web analytics
Feb 142014

From Green Right Now Reports

A coalition of environmental groups that asked followers to send Valentines to Lowes and Home Depot on behalf of honey bees, felt the love this week.

Bees -- Show Bees Some LoveBut the home improvement stores felt only the sting.

Tens of thousands responded on various petitions and via letters urging the Big Box stores to stop selling the pesticides and pesticide-laced plants that scientists say are killing bees.

Friends of the Earth estimated that 27,000 people across the US would be “swarming” to Lowe’s and Home Depot this week to personally deliver Valentine’s for bees. Another member of the coalition, Organic Consumers Association, had charted 12,630 signatures (by Feb. 13) on a petition appealing to the stores to stop hurting bees.

The official Valentines (you can cut one out here) ask the stores to “Show Bees Some Love” by stopping the sale of neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to be lethal to bees and other pollinators. The Valentines also ask the stores to stop selling nursery plants that have been pre-treated with those same pesticides “with no warning to consumers.”

While the BeeAction campaign aimed to highlight that people love bees and all they do – helping fertilize two-thirds of human food crops for example — it also revealed some serious customer wrath toward the stores, which were exposed last fall for selling plants pre-treated with neonicotinoids.

Customers said they were unhappy to discover they’d bought plants toxic to bees, and may even have even purchased plants they thought would nourish pollinators only to realize they could kill them.

The dissatisfaction was palpable on a petition on MoveOn.org asking Home Depot and Lowe’s to “Stop Selling Bee-Killing Garden Plants!”:

  • “As a backyard beekeeper – one whose colony perished last year – I am especially concerned about the use of bee-killing pesticides on plants sold at Lowe’s and Home Depot – both stores at which I shop. The fact that these bee-killing plants are marketed as being “bee friendly” adds to the distress,” wrote Rebecca Bizonet of Tecumseh, MI, on Thursday.
  • “No pollinators – no food. As simple as that,” said Marie Raven of Laurel, MD.
  • “As an avid gardener we buy many items from Home Depot and Lowe’s especially in the spring. As the wife of a beekeeper I was sad to hear that so many of your plants had been treated with neonicotinoids. Untill you can assure your consumers that you will not long sell chemicals or plants containing these pesticides I will have to take my business elsewhere,” wrote Kim Presnell of Kelso, WA.

Other people just expressed the hope that their fellow humans would start to understand and respect bees.

  • “People don’t realize what the role of bee really is…,” wrote Frank Molinini, on yet another petition on behalf of bees on Causes.com. “Society sees them as pests and puts them in the same category as other insects. This is because we are disconnected from the land. Most people live in cities and have developed allergies. If you have allergies carry those antidote cartridges around with you to be safe, but there is no need to annihilate the whole species. Bees have been helping mankind achieve abundance and have been responsible for the success of settlements for thousands of years. We such have a relationship with bees that they need us as much as we need them.”

So far Home Depot and Lowe’s appear to be ignoring the campaign, or at least the retail chains have not issued official responses or press releases on the topic on their online corporate websites. (We’ve asked for feedback.)

Bees on Wild daisies

Native daisies — not treated with pesticides — feed bees.

Since 2006 US bee hives have been suffering large annual losses due to the deadly condition called “Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).”

Scientists have discovered that a contributor to CCD, perhaps even the main factor causing bee hives to suddenly die off, is the neonicotinoid class of pesticides. These synthetic pesticides are taken up by plants, becoming an intrinsic part of the flowers, shrubs and trees treated with them. The host plant becomes toxic to the insects that consume or carry its pollen. Neonicotinoids act as a neurotoxin, which fits with what happens in CCD in which bees are observed to become disoriented and fail to return to the hive.

The efficacy of neonicotinoids has resulted in their wide adoption in agriculture as well, as growers seek to kill off predator insects. But this method of farming goes against biological tenets, and harms the bees and other beneficial pollinators who failed to get the memo to stay away.

Meanwhile, monoculture farming has reduced the native plants – clovers, milkweed etc. – that feed bees and butterflies, dealing the insects a double whammy.

As a result, apiarists across the country have seen losses of their hives in the 30 to 40 percent range, and worse, from season to season.

Recently scientists began pointing to even more pesticides that appear to be hurting bees. That research suggests that when combinations of pesticides come into contact with bee larvae in the hive, the deleterious effects are compounded.

Jun 032012

From Green Right Now Reports

A green curtain at Kyocera in Kagoshima Sendai plant features morning glories and goya.

You can see ivy-covered buildings in many places around the world. But leave it to the Japanese to perfect this practice of cooling buildings with plants by elevating it to an art form called a “green curtain.”

These elegant and productive sheets of foliage shade office buildings from the harsh summer sun, reducing energy consumption and producing beautiful flowers and edibles as they ascend.

Green curtains have become a signature of Kyocera Group, a global company that makes mobile phones, copiers, printers and other goods.

Kyocera began installing them at its Japanese facilities in 2007, and this year it has quickened its pace to help with the national effort to reduce electricity consumption in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Kyocera is planting green curtains at 28 company locations across Japan. These constructions allow a series of vines to ascend up angled or vertical supports. The resulting green wall of foliage shades the windows, but still allows overhead light to filter into the interior spaces because the green curtain is not growing on the exterior wall, but parallel to it.

Green curtain of goya gourd plants at Hayato, Japan.

The offices continue to receive natural light, but are shielded from direct sun rays, keeping interior spaces cooler and saving on air conditioning, a spokesman explained.

The curtain walls are typically created by flowering vines, like morning glories, or goya, a bitter gourd that’s harvested and served to employees in Kyocera’s cafeterias.

Kyocera’s green curtains also have produced kidney beans and cowpeas. Any fast-growing or perennial vine can work; those that produce vegetables create added benefits.

Want to build your own green wall? You can draw inspiration from Kyocera, which has posted pictures of its projects and a how-to on its Green Curtain Activities website.

This is a concept that can work  anywhere in the world where sun exposure contributes to energy costs, even on a residence. Here’s a typical construction for a Southern exposure:

For Southern and other exposures, an angled green curtain may work best. (Graphic: Kyocera)

Western exposures may require closer coverage with a vertical growing curtain, which differs from a green wall, because it climbs a space that’s a few feet out from the wall, creating an airier installation with less loss of natural light.

A vertical green curtain best mitigates harsh western sun. (Graphic: Kyocera)

Here’s what it looks like from inside:

Green walls can still admit filtered natural light.

The fruit of this effort is two-fold, a cooler office and a side of veggies for lunch:

Shade and also harvest. This bitter gourd is from a Kyocera green wall

Mar 162009

By Christopher Peake
Green Right Now

It’s already mid-March and that means the snows will melt and if the ground’s not too saturated farmers will soon be planting seeds for the food that will feed us this year.

Since time immemorial farmer’s markets have been with us: farmers harvest, bakers bake, dairy farmers milk their cows and they all meet at a central location where there’s lots of foot traffic … and they sell. The common theme: the food is fresh.

In addition to the standard organic fruits, vegetables and eggs, farmer’s markets offer items you wouldn’t usually consider: hand-made brooms, herbs, bath and body care products, lobster rolls, wine, organic teas and “traditional handcrafted leather goods and repair”, rabbits, natural and dyed yarn and spinning supplies, photographs of local scenes, elk and moose meat, organic spice blends and increasingly, fresh fish.

1. It’s locally grown

Most but not all Farmer’s Markets in the US require vendors to have grown, produced or crafted what they sell at the market. Most vendors are small, one- or two-person operations and they grow only what they can manage. They grow what’s in season and it’s local. Ask the farmer if they grew what they’re selling, ask if it’s organic. Don’t buy until you’re satisfied with their answers.

2. You know the farmer personally

You know where the farm family lives; you’ve seen their farm, your children go to school with their children, you see each other at church or at Little League games or at a movie. You know the farmer and you trust him. He’s a neighbor.

3. It’s where the chefs and restaurateurs shop for fresh produce and baked goods

Patrick Soucy, chef at a Portsmouth, N.H. restaurant that specializes in New American cuisine, buys at the local farmer’s markets because of the “better health, better quality” of the food.

“And the produce defines ‘tree-ripened’. It’s fresh. ”

Raj, chef at an Indian restaurant in southern Maine, buys there “because it’s local, within a 20-mile radius. It didn’t come here from California. Also, I support the local community.”

4. Prices are often cheaper than supermarkets

… but not always. Organically-grown and the small-operation produce is very labor-intensive. Individually planted by hand, individually nurtured during the growing process and then individually harvested by hand obviously takes a tremendous amount of time. But the local farmer doesn’t have the tremendous labor, mortgage, transportation and other expenses of a supermarket, so cost comparisons show that all-in-all the farmer’s market sells food for less than a supermarket.

5. There’s less of a carbon footprint: field to farm

What about the bananas at a supermarket in America that come from El Salvador, the berries from Chile, and the kiwis from Australia … how can they possibly be their freshest when they were harvested so early in their growth process and they grew older on their journey? Local produce usually travels less than 10 miles from field to market. Take a bite from a store-bought peach and then take a bite from a locally-grown peach. As chef Patrick Soucy says, “I needed five napkins to wipe my mouth after biting the locally-grown peach”.

Feb 272009

By John DeFore
Green Right Now

The sickening effects of atmospheric formaldehyde may have become a hot topic thanks to FEMA trailers after Hurricane Katrina, but the problem is hardly limited to mobile homes. Formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a widespread health concern introduced to buildings through industrial textiles like carpeting and by materials, like plywood, that use certain adhesives.

That doesn’t mean we have to accept living in toxic rooms. Researchers in Korea have measured the extent to which household plants can clean the air, and their discoveries are encouraging.

In a report whose findings are currently circulating online, Kwang Jin Kim of Korea’s National Horticultural Research Institute says that he was able to use plants to remove 80% of the formaldehyde in a room within four hours.

In rooms without the plants, levels decreased naturally by around 7% during a five-hour period.

The team tested unusual configurations of the plants, from setups in which leafy parts were trimmed away to others in which the below-ground portion of the plant was sealed off from the room’s air.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best performer was an array of complete plants – specifically, the Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) and Fatsia japonica, an evergreen shrub. Microorganisms in the potting soil contributed to the air-cleaning process, the scientists believe.

Copyright ©2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

Dec 262008

By Amy Hollyfield
KGO-San Francisco

A new product turns to technology to help your plants thrive. Your plants sit there – silently begging for your attention. And many of us stare back and wonder what to do.

>> Watch now

Sep 102008

By John DeFore

The idea of training plants to grow into odd, useful forms isn’t a new one. It’s been done for ages, has been the subject of enthusiast-penned books, and in recent years has attracted the interest of fine artists and architects.

Photo: Dr. Mitchell Joachim, Terreform 1

Now two professors at Tel Aviv University hope to move eco-architecture into the commercial realm, designing products that can be sold and grown around the world.

As envisioned by Professors Yoav Waisel and Amram Eshel, the structures would emphasize the use of tree roots instead of branches: Manipulating “aerial root development,” they imagine using aeroponically grown (that is, without soil) tree roots that remain easily pliable for unique applications like tree-root dwellings that would be inherently earthquake-resistant in California.

Continue reading »