough old and polluting coal-fired power plants to meet basic electricity needs. It is also the largest country in the world, meaning that its per capita investments are only a fraction of the per capita investments in the US.

In contrast, every dollar spent in the US on sustainable energy builds upon the most extensive energy infrastructure in the world. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), popularly known as the Stimulus Bill, has allocated $85 Billion for clean energy and transportation investments. Much of that money will be spent in the next two years, which will greatly increase both the amount and the growth rate of US clean energy investments above the $19 Billion invested last year. Plus, the US can leverage that government spending with private investments because of its transparent legal system and financial institutions.

So, who will win this race? Much depends on government policy. Renewable energy incentives and mandates, feed-in tariffs, and figuring out how to include the cost of pollution in the price of fossil fuels will have tremendous impacts on future clean energy investments. As the Chairman and CEO of Dow Corning told Congress just the other day, "Other nations have enacted aggressive policies to support the growth of the renewable energy industry.... It is time for America to enact policies that will essentially assure this industry grows here."

John Howley

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Acid Rain Spillover

By Andrew Gillett

More generally called acid precipitation or acid deposition, acid rain is the deposit of wet or dry acidic materials from the atmosphere to the earth's surface. Sulfuric and nitric acids are the main causes of acid rain. Smokestacks produce sulfur dioxide emissions and exhaust from vehicles produce nitrogen oxides. These pollutants are picked up by the wind and can move hundreds to thousands of miles away from their original source.

The acidity of the rain is measured by its Ph level, the lower the Ph level the more toxic it can become. The average range of normal rain has a Ph of about 5 to 6.5. Down to a Ph of 1 the toxicity is equivalent to raining battery acid. From around 3 to 4 Ph, fish actually die from the rain.

The northwest seems to have the most toxic rainfall. Canadians have complained that their significant acid rainfall from upwind pollutants coming from older power plants in Tennessee and Ohio. In 1991, the United States and Canada signed the Air Quality Agreement for transboundary air pollution. In 1990, the United States signed the Clean Air Act Amendments which allowed the EPA to monitor the acid rain levels.

When a lake is poisoned by the toxins in rain, plants and fish that live in a balance under the water die off, leaving little chance of reproduction and no food for birds who live off the fish. Toxic levels in the rain not only affect human health such as difficulty breathing and but the cycle of life is also affected. When the rains come in contact with plants and animals and humans ingest these toxic foods. Long term results such as Alzheimer's, kidney problems and brain damage occur. Plants and trees also lose the protection they need from leaves turning brown and falling off and bark becomes infected from the toxic water. The soil around these plants and trees actually poisons the roots and stunts the normal growth of the plant.

The amount of acidic rain can be reduced by the amount of sulfurs oxide and nitrogen oxides, mainly from reducing the amount of coal burnt. Less smokestacks, less acid rain. More carpooling, taking the bus and walking will also decrease acid rain. If the coal was cleaned before it was burnt, the coal would give off less sulfur into the air. Unfortunately, it costs too much for electricity companies to invest in this method.

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Climate Change - Vulnerabilities of the Eastern Visayas and the Philippines

By Mary Bernadette Egloso

The Philippines is one of the most affected and vulnerable countries in the world. It is annually visited by twenty typhoons, bringing heavy rainfall that causes flooding, landslides and mudslides. These in turn destroy valuable agricultural land and settlements, and claim many lives every year. Other hazards such as El Nino aggravate the extent of this damage, which results in an annual loss of 0.5% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

The Eastern Visayas, mainly consisting of the islands of Leyte, Samar and Biliran, is one of the most disaster prone regions in the Philippines, experiencing some of the worst typhoons ever recorded in Philippine history, killing over a thousand people through a mudslide in February 2006, and over 6,000 people due to typhoons back in 1990-1991. Disaster preparedness is one of the weaknesses of the region and for the most part, it is still seen as emergency management.

The government and the local people are neither sufficiently prepared nor well equipped to implement preventive measures and execute the right actions in the event of an emergency. Furthermore, the archipelagic nature of the country further increases its vulnerability to rising sea levels brought about by the melting polar ice caps. Some of the islands will thus be underwater and marine resources will be extinct within the century, according to United Nations studies.

The Philippines account for only 1/3 of 1% (0.3%) of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions all over the world, and it seriously suffers from the other 99.7% GHG produced by other countries. This is why the big GHG emitting countries, namely the United States, China, Russia, Japan and members of the European Union, must take the lead in initiating and continuing actions to help prepare third world communities and people toward climate change preparedness, adaptation and mitigation while uplifting the people's economic and organizational capacity to withstand its adverse effects.

Because of these human-made problems, people around the world, including those in vulnerable countries such as the Philippines, are ready for action. And one of the best ways to do this is for communities around the world to be:

1. Educated: People should individually study the various aspects of climate change, including the scientific basis, environmental and social impacts, policy and strategy options, and operational measures, most especially those related and applicable to their own communities.

2. United: Key representatives from the different sectors of the society should unite themselves in an organization to discuss and express their concerns about climate change-related problems, and present and represent the people's needs to higher authorities such as the local governments. Climate change initiatives all over the world should also be united for their actions to be more efficient and all encompassing.

3. Cooperative: When the government and non-government organizations initiate climate change programs, communities should more willingly help and cooperate with them, for they are in fact the beneficiaries of all these efforts.

Each of us has the power to make the transition to a better, more sustainable future for us, our children and the generations to come. Together, our efforts will help solve the climate crisis.

Mary Bernadette Egloso is a medical student and climate change advocate who's mission is to use her wisdom, love and creativity to help and bless others to live their God-given purposes. She's currently the organizer of The Eastern Visayas Climate Project in the Philippines. You can check out this project at

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CASE STUDY: Go Green - Renew Virginia

By Paul Neal

In December, 2008, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, launched Renew Virginia, a year-long series of legislative and administrative actions promoting renewable energy, creating green jobs, and encouraging preservation of the environment. A noble goal, indeed, and as many such initiatives are, typically more challenging to realize than decree. Environment preservation is on everyone's mind today, and rightfully so. As we consider that the world is now home to over 6 billion people, we must all be mindful of shared resources.

One of the key environmental areas that governmental agencies, in particular, can focus on is the reduction of paper in their processes. Over the past 10 years, many of these organizations have embraced the idea of moving away from paper, and have implemented electronic document management systems, which allow paper to be stored in electronic format for ease of retrieval and sharing without the creation of additional paper. Many have even taken the additional step of 'digitizing' or converting their older, historical paper and microfilm records to digital formats, and have been able to 'recycle' the vastly expensive space they were previously using to store these documents.

One of the most overlooked areas of significant improvement, however, is the point at which citizens actually interact or interface with these agencies. Currently, many of the Commonwealth's municipalities have gaggles of necessary forms posted on their respective websites for citizens to find, print and complete on their own with no employee interaction. This is a step in the right direction, but somewhat limited in its efficiency and 'green' power.

For instance, if I want to have a garage sale in my hometown of Chesapeake, VA, I can go to the city website, pull up the permit form, fill in the required fields (all good so far...) but THEN, I have to print the form (waste of paper and ink), write a check (waste of expensive paper and ink), and either drive to the Commissioner of Revenue's office (waste of gas and time) or mail it to the COR's office (waste of envelope, stamp and post office gas and time). Once the Commissioner's office receives my permit request and check, the paper form (which started out as an electronic document) now has to be digitized and entered into their document management system for approval and archiving. The check also has to be deposited (and someone must verify that it clears...). The inefficiencies are monumental!

Doesn't it make much more sense to eliminate the waste that occurs between the original electronic form on the website and the completed electronic form and deposit in the Commissioner's system? A cursory review of the City of Chesapeake's online forms page shows over 140 forms! How much paper, gasoline and manpower could be saved by eliminating the 'waste' in this process? Multiplied by the number of municipalities across the Commonwealth? Or the country?

So, congratulations to many of the Virginia Governmental agencies that have adopted electronic content management systems... you are halfway there. You've 'greened' the back-end of your process. Let's begin to focus on the front-end going forward, and a "Renewed Virginia" reality can be much closer for all of us.
Unity Business Systems delivers Agile ECM (Enterprise Content Management) solutions without disrupting the way you work. Rapid deployment. Streamlined development. Central control over standards, security and auditing, while maintaining flexibility to service individual business units. We makeITeasy! for your enterprise to compete and succeed in today's rapidly changing business environment. Visit our blog at:

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Green Transportation - How it Helps the Planet Against Climate Change

By Sunshine Chen

Usually, public transport and car pooling are considered to be green modes of transport, compared to private vehicles, although for some people a better definition of green transport is one that does not involve non-renewable energy.

Indeed the scope of green transport cannot be limited to electric vehicles and hybrid cars alone. It may also include walking, cycling and other forms of human-powered transport, green vehicles, solar energy transportation, wind energy transportation, water energy transportation, electric transportation, and other forms of renewable energy transportation or alternative energy transportation.

A transportation reform group called Transportation Alternatives has inspired a green transportation hierarchy which rewards the low cost, space efficiency and zero environmental impact of cyclists and pedestrians. Trucks get priority over personal cars due to scarce curb side parking and for eliminating double-parking problems. The green transportation hierarchy include congestion pricing, the pricing of all on-street parking in Manhattan south of 96th Street, tolls on bridges and tunnels, and parking policies that prioritize commercial needs over personal cars.

The year 2008 had been a good year for green energy transportation. It was in this year when lots of competitors came up with cars that competed with the hallmark hybrid vehicle Toyota Prius. Among these cars include the Ford Fusion, the Mini-e, the Audi A1, and the Honda Insight which had all left a good impression on auto owners who also liked living green. The green car that got the most raves, however, was the Chevy Volt. The Chevy Volt was built by General Motors with the goal of building an electric platform that can be deployed first in the Volt, and then later on to cheaper cars. Many have commented on the irony of having a company that killed the electric car which is now building one to survive.

Key characteristics for a green car can also include being small and efficient. For compact green cars, Nissan's Nuvu and the robot-assisted Pivo 2 had been launched. Meanwhile Chrysler developed the GEM Peapod while Mitsubishi came up with I-Miev.

Other green cars that aimed to battle global warming that were launched in 2008 include Mazda's Kiyora, a car that cleans water, BMW's hydrogen-powered car that cleaned the air as it goes through the city, and the Eco-Elise from Lotus, an energy-efficient vehicle that was created with green materials.

Hungary also introduced their own efficient car - the Antro, which has 150 miles per gallon mileage. Volkswagen, on the other hand launched a 235 mpg concept with the VW 1L. French Microjoule is also hoping to produce an 8923 mile-per-gallon vehicle in the near future.

There are many other means of green transport out in the market. Here are some basic green car tips to remember:

1. Before getting in your car, consider whether you could reach your destination by other means. Walking regularly can reduce your risk of heart problems and other illnesses.
2. Identify your most common destinations, and investigate whether you could get there by bus, train, bike, or walking.
3. Travel to work or school by public transport, walking, or cycling once a week.
4. Investigate the possibility of car sharing. By sharing with one other person, you could half your costs of driving.
5. When driving, get rid of any additional and unnecessary weight, like roof bars or bike racks.
6. Use air conditioning carefully, as this increases fuel consumption by 15%.
7. Change into a higher gear as soon as possible.
8. Accelerate and brake as slowly and smoothly as possible.
9. Drive at slower speeds - driving at 70 mph uses 30% more fuel than driving at 40-55 mph.
10. Have your car serviced regularly - an incorrectly adjusted carburetor can waste up to 25% of fuel. Incorrect tire pressure can increase fuel consumption too.
11. Switch off your engine at short stops (more than one minute).

Sunshine Chen is a seasoned writer, having travelled around the world, largely putting all her experiences and the sights and sounds she has come across to paper. She now writes extensively about topics related to green news, mostly on renewable energy, but also on a variety of related topics as well. When not travelling around the world, she is based in Central Hong Kong, taking in the myriad colours, flavours, and scents of the melting pot that Hong Kong is known for.

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CASE STUDY: Dell - Recycling is Important

By Sunshine Chen

Other than being a company known to have numerous achievements in the industry, Dell's achievements extend to being green as well. As the first major computer company to go carbon-neutral, Dell has always gone the extra mile for green living, always practicing the three R's of recycling, always being mindful of helping to recycle.

For its operations, Dell has implemented a company-wide power management program for automatically turning off machines during night time and periods of inactivity. The act is equivalent to avoiding the production of around 8,500 tons of carbon dioxide.

Another waste reduction step the company took is Dell's requirement of their logistics suppliers to use biodiesel fuel for a part of their energy demands in a year. Other recycling effects include getting 35 percent of the company's U.S. energy demands from clean and renewable sources, assessing emissions from delivery vehicles and buses, requiring supplier vehicles that have unacceptable levels of emissions to mend their vehicles within ten days, and taking out the use of all brominated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride.

Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell says the opportunity to make Information Technology green must be taken now, adding that in the future, people should look back and give green IT credit for helping in the mitigation of climate change effects, strengthening global industries and charting a new and prosperous low-carbon economy.

Dell's initiative to promote recycling involves a website dedicated to looking after the environment. The ReGeneration site is an online experience for allowing people to participate in caring for the environment and connecting to other people via projects and competitions. The site makes use of fun activities to show people how recycling helps the environment.

Among the many green projects Dell has undertaken include:

• Plant a Tree - a program in partnership with Conservation Fund and which gives customers the opportunity to plant trees and offset their CO2 emissions attained through computer use.

• Plant a Forest for Me - a program that allows organizations all over the world to facilitate tree-planting in sustainable reforestation projects. Partners include AMD, ABN, AMRO,, CGI, Staples,, Targus, and WellPoint.

• Reconnect - a computer recycling program in cooperation with Goodwill Industries for consumers who want to recycle their unwanted computer equipment by dropping off their computers at Goodwill donation centers.

• Dell Exchange - a free online trade-in program that allows U.S. customers to keep electronics out of landfills by exchanging them for Dell gift cards.

• Dell Greenprint Advisor - a Dell Earth online resource for helping organizations become greener and become more efficient. A questionnaire will help an organization see how sustainable it is and provide suggestions on where future actions should be focused.

Dell's numerous green efforts, along with its ReGeneration motto of "reducing, reusing, and recycling" has been proven to be effective in the promotion of recycling, earning the company the no. 1 ranking for corporate sustainability for 2009 as reported by Technology Business Research (TBR), one of the leading high-tech market research and consulting firms focusing on computer and software analyses. With the various process of recycling it has currently been using, Dell is viewed as setting a good example for other technology companies to take steps towards reducing their own carbon footprint.

Sunshine Chen is a seasoned writer, having travelled around the world, largely putting all her experiences and the sights and sounds she has come across to paper. She now writes extensively about topics related to green news, mostly on renewable energy, but also on a variety of related topics as well. When not travelling around the world, she is based in Central Hong Kong, taking in the myriad colours, flavours, and scents of the melting pot that Hong Kong is known for.

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Environmental Responsibility - It Takes a Village

By Robert Frederick Lee

When it comes to environmental responsibility, we have become accustomed to thinking small. Thinking small is not a trait commonly identified with North America. Big cars, big houses, big business, big future: Americans (and to a smaller degree, Canadians) think and act big. Yet, we have been inoculated with the idea that small change is the realm of the individual when it comes to caring for the environment. Rubbish!

A 2008 report by the Worldwatch Institute suggests that replacing all incandescent with CFL bulbs would reduce worldwide carbon dioxide output by 16.6 billion tons by 2030. While that clearly is a laudable objective, the reality is that, by 2006, North Americans had converted a mere 5% of light bulb use to CFLs. On top of that, America and Canada were one of the leaders in terms of conversion from incandescent bulb use. At the current rate, we are unlikely to reach 50% of the target rate until 2060!

That is not to suggest that we should abandon waste reduction. Rather, we need to do a little, and do a lot, as well. If we remain satisfied with recycling 20% of our trash, converting 50% of our old bulbs to energy-efficient bulbs, consuming 30% less gasoline by driving a hybrid, or any of the myriad options available to individual consumers to cut our resource use, we will still be producing waste!

To reverse the impact of pollution and harm to the environment, we must, per capita, produce less waste than the goods we consume. Think of conservation as a bank. If we owe $10,000 to the bank, and each year we are charged $800 in interest (8%), we need to pay at least $801 per year to reduce the balance owed, even minimally. At that rate, it would take tens of thousands of years to eliminate the debt. Now, if we chose to pay only $400 each year, within 10 years, we would owe $21,590 to the bank. By the end of 20 years (2030), we would owe $50,338. If we are reducing our waste by 50%, we are still increasing our cumulative output by 503% over 20 years. We need to assume a larger share of responsibility, individually. Good news. It's easy, and we actually can "make a profit" by doing so. Here are just three quick ideas for you. They require that you get involved with your neighbours to share the load.

1. Set up collection pails (plastic garbage cans) at one home on your block (probably yours!) and have each neighbour put their household non-meat food scraps into the pail. If you know someone with a large garden or market garden, set up a compost bin for them to provide fantastic fertilizer. Better yet, help them set up a small biogas digester, and generate a propane substitute PLUS compost!

2. Once each month, take your family along a street, and clean up the garbage along a length of the curb, ditch or pathway that is 10 times longer than the width of your lawn.

3. For apartments dwellers: share cooking each week with 2 or 3 other couples, to rotate cooking duties, cut down on energy consumption and food costs.

Take a page from multiple level marketing strategies. Doing things yourself is the slow way. Get others involved, then get them to recruit still others, and so on. Soon, 1 becomes 100, or 1,000, or 100,000! Any other ideas on how we can do more than our share? Let the world know! And stop thinking small!

Bob is a former business consultant, who currently operates a pesticide-free, herbicide-free market garden in Manitoba, Canada. He and his wife, Janice, have designed and are building their own yurt, where they will live year-round. He is recording his progress on his blog,

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Production of Solar Power in the Last Decade

by Terry Daniels

Solar power has improved and increased in availability greatly over the past ten years. While the entire history of solar power is quite lengthy, solar power was not frequently used for various projects until the year 2000.

In 2000, BP Solarex created two new thin-film solar modules. These modules set a new standard in the area of performance. Each module was only 0.5 meters squared in size, but had a 10.8 percent efficient conversion. At the time this was the best conversion rate in the world for this type of module.

At the same time, the 0.9 meter squared module was able to achieve a 10.6 percent efficient rate of conversion. This module outputted 91.5 watts, which also set a record as the highest solar power output in the world for a thin-film module.

A family from Morrison, Colorado also decided to install a 12-kilowatt solar electric system for their home that year. This was the largest use of solar power in a consumer setting in the United States that was registered with the U.S. Department of Energy's "Million Solar Roofs Program" to date. The solar system provided most of the electricity for the family's home. The family consisted of eight people.

As solar power became more available to the public, Home Depot began to sell solar power systems in several of its stores in San Diego, California. By the end of 2001, it began to extend its sales of solar power systems to 61 stores in the nation to meet the demand for solar powered systems.

In 2001, NASA also launched a solar-powered aircraft named Helios. Helios set a new record for non-rocket-powered aircraft with a flight of 96,863 feet, which is more than 18 miles high.

In addition the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) stated their plans to create a satellite-based solar power system that could beam the gathered energy back to Earth for use. They planned to use a satellite that carried large solar panels to collect the energy.

The satellite would also employ the use of a laser to beam that gathered energy back to an airship that would hover 12 miles above the earth. This airship would then be able to transmit the power to the surface level of the Earth.

TerraSun LLC also was successful in creating a holographic film model of a solar cell that increased the concentration of sunlight onto the solar cell. In the past, Fresnel lenses and mirrors had been used to concentrate the sunlight. The unique thing about the holographic optics is that they allow the unneeded sunlight to pass through. This way, the solar panels would be able to be incorporated into buildings as skylights.

PowerLight Corporation also helped to develop one of the world's biggest hybrid power generators in Hawaii. The power system gathered energy from wind and solar power. The unusual thing about this hybrid system was that it was connected by a grid with the solar energy gathering capacity of 175 kilowatts being larger than its wind energy gathering capacity of 50 kilowatts.

Hybrid energy systems such as this are able to maximize the amount of energy gathered from both types of energy sources. The British Petroleum (BP) and BP Solar businesses also announced that they would be opening a service station with a solar-electric canopy in Indianapolis. This was the first "BP Connect" store in the United States. At the time, it was a revolutionary model that BP intended to use on all new or remodeled service stations.

As 2002 began, NASA continued its testing and improving of solar power efficiency. By July, their tests using the Pathfinder Plus aircrafts as high-altitude platforms for telecommunication technology proved a success. In September, they conducted another test that demonstrated the aircraft's usefulness as an aerial imaging system for coffee growers.

The Union Pacific Railroad also began to install 350 blue-signal rail yard lanterns that used a combination of solar power and LEDs in the largest United States rail yard in North Platt, Nebraska.

ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc. in Canada also began to market a new way of producing solar cells, which they called Spheral Solar technology. This new technology used silicon beads bonded to two sheets of aluminum foil. This new method lowered the cost of production greatly because the amount of silicon used was greatly reduced. This method was originally developed by Texas Instruments in the 1990s, but they decided not to finish the development of the method despite adequate funding.

Terry Daniels has been working with alternative energy solutions for the past 10 year. He has written hundreds of articles dealing with solar power and alternative energy solutions. He recommends ( for sharp solar panels for sale.

Monday, May 24, 2010

CASE STUDY: One Million Trees For Ethiopia - The Future of Sustainable Forestry

By Tom Doerr

Ethiopian-born American citizen Gashaw Tahir travelled back to his homeland several years ago and was shocked at the deforestation that had destroyed his birthplace. The rivers had dried up, mountains were bare and rising temperatures were killing other plant life. Tahir was inspired to do something to change this but he had no idea how influential it would be.

He took the first step by asking his local council for a plot of land to plant trees, to his surprise they gave him two acres and enough money to hire a handful of youths from the village to help him plant trees. He hired a mix of Christian and Muslim youths, promoting coexistence, and gave them money to buy clothes and books for school.

"My ultimate vision is making Africa green again," he says. "That inspires me, touches me, and moves me into action." Because of the initial success and the word spreading, Tahir was given 1000 workers and 11,000 acres by the government and is now recognised as a 'National Green Hero'. His projects have received huge media coverage and inspired similar projects across Ethiopia and Africa.

The new forests will fight erosion, provide food and additional income for the population. The new trees will be more sustainable as they can provide food rather than being cut down for money to buy food.

Alongside the forestation projects, Tahir set up an agricultural research centre since 80% of the population work as farmers. The centre teaches modern planting and harvesting techniques for new and traditional crops.
Researchers have noticed changes since the start of the project in 2006, they documented a noticeable drop in the average temperature and a vast improvement in the regions ecology. Tahir not only aims to raise awareness of environmental issues in his country and continent but also aims to empower young people. "With these young people, when I give them a job, when I give them hope, when they get money, they are empowered," he said. "They see it."

Many sustainable timber suppliers use sustainable forestry to maintain their industry and the environment. hardwood timber production is the cause for almost all the worlds deforestation.

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CASE STUDY: How to Change the World - The Charter City and Sustainability

By Millard Arterberry

Good morning folks.

A few months ago I watched a Ted Talks video on a visionary concept authored by academician Paul Romer, which he termed the Charter City, and despite the fact that he teaches at Stanford (Go Bears!), I felt the idea had tremendous potential for helping developing nations develop. Yet as I more recently was researching sustainability I realized this concept is easily adaptable to the Green Movement.

Romer's primary thesis is that much of the poor conditions in cities in developing nations are the result of poor rules. The entrenched statutes and codes in these metropolises discourage efforts at meaningful change. As an example he cites North and South Korea, two countries with the same geographic and cultural backgrounds, who split apart 60 years ago, and adopted very divergent rules. The results have been an economically vibrant South Korea and the poor, backwards cult masquerading as a nation that we know as North Korea. Same culture, same people, different rules.

What Professor Romer proposes as a solution are multinational Charter Cities, that could be located in now uninhabited regions of poor nations. These cities would start with fresh rules, ideas and expertise from international sources that have experience working in and building successful market economies.

As a successful example of this Romer offers Hong Kong. For many years this canton was administered by Great Britain, and thrived as a free market economy, particularly in comparison to most other Chinese cities prior to China opening to the west in the 70's. China has learned a great deal from Hong Kong and many of its cities have adopted systems similar to that of the former British colony. These cities are fueling China's tremendous economic boom.

If you abstract the idea of Charter Cities back a step, it is essentially setting up an example region, which could be of any size, that acts as a catalyst for change for its neighbors. These example regions put fresh ideas into action with fresh minds.

In many respects the United States was a "Charter Nation" that served as an example of governance by We The People for the world. The results have been incredible to say the least, and in fact many former and current monarchies whose systems our founders were trying to break from are expressing far better than the United States the principles upon which it was originally founded.

I believe that a Charter City, founded upon sustainable principles such as permaculture, zero waste and local self-sufficiency, would be of enormous benefit. Romer points out a community the size of a village would not have the impact necessary spark sufficient change to business as usual. It may be necessary to have a Charter City to change a country, but we can establish Charter Zones to change our cities.

Like so many of the problems facing cities in developing countries, unsustainable practices in most American cities are so entrenched in our municipal codes it is very difficult to effect significant sustainable change. Setting up Charter Zones at the periphery of our cities can show just how much smarter a sustainable city can be.
I hope my reader give this idea consideration, as I am certainly open to hearing about ways in which this could come about. Remember everyone, buy local or grow it yourself!

Love to all,


Source Green Blog offers sustainable news, movie and book reviews, success stories and practical solutions from our "Road To Green" series. For more information on Source Green, please visit our What We Believe page. Owner and founder Millard Nathan Arterberry, Jr. was born and raised in San Diego. He graduated with honors from the University of California at Berkeley in 1995, has worked in the architectural profession for over 12 years, and is LEED accredited by the United States Green Building Council.

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Climate Change and Cow Burps

By Harriet Shugarman

Did you know that in December 2009, the US Department of Agriculture and the Innovation Center for US Dairy announced that they would be working with the dairy industry to reduce its greenhouse gases by 25% by 2020? Didn't make your radar screen? Okay, but let's look at why it is important and what some of the companies you may be buying products from are doing to support this initiative.

Everyone needs to do their part to reduce their carbon footprint; every industry, business sector, organization and individual needs to be part of the solution. According to the Innovation Center the dairy sector is looking at everything from how dairy products are transported to what feed crops the cows get. If the dairy industry can reach their 2020 target, it would be the equivalent of taking 1.25 million cars off US roads every year; not an insignificant number!

In the US, the dairy industry accounts for 2% of total greenhouse gases and the agricultural sector in total for about 7%. In language your 10 year old will understand, a serious concern that is being addressed at both the government and industry level, is cow "burps;" but also, lets say it out loud, cow "farts." What does this have to do with climate change, you may be thinking? The emissions produced by "enteric fermentation," a fancy way to describe part of the digestive process in animals like cows, is primarily "methane" gas emissions. Methane gas is a significant greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change. There are two issues regarding methane production in agriculture in the US of concern here:

1. many of our large factory farms actually have methane "lakes" for manure storage, and
2. the lack of consideration for which type of feed crops animals get, which can have a huge impact on "burps!"

We are going to focus on the "burps," which according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization account for 90% of enteric fermentation in cows.

Last year, Vermont based Stonyfield Farms launched a program with its dairy farmers to change the feed that their cows are given, "simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving milk's nutritional content in a way that may help reduce cardiovascular disease and obesity," this according to Gary Hirshberg, President of Stoneyfield Farms. The program introduces a diet of alfalfa, flax and grasses to the cows, all high in natural omega-3 sources; resulting in....less cow burps! In the first 6 months of the program cow belches went down between 13 and 18%. A by-product to the farmers has also been healthier cows and lower vet bills!

Climate change 101 fact: methane gas is 23 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide!

Climate Mama is an online climate change education, advocacy and information site. We will give you the facts on Climate Change. We will give it to you straight, in a clear and easy format to understand, from trusted and reliable sources that have been vetted and triple checked. We want you to understand clearly what climate change and global warming mean, and what they mean to you, to your day to day life, and to the lives of the ones you love.

We want to keep you updated on the latest developments around our planet, on what is happening now and what is important for you to know. We want you to feel empowered, that you are doing what you can to ensure that the world they inherit is a world that is as precious, as vibrant, as healthy and as alive, as the one you grew up in.

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