Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ecofriendly New Year's Resolutions

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Eight Earth-friendly New Years Resolutions from Environmental Defense

December 28, 2007

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In 2008 I pledge to ...

1. Replace my conventional light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. One of the simplest things you can do to save energy and pollution is to swap out your old incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Today’s high-tech bulbs dim, come in decorative shapes — and radiate a warm, rosy glow. If you’re not ready for a full-house makeover, resolve to start by changing just one light. See our bulb guide for details.

2. Calculate my carbon footprint and see what I can do to reduce it. Do you live in a large apartment building or a small house? Do you drive a hybrid car or a pickup truck? How many times a year do you fly? Taking stock of your habits is the place to start in cutting "carbs".

3. Make small changes at home. An easy place to start is unplugging your chargers and computers when you’re not using them. Another simple change that pays off: Turn down your thermostat in winter (55 degrees when away or at night) and up in summer (to 85 when away). Wash clothes in warm or cold water, not hot. See more adjustments that add up to energy savings.

4. Drive like the Earth depends on it. The way you drive can affect gas mileage and cut global warming pollution from your car's tailpipe. For one, traveling with a light load will increase fuel economy. And driving without rapidly accelerating and braking also improves gas mileage. Get more tips.

5. Buy carbon offsets to help offset my emissions further. If you've already slimmed down your carbon consumption as much as possible, there is more you can do. Buying carbon offsets neutralizes what you can't cut, like flying for business or heating your house.

6. Choose seafood that's good for me and the ocean. Did you know that wild salmon from Alaska comes from a well-managed fishery and is a much better choice than conventional farmed salmon? (And, fortunately, canned salmon is mainly wild pink or sockeye from Alaska.) Do you know which fish you should eat only in limited amounts to avoid mercury or PCBs? It’s all in our seafood guide.

7. Write my members of Congress demanding a strong global warming law. Time is running out to solve the global warming crisis. Waiting just two years to pass national climate legislation would mean we’d have to cut emissions twice as quickly.

8. Pass this list to my friends and family. If everyone you knew made small everyday changes, think what a big difference it would make! Together we can make 2008 a banner year for the environment.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wedded bliss is ecofriendly, research says

Divorce can take a heavy emotional toll, not only on families, but also on the environment. So says a new study by ecologist Jianguo Liu of Michigan State University. When couples separate and form a second household, their consumption of water, land, energy, and other resources jumps considerably. In the year 2000, about 15% of U.S. households were headed by divorced persons.

Liu found that the splitting of families contributes to urban sprawl by increasing the number of households - an increase of 6 million in the year 2000. In the same year, the separation of spouses increased the number of rooms to be heated and cooled by almost 36 million, found Liu.

Efficiency decreases after a divorce, found Liu and his colleague Eunice Yu, because households are composed of fewer people. Using a 2005 survey, the researchers found that per-person costs for electricity and water are 46% and 56% higher for divorced people than for those living in a married household.

Overall, Liu and Yu estimated that divorce increased water use in the U.S. by 627 billion gallons, at a cost of $3.7 billion. Divorce boosted electricity consumption in 2005 by 73.5 billion kilowatt-hours, about 2% of the nation's electricity, at a cost of nearly $7 billion.

It's greener, and more cost-effective, to stay together!

Source: Sid Perkins. "Divorce is not ecofriendly." Science News. December 8, 2007.

Keywords:: divorce, ecofriendly, urban sprawl, energy efficient

Quick Fact: Carbon Sequestering Deficit Looms Large

Why are greenhouse gases accumulating? On average, the growth of North American vegetation stores only 36% of the yearly emissions of CO2 from human activities, leaving a huge deficit that stays in the atmosphere and contributes to greenhouse gases. Specifically, that's 650 million metric tons of carbon sequestered (mostly in vegetation east of the Rockies) versus 1.8 billion tons emitted (from automobiles, power plants, plus the manufacturing of cement). (Reported in Science News 12/1/07, p. 341 in a summary of a publication by Andrew R. Jacobson in the Nov. 27 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Buy Carbon Offsets to Neutralize Your Air Travel

You may be concerned about the environmental impact of your holiday air travel. It's something to think about. A transcontinental plane,such as a 747, uses tens of thousands of pounds of fuel one takeoff. A single jet can produce as much nitrogen oxides in taking off, idling, and landing as a car driven 26,500 miles.

But what to do? Sometimes flying is unavoidable. You might consider buying carbon offsets to neutralize your travel emissions. Several companies offer carbon offsets for travel. These purchases shouldn’t be seen as environmental pardons, but they do have some benefit.

Here's how it works:
An individual calculates the amount of carbon he or she is personally responsible for (companies provide calculators), and then purchases an offset for that amount. The funds the offset company receives are used to finance projects that avoid, reduce, or absorb greenhouse gases through renewable energy, energy efficiency, or forest projects to bio-sequester carbon.The whole process, including the calculations, has the additional benefit of educating consumers about the impact of their travel.

The Tufts Climate Initiative has published a well-researched paper online that evaluates and compares the effectiveness and cost of 13 different companies that offer carbon offsets for airline travel. Of the 13, they recommend these four companies without reservation:
Climate friendly

Tufts Climate Initiative has also published a user-friendly pamphlet on the subject, available online.

For information about other ways to offset the greenhouse gases you generate, see “A Consumers Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers.”

Key words:: carbon offsets, airplane travel, holiday travel, green travel

Anja Kollmuss et al. “Voluntary Offsets for Air-Travel Carbon Emissions: Evaluations and Recommendations of Voluntary Offset Companies.” Tufts Climate Initiative. December 2006

”Flying Green: How to Protect the Climate and Travel Responsibly”. Tufts Climate Initiative.

A Consumers Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers. December 2006. Clean Air – Cool Planet.

"About the ecological footprint." Redefining Progress: The nature of economics.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

On Friday, Wyoming Condemns Wolves to Slaughter

Since I wrote the blog post last night about Yellowstone 's wolves, I have more news. Bad news. This morning I discovered a December 14, 2007 post about Wyoming's Gray Wolf Management Plan, issued by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The plan reassigns gray wolves in Wyoming from endangered species to "trophy animals" in some parts of the state (so hunters can shoot them for recreation) and "predators" in the rest of the state so that ranchers can shoot them. According to this plan by Wyoming's Game and Fish Dept, only 15 breeding pairs of gray wolves in the state is deemed an adequate number to maintain the population - about 100 wolves. (There are currently about 1500 in the state; biologists say the minimum number to maintain a healthy population in the state is 2500 to 3000.)

I blanched when I read the post about Wyoming's new wolf management plan, and ran outside to tell Ken. I somehow missed in my first reading of the article that the USFW service this week approved this plan! When I came back in and read it again, I couldn't believe it!

But still, somehow this does not mean that the wolves have been delisted from the list of federally protected endangered species. It only means that USFW approves of the state of Wyoming reclassifying them within the state. This approval by the USFW service is interpreted as a precursor to the USFW's federal delisting of the wolves, though. I believe the feds are still held up by the various lawsuits against delisting, from environmental groups such as the NRDC.

“It clearly shows that politics not science is running this process,” said the the executive director of the Jackson Hole [Wyoming] Conservation Alliance. “It’s too bad that the only recourse that conservation has may very well be a lawsuit.” [scroll down a couple of inches after you click on this link, to see the comments]

I'll be sending a check to the NRDC today.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wolves in Danger from the US Government - Once Again

It’s been only 12 years since gray wolves, after years of near-extinction, were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park. The initial group of 66 wolves were transplanted into the park from Canada beginning in 1995. Now, more than 1,545 wolves roam Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Biologists say that a minimum of 2,000 to 3,000 wolves are needed within the area in order to keep them from disappearing again.

The wolves have had tremendous popular support from the beginning. Their reintroduction has been by far the most publicized and celebrated of any wildlife reintroduction in the U.S. The wolves complete the Yellowstone ecosystem, which, without them, had too many hooved animals. The overabundance of some of the wolves' natural prey was altering the natural plant communities along stream banks, due to excessive trampling. With the wolves back on the scene, the Yellowstone natural community is much closer to what it was before most of the surrounding states were profoundly altered by development and livestock ranching.

The success of the growing wolf population has made a lot of money for the park, in sales of wolf paraphernalia, such as wolf T-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee cups, and books from park gift shops. The wolves have also drawn thousands of tourists and wildlife supporters to the area, people who pay to sleep and eat in the park's expensive lodges. My family has been to Yellowstone twice to seek wolf-sightings. We've camped at the Slough Creek primitive campsite, close to the northeastern corner of the park where the wolf dens have often been fairly close to a park road. Every morning in this part of the park, passionate wolf-addicts gather before dawn along the roadsides where certain packs of wolves are most likely to cross in their daily foraging rounds. The hopeful wolf-watchers set up spotting scopes on tripods, and bring out the high powered binoculars and telephoto lenses. Then everyone scans the horizon. Every few minutes a murmur goes up and down the string of watchers "Is that a wolf?" Nope, a coyote. "What's that?" Nah, a fox. "Wait...what's that? Is it? IS IT?"

On our first trip to Yellowstone, we never saw the wolves, due to inexperience about where and how to look. We were so disappointed, even though we enjoyed being there for the hiking and the wilderness and the camping. We saw lots of coyotes, even packs of coyotes, as well as black bears and grizzlies, elk, and pronghorn, and so on....but no wolves.

But on our second trip, we got up at 5:30 every morning and waited for sometimes hours, in the spots where they'd been seen recently. We were rewarded by seeing members of the Slough Creek pack almost every day. We felt lucky to see them eating an elk they'd brought down, although we didn't see them make the kill.

Ranchers and hunters have been opposed to the wolf reintroduction from the beginning. Hunters say the wolves compete with them for native game, particularly elk. Ranchers say the wolves kill their calves. Wolves do occasionally kill calves and sheep. This year they've killed 330 domestic animals. But the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service compensates ranchers for loss of livestock.

The ranchers and hunters apparently are concerned only with their own livelihoods and recreation, respectively. They don't appear to care about wolves, which were here long before we were. Wolves in the U.S. were decimated by an unprecedented extermination campaign in the early 1900s, funded by the U.S. government, which distributed posters encouraging people to shoot wolves on sight, and even offered a bounty for dead wolves. It worked. There were virtually no wolves left in the lower 48, although before Europeans settled North America, wolves were common throughout every region of the continental United States.

If US Fish&Wildlife's plan to take wolves off the endangered species list goes through, hunters and trappers would be allowed to obtain permits to kill wolves. As long as at least 450 wolves survived, the animal would remain fair game. If their numbers dropped below 300, they'd be put back on the endangered species list.

Environmental organizations are planning lawsuits to halt the delisting. US Fish & Wildlife has a backup plan that would keep wolves on the endangered species list, but loosen restrictions on when the wolves can be killed, and would allow hunters to kill wolves for going after their natural prey - elk. This provision is to accommodate hunters who hunt elk for recreation.

If you want to help protect wolves, consider supporting Natural Resources Defense Council's campaign to protect them from delisting.

Source: Matthew Brown. Associated Press. "Ranchers howling about rise in population of gray wolves". Charlotte Observer, Nov 24, 2007.

Key words :: wolves, Yellowstone, endangered species, USFW, hunters, elk, ranchers, livestock

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bird-protecting chocolate and coffee

Chocolate or specialty coffee can be an easy holiday gift to shop for. If you want to do a good deed for the planet at the same time, look for double or triple certified coffee or chocolate. When you buy these certified goodies, you're supporting sustainable livelihoods in tropical rainforests - livelihoods that don't involve clear-cutting of forests. Below are links to help you shop for these certified items online.

Coffee and Chocolate Labels to Look For:

* "Certified Organic"

* "Fair Trade Certified" ensures that companies pay farmers fair prices. More than 100 U.S. coffee companies have licensing agreements with TransFair, including Starbucks, Peet's and Green Mountain. Yet fair trade coffee still represents less than one percent of Starbucks' total coffee sales. The largest chocolate manufacturers, including Mars and Nestle, have yet to go fair trade.

* Certified "Shade Grown" includes the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center's "Bird Friendly" label as well as Audubon and Rainforest Alliance's shade-grown labels.

* Triple certified—"Organic," "Shade Grown" and "Fair Trade"—products are the ideal but currently hard to find.

Here are a few sources of certified coffee and chocolate:
Equal Exchange's Organic Breakfast Blend ($8/12 oz.;; 781-830-0303)
Caffe Ibis's Organic Espresso Roast Blend ($9.49/12 oz.;; 888-740-4777)
Grounds for Change Sumatra Roast ($8.95/12 oz.;; 800-796-6820)
Cafe Canopy's triple certified French Roast ($10.50/12 oz.;; 888-299-1147)
La Siembra Group's Cocoa Camino (; 613-235-6122) hot chocolate, chocolate bars. Buy at, and
Green & Black's and Maya Gold Chocolate $3.50-$4 for a 100-gram bar (
Equal Exchange (see above) hot-cocoa mix ($6 for a 12-oz. can)
See Coffee and Chocolate product reports at
Source for the info above:

Why does shade-grown chocolate matter to birds?

Lots of those birds that visit your yard during summer migrate annually to and from Latin America where their habitat is being increasingly converted to sun-grown chocolate plantations.

Chocolate begins with the cacao plant, which is native to the rain forests of Central and South America. For more than a thousand years, cacao plants were cultivated throughout the forest under a lush canopy of shade.

While much cacao is still grown in the traditional way, many growers have cleared the forests to cultivate the trees in open plantations, leading to a host of environmental problems:

* Deforestation of traditional cacao farms adds to the loss of tropical forests that is already occurring at an alarming rate in Central and South America and Africa.

* Loss of forest habitat in this region is directly linked to a shrinking migratory songbird population worldwide.

* When trees are cleared, natural predators that keep insects in check are no longer present, so farmers turn to powerful pesticides that harm people and wildlife.

* Cacao plants rely entirely on tiny flies called midges for their pollination. Without these specialized insects, the world's supply of chocolate would be in jeopardy. And as rainforests are cleared, pollinators like the midge are in jeopardy.

The nice thing about eating certified chocolate is that the good feeling from supporting a sustainable and wildlife-friendly industry offsets the guilt from eating the chocolate! It works for me.

Source: Chocolate for the Birds. National Wildlife Federation. Where to Buy Organic Chocolate.

Keywords :: bird-friendly, certified coffee, certified chocolate, fair trade certified, environmental gift