Verda Vivo

Verda Vivo means “Green Life” in the universal language of Esperanto.

Book Review: Shift Your Habit March 7, 2010

I recently received a review copy of the book, Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet. It will be available for sale on March 9. The author, Elizabeth Rogers, an environmental consultant, is also the co-author of the New York Times best seller, “The Green Book”.

The book is packed with practical and easy ways to reduce your impact on the environment and save money at the same time. The book is organized into categories, such as home and garden, kids, pets, work, travel and transportation as well as holidays and celebrations. Each shift is explained in terms of what habit you can shift, how much money you can save, the impact to the planet and how it’s good for you too. If you adopted all of the shifts in the book, an average family of four with a pet would save $48,000. That should make anyone sit up and take notice! The shifts that the author proposes are easy to do and inexpensive. It all adds up!

Since I am a cleaning fanatic, I was very excited to see the easy to use chart of homemade cleaners, including everything from glass and toilet cleaners to wood furniture polish and fabric softener. My copy of the book is already looking well-loved as I have picked it up numerous times to read and re-read sections as I continue to shift my own habits and paradigms. You can pre-order Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet today at Amazon.

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5 Ways to Clean Your Toilet Naturally April 7, 2009

Filed under: environment,green,home — Daryl Laux @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Image by live w mcs via Flickr

I don’t know about you but I hate cleaning the toilet. In the past, I’ve used all sorts of harsh chemicals, thinking it was necessary to get rid of, well, you know, germs.

Chemical companies have led us down a merry path. You really don’t need to pour caustic chemicals down the drain to get the job done. All you need is vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and/or borax. It’s cheaper, safer for the environment and safer for you and your children.

Below are 5 different natural recipes to clean your potty:

Vinegar - howstuffworks Uses for Vinegar: Cleaning Your House

Pour white vinegar into the toilet and let it sit for 30 minutes. Next sprinkle baking soda on a toilet-bowl brush and scour any remaining stained areas. Flush.

Baking Soda - eHow How to Clean Your Toilet Bowl Naturally

  1. Pour 1/2 box of baking soda into the toilet bowl.
  2. Let the baking soda stand overnight in the bowl. Try to do this the last thing before bed so you don’t accidentally flush the toilet before the baking soda has a chance to work.
  3. Flush the toilet several times in the morning.
  4. Run a brush around the bowl to fully remove any loosened grime.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  1. Pour the vinegar into the toilet bowl.
  2. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Return to the toilet, grab your toilet brush and dip it into the toilet.
  4. Take it out, and sprinkle some baking soda onto the brush.
  5. Scour the inside of the toilet with the brush repeating the sprinkle procedure until the baking soda is gone…..voila! Clean Toilet!

Borax and Lemon JuiceeHow How to make Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaners

  1. Pour 1 cup of Borax into a small bowl.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of lemon juice over the Borax and gently stir with a spoon into a paste.
  3. Flush the toilet to wet the sides, then rub the paste onto the toilet with a sponge.
  4. Let it sit for 2 hours before scrubbing thoroughly. This is great for removing a stubborn stain, like a toilet bowl ring.

Borax and VinegareHow How to make Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaners

  1. Flush the toilet to wet the sides of the bowl.
  2. Sprinkle a cup of Borax around the rim and sides of toilet.
  3. Spray 1/2 cup of vinegar over the Borax.
  4. Allow to sit for several hours or overnight.
  5. Scrub thoroughly with a toilet brush until the bowl gleams.

Sometimes, hard water just leaves a stubborn ring that no amount of scrubbing or rubbing can eliminate. That’s when I grab a pumice stone and rub lightly on the stain.

Related Post: Flapper Failure Flushes Dollars Down the Toilet

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Flapper Failure Flushes Dollars Down the Toilet April 6, 2009

Close coupled cistern type flushing toilet.
Image via Wikipedia

I’m a clean freak. So years ago, before I knew better, I plopped one of those in-tank automatic toilet bowl cleaners into the tank of my toilet. You know, the kind that turns the toilet water blue. It didn’t take long before the toilet starting leaking. We could hear the water running all night.

We called the plumber who replaced the flapper, the piece of rubber that seals water into the tank and allows it to leave when you flush. A part which costs all of about $10. His service call, oh so much more. He told us the reason the flapper had deteriorated and started to leak was the in-tank automatic bowl cleaner. In-tank bowl cleaners that contain chlorine corrode vinyl and rubber parts. For this reason, most toilet manufacturers will not warranty any tank parts if these cleaners are use.

Wired took a look inside an in-tank automatic toilet bowl cleaner: What’s Inside: 2000 Flushes — a Nonstop Potty. What they found follows below. Decide for yourself whether you want to be exposed to these corrosive chemicals and whether they belong in our water system. When the MSDS for a product says “DANGER!”, I’m taking them at their word.

Chlorinated hydantoins
Ironically, you can clean a toilet with urine. No, not by aiming at the stains, but by using hydantoins — organic compounds sometimes employed as anticonvulsants and that can be made from a mixture of amino acids and urea. Chlorinate the hydantoins and they become a magical ingredient — bleach. But watch for “vacation drip”: If you don’t flush for a while (say, while off camping or when you give in to those comfy adult diapers), the chlorine can eat away older rubber valve flappers. And then your toilet might end up running constantly.

Hydrated alumina
Also known as aluminum hydroxide, this is a solid formed when alumina reacts with water. Here it’s one of the salts that helps control the rate at which the puck dissolves, so the bleaching action can last for up to four months — giving you 16 2/3 flushes per day.

Sodium chloride
Table salt also helps control how fast the tablet dissolves. As a side benefit it may reduce germs by turning the water slightly briny. Unless, that is, you’ve got a salt-loving extremophile in your bowl, in which case you’re gonna need a stronger toilet sanitizer.

Sodium lauryl sulfate
Found in hundreds of bathroom products, SLS is a great foam and lather producer. It is made by combining sulfonic acid with lauryl alcohol and sodium carbonate; the resulting soap-like compound traps greasy particles, which can then be rinsed away.

Cocamide MEA
Cocamide is derived from the acids in coconut oil. MEA stands for monoethanolamine, which is in everything from hair dye to oven cleaner. Together they work as a powerful detergent and another dissolution retardant. Most of the stains in your toilet are going to be from, well, natural organic residues, and MEA is a master at cutting through caked-on organics. It loosens the material so it can be easily washed off with the next flush.

Sodium citrate
The nonorganic stains in your toilet likely come from hard water deposits. These can grow there like rock candy, eventually needing to be acid-washed or chiseled away. Sodium citrate softens the water by locking up (chelating!) calcium, magnesium, iron, and other metals that might be found in your water supply.

Acid blue 9
The full name of this colorant: N-Ethyl-N-(4[(4-(ethyl[(3-sulfophenyl)methyl]amino) phenyl)-(2-sulfophenyl)methylene]-2, 5-cyclohexadien-1-ylidene)3-sulfobenzenemethanaminium hydroxide inner salt, disodium salt. Whew! So why add blue to a cleaning agent? It’s actually just a marker — when it’s gone, your 2000 Flushes are up.

I don’t remember this warning on the package “WARNING: Do NOT actually use this product in your toilet tank. It will eat the hell out of your plumbing.”

But there it is, an expensive lesson.


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7 Reasons Not to Drink Bottled Water March 3, 2009

CHICAGO - JULY 27:  Bottle of Pepsi's Aquafina...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Still drinking bottled water? Here are 7 reasons not to:

  1. Money - For the $2 you spend on a liter of bottled water you can get about 1,000 gallons of tap water. (EPA – Drinking Water Costs and Federal Funding)
  2. Contaminants - Testing of 10 brands of bottled water revealed a wide range of pollutants, including not only disinfection byproducts, but also common urban wastewater pollutants like caffeine and pharmaceuticals (Tylenol); heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes; fertilizer residue (nitrate and ammonia); and a broad range of other, tentatively identified industrial chemicals used as solvents, plasticizers, viscosity decreasing agents, and propellants. (Environmental Working Group – Bottled Water contains disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue, and pain medication)
  3. Regulation and Safety – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water.  The EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water has issued extensive regulations on the production, distribution and quality of drinking water, including regulations on source water protection, operation of drinking water systems, contaminant levels and reporting requirements. The FDA regulates bottled water as a food. Under current FDA regulations, consumers are not receiving uniform quality and purity from bottled water. (Environmental Working Group – FDA should adopt EPA tap water health goals as enforceable limits for bottled water)
  4. Garbage - Where do all those empty plastic bottles go? About 86 percent of empty plastic water bottles in the United States land in the garbage instead of being recycled. That amounts to about two million tons of PET plastic bottles piling up in U.S. landfills each year. ( – Bottled Water)
  5. Oil - Making bottles to meet Americans’ demand for bottled water required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil last year – enough fuel for more than 1 million U.S. cars for a year – and generated more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. (Think Outside the Bottle)
  6. Taste - People say they drink bottled water because it tastes better than tap. However, in blind taste tests, people can’t tell the difference. In fact, one taster in a 20/20 taste test said Evian “…tasted like toilet water”. That sounds pretty dee-lish. (ABC News – Is Bottled Water Better than Tap?)
  7. Water privatization - In the United States, 24 percent of bottled water sold is either Pepsi’s Aquafina (13 percent of the market) or Coke’s Dasani (11 percent of the market). Both brands are bottled, purified municipal water. Water bottlers deplete aquifers and other groundwater sources, and harm local economies by paying too little for the water it takes. Contracts often also give preference to water bottlers over the town’s ratepayers because the company can draw the maximum amount of water it wants, regardless of drought or water shortage. We need to address the question, is water a basic human right or a commodity to be bought, sold, and traded in a global marketplace? How much do you think your food is going to cost when farmers have to pay private corporations for water to grow crops? (Sierra Club – Corporate Water Privatization)

Watch: A World Without Water

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Putting a Price on Nature February 10, 2009

Mwamanongu Village water source, Tanzania. &qu...
Image via Wikipedia

With the world’s economy in a shambles, there is a strong temptation to focus on immediate economic needs and shove environmental concerns to the background. Some would argue that addressing climate change has to wait until the economy recovers. Issues such as biodiversity conservation, shortages of clean water, losses in soil fertility, and imperiled ecosystems aren’t even on the radar screen.

Humans have a huge impact on the world’s resources. There are huge masses of plastic swirling in our oceans, enormous dead zones in coastal areas caused by nutrient pollution, and growing shortages of food and water. We still behave as though nature’s bounty is infinite. Because we do not put a value on them they are valueless in our decision making, with no recognition of how much we need them, or what it would cost us if they were not there. We need to go beyond the emotional arguments for nature conversation. We need a way to connect the dots between nature and our survival to find practical solutions.

The Natural Capital Project has created an online tool called inVEST, a new tool that can model and map the delivery, distribution, and economic value of life-support systems (ecosystem services), well into the future. The tool will help users visualize the impacts of potential decisions, identifying trade offs and compatibilities between environmental, economic, and social benefits.

What are ecosystem services?

The Natural Capital Project describes them as the conditions and processes through which ecosystems, and the species that make them up, sustain and fulfill human life. Examples include production of goods (seafood, crops, and timber); life-support benefits (clean water, climate stability, flood control, pollination); life-fulfilling benefits (aesthetic and other cultural inspiration); and preservation of options.

Reporter’s Notes: Putting a Price on NatureListen to the Putting a Price on Nature radio report on-line.

You can also listen to Peter Kareiva explain the importance of “ecosystem services”. He describes how “value” may be assigned to them, and reveals what he would like President Obama to know about them…Beyond the Frontier – Ecosystems at Your Service.

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Top Green Stories of 2008 January 27, 2009

the 44th President of the United States...Bara...
Image by jmtimages via Flickr

Time has issued the Top Ten Everything of 2008, from Albums to Worst Biz Deals.

Included in the Top 10 Green Stories:

  1. Election of Barack Obama - Obama has pledged to put energy at the forefront of his agenda.
  2. Congress Passes Renewable Energy Credits - Tacked onto the $700 billion economic bailout bill in October but at least it was there.
  3. Offshore Drilling Debate - “Drill, baby, drill” is not a given – the debate goes on.
  4. Failure of Warner-Lieberman – Cap and trade legislation may have a chance during Obama’s presidency.
  5. New Rules Put a Freeze on Coal Plants – Nov. 13, 2008, an obscure appeals board at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that the EPA had no grounds to refuse to regulate the CO2 emitted by new coal plants. Result: the EPA can’t certify any new plants, freezing development.
  6. Ethanol Bubble Bursts - The U.S. would replace oil fields with cornfields.
  7. Polar Bear Listed – May 14, 2008, the polar bear was as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), making it the first animal to be listed due to global warming.
  8. Indonesia Warms to Avoided Deforestation – At California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s climate summit in November, Indonesian officials announced their government would set up a regulatory framework for carbon forestry programs, and signed an agreement with California to help shepherd those projects.
  9. First CO2 Auction - In  the first carbon auction in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a pact by 10 northeastern states to cut carbon emissions jointly — utilities in the region bid $38.5 million for the right for emit 12.5 million tons of CO2, generating revenue that the states will be able to put toward climate change action.
  10. Word of the Year: ‘Hypermiling’ – The Oxford American Dictionary named “hypermiling” the 2008 word of the year. The growing popularity of hybrids and smaller cars shows that fuel efficiency is no passing trend.

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The World’s Most Polluted Places January 21, 2009

Filed under: environment — Daryl Laux @ 11:48 am
Tags: , , , ,

smokestackU.S.-based Blacksmith Institute, an independent environmental group, in partnership with Green Cross Switzerland, compiled their Top Ten list of the world’s most severely polluted places. Overall, the Top Ten sites lie in seven countries and affect a total of more than 12 million people.

“The fact of the matter is that children are sick and dying in these polluted places, and it’s not rocket science to fix them,” says Richard Fuller, founder and director of Blacksmith Institute.

Is this an example of it’s okay because it’s not in my part of the world?

Site Name and Location Major Pollutants and Sources Scope of the Problem and Human Health Impact Cleanup Status
Sumgayit, Azerbaijan Organic chemicals and mercury, from petrochemical and industrial complexes Dated technologies, a lack of pollution controls and improper disposal of industrial waste have left the city contaminated. Various multilateral development agencies,  international banks and governments have invested moneys to do the clean-up.
Linfen, China Organic chemicals and mercury, from petrochemical and industrial complexes Expanding and unregulated industry based on local coal and other resources has resulted in the worst air quality in China. There are high incidences of respiratory and skin diseases and lung cancer. The local government plans to shut down more than 200 factories by the end of 2007 and replace them with clean and better regulated facilities.
Tianying, China Heavy metals and particulates; industry Average lead content in the air and soil are up to10 times higher than national standards. Children suffer from birth defects and developmental challenges. The State Environmental Protection Administration has ordered all lead processing firms to be shut down until they address environmental impacts.
Sukinda, India Hexavalent chromium; chromite mines Waste rock and untreated water from the mines impacts local water supplies. The air and soils are also heavily affected. Residents suffer from gastrointestinal bleeding, tuberculosis, and asthma. Infertility and birth defects are common. Some piecemeal actions have been taken by mining companies but the scale of the problems is “beyond the means of the State to solve”.
Vapi, India Wide variety of industry effluents; industrial estates More than 50 industrial estates discharge heavy metals, pesticides, and chemical waste. Mercury in the groundwater is 96 times higher than WHO standards. Very high incidences of cancer and birth complications have resulted. A number of waste facilities have been constructed but serious problems persist, despite pressure from environmental agencies and NGOs. No comprehensive plan for the area has been proposed.
La Oroya, Peru Lead and other heavy metals; mining and metal processing Metal mining and smelting over 80 years has caused significant lead contamination. Blood lead levels for children average 33.6 µg/dl, triple WHO limits. The current owner, Doe Run, has made some investments in the operating plant but the legacy issues have not been addressed.
Dzerzhinsk, Russia Chemicals and toxic byproducts, lead; chemical weapons and industrial manufacturing A major site for Cold War era manufacturing where industrial chemicals have been discharged into the local water supplies. Life expectancy is short and the death rate is significantly higher than Russia’s average. A number of isolated efforts have been undertaken in individual villages but no major clean-up activity has been undertaken.
Norilsk, Russia Heavy metals, particulates; mining and smelting Mining and smelting operations have devastated the area with particulates and heavy metal pollution. Norilsk Nickel is the biggest air polluting industrial enterprise in Russia. Norilsk Nickel has begun to implement plans for some emissions controls. There is as yet little visible improvement.
Chernobyl, Ukraine Radioactive materials; nuclear reactor explosion The legacy of this most infamous of nuclear disasters lingers and has resulted in thousands of cancer deaths. Respiratory, ear, nose, and throat diseases are common ailments. Most residents have moved and some remediation projects have been implemented. Future health impacts are possible.
Kabwe, Zambia Lead; mining and smelting Unregulated lead mining and smelting operations resulted in lead dust covering large areas. Childrens’ blood lead levels average between 50 and 100 µg/dl – up to ten times the recommended maximum. The World Bank has begun a $40 million remediation program with the Government of Zambia, initiated with Blacksmith involvement.

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Top 10 World’s Worst Pollution Problems January 19, 2009

Young coal worker in Linfen (Shanxi, China)
Image by andi808 via Flickr

Pollution is responsible for 40% of deaths worldwide, according to a study, published in 2007, conducted by a Cornell research group.

Two international environmental groups – U.S.-based Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland – issued The World’s Worst Pollution Problems: The Top Ten of The Toxic Twenty.

The Top Ten list includes commonly discussed pollution problems like urban air pollution as well as more overlooked threats like car battery recycling. The problems included in the report have a significant impact on human health worldwide and result in death, persistent illness, and neurological impairment for millions of people, particularly children. Many of these deaths and related illnesses could be avoided with affordable and effective interventions.

Our goal with the 2008 report is to increase awareness of the severe toll that pollution takes on human health and inspire the international community to act. Remediation is both possible and cost-effective. Clean air, water and soil are human rights.” Richard Fuller, founder of Blacksmith Institute

Blacksmith Institute’s World’s Worst Pollution Problems list is unranked and includes:

  • Indoor air pollution: adverse air conditions in indoor spaces. An estimated 80% of households in China, India, and Sub Saharan Africa burn biomass fuels in improperly ventilated spaces for their cooking energy. IAP contributes to three million deaths annually and constitutes 4% of the global burden of disease.
  • Urban air quality: adverse outdoor air conditions in urban areas. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 865,000 deaths per year worldwide can be directly attributed to outdoor air pollution. Leaded gasoline (in countries where it is still used) and the combustion of fossil fuels, especially coal and diesel fuel, play a major role in air pollution.
  • Untreated sewage: untreated waste water. WHO estimates that 1.5 million preventable deaths per
    year result from unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or hygiene.
  • Groundwater contamination: pollution of underground water sources as a result of human activity. Fresh drinking water makes up only 6% of the total water on Earth and only 0.3% is usable for drinking.
  • Contaminated surface water: pollution of rivers or shallow dug wells mainly used for drinking and cooking. Almost 5 million deaths in the developing world annually are due to water related diseases, much of this being preventable with adequate supplies of safe water.
  • Artisanal gold mining: small scale mining activities that use the most basic methods to extract and process minerals and metals. Mercury amalgamation, a by-product of artisanal and small-scale mining affects up to 15 million miners, including 4.5 million women and 600,000 children.
  • Industrial mining activities: larger scale mining activities with excessive mineral wastes. Unless a major accident occurs, the effects are often chronic in nature3 and include irritation of eyes, throat, nose, skin; diseases of the digestive tract, respiratory system, blood circulation system, kidney, liver; a variety of cancers; nervous system damage; developmental problems; and birth defects.
  • Metals smelting and other processing: extractive, industrial, and pollutant-emitting processes. Steel production alone accounts for 5-6% of worldwide, man-made CO2 emissions.
  • Radioactive waste and uranium mining: pollution resulting from the improper management of uranium mine tailings and nuclear waste. Of the ten largest producers of uranium, seven are in areas where industrial safety standards do not always correspond to the best industrial practices: Kazakhstan, Russia, Niger, Namibia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and China. There is no ‘safe’ level of radiation exposure. High exposures can result in death within hours to days to weeks. Individuals exposed to non-lethal doses may experience changes in blood chemistry, nausea, fatigue, vomiting
    or genetic modifications.
  • Used lead acid battery recycling: smelting of batteries used in cars, trucks and back-up power supplies. Blacksmith Institute estimates that over 12 million people are affected by lead contamination from processing of used lead acid batteries throughout the developing world.

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10 Green Resolutions You Can Keep January 12, 2009

green earthMake green a habit in 2009 with these easy to do resolutions:

  1. Give your mailbox a makeover - It’s easier than ever to stop getting junk mail, credit card offers and catalogs. Click on DMAchoice to stop getting mail you don’t want. This year I only got one catalog.Stop Junk Mail – Free at Last!
  2. Use reusable bags - Plastic and paper bags are neither free nor cheap. The cost is built into the products you buy, the cost of disposing of them and the impact to the environment. - The Real Cost of Free Plastic Bags
  3. Stop buying bottled water – This is a clever marketing scheme where companies take our own municipal water supply (tap water), filter and bottle it, then sell it back to us with pretty pictures of glaciers on the label at exorbitant prices. The truth is, bottled water is neither safer nor cleaner than tap water. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water or think it’s contaminated, find out what’s in it and invest in a filtration system. - Bottled water
  4. Use public transportation - Even as gas prices drop (and they won’t stay down forever), public transit user still save $8,300 per household according to Find a transit system in your community. Even if your community doesn’t have public transportation (mine doesn’t), you can still Hit the Road for Less. You can always combine errands to reduce the number of miles driven.
  5. Save energy – At you can find free and inexpensive strategies for saving energy and money as well as energy-saving investments that can provide savings over the long term. You’ll also find information on financial assistance for energy-saving improvements.
  6. Switch to cold water – Wash and rinse your clothes in cold water. About 90% of the energy use in a clothes washer goes to water heating. Run your clothes washer with only full loads. Fewer loads reduce energy and water use. If you’re in the market for a new washer, get one that is Energy Star qualified.
  7. Load up the dishwasher – Run your dishwasher only when full but not overloaded. Scrape, don’t rinse, food off plates. Dishwashers don’t require pre-soaking or pre-rinsing to get dishes clean. Use the air dry or no-dry option on your dishwasher. You don’t need to bake your dishes to dry them. In general, using a dishwasher is more energy/water-efficient than washing dishes by hand. And your dishes are cleaner.
  8. Use cleaning cloths instead of paper towels – Recycle old dish and bath towels into cleaning cloths instead of using paper towels to dust, clean counters, glass and mirrors. Wash them without fabric softener so they are more absorbent.
  9. Use cloth napkins – Cloth napkins aren’t just for company anymore. According to the EPA, the U.S. generated 3,430,000 tons of tissues and paper towels to the municipal waste stream in 2006, none of which is recyclable. That’s a lot of trees turned into a lot of garbage. Paper Towels and Napkins versus Cloth
  10. Make your own homemade cleaner – You’ll save money without exposure to chemicals. Better for you, better for the environment.
    • 1/2 cup white vinegar
    • 3 1/2 cups water
    • 3-4 drops Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap

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Gas Alternatives January 7, 2009

A recent article on entitled What Will Fuel Our Next Cars? explores the most promising gas alternatives today. While I appreciate the comparison, the article fails to mention the environmental impact of alternatives being explored.

Mark Z. Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University, in a paper that reviewed and ranked major proposed energy-related solutions to global warming, air-pollution mortality and energy security. His findings were published in this month’s issue of Energy & Environmental Science – Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security.

Jacobson ranked the raw energy sources in the following order: wind, concentrated solar (the use of mirrors to heat a fluid), geothermal, tidal, solar photovoltaics (rooftop solar panels), wave and hydroelectric.

Not recommended were nuclear, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass. In the “you’ve got to be kidding me” department, a story in the Wall Street Journal says that the ethanol industry’s lobbying group, the Renewable Fuels Association, is asking for a $1 billion short-term credit line as well as $50 billion in loan guarantees on top of its regular taxpayer subsidies. This is an industry which wouldn’t even be in existence without $25 billion in taxpayer subsidies.

Just switching from one environmentally deleterious fuel option to another equally as bad accomplishes nothing. The worst options seem to be the ones that get the most attention, even taxpayer funding.


  • BEV – battery-electric vehicle
  • CCS – coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology
  • CSP – concentrated solar power
  • HFCV – hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
  • PV – solar-photovoltaic

My additions to the chart below are in italics.

Type of Vehicle

Environmental Impact

Cost to Drive

Price and Availability

Battery-Powered Electric Depends on whether the electricity comes from wind, nuclear, or coal. No tailpipe emissions.

Recommended sources of electricity include wind, concentrated solar power, geothermal, tidal, wave, solar-photovoltaic and hydroelectric. Coal and nuclear are not recommended options.

3 cents per mile based on today’s electricity prices. The Tesla Roadster costs $109,000. Other small companies make low-speed cars starting under $10,000.
Natural Gas Emits 95% less smog-causing pollutants and 30% less greenhouse gases than gasoline.

This doesn’t resolve the problem of being dependent on a fossil fuel.

A gallon ranges from 60 cents to more than $2. Honda’s Civic GX gets 24 mpg in the city, 36 on the highway. The Honda Civic GX costs $25,200. Conversion kits for vehicles like the Chevy Tahoe and Lincoln Town Car start at $1900.
Ethanol/Biodiesel Lower emissions than gasoline, but critics say more energy is used to produce ethanol than is contained in the fuel itself.

Cellulosic- and corn-E85 were ranked lowest overall and with respect to climate, air pollution, land use, wildlife damage, and chemical waste according to Mark Jacobson’s findings.

Ethanol costs about $2 per gallon, biodiesel $4. Mileage is 10%-20% less in cars using E85, an 85% ethanol blend. Special models of vehicles like the Chrysler Sebring, Ford F-150, and GMC Yukon all can run on E85 and cost about the same as regular models of those cars.

In response to the Parade article, GM responded that it is the leader in E85 FlexFuel vehicles, with over 3 million FlexFuel vehicles on the road in the U.S. By 2012, half of GM’s annual vehicle production will be E85 or biodiesel capable.

When ethanol is the worst possible option, how is this a good thing?

Hybrid Better gas mileage means lower emissions. The Toyota Prius, the most-efficient and most-popular hybrid, gets 45 mpg.

The Honda Civic gets 42 mpg and costs $22,600.

The Prius costs $22,000; Chevy’s plug-in hybrid Volt should be available in 2010 for $40,000.

GM insists that the Volt is actually an extended range electric vehicle that can drive 40 miles on battery power after an overnight charge. A gasoline-powered generator provides electric power when the car is driven beyond the 40-mile battery range. Sounds like semantics to me.

Hydrogen Combustion Virtually no tailpipe emissions. Some pollution is created converting natural gas into hydrogen. When the market is established, a gallon should cost about $1.10.

The Honda Clarity gets 68 mpg making the $5 per gallon fuel a bit more palatable according to Edmunds Inside Line.And where does the cost of $1.10 come from?

BMW and Ford are making test vehicles, but no car is commercially available.

Honda’s FCX Clarity, was launched in early 2008 (3 yr. lease, $600/mo.) in test markets in New York City, Washington D.C. and California.The cars are not available for purchase.

No mention of Daimler’s  hydrogen fuel cell bus fleet? There are 30 buses in Europe with three each in Perth, Australia and Beijing, China.

For vehicle options in each category check out Compare Types of Hybrid Car Technologies at

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