Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Crowded Earth: how many is too many?

Already straining to host seven billion souls, Earth is set to teem with billions more, and only a revolution in the use of resources can avert an environmental crunch, experts say.

As early as 1798, Thomas Malthus gloomily forecast that our ability to reproduce would quickly outstrip our ability to produce food, leading to mass starvation and a culling of the species.

But an industrial revolution and its impact on agriculture proved Malthus and later doomsayers wrong, even as our numbers doubled and redoubled with accelerating frequency.

"Despite alarmist predictions, historical increases in population have not been economically catastrophic," notes David Bloom, a professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard.

Today, though, it seems reasonable to ask if Malthus wasn't simply a couple of centuries ahead of the curve.

On October 31, the world's population is officially scheduled to hit seven billion -- a rise of two billion in less than a quarter century.

Over six decades, the global fertility rate has roughly halved, and amounts to a statistical 2.5 children per woman today.

But this varies greatly from country to country. And whether the planet's population eventually stabilises at nine, 10 or 15 billion depends on what happens in developing countries, mostly in Africa, with the fastest growth.

As our species has expanded, so has its devouring of the planet's bounty, from fresh water and soil richness to forests and fisheries.

At its current pace, humankind will need, by 2030, a second planet to satisfy its appetites and absorb its waste, the Global Footprint Network (GFN) calculated last month.

And through the coal, oil and gas that drive prosperity, we are also emitting greenhouse gases that alter the climate, potentially maiming the ecosystems which feed us.

"From soaring food prices to the crippling effects of climate change, our economies are now confronting the reality of years of spending beyond our means," GFN's president, Mathis Wackernagel, said.

French diplomat Brice Lalonde, one of two coordinators for next June's UN Conference on Sustainable Development, dubbed "Rio+20," said Earth's population rise poses a fundamental challenge to how we use resources.

"In 2030 there will be at least another billion people on the planet," Lalonde said.

"The question is, how do we boost food security and provide essential services to the billion poorest people but without using more water, land or energy?"

This is why, he said, Rio+20 will focus on practical things such as increasing cleaner sources in the world energy mix, smarter use of fresh water, building cities that are environmentally friendlier and raising farm yields without dousing the soil with chemicals.

But such options dwell far more on the impact of population growth than on the problem itself.

Braking fertility rates would help the human tally stabilise at eight billion and haul poor countries out of poverty, ease the strain on natural resources and reduce climate vulnerability, say advocates.

For some experts, voluntary birth control is the key.

Geoff Dabelko, director of the Environmental Change and Security Programme at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, cites Somalia as a case study of what happens when women have no access to contraception.

Racked by civil war and poverty, its population is projected to grow from about 10 million today to 22.6 million by 2050. It has the eighth-highest birth rate in the world and an average of seven children per family.

Even before the country fell into a full-fledged crisis, a third of its children were severely underweight, according to UNICEF. Ninety-nine percent of married Somali women have no access to family planning.

Many economists, though, argue that the answer lies more in reducing poverty and boosting education, especially of women.

A 2010 study in Colombia found family planning explained less than 10 percent of the country's fertility fall. The real driver was improved standards of living.

Even so, at summits that seek to shape Earth's future, tackling population growth head-on is almost taboo.

"When I attended the UN environment conference in Stockholm (in 1972), the No. 1 item on the agenda was out-of-control population growth," recalled Paul Watson, head of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a radical green group.

"When I attended the 1992 conference (in Rio), it wasn't even on the agenda. No one talked about it any more."

Demography was similarly absent from the UN's 2002 Johannesburg Summit, when Earth's population had climbed to six billion.

Why does "how many is too much" remain absent from the top tables?

One perceived reason is the opposition by religious conservatives to contraception or abortion. Politicians, too, may see no mileage in addressing an issue that will only cause them headaches and yield benefits several decades away.

But for some critics, population measures are synonymous with the mistakes of coercive sterilisation in India in the 1970s or China's "one child" policy, which has led to a gender imbalance in favour of boys.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Top 3 most polluted countries in the world

Emerging nations around the world are often heralded for their fast growth but we don't often hear about the downsides of that rapid development.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a report on air quality in countries around the globe, on which we based a list of the ten most polluted countries. Almost all the worst offenders are either major oil and gas producers, or emerging economies that are growing rapidly.

The WHO study looked at air quality in 91 countries, measured by the amount of PM10 particles per cubic meter. PM10 particles are particles of 10 micrometers or less that can cause diseases and infections. According to the WHO, PM10 levels above 20 micrograms per cubic meter can cause health risks. The top ten most polluted countries have PM10 levels from six times to14 times that level.

So, which countries have the world's worst air quality?

3. Pakistan = Pollution level: 198 ug/m3

Pakistan's air pollution is nearly ten times higher than levels considered dangerous by the WHO.

Political instability, corruption and a lack of government measures to curb carbon emissions have led to a cloak of thick smoke over major cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. In 2008, a government study revealed that every car in Pakistan, regardless of its age, generates 25 percent more carbon than one in the U.S.

Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city has a capacity for only 700 vehicles per hour, but according to the study, there are more than 11,000 vehicles per hour on the roads. The city, which already has more than half the country's 3.5 million vehicles, adds up to 400 new cars a day.

Water pollution from raw sewage and industrial waste has also become a major problem in the country. In addition, Pakistan's water supply is evaporating so quickly that it will become a "water-famine" country by the end of this decade, according to the country's Centre for Research and Security Studies.

2. Botswana = Pollution level: 216 ug/m3

It might seem strange that a country with a population of only 2 million people, and the largest proportion of land under conservation in the world, is the second most polluted nation in the world. But, that is the case of Botswana, 80 percent of which is covered by the Kalahari Desert.

The country was one of the poorest nations in Africa at the time of its independence from Britain in 1966. Today, Botswana is one of the world's fastest growing economies, and the largest producer of diamonds. The country has transformed itself into a middle-income economy with an annual average growth rate of about 9 percent, according to The World Bank. Mineral revenues account for about 40 percent of government revenues.

With growing wealth, the southern African nation has experienced widespread environmental damage. Wild fires and pollution from the mineral industry are the main sources of the country's poor air quality. Copper smelting for example has been blamed for sulfur dioxide and nickel emissions.

1. Mongolia = Pollution level: 279 ug/m3

Mongolia is the world's most polluted country and also home to one of the world's most polluted cities — Ulaanbaatar.

The city of 1.2 million accounts for about 45 percent of Mongolia's population. During the coldest months of the year -- December to February -- Ulaanbaatar's horizon is completely hidden behind a thick grey-brown smoky haze.

The country's main sources of pollution are its traditional coal-fuelled stoves and boilers used for heating and cooking, as well as congested traffic and old cars. Heating is essential for the survival of its people for about eight months of year. The country uses everything from coal, wood to refuse, such as black tar-dipped bricks and old car tires to fuel stoves and boilers. Ulaanbaatar's dry climate and severe windstorms further worsen its dangerous levels of airborne dust.

Rapid urbanization has also been a major factor behind the country's pollution problem. Ulaanbaatar's population has expanded by 70 percent over the last 20 years with the city's infrastructure unable to keep up with growth. With an air pollution level 14-times higher than the WHO's standard threat level, the number of premature deaths, chronic bronchitis and respiratory related hospital admissions are on a rapid rise. The government has been trying to mitigate the problems by introducing measures such as cleaner coal-based fuel and modern stoves to address its pollution crisis.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sustainability Dinner - Come join us!

Join Green Cleaners at UWCSEA's 'The Sustainability Dinner', Friday Sept 23rd 2011, 6:00pm - 9:00pm MAIN HALL Dover Campus.

Come in Green, come as a plant, come as a tree

Features: 6:00pm: Interactive presentation by Mr OB Wetzell III:Director of “Sustainable Return”: a company which advises major developers on the necessity and advantages of sustainable building. An inspiring guest speaker who promises to challenge your views and motivate you towards change.

Information Stalls: local produce, recycled goods, free trade coffee

Student Presentations, Home cooked vegetarian meal, Beer & soft drinks available, please feel free to bring your own wine!

email: kni@uwcsea.edu.sg

Please bring along any old mobile phones, old reading glasses and shoes & socks for a recylcing project

Friday, September 9, 2011

Beacon of hope

Amidst the thousands of Buddhist temples in South-East Asia, one in Singapore stands out from the rest — conservation-wise, that is.

Located on a small hilltop at Chwee Chian Road, off Pasir Panjang Road, Poh Ern Shih (Temple of Thanksgiving) is probably the first religious building in Singapore to display great zeal and determination in becoming green. Facing Singapore’s southern coast on one side, and the famed Bukit Chandu on another end, the temple was built as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the Battle of Pasir Panjang in 1942, which was fought just a week before the British surrended their “Gibraltar of the East” to the Japanese.

Established in 1954 as a modest single-storey temple by philanthropist Lee Choon Seng (who passed on in 1966 at 78 years old), Poh Ern Shih is one of the few Chinese Mahayana temples in Singapore dedicated to the Ksitigarbha, one of the four principal bodhisattvas in East Asian Mahayana Buddhism (the others being Samantabhadra, Manjusri, and Avalokitesvara).

The original temple structure was demolished in 2003 in order to expand the temple complex, and the first phase of renovations was finished in 2007. To the honorary president of the temple, Lee Boon Siong (the founder’s grandson), this presented a marvellous opportunity to incorporate eco-friendly features into the new wing.

Lee, a retired lawyer who spent many years in Canada after leaving Singapore in 1988, said that he learnt many aspects of being green during his sojourn there. Upon his return to Singapore in 1995, he was asked to be a director of the temple board, which is funded entirely from donations and gifts.

Together with a partner organisation, the Buddhist Fellowship, the temple conducts programmes such as Dharma talks, Sutta discussions and meditation courses in Chinese and English for the Buddhist community. What is obvious is the building’s sensitivity to the needs of its devotees and visitors, who are mainly in their 60s. For the benefit of wheelchair users, a gentle driveway stretches from the gates to the upper levels of the temple, and every storey of the building has level flooring. The lavatory cubicles are fitted with easily reachable emergency assistance buttons, and the doors are designed so that they can be unlocked from the outside in case of emergencies.

Tapping solar energy

With Lee Coo Consultant Associates appointed as both project manager and architect, phase one saw the incorporation of 160sqm of solar panels. All panels gave a combined peak rated output of 18.82kW, with engineers estimating its annual output in the region of 21.6MWh (megawatt hours). With the new office wing completed in April 2007, Poh Ern Shih then embarked on the second phase, which involved building a pagoda consisting entirely of steel, glass and photovoltaic (PV) panels. The translucent shell of the pagoda acts as a skylight that lets in sunlight into the prayer hall below.

In accordance with its spirit of sharing and generosity, Poh Ern Shih shares the performance data of the various PV panels with academicians, students and those with no commercial intent. Building researchers from Singapore regularly upload the PV performance data from Poh Ern Shih so that more work can be done to refine the performance of PV in the tropics. Students from universities also make regular visits there to see how things are done. Poh Ern Shih’s solar PV system is grid-connected, so any surplus electricity is sold back to the utility provider, though the temple is far from being a zero-energy building. The only form of on-site energy storage is quite limited at the moment (a few small batteries), and it is used to power some garden and landscaping lights in the evening.

Energy savings is also achieved by minimising the use of lights by using light tubes, which are cylindrical devices fitted with lenses and coated with reflective material so that sunlight from the rooftop or surface is bounced along the tube to light up dark basements or interiors. The temple also saves electricity by mounting four solar thermal water heaters so that it could have hot water for its kitchen. Other passive cooling and energy saving measures include using LED (light-emitting diode) lights and relying as much as possible on natural ventilation.

Finally, rainwater is harvested, and used for all washing and in toilets and gardens, saving an estimated 8,000cu.m of water each year. Engineers estimate Poh Ern Shih’s energy savings to be around 558,168kWh/year. The only “failures” are the two small wind turbines mounted on the rooftop; Singapore just does not have high enough wind speeds to move even a tiny wind turbine.

Green rewards

In 2010, Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) presented Poh Ern Shih with the Green Mark Gold award for its eco-friendly construction. The BCA Green Mark scheme (bca.gov.sg/GreenMark/green_mark_projects.html) was launched in 2005 to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly buildings.

The benefits of Green Mark-certified buildings include cost savings through the efficient use energy and water, and lower maintenance costs. Other benefits include enhanced occupant productivity and health due to good indoor environmental quality. The Malaysian equivalent would be the Green Building Index (greenbuildingindex.org)

As far as the sums go, the temple is far from breaking even on the millions of dollars spent on the additional green features. However, as electricity prices in Singapore are pegged to fuel costs (with the July-Sept 2011 rates starting from 29.19 (Singapore) cents per kWh, including the goods and services tax of 7%), the “break even” period should be way less than 20 years.

No matter which way one looks at it, it is indeed a pleasant surprise to see Poh Ern Shih spreading the message of conservation. And in the spirit of continuous improvement, a defining Singapore trait, Lee is not about to sit still and bask in the glory. He is actively seeking to improve things, so that one day, the temple can be truly self-sufficient in water and electricity.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Eco-Friendly LED Salon Opens

Cesare Safieh, renowned California stylist for over 25 years, has just launched a flagship advanced-technology hair salon, located in Pasadena, California, where every detail enhances the experience of high-end hair styling. Bring together advanced lighting, specialized techniques, and state of the art hair extensions, all with an environmentally-conscious process.

Using all Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lighting throughout that emits no heat and gives true daylight color rendition while using a fraction of the energy of traditional bulbs, to a Portable Digital Ionic (PDI) hair drying system that cuts drying time in half while being energy efficient, to the latest hair technique 'Angles in Motion: Rock Your Hair' that combines mind, body movement and body positioning, to state-of-the-art products such as the revolutionary 10 Minute hair color from Schwazkopf Igora- that rebuilds the hair and stabilize the protein structure of the strands to improve condition as it colors, and the ability to attach eight hair extensions in just 45 seconds with the Laserbeamer XP System by Hairdreams, Cesare has created not just another salon but an experience for his clients. He has raised the bar for the evolution of hair salons.

The new Hair By Cesare contemporary salon is housed in a historic building in Old Town Pasadena at 170 so. De Lacey Ave. Pasadena CA 91105, and is infused with natural light allowing for every detail of the hair to be seen. Cesare has created high-end hair styling that is now a faster and environmentally-conscious process. The salon is the answer for those on the go who have no time to spend hours in the salon.

As the owner of Hair By Cesare, Inc, Inc., he has been creating unique European inspired hairstyles since 1979. His styles have graced the pages of many magazines such as Elle, Allure and Modern Bride. Talent and artistic acumen give Cesare a leading edge in creating today's new looks and tomorrows unforgettable styles. He is known to stay on top of cutting edge trends, continuing education monthly, attending shows and classes to keep abreast of the latest industry techniques.

An expert in 100% human hair extensions, Cesare can attach eight extension strands in 45 seconds. He is one of the top Laserbeamer XP System experts in the USA, using the innovative method to simultaneously bond to your own hair using a special device. In this way, hair extensions can be applied quickly and efficiently. This method lasts around four to five months. Cesare has pioneered a detailed blending technique for extensions. Trendy feathers and crystal highlights can also be added to any client's hair. His extensions are also know for adding volume and thickness to thinning hair.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Eco Resort Focuses on French Polynesia’s History & Culture

The restaurant, bar and pool offer views of the white-sand beach bordering Huahine’s clear lagoon, affording a panoramic view of Raiatea, Taha’a and Bora Bora. Le Maitai Lapita Village features 15 ‘Premium Lake Bungalows’ built around the freshwater lake and decorated with water lilies; five ‘Premium Garden Bungalows’; and 12 ‘Garden Bungalows’ throughout the property, each with a partial view of the lake and surrounded by tropical plants and native flowers.

Le Maitai Lapita Village’s architecture is heavily influenced by both the artistic and canoe culture of the region. Each bungalow is designed to evoke a sense of the Polynesian canoe house and is decorated with stylized canoe prows. Traditional paddles decorate the walls of the bungalows, and many feature furniture in the shape of a canoe.

The style of the hotel’s reception area and restaurant/bar is inspired by the architecture and cave adornments of the houses of ancient Polynesian chiefs. The terracotta color of the Lapita pottery is consistently represented throughout the bungalows, and archaeological artifacts found on-site also inspired the decor. The term “Lapita” refers to the ancestors of French Polynesia and to the people who navigated from South East Asia 4,000 years ago through Melanesia to Polynesia in large double-hulled sailing canoes. The history of Polynesian culture served as an inspiration for the development of the hotel as well as the atmosphere its design is intended to create. This history is told through a chronological exhibition in the hotel museum, tracing the ancient settlement period, the arrival of Europeans, and continuing to the present day. On display are relevant artifacts, illustrations, explanatory texts and diverse artwork.

Le Maitai Lapita Village incorporates various environmental-sustainability measures. The hotel is largely supplied by photovoltaic, renewable energy and was built using a combination of local and traditional as well as modern and recycled materials. The area’s eco-system is preserved through the use of non-polluting waste treatments and cleaning products.

Native trees and traditional medicinal plants were planted around the hotel, recreating an authentic atmosphere. Across the grounds, a traditional flora is combined with natural species for color and variation.

The hotel plans to apply for EarthCheck Certification following the example of the two other Le Maitai hotels (the Le Maitai Polynesia Bora Bora has received Silver Certification and the Le Maitai Rangiroa resort Bronze Certification). The certification recognizes various environmental-sustainability practices and takes into account the development’s relationship with the environment and various benefits shared with the staff and community, including educating and raising awareness to promote preservation.

The Le Maitai Lapita Village, located on the island of Huahine, completes the Le Maitai collection and is managed by Hotel Managements & Services. For more information, visit www.hotelmaitai.com

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oil-rich United Arab Emirates looks to biodiesel

It is 11am in Dubai and already 42 degrees Celsius outside. Inside the warehouse it is barely any cooler.

Although workplaces in the United Arab Emirates are normally fitted with air conditioning, here they have purposefully restricted it to the offices. "It's the chemical reactions," Karl Feilder, chairman of Neutral Fuels explains.

"They happen at 65 degrees so by keeping the factory temperature higher we expend less energy on the process. That makes it more efficient. That's better for the environment and it cuts costs."

He is pointing at the thirty metre long collection of industrial tanks and pipes through which the firm's main product is being made. The room smells a bit like a chip shop. There is a reason for that.

These tanks are used to produced biodiesel that can be used by any normal diesel engine They are making biodiesel - converting vegetable oil from local McDonald's restaurants so that it can be used to fuel trucks.

Conversion rate

The biodiesel they produce can be used by any normal diesel engine. That makes it distinct from less processed vegetable and waste oils, which can only be used by converted engines.

Because the palm oil they get from McDonald's is the waste from food preparation, when it is burned the carbon emissions are reduced by 60-80% versus traditional diesel fuel.

Any carbon dioxide released is recaptured by trees McDonald's says are grown sustainably on certified farms in the Far East, providing the next batch of palm oil for use by the fast-food chain.

The oil comes from fast food restaurants like McDonalds Similar biodiesel programs from re-used cooking oil are already in operation by McDonald's in Germany, the UK and also in areas of Brazil and the United States. In the UAE, though, the process works better.

"Biodiesel has an issue depending on what its made from that at low temperatures it will clog up, form a gel and eventually freeze," according to Robin Mills, a Dubai-based energy analyst.

"Of course, low temperatures aren't a problem in this part of the world so it has performance benefits."

But it is not all smooth sailing.

The United Arab Emirates, like most of its neighbours in the Gulf, subsidises and caps the price of fuel at the pump.

That should make it trickier for companies like Neutral Fuels to compete and make a profit.

Karl Feilder: "[The fuel cap means] we have to be even more efficient" "It is challenging but that means we have to be even more efficient and even more competitive," Mr Feilder says.

"The great thing is McDonald's oil is so predictable in terms of high quality and quantity that it makes our job of making biodiesel easier. That helps make us a profitable business."

Still, McDonald's has changed its entire fleet of 22 trucks in the country to use the biofuel.

They pick up the leftover vegetable oil from restaurants when they drop off fresh supplies of food during the day in bright-red converted wheelie bins.

Later, they stop off at the Neutral Fuels, leaving behind the full bins and taking on empty ones. They also top up their tanks from the biodiesel pump by the parking bay. McDonalds used to sell their palm oil to a third party in India who recycled it.

After dropping off the old oil, the McDonalds trucks fill up with biodiesel "Now we sell our oil to Neutral Fuels at the same price we used to sell it for before and we buy the biodiesel from them at the market price of diesel in the UAE, says Rafic Fakih managing director of McDonalds UAE.

"So we are no worse off and gain from the environmental benefits."

Local backing

Given that the United Arab Emirates is the world's eighth largest oil producer, it is perhaps a surprise that the biodiesel project is gaining traction. Other restaurant chains are already expressing an interest in the program.

In this instance, it is perhaps an even bigger surprise that the programme is also backed by Emiratis.

"Nowadays companies are becoming more environmentally conscious and they want to, as much as they can, be environmentally sustainable," says Abdulla Al Jallaf, managing director of Neutral Fuels.

"I think it is a very interesting proposal to make use of waste materials."

Currently, McDonald's is Neutral Fuels only client and they have restricted the project to the UAE. But there are hopes to expand across to the wider region.

With the process profitable for Neutral Fuels and likely to save McDonald's money in the longer run if diesel prices continue to rise, it seems likely its spread will be inevitable.

Good news for the environment, company profits and anyone interested in running their vehicle on the power of French Fries.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ten Somali children a day die in Ethiopia's Kobe refugee camp

Ten Somali children under the age of five are dying every day of hunger-related causes in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, according to the UN refugee agency.

UNHCR reported the "alarming" increase in the number of deaths at Kobe camp after completing an assessment this week. The main cause was malnutrition, although a measles outbreak has contributed to the high mortality rate.

The camp, one of four in Dollo Adow in south-east Ethiopia, opened in June when Somalis fleeing drought and conflict poured over the border in large numbers. Kobe reached its 25,000 capacity in a month, and while new arrivals from Somalia are being directed elsewhere the death toll is not slowing.

In a briefing in Geneva, UNHCR said the average of ten deaths a day stretched back to late June, meaning that at least 500 young children had died in less than two months.

Most of the Somali refugees arriving in Ethiopia are from rural areas, and many have never used formal health facilities before. Ron Redmond, a UNHCR spokesman in Nairobi, said this was a factor in the high death rate because parents did not know what to do with their malnourished children, even after receiving initial treatment and handouts of therapeutic food.

"Parents are told they need to sustain the supplementary feeding but they don't always do it," said Redmond. "Ensuring that they treat their kids and bring them back to health centres in a large camp is difficult and labour intensive."

Separately, some 17,500 Somalis have crossed into the Gode and Afder areas of Ethiopia, 150 miles north-east of Dollo Adow, in the past six weeks.

The continued exodus and growing death toll from the famine in Somalia is raising fresh questions about the culpability of the al-Shabaab insurgent group, which controls most of the southern part of the country. Though the causes of the famine or near-famine conditions in southern Somalia are numerous – including drought, high food prices and the absence of a government for two decades – the al-Qaida-linked Islamist movement has played a significant role.

Initially known for its effective guerrilla campaign against occupying Ethiopian forces, al-Shabaab became increasingly extreme once the enemy withdrew, with militants enforcing mosque attendance and carrying out amputations and stonings of alleged criminals, some of them teenagers. By assassinating local journalists, they ensured that the motivations and makeup of their forces have remained murky.

In 2009, al-Shabaab banned a number of aid groups, including the UN World Food Programme, for alleged offences ranging from spying to being anti-Muslim and distorting the local economy. Numerous humanitarian workers were also killed, ensuring that even groups with permission to work had to scale back their activities and withdraw non-Somali staff.

The restrictions and security concerns meant millions of Somalis had no safety net when the drought really began to bite early this year. In the worst-hit areas, there was no food distribution or help in obtaining water.

In early July the rebels said all aid agencies would be allowed to assist with drought relief, but then backtracked, saying the earlier ban on certain organisations stood. They also denied that famine was occurring.

Interviews with refugees who fled Somalia for Kenya revealed that in some areas al-Shabaab militias had tried to prevent people from leaving to seek outside help, even those pushed close to death by hunger. A new report by Human Rights Watch confirmed these findings.

Despite withdrawing the bulk of their forces from Mogadishu earlier this month in a "tactical" move, al-Shabaab still controls most of southern Somalia. While more aid is getting into the country, some of the worst-affected areas are still without assistance.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Grace Hotel, Sydney Wins 10 Years Sustainability Achievement Award

The Grace Hotel is the proud recipient of the 10 Year Sustainability Achievement Award at the 2011 Green Globe Awards.

The award was presented to the hotel’s General Manager Mr. Philip Pratley by the Hon. Robyn Parker, MP Minister for the Environment at Parliament House on 26th July 2011.

The Award recognises the hotel’s continued commitment to sustainability and protecting the environment since the inaugural Green Globe Award in 2001. Over the past 10 years, The Grace Hotel’s management and staff have continuously implemented environmental initiatives particularly in the areas of pollution reduction and resource conservation. Some of the hotel’s initiatives include:

• Successfully reducing energy consumption by 20 per cent through systematic lighting upgrades and air-conditioning improvements.

• Despite additional food and recreational outlets, water consumption has also decreased due to water efficiency programs and increased monitoring.

• Green amenities with biodegradable packaging are now in all guest’s rooms. Environmentally friendly cleaning products are also used in housekeeping.

• To reduce the impact on landfill, the hotel has introduced a new garbage system with more efficiency in sorting garbage.

• Together, the Hotel’s management, staff and environmental committee implement their commitment to the 10R policy which covers: Research, Review, Reduce, Reuse, Replace, Remove, Repair, Refill, Recycle for RESULTS.

As part of the hotel’s commitment to help protect and sustain the environment for future generations, they will continue to support environmental initiatives and seek environmentally-friendly products, services and partners who share in the vision of environmental sustainability.

That sounds good policy to us at GC - well done Grace Hotel!

Monday, August 1, 2011

5-20 Aug: Green Screen at Sinema Old School

Join us this August, as Sinema Old School deals a series of award-winning four green-themed films that will get you to sit up and take notice of the ever-changing environment around us.

The feature documentaries - Tapped (2009), Plastic Planet (2009), Bag It (2011), Carbon Nation (2011) - examine the impact of human consumption of the Earth’s resources on the environment today, serving as a wake-up call to the world — before it’s too late.

The films will be screening from 5-20 August 2011. Tickets are available either online or physically at our box office. Please check http://tix.sinema.sg for more information.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Smart Meters ‘planted’ in Schools as part of a new Green Project

A collaboration between the Ministry of Education (MOE), IBM and and Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) has brought forth further developments as schools will be installing Smart Meters, created to track the energy usage of each campus.

Students are also given responsibility as some will be chosen to be Ambassadors to help identify ways of reducing electricity consumption in their respective schools. The schools will span different types, with ITE College East the first school to be announced.

Under the one-year project, the schools will first establish how much energy they use. The three institutions spearheading the project will then work with them to reduce usage, especially in lighting and air-conditioning. Data from the meters will be uploaded to a shared server where the schools can look at each other's progress and share best practices.

The computer giant is funding the US$100,000 (S$121,000) cost of the project, which is expected to be completed by August next year. The target is for 80 per cent of buildings here to be certified with the Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark by 2030.

IBM is also funding 10 other projects worldwide - in health care, energy and food safety - as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Singapore Schools get Smarter by Going Green

Singapore schools are about to get greener with a US$100,000 grant from global technology firm IBM for improving energy management in 20 school buildings, a move intended to create a new benchmark in energy efficiency for schools nationwide.

IBM announced that it would give the award to the non-profit Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) for ‘Project Green Insights’, a collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to design energy management systems and raise awareness of energy efficiency at selected school buildings.

The Singapore Green Building Council is proud to partner with IBM to bring ‘Project Green Insights’ to schools, the goal being to educate the next generation on the importance of going green especially in the fields of education. The green building movement can only be achieved through close collaboration between government, industry partners and end-users, which is why it is not surprising to see how all the parties involved are going all out to ensure the success of this project.

The SGBC grant is largest of the 11 awards handed out globally as part of IBM’s plan to celebrate its 100th year anniversary by donating volunteer expertise and nearly US$1 million to non-profits and educational institutions around the world.

‘Project Green Insights’ will equip the 20 pilot schools with networks of smart meters that will allow the entire school community to track energy consumption using cloud-based software. By tracking their energy usage on an easily accessible dashboard, students and staff will be able to identify ways of reducing their energy usage for lighting and air-conditioning.

IBM volunteers will help the school communities implement the system and sharpen their understanding of the project’s objectives. They will also be providing mentorship to staff and students on sustainability practices.

The pilot schools such as the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East welcomed the interactive approach to greening their school buildings, aiming to set a benchmark for greener and smarter buildings for the education community in Singapore as well as in the region. This project hopes to ignite a spark in staff members, students and parents to rally behind a longer-term sustainability effort.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Big banks jump on green bandwagon

Some banks are now offering discounted mortgages to people buying eco-friendly homes and Energy Star certified homes. The trend toward green living has finally caught the attention of the banking industry.

Banks have watched as consumers have made greener choices in everything from washing detergent and light bulbs to high-efficiency furnaces and solar energy panels. With consumers interested in greening their lives, most of Canada's major banks have seen the opportunity to offer "green mortgages," which offer homebuyers a discounted interest rate and other incentives to buy more environmentally sensitive houses or perform upgrades aimed at lowering their environmental footprint.

Consumers, especially first time buyers, are increasingly looking to green home upgrades to help the environment and lower the carrying costs of owning a new home.

According to surveys conducted by Leger Marketing, while Canadians are interested in lessening their impact on the environment, the decision to buy a "green home" is really being driven by saving cash, and more than 59 per cent of respondents cite financial savings as the main reason for making eco friendly upgrades and purchases. The results are not surprising, considering more than 51 per cent of survey respondents say utility costs are the biggest surprise financially when it comes to owning a home.

Having new windows, doors and a high-efficiency furnace can go a long way to help make those carrying costs more palatable, according to Leger, which found 92 per cent of Canadian respondents recognize the cost advantages of energy-efficient home upgrades.

It also found nearly half of all homebuyers plan to make investments in energy-efficient upgrades in the next year, especially with the anticipated extension of the federal government's ecoENERGY Retrofit program. The program allows Canadians to write off a portion of their green home renovations on their taxes.

The green trend isn't just infecting resale homebuyers. According to an EnerQuality Green Building survey released in November 2009, more than 40 per cent of Ontario homebuyers are willing to pay up to $10,000 more for a new green home, or a home that is Energy Star certified. It's almost double the 22 per cent of homebuyers who were willing to spend that amount of money in 2008.

While almost all of Canada's big banks are offering green mortgages, the loans aren't open to just anyone. Buyers must qualify for the green loan by proving that the house they are buying meets certain green energy standards, or that they will be completing certain green upgrades to the home shortly after moving in.

Incentives offered by the banks vary. Some will provide rebates equal to the cost of a home energy audit, which is around $300, and then a cash back incentive that can be used for green upgrades. Others offer discounts to posted mortgage rates.

Though wading through all these new options proves to be a daunting task, homeowners and those who are looking to make the move to a greener lifestyle have been diligent in getting all their goals in order with help from the banks and the useful information they provide.

Companies who are participating in this new wave of going green aim to make a considerable mark in lessening the disconcerting carbon footprint.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Failed Paris Olympic bid site now an Eco Friendly Urban Park

Arriving from the urban jungle of Istanbul, the many neighborhood parks of Paris are literally a breath of fresh air, with their stately tress, colourful blossoms, duck filled ponds and content strollers. Many have given city dwellers a natural respite for hundreds of years, but one of the most impressive is just a few years old – a space that may not have existed had Paris won it’s bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Bested by London for the honor of hosting the international games, Paris instead moved to transform the area in Clichy – Batignolles into the now lively Parc Martin Luther King, allowing families to enjoy picnics, lounging on lush young grass and resting on lounges found all around the beautiful area.

This park is home to many various trees including magnolias, cherry, apple and dogwoods. Its shrubbery is meticulously maintained as are the flowers, the lawn and a colourful community of herbs and vegetables.

The city plans to further develop the area to include apartments, office spaces, shops, school and even an expanded metro line. The park, which is to be further enlarged, will remain to be the centrepiece of the ecological development in line with the utmost goal which has been to emphasize the essentials of what a green space really is: a corner for nature in the heart of a city; one that is beautiful, fragile and productive.

There’s another reason to fly over there for a holiday, not to say that Paris lacks any luster when it comes to attracting tourists!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Going green reaches new heights with the Aviation Industry!

PARIS, France : Green aviation was a hot topic at the Paris Air Show this year.

With volatile oil prices fuelling the need for alternative energy, several solutions were presented to tackle the environmental question. And Asia's largest aviation event next year, the Singapore Airshow, should deliver more answers.

Making its debut at the Paris Air Show was the Solar Impulse - powered by solar cells with zero emissions. The goal of it’s innovators was to guide masses towards a revolutionary mindset – that of renewable energies, energy saving in clean technology allowing the world and daily lives to be much cleaner. This in turn opens doors to more job opportunities while improving the quality of life and reducing the impact on the environment.

Some environmentalists said the biofuel business is green aviation's future, with this possible future presenting itself at the Singapore Airshow 2012.

This is definitely something to look forward to – see you at next year’s Airshow!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

World's oceans in 'shocking' decline

The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists.

In a new report, they warn that ocean life is "at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history".

They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognised.

The impacts, they say, are already affecting humanity.

The panel was convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), and brought together experts from different disciplines, including coral reef ecologists, toxicologists, and fisheries scientists.

Its report will be formally released later this week.

"The findings are shocking," said Alex Rogers, IPSO's scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University.

"As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised.

"We've sat in one forum and spoken to each other about what we're seeing, and we've ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we're seeing changes that are happening faster than we'd thought, or in ways that we didn't expect to see for hundreds of years."

These "accelerated" changes include melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, sea level rise, and release of methane trapped in the sea bed.

Fast changes

"The rate of change is vastly exceeding what we were expecting even a couple of years ago," said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a coral specialist from the University of Queensland in Australia.

Some species are already fished way beyond their limits - and may also be affected by other threats "So if you look at almost everything, whether it's fisheries in temperate zones or coral reefs or Arctic sea ice, all of this is undergoing changes, but at a much faster rate than we had thought."

But more worrying than this, the team noted, are the ways in which different issues act synergistically to increase threats to marine life.

Some pollutants, for example, stick to the surfaces of tiny plastic particles that are now found in the ocean bed.

This increases the amounts of these pollutants that are consumed by bottom-feeding fish.

Plastic particles also assist the transport of algae from place to place, increasing the occurrence of toxic algal blooms - which are also caused by the influx of nutrient-rich pollution from agricultural land.

In a wider sense, ocean acidification, warming, local pollution and overfishing are acting together to increase the threat to coral reefs - so much so that three-quarters of the world's reefs are at risk of severe decline.

Life on Earth has gone through five "mass extinction events" caused by events such as asteroid impacts; and it is often said that humanity's combined impact is causing a sixth such event.

The IPSO report concludes that it is too early to say definitively.

But the trends are such that it is likely to happen, they say - and far faster than any of the previous five.

"What we're seeing at the moment is unprecedented in the fossil record - the environmental changes are much more rapid," Professor Rogers told BBC News.

"We've still got most of the world's biodiversity, but the actual rate of extinction is much higher [than in past events] - and what we face is certainly a globally significant extinction event."

The report also notes that previous mass extinction events have been associated with trends being observed now - disturbances of the carbon cycle, and acidification and hypoxia (depletion of oxygen) of seawater.

Levels of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans are already far greater than during the great extinction of marine species 55 million years ago (during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum), it concludes.

Blue planet

The report's conclusions will be presented at UN headquarters in New York this week, when government delegates begin discussions on reforming governance of the oceans.

In the long run, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut to conserve ocean life, the report concludes IPSO's immediate recommendations include:

- stopping exploitative fishing now, with special emphasis on the high seas where currently there is little effective regulation
- mapping and then reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilisers and human waste
- making sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
- Carbon dioxide levels are now so high, it says, that ways of pulling the gas out of the atmosphere need to be researched urgently - but not using techniques, such as iron fertilisation, that lead to more CO2 entering the oceans.

"We have to bring down CO2 emissions to zero within about 20 years," Professor Hoegh-Guldberg told BBC News.

"If we don't do that, we're going to see steady acidification of the seas, heat events that are wiping out things like kelp forests and coral reefs, and we'll see a very different ocean."

Another of the report's authors, Dan Laffoley, marine chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas and an adviser to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), admitted the challenges were vast.

"But unlike previous generations, we know what now needs to happen," he said.

"The time to protect the blue heart of our planet is now."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Green buildings: Good for people, productivity and profit

One more reason to begin standing up for a cleaner, greener environment – a working environment, that is.

Today's leading-edge green buildings are driving a radical shift in office politics.
Gone are the days of the senior management pinching the penthouse floor and hogging the best harbour views. Today, green buildings are providing truly equitable workplaces, with fresh air, natural light and views of the outdoors available to all staff regardless of their salaries.

Ask most employees for their office wish lists and onsite gymnasiums, massage therapists and child care centres will be lower down the list than fresh air, natural light, indoor comfort and collaborative spaces.

In fact, Colliers International Office Tenant Survey 2010 found that excellent indoor air quality and thermal comfort was second only to location to public transport (and above cutting edge IT and communications) in the top three office attributes for staff attraction and retention.

Office employees intuitively know that the basics of natural light and fresh air make workplaces happier, more productive places - after all, most office workers spend 90% of their waking hours indoors.

What they may not understand is how much poor indoor environment quality (IEQ) can affect their performance - and how simple solutions can have a dramatic impact on their productivity levels.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that sickness and absenteeism costs organisations an estimated $2,700 per employee each year. When indirect costs are factored in, absenteeism costs around $5m for every 1,000 employees.

At the same time, we know that good IEQ in green buildings reduces sick leave and improves worker productivity and health. The evidence-based research has found that these gains are between two and 10 per cent per worker.

The principles of green design recognise that improving IEQ can dramatically affect productivity, health and wellbeing. Green Star, Australia's environmental rating system for buildings, rewards building projects that can demonstrate high levels of IEQ - by providing more fresh air, circulating fresh air around the rooms more efficiently, ensuring daylight can reach more of the interior, and eliminating harmful chemical compounds found in paints, adhesives or carpets.

We now have more than 315 Green Star-rated buildings around Australia, with tens of thousands of people enjoying the benefits of cleaner, greener offices. After moving into their green office, the legal firm at the 5 Star Green Star-rated 500 Collins Street in Melbourne reduced staff sick leave by 39% - well below the national average. What's more, sick leave costs fell by 44%. A post-refurbishment study also found a 9% increase in typing speeds of secretaries and a 7% increase in lawyers' billings ratio, despite a 12% decline in the average monthly hours worked.

Trevor Pearcey House, the 6 Star Green Star head office of Australian Ethical Investment in Canberra, provides staff with a healthier work environment by maximising the use of natural ventilation and lighting. More than 90% of the floor space is naturally ventilated with openable windows, which also improve daylight penetration. Occupant health was also a priority in choice of materials, with paints and sealants, furniture and fittings selected for their low levels of volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde. The building now ranks in the top 11% of Australian buildings for staff productivity and amenity.

Many of Australia's employers of choice are looking for green office space to attract and maintain top talent. Increasingly, Green Star-rated buildings symbolise a corporation's environmental and social performance, and can be a powerful strategic business tool.

A 2008 Deloitte survey of organisations that had undergone at least one green building retrofit in the US found that 93% of respondents found it easier to attract talent after their renovation, with 81% reporting greater employee retention. Every company surveyed reported an increase in goodwill and brand equity. Closer to home, leading corporate such as ANZ, Google and Accenture have recognised that operating from Green Star-rated facilities can not only boost performance, but also attract and retain staff.

ANZ's new global headquarters, the ANZ Centre in Melbourne, is the largest 6 Star Green Star-rated building in Australia. The new building, which houses 6,500 staff, offers fresh air, natural light and easy access to outdoor open spaces. More than 500 bike spaces have been provided, alongside yoga and Pilates classes, physiotherapy and massage at the ANZ Wellness Centre. ANZ's Green Star rating is part of its employee attraction and retention program, saying that the new headquarters "was designed and developed with great care and consideration for employees, with facilities and services available that enhance the working environment and promote health and wellbeing".

The Green Building Council of Australia's post-occupancy survey of its own 5 Star Green Star-rated office, known as The GreenHouse, found that 95% of all staff had a positive or very positive perception of their new workplace. One staff member even said that it was a "one-of-a-kind office and I feel very privileged to be able to work here. None of my previous offices have made me want to come to work".

Green buildings are more affordable than ever before. A 5 Star Green Star-rated building is now considered cost neutral when compared with its non-green counterpart, and the ongoing operational costs are significantly less. When productivity gains are factored in, it just makes good business sense to go green.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Going Green Helps Company’s Health

As more and more individuals look to make the world a little bit healthier and safer place to live in, have you stopped and asked yourself what contribution you and your employees are making?

With recognition that more needs to be done to leave the planet for the next generation in a better place than we found it, more people worldwide are seeing the benefits of a greener lifestyle.

Not only is the planet left a little bit better for the next person when your business and its employees practice healthier lifestyles both in and out of the office, but the rewards can reach way down.

If you haven’t been researched some of the ways going green can improve your health and those of your co-workers, think about the following 10 means:

1. Driving less, using more mass transit – When individuals leave the car at home to drive to work or the store, it means one less vehicle emitting pollution on the our local roads and freeways. If possible, cycle or even walk to work. Not only is there less pollution, but you give your heart and other organs a good workout in the process.

2. Practice green in the office – Whether it is cutting down on the amount of paper used in the office copier, using lights at a minimum or other means, practicing conservation in the office has many benefits. The rewards to the environment are equaled by the financial benefits to the company.

3. Make home a viable workplace – While not always an option, working from home allows individuals to cut down on the amount of vehicles polluting the environment. In turn, it helps people avoid breathing the same stale air often filled with pollutants. As an employer can you come up with a scenario where your workers can telecommute from time to time?

4. Avoid a toxic lifestyle – Life is stressful, no way around that. Not only is there a physical toll on the body, but also a mental one. By eating better, exercising more and laughing as much as possible, you reduce the stress in your life. Businesses that have exercise programs in place for their workers not only are likely to have healthier employees, but happy ones too.

5. Know where your water comes from – Research has shown that bottled water utilizes both resources and energy. Throw in chemicals emanating from the plastic bottles, and you have potential health issues. Drinking water is essential to life, but drinking filtered tap water is a more viable option. What are you doing at work to keep your employees properly hydrated during the day?

6. Get some sun – While being out in the sun should be done in moderate amounts and with the proper protection, natural light assists your calcium consumption, not to mention your mental attitude. If you spend too much time indoors, get outside and take in some fresh air. In the meantime, using less artificial lighting helps the environment. Encourage employees to take their breaks outside when possible and enjoy the weather.

7. Recycle, recycle, recycle – By taking those used water bottles, soda cans and bottles and other drinking instruments to recycling centers, you are not only helping the environment, but you’re in many cases making a few dollars on the side. While it takes some effort to collect and transport the recycled items to a center, if you do not have a recycling pick-up, it is time well spent. Do you have a recycling program at work for employee cans and bottles?

8. Clean wisely in the office and home – We all hate to clean up around work and at home, but it is a necessity. When doing so, use cleaners that are non-toxic to you and your loved ones. Using the wrong cleaners can lead to respiratory issues, headaches, stomach problems and more. For office cleaning crews, toss out the harmful chemicals and clean wiser. For more info see www.greencleaners.asia

9. Take out the garbage only when necessary – No one likes garbage, but especially the environment. Employees/individuals that decrease their office/household trash outputs not only are saving themselves money, but alleviating the crush of materials at the local landfills. Whether it is recycling your office paper, home shopping bags or using more dishes and fewer paper products, make the effort to have the garbage truck drive off with less each time.

10. Instead of buying new, fix that device – How many times have you thought about buying a new computer for the home or office or television? Stop and think about the fact that repairing and reusing such devices instead of purchasing new save energy and in turn money.

Both employers and employees can do their part to leave the planet in a little better shape than when they found it – it all begins with one small step.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Adelaide shows off Australia's first 5 Green Star Hospital

Adelaide’s redeveloped Flinders Medical Centre has become the country’s first hospital project to receive a 5 Star Green Star rating.

The hospital’s New South Wing has been awarded the Healthcare Design v1 Certified rating by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) for excellence in environmentally sustainable design as part of the $160 million redevelopment; it is the first hospital in Australia to be awarded under the Green Star Healthcare v1 Tool.

Woodhead Architects designed the project in conjunction with building services engineers and sustainability consultants.

The redevelopment includes the four-level New South Wing, opened in 2009, which houses medical consulting and outpatient clinics, a labour and delivery unit and an obstetrics and gynaecology unit. ECOM implemented a range of sustainable features including one of Australia’s largest energy-efficient centralised air-conditioning systems, a 286-panel solar hot water system and extensive grey-water and rainwater harvesting. These sustainability measures are set to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water usage by a significant amount.

A displacement air conditioning system supplies patients’ rooms with heat recovered from exhaust air paths, which is the first application in a South Australian hospital supplying improved indoor air quality and a low energy solution.

The 286-panel solar hot water system is designed to reduce recurrent energy costs by $400,000 per year and annual carbon dioxide emissions by 70 per cent. On each level sub-meters monitor electricity, hot and cold water use and chilled and heating water consumption in real-time. They are connected to the building management system and enable tracking over time.

Water-saving measures designed to drastically reduce water consumption include rainwater harvesting from the hospital roof to large tanks for toilet flushing and fire testing, as well as high water-efficiency tapware, showerheads and toilets.
The new wing also includes purpose-designed external fixed shading devices to maximise light penetration while minimising solar heat gain, and high efficiency glazing.

Here's to hoping more institutions find inspiration and revamp their old ways towards a greener path!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

New Eco-Friendly Lunch Sack to Send Kids Back to School the Green Way

If they had this during my generation, the level of awareness would be significantly higher. Parents today have no excuse!

A new eco-friendly lunch sack featuring Jimmy from the book "Jimmy's Gone Green" is sure to be a hit among children this back-to-school season.

Kids Smart Publishing and Kids Konserve, a leading reusable lunchware company, have collaborated to create a new eco-friendly lunch sack featuring the star of the picture book "Jimmy's Gone Green."

The reusable lunch sack, made with 100 percent recycled cotton and printed with vegetable-based inks, is free of BPA, lead and phthalate, and is sure to be a hit among kids and parents.

The machine-washable lunch sack is designed to replace paper lunch bags, which contribute to an estimated 67 pounds of lunchtime waste per child each year.
"We hope Jimmy will encourage families to choose safe, earth-friendly products over those that may be harmful to both the environment and kids," said Monique Harris, spokesperson for KS Publications, Inc., the parent company of Kids Smart Publishing.

To celebrate the release of the new Jimmy's Gone Green Reusable Lunch Sack, Kids Smart Publishing is giving away 100 FREE lunch sacks to the next 100 people who buy Jimmy's picture book, "Jimmy's Gone Green," at http://www.jimmysgonegreen.com.
In addition, Kids Smart Publishing is donating copies of "Jimmy's Gone Green" to elementary school libraries in order to help increase children's access to green books and help raise environmental awareness among young children.

"The book is a great introduction to what it means to go green," said Monique Harris. "It fosters conversation and encourages children to ask questions about the environment and how they can make a difference."

Jimmy's picture book "Jimmy's Gone Green" and his new reusable lunch sack are available at select retailers and at http://www.jimmysgonegreen.com.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Eco-friendly weddings are becoming the norm

Since this seems to be the season of weddings and engagements – it’s all over my social networks – I’ve decided to post another useful blog, for those who are currently racking their brains for wedding ideas! After all, the royal wedding may have been about the fairy tale, but modern couples are ready for a reality check.
Many couples aren't walking down the aisle at all - they are saying, "I do" after wading through the buffalo grass. And on their walls are artistic portraits of the bridal party against an unfinished brick wall.

Weddings have evolved into the 21st century, and many couples are taking cues from the environment and their urban lifestyles.

At their upcoming nuptials this weekend, Tulsan Scott Vrooman and his business partner and fiancee, Mary Kreider, will be married on the 3,700-square-foot roof of their business, TriArch Architecture, 618 E. Third St. They designed the building with an eco-friendly roof complete with a large patch of buffalo grass. So before about 70 guests this weekend, they'll be married in the open air with downtown Tulsa as a backdrop. "As architects, we try to teach people about being green, and we wanted to put our money where our mouth is," Vrooman said.

Wedding couples have become more environmentally conscious over the past few years, said Meghan Hurley, owner of Concepts PR in Tulsa. She said her clients are aware of the amount of resources they use for their weddings. "Couples are more concerned with giving back," Hurley said. "They are more aware of how much is consumed and thrown away for a wedding on one day."

Using green materials, and even the color green, are trends that began on the East and West coasts but are emerging in Tulsa, she said. "They're using items that are more recyclable. Invitations are what really started the trend. They're using recycled paper made from different fibers. And they've been using bamboo fibers in linens and napkins," she said. "Some are using living centerpieces that guests can take home, like a tree or, again, bamboo."

And couples are certainly conscious of their wedding's setting - not only its location but also what it says about them as a couple. "We would spend so much time up there (on the roof) that we thought it would be great to share that with people," Vrooman said.

"On the roof itself, we'll probably not even decorate a lot," said Kreider, who is an interior designer. "We think it'll be simple and elegant." Hurley said couples are choosing downtown as their wedding backdrop - and even for wedding portraits - because they appreciate its history and architecture.

"The traditional, fuzzy-edged photo is not what people want anymore," she said. "They want to show what is realistic. Yes, it's a fairy-tale day, but again, it's one day. They'll have a whole marriage to spend together. "They like the photojournalism look any more, capturing real moments," Hurley said.
After the ceremony, Vrooman and Kreider will host their reception downstairs in the main offices, which they also use for parties. The LEED-certified building was built in 1919 and was once a distribution center for a bread company.

If they choose to, Scott and Mary can tiptoe through the grass - on their roof.

Ways to have a 'green' wedding

Use invitations made from recycled paper. Or, if it's a casual affair, some couples are choosing to go paperless - by using an e-vite. Yes, etiquette experts might be offended, so make sure to explain your goal: to consume less.

Use living centerpieces. Small trees, herbs, shrubs or annuals make beautiful summer centerpieces. Encourage your guests to take them home and plant them to enjoy long after the wedding is over.

Give eco-friendly wedding favors. Seed packets are all the rage at green weddings. Some companies will print your names and the date of the wedding on them so guests will remember your special day. For more, visit tulsaworld.com/greenfavors
Make it vintage. Update your mother's or grandmother's wedding gown, or even exchange family or heirloom rings. It will reduce consumption, and it's in style. "Vintage and rustic are very much in," said Meghan Hurley, owner of Concepts PR in Tulsa. "But it's a rustic-chic, or a country-chic." So using the old and the new is still important.

Sustainable bites. Choose organic or local produce and meats for your menu. Many local caterers are only too happy to use fresh vegetables from the farmers markets. And summer is the prime time to choose fresh products from the area.

Just keep in mind that at the end of the day, your wedding day and all the preparations leading to it are meant to be reminders of a love that you continue to share and grow into, so whatever path you choose to take, take time to appreciate the process and enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Eco-friendly ideas to keep kids busy this Summer

It’s summer and there’s one thing parents hate to hear from the kids, “I’m bored!” While you’re looking for easy ways to entertain the kiddies, you can also Do Your Part to pass along important lessons on being eco-friendly. Here are 5 green ways to keep kids busy all summer long – certified to keep boredom at bay!

1) Have an Eco-Adventure
Eco-adventures don’t have to be a daunting task. They can be anything you want them to be! A simple walk or hike is the perfect opportunity to learn about the trees, flowers, and insects you might see. Or, think bigger. Check out national parks around your area; they are affordable and filled with all sorts of possible adventures from camping to horseback riding and even kayaking.

2) Get Crafty
One of the best ways to take care of the planet is to get more life from things you already have. So instead of tossing out things like milk cartons, cereal boxes, or old t-shirts, show your kids how to transform them into something new and useful. Some crafts children love are making bird feeders, crafting t-shirt tote bags, and creating a kids’ organizer from “trash.”

3) Grow a Garden
This activity is downright fun for parents. Watching children turn seeds into food is always a thrill. They learn about where their food comes from, how to care for their crops, and they get to eat up all their hard work. Plus, you’ll know exactly what’s in the fruits and veggies your family is eating. Give your kids a couple packets of seeds and a window box or planter full of healthy soil and let them have fun getting dirty.

4) Visit the Library
Don’t spend money or resources on brand new books and videos when you can get an endless supply at your local library. Plus, most libraries have special readings and presentations for every age group throughout the summer at no cost. If you’re looking to check out books that teach an important environmental message, start with The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, which teaches children about the importance of trees. Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter talks trash and shows us why we can’t keep adding to the garbage pile. And, Good Growing: A Kids’ Guide to Gardening helps kids start a garden no matter how much (or how little) space they have.

5) Be Charitable
An important lesson for all children to learn is to how to be charitable. This summer, don’t let shoes, clothes, toys, bikes, and the like sit around your home when there is a lot of life left in them. Sifting through closets is not only a good way to spend quality time with the family, it’s also a great reminder to appreciate what you have.

What are you waiting for? Hit the ground running this summer and dare to come up with your own spectacular green ideas!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ontario's city hall goes green

ONTARIO - When city officials committed to building a more sustainable community, they knew the only way to achieve it was if they took the lead. That's what they did with the renovation of City Hall.

The $21.9 million building incorporates sustainable practices that will not only reduce the city's carbon footprint but lead to energy savings and cost savings over time.

"It's important that we not only set the pace but set the example," Councilman Jim Bowman said.

The building has been designed to meet Silver LEED certification standards. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system. Meanwhile, the sustainable design status is given by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Work on LEED certification started as soon as officials embarked on the 19-month demolition and construction process, and in order to improve their chances of reaching the silver rating, Ontario officials had to be certain that they recycled as much material as possible from the demolition of the interior of the building. All waste was separated into various types thus minimising the impact on the landfill – a move that was simple enough for the city which already maintains an active recycling program.

To bring the old building into the 21st century, energy efficient lighting has been installed. Windows in the building have also been double paned, to retain heat. Another portion of the project was improving the plaza area in the interior courtyard of the building. Trees and new seating have been brought in and a metal shade structure now surrounds the windows. The structure will help block the direct sunlight that would otherwise hit the building.

In the courtyard, as well throughout the entire building, officials have placed California drought tolerant plants. In an effort to save even more water a drip irrigation system was installed underneath the plants, which releases water directly to the roots.

The city has removed the cement and installed permeable pavers around the building. The change will allow water to seep into the ground rather than creating groundwater runoff. However, the project continues to extend itself to the parking lot, with officials earning extra points in providing specific parking spots for fuel efficient vehicles.

The city of Ontario is currently preparing for a re-dedication ceremony for the newly renovated City Hall.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Running for the oceans

Dear All,

Next week, on Sunday 12 June, one of our loyal clients (along with two friends) will run a half-marathon in the Laguna Phuket International Marathon.

They will be running for a cause: Protect our oceans!

Team Thalassa Phuket (Cait, Lizzy & Mia) will run to help raise funds for Project AWARE, a non-profit organisation whose mission is to conserve underwater environments through education, advocacy and action (http://www.projectaware.org/).

Please help support them and email your pledges at Team.Thalassa.Phuket@gmail.com by Sunday 12 June and they will make a combined donation to Project AWARE after the run.

Please feel free to forward this email to anyone who might be interested in supporting this cause.

Did you know…
- Whales have now resorted to shouting (as opposed to singing) as the oceans are now so noisy thanks to increased shipping and deep sea drilling.
- Humans generate waste faster than it can be broken down and use up resources faster than they can be replaced. Nearly 90 percent of all marine debris is plastic. To date, plastic outweighs zooplankton 6:1.
- Entanglement and ingestion of fishing line, nets, rope and other debris has been reported in more than 260 animal species worldwide.
- More than 1 million seabirds are killed by aquatic litter each year.
- An estimated 100,000 marine mammals including dolphins, whales, seals and sea turtles choke or get tangled in debris every year. 86 percent of all sea turtles are affected by marine debris.
- An estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic litter alone are floating on every square mile of ocean – 70 percent of which will eventually sink. A plastic bag takes 10 to 20 years to degrade in the environment.
- It takes glass bottles one million years to biodegrade in the natural environments.
- An aluminum can takes 80 to 200 years to break down in the environment and 6-pack holder rings 450 years.
- It takes a cigarette filter one to five years and a newspaper six weeks to degrade in the environment.

Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

..CO2 emissions highest ever in 2010: IEA

Carbon dioxide emitted by energy use hit a record high last year, dimming prospects for limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Monday.

Breaching the 2.0 C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold sharply increases risk of severe climate impacts, including flooding, storms, rising sea levels and species extinction, scientists have warned.

"Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history," the Paris-based IEA said in a statement posted on its website.

After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions climbed to a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt), a five-percent jump from the previous record year in 2008, the agency said.

Moreover, 80 percent of projected greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 from energy sources are "locked in" as they will come from power plants already operating or under construction.

"This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2.0 C (3.6 F)," said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol.

UN climate change talks have agreed that average global temperatures should not increase by more than 2.0 C (3.6 F).

To achieve this goal, long-term concentration of greenhouse gases must peak at about 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, barely five percent more than in 2000, scientists say.

This target will slip beyond reach if global energy-related emissions in the year 2020 exceeds 32 Gt, the IEA has calculated.

The rise in emissions over the next decade must be less than the jump between 2009 and 2010, the agency cautioned.

"Our latest estimates are another wake-up call," said Birol.

"The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emission that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2.0 C (3.6 F) target is to be attained."

The UN's top climate official said the figures underscored the urgency for political action.

"The IEA estimates ... are a stark warming to governments to provide strong new progress this year towards global solutions to climate change," said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

UN climate talks, resuming in Bonn next Monday, remain deadlocked on how to achieve the 2.0 C (3.6 F) target.

Even the Kyoto Protocol, whose first round of emissions-cutting pledges for rich nations expires at the end of 2012, may be in jeopardy as key nations say they do not favour renewal.

"The figures mean that the world is very far from achieving the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more that two degrees Celsius," EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement, calling on other nations to set binding targets and emissions trading schemes as has the European Union.

Emerging countries say emission limits will stunt their development and argue that only rich economies can afford green technology which can boost living standards and cut emissions.

The IEA estimated 40 percent of global emissions in 2010 came from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) club of advanced countries.

But these only accounted for a quarter of the annual emissions growth. The rest came came from rapidly developing countries, led by China and India.

On a per-capita basis, OECD countries emit on average 10 tonnes, compared with 5.8 tonnes for China, a voracious burner of coal, and 1.5 tonnes in India.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Incentives 'can help home-owners go green'

Incentives, such as garden makeovers and fruit and veg vouchers, could help home-owners invest in energy efficiency measures, a pilot scheme has shown.

But the study found that more had to be done to convince people of the merits of flood protection devices, even if they lived in high flood risk areas. The trial by the University of Salford set out to discover if non-cash incentives could change attitudes. Studies have estimated that 70% of homes in 2050 have already been built.

Experts warn that unless existing homes are "retro-fitted" with energy saving devices, then the UK will not meet its target of cutting CO2 emissions by 80% in the middle of this century from 1990 levels.

Tempting technology

In the small-scale trial, 50 households in Timperley, near Manchester, were offered surveys to assess the houses' energy efficiency and vulnerability to flooding.

They were then offered a selection of non-cash rewards, including public transport season tickets and access to further education courses, if they decided to go ahead and invest in devices to reduce energy use or protect their homes from flooding.

Out of the 50 homes, 25 agreed to have a survey carried out. Five households then went on to have their homes improved, while a further seven were undecided at the time the team produced its interim report.

The trial was funded by the Environment Agency and Trafford Borough Council.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said that one-in-six homes in England and Wales were at risk from flooding.

"The Environment Agency has completed 225 new defences in the past four years, increasing protection to over 198,000 properties, but flooding cannot be entirely prevented," he told BBC News.

"We urge people to check whether their property is at risk by signing up to the Agency's free flood warning service to get free alerts.

"Individuals and businesses can also help make their properties more resistant to flooding using specialised flood products."

Erik Bichard, who led the research team, explained why incentives could have a role to play as a policy tool to improve the take-up of green technology. "Psychologists have been trying to tell us about how people make decisions for some time, it just has not filtered through to this area," he said.

Professor Bichard said there were five main areas that affected people's decision-making processes:

- Understanding the issue
- Caring about the issue
- Knowing what to do
- Will doing something solve the problem?
- What will people think?

He went on to explain how the offer of rewards could influence how people made up their minds.

"Some of these areas are cognitive, intellectual, fact-based reasons, such as: Is there a problem? What can I do about it? Will it work?

"Incentives by-pass a lot of that thinking and take people straight to the question: 'If I do this then will I be better off than before'?"

One of the participants, Barbara Tarbuck, decided to pay for a new boiler to be installed in return for a garden makeover and fruit-and-veg vouchers.

Despite living in a relatively modern home, she explained that she agreed to a survey because she wanted to know what measures were already present in the house.

"I also wanted to see what I could do to reduce energy bills, so I was quite intrigued to see what ideas they came up with," she said.

Mrs Tarbuck also welcomed the idea of offering non-cash rewards: "It is alright to have a little grant to have a little bit to put towards the cost, but I am seeing benefits in two sorts of ways.

"I probably would never spend money on a garden makeover, I would have kept it for what you might call more practical things."

Tough choices

In the trial, all five households that decided to improve their properties all went for energy saving measures, with none choosing to reduce their homes' vulnerability to flooding.

Professor Bichard and his team asked people why they had decided against spending money on flood protection measures.

"About half of the people were put off by the price of flood protection," he said, adding that two door guards and some air brick covers would cost almost £2,000.

"Although we were proposing to reward back the full amount, the economic situation [meant that] people just did not have that sort of cash in the bank to make that sort of investment."

Mrs Tarbuck was among this group. She explained: "I went for the larger outlay of getting a boiler fitted. I am not saying I will not do it in the future, as I still have the report and what was recommended."

Professor Bichard said that the other half of participants were sceptical as to whether it was necessary to spend the money in the first place.

"They simply did not believe that flooding was ever going to affect their house, even though the Environment Agency's statistics show that they lived in a flood threatened area and they really needed to take responsibility to protect their house.

"That is interesting because even with the amount of incentives that we were offering, it just was not enough to overcome the fourth 'will it work' reservation."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Consumers go green for cleaning products

Consumers are voting with their wallets and opting for eco-friendly laundry products, consumer research shows.

The latest Canstar Blue independent consumer survey of 2500 Australian consumers, released on Thursday, revealed that Aldi, which recently committed to banning phosphate detergents, has the most satisfied laundry powder customers.

"Consumers are undoubtedly becoming more aware of their eco-footprint and consumers are starting to vote with their wallets by choosing products that are kinder on the environment," said Canstar Cannex head of research Steve Mickenbecker.

Mr Mickenbecker said brands are responding to the demand, with Aldi banning phosphate detergents across their entire range by the end of 2013.

Coles and Woolworths, the two major supermarket chains, quickly followed Aldi's lead.

Phosphates are used in many laundry products because they soften hard water and break down dirt, but once released in the water they have a harmful effect on lakes and rivers.

The research also showed that Australian consumers are going one step further, with one in four people using leftover water from their washing machine in the garden.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

“Is your life too plastic?”

Environmentalist and co-founder of ‘Take 3’, Tim Silverwood thinks so, and is hosting screenings of the new, award-winning environmental documentary Bag It to help raise awareness of plastic pollution in our oceans.

The film explores our daily reliance on plastic and how this threatens not only waterways and marine life, but human health, too. Two of the most common plastic additives are endocrine disruptors, which have been shown to link to cancer, diabetes, autism, attention deficit disorder, obesity and infertility.

The screenings of this fantastic documentary will act as fundraisers for Tim, who in July this year, will sail from Hawaii to Vancouver to research plastic pollution in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge plastic 'soup' twice the size of France thought to contain over 100 million tonnes of waste.

‘Take 3 – A Clean Beach Initiative’ is a non-profit organisation formed in 2009 that asks everyone to take three pieces of rubbish with them when they leave the beach, waterway or coastal area.

Watch 'Bag It', you'll be surprised at just how little you know about plastic.

The documentary will be shown at the following six locations:

Sydney Premierre
Screening Date: Wednesday 25th May
Screening Time: 7pm
Screening Location: Chauvel Cinema, Paddington (Sydney)
Cnr Oxford St & Oatley Rd Paddington NSW
Ph: 02 9361 5398 w: www.chauvelcinema.net.au

Screening Date: Thursday 26th May
Screening Time: 7pm
Screening Location: Newcastle Community Arts Centre
246 Parry St, Newcastle NSW
Ph: (02) 4961 1696 w: www.ncac.org.au

Central Coast
Screening Date: Sunday 5th June – Special Event – World Environment Day
Screening Time: 5.30pm
Screening Location: Avoca Beach Cinema, Avoca
69 Avoca Drv, Avoca Beach NSW
Ph: (02) 4382 1677

Lake Macquarie
Screening Date: Tuesday 7th June
Screening Time: 7pm
Screening Location: Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre
39 Lake Street, Warners Bay NSW

Screening Date: Thursday 9th June
Screening Time: 7pm
Screening Location: Civic Theatre Playhouse, Newcastle
375 Hunter Street, Newcastle NSW
Ph: (02) 4929 1977

Byron Bay
Screening Date: Thursday 16th June
Screening Time: 7pm
Screening Location: Byron Community Centre
69 Jonson St, Byron Bay, NSW 2481
Ph: (02) 6685 6807

You will find Facebook events for each of the events at: http://www.facebook.com/timsilverwood.fighting.against.marine.debris
or http://timsilverwood.com/events/

Thank you so much for all the support!

Tim Silverwood
0420 668 114

Fundraising website: http://www.pozible.com.au/index.php/archive/index/251/description/0/0