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November 17, 2009

water problem in central asia : is there a solution?

With the arrival of summer, the problem
of water for irrigation is becomes increasingly urgent in the Central Asian
republics. With their considerable cultivated lands, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan
are looking at a substantial water shortage this summer. By producing
electricity this past winter, Kyrgyzstan delivered considerable amounts of
water to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in non-irrigation season from its
reservoirs. That, in turn, results in a shortage of water in dry summer
months. As this problem affects the lives of millions of people, regional
cooperation is needed on the use of this scarce resource in the most rational
and mutually beneficial way.

In Soviet times, water posed no problem.
The upstream states, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, were collecting water in
autumn and winter in large reservoirs and delivering it to Uzbekistan and
Kazakhstan in the irrigation period. Downstream states, in their turn,
provided upstream republics with coal, electricity and other energy resources.
Thus, for 68 billion cubic meters of water collected and delivered to
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan during 1986-1991, Kyrgyzstan received large
quantities of coal, lubricants, and natural gas. By contrast, 78.125 billion
cubic meters of water were similarly released between 1992 and 1997, but the
downstream states were increasingly selling their resources on world market
prices. Without possessing rich natural resources and being in a hard economic
depression, Kyrgyzstan has not been able to pay for importing energy resources
on time

During energy crises these last few
winters, Kyrgyzstan has been using water for the production of electric
energy. But that does not allow water to be collected in reservoirs, and
consequently downstream states have less water for their irrigational needs.
Uzbekistan’s gas embargo in the winter of this year forced Kyrgyzstan to
release water from reservoirs in order to provide the population with energy.
This will obviously cause problems to the downstream states in the irrigation
of their lands. According to the KABAR news agency, Uzbekistan may lose about
$400 millions of revenues from the sale of cotton as a result of water deficit
this year. Kazakhstan’s losses also seem to be significant: the cultivation
of cotton and rice in the southern regions depends on water supply from
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

This situation requires an urgent
solution. The shortage of water may to some extent be explained by the
irrational use of this resource by population. Galima Bukharbaeva, IWPR's
regional director in Uzbekistan writes that according to Bioecology
specialists, 40% of the water was lost in irrigation system in
Karakalpakistan. In this light, rationalization of the use of water seems to
be the most logical step to take for the Central Asian governments. Interstate
management of water resources is also becoming one of the hottest issues in
relations between republics. The idea of demanding a price to be paid for the
water collected in reservoirs during winter is becoming more and more popular
in Kyrgyzstan. Proponents of this idea argue that downstream states should
compensate Kyrgyzstan’s shortage of energy caused by water collection in
winter months. Another point raised is that the large reservoirs, serving the
whole region, were built on arable land that could bring considerable revenue
for agriculture. But opponents argue that water is to be considered as a
common good, gifted by the God, which cannot be sold at all.

With the arrival of summer, agricultural
fields will soon demand water. It is doubtful whether Central Asian states
will be able to cooperate to arrive at a realistic way to provide them with
water for irrigation. The political implications of high-level negotiations is
also an open question.

November 16, 2009

Denmark: No Environmental Benefits in Collecting Disposable Plastic

A report by Denmark's environmental protection agency (EPA) concludes that there are no environmental benefits in collecting disposable plastic bottles and other plastic containers, and that the costs of recycling them are unacceptably high. The findings appear to confirm the results of similar studies in other European countries.

The German environment agency reported earlier this month that small lightweight packaging items might as well be incinerated as recycled on environmental grounds (ED 02/07/02). This spring Austria's environment agency released similar findings (ED 09/03/02).

According to the Danish EPA, even a "pared-down" collection system involving delivery to recycling centres and export for recycling - which would be cheaper than recycling in Denmark - would cost about DKr300 (?40) per tonne more than simply incinerating the material for use as energy.

The EPA is concerned that the higher recycling targets recently proposed by the European Commission in proposed changes to the EU packaging waste directive could force Denmark to pursue the recycling option "even if environmentally this is not a good idea".

The current minimum recycling level for all packaging materials under the 1994 packaging directive is 15%, but last December the Commission proposed raising this to 20% for plastic packaging from 2006. The other EU institutions are currently scrutinising the Commission's proposals. In a common position reached in June, EU governments agreed to raise the recycling .

Danish EPA spokesman Helge Andreasen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper yesterday that one absurd consequence of enforcing the new targets at all costs could be that soft drinks, most of which are currently produced in returnable bottles, would in future be sold in disposable bottles instead.

Waste Rubber Recycling Technology

Waste Rubber Recycling Technology and Equipmen

Using thermolysis (heat decomposition), waste rubber such as tires can, with low environmental impact, be reduced to constituent, reusable elements. Technical or activated carbon and a fuel mix are the ultimate end products. The technology also is practical for recycling of other kinds of waste or scrap rubber, plastic/polyethylene packing, or other organic wastes. The process is fire- and blast-safe since it is run at low temperature.

Worn tires are chopped into 300- to 400-mm pieces and fed in batches to charge casks that are automatically conveyed to the charging chamber. The materials are then taken from the charging chamber to the thermolysis reactor, where they are exposed to heat for 90 minutes. At this stage, the rubber waste materials are thermally decomposed into gaseous and solid products. The gas products are sent from the thermolysis chamber to the separators to be cooled. Oil products of thermolysis are separated from water and supplied to the collector unit, and then poured to tanks. Ten percent of the collected oil is used to power the recycling plant; the noncondensable combustible gas is used to heat the reactor chamber.

October 6, 2009

India's drought turns to record floods

India's drought turns to record floodsWhile the world's attention is focused on the disaster zones of Samoa and Sumatra, India has been gripped by the worst floods on record.

The Indian authorities are continuing relief efforts in the country's south where about 250 people have died as a result of the flooding.

Some areas have been hit by the highest water levels in more than 100 years.

The Krishna River has overflowed, leaving large parts of the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Andra Pradesh submerged.

In a dramatic and cruel turnaround, some of these areas had been enduring the worst drought in 40 years and now are experiencing the worst flood levels in more than a century so they have gone from one to another very, very quickly.

In a cruel twist of fate farmers who had been walking around in dusty fields, now face the prospect those fields have been pushed away by such a large volume of water coming through.

Whole villages are cut off, with authorities estimating between 1.5 million to 2.5 million people are displaced.

Particularly in the areas of Andhra Pradesh, where resources are limited, there is not a lot of help for such a large number of people who are now stranded in many remote parts of those states.

While both large cities and smaller villages have been affected, the biggest problems are in the rural areas because of the isolation and the quality of the buildings there.

A lot of those homes and farm buildings are of limited quality mud brick, so people have not been able to get up onto rooftops and seek shelter as others have in more established towns.

Officials are still at the stage of trying to assess the damage in some areas and trying to understand just how widespread the flooding is before being able to get help into many of the worst affected regions.

Television news services are showing members of the military and emergency services in some areas in boats trying to provide assistance.

But just the sheer scale of trying to find shelter for at least 1.5 million people is huge, as is trying to get food to people.

Some temporary rallying points and camps have been set up but the vast majority of people in many of the worst affected areas are battling on their own.

Water recycling scheme to get $1m revamp

Water recycling scheme to get $1m revamp

A Fraser Coast Council effluent recycling project has received almost $1 million from the Queensland Government for an upgrade.

The funding will provide a new pump, pipes and trickle irrigation network for the Pulgul Farm recycling scheme, which was commissioned in 1990.

Local Government Minister Desley Boyle says the funding will expand one of Australia's most innovative water recycling projects.

"The farm is reducing discharge into the bay and providing precious water for crop irrigation," she said.

"In fact, the initiative is actually saving council around $500,000 a year.

"How it works is the treated water is piped from the plant to the farm and then put through the woodland system where nature gets to do its job and digest the nutrients."

September 11, 2009

How is Paper Recycled?

According to the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), 55 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in 2007. This significant achievement was made possible by the millions of Americans who recycle at home, work, and school every day.
In fact, if measured by weight, more paper is recovered for recycling from municipal solid waste streams than all glass, plastic and aluminum combined. Additional good news: every ton of paper recovered for recycling saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.

Paper Recycling Starts with Us
Paper recycling begins with you and me. The paper recycling process begins at any number of locations, including community curbside programs, drop-off centers, schools or offices. Regardless of where the recycling process starts, it is important to understand what materials can be recovered in your community and how to properly prepare them for recycling.

How Is Paper Recycled Once Collected?
After it is collected, recovered paper is transferred to a recycling center, or Material Recovery Facility (MRF), where it is sorted into its different grades and “contaminants” such as trash, glass, plastics and metals are removed. Once the recovered paper is properly sorted and free of contaminants, it is compacted into large bales and transported to a paper mill where the recycling process begins.
To begin the papermaking process using recovered fiber, the fiber is shredded and mixed with water to make a pulp. The pulp is washed, refined and cleaned, then turned to slush in a beater. The process of papermaking from that point forward is essentially the same whether or not recovered fiber is used.

Trash and Recycling

Trash and Recycling
The City of Temecula contracts with CR&R Inc. for trash and recycling services. CR&R provides the most cost effective method of trash collection with a state of the art recycling and green waste program. Automated collection is an efficient and safe process for collecting residential waste and recyclables. Through the use of a mechanical arm operated by the driver, trash is collected quickly and neatly. Each home is furnished with three special containers which residents roll out to the curb on collection day.

Trash Collection Tips:
Collection TimeBins should be placed at the curb or in the street by 6:00 am on your designated trash pick up day. Bins should be placed no more than 24 hours prior to normal collection time and removed within 12 hours after collection. Trash bins shall be stored out of public view.

Street Sweeping and Parking
All residential streets are swept by CR&R the day following the trash service day. If trash service is provided on Friday, the streets are swept on Monday. Please refrain from parking on the residential streets on both trash collection and street sweeping days in order allow CR&R to provide efficient trash collection and street sweeping services.

Holiday Schedule Trash Pick-up
This is a reminder that during the holidays your trash collection will be delayed one day. For example, if your normal trash day is Monday, your trash will be collected on Tuesday, etc. If your normal trash day is Friday, your trash will be collected on Saturday. Holidays will affect the street sweeping schedule, unless the holiday occurs on Saturday or Sunday. Holidays for the year are New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. If any of these holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday, normal collection will be provided.

August 16, 2009

Recycled drinking water 'a tough sell'

Western Australia's Opposition says the Government is going to have a tough job convincing Perth residents to drink recycled water.

The Water Minister, Graham Jacobs, has released a strategy to address the rapid decline of water levels in the Gnangara system, which provides 60 per cent of Perth's water supply.

If the recommendations are adopted, the groundwater system will be recharged with recycled water.

Dr Jacobs says West Australians need to get used to the idea, despite the 'yuck' factor.

The Opposition's spokesman for water, Fran Logan, supports the strategy, but says he is concerned about the public response to the longer-term recommendation to source water directly from waste water treatment plants.

"With respect to taking waste water directly from a sewerage works and then putting them through a recycling plant and turning it into straight drinking water, I think the Minister is going to have a big job on his hands convincing West Australians that's fine and that's ok to drink," he said.

Mr Logan says more money needs to be spent expanding the aquifer.

"The Minister has allowed his portfolio to be slashed," he said.

"If he [Graham Jacobs] stood up for his portfolio, he might be able to get some of that critical money poured into the infrastructure that we need to manage the state's water resources and ensure our water security into the future, particularly as we go into increasingly drying years."

The draft strategy is open for public comment for two months.

San Diego Learns How to Recycle Water

San Diego Learns How to Recycle WaterAbove: San Diego's North City Water Reclamation Plant (NCWRP) is the first large-scale water reclamation plant in San Diego's history and part of the single largest sewerage system expansion in the area. This facility can treat up to 30 million gallons of wastewater per day, which is generated by northern San Diego communities.

SAN DIEGO — The ultimate solution to California's water dilemma will draw on many sources. And one of them will be the supply of water we currently throw away. The water that goes down the drain, and down the toilet, can be reused. But finding the best way for San Diego to recycle is a technical and political question.

Recycling wastewater is nothing new. It's common and often unavoidable. Alan Rimer is a water reuse specialist with the firm Black and Veatch. He says wastewater reuse has taken many forms.

"I grew up in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania," he says. "And when I flushed my toilet, it went into the Ohio River with some treatment, and Cincinnati drank that water after taking it out of riverbank wells and treating it. And that's what we call indirect potable reuse."

To water reuse experts, San Diego is famous for the expression "toilet to tap." It arose about ten years ago when the city's first effort to reuse wastewater as potable water did a political crash and burn. But the reality of today's water shortage has put wastewater recycling back on the table. That's why San Diego is embarking on a plan to test a system for "reservoir augmentation." Wastewater will be purified to an advanced level so it could be piped to the San Vicente Resevoir, where it would become part of San Diego's supply of drinking water.

Marsi Steirer, with the San Diego Public Utilities Department, says, for now, the goal is test some new equipment at the North City Water Reclamation Plant.

"Basically what we're constructing as a temporary plant is a one million gallon a day advanced water treatment facility," she says.

The north city plant currently treats about nine million gallons of wastewater every day that's reused, mainly for irrigation. This kind of reuse requires a dual delivery system, since the North City plant doesn't currently treat its recycled water to the level of drinking water. The non-potable water flows through purple pipes to golf courses, parks and freeway medians. But the North City plant recycles less than half of what it could, due to a very limited distribution system.

Mixing highly treated wastewater with a city's drinking water supply, reservoir augmentation, is what they already do in part of Northern Virginia. Chuck Boepple is executive director of the Upper Occoquan service authority. He says his plant's wastewater is treated and discharged into the historic creek called Bull Run. That leads to a reservoir that provides drinking water for a million people in suburban Washington D.C. Boepple adds the water he puts in Bull Run is very clean.

"Our effluent, as a matter of fact, meets drinking water standards. Every parameter that EPA has on maximum contaminant levels for drinking water… we're beneath those levels," he says.

So why does Occoquan put safe drinking water in the reservoir where it'll just get dirty and need to be treated again? Beopple says doing a system where water really goes straight from toilet and tub to treatment to tap is still unacceptable to the public. Maybe so. But the water San Diego draws from the Colorado River contains lightly treated wastewater Las Vegas dumps into Lake Mead. Some say that the water people in New Orleans drink, that comes from the Mississippi River, has already been through about nine sets of human intestines.

Rick Gersberg is a public health professor at San Diego state, and he's on an advisory task force for the San Diego water recycling project. He says scientists can talk all they want to about actual health risks of recycled, drinking water. But what the public perceives as sanitary, is just as meaningful.

"Maybe a scientist would say 'Well, you know, risk is just the numbers we calculate.' But if you're dealing with risk and you're expecting to communicate and inform and have acceptance of a certain project, then that strictly science opinion is not the way it happens," says Gersberg.

Reusing wastewater has a political price and it has a monetary price. If the San Diego water recycling project becomes reservoir augmentation, it'll require a permanent treatment facility and a pipeline. The total cost would be at least $237 million.

ASME Encourages Water Recycling, Technology

ASME Encourages Water Recycling, TechnologyRecognizing the need to identify and implement technology solutions to enable the sustainable use and reuse of water, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has initiated an organizational plan directed at effective water management.

The plan, outlined in the 39-page "Water Management Technology Vision and Roadmap," aims to guide the society in developing products and services that benefit engineers, the nation, and the global community at large. ASME’s strategic plan highlights training, technology research and development, standards development, advocacy and public awareness, and collaborations with national and international groups.

“ASME will bring diverse partners together to find multidisciplinary solutions to water management technology issues that protect public health and the environment, while conserving precious water supplies and the infrastructure for future generations,” the organization says in the report, which is drawn from the analysis and assessments of selected experts in science and engineering.

The roadmap identifies five trends and drivers that will guide the society’s activities over the next five years. The trends relate to the role of water in energy production, supply scarcity due to shifting populations, decreased water quality, the use of recycled or “gray” water in some industrial sectors, and the role of ASME members and other engineering professionals in educating policymakers and the general public.

Among the society’s R&D objectives in water management is to stimulate technology development and to promote best practices, including standards development, for the safety and reliability of engineering components and equipment. The roadmap also encourages industry to use non-potable “gray” water to meet water conservation imperatives.

“Utilities, manufacturers, and municipalities can replace the use of freshwater with reclaimed or recycled water,” says ASME. Part of the society’s roadmap is to address the political, economic, social, and technological hurdles “in order to tap into the considerable potential that recycling and reuse offer an industry seeking to keep costs low and a nation seeking to conserve potable water resources.”

In the area of education and outreach, ASME plans to create training seminars and workshops on water technology, new technical journals, an industry-sponsored award, and a Water Management Technology Affinity Group comprised of ASME volunteers.

Going forward, ASME will engage in collaborations and partnerships with organizations that have a long-standing involvement in water technology and management, including the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, American Water Works Association, U.S. Department of Energy, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

August 1, 2009

The Glass Recycle Process

Processing: Producing glass cullet

After the sorting stage, the next stage in the glass recycle process involves crushing and grinding the waste glass into tiny pieces. This finely crushed glass pieces are referred to as cullet.

Processing: Removing contaminants

The next stage in the glass recycle process involves the removal of contaminants from the glass cullet.
The glass cullet is passed through a magnetic field, where metal contaminants like metal bottle caps are removed from the glass. Other contaminants like paper and plastic are picked up manually or through an automated process.
Ceramic contaminants are removed from the glass cullet via a process known as fine sizing. The finely ground glass cullet is passed through various screens, leaving behind ceramic residues.
If, however, ceramic contaminants do pass through the various screens together with the glass cullet, the quality of the recycled glass will be affected. Ceramic contaminants in glass can lead to structural defects.

Processing: Making recycled glass

The cullet is then melted.
This glass cullet can then be used in manufacturing recycled glass products like new glass containers, bottles .

Processing: Decolorizing and dyeing

To produce recycled glass of the desired glass, the recycled glass has to undergo glass decolorizing in the glass recycle process, followed by dyeing.
The first step in the decolorizing process includes oxidizing the melted glass cullet.
For green glass, the oxidation process turns the deep dark green color to yellow-green color. A chemical known as manganese oxide is then mixed with the glass cullet to it grey. The grey base is usually used as the primary color to which various other coloring dyes or agents are added to develop glass of various colors.
For brown or amber-colored glass, zinc oxide is added instead to oxidize the brown glass cullet to blue or green cullet, depending on the quantity of zinc oxide added and the richness of the brown or amber-colored glass being recycled.
If the clear recycled glass is required, erbium oxide and manganese oxide are added to the glass cullet to help clear all the colors from the glass cullet.
Some of the most commonly used coloring agents for dyeing of recycled glass include borax, potassium permanganate, zinc oxide, erbium oxide, cobalt carbonate, neodymium oxide, and titanium dioxide.

Processing: Making recycled glass products

In the last stage of the glass recycling process, the recycled glass, colored or clear, is then molded into the various products and sold in the markets.

Other facts about recycling glass

An interesting point about the glass recycling process is that glass can be recycled as many times as required, without any deterioration in quality.
What makes glass recycling even more important is that glass never decomposes. If disposed of in the landfills and incinerators, they will contribute substantially to pollution. Hence, it is particularly to send your unwanted glass ware for recycling.

July 16, 2009

Keep Your Toilet Running Efficiently

Keep Your Toilet Running EfficientlyWater waste is one of the hugest green issues out there. There’s only so much water in the world, and much of it is continually being polluted or drained away without a second thought.

One very specific way to green your home is to conserve water being otherwise wasted by your toilet. Staying on top of these four toilet inefficiencies will help keep perfectly adequate water from slipping away unnoticed:

1. Watch for Water Leaks
You probably think it would be obvious if your toilet was leaking water, but that’s not necessarily so. Just because your not wading through water every time you enter the bathroom doesn’t mean there’s not a leak.

If your tank ball or overflow is worn, or if your toilet has a defective valve you might notice the sound of running water, but there’s a good chance your water leak will remain silent.

You can discover whether a leak exists by putting food coloring or dye tablets into the septic tank. If after a few minutes color is present in the toilet bowl, you do indeed have a leak.

2. Don't Discount Air Leaks
A leaky wax ring could be wasting gallons of water each year, and not because of water leaks, but because of air leaks. When air is leaking out of your wax ring, the siphon will not work properly, which will lead to extra flushes and clogged pipes. If you've increased the water level in your septic to account for your toilet's lack of gusto, that is also a big water-waster.

You probably have a leaky seal if your toilet isn't securely fastened to the floor. You also might notice that your toilet rocks or your toilet's hold-down bolts are corroded and/or loose.

If you're the least bit handy, you can probably replace your toilet's wax ring with a little bit of time and elbow-grease.

3. Replace Worn Parts
As with any fixture in your home, your toilet won't last forever. But before you start looking into toilet recycling centers, consider how old it actually is. Your toilet will probably work fine for decades (though more efficient models are likely to be designed before it stops working all together), but its parts will need to be maintained and even replaced while you keep it around.

Did you know, for example, that your flapper valve (also known as a 'flush valve ball' or 'tank stopper') should be replaced every three to five years? Keep on top of your toilet's parts, especially those that look worn or damaged, and you'll save money and water.

4. Displace Extra Water
At this point, you may be thinking that if your toilet has perfectly functioning parts and isn't leaking, it can't conserve water any more than it already is. Though toilets are better designed in today's world, the average fixture uses anywhere from 1.5 to 7 gallons of water per flush!

Your toilet may or may not be on the low end of this estimate, so a good way to find out is to employ the tank displacement water saving method. Displace water in your cistern and see how your toilet works for a few days.

If the flushes are still powerful enough to keep your bowl clean, then you've found yet another way to reduce your water usage.

How Far Would You Go to Save Water?

How Far Would You Go to Save Water?Water shortages across the US have prompted me to re-examine the water usage in my own home. My findings? While we are doing a lot of things right (low-flow showerhead, utilizing grey water, no lawn watering, etc.) there are still a lot of things that we could be doing to save water and money.

Of particular concern to me is the amount of water that our toilets are using. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to cut that number (and I'm not just talking about the "if it's yellow, let it mellow" rule or the brick in the back of the toilet trick. Check out some of these modern solutions to the water waste problem:

Low-Flow Toilet
Uses 1.6 gallons per flush instead of as many as 7
Dual-Flush Toilet
Allows you to choose between a 1.6 gallon flush and a .8 gallon flush
Flushless Toilet
Uses no water; waste is composted in a holding tank
The Frugal Flush Flapper
Cuts the water use in high volume toilets (3.6 gallon and above) in half. Only costs $5
Fill Cycle Diverter
Saves a half gallon per flush by ensuring that the tank and bowl fill at the same (or close to the same) rate

So, I have to ask, how far are you willing to go to save water and ultimately your hard earned dollars? Could you go flushless? Dual flush? Are you already using some of the technology that I mentioned? Share your answer!

July 9, 2009

New Forests Feed Families

New Forests Feed Families
For $25 you can plant a forest and feed a family.
Sustainable Harvest International provides struggling families in Central America with the technical assistance and materials they need to plant a variety of trees together with other crops such as coffee, cocoa, bananas, vanilla and ginger in an integrated system that provides food and income while protecting the environment. You can support a family's ongoing participation in the SHI program by clicking here and making a donation of $25 per month. If you would like to know more, keep reading.

The Problem: The world's tropical forests are being lost at an alarming rate, largely due to agricultural expansion. This loss is resulting in the extinction of native plant and animal species, a net increase in greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change, increased soil erosion, drought and flooding. This environmental degradation forces farmers to clear even more land to grow food for their families.
The Solution: Sustainable Harvest International
A $25 donation to SHI provides a family with the training, tools and support to plant 100 trees!
Founded in 1997 by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Florence Reed, Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) addresses the tropical deforestation crisis by providing farmers withsustainable alternatives to slash-and-burnagriculture. SHI facilitates long-term collaboration among trained local staff, farmers and communities to implement sustainable land-use practices that alleviate poverty by restoring ecological stability.
SHI works with local farmers, cooperatives, environmental organizations and indigenous groups that invite us into their communities. We provide these groups with long-term assistance adopting sustainable land-use practices such as reforestation, agro-forestry and organic farming. These practices allow rural people to raise their standard of living while planting trees, rather than clearing forest.
The more than 1,100 families working with SHI have planted more than two million trees and converted thousands of acres of degraded land to sustainable land-use practices, thereby saving tens of thousands of acres of tropical forest from slash-and-burn farming. Participating families enjoy increased income (up to 800%) from alternative cash crops as well as better health due to greater and more varied food crop production.
Rather than contributing to rainforest destruction, SHI participants are preserving forests and planting trees on degraded land. They are taking control of their environmental and economic destinies.
The vital work of Sustainable Harvest International must continue. Although SHI has accomplished a great deal, more remains to be done.
SHI constantly receives requests from new families, communities and organizations in other countries asking us to help them make their hope for a sustainable future a reality. We would love to help them, but we need increased financial support to make their dreams a reality.
Sustainable Harvest International's success has been made possible by a growing number of friends around the world who provide the funding to carry out our work. In order to keep our commitments to our existing participants and to reach new ones, however, Sustainable Harvest International urgently needs new financial support.
Working with SHI, you can change a desert into an oasis and hunger into plenty. I hope you will accept my offer to help create sustainable forests, food and income for some of the world's most economically disadvantaged people.
Click here to set up a monthly donation of $25 to provide ongoing support for our work with one family. Of course any donation, be it monthly or one time, is greatly appreciated and makes a very positive change in the world.

July 4, 2009

Water problems in India

Water problems in IndiaI heard the squelch of Anil’s feet on the waterlogged path well before he arrived at the door of my hut.

“Problem with boat,” he announced in a very matter-of-fact way.

“Problem?” I asked groggily, having just emerged from under my thick mosquito net.

“Yes,” he replied. “Boat sank. You want tea?”

All night the heavy rain had pounded our huts. It came in intense waves, the wind rattling doors and window frames, and by morning the village was sitting in a mud soup, the bloated river lapping high against protective dirt walls.

Our small boat had been among several moored in what the night before had been a protected inlet, and several young boys were now working with old pans and leaking buckets to bail them out and pull them further up the receding river bank. They chatted and laughed, slipping and falling in the mud. But with the rain still falling it seemed like a hopeless task.

For Anil, our taciturn Bengali host – a man who could coolly describe the latest cobra attacks or the tiger tracks he’d found in the village – the tropical storm sweeping from the Bay of Bengal was little more than an annoyance.

Within two hours he’d rustled up a bigger boat – “this one will make it,” he told us in an attempt to reassure - and the mud-splattered NBC team, guided by the helping hands of scores of amused villagers, was soon making its way gingerly across a thin plank and onboard the bobbing vessel for the five-hour river and road journey back to Calcutta.

The village in which we’d spent the night was on a small island in the Sundarbans, which lie at the mouth of the River Ganges, where India’s most revered river empties into the Bay of Bengal.

The monsoon rains here are intense, and being caught in the middle of it does leave you wondering how India could possibly have a water shortage.

When it rains here it rains big time – and that’s part of the problem. On average it rains for only one hundred hours a year, according to Sunita Narain, who heads the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment. It is often accompanied by devastating floods, but the monsoon runoff is frequently contaminated, there is little harvesting or water management, and the rain is insufficient to adequately recharge groundwater levels, which are receding alarmingly across large parts of India.

“It is one issue that will make or break India,” Narain told us. “If we can get our water management right we will be a prosperous country, which will have well being for all. But if we get our water management wrong, which we are getting today, then let us be very clear, all the riches in the world are not going to be enough.”

Close to where we had boarded our (sunken) boat to the Sundarbans, we had witnessed what looked like a tug-of-war contest. There was a party-like atmosphere as men and boys yelled and shouted, egging each other on, as they pulled on a rope.

But it turned out they were digging for clean water, first pulling out old pipes before boring more deeply into the ground. They explained that they have to go deeper because the water had become contaminated by salt.

In this part of India it really is a case of water, water everywhere, but nothing to drink.

In Varanasi, a city holy to Hindus, which sits higher up the Ganges, the main problem is sewage, which is killing the river, India’s lifeline. Nearly half a billion people live in the Ganges basin and depend on it for fresh water.

“It’s murky, it’s brown, it stinks,” said Veer Bhadra Mishra, who leads a foundation trying to clean it up. He’s a Hindu priest as well as a trained engineer, and each morning joins the thousands of Hindu faithful bathing in the river’s sacred waters.

“If poison is mixed into this water at one point we will die and that will be the end of this culture related to the river, and that will be the end of this river,” he told us.

We traveled on the river with a team he sends out each morning to test the Ganges poisonous cocktail, in support of a law suite to force action from a government that’s promised much but delivered little.

Other priests have threatened to drown themselves in the river unless it is cleaned up.

Recent water show the water pollution levels at Varanasi to be two hundred times safe levels for drinking and thirty thousand times safe levels for drinking.

In villages around Varanasi, wells are closed, pumps chained to prevent people drinking dirty water. Villagers here are also forced to go deeper for clean water. But new hand pumps, recently installed, have tapped another scourge – naturally occurring arsenic, according to Benares University researchers.

Prolonged exposure to arsenic can cause kidney and liver damage – even cancer. Water-born diseases are already the biggest health issue.

Only richer farmers are able afford powerful electric pumps to such water from ever deeper in the receding aquifer. They will supply others – but only at a price. And in some parts of India the groundwater is literally being sucked dry.

Right across India, there is mounting pressure on dwindling supplies of fresh water, and conflicts over access to water have even provoked riots in some areas.

India’s rapid economic growth has also intensified the competition for water, and even in the capital Delhi more and more people are depending on tankers for their drinking water.

“We don't have drinking water. We have children, we have families and we can't do anything without water. So we have a big problem,” one frustrated woman told us as she waited for a tanker in a poor suburb of Delhi.

For Sunita Narain it is perhaps the most critical challenge facing her country.

“India just has to get its act together,” she told us. “I cannot sound any more desperate than this. It has to get its act together knowing that it has no other choice. It has to get it right."

By Ian Williams, NBC News correspondent

June 28, 2009

What is Global Warming

Global warming is simply the result of a normal climactic swing in the direction of increased temperature. Most proponents of this global warming ideology have definitive social and financial interests in these claims.
Global warming is real. It is not the result of a natural climatic adjustment. It is a quantifiable set of environmental results that are in addition to any normal changes in climate. That is why the effects of global warming have catastrophic potential. Global warming is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is the difference between a category three hurricane and a category four. Global warming is an imbalance of nature.
The premise of global warming is that industrial growth coupled with non-structured methods we as humans use to sustain ourselves has created a situation where
our planet is getting hotter by the minute.

What is the greenhouse effect?

Combination of all these extra amounts of gas in the atmosphere increases the reflection of heat back to the Earth. This process known as “The Greenhouse Effect” has gone from being a helpful essential part of the Earth’s balance to an almost out of control problem.

If you have never felt the increased warmth found in a greenhouse built for growing flowers then surely you have sat in a car that had been sitting in the summer sun with the windows rolled up. The metal of the car absorbs heat and the glass in the car’s windows reflects and traps it. That is why the inside of a car can reach a temperature of 130 degrees while outside of the car the air is only 85 degrees.
Our Earth is just like that car and we need to find a way to roll down the windows.

Making every drop count

Recycling across Australia

Wastewater has been recycled and used in Australian towns and cities for decades, but usually for watering recreational facilities such as parks and golf courses.

However, a recent proposal for one drought-stricken Australian community to recycle sewage and use it to top up drinking supplies has left a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouths.

In a referendum, residents of the city of Toowoomba in south-east Queensland rejected a scheme to recycle sewage to top up drinking supplies.

The issue divided the small community and roused passions, but it also highlights a major issue facing all Australians. A drying climate due to global warming and a growing population has created the need to find and adopt innovative, sustainable methods to slake our thirst for water.

Overcoming the 'yuk factor'

Researchers and water authorities in Australia say there's no scientific or health reason that recycled wastewater can't be safely used as part of drinking water supplies if treated properly.

But there can be a formidable psychological reason. It's called the 'yuk factor' - based on the thinking that the water in the glass in your hand might have started off in someone's toilet bowl. But should we be worried?

Overseas, it's not unusual for treated wastewater to be part of drinking supplies. The city of London is located downstream from numerous wastewater recycling plants that discharge into the Thames river. Which is why there's a common saying that when you drink a glass of water in London, the water has already passed through several pairs of kidneys.

And recycled wastewater is successfully used to top up drinking water supplies in Namibia, the United States and Singapore.

Many informal 'taste and tell' surveys reveal that most people can't tell the difference between tap water, bottled water and recycled water. So why the fuss? Well, that's what some residents of Toowoomba, in south-east Queensland, and Goulburn, in New South Wales, are thinking.

A tale of two cities

Both Toowoomba and Goulburn were planning to introduce schemes to recycle sewage into drinking water supplies to help their communities overcome chronic water shortages due to drought and long-term, below-average rainfalls.

Toowoomba would have been the first city in Australia to use recycled sewage for drinking water, with its proposal for a new $68 million wastewater treatment plant to top up potable water supplies at Cooby Dam. The Goulburn proposal - which is still being considered - involves building a new wastewater plant as part of a $32 million project to recycle effluent and return it to the Sooley Dam catchment.

But recycling effluent for drinking is an emotive issue. In Toowoomba, a group of concerned citizens collected some 10,000 signatures for a petition opposing the project. That's despite advocates of the proposal saying their recycled wastewater will be so pure it could be used for hospital purposes such as kidney dialysis.

Backers of both proposals also point out recycling is part of much wider water saving strategies that are feasible, sustainable, and necessary - and that they can help drought-proof their communities for decades to come.

How to make wastewater drinkable

There are a number of ways in which to purify water - including sewage water, groundwater or seawater - to obtain drinking water. Methods include distillation, freezing, reverse osmosis, electrodialysis or ion exchange. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, and the method chosen depends on the scale, location, source of water, cost and available energy sources.

Treating wastewater to make it suitable to add to drinking supplies often involves the reverse osmosis process, along with other purification treatments.

In Toowoomba, for example, the wastewater would have been treated using ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet disinfection and oxidation processes to destroy microorganisms.

During reverse osmosis, water is forced under pressure through very fine membranes which allow water molecules to pass through, but not salts and other matter. The technology is already used around the world to provide water for industrial purposes and drinking water on ships, and there are plans to use it on spaceships.

Using a process called ‘indirect potable reuse’, the recycled wastewater would then top up existing drinking water supplies to be stored at the nearby dam and then undergo conventional water treatments. It would then become part of residents’ daily drinking supplies.

But there are two common concerns with such water purification projects. Firstly, they require considerable amounts of energy. Secondly, there are environmental concerns about what to do with the concentrated salty waste water that is made during the process.

The big picture

Residents of Toowoomba have voted against their wastewater scheme, but the issue is now being looked at on a much wider scale. The publicity involving the Toowoomba poll has helped put the spotlight on other Australia-wide initiatives to quench our growing thirst for water.

Australia is the driest inhabited continent and climate change resulting in below average rainfall and extensive droughts have prompted the search for new, innovative and sustainable water supplies, and ways to curb demand.

Growing demand from agriculture, industry and a growing population, have exacerbated the problem. According to national State of Environment reports, industry and householders are using increasing amounts of water.

As a result, there is a push for new sustainable water supplies taking place at all levels of government in every State. And it's easy to see why. Much of the sewage treated at Australian wastewater treatment plants is fed directly into the sea or rivers - in effect, it goes down the drain.

But water recycling is now set to play a much greater part in the water management cycle. Many states are committed to increasing water recycling targets in years to come.

Although there are differing views, researchers and health authorities say it's possible to recycle water to the relevant standard for whatever use the water is required, be it irrigation, horticulture, agriculture, household use - or drinking water.

What's important, they say, is defining what standards are required for particular uses, and then implementing relevant risk management, quality assurance, and monitoring programs to provide safe drinking water, or alternative uses that spare potable water.

And then there's one other vital issue to consider, which you can sum up with the adage: 'You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink'. Overcoming the yuk factor might turn out to be the most crucial part of the whole process.

June 27, 2009

Recycling: Are You Doing Everything You Can?

RecyclingIt may come as a surprise to you, but there is a really good chance that the town or city you live in offer a service you may not have heard of; an energy audit. Cities and towns all over the country have started doing this, where an auditor comes to your home and goes through your living space and helps you to see where you could make changes that will not only help you conserve energy but will help you save money! Help Save the Environment in Easy Steps: resources, tips, secretsWhat a bonus it is to save money by doing the right thing.

There are so many changes you can make in your home to impact the way we recycle and in the end, will help you keep some of the money in your pocket.

Having recycling bins set up so that you can properly sort the items that are recycled is a great first step. That activity alone can cut down greatly on the items that end up in the landfills rather than where they can be recycled.

Keeping your televisions, DVDs, stereos and computers plugged in to a power strip or surge protector rather than directly into the wall and then turning off the power strip will cut back greatly on power "leaks" that can cost you money on your utility bill. Being aware to turn these items off, is the first step, and then having them plugged into the power strip will just further the action for saving money and energy.

Don't leave a light on when you walk out of a room and no one else is in there. And have you changed your light bulbs from the traditional ones to the compact flourescent kind? Did you know that the newer lights use 75% less energy to run and they will out live a traditional light bulb by up to 10 years? Help Save the Environment in Easy Steps: resources, tips, secretsMake the changes that need to be made in your home.

Don't run the dishwasher or the washing machine unless they are full. It's a waste of energy and water to run a cycle through the dishwasher when it's only half full. Don't turn it on until you have a full load to wash and then just wash them all at once.

Use microfiber cloths for cleaning all kinds of surfaces like furniture, counters and sinks. The bonus is that these items can be tossed into the washer and are perfectly able to be reused again and again. Think of the savings in paper towels alone! Talk about a win-win; if we use fewer paper towles, then that means fewer trees need to be cut to make them in the first place. How can we go wrong with thinking like that?

Take shorter showers and see if you can pick up a shower head that is a water-conserving item, already in place, that will save you money and you'll never even notice the difference during your shower.

There is so much you can do in the efforts to recycle, just be sure you're doing your part.

Recycling Items Like Computers & TVs

With the way technology is out-doing themselves year after year with newer, better, bigger and improved products for computer users, you can just imagine the amount of waste that is generated when consumers upgrade along with the process. One household may have one or two computers to upgrade on a yearly basis but if you add to that computers and monitors from even a small business, the numbers add up very quickly.

What is the problem with throwing computers, their monitors, TVs and the like away with the rest of our trash? The main concern is that with CRTs and TVs they each contain approximately four pounds of lead per unit. Lead cannot be biologically broken down and if it were placed in a landfill there is the possibility of the landfill becoming contaminated with the toxins from lead. Lead poisoning has been associated with several health problems in children, including, learning disabilities and behavior issues and in some extreme cases, where high doses of the lead has been found, there have been reports of seizures, coma and even death. There is always the risk of lead toxins seeping into a water source if left in a landfill and any results of lead poisoning are made even more tragic because they are so easily preventable.

In addition to the lead in some household items like computer screens and TVs, the plastic parts of these items sometimes contain a component that is called, brominated flame-retardant that helps the item to be resistant to flames in case of a fire. Unfortunately, while the exact results of exposure to this additive are undocumented there is sure to be some kind of negative result that it's just better to steer clear of.

In an effort to keep these potentially hazardous materials out of landfills there are many other options for ridding your home of older, outdated technology. The first option should be to check with your community to see if there is a program set up to receive older CRTs and TVs for recycling. For instance, in Massachusetts, where I live, many cities and towns were given grant money for the specific purpose of setting up such a program.

If your town does not have such a program the next place to look would be at a local TV repair shop or even an electronics retailer because they may be able to reuse what you want to throw out. Some areas even have electronic recycling companies that will come to your residence or business and pick up such items and from there they are responsible for the recycling of the items. Even if a piece of electronic equipment can no longer be used for refurbishing an older model they can always be dissected and the individual components can be sold for their scrap value.

No matter what the item is that you want to recycle, there is a way to do it, all you need to do is make a phone call or two and you will have done your part to follow the recycling laws.

Recycling And Kids' Toys

One of the biggest mistakes parents make, especially in the time when their family is young, is to over spend and buy more toys than children can possibly play with before just feeling overwhelmed. Help Save the Environment in Easy Steps: resources, tips, secretsWhen children are in a play room, overflowing with toys, they often will retreat, feeling there are too many to choose from, and will not play with any of them. It is important to purchase toys that will last for a long time, too. Fewer well made toys will be a much greater gift than more toys that are made without lasting quality.

Children, who are already feeling that they don't have any control over their environment, will just become more frustrated when a toy breaks in their hands because it is poorly made. Always keep in mind the age and physical development of the child when buying a toy. There is nothing worse than a child picking up a toy that is out of their age-range and they end up breaking it because they're not developed enough to regulate their hand strength. Children are not capable of making the right choices for their own age group, so it is up to the adults to do that for them.

When buying gifts and toys for holidays and celebrations, remember to take a deep breath and know that what you end up buying will be played with, probably in a rough manner, , so you'll want it to last. What's the sense in spending money on something that is made so poorly it falls apart after the first time out of the box? (I guess you could always revert back to the box-idea and give them that to play with!) But the toys that last are usually the ones that are made from good, solid materials; like wood. Wood is such a great material to make things from and as long as it's FSC-certified, you won't have to worry about harmful toxins coming off when the child is teething and the bonus is that it could last for several generations (reinforcing that reuse idea, all the more).

You may even be able to get some of the original money set out for the product by selling it on Craigslist or eBay. If you're thinking of selling it at a yard sale, just know that you won't come close to getting the "value" of it because the yard-sale-mentality is to get what you can for as little as possible, but you still can get something monetary back if you do this.

Find toys that will last for a long time and can either be passed down through the generations or re-sold for a little pocket money. Keep in mind that when it comes to children and toys, more is not better and making informed purchases based on the child and the quality of how the toys are made, are in the hands of adults. Most toys and games come with an age range printed on the packaging and it is important to not buy gifts that a child will not be capable of playing with for a few years.

Arts, Crafts And Recycling

Arts, Crafts And RecyclingThere are so many ways to integrate recycling with arts and crafts and still have hours of entertainment and maybe make a few holiday gifts.

One of my favorite crafts is to decopauge. The materials needed to do this are simply old magazines, a pair of scissors, some white glue and something to decorate. Help Save the Environment in Easy Steps: resources, tips, secretsI've seen people use this art medium on every kind of article from wooden boxes up to queen bed head boards.

Once you have the item (or items) you want to decorate you can put them aside and start flipping through the magazines for pictures and words that jump up at you or help convey something you want to say. The great thing about this craft is that there is no "wrong" way to do it. Some people will use an entire advertisement including the background in the ad and others may cut out the person or object from the background. The idea is to have a piece of a page to be layered upon the object to be decorated.

After you have enough pictures and words cut out you can start to decorate your object. The ideas and creativity, from this point on, are endless! Use all cut outs of flowers and birds to decorate your project, cut out every picture of a dog and see how many you can find and use all of them to decorate your recycled project!

Arrange your clippings onto the surface of whatever it is you're going to reuse or decorate and put a layer of glue over the entire project. Using white glue or Mod Podge will give you a clear coating over your art and when that layer is dry, coat it again, and so on. The coatings of glue will protect your artwork and if you use a gloss-finish, it will have a nice shine to it, too.

I started making "Blessings Boxes" for the Christmas gifts I would give to my children's teachers. I would reuse an old shoe box, and cover the entire outside of it with cut out pictures from magazines. The main objective was to cover up the shoe brand on the outside of the box with the pictures and words.

Help Save the Environment in Easy Steps: resources, tips, secretsThe idea behind the "Blessings Boxes" was that throughout the year, when there was a blessing in their life, maybe a ticket stub to a baseball game or a movie shared with a friend, birthday cards, get well cards, etc. they were to place these blessings into the box. The best part is that, during that year, when they had a day where they would feel blue or needed a smile, they knew they could always open their "Blessings Box" to be reminded of the beautiful things that have happened in their life.

These gifts were the talk of the elementary school the first year I made them and I will say that at the very beginning of every year after, my children's teachers would let me know how beautiful they thought my creations were and (wink, wink) they wouldn't mind getting one for themselves!

The best part is that I never spent extra money making one of those gifts! It was a success all due to being recycled materials.

Easy Ways to Recycle

When you think of recycling do you sigh and think that you just don't have the time or energy to do it? Do you see visions of hundreds of thousands of empty plastic bottles in some far-away factory getting ready to be melted down? Do you think that recycling is something that has to be hard; otherwise if it's not hard, then it doesn't count? I'm embarrassed to say that at one time, these were the thoughts that ran through my head and they justified my reasons for not recycling. Help Save the Environment in Easy Steps: resources, tips, secretsI'm here to tell you that I was mistaken; recycling isn't something difficult, or something you have to go out of your way to participate in and when it's easy, well, it's just easy; and it still counts toward recycling.

Here are some of the easy ways I have found to recycle:

I have a terrible habit of leaving lights on when I leave a room. I seem to be someone who, when doing any kind of work, whether it's writing or stripping wallpaper, I need a lot of light around to do it. The first two ways I found to conserve energy and count myself in as a "recycler" was to turn off lights as I left a room. Sounds easy, right? Well, that's because it is easy. The only thing I had to do was remind myself that I was no longer going to waste energy by leaving lights on in a room that no one was occupying.

Mind you, I've had 43 years of doing things the way I'd been doing them and the change didn't happen overnight, but it did happen. There hasn't been a doorway I've walked through in the past 6 months or so that I haven't given a quick
inventory before passing through the threshold and thinking, "Did I leave any lights on?" The great thing is, the times that I have left a light on, I'm given the final opportunity to stop and turn around and turn off the lights before leaving the room for good. Is this a difficult change? Like I said, it didn't happen as soon as I thought about my part in the effort to recycle, but it is something I have allowed myself to consider on a daily basis.

The other way I have found to easily adhere to this recycling thing is that I changed my lightbulbs. Yup, that simple act of replacing a burned-out bulb with one of the new, energy saving kind has really been a big help. The newer bulbs use up to 75% less energy when lighting a room and they will last up to ten times longer, too. How can you beat that? And there wasn't any effort on my part; all I did was replace the bulb with the new and improved bulb and have made quite the impact on my electric bill.

The good news is this; there are easy ways to stay on track with recycling, and you don't have to look very far to find them.