Summer Landscaping

Summer Landscaping the Eco-Friendly Way

When summer begins to take hold, it becomes more important than ever to mow, water, and fertilize a lawn and tend to your landscaping to keep it looking great. However, that green, luscious lawn that you might work quite hard to maintain is not the best thing for the environment. “Green” is not always green, in this regard. More often, all your labor and expenses wind up producing a lot of waste and having a negative impact on Mother Earth.

Here are six great tips for keeping your garden eco-friendly:

  • Plant more trees. This tip comes with a multitude of benefits. First, you can create shaded spots in your yard without having to install a costly gazebo or extend your verandah. The natural appeal of your property can also increase when you plant the right types of trees. Strategically placing those trees can also help to protect some parts of your home from the heat of the summer sun. This will keep your power bill down as you won’t need to spend as much on keeping your home cool.


April 2, 2017
renewable kitchen cabinets

Be Green in Your Kitchen

People looking for environmentally sound kitchens can start with eating things that are sustainably sourced, but that is not where you should stop. Using a range of cooking, cleaning, and even building methods that are low on resource consumption will help to keep the planet as healthy as possible. If you choose to use products that are free of harsh chemicals and made with renewable kitchen cabinets and materials instead, you can have a truly green kitchen that you will be proud of.

3 Quick Tips for Green Kitchens

  • Electric or Gas Cooking? The choice between electric and gas can cause a lot of confusion. While natural gas is not a renewable form of energy, and it is drawn from the planet, the same can be said about most electricity that’s generated in the US. The same goes for a lot of other countries too. This comes from the burning of coal, which is not eco-friendly in the slightest. Many chefs prefer gas for cooking, making it an obvious choice. Since you can turn it on and off instantly, there is little waste there. If you prefer to use an electric stove and oven, go for one that uses induction technology. This uses electromagnetic power to transfer the heat right onto your pots and pans. Compared to a traditional electric cooking element, this will use around half as much power.


March 8, 2017
Green Kitchen Design

Top Ideas for Your Green Kitchen Design

Have Plenty of Storage

If you really want to cut down on waste, and costs, buy in bulk when you can. This means that you’re going to need enough space to store extra cooking ingredients and other things. When you buy your food from the bulk bins at your local market, it means there is less packaging used in the process. On top of that, you won’t need to keep driving down to the store to buy smaller lots of food. This doesn’t just go for things that can be eaten either. You can buy your other kitchen products in bulk, like washable towels for cleaning up spills and wiping down your kitchen benches.

Cook in Bulk

Many people don’t even factor in how they are going to cook when they’re working one a newer, greener kitchen design. Cooking large meals in bulk is so much more efficient than cooking just one meal at a time, especially if you are only cooking for yourself. It doesn’t use much more power, if any extra at all. However, you will need to have a kitchen area that can handle the larger pots and pans, and the extra washing up and preparation that comes with making huge meals all at once. You will need extra prep’ space, not to mention somewhere to store all of your extra food. If that means having a larger freezer, you’re going to need to consider how that will affect your eco-friendly kitchen design.


February 21, 2017
Green Practices

9 Green Practices for Small Business

It is important to have as many offices using green practices as possible if we are to be serious about saving the earth’s resources.  Even if you are only a small studio such as a web designer there are many easy ways you can achieve sustainability and reduce your carbon footprint. Here are just some of them.

  • Use natural daylight as much as possible by choosing a room with a large window and locating your desk in a way that this can be utilised. Hint: don’t sit with your back to it as that will throw your shadow over your work. Facing the window can give you a glare headache, so sit at an angle.
  • Use a computer monitor that is backlit so there is no light reflection on the screen from the windows.


October 9, 2016
Wedding Reception

Making Your Wedding Reception Green

A green wedding reception is not about colour, but about saving the earth’s resources. There are several really easy ways to ensure you  practice sustainability with your wedding reception apart from hiring a photo booth for paperless, chemical free photos. That is certainly a good start and will save on the cost of the photographer as well, but don’t stop there when there are heaps of other great ideas to implement.

Use one place

For instance, you can have the wedding ceremony and the reception at one and the same venue. This will save your 100 or so guests making the trip from one place to another.  Think how much fuel that will save. You could also choose a venue that offers accommodation so that those guests who have travelled a long way to your wedding won’t have to make even more trips; they won’t even have to drive back to their separate accommodation after the reception is over. This is an especially good choice if alcohol will be available at your reception as it is for most, and if the guests are known to consume lots.


September 9, 2016
Save on Electricity

14 Ways to Save on Electricity

Saving on the use of electricity is not only a way to save money, but great for sustainability. Many people these days organise an electrician perth to install solar systems for their power needs, but this is still quite expensive and it takes a while to recoup your investment. If you intend to stay in the house for 10 or more years, that will allow you to recoup, but if you are planning to move soon, don’t go to the expense; you are not likely to get it back in the sale price.

However, there are many other ways to save on the use and thus, the cost of electricity and in doing so, you help save the earth’s resources. Here are some tips to help you.


March 19, 2016
Lawn Maintenance

Earth Saving Lawn Maintenance Tips

Make Your Lawn Extra Green

When it comes to landscaping your garden having a green lawn isn’t all about how lush and literally green the grass is. It is lovely to have a well maintained lawn, and walking without shoes on over your well groomed turf is something special. However, with the dwindling amount of fresh water available on the planet, and the rising levels of harsh chemicals that are finding their ways into the planet and waterways each year, having a large lawn can be incredibly un-green if you’re not careful.

Choose the Right Grass

You might not be able to choose a native type of turf, but finding something that thrives in your climate is important. This will reduce the amount of special attention that your lawn needs, such as cutting and watering. For example, if you live in a particularly hot part of the world, choose grass that does not need a lot of moisture to stay healthy. Talk to someone who is an expert in turf, so that you won’t plant the wrong type of lawn and have to rip it up and start again.


February 20, 2016
Moving Company

Choosing an Eco-Friendly Moving Company

Home removal companies are not traditionally known for their low impact on the environment. When you see those fleets of big trucks and think about all the gas they must use each day, it is easy to assume they are slowly and surely destroying the planet. Put those notions out of your head, as it’s a new era of green-friendly businesses. That goes for your local movers too. Of course, not all of them have changed to more eco-friendly practices. So, where can you start when looking to hire a green company for your home removals needs?

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

It is your right as a consumer to ask questions until you are satisfied that the job will be done to meet your needs. You will be spending hard-earned cash hiring a home removals company, so it is only fair to get what you want. And if that means hiring people who take the time and effort to show care for the planet we live on, then there is nothing wrong with that. The first step is finding a company that is fully certified. You should then be able to access their records to see if they have violated any safety laws or carried out any activity that is harmful to the environment.


December 18, 2015
Moving Home

Moving Home the Eco-Friendly Way

Moving home doesn’t have to be a wasteful and costly event. Look at these great tips for environmentally friendly removalists in Perth.

Be Flexible

Do you have a specific date in mind for moving? If you have a good reason for this, being flexible with your time and date might not be an option. Otherwise, don’t be stubborn about when you’re going to move. If you can let the movers fit you in when it suits them best, you might help to reduce waste that way. By allowing them to get the most of their driving time, slotting you in when they have other jobs in your area, you are making them use less gas.


August 29, 2015
Sustainability Tips for Beauty

11 Sustainability Tips for Beauty

When it comes to beauty and cosmetic surgery, most women have their favourite tips and tricks to ensure they make the most of their looks. However, you may not have thought of sustainability in the use of beauty products and practices. One good thing in making a few changes is that you’ll be avoiding some of those products that contain toxic ingredients, however small the quantity.

Whatever you put on your skin is absorbed into the body, so it’s wise to be careful with choosing only products that are organic. Here are some tips to ensure your beauty regime is as eco friendly as possible.

  • Coconut oil is a product that can be used in many ways when it comes to both sustainability and beauty needs. It can be used as a deep hair conditioner, a facial cleanser and a shaving cream that nourishes the skin while it is being used. It can also be used as a deodorant – and to cook with.


October 25, 2014
Office Green

How to Make Your Office Green

Whether your office is for digital marketing or anything else, there are ways to make it green, not just in how you work, but in the physical aspects of the office. Here are some things you can look at and when it is time to replace or renew them, make sure you choose sustainable or green products that will both help conserve the earth and make your office a safer and more pleasant place to work in.

  • Paintwork and other finishes. Make sure paint is free of toxic fumes that can waft through the office for everyone to breathe.
  • Carpets often have similar toxic fumes to paint. If the smell of new carpet is strong in the morning it is not the best choice. Try it out with a sample at home before you choose one for the office. Choose a carpet made from natural fibres for the best result.


April 26, 2014
Green Pools

Naturally Green Pools: Bring Nature Back to Your Swimming

Most home swimming pools are a strange thing when you think about it. They are popular and inviting, but seem to stick out in the most unnatural way. They are essentially a large hole that is filled with water, where nothing living can survive for long after harsh chemicals have been used to clean the water. This is far removed from the swimming holes that earlier people use to enjoy. Do you ever stop to wonder if we needed to get so far from our natural way of swimming and relaxing in the water?

A new trend has emerged and it’s taking the world by storm. Green pools, which are also called natural pools, are changing the way that people look at the backyard swimming pool. You can have a pool that’s closer to the natural way, and create a private little oasis that isn’t going to destroy the world that you live in.


December 18, 2013
Home Removal

Smarter, Greener Alternatives for Home Removal

You would be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t looking for way to lighten their spending. Luckily, going green and being frugal are often directly compatible. So, take a look at some of these smart, forward-thinking ideas for extra green home removals.

How Far Are You Moving?

If you really want to put the environment first, think about how much gas is going to be used if you choose to move to the other side of the state, or even the other side of the country. Many people don’t consider that their impact on the planet starts right from the planning stages, with almost everything they do. Do you really need to pick up and move hundreds of miles? Maybe you could find a place that’s closer that might be better. This is one method of reducing your carbon footprint that is so simple, many don’t even factor it in. Okay, it might not be practical to put your whole life on hold to reduce emissions and waste, but it is worth considering.


September 14, 2013
Digital Marketing

Why Digital Marketing is Ideal for Sustainability

Sustainability is all about reducing your carbon footprint, saving the earth’s resources and creating less waste to pollute the planet. But it is also different things to different businesses, depending on the industry, markets, supplies needed and processes used to manufacture goods or conduct business. This makes an SEO company or digital marketing business one of the easiest to ensure office sustainability is practiced. Here’s why –

  • Digital marketing is all about being online. This takes a minimum amount of power and there are not many other costs used to conduct business
  • Clients are found online
  • Suppliers are found online
  • Products needed are few and they can be purchased online
  • Your service can be done online

All this means that your business can be set up at home and this, of course, is the ideal way to conduct a business because you don’t have to travel, thus saving the cost of fuel and the need for a conveyance with all its other associated costs. Fewer cars on the road also saves on the wear and tear on roads and the need to constantly upgrade and renew them. While you may think one car won’t make much difference, there are plenty of other people who can work from home too, so it all mount up.


April 5, 2013
Carpet Cleaning Tips

Green Carpet Cleaning Tips and Methods

With everything that gets thrown at the average home’s carpets, it’s no wonder that carpet cleaning Perth is a popular topic. And it’s also easy to see why there are so many different products on the market for keeping carpets clean. For those who would rather not do the job themselves, there are more different types of professional carpet cleaner services than you could count. With all of these different methods for getting something as humble and simple as your carpet back to a like-new state, people tend to lose sight of exactly what they are introducing into their homes and exposing their family and pets to in the process.

Carpet cleaning products can be made from some very nasty ingredients, and definitely not the sort of stuff you want to be walking around on every day. If you have stains and spills that you want to get rid of, you don’t have to reach for the store-bought products that are made with toxic chemicals. In fact, you can whip up your very own carpet cleaning spray at home, and use it to remove those difficult stains and dirt covered carpets.


January 2, 2013
Sustainability Practices in Business

The Reasons Behind Sustainability Practices in Business

Many businesses such as digital marketing companies jump on the green bandwagon by following sustainability guidelines in an effort to attract more clients, but this does not always work. For a start, adopting environmentally friendly practices – while often simple – does take at least some effort. If you are only doing it to get more customers and this doesn’t happen in a way you can quantify you’ll lose interest. Once that happens employees cannot be expected to get behind you.

It is important to have at least some enthusiasm for the concept rather than just for the results in terms of the bottom line. People don’t like to change the way they do things unless there is a good reason that they can agree is important. While employees may be mildly interested in your bottom line they are often more interested in their own, or in the way any change will affect them personally.


December 15, 2012
Outdoor Living

How an Outdoor Living Area can be Environmentally Friendly

Have you ever thought of creating a beautiful haven outdoors that can be used for rest and relaxation, entertaining family and friends or for alfresco meals with the family?  Such a place will add great value to your property and help to keep you healthy by offering a way to reduce your stress levels. We don’t usually consider sustainability when thinking of such a project, but in fact, having an outdoor haven with relaxing outdoor furniture can be considered eco-friendly. How?

When you make an outdoor place to enjoy, it needs to have some kind of floor to replace the grass. This is because grass would soon wear away if the place was used much, through feet trampling on it.  It is also quite wet after rain or dew and people often don’t want to walk on it and get their good shoes wet. Or their toes, if they are wearing sandals.


November 4, 2012

Feast of Fields Ticket Giveaway

Mark your calendars – it’s that time of year again, when the best chefs and food producers in our local communities come together to put on the delectable Feast of Fields event.

Held at various locales in British Columbia, this year is FarmFolk CityFolk’s 15th annual food celebration and fundraiser, with the Feast of Fields Vancouver Island event to be hosted at Alderlea Farm in Duncan on Sunday, Sept. 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. This is the seventh Feast of Fields to be held in the Cowichan Valley, and will showcase another delicious gourmet harvest. The culinary extravaganza has been hosted at numerous stunning Vancouver Island farms since 1998.

Apple Syrup

“I am thrilled to bring Feast of Fields back to the Cowichan Valley,” explains organizer Melanie Banas. “It’s really the heart of Vancouver Island with so many great foods and wines being produced by extraordinarily passionate people, farmers like John and Katy of Alderlea Farm.”

This year, there will be an estimated 60 local chefs, restaurants, wineries, breweries and producers at the festival, including 30 from the Cowichan Valley. Chef Brock Windsor of the Stone Soup Inn is promising to serve up an “unusual” local creation not regularly found on their menu. The Inn recently received bronze for best Vancouver Island restaurant in Vancouver Magazine’s Restaurant Awards.

The Unsworth Vineyards and Amuse Bistro, also from the Cowichan Valley, will be at the festival working side-by-side to offer a delectable treat paired with the wines from the vineyard, reflecting the unique character of the Valley.

Preparations are already underway at Alderlea Farm as owners John and Katy Ehrlich get ready to host the expected 900 or so visitors that the event draws each year. Feast of Fields is one of the largest and longest-standing food and wine festivals on Vancouver Island – and sells out every year.

The Vancouver Island Feast of Fields is all about finding ways to reconnect with, and celebrate food, while moving away from a highly automated centralized system of food production. It is a showcase of local food artisan expertise, and local food produce that really puts local agriculture first, and is deserving of everyone’s support. Did we also mention the food and beverages are simply divine?

We have two free tickets to giveaway to the Vancouver Island Feast of Fields festival. Send us an e-mail with your name and address and we will enter you into the contest. Simple as that!

The Vancouver Island Feast of Fields will be held Sunday, Sept. 16th from 1-4pm at Alderlea Farm, 3390 Glenora Road, Duncan.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit

Tickets are $85 for adults, $15 for youth ages seven to 12, with free admission for children six and under. You can purchase tickets online at or in person at the Community Farm
in Duncan. is a proud sponsor of the Vancouver Island Feast of Fields.

September 3, 2012

Farm Sanctuary Internship

It’s week one of my internship at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California, and, I have to say, I am already having the most incredible experience.

There are many animal welfare organizations that I admire, but Farm Sanctuary has always been at the top of my list. In addition to their advocacy and making great strides in improving legislation for farm animals, Farm Sanctuary has a reputation for a successful hands-on approach to rehabilitation, healing, and providing refuge for injured farm animals. And seeing it happen firsthand — and being part of it — is a phenomenal experience.

Previous Animal Rights Activism

I have been an animal rights activist for years, but there is a difference between signing petitions, attending protests, opting to not eat animal products, and actually caring for the animals damaged in our overly industrialized and extremely cruel food production system.

I don’t believe there is a hierarchy of importance in animal rights work, but working directly with the animals, as opposed to lobbying various institutions or governmental bodies for change, was something that increasingly appealed to my partner and I after we cared for ten chickens rescued from a battery hen facility in Western Canada. Seeing how damaged these chickens were was definitely an life-changing moment for me.

Internship Application Process

I applied for an internship at one of the three facilities that Farm Sanctuary operates within the United States (with shelters also located in New York and Los Angeles). Although there were communications/education positions better suited to my occupation as a journalist, I opted to apply for the internship where you get to work directly with the animals (Shelter Internship). I wanted to again experience the deep satisfaction you get from direct contact with animals.

I completed my application online, had an extensive telephone interview, and was accepted. I think it was one of the happier days of my life to find out that I would be interning during June and July 2012 at Farm Sanctuary.

So, here I am after one week at the beautiful Orland, California, sanctuary, nestled on 300 acres of rolling golden hills, dotted with multiple barns, enclosures, pastures, and roughly 600 animals, including donkeys, sheep, cattle, chickens, geese, ducks, goats, and pigs. The animals’ stories and histories are diverse, and their health conditions vary greatly, but most share the commonality of a previous life that involved great suffering.

The Sanctuary

Although I tried not to have expectations prior to arriving, it was difficult not to fantasize about what the internship would entail. Even though I was sent extensive information outlining what the program would look like, including examples of typical work days, I think I was a bit naïve in thinking everybody sat around all day hugging animals and talking about how great it is to be vegan.

This is a working sanctuary where the staff is truly dedicated to helping animals, and, for many, it is a vocation. There are the lobbying and educational components, but the majority of time here is spent caring for and loving the animals. The level of care here is very high; it entails a great deal of work to heal, rehabilitate, and maintain the animals that live at the farm.


A Typical Day

Many people have asked me what a typical day is like, but, so far, each day has been different. The first week has been spent mostly training the new interns in the various aspects of keeping the shelter running.

We work five days a week and have two days off; shifts start roughly at 7 or 8 a.m. and continue until 4 or 5 p.m., with a two-hour lunch break. Occasionally, there is a night shift where you assist in putting the animals to bed, making sure the smaller creatures are safely secured for the evening. Many of the animals are vulnerable to predators and much attention is needed to ensure everyone is safe and accounted for.

I have cleaned stalls, barns, and coops; gathered eggs; brushed goats; put sunscreen on pigs’ ears; delivered food and water to the animals; played with a calf who is currently in isolation due to contagious infections; helped get a rattlesnake out of one of the barns; prepared special treats and snacks for the animals; done vast amounts of laundry; cleaned the hospital and isolation areas; and swept floors — and I still had time to hold and hug the animals!

The days are long, and the work can be challenging. I have bruises and scrapes from tussles with the feistier and overly affectionate animals, and I end each shift tired and more than a little dirty, but I have never been in such a rewarding environment.

Our Community

I live with six other interns in communal housing, and I am now part of a community where I don’t have to explain why I am vegan or think animals are important. I spend my days working hands-on, caring for the animals that were once viewed as disposable in an industrialized food system. There have been moments that fill me with joy, like putting sunscreen on pigs’ ears, and moments that have challenged me to stay present, such as assisting with attending to serious injuries — but not a minute goes by that I am not grateful for my decision to come here.

I feel nurtured by the community here and from spending my days with the animals. It’s only been a week, and my internship will last just two months, but I am already wondering what it would be like to spend my life working in an environment such as this, where my work is rewarding, my colleagues are loving and like-minded, I don’t have to question whether my work is causing any harm, and I can embody right livelihood in the truest sense.


I feel like I have finally found a community, albeit a temporary one, that already feels so comfortable and right that I am going to spend the rest of my life seeking similar situations in which I can see, firsthand, the results of efforts to alleviate animal suffering. Although I will always continue to sign petitions, attend protests, contribute financially to animal rights organizations, and lobby governmental bodies for better conditions for farm animals, I am now certain that I also want to continue to work directly with animals.

I will blog more in the coming weeks, giving updates and insights into life as a Farm Sanctuary intern in California. Please leave comments and questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them in my next entry.

For more information, visit

Valerie Williams is a writer from Salt Spring Island, Canada, who is currently interning at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California.

Photography by Adrienne Szamotula:

September 2, 2012
Wedding Favours

Ideas for Eco-Friendly Wedding Favours

There are plenty of ways to make your wedding eco friendly, reduce the carbon footprint it creates and generally give Mother Earth a helping hand. You can always hire a photo booth to save on the cost of a photographer and on the harsh chemicals some use in developing non-digital prints. However, one area of the wedding is really easy to go green with and that is the wedding favours that each guest takes home at the end of the reception.

Much of the time these favours are just rubbish that people don’t want. But you can make yours count in a way you may not expect and neither will your wedding guests. Here are some ways to make wedding favours not enjoyable, but also eco friendly.


August 9, 2012

The Wheat Grass Machine

The Transform Bar, by Hong Kong-based artist Kacey Wong, is a recycled wood hawker booth where you can grow wheat grass and Wong will make you healthy juices from fresh produce.

The Transform Bar footprint is only 3ft by 4ft (0.9m x1.2m), with wheat grass planters mounted on the exterior walls. The planters can be moved outside to provide more space inside the booth, display the wheat grass or to take advantage of sunlight to grow faster.

The wheat grass juice vendor blends apple juice and wheat grass, bringing awareness to our food source and extending art appreciation to the sense of taste and consumption. Healthy living choices go hand-in-hand with recycled sustainability.

Wong’s inspiration for the Transform Bar came from Hong Kong street hawkers’ stalls that extend and retract their merchandise dependent upon the time of day. The hawker booths are only 3ft by 4ft (0.9m x1.2m), so the Hong Kong market hawker has to be flexible with their offerings and stock the right products in order to make a living. This reflects life in Hong Kong where success and survival depends on being adaptive with the environment through transformation.

June 19, 2012

Dog Drinking Fountain

The Doggie Fountain is great way to provide cool, fresh water for your dog companion, especially as summer approaches.

Your faithful dog companions, and perhaps the occasional raccoon, fox or other intelligent four-legged friends, might also learn to get their own fresh and safe drinking water using the Doggie Fountain. It is way better than a dog bowl that gets too hot during the day, gets knocked over, or gummed up with all sorts of garden muck.

The Doggie Fountain connects to your garden hose using a Y-splitter shut off valve at the spigot so you can still use your garden hose and your dog can have a drink at the same time. The water height can be adjusted and the footpad is stainless steel so it won’t break and resists rusting.

Your dog friend might need some encouragement and practice to use it at first, but will quickly turn into the envy of the neighborhood pack. It costs US$29.95 (€22.70).

Via Bless This Stuff

June 18, 2012

Shell Arctic Ready Spoof

The Yes Men have been up to their tricks again, staging a faux Shell Arctic drilling launch party called ‘Let’s Go!’ in the Seattle Space Needle. During the  event, an alcohol-spouting oilrig replica failed and leaked over the guest of honor.

As part of the Yes Men’s hilarious spoof, a fake Shell website was also created, called Arctic Ready, and it brings together images and materials that mock Shell’s real Arctic exploration program in Alaska.

There is a lot of tongue-in-cheek commentary at the Yes Men website, such as in the Kid’s Section where they explain that its right to be sad about the ice melting but also glad because Shell ‘can go up there to get more oil, which can do a whole lot of things’ such as allow Mommy and Daddy to drive to the store in their SUV to buy you new toys.

Guest of honors included  84yr old Occupy activist Dorli Rainey (pepper sprayed by Seattle Police during the Occupy protests), along with Occupy “infiltrator” Logan Price, and Greenpeace, who have an injunction against any Greenpeace activist coming within 1km (1093 yards) of any Shell vessel.

The failed drilling rig model represented the Kulluk, which was made by the same company that made the Deepwater Horizon rig that blew up in the Gulf oil disaster.

The Kulluk is actually 20 years older that the Deepwater Horizon (though the rig age was not necessarily part of the problem in the Gulf) and was once going to be sold for scrap, according to the Yes Men, but is now due to start drilling exploration wells in the shallow Arctic ocean waters which are now largely ice free due to global warming.


June 18, 2012

To Bee Or Not To Bee

Canada has been suffering unusually high losses of bees each winter since 2006. That’s the year when a new and unexplained set of symptoms called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) began to be recognized. The impact to the hive colony was the large-scale disappearance of the worker bees.

Very high commercial honeybee losses have continued since then, with 30.9% of hives lost in Canada in 2010/11. This doesn’t include the serious decline of wild bees or other pollinators. Various infectious organisms, including two species of fungus from the genus Nosema, have received most of the blame; but taken alone they do not account for the symptoms of CCD.

Scientists agree that there must be multiple factors involved. For years there has been strong evidence that one of the culprits may be a family of insecticides called “neonicotinoids” (so named for their similarity to nicotine). They include the world’s number-one selling insecticide, Imidacloprid (an insect neurotoxin), and its best-known relatives, Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam – all of which are widely used in agriculture.

From the time they first came on the market, starting in 1995, these chemicals were known to be highly toxic to bees. However, only in 2010 and 2011 have researchers in the US and France found that the combination of low doses of neonicotinoids and Nosema infection significantly weaken bees, and cause more deaths than Nosema alone.

In early 2012, researchers from Purdue University investigated bee deaths in Indiana that occurred around corn planting time. The corn seeds were first treated with Clothianidin and/or Thiamethoxam, and then coated with talc to lubricate the seeds’ flow through the planting machines. The machines blow large amounts of talc into the air as they plant. The scientists discovered that the insecticides were concentrated in the talc to a level 700,000 times the lethal contact dose for a bee.

Canada’s Pest Management

Regulatory Agency (PMRA) registers pesticides for use in Canada. Its evaluations are based mostly upon studies provided by the applicants: the agrichemical companies that make millions of dollars from selling the products. Even when the studies are insufficient and the PMRA requires the companies to do more research, the agency may provide “conditional” or “temporary” registrations.

Canada Puts Labels on Containers

In 2007, there were 33 registrations for Imidacloprid products, plus four applications; five years later there are 47 registrations and 24 applications. The brand names include Admire, Genesis, Alias, Grapple, Gaucho, Concept, and Stress Shield. The crops on which they can be used have also expanded to cover a wide range of vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits. Yet there are presently no PMRA evaluation documents environmental impacts of Imidacloprid dated later than 2001, even though the registrations were said to be “temporary pending further studies.”

Under Re-evaluation Since 2009

The author obtained information from the PMRA that Imidacloprid has been under re-evaluation since 2009. However, there is no indication of any apparent effort to inform the public. The author sought relevant documents under the Access to Information Act, but the request has been referred to the Health Canada Media Relations‘ staff, as is now the policy for all journalists’ inquiries.”

What we do know, as posted on the PMRA website, is that in 2010 the agency received at least three reports of unusually high bee mortality in Quebec. The investigation reports state that it was “highly probable” that the deaths were due to Clothianidin or Thiamethoxam.

To date the PMRA data base shows a total of 81 registrations for five neonicotinoid insecticides: Imidacloprid, Acetamiprid, Clothianidian, Thiacloprid and Thiamethoxam. Of these, 33 are for agricultural use, the rest are being used on trees, golf courses and lawns, in greenhouses, and as flea and tick treatments for pets.

Canada’s pest management agency rationalizes these approvals by claiming that the risk to bees is “mitigated” by putting labels on the products that prescribe safe application rates and practices. Such labels tell farmers not to apply the insecticide when plants are in flower or bees are nearby. However, this ignores the fact that the neonicotinoids are systemic insecticides that are absorbed into every part of the plant; neonicotinoids that coat the seed at planting time are transported to the pollen and nectar.

Value to Food Production

In every case, these pesticides are approved for use on the basis of their “value” to human food production and other benefits. But there has been no serious consideration of what the loss of bees takes away from food production.

A study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) found that some 100 crop species provide 90% of food worldwide, and 71 of these are bee-pollinated.

The collapse of domestic and wild bee populations would be simply disastrous for the human race. This is why a number of scientific teams have been racing to determine the cause of their decline; yet, in the name of protecting food, the PMRA and other agencies in the US and Canada are ignoring the evidence – at the very time when climate change and peak oil already pose serious and massive threats to food security.

Anne Sherrod is a director of the Valhalla Wilderness Society. She has been writing on environmental issues for 35 years. To Bee Or Not To Bee was previously published in the Watershed Sentinel, the independent voice for environmental news in British Columbia. Visit:

June 17, 2012

Exile Mobile Homes

Exile’ is Cuban artist José Ángel Vincench’s current art installation at the 11th Havana Biennial Art Exhibition which is held every two years in Cuba, and is aimed at promoting “Third World” contemporary art, giving voice to unheard and ignored artists.


Vincench’s five mobile homes spell out the word ‘exile’, and the empty trailers symbolically represent individuals who live outside of their own country either due to politics, censorship, or just for personal reasons such as income to support families left behind in their home country.


The ‘Exile’ Exhibit is part of Vincench’s ‘las casas bonitas tienen familia‘, and will be shown at the 11th Havana Biennial Art Exhibition, Cuba until June 11th, 2012.

Other world artists, especially Latin American and Caribbean, will have their work on display. The theme of the 11th Havana Biennial Art Exhibition is the behavior of the relationship between visual productions and social imagery, in how people imagine their social space and express themselves through cultural and historical references.

Visit: José Ángel Vincench

Via DesignBoom

June 17, 2012

Underwater Sculptures

Renowned sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor has a series of limited edition prints, sculptures and films on display in an exhibition at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York June 30 to July 28, 2012.

Some of his underwater sculptures are true masterpieces. Using high strength pH-neutral cement and tensile stainless steel coral anchoring points; The Phoenix is the first kinetic sculpture in the MUSA Cancun collection. Based on a female form, her wings are propagated with living purple fan coral that continuously moves back and forth underwater, filtering nutrients from the water column. The fan coral is often naturally uprooted and dislodged during strong storms and this coral was from rescued fragments found on nearby sand bars. The sculpture is orientated into the prevailing current and the wings of the Phoenix appears to beat with the natural cycle of the waves.


May 26, 2012

Shadowlands Fukushima

Shadowlands is a Greenpeace presentation of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the displaced people, and the human cost of a serious nuclear accident and features the work of award-winning photographer Robert Knoth and documentary maker Antoinette de Jong.

“The Fukushima nuclear disaster is having a dramatic impact on the environment and the lives of the people from a wide area around the nuclear plant,” explained Knoth. “We sought to document this through landscape and portrait photography, as well as interviews with people from the affected region – some of whom may never be able to return to their homes. What we found was a profound sense of loss.”

Shadowlands by Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong, in conjunction with Greenpeace.

Since March 11 2011, Greenpeace have monitored radiation contamination on the environment, food and seafood, highlighting the fact that the Japanese authorities consistently under-report the Fukushima radiation levels.

“The Fukushima nuclear disaster happened because the Japanese authorities failed to protect people, instead choosing to protect the nuclear industry. For this reason, people in Japan continue to be exposed to radiation hazards, even a year later. They have not been compensated for all they have lost, and they have not received the support they need to rebuild their lives,” explained Jan Beránek, head of Greenpeace International’s energy campaign. “This reminds us that millions of people living near reactors anywhere in the world are at risk of suffering the same consequences of a major nuclear disaster.”

Shadowlands by Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong, in conjunction with Greenpeace.

The Shadowlands‘ photos capture beautiful landscapes but 150,000 were evacuated from the Fukushima area, leaving behind a haunted town, full of memories but no human life.

“Nature is already taking over. In the early morning, monkeys look for food on the outskirts of villages, wild boars roam the fields, cranes majestically soar over breath-taking scenery, and there is silence,” said Knoth.

Greenpeace is calling on the Japanese government to not restart any nuclear plants and for a global phase out of inherently dangerous nuclear reactors.


May 23, 2012

Veganism for Kids

Propaganda, brainwashing and child abuse!” Who knew that children’s books could provoke such charges? My first book, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, was internationally well-received, but also caused some controversy—garnering attacks in online parenting forums, animal agriculture trade magazines, and even from Farm Bureau CEOs.

My latest picture book Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action is on the same track…and I do admit, I revel in the public discussion. I have always been interested in the underbelly of things, and each case of opposition to my books provides me the opportunity to study the invisible forces that shape public thinking about children, food, health, and animals. Where do these concerns come from? Why the outcry over a book about veganism and not the USDA’s food pyramid?

With several years worth of case analyses under my belt, I’ve found that at the root of opposition to teaching kids about veganism and animal rights is, most simply, fear and unawareness.

We tend to shelter children from the “adult” world because we fear shattering a fragility we imagine they inherently possess. We follow this concept of childhood because we’ve inherited it from the Victorian age—not because it constitutes a universal outlook about children. Throughout history and the world, different cultures consider their children to have capabilities beyond what we acknowledge here in the West. In some cultures kids are contributing members of the community by the time they’re age four—watching siblings, pounding grain, helping collect firewood. Kids are more competent and sturdy than we think. Surprised parents have repeatedly told me that their child reacted with curiosity—not fear—when they learned about factory farming in my books. During readings, I’ve never once seen a child overwhelmed—only the adults.

Kids learn when we teach them. But today, there is a fine line between education and advertising. With constant media and technological stimulation, and corporate infiltration into nearly every aspect of life, kids are being “educated” by biased messaging hundreds of times a day—most successfully by whomever has the most money to spend.  Seventy-five percent of government subsidies, for example, go to the meat and dairy industries while less than half a percent goes to fruits and vegetables. The Milk Mustache campaign, driven by the National Milk Processor Board (administered by the USDA) spent $190 million in 1998.

Colluding industry-led campaigns like these are not just for fun. They are highly effective, causing massive increases in demand— in this case, billions of pounds of fluid milk. It is these profit-seeking systems that should draw outcry about propaganda and brainwashing, not children’s books about choices alternative to the status quo.

Today’s generation will need sharpened critical-thinking skills to navigate through this increasingly clandestine corporate world. This is one of the main reasons why I wrote Vegan Is Love and exactly why I believe kids need guidance at an early age to help them make educated choices as they mature. This book is about the personal agency of people—big and small—in creating a more actively compassionate, sustainable world. It is about what anyone can do, on any day, to help instead of harm. I believe that when kids understand the options we have with food, clothing, entertainment, and the dollars we spend, they choose wisely. But they can’t make choices if they don’t know there have any.

Today, unless you grow up to work behind the scenes or you actively seek out the truth in your youth, it is likely you’ll grow into adulthood without learning the degree of collusion, for example, between government and big pharma, agriculture, and food corporations in getting us to abide by their guidelines and consume their products. When the level of their organization and calculation becomes clear, the reality is dizzying.

The revolving door between the FDA, the USDA, the Department of Health, Monsanto, large processed food corporations, and pharmaceuticals ensures the alignment of public services and education with industry interests. From elementary grades to graduate programs, everything from school events to lectures, vending machines, textbooks, and curriculums are known to be organized for potential gain by colluding industries.

Conventional doctors receive as little as six hours of nutritional training. Nutritional degree programs accredited by the American Dietetic Association regularly receive sponsorship from corporate giants like Monsanto, the National Dairy Council, Aramark, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo. Under these circumstances, neither moral nor ethical imperatives of veganism, nor the environmental destruction and toxicity caused by eating meat and dairy may enter into mainstream nutritional knowledge. Neither will the cognitive and emotional lives of animals be much considered in the food pyramid. Under these circumstances, it becomes easy not to care.

It is clear we can’t rely on our political leaders, CEOs, or major companies to fix anything—not the environment, our food, the economy, or our health. So it is up to us, individual citizens to create the change we wish to see. To be effective, we have to invite kids to the discussion.

We can’t afford to wait for the next generation to grow up before teaching them to live consciously. With children, sugarcoating or avoiding the real consequences of our choices only hinders what they are actually capable of. And hindering their capabilities delays the potential we have to green our society, improve our health, and do best for all living things.

It is crucial for the next generation to be exposed to alternative thinking and educational experiences that will allow them to compete with mainstream opinions about health, animals, and the environment as they grow into adulthood. By borrowing practices from the tenets of veganism, we can all learn how to live actively and consciously in an authentic, efficient, and far-reaching manner. I wrote Vegan Is Love for everyone who wants to learn how.

I believe in the capabilities of children. They need but little guidance in learning to love deeply, think critically, and act responsibly. I believe nothing should get in the way of this kind of education.

Ruby Roth is an American teacher and author of the That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals and the recently published Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action

May 23, 2012

Spherovelo Kid’s Bike

The Spherovelo Bicycle is a funky, fun, pre-school first bike for kids (one to three year olds) that is a safe approach to teaching children to ride and comes with removable internal stabilizers.

The Spherovelo is designed by a British company called Early Rider, based in Henley on Thames, England, but has a distinctly west coast style aesthetic.

With a simple design, and using stabilizing balls for first time learners, it can move in any direction, and the stabilizer balls can be removed, so it becomes unstable and the child learner then develops motor skills to balance themselves and keep it upright.

May 19, 2012

Seed Bomb Fashion

New York designers Brooklyn Industries and GreenAid have a new weapon to sow wild plants everywhere with their Seed Bomb Bracelets.

Using eco-friendly twine and three clay/compost beads loaded with wildflowers, when you throw your bracelet onto some urban earthy land, you might just be spreading some happiness along with some wild urban flowers.

May 18, 2012

Vegan Toilet Paper

Most people keep politics out of the bedroom, but how about the bathroom? People For The Ethical Treatment (PETA) have come up with a rather unusual way to grab people’s attention when they are sitting on the toilet. The often controversial animal rights’ organization has created an anti-meat toilet paper designed to raise awareness about the reality of meat production.

“Because of the filthy conditions on factory farms and the fact that slaughterhouse floors and fishing boats are often contaminated with feces, blood, and vomit, a great deal of meat is tainted with dangerous intestinal bacteria by the time it reaches the family dinner table,” explains PETA of their toilet paper.

PETA donates the toilet paper to communities and even government offices that are running low on paper and/or maybe they neglected to adequately budget for toilet paper in their yearly finances.

May 17, 2012

The Rainbow Machine

The Rainbow, a creation by artist and professor Michael Jones McKean, literally bathes The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, in Omaha, Nebraska in a shower of natural color.

In an exhibit entitled The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms Project. The human made rainbow illuminates the Bemis Center twice per day for 20 minutes, using rainwater harvested using expertise and hardware provided by Lindsay Corporation and Watertronics. McKean’s work emphasizes “….the placeless, celebratory, seductive and elusive qualities of Mother Nature’s spectacular rainbow”.

The rainbow is created using captured stormwater that is filtered and stored in six above-ground, 10,500 gallon (39,750 liter) water tanks. A 60hp (45kW) pump, powered by renewable energy, pressurizes the water in nine nozzles mounted to the 20,000sq.ft. (1,860sq.m) roof. The rainbow itself, dependent upon the angle of the sun and the weather conditions, can be seen from over 1000ft (330m) away, or from very  close up.

May 17, 2012

Farmhouse Hydro Concert

German artist and designer Heike Bottcher turned an old blue farmhouse into a hydro-driven symphony.

Dubbed the Court of Water, and located on the Dresden’s Kunsthof Passage farm collective, the innovative art installation uses water to turn the building, complete with a series of funnels, pipes and tubes, into a living hydro-powered concert. With no two performances ever the same.

April 12, 2012

Wind Turbine Photos

American artist Ellen Jantzen has created a series of stunning images that move beyond the cliché of documenting the legendary road trip.


“Think of all of those Route 66 photos; abandoned gas stations, derelict cars at the side of the road, ordinary “folks” sipping malts through a straw at the local drugstore. American flags everywhere, a few Confederate ones in certain locales. BBQ stands with folks lined up, spilling out onto the street, old movie marquees displaying “Easy Rider”,” explains the artist of her latest work.

Her haunting photos depict the newly evolving American landscape, one dotted with wind turbines and appropriately dubbed Point & Shoot @ 70MPH as Ellen takes her images from a moving car.

“The freeways/Interstates transverse spectacular scenery, much of it void of towns and car dealerships. There are farmhouses and barns, often at quite a distance and cows, but mostly open, native America to be glimpsed between the billboards announcing the next exit’s offerings,” she explains.


April 12, 2012

Baguette Furniture

Is there anything worse than a stale baguette? Only when it ends up in the garbage! Polish designers Gosia and Tomek Rygalik (Studio Rygalik) upcycled old baguettes to create tables dubbed the Bread Experience. The unusual table were made for the Vienna Design Week Laboratory.

In a world where food wastage is so high in many countries, taking a little of that food garbage and upcycling it is a great idea for repurpousing uneaten food.

April 10, 2012

Obese Dog Stairlift

Companion pets are becoming increasingly obese with busy pet owners not taking enough time to ensure their animal companions get enough exercise or eat properly. A new dog stairlift, dubbed the Stair of the Dog 2022, helps transport overweight animals up the stairs so they can sleep with their owners.

So, if you want to indulge your pet (and their extra poundage), buy them the stairlift and, at the touch of a doggie button that perhaps your pet could get to operate themselves, they get an easy ride up and down the stairs.

The UK device, costs around £5,000 (US$7,935 or €6060), and is designed by a UK insurance company in response to the prediction that dog obesity will rise from 33% at present with 52% of UK dogs expected to be dangerously overweight by 2022.

Though, the rise in obesity may not be all inflicted from overindulgent pet owners, with many human studies linking phthalates, found in shampoos, soaps, lotions, paint and pesticides, as well as soft plastics (maybe your doggie friends favorite chew toy) with absorption into the body can act as a endocrine disruptor that interrupts correct function of glands and hormones. So it may not be a surprise to find your pet companion suffering from some of the same household chemical products that are affecting their metabolism too.

While Stair of the Dog 2022 might be a good idea for injured pets, it surely can’t be a great idea for obese ones – more exercise, a natural diet, and not too many snacks nor treats would be a better place to time, energy and money.

Via More Than & Natural News

April 8, 2012

Algae Street Lamps

French biochemist Pierre Calleja has created large-scale algae powered street lamps that can potentially absorb more than one ton of CO2 a year.

Algae lamps can charge up batteries during the day through their photosynthesis process that is driven by the sun and nutrients. This stored power is then used at night to power lights. Calleja’s lamps can also be illuminated artificially, such as in dark underground parking lots, where the algae go to work absorbing all the CO2 emissions from the cars. Above ground or in homes, they use natural daylight.

Maybe a forest of these algae lamps in every city might go a long way to replace all the CO2 absorbing trees that got cut down to make way for urban sprawl.

April 8, 2012

Living Plant Chandeliers

Canada-based design firm Bocci has created these super funky living chandeliers.

Comprised of blown glass, designer Omer Arbel created the ’38 Series’ using a random mixing of forms and shapes, with the addition of different plant species to produce an innovative light sculpture that brings greenery into every room.

April 8, 2012

E-Scape Personal Office

The E-Scape Personal Workspace is US-based architect Michael Jantzen’s creative solution for a lightweight, modular and prefabricated office space that can be reconfigured for added privacy.

The E-Scape modular components are made from sustainably grown wood products, and eco-friendly fabrics. Curved wood support frames are prefabricated into different lengths and shapes. Bolted together, these support frames can form many different shapes and sizes depending on workspace availability and how office colleagues want to interact – privately or via a more open plan design.

Jazzing up today’s boring (beige or grey) open plan offices, is made easy with the innovative E-Scape design, using different colored, textured, and/or patterned fabrics, sewn together and attached to the support frame sections. The fabric can also be woven through the support frames, easily changing the color, texture, pattern, and/or opacity of the structure.

The fabric can also be dyed using eco-friendly products and the entire structure can be easily remodeled and added to, or transported to another location. The versatility of E-Scape will prolong its use in a workspace, recycling office furniture and keeping precious resources out of landfills.



April 6, 2012

The GMO Film Update

As of today, you are most likely eating GMOs, and you probably don’t know it.  As we forge ahead on this film, I keep coming back to a really basic question for us here in North America – how is it possible that we are eating GMOs everyday, but we don’t know about it? Many people don’t even know what a GMO is! (FYI: GMOs are genetically modified organisms.)

GMOs are about industry for industry’s sake. It’s not for us, our health, increased yield, feeding the poor….those are all lies. GMOs exist so chemical companies can sell more chemicals. That’s what this film we are making wants to awaken people to. It’s about crops modified for resistance to chemicals that are made by the same companies that are peddling the GMO seeds.

It’s about big, big money. It’s about us being lied to and experimented on. It’s about massive corporations in bed with the government, and our government betraying its own people to line various corporate pockets.

This film is also about our own ignorance, a society that has fallen asleep in so many ways, distracted by entertainment and endless diversions, to the detriment of our health, happiness, families and future food security. And finally, it’s about our children and how far we will go to protect them, love them, and pass on to them a beautiful, safe, thriving world.

It has been a long hard road making this film, but also very rewarding. We have met so many amazing people along the way, made lifelong friends, and joined a growing community of people, companies, and organizations determined to fight GMOs and big agribusiness, while taking back the land for sustainably grown, organic food.

We pushed ahead with this film on a very tight budget, raising funds as we went, with never quite enough to hire any additional help. It has been a wonderful experience making this film, but an immense amount of work and, at times, also very stressful. We can’t thank all of you enough for helping our Kickstarter Campaign be so successful and trigger other donations, moving all of this along at a time when we really needed it. THANK YOU!

We are happy to announce that a significant piece of the fundraising puzzle has come into place. The amazing Canadian/U.S. company Nature’s Path, has come on board as a major sponsor of the film! We couldn’t think of a better fit as they have been committed to pure organic, non-GMO products from the very beginning. We are proud to have them with us on the journey! We still have more funds to raise to complete the film and are hoping for another major sponsor, as well as a host of smaller sponsorships from organic companies.

For our larger sponsors and all the individuals who have joined with us to make this film, we believe the central question is – “How will we choose to live together on this planet?” It is a question of either exploitation or nurture. Will we suck up all the earth’s resources, poison soil, water, and air with toxic pesticides and herbicides, while industry-bought scientists feed us lab-made food and release genetic mutations into the environment and contaminate the natural world? Or will we stop this madness and commit ourselves to sustainable/regenerative organic agriculture, devoted to the health of society, to nutrition, to family farms and communities?

The stakes are very high, but the choice is ours.

I’ll leave you with a short video clip I recently put together after our trip to the San Francisco area for a series of interviews. This particular piece is from our time with Claire Hope Cummings, author of Uncertain Peril, and a truly amazing and gracious advocate for all that is good, true, and beautiful in this world.

March 21, 2012

Mini Bonsai Sculptures

Japanese artist and illustrator Takanori Aiba, creates incredibly detailed miniature worlds, combining miniature bonsai sculptures with a vivid imagination and dedication to detail.

With a lifelong love of the miniature and detail, and from playing with bonsai and railway models as a child, Aiba created mini-stories set in imaginary worlds which he sculpted as an adult by applying his experience in illustrating 3D mazes and learning about civil construction. Much of his inspiration came from watching ants build their colonies and from Disney fantasy story-telling.

Aiba creates multiple drawings to visualize his sculptures and his technician Kazuya Murakami makes them using clay, plastic, wood, steel, resin and plaster. Each work takes months to a year to make depending on their complexity.


March 18, 2012

iPhone Pothole App

In a public relations stunt by a local taxi firm, a car appears to have fallen into a monster-sized pothole in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The PR campaign is to advertise a new Canadian iPhone app called ‘Pothole Season’ where you can find out where all the major potholes might be, so you can avoid them and save damaging your car’s suspension.

It is a well-known fact that the roads in Montreal are riddled with potholes – and some of the real ones could be big enough to damage your car. So this iPhone app may prove to be very popular. You can get to see a Google map of the potholes at Pothole Season.

Most Canadian winters are usually quite severe, and Quebec roads get a severe beating from the snow and ice. So, in the spring, a favorite Canadian pastime is to count how many new potholes have appeared over the winter and are visible when the snow melts.


Via Paper-Plane

March 18, 2012

The Paper Safe Box

Rob Ives has created a fully functional paper safe which is a great DIY project for you and your kids. You can lock and open the secret drawer with your own private combination that is entered with the small numbered dial.

Ives designs paper animations and you can buy a CD with easy to follow instructions, lots of images to show you what to do and the print patterns for the parts. It costs only £2.50 (US$4, €3), which is great value for lots of eco-friendly entertainment and you also get something useful.

After printing onto thin card, use a sharp art knife (adults only for this) to cut out the card patterns. Using glue to keep the parts together, you can part all the separate parts and then assemble them to make the safe. Afterwards, you could customize it with bright colors and keep your valuables hidden from view.

March 15, 2012

Polar Orbit Satellite

Hopefully there are fewer and fewer people in the industrialized world who are non-believers of anthropogenic (human) induced climate change. Maybe there are some who will never be convinced, especially those who have a vested interest in not believing it, or perhaps they are anti-leftist thinking, or just plainly anti-everything.

If you are one of those – please read the following intently, and if you are a believer then please read knowing that yet more evidence (if we need it) is going to come down the technical pipeline.

Over the last decade or more, NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites have monitored the clouds, oceans, vegetation, ice, land and atmosphere, but the latest satellites promise even better information

he NPOESS (National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System), now called Soumi NPOESS, has been monitoring Earth’s environment with keen scientific eyes since its launch in October 2011. The NASA satellite is also supported and used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD). Unlikely bed-fellows but beggars can’t be choosers and at least the data is likely to be mostly used for good of the planet (humans, animals, and the environment).

Soumi looks at cloud coverage, oceans health, and Earth’s vegetation coverage, looking for changes and helping climate scientists model our ever-changing world. It will also help improve weather prediction and identify future climate patterns.

The high tech hardware it carries includes an Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (for global temperature and moisture measurements), a Cross-track Infrared Sounder (atmosphere monitoring), and an Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (the hole in Earth’s protective radiation shield that people seem to have forgotten about).

But there is more, it also carries a Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (detecting and monitoring wildfires, ice and land changes) and, if that wasn’t enough already, a Clouds and Earth Radiant Energy System. This last instrument maps thermal radiation and checks on Earth’s energy balance with space, which will show definitively that Earth is absorbing more and more heat energy and warming up globally.

Soumi will measure snowstorms, droughts, floods, hurricanes and dust plumes (that affect climate models and weather predictions), soots, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Monitoring the vegetation will help measure the Earth’s carbon cycle and agricultural processes, helping predict food shortages. The global temperature record of the atmosphere, land and sea surface will be essential to know how quickly the Earth’s climate is changing.

With the existing plethora of earth observation satellites, both US, European and other countries are launching, soon there will be nowhere for scientifically-minded non-believers to hide. The big question then will be once again what to do politically about the hard facts staring people in the face. Procrastinate some more or start changing the way we live.

Trevor Williams is a University of Victoria Mechanical Engineering PhD candidate specializing in renewable energy, power grid modeling and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. He has a bachelors in Aeronautical Engineering, a Masters in Management Science and over 23 years international experience in the space industry, having worked on Earth observation and telecommunications satellites. He is the author of the Eco-Geek blog.

March 15, 2012

Falling Through Time Review

What happens if a hard-driving advertising professional from the year 2012 fell forward seventy years into a green future? That’s the premise of Falling Through Time, the new eco-thriller from novelist Patrica Comroe Frank. Narrated in the first-person voice of the advertising executive, the book leads the reader on the adventures and misadventures of when worlds collide: the day a marketer of mass consumerism meets deep ecology.

After an accident in Alaska, Summer Holbrook, the narrator, wakes to a new world. It’s a rocky awakening for her. The future these urban refugees have carved out of the remote wilderness in California’s Siskiyou Mountains is the polar opposite of the high consumption world she’s left behind. Accustomed to creature comforts and luxury, she despises this new world of greatly reduced population, absent technology, and the return to basics.

Most puzzling of all is who are these mysterious holistic healers, living so harmoniously with nature?  Their post-consumerism way of life results in a culture clash filled with serious—and sometimes humorous—misunderstandings. When Sophia, the village elder, traces the ecological  “house of cards” that led to the environmental collapse, Summer is forced to confront her previous life of brands and the role she played in creating markets for foods and beauty products laced with chemicals, colorings, carcinogens, and genetically modified ingredients.

The book can easily be simply enjoyed as a fast-paced adventure-thriller, but the astute reader soon discovers the book delves deeper and can be considered equal parts Back to the Future meets An Inconvenient Truth—with perhaps, a sprinkling of In Defense of Food.

Falling Through Time is an unusual book as the author dares to “color outside the lines” as she crosses genres of contemporary fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and green living. Somehow, Frank weaves it all together, and the reader will cheer for Summer as she undergoes her rejuvenation with help from village characters, including the steward of the forest and the warm bond she forms with a feral dog.

March 15, 2012

The Fibrous Plant Tower

Mimicry is the ultimate form of flattery. The Fibrous Tower from Austrian SOMA Architects, won second place in the Taiwan Tower International Competition by applying biomimicry to their entry and advanced design techniques.

The Austrian architecture firm, with offices in Vienna and Salzburg, modeled their creation on a plant-like, zero-emissions design that responds to its surroundings like a living plant. The building also generates its own electrical power with piezo-electric mechanisms to generate voltage from structural movement plus a building façade-mounted flexible photovoltaic skin, and high efficiency rigid solar panels on flat surfaces. The total available area is an incredible 25,000sq.m (269,000sq.ft) for solar power generation.

The building has a museum, tower lobby, green spaces and a network of paths that intertwine with the building lower levels that mimic tree roots. The towers reach skyward like flower stamens with elevators and public observatories. SOMA Architects used genetic algorithms to optimize the design, evaluating over 2,500,000 design alternatives, before finalizing their concept design and performing a structural analysis.

Visit: &

Via ArchDaily

March 14, 2012

Solar Vineyard Winery

Designed to explore the potentials of a large winery but also function as a solar electric generation power plant, the Solar Vineyard Winery, from designer Michael Jantzen, utilizes  solar electricity produced through a large bank of curved photovoltaic solar cells that are elevated above the winery roof.

The solar electricity powers the entire winery and the excess is sold to the local utility. The cells also shade the structure below, and symbolically refer to giant rows of grape vines planted on a hillside. Shaded space beneath the solar panels is used by visitors for picnics and special events.

Rainwater is also collected off of the curved roof and stored for use in and around the winery. All of the water used at the winery is recycled and is used to water the grape vines.

Most of the utilitarian portion of the Solar Vineyard Winery is placed under the main structure, which references the surrounding rolling hills of the wine country in which the structure is situated. The above ground portion of the winery is used for the retail part of the business, which includes wine tasting and sales, a shop, a cafe, rest rooms, etc.

Large glass windows are recessed into the south side of the structure to shade the interior in the summer, and provide passive solar space heating in the winter. Natural ventilation is used throughout the winery for cooling, along with an extensive system of earth pipes that cool the air as it is drawn into the structure.

“My hope with this design is to demonstrate ways in which alternative energy gathering systems like solar cells, can be integrated into the built environment without appearing to be an afterthought,” explains the designer. “In this case, the solar cells become an integral part of the esthetics of the design in addition to having the potential of producing a large amount of solar electrical energy for many years.”


March 14, 2012

Mobile Ice Fishing Hut

A single person mobile ice-fishing hut, with cleverly designed walls made from ice, is the latest creation from Norwegian designers Gartnerfulgen Arkitekter.

Using a folding wooden frame and chicken wire, the ice walls allow light while keeping the bitter winter wind out. The ice walls weighs down the structure and helps maintain stability, but breaking the ice walls reduces the hut’s weight and it can then be relocated.

This innovative design idea makes use of natural physics to create a lightweight, mobile and protective shelter.

Visit: Gartnerfulgen Arkitekter

Via TreeHugger

March 13, 2012

Sustainable Metal Work

Creative artist Alex Féthière, uses recycled metals and discarded household products to help fashion his metalworking sculpture art, jewelry and furniture.

Beautiful bracelets, earrings and pendants, light-fittings and furniture, as well as sculptures, including the somewhat scary Murdochtopus, are all made as sustainably as possible, with minimum impact to the environment and using upcycled used materials.

“Castings are poured from reclaimed scrap aluminum in a homemade blast furnace powered entirely by discarded motor or cooking oil, the fires of which are kindled from chopped shipping palettes,” explains the artist.

The aluminum castings are anodized using an acidic bath, absorbing a synthetic sapphire dye and sealed using non-toxic, Earth Safe Finishes’ sealants and epoxies.

Electrolytic etching is done using cotton-swabs soaked in an aqueous solution of sodium carbonate, using a direct current power source for power. Titanium inert (argon) gas welding produces no smoke, and plasma metal cutting uses an ionized gas powered from a household socket and an air compressor, minimizing pollution and emissions.

“When steel is reclaimed, rust removal is done with an electrolytic process in a solution of sodium carbonate and water…the resultant rust soup is greywater safe enough for the lawn,” he explains.


March 13, 2012