Finding Meaning in Memorial Day

May 31, 2010 by  
Filed under 2010, Blog, Events, Family, Front Page, Holidays, Slideshow, U.S.

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On Memorial Day, in the United States, many of us pause from our regular workday routines to honor those who died while serving our nation. The tradition dates back to post-Civil War days. Here’s an excerpt from Memorial Day History, a website that claims to share the true meaning of the holiday: Memorial Day was […]

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What’s Your Steel IQ?

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When artist Alli ReauVeau talks about steel, the medium on which she paints, she gets passionate. And one look at the gorgeous artworks she creates convinces us that steel is a perfect “canvas,” indeed. But there’s much more about steel that ReauVeau admires from a construction and architectural viewpoint — and she knows whereof she speaks.

ReauVeau is co-owner, along with her husband, Alan Bendawald, of Steel IQ™, suppliers of an environmentally friendly construction product called Bare Naked Steel™. ReauVeau serves as Education Specialist for the company, sharing the message that Bare Naked Steel is the best steel for construction, for architectural design, and for the planet….

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Investment Options in the Greentech Industry

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In my last two posts, I wrote about how attractive stocks in the Green sector have become for investors and how to prevent investment fraud from spoiling a Greentech investing experience. Now it’s time to discuss an investment strategy and where to invest precious capital.

Perhaps we can learn from one of the world’s richest men and most renowned investors. Warren Buffett once wrote that to invest successfully over a lifetime does not require a stratospheric IQ, unusual business insights, or inside information. What is needed is a sound intellectual framework for making decisions and the ability to keep emotions from corroding that framework. Our goal now is to design our own “intellectual framework.” …

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Fraud Can Spoil Your Green Investment Strategy

May 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Energy, Front Page, Investment, Scams, Slideshow

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After reading Part 1 of this series and doing your homework on the Green industry, you are almost ready to develop your investment strategy and begin execution. Unfortunately, we must make a sidestep and discuss the potential of investment fraud and what you can do to prevent it from ruining your day. A sad fact of the business world is that wherever there is an opportunity for profit, the criminal element has developed well designed scams to fleece unsuspecting “marks” of their investment capital.

According to the FBI, securities and commodities fraud accounts for over $40 billion a year in losses. Several other investment vehicles made popular by the Internet have drawn more than their fair share of scam purveyors, and lessons can be learned from their recent experiences. For example, currency trading was an easy target since you never could see your business partners “face-to-face.” Unscrupulous brokers promised enormous profits. Reviewing forex [foreign currency exchange] brokers became a must, a lesson now taught in most every currency trading course….

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Is It Time to Invest in the Green Revolution?

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You have been a consistent supporter of today’s Green Revolution. You employ the latest conservation techniques in your home, you buy the best organic foods for your family, and you support products from companies that have earned a great reputation for protecting the planet. But, have you considered investing your precious nest egg where your mind is, in the emerging “Greentech” industry?

Green companies are no longer just a bunch of startups and emerging growth companies, implying high risk and showing very little revenue for their efforts. Quite to the contrary, there were several companies in the Green sector that outperformed the S&P 500’s gain of 28.8% for 2009, and quite a few others with multiples of that figure greater than the five fingers on your right hand. Mutual and index funds were not immune to this success either, as interest gathered for this “non-traditional” area of investment….

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Practical Farmers of Iowa Offers Free Field Days

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Despite its name, Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) isn’t just for farmers. And it isn’t even just for Iowans. In fact, anyone can attend the free field days presented by PFI on members’ farms; they’re a welcoming and diverse group. Of course, as you might expect, most PFI members are farmers, so field-day events are targeted largely to their needs.

According to the organization, “PFI’s programming stresses farmer-to-farmer networking through research and demonstration, field days, conferences, and more.” But non-farmers might be surprised at how relevant some of the topics are to anyone who has a yard or a plot of land. Here are a few of the 30 topics scheduled throughout the summer and fall of this year.

July 10-Weed “Appreciation – Grinnell

July 17-Scheduling Crops for Storage – Minburn …

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Top Ten Must-See Environmental Films

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There are some fantastic films on the environment, but it can often be difficult to find the truly great ones. To make your life a little bit easier, here is a list of ten fantastic, eye-opening movies for any individual passionate about saving our planet. 10. Tapped, 2009 Director Stephanie Soechtig’s examination of the bottled […]

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Burt’s Bees – A Safe Way to Shoo Pesky Gnats

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Burt’s Bees Outdoor All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent saved my skin this week.

On Monday and Tuesday, I volunteered at the Iowa River Call field trip experience at River Junction, Iowa. There’s no getting away from bugs when you’re near a river, and the swarms of gnats were pretty much driving all of the volunteers crazy. One of our crew got bit in the first few hours she was at the site, and a red, itchy patch swelled up to cover most of one side of her neck.

On Monday, one of the kids was so troubled by the gnats that he spent much of the day with his arms over his head, until an adult offered him a hat. Another of our volunteers tried both Cutters and a second chemical insect repellent (I’d tell you if I knew the name), but the darned gnats just wouldn’t leave him alone. I didn’t wear any insect repellent that day, and though I didn’t get bit, gnats swarmed my head constantly.

On Tuesday, I remembered that I had a bottle of Burt’s Bees Outdoor All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent and took it with me to the river….

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Notes from Minnesota: Return of the River Otter

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On a frigid February afternoon, I walked the path around the Mill Pond in downtown Austin, Minnesota. A recreational area with a bike path, skate park, and swimming pool, the Mill Pond was formed by damming the Cedar River in the early years of the city.

As I crossed a bridge spanning the river, movement out on the ice caught my attention. For a moment, it looked like a sheet of black tar paper, waving in a non-existent breeze, but a closer look revealed an otter! A big guy, he was greedily devouring a fish.

I pulled out my camera and began to shoot video as a second otter appeared from under the ice. This was the first pair I’d seen since those I’d observed in Austin’s Sutton Park back in the mid 1970s. After 35 years, the river otters had returned….

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Iowa River Call – Teaching Kids to Love Their River

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How do you teach a child to love a river?

It’s not hard to figure out that you can’t love something you don’t know. Surprisingly, to an awful lot of Iowa kids, a river is just something they cross over in a car. I say, “surprisingly,” because Iowa has the image of a pastoral state, where children skip stones into the water from the riverbank, go fishing with their friends, and swim in the creeks that feed the rivers. But the reality is much different for the majority of city kids, like those who live in the Iowa City Community School District.

For the past two days, fourth graders from Hills Elementary (Monday) and third- and fourth-graders from Twain Elementary (Tuesday) participated in a field trip experience designed to help them fall in love with the Iowa River.

You might wonder why falling in love with a river is important. The answer is simple: As Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love.”

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DIY: Hang a Clothesline in 10 Minutes

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There are lots of reasons to hang your clothes outside to dry, including saving energy by not running your dryer. If you’ve been putting off setting up a clothesline because you thought it would be too much trouble, put it off no more. We found a simple, do-it-yourself clothesline that took less than 10 minutes to set up and get started.

We had been talking about hanging a clothesline for a long time — years, actually. When we finally got around to it, it was a snap. (Easy for me to say, because Joe hung it. But he swears it’s true.) We bought a Sunline retractable clothesline at our local hardware store for $13.78 plus tax. The only tools needed were a power drill, an extension cord, a hammer, and a starter nail….

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Improve Your Living Space with Houseplants

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Decorating a room with plants is a natural choice, as plants provide an almost instantaneous sense of calm and peace. They can transform a room from average to extraordinary in an instant. And, in addition to their aesthetic value, some plants can actually improve a room’s air quality.

Choosing which plants to use takes a bit of planning for best results. But even a single plant can be the foundation for a decorating makeover. It’s hard to go wrong when decorating with plants, but there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. The following tips will help you get started.

Some plants are very good at removing harmful toxins from the air. For example, the spider plant, often used as a hanging plant, not only grows like wildfire, but is also good at absorbing harmful air pollutants and releasing beneficial oxygen. Spider plants are particularly hardy and easy for even the novice plant owner to grow….

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Parsley Plus All Surface Cleaner Does It Right

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When Earth Friendly Products makes the claim that they’re eco-friendly, they have the credentials to prove it. This family-owned business makes and sells super-effective cleaning products, including Parsley Plus All Surface Cleaner. In my opinion, this is one of the best all-around cleaners available — and that includes both natural and toxic cleaners. I love how well it cleans, what it’s made of, and even how it smells. I can’t say all that about many other cleaners — can you?

Like pretty much everyone we know, Joe and I are busy people. Sometimes we don’t get around to doing all the cleaning tasks on our list as quickly as we’d like. Recently, we let our upstairs tub and shower go just a little too long between cleanings. When we were sprucing up the house for a family party, we kicked into gear for a quick spritz around the house before everyone arrived. I got ready to tackle our upstairs bathroom. Oh, boy.

To say that the white walls of the tub and shower enclosure were looking a little gray might actually be an understatement, but let’s just leave it at that. I grabbed the bottle of Parsley Plus All Surface Cleaner and started spraying about a three-foot-square section of a shower wall. Then I turned my attention to the sink while that part was soaking….

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Ecotourists Save the World

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If you could help save wildlife and their habitats from destruction, would you do it? What if it involved traveling to a far-off location to live in relatively primitive conditions, work long hours, and complete difficult, sometimes dangerous, tasks? Oh, and you might have to pay to do it.

Is that your idea of a good time? Then Ecotourists Save the World is a book you’ll want to read.

In partnership with the National Wildlife Federation, writer Pamela Brodowsky has compiled an extensive resource of volunteer opportunities to protect wildlife around the world. You’ll find, as the subtitle says, “More Than 300 International Adventures to Conserve, Preserve, and Rehabilitate Wildlife and Habitats.”

In the introduction, Brodowsky writes,

“Did you know … one in three amphibians, nearly half of all turtles and tortoises, one in four mammals, one in five sharks and rays, and one in eight bird species are now considered at risk of extinction? Habitat destruction, exploitation, pollution, and climate change are taking their toll on our world’s species and the places that they inhabit.”

The cool thing is, you can do something about it….

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Sowing the Seeds of Sustainability

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Economics. Environment. Equity. Though the word “sustainability” means various things to different people, it can be pared down to just these three words. True sustainability must take into account all three concepts. The reason most of humanity does not understand this is because we cannot grasp how all three can work at the same time.

Humanity is good at the economic portion. Capitalism focuses on economics and often neglects environmental and social issues; in many cases, economic success comes at the expense of the environment and social equity. Even capitalism does not always work: When our banks fail and need federal bailouts, we end up in a recession. Our economy is based upon the consumption of dwindling and non-renewed natural resources — how long can this last? …

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Solving the Water Crisis Begins at Home

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By now, the world water crisis shouldn’t be surprising news. Many of us already donate to clean water funds, well-building activities, and water-saving causes. But if we have leaky toilets, outdated plumbing, or wasteful faucet drips, we’re actually contributing to the problem we’re trying to solve.

The US Geological Survey estimates that leaking toilets can lose around 22 gallons per day. This translates into about 8,000 gallons of wasted water per year. To put that number into perspective, that’s enough water to fill a display tank at your local aquarium.

With so many stray drips and drops, it’s of little wonder that many American communities are experiencing water shortages. In 2009, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported a drought throughout numerous Southwest and Great Plains states resulting in five billion dollars in damages. By 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 36 states will experience water shortages….

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Top Ten Tips to Green Your Prom

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Ally Maize was already excited to go to prom to see her friends dressed up and spend the evening dancing at a swanky hotel. But this year, the 17-year-old high-school senior from West Los Angeles decided to make her prom a little greener.

She wore a couture, floor-length, royal blue ball gown by Lindee Daniel of Puridee. It’s made from fair-trade organic fabric and high-quality Indian peace silks called ahimsa and tussah. She also met with 30 friends, who agreed to carpool to the dance.

Maize founded the Green Youth Movement when she was 15. After watching An Inconvenient Truth, she was inspired to educate elementary students about sustainability and global warming. She organizes events like community gardens to teach kids how to plant and grow their own food. This year, attending her own prom inspired her to inform others on how to lessen its environmental impact.

“Prom is something that high schoolers across the country do every year. It’s easy to make prom greener,” says Maize….

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My Deodorant Is a Stainless Steel Bar

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When the public relations rep for De Odor Works contacted me to try their new deodorant bar made of stainless steel, I was skeptical, but willing. After all, I’ve seen concerns in the media about the connection between deodorants/antiperspirants and everything from Alzheimer’s disease to breast cancer to kidney disease. So, trying a deodorant that doesn’t have chemicals in it seemed like a good idea.

But let’s talk about the difference between a deodorant and an antiperspirant. Sweat itself doesn’t smell. So sweat is not the enemy. Your body — and mine — has several kinds of bacteria that live on the skin, and some of those cause odors. It’s not the bacteria themselves that smell, either, but the waste products they produce after eating those sweat-laden, dead skin cells then “breaking down protein into certain acids,” according to Medical News Today.

So, the upshot is that we don’t really need to prevent sweating, we need to prevent the bacteria from excreting their foul-smelling waste products on our skin. That’s what De Odor Works, manufactured by Abbott Research Group, Inc., is supposed to do. “Its secret,” Abbott Research Group says, “is the unique reaction that occurs when ordinary running tap water and stainless steel combine to neutralize odor. Using stainless steel with running water is a recognized method of eliminating the volatile sulfur compounds (VSC) that cause odor. Stainless steel is biocompatible to human tissue, so you can use De Odor Works anywhere on your body without any adverse effects.”…

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My 5: Analiese Paik, Fairfield Green Food Guide, Founder

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Analiese Paik is the founder of Fairfield Green Food Guide, which serves Fairfield County, Connecticut. Through her appearances on Good Morning, Connecticut, she is increasingly becoming the go-to resource for local food events and sources throughout the state of Connecticut.

We asked Paik to answer our two favorite questions. Her responses appear below. — Julia Wasson, Publisher

BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?

PAIK: Immediately adjust your attitude to one where your daily choices, not those of governments or big businesses, become the focus of your efforts to green your life….

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Saving Dolphins

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When the Oscar award-winning film, The Cove, was released last year, I resisted seeing it. The trailers upset me. I anticipated that the film would be emotionally devastating. I love dolphins. I have warm memories of watching the television program Flipper as a child. I’ve been thrilled to see a pod of dolphins playfully dive in and out of the water as they passed by a time-share condo in Florida that I once shared with my grandmother and my sister.

I’ve experienced a combination of emotions when seeing dolphins perform in various aquariums around North America: joy, sadness, curiosity, concern. I’ve sat by the window in the subterranean viewing area of our Vancouver Aquarium, watching the Pacific white-sided dolphins swim up to the window and wondering at how healthy and happy they are in their bleak enclosure.

I finally was convinced by my teenage son to watch The Cove this week. We downloaded it from our cable provider, and my son, husband and I sat down to watch it together. It was even more emotionally devastating than I had anticipated.

By the time the film was over, I felt completely emotionally overwhelmed. There were deep, deep sobs heaving within me, threatening to engulf me, but I wanted to debrief the film with my son. So I released a few tears and took a few deep breaths. We talked first of all about the dolphins in our local aquarium….

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