Wednesday, September 30, 2009

PCBs with Bacon and Eggs

For those of you that like a greasy, spoon meal once in a while, you need to know order no PCBs with your breakfast. What the hell am I talking about? The secret is not in the sauce, but in the Teflon. Teflon is associated with PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls), which are the top-dog nasty toxins known for messing with our endocrine system.

According to research, Teflon releases nasty toxins, especially PCBs, into our food through the good ole’ cooking process. A classic fried egg is all it takes along with a few scratches here and there on the actual surface of the frying pan. You might be thinking so what? My cast iron pan gives me a little extra protein (and a little lead) in my meal and I really don’t want to soak my pots and pans after cooking; hence the Teflon coating.

The problem is that Teflon is an endocrine disruptor. The chemical cocktail is transforming thyroid levels for young men and women by altering the thyroid gland which secretes important hormones that regulates your brain, metabolism, nerves, energy levels and much more. Too many cases are popping up of young teenagers needing “synthroid” the classic prescription of choice by doctors to help regulate one’s thyroid gland, and at such young ages it is an indication linked to the on-going phenomena of PCBs in our food, furniture, and other household products.

Trust me - you’ve seen these people who are have unregulated thyroids, but it is hard to detect unless you have your blood taken and screened for low or high levels of thyroid. Usually, their eyes are more “buggy” and popping out, which is a symptom of hyperthyroidism (high thyroid). The opposite is extremely sluggish, depressive feelings followed by weight gain, which is hypothyroidism (low thyroid). The other indication often seen with younger children are neurological disorders, low birth weight, and depressive responsiveness.

And so what if you have a little “PCB” in your body? Chances are we all do, but we can at least reduce our risk and the amount by knowing what we put in our body. Check out the links for more information and health implications.

PCB Exposure in Children and EPA Health Implications.

Monday, September 28, 2009

PolyCultures

PolyCultures portrays the diverse communities around Northeast Ohio coming together to grow a more sustainable and local food system. See the trailer that highlights the:

1. Problem
2. Solution
3. Action

Friday, September 25, 2009

Reverse Graffiti

If you could describe the world using one word, what would you say? For British artist, Paul Curtis (a.k.a. “Moose”), he says a mess. And his signature paintbrush stroke of genius meets street art is the notion of reverse graffiti. Paul’s goal when creating eye catching art is to creatively diminish and brush away the scum and grime that our industries so generously produce.

How does he do it? Using ladders and firehoses that spray sand and water to blast away the years of junk along with uber ambitious designs.
"You're encouraging commercialism using a process that reminds people of pollution, which is partly the result of overconsumerism," he says. He adds that he recently rejected an oil company, thinking it was too ironic "that people would ask me to write their name in the dirt they made."

Source: Fast Company, Photos: Franco Pagetti

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ten Reasons to Buy Local

The locavores are here to stay as the movement continues to gain ground. In fact, $73 of every $100 goes back to the community when you Buy Local. Check out the top 10 reasons to buy local in your community:
  1. More money re-circulates in the community and grows the tax base.
  2. Helps area non-profits, as local business owners donate more to local charities than non-local owners.
  3. Encourages 'uniqueness' and character.
  4. Reduces environmental impact.
  5. Creates new jobs (small local businesses are the largest employers nationally).
  6. Better customer service at the local level.
  7. Local owners reinvest locally.
  8. Public benefits outweigh public costs, as relatively little infrastructure is needed to run a small business rather than a giant chain.
  9. Competition leads to diversity: A marketplace of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.
  10. Gives consumers more influence.
Source: PSFK

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Brammo at Best Buy

What do you get when you combine a computer and battery on wheels? Essentially, you create a BRAMMO Enertia Powercycle ($11,995). There are no gears, shifting or clutch. It travels 15,000 miles on roughly $85 worth of electricity. It even comes in blue and orange!

The idea is pushed by Kal Patel and Rick Rommel who are part of the Emerging Business unit at Best Buy. That's right! They are reshaping and expanding the idea of consumer electronics by exploring home energy and personal transportation. By end of year, you can expect the retailer to debut the BRAMMO.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hopenhagen

COP15 (15th Conference of the Parties) is coming up soon in December. If you have been under a rock, then listen up as this is going to be the last major chance our world gets to iron out a concrete effective plan for reducing carbon emissions. This event will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, which is one of the greenest cities in the world. There will be 192 countries represented by ministers, negotiators, and other government bodies and special agencies. That also potentially means 192 different points of view.

This event is centered around the Kyoto Protocol, which was negotiated in 1997, specified greenhouse gas emission targets for the developed Annex I countries. It also specified that the first "commitment period" would run from 2008 to 2012. With the agreement set to expire at the end of 2012, it is intended that the COP15 meeting will finalize a new agreement.

I know it all sounds very political. Yet, it is the right time to determine cap-and-trade program details, carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear power and trading emissions. If anything this gives us Hope. Hopenhagen is part of the movement and the chance for this new beginning.

Monday, September 21, 2009

World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm

The World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm went online on Thursday (9/17), thanks to the Denmark government. It is actually the first of its kind where maintenance personnel can spend the night. It all started back in 2000 when an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) summary report was completed. The hypothesis was to start with 80 turbines placed in a grid pattern with a goal of covering 12-14% of the country's energy consumption. This does not include the 1% annual increase they hoped to target as well.

Today that dream is now true! The offshore wind farm is located in the North Sea about 30km off the west coast of Jutland. It is also known as Horns Rev 2. This spot hosts 91 turbines, generates 209 megawatts of energy, which is enough to support 200,000 homes. This project covers 20% of their total power supply and Denmark is determined to be the World Champion of wind power.

Image Source: United Nations COP 15 Conference Site

Friday, September 18, 2009

Toms Shoes-Help the Movement

I bought my first pair of Toms Shoes this week. Classic blue loafers that represented a powerful movement - giving a pair of shoes to a child in need. I hope to buy more actually! Why shoes? Why not shirts? medicine? Or anything else for that matter? Because walking is the primary mode of transportation in developing countries. Walking to get food, shelter or water, and many are walking miles - barefoot. See the video.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Almost Off the Grid

Ed Begley, Jr. is not totally “off the grid”…yet. He is now recycling 100% of the family’s household shower, bath and laundry water and reusing that water for irrigation and flushing toilets.

Ed's system, designed, manufactured and installed by Gray Water Recycling Systems, LLC, operates automatically, requires simple weekly maintenance and produces water that exceeds quality standards established by the California Department of Health for levels of bacteria and clarity.

"The water is probably safer than 80% of the drinking water worldwide, states Begley. "It makes absolutely no sense to flush toilets with perfectly good drinking water. I'll be monitoring our water usage closely and I'm confident we'll be reducing our municipal water use by well over half! Best of all, Rachelle can now take her half-hour showers and my blood won't boil. The water she's using today will be irrigating our garden tomorrow!"

The GWRS system utilizes a five-stage filtration process, Ultra Violet disinfection and a unique re-circulation loop to insure absolute disinfection and water clarity. The state-of-the-art system that will provide years of trouble free performance and water savings.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beetle of the 21st Century

At this week’s Frankfurt, Germany Auto Show, a new EV (electric vehicle) was revealed by Volkswagen called E-up. This concept car is planned for production in 2013.

The car is a bit tiny - under 10.5 ft (3.19 meters) in length with 4 seat in a 3+1 arrangement. The top speed is just under 85 mph (135 km/h). The lithium ion battery will have 18 kilowatt hours energy capacity enabling a driving distance of around 80 miles (130 km), depending on driving style.

"One of the basic milestones on this timeline," says Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn (love that name), Chairman of the Board of Management at Volkswagen, "is the mass produced electric car. To be a genuine success, the [EV car] must be affordable to a broad customer base and must be uncompromisingly practical in everday driving. Only then, in high volumes, and ideally on all continents, can one truly speak of the beginning of the electric age in automobiles and a perceptible reduction of their environmental impact."

Das Auto. Das un Sustaino Hero.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mashed Toxic Waters with Side of Lead

Today is Toxic Tuesday

Little Ryan (shown above) shows off his caps at age 7. His dentists near Charleston, W.Va., say pollutants such as lead, nickel and other heavy metals in the drinking water have damaged residents’ teeth. Nationwide, folks are nuclear mad on how polluters have violated the Clean Water Act more than 500,000 times.


Isn’t it interesting, how can we get digital cable and Internet in our homes, but not clean water?


According to public law suits in W.Va., 264 neighbors sued nine nearby coal companies, accusing them of dumping harmful toxins and waste into the local water supply. As required by state law, some of the companies had disclosed in reports to regulators that they were pumping into the ground illegal concentrations of chemicals - the same pollutants that flowed from residents’ taps.


Of course, this is not just a West Virginia case. There are multiple patterns across the U.S., but state regulators never fined or punished those companies for breaking the pollution laws. Almost four decades ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to force polluters to disclose the toxins and nasties that are dumped into waterways and to give regulators the power to fine or jail offenders. States have passed pollution statutes of their own; however in recent years, violations of the Clean Water Act have risen steadily across the nation (as found by The New York Times). See the full video here.

Image Source: The New York Times

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Crude Trailer

An inside look at the infamous $27 billion Amazon Chernobyl case, Crude is a real-life, high stakes documentary involving global politics, the environmental movement, celebrity activism, and corporate power - all of which impacts the fate of disappearing indigenous cultures. This award-winning film explores a complex situation from all angles, bringing an important story of environmental and human suffering into focus. Rarely have such conflicts been examined with the depth and power of Joe Berlinger' s documentary Crude.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Food Stamp

Fifty years ago, a bill was passed through Congress. It was a pilot program designed to offer low-income citizens the option to purchase discount coupons that could be exchanged for food. Thus was created the food stamp program under John F. Kennedy. Back then $95 (in stamps) helped to feed 15 people from West Virginia - all under one roof.

Fast forward to our times, we are still struggling in some areas to meet food demands and build up urban agriculture. Groups and volunteers are trying to get permits for community gardens within the Cleveland downtown areas, and as urban sprawl continues, the need for urban agriculture increases. We could go beyond community gardens and use our desolate school and building rooftops to grow food and teach students about gardening. Better yet, we can even apply for grants and energy funded loans from the State to assist with funding. We could even think outside the box when it comes to growing food such as the case with the Farm Truck, community support agriculture program in the back of a truck. My point is that in times of urban sprawl, economic recessions and concerns of pesticide overload on fruits and veges, there are unique solutions on the rise that can help us manage gardening efforts for flowers, food, and herbs. The possibilities are endless!

Source: Wikipedia, Fast Company and Treehugger News Images

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Localwashing & Trendy Deceptions

With the surge in environmental awareness of the general public, companies have been dancing on a thin line of greenwashing. You might have seen some of these classics:

-BAE Systems promoting weapons as environmentally friendly.
-Shell advertising oil refineries emitting fresh flowers instead of pollutants.
-Shell attempting to sponsor wildlife photography exhibition.

Move over greenwashing, because that is old news! The new hot marketing deception trend is “localwashing". The last time I checked, a multinational corporation can’t just rebrand itself, and say it is local. Locavores are much smarter than you think, and understand what it means to support, buy, and choose local products. Here are classic deceptions.

Citgo: (Image Above) “Local. Loyal. Like it should be.” The new billboards from the petro company owned by Hugo Chavez’s Venezuelan government. Hardly around the corner.

“Local” signs in a New York Whole Foods might point to brands that are local. The coffee being sold wasn’t grown or processed anywhere near Union Square. Again, the corporate strategy is to redefine the term "local" to mean not locally owned or locally produced, but just nearby. Nice try, but it’s not a good tactic!
Source: GRIST

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Reap What You Sow

Today is one of those big days when you will see CEOs, scientists and policy makers all in the same room. Why? It's the World Seed Conference in Rome, Italy. Where political bullshit grows just as fast as the seedlings. Yet this year, something has changed.

With folks being more frugal and economically conscious, it is no surprise that the seed retailers are sharing that sales are up 75 percent over last year. Not bad considering that a bunch of research and development is going into seed productivity, which is based on purity and disease resistance. Sounds like seeds on steroids with super powers. In fact, a simple $50 investment in seeds and decent fertilizers (let's choose organic) can yield rougly $1,200 in fresh veges. From my point of view, a worthy investment to have homegrown, delicious tomatoes that always taste better and sweeter than the store-bought kind.

Source: Fast Company, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Imagine and Build It

A generational design challenge begins today for urban planners at the International Federation for Housing and Planning World Congress. We put aside that mouthful acronym, as sustainable minds gear up for something green? urban? living? reclaimed?

The unique challenge presented is to envision the future site layout for Berlin's central airport, Tempelhof. It's a massive 988-acres with the opportunity for something wunderbar! Interestingly, it has been closed since last October and students were afraid that the land would be auctioned off to luxury developers.

What would you incorporate into this master plan?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Morning Coffee Tip

How do you like your coffee in the morning?

Cleaning Up Our Carbon

Question: If the average American generates 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, then where do you find a hiding spot to put it?

A - Under the ocean floor (Geologic sequestration) - Hint: minor problem of ocean acidification

B - Within the caves where the carbon dioxide mixes with methane gas and is transformed into solid rock

C - Put scrubbers and filters on power plants (Post-Combustion carbon capture)

D - Get approval for cleaner power plants and oxidize the fuel in a gasifier before combustion (Pre-Combustion carbon capture)

E - Nothing, business as usual in destroying our biosphere

Correct answer:
The theory to mitigating fossil fuel emissions that contribute to global warming is through the notion of carbon capture and store (CCS). The techniques vary where we can scrub it, suck it, inject it or blast it to other locations. More details and answers will be shared by those attending the 3rd annual Carbon Capture and Sequestration Summit in Washington, D.C. (Sept 14th). Learn how CCS technologies will be commercialized.

Image source: Earth2Tech

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Start Me Up with $503M

While most of us are chiming in on the healthcare debate and watching the news on the SoCal fires, you might have missed some BIG CASH news from the DoE. In fact, nearly $503 million was dished out to companies with the intent to spark the solar and wind categories. The lucky, big winner is Spain’s Iberdrola Renewables, who whirled in close to $300 million of the nearly $503 million, for five projects in the U.S. Two specific projects include the Penascal Wind Farm (84 turbines) in Texas and Locust Ridge II (51 turbines) in Pennsylvania.

The purpose of these grants, provided under the stimulus package, is to offer up-front cash in lieu of tax credits, which will help private investment and keep clean energy developers from getting stuck in the mud. Right now, projects have to be up and running in 2009 or 2010 to qualify for the grants, and this is the first time, wind-farm developers have the option of receiving 30% of the cost of the project in cash, rather than getting tax credits over the life of the wind farm. Sounds like a no brainer, right? Sure there are bird advocates and concerned citizens who scream not in my backyard. However, from my point of view, the more diverse our renewable energy sources can be will just help us reduce our dependency on foreign oil and force us to rethink our energy consumption habits.

Source: Earth2Tech, American Wind Energy Association, Image Source Flickr

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SIGG Gets BPA Busted

A report released from Advertising Age delivered sad news for SIGG fans. Yes, those eco-chic, cool, funky-designed, adventurous water bottles. I managed to buy five of them to replace my Nalgene bottles. The conundrum now is the CEO has admitted that the metal, reusable bottles produced before August 2008 has trace amounts of BPA.

Great…the whole idea was to not ingest more hormone disruptors and now consumers are lashing out with letters to the CEO! For the record, there is a difference between leaching out of BPA vs. simply containing BPA. This is an important distinction as BPA is directly linked to plastic and metal liners.

It is the chemical building block often used to manufacture polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. This toxin helps to make plastic lightweight, durable, optically clear, and has excellent electrical and heat resistance qualities. Because of these attributes, polycarbonate is used in a wide variety of common products including digital media (e.g. CDs, DVDs), electronic equipment, automobiles, sports safety equipment, and even reusable food and drink containers.

Why does all of this matter? Well, BPA has been extensively researched and has gained infamous press coverage for "leaching out" of polycarbonate. Basically, those toxins are breaking down and presenting themselves into whatever is contained in the plastic.

The research backed by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, the EPA, NIH and well documented in Nature and Science have explained that this nasty environmental contaminant is the devil on your endocrine system, especially for children going through puberty. Scientists are still divided as to what types of "diseases and cancer" it causes. Some, just to name a few, include breast and prostate cancer, ADHD, and type 2 diabetes. Others are worrying that BPA affects the maturing brain in unspecified ways...hey, why wait to find out? Demand transparency now!

Sources: Advertising Age, US Dept. of Health, and National Geographic

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Work Hard for My Honey

Busy as a bee sounds appropriate, as September is National Honey Month. To make one pound of yummy honey is like 8 round trips between NY and Paris. Here are factoids to share with your honey and friends for this month:

-Honey bee pollination supports $15 billion worth of agriculture in the U.S.
-The mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder killed 33% of U.S. commercial honey bees since 2006.
-The average worker bee makes ½ of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
-The average American eats 1.3 pounds of honey per year.
-North Dakota produced 35 million pounds of honey worth $47.4 million; more than any other state.

Thank you North Dakota!

Source: Fast Company, 2009