Environment

Spring Cleaning

The Problem With Cleaning Products

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Written By ELIZABETH FIEND

When the earth is tilted so that the sun is directly over the equator at high noon, this is the vernal equinox. In this momentary balance of light and dark, we are halfway between summer and winter, we are in the spring. Mid-points have been celebrated through out the ages and around the world. In ancient Babylon, the New Year occurred at the spring equinox. The ancients of America oriented their giant earthwork mounds to equinox sunrise points. Celtic Pagans lit fires at dawn to cure ills, renew life and protect crops. Today, we party in Cancun.

Or we clean.

This season of renewal brings with it the tradition of spring cleaning, making now as good a time as any to switch to all things natural. I’m talking about cleaning products — for your home and your body. All types of non-toxic cleaners for your home are now available in conventional supermarkets: glass, drain, dishwasher, dish soap, laundry, shower, even toilet bowl cleaners. Most are competitively priced or cost just a tad bit more than chemical-based cleaners. Theses natural cleaners are conveniently located right next to the toxic ones, or maybe on a shelf not quite at eye level.

Instead of the toxic, nonrenewable or harmful-to-the-environment ingredients like petroleum, butyl cellosolve, chlorine bleach, and the cancer-causing fragrance ingredient phthalates, the new non-toxic cleaners are made from ingredients like corn, grain alcohol, palm kernel, and citrus and coconut oils. And they really work. Hypo-allergenic, with no perfumes or dyes, they smell nice too. To my nose, they smell way, way better.

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clown car

Everyone is always b*tching about parking.

You’ll probably be all mad at me and all. Especially since I don’t have a car. (In fact I don’t know how to drive.) But like, maybe YOU could drive less. It would be better for us all including the planet.

For an interesting prospective on parking you should check this book The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald C. Shoup his philosophy is that free parking is like a fertility drug for cars. The more free parking you have, the more people will drive their cars.

What are the true costs of this, to the environment, to our pocket books, to our sanity?

What are your thoughts about parking in your town? Click comments and leave one!

Love,
Elizabeth Fiend

The High Cost of Free Parking

a book by Donald C. Shoup


This book is a detailed analysis of parking problems and their solution. Shoup zeroes in on the reason for such problems: we assume that parking should be free. Shoup points out that if we decided that gasoline should be free, the result we would expect would be obvious: people would drive too much, shortages of gasoline would develop, fights would break out over scarce gas, and governments would go broke trying to pay for it all. Shoup shows that parking is no different.

Providing free parking leads to overuse, shortages, and conflicts over parking. Cash-strapped local governments and neighborhoods lose out, too. Free parking is like a fertility drug for cars. Many people don’t realize how much of the high price of housing is due to requirements by local governments that a certain number of parking spaces must be provided. These costs are paid by everyone, including those who don’t own a car.

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Want to Do Something to Help the Environment?

Start With This: 12 Resource Heavy Products To Avoid


Source: CNN.com Posted by: Elizabeth Fiend

So you’ve decided to take the plunge — to embrace lighter living, green your life and do something to help the environment. But where to begin?

The best place to start is by moderating your consumption. You can dramatically reduce the size of your footstep on the planet by making smarter choices in the things you buy and the amount your household uses. It’s not something you have to do all at once: just commit to steady, incremental change. Small steps become big journeys over time.

If you’re ready to take on taming your shopping cart, we’ve put together a list we call the Dirty Dozen. These are 12 unhealthy or resource-intensive products you should consider reducing or eliminating from your life entirely. Once you’ve tackled these, you’ll probably think of others — and you’ll be well on your way to a lighter, more sustainable lifestyle.

1. Styrofoam
Polystyrene foam is actually recyclable, but most of it ends up in landfills or scattered around the environment. Being made of petroleum, Styrofoam is a non-renewable resource — and it’s not biodegradable. Carry your own reusable coffee mugs, skip the fast food, and use glass and metal storage containers whenever possible.

2. Plastic food containers with bisphenol-A (BPA)
You’ll recognize these polycarbonate bottles and containers by their #7 recycling codes. Health concerns have dogged BPA for years. If you really must use plastic, choose BPA-free varieties (such as those marked with #2, #4 and #5 codes). And be sure to recycle them when you’re done.

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Women lead a farming revolution in Iowa

As wives inherit husbands’ farmland, they stress conservation over maximizing profit.

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By Mark Clayton Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Posted by Elizabeth Fiend

Mount Vernon, Iowa

Women own nearly half of Iowa’s farmland. But they find they have a common problem: The men they hire to farm their land often don’t treat it with the tender care they expect – and often won’t listen when they complain about it.

Women from three counties near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, discovered the shared view in a series of meetings on “Women Caring for the Land.” Dozens have turned out to learn more about farmland conservation – and to share tales of dealing with their tenant farmers.

Margaret Doermann’s Iowa farm has some of the richest soil in the state, which is why she insists it be farmed the way her husband did, using strong conservation practices to preserve it. So it was a shock to discover the tenant farmer she’d hired after her husband’s passing was treating her land like, well – a rental property.

“I was awakened in the middle of the night by a tractor tilling the hillside,” Mrs. Doermann says. Her husband “had always tilled it in a contour [across the hillside] to limit erosion. But when I went out the next morning, that hill had been tilled up and down so the soil would wash right off.”

Doermann’s rude awakening didn’t end there. The water in the stream near the field looked like “brown gravy” – full of soil runoff from the hillside. She and her daughter wound up in a lawyer’s office arguing with the farmer over how to till the hillside. A new lease now specifies the soil preparation she wants.

“Well, you know what?” Doermann said to three women at a small gathering of farm-land owning women last month. “The very next spring, he did it again.”

Doermann’s experience is hardly unique, experts say. Of Iowa’s 30.7 million farm acres, 47 percent are owned by women. But a growing share – 20 percent – is now owned by single women, many of them older, with a far different take on farming than their male counterparts. About three-quarters of the land owned by single women is rented out to mostly male tenant farmers.

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CHRISTMAS TREES, NAUGHTY OR NICE?

Written By Elizabeth Fiend

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Christmas causes cancer. You knew it would come to this sooner or later.

 

Okay, OK, Christmas doesn’t cause cancer, but Christmas trees might, and I’ll get to how both real and fake ones might lead to cancer. But the real point of this column is: If you have a real tree, don’t throw it in the trash! Recycle your tree. Recycle your tree. Recycle your tree.

First, which is kinder to the planet — a real Christmas tree or a fake one?

 

FAKE TREES: No Vinyl, That’s Final pretty much says it all.

Fake trees are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride). It’s bad stuff. These faux trees are made from nonrenewable sources and are petroleum based — and, uh, we’re running out of oil, have you heard? PVC is also considered one of the most environmentally damaging plastics on the market.

PVC is a plastic that keeps on giving. The trail of destruction begins in production, where dioxin, dichloride, ethylene and vinyl chloride are all generated by the making of PVC. These chemicals pollute neighborhoods around PVC factories — many of which are located in China, where there is the added factor of no environmental controls, and poor and unregulated (read: unsafe) conditions for factory workers handling hazardous chemicals.

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Lead: not just for toys!

Lead is used to stabilize PVC products, to make them more rigid — like your child’s brain will be if she inhales any dust from your lovely faux tree that might happen to settle on her lead-painted toys as they lay wrapped under the Christmas tree. You’ll actually see a warning label on fake Christmas trees that warns you not to inhale or eat any of the tree (kinda funny if it wasn’t so sad). And hey, don’t forget the lead on the strings of PVC-coated holiday lights! They have warnings too.

The chemicals used to make PVC, and the added lead, have been linked to neurological, reproductive, liver and kidney damage, and yes, cancer. And they’re not just bad for you, they’re toxic to the environment, too!

Although these faux trees can last for centuries, they rarely become family heirlooms passed down thorough the generations. Statistics show most people discard their tree after only about nine years. That means the last 291 years of your fake tree’s life is spent slowly leaching out nasty stuff in a landfill.

 

Option Two: A live tree.

There is the trendy, greenish option of buying a live tree, complete with root ball and all. The plan is after enjoying the tree indoors as your Christmas tree you plant the tree outside. And presto you have a new tree, producing life-giving oxygen — a beautiful and elegant solution to the real-or-fake dilemma.

Problem is, January’s not the time of year to plant trees. This activity is most successfully done in the fall or spring. Plus the tree you get for Christmas might not be suited to your locale. So in reality, this scheme which sounds so good is mostly doomed to failure and is just a ‘feel good’ kind of solution. That is, until you’re constantly aware of your ex-Xmas tree that now sits dead and brown along your driveway, and then you feel pretty crappy.

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Union of Concerned Scientists Position on Nuclear Power and Its Place In Slowing Global Warming

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists Posted by: Elizabeth Fiend

To address global warming, we need a profound transformation of the ways in which we generate and consume energy. The urgency of this situation demands that we be willing to consider all possible options for coping with climate change.

In examining each option we must take into account its impact on public health, safety, and security, the time required for large scale deployment, and its costs.

While there are currently some global warming emissions associated with the nuclear fuel cycle and plant construction, when nuclear plants operate they do not produce carbon dioxide. This fact is used to support proposals for a large-scale expansion of nuclear power both in the United States and around the world.

It must be borne in mind that a large-scale expansion of nuclear power in the United States or worldwide under existing conditions would be accompanied by an increased risk of catastrophic events—a risk not associated with any of the non-nuclear means for reducing global warming.

These catastrophic events include a massive release of radiation due to a power plant meltdown or terrorist attack, or the death of tens of thousands due to the detonation of a nuclear weapon made with materials obtained from a civilian—most likely non-U.S.—nuclear power system.

Expansion of nuclear power would also produce large amounts of radioactive waste that would pose a serious hazard as long as there remain no facilities for safe long-term disposal.

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BUY LOCAL, or BUY ORGANIC?
Article written by: ELIZABETH FIEND

Get out to your local farmers market RIGHT NOW while you still have time.  

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Photos by Rob Kates of : Greensgrow farmer Mary Seton Corboy and the author Elizabeth Fiend.

Our food system has gotten out of whack due to the industrialization of farming (AKA agribusiness) and the globalization of food. Currently there are basically three types of places that grow our produce: big agribusiness factory-type farms, organic farms and recently, a growing movement of small local farms. It used to be a no brainer that if you wanted the best, most healthful food, and could afford it, buy organic. But since the initial burst of organic farms in the 60s and 70s, things have changed and what was a given is suddenly up in the air.

Certainly, buying organic food seems like the way to go since using pesticides is strictly a no-no in organic farming. Organic practices are kinder to the land, they promote good soil development, as opposed to agribusiness techniques which deplete the soil — and hence your food — of vital nutrients. Organic practices don’t pollute the water, the air or the workers on the farm through exposure to toxic chemicals the way agribusiness practices do, either. And a fundamental part of the organic philosophy is to treat workers fairly and pay a living wage.

But there’s a crisis in the organics world, and it’s called big business. Too much of a good thing has gone haywire. Organic food is so much in demand that there just isn’t enough to go around. The only solution has been to change farming methods, to outsource, and to go global to get the desired goods. What was once an industry of small family farms has mushroomed into a new kind of agribusiness, one doing business with Wal-Mart, Kraft, Kellogg and General Mills; one that outsources the growing of organic food to places with little regulation, like China.

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Are Animal Rights Activists Terrorists?
Activists challenge a federal law that defines a broad range of actions against the animal industry as “terrorism.”

Source: Mother Jones    Written By Kate Sheppard     Posted by: Elizabeth Fiend

In 2006, Congress quietly passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a sweeping new law that classified many forms of animal rights campaigning as terrorism. Now the law’s critics have taken to the courts to try to kill it. In a case filed last week, five activists argue that AETA violates their rights by criminalizing constitutionally protected actions.

AETA, which replaced an earlier, weaker law called the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA), prohibits anything done “for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise” or that “causes the loss of any real or personal property.” (The earlier version of the law only covered “physical disruption” to operations.) The law also prohibits “economic damage” to an enterprise, which includes loss of profits and pressure put on any investors or other companies that do business with the animal enterprise. Even the definition of “animal enterprise” is so broad that it could be construed as covering any institution that has a cafeteria selling meat or cheese products, argues Rachel Meeropol, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is backing the plaintiffs in the case filed against Attorney General Eric Holder.

“Basically, the law is saying if you cause an animal enterprise to lose profits, then you’ve committed a terrorist act,” Meeropol says. “The whole point of many protests is to cause a business to lose profits, to convince the public that a certain company doesn’t deserve to be patronized.”

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What is a CSA? Community Supported Agriculture:

Survival for small farmers is a daily struggle as they compete with industrial, factory-farm style agriculture. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an innovative strategy that brings together local farmers with local customers.

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Compost your Kitchen Scraps

Save your uncooked food scraps and turn them into super-effective plant food. Reduce your garbage load… why toss all that good stuff that is nutritious for the earth into a plastic bag that ends up in a landfill?  Biodegradable garbage is still just trash if it’s busy biodegrading inside a plastic bag, stuffed between a styrofoam cup and a ball of aluminum foil.

If you don’t have a garden in your yard, find a local community garden and donate your compost.  They’ll love you for it (and maybe even slide you some tomatoes when they’re ripe.)

Here’s our video that outlines the composting process, followed by written step-by-step instructions. Host Elizabeth Fiend tells you what you can and can’t recycle in your compost pile and how to start one.

Composting —Nature’s Way of Recycling
A How-To written by ELIZABETH FIEND

We need to reduce the amount of garbage we create. Most household garbage is burned, which creates air pollution, or dumped into landfills which produce toxic gases. Obviously neither way is good for the environment. By composting leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps you can greatly reduce the amount of trash your household makes.

Composting is a natural form of recycling where plant matter is turned into a soil-like material that’s full of nutrients and very beneficial to your backyard soil and garden plants. Insects, earthworms, bacteria and fungi help out in the process. But it’s up to you to get it started!

Starting a Compost Pile:

INSIDE:
1.) Begin in the kitchen by saving uncooked food scraps like carrot tops, lettuce cores and banana peels. Coffee grinds, tea bags and egg shells can also be saved. NO cooked food, meat or dairy products should be added to the compost pile.
2.) Store the scraps in a lidded container or small bucket you keep in easy reach of the cutting board.

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