Monthly Archives: March 2012

Top Ten Things to Do for Earth Hour

Earth Hour Checklist

Top Ten Things to Do to Save Energy

Here are some things that you can do to prepare for Earth Hour.
Remember that saving energy is about more than just turning down the lights. Challenge yourself to do some or all of these energy saving things for Earth Hour – and every day – to save energy and help the planet.

#10 Fill Up Your Freezer
Did you know that an empty freezer uses up more energy than a full one?

If you have empty space in your freezer or deep-freeze, you can conserve energy – and reduce your electric bill – by freezing used pop bottles or milk jugs of water. Fill empty containers about 2/3rds full and place them in your freezer. The ice will help maintain the temperature inside the freezer, allowing it to use less energy.

#9 Invite Your Friends Over
You can help spread Earth Hour awareness by inviting your friends, family or neighbors to join you for Earth Hour activities. A few friendly faces can help make the time go faster, too!

#8 Fix Drafts
Drafty doors and windows cause your heating and cooling bills to go up. Try to repair or cover any drafts around your home before Earth Hour. The money you save will help throughout the year as well!

You can also keep heating and cooling costs down with thermal window coverings. But if you’re pinching pennies, simple dark curtains can keep a room warm in winter, and white curtains keep it cool in summer.

#7 Turn Down the Heat
If you’re living in a cool climate and have the heat on in March, try turning your heat down slightly for Earth Hour.

To minimize the amount of energy that you use for heating, make sure that heating units are well ventilated and not obscured by furniture. There should be at least a few inches of space between heaters and other objects for them to work efficiently.
Close off any rooms that are not used regularly, and only heat rooms that you need to. If you keep your thermostats at a moderate temperature throughout the day, you will use less energy than you do by turning it up and down at different times.

#6 Unplug Appliances
At 8:25 on March 28th, it’s time to start powering down for Earth Hour.

You can start by unplugging your small appliances such as the microwave and coffee maker. Hopefully, your toaster is already unplugged when not in use!

#5 Unplug Chargers
For one hour, unplug your cell phone charger, battery re-charger and any other adaptors you have around your home. If you leave these items unplugged when not in use, you can save a few dollars in energy costs every month.

If you have a cordless phone you will need to leave it plugged in, unless you have a standard telephone in the house as well.

#4 Unplug Clocks and Electronics
It won’t take long to reset your digital alarm clock after Earth Hour is finished. Unplug as many of the clocks around your home as possible. If you have a digital watch or wall clock, you can unplug them all!

Turn off and unplug your television and other devices like DVD players and video game consoles. If you have all of your electronics plugged into a power bar or surge bar, you can switch them all off at the end of the day, everyday. This can help you save money every month.

#3 Shut Off Your Computer
Even an idle computer uses energy. You can cut down on computer energy costs by powering down all of the devices at your desk for one hour. You can simply switch off the power bar or surge bar.

If there are items plugged in with your computer that must stay on, such as a cordless phone, you can unplug items individually, or turn off the power manually. Most computers have a power switch at the back of the tower that shuts them down completely.

#2 Unplug Lamps and Nightlights
Just like other electrical items, lamps should be unplugged when not in use. Unplug all of the floor and desk lamps in your home for Earth Hour. Only plug them back in as you need to use them.

#1 Turn Off the Lights
Last but not least, turn down all of the lights in your home. It’s a little strange sitting around in the dark, but it’s only for one hour. Just think of what it must have been like before the invention of the light bulb!

Ten Things to Do During Earth Hour

Earth Hour is a bit like a power outage. If you’re not prepared for it, you’ll find yourself thinking “If I can’t watch TV, and I can’t use the computer, and I can’t read in the dark…what can I do?”

To help make Earth Hour go faster, here are ten fun activities that you can do:
#10 Take a Nap
Nothing makes time go faster than sleep! If you’re feeling sleepy, why not take a nap during Earth Hour and conserve your own energy, too?

#9 Make Love
You don’t need lights to snuggle with someone! If you’re lucky enough to be sharing Earth Hour with someone special, make the most of it! Better yet, turn Earth Hour into Earth Evening and save some extra electricity!

"The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt

#8 Tell Stories
If you’re spending Earth Hour with friends or family, turn it into a fun story telling night. You can tell spooky stories in the dark, or just tell mild ones, or maybe share memories of times past. Either way, you’ll enjoy the time that you spend together.

#7 Play Board Games
As long as your favorite games don’t require too much reading, you can play by candle light. Chess and checkers are great games to play in the dark.

#6 Play Handheld Games
If you simply can’t bring yourself to unplug, make sure that your Nintendo DS or PSP is charged up before Earth Hour, and spend the time playing your favorite handheld game.

#5 Play Word Games
There are hundreds of different games that you can play just by talking. Some favorites, of course, are Truth or Dare and Telephone, but you can also try these fun games too:

The Map Game – Take turns naming countries, cities or other map regions by name. Each player must think of a place that begins with the last letter of the previous player’s answer. For example: Amsterdam, Monaco, Orlando, Oakland, Denmark…

I’m Going on a Picnic – Take turns naming foods that begin with each letter of the alphabet. For example: Apple, Blueberry, Crab cake, Donut, English muffin…

#4 Sing Songs
You don’t need a karaoke machine to have a sing-a-long. See who can remember the most lyrics from your favorite songs, or make up your own!

#3 Play Hide and Seek
There’s something extra fun about playing hide-and-go-seek in the dark, even for grown ups! There are lots of different variations of the game, so set out the rules before you play. Don’t forget to have fun!

#2 Recycle
You can do some easy recycled crafts by candle light and make Earth Hour even better for the environment!

#1 Make a Green Action Plan
Since you’re just sitting in the dark anyway, why not take this opportunity to talk about what you’ll be doing this year to reduce your impact on the Earth? Make a list of all the things that you could change, and try to think of ways to add them to your lifestyle.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:
– Buy a reusable coffee mug or water bottle
– Ride the bus or bike to work
– Insulate your water heater

Article excerpted from www.squidoo.com

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Eco-tourism may be good news for sharks

A massive female tiger shark, about 14-feet long, glides past a group of divers.

Imagine swimming in crystalline ocean waters shot through with sunlight when one of Earth’s most notorious predators swims into view — a very close view.

Such pulse-quickening encounters are, in fact, the whole point for visitors to Tiger Beach, an idyllic spot in the Bahamas where eco-tourists can get up close and personal with tiger sharks — indiscriminate eaters known to devour everything from sea turtles to kegs of nails (and occasionally a few unlucky humans).

Yet it is by playing to the sharks’ voracious appetites that dive operators are able to lure them into view, courtesy of generous offerings of chum — minced fish.

However, some have argued that the free meals — and resulting close encounters between humans and sharks — could have bad consequences for both species.

Shark meal
“People are concerned that it could be causing sharks to associate people with food,” said shark researcher Neil Hammerschlag, an assistant professor at the University of Miami. Some worry that, like cartoon castaways eyeing each other hungrily in a boat, tiger sharks might, essentially, begin to see humans as giant pork chops with legs.

“Shark attacks are so very rare, so it’s really hard to draw conclusions,” Hammerschlag told OurAmazingPlanet.

Another concern, he said, and one that is easier to test, is that all the free food might disrupt the sharks’ natural wanderings, and artificially limit their movements to areas close to tourist sites. (Why go hunting out at sea when the bipeds regularly serve up snacks?)

Since sharks are apex predators — a bit like the Godfathers of the ecosystem — and keep potentially disruptive ecological usurpers in check, such a change could have negative effects.

“They help keep balance,” Hammerschlag said, “so if this really changes their behavior long term, it could have ecological consequences.”

Neither idea has been properly tested, he said. To that end, Hammerschlag, heading up a team of researchers, designed a study to investigate.

Shark testing
They used satellite tags attached to the sharks’ dorsal fins to track tiger sharks in areas where eco-tourism packages offer plenty of free food to the sharks — the Bahamas’ Tiger Beach — and an area where the practice is forbidden — Florida.

All told, they tracked 11 Floridian tiger sharks and 10 Bahamian sharks, in near-real time, for spans of six months to almost a year. Hammerschlag said he expected the Bahamian sharks, with access to cushy meals, to travel far less than their Floridian counterparts.

“But, in fact, we found the opposite,” he said. The Florida tiger sharks traveled, at most, 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from their tagging site.

In contrast, “the tiger sharks from the Bahamas diving site moved massive distances,” Hammerschlag said. “Definitely that area was important, but they didn’t rely on it.”

Some swam as far as 2,175 miles (3,500 km) out into the middle of the Atlantic and spent seven months there. The researchers noted that the difference could be related to size: The Bahamian sharks are bigger, and bigger animals tend to travel larger distances.

Their research is published today (March 9) in the journal Functional Ecology.

Shark people
Hammerschlag said that the work indicates that eco-tourism, when done right, may not be all bad for sharks — crucial predators that are disappearing from oceans around the world, many falling victim to the lucrative and devastating shark-fin trade.

With proper policies, he suggested, people could continue to see economic benefit from sharks, but in a way that keeps the animals alive.

“In the Bahamas, they’ve encouraged shark diving because it’s good for the economy, and because of that they’re protecting sharks in their water,” he said — something that Florida policymakers might want to keep in mind.

“I would say that before we ban these things outright, we should do some research,” he said. “Rather than basing our decisions on fear, we should base them on fact.”

Eating out: a vegetarian’s dilemma

Vegetable wontons ... is Asian the only reliable choice for meat-free eating out. Photo: Gary Schafer

How easy is to find vegetarian food on restaurant menus? That depends on where you are and what kind of vegetarian you are – and it helps to be in love with quiche, risotto or pasta with tomato sauce, the standard veggie options in many places. If you eat eggs and dairy products, the choices are wider, but for vegans who avoids both, along with meat, poultry and fish, it’s trickier – unless you’re in a big US city. On a trip to Chicago, Ondine Sherman, managing director of the animal protection organisation Voiceless, found so many vegan friendly restaurants she was spoilt for choice.

But while Australian restaurants increasingly offer a vegetarian option and are happy to ‘vegetarianise’  dishes by removing ingredients like prosciutto, many meatless offerings rely heavily on cheese, she says – and the term ‘vegan’ can leave the wait staff scratching their heads.

“I often have to explain what it means, but hopefully this will change as more people ask for meals free from animal products,” says Sherman whose menu wish list includes more dishes based on legumes rather than cheese.

Still, ordering an all-plant brekkie in Sydney is getting easier – along with the usual eggy breakfasts, more menus now include toast with avocado, mushrooms and spinach.

Japanese food also has good options for vegetarians, including vegans, says Sherman whose favourites include agedashi tofu, glazed eggplant with miso sauce – called nasu dengaku – as well as edamame (green soy beans) and miso soup.

“Thai restaurants can be difficult for vegans because of fish sauce but they do offer many great tofu dishes. Indian food is ideal for vegetarians and very healthy with a variety of protein-rich lentils and beans,” she says.

Not that Voiceless is prescriptive when it comes to what people should or shouldn’t eat, stresses Sherman who believes that a ‘purist’ approach to eating isn’t helpful to the animal protection movement.

“Although most Australians might want to eat ethically, they’re not prepared to become 100 per cent vegan all the time – but significantly reducing animal products and eating only free-range will make an enormous difference to animal suffering,” she says.

But while she thinks Australia has a great food culture and has become friendlier to the idea of ethical eating over the last five years, we’re not ahead of the pack when it comes to vegetarian or vegan food – at least not compared to the US and UK.

“I think that MasterChef and other cooking shows that set food fashion really need to step up to the plate – excuse the pun – and help educate the public,” she says.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, things have improved since animal advocate Glenys Oogjes, gave up eating animal foods more than 30 years ago. Back then, eating out and being vegan often meant one option: a veggie stack.

“It’s getting much better. With South East Asian and Indian food, vegetarian dishes are just a normal part of the cuisine – the preponderance of meat on some restaurant menus is often more a concession to western tastes,” says Oogjes, executive director of Animals Australia, the organisation which revealed mistreatment of animals in Indonesian abattoirs.

“I can also be reasonably confident that if I go to a Middle Eastern or a Mexican restaurant, there’ll be something I can eat –although I’d be less confident in a French restaurant. There are more vegetarian or vegan restaurants around too and they’re not just catering to vegetarians either – it’s becoming more the case that not everyone wants to eat meat all the time.”

Looking for menus that embrace more plant based dishes? The Animals Australia website has a guide to eating out with tips for finding veggie options, as well as listings of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in cities around Australia.

Incidentally, for vegetarians who eat cheese, Parmesan can be a pitfall as  most Parmesan cheeses are made with rennet derived from enzymes from an animal’s stomach – generally from . milk fed calves. However Chew on This has tracked down one brand, Pantaluca, which is made from non-animal rennet.  If you prefer cheese made without animal rennet, check the label or see this  guide from the Victorian Vegetarian Network.

Do you look for vegetarian options on restaurant menus?

Article excerpted from www.smh.com.au

Eco-city not green, but offers hope

New city will provide an opportunity to test new technologies that can be used elsewhere

The world’s largest eco-city is not a green, carbon-free paradise where cars are banned from the streets.

Instead, as its first residents moved in this month, they found it is remarkably like most other Chinese cities: shrouded in smog and depressingly grey. But then the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, just over an hour from Beijing by train, is not supposed to be a whizzy vision of the future.

It is far more practical – a model for how Chinese cities could develop and solve some of the enormous problems facing them: permanent gridlock, a lack of water and ruinous electricity bills.

If a few of the changes adopted in Tianjin were rolled out nationally, the results could dramatically change China’s devastating impact on the environment.

“Our eco-city is an experiment, but it is also practical,” said Wang Meng, the deputy director of construction. “There are over 100 eco-cities in the world now, and they are all different. If you look at the one in Abu Dhabi, they spent a huge amount of money and bought a lot of technology. It is very grand, but is it useful?”

To date, almost all of the world’s eco-cities have been green follies, crippled by a central parado the more they enforce bothersome environ-mental rules, the less people want to live in them.

In Tianjin, the residents will not be expected to make any particular effort to be green.

“If they take the bus and sort their rubbish for recycling, they will be making their contribution,” said a spokesman for the city.

Their main contribution, in fact, is to be guinea pigs as planners experiment with the city around them. General Motors, for example, is using Tianjin to work out if electric driverless cars can function in a normal traffic system.

“Some eco-cities are too idealistic. In Tianjin they do not want to stop people from driving, but they do want to put into place policies that will help our vehicles to operate success-fully,” said Chris Borroni-Bird, the head of GM’s autonomous driving project in Detroit.

He said Tianjin would allow GM to road-test the next generation of vehicles: small urban cars that drove themselves but were safe in an environment full of unpredictable drivers and pedestrians.

Not only does China desperately need to solve its traffic problems, but it is one of the few countries that can throw significant resources at new ideas and build cities from scratch in order to experiment.

Other projects on trial include a low energy lighting system from Philips and garbage bins that empty themselves, sucking litter into an underground net-work, by a Swedish company called Envac. “We are not sure about that one,” said a spokes-man. “It requires people not to put the wrong sort of rubbish in the bins, or it could jam the system and prove expensive to maintain.”

By the time it is finished, in the next decade or so, 250 billion yuan ($40 billion) will have been spent by the Chinese and Singaporean governments, and a number of private companies, on transforming the site into a comfortable home for 350,000 people. Sixty families have already moved in.

Already, one new technology has been patented. “We had an industrial reservoir that was full of heavy metals,” said Wang. “It used to be so bad that people could not go near it because of the smell. Now we have cleaned it with a special process that we can send to other parts of the country.”

In a country where 70 per cent of the rivers are too polluted to provide drinking water, the technology is likely to be a money-spinner. Having ruined vast swaths of its countryside as it raced to wealth, China is now likely to spend billions on cleaning up the mess.

Elsewhere, government-owned buildings collect their own rain water for reuse, are powered by geothermal energy, have window shutters that move with the light, in order to keep buildings cool, and heating systems that use solar energy.

In a sign of how seriously the project is taken, eight out of the nine members of China’s politburo standing committee, which rules the country, have visited.

“The idea is to create something that can be adapted to other cities in China,” said Wang.

Article excerpted from www.vancouversun.com

DIY: Magazine Paper Garbage Bin

How to Recycle at the Workplace

Placing bins throughout the wokplace encourages regular recycling.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as much as 90 percent of work-related waste is paper, making it recyclable. Starting a workplace recycling program takes initiative, organization and education. Preparing and launching a program take time, but after the program is in place, your workplace can significantly reduce its waste output, lower its carbon footprint and even generate a small amount of income for your company.

Items you will need:

  1. Recycle bins
  2. List of approved recyclables
Step 1: Select an employee to serve as the recycling program’s coordinator. This person should be self-motivated and organized and have a passion for programs that support a healthy environment. The program coordinator takes the lead on educating employees about the new program and organizing the collection and hauling of recyclables. Workplace recycling initiatives function best when upper management supports the program and makes it a companywide effort.
Step 2: Tour the office and identify which waste items are recyclable. Make note of the materials that employees are throwing in the trashcans. You’ll likely find a wide variety of paper products, aluminum cans, glass and cardboard. Compare the list of items you’d like to recycle with a list of allowable recyclable items from your local waste management company. Ink cartridges and computers might not be recyclable through your waste management company, but you can easily research other businesses, such as office supply stores, that might offer ink and computer recycling services.

Step 3: Set out collection bins in strategic locations. According to the EPA, the average employee produces 2 lbs. of waste paper per day. Given this fact, you should place paper recycling bins at each employee’s desk as well as near the copier to encourage participation in the paper portion of your recycling program. In the lunchroom, place separate bins for paper, cardboard, aluminum and glass. Any durable bin can serve as a recycling bin. Label each bin clearly so employees do not accidentally mix materials.

Step 4: Distribute recycling guidelines to all employees. Try to keep things simple in order to encourage participation. Let employees know where bins are located and which items need to be cleaned prior to being placed in the bins. You can also post the guidelines above each bin for easy reference.

Step 5:Determine dates each month to haul your recyclables or to have them picked up. The program coordinator should choose employees who can help load and haul recycling to the local waste management recycling center. Take advantage of any cash-for-recyclables offers. Large companies can contract with independent hauling services to have their recycling picked up.

Tips

  • Encourage participation in your recycling program by letting employees know how much waste is being recycled monthly. People like to see the impact of their efforts.
  • Redistribute the recycling guidelines quarterly to keep them fresh in everyone’s mind. Email the guidelines to reduce paper waste.
  • Communicate clearly with your company’s janitorial staff about the recycling program’s efforts. This helps to ensure that items in recycling bins are not being collected with regular office trash as the janitorial staff cleans.

Article excerpted from http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/

I Will If You Will

WILL YOU?

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