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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.