Amy Givler

Amy Givler

Friday, 28 August 2009 16:17

LA Lawmakers Giving Cash for Grass

lawn freeLos Angeles just launched a new program that is aimed at reducing water use. Their innovative approach gives a $1 rebate for every square foot of turf to people who replace their lawns with drought tolerant groundcovers or native plants that require a maximum of 15” of water per square foot per year. The program has already been implemented in Las Vegas where officials estimate they will save 7 billion gallons of water per year. I love this plan. There’s nothing more boring than a lawn, and if you’re unfortunate enough to have to care for one, you know how annoying it is to mow it. They also dirty up our water system with all the herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers people use to keep them pretty. And, according to the US EPA, gas mowers represent 5% of US air pollution and use 800 million gallons of gas per year. And, if you’ve ever been to the LA area, you know that’s not a place where lawns are supposed to grow. It’s hot and dry; all you should really see is chaparral and other drought-tolerant plants. From Sustainablegardeningblog.com:
With very few exceptions, California’s residential and commercial lawns are all “exotics”, coming from outside of North America. These turfs include Tall Fescue (Europe), Blue Grass (Europe), Bermuda Grass (Africa), Zoysia (Philippines), Seashore Paspalum (tropical Americas), and St. Augustine (West Indies, West Africa). All of these grasses come from areas with much higher rainfall than California. Of these, tall fescue is our most common landscape turfgrass state-wide, and this grass type is also one of the most water-requiring, using upwards of 40” to 50” of water per square foot per year.
But should we all just get rid of our lawns? Maybe not. Lawns still provide an essential filtration service, cleaning rain water before it empties into reservoirs and groundwater sources. They also mitigate that hot summer heat generated by city streets and buildings. And there are still those suburbs that need their white picket fences and impeccably cut lawns. Certainly, some regions can easily grow grass without using enormous amounts of water and chemicals. Sustainablegardeningblog.com recommends using water-friendly turf, such as a native Carex or buffalograss. Researchers at UC Davis and Riverside have developed a type of buffalograss called ‘UC Verde’ that has been shown to get by on just 12” of water per year, resulting in 75% water savings over regular lawns. Check out the section on Lawn Reduction and Lawn Substitutes and The Great American Delawning Movement from Sustainable-gardening.com to read about how to create a lawn-free yard. Or if you have to keep your lawn, use a sustainable lawn maintenance company like Clean Air Lawn Care.
Kimberly-Clark has set a goal to source all of its paper goods from sustainably-forested or recycled wood. That means the next time you buy any paper product from them—even their flagship brand Kleenex—you’ll know that even trees can get victories these days. Here are the details:
  • By the end of 2011, Kimberly-Clark will ensure that 40 percent of its North American tissue fiber – representing an estimated 600,000 tones – is either recycled or FSC certified.
  • Also by the end of 2011, Kimberly-Clark will eliminate the purchase of any fiber from the Canadian Boreal Forest that is not FSC certified.
Read more about the “Kleercut” campaign, which was lead by Greenpeace, on their blog. Canada's Boreal Forest is a huge carbon sink for north America. It covers 1.3 billion acres, 80% of which is untrammeled by roads and logging. This is a huge victory for the climate, but I have to express my sadness that we will not get more discussions like this classic one from Fox News. Sign, but we can remember...enjoy!
Thursday, 18 February 2010 08:27

Green Joins Gold, Silver, and Bronze

With all the primetime excitement of the 2010 Olympics it is easy to forget that this year’s Winter Games are trying also to be more focused on eco-friendliness and sustainability. The Vancouver Games began in some sense in the shadow of their 2008 summer counterpart which left high praise for Beijing’s city-wide clean up and integration of long-term sustainable transportation. It is apparent that Vancouver's Olympic Organizing Committee has followed through on the majority of its sustainability plans thus far. By using pre-existing facilities and channeling clean-energy production Vancouver is well on its way to reducing over 110,000 metric tons of direct carbon emissions. Concerns arose with last minute snow relocation to barren slopes, but VANOC insists that it will boost the carbon footprint by less than one percent. Even the medals themselves are more environmentally friendly. In an Olympic first, the medals will contain gold, silver and copper recovered from end-of-life electronics otherwise destined for the landfill. The Games' green performance will also be reviewed by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in an Environmental Assessment Report which will be published later in 2010.
Following on the heels of Obama’s State of the Union Address, the White House announced that the federal government is taking steps to cut its energy use and reduce its heat-trapping, greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2020. The government, the largest user of energy resources in the country, would save $8 to $11 billion in energy costs over the course of the next decade. Federal agencies are beginning to invest in clean energy technologies, such as tapping landfills for renewable energy, putting energy management systems in government buildings, and replacing older vehicles with more fuel efficient hybrid models. “As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient,” President Obama said in a statement encouraging job creation and pollution reduction technologies. For a full list of agencies and their plans to reduce pollution and increase efficiency visit: www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/20100128-ceq-agency-stories.pdf
Don’t be fooled by this winter’s exceptional snowfalls, global warming is still real, warns a prominent scientist at Duke University.    Despite the snowy pummeling the US received, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climate Data Center reports that January 2010 was one of the warmest Januarys on record. Temperatures were about half a degree Fahrenheit above the long-term averages in the chilly US while South Africa, Australia and Brazil suffered from excessive heat waves. “This pattern of warmer temperatures and stronger storms is consistent with climate models that show global warming will bring more extreme weather, specifically more severe storms with greater amounts of precipitation,” says  William L. Chameides, dean of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Additionally, climate scientists are still reeling from leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in November 2009. The documents were apparent proof to skeptics that scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change.  But Chameides asserts that “careful, objective, complete reading of the scientific literature reveals the scientific evidence that the globe is warming – and that this warming is connected to human activities – remains strong.”
farmersmarketMany consumers have started to make more climate-friendly decisions about their food. This has led to increased access to farmers markets all over the country, which provide access to healthy fruits and vegetables to urban markets and an income for small farmers. Check out LocalHarvest.org to see if you have a farmers market in your town. Or, if you prefer to garden yourself, see if you have a community garden. From the UK to DC, there were a few great stories out this week about our food--how we can keep eating deliciously and more climate friendly. Tesco, a supermarket in the UK, started displaying the carbon footprint of their milk, and have pledged to measure another 500 products by the end of the year. It’s a part of a campaign to help their customers understand their carbon footprint better. You can also learn more about product labeling at our CarbonFree® Products page. Also, President Obama would be interested in a farmers market in front of the White House, where visitors can see what great produce we get in the Washington region—and perhaps get a snack that is more healthy and nourishing than the typical vendors tourists frequent. He said, "It gives suddenly D.C. more access to good, fresh food, but it also is this enormous potential revenue-maker for local farmers in the area." More excertps of his view here>>.
Behind the scenes at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) has worked on establishing and integrating 12 key sustainability efforts in the Winter Games. Along with raising awareness and encouraging carbon reductions from participants and viewers alike, they are the first Olympic Games to take an integrated approach to reducing and reporting their carbon footprint. VANOC has also incorporated LEED standards in venue design and construction, and focused on energy savings in transportation, food services, and waste management. VANOC has also managed to reduce its carbon footprint through supporting projects in Vancouver’s province, British Columbia. The 2010 Carbon Legacy Portfolio will source and support carbon offsets from BC-based clean technologies. These include biomass gasification systems for renewable heat and power production and high-efficiency commercial building heating systems. Additionally, the Organizing Committee  launched the 2010 Sustainability Stars program. The program recognizes projects by Games partners and sponsors that demonstrate positive and measurable social, economic and environmental impacts. You can visit this site to learn more about VANOC's efforts.
Wednesday, 03 February 2010 13:23

Copenhagen Climate Pledges May Not Be Enough

The January 31 deadline for nations to submit their emissions reduction pledges has passed, but the UN feels that it may not be enough to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising beyond the approximately two-degree target temperature established during the Copenhagen climate conference held in December. Fifty-five nations, including China, the US, India, as well as the European Union, have submitted their goals in reducing emissions. Together they produce about 78 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and have varying commitment letters pledging to reduce emissions anywhere from 17 percent to 45 percent by 2020. Developed countries also made commitments supporting financial assistance to less developed countries to adapt to climate change. Despite the efforts being made by nations worldwide, some analysts believe that efforts have fallen short as a result of emissions not being cut enough and the lack of a legally binding treaty. Regardless of both the positive and negative reviews, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer believes that the pledges sent in by the January 31 deadline should at least help to reinvigorate negotiations toward a stronger agreement on climate and hopes that a more binding pact can be completed at the UN climate conference in Mexico City at the end of this year.
Tuesday, 13 October 2009 11:23

#ClimateTuesday is Here!

#ClimateTuesday is here and we’re taking over facebook and twitter. Today is the day to invite your friends and supporters to get involved in a 350 event. Can we make #climatetuesday a trending topic? Can we double our registrations for the event? I think we can! On October 24, events are happening in over 150 nations across the world. In Botswana, the Maru-a-Pula school will be hosting a Green Drive “to change attitudes and lifestyle of our students and our community.” They will be launching a new recycling center, promoting their organic garden and a strong treaty in Copenhagen. In the Maldives, a country whose citizens will lose their homes and way of life if we don’t reach this goal, a team of divers will build an artificial reef shaped like the three numbers: 3, 5 and 0. (They've produced an awesome video.) In Washington DC, local leaders and activists will be marching to the White House to call on Obama and the nation to get a strong international treaty. Not half-measures or baby steps, but a comprehensive global deal on protecting the earth’s climate. Find an event in your area, and help us spread the word! If you are in DC and reaching out to DC folks, here’s the DC event: http://bit.ly/381tFG DC tweet: RT @Carbonfundorg: #climatetuesday action: join @350 on facebook & join events around the world on Oct. 24th ! http://bit.ly/381tFG #green #climatebill For those outside of DC, here’s the main 350 event: http://bit.ly/1pUcwZ National Tweet: RT @Carbonfundorg: #climatetuesday action: join @350 on facebook & join events around the world on Oct. 24th ! http://bit.ly/1pUcwZ #green #climatebill People talking about #climatetuesday on Twitter
International climate change negotiations received an unexpected blow when the UN's top climate change official, Yvo de Boer, announced he will step down from the post as of July 1. A Dutch national, de Boer was appointed as the Executive Secretary of The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in September 2006. De Boer has been largely well regarded during his time in the position and is widely credited with raising the profile of climate negotiations and delivering a series of breakthroughs towards a deal. Though in recent months, the UNFCCC and their seminal reports produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have come under fire. While the science that underpins the IPCC studies remains strong, slight errors in the IPCC reports have raised the ire of global warming detractors. In a statement, de Boer announced he will take up a post as global adviser on climate and sustainability at consultancy giant KPMG, adding that it is the private sector that will ultimately deliver the deep cuts in carbon emissions that are required. “Copenhagen did not provide us with a clear agreement in legal terms, but the political commitment and sense of direction toward a low-emissions world are overwhelming. This calls for new partnerships with the business sector and I now have the chance to help make this happen,” said de Boer. His successor is expected to be named in the next few months.
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