Friday, March 28, 2008

Going Green is Simple..........Really

Going "green" is not that difficult. The old adage of think globally, act locally really can summarise the issue.

Going green is about making conscious decisions to reduce your impacts - and quite often SAVING $$, not spending more money.

Going green is about community and personal action and doing your bit, even if that is thought to be a small step.

The following article offers some simple thoughts about how we can all do our bit. It is not that hard. And it is not necessarily about big noting oneself, with a lavish spending plan to be carbon or energy neutral. If we all take some simple steps, improvements...........and big improvements are possible. A simple step is to replace an incandescent bulb, next time one blows, with a low wattage energy efficient globe......not even now, but when one does not work!

That said, sovereign commitments - such as the US signing the Kyoto Treaty - can set the tone, and show example to the citizens. And it ain't happening there it seems, anytime soon.

A Simplistic Look at What "Going Green" Really Means

We hear it all the time - Green this, Green that. So let’s face it, green is the newest black and everybody loves to feel like they’re taking part. It’s the latest trend. It’s marketable. And it’s not slowing down. Trust me, if Corporate America can make money on “green efforts,” you can count on them digging in. So what does “going green” really mean?

Too often people feel like they have to make drastic changes in their lives to go green. When usually, the opposite is true. You don’t have to become a liberal-hippy-vegan-bikerider to make an impact. The whole green movement is based on the idea of making conscious decisions.

Also, going green shouldn’t cost a grip of money. You don’t have to go buy a new car (or sell the one your driving now). You don’t have to restock your frig with organic foods and you certainly don’t have to ride your bike wherever you go (although, the KGG crew does recommend pulling out the bike and taking a spin from time to time”riding bikes is a pretty tight thing to do). The idea is to think before you act.

When you consider what’s being said, it really is a simple idea. Do you need to turn that light on? Do you really need to print? Do you have to take another shower? By asking questions BEFORE you make decisions, you’re already going green. It’s not about going out and replacing your floors with bamboo wood. It shouldn’t be about that - spending more money”, it should be about spending less! Doesn’t it seem ironic that the more our society gets involved with going green, the more man-made products we make, market and try to sell by the masses? Something about that just seems wrong.

There’s no secret formula and no hidden rituals. Going green is simply thinking about your life. It’s taking the time to consider what you’re doing, whom you’re buying from and how you’re impacting the future of this planet. It’s not meant to sound daunting- it’s meant to be thought provoking. The idea of going green starts with small steps.

It means changing a few everyday habits (yes, the ones you’ve had for the past 20 years) to something a little different. It’s a 3-minute shower instead of 7. It’s a walk to the store instead of a drive. The beauty of it all is it starts right now. Take one thing (come on, we know you can think of just one) and change that habit. Think it over and start today. No excuses, no complex theories. Just start today and consider yourself a part of the green movement” because when it’s all said and done, going green is a very simplistic idea.

Stay conscious and stay green - Think!

[article reprinted from Keep Going Green, March 21 2008. by Bryan McCarty]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Organic? Is it Really Organic - Maybe Not!!

Be careful is the real mantra..........there is organic, natural and then those that claim to be..... but are not.

The organic thrust in the US in particular seems to be getting imbroiled with the garbage speak of just another advertising campaign, designed to part the consumer and their $$, without really delivering on the hype. Organic usually may cost more and at times offer the seller better margins.

That said, those that are CERTIFIED as organic certainly seem to be living up to the claims, while others may not. Going the full certified route as organic requires a great deal of work and ongoing commitment by producers of food as well as manufacturers. And that applies equally in Australia. It is not a cheap option to move that way, but most believe it will pay off over time, or some have a philosophy about being organic.

Recent US data does show that not all is as clean as is claimed though, as you can read here: with this press release from the US Organic Consumers Association showing many brands of cleaners to be not all they may seem.

It is likely that this issue is reflected in other regions. So take care if you really want organic ANYTHING. And watch the Australian press too...........I am sure there will be more.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Regional Climate Influenced by Radiation Dimming - from Aerosol Plumes

This article is worth reading if you are interested in regional scale climate issues, especially in the Australian and SE Asian context.

and the abstract appears below:

Apparitions of seasonal and random anthropogenic, continental scale, aerosol plumes
now occur across the globe. Seasonal plumes usually exist for several months and vary
significantly in extent and optical depth inter annually. I show that: the aerosol optical
depth of the South East Asian Plume correlates with four characteristics of drought in
south eastern Australia; the aerosol index of the Middle East Plume correlates negatively
with rainfall in Darfur; and the volume of tephra ejected by volcanoes in south east Asia
correlates: negatively with rainfall in Australia and water inflows into the Murray River;
and positively with ENSO events. I conclude that south eastern Asian aerosol plumes are
the cause of drought in south eastern Australia and El NiƱo/ENSO events and propose a
new component of surface aerosol radiative forcing, Regional Dimming, which forces the
Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, Hadley and Walker Cells into abnormal seasonal
positions causing climate change.

The article is well researched and appears to offer some plausible options on the thinking about climate, drought and related issues in both north and southern Australia. Lets not toss out ENSO and similar issues, but this does seem to explain a few issues at the regional scale. [photo of Mt Pinatubo erupting - copyright NASA]

It also offers some critical thought about the developing situation in eastern Asia as it industrialises. Beijing and eastern China already is "dim" in a radiation sense - just visit the place to realise how much the sun is obscured by smog. How much worse can it get, especially as the forecasts for the growth and number of mega cities include many in that region, over the next 20 years?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Fate of New Biodiesel Manufacturing Plants

Oilseed prices have rocketed up in price and availability has plateaued. Soybean oil prices have increased about 300% over the past 2-4 years, as have palm oil prices.

These two feedstocks have been seen as the cornerstone of the supplies for the biodiesel plant constructed in Darwin at the Darwin Business Park. It cost around A$75 million, but will it be a silver elephant?

These radical increases in feedstock prices for what has been imported materials, along with rapidly escalating logistics and transport charges might mean the local refinery will fail, at least in the current structure.

At present the system is apparently refining glycerin to meet high quality demands in the food and pharmecutical industries, and not biodiesel, but needs to be producing biodiesel. While local NT and even Australian demand is fair, under current government arrangements over tariffs, excise and other issues, the big hiccup is feedstock.

The plant owners are keeping very quiet, very quiet and it is rumoured they are struggling financially.

How many other production plants are in the same predicament?

There is no local production of agricultural produced vegetable oil materials, although some research has been running on a oil soybean industry. While this development is occurring independent of the biodiesel plant, it is likely to be some years away from, if ever, efficient production of economic crops of oil based soybeans, on a large enough scale to contribute significantly to a feedstock source.

Some other species are also being investigated.

The NT does not have a good track record on cropping on the scale required, and anyway the local NT environmental lobby would not want land cleared and used for this purpose.....almost under any set of circumstances. And they are well organised.

And even if enough was produced, would it be cheap enough to use as a feedstock anyway given world prices for the soybean oil?

An interesting conundrum.

Are there other biodiesel plants where feedstock prices are cruelling biodiesel production, even at current mineral oil prices of around US$100 + ?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Arsenic Bioremediation Cure Might be Near

A recent serendipitious breakthrough by the Australian CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment might just be the start of a seriously useful method for curing arsenic contamination.

They have isolated a microbe that can use arsenite - a common and the most poisonous form of arsenic and transform it to arsenate, a chemical form that can be fixed in soil into immobile forms.

More details are available here:

Arsenic presents in the enviroment in sites used for animal dipping, leather tanning, old mine workings, timber treatment and similar areas as well as in many shallow drinking water wells in Asia, particularly in Bangladesh. Old mine workings are often especially arsenic contaminated, and this often poisons down stream water sources, in conjunction with acid mine drainage. Arsenic, as an element of the periodic table can not be made to "go away" in the conventional sense but there are many forms of the element that are highly insoluble, resistant to leaching and could be contained within the existing sites in a relatively non toxic low solubility form, including forms that are relatively resistant even to acid leaching. Getting it into that chemical format has always been tricky.

In warmer regions, use of plants such as vetiver grass have been used to grow on contaminated soils, slowly accumulating arsenic and other heavy metals into the plant roots, and tolerating the poor soil environment, and actually growing moderately well on the site, a place where many other plants could not grow. But a multi faceted approach combining microbial remediation with use of these plants offers long term solutions in many places, as even getting a soil cover was difficult and this cover will ease issues of erosion of further arsenic from the soil into the environment too, with the organic cover from the plants assisting.

This new microbial solution seems to offer a real option, assuming that formulations of the microbes can be produced on a scale required for industrial use. Bioremediation on actual sites is a bit more difficult than a simple lab trial, and adequate microbes will be required to "saturate" the site environment, grow and proliferate and do the business of conversion. is VERY promising.