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Here in the midwest, we are enjoying a wonderfully cool summer. Sorry to all of you beach bums, it hasn’t been the best summer to lounge by the pool or go to the beach, but our air conditioners sure have gotten a break. We compared our electric bill for this year with the one from last year and we discovered that there was a 25% drop.
This post is a little off topic, but I just had to enter a post about our trip yesterday. The Wilds is 10,000 acres of a former strip coal mine that has been transformed in to one of the largest and most creative wildlife conservation centers in the world. Open to the public since 1994, there are now approximately 1500 acres of rolling hills, woods, meadows and ponds that are fenced and are now the home of about 600 animals of over 20 endangered species from African Wild Dogs and Grevy’s Zebras to Asian Rhinos and Bactrian Deer.
What an amazing experience! Driving around among so many beautiful animals in such a beautiful setting was a day that I will not soon forget. There were babys and young animals in most of the herds and packs. The Wilds has been very succesful in their breeding program, they have been successful in getting some species to breed when many others have failed.
I highly recommend a trip to The Wilds in southeast Ohio.
I woke this morning, the first day of my staycation to the sound of garbage trucks making their way down my street. It was a great feeling to know that even though my trashcan was not out on the street I could roll over an go back to sleep instead of getting out of bed and rushing to get it out there in time. Our trash had been collected the week before and now our trashcan was only about a quarter full. Then a thought came into my head: if everyone on my street would have reduced their garbage production over the last couple of weeks by composting their yard and kitchen waste and brought their recycling to the nearest collection station then those garbage trucks could have skipped our street this morning and I could have been awakened a half hour later by my kids playing in my son’s room.
What, you ask has this to do with Green Jobs? Well, if more people would compost their kitchen scraps then the demand for compost bins, compost tumblers, kitchen compost pails/crocks, worm bins, and red wigglers would go up. Furthermore, if everyone were to recycle more, the cost of recycled goods would theoretically go down and subsequently the demand for recycled goods would most likely go up. Thus, we could replace noisy, sleep disrupting garbage trucks and operators with jobs creating more composting products and products made of recycled materials and possibly lower our taxes at the same time.
Meanwhile the city of San Francisco decided last week to force every citizen to separate their recycling and compost from their trash. Every week city employees will have to empty three garbage cans from each household: one for garbage, one for recycling and one for composting. It seems to me that San Franciscans should be prepared for a tax hike, that is, if the fines levied to those that are not compliant don’t cover the added cost of collecting three bins instead of two, or even of one. Instead, I suggest that municipalities reward those of us who manage our recycling and compost, and who only put our trash cans on the street once every three or four weeks with tax rebates, while charging extra to those that set two trash cans out every week. In short, I suggest that it would be best for the government to encourage personal responsibility and use a carrot and not a stick to create more green jobs.
One of the main stumbling blocks to the sustainability movement has been that many people just don’t want to change the way they do things or what they buy. Some don’t like the color of CFL’s, others are concerned about the mercury they contain. LED’s are very efficient, but they are very expensive and it’s hard to find ones to replace 75 and 100-watt bulbs. For those that have not made the switch to CFL’s or LED’s there may be some help.
Scientists at the University of Rochester have learned how to alter the filament using an ultra-brief pulse from an ultra-intense laser and make them much more efficient. So far they have been able to produce a bulb that produces as much light as a 100-watt but uses less than 60 watts. Furthermore, they have been able to effect the color of the light that the fillaments emit. Hopefully this technology will soon be further developed and incoporated into mass production. This way, more and more people will be encouraged to save energy and money.
In short: More efficient incandescent bulbs = a great step in the right direction.
The air inside most buildings is more polluted than the air outside. Controlling contaminants at their source in your house is a great first (or ten) step to improving your indoor air quality, your comfort and your health. However, this will not eliminate all of the contaminants in your house. There are some negative substances that are almost impossible to eliminate at their source: viruses, bacteria, pollen, dust mites, mold, carbon monoxide, just to name a few. Some of these contaminants can lead to increased short term allergic type reactions and symptoms like irritated eyes, nose and throat, dizziness and fatigue. These short term reactions are typically not serious health concerns, but some indoor air contaminants have been linked to long term and serious conditions such as respiratory disease, heart disease, and cancer. It is difficult to pinpoint what level of exposure to these contaminants is potentially dangerous, and it also seems to vary from person to person. These substances are created by every day activities like cooking, brining most any object into the house, visiting a sick friend, taking a shower, and running the furnace.
Therefore, additional efforts need to be made in order to provide the clean air that will promote healthy living:
1. Open the windows: Many times simply opening the widows will provide enough air movement to flush most of the lingering contaminants out of your house.
2. Whole house fans: Using one of these is a great way to really flush any lingering unwanted gasses and some fine particulates out of your house
3. Bathroom fans and stove hoods: Some contaminants are byproducts of other positive and necessary activities. The down-side of a warm shower is the excessive moisture that can sometimes be left behind and lead to mold and mildew. Cooking on the stove can result in culinary masterpieces, but it can also result in carbon monoxide, lingering odors, smoke and other contaminants. Using bathroom fans and stove hoods can quickly eliminate the excess moisture and other contaminants before they can spread throughout the house and become a problem.
4. HEPA Filters: A HEPA filter for your furnace or air purifier will help to remove many small particles like dust, dust mite allergens, anthrax spores, mold spores, pet dander, and even some harmful gases and airborne asbestos from the air in your house.
5. Carbon Filters: Many air purifiers rely on carbon filters to eliminate smoke, fumes, and odors from your house. Air is forced through a layer of activated granular charcoal which absorbs the odors and allows clean fresh air to pass through.
6. UV Germicidal Light: This ultraviolet light feature of many air purifiers neutralizes and eliminates many bacteria, mold spores, protozoa, yeasts and even some viruses.
7. Ozone: This naturally occurring unstable gas quickly oxidizes with the pollutants in the air moving through the air purifier and completely neutralizes them. Many air purifiers use this chemical reaction to effectively eliminate bacteria, fungus and odors from the air.
8. Ionize: Air purifiers with ionizers create negatively charged ions which attract small airborne particles such as viruses, pollen, bacteria, smoke, dust, animal dander as well as other allergens. Once this occurs the particles cling to a metal collector or the particles to fall out of the air.
9. House Plants: All plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen (O2), but some plants will effectively absorb one or more other unwanted gasses such as: benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Another benefit of having houseplants is that they help to humidify the air in your house. Some of the best plants at cleaning the air in your house are: English Ivy; Spider Plant; Golden Pothos or Devil’s Ivy; Peace Lily; Chinese Evergreen; Bamboo Palm or Reed Palm; Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue; Heartleaf, Selloum, and Elephant Ear Philodendron; Red-edged, Cornstalk, Janet Craig, and Warneck Dracaena; Weeping Fig; Gerbera Daisy or Barberton Daisy; Pot Mum or Florist’s Chrysanthemum; and Rubber Plant. Get out your green thumb and breathe a little easier.
10. Suck it up: Purchase a quality vacuum cleaner, one with cyclone cleaning and a washable HEPA filter. Using it frequently will help to eliminate many of the contaminants that collect all over your house and are stirred up in a number of ways.
Every one of the above strategies will help to improve the indoor air quality in your home, but each works on different contaminants and they should be used in combination in order to clean all types of contaminants from the air in your house.
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