A SUPPLEMENT TO THE BAR HARBOR TIMES, CAPITAL WEEKLY, THE HERALD GAZETTE AND THE REPUBLICAN JOURNAL
April 13, 2011
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Using a bicycle instead of an automobile to run errands is one way to be more eco-friendly this Earth Day.
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n 2010, Earth Day celebrated its 40th birthday. Originally the brainchild of former Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day began as an environmental teach-in but has since grown into a global day meant to inspire awareness and appreciation of the environment. This year, Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22. Because it’s right in the heart of the spring season, when many people feel rejuvenated after a long winter, Earth Day is the ideal time for men, women and children to take that extra energy they have and channel it into eco-friendly behaviors that benefit the environment. To do just that this Earth Day, consider the following tips. • Take a walk. Or a jog or a bike ride. Men and women can help reduce air pollution by walking, jogging or riding a bike to get from place to place. While this might not be doable across the board, particularly for men and women with long commutes, when running errands around town on the weekends dust off your bicycle instead of gassing up the car. If you’re taking kids to the park on the weekend, walk or bike to the park. It’s a great way to spend time outdoors and benefit the environment at the same time. • Plant a tree. Spring is a time of year when many homeowners get back to working on their yards. When cultivating your green thumb this spring, plant a tree or several trees around the yard. Also, when working outdoors, lessen your reliance on pesticides. It might be difficult to eliminate pesticide use entirely, but whenever possible look for more natural, eco-friendly alternatives to keep your lawn looking lush. • Turn off the lights. Daylight Saving Time now starts earlier than in years past. The reason for that is to reduce energy use, which only works when people actually reduce their daily energy usage. If it’s still light outside, turn the lights off inside and enjoy a warm spring evening outdoors. • Go paperless. Many banks and credit card companies now encourage consumers to go paperless with their statements as a means to becoming more eco-friendly. Some banks even offer incentives to choose online statements over traditional paper statements. When possible, reduce waste by going paperless with bank and credit card statements. • Use eco-friendly cleaning products. Many household cleaning products pose a threat to the environment by leaking harmful toxins into the air. When spring cleaning this year, choose non-toxic eco-friendly cleaning products that help reduce both air and water pollution.
April 13, 2011
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April 13, 2011
Spring Greening Manageable means to going green around the house A
dopting an eco-friendly lifestyle is something many people do selflessly in an effort to protect the environment and ensure that the generations to come have a healthy planet at their disposal. But that same lifestyle can also pay instant dividends, helping homeowners save money and creating a healthier atmosphere in which to live. As spring cleaning season gets set to hit full swing, what better time to do some “spring greening?” Homeowners can make the most of spring cleaning by making several manageable changes around the house that can protect the environment without disrupting one’s current lifestyle. • Clean green. Instead of using harmful chemical cleaners when cleaning around the house this spring, choose green cleaning supplies that don’t release harmful chemicals or toxins into the air. • Paint with the planet in mind. Spring is a popular time to repaint rooms in the house. Homeowners with painting on their to-do list this spring cleaning season should choose no- or low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints. • Fix those drafts. Chances are, after a long winter homeowners are well aware of which rooms were warm and which might have had drafts. Visit those colder rooms and plug any air leaks around the house. This will result in a lower heating bill next winter and could save substantial amounts of energy. For homeowners with attics, checking the attic for air infiltration
Unplugging appliances when they’re not in use is one of many ways homeowners can protect the planet.
Facts about the planet Earth E
nvironmentalists and regular people have been making strides to improve the quality of life on this planet. From recycling to reducing carbon emissions, there are several steps individuals have been making to benefit the Earth. Although it is both fragile and awe-inspiring, Earth has been around for centuries and is likely to endure centuries more. Here are some facts about this planet that illustrate its mystery and magnitude. • It is the third planet from the sun. • Earth is 4.6 billion years old. • 70 percent of Earth is covered in water. • The planet is 197 square miles. • Every couple of years Earth, Mars and the sun line up. It is called opposition. • Earth’s atmosphere is mostly oxygen and nitrogen. • There are roughly 7 billion people living on the planet.
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should be done each and every year. • Explore alternative landscaping methods. Xeriscaping, a style of landscape design that requires little or no irrigation, can save significant amounts of water. However, homeowners should consult a landscaping professional to determine if xeriscaping is a viable alternative to more traditional landscaping in their region. If xeriscaping can be done, then homeowners will save water while also reducing the use of potentially harmful pesticides and chemicals commonly used to keep lawns looking lush. • Go low-flow. Spring cleaning isn’t just for clearing out the winter clutter. It’s also a time when many homeowners fix up the house. If replacing showerheads, faucets or even toilets is on the to-do list, replace existing fixtures with low-flow models to save water and money. • Shop for sustainable materials. Sustainable flooring is growing in popularity now that going green has truly taken off. Search for wood that has been harvested in environmentally friendly ways. Sustainable flooring materials include bamboo and cork, which many homeowners find as aesthetically appealing as it is ecofriendly. • Double it up. Single-pane windows not only allow lots of external noise into the house, they also contribute to heat loss in the winter, forcing residents to turn up the thermostat and waste more energy as a result. Installing double-pane windows will keep more external noise at bay, and allow homeowners to minimize heat loss in the winter. • Unplug the appliances. Perhaps nothing around the house silently uses energy as much as a pluggedin appliance that’s not being used. Certain estimates suggest as much as 40 percent of a monthly utility bill is going toward powering home appliances that are turned off. While every home is different, it’s a safe bet that most homes can save energy by simply unplugging appliances that aren’t in use.
Inspiring a love for the earth and the capacities to tend it.
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April 13, 2011
for your home P
erhaps no decade has witnessed more rapid technological advancements than the opening decade of the 21st century. At the turn of the century, cellular phones had yet to catch on universally, and few households had high-definition televisions. Ten years later, cell phones are so prevalent even many school-aged children have them, and rare is the household that has not embraced HDTV. And technology has advanced in other areas as well. Among the more notable is the increase in eco-friendly technologies. Homeowners hoping to make their homes more environmentally friendly have a host of options at their beck and call that enable them to do just that. No matter which area of the home needs to be addressed, chances are homeowners can find ways to improve their homes in an eco-friendly way.
Carpeting Cost-conscious homeowners often love how eco-friendly carpeting options are typically lower in price. Recyclable carpets require few, if any, toxic materials to manufacture. What’s more, homeowners who enjoy changing their home’s decor from time to time will find eco-friendly carpet tiles are easy to install and subsequently replace when the itch to change a home’s interior arises.
Building materials When building a dream home, homeowners also have a host of green building materials at their disposal. Be it mold-resistant drywall made from recycled paper or eco-friendly siding options, homeowners building their dream home or adding on to an existing home can choose eco-friendly building materials for both the interior and exterior of their homes.
E X P E R I E N C E the Environment at UNE ▶
Flooring An increasing percentage of homeowners prefer wood flooring over carpeting. Fortunately, there are several eco-friendly flooring options that use recycled and reliable wood from old buildings. In addition, homeowners can choose ecofriendly options like cork, rubber or even bamboo for their home’s flooring. But eco-friendly flooring is not necessarily limited to wood flooring. Recyclable linoleum flooring is also available, and these new products are typically far less toxic than the linoleum floors of yesteryear.
Home office Working from home has steadily grown in popularity as technology has made it easier for employees to get their work done without having to head into the office. For homeowners who want to add a home office to their homes, it’s easy to make that home office environmentally friendly. Lighting fixtures are often a primary concern when designing a home office, in which men and women want to mirror the well-lit environment they’re accustomed to at traditional office buildings. To illuminate the room in an effective and eco-friendly way, individuals can install LED lighting fixtures. Such fixtures have a long life expectancy and use far less energy than their incandescent counterparts. Another way to go green at the home office without spending much money is to make room for some plants in the office. Plants will absorb toxins in the air and also improve the indoor air quality, which many office workers cite as a problem in traditional offices that don’t place too great an emphasis on indoor air quality. When going green, it’s easy to assume technology will be detrimental to the environment. However, advancements in eco-friendly technology have made it easier for homeowners to build their dream homes in eco-friendly ways.
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When building a home, homeowners can choose from a host of eco-friendly building materials that are good for the environment and often good for a homeowner’s bottom line.
April 13, 2011
Employing proper watering guidelines is one way homeowners can adopt more eco-friendly landscaping practices.
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co-friendly or conservative landscaping is growing increasingly popular among homeowners. Often referred to as eco-scaping, conservative landscaping includes removing invasive plants, conserving water and reducing reliance on chemical pesticides. Homeowners looking to landscape in a more eco-friendly way this gardening season can employ the following techniques. • Remove invasive plants. Exotic plants are often invasive, as they have been brought here from different ecosystems and therefore have no natural enemies to keep them under control. Though exotic plants might add significant aesthetic appeal, this may come at the expense of local wildlife and existing plants. Many mistakenly assume all nonnative plants are invasive, but that’s not always true. Consult a local nursery before removing a foreign plant to determine if it’s invasive or non-invasive. If it’s non-invasive, it does not need to be removed. • Choose native plants whenever possible. Native plants have adapted to the local climate and soil, which can offer numerous eco-friendly benefits. Because they’re accustomed to native conditions, native plants do not need chemical fertilizers and require less water to thrive than their non-native counterparts, which need help to grow and survive. In addition, native plants won’t harm surrounding wildlife or plants. • Plant strategically. Plants can be very picky when it comes to growing conditions. If placed in poor growing
conditions, plants will require chemical supplements to thrive and more water to survive. Find the appropriate light, moisture and soil conditions for any new plants, and then plant accordingly. Doing so requires less maintenance, saving you money while adding aesthetic appeal to your property. A local nursery can help find the right growing conditions for your plants. • Water properly. Far too often homeowners waste water, particularly when the mercury rises. Overwatering plants leads to excess runoff, which can result in pesticides and fertilizers being carried to local streams and rivers. Excessive watering can also filter nutrients from the soil. When watering, water early in the morning, which allows plants to conserve water throughout the day. Native plants that have established themselves should not need supplemental watering. • Reduce reliance on chemical pesticides. Pesticides should be a last resort. In addition to their potentially harmful effects on the local ecosystem, pesticides can be harmful to human health as well. Oftentimes, pesticides exacerbate pest problems, killing the beneficial species like earthworms that don’t recover as quickly as their more harmful pest counterparts. Only use pesticides if absolutely necessary. Consult a landscaping or gardening professional and ask about potential alternatives to pesticides.
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April 13, 2011
Is a hybrid car the right fit for you? W
hile some eco-friendly behaviors and lifestyle changes have been easy to adopt, others have proven far more difficult. Perhaps nothing illustrates that more than consumer reaction to hybrid cars. Hybrid car sales have dipped in recent years. But supporters note that vehicle sales in general have also decreased over that period, meaning it’s quite possible hybrid car sales are indicative of a larger slump, and not necessarily indicative of an adverse consumer reaction to hybrid cars. Whatever the reason for dwindling sales, it’s clear consumers have been reticent to embrace hybrid cars, especially when compared to other eco-friendly lifestyle changes that have caught on seemingly en masse. For those considering a hybrid car, there’s a valid case to be made on both sides of the fence.
Why buy a hybrid car? Buying a car is never an easy decision. Choosing to buy one that’s fundamentally different than one you’ve ever purchased before is even more difficult. Perhaps there’s no greater reason to buy a hybrid car than the environmental benefits. A hybrid’s low emissions mean less greenhouse gases, which can include harmful carbon dioxide. Less emissions make for a healthier planet. For consumers whose chief concern is the environment, then hybrid cars are the way to go. There’s also more practical reasons to buy a hybrid car. Better gas mileage means
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Before purchasing a hybrid vehicle, motorists should weigh the advantages and disadvantages to ensure the car meets their needs.
drivers will be paying less at the pump, which can add up to significant savings over time, not to mention less fuel consumption that will help the environment as well. Hybrid cars also tend to be more efficient. Hybrids have both an internal combustible engine and an electrical system, enabling drivers to switch back and forth between the power sources to make their vehicle more efficient, burning less fuel when the conditions allow and using less electrical energy when the conditions would otherwise drain the electrical power system.
Maine Audubon connects people with nature. From our sanctuaries and educational centers located in Falmouth, Holden, Scarborough, and Monson, Maine Audubon offers hundreds of fun and educational activities and programs that introduce people of all ages to the wonders of Maine’s wildlife. Please join us!
Why steer clear of hybrid cars? Hybrid cars’ biggest problems are largely economical. Resale value of hybrid cars pales in comparison to that of traditional automobiles. Much of this lower resale value • HYBRID Page 15
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April 13, 2011
environmentally-friendly hotels this travel season
his time of year is a popular time for getting away. Many people plan wintertime escapes to get away from the cold weather. Those who want to continue eco-friendly efforts while traveling may want to stay at hotels that make strides to be easy on the environment. Today, many hotels are revamping policies to conserve energy and implement the use of environmentally responsible products. There are even green hotel associations where members can share plans to employ eco-friendly practices. Green hotels have cropped up all over the world. Therefore, no matter where a traveler is going, there is a good chance that they can find a green hotel in which to stay. Some have been voted top green hotels. Here are some top hotel chains to consider for ecofriendly travelers. Hilton: The J.W. Hilton hotels of this popular chain have upgraded all plastic key cards to be made from recycled materials. Painters maintain the property using low volatile organic compound paints, while linens are made from synthetic materials instead of down. Wyndham: This chain employs energy-saving strategies, such as energy
Many popular hotel chains are making changes to be more environmentally responsible. These include using low VOC paints, energy efficient lighting, inroom recycling opportunities, and sustainable construction techniques.
efficient light bulbs and sensors. Lowflow toilets and sink faucets conserve water and ozone technology makes laundry more efficient. Park Inn: This worldwide chain targets
mid-range travelers. Each property tracks energy use, water use, emissions, land use and biodiversity. The chain has also won awards for its environmentally friendly practices.
Days Inn: This budget chain has towel programs in place and tracks energy use. In-room recycling enables guests to contribute to green practices. Novotel: This chain manages properties from budget to luxury and prides itself on conserving water and recycling waste water. Holiday Inn: This large hotel chain is making strides to reduce carbon footprints by becoming more carbon efficient. The goal is to enable every hotel to measure its usage of energy and water, waste produced and carbon emissions, and allow participating hotels to compare themselves with counterparts in the industry. Doubletree: This chain trains employees on eco-friendly processes and initiated a “We Care” program in 2006. Travel Lodge: This budget-minded hotel chain elected its first director of environment and sustainability in the summer of 2007. They continue to make strides toward the reduction of carbon emissions. And they’re further investigating sustainable construction techniques, solar power, underground heating, and wind power to be more environmentally minded.
What is climate change? U
ntil a few years ago, the term used to describe the change in global weather was often referred to as “global warming.” However, global warming is a misnomer, seeing that many of the environmental changes being experienced go beyond just warmer temperatures. To rectify the situation, modifications in weather patterns and temperature are now classified as “climate change,” a broader term that encompasses many different weather-related phenomena. Climate change is a long-term change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods of time. It may be a change in weather conditions or in the frequency of severe weather events. It also takes into consideration increases or decreases in temperature. Over the past 100 years, the temperature
There are many factors that contribute to global climate change.
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on Earth has risen by 1 degree. Climate change specialists aren’t exactly sure why this is occurring, but many feel the changes have to do with people and their habits — in addition to naturally occurring events. The greenhouse effect is a major contributor. The byproducts of life on Earth, such as burning of fossil fuels, generate greenhouse gases. These gases rise into the atmosphere and get trapped. The trapped gases form an insulation of sorts, keeping the heat of the earth from escaping and generating extra warmth. Greenhouse gases aren’t the only contributors to climate change. There are many other factors. Variations in solar radiation, deviations in Earth’s orbit, • CLIMATE Page 9
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April 13, 2011
to give back M
any times people who are passionate about a certain goal or ideal want to share their views with others. Individuals who have strong feelings about protecting the environment can share their enthusiasm through giving back. Volunteerism is one of the ways to spread the message about environmental dangers and potential solutions. Here are some ideas for doing good in a green way. • Start locally. Organize a few friends and start on a small scale, such as cleaning the streets of the neighborhood or petitioning for stronger penalties for the failure to recycle properly. • Organize a weekly or monthly event. Beaches and waterways are areas that can quickly become fouled by trash and other debris. Water seems to be a collection point for items that wash into the system or are
blown around. Schedule routine clean-up crews to clear rivers, streams and beaches of items that mar the beauty of these bodies of water. • Hook up with an eco-friendly organization. Investigate the organizations that do their part toward protecting the environment. See if they accept volunteers to further their causes. • Put your money where your heart is. Individuals who want to make a difference can donate funds to a specific cause. Or help solicit donations from other people to raise awareness and money. • Educate the youth. Volunteer time at a child’s school to promote a specific environmental cause. For example, children can collect the tops from milk containers or water bottles, which may not be recyclable in traditional
also be a result of other instances on the planet cloud cover, volcanic eruptions and ocean changes. Although it can take hundreds of years for individual habits to affect the climate, there are things that individuals can do on a daily basis to reduce their impact on the climate. • Reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Using alternative power, such as solar or even nuclear power, can reduce emissions that contribute to greenhouse gases. • Insulate the home. Prevent heat or
from page 8 mountain-building and continental drift are other things that can affect the climate. Another large contributor is behaviors that produce methane gas. Landfills, cattle, rice paddies and the like generate a large quantity of methane gas. Methane works like carbon dioxide in that it contributes to greenhouse gases. Changing climate on a global scale can
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“ We make organic granolas, roasted nuts, and trail mix by hand in a restored 1910 dairy barn. That’s not the easiest thing to set a value for. But Bangor Savings Bank was willing to work with us on our commercial mortgage. Terry checks in every few months to find out how business is and if
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Volunteering to keep beaches and other water areas free of trash can limit the number of days these areas are closed to the public.
operations, fouling up machinery. These caps can be sent to a special place for recycling. • Organize a carpool. Get together with neighbors or coworkers to take turns driving the kids to school or adults to work. • Host a street-wide tag sale. Encourage
neighbors to pool their resources and have a weekend tag sale to get rid of unused items in a practical way. Everyone can make a little money while reducing the number of things that would end up in the trash. Whatever is left over at the end of the sale can be donated to charity.
cooling loss by ensuring the home is well insulated and windows/doors aren’t drafty. This reduces energy use. • Cut down on automobile use. Walk, ride a bike or take public transportation to
reduce the number of cars on the roads. • Use local goods. Purchasing items from a local retailer cuts down on the shipping and importing of foreign items, which contributes to fuel consumption.
April 13, 2011
environment may help fight poverty M
uch of the world’s impoverished people rely on the land for their sources of food and employment. It stands to reason, then, that improving the environment could have a direct impact on the quality of life for poorer individuals.
Environment-impoverished link The state of the environment directly affects personal health and well-being. This is especially true for the millions of people who come from impoverished nations and turn toward the land for their sole source of survival. Until recently, many of these nations bore witness to soil degradation and depletion of natural resources. This further impacted the negative living conditions for many of these people by reducing the chances for crop production that could help populations thrive. But individuals and corporations are beginning to realize the benefits a healthy environment can provide for poor people, and subsequent changes reflect that attitudinal shift. Deforesting areas, over-mining and polluting drinking water through industrialization are ways that
many international companies could contribute to the downward spiral of already compromised countries and peoples. When companies make efforts to conserve the environment, individuals in impoverished nations have a better opportunity for personal suspendibility, making eco-conscious practices a win-win situation.
Putting resources to work Another aspect of the environmental effort that is affecting the well-being of poor nations is the investigation and harvesting of alternative sources of energy. In some areas of the world, scientists are discovering plant-based sources of energy that can be used in conjunction with, or as an alternative to, fossil fuels. In Kenya, for example, farmers are planting and harvesting Jatropha curcas -- a tree with oil producing seeds capable of medicinal purposes and creating of energy. According to the Global Facilitation Unit of Underutilized Species, Jatropha has many ecofriendly traits. • Jatropha seeds contain 30 percent oil that can be processed to biodiesel.
• Jatropha plants do not require much water and therefore are most appropriate for arid or semi-arid areas. • The plant is good for intercropping. Therefore, it can be integrated in local agriculture production systems where two or more crops are grown simultaneously in the same field. • The plant is a nitrogen fixing plant, featuring high humus content and preventing high water runoff, factors that are good for soil conservation. The plant can provide other by-products like glycerine for soap, alternative animal feeds and organic fertilizer. • Oil can be squeezed from the seeds manually, reducing dependence on industrialized machinery. Jatropha is just one of many natural resources that can be harvested to benefit the indigenous people who can grow and harvest it for a living.
Fighting poverty helps the environment While improving the environment may help fight global poverty, this could prove a mutually beneficial relationship, as fighting poverty could benefit the environment as well. In two small villages on Nicaragua’s Mosquito Coast, a project to improve electrical service produced an added benefit — household energy use actually dropped nearly 30 percent, according to a report in National Geographic magazine. These cases illustrate that poverty and the environment are inextricably linked. Improving one can have a direct impact on the other. As people look for new reasons to be environmentally minded, helping the world’s poor could be a viable reason. Penobscot & Hancock Counties:
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April 13, 2011
The world’s most polluted places N
ew York City is poised to top Los Angeles as the city most congested by gridlock traffic, according to data released by INRIX, an institute that studies traffic information. Currently, NYC holds the title of single worst roadway in America. The most congested traffic corridor in the country is the 11-mile part of the Cross Bronx Expressway in the borough of the Bronx that leads to the George Washington Bridge. While being a traffic nightmare is not an honor desired by a city or town, being atop the list of most polluted places may be even worse. The Blacksmith Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to identify and solve specific environmental problems worldwide, says there are areas around the world that are particular environmental hazards as of the Institute’s 2006 study. Living in these places can contribute to significant health risks, including a higher propensity for cancers, respiratory illnesses and shortened life spans, say experts. Blacksmith Institute’s Technical Advisory Board, which includes experts from Johns Hopkins University, Hunter College, Harvard University, IIT India, the University of Idaho, Mount Sinai Hospital, and leaders of major international environmental remediation companies narrowed down select places from a list of more than 300 locales. Part of the initiative is to identify problem areas for remedying them and to prevent similar circumstances in the future.
Air pollution is just one of the contributors to some of the most polluted areas around the world.
Worldwide Pollution The most polluted places are not necessarily those that produce the most carbon emissions. The top five carbon polluters include:China, the United States, European Union, India, and Russia. Rather, these polluted areas are those that have high levels of toxic contaminants in the ground, water and air. Here are the top five polluted places on Earth (data was accumuluted prior to the natural disasters that struck Japan in early 2011). 1. Chernobyl, Ukraine 2. Dzerzhinsk, Russia 3. Haina, Dominican Republic 4. Kabwe, Zambia 5. La Oroya, Peru
• Chernobyl: The world’s worst nuclear disaster took place here in Russia on April 26, 1986. One hundred times the radiation of the nuclear bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki was released in this city. It is estimated that 5.5 million people were affected by this disaster. Currently the 19mile exclusion zone around the site is still off limits to inhabitants. • Dzerzhinsk:This city was the centerpiece of Russia’s chemical manufacturing during the Cold War. It is estimated that 300,000 tons of chemical wastes were improperly disposed of, many of which ended up in groundwater. The city draws water from the same bodies of water into which these old wastes were dumped. The average life expectancy in the city is 42
for men and 47 for women. • Haina: This area, known as Bajos de Haina, was the former site of an automotive battery recycling smelter. High levels of lead have contaminated the area, leading to developmental issues in children. The closed-down battery company has relocated to another area, causing further contamination elsewhere. • Kabwe:Lead and cadmium are the most prevalent contaminants in this area of Zambia. Mining and smelting operations released contaminants into the ground and water, affecting roughly a quarter of a million people. • La Oroya: Another mining town, residents of La Oroya have been exposed to contaminants from operations and toxic emissions by mining plants. Copper, zinc, sulfur dioxide, and lead are just some of the contaminants found in this area, where children’s blood levels of these substances are much higher than the recommended levels. Remediation methods have been underway in some of these areas, and cleanup will be an ongoing process.
Most Polluted U.S. Cities The United States is not immune to heavily polluted cities. Here’s a list of the top 10 cities polluted by long-term particle pollution, according to a report, “State of the Air 2010.” 1. Phoenix, Ariz. 6. Fresno, Calif. 2. Bakersfield, Calif. 7. Birmingham, Ala. 3. Los Angeles, Calif. 8. Hanford, Calif. 4. Visalia, Calif. 9. Cincinnati, Ohio 5. Pittsburgh, Pa. 10. St. Louis, Mo.
April 13, 2011
Builders expect to hear requests for
green features D
n the surface, cats have relatively small carbon footprints. They don’t drive gas guzzlers, their smaller statures mean they generally consume less food than dogs and, for the most part, they self-groom. However, cats use a litter box for their business and all of that discarded litter and waste can be an environmental hazard depending on the type of litter used. Litter is often scooped and disposed of in plastic bags, which don’t decompose, compounding the problem. In the past, finding eco-friendly cat litters was hard to come by. Today, many of the products on store shelves are environmentally friendly, and many brands offer eco-conscious cat owners a host of options. Shoppers can consider a clumping product, in which waste is flushed down the toilet and the box is not frequently dumped. Environmental products like shredded newspapers, recycled paper, corn husks, peanut shells, and even garden mulch can be used as litter. Some people choose to bury the used litter in the yard to naturally decompose instead of putting it in the trash.
ue to demand, builders today are constantly learning about the new and advanced technologies for home construction. Owner-clients want to be assured of living in the healthiest, most durable, least wasteful house possible — and therefore, building a home from the ground up is the best opportunity to get it right. “In addition to fixtures and materials, be sure to ask for the most advanced construction methods,” said Todd Blyth at Nudura, a leading name in building system technology. “For example, more and more builders, on request, are discarding the traditional wood-framing method — now seen as inefficient and wasteful — in favour of concrete walls.”
Why concrete? This advanced technology consists of preassembled, interlocking forms delivered to the construction site. The specialized panels consist of two, stay-in-place forms of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) connected with a hinged, folding web. The forms are stacked, reinforced, and then filled with concrete, creating a solid monolithic wall. “The benefits are extensive,” Blyth said. “Architects are inspired by new design possibilities; builders cut their construction time in half; and the homeowner (or commercial building owner) can feel satisfied
for cutting back on an enormous amount of wood.” As importantly, the quality of life continues long after construction is completed. As time goes on within “the most technologically advanced walls”, your energy bills could drop by as much as 70 percent. “This type of concrete building envelope delivers twice the efficiency compared to stick frame walls -- and with no wood rot and mould it delivers none of the related toxicity. Concrete walls are up to three times more sound resistant; up to four times more fire resistant; nine times stronger; and far more resistant to thermal bridging where outside cold seeps in to cause uncomfortable cold spots, drafts, and mustiness,” said Blyth. Floor and ceiling construction is now far advanced too.
Can a poor economy help the environment? A
stalled economy is rarely considered a good thing. High unemployment rates, reduced consumer spending, home foreclosures, and floundering credit are all negative side effects of a sagging economy. But the dark cloud of a bad economy may actually pay dividends for the environment. In general, industry involves the burning of fossil fuels to produce energy. When factories are closed or people aren’t doing much travel for work, the result is reduced consumption of fossil fuels -- and thusly fewer carbon emissions, which is good for the environment. A study published in Nature Geoscience indicated that carbon emissions dropped for the first time in 10 years in 2009. Emissions fell about 1.3 percent from 2008 to 2009. Across the world, 34 billion tons of carbon emissions were produced in 2009. That was 453 million less tons than the year before. There are other ways energy usage is curbed when the economy struggles. Individual households may reduce electricity usage by turning off lights to save on bills or carpool or take public transportation to work instead of
The recession might have contributed to the first decrease in carbon emissions in 10 years.
fueling up cars. Offices may have to close temporarily due to lack of business. Stores may shut down and cease being a drain on power. All of these factors contribute to fewer
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emissions, which benefits the environment. But it shouldn’t take a recession to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact. By employing some of the same techniques that would occur during a poor economy, the public can help the environment during any type of financial climate. • Enable employees to work a flexible schedule, meaning an extra hour per day so that the business can be closed one day per week. • Institute carpooling for school and work. • Turn off lights in rooms when they are not being occupied. • Use energy-efficient appliances. • Pull the plugs of energy drain electronics, including charger AC adapters. • Recycle or swap items with others instead of going out to buy new. Shop at consignment shops. • Sign up for electronic bill pay to avoid paper bills in the mail. There are many techniques that can be employed to help the environment, whether the economy is poor or not.
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April 13, 2011
Spring clean your way to a healthier home S
pring cleaning is an annual tradition at households across the country. Whether you live in a studio apartment or a sprawling mansion, the rejuvenating feeling of spring stems from more than just the warm air outdoors. It’s also the opportunity to open the windows and let that warm air breathe some new life into your home. Though spring cleaning is primarily about ridding a home of a season’s worth of clutter, it should also be about making a home healthier for the months to come. Once the clutter has been cleared, the following cleaning tips can make your home a healthy haven when those inevitable spring showers arrive.
Tackle mold and mildew Few homes can escape the wrath of mold and mildew during the winter months. In addition to being unsightly, exposure to mold can also cause a host of physical problems, including respiratory ailments, eye irritation, and nasal and sinus congestion. There are numerous products for tackling existing mold and mildew around the house and preventing any future problems, such as those that commonly result from spring rains.
Clean the filters, ducts and vents Spring might be synonymous with warmer temperatures, but for allergy
sufferers spring can be a difficult time of year. When spring cleaning, don’t forget to thoroughly clean filters, ducts and vents to help decrease exposure to airborne allergens.
Protect against viruses and bacteria Effectively cleaning a home can involve several preventive measures to keep everyone free from viruses and bacteria. Spray cleaner/disinfectants can take less than a minute to disinfect a surface of harmful bacteria, including those associated with food poisoning and even infections such as MRSA.
Clear the garage and basement of potentially harmful supplies Garages and basements are often used to store paints, paint thinners, oils, solvents, and other potentially toxic supplies. If any of these toxic supplies are old, consult your local sanitation department to determine how best to discard such items. For those you want to keep, be sure the lids are tight and not leaking potentially harmful chemicals into the air.
Make up for lost time For those who don’t consider spring cleaning an annual tradition, it’s never too late to start making your home a healthier place. Such was the case with Richard Tobias, who was responsible for cleaning his father’s old apartment after his father moved to a nursing home. A smoker for 40 years,
Tobias’ father left behind an apartment with walls encrusted with decades of cigarette smoke. Tobias had to clean the walls, doors, countertops, ceilings, furniture, and anything that was going to be saved, but ridding the house of nicotine was worth the effort.
Embrace eco-friendly cleaning A healthy home should also be one that’s healthy for the environment. Products with a waterbased formula are much more ecofriendly and offer a better choice over chlorine bleach or pine-based cleaning products, which can negatively impact air quality and cause discoloration and damage to surface finishes in some cases.
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April 13, 2011
Wind as an energy option A
s both businesses and private citizens continue to look for alternative sources of energy to help the environment, wind continues to generate a back and forth discussion as to its efficacy as an energy solution. While there are pros and cons to wind, it’s also important to note there are certain myths and misconceptions about wind that can cloud the discussion. Before discussing the advantages and disadvantages of wind, it’s helpful to examine certain elements of the argument that might be more rooted in myth than fact.
residents should a storm occur. In addition to safety concerns, some homeowners are worried that wind turbines will increase their property taxes. This concern is rooted in fact, but not necessarily costly to homeowners. Wind turbines often do increase property value because they represent a means for homeowners to produce long-term income. However, the majority of land-lease agreements include provisions stating that the wind developer will cover any additional property taxes that result from the installation of a wind turbine.
Myths about wind
Benefits of wind turbines
One of the more commonly cited issues surrounding the use of wind turbines to generate energy is their potentially harmful effects on avian life. In reality, wind turbines are much less harmful to birds than felines. According to HealthLink, a nonprofit organization dedicated to informing individuals about environmental risks to human health, studies have shown that wind turbines may be responsible for 1.5 to 2 bird deaths per year in most areas. Cats, on the other hand, are responsible for 8 to 10 bird deaths a year in most areas. Another myth with regard to wind power is the safety risk of wind turbines should weather turn severe. While this was once a genuine concern, as wind turbine technology has evolved, the safety risk has decreased significantly. Today’s wind turbines are designed to prevent them from being active in severe weather, meaning there is essentially no turbined-related risk to surrounding
Arguably the greatest benefit of wind turbines is their environmental impact. Once the turbine has been constructed, its environmental impact is minimal. Wind turbines produce zero emissions, meaning there will be no CO2, sulfur, particulates, or nitrogen oxide entering the atmosphere from wind turbines. And because environmental conditions have been linked to a host of medical maladies, it’s safe to say wind turbines could help improve human health. Another benefit of wind turbines is the potential financial benefits to homeowners who agree to lease their land to wind developers. While the amount a homeowner can earn depends on the size of the wind turbine and how productive it is, projects in Minnesota and Iowa saw landowners earn between 2 and 4 percent of the turbine’s annual gross revenue. For a turbine that earns $200,000 per year in gross revenue, that’s an annual payment of $2,000 to landowners, a hefty windfall
Wind turbines can be an environmentally and financially beneficial resource to landowners.
for homeowners, particularly in today’s economy. Reduced energy loss is another potential benefit of wind turbines. Energy is often lost via transfer through energy lines, with some estimates suggesting as much as 50 percent of all total energy is being lost to energy line transfers. Locally produced power, however, is much more efficient.
Disadvantages of wind turbines One of the more widely cited disadvantages to wind turbines is the noise they create. Large-scale wind turbines, at the peak of their production, can be very noisy. However, today’s turbines are much less noisy than those of yesteryear, often being compared to the noise generated from a modern refrigerator. In fact, the wind generated from today’s turbines often drowns out the noise generated from the turbine itself.
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The cost of wind turbines is commonly considered the greatest disadvantage. This isn’t a great concern for homeowners, as most wind turbines are owned by investors who then lease lands once the turbine has been built. However, the tenuous nature of the economy has led many investors to more closely examine where their money is going, and some investors might question if wind turbines are the best way to invest their money. Safety also must be factored in when considering the installation of a wind turbine. Large turbines could pose risks in areas with frequent air traffic. That’s a genuine concern in rural areas, where small personal aircrafts are often employed for farming purposes. To learn more about wind power, visit the Environmental Protection Agency at epa.gov.
eople have many incentives for recycling, including the environmental benefits. But there may be a universal reason that may inspire those who have thus far been reticent to recycle. That motivation is cold, hard cash. Recycling electronics and home appliances can garner an individual some money, depending on the recycling method. Items in good condition could provide anywhere from $10 to several hundred, depending on the device. There are many outlets to explore to recycle used merchandise. • Government rebate programs: It pays to explore the incentives a city, state or province offers for items that would otherwise be discarded. Some organizations will actually pick up unwanted appliances and offer some money for the machine. The United States’ “Cash for Appliances” program offers rebates (anywhere from $50 to $200) when a new, energy-efficient appliance was purchased to replace an older appliance. • Traditional sales: Another way to “recycle” merchandise is to sell it. Online auction sites, newspaper classifieds and other methods of selling items can yield good results. Many people are looking to get a deal in this challenging economy, and a slightly used smart phone or ereader may be more enticing than purchasing a brand new item at a higher cost. Research the resale value of a given item before putting it up for sale.
Before discarding used electronics, find out what options are available to make some money or do some good by donating to a local charity.
• Specialty companies: Organizations like Nextworth, Gazelle, and YouRenew will take used electronics and offer cash for them. The companies will often take care of shipping costs and, because they’re used to such transactions, the process is often smooth. Be sure to include the original packaging and power cords whenever possible. • Donations: Schools, senior centers, day care organizations, and even needy people in the neighborhood are prime candidates for used electronics and other items. When budgets are tight, many organizations look to the donations of wellmeaning people to alleviate the deficit of equipment and supplies. Instead of putting that used laptop in the trash, see if it can be donated to a school. Their tech• RECYCLING Page 15
April 13, 2011
from page 14
from page 7
nology team can refurbish it and put it to use in a classroom. The donation qualifies as a tax write-off. • Saved garbage costs: For some, avoiding a trip to the recycling center or the fees of a garbage collection service is enough of an incentive to recycle merchandise with a specific organization.
is thanks to the battery needed for hybrid cars. Hybrid car batteries typically need to be replaced once per decade. When selling a preowned vehicle, drivers might find that vehicle is less attractive to prospective buyers if that battery has not previously been replaced or if it’s been several years since it was replaced. Lower resale value is especially tough
to stomach when considering the initial cost of hybrid cars, which many feel makes them less attractive options. Hybrids are often considerably more expensive, and researchers have noted that the cost savings of hybrids are not realized until after several years of driving a hybrid vehicle. While this figures to change as the market continues to offer more hybrid cars, for today’s consumer that future offers little comfort. Safety is also a concern when considering a hybrid car. Hybrids use highvoltage batteries to operate, which can
prove disastrous should an accident occur. Manufacturers insist this concern isn’t really a problem, as the batteries are designed to turn off in an accident. However, some consumers subscribe to the “better safe than sorry” approach and feel hybrid batteries are simply too risky. Much like any big ticket decision, consumers must make, deciding whether or not to buy a hybrid car requires careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages to hybrid cars before driving one off the dealership lot.
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Mount Desert Island Hospital 10 Wayman Lane • Bar Harbor 288-5082 www.mdihospital.org
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Provides seniors with memory loss a vibrant and nurturing environment. Services include, enriched social activities, hair and nail care, medication administration, nutritious meals and wellness support. The Center is open Monday - Friday 8:30am- 4:30pm. 16 Community Lane PO Box 1130 Southwest Harbor 04679 (207) 244-3267 www.birchbayvillage.us
April 13, 2011
The Green Fair Saturday, April 16th
Fun for the entire family! Visit the Kid’s Tent with a full day of fun and activities! Sign up for the KIDS GIANT PUMPKIN GROWING CONTEST This contest is for KIDS 14 and younger. Register at Plants Unlimited at THE GREEN FAIR and through Sunday May 1st. Receive your FREE Giant Pumpkin seed, pot with soil and instructions to grow ‘em BIG Weigh in will be Saturday October 1st at 2:00 pm CASH PRIZES ! 1st place winner gets $100.00 2nd place winner gets $50.00 • 3rd place winner gets $25.00
Experience kid’s events, food, music,
FREE White Spruce evergreen seedlings - handed out by several sponsors - while supplies last.
information from local and national
10:00 to 4:00 Zabby’s Farm Traveling Barn Yard An entire Barn Yard come to Plants Unlimited! The kids will love the sheep, goats, mini horse. pot belly pig, geese, calf and the rabbits!
10:00 to 2:00 Evergreen Ridge Alpacas Evergreen Ridge Alpacas was started at Warren, Maine, in the Spring of 2006 by Alton and Carolyn Johnson. They began with only eight animals and by 2009 the number has grown to 21. They will bring several of the alpacas to Plants Unlimited!
green companies, and savings on green
Noon - 3:00
The Rusty Hinges are a midcoast band. We do folk, bluegrass, oldies, childrens’ songs, sea shanties, weddings, holiday tunes and more. We have guitars, pennywhistles, mandolin, ﬁddle, bouzouki, and ukulele with a blend of vocal harmonies.
products throughout the day.
THE RUSTY HINGES
10:00 - 4:00
Wild-Haven Educators - Special “Show” at 2:30 pm! Wild-Haven Educators Barbara and Tomm Tomlinson, will present a Hawk and Owl Show that will delight all ages, with audience participation and live birds. Also at the GREEN FAIR will be a Turkey Vulture, Barn Owl and African Pied Raven! Barbara is also a Master Falconer. The show begins at 2:30 but the birds are here all day to view. Graciously sponsored by the BARNSTABLE ORIGINALS Studios of Harry W. Smith
Story time with Dena Davis of Barefoot Books
Visit www.plants-unlimited.com for more information and pick up our ﬂyer for great “GREEN” savings
Saturday, April 16th • Plants Unlimited • Rockport • 594-7754