Saturday, January 31, 2009

There's a Polar Bear...Where?

Photo courtesy: Eden

As those of you know who have read my profile, I just adore creativity. I particularly love creativity that is simple, easy to understand and smacks the audience right between the eyes with its message. That's exactly what this sculpture by Eden does.

What an effective image to showcase one of the most painful victims of climate change - a polar bear floating atop a drifting ice cap in the Thames River.

Eden the driving force behind this exhibit is a new digital TV channel in the UK devoted to natural history and the natural world. It was thanks to their ingenuity that the 16-foot sculpture of a polar bear on an ice cap now floats in London’s Thames River. The structure weights 1.5 tons.

The aim of the project is to remind Londoners and the world of the imminent danger of climate change and global warming in the form of melting ice caps. It took 15 artists two months to complete; but, the results are stunning and incredibly lifelike.

The sculpture was commissioned by Eden to coincide with the channel’s Fragile Earth series, presented by the well-known animal rights crusader, Sir David Attenborough.

Huge New Wind Farm On The Way

Juist island, north of which the wind farm will be built. Photo: Wikipedia

RWE Innogy has announced that, with its purchase of ENOVA Energieanlagen GmbH it now also owns the rights to develop the North Sea Windpower 3 offshore wind farm in Germany. The project will now be known as Innogy Nordsee 1. This 960 MW project will be the first open-sea wind farm of its kind.

The timetable, location, costs are as follows:

Construction Could Begin 2010, Completed 2015

Innogy Nordsee 1 will be built 40 kilometers north of the island of Juist and cover an area of sea about 150 square kilometers in size. Innogy expects to receive permitting approval later in 2009, with construction beginning in 2010. For RWE, the construction of Innogy Nordsee 1 is a clear commitment to help achieve the climate protection targets of the German government and the European Union. The wind farm will avoid approximately 2.6 million tons of CO2 annually.

It will also make an important contribution towards achieving RWE’s ambitious renewables targets. By 2012, RWE wants to have secured a power generation capacity of around 4,500 MW on the basis of renewables. Through these investments, the Group is aiming to avoid up to 15 million tons of CO2 per year. The core market is Europe.

The first turbines are expected to produce power a year later; and, the entire wind farm is scheduled for completion in 2015. Total costs for the project are expected to run to €2.8 billion ($3.7 billion).

Based on wind speeds in the region, project developers expect the wind farm to produce over 3 TWh of electricity when fully completed.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Alternatives to Using Shoe Polish

One of my childhood memories is polishing my father’s shoes for work. We children all had our chores that helped to keep our family up and running. One of mine was shining my father’s shoes for work. I used to work really hard trying to make his shoes the shiniest he had ever worn. I wish I had known about these two methods back then. Sure beats a tin of polish, a well-used rag and a stiff brush for buffing.

Shoe polish can be toxic. Here's what the Dept. of Health and Human Services says about shoe polish:
[Emergency Instructions:]
INHALATION: Remove to fresh air. Contact a physician if irritation occurs.

EYE CONTACT: Flush eyes with water. Contact a physician if irritated.

SKIN CONTACT: Wash skin thoroughly with soap and water. If irritation occurs, contact a physician.

Product will temporarily stain skin. Direct eye contact may cause irritation of the eye.

Some cities have recognized the toxicity of shoe polish and taken steps to recycle it separately from other trash. In Los Angeles and most other places, shoe polish is disallowed in the regular trash. It must be disposed of as a hazardous material, because it often contains materials like naphtha and turpentine.

There are two completely organic ways of polishing your shoes without adding any burden to the environment.

Use a banana peel. The oils and potassium in the banana polish and preserve your shoes. Here are the directions:

1. Eat banana.
2. Rub the inside of the banana against the surface of your shoe.
3. Acquire soft cloth. Buff shoes.
4. Compost peel.

Use any vegetable oil.

1. Clean all dirt from shoes.
2. Place a couple drops of any vegetable oil on a soft cloth.
3. Rub all oil into shoes.
4. Buff and wear.

A Reader Says...

Kathi makes a good point in her comment. She points out that everyone may not know what a "navy shower" is. A navy shower is using water to get wet; turn off water to soap and shampoo; turn water on to rinse off.

Thank you, Kathi. Who else would keep me on my toes?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reply From Nguyen La Chanh : Moss Carpet Inventor

I wrote to Nguyen La Chanh trying to find if these carpets were commercially available. This is his response to my questions. Please note he has included his email address at the bottom as well as a website. Got questions? Ask him. He seems like a lovely person. The email starts below:


Thanks a lot for writing me!

I'm really sorry to tell you that my little moss carpet will stay in my bathroom for now... :-(

I only did one prototype and didn't planed to commercialized it. I would need to make many pieces to lower the costs... Because even though, it doesn't look like it, it's a pretty expensive carpet ! :-)

But since many people are writing me to buy one, I'm gonna think about finding a way to commercialize it.

I'll keep your email address and will let you know if it's possible to buy one in the near future.

Best regards


Looking at Bathroom Numbers

I found this information on one of my favourite sites: These statistics are based on your average American bathroom.

Green Bathrooms: By the Numbers

• 21 percent: Household water use that comes from the shower.
• 26 percent: Household water use that comes from flushing the toilet.
• 1.5 percent: Household water use that comes from using the bath.
• 80 gallons:Amount of water the average American uses a day.
• 2.5 gallons: Amount of water used per day by the rest of the world.
• 260 gallons: Amount of water used by the average household in the developed world.
• 67 percent: Water heating costs for households for showers alone.
• 22 gallons: Amount of water flushed down the toilet daily in the U.S.
• $5: Cost of a low flow shower head that will cut your consumption by 45 gallons per day.
• 15,000 gallons: Amount of water you can save per year by taking a navy shower.
• 60 gallons: Average amount of water used in taking a shower.
• 3 gallons: Amount of water used when taking a Navy shower.

A Reader Says...

Kathi wants to know if you add your own moss to the moss carpet. Yes, you do. I'm not sure what they cost. I had a hard time finding information; but, I have sent an email to the creator of this wonderful mat. He lives in Switzerland. When I have more info, I will post it.

I Want One, I Must Have One!!

Photo courtesy: Coroflot

What a great idea!! I must have one. I have always harboured a secret desire to have a bathroom that had access to the outdoors; so I could bathe in the open air surrounded by nature’s beauty and scents. In my fantasy, a light wind is blowing, the water is warm and the air is perfumed with scent of wildflowers.

Now, I can have a little aid to that fantasy. Moss has a clean, clear woodsy smell that never fails to relax me. When you touch moss, it’s like touching a canvas of living velvet. I have been caught fondling moss; and, confess to a fascination for this forest ground cover.

From Coroflot:
This bathroom carpet is made of imputrescible foam called plastazote. Each cell welcomes a piece of moss (ball moss, Island moss, forest moss). The humidity of the bathroom and the drops flowing from the body, water the mosses. This vegetable carpet procures a great feeling to your feet.

For those of us who didn’t know: imputrescible = does not rot.

What a wonderful way to get in touch with nature every morning and be reminded of some the reasons we are trying to save the planet’s incredible biodiversity.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More from William Kantz

William Kantz is working on a new website. It's URL is:

He says that they are rating companies like the better business bureau on their eco-awareness. At the present time it is a database for Davidson County. While they are still working out the kinks, the real site is in-depth and will be up and running in about 30 days).

Their home page says this:
Theme - Let Reality Drive Perception

Our Mission
ecoHonest™ provides an open forum for the communication and measurement of consumer perceptions and corporate data related to environmental stewardship. With our “360° Environmental Feedback Performance Review” we standardize the verification and information exchange process, seeking to improve marketplace trust in the environmental integrity of leadership in public and private sector life.

By working together, we can make green real.

Take a look!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

End of the Tainted Milk

Here’s comes the indignation. I am so incensed I wish I were in a position to right this.

The 22 dairy companies involved in the scandal have proposed a 1.1 billion yuan ($160 million) compensation plan. Sounds like a lot of money, doesn’t it? However, when you break it down into what each loss is worth, I start to get a little nauseous. I have never cared for the insurance adjusters little sliding scale of compensation vs. injury and I like this one even less.

Most of China is incredibly impoverished and these parents made great sacrifices to buy this milk for their children. There is also no social safety net like the USA, Canada, UK and many other countries have; so, the younger generations in many cases take care of the older generations. An elderly person in certain segments of China without children or grandchildren lives a lonely, hardscrabble life.

If your child died, it is worth 200,000 yuan ($29,000); just a serious case of kidney stones 30,000 yuan ($4,380); and, anything less 2,000 yuan ($290).

The China Dairy Association said the distribution of compensation payments was nearly complete, and that more than 262,000 families — or 90 percent of the official total — had accepted the dairies' offers by Thursday, CCTV reported.

On Thursday, January 22, 2009, 21 defendants blamed in the milk scandal were sentenced, including the former general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu Group Co., Tian Wenhua, 66.

Tian Wenhua, the highest-ranking executive charged in the tainted milk scandal, was given life imprisonment while three other company executives got sentences between five and 15 years.

One of those middlemen, Geng Jinping, who supplied hundreds of tons of melamine-tainted milk to Sanlu, was sentenced to death. Also condemned was Zhang Yujun, who ran a workshop that produced melamine-tainted powder branded as protein powder.

The parents and family members of the children involved felt the verdicts were too light and the compensation too low.

"Of course the verdicts are not just, especially the verdict of Tian Wenhua," said Li Xuemei, the mother of a sick baby, referring to Wenhua’s sentence.

Li and other parents wanted the death penalty for Tian, 66, a former member of China's ruling Communist Party and head of the Sanlu dairy company. They questioned whether she may have got a lighter sentence because of her contacts with powerful people.

Also conspicuous by their absence was the fact that no government officials had been charged. This is referring to long-standing accusations that local authorities in the northern city of Shijiazhuang where Sanlu is based were part of a cover up.

"So far no-one in the Shijiazhuang government has been punished," said Ma Hongbin, the father of a sick baby in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. He has stepped forward to informally represent other parents.

"In fact, many people say that Tian Wenhua was just a scapegoat, that there were many other people involved that will not face justice."

However, Ma is precious little time worrying over the verdicts, as he is concentrating all his energy on trying to get his 18-month-old daughter healthy again after she was fed Sanlu milk powder and fell ill.

"The most important thing is my child... she had an operation in hospital, but her condition is still bad. I don't know what will happen to her."

Ma is an incredibly brave man – he rejected a lump-sum compensation package of 30,000 yuan (4,400 dollars). If his petition is denied, authorities may not repeat the offer he has rejected.

"The government should be responsible for my child's health for her entire life," he said. And he is absolutely correct.

Echoing complaints by other parents, Ma also said the government had rejected repeated requests for an investigation into the long-term impacts of consuming melamine.

"What we are concerned about now is our children. We demand that the government conducts intensive research into how melamine will affect our children and how these problems can be fixed," he said.

In contrast to the families' complaints, China's state-run media said Thursday's sentences set a benchmark for how similar cases should be handled.

"The parents of many infant victims should feel relieved because justice has finally prevailed," the China Daily newspaper said in an editorial. "The trial of this case will hopefully set a precedent for handling similar cases in the future. It will hopefully create a better climate for food safety."

At least a dozen individual lawsuits have been filed against Sanlu; but, they are caught in a legal limbo because courts have neither accepted nor refused the cases — a sign of the scandal's political sensitivity.

A lawyer representing dozens of families with children sickened by tainted milk said that the bankruptcy order raised concerns that his clients might be outmaneuvered by the dairy's creditors.

"In theory, those who were physically harmed should get compensation first," Beijing-based lawyer Xu Zhiyong said in a telephone interview. "But our concern right now is that they might act in a brazen way, namely that the creditor bank or banks will collude with the local government to make Sanlu's assets go to compensating themselves first."

According to Chinese bankruptcy law, a company's liquidated assets are distributed first to employees who are owed salaries or insurance payments, then to pay off taxes, and finally to "common creditors."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

End of the Melamine-Tainted Milk Scandal?

Photo Courtesy: BBC News

Two men have been sentenced to death, one has been given life in prison and 19 others have been given lengthy prison terms as a result of the tainted milk scandal in China that killed at least six children and sickened at least 300,000 others. Some of these children will be left with disabilities for the rest of their lives from drinking this milk.

From Reuters:

One of the men sentenced to death was Zhang Yujun, who had made and sold over 600 tons of "protein powder" laced with melamine between October 2007 and August 2008, the official China Daily quoted prosecutors as saying earlier this month.

The powder was bought by middlemen who added it to pooled, watered-down milk from farmers that were then sold on to Sanlu. One of these men was also given the death sentence.

A third man was given a suspended death sentence, which usually means life in prison on good behavior. Other defendants received from five years to life imprisonment.

Melamine is an industrial chemical used in the production of plastic. However; when added to watered-down foods such as milk, it causes a false positive when tested for protein.

In an effort to prevent this kind of scandal from ever happening again, scientists have developed a test for melamine in milk. Researchers at Purdue University announced yesterday that their test can detect "tiny traces of the chemical" in about 25 seconds.

Zhao Lianhai, a parent who has rallied families through a Web site he created that details the crisis, said Friday that he and three others were presenting a petition to the Ministry of Health.

The petition, signed by some 550 parents, calls for free medical care and follow-up services for all victims, reimbursement for treatment already paid for, and further research into the long-term health effects of melamine among other demands. In my estimation, his requests are entirely too humble. Read his words.

"Children are the future of every family; and, moreover, they are the future of this country," the petition said. "As consumers, we have been greatly damaged."

State television reported Friday that the majority of the families had already settled with the 22 dairies responsible for the contamination under the umbrella of a government-led plan.

The report only confirms the communist leadership's eagerness to bring an end to the embarrassing scandal. What better way to do this than painting the parents who were rejecting the payments as out of step with the majority and fringe elements.

Jiang Yaling, a parent from Guizhou, said the parents who are asking for a better deal held a meeting with several Health Ministry officials on Friday. She said the officials pledged to "respect our petition" and process it quickly.

"It's not a matter of what the officials say to us; but, it's a matter of what they do. If these demands are not met, my child could have a life span of only 10 years. What kind of life is that? My child is my everything," Jiang said.

At this point my heart squeezes so hard I can feel it thumping inside my chest. As a mother, I can feel her pain in her last five words “My child is my everything”. If the grief of losing a child didn't kill me, knowing that I had fed them the milk that caused either their death or disability probably would. I know household pets that receive better treatment than these children and their families have received.

More on the settlements and; definitely, much more indignation next blog.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

They're Pumping My Veggies Full of Antibiotics!

photo: Foodnet

Reason #3 on my list of “Reasons To Become A Vegetarian” was because I didn’t want to eat anything that had been pumped full of growth hormones and/or antibiotics and/or steroids. Many meat eaters I know are cutting back on their meat consumption for this reason also. Now I find we may still be consuming a side dish of antibiotics with each meal.

Environmental Science News reports about two studies done at the University of Minnesota show that crops grown on sites previously used for livestock can absorb the antibiotics leftover in the soil.

Our society is so addicted to antibiotics, it has reached epidemic proportions. Thinking about sneezing – grab an antibiotic. They are handed out in all manner of disguises defending your family from all manner of pernicious diseases percolating in hidden crevices in your home bidding their time until your immune system is in their control. Spooooky!

Check the packaging on all your sprays, wipes, cleaners, foams, scrubbing bubbles, clinging spray, clinging foam, etc. and be prepared to see any mix of following terms: disinfectant, antifungal, antibiotic, germicide, antibacterial.

"Around 90 percent of these drugs that are administered to animals end up being excreted either as urine or manure,” said Holly Dolliver, a member of the Minnesota research team and now a professor of crop and soil sciences at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. “A vast majority of that manure is then used as an important input for 9.2 million hectares of (U.S.) agricultural land.”

2005 was the first study and chlortetracycline was found in the manure-treated soil where researchers planted corn, lettuce, and potatoes. Later on in another study in 2007, sulfamethazine was found in manure-treated soil. Both chlortetracycline and sulfamethazine are antibiotics widely used in the livestock/agriculture industry.

The study said that while foods that are often highly processed like corn seem to lose a lot of the chemicals they absorb but; veggies like spinach, lettuce, and other produce that are just washed before use, do not.

Once again Europe is ahead of us here in America (both North and South). They banned the use of antibiotics in the raising of food animals in 2006. In the US (and I’m sure Canada is roughly the same) nearly 70 percent of antibiotics produced annually are given in some form to livestock. The part that galls me and should gall the entire meat-eating community is that most of these animals given antibiotics are not sick.

Vegetarians and green eaters are now finding that they are unwittingly getting a side dish of antibiotics with each meal. Let’s ratchet this up a notch and go organic! It’s a little more expensive; but, it’s worth it – right?

Here’s something I didn’t know and I bet you didn’t either. There are no standard practices in place that force organic farmers to check the manure they use for antibiotic content. Therefore, even organic crops could contain a healthy dose of antibiotics for dessert.

Scientists agree that the misuse of antibiotics (source: is contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant human diseases. Patients suffer through longer illnesses thereby incurring higher medical costs; and, doctors are left with a dwindling arsenal of drugs to fight disease.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Salmonella Outbreak in Georgia Migrates North To Canada

Unfortunately, a touch of paranoia is becoming a must-have accessory in your toolbox for survival nowadays. When I first reported the salmonella outbreak in the peanut-processing plant in Georgia, USA; I mentioned my reluctance to believe the platitudes about the outbreak being confined to the US.

Late Monday, just days after word broke about the contamination, the Canadian Food Inspection agency issued a statement warning the public not to consume a series of snack foods sold in Canadian stores. Even though the contaminated peanut butter was supposed to be for institutional use only; it appears these products could contain peanut butter tainted with salmonella. My question is: How did peanut butter that was destined for sale for institutional use only – not for grocery-store items – end up in grocery-store items in Canada?

Major companies such as Kellogg’s have recalled products. The CFIA's warning involves nationally distributed peanut butter snacks by Hebert's Fully Loaded, Nature's Path Organic Optimum, Clif Bar and Lurabar.

One Canadian living in New Brunswick has fallen ill; however, he is a person known to frequent the United States. It is assumed he likely consumed an infected product while there.

As to whether the outbreak has hit Canada yet, the statistics are: 47 Americans and one disputed New Brunswicker. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tyson Chicken - True or False?

Photo courtesy:
In one of the most flagrant cases of disregard for the health of the public; truth in advertising laws; and, on a par with, “I did not have sex with that woman!” is Tyson Foods’ claim regarding their chicken.

Tyson Foods is the world’s largest meat processor and the second largest chicken producer in the United States. They label their chicken as raised without antibiotics relying heavily on the “homey” feel of chickens being raised on the family farm of Grandpa and Grandma Middle America. It’s enough to send me (a long-time vegetarian) back to eating chicken. After all, what could be more wholesome?

Tyson has spent tens of millions of dollars on this “down home, feel good” campaign in response to scientific findings that the use of antibodies in animal agriculture could lead to increased amounts of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans, which in turn could lead to a pandemic or health crisis. (Remember this statement later on in this blog).

However, in 2007, questions were raised about Tyson’s labeling its chicken as “antibiotic-free” since Tyson regularly treats its birds’ feed with bacteria-killing ionophores. The US Department of Agriculture wanted to remove the antibiotic-free label from Tyson’s chickens for being untruthful. Tyson Foods argued that ionophores are antimicrobials rather than antibiotics; but, the USDA reminded Tyson of its policy that “ionophores are antibiotics”.

Most poultry farmers regularly treat chickens and other birds with antibiotics (the same as they do other food animals) to prevent the development of intestinal infections that might reduce the weight (and profitability) of the birds. With scientists raising the alarm about the dangers of treating food birds with antibiotics and a move by the general public to more organic food, the claim that their chicken was antibiotic-free was a huge hammer to use on the competition.

Ionophores are not used to treat human disease so Tyson suggested a compromise, accepted by the USDA in December. Tyson would use a label reading "raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans." This claim has since been proved false.

Tyson's competitors Perdue Farms Inc., Sanderson Farms Inc. and Foster Farms sued, under the banner of the Truthful Labeling Coalition. In May 2008, a federal judge ruled in their favor and told Tyson to stop using the label.

Not long after, on June 3, 2008, USDA inspectors discovered that using ionophores was just a minor no-no compared to what was happening in the hen houses. Seems the fox may have been in charge of the hen house after all.

The USDA inspectors also found that Tyson was regularly injecting its chicken eggs (two days before hatching) with gentamicin, an antibiotic that has been used for more than 30 years in the US and other countries to treat urinary tract and blood infections.

Let’s bring our statement we’re supposed to remember back: Tyson has spent tens of millions of dollars on this “down home, feel good” campaign in response to scientific findings that the use of antibodies in animal agriculture could lead to increased amounts of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans, which in turn could lead to a pandemic or health crisis.

The more antibiotics we consume in our diets the more resistant our disease bacteria learn to become so it becomes harder and harder to cure an illness; until, eventually, we cannot cure that illness anymore and it now becomes a fatal disease. The more disease-specific antibiotics are even better if mass destruction is what you are after.

Governments stockpile antibiotics for use in pandemics when production of them may not be possible; but, they can only stockpile for a certain number of possibilities. They decide on the most probable outcomes and make plans accordingly.

"In contrast to information presented by Tyson Foods Inc., [inspectors] found that they routinely used the antibiotic gentamicin to prevent illness and death in chicks, which raises public health concerns," said USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond.

"The use of this particular antibiotic was not disclosed to us," said USDA spokesperson Amanda Eamich. Gentamicin is stockpiled by the US government and; probably, the Canadian government as well to treat outbreaks like the plague.

Now, this is the part that almost left me speechless. However, as you can see from the size of this blog, I’ve managed to get over it and I shall press on bravely. I expect to be lied to – I’m 55 (my days of naivetie are over). However, I do not appreciate having my intelligence insulted in such a manner as Tyson Foods expecting me to believe this codswallop they are slinging about why their chickens are raised antibiotic-free.

The USDA told Tyson that based on this previously-unknown information; it would no longer consider the antibiotic-free label "truthful and accurate.”

Tyson objecting by claiming that because the antibiotics are injected into the egg two or three days before the chickens hatched, the birds can truthfully be said to be “raised with antibiotics”. Tyson maintains that the USDA rules governing the raising of birds do not address anything that happens before the second day of life.

Tyson Foods also defended the "in ovo" injection of antibiotics as standard industry practice with Vice President, Archie Schaffer, saying, “the vast majority of the industry does exactly the same thing." What Tyson Foods neglected to reveal is that gentamicin takes several weeks to dissipate; so, the drugs are still in the birds’ bodies after they hatch.

Tyson agreed to voluntarily withdraw its "raised without antibiotics labels," citing "uncertainty and controversy over product labeling regulations." It then filed a lawsuit against the USDA, claiming that the agency had improperly changed the definition of "raised without antibiotics" to include the treatment of eggs.

Tyson is asking to have the regulation to be thrown out. Let’s hope it’s Tyson that gets thrown out.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Peanut Recall Georgia Based

So far, this salmonella outbreak seems to be limited to the United States. However, as we know from other outbreaks and product tampering, it’s amazing how far these products can travel in our tiny global village. Let’s not assume that it will not travel elsewhere.

Peanuts are the problem this time (again). In February 2007, ConAgra Foods, Inc., Omaha NB, recalled its Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butter brands after more than 625 people in 47 states were sickened. The outbreak was traced to ConAgra’s Sylvester, GA, plant where a leaky roof and faulty sprinkler system were found to be the culprits.

Salmonella likes moisture and the roof and sprinkler system allowed low levels of dormant salmonella to grow that most likely had been present in the raw peanuts or peanut dust.

ConAgra upgraded the facility and peanut butter was returned to store shelves for sale to the public in August 2007.

Federal food safety inspectors are once again focusing on a peanut-processing plant in Georgia for a salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 434 people in 43 states and is suspected in contributing to five deaths.

This time the plant owned by Peanut Corp. of America (PCA); located in Blakely, GA; makes peanut butter for institutional use.

Peanut Corp. of America, which owns the plant in Blakely, Ga., said it has recalled products made at the plant after June 30. The company, based in Lynchburg, Va., said it is withdrawing 21 lots of its peanut butter, in containers ranging from five to 50 pounds, as a precautionary measure.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman said inspectors have been doing everything possible to see where the products were shipped. "At this time," he said, "only one PCA plant is involved -- the Georgia plant."

To their credit, Peanut Corp. of America recalled the peanut butter Tuesday after the CDC identified it as a likely source of the outbreak. The company sells bulk peanut butter under the brand names King Nut and Parnell’s Pride which are sold to schools, hospitals and nursing homes; but; are not available in any grocery stores. Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman said USDA didn’t buy any of the recalled peanut butter for the National School Lunch Program or other Food Distribution Program.

Peanut Corp. of America said it's working closely with the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reported Wednesday that there have been clusters of Salmonella infections in schools, long-term care facilities, hospitals and other institutions.

"Farmers don't like seeing something like this because it causes confusion. This is not an issue of tracking it back to the farm, because there's no organism that can survive the heat of roasting," said Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission, a group representing 5,000 peanut growers in the country's largest peanut producing state.

Kellogg Co. put a hold on sales of its Austin and Keebler-branded Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Crackers, Cheese and Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers and Peanut Butter-Chocolate Sandwich Crackers as a precautionary measure while the Food and Drug Administration investigates salmonella contamination involving a manufacturer of peanut butter and peanut paste. An article published Wednesday afternoon on incorrectly said that Kellogg had placed a hold on peanut-butter sandwich cookies as well as crackers.

Generic Household Tips

Hands up those who love cabbage rolls!! I just love cabbage rolls and was delighted to find some vegetarian recipes. The only problem I ever had with making cabbage rolls was getting the cabbage leaf off the head of the cabbage and wrapped around the filling without it breaking.

I can see you all nodding your heads in agreement - it's a horror of a job. Until now. This tip is invaluable. Before making your cabbage rolls, freeze your head of cabbage. This is not a typo - freeze your head of cabbage solid.

When you thaw your cabbage for use, you will find that leaves will be very limp and manageable. You can remove them from the head and roll them without cracking a single leaf. Freezing the cabbage does not affect the taste, flavour, texture, or mouth feel of the cabbage in anyway after simmering in tomato sauce.

Try it - you'll like it!

Want to use an entire head of lettuce and the core is getting in the way. Simplest trick yet: Take your head of lettuce and hold it above counter core side down. Hit the core sharply on the counter, flip the lettuce over, and core glides right out.

Good trick!

A Reader Says...

Probably my most faithful reader, Kathi, brought up this point. Kathi scuba dives and she goes to many different countries. Her method of spreading the word about reef destruction, sea pollution and climate change is to take a bag with her on her dives. She fills this bag with some of the garbage she finds. Back on shore, she subtly starts talking with the natives who live there getting her points across regarding recycling.

And that's the trick, of course. Not much gets changed when people are preached at; however, when people are talked with (not at, not around, not down to) ideas can be planted. These ideas stand a better chance of growing because they were planted with kindness into what is now a receptive mind.

You really do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I can see Kathi now - talking honey while holding onto a stinking bag of garbage. It's an image I'll not easily get out of my mind.

Conservation looks good on ya, K!

A Reader Says...

One of my readers Juley, a friend from a bird board, tells us some of the methods she uses to reduce her waste. However, she goes on to say, that if she feels something is overpackaged and/or is not recyclable, she will try to find an alternative product. Good on you, Juley. We should all be so consciencious. Manufacturers don't listen until we affect their bottom line...follow the money! When they start feeling the pinch because of their packaging; you can bet they will change the packaging.

Thanks Juley for bringing an important tip to the fore.

A Reader Says...

Kathi points out a good website run by a man called William Kantz ( I have been there and checked it out. Worth a look, readers!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What Can You Do With a Coffee Filter?

Coffee filters ..who knew! And you can buy 1,000 at the Dollar Tree, Dollar Store, Looney Bin or similar outlet for almost nothing.

1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.

2. Clean windows and mirrors. Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.

3. Protect China: Separate your good dishes by putting a coffee filter between each dish.

4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.

5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.

6. Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.

7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.

8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale.

9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.

10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.

11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.

12. Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows? Use strips of coffee filters.

13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them. Soaks out all the grease.

14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great "razor nick fixers."

15. Use them as catch wax drippings from burning candles. Poke a hole to slide candle through. Move filter partway up candle and hold candle without the fear of wax dripping on your hand.

16. Use for backing for embroidering soft fabrics, easy to tear away afterwards. machine embroidering also.

17. Use one to line the potty chair "cup" when potty training toddlers. No messy cleanup.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Paint It

Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University says while the idea may involve simple science, the reason why it won’t work involves simple science also.

"It won't tackle global warming because carbon emissions are still rising," he says. “Like all geo-engineering schemes, it will need to be kept up indefinitely," he adds, “and does not address the growing acidification of the oceans, caused as extra CO2 dissolves. The cooling effect and energy savings in cities would be welcome though.”

Akbari responds by pointing out that his plan is not intended to replace efforts to cut carbon emissions; but, to work in conjunction with them.

"We can give the atmosphere time to breathe," he says. "I just don't see a downside to this idea. It benefits everybody and you don't have to have hard negotiations to make it happen."

In technical terms, the percentage of light reflected by a surface is called its albedo. A perfectly reflective surface has an albedo of 1. So, in terms of reflectability 1 is the gold standard. That doesn’t sound too bad or does it?

Let’s look at the albedo of our most common surfaces. Dark roofs reflect about 10-20% of sunlight; white surfaces tend to reflect approximately 50%; coloured paints have an albedo of 0.1–0.3; but, white paint has an albedo of 0.5-0.9; asphalt roads with their albedos as low as 0.05 can absorb up to 95% of the sun’s energy; the albedo of concrete can be up to 0.3; and tar and gravel just 0.1.

Akbari is not expecting everyone in the world to just suddenly rush out with paintbrushes and other reflective materials and change the landscape overnight. His mission is to get individuals, local authorities, builders and communities to think about albedo alongside cost, colour and design when it comes to repairs, maintenance and new construction.

"This is not just a question of painting things white. Roofs and roads are routinely repaired and replaced and, when it comes to a householder changing their roof, we want them to look at reflective options. That's the time to target people." He says an "aggressive" program could convert all cities within 10-20 years.

While convincing flat roof owners to paint them white should not prove much of a problem since flat roofs are only seen by overhead traffic. However, sloping roofs are visible from the street. Not only does painting or converting all these roofs to white take away some individuality, streets of white-roofed houses could dazzle on a sunny day as could road surfaces that are too light in colour. Too light a colour coupled with too much light becomes glare reflected into the eyes of motorists.

“No problem,” Akbari says, “reflective materials need not be white. Lighter colours such as grey are good too. And there are other ways to increase the albedo of materials. Pigments that bounce back infrared light can raise the reflectivity of dark surfaces by 40% without any obvious change in colour. They are not as effective as white, which bounces back visible wavelengths of light too; but, they are much better than conventional materials.”

The Japanese are usually among the first when it comes to pioneering new technologies; and, once again they are in the forefront on this issue. The Public Works Research Institute in Japan has been experimenting with paints with pigments that bounce back infrared light applied to conventional asphalt surfaces. They seem to have conquered both problems.

Their prototype road reflects 86% of infrared light (keeps surface cool); yet, reflects 23% of visible light (keeps glare down). Wondering how these changes would affect pedestrians, researchers recruited volunteers in the summertime to “stand on the paint-coated pavement and conventional pavement.” The volunteers actually preferred the coated road because it kept their feet cool.

There are other benefits too. Computer simulations of Los Angeles show that by resurfacing about two-thirds of roads and rooftops with reflective surfaces, in addition to planting more trees, it is possible to cool the city by 2-3C. A reduction of 2-3C would be blessing enough; but, in addition this would reduce LA smog as much as a total ban on cars and trucks. I was in LA about 20 years ago; (I can only imagine what it is like now) and, I could see the smog miles before I could see the city. I have never been back – have no urge to go back. There’s just something about being able to actually see the air I’m breathing that I find a bit off-putting.

Home owners would reap the benefit of having a cooler roof by saving a fortune in electricity bills. On hot days in North America, up to 40% of all electricity can be consumed by air-conditioners. Air-conditioners suck energy like almost no other appliance. For each degree a city such as LA warms (pop. Approx. 3.8 m), it is estimated the air-conditioners are turned up enough to need another 500 MW. To put things in perspective, this is the output of a decent sized nuclear power station. Akbari estimates that widespread use of cooler rooftops could slash $1bn from electricity bills in the US alone. Can we even wrap our minds around the concept of the electricity saved worldwide? That alone, will set other good things in motion.

But why should we bother with places that are more renowned for their bad weather than their days of weak sunshine and extra vitamin C? Akbari says his estimates of the global cooling potential of reflective cities are based on a global average, so, the cloudier places will be made up for by the sunnier spots. "It's absolutely worth doing in the UK," he says. “And,” he adds, “he might just have found a way to pay for it.”

His plan is brilliant. It should be presented to governments everywhere. Akbari’s plan and reasoning is this:

“Each 10 sq m of urban surface changed from dark to white has the same cooling effect as preventing the release of a ton of carbon dioxide. So why not include such resurfacing in carbon offset schemes? Just as money from green consumers and firms anxious about their carbon footprint is used to fund projects that plant trees, fit green light bulbs and develop renewable energy, in exchange for carbon credits; so, it could pay people across the world to paint, coat and resurface.”

At today's carbon prices, changing the colour of an average roof could net the householder £150 ($224 US); and, Akbari's global scheme could together generate more than £500m ($746.4 m US). "We want to target 30 to 40 cities initially; but, within a few years we hope it will mushroom around the world," he says.

Paint It White

In California, flat-roofed premises are now required to have white roofs. Photograph: Alamy

Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones wanted us to paint it black; but, Hashem Akbari, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, is now calling for us all to paint it white. Why white? Why now?

Akbari’s scheme is incredibly simple. It can be done by anyone, anytime, anyplace there are surfaces to paint. All that is required is a desire to change the world, elbow grease and paint, lots of it.

His scheme is based on observations of old technologies; some so subtle and natural they have possibly gone unnoticed until now as the legitimate technologies they are.

Southern Europe and North Africa are full of whitewashed villages. Was there knowledge here we had failed to recognize?

“Turn enough of the world's black urban landscape white,” he says, “and it would reflect enough sunlight to delay global warming, and grant us some precious breathing space in the global struggle to control carbon emissions.”

Akbari is now prepared to take his campaign to the people. He plans to start his “paint the world white” campaign by uniting dozens of the world’s major cities in an effort to replace dark, heat-absorbing materials used on roads and roofs with a material that is a little more reflective.

The vast majority of people do not realize that the effect of this could be quite dramatic. Study after study has shown that buildings with white roofs stay cooler during the summer. The change reduces the way heat accumulates in built-up areas - known as the urban heat island effect - and allows people who live and work inside to switch off power-hungry air conditioning units.

Oh, those crazy Californians!! California is one beautiful state, one huge water-guzzling state – but; beautiful nonetheless. Governor Schwarzenegger seems to be quite an environmentally concerned governor. Personally, I have noticed that he has taken the environment into consideration on many occasions. I was happy to see that California passed a law in 2005 that forced warehouses and other commercial premises with flat roofs to paint them white. Hopefully, the effort can be extended. It could make a huge difference.

Together, roads and roofs are reckoned to cover more than half the available surfaces in urban areas. A mass movement to change their colour, Akbari calculates, would increase the amount of sunlight bounced off our planet by 0.03%. Wait, wait, it gets better!!

“And,” he says, “that would cool the Earth enough to cancel out the warming caused by 44bn tons of CO2 pollution. If you think that sounds like a lot, then you're right. It would wipe out the expected rise in global emissions over the next decade.”

“It won't solve the problem of climate change,” Akbari says, “but; could be a simple and effective weapon to delay its impact - just so long as people start doing it in earnest. Roofs are going to have to be changed one by one and to make that effort at a very local level, we need to have an organization in place to make it happen," he says.

Groups in several US cities, including Houston, Chicago and Salt Lake City, are on board with his plan, and he is talking to others.

The idea is a form of geo-engineering, a broad term used to cover all schemes that tackle the symptoms of climate change, namely catastrophic temperature rise, without addressing the root cause, our spiraling greenhouse gas emissions. Akbari says his plan is more workable than other geo-engineering ideas. The science is simple. Sunlight reflected from a surface does not contribute to the greenhouse effect, which drives global warming. That problem comes when dark surfaces soak up sunlight and send it back up as thermal energy, at just the right wavelength to rebound off CO2 in the sky.

I finish this up next blog.


I make bean soup from scratch (dried beans and all) and I also sprout seeds. Those of you who do the same realize the importance of soaking your beans and rinsing your sprouts. Soaking beans should have their water changed at least twice before cooking. That first soak (bean) or rinse (sprout) water is absolutely jam packed with good stuff for your plants. Never throw that first wash water away - dilute it enough so all your plants get to share the bounty and watch them grow green and healthy. How much more natural a fertilizer can you get than that? Not to mention saving that water from going down the drain - a small step to reducing your water footprint.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What's the Buzz Over Burt's Garbage?

Photo via Editor B

Probably my favourite company has to be Burt’s Bees. All of Burt’s products are approximately 99% organic plus they have an ethical commitment to both the environment and their customer. It doesn’t get much better than this company. I’m always telling my friends (and sometimes complete strangers) that Burt is so organic he knows every bee by name. Burt must be so proud to have me has his customer (**can someone help me get my tongue out my cheek?**)

Burt’s Bees is one example of how companies across the US and; hopefully, the world are taking a closer look at what’s in their garbage bins. Companies are beginning to realize that by making big changes in the way they handle their garbage they can not only reduce the level of garbage they produce; but, also save money. Many companies have set sustainability goals of curbing trash and improving recycling. The only truly effective way to do this is “hands-on, in the dumpster” inspection of the garbage and Burt’s Bees did just that.

After dressing for the occasion (in HazMat suits) Burt’s employees (no, not the bees) inspected two weeks worth of garbage for recycling opportunities and ideas that would further cut the company’s waste. Was it worth it?

According to John Replogle, president and CEO, “Employees … found recycling opportunities that cut the company's waste in half while generating $25,000 in estimated annual savings.”

"We found money in the dumpster," he declares. "We've turned our waste stream from a cost center into a profit center."

Businesses are also finding new revenue streams in their garbage by taking items that were hauled away to the landfill in the past and instead selling them to someone else for cash -- a boon in a slow economy. A bigger boon for the landfill that will now have a longer life to be used for items that truly can’t be dealt with in any other way.

“Dumpster diving helped move Burt's Bees closer to its goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2020. Set 18 months ago, the company quickly made great strides at reaching that target and went from producing 40 tons of waste per month down to an impressive 10 tons per month by aggressively recycling and introducing composting at its Durham, N.C., corporate office and manufacturing plant,” says Replogle.

"Then we were stuck and needed to reinvigorate the effort again," he recalls.

The superheroes of the company, The Green Team, saved the garbage for two weeks, placed it in the parking lot and; with the help of employees, took a good look at what did or did not need to be there.

They made three piles: things they already recycle that weren’t and did not belong in the trash; things that could be recycled if an outlet were located (eg. Plastic buckets); real garbage that couldn’t be recycled for sanitary reasons (latex gloves, hairnets).

"Once you've seen your garbage up close, it's hard to ignore it," jokes Shira E. Norman, a research consultant in the Chicago office of YRG Sustainability.

Norman adds, “Experts insist the (dumpster diving) exercise makes a strong impression on employees that can inspire behavior change with far greater impact than any written report or e-mail alert.”

I believe we as a planet have become so desensitized to news that is reported to us via written report, spoken word, email or other forms of communication where the visual impact component is missing that it goes unheard by most of us.

Burt's Bees' Replogle felt the visual component to be a huge part of the exercise. He says they used their dumpster diving effort as a teachable moment and urged its 300-plus workers that day to inspect what they were throwing away

"That walk through the parking lot and seeing all that trash translated into a collective 'aha moment' and we all realized we could do a better job at recycling," says Replogle.

“After that experience, the company quickly jumped from 80 percent compliance in recycling to 98 percent,” he says. "Now we have a shared ethos of taking responsibility," he adds.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Colony of Fairy Penguins Given Protection by Two Sheepdogs

Photo via marcmc

Herding dogs have been used for centuries by man to help him keep his flocks together while grazing and to keep predators at bay so none of their flock was eaten by wolves, foxes or other carnivores. One or two good herding dogs were worth 15-20 good men. The dogs were swifter, their senses keener, they were cheaper to “hire”, they reproduced themselves faster, the wages never went up generation to generation and their undying love and loyalty was yours until their dying day.

Unfortunately, technology came along forcing these wonderful herding animals into the category of “household pet” instead of “working animal” which is their true nature. Working dogs enjoy working; not, working to death as some would believe but having some work to accomplish.

Bored herding dogs with no access to work have been known to start “herding” the children in the household or anything within sight that moves (other pets, people on the sidewalk). Humans always think it quite cute; but, the poor dog is so bored, the statement so clear – “Give me a job!”

There have been a few cases where herding dogs have been employed to do what they do best – herd. Border collies have been employed to herd ducks at airports. The collies harass; but, do not harm, the birds until they leave that location. Not one single life is lost this way – the birds just find a different place to call home.

Finally science has caught up with what all us barefoot, aging, hippie types (that’s me!!) have known all along – natural is better.

A colony of fairy penguins on Warrnambool’s Middle Island off the south coast of Australia has been nearly devastated by raids by foxes and wild dogs. (Following is a 30-sec. video of fairy penguins in a zoo.)

In this instance, the working dog selected for the dog is a guard dog. Maremma sheepdogs have been employed to guard the colony of fairy penguins. The Maremma is an Italian breed of sheepdog that has the ability to bond with the flock or herd of animals it is protecting. They will attack anything that threatens one of “their own”. These dogs have done such a wonderful job at guarding this colony that conservationists are now wondering what other threatened animals could benefit from this natural type of interference.

Normally, I don’t agree with interfering with nature; but, I’d rather see the interference being two sheepdogs than something that would try to reduce other wildlife in an effort to save the penguins.

“We're now starting to see some great results,” said Middle Island Maremma Project manager Ian Fitzgibbons. “We've had our best penguin count since we began in 2006 with over 80 birds counted in one night and I think we have about 26 chicks on the island too.”

Environmental Tragedy in Alabama

My January 1, 2009 post was about the huge coal ash spill in Kingston, TN. where 2.6 million cubic yards of coal ash sludge broke through a dike and covered 400 acres up to six feet deep. This “fail” (sounds so much better than disaster, environmental catastrophe, or other such phrases, doesn’t it?) happened on December 29, 2008.

Now the Tennessee Valley Authority says “a waste pond at its Widows Creek power plant in northeast Alabama has ruptured.” This event happened January 6, 2009. Just barely over one week after the Kingston “fail”.

The Associated Press says this: “TVA spokesman John Moulton says the leak in the pond was discovered at about 6 a.m. at the plant near Stevenson, Ala. He said most of the material flowed into a settling pond at the plant site, but some spilled into Widows Creek.

The federal utility says the leak of what it described as gypsum has stopped and it is repairing the pond. It doesn't have an estimate on much material spilled and the cause of the failure is under investigation.”

While it is not clear yet how toxic this spill is – there is a small chance the spill was only gypsum and the local ecosystems won’t be harmed; what is abundantly clear is that the dikes, ponds, or other containers used are woefully inadequate.

Let's hope that the study that claimed that world reserves of coal are actually much smaller than previously thought is right.

I was unable to find a video of the aftermath of this spill; so, I am hoping that means it was both minor and non-toxic. When I uncover the facts, they will be reported here so keep coming back.

If you have an idea you would like to see published, let me know. I’m always looking for causes to promote or activities to expose.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Reader Says...

Simon Berry dropped by my blog with some more updated information. For those who have not read his comment, he says in part that since the trips I had mentioned: "I have been to a meeting in Tanzania to discuss the idea with local NGOs and Coca-Cola staff. We are getting there . . . . slowly! You can follow progress on the ColaLife Blog:
Regards, Simon". Thanks Simon. I am so pleased to help in any small way possible. It is creative, life-saving and one of the most worthwhile projects I have encountered in a long while. I wish you and everyone involved Godspeed.

Will Simon Berry Win Over Coca-Cola?

I like Coca-Cola. I have always liked Coke. I know people who work at the Coke bottling plant; so, I almost feel like family. I was delighted to find out the latest endeavor Coca-Cola is considering.

Simon Berry is a thinker, a ponderer, and a doer when the answer reveals itself to him. Simon has been pondering the irony of our being able to ship a Coke just about anywhere on earth; but, our inability to ship inexpensive medications for diarrhea and other illnesses that claim children’s lives to these same parts of the world.

Simon has an idea. He has approached Coca-Cola with a life-saving plan putting Coke’s huge and extensive distribution system to use with just a small tweak. Simon is suggesting that the Coca-Cola Company, using his distribution network, deliver life-saving medications and information in developing countries. One of his suggestions is the dedication of one compartment in every 10 crates as “the life-saving compartment”. Joyously, Coca-Cola is listening.

Image Credit: Tielmann, on Flickr

Obviously, it is neither Coke’s job nor the job of its employees to deliver or distribute medications. Some sort of distribution plan must be made. WaterAid quickly points out that distributing rehydration salts for treating diarrhea is one of the least cost-effective methods to save lives. They would prefer educating people about hygiene (est. cost of $3/day per disability-adjusted life year) and installing proper sanitation ($11/day). Both extremely worthwhile goals to strive for which I’m sure we all pray will eventually come to fruition.

However, you can only work with what you have and progress is worth fighting for. When dissents attack his idea, Simon’s answer is: “Coca-cola reaches people. If people see the "life-saving" compartment, they will ask questions. Questions like: "How do I use these rehydrating salts?" and "How can I improve hygiene or sanitation to avoid disabling and life-threatening diseases?"

Simon Berry's campaign is picking up supporters through a Facebook Coca-Cola Campaign group, media awards and a BBC interview. And Coca-Cola is listening, really listening.

According to Inhabitat, "Simon was invited by Salvatore Gabola, Coca-Cola’s Global Head of Stakeholder Relations, to a meeting to discuss the idea further at Coca-Cola’s European HQ in Brussels."

Good on you, Simon Berry!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Save a Tree - Use Paper Made of This

Remember when a photo similar to this was circulating in an email under the heading “So you think your job stinks” or something similar. Then this photo was shown. These people are not just collecting feces before they become an unsightly mess on the bottom of someone’s shoe – they are collecting raw product for processing.

Of course, most of the raw product is not collected so close to source (if you follow my drift); but, a picture always makes such a wonderful statement always starting the creative juices flowing.

The little grey cells, after simmering for a while in thought, caused the Sri Lankan-based company Mr. Ellie Pooh to create its line of stationary and other objects from 75% elephant dung and 25% post-consumer waste – a totally new line of eco-paper.

Writing paper made almost entirely of elephant dung. It’s definitely a novel concept; but, what caused the birth of Mr. Ellie Pooh paper? The idea was born to save the elephants of Sri Lanka. Apparently, 10% of the 40,000 Asian elephants worldwide live in Sri Lanka. There they are regarded as pests and killed due to their interference with agriculture. The Sri Lankans don’t eat elephant meat and there is no major ivory trade so elephants here have become nothing more than a huge nuisance to the villager and farmers.

Just as some Americans kill wolves and other wild predators to protect livestock, Sri Lankans were killing elephants because they ruin their crops by trampling them causing financial hardship for the farmers.

Mr. Ellie Pooh hopes to change the public’s perception of elephants by proving that they can be valuable to the economy in other ways and are thus worth sparing. If Sri Lankans make an honest living creating paper for a whole new market that will support their families, they will be less inclined to kill the goose the laid the golden egg (so to speak).

Most of the raw mater is collected from elephant orphanages in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Ellie Pooh says: "Since an elephant’s diet is all vegetarian, the waste produced is basically raw cellulose. Thoroughly cleaned and processed, the cellulose is converted into a uniquely beautiful textured product, marketed as “Ellie Pooh Paper”. It makes for an acid free, linen-like papyrus-type paper".

An adult elephant creates 500 pounds of dung a day, making it a very reliable, very renewable resource. Elephant poop paper could prove to be a sustainable, lucrative boon to the Sri Lankan economy.

I really like the fact that the paper uses absolutely no trees in its creation. This will be a huge selling point to eco-minded consumers.

The poopy paper is now being sold by Pixxlz, a Massachusetts based printed products company, so expect to see more of around the US soon. If you'd like to purchase some, it’s available in numerous colors and covers and card stocks. Apparently, unless you knew what it was made from, nothing about the paper including the scent would give it away.

Here’s to the first real eco—paper.

The Garbage Dump That Used To Be A Coral Reef

The Maldives are an archipelago of 1,192 islands in the Indian Ocean, grouped into 26 atolls. Tourism is the country's most important source of income. The country has a population of 270,000. But last year 650,000 tourists visited the islands, but each of them produces garbage.

Thilafushi island receives hundreds of tonnes of rubbish from other islands in the Maldives archipelago every day. Sixteen years ago it was an unspoilt coral reef. But it is now growing by one square metre every day with rubbish.

Rubbish is shipped in daily to Thilafushi where it is sorted and sent to different zones around the islands. The authorities turned Thilafushi into a rubbish island at the beginning of the 90s because they could not cope with the ever-growing quantity of trash form tourists.

There are different zones around the island for different types of waste. The first delivery of rubbish was in 1992.

Disposing of plastic water bottles is a big problem on the island which was originally seven kilometres long and 200 metres wide. During its early years, pits were dug. But the volume of rubbish became too great to cover over with sand.

Souraf from Bangladesh throws rubbish into the sea. The lagoon in the background will eventually be filled with waste.

Around 3,000 people live on the island which has attracted other industries such as boat manufacturing, cement packing and methane bottling.

Thilfushi, like most of the islands in the Maldives, lies around only 1m above sea level and is therefore at risk of rising sea levels because of climate change. Toxic heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium are already at risk of leaching out into the sea and damaging marine ecology.

Update: March 9, 2009: Elin Hoyland after reading my apologetic e-mail has allowed me to keep posting his photos (see comments). Elin's dealings with me were kind and gentle and I have developed a level of respect for her. I have also learned something about publishing photos and Public Domain. Interesting stuff!!

Anyway Elin suggested that I include this link: so that you could view all her pictures on this topic. Thanks so much, Elin.

Update: March 11, 2009: Elin has let me know that once again, I have managed to misunderstand. What I had actually been requested to do was remove the pictures and direct you to the above link to view them. So...the pictures are removed now and I invite you to view them at the link. They are wonderful!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Reader Says...

Kathi wants to know if I get any credit when people watch the videos I embed in a blog. No, I don't. The videos I embed in a blog are strictly to add extra information to the subject, create interest for the reader, present the facts from another point of view and give the reader information they may never have seen before. The only reward I get is knowing that my readers enjoy my blogs and are becoming more environmentally aware. Thanks for asking, Kathi!

New Things I Have Learned

Friends: I have learned how to install videos lately (I hope you are enjoying them). This is the first time I have had to work with HTML. If I want to keep delivering videos to you on issues I feel are of great importance, I have learned that I can only do this in HTML. This is a kind of computer-speak. I'm sure it's one of the easiest; however, this is my first go at it and I have no teacher so everything is hit or miss. Mostly miss so far, I'm afraid.

About three blogs ago, I discovered the intricicies of the hyperlink. I am now installing a hyperlink on such things as the photo tagline. EG.
Photo courtesy of Dye Me Green
would be a different colour and if you clicked on it, it would take you to the website of Dye Me Green.

In the text of the article there may be differently coloured words. Simply cursor over, click and you will be taken to the website indicated. EG. The words
Technologies of Research Institute
is highlighted - that's the website you're going to.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Plastic

It can’t be seen from above. It can’t be seen on satellite photos. It can’t be seen from afar. You have to be in the middle of it before you understand where you are. Before you reach your destination, if that is indeed where you are going, you are tantalized by a trail of bread crumbs leading you to a swirling gyre in the Western Pacific.

The bread crumbs consist of things like baggies, bottle caps, condoms, balloons, junk food bags, surfboards, crates, tires, you name it - it’s probably sent a representative courtesy of some recycling reactionary. Trash Island (as it has become known) has been dubbed “the eighth continent” by environmentalists.

Trash Island has several things in common with icebergs. The island is translucent, sits just below the surface of the ocean and carries most of its mass underwater where it can’t be seen.

Unfortunately for every living thing, the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches have become part of the oceanic landscape. Pick up a piece of plastic and chances are there will be life clinging to it in the form of barnacles and small crabs. The small plastic pieces vie with the plankton for room with the ration being 48:1 plastic leading in the most polluted areas.

Fish, birds, and mammals mistake the small pieces of plastic and the pieces with life starting on them for food (plankton, eggs, jellyfish or other natural food sources).

Now, here is food for thought, something to really chew over and take your time with for all the layers to sink in. Plastics are not biodegradable; but, they are photodegradable. Forever in a landfill looking like the item it went is as; but, forever in the ocean breaking down into dust-like particles that live forever. These dust-like particles are non-detectable to the human eye; but, ingestible by sea mammals, birds, and fish. As of now we have no technology that allows to know if the fish we consume has eaten any of these dust-like plastic particles and; if so, how much. Plastic is plastic no matter how it is ingested. So, if the fish eat the plastic and we eat the fish …At this point, I’m just so very glad I became vegetarian (including fish).

Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years. He compares the trash vortex to a living entity: "It moves around like a big animal without a leash. When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic," he added.

Image Credit: NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Professor David Karl, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, said more research was needed; but, that there was "no reason to doubt" Algalita's findings. (Algalita’s findings were that there were two linked plastic vortexes not one plus Dr. Moore estimates the vortexes The Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Dumps to twice the size of the continental United States not twice the size of Texas.)

"After all, the plastic trash is going somewhere and it is about time we get a full accounting of the distribution of plastic in the marine ecosystem and especially its fate and impact on marine ecosystems."

Professor Karl is co-ordinating an expedition with Algalita in search of the garbage patch later this year. With a theory that may seem novel to some, implausible to others or just plain strange to a fringe element: he believes trash island may actually represent a new habitat.

Some things I think are always worth repeating twice. This is one of them - the other come very shortly. Plastic does not biodegrade; but, it does photodegrade. Pieces of plastic 50 years old have been pulled from the ocean. Coincidentally, that‘s about how long we‘ve been making them.

"Every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere," said Tony Andrady, a chemist with the US-based Research Triangle Institute.

According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds, which mistake them for food.
Photo courtesy of

Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. There is another risk to human health. Hundreds of millions of tiny plastic pellets or nurdles – the raw materials for the plastic industry – are lost or spilled every year. These pellets work their way into the sea. Any faithful reader(s) will realize that reason #2 is lurking in the next sentence or two.

These pollutants act as chemical sponges attracting man-made chemicals such as hydrocarbons and the pesticide DDT. From there it is a hop, skip and swallow into the food chain.

"What goes into the ocean, goes into these animals; and, onto your dinner plate. It's that simple," said Dr Eriksen.

Click here just above the dead goldfish for animation of "The Trash Vortex".

I highly recommend this video. Very eyeopening!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Plastic Vortex No One Wants You To Know About

Floating islands are usually magical exotic places that capture the audience’s imagination whether young or old. Consider SeaStar Island which can usually be found floating somewhere off the coast of Brazil and is considered by some to be one of the favourite stopping places of the Giant Pink Sea Snail.

Dr. Doolittle, his human friends (Tommy, Matthew, & Emma), Polynesia (the parrot) and Chee-Chee (the chimp) set out to find SeaStar Island and the Giant Pink Sea Snail. The island is found drifting off-course; so, Dr. Doolittle enlists the aid of a blue whale to push it back on track. The Giant Pink Sea Snail is discovered living under SeaStar Island and offers to take the children, Polynesia and Chee-Chee home under the ocean in his watertight shell while the doctor stays on the island to track down the Giant Lunar Moth. The stuff dreams are made of.

If only it were SeaStar Island having floated off-course again; and now, finds itself trapped in a vortex between California and Hawaii (the conservative estimate). This island of floating trash is “estimated to be double the size of Texas” (the conservative estimate). Just how big is “double the size of Texas”? This whirling island of death for our marine friends is estimated to be at least 533,706 square miles.

The American oceanographer who discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “trash vortex”, Charles Moore, believes that a staggering 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region.

Research Director, Marcus Eriksen, of US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation (founded by Charles Moore) said: “The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States." This seems to be the largest estimate at 6,435,626 square miles.

Whether it’s 533,706 sq. mi. or 6,435,626 sq. mi. or anywhere in between - it’s too much.

The Independent (a UK newspaper) describes it this way: “The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world's largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan“.

They say the "soup" is actually two linked areas, either side of the islands of Hawaii, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches. About one-fifth of the junk is thrown off ships or oil platforms. The rest comes from land.

A deeper look into what happens to all this debris in the next blog. Meanwhile, a look at the Los Angeles Public Works department removing debris caught by booms from the L.A. River after a storm. Photo courtesy

Excellent video on the plastic vortex:

T-Shirt Bag

I found a video on making old T-shirts into shopping bags. I think this is the video Kathi was talking about in her comment regarding plastic bag fashions. Here it is:

Another take on making a bag out of plastic bags:

Crocheting with plastic bags:

If you click on the second button from the right on the bottom bar of the video, the video will expand to full screen for easier watching: especially for those of us who are older and bifocal. LOL!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Plastic Bag Fashion and More

These boots are the work of Chilean industrial design student Camila Labra, and made mostly of recycled plastic bags.

The boots are built by fusing several layers of plastic polyethylene bags together to create a thicker and more resistant material to work with.

Their interior is covered with quilted piqué cotton fabric to make them more comfortable and prevent too much heat. According to the designer, the boots are impermeable, flexible, light and non toxic.
The line of boots is named Dacca (aka Dhaka) after Bangladesh's capital, one of the most polluted with plastic bags in the world (the bags were banned in that city since 2002).

Made after special orders, the boots are sold for 22,000 Chilean Pesos (45 USD).

Photos: Guillermo Gomez via Dacca blog.

Australian artist, Mark Vaarwerk, reuses plastic bags and other throw away domestic plastic containers such as shampoo bottles, to create beautiful jewel-like brooches and rings.

A Safeway plastic bag dress.

I have included a DIY video on how to make plastic fabric. Enjoy! Visit the website: for more fantastic info.

Reclaiming Wasted Space

One way of reducing our carbon footprints is by reducing our living space. The less space we live in the less space we have to heat and cool, the more space can be devoted to other causes such as helping to reduce our personal carbon footprints. Obviously some large land spaces are required for pursuits such as agriculture; bird and animal sanctuaries; preservation of ecologically-sensitive areas and other installations that we, as people, require to maintain our quality of life (sewage treatment plants, etc.)

However, there are many ways to save space in our homes so we can downsize and still live comfortable life styles. One of the largest wastes of space in any home is the space underneath the stairs. We are all aware of the traditional use of this space - either using it as a closet for items used with reasonable regularity (Christmas decorations, hockey equipment, golf equipment, etc) that you don't want to put in the basement or putting in a small desk and computer.

I have found very creative ways of using that space under the stairs - saves space, looks good, and will draw rave reviews from your friends. Let's have a look.

If you are a collector requiring a reasonable amount of space that is out of the way and away from prying eyes try the above. Keeps your collection safe and looks attractive when closed and not in use.

This one can be used to store all manner of things: socks and mittens on the lower stairs for little hands and feet; a couple of towels for wet visitors on rainy days; the dog's leash and walking equipment; whatever takes your fancy.

For those who still like to hang a picture or have some sort of decoration on the stair wall; but, would like a little extra storage room - how about a pullout storage tray. Best of both worlds.

My favourite. Store a couple of appliances there. This pictures a frig and dishwasher (I think). I would modify slightly and make it my washer/dryer/laundry area. Hope this has started your little grey cells working. Mine have.