Friday, October 30, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Car lovers seek green energy, not gas guzzlersStory Highlights

(CNN) -- Daniel Gray loves automobiles so much that it almost feels wrong to drive another vehicle: "I'll admit it. I love my car, but I cheat on it with a different car every week," he said.

Car reviewer Daniel Gray loves to drive, but he decided to try getting around without a car for one afternoon.

The Belle Mead, New Jersey, resident runs the car-review Web site with a focus on fuel efficiency, but even he strays over to public transit every now and then. Nowadays, even the biggest car lovers are taking notice of energy conservation.

Readers may not realize a guy who revs engines for a living might need a ride back home after dropping off a test car in New York. In these cases, he typically takes a train most of the 55-mile trip and gets a car ride for the rest of the route.

Gray shared an iReport video explaining how he decided -- for one day only, he emphasizes -- to see whether he could go entirely without the assistance of an automobile on the return trip. His journey was successful, but he spent an extra hour fumbling around with local buses and taking an unintentional detour to a local mall. Watch how drivers ditched cars for a day »

"Taking car-free trips back from the city is an eye-opener," he said, noting that the area could benefit from better bus service to get to the Princeton Junction train station. Car reviewer goes car-free (temporarily)

Gray says he believes government policies have supported urban sprawl instead of efficiency and transit, and 2008's gas-price spiral provided a lesson in the importance of conserving fuel and using public transit.

"Energy independence and alternative fuels represent this country's future. They are our best shot for economic revival."
Don't Miss

iReporters go car-free for a day
Daniel Gray's Web site: Family shuttles children around with bikes Cargo bike carries items like a car

Since he first started buying cars, Gray has been concerned with fuel conservation.
He got his early muscle cars during the 1979 gas crisis, which meant he could only gas them up on alternating days of the week. With a few mechanical tweaks to his Tri-Power GTO, he could use less fuel. When gas prices became an issue in 2007 and 2008, he decided to use his experiences to launch a blog.

"I could feel the winds of change and only had to look back to my youth to know what to do."
With so many drivers on the road, he says small but consistent reductions in everyone's fuel expenditure would have a huge impact on overall energy consumption. Gray is skeptical that high-powered executives with fancy cars will ever want to abandon their wheels, but he says employers should look into telecommuting options for their employees.

He is one of the estimated 4 percent of people who work from home, according to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau numbers. The same study reported that more than 75 percent of U.S. workers drive to work alone and only about 11 percent carpool.

On his Web site, he evaluates cars' gas mileage. Special pages are devoted to the most efficient vehicles. All sorts of cars are examined, and he takes particular interest in hybrids, diesels and other vehicles claiming to be efficient while also looking at more traditional popular cars.
Gray says some people may not be able to avoid driving, but they could start using a lighter foot on the gas pedal to save some gas. Traveling at a steady speed and allowing reaction time helps conserve energy, he said.

He has found fuel efficiency gauges in some newer cars to be a godsend. The dashboard indicators tell drivers when they're driving in an efficient manner. Buying a car with a built-in sensor or installing an aftermarket gauge is one easy way for an ordinary person to save gas, he says.

At the dealership, Gray says car buyers should make miles per gallon a priority. He said he thinks Europeans have better access to cleaner cars than Americans do and encourages looking into fuel-efficient vehicles such as hybrids. Gray is a big proponent of clean diesel vehicles, which he says haven't gotten the attention they deserve. He also expressed hopes about alternative fuels made from algae and hydrogen.

"We're going to need them all," he said.

John Pucher, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University, says the average American is using too much fuel, and many people have become almost "addicted" to their cars. He believes that driving less and finding alternative ways of getting around are in people's best self-interest and that selfish motivations are frequently overlooked in transit promotion.

Pucher, whose voicemail introduces him as "car-free John," hasn't owned a car since 1972. Also a New Jersey resident, he notes that transit options serve some areas extremely well and other areas not at all.

"The problem is all your transit is based on going to New York. If you want to go from suburb to suburb, you'll find that there are very little options."

He says he has noticed that people are often less likely to take public transit for leisure trips than for work commutes and adds many car trips are short enough to be walked.

He hopes that governments will take notice of individuals' desire to use other ways of getting around. A lot of money spent on cars, gas and maintenance could be used for other things, Pucher says, adding that using alternative forms of transportation forces people to get exercise.
Columnist and car reviewer Roman Mica of Boulder, Colorado, also said he thinks people will seek out alternative transportation and efficient vehicles if doing so is in their self-interest. He also hopes people will also try to set an example for others.

Mica makes video reviews of efficient vehicles and sometimes pits the cars against each other, because those are the cars he thinks his children will be driving years from now. He even goes after luxury cars. He posted a video on examining a Lexus hybrid that bills itself as "the fastest hybrid in the world." Does the Lexus hybrid live up to the hype?
He loves cars -- such as the Prius he drives -- and especially loves new technology. He adds that environmental friendliness is part of a car's image.

"People buy cars because they're emotionally attached to them. You buy with your heart not your brain. You buy because of what the car says about you and who you want to be." Prius vs. Prius showdown

Like Gray, Mica works at home. This saves fuel on commutes, but other kinds of driving can be required. Outside of work, Mica tries to take public transit when he is traveling to Denver for events, ballgames and visits.

He says finding ways to use less of finite oil resources will help people save money in the long run and the market will probably encourage or support their increased use.

He is a proponent of energy-efficient vehicles and researches their carbon footprints on Web sites such as to estimate how they compare with standard cars.

Based on his experiences, he opines that driving a standard sedan is like driving two Priuses. Upgrading to a Ford F-150 is similar to putting three of the hybrids on the road. By considering one's carbon footprint in a car purchase and driving habits, he says, one person can make a big difference.

He says people should try to make small changes in how they drive because they can feel secure in knowing that they have made a small difference, but more importantly, they can set off a chain reaction among people they influence.

"It begins with one person," he said. "The government can mandate all it wants, but in the end, it comes down to personal choices and personal responsibility. You're making a difference because you believe that it starts with you and it ends with you, especially today when people are very frustrated with how

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

'Clunkers' program is costly way to cut carbon

University of California, Davis
August 14, 2009


New UC Davis estimates say the federal government's Cash for Clunkers
program is paying at least 10 times the "sticker price" to reduce
emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

While carbon credits are projected to sell in the U.S. for about $28
per ton (today's price in Europe was $20), even the best-case
calculation of the cost of the clunkers rebate is $237 per ton, said
UC Davis transportation economist Christopher Knittel.

"When burned, a gallon of gasoline creates roughly 20 pounds of
carbon dioxide. I combined that known value with an average rebate of
$4,200 and a range of assumptions about the fuel economy of the new
vehicles purchased and how long the clunkers would have been on the
road if not for the program," Knittel said. "I even assumed drivers
didn't change their habits, although some ......

Hong Kong's Air Pollution Problem (PIC)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Alcoa and their positively "green" actions

The growing standard of living in newly developed and heavily populated parts of the world is driving a relentless need for new infrastructure and consumer goods. At the same time the human footprint on the planet has a far greater impact on fragile ecosystems than ever before.

Alcoa is meeting the challenge with a core commitment to operating sustainably in the communities and ecosystems in which we do business. At the same time, we're delivering new ideas and solutions that will help build a healthier and more sustainable future both for the planet and its people.

Solutions that help buildings, cars, airplanes, trucks and trains get more performance from less fuel. Solutions that help ......

Meteor Showers!!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Electronic-waste recycling: The cup runneth over

Leave it to Oregon. The state where recycling is practically an article of religion is having headaches with its new electronic recycling law: Way too many old TVs, computers and monitors have flooded in since the law took effect in January.

Mind you, it's a problem the state doesn't mind having. The more the better, state officials say. But the biggest manufacturers group participating in the program, the Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Co., or MRM, wants to call a bit of a time-out.

Warning that e-waste will substantially exceed its state-mandated target if the stuff keeps coming in at the current rate, MRM said it will limit collections to designated network collection sites and won't reimburse for e-waste collected at special events organized by neighborhoods, church groups or county cleanup events. In addition, the company is asking collectors to limit their promotions for......

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

California must adapt to changing climate

Even if the world is successful in cutting carbon emissions in the future, California needs to start preparing for rising sea levels, hotter weather and other effects of climate change, a new state report recommends.

It encourages local communities to rethink future development in low-lying coastal areas, reinforce levees that protect flood-prone areas and conserve already strapped water supplies.

"We still have to adapt, no matter what we do, because of the nature of the greenhouse

Read more:

Friday, July 31, 2009

Beyond Einstein

Beyond Einstein: In Search of the Ultimate Explanation

Albert Einstein spent his last thirty years unsuccessfully searching for a 'unified theory' — a single master principle to describe everything in the universe, from tiny subatomic particles to immense clusters of galaxies. In the decades since, generations of researchers have continued working toward Einstein's dream.

Renowned physicists Leonard Susskind and Jim Gates, and prominent historian Peter Galison discussed what's been achieved and tackle pivotal questions. Would a unified theory reveal why there is a universe at all? Would it tell us why mathematics is adept at unraveling nature's mysteries? Might it imply we are one universe of many, and what would that mean for our sense of how we fit into the cosmos? Moderated by Nobel Laureate Paul Nurse.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How big is the internet?

THE internet has permeated everything from buying to banking to bonking.

But just how big is it?

Microsoft's Bing team puts the amount of web pages at "over 1 trillion".

And Google has already indexed more than one trillion discreet web addresses.

There are more addresses than there are people on Earth. The current global population stands at more than 6.7 billion.

That means there are about 150 web addresses per person in the world.

Translated: If you spent just one minute reading every website in existence, you’d be kept busy for 31,000 years. Without any sleep.

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Australia wins with 80+ % of the population online....

(Read More)

David of Australia Bing was more generous with its estimate for those who take more time to read.

"An average person would need six hundred thousand decades of nonstop reading to read through the information," it said.

The Punch: If you could only visit one, which would it be?

Number of users

Mark Higginson, director of analytics for Nielsen Online, said the global online population had jumped 16 per cent since last year.

"Approximately 1.46 billion people worldwide now use the internet which represents a solid 16 per cent increase from the previous year’s estimate (1.26 billion in 2007)," he told

The largest internet population belongs to China, which claimed this week to have more users online – 338 million - than there were people in the US.

However (IWS), a website that combines multiple data sources, claims China's online population is more like 298 million, just a few million shy of overtaking the US population.

"With the rates of India and China still quite low, there is ample room for growth in the coming decade," Mr Higginson said.

Measuring the online population can be tricky. There are servers, users, per capita numbers, and penetration percentages to evaluate. It's an epic-scale guessing game using a series of sources to get just one number.

IWS combines data from the UN's International Telecommunications Union, Nielsen Online, GfK and US Census Bureau.

Its latest global figures puts the number of internet users in the world at 1,596,270,108.

That's just 23.8 per cent of the estimated 6,0706,993,152 people in the world.

But it changes every day.

"In terms of the future, we anticipate mobile to contribute significantly to internet usage," Mr Higginson said.

"In the US, the number of people accessing the internet through mobile devices grew 74 per cent between February 2007 and February 2009."

How we size up

According to IWS, the top 5 countries with the most internet users are:

1 - China (298,000,000 users, or 22.4% of their population)
2 – US (227,190,989, or 74.7%)
3 – Japan (94,000,000, or 73.8%)
4 – India (81,000,000, or 7.1%)
5 – Brazil (67,510,400, or 34.4%)

Australia comes in at 25th, with 16,926,015 internet users.

But we zoom all the way up to 7th place if we measure what percentage of the population uses the internet – a whopping 80.6 per cent, according to IWS.

"The Australian online population has now reached maturity in terms of the number of people online and their experience using the internet," Mr Higginson said.

"Despite this fact, the rate of internet participation, Australia-wide, increased notably for the first time in several years ," he said, adding that the latest Nielsen statistics showed it had jumped 6 percentage points to 86 per cent.

However, even experts aren't keen to guess when every person in the world will be online.

"It's too hard to tell," Mr Higginson said.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Uranium Contamination Haunts Navajo Country

TEEC NOS POS, Ariz. — It was one year ago that the environmental scientist showed up at Fred Slowman’s door, deep in the heart of Navajo country, and warned that it was unsafe for him to stay there.

“There were a lot of things people weren’t told about the plight of Navajos and uranium mining,” Stephen B. Etsitty said.
The Slowman home, the same one-level cinderblock structure his family had lived in for nearly a half-century, was contaminated with potentially dangerous levels of uranium from the days of the cold war, when hundreds of uranium mines dotted the vast tribal land known as the Navajo Nation. The scientist advised Mr. Slowman, his wife and their two sons to move out until their home could be rebuilt.

“I was angry,” Mr. Slowman said. “I guess it was here all this time, and we never knew.”

The legacy wrought from decades of uranium mining is long and painful here on the expansive reservation. Over the years, Navajo miners extracted some four million tons of uranium ore from the ground, much of it used by the United States government to make weapons.

Many miners died from radiation-related illnesses; some, unaware of harmful health effects, hauled contaminated rocks and tailings from local mines and mills to build homes for their families.

Now, those homes are being demolished and rebuilt under a new government program that seeks to identify what are very likely dozens of uranium-contaminated structures still standing on Navajo land and to temporarily relocate people living in them until the homes can be torn down and rebuilt.

Stephen B. Etsitty, executive director of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency, and other tribal officials have been grappling for years with the environmental fallout from uranium mining.

“There were a lot of things people weren’t told about the plight of Navajos and uranium mining,” Mr. Etsitty said. “These legacy issues are impacting generations. At some point people are saying, ‘It’s got to end.’ ”

After a Congressional hearing in 2007, a cross-section of federal agencies committed to addressing the environmental and health impacts of uranium mining on the reservation. As part of that commitment, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Navajo Nation began working together to assess uranium levels in 500 structures through a five-year plan set to end in 2012.

Using old lists of potentially contaminated structures, federal and Navajo scientists have fanned out to rural reaches of the 27,000 square mile reservation — which includes swaths of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — to measure levels of radium, a decay product of uranium that can cause lung cancer. Of 113 structures assessed so far, 27 contained radiation levels that were above normal.

“In these situations, you have contamination in somebody’s yard or in their house,” said Harry Allen, the E.P.A.’s section chief for emergency response in San Francisco who is helping lead the government’s efforts. “To us, that is somewhat urgent.”

Many structures that showed high levels of radiation were vacant; some families had already moved out after hearing stories of contamination in their homes. But eight homes still had people living in them, and the E.P.A. and Navajo officials have worked to convince residents that it would be unsafe to stay.

“People had been told they were living in contaminated structures, but nobody ever did anything about it,” said Will Duncan, an environmental scientist who has been the E.P.A.’s main representative on the reservation. “They would tell us, ‘We don’t believe you are going to follow through.’ ”

But with a budget of nearly $8 million, the E.P.A. has demolished all 27 contaminated structures and has begun building ones to replace those that had been occupied. Typically, the agency pays a Navajo contracting company to construct a log cabin or a traditional hogan in the structure’s stead, depending on the wishes of the occupants. Mr. Allen said the cost, including temporarily relocating residents, ran approximately $260,000 per dwelling and took about eight months.

The agency also offers $50,000 to those who choose not to have an old home rebuilt.

Lillie Lane, a public information officer with the Navajo Nation E.P.A. who has acted as a liaison between the federal government and tribal members, said the program held practical and symbolic importance given the history of uranium mining here.

Ms. Lane described the difficulty of watching families, particularly elders, leaving homes they had lived in for years. She told of coming upon two old miners who died before their contaminated homes could be rebuilt. “In Navajo, a home is considered sacred,” she said. “But if the foundation or the rocks are not safe, we have to do this work.”

Some families, Ms. Lane said, complained that their children were suffering from health problems and had wondered if radiation were to blame.

The E.P.A. has started sifting through records and interviewing family members to figure out whether mining companies that once operated on the reservation are liable for any damages, Mr. Allen said.

On a recent summer day, Fred and Clara Slowman proudly surveyed their new home, a one-level log cabin that sits in the quiet shadows of Black Rock Point, miles away from the bustle of Farmington, N.M., where the family has been living in a hotel.

Mr. Slowman said he suspected that waste materials from a nearby abandoned mine seeped into his house. The family plans on having a traditional Navajo medicine man bless their dwelling before they move in.

“In our traditional way, a house is like your mom,” he said. “It’s where you eat, sleep, where you’re taken care of. And when you come back from the city, you come back to your mom. It makes you feel real good.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Despite Rules, Electronic Waste Remains a Hazard

Recycling an old PC might not be enough to keep it out of a landfill. Despite a swath of regulations, discarded televisions and computers are finding their way into scrap heaps all over the world, with potentially harmful environmental consequences, reports National Geographic’s Chris Carroll.

Some 50 million tons of unwanted and obsolete electronics are discarded every year, according to the United Nations’ Environment Program. The U.S. contributed between 1.5 and 1.9 million tons in 2005, and the total is expected to climb as people replace their analog TVs with digital versions and upgrade PCs to faster models.

Even though a growing number of state laws prohibit putting electronic waste in the trash, more than two-thirds of U.S. TVs and computers eventually end up in landfills, where they could leak lead, mercury, arsenic and other toxins into the ground. The old machines also contain potentially reusable quantities of gold, silver and other metals that could be extracted with less of an environmental impact than from mining new sources in the ground.

While some old products end up in recycling centers, that is no guarantee that the gear will be processed safely, says Mr. Carroll. Some recyclers around the world sell old electronics to brokers, who then funnel it to developing countries. In parts of Asia and Africa, enforcement of environmental regulations are weak, and people are often eager to mine discarded goods for valuable bits of metal scrap. In Accra, Ghana, Mr. Carroll uncovered old electronics bundled into shipments of used clothes from Germany, even though the European Union has put in place safeguards blocking the shipment of hazardous waste to poor countries.

The outlook for used electronics isn’t entirely bleak, however, says Mr. Carroll, who visited a state-of-the-art recycling center in Florida that can process around 150 million pounds of electronics a year. While just a handful of U.S. recycling companies can handle large volumes of electronic waste, with the addition of just a few more plants, it would be possible to safely recycle the country’s entire output of high-tech trash. – Wendy Pollack

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Short Documentary Shows Toxic Trail of "Recycled" E-Waste Leads Overseas

Friday, July 10, 2009

High Sierras: The Woods are Full of Gun-Toting Narcofarmers

Marijuana patches have sprung up on a third of California's national parks and nearly 40 percent of all national forests. Where hippies once grew just enough weed to peace out, traffickers now cultivate more than 100,000 plants at a time on 30-acre terraces irrigated by plastic pipe, laced with illegal pesticides, and guarded by Mac-10s and Uzis.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Countries with the Most Cybercrime

Microsoft warns of serious computer security hole

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Microsoft Corp. has taken the rare step of warning about a serious computer security vulnerability it hasn't fixed yet.

The vulnerability disclosed Monday affects Internet Explorer users whose computers run the Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 operating software.

It can allow hackers to remotely take control of victims' machines. The victims don't need to do anything to get infected except visit a Web site that's been hacked.

Security experts say criminals have been attacking the vulnerability for nearly a week. Thousands of sites have been hacked to serve up malicious software that exploits the vulnerability. People are drawn to these sites by clicking a link in spam e-mail.

The so-called "zero day" vulnerability disclosed by Microsoft affects a part of its software used to play video. The problem arises from the way the software interacts with Internet Explorer, which opens a hole for hackers to tunnel into.

Microsoft urged vulnerable users to disable the problematic part of its software, which can be done from Microsoft's Web site, while the company works on a "patch" - or software fix - for the problem.

Microsoft rarely departs from its practice of issuing security updates the second Tuesday of each month. When the Redmond, Wash.-based company does issue security reminders at other times, it's because the vulnerabilities are very serious.

A recent example was the emergency patch Microsoft issued in October for a vulnerability that criminals exploited to infect millions of PCs with the Conficker worm. While initially feared as an all-powerful doomsday device, that network of infected machines was eventually used for mundane moneymaking schemes like sending spam and pushing fake antivirus software.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Why Does Bottled Water Have an Expiration Date?

Our very own Jason English is wondering why his Poland Spring has a “drink by” date on it when common sense dictates that water doesn’t go bad. To him I say, “It’s your own damn fault.”

Well, not personally his fault, but the fault of his home state of New Jersey.

A 1987 NJ state law required all food products sold there to display an expiration date of two years or less from the date of manufacture. Labeling, separating and shipping batches of expiration-dated water to the Garden State seemed a little inefficient to bottled water producers, so most of them simply started giving every bottle a two-year expiration date, no matter where it was going.
Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has never established or suggested a limitation on the shelf life of bottled water as long as it’s produced in accordance with regulations and the bottle remains properly sealed. Makes sense, because it’s, you know…water. Even Dirty Jerz caught on to this fact and amended the law a few years ago. But the expiration date has been an industry norm for so long that many producers have just kept it on there.

Better WIth Age? While “expired” unopened bottled water isn’t going to do you any harm, it isn’t going to get better with age, either. The plastic that water is packaged in — usually polyethylene terephthalate (PET) for retail bottles and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) for water cooler jugs –- is slightly porous, so the water can pick up smells and tastes from the outside world. Keep a case of bottled water in the basement for a year or so and it’s going to pick up some interesting flavors. There’s nothing better on a hot summer day than a 2007 Evian, with hints of dust and a crisp kitty litter finish!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

E-Waste: Dark Side of Digital Age

These days, it's often cheaper and more convenient to buy a new PC than to upgrade an old one. But what happens to those old computers once they've been abandoned for newer models?

The refuse from discarded electronics products, also known as e-waste, often ends up in landfills or incinerators instead of being recycled. And that means toxic substances like lead, cadmium and

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

Major cache of fossils unearthed in L.A.

A nearly intact mammoth, dubbed Zed, is among the remarkable discoveries near the La Brea Tar Pits. It's the largest known deposit of Pleistocene ice age fossils.

The largest known deposit of fossils from the last ice age has been found in what might seem to be the unlikeliest of places -- under an old May Co. parking lot in L.A.'s tony Miracle Mile shopping district.

Mammoth BonesOur Mammoth bones average 14-16 in. Coverd with meat, smoked, natural.

Researchers from the George C. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits have barely begun extracting the fossils from the sandy, tarry matrix of soil, but they expect the find to double the size of the museum's collection from the period, already the largest in the world.

Among their finds, to be formally announced Wednesday, is the nearly intact skeleton of a Columbian mammoth -- named Zed by researchers -- a prize discovery because only bits and pieces of mammoths have previously been found in the tar pits.

But researchers are perhaps even more excited about finding smaller fossils of tree trunks, turtles, snails, clams, millipedes, fish, gophers and even mats of oak leaves. The first excavators at La Brea threw out similar items in their haste to find prized animal bones, and crucial information about the period was lost.

"This gives us the opportunity to get a detailed picture of what life was like 10,000 to 40,000 years ago" in the Los Angeles Basin, said John Harris, chief curator at the Page. The find will make the museum "the major library of life in the Pleistocene ice age," he said.

Because of its need for haste, the team also is pioneering a new technique for extracting the fossils. Most paleontologists spend days to weeks carefully sifting through the soil at the site of a dig. In this case, however, huge chunks of soil from the site have been removed intact and now sit in large wooden crates on the back lot of the Page.

The 23 crates range in size from 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet to 19 feet by 12 feet by 10 feet -- from the size of a desk to that of a small delivery truck -- and are responsible for the excavation's informal name, Project 23.

The site of the old two-story parking garage, formerly used by the now-defunct May Co., is located immediately west and adjacent to the Page in Hancock Park. The Page's sister museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, owned the building and had razed it to construct an underground parking garage that would restore parkland above the structure.

The entire Rancho La Brea area at Hancock Park is a paleontological treasure chest. Petroleum from the once-massive underground oil fields oozed to the surface over the millenniums, forming bogs that trapped and killed unsuspecting animals and then preserved their skeletons. It is now a protected site, although dispensation was granted to build the new garage.
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Friday, May 29, 2009

The Dirty Truth About (Some) E-Waste Collections

A new report just published by the Basel Action Network and the Electronics Takeback Coalition is highlighting the many issues and pitfalls around how the United States deals with electronic waste.

The report concerns an Oklahoma-based e-waste recycler, a series of free public e-waste collection drives in western Pennsylvania, and the sticky morass that is U.S. e-waste export rules.

A little background: BAN and Electronics Takeback have long been advocating for responsible e-waste policies in the U.S. Because this country is the only developed nation that hasn't yet ratified the Basel Convention on toxic wastes, the U.S. is able to import and export all types of hazardous materials, with the sole exception being for cathode-ray tube televisions and monitors, provided that proper notice is given to the EPA.
Click for full-sized.

Electronic waste is a huge problem, containing both a large number of highly toxic materials and hard-to-recycle compounds; but there are valuable materials in electronics that can be harvested and potentially reused or sold on the commodities market. An expose by the television news program 60 Minutes last year explored how toxic e-waste harvesting can be. Given the choice between landfilling millions of pounds of electronics containing lead, mercury and other toxins, and collecting it for supposedly eco-friendly recycling, it's not a difficult decision to make.

But the report from BAN looks at how e-waste collection projects, no matter how green they're promised to be, can end up being part of the problem.

As part of their preparation for Earth Day, BAN looked around the country for free e-waste collection drives. Free collection drives fall into a simple rule of thumb, according to Barbara Kyle, the national coordinator for the Electronics Takeback Coalition: follow the money.

"If you have someone who is going to take all your stuff, including TVs, for free, then stop right there: they're going to be exporting," Kyle explained.

What BAN found was less common, and raised more red flags, than just a free drive: an Oklahoma-based e-waste company called Earth ECycle was holding a collection drive in western Pennsylvania as a benefit for the Humane Society in the region.

"If you've got a recycler who's taking this for free, and paying a charity for it, then there's only one way to generate revenue from taking stuff from people's basement and garages," Sarah Westervelt, BAN's e-Stewardship Director, told me, "that's to export it."

Lee Nesler, the executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, told me that the events in the region netted over a million pounds of discarded electronics, and will earn the group about $150,000 in donations from Earth ECycle.

BAN staked out the collection drive, and followed the trucks that left the collections warehouses in Pittsburgh and Monroeville, Pa. From those warehouses, following some "offloading and reloading" of the trucks, per the BAN report, the containers went overseas. Most were shipped to Hong Kong with destinations beyond to Vietnam or elsewhere, and a final container was shipped to South Africa.
Click for full-sized.

The problem, in addition to concerns about exports of e-waste in violation of U.S. and international law, is that Earth ECycle pledges to keep all e-waste in the U.S. for processing. When BAN contacted Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department warning about incoming shipments of potentially illegal waste, the authorities there refused the containers and shipped them back to the U.S.

In an email interview, Earth ECycle's CEO, Jeffrey Nixon, explained that his company recalled the shipments, and what comes next for the containers. "When all of the containers come back, we will verify contents and seal to insure we are the ones responsible, take them back to a warehouse in NJ, sort, separate and resell the items to a well qualified buyer," Nixon wrote.

There are more wrinkles in this story than can reasonably be explained in a blog, but it's worth noting that neither of the warehouses that Earth ECycle sent the collected materials to contain recycling or dismantling equipment, that the materials did obviously end up being shipped overseas, contrary to the company's claims, and that Earth ECycle has an account on, an import-export website, where the company offers for sale container-loads of electronic scrap.

Nixon disputes the claims of the BAN report, and says that he will take responsibility to correct mistakes like the shipping of these electronics overseas. But regardless of the specifics of this case, it highlights a serious problem with U.S. e-waste policy.

According to Barbara Kyle, this kind of export is pretty standard in the industry. "When it comes to these public collection events where people can take their stuff in for free, and which are not paid for by state programs, this is a pretty common thing," she said. "Everyone thinks they're doing the right thing [by bringing their electronics in for recycling], but people have no idea that these are going on a container and going overseas."

And once these electronics have been collected, it's difficult to keep them from being imported, even among the 140 countries that are signatories to the Basel Convention. The report says that Hong Kong authorities can only inspect a few containers per day for contraband, and that about 50 containers per day of e-waste get past the inspections, destined for mainland China.

"There's no global police force enforcing the Basel Convention," Sarah Westervelt explained. "...These containers make it through their customs process, usually in violation of their laws, and they get opened up and 'recycled' using very toxic technologies. The end result is you've got these immortal heavy metals dispersed into their environment, impacting human health and the environment for the long term."

Groups like BAN and the Electronics Takeback Coalition have been working on both the policy and the action front. While federal e-waste legislation was introduced last week by Rep. Gene Green, Kyle and Westervelt both said that the proposed rule has been corrupted by loopholes that would allow the exporting of this type of waste.

But BAN has also been working on a market solution to the e-waste disposal problem in the U.S. Late last year, they launched E-Stewards, a certification that recognizes the most responsible e-waste handling practices around. After six years of developing the standard and the list of companies that meet E-Stewards criteria, BAN has nearly completed the process to make E-Stewards an independently audited certification. A pilot verification of the label will begin at the end of 2009, and the certification is expected to launch in February 2010.

In the meantime, individuals, businesses and non-profits like the Humane Society bear the bulk of the burden in sorting through the complexities of responsible e-waste disposal.

Engineered circuits can count cellular events

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Most Scientific Tattoo You'll See Today (PIC)

Joe writes: “My tattoo is 3 lines of equations, the top is the Born Oppenheimer Approximation, the second line is the equation in the form of a 3-Dimensional Schroedinger Equation, and the solution in the form of a Schroedinger Equation." Indeed...

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The Coming Superbrain

Today, artificial intelligence, once the preserve of science fiction writers and eccentric computer prodigies, is back in fashion and getting serious attention from NASA and from Silicon Valley companies like Google as well as a new round of start-ups that are designing everything from next-generation search engines to machines that can listen.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Will Chile Give Land-Locked Bolivia Ocean Access Via Tunnel?

Technological innovations can solve some of the world’s biggest problems right? That’s what a firm of Chilean architects would like us to believe. They’ve come up with a creative idea for how land-locked Bolivia could regain access to the ocean. It was not too long ago, in 1883 to be exact, that Bolivia lost the little coastline it had in a war.

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Lilypad - Floating Ecopolis

Intersting ecoprojects by Vincent Callebaut. It is anticipated that our children will live in such cities.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Astronauts Drink Recycled Urine, and Celebrate

Astronauts took a swig of recycled urine water to toast their successful testing of the wastewater recycling system on the International Space Station. U.S. astronaut Michael Barratt called drinking the recycled water the stuff of science fiction, and cracked several jokes during the inauguration of the system known as ECLSS. "We have these highl

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The Almond & the Bee: Crop Pollination May Kill Colonies

Michael Pollan - "We need to plant bee habitat where we grow our crops. If you're gonna be growing almonds, then a certain percentage of land needs to be devoted to wildflowers or whatever the bees want."

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Study Finds Reduction in Wind Turbine Bat Kills

Wind turbines kill large numbers of bats each year — a public relations quandary for wind energy companies. But the results of a new study show that sacrificing some nocturnal spin time can save the lives of bats by up to 70%, and perhaps boost the industry’s image as well.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

How Cannibalism Works

One piece of diet advice is not to snack until you're hungry enough to eat an apple. But what about consuming human flesh?

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chimp That Mauled Woman Was on Drugs

A chimp mauled a Connecticut woman while on the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, according to blood tests.

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Atlantis Launch in full HD

The NASA site has 1080i, 720p and 480p quality videos. The quality is stunning.

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Shocking pictures: Environmental pollution

An Indian boy searches for coins in the polluted waters of the Yamuna River in New Delhi.The national capital is a major culprit in the pollution of

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nine toxic chemicals added to banned list: UN

Nine chemicals, including the head lice treatment Lindane, have been added to a list of poisonous substances that are to be eliminated under the Stockholm Convention, the UN Environment Programme said on Saturday.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fibonacci Sequence Illustrated by Nature

The Fibonacci sequence is an amazing bit of numbers that ties nature and mathematics together in surprising ways. From deep sea creatures to flowers to the make-up of your own body, Fibonacci is everywhere.

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The Garbage Patch

over 7 million tons of plasticspanning an area twice the size of texasdestroying our oceansand harming our food chains

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Trash To Treasure: Turning Landfills Into Energy

There is real truth to the phrase “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Given today’s economic conditions, there are many Americans on a serious search for treasure of any kind. Landfill Gas To Energy (LFGTE) has proven to be just such a treasure and represents one of the many Green alternatives to oil that is ’shovel-ready’.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Japanese scientist grows spare human organs in sheep

Huddled at the back of her shed, bleating under a magnificent winter coat and tearing cheerfully at a bale of hay, she is possibly the answer to Japan’s chronic national shortage of organ donors: a sheep with a revolutionary secret.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Mission to break up Pacific island of rubbish

Scientists and conservationists on the expedition will begin attempts to retrieve and recycle a monument to throwaway living in the middle of the North Pacific.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Polar Bear Leaps Across Drifting Ice (PIC)

A young male polar bear jumps between patches of ice in the Barents Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean. (Photo: Paul Nicklen)

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Daily Show Visits the Large Hadron Collider

John Oliver meets a scientist who says there's a 0% chance the LHC can kill us and a high school science teacher who thinks we're doomed.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

The worst air in the US? It’s not in L.A.

At Uricchio’s Trattoria, a street café on 17th St., the smell of sizzling garlic wafts into the air tinged lightly with the aroma of … exhaust. And despite the perfect blue sky, the view of the mountains surrounding this Central Valley town is obscured by a ruddy haze.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tiger, Michael, Ali, and this guy make the 4 greatest athlete s

Lions of the Masai Mara (PICS)

Intimate images of prides of lions captured by a remote camera the same one used for some of the difficult shots from Slumdog Millionaire.

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WTF? Italy to Dump 20,000 Tons of Radioactive Waste in UTAH?

Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it can't prevent the international import deal.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Norway May Ban Gas Cars After 2015

Norwegian Finance Minister, Kristin Halvorsen, and her Socialist Left Party have put forth a plan that would disallow the sale of new cars that run solely on gasoline after 2015.

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Want it Free?

Intel is the largest green power purchaser in the U.S.

Interesting to know just how much green power those guys are purchasing. But I guess it is probably not enough.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu in Mexico Linked to Poorly Managed Factory Farms

Investigations now reveal that the swine flu epidemic that began in Mexico and spread worldwide is probably connected to pollution caused by unsanitary pig breeding farms in the region.

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Tarbell Realtors big eWaste and Shreding event 4-25-09

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Tarbell Realtors eWaste and Shredding event

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IRS "dirty dozen" beware phony non profits

Beware of IRS’ 2009 “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams

IR-2009-41, April 13, 2009

Video: English American Sign Language Text

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued its 2009 “dirty dozen” list of tax scams, including schemes involving phishing, hiding income offshore and false claims for refunds.

“Taxpayers should be wary of scams to avoid paying taxes that seem too good to be true, especially during these challenging economic times,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “There is no secret trick that can eliminate a person’s tax obligations. People should be wary of anyone peddling any of these scams.”

Tax schemes are illegal and can lead to problems for both scam artists and taxpayers who risk significant penalties, interest and possible criminal prosecution.

The IRS urges taxpayers to avoid these common schemes:


Phishing is a tactic used by Internet-based scam artists to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information. The criminals use the information to steal the victim’s identity, access bank accounts, run up credit card charges or apply for loans in the victim’s name.

Phishing scams often take the form of an e-mail that appears to come from a legitimate source, including the IRS. The IRS never initiates unsolicited e-mail contact with taxpayers about their tax issues. Taxpayers who receive unsolicited e-mails that claim to be from the IRS can forward the message to Further instructions are available at To date, taxpayers have forwarded scam e-mails reflecting thousands of confirmed IRS phishing sites. If you believe you have been the target of an identity thief, information is available at

Hiding Income Offshore

The IRS aggressively pursues taxpayers and promoters involved in abusive offshore transactions. Taxpayers have tried to avoid or evade U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or through other entities. Recently, the IRS provided guidance to auditors on how to deal with those hiding income offshore in undisclosed accounts. The IRS draws a clear line between taxpayers with offshore accounts who voluntarily come forward and those who fail to come forward.

Taxpayers also evade taxes by using offshore debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or life insurance plans. The IRS has also identified abusive offshore schemes including those that involve use of electronic funds transfer and payment systems, offshore business merchant accounts and private banking relationships.

Filing False or Misleading Forms

The IRS is seeing scam artists file false or misleading returns to claim refunds that they are not entitled to. Frivolous information returns, such as Form 1099-Original Issue Discount (OID), claiming false withholding credits are used to legitimize erroneous refund claims. The new scam has evolved from an earlier phony argument that a “strawman” bank account has been created for each citizen. Under this scheme, taxpayers fabricate an information return, arguing they used their “strawman” account to pay for goods and services and falsely claim the corresponding amount as withholding as a way to seek a tax refund.

Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions

The IRS continues to observe the misuse of tax-exempt organizations. Abuse includes arrangements to improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets or income from donated property. The IRS also continues to investigate various schemes involving the donation of non-cash assets, including easements on property, closely-held corporate stock and real property. Often, the donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can purchase the items back at a later date at a price the donor sets. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 imposed increased penalties for inaccurate appraisals and new definitions of qualified appraisals and qualified appraisers for taxpayers claiming charitable contributions.

Return Preparer Fraud

Dishonest return preparers can cause many headaches for taxpayers who fall victim to their ploys. Such preparers derive financial gain by skimming a portion of their clients’ refunds and charging inflated fees for return preparation services. They attract new clients by promising large refunds. Taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer. As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No matter who prepares the return, the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for its accuracy. Since 2002, the courts have issued injunctions ordering dozens of individuals to cease preparing returns, and the Department of Justice has filed complaints against dozens of others, which are pending in court.

Frivolous Arguments

Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and unfounded claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. The IRS has a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should stay away from. Taxpayers who file a tax return or make a submission based on one of the positions on the list are subject to a $5,000 penalty. More information is available on

False Claims for Refund and Requests for Abatement

This scam involves a request for abatement of previously assessed tax using Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement. Many individuals who try this have not previously filed tax returns. The tax they are trying to have abated has been assessed by the IRS through the Substitute for Return Program. The filer uses Form 843 to list reasons for the request. Often, one of the reasons given is "Failed to properly compute and/or calculate Section 83-Property Transferred in Connection with Performance of Service."

Abusive Retirement Plans

The IRS continues to uncover abuses in retirement plan arrangements, including Roth Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). The IRS is looking for transactions that taxpayers are using to avoid the limitations on contributions to IRAs as well as transactions that are not properly reported as early distributions. Taxpayers should be wary of advisers who encourage them to shift appreciated assets into IRAs or companies owned by their IRAs at less than fair market value to circumvent annual contribution limits. Other variations have included the use of limited liability companies to engage in activity which is considered prohibited.

Disguised Corporate Ownership

Some taxpayers form corporations and other entities in certain states for the primary purpose of disguising the ownership of a business or financial activity. Such entities can be used to facilitate underreporting of income, fictitious deductions, non-filing of tax returns, participating in listed transactions, money laundering, financial crimes, and even terrorist financing. The IRS is working with state authorities to identify these entities and to bring the owners of these entities into compliance.

Zero Wages

Filing a phony wage- or income-related information return to replace a legitimate information return has been used as an illegal method to lower the amount of taxes owed. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. The taxpayer also may submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a payer to the IRS. Sometimes fraudsters even include an explanation on their Form 4852 that cites statutory language on the definition of wages or may include some reference to a paying company that refuses to issue a corrected Form W-2 for fear of IRS retaliation. Taxpayers should resist any temptation to participate in any of the variations of this scheme.

Misuse of Trusts

For years, unscrupulous promoters have urged taxpayers to transfer assets into trusts. While there are many legitimate, valid uses of trusts in tax and estate planning, some promoted transactions promise reduction of income subject to tax, deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the promised tax benefits and are being used primarily as a means to avoid income tax liability and hide assets from creditors, including the IRS.

The IRS has recently seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to divert income and deduct personal expenses. As with other arrangements, taxpayers should seek the advice of a trusted professional before entering into a trust arrangement.

Fuel Tax Credit Scams

The IRS is receiving claims for the fuel tax credit that are unreasonable. Some taxpayers, such as farmers who use fuel for off-highway business purposes, may be eligible for the fuel tax credit. But some individuals are claiming the tax credit for nontaxable uses of fuel when their occupation or income level makes the claim unreasonable. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim, potentially subjecting those who improperly claim the credit to a $5,000 penalty.

How to Report Suspected Tax Fraud Activity

Suspected tax fraud can be reported to the IRS using Form 3949-A, Information Referral. Form 3949-A is available for download from the IRS Web site at The completed form or a letter detailing the alleged fraudulent activity should be addressed to the Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. The mailing should include specific information about who is being reported, the activity being reported, how the activity became known, when the alleged violation took place, the amount of money involved and any other information that might be helpful in an investigation. The person filing the report is not required to self-identify, although it is helpful to do so. The identity of the person filing the report can be kept confidential.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Great White Shark and Diver Come Face to Face (PIC)

After luring a great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) with chum, diver Andre Hartman ends up perilously close to the premier predator off the coast of Gansbaai, South Africa. (Photo by David Doubilet)

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Operation to cure blindness soon to be available

Scientists in England have developed a revolutionary operation using stem cell technology that could cure blindness. The first procedures could be available in the next six months.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of France

There are now 46,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre of the world's oceans, killing a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year. Worse still, there seems to be nothing we can do to clean it up. So how do we turn the tide?

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Top Green IT Enterprises of 2009

These 15 organizations attained both business and environmental gains through their sustainable IT efforts.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day: Court Approves Timber Sales in Nat'l Forest

Today is Earth Day, so it'd be bad karma to toss plastic bags in the ocean or randomly scatter wads of used chewing gum on the sidewalks. But the U.S. government can cut down its share of trees in a national forest, thanks to a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Looking Beyond the E.P.A.’s Seal of Approval

The president of Seventh Generation, which has been making nontoxic cleaners for decades, discusses what makes the company tick.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Nixon Speech if Neil Armstrong had died on the Moon

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon. The following speech, revealed in 1999, was prepared by Nixon's then speechwriter, William Safire, to be used in the event of a disaster that would maroon the astronauts on the moon:

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Hairless Chimpanzee

Hairless Chimpanzee, know any?

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bird Gardens: How to Support Wildlife in Your Backyard

Here's a list of 15 ways to attract beautiful birds and songs to your yard, and 10+ more bird conservation tips from the National Audubon Society.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

10 Green Projects That Just Might Save The World

Faced with massive population growth, melting ice caps and the need to own an ever-increasing number of gadgets, the world needs to find sustainable solutions.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Satellites Show Air Pollution is Way Worse Than We Thought

A new way of comparing ground and satellite collected data on air pollution has shown that 15 of 20 highly populated cities have air pollution levels that 5 to 10 times higher than the World Health Organization’s guidelines.

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Big Brands, New Products, Old Bottles

The new company New Soap, Old Bottle takes bulk supplies of cleaners - some name brand - and repackages them in used bottles. New Soap sells hand soap, dish soap, glass and all-purpose cleaner, windshield wiper fluid and car wash concentrate in reused plastic and glass bottles.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Study: Biofuel Threatens Water Supplies

The production of bioethanol may use up to three times as much water as previously thought, a new study finds, becoming the latest work that could burst the biofuel bubble.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Environmental Agency Offices Pollute Wash. Creek

Washington state environmental regulators say they've finally found the source of pollution that has been fouling a creek near Vancouver Lake: the agency's own sewer pipes.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Greenwashing Makes All Companies Dirty

The fact of the matter is greenwashing affects all companies, including those that are making a concerted environmental effort, by degrading consumer confidence. The effort your company makes is hampered by competitors when they mislead the public.

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Egg Collected by Charles Darwin Found After 200 Years, yes, an Easter Egg!

An egg collected by Charles Darwin on his HMS Beagle voyage and lost for nearly 200 years has been discovered by a volunteer at the University of Cambridge.

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Feds Agree on Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan

Less than a week after the Interior Department published the findings of a report claiming that 25% of the nation’s electricity could be supplied by offshore wind farms, the Department also reached an agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over how the two agencies would handle the permitting and licensing of all types of renewable energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) of the United States.

On Thursday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff signed a memorandum of understanding (pdf) that establishes a streamlined process by which Interior’s Minerals Management Service and the FERC will lease, license and regulate all renewable energy development activities on the OCS.

According to Interior Secretary Salazar, the agreement will spur the development of clean, renewable energy, which he called, “the growth industry of the 21st Century,” adding that, “Our nation’s economic future demands we lead that competition.”

Simply put, MMS will be in charge of regulating all offshore renewable energy projects, accept hydrokinetic projects like wave and tidal power. The memorandum of understanding explains the division as follows:

MMS has exclusive jurisdiction with regard to the production, transportation, or transmission of energy from non-hydrokinetic renewable energy projects, including wind and solar. MMS also has
exclusive jurisdiction to issue leases, easements, and rights-of-way regarding Outer Continental Shelf
lands for hydrokinetic projects.
FERC has exclusive jurisdiction to issue licenses and exemptions from licensing for the construction and operation of hydrokinetic projects on the Outer Continental Shelf and will conduct any necessary analyses, including those under the National Environmental Policy Act, related to those actions.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Inventor turns cardboard boxes into eco-friendly oven

When Jon Bohmer sat down with his two little girls for a simple project they could work on together, he didn't realize they'd hit upon a solution to one of the world's biggest problems for just $5: A solar-powered oven.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

New Orangutan Population Discovered

Ecologist Erik Meijaard of the The Nature Conservancy posted on their site last week about the discovery of up to 1000 or slighly more Borneo Orangutans, which are an endangered species.

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Free At Last: How to achieve genuine energy independence.

Energy independence sounds like such a great idea. If only we could be free … of what, exactly? The single biggest energy exporter to the U.S. is Canada. And even the petrostates we don't like have to sell us oil at whatever price the market sets. We buy lots from Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dept of Interior: Offshore Wind Could Meet 100% of US Demand

According to a new report released by the Interior Dept, shallow-water offshore wind farms could supply as much as 20% of the electricity in most coastal states. The report, released last week by Interior Sec. Ken Salazar, said that the greatest offshore wind energy potential in the U.S. lies off the Atlantic Coast which holds 1,000 gW potential

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Sexy Or Repulsive? Predict on a Glance

Trying to find the balance between these two crucial behaviors is one of nature’s oldest dilemmas, according to Jeffrey Oliver, a postdoctoral associate in Yale’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and lead author on the study, which appears online in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

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Bottled Water Carries Hidden Cost to Earth

Good for You, Bad for Mother Earth? | $1.79 might seem like a small price to pay for a bottle of water. But it costs the Earth far more than that.

Compared to a liter of tap water, producing a liter of bottled water requires as much as 2,000 times more energy, according to the first analysis of its kind. The study also found that our nation's bottled water habit sucked up the equivalent of 32 to 54 million barrels of oil last year.

"The bottom line is that we should understand better the implications of our choices," said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, Calif. "It suggests more ways to reduce energy use than maybe we otherwise think of."

Bottled water is a big business that is rapidly getting bigger. From 1976 to 2007, the average amount of bottled water drunk per person per year in the United States jumped from about 6 liters (1.6 gallons) to 116 liters (30.6 gallons).

In 2007, the last year for which numbers are available, Americans purchased more than 33 billion liters of bottled water. Globally, the number was 200 billion liters.

Even just since 2001, bottled water sales have increased by 70 percent in the U.S. We now buy more bottled water than either milk or beer.

But as consumption has gone up, so too have worries about what our drinking habits might be doing to the environment.

"It's a big deal," Gleick said. "And yet, no one had looked at all of the energy that goes into it. We didn't know."

To find out, he and a colleague considered three case studies: water that was bottled and used in Los Angeles; water bottled in the South Pacific and sent by cargo ship to L.A.; and water bottled in France and shipped in various ways to L.A. For each scenario, the researchers looked at all the energy involved in collecting, treating, bottling, labeling, packaging, cooling, and transporting the liquid.

Bottled Water Carries Hidden Cost to Earth
Emily Sohn, Discovery News e-mail share bookmark print

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For water that is consumed near its source, producing PET plastic bottles is the most energy-intensive step, according to their results, which appeared in the journal Environmental Research Letters. For bottles that make longer trips, transportation has the biggest impact.

In other words, buying water that was bottled near your home rather than in places like Fiji can help reduce your carbon footprint. Better yet, Gleick said, put away your wallet and turn on the faucet instead.

"We have very good tap water in this country," he said. "It's cheap. It's readily available. And it's much lower in energy use."

The research also shows how simple choices can have a significant impact on the environment.

"One of the conclusions we can all draw from this study is that novel materials and low-carbon energy can help," said Daniel Kammen, co-director of the Berkeley Institute of the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley. "But our own behavior is critical to cutting down not just physical waste, but also carbon waste."

Monday, April 6, 2009

San Diego Asked to Lead Nation in Sustainability

In two days government agencies, public utilities, environmental groups and others will publicly demand that residents in San Diego dramatically change the way they live. The movement is for sustainability and it seeks that every man, woman and child in San Diego—about 1,256,951 residents to be exact—literally STAND FOR LESS— by reducing consumption of all types: electricity, gas, water and products that produce the waste that is clogging landfills. The model is the first of its kind in the country, and when it proves success, it could roll out to every city in California—in fact given California’s leadership on environmental issues, it could be a road map for cities across the nation. It will launch April 8, in Downtown San Diego at Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade Park, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The need for this campaign was born out of research which indicated that California residents were overwhelmed with sustainability information to the point of confusion, some so confused that they were not doing anything to contribute to the solution. The new campaign will unite all residents under one movement for change to, STAND FOR LESS.
The urgency of creating a groundswell of sustainability among residents stems from the Global Warming Solutions Act that in California means reducing greenhouse gas levels to those of 1990 by the year 2020. Collectively, the most aggressive state mandate in the country.
San Diego residents will be asked to take action by local groups and with the help of a public education social marketing campaign. They will be asked to do MORE for the environment and conservation of resources, by doing LESS, in every aspect of their lives. They will be asked to “sign on” and learn to be a STAND FOR LESS “activist” by going to
The California Department of Conservation is partly heading the initiative—with support from multiple partners including the City of San Diego, utility companies, environmental groups and government agencies charged with manning all of the precious resources for California.
I’d like to provide you with more specific details about the effort, copies of the advertising campaign, put you in touch with spokespeople of STAND FOR LESS including the California Department of Conservation, as well as the San Diego Mayor who is demonstrating his strong leadership by being the first to sign onto this important 18-month pilot. I’ll be following up with a phone call. Attached is the media alert with details of the launch event.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Five Ways to Go Green Without Really Trying

We like green. Green apples. Green Bay. The Green Mile. Asparagus. And we have this sweater. Anyway, we like green, but we've never been "green." We're, shall we say, suspicious about any word so often swathed in so much righteousness. Because "green" can too easily be equated with "good," which is a vast oversimplification, especially when so much fact gets aggressively manipulated by so many interested parties in the name of "green."

We have this friend who gave us some perspective on "green." His name is Bjørn Lomborg, a political economist, environmental activist, and fierce optimist, who brought eight economists (including five Nobel laureates) together a year ago to come up with a sensible plan for environmental activism. It's called the Copenhagen Consensus. He wrote an essay in our 75th Anniversary Issue (October 2008) that convinced us that the small things we do (and some of the big things we do) can't amount to much unless we overhaul our list of priorities (placing malnutrition above, say, reducing CO2 emissions). His essay makes environmentalism a powerful and complex idea. You can read it here.

So, about being "green" we're a little ambivalent. But about doing good we aren't conflicted at all. The products on these pages are good, and using them feels good. They improve our lives. They work. And they're environmentally sound. Which is a bonus.


+ Gas-free

+ Noise-free

+ Aerobic

If pollution and sloth ever become virtues, self-propelled and riding mowers will be the trappings of the righteous. Until then, we'll stick with old-fashioned manual mowers. They don't use gas, don't stink, don't involve a potentially arm-snapping rip cord. And then there's the whisperlike sound they make. It's almost worth the looks you'll get from neighbors.

The hatchback already comes close to the practical ideal: Seats five, sips gas, handles like a go-kart, looks cool — enough. Utilitarian. But the new breed of sport hatchback is more sport, less hatchback. Take the MazdaSpeed3 pictured above. (See also: Volkswagen GTI, Subaru WRX.) With 263 hp, 26 mpg highway, and a $23,500 base price, it's frugal enough for daily commuting, roomy enough for errands — and powerful enough to remind you you're not driving a Prius.

Until the late 1800s, beer came in one kind of container — the keg — and was sold in one place: the local saloon. Folks wishing to drink elsewhere would bring jugs to be filled at the tap. These were known as growlers. And the invention of the beer can all but killed them.

These days beer makers across the country are distributing growlers again. (And many brewpubs and specialty grocers will let you fill your own growlers directly from their taps.) Plunk down seven or eight bucks plus a two- or three-dollar bottle deposit, and head home with half a gallon of the crispest, freshest ale (or stout or pilsner) you've ever tasted. When you're done, you bring the bottle back and reclaim your deposit — or treat it as a down payment on the next growler. The bottle itself gets cleaned and returned to its source, ready to be filled again.

Before modern chemistry gave us oil and latex varieties, "house paint" meant milk paint. You'd take a bucket of milk, add powdered lime (the mineral, not the fruit) and some pigment, and stir. The result was an odor-free, fade-proof coating with the added benefits of extreme toughness and zero cases of lead poisoning. Since 1974, the Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company has been offering genuine milk paint in powder form, and there's a new version formulated specially for interior walls. Look for it wherever gorp is sold (or at

There's no reason to buy hand soap, dish soap, shampoo, body bars, body wash, or shaving cream when you can just buy a bottle of Dr. Bronner's. The stuff's been around since World War II, is 100 percent organic, and cleans everything from rugs to babies. Dr. Bronner's comes in eight scents — we prefer the original peppermint — and according to the label can be used in eighteen different ways. (According to the Internet, there are hundreds more.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Prison Mattresses Go From Convicts to Carpets

A mattress recycling program being tested in the United Kingdom could lead to homes filled with bits of the country's penal system.

The Prison Service dumps 50,000 mattresses a year, and as the prison population increases - there are about 82,000 convicts in England and Wales - the Prison Service buys 60,000 new mattresses a year.

Hoping to find a way to send zero mattresses to landfills, U.K. jails are testing out the recycling possibilities for mattresses. First up are two trials with companies that are turning the mattresses into carpet underlay, fence panels and roof tiles.

Here's hoping that if the program's a success it will also boost recycling mattresses outside of the prison system, or even inspire a prison mattress recycle system here in the U.S. (prison population: 2.2 million). Or at least help expand the few recycling options that exist.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Pentagon looks at green options

THE Pentagon may seem an unlikely promoter of alternative energy, but the biggest consumer of oil in the United States is looking at ways to become just that by partnering with private firms.

"When you don't use as much fuel, not only does it not cost you as much, but it also saves lives and injuries of those people who would have to deliver fuel through hostile territory," Assistant Army Secretary for Installations and the Environment Keith Eastin said.

Despite reducing its overall energy consumption by five per cent between 2005 and 2007, the US military spent $US13 billion ($18.46 billion) on energy in 2007 and requested an additional $US5 billion ($7.1 billion) due to a spike in oil prices.

The stakes are high, with the army estimating that reducing fuel consumption by just one per cent translates to about 6400 fewer soldiers in fuel convoys, a favourite target of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All of this has added up to renewed urgency for the Pentagon to reduce its energy consumption. It is already federally mandated to obtain 25 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

Hundreds of small companies are expected to benefit from the military's green energy push, developing everything from alternative fuels to electric vehicles and efficient power generators.

One low tech initiative that has yielded surprisingly big results is spraying tents with a layer of hard foam. The insulation helps maintain steady temperatures inside the tents, reducing fuel consumption for heating or cooling by 50 per cent and saving an estimated 100,000 gallons of fuel or $US2 million ($2.84 million) per day.

"Each gallon you save is a ton of money that can be used elsewhere, either at the installation or fighting the war," Mr Eastin said. He estimated that a three-dollar gallon of fuel can end up costing up to $US28 ($40) on the battlefield after factoring in transportation and security costs.

With a staggering $US7.7 billion ($10.93 billion) spent last year on aircraft fuel alone, the US Air Force is the military's biggest energy consumer.

It is purchasing renewable energy, reducing aircraft loads and certifying its entire fleet to fly on a 50/50 synthetic fuel blend by 2011.

"Our efforts to drive a domestic source of synthetic fuels is a piece of the puzzle to be more secure as a nation and as the air force," said Kevin Billings, acting air force secretary for installations, environment and logistics.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sydney first major city to mark Earth Hour

The floodlit cream shells of the famed Opera House dimmed Saturday as Sydney became the world's first major city to plunge itself into darkness for the second worldwide Earth Hour, a global campaign to highlight the threat of climate change.

From the Great Pyramids to the Acropolis, the London Eye to the Las Vegas strip, nearly 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countries planned to join in the World Wildlife Fund-sponsored event, a time zone-by-time zone plan to dim nonessential lights between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Involvement in the effort has exploded since last year's Earth Hour, which drew participation from 400 cities after Sydney held a solo event in 2007. Interest has spiked ahead of planned negotiations on a new global warming treaty in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December. The last global accord, the Kyoto Protocol, is set to expire in 2012.

Despite the boost in interest from the Copenhagen negotiations, organizers initially worried enthusiasm for this year's event would wane with the world's attention focused largely on the global economic crisis, Earth Hour executive director Andy Ridley told The Associated Press. Strangely enough, he said, it's seemed to have the opposite effect.

"Earth Hour has always been a positive campaign; it's always around street parties, not street protests, it's the idea of hope not despair. And I think that's something that's been incredibly important this year because there is so much despair around," he said. "On the other side of it, there's savings in cutting your power usage and being more sustainable and more efficient."

Most electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, a process that emits carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas tied to warming. While renewable energy sources like solar and wind have no direct carbon emissions, they have yet to displace fossil fuels due to costs and efficiencies.

Bathed in shadows
In Australia, people attended candlelit speed-dating events and gathered at outdoor concerts as the hour of darkness rolled through the country. Sydney's glittering harbor was bathed in shadows as lights dimmed on the steel arch of the city's iconic Harbour Bridge and the nearby Opera House.

Earlier Saturday, the Chatham Islands, a group of small islands about 500 miles east of New Zealand, officially kicked off Earth Hour by switching off its diesel generators. Soon after, the lights of Auckland's Sky Tower, the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand, blinked off.

Forty-four New Zealand towns and cities participated in the event, and more than 60,000 people showed up for an Earth Hour-themed hot air ballooning festival in the city of Hamilton.

At Scott Base in Antarctica, New Zealand's 26-member winter team resorted to minimum safety lighting and switched off appliances and computers.

China was participating in the campaign for the first time, with Beijing turning off the lights at its Bird's Nest Stadium and Water Cube, the most prominent venues for the Olympics, according to WWF. Shanghai was also cutting lights in all government buildings and other structures on its waterfront, while Hong Kong, Baoding, Changchun, Dalian, Nanjing and Guangzhou were also participating, WWF said.

However, the official WWF Earth Hour Web site appeared to be blocked in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin on Saturday afternoon. While China rarely gives reasons for blocking Web sites, the campaign coincided with the 50th anniversary of the suppression of an uprising in Tibet that forced the Dalai Lama to go into exile.

'Symphony of Lights' takes break
In Hong Kong, the government planned to suspend its nightly "Symphony of Lights," which beams lasers and lights into the sky from 44 buildings on the city's famed Victoria Harbor. Landmarks along the harbor also were to switch off nonessential lights for an hour.

Later Saturday, Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva planned to press a button to turn off the lights at Khao San Road, a famous haven for budget travelers in Bangkok that is packed with bars and outdoor cafes.

Lights were to go down at the Grand Palace and other riverside monuments, and businesses along some of the Thai capital's busiest boulevards were also asked to participate, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said in a statement.

The capital hoped to reduce electricity consumption in the city of more than 8 million people by at least 30 percent — or 1,400 megawatts — during the event. Earth Hour organizers say there's no uniform way to measure how much energy is saved worldwide.

Earth Hour 2009 has garnered support from global corporations, nonprofit groups, schools, scientists and celebrities — including Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett and retired Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

McDonald's Corp. planned to dim its arches at 500 locations around the Midwest in the United States. The Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Fairmont hotel chains and Coca-Cola Co. also planned to participate.

'Nonsense' or urgent priority?
New studies increasingly highlight the ongoing effects of climate change, said Richard Moss, a member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and WWF's climate change vice president.

"We have satellites and we have ships out at sea and we have monitoring stations set up on buoys in the ocean," Moss said. "We monitor all kinds of things people wouldn't even think about. The scientific research is showing in all kinds of ways that the climate crisis is worsening."

But not everyone agrees and at least one counter-protest is planned for Saturday.

Suburban Philadelphia ice cream shop owner Bob Gerenser believes global warming is based on faulty science and calls Earth Hour "nonsense." The resident of New Hope, Pa., planned to illuminate his store with extra theatrical lighting.

"I'm going to get everyone I know in my neighborhood to turn on every light they possibly can to waste as much electricity as possible to underline the absurdity of this action ... by being absurd," he said.

In the U.S., 220 cities, towns and villages have signed on — from New York City to Igiugig, population 53 on Iliamna Lake in southwestern Alaska.

Among the efforts in Chicago, 50,000 light bulbs at tourist hotspot Navy Pier will dim and 24 spotlights that shine on Sears Tower's twin spires will go dark.

"We're the most visible building in the city," said Angela Burnett, a Sears Tower property manager. "Turning off the lights for one hour on a Saturday night shows our commitment to sustainability."

The Commonwealth Edison utility said electricity demand fell by 5 percent in Chicago and northern Illinois during last year's Earth Hour, reducing about 840,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles