Thursday, July 16, 2009

Opportunities to Recycle!

It may surprise you of how easy and environmentally conscious recycling can be.

Spring cleaning takes on a whole new meaning when you clear out all those old electronics. Where do you put it? Do you throw it away needlessly or store it in a pile to take to a recycling center? We all have that guilt; throwing something in the trash bin when we very well know that we can take it elsewhere. But why don't we? Perhaps it matters in waste management. In other countries and cities like in Tokyo, Japan, there are several waste collection days and different waste categories. Not only do they have recyclables but they also have burnables, small plastics, bulk refuse, and more. This is a great way to think of recycling and being environmentally conscious.

With our world growing smaller and the human footprint bigger, it is part of our responsibility to take care of our homes. Chemicals and toxic waste has a detrimental effect on all living things, from green grass to the animals that graze on it, and to humans who rely on the milk and harvest of their labor. There are plenty more opportunities to recycle than you may previously believe! Consider these ideas:

1. Educate yourself, understand where you can recycle and what you can recycle. Earth 911 is a great resource.

2. Start with the smallest rooms first. Offices are perhaps the most time-consuming areas of your home, but a huge plethora of recyclables exist there. You can train your recycling knowledge here.

3. Bedrooms and living room. Do you know where your local donation store is? Many Goodwill and Salvation Army centers accept used furniture and clothing with a smile. Help someone pick out their next 80's outfit by giving away your plastic bangles and Doc Martens.

4. Bathrooms, kitchen. You might not be aware of the dangers of household cleaners or where to recycle or properly dispose of cooking oil.

5. Garage. You probably don't see many of these items or have put them there believing that you could take care of it later. Consider if you really need these items. If not, take the opportunity to recycle it!

So there you have it. Some ideas to help you recycle more and efficiently with the glamorous help of the internet!

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Green Roofing...What?

As we are building more urban areas, we are also losing green space. A great way to revitalize the urban landscape is to invest in green roofing. Green roofing involves high quality water proofing and root repellant systems, as well as a drainage system, a filter cloth, and a lightweight growing medium along with plants. Some of you may be wondering, “Why a green roof? What can it do for me?”

Green roofs will typically last twice as long as conventional roofs because all the sun damage that reaches bare floors will be used to grow plants. There is a lot of energy saving potential as well, depending on the size of the building, climate, and type of green roof. In Ottawa, Canada, Karen Liu found that 6” of green roof reduced heat gains by 95% and heat losses by 26%. Green roofs also absorb sound pollution from airplanes and traffic.

Green roofs also provide a space of serenity and aesthetic beauty. It can be a place for day care, meetings, and recreation. Instead of taking a break in a dull and enclosed room indoors, employees can take breaks taking a scenic stroll on the roof. For the Fairmount Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, the kitchen saved up to $30,000 annually by growing it’s own greenery,

Although green roofs are still immature in North America, it is an investment worth looking into for your business. Give your employees a place to look forward to while they are at work!

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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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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Times are a Changing: Time to Update Your Air Conditioner

Big changes are coming to the world of air conditioning on Jan. 1, 2010. In an effort to comply with an international green treaty and slow down ozone deterioration, air conditioners across the country will be forced to comply with a new level of standards. Here are some key facts to help you stay ahead of the curve and save yourself from the heat, especially during crunch time.

These new standards in air conditioning can be attributed to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to help curb damage to the Ozone layer. It is designed to lead to some actual recovery of the Ozone layer by 2050. Initially established in 1987, it has since been amended seven times and is continually looking to eliminate substances that have defiantly been established as reasons for ozone depletion. Chlorine is one of those substances that has been clearly identified as doing significant damage and has been used since the 1970’s as a coolant in nearly all air conditioning units. This chemical is called R-22 and as of Jan. 1st 2010 will be eliminated.

R-22 will be replaced with a chlorine free coolant called R-410A that has zero ozone depletion. Begin thinking about switching your AC now as R-22 units will no longer be manufactured and that means parts and supplies will make repairs harder and more expensive. In fact, chances are the EPA will make it illegal to sell any R-22 units by the end of 2009.

Don’t be discouraged though. Energy costs have increased 50 percent in the last five years and with the economic climate the way it is, this is a great chance to save money on proper energy efficient air conditioning units. Updating your air conditioner with the proper requirements can save you up to 45 percent. Look at the SEER rating, (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating when purchasing a new unit. A general rule of thumb is that the higher the SEER rating the better the efficiency. Of course, this is entirely depending on your geographic location and many can make do with a low SEER rating where air conditioning is not as drastically needed.

Also be sure to look at rebates and tax incentives while replacing your air conditioning units. Chances are you can get a great deal and save money with a correct purchase. The recent stimulus bill has set aside money for actions like this so search the web or look at your local states Database of State and Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency for proper deals.

The last step to get the most out of your air conditioner is to make sure you obtain proper installation. A key part of upgrading your unit is to get the most out of it and improper and shoddy installation can quickly defeat this purpose. Keep it well maintained as well and you will see a significant reduction in your energy bills. Don’t wait until its 2010, start looking for new and more energy efficient cooling solutions today.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

China’s Military vs. Air Pollution

China’s Military vs. Air Pollution

Before and during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a frequent concern reported was air quality. China a country with over 1.3 billion people with over 16 million in Beijing, pollution and air quality has been a growing concern, not just within their nation but internationally as well. China has responded to this program in militaristic fashion. Literally. China has devoted more then 12,000 anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers, plus 30 planes to fighting pollution and trying to control the weather.

Now this is not as ominous as it sounds. China began research into the highly skeptical science of weather control in 1958. They realized that, with their growing population, vast amounts of water would be necessary to accommodate their citizens. Water is needed for crops, nourishment and everyday use and with some of its water sources significantly polluted especially in northern China a solution has to be presented.

Today China is presently using a method known as cloud seeding to bring about more rainfall. Launching pellets of silver iodide into clouds, China hopes to create a chemical reaction to create a chemical reaction in clouds to produce rainfall. Rainfall normally occurs when moisture collects around particles eventually reaching a level of saturation that then has to release the collected moisture that has been collected. Theoretically, cloud seeding helps this process along by providing more “nuclei” for moisture to collect around. In this case that nuclei is Silver iodide, ideal for this situation because of its chemical form is similar to ice. In warmer and more humid areas the chemical calcium chloride is switched with the Silver iodide.

Chinese peasants are then paid over $100 dollars a month to use rocket launchers and anti air-craft guns into the atmosphere to help create rainfall. This process was used heavily before the Olympics for a variety of reasons. One was to create rainfall to help eliminate the rampant air-pollution running wild in Beijing as smog often disappears after rainfall. Another reason was to try to have it rain before the opening ceremony to create clear skies for the international sporting event.

The biggest question though is, does weather seeding works. China spends $60 to $90 million dollars a year on this process. Since 1995 all the way 2003 China has spent over $266 million on this idea. Chinese scientist, Zhiang Qiang, who is in charge of the weather modification office, claims that Beijing’s Water Supply has already increased 13 percent during this years cloud seeding. Good news for the 16 million citizens living there.

Whether or not it works, one can make the argument that it is encouraging to see China taking pro-active steps to take eliminate air pollution and come up with new ways for cleaner water. It has yet to been seen whether the U.S. would arm its farmers with anti-aircraft guns in the farming belt, or suburban house moms in Los Angels , during a drought, but if China continues to see reduced pollution and increased rainfall it might not be out of the questions.

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