greenrightnow.com http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage Getting Green in the 'Hood Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:57:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 Small solar and wind producers about to get burned in Oklahoma http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/18/small-solar-wind-producers-burned-oklahoma/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/18/small-solar-wind-producers-burned-oklahoma/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:53:30 +0000 BKessler http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=33011 By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Senate Bill 1456, approved by the House this week, and headed for expected signature by Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday, will place a surcharge on small wind and solar producers who contribute to distributed generation.

This means that people who go to the time, trouble and expense to equip their homes with solar panels or to set up their own wind energy to power their farm will have to pay a monthly surcharge for the privilege of feeding their excess power back to the grid.

Solar Panels on a house in Tulsa - Sun-City

Solar panels on a house in Tulsa. (Photo: SunCity)

This plan flies in the face of what utilities should be doing, which is welcoming the supplemental, green power than can help stabilize the grid at times of peak demand.

Instead, the big utilities that proposed this bill and got it passed by the compliant Oklahoma legislature, want to penalize these small power providers with a fee that could be high or low — it will be set at a later time by state energy regulators.

Ostensibly this fee will pay for the utilities to connect the small producers to the grid.

But on its face, it’s clear that in the Sooner state, big utilities would just as soon have all the power under their control, minus any participation by the little guys.

“It’s really meant to discourage people from producing some of their own energy. This is what monopolists do,” said Bryan Miller, president of the Alliance for Solar Choice. Miller explained that two giant electricity companies — Public Service Company of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Gas & Electric — were the main instigators of the surcharge.

“This is a tax on solar homeowners and on family farms and we call on Governor Fallin to veto this tax,” said Miller, whose group has been fighting similar incursions against small energy producers in other states.

It does seem like the Oklahoma bill strips people of their choices, by making it a little less financially attractive to switch to wind or solar power. Oklahoma does have net metering, which allows small solar and wind owners to sell excess power back to the grid; but the new surcharge will cut into that incentive.

Meanwhile, the wind whipping down the plains in Oklahoma, which ranks as the 9th state in the US in terms of natural wind capacity, is a growing business, at the commercial level. Big Wind won’t be subject to the surcharge.

wind farm and cattle photo argonne national laboratory“It’s disappointing to see Senate Bill 1456 moving forward in Oklahoma. This legislation does nothing but jeopardize renewable energy growth in the state. Distributed forms of energy generation like small and community wind and solar power help to keep the lights on and Oklahomans at work. The state legislature should be examining legislation that will support this growing industry, and utilities should be encouraging distributed generation instead of trying to penalize it,” said Distributed Wind Energy Association Executive Director Jennifer Jenkins.

Turner said he was especially concerned about the independent farmers who’re using wind to provide their own power, a move that can save them money over the long haul.

DWEA’s president, Mike Bergey, president & CEO of Bergey Windpower in Norman, OK, expressed a similar worry.

“It is unfortunate that some utilities that enthusiastically support wind power for their own use are promoting a regressive policy that will make it harder for their customers to use wind power on their own,” Bergey said.

“Oklahoma offers tax credits for large wind turbines which are built elsewhere, but wants to penalize small wind which we manufacture here in the state? That makes no sense to me.”

Bergey also said that the measure could cost more to put into place than it will save.

“The truly ironic thing is that net metering, a standard policy in 42 states, saves utility administration costs and, because so little small wind and solar capacity is installed in Oklahoma, implementing SB 1456 through the Corporation Commission would cost ratepayers and taxpayers $5 for every $1 that it could theoretically save the utility.”

Fallin has until Monday to sign the bill. Her office could not be reached.

Fallin, who this week celebrated a new law forbidding cities to set their own minimum wage, was getting blasted on the solar power bill by a few constituents on her Facebook page.

“…Here we have government at all levels encouraging clean energy, and Oklahoma shows its usual BACKWARDNESS by punishing those who try to use renewable energy sources. YOU are partly to blame for this, and we will not forget. We will NOT forget,” said Carol Henry Madding.

Barbara J. Cobuzzi asked: “Why are you taxing people who are Tur[n]ing to clean energy? You are allowing your masters [to] control you so that they can increase their fortune in dirty energy and continue polluting the earth and destroying our clean water because a worth of $100 billion is not enough…”

Copyright © 2014 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

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The veggies and fruits you’ll pay more for because of the California drought http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/17/veggies-fruits-pay-california-drought/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/17/veggies-fruits-pay-california-drought/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:22:20 +0000 BKessler http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=33004 GRN Reports

It’s no surprise that the historic drought in California will affect supplies, and then the prices, of the many fruits and vegetables grown there.

Tomatoes, homegrown

Crops that require a lot of water will be hardest hit, and see big price increases.

But for those living in say, New York or Minnesota, far from the parched growing fields of the “Valley” the price hikes may come as a bit of a shock. Texas residents may be among the few who see the price hikes blunted as produce from the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico fills in gaps.

Timothy Richards, the Morrison Chair professor at the Morrison School of Agribusiness at Arizona State University, researched which crops are likely to be hardest hit and most expensive as a result of California’s distress.

He estimated that the prices of several foods will mushroom, no pun intended, as crops are conscripted or damaged by the water shortages. The worst hit will be avocados and lettuce, which could experience a price jump of about one-third.

Veggie lovers get ready, the full list of produce that will see significant price increases includes berries, broccoli, grapes, melons, peppers, tomatoes and packaged salads (meaning mixed greens will be affected). The professor estimates that the drought will force price increases like this:

• Avocados likely to go up 17 to 35 cents to as much as $1.60 each.
• Berries likely to rise 21 to 43 cents to as much as $3.46 per clamshell container.
• Broccoli likely to go up 20 to 40 cents to a possible $2.18 per pound.
• Grapes likely to rise 26 to 50 cents to a possible $2.93 per pound.
• Lettuce likely to rise 31 to 62 cents to as much as $2.44 per head.
• Packaged salad likely to go up 17 to 34 cents to a possible $3.03 per bag.
• Peppers likely to go up 18 to 35 cents to a possible $2.48 per pound.
• Tomatoes likely to rise 22 to 45 cents to a possible $2.84 per pound.

Richards used retail-sales data from Nielsen Perishables Group, an industry consulting firm, to determine price variances. The Nielsen group predicts a ripple effect in other types of groceries as produce prices rise.

For instance, as some customers forgo guacamole, the sales of tortilla chips would likely slump.

Other foods might pick up sales as they replace the pricier produce. “While some consumers will pay the increased prices, others will substitute or leave the category completely,” said Sherry Frey, vice president of Nielsen Perishables Group.

The crisis in California will also make it harder to “shop local” – or nearly so — for US consumers.

“One other thing for shoppers to understand – because prices are going to go up so much, retailers will start looking elsewhere for produce. This means we’ll see a lot more imports from places like Chile and Mexico, which may be an issue for certain grocery customers who want domestic fruit and vegetables,” Richards said.

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Austin’s annual Give 5 % to Mother Earth Day is next week http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/15/ready-austins-annual-give-5-mother-earth-day/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/15/ready-austins-annual-give-5-mother-earth-day/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 20:13:38 +0000 BKessler http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=32999 Austin has a special way of celebrating Earth Day. On April 22, dozens of eateries and shops will give back 5 percent of their profits to local conservation and environmental groups.

Give 5 Percent to Mother Earth thumbnailThe Give 5% to Mother Earth Day will benefit the Texas Campaign for the Environment, Urban Roots, Clean Water Fund, Hill Country Conservancy, Friends of Barton Springs Pool, Texas Land Conservancy and Tree Folks.

All residents need to do is to shop, eat, exercise or get their cars worked on at the diverse group of businesses that are participating in this 5th annual event. Here’s a list of the participating businesses.

Last year Give 5% raised more than $100,000 for the beneficiaries.

 

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Bean eaters be glad; your diet helps lower cholesterol http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/09/bean-eaters-glad-diet-helps-cholesterol/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/09/bean-eaters-glad-diet-helps-cholesterol/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:42:47 +0000 BKessler http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=32995 GRN Reports

Bean and Kale soup

White Bean and Kale soup (Photo: GRN)

Simple beans, a staple protein for vegetarians and in Middle Eastern and Hispanic cuisines, can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels, according to a meta-analysis by the Canadian Medical Association.

The analysis suggests that those eating the traditional Western diet which is low in beans should make more room on their plate for legumes because controlled studies showed that consuming a 3/4 cup serving of beans per day (on average) for six weeks cut LDL cholesterol by an average of 5 percent.

LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol contributes to heart disease by creating plaque build-up inside blood vessels. The meta-analysis reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials that included 1,037 people. Men showed the greatest reduction in LDL cholesterol after adding beans to their meals compared with women, perhaps because their diets were not as good to begin with, the researchers said.

The findings mean that anyone concerned about their heart health has a very simple and affordable route to improving their cholesterol, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine noted in reporting about the study.

Beans that help reduce lipids come in a staggering variety, including pintos, black and white, navy, cannellini and kidney beans as well as chickpeas, peas and lentils, according to the study. Their direct heart-health benefit likely comes from their fiber and also from the fact that they displace fatty meats in the diet.

Beans, like other plant foods, also are a lower carbon food, compared with meat, which requires more energy inputs. So replacing meat meals with those using beans as the main protein can help lower one’s carbon footprint.

(Photo: Bean and Kale Soup, GRN)

 

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Bamboo: Why you need it in your kitchen, and six ways to get it there http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/09/bamboo-kitchen-ways/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/09/bamboo-kitchen-ways/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:31:00 +0000 BKessler http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=32991 GRN Reports

Kitchen stuff should be either durable or compostable, if you want to consider the health planet when stocking up.

Fortunately, bamboo products are among the few kitchen tools that are both hardy and biodegradable. Treated right, bamboo can last a long time. It is sturdy and resists water and heat damage. But in the end, it’s also a natural product that can be counted on to return to the earth. Bamboo’s also quick-growing, reaching maturity in four to six years, instead of the 20 or 30 years it can take for a tree to reach harvest. The eco-implications are obvious.

Here are a few bamboo products to consider for your kitchen:

Bamboo Steamer-Hi ResThe IMUSA Bamboo Steamer is a classic way to steam cook and retain flavor, vitamins and nutrients in your veggies. Bamboo steamers also work well for seafood and dim sum. The woven bottom allows steam to pass through, while the multiple layers allow cooks to separate and steam a variety of foods simultaneously. Available at Macys.com for $30.00

Bamboo Mortar and pestle with siliconeNew for spring 2014 in the IMUSA line, is this Bamboo Mortar & Pestle, which can crush fresh herbs and spices. Think meat rubs and focaccia toppings. The set feature orange silicone accents that create a better grip and non-slip bottom. Handy and attractive, this little kitchen helper will be available soon at Target.com for $17.99

Style: "Agfa"IMUSA’s Bamboo Tostonera makes perfectly pressed Tostones, crispy fried plantains, with just the right thickness and shape. Tostones, if you don’t know them, are popular in Hispanic cuisine as a side dish or appetizer. Available at Macys.com for $9.99

Bamboo Bread Box by COREWe adore the nifty double-utility of this CORE Bamboo Bread Box. It keeps your bread out of sight, and when you open it, the door doubles as a bread board. Buy it directly from CORE Bamboo online, or look for it at select retailers. Made from 100% organically grown bamboo, this bread box measures 15” x 8” x 8”. Buy it at Core Bamboo for $66.

Bamboo Tray SetCore Bamboo bamboozled us again with this Sandwich Board Set that’s tre’ cute. Because the boards store upright on the rack, it’s a space saver, but provides ample cheese/cutting/fruit board space for serving. It’s perfect for appetizers or hors d’oeuvres, but we might even use it for sandwiches. $30 retail at Core Bamboo.

Bamboo UtensilsThese To-Go Ware RePEaT Bamboo Utensil Sets, each with a fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks, aren’t really for your kitchen, but you can keep them there when they’re not in your or your kids’ lunch bags. These lightweight, washable and lasting utensils will save you from disposables for a long time. Reviewers who’ve bought them love them, and say they’re habit forming. The set is wrapped in a fabric made from recycled PET plastic (hence the funky RePEaT name) that keeps it neat and clean. Buy it at ReUseIt.com for $12.95.

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BP oil disaster continues to kill wildlife, report says http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/08/bp-oil-disaster-continues-kill-wildlife-report/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/08/bp-oil-disaster-continues-kill-wildlife-report/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 18:44:57 +0000 BKessler http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=32988 GRN Reports

Damage from the 2010 BP oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico continues to turn up in the form of dead dolphins and sea turtles, according to a report released today by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

Dolphin, Still Waiting Restoration reportAfter studying 14 species affected by the April 2010 spill, researchers concluded that the ongoing demise of these marine mammals and amphibians is easier than ever to link to the oil disaster by looking at population trends, their physical symptoms and the areas of the gulf affected.

They report that:

  • Scientific evidence suggests strongly that the ongoing illnesses of dolphins in a heavily oiled section of Louisiana is related to oil exposure. More than 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the area of the spill, which released 200 million gallons of crude oil into the gulf. In 2013, dolphins were still being found dead at more than three times normal rates. Tests of these animals show they are underweight, anemic and suffering from lung and liver disease.
  • Roughly five hundred dead sea turtles have been found every year for the past three years in the area affected by the spill—a dramatic increase over normal rates.
  • Oyster reproduction remained low over large areas of the northern Gulf at least through the fall of 2012.
  • Tests of affected wildlife continue to turn up chemicals from oil in their flesh or blood. One such chemical has been shown to cause irregular heartbeats in bluefin and yellowfin tuna that can lead to heart attacks, or even death. Loons that winter on the Louisiana coast also have shown increasing concentrations of toxic oil compounds in their blood.
  • Sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico have higher levels of DNA-damaging metals than sperm whales elsewhere in the world—metals that were present in oil from BP’s well.
  • Blue crab populations did not drop immediately after the spill, but did in 2013. The crabs shown lesions that were similar to those found on shrimp in the aftermath of the spill.

“Four years later, wildlife in the Gulf are still feeling the impacts of the spill,” said Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation. “Bottlenose dolphins in oiled areas are still sick and dying and the evidence is stronger than ever that these deaths are connected to the Deepwater Horizon [the oil rig that exploded]. The science is telling us that this is not over.”

The critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, whose populations had been rebounding before the spill, also suffered a critical setback. Four years ago, “the numbers of Kemp’s ridley appear to have flat-lined,” said Pamela Plotkin, an associate research professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University and director of Texas Sea Grant. “We need to monitor this species carefully, as the next few years will be critical.”

Read a summary of the report at NWF.org.

Download the full report here.

 

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Monarch numbers could be at historic lows this year, says Texas A&M professor http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/01/monarch-numbers-historic-lows-year-texas-am-professor/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/04/01/monarch-numbers-historic-lows-year-texas-am-professor/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 13:06:11 +0000 Green Right Now Reports http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=32983 Monarch resting in the central Texas area (Photo: Texas A&M)

Monarch resting in the central Texas area (Photo: Texas A&M)

Monarch butterflies may be named for their large size and majestic beauty, but once again their numbers are anything but king-sized – in fact, 2014 may go down as one of the worst years ever for the colorful insects, says a Texas A&M Monarch watcher who is proposing a national effort to help feed Monarchs.

Craig Wilson, a senior research associate in the Center for Mathematics and Science Education and a longtime butterfly enthusiast, says reports coming from Mexico where the Monarchs have their overwintering grounds show their numbers are significantly down yet again — so much so that this year might be one of the lowest yet for the butterfly.

It’s been a disturbing trend that has been going for most of the past decade, he points out. This year, Monarchs face a triple whammy: a lingering drought, unusually cold winter temperatures and lack of milkweed, their primary food source.

Citing figures from the Mexican government and the World Wildlife Fund, Wilson says, “In 1996, the Monarch breeding grounds in Mexico covered about 45 acres, and so far this year, it looks like only about 1.65 acres. That means fewer Monarchs will likely reach Texas to lay eggs, perhaps the lowest numbers ever of returning butterflies.”

Wilson says the colder-than-usual winter, which set record lows in many parts of Texas and even Mexico, has had a chilling effect on Monarchs.

“Unfortunately, the harsh and lingering cold conditions mean that the milkweed plants that Monarch caterpillars must have to live have yet to start growing, and these are the only plants on which they can lay eggs to provide food for their caterpillars,” he adds.

Wilson says that last fall, the number of Monarchs that were netted and tagged in the College Station area was one-fifth the number tagged in 2012.
The dry conditions during the past decade and changing farming practices are hampering the growth of milkweed, the only type of plant the Monarch caterpillars will digest as the multiple generational migration heads north.

Texas also has had dozens of wildfires in the past few years that have hampered milkweed growth, and even though there are more than 30 types of milkweed in the state, the numbers are not there to sustain the Monarchs as they start their 2,000-mile migration trip to Canada. Increased use of pesticides is also adversely affecting milkweed production in a huge way, he notes.

“The severe drought in Texas and much of the Southwest continues to wreak havoc with the number of Monarchs,” Wilson explains, adding that the wintering sites in the Mexican state of Michoacán are at near-historic lows. “The conditions have been dry both here and in Mexico in recent years. It takes four generations of the insects to make it all of the way up to Canada, and because of lack of milkweed along the way, a lot of them just don’t make it.

“But if people want to help, they can pick up some milkweed plants right now at local farmer’s cooperative stores,” he says, “and this would be a small but helpful step to aid in their migration journey and to raise awareness of the plight.”

Wilson says there has to be a national effort to save Monarchs or their declining numbers will reach the critical stage.

“We need a national priority of planting milkweed to assure that this magical migration of Monarchs will continue for future generations,” he says. “If we could get several states to collaborate, we might be able to promote a program where the north-south interstates were planted with milkweed, such as Lady Bird Johnson’s program to plant native seeds along Texas highways 35-40 years ago. This would provide a ‘feeding’ corridor right up to Canada for the Monarchs.”

Wilson is currently adding a variety of milkweed plants to the existing Cynthia Woods Mitchell Garden on the Texas A&M campus. He recommends the following sites for Monarch followers: Journey North, Texas Monarch Watch and Monarch Watch.

(Source: Texas A & M University)

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Texas sets new wind power peak, getting 40 percent of its power from wind on Wednesday http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/03/28/texas-sets-wind-power-peak-40-percent-power-wind-wednesday/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/03/28/texas-sets-wind-power-peak-40-percent-power-wind-wednesday/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 18:35:29 +0000 BKessler http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=32972 GRN Reports

wind farm and cattleWind power in Texas hit its highest point ever, contributing 10,296 megawatts to the grid at about 9 p.m. this past Wednesday night, which meant wind was providing nearly 40 percent of the electricity on the grid at that time, according tot the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

High winds in West Texas combined with more wind farms connecting to the grid, which is being expanded and upgraded to bring more wind power to the state’s urban centers, contributed to the new high point, ERCOT and the American Wind Energy Association reported. The previous record of around 9,600 megawatts provided about 35 percent of electricity demand.

“ERCOT’s record is now the highest megawatt wind output for any U.S. power system,” AWEA noted on its Into The Wind blog.

Wind was also in the news this week when a new study determined it is price competitive with natural gas, once carbon pollution is factored in. The study by the University of California, Irvine; UC – Berkeley and Syracuse University found that after adjusting for the environmental impact of natural gas and the anticipated rise in its cost over the next 20 years, the cost of wind was only about 1/3 of a penny more per kWh.

“The true cost of electricity from wind power and natural gas are effectively indistinguishable, yet because the cost of carbon emissions is not included in the market price of gas, wind has not been a competitive form of energy use in most of the United States without government pricing support,” said Jason Dedrick, associate professor at Syracuse’s School of Information Studies and collaborator on the study.

The analysis also noted that current estimates for natural gas and wind compare the two without taking into consideration the anticipated price stability of wind, as well as the societal (environmental) costs of natural gas.

“Current national-average estimates from the DOE are 8.7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for wind and 6.6 cents for gas-fired energy—making gas appear as a much cheaper alternative, explained Greg Linden, a senior research associate at the University of California, Berkeley. “Incorporating the new metric into the analysis” shows that the Production Tax Credit for wind can actually compensate “for a market failure to price the future cost to society of carbon emissions.”

In this way, the study sought to show that the much-debated PTC credit for wind, often derided by Congressional budget hawks as a subsidy, could be viewed as an equalizer, standing in to “make the market reflect the true costs of energy.”

 

 

 

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Dallas follows Austin with action against plastic bags; San Francisco enacts partial bag ban http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/03/27/dallas-manages-partial-plastic-bag-ban-san-francisco-swipes-plastic-bottles/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/03/27/dallas-manages-partial-plastic-bag-ban-san-francisco-swipes-plastic-bottles/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 20:45:01 +0000 BKessler http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=32968 By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

This month two major US cities pushed the case against plastic disposables a little bit farther down the road.

Plastic bag in Redbud tree  GRN photo

A plastic bag adorns a blooming red bud in DFW.

It wasn’t easy. In Dallas, city council member Dwaine Caraway started out wanting a full bag ban, like dozens of cities have enacted.

It seemed almost within reach, even in conservative Texas. Austin (which some would argue is not really within conservative Texas) had taken a full swing at plastic waste with a law that yanked plastic and paper bags from grocery stores in 2013 and Brownsville also took a stern approach, enacting a stout $1 fee on plastic and paper grocery bags that went into effect in 2011.

Dallas only managed to pass a “partial ban” (technically an oxymoron) this week, because it lacked the votes for the full enchilada. But this still represents big progress. There will now be a small penalty in place for those who persist in using those flighty, mischievous little bags that end up in the Trinity River, snagged in trees and waving from fence lines. When the law takes effect Jan. 1, 2015, people will have to pay 5 cents for a plastic or paper bag. That may only be 10 or 20 cents per grocery trip, but it could be just enough to persuade shoppers to think on the topic and bring a reusable tote.

In California, where dozens of cities enacted plastic bag ordinances over the last three years, the laws typically both ban plastic bags and place a fee on paper bags. Dallas will have at least half of that winning formula.

What’s more, the progress in Dallas represents a new inland stronghold in a movement that’s been most warmly embraced on the coasts, where people can clearly see that no good comes from plastic bags that inevitably escape human possession to strangle wildlife and jam up water outlets; bags that, near as humans can tell, won’t degrade for hundreds of years.

In the US, you can find bag bans in the Hamptons, the Outer Banks and up and down the West Coast. The whole bag ban trend started in a big way on an island, in Ireland, in 2002; though Nantucket can say it beat the Irish by 12 years, with a bag ban in 1990, according to the Surfrider Foundation.

Now it’s time for the major cities across the U.S. to join LA, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Washington D.C., Austin and Dallas, by blotting out the plastic bag blight.

The next step, if cities want to rise to the challenge, will be to squash the plastic bottle habit, the other indefensible use of disposable plastic. These bottles, in our service for a few minutes, hang out in landfills or the ocean for hundreds of years. Ban the Bottle estimates that Americans use about 50 billion of them every year. Recycling can lessen the problem, but only about one-quarter are recycled, and even that fails to change the fundamental equation. The plastic consumes 17 million barrels of oil during its manufacture, and then remains with us, in its first or second iteration, in landfills or worse, in waterways.

So far, few cities have waded into this battle, in which the foes loom much larger than in the plastic bag arena. Plastic bottle pushers include some of the world’s largest corporations, namely the soda companies, whose profits depend upon our continuing failure to adopt reusables.

Even San Francisco didn’t drive full throttle into this wall of opposition. But the Bay Area environmental leader did draw a line in the sand on March 4 by passing a plastic bottle ban that forbids the city from buying or distributing plastic water bottles under 21 ounces.

Like Dallas’ move, this “partial ban,” doesn’t go as far as some on the council envision. It includes an exclusion for city marathons and sporting events. But it sent a signal, and keeps the city on the right side of an issue that’s likely to be hard-fought, if it’s fought.

Let’s hope that unlike plastic, our tolerance for these disposables will not last forever.

Copyright © 2014 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

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Healthy (some say icky) foods to eat to get Vitamin K2, which protects your arteries and bones http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/03/26/k2/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/03/26/k2/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 20:49:22 +0000 BKessler http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=32962 GRN Reports:

The evidence is piling up for including Vitamin K2 in your diet. Studies indicate that it can improve cardiovascular health by reducing arterial calcification and stave off osteoporosis by helping get calcium where it’s needed in the body, in the bones.

Natto_by_Kinchan1 - Wikimedia Commons

Natto, you know it when you smell it. But if you’re Japanese, you probably grew up eating this soybean concoction for breakfast. (Photo: Kinchan 1, Wikimedia Commons)

It appears that Vitamin K2 (which is not much like it’s cousin K1 at all) could help inhibit cancer cell growth in prostate and lung cancer and leukemia, providing a boost to traditional treatments for these diseases.

This little understood vitamin may even help people keep their rosy faces less wrinkled for longer.

But getting wondrous K2 into your diet (let’s always look to food before supplements) may not easy if you are pursuing a humane and sustainable approach to food.

For instance, one of the “best” sources of K2 is goose liver pate, which would also top the list of most inhumanely obtained animal proteins. Do we even need to review how geese (and also ducks) are force fed for weeks to enlarge their livers, essentially sickening them, to obtain this sinfully bad cracker spread?

Gouda, better with K2...Wikimedia

Gouda, more gooda than you knew, especially if natto’s not your thing. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Luckily, there are many better sources of K2, also called menaquinone, with two component parts, MK-4 and MK-7 (and some debate which is better MK-4 or MK-7). Among the foods that provide K2 are simple butter and certain cheeses.

And the early research suggests that keeping sustainability in mind will serve you well in finding the best sources of Vitamin K2. Butter from the grain-fed, CAFO-production machine does not provide this vitamin. However, grass-fed butter does deliver K2, according to several sources, among them a man who will be familiar to natural/organic dairy-eating adherents, Dr. Weston A. Price.

Dr. Price, who praised the value of full-fat and unpasteurized dairy products, apparently experimented on butters to find which carried an element he identified as “Activator X” (which people believe was K2 – a story too long for here). He found that pastured butter contained this health-conferring ingredient, aka Vitamin K2, but commercial butter, not so much.

Cheeses are a different story; it’s not the grass feeding but the bacteria used in making them that’s key. Thus Gouda and Brie are high in K2, but not necessarily other cheeses, according to Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, who wrote Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life.

Natto, wikimedia

Yup, they eat it all the time in Japan, and reap the health benefits. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Another great source of Vitamin K2, it turns out, is natto, often described as a foul-smelling, stringy soybean-derived food that Japanese people eat. So natto’s not got the best PR story. It’s not exactly upending the Western diet. Still, if you like fermented foods, which have the added benefit of keeping your gut bacteria in shape, natto provides both a direct source of K2 and a way to assist your gut bacteria ing converting Vitamin K1 into K2 (yes your good bugs can do that – what a relief it is).

So you may want to try natto; maybe even make some at home.

Hold your nose while its fermenting and you’ll discover it’s actually offers more than its PR advance team suggests. Natto’s a protein food. It’s affordable and lower on the food chain, which is great for vegetarians, vegans and anyone factoring in sustainability.

Natto, according to “The Healthy Home Economist” contains 1,103 mcg of K2 per 3.5 oz portion, making it the richest K2 food you can find, and hopefully, eat. (Goose liver pate contains about 1/3 as much.)

Not sure about Natto? It’s back to Brie and Gouda cheese and also fermented vegetables, though the amount of K2 generated can vary greatly, according to Dr. Rheame-Bleue.

So here’s the short list, with the amount of Vitamin K2 per 3.5 oz. serving:

Natto …………………………………….…….1,103 mcg

Fermented vegetables………………………..50 to 500 mcg (according to Dr. Rheame-Bleue much depends on the starter sauce).

Sauerkraut (also fermented veggie)………4.8 mcg per 3.5 oz. serving (this is much lower than the doctor’s range, and we’re not sure why)

Gouda………………………………………………75 mcg per 3.5 oz. serving

Brie………………………………………………….57 mcg per 3.5 oz. serving

Pastured egg yolks…………………………….15 mcg per 3.5 oz. serving

Pastured butter…………………………………15 mcg per 3.5 oz.

Chicken liver, breast, legs…………………..12.6 to 8.5 per 3.5 oz.

In addition to chicken, assorted other meats, including some you wouldn’t want to eat, like hot dogs, and some you might, like calf or chicken liver, contain significant, but smaller amounts of K2.

The studies looking at grass-fed meat vs. grain-fed animals haven’t been done (and don’t hold your breath) but one could reasonably guess that the same chemistry that raised K2 levels in pastured butter and eggs works here too.

Finally, if you supplement, don’t get crazy. While neither K1 nor K2 has not been shown to carry any toxicity (such as one finds with excess Vitamin A consumption for example), the human body can only absorb so much. Also, while some people may be deficient in K2 because of a chronic health condition (liver disease, inflammatory bowel disorders or bariatric surgery), regular folks without special dietary issues may not be.

A final note: If natto proves to be, in your book, just nasty-o, remember, your own healthy digestive system can make K2, using K1, and that is easy to get on the menu. You’ll find K1 in kale, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and other green leafies, proving once again that it’s never wrong to eat your veggies. (Don’t put Kale in every smoothie, though, you might overdose on Vitamin A!)

 

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Funky Chicken Tour coming April 19 http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/03/21/funky-chicken-tour-coming-april/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/03/21/funky-chicken-tour-coming-april/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 20:25:04 +0000 BKessler http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=32695 GRN Reports:

Get ready, set, bahk! Austin’s 6th Annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour is April 19, and its organizers are promising a better show than ever.

Chicken coop at a school in Austin

A sneak peek at one of the chicken coops. Built by volunteers with recycled wood and materials, it was cheap-cheap.

The Tour has a new headquarters, at the Sunshine Community Gardens at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 4814 Sunshine Drive, Austin, Texas 78756. The new space brings together chickens with community gardens, a symbiotic relationship as chicken people know, and provides a place to park, set up chicken exhibits and kick off the tour. The headquarters opens at 8:15 am, not quite when the cock crows, but early enough. Tour maps ($12 each) will go on sale at 9 am, or you can get them ahead of time online.funky chicken thumbnail

You can take the tour by car, van or with a group of bicyclists. Rides for various levels and distances will be available for the Bicycle Tour de Funky Chickens hosted by the Austin Cycling Association.

Activities will include: A talk by Cameron Molberg of Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill, “Getting started with Chickens,” at 8:30 am., as well as a live chicken corral. For kids there’s “The Ultimate Scavenger Hunt for the Sustainable Easter Egg” and a Children’s Chicken Story Time, courtesy of our Austin Public Libraries.

The tour promotes healthy food production and donates a portion of tour proceeds to local food causes every year. For 2014, the recipient is the New Farm Institute, which is “working to inspire a new generation of sustainable farmers in the urban fringe.”

For more info, see the AFCC website, where you’ll also find the details for various backyard chicken meet-ups. The tour also is looking for volunteers.

 

 

 

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DIY: ‘Woolly wall’ planters for school gardens http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/03/18/diy-wooly-wall-planters-school-gardens/ http://www.greenrightnow.com/setxhomepage/2014/03/18/diy-wooly-wall-planters-school-gardens/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 20:49:01 +0000 BKessler http://www.greenrightnow.com/keye/?p=32939 GRN Reports:

Teaching kids to cultivate plants is such a growing thing. School gardens are turning up everywhere as adults Wooly Wall plantersrealize that for today’s kids, getting outside, getting dirty and learning about photosynthesis provides food for thought and the belly.

And so it was that we noticed an old story in our latest Sierra magazine, which tells about a space-saving, vertical growing method that can help make school gardens more successful. It involves creating a “wooly wall” of plants.

Here’s the website for the Wooly Pocket project, which provides planters and ideas for teachers, students or anyone else who wants to plant on a wall.

These ‘wooly pockets’ are convenient containers made of recycled PET plastic from water bottles that are suitable for growing greenery, flowers or edibles. The material is breathable (important for the plants’ roots) and it enfolds the plants, carrying moisture to their roots when watered as directed.

You can use these anywhere you’ve got a wall that gets good light. The producers promise it won’t soil the wall because of a moisture barrier inside.

The Mini Wally is 8 inches by 13 inches and retails for $18. (Get the fundraiser going first). There’s also Wally One, 15 x 24 inches, for $40, and a new iteration in stiff plastic that’s 13 x 18 inches and sells for $ 26.99.

A note about all this plastic: We consider these containers entirely suitable for decor plants and green walls. When it comes to edibles, some people may prefer to not plant in plastic because of its potential leaching when hot. The PET plastic used here has been shown to be about as safe and inert as plastic gets.

If you’re concerned about the plastic (recently a different type of plastic, #7 BPA-free plastic was shown to contain BPA), you could fashion your own wall plant containers out of all natural materials, perhaps wood, canvas or burlap.

The downside with the natural weaves, you’d have to accept some leakage. So the alternative may be suitable for a brick or concrete wall, but not most interior walls or painted exterior walls.

 

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