Monday, June 22, 2009

Human Impact on the Environment

How much impact have humans brought upon our own planet? Animal species have once gone into a very slow extinction where balancing mechanisms can develop to compensate the loss. Animals have lived in a complicated weave of relationships, so complex and magnificent that we humans have only scraped the surface of understanding.

Yet, with our rise, animals have fallen. We’ve created huge agricultural problems with our own invention. With pesticides and insecticides we’ve tipped the balance of ecosystems and cause massive imbalances in our own world. Never have we faced such a crisis; in the last 65 million years we have never had such a rapid rate of extinction as we’ve had in the 20th century.

Who’s next, and what do we do to prevent it? Human beings are not excluded from the food chain. Honey bees, for example, pollinate hundreds of plant species and what are weeds to us may be food to someone else. We should not exterminate living things so rashly without understanding the consequences.

I believe that knowledge was the most simplest answer. We should educate, educate, educate. When I remember how I learned about extinction, I remember my grade school teacher simply saying, “Don’t do like the dodo.”

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Transportation

As the weather begins to heat up, so does the prices on gasoline and transportation. Families are going on road trips and everyone is booking a vacation of some kind. Teenagers are frequenting the malls at a much higher rate than while in school season. So what are some ideas on how to offset the high energy costs?

Simply put: use your feet. Remember those days in summer where you'd walk or bike to your neighbor's house? Or make it a day trip up to the park? As a kid growing up without an older brother or friend to drive me around, I was left with few options and biked everywhere. My grandmother, who came from a foreign country and was scared stiff at the idea of operating her own vehicle, had spent over 40 years in America without a car. As she was my caretaker most of my childhood, I realized the importance and thriftiness of using public transportation and walking.

I took that mentality through high school, through college, and so forth. I had a car for a brief time while 60 miles away from home, in college, but I soon stopped using it and took the bus. It was not only because my car was not in its best shape, but it was cheaper, too (especially in the summers, talk about a $2 ride versus the gas I burn). What's even better is that these alternative modes of transportation has always been tried and true. Walking and biking are forms of some exercise, so I am still as healthy as I was in my youth. I can still run up a flight of stairs like a 5 year-old without losing my breath, and happily stroll for hours on end.

It is true that where I live (southern California), public transportation isn't exactly the best thing around. Some people may moan and grope about walking on a hot summer's day but my grandma used to simply take out her black umbrella and shield me from the sweltering glare. I was really embarrassed about it at first but after seeing 5 sweaty, miserable kids walk past me I realized how dry, cool, and comfortable I was. Not to mention that my grandmother came from a hot country, so I should trust her practices.

I remember taking the train up to LA and passing by hundreds of cars from the 5, even if we were only going 50 miles per hour. Although taking the train or bus requires some planning, that's exactly the point of saving yourself a few bus and the headaches of traffic. Let's start walking!

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Friday, May 22, 2009

A Fragrance-Free Future for All?

I am a second-generation Vietnamese American who grew up in Anaheim. I had a variety of friends but I was very conscious about the smell of my house. The Vietnamese are notorious for not only pho (beef noodle soup) but also their nguoc mam (fish sauce). My mother was aware of it too, and we usually wanted the house to smell more "American" so she clipped out coupons for Glade Plug-Ins every weekend.

I remember how the plastic Glade Plug-Ins would soften and eventually burn its plastic cover if we left it in for too long. At one time each power outlet had a Plug-In, but the combination of "Tropical Breeze" and "Pinewood" started to give me dizzying effects. My mother eventually stopped buying them...and now she has turned her passion into buying air filters.

It led me to wonder about the fragrance industry in the world. With Americans generally bathing or showering each day, it's quite amusing to research history. In Elizabethan times, about 500 years ago, bathing once a month was the epitome of cleanliness. Perfumes and potpourri were created from dried organic materials, but nothing was really synthetic at that time. Nowadays, it's much cheaper to create chemical compounds imitating the scents of these fragrances without environmental threats (ex. musk).

I read an article that was reprinted online. It made me think about the fragrance industry and the chemicals we create in pursuit of fragrances.

Synthetic fragrances are used to scent products, and sometimes to mask odors or unpleasant smells that a chemical compound may produce. One good example is a product that I've used in my home for years, Comet, which I recently bought in a lavender scent. I was not particularly happy with the change, as it smelt nothing like lavender.

Since the rise of synthetic fragrances we've been layering ourselves day in and out with chemicals. I have eczema-prone skin and while I lived in Riverside, the dry air caused several major outbreaks. I thought air purifiers would help, which it did, but my condition did not improve as much as simply using oatmeal-based skin products and moisturizers. But beware, just because it is unscented or fragrance-free does not mean that they are chemical free.

Not to mention that some people are just plain allergic to some fragrances. Do you remember any product you've used that caused your skin to break-out? I remember that applying anything on my inflamed skin would cause a burning, itching feel. And have you tried any scented product that gave adverse reactions? For you lucky ones, no. But for those who have...there's a good reason for it. Reactions in fragrances can quickly become medical lawsuits, so much that magazines must adhere to a strict fragrance protocol to prevent accidental exposure.

It is very creepy to know that most fragrances can be launched on the American market without any approval process. Basically, until it makes some kind of adverse reaction, the fragrance manufacturer can go about its business and the FDA would not have any jurisdiction over the matter.

I would recommend simply investing in a good air purifier over the hundreds of dollars you may spend in home fragrances and to begin using organic and wholesome chemical-free products. Granted, some individuals prefer the scent of ocean in the morning, or dew in the evening, but the truth is that it is most likely chemicals and toxins you are exposing your body to. Potpourri may also be an alternative, but keep in mind that some potpourri is also soaked in fragrant chemicals. Fragrance yourself free from chemicals. I am sure it would not only be good for the environment but for your body, too.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Tips For Saving Money on your Heating and Cooling Bills

During these times with extreme weather, there is a good chance that you are heavily relying on heaters and air conditioners to optimize your house temperatures. Here are some helpful tips to keep your energy bill low when using heating or cooling appliances.

Keep baseboard heaters, radiators and warm-air registers as clean as possible. Make sure they have open circulation and are not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes. Constantly replace your filters for heaters and air conditioners as needed.

Use fans during the summer, in combination with your air conditioners to create a wind-chill effect. Also, try reversing the fans motor during the winter to help drive warm air back down towards the floor for improved circulation.

Install a programmable thermostat that can adjust the temperature according to your schedule, especially when you are away from the house. Set the temperature as low as comfortable during the winter for a lower heating bill.

When using heaters, remember to keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day and closed at night to let the sunshine. For air conditioners, try placing them in a north-facing or shaded when as direct sunlight reduces efficiency.

Be sure to weatherize your home-caulk and weather strip any doors and windows that could be looking warm or cold air. Try placing heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators. Remember to turn off exhaust fans as needed. Seal any holes with caulk or spray foam where TV/cable wires, pipes and vents open your door.

Keep your system up to date, and add a supplementary source or replace your existing heater or cooling. Look for Energy Star products as they have been certified to reach the highest levels of energy efficiency. Replace your air conditioner if it is more the 10 years old as they are probably much less energy efficient then others.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Environmental Researchers Predict 2009 to Be One of the Warmest Years on Record

British climate scientists have released a new study predicting that 2009 is going to be among the top-five warmest years on record. They suspect that the average global temperature is going to be more then 0.4 degrees Celsius above the average. This is even factoring the continued cooling of huge areas located in and around the Pacific Ocean that is due to the La Nina weather pattern.

If this is true, this will be the hottest weather since 2005. They also feel that this warming trend will continue with 2010 outdoing 2009. Currently the warmest year on record is 1998 which saw an average of 14.52 Celsius. This beats out all other averages between 1961 and 1990 which were about 14 Celsius.

Usually, warm weather is influenced by the El Nino weather pattern which is an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical pacific. There is no real theory on what triggers El Nino or El Nina, yet scientist feel they are an x-factor and strongly influence global weather patterns. The verdict is still out on weather these patterns are attributed to global warming or not.

From 1991 to 2000 the average global temperature is 14.21 degrees Celsius. In 2001-2007 it was 14.44, that is a .21 increase. This would show that the planet is slowly warming, regardless of the theory of global warming. Either way people should be prepared for longer and greater changes in the weather and environment. One should look at purchasing an air conditioner, and if you are conscious about energy consumption one should look for one with an Energy Star symbol.

A great example of this is the Sunpentown Energy Star WA-6591S window air conditioner. Designed to be easily mounted on your window, this window air conditioner has a cooling range of 64-99 degrees up to 250 square feet. The filter is reusable making maintenance easy. It has two fans and a space saving design to keep your floors clear. The remote control makes operation easy. It is economically priced and because it is an Energy Star product it is safe to the environment and will not do any damage to your electric bill.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Green Myths

Going green is a huge global topic. But what is real and what is false? Here are some common misconceptions that you might fight surprising.

Planting trees does not stop global warming

Forests have three effects on our climate. They cool the air through evaportranspiration; they reduce air pollutants like CO2 and their dense leaves help warm the planet. Although all of these are beneficial, recent studies have shown that to maximize these effects, it is merely dependant on where the trees exist. Planting trees in forests around the equator helps the planet much more then planting trees in other places because they absorb more CO2 there. The father away trees are from the equator, the less heat is trapped thereby causing higher temperatures. So if you are going to support a tree growing charity or organization grow make sure you pick one that plants in the right location

Hybrid Vehicles are Better then Non-Hybrid

Although hybrids do save you money on gas they do have their own costs. For instance, the amount of energy it takes to make a new hybrid is well over 1000 gallons of gas. Also some cars actually get better gas consumption then some hybrids out there today. If you really want to save money try riding a bike

Always Buy Organic

Buying organic food is a big craze these days. People swear they can taste the difference in quality but consider some of these things first before buying organic. The benefits of organic food are only good when not trucked shipped or flown. The greater the distance, the more energy is used and the more pollution is produced. This offsets much for the initial point. If you really want to go green, go to farmers markets or community supported agriculture to get your produce rather then the supermarket.

Energy conversation and energy efficient are the same.

They are not. Energy conservation is any activity that uses less energy like turning out the lights when you leave a room. Energy efficient is technology that lets you do the same thing but use less energy. Try purchasing energy star products or other items look for energy efficient light bulbs to really make a difference.

When appliances are off they don’t use power.

This is false. There is a phenomenon called vampire power that causes power to fluctuate even when it is no in use. Televisions, air conditioners and cell phone chargers still suck power even when off. This is because many electronics often use an internal clock. Try unplugging them after use to really see a change in your electric bill

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