Coming Soon – Affordable Consumer LED’s

Scientists at Cambridge University have developed a new LED light,  that one will cost under $10.

This new LED –  smaller than a U.S. penny – will last for 60 years, well beyond the lifespan of standard light bulbs or even compact florescents (CFL’s), and will retail for $3.00 each. 

With the ever-growing popularity of LED lighting – from streetlamps to Christmas decorations to commercial outdoor lighting – a team led by Colin Humphreys has discovered a way to produce white LED’s from gallium nitride. Available for decades, this semiconductor has until now been expensive to produce as it’s grown on wafers of sapphire. Humphreys’ team has found a way to grow it on silicon wafers, for ten times cheaper. 

“We are very close to achieving highly efficient, low-cost white LEDs that 1can take the place of both traditional and currently available low-energy light bulbs,” says Humphreys.

Among this discovery’s many advantages, these energy efficient LED’s will last 100,000 hours, necessitating a change only every 60 years. a breakthrough beyond LED’s previous capabilities for longevity. 

They also don’t contain mercury, as opposed to CFL’s, and will be dimmable, an appealing characteristic to consumers.

Researchers anticipate the first affordable LED’s will be available as early as 2011, though a complete roll-out may take several years longer.

FDA Knew about Mercury in Your Sweetener

More details on the government’s knowledge about contaminated corn syrup are coming to light. The FDA, the watchdog for consumer food safety, knew high fructose corn syrup could contain toxic mercury as early as 2005 and didn’t reveal the problem to the public.

An FDA scientist co-authored a study in 2005 discovering this serious health concern. Yet the FDA still allowed an advertising campaign touting corn syrup as “natural” to go forward.

The Corn Refiners Association is running an extensive TV campaign attempting to negate the findings. Information on their website  – featuring a large ear of corn with authoritative statements from experts, including one from the American Medical Association – are often based on facts posted years before the situation was known. The association’s response that news of the presence of a highly toxic substance in what is perhaps our most commonly used food sweetener is based on “information of dubious significance” is reminiscent of the now famous denials about the hazards of smoking postulated by the tobacco industry.

A classic move, to be sure. But will consumers fall for it yet again? Or are they perhaps wising up to the ways of advertisers and their penchant to spin half-truths and false facts into a neat comfortable package that consumers will complacently accept?

Time will tell.

Environmental Politics or Forward Movement?

A caucus of 35 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have formed the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, its purpose to create new jobs and encourage clean energy technology innovation, development of renewable energy.

Co-chaired by Representatives. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and Steve Israel, D-N.Y, the group met with Carol Browner, new assistant to President Obama for discussions on energy and climate policy.

The alliance has also been working to strengthen the terms of the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, the $825 billion stimulus program under debate in both the House and Senate.

Posturing or getting down to work? Time will only tell, but Americans are hoping that our politicians are finally realizing it’s time to make the hard choices that will positively impact our environment’s and our own future.

New Environmental Articles


Be sure to check out new articles posted on the Writer’s Notebook page! 

Corn Syrup Shown to Contain Mercury

Mercury – considered hazardous waste – has been steadily phased out of use in consumer products due to its toxicity.

Yet a new study shows that traces of this silvery metal have shown up in a common food sweetener. High fructose corn syrup – a known risk factor in type 2 diabetes – is used in a variety of consumer food products like soda, juices, candy, cough syrup, cereal and snack food (see for a more complete list) . Now this prevalently-used sweetener is showing signs of containing mercury, said peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health, published on January 26th.

It’s believed the mercury’s source is the caustic soda and hydrochloric acid solution used by manufacturers to transform corn into the food additive. A small number of plants mix this combination in electric vats of mercury. This has allowed some of the mercury to end up in the final product.

Manufacturers insist that their products are mercury-free. Yet of the 20 samples tested by researchers, nine tested positive for mercury.

Because Americans consume significant amounts of high fructose corn syrup in a variety of products daily, the possibility of even minute amounts of mercury contamination increases exponentially.

Elemental mercury – the type found in the corn syrup samples – has no set safe dosage, but

the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cautions an average size woman to limit her intake to 5.5 micrograms a day of methylmercury, the type found in fish. Researchers estimate that if this same sized woman regularly consumes corn syrup contaminated at 0.57 micrograms (the highest level found in the study), this could result in her ingesting five times the amount suggested by the EPA.

Most chlorine plants – who manufacture the caustic soda and hydrochloric acid – have already switched to mercury-free technology. However, the Chlorine Institute, a Washington, D.C. trade group, issued a statement saying, “”It is conceivable that measurable mercury content can be found in high-fructose corn syrup regardless of how it is processed.”

Cup ‘o’ Java To be More Green

With the green movement spilling light into all the corners of consumerism, the cup of coffee has undergone a lot of scrutiny.

First came the shift from styrofoam to disposable paper coffee cups. But what to do about those darned lids? Made of thin plastic, they can’t be recycled or even reused very well.

A Boulder, Colorado company seems to have created a solution.

Eco-Products, Inc. has created the world’s first commercially compostable coffee cup lid. Made from a biopolymer by NatureWorks, LLC., this amazing lid will premier in April. Paired with a biodegradable hot cup, it will create a complete compostable hot cup system.

Submitted to the Biodegradable Products Institute for certification, Eco-Products’ new lid can hold hot liquid up to 220 degrees and will biodegrade within 90 to 120 days at a commercial composting facility.

Shopping Malls to see Water Conservation

A Regency Shopping Center in California

A Regency Shopping Center in California

With water tables steadily falling across the country, consumers and businesses alike are beginning to look at water conservation measures as a way to insure future water needs are met. A Petaluma, California company, HydroPoint Data Systems, Inc., developed their WeatherTRAK Smart Water Management system as an effective tool for water conservation and lawn care maintenance. (see
HydroPoint recently announced that Jacksonville, Fla.-based Regency Centers Corporation (NYSE: REG) will be installing the Smart WeatherTrak system at thirty of their shopping centers across the U.S.Regency began a water conservation campaign in late 2008, centering on 36 of its shopping centers, 27 of which are in California, 2 in Oregon and 1 in Washington. Depending on this program’s results, Regency intends to install this water-saving technology throughout all its properties, says Mark Peternell, Regency’s vice president of sustainability.
Perhaps flowing puddles of water around pristine shopping center malls will soon become a thing of the past – a benefit to all in reduced groundwater contamination and water runoff.

Decreased Air Pollution Equals Longer Life

The average life expectancy of Americans is directly related to the amount of air pollution we live with.
A report in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that decreased pollution particles from cars, diesel engines, coal-fired plants and steel mills have increased Americans’ longevity as much as 2.72 years, or 15 percent, since the 1980’s.
Two other large factors attributed to this increase are changed smoking habits and improved socioeconomic environment, researchers said. Clean air quality, however,  was by far the largest factor.
In large urban areas where air particle counts declined by 13 to 15 micrograms, longevity increased by 43 weeks.
See for more details more of this report. 


This is yet another indicator that the quality of our environment and our quality of life, as well as our longevity, are directly and inextricably linked.


PepsiCo begins establishing it’s Carbon Footprint

Pepsi/Co, Inc., the Purchase, NY-based beverage company, has partnered with the Carbon Trust to begin establishing the carbon footprint of their products.

The first product to be measured is their standard 64 oz. Tropicana Premium Orange Juice container. Carbon Trust reviewed the scientific data and has determined and certified its carbon footprint is 1.7 kilograms.

This breaks down to 60 percent of its CO2 emissions coming from the growing and processing oranges, 22% from transporting and distribution, 15 percent from packaging, and the final 3% comes from consumer use and disposal.

Neil Campbell, President of Tropicana Products North America, says they’ll use this information to help reduce Tropicana’s carbon footprint.

Environmental impact awareness is the first step to creating change. So, what products are next to line up for carbon footprinting? Should be interesting to watch the line form.


Colleges Compete to Become Recycling King

Recycling’s up all across the country. But the recycling market is down, creating a difficult and concerning dilemma.

After several years of steady marketing efforts to consumers and the continued expansion of Waste Management’s and others recyclers’ curbside recycling programs, consumers across the country properly disposing their “paper, plastic, aluminum” more than ever before.

Now the about to be launched annual RecycleMania at college campuses across the country will add to the recycling conundrum. RecycleMania – begun in 2001 – has over 500 colleges vying to be named the top recycler in the pack.

So if we’re increasing not only our awareness of the need to recycle but our success in this, what happens to all the accumulated “stuff”? Does it sit in holding pits, waiting for the market to upswing? And does that upswing necessarily depend on greedy buyers waiting until the market reaches a high enough point for their tastes before expanding their take-in levels?

One thing’s for certain. Americans are increasingly demanding that more green strategies and policies be implemented – by government and corporations alike.

Perhaps a creative solution is possible, one that hasn’t been given serious consideration yet. Maybe it will take inventive minds partnered with sound business practices to recognize the path that will open the “green” gates wide. And soon.

So, go RecycleMania, go! Let’s have the totals go off the charts this year