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California scientists are calling for the largest U.S. investment in climate research in years.

That’s all kinds of scary. If there’s one place on Earth that would be the worst possible spot for a giant volcanic chain, it’s beneath West Antarctica. Turns out, it’s not a great situation to have a bunch of volcanoes underneath a huge ice sheet.

In a discovery announced earlier this week, a team of researchers discovered dozens of them across a 2,200-mile swath of the frozen continent. Antarctica, if you’re listening, please stop scaring us.

The study that led to the discovery was conceived of by an undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, Max Van Wyk de Vries. With a team of researchers, he used radar to look under the ice for evidence of cone-shaped mountains that had disturbed the ice around them. They found 91 previously unknown volcanoes. “We were amazed,” Robert Bingham, one of the study’s authors, told the Guardian.

The worry is that, as in Iceland and Alaska, two regions of active volcanism that were ice-covered until relatively recently, a warming climate could help these Antarctic volcanoes spring to life soon. In a worst-case scenario, the melting ice could release pressure on the volcanoes and trigger eruptions, further destabilizing the ice sheet.

“The big question is: how active are these volcanoes? That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible,” Bingham said.

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California scientists are calling for the largest U.S. investment in climate research in years.

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E-Z Anatomy and Physiology – Edward I. Alcamo, PhD.

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E-Z Anatomy and Physiology – Edward I. Alcamo, PhD.

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Watering Guide for Summer Vegetables

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Watering Guide for Summer Vegetables

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University Recycling 101: How College Students Go Green

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University Recycling 101: How College Students Go Green

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Your previously worthless tweets could be used for science.

The state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, filed a lawsuit on Friday to get the agency to say how it plans to handle Administrator Scott Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest. Pruitt is now in charge of enforcing rules that he tried to unravel with numerous lawsuits as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

“Administrator Pruitt’s ability to serve as an impartial decision maker merits close examination,” Becerra said in a statement.

In April, Becerra filed a broad Freedom of Information Act request for documents tied to Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest and efforts to follow federal ethics laws. Generally, agencies must respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days, though they have some wiggle room. But four months later, the EPA has yet to turn over anything.

Liz Bowman, an EPA spokesperson, told the Los Angeles Times that the agency had twice told Becerra’s office they were working on assembling the documents. She said the lawsuit was “draining resources that could be better spent protecting human health and the environment.”

The suit from the Golden State is just part of the legal backlash Pruitt’s staring down: He’s already been sued over ozone regulations and the suspension of methane restrictions for new oil and gas wells.

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Your previously worthless tweets could be used for science.

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How the Cloud Is Going Green

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You already know the many lauded benefits of the cloud — it saves paper, equipment and raw materials, while also providing employees and workplace teams an easier means to access important documents and files. But you may have also heard about how cloud data servers pack a punch in terms of environmental impact.

To minimize their carbon footprint, data centers are going green. Here are the ways companies behind some of the latest cloud-based technologies are working to reduce their environmental impact in the rollout of new products and services.

Starting Small

Like within many other industries, business owners who have previously invested in cloud data centers are starting small with their eco-friendly efforts. But this isn’t to say their current efforts aren’t making a difference. For example, many data centers are swapping out old, incandescent light bulbs for energy-efficient LEDs, which conserve energy and provide massive cost savings on monthly utility bills.

Cloud computing is also a more environmentally friendly practice compared to investing in on-site servers. That’s because these cloud data centers simply don’t need the same amount of infrastructure and space compared to their on-site server counterparts.

In fact, businesses that invest in on-site servers typically have more space than they need to house this bulky infrastructure, particularly if they plan to grow or expand operations. This leads to a number of drives sitting empty in the short or long term that still need to be powered and cooled.

In comparison, cloud data center operators can optimize the number of servers they own and use depending on their client and storage needs. For example, instead of running an on-site, physical customer service department, businesses can invest in a cloud contact center that requires less space and infrastructure.

Using Renewable Energy

Some leading cloud computing companies, like Facebook, Google and Apple, are also paving the way when it comes to investing in renewable energy in their data centers. In fact, all of Apple’s data centers are powered entirely by solar energy, while Facebook installed some of its newest servers in Iowa so the company could take advantage of the area’s wind energy. Microsoft is using both types of renewable energy for its cloud centers: solar energy in Virginia and wind energy in Texas.

These giant corporations have a lot of political power and community clout, and they’re using it to not only enforce stricter regulations on energy use, but to also move the entire industry toward renewable energy.

Optimizing Energy Use

One of the biggest electricity sucks for on-site servers includes maintaining cool temperatures in the spaces that house this infrastructure to prevent overheating. According to REIT.com, an average office space uses three to five watts of power per square foot, whereas a physical data center uses 100 to 300 watts per square foot.

That’s why many on-site data centers are housed in buildings or spaces specifically designed for their use. As the major tech giants have shown, locating operations near water and other renewable energy sources is optimal for conserving energy. However, if that’s not in the cards, some companies are going a different, forward-thinking route: working with contractors to build energy-efficient and even LEED-certified warehouses.

Data center operators have also been examining the airflow in their buildings, so they can separate hot and cold air streams. By keeping cool air near their servers — and moving hot air away from this expensive equipment — companies don’t need to run as many fans to maintain them.

The cloud continues to get greener. Not only is this technology saving companies space, time and money on hosting their own servers — and saving them a lot of paper and filing cabinets — it’s now leading the way in renewable energy and energy optimization. These are the first steps to a more connected, eco-conscious world.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

Read More:
How 5G Technology Will Power a Greener Future
5 Top Tips for Recycling Old Technology
How to Finally Go Paperless in the Office

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We’re serious about helping our readers, consumers and businesses alike, reduce their waste footprint every day, providing quality information and discovering new ways of being even more sustainable.

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How the Cloud Is Going Green – August 14, 2017
Hacks to Stay Cool: Beat the Heat Using Less Energy – July 31, 2017
How to Shop for Clothes with the Earth in Mind – July 28, 2017

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How the Cloud Is Going Green

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Scott Pruitt doesn’t want to politicize science.

According to a new study from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, the current presidential administration has collected fewer civil penalties and filed fewer environmental enforcement suits against polluting companies than the Obama, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations did at the same point in office.

The analysis assesses agreements made in the Environmental Protection Agency’s civil enforcement cases. For abuses under laws like the Clean Air Act, the Trump administration has collected just $12 million in civil penalties, a drop of 60 percent from the average of the other administrations. Trump’s EPA has lodged 26 environmental lawsuits compared to 31, 34, and 45 by Bush, Obama, and Clinton, respectively.

The marked decrease in enforcement likely has to do with the EPA’s deregulatory agenda. Since confirmed, administrator Scott Pruitt has systematically tried to knock out key environmental regulations, especially those created during Obama’s tenure.

The Project notes that its assessment is only of a six-month period, so future enforcement could catch Trump up to his predecessors. Or he’ll continue to look the other way.

“I’ve seen the pendulum swing,” said Bruce Buckheit, who worked in EPA enforcement under Clinton and then Bush, “but never as far as what appears to be going on today.”

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Scott Pruitt doesn’t want to politicize science.

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Beverage Container Showdown: Plastic vs. Glass vs. Aluminum

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With summer winding down, it’s hard not to spend every waking (and maybe non-waking) minute outside. That means a whole lot of hikes, cookouts and outdoor fun. You’ve got a handle on green camping hacks and eco-friendly picnic essentials — now let’s zoom in on beverage containers.

Beverages are essential when it comes to outdoor soirees. When picking them out at the store, you’re faced with a few options: plastic bottles, glass bottles or aluminum cans. What to choose? The decision can be daunting for environmentalists. We’re here to give you the lowdown on which of these receptacles gets the planet’s stamp of approval.

Step 1: How They’re Made

We see beverage containers constantly — lining the shelves of the grocery store, filling coolers at BBQs, quenching a beachgoer’s thirst. Just how did they get there?

Plastic

Plastic manufacturing starts off with oil and natural gas. These raw materials are converted into smaller pieces called monomers, and are then chemically bonded together to create long chains, known as polymers. These polymers are the plastic you see in the form of water bottles, food packaging and much more.

To get to the crude oil and natural gas needed to produce plastics, we must head for the earth’s crust. However, oil and natural gas is buried beneath layers of bedrock — that’s where drilling comes in. Drilling for oil in our pristine oceans and fracking for natural gas in America’s West is destroying our environment.

Glass

Liquefied sand, soda ash (naturally occurring sodium carbonate), limestone, recycled glass and various additives make up the glass bottles we use to hold our beverages.

Using limestone prevents glass from weathering and is thus a valuable raw material for glass containers. The sedimentary rock is typically mined from a quarry — either above or below ground. In terms of the environment, limestone mining may contaminate water and contribute to noise pollution. Limestone mining can also destroy habitat for animals who live in their cave ecosystem and can form a permanent scar on the landscape.

It’s safe to say that the raw materials that go into making glass bottles are widely available in the U.S.

Cans

New aluminum cans are almost always made from bauxite, a mineral that the U.S. gets from mines in countries like Guinea and Australia. The mining of bauxite is harsh on the planet — raw bauxite is discovered by way of open-pit mining, essentially scraping a pit into the landscape and leaving environmental destruction behind. Bauxite mining contributes to habitat loss and water contamination, as well as a slew of other negative environmental impacts, like increased erosion.

Step 2: Transport

When getting from here to there, each container has a different footprint.

Plastic

The environmental cost of transporting plastic bottles can exceed even those of creating the plastic bottle in the first place. This isn’t always the case — it depends on the distance of transport — but it’s a throttling idea.

For short distances, plastic bottles have a low transportation footprint. They pack tightly — companies are definitely responding to greener consumers and are keeping sustainability in mind when designing the shapes of their bottles. They’re also very lightweight, meaning less fuel is consumed during shipping.

Glass

There’s one big, undeniable eco-unfriendly aspect of glass bottles — they’re heavy. The transportation of glass bottles requires significantly more energy than their lightweight counterparts. Glass is fragile, too, so they can’t be packed into a truck as tightly as aluminum and plastic can.

Cans

Americans love cans because they are small, lightweight and airtight. Turns out, the planet does, too. Their size means they save fuel — more cans can fit into a smaller space and their light weight means less gas to get them from point A to point B. Because aluminum isn’t particularly fragile, cans use less cardboard packaging when transported as well, meaning more room for more cans.

Step 3: Where They End Up

Empty — now what? Each of these containers is recyclable. Here’s how they match up.

Plastic

The recycling rate of plastics is actually quite low — in 2014, only 9.5 percent of plastic material generated in the U.S. was recycled. The rest was combusted for energy or sent to a landfill where its fate is uncertain — it can either find its way out and pollute our planet or sit there for up to 500 years before finally decomposing.

Glass

Glass bottles are 100 percent recyclable and an estimated 80 percent of recovered glass containers are made into new glass bottles. Once you toss your glass bottle in the recycling bin, manufacturers can have it back onto the shelves in a month. Plus, using recycled glass when making new glass bottles reduces the manufacturer’s carbon footprint — furnaces may run at lower temperatures when recycled glass is used because it is already melted down to the right consistency.

Cans

Like glass, aluminum cans are completely recyclable and are commonly recycled worldwide as part of municipal recycling programs. Aluminum cans can be recycled repeatedly with no limit.

In her book, The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard notes that we are currently recycling only 45 percent of cans. That calls for a lot of pit mining for bauxite to make new material. According to Leonard, more than a trillion aluminum cans have been trashed in landfills since 1972, when such records began.

And the Winner Is…

If they are made from 100 percent recycled material, aluminum cans should be your top choice when shopping for picnic beverages. Their low transportation footprint and ease of recyclability make them a winner.

However, the extraction of raw bauxite is detrimental to the planet. New aluminum cans are not eco-friendly.

Glass should be your pick if recycled cans are not an option. Glass bottles are made from relatively innocuous raw materials and is, like aluminum cans, completely recyclable. Their bulky size and transportation footprint is their downfall.

Plastic does have a small carbon footprint when it comes to transportation, but it’s tough to ignore the giant carbon footprint when it comes to extraction. Plus, the plastic that doesn’t end up in a recycling bin can be a huge pollutant in our environment, killing wildlife and contaminating ecosystems. With using plastic, the planet is ravaged.

Feature images courtesy of Shutterstock

Read More:
How Many Times Can That Be Recycled?
Which Is Better? Plastic vs. Glass Food Storage Containers
The Verdict Is In: Keep the Bottle Caps On

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Lauren Murphy

Lauren has a B.S. in environmental science, a crafting addiction, and a love for all things Pacific Northwest. She writes from her cozy downtown apartment tucked in the very northwestern corner of the continental U.S. Lauren spends her time writing and focusing on a healthy, simple and sustainable lifestyle.

Latest posts by Lauren Murphy (see all)

Beverage Container Showdown: Plastic vs. Glass vs. Aluminum – August 11, 2017
Is Starbucks Doing Enough to Recycle Its Cups? – July 18, 2017
6 Simple Swaps for a Green 4th of July  – June 30, 2017

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Beverage Container Showdown: Plastic vs. Glass vs. Aluminum

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Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day – Diane Ackerman

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Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day – Diane Ackerman

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Can Greenwashing Ever Be Good?

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Can Greenwashing Ever Be Good?

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