Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stop Breathing

EPA to Ban Breathing?

Carbon Dioxide Explained


EPAbreathing(small)In a recent press conference, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson said that in the next few months, carbon dioxide (CO2) will be declared a dangerous pollutant. As Jackson states it, a formal “endangerment finding”will cause the government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, which will, undoubtedly, help move climate change legislation through Congress.


In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could regulate greenhouse gases that qualify as pollutants and threaten public health. Greenhouse gases, which trap heat within the earth, are major contributors to climate change. In April, the EPA found carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to be pollutants that could possibly threaten public health.


Some powerful environmental forces, including President Obama and Jackson, would prefer if Congress implements the greenhouse gas limits because, according to Jackson, “it will combine the most efficient, most economy-wide, least costly and least disruptive way to deal with carbon dioxide pollution…We get further faster without top-down regulation.” The EPA is willing to handle the responsibility of regulating greenhouse gases given by the Supreme Court. Jackson says, “Two years is a long time for this country to wait for us to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling.”


This new regulation will continue to cause opposition from those who do not believe in the dangers of carbon dioxide or climate change. However, CO2 is not just what we produce when we exhale — it is more complex and more damaging to the environment than most Americans really understand.


The issue with too much CO2


Carbon dioxide is required for plants to complete the process of photosynthesis, but too much can cause environmental problems. When CO2 is not captured by plants or other forms, it begins to accumulate in the atmosphere and the oceans. Since the Industrial Revolution, CO2 emissions have significantly increased due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and other human activities. The Journal of Geophysical Research, even if we halt the emission of all future CO2, the environment will continue to experience climatic issues beyond the year 2100.


The main issue associated with CO2 is its natural ability to cause the Greenhouse Effect. The properties of CO2 allow it to maintain absorbed heat, thus the planet’s atmosphere begins to gradually heat up. As CO2 emissions increase, so does the overall temperature.


The oceans act like a large CO2 sponge. As they absorb the atmospheric trace gas, the gas’ solubility decreases and emits heat into the water. Thus, the oceans’ temperatures begin to rise. Many scientists believe this is the major cause of elevated water temperatures and the decreased sizes of snow compiles; like glaciers, ice patches, and icebergs.


Top Tips to Reducing your CO2 Emissions


  • Walk whenever and wherever. You can even ride a bike or use another fuel-less device to get around. Save the environment and get a work out!

  • Consider public transportation as opposed to driving by yourself. Most cities have excellent transportation systems, be it by bus or subway and they’re very inexpensive.

  • Carpool whenever you can. There is no sense in having multiple people drive in the same direction when you can easily organize a carpooling system. Take turns driving – try this with your co-workers, classmates, family, or friends.

  • Weatherization of your home can decrease your bills significantly with just a couple of easy adjustments within the home. Tiny cracks or old windows can let out your heat/cool air increasing the amount of energy you need to replace it. Follow our Sealing and Weatherization tips to get started.

  • Eating smarter and locally, buying organic, or growing your own food eliminates the use of harmful pollutants. First get an idea of how and where to make improvements, you can calculate just how much carbon your dietary habits emit into the atmosphere. Use our low carbon diet calculator to get started.

  • Use green cleaning products to reduce the amount of pollutants; such as CFC’s which deplete our ozone layer.

  • Buy eco-friendly building supplies and build your project green. Lumber production is more often than not unsustainable. Taking down entire forest ecosystems has major effects on the environment from habitat destruction to direct consequences on the atmosphere. Forests act as the lungs for the Earth, inhaling all the CO2 and exhaling the oxygen we need. Protect them.

  • Plant a tree or just get yourself a plant – they make wonderful companions, they look good in anyone’s home either inside or out and they willingly suck up all that excess CO2. If held indoors, plants will promote the circulation of good air quality.

  • Recycle as much as humanly possible. Recycling or reusing existing products lessens the need to make more products which use up precious resources. This will save resources like plastics and fuel.

  • Reduce your overall consumption in your daily life. Buying less of everything means less factories, less trash, and less carbon in the air. Watch this video to get started: The Story of Stuff.


September 2009


Learn More

Home CO2 Calculator


Greenest White House


Home Recycling Advice


The Rubber Ducky Chemical


SCGH Recycling Center

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mulching is the New Trend


Burning Leaves is Bad News

Mulching not burning is the new Fall ritual


FallLeavesRemember the smell of burning fall leaves wafting through the air? Good memories, indeed, but best that they remain just memories. Burning leaves is bad news.


This practice is now illegal – or at least highly discouraged – in most areas. Burning leaves releases airborne particulates like dust and soot, mold, and other allergens that were tamped down with rain and decomposition. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): “the total health, financial, and environmental costs of leaf-burning can be quite high. These costs include higher incidences of health problems and increased heath care costs; forest fires and property loss and need for increased fire protection; and the clean-up costs associated with soiling of personal property.” So basically, burning leaves is an environmental no-no.


Leaf blowers, especially gas powered ones, are also a bad idea, at least if you care at all about the environment, your pocketbook or your neighbors’ sanity. Nearly 2.5 million of those gas-guzzling gadgets will be sold this year, according to U.S News, and in a single year they will emit as much pollution as 80 cars. Speaking of pollution, the noise pollution created by leaf-blowers has caused many communities to ban them with noise levels exceeding 70 decibels. Leaf-blowers can be as bad for your health as they are for the environment. They circulate mold, allergens and particulate matter that irritate the lungs – especially for those who suffer from asthma.


A better solution is the rake and mulcher. By turning your leaves into mulch and spreading them over your lawn and garden you can improve the soil quality, fertilize your lawn and protect your garden from the upcoming frigid winter weather. There are a variety of green mulchers to choose from as well. Mulching fallen leaves is the greenest and healthiest way to get rid of fall foliage while you rake in the benefits of your new organic mulch.


Benefits…


…to your wallet


Investing in a rake and mulcher will cost a little money upfront, but it will still be much cheaper than forking up the cash for a leaf-blower (and the gas to put in it).


The leaf mulch will decompose becoming an organic fertilizer rich in nitrogen and other “goodies” for your garden, so you can save the money on pricey store-bought fertilizers.


Expect a lower water bill because soil covered with mulch retains up to 50% more water.


…to your health


Mulching your fall leaves allows your lungs to breathe easy by avoiding the harsh smoke of leaf-burning as well as the allergens and particulate matter spewed by leaf-blowers.


According to U.S. News you can burn off 325 calories in just 60 minutes of leaf-raking as opposed to only 140 calories for lugging around a leaf-blower for the same amount of time.


Enjoy healthy, organic-grown vegetables when you fertilize your garden with leaf-mulch.


…to the earth


The EPA says that leaf-burning contains carbon monoxide and “particulate matter and hydrocarbons, which contain a number of toxic, irritant, and carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds.” Mulching avoids the release of these dangerous chemicals into the air.


Mulch helps maintain the moisture of the soil, so you can conserve water by using less in your yard.


Mulchers typically do not release the amount of fossil fuels and particulate matter into the environment that gas-powered leaf blowers do.


By putting your autumn leaves to good use you are minimizing the amount of trash being added to our already-shrinking landfills.


Getting Started


Buy a mulcher that is an appropriate size for the amount of leaves in your yard. A small electric-powered or self-propelled mulcher should do just fine for most homes. If you really want to be green try purchasing an efficient used mulcher. Once the leaves are mulched, spread them evenly above moist soil in your garden. It is important that the soil be moist before spreading the mulch. Mulch retains moisture, but if the soil is overly dry water may not be able to seep through. After the mulch is spread, you can just sit back and enjoy the benefits of your leaf-free, fertilized yard.


Further Information


Healthy Lawns and Gardens


Lawn Care


Home Composting


Sierra Club Composting Video


Composting Tips

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fruits and Veggies

A Vegetarian Test Drive


How About a One-Month Trial for Being a Veggie?


Have you ever been curious about what it would be like to be a vegetarian? Every parent’s dream come true, September has been deemed as Fruits & Veggies month by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services. So it is recommended that you decrease or eliminate your consumption of animal products, and try dieting with a program of primarily fresh grown produce. Perhaps you already indulge in a variety of fruits and veggies? Why not make it a formal test program for four weeks, evaluating how you feel at the end?


What to consider when shopping


According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) the market for organic produce is a booming industry. ‘Organic’ has become a word popular amongst numerous household, as the shift to a healthier lifestyle extends beyond the rich and famous. So, next time you go grocery shopping spend extra time in the produce aisles, research the vegetables and check out the variety of available fruits. You may even find some organic products, and choose to make the switch from conventional produce.


Top Tips


Look for recipe cards. It is important to prepare your fruits and veggies in a wide array of styles in order to avoid boredom.


There are no federal regulations that can control fraudulent organic labels produced by private vendors, thus look for USDA Organic labels.


When shopping, buy only the quantity of produce you can consume before it goes bad. Wasting food is never good. Unless you can compost it!


Shop with reusable bags.


Benefits…


… to your wallet

Purchasing more fruits and veggies, while decreasing your consumption of meats, will save you a significant amount of money on groceries. In addition, if you choose to shop locally, you’ll be investing your money in your community and delicious organic produce!


… to your health

According to the CDC, people who frequently eat fruits and vegetable are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers. In addition, a well-balanced diet of fruits and veggies can help maintain a proper weight.


… to the earth

By purchasing local foods you can positively impact the environment by eliminating the need for additional transportation and fuel consumption. Shopping for organic products also promotes sustainable agriculture practices, because the produce is grown without pesticides or other toxic chemicals.


Common Mistake


Remember that fruits and vegetables may not contain all the required nutrition, especially proteins. Thus incorporate your beloved produce with nuts, grains, and other healthy products. If you are striving to go vegetarian or vegan, consult your doctor or pharmacist for nutritional supplements.


Pick Your Flavor


Make sure to eat a variety of greens and fruits. Most supermarkets and farmers’ markets provide their customers with a wide variety of produce. Have a little fun, try them all! Follow our food calendar for monthly suggestions, or create your own.


VeggieTestDrive


Learn More


Eat A Low Carbon Diet


Turn Your Pet Into a Greenie


10 Ways to Eat Well


Eco-Friendly Personal Care Products


Bottles & Sippy Cups


Friday, September 18, 2009

Green Babies

Raising Healthy Children

When it comes to toxic chemicals, kids are not just little adults


You’d think a newborn baby Healthy Babywould have a fresh start when it comes to toxic chemicals. But chemicals move across the placenta, so a baby emerges with some of the same pollution in its system as its mother. Tests of umbilical blood have detected chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects as well as those that are toxic to the brain and nervous system.


Once born, infants take in even more pollution, through breathing, eating, and passage through the skin, just as adults do. But they are at greater risk from these exposures because of their physical differences. They have a faster metabolism. Their bodies are still developing rapidly, and exposures to toxic chemicals may disrupt a critical developmental step. They may not be able to protect themselves from chemicals as well as adults, because their immune systems are immature. And, per pound of body weight, they receive a greater dose of any chemical they’re exposed to. Some of the differences are stark.

Watch a video from Go Green Tube and learn more about purchasing safe baby products.


Per pound of body weight, a young child



  • breathes two times as much air as an adult.

  • eats more than three times as much food and tends to have less variety. For example, kids consume 10 times as much apple products, such as juice.

  • drinks two to seven times more liquid. An infant living on breast milk or formula, for instance, consumes about one-seventh of its body weight each day. In a 155-pound adult, that would be the equivalent of 10 quarts!

  • has 2.5 times more skin surface area, as well as skin that is as much as 30% thinner than adults’.


What You Can Do


With the information in our Home Health Center at your fingertips, you can take positive steps to help your child stay healthy. Here’s a guide to the articles every mom, dad, and grandparent should read:



  • Baby bottles. Kids may not be able to metabolize certain chemicals that adults can, such as bisphenol-a (BPA). So make sure they aren’t exposed to this potentially hormone-disrupting chemical in a hard-plastic “polycarbonate” sippy cup or baby bottle or in the plastic linings of some canned food or beverages. Animal studies have linked low levels of BPA to problems such as hyperactivity, learning disabilities, early onset of puberty, and increased risk of diabetes.

  • Bedding. Make sure your bundle of joy isn’t wrapped in fabrics with toxic finishes or surrounded by dust mites. Our article on beds and bedding will tell you all you need to know about mattresses, sheets, pillows, beds, and blankets.

  • Cleaning products. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then parents who use buy anti-bacterial soaps should be a couple of steps closer to heaven, right? Wrong. Our survey of cleaning products explains why these soaps are doing more harm than good.

  • Diapers. Which is better: disposable or cloth diapers? As you’ll learn in our article, it depends . . .

  • Floor Coverings. Kids spend a lot of time close to the ground. So before you buy a cushy new carpet for your favorite rug rat, make sure the fibers are not going to emit a known carcinogen, formaldehyde, or other chemicals that could be harmful to your child’s developing body.

  • Food. Sure, most kids like candy, sodas, and processed snacks, but reserve them for the occasional treat. Make sure that most of what your children eat is fresh, wholesome, and pesticide free. Our food article tells you how to put together delicious, simple-to-make meals that are good for your family and the rest of the planet. Remember-you’re establishing healthy eating habits that could last a lifetime.

  • Personal care products. People who crawl on the ground and make mud pies need plenty of soap and shampoo. They also likely need sunscreen and maybe even bug repellant. Before you buy, learn the do’s and don’ts of personal care products, for adults and kids alike.

  • Pesticides. Go organic in the garden for the good of your kid. A dose of pesticide that might not bother an adult could hurt a child, as it did in a case of diazinon poisoning in an infant following application by an unlicensed pesticide company. The only family member to get sick was the infant.

  • Toys. From a young child’s perspective, toys are for chewing. So make sure the playthings you buy don’t contain lead or phthalates. Our toys article has the scoop on both.

  • And More . . . People who care about kids can get good advice about building a healthy home in “9 Home Health Risks,” an article that summarizes the most important home-based threats, including some not mentioned above, such as lead, mold, and radon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jon and Kate Go Green

Jon & Kate Plus 8 Actually Living TLC(The Learning Channel)

Better Times, Greener Home

KateGreenTo be honest with you, I watch Jon & Kate, Plus 8. But if I’m being super honest, I jumped on board because of all the drama that was flood-gated into the news the past few weeks. All of the drama , and the back and forth with what was going on between the two, made it easy for me to come aboard the craziness that we as a society seems to be attracted to. So because I’m attracted to all of the reality show drama, it gave me the opportunity to check out exactly what all the tabloids were saying about America’s favorite trendy couple. But through my guilty pleasure investigation, I ran across an interesting one-hour episode called “Go Green!”, where if believed, the entire family buys organic food, recycles regularly, and with this episode, they were showed different tips on how to have a more energy home.

To the Rescue

Steve Thomas, the host of Planet Green Renovation Nation helped the Gosselin’s install solar thermal panels and also line their driveway with solar lights. With new eco-gadgets which will help the couple conserve energy and generate power without using the power company’s sources, the Gosselin’s new 34-acre estate has become a wonderful energy efficient home. But was this a simple ploy by the couple to jump aboard a growing trend of green living or are they truly disposing recyclable products properly and maintaining a lifestyle which they try to keep carbon imprints to a minimum given the amount of children they have to monitor?

“A family with eight children could be green in the short term, if they lived at such a low standard of living that they didn’t consume more than a family with two children, or if they existed in extreme poverty — which isn’t an acceptable way of going green,” says Rosamund McDougall, policy director of the U.K.-based Optimum Population Organization. “In the long term, though, it is almost impossible for large families not to increase overall environmental impacts.”
The 8 new carbon footprints definitely are a concern when it comes to the family as a whole, making a great change in environmental green living, but whether the trend holds validity or not, with the popularity of Jon & Kate, the message of green living will be broadcast to millions of viewers!

___________________________________________________________

Other Reading and References

Optimum Population Organization

Planet Green Renovation Nation

Renewable Energy at Home

Energy Star @ Home



Friday, September 11, 2009

Recycling Treasures

Recycling Treasures


Common trash that’s actually recyclable


Every day, landfills receive literally tons of trash, including numerous recyclable items. Even if you follow your center’s requirements to the ‘T’, you may still be throwing away items that can be recycled elsewhere. To significantly reduce your waste output, better the environment, and aid your community by learning to recycle, here are recycling tips you should know


  • Textiles

Most textiles are leftover scraps, discarded clothes, or worn furniture fabric. Once textiles are collected via donation sites or factory leftovers, they are ground up into fabric pulp, which can later be weaved or knitted into items. In addition, fabrics like jean materials can be re-manufactured as insulation.


Drop-off:


Before throwing away the old clothes a thrift or donation location did not take, do your research on possible textiles drop off sites(SCGH Recycling Center). Numerous recycling centers actually pick up textiles on residential curbsides. If you are willing to recycle a used item made by a popular brand, you can contact the company and request information about their recollection policies. For example, Patagonia allows customers to ship back their used clothes for recycling.


  • Eyeglasses

Most used prescription eyeglasses usually get put into the abyss of a drawer or are simply tossed in the trash. However, eyeglasses can be recycled. When glasses are collected, prescription lens are removed to either be smelted or reinstalled for new patients (depending on Rx). The eyeglasses frames are inspected, polished, tightened, and are prepared for reuse.


Drop-off:


You can call 1.800.CLEANUP or visit our Recycling Search Centerto get a list of eyeglass recycling locations near you. Such centers are affiliated with a program called Give the Gift of Sight.


  • Electronics

In the year 2000, more than 4.6 million tons of e-wasteentered the landfill from America alone, and by 2007 the number almost doubled. If you are no longer using your old cell phone, computer or any other electronic, don’t just throw it away. Numerous manufacturers offer take-back programs or you can take your e-waste to a drop-off site at a box store to get e-cycled. When collected, electronics are separated by metals (gold, silver, aluminum, etc.), plastics, and batteries. The collected resources can be smelted or reinstalled.


Drop-off:


To locate a drop-off site for a specific brand contact a representative, so a take-back package can be mailed to you with further instructions. If you are interested in dropping off your item, find a location by zip code at our Recycling Center.


  • Tires

Many of us have seen tires that have been dumped on the side of a road or in a middle of a field, but they are in fact easy to recycle. So instead of sending a tire to the grave, drop them off at a manufacturer or pick-up site. Tires can be shredded and recycled into basketball floors, shoe soles, or modified into new rubber products. According to the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), in 2003 approximately 230 million tires were recycled, with numbers continuously growing.


Drop-off:


Recommended drop-off sites are available on our site or can be found on specific manufacturers’ websites. Locally, recycling programs are available at various tire dealership or mechanic shops.


  • Light bulbs

In various states it is illegal to dispose of light bulbs in general waste baskets, especially fluorescents. Light bulbs contain mercury and other elements that may be toxic to ecosystems. The EPA reports that one teaspoon of mercury can contaminate a 20 acre lake forever. The recycling process primarily focuses on reclaiming mercury and precious metals from discarded light bulbs, this prevents toxic leaching into landfills and allows companies to reuse various content.


Drop-off:


Visit your local Home Depotstore which runs a take-back program. In 2008, Home Depot announced a national recycling program, in all of its 1,973 stores. Drop-offs may also be done via FedEx with www.lightbulbrecycling.com.



Top tip:


Before you throw away any items or set out your curbside recycling, it is recommended that you check the recycling policies of your local center. If items are placed in the recycling bin that may in fact be trash, they will be promptly sent to the landfill, and you may even receive a fine. However, the recyclable items placed in your garbage usually do notget sorted into recycling.



Benefits…


to your wallet


Diverting trash out of your curbside recycling bin and following the center’s policies for item conditions will keep you from receiving a fine.


to the Earth


Remaining alert and dedicated to recycling will significantly reduce landfill waste, the production of new resources, and fuel.


Common Mistake


Many households simply place their recyclable items into the bin without thinking twice; however, all items must follow various policies. For example, when recycling textiles, do not set out wet or industrially stained items, because they will not be recycled. It is vital that you discuss your center’s or drop-off location’s expectations with a representative. Your local recycling center can be found using our database search by clicking here.



Learn More


Careful where you toss that!

SCGH’s Recycling Center

Environmental Protection Agency’s Benefits of Recycling



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Funds For Fridges

Funds For Fridges


A $300 million federal stimulus for efficiency

Old Fridge“Cash for Clunkers” act two might be called “Funds for Fridges.” The continuation to America’s ever-popular “Cash for Clunkers” program (which yielded 690,114 cars) will soon jump start a new “Cash for Appliances” program that’s coming to a utility near you.

Even though “Cash for Clunkers” is over for cars, over 60 utilities across the U.S. will be offering money for recycled appliances such as refrigerators, washers, dryers, and more. The federal government will be offering rebates from $50 to $200 in support of consumers purchasing more energy-efficient appliances. The goal is simple: Take energy-sucking appliances out of homes and off of energy grids, in favor of newer, more energy-efficient ones, that will save consumers money, and conserve energy.

Supported as part of President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan, the Department of Energy will provide states with $300 million which will include these rebates in an effort to boost the economy, and also persuade and help citizens make a transition into a better green, energy-conserving lifestyle.

From a related article in wishtv.com, hhgregg sales manager, Nick Allison says, “What we’re hoping to see is if these rebates come through, consumers can use them with the manufacturer’s rebates and offer them additional savings.”

Let’s All Join In

NV Energy of Nevada has collected over 50,000 refrigerators, freezers, and related appliances over the past five years, giving customers $30 per turn-in. John Hargrove of NV Energy says the goal is to produce the state-ordered 25% of electricity through renewable or energy-efficient sources by 2025.

Regina Stepanov, Vice President of the UNLV Sierra Student Coalition, says, “The average American household spends roughly $2,000 a year on energy bills. Taking the simple initiative to purchase Energy Star appliances will prove to be a true investment, as homeowners will begin to significantly save money and better the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Energy Star appliances use 15% less energy than typical appliances. If each household switches to at least one sustainable appliance, even a toaster oven, the energy savings would be immense nationwide. “

NewRefridgeCompanies like NV Energy, Jaco Environmental and Nebraska Public Power District collected old appliances for recycling for over 25 years. Jaco recycles almost 95% of its appliances, which are destroyed at a waste-to-energy incinerator. The steel is recycled and used for rebar to reinforce roadways, the plastic goes to anything from laptops to compact disc casings, even the chlorofluorocarbons are recycled.

Why not make a little money for your old appliances, along with purchasing an energy-efficient new one in its place? “Cash for Appliances” would seem to be a win/win for both consumers and retailers. You can save hundreds of dollars per year on energy bills, while helping to protect the planet in the process.

Other Reading and Resources

Cash for Appliances Program on the Way by wishtv.com

Appliances Get Their Own Recycled Clunkers Program

President Obama’s Plan

Cash For Clunkers