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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Use Blackle Instead of Google To Save Energy

NOTE ADDED 6/25 - Apparently the energy savings is only good on old-fashioned CRT screens, not LCDs... There seems to be some controvery here. Interesting idea, though!

I stumbled across a blog posting about a new site that uses Google to search the Internet except that it has a black back ground instead of the familiar white background. The premise is that a black background uses less energy on a monitor than a white background.

This is from the Blackle website:

"In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages."
Using the premise that every little bit helps - give it a try! Save some energy whenever you Google. The search results are from Google, so you really have nothing to lose!

Reconnect To The Food That You Eat

I have blogged before about the important part that food choices make in the fight against climate change. With more and more food being shipped from across the country and around the world, the global warming pollution emitted to provide us with the foods that we eat significantly contributes to our carbon footprint.

The solution to this problem is for us all to eat more locally produced food. And, with summertime here, now is the perfect time to eat as much locally produced food as possible. Attend farmers markets (if you live in Maine, click here to find a local farmers market). Search out local produce and meats at the grocery store. If you cannot find a good selection, ask one of the managers to let them know that you want more local foods. Join a CSA (short for "Community Supported Agriculture - click here to find out more). We just had our first pick-up at our CSA (Wolfpine Farm in Alfred, ME) and enjoyed a wonderful salad with fresh lettuce picked within the last couple of days. The bottom line is that our food choices make a difference.

Also, I found a book excerpt from Wendell Berry who is "a farmer and author of more than thirty books of poetry, essays, and novels" titled The Pleasure of Eating. (Click here to read the excerpt). If we all followed his philosophy of connecting with the food we eat, we would significantly reduce the part of our carbon footprint related to our diet. He suggests:
  1. Participate in food production to the extent that you can.
  2. Prepare your own food.
  3. Learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home.
  4. Whenever possible, deal directly with a local farmer, gardener, or orchardist.
  5. Learn, in self-defense, as much as you can of the economy and technology of industrial food production.
  6. Learn what is involved in the best farming and gardening.
  7. Learn as much as you can, by direct observation and experience if possible, of the life histories of plant and animal food species.
Think about the food that you eat. Eat local as much as possible. Enjoy your food. Save the world.

Thanks to Dave Pollard and his How To Save The World blog for pointing me in this direction.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Think Before You Buy That Bottled Water

A recent newsletter from The Union of Concerned Scientists presents an excellent overview of the reasons why bottled water is not necessarily the best choice - for your family nor for the planet.

From an environmental standpoint, there are three reasons why bottled water is not a good choice:

  • "Fossil fuel consumption. Approximately 1.5 million gallons of oil—enough to run 100,000 cars for a whole year—are used to make plastic water bottles, while transporting these bottles burns thousands more gallons of oil. In addition, the burning of oil and other fossil fuels (which are also used to generate the energy that powers the manufacturing process) emits global warming pollution into the atmosphere.
  • Water consumption. The growth in bottled water production has increased water extraction in areas near bottling plants, leading to water shortages that affect nearby consumers and farmers. In addition to the millions of gallons of water used in the plastic-making process, two gallons of water are wasted in the purification process for every gallon that goes into the bottles.
  • Waste. Only about 10 percent of water bottles are recycled, leaving the rest in landfills where it takes thousands of years for the plastic to decompose."
If you are out without a water bottle and deciding between a bottle of Poland Spring water and a can of Coke, go for the water. But, with a little preparedness, you can bring along a water bottle (stainless steel is the best) with cheap water from your tap, help save the earth, and keep a little cash in your pocket.

Click here to read the article.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Climate Change: From The Front Lines

Think climate change is not happening? Think that we still have decades until the effects of global warming are felt? Think again.

One of my favorite shows in the podcast-sphere is NPR's Science Friday. Last week, they went to Alaska to see and hear firsthand the ways that climate change is already effecting their lives. You can listen to the podcast here:

Climate change is already happening. This is why significant action is needed NOW.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"What's the Worst That Can Happen?"

Click here to watch an excellent homemade video that argues for action against global warming even if there is still uncertainty about whether it is real. I am confident that global warming is real and climate change is happening... but not everyone is, right? The video looks at whether we should take action against global warming or sit on our hands and pray really hard that over 1000 climate scientists are wrong.

After watching the video, I would be interested to know your thoughts. It reminds me of the scene in Gore's An Inconvenient Truth where he pretends to weigh a balance tray full of gold bullion ("Mmmm") with ... well... the Earth. Given the potential catastrophic consequences of inaction if the scientific consensus is right, how can we not act?

The good news is that the tide is turning. But, the pace needs to be picked up. Please do your part by forwarding this video to others that you know, especially if they do not "believe in" global warming.

"What's the worst that can happen?"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Maine Legislature Approves Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

The Maine legislature is taking a leadership role in the fight against climate change by passing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) - a coalition of northeastern and mid-atlantic states controlling greenhouse gases primarily by establishing a cap-and-trade system. To read more about RGGI, click here.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine (click here to go the the NRCM website) has released this press release:


Today, the Maine Senate voted 35-0 for final passage of “An Act To Authorize the State's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” (LD 1851, known as RGGI).

Today’s vote makes Maine the third northeast state to pass a law that requires power plants to reduce their emissions of global warming pollutants as part of a region-wide “cap-and-trade” system. Vermont and Connecticut have already passed RGGI legislation -- altogether ten northeast states are in the process of adopting similar policies, and five western states are not far behind.

Together the northeast states add up to the seventh largest source of global warming pollution in the world and more than 30% of this pollution comes from dirty power plants.

This bill, which was introduced by Maine Governor Baldacci, was sponsored by Rep. Theodore Koffman and Sen. Phil Bartlett, and co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group of lawmakers.

“This initiative will reduce global warming pollution from power plants while benefiting every Mainer who pays an energy bill,” said Utilities & Energy Committee co-Chair Sen. Philip Bartlett. “We are helping to make Maine more efficient and grow our economy while protecting our health and environment now and for future generations.”

The bill would reduce global warming pollution from power plants by nearly 20% by the year 2019, and would enable Maine businesses to participate in a regional marketplace for emission reductions. RGGI can save electricity customers 5 to 15% on electricity bills, help protect against rate increases, generate an “energy savings fund” worth up to $25 million per year to help both residential and commercial energy consumers save money and invest in energy efficiency, and create a new “carbon market” in the Northeast, with opportunities for everyone from dairy farmers to high-tech companies.

“Efficiency is the largest untapped energy source in Maine,” said Natural Resources Committee co-Chair Rep. Ted Koffman. “By encouraging Maine businesses to embrace energy efficiency, we make Maine businesses stronger and more competitive, makes jobs more secure and reduce the amount of money leaving Maine to buy fossil fuels,”

A coalition of business and environmental leaders worked with Governor Baldacci, state lawmakers, and the Department of Environmental Protection to craft a strongly supported consensus bill that makes Maine a model for progress in the region and in the nation in fighting global warming.

“Today, Maine has joined with most industrial nations and many states, by doing our part to reduce global warming pollution from power plants,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The new law is designed to work for Maine, and our unique environmental and energy make up. Today’s vote will also allow Maine to move up from the back of the line of New England states in terms of investments in energy efficiency.”

“Passing this bill is an essential piece of the global warming puzzle for Maine and the other northeast states because it means we finally are giving investors, power generators and customers a price signal that directs them away from dirty, high-carbon supply toward clean energy and energy efficiency,” said Michael Stoddard, deputy director of Environment Northeast. “This can be the template for other U.S. states to follow and will inform how we deal with many other sources of greenhouse gases” added Stoddard.

Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection identified this power plant global warming bill as the most important next step for Maine to cut global warming pollution. In addition to Maine, nine other New England and Mid-Atlantic States have signed onto RGGI, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Maryland.

“This vote shows that Maine understands the problem and is willing to act; something we can’t yet say for Washington,” said Melissa Carey, Climate Change Policy Specialist at Environmental Defense. “The legislature realizes that climate change policy isn’t just about saving polar bears, it’s about preserving the wealth of natural resources that have driven the Maine economy, and about creating new opportunities for growth.”

RGGI may be known, in future years, as the event that marked the transition from handwringing to serious efforts at solving the problem of global warming,” says Steve Hinchman, staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation in Brunswick. “This initiative -- with its focus on energy efficiency as the best means to cut our global warming emissions -- is just the sort of investment in Maine's future that is called for in the Brookings Institute report.”

“Strong action like this is what we will need to avoid the worst consequences of global warming,” said Matthew Davis of Environment Maine. “Now that Maine has successfully tackled power plants, we must set our sights on transportation and other sectors of the economy.”

“After so many months of frankly depressing news about climate change, it is good to have such hopeful news to share,” said Bruce Kidman, Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “This demonstrates our ability to respond to the challenges we face here and abroad in a way that respects everyone’s interests.”

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Judy Berk * Natural Resources Council of Maine * 3 Wade Street * Augusta, Maine 04330 * ph - 207-622-3101 X 203* fax - 207-622-4343 * e - * web -