art, Nature, New England, New Green Economy, Science, Uncategorized

Glass Flora: A Very Harvard Natural History

Glass flora in Cambridge, Mass

A wonderful blog post about iced flora inspired this post about glass flora — glass flowers that is — in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This is a permanent collection at the Harvard Natural History Museum.  It’s housed in one of those rare coordinates where art, craft, nature, beauty and research flourish together.

In the image to the right, the flowers shown are each made of glass, mostly blown glass.  It makes sense when you think about it:  what else could capture the luminosity of a live plant?  Ingenious.

The flowers were made to be botanically correct.  There are thousands of glass plants and flowers on display.  The specimens took over 50 years to complete: one glass bit at a time.

It really is mind blowing.  In a pleasant sort of way.

The models were made from 1887 through 1936. The Blaschkas’ studio was located in Hosterwitz, near Dresden, Germany.   Professor George Lincoln Goodale, founder of the Botanical Museum, wanted life-like representatives of the plant kingdom for teaching botany.  At the time only crude papier-mâché or wax models were available.  These glass flowers are elegant, understated (but revelatory for it).  They can only happen once in the arc of the human race: exquisitely unique to this time and place.

photo by kmhurley,  http://www.kmhurley.com

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Vote for Prince Charles: Harmony

The Prince of Wales, Charles, is on public tv right now.  His house outside of London is totally green, with organic farming.  His new book, Harmony, is about taking environmental sustainability seriously.   Charles says, “Somebody has got to defend nature, and stand up for it.”

Prince Charles harmony as destinyGood for him.  It’s nice to see another world leader come out and make a real stand.  We have Bill and Melinda Gates making a stand with philanthropy, and now Prince Charles coming forward and taking a stand where Al Gore used to be.

Applause, applause.  Not sure I’d want to have a beer with any of these folks – but they do get my vote.

Uncategorized

Sun Chips Bag Goes Up to 11

Sun Chips recently stopped selling its compostable chip bag because of market ferver over – laugh now – the bags being too loud.

With that comes images of college kids getting caught in the kitchen late at night over Christmas break, elbow-deep in a chip bag.  And the guys from Spinal Tap coming out from behind the fridge to talk about turning it up to 11.

I mentioned this to a colleague at the software company where I work; she’s a 40-year-old Technical Writer who looks and sounds like Sarah Palin.   She said, dead serious, “Oh yeah, those chip bags really are too loud.”

Really?  “Yeah,” she explained, “you can’t go downstairs and have a snack in the middle of the night.”

Will someone please say something sensible?  “You can’t just have a snack at your cube without rousing the whole company,” she said.

Ah, okay, I guess that could be a problem.

So now, Boulder Canyon Natural Foods has introduced a renewable, fully-compostable pack for its line of All Natural Kettle Cooked Potato Chips.  These bags won’t get you busted in the kitchen, at your cube, or during a critical pause while in the recording studio.  Ta-da.

The new bags look, feel and sound the same as non-compostable bags, according to Packaging Digest.  The packaging is apparently capable of composting within six weeks.  And it goes quietly.

“Oh the things I do for the Inspired Economist,” says the reporter tasked with testing whether these chip bags actually decompose within 6 weeks.

In her back yard, she covers a few different kinds of chip bags with soil for a comparison test.   Well, someone had to do it.

At week four, our reporter finds the Boulder Canyon Natural Foods chip bag is in fact disappearing.  That’s pretty impressive.

Results, after only four weeks in an unattended, unturned compost area:

  • the Sun Chips bag still feels like the first time
  • the Doritos Bag shines on like a crazy diamond
  • the “wood fiber-based Boulder Canyon bag, however, is barely recognizable as a chip bag at all,” writes Heidi Tolliver-Nigro

Dust in the wind.

So it only goes up to 4 and it decomposes almost entirely in 4 weeks — and how do the chips taste?  No one says.  But kudos to the concept.  I hope the market gets as excited about this packaging breakthrough as it got when the bag brought da noise:  at its peak, a Facebook page titled “SORRY BUT I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG” was liked by more than 53,000 users, as of this posting.

Now my little Sarah Palin at work, some 53,000 Facebookers, and college kids everywhere can sing a different tune, you know, for chip bags they are apparently so passionate about.  Spinal Tap’s Big Bottom comes to mind.

Green Tips, Uncategorized

Tax Credits for Wood Stoves

Here at Deep Forest Green, we’re into green being easy.  With the right information and good habits, it becomes hard to do things any way but green. For instance, once you get used to the process of procuring and preparing organic, local food, it seems crazy to buy stuff in a can or tasteless veggies shipped from remote corners of South America.

In the same vein, it’s pretty easy to adjust to a fuel efficient car — once you’ve only paid $40/month for gas it seems insane to do it any other way.  So let’s look at cheap ways to heat the house.

Sometimes a happy little green venture has financial incentives, such as a tax credit:

  • EnergyStar Tax Credit ends Dec 31, 2010. An energy-efficient product or renewable energy system means one of these products.  You may be eligible for a federal tax credit.  Product must be purchased for:
  1. for your existing home and
  2. primary residence
  • Burn it and get credit. The federal tax credit for buying a qualified wood stove ends December 31, 2010. Get more details on the wood burning tax credit here.  Help reduce wood smoke pollution by burning only dry seasoned wood, and upgrade to an efficient wood-burning appliance.

All the best.  From deep in the forest green. :)  In beautiful New Hampshire!

South Road, Newbury, NH
Where the NH forest meets the road.
Uncategorized

Recycling Day in America is November 15

These really are easy tips we can all use to be green:

Easy ReCycle of Electronics – take your old computers or other electronics to a local recycling center. This helps keep lead, cadmium, and other substances out of the landfill and helps keep e-waste dumps safer. Find eCycling near you.  For an overview of the Environmental Protection Agency’s resources and policy on e-waste, go here: http://www.epa.gov/ecycling

November 15, 2010 is Recycling Day in America.  Just do it.  All it really means is separate your glass, plastic, and trash – and take it to the dump.  No big deal.

Uncategorized

Electromagnetic (EMF) Safety News

Want to learn about how and why to protect yourself, your family and the environment from EMFs?  With “The Grid” (national power grid) being revamped, EMFs are probably something we should all — if not know about — at least be able to quickly find good information on.

Here’s a site that’s devoted to providing quality education about the health impacts associated with electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and radio frequency radiation (RF).  It offers resources for community activists working to facilitate public policy change.  It’s called the EMF Safety Network.  Easy enough to remember.

The site features a “EMF and RF World Concerns Summary” — a compilation of links to public policy of governments, health agencies, scientists and advocacy groups worldwide.

About EMF:

An electromagnetic field (also EMF or EM field) is a physical field produced by electrically charged objects. The field affects the behavior of charged objects in the vicinity of the field.

The field can be viewed as the combination of an electric field and a magnetic field. The electric field is produced by stationary charges, and the magnetic field by moving charges (currents).  — paraphrased from Wikipedia

On TV, paranormal researchers scan rooms for EMF fluctuations, which are considered evidence for ghosts.  That’s for you to decide.

“The voluntary exposure of the brain to microwaves from hand-held mobile phones… [is] the largest human biological experiment ever.”
~ Professor Leif Salford, Head of Research at Lund University, Sweden, as quoted in the story 10 Cell Phone Radiation Protection Tips, by Taraka Serrano.

But before you send anybody any money to protect yourself from EMF rays, read this article on skepdic.com.  In the article, while not completely ruling out the possibility of linkage between EMFs and disease, it says:

In 1997, The New England Journal of Medicine published the results of the largest, most detailed study of the relationship between EMFs and cancer ever done… [the study] “found no evidence that magnetic field levels in the home increased the risk for childhood leukemia.” The study took eight years and involved measuring the exposure to magnetic fields generated by nearby power lines. A group of 638 children under age 15 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia were compared to a group of 620 healthy children.

Anyway – it’s a good idea to have an EMF Safety Site.

Uncategorized

Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

lead free children
Keeping children safe from lead

This week — October 24 – 30, 2010 — is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW).

“Lead exposure can have serious, life-altering health effects,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, “especially for our children.  Those effects are entirely preventable if we take the right steps to raise awareness and give every family the tools they need to protect against lead exposure. [italics mine]

About lead

Earlier this month, EPA slapped Doe Run Company, America’s largest lead producer, with serious penalties.  And earlier this year, FDA tested lipstick and found lead in every single one.  Lipstick is supposedly not dangerous because women “don’t eat lipstick,” as one defender-of-industry put it.   That is pretty much wrong – we eat a lot of the stuff we put on our lips; but that’s a story for another blog post.  More on lead in cosmetics here and here.

Lead is a soft but dense, ductile, bluish-white metal.  Lead is highly malleable, quite corrosion-resistant, and has poor electrical conductivity when compared to most other metals (for further info see Wikipedia); for all those qualities it is used widely in the Construction Industry.

Lead is considered a “stable” material — get ready for this — it has a half-life longer than the age of the universe.

Lead is also toxic.

About lead and children

According to official U.S. documents, lead paint poisoning affects more than 1 million children today.  Unbelievable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly a quarter of a million children living in the United States have blood lead levels high enough to require public health intervention (2003–2004 data).  Major sources of lead exposure among children are:

  1. lead-based paint
  2. lead-contaminated dust found in deteriorating buildings

Really: lead poisoning is entirely preventable.  But how?

When asked what we can do as consumers, EPA suggests “testing.”  Test for lead levels in the house, test for lead in children.

There are a couple of problems with that.

One is, if I did all the testing that EPA suggests I do in the home, I’d be broke.  We’re supposed to test the water for all sorts, test the air quality for all sorts, and now test the — what — dust (?) for all sorts.  Who can afford the cost of the tests?  The undertaking would break the Kennedys too.

Never mind the time and the Project Management (PM) skills and PM software needed to manage the myriad test results and keep them up to date.

In that same vein, as it were:  how many tests are we supposed to give our children, exactly?  And how many of these hurt?

Anyway – there’s a reference site for Lead Free Kids.  That’s EPA’s Lead Awareness Week web site.  It’s pretty helpful, but you have to have the time/mind to review it.

Lead poisoning symptoms

EPA says: Lead causes a variety of adverse health effects, including brain and nervous system disorders, high blood pressure and hypertension, and reproductive problems. For children, even low levels of exposure to lead can cause a host of developmental effects such as learning disabilities, decreased intelligence and speech, language, and behavioral problems, which can affect children for a lifetime.

For help in your area, try this web page.  You can search your location by zip code for lead resources, lead-free buildings, and the like: http://www.leadfreekids.org/leadRes.html?tabmode=zip

Reference link: http://epa.gov/lead/pubs/lppw2010.htm

Latest news from EPA on lead: http://www.epa.gov/lead/new.htm