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Trump Just Appointed a Chemical Industry Honcho to Protect Us From Chemicals

Mother Jones

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The American Chemistry Council represents the interests of the chemical industry—companies that “make the products that make modern life possible,” as the group’s web site somewhat haughtily puts it. Member companies include Big Oil subsidiaries Chevron Phillips Chemical and ExxonMobil Chemical, the Saudi chemical giant SABIC, pesticide behemoth Bayer and its pending merger partner, Monsanto, as well as DuPont and its pending merger partner, Dow Chemical.

In a bold move, the Trump administration has named the ACC’s senior director of regulatory science policy, Nancy Beck, as the deputy assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency office that regulates the chemical industry. It’s known as the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and it exists to “protect you, your family, and the environment from potential risks from pesticides and toxic chemicals.”

Beck’s new post marks her return to government work. Before moving into her post at the American Chemistry Council, where she started in 2012, she served as toxicologist/risk assessor/policy analyst for the US Office of Management and Budget, a job she started under President George W. Bush in 2002. A 2009 investigation by the House Science and Technology Committee criticized Beck by name for her role in what it called a “recurring problem in the Bush Administration’s term in office”: “White House staff re-writing the ‘science'” around important policy issues.

The report specifically noted Beck’s role in assessing the EPA’s characterization of a highly toxic class of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which were widely used as flame retardants in furniture but have since been phased out. The report found that Beck attempted to edit an EPA statement on PBDEs in ways that “appear to enhance uncertainty or reduce profile of the harmful effect being discussed.” The report called one of her edits “very disturbing because it represents a substantial editorial change regarding how to characterize the science.”

And now, after her stint working directly for the chemical industry, Beck will have a direct role in shaping chemical policy at the EPA.

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Trump Just Appointed a Chemical Industry Honcho to Protect Us From Chemicals

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5 Green Gadgets That Will Make Spring Cleaning a Breeze

It’s that time of year again. Time to roll up your sleeves and tackle all the dirt and clutter that happened while you were getting through the winter months. That’s right — it’s time to throw open the windows and get down to spring cleaning. To help you in your efforts, here are five green gadgets that will make spring cleaning a breeze.

Spring Cleaning Gadgets

1. Lay the Groundwork

First up is an app that will help you get started. While you’re perusing the cleaning aisle, list in hand, the GoodGuide app will help you find the best products. According to GoodGuide, the app gives ratings on more than 200,000 products based on their ingredients to determine if they are healthy, green and OK to use in your home. This app even gives information on the product’s manufacturer. Just type in the product or scan the bar code to view the details on the best products for spring cleaning.

Even if you don’t have a smartphone, you can use the GoodGuide database here.

2. Light It Up

If you’re like me, you don’t notice when a light has gone out in those multi-light fixtures until the last one goes. During spring cleaning, I make it a point to check all the light fixtures. I write down all the types of bulbs that are needed, and then when I’ve gone through them all, I go to my local hardware store to pick up replacement LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs.

Benefits of LED lights:

LED lights are extremely energy efficient. The U.S. Department of Energy says that increased adoption of LEDs over the next 15 years would “reduce electricity demands from lighting by 62 percent, prevent 258 million metric tons of carbon emissions, and eliminate the need for 133 new power plants.”
LEDs do not contain mercury (the other green bulb, CFL, or compact fluorescent lamp, does contain mercury).
LEDs do not heat up when they’re on, so they are safe to handle and less likely to start a fire.
LEDs last a long time. According to Bulbs.com: “Many LEDs have a rated life of up to 50,000 hours. This is approximately 50 times longer than a typical incandescent, 20-25 times longer than a typical halogen, and 8-10 times longer than a typical CFL. Used 12 hours a day, a 50,000 bulb will last more than 11 years.”

3. Dust and Dirt (and Other Yucky Things), Be Gone

My oldest daughter is like a canary in a coal mine. Whenever there’s a speck of dust in the house, she starts to sneeze. This makes dusting serious business in our house and dusting without toxic chemicals a necessity. The hardest places to dust are the softest places in our home: curtains, cloth upholstery and mattresses.

Dr. Michael Lee, the founder and president of Raycop, developed a green gadget that cleans and sterilizes these fabric surfaces. It’s an allergen vacuum that uses UV rays to sanitize these materials. Dr. Lee developed this product after hearing concerns from his patients about allergies and asthma symptoms caused by the microscopic irritants in dust, dirt and pollen.

Through Raycop’s scientific research and development, they have created this vacuum that traps and eliminates dust mites, pollen and dirt.

“Similar to the technology used in air purifiers and manufacturing cleanrooms, Raycop incorporates HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) into its devices. The HEPA filter captures particles as small as 0.3um and traps 99.9% of allergens without releasing them back into the air.”

This is a perfect green gadget for keeping your home clean and healthy all year-round.

Give It a Good Washing

This next on our list of spring cleaning gadgets is a must if you’re in the market for a new clothes washer. A front-load washing machine is the most energy efficient on the market and will help you wash all your linens and things as you march through your spring-cleaning to-do list.

Front-load washers require less water; they use between 18 to 25 gallons of water compared with around 40 gallons per wash for traditional top-load models.

Make sure you look for the Energy Star label, which is good advice when you’re looking for any new appliance. The Energy Star–certified clothes washers use about 25 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than regular washers, according to Energy Star.

Visit Consumer Reports to help find your new front-load washing machine.

Freshen All the Air

The indoor air quality in our homes has become worse over the years. This is partly because we are building them more airtight and because of the army of cleaning products we unleash into our homes. To freshen your indoor air, open your windows to let in that fresh spring air.

Then employ our final green gadget, the Kuro Cube, to purify, refresh and reduce odors in your home. This little dynamo is made without artificial preservatives, parabens, harsh chemicals, dyes, fragrance, silicone, dimethicone, phthalates, sulphates, petroleum, talc, bismuth oxychloride or nanoparticles, according to CarbonBeauty.com. It works best in smaller spaces like drawers, closets, the car or your refrigerator. It remains active for one year.

Now that your indoor air is clean, instead of using toxic chemicals to tackle the rest of the house, check out “6 Simple DIY Cleaning Solution Recipes.”

Feature photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Read More:
10 Unconventional Tips to Help Minimize Home Allergies
Infographic: Spring Cleaning in the Bathroom
Earth911’s Green Spring Cleaning Guide

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Wendy Gabriel

Wendy Gabriel is a freelance eco-writer based in California. Wendy’s work has been featured in numerous publications and websites, including the Chicago Sun-Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fox Business News and Mashable.com. For nearly six years, she was a weekly contributor on a popular radio talk show in the Upper Midwest with a segment titled “Simple Tips for Green Living.”

Latest posts by Wendy Gabriel (see all)

5 Green Gadgets That Will Make Spring Cleaning a Breeze – March 31, 2017
50 Days In: How Trump Is Handling Eco Issues – March 13, 2017
Meet the 7-Year-Old Who Started a Recycling Company – February 13, 2017

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5 Green Gadgets That Will Make Spring Cleaning a Breeze
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5 Green Gadgets That Will Make Spring Cleaning a Breeze

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Remote Control Hummingbirds!

Mother Jones

It tuns out that one of features of my new camera is the ability to control it remotely with my cell phone. If you have even a gram of nerd blood in you, this should make you insanely jealous.1 It’s the coolest thing ever.

And yet, as cool as it is, it still left me twiddling my neurons trying to figure out what I could do with it. One possibility was situations where I need to minimize camera shake. Put the camera on a tripod and then snap the shutter remotely without actually touching anything. But that would be just another example of using a thousand dollars worth of technology to do what a ten-dollar cable release can do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Then Marian suggested I could set up the camera by our hummingbird feeder and wait for hummingbirds to fly in. So I did. Here’s what the setup looks like:

Then I went into the living room and watched Roger Federer play Stan Wawrinka at Indian Wells. Every time a bird showed up on my camera, I held down the remote shutter button and shot off a few dozen pictures.

Which did me precious little good. Damn, those little buggers are fast. Even with the shutter speed allegedly set at 1/2000th of a second, the pictures were blurry. Also out of focus most of the time, which was a combination of my fault and the camera’s fault. Still, live and learn. Here are the two best shots I got:

The top one is a male Anna’s hummingbird. The bottom one is, I suppose, a female Anna’s hummingbird. The bird folks can enlighten us in comments.

Anyway, I’ll have to try this again. It’s certainly a way of getting some good nature shots without sitting on my hump for hours on end in a muddy patch of dirt. Then again, since the WiFi range for the camera is about ten feet or so, maybe it just means I get a little better selection of where to sit on my hump for hours on end. I’ll have to think of some way to try this with the cats.

1Unless you already have a camera that can do this.

Originally posted here: 

Remote Control Hummingbirds!

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Can You Really Power Your Phone from a Solar Panel?

At approximately 4pm on Oct 18, my phone died. In our modern age, those words fill people with dread, as they mean your constant connection to the world’s information has been severed without your approval. Fortunately, I was near plenty of other computing devices, so I wasn’t entirely cut off, and I had ample access to power for recharging it. Whew, disaster averted!

Putting aside the argument of whether or not we’re too dependent on this type of technology, having a backup for charging your phone seems like a good idea. In my case, I had a small 6-watt solar panel available that I set up on a table outside. The setup was started at 4:25pm and less than an hour later, at 5:05 pm, I was able to power the phone up. It reported only 16 percent power, but it’s not a bad electricity haul for a partially overcast day and only 40 minutes of charging.

From this short trial, it was evident that one of these panels could be quite useful if normal grid power was unavailable. Another great use case could be mounting one of these to a backpack while hiking in order to keep your communication equipment active during a long trek.

Besides simply knowing that you can revive your phone in an emergency, another way to measure this type of unit’s effectiveness would be to calculate how long it would take to pay for itself and the power you’ll save using it. However, in the case of a phone at least, it would be a long, long time. According tothis on ZDNet, it takes only 84 cents per year to charge an iPhone 6 Plus, which has the biggest battery of the Apple phones. Similarly-sized Samsung phones would cost about the same, with older models costing less. My own very rough estimate of my phone’s power cost was .125 cents per charge, given a yearly cost of 46 cents per 365 days if charged every day.

Since my particular 6-watt panel cost nearly $70 with tax, this would mean a payback of roughly 150 years. If a good return on investment is your goal, perhaps putting your money into a savings account would be a better idea. Although things can always be better, it’s nice to step back once in a while and realize just how good we have it. The power for something that would have been considered a supercomputer 20 years ago can now fit in the palm of your hand and access a seemingly infinite amount of information. Each of these can be powered with roughly two quarters worth of power per year.

So a portable panel is a poor investment money-wise, but could be a good option if the power grid goes out. I did a little more testing at my house in the generally sunny region of Tampa, Florida. Tests are summarized in the following results:

Test 1 10/18/2016

My phone (Android Moto G) died. It was put out around 4:25 pm, with the panel pointed roughly toward the sun. I checked it at 5:05pm and was able to power it up. It was reading at only 16 percent at the time, and soon dropped to 15 percent, reporting a low battery.

Test 2 10/20/2016

I set up the charger on the table at 10:10am; it was collecting power within five minutes. Power initially read at 46 percent. It was placed on roughly the same spot as before, in a semi-shaded area, not really aimed towards the sun.

I checked my phone at 12:10pm. It was very bright at that moment and the charger was hot. The phone was resting under the charger to shield it and was warm. The phone read at 44 percentlower than before, but a two percent drop over two hours seems better than normal. The charging icon showed up immediately. Perhaps the charger did not give sufficient (or any) power to charge the panel during the earlier time, but the phone did start to charge later.

Test 3 10/21/2016

I set my phone on the same table at 12:50pm with a 53 percent charge. The panel was facing up, but it was not aimed toward the sun. I checked my phone at 2:21pm; it read at 72 percent power. It was still sunny out at the time, though a partial cloud cover was seen while checking. I checked again at 2:55pm and the phone read at 79 percent. It was sunny when the final check was made.

Test 4 10/24/2016

Hooked up an iPad 3 to the charger at 11:50am with a five percent charge. The sun was fairly bright, and when plugged in, I noticed that it read at six percent almost immediately after panel attachment, but the iPad didnt show as charging.

When I checked again at 4:52pm, it was in the shade from our house. Power read at 28 percent. The device had charged significantly, but it was definitely not at full power.

As you can see from these tests, charging from your house’s electrical grid is normally the best way to keep your electronics functional. On the other hand, though more costly, a home solar system can produce a much shorter payback period and give you some power backup options. If you just want a backup for your phone or tablet, perhaps one of these small panels would be a good fit!

Jeremy Cook is obsessed with tech and creating DIYs. He likes to test new gadgets, like the solar panel phone charger mentioned here, and gives some great advice on how to use them. To see a selection of Home Depot solar panel options,click here.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Can You Really Power Your Phone from a Solar Panel?

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4 Reasons the Cost of Solar Energy Keeps Falling

The U.S. now has enough solar energy capacity to power 6.2 million homes, according to a recent report by the Solar Energy Industry Association. Solar power is growing at an unprecedented rate of 43 percent, year over year. The plummeting cost of solar energy is fueling a boom in popularity.

The mission of the SunShot Initiative by the Department of Energy is “to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of this decade, making this clean renewable energy resource more affordable and accessible to Americans.” The goal is to reduce the cost of solar energy to $.06 per kilowatt hour by 2020, and this appears to be very attainable at this point.

In fact, solar has already achieved price parity in 10 states. How’d that happen? Let’s look behind the scenes to gain a deeper understanding of price trends and how they impact the solar energy market.

1. Manufacturing Costs Taper Down

Solar panels, inverter costs and panel racking costs have come down at a steady pace each year, resulting in large declines over time. There are a variety of causes, including manufacturing efficiencies, a steep decline in polysilicone prices from their high levels a decade ago (a material used by the photovoltaic solar industry) and fierce competition among manufacturers.

This downward price trend is very common with new technologies. Remember how expensive new DVD players and cell phones were when they were first introduced? The cost per unit declines sharply once manufacturing kicks into high gear.

2. Solar Technology Advances

The greater the efficiency of the solar panels (and other equipment), the greater the overall energy production of the system. Although the most efficient solar panels available on the market have an efficiency of 22.5 percent, most panels are in the 14 to 16 percent range. This difference in efficiency means that one system can have a solar energy output that is 50 percent greater than a less efficient system. Some other associated costs are reduced by greater efficiency, such as racking system equipment, installation and transportation costs. Efficiency in turn fuels greater opportunities to sell more solar generation capacity, as many residential systems are limited by the space available for mounting panels.

3. Solar Investment Tax Credit

Since its passage in 2006, the Solar Investment Tax Credit has offered greater stability and a significant incentive for installing solar energy systems, for both the residential and commercial markets. The tax credit was created to support the rapid deployment of solar energy until it is cost competitive without it. The incentive offers a 30 percent tax credit for both residential and commercial solar energy systems. The credit was extended in 2015 and will be in effect until 2023, tapering off over time.

For residential solar systems, the tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the federal income taxes owed by the homeowners by 30 percent of the installed cost of the solar system. A $10,000 solar system can qualify for a $3,000 tax credit. This is different from a tax write-off and is more valuable to the taxpayer.

Homeowners who lease solar systems cannot take advantage of the tax credit directly, but the solar leasor can. In theory, some or all of the savings generated from the tax credit are passed onto the homeowners through solar leases with more-affordable terms.

GTM Research predicts the tax credit extension will boost U.S. solar energy installations by 54 percent through 2020 and add enough solar energy generation capacity to power 4 million homes. Although the tax credit doesn’t directly reduce the cost of solar energy, it does help create the economy of scale needed for solar panels to be cost effective and helps create stability in the market for companies wanting to invest in research, infrastructure and other investments with a longer return. It’s worth noting that some, however, argue that the tax credit stifles innovation by artificially lowering prices.

4. Synergy Allows for Greater Solar Energy Growth

The trends that have surrounded the growth of the solar energy industry continue, making future growth likely. Today’s solar systems are generating more electricity and  a larger percentage of total household energy use. EnergySage, the so-called “Expedia of solar,” gathers data on quoted solar systems, offering insights into the months ahead. EnergySage recently released the third semiannual Solar Marketplace Intel Report, which indicates that recent solar energy trends will continue. For example, the quoted H1 2016 solar systems have a payback period of 7.5 years on average, compared with 8.2 years in H1 2015. EnergySage reports that the average quoted solar system size is 7.9 kW, compared with the average installed solar system size of just 5 kW.

The lower the price of a solar system and the shorter the payback period, the more people will go solar. People also tend to install solar energy systems when their neighbors do, thus solar installations encourage greater growth.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova

is a renewable energy and sustainability journalist and communications professional with an MBA in sustainable management. She is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Earth911, Home Power, Triple Pundit, CleanTechnica, The Ecologist, GreenBiz, Renewable Energy World and Windpower Engineering. Lozanova also works with several corporate clients as a public relations writer to gain visibility for renewable energy and sustainability achievements.

Latest posts by Sarah Lozanova (see all)

4 Reasons the Cost of Solar Energy Keeps Falling – November 21, 2016
Tesla’s New Solar Roof Is Pretty, But Is It Practical? – November 7, 2016
3 DIY Compost Bin Designs You Can Make This Weekend – November 3, 2016

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4 Reasons the Cost of Solar Energy Keeps Falling

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