Much has been made of the potential sequester the U.S. faces this New Years’ Eve, which the masses have affectionately labeled the “fiscal cliff.”  Well, with the possibility of large impacts to the average person and small business, rightly so.  However, what has not been rightly emphasized, in our opinion, is the potentially devastating effects this cliff could have on our nation’s environmental sector.  The cliff would lead to higher taxes and governmental budget cuts in the defense department, yes.  But what is less well-known is that the governmental cuts will also most likely include environmental victims.

For one, the energy industry could be significantly hurt, both at governmental and private sector levels.  Solar energy contractors who rely on receiving current 1603 cash grants for installation projects will not see those cash grants should the US see the cliff.  This could strongly hinder the financing of solar energy projects, depleting a relatively small but significant portion of the necessary cash for such projects.

Moreover, the cliff would trigger a $148 million retraction of funds from the US Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program.  To help put this into perspective, this loss is the equivalent of cutting the US Department of Energy’s solar energy program completely in half.  These cuts to agencies like the Department of Energy threaten not only a decrease in energy development, but also a decrease in energy usage, as programs would lose funding for research and loans used now for innovation projects.  The future would be increasingly questionable.

A second instance would have harmful effects for the US National Parks, National Forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands.  For instance, the 258,000 jobs scattered among US National Parks and the 35,000 jobs among wildlife refuges could be jeopardized by the expected cuts in science and law enforcement positions at these establishments.  Similarly, the 2 million plus jobs within the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the US National Forests could also find themselves in limbo, as awaited budget cuts loom large.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, which employs 66 million scientists, educators, researchers, and technicians, among others, could see devastating effects, as well.

As the list goes on, the bottom line remains ever evident.  In cutting governmental agencies’ budgets, the environmental agencies will surely be among those who see drastic cuts.  Further, those cuts could prove disastrous, and at the very least, detrimental to the US’s management, protection, and research of the environment.  There are millions of jobs at risk, in addition to the health and lives of the organisms living among the zones over which these agencies keep watch.

Overall, based on the observations and predictions surrounding the seemingly imminent sequester our government currently wrestles, there could be hampering effects on government agencies who will see severe cuts, US citizens who will see layoffs, and wildlife who will see the harmful effects of increased neglect.  So God Speed to our government representatives, in hopes that their efforts add up to a reasonable solution that can avoid harmful cuts to the essential beings of such agencies, people, and wildlife.

Sources for More Reading:
http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/guest-post-what-would-the-fiscal-cliff-mean-for-the-u.s.-solar-market
http://www.governing.com/news/state/gov-fiscal-cliff-full-coverage.html
http://www.forbes.com/sites/eco-nomics/2012/11/15/the-fiscal-cliff-and-the-environment/
http://blog.cleanwateraction.org/2012/12/06/dont-let-the-fiscal-cliff-devastate-our-environment/

English: Pine tree (Pinus strobus) needles in ...

English: Pine tree (Pinus strobus) needles in the winter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While we still have some time left to enjoy our Christmas trees, wreaths and garland, we do have to decide what we are going to do with these items after the holidays are over. Of course, one option is to sit your tree curbside to be picked up by your local trash collector. A glance at the pickup schedule will give you the dates for curbside pickup. Most localities will recycle these materials for mulch.

If you would like to start the year off right with a strong commitment to living green, there are other alternatives for your greenery. Today we will review a few of these ideas, and maybe you will find a suggestion you want to try.

  • Some Christmas trees can be recycled for medicinal purposes, such as pine sap used as an antibacterial to seal wounds. See website http://www.livestrong.com/article/256118-uses-of-pine-tar-ointment/. Along these same lines, pine needles can be used for medicinal teas, which are purportedly beneficial for antibacterial infections. This idea does come with a caveat. It is mandatory that you know what kind of tree you have. Many trees on the market today are fir, rather than pine. You do not want to consume fir needles ever.
  • Thickener. Pine cones can be ground up and used as a thickener like flour or corn starch. The inner bark of the pine tree is full of Vitamin C. Once again, you must know definitively that you have a pine tree.
  • Firewood and starter. Once the wood has dried out completely, it can be used for firewood. It is important to monitor the buildup of creosote in your chimney as these softer woods do cause a fast buildup. However, these products are great for outdoor use in bonfires or fire pits.
  • Fish covers and habitats. If you have a pond, sunken trees make a great fish cover. It is important that you check local regulations prior to sinking trees in lakes to create fishing spots.
  • Fertilizer. Ground pine trees can be used in your home compost pile. If you have alkaline soil, this much will lower the pH.
  • Potpourri. The needles from pine, spruce or fir trees can be combined with other scented plants, cloves, or orange peels and essential oils to creat great scents for the home that also can be used for gifts.

If you are not interested in taking on any of the above-mentioned projects, you still can discard your Christmas tree in a manner that is environmentally conscientious. The National Christmas Tree Association’s website contains very helpful information on conservation projects which use real Christmas trees. Some of these suggestions also make excellent projects for scouts and other community organizations. Please go to http://www.realchristmastrees.org/dnn/default.aspx for further information.

The Christmas holiday is a wonderful time to celebrate life, renewal and the environment. This gift-giving time presents a unique opportunity to give back to the earth. Your recycled trees are fully biodegradable and can be used in so many ways to live green, be green.

English: Used paper is collected for paper rec...

English: Used paper is collected for paper recycling in Ponte a Serraglio near Bagni di Lucca, Italy Deutsch: Altpapier auf einem Recyclinghof in Ponte a Serraglio bei Bagni di Lucca, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the stress, hustle and bustle of the holiday season makes it difficult to stay focused on green living, especially as it pertains to gift wrapping items, we at LGBG want our readers to know that eco-friendly gift wrapping materials are available.  This alternative will go a long way to make us all feel better about that heap of discarded wrapping paper, cards and gift tags that we see every Christmas morning.

There are a number of companies that make paper products from recycled materials that deserve to be mentioned.

  • Of The Earth makes paper products from “at least 50% recycled content from fibers derived from the Himalayan lotka bush“.  The products from this company are available in solid and festive patterns  The fibers in these papers are strong enough to make the paper reusable.  The paper products from Of The Earth are extra special because their holiday selections are embedded with wildflower seeds that can be planted in the spring.  Of The Earth also offers sustainable ribbons with beautiful designs that enhance any gift.  http://www.custompaper.com/papers/gift_wrap/gift_wrap.html
  • Fish Lips Paper Designs sells holiday gift wrap made from at least 50% recycled paper.  This paper is printed with soy-based inks and hosts a smooth satin finish.  This company touts that its paper “will make even the worst gift look fun and exciting”.
  • Botanical Paperworks delivers paper products made with recycled paper, also with embedded wildflower seeds.  Your gifts delivered with this company’s cards and tags are special because “they just keep on giving”.
  • Lucky Crow Gift Bags is a leader in the growing trend of fabric gift bags.  These colorful sacks can be used for storage, display or they can be regifted.
  • These alternatives to traditional paper gift products offer a great way to protect the environment.  With all of these suggestions, we can have beautifully wrapped gifts without destroying trees.  This definitely is a way to celebrate the season while protecting the environment, which helps us live green, be green.

Source for this article:  http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/latest/christmas-holidays-gift-wrap

Are you tired of the way your living room looks? Do you find yourself browsing through interior decorating magazines looking for ideas, only to be scared off by the prices for room re-dos? Do you yearn for a fresh new look for one of the most popular rooms in the house? If so, you are far from alone. Redecorating the living room is a common item on the household To-Do list. Fortunately, with a little time, creativity and a bit of money—but not too much—anyone can transform their drab and dull living room into a warm, environmentally friendly and inviting area the whole family will love.

Budget Decorating

One of the first things you should do when sprucing up your living room is determine what you want for the focal point. This can be the fireplace, a television set, or an attractive piece of artwork. Once you decide on the main feature of your room, set up conversation areas around it with furniture and other accessories.

Focal Point

Rearranging where and how your items are situated can make a huge impact on your room in very little time. Instead of putting everything against the walls, read up on furniture placement and put chairs and other items closer together so people can visit easily. If you can, try to have seating for at least six people in the living room. If you’re not sure how to stay environmentally aware while purchasing your focal point, you can buy antique chairs and tables; that’s an easy way to stay green.

Accents

Add an accent to the focal point; this could be an attractive vase filled with long-stem red roses, an interesting piece of sculpture, or a long painting behind the sofa. GreenYourDecor.com suggests you create your own arrangement to fit any them, color scheme or occasion and gives a step-by-step guide to creating your own. You can use anything fresh; from cranberries, to oranges, to lemons, you will have a more organic setting in your home.

If you feel your living room could stand to have a bit more color, but you are nervous about painting the entire thing a vivid shade of red, blue, orange or other bright color, consider an accent wall. A Houzz article features beautiful photos of accent walls in various colors. As a bonus, you don’t need a ton of paint or time to create an eye-catching wall that adds a definite touch of pizzazz to the room without feeling overwhelming.

Drapes

The style and color of drapes in your living room can really impact the overall feel of the room. In most cases, the drapes should match the largest piece of furniture in the space. Changing the window coverings can be a relatively inexpensive way to jazz up the living room and make it look newer and more contemporary. Use more natural, organic material. Stay away from big name brands that use dyes, synthetic polyesters and nylons and silk. And shop local; buy products manufactured within 500 miles or less.

Floors

The floors should be a bit darker than the walls. Achieving this can be done in a variety of ways; wooden floors could be stained in a darker tone, area rugs in deep colors could be placed over the carpet, or if you have it in your budget, you could re-carpet the area in a rich tone that complements the walls. HGTV.com suggests to use bamboo and eucalyptus because they grow quickly; they’re hard woods and are sustainable.

Small living room

Oroeco is running a campaign to “realign the economy for GOOD!”  This group has developed an app that tracts the sustainability of individual spending and investment choices.  With the app, an individual can “link his or her spending and investment transactions to scientific data that calculates the impact of each choice.  In addition to improving the environment, participants can compete against friends and earn “oro” points, which can be cashed in for both virtual and real world prizes.  This program clearly allows people to make better environmental choices and encourages businesses to produce more sustainable products or lose money.

Oroeco recently launched a campaign on the crowd funding platform, Indieggo, as a means of acquiring additional fucning to complete the app.  The campaign specifics are presented in the exceptional Indieggo style– very clear and concise with top tabs and sidebars that thoroughly detail all the aspects of the application, including galleries, updates, comments and funders.  There also is a bar graph that accurately notes the funding received to date, as well as a clock that displays the time remaining in the campaign.

The Oroeco app that they are working to launch, more specifically,  provides useful tools to aid users in their education on the personal impacts of their spending and investment choices.  The Oro 1.0 app, as it is called, tracks spending transactions and provides a visual of the climate change impact of each transaction a person makes.  It allows users to set goals, and it gives reminders to fulfill them.  Users can customize the appearance of their Oroeco profiles, and they can compare and compete against friends to earn rewards for better investments.  There also is a sidebar which delineates perks for the different levels of contributions, the expected dates of delivery, and the number of perks available, as well as the total already claimed.

Oroeco is extremely passionate about climate change and has truly developed a unique program to involve each of us in the movement to live green.  Unlike most current “green” applications, Oroeco uses scientific data to provide a clear picture of the impact of our personal choices on the environment.  Oroeco is backed by a solid team of scientists and engineers to accomplish this goal.  Ultimately, in order to be successful, the company needs funds to pay for a user interface designer to make its platform totally functional.

The idea here is a great one worthy of consideration and support.  Please go to http://www.indiegogo.com/oroeco to learn about this exciting project.  LGBG encourages support for Oroeco financially so that we all can benefit from its work to help people and live green, be green.

Crowd funding powers green movement

          Crowd funding powers green movement

INDIEGOGO

With the advent of crowd funding, a popular business funding approach that allows good ideas that do not fit the pattern required by conventional financiers to attract cash and break through, Indiegogo clearly is a leader in this industry.  This global platform allows people all over the world to raise money, millions of dollars, for all types of campaigns.

Indiegogo presents a refreshing and attractive website, with fully functional tabs on the top and sidebars that are engaging and simple to follow.  This site incorporates lots of graphs and charts, thereby giving customers the power to make educated decisions on where to spend their hard earned money.  The site provides an excellent education on fundraising campaigns, and the company does not charge a fee or require an application  to get started.  Indiegogo invites inquirers to design a campaign and raise funds by engaging others to connect with their passion for a cause.  For the novice in crowd funding, this website provides thousands of success stories which anyone can browse to find inspiration.  It also displays featured successful campaigns with in-depth descriptions of programs and the funds raised.

This company’s “Customer Happiness” tab reinforces its emphasis and commitment to customer satisfaction.  A review of this section indicates easy accessibility to knowledge based information, help center access and contact information.  Indiegogo uses a step-by-step approach to browse the site, learn how to design a campaign and to follow through with the creation.  It hosts a well delineated breakdown of types of causes, entrepreneurial sectors, quick picks, locations and partners.

Indiegogo is the go-to company for crowd funding applications.  It is a great source to seek funding for fundraising campaigns, particularly for the green movement.  The impressive list of partners and supporters on the website speaks strongly of the role of this company as an industry leader.  As such, this platform comes highly recommended by LGBG as a great place to initiate programs to raise money to help us live green, be green.

Crowd funding powers green movement

Crowd funding powers green movement

The conservation movement and the business world are typically portrayed in the mass media as two entities locked in continuous conflict. They are seen as two opposing viewpoints always at loggerheads. How many times, whether it is in a movie or in TV, have we seen this plot unfold: unscrupulous business men want to engage in an action for profit, no matter what the cost? A group of typically plucky youth then engages them in a variety of ambiguous legal and illegal ways and the day is saved. The businessmen are defeated and the environment is saved, or possibly more environmental damage is deterred. However, conservationists around the country are beginning to challenge this notion of eternal conflict and look for a solution in sustainable growth.

One conservatory group taking charge in this movement is the Sierra Foothill Conservancy.  The Conservancy owns outright 6,500 acres of land and manages another 20,000 for ranchers in the counties of Fresno, Madera, Merced and Mariposa in California. At first this may seem to be an oxymoron. We have conservationists managing land on behalf of ranchers and participating in the razing of cattle themselves. Admittedly, it was a controversial idea at first, but over the past decade, studies have shown that cattle grazing can help the land, especially vernal pools, temporary collections of water that provide crucial habitat for native plants and invertebrates.[1]This partnership has spread to other industries that one typically finds at odds with the conservation movement:

Other conservationists are teaming up with private timber investors such as the Lyme Timber Company based in New Hampshire. The company acquires quality habitat that doubles as timberland, gives up development rights by selling conservation easements to land trusts and public agencies throughout the U.S., then logs the land in a sustainable way to generate an income.

Timber is harvested at or below the annual rate of growth, said Peter Stein, the company’s managing director, and harvesting methods are third party certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry.

The approach is key, Stein said, as conservationists aim to preserve larger tracts of land – in the hundreds of acres – which are too expensive to buy outright.

The Nature Conservancy is also partnering with the timber industry in California and Alaska to restore salmon by felling trees to create stream habitat.

The group has also partnered with the fishing industry. It bought out fishing permits in California and in Maine to protect millions of acres of ocean habitat, then leased the permits back to fishermen who agreed to fish sustainably.”1

                The whole idea rests on the notion that certain actions are never going to be entirely deterred. Our entire economic system rests on the notion of continual, infinite growth and that requires the input of base resources. Whether they are lumber, cattle, salmon, or what we extract from the earth, they all play a vital role in our economy. Recognizing that a total determent is impossible, these conservationists have recognized the value of partnership. Much like the arguments for marijuana legalization, the value of this idea rests on mutual benefits. The argued benefits of the legalization of marijuana are the added tax revenue/jobs, reduction in profits for drug dealers, and development and control of a safe and well regulated product. The idea here is very similar. Instead of having no control over the outcome, they now have some input. In doing so, both sides reach a compromise where there is sustainability, where before the loggers/ranchers could have possibly done as much devastation as they please. At the same time, they are turning a profit that allows them to further invest in continued conservation. It’s a simple case of economics. Instead of engaging in zero sum activities (where one side’s win is another’s loss) they are engaging in a mutually beneficial contract. It is truly the tenets of capitalism and democracy at work for the best.

By Sean Maguire


[1] http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/12/15/4486985/conservationists-team-up-with.html

On this good green news Monday, LGBG has opted to use this opportunity, in light of the tragic events at  Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, to reflect on the meaning and obligation of green living.  We know that green living means different things to each of us, from protecting the air, land and water to recycling and not polluting to eating healthy diets and getting exercise.  No matter the individual perspective towards green living, I think it is safe to say that there are basic tenets central to our understanding of green living.  They are as follows:

  • The choices made by any one individual affects all of us.
  • The choices we make today will affect us at some point in the future.
  • When we speak about saving the planet or the environment, we are talking about saving ourselves.

With this understanding, it is important for everyone to make living green an obligation, not a choice.  The greatest obligation we have is to our planet and to our children, each and every one of them.  They are the future of this land and as stewards of the Earth, we are obligated to deliver to them a clean, healthy environment.  It is our responsibility to love and protect our young and to do all that we can to ensure that they grow up to be healthy, happy and prosperous adults.  To that end, we are obligated to educate them.  We send them out to school each day with the expectation, and a very reasonable one, that they will return home to us.  In turn, our government has an obligation to provide a safe learning environment for our children and a guarantee that they will be protected and will be returned to us at the end of the day.

A major concern of green living is the safe and environmentally friendly design of buildings, and the conversation regarding this matter must be a top priority.  It is urgent that city planners, engineers, environmental consultants and elected officials design and build schools that are safe and secure from intruders, with the staff and technology to monitor all visitors and deny admission to anyone perceived to be a problem or who pose a potential danger to staff or students.  We know that buildings can be designed to be secure as our prisons are secure on any level that we need.

We also must address the safety of our society, especially our children, from a health perspective.  This begins with coming face-to-face with the issue of mental illness.  We need for every citizen to have access to health care.  This goes a long way to aid in the identification of people, young and old, with mental health or emotional problems, which apparently is a substantial portion of our population as evidenced by the widely used mental health diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder , bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  We must provide treatment for these individuals, just as we would for people with cancer, heart conditions, arthritis autism or any other physical anomaly.  A change in attitude that regards mental illness as a sickness will help families to come forth and seek help, rather than hiding these conditions so that a loved one will not be made to feel like a pariah in the community.

Green living obliges us to raise our children to respect our environment and the other people and animals who occupy this space with us.  Our choices on how we treat our children, what we feed their minds and bodies, and the examples that we set for them to follow will determine their physical and emotional development and well-being.  We must teach them to be kind to others and to never be a bully to any person or animal.

If we all accept green living as an obligation, not a choice, we can take a major step forward to heal from these recent tragedies and move forward to save our planet and our children.  Let’s all respond to the call of duty to live green, be green.

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Description unavailable

Description unavailable (Photo credit: theloushe)

In keeping with our mission to educate, inform and share all things green, LGBG is proud to recognize organizations that we feel are employing exceptional and unique approaches to accomplish their goals.  This week, we salute No Water – No Life (NWNL).  LGBG would like to thank Alison Jones, photographer and project director  for taking the time to share information with us about this very special organization.

NWNL is a very special project that uses photography, scientific research and stakeholder knowledge to raise public awareness on the importance of freshwater resources, the potential dangers associated with water degradation and the opportunities to manage these resources.  This organization is exceptional and noteworthy because of its unique approach to its mission.  NWNL has adopted a simplistic primary focus, namely watersheds.  It then uses beautiful and intriguing photography and videography to illustrate its premises.  We all know that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and NWNL’s pictures prove this point.

This project has cleverly selected six case study watersheds that document “current universal threats to freshwater systems,” and with the employment of photographers, scientists and interns, the team works to develop solutions to existing problems relative to water.  The background of the individuals involved in these projects range from natural resource management, conservation biology, restoration ecology, forest ecology, environmental education and conservation photography and videography.  To date, the NWNL teams have conducted 15 expeditions in the United States and Africa, with 5 more to go.

The NWNL team maintains the highest ethical standards in its research and photography practices, ensuring that the welfare of the ecosystems are maintained.  The photographers go to extreme lengths to respect the “rights, customs and values” of the stakeholders in the watersheds visited.  Also, whether on expeditions or within their offices, they strive to cover their carbon emissions.

LGBG invites you to visit the No Water – No Life website at http://nowater-nolife.org/index.html to learn about this organization and to peruse its stunning photographs which convey to the viewer the feeling that protection of the world’s watersheds is indeed a worthy cause.

No Water – No Life is a globally focused project that documents the availability of freshwater resources, raises public awareness and provides education to stakeholders through publications, lectures and exhibits to foster partnerships globally.  With the understanding that water is the key to life, NWNL truly is a dynamic force and a wonderful asset to our journey to live green, be green.

Photograph of Raritan River, copyright Alison M. Jones

Sources for this Article:
1.  Interview with Alison Jones, project director
2.  http://nowater-nolife.org/index.html

Exxon,by virtue of its operational sector, is usually a lightning rod for controversy. Whether it is due to the fact that its products contribute to global warming, or because everyone who works for the company is perceived to be like the individual in the cartoon below.

Image

Only $4.09 a gallon?

The result is that the company seemingly is always under attack. Perennially however, Exxon seems to do one thing right: forecasting energy trends. And by all accounts, the company sees North America as becoming a net energy exporter by 2025.

Exxon’s glowing predictions for the continent stem from North America becoming less reliant on coal-based power plants, and instead, depending more on energy efficient natural-gas-fired plants. Overall, the oil giant sees coal use dropping 33% from 2010 to 2025, a substantially larger increase than its previous 23% estimate.

In addition, because North America, and particularly the United States, contains an abundance of natural gas reserves, and is working to perfect the hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques needed to unlock them, the continent has become energy rich in the clean burning fuel of the future. As a result, North America will become the go-to source to feed the growing energy demands of industrialized nations. In fact, Exxon’s report states that, “Global energy demand will increase 35% from 2010 to 2040, with most of the increased demand coming from developing nations like India and China.” By setting the initiative of becoming a global superpower in clean energy technologies, North America has positioned itself well to become less reliant on foreign oil, while at the same positioning itself as a provider of clean energy for other nations.

Remarkably enough, “By 2040 developed nations like the US and Canada are expected to generate 80% more economic output than in 2010 but use the same amount of energy.” This speaks to North America’s attempt to be on the cutting edge of this breakthrough technology and to the unmistakable way in which innovation can change a nation from a net importer to net exporter. (I’m looking at you United States) As clean energy becomes more and more of a priority with each passing day, it is refreshing to see how the green movement has changed political decision making. Let’s continue to make sustainability a priority both at home and abroad so that we can all live green, and be green.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324339204578171583862191830.html?KEYWORDS=energy+exports