Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's dirty in California

Los Angeles,

I believe a congratulations is in order for Bakersfield who knocked Los Angeles out of the #1 spot for being the dirtiest city in the United States. With the addition of hybrid tugboats now being used in Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, soon enough L.A. might further lower themselves on the list! Either way, it's a good thing that Proposition 23--the measure which would have suspended the environmental regulations set by AB 32 in California--didn't pass because the State of the Air 2010 reports that California already has seven out of ten of the dirtiest cities in the United States.

Following Bakersfield and L.A. is Fresno, Visalia-Porterville, Hanford-Corcoran, skipping to #8 is Modesto, and the state capital Sacramento at #9. Phoenix-Mesa, AZ is in 6th place, Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman, AL at #7, and Pittsburgh-New Castle, PA in last place. The American Lung Association came to their conclusion by evaluating ozone and particle pollution caused by vehicle emissions, industrial & agricultural pollution, wildfires, and other environmental factors. They conclude that the 20 million people who live in these regions are more likely to suffer from asthma, bronchitis, and more severe diseases such as lung cancer. If only holding your breath was a solution!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hmm, should I torture animals or not? That's a toughie...

I seriously don't understand our species sometimes. We are the only known intelligent life in our universe (until proven otherwise) and yet some people simply cannot make rational, good decisions. While under the influence of drugs and alcohol, Englishman Colin Sherlock was arrested for torturing his pet cat Roxy by putting it into a microwave for 8 seconds, a clothes dryer for 7 seconds, a freezer for 20 seconds, and then dunking it into soapy dish water. The cat is lucky to be alive but shows signs of serious mental trauma.

So let's just make a comparison between Roxy and her previous owner.

Roxy, torture victim of Colin Sherlock.
Here's Roxy after her ordeal. She looks as though she is doing okay in still photos, but she is now extremely paranoid and and is likely to suffer lasting mental trauma. Did anyone mention that she's a cat? You can clearly see by her physique that she is indeed a cat. What could she--a cat--have possibly done to deserve to be tortured by this man:

Colin Sherlock, drug user and torturer or innocent animals.

So what now happens to Colin Sherlock? He's from England, after all, so you'd figure they'd have many medieval torture devices laying about for such an individual. Well, lucky for this man he gets the maximum penalty available: a whole 126 days in jail, and 10-year ban from owning animals. Excuse me while I golf-clap for the fellow.

What I really don't understand is why these crimes aren't taken more seriously and why the punishment for them is so minuscule. It is well known that one of the major characteristics of future serial killers is torturing animals. Instead of providing these individuals with proper care and sentences, we are essentially allowing them back on the streets to further their sadism. Whether you believe animals have rights and deserve to be protected by the law or not, would you really want this guy as your neighbor? Regardless of whether or not he feels remorse for what he has done--which he claims he does--would you want this guy living next door to you? I think not.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

People-Tested, Animal-approved

Product testing on animals isn't just about shampooing bunnies to get the shiniest coat. It involves many horrible and painful procedures such as forcing them to swallow different products to check for poisoning and side effects, or rubbing products in their eyes to check for irritation and blindness. Inevitably, animals that don't die during testing phases are later destroyed to further study via dissection. For these and other health-related reasons, I've been switching to certified organic bath & body products.

Believe it or not, it's relatively easy to find them! Most popular retail and grocery stores in the United States have at least a small section dedicated to earth and animal-friendly products. However, a lot of the products--if not all of them--aren't actually certified organic. This means you're going to have to do some research. But if you live in or near a larger city, you may find private businesses wholeheartedly dedicated to the cause who would be happy to assit you with finding certified organic soaps and scrubs. Another alternative would be to buy online. A lot of the more established businesses sell online and will deliver directly to your door.

Why is it better to have certified organic products?
Uncertified "natural" products may or may not be all that natural at all. Marketers love buzz words and will use "all-natural" and "organic" in their advertising to try to get you to purchase their products. Believe it or not, marketers can call something "all-natural and organic" as long as they aren't lying about the product's purpose, that it contains some natural ingredients, and that it has been tested to be safe for use.

Unless the item you are purchasing says it is certified organic or has a certified organic logo, you cannot guarantee that the product has not been tested on animals nor has used animal products--even if it says it's "cruel free" and "not tested on animals." Certified organic guarantees that the product does not contain any synthetic chemicals. Since it is not required by the FDA to test organic ingredients, you can relax knowing that it has not been tested on animals.

Does this mean that all uncertified "natural" products are probably unsafe or tested on animals?
Absolutely not, but it does take a little bit more research to make sure. A lot of natural products are still in the process of becoming certified, or have other reasons for not meeting certification requirements that are unrelated to their ingredients or testing procedures.

How do I make sure that my product is safe and cruel free?
The first step would be looking at the ingredients list and verifying whether they are safe and natural or not. The following list was compiled by Adam Waters, founder of Natural Skincare Authority, a website dedicated to providing easy-to-understand knowledge about natural products. These are the top 10 toxic ingredients found in over 74% of all bath & body products.

  1. Mercury: Known human carcinogen.
  2. Lead Acetate: Known human carcinogen.
  3. Formaldehyde: Known human carcinogen
  4. Toluene: Reproductive/developmental toxin
  5. Petroleum Distillates: Possible human carcinogen
  6. Ethylacrylate: Possible human carcinogen
  7. Coal Tar: Known human carcinogen
  8. Dibutyl Phthalate: Reproductive/developmental toxin
  9. Potassium Dichromate: Possible human carcinogen
  10. 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol: Forms carcinogens if mixed with nitrosating agents

Because they are toxic, this means that they had to be lawfully tested to guarantee that there wont be any immediate harmful effects. Prolonged use does not guarantee the product's safety. Unfortunately, these are not all of the toxic ingredients found in everyday care products. If you aren't sure about an ingredient, your best bet would be to look it up.

That seems like a lot of work. Do you have a list of products that are already known to be safe?
Yes I do! I have been conducting my own research over the past few weeks to find the best, least expensive, and easiest to find bath & body products. Though I cannot guarantee 100% safety, I can guarantee that based off of their ingredients labels, these products should not contain any dangerous chemicals and therefore do not test on animals.

Burt's Bees
Burt's Bees is probably the most well known and established natural product manufacturer. They are so huge now that I've even seen their products sold in gas stations and can be found virtually in any store which sells bath & body products. Certified natural by the Natural Products Association, they have a variety of merchandise including shampoos & conditioners, lotions, food scrubs, lip gloss, etc. They even have soaps for babies and individuals with sensitive skin. Additionally, they practice sustainable company habits and announced in July 2010 that they have achieved zero waste to landfill. If only we could all achieve this!

However, Burt's Bees isn't perfect. They use synthetic ingredients when there are no natural alternatives. They are honest about it, however, and provide a percentage label of how natural their product is, i.e. 98% natural. They are also not certified organic, nor are they vegan which means they do use some animal products in their ingredients such as beeswax, lanoline, royal jelly, and milk. My only concern is their use of carmine--an extract derived from the shells of the cochineal beetle. This is used to give their lip balms a reddish tint and is literally extracted by crushing dried up beetle shells. Yum!...not.

    While you may have never heard of "him" (he used to be a him!), Dr. Bronner's has been around for over 150 years and passed down through five family generations. They have a good variety of liquid & bar soaps for your hair and body, as well as lip balm, baby soaps, and shaving cream (something that is much harder to find in a natural product). Dr. Bronner's is certified organic by the USDA National Organic Program as well as certified Fair Trade by the Institute for Marketecology (IMO). They wear their hearts--and their legal & company information--on their sleaves, and all of their merchandise is available for purchase online.

    Unfortunately, their products tend to be incredibly elusive. This may or may not be their fault, but the places that I have found them--Ralph's and Target--tend to keep their soaps out of mind and out of sight. Additionally, I have only ever found their body washes and bar soaps. I didn't even know they had more than that until going to their website. Their packaging is also a tad too preachy even for my tastes. While that doesn't prevent me from purchasing good products, they may lose a lot of customers who don't want to feel as though they are being yelled at by their shampoo!

    I can't really categorize J.R.Watkins as a bath & body company alone because they have an extensive list of products in so many different categories including hand & body creams, facials, lip balms, oils, hair care, dish soaps, furniture polish, all purpose cleaners, organic seasonings, vanilla extracts, recipes, pain relief medication, first aid, etc... the list goes on. I guess I would call them the Acme of natural products. J.R. Watkins is certified all natural by the Natural Products Association. Additionally, their herbs and spices are USDA certified organic. They also offer discounts for members of their Clear Conscious Club (free to join!), help to support over 30 non-profit organizations, use biodegradable packaging, soy-based inks, and practice strict company recycling programs. But like Dr. Bronner's, they are very hard to find in-store. Your best bet would be to buy online.

    A new line of bath & beauty products released by the parent company Paris Presents, Inc., they produce exactly what it sounds like--EcoTools. These cosmetic brushes, loofahs, and other "ecotools" are made 98% to 100% from nature. But besides tools, they also have an incredibly delicious body butter (don't worry--I didn't actually eat it!), body sprays, facial scrubs, and more. Although EcoTools is not well established, I have seen their products being sold at larger chains like Ralph's, Wal*Mart, and Target so they should be easier to find. They are also doing their part by joining 1% For the Planet which donates 1% of their annual earnings to environmental organizations.

    The iffy side is that I have not been able to verify if their parent company follows the same ecological and moral guidelines as their EcoTools line. They are also Made in China, which doesn't help. While this may be okay for some, there are many controversial reasons for not wanting to purchase products from China. Also some of their fragrances, particularly in their body sprays, are overwhelmingly strong and border on obnoxious.

    Other natural or organic products:
    Sadly, I haven't been able to try out all of the great stuff I found. I simply ran out of money! The following list are other companies that I did my best to verify were either natural, organic, or on their way to becoming one of the two. I encourage you all to try your best and switch to organic and all natural products for your health, your family's health, and the health of hundreds of thousands of adorable little rodents out there.

    If you believe any of the above listed products are not in fact 100% natural or organic, or if you know of any natural and organic products you would like to see on this list, please feel free to message me personally or leave a comment with your questions or concerns.


    UPDATE 7/6/2011: Thanks to a blog post by Jem's Room which linked me to another blog post from, I have updated the above list of products by removing companies which are not natural nor organic despite labeling themselves as such. This post on lists Fake Organics, Fake Naturals, Real Organics, and Real Naturals based on their ingredients list on the products themselves. I encourage you to check out BOTH of their posts! *Please note that products on the list above that weren't listed at all on stayed where they are, but does not guarantee that they are truly natural and/or organic.

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    Sunday Species: Thistledown Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla gloriosa)

    Earlier last week whilst my fiancée and I were romping through the desert, we came across this little gal:

    If you're anything like me, you let out a joyous squeal of giddy laughter when you laid eyes upon this creature. But be warned! Though the thistledown velvet ant is incredibly adorable, their cuteness is equally matched by a painful stinger.

    Female Dasymutilla Gloriosa a.k.a. "Thistledown Velvet Ant." Photographed by Alex Wilde © 2005.

    Contrary to the name, thistledown velvet ants are actually wasps. They are solitary creatures randomly dispersed throughout the arid and semiarid climates of the Southwestern United States and Mexico. As you can tell, thistledown ants have peculiar white hairs known as setae. The setae serve an impressive purpose by mimicking the hairs found on creosote seeds. This renders the thistledown ant almost entirely camouflaged amongst the varying desert debris.

    Creosote seeds. Photographed by Florian Boyd © 2007.

    Female thistledown ants spend most of their time seeking out the burrows and nests of other insects. They lay one or two eggs inside each one of these neighboring cocoons, particularly those of the sand wasp. The thistledown larvae then act as external parasites and feed off of the sand wasp larvae until adulthood. However, invading other insects' homes can be dangerous work which is why they are equipped with a hard, almost impenetrable exoskeleton and a debilitating stinger. Don't worry too much though because they aren't poisonous and they'll only really effect other insects and small animals.

    A closeup of a female thistledown stinger. Photographed by Alex Wilde © 2005.

    But like all wasps, males trade in their stinging abilities for wings. The males are mostly nocturnal and live out their lives seeking food and mates. But because they don’t have a stinger, they are easy catches for other nocturnal flying species such as bats and owls. To avoid detection from predators, male and female thistledown ants alike are skilled in burrowing themselves underground. On the off chance that they are caught, they let out an alarming call which sounds like a high-pitched squeak and can be distracting to predators.

    Adults are primarily vegetarians and drink the nectar of various species of cactus flowers, aiding in pollination. However, it is necessary for velvet ant larvae to feed off the larvae of other insects. This means that velvet ant survival is wholly dependant on the survival and reproduction of other insects. Though they are not currently an endangered species, they are quite elusive so population densities are hard to determine and they are always fascinating to come across!
    Bees, Wasps, and Ants: The Indispensable Role of Hymenoptera in Gardens by Eric Grissell Pages 162-165

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    What to do with all that garbage?

    A typical landfill. Photo courtesy of The Evirosax Blog.

    A power plant in Long Beach, CA is setting an example for LA County where they intend to build an additional three more power plants which will turn trash into energy. Nicknamed “biorefineries,” these plants would burn trash to produce heat or use microorganisms which eat through organic matter, emitting powerful methane.

    Proponents of biorefineries explain that this would cut down our dependence on non-renewable landfills currently being filled by 33,000 tons of garbage per day in LA County alone. Additionally, it will increase our power production using a renewable source of energy. However, critics suggest that this may add to air pollution and are no different than 1970’s toxic incinerators. Emissions expert of UC Riverside Bill Welch disagrees, explaining that the technology is highly sophisticated and has been effective in reducing waste and producing energy overseas. Other benefits include compost and ash byproducts which could be used for fertilizer and paving roads.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Attack of the Radioactive Boars!

    Screencapture of a Plagued Swine, World of Warcraft
    Ever since the Chernobyl Disaster of 1986 in which nuclear fallout overwhelmed most of Europe and western Soviet Union, Germany has had an ever increasing amount of radioactive boars plaguing society. It may sound like the student cinematography of an Alfred Hitchcock enthusiast, but reports of radioactive boars attacking people in the streets and blocking traffic have been numerous as of late.

    The rising amount of radioactive boars is reportedly due to the overall increase of the boar population itself. While radioactivity in the area has been steadily declining, the boar's staple diet consists of truffles and mushrooms which absorb radiation like a sponge. user "Motionmonk" jokes about the positive side of radioactive boars, suggesting that since radiation transfers heat they could feasibly produce self-cooking bacon. (Rejoice!) However, due to the contamination of the meat the German Atomic Energy Law requires all boars be checked and hunters compensated for those which do not pass the test. Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, no self-cooking bacon this time!,1518,709345,00.html

    Sunday, July 25, 2010

    Sunday Species: the Mexican Axolotl

    The Mexican Axolotl has always been one of those strange creatures I've come to know and love. I even had a pet axolotl as a child. I wish I had a picture of him to share with you!

    Unfortunately, the axolotl has been facing devastation from polluted waters and disease to being considered a delicacy in its homeland. Living exclusively in the Xochimilco lakes with a population of over 1500 per square mile, they have dwindled down to a staggering 25 per square mile and are now a critically endangered species.

    Axolotls rarely undergo complete metamorphosis and keep their larval characteristics such as gills and dorsal fins. But these undeveloped axolotls will still live full lives anywhere from 10-15 years and grow up to a foot long. Because it is rare for them to fully develop, most of these salamanders spend their whole lives living underwater. However, some will eventually descend from the depths onto land and become full adult axolotls.

    These fascinating creatures are the most studied salamanders in the world due to their regenerative abilities. This means that they can re-grow lost body parts like arms, legs, and tails. Scientists have even determined that they are able to regenerate heart and brain cells and studying the species has vastly contributed to the research of regenerative medicine.

    Even Happy Aquarium supports the Axolotl!

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Sunday Species: the Apache Cicada

    I apologize for the long hiatus from posting. For my absence, I decided to start a new posting schedule, one of which will introduce a new species of plant or animal every Sunday. Today, I introduce to you the Apache cicada.

    Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for most of my life, I didn't get much interaction with cicadas. I still don't but I am definitely made aware of their presence by their buzzing. When I first moved to Palm Springs, I didn't even know they were in this territory. That buzzing I heard all the time, I simply thought was bad wiring. I remember ignorantly commenting to my fiance about how Palm Springs should really fix their electrical systems. He promptly corrected me and told me that no, those are cicadas. Today, they reminded me that they were back this summer, and in force! Driving down the street with my windows open, every tree hummed with joy.

    The Diceroprocta Apache cicada lives in the southwest region of the United States. Like all typical cicadas, they live as nymphs underground and feed on roots and tree sap, only to come out once every 3-years to mate and eventually die. Here in the Sonoran Desert area, the Apache cicadas have overlapping "schedules" so are heard (but seldom seen) in the early summer every year. 

    Much to many peoples' surprise, the Apache cicada is able to survive harsh temperatures out in the open by sweating the nectar it feeds on. This allows for them to have as much opportunity to mate as possible during their short adult lives. As the males buzz for hours on end throughout the day and night, the females are attracted to the sound and are able to continue the cycle of life. Then about two weeks later, the buzzing ends and we look forward to a new chorus next summer. Until next time, Apache cicada!

    Picture from

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    The Electric Vehicle is going into overdrive

    The earliest known battery-like instrument dates back to approximately 250 BCE which produced a little over 1 volt of DC electricity when used. Not a whole lot, to say the least, but technology has improved over the last 2200 years or so.

    The first commercially viable battery was invented in the 1800's by the English chemist Dr. William Cruickshank. Over the years, batteries were adapted to meet consumer needs. They became smaller, held more power, and eventually in 1859 became rechargeable thanks to French physicist Gaston Planté.

    Today, batteries come in all shapes and sizes, most of which can be recharged to meet their expected power quality for many years. They're found in cell phones, mp3 players, laptop computers, toys, and--since the mid 1830's--the electric vehicle.

    You read it right: the 1830's is the first time in history we saw batteries being used to power vehicles. Built by Robert Anderson of Scotland, it was an electric carriage which didn't require any horse-drawn assistance. So why are we driving gasoline-powered vehicles reminiscent of Karl Benz's model that wasn't invented until 1885?

    One definite reason is because Anderson's EV was not rechargeable. Additionally, batteries then weren't very powerful therefore an owner would be replacing the battery far too often to be convenient. It was much easier to continue to use a horse & buggy than bother with this EV. Later, when gas-powered vehicles came around, they skyrocketed due to the highly convenient gas technology. As we all know, it is extremely easy to fill up a tank of gas.

    So now we're stuck in a rut with this dated technology. Where we went from typewriters to computers, rotary phones to cell phones, record players to mp3 players, we're still transitioning from gasoline to electric. Instead of improving electric technology over the past 125 years, we've been making gasoline more convenient: 10 miles per gallon has been increased to 100 miles per gallon in some vehicles.

    In recent years, car manufacturers have begun to adopt electric vehicle technologies. In 1996, General Motors was the first to mass produce an economical electric vehicle, the EV1, until it was completely taken off the market for unconfirmed reasons as depicted by the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? Since then, the biggest fingerprint on the market was the global release of the Toyota Prius in 2001 which promised 50 mpg's with its hybrid-electric engine. Many other manufacturers have replicated this hybrid-electric technology and are still available today. However, there is yet to be a consumer-friendly electric vehicle on the market.

    The problem with electric vehicles is that the technology being released today does not meet the consumer demands that gas engines put out. The Nissan Leaf which comes out this year in 2010 will only allow for 100 miles per charge. While this is acceptable for many, if not, most drivers on the road, it still leaves for much to be desired: road trips would be impossible and require renting a gas-powered vehicle; and those who drive an hour to work every day due to traffic or distance are likely to run out of juice before getting home. EV's that advertise much longer distances such as Tesla Motors can go up to 300 miles per charge, but also cost over $100,000. Also not so consumer friendly.

    Other issues with electric vehicles include their overall low reputation for power and speed, the length of time they take to charge (though many newer EV's will come with a quick-charge), and having to install a power station at one's house. This means that if you live in an apartment, you won't be buying an EV anytime soon. At least not until there's a charging station at every block and you wont have to sit at the "pumps" for hours at a time. And while the Tesla Model S pictured above as a great looking car, most EV's are...well...not very pretty.

    There are other alternatives out there, however. Motorcycle enthusiasts can enjoy a few different electric motorcycles to choose from, both for on and off-road. A great thing considering motorcycles are the top vehicles for fuel-economy but with the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions per vehicle (offset by a significantly lower population of motorcycle drivers vs. car, truck, and SUV drivers). There are also a couple electric trucks and SUV's in development including the Phoenix SUT which also offers a 100+ mile range. But while EV's continue to improve, many individuals have reconfigured their diesel engines to run on vegetable oil until more EV options go to market.

    Regardless of these temporary drawbacks, electric vehicles are literally and figuratively headed in the right direction as manufacturers make constant improvments. With the British Petroleum Oil Spill under a microscope, the EV is in higher demand than ever before due to a population of people who have had enough with ecological destruction, greenhouse gas emissions, and high gas prices. Though gasoline isn't out of the picture yet, it is time to recharge our batteries.

    From top to bottom: Parthian battery dating back to 250 BCE, First electric vehicle built in the 1830's, Tesla Model S, Mission One Sports Bike.

    Sunday, June 6, 2010

    Etsy sellers donate 100% of proceeds to helping the Gulf Coast

    Sellers on the popular handmade and vintage boutique website,, have come together to create a collective seller store--Help the Gulf Coast--where 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the recovery effort of the oil spill plaguing the Gulf of Mexico. 50% of the proceeds will go to Oxfam America and the other 50% will be given to the American Bird Conservancy.

    Items in the store range from beautiful art and photography of the Gulf Coast to handmade clothes and jewelry reminiscent of ocean scenery. Please click here to browse the shop!

    If you're interested in donating an item to Help the Gulf Coast, please click here to see their donation guidelines.

    For more information and updates on the shop's progress, please visit the Help the Gulf Coast blog.

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    the fast food industry becoming animal rights activists?

    Animal rights organizations, such as PETA and the Humane Society, have gotten some new activists: fast food giants like McDonalds, Burger King, Carl's Jr., Wendy's, KFC, Chipotle, Quiznos, Denny's, Hardee's, and many others. They have all pledged or have already made changes to increase the welfare and treatment of their animals by hiring on animal welfare specialists to regulate the treatment of animals.

    Animal welfare specialists will also work with these fast food giants by providing new ethical ways of raising and slaughtering their animals. Some suggestions include free-range, larger crates or less animals per crate, veterinary care, discontinuing the use of growth hormones (which can be harmful to humans), and "controlled atmosphere killing" (CAK), a non-poisonous gas that puts animals to sleep before they are slaughtered.

    The Humane Society, who owns stock in many of these chains, has also purchased stock in Jack in the Box and Steak 'n' Shake--two companies who have been criticized for their lack of steps at improving the livelihood of their animals. Once the Humane Society has owned stock in the companies for one whole year, they will be able to submit proposals that are then voted on by shareholders.

    Jack in the Box currently requires their animals to have enough room to move freely and be provided veterinary care. However, they continue to use unethical ways of slaughtering their animals, one of which involves hanging conscious birds upside-down by their feet, electrocuting them in electrified water, and then cutting their throats.

    While the fast food industry as a whole is improving their methods, only a small percentage of the meat purchased comes from animals which were treated humanely during their lives. Certainly restaurants are pledging to make changes, but there are simply not enough vendors treating their animals ethically to be able to meet the restaurants' demands. However, as the times change one can almost guarantee that the vendors will change with them.

    Sunday, May 30, 2010

    52 eco-friendly things we can all do...and counting!

    This was originally only going to be 11 things, but then I realized there are so many good things out there that needed mentioning. The list will keep growing as I find new and interesting ways to conserve!
    1. Don't have a lawn. A lawn generally needs about 1.5 inches of water per week to maintain. Some places on earth don't even get that much water in a year! Not having a lawn will save water, reduce your bill, and keep you from having to mow a lawn!
    2. Do your watering at night. If you must have a lawn, only water it in the early mornings or very late evenings to reduce water waste due to evaporation.
    3. Start a xeriscape. Xeriscapes rarely need water and are perfect for dry hot climates. However, they can be maintained pretty much anywhere! They have less negative impact on the environment, require less care, and are simply beautiful.
    4. Don't use pesticides. Chemical pesticides are bad for the environment and your health if not washed off of vegetables properly. Use organic alternative pesticides or no pesticides at all. Not using pesticides will attract insect-eating birds.
    5. Compost. Composting reduces your waste while providing good nutrients to your garden.
    6. Water your garden with drip irrigation. Drip irrigation keeps your plants at an ideal moisture level while less water goes to waste.
    7. Strategically plant trees to cool off your home. They can block the sun from coming through the windows and increase the value of your home.
    8. Replace old single-paned windows with double-paned ones. Your house will heat up and cool off much quicker, therefore using less energy.
    9. Repair leaks. A leaky faucet can waste about a gallon of water per hour. Also caulk your old windows so that they don't let air out.
    10. Use space heaters in the winter and fans in the summer instead of your HVAC system. If you live in especially cold or hot areas, blankets and public swimming pools reduce energy usage as well!
    11. Invest in solar panels or a windmill. They cost about $10k to start up, but pay for themselves over time. More often then not, you can sell the energy you produce to your local energy company.
    12. Replace old lightbulbs with energy-saving Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs (CFL's).
    13. Turn off unused lights and appliances. Also invest in dimmers and motion-censored security lights at night.
    14. When you use the dishwasher, let your dishes airdry or hand-dry them.
    15. Use tupperware instead of plastic wrap and aluminum foil. This means less trash at home and less trash winding up in landfills.
    16. If you're still using an old TV or other appliances, replace them! New ones use significantly less energy.
    17. Use hand sanitizer instead of soap and water. This will kill germs while also reducing paper towel waste and water usage.
    18. Wash your clothes cold water instead of hot water. If you think you need hot water, try warm water and see if you notice a difference.
    19. Dry your clothes on a clothes line. Not using a clothes dryer will keep your energy usage down.
    20. If you want to buy a new car, consider hybrid, electric, or more fuel efficient vehicles.
    21. If you have a really old car that still has a diesel engine, have it converted to run on vegetable oil!
    22. Drive less. If your work or the store is just around the corner, pick up a new hobby and jog or bike there. Or if that isn't your thing, walk there and start photographing things along the way! Either way, you'll have a new hobby and get more exercise while helping reduce gas consumption and traffic.
    23. Carpool to work and school. Less cars = less traffic = less gas = less pollution!
    24. When you do drive, do the speed limit. It's safer, cleaner, and you'll improve your MPG's. Also don't slam on the brakes or "peel out." Starting or stopping quickly lowers your fuel economy.
    25. Do not buy products tested on animals. Check the backs of bottles to see if it says "Not tested on animals." (You can usually find it by the company name.) If you can't find it or it's not there, you can always call the company and ask. You can also research online what companies are known for sure to test on animals. For example, Proctor & Gamble--who makes many different products--are known to test on animals.

    26. Go vegetarian. Vegetarian and vegan diets are incredibly healthy when done right. As long as you maintain protein intake from other sources such as soy products or protein shakes, you will stay happy and healthy.
    27. If you must eat animal products, only eat organically. If you enjoy fast food, only eat at fast food chains that raise their animals ethically. Many fast food joints now regulate the treatment of their animals and even provide them with veterinary care.
    28. Adopt unwanted pets instead of buying pure breeds. Also remember to get your pets spayed or neutered to prevent more unwanted animals from winding up homeless.
    29. Cut up 6-pack holders. Another thing I learned from my grandma. Often when these are thrown out, small animals can get caught and end up choking on them. Birds that get caught in them and fly away can get hung up on trees and buildings.
    30. Give your stuff away or sell it. Instead of throwing all that old stuff away, ask your friends if they want it. If they don't, and you don't want to try to sell it on eBay or in a boutique, give it away to the Salvation Army, The Goodwill, or other local thrift stores.
    31. Drink tap water instead of bottled water. Use a filtration system directly on your tap, or buy a pitcher filter and store fresh filtered water in your fridge.
    32. Buy an aluminum or stainless steel water bottle. These bottles can typically hold any fluid and will reduce the amount of plastic bottles ending up in landfills. Make sure if you buy an aluminum water bottle that it is has a non-leeching internal coating. Stainless steel bottles do not need coating!
    33. "Paper or plastic?" Neither! Use cloth bags when you're going grocery shopping.
    34. Don't throw plastic bags away. I learned this from my grandma who would keep them in cupboard. We never had to buy bags for our small trash bins again!
    35. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable. I know what you're thinking...but you can always bleach them!
    36. Stop using disposable chopsticks. 20% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the Amazon Rainforest. However, the Amazon is dying, mostly in part due to deforestation from companies using the trees to produce chopsticks that are only used once. They may make you feel cultured, but is it worth it?
    37. Only flush when there's "#2." ...Or after too much of "#1."
    38. Put a brick in the toilet tank. This will displace the water so that you use less with every flush. You can also fill up an old bleach bottle if you don't have any old bricks laying aroung.
    39. Take showers instead of baths. Believe it or not, bathing wastes significantly more water than showering does (unless you take half-hour showers). Also, cutting your shower down by 2-minutes can save you five gallons of water!
    40. Shower every other day. Unless you do construction or work in a mud house, you probably don't need to shower every day. People used to only bathe once a month, you know...though keep away from me if you do.
    41. Don't litter! Littering makes you and your community look trashy.
    42. Recycle! Not only do you help the environment, you make money from it! Set up recycling bins at home and at work for plastic, glass, aluminum, paper, cardboard, and e-waste. This also teaches your kids and coworkers to also recycle.
    43. Upcycle! Instead of throwing your stuff away, upcycle it. If you like the graphic on an old t-shirt, cut it out and turn it into a patch. Then use the rest of it as a cloth rag for around the house. If you have ripped up old jeans, rip them up more! Designers these day charge hundreds of dollars for pre-ripped jeans. Or just save your old clothes for those days you have to do house work or remodeling so you don't mess up the clothes you do like. You can also upcycle old furniture, fixtures, shoes, accessories, etc.

      Mosaics are a great way to upcycle.

    44. Pay bills online. Most companies these days offer paperless billing. This will significantly cut down on paper usage--not only from mailing supplies and invoices, but your check or money order back to them!
    45. Don't throw away unused fast food napkins. I also got this from my grandma who would keep them in her purse and in a kitchen drawer. Whenever I had to blow my nose, she would have a tissue ready! Now you don't have to buy paper towels or tissues.
    46. Only buy recycled paper products including computer paper, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.
    47. Print on both sides of the paper. You'll cut down on your paper costs while helping the environment.
    48. Make your own scratch paper. Cut up old prints or misprints into quarters and staple together to use as a scratch paper pad.
    49. Recycle printer ink and toner. Most office supply stores also give you a discount when you bring back your old cartridges!
    50. Buy products with less packaging and buy in bulk. The less packaging there is, the less stuff is going to waste. Thank you, Christophe!
    51. Download online! Most of the time whenever you see a program or CD available in stores, it's going to be available to buy online. Again, the less packaging there is, the less stuff is going to waste! Thanks again, Christophe!
    52. Share this page! Getting the word out so more people can change their ways may be the best thing you can do.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    the 36-day anniversary since BP was caught "black-handed"

    The British Petroleum oil spill has officially marked its 36th day of continuous oil plaguing the Gulf of Mexico. New estimates confirm that at least 6 million gallons of oil have already spread throughout the gulf, and with no new successful attempts at plugging the leak, BP is on its way to defeating the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 in which 11 million gallons of oil were spilled off the Alaskan coast.

    While BP remains in charge of the cleanup, protesters and critics continue to pressure the Obama administration to take over the operation. BP Chief Officer Doug Settles defended their efforts on Monday, "I don't think anyone else could do better than we are. I know that that's frustrating to hear and our performance, to this point, I wish was better...I don't actually believe anyone could do any better, unfortunately." Many government officials tend to agree, saying that they simply do not have the technology BP has to stop the leak. "They can fire BP and take it over but the truth is, the federal government probably doesn't have the capacity to do that," Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee included last Sunday.

    Some of the attempts that have been or are being made to stop the spill.

    In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal grows impatient, and prepares to go to prison if federal authorities interfere with their private attempts to stop the oil from reaching inland marshes. Currently, they are attempting to create sand berms, or manmade islands to protect their coast from further damage. However, environmentalists criticize that these berms can do more bad than good and will create additional ecological problems in the future, such as coastal erosion and changes in currents.

    In the meantime, local fishermen sit idle unsure of what to do. They wonder if they are allowed to or even can continue with their livelihood, whether they are going to be asked to assist with the implementation of protective booms (as BP said they were going to do), or how long they are going to live off of BP's assistant checks which do not even count for a third of what a normal fishing trip brings in.

    As tensions rise, the heat towards BP is even felt on the popular social networking website Twitter. A satirical user account named @BPGlobalPR continues to "tweet" political mockery such as, "The good news: Mermaids are real. The bad news: They are now extinct," and “If we had a dollar for every complaint about this oil spill, it wouldn’t compare to our current fortune. Oil is a lucrative industry!” The fake account now has nearly four times as many followers as the actual BP account @BP_America which posts updates on procedures, video clips, and photos.

    BP's next trial to plug the leak is called "top kill" and involves pumping a thick fluid called "drilling mud" directly at the leak. This has never been attempted for underwater leaks before and at 5000 feet below the surface, officials can only hope that this will diminish the flow enough to pump cement into the seal. If this doesn't successfully stop the flow, the next step is to try a "junk shot" which is literally plugging the leak with garbage like ropes and tires in addition to the drilling mud.

    Meanwhile, veterinarians provide care to local wildlife and volunteers continue to try to clean up the oil that washes up onto the beaches. But the oil just keeps on coming.>

    Saturday, May 1, 2010

    drowning in oil

    There are a lot of risks when it comes to offshore drilling. From endangering people in a high risk job to endangering the environment if a serious accident occurs, offshore drilling is still legal and on the rise since the Obama administration opened up more shores for drilling two weeks ago.

    In this incident specifically, the British Petroleum Company was drilling in the Gulf of Mexico when an improperly capped oil well exploded and killed 11 people last week. Since that day on April 20th, the well continues to feed the ocean roughly 5000 gallons of toxic oil per day. Not only did they lack proper safety precautions but they also don't have a clue how to stop the oil in case of an emergency. As of yesterday the spill has covered nearly 4000 square miles of the ocean's surface.

    Offshore drilling would increase domestic production and supporters argue that this would significantly lower the price at the pumps. But at what cost? This could just be another case of one step forward, two steps back. We'd have more gasoline at better prices, but would we be hindering the technological development of hydrogen and electric vehicles while increasing the impact on the environment with carbon emissions and oil spills? There is also no saying how much lower the gas prices would be, if they would change at all.

    Perhaps if people had more of an emotional connection to marine life this debate wouldn't be happening. Unfortunately the image of a Gannet drenched in oil doesn't have nearly same poignancy of a puppy or kitten drenched in oil. And certainly it's not poignant enough to turn back time on this issue by disallowing offshore drilling in the first place.

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    speaking on behalf of the earth

    Hello! My name is Antonia Noël and venTREEloqusm is where I speak on behalf of our planet. I am an environmental science major and former marketing & advertising major in which I obtained my associates degree. My focus at the time was copywriting--nitpicking every little word as it entered my brain. Now I use that learned craft to express my concerns and respect for the world around us as I learn more about it, the impact we have on it, and how to keep an appropriate balance.

    I have an eternal love for the earth and its creatures. This world is our home that we must all share and contribute to keeping clean and in working order. When you read my blog, you will find a breadth of informational and opinion articles, original or gathered suggestions on how to be "greener," art and photographs, and links to like-minded bloggers.

    Please remember to get involved. I love to write but I love even more the conversations we will be having through comments. If you happen to disagree with something I've posted, that should be an even better reason to express yourself here. I do not turn a blind eye to different points of views and I always enjoy a friendly debate.

    Thank you :)
    -Antonia Noël