March 27, 2015

Are You Ready for Earth Hour 2015?

This Saturday, between 8:30-9:30 pm (local time), the planet will observe Earth Hour. It’s a simple gesture; turning off lights to bring awareness to climate change. But does it work? Does it matter?

2015’s World Wildlife Fund Earth Hour, the 8th annual event, precedes a major global climate deal expected later this year.

“Climate change is not just the issue of the hour, it's the issue of our generation,” Sudhanshu Sarronwala, Chair, Board of Directors, Earth Hour Global said in a statement. “Earth Hour is the world’s most enduring people’s movement focused on climate. The lights may go out for one hour, but the actions of millions throughout the year will inspire the solutions required to change climate change.” 

Famous landmarks across the globe will turn off all non-essential lights in observance of Earth Hour, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco will turn off their lights, and the campaign notes that “close to 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Acropolis in Athens and Edinburgh Castle in Scotland are also scheduled to go dark in support of Earth Hour." 

Earth Hour will be observed in more than 7,000 cities in 172 countries in 24 time zones.

“Climate change knows no borders and neither does the crowd. WWF's climate movement is powered by people, has massive reach and is pursuing an urgent purpose in demanding climate action,” added Sarronwala. 

Of course, we won’t solve or reverse climate change in one dark hour a year, but the event does reduce energy use, and quite a lot of it. But the bigger impact is the global discussion, why turning off the lights does matter, and the funds raise to support regional projects.

There’s still plenty of time to get involved in an Earth Hour event near you—or start your own! Check out the Earth Hour website for more info.

 Image: macdomeng

March 26, 2015

Vive La France! The Eiffel Tower Adds Wind Turbines

Paris is known for many things—its the epicenter of real food, coffee and, of course, the country's wine, and its also known as the city of love and light. But now, its adding another noteworthy tassel to its beret: the City of Sustainability. Pariss iconic Eiffel Tower has become a beacon for green energy with the addition of two wind turbines spinning about on its second level. 

Painted to blend in with the tower’s iron, the turbines are actually difficult to notice, but they’re there, producing 10,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, which, according to Quartz, “is about enough to self-sustain the commercial section on the tower’s first floor.” While it’s not a huge amount of power, it’s significant in making the tower a bit more self-sustaining, and of course, it’s a huge talking point about green energy.

New Yorks renewable energy design firm Urban Green Energy (UGE) is behind the turbines. UGE has worked with the Chinese Navy, BMW and the Philadelphia Eagles football team, but its the tower installation that is making the group gush. About seven million tourists visit the tower every year, and the goal is to make the wind turbines another featured talking point on the tower.

“The Eiffel Tower is arguably the most renowned architectural icon in the world, and we are proud that our advanced technology was chosen as the Tower commits to a more sustainable future,” said Nick Blitterswyk, CEO of UGE, in a press release. “When visitors from around the world see the wind turbines, we get one step closer to a world powered by clean and reliable renewable energy.”

Paris will also be hosting a UN conference on climate change later this year.

Image: chascow

March 25, 2015

Perdue Chicken Manure Gets New Life as Alternative Energy

Perdue, the Maryland-based poultry giant, may soon be producing something else from chickens: energy from chicken manure.

The company has partnered with AgEnergyUSA on a $200 million project involving an energy plant that will transform manure into energy, keeping the animal waste from polluting the Chesapeake Bay.

"We think we have a very manageable solution, with our partner Perdue," James Pott, AgEnergyUSA's president told the Baltimore Sun.

According to the Sun, the push for the new manure-to-energy project came “as the Hogan administration and leading Democrats settled their differences over regulations to curb farmers' use of polluting poultry waste to fertilize their crops. Environmentalists had long pushed for strict limits to keep the manure from washing off fields into the bay. But farmers resisted, arguing that the costs of disposing of the manure and buying other fertilizer would drive them out of business.”

"The timing is perfect," said Potter of his proposal to turn the manure into energy. "This allows the Eastern Shore to put together a plan for meeting [manure-limiting regulations] without disrupting the economy."

The project could turn as much as 200,000 tons of chicken manure into energy. It’s roughly the same amount that makes its way onto the Bay’s shore each year, and environmentalists favor the move over burning, which contributes to the region’s air pollution issue.

According to the Sun, the plant would use bacteria to extract methane-rich bio-gas from the manure for industrial use, “The residue would be processed so that the bay-fouling nutrients in chicken waste could be separated and used in a more environmentally friendly manner. The nitrogen could be sold back to farmers as liquid fertilizer, which crops need every year, while the problematic phosphorus that's built up in Shore soils could be shipped elsewhere and sold as peat moss.”

"Environmentally, this project will provide an alternative to land application for a significant amount of poultry litter, eliminating the risk of any portion of the nitrogen or phosphorous in this litter from finding its way into the Chesapeake Bay watershed," Steve Schwalb, Perdue's vice president for environmental sustainability told the Sun.

And the move is earning big praises from regional environmental organizations, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Doug Myers, the group’s senior scientist said, "It's the most promising thing we've seen."

Image: kennethkonnica

March 24, 2015

Monsanto's Roundup Weedkiller Herbicide Likely a Carcinogen, WHO Finds

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, is likely a carcinogen, finds new research by the World Health Organization and published in the recent issue of the journal Lancet Oncology.

The decision to label glyphosate as a likely carcinogen came via the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer research center of the World Health Organization based in France.

IARC has four risk levels for potential carcinogens: those that are known carcinogens, probable or possible carcinogens, those not classifiable, and those not likely not carcinogens. The new findings put glyphosate in the second level of concern, alongside anabolic steroids and shift work, reports the Huffington Post. “The new classification is aimed mainly at industrial use of glyphosate. Its use by home gardeners is not considered a risk.”

"I don't think home use is the issue," said Kate Guyton of IARC. "It's agricultural use that will have the biggest impact. For the moment, it's just something for people to be conscious of."

According to the French agency, glyphosate is used in “more than 750 different herbicide products and its use has been detected in the air during spraying, in water and in food,” reports the Huffington Post. “Experts said there was ‘limited evidence’ in humans that the herbicide can cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma and there is convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause other forms of cancer in rats and mice. IARC's panel said glyphosate has been found in the blood and urine of agricultural workers, showing the chemical has been absorbed by the body.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will consider the findings by IARC, and whether or not to adjust regulations for use of the herbicide in the U.S. Glyphosate is used in tandem with Monsanto’s genetically modified crops. "All labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health," said Monsanto's Phil Miller, global head of regulatory and government affairs, in a statement.

Image: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

March 23, 2015

5 Vital Benefits of Alfalfa Grass

Have you tried alfalfa grass? Usually found in a powdered or supplement form, you may be wondering why so many people turn to this unusual source of greens when so many fresh leafy greens are readily available at supermarkets and farmers markets. 

It’s no secret that the modern diet isn’t as healthy as it could be. Even people who eat clean and avoid highly processed foods face nutrition deficit risks mainly due to the poorer soil quality that has decreased the amount of minerals once abundant in our food.

Alfalfa grass is an excellent option in providing your body with whole food sources of vitamins and minerals, which is why it's a key ingredient in our mustHave greens. Here are just some of the more notable benefits of alfalfa. 

1. Minerals and amino acids: Alfalfa’s deep roots shoot 20-30 feet into the earth where minerals are generally more abundant. This brings up nutrients from the earth including 8 essential amino acids, 25 percent of the RDA for manganese, 10 percent of the RDA for calcium, 19 percent of the RDA for iron and 6 percent of the RDA for potassium—all in just one serving! 

2. Vitamins: Alfalfa grass is abundant in important vitamins, too, including K (113 percent of the RDA) and more than four times the vitamin C than citrus! 

3. Antioxidants: Alfalfa ranks as containing the highest level of antioxidants of any fruit or vegetable. Antioxidants protect the body’s cells from some diseases, can improve overall health and even keep you looking younger.

4. Lutein: A well-known benefit to the eyes found in a number of plant foods, lutein is important in the prevention of macular degeneration.

5. Blood cleansing: Who doesn’t want “clean” blood? Over time, and especially on an unhealthy diet, toxins can build up in the body, particularly in the blood as it carries nutrients to all parts of the body and moves toxins away for elimination. Alfalfa’s rich chlorophyll content (which is essentially plant blood) aids the body in removing the toxins, leaving healthy nutrients behind.

 Image: Jigme Datse

 

March 21, 2015

Hawaii on Track to Be 100 Percent Renewable Energy Powered

You don’t need another reason to visit Hawaii—its islands are the very definition of paradise—but here’s one: It could become the first state to get 100 percent of its energy from renewable resources.

That’s the goal of new legislation that sets a 2040 target for 100 percent renewable energy in Hawaii. It’s already cruising toward a current target of 70 percent renewable energy by 2030.

“The legislature finds that Hawaii’s dependency on imported fuel drains our economy of billions of dollars each year,” the bill says. “A stronger local economy depends on a transition away from imported fuels and toward renewable local resources that provide a secure source of affordable energy.”

Both houses of Hawaii’s state legislature passed the bill.

“The benefits of renewable energy to Hawaii are clear,” reports EcoWatch. “While it has to import virtually all of its fuel and hence has among the highest electricity prices in the country, it has an ample supply of sun and wind, as well as sources of geothermal and hydropower.”

The bill’s senate sponsor and chair of the Energy and Environment Committee, State Senator Mike Gabbard, told Think Progress, “Even our utility is saying we can hit 65 percent by 2030, so 100 percent is definitely doable. This is huge for our state’s future. Each year, we spend $3 to $5 billion importing fossil fuels to power our economy. Our electricity bills are roughly three times the national average.”

Meeting Hawaii’s pro-renewable political climate is NextEra Energy, a Florida-based power company acquiring the power grids on the islands. NextEra Energy is known for building solar and wind power facilities.

Already in the last six years, Hawaii has increased its use of renewable energy resources by 12 percent, with more than 21 percent coming from renewables. It’s already exceeded its 2015 target of 15 percent. And so it seems, even paradise can be improved upon.

March 20, 2015

How to Easily Conserve Water at Home

Is any resource more precious than water? Around the world, and right in our own backyards (literally), water resources are stressed, scarce and threatened. But still, water waste happens all the time—and in places where it could be easily fixed. View full article →
March 20, 2015

World Water Day 2015: Science, Technology and the Water of the Future

World Water Day is observed on Sunday March 22; and if it sounds like just another made up United Nations event, it is. But that doesn’t take away from its critical importance. In fact, this year may be the most important WWD in history. View full article →
March 17, 2015

Early Death Risk Drops 50 Percent with Moderate Exercise, Study Finds

Feel your motivation to workout sinking deeper into the couch cushions as you munch on those Doritos? Better find the incentive to exercise, that is, if you want to keep laying on the couch and eating junk food into your Golden Years. View full article →
March 13, 2015

The Zero-Waste Coffee Lover’s Dream Come True? Meet the Plantable Coffee Cup

If you dream of a zero-waste world (as you probably should), convenience seems to go out the window. We can’t buy impulsively, particularly when it comes to food. Just think about McDonald’s “Billions and Billions Served” tagline. That’s Billions and Billions of wrappers, bags, boxes, cups, straws, all piled into landfills somewhere. View full article →
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