Exploring Solar Energy

Exploring Solar Energy
Exploring Solar Energy

 

More and more people have begun embracing renewable energy as a viable alternative to the status quo at a rate of about 20% a year for more than a decade. The statistics show we will continue to see an increase of advanced photovoltaic projects throughout the country in the coming years. While our current form of harvesting the sun’s power may be new – with the technology getting better all the time – the attempt is most definitely not.

People who lived about 6,000 years ago recognized how precious the sun’s energy was. If houses were built correctly, they could hold the sun’s energy in winter. Later solar energy was used as an alternative to firewood and heating water for some industry. Later still innovators like da Vinci and Einstein began the work that looks familiar to us today. We have been trying to escape the limits of finite resources for ages. Sometimes we do have to look back to go forward.

Don’t you need to live in a desert?

It may surprise you that the rainy Pacific Northwest supports great innovation in solar energy use through America’s first Solar Highway Project and the Northwest’s largest distributed photovoltaic (PV) systems on ten warehouse rooftops. We have a progressive utility supported by forward-thinking leaders, businesses, and communities. 

Quick Facts on Solar Energy:

  • Solar PV power creates no pollution and does not emit greenhouse gases.
  • Everywhere in the continental United States has greater solar potential than solar leader Germany.
  • Every hour the sun beams more than enough energy to satisfy global energy needs for an entire year.
  • Solar energy is becoming increasingly affordable.

 

I am sure you are thinking by now that solar energy is pretty awesome. Have you thought about adding solar PV panels to your home or business? Why or why not?

 

 

 

Save Us, And The Bees, From Ourselves

Calvin and Hobbes - Meet Giant BeeLike too many things in this world, the bees ought to fear the humans. And we ought to fear ourselves. The good news is there is always hope! No need to wallow in fear when there is work to be done! 

 

Bees are a keystone species?

Many of us grew up thinking of bees somewhere along the spectrum between picnic nuisance and deathly fear of all buzzing pollinators. Unless you lived on or near farms you may not have realized how essential bees are in the agricultural puzzle – $15 billion in increased value and about one in three bites of food we currently enjoy. As a child, I only had a vague idea bees were important to their ecosystem.

Pollinators are what ecologists call keystone species. You know how an arch has a keystone. It’s the one stone that keeps the two halves of the arch together. […] If you remove the keystone, the whole arch collapses.
  

 –May Berenbaum, PhD, Entomologist.

Bees have long suffered from the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, but at no other point in history has their decline in numbers and safe havens been so rapid and fraught with controversy and uncertainty of cause or solution. Many studies point to pesticides, neonics (or neonicotinoids) in particular, as one factor of the recent massive bee die-offs, and therefore putting our entire food system in peril.

Living in Oregon, it was hard to escape the horror of the tens of thousands of bees who fell dead to the ground in a Target parking lot. That is the stuff of nightmares. This led the state to issue a temporary ban on the use of the harmful insecticide to determine what plans need to be put in place going forward.

 

What do we know about the role of neonics and bee deaths?

Bee pollinating peach flower
photo credit: “Fir0002/Flagstaffotos”

     

     — We know that neonics cause certain harm, death, to bees under certain conditions. Those conditions are what the scientific community is debating.

     — Although “low level exposures do not normally kill bees directly, [but] they may impact some bees’ ability to foraging for nectar, learn and remember where flowers are located, and possibly impair their ability to find their way home to the nest or hive.” Meaning bees will be harmed one way or another after enough exposure.

     — The European Food Safety Authority, when asked to perform a risk assessment of neonics, found “a high acute risk to honey bees,” as well as both flaws and data gaps in the industry-sponsored studies used as scientific evidence in safety assurances.

     — Bees are exposed to neonics through commercial agricultural uses (dust drift, residues in nectar and pollen, reduction in pollen diversity), commercial landscaping (direct insecticide use for ornamental plants and trees), and home landscaping and garden use (potting soil and direct insecticide use).

 

What can we do about these bee die-offs right now?

E.O. Wilson - Natural World

 

      — Read, learn more. You’ve already read this so we are off to an excellent beginning! Now direct your attention to this lovely Buzz on Bees and Making Your Garden Count Blog Carnival and all the information you can glean from it.

     — Choose neonic-free products. Grow organic plants in organic potting soil. Avoid shopping at the mega-garden centers who sell plants and soil that have already been treated. Avoid neonic-based insecticides for home use.

     — Take action! Call on retailers to commit to stop selling neonics, as well as plants and seeds pretreated with these pesticides. Sign the petition and share it widely!

If these are big steps for you, take your time to learn as you go. Use the wisdom of your locally-owned plant nursery or college extension program. There are a lot of resources to help you continue on your path to creating a better world for the bees around you, but we all need to take the first steps!

Please share any tips on how to make your yard and garden more bee-friendly! Will you take any action today?

The 9 Best Ingredients For Homemade Ice Pops

9 Best Ice Pop Ingredients

Homemade popsicles are the perfect summertime treat for lots of reasons, but one of the best is that you can control what ingredients go in to them. It may be cliché, but our health certainly owes a lot to what we eat. Plus, homemade ice pops taste a whole lot better than the overpriced grocery store versions anyway!

We all have our favorite flavors and go-to ingredients, so I polled my favorite green gals to see what their favorites are. Go organic. Go local. Go homemade!

1. Chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Especially when you can do chocolate-dipped ice cream pops or even dairy-free fudge popsicles!

2. Bananas. “Hands down my favourite summer treat is banana popsicles and I love that I can make them at home with my own molds,” says Jen (Jen and Joey Go Green).

3. Coconut milk. A vegan, creamy addition to fruit and other goodness.

4. Strawberries. Strawberries are the epitome of summer making these the perfect ingredient to have on hand at any time of year (frozen for most of that year of course!).

5. Yogurt. Another great option for creamy popsicles.

6. Honey. For that touch of sweetness, honey brings out many of the other ingredients’ flavors.

7. Booze. Gretchen from Healthful Mama says,”My favorite ingredient: booze. I think adult popsicles are an awesome twist on a bbq dessert.”

8. Avocado. It may seem unusual, but avocado’s creamy goodness is the perfect choice for an earthy ode to summer.

9. Red Beans. From ecokaren, an unusual ingredient for me! But Karen says, “This is my favorite. I can see you thinking, ‘beans in a popsicle? ewwwww….’ But seriously, I used to eat red bean ice cream or popsicle in Korea every summer.”

Do you have a favorite ingredient for your homemade ice pops?

There Are Toxins In My Lotion?

Almost All The Truth - Non-Toxic Lotion

This post is sponsored by Earth Mama Angel Baby® and Green Sisterhood.

Our Skin, Our Health

Skin. It is incredibly complex. It is our largest organ, a protector, a regulator. It is our first line of defense against harm. It is no wonder, then, that all too often we forget it can also be highly efficient at absorption. What nasty chemicals are we putting in our bodies when we are putting something on it? Potentially a lot!

Having just come back from some high altitudes with plenty of sun, I know just how important some personal care products can be for our skin. My dry skin had me reaching for the lotion bottle many more times than usual. Repeated use of my lotion – and I certainly use more than one product on my skin every day – could mean more exposure to certain harmful chemicals. As much as we have to be concerned about the food we eat and the air we breathe, we also must pay attention to what we put on our skin.

Is it any wonder that we get confused on what to do, what to buy? We aren’t all chemists or toxicologists. Luckily we have people at our disposal who do understand ingredient labels and their potential for harm. The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is still one of the first places I go to check ratings on specific ingredients, products, or brands. A small word of warning, it is likely the more you look at what the industry is selling us, the more angry you will get.

The world is awash with chemicals – good, bad, and neutral. Our responsibility to ourselves and our families is to seek out the best information possible and wield it wisely. Toxins do not belong in my body or on my skin. 

The Worst Ingredients to Avoid in Lotion

6 Toxins to Avoid in Mama and Baby Lotion

Fragrance (8 in Skin Deep Database) is just one of the above 6 ingredients that should really be avoided at all cost. It also happens to be the trickiest. The Safe Cosmetics Campaign says that over 3,000 chemicals can be legally hidden under this term. Many of these chemicals come with their own set of problems, but it can be difficult to know which you are actually dealing with.

Does that mean any of the other ingredients are potentially less harmful? No, but at least you know what you are getting when you see dimethicone or benzoic acid on the ingredient label of the lotion you check out. Please tell me you are reading your labels!

We Deserve Better

I know I deserve better than what can be found on the shelves of many stores, from the lowest price to the highest end. I know my babies did when they were born and still do. It doesn’t matter if your lotions, shampoos, or body washes are from multinational corporations or small natural brands, your newborn’s sweet skin, your baby’s eczema, your big kid’s stinky feet, and of course you deserve the best.

It is crucial to learn how to choose safer, non-toxic products and in this interview with Alicia from Earth Mama Angel Baby (love!), she will teach you how to do just that.

 

My opinions are my own as they can never be bought.