Congresses’ new zero based budget trend is healthy, though sacred cows limit the options. Military spending won’t be touched since the folks we put in congress are of the “it’s-always-been-done-that-way” mindset. Of course the biggest reason for budgetary untouchables is that lobbyists pay leaders to champion the status quo.
They pay them to obey, not to be visionaries and they get what they pay for. That will be even clearer when you watch the congressional horse trading that’s going on. You can’t miss the single biggest weakness in our democracy: our shortsightedness.
Three fast examples:
Even the flat-earthers who don’t believe in science have to notice that local weather patterns point to something meteorologically awry. The last decade, our warmest in recorded history, produced exaggerated weather patterns with more intense rains, drought, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The bad weather is hitting harder and lasting longer.
Ask North Carolinians about the more than 60 tornadoes that hit this week. (NC used to average 19 a year.) Globally, ask the Russians about their terrible drought or the Pakistanis about their floods.
The congressional response to this is to cut the EPA’s budget by a third, degrading our carbon emissions enforcement capability. Is anybody thinking how much it costs to rebuild those towns in North Carolina, or the St. Louis Airport or the city of New Orleans, and the list gets longer daily? Since we have to pay for weather damage, why not pay up front, cut carbon and do our part to reduce the weather chaos?
A second example of the fog on congressional eye-glasses relates to the BP disaster. Little of significance has changed by way of tighter rig safety standards since the spill. (Do you think there is any connection between legislative inaction and the fact that Exxon will announce 10 Billion dollar record profits this week, even as gas streaks past $4 a gallon?) Sure, we achieve modest enforcement savings by sitting on our thumbs, but we will pay a multiple of what we save when we have to clean up the next major coastal spill. And be sure that there will be one.
One more example of our myopia. The current budget negotiations will divert dollars from America’s investment in renewable energies, better rail transportation, a more efficient electric grid and the myriad of other options that cut carbon emissions or wean us off of foreign oil. Would a smart businessman really do this? Is it clever commerce to cede the renewables technology race to China, India, and Germany in the name of short term budget restraint?
The biggest problem isn’t the budget. It’s the people who to spend it. They are supposed to be visionaries, but they’re more like the god Apollo chose as his prophet. The Greek god Tiresias, it turns out, was blind.
“Who sells more, the U.S. car industry or the American recycling industry?”
You’ll say the auto industry, and you’d be right – but surprisingly you’re not right by much. U.S. recycling sales in 2009 totaled $236 billion while auto industry sales totaled $250 billion.
As a growth industry, sales charts reveal recycling’s steady, predictable growth compared to the auto industry’s roller coaster history. It’s a less bumpy ride
Staying with our comparison, recycling will outpace auto industry sales before the end of the next decade, because of these market realities:
• It is less costly to manufacture using recycled materials than to produce them from virgin metals, woods or plastics
• The carbon impact of producing from recycled materials is significantly lower
Quick example: if we recycle three quarters of the aluminum cans we toss out, we reduce carbon emissions by 11.8 million metric tons compared with producing those same cans from virgin aluminum.
• Recycling slows the depletion of Earth’s rapidly dwindling resources
• Manufacturing from recycled materials uses considerably less precious water to make the same product, like paper for example.
But the real dynamo driving green growth has to do with what’s on everyone’s tongue this political season: jobs, jobs and jobs. In this context, the green job scene has exploded. Very quietly. 1.1 million Americans have jobs in the recycling industry, which itself is only a small part of green-related commerce.
What’s happening with green jobs gets clearer if we take a vertical micro-slice of green jobs in a single state, using Massachusetts as our example.
For the year 2009, according to the Massachusetts Recycling Coalition, 1,437 recycling and reuse firms operated in the commonwealth state. These firms produced $3.5 billion in sales, creating tons, so to speak, of jobs. They paid 19,445 workers a total $577 million in salaries.
How about tax contributions? Glad you asked. The state collected $64 million from recycle and reuse businesses.
Peering deeper, there are four major categories within the recycling industry and if you look at the relative contribution of each to Massachusetts last year, the sectors breakout as follows:
Collection and reprocessing businesses had sales of $923 million and salaries of $142 million, paid to 4,642 employees.
Manufacturing from collected recycled raw materials employed 10,120 people with a payroll of $330 million. This sector raked in sales of over $2.1 billion.
Reuse and refurbishing manufacturing had sales of $342 million, employing 3,443 people and a $67 million payroll
Consulting, engineering, brokering and other support jobs rang up $535 million in sales and accounted for 3,397 jobs.
Multiply the Massachusetts picture by 50 states and even the most curmudgeonly green-shade legislator has to reconsider green growth legislation, if not for moral reasons then simply because green means more jobs for the state. Big time.
If one of your missions is to green your office, a new 25 minute video from My Green Mind can help. The new video titled The Ultimate Guide to Greening an Office, shows employers and employees how to cut office waste and reduce energy consumption.
digital filing and the dream of the paperless office;
office meetings and presentations;
purchasing tactics for going green;
office furniture considerations;
safe electronics recycling;
healthy office cleaning;
inside air pollution;
electricity consumption tips and more.
The video is informational, not an advertorial.
“We’ve set out to a offer a practical guide that’s chock full of specific actions employers and employees can take,” said My Green Mind’s Marketing Manager, Michael Grossman. “Tips are appropriate for offices of all sizes from the small home office to the facilities of a mid-size corporation,” he noted. “The video does not cover green office design, which is technical and architectural in scope, but rather it suggests changes in workplace habits and ways of operating that will absolutely reduce an office’s carbon footprint. Every step will positively help the environment and many will also reduce corporate costs.”
The twenty-five minute The Ultimate Guide to Greening an Officeprogram is available at www.mygreenmind.com. After viewing the video, a link is provided for a free checklist to help office mangers implement the video’s recommendations.
(You can also test your knowledge of electronics recycling issues; find a Dictionary of toxins found in popular cleaning products; compare your electricity use to that of your neighbors; or grade your personal carbon footprint at the site.)
Class Project Encourages Pet Owners to Safely Dispose of Dog Waste. Kids install Pet Waste Bag Stations and Promote their Use.
“Pet Project” Promotes a Greener Town. (See the kids’ video below)
Students at the Fall Brook Elementary School in Leominster, MA know it’s important for dog owners to clean up after their pets. As a result, they are promoting dog waste bag use and showing local pet owners why poop scooping matters.
The students learned there are 7.8 billion bacteria in just three-quarters of a pound of dog waste. “And it can cause a lot of health problems,” said 10-year-old Brittany Kaldis one of the 5th grade students who researched the issue under the direction of teacher Lynn Fiandaca.
Brittany learned this startling fact when she and her classmates participated in the Disney Planet Challenge. The Disney sponsored event invited students nation-wide to enter the program designed to teach green habits and to empower children to take community action.
The Fall Brook Elementary students researched the environmental issues behind pet waste in ecosystems, and what they learned and the actions they took will be presented in a contest portfolio presented to Disney, an exhibit showing how the students studied an environmental problem and then how they promoted their solution. Read More
The year is 2029. The Russians just saved Earth by redirecting the path of the great comet; the one the scientists back in 2010 told us was coming. Earth was spared, but life on earth is still precarious. That’s because we ignored so many other warnings from the scientists. We let our leaders off the hook, permitting them to side-step the tough green choices needed to protect Earth. Now look at the mess we are in.
Those who recall life back in 2010 tell us how much harder it is today. Because we lack so many basic resources.
They speak of the turn of the decade as a time of water abundance. If the family car was dirty, you took it to a car wash. People bathed daily and some had whirlpool baths and even swimming pools. Our history videos show pictures of green, well maintained lawns, though we know today that those very lawns contributed to our water shortage. The petroleum-based fertilizer that killed crab grass simultaneously poisoned our aquifers. Lawns today are just a memory. For example, the few who still golf play on abandoned concrete.
Baths and showers are also a thing of the past, but we keep clean with a washcloth and cold sink water. Who can afford a fifteen minute shower that adds $95 to our utility bill? Water and energy cost more than food these days. Even if you have the money, it’s a rare day when the town’s water tower signal is lit green, meaning water for showers is allowed.
Food is a bicycle ride away. There are no grocery chains like Kroger’s, Safeway, or Food Lion. They closed with the mega-malls. Without cars, you couldn’t get to them. We shop at the nearby farmer’s market, planning meals based on what’s locally grown and in season.
We’re vegetarians but not by choice. The water requirement is exponentially greater the higher up the food chain you go, so raising meat just isn’t done anymore. Oranges, mangos or bananas? Except for those who live in the tropics, we haven’t seen those fruits in years. They’ve gone the way of New Zealand Lamb and French wines. Our grandparents reminisce about them.
Our elders tell us that back in the day, they had to be encouraged to buy locally. We don’t have a choice today. Regular interstate shipments of groceries ended when oil reached $242 a barrel. The history books say the scientists warned for years that we were on the downside of the oil supply bell curve.
We use gas cars for storage sheds, and only the ultra rich have one of the few remaining electric cars. It takes petroleum to manufacture an automobile, and oil is unavailable. The good news is that nobody has to commute anymore since we all work within bicycle distance of home.
Even the oil held in strategic reserve to manufacture drugs is almost gone.
Grandparents talk of “packaged goods”, another thing of the past. Vegetables don’t come in plastic bags, tuna doesn’t come in a tin, and pickles aren’t canned in bottles. Cardboard boxes no longer hold cereals, crackers or flour. Packaged products disappeared when the cost of dumping a bag of trash at the local landfill reached $60. Even if you had a way to transport trash, the world has no dump space left. Today it’s mandatory by law that we carry food from the market in reusable containers.
The average age of a home is much older now, and few new ones are built. Those that are build rely on locally obtained wood, or refurbished wood or wood planks from pressed sawdust. Builders reuse insulation, copper wiring and plastic plumbing when they can find these resources. There is no concrete for foundations but sometimes they can build on an old foundation.
Individuals who installed solar panels, windmills or geothermal systems back in the day, still have electricity. Often they make their living by selling it to the local utility. You can’t get new solar panels. People want them of course, but the panels themselves can’t be manufactured without petroleum. They say we could have prolonged the availability of electricity at least a century if only we had built those more efficient grids.
You’ve just opened a time capsule from the world of 2029. It’s not meant to be a downer. It’s meant to put our legislators on notice. We can’t avoid the hard choices indefinitely.
Actions have consequences. Inaction has them too.
See our new commercial recycling recetacles for collection of waste, bottles & cans, glass and paper. You will get the lowest prices on them as with all our prodcuts.
The great American fashion for home landscape beauty is out of date. It’s as wrong for the times as the energy inefficient, two acre McMansions we build on a one acre lot.
Why? Because the acres of green, treeless lawns that we admire are anything but "green." They are dangerous and they waste precious resources. You may not agree, but we think it’s time for a greener "beauty" standard to come to home landscaping.
Here’s three reasons why we should give up our addiction to green, treeless lawns.
First, lawns promote toxicity. Too often lawns are kept green and weed free by toxic chemicals. There are better alternatives, yet annually we spend $22 billion for the poisonous options.
Reason two to give up on the "green standard" relates to the amount of water we draw from our aquifers for lawn maintenance. Lawns take water in amounts that we can no longer afford to squander. There isn’t enough water anyway, and regions like the American Southwest are in trouble for lack of the vital blue resource.
Thirdly, we need more not fewer trees . Yet to create a new lawn, we destroy trees, paying homage to an antiquated home landscaping beauty standard.
So what what’s the answer? We call for a return to mother nature’s original landscape design–be it the wooded lot look, or natural wetlands or the desert terrain, depending on what is native to each local’s ecology. Let’s take a deeper look at why we think so.
Let’s talk toxicity.
We get more than we bargain for, for the $22 billion a year we spend on toxic pesticides. Besides a green lawn, we may also get:
. increases in asthma, cancer, learning disabilities, nerve and immune system damage, liver or kidney damage , birth defects and a disruption of the endocrine system.
. potential health issues for infants, children, the elderly and pregnant women who are chemical sensitive’s, not to mention problems for pets and wildlife.
. toxic runoff from chemical fertilizers and pesticides that pollutes streams, lakes and threatens drinking water.
Question: Is this nervous hysteria or a real issue? Answer: The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a study of 9,282 people nationwide, found pesticides in 100% of the people who had both blood and urine tested. The average person carried 13 of 23 pesticides tested.
So what about lawns and water they take? Forget diamonds and silver and think "blue, liquid gold"–especially if you live in the Southwest. Sure 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water, but only 3% is fresh water of which 2% is frozen, leaving 1% for human uses.
A bi-product of industrialization is that we’re using water faster than ever. In the 1900’s, water usage increased six-fold over the previous century, growing at twice the rate of population growth. A century ago Americans used under 10 gallons of water a day. We average more than 145 gallons now.
Part of the jump in water demand is because developed nations like US and population gorilla China eat higher up on the food chain. Our average meals take more water to produce. Example: to grow an apple requires about 16 gallons of water. A loaf of bread takes 150 gallons. How much do you think it takes for a pound of beef? Answer: 3,000 gallons. Fact: the new middle class Chinese, like Americans, are eating more and more meat.
So we need to employ every available tactic to reduce water consumption–to save this critical resource for necessities. Green vegetables are a necessity. Green lawns are not.
Solution: recreate your home landscaping and bring back the look nature gave it–that is, what was native-to-your-own-locale, and wasn’t not a lawn. Let mother nature design the look and she’ll even water it for you.
If you can’t part with a traditional lawn, (and we believe that in the not too distant future we won’t have a choice), conserve lawn water now:
. Cut no more than 1/3 of the height of the grass at each mowing. Taller grass (3-1/2" in height) provides more shade and less evaporation occurs.
. Don’t over-water. Watering thoroughly but infrequently increases soil moisture and reduces weeds.
. Water early in the morning.
. Use soak lines instead of irrigation heads and you reduce water use by 60%.
. Water once a week (if it hasn’t rained). Did you know that most people use twice the amount of water needed to water a lawn.
And finally, we come to the issue of lawns and trees. Consider the trees we destroy to create the wide-open lot a green lawn requires. Aren’t we doing the opposite of what we should do to be green? About half of the forests that once covered the Earth are gone. Annually, we lose more of the rain forests, and clear more lots, removing millions of acres of the trees that limit greenhouse gas emissions. So why, if we are concerned about global warming, don’t we plant rather than yank?
Consider what we’d gain by altering our landscaping fashion. Imagine homes nestled in their native habitat. The look can be stunning. Look at Fallingwater and what Frank Lloyd Wright created long before green was the new buzz.
The day of green lawns should end. Because they aren’t "green" at all.
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