Could the EV Superhighway become a reality?

EV Charging Station, photo courtesy of Oregon Dept. of Transportation, flickr

Electric vehicles are cool. Secretly a lot of us would love to own one. But a few factors stand in the way. For many, cost is a big consideration .And because we Americans love to travel by car, the toughest factor that keeps many from splurging on an electric vehicle is that there aren’t enough EV charging stations to make long distance travel easy.

But this problem could be in the process of changing.

The National EV Charging Initiative, a group of associations representing automakers, utilities, labor unions, investors and public interest groups, is working together to bring about the construction of this nation’s electric-vehicle charging network.

“We are driving together toward the future we want and need, delivering the charging network that will allow the transition to zero-emitting vehicles,” said Max Baumhefner, a senior attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

The new bipartisan infrastructure bill would invest $7.5 billion into putting charge points along highways and in disadvantaged communities. Private companies, meanwhile, have already installed more than 100,000 public charging stations, and investor-owned utilities are investing $3 billion to deploy many more.

“With new federal and private investments – and breakthroughs in battery technology – range anxiety should soon go the way of the horse-drawn carriage,” Baumhefner said.

We may not have the much longed-for EV superhighway this year. But the possibility of this certainly is a lot closer than ever before. And that makes buying an electric vehicle a lot more attractive.

A waste problem in plain sight finds a simple recycling solution

Photo courtesy of Dean Moriarty from Pixabay 

If I had to pick, I’d say that my top 2 favorite foods are really good Chinese and Japanese. And, over the years, I’ve become fairly proficient in using chopsticks to enjoy them with. I’ve even been known to quietly swipe a couple of extra one pairs from restaurants so that I can have some at home to use with my leftovers.

But as an environmental journalist, I sheepishly admit I never gave any thought to what happens to the millions of chopsticks used by thousands of restaurants across the country. It’s one of those in plain sight “small” issues that seem insignificant. Even considering the slim figure the humble chopstick presents, imagine the HUGE mountain they would make if they were all gathered together and stacked. The sight would be daunting.

LOOK: This Modular Shelving System Is Made Entirely Of Chopsticks |  Metro.Style
Felix Böck, innovator and CEO of ChopValue

One man stumbled on the idea to make used chopsticks recyclable – and this seemingly ridiculous idea is gaining traction.

Felix Böck, then a PhD student at Canada’s University of British Columbia, Canada, had been venting his frustration over the scant interest in his proposal to use waste wood from demolition and construction sites. Chopsticks in hand, Thalia Otamendi, the woman who is now his fiancée, looked at him and said: ‘Felix, maybe you just have to start with something small,’” said Böck. “And maybe it’s the chopstick.”

From that one statement, a uniquely innovative idea and recycling business was born. Böck sketched out plans for ChopValue, a start-up aimed at giving a new, useful second life to chopsticks. Soon enough, recycling bins were being dropped off at restaurants across Vancouver, methods of cleaning the simple utensils were developed and a process was developed to transform the chopsticks – most of which are made from bamboo – into sleek household items that range from tablet stands to tabletops.

Now, four years later, more than 32 thousand chopsticks have been successfully recycled and repurposed – diverting them from ending up in landfills and creating 40 new jobs.

ChopValue has expanded its North American presence and its process, which uses heat, steam and pressure to transform the chopsticks into wooden tiles. It’s now also being used in Calgary, Montreal and Los Angeles. And the company is dedicated to leading by an example of sustainability in its business practices.

There’s more to the story, which you can find here. But there’s also an important message here. Innovation can come by looking at simple, everyday objects and thinking about them a different way. And one person’s idea can transform something that others consider a wasted product into something new and useful again.

Something to ponder, yes?

Buyers beware. Do your favorite products test on animals?

Chimpanzee in laboratory cage. Photo courtesy of PETA

As consumers, we gravitate to products that are convenient, that are good quality, that have what we consider to be good reputations. But there’s another factor we need to consider and add to our list of “should we or shouldn’t we” when it comes to purchasing. And that is do they test their products on animals or not?

Here are two graphics, courtesy of the Beagle Freedom Project, that show the major brands that DO do animal testing and those that don’t. Bear in mind that as more consumers protest this horrendous practice and put pressure on corporations, more of them are ceasing it. One of the major obstacles has been and continues to be that some countries such as China require this barbaric practice, even though such tests yield NO beneficial results as to the impact on human health.

It’s heartening to know that we consumers can make a difference by speaking up and signing petitions against animal testing. Our voices do count.

So the next time you go to the supermarket, the pharmacy or any other shopping, you may want to check out these graphics beforehand, just to be sure that your purchases won’t add to the cruelty going on.

Julián Castro introduces extensive animal welfare platform

Editors Note: This is NOT a paid political advertisement or endorsed by anyone other than the writer / author of this blog.

On Monday, August 19th, Democratic Presidential candidate Julián Castro unveiled a platform focused on advancing the welfare of animals around the globe, both domestic and wildlife. It would raise standards for factory farms and encourage conservation efforts, including expanding U.S. protected lands to 30 percent by 2030 with the goal of 50 percent by 2050.

The “PAW (Protecting Animals and Wildlife) Plan” is comprehensive. It proposes:

  • making animal abuse a federal crime
  • ending the killing of domestic dogs and cats for population control
  • strengthening the Endangered Species Act, creating a $2 billion National Wildlife Recovery Fund to protect wildlife populations
  • banning the use of federal lands for fossil fuel exploration and extraction and
  • eliminating the import of big-game trophies.

Castro, the former Obama Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Mayor of San Antonio, Texas is the first presidential candidate to address these important animal welfare issues.

Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, says “the fact that a presidential candidate – as a matter of personal compassion or as a political calculation — has identified animal welfare as a campaign issue is huge. “

“The President does not care about animals,” Castro said, “and his cruel actions prove it. He has put corporate profits over living creatures and individual fortunes over our future.”

Chickens caged on chicken farm; photo by Artem Beliaikin

The issues of animal welfare and lack thereof have become more visible to the American public over the past few years. Social media, whistleblower videos and celebrities such as Jon Stewart have brought our attention to the cruelty and abuse that factory farmed animals suffer. And although the number of companion animals euthanized each year has steadily decreased – from 7.29 million in 2011 to 733,000 last year, according to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’s latest statistics, those numbers are still too high.

Approximately 68 percent of American households have one or more pets. Most view them as family members. Castro’s plan addresses issues such as animal cruelty, policies for homeless pets, abuses related to factory farming, private ownership of big cats and animal testing.    

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Zoo

With the President’s gutting of the Endangered Species Act and the steady race towards extinction of too many animal species around the world – a race caused by factors such as poaching, trophy hunting, overfishing, climate change and the loss of critical habitat – you begin to see how the PAW platform and Castro could be a vital force for positive change.

Best Friends’ Castle says “Every candidate has an opportunity to get on the right side of history with this issue and demonstrate to our country of animal lovers that this bipartisan cause is important.” Castro’s bold animal welfare plan could be a key that pushes him to the top of the pack.

The PAW Plan can be viewed here.

Reducing Food Waste: Compost Production Recovers Nutrients for Soil Benefits

When you consider our nation’s health, the quality of our food, its decreasing nutritional value and the increased degradation of our farmland, it’s not a pretty picture — and the challenges related to these issues keep growing.

By 2050 the world’s population will likely reach close to 9 billion people. To feed everyone, we’ll need to globally produce more food. Yet, almost 40 percent of food currently produced ends up in landfills.

According to ReFED, a collaboration of over 50 business, nonprofit, foundation and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the United States, American consumers, businesses and farms spend $218 billion per year growing, processing, transporting and disposing of food waste.

Food waste is a global problem.  To learn more about the interconnectedness of soil health and reducing food waste, click here.

Don’t toss that Romaine! There’s a healthy alternative!

Image result for romaine lettuce

Earlier today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned consumers to throw away any and all romaine lettuce. This broad alert was in response to a new outbreak of illnesses caused by a particularly dangerous type of E. coli contamination. 

Issued just two days before one of the biggest food-related holidays in the United States, the CDC’s warning said restaurants should not serve romaine, stores shouldn’t sell it, and people shouldn’t buy it, no matter where or when the lettuce was grown. The federal agency was clear: whether it’s chopped, a whole head or part of a mix, all romaine should be avoided. This alert comes after 32 people in 11 states became sick from eating contaminated romaine. Thirteen of those effected have been hospitalized, with one patient suffering from a form of kidney failure. To date, no deaths have been reported.

As scary as the news is, one action could help consumers stay healthy in the face of this crisis. Unfortunately, too many Americans disregard this simple step, putting many people’s health at risk. Remarkably, the thing that could help us stay healthier is to simply wash our produce with organic veggie wash. This allows us to wash away the contaminants that are so prevalent in our food. Sounds simple, yet it’s one of the most effective ways of avoiding foodborne impurities.

As we wrote back in 2011, a great majority of our produce comes to us with an often imperceptible coating of contaminants. These include pesticides, fertilizers, dirt, road grit, mold, fungi and waxes, which won’t easily wash off in water.  Yet like our parents and grandparents before us, “most people just wet (the fresh produce) and say “I washed it”,” says Larry Plesant, founder, CEO and Chief Formulator of Vermont Soapworks, a company that makes a wide variety of organic soaps and cleaning products for humans and pets.

To reduce and even eliminate the risk of consuming pesticides, bacteria and other harmful elements, you can get the germs off with organic soap and water, says Plesent, not water alone.

Becoming aware over six years ago of the health risks of eating “as is” fresh produce,  this writer tried a number of produce washes available to consumers. Although there are a number of decent ones out there,  I always seem to come back to Vermont Soap’s Produce Magic Fruit & Veggie Wash. Having personally tested this product on a variety of produce, the difference it makes s amazing. Washing and rinsing lettuce or fruit such as apples or strawberries with this veggie wash brings out a flavor and quality of freshness you’d expect only to find with home grown organic produce. 

So back to this current lettuce / e coli crisis.  What can we do about it?

While the CDC insists that we throw out all the romaine we have, doing so would be a horrible and unnecessary waste. Wouldn’t it be wiser instead to purchase a high quality veggie wash product (like Produce Magic) and take the time to wash  (i.e. clean our food) before we eat it? We wouldn’t have to waste perfectly good food. We’d simply be able to CLEAN it. NOT doing so exposes us to health risks. Making the time – two extra minutes perhaps? – ensures that we are taking precautions that will benefit us and our families. Now who wouldn’t want that?

Back again – from a new home

Bentsen St. Park, Hidalgo Cty

I know that many have wondered if this blog is still alive and, if so, what’s happened to it.

The answer is that I’ve been in the midst of a major move – one that’s taken me 2,550 miles across the country. Preparing for such move was a BIG undertaking and took much effort and focus. Sad to say, this site suffered my neglect in the process.

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Costa Rica dog sanctuary’s creative unique “breed” campaign skyrockets pet adoptions

Photo courtesy of Territorio de Zaguates

Photo courtesy of Territorio de Zaguates

The desire for “designer” pet breeds continues to grow. Eager consumers seek out breeds that were unheard of years ago like Ratese (American Rat Terrier and Maltese cross), Bagle Hounds (Basset Hound and Beagle cross), Spanadors (Cocker Spaniel and Labrador Retriever) and Golden Newfies (Golden Retriever and  Newfoundland) to name a few. Yet there are literally millions of stray dogs desperate for homes around the world, leading to the unnecessary euthanasia of perfectly healthy adoptable pets on a daily basis.

But a sanctuary in Costa Rica has come up with a brilliant and unique marketing strategy that’s turning this tide and capturing the imagination of would-be dog adopters.

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Fantastic “solution” from the Brits to America’s political squabbles

Got a super funny email this morning that I had to share. No clear idea of its author but the scope of it will definitely tickle your funnybone.

“To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II:

“In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except North Dakota, which she does not fancy).
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Fake trees to fight climate change – really?

Photo by Deep Root, flickr

Photo by Deep Root, flickr

Trees are a really good defense against climate change. They sequester a large amount of CO2 and add oxygen to the air. They also help prevent erosion and add nutrients to the soil, along with providing habitat to a variety of birds and other creatures.

And adding trees to an urban landscape also helps provide shade, cool and beauty to an urban jungle. So why promote the idea of adding fake trees to cities as a potential and partial solution to climate change?

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