UPDATE: I located a chart of Lake Mead historical water levels, and put it below the fold (click on “more…”)
MSNBC has an article out today sounding an alarm on the Southwestern United States’ fresh water situation. Not only is the wage gap between rich and poor workers reaching pre-depression levels, we are also threatened by a “dust bowl” similar to the same period of time.
While traveling in Nevada two weeks ago, I was able to travel to see the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. A thick layer of bleached rock formed a ring around the reservoir, showing the loss of billions of gallons of fresh drinking water. The level of the lake fell a hundred or more feet below a run-off/overflow culvert.
After seeing this first hand it is easy to believe the article:
I’ve just returned from the 2007 NY International Auto Show and it’s time to start releasing the jumble of thoughts, videos, and other interesting experiences I had along the way. General Motors extended an invitation to Groovy Green and Ecorazzi to attend the event and meet with top executives to discuss the latest green issues. Being somewhat of a cynic towards the pairing of the words “green” and “American auto industry”, I jumped at the opportunity.
So, it was a somewhat awkward moment when I took my seat at dinner and found myself sitting next to Hummer’s Executive Director, Ross Hendrix. He even had a giant “H” pin on his sport coat lapel. To my left was GM’s Vice President of Environment and Energy, Beth Lowery. She mentioned to me that no less than two years ago, it would have been impossible to gather executives in the same room as journalists; much less environmental bloggers. The level of access GM is providing is unprecedented. Even greater, they’re willing to listen and talk. I dove right in.
Here we are cruising into April which means many parts of the country are experiencing the first warm days of spring. Also arriving is the annual spring cleaning of yards across America as people deal with the remaining fallen leaves of last autumn and mow down their lawns for the first time this year.
Of course we here at Groovy Green advocate strongly for turning those Lawns into Gardens and if you must retain some turf try a manual reel mower. They’re cheap, use no fuel (other than that of your muscles), have no emissions, and are relatively easy to sharpen.
But if you or your neighbors do bag up all those leaves and grass clippings, consider this a prime time to start a compost pile. There’s a more in-depth article on why and how to compost here, but if you’re looking for a more simple explanation of how you can recycle your yard waste and create some great compost for your garden, here are some simple directions.
I have noticed a meme circulating the internet over the past 2 weeks – fear of landfill contamination by an increase in the use of CFL bulbs. While there is trace amounts of mercury in CFL bulbs, and I do believe that there needs to be more public education from places that sell the bulbs to avoid them ending up in the garbage – I would like to note that the possible reduction in mercury emissions from coal fired power plants outweighs the amount used to produce the bulb, over the bulbs lifetime.
This fact sheet (warning PDF also found at wikipedia) on the subject notes that there is approximately 4.0mg of mercury in a CFL bulb, and the emissions from a coal fired plant to produce the energy to run the bulb over it’s lifetime is an additional 2.4mg of mercury. Contrast that with 10.0mg of emissions for a conventional incandescent bulbs over the same 5 year lifespan of the CFL bulb. The incandescent is still producing more gaseous mercury contamination than the CFL. Also, the mercury contained in the CFL bulb remains in a form that can be recycled.
I always find amusing the rules that some of my friends around the country must abide by when living in community housing developments. Your grass can only be so high, children’s toys must be kept to a minimum outside, your house can only be certain shades of color, etc. etc. It’s a frightening utopia of meaningless laws and trivial worry. When I heard that the town of Scarsdale denied a family the opportunity to put up solar panels — on the basis that they were ugly and “not in keeping with the character of the community” — I immediately wanted to cry/laugh. You have got to be kidding me.
But then I thought that such reactions are probably not too uncommon. We live in a world with designer water, designer shampoo, and animal spas. People have become so accustomed to modular cookie-cutter homes with white picket-fences and weed-free sidewalks — that they’ve actually forgotten there’s a world of people out there who could care less and actually would like to live a unique existence; with character and vision for their own lives. So, when you move to a place like Scarsdale, and they deny you the ability to lead that existence based on the above criteria, what do you do? You call their bullshit and fight back. From the article,
If you haven’t read about the rising wave of problems with crashing bee populations worldwide, get on Google and check it out. In a nutshell, bee colonies are dying off around the world, and no-one really knows why. There are several possible reasons people are talking about:
So, there are a number of possibilities for why this is happening, but it’s bad news regardless of the underlying reason. Did you know that bees are used to commercially pollinate more than $14.6 billion dollars’ worth of fruit, nut and vegetable crops every year in the US alone? Without these incredibly helpful insects, these food stuffs would be much more costly if they were available at all.
With the job title of “Design Futurist”, it is hard to not be intrigued by New York’s Natalia Allen. In 2005 (just a year after she graduated from Parsons School of Design), Natalia founded an influential (self-titled) consultancy company, where she specializes in the emerging areas of design and marketing for global clients, such as Quiksilver, Donna Karan-LVMH, Dupont, Philips and Saks Fifth Avenue. Her creative designs and network are considered an essential catalyst between companies with a shared interest in the future of fashion. Her work has received a score of distinctions including the Calvin Klein, Nylon Magazine and Ducati Design Awards, also the coveted Designer of the Year Award, a title she shares with Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, and Badgley Mischka.
As the tipping point of green living looms on the horizon, I had a chat with Natalia about her unique work and how technology and eco-style will factor in to the future of fashion.
How did you first become interested in fashion?
Presidential-hopeful John Edwards announced his intentions today to have a completely carbon-neutral campaign. It seems everyone and their dog (oh wait, pets can be carbon-neutral now too!) is jumping on the offsets bandwagon; but Edwards is the first of the current contenders to push it forward. From his statement,
“To achieve carbon neutrality, we’re taking two big steps. First, we’re implementing a number of simple but effective techniques to conserve energy in our national and field offices. And I’ve asked my staff to take concrete steps to reduce their own energy consumption. Conserving energy now is the single biggest thing we all can do as individuals to combat global warming.
But presidential campaigns by their nature use an enormous amount of energy for travel and operations. Which is why today I have also directed the campaign to purchase carbon offsets that support alternative energy production to neutralize the global warming impact from our travel and office energy use.”
Update: Throwing this back up top, last chance to get in on the contest. Winner announced this weekend.
I feel pretty good today. That’s pretty odd, considering it’s peak doldrum season here in the northeast, in a city that just received 4.1″ of snow this morning, bringing our season total to 117″ glorious inches of the white fluff. (yes, that’s my front yard one week and 8 inches of snow ago).
Why I feel good is for the following reason: I sat in on a “mission committee” meeting at my company today. At least I thought that I would just be sitting in on it, but it turned out that I had top bill as a presenter on “how we can make changes at [company x] to reduce our environmental impact”. I soon found out that I had the plenty to talk about. The 20 extemporaneous minutes flew by. I dived right in to the “low hanging fruit” in our company, and the committee and I decided on 4 goals to reduce our waste, conserve materials and energy and reduce our carbon emissions. I’ll get back to those in a minute. First, what I want to point out, is that I told a few anecdotes today, based on information that I’ve gathered reading blogs, environmental magazines and articles in newspapers, and have seen in news reports. These were things that I thought that everyone had been at least exposed to, or at least have been given a chance to ignore. Boy was I wrong. The committee members faces lit up as I rambled off a few things that they could do to reduce their energy consumption at home:
As soon as I get my hands on this one, I’ll get up a review. Looks like it will be right up my alley, and come to think of it, most of our writers and readers alleys too!
From his website:
In my new book, Deep Economy, I’ve set out to challenge the prevailing view of our economy. For the first time in human history, “more” is no longer synonymous with “better”—indeed, for many of us, they have become almost opposites. I want us to think in new ways about the things we buy, the food we eat, the energy we use, and the money that pays for it all. Our purchases need not be at odds with the things we truly value.
The time has come to move beyond “growth” as the paramount economic ideal and begin pursuing prosperity in a more local direction, with cities, suburbs, and regions producing more of their own food, generating more of their own energy, and even creating more of their own culture and entertainment.
The Next 100 Things You Can Do To Get Ready For Peak Oil (And Whatever Else Comes Down the Pike)
1. If you live in a place where it gets hot in the summer, consider building a screen room (a room with screened windows all around or almost always around), either attached to your house or seperate. You can put a wood cookstove in the screenroom and use it as a summer kitchen for cooking and canning, avoiding adding heat to your house. You can also sleep in the screenroom when it is too hot to sleep inside, and reducing or eliminating the need for air conditioning. The room can double in the winter as a woodshed. If you cannot build on, freestanding screenrooms are also a possibility. For sleeping even a mesh camping pavilion or tent under the trees will be better than many houses.
2. For those in cold climates, consider a four poster bed. These were once not merely decorative – with heavy coverings for the top and the sides, they could be heated with your body heat, and provided a cozy sleeping space in an era when bedrooms were unheated. A frame can be added to many existing bedframes if you are at all handy, and curtains are easily made. You can also add wall hangings and tapestries as cheap forms of insulation to existing walls. They can be made from old blankets and cheap fabric, or can be as artful as you like.
The Next 100 Things You Can Do To Get Ready For Peak Oil (And Whatever Else Comes Down the Pike)
Part 2 (49-100)
(Be sure to check out Part I of this article here )
49. Invite someone new to your house once every month. Try and expand your community and circle of friends regularly. Invite people to eat with you regularly – sharing food is an important part of community building.
50. Attend zoning meetings and consider running for zoning board. Work to amend local zoning laws to allow green building, composting toilets, clotheslines, small livestock, cottage businesses, front lawn gardens and other essentials.
51. Have a large house and not a lot of people in it? Consider a roommate, or borders. This will make you more economically stable and also expand your community and local resources. If you currently rent an apartment, consider sharing housing with a roommate.
“…Despite many doom-and-gloom predictions, explosive growth in the world’s population isn’t something to panic about says Nicholas Eberstadt…”
So starts a WSJ opinion article from Friday February 23, 2007 discussing overpopulation and how the planet has not reached it’s limits. How all the previous naysayers regarding population expansion have been wrong. How the predictions for the future are dubious at best. “Mr. Eberstadt says the strains that Malthus and others predicted from a surge in population haven’t materialized. Instead, as population has increased so has most people’s standard of living. The world’s population quadrupled to more than six billion people during the 20th century, a time when per capita gross domestic product almost quintupled. Similarly, while a shortage of resources would be expected to drive up commodity prices, costs actually fell in the 20th century…”
There was something slightly obscene yet engaging about the title of this post, so I had to re-use it. Chews Wise, written by Samuel Fromartz, the author of “Organic, Inc“, has a very interesting post up about how transparency is beginning to show up in the grocery store:
Dole revealed a shape of things to come in the food market – Transparency! – by allowing customers to see where their bananas come from.
Visit its Dole Organic web site and punch in the number on your banana SKU sticker. (Not the SKU code, which is 94011 for organic bananas but a three-number code that identifies the farm.) The web site shows you where this code is located.
Toyota understand that the Prius line is in need of an update. Rumors have circulated for the better part of a year about a 100mpg plug-in monster set to “redefine the hybrid” industry.
Now, Toyota is set to release a concept car at the 2007 Geneva Auto Show next month that many believe is a precursor to the 2008 model Prius. So much interest is building, that Toyota is even releasing teaser pics like the one above. Curvy, isn’t it? Looks a bit more aerodynamic as well…
From the press release,
The film Crude Impact (trimmed down from 98 to 60 minutes) will be airing on LinkTV on February 9th. You can see clips from Crude Impact here and here, and you can read Transition Culture’s review of the film here.
LinkTV, a non-profit satellite channel, will also be hosting an online discussion at the same time, with James Wood (director of the film) as well as Richard Heinberg and Antonia Juhasz.
Crude Impact is airing as part of a two-part series titled The End of Oil [Part 1, Part 2].
LinkTV is on DirecTV channel 375, Dish Network channel 9410.
What do the Toyota Prius, the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Ford Escape all have in common? The production of these three vehicles produces millions of pounds of landfill waste each year. These three specific models are no exception. Automotive manufacturing, like any other industrial process generates lots of waste. But that’s just the way it is, par for the course, nothing anybody can do about it right? Wrong.
Several members of the Groovy Green team recently visited Subaru’s automotive manufacturing plant in Lafayette, Indiana. For nearly three years now this plant has produce zero landfill waste. That’s right, 100% of the by products produced from fabricating Subaru vehicles in Lafayette are reclaimed. How has Subaru been able to achieve such a dramatic accomplishment while other car manufactures are still taking trips to the landfill? At its core their strategy is simple and straightforward; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. With those words as a mantra and with a willingness to challenge the notion that building cars is inevitably a wasteful process, Subaru has become a great example of what a company can realize if it believes in doing the right thing.
After a week of being sick with a nasty sinus cold, I’m happy to be back on my green fashion beat. This week’s question comes from Chris: How about some choices for blue jeans? Fair Trade – Organic?
Well, we have stumbled upon my favorite subject: denim. I’m one of those folks that can’t have too many pairs of jeans. Of course, these days, I do not buy any denim that isn’t eco-friendly, whether it be made of sustainable materials, fair trade/sweatshop free, or vintage.
When it comes to “green” denim choices, there are more than just a few! Researching companies for this post, I easily complied a list of over 30 brands; some just for men and others are ladies’ only. So, without furthur ado, here is that list:
This would be huge. I get a little “down” some times thinking that the environmental writers and blogs are just preaching to the choir. Then, once in a while something like this comes along and makes me believe that the memes that are kicked around in the blogosphere do make it to the public consciousness and yes, even to law makers.
Reuters: (via Drudge, who as of today has many GW articles linked)
This is the 25th year that New York has had a 5 cent deposit on all soda cans and bottles. According to NYPIRG this means over 5 million tons of recycleable glass, plastic and aluminum has been kept out of our state’s landfills. Our current rate for recycling deposit containers is at 80%, 70% through bottle redemption and 10% through curbside pickup. This is an impressive rate that has rid streets, parks and lots of refuse, and saved energy and reduced landfill.
It has been hard to ignore the explosion in popularity of sports drinks, iced tea and bottled water over the past decade. These bottles are currently exempt from the 5 cent deposit in NY state, although they are accepted in curbside recycling pickup. Despite the availability of blue bin recycling, only 20% of non-deposit containers are recycled. You can see it in airports, workplaces and schools, plastic water bottles fill trash cans – and head straight to the landfill. Not valuable to those searching for redeemable containers, they remain as litter on the side of the road and in the street.
Like something out of a Michael Bay movie (written and directed), Scientists are ringing the warning bells of danger over an imposing mass of ice set to wreak havoc on shipping lanes this summer. The two-million-ton, 25-square-mile block of ice is part of the Ayles ice shelf and was recently spotted using NASA satellites. While it is a docile beast this “winter” season, come summer, it will slowly start to drift as pack ice melts away. This is bad news for oil rigs and large commercial ships. Imagine seeing an island come towards you the size of London….
From the article, “The ice could move several hundred miles over the summer, taking it closer to busy shipping routes for oil and gas. “If it ever came on a collision course with an oil rig, it is unlikely that we would be able to do much to stop it,” said Dr Copland. “Maybe you would have to consider aerial bombardment to break it up, or use lots of tugs to try and move it, but it would be a lot of ice to move.”
I think George has been watching a little too much TV lately. Was there a James Bond marathon on that I failed to catch? In a massive three-year study by the UN on climate change, to be release this coming Friday, the U.S. appeals for the world’s scientists to develop technology to block sunlight as a last-ditch way to halt global warming. I kid you not. Stop laughing.
The report is being prepared by the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and “will underpin international negotiations to devise a new emissions treaty to succeed Kyoto, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft of the report last year and invited to comment.”
If you haven’t noticed, there’s a bit of a renaissance happening in the nuclear power plant industry. A decade ago, no one — not even government officials — mentioned the technology. Now, with the Bush Administration in power the last six years, environmental concerns over coal burning plants, and an influx of investment, the topic is back and hotter than ever.
This week, MSNBC.com has a fascinating five-part article, called Power Play, on the return of nuclear energy into the social consciousness. Of course, it’s not like it ever truly went anywhere. After all, 20% of the energy flowing through the U.S. comes from nuclear energy. What is interesting, however, is how the industry — once considered unsafe and expensive — has turned around their image and now has as many as 31 new nuclear reactors on the drawing board for U.S. soil.
The article chronicles the money, the technology, and the criticism of the industry. Obviously, for the all the wonderful emission-free electricity generated by nuclear power, there’s tons of radioactive waste (close to 47,000 metric tons!) and the threat (although lessened in modern plants) of a disaster on scale with Chernobyl. There are plans to bury that waste at the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada, but such fixes are more than 10 years away and may never happen at all. So, we have all this waste to still contend with.
I am obsessed with food. Of all of things that we can purchase, food is the one thing that nourishes us. Yes, items can nourish our soul, but food is what nourishes our bodies – – it provides us with energy so that we can live. I think this is why so many of my posts are about food. We cannot go without.
60 years ago we were at war. We were fighting an enemy at faraway lands. Our government encouraged us to plant gardens at home. People came together to fight this enemy by planting gardens in their backyards. These gardens could help us fight the enemy from home and gave our citizens a sense of national purpose. Magazines told people how to plant and tend to a garden. Co-ops were developed. This community effort brought together families and neighbors to provide their own food so that more was available for the war effort.
Today we are again at war. This enemy does not have a face. It is not an enemy that we can see. However, this enemy can threaten the nature of our lives and planet. This enemy is global warming. Let’s fight is by planting a garden. A victory garden over global warming.
It’s that time again! Question four comes from Mallory: I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the company Denim Therapy. Basically the revive old jeans by sort of reweaving the fabric where it’s torn or ripped. They estimate the cost at $7 per inch. I love the idea, but to me it seems like more than most people would be willing to pay. I think most people would just go buy a new pair of jeans. I was wondering if you have any other leads on other similar companies? This is the only one I know of quite like this. It’s one of those things that, as with so many green products and services, I think people would be interested in but they’re most worried about the immediate cost and it’s hard to think about long term costs when you’re trying to make ends meet, etc. What are some other cheap but green fashion alternatives?
It’s official Mallory – you win the award for the longest question There are two inquiries mixed in with all that, but answering them in one post should be no problem.
For denim repair, I don’t know of any companies that focus on that service, besides Denim Therapy of course. This leaves you with a host of other options:
I always appreciated the efforts of Barney and Fred in The Flintstones to push around their apparently heave stone vehicles with only their legs for power. And let’s get one thing straight, regardless of Fred’s eating habits, the guy must have been in excellent shape.
These days, we’re all fat-fat-fattys in our vehicles, relying on millions of years of ‘ancient sunglight’ to get us to our destinations. Sure, we can bike it, but if you’ve got a family to move, biking sometimes isn’t the safest option. Enter The Human Powered Car. This street-legal four passenger vehicle relies on human energy (think: rowing machine exercise) to get you where you’re going. Apparently, there is also a human/electric hybrid available, which would dramatically help in those steep up-hill climbs. Priced at $7K, the company has 750 units available for this year. Take a look at the video below for more details. Your legs might not look like Fred’s after using this ‘car’, but you arms may look more like Arnold’s.
I just read an interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Six Nobel Laureates spoke recently at UC Berkeley on the ways and means of battling global warming. The general consensus is that with all the technology our fight against global warming is futile if we the people aren’t doing our part:
”Science is not the problem,” said Donald Glaser, a UC Berkeley physics professor who won the Nobel Prize in 1960. “We can certainly build fuel-efficient cars. (But) year after year, Congress has refused to improve the mileage requirements for automobiles. We have to get together as a democracy and get our government to make changes.”
I think this notion can apply to other things as well. I have since changed out all the light bulbs in my home to cfl’s. All my appliances are energy star-rated, and I’m saving up to change my toilets to dual-flush. All in an effort to conserve and try to do my part . This article reassured me that even the little things we do make a difference, and collectively we can have a huge impact!
Are you looking to get a jump on your spring lettuce crop? Having trouble getting your eggplants seeds to sprout on the window sill? Perhaps your spouse doesn’t appreciate soil, seeds and peat containers all over the house for 2 months during late winter? Sounds as if you need a mini greenhouse or cold frame to solve your problems. Here are easy directions for how to build your own.
Step One: Stop and pick up old windows from the curb- the bigger the better. Plenty of people throw away old windows when they get new ones. If you’re shy about other people’s trash, try calling a window contractor and asking what he does with the old windows he replaces. Offer to trade him vegetables for them.
Step Two: Measure the glass from frame to frame
Thanks to some fact checkers, I need to update. Burpee is not owned by Monsanto. Burpee is privately owned. Burpee DOES carry some Seminis seeds, and Seminis is now owned by Monsanto.
Angela posted a comment blogged about her findings.
From her article:
“A spokeperson for Seminis, Mica Veihman spoke with me this morning and answered all my questions. Veihman said Seminis has “no intent to purchase Burpee” and this supposed email message was a complete rumor.
Burpee is a dealer of Seminis garden products which is probably how this rumor originated. They have been a customer of Seminis for over 20 years. Other familiar seed catalog companies that purchase from Seminis are Jung Seed, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Park Seed. A full list of current distributors is available here.”
Thankfully this was just a nasty rumor.
Imagine if to go wireless, mobile phones companies made you purchase a kit to install your own tower for $8k, and then shipped you a box of minuscule widgets and a soldering gun that you have to somehow assemble into a Razor. I’m pretty sure the market density of cell phones would be about as weak as that of PV, because that is the marketing strategy that Solar Energy is currently operating under.
Now imagine you could sign a contract, and have clean, green solar energy installed at your home by professionals and pay a nominal monthly fee based on your usage with no initial outlay. Tempted? The Citizenre Corporation is counting on it. What they are offering is the chance for average Americans to have the privilege of a Solar Array on their roof. According to their website it will be as simple as having one of their technicians do a site assessment, the signing of a 1,5,or 25 year forward rental agreement (FRA) and a safety deposit of $500 (reasonable for $25k in equipment!). At the signing of the agreement you will lock in your current cost per KwH and pay Citizenre that amount for any watts their equipment sends into your home thru an interconnected inverter. For anyone who is remotely Eco Aware this is Earth Shattering. But that elation is followed immediately by “where’s the catch?”. Talk to a REnU rep and they answer simply “there is none!”. Hmmm.
When the world goes to hell, and you no longer have ample supplies of crappy Linton tea bags lying around (but you really don’t have those do you?), it will be refreshing to know that you’re not powerless. Granted, growing tea is not something out of the realm of thought (like growing your own shower Luffa), but did you ever really consider it? Maybe I’m alone, but a great article I found today has inspired me to grow tea leaves, as well as a shower luffa for the coming season. Perhaps you’ll had them to your list as well?
According to the author, it’s really not that difficult. However, one hindrance to interested readers might be the Zone 8 region (mid-west to southern USA) requirement for outdoor success. For people living above this zone, it’s worth giving it a shot indoors or in a greenhouse. From the article,
” The Camellia sinensis plant is a small shrub about 1-2 meters in height, though it will grow taller if you don’t prune it. In the fall, your tea shrub will flower with small white blossoms that have a delightful scent. These plants are often grown as ornamentals. For planting, Camellia sinensis likes well-drained and sandy soil that is on the acidic side. If you are going to grow your tea in a container, add some sphagnum moss to the potting mix. You’ll need some patience, too. Your plant should be around 3 years old before you start harvesting leaves.”
Just found this link to a beautiful ‘How-To’ that takes you through the steps of building your very own low-impact woodland home. It’s appearance is very similar to the Hobbit homes featured in Lord of the Rings, but the aesthetics of the design also make it a piece you might find in Better Homes and Gardens. The cost? The author estimates total expenditures of about $6,000. This, and about 1000-1500 labor hours to put everything together. From the site,
“Take one baby, a toddler and a building site. Mix well with a generous helping of mud, combine with 6 weeks of solid welsh rain whilst living under canvas. Do this in candle light without a bathroom or electricity for three months. Chuck in living with your father for good measure. Top with an assortment of large slugs. The result a hand crafted home of beauty, warmth and health for about 3,000.”
It goes without saying that death is probably not the best topic to start the New Year with. However, it’s never too late early to start thinking about how you might leave this world. As some of you know, I’ve recently delved deeper into the ‘alternative burial’ industry and months ago produced a short video and piece on a Green Cemetery that opened here in Ithaca. It was at the dedication of this cemetery that I met a gentleman named Mark Harris; a former environmental columnist with the LA Times. He was doing research for an upcoming book that took a look at the myriad of ways you and I can leave this planet. I mentioned to him that I looked forward to reviewing the book and he said it would be a pleasure to send one my way. This Christmas, such a gift arrived at my door.
Titled Grave Matters, Mark’s book gives us a front row seat in surveying the burial industry. From the modern burial to the green burial (and everything in between), we’re treated to the intimate details; some that will shock, some that will enlighten, and others that will simply make you reconsider everything you thought you knew about death. Ever since the character Nate Fisher was laid to rest in a woodland grave with only a sheet in the final season of HBO’s “Six Feet Under”, Americans have started reconsidering their options with burial. Harris’s book provides the details and lays the groundwork for making those decisions; and once and for all deciding how we’ll leave our mark on the planet.
Wow, here’s another West Coast only first! In Santa Rosa, CA (just north of San Francisco) there is a company that makes pots for your plants, flowers, herbs, and such out of sustainable crops, mainly grain husks. They’re called EcoForms.
Now from what I understand, such a product already exists in Canada, the UK, and Australia. EcoForms is the first here in the US (but correct me if I’m wrong). They are a husband wife team who run an organic nursery called Sweetwater Nursery. Like most things borne out of necessity; they wanted an alternative to the plastic pots. They had already converted their greenhouses to solar power and their trucks to biofuels, but the plastic containers for their organic plants just seems contradictory, hence an idea was borne!
They are designed to last 5 years in all climates. and come in a variety of earthy colors and different sizes. If you decide to discard it into a landfill, it will breakdown into a nutrient-rich organic matter with a PH value of 7.0. You can find them at Whole Foods or contact them directly for wholesale orders, or custom designs.
Tell all your green thumb friends,
In the past, the term ‘sustainable fashion’ carried an almost instant stereotype of hemp and unappealing design. To even consider an alternative to fashion that went against the status quo was a gamble of reputation and money on consumer acceptance. As we’ve seen over the last couple years, however, the shades of green befalling industries has led to new markets and opportunities for companies willing to trail blaze. It’s not surprising then that the fashion industry — known for daring and bold ideas — would be one of the first to turn everything upside down. We’ve seen organic and animal free styles by Stella McCartney, activism from models like Summer Rayne Oakes, and corporate shifts to free trade and sustainable materials from companies like Timberland .
Amidst these changes in practice have also come new companies offering radical takes on classical products. Not just necessarily from a design point of view, but also on what makes up the product. One such company making waves throughout the industry is Ecoist . From their website,
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner today announced that with DOE funding, a concentrator solar cell produced by Boeing-Spectrolab has recently achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent, establishing a new milestone in sunlight-to-electricity performance. This breakthrough may lead to systems with an installation cost of only $3 per watt, producing electricity at a cost of 8-10 cents per kilowatt/hour, making solar electricity a more cost-competitive and integral part of our nation’s energy mix.
(Emphasis definitely freakin’ mine.)
Not to out do Kevin’s exuberance, this is definitely a huge deal. $3 per watt to install? A 62% reduction in installation cost for PV panels?
One area that sorely lacks an environmental focus in my household is our cleaning products. For some reason we just had never given it much thought. I was recently given the opportunity to bring some products into the house for a product review and what follows are my thoughts on the products after about 6 weeks of use. The products we obtained are from the Shaklee group of cleaning products. They can be found at www.Shaklee.com .
Our first opportunity to review the dish soap product that was supplied to me was on Halloween. I thought I had a great opportunity to test it’s grease fighting and cleaning ability because we would have plates and dishes sitting around as we hurried out the door to do some trick or treating, and also because I had cooked a whole chicken for dinner so there was quite a bit of grease available.
I was right. It was quite the test. By the time we returned from our candy fueled adventures the dishes were quite a sight. Following the direction on the bottle I added a couple of drops of dish soap to my dish pan along with some hot water (we keep our water heater at 120 so our water isn’t really that hot) and I started to wash the dishes. And the dish soap worked beautifully. In fact, it worked just as well as I could have expected from a non-environmental cleaner. I never did add any additional soap to the dishpan and the soap worked fantastic.
In conversations about social justice, energy, and our environment clothing doesn’t get a lot of attention. This is in part because individually, clothing items don’t carry that big an embodied energy cost. Another reason is that shirts aren’t as spectacular as cars, or houses or even dinner. It is also kind of a girl thing – although male clothing is just as expensive, men, on average, shop less often and buy less when they do. Women tend to buy the household’s clothing as well as their own, and to engage in recreational clothing shopping. Clothing the household has been women’s work from time immemorial. And because the clothes we wear are tied intimately into how we feel about ourselves, and how others view us, clothing as a subject is somewhat fraught.
And yet, I think there are a number of really good reasons to find and learn ways to make clothing, to prioritize homemade, or locally made clothing (including learning to find it beautiful), and perhaps to create a “Slow Clothing” movement rather like the ”Slow Food” movement currently picking up speed. Maybe it’s as simple as creating a campaign in which each of us would have at least one daily wearable outfit that we’ve made ourselves.
When selecting a tree “go live”. When the holidays are over it can be habitat for small mammals and birds. They provide shelter and beauty not to mention clean air. It is a green choice for sure.
There are a few important considerations when dealing with a live tree.A live tree comes with roots and therefore is heaver than a cut tree, obvious huh? Well don’t let a little extra weight get in your way. I use a wooden furniture dolly to wheel our tree around. Your local nursery will bring in live trees and often take the balled & burlapped trees and pot them up for easier handling. Some nurseries will just grow the trees in containers. Once you have chosen the perfect tree and you have brought it home you can’t just place it in the corner of the room right away. Follow these steps for best success:
Quite a few people were interested in my recent harvest of Luffa shower sponges. I thought I’d explain a bit more about the plant and the process of growing it. Luffa aegyptiaca Mill. or as it is commonly called, the Loofah, is a vegetable native to South America. It can be eaten when it is smaller. I have stir fried them but only up to a size of about 4 inches. After that they become tough like an over ripe squash. Left to fully mature each fruit produces an excellent sponge. Seeds for this plant are readily available through vegetable catalogs and you’ll only have to buy seeds your first year- one mature Luffa sponge will produce at least 30 seeds. Some will produce many more.
Frost kills the plant and it needs 4 to 5 months of growth to produce sponges. Here in North Carolina I can plant seeds directly in the ground near the date of the last frost and then harvest a modest number of sponges later in autumn. If I wanted a better yield or if I lived further north I would start them indoors several weeks, maybe even a month before the date of the last frost and transplant them outdoors after frost danger has passed. Planting them on the sunny, southern side of your property will help. They are natural climbers and are happiest running up the sides of a trellis or even the outer walls of your home. I sprinkle a few seeds near, but not in front of, one of my south facing gutter downspouts. When the plant sprouts it climbs up the downspout and along my gutters. It doesn’t impede the flow of water and in the fall when the plant dies I easily pull it off of my home. The large Luffa leaves help to shade the hottest side of my house in the summer. I am certain they could be grown just as well on a large trellis. They can get quite long. I’ve grown vines that exceeded 15 feet in length.