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  • Mark Piazzalunga

    DESERTEC project, Sahara Sun could power Europe by 2050

    By Mark Piazzalunga

    Sahara desert climate is hot and arid, everybody knows it. So how can this simple and well-known fact become the idea to power a continent like Europe? Let’s start from the principle: renewable energy is the future of energy; we assume that this sentence is true since all facts gets to this point. Second principle: European territory is restricted and allows the construction of a few plants that could use renewable energy. Paradoxically, countries like Africa have renewable sources, particularly solar, in abundance but scarce funds to make the best of these resources. Now find the connection. Is it possible to produce huge amounts of solar energy in Africa and transport them to Europe through energy infrastructures? Apparently yes, according to DESERTEC project developers and supporters. And what is DESERTEC? It’s an initiative of the Club of Rome (a global think tank that has its headquarters in Switzerland) started in 2009. Directly from the official website of the project (Desertec.org): "The DESERTEC concept was developed by a network of politicians, scientists and economists from around the Mediterranean, from which was born the DESERTEC Foundation. Demonstrates a way to provide climate protection, energy security and the development of sustainable energy generation from sites where renewable energy sources are at their most plentiful." In practical terms? Connect renewable energy power plants in Africa to Europe through a network of HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) systems. The Foundation target is to build several renewable power plants of various types (mainly wind, photovoltaic and solar concentration) throughout North Africa. To support the project financially, the Foundation and other 12 companies (including Deutsche Bank, E.ON, RWE and ABB) created an industrial initiative: Dii GmbH. The construction project would continue until 2050 and for that date, the cost is estimated at € 400 billion, which means $ 546,720,000,000, approximately seven times Bill Gates’ fortune. It’s little bit expensive (life on Mars seems cheaper) but the entire network could provide Europe with the 15-20% of electricity that it needs. We must also consider the drastic decrease of pollution, direct effect of the project. This project isn’t just an idea but it seems an accurate and long-term plan. This could be an opportunity to connect two continents and to give them economic opportunities and jobs. There could be some problems like the wars and the instability of some of North Africa countries or how to get all 40 nations to agree to an arrangement for subsidizing the green electricity. There’s also the possibility to build the plants in Europe, just $ 54 billion more, and doing some math it brings to a shocking number: €2 per citizen per year to keep tens of thousands of jobs in Europe -- and to prevent Europe from becoming dependent on foreign countries for its electricity. Well, the project just started and it has the funds to go forward. We can't wait to see the results. Photo from Desertec.org
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  • Joseph Ramondeli

    Black Friday Promotes Over-Consumption and Waste

    By Joseph Ramondeli

    Black Friday Promotes Over-Consumption and Waste               Every year Thanksgiving weekend is overshadowed by Black Friday and in recent years Cyber Monday as well. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time when families can get together, even if it’s just for a day or dinner, to talk and reconnect. However every year more American’s are focused on shopping. Stores are now open by 8:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day resulting in people sitting at the dinner table with their families while browsing on their phones for the best deals that they hope to buy in a few hours.  This is just another example of how our modern, technologically advanced society is constantly becoming more materialistic. Aside from Black Friday overshadowing an American holiday and tradition, it is an annual example of how Americans over-consume and by doing so are very wasteful.  A huge fraction of purchased goods during Black Friday and Cyber Monday are things that people don’t need, they are things they think they need. Advertisements and social trends play a big role in the impact of this event (I refuse to call it a holiday) and in our consumption behavior in general.             Companies are tricking and forcing us to buy un-needed goods through the use of planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence.  Planned obsolescence is disappointing because it refers to how companies purposely make products to only last a few years and by doing so force consumers to by new products from them every couple of years. The most common example of this is electronic devices. Apple creates a new IPhone every year so that once yours break “accidentally” there’s a brand new, more expensive one to purchase as a replacement. Not to mention that such companies stop making old models, forcing you to buy the newest model. On the other hand, perceived obsolescence is promoted by companies but ultimately results from our own social actions. Companies, through advertisements, constantly throw the promotion of new goods in our face. It’s almost impossible to go anywhere or do anything without seeing an advertisement of some sort. These advertisements tend to increase around the holiday season, hence the origin of Black Friday. The main reason such advertisements work is due to the social pressure we put on each other and ourselves. Everyone wants the next new model or brand and once a friend or family member purchases something then we are pressured and attracted to buying it as well. The biggest example of this is the fashion industry, where new trends come and go each season resulting in constant purchasing of new, unnecessary clothing. These companies are clearly getting the better of us based on the success of such events as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.             So why is over-consumption such a bad thing, why should we care if people waste there money on unnecessary goods? It’s simple: overconsumption leads to waste! One of the downfalls to the technological advancements of today’s world is that we create materials that cannot be found in our natural world. This means that when we throw something out in the garbage it will never decompose. Purchasing many of today’s consumer goods is bad enough because most cannot be recycled and will sit in landfills, but over-consumption takes this once step further in that we buy more than we need! We buy new clothes or new phones before our old ones are worn our or broken. By doing so we are creating more waste because we constantly thrown away products that are still functional and contribute the ever-growing amount of waste humanity has created on this planet. In order to help reduce the waste we create of course we should recycle and reuse as much as possible. However, I believe that the creation of waste should be stopped at its source, and that’s our consumer purchasing. Buying less and using goods to there fullest is a sure way to decrease waste. Resisting social pressure and advertisements is key to getting this accomplished. So next year put the phones away and turn the TV off at the dinner table during Thanksgiving, you don’t need them. Joseph Ramondelli  
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  • Megan Bonetti

    Conferencing Climate Change: Teamwork or Tug-of-war?

    By Megan Bonetti

    India. Culture, cows and rubbish. As an Aussie living for a short time in India it is such an intriguing country. Indians love their diverse nation yet they use the streets like rubbish dumps. Even my friends here tell me it’s ok to throw my paddle-pop wrapper out the car window. I can’t… so I just hold it tight and wait till I get home. Growing up in Australia, those ‘emu hunts’ in primary school have willed my littering days away. Yet I suspect that even my household trash bin will just be dumped across the road for the cows to eat or worse still, burnt on the street…for the cows to eat. This is India. Love it or hate it. (#tii) As an Australian social worker volunteering with an NGO in Southern India I witness the large divide between the rich and poor of this incredibly colourful nation. I work with many children whose whole families have had to migrate from various parts of India due to the rapid effects of drought on their land and the significant urbanisation of major cities in the last 10 years. It turns out India has seen a boom in it’s industrial and technological trades a little later than it’s western neighbours and they are loving it. But India’s urban boom is threatened with westerners telling them they have to stop producing and polluting. The earth doesn’t like it. Sorry India…We made our big capitalist bucks, but you don’t get that chance. Just when things are getting good and you’re developing astronomically, your main source of energy is being taken away. It turns out fossil fuels are the cheapest form of energy for the developing world, especially as they try in earnest to develop the same standard of living as we have. So as one the most formidable countries in the developing world, India not only has the pressures of navigating a massive population but also has to figure out how to go green on the cheap. It’s interesting that the Turnbull government has reluctantly agreed on a 5% reduction in carbon emissions in the next five years. “Phew! Glad we got through that one boys.” They wipe their sweaty brows while developing countries are drowning, burning and trying to survive on scant resources. These countries are just trying to make a crust, while Eurocentric nations are slowly turning a baguette into organic multigrain sourdough (and throwing the crusts to their hobby cows). If the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris is truly the last attempt for international cooperation, leaders cannot just show and tell their contribution and sit back with folded arms. But how can mere human individuals promote serious teamwork? This brings me back to the children I work with here in India. Every day their parent’s lives are tied to corrupt building associations. They are bonded labourers—gypsies moving from construction to construction. These families have no hope of returning to their now desolate homeland and are not provided social security measures that protect their livelihood. Then there is India’s neighbour, low-lying Bangladesh, experiencing saltwater intrusion that poisons whole water supplies for entire villages. In our own backyard we see Australian farmers shooting all their cattle only to turn the gun on themselves under the shadow of unprecedented drought. This is human impact. Global warming is not just about penguins and polar bears. Climate change is a social justice issue. We live in a globalised world. The industrial revolution brought us here; and climate change is the consequence. No longer do we just neighbour cities, we neighbour nations. The leaders of Australia must be held accountable to all their neighbours including the ones just trying to keep their head above water. It simply won’t do for wealthy nations, such as Australia, to show the world their own country’s carbon reductions and sit back down. This summit can’t work as a set menu; it has to be a potluck dinner, a time for sharing, understanding and safeguarding. For the sake of our beautiful earth and the many diverse cultures of the human race, this time I hope and pray that the leaders of the world provide a resounding voice for the marginalised. This summit and our government must not stop at figures, but uphold the basic democratic and human rights principles that cradle modern society. The United Nations was created so that man-made and worldwide calamities could no longer grasp our world with such authority. Well, it turns out a world war with Mother Nature is knocking on our doorstep. Will we listen and respond? I hope so.   For more information please visit the below links. They offer great insights into climate change realities and are positive and accessible resources for engaging the conversation. The reality of climate change | David Puttnam | TEDxDublin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBjtO-0tbKU India: Climate Change Impacts http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/06/19/india-climate-change-impacts Climate Change and the End of Australia http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/climate-change-and-the-end-of-australia-20111003 The Critical Decade: Climate Change and Health (Australia) http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/1bb6887d6f8cacd5d844fc30b0857931.pdf GoPro: Climate Change and the Optimistic Future https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sT6jtTtsG_M Paris Climate Conference: COP21 Explained https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-qd8YCaoQ4 Why is the Paris UN climate summit important? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnztR5JllA4 Adam asks new PM Malcolm Turnbull on climate change in Question Time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqXtKt-Is54 Morgan Freeman's Powerful Climate Change Short Film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YQIaOldDU8  
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    • 1,883 views

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  1. Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) consist of recombinant monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that are covalently bound to cytotoxic chemicals (called warheads) through synthetic linkers. ADCs not only have the anti-tumor efficacy of highly cytotoxic small molecule drugs, but also combine the high selectivity, stability and favorable pharmacokinetic characteristics of the mAb. In this article, the selection of antigen targets in ADC development, the warheads used in ADCs in clinical stages, the design and optimization of linkers, antibody selection and optimization, site-specific and alternative conjugate chemistry, and strategies to enhance potency are discussed. Non-oncology ADCs are also included.

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    1. Antigen target selection

    A major problem in the development of cancer ADCs is the identification and validation of sufficient antigenic targets for the mAb. Several factors need to be considered in antigen selection. First, an ideal antigen of interest has a high level of expression in a tumor, but little or no expression in normal tissues, or at least expression is limited to a given tissue type to reduce ADC target toxicity and result in an acceptable therapeutic index. Second, the target antigen should be present on the cell surface so that circulating mAbs can enter. Third, the target antigen should be an intrinsic antigen, so that after binding, the ADC is transported into the cell, and the cytotoxic agent can exert its function.

    However, non-internal ADCs may show significant toxicity in some cases and often cause a strong "bystander effect." Future designs should consider the relative role of cytotoxic drugs and antibodies in the antitumor activity and toxicity profile of the entire ADC.

    1. Warhead for clinical ADC

    ADCs currently undergoing clinical trials, most targeting DNA or microtubules, have been efficiently optimized. Since the number of antigens on the surface of tumor cells is limited (about 5,000-106 antigens per cell) and the average drug-to-antibody ratio (DAR) of ADC is limited to 3.5-4, that is, the amount of ADC transferred to tumor cells is very low, and the cells that are combined with cell toxicity may cause clinical failure.

    Auristatin and maytansin, which act by inhibiting tubulin assembly, are the most commonly used warheads for ADCs today. Other warheads used are based on pyrrolobenzoquinazoline (PBD), dihydroindolothiazepine, Tubulysins, calicheamicin, irinotecan derivatives, docamomycin, camptothecin analog, adrenaline and doxorubicin and so on. In fact, due to fierce competition, more and more ADCs in early clinical trial studies did not disclose the chemical structure of antigen targets and/or warheads and linkers.

    1. Linker design and optimization

    Premature release of the drug in the circulation can lead to systemic toxicity and lower therapeutic indicators. An effective linker design must balance good stability over a few days in the cycle as well as efficient lysis when delivered to target cells. To enhance the solubility and DAR of ADCs and overcome the resistance induced by extracellular proteins (such as MDR1) delivered by chemotherapeutic agents, several strategies are being investigated: conditional release of drugs in the cytoplasm of target cells (removable and non-removable cleavage of the linker); the enhancement and limitation of the bypass effect is achieved by the ability to cross the biofilm-linker-drug metabolite; the polar linker increases solubility and reduces MDR.

    1. Antibody selection and optimization

    Both antibody and ADC are forced to increase the homogeneity and developability of the antibody to reduce the rate of drug loss. Analytical techniques such as liquid chromatography, electrophoresis and mass spectrometry not only help to select clones of the best antibodies with suitable glycosylation characteristics, but also for the comprehensive structural identification of research fields and potential clinical candidates, as well as for identification "Hot spots" on antibodies that are detrimental to stability and pharmacokinetic and pharmacological properties. Mass spectrometry also helps to optimize the structure of next-generation mAbs from a pharmaceutical perspective, allowing the development of drug candidates (OptimAbs) and ADCs (OptimADCs) with reduced CMC loading and better drug properties. Selection of antibodies includes chimeric, humanization and selection of human antibodies as well as isotype selection.

    1. New coupling strategy

    The second-generation of ADCs are controlled mixtures of different drug loading materials with a typical average DAR of 3.5 or 4. Species with DAR greater than 4 show lower tolerance, higher plasma clearance and reduced in vivo efficacy. Most ADCs today have a common structural feature, such as a thiosuccinimide linkage formed by a maleimide reaction of a thiol and an alkyl group. However, most ADCs cause measurable removal of maleimide during long-term circulation, which can be solved by site-specific coupling and alternative conjugate chemistry: for example, engineering cysteine, unnatural amino acid engineering, enzymes auxiliary ligation, sugar recombination and sugar binding, amino-terminal engineered serine, ligation to the Fab nucleotide binding site, re-bridging of native cysteine, avoiding retro-Michael disintegration and high load of ADC.

    1. Improve the performance of the ADC

    Additional strategies to improve ADC performance can be designed to avoid potential resistance to warheads, by using smaller protein scaffolds to enhance tumor penetration, or by combining ADCs with recently approved mAb-based immune checkpoint inhibitors.

    1. ADC for non-oncological indications

    There are few studies on ADCs for non-cytotoxic drugs. For example, an ADC directed against C-X-C chemokine receptor type 4 is an antigen that is selectively expressed on serum cells; antibody-antibiotic conjugates (AAC) against S. aureus in cells.

    1. Conclusions and future development

    The development of ADCs has benefited from general improvements in the design of therapeutic mAbs, as well as specific improvements in conjugate synthesis methods that enhance homogeneity. The linker strategy and the diversity of warheads provide new opportunities to improve drug delivery in tumors, while also reducing the chances of drug exposure to normal tissues. In fact, it is important to better understand the toxicity determinants of ADC, whether it is used as a single drug or in combination with other therapies. To increase the therapeutic index, the ADC needs to reduce the minimum effective dose under the potency of the cytotoxic agent, or increase the maximum tolerated dose in terms of tumor selectivity. The next generation of ADCs relies on the synthesis and characterization of more homogenous and stable ADCs with macromolecular structures with medicinal chemical-like control. Recent ADC developments have revived interest in cytotoxic natural products, and in the future, the breakthrough in ADC performance may involve warheads with new combat mechanisms. In addition, alternative forms of new mAbs have emerged, but must be compared to full mAb in terms of therapeutic indicators such as toxicity, efficacy, and pharmacokinetics.

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  3. Whenever there is the talk of switching to residential solar panels, most of the rules are as follows: If the consumer can also add solar during access to grid electricity, then, in reality, he will not pay much attention to an angle, unless the solar system is completely prohibited and does not provide funding. Because, after paying the solar energy system first, they get the benefit of free energy. So we start paying attention to saving on our electricity bill.

    Depending on the cost of the system, the same is done as a fixed period of time to save the payment. That time depends on the initial cost and any funding cost, maintenance costs and consumer's energy. If we believe in most cases, the cost of solar water or the Hitter P.V system is recovered in 6-10 years. If any kind of government incentive (credit tax) is available then the normal work becomes small. A solar system can increases the prices of the houses, so the consumer is encouraged to also contribute to a clean environment.

    Consumers using solar water have received more profits. If any member of the family takes a bath for a long time, then he does not wait for the water to heat until others take a shower. The main reason for this is that we have solar heater water at home, which has been around us since 1979. This solar system is ambitious.

    Their situation is slightly different from the power provider's point of view. This is the only support for them that a solar system produces more energy during its regular time. Which can be specially provided by less efficient equipment, or they do not have to invest in additional ways only to cover the peak load. Although it is for their side, that there are many residential customers for the party who have PV and PD about 20% more than their load. So this can introduce the instability of the grid, but if the energy reserves are introduced to consumers and energy providers, then it reduces the maximum.

    What should be included in the total cost or cost of a solar panel system for your own home if you have more providers from other providers and equipment?

    1. Warranties of solar panels and solar inverter from manufacturers are usually up to 25 years.

    2. If you want to secure solar panels on your roof, then racking and mounting for them.

    3. Fixes for more power equipment such as cable laying grooves, junction boxes, etc. such as installation.

    4. Construction of approvals from the areas according to their rights, including inspection form after installation of a permit method and installation of the solar system.

    5. To get approval through its utility and to create a pure metering agreement with the company during its utility, there is also a usefulness inspection on the basis of where you are located.

    6. Solar installation with a warranty usually with the company of the Solar System, only the solar installer works from 5 to 10 years.

    7. The rest of the work is also established with the installation of solar panels or panels, inverters and solar panels by qualified electrical contractors.

    8. To avoid a zero-down system for the debt system, including the option to cover the cost of a solar system, the federal tax credit portion, unless you do not do for the next year's taxes. This analysis shows that after installing the system you are likely to get the utility bills, it is likely that utility bills are low

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    When making a reclaimed office space, keep in mind that you’ll be using recycled materials, or leftover materials from various places. You can get these type of materials for cheaper that new ones in some cases. Reclaimed office spaces are basically recycled, refurbished spaces that use all used materials so there is less waste. In this way, reclaimed spaces keep the environment safe. Here are some of the essential items that will come in handy when you’re creating a reclaimed office space.

    Air Compressor

    An air compressor has so many different uses on a construction site. Using a nail gun on walls made of pallets can help the process go much faster. You might have to adjust the PSI, so keep that in mind as you work. Framing and trimming will go much faster if you use a nail gun instead of trying to do everything by hand. In some office spaces, certain aspects of the design are left unfinished, to save on costs and keep the aesthetic you’re looking for. It all depends on what you want your finished product to be. Make sure that your air compressor is oil-less so that you don’t get your new space messy before you even complete the project. An air compressor can also help with the cleanup tasks at the end of the day.

    Telescoping Forklift

    Even reclaimed office spaces require heavy lifting. Some projects may require even more heavy lifting, depending on the reclaimed material being used. For all of those heavy reclaimed materials that need to be moved from one part of the site to another, a forklift is absolutely essential. This can make exterior reclaimed spaces safer to complete. Using an equipment rental company for your reclaimed office space construction project will allow you to obtain the tools that you require for the individual job without having to purchase them on your own.

    Laser Level

    A lot can be said for ensuring that all surfaces in your project are level from start to finish. Doing this will limit the frustration you may experience when having to do level things over and over again, such as reclaimed windows, if they aren’t right the first time. A laser level will also help you keep your line level across a larger area of floor. Even reclaimed office spaces need advanced technology to help them come to fruition. Using a laser level is especially important for reclaimed spaces, as some materials may be irregular and may have inconsistencies. Many tools have laser levels to ensure that you can make a level cut or so that you can keep those holes centered up throughout the process.

    Miter Saw

    A good miter saw is essential to any construction project. You want to ensure that you aren’t wasting good wood making cuts that aren’t up to par. Select one that will allow you to make a variety of angle cuts so that your finishing tasks can be as accurate as possible. Many times, you need to make many of these type of cuts when dealing with recycled and reclaimed materials. Depending on the type of blade that you install in the saw, it can also help you with some of your plumbing projects.

    There are other tools that can come in handy when you’re constructing your reclaimed office. Select tools that are highly rated and easy to use in order to make things as simple as possible on you.

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    Renewable energy companies have been in a tough situation for more than twenty years (since the beginning of renewables' sector). Two fires, two enemies to fight, the first is the entire fossil fuels' sector, the second is the internal competition in its own sector. The first is a strong, old and rich institution, with thousands of billion of dollars and has exponents like Shell, BP, Total, Exxon and Chevron. The second is also strong and in a long-term can monopolize the entire energy market, it's the internal competition in renewable energy sector, where companies double their profits in less than a year (like First Solar or SunPower) and hydroelectric sector growth rises every year of 3.1%.

    The slow but inevitable ascent of renewables in the energy market can't be stopped although it can be delayed and this delay can represent a high environmental price and the Earth (and also us) will pay it. We're talking about the deadly consequences of climate change, triggered by an abudance of fossil fuels usage. It's vital, for our lives and for our environment, that fossil fuels leave the market in the fastest way as possible and to do that alternatives are required, strong alternatives. To improve and strengthen remewable energy market one of the two enemies must be fought: fossil fuels (already happening) and internal competition. How can renewable energy companies overpass this obstacle and become a strong, united market? Joint ventures.

    Someone already thought about that, like Solar Power Inc. The company, which 71% is owned by China's LDK Solar Co., has formed a partnership with Wircon GmbH to build projects in the U.K. The joint venture intends to own and sell the projects it develops in the U.K., Roseville, California-based Solar Power said today in a statement. The company initially intends to build about 55 megawatts of capacity. This will go to reach U.K. goal of the 30% of the country's power from renewable sources by 2020. In Japan the lack of land territory brought Kyocera Corp. and Century Tokyo Leasing Corp. to build two solar power stations designed to float on the surface of reservoirs.

    I've mentioned it already before but it's here again: DESERTEC project, building renewable power plants in territories with an abundance of solar and wind energy and connecting three continents with energy infrastructures. The consortium which administrates the project is one of the biggest companies union in the world. The Dii GmbH is composed by E.ON, ABB, Siemens, Enel Green Power, Terna, State Grid Croporation of China, Deutsche Bank, Flagsol, Abengoa Solar, Schott Solar and RWE. This consortium administrates more than $500 billion and operates in three continents.

    Another consortium focused on energy infrastructures is Medgrid (focused more on Middle East) and formed by Abengoa, GDF Suez, EDF and other companies. Between the many examples of joint ventures in the world there's the cooperation between First Solar and BELECTRIC for the construction of PV power plants or 3SUN, the biggest solar power joint venture in Europe including Enel Green Power, Sharp and STMicroelectronics.

    Joint ventures help new companies to invest in foreign countries and strengthen relationships between companies increasing the profits and the total capacity of renewable energy power plants all over the world. But if we want to accelerate the process the number of joint ventures and consortia have to double. The final target? A global renewble energy network, connecting all the companies of the sector. In fact, a renewable energy OPEC doesn't exist, it must be created. In a world where everything is connected it's unthinkable that renewable energy companies are isolated and under the pressure of fossil fuels companies. Like oil is transported from Middle East to the U.S. so renewable energy must be an international fuel to power a clean and green future.

  6. Contrary to what many people believe, making a home eco-friendly doesn’t need to be a time-consuming or expensive process. The average homeowner could actually save quite a bit of money over the years by going green. Here is a look at three simple steps that you can take to make your household as eco-friendly as possible.

    Cut out the Single-Use Products

    Single-use plastic products are incredibly bad for the environment, and you might be using dozens of those items every single day without even realizing it. One of the easiest ways to limit your impact on the environment is to remove most of the single-use products from your home. Some of the worst offenders include straws, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, paper coffee cups, single-use water bottles, and plastic bags. While many of those items can be recycled, the recycling process isn’t completely efficient, and some of the materials will never be used again.

    Upgrade Your Light Bulbs

    Swapping out your light bulbs might not seem like a significant upgrade, but this simple project could end up saving you a few hundred dollars per year. Older CFL bulbs tend to be very inefficient because much of the energy is turned into heat instead of light. LED bulbs, on the other hand, turn almost all of the electricity into visible light. Replacing all of the older CFL bulbs in your home with LED bulbs is going to have a major impact on your monthly energy bills. You might also want to invest in “smart” LED bulbs that can be controlled with an app. With a single tap of your smartphone screen, you will be able to turn off or dim all of your lights.

    Install Solar Panels

    The solar market is growing at an astonishing rate, and more homeowners are investing in solar panel installation every year. From the moment that your solar system is connected, you are going to notice a drop in your energy bills. Depending on where you live and what type of system you have installed, you might even be able to sell excess electricity back to your energy company. These systems have become quite advanced over the last few years, and they work perfectly in most climates. To help homeowners cover the upfront costs, many states offer financing programs to those who connect their solar systems to the electrical grid.

    In addition to these three tips, you should also make sure that your family sticks to eco-friendly habits around your home. That includes limiting the length of your showers, turning off the lights when you leave a room, and unplugging any electronic devices that aren’t being used.

    Doing Your Part 3 Ways to Make Your Household More EcoFriendly_pexels_solar panels.JPG

  7. Under en presskonferens på Gotland meddelande klimat- och miljöminister Åsa Romson att Ojnare blir ett naturskyddsområde – vilket troligtvis sätter stopp för den planerade stenbrytningen i området.

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    Klimat- och miljöminister Åsa Romson meddelade i förmiddags att regeringen kommer att utnämna området kring Bästeträsk till ett Natura-2000 område. Beslutet betyder att det blir näst intill omöjligt för bolagen Nordkalk och SMA Mineral att få tillstånd till storskalig stenbrytning i området då de i sådana fall måste förhålla sig till betydligt tuffare lagar.

    – Området kring Bästeträsk är ett världsunikt och omistligt naturområde. Dagens beslut visar att regeringen tar skyddet av Sveriges natur på stort allvar, säger Åsa Romson i ett pressmeddelande.

    Beslutet är början på slutet för den långvariga och segslitna domstolsprocess kring Ojnareskogen som har pågått i tio år och ställt miljöintressen – främst en oro över stenbrytningens påverkan på Gotlands grundvatten – mot nya industrijobb.

    Världsnaturfonden WWF, som tillsammans med andra miljöorganisationer har arbetat länge för att stoppa planerna på kalkstensbrytning i Ojnare, välkomnar regeringens beslut.

    – För WWF är det självklart att detta unika område ska skyddas både för sin unika natur och dess betydelse för vattenförsörjning för både människor, djur och natur. Vi hoppas nu att Naturvårdsverket och Länsstyrelsen går vidare och gör nationalpark av området som planerat, säger Håkan Wirtén, generalsekreterare på WWF.

    Men på Nordkalk och SMA Mineral är man idag besvikna på regeringens beslut.

    – Jobben, det gotländska samhället och nordisk industri kommer också konkret att lida av detta beslut, säger Nordkalks VD Jarkko Kaplin i ett pressmeddelande.

    – Jag känner djupt för de medarbetare och entreprenörer som vi tvingats varsla. Jobb växer ju inte på träd på Gotland som alla vet, säger Daniel Juvél, vd för SMA Mineral, i en kommentar till SVT Nyheter.

    Regeringen meddelade samtidigt att ett näringslivspaket för Gotland om 100 miljoner kronor ska tas fram i samråd med regionen, näringslivet och facket.

    – Regeringen anser att det är viktigt att Gotland fortsatt har en livskraftig industri och näringsliv. Därför kommer vi tillsammans med regionen att ta fram ett näringslivspaket som särskilt fokuserar på framtida industriell utveckling, säger Åsa Romson.

    Förslag på nya Natura 2000-områden:

    Regeringen föreslår följande nya områden på Gotland att ingå i Natura 2000-nätverket: Bruten, Stenstugu skog, Jusarve skog, Hajdhagen, Sajgs, Sigfride, Suderbys hällar, Kyllahajdar, Ormhällar-Bromyr, Pärkhagen, Stora Vikers, Stadshagen, Slättflis, Törrvesklint och Jungfrun.

    Områden som föreslås utökas: Bungenäs, Asunden, Herrgårdsklint, Fide prästänge, Hässle klint, Bojsvätar, Storsund, Uppstaig, Danbo och Bästeträsk (inklusive området vid Ojnare). 

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    My family and I recently moved from Darwin to Caulfield, a Melbourne suburb in Victoria. I wanted to be close to my job, I work as an acupuncturist in one Melbourne clinic; and my wife and I were beginning a new phase of our lives with the birth of our third child. Of course the question of what to use for energy source came up during the planning stages.

    We wanted to minimise the cost of heating for our home. With energy rates going up, standard baseboard heating for the cold and wet winters in Caulfield would leave a dent in our ability to support the growing family. We also didn't want to depend on carbon-spewing brown coal that the majority of Victoria households use.

    So my wife and I did a little bit of research and consulted our builders. With their help, we came to our final decision, that the best option for our home would be geothermal heating. Our builders told us that Victoria has a rich source of from several natural underground geothermal bores and other artificial ones. Some have been used to power towns, but direct heating to homes is also available from several companies that are developing Sedimentary Geothermal Systems (from existing reservoirs) and Engineered Geothermal Systems (artificially created reservoirs).

    The System Installation

    Once we'd decided we were going with geothermal water for heating, the construction guys helped us with getting the permits. If you're a landholder, you will need to obtain an Exploration Permit from the authorities if you want to extract geothermal energy from land that belongs to the Crown. The company that installs your system should also have an Extraction License.

    Our builders were a great help throughout the process. They also got us in touch with a company that had already installed 20 such geothermal units in Victoria in the last 10 years and were licensed to use the technology.

    Next, the building process had already begun and it was time for the pipelines to be laid. Our land had the perfect layout to let us easily bury the plastic tubing about 1.8 meters to 2.4 meters into the ground. Ours is a typical horizontal system. But you can also install a vertical system, in which the pipes are laid through holes that are about 40 meters to 60 meters deep. A mixture of antifreeze and water is circulated through the system and the home is heated. The building company helped us through each step of the way, explaining our options and being completely transparent all throughout. (Thanks guys!)

    The Cost

    While the initial cost is a little hefty, at around $20,000, I believe the operational costs more than make up for it. We've been using ours for a while and each month I pay only $200 towards energy costs monthly. That is at least half of any other major household energy source. The initial capital will certainly pay back down the line in 10 or 20 years when energy becomes more expensive.

    The Advantages of Geothermal Heating

    The direct heat obtained from geothermal energy can be used for heating water, forced air conditioning and for hydronic slab heating, among other things. The technology uses the fact that the hot water in underground reservoirs remains within a constant range of temperatures. Heat is transferred from these reservoirs to the house with a very high efficiency.

    We've been using our two 14 kW heat pumps for a while now with their two fan coil units. They heat water to about 40 degrees C for our domestic hot water and the floor heating. Inside our home the temperature is a comfortable 22 to 24 degrees C, but we can change cooling or heating requirements.

    Our heating providers worked with the builders and gave us a choice between indoor and outdoor units. We chose an indoor one, as no ventilation is required. The system is very safe to use and incredibly quiet as well, so I'm immensely pleased with it. It remains to be seen if it is the same a few years down the line!

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    Our members regularly publish good and interesting blog posts here in our community. And we often feature some of the best posts. Featured blog posts gets highly visible on both the Green Blog frontpage and the Community Blogs page, as well as next to all our regular environment news. Simply put: if your blog post gets featured it will be seen by a lot of people.

    We tend to feature posts that are topical, interesting and thought-provoking. Here are some friendly tips on how you can make your post even better, and more likely to get featured:

    We cannot stress this enough. References are important! Add links to news sites, Wikipedia entries, blog posts, etc., that supports the claims you make in your blog post.

    Everyone likes photos! So add an Entry image on your next blog post. You can also upload and add individual images as well as photo albums to your blog post using our Green Blog Gallery.

    Label you post with a category and tags, tags, and more tags! Different categories for your posts are also useful. While you can use several tags that are relevant to your blog post's content, we recommend you to only use one category per post.

    Good luck and maybe we'll feature your blog post next time! :)

  10. Maintaining a house is a great responsibility, and that list of chores only builds up when you have a garden to take care of as well. However, like with anything else, you only need some practice until you create a routine that can fit into your regular daily schedule. In order to help you get this done faster and more efficiently, I created the next five steps which I’m sure you’ll find helpful.

     

    Regular Mowing Is a Must

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    If you want to get anything done, you need to have a clean slate. This is why you need to start with cleaning your lawn thoroughly, especially if it has been covered with snow until recently. After you get rid of all that clutter, it’s mowing time! If you want your grass consistency to be tick and healthy, you should set your blade on 2 cm, and maintain that height for a while. Afterwards, you may lower it down a bit if you want to deal with mowing less often, but you should leave it at 2 cm at least for a month. When you’re done with mowing, you’ll want to apply a layer of moss and some weed killer.

    Don’t Forget about Constant Watering

    If you don’t pay attention to watering, all previous efforts will be in vain. There’s another shortcut here – if you want your chores regarding gardening to be minimized, and you still want to create a peaceful environment that you can relax in, you should water your lawn once per week, but water it deep. By investing some additional time into making small holes that are only a couple of inches deep, you’ll enable your grass to breathe properly, and your watering treatment will definitely be more efficient.

    Deal with Pests on Time

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    The minute you start noticing holes in your yard or if your plants get damaged with no reason whatsoever, you obviously have a pest problem. Now, it’s quite important to deal with them as soon as possible – right after you determine which unwanted species is invading your home. If you don’t, you’ll just give them more time to multiply and develop, which will directly affect your overall billing to increase. So, don’t waste any time and call an experienced professional to deal with your problem.

    Flowerbeds or Garden Pots?

    This is the next dilemma that needs to be solved. Flowerbeds are recommended for larger gardens, because then you can fit your outdoors furniture and other garden items as well. However, if you only frame your garden with flowerbeds or make neat lines on the surface, it’ll work for a smaller garden. On the other hand, remodeling your garden afterwards may take too much time, which is exactly why I prefer pots. It may take some time to transfer from flowerbeds to pots, but I’m sure you’ll find it more practical, no matter if you plan on using your garden for vegetables or flowers only. There’s an appropriate size of outdoor planters for any type of plant you might have in mind, so you don’t have to worry about that.

    Enjoy Your Summer Hideout!

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    The only thing left is to pick out your outdoors furniture set. The size of your garden is the most important factor here, obviously. If you’re dealing with a smaller one, you should definitely go with a set that’s lighter, and that’s simple to storage. Besides, it doesn’t have to be a set at all – make things interesting and pick out different pieces in order to create a set of your own! When it comes to large gardens, the only thing to worry about is your budget, perhaps. You should also consider building a summer house, or some kind of storing facility, where you can place all your gardening tools.

    Although it might seem like it, this won’t take too much of your time after you’re done with heavy work. One last piece of advice – make some plans and sketches before you start rearranging your garden, so you know exactly what you’re doing. I’m sure it will look amazing!

     
  11. It is time for humanity to bid farewell to one of its oldest friends -- petroleum based energy. Surely, it has served us well over the course of centuries, but it has become too great a source of political turmoil and adverse environmental effects. It is high-time that humanity found a suitable alternative.

    But of course it’s all easier said than done -- the break-up is going to be anything but pretty. Oil has been used by humans since ancient times, with one of the earliest documented references to it made by ancient Greek historian Herodotus. In the olden days, oil was primarily used in medications. In the area that is now Western Pennsylvania, for instance, Seneca Indians collected oil from natural springs and used it in many medicines. The first oil well was drilled in that region by Edwin Drake in 1859, was 69 feet deep and produced 15 barrels a day. The area quickly boomed and the modern oil industry was born. Later, Texas and Oklahoma became the centers of US oil production, and then following World War II, the Middle East became a major oil supplier for the US. In Texas today, there are also concerns about deregulation, and of course petroleum remains the backbone of the economy and main source of energy in Humble, Texas and other oil towns, but thinking long-term, getting away from oil is a major concern.

    In the 18th Century, oil became commonly used as a fuel was for various lighting apparatuses, thus replacing the animal, vegetable and coal oils that had been used previously. It also came to be used in furnaces. Its biggest use, however, came with the development of the automobile in 1886. Today, almost all forms of locomotion -- cars, trucks, buses, trains, ships and airplanes -- are fueled by oil, diesel or gasoline. Fuel oil has also been burned to produce electricity, although coal was traditionally used for this purpose.

    Traditionally helpful, oil is now more of a hinderance than anything else, considering its devastating ecological and political consequences. Humanity has developed a dangerous dependency on oil and other fossil fuels. In order to keep thriving as a society humanity needs to consider alternative fuels that are renewable, and thus, more sustainable. Researchers and scientists are actively pursuing several alternatives, with front-runners including: hydropower, solar power, and geothermal power.

    Hydropower

    Hydropower uses water to generate electricity. Water is the most common renewable source of energy in the United States today. The kinetic energy of falling or running water can be used to generate power via turbines, which rotate axles when water rotates the blades or propellers of a turbine. The axle has a coil which is placed between the magnets. The coil and magnets work together using electromagnetic induction to convert the kinetic energy of flowing water into electrical energy.

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    It is a fascinating process which has been around far longer than the modern applications of oil. In early Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, water power was used in irrigation, starting in the 4th millenium BC. Water clocks had been in use since the early 2nd millenium BC. Despite the amazing benefits of hydropower, it fell out of favor during the late 20th century due to the disruptive ecological and social effects of large amounts of water control. Hydropower is enjoying a slight comeback in 2013 as international institutions try to find solutions to economic development that avoid emitting substantial quantities of carbon to the atmosphere.

    Solar Power

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    Solar power harnesses sunlight and converts it into electrical power. There are a couple of ways that this can be accomplished. Energy from sunlight can either be converted into electricity directly using photovoltaics, or indirectly using concentrated solar power. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaics convert light into electric current using the photoelectric effect. Both have been used in large commercial solar power plants since the 1980s. With solar power becoming more and more ubiquitous, it is clear that this form of renewable energy is quickly becoming one of the most viable alternatives.

    Geothermal Energy

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    Geothermal energy is another resource which humanity has been utilizing for much longer than oil. During Paleolithic times, the hot springs were used for bathing, and in ancient Rome it was used for space heating. Today it is better put to use for electricity generation. Among the many renewable power options out there geothermal power is one of the most cost effective, environmentally friendly, and reliable. Its major drawback is its limitation in terms of location. Historically it has been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Recent technology has been able to expand the range of use somewhat. Forecasts for the future of geothermal power depend on assumptions about technology, energy prices, subsidies, and interest rates.

    Alternative and renewable energy sources offer a means of producing energy that reduce the amount of pollution that is typically a by-product of more conventional energy sources. Renewable and alternative energy sources promise to be a low cost, effective and safe way to power the industrial and residential needs of the modern world. And we must always bear in mind that there are several variables to consider; with each region of the world possessing different resource advantages and greater or lesser access to the materials needed to make use of these sources of power, the best source of alternative energy needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. With new advances and breakthroughs into renewable technology, the opportunities to make use of it are only increasing. Renewable energy is playing an increasingly important role in our lives, the future promises to be one that will see even greater use of these power sources.

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    Who would have thought that from the simplest and the most basic things would pave the way to the introduction of much more comprehensive and convenient concepts of machines and equipment that most often than not, help people in accommodating their day-to-day routines ensuring the best outputs later on?

    Construction, with the advancement of technology, has incredibly experienced staggering developments aiming to improve quality of lives.

    Starting from the drawing up of blueprints up to acquiring environmentally and healthy designs of infrastructures, it has now been touched by technology and innovation.

    If one would care to look deeper into this, they’ would be surely introduced to the concept of LEED certification.

    The LEED Certification Concept

    LEED, which basically stands for Leadership Energy and Environment Design, is a certification program for third-party clients. This initiative has started in the year 2000 by the US Green Building Council or USGCB aiming to offer standards and concepts for designs, operations and the overall construction of high performance buildings tailored to the specifics of the environment.

    The LEED encompasses a whole lot more objectives as opposed to what it may seem since it does not only focus on ensuring that buildings are designed with compatibility to the health of the environment but also for business and company owners to have an infrastructure that is profitable.

    Ask why profitability? Well, that is simply because acquiring the LEED certification would allow one to have the means and the knowledge to practically and successfully cut down the operational costs from the ever increasing bills for electric and water consumption.

    Yes, as you have realized by now, any kind of infrastructure is often packaged with all sorts of machines that consume a lot more energy and water than you can imagine. This then equates to overwhelming energy and water bills that cut a huge chunk from the company’s earnings.

    With the great performance of buildings that have acquired this certification, LEEDhas been awarded with points thus acknowledging its edge for sustainability and energy efficiency. Going Green with LEED and Its Notable Advantages

    At the surface, one could simply read that acquiring certification would help in cost cutting of utility bills. However, looking closer into it would surface more convenience and advantage than just simply lowering your operational costs.

    With such certification, one could simply achieve and experience the following benefits:

    • Ensured cooled and heated infrastructures as needed with minimal energy usage
    • Tested to minimized duct-work and envelope leakage
    • Minimized indoor and outdoor water usage
    • Predicted to only utilize approximately 30% to 60% less energy compared to other established buildings without the LEED Certification.
    • Recycling materials that can be used for building constructions
    • Supplying power and energy via renewable and unharmful methods
    • Reduced and minimized environmental impacts during construction as well as maintenance as with this certification emission of greenhouse gases and other substances and elements that often occur with just the traditional design of buildings

    The LEED Tiers

    Since we have already tackled about the basics of LEED, let us get to more detailed and important elements about it such as the Tiers. There are 4 known tiers of the certification. This tiers indicate the increasing sustainability of building practices among clients.

    The first tier is the Certified equating to 40 to 49 points, the Silver for 50 to 59 points, the Gold for 60 to 79 points and the platinum, which pertains to 80 points and above.

    While it is true that the higher levels of LEED can be quite challenging to achieve, there are still efforts that one could do to achieve it. After all, nobody knew before that we could have things we have right now, right?

    Achieving higher levels would surely provide one with much overwhelming benefits, which they could later on take advantage.

    An example of which is a high LEED certification level making a great selling point that are often used by corporations to court environmentally aware and conscious consumers as well as investors toward their business.

    Aside from this, it has also been noted that there are respective incentives in the form of local and federal tax benefits or other subsidies that are made available for high level certified LEED infrastructures. Some Well Known Buildings with LEED Certification

    To give you more facts about the incredibility of this program, let us make a quick list of some of the known buildings that are certified with LEED. One of the latest most buzzing names when it comes to this is the Serbian IT park. Its known as the first infrastructure which is certified with LEED in the region.

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    This has greatly affected their operations making the management more productive while having the means to save money and to have a healthy and comfortable workplace for the whole team.

    Another LEED certified building is the Hearst Tower in New York City. With its continued efforts to live green, this building has now gained Gold level with over 90% of its steel used for structure that came from recycled durable materials.

    David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh is known, on the other hand, as a gold and platinum level holder being the first convention center in the globe to acquire the LEED.

    The Connecticut avenue building in Washington D.C. also has a LEED platinum status and is known as the first redeveloped office building on the US East Coast to acquire the LEED certification.

    University of Texas at Dallas, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens as well as the Yale University are proud infrastructures having the LEED certification, which they acquired through thick and strict efforts to go green and live a practical and energy-efficient office lifestyle.

    Be among them now and start making a lot of profits than you can imagine without posing harm to the environment. LEED Certification would also enable you to provide the best working environment to your clients, partners as well as business investors pushing them to be more productive.

    Invest in this venture now and harvest the fruitful and unimaginable benefits it could provide, not just to you but to the people and the community surrounding you as well.

  13. If you have recently decided to install solar panels, then you need to start thinking about some ways that you can make the most out of that technology. Even though modern solar panels require very little maintenance, quite a bit can be done to improve their efficiency and prevent unnecessary damage. Here is a look at a few tips and tricks that will take your solar energy system to the next level. 

    How to Get the Most Out of Solar Panels.JPG

    Feed Less Energy Back Into the Grid
    Using the energy as it is being produced is going to reduce waste and lower your overall bills. That is why many experts suggest using high-consumption devices during the middle of the day. That includes your dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer. You should also consider upgrading to an electric water heater to further improve the efficiency of your home and reduce your monthly expenses. 

    Install a Backup Battery 
    In addition to being more affordable than ever, residential lithium batteries are also exceedingly efficient. With a high-quality battery system, you might be able to use almost 100 percent of the energy that your solar panels produce. If your local power company increases the cost of electricity during certain hours of the day, then you can simply switch over to the battery during those hours and save some money. Installing a backup battery is a relatively simple project, and an experienced contractor should be able to finish the job in a single day. 

    Maintain the Panels Themselves 
    As a general rule, you should carefully inspect all of your solar panels at least two or three times a week. You want to be absolutely sure that the panels aren’t caked in mud, covered in leaves, or under thick branches. Depending on where you live, you might need to clean the panels once or twice a month as well. Most dirty panels can easily be cleaned with a hose, but you might need to use a sponge and some warm water with a little bit of soap in it if there is quite a bit of grime. 

    Upgrade Your Roof 
    Before your panels are installed, you should consider contacting a company such as Landmark Roofing to upgrade your roof. A roofing company can replace your old tiles with metal sheets and improve the angle of the roof itself. In most locations, solar panels work best when the roof is between 30 and 45 degrees. Panels that are perfectly flat will be exposed to sunlight for longer stretches of time, but the energy production is going to be much lower. 

    Once your panels have been installed, you need to keep a close eye on your energy consumption each and every day. Sudden changes to your input or output could be the result of a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

  14. Fox facts ! Learn about our flame haired friends. Foxes are a common site in the British countryside and gardens this is a fantastic infographic that helps educate us about these amazing animals. Also touches on the fact they are used across culture. Thanks DrVegas who have a fantastic fox based game 'Foxin Wins!'.

    fox infographic.jpg

  15. Amazon is one of the largest online retailers in the world. With an estimated net worth of nearly $20 billion dollars, this massive portal has changed the ways in which online shopping occurs. It is therefore understandable that the recent announcement of Amazon entering into the Australian marketplace and the intention to use Melbourne as their base for operations has turned quite a few heads. Why is this movement so important and what could it potentially mean for the average Melbourne business? Let's take a closer look at the answers to both of these questions, as the face of the retail industry could be forever transformed.

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    The Potential Winners

    The answer to the first question, primarily depends upon the type of business. For example, it is predicted that online sellers within Melbourne will reap the greatest number of benefits. As they will soon be presented with an entirely new venue to digitally promote their items, their overall ROI should dramatically increase.

    This same observation can be made for international sellers who have been looking to tap into the lucrative Australian marketplace. As they can ship their products directly to the consumer, these sellers will likely enjoy a greater amount of business. However, we should keep in mind that this relationship will partially depend upon the strength of the Australian dollar in relation with other major currencies such as the pound and the euro. 

    The Possible Losers

    The bad news is that traditional retailers might not fare so well. When Amazon does indeed enter into the Australian marketplace, consumers may opt for cheaper goods from international sources as opposed to purchasing similar items from a local business. This is particularly the case in terms of Melbourne-based electronics firms, as Amazon has always had a strong market share within this industry. The only possible trade-off is that those businesses which are able to translate their operations into the e-commerce sector will likely enjoy success over time. Still, these predictions have yet to materialise. 

    The Employment Sector

    Many are rightfully concerned as to whether the introduction of Amazon will bolster or deflate the job market. Robert Bruce,
    Amazon’s director of operations for Australia attempts to alleviate concerns stating “Over time, we will bring thousands of new jobs to Australia and millions of dollars of investment as well as opening up the opportunity for thousands of Australian businesses to sell at home and abroad through Amazon Marketplace.”

    Those businesses within Melbourne (and throughout the entire country) which are able to adapt to the online retail community could very well see their businesses expand at a rapid pace.

    Thanks to the new warehouse to be located in Dandenong East, local trades such as sales, customer service, HR, Operations Managers and warehouse operatives will all be in high demand.

    However, the verdict is still out as to whether traditional retail businesses will be forced to downsize. 

    The Real Estate Impact

    We should also expect to see some changes within the real estate market. As The
    Financial Review highlights, dropping brick-and-mortar sales may impact the number of commercial leases being renewed throughout Melbourne. However, there is a potential bright side as well. Businesses centred around the field of e-commerce could very well experience increased sales. Thus, they might require more office space to store and ship goods to the end user. This will particularly impact the Melbourne metropolitan area thanks to the looming presence of a truly gargantuan Amazon warehouse. 

    The entrance of this giant online retailer into the Australian marketplace will certainly shake things up a bit. However, few analysts are surprised at such a move and it only makes sense in a world increasingly defined by digital purchases. The main question is how Melbourne businesses will adapt to this shift and if they will be able to capitalise upon such a profound move into the future. 


     

  16. Your home’s features and condition play a major role on the impact you make on the planet. Many people assume that they need to make huge, expensive home improvements to create a green living environment. While installing solar panels and a rainwater collection and purification system are some of the many expensive projects that you could invest in, proper home maintenance can have a beneficial impact as well. These are some of the maintenance tasks to complete regularly to create a greener home environment.

    Schedule HVAC Service Regularly

    Living without an HVAC service would be miserable for most people. While this system understandably uses a significant amount of energy, it may currently be using more than it needs to. For example, when the system is dirty or developing signs of damage, the equipment may run more frequently or for longer periods of time than it otherwise would. This directly wastes energy and creates pollution in the process. When you schedule regular HVAC maintenance service, the components will be clean so that the system can work efficiently. In addition, developing repair issues can be identified and addressed quickly before they become major issues.

    Maintain Your Plumbing Features

    Fresh water is in short supply, so water conservation is a primary concern. In some homes, hidden water leaks waste tons of water before they are identified and repaired. In other homes, a huge leak spews hundreds of gallons of water or more into the home in a very short period of time. While not all leaks can be prevented, you can take steps to prevent some of these issues. For example, you can reduce your water pressure to minimize strain on the pipes. You can also invest in a water softener and reinforce pipe joints.

    Re-Seal Doors and Windows Periodically

    Energy loss also occurs through damaged window and door seals. These seals tend to deteriorate rapidly, and they may need to be replaced at least once per year. By doing so, you can keep climate-controlled air in the home and help your HVAC system to work more efficiently. You may also consider installing solar film over your windows for additional benefit.

    Each of these maintenance tasks should be included in your regular home care schedule. However, it is easy to overlook or delay working on them. Now that you know that they affect your property’s condition as well as your impact on the environment, you can see that these tasks deserve your regular attention.

  17. If you’re anything like me, your hunt for perfect Christmas gifts for your friends and family must have started weeks ago. I like to put in a lot of thought into my gifts, so I can make them as meaningful as possible and you’ll agree with me that last minute scramble for gifts is not the best way to do it.

    But that’s just me. I know there are a whole lot of people out there who thrive on the pressure of last minute shopping. They not only manage to buy gifts at the last moment, but are able to do a fine job of it too. Kudos to them!

    Anyway, my point is not to talk about merits and demerits of your shopping behavior. This post is to appeal to the environmentalist in you to consider gifting your loved ones Eco-friendly Christmas presents this year.

    Why gift green?

    Gifting is one of the most endearing Christmas traditions. As a kid, I remember waking up early Christmas morning to find my stocking filled with goodies and bright colored gift boxes piled under the tree. The sweet anticipation of finding what’s inside has stayed with me for all these years.

    Young or old, we all love giving and receiving gifts on Christmas. Imagine how you’d feel when you get or give a gift that gives back. That’s exactly what Eco-friendly gifts do – they give back to the environment because they've been made using green practices and/or materials. Eco-friendly gifts can truly make Christmas extra special for you and the people you love.

    And don’t worry, green gifting doesn't mean you’re stuck with buying things like solar panels or energy efficient light bulbs (I know that’s an exaggeration, but I am trying to make a point here). There are a wide variety of Eco-friendly gifts that are both stylish and sophisticated and the best part is that you’ll find them in all budgets. Here are some Eco-friendly gift ideas I found interesting:

    Organic Wine: Who doesn't like a fine bottle of wine? A bottle of wine corked open and shared with loved ones to mark a special occasion makes the whole thing even more memorable. Gifting someone a bottle of wine is as classy as it can get, but gifting someone organic wine takes it to a whole new level altogether.

    Vegan cosmetics: All of us have heard horror stories about our everyday makeup containing ingredients that are derived from animals. What’s more horrifying is the practice of testing these cosmetics on innocent animals. Vegan cosmetics are an effort to offer natural, eco-friendly, and cruelty free cosmetics to people who care about animals and the environment. There are a whole range of brands that offer this line of cosmetics for the compassionate buyer.

    E-books: The romantics still swear by the joys of holding a paper book in their hands when they read. As much as I like the idea of turning the pages to a book, the environmentalist in me just can’t ignore the fact that many trees are felled to make that book. That’s why I switched to the more Eco-friendly e-books when the option arrived. A lot of online booksellers such as ebooks.com have now made it possible to gift e-book vouchers for devices like Kindle and iPad.

    Recycled jewelry: A woman can never have too much jewelry. Take it from one who loves her jewelry, has loads of it, and still never misses an opportunity to buy some more. If you’re stuck for ideas on what to buy for the women in your life, jewelry is your answer. You just cannot go wrong with it. However, make sure that you buy jewelry made from recycled precious metals. That’s the only way to fight dirty gold mining practices.

    Awakening tour: Okay, this one is for the parents who want to introduce their children to the concept of recycling and awaken their environmental consciousness. In addition to all the goodies and expensive gifts you intend to shower your kids with this Christmas, bring them on a tour to a recycling facility where they can see for themselves how waste is turned into useful material. It will probably take a couple of hours of your Holiday time, but will leave a lasting impression on them.

    You can check with private recyclers like SIMS Metal Management if they give a tour of their facilities. From NYC to Richmond, Virginia, SIMS Metal Management owns recycling facilities in many parts of the country.

    These are just a few Eco-friendly gift ideas. Invest some more time and you’ll be able to find thousands of such ideas to make your Christmas more special, more memorable, and more meaningful. Let’s shop, then!

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    For eco-conscious homeowners, choosing the right floor is a balancing act of looks, longevity, eco-friendliness and budget. Options used to be thin, but with the market for green goods heating up, there has been an explosion of amazing options. These five flooring choices are the crème de la crème of green building.

    1. Ceramic Wood

    Hardwood floors are all the rage, but sustainably-produced hardwood is hard to come by. Hardwood enthusiasts have found an unlikely replacement in the form of ceramic tile. Through a process of staining and stamping, ceramic composed of recycled material is made to mimic the texture and color variation of natural wood. Ceramic wood is also easier to care for than hardwood, and the colors will not fade when exposed to sunlight.

    2. Wool Carpeting

    Wool was one of the first materials to be used to make carpets, and green homeowners are returning to carpets' roots to find eco-friendly flooring choices. Wool carpeting is spun from natural fibers, does not require any of the dangerous chemicals traditional carpets are treated with and can be dyed almost any color. Wool fibers are comfortable and can last for centuries. If someone in your household has a wool allergy, cotton and jute are ideal natural fiber alternatives.

    3. Polished Concrete

    When you think of concrete, you may think of the dull, uninspiring slab that makes up your garage floor. Banish the thought, for new concrete polishing, staining and stamping techniques have rocketed concrete to gorgeous heights. In addition to concrete polishing, the floor can be given glass inlays and other intriguing details to jazz it up. Concrete is the most durable and easy-to-clean flooring option, and it never needs to be replaced.

    4. Recycled Fiber Carpeting

    Oceans of plastic bottles, frozen dinner trays and more can be shredded, spun and turned into brand new carpeting. Also known as P.E.T. carpeting, recycled fiber carpet is durable, stain-resistant and is often the most economical choice. P.E.T. carpeting once had a reputation for being scratchy, but the latest weaves are quite soft.

    5. Cork

    Cork flooring was one of the first green flooring options available, and it has a few unexpected tricks up its sleeve. Cork is a sustainable resource with natural anti-microbial, anti-insect and flame retardant properties. It is surprisingly durable and can be painted or stained like wood.

    Whether you choose cork, ceramic or polished concrete flooring, green flooring is more beautiful and affordable than ever. Take advantage of the booming market and make the padding beneath your family's toes a good choice for the environment.

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    Owning an older home can be a wonderful way to enjoy some unique character that simply can’t be found in a newer home. At the same time, it’s rare to find an older home that can operate as efficiently as a newer home, specifically in the area of water conservation. Fortunately, though, while you might not be able to implement every last water-saving device, there are several great and easy ways to save water in your older home.

    New Fixtures

    If you have an older home, it’s likely that it’s equipped with older plumbing fixtures, as well. Unfortunately, these older fixtures do very little to conserve water. In order to save water, then, you can replace these fixtures, whether it’s a shower head, bathroom faucet, or kitchen faucet, with low-flow models to start seeing savings right away. Just be sure your home’s plumbing can adapt to these newer fixtures, as many have special water pressure requirements that your home may not be equipped for.

    Find Leaks

    The materials in pipes of any kind inevitably break down over time due to the different substances found in water. Over time, this can lead to leaky pipes, which can waste a lot of water. If your water bill is higher than expected, or if you have a visible leak somewhere, it’s important to call a plumber to complete these plumbing repairs as soon as possible to ensure the water doesn’t cause any damage and you don’t waste any money.

    Collect Rainwater

    If local ordinances allow, collecting rainwater can be a great way to reduce your water bill. Especially if you can’t install a water-saving irrigation system due to the older construction, collecting rainwater allows you to keep your landscaping well-watered without having to depend on the city water supply. Plus, diverting rainwater in this way helps prevent erosion on your property since the water is being prevented from continuing on to the sewer.

    Install a New Toilet

    In addition to new plumbing fixtures, a new toilet can be a great water-saving investment for your older home. If your toilet has been around since before 1994, it’s using almost two gallons more per flush than a modern toilet. If you consider how many times a day you use the bathroom, that can add up quickly. Installing a new toilet is a fairly easy and quick process that will more than pay for itself over time.

    Be Water Smart

    Whether your home is old or new, you can save water using other methods, as well. Turning off the water while brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, and watering your lawn in the morning or evening to prevent evaporation are all great ways to save water. Ultimately, it’s important to treat water as a precious resource that is worth working to save. With a few easy fixes, it’s an effort that is totally accessible

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    A household consists of a thousand moving parts. If you count trinkets and paraphernalia into that mix, then the number of constituents is pretty much endless. This is why every home needs reasonable storage solutions, especially if you are prone to hoarding. Thankfully, in the times of eco-friendly trends, there are many storage ideas out there that are truly inventive. If you are thinking about the balance between storage and sustainability, here are the most sensible solutions for your home.

    Go vertical

    There are many sensible green home renovation techniques out there, some of which are obscure while others are known around the world as go-to practices that simply work. For example, vertical storage is warehousing 101 and a solution that can virtually save your household should you choose to implement it. Simply speaking, the amount of square footage and resources you can save by going vertical is immense – it is the most logical eco-friendly step. On the one hand, you will invest in the future, on the other, you won’t have to spend money on the additional building. Furthermore, storage that spreads floor to ceiling and across the wall can also serve as an additional layer of sound-heat insulation.

    Keep the shelving modular

    Armoires, old cupboards and stylish vintage cabinets are perfectly fine aesthetic choices that are recommended by interior designers around the world for people who want eclectic combos. However, if you are a green thinker, the first question you should ask if whether it’s functional and space-saving? Aesthetics are secondary when you are looking into superb adjustable shelving for the most flexible solutions, though they can look absolutely crisp should you choose well. What you’ll want is a storage option that consists of numerous modular units which can easily be rearranged according to the changes in your interior. This way you’ll have future-proof durability and flexibility.

    Reused building materials

    Do you want your sustainable storage units to be built from zero? If you want to keep the process eco-friendly you should consider reused or recycled materials, especially if you require fine wood and stained wooden surfaces in order to keep the storage in sync with the rest of the room’s overall style. Thankfully, it has become so much easier to find retailers that deal in reusable goods, as well as carpenters and other building professionals that have a lot of experience with recycled materials. In addition, you can go with sustainable materials if you want them fresh – for example, cork and bamboo. However, you should keep in mind that these are not as flexible as some less-sustainable variants.

    Push it out into the garage

    Do you own a garage, a shed or an exterior storage space of some shape and form? If you do, you might want to consider moving as much as you can out of the house and pushing it into that storage. Typically, this will be a garage wall reserved for storage units. Whether it’s simple pallet racks made out of (recycled) plastic or full-fledged cabinets, keeping most of your clutter out of the house gives you more elbow space to arrange the interior according to your wishes. Plus, it will keep the otherwise cluttered rooms larger. You may also want to bring more sustainable lighting solution in the proximity of your storage so it would become easier to see what hides behind cabinet doors. Of course, only LED or CFL lights should be considered in this case, as they do not only waste less energy but last significantly longer than incandescent bulbs.

    A cluttered home looks messy, ugly and, let’s be perfectly blunt, downright depressing. If you want to avoid the horror of clutter, you should consider the sustainable storage solutions mentioned above. Implementing at least one of them can make a lot of difference, so you’ll probably want to go all the way with these sensible solutions for your home as soon as you try one method.

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    With so many housing developments today, forests are slowly dying. Forest serves as the natural habitat to a lot of animal species. What will happen if the forests are gone? First possibility is that animals will dwell with human in cities or towns. Can you imagine sleeping soundly then you realize that a python is next to you? Or a big bear is sitting in your veranda? Second possibility is that wild animals will die, which eventually affects the food chain.

    Dead forest is sure to have negative impact to the next generation. There will be no more forest to hike or trek.Lush green environment will become limited. Needless to say, many other detrimental effects will likely happen. This is why it is critical to help save the forest. In our own little ways, there are things we can do. If you cut trees, be sure to replace it new seedlings. For instance if you want to cut 1 old tree, you should plant 5 new trees. If all people share the same mission, our forest will stay until the next generation and the next.

    Image from sxc.hu

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    It’s almost that time of year again- cue the mince pies, tinsel, personalised gifts, chirpy carolling, and most importantly, the endless string of decorated Christmas trees.
    But at what a cost? In an age where we have the appropriate knowledge and technology to investigate the real impact of nationwide gorging and extravagance, shouldn’t we care about what the festive season does to our environment?

    Hundreds of thousands of Christmas trees are cut down each year, each to fulfil their destinies of being draped in tinsel, adorned with the angel or star of your choice, and housing the piles of gifts kids each year. Many opt for an artificial festive symbol instead, all with the misconception that Christmas trees are leading to deforestation and further negative environmental impacts. In actual fact, Gary Chastegner, professor of plant pathology at Washington State University has stated that "most Christmas trees are grown as crop and replanted, so it is really no different than harvesting corn".  Chastagner goes on to explain that a natural reseeding takes place in forests, and permits are distributed in areas where the trees need to be thinned.

    The National Christmas Tree Association have stressed that using real pine and fir trees is actually a more green thing to do than purchasing an artificial Christmas tree for your living room.  According to research, most fake Christmas trees are only used for 6-9 years and then disposed of. Keeping the plastic tree for longer than this period would eventually be thrown away into a landfill. These trees, unlike real trees, are not recyclable or biodegradable. In addition to this, in 2010, The New York Times reported that fake trees usually contain a harmful chemical called polyvinyl chloride or PVC. Essentially, just manufacturing these trees can be harmful to the environment.

    Recent years have introduced the most ethical choice of all. You can now ‘rent’ your Christmas tree for the festive period. This means that you can choose the Christmas tree of your choice, which comes with its own sustainable root system. This tree is delivered to your door (which saves you time and money on travelling to purchase the tree yourself), and then picked up at a date which suits you, early in the New Year. The tree is then returned to the soil, and grown on for the new year.

    If you really are trying to limit your carbon footprint this Christmas, don’t let your efforts stop at your choice of tree. Make sure you opt for LED fairy lights for example. These new style lights help save energy and money. What is more, their relatively cool heat will make your tree less of a fire hazard too.

    This may sound like stating the obvious, but don’t forget to recycle after you’re done with celebrating for the year. Figures suggest that a mere 10% of Christmas trees are recycled for wood chipping and compost each year in the UK. In our capital alone, almost 1 million trees are just thrown away each January.

     

  24. Plots of land where nothing has previously been developed on are quite rare these days, especially in urban areas. No matter if the land is purchased for farming or house building, checking the soil for contamination is extremely important, in order to avoid hazardous chemicals from coming in contact with anything that’s being developed on in or in the nearby sites.

    Up until recent years, environmental laws were more relaxed and it was not uncommon for waste was dumped close to where the products were used. Chemicals can persist in the soil for decades and can be really dangerous, especially if it comes in contact with crops or animals. Fortunately, there are multiple solutions that have been developed to treat the soil and restore its fertility.

     

    The Dangers of Soil Contamination

    To put it simply, soil contamination occurs when the soil comes in contact with pollutants, mostly due to hazardous past activities that were conducted on the site. The concentration of pollutants becomes higher than normal, often spreading to the nearby areas and polluting the neighbour lands as well. People have often reported dealing with contaminated soil, due to recent demolition or construction work developed close to their homes or farms.

    Living or working in close contact with contaminated soil increases the risk of chemical exposure through skin absorption or inhalation of chemicals. If corps are being planted on such lands, they can quickly absorb chemicals from the soils that travel from their roots to their leaves, fruits and seeds and eventually reach the people who consume the produce.

    Before coming in contact with the human body, soil contamination can also affect crop quality, by decreasing the fertility of the soil and alter its structure. The crops will develop poorly and, over time, the soil will become less productive and even completely infertile due to large quantities of toxic chemicals.

    Soil contamination can also lead to water pollution. After rain, the surface runoff can carry the polluted soil and mix it into different water sources. This way, the water fills with toxic chemicals, which make is unfit for humans, plants or animals.

    Low levels of contamination can produce reactions such as nausea, fatigue, rashes or headaches, while exposure to high levels of contamination can even result in neurological or reproductive disorders. Studies have reported that prolonged high chemical exposure can also increase the risk of cancer. The most vulnerable are usually elders, pregnant women and especially children, who often play in gardens and ingest soil particles from touching their mouth with dirty fingers. In such situations, the health risks are much higher.

     

    Common Soil Contamination Reasons

    In urban areas, lead is the most common soil contaminant, mostly because it used to be found in the compounds of exterior paint. It is very easy for old paint to disintegrate and fill the soil around the house with flakes that can contaminate it. Avoiding to grow crops or do digging near buildings that could have been painted with such old paint is one simple way to avoid contamination. Heavy metals and industrial chemicals are also present in urban areas, though they are more likely to be found in industrial areas, rather than residential.

    There is a wide range of activities that can lead to soil pollution, such as mining, that can release sulfuric acid, mercury and acid into the soil. Fuel storage can release hydrocarbons, while agricultural and industrial waste can pollute the soil due to leaks, spills or pipeline ruptures. Even light industrial or agricultural activities conducted on the site can result in some sort of contamination. Some of the most common reasons are:

    ·         Pesticides: after World War II, people started using DDT, an insecticide that turned out to be extremely dangerous for the environment, to deal with rodents, weeds and insects that threatened their crops. In 2011, traces of DDT were still found in human bodies, despite being banned almost 30 years ago.

    ·         Industrial pollution: improper disposal of chemical waste from various types of industries has led to soil acidification and contamination with heavy metals, oils and toxic chemicals.

    ·         Poor irrigation: bad irrigation practices have led to increased soil salinity, while improper maintenance of irrigation canals and intensive farming slowly degraded the soil over time.

    ·         Urban activities: disposal of solid waste is another form of soil pollution, most common from plastic or batteries, which contain lithium that causes soil leaching. Sewerage leaking can also damage soil quality or change its chemical composition.

     

    Dealing with Contaminated Soil

    Testing soil for contamination is quite easy and many laboratories offer such services. Private companies and public universities also offer soil testing services, which can reveal all the information needed.  Some of these services are mail-in and the labs will provide instructions on how to properly collect soil samples and send them through. After the test reveals the level of pollution, there are a few procedures that can help deal with contaminated land.

    ·         Soil Washing: this is often considered to be the best technique to treat heavy metal and hydrocarbon contamination. Soil washing is a process that involves physically separating the contaminated particles from the soil by using heat or water to remove them.

    ·         Bio-piles: this process involves excavating the soil, forming it into piles and mixing it with soil amendments. The piles are enclosed and an irrigation system pumps air and nutrients through the soil. The treatment time varies between 3 and 6 months, after which the excavated soil is returned to its original location.

    ·         Soil Stabilization: typically used to treat sub-grade materials, such as clays or granular materials, the process is used to enhance the physical properties of the soil. It uses reduction and oxidation to incorporate additives into the soil, until it achieves the desired properties and the contaminated soil become non-hazardous.

    The decontamination process can vary, depending on the type of pollutants that are found in the soil and the contamination period. After decontamination, the disposal of the contaminated remains must be carried out according to local regulations, to avoid polluting other areas.

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  25. Eco-friendly changing of your habits

    Every person counts. This is not only the case when it comes to elections, but when it comes to something far more serious, like saving the planet we live on. Whenever you think you are just one person and your deeds don’t really count much, think about this: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” Like Ghandi put it, if you chose to think differently today, you can influence the others tomorrow, and maybe it’s your destiny to eventually make a crucial change. After all, it’s in your best interest.

    Transportation alternatives

    Try to imagine yourself riding an eco-friendly car. If you’re not in situation to invest into one right now, consider switching to compressed natural gas. It is way cheaper and it will save your environment from bad vehicle emissions. Also, you can walk more or ride a bike. This way, not only will you be in better shape, but you will also save money.

    Saving energy

    The world is energy deficient. Making enough energy for all people directly affects of pollution. Unfortunately, people are not aware of the fact that turning off even one lamp can be significant. Turn around while reading this and check if we were right. At least one device is unnecessarily turned on, we’re betting on it. Take first step in order to help your planet and turn it off. Were we wrong? Congratulations. You already have a high level of conciseness. So what else you can do to save the energy loss? You can switch to LED lights or even consider making your own energy investing in solar panels.

    Recycling

    This is another way to act ‘green’ and keep earning money. Different materials have different recycling prices. For instance, metals like aluminum and copper are the most expensive. Glass is a lot cheaper while paper and plastic are the cheapest. If you have huge amounts of these materials and don’t know what to do with them, here’s an opportunity to get rid of it – recycle! However, if you will still be needing it but you have nowhere to keep it, consider investing in container shelters.

    Cultivation of organic food

    Did you ever consider planting some agro cultures in your own garden? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to harvest a cabbage, carrots or radishes that you grown? Eating more organic vegetables and less meat will make you feel healthier, stronger and happier. But, it’s even better thing to know that you’ve help your planet by saving energy for its production. Therefore, you increased pollution too.

    Become and stay ‘green’

    If you’re involved in media or politics use your influence to contribute to the better future of our planet. It will only take a few minutes from your day, but to someone else it would mean a lot. Remember that you owe it to your kids, because they are stay on Earth, after you’ll gone. Imagine a place where you would like to leave your offspring, and fight for it.

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