Blog Archives

Don’t Idle Away Your Car’s Gas

Save money, cut emissions and reduce wear on your engine.
eco tip for idling your carPhoto: Jim Jurica / Istock

Every moment you spend idling your car’s engine means time spent needlessly wasting gas, as well as rougher wear on your vehicle. So give it a rest, and avoid idling through your days.

One of the ways the much-praised Toyota Prius is able to achieve such impressive fuel economy is by having a computer cut out idling automatically: when you aren’t making headway, the gas engine shuts off. For regular cars, it doesn’t make sense to shut off the engine at every stop sign. (Even though Environmental Defense found that idling for more than 10 seconds wastes more gas than is required for startup.) But, you should certainly kill it when you are waiting for your date to finish getting ready. Or when your honey has to run into the bank to cash a check.

Overall, idling Americans burn 2.9 billion gallons of gas a year, worth around $78.2 billion, according to a recent report from Texas A&M. That doesn’t count the damage done to idling engines by incompletely burned fuel.

Many communities have organized “no idling zones” around schools, churches and other locations. At least 15 states, and many counties, have laws that restrict idling for large diesel engines. New York City and New Jersey have laws limiting idle times of passenger vehicles, but enforcement is lax.

Article excerpted from


Ten Tips for Going Green at Home

Here are ten tips to help you go green at your house. These hints will help save the environment, reduce your waste footprint, and often even save you money in the process.

1. Green Cooking Tips. Don’t microwave plastic, reduce your use of prepackaged foods, and stop using cheap nonstick pans, which leach toxins into your meal as you cook. Consider buying organic foods. When choosing between two like items in the grocery store, pick the one with less wasted packaging.

2. Reduce waste. Recycle newspapers and other items whenever possible. Reduce your dependence on fast food, which creates a lot of waste products. Reuse plastic bags at least once.

3. Use less utilities. Unplug electronics when not in use, which can use up to 20% of power when not turned on. Look into the possibility of replacing high-use utilities with an energy efficient furnace, air conditioner, dishwasher or water heater. Consider installing solar panels to capture free heat from the sun. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs to save energy. Run your dishwasher and clothes washer only when they are full. Turn your thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer. Use caulk and weather stripping to insulate your home.

4. Reduce mileage in your car. Use a bicycle or walk for the close trips whenever possible. Combine trips in the car, or shop where many stores are located together. When you buy a car, look for one with low mileage, or a hybrid. If you live far from work, consider changing either your job or your residence to make them closer together. If that isn’t feasible, consider changing hours so you don’t have to sit in rush hour traffic.

5. Grow your own foods as much as possible. Create a vegetable garden, and use as few pesticides and chemical fertilizers as possible. Consider using a rain barrel to water your plants, instead of using public water.

6. Take up composting. Pick an out of the way spot in your yard, and use a composter. Throw in coffee grounds, eggshells, spoiled vegetables and other leftovers. Mix with dirt. Once a week or so, turn over with a shovel to provide air. You won’t just help the environment, you’ll create rich soil for your garden.

7. Donate your used items. If they are still usable, don’t throw them away. Donate them to Goodwill or another worthy cause, including clothes, shoes, toys, and household items.

8. Avoid aerosols, which can’t be recycled, and contribute to air pollution. There are many non-aerosol alternatives to any product. Research and use organic cleaning products.

9. Watch what you put in your trash can. Batteries, paint cans, and aerosol sprays all can leak toxics that can end up in our water system. Ask your community leaders about a safe disposal site for these items.

10. Limit what you buy. Think twice about filling your house up with items you’ll only use once or twice. Consider sharing items with a good neighbor, such as garden tools, and go in half on them.

Going green at home doesn’t just help the environment, it saves you money too!

Article excerpted from

Disposal Dilemma

Because of their mercury and PCB contents, old fluorescent lights should not be dumped in the bin but the Government has no solution for such waste as yet.

HOW many light bulbs do you have at home? What kind are they? How many do you change in a year? What do you do with the spoilt lights? Throw them in the thrash? Recycle them? What happens to these light bulbs once you throw them away?

For some, these questions may seem pointless. After all, a typical household may only need to change one or two light bulbs a year – surely such a miniscule amount of light bulbs won’t cause any harm, right?

Well, think again. Depending on what sort of light bulb you are using, be it incandescent, fluorescent or compact fluorescent light bulbs, you could be still be releasing toxics such as lead polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and liquid mercury into the environment. You might think that discarding one or two light bulbs won’t make a difference but what if each of the millions of households in Malaysia thought the same? Now that would be a lot of light bulbs, wouldn’t it?

An official of a major player in the solid waste management industry (who wishes to remain anonymous) says light bulbs should not be disposed together with household waste as they would only end up in dumpsites and landfills, and could contaminate groundwater if the landfills are not lined or equipped with leachate treatment facilities.

The thing is, almost every single component of a compact fluorescent light (CFL) can be recycled. The metal parts can be sold as scrap metal, the glass can be recycled into other glass products, and most importantly, the hazardous mercury can be reused to make new light bulbs. Unfortunately, while there is a need to recycle light bulbs, or at least dispose of them correctly, there are currently few options available to the general public. There are currently no specific guidelines or regulations concerning the disposal of light bulbs. Because they contain liquid mercury, light bulbs are classified as “scheduled waste” – this requires that they be treated like any other hazardous industrial waste.

This means two things – we cannot throw them out with the trash, and they should be properly disposed off, either at a recycling plant or at an approved hazardous waste facility (such as Kualiti Alam in Bukit Nanas, Negeri Sembilan).

But these legal provisions have never been enforced. Perhaps because no system or procedure are in place to collect hazardous waste from households which includes lights, old paints and batteries, unlike in countries such as Germany, where there are designated places to send such waste.

Also, the Department of Environment has said that its jurisdiction does not cover household waste. And even if such waste was collected, who is going to pay for the disposal say, at Kualiti Alam? Certainly not the domestic waste concessionaires such as Alam Flora or Southern Waste Management, who would insist that scheduled waste is not under their purview.

As such, all our discarded lights have ended up in dumpsites and landfills – sources from the waste concessionaires admit as much. This is also confirmed by Dr Nadzri Yahaya, director-general of the National Solid Waste Management Department: “Right now, light bulbs from household waste are all dumped together with normal garbage, which all ends up in landfills.”

He assures however, that when the Solid Waste And Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 comes into place, there will be a regulation requiring households to sort their waste. “We will then collect the light bulbs and keep them in storage until there is a large amount for sending to recycling plants or proper disposal at facilities prescribed by the DOE.”

Nadzri sees rising awareness among Malaysians on the hazards posed by discarded lights but there is just no means of proper disposal.

“That’s where the regulation comes in. We get them to sort at source, then we help them recycle or dispose of it properly,” he says.

A source in the solid waste industry says a take-back system through retailers is the best solution for the disposal of light bulbs. Such a take-back policy exists in Europe, whereby the responsibility for disposal of electrical and electronic equipment waste is imposed on the manufacturers. These companies must establish an infrastructure to collect the waste from consumers free of charge but the cost would have already been added to retail prices.

The good news is, such a policy might come up in Malaysia soon. A Department of Environment (DOE) official discloses that the agency is working on a take-back system for electronics and electrical items under the Environmental Quality Act – Environmental (Scheduled Waste) Regulation 2005.

But until these collection systems for waste bulbs are up and running, there is little that consumers can do except to just store those old bulbs – that is what some green-minded individuals are doing.

Article excerpted from

Do Not Fly at Night

Flying during the day is greener and bluer.

airplane photo
Digital Vision/Getty Images

We all know that flying in an airplane takes a terrible toll upon the environment. Skipping one flight saves as much CO2 as going vegetarian for an entire year. And going vegetarian is one of the greenest things you can do in terms of CO2 savings.

But in this fast-paced, modern world, plane travel is almost unavoidable. Our society revolves around being able to transport ourselves and each other over vast distances. Until we can change the way the world works, we just have to make decisions that are more environmentally friendly and hope we get it all figured out before global warming does some serious damage.

One thing that you can do to reduce carbon emissions when traveling by plane is by booking a flight in the daytime instead of at night. Contrails left by airplanes at night have a greater impact on global warming than the ones left in the day.

From News in Science

At certain altitudes, aircraft produce contrails – condensation trails caused when the plane’s hot exhaust hits the chilly atmosphere.

These contrails have a surprisingly big but also complex effect on the climate.

Because they are clouds, they trap heat that is emitted by the Earth’s surface, creating a “greenhouse effect” that adds to warming.

Yet during daytime, these clouds have a cooling effect because they are white and thus reflect some of the Sun’s energy back into space.
As weird as it sounds, flying during the daytime can help reduce your carbon footprint. So if you have a choice of when you are going to fly, opt for the afternoon flight. It’s the greener way to fly.

Article excerpted from

Ecotourism Threats: Are We Really Following Environmental Protection?

Many argue that ecotourism does not offer enough  environmental  protection.  In fact, some believe that ecotourism threats will actually damage the very environments that ecotourism strives to preserve.

Ecotourism Threats
One of the problems that ecotourism poses is the overall impact that ecotourism has on the environment. Ecotourism does not only impact the areas where travelers visit. It takes energy in the form of airplane fuel, bus or automobile fuel and/or boat fuel to reach remote areas. The resulting energy consumption is not always taken into consideration when looking at the effects of ecotourism. In a sense, ecotourism might be considered wasteful.

When tourists travel, they need places to stay or “stage” before they start their journey. This means clearing land, building facilities such as hotels and developing support industries. Even though these facilities may not be in the area that ecotourists spend most of their time, they still must be available. This could be added as an indirect negative to the environment.

Another threat ecotourism poses is that some of the ecosystems where ecotourists travel are extremely fragile. Over time, even small groups of people who strive to be as careful as possible can still have a negative impact and upset the local ecosystem.

Since some ecotourists want to observe the drama of nature, tours for these types of travelers are scheduled to coincide with breeding or hunting seasons. Again, this could prove to be disruptive to the natural cycle of life.

Another problem associated with ecotourism is that if the moneys generated by this type of tourism are mismanaged, the environment will be the victim. In addition, corruption and greed could add to a negative impact on a local ecosystem as well.

One of the tenants of ecotourism is to have as little impact on local cultures as possible. The reality of this is that once different peoples come into contact with each other, they are both affected. It can be argued that as the world becomes smaller with this merging of cultures, it is inevitable that even remote cultures will change through exposure to other peoples. Whether this is a negative or positive advance remains to be seen.

Article excerpted from

%d bloggers like this: