With recession biting organic sales are down

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Not only are sales down but many farms are going back to “normal” ways of production and abandoning – though for the time being only, many say – the organic production methods.

When money gets tighter people are not interested in the “organic” bit, in the main, but in food, though often still free-range and especially many shoppers want to have LOCAL foods.

Local foods is one thing, as is free-range, but people are not prepared, in these hard times, and they may last longer than the governments are trying to tell us, to pay the premium for the “organic” label and I, personally, am often having a problem with the label. How, for instance, can we really be sure what we are getting under that title, especially when the stuff comes from abroad, such as “organic” French beans from Kenya. Lots of food miles too in that case.

But back to the home front.

It was more or less predictable as organic growers play around with the same margins as do the majority of the makers of “green” products and they then wonder when people, especially when money is a little tight, switch to the non-organic or the non-green products. When harder times hit consumers vote with their feet and this should be a lesson.

Tom Szaky, founder of TerraCycle, has it right when he says that green products should be as cheap as the standard stuff. Only then will people be persuaded, properly, and at all times, to go for the green product. In a way that should be the same with food.

When it comes to food the question too, that I am asking, is to whether term “organic” is not stretched somewhat far too far and the benefits touted are not all as it is claimed. More important, in our time, is that food has low food miles, that it is, ideally grown as local as possible. That cuts out the “organic” beans from Kenya then for starters and it should do so too.

Local grown produce, ideally with little or no artificial fertilizer input and such, even when not “organic” certified must be better and is better than “organic” that has traveled from one end of the country to the other or further even. I do not think that it all has to be “organic”. I have had “organic” vegetables and, I am sorry to say, they tasted no better than the non-organic varieties that were available. The health benefits touted, in my view, I am afraid to say, are something that I find questionable, especially as I have so far to see scientific proof for most of those claims.

Sure, produce grown without artificial fertilizers and without chemical sprays will be healthier in that I do not, actually, ingest such poisons but, and here comes the but, most of our areas, even farming areas, have such an amount of pollution everywhere that one ingests poisons of one sort or the other even from so-called “organic” produce.

This recession come depression has just started and that is the worrying part. Can we as green businesses and growers, and as people, per se, survive what is going to head our way?

In order to weather the storm businesses, especially makers of “green” products must, like TerraCycle, price products in such a way that they are just a little cheaper than the “ordinary” products so that people will go for the green product. For food a similar approach must be found, whether it is vegetable production or meat production.

So far, however, from what I have seen, the great majority of makers or purveyors of green products price themselves out of the market and the price range of the common folks and with a recession come depression those products will also come out of the price range of other folks. The same for “organic” farmers.

While farming has it difficult in Britain recently, especially since Brussels is doing away with the high subsidies that they use to pay, and many farms are closing down for good. But we need farmers. They produce our food.

Farmers do, however, keep harping on that the supermarkets slash what they pay them all the time in order too give cheap food too to the nation. Well, go and cut out the middleman as far as possible and sell direct to the customers. I am sure there is a way of doing that, especially if the farmers pooled together into co-ops and such. Then they can make the profit that the supermarkets make while still giving the consumer food at decent prices.

However, as with green goods that are overpriced organic produce and meat is headed the same way, namely that consumers will vote with their pocketbooks. If producers and sellers want to retain customers and gain new ones then they must be prepared to charge realistic prices and not the sky. This is the same as much as with regards to organic food as as it is with regards to recycled products.

© 2009

Sustrans helps workers save money and stay healthy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Employers can now pick up a step by step guide to improving their workforce’s health and productivity by encouraging staff to walk or cycle to work.

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans on Monday, April 27, 2009, launched its Active Travel workplace toolkit to coincide with the first ever Walk to Work Week.

The toolkit highlights tried and tested staff travel plans at selected hospitals, superstores, business parks and councils across the UK.

The plans have seen new and novice cyclists take part in cycle training, team up with more experienced cycling colleagues on their journey to work and buy their own bike in a tax free scheme.

Rachel Bromley, Sustrans Active Travel Co-ordinator, said: “Many UK employers now recognise the benefits – to staff and to the business – of encouraging staff to commute in more active ways. The toolkit is packed with clear and up-to-date information, including best practice case studies and ‘how-to’s’ that simplify all the issues involved.

“Physical activity, including walking and cycling, can help reduce sickness absence, improve morale, and increase productivity.”

Lisa Brannan, Project Manager for Leeds UTravelActive, has helped provide new cycle storage and showers among other measures at the city’s universities.

She said: “Walking or cycling to work is one of the easiest ways for staff and students to achieve the daily recommended 30 minutes of activity to benefit their health.

“But it can also be much quicker than driving and journey times don’t vary with traffic.”
An information campaign was launched at Singleton hospital in Swansea to encourage staff to try out walking and cycling, after a travel survey identified more than 100 workers who drove to work lived within two miles.

Joanna Davies, Deputy Director of Planning at ABMU NHS Trust West, said: “Investing money on walking and cycling infrastructure and staff facilities has increased the number of people actively commuting to work.

“We consider this investment excellent value for money and are keen to make similar improvements at our other sites.”

Sustrans’ toolkit includes evidence of the need for active travel. During 2007, 172 million days were lost to the British economy due to sickness at a cost of £20 billion to the business and public sector. Currently only 40% of men and 28% of women are reasonably active.

The toolkit - which can be ordered or downloaded at www.activetravel.org.uk/toolkit - sets out how other organisations have encouraged staff to travel actively to work including Leeds University, Singleton Hospital, Stirling Council and B&Q.

Walking or cycling not only removes vehicles off the road it also benefits the individual in that he or she gets the much needed exercise they often do not get when working in offices. It also saves money; money otherwise so often spent on going to the Gym. So, you can look at it as a win/win situation.

The same we must encourage our children and young people to do, namely walking or cycling to school, in groups if need be. The school run in SUVs must become a thing of the past.

Our children would benefit immensely too as they would lose some pounds for sure and they might escape that way the trap of obesity.

© 2009

SRS Energy to Debut Sole Power Tile(TM) at 2009 American Institute of Architects Conference

Solar-Powered Roofing Tile to be Exhibited in Partnership with US Tile

PHILADELPHIA,PA, April 2009: SRS Energy, a leading developer of sustainable solar roofing systems, will launch the Sole Power Tile™, the first building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roofing product designed for curved roofing systems, at the American Institute of Architects 2009 National Convention and Design Exposition. The convention takes place April 30, 2009 through May 2, 2009 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. SRS Energy will exhibit Sole Power Tile™ in partnership with US Tile, the largest manufacturer of clay tile in the United States and recently acknowledged for their Cradle to Cradle certification.

“Sustainability and green living is high on the consumer agenda for 2009, with so many homeowners looking to save money and also be eco-conscious,” said Marty Low, CEO of SRS Energy. “SRS Energy is excited to introduce Sole Power Tile™ to the architectural world. With green building playing such a significant role in the Obama administration’s economic stimulus efforts, it could not come at a better time.”

SRS Energy’s Sole Power Tile™ system blends seamlessly with several styles of US Tile’s clay tiles, providing energy without unsightly solar panels, thus preserving a roofline’s aesthetics. The partnership between US Tile and SRS Energy makes going solar easy by integrating the clay tile roof purchase with a BIPV system, enabling businesses or homeowners to go green and generate savings.

The Sole Power Tile™ system employs cutting-edge thin film solar technology, valued for generating more energy than comparable products in the harsh roofing environment, and is backed by a full product warranty that ensures reliability for both design professionals and their clients.

“Most attractive of all is the ‘eco-nomics’ associated with Sole Power Tile,” Low said. “Choosing to upgrade to a sustainable roof from SRS Energy puts energy savings in homeowners’ pockets immediately and delivers compelling long-term returns.”

SRS Energy and US Tile will exhibit Sole Power Tile™ at Booth 216 near the front of the South Hall. US Tile is currently launching the product in select West Coast markets. For more information, visit www.srsenergy.com or www.ustile.com.

SRS Energy develops and manufactures premium solar roofing tiles designed to integrate with traditional roofing products. Through partnerships with roofing manufacturers, SRS Energy enables seamless solar upgrades that maintain the aesthetics, integrity and simplicity of conventional roofing purchases while delivering sustainable energy savings. SRS Energy is headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. For more information, visit www.srsenergy.com.

US Tile is the nation’s leading manufacturer of all-natural, durable, 100-percent recyclable, environmentally-friendly clay roofing products. Featuring the widest range of profiles available, including Spanish Mission, Shake and Slate, US Tile clay roofing products are ideal for any aesthetic application nationwide. Made from the earth, US Tile’s natural clay roofing products feature the inherent long-term durability of clay and are covered by an industry-leading lifetime warranty that includes no-fade coverage. US Tile is a division of Boral Industries and was founded in Corona, California in 1973. For more information, visit www.ustile.com.


The new heretics?!?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

All those that disagree in one way or the other the accepted (accepted by who?) line of “Global Warming” – even if they may not disagree with “Global Warming”, now renamed to “Climate Change”, which is much more apt – and state that Climate Change might not be due to CO2 emissions and man's activities but due to a natural reoccurring cycle of the Earth – Mother Nature throwing a wobbly to remind us who is in charge – are now made into heretics and it has even be said by a number of the “believers” and “priests” that those who do not accept the line are mentally ill.

Those that are being thus attacked include eminent environmental and climate scientists such as, for instance, David Bellamy in the UK.

The Earth has been doing this on more than a more or less regular basis about every 1,000 or so years. Kind of Mother Earth telling us She in in control and not man and in times past this was accepted as an act of G-d or of the gods. Now, however, mankind wishes to play G-d and thinks that by doing this or that sequence of events can be stopped and even reversed. Like applying the brake in a car and then a reverse gear. Yikes!

I am not saying, and neither are the likes of David Bellamy and many others that the climate is not changing and that in some places it is getting warmer (in others it seems to be the opposite) and that we do not have a period of “Global Warming”. However, where my skepticism, and that of others, lies is as to the man-made, man-caused, part.

Evidence, only the zealots do not wish to see this, points to the fact that the Earth has been going through periods of warming and then again cooling on a more or less regular basis; about every thousand years – give or take a few decades to a few centuries.

This recent warming period our Planet seems to be going through has cause the melting of the sheet ice and glaciers in Greenland and thus laid bare the forests that were there during the time that the Vikings under Eric the red lived there and raised their cattle on the green island they called Greenland.

And we must also not forget that they got to the Labrador coast of Canada which they called Vinland because of the juicy dark-red (black) graped that they found growing there. Try finding such in that area presently. You will be more than likely very hard pressed to do so.

During a previous warm spell – a rather long one – the Romans were in Britain and they grew dark grapes for red wine – please note wine not vinegar – all the way up to Hadrian's Wall and apparently, so legend has it, the Romans liked their wine rather nice and sweet. You just could not even think of doing that today. It is too cold and miserable up there and no one would attempt presently to do that anywhere further than maybe the Midlands, if that far north even in England.

I could go one with what I said in my previous articles but I won't.

What, however, we are beginning to see now is another grand inquisition of sorts that if you do not agree 100% with the line that everyone is being fed and you question some of the details and even dare to put forward opposing, to a degree, views, you are marked as a heretic and as, in the case of David Bellamy, are basically being silenced.

On many forums now personal attacks by the so-called scientists and others on the “climate change is due to man's activities” bandwagon are very common as they just cannot argue their case properly. All one gets is personal attacks and rants and raves and foaming at the mouth and I am not the only one that has been experiencing this.

We can look at a long line of these scientific arguments. In the 1960s and 1970s we were told that the Earth was headed towards a new Ice Age and the reasons given and the scientific proofs? Yes, you guessed it: the very same as they give now as to Global Warming.

Then there came the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic. OK! So, there is a whole there. It may always have been there. No they say; it just developed. Erm, no. Our satellite imaging technology only became good enough to spot it when we did. So it was claimed that the culprits were the CFCs – ok they are not good anyway but – and they were outlawed, etc. And what has happened to said hole? Well, it has – so we are told – been growing still. However, it seems that it grows one minute and then closes up again and keeps doing this. Maybe this is, in fact, Mother Earth's safety valve, much like on a pressure cooker? Just a thought.

Having said all that the point does remain that we cannot carry on living the way we do on this Planet. It is after all – so far we are aware – the only life-sustaining – well it still does at the moment – in our solar system and we need it to continue to survive. We must change our ways and that includes getting rid of the infernal combustion engine, or at least the use of gasoline and similar emission producing fuels – including bio-diesel and even ethanol. There are other ways.

When it comes to all the crap – pardon my French – that we throw away, mostly into landfills; that too must stop and that rather pronto. Our energy use also must be cut drastically, and this because all of it causes pollution and damage to the Earth. If we want to continue to be able to survive and thrive on this Planet we must change the way we live and interact with the Planet. We must reduce our environmental footprint and tread much lighter on the Earth.

And on that note I shall close...

© 2009

Sustrans celebrates ten years of volunteers

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sustrans, the UK 's leading sustainable transport charity, is celebrating the ten year anniversary of its Volunteer Rangers and appealing for more people to come forward and help make a real difference to their local cycling and walking routes.

The first Volunteer Rangers began helping the sustainable transport charity in 1999. Ten years on, there are now around 2,500 volunteers giving their time, which amounts to a grand total of 140,000 hours of work every year at a value of almost £1.5million!

Calculated using the Volunteering England 2007 median hourly wage of £10.14 per hour. For every pound that Sustrans invests in its volunteers, three pounds worth of benefits are returned through the work that volunteers carry out.

But, as the National Cycle Network continues to grow - it currently covers more than 12,000 miles across the UK - more people are needed to help maintain and promote it.

Tony Ambrose, Sustrans Volunteer Programme Manager, said: 'A decade of dedication from our Volunteer Rangers is a huge achievement, well worth celebrating. It's the perfect opportunity to say thank you to all those that have given their time during the last ten years, and encourage more people to get involved.

'With the help of volunteers, Sustrans has managed to create and improve a vast network for healthy and environmentally-friendly travel. It's a lasting legacy that will continue to benefit people across the UK for many years to come.'

Volunteer Rangers give an average of four to five hours a month to check on their local section of the National Cycle Network, by bike or on foot, and make it more pleasant and safe for everyone who uses it.

Ranger tasks can involve anything from clearing overgrown plants and branches, putting up route markers or organising litter-picks, to leading guided walks and bike rides for the public.
Rupert Douglas has been a Volunteer Ranger on National Route 7 near Penrith in Cumbria since the very beginning. He said: 'During my ten years as a Volunteer Ranger I've seen the Sea to Sea route in Cumbria grow enormously in popularity.

'It's a great feeling knowing that I'm helping to maintain and improve the route for both local people and visitors to enjoy.'

The National Cycle Network runs within 2 miles of 75 per cent of the UK population, and is increasingly well-used, with more than 354 million trips made on it in 2007.

To find out more about the Volunteer Ranger opportunities in your area, call 0117 9150110, email volunteers-uk@sustrans.org.uk or visit www.sustrans.org.uk and click on 'Support Sustrans'.

© 2009

Royal Honour for Sustainable Transport Charity

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans is to receive a Queen's Award for Enterprise.

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Award, which was officially announced on April 21, 2009, comes from the Queen, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and an Advisory Committee that includes representatives of Government, industry and commerce, and the trade unions.

The Queen's Award for Sustainable Development is the highest honour that can be given to a UK company. It recognises businesses and organisations which have made outstanding advances or have a high level of continuous achievement, in the environmental and social impacts included in sustainable development.

Sustrans spokeperson says Sustrans is delighted to be receiving the Award. As the charity behind the National Cycle Network and many other practical projects designed to get people travelling in ways that are good for their health and the environment it has over thirty years of working in Bristol and across the whole of the UK.

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans CEO says: "We are delighted to be recognised by this award. But it does not belong solely to us. From the early days of the National Cycle Network through to our £50 million lottery win we could not have achieved any of this without the support of the many hundreds of partners we work with every day. From central and local governments through to the private sector and individuals including our 2,500 volunteers we are grateful for their commitment and share this award with them."

In 2007 the UK public voted Sustrans the winner in the Big Lottery Fund's largest ever competition. The £50 million prize money, for the charity's Connect2 project, is now being used to enable 79 communities across the UK to get around their local area on foot and by bike.

The charity is working with tens of thousands of children to help them cycle to and from school and has seen levels of cycling treble within a year. It is also innovating in encouraging people to re-think the way they travel, Sustrans' work to encourage and enable people to walk, cycle or go by public transport has consistently reduced car trips by up to 10 per cent and at the same time increased the number of journeys people make on foot, by bike and by public transport.

This is something that is so urgently needed as far as the environment and pollution is concerned as well and especially the way that so many of our youngsters suffer from often severe obesity that is due, primarily, to the wrong kind of food and very much so the lack of exercise. They get bussed to school my their parents, collected from school, driven to this or that after school activity and then, when they get home they plonk themselves before the TV or the PC and that's it.

It is not much better with them and for them on the weekends either for again they get bussed to everywhere as the parents also do not walk anywhere or cycle and the vicious cycle – pardon the pun – continues.

In addition to those activities by Sustrans communities in selected streets across the UK are already benefiting from a transport makeover as Sustrans works with residents to transform their neighbourhoods into places that are people-friendly rather than car-centric.

Such changes are urgently needed for cycling is certainly not safe on many of our roads. The car drivers must be educated as to bicycles and the fact that they, the drivers, must give cyclist some room. This causes many who use a bicycle – especially as primary mode of transport – to use the sidewalk rather than cycle in the road. While this may be against the law – it, in fact is – it is safer and my life is not at risk. When cycling with consideration other people also are not put at risk even when using the sidewalk.

There are also cyclists that need to take a close look at how they behave. A red traffic light means stop and that also applies to cyclists, whether or not he or she is Lycra clad and is wearing and environmental fruit bowl on the head.

This announcement by Sustrans will be followed by a formal presentation later in this Spring.

© 2009

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Recession is good for Climate Change, experts say

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In 2007, the United States clocked in at 7.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. For 2009, though, the Energy Department predicts that the country might be end the year at 6.98 billion tons.

Are efforts to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide actually working, or is there something else going on here? The answer, according to an economist at Harvard, is the latter: The recession will cause a drop in carbon emissions simply because there won’t be as many industries, homes and vehicles spewing the greenhouse gas into the air.

Richard Stavins, the Harvard professor, said in a story in New Jersey’s Star-Ledger that the recession has global implications for climate change, too. Because countries that have struggled with Kyoto targets won’t have to struggle so much anymore, they can divest more attention into creating a more seamless policy to follow the Kyoto Protocol in December’s Copenhagen climate meetings.

“So there’s an opportunity in the terrible tragedy of this economic downturn to help the negotiators of the world to make sure that they get the next international climate agreement right,” Stavins said in the Star-Ledger story.

This may be true, but have past recessions actually led to a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions? I decided to look at the recessions, both major and minor, in the last century in the United States and compare them to carbon dioxide emissions from those years to see if there was a decrease. What I found was that it could be kind of a crap shoot which recessions cause decreases.

However, the one thing that remained consistent was that emissions only increased even more after the recession period was over.

Here are my results: Have recessions caused carbon dioxide emissions to go down?

1907-1908: NO. There was no discernible increase in emissions during this short economic panic.

1918-1921: NO. The post-World War I recession didn’t cause an increase in emissions, either, but in the years leading up to the Great Depression, emissions bounced around a lot.

1929-1939: YES. In the middle of the Great Depressions, carbon dioxide emissions dipped to about 3.5 million metric tons, down from about 4.75 million at the beginning of the Depression.

1953-1954: YES. In 1950, carbon dioxide emissions were at about 6.25 million metric tons. By 1953 they had decreased to around 6 million.

1957-1958: YES. Emissions went down a bit, but the amount is too small to have made much of a difference.

1960-1961: NO. This short recession didn’t see a decrease in carbon emissions.

1973-1975: NO. Definitely no. Carbon emissions at this point were up, up and away!

1980-1982: YES. In the late 1970s, carbon dioxide emissions had hit about 1.275 billion metric tons, but by in the early 1980s they had dropped to 1.18 billion, and after a spike shortly after they dropped back down to that mark.

1990-1991: NO. Any decreases here were negligible.

2001: NO. Again, there were no emissions decreases here that would have made a difference.

Note: These numbers are based on looking at a graph of carbon dioxide emissions and may not be 100 percent correct. They should, however, be close. But if you’re a climate expert and can place them more accurately, please let me know.

What we have to consider though is that during many of those times the world, and here especially the developed countries of Europe and the Americas, were in a recession or even a depression and factories and business had closed and there were fewer car journeys as well.

So, in a way, a recession and depression is good for the environment and the Planet but what does it do to the people. However, the biggest factor in our current problems as to CO2 emission is not the emissions but the fact that the emissions are not being absorbed by forests.

In the last few decades we have all but destroyed the Amazon Rainforest and others of that kind; have cut down millions of hectares of prime Canadian wilderness forest to make way for the awful tar and oil sand development in Alberta where, currently, an area the size of Florida is being destroyed – the forests are gone already – and this has a great impact of the natural absorption of CO2.

So, while a recession, and depression even, may be good for the Planet in many ways, including, as I have said in other articles, of getting people to rethink how they live and what they do, the most important thing that we can do to reduce CO2 impact is not so much reducing the emissions – the reduction of other emissions is much more important – but stopping the destruction of forests, whether rainforest or the forests of the Canadian Bush. In addition to the latter we must plant new forests and woodlands and that pronto but not with fact-growing foreign species, for instance, but with local trees and here especially those that make coppicing a possibility as to management.

© 2009

The Depression bites

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

While most governments are still playing around with the terminology and still will not call it the big “D” word the common man in the street knows that we are already in a depression, regardless of what the power brokers and politicians are trying to tell us.

Car production in the United Kingdom alone has fallen by two-thirds over the last year, that is to say in the time from March 2008 to March 2009.

The 2010 British International Motorshow at London's ExCel has been cancelled and we can but wonder what is going to be next and who, as far as businesses and industries are concerned. Other trade fairs, at least in the UK, have also suffered and have reduced in size, and gone to smaller, cheaper, venues, bar a few.

The Green Sector, on the other hand, should be booming, especially if done right and the prices are competitive and, as TerraCycle has shown and shows, this can be done.

This is on the retail side more so than on the larger commercial green projects. In the case of the latter, such as, for instance, wind energy projects, we are seeing investors pulling out. Less so, though, I think, because they think that there will be no return on their investments but more so because the investors too are tightening their belts and purse strings.

From this we can well gauge the mood and it is that of a very depressed economy, and that on a more or less world-wide scale.

Consumer interest is, however, as was shown by a recent study in Britain, rising as far as energy savings are concerned and here the “green” sector must get the pricing right. So, the recession-come-depression appears, inadvertently, to be good for the environment and the Planet in this way.

Also in other ways the recession-come-depression might be good as it may make people think, for instance, about their use of the car, or of the air conditioning, and such.

While I know that in many rural areas, especially in places such as America and Canada, but also the UK, there is not much choice other than the car, except and unless you want to and can go Amish-style; if you need to go into town or anywhere for that matter. In towns and cities, on the other hand, people must come to consider other options.

Those could be anything from walking and cycling to the use of the public transit system.

Going down the block to get the morning paper does not require the use of the car nor does taking kids to school just a few hundred yards to a mile or so away. That can be achieved by walking or cycling.

Costs of gas, though at the time of writing it seems to be low again, in the States at least though not so in the UK and other European countries, and the need to use that money otherwise might just make some people rethink. Not before time and not a bad thing.

The same also in regards to other things that have an impact on the environment and the Planet, such a the use of energy and the “must have” goods that people perceive, because of clever advertising to be “needs” rather than “wants” far too often.

While I am fully aware of the fact that the governments of both the USA and Britain are trying to get people to spend, spend, spend, the countries out of the recession/depression this is (1) not going to happen because people who are worried that they may lose their jobs are not going to go out and spend the little money that they have spare and (2) it will not work, period.

While I am no economist and not pretending to be one either I am not stupid and can use common sense, hence it is obvious to me, as it is to others that have open eyes, that the “stimulus” is not going to help anyone bar the greedy bankers and will just make them carry on as before (see the Great Depression for the governments are currently repeating the same mistakes as then) and it will be the little people that will, once again, suffer and the small businesses.

But, as far as the “Green” Sector is concerned, as I have previously said, with the right approach and the right pricing structure it should be raking it in. The one example green businesses, can learn from is, and I keep repeating myself – and not they are not paying me for this (chance would be a fine thing) – TerraCycle and any green entrepreneur could do worse than read the book by Tom Szaky “REVOLUTION IN A BOTTLE”.

With the right pricing structure and the right attitude the green entrepreneurs could and should be the real winners, as far as businesses are concerned, from this economic downturn. And talking of economics; it is time we put the eco into economics properly.

Now, how about some green banks?

© 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Scavenge - some tips for surviving in a Recession

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Am I concerned about the economy?

Well, sure I am. Who would not be? Aren't you?

Right now many people across the world are also, like ourselves, concerned about the economy and this is certainly not surprising. Short working weeks, layoffs and business closures are a daily occurrence and when one sees business like Woolworth in Britain fail and other big names then we know we are in trouble and this despite of what the governments are trying to tell us.

The credit crunch and the recession, or should we call the baby by its real name, namely Depression, is biting in many households across America and Europe and many people are looking at how to make ends meet.

Scavenging, or “gleaning”, things you need and maybe want from trash cans, dumpsters (called skips in Britain), Freecycle and curbside of ritzy neighborhoods in one way that some are going, and, why not.

Being from a once large Gypsy family I have learned from an early age that money does not grow on trees and that we did not have much of that stuff to go around. Even as children we had to go out and earn a crust and this was done by various small trades. We also scavenged stuff to rework and then resell.

Thus I have learned to live with little and learned how to make the best out of what others regard as trash, or at least with some of it.

Most of my clothes and, yes, even the shoes, come from secondhand stores that are called Charity Shops in Britain. The only exception I make as to buying that way are socks and underwear.

I have got so many hats – as in ball caps – from trade fairs and such that I attend that I can nigh on start a store with them, and this aside from the woolly hats that I find all the time losy in the parks and countryside.

The on thing I have to say is that, so far, I have not tried services such as FreeCycle but I do often check – or used to more than now – dumpsters, called skips over here, for things that can be reused and recycled. However, scavenging from skips without a motorcar or van definitely has its restrictions.

Scavenging, however, can be very satisfying, and it is amazing what people actually throw out. When I was a youngster my uncle used to cruise the streets of the towns and cities when they had the municipal amenity curbside pick up days and the amount of things that were recovered were just amazing.

In my day job, so to speak, the one that brings the food onto the table and pays the rent and bill, I work for a local authority as a Park Ranger and it would amaze most people what we come across discarded in the trash cans and in the parks in general.

In one instance I found a 12VDC to 240VAC power inverter still in its box thrown (basically brand new). Then there was the nice kitchen knife that someone could not bother to take home from a picnic. This one was worth about $15 and has now become now a nice sheath knife. “Waste not, want not,” my parents taught me and thus I do amass rather a collection of things that might come in handy too.

Abandoned bicycles can be found rather often too and in my collection to be rebuilt it a relatively new Mongoose BMX bike that was left behind on;ly because the two tires had burst while someone did a stunt jump with it in the woods. Oh well! If they don't want it I gladly adopt it.

Once you get into such a frugal mindset as I have due to my upbringing it can become rather compulsive and people sort of give you strange look when you stop dead in the road to pick up a rather expensive wrench that has been thrown or lost, or other items. Money too can be found by the one with an open eye.

I used to go to trunk sales (called car boot sales here – a kind of flea market) and did my shopping afterwards when the traders had packed up; I used to call it “free shopping”, retrieving the things that they had discarded and often very good stuff was to be had.

Gleaning has its virtues except for the way it tempts us to brag. I have not learned respect for those who don't treasure things the way I do. I get mad at people who leave nice sweaters behind in restaurants. I wonder how they can be so careless.

Scavenging is a low cost form of personal entertainment. It's not just consumerism on the cheap. I glean the garbage because it's fun.

Frugality can be me internalizing capitalism – or it can be trying to beat it, sneakily, like people beat fear in the seventh grade by acting like they are not afraid. Scavenging clearly keeps us in the market looking for things at an advanced pace.

Call scavenging an underground economy – except that we who scavenge do so in the light of day. Call it compulsive – although it can be done with a great spirit of relaxation.

© 2009


World-Wire Provides gateway for organizations to promote environmental efforts

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

On April 20, 2009 PR Newswire and World-Wire announced a partnership that enables organizations around the world to target environmentally-related news to key media, government, business professionals and citizen groups that specialize in such issues as global warming, renewable energy, conservation and sustainability via the World-Wire network, a specialized database of environmentally-focused contacts.

PR Newswire's current distribution offerings for environmental news are enhanced by World-Wire's robust and quickly growing network of contacts at media organizations, government, corporations, universities and citizens groups that monitor "green" news. World-Wire is a resource provided by the Environment News Service (ENS), the original newswire of the environment, which has been publishing since 1990.

PR Newswire clients can reach ENS' rich database of environmental influencers by adding World-Wire distribution to their news releases. In addition to immediate transmission on the World-Wire circuit, news releases are also distributed to the Environment News Service subscribers alongside ENS' original news content.

Anyone with an interest in accessing breaking environmental news announcements can access World-Wire's homepage, www.world-wire.com, and also have news sent to them directly via email updates or RSS feeds. Additionally, audiences can share World-Wire content on blogs and through social media via tags for Facebook, Digg, Del.icio.us, etc. Bloggers, mobile news readers and application developers can add World-Wire's news via full text or headline RSS feed options.

"In partnering with PR Newswire, we are providing a forum for thousands of companies and organizations to raise awareness of their environmental efforts and communicate with the key individuals and groups that are on the front lines of saving Planet Earth," said Jim Crabtree, World-Wire founder and editor.

"PR Newswire customers can take advantage of ENS World-Wire's extensive network to deliver their 'green' news to the thousands of editors working in the environmental media, investors in the newly emerging sustainable business sector, and the millions of potential customers who are becoming aware of the value of environmental products and services," said Sarah Skerik, vice president, Distribution Services, PR Newswire.

World-Wire, a resource provided by Environment News Service, is definite a "must read" for many thousands of journalists, corporate environmental decision makers, government officials, organizations, academics and other influencers.

Independently owned and operated, the Environment News Service publishes original, late-breaking environmental news from across the United States and around the world, some of it written by ENS correspondents and editors though most of it, in my opinion, are press releases and such from a variety of sources, including companies and we even see the occasional, dare I say it, “greenwashing” here. No fault, probably, of the distributing companies, that is to say ENS, World-Wire, etc., but of those that originally wrote the piece.

The possibility though to receive press wire on environmental issues this way, delivered immediately to one's inbox is invaluable for journalists in the environmental field.

PR Newswire, on the other hand, is the global leader in innovative communications and marketing services, enabling organizations to connect and engage with their target audiences worldwide.

Through its multi-channel distribution network, audience intelligence, targeting, and measurement services, PR Newswire helps corporations and organizations conduct rich, timely and dynamic dialogues with the media, consumers, policymakers, investors and the general public, in support of building brands, generating awareness, impacting public policy, driving sales, and raising capital.

Pioneering the commercial news distribution industry 55 years ago, PR Newswire connects customers with audiences in more than 170 countries and in over 40 languages through an unparalleled network of offices in 16 countries across North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and via unique affiliations with the leading news agencies across the globe. PR Newswire is a subsidiary of United Business Media Limited, a leading global business media company that serves professional commercial communities around the world. For more information, go to www.unitedbusinessmedia.com.

UBM focuses on two principal activities: worldwide information distribution, targeting and monitoring; and, the development and monetization of B2B communities and markets. UBM's businesses inform markets and serve professional commercial communities — from doctors to game developers, from journalists to jewelry traders, from farmers to pharmacists — with integrated events, online, print and business information products. Our 6,500 staff in more than 30 countries are organized into specialist teams that serve these communities, bringing buyers and sellers together, helping them to do business and their markets to work effectively and efficiently. For more information, go to www.unitedbusinessmedia.com.

© 2009

PBS Frontline's 'Poisoned Waters' Reports New Hazardous Chemicals Polluting U.S. Drinking Waters

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The new PBS Frontline documentary "Poisoned Waters" reported on the evening of Tuesday, April 21st, 9-11 pm, that a new wave of chemical compounds that scientists describe as raising dangers for human health have been found in drinking water systems of cities across the country by the U.S. Geological Survey.

"Poisoned Waters,", which is airing nationwide on PBS, reveals new evidence that today's growing environmental threat comes not from the giant industrial polluters of old, but from chemicals in consumers' face creams, deodorants, prescription medicines and household cleaners that find their way into sewers, storm drains, and eventually into America's waterways and drinking water.

When we also take into consideration that, so I understand, a great majority of American pipes for drinking water still are wooden it is even more of a concern. While there is nothing, per se, wrong with the old technology of wooden pipes one should have thought that (1) the USA would be more advanced than that and (2) that, while wood does have antibacterial properties, those pipes, by the nature of their construction can leak and which is more of a problem can actually take up contaminants.

"The long-term, slow-motion risk is already being spelled out in large population studies," Dr. Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health tells correspondent and Pulitzer-prize winner Hedrick Smith. Those studies correlate health risks with exposure to chemicals in the environment known as endocrine disrupters because they disrupt the body's normal functioning.

"We can show that people with higher levels of some of these chemicals may have a higher incidence" of disease and such harmful effects such as lower male sperm count, asserts Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. "In most cases, we don't know what the safe levels are."

Tests by the U.S. Geological Survey of source waters for urban drinking water systems, have documented new contaminants coast to coast. Other scientists say these chemicals are causing fish kills, frogs with six legs, male fish with female eggs in their gonads and other mutations. They see these mutations as warnings to humans.

Millions of people are being exposed to endocrine disruptors, Lawrence explains, "and we don't know precisely how many of them are going to develop premature breast cancer, going to have problems with reproduction, going to have all kinds of congenital anomalies of the male genitalia -- things that are happening at a broad low level so that they don't raise the alarm in the general public."

Using Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound as case studies, "Poisoned Waters" examines how these emerging pollutants along with old industrial contaminants like PCBs, lead and mercury and agricultural pollution from concentrated hog, cattle and chicken growing operations, have kept America from making many of the nation's waterways fishable and swimmable again – a goal set by Congress nearly four decades ago.

"The environment has slipped off our radar screen because it's not a hot crisis like the financial meltdown," says Smith. "But pollution is a ticking time bomb. It's a chronic cancer that is slowly eating away the natural resources that are vital to our very lives."

"Poisoned Waters" is a FRONTLINE co-production with Hedrick Smith Productions, Inc. Hedrick Smith is correspondent and senior producer. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. For more info go to www.pbs.org/frontline/poisonedwaters

Seeing this lamentable situation maybe the treatment of the water should be looked at as well for, it would appear that somewhere along the line there is not all proper and correct with that.

In addition to that all one can suggest is that people get filters to ensure their water, especially for drinking, cooking, cleaning of teeth, and such, is as clean as possible. A number of good filters are on the market and it is also possible to make good filter systems oneself.

© 2009


Leading Premium Wine Made From Organically Grown Grapes

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ST. HELENA, CA, April, 2009: Following the successful release of its True Earth wines in 2007, Three Thieves is making headway in the organic wines category soaring into the top ten in terms of volume. According to data from AC Nielsen, while traditional wine sales have slowed, organic wines have continued to grow over the past six months at 13.8%. In particular, True Earth wines have grown 78.8% in the past six months, giving the wine its top ten status.

“True Earth has exceeded our expectations in the organic wine category to become a leading wine for enthusiasts who strive to eat and drink organically. What better way to celebrate the Earth this year on Earth Day than to enjoy the wine that we are proud to say comes straight from the Earth?” says Chief Thief Charles Bieler.

With a wine label designed by Michael Schwab, the same designer who created the logo for San Francisco’s Presidio and other National Parks, True Earth is a pure wine derived from healthy soils and healthy vines, creating true, expressive wines with a sense of place. Both True Earth wines—a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah, and a varietal Chardonnay—are made from California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) vineyards in Mendocino County, using no pesticides, herbicides, or conventional synthetic fertilizers. Minimal amounts of sulfites are used in the winemaking process to preserve freshness.

In addition to the True Earth wines, The Three Thieves—Charles Bieler, Joel Gott and Roger Scommegna—also sell environmentally friendly Bandit wines, which are housed in Tetra-Pak boxes (1 liter and 500 mL). Tetra Paks are comprised of 70 percent paper, a renewable and recyclable resource vastly lighter than glass. For the delivery of equal volumes of wine, the weight of the Tetra Pak and all ancillary packaging is 8% of the weight of the glass alternative, which means both much less solid waste and far lower fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions for transport.

True Earth wines retail nationally for $12.99 and are also available for purchase through the website www.threethieves.com.

Three Thieves, developed by Charles Bieler, Joel Gott and Roger Scommegna, is the leading brand of Rebel Wine Company, a St. Helena, California-based joint venture between Three Thieves and Trinchero Family Estates. Known as much for their innovative packaging as for the wine that is in it, the Three Thieves have distinguished themselves through their originality and vision. Collaborating with Trinchero Family Estates, Napa Valley vintners since 1947, the Thieves have solidified their commitment to quality at a reasonable price, an adage that binds the two companies.

One has to say that this company is, however, not the only one that produces wines from organically grown grapes. Others do the same and some are small family-based operations with a very fine ethical outlook on things. Jorian Hill is one vineyard that comes to mind here for sure.

© 2009

Grist's "Screw Earth Day!" Campaign Stirs Debate Among Environmental Community

Grist Urges Public to Make Every Day Earth Day with Free Download of 'Wake Up and Smell the Planet' and Sweepstakes for Free Trip to Bonnaroo Music Festival

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Grist's irreverent Screw Earth Day! campaign has inspired a fresh look at the annual Earth Day celebration as its 39th anniversary approaches. The promotion has sparked lively debate on numerous Blogs and websites, stirring up feelings throughout the environmental movement.

This, in a way, is understandable, as some people's feelings run very high when it looks as if someone is attacking some of their cherished things. A bit like making the same statement about Christmas or Easter for Christians, though neither Christmas not Easter are the real dates as to the events, though that may not be relevant here in this context.

Grist, the nation's leading online source for environmental news and information, launched the Screw Earth Day! campaign on April 9 to underscore the importance that one day of action each year is not sufficient to address the pressing needs threatening our warming globe.

"In many cases, Earth Day has been reduced to a sort of planetary sound bite," said Chip Giller, founder and CEO of Grist. "Well, we think that bites. Our campaign is sending the message that it's time to wake up and smell the planet: the environmental challenges of today require us to treat every day as an Earth day. One day is for amateurs."

Grist has published a special editorial series, "Does Earth Day Really Matter?", that explores the green movement's conflicted feelings over Earth Day. And Grist has rolled out – as a special treat – a new series of Ask Umbra videos on Grist.org that are sure to make Earth Day blush.

Grist is encouraging new users to sign up for daily and weekly news updates by providing two compelling incentives: a free download of its popular, award-winning book Wake Up and Smell the Planet: The Non-Pompous, Non-Preachy Grist Guide to Greening Your Day; and a free trip for two (including round-trip airfare, full festival passes and carbon offsets) to Bonnaroo, the popular music and arts festival that has a long-standing commitment to sustainability.

To download a free copy of Wake Up and Smell the Planet and enter the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival sweepstakes, register at www.screwearthday.com.

With a fresh spin on environmental news and views, Grist informs, inspires, and links America's next generation of green citizens. Founded in April 1999, Grist has developed the most recognizable voice in environmental journalism: funny, opinionated, and intelligent. Grist offers in-depth reporting, news analysis, opinions, and practical advice -- all tailored to inform, entertain, provoke, and encourage its users to think creatively about environmental problems and solutions.

Each month, Grist reaches more than 800,000 unique individuals through its website and e-mails, and it has enjoyed particular success among readers in their 20s and 30s. Through partnerships with major media outlets such as MSN, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and Yahoo!, Grist is reaching an even broader audience that extends into the millions. Grist has been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, Vanity Fair, and dozens of other major media outlets worldwide, and was recently ranked as a top green website by both Time and The London Guardian.

This call to make every day Earth Day is, on the other hand, much like the one that we often hear, and rightly so, to make every day Mother's Day, for instance, and I would agree with both. In fact Earth Day is, in a way, the day of our Earth Mother and we should honor her not just once a year but every day of the year.

At times one has to be controversial to wake people up and this on more than one level and it may be that this just may have done it.

Also, with one day, often it seems to be a case that everyone, individuals, groups, organizations, businesses, up to government level, all want to do something on Earth Day. Once it is gone, however, it is more often than not “business as usual” and that cannot continue.

While everyone jumps on the bandwagon just before Earth Day the great promises seem to could for nothing once the day is done and dusted until next year, maybe. Everyone makes promises and pledges, much like New Year's Resolutions, only to forget about them a few days after.

Make Every Day Earth Day should be our motto and the way we work.

I must say that I am not sure what i am supposed to make of the “free download” thing because I registered on the Grist site and upon verification was directed to the supposed download page for the book “ Wake Up and Smell the Planet” but all I got was an error that said that the page cannot be found.

Now, in my mind then forms the question when things like that happen as to whether this is but a gimmick to get people sign up on a site. I have emailed Grist an informed them of this and currently am awaiting a response. Am I holding my breath? No, is the short answer.

© 2009

Recession sets off great interest in efficiency

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It is official now. The recession, or should we start calling the child by the “D” name, has triggered interest in the kind of environmental innovation that makes a difference today, and not the kind that might make a difference someday. Instead of looking at getting a Prius or solar panels that will likely never pay for themselves, consumers are thinking of low-tech, quick-return energy-saving measures.

According to a new survey from The Shelton Group, 71% of people considered buying energy efficient products "to save money" in comparison to 55% who said it was "to protect the environment." That's a direct switch from the group's 2007 and 2006's surveys. Then consumers who were buying or considering to buy energy efficient products said they did so because of their concern for the environment. In this setting the recession could be good for the environment and those that produce such energy efficient products.

Consumers were looking at taking (or had already taken) a bunch of energy-related decisions that would likely save them some green.

  • 44 percent responded they are likely to buy a programmable thermostat; 32 percent already have.
  • 43 percent responded they are likely to install insulation in their homes; 26 percent already have.
  • 42 percent responded that they are to install a higher-efficiency water heater; 26 percent already have.
On the other hand, decisions that might help only the environment, and not their wallet were much less desirable.
  • Installed natural/indigenous/low water landscaping – 13 percent.
  • Participate in utility’s green power program – 9 percent.
  • Buy carbon offsets for plane trips or for home – 6 percent.
This shows that, during this crisis, which may yet turn into a Depression, people are voting with their pocketbooks and the green products manufacturers and vendors much ensure that they do not price the products out of the market, as some seem to do.

Whatever, the greatest amount of good we can do right here and right now is to use less energy through efficiency. We must, however, also look to the future and green power programs must create incentives for people to build more renewable energy at a time when renewables are young. The governments too must do their share by making grants available for the erecting of small wind turbines at people's homes, make legislation that “forces” the power companies to buy surplus power from micro-generators, and this includes individual homes, at the going rate for power and not, like in the UK, at a pittance, and government must do away with the need for planning permission for small wind turbines, whether at a detached property or on a balcony in a block of apartments.

Government and all of us need to direct money to these young utilities now, because every Dollar and every Pound and every Euro make a huge difference in these early years.

Even though sometimes may not make our money back, at least not immediately, buying green cars and green power is an investment in our future and in the future of our Planet and the future of our children and theirs.

When it comes to green cars and green transport we may have to get away from the infernal combustion engine and find alternatives, for even the Prius and other every so efficient cars still use gasoline or biofuels, the latter which are not without problems and some problems bigger even that those cause by gasoline, and that is where the problem lies. There are other ways. It would appear, however, as if no one wants to explore those. But why not? Maybe someone should ask government and the oil companies.

© 2009

Galaxy announces that it is to go green

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

At the approach to Easter with the Western world going mad for chocolate, confectionery giant Mars has announced it is working with the Rainforest Alliance to secure ethically-sourced cocoa for its chocolate production on an unprecedented scale.

While chocolate for ethical consumers has been available for quite a number of years now, initially via the Fraitrade Foundation certification, this is the first time that such a major player has publicly committed to taking major steps towards sustainable procurement.

Mars has said it aims to buy enough Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa to produce all of its Galaxy chocolate bars by early 2010 and will purchase all its cocoa from certified sources by 2020.

In order for this to be achieved, the Rainforest Alliance will have to ensure that enough farms meet its standards to produce 100,000 tons of cocoa a year by 2020.

This is expected to lead to improvements for many thousands of cocoa farmers in west Africa and other regions.

There are an estimated two million cocoa growers in Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, which together produce about 80% of the world's cocoa supply.

Nearly all cocoa is grown on small, family farms that are vulnerable to disease, inclement weather and price fluctuations.

Since farmers manage small plots of about three hectares, the amount of cocoa beans required for Galaxy alone will require the annual harvest of several thousand farmers.

Mars' announcement that all Galaxy chocolate is going to be “fair trade” follows on the heels of Cadbury's decision to use a seal from the Fairtrade Foundation for its Dairy Milk chocolate bar by the end of the summer.

Mars is partnering with the Rainforest Alliance, which has developed a a certified-sustainable seal with clear environmental, labor and production requirements.

"Mars' commitment to buying sustainable cocoa is unprecedented in size and scope, and the benefits to farmers, farmworkers, tropical environments and wildlife will be tangible," said Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance.

"This initiative is an example of the tremendous impact global companies can have when they commit to sustainability. I have recently returned from Ghana, where I saw firsthand the problems, the improvements and the possibilities."

Rainforest Alliance certification ensures that goods and services are produced in compliance with strict guidelines protecting the environment, wildlife, workers and local communities.

But it is a shame though that may of the the larger companies seem to avoid going the real Fairtrade route, that is to say that of the Fairtrade Foundation; the route that Cadbury's is going to go. While the Rainforest Alliance standards are better than nothing they are in no way as stringent as those of the original players in the game, namely the Fairtrade Foundation.

This is not only so, as regards to the opting for the easier way, e.g. the Rainforest Alliance, rather than the Fairtrade Foundation certification, in the cocoa, that is to say, chocolate sector. We see the same in the area of coffee and tea. Many of the larger companies seem to be scared to commit to the standards that the Fairtrade Foundation would ask of them and opt for the somewhat easier ones of the Rainforest Alliance or even other, laxer ones.

Let the customer beware that not all supposedly ethical certification systems are the same.

© 2009

Can a person clutter up his time by constantly uncluttering?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

And yes, the answer, the short one, is yes he or she can.

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was an arrogant and deceitful man who tricked the gods. Displeased at being duped, the gods sentenced him to spend eternity pushing an enormous boulder up a hill. He pushes it most of the way up the hill, then the boulder rolls back down to the bottom of the hill, and he has to do it all over again and again and again and again. Every minute of every day, Sisyphus pushes the boulder up the hill, only to watch it roll back down.

In the study of economics, the “law of diminishing returns” similarly explains that there is a point where increased production will actually create reduced benefits. Imagine that I give you a cookie. You eat the cookie, and it tastes amazing. You love that I gave you a cookie. So, I hand you another and another and another, and you eat them all. By the time I’m handing you a tenth cookie, you don’t want to eat cookies any more. You feel nauseated. The idea of eating another cookie disgusts you. There isn’t anything different about the tenth cookie from the first, except that you passed the point of marginal benefit. Eating cookies is now creating bad responses. You were much happier having eaten just one or two cookies than you were eating ten.

Sisyphus and the economic law of diminishing returns both speak to the question asked in the headline of this post. “Can a person clutter up his time by constantly uncluttering?”

Without a doubt, the answer to that question is “yes.”

When you choose to clear the clutter and organize your home and work lives, you should be doing it so that you can focus on what really matters. Organizing and decluttering are processes that help you to reach more important goals. They are the means, not the end. Whether your goals are to have more quality time with your children or provide better services to your clients or to have a stress-free vacation, being organized helps you do those things more easily and with less anxiety.

There is a point where you can derive the greatest amount of benefit from your decluttering and organizing endeavors. That point will be different for every person, so don’t judge yourself based on others or judge others based on your returns. Find that perfect point for you, where you get the greatest returns from your decluttering and organizing efforts, and embrace and sustain it. Don’t organize for the sake of organizing — organize for the purpose of living of a remarkable life.

The other thing to consider also, so I have found, is that what you have regarded as clutter and thrown a fortnight ago only to find then that you need it.

So, as far as I am concerned, I approach decluttering with great caution and much consideration. And while it is good to have some space in the house or office to find that you have thrown something away as “clutter” just because you have not needed it for the last the gods only know how many months or even years only to find that now you need it and have to go out and buy it.

Decluttering on occasions is good but do approach it with caution and do not let your life be ruled by decluttering and the thought of it.

© 2009

Download your Software instead getting on disc

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Software CDs are made out of nonrenewable petroleum products, and are difficult to recycle, though there are ways of re-purposing them but...

They are placed in plastic cases, often of a polycarbonate type (jewel cases), stuffed into boxes with manuals, & all wrapped in even more plastic.

This can all be eliminated if you download the software directly from the company via the Internet instead of shopping for it at the computer software store.

You won’t have to drive, the manufacturers won’t have to ship to the stores, and you can relax. So go green and save resources, as well as time & fuel.

Once downloaded you can store the software, as a backup, on your hard drive, an external drive or you burn the software to CD. Some software that is downloaded, especially such as Linux operating systems come down the line, comes as an ISO, that is to say a CD disc image, and will need to be burned to a CD in order to be able to be installed. That way you also have a full CD, in the same way as if you would have bought it in the box from a vendor, with manuals in PDF and such.

There is a great deal of software out there anyway that you can even download for free, and that includes, as said, entire operating systems, such as the various Linux distros, complete office suites and other stuff.

Much of this, such as Linux OSs and the likes of Open Office office suite, and others, fall under the Open Source Software label while others are so-called “freeware”. The latter often is a restricted version of one to be paid for, or one where the pro-version has more intricate features which most users would never need.

Open Office, for instance, is a complete – bar Outlook and the newest kind of things – replacement for MS Office and it is free and you can install it on as many computers as you wish, even for commercial use without committing any felony.

Then we have The Gimp: a replacement, basically, for Adobe Photoshop. This program is reckoned by many expert users to be superior in many aspects to Photoshop bar the fact that it does not have postscript output. Again, this program is free. Ever looked at Photoshop's prices?

None of those can be bought in a box and all are to be downloaded. Saves money and the environment.

Foxit PDF is a lovely PDF reader that is superior to Adobe Reader in many aspects, not alone for the fact that with Foxit you can highlight and annotate PDFs and it will retain those alterations.

PDF Creator is a free PDF making software that, though not having all the features of Adobe Acrobat, suffices for most people's use. It is used as a virtual printer and creates PDFs as good as the commercial packages. I have yet to discover whether it has the locking facilities that Acrobat has but then it does not cost me hundreds of dollars.

Open Office has a one-click PDF maker built in but it does not compress the data as well as does the stand-alone PDF Creator and therefore, personally, though it is nice to have the one-click facilitiy in Open Office, I tend to go round the slightly longer way – when not using Linux – of using the PDF Creator as a virtual printer to make the PDFs I need.

This is just a very small example of the material that you can download and that you do not even have to pay for. But whichever way; the recommendation is: download rather than get on CD. You then have the freedom to put it on CD at home but...

© 2009

BOGO LIGHT - Advertisement

British politicians advocate electric cars

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Top figures from both side of the political spectrum in Britain have spoken out in favor of electric vehicles this week, saying consumers need to be encouraged to switch to low carbon cars.

The Prime Minister Gordon Brown hinted at a potential 2,000 GBP subsidy for those choosing to exchange their current car for an electric equivalent while London Mayor Boris Johnson said he wants to make the city the European capital for electric vehicles.

Government is currently considering the grants for those purchasing electric cars, as well as a 'scrappage' scheme which would pay out to those scrapping their old cars in favor of more environmentally efficient models.

Mayor Johnson has said he wants to see 100,000 electric vehicles on the streets of London.

Both announcements are slightly vague - details on the government scheme are thin on the ground while Mr Johnson has simply said he wants to see more electric vehicles out there 'as soon as possible' - but both also promise political support for low carbon vehicles.

This is not surprising, the vagueness I mean, for it would appear that the British government, on all levels, just is rather vague when it comes to green issues. Strong on rhetoric but very little specific and definitely even less action. That is something that We The People should be able to address though if we but would dare to do so. Think elections, folks.

Reaction to Mr Brown's announcement has been mixed, with the car manufacturers saying that a similar scrappage system in measures in Germany have simply led to people trading up to bigger cars and claiming that the incentive will not encourage many motorists to go electric due to the current lack of choice in the market.

This claim by the car industry is also not really correct. They apparently think that the general public do not read or listen to news. In Germany the problem is more that the people trading in their cars, primarily, went for foreign made cars rather than German made ones and that has upset the makers there. Mostly for cars that has a better gas mileage and such. So, not as much bigger cars but foreign cars and often more efficient cars is the state of affairs in Germany, it would appear.

Green energy groups have pointed out that electric vehicles are only as environmentally friendly as their power source.

"This move is only as green as the electricity that charges the batteries," said Gaynor Hartnell the Renwable Energy Association's director of policy.

"It is vital that the electric vehicles push ties in directly with an even greater expansion of renewable electricity at all scales, otherwise we will be building yet more dirty power stations.

"The government will need to bring renewables, the network infrastructure and car industries together to ensure that this happens."

This, on the other hand is a load a garbage as well. While it is true the power source must be taken into consideration that is being use to charge the vehicles electric cars and vans at least cause little or no pollution while they are being driven.

Another environmental consideration that seems to be missed, however, is the battery or batteries and their components. How environmentally friendly are they and their manufacturing processes?

The question, therefore, is as to how green electric cars can be in this equation, especially if and when we consider their components. Plastics for the bodywork – to make the cars lighter – the batteries, the motors, etc. Many of those are toxic components too. Here we encounter the great “hmm???”, don't we.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson has said he will work with businesses, boroughs and other public sector organizations to deliver 25,000 charging points in London's workplaces, retail outlets, streets, public car parks and station car parks by 2015 and attempt to alter planning guidance in the capital so that 20% of parking places in new developments should be equipped with charging points.

Mayor Johnson said: "The time for simply talking about electric vehicles is over - we need real action on the ground to make the electric vehicle an easy choice for Londoners.

"I am today committing millions to install the infrastructure needed for when, in just a few years time, these vehicles become much more widely available.

"This is an unprecedented package of measures to make London the electric car capital of Europe.

"By taking these steps, we will not only create green collar jobs, but also smooth the way for less polluting transport choices which will improve our air quality, reduce traffic noise and contribute significantly to my carbon emissions reduction target."

The estimated cost of the 25,000 charging points and conversion of the Greater London Authority fleet is £60million - the Mayor has pledged to fund a third of this and is calling for the Government and the private sector to commit the remainder.

This all sounds very grand indeed but... and here comes the but... the technology has not been given enough boost to be developed to a standard that will make electric cars and vans viable for longer distances and for rural areas and such.

The electric car the size of, say, the Smart Car from Mercedes Benz (I know it presently is still gasoline powered) is fine and good for a runabout and for going into the cities and living and driving in the cities as a single person or a couple. As soon as you add a few kids there is a problem in the offing which has not, as yet, been sufficiently addressed.

On the other hand we should, especially in towns and cities promote the use of bicycles a lot more – the way it is done in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany – rather than always the car, whether electric, biofuel or still gas and diesel.

However, the great love affair that we all, and especially the governments, and they very much so as the taxes on the gas and diesel give them a nice little earner, have with motorcar and the internal combustion engine that runs gas or diesel that powers it, I think it highly unlikely that alternative means of transport will be pushed, especially that of the human-powered variety. Shame rather.

The only way this will ever change if we, the people, change our approach and tell our elected representatives to do as we ask or else.

© 2009

Britain must do more to secure wind energy jobs

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Britain, as a nation, is punching well below its weight when it comes to offshore wind, risking missing legally-binding targets and the opportunity to secure tens of thousands of jobs. It also may risk incurring problems with those that have set the legally binding targets.

This is the conclusion of a new paper published by think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research.

The paper says rapid expansion of the sector is needed to meet EC targets of 15% Britain's energy to come from renewable energy by 2020.

The paper also says that more government support is needed to make Britain a global hub for offshore wind energy, with the potential to create up to 70,000 jobs in parts of the country where they are most needed.

It claims that only 700 people are currently employed in this sector and only one factory in the UK has been set up to make parts for turbines. Most blades, and other equipment, for wind turbines, especially the large commercial ones, comes from abroad; much from Denmark and such. There is, however, no reason why such industries could not be established in Britain creating much needed employment and, probably, a way out of the depression.

Matthew Lockwood, Senior Research Fellow for IPPR, said: "Offshore wind has great potential for UK jobs but we risk being blown off course.”

"The government's pledge to achieve ambitious renewable energy targets by 2020 shows it is serious about its potential but we need to follow through with concrete policies to create greater certainty for industry, maximize the potential for the UK economy and realize our environmental goals."

The report also points to government backing for wind energy industry in Denmark, Spain and Germany saying that initiatives there have successfully provided stimulus for the sector.

However, as per usual, in Britain, we find that government just is not prepared to give any backing such as what other EU countries give to their green industries, in the same way as the British public transit system is the most expensive in all of Europe if not indeed the world while flying is so much cheaper.

The British Wind Energy association (BWEA) has said this is the latest in a long line of reports to show that, despite having the best wind resources in Europe, the UK is failing to cash in on a potential boom area.

Dr Gordon Edge, BWEA director of Economics and Markets, said: "A host of independent studies has shown that the wind sector in the UK can be a motor for economic growth.

"Wind can provide clean, sustainable energy, while attracting investment and creating employment. It is a win-win situation, which, with the right policy framework in place, can benefit the country as a whole."

As, unfortunately, with so many initiatives on the green sector, whether the renewable alternative energy sector, or in other branches, Britain seems to be lagging behind though government tries to tell us that we are not. Example the recent claims that Britain is the leader in recycling all packaging; a statement that just cannot be bought in the way it was presented.

The public must put more pressure on the governments, of this country and elsewhere, to back the green industry and to also make going green possible for the people of their respective nations. And this not just because of the possibility of the burning of fossil fuels for energy having something to do with the changing of the climate but because we must stop the pollution of our environment, and we must do it now. It should have been done the day before yesterday, but... we have to do it now for other wise it may just be too late. We only have this one Earth.

© 2009

Sugarcane ethanol already meets California low carbon fuel standard, says Brazilian Sugarcane Association

Industry comments submitted to California Air Resources Board underscore sugarcane ethanol's recognized carbon reduction levels

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Sugarcane ethanol's carbon intensity is even lower than initially calculated by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), according to comments submitted today by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA).

CARB is scheduled to vote on the first-of-its-kind Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) on April 23-24. The objective of the LCFS is to reduce by 10% the carbon intensity of all transportation fuels in California by 2020.

What we must remember though is that the comments are from an industry body and, as far as I am concerned, much of what comes out of bodies of that kind is not necessarily the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

"Sugarcane ethanol has a verifiable reduction in greenhouse gases of 90% compared to gasoline. Sugarcane ethanol will easily meet the LCFS, not just in 2020 but today," said Marcos Jank, President & CEO of the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), following submittal of a 25-page letter to the California regulator.

As part of broader climate change regulations, CARB is calculating the carbon intensity of all fuels used in the state. It has determined that the carbon intensity of gasoline is about 95 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule (gCO2/MJ), meaning that gasoline must reduce its carbon intensity to 86 gCO2/MJ by 2020 to meet the LCFS.

Additives such as biofuels will help gasoline meet the 10% reduction target, since some biofuels, like sugarcane ethanol, have much lower carbon intensity than gasoline. While preliminary CARB calculations indicate that sugarcane ethanol has a carbon intensity of 27 gCO2/MJ, the submission by UNICA points out that CARB failed to account for basic elements of sugarcane production and ethanol processing that directly affect that result. These include expanding mechanization of the cane harvest, increasing cogeneration and significant, ongoing reduction of pre-harvest field burnings.

"Any realistic evaluation of carbon emissions from sugarcane farming in Brazil must reflect the strict policies being implemented and action already taken to phase out sugarcane burning, increase mechanical harvesting and expand cogeneration output," said Joel Velasco, UNICA Chief Representative in North America. "Time and again, analysts have confirmed that sugarcane ethanol achieves about a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to yesterday's gasoline. And that's not even comparing with tomorrow's gasoline, which will certainly come from more carbon intensive sources."

The letter of Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) also addresses the controversial calculations resulting from so-called indirect land use change impacts from sugarcane expansion. The letter supports numerous comments from stakeholders and mentions specifically a letter by 111 Ph.D. Scientists which states that the science used to determine such impacts is quite limited, highly uncertain and open to misuse, through selective enforcement of such impacts. It urges CARB to revisit the methodologies utilized in land use change modeling.

"If CARB is determined to push forward with ILUC quantifications, we are asking that the best available data and research be considered before rushing to conclusions. If they want to project indirect land use changes in the future, they must start by accurately representing the dynamics of Brazilian agriculture today. We are confident that a thorough and scientific analysis will conclude that indirect land use change from sugarcane cultivation in Brazil is marginal at best, as we endeavor to demonstrate in our letter," said Velasco, who will be in Sacramento for the CARB vote on the LCFS next week.

To download UNICA's letter to the California Air Resources Board, use the following link: http://www.unica.com.br/download.asp?mmdCode=50F82F75-EA2D-4BB6-8832-B81C15EFFD8E

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) represents the top producers of sugar and ethanol in the country's South-Central region, especially the state of Sao Paulo, which accounts for about 50% of the country's sugarcane harvest and 60% of total ethanol production. UNICA develops position papers, statistics and specific research in support of Brazil's sugar, ethanol and bioelectricity sectors. In 2008, Brazil produced an estimated 565 million metric tons of sugarcane, which yielded 31.3 million tons of sugar and 25.7 billion liters (6.8 billion gallons) of ethanol.

My personal beef with all biofuels is that the production of most if much more intensive than anything else, that it requires large amounts of water – which is scarce in many of the growing regions – and also lots of fertilizers and pesticides, etc. In addition to that, and this is one of the biggest concerns of mine, is that it takes good farmland out of food production and could, by this very act, cause food shortages. Furthermore there are findings that in fact show that the emissions from biofuels, are more harmful than in fact those from oil derives fuels, and while we must get away from burning fossil fuels we should not exchange one evil for an even greater one. Think!

© 2009

GIANT FOOD helps customers feel “green” on Earth Day

This is “green” as in environment and not “green” as in envy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

As part of its year-round commitment to sustainability, Giant Food will celebrate Earth Day in its shopping aisles.

Encouraging its customers to "think green," Giant Food is partnering with General Mills to promote the use of environmentally friendly reusable bags. Customers purchasing $15 worth of select General Mills products from April 17 to April 23 will receive a coupon redeemable for five free reusable bags, allowing consumers to create their own "green checkout starter kit," as multiple bags are typically required for each shopping trip to the supermarket.

"Through grass roots efforts such as this, we are able to reward reusability and to demonstrate the positive impact that reusing bags can have on the environment," said Giant Food Executive Vice President and General Manager Robin Michel. "Helping the environment is a simple act of personal commitment, and by partnering with General Mills and our customers we can make a substantive difference."

With the ultimate goal of changing customers' reliance on plastic and paper bags, which take resources to produce and often end up in landfills, Giant has put into place a multifaceted campaign to encourage customers to switch to reusable bags through economic incentives. For decades, Giant deducted three cents from a customers shopping bill for each reusable bag filled at checkout. Last year, the company increased the incentive amount to five cents per reusable bag.

Beginning April 17, Giant will also feature large in-store displays of energy efficient Sylvania Compact Fluorescent Bulbs. "There are small steps we can all take to conserve energy," added Michel. "We believe that prominent displays of these energy efficient light bulbs will remind our customers that energy conservation can be easy and cost effective."

Giant's other green programs include collecting and recycling plastic bags; recycling store-generated shrink/pallet wrap and cardboard; and instituting recycling programs in store break rooms and support offices. Giant also earned recognition for superior energy performance of its supermarkets by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The company was the only supermarket chain in the country to be named an ENERGY STAR Leader in 2007. In addition, Giant partners with the EPA through their SmartWay program, demonstrating the company's commitment to reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in their transportation operations.

Giant Food LLC, headquartered in Landover, MD, operates 182 supermarkets in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia, and employs approximately 22,000 associates. Included within the 182 stores are 164 full-service pharmacies. For more on Giant, visit www.giantfood.com.

The story with recycling carrier bags in stores is one that we do want to research a lot deeper soon as I believe that much of that is but “greenwash” and those bags, while being collected, are not, in fact recycled at all but end up in the landfills and incinerators. But, I guess, we shall see.

© 2009

Frugal folks now made responsible for deepening of recession

Frugality fuels recession's vicious cycle, say government economists.

Even those whose jobs are safe are spending less, which holds down growth, say economists, governments and their psychologists

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Oh dear. What next?

Now, according to the governments and Quangos those of us who have decided to live with less impact on the Earth and who wish to live a more frugal lifestyle are to blame that the recession is continuing. It could not possible, I guess, have anything to do with the banks and other financial institutions that were greedy.

Many of those that are now heading down the frugal living lane – even if only in very low gear – are people who have not recently lost their jobs, for instance, nor are their jobs under immediate threat. Yet things are driving them to change their spending habits, and let's face it; we cannot ever spend our way out of a crisis.

Many have cut back on foreign holidays and instead take vacation at home, as in country as well as home as in home, on eating out, on expensive clothes, and other such. Others decide to lop of 50 bucks a month off their cable bill, eat out only on half-price days.

The frugality of those millions of Americans who still have their good jobs feed back on the economy, holding down growth and encouraging other worried workers to trim their spending - causing the whole vicious cycle to run another lap, according to some studies.

Oh dear! What they really mean that it is cutting into the profits of the companies and they, because they no longer make those profits, and it is only profits that count for most of them, will get rid off workers and blame everyone else for it.

Frugality and frugal living was once seen as a virtue as was saving. Nowadays, while some governments pay lip service to our need to save and such they say at the same time that we must go out and spend, spend, spend, our way out of the current crisis, the one they just call an economic downturn or a recession but which is more akin to the Great Depression. This approach does not work, and neither does throwing ever more money at it and printing more of the same. Germany did that in the late 1920s and see where that led.

Economists say many still-flush consumers are handcuffed by psychological traps that cause them to tighten their purse strings even though economic hardship is not their reality. The economists do not, however, seem to appreciate that some people have decided to downsize because of costs that have begun to skyrocket, whether gas to power their car or the costs of heating and cooling their homes, etc. When prices rise, even though the job of the people themselves might not – as yet – be under threat, people will cut back, especially on the nonessentials of life.

Underscoring the crucial role that consumer psychology will play in turning around the economy, President Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke have both been on the hustings recently sounding notes of optimism. Only the people with brains, and it is most of those that do the downsizing and the becoming frugal, are not buying that.

People in this higher echelon with good jobs began cutting back on the nonessentials when they heard stories of people losing their jobs left, right, and center and came to the conclusion “what if?, that is to say “what if my job is cut back as well?”

The majority of people with their brains in gear will not be looking at what the experts say. They will be looking for signals from the same people whose experiences caused them to fasten their purse strings to begin with. When someone they know actually finds a new job then, may they begin to relax and look at the economy with a different eye.

The governments may be employing psychologists even to investigate the phenomenon of people going frugal and have them look for a way to boost the people's confidence again, but as said, this is not going to happen unless people see that others are finding jobs again.

It would appear that the governments assume everyone to be a moron and that all of us will swallow, hook, line and sinker, what they are trying to tell.

When all the signs say that we are in a recession and more than likely in a depression then I would say that you could bet your life on it that we are, regardless of what they are telling us.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, chances are that it is a duck and not a black bear.

Now they, obviously, have to look for the villain of the peace somewhere else and it is now all those of us that decide of have decided a long time ago to live a more frugal or seriously frugal lifestyle. Someone has to take the blame and the frugal people are in line this time.

© 2009

RED DEVIL promotes energy saving tips to celebrate earth day

'Seal in the Savings' Campaign Targets Chicago this Spring

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

RED DEVIL Inc., one of the United States' leading manufacturers of caulks and hand tools, is joining forces with Chicago’s top home improvement retailers, including Menards, Ace Hardware, Do it Best and Blain’s Farm & Fleet, to launch a campaign aimed at helping homeowners save energy and money this Earth Day.

As Chicagoans transition from winter to spring, many homeowners may mistakenly believe the costly problem of energy escaping from the home is behind them. With Earth Day on April 22, now is the perfect time to seal in the savings on utility bills and help prevent energy leaks that cause both heating and cooling energy to escape. In fact, a March 6th Wall Street Journal article references the surprising amount of energy lost in homes and the power of caulk to deliver more bang for the buck in plugging the leaks. This article can be read on http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123629700922046051.html

“In this economy, more homeowners are looking for ways to save money around the home by tackling these home improvement projects themselves,” said Jason Ringling, Red Devil, Director of Marketing. “Red Devil is providing homeowners with simple Do-It-Yourself project tips that can result in 20 percent savings on utility bills to help them go green and save some green this spring.”

Chicagoans inspired by Earth Day to take action around their homes can save energy and money by following these easy Do-It-Yourself tips.

Usual suspects: Energy can leak from common places in the home such as around doors and windows as well as more obscure areas including exhaust pipes and siding joints. Step outside and look at the area under the door -- frequent foot traffic may have caused settling and cracking. These leaks can easily be fixed or prevented by sealing these areas.

Walk the talk with caulk: Helping the environment and your wallet has never been easier. KING KAULK for example, is a low-VOC multi-purpose adhesive, sealant and caulk that perform multiple jobs with one product. And, LIFETIME caulk can be used in summer heat or freezing temperatures and lasts as long you own your home.

Seal in the Savings -- with the theme “Seal in the Savings,” Red Devil’s Earth Day tips and promotions will be available across the Chicagoland area. Specific opportunities include:
Chicagoans looking for some extra cash to help cover utility bills can enter a $10,000 Sweepstakes. For more information, how to enter and official rules , consumers can visit www.sealinthesavings.com

Consumers can mail in two proofs of purchase from tubes of Red Devil’s KING KAULK super sealant and/or LIFETIME Caulk to receive a free Lutron eco-dim™ dimmer, a $31 value.

Homeowners can get inspired to take action this Earth Day by visiting any of the 101 area Sunoco gas pumps to view a unique “fuelcast.” The fuelcast features video that will provide easy and effective energy and money saving tips.

As part of celebrating Green Week April 20 – April 26, consumers can tune in to NBC 5 News to hear weather expert Ginger Zee share tips on how to seal in the savings.

Additional energy saving tips and sweepstakes information and can be found at www.sealinthesavings.com. For information about Red Devil products, visit www.reddevil.com or call 1-800-4A-DEVIL.

© 2009