Thursday, July 31, 2008

Naturally Lovely Lawns - The Humane Society!

Naturally Lovely Lawns

A lawn is Nature under totalitarian rule. Michael Pollan, Second Nature

Ah, the robust gleam of an emerald lawn. Isnt it truly the crowning jewel of a homeowners eye?

Many people beg to differ. The natural landscaping movement follows the mindset that having an eye-poppingly bright, manicured lawn isnt always the most desirable or healthiest landscaping option. It promotes environmentally friendly landscaping practices that preserve, restore, and support native plants, and encourages the reduction of tamed spaces, such as groomed lawns, overly pruned shrubs, ornamental hybrid plants, and bug-free yards.

Why consider natural landscaping on your property?

It helps the environment. The truth is, no lawn is an island. The way yards and gardens are maintained can have a surprisingly detrimental effect on nearby streams, ponds, and wildlife. Lawns may suffer as well, because commercial fertilizers can remove soil nutrients and cultivate lawn diseases. Natural landscapes eliminate the need for chemical fertilizer and insecticide.

Standard lawn maintenance equipment releases high levels of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxidesall of which add to the formation of smog and toxins. Natural landscaping can lower air pollution by reducing the need for fossil-fueled equipment. The native plants themselves can improve air quality by lowering pollutants and carbon dioxide.

Your patch of paradise will enrich the soil; reduce erosion; filter and clean storm runoff; reduce flooding; and provide healthy food and habitat for countless birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.

It saves time and money. Although chemicals create seemingly perfect lawns fairly quickly, they must be reapplied yearly. Achieving the results you want through natural landscaping can take time, but in the end youll enjoy years of beauty with little maintenance and watering. Native plants conserve energy because they require no irrigation or fertilization, they are resistant to most pests and diseases, and they rarely become invasive.

It feeds wildlife. Many popular ornamental plants are hybrids that have been bred to look prettynot produce seeds. Native varieties, however, produce seeds, nuts, berries, pollen, and nectar that nourish wildlife. Using these types of plants and flowers helps your landscape become even more natural by attracting insects and birds.

Detoxing and Everything After

After youve kicked your yard chemicals to the curb, substitute them with an ecological alternative such as organic fertilizer, which is produced from plant or animal sources such as fish emulsion, bonemeal, and manure. Natural fertilizer, which contains organic elements and may include minerals like sulfur and phosphorus, is another healthy option. Other alternatives include natural compost; cow, sheep, or chicken manure; leaf mold; or liquid seaweed. All of these substitutes are cost-effective because they promote better growing conditions and reduce the need for pest controls.

For information on composting, organic gardening, and detoxing your lawn, visit www.howtocompost.org, www.organicgardening.com, www.extremelygreen.com, and www.planetnatural.com.

Eliminating Pests and Weeds

Setting your mower cutting height at 2.5 to 3 inches discourages weeds and strengthens your lawn by keeping grass roots shaded and moist. For further weed control, place undiluted household vinegar in a sprayer bottle and saturate the weeds.

Eliminating pests can be as easy as encouraging natural pest predatorssuch as ladybugs, birds, and frogsto live in your garden. To do this, install a birdfeeder and birdbath and plant flowers that attract beneficial insects. Daisy, mint, carrot, sweet alyssum, and dill all do the trick.

If youd prefer to discourage insects altogether, spray plants with a mixture of three to six tablespoons of organic dishwashing soap per gallon of water or add nematodessimple roundworms who are lethal to many soil insect pests, yet are safe for plants and animalsto your garden. Entomopathogenic or insecticidal nematodes in the genera Steinernema and Heterorhabditis work best. Another option is Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria applied to plants to ward off leaf-eaters. Horticultural oils, garlic, and hot pepper sprays also combat pests.

One Persons Weed is Another Person's Wonder

You may encounter opponents who believe that natural landscapes are fire hazards that generate rats, mosquitoes, and pollen. In reality:

• Most natural landscapes are comprised of green, leafy material that does not burn readily or sustain fire.

• Natural vegetation does not provide the type of food in the quantities needed to feed rats.

• Mosquitoes are lured by standing water, and most natural landscapes absorb more water than conventional lawns and also increase populations of mosquito-eating birds.

• All flowering plants produce pollen, but the most troublesome sources are ragweeds, which arent common natural landscaping choices.

You may also come head-to-head with weed ordinances. When properly applied, these laws are a valuable way of fighting plants that pose ecological and health hazards. Some community weed laws even actively promote natural landscaping. Talk to your local government to find out what weed ordinances exist in your area and how you can submit a modified weed law draft that is friendly to natural landscaping yet still controls invasive vegetation. For example, some communities have modified weed laws that provide exceptions for environmentally beneficial landscapes and plantings designated for educational purposes, consumption, business reasons, or the control of troublesome plant species. As a starting point, the Environmental Protection Agency offers a model modified weed ordinance (www.epa.gov/greenacres/weedlaws/) and Wild OnesNatural Landscapers, Ltd. provides model municipal and sample amending weed ordinances (www.for-wild.org/weedlaws/weedlaw.htm).

Enjoy your foray into untaming Mother Nature!

Jennifer Boyer

Resources

• Wild OnesNatural Landscapers, Ltd. (www.for-wild.org) promotes natural landscaping, lists which plants and flowers are native to your area, and more.

• You can also access the Native Plant Information Network through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at www.wildflower.org.

The Natural Habitat Garden by Ken Druse. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2004

Natural Landscaping: Designing with Native Plant Communities by John Diekelmann, Robert M. Schuster, Renee Graef. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003

Natural Landscaping: Gardening with Nature to Create a Backyard Paradise by Sally Roth. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Books, 2002

Thank you to the Humane Society and Mutts for passing this information onto me onto you!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Off Shore Drilling - Don't Buy the Lie

CAN WE DRILL OUR WAY TO LOWER FUEL PRICES?


Argument 1:

Drilling more oil and gas wells will reduce gasoline prices.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the total additional oil that could be
brought into production from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Outer
Continental Shelf, and the Rocky Mountain states is likely to be only about 1.2 million
barrels of oil a day at peak production. This only adds up to a $1.20 reduction in the price
of a barrel of oil, which is currently well over $140.(footnotes) i ii iii

If this drop were to reduce pump prices at all, the savings would be mere pennies (only about 3 cents a gallon according to Department of Energy figures) and would not be seen by Americans for at least another 10 years.

Even in the most optimistic case, drilling in those sensitive areas combined would
possibly garner a savings at the pump of only 4-5 cents a gallon in 2025. Even the
Department of Energy admits that: “Because oil prices are determined on the
international market, however, any impact on average… prices is expected to be
insignificant.” (footnote)iv Any oil pumped here would go right into that international market, where we'd have to bid for it right alongside India, China and other nations.

In fact, a record 1.6 billion barrels a day in U.S. refined petroleum products were
exported from January-April of this year, up 33 percent over the same period in 2007.
This surge in exports seems to contradict arguments of supporters who want to increase
domestic drilling in order to help alleviate fuel shortages in the U.S. The bottom line is
profit --domestically drilled oil will not stay in the U.S. if another nation is willing to pay
more for it.

Despite the fact that drilling will not help consumers at the pump, the industry continues
to push for more drilling permits on public lands. This strategy is little more than an
attempt to control more land and reap bigger and bigger profits. Between 1999 and 2007,
the number of drilling permits issued for development of public lands increased by more
than 361%, yet gasoline prices have also risen dramatically. There is no correlation
between more drilling and lower gasoline prices.

Even if increased domestic drilling could affect the price of gasoline, there is yet no
justification to open additional federal lands because oil and gas companies have shown
that they cannot keep pace with the rate of drilling permits that the federal government is
handing out. In the last four years, the Bureau of Land Management has issued 28,776
permits to drill on public lands; yet, in that same time, 18,954 wells were actually drilled.
That means that companies have stockpiled nearly 10,000 extra permits to drill that they
are not using to increase domestic production.


Argument 2:

Vast quantities of oil and gas beneath public lands are closed to energy
development.

According to the Department of the Interior, only 38% of the oil and 16% of the natural
gas are excluded from leasing – largely because those resources are underneath National
Parks and wilderness areas that have significant scenic, recreational and wildlife values.

Industry already has more lands than it can drill. Of the 44.5 million leased acres, most -more than 30 million acres -have not been used by the oil and gas industry.

Industry isn’t developing most of the public lands it already has under lease. Although we
object to some of the areas under lease, we believe that the oil and gas industry should
make better use of existing leases before it attempts to lock up more public lands in
environmentally fragile areas.


Argument 3:

Opening the 19.2 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to
drilling would reduce today’s gasoline prices.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that it will require 8 to 10 years
after opening ANWR before oil is produced. According to the EIA, opening ANWR
could reduce U.S. crude oil imports, but not until 2022-2026 and only by a few
percentage points.

Oil prices are set on a global market. Historically, increases in U.S. oil production have
had little impact on those prices. If commercial quantities of oil are discovered in
ANWR, the effect would be a reduction of just a few pennies per gallon during peak
production.

During the next two decades, US oil imports as a percentage of consumption will
decrease, a dramatic shift in US energy policy. The reasons for this decrease are
improvements in energy efficiency and conservation and the use of alternative energy and new technologies that will reduce our nation’s need for oil between now and 2050 by 100 million barrels – that’s 10 times the amount of oil that ANWR could provide.

Argument 4:

We need to increase domestic drilling in order to achieve energy independence and
increase homeland security.

More drilling will not achieve “energy independence.” At current consumption levels,

U.S. resources are inadequate to achieve energy independence. The United States
contains 2.5 % of the world's oil resources and 3% of world natural gas resources.
But we account for 24% of total world consumption of oil and 22% of natural gas
consumption. The U.S. could drill every national park, wildlife refuge, and coastline and still be importing 60 percent of the oil we use. Opening more areas to drilling in the U.S. can never make us less dependent on foreign oil or natural gas.

Additionally, because oil and petroleum products are traded globally, there is no
guarantee that oil drilled in the U.S. will stay in the U.S. In fact, a record 1.6 billion
barrels a day in U.S. refined petroleum products were exported from January-April of this
year, up 33 percent over the same period in 2007. The bottom line is profit -
domestically drilled oil will not stay in the U.S. if another nation is willing to pay more for it.

The only way we will ever reduce our dependency is to reduce our consumption. Federal
legislation that promotes clean, alternative energy and cuts global warming pollution will
reduce our oil imports four times more than drilling in the pristine wildlife habitat of the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, off our beaches, and in the Rocky Mountains combined.

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that under the Climate
Security Act, U.S. petroleum consumption would drop by nearly half by 2030—saving
far in excess of the amount of oil we could ever pull from Alaska or the coasts.

Argument 5:

There are too many environmental restrictions on drilling.

Many of these environmental restrictions are what help keep our drinking water and the
air we breathe clean. They also help conserve wildlife and lands for recreation.

Even with current environmental restrictions, wildlife and clean water and air are taking a
hit from drilling. During the first four years of development on the Pinedale Anticline
natural gas field in Wyoming the overall wintering mule deer population dropped by
46%. The Greater sage-grouse may require listing under the Endangered Species Act, in
part, as a result of damage to its habitat from oil and gas drilling. This past year in
Colorado, over 1 million gallons of polluted, industrial drilling mud was accidentally spilled into the West Parachute Creek on the Roan Plateau.

Drilling also pollutes the air. The oil industry on Alaska’s North Slope annually emits approximately 70,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, an important component of smog. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this is more than twice the amount emitted by the city of Washington, D.C.

The small town of Pinedale, Wyoming (pop. 1412), which sits just 100 miles south of Grand Teton National Park, experienced its first hazardous ozone alerts this past winter as a result of emissions from nearby drilling operations.

These are just a few examples of the impacts to wildlife, water and air from drilling. We
would see many more if current environmental restrictions are loosened or relaxed.

Our facts are from credible sources --the U.S. Department of Energy and the Bureau of
Land Management (under the U.S. Department of Interior). A lot of other “information”
is out there (mostly based on opinion)

i
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency, “Analysis of Crude Oil Production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” May 2008

ii
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency, “Impacts of Increased Access to Oil and Natural Gas Resources in the Lower 48 Federal Outer Continental Shelf” 2007.


iii
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency, “State Energy Profiles”

iv
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency, “Impacts of Increased Access to Oil and Natural Gas Resources in the Lower 48 Federal Outer Continental Shelf” 2007.



Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Save Money & Save The World - 22 Simple Steps for Energy Savings!

Here are 22 steps you can take -- each with the energy savings you can achieve each year. Pick the ones you'll do to get your first 10% energy savings. (These energy savings assume an average US home, which uses about 11,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and 19,000 cubic feet of natural gas per year.)

1. Turn off lights you're not using – We even have switchplate reminders for you, downloadable on our Web site. (2% energy savings per year, assuming an average family's energy use)

energy audit2. Schedule an energy audit – Your local utility will probably provide an audit for free, and you may also get a more comprehensive audit (saving you more money in the long term) by paying for a whole-house audit. (Up to 50% energy savings per year)

3. Don't heat or cool empty rooms – If there is a room in your house that is rarely used, close off the vents to save on heating and cooling. (Varies by size of room.)

4. Give your dishwasher a rest – Skip the energy-intensive drying cycle on your dishwasher and choose the air-dry option, or open the door for zero-energy dish drying. (5% energy savings per year)

power5. Shift your energy load to off-peak hours – Because power sources must produce electricity around the time of use (without capacity for long-term storage) it is our collective peak demand that triggers the building of more polluting power plants. (Varies)

6. Turn off your electronics – If you're going to be away from your computer or other appliance for more than an hour, turn it off. (5% energy savings per year)

7. Eliminate "phantom load" – Many electronics use energy even while turned off, so your best bet is to unplug them when not in use. (5% energy savings per year)

fridge8. Make your fridge more efficient – Keep your refrigerator's coils clean to boost its overall power, and store jugs of water in any empty space inside, because water retains coldness better than air. (4% energy savings per year)

9. Wash clothes in cold water – Your clothes will get just as clean, on half the energy. (7% energy savings per year)

10. Give up your dryer – Hang your clothes to dry on a clothesline or indoor rack. (10% energy savings per year)

leak11. Plug your air leaks – Energy-efficient heating and cooling systems are wasted when you're leaking out the cool or warm air you're putting in. (5% energy savings per year)

12. Reduce your water use – Simple ways to save water include fixing any leaks and replacing faucets and showerheads with low-flow options. (3% energy savings per year)

13. Cut waste through windows – Properly seal window edges, cover windows with curtains to prevent heat loss, or coat windows with reflective "low-e" films that reduce heat loss while still allowing light to shine through. (10% energy savings per year)

hot water heater cover14. Help your hot water heater – Add an insulating cover to reduce heat loss. (1% energy savings per year)

15. Install ceiling fans – Reduce your air conditioner usage with ceiling fans. Look for "Energy Star" models that use 50 percent less energy. (19% energy savings per year)

16. Get a programmable thermostat – Automate when your heating or cooling systems come on to save energy while you sleep or are away from home. (10% energy savings per year)

washing machine17. Upgrade your appliances – Look for the "Energy Star," and you may be eligible for a tax break. (3 - 12% energy savings per year)

18. Upgrade your hot water heater – Save energy and space by upgrading to a tankless or solar hot water heater. (14% energy savings per year)

19. Green your roof – Studies have found that a green roof on a typical one-story building can result in a 25 percent reduction in summer cooling needs. (12% energy savings per year)

landscaping20. Save energy through landscaping – The US Department of Energy found that the proper placement of as few as three shady trees will save an average household between $100 and $250 in energy costs annually. (12% energy savings per year)

21. Replace your windows – In step 13, we have recommendations for working with the windows you have. Replacing your windows with more energy-efficient versions can save you even more. (14% energy savings per year)

22. Don't waste energy on TV – With the switch to digital TV coming in 2009, many people are buying new, digital-ready TVs. If you must shop for a new television, look for an LCD (liquid crystal display) screen, which uses six times less energy than a plasma screen. (2% energy savings per year)

If you have a blog or a personal Web site, post or link to Co-op America's new Steps for Energy Efficiency and help us spread the word. E-mail us to let us know you've linked to our site‚ and we'll link back to you in an upcoming blogroll.

Support our work to build a greener economy by donating to our Climate Action Program. Help us promote greener energy and energy efficiency, while working against the expansion of the polluting coal industry.

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