Archive for December 24th, 2010

Saving Abbey Road: A Victory for Tourists and Pedestrians
abbey road photo
Photo: BBC

Abbey Road, the most famous pedestrian crossing in (musical) history. If you are a tourist, it’s on the must-go list. If you are a local or a driver, it is on the must-be-avoided list, but that’s another story.

Let it be: Abbey Road, site of the cover of the famous Beatles album, has now been listed as a piece of heritage worth saving for future generations. Aside from the Beatles, why should we care?… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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Myth vs. Fact: Sustainability and the Holidays – You may need to reuse your fake Christmas tree 20 times (!) before its climate impact is lower than that of a real tree

Tuesday’s total eclipse of the moon happened to coincide with the 2010 winter solstice. This is a combined rarity that has only happened once in the past 2,000 years. This singular kickoff to winter indubitably merits a certain amount of attention paid to staying green in this year’s season of white. You may think that hanging a Christmas pickle on your tree does the trick, but there are plenty of other more effective ways to stay green this winter season.  Test your knowledge below with these five myth-busting winter wonders in this a CAP cross-post.

Myth #1: Faux-fir trees are immortal and therefore unquestionably green.

Fact: Most fake plastic trees are made of hard-to-recycle plastics such as PVC, shipped stateside from China, and do more harm to the environment than good.

The perceived immortality of an artificial tree is misunderstood. Most fake trees only last for about 6 to 10 years before they reach their withered-away Charlie Brown point and then spend eternity in a landfill because they are extremely expensive to recycle. Real trees are biodegradable, local, and they smell nice. They can also be reused as compost or mulch. Read more on the real versus fake tree debate here (and below).

Myth #2: Warming up the car in the driveway is necessary and safe.

Fact: Warming up the car in the driveway is unnecessary, ineffective, unsafe, and a waste of gas.

Idling the car doesn’t warm the engine as fast as actually driving it, and after about 10 seconds of idling you start to lose money. Idling also releases unnecessary pollutants into the air, harming both the atmosphere and your health. The Environmental Defense Fund is so serious about this issue that they started an “Idling Gets You Nowhere” campaign to raise awareness. So you can take their word and keep it moving, or take Rihanna’s.

Myth #3: There is no harm in buying 50 holiday greeting cards to “send out.”

Fact: Each year the United States alone cuts down 300,000 trees to make Christmas cards.

That amount is enough to fill a football stadium 10 stories high with Christmas cat holiday cheer. Instead of driving to the nearest drugstore for your holiday card fix, try making some at home out of recycled card stock, or opt for email. Websites like Someecards.com are hilarious, free, and paperless.

Myth #4: The most brightly lit house on the block is the best.

Fact: Lighting your house enough to be seen from the Hubble Space Telescope is an enormous waste of energy and resources—not to mention inefficient if you are using anything other than LED light bulbs.

LED lights realize 80 percent efficiency and last for around 10 years. That’s a big difference compared to incandescent bulbs’ 20 percent efficiency and one-year lifespan. Extra bonus: If one light burns out in your string of LED holiday lights, your display of Baby Jesus won’t be jeopardized. LEDs aren’t just for your winter holiday needs, either. Stick them in your house and you’ll be green all year long.

Myth #5: Soy is only good for an afternoon caramel brulée latte or an evening eggnog.

Fact: Soy is more prevalent and useful than you think, and soy candles are a sustainable alternative for your winter lighting needs and greener than traditional paraffin candles.

Paraffin is made from an oil byproduct and is bad for both your health and the environment. Soot from paraffin candles includes toxins and carcinogens. Conversely, soy is made from a renewable resource, and it’s biodegradable. Soy candles also burn longer, and they’re better for your health, producing 90 percent less soot than paraffin candles.

Keep these facts in mind as you wander through winter and this could be your greenest season yet.

– a CAP cross-post

JR:  Here’s the NY Times on the subject from last week:

When it comes to Christmas trees, Americans increasingly prefer plastic pines over the real thing.

Sales of fake trees are expected to approach 13 million this year, a record, as quality improves and they get more convenient, with features like built-in lights and easy collapsibility. All told, well over 50 million artificial Christmas trees will grace living rooms and dens this season, according to the industry’s main trade group, compared to about 30 million real trees.

Kim Jones, who was shopping for a tree at a Target store in Brooklyn this week, was convinced that she was doing the planet a favor by buying a $200 fake balsam fir made in China instead of buying a carbon-sipping pine that had been cut down for one season’s revelry.

“I’m very environmentally conscious,” Ms. Jones said. “I’ll keep it for 10 years, and that’s 10 trees that won’t be cut down.”

But Ms. Jones and the millions of others buying fake trees might not be doing the environment any favors.

In the most definitive study of the perennial real vs. fake question, an environmental consulting firm in Montreal found that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually. The calculations included greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources and human health impacts.

“The natural tree is a better option,” said Jean-Sebastien Trudel, founder of the firm, Ellipsos, that released the independent study last year.

The annual carbon emissions associated with using a real tree every year were just one-third of those created by an artificial tree over a typical six-year lifespan. Most fake trees also contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal.

Ellipsos specifically studied the market for Christmas trees bought in Montreal and either grown in Quebec or manufactured in China. Mr. Trudel said the results would most likely differ for other cities and regions. Excessive driving by consumers to purchase real trees could tip the scales back in favor of artificial trees, at least in terms of carbon emissions.

Over all, the study found that the environmental impact of real Christmas trees was quite small, and significantly less than that of artificial trees — a conclusion shared by environmental groups and some scientists.

“You’re not doing any harm by cutting down a Christmas tree,” said Clint Springer, a botanist and professor of biology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “A lot of people think artificial is better because you’re preserving the life of a tree. But in this case, you’ve got a crop that’s being raised for that purpose.”

… The balance tilts in favor of natural Christmas trees because of the way they are grown and harvested.

Close to 400 million trees now grow on Christmas tree farms in the United States, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, which represents growers and retailers of real trees. About 30 million trees are harvested annually.

The living trees generate oxygen, help fix carbon in their branches and in the soil and provide habitat for birds and animals, Mr. Springer said.

Christmas tree farms also help preserve farmland and green space, particularly near densely populated urban areas where pressure for development is intense.

“It allows people with land that may not be the best farmland to have a crop that they can actually make a profit on, and not be under pressure to sell out to developers,” said Mike Garrett, owner and operator of a Christmas tree farm in Sussex, N.J.

After the holidays, real trees can continue to serve a purpose. New York City, for instance, offers free curbside recycling for trees, which are turned into compost. The city’s parks department also provides a free mulching service for trees at several locations after the holidays. In 2009, nearly 150,000 trees were composted or mulched in the city.

Artificial trees, by contrast, are manufactured almost exclusively in Asia from plastic and metal and cannot be recycled by most municipal recycling programs. After six to 10 years of use, most will end up in a landfill.


Visit the original post at: Environment News

Cartoon: Santa Claus’ counterproductive coal policy

Human-caused global warming is poised to sink anything that happens to be residing on the North Pole into the chilly Arctic deep– see The war on Santa Claus (and Superman)

And that suggests Santa needs to rethink his policy for dealing with naughty children — as Non Sequitor makes clear:

Of course, I’m sure the climate-destroying conservatives would try to block any such change — see “Right wing bullies Build-A-Bear into removing videos about manmade climate change.”


Visit the original post at: Environment News

Cartoon: Santa Claus’ counterproductive coal policy

Human-caused global warming is poised to sink anything that happens to be residing on the North Pole into the chilly Arctic deep– see The war on Santa Claus (and Superman)

And that suggests Santa needs to rethink his policy for dealing with naughty children — as Non Sequitor makes clear:

Of course, I’m sure the climate-destroying conservatives would try to block any such change — see “Right wing bullies Build-A-Bear into removing videos about manmade climate change.”


Visit the original post at: Environment News

U.S. To Regulate Emissions From Power Plants And Refineries Despite Opposition

The United States is a controversial ground when it comes to many things, including climate change. Opposition is no less strong in the government offices which has prevented many climate laws from being passed. Most recently the U.S. Congress passed on legislation this past summer which would have put forth laws for regulating carbon dioxide and various other greenhouse gas emissions.

However, President Barack Obama has said that the country will at the very least reduce emissions by seventeen percent based on 2005 numbers by the year 2020. In order to meet this goal and to prevent further climate change issues, of which the U.S. is a major contributor globally, the Obama Administration has decided to regulate emissions from both power plants and petroleum refineries.

Regulating these two major industries in the country is greatly contested. However, the two industries account for approximately forty percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. This is why, despite major opposition in Congress and the government in general, the President has decided to begin regulation of the two industries by 2012.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, proposals for cutting the two industries’ emissions will be given in 2011. In 2012, the final emission cut requirements will be announcement and be put in place. The regulations are expected to put a cap on the amount of carbon dioxide the plants can emit per megawatt hour of electricity produced.

The Chief of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, stated: “We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce greenhouse gas pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans and contributes to climate change.”

Related Articles



Visit the original post at: Environment News

U.S. To Regulate Emissions From Power Plants And Refineries Despite Opposition

The United States is a controversial ground when it comes to many things, including climate change. Opposition is no less strong in the government offices which has prevented many climate laws from being passed. Most recently the U.S. Congress passed on legislation this past summer which would have put forth laws for regulating carbon dioxide and various other greenhouse gas emissions.

However, President Barack Obama has said that the country will at the very least reduce emissions by seventeen percent based on 2005 numbers by the year 2020. In order to meet this goal and to prevent further climate change issues, of which the U.S. is a major contributor globally, the Obama Administration has decided to regulate emissions from both power plants and petroleum refineries.

Regulating these two major industries in the country is greatly contested. However, the two industries account for approximately forty percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. This is why, despite major opposition in Congress and the government in general, the President has decided to begin regulation of the two industries by 2012.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, proposals for cutting the two industries’ emissions will be given in 2011. In 2012, the final emission cut requirements will be announcement and be put in place. The regulations are expected to put a cap on the amount of carbon dioxide the plants can emit per megawatt hour of electricity produced.

The Chief of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, stated: “We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce greenhouse gas pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans and contributes to climate change.”

Related Articles



Visit the original post at: Environment News

No Break for Polar Bears on Christmas: Habitat Sacrificed by New Offshore Oil Plan
polar bear photoImage: The Last Cookie via flickr

First, the Obama administration this week upheld the much-lambasted Bush-era decision to label polar bears as threatened rather than endangered. Then, it opened up critical polar bear habitat to offshore drilling. …
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Herman Miller Blocks Celebrate Eames, Nelson and Girard
herman miller eames nelson toys photo
Images credit House Industries Show and Tell

No doubt you will see these someday on Unhappy Hipsters in the hands of cute little children in a minimalist Japanese home. Herman Miller in Japan is selling these lovely childrens’ blocks celebrating George Nelson, Charles Eames and Alexander Girard. The designers at House Industries describes them:

The puzzle sides are based on the original Herma… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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An Adjustable Book Shelf Lets You Put Your Own Spin On Your Living Room
giro-one-1.jpg
Images: DesignJoo

From South Korean design studio DesignJoo comes the Giro One, the piece that lets you put your own spin on your shelves, lighting, and side tables. The concept is simple: shelves can be added and their height adjusted by spinning them up or down a central pole, at whose top are fixed two LED lamps. Set a shelf low enough, you’ve got a side table. Need more space for your library? Add on a few more shelves, and you’ve got a full, three-way bookshelf. … Read the full story on TreeHugger
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Fast Food Gets Healthy And Green With The Sprout Surprise Whopper
sprout suprise whopper

Bonnie previously noted that Brussels Sprouts are Back in Style. They are evidently a holiday thing in the UK; Former Toronto Mayor and former Brit David Miller complained on Twitter that they were all sold out and was overwhelmed with responses, including one offer to mail him some from Brussels. But back ‘ome he could have just gone to the Burger King, which has put them on the menu; a spokesperson notes:

To many people, sprouts are just those little green cabbages that sit on the Christmas dinner… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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Media Spreads Scare Stories About Cost of Low Carbon Future
compact fluorescent light bulb photo
Image credit: J Nathan Matias, used under Creative Commons license.

Massive hikes in energy bills are nothing new, and some even say that rising energy costs may have caused the Great Recession. But some folks are now using the inevitability of more expensive gas and electricity a… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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Elegant Bike Storage Shelf From Knife & Saw
bikeshelf knife and saw storage small spaces photo
Images credit: Knife and Saw

Designboom shows this bike shelf from Chris Brigham, a graphic designer gone 3D and now making furniture under the name Knife and Saw. . Living in San Francisco and visiting friends in New York, he “noticed that there is a void when it comes to elegant bike management.” He’s right; this would be perfect for LifeEdited.

Read the full story on TreeHugger
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"Cows Do Not Belong in Fields" – UK Mega-Dairy Renews Application
mega-dairy farms in the uk photo
Image credit: Compassion in World Farming

When I reported on a planned 8,100 cow super-dairy in the UK, I noted that many dairy farmers were concerned that these industrial-scale operations would expose the public to the fact that even most smaller dairy farms in the country keep their cows indoors for 5 or 6 months of the year. Those concerns may be coming true, because as the mega-dairy resubmits its application, its owners are coming out in the open and stating their position – … Read the full story on TreeHugger
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"Cows Do Not Belong in Fields" – UK Mega-Dairy Renews Application
mega-dairy farms in the uk photo
Image credit: Compassion in World Farming

When I reported on a planned 8,100 cow super-dairy in the UK, I noted that many dairy farmers were concerned that these industrial-scale operations would expose the public to the fact that even most smaller dairy farms in the country keep their cows indoors for 5 or 6 months of the year. Those concerns may be coming true, because as the mega-dairy resubmits its application, its owners are coming out in the open and stating their position – … Read the full story on TreeHugger
Visit the original post at: TreeHugger