Got Junk In Your...Mail Box?

I don't know about you, but I get a ton of unwanted junk mail. Who is buying all these Suzanne Summers porcelain dolls in the mail anyways? Well below are some tips from the "Friends of the National Zoo" on how to junk the junk mail.

"Now is the perfect time to cut down on junk mail. Did you know that each year millions of trees and billions of gallons of water are used to create junk mail that never gets recycled? There are several things you can do to reduce how much junk mail you receive.

Get off of national mailing lists by sending your name, address, and signature to: Mail Preference Service, c/o Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512.

When you subscribe to a magazine, buy something from a catalog or online store, or donate money, be sure to say: "Please do not rent or sell my name or address." If you don't want to receive catalogs or solicitations from the charitable organization, ask that your address not be added to any mailing lists.

Call your credit card companies and banks to make sure your address isn't sold. Say no to credit card offers by calling the credit reporting industry's opt-out number: 888.567.8688.

When you receive unwanted mail, take a minute to call the company to remove your address from its list."


Tax Breaks for Home Renovations

Thinking of ways to lower your utility bill? Maybe you want to throw more insulation in the attic or install a more energy efficient AC unit. Here is some basic information on how to get a maximum tax credit of $500 for your good deeds...

1) Tax credits are available for many types of home improvements including adding insulation, replacement windows, and certain high efficiency heating and cooling equipment. The maximum amount of homeowner credit for all improvements combined is $500 during the two year period of the tax credit. This tax credit applies to improvements made to your primary residence from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2007.

All ENERGY STAR labeled windows and skylights qualify for tax credit. For tax purposes, save your receipt and either the ENERGY STAR label from all your new windows OR the Manufacturer's Certification Statement. The tax credit is good for 10 percent of cost, up to $200 for all windows, skylights and storm windows.

Metal roofs also qualify for the tax credit. 10 percent of cost, up to $500. All ENERGY STAR labeled metal roofs qualify for the tax credit. Must be expected to last 5 years OR have a 2 year warranty. Installation costs are not included. Manufacturer's Certification Statement required.

For insulation to qualify, its primary purpose must be to insulate. (example: vapor retarders are covered, siding does not qualify). Must be expected to last 5 years OR have a 2 year warranty Installation costs are not included. Manufacturer's Certification Statement³ required.

2) Tax credits are available for qualified solar water heating and photovoltaic systems. The credits are available for systems "placed in service" in 2006 and 2007. The tax credit is for 30 percent of the cost of the system, up to $2,000. This credit is not limited to the $500 home improvement cap.

At least half of the energy generated by the "qualifying property" must come from the sun. Homeowners may only claim spending on the solar water heating system property, not the entire water heating system of the household. The credit is not available for expenses for swimming pools or hot tubs. The water must be used in the dwelling.The system must be certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC).

More info here...http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_tax_credits#2

Last Polar Bear Post (I think)

Here is the official Press Release from the Fish and Wildlife Service on the Polar Bear "threatened species" listing. By the way, one particular sentence stands out to me..."The administration treats climate change very seriously and recognizes the role of greenhouse gases in climate change."

(BOISE, Idaho)

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today announced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and initiating a comprehensive scientific review to assess the current status and future of the species.

The Service will use the next 12 months to gather more information, undertake additional analyses, and assess the reliability of relevant scientific models before making a final decision whether to list the species.

Polar bears are one of nature?s ultimate survivors, able to live and thrive in one of the worlds harshest environments, Kempthorne said. But we are concerned the polar bears habitat may literally be melting.

Based on current analysis, there are concerns about the effect of receding sea ice on polar bear populations, he said. ?I am directing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to aggressively work with the public and the scientific community over the next year to broaden our understanding of what is happening with the species. This information will be vital to the ultimate decision on whether the species should be listed.

Polar bears are already protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Under that law, it is generally prohibited to (1) take or (2) import marine mammals and their parts or products.

The species is also protected by international treaties involving countries in the bears range. In early December, Congress passed the United States-Russia Polar Bear Conservation and Management Act of 2006, implementing a treaty with Russia designed to conserve polar bears shared between the two countries. President Bush is expected to sign this legislation into law.

Todays proposal cites the threat to polar bear populations caused by receding sea ice, which bears use as a platform to hunt for prey. In recommending a proposed listing, the Fish and Wildlife Service used scientific models that predict the impact of the loss of ice on bear populations over the next few decades.

Scientific observations have revealed a decline in late summer Arctic sea ice to the extent of 7.7 percent per decade and in the perennial sea ice area of 9.8 percent per decade since 1978. Observations have likewise shown a thinning of the Arctic sea ice of 32 percent from the 1960s and 1970s to the 1990s in some local areas.

There are 19 polar bear populations in the circumpolar Arctic, containing an estimated total of 20,000-25,000 bears.
The western Hudson Bay population of polar bears in Canada has suffered a 22 percent decline. Alaska populations have not experienced a statistically significant decline, but Fish and Wildlife Service biologists are concerned that they may face such a decline in the future.

Recent scientific studies of adult polar bears in Canada and in Alaska?s Southern Beaufort Sea have shown weight loss and reduced cub survival. While data are lacking about many populations, the Service suspects that polar bears elsewhere are being similarly affected by the reduction of sea ice

We have sufficient scientific evidence of a threat to the species to warrant proposing it for listing, but we still have a lot of work to do to enhance our scientific models and analyses before making a final decision, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall.

The Service extensively analyzed the impact of both onshore and offshore oil and gas development on polar bears and determined they do not pose a threat to the species.

The Service likewise examined the impact of subsistence harvest of polar bears by Alaska Natives. Such harvest is specifically allowed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and would also be allowed if the polar bear is listed under the Endangered Species Act, unless the Service finds that the harvest is materially and negatively affecting the polar bear.

Harvesting polar bears is of great social, cultural and economic importance to Native peoples throughout much of the Arctic and maintaining a harvest within sustainable limits is one of the departments priorities, Kempthorne noted.

While the proposal to list the species as threatened cites the threat of receding sea ice, it does not include a scientific analysis of the causes of climate change. That analysis is beyond the scope of the Endangered Species Act review process, which focuses on information about the polar bear and its habitat conditions, including reduced sea ice.
However, climate change science and issues of causation are discussed in other analyses undertaken by the Bush Administration. The administration treats climate change very seriously and recognizes the role of greenhouse gases in climate change.

The Service invites the public to submit data, information, and comments on the proposed rule. Comments will be accepted on the proposed rule for the next 90 days.

A copy of the proposed rule and other information about the proposal is available on the Service?s Marine Mammal website located at: http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/polarbear/issues.htm.

Our goal ultimately is to combine the best science available with the power of working hand-in-hand with states, tribes, oreign countries, industry, and other partners to minimize the threats to polar bears and conserve this great icon of the Arctic for future generations,? Kempthorne said.


Laws Regarding Threatened Species

With all the Polar Bear talk going around, I thought I'd feature some quick info on 2 laws protecting species. The first is the general Endangered Species Act, the second is the more specific Marine Mammel Protection Act

1) Endangered Species Act:

The focal point of the Endangered Species Act is the list of endangered and threatened species. Once a species is added to the list, it enjoys legal protection designed to help it recover. The laws that apply to threatened species can vary depending upon the conservation needs of the species. Threatened species may often have the same level of protection as endangered species.

Once a species has been listed, critical habitat is designated to assure the survival or recovery of the species. The critical habitat may consist of the area inhabited by the listed species, a portion of the area, or even additional areas outside the inhabited area- what ever area is determined "critical" for the species' survival. After listing a species and defining its critical habitat, the appropriate federal agency prepares a recovery plan that is designed to restore the species to a point where it can be removed from the list.

According to the Act, the decision to list a species is to be based solely on sound biological information such as the current population size and how close the species appears to be to extinction. Economic factors are only to be considered after the species has been listed- in establishing the location and boundaries for the critical habitat and in the development of the species' recovery plans.

2) Marine Mammal Protection Act:

Marine mammals protected under this Act include: dolphins, whales, seals, sea lions, sea otters, polar bears, manatees, dugongs and walruses.

Similar to the Endangered Species Act, the responsibility for administering the Marine Mammal Protection Act is shared by two federal agencies. The National Marine Fisheries Service of the Commerce Department has authority with regard to all members of the order Cetacea (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and all members of the order Pinnipedia (seals) except walruses. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior administers the Act with respect to all other species of marine mammals (walruses, sea otters, polar bears, manatees and dugongs).

The purpose of the Marine Mammal Commission is to serve as an impartial and non-political source of expert scientific advice relating to marine mammals. Both the National Marine Fisheries Service and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are required to consult with the Marine Mammal Commission in administering their duties under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The major role of the Marine Mammal Commission is to conduct a continual review and study of all populations of marine mammals and of all activities relating to marine mammals that involve the United States.

INFO FOUND AT http://www.earthtrust.org/wlcurric/appen2.html

More great information on the Polar Bear protection can be found here... http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/species/polarbear/index.html

Polar Bear Propoganda

The decision by the Bush administration (the administration) to list Polar Bears as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act has garnered far more media attention than I expected. This is great news for anyone following the global warming issue. One Fox News editorial caught my attention this afternoon.

First, according to the editorial, the decision to list the Polar Bear was part of a settlement agreement reached between the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Bush administration. NRDC filed a lawsuit seeking to force the administration to list Polar Bears as threatened. To meet the settlement terms, the Administration, with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), began the process for listing the bears.

Second, the Fox editorial goes on to explain that currently the US government offers licenses for hunting Polar Bears. It also explains that laws already exist to protect Polar Bears. Finally, the op-ed states that no scientific data has been forwarded to support the idea that Polar Bear habitat is declining.

Overall, the editorial questioned the idea that Polar Bears need protecting and undermined the notion that this is a sign the administration is beginning to embrace the existence of Global Warming.

I guess I was a little naiive to believe this was the beginning of a policy change on global warming. I haven't read the listing on the Polar Bears so I cannot make a judgment call on whether protection is, in fact, needed. I am also not educated on the various laws protecting Polar Bears. Honestly, they could be protecting snowflakes and this story would garner just as much of my attention. The fact was that the administration was beginning to budge on global warming. Maybe this editorial author is wrong, but I won't hold my breath

By the way, here is the link...http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,239697,00.html

Weather to believe it or not?

The debate on whether global warming actually exists is coming to an end. This is partly thanks to the growing skepticism toward anti-global warming studies. I once heard Al Gore compare studies disproving the link between carbon emissions and global warming, to studies disproving the link between smoking and cancer. It is also partly thanks to a human population sensing changes in their environment.

As international public opinion solidifies behind the existence of global warming, politicians have responded. The political solutions to global warming have ranged from udderly rediculous...catalytic converters for cows (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/columnists/guests/s_485809.html). To the overly complicated...EU combatting climate change with per country co2 cuts (http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa003&articleID=67A365A363E759793D84A4868D22BB56).

But with stories about ancient ice shelves the size of 11,000 footbal fields snapping (http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/science/12/29/canada.arctic.ap/) and Russia's hottest winter in 136 years (http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/snow-way-russias-hottest-winter-in-136-years/2006/12/19/1166290543359.html) obviously its time for some action.

Believe it or not, the fog of ignorance at the White House is finally beginning to clear after years of denying the existence of climate change. This week, the administration began suggesting that it would like to see Polar Bears placed on the Endangered Species Act's threatened species list. Its prinicple reason for this placement is the bear's loss of habitat due to global warming. The Washington Post story can be found here...http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/27/AR2006122701242.html.

Some are already saying that this move is not enough...http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/12-06/12-29-06/01opinion.htm.

I say that this is only the beginning of the US federal government's recognition of global warming and the impact it has on our nation's resources. In the coming months, the US Supreme Court will issue its decision on whether the EPA is required to regulate climate change emissions under the Clean Air Act. If the Court decides the Act does not require EPA's action, then look for the new blue Congress to offer amendments requiring such action. In addition, the green movement in states like California (http://cbs5.com/politics/local_story_362230801.html) and apparently New Mexico (http://www.kobtv.com/index.cfm?viewer=storyviewer&id=29503&cat=NMTOPSTORIES) will increase pressure on the federal government to create uniform regulations that significantly limit greenhouse gas emissions.

While we're all waiting for politics to catch up with reality, there are things we all can do to decrease our carbon footprint. My own tips are to plant some trees, re-evaluate the car you drive and when you drive it, and live greeny by turning off unnecessary lights & using appliances less. Some great tips can be found at this (http://www.carboncalculator.co.uk/reductions.php) website. It describes ways to cut back at home, on the road, when you eat, and when you waste.


52 New Species Discovered

Jungle secrets: 52 new species found in Borneo's 'Lost World'

More than 50 new species of animals and plants that have never been seen before have been discovered in a 'Lost World' on the island of Borneo in just 18 months, say scientists.

Among them are two tree frogs, a whole range of plants and trees and 30 brand new types of fish including a tiny one less than a centimetre long and a catfish with an adhesive belly that allows it to stick to rocks.

Scientists said the remarkable discoveries on the island - equivalent to one a week over the past year - show why the unique environment must be preserved for future generations.

They said its previously remote and inaccessible forests are one of the "final frontiers for science".

Yet they are under threat from developers wanting to create new rubber and palm oil plantations.

For more go here...http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/technology/technology.html?in_article_id=423523&in_page_id=1965

Ecosystem Services

A concept I've only recently become aware of is Ecosystem Services. This is the idea that all ecosystems and the creatures in them provide a service which has a value whether economic or not.

For instance, honey bees living in a field near an apple orchard provide free pollination that allows the apples to grow. If the field was knocked down, there would be no more bees to pollinate the apple orchard. The farmer would have to pay someone to bring bees in from another location. For this reason, the bees in the field have a value equal to the cost of bringing in new bees.

Other examples include trees that absorb harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Also, wetlands provide flood water absorption, wildlife habitat and filtration services. We can't forget that many natural products are used for medicines and immunizations.

In a world where resources are becoming increasingly scarce, it may become necessary to catalog these services and attach an economic value to them. A group called the Natural Capital Project is attemptig to do just that. You can read more about ecosystem services and the Natural Capital Project here...http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2006/november8/natcap-110806.html

It is important to begin incorporating ecosystems services into a multitude of policy decisions. A local zoning board may not ordinarily think of the value of a swamp before permitting its destruction for a new office building. We are learning, however, that the swamp may be more valuable. Why? The cost of man synthetically creating the same services that swamp offers for free would be very high. Here is a Forest Service reference to ecosystem services on their website...http://www.fs.fed.us/ecosystemservices/

Please take some time to learn more about ecosystems services. You'll never look at a lake the same way again.

Eco Blend

I love coffee. I wondered if I could combine my love for coffee with my desire to protect the environment. I scoured the internet to find out.

The first thing I learned is that old coffee grounds can be recycled to save money on baking soda & fertilizer while reducing waste. Sprinkling used grounds over soil is a great way to fertilize acid hungry plants like azaleas, oak trees, and vegitable plants. Rubbing grounds on your hands after working with onions, fish, or other smelly food will reduce the smelliness. Placing grounds in a tub in the refrigerator will help to neutralize odors.

The next thing I learned is that organic coffee helps reduce the amount of pesticides that end up in our water bodies, which results in cleaner drinking water, healthier fish populations, and reduced nutrient loading (nutrient loading leads to algae that chokes plant/animal life in water bodies). Organic coffee is often grown on smaller plots where trees are allowed to grow wild and provide habitat all while absorbing greenhouse gases. Visit...www.sacredgroundscoffee.com to buy organic coffee.

Finally, I learned that shade grown coffee is better for the environment than non. Coffee is traditionally grown on bushes under a shade canopy of trees. To increase the amount of space for coffee plants on a farm, growers often tear down the shade canopy which can have a devestating effect on the environment. Besides eliminating habitat for wildlife (wildlife like bees who pollinate trees and plants), destroying the shade canopy results in coffee grown in direct sunlight which requires far more fertilizers, perticides, and insecticies. Destorying the shade canopy undermines the soil structure as well, which results in a higher frequency of mud slides during rainy seasons. Here are examples of shade grown coffee available online...http://www.groundsforchange.com/shop/category-origin.php?

Coffee had so many benefits, from delaying Alzheimer's Disease, to curing headaches. Now your morning brew can be environmentally conscious too.


Welcome. I’m glad you found this blog. Here is where you will find news stories, editorials, and advice for greener living.

When planning trips, meals, government policies, and home improvements, we often forget an important piece, the green piece.

This blog will be updated with information so you can intuitively incorporate green thinking into your plans

Like all blogs, you are an important piece of the puzzle, so please comment often.