Increase in Bizarre Weather Brings Increased Belief in Climate Change

Earth

Do you believe in climate change?

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In New Enland, people gladly welcome the snowy winter season, which a significant sector for many of the states’ economy. But on Oct. 29, 2011, when a major nor’easter pounded the region, much of the region. Not only was the prospect of a white Halloween hard to swallow, many of the trees in New Hampshire’s forests were still in leaf. As the snow piled up, tree limbs began snapping, knocking out power lines and threatening another important economic resource – fall foliage.

The Halloween Nor’easter is just one of many of extreme weather events that have taken place over the past 12 months. Eastern Europe experienced one of the coldest winters in memory, and further west, cities such as Athens and Rome were paralyzed by rare snowstorms. In the United States, a string of deadly tornadoes started ripping through the Midwest in February. Meanwhile, many major cities have skated through March with record-high temperature.

The extreme weather has triggered an increase in concern about climate change. Back in 2006, Al Gore released his film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, which was a documentary that influenced many people’s beliefs on the issue, as well as received a lot of criticism for the facts presented. Around the same time, international conferences on global warming were in the headlines and climate change became an issue that paved a lot of common ground among organizations and government parties. Everyone from Girl Scout troops to governors were committed to reducing carbon emissions and slowing the pace of the Earth’s rising temperatures.

The National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change was launched in 2008 and found that, in that year, 75 percent of people polled felt that man-made climate change was a real and serious problem. However, in the wake of the global economic crisis of 2008-2009, that number began to slip as people became more concerned about jobs and financial security. Only half of the Americans polled in the spring of 2010 said that climate change was a real problem.

But the latest set of numbers from the survey, which were released in February, show that 62 percent of those polled said there was evidence that the world’s temperature is rising, 12 percent were unsure if climate change was real and 26 percent said global warming wasn’t a legitimate problem. Those who said climate change is occurring added their opinions were the result of personal experiences and observations of extreme weather events, and by reports of melting glaciers and declining populations of polar bears and penguins.

Even with the threat of $5 a gallon gas now looming for the summer, Americans are watching the changes in their surrounding environments and making up their minds on climate change.  In addition to dramatic storms and temperature swings, people are seeing changes in wildlife populations, with birds migrating at different times. Trees are blooming out of season, and the maple sugaring season was cut short this winter when warmer temperatures decreased sap production.

What are your feelings on climate change? Have you seen any changes in your area to sway you either way?

Posted in Green Policy, Nature | Leave a comment

Going green is getting cheaper

Until now, many people who have considered getting a hybrid car to suit their green lifestyle have found the premium price on hybrid cars compared to conventional cars off-putting.

Since their first appearance on the roads in the late 1990s, hybrids have gradually dropped in price, but are they still more expensive to buy than other cars.  Now, though, may be the time to take advantage of incentives on offer from the two largest Japanese car manufacturers.

In the US, Honda and Toyota have increased their new car offers across the board.  The incentives include cash rebates, 0% financing and better leasing deals.

Generally, these two manufacturers have kept a tight rein on inventory and production, rather than use tempting sales discounts.  However, their incentives are more comparable with American manufacturers this year.  For example, according to TrueCar.com in September, Honda offered an average of $2,350 on new vehicles, representing a 6.8 per cent increase on the same month in 2010. Similarly, Toyota offered $2,250, 7.1 per cent more than in 2010.

The increased incentive by the Japanese manufacturers has been linked to increased competition from other car manufacturers.  Traditionally, Honda and Toyota customers remain loyal to their chosen brand, but now it seems that they are more willing to shop around.

In comparison the US manufacturers’ incentives were as follows: General Motors up 1.5% at $3,300, Ford down 6.6% to $2,850 and Chrysler down 8.2% from the previous September to $3,350.

While hybrid cars still have higher sales ticket prices than non-hybrids, these incentives may well boost hybrid sales.  The initial extra amount spent is soon made up through better fuel economy and reduced running costs such as road tax, due to the lower emissions that hybrids produce.  And of course, the longer that you keep the car, the more it will pay you back.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Artificial Photosynthesis: Possible New Fuel Production?

It’s no secret that many scientists and energy experts are working on finding alternative fuel sources and production methods that will decrease our dependance on non-renewable fossil fuels. There are several possibilities on the horizon, some of which are ready or nearly ready for commercial use. Some others are still under development and are seeing new breakthroughs with the increase of technological tools and resources available.

One such possibility that has currently undergone a new breakthrough is the process of using artificial photosynthesis to create simple fuel compounds, such as a ethanol, which then can be refined into petroleum or other useable fuel products. In natural photosynthesis, plants use solar energy to break down carbon dioxide (CO2) into simple sugars. From some crops, such as corn, we can get bio-fuel by refining these sugars into a useable chemical or compound.

Artificial photosynthesis uses a somewhat different approach with the same basic methodology and concept. Using an electrochemical energy cell, scientists can create simple carbon fuels and chemicals by harnessing solar and wind power transferred into the cell to produce carbon dioxide. The simple carbon fuels are then refined further into useable products and substances.

While these seems like a viable method and even more sustainable than biomass or bio-fuel technology, the energy needed for the initial conversion made it too inefficient to consider for commercial use. Recently, professor Paul Kenis, along with his research team at the University of Illinois, teamed with Dioxide Materials, a company that specializes in carbon dioxide energy technology, to begin research on ways to make the process more efficient.

Using an ionic liquid to produce a catalyst, the research team found that the energy needed to begin the process of artificial photosynthesis was much less than that which has been used in the past. Because this method is much less energy intensive, it brings artificial photosynthesis produced carbon fuels one step closer to being a viable method that can be used on a large scale. More research will soon be taking place on methods to maximize the output of simple carbon fuels using the process, as well as ways to speed up and produce carbon based compounds more quickly.

With the research being done by prof. Kenis’ group and Dioxide Materials, scientists and renewable energy groups are hopeful that we may soon see artificial photosynthesis become available for commercial fuel production use. Not only does it have the potential to help lessen independence on fossil fuels, but this method of creating carbon fuels can potentially help lessen C02 emissions on a large scale.

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Google’s Power Meter

Undoubtedly, some of you have seen the latest energy metering and monitoring devices aimed at those interested in conserving more power. This is a great idea, but hasn’t quite enjoyed the same popularity as your aunt’s eco-conscious jewelry that she’s so proud of.

This is a shame, because there is a great potential in savings (both energy, AND money) for those who carefully monitor their electricity or other utility usage. I predict that as more and more of these metering devices come to market, there will be a utility bill version of the “hypermilers

Hyper-milers, for those of you who don’t know, are people who are dedicated to squeezing every last drop of mpg out of their vehicles. Typically, hypermilers were Prius fanatics who were so impressed with the miserly qualities of their hybrid engines, that they wanted to see how far they could push it. Many such hypermilers typically boast mile/gallon rates of over 100 mpg.

Competitive saving and conservation is a concept I find very exciting. While sometimes it’s hard for people to quantify the value of the canvas bag they started using in lieu of plastic bags, it’s much easier to judge your impact with spreadsheets and printouts.

Enter the Google Power Meter. It’s quite possible this concept will go in the same “failed” bin as Google Buzz and Google Wave, but it’s also possible that this new power meter will revolutionize the way people track their utilities. Google is still waiting to get other utility providers and meter manufacturers on board, but you can already use the service if you get your juice from: San Diego Gas & Electric or Blue Ridge Electric in the US, Yello Strom in Germany, and first:utility in the UK.

Google's Power Meter energy monitoring service

Engadget posted a review of The Energy Detective and AlertMe, as part of their Google Power Meter analysis. Check it out! In the event your utility does not support this feature (at the time of this post, most do not), you can always purchase one of the Power Meter-ready devices listed here:

Posted in Green Sites & Apps | 3 Comments

From Treehugger:Can Trolls Be Green?

It seems as though not very many people have been in the “holiday spirit” this past month. As I meet more figureheads in the green blogosphere, I’m also coming across quite a few trolls.
Green Trolls

For those of you who are not familiar, a troll is a generalized term used to describe the types of people that spend the majority of their time leaving inflammatory comments on a blog post with the sole purpose of eliciting a reaction. This type of person likes to create an irrational argument out of the most seemingly innocuous conversation.

I wont get into the whole psychology of anonymity (are you familiar with 4chan?), but I had thought better of our green community.

Last week, Sami Grover of Treehugger, released another response to the “green troll” situation. Rarely do I find posts that mirror my views so accurately. Please check it out.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Mafia Goes “Green”

When I saw this story on the Mother Nature Network, Italy seizes $1.9 billion of assets as Mafia goes green, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. MNN usually comes out with great posts, and this one was no different. The title sure grabs you in, doesn’t it?

If you go on to read the rest of the article, you’ll see how Italy’s organized crime families are dipping into renewable energy to help fund their activities. This post is not meant to highlight or laud the efforts of a criminal organization. Instead, you should focus on the profitability of the renewable energy here.

Senator Costantino Garraffa, a member of the parliamentary anti-Mafia committee, said the Mafia was trying to break into the “new economy,” of alternative energy as it sought out virgin ventures to launder money from drugs and other rackets.

Italy is the 3rd largest producer of solar energy in Europe, after Spain and Germany.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Standby Power: What a Waste

Check out these power standby usage data

I always knew that turning off the lights when you weren’t using them was important(thanks dad!). And thanks to recent studies and PSAs, I’ve realized that the equipment I have plugged in draws a constant stream of current, and that adds up over time. Still though, I couldn’t be bothered to shove my hand behind my bed with all the dust and dog-fur to unplug my power strip every time I leave the house.

When I took a look at these figures from Lawrence Berkeley International Laboratory, I decided to take another look at what my electric meter is doing while I’m at work/asleep. I’m in a difficult position, as is any green/tech blogger. I love my internets and gadgets, but I also don’t want to be an insurmountable burden on the planet. Surely we can compromise and use less of the appliances that we’re already not using, right?

Stay tuned for a followup post on the environmental impacts of the internet and the modern data consumer.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Eating Vegan for Health and Environment

Fun fact about Daniel Fielding: I’ve been a vegetarian for 13 years. Hanging out at the food co-op, and general vegetarian/whole foods/organic crunchy hippies; I’ve made a lot of interesting friends along the way. This post below is about a vegan diet, and how you can make sure you’re getting the right nutrients.

Eating Vegan for Health and Environment

By Sasha Britton

Being an active person has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. I’ve always felt the need to get up and move, stay fit, and challenge my body. Eating a vegan diet is something that has developed a bit slower in my life, but something that I’ve somehow always felt the need to do. In going from vegetarian to vegan eating habits, I wanted to make sure that I’m informed and fueling my body as best I can. Being mindful to get a variety of nutrient- rich foods into my daily meals is no more difficult now than it was as an omnivore- so here’s the basics as I’ve found them so far in my journey.

What May Be Missing

In addition to protein, vegans may be missing the following nutrients in their diet:

-      iron

-      calcium

-      vitamins B-12 and D

-      zinc

Iron is quite important for building muscle and endurance. If you aren’t going to get this from beef, you’re going to have to make sure you’re eating the following on a regular basis:

-      whole grain cereals fortified with iron

-      legumes (beans, peas and peanuts)

-      dried fruit (especially raisins)

-      cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage)

In addition, you will want to combine these with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and berries; this will aid your body in absorbing and utilizing iron.

In lieu of dairy products, instead load up on fortified dairy-replacement products as well as leafy greens to keep bones strong with sufficient calcium: mustard, kale and chard are powerhouse foods in this regard, as well as dried figs. Sesame seeds are also a decent source of calcium; a unique form of nut butter made from sesame, called tahini, is a main ingredient in hummus and also available in many international foods aisles on its own. The easily absorbed calcium and vitamin D pairing is almost always present in Calcium supplements- a great addition to a mindful diet, especially if you’re a woman and over 40 or if you don’t get outside for a walk in the sun to absorb some D.

Peanuts (which are actually legumes, not nuts) and soybeans provide good proteins that are of the same quality as that derived from fish, poultry, dairy or eggs. Most tree nuts are also good sources of protein, and provide the additional benefit of healthy oils, such as omega-3. Include a range of nuts, legumes, and meat substitutes (soy or otherwise) throughout the day and you can rest assured that your covered. A great pre- or post-workout drink to pack in more protein is almond milk with hemp or soy protein powder. Depending on the flavors you pick, mix-ins like fruit or nut butters make for a delicious and healthy treat.

Zinc is mostly present in protein sources, and is vital for healthy respiratory and digestive function. Although a main source is animal products, almost any vegan protein- and especially pumpkin seeds- will provide good amounts of zinc.

Vitamin B-12 is essential for metabolism and making use of the energy stored in food. Unfortunately, the only reliable source of this nutrient is in animal-based foods. Whole grains cereals and soy milk are often vitamin B-12 fortified, but one would have to consume a great deal in order to get this nutrient in sufficient amounts from these vegetable-based sources alone. Therefore, a supplement is highly advisable for all vegans, athletes included.

By Sasha Britton, for Gym Source, provider of treadmills, ellipticals and home gyms for over 75 years.

Posted in Food and Diet | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Problem of “Greenwashing”

I was browsing Triple Pundit, one of my favorite enviro-conscious blogs, and I saw an article that caught my eye.

Planet People: This Soap is the Right Kind of Green “Washing”

This is just one of the many articles that touch upon the topic of greenwashing. Of course, as the preceeding title implies, in this case it is a play on words; using the word “greenwashing” in conjunction with an environmentally-friendly soap. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a greater underlying message here.

Greenwashing is the practice of a company marketing their products or services as being “Green” or “Environmentally Friendly” when they are really not making any nominal impact towards a healthier environment. In all reality, many products with the “green” moniker are even making matters worse.

This presents a predicament for me. I like to see myself as an eternal optimist; that we can tackle this problem we’ve been ignoring concerning pollution, sustainability, and our poor, poor mother earth. I’ve been forced to take a new look at my views towards this issue while speaking with many of the different bloggers in the green blogosphere.

The mantra boils down to this: Instead of working harder to remove the effects we’ve inflicted upon the planet, why not avoid causing those harmful effects in the first place? Instead of spending millions of dollars on research and development figuring out how to sequester carbon, why not take steps to avoid producing it in the first place?

Here’s the optimism bit: One day, our collective society’s environmental conscious will get there. In the meantime though, I’m happy to at least have people acknowledge that they are working to make a difference on our environment; even if that is only by buying “green” soap.

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Virginia Tech 2010 Solar Decathlon Winner

Virginia Tech beat out 16 other competitors in Europe this past June and have been crowned the 2010 Solar Decathlon winners.  The competition challenges teams from all over the world to design the best prefab home making efficient use of renewable solar energy technology.  Aside from the less than ideal weather conditions fluctuating between extreme heat to grueling thunderstorms, the teams successfully came up with a wide variety of innovative and impressive home designs that, in some cases, could essentially operate completely off-grid.

Virginia Tech designed the durable, energy efficient “Lumenhaus” which is adaptable and able to withstand a wide variety of weather conditions – a perfect product to unveil given the conditions experienced throughout the build.

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