Saturday, September 11, 2010
I love the syndicated column from, EarthTalk® (From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine). Here's this week's question and answer.
Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that some countries have turned over public water supplies to private companies, effectively denying local communities much-needed access? -- J. Johnson, Lancaster, PA
Water is such an important part of life that it has long been regarded as a public good worth entrusting only to public entities. But given the mixed track record of municipal, regional and national government to properly manage water resources, outsourcing to private companies is becoming more common. But critics of such privatization point out that the end result for consumers is not always so positive.
Perhaps the best known example transpired in Bolivia in the 1990s, when water systems in poor regions were put up for sale to private investors at the urging of development agencies intent on steering poor countries away from state control of industries and toward free market systems. Bolivia hired U.S.-based
Bechtel Corporation to take over and manage water in the Cochabamba region there. Bechtel made good on its pledge to provide water to many previously under served Cochabamba areas, but it also raised prices significantly. “Many were unable to pay such high rates, and even though water was now available to them, they couldn’t access it because they couldn’t afford it,” reports the non-profit World Savvy.
In 2000 riots erupted in Cochabamba as hundreds of residents filled the streets, angry that a private, foreign entity was preventing them from accessing water. “The violence shook the confidence of the local government and international investors,” says World Savvy. “Bechtel was forced out, resulting in not only chaos in water delivery in the area, but also in a serious blow to foreign investment in the country.”
Similar conflicts have played out in other parts of Bolivia as well as in Ghana, Uruguay and the United Kingdom.
In the U.S., the federal government ensured the protection of waterways and drinking water in the 1970s through passage of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, which among other benefits increased funding for community water systems to help cities and towns maintain high standards and inexpensive access to fresh water. “However, since the 1980s, the federal government has been cutting back funding to communities for water infrastructure, with assistance falling to historic lows under the Bush administration,” reports the non-profit Food & Water Watch. Without federal funding, communities that can’t afford to keep fresh water supplies clean and safe are increasingly turning to private companies.
But at what cost? Food & Water Watch cites dozens of examples from across the country where water privatization has gone woefully bad: “[H]igh rates and bad service plague communities who transfer control of their water service to the hands of corporations.” Common complaints include skyrocketing rates, sewage flooded basements, broken pipes, bad water quality, and cost overruns. “The water barons prioritize stockholder returns over public well-being and leave municipalities to clean up the mess.”
Not everyone thinks water privatization is all bad, especially when governments can’t efficiently manage the sourcing, sanitizing and distribution of life’s most vital resource. “There is evidence that privatization may work when the cost of water is subsidized for poorer populations,” reports World Savvy. Regardless,
the debate will rage on as more and more governments turn to water privatization as stress over accessing water becomes more commonplace in a quickly warming and increasingly drought-stricken world.
CONTACTS: World Savvy, www.worldsavvy.org; Food & Water Watch, www.foodandwaterwatch.org.
SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental
Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; email@example.com. E is a nonprofit publication.
Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Today, I wanted to share a great post from a fellow Green Mom:
6 Easy Ways To Go Green Everyday
I consider myself to be a green living enthusiast because I am always thinking about how I can use less, how I can switch to more earth friendly options, and how I can reuse or giveaway things that others might reuse. I think that more than anything, being green is about, the desire to help preserve the beauty of nature and acting on that desire. Being green doesn’t have to be expensive, it can actually save you money because it should be about using less and using used too!
Here are 6 easy ways we can all help to reduce, reuse & recycle in our daily lives:
1.Recycle! Sounds simple but so many people just don't take the time to sort or to drive. Here is a statistic that may open your eyes- The United States accounts for about 5% of the world’s population and produces about 40% of the worlds waste. The need to recycle is clear. The United States’ rate of recycling is estimated to be about 30% by the EPA. While this is not bad, Austria heads the EU in its recycling efforts with approximately 60% of its waste being recycled. I wish that the US would head recycling efforts!
2.Save things that can be reused. I save all kinds of things for craft projects to do with my daughter! You can save junk mail and use the reverse for shopping list and other notes. You can save spare shopping bags (when you forget your reusable totes) and use them for bathroom trash can liners. You can save bottle tops for craft projects or to use for teaching small kids to sort or count.
3.Buy things that are less packaged! The other day my husband brought home some deli cheese that was pre-sliced with plastic between each piece and I was horrified. Just buy a block of cheese! It is cheaper that way too. The same goes for all the individually packaged bags of chips and cookies. It is cheaper and more earth friendly to buy a full box and use a reusable container to package it for snacks and lunches.
4.Unplug electric boxes that draw energy even when not in use (like your phone charger!) I have heard that your savings can add up to a few hundred bucks a year by unplugging electronics that aren't in use. This is an overlooked but easily corrected problem. Anything that is plugged in is drawing power and anything with box on the cord is drawing even more. It is great to make sure you unplug things you don’t need on daily basis. The Department of Energy says that a Plasma TV costs a whopping $165 a year for its standby power consumption alone! Help save the environment and top paying electric bills for stuff you aren't even using.
5.Start a compost pile for organic waste from the kitchen- you get the bonus of enriched soil for your garden! There are plenty of website that offer detailed instructions on how to build your own compost bin. I admit, I do this the lazy way. I just have a corner of my yard where we dump all the yard clippings, leaves, and kitchen waste. You can use simple wire fencing to help contain it. Composting is simply decomposing organic material into rich soil. According to the EPA, yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 26 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. That's a lot of waste to send to landfills when it could become useful and environmentally beneficial compost instead!
6.Buy local when you can. Try to support your local farmer’s market and local businesses. Not only are you likely to get fresher, healthier, yummier offerings, you also save transit which saves fossil fuels. Sustainable.org helps you find local, sustainable food sources when you enter your zip code
There you have 6 easy ways to go green everyday and help be the change you want to see! There are many more ways and I would love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and share your tips!
Guest post by Scarlet of Moms Wear Your Tees Blog- a green mom giveaway blog. She is a stay at home mother to two children and an avid nature lover. She is also founder of >MWYT Social Media Marketing and Café Mom Group-Green Earth Green Home.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Hey Green Moms!
Back to school is approaching, and we want to hear about how you ensure a healthy, safe and successful school year for your kids! Do you plan out healthy lunch and snack options for your kids to bring to school? Do you take your children to the opthamologist for an eye exam over the summer and thoroughly research safe eyewear lenses? Do you teach your kids to wash their hands regularly to stay healthy? Share your tips and tricks with TwitterMoms and Me, for a chance to get a gift card and a voucher for Airwear lenses!
Food for Thought
Airwear would like to remind everyone of the importance of having your child’s eyes examined regularly and equally important is selecting safe, impact-resistant lenses made of polycarbonate. Learning is visual, so eye care is critical! Twenty-five percent of kids struggle with vision problems that impact learning. Eighty percent of everything a child learns in his first 12 years comes through his eyes. If corrective lenses are needed, select lighter, stronger and safer lenses such as Airwear. Their lenses offer safe, durable lenses for children, those who like to play sports and those who push their lenses to the limit. Please include some of this information in your post, so moms gearing up for back to school don't forget that lenses and eye exams are critical to setting your kids on the right path for this upcoming school year.
Airwear and TwitterMoms (and yours truly) is sponsoring an essay contest for consumers, encouraging parents and care-givers to share how they plan to help their kids live a healthy, safe and successful school year. Families can submit their thoughts by visiting LighterSaferGreener.com. One grand prize winner will be awarded $1,000, while 10 first prize winners will receive vouchers for Airwear lenses valued up to $400. On LighterSaferGreener.com can learn more about Airwear’s eco-friendly practices and view more of Aldrich’s tips to ensure kids have a healthy, safe and successful school year. How it works: Create a post on your blog sharing ten tips for ensuring a healthy, safe and successful school year and install the campaign widget in the sidebar of your blog. Then follow the rest of the requirements below. The first fifty qualifying participants will receive a $25 Amazon.com e-gift card and three random winners will get an Airwear voucher with a redeemable value of up to $400!
Highlights from your posts, tweets and tips will be collected and featured on http://airwear.twittermoms.com, and distributed across the web for all to see. The blogging program starts at 12:01am PST on July 20, 2010 and the submission window closes at 11:59pm PST on August 19, 2010. We will contact the first 50 qualifying bloggers and 3 randomly selected winners on or about August 23, 2010. Full terms and conditions are posted for your review at http://airwear.twittermoms.com/terms.
The first fifty (50) qualifying participants will receive a $25 Amazon.com e-gift card. See Terms and Conditions here.
Three (3) random winners will get an Airwear voucher with a redeemable value of up to $400! See Official Rules here.
To participate, we ask that you:
1. Create a blog post on your blog sharing "Ten Tips for Ensuring a Healthy, Safe and Successful School Year."
2. Participants must include the following disclaimer as a footnote of their post:
“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Airwear blogging program, making me eligible to get a $25 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, visit http://airwear.twittermoms.com/about.
3. Install the campaign in the side bar of your blog.
Get widget here
4. Log on to your Twitter account, http://www.twitter.com", and send a tweet including a link to your blog post with the hashtag #airwear.
5. Return to www.TwitterMoms.com and post a comment on this discussion page in the comments section below, including an active link to your blog post and a link to your Twitter tweet. (You can click on the date/time link below your tweet to get the direct link to your tweet.)
6. Complete this address collection form
No purchase required to participate. You must be a legal resident of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, have a personal blog and be a registered user of the www.twittermoms.com and www.twitter.com websites to participate and at least 18 years of age or older at time of submission. See Terms and Conditions.
Airwear polycarbonate lenses are a product of Essilor, the leading manufacturer of optical lenses in the United States. Airwear lenses are light, safe and embrace environmentally conscious manufacturing practices.
Airwear Lens Details:
Designed for comfort, performance, protection and style, Airwear lenses made of polycarbonate material are 43 percent lighter and 25% thinner than standard plastic lenses.
Block 100% of UVA/UVB rays Non- glare
Easy to clean
Airwear lenses are better than standard plastic. They are virtually unbreakable and lighter than regular lenses, and are the ultimate choice for every lifestyle for you or your child. Airwear lenses offer unparalleled protection. They are 12x stronger than standard plastic lenses with 100% UV protection. Many eye injuries are preventable. The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that more than 100,000 people sustain eye injuries each year. Airwear lenses are tough and durable — so tough that NASA uses the same material to construct visors for astronauts. Furthermore, 12 to 15 million people annually become blind from cataracts -- and about 20% of those cases may be caused or compounded by sun exposure. Airwear lenses provide 100% protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
Feel the difference. You will see and feel the difference when wearing Airwear lenses. They are lighter and 25% thinner than regular lenses.
Airwear lenses are as versatile as they come. It’s all possible with Airwear lenses. Airwear lenses offer safe, durable lenses for you and your children, those who like to play sports and those who push their lenses to the limit.
Airwear lenses are compatible with the most trusted vision brands and designs, such as Varilux®, Crizal®, Xperio™, DEFINITY and Transitions.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Find Your Bliss this Summer!
Given that it is the day after our nation’s birthday and outdoor BBQ’s are a staple for my meal planning this week, I couldn’t resist but to share some of my bliss with you. Bliss, meaning perfect happiness and great joy, which is the ideal description for my new obsession: Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss frozen dessert-NO Chemicals, dyes or hormones. Anyone who knows me knows that I love ice cream; and the 4th of July is one day where I throw caution to the wind and eat all and any dessert, especially ice cream. The problem is, after the indulgence, I usually have side effects, like tummy trouble, even if I eat organic ice cream; and I’m sure some of you have reactions to dairy or soy products, that’s why I love this alternative. So, here’s my solution: Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss frozen dessert. What I love about this product is that there are several flavors to choose from and NO, they don’t all taste like coconut (if that’s an issue for you); from dark chocolate, vanilla and mint to cherry amaretto and fudge (and more)-they even have naked coconut or chocolate bars.
These frozen babies are vegan, gluten-free and soy-free, making them the perfect medium for dairy-free, soy-free “ice creams” and yogurt. Unlike ordinary frozen treats, Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss is a pure grown-up lavish treat. The texture is so rich and creamy, you’ll insist that you’re eating a premium dairy-based ice cream. Perfectly sweetened with agave nectar, your pallet will appreciate that this dessert doesn’t shout SWEET, instead, your sweet tooth will feel kissed with the right amount of satisfaction, giving you the chance to truly experience the other delicious flavors going on in your mouth. Remember, this dessert isn’t low fat, but its surely made with some mighty fine ingredients such as, Organic Coconut Milk, Organic Agave Syrup, Organic Dried Coconut, Organic Fair Trade Vanilla Extract, Organic Fair Trade Cocoa (this is for the Dark Chocolate selection), so indulge with confidence knowing that this treat will do your body good.
For 1/2 cup of Dark Chocolate Coconut Bliss
Fat: 14g (12g Saturated, 0g Trans)
Sugars: 15g (agave nectar)
Thursday, June 24, 2010
I love my two dogs! They are my little bebes and I couldn't imagine how sad I'd feel knowing something I fed them, made them sick. Here's some information you should be aware of:
Natural Balance Pet Food, a Pacoima, California based manufacturer of natural and organic pet foods, is voluntarily recalling its Sweet Potato & Chicken Dry Dog Food because it may be contaminated with salmonella.
The affected products, sold in 5- and 28-lb. bags, have a “Best By” date of June 17, 2011.
Recalled products were distributed in pet specialty stores in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
If you’ve purchased this product, return it to the store for a full refund. For additional information, call Natural Balance Pet Foods Customer Service at (800) 829-4493 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PDT).
Green moms should know that salmonella can infect humans as well as pets and that infected pets may appear to be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. You pet may only have decreased appetite, but other symptoms include fever and abdominal pain. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Its important to always wash your hands after handling dog food, because if the food is tainted, the salmonella can be transferred to humans.
I often feed my dogs minced up pieces of chicken (that I cook for my family), steamed broccoli or rice, in addition to their dry dog food in attempt to support their diet with organic whenever possible.
We love our pets, they are a part of our family and we want to do what's best for them!
On a different note, please visit my new website and sign up for my FREE newsletter-awesome tips, ideas and recipes for the healthy food lover in you!
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Today I received a delightful letter from one of my blog readers, named Barbara. She asked that I share this detailed article with you. She wrote it for you to read, learn and understand more about solar power!
Enjoy our guest blogger post, and thank you Barbara!
Here’s a simple way to learn the way solar panels work
What is solar power?
Solar power is radiant energy that is produced by the sun. Every single day the sun radiates, or sends out, an incredible amount of energy. The sun radiates more energy in a single second than people have used since the beginning of time!
The energy of the Sun derives from within the sun itself. Like other stars, the sun is mostly a big ball of gases––mostly hydrogen and helium atoms.
The hydrogen atoms in the sun’s core combine to create helium and generate energy in a process called nuclear fusion.
During nuclear fusion, the sun’s extremely high pressure and temperature cause hydrogen atoms to come apart and their nuclei (the central cores of the atoms) to fuse or combine. Four hydrogen nuclei fuse to become one helium atom. However the helium atom contains less mass than the four hydrogen atoms that fused. Some matter is lost during nuclear fusion. The lost matter is emitted into space as radiant energy.
It requires millions of years for the energy in the sun’s core to make its way to the solar surface, and somewhat over eight minutes to travel the 93 million miles to earth. The solar energy travels to the earth at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, the speed of sunshine.
Only a small portion of the energy radiated from the sun into space strikes the earth, one part in two billion. Yet this quantity of energy is enormous. On a daily basis enough energy strikes the usa to supply the nation’s energy needs for one and a half years!
Where does all this energy go?
About 15 percent of the sun’s energy that hits our planet is reflected back to space. Another 30 percent is used to evaporate water, which, lifted into the atmosphere, produces rainfall. Solar power is absorbed by plants, the land, and the oceans. The rest could be used to supply our energy needs.
Who invented solar power?
Humans have harnessed solar power for centuries. As early as the 7th century B.C., people used simple magnifying glasses to concentrate the light of the sun into beams so hot they'd cause wood to catch fire. Over a century ago in France, a scientist used heat from a solar collector to create steam to drive a steam engine. In the beginning of this century, scientists and engineers began researching ways to use solar technology in earnest. One important development was a remarkably efficient solar boiler introduced by Charles Greeley Abbott, an american astrophysicist, in 1936.
The solar water heater became popular at this time in Florida, California, and the Southwest. The industry started in the early 1920s and was in full swing prior to World War II. This growth lasted before mid-1950s when low-cost natural gas became the primary fuel for heating American homes.
The public and world governments remained largely indifferent to the possibilities of solar technology until the oil shortages of the 1970s. Today, people use solar power to heat buildings and water and also to generate electricity.
How we use solar power today?
Solar power can be used in several different ways, of course. There are 2 very basic forms of solar energy:
* Solar thermal energy collects the sun's warmth through 1 of 2 means: in water or in an anti-freeze (glycol) mixture.
* Solar photovoltaic energy converts the sun's radiation to usable electricity.
Listed here are the five most practical and popular methods solar energy is used:
1. Small portable solar photovoltaic systems. We have seen these used everywhere, from calculators to solar garden products. Portable units can be utilised for everything from RV appliances while single panel systems can be used traffic signs and remote monitoring stations.
2. Solar pool heating. Running water in direct circulation systems via a solar collector is an extremely practical method to heat water for your pool or hot spa.
3. Thermal glycol energy to heat water. In this method (indirect circulation), glycol is heated by the sun's rays and the heat is then transferred to water in a warm water tank. Using this method of collecting the sun's energy is more practical now than ever. In areas as far north as Edmonton, Alberta, solar thermal to heat water is economically sound. It can pay for itself in 3 years or less.
4. Integrating solar photovoltaic energy into your home or office power. In lots of parts on the planet, solar photovoltaics is an economically feasible solution to supplement the power of your home. In Japan, photovoltaics are competitive with other types of power. In the USA, new incentive programs make this form of solar power ever more viable in many states. A frequent and practical method of integrating solar energy into the power of your home or business is through the use of building integrated solar photovoltaics.
5. Large independent photovoltaic systems. If you have enough sun power at your site, you may be able to go off grid. It's also possible to integrate or hybridize your solar power system with wind power or other types of sustainable energy to stay 'off the grid.'
How do Photovoltaic panels work?
Silicon is mounted beneath non-reflective glass to produce photovoltaic panels. These panels collect photons from the sun, converting them into DC electric power. The power created then flows into an inverter. The inverter transforms the energy into basic voltage and AC electricity.
Pv cells are prepared with particular materials called semiconductors like silicon, which is presently the most generally used. When light hits the Photovoltaic cell, a certain share of it is absorbed inside the semiconductor material. This means that the energy of the absorbed light is given to the semiconductor.
The energy unfastens the electrons, permitting them to run freely. Solar power cells also have one or more electric fields that act to compel electrons unfastened by light absorption to flow in a specific direction. This flow of electrons is a current, and by introducing metal links on the top and bottom of the -Photovoltaic cell, the current can be drawn to use it externally.
Do you know the advantages and disadvantages of solar technology?
Solar Pro Arguments - Heating our homes with oil or natural gas or using electricity from power plants running with coal and oil is a reason for climatic change and climate disruption. Solar energy, on the contrary, is clean and environmentally-friendly. - Solar hot-water heaters require little maintenance, and their initial investment could be recovered within a relatively small amount of time.
- Solar hot-water heaters can work in almost any climate, even just in very cold ones. You just need to choose the right system for your climate: drainback, thermosyphon, batch-ICS, etc.
- Maintenance costs of solar powered systems are minimal and also the warranties large.
- Financial incentives (USA, Canada, European states…) can aid in eliminating the price of the first investment in solar technologies. The U.S. government, as an example, offers tax credits for solar systems certified by by the SRCC (Solar Rating and Certification Corporation), which amount to 30 percent of the investment (2009-2016 period).
Solar Cons Arguments
- The initial investment in Solar Water heaters or in Photovoltaic Electric Systems is higher than that required by conventional electric and gas heaters systems.
- The payback period of solar PV-electric systems is high, as well as those of solar space heating or solar cooling (only the solar hot water heating payback is short or relatively short).
- Solar water heating do not support a direct in conjunction with radiators (including baseboard ones).
- Some ac (solar space heating and the solar cooling systems) are expensive, and rather untested technologies: solar ac isn't, till now, a truly economical option.
- The efficiency of solar powered systems is rather dependent on sunlight resources. It's in colder climates, where heating or electricity needs are higher, that the efficiency is smaller.
About the writer - Barbara Young writes on RV solar kits in her personal hobby website 12voltsolarpanels.net. Her work is related to helping people save energy using solar power to eliminate CO2 emissions and energy dependency.