Friday, April 13, 2007

The Earth Charter Initiative

Another resource in sustaining our earth and all who live here:

The Earth Charter
... is a declaration of fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society for the 21st century. Created by the largest global consultation process ever associated with an international declaration, endorsed by thousands of organizations representing millions of individuals, the Earth Charter seeks to inspire in all peoples a sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The Earth Charter is an expression of hope and a call to help create a global partnership at a critical juncture in history.
Earth Charter Initiative recently launched an online global dialogue on ethics and climate change. Click here for more information and read the blog.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don't drug the fish!

Earth Keepers encourage pharmaceutical collection for environmental protection
By Phina Borgeson April 11, 2007[Episcopal News Service]

Earth Keeper team member Kelly Mathews of Big Bay, Michigan, and her husband Chris recently cleaned out their medicine cabinets and found one bottle of prescription sinus medication that was 18 years old.
"I wonder how many people would just pop open the pill container and flush the pills down the toilet," asked Mathews, a 36-year-old Roman Catholic mother of two.

The environmental impact of such actions has caused the Earth Keepers of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) to focus this year’s Earth Day Clean Sweep on prescription medications, over-the-counter remedies, and other personal-care products.

About two dozen drop-off sites will be open from 9 a.m. to noon (CST) on April 21 for the free collection. Local churches from Houghton in the northwest to St. Ignace in the southeast are participating.

“As leftover and waste pharmaceuticals get flushed down drains, research is showing that they are increasingly being detected in our lakes and rivers at levels that could be causing harm to the environment and ecosystem," said Elizabeth LaPlante, senior manager for the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Great Lakes National Programs Office in Chicago, Illinois.

"Specifically, reproductive and development problems in aquatic species, hormonal disruption, and antibiotic resistance are some concerns associated with pharmaceuticals in our wastewater," she said.

This third annual Clean Sweep reflects a covenant among nine U.P. faith communities, representing about 40 percent of the peninsula’s residents. Responding to the initiative of the Superior Watershed Partnership and religious leaders, other groups have joined Earth Keepers, including the Cedar Tree Institute, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, the Nature Conservancy, and Northern Michigan University.

Carl Lindquist, of the Superior Watershed Partnership, noted recent national studies documenting that more than 80 percent of the rivers sampled "tested positive for a range of pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, birth control hormones, antidepressants, veterinary drugs and other medications."

Lindquist added that some urban centers have even detected "traces of pharmaceuticals in their tap water." EPA studies have shown that most municipal systems are not equipped to filter out these chemicals.

Episcopal team member Nancy Auer, associate professor in the Michigan Tech University Department of Biological Sciences, said it is important to stop the growing problem of pharmaceuticals in America's water supply.

"Although pharmaceuticals may seem like small unimportant product, their disposal and dilution in our aquatic ecosystems is having grave impacts on aquatic organisms," noted Auer, who manages the Houghton collection site.

"The drugs we take, and their disposal, are another area of our lives we must vigilantly examine if we are to be careful stewards of the Earth as God calls us to be," said Auer.

Bishop James Kelsey of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan said that "it is common to hold onto unused or partially used medications for indefinite periods of time," adding that this year’s Clean Sweep helps protect the environment while helping to ensure that the U.P. senior population is not consuming out-of-date medicines.

"When their effective dates have expired, they can actually create a hazard, particularly for the young as well as the elderly who may have difficulty keeping track of various bottles and boxes which tend to accumulate in our medicine cabinets," said Kelsey.

Jennifer Simula, Northern Michigan University (NMU) Earth Keeper student team project director, said, "This year's Clean Sweep is going to be revolutionary. A collection like this is, as far as I know, unprecedented."

Lindquist agreed that the Earth Keeper Initiative and thus the Upper Peninsula is "ahead of the national curve" in addressing the pharmaceutical issue.

The NMU Earth Keeper team was created in April 2006 as the student wing of the initiative.

In addition to assisting in the annual clean sweeps, the student team focuses on adopt-a-watershed initiatives, involved in cleaning, testing, and developing a plan for six tributaries to three of the Great Lakes.

Simula and others are committed to spreading Earth Keeper culture, beginning by recruiting students for chapters at three other U.P. universities, and reaching out to youth and adults with practical, everyday ways people can reduce human impact on the environment.

"I'm really excited, not only about the energy I'm feeling from everyone involved so far, but about the education that's happening through all of the NMU Earth Keepers talking to everyone they know about the dangers of improperly discarded pharmaceuticals and what they're doing to our waterways," said Simula, an NMU graduate student and Lutheran from Michigamme, Michigan. "This is a topic that is rarely discussed -- no one really knows about it."

Lutheran Pastor Tari Stage-Harvey, of St. Ignace and Brevort in the eastern Upper Peninsula, noted that "hosting clean sweeps through the churches has been a powerful way to connect our faith with our lives."

"This has also been a great witness to the secular community which has dismissed religion as out-of-touch. Our communities of faith, when touched by the spirit, become a power that creates amazing change."

Pharmacists and law-enforcement officers are cooperating in the collection and will be present at all sites to ensure security and proper procedures, Lindquist said.

Previous Earth Keeper annual Clean Sweeps have collected household toxins and electronics, and the group has been recognized for its success.

This year’s pharmaceutical collection is funded in part by the EPA and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My Report

We went on a trip to see the grandchildren. We drove the car which is somewhat more efficient than flying according to what I have read. Living in Wyoming there are not many public transportation options. We drove 55-60 mph although the speed limit ranged from 65-75 depending on the state. It improved our mpg average 2 miles per gallon over the 3000 mile trip. At the coast we walked most of the time even to the recycling center (LOL). Not so great "green" life when we were in the city over the weekend.
My latest contribution to the earth is to stop all catalogs. We currently fill our recycling crate with catalogs that we never even read. We use the web to order without reference to catalogs. Now when a catalog arrives, I use the 800 number to call the company and have them stop sending theirs. In 2 days I have called 7 companies. They all say I will receive a few more as the catalogs are set up for production and mailing long before the date.
I recruited some more people to use the local recycling collection service.
So my scorecard is sort of plus/minus this month.

Tear Fund climate change resources for home and church

Click HERE to find lots of resources for making your home and church "greener."
From the web site:
Jesus said, ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ John 10:10

Tearfund is a Christian relief and development charity, passionate about seeing God’s justice here on earth. Our vision is to transform the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people, in a positive and sustainable way.

That means we’re not just here to help meet basic physical needs, like providing fresh water, sanitation and healthcare. When people are living in extreme poverty, hope is every bit as essential as food and water. That’s why we are committed to the principle of integral mission. That means giving practical help alongside hope, through emotional and spiritual support. Helping those in need regardless of race, gender or religion.

Click HERE to find out more on the various campaigns of the fund, especially the work against global warming. Poverty and climate change are intertwined - we can help others by doing something at home.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another Reason to Ride Your Bicycle

Besides saving gas by riding your bicycle - the exercise will help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Healthy for you and healthy for the planet.
Read "Weight gain of U.S. drivers has increased nation's fuel consumption by James E. Kloeppel HERE

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — As American waistlines have expanded since 1960, so has their consumption of gasoline, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Virginia Commonwealth University say.

Americans are now pumping 938 million gallons of fuel more annually than they were in 1960 as a result of extra weight in vehicles. And when gas prices average $3 a gallon, the tab for overweight people in a vehicle amounts to $7.7 million a day, or $2.8 billion a year.

The numbers are added costs linked directly to the extra drain of body weight on fuel economy. In a paper to appear in the October-December issue of the journal The Engineering Economist, the scientists conclude that each extra pound of body weight in all of today’s vehicles results in the need for more than 39 million gallons of extra gasoline usage each year.

Read the rest HERE

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Recycling Facts

From Oberlin College facts about recycling:
*Washing machines use about 15% of your house's water. Each wash cycle uses 32 to 59 gallons- as much as two showers.
*A standard shower head uses about 5-7 gallons of water per minute (gpm)- so even a 5-minute shower can consume 35 gallons!
*"Low-flow" shower heads help reduce water use by 50% or more. They typically cut the flow rate to 2.5 gpm- or less.
*Water pumping is one of the largest uses of electricity in the arid Western states. So every drop of water we conserve also saves electricity.
*Turn off the water faucet when brushing your teeth. This simple act can save 9 gallons of water every time you brush.
* The normal faucet flow is 3-5 gallons of water per minute (gpm). By attaching a low flow faucet aerator, you can reduce the flow by 50%. Incredibly, although the flow is reduced, it will seem stringer because air is mixed into the water as it leaves the tap.
*40% of the pure water you use in your house is flushed down the toilet.
*If a family of four takes 5-minute showers each day, they will use more than 700 gallons of water every week--the equivalent of a three-year supply of drinking water for one person.

*Every winter, the energy equivalent of all the oil that flows through the Alaskan pipeline in a year leaks through American windows.
*The average U.S. home uses the energy equivalent of 1,253 gallons of oil every year.
*Microwaves use around 50% less energy than conventional ovens; they're most efficient for small portions or defrosting.
*Every time you open your oven door during cooking, you lose 25 to 50 degrees- or more.
*Washers and dryers can account for as much as 25% of the energy you use at home (including the hot water for the wash).
*As much as 90% of the energy consumed by washing machines and 80% of the energy used by dishwashers goes to heating the water.
*During the winter, you can save as much as 3% of the energy your furnace uses simply by lowering your thermostat one degree F (if it's set between 65 F and 72 F).
*Dust on a light bulb or dirt on a glass fixture can reduce the light it gives off by 10 percent and make it seem that you need a brighter, higher wattage bulb.
*Even the paint color you choose can affect your energy use. A white wall reflects 80 percent of the light that hits it; a black one reflects just 10 percent. The more light the walls reflect, the greater the chance that the light can be 'recycled' by striking the wall, bouncing off, and still illuminating the room.
*A heated waterbed can use as much energy as a large refrigerator. Leaving it unmade in the fall or winter can double that by letting the heat dissipate into the air.
*You can save 10% or more of your heating or cooling costs by insulating and tightening up ducts.
*About 15% of the energy you use for heating your home goes to warming up air that leaks in through the cracks.
*Efficiency counts. The most effective new appliances typically use 50% less energy than the most wasteful ones.
*Choose a refrigerator with a freezer on top, instead of a side-by-side unit. On average, the savings amount to 20%.
*Between 15 and 30 percent of the energy your water heater uses goes to keeping a tank of water hot, just in case you need it.
*Even during a mild winter, you can lose as much energy through one single-pane window as a 75-watt light bulb uses running seven hours a day, 365 days a year.
*A double-pane window retains twice as much heat as a single-pane window.
*40% of the energy you use in your home is for heat.

*1 ton of 100% virgin (non-recycled) newsprint uses 12 trees
*A "pallet" of copier paper (20-lb. sheet weight, or 20#) contains 40 cartons and weighs 1 ton.Therefore,
*1 carton (10 reams) of 100% virgin copier paper uses .6 trees
*1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets
*1 ream (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree (and those add up quickly!)
*1 ton of coated, higher-end virgin magazine paper (used for magazines like National Geographic and many others) uses a little more than 15 trees (15.36)
*1 ton of coated, lower-end virgin magazine paper (used for newsmagazines and most catalogs) uses nearly 8 trees (7.68)
*At least 38.9% of the U.S. waste stream is paper.
*Americans throw away 44 million newspapers everyday. That’s the same as dumping 500,000 trees into landfills each week.
*If every household reused a paper grocery bag for one shopping trip, about 60,000 trees would be saved.
*We save 17 trees for each ton of recycled newspaper.
*Recycling a 36-newspaper stack saves the equivalent of about 14% of the average household electric bill.
*Making one ton of recycled paper uses only about 60% of the energy needed to make a tone of virgin paper.
*One person uses two pine trees worth of paper products every year.
*Americans discard 4 million tons of office paper every year--enough to build a 12 foot-high wall of paper from New York to California.
*American’s throw out about 85% of the office paper we use.
*Americans use 50 million tons of paper annually--which means we consume more than 850 million trees. That means the average American uses about 580 pounds of paper each year.
*Every ton of recycled office paper saves 380 gallons of oil.
*Each year, 27 million acres of tropical rainforests are destroyed. That’s an area the size of Ohio, and translates to 74,000 acres per day...3,000 acres per hour...50 acres per minute.


*We save enough energy by recycling one aluminum can to run a TV set for three hours.
*Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch. That means you can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one can out of new material. Energy savings in 1993 alone were enough to light a city the size of Pittsburgh for six years. .
*Americans throw away enough aluminum every month to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.
*Recycling steel and tin cans saves 74% of the energy used to produce them.
* Americans use 100 million tin and steel cans every day.
*Americans throw out enough iron and steel to supply all the nation’s automakers on a continuous basis.
*A steel mill using recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution and mining wastes by about 70%.
** When you toss out one aluminum can you waste as much energy as if you’d filled the same can half-full of gasoline and poured it into the ground.

*More than 50% of a new aluminum can is made from recycled aluminum.
*The 36 billion aluminum cans landfilled last year had a scrap value of more than $600 million. (Some day we'll be mining our landfills for the resources we've buried.)

*Americans throw away enough glass bottles and jars every two weeks to fill the 1.350-foot towers of the former World Trade Center.
*Most bottles and jars contain at least 25% recycled glass.
*Glass never wears out -- it can be recycled forever. We save over a ton of resources for every ton of glass recycled -- 1,330 pounds of sand, 433 pounds of soda ash, 433 pounds of limestone, and 151 pounds of feldspar.
*States with bottle deposit laws have 35-40% less litter by volume.
*If all the glass bottles and jars collected through recycling in the U.S. in 94 were laid end to end, they'd reach the moon and half way back to earth.

*Every year we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap Texas.
*Americans go through 2.5 million plastic bottles every year.
*26 recycled PET bottles equals a polyester suit. 5 recycled PET bottles make enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket.
*In 1988 we used 2 billion pounds of HDPE just to make bottles for household products. That’s about the weight of 90,000 Honda Civics.
*If every American household recycled just one out of every ten HDPE bottles they used, we’d keep 200 million pounds of the plastic out of landfills every year.

*It is un-recyclable- you can't make it into new Styrofoam. The industry wants you to assume it is- don't BUY it!
*Each year American throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups, enough every year to circle the earth 436 times.

*If only 100,000 people stopped their junk, mail, we could save up to 150,000 trees annually. If a million people did this, we could save up to a million and a half trees.
*The junk mail Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes.
*The average American still spends 8 full months of his/her life opening junk mail.

*Every day America cuts down two million trees-but throws away about 42 million newspapers. That means the equivalent of about 500,000 trees is dumped into landfills every week.
*If everyone who subscribes to the New York Times recycled, we’d keep over 6,000 tons of pollution out of the air.
*It takes an entire forest--over 500,000 trees to supply Americans with their Sunday newspapers every week.

*Every year Americans buy over a billion incandescent lightbulbs. That’s three acres of bulbs every day.
*A 60-watt incandescent bulb lasts about 750 hours; a fluorescent bulb with 1/3 the wattage will generate the same light and burn for 7,500 to 10,000 hours in five to ten years of normal use.
*Substituting a compact fluorescent light for a traditional bulb will keep a half-ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb.


Monday, April 2, 2007

Poor Nations to Bear Brunt as World Warms

From The New York Times April 1, 2007

The world's richest countries, which have contributed by far the most to the atmospheric changes linked to global warming, are already spending billions of dollars to limit their own risks from its worst consequences, like drought and rising seas.

But despite longstanding treaty commitments to help poor countries deal with warming, these industrial powers are spending just tens of millions of dollars on ways to limit climate and coastal hazards in the world's most vulnerable regions - most of them close to the equator and overwhelmingly poor.
Next Friday, a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that since 1990 has been assessing global warming, will underline this growing climate divide, according to scientists involved in writing it - with wealthy nations far from the equator not only experiencing fewer effects but also better able to withstand them.

Two-thirds of the atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas that can persist in the air for centuries, has come in nearly equal proportions from the United States and Western European countries. Those and other wealthy nations are investing in windmill-powered plants that turn seawater to drinking water, in flood barriers and floatable homes, and in grains and soybeans genetically altered to flourish even in a drought.

In contrast, Africa accounts for less than 3 percent of the global emissions of carbon dioxide from fuel burning since 1900, yet its 840 million people face some of the biggest risks from drought and disrupted water supplies, according to new scientific assessments. As the oceans swell with water from melting ice sheets, it is the crowded river deltas in southern Asia and Egypt, along with small island nations, that are most at risk.

"Like the sinking of the Titanic, catastrophes are not democratic," said Henry I. Miller, a fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. "A much higher fraction of passengers from the cheaper decks were lost. We'll see the same phenomenon with global warming."

Read the whole article here.

Supreme Court Rules on Carbon Dioxide suits

Read it all at the New York Times
April 3, 2007
News Analysis
Ruling Undermines Lawsuits Opposing Emissions Controls

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on carbon dioxide emissions largely shredded the underpinning of other lawsuits trying to block regulation of the emissions and gave new momentum to Congressional efforts to control heat-trapping gases linked to climate change.

Environmental groups and states that have adopted controls on carbon dioxide emissions from vehicle tailpipes responded with jubilation, while the auto industry and some of its backers, like Representative John D. Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, offered statements of resigned disappointment.

“This is fantastic news,” said Ian Bowles, the secretary of environmental affairs for Massachusetts, the state that had petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to control the emissions from cars and trucks, which represent slightly less than one-quarter of the country’s total heat-trapping gases.

The E.P.A. had argued that it had no authority to do so under the Clean Air Act, and that even if it did, such regulation would run afoul of other administration plans to combat climate change. The Supreme Court rejected those arguments.

“You’ve seen the Bush administration hiding behind this argument to avoid action, and this puts that to rest,” Mr. Bowles said.

Pennsylvania’s secretary of environmental protection, Kathleen McGinty, added, “We hope it means any further opposition and challenge to the legal standards will go away and we can get about the job of cleaning up the auto fleet and making a dent in greenhouse-gas pollution.”

The arguments rejected by the court have been invoked in other legal challenges, including a case pending in California in which auto industry trade groups argue against that state’s law controlling carbon-dioxide emissions from cars, and one in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where electric utilities are fighting the E.P.A.’s authority to regulate their emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.

Both cases had been stayed awaiting yesterday’s ruling.

Some companies may now find new affection for proposals in Congress for a cap-and-trade system to aid emissions control. Under this type of system, companies that had reduced emissions beyond a set limit could sell credits earned by their excess reductions to companies that failed to meet emissions limits.

“This flips the debate from an environment in which Congress must act if there is to be federal action,” said Tim Profeta, the director of the Nicholas Institute for the Environment at Duke University, “to one in which the E.P.A. can act as soon as an administration friendly to the concept is in power.”

“If there is a President Clinton or President McCain,” Mr. Profeta added, “he or she doesn’t have to go to Congress to get action.”

The reaction from Capitol Hill underscored this point.

“While I still believe Congress did not intend for the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases, the Supreme Court has made its decision and the matter is now settled,” Mr. Dingell said in a prepared statement. “Today’s ruling provides another compelling reason why Congress must enact, and the president must sign, comprehensive climate change legislation.”

Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California and a sponsor of the most stringent of the global-warming proposals currently before Congress, said in a statement: “This decision puts the wind at our back. It takes away the excuse the administration has been using for not taking action to deal with global-warming pollution.”

Another prod for federal action is the likelihood that California will be able to use the new ruling to parry legal challenges to its new law calling for a cut of nearly 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions on passenger vehicles sold in the state starting in 2016. A dozen other states, including Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, have enacted laws adopting the California standard. These states are home to more than a third of the vehicles sold in the United States.

But before those standards can take effect, the environmental agency must grant the states a waiver.

“I am very encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today that greenhouse gases are pollutants and should be regulated by the federal government,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican. “We expect the U.S. E.P.A. to move quickly now in granting our request for a waiver.”

The prospect of separate state and federal emissions standards is one of Detroit’s worst nightmares.

Walter McManus, director of automotive analysis for the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan, argued that the environmental agency was best suited to regulate automotive emissions and fuel economy.

“They are the ones who really have the expertise about fuel economy and greenhouse gases,” Mr. McManus said.

Nick Bunkley contributed reporting from Detroit.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company