Feb 13, 2009

Turn Food Into Fuel

Are corn husks better than corn for producing energy? Ethanol is the alternative fuel that could finally wean the U.S. from its expensive oil habit and in turn prevent the millions of tons of carbon emissions that go with it. The Department of Energy has doubled its 2005 commitment to funding research into biofuels—any non-petroleum fuel source, including corn, soybean, switchgrass, municipal waste and (ick) used cooking oil. Already, half of the nearly 11 billion bushels of corn produced each year is turned into ethanol, and most new cars are capable of running on E10 (10% ethanol and 90% gas).

Yet the eco-friendly fuel is beginning to look less chummy of late. Some of the 114 ethanol plants in the U.S. use natural gas and, yes, even coal to run the processors. And ethanol has to be trucked. Existing gas pipelines can't carry it because it corrodes iron. Then there are the economics. Producers depend on federal subsidies, and increasing demand for corn as fuel means the kernels keep getting pricier.

That's why researchers are prospecting for more alternatives, preferably ones that don't rely on food crops or a 51 cents-per-gallon tax break. Municipal waste, wood pulp and leftover grain and corn husks are all quite attractive; they can produce something called cellulosic ethanol, which contains more energy than corn. But they don't give up their bounty easily, so for now they're more expensive than corn-based ethanol to produce. Undeterred, researchers at several cellulosic-ethanol plants are developing innovative enzyme concoctions and heating methods to make the process more economic. Nothing like haste to make something out of waste.

Feb 11, 2009

Save Money on Gas

Easy Ways To Save Money On Gas

Save Money Every Time You Fill Your Tank

1. Steady speed
Try to drive at a steady speed, because slowing down and speeding up will waste fuel.

2. Limit your speed
Speeds above 55 mph will degrease your gas mileage by 20% due to wind resistance. Limit your high speed between 40mph and 55mph. This will save you a lot on fuel.

3. Quick starts
Try to avoid quick acceleration starts (so called Jackrabbit starts.) Quick start will waste a lot of fuel. Also leave enough space between you and the car in front of you during rush hour. This way you can keep the car in motion.

4. Close windows
If you’re on the freeway, keep the windows closed as much as possible. Open windows on high speeds can cause a lot of drag and thus more fuel consumption.

5. Carpool
Try to carpool as much as possible. This way you and your fellow drivers will save both a lot of money on fuel. Also you drive less with your own car (if you switch between your car and the car of your carpool partner) so you have less wear on your car parts, thus fewer repairs are needed.

6. Shop for cheap gas
The price of gas may vary from gas-station to gas-station by much as 5-15% per gallon. So, shop around! Find the lowest priced gas within the location of your or work. (Don’t drive to far of course or you won’t save anything.)

7. Regular checkups
Check the pressure of your tires on a regular basis, you will save fuel. Also a tuned car is more fuel-efficient. Also let a mechanic check the alignment of your tires, this will prolong the live of your tires and will get your better mileage.

8. Errands
If you make multiple errands in one week, then try to consolidate in one trip. Avoid excess driving.

9. Sell
If your car uses a lot of fuel, sell it! Buy a more fuel efficient car; this will save you money in the long. (Also smaller cars are usually cheaper.)

10. Simple solution

The last tip is simple. Take public transport, cycle or walk as much as possible. This will save you the most money on gas!

Feb 10, 2009

Eco-Friendly Landscaping

Plant Trees
Everyone knows that trees are green, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.
Planting a few strategically planted trees can help to cool off a building and reduce the amount of energy allocated to air conditioning.
Planting deciduous trees (trees that drop their leaves in the fall) is a great way to cool your home and reduce your air conditioning costs during the summer. When these trees drop their leaves, they also allow sunlight to warm a home or building during the winter. To maximize the benefits of deciduous trees, plant tall trees on the east and west-facing sides of your house.
This will help shade your home during the hottest months of the summer. Planting trees on the south facing side of your home can help shade the roof, as the sun will not hit that side of the house much during the summer. Make sure to prune trees so that at least a few branches are shading the roof and the air conditioning unit. This adds up to additional energy savings.
Evergreen trees are very useful if you want to create a natural windbreak to reduce those chilly winds that hit your home during the winter. It’s common to plant trees for windbreaks on the north and west sides of a home. However, you will need to determine the dominant wind direction for your area and plant upwind.
Trees should also be planted to shade paved areas. Light energy striking dark pavement like asphalt is absorbed, causing the air above to be heated. Light colored pavement absorbs less energy, but can reflect it toward a building. Tree leaves reduce heat and reflection as they absorb light energy and use it to evaporate water.
Shrubs and ground covers can also help improve the energy-efficiency of your landscape as well. Planting shrubs, bushes, and vines next to your home creates a dead air space that insulates your home both winter and summer. Groundcover plants will shade the soil and pavement around your home, reducing radiation and cooling air before it reaches your home.

Live Green

Save Wood and Paper

    * Return unwanted mail and ask for your name to be removed from the mailing list.
    * Always use both sides of a sheet of paper.
    * Use e-mail to stay in touch, including cards, rather than faxing or writing.
    * Re-use envelopes.
    * Always recycle paper after use.
    * Share magazines with friends and pass them on to the doctor, dentist or local hospital for their waiting rooms.
    * Use recyclable paper to make invitation cards, envelops, letter pads etc.

In your Home

    * Turn off equipment like televisions and stereos when you're not using them.
      Choose energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
    * Save water: some simple steps can go a long way in saving water like for e.g: you should always turn off the tap when you are brushing your teeth. And try to collect the water used to wash vegetables and salad to water your houseplants.
    * Let clothes dry naturally.
    * Keep lids on pans when cooking to prevent your cooker having to work extra hard. Prefer to use gas ovens, Geysers etc in place of the electric ones.
    * Recycle your paper, glass, plastics and other waste.
    * Use rechargeable batteries.
    * Send e-greetings instead of paper cards.

In your Garden

    * Water the garden early in the morning or late in the evening. This reduces water loss due to evaporation. Don’t overwater the garden. Water only till the soil becomes moist, not soggy.
    * Explore water efficient irrigation systems. Sprinkler irrigation and drip irrigation can be adapted to garden situations .
    * Make your garden lively - plant trees and shrubs which will attract birds. You can also put p nest boxes and put food.
    * Try growing sturdy grass in bare patches of land , and convince people in your neighbourhood to do so too.
    * Put waste to work in your garden- sweep the fallen leaves and flowers into flower beds or under shrubs . This will increase soil fertility and also reduce the need for frequent watering.
    * If you have little space in your garden , you could make a compost pit to turn organic waste from the kitchen and garden to soil enriching manure .
    * Don't use chemicals in the garden - as they will eventually end up in the sea and can upset the delicate balance of lifecycles.
    * Organic and environmentally friendly fertilisers and pesticides are available - organic gardening reduces pollution and is better for wildlife.

Reuse and Recycle

    * Use washable nappies instead of disposables if you can.
    * Recycle as much as you can.
    * Give unwanted clothes, toys and books to charity shops or jumble sales.
    * Use mains electricity rather than batteries if possible. If not, use rechargeable batteries.
    * Use a solar-powered calculator instead of one with a battery.
    * Instead of a plastic ballpoint, use a fountain pen with bottled ink, not plastic cartridges.
    * Store food and other products in ceramic containers rather than foil and plastic wrap

While Shopping

    * Buy fruit and vegetables that are in season to help reduce enormous transport costs resulting from importing produce and, where possible, choose locally produced food.
    * When buying fish look out for a variety of non-endangered species and buy local fish if possible.
    * Prefer vegetarian options for your meals.

On-line Shopping

    * Purchase solar powered products.
    * Send e-cards, if you can, rather than buy paper cards.
    * Shop online, not only will this reduce fuel consumption and emissions by not driving to the shops, but each time you buy something on-line WWF receive a donation. You may even buy products from the nature shop.

At your workplace

    * Use printers that can print on both sides of the paper ; try to look into this option when replacing old printers.
    * Use the back of a draft or unwanted printout instead of notebooks. Even with a double-sided printer there is likely to be plenty of spare paper to use!
    * Always buy recycled paper - for your business stationery and to use in your printers.
    * Switch off computer monitors, printers and other equipment at the end of each day. Though in standby mode they're still using power - and that adds to global warming.
    * Always turn off your office light and computer monitor when you go out for lunch or to a meeting.

During Holidays

    * Go on holiday during the off-peak period to prevent over straining resources - you'll also avoid the crowds.
    * Find out about your destination before you go on holiday - it may be an environmentally sensitive area. Doing this will also ensure you are informed of what to see and any local customs.
    * Find out about places before you visit. You may be visiting a environmentally sensitive area, in which case you must take extra care to stay on footpaths and follow signs.
    * Don't travel by air if you can avoid it because air travel uses up large amounts of fossil fuels and creates greenhouse gases.
    * Avoid taking things on holiday that you will throw away.
    * Dispose of any rubbish responsibly - it can be hazardous to wildlife.
    * Ask your travel agent or tour operator what they are doing to be environmentally responsible.
    * Use public transport, cycle or walk instead of using a car.
    * Use facilities and trips run by local people whenever possible.
    * Don't be tempted to touch wildlife and disturb habitats whether on land, at the coast or under water.
    * Be careful what you choose to bring home as a holiday souvenir. Many species from coral and conch shells to elephants and alligators are endangered because they are killed for curios or souvenirs.
    * Don’t leave any rubbish at the beach - turtles are often killed by plastic bags they've mistaken for jellyfish and many items take years to degrade as well as being dangerous.
    * Boats and jet-skis create noise and chemical pollution which is disturbing to wildlife - don't keep the engine running unnecessarily.

Share a Greener Valentines Day

The December holidays were not very long ago. You're probably still paying off your credit card debts from all the gifts you bought. Thinking of buying more presents for your significant other this Valentines Day is probably not very appealing. So why not avoid all that needless shopping and do something thoughtful for your partner this year?

By avoiding more consumerism and emphasizing more romance, you get the dual benefit of being green and appreciated this year. Below are my tips for combining your love for the planet and lover in one special day.

    * Start With Breakfast in Bed: Slip out of bed a little early, take the dog for a walk and cook up a delicious homemade breakfast. Your mate will love the extra time in bed and whats sexier then feeding someone veggie bacon?
    * Make Your Own Valentines Day Card: Put some time and energy into making your own card. Use magazines and catalogs laying around the house to piece together a funny or romantic card that you can sneak into your mate's briefcase or backpack for them to discover during the day.
    * Set the Mood: After work, make sure your mate will come home to a cozy, dark, bee's wax candle-lit environment with delicious organic wine and relaxing music. Get the romance started with a nice massage. Here's a tip, don't mix romance and dinner. You or your mate might feel self-conscious with a full belly and smelly breath. Save the meal for after the "dessert."
    * Prepare an Organic, Vegetarian Meal: Once you both feel nice and relaxed, go to work on dinner. Leave out the nasty preservatives, chemicals and pesticides that make your body feel contaminated and bloated. Martha Stewart has some Valentines Day recipes that are sure to impress.
    * Cuddle Up With Their Favorite Movie: Sit back on the couch with a blanket and enjoy a movie in the dark. Even if you both fall asleep, it will be the end of a perfect Valentines Day.

If you would like some more unorthodox gifts for your sweetie, you can adopt a cute baby animal from the National Zoo to help preserve their habitat. Buy Endangered Species Chocolate to donate money to protecting endangered species. You can plant a tree in honor of your love that will grow for many years to come. Of, if you must, you can buy fair-trade, conflict-free diamonds.

A green Valentines Day

Valentine's Day is a holiday celebrated on February 14 and while it has a very long history dating back hundreds of years, the scale of the occasion we have today is largely thanks (or no thanks) to marketers.
Some fast consumption related facts about Valentines day :
- Around a billion valentines are sent each year globally, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas
- 25 percent of all seasonal cards annually are valentines
- Over 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold each year.
-  Valentine’s Day is the top holiday for fresh flower purchases with red roses being most popular
- 10% of engagements happen on Valentine’s day
- Over 60 percent of planned to by at least one valentine last year
Those statistics come from American Greetings Corporation
Valentines Day is big business and as such has the potential to have substantial impact on the environment. For example, the one billion cards laid end to end would stretch around the world 5 times! That's a lot of trees.
 Valentines day gifts with the planet in mind

If Valentines Day is an important day for you or the one you love; then you can show a bit of extra love for the environment by carefully considering what you buy. Here's some ideas:

- Cards made from recycled or tree-free paper (this will be indicated on the card)

- Consider sending an e-card instead using one of the many quality services around.

- Fair trade and/or organic chocolate

- Choose organic and/or locally grown flowers

- Make a donation to an environmental organization on behalf of the person.

- If you wish to give jewelry, consider pre-owned or purchasing from jewelers who are certified to be sourcing precious metals and gemstones in an ecologically and socially responsible manner. Or considering something really offbeat like a wooden ring - they look amazing.

- Buy the person a gift certificate for holistic therapies e.g. massage, naturopath, health spa.

- Arrange dinner at a local restaurant specializing in organic or locally grown food. Eating locally cuts down on food miles

- Book a retreat in a wildlife reserve, park or natural area. Your business will help support the running of such establishments.

- Give natural perfumes and fragrances. Popular mainstream fragrances are chemical cocktails. By buying natural fragrances, you'll be showing you not only care for the environment, but the person's health.

Here's a good one for the guys - instead of buying a card, make one using recycled or natural materials :). It's pretty unique when you think about it; after all, how many guys would go to that trouble? I reckon you'll score incredible points with that one as long as your wife/girlfriend has a green streak ;).