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32 posts from March 2012

March 30, 2012

After the Masterpiece: Safe Paint Disposal

Bob Schildgen is Mr GreenHey Mr. Green,

I'm confused! There is a lot of contradictory advice on proper disposal of latex paint. What is the greenest method for dealing with latex paint on paint brushes once the job is done? Throw the brush away? Clean it with water in buckets and pour the residue on the ground? Wash brushes in sink and let the residue go down the drain? Other method? —Doug, in Newton, Kansas

What a useful query for all painting procrastinators. Next time the topic arises, we all can say, “But dear, we can’t just recklessly leap into a painting project without sufficient research into biohazards and disposal methods.”

For latex paint, the greenest method for cleaning brushes is simply to wash with soap and water and pour the liquid down the drain into the municipal sewer system. For septic systems, it’s better to wash and dispose of the residue in the regular garbage. Never just dump it on the ground or pour it into a storm drain, because it won’t get safely treated. One exception: In the unlikely event that paint is really old—made in 1990—or before, it should be handled like hazardous waste. (There may well be more danger in prepping a surface than in paint. For more about this, see the paragraph on safe prepping below.)

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March 29, 2012

The Green Universe: Jor-El

NASA-East CoastSensational news stories can make badly behaved celebrities and bickering politicians seem larger than life. Luckily, the scientists who study the vast universe maintain a different perspective. This week, we'll bring you quotes and videos that reveal nature's star power.

Jor-El Foretells Krypton's Apocalypse

Today's quote draws from the realm of fiction. When Superman's home planet of Krypton faces certain destruction, Jor-El presents his scientific data to the governing council. Rather than heed the warning, the politicians laugh it off: "This is an insult to our intelligence! . . . What does he take us for, fools?"

Hmm, does this sound familiar?

Watch this classic video clip to see an eerily current scenario.  

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March 28, 2012

21st Century Johnny Appleseed

Henry Sanchez PardoHenry Sanchez Pardo arrived in Los Angeles late last year with no belongings, no shoes, and few connections. Coming from Colombia, he barely spoke English. Somehow, he struck up a relationship with the HR department of a large Hispanic department store, not because he was looking for a job, or even because he wanted to stay in LA. Pardo was trying to run barefoot to Anchorage, Alaska, and he needed some help.

Pardo's journey began in 2008, when he left his family and teaching job in Bogota, en route to Patagonia where he would begin his run. The idea hatched as a way of spreading environmental awareness in the Americas, but along the way, Pardo began helping to plant trees (by working with the Arbor Day Foundation, CONAFOR, and Urban Corps he says he has helped plant over 7 million) and became a full-fledged marathoner, participating in events all over South America. 

First Tree in USAThe trek wasn't too bad initially — Pardo got a lot of support from local fire stations and boy scouts, small town organizations that were more than willing to take him in and feed him for a few nights while he prepared for the next leg of his over 10,000-mile journey. He got all the way to the border of the U.S. in two years when he began to encounter problems.

"It's been harder since he got to the U.S. Here he has found the least Barefoot support," Ervin — an HR recruiter for the Hispanic department store and Pardo's translator — told me. Beyond not speaking English, apparently running barefoot between major urban municipalities is a bit of a stretch. So Pardo had to travel on public transportation between San Diego and LA, which "really pained" him. 

Once Pardo arrived in LA, Ervin's HR department "kind of adopted" him, supplying him with food and shelter in exchange for offering up his story as motivation for employees. He has lived in LA for the past few months, gearing up for his next leg, which will take him to San Francisco.

Most recently, he ran the Los Angeles Marathon, barefoot as always, but this time with a tree strapped to his back. HR was cheering him on the entire way.

Pardo says he hopes to arrive in Anchorage by the summer of 2013, despite the challenges he has faced in the U.S. When asked if at any point he would turn back towards Colombia, Henry replied quickly and forcefully: "Never, never, never ever."

--Justin Cohn / images courtesy of Henry Sanchez Pardo

The Green Universe: Richard Feynman

NASA-Orion's RainbowSensational news stories can make badly behaved celebrities and bickering politicians seem larger than life. Luckily, the scientists who study the vast universe maintain a different perspective. This week, we'll bring you quotes and videos that reveal nature's star power.

Richard Feynman and "The Beauty of a Flower"

"I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing; I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers, which might be wrong."

 Watch the video below to hear Feynman's thoughts on beauty and doubt.


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March 27, 2012

The Green Universe: Neil deGrasse Tyson

NASA-Rhea Before TitanSensational news stories can make badly behaved celebrities and bickering politicians seem larger than life. Luckily, the scientists who study the vast universe maintain a different perspective. This week, we'll bring you quotes and videos that reveal nature's star power.

Neil deGrasse Tyson's "Most Astounding Fact"

"I know that, yes, we are part of this universe, we are in the universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us."


Watch the video below to hear the astrophysicist explain this awe-inspiring concept.

Continue reading "The Green Universe: Neil deGrasse Tyson" »

March 26, 2012

Bottlenose Dolphins Likely Sick from BP's Spill


Comprehensive physicals on 32 of the majestic creatures navigating the waters of Barataria Bay off the shores of Louisiana revealed that many of them were underweight, anemic, had low blood sugar and/or symptoms of liver and lung disease. Half of the sample supported unusually low levels of cortisol, an adrenal hormone designed to promote stress response, metabolism, and immune function. 

Adrenal deficiencies were not observed in dolphins from other study areas not affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

"The dolphins that we sampled from Barataria Bay are overall not in good health," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Lori Schwacke told reporters in a telecommunication press conference last week. "In fact, some were very sick." 

NOAA marine biologists believe that some of the dolphins they evaluated in the August study will soon perish. One of the animals, which the scientists last had contact with in late 2011, met this fate in January. 

Since February 2010, two months before the infamous spill, more than 690 dolphins have washed up on shores in the northern Gulf of Mexico. On average, only about 74 dolphins a year end up "stranded" on beaches, and the trend led to NOAA's declaration of an Unusual Mortality Event. Only 33 of the stranded animals have survived. Seven were transported to rehabilitation facilities. 

--Ryan Jacobs / photo courtesy of NOAA 

The Green Universe: Carl Sagan

NASASensational news stories can make badly behaved celebrities and bickering politicians seem larger than life. Luckily, the scientists who study the vast universe maintain a different perspective. This week, we'll bring you quotes and videos that reveal nature's star power.

Carl Sagan and the "Pale Blue Dot"

It might look like a grainy photograph, but take a closer look. See that tiny little dot in the middle of the yellowish band of light? Carl Sagan asked the NASA operators of the Voyager I to snap this picture as the spacecraft was leaving our solar system, to remind us of this very simple fact: "Everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was lived out their life . . . lived there."

Watch the video below to see our home planet in a new light:


Continue reading "The Green Universe: Carl Sagan" »

Art Installation Turns Asphalt Green

Tapis rouge 01Last fall, public artist Gaëlle Villedary granted the tiny French village of Jaujac a carpet worthy of an enchanted kingdom. Traversing nearly 1,400 feet, the grass path wended its way across cobblestone, passageways, and central public spaces, toward the village’s limits and the green valleys beyond.

Named “Tapis Rouge!” (Red Carpet!), the installation was created in celebration of a decade of art and nature programs in the village. The artist, who hails from Marseille, tends to work with a wide variety of materials, from light bulbs to coffee on corrugated cardboard. The 3.5 ton path was her largest undertaking to date. With it, she hoped to create a “resurgence of life over the asphalt,” so she was pleased by the atmosphere of adventure that took hold once the carpet unfurled.

Tapis rouge installation“Aside from a few skeptics, the villagers were delighted to discover their village with a new look,” Villedary said. “Most of them walked on it — obviously children, but the adults too. They tread on the carpet, played games on it, sat on it for a little bit to talk about the weather. I even met someone who decided to enjoy it down to the roots; she took off her shoes during the walk. It was a magical moment when the public took possession of the work.” 

Villedary noted that the project was, by its nature, fleeting. “Rolled sod needs to be planted quickly to survive,” she said, “so it was quite an ephemeral installation." Still, she felt that what she set out to achieve — “a link between the heart of the village and its inhabitants, and the valley surrounding them” — was accomplished. Whether villagers wandered down the path, not knowing where it might lead, or took off their shoes to feel the blades of grass against their bare feet, the carpet forged what Villedary calls a “communion between Nature and Man, through Art.”

--Jenny Slattery / photos by David Monjou

 See more photos below.

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March 23, 2012

Activism: This Stuff Works

StrawberriesThis week, Arysta Life Science, one of the largest pesticide companies in the world, announced it was pulling the product methyl iodide (MeI) off the US market. If that sounds like minor news, it’s not. Methyl iodide, a soil fumigant used predominately for strawberry production, is one of the most toxic pesticides ever to be approved by California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation.

As one might expect, Arysta did not do this out of the kindness of their own hearts. A legion of activists, environmentalists, scientists, advocacy groups, and community leaders have fought against the registration and use of this chemical tirelessly since its approval in December 2010. Business, Arysta said, was bad -- few farmers were buying MeI -- leading the company to ditch the product due to its lack of “economic viability.”

Last year, I got the opportunity to meet and write about some of these anti-MeI activists: a group of Latino high school students in the agricultural community of Watsonville, California. These lives of these individuals and their families were directly affected by the use of MeI in their backyards, around their schools, and in their communities, and their innate sense of activism was inspiring. 

In my reporting, I also had the opportunity to interview multiple representatives from Arysta Life Science. The only thing that shocked me more than their ability to spin carcinogens into health benefits, was the amount of manpower, PR, and money that Arysta had so obviously invested into this product. Abandoning this chemical after so much effort signals nothing less than a huge hit to a massive corporation. 

This action, of course, will have ripple effects on the conventional strawberry industry. With no other potent chemical available to sterilize soil (methyl bromide must be phased out per the Montreal Protocol), farmers will undoubtedly see reduced yields. This may mean no more California-grown strawberries in New Jersey in January. It also may mean that people might start thinking more about how food gets to their plate.

--Rosie Spinks / image by istockphoto/ASI

Rosie Spinks reported on the dangers of methyl iodide for Sierra magazine in 2011. This update originally appeared on Like a Gazelle and has be reprinted with the author's permission. 

March 22, 2012

H2-Whoa! How much water goes into a glass of OJ?

Gallons and gallons of water


How much water is on your plate? About 70 percent of the world's "blue water withdrawals" irrigate agriculture. World Water Day is March 22, and this year's theme examines food production. To see how many gallons of water bring common foods from field to plate, take our H2-Whoa! quiz.    



Q: How much water does it take to produce one glass of orange juice?

A) About 120 gallons.

B) About 45 gallons.

C) I'm chewing on so much pulp that I'm pretty sure there's no liquid in my OJ.

Continue reading "H2-Whoa! How much water goes into a glass of OJ?" »

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