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“If a man has an apartment stacked to the ceiling with newspapers we call him crazy. If a woman has a trailer house full of cats we call her nuts. But when people pathologically hoard so much cash that they impoverish the entire nation, we put them on the cover of Fortune magazine and pretend that they are role models.”
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 Going Green: A Curbside Crisis

How much of what you recycle ends up at the dump?

By Beth Porter

Do you cross the street to put your soda can in the recycling bin or avidly pluck plastics and paper from your neighbor’s trash cans? The current state of recycling in the United States may surprise you.

It’s in trouble for many reasons, including two straightforward ones. Most programs dump everything together — and consumers are confused about what goes into their recycling bins.

Single-stream recycling, first developed in the 1990s, offers the allure that everything can be recycled without duplicating efforts to handle paper, plastic, glass, and metal refuse. Creating a single blue bin where people can toss all kinds of recyclable items did away with the need to separate your bottles from your cans from your newspapers.

When your commingled recyclables arrive at the facility, they travel along conveyor belts where someone manually pre-sorts them. Then the stuff goes through a series of screens that separate items by weight and shape, and strong magnets mechanically sort the steel and aluminum products. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Monday, April 18 @ 15:28:03 EDT (2950 reads)
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 Going Green: ‘Leave’ Them Alone

Each fall, trees offer homeowners a bounty of free mulch.

By Jill Richardson

This time of year, your trees are sending you a message.

Although I grew up in the Midwest, I’m experiencing it anew. After spending eight blissful years in California, I’ve returned to a state where people wear hats shaped like cheese and where leaves turn colors and drop off the trees.

I’m not completely ignorant of the weather here in Wisconsin. I remember having to pick a Halloween costume that could fit over a heavy jacket when I was a kid, and I know to expect the first snowflakes around the first week of November.

I’m also well aware that I need to purchase an ice scraper and a brush for my car’s windshield rather soon — and that I’ll have to use them regularly until at least March.

But my childhood experiences in the frigid north had little to do with yard work. Except for the times I was forced — very much against my will — to mow the lawn, I got off scot-free. The leaves fell from the trees, then the leaves went away. Someone else got rid of them — grown-ups, I suspect — and I didn’t know where they went.

Playing in leaf piles was something I did as a kid. Raking leaves was not.

As an adult, I now see the bounty of leaves the trees are heaping on my street through a gardener’s eyes. These leaves are a gift. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Tuesday, October 21 @ 17:40:01 EDT (1084 reads)
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 Going Green: Some Serious Potty Talk


Composting toilets would save water and, uh, resources.

By Jill Richardson

There’s a photo-word montage on the Internet in which a little boy, presumably from Africa, looks skeptically at a woman who is apparently from somewhere else. The boy asks, “You mean to tell me you have so much clean water, that you (poop) in it?”

Umm…yeah. Yeah, we do. But why?

This probably isn’t a question you often ask, because as the wastewater treatment industry says, we have a “flush it and forget it” attitude as a nation. Number ones and number twos disgust us, and we don’t want to see, smell, touch, or God forbid, deal with our pee and poop.

Flush toilets magically make all that human waste vanish in an instant, so we can go on with our day in blissful denial that anything unpleasant-smelling ever came out of our bodies at all.

What’s the cost for that modern convenience? An awful lot of water. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Friday, September 26 @ 15:21:04 EDT (1588 reads)
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 Going Green: Take a Hike! No, Really

Nature is the best drug out there.

By Jill Richardson

For the first decade that I suffered from severe and almost daily migraines, I didn’t consider them a gift. Yet, in a way — a very painful one
— they are.

My headaches began setting me apart from the rest of society at the age of 15. Back in 1996, my brother got a Nintendo 64. Eager to try it out, I begged him to give me a turn. But it was unmistakable — watching the screen gave me headaches.

Everyone who gets migraines has a different “trigger” — a food, a smell, lack of sleep. My triggers are all visual and luminescent: looking at fluorescent lights, TV, and movies. That keeps me out of gyms, some stores and restaurants, and even some jobs.

In 2006, after trying 20 medications with limited success, my doctor gave me the prescription I’d needed all along. “Unless you exercise outdoors for 30 minutes a day, there is no pill I can give you that will help.” ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, May 08 @ 21:13:06 EDT (1696 reads)
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 Going Green: Cry a River over California’s Drought

With so much of the nation's food supply concentrated in the "Shake and Bake" state, its good weather is bad news for us all.

By Jill Richardson

As a Californian, I have not gotten too much sympathy from friends and family about our rotten weather this winter. Yes, I said rotten weather. It’s been incredibly pleasant— except for a few times when the temperature crept up to 90 — but we’ve hardly had any rain.

Cry me a river, you might think. Especially if you live in a part of the country where the term “polar vortex” was added to your vocabulary in the past few months. Boo-hoo. It was too sunny and perfect every day.

California’s climate problems have nothing to do with human comfort — but they have everything to do with human food. And not just for California.

Unfortunately for the rest of the country, Californians provide a huge share of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. If we can’t grow crops because we have no water, everybody misses out.

A recent Mother Jones article points out that nearly all of America’s almonds, walnuts, strawberries, broccoli, grapes, and more come from the Golden State. And just one walnut requires a whopping 4.9 gallons of water. That’s not 4.9 gallons for a pound of walnuts. That’s for just one nut. A stick of butter? That takes 109 gallons of water to produce. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, March 13 @ 00:01:55 EDT (1543 reads)
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 Going Green: Lose Your Lawn

Turning your lawn into something more beautiful and useful would save time and money while curbing pollution and water usage.

By Jill Richardson

Have you taken your hounds fox hunting lately? You haven’t? Well, maybe you’ve gone to visit a friend’s estate in a horse and carriage? You haven’t done that either, have you? Most of the popular trends of 19th century British aristocracy are not the norm in 21st century America. Except for one: the lawn.

Centuries ago, most Europeans (and their descendants on our side of the pond) produced food on their land. Whether in the form of kitchen gardens, farm fields, or pastures for raising livestock, most folks relied on their land in order to eat.

Only the rich could afford to flaunt their wealth by devoting large areas of land to an inedible, yet beautifully manicured, green lawn. Back then, without lawn mowers, lawn maintenance required paying a servant to “mow” the lawn with a scythe. Lawns were mega status symbols.

The usefulness of the lawn as a status symbol is a thing of the past. Today, if your lawn serves a function at all, it’s as a soccer field or play area for your family. For many Americans, lawns yield no benefit at all. You mow it, you water it, you weed it, you fertilize it. Why? ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Thursday, February 21 @ 19:52:53 EST (3006 reads)
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 Going Green: Meet Your New Neighborhood Food Market

Business NewsThe $400-billion-a-year retail behemoth, with two million employees laboring in 8,500 stores spread around the globe, is putting on a "local" mask.

By Jim Hightower

The signature phrase of America's booming good food movement has been expanded from "organic" to "local and sustainable."

Good! The phrase suggests great quality, strong environmental stewardship, and a commitment to keeping our food dollars in the local economy. If you support the local-economies movement, as I do, no doubt you'll be thrilled to hear that a new, local food store is coming soon to your neighborhood. In fact, it's even named Neighborhood Market.

Only, it's not. It's a Walmart. Yes, the $400-billion-a-year retail behemoth, with two million employees laboring in 8,500 stores spread around the globe, now is putting on a "local" mask. The giant is promising to buy nine percent of the produce it'll sell from local farmers. Big whoopie. This means that 91 percent of the foodstuffs offered in its "Neighborhood" chain will come from Wayawayland. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Tuesday, December 07 @ 19:02:54 EST (855 reads)
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 Going Green: Students Using Solar Power To Create Sustainable Solutions for Haiti, Peru

InternationalNews Release: RPI.edu (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Students at RPI are harnessing the strength of the sun to improve the situation of an impoverished Haitian school and jumpstart a new dairy industry in rural Peru.

As members of the campus group Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), the students are applying what they have learned in the classroom and laboratory to real-world problems with important repercussions for developing nations. ESW projects have a strong sustainability focus and are carefully designed to serve as platforms that encourage and enable long-term future growth for the host communities.

“What we learn in classes is great, but traveling to another country and applying what I’ve learned is an excellent challenge,” said Alex Worcester, a sophomore electrical engineering major. “I love being able to take the project from start to finish, from sitting around the table talking about it, to designing the system, going there and installing it, and seeing how it helps people. This is what reminds me why I want to be an engineer.”

Solar-Powered Laptops in Haiti

With fellow ESW members and Rensselaer classmates Andrew Chung, Casey McEvoy, Gloria Condon, and ESW faculty adviser Michael Jensen, Worcester visited Lascahobas, Haiti, in January. After about a year of planning, designing, building, and testing, the group installed 2.4 kilowatts of solar panels on the roof of a local school – enough to power 10 HP tablet laptop computers donated by Rensselaer, plus additional laptops the school and other nearby schools received from the One Laptop Per Child program. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Monday, April 19 @ 20:49:31 EDT (1010 reads)
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 Going Green: Coal Remains As Malevolent As Ever

Environmentby Carl Pope

Both sides continue to draw lines in the sand as climate and energy legislation debates rage in Congress. Many heavy-hitters are making their voices heard – but none perhaps more so than the coal industry.

Let’s compare what’s best for the United States here. Clean energy legislation will create millions of jobs, boost the economy, and reduce our global warming pollution. Giving Big Coal endless loopholes props up an industry that poisons communities, pollutes our air, adds to our global warming pollution, and has done nothing to end its job growth stagnation in the past decade (a recent study shows the wind industry now employs more people than coal mining!).

You see, using coal to power our country is dirty from beginning to end – coal’s entire lifecycle harms people and the earth. At the beginning, destructive mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia destroys watersheds and contaminates community drinking water. Mining companies fill streams with waste blown off the tops of mountains. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Friday, July 24 @ 20:38:50 EDT (858 reads)
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 Going Green: Progress In How We Grow Food

Business NewsMark Muller

Three recent actions by big agribusiness companies to manipulate public opinion have me almost giddy with excitement. After years of dictating the direction of the food system, agribusiness is now taking a reactionary stance.

The first sign of this change comes from the world’s largest snack-food company, Frito-Lay, which initiated a “Lay’s Local” campaign that features 80 “local” farmers from 27 states. Frito-Lay’s Web site has a Chip Tracker that allows interested consumers to enter their zip code and product code to find out where the potatoes came from. Although Frito-Lay can’t claim the potatoes are locally grown, the advertising campaign hides the corporation behind the aura of U.S. farmers.

The second is the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s announcement of a newly formed Center for Food and Animal Issues. The Center attempts to paint feedlot operators as just another group of people that support animals, just like pet owners, hunters, supporters of zoos and local animal welfare organizations. “Ultimately, our goal is to assure that people who rely on animals, either physically, emotionally or economically, have the right to do so,” said Ohio Farm Bureau Federation executive vice president Jack Fisher. The impetus for the Center came after pork, poultry and veal housing legislation was introduced in state legislatures around the country, and last year’s passage of California’s Proposition 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. ...

Posted by Blue1moon on Wednesday, June 03 @ 20:00:20 EDT (844 reads)
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 Going Green: One family’s journey towards Harmonious Seasonality #15

EnvironmentVol. I, issue 15: The Paper Chase… Or is it simply a paper trail?

By Sherian Valenti

I love books. I always have. Books are beautiful and patient and eternal. Books are wonderful, and I value them above all other material things. I love them as much for the skill and artistry of the printer and bookbinder as I do for the wit and artistry of the writer. Books are an unfailing source of pleasure for me, and I take great pride in my personal library. Although I have never catalogued my books, I roughly estimate (by counting the number of books on two shelves of equal length, averaging the two, and multiplying that number by the total number of shelves of that length) that I have 800 books at the present time. There are books stacked on top of the tall shelves that nearly reach the eight-foot-high ceiling. There are stacks of books on top of the short shelves, and stacks of books on the floor in front of the shelves. There are piles of books on my desk and under my bed. I even have books in my bed. (How does that line go: the person who reads in bed never sleeps alone?) Books are irresistible.

And, like most other book lovers, I have an affinity for office supplies. The world of paper is large, and the assemblage of tools to manage all this paper is larger...

Posted by Blue1moon on Saturday, September 02 @ 13:54:29 EDT (1304 reads)
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 Going Green: One family’s journey towards Harmonious Seasonality#14

EnvironmentVol. I, issue 14: Suppertime
by Sherian Valenti

It is what it is and will be only what you make of it. Such is the beginning of my ode to the power of positive thinking and pure potential. It is the “what you make of it” part that I am working on this week.

School will be back in session in a few days, and in preparation for it, I have arranged my children’s violin lessons and dance classes, and prepared an outline of activities for my Girl Scout troop. I have not yet contacted my son’s football coach for this season’s schedule, but doing so is next on my list. As I have been very busy with all of this, spending hours on the phone and at the computer and attending organizational meetings, I am seeing a bump on my road Harmonious Seasonality: in order to meet both my sustainability goals and my commitments to my children’s cultural education, detailed planning and preparation are necessary, yet this hour-by-hour planning and preparation, otherwise known as scheduling, runs contrary to the natural flow and rhythms of the seasons with which I am trying to align myself. On one hand I am ready to agree that all the sports teams, music lessons, dance classes, art classes, and other after-school activities are simply too much, but on the other hand, I am ready to defend them as absolutely essential. How can we as parents achieve balance and moderation yet still maximize what in some cases is at best a marginal opportunity? ....

Posted by Blue1moon on Saturday, August 26 @ 21:21:54 EDT (1063 reads)
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 Going Green: One family’s journey towards Harmonious Seasonality

EnvironmentVol. I, issue 13: Corn

by Sherian Valenti

I was in the break room at work last week, when one of my coworkers was eating an ear of corn for lunch. He commented that corn had become so sweet that it no longer had any corn flavor. Accustomed as I am to fresh, local, sweet corn, I thought it was a strange comment, but he often makes strange comments, so I let it pass for the moment, but I didn’t forget about it. And since it is the middle of August, and the only things I want to eat are cucumbers, corn, and tomatoes, I ate corn on the cob that evening, purchased from the same local grower as the corn my coworker was eating. It was quite good and very inexpensive.

The next day, because it was still the middle of August, and still the only things I want to eat are cucumbers, corn, and tomatoes, I went to buy corn again. The difference this time was that were I went to buy it, they had only local, ORGANIC corn. It was MUCH more expensive (nearly three times the price as the corn I bought the day before), and it was much smaller (by a third, at least), but because I had other things to buy at that store and didn’t want to drive across town to buy the cheap corn, I had expensive, organic corn for supper. And unlike the cheap corn, it tasted like corn, not sugar, and it was at the moment of my first bite that I understood what my coworker meant...

Posted by Blue1moon on Saturday, August 19 @ 17:21:42 EDT (970 reads)
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 Going Green: One family's journey towards Harmonious Seasonality #12

EnvironmentVol. I, issue 12: Meditations on Bread
by Sherian Valenti

There are some things that it seems I have always known; that basic bread is made from only flour, yeast, water, and salt is one of those things. I don't know just how I came into this knowledge, but it has always been with me. Perhaps I was born with it, a born baker, and that is why I do it well now; baking bread is my forte. Or maybe it is just that at an early age I was able to deduce that if in the interest of full disclosure a commercial bread label lists ingredients that cannot be purchased individually in the grocery store, ingredients that require a license to own and a permit to obtain, that bread is not really bread, but merely an imitation of bread. People have been making bread with only flour, yeast, water, and salt for hundreds of years, and for the most part, it has been good bread. And after listening to my father rhapsodize over the bread his mother made in the woodstove in Northern Vermont in a house without electricity during the Depression (10 loaves at a time, to feed a family of 10 children, as the story goes), I became quite certain that although I never had any of the bread she made, and he did not have her bread recipe, that the only variations on theme of flour, yeast, water, and salt that she might have made were in the addition of milk, butter, and sugar or maple syrup, if she had any to spare.

On the other side of the family was my great-grandmother from Finland. She was a strong, independent, liberated woman, modern far ahead of her time. There are many wonderfully vivid stories about her, all of which I treasure, but it is her grandchildren's vague remembrance of her breads that always leaves me hungry for more...

Posted by Blue1moon on Saturday, August 12 @ 13:34:59 EDT (1049 reads)
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 Going Green: One family’s journey towards Harmonious Seasonality #11

EnvironmentVol. I, issue 11: Sharing

by Sherian Valenti

Be good and you will be lonesome. –Mark Twain
Be lonesome and you will be free. –Jimmy Buffett

I had company for dinner a few evenings ago. It was a single cool, clear day sandwiched between uncomfortably hot, humid weather. We sat outside at my little table to eat (among other things) fresh corn on the cob, heirloom tomatoes, and garden cucumbers, and to drink iced tea while discussing all manner of things. It was a delightfully pleasant way to pass the time, and during the meal I made the comment that if I didn’t eat fresh corn, tomatoes, and cucumbers almost every day for a month in the summer, I didn’t feel that I was living. That was a true statement, and it put into my head the refrain from the Jimmy Buffett song, That’s What Living Is to Me. More importantly, it made me ask myself, if the song describes what living is to Jimmy Buffett, then what is living to me? The answer, I have concluded, is sharing. Living is sharing...

Posted by Blue1moon on Saturday, August 05 @ 20:10:57 EDT (1041 reads)
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