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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Earth Hour 2010

In case you have not noticed from the change in weather the month of March is always associated with the season of Spring. In North America the first day of the Spring season was last weekend (March 20th). Let’s keep our optimism up that the warming trend will continue as last winter we had a severe ice storm close to Easter.

Severe weather most often occurs during the Spring, when warm air begins to invade from lower latitudes while cold air is still pushing from the Polar Regions. Flooding is also common during this time of year due to snowmelt, many times accelerated by warm rains. The one thing that we can count on during this season is the awakening of nature – and allergies.

This year, Earth Hour is March 27, 2010 from 8:30 to 9:30pm. Since the climate change conference in Copenhagen did not ratify a new agreement between the world leaders regarding climate change, this year the celebration of Earth Hour becomes a very important action to tell world leaders that we want action taken on climate change.

Earth Hour is more than just switching off your lights for one hour, once a year. It is about giving people a voice for the future of our Earth and sending the message to our political leaders that action must be taken in regards to climate change. Canada is in the spotlight this year as Prime Minister Harper will be hosting the next meeting of the G20 Countries where the talks on climate change must continue.

As individuals you probably wonder if the small changes that you make really make a difference. While at the global level the problem seems unsolvable. If you do your part, by one simple action, like turning off the lights for one hour and encouraging others to do the same, can make a difference. Simple actions can add up fast if we all do them.

Everyone will have to take part in this initiative, governments, businesses, industries and each one of us. Reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that you create can be as simple as lowering your thermostat, unplugging any unused appliances or chargers or walking to work. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Here are some simple tips on how to make and environmental difference every day of the year:

1. Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store.
2. Hang your clothes to dry instead of using a dryer. Take advantage of the Spring air.
3. Try to eat local food which does not have to travel for thousands of miles and is over packaged.
4. Join your local community garden to grow some food for yourself or to share with others.

For more information regarding Earth Hour you can go to their website at: http://www.EarthHourCanada.org.

Lisa Emery, B.A. is currently living in Amherst. Lisa invites comments to her column. You can contact Lisa at: emeryvine@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/emeryvine, or view her blog at http://emeryvinegrapevine.blogspot.com

Spring Cleaning Workshop

In case you have not noticed from the change in weather the month of March is always associated with the season of Spring. In North America the first day of the Spring season was yesterday afternoon (March 20th).

There are two events that everyone seems to take part in at this time of the year. The first is the changing of their clocks; remember Spring Forward one hour and the second is the Spring Cleaning of their homes.

Natural, Green, Eco-friendly, Botanical… You will find these words on many product labels. But in fact, there are no legal definitions for these words. Often manufacturers of hazardous products dress up their containers with pretty pictures of flowers and fruit to play on our desire for more natural products.

Some companies will list ingredients as being derived from plants, like coconut or corn. But the plant may have gone through so many chemical processes, sometimes involving toxic solvents, that the resulting ingredient bears little resemblance to the original plant material. Natural is not always non-toxic. Some natural ingredients can have harmful effects.

It’s important to know how to read a label. Note: Ingredient lists may not contain all ingredients. On some product only the “active” ingredients, those whose primary purpose is to achieve the main objective of the product, may be listed. Other ingredients which may have harmful health effects may not be listed at all. In Canada, manufacturers are not required to list ingredients on labels of personal care products or household cleaning products.

Many ingredients in household cleaning products become airborne and become part of the air we breathe at home, at work and in schools. Any substance which is airborne can have an impact through inhalation. Some substances are volatile in any state, others become airborne when heat is applied, and still others become airborne when used as sprays. Aerosol sprays are of particular concern, as the particles they produce are very small.

Chemicals can become airborne either as tiny particles, as gases or as vapours. Inhalation of particles depends upon their size and shape; the smaller the particle, the further into the respiratory tract it can penetrate.
Many of the products used to clean homes include ingredients that are harmful to people and the environment. Choosing less toxic cleaners does not have to be expensive. Using ingredients that are in most people’s homes already can be a safe, inexpensive and effective way to clean all areas of the home; and they can be easily made.

Safe Cleaning Ingredients
• Baking soda – Is an odor absorber and a mild abrasive. Can also be sprinkled on carpets just before vacuuming to remove odors.
• Lemons or lemon juice found in most kitchens, the strong citrus scent is great at removing odors.
• Vinegar – Will remove grease, soap scum and mineral deposits and also acts as a deodorizer. Can be used effectively on windows and mirrors. Be sure to use white, distilled vinegar.

An All Purpose Cleaner
Mix ingredients in a spray bottle to clean counter tops, floors, walls or carpet.
• ½ cup of vinegar and 1 cup to 1 quart of warm water. A Litre of vinegar only costs $1.99.
• Dissolve 4 Tablespoons of baking soda in one quart of warm water.

Laundry
Instead of fabric softener, use ½ cup of baking soda in the rinse cycle. Or one to two cups of vinegar in the rinse cycle will also soften and deodorize fabrics. You can use a piece of aluminum foil in the dryer to help remove static cling. Equal Parts vinegar and water can be used to remove tough stains such as grass, perspiration, rust, coffee, wine, beer or pet stains among others.

Carpet Cleaner.
Carpet cleaners can contain perchloroethylene, a known human carcinogen which can have immediate central nervous system (CNS) effects including dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, tremors and disorientation as well as long term CNS effects. Carpet cleaners may also include butyl cellosolve, a central nervous system toxin, propylene glycol methyl ether which is an eye, skin and respiratory irritant, and they may also include detergents which can irritate skin.

A homemade alternative may include: Mix 1/4 cup each of salt, borax and vinegar. Rub paste into carpet and leave for a few hours then vacuum. You can ask commercial carpet cleaning companies to clean using only water and baking soda, steam, or club soda. Chem-Dry Cleaners in the Halifax area uses less toxic cleaning solutions for carpets and upholstery.

Note: Baking soda removes odours from your refrigerator but it will also soak up odours from your carpet. You can sprinkle a little on before vacuuming.

Air Freshener:
Far from freshening air, chemical-based air fresheners and deodorizers add dangerous chemicals to the air we breathe. Air fresheners work by using a nerve-deadening chemical that interferes with our sense of smell, by coating nasal passage with an oily film, by masking an offending odour with a different odour, or by deactivating the odour.

Some solid deodorizers include the pesticide paradichlorobenzene, a carcinogen which can also cause liver and kidney damage. Aerosol air fresheners release chemicals as tiny particles which can be inhaled deeply into lungs and transferred into the blood stream. Plug in air fresheners break chemicals into even smaller particles.The key to freshening air is to remove or dilute the offending odor (by cleaning, ventilation or absorption), not to cover it with another chemical.

Some alternatives may include:
• Baking soda in an open container will absorb odours in enclosed spaces.
• Zeolite, a mineral, will absorb odors as well as heavy metals
• Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove.
• Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room.
• Green leaf plants can also filter interior air

Add a little greenery. Install a living air filter—houseplants! Some of the most efficient air-cleaning houseplants include Spider plants, English ivy, rubber plants, and peace lilies. You’ll need 15 to 18 medium-sized (6 to 8-inch diameter container) houseplants for the average 1,800 square foot house. If that sounds like a lot, place a few plants in the room where you spend the most time.

Dusting:
Removing dust and dust mites is important, as they are a common trigger of allergic reactions. It's important to dust in a way that really removes dust, rather than raising it into the air where it will resettle later.
• Microfibre cloths are excellent for dusting. They are untreated and reusable.
• The soft attachment on a vacuum can be used to remove dust from hard surfaces, the small hard attachment can be used on upholstered furniture, drapes and mattresses. Make sure the vacuum you use doesn't release particle ridden air into the room.
• Dust with a damp lint-free cloth. Or mix 1 teaspoon olive oil with 1/4 cup vinegar and apply with soft cloth.

Glass Cleaners:
Most glass cleaners are made of ammonia, a strong irritant, and coal tar dyes. Aerosol products create small particles which are more likely to be inhaled or irritate eyes. Consumer Reports found plain water to be more effective than half the glass cleaners on the market.

Some home-made alternatives may include:
Eyeglass Cleaner
A microfibre eyeglass cloth and plain water does an excellent streak-free job and eliminates the need for any chemical cleaners.
Window Cleaner II
A half-and-half mixture of water and vinegar poured into a refillable non-aerosol spray bottle.Lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar for those who cannot tolerate vinegar.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
Sprinkle baking soda into the toilet bowl and add vinegar. Let sit for a couple of minutes before cleaning with a toilet brush.
Drain Cleaner
- 125 ml baking soda
- 1 cup white vinegar
- Boiling water
Pour baking soda down the drain and follow with vinegar. Cover the drain. A few minutes later, pour boiling water down the drain to clear.

Ditch the paper towels. Save trees, cash and landfill waste. You can buy specially-made, washable cleaning and dusting cloths (in all types of fabrics from cotton to microfiber). But better yet? Use what you already have and give an old piece of cloth (stained towels, ratty sheets and pillowcases, too-small T-shirts, etc.) a new life. Simply cut or tear your old item into smaller squares (if you want to get fancy, finish the edges with a sewing machine), and voila! Pop them in the washing machine with your laundry to clean, and use them again and again.

Cleaning up your home for spring doesn’t have to be dirty work. When you implement some of these ideas and products, you can rest assured that you’re benefiting your body, your home and the planet all at once.

In conclusion I would like to say that Vinegar and baking soda will clean almost everything. If you add warm water you will have an all purpose cleaner. Lemon juice can act as a cleanser as well. Also you should note that if you add a little red die to your vinegar and baking soda you can make a volcano for your kids.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Erin Go Braugh

The saying above means Ireland forever. Even people in our midst that are not Irish tend to enjoy the festivities of St. Patrick’s Day. People wear green, decorate with green shamrocks and even drink green beer. Do you know what happens if you do not wear green on St. Patrick’s Day – You get a pinch. However, if you were to pinch a person that is wearing green you can get pinched back by that person ten times over.

So why is it only one day of the year that everyone thinks green? I am not suggesting that you dress like a leaperchaun everyday. My only question is, if you can think green for one day, why not everyday?

The Dictionary definition of green is: a colour between blue and yellow; concerned with environmental issues; unripe; envious, immature or gullible. When it comes to being “green”, which of these descriptions would you choose?

Helping to change the world by going green is one of the most important items on the agenda for 2010, and since St. Patrick’s Day is here perhaps you can celebrate by going green! This St. Patrick’s Day, the “wearing of the green” takes on more significance than ever. The earth’s climate is changing. Resources such as fresh water are under pressure. The Kyoto Protocol is about to expire with no real solution after the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen back in December.

Why not take going green to heart and plant something in your garden or plant a tree. If you are concerned about your carbon footprint you can plant trees to help offset the carbon dioxide you tend to generate annually; however, it may take more than just a couple of sprigs to do this. Another thought regarding planting is to scatter some clover seed in your garden area or lawn area. It is attractive, bee-friendly and helps hold moisture in the soil.

Did you know that the first scientific article linking the burning of fossil fuels to global warming was published in 1896 by Nobel Prize-winning scientist Svante Arrhenius. Also, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are higher today than at any time in measurable history.

St. Patrick's Day can be a lot of fun, and it can be more then just Irish green, when you go environmentally green with your St. Patrick's Day. Admittedly, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t the most elevated of occasions. It’s a tip of the hat and a green beer to Ireland and its national patron — and an opportunity for everyone, Irish or not, to have a bit of fun.

This year, why not let your St. Patrick’s Day celebration include making eco-friendly choices that can leave you with a clean (green) conscience, too? On a final note, celebrate responsibly “Don’t Drink and Drive”!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Our Feverish Planet Needs a Cure, Now!

Global warming is real and it’s affecting earth and everything on it, which includes each and every one of us!

The alarm bells are sounding loudly; however, just because the alarm bells are ringing does not mean we should panic. We need to continue to deliver this message and hope that people begin to wake up to what is happening so we can prepare and start adjusting for the future.

It is now common knowledge that the things that affect our global environment stem from human activities. In this country, the modern things that we take for granted do not make us privileged, they make us naive. In our daily lives, we make choices that have a profound affect on all of us. There is no corner of the earth that man hasn't touched in some way and sadly, that man hasn't attempted to exploit.

It is very important that we conserve and protect the things that we rely on to survive. This would include our fresh water supply, clean air, productive farmland and the biodiversity of our forestland. All of these things are related. We can not protect our water supply without protecting our forests and wetlands. We can not protect biodiversity without protecting the animals of our forests and having productive farmland. Everything is equal and everything is related.

Reducing our footprint on the environment is a virtue but not entirely seen as an obligation by most people? It is only with a sense of purpose, understanding and responsibility that great things are achieved. As a society, as well as on a personal front, we are obligated to succeed in achieving what we need to sustain us and protecting the things we value.

According to Nova Scotia’s Department of Environment, climate change is more than a warming trend. The increasing temperatures will lead to changes in many aspects of our weather, such as wind patterns, the amount and type of precipitation, and the types and frequency of severe weather events that may be expected to occur in our province. Such climate change could have far-reaching and unpredictable environmental, social and economic consequences.

Low-lying and coastal areas face the risks associated with rising sea levels. Increasing temperatures will cause oceans to expand (After all, water expands as it warms), and will melt glaciers and ice cover over land – ultimately increasing the volume of water in the world's oceans.

In Canada such environmental stresses could cause problems with where we grow our food and how we transport it. The stress will also cause changes in infrastructure and community designs and regional vuneralbility. We are not prepared for any of this!!

What will happen if the dykes on the Tantramar marshes give way to Bay of Fundy. Most of the marsh will be under water and Nova Scotia could become an island.

Nova Scotia and New Orleans are areas that have important highway and rail infrastructure located on or behind dike systems that will provide progressively less protection unless raised on an ongoing basis. Strengthening our dyke system may be the only way to avert disaster.

Climate Change. What does it really mean? How will climate change affect Nova Scotia? How much of what we hear is real and how much is speculation? Climate change is real, and we are beginning to experience a gradual increase of its impacts. This might come in the form of increasingly extreme weather, droughts, flooding on the marsh and in towns like Oxford, and of course coastal erosion. How can we be proactive against such an enormous global threat? By taking action now, to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and by preparing for, and adapting to – climate change.

In Nova Scotia, we can expect warmer than average temperatures, higher sea levels, more extreme rainfalls storm flooding, and more-frequent and extreme storms. Some native plants and animals might be unable to survive our new climatic conditions. The maple sugar industry has already been in the news regarding the huge impact climate change will have on it. Higher water temperatures may render marine animals such as salmon and cod vulnerable.

Preparing for a changing climate poses particular challenges in Nova Scotia because most of our population lives along the coastline and much of our infrastructure is located in vulnerable areas. Many players will be responsible for adapting to climate change, including: the provincial government, municipal governments, the federal government, private industry, as well as communities and individuals throughout Nova Scotia. Education should be a major focus.

Our schools must continue to educate about climate change, a cleaner environment, and sustainable prosperity, so that our future generations can better cope with these issues. Communities need to understand climate change so they can prepare for expected changes.

Many reputable scientists believe that climate change is real. They also believe that humans are responsible for much of the change in our climate and the impact of climate change could be disastrous.

If these scientists are right and we do not take action to help slow down climate change, many people could die. If they are right and we do take action we will end up spending a lot of money on things that will be sustainable such as restoring our forests, reducing our usage of fossil fuels and cleaning up our air quality. Is any part of that bad?

Daylight Savings Time

Every Spring we move our clocks one hour ahead and "lose" an hour of sleep during the night and then each Fall we move our clocks back one hour and "gain" the extra hour of sleep back again. At 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March, we set our clocks forward one hour ahead of standard time. The phrase "Spring forward, fall back" helps people remember how Daylight Saving Time works and how to set their clocks.

Daylight Savings Time was first enacted in Germany in 1915, then quickly adopted by Britain and much of Europe and Canada. Daylight Saving Time was also set up in the United States during World War 1 in order to save energy for war production by taking advantage of the later hours of daylight between April and October.

The United States enacted that the second Sunday of March to the first Sunday of November as Daylight Savings Time, with the hope that it would save 10,000 barrels of oil each day through reduced use of power by businesses during daylight hours. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine energy savings from Daylight Saving Time based on a variety of factors. It is possible that little or no energy is saved by Daylight Saving Time

Previously, Canada had observed Daylight Saving Time from the first Sunday in April until the last Sunday in October. However, through legislation passed in 2006, Daylight Saving Time now begins three weeks earlier on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

This change in Daylight Saving Time kept Canada's Daylight Saving Time pattern consistent with the United States which enacted into law a broad energy bill that extended Daylight Saving Time in the same manner. The change was aimed at trying to help save energy, since people aren't expected to need their lights on as early in the evening. But there is still some debate about whether the change reduces energy consumption.

The theory being, since the sun shone for a time while most people were asleep, it was reasoned that light would be better used during the day. The solution was to push the clocks ahead one hour in springtime, forcing people to wake an hour earlier. They would then supposedly use less energy trying to light their homes. In this example, time is adjusted to suit their daily patterns. When the days start getting shorter in the Fall and people awaken to increasing darkness, the clocks are turned back an hour to get more light in the morning.

On the topic of lighting and time – Earth Hour is March 27th from 8:30 to 9:30pm. Turn off your lights for one hour and show your support for a sustainable future.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dawn Saves Wildlife

Whenever wildlife comes into contact with oil pollution the animal is at serious risk. For birds in particular the oil will destroy the intricate layer of feathers that then exposes them to extremes in temperature. When they try to get the sludge off with their beaks, they risk poisoning themselves. Only a single drop of oil can be deadly for some birds. If the oil isn’t removed quickly, they will die.

Dawn dishwashing liquid has been an essential tool to wildlife conservation organizations for the last 30 years. For 30 years, wildlife rescuers have used Dawn dishwashing liquid to gently remove oil and help save wildlife affected by oil spills. Animal rescue organizations prefer Dawn because it removes the greasy oil and is gentle on delicate feathers and skin. You may remember seeing TV commercials with the bird covered in oil and being washed gently in what looks like a kitchen sink with Dawn.

The next time you’re at the grocery store to buy a bottle of Special Edition Dawn a donation of one dollar will be sent to wildlife conservation organizations. In order to get this donation to them you can simply go online to dawnsaveswildlife.com and activate your donation using the eleven digit bottle donation code printed at the base of the back of your bottle. The number that you use is not the bar code but the number that is imprinted into the bottle. You follow this up with your postal code and the name of the store you bought it in. Then one dollar will be donated to wildlife conservation organizations, transforming you into an Everyday Wildlife Champion.

Dawn is only one aspect of many successful wildlife rescues. The lives of birds and other animals affected by environmental issues are saved largely due to the heroic efforts of many dedicated volunteers. One of readers of this column, Dorritt Amos, sent me this tip along with this advice – The small print and the imprinted number at the base of the bottle are hard to see without good eyes and just the right lighting; however, if your purpose in buying this particular product is to help save wildlife you need to be aware of this information. I think this makes Dorritt an Everyday Wildlife Champion.

On another note: I have a Big Thank You for all of the Great Backyard Bird Count Bird Watchers!

According to a note I received, The 2010 GBBC has been one of the most exciting so far. As of (Feb. 24th), nearly 91,000 checklists have been submitted and they’re still coming in. So far, the Northern Cardinal is the most-reported bird across the U.S. and Canada, as it has been for the previous five years. In Canada alone, the Black-capped Chickadee tops the list. The American Crow is higher on the list of most-reported birds (number 3 right now) than it has been since the West Nile virus appeared in North America and took such a toll on this species.


Lisa Emery, B.A. is currently living in Amherst. Lisa invites comments to her column. You can contact Lisa at: emeryvine@gmail.com or view her blog at http://emeryvinegrapevine.blogspot.com

Celebrating women in sport - Local - News - The Amherst Daily News

Celebrating women in sport - Local - News - The Amherst Daily News

Let's support all women for International Women's Day.