Francis Thicke on Renewable Energy Resources

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In the first part of our conversation with Francis Thicke, Ph.D., candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture in the 2010 election, we discussed the use of perennial crops as biofuels, using a process called pyrolysis. In this part of our discussion, Thicke talks about increasing biodiversity and farm-based power generation.

Thicke and his wife are organic dairy farmers who live near Fairfield, Iowa. Thicke is a respected agricultural scientist, who has testified twice before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee in Washington, D.C….
THICKE: I would like to see wind energy development become more targeted toward systems that profit farmers, landowners, and rural communities. Currently, we have quite a few large wind farms in Iowa. One study shows we now have the capacity to produce about 15% of our electrical energy needs with wind in Iowa. It is very good that we have developed so much wind power capacity, but we should look at how ownership of wind energy production is structured, and who profits from it….

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Earth-Friendly Fashion Cry – “Save the Ties!”

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A few years ago Brooke Costello couldn’t use the word “recycled” in describing the unique line of fashion accessories she produces at the helm of her independent Chicago-based design company, Tongue Tied.

“That didn’t help the sale,” she explains. “So I coined the term ‘respirited.’ I’ve seen it used by other people since, but I believe that term originated with me.”

Now the association of her wares with the recycling movement contributes substantially to the bottom line. “People across every socioeconomic level are responding to the concept,” she says. “Shopping in resale boutiques is born of the philosophy that you don’t have to spend a king’s ransom to wear couture.” …

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Today We Give Thanks and Celebrate

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We all have a million reasons to be thankful, today and every day. For those of us in the United States, today is an official holiday dedicated to just that purpose. It’s a tradition in many households for each person to share something that they’re thankful for. So, at Blue Planet Green Living, we are taking this day to share with you, briefly, why we’re especially thankful on this particular Thanksgiving Day.

Yesterday marked our first anniversary of publishing Blue Planet Green Living. Although we began writing posts in October of last year, we didn’t officially launch until November 25, 2008….

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ReThread “Threads the Word” about the Environment

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ReThread is a hip, new clothing company that sells “rad and responsible” organic t-shirts and hoodies, screen printed with enticing environmentally focused designs. Each item is linked with a nonprofit, so that proceeds from a particular design support a related environmental cause.
Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed reThread co-founder and lead graphic designer, Rob Irwin.

IRWIN: ReThread has a little bit different business model than most companies. Even some of the sustainable companies out there — where people are trying to be green and sell green products — oftentimes, they’re still just concerned with the bottom line.

We attempt to embrace collaborative efforts across a multi-disciplinary plane. By doing this, we create a cooperative commerce. The ability to be sustainable in an economic downturn hedges very much on joining hands and networking with other companies. That is to say, your bottom line doesn’t stop at your own company. You end up transferring back and forth, not just clients, but actual education and analysis to better the world and increase the quality of life.

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Got Organic?

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Walk down any aisle in the grocery store and you are faced with an astonishing choice of items to purchase. You may have apples on your shopping list, but do you want the red ones or the green ones, the big beautiful ones or the little pre-bagged ones, the ones from New Zealand or Washington State? More and more, we are now also being given the choice between conventional and organic food.

Ask people what organic means, and you’ll get words like expensive, natural, healthy, local, safe and no chemicals. Most people are thinking as consumers, but I am a farmer, so I think as a producer. I believe that knowing the more complete story behind the organic labels on the grocery shelves can help us be more aware of what we are choosing and why it matters….

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Lise Abazs, Contributing Writer

November 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Contributing Writers, Lise Abazs

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Lise Abazs has a degree in Environmental Studies from Warren Wilson College. She has traveled the world working and studying on farms before settling down on her own piece of land in 1987. She and her husband, David, developed Round River Farm, a vegetable and small livestock operation tucked into the rocky hills of the North Shore on Lake Superior….

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Travel for Change Brings Fair-Trade Cultural Tourism to Tanzania

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Soon after University of Iowa senior Stephanie Enloe graduates in December, she will be on a plane to Tanzania. Enloe, 22, is the director of sustainable projects for Travel for Change International, a small group of committed volunteers who are building an eco-lodge near Njombe, Tanzania. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) met with Enloe to find out what makes Travel for Change different from other travel venues serving visitors to Tanzania. — Publisher

ENLOE: The term for what we’re doing at Travel for Change is “fair-trade cultural tourism.” In East Africa, quite often, tourist initiatives are foreign-owned — the hotels, resorts, safari companies, and climbing companies. This is the case in a lot of developing countries. Travel venues and services are foreign-owned and really expensive. People go over there thinking that they’re getting an “African experience.” They pay huge amounts of money, which goes to foreign bank accounts and is not even remotely beneficial to the people in the area.

The first goal of our organization is to create a community-owned travel initiative, where, once the business model is intact and sustaining itself, it passes into community hands….

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Francis Thicke on Biofuels, Biodiversity, and Erosion

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Francis Thicke is a soft-spoken, thoughtful man. He is also an accomplished scientist and an award-winning organic farmer. Thicke’s list of credentials is impressive, including selection by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation as a Policy Fellow in their Food and Society program, work as the National Program Leader for soil science for the USDA-Extension Service, and a current seat on the board of directors of the Organic Farming Research Foundation….

Thicke (pronounced TICKee) is also a candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed Thicke to learn about his vision for improving agriculture in Iowa….

BPGL: Why did you decide to run for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture?

THICKE: I see a lot of challenges coming down the road for agriculture in Iowa, as well as opportunities. I think we need new vision and new leadership to meet those challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.

One challenge is escalating energy costs….

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Dream Green Weddings Offers Brides a Touch of Green

November 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Business, Ecopreneurs, Family, Front Page, U.S., Weddings

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The amount of waste produced by weddings is one of their most negative factors, according to Heather Teague, owner of Dream Green Weddings. And there are 2.5 million weddings in the United States every year. “That’s a lot of waste!” Teague says.

But waste and weddings don’t have to go hand in hand. Eco-conscious brides can lessen the environmental impact of their big day by making a few small changes, suggests Teague. Her Dream Green Weddings virtual storefront features eco-friendly invitations, favors, décor, and gifts to make any wedding a touch more green…

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Preventing the Elders You Love from Falling

November 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Elders, Family, Front Page, Health, Iowa

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Two weeks before my mother’s 90th birthday, she fell. She stubbed her toe on the carpet while reaching for a light switch, lost her balance and, Bang! She broke her right wrist.

I hustled over to my trusty computer for a little research. Yep. According to the National Security Council, the older you get, the more likely you are to end up in an emergency room from an accidental fall. Each week, more than 30,000 Americans over the age of 65 are seriously injured by falling, and nearly 250 per week die from their injuries….

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Child’s Play – Curing Hospital Boredom with Video Games

November 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Charity, Children, Donations, Front Page, Slideshow, Youth

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After posting An Open Letter to My Family – I’m Giving Up My Birthday, my loved ones responded by donating to charities instead of giving me gifts. I was gratified and delighted. Lovely as they are, I don’t need flowers or other presents to know how they feel about me. But now, my son, Jake, who had laughingly told me he wasn’t “that unselfish” to give up his own birthday, has taken the next step.

“So, you’ve inspired me,” he wrote last week, under the heading, “What I want for Christmas.” …

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The Green Lounge – Where Eco Meets Luxury

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This past Sunday night at the posh Lowes Hotel in Santa Monica, television’s Nicole Sherwin (Celebrity Soul) and Wellness2Day.com hosted the first-ever Green Lounge. Set in the back of the ocean-side hotel, the lounge was lit in Oz-like emerald green and centered around an indoor fire pit filled with sparkling crystals. In a word, it was magic. Indeed, it did feel like entering the Emerald City. And, in a way, that was what the lounge was offering to guests — a new, better, green way to live….

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“This Land Is MY Land”

November 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Environment, Front Page, Slideshow

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Words by Jimmy and Jeannie Cogswell
Sung to the tune of “This Land Is Your Land,” by Woody Guthrie

This land was your land,
But now it’s my land
From the shores of Iran,
To the Cayman Islands,
From South America,
To Indo-Neesia,
This land was made to be all mine….

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Book Review: The Green Year by Jodi Helmer

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There’s a “green” way to do just about everything these days. With simple steps, you can save energy, time, money — and reduce your carbon footprint. There’s so much information available these days that sometimes it’s just overwhelming, especially for those just starting off on their eco-journey.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have bite-sized, practical tips that you could make use of right away, every day of the year?

The Green Year by Jodi Helmer is a great place to start. Helmer has sifted through mountains of data to create a reader-friendly guide with 365 tips that make green living (or greener living) easy to accomplish and fun to do….

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Donate Vehicle –> Help Charity –> Get Tax Deduction

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Hundreds of thousands of people donate their junkers — and even, good, used vehicles — each year to benefit their favorite charities. One company that helps make that possible is the Vehicle Donation Processing Center (VDPC), owned and operated by Harvard E. “Pete” Palmer, Jr. of Oakland, California, and his business partner, John R. Learned.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Palmer by phone from his California office. We asked him to tell what happens when consumers gift their vehicles through his program and to explain the advantages for all parties. In the process, we also learned some interesting facts about charitable tax deductions. — Publisher

PALMER: It would be lovely to say that everybody thinks about car donation as a tremendous way to help a charity of their choice, or charities in general. That may well be a part of everybody’s thinking, and certainly it is the big part of what we believe; but for most people, that’s the minority thing. For the great majority, they are looking for a one-time garbage-removal service. …

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Photographer Della Calfee Focuses on Green Clients

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When Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) interviewed Bay Area artist and ecopreneur Della Calfee, we were intrigued by her self-description as a “green” photographer. How does that look in terms of her portfolio of images? we wondered. And, What kinds of clients hire a green photographer? We asked Calfee about these topics when we spoke with her by phone from her San Jose, California home.

CALFEE: I’ve been shooting pictures for decades, but it was only a couple years ago that I looked back at my body of work and realized that I was a “green” photographer. Once I realized that, something crystallized, and I have been able to move forward with much greater passion and direction and confidence.

To me, “green” means making environmentally conscious choices in every action taken. It means respecting life — including people, but not exclusively. So my photography focuses on clients working toward a better environment. Sustainably produced products; and green-minded services, leaders, and events would all be examples of “green” photography clients. …

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My 5, Lauren Sullivan, Reverb Co-Founder

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In Friday’s post, Blue Planet Green Living talked with Reverb co-founder, Lauren Sullivan, about the Reverb’s work greening rock bands and connecting concert-goers with local nonprofits. Today, we asked her to answer two questions we like to ask our interviewees.
1. What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?
2. If you had two minutes with President Obama, what would you say to him? …

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Reverb Greens Rock Concert Scene

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If you’ve been to a rock concert — or any kind of outdoor music venue, for that matter — you know that a lot of waste is generated in the process putting on the event. Most visible is the waste the fans leave behind — plastic drink cups, paper napkins, nacho trays, cardboard carriers — all sorts of trash that could be composted or recycled, if handled properly.

But what most of us will never see is the amount of waste generated by the band and their crew. Lauren Sullivan and her husband, Adam Gardner, have a solution for that. Their nonprofit company, Reverb, works to green concerts for each band while also educating fans about local nonprofits — a definite winning combination.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) recently spoke with Sullivan to find out how Reverb works and what motivated the couple to start it.

SULLIVAN: Adam and I began Reverb back in 2004. It emanated from both of us being part of two distinct worlds. Adam was and is a touring musician by trade. He’s in a band called Guster, which has a pop, rock, indie sort of vibe that is very accessible. He still writes, records and tours with the band. …

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The Great Energy Debate Pop Quiz

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The energy issue is very confusing, and frankly, most of us will never catch up with the experts on all the details. Still, there are some basic facts that are good to know. Do you know them?

True or false? When it comes to global warming and air pollution, nuclear power is one of the most dangerous forms of energy.

Not true. The accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island left lots of people worried about nuclear plant safety, but if you’re worried about climate change, nuclear power is one of the least dangerous forms of energy we have. Generating electricity from nuclear power releases virtually no carbon dioxide (the major green house gas) into the atmosphere, and it doesn’t cause air pollution either. …

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Book Review – Who Turned Out the Lights? Your Guide to the Energy Crisis

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Being an environmentalist means I have to choose from a million aspects of concern, direction, and interest. Planet Earth is facing a flood of problems, too many for one writer to assimilate, even for one magazine. For me, there is too little time to read about all the daily assaults on our planet, let alone verify the data in print; seek out authorities on the subject; interview them; type, edit, and post their points of view.

Being a journalist, as well, compounds the problem. Now, it is just as important to seek the opposing opinions and compare conflicting scientific data. Every topic has many angles, often many points of view, and frequently, two polar-opposite conclusions.

The fact that I try to keep an open mind on these issues is exactly why I like this book. The writers, Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson, have tried to present both sides of every energy issue, or at least, remain neutral in their presentation. The book gives “just the facts,” not opinions, and provides extensive end notes for the reader to verify all sources. …

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