October 2013 - Our Daily Green

Friday, October 25, 2013

Why we should care about climate change

photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons:
5-foot world globes on display to urge everyone to
"take action against global warming"
As the autumn leaves turn in many parts of the nation and the weather gets colder, the inevitable jokes about climate change are waiting to be hauled out again. Every cold day, inevitably, someone will remark that it doesn't seem very warm for a planet that is warming. The scientific history of climate change is well noted.

Carbon emissions do affect our planet, even if the effect is not immediate. Carbon emissions can stay in the atmosphere for nearly 100 years and they serve as a type of gaseous insulating blanket surrounding the globe. While warmer weather may sound like a great idea to folks, it changes how our eco-systems function. Compare it to baking something in the oven. The difference in a recipe between baking something at 300 degrees versus 400 degrees changes the texture, the taste and the amount of time until the food is finished, and it could ruin the recipe. 

A recent survey from Time Magazine discovered that one of the reasons that folks do not take climate change seriously is that the majority of the effects will likely be a generation or two from now.  With the exponential development of new energy supplies, including wind and solar, since the 1973 energy crisis, our concerns about availability of fuel are assuaged. Plentiful availability does very little to encourage continued conservation. And yet, the question should not be "Will we run out of fuel?" but instead, "What does this rate of use do to the atmosphere?" 

Today's post is brought to you by a sponsor. Our Daily Green works hard to bring you information that will enlighten, encourage and educate you in all the different ways we can be eco-friendly. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Do you know who actually owns the organic brands? (from repost.us)

Do You Know Who Actually Owns the ORGANIC Brands? (via http://faroutradio.com/)
by Catherine J. Frompovich as republished from Natural Blaze  Money is being spent BIG time in offensives against GMO labeling bills introduced in various states. One humongous battle—over $7.2 Million worth and counting—that currently is going…

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

McDonald’s takes its time cooking up a new menu (OtherWords.org)

The fast-food chain swears it will offer plenty of healthy choices at all its restaurants but not until seven years from now

Jim Hightower
The appeal of fast food chains isn’t their food: mostly fat, salty, sugary, empty-calorie mush. It’s their speed.
Order, pay, and — bam — your warmed-over burgerpizzachickentaco delight is instantly handed to you.
Yet, for a mega-chain based on speed, McDonald’s has proven to be embarrassingly slow in one key way, leaving it with flat sales and declining appeal. The executives in charge were so stuck on peddling obesity and diabetes for fat profits that they completely missed a mass shift in today’s marketplace: the rise of health-conscious consumers.
But look out. Here comes the McDonald’s marketing machine with a blur of ads and promotional gimmicks touting “A new global commitment to make a world of difference.” Using endearing pictures of children, the Big Mac chain now claims to be all about fresh veggies, fruit, salads, juices, milk, health, and a fuzzy happiness for all.As a result, McDonald’s has been losing out to Subway, Chipotle, Panera, and other chains that figured out years ago how to cater to the growing leaner-and-greener customer base.
The Golden Arches Empire is even teaming up with Bill Clinton to give its PR hype a sheen of sincerity. For an undisclosed splash of cash, the fast-food marketer says it is now “global partners” with the Clinton family’s foundation in its bid to sell more nutritious Happy Meals to the world’s kiddos.
However, the fast-food giant is in no hurry to deliver on this pledge. Claiming that getting healthier foods into its supply chain is hard, the CEO snickered that, “We don’t go down to the grocery stores” to stock up on fruits and veggies.
Well, maybe they should. Doing it the McDonald’s way, he says, will take until 2020 to get the more nutritious stuff into every store in the chain’s 20 largest markets.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org

Monday, October 21, 2013

Planning an allergy-free Halloween (from repost.us)

Dairy can be scary — planning an allergy free Halloween (via http://www.eastvalleymomsblog.com)
Halloween is by far my favorite holiday! Between the ability to add pumpkin to every dish I prepare, costume planning and neighborhood fun, I can’t wait for my calendar to flip to October every year.  When I found out that my son Garrett could not…

Do you need a water heater blanket?

Today's post has been brought to you by water heater installation experts, Aramendia Plumbing Heating & Air in Houston
Consumers looking to cut their monthly utility bills and save some energy are often advised to insulate their water heater with a blanket. In some instances, this is not a necessary or useful purchase. An improperly installed water heater blanket can violate local building codes by covering operating instructions, controls, and possibly blocking combustion and draft passages. However, for a nominal investment, a properly installed water heater blanket can reduce energy loss by 25-45% which will quickly pay for itself.

The simplest test to know if a water heater tank is losing heat is to touch the surface of the tank. If it is warm, the tank is losing heat. Many tanks are in cooler places in the home, such as a basement or garage and that lost heat can add up to many dollars over the course of a year. The temperature difference between the cooler area that is exposed to the elements and the temperature of the hot water can be significant.

Many newer water heaters are adequately insulated already and require no further insulation. Tanks with R-values of 16 or higher are already efficient. Less expensive water heaters may have an R-value of as low as 6. The R-value may be on the tank sticker or can be found with an internet search engine. ASHRAE's (The American Society of Heating and Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) standards for performance, efficiency and stand-by loss require at least an inch of foam insulation.

Check with your local energy company about possible incentives or discounted water heater blankets.

Beyond insulating the tank, a lot of stand-by heat is lost during the journey through the pipes. The further the outlet is from the tank, the greater the heat loss. If the water has to travel a long distance through the pipes to reach the outlet, it may be worth insulating the pipes.

Maintenance is another important factor in efficient water heater usage. When hard water is heated, the minerals such as calcium and lime dissolve and then settle into the bottom of the water tank, building up and burning out the elements or overheating the bottom of the tank. If you have unusually hard water, or utilize low-flow faucets and shower heads (which slows the flushing of the tank), regularly draining and flushing the tank for maintenance will keep it running efficiently.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Is your phone smart enough to not poison the people recycling it? This one is (from YES! Magazine)

Our throwaway electronics harm people overseas, but new trends in responsible design are not just smart—they’re kind.
Cell Phone Pile by Shutterstock
Photo from Shutterstock.
When Ted Smith looks at a smartphone, he doesn't see a multipurpose gadget. He sees faces. He sees the face of the Indonesian or Ugandan miner who unearthed the raw materials. He sees the face of the factory worker who lives on a corporate campus in China and works long shifts, exposed to hazardous chemicals while assembling minuscule components. He sees the face of the salesperson at Best Buy or Target, and the face of the customer. He sees the faces of those who encounter the product after it’s been jettisoned and shipped halfway around the world to regions awash in electronic waste.
Imagine a phone that’s made using conflict-free minerals and is encased in a shell made of nontoxic chemicals.
Smith, 67, began tracking the electronics industry in the early 1970s. Seemingly overnight, a swath of California morphed into an epicenter of new technology. As massive semiconductor and consumer electronics manufacturers sprang up and churned out cutting-edge products, Smith rounded up community members to take a stand against the industry’s lack of transparency about the chemicals used along the production line and the threats these substances posed to workers, the environment, and nearby residents. In 1982, Smith founded the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. Twenty years later, he expanded his activist scope and co-founded the International Campaign for Responsible Technology.
“We realized early on that this industry was going to be a major engine of the future,” Smith says. “And we had broad-based concerns. It wasn’t just environmental. There were labor-rights issues, health issues, the need to preserve neighborhoods.”

Over the past 40 years, Smith’s worries have manifested on a global scale. The consumer electronics industry is now a multibillion-dollar juggernaut that churns out new products year-round. In 2012, sales of electronics in the United States topped $200 billion, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, an industry group that represents 2,000 companies, including Sony, Samsung, and Apple. The average American household now owns 24 electronic products, many of which will be rendered obsolete within a few years.
So it should be no surprise that consumer electronics is the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. waste stream, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2009, the most recent year for which the EPA has data, 2.37 million tons of electronics were ready for “end-of-life management,” yet only a quarter of them were collected for recycling.

It doesn't just disappear

Cell Phone Graphic
Every year, heaps of American e-waste, from smartphones to computers to stereo systems, are shipped to India, China, Ghana, Pakistan, Peru, and other developing countries. By some estimates, 80 percent of the U.S. e-waste collected ends up on foreign shores, where regulations are lax and incentive for risk high.

The goods are generally auctioned off in bulk to scrap companies and smelters. These companies pay locals—often including children—meager wages to strip smidgens of gold, copper, and palladium from the discarded devices. Sometimes, this involves concocting a noxious stew of cyanide and nitric acid, then burning the remaining plastic in crude firepits. Throughout the process, workers are exposed to lead, mercury, and cadmium, among other toxic substances.

One place our waste ends up is Guiyu, China, a port city of 150,000 on the South China Sea. As documented by the Basel Action Network, Guiyu is home to more than 5,000 small, mostly family-run businesses that trade in e-waste. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives found that children living in Guiyu had significantly higher levels of lead in their blood than children from Chendian, a nearby city with no e-waste processing.
Meanwhile, the ill effects of e-waste may be circling back to U.S. dinner plates. Researchers at Monmouth University released a study this spring that found high levels of lead in U.S. rice imports. One possible cause is the electronic waste industry, the lead author said in an interview with the BBC.

Benign by design

But to make meaningful progress on the e-waste crisis, Smith says, we can’t just focus on the waste. From mining to manufacturing to recycling, consumers, corporations, and governments need to rethink the life of our devices from beginning to end.
Imagine a phone that’s made using conflict-free minerals and is encased in a shell made of nontoxic chemicals. Imagine if that same phone, which looks and works like every other touchscreen smartphone on the market, was manufactured under the supervision of labor-rights organizations and in close collaboration with an established, reputable e-waste recycler that made sure every reusable and recyclable component was recovered safely.
That’s the ambition of Fairphone, a Dutch startup that’s currently producing its first batch of 20,000 phones—half of which have already been pre-ordered. The Fairphone is one of the most palpable examples of “benign-by-design,” a school of thought that aims to make products less harmful throughout their entire life cycle.
So far, the most significant benign-by-design achievements have been in the field of green chemistry, buried in academic journals. A small tweak in how a plastic is produced could make a product safer to build and disassemble. Fairphone is an instance where the benign-by-design mentality is helping meet a blossoming demand for sustainable electronics.
While Smith sees promise in Fairphone’s approach and the sustainable electronics movement, major manufacturers “living under the dictate of the quarterly profit” remain the largest obstacle. He says, “To really develop benign-by-design, we have to change the business model.” And that includes compelling manufacturers to devise effective take-back programs that are widely publicized and easy for consumers to access.

States lead the way

Wisconsin’s program, launched three years ago, has already collected more than 100 million pounds of e-waste.
One persistent barrier in the United States, however, is the lack of federal legislation to make sure e-waste is properly recycled. Compare that with the European Union, which last year imposed a strict directive requiring that by 2019 member countries collect 65 percent of the weight of all electronics put on sale in the preceding three years or 85 percent of all e-waste generated per year. Under the EU’s policy, retailers will be required to take e-waste from consumers. Companies—retailers, manufacturers, and recyclers—found to be in violation could be hit with stiff fines.
Further complicating matters is that the United States isn't a signatory of the Basel Convention, an international treaty regulating how hazardous materials, including e-waste, are transported and disposed of. Fortunately, a growing number of states are implementing e-waste recycling programs. If done properly, they can steer millions of pounds of potentially harmful electronics into sustainable, regulated channels rather than overseas where there’s minimal oversight.
“Every state is very different and poses unique opportunities and challenges for increasing electronics recycling,” Sarah Murray, coordinator of E-Cycle Wisconsin, said in an email.
Wisconsin’s program, launched three years ago, has already collected more than 100 million pounds of e-waste. With budgets tight across the country, however, she warns that some states may not have the resources to staff and implement an e-waste program. “We were … fortunate that the legislation gave us dedicated positions for this purpose. That has meant we've had enough manpower to do necessary administrative tasks, educate stakeholders and the public, provide compliance assistance, and conduct inspections.”
As the piecemeal push to alleviate the effects of e-waste becomes more cohesive, Smith and the International Campaign for Responsible Technology are homing in on a handful of specific objectives that could usher in a future of sustainable electronics. One of their biggest ambitions is to see a requirement that companies disclose all of the chemicals used in a product’s lifecycle.
“Nobody I know knows the number of chemicals used in the manufacturing of electronic products. It’s probably in the range of several thousand. Some are very standard, run-of-the-mill chemicals, but others are exotics … and many are extremely hazardous,” Smith says. “We need disclosure of the entire chemical footprint. Until we understand that better, it’s difficult to push.”
But perhaps the biggest catalysts for change are the faces Smith sees. He mentions the possibility of building an app that shows the faces of all the people who’ll encounter the phone along the supply chain, from the miners to the factory workers to the smelters.
“I do believe if people could see the harm, they wouldn't support it,” he says.

Chris Sweeney MugChris Sweeney wrote this article for The Human Cost of Stuff, the Fall 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Chris is a Boston-based writer interested in global health and science.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

America's nutrition evolution (infographic)

Inspect vehicles to insure eco-friendly driving

vehicle emissions
Flickr/CC BY 2.0
Most states require vehicles to be inspected for emissions to insure that cars are in compliance with federal air quality standards. There are four ways to test for emissions. The first way is simply an on-board diagnostic check, with analyzes the computerized equipment through a data link collector attached to the computer under the dashboard. Other tests include the tailpipe test which samples the exhaust for levels of pollutants, the gas cap test which insures the cap has a good seal and fit and lastly the visual anti-tampering check, which is just a way of making sure nothing on the car has been modified from the manufacturers standards.

Western Pennsylvania Toyota dealers are well equipped to take care of issues found by Pittsburgh state inspection teams. Items check by state inspection teams include vehicle suspension, brakes, tires and wheels, steering system, lighting and electrical systems, windshield, side windows and rear windows, wiper, fuel and exhaust systems, speedometer and odometer and overall body and chassis. the purpose of these periodic inspections is to ensure the safety of all vehicles on the road.

If a state inspector finds one or more issues with your Toyota, you will be given a specific amount of time to have your problem fixed. If this occurs, vehicle owners must repair their car, truck or SUV within a specific amount of time. The best place to perform state required repairs is your Toyota dealer. Our technicians are factory trained by Toyota and thoroughly familiar with all years and models of the manufacturer's line. By bringing your Toyota into a dealer, you will be assured that the state authorized repairs will be done right the first time, thus saving you time and money.

When faced with a state required repair, contact your Toyota dealer immediately. Our service experts will sit down with you, read the report and outline your repair options. Once repair is complete, you can take your vehicle back to the state station for re-inspection. When your vehicle passes, you will receive a safety inspection sticker valid for one year from the month of inspection.

Today's post has been brought to you by a sponsor. Our Daily Green encourages all drivers to get their vehicles inspected and repaired on a regular basis. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mobile phones that give back to charity

Giv Mobile

Answer the call with GIV Mobile, wireless for a cause. GIV Mobile offers a large selection of phones to choose from or you can bring your own compatible GSM device. Pick either the $40 Unlimited Everything Plan or the $50 Unlimited Everything Plan, plus no contracts to tie you down! Your wireless service can do more than keep you connected, it can help save the world! Choose up to 3 charities and they will donate 8% of your monthly plan.

After you enter the giveaway make sure to stop by GIV Mobile to see how you can make a difference. Some of the charities include environmental non-profits such as The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, or American Rivers. These pre-screened charities focus on preservation and protection of our natural resources. GIV also includes charities like the American Cancer Society and the Carnegie Institution for Science.


One reader will receive 3 Months of Unlimited Everything and a Nexus 4 from GIV Mobile 
{RV $450}. 
See form for Entry Details. Open to U.S. residents. You must be 18 years old to enter to win. 
Ends 10.23.13
All entries will be verified. An email address is required to enter. The winner will be chosen randomly through Giveaway Tools and contacted via email. A reply to the winning email is required within 48 hours before a new winner is chosen. One person entering per household please. U.S.residents only. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM EST on Oct 23, 2013. 

  Disclosure: GIV Mobile is responsible for shipment of prize. 
Companies and bloggers, if you would like to participate in group giveaway events like this one, sign up to be emailed about future events hosted by The Review Wire.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Allergy myths dispelled (infographic)

Our Daily Green is affiliated with The Allergy Kit, an at-home, non-drug allergy treatment program. 

The Allergy Kit
Find Allergy Control Products at AllergyBeGone.com

Friday, October 4, 2013

Geothermal as renewable source of energy

While many environmentally conscious consumers are exploring new technologies, such as fuel cells and solar panels, to save energy, geothermal energy is literally as old as the earth. In fact, the word geothermal comes from the Greek words geo (earth) and therma (heat). Geothermal energy is heat from the earth.
photo courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons

Natural evidence of geothermal heat is present in volcanoes and hot springs. Ancient Romans, Chinese, and Native Americans utilized the geothermal heat from hot springs when the heated water flowed to the surface.

Traditionally, applications and use of the earth's heat has taken place near tectonic plates boundary zones, such as the Pacific "Ring of Fire" with an abundance of active volcanoes. Geothermal energy has been developed in Indonesia, The Philippines and several countries in Central America, as well as more industrialized nations including Japan, New Zealand, and Mexico. With today's more sophisticated technology, a consumer does not need to be located near a hot spring or tectonic plate to appreciate the benefits of geothermal energy.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “geothermal heat pumps are among the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technologies currently available…” In fact, some geothermal heat pumps can be over 45% more energy efficient than traditional options.

Geothermal heat pumps take advantage of the uniform temperatures beneath the surface of soil or water to heat or cool the home. A heat pump moves heat from outdoors to indoors. There are four types of geothermal heat pump systems, three closed loop options: horizontal, vertical, or a pond/lake system and one open-loop option. The best choice for residential applications would be dependent on climate, soil, available land, and local installation sites.

A geothermal system begins with buried pipes a few feet beneath the surface, where the temperature remains steady throughout the year. A heat pump operates on the basic principle of transferring heat. Rather than burning fuel such as oil or gas to create heat, a device moves the heat from one place to another, via the buried pipes and tubes, employing a refrigerant to direct the heat flow to the desired area. Heat naturally moves from a high temperature to a lower temperature. Heat pumps can either bring heat into or remove heat from a building, depending on how the flow is directed. The technology is very similar to the way refrigerator coils work, but on a smaller scale. To capture or disperse the heat from beneath the earth's surface, a larger system of coils and tubes is required, hence the need to first assess whether a geothermal system needs horizontal or vertical loops, as well as the open or closed system.

There are several Energy Star rated geothermal heat pumps on the market that qualify for a consumer energy efficiency tax credit. While ENERGY STAR products may initially cost more to purchase, between lowered energy bills and tax credits, the cost is often offset. Currently, several models qualify for a 30% rebate of cost, through December 31, 2016. The rebate applies to both existing homes and new construction.

Today's post has been brought to you by American Comfort Heating in Chicago.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Junking food is bad for everyone (reprint from OtherWords.org)

The food Americans waste could help end hunger in this nation.

Jill Richardson
Several years ago, I worked in a grocery store bakery. At the end of each day, we threw away piles of perfectly good food.
Before the store closed, employees walked down each aisle, checking the expiration dates of bread, bagels, and cookies to toss out whatever expired that day — whether the food was actually still good or not. Then we chucked all of the day’s fresh-baked pastries, muffins, and bread. And those were definitely still good to eat.
As employees, we weren’t allowed to take it home and eat it ourselves. The store worried that if we could, we’d start baking too much on purpose in order to secure a larger supply of excess food at the end of the day.
I found the waste offensive.
Sometimes I snuck a bit of it out with me at the end of the night to hand to homeless people. I could have been fired for that. The store feared the prospect of attracting a line of homeless people begging for free food. And what if someone ate expired food, got sick, and sued? The food had to go in the trash.
According to a new study, this kind of waste goes on even after the food goes home with customers. Americans trash 40 percent of the food we buy — $165 billion worth per year — often because the food is past the expiration date.
Richardson-Junk Food-Nick Saltmarsh
Nick Saltmarsh/Flickr
“Best before” and “sell by” dates can be arbitrary, concluded the researchers with the Harvard University Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who conducted the study. We shouldn’t see them as indicative that food has spoiled. If a food looks rotten or smells bad, that’s when you know it’s time to toss it out — not just because a date on the package has passed.
“Food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States,” reads another NRDC report. Once in the landfill, wasted food yields methane, a greenhouse gas far worse than carbon dioxide.
But this wasted food doesn’t have to be a problem — it can also be a solution. At a time when 33 million Americans are “food-insecure,” and don’t get enough to eat, diverting just a fraction of perfectly good food from the landfill would feed all of them.
In my household, we also have a solution for the food that is no longer good for humans to eat. We feed it to our chickens and worms. We live in the city and keep a few hens for eggs. They are low-maintenance little pets who serve a number of purposes, like eating bugs and producing fertilizer. And they are ravenous for food scraps.
Whatever the chickens don’t take care of, we feed to the worms. We keep a worm compost bin, one that has holes large enough for airflow but small enough to keep rodents out. If the chickens won’t eat something, the worms certainly will. They turn rotting food scraps into black gold — worm compost — and we use it to grow strawberries, tomatoes, and salad greens. (Gardening also helps cut down on waste, since we can harvest highly perishable foods like lettuce as needed.)
What’s more, sometimes food past its prime is even salvageable as human food. Stale bread makes for great bread crumbs, overripe bananas become banana bread, and other types of overripe fruit are best for jams and pies.
Wasting 40 percent of our food while so many Americans go hungry is a national disgrace. As the Environmental Protection Agency puts it, we should “feed people, not landfills.”
OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. OtherWords.org

Creative CommonsExcept where otherwise noted, content on from OtherWords.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative 3.0 License.