Rainwater Harvesting Options for Homeowners

December 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Front Page, Gardening, Slideshow, Sustainability, Water

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Depending on where you live, your water bill can be one of your larger monthly expenses, especially during the summer. With the help of landscapers, you can set up a rainwater harvesting system that will save you money and reduce the demand for water in your community.
Rainwater harvesting systems can be as simple as using a barrel or as complex as installing underground tanks. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to remember that your landscape design should prevent water from pooling around the foundation of your home. Also keep in mind that plain rainwater is non-potable, so you’ll need to set up a purification system if you plan to drink it….

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A Road Trip to Remember

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Recently, I took a road trip up to Oregon with my family to enjoy the outdoors and visit some of the oldest and biggest trees of the western coast. I enjoyed visiting with my family and sharing knowledge about the trees, such as the type of tree, its age, and the breathtaking feelings that come to me when I am amongst these giant ancient forests. Many of these trees are over a thousand years old and have managed to survive thoughtless deforestation!

Along with all of the spectacular rivers, mountains, wildlife, and scenery, I saw a few telltale signs of man’s greed impacting our Earth.
One thing I noticed on my recent trip was a decreased number of lumber mills from similar trips that started in 1990. We are led to believe that lumber mills are closing down due to environmental concerns. If that were true, then we could logically assume that we are not continuing the destruction of forests in our country and are managing our natural resources better. However, this is not the case!

There’s another reason lumber mills are closing, but it’s probably not what you think….

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Escape Into Nature On Your Next Trip (or Close to Home)

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Time away from the daily grind helps to keep us sane and motivated, and nothing rejuvenates our inner batteries like the peaceful experience of being fully immersed in nature.

Unfortunately, for city dwellers in particular, that can be a difficult outlet to find. Granted, watching a squirrel bury nuts for the winter or a beetle making its way across the bark of a tree can be a calming experience, possible in a backyard or in the midst of a city park. But just as Thoreau removed himself completely to Walden Pond to truly surround himself within the natural world, there’s something to be said for getting away from civilization altogether….

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Water Crisis in the United States

August 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Climate Change, Drought, Front Page, Slideshow, Tips, Water

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The southwestern portion of the United States has historically been a dry area, but the problem has become much worse in recent years. About 30 million people in the Southwest rely on the Colorado River for their water, and the river’s level has been declining steadily.

Population growth, weather changes and modern agricultural habits are putting a strain on the U.S. water supply. Educating people about the causes and effects of the water crisis is the first step toward making large-scale changes in how people think about water use….

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Eco-Friendly Landscaping: 3 Storm-Water Solutions

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Rain happens. Apart from blessing it for watering our plants — or cursing it for keeping us indoors — many homeowners don’t think much about where all of that water goes once it hits our property. However, as our neighborhoods become increasingly covered with impervious surfaces (roofs, patios, roads and driveways), that needs to change.

Roofs and other impervious surfaces change the way rainwater behaves, increasing the volume of runoff and accelerating the rate at which it flows through our local watersheds. This ultimately leads to erosion of stream banks, degraded wildlife habitats and the introduction of pollutants picked up along the way.

If you want to make your home more Earth-friendly, one of the most significant things you can do is incorporate storm-water management techniques into your landscape. By combining some of these methods, you can help diffuse the runoff from your home in order to minimize its impact on the environment. Or, as eco-conscious cities such as Santa Cruz, Calif., put it: “Slow it. Spread it. Sink it.” …

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ZooBorns: The Newest, Cutest Animals from the World’s Zoos and Aquariums

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There’s not much that causes more smiles and coos than an adorable baby. And it doesn’t have to be human. Take a peek at the animal babies in ZooBorns: The Newest, Cutest Kittens and Cubs from the World’s Zoos and ZooBorns: CATS! The Newest, Cutest Kittens and Cubs from the World’s Zoos; you’re sure to be charmed.

These small books contain beautiful photographic studies of baby animals that most of us will never get to see in the wild. That’s especially true because many of the babies featured in ZooBorns books are on the Endangered Species List.

By compiling these collections, authors Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland are raising awareness of how zoos protect and conserve endangered species. In addition, they’re contributing 10% of the revenues from each ZooBorns book to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Conservation Endowment Fund….

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Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet by Artie Knapp

November 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Books for Kids, Conservation, Front Page, Slideshow

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As a former elementary teacher and the parent of three grown kids, I’ve probably spent thousands of pleasant hours reading children’s books. I know the power of a book to persuade as well as to educate young readers.

When I taught first grade (and as a parent), I carefully chose books that provided a good story and, often, a positive lesson. In the 1970s, my students’ exposure to fictional environmental role models was pretty much limited to Woodsy Owl, whose cry, “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute,” inspired us all to care about our planet.

Today, children, parents, and teachers have a wealth of options to choose from for eco-friendly and inspiring books. One environmentally focused book that recently crossed my desk is Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet. The story will appeal to young readers, who will identify with the heroic turtle, Thurman, in this charmingly illustrated paperback….

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Sailors for the Sea Encourages Ocean Conservation

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As the official sustainability partner with America’s Cup, Sailors for the Sea is reaching their largest audience to date.

Sailors for the Sea educates sailors and boaters about protecting the oceans. Their partnership with America’s Cup, a race between two yachts that is the oldest trophy in international sport, allows them to reach sailors from countries around the world.

“Now, we are moving to an international level,” explains Dan Pingaro, CEO. “[Sailors] can make a positive difference on the ocean,” he says.

Pingaro says involving sailors is imperative because of the problems facing our oceans today, including a changing pH balance and plastics floating in the water. The changing pH balance has an impact on shellfish, coral fish, and feeder fish for larger ocean dwellers. And plastic trash is the major component of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, among other polluted areas….

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Running Out of Water by Peter Rogers and Susan Leal

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It is no secret that humankind is facing several environmental crises. Greenhouse gases are slowly cooking the earth, several of our natural resources are nearing depletion, and impending water shortages threaten our way of life.

Friends, news sources, and the Internet bombard us with facts like this every day. It’s hard to make sense of it all, and too easy to feel that there is no hope.

But, as the cliché states, knowledge is power. When you understand a crisis, you can do something about it. This idea is the driving force behind Peter Rogers and Susan Leal’s book, Running Out of Water: The Looming Crisis and Solutions to Conserve Our Most Precious Resource….

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Organic Winemakers: Napa Valley’s Stewards of the Land

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The story of ZD Wines is a family saga—a family as principled about the environment as it is dedicated to wine making.

It’s evident as soon as you pull into the parking lot, where, you’ll note, everyone on staff drives a hybrid. “Except our CEO,” Dustin Moilanen, the vineyard’s hospitality director, explains. Winemaster Robert deLeuze’s car is all-electric. “He plugs it in at his solar-powered home, so his commute to work is completely ‘green.’ ”

For the ride home, he can charge up at the winery, where 712 solar panels generate more electricity than the entire facility can use. “The excess is returned to the grid,” Molainen assures his visitors….

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My 5: Louis Hayner, CSO, Alteva

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Louis Hayner, Chief Sales Officer for Alteva, responded to our favorite question for the folks we interview. Alteva provides hosted unified communications to businesses. Following is Hayner’s response.

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

* Implement Hosted Technologies.

When a customer chooses a hosted vs. premise-based phone solution for its communications, they contribute to an overall reduction in resources and costs of power and cooling by up to 84 percent. By reducing energy consumption, they reduce the carbon dioxide gas emissions produced as a byproduct of generating electricity.

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Words of Warning

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In an online article in The New York Times posted today, writer Elizabeth Rosenthal reports on the worldwide loss of small animal species due to climate change. She writes,

Over the next 100 years, many scientists predict, 20 percent to 30 percent of species could be lost if the temperature rises 3.6 degrees to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. If the most extreme warming predictions are realized, the loss could be over 50 percent, according to the United Nations climate change panel.

The article sparked a response from professional storyteller and Ph.D. candidate Chris Vinsonhaler. Vinsonhaler is a river activist and the founder of Iowa River Call, a group dedicated to connecting fourth graders to the Iowa River. Her goal, and the goal of her co-founders, is to instill children with a love of the Iowa River and of nature….

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Notes from New Mexico – Documenting Ecotourism

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From Albuquerque, highway 25 sprawls northeast to Santa Fe and Taos, alongside vast mountain ranges, beside pastel-red adobe homes and flashing casino lights, past cholla cacti and ranching supply stores and tribal reservations. The Rio Grande River Gorge cuts through the landscape, quietly winding south under a brilliant blue sky.

New Mexico is a place of converging cultures, a state where ranch lands border Native American reservations; where filmmakers, skiers, and artists flock; where Hispanics and descendants of Spanish conquistadors live together, along with 19 sovereign Native American nations. The topography is just as diverse, from sprawling deserts to high mountain ranges and pine forests.

I was in New Mexico with Green Living Project, a media production and marketing company that showcases sustainability initiatives around the globe, to check out the state’s ecotourism initiative….

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Taproot Nature Experience Deepens Children’s Connection to the Natural World

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Taproot Nature Experience was founded on the simple idea that kids need to have time outdoors.

Launched in September 2007 by Zac Wedemeyer and his wife, Elesa, this Iowa City-based company has several different programs that connect children with nature: an after-school program; a summer camp; and Sprouts, a program for pre-school-aged children.

Wedemeyer says that kids used to be allowed to go outside more, but now parents are afraid to let their children out of the house alone. As a former elementary-school teacher, he saw firsthand how little time kids spend in nature and how much time they spend watching television and playing video games….

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Stop “Chocolate Milk” from Running in Iowa’s Rivers – Vote for Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy Referendum

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Iowans have a crucial choice to make that will impact future generations: the choice between clean water and dirty water.

On November 2, Iowa voters will see a referendum on a constitutional amendment called Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWLL) on the back of their ballot. If it passes, it goes into effect for the next sales tax increase. Three-eighths of a percent of all Iowa sales will go into the trust fund, which will be used for soil conservation programs, to improve water quality, and to promote outdoor recreation.

“This is a way to not have chocolate milk running down our rivers,” said Mark Langgin, campaign manager for Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy….

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Eye of the Whale by Douglas Carlton Abrams

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Intrigue. Romance. Danger. Life. Death. Loyalty. Betrayal. Eye of the Whale has what it takes to get a reader’s pulse racing clear to the last page. But there’s more to this novel than a mystery. After years of thorough research, author Douglas Carlton Abrams has skillfully woven a tale that teaches as much as it entertains. Abrams combines hard scientific facts about the pollution that threatens the world’s sea creatures with a page-turning thrill ride.

Eye of the Whale is an excellent literary vehicle for making the current threat of pollution immediate and real. The author accomplishes this by creating characters — not all of them human — that readers come to know and care about. From a mother whale who begins a new, mysterious song that carries around the world to a ravenous shark whose violent kills are simply a means of survival to a male whale stranded in a California river, the animals have compelling plot lines that draw the reader in.

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Bag Green Guilt by Jen Pleasants

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Going green can be overwhelming when you’re just getting started. For beginners, the steps involved may seem too complex to digest and act upon.

This can cause a large amount of anxiety, resulting in impaired physical and mental health, such as high-blood pressure (a leading cause of heart attacks) and paralyzing guilt. Bag Green Guilt: 5 Easy Steps: Turn Eco-Anxiety Into Constructive Energy by Jen Pleasants explores options to reduce such needless stress….

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BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit Coming to Monterey

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Monterey, California, is a lovely seaside community with a world-class aquarium. It’s long been a vacation destination for ocean enthusiasts. And now, it is the new, permanent setting for the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit.

If you’re planning to be in Northern California August 24–29, consider attending the festival to see the year’s leading films about the wonders of the ocean, to hear lectures and panel discussions by leading ocean researchers, to view an ecstatically beautiful photo exhibit by National Geographic photographer David Doubilet, and to participate in other exciting events….

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1 Mississippi Photo Contest Ends Sunday

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The Mississippi River has long been memorialized in song, story, and legend for its beauty and the spirit of adventure it inspires. Uniting 31 states in its watershed, the river is a part of our culture and our heritage as Americans. And it serves as a superhighway for goods that flow north and south, connecting communities along the way. This valuable asset deserves our protection and our respect.

A group called 1 Mississippi has invited both amateur and professional photographers to submit photos of this diverse and important waterway that unites our nation. But hurry! The contest ends on Sunday.

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2010 Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Among Largest Ever, Scientists Say

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The delicate ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico was wounded long before Katrina stormed ashore, and her wildlife was poisoned by chemicals streaming down the Mississippi River long before BP stirred a few million gallons of crude into her waters. The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) has been monitoring hypoxia — lack of oxygen — in the Gulf waters since 1985. Much of this hypoxia is caused by agricultural chemicals and farm animal waste products that flow into the Mississippi from 19 states to the north. (Iowa alone is estimated to be responsible for 25% of the farm chemicals and fecal matter pouring into the Gulf.) Efforts are underway to reduce the agricultural pollution that is contributing heavily to the Dead Zone, but more must be done to make a positive impact on the area.

Yesterday, Blue Planet Green Living received an email from Dr. Nancy Rabalais, Executive Director of LUMCON, with the group’s latest report. The following information is reprinted from “2010 DEAD ZONE – ONE OF THE LARGEST EVER,” dated 1 August 2010, from Cocodrie, Louisiana….

“The area of hypoxia, or low oxygen, in the northern Gulf of Mexico west of the Mississippi River delta covered 20,000 square kilometers (7,722 square miles) of the bottom and extended far into Texas waters. The relative size is almost that of Massachusetts. The critical value that defines hypoxia is 2 mg/L, or ppm, because trawlers cannot catch fish or shrimp on the bottom when oxygen falls lower….”

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