Chris Keenan

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  1. Farmers in the U.S. will remember summer 2012 for its lowest corn yield of the past ten seasons. ‘Right to know’ activists will remember autumn, 2012, as the year California passed, or failed to pass, the GMO labeling initiative, otherwise known as proposition 37. Yet, there exists one more reason to remember both corn and GMO this season, as the multimillion dollar discount warehouse and grocery store, Wal-Mart, has elected to do something the organically minded “Whole Foods†and even the more mainstream, General Mills, will not, which is carry the conglomerate, Monsanto’s, first genetically modified fresh produce, specifically a strain of GM sweet corn. The privately held chain, Trader Joe’s, has also agreed not to stock the corn. Meanwhile, other chains, like Safeway and Lovera, are less eager to commit, making no response when asked by reporters. Being out on a limb with its decision hasn’t fazed Wal-Mart. A representative states "after closely looking at both sides of the debate...we see no scientifically validated safety reasons to implement restrictions on this product." Patty Lovera is an assistant director of the non-governmental consumer group, Food and Water Watch, as well as a big voice in consumer advocacy, moreover, the driving force behind a nearly 500,000 signature-strong petition urging Wal-Mart not to endorse Monsanto’s latest creation. In her words, "a lot of people who were their customers explicitly said we don't want you to carry this product.†Lovera and her petitioners are not alone. While some express the wish to know if their foodstuffs are altered to eliminate possible allergic reactions, others feel, as the proponents of California prop 37 do, that it is no more than their “right to know†what is in their food. Still others feel that Monsanto’s reputation is simply too tarnished for U.S. chains, like Wal-Mart, to give space to their foodstuffs. One who would agree that Monsanto’s reputation is tarnished is Marian Mayet, outspoken environmental advocate and director of the Africa-centre for biosecurity in Johannesburg. In 2009 Monsanto’s genetically altered corn crop in South Africa failed. While the implicated corn appeared healthy upon first inspection, closer examination proved it nearly seedless. Believing DNA manipulations, which the corn strains possessed, both to override the effect of pesticides, as well as to induce greater yields, were the culprit, Mayet lay the blame for the crop failure at Monsanto’s door and called for a ban on all Monsanto products. Monsanto spokespeople suggested a process of “ under-fertilization†in the laboratory could be the culprit, to which, Mayet declared “You cannot make a 'mistake' with three different varieties of corn.†Mayet is not alone in her wariness regarding GM foods. NaturalNews.com., for example, points the finger at ominous genetic and reproductive disorders in study animals fed modified soy, corn and cottonseed, suggesting immunological and reproductive problems with humans ingesting the same foods is not too much of a reach. And the finger-pointing continues to escalate on both sides, with Monsanto insisting "Farmers who grow biotech sweet corn can reduce insecticide applications by as much as 85 percent,“ ironically, just as an EPA instituted group of nearly two dozen scientists vilify the same pesticide resistant strains lauded by Monsanto for its effect of creating mutant resistant insects wherever the corn is grown. One thing is certain, Wal-Mart shoppers have no way of recognizing the new modified Monsanto sweetcorn, a fact that would induce less trepidation in worried consumers were pre-market testing strictures in place. Even the AMA, while remaining consistent in it’s stance that labeling is not necessary for GMOs, endorses measures such as the UK DNA testing routinely conducted on certain foods prior to being sold on the market. Truthfully, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does urge manufacturers of GMOs to administer pre-market testing. However, no specific rules exist to sway conglomerates away from non-compliance of such suggested edicts. Neither is labeling of GM foods required in the U.S. Although many countries around the world insist on such disclosure. For now, anyway, it seems Wal-Mart shoppers seeking fresh sweet corn for that perfect end of season barbecue will have to take their chances.
  2. GMO: Genetically Modified Olympians

    Gene-doping, the term for the newest in concerns for Olympic officials ever-vigilant for new forms of cheating is, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency, “the non-therapeutic use of cells, genes, genetic elements, or of the modulation of gene expression, having the capacity to improve athletic performance". Like soap opera plots, Olympic history has had it all, from mud-slinging to murder, with every drama reflecting the era in which it took place. For example, it seems nonsensical by today’s standards for a charioteer to win a race he fails to finish purely on the judgment of officials, who decide that he would have won had he not fallen from his chariot. Put the same event in the context of ancient Rome, casting the charioteer as Emperor Nero, however, and it all makes perfect sense. As with ancient Rome’s chariot-racing scandal, the new concern over gene-doping makes sense given today’s strong concerns regarding gene modification. Whether used to make our food supply hardier, more sustainable and affordable, or to make inroads into new health treatments, many are leery about the process, as it purports to supplement a host organism with DNA, either organic, yet not intrinsic to the host, or else completely artificial, with the goal of improving some aspect of the host organism. The attraction to athletes would be the possibility of achieving greater stamina, for example, by forcing alien DNA into their blood from a host carrier, such as a virus. An onslaught of genetically modified athletes is a real fear for many Olympic officials, mainly because beyond labeling the concern there is little they can do about it. Dr Williams, Reader in Sports and Exercise Genomics at the Manchester Metropolitan University, rates the odds of discovering alien DNA in an Olympic contender “similar to finding a needle in a haystack." He also suggests UK DNA testing could beat the challenge in a few years time, just not quickly enough to affect this year’s Olympics. In the meanwhile, officials must live with the nightmare spectre of medals retracted down the line and the realization too that thousands of vials of blood slated to be drawn in 2012 could prove a waste of both time and money, at least in the interim. Vials can be kept for up to eight years against the possibility that new tests could reveal new cheaters. However, there is worse to be feared than any greater expense incurred by more up-to-minute-tests in future Olympics, or any hyper-vigilance required. Indeed, one wonders what sort of over-the-top measures of safety and hygiene would have to be taken to ensure something as minute as a strand of DNA isn’t introduced into a competitor’s test vial. The risk is athletes in pursuit of the perfect DNA could die. Modification therapies remain far from perfect and patients have experienced dangerous side effects and even died. Sometimes, over-eager eager coaches can be just as foolhardy as their athletes. In evidence, the 1904 Summer Olympics was nearly marred by a fatality when a second place marathon winner passed out after passing through the finish line, all because his trainers gave him a combination of alcohol and strychnine. A more recent tale of trust betrayed unfolded in 2006, culminating in a coach for some of Germany’s most stellar young athletes receiving a conviction for doping his charges with performance-enhancing substances. During Coach Thomas Springstein’s trial the prosecution unveiled an e-mail detailing Springstein’s desire to procure Repoxygen, a till-then little known gene-therapy drug designed to boost the body’s production of red blood cells. As every athlete knows, more red blood cells equals greater oxygen, which leads to improved stamina and overall performance. It seems Coach Springstein never procured his Repoxygen, which is just as well. While some EPO (the hormone the drug directs to boost the cells) enhancing drugs have had alarming consequences, producing death in some cases by overproduction of red blood cells, Repoxygen was designed to turn itself off when its mission was accomplished. Athletes with optimal red blood cells may have experienced little result. However, a door opened and the world’s athletes and coaches looked inside when Springstein’s trial unveiled the quiet underworld of illegal use of genetic modification substances. It's certain many peeking past that threshold have already tried steroids, blood transfusions or hormone therapies. It’s certain some will choose to walk through this new door, even at their peril.
  3. It seems like every time you turn around there’s a new solar product on the market for personal electronics like cell phones and mp3 players or solar panels for homes. In fact, some events like the Solar Decathlon are devoted solely to exhibiting the latest advances in sustainable solar power. There are plans for building your own solar power kits flooding the internet, although it’s recommended that for big solar panel installations you go to a professional. Yes, the race is on to see what company can create the most efficient solar panel, the ultimate goal being 50% efficiency. It seems that Sharp Corporation got the jump on the competition with a record setting 43.5% efficiency in May with their new triple-junction compound solar cell. This is a big advance over their previous panel which had a reported efficiency of 36.9%. So how does the new solar cell work? According to Sharp: “Compound solar cells utilize photo-absorption layers made from compounds consisting of two or more elements, such as indium and gallium. The basic structure of this latest triple-junction compound solar cell uses Sharp’s proprietary technology that enables efficient stacking of the three photo-absorption layers, with InGaAs (indium gallium arsenide) as the bottom layer. “To achieve this latest increase in conversion efficiency, Sharp capitalized on the ability of this cell to efficiently convert sunlight collected via three photo-absorption layers into electricity.†Everyone knows that solar power panels generate clean energy and are an excellent alternative energy source to fossil fuels, but the low efficiency is problematic. More efficient solar cells are important. Efficiency means a decrease in cost; you’ll need fewer cells for a given output. Greater efficiency also means that the carbon footprint of a solar installation will be kept to a minimum. The conventional panels currently on the market average at about 20% efficiency which is a great start, but the lower efficiency makes some consumers balk at making a purchase. So far Sharp has reserved their new solar cell technology to the panels of satellites in space. Their future plans focus on adapting their triple-junction compound solar cell to aid consumers here on earth. Probably one of the most exciting aspects of this newfound efficiency is the possibilities to consumers. By bringing the new solar cell to earthly applications, Sharp is opening the door to another mini solar panel revolution of sorts. Greater solar efficiency makes the applications more suitable to daily life. Bringing the innovations out of the lab makes solar power less of an “outer limits†concept, and brings the solar panels home.
  4. Iberdrola Renewables recently announced that it had sold 50 Megawatts to the City of Santa Clara Silicon Valley Power (SVP) from its Manzana Wind Power Project that is still under construction. According the contract Iberdrola will provide 50 MW to Santa Clara for a period of twenty years starting from the commercial operation of the Manzana plant which is expected to be in the last quarter of 2012. SVP is Iberdrolla’s repeat customer according to Martin Mugica, an executive vice president of Iberdrolla renewable, who added that the company was delighted to be of help to SVP in meeting its renewable energy portfolio goals. The Purchase will supply the Santa Clara community with clean cost competitive energy whilst creating jobs. According to the SVP manager of customer services Larry Owens, the wind power purchase meant that the company met the California’s renewable energy requirements ahead of time. It also enabled the company to meet its internal and customer environmental stewardship targets and requirements. Owens was referring to the legislation that requires California’s electric utility companies to produce at least 33% of their power from renewable sources such as wind and solar. The 50MW purchase is enough to power approximately 20,000 typical Santa Clara homes. The Manzana Wind Power Project is located in the Kern County, California, in the wind resource abundant area of Tehachapi near Rosamond. The project has some 126 General Electric 1.5 MW wind turbines and the associated works necessary for power collection, operations and maintenance of the windmills. The project peak power output will be 189 MW which is equivalent to annual emissions of 21,500 cars. Other than reduction in greenhouse emissions, wind power is a mitigation measure against the risks associated with dependence on fossil fuels particularly due to their price vitality. The carbon impact of the project is minimal since the GE turbine ‘nacelles’ used for the project, the components that contain generators, gearboxes, brake assemblies and drive trains, were manufactured in GE’s Tehachapi factory. The factory is situated less than a one hour drive from the Manzana site. The rest of the of the components were manufactured in Florida meaning that all the major components were sourced from nearby locations minimizing the carbon costs associated with transport. The Manzana project is the latest project in a series of green projects in California which is trying to increase the percentage of power from renewable resources from the 11.6% level in 2009 to 33% in 2020. The state is very green technology friendly offering market based incentives for new and existing facilities that are powered by renewable energy. With such a background it is likely that we will see more green energy projects in California.
  5. There are a range of green products in the market nowadays; if you think of a product, chances are, there is an eco-friendly version of it. Now the same can be said for San Francisco-based Good Vibrations, an adult store that has adopted “ecorotic†ratings, which inform consumers about how environmentally friendly an adult-themed product is. Good Vibes uses leaves to represent how green an item is, and their products can receive up to six leaves. Each leaf represents a specific ratings factor: body safe, free of animal products, rechargeable, natural ingredients, recyclable materials, and U.S. made. Good Vibrations spokeswoman Camilla Lombard explained that the company wanted to provide transparency for consumers, so that they know precisely what they are buying. According to Lombard, “Our top five products are consistently Ecorotic items, generating over 25 percent of overall monthly sales on average, and revealing that the market supports customer awareness around quality, materials, and ingredients for sensual products. . . . So green is good for business, at least in our case!" Good Vibes is also a unique adult company because they have gone above and beyond the status quo by making groundbreaking research on phtalates, which were found to disrupt hormones. Consequently, Good Vibes ceased the sale of all items that contained the product in 2007, and the company notes, “Being made of materials that have been tested for safety can also warrant a product's inclusion on our ecorotic® list. None of our toys contain phthalates, a plastic softener which have been linked to cancer and damaging sperm. As we learn information about other materials, we adapt our selection to incorporate new findings.†Sex toys may not be the most politically friendly subject, but many people use them (even if they are hidden behind the garage door), and it's certainly good to know that there are green adult products currently available on the market. So if you were thinking of getting that special someone a super sexy gift for the holidays, birthday, or a special occasion, Good Vibes certainly seems like a responsible and fun selection. What are your thoughts on this edgy, risqué company? Please let us know in the comments!
  6. Green Video Games Teaching Kids

    It's not always easy to get through to kids; engaging them in conversation about the environment can be tedious, especially if they are twitching from video game withdrawal and anxious to return to their XBOX. Luckily, there are games out there that appeal to kids while conveying important environmental messages. It may sound like a long shot, but experts agree that video games are a great medium for teaching kids and for conveying information that will stick in the long run. One such game is ominously entitled “Fate of the World.†It's a PC strategy game that deals with some pretty heavy issues—natural disasters, population growth, and energy consumption are but a few of the problems game players must face. As the game's official website explains, “Your mission: Solve the crisis. But, like life, it won’t be easy. You’ll have to work through natural disasters, foreign diplomacy, clandestine operations, technological breakthroughs, and somehow satisfy the food and energy needs of a growing world population. Will you help the planet or become an agent of destruction?†And if your kid is more into iPhones, there's the iPhone/iPad compatible “Face the Waste,†which also addresses environmental waste concerns. Another interesting environmental game is National Geographic's “Plan It Green.†In the game you play as the Mayor of Greenville, and your mission is to change the city for the better by creating green jobs, constructing eco-friendly homes, and beautifying your surroundings (from sidewalks to garage doors). CEO Kirk Owens explains, “This is the right product for the times. Not only is it a fantastic game, but it integrates a theme we all hear hundreds of times a week. . . . By working with National Geographic, we were able to go beyond pop green ideas and make a game that truly conveys the possibilities of the future.†Do you feel that green video games are the key to get kids more involved and interested in green issues? What do you think is needed for these issues to resonate with adolescents? All comments are appreciated.
  7. Wind power is a great form of energy; there's no doubt about that. However, there have been recent threats to the wildlife population that have collided with these green efforts. This upcoming January 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will publish new guidelines for wind farms. Some of these guidelines will be aimed at wind-farm operators, advising them on how to protect wildlife in conjunction with the wind farm. The reason for these new suggestions is because more and more endangered species have been killed in wind turbine blades. Most recently, an endangered bat was killed on a wind farm in Pennsylvania. Deaths like these have brought concern to many environmentalists as well as the government. It is against federal law to kill any member of an endangered species, and wind farmers now face potential repercussions when the new guidelines are put in place. Recently, it's been reported that Pattern Energy Group has abandoned plans to construct a new wind farm in Sacramento because of concerns about the bald eagle population. These wildlife concerns are as fresh as a newly painted garage door as ecologist David Cottingham explains, “We haven't really had too many wind turbines heretofore in the country, so we are learning about it as we go.†The number of wind farms has greatly grown in recent years. The precise number of bat deaths by wind turbines is not known, but some scientists have estimated that the numbers are in the thousands. According to Ed Arnett, director of science and policy at Bat Conservation International, “Most biologists will tell you that over time and cumulatively, [bats] won't be able to sustain these fatality rates.â€Â Arnett adds that continued research could help minimize wildlife deaths and that wind power doesn't necessarily have to be severely compromised. Arnett even stipulates that as little as 1 percent of wind power could be lost if farmers focus on shutting down during “danger periods.†How do you feel about the clash between wildlife and wind energy? Do you think the focus should shift to a less hazardous form of energy? Let us know in the comments!
  8. Green Apps for the Tech Savvy

    Nowadays there's an app for everything. There even happens to be many apps for the ecologically conscious, some of which are better than others. Let's take a look at some green apps that are particularly useful and which you may have missed. Green Genie is a super useful app for people who may not be eco-experts. The app provides tips on how to improve the environment and also includes a plastics directory, which deciphers the meaning behind those plastic numbers stuck on the bottom of plastic containers. Green Genie also suggests eco-friendly projects that recycle materials, like transforming the material of defunct garage door openers into some other useful gadgets. GoodGuide also provides green tips but is more in-depth than Green Genie and capable of more sophisticated operations. For example, you can use the app at the store to scan bar codes and the app determines how environmentally friendly a product is. The database of information is huge; they have data on more than 50,000 products and they rate products in multiple areas. Other apps have much more specific, albeit useful, purposes. The Light Bulb Finder app was one of the winners of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's “Apps for the Environment Challenge.†The Light Bulb Finder app is quite nifty and works by using zip code prompts and lighting information to direct users to light bulbs that would be more energy efficient, ultimately minimizing damage to the environment and saving the consumer money. The Apps for the Environment Challenge also acknowledged Hootroot as a runner up for the Best Overall App. Hootroot works like Google Maps but takes into account factors like carbon footprints, so you know what kind of impact your excursion will have on the environment. Hootroot differs from the other apps in that it doesn't require installation and can simply be accessed via hootroot.com. What are some of your favorite green apps? Let us know in the comments below!
  9. Wasting money on expensive wrapping paper is no fun, especially when that paper hasn't been recycled and will most likely be thrown in the trash without hesitation. This year why not do something different and wrap your gifts in something unique and memorable? There are many eco-friendly projects to choose from, but in this article we'll give you a few basic suggestions. Newspaper: Wrapping gifts in recycled newspaper is probably the most basic thing you can do to stay eco-friendly this year while sending a positive, green message. Feel free to decorate the newspaper with some blackout poetry, colorful drawings, or whatever you feel will make the presentation more creative. Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper: If you're not a DIY kind of person, you can always support green companies by purchasing pre-made wrapping paper. Smockpaper, for example, is a company that specializes in recycled papers; their wrapping paper is 100 percent recycled, and it's also double sided! Another vendor is Sophia Victoria Jay, who also sells on 100 percent recycled paper and offers several holiday items aside from wrapping paper such as cards and gift tags. Reusable Grocery Bags: Sometimes people just need that extra push to stop using brown paper bags and go the cloth route. Help them get there by giving your gifts in reusable grocery bags. Once they have reusable bags, they'll have no excuse when going to the grocery store. You can find holiday styles of these reusable bags in many stores. Thrift Stores for Ideas: There are plenty of great finds in thrift stores: baskets, bags, and snazzy containers are just a couple of things you'll be sure to find there. Now that you have the wrapping sorted, if you're clueless about what to get as a gift, there are plenty of great ideas to choose from. Everyone loves flowers, and a potted plant would be sure to bring a smile to anyone's face. Include a couple packets of seeds and that's icing on the cake! If the person you are buying for doesn't have a green thumb, Etsy offers a bunch of cool handmade products, and there are many products on the site that are eco-friendly. If you search, you will be certain to find something perfect there. There's literally everything you can think of, from watches made of recycled garage door openers to one of a kind necklaces made of bark!
  10. Green Movement Celebrities

    As going green becomes more and more chic, celebrities are embracing the movement and advocating renewable energy, green products, and the like. But supermodel Gisele Bündchen is no stranger to environmental issues, and this past Thursday she was named the Best Green International Celebrity at this year's Green Awards. The award show took place at the National History Museum in London, with candidates including Paul McCartney and musician Miguel Bose. Gisele has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program since 2009 and has been a big supporter of environmental issues and events, such as World Environment Day. But Gisele isn't the only celeb who has gone green. Ashton Kutcher has reportedly bought soon-to-be ex-wife Demi Moore quite a Lexus hybrid (valued at over $100,000), not a shabby vehicle to have tucked behind your garage door! Jessica Alba has come forward as a proponent of the Safe Chemicals Act, which would require chemicals to be proven safe before they can be used in products that children are likely to encounter. Finally there's Amy Smart, who recently had a green wedding, marrying Carter Oosterhouse. Smart explained, “Our wedding was very green. We had 220 people there and only one bag of trash, not even a full bag. We recycled everything, we composted everything." Smart also commented on hopes to go even greener, saying, “For my house, I had [a solar paneling company] come and . . . try and put [solar panels] on my roof. From the mountains and the location, they said I wouldn't be able to benefit from it and it would be so expensive because I get so much shade at some points. So yeah, if we can, we will definitely try to put solar on." So what does it mean that so many celebrities are jumping aboard the green bandwagon? Well, it certainly is a good sign. People look up to celebrities, and if they see them going green and becoming more environmentally conscious, they are more likely to follow suit, or perhaps at least do some research and explore a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Join in the discussion in the comments below and/or share the piece.
  11. China is a controversial country. They have long been criticized for their dangerous levels of pollution, but they have also recently received praise for investing a great deal in renewable energy. However, the negative tides that blacken China's reputation may yet lighten in color this week. A report released by the China Council of International Cooperation on Environment and Development included the influential opinions of over 200 experts (both international and domestic), and it ultimately concluded that China has the potential to create more than 9.5 million jobs over the next five years. The catch is that this would be contingent upon China replacing the current industry jobs that are less eco-friendly with jobs that focus on renewable technologies and green energy. The aforementioned council has thus advised China's government to move forward fiscally and to spend 5.8 trillion yuan toward green ventures. The council calculated that doing such would result in a green GDP boost of 8 trillion, and that the energy-saving processes would also save 1.4 trillion yuan. The current, dirty parts of the economy result in both a loss of jobs and GDP. Li Ganje, the vice minister of Environmental Protection, explains, “The industrial sector is still the prime energy consumer and a major cause of pollution, so greening the sector is key for China's green transformation.†The council's report was not altogether positive; it also outlined the repercussions of the current environmental state, and says, “The blind pursuit of economic growth has now become a huge obstacle for China's green growth.â€Â Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN's Environment Program, commented with the release of the report, citing health repercussions: “They are paying a price first of all individually by premature deaths. . . . Respiratory diseases and premature deaths in the hundreds of thousands.†Is China serious about making big changes, or are they too dependent on the current system? Join in the discussion in the comments below and/or share the piece.
  12. The 2012 Olympics have been hyped for some time with officials promising some major green changes for the event. However, these promises may not be realized unless corporate sponsors are willing to step up to the plate and go green, as well. Locog, the organizing committee for the Olympics, originally claimed that the 2012 event would be the “greenest games ever.†Promises were made that were contingent on the support and participation of Locog's 55 sponsors, but not everyone was willing to comply. One of Locog's sustainability pledges is that 70 percent of all waste will be recycled or composted. Coca-Cola has now partnered up with Sita UK to make Locog's vision feasible. The beverage giant has promised to recycle all clear plastic PET bottles and intends on recycling the materials into 80,000 new Coke bottles. To do this, Coca-Cola will be joining forces with Eco Plastics and will open a new recycling plant in north Lincolnshire. Coca-Cola manager Jon Woods commented on Coke's environmental initiatives, stating that they are the company's “most sustainable sponsorship activation†thus far. Meanwhile, London's Tower Bridge will be undergoing some major changes. They've received final approval to renovate the lighting system into a greener, LED setup. The changes will be far more energy efficient, as energy consumption is expected to be reduced by up to 40 percent. London's mayor, Boris Johnson, says, “The spectacular view of Tower Bridge from my office in City Hall is one of my favourites in London, and it’s fantastic to now be able to crack on with this work to make it even better, brighter and greener and at no cost to the taxpayer.†Johnson continued, saying, “This city is going to be watched by the world next summer and this grand old lady of London, one of our best loved landmarks, is now set to play a sparkling role in the celebrations. But what’s more, this is another lasting legacy stemming from the Games which will benefit the city for decades.†The Tower Bridge renovations will be made possible through Olympic sponsors EDF Energy and GE. Hopefully, more sponsors will step up to the plate by chipping in and making the necessary changes to ensure that the 2012 Olympics will be as green and eco-friendly as possible, so that the games can run as smoothly as a brand new garage door. Join in the discussion in the comments below and/or share the piece.
  13. The Buzz on Urban Beehives

    Dutch company Philips is probably best known for its signature electronics; the company has been quite successful when it comes to producing TVs, stereos, and Blu-Ray players. But now the electronics giant has shifted gears, recently announcing a number of green projects, among them is the Urban Beehive. Home beekeeping isn't something that gets a lot of commercial attention, but Philips has taken the leap by introducing a uniquely styled system that, through its cool design and very green purpose, may find appeal among more consumers. The Urban Beehive is precisely what its title suggests. Philips has created an innovative product that is both cool and practical. The device installs through a window, and outside, there's a flower pot to attract the insects' attention. There's also an entrance through which bees can enter, and the other side leads to a honeycomb utopia bees should find very inviting. As Philips explains, “The glass shell filters light to let through the orange wavelength which bees use for sight. The frames are provided with a honeycomb texture for bees to build their wax cells on.†Philips' Urban Beehive not only looks sophisticated, it works too. Owners of the hive will be able to harvest honey simply—pulling a string triggers a smoke release, which sedates the bees and allows for honey-taking. Adds Philips, “This is a sustainable, environmentally friendly product concept that has direct educational effects. The city benefits from the pollination, and humans benefit from the honey and the therapeutic value of observing these fascinating creatures in action. As global bee colonies are in decline, this design contributes to the preservation of the species and encourages the return of the urban bee.†The Urban Beehive is a part of a bigger project by Philips, dubbed the Microbial Home. Items in the collection include a dining room table that comes with an evaporative cooler and a filtering squatting toilet. What are your thoughts on the Urban Beehive? Would you consider buying one for your home, or would you rather spend your money on a new garage door? Let us know in the comments below!
  14. President Obama may face a considerable amount of opposition from supporters if he moves forward in green lighting a pipeline that would run from Alberta, Canada, to Texas. Obama's approval ratings have recently been on the decline, and with his 2012 reelection campaign coming up, it seems strange that the president would even consider doing something so environmentally controversial. Groups such as the Chamber of Commerce support the pipeline because it would create a lot of jobs, thus stimulating the economy. According to TransCanada, a minimum of 20,000 jobs would be created through the building of the pipeline. These are jobs you can't just bring out from behind your garage door. And there are a number of unions that are currently advocating the project such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the International Union of Operating Engineers. However, you would be hard-pressed to find an environmentalist who supports the pipeline project. The environmental concerns involve greenhouse gas emissions, damage to Alberta's forests, the possibility of oil spills, and more. Tiernan Sittenfeld is an important official in the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). According to Sittenfeld, the pipeline issue is a pivotal concern in the upcoming presidential election. “This is not just about what LCV, which spent nearly $1 million to help elect Obama in 2008, or any other group that engages in electoral politics do in the upcoming election,†explained Sittenfeld. “It’s about people out there who care deeply about the environment, how much they volunteer, how many doors they knock on, how much money they contribute directly. We have LCV supporters who maxed out to the Obama campaign in 2008 who have told us they are not going to give this time around if the president approves this pipeline.†Environmentalist Bill McKennan agrees with Sittenfeld and was among Friday's crowd of pipe protestors. He declared, “I suppose you could look at our circle around the president as a kind of ... symbolic house arrest.†McKennan continued, “We are very hopeful, indeed confident, that the president will do the right thing here.â€
  15. Kid-Friendly Green Films

    In the past, films like “WALL-E†and “Avatar†have been released with a strong environmental message throughout the movies. These films are great because a large part of their target audience are kids, and these kids will be the ones passing legislation and making changes several decades from now. A recently released environmental film, perhaps, is “The Lorax.†Originally by Dr. Seuss, The Lorax was first released as a book in 1971. Interestingly, the book met some controversy in 1988. A town heavily dependent on logging lashed out against the book when the book was put on the second-graders reading list. Terri Birkett consequently published The Truax with the help and support of NOFMA (National Wood Flooring Manufacturers Association). The Truax tells the story of the Guardbark, who eventually understands the loggers' stance and sides with them. The revamped Lorax story has been adapted into an animated film, and stars several teen icons. The main character, Ted, is voiced by Zac Efron, who has a crush on Taylor Swift's character, Ashley. Other actors involved with the movie include Betty White, Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, and Rob Riggle. Search for the film on YouTube and you'll find over 100,000 views of the trailer even though it has only been on the website for two days. A barrage of comments on the website supports the stars. The plot follows 12-year-old Ted, who sets out to find a tree amidst his futuristic high-tech world in order to win the affections of his crush. To do this, Ted will need the help of the Lorax, whose curmudgeonly personality can be attributed to having to fight so hard to save the world. Crazy but true, and as serious as a garage door bent on closing. “The Lorax†will be released in March 2012 and will be available in 3D. The film also incorporates state-of-the-art CGI animation, so it's sure to entertain a young crowd, who will hopefully be motivated to take positive actions toward an environmentally-friendly future. Join in the discussion in the comments below and/or share the piece.