Is Your Milk Genetically Modified With RBGH?

This is my first time writing a blog post.  I have to admit it took me a while to get here.  Let me explain, and many of you may relate.  I’m a new mom.  Our son has been the biggest blessing I could have ever imagined, but it has taken me a long time to get adjusted and organized.  I quit my job when David turned 4 months old and started to work from home instead.  Being home with him is the greatest gift.  So, needles to say, it’s taken me a while to sit and finally be able to write my thoughts. 

There are many things that interest me and concern me as a mother and as a citizen of this planet.  I will start with one of my biggest “hot topics:” the products we consume.  I am not a strict healthy eater, but I do think about how our food and drinks are produced. 

It all started while I was working on my undergrad degree in communication: I took a communication law class and chose “genetically modified products” as my topic for a huge paper.  While researching this topic, I encountered tons of frightening information, but what shocked me the most was recombinant bovine growth hormone, (rbgh). 

Rbgh is a genetically engineered hormone that is injected into cows in order to increase their milk supply.  In my research, I found that the effects are horrible for the cows: they frequently develop cancer, ulcers and mastitis, among other health problems.  Many times this will cause the udders to secrete puss, and guess where the puss goes—into the milk we drink every day!!!! 

This disgusted me and I hope it disgusts you too! 

There are tons of studies showing the ill effects of rbgh not only on cows but on humans as well!  What is even scarier is that this truth is trying to be buried by big corporations.  I am not encouraging anyone to stop drinking milk: on the contrary, I LOVE dairy products!!!  I encourage you to look for rgbh-free products. 

I have to brag about a Kleinpeter Dairy, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  This is a family-owned business that has always been rbgh-free because, they are “committed to the respectful and humane treatment” of their cows!  They have been featured in local papers but also in national periodicals such as Vanity Fair!  I was so excited the first time I had seen their commercial, which emphasized being rbgh –free!  I bought a gallon of their milk the next day and have been buying it ever-since—I can taste the difference!  As I said, Kleinpeter is local, and will most likely be available in other states in the future, but if it is not in your grocery store, look for other rbgh free dairy products!

Make Your Own Ethanol For Less Than $1 Per Gallon

With gas prices rising to record highs, individuals are looking for ways to cut that cost and one company are ready to give it to them. A California based company, E-fuel Corporation has just announced their newest product, a do-it-yourself home ethanol refinery. The Efuel100 home ethanol system is about the size of a refrigerator and can produce about 35 gallons of pure ethanol in just under seven days. While the company   boast about how simple, cheap and effective the small refinery is, the simple facts just don’t seem to be adding up.

The process requires massive amounts of sugar, water and about $1 worth of a proprietary yeast developed by the company. Approximately 350 to 490 pounds of raw sugar and about 140 gallons of water are needed to make one 35 gallon batch of ethanol. If you factor in the cost of the $10,000 refinery, the travel cost to pickup 400 pounds of sugar every week and water and electricity, I have a strong feeling that $1 per gallon is a pipe dream.

As we have stated many times before, food based ethanol is a bad idea, even on a small scale like this. Chances are, this type of small scale ethanol production will only drive up the cost of raw sugar making the mini refinery less economical and disrupting food prices world wide.

via Wired

First Tesla Dealership Opens For Business

After many years of development, the long awaited Tesla all electric vehicle is now a reality. Tesla opened their first flagship dealership in Hollywood Thursday and plans to open the next dealership in a couple of months next to their home base in San Carlos.

For those of you who know nothing about the Tesla, it is a high end all electric vehicle made primarily of carbon fiber and runs entirely on a 6,831-cell lithium-ion battery. The Tesla will go 225 miles on one charge and can be recharged in approximately 3.5 hours. The Tesla is fast too, this is not the electric car of yesterday, the Tesla gets from 0 to 60 in just under 4 seconds and has a top speed of 125 mph. It is these stats which put the Tesla in the same category as Porsche and Ferrari however its $100,000 to $125,000 price tag makes it significantly more affordable than a high end Ferrari.

The Tesla, of course, is not for everyone as the high price tag and the Hollywood location tends to lend itself to the more glamorous movie stars who wish to advertise their “greeness.” However, Tesla is planning to produce a more affordable family size electric vehicle and according to Snyder, head of client services for Tesla, “There’s a model in the works right now, a five-passenger sedan that will be styled comparable to the roadster but a lot roomier to accommodate families, and that is slated for 2010.” Until 2010, we will see the Tesla roadster being driven around by stars such as George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kelsey Grammer and even musicians such as Flea and Will.i.am.

Via Yahoo News

New Wind Turbine Design Increases Efficiency 4 fold

A company called FlowDesign has taken a page from the aeronautical engineering field and designed a type of “Jet Engine” wind turbine. These new wind turbines are said to be able to produce four times more electricity than typical wind turbines. Not only that, but because of their design, they can be placed closer together because they do not disrupt the wind flow as much.

Along with the better and more efficient turbine design, Flowdesign has also designed the transportation and installation methods to make this wind turbine even more efficient. This this type of efficiency increase in the design and production, we could see wind power being a better and cheaper alternative to coal. Flowdesign has been given $500,000 by a Massachusetts company to further develop their turbine design, the installation process and to streamline the manufacturing process.

Check out the original article over at EcoGeek and you can see a very nice rendered video explaining how these new “jet engine” wind turbines really work.

Energy Star Standards Manditory on New Construction? Agree?

I was looking around the internet searching for anything having to do with green building, sustainable living, etc.. and I came upon an interesting article over at the Washington Post about one county’s response to global climate change. Montgomery county in Maryland has been pretty aggressive towards reducing their environmental footprint, from using biodiesel in all of their city vehicles, providing tax incentives to home owners with solar, wind or geothermal installations and encouraging telecommuting programs for their employees. Now, city officials just passed legislation which would require all new single family homes built in Montgomery county to meet the federal energy efficiency standards known as Energy Star.

Being an official Energy Star Partner we fully support this federal program and what they are doing to create better energy efficiency standards in products, buildings and homes. However, I am still on the fence as to whether or not I agree with this type of legislation, requiring these Energy Star standards to be met.

Will this legislation help the environment? Absolutely, but at what cost?

Will individuals with lesser income be able to afford these higher efficiency homes or will this new legislation hang them out to dry? I know that by using integrated design, these standards can be met with little or no cost increase, but that may not be the case for low income housing, which, incidentally would fall under this legislation.

What are your thoughts on this type of legislation making Energy Star standards mandatory? Leave your comments below!

Hair Brained Idea to Artificially Cool Earth

I have heard a lot of hair brained ideas in my day, but this one tops the list. Some crazy scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research proposed artificially injecting sulfur into the Earth’s stratosphere to help cool it down. Now this is of course an alternative to curbing our CO2 emissions, which apparently is being deemed as too difficult. But artificially injecting enough sulfur into the atmosphere would be easier?

Anyway, according to their studies, injecting sulfates into the stratosphere could cause additional damage to the ozone above Antarctica and not to mention the health effects. This is just one of the hair brained “geo-engineering” ways to stop global warming instead of simply reducing our emissions.

Is it just me, because I feel like we are going about this all wrong if we are thinking in terms of geo-engineering and injecting the atmosphere with strange chemical elements to stop global warming. It just seems like there are way to many unknowns when you attempt such a large scale project dealing with mass amounts of unhealthy chemicals in the atmosphere. I mean, isn’t that what got us in this pinch in the first place?

Full Story at: Yahoo

Another Earth Day, How Did We Do This Year?

Well here we are at another Earth Day and quite frankly a lot has changed since last year. It seems that this “green thing,” which many opponents said was a fad, now looks like a full blown movement. Even in the midsts of a recession green buildings, homes and products are hot items and people are willing to pay a premium for them. Considering that the popular belief was that if government forced us to be green, it would hurt the economy, well it seems that the economy was broken already and perhaps the “green thing” is what is going to get us out of this recession.

A year ago, there was only a little TV/media coverage on green issues, but now almost every TV show, news cast or magazine has something about green in it. Granted a lot of this is green-wash, which is the basically faking green to improve public perception of a company or product. However, it is still nice to see so many people being educated about environmental issues.

On the global warming front, there are still a few nay sayers who are actively trying to debunk Global warming with junk science (or no science at all for that matter), but this group is shrinking slowly but surely. Even president Bush and top scientist from major oil companies are admitting that things need to change, even though they are not actively doing anything.

All in all we have seen a lot of accomplishments this year and the future does look bright. I hope each and every one of you will seriously consider doing something for the earth today. Step out of your comfort zone and commit to doing something that you previously have not done and stick with it. We cannot depend on governments to fix the problem that we are in, we must fix this ourselves, so do whatever you can to reduce your consumption, reduce your energy usage and reduce your waste/pollution.

Have a happy earth day!

What’s in Your Garbage?

Most of us don’t like to dwell on the topic of garbage – it’s messy, often stinky, and we want out of our homes as fast as humanly possible. 

The garbage is a place we tend to put all kinds of things we don’t know what to do with, and things we’re unaware should be put elsewhere.  Perhaps the reason we don’t know the answers to many “trashy” questions is because we’d just rather avoid the topic.

Where do we put all of this stuff?

Waste has likely been a problem since humans began roaming the Earth.  After all, it bows to the most basic tenant of science – matter cannot be created or destroyed – just modified.  As it piled up around us, we noticed a few things. One, its almost always ugly.  Two, it almost never smells good.  And three, everyone seemed to be getting sick from it.

We tried burning it – sometimes we even still do. (Those of you living in the city and suburbs who think everyone puts a can at the curb, think again.  There are rural areas where the right to burn trash ranks up there with the right to own property.)  But burning has its own set of problems, not the least of which is toxic air. And of course, the boredom of watching stuff burn has lead to a few fires over time.

Someone then got the idea to bury the stuff in a big hole – probably someone watching another someone heave a refrigerator into a remote ravine full of Maytags, Kennmores and Amanas. The big hole was a good idea – put the stuff in, cover it up, never worry about it again.

Until we learned about things like leachate, the liquid that results from decaying garbage and finds its way into our streams, creeks and waterways, and methane, that greenhouse gas byproduct of decaying organic matter, which we now know contributes to climate change. Many primitive, unlined landfills have been deemed toxic sites, were cleaned up, or are now in the process of being cleaned up.

The Modern Landfill

Today’s landfills may not look it, but are engineering marvels, lined, either with clay or plastic liners, to isolate trash as much as possible. Liners are also meant to kept trash dry and limit air contact – that, in turn, slows decomposition of trash – you’ve likely heard stories about excavated 30 year-old newspapers that look like they came from the corner news stand. 

Generally speaking, many factors, quite a few related to groundwater and geology, must be considered during the landfill siting and proposal process (check out http://science.howstuffworks.com/landfill4.htm for details).  Aside from liners, landfills are composed of a series of cells, which, as they are filled, are compressed with heavy equipment to conserve space, and closed off with a cover of soil, usually about six inches.  Additionally, landfills contain drainage and collection systems for storm water and leachate, and in some more progressive designs, methane recovery systems allow collected gas to be used for energy. 

Landfills are not designed for quick decomposition – in fact, even after they are closed, most must be monitored for years to detect possible environmental impacts.  Even organic material and biodegradable items break down slowly in these low-moisture, low-oxygen burial chambers.  But that doesn’t mean the “biodegradable” moniker is just greenwash.  Some trash inevitably ends up floating around in the world, outside of landfills, be it from our own carelessness, escape from trash trucks, whatever.  Better it break down quickly than collect vectors, mosquitoes and the like.

There are some that would have us believe that the “landfill space shortage” crisis is an exaggeration created by activists.  After all, in the great big US of A, there is plenty of ground left for us to bury our trash in.  Perhaps. More likely, these folks have never been to a community meeting for a landfill siting or expansion permit.  Regardless of the wonders of modern engineering, landfills will likely always bring odor, blowing trash, unwanted animal life, and increased truck traffic, among other potential nuisances. 

There’s always the argument that we put our trash in places where no one lives anyway – ala Yucca Mountain.  But, regardless of population, what state or states would volunteer to be the country’s garbage can?  Anyone who remembers that famous New York trash barge floating up and down the East Coast looking for a landfill that would take its cargo knows the answer.

Amazon.com Widgets

Rethink your trash.

So, what’s a large country of consumers – Americans generate about four times more trash per person than the citizens of any other country – to do?  Here are a few ideas:

Compost organics: Get a countertop compost pail (around $25 at Amazon.com) and start saving organics.  Most pails come with odor-killing filters, so have no fear of keeping them in the house.  Then, either purchase an out door compost bin, or build your own. Details on keeping compost are available all over the Web. 

According to Mike Forbeck, of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, composting is one of the best ways to limit the amount of waste going to landfills.  “New products like cups and bottles made of cornstarch polymer can be composted along with leaves and yard wastes to produce richer soils,” Forbeck said.  “Some major venues are converting to these products, like PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

Precycle: When you purchase products, look for those that use the least amount of packaging, or use packaging made from recycled materials.  In the grocery store, look for cereals, snacks, beverages, and frozen foods in boxes made of recycled material.  Buy in bulk – for instance, two liter bottles of soda instead of individual serving bottles or bundles of aluminum cans.  Avoid convenience packaging when possible.  “Reduce first,” Forbeck says.  “Be a smart shopper.  Buy recycled products, or those that use less packaging.”

Purchasing items that use packing made with recycled content can actually save energy, too.  According to Forbeck, in glass plants, it takes less energy to make new glass from recycled than from virgin resources.  Making aluminum cans from recycled cans can use as little as 5 percent of the energy it takes to make a new can.

BYOB: Bring your own bags. If you attend conferences and workshops, save those canvas bags they give you to tote around all of your paperwork, and toss them in your trunk. Dig out that L.L. Bean Boat ‘n Tote from your last beach adventure.  Make a commitment to use them at the grocery store, discount stores, department stores, the farmers market – wherever someone is likely to load your purchases in a plastic or paper bag. Some grocers offer a small discount to customers who bring their own bags – in the neighborhood of five or ten cents per bag. Even Macy’s is promoting this practice.

Buy only what you need and use what you buy: Families often stock their refrigerators only to find it full of rotten or expired food after a busy week of evening activities and late nights at the office.  Try to plan ahead as much as possible – anticipate how many meals you’ll be eating at home as a family, how many lunches need packing, etc.  Buy what you need until you can make another trip to the store.  Store things properly – tomatoes keep longer on the counter, other fruits and vegetables do better in the fridge crisper.  If you have questions, ask your grocer.

Recycle:  The golden rule of environmentalists.  Follow the directions provided by your collector and make sure your recycling center or facility follows proper practices. “One of the most common misconceptions among the public is that their recyclables are always handled properly,” Forbeck said.

Go beyond plastic bottles and aluminum cans.  Recycle plastic containers from single servings of fruit, yogurt, and pudding, as well as plastic containers from health and beauty products and household cleaners.  Check in with your recycling center or collector to find out which plastics they accept (that little number in the triangle on the bottom of most packaging) – most take numbers one and two, some take others.  If your recycler does not, ask where you can take numbers like 5, 6, and 7.  Find out if your recycler takes corrugated cardboard – if they don’t, it’s likely someone in your community does.  Look for neighborhood bins for phone books, newspapers and magazines, often located at malls and shopping centers. 

According to Forbeck, recycling can play a key role in saving energy, as well as landfill space. “Every pound of steel recycled saves 5,450 BTUs of energy, enough to light a 60-watt bulb for over 26 hours,” he said.  “Recycling a ton of glass saves the equivalent of nine gallons of fuel oil. Recycling just one can saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for 3½ hours.”

Cut back on paper use: Contrary to conventional wisdom, paper takes up the most space in landfills, not soiled diapers or plastic bottles (read more about what’s really in our landfills in Rubbish!: The Archeology of Garbage by William Rathje and Cullen Murphy of the University of Arizona’s Garbage Project).

But don’t stop at that catalog cancellation site (junkmailstoppers.com; catalongstoppers.com, catalogend.com).  Make it a practice not to sign up for mailing lists.  If you really want information from a vendor, give your e-mail address instead.  Consider buying only from retailers who use sustainable practices for their mailings – like sustainable forestry paper, or post-consumer recycled paper.  Don’t sign up or drop your business card into bins for product drawings or sweepstakes – this is a classic marketing tool for gathering names and growing mailing lists. Always print double-sided, or give paper printed on one side to children for art projects (some elementary schools collect this kind of paper for this purpose). Shred newspaper and use it for pet bedding, or offer it to local farmers for livestock beds.

Use Your Head:  Don’t put things in the trash that don’t belong there.  Solvents, oil-based paints, motor oil, wood stains, tires, pesticides, herbicides, etc. should all be saved for a local household hazardous waste collection event.  Call your municipality to find out if an event is planned (they often happen in the spring and summer when people are spending time in their garages and sheds).  If not, ask that one be established, or find out if communities with collection days will allow you to participate (costs for these events are high, so they are often closed to residents of sponsoring communities).  Also, if you’ve actually been using compact fluorescent bulbs long enough that they’ve started to burn out, be sure to dispose of them properly. CFLs contain mercury. Visit http://ww.epa.gov/bulbrecycling for tips.

Be creative: Find new ways to reduce and reuse.  Crafters can easily reuse discarded fabrics, clothing and linens, turning them into quilts, dolls, and other saleable items.  If you’re not the hobby-type, consider asking a friend or relative who is if they’re interested in items your considering tossing.  Give clothing you’re no longer using to Good Will, or other local charities.  Many groups collect professional clothing for out of work women to wear to job interviews.  Some charities even collect cars – make sure to get the proper paperwork for a tax write off.  Check out the Freecycle network where people trade useful items within their communities – www.freecycle.org.  Hold and promote a neighborhood garage sale or fleamarket – cottage and country decorating enthusiasts love these events, and often look for new places to “shop.”  Check out Nike’s shoe recycling program.  Collect used and worn out athletic shoes from friends, families, and people in your neighborhood, and send them back to Nike (the brand doesn’t matter).  Nike uses the shoes to make NikeGrind, a special athletic surface used to build safer sports surfaces in lower-income neighborhoods.

Trash will likely always be a problem as long as there are humans – but with some planning and foresight, we can likely minimize the implications of our consumption.  Trash collectors themselves are getting into the act – in some California communities, residents receive three collection bins – one for landfill, one for compost (the trash hauler collects it, cures it, and bags it for sale) and one for recycling.  Those who request smaller landfill bins and bigger compost and recycle bins see discounts on their trash bills.  Consider lobbying your trash company or municipality for a similar program, and look for more ways to limit your landfill contribution.

 

Coal Is Clean… Since When?

If you haven't already noticed, the coal industry has launched a massive advertising campaign aimed at fooling the world into thinking that coal is clean, or can be clean. In no way shape of form can coal ever be considered clean, green or even greener, considering that no part of the coal mining process is environmentally friendly.

Sure there is a lot of talk about carbon sequestration and I have even posted about new and innovative carbon sequestration techniques, but even if 100% of the carbon from burning coal was sequestered, coal would still be one of the dirtiest fuels known to man. Most people just think of coal as some substance that miners dig up, but most people have not really seen the devastation coal mining does to mountain tops and their valleys below. Thats not to mention the damage don't to local waterways as well as the local water supplies.

Anyway, I don't think words can really describe the damage, so have a look at this short video about coal's dirty little secret:

Are you still “For” clean coal?
Write your local representatives and educate them.