Ph.D. Student - Earth System Science (UC Irvine), B.Sc. - Atmospheric Sciences (Cornell University)
By: Zachary Labe , 6:18 PM GMT on April 22, 2011
Earth Day 2011 Blog
(Spring Blooms last year)
Happy Earth Day! This is my annual Earth Day blog. Last year mine focused on climate change and the history of Earth Day. This year will focus on tips for conserving the environment and going green. The pictures in this blog are all mine I have taken looking at the beauty of nature at its best. I have never considered myself an avid global warming activist, and you don't have to be one to conserve the environment. There aren't any disadvantages to try to help conserve the surrounding environment and we all need to do our part.
(My Bleeding Heart last year)
"Going Green Tips"
-The CFL Light bulb aka The Killer Light bulb
One of the simplest inexpensive ways of saving a bit on your electricity bill is by switching your old incandescent bulbs. Many are reluctant to make the switch, but it saves quite a bit of many in the long run. CFL bulbs use 75% less electricity and last 10% longer. Now there have been a few complaints with the bulb particularly due to the trace of mercury. The mercury (HG) is located in the glass rim of the bulb. When the bulb breaks or extinguishes some are concerned about the release of mercury into the air. But really there are only 4mg of mercury in each bulb. A mercury thermometer contains about 500mg of mercury. 4mg of mercury is just enough to cover the tip of a ball point pen. But in recent years manufacturers have begun to take steps to reduce mercury output. Now some companies only put in as less as 1.5mg of mercury in each bulb. Under a true analysis of the element HG, we see that mercury has an extremely high boiling point of 357degrees C. This would show the mercury would only become a vapor at that temperature; otherwise it would be a solid form. Unless direct inhaling of mercury, there are very few side effects from mercury. It just has become one of those things that present day media likes to blow out of proportion. So if a CFL bulb breaks or extinguishes immediately put the bulb in a plastic zip lock bag an air out the room. Take the bulb to a nearby recycling CFL location such as Home Depot. In fact we ingest more mercury from eating fish than anything. The mercury in CFL bulbs is way blown out of proportion. For more information contact the EPA website on directions for disposal of broken bulbs.
On the positive side CFL bulbs use much less energy and last much longer. There are a few things to note that I have noticed with my bulbs that the manufacturers don't really tell you. Every time you turn on/off a lamp it reduces the life expectancy of the bulb so use CFLs first in your lamps that you have on the longest. Also only buy the CFL light bulbs that have the energy star logo on the side. Regular CFL bulbs take quite a while to turn on to full brightness. Energy Star ones take up to one second to reach full brightness. Lastly there are different ratios for CFL bulb wattage is the explanation why some people find that their CFLs are less bright than the incandescent bulbs. Also there are different types of color which include the dull glow just like incandescent bulbs so make sure you check the box label.
Choosing the right color:Link
Light color is measured on a temperature scale referred to as Kelvin (K).
Lower Kelvin numbers mean the light appears more yellow; higher Kelvin numbers mean the light is whiter or bluer.
Most ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs are made to match the color of incandescent bulbs at 2700-3000K.
For a whiter light, look for bulbs marked 3500-4100K.
For bluer white light, look for bulbs marked 5000-6500K.
(Mt. Washington Cog Railway)
Think of all the plastic bags that you go through in a week, let alone a year. Then all those bags go into land wastes and end of blowing away into the local environment. Reusable totes are an idea that many major companies are advertising, especially grocery stores. If you bring the bags every time you shop then plastic bags will not be necessary. This is equivalent to taking tens of thousands of cars off the roads.
Energy Star Pledge... Link.
(Boyd Big Tree Conservation Area)
Plant a Tree-
One of the simplest and most well known ways of conserving the environment on Earth Day. Did you know April 24 is Arbor Day? Until my research I never put the two together for being in the same week. The Arbor Day Foundation is a wonderful society that offers a great deal right now. When you become a member for a small fee for a year, you are sent 10 free trees of your choice that are native to your region. These trees vary from 6-12inches tall and come with planting and care instructions. Link. Interestingly enough not all trees are beneficial to the environment by cleaning the air of pollutants and reducing the urban-heat island effect. Some trees actually produce a toxin the in turn hurts the ozone layer, but all trees do help at least a slight bit. Researchers came up with a list of 31 species, including American basswood, dogwood, Eastern white pine, Eastern red cedar, gray birch, red maple and river birch that help the environment. One tree such as the Willow actually does not take in my toxins from the environment and therefore is not actually very beneficial. Some researchers even report planting trees about 20N hurts the environment as a forest canopy is dark therefore holding heat instead of reflecting the sun's rays. But for now I do not think going out and planting a tree is going to do any harm.
(Ice Storm on Blue Mountain December 2008)
A very simple way of saving water consists of several different cost-effect and efficient options. One simple method is by replacing water spigots in sinks inside with aerators. This is cheap way of saving water. Aerators for typical sinks use about 1.5 GPM which is much less than the typical spigot in a kitchen sink. Home Depot is offering free aerators this week... Link(See slide 4) Also try replacing showerheads with new efficient ones that produce air and water at the same time therefore reducing water to near 2GPM. An interesting fact... Letting a faucet run for 5minutes is equivalent in energy usage to letting your 60watt incandescent bulb run for 14hours.
Another way of conserving water is buying use a rain barrel. I installed my own personal rain barrel that I made last year. Rain barrels collect water that would typically be from on your roof and head down your spouting. But with a rain barrel all of that rain heads down into your barrel which is typically 55 gallons on average. Rain barrels can be very costly, but making your own is quite simple. Here are simple instructions for making your own rain barrel... Link. My rain barrel fills up completely (55 gallons) with .1inches of rain. Anymore and it overflows. I use it to water all of my gardens and the barrel uses lasts through about 3-4 entire waterings. Rain water can also be healthier for your gardens by providing non-chlorinated water like most water that comes out of the regular spigot.
(Hiking through Blue Mountain)
Install a ceiling fan-
While it may be costly, long term effects help to save energy especially while using Energy Star Labeled products.
Ceilings fans have two settings. With the one setting the counter-clockwise effect makes a wind-chill effect and cools one's body. Ceilings fans do not actually cool a room. So when leaving a room turn off the fan to save energy. In the winter turn on the other clockwise setting to have the warm air down drafted from the ceiling to occupied spaces. Ceiling fans have long term cost effect and energy efficient of helping the environment and your budget. They also had of touch of decor to a room.
While at first you may say you don't have the space or the time, well you are likely wrong. Vegetable gardens can consist of from small areas that produce a bountiful harvest. Pick a location that receives quite a lot of sun particularly in a southern facing location. Also try for the raised bed idea. This allows for a longer growing season as the raised bed is warmed directly by the sun. Edge the borders with wooden boards and/or concrete blocks to increase the depth of the soil. This also allows you to modify your existing soil in the ground. The initial costs of the garden may be high for the first year, but it pays off within the first few years. Buy the best soil combination preferably fertile soil as vegetables take more out of the soil than do regular annuals. Look for organic materials such as decomposed plant matter and manure such as mushroom compost or farm yard manure. Add the compost, etc as soon as possible so the nutrients decompose into the soil. Also try creating a compost pile which you can throw into it, vegetable peelings, grass clippings, kitchen waste, dead plant matter, and any nitrogen rich ingredients. Once you have your raised bed and soil built, the hardest part is over. Remember these raised beds can be very small. Even try container pots such as potted tomato plants and etc. This time of year is perfect and not too late for some cool season crops. Onion bulbs are easily available at the local store and are easy growers. There are few enemies and little care. Lettuce is great to grow this time of year, but just remember the local animal population may like to take a bite. Lettuce also while not sensitive too much to frost, it does not tolerate hard freezes so remember to cover. I have had the best luck with Romaine and Buttercrunch varieties. They seem to grow the fastest. Spinach and Chard are also tolerable of the cooler temperatures and are easy to grow without too much preference to soil type. Swiss Chard will also grow all summer so plant it in a location that you can use the whole summer. Radish is about the easiest to grow out of anything. They are great to plant this time of year as they get a bit woody come warmer summer temperatures. Just remember they need to be thinned out as just about all of the seeds will bloom creating a tight location. For a bit more of a challenge and more space needed, try broccoli or cauliflower. They are cool season crops that can have bountiful harvests. As the temperatures warm other crops can be planted. It is so pleasing and much more tasteful planting your own vegetables. It is also much more economic and environmentally friendly. As far as watering and fertilizing is concerned, they will likely be necessary. The nice thing about it is you can control if you want any fertilizer at all. But the simple 10-10-10 formula can be used for most gardens as an initial spreading. Watering, try using a rain barrel. They are more beneficial to your garden by adding the non-chlorinated natural water. It also saves you a bit in your water bill. I am so pleased with my vegetable garden and I continue to expand each year. Give it a try!
A great forum for vegetable questions... Link.
(At the summit of Hawk Mountain)
The old saying, "Earth Day should be every day is so true." Whether you are an avid global warming activists or not this topic is important to you. Any reader of this blog knows I am not a supporter at all of this man-made global warming. But that does not mean I am not an avid supporter of conserving the planet. We take for granted this planet, driving our car down the street I do not think any of us are thinking "some type of forest must have been cut down to build this road." And we shouldn't be thinking that; modern society needs room for advancement and industrial revolutions. We cannot all live in a house in a tree like Robinson Crusoe. Without the development of urban suburbia and cities, there would be no modern technology or expansion. But the point is we need to do our part protect. Yes there always will be vast farmland and forests, but that land is diminishing. Think about this... How many times do you drive 30miles and see small areas of construction sites building a strip mall with the same old, same old, a nail salon, pizza parlor, Chinese food takeout, and a tanning salon. Then three years later there hangs a for sale sign above an abandoned building. Or how many condominium or large estate neighborhoods are being built in your community? Now a sign of a healthy community is population expansion and growth, but how many of those homes sit empty for 1-2years. I am not here to argue that we need to save the little bird in xyz so we can't drill oil, but is it too much to ask to plant a tree in a new neighborhood or not build a little worthless strip mall next to one 2miles already down the road. Earth Day needs to be an awareness day because we as humans we live an invincible life; nothing ever could go wrong. We do not need to do our share. But we do. The effervescent beauty of nature is powerful, just a look through the Wunderground photo gallery. My challenge to you today is to go take a hike... Not your typical hike of physical exertion to lose that December holiday 10LBS that you still haven't lost. Instead take a walk, take a camera, and sit down in the middle of that worn path. Now envision 10 years from now.
Is that worn path still there?
(Summit Path on Blue Mountain)
-2008 Earth Day Blog... Link.
-Home Depot Earth Day Specials... Link.
-Earth Day Network... Link.
-Earth Day... Link.
-EPA/Earth Day... Link.
-Weather Channel Go Green... Link.
-Energy Star... Link
-NOAA Green... a href="http://www.noaa.gov/features/green/index.
Lower Susquehanna Valley Doppler...
(Courtesy of WGAL)
"Here north of Harrisburg 2011 statistics"
(Severe Weather Stats...)
Severe Thunderstorm Watches- 1
Severe Thunderstorm Warnings- 1
Tornado Watches- 1
Tornado Warnings- 0
Total Thunderstorms- 6
Flood Watches- 4
Flood Warnings- 3
Flash Flood Warnings- 1
Monthly Precipitation- 7.62in
January Precipitation- 1.12in
February Precipitation- 2.74in
March Precipitation- 6.43in
April Precipitation- 7.62in
Yearly Precipitation- 17.91inches
Heat Advisories- 0
Excessive Heat Warnings- 0
90degree days- 0
Highest Temperature- 84F
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