Friday, August 1, 2008

E-scrap program inches closer

Electronics recycling in Washington is another step closer to becoming a reality. The state’s Department of Ecology (Olympia) has conditionally approved the Standard Plan for Recycling Covered Electronics, which can be found on the department’s Web site. The 2006 legislation, creating the e-recycling program, allows manufacturers, importers and sellers of covered electronic products — including desktop and laptop computers, monitors and televisions — the option of participating in either Washington’s Standard Plan, or an approved independent plan.

The Standard Plan will receive final approval when three conditions are met:

A collection service plan that meets the rule requirements is completed
The Washington Materials Management & Financing Authority (Woodland) conducts at least one public hearing
The DOE determines that the WMMFA is meeting public outreach requirements.
Over 220 manufacturers of covered items have thus far registered with the electronics recycling program, with no proposals for independent plans being put forward, to date. Implementation of Washington's electronic recycling program is scheduled for January 1, 2009.

solar eclipse today!

http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEmono/TSE2008/TSE2008.html

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Anchorage, Alaska To Install 16,000 LED Streetlights

Another win for LED bulbs: Anchorage, Alaska plans to replace 16,000 streetlight fixtures—a quarter of all the streetlight fixtures in the city—with LEDs. The new streetlights will use 50% less energy than current fixtures, leading Anchorage to potential savings of $360,000 each year.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

China attempts to look 'green' with fancy shrubbery!

Check out these pics of really elaborate 'green' Olympic shrubbery that have been spotted in China. Nice topiary -- but you can't just greenwash your way out of environmental catastrophe with fancy shrubbery, China!

read more | digg story

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

stop fretting about...

By JOHN TIERNEY

For most of the year, it is the duty of the press to scour the known universe looking for ways to ruin your day. The more fear, guilt or angst a news story induces, the better. But with August upon us, perhaps you’re in the mood for a break, so I’ve rounded up a list of 10 things not to worry about on your vacation.

Review of Life Cycle Data Relating to Disposable, Compostable, Biodegradable and Reusable Grocery Bags

Now, I can’t guarantee you that any of these worries is groundless, because I can’t guarantee you that anything is absolutely safe, including the act of reading a newspaper. With enough money, an enterprising researcher could surely identify a chemical in newsprint or keyboards that is dangerously carcinogenic for any rat that reads a trillion science columns every day.

What I can guarantee is that I wouldn’t spend a nanosecond of my vacation worrying about any of these 10 things:

1. Killer hot dogs. What is it about frankfurters? There was the nitrite scare. Then the grilling-creates-carcinogens alarm. And then, when those menaces ebbed, the weenie warriors fell back on that old reliable villain: saturated fat.

But now even saturated fat isn’t looking so bad, thanks to a rigorous experiment in Israel reported this month. The people on a low-carb, unrestricted-calorie diet consumed more saturated fat than another group forced to cut back on both fat and calories, but those fatophiles lost more weight and ended up with a better cholesterol profile. And this was just the latest in a series of studies contradicting the medical establishment’s predictions about saturated fat.

If you must worry, focus on the carbs in the bun. But when it comes to the fatty frank — or the fatty anything else on vacation — I’d relax.

2. Your car’s planet-destroying A/C. No matter how guilty you feel about your carbon footprint, you don’t have to swelter on the highway to the beach. After doing tests at 65 miles per hour, the mileage experts at edmunds.com report that the aerodynamic drag from opening the windows cancels out any fuel savings from turning off the air-conditioner.

3. Forbidden fruits from afar. Do you dare to eat a kiwi? Sure, because more “food miles” do not equal more greenhouse emissions. Food from other countries is often produced and shipped much more efficiently than domestic food, particularly if the local producers are hauling their wares around in small trucks. One study showed that apples shipped from New Zealand to Britain had a smaller carbon footprint than apples grown and sold in Britain.

4. Carcinogenic cellphones. Some prominent brain surgeons made news on Larry King’s show this year with their fears of cellphones, thereby establishing once and for all that epidemiology is not brain surgery — it’s more complicated.

As my colleague Tara Parker-Pope has noted, there is no known biological mechanism for the phones’ non-ionizing radiation to cause cancer, and epidemiological studies have failed to find consistent links between cancer and cellphones.

It’s always possible today’s worried doctors will be vindicated, but I’d bet they’ll be remembered more like the promoters of the old cancer-from-power-lines menace — or like James Thurber’s grandmother, who covered up her wall outlets to stop electricity from leaking.

Driving while talking on a phone is a definite risk, but you’re better off worrying about other cars rather than cancer.

5. Evil plastic bags. Take it from the Environmental Protection Agency : paper bags are not better for the environment than plastic bags. If anything, the evidence from life-cycle analyses favors plastic bags. They require much less energy — and greenhouse emissions — to manufacture, ship and recycle. They generate less air and water pollution. And they take up much less space in landfills.

6. Toxic plastic bottles. For years panels of experts repeatedly approved the use of bisphenol-a, or BPA, which is used in polycarbonate bottles and many other plastic products. Yes, it could be harmful if given in huge doses to rodents, but so can the natural chemicals in countless foods we eat every day. Dose makes the poison.

But this year, after a campaign by a few researchers and activists, one federal panel expressed some concern about BPA in baby bottles. Panic ensued. Even though there was zero evidence of harm to humans, Wal-Mart pulled BPA-containing products from its shelves, and politicians began talking about BPA bans. Some experts fear product recalls that could make this the most expensive health scare in history.

Nalgene has already announced that it will take BPA out of its wonderfully sturdy water bottles. Given the publicity, the company probably had no choice. But my old blue-capped Nalgene bottle, the one with BPA that survived glaciers, jungles and deserts, is still sitting right next to me, filled with drinking water. If they ever try recalling it, they’ll have to pry it from my cold dead fingers.

7. Deadly sharks. Throughout the world last year, there was a grand total of one fatal shark attack (in the South Pacific), according to the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida.

8. The Arctic’s missing ice. The meltdown in the Arctic last summer was bad enough, but this spring there was worse news. A majority of experts expected even more melting this year, and some scientists created a media sensation by predicting that even the North Pole would be ice-free by the end of summer.

So far, though, there’s more ice than at this time last summer, and most experts are no longer expecting a new record. You can still fret about long-term trends in the Arctic, but you can set aside one worry: This summer it looks as if Santa can still have his drinks on the rocks.

9. The universe’s missing mass. Even if the fate of the universe — steady expansion or cataclysmic collapse — depends on the amount of dark matter that is out there somewhere, you can rest assured that no one blames you for losing it. And most experts doubt this collapse will occur during your vacation.

10. Unmarked wormholes. Could your vacation be interrupted by a sudden plunge into a wormhole? From my limited analysis of space-time theory and the movie “Jumper,” I would have to say that the possibility cannot be eliminated. I would also concede that if the wormhole led to an alternate universe, there’s a good chance your luggage would be lost in transit.

But I still wouldn’t worry about it, In an alternate universe, you might not have to spend the rest of the year fretting about either dark matter or sickly rodents. You might even be able to buy one of those Nalgene bottles.

Monday, July 28, 2008

9 ways you can take advantage of this terrible economy

All right, we get it… Gas prices are high; the real estate market isn’t good, stocks are down, and many banks are in a mess. The media keeps drilling it into our heads like we had no idea.

Despite their negativity this may actually be an excellent time to better your life and the lives of those around you. Tough times are some of the best times for people to become resourceful, innovative, and make positive changes.

Here are 9 ways you can take advantage of this “terrible” economy.

1. Buy foreclosures and invest in real estate
It’s a buyer’s market for sure. You don’t want to look back in ten years from now and have a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” moment. Even if prices aren’t low in your area, explore different towns and states for commercial locations and empty lots. Even if you don’t have the resources and funds to develop right now, stake your claim while you can.

2. Invest in green technology
High oil prices are igniting interest in alternative fuels and green technology. If you’re active in the stock markets, perhaps you should consider doing some research on emerging green companies. If you’re not an active trader, another way to invest is to explore purchasing a hybrid or electric car. It might be costly now, but in a few years you’ll be happy.

3. Start a company
Sure, there are a lot of companies shutting down but this maybe the right time to start a company up. Here are some tips to think about if you want to launch a start up:

- Look for an industry or market with a large number of businesses closing. Are the big competitors shutting down? If so, you’ll have less competition.

- Research the reason why they closed.

- Find a solution and an opportunity in what they did wrong.

- Many of the companies shutting down are large corporations. So one of the best things going for you is being small but thinking big.

4. Switch careers
I know exactly what you’re thinking or even saying right now, “well there are no jobs, and my job’s safe.” Is it really though? Do you like what you do? Is there a long commute? And many expenses? You must ask yourself questions like these. Wouldn’t you rather be your own boss? Or have a job that you enjoy so much you don’t care what you get paid or what it costs you to get there?

5. Move somewhere you’ve always wanted to
A location or town you’ve dreamed about living in might be at its most affordable right now. Seize this window of opportunity to make a big change.

6. Learn
During times like these there is plenty that you can learn. Such facts as:

- Where the US gets most of its foreign oil from.

- How much gasoline the US uses.

- How big of a role the media plays in driving up fuel prices and striking fear in the public about their finances.

Become aware and educate yourself. You can prevent yourself from letting any future economic troubles giving you trouble.

7. Go on vacation!
Many people are skipping vacations because prices aren’t affordable for them. But you shouldn’t let that hold you back. While everyone else is staying home you can live it up and enjoy yourself with smaller crowds.

8. Get your voice out there
If increasing prices, the bad economy, and politicians are making you frustrated, then take action. Harness the power of new and old media to voice your opinions. Offer new ideas and solutions, be controversial, and be a leader.

9. Break bad habits & modify your lifestyle
Old habits die hard, but they might die quickly in a tough economy. Think about walking or riding a bike instead of driving everywhere. You’ll stay fit, save cash, and help out the environment. It’s a win-win-win situation

An “Apple” a Day, Keeps Emissions at Bay

by Thomas Ward

If it hasn’t been made apparent by now that I am somewhat of a “computer geek” (see “Go, Go, Green Gadgets” and “Geeks Can Be Green, Too“). However, I have always found myself wondering just how “green” some of these computer companies really are. With this in mind, I began researching different computer companies and their environmental habits. First on my list, came Apple Computers. According to their Web site:

Apple takes pride in its history of innovation and thoughtful design. But technological leadership goes beyond what’s in the box. How we impact the environment is also important to us, and environmental considerations are an integral part of Apple’s business practices. From the earliest stages of product design through manufacturing, use, and recycling, we take care to keep our activities and our products environmentally sound.

At first glance, it would seem as though Apple was doing what is known as “greenwashing”, or claiming that a product is environmentally friendly (even if the production process is not). After taking a look at their A Greener Apple Web site, however, one will notice the many environmental actions that Apple has taken over the last few years. According to their site:

Apple became the first company in the computer industry to completely eliminate CRTs. The effect has been stunning — our first CRT-based iMac contained 484 grams of lead; our current third-generation LCD-based iMac contains less than 1 gram of lead.

As you may or may not know, lead is contained in most older cathode-ray tube computer monitors (the large, bulky kind). What you may not know, however, is that lead, is a poisonous metal that can damage nerve connections and cause blood and brain disorders. By eliminating lead from their products, Apple has been keeping this poisonous element out of or landfills and out of our homes.

What really impresses me, however, is the future plans that Apple has to further reduce their impact on the environment. Their products already meet the Restriction of Hazardous Substances restrictions on cadmium, hexavalent chromium and brominated flame retardants, and they have plans to completely eliminate the use of arsenic in all of its displays by the end of 2008. In addition, Apple plans to eventually eliminate the use of mercury by transitioning to LED backlighting for all displays.

In addition to the large number of chemicals Apple has eliminated from their products through the years, they have also implemented a recycling program for e-waste. According to the Web site:

Apple started recycling in 1994 and today we operate recycling programs in countries where more than 82% of all Macs and iPods are sold. By the end of this year, that figure will increase to 93%.

The best part of Apple’s recycling program is that none of the e-waste that is collected by Apple goes overseas for disposal. All of the waste that is collected is processed here in the United States, which cuts down on transportation costs, and lowers the company’s overall carbon footprint, making them an environmental leader in the computer industry.

I do not own an Apple computer, but I am highly impressed by even the small steps that Apple Computers have taken to make our planet a little greener. From designing their products under the requirements of programs such as Energy Star, to placing an emphasis on energy efficiency, Apple has set a good example that all computer companies should follow.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Installfest to help schools and combat e-Waste

Volunteers at the tradeshow will install Linux and open source software (including Ubuntu 8.04, Firefox, OpenOFfice and more) on donated and recycled computers from the Alameda County Computer Resource Center. Most of the models will be Pentium III systems with 256 megabytes of RAM and a 20-gigabyte hard drive. The whole shebang, which could be up to 1,000 systems at the end of the fest, will be donated to local schools. Here are more details on how you can get involved if you’re going to be at the show. Hack away! If you WON’T be there, here’s a link where you can look into planning an event in your own neighborhood.”

This is a fantastic initiative that deserves as much publicity as possible. Not only does this provide needy schools with valuable computer resources, it helps keep working hardware from leeching their toxic chemicals into waste dumps.

I elaborated on this notion a few years ago on my other blog in a post called e-Waste (27 June 2006). Rather than reiterate what I’ve already said there, I’ll just republish the post in its entirety:

e-Waste

In many ways the computer age has done a lot for the environment. Innovative technologies and tools that have enabled the digitisation of information - including word processing, financial record keeping and mail correspondence - have largely reduced our reliance on paper as a storage and transportation medium. You can bank and send mail online, store and view photographs, and even read the newspaper - all without printing a single page. Handwriting has become almost a novelty.

Furthermore these points just highlight traditional day-to-day activities. The medical benefits realised through technological innovation have enabled doctors and physicians to conduct extremely complicated procedures, process complex biomedical experiments and pharmaceutical tests, and monitor minute fluctuations in the condition of a very ill person; all of which would have very difficult in the past - if not impossible.

e-Waste

However this age is not without its issues. So-called e-waste dumps are now growing at an exponential rate, and the amassing of these towering heaps of corroding hardware is becoming a huge problem. Aside from being both eyesores and harddrive graveyards, discarded computers are creating environmental issues of their own.

With technological advances occurring at an incredible rate, what was once a top-of-the-line motherboard, graphics card or monitor is now an old clunker. And increasingly these old jalopies are being hucked onto the scrap heap. The shear mountain of discarded computer hardware is no small figure either.

As a BBC article discussed yesterday (”PC users ‘want greener machines’“, Monday, 26 June 2006): “30 million PCs [are] being dumped each year in the US alone.” That’s one computer for every 10 people - every year. These dumps have to go somewhere, and that unfortunate role has been increasingly assigned to China and India.

Furthermore, the presence of all this corroding hardware in one place has begun to present additional problems in the form of toxic waste. As a UN University report discussed: “making the average PC required 10 times the weight of the machine in chemicals and fossil fuels.” This includes Lead, Arsenic, and Mercury. When you consider the volume of these chemicals leaching out from 30 million corroding computers every year, their implications for local public and environmental health are worrying.

As the article mentions, there an increasing demand for greener PC’s coming from both consumers and IT companies alike who are willing to pay extra for a more environmentally-friendly machine. Dell, Hewlett Packard, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson have all made commitments to either remove completely or phase out hazardous chemicals.

I am personally glad to hear about this trend; yet I also propose that more is required.

‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ in the Computer Age

We have reached a staged in the computer age in which technology for most is an integral component of our daily existence. Computers are everywhere; so too are the chemicals used to create them. And while some consumers may be willing to pay a little extra for a greener PC, many will not. Some PC makers may begin to adopt greener practices in their manufacturing, many will not. Furthermore, even if every computer manufacturer decided to immediately elminate hazardous chemicals from their computers and computer hardware there would still be literally ten’s of millions of existing machines that contain them.

So the dilemma is both in the present and future tense. What do we do with our existing machines, and how can we can we make the transition to a Green Computer Age?

In terms of the future tense it appears as though we’re moving in the right direction. Consumer demand does a lot in the business world, so the more buyers voice their interest in green technology the more likely it is that we’ll begin to see it. This leaves the present tense.

What needs to be done here is the implementation of wide-scale Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle programs for computers and other IT components. We have been well and truly taught to Reduce our reliance on petrol and fossil fuels by car pooling, taking public transportation and even riding our bicycles; Reuse or re-purpose materials that aren’t necessarily broken, but don’t serve their original purpose anymore; and Recycle our aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles and newspapers. Why could the same campaign not be implemented for computers?

We could in fact kills two birds with one stone, and help to combat the growing chasm between computer have’s and have-not’s that characterises the Digital Divide.

Combating the Digital Divide

The Digital Divide is a trend in which poorer demographics are increasingly being left behind in the endless race to build bigger, better and faster hardware. Schools are being forced to use hardware that has long been obsolete (some don’t have any at all); students are being left behind in the trend towards eLearning and other online educational projects; and jobseekers are being placed at an obvious disadvantage when they can’t upskill on technology that is becoming a required ability in the workforce.

If it’s not broken, don’t replace it; if you have to replace it, give it so someone who needs it, don’t throw it away. Your old computer can help a child to learn, a jobseeker to gain valuable skills to make them more employable, or it can contribute to a growing public health and environmental problem. Which would you prefer?

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