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Celebrating Earth Day

42 – according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. So given that last Sunday was the 42nd annual Earth Day, we must have finally solved the problems of climate change and sustainable living, right?

Well, sadly, no. But this year saw the campaign ‘Mobilize the Earth’ which, according to the World Earth Day website, aims “to provide people with the opportunity to unite their voices in a call for a sustainable future”. Put us all together and we really do have a brain the size of a planet, and we can do a lot more with it than poor old Marvin.

Origins of Earth Day

The inspiration for the first Earth Day came in 1969 from two sources – a huge oil spill in California, and the Vietnam War. US Senator Gaylord Nelson saw the disastrous consequences of the Californian oil spill and decided to stage an environmental ‘teach-in’, modelled on the student anti-war protests of the time.

20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day. Decades later it has become a truly global event, with people from all over the world taking the time to celebrate the planet and campaign for environmental awareness.

Earth Day takes place every year on April 22nd, and Earth Week runs from April 16th to 22nd.

How the planet celebrated this year

Environmental marches may be the staple of Earth Day celebrations – with masks, costumes and face paint galore – but this year there were plenty of other unusual events staged in honour of the little blue planet.

  • In Budapest thousands of cyclists took to the streets for the Critical Mass bike ride. They rode to the city park, where they then held up their bicycles over their heads – a workout for the legs and the arms!
  • In New York City over 100 new trees were planted by volunteers.
  • The Nature Conservancy attempted to break the world record for the most people picnicking in 24 hours. There were hundreds of picnics held all over the world, commemorating the nourishment the earth gives 7 billion people every day.
  • Starbucks in Canada gave free coffee to people who turned up at their cafés with reusable travel mugs, instead of disposable paper cups.
  • The film ‘One Day On Earth’ was screened at locations all over the globe. The film was an enormous collaborative project, made from over 3000 hours of footage shot on 11/11/2011, and submitted by thousands of volunteers around the world.

Every day is Earth Day

Earth Day may be over for another year, but the message is enduring and there are still lots of things you can do.

Why not pledge an act of green? It can be anything from writing to your MP about the importance of green issues, to opting to cycle to work one day a week. Over a billion

pledges have already been made and it couldn’t be easier to make your own promise to the planet.

You can also sign the Earth Day Network petition demanding renewable energy for all, which will be presented at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The state of the economy currently dominates politics and the media, and this is one way you can remind world leaders that green issues are still of huge significance.

If you’re feeling inspired you can also check out other environmental campaigns online. Whether you want

to litter pick on a beach, or protest to save a conservation area near you, you can find plenty of information and resources by visiting websites such as Clean Up The World.

Try and make every day Earth Day, because when it comes to protecting the planet, every little helps. (Unless, of course, the Vogons really do want to build a new hyperspace bypass…)

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Last post

From now on I will only be blogging at Carbon Footnotes and for Earthscan. So it’s ta-tah from me at 10Ways.

Bye,

Rob

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Guest Post: Renovate your Home the Eco-Friendly Way

When it comes to adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle, there is no single place that you have more control than in your home, where you can decide what comes in and what goes out (not to mention where it comes from and where it goes to).

It is your choice whether or not to recycle, to purchase organic food and textiles, to conserve energy and water, to re-purpose old furnishing or donate them to charitable organizations (rather than throwing them away), and to shop for home goods from vendors that embrace eco-friendly practices and materials. So when it’s time to renovate your home, it is you who decides just how green you want to become.

And there are plenty of options for the homeowner looking to make the process a little less harmful to the environment. Depending on the scope of your renovations, your best option may be to hire a company or contractor that specializes in green building projects. These people are well acquainted with the latest advances in green building practices and materials (local, renewable, sustainable, and so on) and they can help you to find the options that work for your home and your budget.

On the other hand, hiring a contractor can be a fairly pricey proposition in and of itself. Although large or complex jobs may require the skills and experience that a contractor (and crew) bring to the job, there are also several things you can do on your own to spend less as you make your house more valuable and appealing in an eco-friendly way.
For example, you may need to bring in the pros to tackle major plumbing issues, but you can probably install low-flow toilets and aerated taps on your own with nothing more than a comprehensive home repair guide and a few tools. And if you ask demo crews to stay their hand when removing cabinetry, you won’t have to pay them for cleanup; you can haul intact cabinets to a vendor that specializes in refurbishing usable items for resale. You can even assemble your own solar panels (for about a fifth of what it costs to have them professionally installed), although you’ll have to do some research to learn how.

You can also use reclaimed hardwoods throughout your space for flooring, cabinets, furnishings, and so on, and even create an eco-friendly exterior by landscaping with drought-resistant native plants as well as growing trees that will provide shade in the summer, a wind-break in the winter, and extra oxygen all year-round.

Evan Fischer is a contributing writer for Morrison Hershfield, the leader in innovative, eco-friendly and cost effective engineering projects.

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Flooring the Eco-Friendly Way

Any environmentalist knows that one of the largest causes of pollution, deforestation, and other harm is construction and renovation of buildings. The entire process, from the carting of waste off to landfills, to the manufacture of new furnishings, can take a huge toll on the environment. Flooring, in particular, now offers many eco-friendly surface options for those looking to go green. From playground surfacing, such as rubber mulch, to laminate floors for the indoors, there are many green options to consider.

Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is the newest in gardening and playground equipment and it’s being used everywhere, from the White House to backyard playgrounds. The flooring of old in playgrounds was a combination of blacktop, wood chips, and grass. Rubber mulch is the new and improved version, and is made by recycling old tires. This practice saves an enormous amount of space in landfills, and gives useless rubber tires new lives.

Rubber flooring for playgrounds and gardens comes in many colors that don’t fade or get children dirty, and is odor free. The mulch also comes in various forms, with Playsafer rubber chips, rubber mulch bond which forms a solid floor, and rubber wearmats for extra shock absorbency in areas of high impact. Rubber mulch is hailed as a safer playground flooring option for the extra absorbency it provides, preventing injuries.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate is the new hardwood, or the new version of virtually any floor style. Most commonly used to imitate hardwood, laminate is a lot more affordable and eco-friendly because it is not composed of real wood, and causes no deforestation. Laminate tiles are made of four layers. The third layer is an image of the flooring to be depicted, while the fourth and topmost layer is a sealant that allows laminate floors to last for years. Laminate is known to look like an exact copy of the flooring it is imitating, at a fraction of the price. It is also easier to maintain.

Recycled Glass Tiles

Many companies offer glass tiles for use in bathrooms and other decorative purposes, with a twist. The tiles are made out of recycled glass. Recycled glass tiles are made using various methods based on the manufacturer. Basically, cracked glass is crushed and mixed with a solution of other substances that are then baked in kilns or ovens. The resulting tiles look exactly like those that are made without recyclable materials, smooth and glossy. Recycled glass tiles also come in an impressive variety of colors, textures, and designs to suit every need.

Decorating and renovations today can easily be cost effectively and eco-friendly. From the backyard or garden, where rubber mulch is used, to the laminate flooring in the master bedroom, every aspect can be environmentally responsible with little effort.

Bio:

Fay Rose is a mother and avid advocator of rubber mulch playground flooring and other eco-friendly flooring options that are practical in more ways than one.

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How Stormwater Filtration Plays A Part In Green Living

By Teresa Dahl

Leading a “green” existence is not hard to do. In fact, we can make a difference by just being more informed and aware of the effects of our actions. Did you know, for instance, that stormwater that is improperly managed is a major source of water pollution?

When it rains in populated areas, most of the time the water has nowhere to go. Often, human activities in urban and rural areas alike cover the area in impervious surfaces — packed dirt, concrete, asphalt, or roofs — that don’t absorb much of anything.

The stormwater then turns to runoff, flowing across streets or gutters and eventually into a storm drain, or across fields into irrigation systems. But along the way, the water picks up a lot of chemicals and contaminants — like phosphorus (from fertilizers), heavy metals and pesticides. Eventually this water ends up in lakes, rivers, oceans or reservoirs, where it can be harmful to both wildlife and humans. In fact, in areas along the coast, polluted runoff is the number one contributor of water pollution.

But why is it so important to keep these dangerous pollutants and chemicals out of major bodies of water? Firstly, it will keep the plants and organisms healthy. Clean water is probably the single most important factor in keeping an ecosystem vibrant and healthy.

Polluted water is also dangerous for human populations. It’s estimated that polluted water is currently the leading worldwide cause of deaths and diseases, and accounts for over 14,000 deaths each day. In America, it is estimated that 32-47 percent of our bodies of water are contaminated. With so many costs to both ourselves and the environment, we can’t afford to ignore the dangers of polluted runoff.

This is why it is so important for individuals and communities to have a plan for dealing with runoff water. Luckily, there are small and simple changes that can make a big difference. There are some great stormwater filtration systems that make the process a no-brainer. A simple sand filter can greatly improve the quality of runoff water and decrease levels of contaminants.

A water filtration system is often installed at the mouth storm drains or other draining systems. Usually they have two chambers. The first is a settling chamber, where the water is separate from silt, trash or other debris. After settling, the water enters the filtration chamber, which usually utilizes vegetated filter strips, sand filters, or bioretention to remove pollutants, or a combination of these. Most harmful pollutants and contaminants are filtered out of the water.

A stormwater filtration system is an easy way to make sure that our water resources stay clean. You can help by reducing the amount of harmful products you use outside, whether it’s on your lawn, roof, driveway, or in your garden. Check out what kind of filtration systems you have in your community. Contact your representatives and suggest that they install a stormwater filtration system. See what local businesses are doing to cut down on pollutants and ensure that they are keeping the environment green and clean.

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The Circle of Life Needs Bats

By Veronica Coulombe

For farme

rs, bats are a god send. Bats naturally act as exterminators, so no harmful chemicals have to be used on their crops. Bats naturally produce fertilizer for their crops, so farmers don’t have to go out and buy as much fertilizer. The bats pollinate their crops and the bats naturally drop farmer’s seeds so the farmer’s crops grow.

Four ways bats perpetuate the circle of life in ecosystems:

1. One Bat can eat up to one thousand mosquitoes, crop destroying and disease spreading insects in one evening
2. Bats pollinate many fruits and nuts that we enjoy
3. Bats naturally drop seeds helping plant new growth
4. Bat guano is the best plant fertilizer known to man, because it naturally contains a lot of nitrogen

Three ways bats are helping medicine

1. Bat guano contains powerful bacteria that helps detoxify waste which makes for powerful antibiotics
2. Bats’ echolocation is being studied to help assist the blind
3. Vampire Bats have a special blood thinning chemical called desmoteplase (or short for DSPA) in their saliva that is being studied for its use to break up blood clots. This will be a revolutionary change for medicine. Vampire bats can only be found in South America and Central America. They only need two table spoons of blood to survive everyday so they never kill their victims.

The main reason bats are endangered is because of the loss of their habitats. Caves, nesting areas and rainforests are being destroyed. Without a proper place to hibernate, bats may lose their energy and not make it through the winter. That’s why it’s important for people, especially gardeners and farmers to install bat houses around their houses, gardens and crops. If everyone installed more bat houses around their area then the ecosystems in the area would be better for all life. Bat shave been around for 50 million years. That’s about 50 times longer than how long humans have been around. They also have a life span of around 40 years, so once they come into an ecosystem, that ecosystem is set for a long time!

Making bat houses is no small task, because if the houses aren’t constructed properly (size of the opening or the thickness of the walls are off), the bats won’t come in, and if they don’t make a home of the bat houses then they won’t be around to help out the ecosystem in the area. That’s why it’s important to have a professional make one for you.

For more information, watch this You Tube Video:

P&S Country Crafts in Bristol, New Hampshire make bat houses by hand and work to educate the public and save the dwindling bat population caused by White Nose Syndrome (WNS):

Veronica
leads the Website & E-Commerce at P & S Country Crafts, a mom and pop bat houses manufacturer. Their goal is to save the world while at the same time increasing the bat population. They’re always having bat houses for sale, so check them out.

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Sustainable Development Programs in Higher Education

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development and prepared for active service in the industry. Students address the fundamental issue of how to move toward a trajectory of sustainability that will enable future generations to gain further progress in human well-being as well as ecological well-being. In addition to addressing the fundamental concept of sustainable development, students within these programs gain the skills they need to become innovators within the field.

Sustainable development degrees are available at all levels of higher education, existing at a bachelor’s level, master’s level, and as a separate PhD program at some institutions. Columbia University offers an undergraduate major in Sustainable Development that involves coursework in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science, Engineering, Economics, Politics, Anthropology, and Statistics. This particular program prepares students for careers with professional organizations across public, private, and non-profit sectors as well as graduate programs if desired. Columbia University also offers a PhD program in Sustainable Development through the School of International and Public Affairs. This program provides rigorous studies in sustainable development followed

with in-depth research in the area. Students completing this doctoral program are prepared to educate the future generation with the necessary skills and insight to face the most challenging problems of future human welfare.

With sustainability being such a vital topic for our society today and for the generations to come, official sustainability degree programs in our schools for higher learning are a huge step forward. The first step towards creating a better future for ourselves and our planet is generating public discourse on the topic and educating the current generation about the important issues at hand. With vigorous programs dedicated to sustainable development and sustainable development education, great strides can be made to ensure a more promising future.

By-line:
Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.

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The 5 Biggest Solar Installations in the World

By Beth Buczynski

According to a report released in late June by the Solar Energy Industries Association, the U.S. installed 252 megawatts (MW) of grid-connected solar photovoltaic systems. Although the American solar industry has en

past few years, it’s not the only place where massive installations are changing the environmental impact of powering a home.

With rapidly declining costs of both equipment and maintenance and a variety of solar lease options, massive solar installations capable of powering hundreds of thousands of homes at a time are going up all over the world. Here are some of the biggest:


1. Blythe, California

Developers recently broke ground on the $6 billion-plus project that will produce about 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy and will be the largest solar facility in the world. Just to put that in perspective, the U.S. installed a total of about 481 megawatts of solar energy in 2010. Using mirrors to heat a fluid that generates steam, the plant will create electricity by using that steam to turn turbine generators, a technique known as parabolic trough technology.


2. Howbery Business Park in Oxfordshire, UK

With 3,000 panels and the ability to generate a whopping 682 MWh a year, Britain’s latest and biggest solar installation switched on for the first time just a few weeks ago. SolarCity, the company that manufactured the panels says that the UK’s traditionally overcast weather won’t be a problem since the system relies on daylight, not necessarily direct sunlight.


3. La Florida, Spain

This is the plant that allowed Spain to overtake the U.S. as the biggest solar generator in the world, that is, until the Blythe Solar Power project is complete. Covering approximately 550,000 square meters it’s no surprise that the plant produces 50MW of power. When the plant opened in 2010, it meant Spain’s total solar power production became equivalent to the output of a nuclear power station.


4. Rovigo, Italy

In 2010, SunEdison announced that it had approval to develop one of the largest European solar plants in the small village of Rovigo, Italy. By November 2010, the plant was completed and connected to the Italian electric grid. The 70-megawatt PV plant is expected to generate enough electricity annually to power 17,150 homes.


5. Brandenburg, Germany

Just days ago, German general contractor, GP JOULE announced that it had started construction what will become the country’s largest solar installation. The plant will be built in Meuro, Brandenburg, on 150 acres that were previously used as an open-cast mining site. The project will cost €140 million, and when complete, will break all national records at a nominal output of 70 MW.

Beth Buczynski is a freelance writer from Colorado. She enjoys exploring new energy technologies and socially responsible businesses at Green Marketing TV, as well as Entrepreneurs for a Change, the social entrepreneur’s source for interviews with the industry’s top thinkers. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog.

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From the Earth to the Moon with clean energy

By Mike Nemeth

greentechmedia.com reports that First Solar has developed a cadmium telluride solar cell returning a record 17.3 percent efficiency. The breakthrough beats the old record of 16.7 percent set by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory a decade ago.

And Timon Singh of inhabitat.com reports that start-up Semprius has unveiled a solar cell half the size of a pinhead, which when combined with powerful but inexpensive lenses can concentrate sunlight more than 11,000 times and convert it to electricity.

Other breakthroughs and cost reductions are happening throughout the solar industry, bringing us closer to the day when solar will compete head to head, without subsidies, with fossil fuels.

For now, we wait. And I’ll be discovering just how protagonist Barbicane reaches the moon.


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