Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Green College Student is Graduating

I am sad to announce this is my last post as the Green College Student; while I have already graduated from Arizona State University, I am graduating in a different aspect of my life. I have officially accepted a full-time position as Marketing Manager at an up and coming environmental firm. Under my new contract any article I write in relation to sustainability or environmental technology must be representing my new employer. While I am beyond excited for my new position, I am going to miss this site.

This post is bittersweet, I am thankful for all I have accomplished as the Green College from networking to  improving my writing but also gaining experience in social media. Although I have a strong resume, I would like to point out this website really helped me get my job now. I want to thank all my followers, the business contacts I made and most importantly my readers. In the past couple months, the traffic on this site greatly increased and I want to thank each of you personally for checking out my website. At this time, all previous articles and posts will be left online until further notice.

I look forward to writing in the near future on a new website- but that's secret for now. I can't wait to start the next chapter in my environmental career, thank you Green College Student Fans!

Please follow me on Twitter @alessamar to stay up date on my new projects. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interview with Sustainability Minor

When I found out ASU was offering a Sustainability minor I really wanted to talk to someone in the program. Jarett and I go way back, we took many classes together in high school- algebra, economics, and social studies. Was it AP Calculus we had with Wacky O'nacki? We also were active members in the Science Club- nerd alert! 

A: What year are you in school?
J: I am enrolled as a senior but it is my fifth year because I transferred colleges.

A: What is your major?
J: I am majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Energy and Environment. I am also minoring in Math and Sustainability. 

A: Wow, that's quite the undergraduate degree. From what I understand you see your regular advisor regarding the minor? Has your advisor been helpful?
J: My Mechanical Engineer advisor has been helpful and has answered most of my questions. 

A: Have you had to go to the School of Sustainability at all?
J: No, luckily my advisor just called over to their office if she didn't know the answer. 

A: That's good, sometimes it hard to deal with different advising offices at ASU. I'm glad it is running smoothly. What classes are you taking this semester for the minor?
J: I am currently talking SOS 100, which is Introduction to Sustainability. 

A: Looking over your syllabus and based on what you've learned so far, what are you learning related to your minor?
J: After looking over the syllabus it seems like the class is set up to open your mind towards more of a sustainability thinking while giving me a good foundation on the different problems facing our earth and the ways to fix it by going green.

A: What do you hope to gain from the minor?
J: From this minor I hope to gain a better understanding and foundation of sustainability while enhancing my knowledge towards my major. My major is geared on a concentration in Energy and Environment, so in other words, it is going to educate me on how to become an engineer while thinking and implementing more green techniques. So in the long run I hope that this minor will be able to help me have a better understanding on how to do that.

A: What are your career plans and goals?
J: My career plans/goals is to first graduate! After that my dream job would be to become an Engineer working on anything regarding going green; more specifically I would love to work in the field regarding anything with alternative energy or alternative fuels.

A: Yes, graduating is always the first step. But it seems like you are planning very well and will be eligible for a great job. Anything else you would like to say?
J: I think with the world in more need of going green that this minor is a great opportunity students should definitely look into. I feel that with this minor and my major concentration that I already have an advantage in finding a job over other students. I am excited about the upcoming classes I will be taking and am very excited to broaden my knowledge on sustainability!

A: I completely agree, you will have a leg up on the competition. Well best of luck and I look forward to hearing about the rest of your classes. 

Interview with Jarett Costello. September 22, 2010. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Freshman Advisor Award

I am honored to have eCollegeFinder to recognize me as a top Freshman Advisor. Results for the award were announced September 22, 2010 and I was selected for the Lifestyle category. Other areas were Academics, Dorm & Diet, Fashion, General, Personal Experience, and Preparation. Now a little bit about the organization:

"eCollegeFinder is education resource that provides students with the information needed to succeed with their academic aspirations. The Freshmen Advisor Award was created to recognize the top online resources that offer additional advice and guidance for freshman as they embark upon their college experience."

I was nominated for the award because of my articles about greening your dorm room, sustainability educational programs, and green collar jobsPlease visit eCollegeFinder to read more about their services for incoming and current college students. Posted below is the Press Release; to read more about the award and other winners please visit Freshman Advisors. Also, check out my new badge on the right side bar for my award.

Thank you again eCollegeFinder!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wind Turbines Scramble Military Radar

In 2009, wind projects which would have produced 9,000 mega watts of energy were stalled by the Department of Defense. These wind farms have rows and rows of turbines, sometimes up to 400 feet tall. With all the spinning, it can cause overheard airplanes to fall off the radar which can be dangerous to nearby military bases. Also, some of the turbines are so big they can be confused with 747 engines. Although no serious incidents have been recorded, wind turbines can interfere with air training and testing. 

A private firm, JASON, which performs tests for the US government claimed wind projects near bases are an "encroachment" and should be avoided; but many areas where air bases are located are also areas which can capture wind power such as Washington/Oregon Border, Great Lakes Area, and Mojave Dessert. There are steps both military bases and wind project managers can take to avoid radar issues. 

  • Stealth turbines with anti-radar coating
  • Upgrade military software which is not affected by wind power
  • Reach an agreement between the two parties

Stealth turbines make sure no reflecting surfaces face directly to the radar software. Tapered and egg shaped towers are also being designed but any redesign for existing ones would be expensive. New materials for blades and anti-radar coatings are also being developed.

Many military radar systems are out of date, some even from the 1950's; these radar systems are less efficient then modern day smart phones. While technology fixes can ease wind turbine confusion, they do not solve all the problems. Ideally, military systems should upgrade radar programs but it can be costly. 

Travis Air Force base and a wind project developer negotiated plans to build which did not produce radar scramble. The project developer hired an individual consultant who found the size of the wind turbines would not interfere with the air force base. The base accepted the findings so the wind project was able to move forward.

Overall, the conflict of national security and need for alternative energy are extremely important to our country. While use of alternative is a way of the future we must not compromise military base radar software running smoothly. We can only hope the stealth turbines will stick to their retail plan to be sold in 2011 and more wind project developers can reach agreements with military bases. 

What's more important flawless radar systems or capturing wind energy? Please share your opinion.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BP: Going in for the Kill

After killing lots of sea animals and business in the Gulf, BP is finally going to put an end to the oil disaster. This Sunday the Macondo oil well is going to be "sealed and declared dead" according to MSNBC. Thad Allen of British Petroleum says the well will be filled with mud and cement thus sealing it off for good.

Jane Lubchenco, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says the level of oil in the Gulf will continue to be monitored. She agrees with the government estimate that 50% of the oil spill has been removed from the water. On the other hand, scientists have been questioning the government's reports because of oil on the ocean floor. 

Many questions raised are:

Is it safe to swim?
IS it safe to eat seafood from the Gulf?
When will fishers be operating at full business?
How long will oil be appearing on beaches?

While Lubchenco reassures people the seas food is safe to eat, she makes this statement- "In short, folks want to know if it is safe to eat, swim and fish, and that is the kind of information we are committed to identifying answers to those questions." Hopefully, environmental scientists can answer these questions in the near future. 

Just as Tony Hayward is going to be replaced by Bob Dudley, Thad Allen will also be "stepping down" from BP as Incident Commander though he was only instated May 1. Paul Zukunft will be replacing Allen and efforts will be focused on nine marsh areas, community outreach, and seafood safety. As of now the man power will be greatly reduced and the timeline of the job is unknown.

Let's hope BP can follow through and put an end to this oil spill. It has been nearly five months, its about time they seal the well off. 

Stay tuned to see how Tony Hayward testifies to British Lawmakers regarding the spill. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

ASU Now Offers a Minor in Sustainability

Arizona State University's School of Sustainability was a ground breaking program when it started in 2007. The school offered a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Art in Sustainability and a Master's Program; a concentration for W.P. Carey students was also available. Now the School of Sustainability offers a green minor to any ASU student with the tagline- "Green Minor for Major Change". The minor is 18 credits and four different themes are offered:

  • Earth Systems
  • Human Transformation of the Earth
  • Coupled Human-Environment Systems
  • Economic Treatment of Natural Resources and the Environment
Students must take courses which touch on two of the themes in addition to courses which introduce sustainability principles and how it relates to a wide range of professions. What I feel is a unique aspect of the minor is although it was developed by the School of Sustainability, it is owned by the university meaning any adviser can offer the minor to students. Lisa Murphy, program development specialist, states "advisers across the university will be equipped to answer questions and add the sustainability minor to their student’s plan of study.” 

I feel this is a great opportunity for the students and I hope many take advantage of the minor- I wish ASU had offered this when I was still a student!

Curriculum for the Minor in Sustainability

Required Courses- 6 credit hours
SOS 100: Introduction to Sustainability (3)*
SOS 300: Advanced Concepts and Integrated Approaches in Sustainability (3)
* If taken already, SOS 110 or SOS 111/PUP 190 may substitute for SOS 100. If SOS 110 and SOS 111/PUP 190 have both been taken, one course may substitute for SOS 100 and the other course may be used as a "theme" course.

Theme Courses- 6 credit hours
Two courses, one from each of the two themes selected (6)

Electives- 6 credit hours
Two upper division courses within their major that relates to sustainability (6)*
*Must coordinate classes with advisor of their declared major, advisors approve the final decision of classes which will count

For more information on the new minor, please visit The School of Sustainability or meet with your advisor. 

External Links: http://schoolofsustainability.asu.edu/future-students/minor/ and http://asunews.asu.edu/20100910_greenminor

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Plastic Bag Ban Does Not Pass California Senate

As an update to the the previous post "Paper or Plastic" Bill 1998 did not get passed for the state of California. The final Senate vote was 21 to 14 on Tuesday, August 31, 2010. 

This decision is supported by the American Chemistry Council, the feel it was "a costly bill that provides no real solutions to California's litter problem and would have further jeopardized California's already strained economy." The council spent millions of dollars on last minute lobbying against the bill stressing job loss and cost to consumers. 

The council publicly criticizes Julia Brownley, a Democratic Assemblywoman representing Santa Monica, who proposed the bill. Brownley's response was "This is a sad day for California. Communities across the state were waiting for the state to adopt a uniform, statewide ban on single-use bags before they adopt their own ordinances. The state failed them."

Heal the Bay sponsored Bill 1998 and produced this "mockumentary" explaining what happens to a plastic bag. Heal the Bay will continue to push the movement by supporting individual California counties to produce the ban. 

Overall, just because the ban was not a state wide decision does not mean there is no hope. Please contact your local jurisdiction to see what you can do to help push this ban. Also, continue to use your reusable grocery bags to make a positive impact. 

External Links: http://www.recyclingtoday.com/california-senate-rejects-ab-1998.aspxhttp://www.healthebay.org/news/2010/09_01_AB1998/default.asp, and http://articles.cnn.com/2010-09-01/us/california.plastic.bags_1_ban-plastic-single-use-bags-plastic-bags?_s=PM:US

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Method to the Madness

If you remember my previous post on "Five Ways to Green Your Laundry" we talked about concentrated detergent. Of all the cardboard boxes of powder and jugs of liquid soap, I found Method Laundry Detergent makes washing clothes that much easier. 

Method claims their laundry detergent is smarter, easier, and greener. 

Smarter- Made with a patent pending formula called SmartClean Technology it is made from 95% plant based materials. It's highly concentrated so you get two times the cleaning power of normal detergent. 

Easier- The pump bottle delivers a consistent amount of detergent in each squirt. Two pumps for a small load, four for a medium, and six for a large load of laundry; it can also be used a pretreatment for tough stains. The bottle is also easy to carry and not heavy like jug detergents.

Greener- The bottle is biodegradable and compared to other brands of detergent Method uses 36% less packaging. It is made from 50% recycled plastic and designed so you can get every last drop. The soap is hypoallergenic, skin-friendly, and compatible with high efficiency washing machines. 

On a side note, the scents are refreshing but not overpowering. The featured scents are Fresh Air, Peony Blossom, Sweet Pea Baby Laundry, Lavender Cedar, and to keep it simple Free + Clear. My mother got me hooked on this  detergent and I hope next time you are at the store you try it as well. Doing laundry will always be a chore but make things a little easier- use Method pump soap!

Please visit the Method Laundry website for more information and where to purchase. 

External Links: http://methodlaundry.com/press

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Where Does LA's Tap Water Come From?

In 2009, 200 billion gallons of water used in Los Angeles met or surpassed all health based drinking water standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Public Health Drinking Water Program. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power took over 25,000 water samples and completed 240,000 water quality tests- which is more than required. According to their 2009 Annual Water Quality Report, which was recently released, there are thirteen steps which your water goes through before it comes out your tap. 

The Journey of a Drop of Water

1. Beginning of L.A. Aqueducts

  • Water is collected from creeks in the Owens Valley
  • Carried by gravity downstream

2. Making Hydro-power

  • Creates electricity as it passes through the San Francisquito Power Plant

3. End of L.A. Aqueducts

  • Water flows over steps to release energy
  • Water added from State Water Project and Colorado River Aqueduct

4. Screening

  • Passes through an inlet for filtration
  • Large debris and algae are removed by screens

5. Ozonation

  • Ozone gas is added to water, which acts as an disinfectant

6. Filtration

  • Water passes through 60 inches of filters
  • Anthracite Coal Filters remove particles as small as microns

7. Filtrated Water to Pump Stations

  • Water sits, waiting to be pumped

8. Chlorination Station

  • Regulated chlorine amounts are added to water to protect from bacteria and pathogens as it travels through distribution systems

9. North Hollywood Sump and Pump Station

  • More water is added from the San Fernando Valley Wells

10. River Supply Conduit

  • Travels through the city to the Ivanhoe Reservoir, near Silver Lake
  • Transported in 78 inch pipes

11. Water Storage

  • Protected by shade balls to ensure water quality

12. Local Pump Station

  • More chlorine is added if water is going east of the reservoir

13. L.A. Neighborhood

  • Travels through locals pipes and then the interior plumbing to your faucet, shower head, washer, toilet, or other water using device

According the L.A. Department of Water and Power the water is safe for drinking by E.P.A. standard but just to be safe use a Brita Filter or Pur Tap. Both are inexpensive and cost effective compared to bottled water. Cheers!

Please check back for a complete list by area and city for where your water originates. 

All information taken from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power "2009 Annual Water Quality Report" please visit www.ladwp.com, www.cdph.ca.gov, or www.epa.gov for more information.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Modern Day Alchemy

Throughout ancient history people have been trying to change base metals such as aluminum into gold or other precious metals. Unfortunately they have never been successful but recently researchers have transformed old metal into something useful.

Alkemi, pronounced like alchemy, is a surface material made from aluminum shavings. Made from post scrap materials, it is certified by the SCS and provides LEED credits. Instead of the metal scraps being burned and polluting our air with thick smoke, they are recycled, covered with resin, and used as surfaces. From far away it looks like a normal counter top but up close you can see the small metal shavings. 

Available in multiple finishes and colors, Alkemi is not only aesthetically appealing, it is also a great green material:
  • Certified by the Scientific Certification Systems, which evaluates sustainable materials
  • Provides LEED credits for builders under the "Materials and Resources" category
  • No VOC parts detectable, less than 100 parts per million
  • Does not contain fire retardants
  • Safe in kitchens and food preparation
Overall, Alkemi is an amazing material made from renewable sources; it can be used as surface tops, wall decor, and much more. Please visit the Alkemi website for more information, pictures, and distributor locators. 

External Links: www.renewedmaterials.com

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Green Gatsby

This past weekend I made the move from Arizona to Los Angeles, California; I live in Hollywood which is somewhere I never imagined living. After I was settled in, I took the weekend to explore my area; I located my bank, mall, grocery store, and gym all within walking distance which is great! On my way home from errands today, I made a lovely discovery- The Gatsby Hollywood!

Built on the site of the famous Orchard Gables Cottage, The Gatsby is going to be an eco-friendly living community. The original building dates back to 1904 and housed U.S. Senator Cornelius Cole. The Orchard Gables Cottage will be renovated in order to serve as a arts and education community center for Hollywood. The Gatsby focuses on four major areas of environmental living: energy efficiency, interior quality, water efficiency, and carbon footprint and green house gases

Energy Efficiency
  • Solar panels convert sun energy to electricity for entire community
  • Thermal engineering to regulate heating and cooling
  • Roof barriers for insulation from outside weather
  • Energy Star approved HVAC systems
Interior Quality
  • Air purifying HEPA filters to remove allergens, pollutants, etc
  • Low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) materials used for paints, finishes, sealants, and adhesives
Water Efficiency
  • Low-flush toilets
  • Optional Energy Start washers available
  • Drip irrigated landscape 
  • Water run-off retention
Carbon Footprint Green House Gases
  • 50% of construction waste is recycled
  • Lumber harvested from sustained forests

    In addition to its sustainable building techniques, The Gatsby is in a prime location. A short walk to Hollywood Boulevard, ArcLight Cinemas, Sunset+Vine. Also nearby is are the Hollwood Bowl, Ford Theatre, Hotel Roosevelt, and Highland/Hollywood shopping center. An added feature is quick access to public transportation for commutes to other areas of Los Angeles. 

    Please visit The Gatsby Hollywood for more photos, floor plans, and more environmental information. 

    External Links: www.thegatsbyhollywood.com

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Paper or Plastic?

    In 2007, San Francisco was the first city to ban the use of plastic bags at grocery stores now the entire state may follow suit. In the past few months, Bill AB1998 has been under review by the state of California. Arnold Schwarzenegger will most likely sign the bill if the State Senate passes it; the deadline is Friday, August 13, 2010 and if it not approved by then the bill will be dropped.

    Components of California Bill AB1998
    • If passed, will take effect July 1, 2011
    • Ban plastic bags
    • Paper bags must be at least made form 40% post consumer waste
    • Customers requesting paper bags must pay at least five cents
    So soon the saying of 'Paper or Plastic' may be a thing of the past. Although this bill will reduce the amount of plastic bag waste, other environmental factors in regards of paper bags must be considered. Let's take a look at arguments on both sides of Bill AB1998.
    • Reduce plastic bag waste which take up to 1000 years to decompose
    • Shift Americans from the "throw away culture"
    • Supported by grocer's because they can charge for paper bags
    • Reduce petroleum use, which is a limited resource use to make plastic bags
    • Increase use of paper bags
    • Paper bags take up more space in landfill
    • Not supported by paper bag manufacturers because production must change to fulfill at least 40% post consumer waste requirement
    • Customers oppose because they may have to purchase paper bags
    Overall, Bill AB1988 is sparking controversy amongst the California Senate, grocery stores, citizens, and paper and plastic bag manufacturers. It seems most cons stem from increased paper bags use when it fact the purpose of the ban is to promote use of reusable bags. In my opinion, the ban will initially increase the use of paper bags but once people become more accustom to reusable options then most of the cons will fade away. It will be interesting to see how this bill plays out on the political stage and whether it will be passed or not. Stay tuned to find out if "Paper or Plastic" will turn into "Paper or B.Y.O.B."- Bring Your Own Bag!

    What is your take on the issue? Do think this ban is a positive or negative? 

    External Links:
    http://obrag.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/plastic-bag-no.jpg (image)

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Guest Writer: Fashion's Take on the Oil Spill

    I'd like to share my cousin Brianna's article written for The Examiner. She is a Tempe Fashion Examiner and covers topics from brands, trends, and upcoming lines. She recently wrote about Vogue Italia's photo shoot inspired by the recent oil spill. Steven Meisel did an amazing job capturing the real devastation and really promotes awareness on this issue. Enjoy Brianna's article, please link to her page to see more photos.

    Vogue Italia's latest issue is mixing fashion with awareness in their photo spread shot by Steven Meisel. Opening a different set of eyes to the ongoing ecological disaster caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion back in April.

    Some see this as off-putting or tasteless to glamorize the biggest environmental disasters to hit us. Refinery 29, a fashion website, states,

    "Glamorizing this recent ecological and social disaster for the sake of "fashion" reduces the tragic event to nothing more than attention-grabbing newsstand fodder."

    Eco-designer Kathleen Nowak Tucci, who designed some of the eclectic, marine inspired accessories, disagrees by stating, 

    "I thought it was disturbing and thought-provoking and utterly fascinating in its interpretation of the struggle for survival. It is controversial and interpretative, which is indicative of great artistic expression."

    Agreeing with the latter, it's important to incorporate news into different media, like fashion. It sends a reminder of the severity of the harmful spill. Using several forms of media, whether it be fashion or another outlet, it gets the ball rolling in many different courts. This could lead to even more individuals pressing the problem to be fixed now, or possible clean-up and relief volunteers. Small things can add up to producing change. While we know there are plenty of efforts being made to cap the leak, this should have been done months ago.

    Kristen McMenamy, 45-year-old American model, attempts the darker subject matter of modeling. The pictures are incredibly beautiful, yet devastating in their theme of death. Many show the model adorned with feathers drenched in oil, laying limp on the rocks of tainted beaches, while one shows her choking and grasping her throat. Saddening representations of the injured, unhealthy, and dying animals that have been affected by the oil spill.

    While it is a very controversial piece, it is very much needed in the severity of such disaster. If only our own Vogue would shed such light.

    -Written by Brianna Stevens
     Tempe Fashion Examiner- Fashion's take on the oil spill

    External Links:

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    ASU Among Top Green Universities

    Congratulations to Arizona State University for being ranked as one of the top "Greenest Universities" as well as being on the "Green Honor Roll" according to the Princeton Review. ASU has received recognition like this for the past three years.
    Don't get me wrong, I love my Alma Mater and am proud to have graduated from such a highly praised university for sustainability but that doesn't stop me from questioning how green ASU really is. Living on campus for three of the four years I attended ASU, I noticed many practices which were not eco-friendly. Through this post I want to highlight some areas which ASU lacks in sustainability and offer recommendations to further their green initiatives as well highlight some initiatives they are taking.

    Areas of in Need  of Improvement

    Unregulated HVAC in student housing- Of course it's nice to be able to control the temperature in your dorm room but it takes a large toll on the environment. Since most student housing has a set price every semester, students are not aware of how much energy they are consuming for HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). As of now most thermostats in dorms range from anywhere from 50 degrees to 90 degrees Farenheit. Think about it, does someone really need their room that cold or hot? ASU monitors thermostats in buildings and classrooms so they should also regulate thermostats in the dorms to save on energy costs and reduce harmful exhaust which damage the environment.

    Feral Cats- Although I am a animal rights activist, I am against all the cats which roam around ASU particularly near housing and food areas. The dumpsters attract the cats, the cats breed, and then there are more cats; this cycle continuously happens. These cats are feral meaning they have no shots, can be infected by rabies, and carry other diseases. Cats feces are then left near buildings and not picked up, which is unsanitary for humans to breathe. It gets into HVAC and can cause sickness in residents. Animal feces not picked up from the ground pollute ground water with chemicals (recall the post on how to green your pet). ASU should partner with a shelter or organization to either remove the cats or neuter them.

    Lack of Recycling Bins- There were not really recycling bins around ASU until two years ago when the Undergraduate Student government spent their budget on them. In large buildings there are bins to separate paper, plastic, and aluminum but in most classrooms and dorms there is only paper recycling bins. Where I lived on campus for two years there was cardboard boxes for paper recycling, which yes is better than nothing. But whenever I walked by there was much more than paper inside, mostly just trash. I think ASU needs to put recycling bins for paper, plastic, and aluminum in every building on every floor to make it easy for people to recycle. In addition they need to monitor what is going into these bins and keep up with emptying the bins. 

    On the other hand, ASU is taking many green initiatives:
    • Providing buses between all three campuses: Main, West, and East
    • Installing timers on lighting in hallways
    • Providing bike racks near all buildings
    • LEED certified buildings
    • Offering the first Graduate program to study Sustainability
    Overall, ASU is taking great strides to be a eco-friendly and has plans to be carbon neutral in the near future. Since they have been recognized for three consecutive years, it is important to consider both sides of the story. ASU has some environmental practices which need to be addressed but I have faith they will solve these problems and continue to be among the top green universities. Congratulations once again ASU but remember to continue your dedication to the environment.

    External Links: 

    Friday, June 18, 2010

    Vapur Bottles

    Have you ever finished your water for the day and are tired of carrying around the bottle? You could purchase a plastic bottle and throw it away when your done but you are more environmentally conscious than that! You don't want to contribute to the 50 billion water bottles already consumed in the United States or the 200 billion around the world. Only 23% of plastic water bottles are made from recycled products, so even if you recycle you are still creating waste.

    Or could use the Vapur bottles also known as the “The Anti-Bottle”. The Vapur bottles are refillable, reusable bottles which collapse when you are done.The chamber for water folds up when empty then can fit in your pocket, small purse, or get hooked onto your backpack. Here are some features of the Vapur Bottles:

    Safe- FDA approved with an inner layer that is odor, taste, and stain resistant

    Easy to Clean- can be placed on top rack of dishwasher then air dried

    Durable- can be frozen for ice pack or a long day

    Identifiable- so you know which one is yours

    The Vapur bottle is a great alternative to other reusable water bottles which can be bulky or hard to clean and clear choice over plastic bottles. In addition to all the great features of the product, they are extremely sustainable beyond the actual bottle. Vapur bottles are shipped empty and flat so they take up 90% less shipping space and fuel for transport in comparison to plastic water bottles. The packaging is printed using wind power on 100% post consumer waste. The company is part of the 1% For the Planet program which donates a portion of their sales to water-related environmental issues.

    So when purchasing a Vapur bottle you are not only saving money by not buying plastic bottles, creating unnecessary waste, and creating more space in your personal belongings- you are supporting a green company. All in all, Vapur bottles are a great product for sustainability and with their donations to environmental causes there is no reason why you shouldn’t try their product.

    The folks at Vapur are kind enough to send me a sample water bottle so I can test out the product for you! I can't tell you how excited I am to take it to the gym, running errands, or to the pool. Check back in a few weeks to see my review of Vapur "The Anti-Bottle" and in the mean time check out their website: http://vapur.us/


    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Chipotle Going Green

    Nope, I’m not talking about salsa! There is no doubt chipotle is an extremely popular fast food chain which is continuing to grow. During a recent visit, I realized how much Chipotle is committed to the environment from animals to using post-consumer waste to recycling.
    First off, all meat served at Chipotle is raised naturally. The chickens are cage free while the cows and pigs are not given antibiotics or hormones. In addition to the better taste Steve Ells, the chairman and co-CEO of chipotle, remarks naturally raised animals “is better for the environment, better for the welfare of the animals, and better for the farmers who raise the animals.”

    The to-go carriers are brown paper bag marked with a symbol which stated it was 35% post consumer waste. This means 35% of the bag was made from previously recycled goods. Not its 75% or 50% but it is a step in the right direction. The napkins were also partially made from post consumer waste as well.

    Finally, the plastic crates food is served in are all recycled and reused. When throwing away your food, there is a special place to put the plastic bins. Instead of serving the food in one-use cardboard containers, Chipotle uses reusable plastic ones. The plastic bins are reused creating much less waste than other fast food outlets.

    Overall, Chipotle is a company with a good social awareness for animals and the environment. In my opinion, the few extra dollars are well worth my health and helping the planet. Naturally raised animals, post consumer waste paper goods, and reusing plastic tray are some of the ways Chipotle is making strides to being a sustainable business.

    Thank you for giving us another reason to enjoy our burritos!

    Guest Writer on Solar Panels

    I was beyond ecstatic when a reader wanted to share some of their writing with me! Meet Barbara, she started 12voltsolarpanels.net in 2008 in order to help those save energy through solar panels. Her slogan? "To help you get info to make the transition from a full-time energy dependent to successful energy efficiency." Below is the article she would like to share with my readers as well!

    Here’s a fast approach to understand how solar panels work

    What's solar power?

    Solar power is radiant energy which is produced by the sun. Every single day the sun radiates, or sends out, an incredible volume of energy. The sun radiates more energy in one second than people have used since the beginning of time!

    The energy of the Sun originates from within the sun itself. Like other stars, the sun is a big ball of gases––mostly hydrogen and helium atoms.

    The hydrogen atoms in the sun’s core combine to create helium and generate energy in a process called nuclear fusion.

    During nuclear fusion, the sun’s extremely high pressure and temperature cause hydrogen atoms to come apart and their nuclei (the central cores of the atoms) to fuse or combine. Four hydrogen nuclei fuse to become one helium atom. But the helium atom contains less mass than the four hydrogen atoms that fused. Some matter is lost during nuclear fusion. The lost matter is emitted into space as radiant energy.

    It requires millions of years for the energy in the sun’s core to make its way to the solar surface, and slightly over eight minutes to travel the 93 million miles to earth. The solar energy travels to the earth at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, the speed of sunshine.

    Only a small percentage of the power radiated by the sun into space strikes the earth, one part in two billion. Yet this volume of energy is enormous. Each day enough energy strikes America to supply the nation’s energy needs for one and a half years!

    Where does all of this energy go?

    About 15 percent of the sun’s energy which hits our planet is reflected back to space. Another 30 percent is used to evaporate water, which, lifted in to the atmosphere, produces rainfall. Solar power is absorbed by plants, the land, and the oceans. The rest could be used to supply our energy needs.

    Who invented solar energy?

    Humans have harnessed solar energy for hundreds of years. Since the 7th century B.C., people used simple magnifying glasses to concentrate the light of the sun into beams so hot they would cause wood to catch fire. Over 100 years ago in France, a scientist used heat from a solar collector to produce steam to drive a steam engine. At first of this century, scientists and engineers began researching ways to use solar energy in earnest. One important development was obviously a remarkably efficient solar boiler introduced by Charles Greeley Abbott, a united states astrophysicist, in 1936.

    The solar hot water heater came into common use at this time in Florida, California, and the Southwest. The industry started in the early 1920s and was in full swing prior to World War II. This growth lasted before mid-1950s when low-cost gas had become the primary fuel for heating American homes

    People and world governments remained largely indifferent to the possibilities of solar power until the oil shortages of the1970s. Today, people use solar power to heat buildings and water and to generate electricity.

    How we use solar power today ?

    Solar energy is employed in a variety of ways, of course. There are two simple forms of solar energy:

    •  Solar thermal energy collects the sun's warmth through 1 of 2 means: in water or in an anti-freeze (glycol) mixture.
    •  Solar photovoltaic energy converts the sun's radiation to usable electricity.
    Listed here are the five most practical and popular solutions solar energy is employed:

     1. Small portable solar photovoltaic systems. We see these used everywhere, from calculators to solar garden tools. Portable units can be used for everything from RV appliances while single panel systems can be used traffic signs and remote monitoring stations.

     2. Solar pool heating. Running water in direct circulation systems through a solar collector is an extremely practical way to heat water for your pool or hot tub.

     3. Thermal glycol energy to heat water. In this method (indirect circulation), glycol is heated by the sun's rays and the heat is then transferred to water in a hot water tank. This process of collecting the sun's energy is much more practical now than ever before. In areas as far north as Edmonton, Alberta, solar thermal to heat water is economically sound. It can pay for itself in three years or less.

     4. Integrating solar photovoltaic energy into your home or office power. In many parts of the world, solar photovoltaics is an economically feasible approach to supplement the power of your home. In Japan, photovoltaics are competitive with other kinds of power. In the USA, new incentive programs make this form of solar power ever more viable in many states. A frequent and practical method of integrating solar energy into the power of your home or business is through the usage of building integrated solar photovoltaics.

     5. Large independent photovoltaic systems. If you have enough sun power at your site, you may be able to go off grid. It's also possible to integrate or hybridize your solar energy system with wind power or other forms of renewable power to stay 'off the grid.'

    How can Photovoltaic panels work?

    Silicon is mounted beneath non-reflective glass to create photovoltaic panels. These panels collect photons from the sun, converting them into DC electric power. The energy created then flows into an inverter. The inverter transforms the power into basic voltage and AC electrical energy.

    Pv cells are prepared with particular materials called semiconductors for example silicon, which is presently the most generally used. When light hits the Photovoltaic cell, a particular share of it is absorbed inside the semiconductor material. This means that the energy of the absorbed light is given to the semiconductor.

    The energy unfastens the electrons, permitting them to run freely. Photovoltaic cells also have more than one electric fields that act to compel electrons unfastened by light absorption to flow in a specific direction. This flow of electrons is a current, and by introducing metal links on the top and bottom of the -Photovoltaic cell, the current can be drawn to use it externally.

    Do you know the pluses and minuses of solar power ?

    Solar Pro Arguments

    - Heating our homes with oil or propane or using electricity from power plants running with fossil fuels is a reason behind climatic change and climate disruption. Solar power, on the contrary, is clean and environmentally-friendly.

    - Solar hot-water heaters require little maintenance, and their initial investment could be recovered in just a relatively limited time.

    - Solar hot-water heaters can work in nearly every climate, even just in very cold ones. Simply choose the best system for your climate: drainback, thermosyphon, batch-ICS, etc.

    - Maintenance costs of solar powered systems are minimal and also the warranties large.

    - Financial incentives (USA, Canada, European states…) can aid in eliminating the cost of the first investment in solar technologies. The U.S. government, for instance, offers tax credits for solar systems certified by by the SRCC (Solar Rating and Certification Corporation), which amount to 30 percent of the investment (2009-2016 period).

    Solar Cons Arguments

    - The initial investment in Solar Water heaters or in Solar PV Electric Systems is higher than that required by conventional electric and gas heaters systems.

    - The payback period of solar PV-electric systems is high, as well as those of solar space heating or solar cooling (only the solar hot water heating payback is short or relatively short).

    - Solar water heating do not support a direct in conjunction with radiators (including baseboard ones).

    - Some air con (solar space heating and the solar cooling systems) are expensive, and rather untested technologies: solar air-con isn't, till now, a really economical option.

    - The efficiency of solar powered systems is rather dependent on sunlight resources. It's in colder climates, where heating or electricity needs are higher, that the efficiency is smaller.

    Barbara Young


    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Oil Spill to Damage Coral Reef

    Approximately one month ago, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded not only killing eleven workers but damaging the environment. The oil spill has yet to be contained so thousands of gallons of oil are being released into the ocean. The estimated amount per day is 210,000 gallons of crude oil.

    Marine biologists and scientists are worried the oil is going to catch in ocean currents and be carried to the Florida coast. The oil will destroy coral reefs, endanger animals, and off set the oceans acidity. Coral reefs are already endangered so oil spills worsen the conditions. This is also interesting- oil spill clean up agents may also damage coral. According to Science Daily, these cleaning materials cause "widespread death and delay in growth rates" to reefs.

    In addition to killing coral reef, crude oil in the ocean also affects other marine life:

    • Bird's feather's get covered in oil and when they clean themselves they are poisoned

    • Sea animals breathe the oil and it breaks down their lungs

    • Underwater creatures may swim into the oil and go blind

    • Any animal higher on the food chain whom eats a smaller animal affected by oil will also die
    Let's hope BP (British Petroleum) is able to get this oil spill under control so no further employees, animals, or habitats are affected.

    If you would like to help with the aftermath of this oil spill, please visit the National Audubon Society. Here you can donate time, money, or supplies.

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