Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wine drinkers boost eco-friendly milk; something both parents and children can enjoy!

Wine drinkers and milk-lovers now have even more reason to toast for ‘good health’ thanks to an environmentally and heart-friendly milk derived from a winemaking by-product. Who would have thought that wine and milk could work hand in hand to help save the environment and keep us all healthy? That is of course, unless you happen to be lactose intolerant.

New research by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has found that feeding dairy cows the stems, seeds and skins from wine grapes increased milk production, dramatically cuts their methane emissions and makes their milk healthier.

Scientists at DPI’s Centre for Dairy Excellence at Ellinbank found that supplementing the cows’ feed with grape marc reduced their emissions by 20%, increased milk production by five per cent and increased the healthy fatty acids in their milk when green feed was not available.

The cut to emissions is thought to represent the largest reduction of its kind ever attained through the use of a feed supplement. The scientists supplemented the diet of dairy cows with 5kg of dried grape marc over 37 days and compared the results with other animals fed conventional fodder. They then measured the cows’ milk yields, milk composition and methane emissions.

DPI scientist Peter Moate said the researchers were stunned by the results.

Supplementing a dairy cows’ diet with dried grape marc increases the healthy fatty acids in milk by more than six times that of standard autumn fodder. These particular fatty acids are extremely potent in their ability to benefit heart health and are also known to help fight cancer, diabetes and arthritis.

Dr Moate said there were also early indications that cows fed grape marc also produced milk with higher levels of healthy anti-oxidants and that further tests were being conducted to verify this. He said on top of the cuts to emissions and the potential health benefits for milk drinkers, the discovery could also provide tangible benefits for the wine industry.

“We’ve managed to utilise what is currently a waste product for the wine industry and turn it into a very valuable feed source,” Dr Moate said.

He said there was currently around 200,000 tonnes of grape marc produced in Australia every year making it a readily available product for dairy farmers. However there were limits to the movement of grape marc because of quarantine restrictions to prevent the spread of the grapevine pest phylloxera.

In another benefit to flow from the research, the results also showed that feeding grape marc to dairy cows also increased their daily milk production by 5%. Dr Moate said the trial was carried out towards the end of the lactation cycle and that the researchers hoped to repeat it during early lactation when the cows were producing more milk.

“It’s possible that the benefits of using grape marc as a feed supplement in early lactation could be even more significant,” he said. Dr Moate said the research into using grape marc as a feed supplement was another example of DPI science aiming to enhance the productivity and profitability of Victorian food and fibre producers.

This research is part of a wider program looking the use of feed supplements to reduce methane emissions, such as brewers grains, cold-pressed canola meal, cottonseed meal, and hominy meal, all reduce methane emissions while supporting milk production.

Dr Moate said the use of grape marc together with other methane reducing feeds could result in a reduction in methane emissions of up to 20,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of taking about 200,000 cars off the road.

Source: Department of Primary Industries

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Recycling wins it for school in Negros Occidental, Philippines

For teaching an entire community how to dispose of its garbage properly and more responsibly, a Negros Occidental school topped this year’s National Search for Sustainable and Eco-friendly Schools, elementary level.

Iliranan Elementary School in San Carlos City bested some 45 regional winners from across the country in the second year of the competition.

The Camarines Sur National High School and De La Salle University-DasmariƱas were first in the high school and college categories, respectively.

The annual search for the most eco-friendly schools is conducted by the Departments of Education and Environment and Natural Resources, Commission on Higher Education and Smart Communications.

“What set us apart from other schools is that we are reaching out to the community and (are regularly monitoring and evaluating the program) to achieve our project’s goals and to guarantee its sustainability,” said Iliranan head teacher Jessie Batosin in a statement.

Iliranan initiated earlier this year a solid waste management system that extended beyond its campus. Partnering with village leaders, the school helped community residents change their habit of dumping their garbage in open pits or burning the trash.

The school taught and led the community in practicing waste segregation and recycling. Teachers and village coordinators also worked together to monitor how households managed their trash.

“A household that practices open burning and open dumping is given a chance to change its ways within a three-month period. After three months (without any) sign of behavior change, the council invokes the solid waste management ordinance and the no-garbage collection policy is strictly enforced,” Batosin said.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Green business inspiration...

Marty Metro loved the idea of buying something used and selling it for a bargain. He had watched resale shops do it successfully for years with everything from clothing to sports equipment. "EBay became a $10 billion company selling something used cheaper than new," says Metro, a former IT consultant for Fortune 500 companies.

But when Metro saw a moving truck loading boxes during a cross-country drive in the late 1990s, he recalls talking to his wife about how difficult it is for people to get rid of boxes after they’ve moved. "They break them down, tear them up, but they still don't fit in the recycling bin," he said. That casual conversation ultimately inspired him to leave his lucrative tech career in corporate America and strike out on his own. Metro's idea was to connect people who have used boxes to those who need them. At the same time he'd keep a lot of cardboard out of America’s landfills and help the environment.

While Metro passionately believed in the concept, little did he know he would first fail miserably at retail and sink deep into debt before turning it all around. He would have to recast his eco-friendly idea and create innovative technology to help him ultimately build a nearly $10 million business.Still, there were five years of hard lessons learned along the way. Metro's journey is one of inspiration, innovation and perseverance, which all small-business owners can learn from.

In 2002, Metro got his start by founding Los Angeles-based Boomerang Boxes, a retail store that sold used cardboard boxes, primarily to people moving into new homes and apartments. His father, a CPA, was skeptical, saying, "You're going to have to sell a hell of a lot of boxes to pay your rent."

It turned out dad was right. Selling $1 boxes out of brick-and-mortar locations didn't quite pay the bills. By 2005, Metro was forced to shut down Boomerang Boxes' four locations. Consumers appeared to love the idea, but the company was losing $15,000 to $20,000 a month and wound up $300,000 in debt, which Metro is still paying off today.

Still, Metro refused to give up. He started working on a plan to sell used boxes online, but in a unique way. "Historically, no one really sold boxes -- let alone used boxes -- online," recalls Metro, now 40. "They were too expensive to ship, so most people just went to a retail store (and asked for their discards.)"

Metro's distribution centers -- owned and run by third-party logistics teams -- make shipping more efficient and inexpensive since they're strategically located across the country near the major cities of Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and near Syracuse, N.Y. The company also owns and operates its own facility in Baltimore.

By 2008, had grown to $1 million in annual sales and demand was quickly beginning to outweigh supply. Metro needed more boxes, so he started buying and selling used boxes from national companies, expanding his customer base beyond consumers.

If a company needs 100,000 boxes, that information is put into a database that checks what boxes are available, the cost to ship them and the price Metro has to charge to make a profit. His IT staff updates the software and improves it almost daily. "It is very much the core of our success and a major factor in our future," he says.

Metro's software and monitoring system includes a business-to-business portal that offers big companies the option of viewing real-time inventory and ordering directly from the distribution centers.And he can access data from each distribution center right from his computer -- or even his phone -- which allows him to quickly identify and manage any issues or problems as they come up.

Electronic Recyclers International, which recycles computer components and other e-waste, has been a customer for three years. Chief executive John S. Shegerian says buying used cardboard boxes not only saves money, but also fits in nicely with his company's green goals. "We make it a cultural thing. Even our forklifts are hybrids," he says. "They have a great business model that supplies the boxes we need -- when we need them -- and they're recycled."

Meanwhile, Metro's father is no longer worried about his son selling cardboard boxes. The company's annual sales are just under $10 million and growing fast, according to Metro. He now has a few hundred business clients -- including a dozen large corporations. And the company's average order has gone from a $100 moving kit in 2006 to an $8,000 truckload today.

Eco-friendly advice for fellow entrepreneurs: 1. Your green efforts should help -- not hurt -- your bottom line. Being eco-friendly does not make a successful business model. "You make money either by helping companies save money, or helping them make money," he says. "Being eco-friendly is icing on the cake."

2. Every employee should have an eco-friendly focus. Sustainability does not have to be a separate company department. It should be a core value of your company and incorporated intoeveryone's job description.

3. Consider alternatives to recycling. Reusing is better than recycling. In recycling, you're "breaking down one material to create another," Metro explains. This generally requires expensive machines, energy, fuels and chemicals. Reuse, in contrast, often requires no breakdown and less energy and emissions.For Metro, the greatest challenge then became tailoring his used offerings to specific needs. When a company requests a 12-by-12-by-8-inch box, for example, nothing else will do. That's where his tech expertise has come in handy; Metro developed custom software that automatically matches what companies need with what he has access to.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

5 Powerful Eco-Friendly Children’s Books

Numerous studies inform us that reading to our children stimulates their imaginations, expands vocabulary, develops analytical and logical thinking, strengthens the parent/child bond, increases attention span, creates a love of reading…and it’s a fun and loving thing to do together.

But we don’t need a study telling us knowledge is power. We know this every time we snuggle up with our child to read a book and they turn to us and ask, WHY.

Our children will inherit this planet, with all its troubles and all its beauty. Providing them with age-appropriate information about pollution gives our children a powerful edge for the future. Where can all that power come from? Books.

Here are 5 books that are a breath of fresh air, that teach us timeless lessons about loving the world we live in and the importance of protecting it.

1. One of the books included in the popular Magic School Bus series, "The Magic School Bus Gets Cleaned Up", illustrates how particulate matter from the old Magic School Bus’ diesel exhaust gets into the lungs. The book includes a clean air checklist with important tips like, “ask your bus driver to turn off the engine when the bus is parked.”

2. Children’s book author Dr. Barrett Hays created "Mars, Jimmy, and Me." This book combines humor, whimsy, and science to jumpstart an examination of pollution, economic justice, and individual responsibility. It tackles real environmental issues such as global warming, the use of plastic and the need to talk about clean air and it's connection to the rise of asthma in children, in a way that is easily grasped by readers if all ages.

3. A lovely picture poem book entitled "A House Is A House For Me" by Mary Ann Hoberman. The poem culminates with a clear message to protect our planet, “Each creature that’s known has a house of its own. And the Earth is a house for us all.”

4. Another book called "I Know the River Loves Me" tells the story of a little girl and her special relationship with a river. Written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez, this bilingual book is the perfect way to talk to children about the beauty of nature and why it’s important to preserve it.

5. No children’s bookshelf would be complete without Dr. Seuss’ iconic cautionary classic, The Lorax. The Lorax is profoundly upsetting and leaves the parent reading to the child to explain what that mysterious and ominous UNLESS means. While that does provide a terrific starting point for conversations about how pollution threatens the world we live in, it also makes for guilty throat clearing.

After all, the children have done nothing wrong and can do nothing to fix the problem. It is the grownups who are making this enormous mess. Unless, it turns out, is a message for parents. Unless we stop. Unless we teach our children to cherish the planet — by cherishing it ourselves.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Six ways to save the planet

When faced with the whole idea of living the green way, it all seems too hard. But If you want to do more or you want to make a start in living a more sustainable life but worry that it may be too time consuming, difficult or expensive, take the time to read on and see how simple - and enjoyable, going green can really be.

Tip 1: Use toxin-free everything, from shampoos to home cleansers, cosmetics to mouthwash. Here's a scary thought - did you know that many mouthwashes contain the chemicals formaldehyde, sodium lauryl sulphate, polysorbate, cetylpyridinium chloride and benzalkonium chloride?

All these can be highly toxic to aquatic life. So when you're spitting in the bathroom sink and washing it down the drain, you're adding to the toxic soup our waterways are becoming.

There's also a possibility that if you use the same chemical mouthwash again and again, your oral environment could become resistant, creating a mouthful of superbugs. The easiest and most effective mouthwash is good old salt and water. Add as much salt as possible to a glass of warm water and stir until dissolved then gargle with it. It also works for mouth infections.

For cleaning the home, you can't go past baking soda and vinegar. Try putting your baking soda in a talcum powder- like container and your vinegar in a pump spray bottle. Simply sprinkle the baking soda over the area needing to be cleaned and spray on the vinegar. Rub with a damp cloth and wash off with water. Not only will this do the job, it is also extremely cost effective because you can buy in bulk.

Tip 2: Reduce, reuse, recycle - everything possible.

To make this easy, set up a cupboard for recycling, complete with bins or boxes for plastics, paper and cardboard, bottles and jars. Before throwing out paper and jars, think creatively.

Paper can be used as weed matting for the garden, to wrap up Christmas presents or to feed the critters in your worm farm. You can also use unwanted pages to make your own paper, which can be turned into hand-made cards and other artsy offerings.

Old jars are perfect for holding just about everything. You can boil them clean and use them for home-made jams, chutneys, pickles and preserves, or for seeds, nuts and rice. If you can't find a use for them, take them to your local hospice shop, where they will surely be found re-useful!

When you head to the supermarket, make sure you've got a whole bunch of shopping bags with you. Make the effort and cut right down on those harmful plastic bags.

If you've got sick of some clothes or they don't fit any more, think creatively about what you can do with them.

Hand them down to a friend or get together with your creative crew and see what you can do with old clothes - take them in, jazz them up with lace, ribbons or buttons to radically remodel them. Add panels if they're too tight, and try hand-painting dull shirts or skirts. For those that you just don't see being worn by yourself again, remember there are salvation army branches popping up everywhere ready and willing to take on anything you can contribute from your closet.

Tip 3: Ditch the car and get active. If you've got two cars, carefully work out if you could co-operate to live with one. Or you could decide to have carless days or even choose to get on your bike for any journey within a five-kilometre radius of your home or catch the bus.

Walking is another great way to get around, but make certain you've got good shoes and opt for a backpack. Make a car-free travel plan. Not only do you save money on petrol and parking bills, you get to cut down your carbon footprint and exercise at the same time.

Supporting public transport also means fewer cars on the road and more chance of the service surviving. One day, the oil will run out, so get ready for it by imagining it's already happened. Work out how you'd get the groceries, visit the library or go out for dinner with no car available. Treat it as an adventure.

Tip 4: Focus on vegetables. Do your best to eat in season and local and have a go at growing your own produce without chemicals If you're a beginning gardener, start small. Try growing tomatoes or lettuces in a tub or pot. When planning a bigger garden, do your research first. It all begins with choosing a site that gets sun most of the day - facing northeast is ideal. You need to prepare the soil (best to do in winter), and get planting.

Head to your local farmers' market, car-boot sale or garden centre to buy seeds and seedlings and ask for advice on what you should be planting now and how to tend your vegetables.

Plan for the future by planting a fruit tree or two. When you pick your first ripe apple or plum you'll be delighted. Build a raised garden or make a circular bed, both of which should be easy to weed.

Also add more meat-free meals to your repertoire and try to include "super foods" that are great for your body and brain. They include apples, apricots, avocados, blueberries, broccoli, brown rice, carrots, garlic and onions, grapes and raisins, seaweed,mushrooms, nuts, oats, spirulina, sprouts, wheatgerm and yoghurt.

Best of all, feast on the best of the season until you're sick of cherries or grapes until next year, when you start all over again.

Tip 5: Make your own compost bin or worm farm. You don't need to buy anything flash - you can build your own from basic materials. For a worm farm, an old bath raised up on short poles will do the trick. Add your worms, your food scraps and cover with old carpet. The worm juice can be drained out of the bath for feeding plants and the castings added to the garden.

For an effective compost bin, simply build a two-bin wooden structure in the corner of your garden and fill up one side at a time. When one side is full, leave it to break down and fill up the other side. This is a wonderful way to use lawn clippings and food scraps. But, if you have a dog or cats, you will have to cover up to prevent them from snacking on things like corn cobs and egg shells.

You can use corrugated iron or old carpet for this job, but just make sure the compost doesn't get too hot or dry.

Tip 6: Unplug, switch off and power down.

This comes down to vigilance and will not only cut down energy usage (imagine if everyone did this!), it could slash your power bills. First step is to turn off lights when leaving rooms.

Unplug cellphone chargers when not in use and don't leave appliances on save mode - turn off at the wall. Some classic culprits are computers, laptops, stereos and TVs. When replacing home appliances, opt for those with Energy Star ratings and then use them well.

Your dishwasher will have an eco mode, so press those buttons. Wash clothes in cold water where possible and use your drier only in an emergency. Put up an indoor washing line in the garage or put a clothes horse in your sunroom.

Once a week, try having a technology-free day. If that's too much, try once a month.

That means no TV, computers, cellphones, PlayStation, X-box or MP3 players.

Imagine sitting around playing cards and board games or heading off for a day at the beach without anybody contacting you? Twenty years ago that was the norm for all, so show your kids what the good old days were like.

If you're thinking all this may be a bit much to begin with, move forward into going green with baby steps; try it one thing at a time and it's guaranteed that once you experience how good it feels to be doing your part, you'll been encouraged to keep making a difference.