Green News

Flat Screen TVs May Be Damaging the Environment

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/30 at 12:21 PM
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May of us have recently purchased a new HD flat screen TV, as our old CRT (cathode ray tube) TVs are being fazed out. Did you realize, however, that this increase in demand for flat screen TVs has been making an impact on global warming? 

The manufacturing of flat screen TVs uses a greenhouse gas called nitrogen trifluoride. Due to the popularity of these TVs, the annual production of the gas has risen to about 4,000 tonnes. Nitrogen trifluoride is 17,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide, yet at this time it is not certain how much of it is being released into the atmosphere by the industry.


Michael Prather, director of the environment institute at the University of California, Irvine has been studying the issue. Prather's research reveals that "production of the gas, which remains in the atmosphere for 550 years, is "exploding" and is expected to double by next year. Unlike common greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs), emissions of the gas are not restricted by the Kyoto protocol or similar agreements". 

There is hopefully some action being taken to curb these emissions. According to Reuters, more than 190 nations have recently "agreed to work out a broad new pact to succeed Kyoto". 

"I think it's a good idea" to add new gases to a group of six already capped by the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol for slowing global warming, Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told Reuters.

"It makes sense to address all gases that lead to climate change," he said on the sidelines of the August 21-27 talks in Ghana meant to help work out details of a new treaty to combat global warming due to be agreed at the end of 2009.


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Banishing Water bottles

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/29 at 11:30 AM
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More municipalities and governments should start to take the issue of bottled water seriously. Danny Cavanagh, president of CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) is calling for a ban on bottled water in Nova Scotia.

The concern, in this case, is regarding the use of plastic bottles. We may think that the extensive use of plastic for bottled water is not such a problem because we can recycle the bottles. If everyone always recycled their bottles, then there might be less of a concern, but this does not seem to be the case. In London, Ontario a council studied how many water bottles were being recycled or refunded. It was discovered that only 20% of bottles there are recycled and as much as 80% of these are still going to landfills. It is unlikely that London, Ontario is alone in this case.

What is the big deal about no longer using bottled water? You certainly do not need it in the home. Tap water can be filtered if you are picky. You do not need bottled water at school or at work. Water fountains or providing your own reusable water bottle should be sufficient. Conventions, parties and other gatherings can easily use jugs of water and glasses. So, other than selling bottled water like soda and juice out of vending machines and at concession stands, is there really such a need for bottled water?

Danny Cavanagh believes that  governements should "start with some education aimed at our children and others: Public water is just as good as – in fact better, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than – bottled water". He goes on to state that "according to some estimates, one bottle of water costs about the same as 500 to 600 glasses of tap water".

Until the sale of bottled water is reduced or even banned, you can easily do your part in lessening your ecological footprint and stop buying bottled water.

About the author: Environment Smart

What is in Your Household Cleaner?

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/27 at 06:41 PM
Tips and How-to'sIn the housePermalink

Many commercial household cleaning products are not only very bad for the environment, but they also contain ingredients that can impact your health. There are a number of ingredients that you should be wary of. According to the National Geographic Green Guide, the top cleaning-product ingredients to avoid are:

  • Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs): commonly found in detergents and disinfectants. They are suspected hormone disruptors.
  • Ammonia: poisonous when swallowed and irritating to respiratory passages when inhaled. It can also burn the skin on contact.
  • Triclosan: found in antibacterial cleansers and may be contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs.
  • Butyl cellosolve (butyl glycol, ethylene glycol monobutyl): poisonous when swallowed and can irritate lung tissue.
  • Chlorine bleach (aka sodium hypochlorite): can irritate the lungs and eyes.
  • Diethanolamine (DEA): can combine with nitrosomes (often-undisclosed preservatives) to produce carcinogenic nitrosamines that penetrate skin.
  • Phthalates: often contained in fragrances. These chemicals are linked to reproductive abnormalities and liver cancer in lab animals and to asthma in children.
  • Phosphates: water softeners found in detergents. They contribute to algae blooms in our waterways, which can kill off fish populations.
  • Sodium hydroxide: are found in drain, metal and oven cleaners. This is extremely irritating to eyes, nose and throat and can burn those tissues on contact.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate: a common sudsing agent. This can penetrate the skin and cause contact dermatitis.

For a detailed checklist of hazardous ingredients found in cleaners, visit

About the author: Environment Smart

A Greener Bathroom At No Extra Cost

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/27 at 06:05 PM
Tips and How-to'sIn the housePermalink

Revamping your bathroom with a more efficient toilet, showerhead and faucet goes a long way to reducing the environmental impact of your bathroom. There is, however, also a lot that you can do without spending a dime.

Consider the following water saving tips:

  • Turn the water off while brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Fill a container with stones and place it in your toilet tank to displace water. A closed bottle of sand will work as well.
  • Use a timer and limit your showers to 5 minutes.
  • Fix a leaking toilet and faucet right away.
  • Don’t use your toilet to flush trash.

Many bathroom cleaners are very harsh on the environment, and even those that are marked as eco-friendly may not be entirely so. Saving water is one way to make your bathroom greener, but making your own cleaner will also make a significant difference.

Consider the following DIY cleaner tips:

  • To make an all-purpose cleaner: use ½ cup of borax
1 gallon hot water. Mix this in a pail. For a spray-bottle amount, use 1/8 cup borax to 1 quart of hot water. Dissolve the borax completely. Use a rag to wipe clean wipe clean.
  • To make a toilet bowl cleaner: use baking soda and 
white vinegar. Sprinkle the toilet bowl with baking soda. Add the white vinegar to create fizz. Then scrub with a toilet brush. This cleans and deodorizes your toilet bowl.
  • To clean your tub and tiles: use 
1/2 lemon
 and borax.  Dip the lemon-half in the borax. The lemon-half becomes a hand-held scrubber. Rinse and dry the surface afterwards.
  • To clean drains:
use 1 cup of baking soda
and 1 cup of vinegar. Add the baking soda and vinegar to a pot of boiled water. Pour the mixture down the drain, and then flush with tap water. 
For stubborn clogs, you may need to also use a plunger or a “snake” plumbing tool to manually remove blockage. 
One way to prevent clogs is to install inexpensive mesh screen.
  • To clean glass
and mirrors: use 1/4 cup of vinegar or 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and 
2 or more cups of water.

Baking soda provides grit for scrubbing and it fizzes or foams when used with water, vinegar or lemon.  This helps to break down grime.
Borax disinfects, bleaches and deodorizes.
Distilled white vinegar disinfects and helps to break up dirt. Whereas red vinegar does the same, it may stain surfaces.
Hydrogen Peroxide disinfects and bleaches
Lemons help to cut grease. Lemon juice also works, but you may need to use more.


About the author: Environment Smart

Green Business Makes Good Cents

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/26 at 11:25 AM

We are seeing more and more businesses turning green. Many companies are seeing past the expense of adapting equipment and business attitudes to a more eco-friendly approach. As consumers are taking a stronger stand in their purchasing choices, businesses are seeing the sense in providing more environmentally smart products. Automotive companies are starting to provide more fuel efficient vehicles, food companies are turning to sustainable agriculture, and manufacturers are using recycled materials in production. We are being offered some better choices and taking them. Green businesses are putting “green” back in their pockets.

Pentel, for example, attributes its successful back-to-school season to the newly-introduced Hyper-G pens (made from 57% recycled plastic) and the Recycology(TM) line of environmentally friendly products. There is also good press to be had with a green business approach. Pentel recently enjoyed spots on Good Morning America, and a feature on the cover of National Geographic’s Green Guide.

Pentel has been active in supporting the environment since 1974. In addition to using recycles materials in their products, Pentel modified their manufacturing process by removing substances that are harmful to the ozone layer. Pentel has also cooperated with the World Wide Fund for Nature since 1992.

“Going green has long been a philosophical platform for Pentel,” Pentel Director of Marketing De Verges B. Jones said, “The Recycology assortment line is an evolution of the Pentel of America commitment to the environment. The Recycology gel pens, pencils, highlighters and tape deliver superior performance and benefit the environment by utilizing recycled content. We are committed to protecting the global environment and controlling pollution—without compromising the high level of quality that is synonymous with Pentel.”

Hopefully, companies like Pentel will start to become the norm as we continue to work towards reducing our carbon footprint.

About the author: Environment Smart

Wake Up and Smell the Sustainable Coffee

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/25 at 12:41 PM
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As I drink my morning coffee, I have never before considered the environmental impact of this action. This morning I woke up to the thought that my cup of sustenance may not be sustainably grown.

Today I made a pot of Maxwell House coffee. This is a popular brand made by Kraft. I make the presumption that a large company like Kraft is concerned with profit margins and that its coffee bean buying practices reflect this. I take a look at my coffee tin label. It states that the coffee is 100% Arabica. Is this a sustainably grown bean? According to a November 2004 article in The Guardian it seems to be. Maxwell House coffee is no longer made with Robusta beans, and Kraft receives the stamp of approval from the Rainforest Alliance, an independent, not-for-profit organization concerned with sustainable agriculture. The article, however, points out that Maxwell House beans may be sustainably grown, but they are not fair trade. Kraft explains their current coffee bean buying trend in the coffee sustainability section of their website.

So what makes Arabica coffee more environmentally friendly than Robusta? In a nut shell, Arabica is shade grown and Robusta is not. The growing of Robusta beans is a departure from traditional coffee farming in which coffee is grown under the canopy of native rainforest trees. In the 1970s a new farm system was promoted which saw forests cleared and coffee bushes packed in dense rows. These short term monoculture farms produced more beans, but at a cost to the environment with soil depletion, accelerated erosion and pollution of streams. Bill Nye explains this impact on the environment in a video clip of Stuff Happens.

At this time, the four big coffee companies (Nestlé, Proctor and Gamble, Kraft [Phillip Morris/Altria Group], and Sara Lee [now Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA]) are all offering sustainable coffee brands.

If you are concerned about making good ethical choices with regards to the coffee you drink, then check the packaging label. Look for an indication that the coffee is shade grown, fair trade, or organic.


About the author: Environment Smart

Recycling Hair? Why Not!

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/24 at 12:00 PM

As far out as it may sound, there are some excellent and innovative uses for human hair cuttings. Phil McCrory, a hair stylist from Alabama, was washing a client’s hair while watching coverage on the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. He noticed the fur on the Alaskan otters completely soaked with oil, but the water around them was clean. He began testing how much oil he could collect with the hair clipping from his salon. He discovered that one pound of hair could soak up one quart of oil. Making a mat out of hair allowed the hair to be reused. Since then, Hair Mats have been employed to clean up various hazardous oil spills. Matter of Trust collects the hair from salons and uses it for their Oil Spill Hair Mats.

Visit Planet Green for a video clip about these innovative Hair Mats.

About the author: Environment Smart

Flushing Away: Do You Know What Happens?

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/24 at 11:16 AM
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Using our toilets every day has quite an impact on the environment, yet do you actually know what happens when you flush your toilet? Do you know how it works, where the waste goes, and how much water is uses with each flush?

We should be concerned about the impact of our toilet use on the environment. Bill Nye (“the science guy”) is excellent at demystifying the science in our everyday life. In this video clip of Stuff Happens, Bill Nye explains how our toilets work and what happens to the waste. He suggests what can be done to help our environment by using low-flush or compost toilets.


About the author: Environment Smart