Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Green Cleaners

Of course the holiday season is upon us, with lots of magic and merriment. But as wonderful as this time of year is for many of us, the planet isn't quite so happy. The holiday season produces a lot of waste. Household waste jumps an astounding 25 percent in December, according to the EPA. That excess "25 percent" totals 1 million tons of trash.

So as we head into the holiday season, let's all agree to take it easy on the Earth and try to reduce that insane amount of waste that seems to come with our festivities. From us all at Green Cleaners we wish you a Very Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year.

We look forward to seeing you very soon!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Apes 'threatened by climate change'

Some species of monkeys and apes are in danger of being wiped out by global warming, say scientists. A new study suggests that many of the animals will not survive if temperatures around the world rise by just 2C.

Those that cannot adapt could be driven to extinction, experts warn. The species most at risk are the already endangered gorillas and colobine monkeys, say the British researchers.

The study, published online in the journal Animal Behaviour, pinpoints which primates are are most threatened by climate change. Old World populations in Africa will be hardest hit, especially species such as colobines whose diets are mainly leaf-based, the scientists predict.

New World monkeys in South America are much less likely to be affected by a rise of 2C in average global temperature. However, they would not be spared if temperatures rose by 4C, causing their habitats to become fragmented.

The researchers coupled climate models with an analysis of behaviour, diet and group size of different primate species across the world. African monkeys and apes with leafy diets are vulnerable because their habitats are so restricted, being confined to a narrow region of the equator. Fruit-eating species such as the baboons and guenon monkeys of Africa typically have a much wider latitudinal range and could cope with more variable climatic conditions.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Green Cleaners on Channel News Asia - 'Eco Ventures'

As featured on Channel News Asia's 'Eco Venture' highlight in November 2009. Green Cleaners' director and founder Colin Pudsey talks about the type of people that choose Green Cleaners and who can benefit from our eco friendly services.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A bit of humour for you :)

Award winning stand-up comedian Jon Richardson gets hot and bothered about living with climate change....

Monday, December 14, 2009

8 Ways to Give Up Buying Wrapping Paper Forever

Avoid store-bought supplies and still end up with a present, perfect....

We know you can't judge a book by its cover, or a present by its wrapping, but a pretty presentation can go a long way toward making your holidays merry and bright. But when you think about all the money you spend buying paper that gets cut, ripped, and then (hopefully) recycled, it's hard not to feel some green guilt. Here, we've tracked down eight ways to use what you have on hand—from empty cereal boxes to old magazines—to present your gifts in beautiful wrappings (without blowing the budget).

1. Prepare for Odd Sizes

Some gifts just don't wrap easily—like footballs, action figures, and body lotion. To keep the contents a secret until opening time, you need boxes—so why not try making your own? This tutorial from Eco-Artware shows you how to repurpose a Corn Pops box into a square cardboard container custom-sized for whatever you're giving. Keep the patterned side out for a fun and funky finished look, or show off the plain side and decorate with stamps, paint, or a simple bow.

2. Have a Boxing Day

If you're the type who prefers online ordering to braving the stores during the holidays, then chances are good you have a ton of cardboard boxes in your house—or on their way. Skip the paper entirely with this kid-friendly idea from Morton Skogly: just mix up some childsafe paint, collect some old or spare sponges, and let the little ones put their own stamp on your decorating. Plain cardboard works fine, but you can also use smaller boxes from your pantry, old shoe boxes, or even tissue boxes since the paint will cover the design.

3. Cut and Paste

When it comes to wrapping gifts, don't underestimate the power of your magazine rack. You know you're not going to read those weeklies from July, so why not put them to good use? This mosaic decoupage project from Bellenza lets you create bright, colorful patchworks by gluing one-inch squares cut from magazines to crumpled newspaper for a look that's both eco-friendly and inexpensive.

4. Let It Shine

Covering your gifts with recycled aluminum foil gives them a holiday sparkle worthy of even the fussiest decorator—just picture a pile of these underneath the tree, reflecting your new collection of LED lights. On smaller gifts, you won't even need to use tape, and you can finish off your wrapping job with ribbon, bows, or even a simple piece of twine or colored string. Then once the unwrapping chaos has settled, collect your foil and reuse it in the kitchen—or on next year's gifts.

5. Get on a Roll

Prefer a more traditional look? Try making your own wrapping paper from a roll of plain butcher paper. At A Little Hut, designer Patricia Zapata sketched a leafy design and let her kids color in the pattern; try drawing a winter- or holiday-themed picture instead, or just freehand it. In the end, you'll recycle this paper just as you would any other wrapping paper, but you'll spend a lot less making it than you would buying.

6. Try Stripping

We like this project from MAKE because it feels like a take-off on the classic wrapping-a-gift-in-the-Sunday-comics route—though the finished product is more magazine-spread chic than preschool birthday party. The woven design comes from cutting wavy lines on one sheet of paper that's big enough to wrap your gift; then cut strips from magazines, newspapers, construction paper, or any other paper you have on hand and thread them in an alternating over/under. You're right: this is a lot of work. But the reuse possiblities—and the looks you'll get when people hear you made the paper—will make it worth it.

7. Know When to Fold

Want to give your gifts a more luxurious look? Try upcycling old fabric—shirts, sheets, pillowcases, towels, napkins—by dyeing, marbling, or painting it, and then folding it around your present for a unique wrap job. If you don't have any spare cloth on hand, look for old (good condition) pieces at your local thrift store or at yard sales; give yourself a bonus if you can find something (like an apron, kitchen towels, or placemats) that your recipient will use again.

8. Take a Bow

Then there's that perfect finishing touch: the bow. Anyone who's found a bag of unusable crumpled bows in last year's holiday carton will understand the relief of having just as many as you need, in just the right colors, without having extras to store; this year, try making your own from strips of magazine pages or paper cut to length and folded onto each other. You can also use pages from old books, scrapbook paper, or even spare photos to add an even more personal design to each present.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Climate change puts us all in the same boat. One hole will sink us all

Global warming does not respect borders. A mindset shift is required if world leaders are to save us from ourselves - Says former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan....

The UN climate change conference in Copenhagen offers the prospect of a robust political deal, endorsed by the world's leaders and witnessed by the world's people, that sets out clear targets and a timeline for translating it into law. To be a truly historic achievement, such a deal must do two things.

First, it must lay the basis for a global regime and subsequent agreements that limit global temperature rise in accordance with the scientific evidence. Second, it must provide clarity on the mobilisation and volume of financial resources to support developing countries to adapt to climate change. The stakes are enormous. Economic growth has been achieved at great environmental and social cost, aggravating inequality and human vulnerability. The irreparable damage that is being inflicted on ecosystems, agricultural productivity, forests and water systems is accelerating. Threats to health, life and livelihoods are growing. Disasters are also increasing in scale and frequency.

But despite the mounting evidence of negative impacts, reaching a deal will not be easy. It will require extraordinary political courage – both to cut the deal and to communicate its necessity to the public.

A mindset shift is required. Distrust and competition persist between regions and nations, manifest in a "no, you must show your cards first" attitude that has dogged the negotiations leading up to Copenhagen. This has to be overcome.

A deal that is not based on the best scientific evidence will be nothing better than a line in the sand as the tide comes in. But short-term considerations, including from special interest groups and electoral demands, are working against long-term solutions.

Success in reaching a deal will require leaders to think for future generations, and for citizens other than their own. It will require them to think about inclusive and comprehensive arrangements, not just a patched up compilation of national or regional interests.

A deal that stops at rhetoric and does not actually meet the needs of the poorest and most climate vulnerable countries simply will not work. The climate cannot be "fixed" in one continent and not another. Climate change does not respect national borders. We are all in the same boat; a hole at one end will sink us all.

For it to work, climate justice must be at the heart of the agreement. An unfair deal will come unstuck. Industrialised countries such as the United States must naturally take the lead in reducing emissions and supporting others to follow suit, but developing countries like India or China also have an increasing responsibility to do so as their economies continue to grow.

Tragically, it is the poorest and least responsible who are having to bear the brunt of the climate challenge as rising temperatures exacerbate poverty, hunger and vulnerability to disease for billions of people. They need both immediate help to strengthen their climate resilience as well as long-term support to enable them to adapt to changing weather patterns, reduce deforestation, and pursue low-emissions, clean energy growth strategies.

The deal must include a package of commitments in line with the science and the imperative of reducing global emissions by 50-85% relative to 2000 levels by 2050.

This requires a schedule for richer countries to move to 25-40% emission cuts by 2020 from 1990 baselines; clear measures for emerging economies to cut emissions intensity; and clarity about both immediate and longer term finance and technical support for developing countries, notably the poorest and most vulnerable among them.

Will we get there? The targets that have been proposed for emission reductions by many industrialised countries such as the EU, Japan and Norway are encouraging, as are those being made by the big emerging economies including Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea.

Recent announcements by the US on emission targets represent a significant shift and provide a basis for scaling up commitments in the coming years. So does the recognition by emerging economies that they also have a role in supporting the most vulnerable countries.

Welcome too are the proposals for financial support to LDCs and small island states made at the Commonwealth summit in Trinidad, as well as proposals by the Netherlands, France, and the UK, among others.

But much greater specificity on finance is needed. Existing official development assistance (ODA) commitments to help the poorest countries meet the Millennium Development Goals need to be met. And significant additional finance that is separate from and additional to ODA needs to be mobilised to support them meet the incremental costs generated by climate change.

A deal that is not clear on the finance will be both unacceptable to developing countries, and unworkable. Finding the additional resources and communicating its necessity will not be easy, particularly in the current economic climate, but it must be done.

A successful deal could incentivise not only good stewardship of forests and more sustainable land use, but also massive investment into low-carbon growth and a healthier planet, including in sectors such as energy generation, construction and transportation.

And it could usher in an era of qualitatively new international co-operation based on common but differentiated responsibilities – not just for managing climate change, but for human development, social justice and global security.

Ultimately, at stake is whether our leaders can work to help us save ourselves from … well, from ourselves. The legacy of today's politicians will be determined in the weeks to come.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Please help the world

"Please Help the World", film from the opening ceremony of the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 (COP15) in Copenhagen from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. Shown on December 7, 2009 at COP15.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Plea over chemical in baby bottles

Campaigners are calling for baby bottles containing the Bisphenol A chemical to be removed from UK shelves.

Scientists, charities and representatives from the National Childbirth Trust said there is "compelling" scientific evidence that the chemical is linked to breast cancer and other conditions. Scientists have long been divided on whether Bisphenol A (often abbreviated to BPA) causes health problems in people after several lab studies showed problems in mice, including changes to the reproductive system. The chemical is widely used in plastics and is commonly found in food and drink containers. Some experts believe young children may be particularly vulnerable.

In March, baby bottle manufacturers in the US removed BPA from their products, saying they were reacting to consumer demand. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently reviewing BPA after experts questioned its view that BPA remains safe for food containers and baby bottles.

Breast Cancer UK has released a survey of more than 2,000 adults which found that 50 per cent strongly agree and another 29 per cent agree "it is important that the UK Government acts in a precautionary way when it comes to protecting babies and very young children from BPA". It also published a letter to Health Secretary Andy Burnham from a group of scientists backing its No More BPA campaign.

The experts, from universities in Stirling, Ulster, London, Plymouth and Reading urged the Government "to adopt a standpoint consistent with the approach taken by other governments who have ended the use of BPA in food contact products marketed at children".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Copenhagen climate change talks must fail, says top scientist

The scientist who convinced the world to take notice of the looming danger of global warming says it would be better for the planet and for future generations if next week's Copenhagen climate change summit ended in collapse.

In an interview with the Guardian, James Hansen, the world's pre-eminent climate scientist, said any agreement likely to emerge from the negotiations would be so deeply flawed that it would be better to start again from scratch. "I would rather it not happen if people accept that as being the right track because it's a disaster track," said Hansen, who heads the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

"The whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation. If it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing then [people] will spend years trying to determine exactly what that means." He was speaking as progress towards a deal in Copenhagen received a boost today, with India revealing a target to curb its carbon emissions. All four of the major emitters – the US, China, EU and India – have now tabled offers on emissions, although the equally vexed issue of funding for developing nations to deal with global warming remains deadlocked.

Hansen, in repeated appearances before Congress beginning in 1989, has done more than any other scientist to educate politicians about the causes of global warming and to prod them into action to avoid its most catastrophic consequences. But he is vehemently opposed to the carbon market schemes – in which permits to pollute are bought and sold – which are seen by the EU and other governments as the most efficient way to cut emissions and move to a new clean energy economy.

Hansen is also fiercely critical of Barack Obama – and even Al Gore, who won a Nobel peace prize for his efforts to get the world to act on climate change – saying politicians have failed to meet what he regards as the moral challenge of our age.

In Hansen's view, dealing with climate change allows no room for the compromises that rule the world of elected politics. "This is analagous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill," he said. "On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can't say let's reduce slavery, let's find a compromise and reduce it 50% or reduce it 40%."

He added: "We don't have a leader who is able to grasp it and say what is really needed. Instead we are trying to continue business as usual."

The understated Iowan's journey from climate scientist to activist accelerated in the last years of the Bush administration. Hansen, a reluctant public speaker, says he was forced into the public realm by the increasingly clear looming spectre of droughts, floods, famines and drowned cities indicated by the science.

That enormous body of scientific evidence has been put under a microscope by climate sceptics after last month's release online of hacked emails sent by respected researchers at the climate research unit of the University of East Anglia. Hansen admitted the controversy could shake public's trust, and called for an investigation. "All that stuff they are arguing about the data doesn't really change the analysis at all, but it does leave a very bad impression," he said.

The row reached Congress today, with Republicans accusing the researchers of engaging in "scientific fascism" and pressing the Obama administration's top science adviser, John Holdren, to condemn the email. Holdren, a climate scientist who wrote one of the emails in the UEA trove, said he was prepared to denounce any misuse of data by the scientists – if one is proved.

Hansen has emerged as a leading campaigner against the coal industry, which produces more greenhouse gas emissions than any other fuel source. He has become a fixture at campus demonstrations and last summer was arrested at a protest against mountaintop mining in West Virginia, where he called the Obama government's policies "half-assed". He has irked some environmentalists by espousing a direct carbon tax on fuel use. Some see that as a distraction from rallying support in Congress for cap-and-trade legislation that is on the table.

He is scathing of that approach. "This is analagous to the indulgences that the Catholic church sold in the middle ages. The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption. Both parties liked that arrangement despite its absurdity. That is exactly what's happening," he said. "We've got the developed countries who want to continue more or less business as usual and then these developing countries who want money and that is what they can get through offsets [sold through the carbon markets]."

For all Hansen's pessimism, he insists there is still hope. "It may be that we have already committed to a future sea level rise of a metre or even more but that doesn't mean that you give up.

"Because if you give up you could be talking about tens of metres. So I find it screwy that people say you passed a tipping point so it's too late. In that case what are you thinking: that we are going to abandon the planet? You want to minimise the damage."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Siberia melting away

If you live in a developed country, you're pretty well insulated from climate change. Shifts in weather patterns, heavier rainfall, gradually rising sea levels and temperature increases - at the moment western society absorbs these changes without us really noticing much difference. But for the indigenous peoples of the arctic who live on one of the front lines of climate change, such shifts in the planet's behaviour are much more obvious.

The Nenets people of the Yamal peninsula are nomadic reindeer herders who live within the Arctic circle on the northern coast of Siberia. In summer they graze their herds on the tundra of the peninsula, and in winter as the ground freezes they move south to milder parts of the Siberian steppes. They use the frozen surface of the landscape to cross the large rivers that criss-cross the peninsula. But things are changing.

The arctic is the most sensitive area of the planet to climate change. While the global average temperature has risen by around 0.8 degrees, some parts of Siberia have warmed by as much as five or six. And so the Nenets have noticed the freeze is happening later and later in the year. The reindeer herders have to wait longer and longer before they can move their animals south across frozen ground.

Here, on the frontiers of the world, the warming of Siberia is already threatening a way of life that has remained fairly constant for thousands of years. It's not only that the Nenets have to move later in the year - many of the freshwater lakes that dot the landscape are leaking away as the frozen walls of earth that contain the water melt, and collapse. And so the Nenets are also losing the fishing that provides one of their main sources of food.

Eternal ice
Siberia is a landscape that's underpinned by frozen ground called permafrost, but this ground is beginning to thaw. Off the coast, the coastline and even whole islands made of permafrost are vulnerable to an Arctic sea that is increasingly turbulent as sea ice also disappears. The sea is literally washing away the melting land. Melting permafrost is causing roads, pipelines and foundations to collapse across the country. Every year, there's an increase in the area of ground that melts in summer and the area that doesn't refreeze in winter.

This isn't just a problem in the arctic. This melt has global implications, because it's going to speed up climate change. Permafrost is like a giant frozen compost heap - full of dead plants, animals, trees and other carbon-rich organic matter, and in places it reaches 1500m deep. While it stays frozen, that carbon is locked up in the ground. But as the arctic warms and the permafrost thaws, microbes start to break down that organic matter, releasing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

Flaming lakes
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas - probably causing, tonne for tonne, around 25 times more global warming over a hundred years than carbon dioxide. By lighting escaping methane, scientists can capture dramatic images of plumes of flame bubbling up through holes cut into Siberian lakes.

Melting permafrost is releasing additional emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change. Permafrost contains massive amounts of carbon - probably about twice what's currently in the atmosphere, and about five times more than all greenhouse gases we've released by burning fossil fuels. While we don't have a really clear understanding of how much carbon might be released as the permafrost melts, it's fair to say that any extra greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from melting permafrost are bad news.

Because of the melting permafrost, what happens in the arctic doesn't stay in the arctic. And so we need strong political action from world leaders at Copenhagen. We need to control the warming that's leading the arctic to melt away. It's probably too late to stop climate change ending the Nenets' traditional way of life for good. But if we don't act now, that's going to be the case for pretty much everyone.