Wisdom Magazine's Monthly Webzine Skip Navigation Links
Wisdom Magazine is also one of the country's largest free holistic publications with 150,000 copies printed bi-monthly in three regional print editions. Wisdom is dedicated to opening people's hearts and minds to the philosophies, products and services of the new millennium.
Home  About  This Month's Articles  Calendar of Events  Classified Listings  Holistic Resource Directory
 Educational Programs  Sacred Journeys & Retreats  Yoga Teacher Training
 Article Archives  What's New in Books, CD's & DVD's  Wisdom Marketplace
 Where to Find Wisdom Near You  Subscriptions  Web Partner Links
 Advertising Information  Contact Us
Denali Institute of Northern Traditions
Miriam Smith
Margaret Ann Lembo
Maureen St Germain
Business Opportunity
Laura Norman Reflexology
Vibes Up
Light Healing
Sacred Journeys Retreats
Alternatives For Healing

EarthTalk®

by the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine


EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Short of massive efforts to build a public transportation infrastructure, which doesn’t appear likely anytime soon, what is being done to address traffic congestion, which is reaching absurd levels almost everywhere? -- John Daniels, Baltimore, MD

Traffic congestion has gotten way out of hand—and not just in developed countries anymore: Traffic jams and smog plague dozens of cities in China and in many other parts of the developing world. Here in the U.S., road congestion now causes commuters to spend an average of a full work week each year sitting in traffic, according to the Texas Transportation Institute. While alternative modes of getting around are available, most of us still opt for our cars for the sake of convenience, comfort and privacy.

The most promising technique for reducing city traffic is called congestion pricing, whereby cities charge a toll on entering certain parts of town at certain times of day. The theory goes that, if the toll is high enough, some drivers will cancel their trips or opt for the bus or rails. And it seems to be working: The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) reports that Singapore, London, Stockholm and the three largest cities in Norway have reduced traffic and pollution in downtown areas thanks to congestion pricing.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to push for congestion pricing to ease traffic in Manhattan. The latest proposal—rejected by the State Legislature in 2008—called for an $8 toll to enter Manhattan between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., with monies funding public transit maintenance and expansion.

Another way to reduce rush hour traffic is for employers to implement flex-time, which lets employees travel to and from work at off-peak traffic times to avoid rush hour. Those who must travel during busy times can do their part by carpooling. Employers can also subsidize employee mass transit costs, and/or allow more workers to telecommute (work from home) so as to keep more cars off the road altogether.

Some urban planners still believe that the best way to ease traffic congestion is to build more roads—especially expressways that can take drivers around or over crowded city streets. But such techniques don't really keep more cars off the road; they only accommodate more of them. Forward-thinking city planners, knowing that more and more drivers and cars are taking to the roads every day, are loathe to encourage more private automobiles when mass transit options are so much better for people and the environment.

And Americans are getting it. According to EDF, public transit usage has steadily risen since 1995, with Americans taking 10.7 billion public transportation trips—the largest number in a half century—in 2008. Light rail, hybrid buses and other promising options are working their way into some U.S. cities. To this end, the Obama administration has committed some $7 billion in stimulus dollars to help transit systems increase capacity and upgrade to more efficient technologies.

But environmentalists complain that such funding is a drop in the bucket compared to the $50 billion committed to roads, bridges and highways, and that transit authorities can’t use any of it to fund maintenance and operations, meaning that jobs must be cut and routes shut down. EDF is calling on Obama to include significant funding for transit operations in the jobs bill now being debated in Congress.

CONTACTS: Texas Transportation Institute, http://tti.tamu.edu; EDF, www.edf.org.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk® is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook.


EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I have a new linoleum floor, which I chose partly for its eco-friendliness. How do I clean and maintain it without using harsh or toxic chemicals? -- A.J. Maimbourg, via e-mail

Whether you chose linoleum flooring for its no fuss functionality, the soft feel underfoot, its distinctive look, or its green attributes, you definitely want to take care of your investment in an eco-friendly way for the sake of maintaining it for as long as possible while protecting the indoor air quality in your home.

Real linoleum—as distinct from synthetic versions or vinyl—is made from all-natural materials, including wood flour, rosins, ground limestone, powdered cork, pigments, jute and linseed oil. As such it is one of the greenest flooring options out there today. The GreenFloors.com website reports that old linoleum—including scraps and remnants from the production process—can be recycled to create new sheets of the stuff. And given that it is made from natural materials, linoleum is practically carbon neutral, and the energy created by incinerating it at the end of its useful life is almost equal to the energy needed to create new linoleum.

Given how green linoleum is, cleaning it with harsh synthetic chemicals and maintaining it with polymer-based waxes just wouldn’t be right. Luckily there are alternative ways to help keep your linoleum floor looking good for decades without compromising the environment or shortening your own life span in the process.

Melissa Breyer of the green lifestyle website Care2.com recommends sweeping, dust-mopping or vacuuming your linoleum floor frequently in order to cut down on the amount of abrasive dirt around that can build up and mar the finish. As for actual cleaning, she says to use a damp mop with a mild all natural liquid dish soap and warm water. Adding a half cup or so of vinegar to the rinse water will increase shine if that’s the look you’re going for. To get rid of scuff marks, Breyer suggests dipping a sponge in jojoba oil and rubbing lightly before wiping up completely. Pencil erasers can also work wonders on linoleum scuff marks.

As for what to avoid, Breyer says to stay away from solvent-based products which can soften and damage linoleum. Typical floor cleaning solutions will leave a sticky residue behind, so sticking with something like Ivory Liquid dish soap is the best bet. Also, the best way to deal with tough stains is not by scouring; instead make a paste of baking powder and gently wipe with a wet rag until the stain fades away.

In terms of wax, there are several greener varieties now available. Livos’ BILO is a paste wax designed for wood, cork, tile and—you guessed it—linoleum. It is derived from beeswax and linseed oil and produces a semi-gloss finish after buffing. Like all Livos products, BILO is made from organic ingredients and is 100 percent biodegradable and safe for humans, animals, air, water and soil.

For those willing to commit to periodic occasional maintenance, linoleum flooring should last decades if not longer. And given its relative low-cost and ease of installation, some consider linoleum the “green flooring for the masses.”

CONTACTS: GreenFloors, www.greenfloors.com; Care2, www.care2.com; Livos, www.livos.com.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk® is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook. 

EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: If the ice caps are melting, what is happening to the salt content of the oceans? And might this contribute to weather patterns or cause other environmental problems?

-- George Boyer, via e-mail

It’s true that the melting of the polar ice caps as a result of global warming is sending large amounts of freshwater into the world’s oceans. Environmentalists and many climate scientists fear that if the climate heats up fast enough and melts off the remaining polar ice rapidly, the influx of freshwater could disturb ocean currents enough to drastically change the weather on the land as well.

The Gulf Stream, a ribbon of ocean water that delivers heat from the tropics up to the North Atlantic, keeps northeastern U.S. and northwestern Europe weather much milder than other areas at the same latitude around the globe. In theory, less salt in the ocean could stall out the Gulf Stream and rob some of the world’s greatest civilization centers of their natural heating source, plunging the two continents into a cold snap that could last decades or longer—even as the rest of the globe warms around them.

The Gulf Stream keeps running because the warmer water travelling north is lighter than cold water, so it floats on top and keeps moving. As the current approaches the northern Atlantic and disgorges its heat, it grows denser and sinks, at which point it flows back to the south, crossing under the northbound Gulf Stream, until it reaches the tropics to start the cycle all over again. This cycle has allowed humans and other life forms to thrive across wide swaths of formerly frozen continents over thousands of years. But if too much dilution occurs, the water will get lighter, idling on top and stalling out the system.

Some scientists worry that this grim future is fast approaching. Researchers from Britain's National Oceanography Center have noticed a marked slowing in the Gulf Stream since the late 1950s. They suspect that the increased release of Arctic and Greenland meltwater is to blame for overwhelming the cycle, and fear that more warming could plunge temperatures significantly lower across land masses known as some of the most hospitable places for humans to live.

Of course—not surprisingly—others have noted a contradictory trend: Some parts of the world’s oceans are getting saltier. Researchers from the UK’s Met Office and Reading University reported in a recent issue of the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters that warmer temperatures over southerly sections of the Atlantic Ocean have significantly increased evaporation and reduced rainfall from Africa to the Caribbean in recent years, concentrating salt in the water that’s left behind. In fact, the Atlantic in this region is about 0.5 percent saltier than it was four decades ago.

But given how little we really know about the future effects of our carbon loading of the atmosphere, calling these two trends contradictory might be premature—as the two regions of ocean interact with one another and are part of a larger whole. Looking instead at the big picture, it’s clear that climate change is already having a relatively large effect on the world’s oceans by fundamentally altering evaporation and precipitation cycles. Only time will tell how dramatic the results of these changes will be.

CONTACTS: National Oceanography Center, www.noc.soton.ac.uk; Met Office, www.metoffice.gov.uk; Geophysical Research Letters, www.agu.org/journals/gl/.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk® is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook.


EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Where do I recycle old ski boots (hard plastic)? My recycling center does not take hard plastic. -- Beth Fitzpatrick, Stamford, CT

Americans recycle more plastic than ever these days, but there are still plenty of items that are not accepted by municipalities, including many hard plastic items like ski boots.

If such items are still usable, consider donating them to a local Goodwill or Salvation Army store, which can sell them and put the money earned toward housing and feeding those less fortunate. Another option would be to sell or give them to a second-hand sporting goods store, which might even give you trade-in credit toward an upgrade. If you can’t find somewhere local, you can ship them to Colorado-based Boulder Ski Deals. The company accepts ski boots (along with skis, bindings, poles and snowboards) for recycling, donating usable equipment to charitable programs and shredding the rest for re-use in making new products.

The fact that it is so difficult to recycle hard plastic items is a growing issue as we all try to minimize our impact on the environment. Everyone involved with the lifecycle of a given item—from manufacturer to retailer to consumer—can share the blame when something ends up taking up precious space in a landfill instead of being recycled in one way or another. Concerned consumers should make sure that a given item is easy to recycle when its usefulness runs its course before buying it in the first place. It also can’t hurt to let a manufacturer know that you didn’t purchase a given product because it didn’t meet your recyclability standards. Manufacturers want to make products that people will buy and such feedback can go a long way to getting them to re-think their practices.

Likewise, municipalities need to hear from residents if there is a need to expand the types of items accepted for recycling. If enough people are willing to recycle a certain type of item, it may be worthwhile for the municipality to expand capacity and move into new markets.

The good news is that there are plenty of firms that are happy to take back otherwise difficult-to-recycle stuff. The non-profit Earth911 offers up a free searchable online database of different types of recyclers keyed to the user’s zip code anywhere across the United States. If no local provider comes up, the site will refer users to a place that accepts shipped items. Another good resource is the consulting firm Eco-Officiency’s concise yet comprehensive online list of companies around the country that accept different types of hard plastic and other hard-to-recycle items.

Consumers should keep in mind that they may have to pay for the privilege of recycling certain items, as well as shipping costs. If you can swing it, think of it as a tax for buying something less friendly to the environment. Maybe next time you’ll look for one made out of easier-to-recycle materials.

CONTACTS: Boulder Ski Deals, www.boulderskideals.com; Earth911, www.earth911.org; Eco-Officiency’s Recycling and Donation Resources, www.eco-officiency.com/resources_recycling.html.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk® is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook.

EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Some time ago there were issues with Native American tribes storing nuclear waste on their land, something that was both unhealthy to the communities and caused considerable controversy among tribal leaders. Where is this issue today? -- M. Spenser, via e-mail

Native tribes across the American West have been and continue to be subjected to significant amounts of radioactive and otherwise hazardous waste as a result of living near nuclear test sites, uranium mines, power plants and toxic waste dumps.

And in some cases tribes are actually hosting hazardous waste on their sovereign reservations—which are not subject to the same environmental and health standards as U.S. land—in order to generate revenues. Native American advocates argue that siting such waste on or near reservations is an “environmental justice” problem, given that twice as many Native families live below the poverty line than other sectors of U.S. society and often have few if any options for generating income.

“In the quest to dispose of nuclear waste, the government and private companies have disregarded and broken treaties, blurred the definition of Native American sovereignty, and directly engaged in a form of economic racism akin to bribery,” says Bayley Lopez of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He cites example after example of the government and private companies taking advantage of the “overwhelming poverty on native reservations by offering them millions of dollars to host nuclear waste storage sites.”

The issue came to a head—and Native advocates hope a turning point—in 2007 when public pressure forced the Skull Valley band of Utah’s Goshute tribe to forego plans to offer their land, which is already tucked between a military test site, a chemical weapons depot and a toxic magnesium production facility, for storing spent nuclear fuel above ground. The facility would have been a key link in the chain of getting nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, the U.S. government’s proposed permanent storage facility.

In February 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced intentions to scale back efforts to make Yucca Mountain the nation’s sole repository of radioactive nuclear waste and to look into alternative long-term strategies for dealing with its spent nuclear fuel. The National Congress of American Indians, in representing the various tribes around the region, no doubt breathed a sigh of relief.

The issue essentially goes much deeper: As long as we continue to make use of nuclear energy—and many in Congress are looking to expand its role to get away from fossil fuels—the waste and spent nuclear fuel will keep coming and need to be stored somewhere. Groups like Honor the Earth, founded by author and activist Winona LaDuke to promote cooperation between Native Americans and environmentalists, are trying to persuade tribes that availing their land to nuclear power and other toxic industries isn’t worth the potential long-term damage to the health of their citizens. Honor the Earth helped convince the Goshutes to turn down a lucrative deal to store waste on their land, and is working with dozens of other tribes to try to do the same.

CONTACTS: DOE, www.doe.gov; Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, www.indian.utah.gov/utah_tribes_today/goshute.html; National Congress of American Indians, www.ncai.org; Honor the Earth, www.honorearth.org.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk® is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook.


 

EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What is the potential for carbon “nanotubes” in battery technology? I heard them referred to as the biggest battery breakthrough to come along in years. And what else can we expect to see in terms of new battery technology in coming years? -- R.M. Koncan, via e-mail

The rechargeable lithium-ion batteries now so common in everything from iPods to hybrid cars can store twice the energy of similarly sized nickel-metal hydride batteries and up to six times as much as their lead-acid progenitors. But these advances are only a small evolutionary step from the world’s first battery designed by Alessandro Volta in 1800 using layers of metal and blotting paper soaked in salt water.

With battery technology advances long overdue, researchers are racing to develop more efficient ways to store power. One hopeful option is in the use of carbon nanotubes, which can store much more electricity by weight than lithium-ion batteries while keeping their charge and remain durable for far longer.

But what are carbon nanotubes, and how can they be used to store energy? Technicians skilled in working with matter at the molecular (nano) level can arrange pure carbon molecules in cylindrical structures that are not both strong and flexible. They have significantly higher energy density and can store more electricity than any currently available technology. These tubes, each only billionths of a meter wide, essentially become highly efficient, electrically conductive pipes for storing and providing power.

Electrical engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have formed carbon molecules into tiny springs that store as much electricity as same sized lithium-ion batteries but can maintain a charge while dormant for years and work well in temperature extremes. Stanford University researchers have created ink made from carbon nanotubes that can be drawn onto paper where it serves as a high-capacity rechargeable energy storage medium. And University of Maryland scientists have created nanostructures able to store and transport power at 10 times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.

Other technologies in development include batteries using zinc-air, lithium-air and other combinations of elements to provide longer run-times between recharges. Others still are working on prototype nuclear batteries, the trick being to make them small enough to be practical, let alone safe.

Of course, the accelerating growth of nanotechnology itself, which has not yet been thoroughly tested to evaluate potential down sides, has some health advocates worried. Animal studies have shown that some nanoparticles, if inhaled or ingested, can harm the lungs and also cross the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain from toxins in the bloodstream.

And then there are fuel cells, created in 1839 but only recently commercialized. Not batteries per se, fuel cells generate, store and dispense power by forcing a reaction between a fuel (hydrogen from water, methanol) and oxygen, creating usable non-polluting electricity. One major hurdle for fuel cell makers is making them small enough to be able to work in laptops and other small personal electronics.

CONTACTS: “Researchers fired up over new battery,” MIT News, http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2006/batteries-0208.html; “Carbon Nanotubes Turn Office Paper into Batteries,” Scientific American, www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=carbon-nanotubes-turn-off.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php. EarthTalk® is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalkbook.



 


Add Comment

Article Archives  This Month's Articles  Click Here for more articles by the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine
Business Opportunity
Business Opportunity
Light Healing
Miriam Smith
Kiros Book
Alternatives For Healing
Business Opportunity
Laura Norman Reflexology
Denali Institute
Margaret Ann Lembo

Call Us Toll Free: 888-577-8091 or  |  Email Us  | About Us  | Privacy Policy  | Site Map  | © 2016 Wisdom Magazine