Green Tips Column Archive

We published a regular series of articles concerning the environment and our impact on our planet. Effective Feb. 1st, 2010, our Green Tips column moved to our "Conversations" blog. Previous columns appear below.

Remember to check out Dee Stofko's blog at www.drwm.blogspot.com. Leave a message and let her know what you think!

Top Ten Ways To Be Green

by Dee Stofko

  • Unplug
  • Use Less Water
  • Switch To Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
  • Choose Products With Less Packaging
  • Buy Organic and Local Foods
  • Drive Less
  • Plant a Tree
  • Recycle More
  • Switch to "Green" Power via Your Local Utility Company
  • Spread the Word


Green Tips

by Dee Stofko

January 2010 - "Copenhagen"


The UN climate talks in Copenhagen have been making headlines hourly, but I am putting that article off until January. By that time we will know whether the meetings were deemed a success or failure and whether or not they concluded with a signed agreement. I am more concerned about the debate generated by leaked emails (the Climate-gate scandal) from the Climate Research Unit of a British university, one of four research centers keeping temperature records worldwide, that suggests climate research is being deliberately skewed in favor of the global warming argument. In fact, last week the debate found its way into my workplace and I was forced to defend my position. So in boning up on "the facts" as opposed to the warp, I discovered the perfect website to help you and me win over the global-warming skeptics: www.realclimate.org

I read a majority of this report titled, The Global Warming Debate - A Layman's Guide to the Science and Controversy (hence referred to as "GWD") and I found it amazingly comprehensive and easily understandable. It tackles many issues you will encounter from those who don't believe that global warming is "real" or "man-made." The GWD, complete with video, provides you with the facts, graphs, statistics, etc. to support your position. The slides from the GWD can be found here. The slides labeled "cce1976" pertain to this report.

It begins with an introduction that examines how the public was duped by Rush Limbaugh, the books The Great Global Warming Swindle and The Greenhouse Conspiracy, as well as a book by science fiction writer Michael Crichton. The GWD explains, "The basic scientific conclusion - that humans are responsible for most of the warming of the past few decades - is well established. It is the debate among the public and politicians that is preventing substantive action to mitigate climate change."

The GWD then moves to the history of the debate, which began when the Carter Administration asked the National Academy of Sciences (the "supreme court of science," begun by Abe Lincoln) to assess previous reports documenting an increase of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere. The Charney Report concluded that if the CO2 in the earth's atmosphere doubled, the earth would warm by 3 plus/minus 1.5 degrees C. As of the latest figures, they were exactly right on. Other significant points explained in detail in the GWD are how volcanoes fit into the picture, the hot temperatures in the United States in the 30's (the United States is not the world) and the Oregon Petition. The Oregon Petition was signed by 31,000 scientists in the United States who disagreed with the assessment reports of the UN body, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which is comprised of contributing scientists from 16 countries, with a vast majority from the U.S. When people hear the number 31,000, they incorrectly assume that an equal number of scientists reject global warming as believe in it. In a pie chart breaking down the backgrounds of the signing scientists, 1/3 of them have generic scientific degrees and 4,000 are doctors, computer scientists and mathematicians. To put even more perspective on these 31,000 signatures, there are 10 million people classified as scientists in the U.S., most of whom haven't signed the petition. Organizations in the U.S. that have endorsed the IPCC reports include: The American Association for the Advancement of Science, The American Chemical Society, The American Geophysical Union, The American Meteorological Society and The Geological Society of America.

I urge you to check out the GWD and the Real Climate website. It describes itself as "a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists... The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science."

ONE LAST THING, sent by a UUCOC member: to help our City come into ozone compliance and to ensure clean air for everyone, report a smoking vehicle at: www.nctcog.org/trans/air/smoking/



Green Tips

by Dee Stofko

December 2009 - "Our Choice by Al Gore"


Climate change is in the spotlight again - Al Gore is on the cover of Newsweek! Gore's new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis is highlighted in the Newsweek article which suggests Al Gore has done his homework. He has a grasp of the solutions necessary to solve the climate crisis and cutting-edge information regarding these solutions which he has compiled into a comprehensive book. Gore's writing process involved contacting experts from numerous solutions summits as well as from his usual network of climate scientists and picking their brains on every environmental topic imaginable. Craig Cornelius, the former Department of Energy, calls Gore's scientific contacts, "all the superstars." However, Gore has a love of facts and the book is fact-filled despite his admission that, "Simply laying out the facts won't work."

Gore realizes that the solution to the climate crisis is many pronged, therefore, he takes an "all of the above" approach. In discussing solar power, Gore initially thought thermal power was superior to photovoltaics. Photovoltaics, commonly associated with solar panels, has shot ahead in the last few years because new materials and manufacturing techniques have given it a cost advantage. Thermal power projects, that involve liquids heated to power a generator, use solar power on a much grander scale and are more expensive.

Gore sees wind power as the cheapest and fastest growing segment of the renewables (save geothermal) because of its efficiency. At the present time, wind energy supplies just 1% of U.S. electricity but it could easily grow to 20% in the next 15 years. Regardless of this efficiency, Gore cites a poll which leaves him incredulous. "80% of CEOs and CFOs said they would not spend money to make their factories more efficient and save money in the long run if it hurt their next-quarter bottom line." Because of such thinking, Gore realizes many businesses will need to be forced into making environmentally friendly changes.

Back in 1994, Gore cast the tie-breaking vote to institute a federal program using biofuels. That was "a mistake," he writes, because later it was proven that the use of corn ethanol to replace gasoline didn't decrease CO2 emissions. Biofuel production, at that time, was responsible for an equal amount of greenhouse gasses being emitted into the atmosphere. However, Gore writes that the biofuels available today are much improved due to a process called enzymatic hydrolysis which causes the biofuels to become many times more efficient.

Another solution that Gore is fired up about is the use of Biochar, made by burning switch grass, corn husks, and other waste. He learned about it during a 1989 trip to the Amazon. Biochar essentially acts like a charcoal filter in a cigarette absorbing CO2 like the filter absorbs the nicotine. Spread on fields, it allows the CO2 to be sequestered or kept in the soil, enriching it and keeping the CO2 out of the atmosphere. In the final chapter of the book, Gore imagines a future where the climate crisis has been averted and humanity is on the path to healing the earth's human-inflicted wounds. He projects that the U.S. passed climate legislation in 2009 that ended up being not only workable but profitable. He applauds the people of the earth for being flexible enough to change their position when the evidence became unquestionable. He writes that, "by putting a price on the pollution that had been previously ignored, the United States established powerful incentives to begin the historical shift." Thank God for Al Gore.



Green Tips

by Dee Stofko

November 2009 - "Cooperation in Copenhagen?"


I am exhausted! There is so much information on the internet, in newspapers and magazines about climate change, carbon emissions, green technology, etc., that I am going to have to quit my job to keep up with it all. That said, I will do my best to inform you on what I believe is the most important issue facing the international community today - the upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen, December 6th to 18th. Representatives from over 190 countries, approximately 8,000 individuals, will convene to attempt to forge a binding agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012. Most countries agree urgent action is required. A recent letter sent to world leaders by heads of the top global science agencies, including the head of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, emphasized the need to act now. Scientists feel that a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050 is necessary to prevent a global calamity.

President Obama, in an about-face from the policies of George W. Bush, has been working diligently to set the stage for cooperation at the Copenhagen Conference. You might remember the U.S. refused to sign the previous agreement because China, being a developing nation, was not required to sign it. During a one-day U.N. summit on climate change last month, President Obama met one-onone with Chinese President Hu Jintao, to get a feel for China's level of commitment. Because the U.S. and China emit 40% of the world's greenhouse gases, a binding resolution signed by both of these powers goes a long way toward global unification. President Obama and President Hu, who also spoke on the phone on October 20th, vowed to work together to see that the Copenhagen Conference is successful.

Yet there is much to do! The 2007 U.N. report card (latest figures available) on the 40 nations classified as industrialized showed a 1% increase in greenhouse gasses, despite the goals of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce gasses 5% below 1990 levels. This is the 7th consecutive year carbon emissions have grown; although, to their credit, the 37 countries that ratified the Protocol have reduced emissions 16% below 1990 levels. Emissions in the U.S. increased by 1.4% during 2007 while those of Japan, Canada and Australia also rose. China doesn't have to report its data to the U.N.; but during 2006, China's output of carbon dioxide increased 7.6%.

Many of the challenges to agreement on climate change stem from the huge gulf between rich and poor nations. Poor countries claim that their economies cannot afford climate change legislation as they are struggling to survive. Rich countries may need to subsidize clean-energy projects in developing nations even as they are strapped for cash themselves due to the global recession. Some sticking points still being debated are: country-bycountry targets, how to measure and verify emissions reductions and what should penalties be for missing targets. There is not much optimism that agreement can be reached on these points by the December Conference.

During the week of October 19th, London hosted a meeting of 17 countries to try hammer out some details, find some common ground and ease some concerns. During these talks, there seemed to be a spirit of cooperation and determination - however, not that something be done at any cost. The United States is in a precarious position because, whatever it promises in Copenhagen, must then be passed by Congress. The U.S. doesn't want to promise more than it can deliver. Many are thinking that a continuing dialogue is necessary with intermittent steps taken to reach the final goal of a binding agreement.

In an article published in the September 28th issue of Newsweek, Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the U.K., makes a strong case for global cooperation in Copenhagen. He claims that we must make an "international deal on climate change" or there will be no second chances. He claims, "a strong agreement in Copenhagen is essential for global economic recovery" and that "By 2015, the global environmental sector could be worth $7 trillion and sustain tens of millions of jobs." Whatever happens in Copenhagen, the world will be watching.



Green Tips

by Dee Stofko

October 2009 - "Why Vegetarian"


Why vegetarian? I am frequently asked that question, since I have recently become one of the over 7 million people in the United States who don't eat meat, fowl or fish, but include dairy products and eggs in their daily diet. First, there are the obvious health benefits. Numerous studies over the years have shown that large amounts of red meat in the diet increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer, while eating several servings of vegetables and fruit per day decrease these risks - by 25% to 35%. Because of these benefits, vegetarians tend to live longer. Of course we are not talking about those who eat a "junk food" vegetarian diet - high in fat and sugar - but a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg. With the increasing shift to CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), or factory farms, in the United States and other countries (including the huge beef supplier, Argentina), the meat we eat is becoming progressively more dangerous and unhealthy. The animals that become our food are fed almost exclusively genetically modified products to fatten them up, and then they're shot full of antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. Is it any wonder we have an obesity epidemic - American eat 4 times as much meat and dairy as the rest of the world.

Secondly, a vegetarian diet saves animal lives. If we cut back our meat consumption, fewer animals die. The insatiable human desire for meat equates to animals living in more deplorable conditions and more animals being slaughtered. Right now demand for meat worldwide is predicted to rise 25% by the year 2015.

Thirdly, there is a belief that vegetarianism and spirituality go hand-in-hand. Some Eastern religions believe that when we ingest animal meat, that animal's fears affect our emotions and psyche. Some believe that eating meat makes a person more aggressive, while eating fruit makes one more peaceful. Some even go so far as to say that eating meat prevents a person from achieving deep meditative states because it ties you to your senses.

But how many vegetarians give "saving the planet" or "becoming more environmentally conscious" as a reason for their refusal to eat meat products? Did you realize that our food system consumes 19% of U.S. fossil fuels? Here's a fact for you - a pig produces 4 times the amount of waste as a human. Put tens of thousands of pigs in one CAFO and you have a whole lot of you-know-what. That waste is disposed of in open-air lagoons that contaminate creeks and rivers before it makes its way to large bodies of water. These pollutants produce dead zones in oceans and bays - where virtually no living thing can survive - and these dead zones are becoming more massive every year. CAFO practices are killing aquatic life of all kinds.

There are some positive signs on the horizon. Because of documentaries like "Food, Inc," people are becoming aware of the problems. Jim Cramer of Mad Money suggested recently that the Justice Department might be ready to take on Monsanto because of its monopoly on seeds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding a new program called "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food," which is aimed at supporting local agriculture.

Common folk are writing their Senators and Congressmen and demanding change. This past November in California, voters actually passed a proposition that prohibits the practice of putting farm animals in spaces so small they are unable to lie down and turn around. Farms like Niman's in Bolinas, California, raise animals for food the right way - grass fed, no antibiotics, plenty of open air and a three-year life span. Restaurant chains like Chipotle's buy their meat from Niman's, and most of their produce is organic.

If you are interested in finding out more, I highly recommend the August Time Magazine article "Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food" that can be found at http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1917458,00.html. It is an excellent piece designed to open the eyes of the public to the environmental issues surrounding our unhealthy dietary practices.

Green Tips

by Dee Stofko

September 2009 - "G.M.O.s"


Almost a month later, I am still reeling from viewing the Social Justice Film last month, "The World According to Monsanto." I truly had no idea what was happening to our food supply worldwide. I have had my blinders on. I was familiar with the terminology "GMOs" (genetically modified organisms); but before watching the film, I couldn't have told you much about them. Now, at least, I belong to the one in four Americans who know what GM foods are and which foods are most likely to contain them. For your information, at the present time, up to "85% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered, as are 91% of soybeans and 88% of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products). . . upwards of 70% of processed foods on supermarket shelves. . .contain genetically engineered ingredients." 1 Now I understand why a friend told me years earlier not to eat soy. I argued that soy protein was a healthy alternative to eating meat - not knowing anything about the GMO debate.

First, an explanation: A GMO is created when the genetic material from one organism is permanently inserted into the genetic material from another organism. You might ask: Why genetically modify foods? Some are modified to resist pesticides (insecticides and herbicides) and others for "product qualities" such as fruit that delays ripening or coffee that is low in caffeine. In the case of Ht crops (those that are "herbicide tolerant"), broad-spectrum herbicides can be freely sprayed to kill weeds without harming the desirable crop. In the case of insect-resistent "Bt crops" the seeds actually contain the pesticide "Bacillus thuringiensis" built right into the crop. It cannot be washed off!

Now for the kicker: The FDA doesn't require the labeling of GMO foods because it claims GM crops are not "in any meaningful or uniform way. . .different from non-GMO crops" even though thousands of internal FDA documents show that statement to be entirely untrue. According to True Food Network, "a number of studies over the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans, domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment." The site also suggests that the higher incidence of allergenicity and cancer may be attributed to GM foods. That makes me wonder whether my daughter Katie's mysteriously high eosinophil count and "temporary" allergies to soy, dairy, peanuts and wheat might have been triggered by GMOs. The ballooning of the disease, eosinophilic gastroenteritis, one of Katie's possible diagnoses, "may be due to an as yet unknown allergen" according to MedicineNet.com. That makes me very suspicious.

What makes me even more suspicious is the fact that the FDA and big business are hesitant to divulge information about GMO's. The bottom line is too large a factor in the debate. These groups are afraid that if people knew the truth - which is that GMO's have not been extensively tested - they might attempt to stop future crops or stop buying present ones. There was even an epidemic of EMS (eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome) back in 1989 where hundreds of people became seriously ill and some died from L-tryptophan that was genetically engineered. To this day no one knows whether the epidemic was caused by contamination or genetic engineering.

If this information scares you like it did me; in order to avoid GMO foods, buy organic. Also look for "Non-GMO" labels. Amy's Kitchen products are all non-GMO. Kashi's are all-natural with no preservatives, refined sugar or additives. Avoid at-risk ingredients like soy, corn, cottonseed and canola.

Check labels - don't assume something is safe just because you buy it at a health food store. Become a healthy food activist!

For more info about GMOs, visit these websites:

1Greenpeace True Food Network - www.truefoodnow.org-A project of "The Center for Food Safety"

Institute for Responsible Technology www.responsibletechnology.org

Organic Consumers Association www.organicconsumers.org

NEWSLETTER EDITOR'S NOTE:
I was alarmed to see the mention of Bt in Dee's article. As an organic gardener, I am familiar with Bacillus thuringiensis as a natural product that has been used for decades as an organic insecticide. How wonderful, I'd always thought, to be able to apply a bacterium that is harmful only to a specific insect pest, thereby sparing beneficial insects. If only life was that simple! I have now learned that studies2 have shown that, while use of Bt crops may cause an initial decrease in the amount of conventional pesticide applied, after several years those benefits are largely lost because of the need to spray for other pests that were previously not a problem. Additionally, while proponents claim the specificity of the action of Bt, others suspect that related insects may also be affected (but just haven't been studied). Resistance to pesticides is always a risk, and resistance seems to be accelerated in GMO crops. And the jury IS still out on the risk these pesticides pose to non-insects - like the rest of the food chain, including us!

2www.independent.co.uk/environment/farmers-use-as-mu ch-pesticide-with-gm-crops-us-study-finds-409414

Green Tips

by Dee Stofko

August 2009 - "Updates"


Update Cap and Trade Legislation:
Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, made an appearance on The Daily Show with John Stewart on July 21st and gave some succinct remarks regarding the Waxman/Markey bill that has passed in the House and is currently being debated in the Senate. He said that people are unhappy at either ends of the spectrum - Liberals don't believe the bill goes far enough and Conservatives think it goes too far. But passing the bill would show other nations of the world that we are committed to ratcheting - down our carbon emissions and finding a solution. The Nobel Prize-winning scientist says there is overwhelming and unequivocal evidence that global warming is manmade. He believes that American innovation is the best in the world and that we can successfully meet this challenge. Interestingly, he mentioned that painting roofs and roadways white would save energy and cool the earth because instead of absorbing sunlight and heating the earth, they would reflect sunlight, thus cooling it. He says if that could be done nationwide, it would have the result of taking one billion cars off the road for 11 years!

Update Italy G8 Summit:
The eight richest countries met in Italy in mid-July and agreed to cut energy emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Later, however, Russia said they would not be able to meet the targets and Canada called the goal "aspirational" rather than realistic. When 40 nations met a few days later, the G8 leaders couldn't persuade China or India to join with them in cutting carbon emissions. This does not bode well for the upcoming December meeting to put in place a climate pact to replace the Kyoto agreement, which is due to expire. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, called even the cuts proposed by the G8 "not enough."

Other Countries' Green Efforts:
There was an article in the DMN on 7/9 written by Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist, about China's new efficient energy program. In the article he tells us to watch out, "You won't be just buying your toys from China. You'll be buying your energy future from China." I had no idea that China even cared about clean energy. We all saw the thick pollution in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics. China has apparently changed their tune. Their goal is to "reduce the energy intensity of their economy - energy used per dollar of goods produced - by 20% in five years." Apparently Germany has also jumped on the bandwagon. This country, according to an article in Parade Magazine, leads all of Europe in "developing and exporting green technology, generating $240 billion in annual revenue." In addition, their Parliament building will soon run solely on green energy.

Books of Interest:
Green to Gold, Smart Green, The Green Marketing Manifesto, Greentailing and Other Revolutions in Retail, Clean Car Wars, Green Business Practices for Dummies
(Please see our Dramatic Readings page for links to these titles - your purchases can help raise funds for our church!)

Green Investing Opportunities:
Perf Go Green Holdings, Inc. (OTCBB: PGOG) is the leader in biodegradable plastics - trash bags, kitchen bags, etc. - products sold in 70,000 stores throughout the country. The company also sells batteries made of recycled materials, totally free of lead, mercury and cadmium. Exchange Traded Funds are comparable to Mutual Funds, only they are thematic. The largest "Green" ETF is PowerShares Cleantech (PZD). Some other themed ETF's are Solar Energy: TAN, KWT and Wind Energy: FAN, PWND.

Electronics Recycling Centers:
Northwest (Bachman Transfer Station) at 9500 Harry Hines Blvd.; Customer Convenience Recycling Center McCommas Bluff Landfill at 5100 Youngblood Road; Northeast (Fair Oaks) Transfer Station at 7677 Fair Oaks Avenue; Southwest (Oak Cliff) Transfer Station at 44610 S. Westmoreland Road. All are open on Saturdays at least until 5:00 p.m. More info at www.timetorecycle.com

Green Tips

by Dee Stofko

July 2009 - "A Possible Climate Fix?"


Possible Climate Fix: I heard an interesting article on NPR while driving home from work the other day. The subject was "Engineering Climate Change," the topic of discussion at a recent National Academy of Sciences meeting. Scientists are beginning to debate potential geoengineering fixes that might work to cool the earth, much as it is cooled by a volcanic eruption. When a volcano erupts, sulfate particles are blasted into the air. These particles reflect sunlight back into space thus shading or cooling the earth. Could spraying similar particles into the earth's atmosphere create a similar effect? Could this be a cheap, easy solution to runaway carbon emissions? Of course there are many questions requiring answers and much to be learned before any experiments are attempted.

Toying with global climate could have catastrophic consequences. Particles sprayed into the atmosphere might damage the ozone layer, leaving Earth's inhabitants unprotected from the Sun's deadly rays. Or precipitation might be reduced in certain areas, setting off droughts and famines. On the flip side, the experiments could actually help agriculture. Nobody really knows. And who gets to decide what is done and when? Should scientists wait for a crisis to act, or are we already in a crisis that can't be averted without drastic action? As you can see, there is much work to be done. Nonetheless, engineering climate change offers some hope that there may be a solution to the monumental mess we have created for ourselves. See www.nationalacademies.org.

Green Jobs Study: The Pew Charitable Trusts published a study on June 10th that calculated growth of the "clean energy economy" in the U.S. between 1998 and 2007. "Green jobs" grew 9.1% to 777,000 jobs nationwide, although they still make up only .50% of total jobs. California ranked first in clean-energy jobs with 17.6 million or .71% of its workforce, and Texas ranked second with 11.7 million jobs. Although only a small percentage of total jobs make up "green jobs," the study determined that this sector is "Poised for Explosive Growth" - mainly because of the change in governmental policy. The study cites the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law in February, "as a significant force driving the clean-energy economy." Of the Act's total, $85 billion is allocated for energy and transportation-related programs. More at www.pewtrusts.org.

Composting: As fairly new UUs, the Stofkos have been attempting to become better stewards of God's green Earth. Our first major change was giving up paper plates and cups - we didn't want our garbage contributing to any more landfills. Next we took on the recycling of all plastics, cans and glass. It was remarkably easy. At the beginning of January, we gave up our dependence on TruGreen Chemlawn and switched to organic fertilizer. We have been pleasantly surprised by the results, although I'm sure the amount of rain has helped. Our next green venture will be into the realm of composting, thanks to an article in the San Antonio Express written by Siobhan Walsh titled "Composting is a Welcome Improvement." Siobhan suggests placing a sealed container on the kitchen counter to collect daily organic wastes consisting of "vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, and crushed egg shells." When it is full, dump it into a shady corner in your backyard. Siobhan doesn't recommend adding meat products or coated paper, although cardboard toilet and paper towel rolls are fine. Once the mix has had a chance to compost, add it to house plants, landscape, flower and vegetable gardens as a nutrient-filled fertilizer.

Green Tips

by Dee Stofko

June 2009 - "Current Developments"


In this month's column, I would like to summarize two current developments that will decrease pollutants in our air and help curb global warming. The first involves new fuel economy standards announced by President Obama's that will legislate the development of new, cleaner automobiles. The second is a bill that will require businesses to buy permits from the government to cover their carbon emissions. How much will these measures help and how much will they cost us?

On May 19th, the President, in the company of auto executives, made an announcement that sets 2016 mpg standards for cars at 35.5. Even though this will raise the price of a new car by approximately $1,300, in only 3 years you will make that up with money saved on gasoline. This program will effectively remove 900 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses from the air (when compared to current pollution levels). Officials say this equates to the shutting down of 194 coal plants and taking 177 million cars off the road. Automobile officials said the goals will be met by cleaner technology and the use of lighter materials. The auto makers support the standards because they now have clear, strict and national guidelines to help them chart their future course. The deal does not require congressional approval.

So what is going on with "cap and trade" - the program that will require businesses to either limit emissions or pay up? Right now the House Energy Committee is drawing up a bill called "The American Clean Energy and Security Act". It hopes to have a draft available by Memorial Day. Waxman (D-CA) and Markey (D-MA) are the bill's sponsors. Markey says of the bill, "This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revive our economy and create millions of good-paying clean energy jobs. After months of hearings and discussions with my colleagues, I am pleased that we have produced a bill that has widespread support from all regions of the country."

Republicans and Greenpeace disagree. Republicans disagree because they say the bill will raise taxes for you and me by $3,100/year. Energy-producers' government payments will be passed on to consumers. There is much dispute concerning the amount of the tax increase with the EPA estimating it will be as little as $98 to $140/year, the Heritage Foundation estimates $1,500/year and a Congressional Budget Office expert estimates $1,600/year not including proposed rebates.

Greenpeace disagrees because the bill doesn't cut emission nearly as much as necessary. The bill's targets are only 4% below 1990 levels by 2020. Climate scientists say that in order to avoid cataclysmic global warming effects, a 25-40% reduction is necessary for every developed nation. I say, at least we are moving in the right direction!

On a lighter note, from the Centers for Disease Control, some tips on "Going Green and Clean": 1) Sprinkle baking soda with crushed lavender or basil on carpets as a deodorizer. Wait 30 minutes and vacuum. 2) To clean windows and glass, mix 1/2 cup vinegar with one gallon water. Use newspaper to wipe. 3) As an all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant, mix a few drops of natural soap, two cups of water and 30 drops of tea tree oil. Spray on all surfaces and wipe clean.

From Mary Leggitt: "Take Back the Tap". Bottled water is not safer than tap water, is much more expensive and it hurts the environment. Check it out at www.takebackthetap.org.

If you enjoy my Green Tips, you're gonna love my blog! Go to www.drwm.blogspot.com and become a follower. Leave me a message and let me know what you think.

Green Tips

by Dee Stofko

May 2009 - "So Many Articles"


So many articles; so little room! That's the challenge I am facing recently. When I first started writing the Green Tips, I was afraid I would have problems finding something to write about - HA! So here are the headlines. I hope there is a little something for everyone. You can delve deeper with the links.

The Environmental Protection Agency now admits that carbon dioxide as well as five other greenhouse gases are a threat to the environment and the health of the American people - DUH!

Because Dallas County voters approved $747 million in bond money last November, Parkland Hospital is taking steps to make the new hospital a reality. It is slated to have 862 beds and follow the guidelines of the U.S. Green Building Council - thus making it a Green facility. www.usgbc.org

The Texas Senate approved a bill that would create a $100 million per year fund (for at least 5 years) from a $.20/month increase to homeowners' energy bills and a $20/month increase to businesses' energy bills. The money would be used to encourage the use of solar panels. www.legis.state.tx.us

From Earth Day, I got a good link for Texans wanting gardening information. These folks give tips and clinics. www.mytexasgarden.com

In the DMN on Sunday, April 19th, Mark Renfrow's column titled "Victories in the energy war" suggested that the use of smart strips and timers could cut your energy costs considerably. Buy them cheap at www.amazon.com and eliminate energy waste.

Did you know that Dallas County Schools have a school bus designed by DCS technicians that runs on waste vegetable oil? It reduces air pollution and lowers fuel costs - more are coming soon. Read more at www.dcschools.com and click on the link "Recent DCS News".

There are at least three companies out there producing containers from plant-based materials that are biodegradable. This could be HUGE if a Coca Cola or Coors Beer switched to using this type of container. More at www.natureworksllc.com, www.metabolix.com and www.earthbottle.com.

In International green news: in Lecco, Italy, an environmental group devised a plan for getting kids to school that saves the air, saves money on gasoline and saves the kids from the bondage of obesity. It's called a piedibus - basically a bus route with a driver but no bus! Every morning nearly 450 students travel along 17 routes to 10 elementary schools - by foot! Read more at http://gauntlet.ucalgary.ca/story/13539

Green tip from Current Energy: "Adjusting your thermostat just 2 degrees can save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. When utilized properly, programmable thermostats can save you as much as 33% on your annual heating and cooling costs." www.Currentenergy.com

I saw a bumper sticker the other day on my way to work that intrigued me. It mentioned that the gasoline used by the vehicle was offset by TerraPass. Go to www.terrapass.com to figure out your carbon footprint and buy offsets via Climate Change Chocolate. Each 3.5- ounce chocolate bar buys you offsets worth 133 lbs. of carbon dioxide, the average American's daily carbon footprint. The site also has many energy-efficient products to reduce your carbon footprint so you won't need to buy a chocolate bar every day. They even have smart strips.

Calloways Nursery now sells organic fertilizer and the 20% acetic acid or strong vinegar to kill weeds mentioned in my November '08 Green Tips.

Green News

by Dee Stofko

April 2009 - "White House Council on Environmental Quality"


During President Obama's first 100 days, there has been an explosion of interest in everything green. There are so many stories out there on so many fascinating, pertinent subjects, that it is has been a challenge for me to decide what to write about. Thanks to Stephen Betzen, this month my decision was crystallized when I watched a video of the fascinating, charismatic, and energetic Van Jones, special advisor at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. In this new position, Mr. Jones' duties will include: "helping to shape and implement jobgenerating climate policy; working to ensure equal protection and equal opportunity in the administration's climate and energy proposals; and publicly advocating the administration's environmental and energy agenda."

Van Jones, author of "The Green Collar Economy - How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems," and founding president of "Green For All," is a dynamic speaker and a dynamo, which partially explains the success his organization has had. Its mission is to "build an inclusive, green economy - strong enough to resolve the ecological crisis and lift millions of people out of poverty." Green For All promotes "Green-Collar Jobs" which will "Rebuild a Strong Middle Class," "Provide Pathways Out of Poverty," "Require Some New Skills," "Tend To Be Local Jobs" and "Strengthen Urban and Rural Communities." Perhaps its most important accomplishment to date has been at the national level - working with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, among others, to pass the Green Jobs Act of 2007. This important piece of legislation authorizes the funding of $125 million per year to create an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program. Congratulations to Van Jones on his new position. Our prayers are with him. For more information on how you can help, go to www.greenforall.org.

During President Obama's news conference on March 24th, he was optimistic that a major global warming law will be signed quickly, as well as a bill that takes into account regional differences in energy production. Currently, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the chairman on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is working on a draft bill that addresses technical cap-andtrade issues. He expects to release it by April 3rd, before the spring recess. In the speech, President Obama said, "When it comes to cap and trade, the broader principle is that we've got to move to a new energy era... I think cap and trade is the best way, from my perspective, to achieve some of those gains, because what it does is it starts pricing the pollution that's being sent into the atmosphere."

A few other stories of interest: In Copenhagen this month, approximately 2,500 researchers from around the world attended a climate science conference. Their conclusions were that "the most serious warnings on climate change are coming true." One of their key messages was that, "regardless of how dangerous climate change is defined, rapid, sustained and effective mitigation is required to avoid reaching it."

On a more positive note, Michelle Obama has broken ground for an organic vegetable garden at the White House. The New York Times reports: "While the organic garden will provide food for the first family's meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity has become a national concern."

Green News

by Dee Stofko

March 2009 - "A Solar Session"


Texas is currently leading the nation in wind power, but did you know that the state of Texas is also experiencing an explosion of interest in solar energy? The Legislative Session that is currently meeting in Austin has filed a total of 18 solar-related bills - so far. For that, it is being called the "Solar Session." It makes sense for us to "go there," as Texas is said to have more sunshine than any other state - and most summers, we can attest to that! Let's look at what some of these bills are proposing.

Perhaps the measure that would interest you, the Texas consumer, most is one proposed by Senator Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay. Fraser is recommending raising a statewide fund to give subsidies to homeowners who invest in solar panels for their homes. The funds would come from surcharges levied against the electric bills of homeowners, businesses and industrial users - $.10/month for homeowners and $10/month for the others. The idea is to make solar panels more affordable upfront. Everyone knows about the savings on the backend - solar energy is free!

Senator Kirk Watson, D-Austin wants to incentivize the utility companies to invest in solar power manufactured in the state. He wants to give more authority to the State Energy Conservation Office to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Watson has also filed a measure that will help fund research and development for clean energy projects by tapping into the state's Emerging Technology Fund.

Senator Leticia Van de Putte's, (D-San Antonio) measure sets a goal of 3,000 megawatts from solar energy sources by the year 2019. That roughly equates to the energy appetite of the City of Austin. She says her proposals will help Texas get federal dollars from the impending Obama administration's stimulus package. In an article in the Austin American- Statesman, Carrie Cullen Hitt, president of The Solar Alliance, believes that "every gigawatt of solar in Texas will spur a supply chain 25,000 jobs long . . . that could mean 125,000 jobs by 2020. (In case you're wondering, one gigawatt equals 1,000 megawatts.)

So it looks like solar energy, its development and the jobs that come with it, are coming to Texas in a big way. This will diversify the state's energy resources, help with carbon emissions, and clean the air. But there is no time to waste. California is already leading the way because solar incentives have spurred its private sector to invest in it. Let"s get on the bandwagon and invest in solar energy. After all, doesn't it make sense to make use of our state"s most abundant, untapped resource?

On a different note, on our trip to Houston this past weekend, we noticed solar panels everywhere. They even have them on their parking meters and University security phones! And on the University campus, recycling bins are everywhere. Let's get going Dallas; Houston is definitely ahead in this race.

Green News

by Dee Stofko

February 2009


Many articles on various environmental subjects caught my attention this month. Here are just a few:

On the recycling front, in the Dallas Morning News on January 13th there was an article stating that many cities are experiencing a decline in demand for recycled materials because of the economic downturn. Because people are buying and using fewer products, they're recycling fewer products. With recycling revenues plummeting, cities may decide to suspend their programs until demand increases. Hopefully, this won't happen. Chreritta Johnson, Assistant Sanitation Director for Dallas, stated in the article, "What is our main objective - to make money or to be good environmental stewards? It's to be good environmental stewards."

Regarding auto emissions, Neil Young, rock legend and Activist, posted an online article on January 4th. He wrote about "The Automotive X Prize", a contest to produce a 100 mpg car by 2010 sponsored by the Progressive Insurance Company. There are already many entries. Lincvolt, an X Prize contestant converted from a 1959 Lincoln Continental Mark IV, already gets 65 mpg by using an electric power and domestic fuels with very low emissions. The Lincvolt team is inviting other innovators and contestants to Washington during this administration's first 100 days to demonstrate their progress to the new Car Czar.

Regarding the city of Dallas' current plans, the city is currently considering a voluntary program to reduce the use of plastic bags. I noticed yesterday when I was picking up a prescription at Walgreens that the chain is promoting a "bring your own bag" campaign. Their slogan is "skip the plastic". A city representative from www.greendallas.com also told me that all of the traffic and signal lights in Dallas have been replaced with LED lights. Next the city will tackle its street lamps. What prompted me to learn more about the city's efforts was a recent trip to NYC where I learned that skyscrapers there were dimming their lights in an effort to conserve. NYC also has a fantastic everywhere-you-look recycling program. I wish we had something like that in Dallas.

Lastly, Vivian Walz brought the "National Teach-In on Global Warming" to my attention. Schools and faith communities can schedule a viewing of the webcast, "100 Days of Action" on February 5th. It is even possible to schedule an online half hour of dialogue for your group with your Washington Representative by coordination through Speaker Pelosi's office. Interested parties can view the webcast at http://www.nationalteachin.org/ after January 30th. There will be a special edition for faith communities.

Green News

by Dee Stofko

January 2009

Currently there is a flurry of information in the news on a number of issues of monumental importance to the "green movement" and the survival of our planet. In my attempt to help you maintain your status as informed Unitarian Universalists, below is some information on a few of these issues.

The 2-week long international talks on climate change, held in Poznan, Poland, came to a close on December 12th. For the duration of the talks there was much drama, finger-pointing and infighting but not many concrete accomplishments. Representatives from 189 developed and developing (i.e., rich and poor) countries attended the talks. Its main purpose was to build a framework for an agreement to be formalized in December 2009 in Copenhagen to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012. Embarrassingly, the former climate agreement was signed by every industrialized country but the United States.

Some of the main issues of contention were not surprisingly about money. The richest and most industrialized countries are generally the ones who are the biggest offenders when it comes to greenhouse gasses. The poor countries expect the rich ones to put their money where their mouths are. Unless clear targets are set in the near future - like the ones President-elect Obama called for during his campaign - bringing gases down to 1990 levels by 2020 and cutting them 80% by 2050 - there is likely to be a lot of talk and no action.

It has been suggested by the Chinese that the industrialized nations contribute 1% of their national wealth annually to help developing countries with the floods, droughts, crop failures, etc. associated with climate change as well as with the greater costs associated with green technology. A method needs to be worked out to transfer money and technology to developing nations. So far, little has been done in this regard. Developing countries have committed only $172 million to this program - with most of the money coming from Germany, Denmark, Britain and the Netherlands. Again embarrassingly, the U.S. has contributed nothing.

Many think the lack of anything of substance being accomplished in Poland in December points to the fact that the U.S. is changing administrations. Many representatives are taking a "wait and see" attitude and don"t want to commit to anything until they get a firm commitment from the new President. Al Gore, who won a Nobel Prize last year for his work on climate change, spoke to the delegates on the last day of the conference. Although he emphasized that "sclerotic" (hardened, rigid) politics must change, he was optimistic about some of the pledges to restrain the rise of greenhouse gas emissions from developing countries. He said, "Today, no-one is saying that China is standing in the way."

In other news, President-Elect Barack Obama has named Nobel physicist, Steven Chu, as his Energy Secretary. Mr. Chu won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997 for his work on the "development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light." Mr. Chu, who was born in St. Louis in 1948, has been the head of the Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004. Their website describes his commitment to make the Berkeley laboratory "the world leader in alternative and renewable energy research, particularly the development of carbon-neutral sources of energy." It describes him as "an early advocate for finding scientific solutions to climate change." His appointment, as one of the most learned and experienced scientist in his field, has been hailed as a great choice.

Green News

by Dee Stofko

December 2008

In an effort to keep on top of current "green" noteworthy news, I found two items this week of extreme importance. The first involved a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Appeals Board regarding emissions from coal-powered plants currently being built in the United States. The second involved a confirmation by President-Elect Barack Obama regarding aggressive targets for fighting climate change.

On November 13th, the Environmental Appeals Board ruled that the EPA has no valid reason to refuse to regulate the CO2 emissions that come from new coalpowered plants. Up to this point the EPA, with the approval of the Bush Administration, had refused to do just that. The decision cited that, according to the Supreme Court's May 2007 ruling, CO2 is indeed one of the main causes of climate change and therefore a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. With this ruling, its emission must be regulated by the EPA.

The reason this is such a victory for environmentalists is that, at the present time, all EPA permits for coal plants now in the process of applying will be frozen in court. New permits will require BACT (Best Available Control Technology), and since there is no definition of BACT for CO2, new coal plants will have to wait until the technology to reduce emissions from coal plants exists. Currently, the timetable for commercially viable clean coal technology is 2020 or 2025. This ruling prevents a 110-megawatt plant in Vernal, Utah, from going online. This plant is capable of emitting 3.37 million tons of CO2 per year, which equates to an additional 660,000 cars on the road. Wow - what a victory! Equally as exciting was President-Elect Barack Obama's surprise taped statement, given on November 18th to a conference on climate change held in Los Angeles. In the statement, Obama reaffirmed the aggressive targets on climate change that he promised on the Campaign Trail. Specifically, Mr. Obama promised to set "strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020, and reduce them an additional 80 percent by 2050."

Present at the Conference were governors who had battled with the Bush Administration to try to get stricter federal pollution standards passed. Mr. Obama commended the governors of Kansas, Florida, Illinois, California and Wisconsin for their tireless work and said that they as well as many businesses were "doing their part by investing in clean energy technologies." Also present at the conference were officials from at least 10 other countries. There will be another conference on climate change next month in Poland, and Mr. Obama asked the lawmakers who will attend to keep him apprised of the situation.
Mr. Obama concluded his remarks by saying, "When I am president, any governor who's willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that's willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that's willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America." AMEN.

Dallas Green Website

by Dee Stofko

November 2008


Our own, dear, Elaine Wildman, came to me with a problem. She had weeds and wanted to kill them in an environmentally friendly manner. She knew what to use but not where to buy it. She heard I was the one to ask. Well I might write these articles, but I'm really kind of a newbie at this green stuff. Elaine has been around it much longer than I have. At the time, I didn't even know what product she was talking about. Well I did my research and discovered that 20% acetic acid or strong vinegar is the only known environmentally-friendly weed killer. But finding it was another matter. Luckily I thought to email the Green Dallas website (link on the UU website) and this is the reply I received. Kevin said he would welcome questions and comments at GreenDallas@dallascityhall.com. Put Kevin Lefebvre in the subject line. The entirety of the letter is below - lots of good information.

"Thanks for writing to us through the Green Dallas website. More importantly, thank you for pursuing greener solutions to our common problems.

20% acetic acid, strong vinegar, is a great alternative to the petroleum-based alternative weed killers. You can simply pour it or spray it directly onto weeds to kill them. Be careful, however, as with the higher concentration of acetic acid it can drift and vapors or mist can burn sensitive tissue or membranes (such as nose, eyes, throats). It is important to keep in mind that this is not your typical "24-hours and they're gone" solution; you have to give it time to work. Applying too much can harm your soil and your yard too.

Depending on the type of weeds you are trying to kill, there are other remedies available as well. For example, yards that are experiencing trouble with dollar weed or sub-surface fungus (shows up as yellow/brown rings on the lawn) can be treated by mixing horticultural molasses with water and applying it to the lawn with a hose-end sprayer. Water the mixture in with a hand held sprinkler to push the sugars deep into your soil. This will bolster the bacteria present in your soil which will create more nitrogen for your lawn to use - thereby strengthening your lawn which will choke out many weeds.

The adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" holds true especially when gardening. Weeds cannot grow where seeds cannot land. If you leave your clippings on your lawn through the use of a mulching lawn mower, that will leave a barrier of decaying grass on the surface of the soil beneath the growth layer. This barrier serves to prevent weed seeds from rooting as well as providing a thermal barrier to reduce evaporation of moisture from the root systems of your lawn...also strengthening it. Cedar mulch in flower beds acts as the same type of barrier AND the cedar is a natural pesticide to keep mosquitoes and flies and other pests away.

You and any other green gardener can find 20% acetic acid and horticultural molasses at your local home improvement store or gardening center or nursery. I buy mine at a local organic garden shop or home improvement store (make sure the salesperson is an organic gardener).

Oh! One added bonus, soils with a lower pH (more acidic), produce more vibrant blooms on flowering plants. The colors are AMAZING! And the acid allows for better iron absorption, giving you greener plants. Changing to a green garden is not something you can do overnight - it takes time and patience. But knowing you are a steward of this beautiful planet and safeguarding the future for our children is more reward than you can imagine!

Thanks for writing! Keep on growing!"

Kevin Lefebvre
Environmental Coordinator, Sustainability
Office of Environmental Quality
City of Dallas

Environmentally Conscious Business

by Dee Stofko

October 2008

I work in an office as an assistant to a high net worth individual. That's hedge fund speak for "rich guy". I am delighted to find that more and more of the information that comes across my desk has to do with saving the environment by limiting carbon emissions. Here are a few examples.

Many extremely wealthy individuals don't own their own jets but are in fractional aircraft programs - two of which are Flexjet and Netjets. This allows the executive to own a percentage of an aircraft for a more than nominal fee and then pay for fuel and hourly use by the trip. The program my boss currently subscribes to is Netjets. Recently Netjets sent its owners a list of carbon offset programs it has partnered with so the "environmentally conscious" businessman can reduce his carbon footprint. 

Carey Worldwide Limousine is another large firm that has been boosting its "green image". Recently my boss got a press release that touted its many hybrid vehicles. Even more significantly, I got a call from a courier service named Go Green Couriers. It bills itself as Dallas/Ft. Worth's "first green courier company dedicated to providing excellent delivery service using only hybrid and bio fuel vehicles in addition to bike messengers." The founders of the company truly want to make a difference and be good stewards of the environment. Please call Jolly at 214-289-7251 for a courier service that helps you do your part. 

But what really blew me away was the booklet that came with my boss's recent Patagonia order called "Environmental Initiatives 2008". To start with, since the early 1970's, Patagonia has been giving 1% of sales annually "profits or no profits" to environmental groups working to save their rivers, forests, mountains, oceans, etc. This has amounted to more than $32million to date. For the past three years, Patagonia has sponsored the Wild & Scenic Film Festival which is a 3-day event highlighting new environmental films. A 3-hour touring version is available and might be something the Social Justice Ministry could look into. Lastly Patagonia uses only socially responsible factories to make all its clothing - no sweatshops! 

I'm sure there are many more instances where companies are trying to make a difference, be good stewards of the environment and help save the planet. Come see the Social Justice Ministry's film "11th Hour", a look at the state of the Global environment, for more on these and other "green" issues.

Tips for after Earth Week - Part II

by Dee Stofko

September 2008

As I promised, here are the next five simple tips from the Dallas Morning News Article published on April 18th from the Chicago Tribune:

Home Electronics:
Power them off. A home office with a computer, printer, fax machine, computer speakers, scanner and cordless phone could consume as much power as two 75-watt light bulbs left on 24/7. And that could cost you $100 a year in electricity. Plug equipment into a surge protector-power strip. Power off all equipment and then turn off the power strip at the end of the day.


Thermostats:
Get a programmable thermostat and save as much as $150 a year. Set it way up in the summer or way down in the winter when everyone's at work or at school and when they're asleep. And program it to turn up the heat in winter or air conditioning in summer shortly before folks get home or shortly before they wake up.


Leaky Toilet:
Fix it now. A leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water a day. Check for leaks by adding food coloring to the tank. If you have a leak, color will appear in the bowl within 15 minutes. Flush as soon as you're done with this test to avoid staining the bowl. It is estimated that 2 out of every 10 toilets in the United States leak. Those two leakers can waste as much as 146,000 gallons of water a year. That's enough water for a family of four to wash clothes in their washing machine for eight years.


Newspaper:
A year's worth of papers from a big-city daily weighs nearly a half-ton. Every ton of paper that gets recycled saves the equivalent of 17 trees, saves enough energy to power an average home for six months, saves 7,000 gallons of water and keeps 60 pounds of pollutants out of the air.


Light Bulbs:
Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. If you replace five of your most-used incandescent bulbs with CFLs, you can save $25 to $65 a year in energy costs. CFLs use two-thirds less energy than incandescent bulbs, generate 70% less heat and last up to 10 times longer. They do contain a small amount of mercury - but the benefits of using CFLs outweigh the mercury issue. As far as home electronics, the ones that aren't plugged into a power strip can also be unplugged when not in use to conserve energy. Using a power strip or having electronics unplugged saves them from getting damaged during severe electrical storms. Boxes should be broken down to be recycled with newspapers. With CFLs, you save not only in energy usage but because bulbs don't need to be replaced as often.

Dee Stofko from www.dallasnews.com


Too Many Important Issues to Discuss!

by Dee Stofko

August 2008

I can't believe how many stories I saw this month about the environment! I decided to scrap the tips for now - too many very important items to discuss. I'm going to touch on each briefly:

First of all, there was a G-8 Summit in Toyako, Japan (this isn't a misprint) on July 7th. For those of you who aren't "in the know", the G-8 Summit is a meeting of the leaders of the top 8 leading industrial nations held once a year to discuss global issues. The first Summit was held in 1975 with only 6 members. It quickly became 7 in 1976; and when Russia was asked to join in 1991, it became 8. This year the G-8 endorsed halving global emissions by 2050. Of course, it's easy to "talk the talk". Now we have to see if they're willing to "walk the walk". Many environmentalists still feel this falls far short of what is needed. The communique did not set a base year from which emissions would be cut. Many argue that the 50% reduction is insufficient and 2050 too far in the future.

Back at home in the good old U.S.A., on July 8th, Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, accused the Bush Administration, and V.P. Dick Cheney specifically, of a "coverup" aimed at stopping the Environmental Protection Agency from tackling greenhouse emissions. According to Jason Burnett of the EPA, the White House pressured him to retract an email in which he detailed some findings that "greenhouse gases may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public welfare."

Lastly, on July 17th, former V.P. Al Gore challenged Americans "to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean, carbonfree sources within 10 years." Gore spoke from Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. He called the proposal, "achievable, affordable and transformative. It represents a challenge to all Americans in every walk of life, to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, our innovators, our engineers, and to every citizen."

Become informed citizens. Go to www.GreenDallas.net to find out what you can do to jump on the Green Bandwagon in your City and help SAVE THE PLANET.

Live Green or Die

by Dee Stofko

July 2008

You know environmental issues are at the forefront of the minds that matter when Business Week's cover of the June issue reads, "GM's Challenge: Live Green or Die". GM was featured prominently in the film "Who Killed the Electric Car", a film shown by the Social Justice Ministry at one of its recent free First Tuesday movie nights. The movie documented the true story of how GM engineers developed an electric car and then killed it because, had GM gone to market with it, it wouldn't have made money selling it. The Company also lost $1 billion developing the car.

That was in 2003 - fast forward to 2008. Toyota's hybrid Prius has catapulted that company into huge profits while GM is losing billions on gas guzzling monsters like the Hummer. So GM has decided to jump on the green bandwagon, so to speak. But is it too late?

GM has announced the development of the Volt - which is due out in 2010. This revolutionary vehicle will use a giant version of the lithium ion batteries that power cell phones and laptops. It will plug into a regular outlet. But will it work? GM engineers are confident that it will. The Company is spending nearly $1 billion per month in R&D this year alone to make sure it does. With congress passing new fuel regulations, GM has no choice but to "Live Green" or it won't survive. By 2010 the Company needs to have 38 of its cars hybrid-ready in order to meet tougher fuel economy rules. That's up from 5 hybrids it has today. Maybe the next movie will be titled, "Who Survived Because of the Electric Car."

More "simple ways" to help the environment in my next article.

Tips for after Earth Week

by Dee Stofko

June 2008

During earth week, there was a wealth of information on green tips to be found everywhere - radio, newspapers, and the nightly news, to name a few. One of the articles in the Dallas Morning News was titled "46 Simple Ways to Help the Environment." Some of these are no-brainers - like switching to fluorescent light bulbs - but some are more obscure. I think they deserve a second look - or a first if you didn't see the article.

Here are the first five:

The Dishwasher: 
Use it. Contrary to popular eco-belief, it's greener than hand-washing - if you run it with a full load and scrape rather than rinse. The average dishwasher in American homes today uses 8.7 gallons of water a load. Washing by hand for 10 minutes with water running can use 20 gallons. If you fill the sink, you still use about 5 gallons for washing, 5 for rinsing.

Laundry: 
Wash only full loads of laundry and save (the average American home) as much as 3,400 gallons of water a year.

Drying Laundry: 
Do not over-dry laundry. An electric dryer operating an extra 15 minutes a load can cost you up to $34/year in wasted energy; a gas dryer, $21/year. If your dryer has a moisture sensor that turns the machine off automatically when clothes are dry, use it. (If you're planning to get a new dryer, you might want to look for one with a moisture sensor.)

Water-Saving Planting: 
Plan for wise watering. Group thirsty plants in one bed close to the house. Fill farther beds with drought-tolerant perennials that need little or no watering. For lawns, choose buffalo grass, which tolerates dry spells better than St. Augustine. Mulch around trees and plants to keep water from evaporating. (I hear buffalo grass is more expensive than St. Augustine though.)

The Garbage Disposal: 
Use it. It's greener to feed the disposal than it is to encapsulate food waste in a plastic garbage bag and send it to the landfill. Sent down the disposal and into the sewer line, organic waste gets treated by the sanitary district.

More next time. Hope that helps. I didn't know that about the garbage disposal but it makes sense.

Dee Stofko from www.dallasnews.com


Greenwashing

by Dee Stofko

Mid-May 2008

Whitewashed, according the Merriam-Webster, means the "concealment of flaws or failures." Greenwashed is a newly-coined word meaning pretending to be environmentally friendly while not doing the work it takes to do it legitimately. According to Christopher Elliott of Tribune Media Services, the travel industry is one of the major culprits of greenwashing. A recent survey found that nearly half of all travelers would like to be green, and they don't even mind paying more for it. So calling a resort, hotel, amusement park, rental car companies or airlines "green" can help bring in the business. But when all you're doing is advising guests to reuse their towels or recycle, you're not actually helping to save the planet. You're actually just cashing in on an opportunity.

According to Christopher Elliott, to be truly green, it has to be ingrained in the corporate culture. The corporation needs to care more about the environment than it does about the bottom line. It can't claim to be eco-friendly and then "irrigate the desert so guests have a lush lawn to play on". Methods of conserving water and reducing the carbon footprint need to go into the planning of the business. They can't just be an afterthought.

So be savvy when it comes to planning your green vacation if you
really care about the Earth. Check into the carbon offset programs of the airlines and into which car rental company offers the most hybrid and fuel-efficient vehicles. Be a skeptic and don't believe everything you read.

You can read more travel tips on Mr. Elliot's blog, Elliott.org.


Green Giving

by Dee Stofko

May 2008

It warms my heart when I hear about a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet funneling millions to worthy causes. As environmental issues come to the forefront of the collective consciousness, it is only natural that many philanthropists are now focusing on "green giving."  As a matter of fact, during 2006, U.S. foundations and individuals gave a total of $6.6 billion to environmental and animal welfare issues---up more than 1.9% from the previous year. However, "green giving" still only accounted for 2.2% of the $295 billion total given to charity last year.

Most "green giving" can be divided into 3 categories - 1) habitat and species conservation, 2) human health and 3) climate change. In the animal category, some of the subdivisions are protecting forests, wild areas and farmlands; cleaning up oceans, wetlands and rivers; inhibiting suburban sprawl; protecting endangered species and preventing further contamination of animal habitats. In the category of human health, "green giving" funds projects such as the analyses of toxins and causes of disease; food safety; household exposure and the education of the public to environmental issues. Climate change involves funding alternative energy projects; limiting pollution emissions, raising public awareness and lobbying for legislative remedies.

When giving money to environmental issues, the commitment must often be more long-term than with traditional giving. Donors need to approach these causes with an eye to the future. Depending on the project, it may take a number of years before results can be seen. For example, it can take years to bring a species back from the brink of extinction or to see the benefits of cost savings from making a home more environmentally friendly. However a green philanthropist decides to help preserve the Earth for future generations, comprehensive, long-term planning is a must.


Green Houses

by Dee Stofko

Mid-April 2008

Since Kathy Moser's visit two weeks ago, I have been thinking about "green" houses. The pictures of the houses that were projected were full-blown environmental masterpieces. But with a little digging, I have discovered that there are many things a person can do to "green" their home that don't involve buying a new one.

First of all, energy efficiency is the most obvious place to start. New windows often cut down on energy expenditure by providing better insulation. Energy-saving appliances are available through Energy Star, a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. You may also be entitled to a tax break! Low flow faucets and other plumbing fixtures use less water than standard sinks and toilets. Of course, energy-saving light fixtures, fluorescent bulbs and the use of skylights providing natural daylight help reduce lighting costs. 

If you're planning to remodel or add a room to your existing home, there are many ways to "do it greener." You can use paints that are lower in volatile organic compounds and avoid carpeting, adhesives and varnishes that often give new homes their distinctive smell that has often been associated with health problems. Spray-on foam insulation fills and seals wall cavities better than fiber glass and is more environmentally friendly. Remodeling your kitchen? Steel counter tops using locally-produced recycled metal or concrete counters using inlays made of granite leftovers might be an option.

  www.greenhomebuilding.com and www.ecoact.org are two websites with much information on this topic.


Carbon Offsets (The Flip Side)

by Dee Stofko

A few months ago I wrote about carbon offsets and how they enable individuals and businesses to reduce their carbon footprint or the amount of CO2 emissions they are responsible for. They do this by paying a nominal fee to a company who will offset or reduce CO2 someplace else, usually where it costs less to do so. I have become aware of the controversy surrounding these offsets and would like to bring it to your attention.

The companies and individuals who champion carbon offsets claim they are primarily purchased by people who are "highly engaged on the issue of climate change." The people who buy them are merely "actively seeking additional ways to minimize their footprint." 1 They allege that the carbon offsets aren't the problem. The problem is the lack of awareness and concern on the part of a large percentage of the population. They deny the argument that carbon offsets are a version of "indulgences" not unlike that of the Catholic Church centuries ago whereby sinners neutralized their sins by paying the going rate for their particular transgression. 

Those against the use of carbon offsets do indeed see the similarity between offsets and indulgences. "Just as in the 15th and 16th centuries you could sleep with your sister and kill and lie without fear of eternal damnation, today you can live exactly as you please as long as you give your ducats to one of the companies selling indulgences." 2 

The way I look at it, every little bit helps. If the offset projects are indeed new, effectual undertakings that neutralize CO2; they are helping combat the problem of carbon emissions. In that case, I'm all for them. If the people who are engaged in buying carbon offsets are doing so to assuage their guilt with no intention of changing their behavior, the offsets may still be effective, but less so. Buying carbon offsets plus trying other innovative ways to reduce your carbon footprint is the way to go. 

1 http://www.terrapass.com/blog/posts/new-york-times
2 www.monbiot.com/archives/2006/10/19/selling-indulgences/

Hybrid Cars

by Dee Stofko

Mid-March 2008

Have you ever thought about buying a hydrid car, but did not know where to start? I discovered www.hybridcars.com which has a wealth of information that can help you make the best decision. The editor of hybridcars.com is Bradley Berman who writes about the hybrid cars for BusinessWeek, the New York Times, and other publications. He is an impassioned advocate of hybrid vehicles.

"Available Now" and "Expected" in the near future hybrid compacts and sedans, SUVs and minivans, and trucks are listed on the site. Nine compacts and sedans are currently available with two more expected in 2009. Five SUVs and minivans are available now with seven more coming in the next few years. Currently, the only hybrid truck available is the Dodge Ram and it is only available to fleet buyers. The GMC Chevrolet Silverado will be available this year.

The most fascinating piece of information I discovered is the Chevy currently makes an electric car called the Chevy Volt. It comes with an innovative rechargeable electric drive system and range-extending power source. It allows the vehicle to run totally on electricity for short commutes while getting 150 miles per gallon on longer trips.

Another consideration is the federal income tax credit given to the purchaser of a new hybrid vehicle. The Mercury Mariner boasts a $3,000 credit (not a deduction) for the purchaser of that new vehicle.


Carbon Offsets

by Dee Stofko

Recently I have become aware of some new environmental jargon - phrases such as "carbon footprint" and "carbon offsets" - and wondered just what they mean. After some internet research, I discovered that everyone has a carbon footprint and that it is "the measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide."1 So we all impact the carbon emissions of the planet in some way - by our electricity and natural gas usage, and by our gasoline and airplane fuel, if we use air travel. 

"Carbon offsets enable individuals and businesses to reduce the CO2 emissions they are responsible for by offsetting, reducing or displacing the CO2 in another place, typically where it is more economical to do so."2 There are numerous calculators on the internet to help individuals determine their carbon footprint so they can first take steps to reduce it and subsequently offset what is left. 

I used the "An Inconvenient Truth Carbon Calculator" at www.climatecrisis.net/ takeaction/carboncalculator and discovered that my total personal impact is 5.65 tons per year. I also learned that this is smaller than average - probably because I use Green Mountain Energy which is 100% pollution-free electricity made from wind and water. At the Green Mountain website I discovered that this saves 1,700 pounds of CO2 per month or 10.2 tons per year. I divided that number by 4 because there are 4 individuals in my household and I came up with a personal savings of 2.55 tons per year. 

On the EcoBusinessLinks Environmental Directory site listed below, I discovered the cost of offsetting my individual carbon footprint. Native Energy, mentioned on the www.climatecrisis.net website, sells offsets at $13.20/ton for a total of $74.58 to offset my excess carbon emissions for an entire year. But some of the carbon offset businesses are significantly cheaper. The offsets on these pages are divided into project types which include methane, renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects. Isn't it our duty to give back what we take from our environment? 

1 www.carbonfootprint.com
2 www.ecobusinesslinks.com/carbon_offset_wind_credits_carbon_reduction.htm


How Green is Your Candidate?

by Dee Stofko

February 2008

In case you were wondering, I will attempt in this article to summarize the major candidates' views on the different facets of climate and energy issues. This information can be viewed at  http://www.grist.org/candidate_chart_08.html  The information on that chart is broken down into six major categories. They are: cap-and-trade programs; fuel-economy standards; renewable energy; biofuels; coal and nuclear energy. Cap-and-trade issues can best be summed up as "pollution credits". This system rewards facilities that control air pollution and provides a means for those who cannot afford the latest air pollution technologies to buy some time. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are virtually neck-to-neck on this point. They both support a cap-and-trade. Republican candidates support nuclear power with Huckabee and McCain calling for its expansion.

On fuel-economy standards, both Clinton and Obama support raising standards for cars to 40 mpg by 2020. Clinton goes further and supports raising these standards to 55 mpg by 2030. John McCain supports raising standards, but has not named a specific target. Mike Huckabee supports raising standards to 35 mpg by 2020. On the renewable energy issue, Clinton and Obama call for getting 25% of US electricity from renewable sources by 2025. John McCain supports renewables, but has not offered a specific target. Mike Huckabee supports getting 15% of US electricity from renewable sources in addition to clean coal and nuclear power by the year 2020.

Regarding biofuels, Clinton and Obama are also identical on this issue. Both call for 60 billion gallons of biofuels to be produced in the US by 2030. The two Republican candidates support the increased use of biofuels, but do not call for a specific number of gallons to be produced in the US. John McCain opposes subsidies for ethanol. Clinton and Obama both support "clean coal" and coal-to-liquid fuels provided they emit 20% less carbon over their life cycle than conventional fuels. Mike Huckabee supports "clean coal" and coal-to-liquid fuels with no qualification. John McCain supports the use of coal for energy production and would like to find cleaner ways to use it. Lastly, Clinton does not want to emphasize nuclear energy as a power source unless waste storage problems are solved. Obama and all the Republican candidates support nuclear power with Huckabee and McCain calling for its expansion.

Carbon Emissions

by Dee Stofko

Because of the consistent growth of carbon emissions, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) has increased from the preindustrial level of 280 parts per million (ppm) to today's 370 ppm. Since the atmosphere's capacity to fix carbon is fairly constant, the earth is fixing a decreasing percentage of emissions. These in turn are responsible for trapping more of the earth's heat causing temperatures to rise.

Three fourths of the carbon emissions from human activities are due to the combustion of fossil fuels; the rest is caused by changes in land use, principally deforestation. 

Four major sectors produce carbon emissions. Electricity generation is responsible for the largest share - 42%. Transportation generates 24%, industrial processes 20% and residential and commercial uses produce the remaining 14%. 

What we can do? First and foremost, we can change our electric service to one that is "green friendly" - one that uses wind, solar and geothermal power. Secondly, we can use mass transit whenever possible and replace old appliances and vehicles with ones that emit less carbon dioxide. Thirdly, we can buy carbon offsets that use donations to mitigate the creation of CO2 by various means including planting trees. Lastly, we can urge our politicians to support the Kyoto Protocol, which commits industrial nations to reduce their emissions by at least 5% below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

See www.earth-policy.org



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