Showing posts with label green. Show all posts
Showing posts with label green. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

McDonalds recognize methane emissions as a problem

McDonald's To Fund Cow Methane Study--Can We Trust the Results or Ourselves?

The UK Guardian reports that McDonald's is funding a three-year study of cows on 350 British farms to look for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. The methane emitted from cows and other livestock is a significant factor in global warming, according to multiple studies, and the British government has asked industry to see what can be done to mitigate the problem. The study will be conducted by an independent consulting entity, the E-CO2 project. Over three years researchers will regularly measure greenhouse gas emissions on the farms and specialists will advise on ways to reduce the methane levels.

How far would McDonald's to toward envisioning the kind of radical change in its offerings that might make a real difference? It is tempting to roll one's eyes and view McDonald's as the corporate devil, and I have certainly done my share of dismissive shrugs. However, any progress in understanding cause and effect of greenhouse gas emissions is useful. McDonald's is doing (part of) its job in funding the project, but it is really up to all of us "non experts" to ask the tougher questions:

Can You Bite the Hand That Funds You?
Can those performing a study funded by a multinational corporation be trusted to come up with results that might displease the people with the purse strings? Is it asking too much of business not to expect a "return" for their investment in green or environmental research and good citizenship? While I do not impugn the morals of the researchers, it is only human not to bite the hand that feeds you.

Who Is Blowing Smoke?
By examining the symptoms (methane emissions) are we avoiding the tougher questions around what is causing the emissions? Cows (and indeed, humans) emit methane in the process of digestion; but variations of diet and the sheer number of animals, driven by demand for dairy and beef, has made livestock, by some estimates, the cause of 18% of global warming. Rather than accepting the methane and trying to mitigate it, are there ways to cut down on the number of cows?

What's Normal?
When did eating meat two or three times a day become normal? In many cultures today, meat is an occasional luxury. In the U.S., per capita meat consumption has risen from 125 pounds in 1950 to 201 pounds per person per year in 2007, in a period where we have seen increases in obesity, heart disease and other illnesses of poor nutrition. And the western diet is being adopted by more people globally, increasing the demand for meat. What chance do we have to instill a cultural change, a shift away from a norm of eating four pounds of meat a week per person?

The food journalist Michael Pollan is an inspiration when it comes to fortifying oneself against the advertising industry and the corporate titans of processed food. His book In Defense of Food contains the simplest rules of all, and sometimes the hardest to follow, as he promotes mindful eating of food prepared from fresh products, mostly vegetables and fruits. His mantra--Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.--is a challenge to all that McDonald's currently stands for. It is simple, to the point, and a challenge to all of us to eat consciously to improve our health and to mitigate global warming and global inequity. And if enough of us change how we eat, McDonald's will follow our lead.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Birds and Big Freeze

Birds spotted in the big freeze | Environment |
Britain's wildlife is facing the worst winter for 30 years. Birds that would usually feed on the ground, such as robins and blackbirds, have found their food supply is buried under inches of snow. As a result, all sorts of visitors are turning up in British gardens, to the delight of wildlife-watchers

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Free and easy life

My free and easy life | Environment | The Guardian

Skipaholic' Katharine Hibbert in her London squat surrounded by some of the stuff she got for free. Photograph: David Levene

I was sitting in a park, feeling sick. I'd left my job, packed my possessions away and given up my rented flat. My plan had been to find a squat and some food dumped by a shop or a cafe to eat, and to see how long I could survive without spending money, living off what would otherwise go to waste. Now I just wanted to go home. But it was too late.

All I possessed was a couple of changes of clothes, a sleeping bag and a wash kit. My pockets were empty. There was a £20 note in my bag but that was the only money I had.

I was 26, and on paper my life had been pretty good. I had a job as a journalist and shared a flat with my sister. I had friends, and a lovely boyfriend. But life had become tedious. I took it all for granted – my clothes, my record collection, my theatre tickets. Call it a quarter-life crisis or a failure to count my blessings, but I missed the enthusiasm and idealism I'd once felt.

I felt guilty about my lifestyle, too: I disliked huge supermarkets, but off I went every week to stock up; I worried about the impact of flying, but I liked holidays and eating air-freighted grapes all year round; I suspected that the disposable fashion on the high streets was produced in sweatshops, but owned piles of clothes bought on a whim.

Then the banks collapsed. I was made redundant and my landlord phoned to say he was putting the rent up. I'd had enough.

A couple of years before, I'd met people who claimed to live on next to nothing in Britain's cities. They knew where to find free food, where to scavenge for clothes and household goods and how to get inside abandoned buildings and live in them for free. When my old life fell apart, I decided to join them. I would stop spending for a year. I wouldn't take anything that wouldn't otherwise go to waste, and I wouldn't steal or beg. I wouldn't claim benefits, and I wouldn't accept favours from friends that I couldn't repay.

That was the plan; this was the reality. I had tramped for miles, but hadn't seen anywhere I could stay that night. I was hungry, and although I knew there was a hidden army of scavengers out there, I had no idea how to find them.

Towards the end of that first day, I called in at London's Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS) to look at the noticeboard where messages offer spaces in squats. There were none. Then a squatter who had called for advice about an eviction notice asked me what I was up to. "Looking for a place to stay," I replied. He took pity on me, and so I spent my first night in a disused nursing home, occupied by a dozen squatters. The welcome wasn't warm – some of the others thought I shouldn't have been invited – but I was shown an empty room. The windows were boarded up and the only light was from a neon tube in the ceiling, but there was a bed. I shoved two 5kg bags of coal up against the bedroom door: it wasn't going to stop anyone from coming in but at least I'd hear them. That night, adrenalin kept me awake and jumpy.

I drifted around, tired, lonely and tearful, for more than a week after that. I knew I had to find a new place before the grumbles about my presence in the squat got any louder, but I couldn't think of anything to do. Then I got a text: an acquaintance of an acquaintance, Chris, had space in his squat – a Victorian house left empty for more than a year by the Ministry of Justice, and inhabited by him and three other men in their twenties. They showed me the ropes and made sure I understood the law on squatting. Trespassing isn't a crime in England and Wales, so squatters aren't breaking the law simply by being in someone else's property. If squatters displace someone from their home, they can be arrested straight away; but if a building is disused, once it is squatted it counts as a home – the only way to evict them is through the civil courts. The process can take as little as a week, so Chris and his housemates had searched for a building disused for a long time, in the hopes that the owner wouldn't bother to initiate proceedings too speedily. Chris also introduced me to people from nearby squats who had banded together into a support network, sharing news, skills and tools, and helping each other in emergencies.

The court papers to evict us arrived after I had lived at Chris's house for just over a month. We tried to negotiate permission to stay until the building was needed, but we were out of luck. Finding another long-term empty building wasn't too difficult – around 1.5% of houses in England and Wales have been empty for more than six months. But I wasn't used to the risks involved or the discomfort and fear of the first weeks in a new building. Some of the others seemed to thrive on the adrenaline, but I spent those first weeks, mostly, scared. I never learned to enjoy moving squats, but I moved six times in my first year, and grew more businesslike about choosing a new building, and watching the bailiffs throw the things I couldn't carry into a skip.

Furnishing a new squat was easy, though. Going for a walk turned into going "skipping". In any residential street, I'd pass houses that had been having a clearout. Every day would bring some minor triumph. A duvet, good as new! A little radio! A mock crocodile-skin fifties-style suitcase! I became very acquisitive. When I saw something which might one day prove useful, I grabbed it. A hardboiled egg slicer and a melon baller were added to our kitchen drawer, and a squeaky dog toy was strapped onto my (skipped) bike in place of a bell. I became a skipaholic.

I quickly learned new skills, too – basic plumbing, how to fix a leaky roof, how to rewire a fuse box. We found bath tubs in skips, built frames for them with waste wood and plumbed them in with old pipes. Broken windows were patched with scraps of colourful Perspex. A skipped radiator became a draining board for a sink made from a scavenged baby bath. It looked scruffy, but we had done it ourselves, and the once-neglected houses felt like homes.

At first, finding food was time-consuming and unpleasant. I'd have to open several bags of real rubbish – coffee grounds, used dishcloths – before finding anything worth having. And although I always found unsoiled goods sooner or later I avoided looking up in case I caught the eye of passersby and saw contempt there.

Over time, I opened bags of bona fide rubbish far less often. I learned when cafes and shops threw out food and could adjust my foraging route according to what I fancied eating. I learned that bags containing food weigh more than those full of empty cups and boxes, and that the more upmarket the supermarket, the more they throw away. Soon I was coming home weighed down with butternut squash soup, salmon fishcakes or ready-to-roast chickens, as well as dried apricots, breakfast cereal, bread sticks or boiled sweets. For fruit and veg, I would visit New Covent Garden, the wholesalers' market. The bins were surrounded by fresh produce, most of it perfect to be eaten that day or the next – no good for retailers but fine for us. I feasted on melons and mangoes, blueberries and raspberries, cherries and ripe avocados.

Legally, raiding bins is a grey area. The rubbish still belongs either to the shop that owns it or the company that's due to collect it – taking it is "theft by finding". But the police left us alone.

In my first two months as a squatter and a scavenger I spent 54p – less than a penny a day. Ten pence had gone on a sheet of photocopying and the other 44p had bought me a KitKat at my lowest ebb in the first week. It was extraordinary how quickly it had become routine to get through a day without cash. I'd slept on a mattress every night and hadn't had to go more than two days without a wash. Before I'd set out, I'd been worried I'd have to live with chaotic or drug-addicted housemates. I'd asked my boyfriend to expect a text from me every evening to tell him I was OK, so that he would raise the alarm if something went wrong. But, after the first couple of nights, I felt silly writing a message. Even when I was low and lonely, that I was safe went without saying.

However, as time went on I realised that I would need some small source of income. I'd relied on my squatmates' cooking oil and loo rolls and was getting to the end of my shower gel. Although my mobile phone contract cost only £10 a month, I hadn't paid last month's bill.

Then it struck me: if I could feed, clothe and house myself from other people's rubbish, perhaps I could also earn a few quid from it, too. I found a paper shredder, still in its box and sold it on Gumtree for £15. I found a television next, and got £30 for it. In one week I had converted rubbish into £45.

This was more than enough – the longer I went without buying things, the fewer things I wanted. Four months after I left my job and flat, it was my birthday. Friends and family asked what I wanted. I struggled to think of anything. There were things I missed – an electric toothbrush, or some nicer bed linen. But having to leave squats quickly, taking only what one could carry, had highlighted the pointlessness of accumulating possessions. My acquisitiveness had dropped away. I didn't want to clog myself up with the gifts people wanted to give me.

I was beginning to feel faint boredom, though. So I asked my mum for cinema tickets. My dad paid the inexpensive training dues for my Sunday League football team. My sisters gave me a tiny MP3 player and some albums to play on it. My boyfriend took me to the theatre.

But as the weeks wore on, the tedium worsened. Life had got too easy. I didn't want to go back to the job from which I'd been made redundant, but I missed working. Work had filled up my time and given me a sense of purpose.

I started borrowing philosophy books from the library. I Freecycled wool, borrowed knitting patterns and started working out how to make things. I persuaded a friend to give me chess lessons. And I started to work again, but not for money. I helped create a community garden on some wasteground. I cooked with the East London Food Not Bombs group, who scavenge the ingredients for meals then serve them up free. And when one of the volunteers in the ASS office mentioned that the collective was looking for more members, I volunteered. I went back to setting an alarm clock, and was happier.

I had set out to live for free for 12 months, but when my time was up I had no desire to stop. The flat I lived in was comfortable, and my flatmates and I had been in it for months with no threat of eviction. Finding food was no hassle. I slept as much as I liked, read as much as I liked and went out, walking in the park or visiting galleries. My parents had stopped worrying about me.

Sometimes a text alert would come from the squat networks, reminding me that difficulty – an unexpected eviction or hassle from police – was far closer than it would have been if I were living more conventionally. But life usually continued without panic and alarm. I still had barely any money, just a few pounds from selling scavenged junk, but it wasn't a source of anxiety any more. Living on what others discard had become a habit. I totted up how much it had cost me and it averaged at less than a pound a day.

I had rarely felt this healthy and calm, and was sleeping properly and eating well. I still had worries but I was less stressed than I had been when I was earning: I had everything I needed, and I had people around me who would help me if things went wrong.

But the circumstances that made it possible for me to live this way also made me angry. Even if the businesses and homeowners couldn't reduce the amount of waste, they didn't have to dispose of their surplus as rubbish. FareShare, the food redistribution charity, say they could redistribute 15 times more surplus food than they currently do. Short-life housing schemes have waiting lists hundreds of names long.

But instead of exploring such schemes, many organisations put huge effort into stopping people who want their rubbish from taking it. Bins are locked. Flats and houses are boarded up or deliberately rendered uninhabitable. Anyone who tries to move in can expect to be evicted, only for the building to remain empty. All but one of the squats I was evicted from is still disused by their owners.

Several skipping spots that were reliable sources of meals have been sabotaged – a large branch of EAT, for example, used to throw away sacks of sandwiches, wraps, salads, yoghurts and fruit every day. It still does, but now the shop assistants open every packet before putting it in the bag, emptying yoghurt over salads and sandwiches to make them inedible. At New Covent Garden, skippers have been handed fliers carrying the Metropolitan police's logo telling them that taking waste would be considered theft.

It doesn't need to be this way. Tax on landfill could be increased to encourage reusing or recycling waste. The Empty Homes Agency has a raft of suggestions for changes to the tax system that would make it more expensive to leave houses empty for long periods.

Squatting and scavenging could be recognised as part of the solution, too. Squatting has a long history in England – from the 17th-century Diggers to the squatting communities of the 1960s and 1970s, which gave rise to many of today's housing associations. And yet as a scavenger and squatter in England today, I had been treated as a pest to be kept out with anti-climb paint and security guards, a social pariah. Why? In Barcelona, the skipping capital of Europe, people can be seen carrying crooked sticks to rescue bags from the communal skips that are on every street corner. No one thinks it odd. In the roads into Washington people queue up at rush hour, waiting for cars to pull over. It's hitchhiking for commuters, known as slugging, a practice that started in the 1970s in response to the introduction of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes. Local authorities here could facilitate something similar. Even signs for hitching spots like those in Holland might help.

As for me, I am still in my little squatted flat. I am more optimistic today than I was when I walked away from my old life. The world is not the hostile, dangerous place I imagined, and I feel a greater sense of its possibilities. I get by, not just because of empty houses, wasted food and discarded consumer goods, but because of the people I rely on and who rely on me, strangers and friends.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Being green by not buying commercially bottled water

Eltham North Primary School bans bottled water | National News |
A MELBOURNE school has banned commercially bottled water in what is believed to be a Victorian first.

Pupils at Eltham North Primary School are being told to drink tap water and use only environmentally friendly re-useable containers.

Principal David Foley said the ban was part of the school's green policy, which includes re-useable containers for lunches.

"We have good water in Melbourne," he said.

"It's a waste of money buying plastic bottled water and most of the bottles end up in our waterways or in landfill.

"We don't want students to come to school using soft drink or bottled water."

It is estimated Australians spend about $500 million each year on bottled water.

A bottled water ban was introduced in the NSW town of Bundanoon last month.

But Mr Foley said his school had been moving towards the policy since installing waste-cutting water fountains last year.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Looking good with bike

Shoes Mend Hearts |

Europeans and Brits are really into the bike riding, particularly Parisians. Given Paris is a lovely flat city and of course Amsterdam is well known for having more bikes than cars.

In our sunburnt country, most cities don't allow for the pleasure and extended use of a bicycle in day-to-day use. Melbourne is the best choice, yet we still don't have dedicated bike lanes, and most cyclists wear jerseys and those clip in sneakers. NOT fashionable by any stretch of the imagination.

So if you want to get on the bike, and do your bit for the environment, here are some options for your feet.

Of course boots work well, particularly with a small heel, as then your foot will not slip. However, in the warmer months, boots won't do.

You could try the gorgeous high heeled Dr Martens boot in either black or red - Chloe Sevigny wears them at the airport...

You'd be surprised how well a heel can work on a bike.

Some sandals can work, provided they are well fastened to your foot. I've had a slight mishap with a thong (rubber sandal if you're not Australian!), so I'd advise against that.

Sandals like these with plenty of protection will do just fine.

The only problem you may face is the slipping forward due to a lack of heel.

Either a straight ballet flat with a small heel or even a lace-up oxford will be fantastic.
Be careful with patent leather as they may get scratched.

Ultimately, adopting the bike for a fashion conscious person must be carefully thought out. You'll never see me in bike shorts, but you will see me on my bike!

And if you need any inspiration, take a look at this site - Copenhagen Cycle Chic.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

it's not easy (or practical) being green

Rudd finds it's not easy (or practical) being green |
* Paul Daley
* December 21, 2008

AT THE last election, Kevin Rudd declared climate change to be "the great moral challenge of our generation".

He did so as a man who was somehow above the cut and grubby thrust of realpolitik. But perhaps that's always been Rudd's great natural gift: to appear utterly uncynical when he is acutely political. He vowed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol where Jurassic John Howard — stuck in a bubble of climate change denial — would not. Perhaps the biggest part of the great moral challenge, he led us to believe, was to lead the world through example by imposing meaningful emissions targets on Australia's big carbon producers.

Climate change mitigation has turned out to be less of a moral challenge for Rudd than a great political obstacle. As a senior Government figure said on the eve of the release of the emissions targets: "If we bugger this up, then we lose government at the next election."

Rudd has been condemned for setting a low carbon-reduction target of just 5 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020, and up to 15 per cent in the improbable event that developing nations agree to bigger reductions. Environmentalists have condemned him as betraying ordinary voters, who were captivated by his green hue at the last election. They are also appalled that big trade-exposed industries will win hefty concessions when permits to pollute are sold and traded.

The heaviest polluters are, however, still displeased, despite the massive subsidies promised to them. Some are still threatening to move their operations — and jobs — to places with no fixed targets. Therein, of course, lies the real moral quandary for Rudd: getting the biggest carbon producers to take responsibility for changing the nature of their businesses, rather than just transporting their problems to parts of the planet with Third World regulation and endless cheap labour.

But on this, political necessity dictated he effectively raise the white flag — for now at least.

Of the $11.5 billion raised through the sale of permits for carbon production, $2.9 billion will be returned to heavy polluters in the form of free permits, while the coal-fired-power industry will receive almost $4 billion over five years to offset rising prices. Another $4 billion will be carefully targeted at politically volatile low and middle-income earners to offset rising prices.

Herein, perhaps, lies the real reason why Rudd settled on 5 rather than 10 or 15 per cent minimums by 2020. For every percentage point of targeted reduction, the Government would find itself under even greater pressure for more compensation from the heaviest polluters.

It sounds as if Rudd is in an invidious position, right? Well, no.

Days before he released his 5 per cent target, some of his more trusted senior colleagues were expressing utter confidence that, in such a foreboding economic environment, he had the politics — if not the short-term policy — absolutely right.

He had effectively orchestrated a charade whereby what amounts to little more than a wait-and-see policy would be attacked from all sides. He could be Mr Middle Ground in the face of industry and green hardliners.

There was, it is said, deep concern among some in cabinet (including, perhaps, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and Environment Minister Peter Garrett) that Rudd's 5 per cent did not go nearly far enough.

But Rudd prevailed, as he invariably does. It is why he is a much better politician than Wong or Garrett can ever hope to be.

Once Australia was faced with a recession, Rudd's political pragmatism was always going to triumph. And so, his 5 per cent target should not be seen as a policy about climate change at all. It is foremost a policy for winning a second term.

Rudd's target was roundly dismissed as both "conservative" and "moderate". But it's also, I believe, a radical personal capitulation to a base instinct for electoral survival. As such, Rudd runs the risk of looking to the electorate as if he's not such a different hue from the bloke he knocked off a year ago.

Then there's Malcolm Turnbull — a comparative progressive on climate change mitigation. But his Coalition is divided on whether to oppose the 5 per cent target when the legislation reaches the Senate.

Turnbull's preference is to support the legislation, it is said, because to oppose such a moderate cut would make him captive to Howard's legacy of climate change intransigence.

Rudd's pragmatism on climate change should not, meanwhile, be seen in isolation. It is a talisman for the political problems he is beginning to face as long-awaited policy reviews are finally delivered. All will demand big-spending responses to meet recommended reforms.

Paul Daley is The Sunday Age's national political columnist.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Be Vegan!

Kompas.Com - Berhenti.makan.daging.cegah.krisis.pangan.dan.lingkungan
Berhenti Makan Daging Cegah Krisis Pangan dan Lingkungan

Sabtu, 27 September 2008 | 13:10 WIB

YOGYAKARTA, SABTU — Krisis pangan, lingkungan, air, kesehatan, bahkan ekonomi sesungguhnya bisa jauh dicegah dengan mengurangi konsumsi daging. Namun, informasi-informasi tentang hal itu nyaris tak pernah diperoleh masyarakat. Kultur makan daging sudah sedemikian akut.

Hal itu disampaikan Guru Besar Fakultas Teknik Universitas Atma Jaya Yogyakarta Prasasto Satwiko dalam pidato Dies Natalis XLIII UAJY, Sabtu (27/9). "Yang terjadi sekarang adalah krisis pengelolaan alam yang dilakukan manusia. Sumber daya alam kita bukan berkurang, tapi menuju habis," ucapnya.

Sangat banyak alasan yang tak terbantahkan. Hewan ternak, kata Prasasto yang vegetarian ini, mengonsumsi air dan tumbuhan—yang sejatinya bisa untuk dimakan/diolah manusia—dalam porsi banyak. Sementara yang dihasilkan hewan bagi manusia hanya sepotong daging.

Kalau dibenturkan dengan laporan Perserikatan Bangsa-Bangsa (PBB) bahwa setiap tujuh detik terdapat satu anak mati kelaparan, kenyataan ini jelas membuat terperangah.

"Berhenti atau jauh mengurangi makan daging bisa menyelamatkan lingkungan. Anda pasti tidak tahu kalau ikan yang ada di meja sebenarnya hanya sepersekian persen dari yang ditangkap di laut. Sisanya, ikan-ikan yang tidak terpakai dibuang dalam keadaan mati dan sekarat di laut," ucapnya. Tak hanya itu, dua pertiga lahan pertanian di bumi hanya dijadikan peternakan atau padang rumput. Lebih mencengangkan lagi, efek rumah kaca yang membuat suhu bumi terus naik, tak hanya disebabkan gas CO2 melainkan juga oleh gas metan.

PBB menyebut aneka polusi kendaraan (CO2) menyumbang 13 persen efek gas rumah kaca dan metan 18 persen. "Dan peternakanlah sumber utama gas metan. Padahal, gas metan 23 kali lebih berbahaya ketimbang CO2," katanya.

Untuk krisis kesehatan, orang sudah tahu daging penyebab aneka penyakit mengerikan. Untuk krisis ekonomi, bisa dijelaskan sederhana. "Kita menyalakan kompor lebih lama untuk memasak daging? Selain itu harga daging juga lebih mahal ketimbang sayuran," paparnya.

Prasasto menyayangkan bahwa informasi seputar akibat mengonsumsi daging tak banyak terekspos, termasuk oleh media dan kalangan intelektual. "Tentu ada sanggahan yang bersuara bahwa daging adalah sumber protein dan tenaga, tetapi sesungguhnya tidak. Manusia bisa hidup tanpa daging, namun tak bisa hidup tanpa tumbuhan. Silakan dibuktikan," ujarnya. (PRA)