New Roofs in France Must Be Green

Environmentalism is fast becoming a top concern in France – a rooftop concern, to be precise. Excitingly, the nation has just passed new legislation that will require all upcoming commercial construction projects to feature either green roofs or solar panels above their top floors.

By now, most people are at least passingly familiar with the benefits of solar panels, but green roofs remain unknown to the general public. A green roof is one that is covered in lush plant life, and the perks extend well beyond the aesthetic. Because green roofs help to insulate, buildings are able to slash seasonal energy costs for both heating and air conditioning by approximately 25 percent.

That alone should be incentive for buildings to add a “plantscape” to their roofs, but the advantages don’t end there. Green roofs also help to reduce water runoff during rainstorms, combat air pollution, provide food for the buildings’ residents, and even make a good home for birds that are normally displaced by urban development. For more details on the green roof phenomenon, check out Care2’s previous coverage.

To get the law to pass through parliament, environmentalists had to make some significant concessions. First, the plan was to have all new buildings incorporate green roofs, but they agreed to settle for just new commercial buildings since businesses would better be able to afford the related costs upfront. Second, the goal was initially to make roofs entirely covered in plants, but they reduced the requirement to being partially covered for purposes of practicality. Finally, politicians encouraged environmentalists to allow new buildings to have either plants or solar panels to provide businesses with a more of a choice.

Sure, the ultimate legislation is not as ambitious as it was initially written, but the end result is still great for the environment. These reasonable compromises make sense when they help to ensure backing from politicians.

Toronto, Canada, actually implemented a similar plan about five years ago and is estimating hundreds of millions of dollars saved in energy costs. The same looks to be true for France. Though building managers may not want the stress of having yet another building regulation to worry about, they’ll love the impact down the road. Whether they choose solar panels or green roofs, within a few years time, they should start to make back their money from the initial investment thanks to the energy savings.

Currently, France receives 80 percent of its power from nuclear sources. The new rooftop mandates will nudge the country closer to safer, sustainable choices like solar energy, as well as reduce the need for energy altogether.

America's top 10 most endangered rivers in 2014

American Rivers has released its sad top 10 of the most endangered rivers in the United States in 2014. Topping the list is the San Joaquin River, Central California’s largest river. Why is it in such bad shape?

Well, for years the San Joaquin has been managed badly primarily to meet the needs of agriculture, hydropower, flood control, etc. It has dams, levees, and all kinds of excessive water diversions which have have hurt the river habitats and reduced community access. Over one 100 miles of the mainstream river have been dry for over 50 years and the diversions along the tributaries take more than 70% of the natural flow.


Here’s the complete top 10, with links to descriptions of each river, what threatens it, and most importantly, what must be done to fix the problem.

1. San Joaquin River
2. Upper Colorado River
3. Middle Mississippi River
4. Gila River
5. San Francisquito Creek
6. South Fork Edisto River
7. White River (Colorado)
8. White River (Washington)
9. Haw River
10. Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers

For your pleasure, here’s a map showing all the rivers in the USA (more details and the ability to zoom in here):


Save Turtles From Dying

Dead sea turtles are washing up on Gulf shores by the hundreds. More are falling uncounted onto the ocean floor. They are victims of drowning, caught in shrimp nets and unable to escape.

Shrimp nets don’t have to kill. They can - and should - include escape hatches called Turtle Excluder Devices. But records show that many fishermen are ignoring the rules, and no one is stopping them.

We are calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service to enforce the rules already on the books and protect endangered and threatened turtles. Sign before July 29 and speak out against this unnecessary massacre.

Please sign the petition here http://act.oceana.org/letter/l-turtles-gulf/?akid=2134.672325.wZ3H3G&rd=1&source=mailing&t=2&utm_campaign=turtles&utm_medium=mailing&utm_source=advocacy

6 Climate Tipping Points: How Worried Should We Be?

One of the biggest fears about climate change is that it may be triggering events that would dramatically alter Earth as we know it.

Known to scientists as “tipping events,” they could contribute to mass extinction of species, dramatic sea level rise, extensive droughts and the transformation of forests into vast grasslands – among other upheavals our stressed world can ill afford.

Here are the top six climate events scientists worry about today.

1. The Arctic sea ice melts

The melting of the Arctic summer ice is considered to be the single greatest threat, and some scientists think we’ve already passed the tipping point.

As sea ice melts and the Arctic warms, dark ocean water is exposed that absorbs more sunlight, thus reinforcing the warming. The transition to an ice-free Arctic summer can occur rapidly – within decades – and this has geopolitical implications, in addition to a whole ecosystem being disrupted.

2. Greenland becomes ice-free

The warming of the Arctic may also render Greenland largely ice-free. While Greenland’s ice loss will likely reach the point of no return within this century, the full transition will take at least a few hundred years.

The impacts of the Greenland ice melt is expected to raise sea levels by up to 20 feet.

Half of the 10 largest cities in the world, including New York City, and one-third of the world’s 30 largest cities are already threatened by this sea level rise. Today, they are home to nearly 1.8 billion people.

Other vulnerable American cities include Miami, Norfolk and Boston.

3. The West Antarctic ice sheet disintegrates

On the other side of Earth, the West Antarctic ice sheet is also disintegrating. Because the bottom of this glacier is grounded below sea level, it’s vulnerable to rapid break-up, thinning and retreat as warm ocean waters eat away at the ice.

Scientists expect the West Antarctic ice sheet to “tip” this century, and there is evidence that it already began happening in 2014.

However, the entire collapse of the glacier, which would raise sea level by 16 feet, could take a few hundred years.

4. El Niño becomes a more permanent climate fixture

The oceans absorb about 90 percent of the extra heat that is being trapped in the Earth system by greenhouse gases. This could affect the ocean dynamics that control El Niño events.

While there are several theories about what could happen in the future, the most likely consequence of ocean heat uptake is that El Niño, a natural climate phenomenon, could become a more permanent part of our climate system.

That would cause extensive drought conditions in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, while some drought-prone areas such as California would get relief.

The transition is expected to be gradual and take around a century to occur – but it could also be triggered sooner.

5. The Amazon rain forest dies back

Rainfall in the Amazon is threatened by deforestation, a longer dry season and rising summer temperatures.

At least half of the Amazon rainforest could turn into savannah and grassland, which – once triggered – could happen over just a few decades. This would make it very difficult for the rainforest to reestablish itself and lead to a considerable loss in biodiversity.

However, the reduction of the Amazon ultimately depends on what happens with El Niño, along with future land-use changes from human activities.

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6. Boreal forests are cut in half

Increased water and heat stress are taking a toll on the large forests in Canada, Russia and other parts of the uppermost Northern Hemisphere. So are forest disease and fires.

This could lead to a 50-percent reduction of the boreal forests, and mean they may never be able to recover. Instead, the forest would gradually transition into open woodlands or grasslands over several decades.

This would have a huge impact on the world’s carbon balance because forests can absorb much more carbon than grasslands do. As the forest diminishes, the climate will be affected as will the Earth’s energy balance.

However, the complex interaction between tree physiology, permafrost and fires makes the situation tricky to understand.

Other concerns…

As if that’s not enough, there are a few other tipping events that scientists are also concerned about, but they are even more complex and harder to predict. Examples of such events include the greening of the Sahara and Sahel, the development of an Arctic ozone hole and a chaotic Indian summer monsoon.

How do we keep from tipping over?

We know from measurements that the Earth has had many climate-related tipping events throughout its history. Today’s situation is different, because humans are now driving these changes and the warming is occurring at a faster rate.

But as humans we also have the power to change the trajectory we’re on – possibly in a matter of a few years. We think we know how.

Contest: ECHELON Helping The Planet?

YES, what a beautiful earth we live in. Let’s take care of it family! This time, by recycling!

                                 

SUMMARY 
The contest is administered and sponsored by Gisella at Echelon Contests. The contest has two major goals all feeding into the larger goal of increasing recycling in general:

  1. To give Echelon an incentive (the prizes) to learn how to use the recycling system in their town, campus, etc.
  2. To provide a focused way to help the environment.


 WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THIS CONTEST Is that EVERYONE wins! Not only the satisfaction of helping the environment, but if you are not 1 of the main prize winners, JUST for participating, you get 1 of these stickers!

Our very own recycling logo (With our Triad represented)


HOW TO ENTER:

  1. You have many ways: Find out where are the recycling centers on your town, campus, etc. Or if no bins near, you can file a petition with your neighbors to get them! Encourage people to recycle, bring awareness by printing easy steps on how to recycle and the do’s & don'ts JUST GET CREATIVE! It is up to you!
  2. Take pictures (up to 5) videos, etc. Of what you have accomplished to put this in motion and or showing results!
  3. Worldwide entries OK, we are out to help the entire planet!

HOW WILL THE WINNERS BE CHOSEN

  • The most creative will win, you are all amazing at that so I cant wait to see your entries!

THE PRIZES:


OK, Spread the word, put your thinking caps on and enjoy the ride!

DEADLINE TO ENTER: October 2, 2010 send entries to admin@echeloncontests.com

Love,

Gisella <3

Buddhist monks are protecting snow leopards from poachers

A new study in the journal Conservation Biology found that snow leopards living near Buddhist monasteries in Tibet are being helped by monks who actively patrol the forests to prevent poachers from killing the endangered cats.

Tia Ghose at LiveScience reports:

The team found that many Buddhist monks – not just those at the four monasteries they worked with – actively patrolled the areas to prevent the killing of snow leopards; the monks also taught the local people that killing the majestic creatures was wrong.

In household surveys with 144 families, most people said they did not kill wildlife, with many citing Buddhism’s nonviolence as their reasoning.

All told, a greater proportion of the snow leopards were being protected in regions around monasteries than in the core nature reserve set aside for the big cats, the study found.

Like the demand for rhino horn and elephant tusks, the demand for snow leopards is largely fueled by traditional Chinese medicine, but in the snowy, Tibetan plateau, the leopard fur is also valued for warmth.

While it is true that Buddhism values non-violence and respect for nature, it is also true that all of the main religions of the world have teachings that would support animal and environmental conservation. Exploring these related, but distinct viewpoints was the purpose of our Green Spirit series. We wanted to see how religion and spirituality could help contribute to the environmental movement.

After hearing about the success the Buddhist monks have had in educating locals to not harm the snow leopards or other wildlife, I’m left wondering how similar approaches could work in places like India, Africa and Southeast Asia, where poaching remains a major crisis.

16 ways to use less plastic

Plastic problem

Plastic is found in virtually everything these days. Your food and hygiene products are packaged in it. Your car, phone and computer are made from it. And you might even chew on it daily in the form of gum. While most plastics are touted as recyclable, the reality is that they’re “downcycled.” A plastic milk carton can never be recycled into another carton — it can be made into a lower-quality item like plastic lumber, which can’t be recycled. How big is our plastic problem? Of the 30 million tons of plastic waste generated in the U.S. in 2009, only 7 percent was recovered for recycling. This plastic waste ends up in landfills, beaches, rivers and oceans and contributes to such devastating problems as the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, a swirling vortex of garbage the size of a continent where plastic outnumbers plankton. Plus, most plastic is made from oil. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take that will dramatically decrease the amount of plastic waste you generate.

Just say no to straws

One of the easiest ways to keep plastic out of the landfill is to refuse plastic straws. Simply inform your waiter or waitress that you don’t need one, and make sure to specify this when ordering at a drive-thru. Can’t fathom giving up the convenience of straws? Purchase a reusablestainless steel or glass drinking straw. Restaurants are less likely to bring you a plastic one if they see that you’ve brought your own.

Reusable produce bags

About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, and a single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. If you’re already bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, you’re on the right track, but if you’re still using plastic produce bags, it’s time to make a change. Purchase some reusable produce bags and help keep even more plastic out of the landfill. However, avoid those bags made from nylon or polyester because they’re also made from plastic. Opt for cotton ones instead.

Give up gum

Gum was originally made from tree sap called chicle, a natural rubber, but when scientists created synthetic rubber, polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate began to replace the natural rubber in most gum. Not only are you chewing on plastic, but you may also be chewing on toxic plastic — polyvinyl acetate is manufactured using vinyl acetate, a chemical shown to cause tumors in lab rats. While it is possible to recycle your gum, it may be best to skip it — and its plastic packaging — altogether.

Buy boxes, not bottles

Buy laundry detergent and dish soap in boxes instead of plastic bottles. Cardboard can be more easily recycled and made into more products than plastic.

Buy from bulk bins

Many stores, such as Whole Foods, sell bulk food like rice, pasta, beans, nuts, cereal and granola, and opting to fill a reusable bag or container with these items will save both money and unnecessary packaging. Stores have various methods for deducting the container weight so simply check with customer service before filling your container. Also, many cotton bags have their weights printed on their tags so they can simply be deducted at the checkout.

Reuse containers

You can buy a variety of prepared foods in glass jars instead of plastic ones, including spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, salsa and applesauce, just to name a few. Instead of throwing these away orrecycling them, reuse the jars to store food or take them with you when you’re buying bulk foods. If you have plastic containers leftover from yogurt, butter or other food, don’t throw them out. Simply wash them and use them to store food.

Reusable bottles and cups

Bottled water produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year, and these bottles require 47 millions gallons of oil to produce, according toFood and Water Watch. By simply refilling a reusable bottle, you’ll prevent some of these plastic bottles from ending up in landfills andoceans — but don’t stop there. Bring a reusable cup to coffee shops and ask the barista to fill it up, and keep a mug at your desk instead of using plastic, paper or Styrofoam cups. The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups a year so you’ll be preventing a lot of unnecessary waste.

Bring your own container

Whether you’re picking up takeout or bringing home your restaurant leftovers, be prepared with your own reusable containers. When you place your order, ask if you can get the food placed in your own container. Most restaurants will have no problem with it.

Use matches

If you need to light a candle, build a campfire or start a fire for any other reason, opt for matches over disposable plastic lighters. These cheap plastic devices sit in landfills for years and have even been found in dead birds’ stomachs. If you can’t bear to part with your lighter, pick up a refillable metal one to help cut down on waste.

Skip the frozen food section

Frozen foods offer both convenience and plenty of plastic packaging — even those eco-friendly packaged items made from cardboard are actually coated in a thin layer of plastic. While giving up frozen food can be difficult, there are benefits besides the obvious environmental ones: You’ll be eating fewer processed foods and avoiding thechemicals in their plastic packaging.

Don’t use plasticware

Say goodbye to disposable chopsticks, knives, spoons, forks and even sporks. If you often forget to pack silverware in your lunch, or if you know your favorite restaurant only has plasticware, start keeping a set of utensils with you like To-Go Ware’s bamboo set. It’s sure to reduce your carbon forkprint.

Return reusable containers

If you buy berries or cherry tomatoes at the farmers market, simply bring the plastic containers to the market when you need a refill. You can even ask your local grocer to take the containers back and reuse them.

Use cloth diapers

According to the EPA, 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the U.S. each year. Plus, it takes about 80,000 pounds of plastic and more than 200,000 trees a year to manufacture disposable diapers for American babies alone. By simply switching to cloth diapers, you’ll not only reduce your baby’s carbon footprint, you’ll also save money.

Don’t buy juice

Instead of buying juice in plastic bottles, make your own fresh-squezed juice or simply eat fresh fruit. Not only does this cut down on plastic waste, but it’s also better for you because you’ll be getting more vitamins and antioxidants and less high fructose corn syrup.

Clean green

There’s no need for multiple plastic bottles of tile cleaner, toilet cleaner and window cleaner if you have a few basics on hand like baking soda and vinegar. So free up some space, save some cash, and avoid those toxic chemicals by making your own cleaning products.

Pack a greener lunch

If your lunchbox is full of disposable plastic containers and sandwich bags, it’s time to make a change for the greener. Instead of packing snacks and sandwiches in bags, put them in reusable containers you have at home, or try lunch accessories like reusable snack bags or the Wrap-N-Mat. You can also opt for fresh fruit instead of single-serving fruit cups, and buy items like yogurt and pudding in bulk and simply put a portion in a reusable dish for lunch.

The Swedish Revolution: Turning 99% of Garbage Into Energy

Sweden has a passion for recycling! We know this because 99 percent of the country’s garbage is recycled, and less than 1 percent ends up in landfills.

In fact, the Scandinavian country has become so good at managing waste that it even has to import garbage from the UK, Italy, Norway and Ireland to feed the country’s 32 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants.

The Swedish Miracle — How Does it Work?

It begins with the three R’s, but goes much further. At the core of Sweden’s program is its waste-management hierarchy designed to curb environmental harm: prevention (reduce), reuse, recycling, recycling alternatives (energy recovery via WTE plants), and lastly, disposal (landfill).

Incinerator plants are at the heart of the program, but before garbage is trucked there, it is first filtered by home and business owners; organic waste is separated, paper picked from recycling bins, and any objects that can be salvaged and reused pulled aside. OK, so nothing much out of the ordinary there.

What makes Sweden different is its use of a somewhat controversial program incinerating over two million tons of trash per year, producing about 670,000 tons worth of fuel oil energy. Pretty useful in Sweden’s cold winters!

WTE plants work by loading furnaces with garbage, burning it to generate steam which is used to spin generator turbines used to produce electricity. That electricity is then transferred to transmission lines and a grid distributes it across the country.

“Waste today is a commodity in a different way than it has been. It’s not only waste, it’s a business,” explained Swedish Waste Management communications director Anna-Carin Gripwell in a statement. “When waste sits in landfills, leaking methane gas and other greenhouse gasses, it is obviously not good for the environment,” she added.

In case you’re wondering, this is not about burning trash in the open air.  Instead, Sweden has adopted a regulated, low-emission process for its incineration plants, which means that start-up costs for new plants can get too expensive for some cities.

The incineration process isn’t perfect, but technological advancements and introduction of flue-gas cleaning have reduced airborne dioxins to “very small amounts,” according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

Check out this video to see how this recycling works:

Making Everyone Responsible — Raising Awareness

How has this small country succeeded in involving all its citizens in the recycling plan?

Sweden’s success in handling garbage didn’t happen overnight.

Starting in the ’70s, Sweden adopted fairly strict rules and regulations when it comes to handling waste, both for households and for cities and companies.

Rules introduced in the 1990s forced companies to take a more eco-aware look at what products they market: by Swedish law, producers are responsible for handling all costs related to collection and recycling or disposal of their products.

How Are Other Countries Handling Garbage?

Japan introduced a Home Appliance Law about ten years ago. It places the responsibility of recycling on everyone from the consumers to the manufacturers. If you need to get rid of a large appliance, you are required to pay a recycling fee. The amount of money depends on the appliance, brand and size of the unit. The cost of recycling a small television, for example, would run you about $19, but a refrigerator could be around $32.

In Italy, Rome has become quite strict regarding the whole recycling issue: if you don’t separate your recycling from your waste and you have a recycling bin within 500 meters from your front door, you can be fined up to 619 Euros, or $833.

In the U.S., San Francisco is the clear leader in the field of zero waste. In 2002, the city made a promise that by 2020 it would eliminate all waste that is neither recycled nor composted; in 2014, they are at the 80 percent mark, which is pretty amazing.

San Francisco’s plan does not involve incinerators; rather, it’s all about mandatory composting, compulsory debris recycling, banning plastic bags and plastic bottles, and mandatory recycling for all its residents.

Other cities in the U.S. are not doing so well: on average across the country, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates only about a third of waste is recycled or composted. In Houston and New York the number is 26 percent, while in San Antonio it drops to 18 percent.

Whether we’re looking at the country of Sweden or the city of San Francisco, the driving force must be to raise people’s awareness of our environment, and the need to protect it. Once we humans start respecting Mother Earth, and taking good care of it, we will all be in much better shape.

5 ways to help save the bees

Honey bees are an important part of our ecological fabric, but their population is dwindling. See what you can do to help save the bees.
Photo: MightyBoyBrian/flickrPollinators like bees are critical to our world’s food supply, and their numbers are dwindling. What can we do to help save the bees? We rely on bees to pollinate over 30 percent of our food crops, but Colony Collapse Disorder threatens the world bee population and the future of our food supply. Plants like apples, avocados, squash, cucumbers, and many other food plants that we commonly eat need pollinators in order to grow. Luckily, it’s not all gloom and doom! Here are some ways that you can take action right now to help the dwindling bee population. 

  1. Don’t spray pesticides. Pesticides are a major culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder, and the best way to help bees is to stop spraying the stuff!
  2. Buy organic. Support organic farmers who use natural farming methods that are bee-friendly.
  3. Don’t support industrial honey. Large-scale honey operations are more focused onoutput and profit than with the health of the bees. If you’re going to eat honey, make sure it comes from a small operation. You can often find small beekeepers at your local farmers market, and they’ll tell you all about their beekeeping adventures!
  4. Plant a bee-friendly habitat. Pollinators need a place to pollinate, and by providingbee-friendly plants in your yard, porch, or window box, you give them a place to just be. Plants like fruit, herbs, melons, and even some trees can attract bees to your yard or garden.
  5. Get heard! If we’re going to help save the bees on a large scale, we need to let decision-makers know how we feel. Check out this petition aimed at the EPA calling for a ban on pesticides that harm bee populations.

Over the past 50 years the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in history. The Antarctic ice sheet is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year. A massive ice shelf the size of Rhode Island broke off from Antarctica in 2002. 92 percent of the Lewis Glacier, Mt. Kenya’s largest glacier, has melted in the past 100 years and global warming is already causing damage in many parts of the United States.

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