Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Great Climate Resource

Interested in keeping up to date on climate issues? Frustrated by some well-known climate blogs that cage information in language you have to plough through to understand? Check out this great blog site by author Joseph Romm (Hell and Highwater). His site is authored by him, as well as a variety of professionals, and of course the requisite number of looney commentators. ClimateProgress

Friday, September 14, 2007

Kick the (Bad) Habit

Television is pretty ubiquitous these days. The average American spends more than 4 hours per day watching television (source), which adds up to about 9 years of watching TV in a 65-year life. Time is precious, and its easy to get sucked into watching more television than you meant to. Think about how much you could get done if you stopped watching television (hiking, reading, applying for the job you really want).

Additionally, TV has a very significant impact on the lives of children. According to one report, children see about 40,000 advertisements a year (source), and its been shown that because they are less able to understand that commercials are a biased attempt to sell a product, they often believe what commercials portray, sometimes leading to depression. One study says that on average parents have 3.5 minutes of meaningful conversation with their children per week, who in turn, spend 1,680 minutes per week watching TV (source). Who would you listen to? Finally, if your kids are watching hours of TV a day, that means they are inside, more or less stationary. Think about how beneficial to their health and imagination reading a book or playing outside could be!

So try and cut TV from your life. Instead, take a hike with your loved ones, read that book you've always wanted to, or find a project that gets you involved with your community (ex.

For more information, check out

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tap vs. Bottled Water

The best way to save resources is to not use them in the first place. One easy way to shrink your global footprint is to not drink bottled water.

Reasons to drink from the faucet:
1. It's free! It costs about $0.49/year to drink the prescribed 8 glasses/day tap water, and about $1,400.00/year to drink bottled. 40% of bottled water is just filtered municipal water. What a scam!
2. 9 out of 10 bottles are NOT recycled. There are 30 million discarded bottles per day in the U.S.
3. It takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to make one year's worth of plastic bottles.
4. It takes fuel and releases emissions to transport bottled water.
5. Disposable plastic bottles can contain toxic substances.

So, instead of spending money for water you could get for free (in addition to utilizing resources unnecessarily), carry a reusable drinking container and fill up at any faucet!

Want to learn more? Check out these news items from NPR.

Black Screens Save Energy

Check out It's a search engine, powered by Google, but with one small, but possibly important difference: a black background. Black computer screens take less energy than white screens, and so having as your homepage or standard search engine could eventually mean energy savings, especially if everyone who uses google switches over. They also have some tips for easy ways to save energy in your home and car, so check out their tips page.

You can't help but wonder... if the site is powered by Google, why doesn't just switch to a black background?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's... meteors!

The peak of the Perseids, an annual meteor shower, happens from dawn to dusk on the August 12th-13th. This year the moon is positioned in such a way as to allow the best viewing during the peak of this years shower. In really dark skies you may see as many as 80 meteors per hour!

Meteors are comet dust that burns up as they graze the earth's atmosphere. This particular annual shower has been observed by the people of the earth for more than 2000 years. Get outside on the night of the 12th for an amazing show!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What a Hoot

"The value we place on any given plant or animal is really a reflection of what we know about it and its place in our surroundings." Janis Higgins, author of Wild at Heart

I recently did some research for an educational program on owls. I learned a lot of really neat facts about these amazing raptors, and here are some of my favorites:

* Raptor come from the Latin word "rapere" meaning to grasp and carry away. Raptors (including owls, hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey) use their taloned feet to capture and kill animals. Owls eat frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, mice, rabbits, birds, squirrels, and insects, among other things.
* Many owls fly almost silently. This is thanks to the stiff fringe on the outer edges of their forward wing feathers that look like a comb. The rear wing feathers have a soft, hair-like fringe. These fringed edges soften the flow of air as it moves over the wings. The soft surface of the flight feathers absorbs the noise the feathers make as they slide over one another.
* Owls can’t move their eyeballs, so they must turn their heads to change the direction they are looking. They have 14 neck bones (twice as many as we have) which allow them to turn their heads 270 degrees in both directions.
* Many owls have asymmetrical ear placement, this gives them "3-d" hearing. Since their ears are not evenly placed, sounds may reach one ear before the other. They then tilt their heads until the sound reaches both ears at the same time. This tells them exactly where the sound is coming from, even without seeing the source.
* Some owl species have eyes larger than humans. Owl eyes may account for 15% the weight of their heads. Also, they have more rods (responsible for seeing in low light) and fewer cones (responsible for seeing color). This means they can see really well in the dark, but don’t see much color. They have visual sensitivity between 35 and 100 times better than out own.

Owls and other birds of prey are a vital part of the ecosystem. They keep rodent populations in check, and can be used as an indicator species for the health of their habitat. To protect these birds, it is crucial that they have ample habitat, and are not exposed to dangerous pesticides and pollutants. To protect land, donate or volunteer with your local land trust. If you see an injured raptor, contact a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Great horned owl (Bubo virginianus)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Take a Hike

A great way to stay passionate about the environment is to get out in it. For me, that usually means hiking, but for many others it can mean rock climbing, mountain biking, or even gardening. In my latest job I've been leading interpretive hikes throughout the Aspen area, and I often ask the people on my tours why they like getting outside. In general responses usually involve a sense of being reinvigorated and relaxed after taking a walk or seeing a beautiful view.

In the words of John Muir:

"Everyone needs beauty as well as bread. Places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and provide strength to body and soul."

The Maroon Bells, CO

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Compact Florescent Lightbulbs

Compact florescent lightbulbs (CFL's) have been heralded as a great way to save energy and materials. They last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, don't emit waste heat, and use about 2/3 less electricity than incandescents. However, they do contain mercury, an element that can be dangerous. Currently there is no good way of recycling these bulbs, so how do you decide which is worse? Well, it turns out there are only about 4 mg of mercury in one CFL (compared to 25 mg in your watch battery). Also, burning coal to create electricity releases mercury into the air, so using a more efficient lightbulb reduces mercury in that respect. Reducing the amount of coal burned in a power plant will also reduce emissions of sulphur oxide and carbon dioxide. So use CFLs and save some money and energy, and when they burn out just make sure to bring them to a hazardous waste facility.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Keeping Up on Environmental News

One of my favorite ways of keeping up on environmental news is to listen to two podcasts by NPR. The first is NPR: Environment. This podcast is a collection of stories (focusing on the environment) from their various shows (20 to 40 minutes each). The second is the weekly show, Living on Earth (about an hour each). Subscribing is easy, free, and then you can listen to these shows whenever you have time. Doing chores around the house, commuting, at the gym. You get the picture. Just one easy way to keep yourself in the know.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Annapurna: Memories in Sound

I heard this sound journal on NPR a few weeks ago. Its a beautiful account of one couple's trek through the Himalayas to Nepal. This journal is unique because there is a paucity of narration, the real focus is on the sounds they recorded throughout the trip. Monks chanting, prayer flags whipping in the wind, sherpa bells clanking- it was really a treat to listen to.

Follow this link and click on the headphones next to the Feb 3, 2007 show. There's a short segment before it, which you can fast-forward through if you like.

The Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act was a groundbreaking piece of legislation, vastly improving the first few versions of laws inspired by the plight of the whooping crane (Grus americana).

However, this law is not a guarantee that the species needing protection from extinction will get it. The governmental agencies responsible for listing species often drag their feet, when protecting wildlife will harm interests like timber, grazing, and agriculture.

For the most famous example of how the ESA can be circumvented see the snail darter (Percina tanasi) case, argued by Zyg Plater against the Tennessee Valley Authority. Briefly (from

1978 - The Supreme Court rules that the Endangered Species Act requires that construction of Tellico Dam be halted. The arguments that $78 million had already been spent on the dam or that the endangered snail darter was only a tiny fish do not impress the court. The "plain intent" of the law, say six of the nine members, is to save all species "whatever the cost."
1978 - Congress responds to the court ruling by creating the "god squad": a committee that could exempt selected species from protection.
1979 - The first meeting of the god squad decides, with the Supreme Court, that the snail darter should take precedence over Tellico Dam.
1979 - The Tennessee congressional delegation responds by slipping a rider into an appropriations bill exempting Tellico Dam from the Endangered Species Act. The rider narrowly passes. The Tennessee Valley Authority completes the dam.

The current administration has a disappointing record when it comes to listing the growing number of species in need of protection. Here is an excerpt from the non-profit organization Forest Guardians:

“Under the Bush Administration, the federal endangered species program is faltering. President George W. Bush has made his mark as the only president under whom not one taxon has been listed on the initiative of the administration. All listings under George W. Bush have occurred as the result of court-orders. Only 7-8 species have been listed since George W. Bush has been in office, the lowest under any president since the Endangered Species Act was passed. Contrast this with an average of 65 species per year under Bill Clinton and 59 species per year under George H.W. Bush.”

To participate in advocating for the protection of the Endangered Species Act, follow this link to send a letter to your senators. It only takes a minute and helps give you a voice!

Monday, February 26, 2007


BYOB, aka 'Bring Your Own Bag'. This is a really simple way to incorporate sustainable principles into your own life. Next time you go to the grocery store, grab a couple canvas bags, or even the plastic bags you brought home with you last time. If you drive to the grocery store, keep some spare bags in the car so they're on hand if you make an impromptu grocery run.

Here are a few statistics to really get you motivated (from
- In the U.S. 12 million barrels of oil go to producing plastic bags and 14 million trees go to producing paper bags.
- Some stores will give you a 5 cent discount if you bring your own bags (thats 5 cents per bag, it could add up... eventually).
- Plastic bags often escape the trash and become a nuisance to marine life. They are one of the most commonly found items in coastal cleanups. If you do end up bringing home plastic bags, try and find somewhere to recycle them (Whole Foods stores usually have a bin for those), or if you toss them tie them so they can't catch air and fly out of the land fill and into the ocean.

To get resusable bags, pick some up at the grocery store, or you can check out one of these links to buy some online:

Or, make your own! Check out these links for directions on how to knit sturdy bags (or other things) out of your old plastic grocery bags:

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Sand County Almanac

To start off this blog, I'd like to introduce everyone to a book that inspired me. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold is a collection of short stories written by an amazing writer and naturalist. He was a great man with a long career in land management and was even an advisor on conservation to the United Nations. Pick up this book (try and find it used) and I promise you will not be disappointed.

"Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech." -from the foreward