June 2012 - Our Daily Green

Friday, June 29, 2012

Rain Chain Green

With a dry, hot summer, we anticipate our water bills will soar. Short of doing rain dances, there doesn't seem to be much we can do to keep our gardens watered and soil moist. Years ago, the Japanese culture used a simple and beautiful type of rain catcher, the rain chain.

Rain chains attach to the gutter and collect and redirect the rain water to a collection basin or bucket. Unlike gutters, the chains are aesthetic as well as melodic.

There are a variety of styles and finishes to suit any outdoor decor and rain chains do not require any special installation or rerouting of gutters. Instead, with a specially designed kit, the water is funneled through the downspout hole mounted on the gutter to guide the rain water efficiently to the chain.

Rain chains direct the water into a chosen storage basin or barrel, which can be as decorative or functional as desired. The stored water then can be saved for dry spells without adding to a water bill. Rain chains are a beautiful alternative to traditional, closed gutter downspouts that guide the water from the roof to a collection point. They are a great way to utilize rain water naturally for use in the yard.

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How to Build Green on a Budget by Jennifer Atlee — YES! Magazine

How to Build Green on a Budget
The challenge: build the greenest houses on earth—and make them affordable.
House Interior photo by Ann Gord Photos
Ann and Gord Baird built the first load-bearing cob home in North America. They went beyond sustainable building materials by designing it to accommodate three generations.
Photo by Ann Gord Photos.
The notion of building or remodeling to deep green standards is daunting. A 2011 survey by the National Association of Homebuilders found that 60 percent of professional builders thought environmentally sensitive housing was too expensive for low-income people and 30 percent said even the middle class couldn’t afford it. But modern pioneers—from owner-builders in British Columbia to designers challenging the harsh conditions of the Aleutian Islands—are showing that green building on a budget, even to the most exacting standards, is possible with enough creativity and planning.

In a Family Way

Ann and Gord Baird hand built what Jason McLennan, who developed the Living Building Challenge (LBC), has called “the greenest modern house in the world.” The LBC is the most far-reaching green-building program in existence. It requires, among other things, that a building use only the water and energy available on the site, use materials responsibly, and be healthy and beautiful. The Bairds met most of the requirements of the LBC, and they did it themselves on a tight budget. 
But they didn’t do it alone. Ann and Gord pooled their resources with Ann’s parents to buy the land in Victoria, British Columbia, and build a durable 2,100 square foot house with two semi-independent residences. The Bairds and their two kids live in one and Ann’s parents are in the other. They save costs by sharing the heating, plumbing, and electrical equipment along with the phone, freezer, and washing machine, while still maintaining most of the autonomy of a single-family home, including two separate kitchens with a pass-through between them. 
The Baird residence is the first permitted load-bearing cob structure in North America. Cob is a mix of straw and earthen materials, similar to adobe. “Mud is pretty cheap,” says Ann, and the cob construction naturally regulates the humidity and temperature of the house. In an area where the average cost of a low-end conventional house is $190 to $250 per square foot, the Baird’s house cost $148 per square foot, including solar PV and hot water systems and a reasonable price for Ann and Gord’s labor. 
In addition to inexpensive cob construction, and shared walls and equipment, they went with used materials when they could. Addressing another aspect of the LBC, the Bairds estimate they use about 40 liters of water per person per day versus the average B.C. usage of 490. They use composting toilets and low-flow fixtures, irrigate their food gardens from a 10,000-gallon rainwater harvesting system, and use gray water from the house to irrigate their fruit and nut trees. 
These are just a few of the home’s sustainable and resilient features. The Bairds make a point of showing it’s not how green you make a house, but how effective, that determines affordability. “We use ninety percent less electricity than the average person in B.C.—and that’s about lifestyle choices,” Ann says.

A Contest for a Challenging Location

Public housing authorities are notoriously conservative about using scarce funding for something as experimental as green building. Until there are proven projects that show what’s possible, most funding agencies don’t want to take chances. 
The Aleutian Design Competition, a joint project of the Aleutian Housing Authority and the International Living Futures Institute (ILFI), called for designs for single-family homes in Alaska’s remote Aleutian Islands that not only meet LBC, but are also affordable and replicable. The housing authority will build the house that wins the challenge.
While on average it’s not the coldest place in Alaska, driving wind, rain, and snow are common in the Aleutians, along with incredible cold snaps. In the lower 48, green homes take advantage of winter sun through passive solar design. In a place with almost no winter sun, that’s just not an option. 
Despite the difficulties, 47 designs out of 104 complete submissions were selected as likely to meet the LBC challenge, with an incredible range of styles and strategies. Designs included everything from the mostly subterranean traditional Aleut barabara structures, to space-age designs, traditional ranch homes, and modified shipping containers. Insulation materials ranged from high tech to local rye grass. There is no single way to design a living building. 
“Finnesko,” the winning design by a team of three young architects from Madrid, Spain, was a reinterpretation of the classic Quonset hut, a form that McLennan says appears in remote locations because it is easy and repeatable. 
The designs that did the best emphasized simplicity and ease of construction, with a lot of flexibility in details. All of that contributes to affordability. If the Housing Authority learns a particular detail doesn’t hold up in the climate or is too expensive, they can try another option. The competition allowed the Aleutian Housing Authority to learn from all the best ideas, and provided a wealth of design strategies and details to work with as they move forward.

Cob House photo courtesy of Ann Gord Photos
Photo by Ann Gord Photos.
A Phased Approach

Saving energy is a key consideration for any organization focused on affordable housing. “We’re facing stagnant revenues along with increasing utilities and operation costs,” explained Ben Gates of Central City Concern (CCC), a nonprofit in Portland, Ore., that helps people affected by homelessness, poverty, and addictions to achieve self-sufficiency. CCC is on a tight budget, but the possibility of dramatic reductions in operating costs inspired the group to aim high. According to Gates, it’s big ambitious goal-setting like LBC that supports big accomplishments—even if the goal isn’t fully reached, or is achieved over time. 
CCC is rehabbing a turn-of-the-century 160-unit apartment building in Portland to “Passive House” standards. Like the LBC, Passive House takes green design to the extreme, but focuses only on energy. Passive House design can reduce heating-energy use by 90 percent through a virtually airtight, superinsulated building that relies almost entirely on the sun and occupants to keep the building warm. 
CCC doesn’t have the funds to do a full retrofit all at once, so they’re taking a phased approach. They emphasized efficiency during the design phase, and they’re building in key improvements as they rehab various parts of the structure. “Normally you wouldn’t put triple-paned windows in a poorly insulated structure,” Gates says, “but the next phase will have an exterior insulation wrap.” 
 “As an institutional owner, we’re likely to have these buildings for another 100 years,” Gates says. Typically rehabs happen every 15 to 20 years. “Everyone has to rehab—you always have components that are aging out, so as long as we’re spending money on rehab that’s along the lines of what other affordable housing agencies are doing, we can make the argument that it’s a good use of funds.” For example, by investing in windows that will last 50 years, instead of replacing a low-cost window in 20 years, they can focus on other things in the next rehab cycle. 

Rebuild at Home

A phased approach is helpful for single-family homes too. While McLennan has sparked a revolution through the LBC, in his home life he’s not all that different from many other homeowners. “I’m typical of a person who doesn’t have a lot of time nor huge buckets of money to throw at my house, and I bought an existing house.” He takes his time, but the LBC framework informs everything he does. “Every year I do a small project. Sometimes it’s just ensuring the investment in materials is respected—making sure the house doesn’t leak.” 
Ella's House photo by Dawn Jenkins
6 Ideas For Sensible Homes

Small, supportive, affordable, recycled—and you can
build your own.
McLennan’s house was built out of all salvaged materials in the ’70s, and he is continuing that legacy of reuse and adaptation. It can be as straightforward as taking the shingles off the exterior wall where McLennan was building an addition and using them on the new wall. 
One of the trickiest parts of the challenge for professional architects is avoiding the hazardous chemicals on LBC’s list, but that doesn’t stop McLennan. “I’m pretty darn strict about what chemicals I bring into my house,” he said. Still, that can mean Ikea’s low cost furniture, since the company has relatively rigorous policies about hazardous materials, rather than premium priced options. “Like everyone else I just do the best I can.”

Changing the game

The story isn’t just about what people can do now; it’s about making way for others. 
“Our real goal with the LBC is not to certify buildings, but to actually change the market so doing the right thing is the natural course of business,” says McLennan. And that’s starting to happen. It’s also the changes quietly and not so quietly being introduced into the codes that define what people can and cannot build that make things easier for the rest of us. “It will never be more expensive than the first living building,” says McLennan, because those first buildings are creating the templates for a new approach and teaching others.
If these pioneers are making living buildings on a budget, the rest of us can too.

Jennifer Atlee wrote this article for Making it Home, the Summer 2012 issue of YES! Magazine. Jennifer is a researcher, writer, gardener, and engineer. Research director for BuildingGreen, she has focused on system-wide sustainability since she thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail at 18.

YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy stepsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pedometer Green

We just love it when a plan comes together. Sometimes our writing prompts align perfectly and this was such a week. Last week, our blog friend Small Footprints issued her weekly Change the World Wednesday challenge (#CTWW for those who follow along on Twitter).
Last Week's Challenge:
This week's challenge is going to be fun. It was suggested by Jennifer (aka @noteasy2begreen) who picked it up from @CelloMomOnCars who found it by way of @lutzfernandez. Here you go:
This week we're going to track the driving trips which WE DON'T TAKE. Yep ... for every time that you walk, ride a bike or simply choose not to make a trip, keep track of it.  At the end of the week, please come back and share how many miles you didn't drive (and money saved, etc, if you also track that information).
We'd also like to hear about your strategy for meeting this challenge. This is based on an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled The Road Not Taken May Be a Key to Driving Less
The serendipity behind the challenge was that Our Daily Green recently received a digital pedometer to review as well as had planned a trip to a serious walking city, Savannah, Georgia within the same week as the challenge.

Perhaps there was an unfair advantage, as I already knew I was in a city of walking, but what I want to say is twofold:
  1. It was incredibly easy to track footsteps with the pedometer. The one that Ozeri sent tracks up to ten days of walking and has an input area for length of stride and weight as well as a  3D Tri-Axis Bosch Sensor which can measure accurately in all positions. It calculates time walked as well as number of steps and is one of the thinnest and lightest pedometers on the market. 
  2. With the act of counting footsteps, a goal of 10,000 steps per day is easily achievable. I live in a community where walking places is difficult, but walking is not. Inspired by the number of steps I walked, I aim to find new reasons to walk not just for errands but also health. 
Ozeri Products
It's much easier in Savannah to park the car and use your feet
By the numbers, I walked 114,954 steps at an 18 inch stride = 32.65 miles in 10 days or a little over 3.2 miles/daily. I confess that the past 5 days were nearly double the first 5, due to being in a walking city. But I want to take some of that philosophy and confidence and apply it to my regular life. I think it's time to play tourist in my own town and see what I can see from a slower pace.

It's something we had started a few years ago, but had let slide. #CTWW inspired me to rethink that. The pedometer helped me measure it and Savannah reminded me that I can.

While a vacation trip is somewhat of a departure from the CTWW challenge, I was reminded how easy it really is to walk. Granted, many cities are not as walking friendly, but really, walking is simply the process of putting one foot in front of the other. How many times do we hop in the car to take our kids to the neighbor's? Or run something over to the neighbor's? It's time to rethink how often we start a car and instead lace up the shoes

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Labeling Green

One of the first pieces of advice Our Daily Green gives folks is to read the label. However, it's often not enough to read the labels, it's also important to understand that some words are meaningless when it comes to green choices. They feel good words that are chosen as part of an advertising campaign to persuade the consumer that they are making a good decision by purchasing that product.

Always remember their goal is to sell their product, not protect your family and health. Many companies use terms very broadly and there are no standards. Here are a few examples to investigate past the word on the label.

eco graphics
Image from Creative Commons
  • Natural:  By USDA standards, food can only be labeled natural if it contains no artificial ingredients or added colors and is minimally processed. For example, high fructose corn syrup can be considered natural, as long as no synthetic ingredients are used in processing. 
  • Cruelty Free: different folks define cruel differently and there are no set standards for such a subjective word.  It simply means that it won't cause death or harm.
  • Fragrance Free: means that the product has no noticeable scent, which may be as a result of added chemicals that mask the product's scent. Yes, frangrance-free products may actually have more chemicals in them! Fragrance free is not chemical free. 
  • Biodegradable: The product must "return to nature" when left to the elements. There is no standard as to how long it would take or under what conditions. Additionally, the process to create a biodegradable product is often more harmful to the environment.
With a little understanding behind the motivation of the company, consumers can still make healthy and earth friendly choices.

For additional information, Mother Jones has an excellent downloadable guide

Monday, June 18, 2012

Rio+20 summit: op/ed guest post

Our Daily Green is very intrigued by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. It is our opinion that in some ways it simply serves to complicate a very simple solution. Use less and care more. Assigning a committee, having a conference and formulating a complicated plan takes more time to initiate than simply adopting new choices. This editorial by Janet Redman underscores some of those concerns. 

The Elephant in Rio

Don't bank on a new "green economy" to solve our climate challenges.

Janet RedmanA close friend of mine in Fairfax, Virginia, is expecting her first child. By the time this baby girl turns 60, she'll live in a world that's warmer than it's ever been since humans began walking the Earth 2.5 million years ago, according to a new study.

The world already looks much different than it did just a generation ago. The alarming rate at which plants and animals are disappearing has scientists asking if we're entering a sixth mass extinction. The oceans' fish stocks — the main source of protein for more than a billion people — are declining, and mysterious coral reefdie-offs in recent years will likely make a bad situation worse. More than half of the planet's surface now has "an obvious human footprint."

This is exactly where world leaders hoped we would not be when they gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the historic 1992 Earth Summit.

Twenty years ago, decision-makers knew human activity could hurt the environment. But they were also grappling with the fact that about half of the world's population was living in poverty, and needed access to land, water, food, dignified work, and other essential ingredients for a better life.
Broken Planet, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib
Broken Planet, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib
To bring these two realities together, the Rio summit embraced "sustainable development" — an economic model that meets present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Governments adopted a roadmap for sustainable development heading into the 21stcentury called Agenda 21 and launched global environmental agreements on biodiversity, climate change, and desertification.
The global community is gathering in Rio again to face the painful fact that little progress has been made. In the back of everyone's mind are the global financial crisis, destabilizing economic inequality, and a lack of political will to do anything perceived as threatening corporate competitiveness.
What went wrong? Part of the answer is that the original Earth Summit avoided two of the biggest elephants in the room. One, that infinite growth on a finite planet is an exercise in futility. And two, that the 20 percent of the world's population living in North America, Europe, and Japan gobbles up 80 percent of the Earth's natural resources. It doesn't seem likely that Rio+20, as this new meeting is known, will recognize those elephants either.
The leaders heading to Rio are touting a mythical new "green economy" they say will solve all our climate challenges. While still ill defined, they're generally referring to a model of economic growth based on massive private investment in clean energy, climate-resistant agriculture, and ecosystem services — like the ability of a wetland to filter water. Under this new concept, Wall Street gets to reap profits from a whole new line of business, and governments get to spend less protecting the environment.
Not surprisingly, peasant farmers, indigenous communities, anti-debt activists, and other grassroots groups reject this "green economy" rubric as corporate "greenwashing."
The fear — echoed by many environmentalists and anti-poverty groups — is that by putting a price on things like water or biodiversity as a way of managing their use, we turn them into commodities and risk having basic needs and services fall victim to speculators who make money off volatile prices.
Think about it. Does it make sense to put the future of our remaining common resources — forests, genes, the atmosphere, food — into the hands of people who treated our economy like their personal casino?
It's no coincidence that when people are in charge of managing the land and water they live and depend on they do a better job than some hedge fund manager in a remote office building. Instead of concentrating decision-making power about nature in the financial sector, the Rio+20 summit should support local, democratic control of natural resources.
That way, when my friend's daughter is old enough to vote, she'll have a planet worth fighting for. 
Janet Redman is the co-director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies. www.ips-dc.org
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Creative CommonsExcept where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative 3.0 License.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ceramic non-stick cookware review

ceramic cookwareOur Daily Green's home is on-the-go, but we try to cook as many meals as possible from scratch and at home. One of our favorite time-savers for quick clean up is non-stick cookware. Then we learned of all the dangers in the coatings, we decided to do some shopping for safer cookware. Traditional non-stick cookware uses PolyTetraFluoroEthylene (PTFE) or PerFluoroOctanoic Acid (PFOA) to keep the surface slick and food from sticking. (from The Free Dictionary)
PFTE is a synthetic material commonly used as a nonstick lining in domestic cooking utensils (frypans); abbreviated PTFE; called also Teflon. Overheating produces toxic fumes that cause an acute hemorrhagic pneumonitis and death in small caged birds, which are particularly susceptible. Called also polymer-fume fever, kitchen deaths.
PFOA persists indefinitely in the environment. It is a toxicant and carcinogen in animals. In people, it is detected in the blood of general populations in the low and sub-parts per billion range. Chemical plant employees and surrounding subpopulations have been identified with higher blood levels. Exposure is most consistently associated with increased cholesterol and uric acid levels, but there is insufficient evidence to conclude that PFOA exposure results in adverse health effects in people.
We didn't take theses concerns lightly and began to research alternative non-stick cookware. Our quest led us to The Green Earth Frying Pan by Ozeri, and we contacted the company to see if they would be interested in having their cookware reviewed. Much to Our Daily Green's delight, they agreed and sent us a free 8" frying pan to test.

We've read many reviews on ceramic non-stick cookware and have some some concerns about durability. We believe that the problems are as a result of not properly following the instructions for use, but to be completely fair, today's review is the initial review, and we will follow up after we've used the pan for 6 weeks.

To preserve the finish, the company suggests:
  • No metal utensils, only wooden or plastic can be used 
  • Hand wash for best care
  • Use very little oil if needed, but excess seasoning will cause residue to build up and food will stick
  • Allowing the pan to cool completely before washing
  • Do not use in the oven above 356 Fahrenheit
  • Use only medium heat on the burners
  • To remove periodic buildup of food and oil residue, wipe with lemon juice or vinegar
We used our pan this morning, for the first time to make some scrambled eggs. Here are the photos:

ceramic nonstick cookware
Out of the box

spinach and scrambled eggs

non stick
look how nicely they cooked!

ecozeri cookware
almost as clean as it started
Our initial impression is VERY positive. We're excited to report back how well our frying pan holds up the next few weeks with careful use.
A special thank you again to Moderna Housewares for the opportunity to review your product. In accordance with disclosure laws, the frying pan was sent to us free of charge, but only in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Other Side of Gainful Unemployment

Reprinted courtesy of YES! Magazine

The downsides of doing it all.
originally posted May 31, 2012 
busy hands by Lisa Clarke banner
Photo by Lisa Clarke
“Today, I will do one thing at a time.”
These are the words I’ve been saying to myself each morning lately as I leap from my bed. I mindlessly repeat them while working through when to teach homeschool lessons to my daughters, which emails I need to respond to, when I’m going to make soap, how much beeswax I need to rinse and render, when we’re going to photograph and upload our newest farm products to the online shopping cart, which websites need to be updated, whether I’m needed or not at the farm this day or this week, what spices I need to order for sausage making, whether I’ll find time this day to get the weeds out of the raspberries, if I’ve got enough change for this Saturday’s farmers’ market, when I’m going to get to the dairy farm up the road to pick up butter for making pate to sell, what needs to happen to complete the start up of our new yarn business, which essays and articles need to be written, how I’m going to steer my newest book into publication by September, which photographs still need to get taken for the insert, which presentations need to get written for the fall speaking season, whether or not the blueberry bushes need fertilizing, when I’m going to find the time to take the girls into the woods to gather ramps.
I sat down for the first time and wrote a list of each of our enterprises. We had 16 different ventures.
In short, as soon as I utter that morning promise, I begin the daily process of failing to honor it as I work myself into a frenzied whirlwind of activity. My life is unusual in that nearly every item on my to-do list is something that I love. But rather than being in-the-moment to enjoy these myriad pleasures, my brain rattles me into a frenzied state, where I am constantly distracted by what else I want to accomplish. Thus, even the act of perpetually doing things I love can leave me cranky, impatient, and difficult to be around.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Bob and I are creative people, unable to fathom a life where we would do one thing for a living. For the last decade, we have managed to carve out a livelihood for ourselves that matched our eclectic interests and our passion to produce beautiful things in harmony with the earth. We call it gainful unemployment. One of my most important contributions to this adventure has been my ability to perpetually come up with new ideas and business schemes, ensuring that the income stream for our radical homemaking household was always diversified, and thus more secure. For the sake of writing this piece this morning, I sat down for the first time and wrote a list of each of our enterprises. We had 16 different ventures.
That makes for a pretty respectable livelihood for two adults who have decided to stay home full-time with their kids. My trouble is that my most important gift in managing a life like this—my ability to envision and implement new ideas while juggling existing responsibilities—is also my greatest burden. I have a brain that doesn’t rest. I lead a life that honors the rhythms of Mother Nature, but the frenetic pace in my head impedes my soul from resonating with her vibrations.
I don’t believe I am alone in this quandary. Radical homemakers are scrappy survivors who employ their creativity and ability to learn new skills to build a life outside the destructive confines of the conventional ecologically and socially extractive economy. I’ve been in many radical homemaking households that look like mine—full of chaos, creativity, self-imposed deadlines and interesting business concepts. This is who we are, and we are part of the foundation of a new life-serving economy.
I am learning that I must trust that what is most important will get done, that being present and mindful will enable me to generate as much productivity as I need.
We are on the frontier of something that is totally new. We draw inspiration from pre-industrial households and early American agrarian traditions for our way of life, but we cannot ignore the fact that we must revive these traditions while living in an electronic age; where business, learning and creativity can happen 24-7. There is opportunity in this union. There is also the tremendous hazard that we could take ourselves to a breaking point.
How I negotiate this union is an important matter. Finding the balance is critical to my health and enjoyment of my life. More importantly, it is going to be the best selling point for my children to trust their own unique talents and skills to make a life that harmonizes with mind, body, soul and planet.
Right now, for me, this means starting each day with that simple goal: to do one thing at a time. That is very difficult for me. I am learning that I must trust that what is most important will get done, that being present and mindful will enable me to generate as much productivity as I need, without the added brain chaos of trying to do two, three, five, or more things at once.

Shannon HayesShannon Hayes wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Shannon is the author of Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, The Grassfed Gourmet and The Farmer and the Grill. She is the host of Grassfedcooking.com and RadicalHomemakers.com. Hayes works with her family on Sap Bush Hollow Farm in Upstate New York.
YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Swim Guide

swim guide app
As schools let out around the nation for summer vacation, families pack up the sunscreen, beach blankets, umbrellas and sand toys for a trip to the local beach.

Imagine the disappointment to arrive at a beach and find a notice indicating the water is not safe for swimming that day. A number of factors affects water condition which can vary from day to day.

There is a great tool available to learn about the beach conditions beforehand. Not only does Swim Guide report beach conditions, but it also searches for the closest beaches and offers directions. Swim Guide is a free app, funded entirely by donations of beach loving folks who want to enjoy their local bodies of water safely. It began seven years ago in Toronto, Canada. Staff and volunteers at the charity Lake Ontario Waterkeeper wondered: where is it safe to swim?

The Swim Guide is available iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch® and Android. It provides original descriptions and photographs of over 1,500 different beaches in Canada and around the United States, including the Great Lakes regions, California. Florida, and Alabama's Gulf Coast.

  • Gives you real-time beach status updates (where available)
  • Gives you historical beach trends
  • Explains the laws and policies that protect beaches
  • Lets you compare your local beach to other beaches in Canada and the United States.
  • Find the closest beach using list, map, or search tools
  • Discover a wide variety of beaches, ranging from city parks to remote lakes ideal for camping
  • Identify at a glance which beaches are clean for swimming (Green) and which have water quality problems (Red) in real-time
  • Get walking, driving, or transit directions to the beach of your choice
  • Report pollution or environmental concerns
Next time you wonder if the water is safe for swimming, you can answer, "There's an app for that."  Swim Guide is free to download. Invite Swim Guide to your next trip to the beach. 

Happy Swimming! 
Our Daily Green Swim Guide

Monday, June 11, 2012

Clearing the Air: guest post

Many health care organizations have joined environmental advocates like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council in supporting a new EPA rule that would curb the deadly pollution spewed from the next generation of coal-fired power plants.
Andrew Korfhage
Here's some good news: the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new rule that would make coal-fired power plant operators clean up their act. It would block up to 123 billion pounds of carbon pollution annually from entering our skies by limiting emissions from next-generation power plants.
This new rule is a big deal. It's the first time that the EPA has moved to limit the carbon pollution spewed from power plants. Spurred by the 2007 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the EPA's duty to uphold the Clean Air Act, the rule will revolutionize the design of new U.S. power plants.
U.S. coal plants emit an average of about 1,800 pounds of carbon dioxide for every megawatt of electricity they generate. The EPA will require new plants to emit no more than 1,000 pounds. This means the operators of 22 proposed coal-fired power plants with construction permits now pending nationwide must figure out how to produce far less pollution if they want to move forward.
This rule would finally make the owners of coal-fired power plants stop polluting our air and water, which makes us sick. According to Physicians for Social Responsibility, coal pollutants "affect all major organ systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases." In fact, a 2009 report from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences found that coal-fired power plants were responsible for about $62 billion in health care costs annually. Moving forward, power companies must begin to bear those costs themselves, or find a cleaner way of doing business.

That's one of the reasons why many health care organizations have joined environmental advocates like the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council in supporting the EPA's new rule. The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Lung Association, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Public Health Association are all big supporters. 
The "EPA continues to overstep its authority and ram through a series of overreaching regulations in its attacks on America's power sector," said Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.Yet many conservatives in Congress have banded together with coal companies and their lobbyists to fight against this rule.
Upton's wrong. The energy industry won't suffer if it innovates and embraces cleaner technologies. We all win when power companies shift toward cleaner renewable technologies like solar and wind — localized power sources that create good local jobs that can't be outsourced.
And, despite a lot of "war on coal" hoopla, the rule places no new burdens on the coal plants that are already operational. It applies only to new ones. Far from ramming through the change, EPA's action comes nearly a year late. Originally due to be released in July 2011, the rule was delayed by deliberations with the White House.
The EPA invites public comment on the rule — pro or con — through June 25. As of mid-May, the EPA had received more than 1 million comments in favor of the new rule-change, according to a coalition of groups supporting the change.
As EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said when announcing the rule: "Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies. We're putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American-made technology to tackle a challenge that we can't leave to our kids and grandkids."
She's right; please send administrator Jackson and the EPA a message of support today.

Andrew Korfhage is Green America's online and special projects editor. www.greenamerica.org 
To add your voice in favor of the rule, visit www.regulations.gov and follow the prompts for commenting.
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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Renewable Energy Green

An ongoing concern for environmentally-minded folks around the world is how to power our nations. Between electricity for our homes and gasoline for our vehicles, we primarily use fossil fuels in form of either coal or petroleum. These sources are not-renewable, meaning they will eventually run out. While scientists vary on their opinion of how long before it happens, there is no debate that increased usage coupled with decreasing reserves will eventually deplete the supply. These concerns have prompted an increased interest in a renewable energy source, such as solar energy, to keep us powered through the millennium and beyond.

solar energySolar power is accessible enough for anyone to take advantage of the absolutely free and unlimited home power supply. The ability to power a home from sunshine as a clean energy source has long existed, but the initial investment made it cost prohibitive for the average homeowner.

Innovations in the industry are bringing the costs down as new materials are developed to produce lower cost solar generation equipment. Solar panels currently are manufactured from a silicone base, but scientists have also developing such panels from magnets, grass clippings, and even human hair.

solar airplaneSolar energy continues to grow in popularity around the world, showing tremendous gains in the Middle East and Africa, as well as several European nations. Last weekend in Germany, the country set a world record solar power generation, with 22 gigawatts generated, supplying over 50% of the nation's energy needs on Friday and Saturday afternoons. The 22 gigawatts generated are an increase from 14 gigawatts generated year ago. Then on Tuesday this week, a solar energy plane completed the world's first intercontinental flight powered by the sun to show the potential for pollution-free air travel.

The benefits of solar power energy go beyond transportation and into construction, both residential and commercial. Many companies are finding cost effective ways to provide residential solar electricity via leasing agreements and rentals. As traditional electricity rates continue to rise, generating electricity from the sun could save consumers money in electricity costs as well as incentives from  federal and local rebates and tax credits. The future for solar energy is looking quite sunny!

In accordance with FTC disclosure rules, Our Daily Green has been compensated for this post. To learn more about sponsoring a post on this site, follow this link

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Allergy relief green

Our Daily Green's family has a number of skin and sinus allergies. We try to avoid the sources of allergies, but frequently, the source of allergies is inside the home, whether it be dust mites or pet dander. We love our dog, but he even has allergies! In our unending quest to live as naturally as possible, the idea of taking antihistamines on a daily basis is not attractive. So we try to control the allergens themselves. Frequent vacuuming and dusting helps, but with a dog in the house, it's as if he spreads his hair around the house like confetti at a parade.

As we've tried to purify our daily life with organic food, filtered water, and natural cleaning products, it seemed logical to also clean the air we breathe. A few weeks ago, we received an offer to review an indoor air purifier system. With a big achoo, while watching our dog scratch and lick himself, we accepted the offer.

For the past 4 weeks, we've run the Holmes Air Purifier in our daughter's bedroom which is also where the dog sleeps. We are going to report the full results of our product test next week, but must say we're amazed at what the filter has removed from the air.

Stay tuned for the results and our opinion of the Holmes Air Purifier!

(disclosure: http://cmp.ly/2

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Character Green

There is a saying,  Character is what you do when nobody is looking. 

I want to share a few moments with my readers about some things I saw when nobody was looking this past weekend.

Our Daily Green is heavily involved in local charity and causes. We are participants in our local Relay for Life to benefit the American Cancer Society. We believe in Hope, Cure, and Honor.

I had the honor this weekend of spending time with some young women of honor. These young women didn't know or care who was looking.

A few months ago, a favorite middle school history teacher was diagnosed with cancer and had to retire prematurely (after about 42 years!) to undergo treatment. The school banded together and under the direction of Ms. Sabrina Eaton, started a Relay for Life team. The premise of a Relay for Life is that since cancer never rests, neither will the fundraising/awareness event. To participate in the Relay, each team must commit to having someone on the track the duration of the event. Last year, I personally walked 24 hours with the companionship of my 15 year old daughter.

We are not unbiased. One of the mini Greens pledged to walk the entire 24 hours. She was inspired by previous Relays. She is 14. As she began her walk, a few of her friends were curious and pledged to also walk. I must point out that these young students had no idea what the next 24 hours would hold. Some of them had planned it, but none of them really knew what it would be like. But then again, who knows when a deadly disease will strike?

As the evening, night, morning, afternoon wore on, this team of 8th grade girls walked. There were tears and laughter, silly and serious moments. They didn't stop. I am in awe; absolutely, completely in awe. These brave and strong young women set their minds to do something and like the Nike commercial, "Just Did It". They were honored for setting the record for being the youngest ever Ironman participants.

To: Maddy, Gillian, Theresa, and Francine? You are Iron. You are solid and you are brave. You are commited. You rock.

You are heroes.
You are loved.

Thank you for proving our future matters.

DONATE HERE, thank you !

Team Reel, Relay for Life