Saturday, May 2, 2009
Ukrop's, a community-serving and environmentally friendly grocery chain in Virginia, has begun another sustainable program. The supermarkets, which fry their own chicken, will use the soy oil from the fryers to convert into bio fuel.
Southside Fuel, a local company, will process the used oil from the frying vats into a standard 15 percent biodiesel, the most that the current trucks can handle.
Ukrop's expects to produce around 60,000 gallons of bio fuel each year, about one fourth of its needs. This is really an incredible amount and will really cut down on their carbon emissions.
These types of changes are the ones that our country really needs. Not only seeking out alternative energy sources, but the ones that are already lying in front of us. The chicken oil was already in the store, without any further purpose. What a great way to recycle and reuse a substance that would have gone to waste!
Many other stores and restaurants could switch to this method, saving them money and decreasing their carbon footprints. We don't necessarily have to grow corn and soy for the sole purpose of creating fuel - this method causes many criticisms and concerns. We can just creatively utilize the resources we already have.
Friday, April 24, 2009
A new clothing line called Nature89 is now offering eco-friendly wear, both trendy and comfortable. The company sells a variety of products including tanks, hoodies, printed tees, polos, skirts and shorts. The style is classic casual with functional elements. Prices range mostly from $15 to $35. Both men's and women's wear are offered.
All clothing is made from organic and pesticide-free cotton, eco-friendly dyes, and water-based inks. The entire collection is certified 100% organic.
Nature89 was founded by apparel entrepreneur Tariq Huq and a team of designers. They are committed to fair trade and to the environment. Besides being eco-friendly, the clothing line does not use any child labor, and all adult workers are provided a fair wage. 1% of its sales is donated towards the preservation of nature.
I really like the look of the the short-sleeve Elsa Hoodie, pictured above. This adorable hoodie, with cute rhinestones on the chest and front kangaroo pockets, is available in three colors and four sizes (S-XL). I think it looks trendy and very wearable.
The Essential Krista Camisole is another piece I like a lot. It's made of organic light-weight cotton and available in two colors (rose and violet). It looks like something I could layer with another top and wear to the mall, and something comfortable enough to put on for a pajama party.
There are many other cute pieces of clothing on the website, www.nature89.com. Click the link to make a purchase or to learn more about Nature89.And no, I am not affiliated with the company in anyway, just in case you are wondering :).
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Scientists have discovered that there is a large fossil fuel reserve underneath the ice of the Arctic. This massive reserve may contain up a fifth of the world's oil- 90 billion barrels, and a third of the known reserves of gas.
Yes! We are SAVED from the energy crisis!
I don't think so.
Let's skip the part about oil drilling ruining the Arctic environment. It is important, it is relevant, but it is always the same argument back and forth. Wildlife...or human desire? Environmentalists pitted against the oil executives. Sadly, usually greed for fuel wins out, and another piece of nature is marred by development.
The main issue is, as long as we depend on oil, we will always be threatened by an impending energy crisis. Discovering new reserves only changes whether or not the "doomsday" will arrive in ten years or in twenty years. All the same, our focus should be on lessening our usage of fossil fuels and concentrating on renewable energy.
Two scenarios can occur. Countries can rush to the Arctic, dig up the treasure, and a glut of oil will appear on the market. Prices will drop, consumers will go mad, oil will be used like crazy. All of our old problems will come back. Pollution, global warming, endangered species, etc., possibly worse than before. Soon, the excess oil will run out, and we will be back to square one.
Another situation: we remain calm and allow the reserves to sit there. We keep on raising fuel efficiency and conserving current reserves. We develop alternative energy. We learn how to cut back on usage (hey, a century and a half ago our ancestors did fine, right?). Our world may not ever be as healthy as it was before humans arrived, but in time it should heal.
It is easier said than done. But it is something that must be done.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Water is everywhere right? Yes and no. Sure, the wondrous liquid surrounds us everywhere we turn, but the vast majority of it is not fresh, drinkable water. Only about 3 percent of the total water on the planet is freshwater, and only a tiny fraction of that 3 percent is actually available to humans. Most freshwater is locked up in ice caps and glaciers. However, the price of water is extraordinarily cheap, and most people use it without a second thought. Environmentalists direly predict that the next world wars will be fought over precious water.
What are some solutions?
Desalination can be used to transform salt water to freshwater. However, this process can only be viably done in coastal areas and is quite expensive, because it takes an enormous amount of energy. Some places, such as the Middle East, are experimenting with desalination. Read more about it at National Geographic.
Cloud seeding is another option. In this procedure, silver nitrate is planted into clouds to promote rain. Today, Texas uses cloud seeding over a third of its area. However, conditions have to be very specific for the process to be effective. Additionally, there are concerns about the chemicals used raining down onto earth, and the fact that artificially producing rain in one area is robbing another area of rainfall. Here's an article about cloud seeding at ABC News.
Withdrawing greater amounts of groundwater may be feasible, but this too has some disadvantages. If the water table becomes too depleted, the ground above it may actually sink down into a depression. By the coast, low levels of groundwater may lead to salt water intrusion, where water from the ocean actually pushes into the groundwater system.
The best strategy? It may be boring and trite, but conserve water! This does not have to be a painful process. Turn off faucets tightly to prevent leaks, install water-saving showerheads and toliets, and don't use sprinklers mindlessly. If you're really feeling adventurous, save leftover water from rinsing dishes to water plants. Small changes can have big impacts in the future.
This image is from the New York State Assembly.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Ever heard of a debt-for-nature swap? As strange as it sounds, it is a wonderful way to aid poor countries and preserve biodiversity at the same time.
Third World countries face a dilemma: how do they save their precious habitats and at the same time provide for the growing population? Not surprisingly, the people take priority. Therefore, pristine environmental locations are destroyed in the race for new resources and new farmland. These habitats contain varieties of specialized species and exotic plants that may only be found in that one place. Though these developing countries may be internationally pressured to conserve their environment, they simply cannot afford to set aside tracts of land and maintain them.
Even worse, many of these countries are heavily indebted to wealthier nations such as the U.S. That means part of their GNP each year must go to paying back the debt.
Fortunately, debt-for-nature swaps help solve the problem. Basically, the program allows for the wealthier nations to forgive some debt in return for the poor country to preserve a certain piece of land. For example, the U.S. agreed to forgive Costa Rica of $26 million in return for the preservation of Costa Rica's unique tropical rainforests. In the short term, the animals and plants can thrive and the people of Costa Rica have a little more money to use. In the long run, the whole world will benefit from preserving the environment's biodiversity.
Other countries that have experienced this exchange include Belize, Panama, and Jamaica. For more information, visit The Nature Conservancy. This image is from the Redwood Forest Foundation.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Microsoft and Apple, two enormous multinational corporations, have always been competing to churn out the latest popular products. These rival companies wield tremendous power, with Microsoft at 80,000 employees and an annual revenue of 50 billion dollars, and Apple slowly catching up at 20,000 employees and 25 billion.
Consumers compare the products' designs, aesthetics, models, convenience, adaptability, storage space, and of course, prices. However, what about the eco-friendliness of each corporation?
According to GreenPeace, on a scale from 1 to 10, Apple hovers at a 6.7 and Microsoft is down at the bottom of the scale at a 4.7. The companies are ranked based upon chemicals policy, takeback practices, and recycling.Greenpeace.org
Microsoft scores high on phasing out the harmful substances PVC and BFR by 2010, but earns a 0 for takebacks or providing information to individual customers. In addition, it currently does not have any PVC-free or BFR-free models.
Apple earns full marks for the phasing out of the hazardous chemicals by 2008, and recycling, while receiving mediocre scores for the rest of the categories. The company has set a goal of recycling 30% of its weight of products sold by 2010.
So far, it seems Apple takes the lead. According to its website (Apple), products are refined to maximize efficiency and reduce waste. Of course, consumers appreciate the sleekness of the design as well. Additionally, many all Apple desktop and portable computers have earned the Energy Star rating for energy efficiency. The company has extensive takeback programs that dispose of used software in a safe and environmentally friendly way. In 2006, it recycled 13 million pounds of waste, including paper, foam, and batteries.
Because of its efforts, Apple was named a "Forward Green Leader" by the Sierra Club, meaning it is one of the top ten environmentally progressive companies.
Microsoft has also taken many steps to become a "greener" corporation. In 2005, it began a packing purge of PVC, eliminating 1.5 million pounds of the material. It promoted efforts to slow global warming by joining with the Clinton Foundation and Climate Savers. LOHAS Online
The company is currently developing an interesting program called the Environmentally Sustainable Dashboard. In a nutshell, this dashboard allows smaller companies affiliated with Microsoft to track their direct and indirect energy consumption, and direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. Microsoft
Apparently, Microsoft even has its own blog for environmental sustainability, called Shades of Blue and Green
Even though Apple is ahead of Microsoft in its takeback policies and energy efficiency, Microsoft has addressed the problem of global warming more than its competitor. Climate Counts Both corporations still have a ways to go. We, the consumers, are really the ones that can have leverage to create more change.
For example, a campaign for "a greener Apple" is being launched at
Yes, we are all individuals, but we are the customers that Apple and Microsoft depend on. Through our voices, we can influence these massive companies to continue to develop sustainable policies.
The image above is from E-Wallpapers.