It goes without saying that talks of sustainability and the green movement are usually reserved for functioning members of society. Yet, a professor at Evergreen University is taking an unorthodox approach to spreading the ideals of sustainability to those who are seen as pariahs. In professor Nalini Nadkarni’s initiative, The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP), the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair, Washington has partnered with the Department of Defense to help inmates breed endangered orange and white Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies and release them into the wild.

The result is that the system has bred over 3,600 of the butterflies, but more importantly has involved those who are mainly seen as social outcasts in doing it. In order to participate in the program, inmates are required to apply and undergo on-the-job training. And while the program has taught the inmates about environmental awareness, it has also contributed to their success when reentering society. According to the article, “Seventy eight prisoners were involved with the Mission Creek project and 18 have been released, of which none have returned to prison, and one-third are employed.”

Ultimately, the project is empowering women to make a difference in the community even when locked behind bars. The effect is that the initiative is spreading its ideals of sustainability to an unconventional audience, and is aiding in their rehabilitation. Through this unorthodox partnership, even those who many deem as social outcasts are contributing to a world in which we all live green and be green.

Drought! Drought! Drought! We hear it everyday. We feel its effect in the grocery store in the form of higher costs for produce and meat. Our daily television and web-browsing experiences often include stories and pictures of parched farmlands and the individuals who are negatively impacted economically and socially by this year’s extremely dry weather. At the same time, we hear the naysayers’ criticisms of the insistence that the drought is caused by climate change. They contend that we are experiencing a natural cycle that will change soon. They admonish that proposed EPA standards to protect the environment from pollution are part of a political agenda and are based on a myth.

A study cited this week by the U.S. Geological Survey notes that “humans have a long history of having to deal with climate change”. The results of this research was published in July’s edition of Geology and points to the lack of available water in Egypt and other ancient civilizations as the major player in the collapse of these societies. The researchers examined pollen and charcoal preserved in the Nile Delta sediment dating back 7,000 years to present to define the physical mechanisms affecting critical events in ancient Egyptian history. The goal was to see if changes in pollen assemblages would reflect ancient Egyptian and Middle East droughts in archeological and historical records. Additionally, the researchers examined the presence and level of charcoal because increased fire frequency during extended periods of drought also would result in larger charcoal deposits.

The study results did support the hypotheses, with findings of increased microscopic charcoal in the core sediment during four recorded periods of drought. These findings are from recorded events, independent of political agenda, occurring in Egypt and in the Uruk Kingdom when modern Iraq collapsed. A second event was noted in the eastern Mediterranean and is collaborated with the fall of the Ugarit Kingdom and famines in the Babylonian and Syrian Kingdoms.

Studies such as these are crucial to our very existence. The objective and scientific determination of factors resulting in the collapse of ancient civilizations provides us with the knowledge and direction to find present-day solutions to these problems. This study concludes that climate change leading to severe drought led to the destruction of these societies. Water conservation,drought prevention, and other measures associated with environmentally friendly living are mandatory to ensure our continued existence on Earth. Yet more reasons to live green, be green!

Today, recycling is ubiquitous. Whether its plastics, metals, or glass products the world is better off as a result of these actions done by the citizens of nations. It does beg the question however: why don’t we recycle everything we get our hands on? Why can’t we recycle dresses or collared shirts as easily as we do water bottles? Such is the question posed in the New York Times Article Sustainable Innovation: Reducing Fashion’s Carbon Footprint? The article makes claims as to how textiles are becoming disposable, and currently are Britain’s “fastest growing waste stream.”

Recycling textiles can tremendously impact on the carbon footprint of the industry. The advocacy group the Bureau of International Recycling states that recycling old textiles would aid in cutting up to almost 8 pounds in carbon dioxide emissions. Besides the incredible waste of resources (including water, fertilizers, and pesticides which are all used to cultivate the plants used in clothing), disposable clothing has contributed to global warming through the release of greenhouse gases.

Now what is being done to reverse this trend? In 2009 textile4textile was created to abate the process of disposable clothing. The process they utilize is called “sorting” which shreds the recycled clothing and allows the fabric to be in a state where it can be sewn again into new clothing. As stated in the article, “Once fabrics are separated into like tissue, they are much more valuable, especially natural fibers like wool and cotton. Recycled fabric can be spun from the shreds of the used clothing.” As a result, more resources are saved and the planet is left smiling just a bit.

Ultimately, as a society recycling is taken for granted because it is so commonplace. Making other goods such as fabrics to be a commonplace recycled good is a goal worth striving for and certainly can be attainable as plastics and metals are today. To my knowledge I have never worn recycled clothing. However, now that the option is available, more consumers , like myself, will be educated as to the carbon footprint of an industry that they didn’t know had one, and will be able to make smart and conscious decisions as to what they wear. Hopefully we will one day reach the apex of sustainability where everything we use was previously recycled and inhabit a world where we all live green, and be green.

Surfing isn’t too popular on the south shore of Long Island.  Notwithstanding having to jump into frigid waters, the waves, or lack thereof, haven’t really helped beckon too many people in.  Despite this set of opinions however, surfers have also contributed to deleterious effects on the environment. Whether its polyurethane boards or neoprene suits, the industry runs afoul with hazardous environmental actions. However, Danny Hess, a former surf board shaper, is attempting to change the paradigm of surfing through his natural finished boards and organic resins. Having an interest in sustainability through his studies at the San Francisco Institute of Architecture, Hess has since shifted his attention from buildings to boards.

The surfing industry itself is stodgy and resistant to change. And while the idea of using wood boards is not novel, as indicating by their presence in the surfing world, the truth is polyurethane boards dominate because they are inexpensive, and surfers tend to throw them away after about two years of usage anyway. As the article indicates, polyurethane has an element called toluene diisocyanate (TDI) that when heated can cause extreme health complications including, “asthma, cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, hearing and vision loss.”  Hess has attempted to produce socially responsible boards by handcrafting about 160 of them a year out of recycled goods, and waxing them using epoxies whose base ingredient is sap.

Hess’ story is an inspiration for entrepreneurs and headstrong people like myself. He is fighting a stodgy industry with his own stodgy beliefs in sustainability. Not only is he taking care into producing each and every one of his boards, but he is also constructing them using recycled and sustainable materials. As a result, the quality eminent in his product may entice surfers to keep their boards longer and reverse the trend of disposing of the boards after only two years time. It’s refreshing to know that ideas of sustainability are prevailing in even in the most stubborn of industries. In this way and others, Hess is helping to perpetuate a world where we all live green, and be green.


The U.S. Energy Information Agency has released a report this month which states that energy related carbon dioxide emissions during the first four months of 2012 fell to about the levels noted in 1992. While acknowledging the contribution of conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy to the decrease of carbon dioxide emissions, the agency largely attributes the drop-off in levels to low-priced natural gas. The decrease in price of natural gas is driven by higher levels of shale gas drilling in some areas of the northeastern United States, as well as in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. It is cheaper now to burn natural gas than coal, and as a result, utilities are starting to rely on gas-fired generator plants.

The quick-turnaround from coal to gas has surprised many government and industry experts. The messages regarding climate change and the need for cleaner energy are not new. It appears that people are predominantly cost-driven. An environmentally friendly solution to a pollution problem that is less expensive than an environmentally harmful practice is sure to win.

It is important to mention that any efforts made to counter human-induced climate change must be global. Unfortunately, the use of coal for energy is growing, rather declining in some other countries, specifically in China. Global cooperation to seek cleaner energy solutions is mandatory in order to be effective for any one part of the planet. Another issue looming on the horizon lies with the use of natural gas because while it burns cleaner than coal, it still emits some carbon dioxide. Also drilling for natural gas carries potential risks, some of which are not fully understood. Environmentalists state that in fracking operations, the large volumes of water, sand and other chemicals injected into shale rock to break it apart and free gas often pollute underground drinking water and cause methane leaks, which in turn, and produce air pollution. This contributes to global warming. Some groups, such as the Sierra Club, have major concerns with the potential risks versus the net benefits of using natural gas.

It will be interesting to see the developments in energy sources that will accommodate global expectations, satisfy federal mandates, and effectively address economic and environmental concerns. Research and development in the field of energy is challenging, but hopefully some solutions will be found in the near future. Let’s do all that we can to live green, be green.

Natural gas power plants”cycle” on and off more efficiently than their coal counterparts.

I think it is safe to say that most of us recognize the need to protect the planet; however, we are so bombarded with information on environmental problems that we often become stymied on where to start to make a difference. I think a good start would be with our children and incorporating green tips to improve their lives. The education of our children is the most important responsibility for most families today, and with school starting soon, a few green shopping tips really could be beneficial.

Before taking that annual trip to the store to purchase school supplies, take inventory of items on hand. Try to use products left over from last year, or consider donating items that cannot be used to less fortunate students. When purchasing paper products, shop for recycled, renewable school supplies. Several stores, including Target and Office Depot, offer biodegradable pencils and other eco-friendly products. Backpacks also are major purchases each school year. Invest in a good one made from eco-friendly, well-padded material well suited for your child’s size. A good backpack will be friendly to both the environment and your child’s back.

The return to school signals big changes in meal schedules and food purchases. Be ever mindful of the need for your child to start the day with a good breakfast. Try to incorporate fresh fruit and wholesome grains into breakfast and avoid cereals loaded with sugar. Eating a good breakfast is the first step to take to be prepared to learn. Lunches also are important. Opt for reusable containers for sandwiches and snacks as opposed to plastic baggies. You will save money and the planet. Bamboo cutlery as opposed to disposable utensils is a stylish and economic alternative. Of course, the choices of food that goes into these containers are important. Be creative. Plan healthy lunches and snacks, and try to stay away from processed foods full of salt and other preservatives. Make sure your child stays well hydrated. Invest in BPA-free water bottles, and try to avoid sugary drinks.

Transportation is a big issue during the school year. If your child’s school does not provide bus service, consider walking or biking to school, making sure the routes and pathways used are safe. If you do not accompany your child to and from school, please make sure that your child travels in a group and not alone. If walking or biking is not an option because of distance, contact other parents and form carpools. This will save time, and gas and also eliminate traffic congestion.

The biggest purchase for school, of course, is clothing and shoes. Before going out to shop, take an inventory of clothing on hand and only purchase what is needed. Once again, consider donating clothes that no longer fit or are no longer wanted. When shopping, be sure to look for eco-friendly clothes and even consider organic and recycled clothing. With careful planning, your child can return to school in style.

Preparing to return to school can be costly and overwhelming. However, with planning, careful shopping, it is possible to get this accomplished while buying eco-friendly. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see to save the world”. Live green, be green.

It is impossible to go through a day without being reminded of the severe drought conditions affecting the majority of the continental United States. Whether while watching news on the television, reading the newspaper or online news, or shopping for groceries (especially produce), the gloom and doom associated with rising costs of food and loss of revenue attributable to the drought remain front and center. However, if you dig a little deeper into this subject, you will find that this situation is not totally hopeless. In contrast to the millions of acres of unsalvageable corn crops with their abundance of brown leaves withering away and dying in parched soil, there are some fields in the Great Plains that boast healthy vegetation, courtesy of innovative seed companies such as Monsanto and Pioneer.

In response to the drought, farmers are more interested than ever in finding innovative solutions to make crops more resilient. Agricultural research now is directed toward improved farming practices, better plant-breeding techniques and genetic engineering to create plants that are more adaptable to the effects of climate change. Although it is controversial due to cost and unpredictability, genetic engineering holds some promise. To date, experimental strains of corn produced by Monsanto have been successful in surviving and prospering despite the harsh summer conditions. This hybrid corn, DroughtGard, carries a gene that helps it to draw water from the soil more gradually than other varieties of corn. This process promotes water conservation during dry periods. Of note, the DroughtGard hybrid is the only genetically engineered strain that has been approved by the Department of Agriculture.

This new research to create water-resistant strains of corn is a major change in direction for crop scientists, who since the 1920s have focused primarily on improving strains of corn and wheat to yield larger harvests to keep up with the ever-growing population. This new focus is so important because a major issue of climate change is water, whether in terms of droughts or floods. To successfully engineer a strain of corn that is adaptable to the impacts of climate change would amount to a real game changer in this battle.

Scientists predict that with climate change, the intermittent droughts experienced in the United States will increase in frequency. This impending phenomenon has given the task of finding innovative solutions in crop production a renewed urgency. While scientists work to find solutions to crop preservation during adverse weather conditions, it is more important than ever that each of us do our part to protect the environment. Let’s live green, be green.

Bloomberg Businessweek Rankings are used by prospective students as a way to gauge the overall quality of a school they may be interested in with respect to others. The site ranks both undergraduate and graduate institutions, and also analyzes individual programs and specialties. While past ranked disciplines range from teaching to agriculture, never has there been a ranking with respect to specifically green programs. However, as of August 14th 2012, the site is now beginning to rank such specialties in their “Green College Rankings.” According to the Bloomberg site, “The survey was conducted by the Sierra Club, the Sustainable Endowments Institute, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and Princeton Review, which combined their separate sustainability rankings into one Businesswek ranking for the first time.

According to the survey, the greenest school in all the land is the University of California, Davis a result from pouring in resources both financially and in time into their sustainability initiatives.  Examples of their efforts include, “trash diversion, an initiative to keep garbage out of landfills by recycling, reusing, or composting it, the use of sustainable foods, and the promotion of bikes on campus (which amazingly resulted in over 20,000 bikes being used). Other schools who made the top five include the Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Washington, and the University of Connecticut,

 In short, these rankings are a tremendous boost to the green movement as well as for prospective students. This information was not available when I was looking into schools, and while the “green rankings” may not have ultimately been the main reason I would have gone to a particular school, it would have nonetheless planted a seed in my mind as to which universities were ahead of the curve, and who actually cared about a planet. This ranking also provides another criterion in which schools can stand out. Publishing yearly green rankings will provoke schools to think and act in terms of sustainability, and will provide them an incentive not only in saving the planet, but also in raising their overall ranking. The prospective student ultimately benefits from transparent data of a school’s sustainability initiatives within a ranking format, which may help that individual in making their decision on where to go to college. Overall, the green rankings have the ability to help both schools and students alike, and will aid in promoting a lifestyle in which we all live green, and be green.


The key to green living and sustainability most often lies with grass roots efforts by dedicated individuals with personal vested interests at stake. A situation such as this gave birth to the Shell Recycling Alliance. This group consists of members of the local oyster shucking community with family legacies of care and commitment to the Chesapeake Bay. They recognized that the tons of oyster shells discarded at events where they shucked could serve a useful purpose, and they got together to do something about it.

Oyster shell is a limited natural resource that provides a habitat for new oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Hatchery uses it for its oyster setting process. This program spawns oysters taken from the wild, creating larvae or spat, which is released into large tanks with cages of oyster shells to set. The newly spawned oysters are fed algae and upon reaching maturity, are returned to the Bay. The Shell Recycling Alliance (SRA) has teamed up with area seafood restaurants throughout Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Delaware to save oyster shells, which are collected and delivered to the hatchery to be used for setting to replenish the bay oyster population. To date, the SRA has provided around 75,000 bushels of reclaimed oyster shells to the program.

In addition to being a food attraction, oysters play a major role in the health and survival of the Chesapeake Bay, as the filtering capacity of the entire oyster reef community is vital to the Bay’s water quality. By virtue of its algae consumption, an oyster filters water at a rate of up to approximately two gallons an hour. This filtration clarifies the water, allowing bay grasses to receive more sunlight and become more plentiful. As a result, oxygen levels in the water increase, which in turn, leads to reduced wave energy and shoreline loss. The end product is a healthy habitat for aquatic life.

Thanks to the actions of concerned people committed to the protection of our waters, oyster replenishment programs now operate not only in the Mid-Atlantic States, but also up and down the east coast. A small green movement has led to a large green revolution. A great way to get involved is to support the restaurants that participate in this program. A list of participating businesses can be found at Let’s live green, be green.

Courtesy of

The present parched land covering approximately 63 percent of the continental United States, accompanied by frequent and severe storms, has triggered an increase in dust storms. Aside from being a nuisance with the deposit of dirt on all surfaces, these storms also exacerbate asthma attacks, and they spread toxic chemicals and infectious diseases. Simply stated by William Sprigg, a dust expert at Chapman University in Orange, California, “anything that is loose on the soil is going to be picked up by these storms”.

Studies of the Dust Bowl of 1935 provide information on what we can expect from these storms. During that period of dust storms 80 years ago, health records for the state of Kansas notes the most severe measles epidemic and very high rates of strep throat, respiratory problems and infant mortality, especially from February to May of that year.

To fully understand the problem with dust storms, scientists study the actual dust particles. They are small enough to evade the body’s natural defenses, such as nose hairs, and they invade and damage the respiratory system. Microscopic inspection of these particles shows that they often carry arsenic and other heavy metals, fertilizers, pesticides and an array of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Scientists in the southwest are paying particular attention to valley fever, an airborne disease in that part of the country that is very debilitating and often fatal.

Dust storms pose a global problem. Dust is blown all over the world as evidenced by a recent discovery of Saharan dust found in Florida. Also, Chinese scientists attribute part of the bird flu epidemics to dust storms. It is important to note that not all dust is bad as many plants and fisheries derive nutrients from foreign dust. On the other hand, a large amount of dust that settled in the Rocky Mountains during dry seasons has been credited with accelerated melting of snowpack, resulting in depletion of water available during the summer season.

Dust storms are natural occurrences on the earth. The damage they pose largely is due to the increased frequency of their occurrences and the polluted composition of their payload. This pollution to the soil largely is the result of unhealthy and unsafe environmental practices. How we treat the soil, ranging from commercial farming practices to residential lawn care, impacts our environment. We need to do our part to institute safe farming practices that sustains the land. Residentially and commercially, we need to ensure that we fertilize properly and avoid harmful runoff to lakes and streams. It is so important that we live green, be green.