August 31, 2009

Thanks to Government Policy, Ethanol Grows from 1% to 7% of Fuel Supply in 8 Years

Many experts agree ethanol is not the answer. From the overuse of antibiotics to the heavy water footprint, ethanol has come under scrutiny from everyone except policymakers. Thanks to Congress and state governments, ethanol has risen from 1% to now 7% of the fuel supply in the United States.

The Cattle Network reports on the future of ethanol:

In 8 short years, ethanol grew from 1% of the fuel supply to 7% with the help of numerous policy decisions by Congress and state governments. While that was happening, the amount of corn used for ethanol production climbed from 6% to 24% and will level off in the next decade at 30-35%. While most row crop farmers say they are willing to meet that demand, the technical goal is to reach 36 billion gallons of ethanol available for the motor fuel supply by 2022. That includes both corn-based ethanol and biomass-based or cellulosic ethanol. Westcott says the mandate "would require significant expansion of biofuel production and use from current U.S. levels. However, major challenges in both supply and demand may limit future growth in the industry."

Challenges facing the ethanol industry includes the limitations of flex fuel cars on the market and gas stations featuring gasoline with high ethanol content. Furthermore, acceptance of ethanol by consumers provides additional challenges, especially considering the common belief that ethanol production is impacting food production and prices.

Ethanol is also criticized for its detrimental effects on South America. The Cattle Network continues:

Lurking on the horizon is the federal policy that allows states to be flexible in their requirements for motor fuel, and California's Air Resources Board has taken a dim view of ethanol, by alleging it causes the loss of soil carbon in South America. In brief, ethanol critics say is pushes corn production up, soybean production down, and the result is more tillage for Brazilian soybean fields.

Despite the negatives, ethanol is still touted as the "as the prime alternative to hydrocarbon fuels".

Image: Kables on Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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August 28, 2009

Eco Food Friday: Larabar All Natural Fruit and Nut Bars

Larabar Fruit & Nut Food Bars come in 15 different flavors made from the simplest ingredients. I recently discovered these all natural bars when a friend brought them on a backpacking trip. Most of the bars have only two or three ingredients, like simply dates and cashews. For example, cashew cookie:

Cashew Cookie -- two ingredients, one incredible flavor! The unprocessed, creamy cashews are rich in iron, zinc and B Vitamins. The chewy dates have more potassium than bananas. Together they form a bar rich in fiber with 2 grams of heart-healthy Omega-6 fatty acids and 15 essential vitamins and minerals. So much sustaining nourishment in such a simple recipe. Raw natural food for health. For life. For fun. Uncooked, unprocessed, no added sugar, non-GMO, gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegan, kosher. Sugars and carbs are naturally occurring in fruit. Good source of fiber. All fat comes from nuts only and provides 2 g of Omega 6 fatty acids. Cholesterol and sodium free. 1 1/2 Servings of fruit based on the USDA Food Guide Pyramid.

These simple bars are delicious and convenient. Of course, a better option would be to simply eat organic cashews and dates together as whole foods (Larabars are not organic), but sometimes the convenience of a bar can't be beat.
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August 27, 2009

Brazilian Environmental Groups Pay Farmers to Not Cut Down Trees

Farmers in Brazil who have permits to clear rainforest land in order to grow crops are being offered yearly cash payments by environmental groups to leave the forest intact. The New York Times explains:

Driven by profits derived from fertile soil, the region's dense forests have been aggressively cleared over the past decade, and Mato Grasso is now Brazil's leading producer of soy, corn and cattle, exported across the globe by multinational companies.

Deforestation, a critical contributor to climate change, effectively accounts for 20 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions and 70 percent of the emissions in Brazil. Halting new deforestation, experts say, is as powerful a way to combat warming as closing the world's coal plants.

But until now, there has been no financial reward for keeping forest standing. Which is why a growing number of scientists, politicians and environmentalists argue that cash payments -- like that offered to Mr. Marcolini -- are the only way to end tropical forest destruction and provide a game-changing strategy in efforts to limit global warming.

Unfortunately, many farmers believe the cash incentives are not adequate or comparable to what they would make growing cash crops or selling the cleared land.
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August 26, 2009

Sustainable, Handmade, Wooden Retro Radio

Listen to your tunes sustainably with this retro wooden radio and bamboo iPod dock.

Most radios don't qualify as decor accents: ours does. Every detail of its design, from sustainably harvested wood to round knobs, merges nostalgia with contemporary elan to please the ear as well as the eye.
Handmade by artisans in Indonesia, the radio also contains two shortwave bands and an iPod jack.  I've not personally tried one of these radios, but I think they look really cool. 
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August 25, 2009

Artificial Aspartame Should be Banned According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition

aspartame in soda.jpg
Do you consume any products containing Nutrasweet, Equal, or Canderel? If so, stop immediately as these artificial sweeteners contain aspartame. Aspartame has long been controversial, but the Cancer Prevention Coalition is calling on the FDA to immediately ban this substance because it causes cancer in laboratory rats. World Wire writes:

Under the explicit provisions of the 1958 Delaney Law, which requires an automatic ban on carcinogenic food additives, the Coalition is calling on Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the newly appointed Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and public health advocate, to promptly ban the continued use of aspartame...Aspartame is the second most widely used artificial sweetener in the world. It is found in more than 6,000 products including carbonated and powdered soft drinks, hot chocolate, chewing gum, candy, desserts, yogurt, and tabletop sweeteners, as well as some pharmaceutical products like vitamins and sugar-free cough drops. More than 200 million people worldwide consume it...In 2005, based on highly sensitive and life-long feeding tests in groups of about 200 rats and at doses less than usual human dietary levels, the prestigious Italian Ramazzini Foundation confirmed that aspartame is unequivocally carcinogenic. A high incidence of cancers was induced in multiple organs of the lab rats fed the sweetener, including lymph glands, brain and kidney.
Artificial sweeteners have also been found to be polluting our water supply.
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August 24, 2009

Vegetarian Cookbook: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World

I am really excited about Jennifer McCann's new book Vegan Lunch Box Around the World: 125 Easy, International Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love! I've long been a fan of Jennifer's first book Vegan Lunch Box, and now my family has more recipes to try!

Vegan Lunch Box Around the World offers a delicious array of meat-free, egg-free, and dairy-free lunches that will take you on an adventure across the globe. The book includes balanced international and regional American menus with 100 recipes from Ratatouille to Moroccan Tagine, New England Chowder to a Japanese Bento Box. With quick and easy recipes, fruit and veggie ideas for even the pickiest eaters, and an allergen-free index, Vegan Lunch Box Around the World is essential for every family raising healthy kids--and for anyone who packs a lunch.
Of course, the recipes aren't limited to lunches, and this cookbook is super user-friendly. The layout is aesthetically pleasing, and each recipe includes allergen information. The color photographs are beautiful, and I like how Jennifer includes regional American recipes as part of the international flare, making this vegan cookbook truly universal for any nationality.  From mango noodles to caramelized squash and apples, your child will be the envy of the whole school with these lunch box goodies. 
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August 21, 2009

All Cotton Furniture Slipcovers Give New Life to Old Furniture

One way to conserve resources it make what we have last longer, especially big items like furniture. Slipcovers are a great way to give new life to old furniture, but many slipcovers are made from synthetic fibers. Sure Fit makes 100% cotton covers that are machine washable, a must for when you have young children. We have a Sure Fit Cotton Duck Linen Futon Cover for our old futon couch. Even if you don't have older furniture you wish to cover, a slipcover can protect your new furniture from children and pets. They are also great for college back-to-school decorating.

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August 20, 2009

California Condor Restoration Foiled by Trash Ingestion

Despite 2009 being a "record-breaking" year for Central California condor restoration, trash ingestion has become a problem for chicks. Four chicks are currently residing in wild nests; however, one was recently found dead from assumed trash ingestion. The Pelican Network reports:
We suspect that condor parents are mistakenly picking up micro-trash (pieces of glass, plastic and metal) and delivering it to their nestlings thinking that they are bringing calcium-rich bone fragments to their offspring. The chicks then ingest the micro-trash and probably have trouble regurgitating it.

This problem was first discovered in southern California but in Big Sur, very little micro-trash has been collected in nests despite an intensive effort to study condor reproduction. In the central coast region since the birds started breeding in the wild there, we have had 11 nesting attempts. A total of 10 chicks hatched in wild nests (with our assistance - check out the video) and 9 of these survived to fledging age. Two of these later died after leaving the nest, however. This is the first chick in our region to die of trash ingestion and now is the time to act. We feel the situation is urgent because we still have condor chicks in nests presently.

Coastal clean up projects are planned to help combat the problem.
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August 19, 2009

Really Natural Books: Global Coastal Change

Global Coastal Change is a comprehensive discussion of how coastlines around the world are being affected by climate change. Each chapter provides "real-world" examples and evidence-based research on the changes that are occurring on coastal regions from "atmospheric changes, sea level rise, alterations in freshwater and sediment use and transport, toxins, overfishing, alien species, and eutrophication".

The central facts about change in the coastal zones of the world are that:  i) there are increasingly more people in the world and their activities have historically been focused at the land/sea boundary, for biological, cultural, economic, and geographic reasons; and ii) these people consume resources...The changes generated by humans, moreover, have, during the 20th century, become large enough to exceed the changes pressed upon coastal environments by "natural" or non-anthropogenic forces.

Written by Ivan Valiela, Global Coastal Change also offers possible solutions to the problems facing the world's coastlines.

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August 18, 2009

Antarctic Glacier Melting Four Times Faster Than a Decade Ago

antarctic glacier.jpg

Glaciers in Antarctica are melting alarmingly fast, as revealed by 15 years of continuous satellite imaging.  New research has discovered the Pine Island glacier is thinning at a rate that is four times faster than just ten years ago. According to the Environment News Service:
The glacier, which is twice the size of Scotland, is releasing more ice into the sea than any other glacier in Antarctica. The research also reveals that ice thinning is now occurring much further inland. At this rate scientists estimate that the main section of the glacier will have disappeared in just 100 years, six times sooner than was previously thought.
The scientists say it is too early to link the melting glacier to global warming, but they believe the retreating ice is due to warming oceans surrounding Antarctica.
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August 17, 2009

All Natural Herbal Fusion Stimulation Beverage Fever

Ever need a "pick-me-up", but you know another cup of coffee would not be good for you? Fever Stimulation beverage may be the answer. It is made from herbal infusions and is all natural.

Fever is a 100% all-natural, non-carbonated stimulation beverage that offers numerous health benefits and enhances body wellness. Made with the most premium herbal aphrodisiacs, Fever is rich in antioxidants and acts as a detoxifying beverage, while providing an overall feeling of euphoria and pleasure. Fever also balances the Central Nervous System and enhances Libido. Fever is a functional beverage focused on "Making Healthy Sexy!" through a combination of delicious flavors and a scientifically blended mix of herbs designed to stimulate the body.

I have tried the pineapple coconut flavor of Fever, and I find it very sweet. One bottle contains 10% of your total carbohydrates from the 31 grams of sugar. Perhaps another flavor would be more appealing to me.
The following herbs are featured in Fever: damiana Leaf, guarana, caffeine from green tea, clavo huasca, panax ginseng, horny goat weed, suma, maca, and catuaba. Many of these herbs come from the Amazon rainforest.
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August 14, 2009

Orange County Choppers Build an Electric Motorcycle

The popular TV show American Chopper has built an electric motorcycle! The Smart Chopper was built for Siemens and tops out at 100 mph. It can travel 60 miles on a charge. This clutchless chopper takes five hours to charge and will be auctioned off for charity.
Via: Dvice

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August 13, 2009

Florida Approves First Nuclear Power Plant in 33 Years

nuclear power plant.jpg
Bad news for opponents of nuclear power: the state of Florida has just approved its first nuclear power plant in 33 years. The Miami Herald describes criticism of the project:

Critics have complained about the site the company picked. In many places, the water table on the site is above ground for half the year or longer, according to documents the company filed with the NRC. Most of the site lies in the 100-year floodplain, meaning after heavy rain, it is likely to remain inundated for some time...The board also found that the utility may have underestimated the impact of building the plant in a floodplain. That will require filling in and paving over hundreds of acres of wetlands, which may hurt both the underground aquifer and the Withlacoochee River, not to mention the wildlife species that depend on them, the board found.
The nuclear power plant would not be up and running until 2018, but taxpayers have already begun footing the bill. Ironically, Florida is the number two producer of solar energy in the United States.
Jennifer Lance Permalink social bookmarking

August 12, 2009

GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals Feature Some Organic Products

gopicnic.jpg Sometimes you just need convenience, and GoPicnic fits the bill. These ready-to-eat meals use natural ingredients, many of which are organic. They do not require refrigeration or preparation, and there are even Kosher, gluten-free, vegetarian, and Halal options. GoPicnic meals are easy to take on trips and grab when you have no time to prepare a meal or snack to go; however, there is certainly a lot of packaging involved. The greener option is to make sure you have time to pack whole foods, but in a pinch, GoPicnic offers a natural, convenient solution.
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August 11, 2009

Online Shopping Reduces Energy Consumption by 35%

onlineshopping.jpgShopping online actually reduces your carbon footprint!  A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University's Green Design Institute found that online shopping reduces carbon emissions by 35% compared to shopping at retail stores.  Creative Citizen explains:
For traditional retail, the largest contributors to energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions were from customer transport; approximately 65% of total emissions generated stemmed from consumers' travel to and from stores. Packaging and last mile delivery accounted for the majority of emissions from e-commerce. 
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August 10, 2009

Sensitive Dogs Need Wellness Simple Food Solutions

wellness.jpg Does your dog have trouble with the additives and fillers in traditional dog foods? Wellness Simple Food Solutions has the answer. Naturally preserved, this dog food is made naturally.
Does your dog require the simplest nutrition possible?

This is the Wellness Way to carefully manage the quality and quantity of the ingredients your dog is exposed to each day. Simple Food Solutions is holistically formulated using the 1 + 1 food isolation theory - with only one novel animal protein source and one easily digestible carbohydrate source. Nothing extra. Just a short list of key ingredients, each carefully chosen for its outstanding quality, nutritional value and ability to nourish with simplicity. We understand what it's like to struggle with your dog's diet, and hope that you too discover the difference choosing Wellness can make.

Simply 5 Key Ingredients

Ground Rice: With the bran layer removed, this quality carbohydrate source is highly digestible.

Deboned Duck: Chosen as a ''novel'' protein source due to its unique amino acid profile.

Rice Protein Concentrate: Highly concentrated, easily digestible protein source, specially selected as a unique protein complement to duck.

Sunflower Oil: High quality fat source rich in Omega-6 fatty acids that help maintain healthy skin and shiny coat.

Whole Flaxseed: Outstanding fiber source for healthy digestion. A naturally rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

All dogs can benefit from a more simple diet, not just those who demonstrate allergies to soy, wheat, and corn.
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August 7, 2009

Made in the USA: Green Toys Recycling Truck

recycling truck toy.jpg One of my son's favorite books is William is Going Green. Although I am not as enamored with the book as he is, for his birthday I sought out a comparable toy.  I found the Green Toys Recycle Truck, which  is made from 100% recycled plastic in the USA.
Sort bottles, cans, and paper or just have a blast. Your eco-conscious little one will learn recycling basics while playing with this super cool recycling truck that has a movable recycling bed and open/shut rear door. The awesome eco-design has no metal axles. The Green Toys Recycling Truck is made in the U.S.A. from 100% recycled plastic milk containers that save energy and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
My son loves his truck and plays with it everyday.
Jennifer Lance Permalink social bookmarking

August 6, 2009

Renewable Energy Output Exceeds Nuclear Power in the US

solar.jpg The July 2009 "Monthly Energy Review", issued by the US Government Energy Information Administration, states renewable energy output has exceeded nuclear power accounting for 11.1% of domestic energy production. The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) reports:
For the first four months of 2009, U.S. renewable energy production was comprised of hydropower (34.6%), wood + wood wastes (31.2%), biofuels (19.0%), wind (9.3%), geothermal (4.7%), and solar (1.2%). Most of these sources grew compared to the first third of 2008 with wind expanding by 34.5%, biofuels by 14.1%, hydropower by 8.2%, and geothermal by 2.6%. The contribution from solar sources remained essentially unchanged while wood + wood waste declined by 4.9%.
The report also states energy usage in the US has declined by 5.7% compared to 2008.
Jennifer Lance Permalink social bookmarking

August 5, 2009

Ice-Qube Emergency Preparedness Kits: Life Happens. Be Prepared

iceqube.jpg Ice-Qube Starter Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Survival Kits are an easy way to prepare for an emergency. The starter kit includes: flashlight with batteries, toothbrush, Mylar blanket, poncho, face shield, water container, Lifesavers candy, garbage bags, planner card, and water container. There isn't really much that is natural about this survival kit, and it would be simple to make your own using more eco-friendly products. The starter kit is small and would be perfect for your car. Ice-Qube makes other emergency preparedness kits too for baby, office, home, and pet. The Ice-Qube kits are designed to be gifts, and I am quite happy to have a mylar blanket for my car.
Jennifer Lance Permalink social bookmarking

August 4, 2009

Organic Center and Nature's Path Refute FSA Study Finding Organic Food Not Healthier

A very controversial study was released last week claiming organic food is not healthier than its conventional counterpart. Dr Alan Dangou, who led the study for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) found, according to the Guardian:
Most studies were based on the hypothesis that eating organic food is beneficial to health. Looking at all of the studies published in the last 50 years, we have concluded that there's no good evidence that consumption of organic food is beneficial to health based on the nutrient content.
Many organic producers and consumer groups refute the study's findings and claim its methodology was flawed. The Organic Center writes:
In their written report, the London team downplayed positive findings in favor of organic food. In several instances, their analysis showed that organic foods tend to be more nutrient dense than conventional foods. Plus, their study omitted measures of some important nutrients, including total antioxidant capacity. It also lacked quality controls contained in a competing study released in 2008 by The Organic Center (TOC). Last, the FSA-funded team also used data from very old studies assessing nutrient levels in plant varieties that are no longer on the market.
The study also does not consider how organically-grown produce benefits the environment.
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August 3, 2009

Really Natural July 2009 Monthly Round-Up

Alternative Energy




Green Homes



Monthly Round-Up


Product review

Really Natural Books




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