Friday, January 15, 2016

The Energy Saving Trees Site is up!

    and the  
Tree Give-Away Program Starts Today
Properly planted trees save energy, improve electric reliability
Grow energy savings and reliability through strategic tree planting. Learn how and get a free tree with the Florida Forest Service’s Energy-Saving Trees program. We’re giving away 10,000 trees to Florida residents in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation. The program, now in its fourth year, officially kicks off on January 15th, Florida’s Arbor Day.

The goal of the program is to educate homeowners on proper tree planting practices. By planting the right species in the right location, a tree won’t grow into power lines which can disrupt electric service. Strategic planting also has the benefit of reducing energy costs by as much as 30 percent, and providing shade during the summer.

Beginning today, homeowners can find the best planting locations on their property by using an online tool at to reserve a tree. Enter your address to pull up an aerial view of your home and property. Select one of tree varieties available. Then, move the tree around the property to determine how the placement of that tree would impact your energy efficiency. The program calculates anticipated savings as the tree matures. It also reminds homeowners of the importance of planting the tree the proper distance from overhead power lines to avoid interference.
These trees are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The program will continue state-wide until all 10,000 trees are reserved.
Remember, this tool is not a replacement for the Digger’s Hotline. Homeowners still must contact the hotline to locate underground utilities located before planting. They can do so by visiting Sunshine811 or by dialing 811.
State of Florida homeowners will be able to reserve one tree per address until supplies run out. After an order is placed, a tree measuring between two-feet and four-feet tall will be shipped right to their door at no charge.
The “Energy-Saving Trees” online tool was created by the Arbor Day Foundation and the Davey Institute, a division of Davey Tree Expert Co. It uses peer-reviewed scientific research from the USDA Forest Service’s i-Tree software to calculate estimated benefits from energy savings to environmental impacts.
About the Arbor Day Foundation:
The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit conservation and education organization of one million members, with the mission to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. More information on the Foundation and its programs can be found at, or by visiting us on Facebook, Twitter or our blog.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Repurposing Decommissioned Office Furniture & Equipment

'Green Standards' Finds Homes for Unwanted Assets
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
By F. Alan Shirk Sustainability
Some nine million tons of used or out-of-fashion office furniture and equipment are dumped into America’s landfills each year, according to the EPA.
Yet, much of that “waste” can be diverted and repurposed, according to Green Standards, a Toronto-based company that specializes in the responsible and cost-effective redistribution of surplus and obsolete office furniture, fixtures, supplies and IT equipment.
Since its inception in 2009, Green Standards has worked on more than 1,000 projects, resulting in nearly $20 million worth of in-kind donations to non-profit organizations, offsetting 60,000 tons of greenhouse gases and diverting 20,000 tons of material from landfills — nearly 99 percent of the surplus equipment it repurposed.
On a turnkey basis, Green Standards, “efficiently channels surplus office assets according to its clients’ priorities for charitable donations, recycling and resale… simplifying the process by taking responsibility for vendor selection, third-party valuations, title transfers and IRS-compliant documentation,” said CEO and co-founder Richard Beaumont.
“We challenge organizations to reimagine the value of their excess furniture and equipment. Every usable item is an opportunity to help nonprofits improve their workspaces, and in turn their work, and simultaneously protect the planet from the negative impact of landfill waste.
“Every step towards a circular economy counts,” Beaumont continued. “To achieve zero waste, to extract full value out of our products at their end-of-life, we need to see waste as the economic opportunity it is.”
The private, for-profit Green Standards serves hundreds of clients including corporations, government agencies and large non-profits with an active sales force, remote project management and key partnerships including one with Herman Miller, one of the world’s largest furniture manufacturers.
The company’s North America-wide networks of non-profits, office furniture resellers, specialized recyclers and commercial movers makes it possible for Green Standards to redistribute office furniture and equipment.
Sixty percent of its business is done in the U.S., 40 percent in Canada and among its largest clients are Marathon Oil, Frost Bank, Adobe, TELUS, Canada Bell, Suncor, Great West Life and Edwards Wildman. Although work is concentrated in major cities, Green Standards routinely works in small cities and with businesses of all sizes.
Green Standards works with registered non-profits of all types including charities, school boards, associations, cultural groups, food banks, museums, foundations and others. Any registered non-profit is eligible to join the Green Standards network and place requests.
Donation recipients are then chosen based on a number of factors — client preference, distance from the project site, size of the request and overall need for items. Green Standards notifies non-profit members when items become available.
Beaumont said Green Standards began by helping companies donate used office furniture to charities, a sliver of the current business model. “Beginning in 2010, we began to grow the concept, for example, adding services like project management. We demonstrated to companies how they could trust us to manage this process and go beyond simple donations.”
Green Standards, according to Beaumont, offers a significant advantage over traditional ways to dispose of office furniture.
“We are doing something radically different when it comes to dealing with this issue. People tend to always stick with the tried-and-true and that’s no different when it comes to disposing of office furniture. For example, most would call a well-known liquidator and most of the furniture would wind up in the dump.
“Now, we are offering a cost-benefit to companies, especially Fortune 100 and multinational businesses through our North America-wide program that can not only serve a client in a single city, but also one with locations in many cities across the U.S. and Canada.”
Jarrod Clabaugh, director of communications for the Office Furniture Dealers Alliance (OFDA) based in Baltimore, said Green Standards has developed what he believes is a cutting-edge solution to recycling office furniture.
The OFDA is one of the largest North American associations in the office furniture industry and evolved from the National Association of Stationers and Manufacturers started in 1904. That association has grown into the Independent Office Products & Furniture Dealers Association, of which the OFDA is a core division. Alongside its sister association, the National Office Products Alliance, OFDA represents more than 1,200 members, including dealers, manufacturers, wholesalers,  and industry service providers.
Sustainability and green initiatives are a key focus of OFDA, said Clabaugh. “While we primarily support the manufacturing side by promoting best-in-class standards like LEED and ways to make production more efficient, we are just as concerned with what happens to our products at the end of their life cycle.
“Environmental issues really impact our members, so we are committed to responsible behavior. Consumers are looking at our industry and want to know that we are doing what we need to do for sustainability,” Clabaugh said.
Beaumont said he knew Green Standards would succeed at the end of 2012. “We took a quantum leap forward in terms of stability by signing agreements with two major, multinational petroleum companies based in Houston. That told us that customers with millions of square feet of office space would trust us and have faith in our ability to manage their office furniture decommissioning.
“We were able to scale up significantly and know that we could exist on that scale. Today we are a triple bottom line company with three important metrics: percentage diverted, tonnage diverted and the fair market value of donations,” Beaumont explained.
A good example of Green Standards’ unique business model is its "rePurpose Program" partnership with Herman Miller, Inc., a global provider of furnishings and related technologies and services. Headquartered in West Michigan, the company has been included in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the past 12 years.
According to its website, “As Herman Miller continues its 'Journey toward Sustainability,' designing our products with consideration for their environmental impact remains a central corporate strategy.”
The rePurpose program with Green Standards “helps you give new life to things your organization no longer needs. Your furniture — or whatever asset you need to dispose of — goes to deserving nonprofits in your backyard and around the world, which lets them focus scarce funds on their mission. You immediately transfer title, which frees you of any liability. You might also be eligible for a tax credit for the fair market value of the items donated. Most important, the earth benefits from what it doesn't get — waste that would otherwise clog its landfills.”
Green Standards Marketing and Communications Manager Nick Buccheri said Frost Bank, one of the 50 largest U.S. banks, headquartered in San Antonio, commissioned the rePurpose Program to sell, recycle and donate more than 2,500 items when Frost vacated the downtown Rand Building last April to move to a new 450,000-square-foot complex in western San Antonio.
Buccheri said as part of its ongoing community initiatives, Frost donated items valued at nearly $118,000 to the San Antonio Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio, Haven for Hope and the Westside Development Corporation.
“Frost was able to divert 239 tons of durable goods from the landfill and offset 770 metric tons of CO2e (greenhouse gases) — equal to the carbon-carrying capacity of 19,744 tree seedlings grown over 10 years,” said Buccheri. “Through Green Standards’ managed program of resale, recycling and donation, 67,000 square feet of furniture and non-computer equipment was redistributed over two weeks with 99 percent of Frost’s surplus inventory diverted away from landfill.”

Friday, January 8, 2016

Friday Funny -- Ask Umbra: Got any good green jokes?

By Ask Umbra on 16 Jan 2012
Q. Dear Umbra,
Generally speaking, sustainability advocates seem to be a serious crowd. Have you got any jokes or one-liners that can bring some levity to our work? Especially ones related to recycling?
Robert D.
Jefferson City, Mo.
A. Dearest Robert,
Have you heard the one about the aluminum recycling plant? It smelt.
Have you heard the one about the recycling bin with a sign that said, “Empty water bottles here”? Pretty soon the bin was full of water.
Know why environmentalists are bad at playing poker? They avoid the flush.
Chortle, chortle, chortle. Robert, you have touched upon a serious gap in our cultural lives, and I’m hoping your fellow readers will weigh in with some good jokes to keep our spirits up. To be honest, we at Grist have struggled with this since our founder got the oh-so-brilliant idea to launch an environmental news site infused with humor in 1999. Because it turns out “environmental humor” is not that funny, at least in the form of the classic jokes and one-liners. Please do not tell our auditors.
Others have found this a tricky topic, too. Bill Maher, for instance, once said the environment is “one of the hardest subjects to do in comedy.” British comedian Marcus Brigstocke has called climate change “far and away the most difficult comedy subject I’ve ever dealt with.” Some will be eager to blame this on the perceived earnestness of the movement and its members — but shouldn’t that make it all the funnier?
Back to our quest for one-liners. A few chestnuts from stand-up comedians might elicit a titter, depending how free you are with your titters: George Carlin remarked of national-park camping reservations that “when you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.” Robin Williams compared clean coal to “wearing a porous condom — at least the intention was there.” Stephen Wright eschewed cars with his typically profound observation that “everything is within walking distance if you have the time.” And Sam Levenson offered this take on overpopulation: “Somewhere on this globe, every 10 seconds, there is a woman giving birth to a child. She must be found and stopped.”
If late-night TV is your thing, you will find plenty of lukewarm climate gags in the collected works of Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, and Jimmy Fallon. Here is a compendium of somewhat dated examples. My favorite (and I use the term loosely): “According to a new U.N. report, the global warming outlook is much worse than originally predicted. Which is pretty bad when they originally predicted it would destroy the planet.”
If you lean more toward literature, you might like this Mark Twain musing: “Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live.” Or how about some Ogden Nash? There’s this classic: “I think that I shall never see/A billboard lovely as a tree./Indeed, unless the billboards fall,/I’ll never see a tree at all.” And the produce-averse “Further Reflections on Parsley”: “Parsley/Is gharsely” (yes, that’s the entire poem). And “The Purist,” which unintentionally offers a wee bit of insight into why scientists have a hard time speaking passionately about climate change:
I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist …
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
“You mean,” he said, “a crocodile.”
And needless to say, our very own Grist List is an insanely wonderful source of good guffaws, each and every day.
I encourage you to keep your quest alive, with the warning that your average “environmental joke” search on the interweb will give you scintillating results such as this: “Your so hot you must’ve started all of globle warming.” Sic.
Finally, because I care, Robert, I have come up with an Umbra Original: A recycling joke just for you. Are you ready?
“What’s the worst way for glass to get around town?  By downcycling.”
You may now toss rotten tomatoes in my general direction. Or leave a better joke below in comments.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Electronics Donation and Recycling

Why Recycle Electronic Products
Electronic products are made from valuable resources and materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, all of which require energy to mine and manufacture. Donating or recycling consumer electronics conserves our natural resources and avoids air and water pollution, as well as greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by manufacturing virgin materials.
For example:
  • Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year.
  • For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Before Donating or Recycling Your Used Electronics

  • For your computer or laptop, consider upgrading the hardware or software instead of buying a brand new product.
  • Delete all personal information from your electronics.
  • Remove any batteries from your electronics, they may need to be recycled separately.
  • Check to see what requirements exist in your state Exit or community. 

Where to Donate or Recycle

Manufacturers and retailers offer several options to donate or recycle electronics. Search below to find programs developed by Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Electronics Challenge participants. If you are an original equipment manufacturer or retailer, learn how to join the SMM Electronics Challenge. Participation in the SMM Electronics Challenge is voluntary. EPA does not endorse any of the participants or their products and services.

Search by Electronic Device or Company

The following links exit the site Exit

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

4 Ways to Recycle Your Christmas Tree for Wildlife

christmas tree
1/2/2014 // By Danielle Brigida
Each year, about 25-30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States, mostly from a selection of about 16 species of tree that we commonly call a “Christmas Tree.” They are decorated with lights and ornaments, become backdrops for annual family photos, and serve as a traditional umbrella for gifts to loved ones. Ultimately, the day comes when they need to be disposed of. What’s often overlooked though, is that these trees can benefit your local wildlife, the soil in your yard, or even nearby restoration projects.
Here are some easy ways for you to help wildlife or enrich your local area with your trees after you’ve enjoyed them (and removed all the ornaments) this holiday season.
1. Create a brush pile with your tree as the base
A brush pile often consists of leaves, logs, and twigs so an old Christmas tree can make a great base. This is the easiest thing you can do with your tree if you have a yard. It directly benefits the wildlife in your backyard during winter months because brush piles and dead trees offer food and needed protection from the chill. We have suggestions for how to make a brush pile and we understand that not all communities allow for them.
2. Use it in the garden
There are a number of ways you can use your recycled Christmas tree to enrich your soil by composting it or using the pine needles and boughs to cover your garden bed. Chop the trunk and branches and break your tree down, this will allow you to add some nice insulation to your garden.
NWF Staffer Mollie Simon insulated her garden and made a decorative wreath with her family’s tree.
3. Decorate your tree for wildlife
If you love to watch birds or want a fun project, you can decorate your tree with edible ornaments or popcorn strings so that you feed wildlife like birds and squirrels. This is a enjoyable activity to do with kids or the young at heart (me) and can help wildlife at a time when food is scarce. Most of the recipes call for peanut butter, fresh fruit (like grapes, berries, or apples), suet and bird seed.
These crafts all make edible ornaments for wildlife:
·          Pine cone bird feeder
·          Suet ornaments
For more on decorating trees for wildlife:
·          Edible Wildlife Tree – USFWS
·          Edible Christmas Tree for Wildlife – NWTF and metroparent
4. Donate your tree to a local restoration project
Watch this video about how Christmas trees are used in Louisiana to rebuild wetlands.
There are all sorts of great local projects that take in Christmas trees and use them for restoration projects. At National Wildlife Federation, we have talked about using Christmas trees to help prevent wetland loss in Louisiana. Other projects have helped provide fish habitat, restore dunes, and even provide electricity or mulch for cities. If your county does have a tree disposal program, do a little digging to make sure you like where your tree ends up! You can also check out these additional ideas on how to recycle your tree.
What plans do you have for your Christmas tree?
If you used a real tree this year, let us know what you’re doing with it in the comment section below, or share a link to any places you know of that use Christmas tree donations to help wildlife or the environment. If you have a living or artificial tree, don’t miss out on the fun—ask a friend who has a real tree what plans they have.

Why cities need trees: The science behind a 30 percent canopy

January 2, 2016
One tree can produce the same cooling effect as 10 room-size air conditioners
Studies show that tree-lined streets increase shoppers’ willingness to pay for goods by 12 percent
Trees slow traffic and shade sidewalks, making walking safer and more pleasant
By Rosemary Ponnekanti
When Tacoma took on the goal of creating a 30 percent tree canopy in the city by 2030, officials relied on a study by the conservation organization American Forests to answer the question: How do you quantify a city’s need for trees?
Trees are vital in keeping a city’s air and water healthy for people.
The American Forests study, called “Calculating the Value of Nature,” analyzed the Tacoma-Everett-Redmond triangle using images from 1972 to 1996.
Dollar values were placed on the ability of trees to control stormwater flooding ($2.4 billion annually) and filter air pollution ($95 million annually.)
The loss, over that period, of 600,000 acres of highly canopied land meant a 35 percent increase in stormwater runoff, which affects salmon populations, pollution in Puget Sound, flooding on city streets, soil erosion and more.
“Each tree absorbs hundreds of gallons of water, filtering it through the root system so clean water goes back to the ground,” said Pierce Conservation District’s Melissa Buckingham.
And by filtering greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, trees contribute over time to cooling the air, as well as cooling it in real time with shade during summer.
According to California nonprofit, evaporation from one tree can produce the same cooling effect as 10 room-size air conditioners. That lowers the average summer temperature in highly canopied cities such as Palo Alto, California (which has 37.6 percent canopy), by up to 8 degrees compared with neighboring areas.
This effect will be increasingly important, officials say, during the hotter, drier summers forecast for Western Washington in climate change models.
As the city of Tacoma points out in its Urban Forestry Policy, numerous studies have shown that trees — the higher the number, the greater the benefit — raise property values by up to 15 percent.
Trees also increase profitability of business districts: Studies by University of Washington professor Kathleen Wolf show that tree-lined shopping streets increase shoppers willingness to pay for goods by 12 percent.
Properties rent more quickly, tenants are happier, and workers report higher productivity, Buckingham said.
That benefit is especially important in business districts such as McKinley, on Tacoma’s East Side, where a recent “depave” project replaced 7,000 square feet of sidewalk concrete with trees, shrubs and ground covers.
Because the trees are in the right-of-way, and thus the responsibility of property owners, the project was a partnership, lining up the city and Conservation District with business owners committed to caring for the young trees.
Now, even in winter, the shopping block in one of Tacoma’s low-income areas has gone from gray and bleak to more inviting, the pinks and reds of the sedums contrasting with the evergreen of pine and hemlock.
“It’s a good start to changing the feel of our neighborhood to warm and caring,” said resident and neighborhood council member José Chavez.
Canopy advocates such as Chavez and Buckingham also point out social advantages of trees: they slow traffic and shade sidewalks, making walking safer and more pleasant. They reduce noise and encourage folks to congregate.
“Adding trees gives a more welcome feeling,” Chavez said. “It shows that there are hardworking, caring people no matter what kind of neighborhood it is. … It means pride, too. That’s a good investment.”
Recent studies by the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service go deeper into the social benefits of trees.
A 2011 Portland study showed greater tree canopy had positive effects on babies’ birth weights and thus lifelong health: Greater canopy cover within 50 meters of a mother’s house and the proximity to open space were associated with a reduced risk of having an underweight baby.
“It may be that trees improve birth outcomes through stress reduction,” said study author Geoffrey Donovan in the November 2011 issue of “Science Findings.”
His findings were backed up by a subsequent Spanish study showing that proximity to green space made positive birth weight differences in poor or low-educated socioeconomic groups.
Donovan’s study also found more tall street trees correlated with lower residential crime rates.
One explanation, he said, might be that mature trees create a pleasant setting for folks to congregate while not blocking views of houses, thus increasing the risk of exposure for criminals.
In addition, Donovan agrees with Chavez that trees indicate a cared-for neighborhood, which can be a disincentive for criminals.
Past studies have shown that views of trees speed healing in hospitals and reduce stress rates for residents.
In a 1984 study in the journal Science, R.S. Ulrich showed that surgery patients with views of trees spent fewer days in the hospital, used fewer narcotic drugs, had fewer complications and registered fewer complaints with nurses than patients with views of concrete walls.
Later studies also showed that patients responded better to brighter green trees and those shaped with a broad, spreading crown. One theory suggests this comes from our evolutionary ancestry on the African savanna, where trees are shaped like this.
Studies also have shown that views of nature can reduce stress in workers and university students.
As environmental scientist, author and academic Nalini Nadkarni points out, trees are also used to heal from loss, such as in the Living Memorials Project after the 9/11 attacks.
“For centuries, humans have looked to the symbolic resonance of nature ... to heal our sense of loss from death,” she said.
For Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, the reason trees can heal goes far deeper. His “biophilia hypothesis” argues that humans have an innate emotional affiliation to other living organisms and that the health of the planet, trees included, is inextricably intertwined with our own.
“Trees aren’t just trees,” Chavez points out. “They’re many things.”
Trees don’t just contribute in just practical ways, says Nadkarni.
In her 2008 book “Between Earth and Sky,” Nadkarni, a former environmental studies professor at Olympia’s The Evergreen State College and founder of the International Canopy Network, also explores their spiritual benefits.
Citing her own personal and scientific experiences and those of other scientists and writers, she asserts that trees teach us about stillness, mindfulness, the interconnectedness of all life and what lies beyond the mundane.
“Trees at once enrich and instruct our lives in ways at once simple and complex,” Nadkarni writes. “Opening up to something as simple and pleasurable as climbing a tree — or sitting silently beneath it — can make humans feel at home with the world and with themselves.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Seabin: Floating invention filters plastic pollution out of marine waters

© Seabin Project
Plastic pollution in our oceans is a serious issue -- it affects marine wildlife like whales and lobsters, and is so persistent that some of these 'gyres' have formed their own ecosystems. Yikes!
But these bits of plastic contaminating the oceans have to come in from somewhere, and often it comes from human activities along the shoreline. To tackle the problem at these entry points, two Australians have invented something similar to an automated pool cleaner -- but for marinas, harbours, ports and even inland waters like rivers and lakes -- that sucks up garbage, while filtering out the water. They're calling it the Seabin, and it recently was successfully crowdfunded on Indiegogo.
© Seabin Project
Inventors and surfers Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski both spent their younger years around the water, and were compelled to quit their jobs to design a solution they believe will help address the urgent problem of plastic pollution. The Seabin is designed as an 24/7 alternative to more costly alternatives like dedicated trash boats or humans trawling harbours for garbage. It's also small and unobtrusive enough that it can be placed in "problem areas" in marinas. Say the designers:
The Seabin is more efficient than a marine worker walking around with a scoop net. By working with these marinas, ports and yacht clubs we can locate the seabin in the perfect place and mother nature brings us the rubbish to catch it. Sure we can't catch everything right now but its a really positive start.
© Seabin Project
© Seabin Project
The Seabin is a floating trash bin made from 70 to 100 percent recycled polyethylene plastic. It's attached to a dock, and uses a water pump to suck water and trash into its interior, where garbage and other nasty fluids can be filtered out of the water via a natural fiber bag. Clean(er) water is then pumped out.
© Seabin Project
So far, the Seabin team has tested the prototype out in Mallorca, Spain, and it seems to have been a success. (No fish were harmed). Despite the hefty price tag of USD $3,825 per bin, the crowdfunding campaign did achieve its goal, raising more than $240,000 to push the project to the next level. So, we may see more of these unassuming floating marine filters in the future, ridding the waters of garbage, one marina at a time. In the meantime, we can all do our personal part by reducing our plastic waste or going zero-waste all together. For more information, visit Indiegogo and Seabin Project.