Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tree Thursday - Satin Leaf

Satin Leaf
Chrysophyllum oliviforme

The Satin leaf is, I believe, to be an underutilized native tree in South Florida that grows to about 30 feet tall.  While it doesn’t have the prettiest form as an individual, I’ve found that a cluster of two or three can be very appealing.  The tree gets its common name from the light brown, velvety underside of its leaves.  The tops of the leaves are a shiny olive color which gives a great contrast in the wind.  While the fruit of the Satin leaf is edible, its cousin in the Caribbean, Chrysophyllum cainito or Star Apple, is known for its fruit that’s used in salads and drinks. 

The Satin leaf does like to grow in fertile soils but can handle a wide range of soils.  Also, while growing best in full sun, Satin leaf can grow in partial shade. 

Growth Rate:                     Slow
Salt Tolerance:                  Medium
Drought Tolerance:         High


Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-5785  Fax - (954) 828-4745

Think before you print!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Road Trains Could Allow Driverless Green Travel

Written by Philip Proefrock on 11/12/12   
The idea of self-driving vehicles has been getting increasing attention on several fronts. Google's self-driving car is perhaps the most widely publicized example, but other options are under development at various stages. Volvo is working on a different approach, with cars that are not completely autonomous, but that can safely follow others in a close formation known as a road train.
In a road train, vehicles equipped with wireless connectivity and control equipment will be able to follow other vehicles in close formation, with a lead vehicle being driven by a human driver. Computers and sensors will monitor the convoy, and automatically follow the lead vehicle with safe clearances. Once a vehicle is part of a road train, the driver can can switch their attention to other things.
Road trains would offer a number of benefits that are beneficial to the environment as well as to drivers.
Fuel mileage will improve, as vehicles stay at the same speed (acceleration reduces efficiency). Cars can safely drive more closely to one another, and will benefit from lowered wind resistance. With groups of cars moving at predictable speeds, congestion will improve. And the stress of the daily commute will be alleviated, with time in the car to read or relax.
The Volvo system has been undergoing testing for the past several years. A video presentation from Volvo shows vehicles operating on a test track to demonstrate the workings of this system.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Five Future Green Cars We're Most Excited For


Adam Morath

For far too long, green cars have been perceived as lacking in both style and power, with designs and drivetrains optimized for efficiency, rather than thrills. But some exciting entries into the segment have been chipping away at preconceived notions of what it means to drive green.
Tesla Motors' Roadster showed the world that an electric vehicle could both look and perform like a sports car; Chevrolet's Volt proved that gasoline could play nice with plug-in power; and Toyota's recently expanded Prius lineup now features both sporty and family-sized offerings.
So what's next? These are the hybrids and electrics that have us most excited for the future of green cars:
Cadillac ELR

Imagine the Chevy Volt's advanced plug-in hybrid powertrain wrapped in the luxury of a Cadillac. Enter the ELR.
We've been looking forward to this car since it was unveiled as the Converj concept back in 2009 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Financial problems at parent company General Motors threatened to put an end to this extravagant "extended-range" electric, but the car reemerged in August of 2011 as the ELR Coupe.
Details remain scarce, but GM recently confirmed that production of the ELR will begin in late-2013, assembled at the automaker's Detroit-Hamtramck plant.
Ford Fusion Energi

Our favorite thing about the redesigned Ford Fusion is the plethora of planet-friendly powertrain options offered on the stylish sedan. Ford's EcoBoost engine technology utilizes a turbocharger and direct injection to increase the efficiency of standard gas models, while the Fusion Hybrid impresses with 47 miles per gallon in both city and highway driving conditions.
But we're most excited about the forthcoming Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, planned for early 2013. Like the Chevy Volt, the Fusion Energi combines a battery-powered electric motor with a range-extending gas engine. That means you can run in all-electric mode for short trips and switch to gas power for any distance beyond the battery's range.
Tesla Model X

Tesla Motors has taken the automotive world by storm with their electric vehicles, including the groundbreaking Roadster and refined Model S, which was recently voted both 'Car of the Year' and 'Automobile of the Year' by two of the industry's most established publications. And who are we to disagree? The Model S is high-tech, stylish, sporty and, best of all, doesn't use a drop of gas.
How does Tesla plan to follow such success? Two words: gullwing doors. That's right, Tesla's next model plans to utilize doors that hinge at the roof of the vehicle and open vertically, much like the iconic DeLorean DMC-12 of Back to the Future fame. The aptly named Model X is a crossover utility vehicle--another first for the Silicon Valley automaker. This all electric sport-ute will be offered in your choice of rear-wheel drive or dual-motor all-wheel drive and is expected to begin production in late-2013.
Fisker Atlantic Concept

While Fisker Automotive has experienced some bad karma with their first model, no one can deny the allure of co-founder Henrik Fisker's luxurious and sporty designs. Like the Ford Fusion Energi, Fisker produces "extended-range" electric vehicles that can travel short distances in EV mode, and operate on gas for longer drives. But despite good looks and an eco-friendly ethos, a rash of production delays, economic woes and fire-safety concerns have kept the automaker from taking off.
Earlier in 2012, Fisker unveiled a smaller, yet equally attractive plug-in concept dubbed the Atlantic. We're rooting for this model because, if Fisker is able to start production in late 2014 as recently projected, it will mean good things for the troubled automaker. And that means more beautiful electric-powered cars on the road.
Acura NSX Concept

Automotive enthusiasts will recognize NSX as the name of a popular mid-engined sports car produced by Honda in the 1990s. Sold under the company's luxury arm in the U.S., the Acura NSX has been rumored to make a comeback ever since it went out of production years ago. The Japanese automaker finally delivered in early 2012 by unveiling a new NSX at the North American International Auto Show. Following the concept's Detroit debut, the NSX was featured in a big-budget Super Bowl ad starring comedian Jerry Seinfeld and made an appearance in the blockbuster action film The Avengers.
Of course, movie-star status isn't enough to make our list; you've also got to as green as the Incredible Hulk! Acura's NSX concept boasts an all-wheel drive hybrid system aided by three electric motors and a V6 engine. That's the complete package: fast, fun and efficient. Here's hoping a production version of the NSX is announced soon.
TRANSLOGIC is your destination for the latest in transportation technology, including developments in mass transit, green technology, electric vehicles, concept cars and the future of transportation. Check our episode archive for the latest videos and our blog for regular news updates.
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Wireless Addiction Is Creating a Big E-Waste Problem

Our Wireless Addiction Is Creating a Big E-Waste Problem

Derek Markham
Technology / Gadgets
January 3, 2013

Because hundreds of millions of new cell phones are sold every year just in the U.S., and only a small percentage of the old ones ever make it to a proper recycling facility, our modern mobile lifestyle is creating a huge e-waste problem.
According to a recent study from the CDC that tracked the demographics of landline phone usage (the study was designed to help the organization adapt its data collection programs), over half of the households in the U.S. either don't use their landline for phone calls, or don't have one to begin with.
This trend of going wireless for phone service is certainly handy for the users, but if those figures from the CDC are accurate, they could spell an increasing problem for e-waste disposal in this country (and the rest of the world), because the average replacement/upgrade interval is just 18 months, which adds up to a whole lot of cell phones that will end up in landfills or incinerators.
The EPA estimates that less than 10% of mobile phones are getting recycled, and only about 25% of all e-waste (by weight) ends up being collected for recycling. And because all of these electronic gadgets contain not only precious metals that could be reused (which would cut down on the environmental impact and social injustices associated with many "resource extraction" and refining methods), they also contain substances that are toxic to both humans and wildlife (such as lead, dioxins, mercury, cadmium, plastics, and fire retardants), finding appropriate end-of-life solutions for these products is an important part of the sustainability puzzle.
There have been campaigns from mobile providers to take back their devices for recycling, such as the recent effort by AT&T (which set a Guinness World Record), and some other third-party recycling or reselling services, but the unfortunate truth of e-waste recycling is that an estimated 50-80% of collected electronics end up getting exported to developing nations. This trend of exporting our e-waste means that we're also exporting all of the toxic effects of the materials to places with extremely lax regulations for health, safety, and the environment.
One rather obvious solution is to encourage or require (either through tax breaks or other incentives, or through more strict regulation) that makers and sellers of mobile devices, or even all electronics, implement programs for both the collection and recycling of their products. This could be designed with incentives for the end user -- such as cash or credit or a charitable donation in their name -- to easily return their old device, as one study found that 98% of people who haven't recycled a device are willing to do so if there is a reward involved.
What other possible solutions do you see as viable for making the mobile industry more sustainable?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tree Thursday - Raintree

This is edited from an article sent out by Cal Deal, local Community Activist, on October 16, 2012.   Earlier that month, I (blue hat and shirt) had worked with the Florida Forest Service to re-measure the Rain Tree.  I just want to thank Cal for all his hard work, research and dedication in preserving this great tree. 

Albizia saman

1987 City Commission resolution "protects" 127-foot-wide beauty

"Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky." 

This is a composite of five photos — and the tree still it doesn't fit! Measuring The Rain Tree are City Forester Gene Dempsey, left, and Mark Torok, Senior Forester with the Florida Forest Service's Everglades District. More photos from this day are below. 


Rain Tree declared a "Florida Champion"
(biggest of its kind in the state) in 1982!


FORT LAUDERDALE — It is an impressively beautiful tree — and it's in the way of developers!

The Rain Tree is on the south side of New River opposite the Riverwalk's historic Bryan Homes. It is massive. It's glorious crown is 127.5 feet wide, the trip around it's trunk is 19.5 feet, and it is 61 feet high. The tree might be 100 years old. It is protected from harm by a 1987 City Commission resolution, and in 1982 it was declared a "Florida Champion" by Florida Division of Forestry — meaning it was the biggest tree of its kind in the state. Because they only grow in Florida, it is likely the biggest tree of its kind in the United States.

The Rain Tree sticks up over the six-story
Esplanade parking garage and tennis courts

You may be familiar with the species — it's the same type of tree that was home to Disney's "Swiss Family Robinson." (Photo down below)


It's impossible to appreciate The Rain Tree until you stand underneath its majestic, open crown. They call it a "parasol" shape, but that doesn't do it justice. Because of its size, it fills the sky with beauty ... like a massive fireworks shell exploding over your head. That's the only thing I can think of that conveys the sensation you get when you look up and see those radiating branches leading to the delicate explosions of leaves. It fills your field of view! The crown is not dense, but light and airy. It is really, really beautiful. (Photos below.)

City Commission's 1987 Rain Tree Resolution declares
"the tree shall not be removed or damaged"

The 1987 City Commission resolution declares that the tree "shall not be removed or damaged" without the City Commission's okay.

City gave former owners a
2004 Community Appearance Award
for preserving Rain Tree

In 2004, the previous owners of the property, Cabi Developers, got a Community Appearance Award from the city "for preserving and protecting a valued tree species" and thereby "contributing to the appearance of Fort Lauderdale." (Graphic from city's "Focus on Fort Lauderdale" magazine below.)



On Aug. 15, I accompanied City Forester Gene Dempsey (blue shirt), and Mark Torok, Senior Forester with the Florida Forest Service's Everglades District, as they took official measurements of The Rain Tree. Below are some photos from that morning. Sadly, they do not come close to conveying the feeling you get when you stand under this wonderful tree and look up.

Mark is standing under the northern edge of the crown with a laser device used for measuring.

You can see the bright green spot of the beam.

Gene and Mark are dwarfed by the giant tree, which looks spectacular
when you stand close to the trunk and look up. 

The crown is so big that is extends over the property line, so Gene has to stand behind
the building next door to get below its southern edge.

Mark rolls up the tape measure as he returns from his measuring journey to the trunk.

Gene is under the western edge of the canopy as Mark takes another measuring trek to the trunk.

The tree's circumference is measured at about 4.4 feet above the ground.

It's 19 feet 6 inches.

The Rain Tree is visible from the historic Bryan Homes, which you can see here on the other side of New River.

Picking out the peak of the crown.

The official measurements.


Rain Tree is a generic name for this type of tree, now known as an Albizia saman.

Below is from Tropical & Subtropical Trees: An Encyclopedia by Margaret Barwick (2004):


Here a Disney film crew uses a 250-foot-wide rain tree in Tobago for the movie "Swiss Family Robinson." According to Wikipedia, the film was the top-grossing movie of 1960, beating out other hits such as Psycho, Spartacus and Exodus. Adjusted for ticket price inflation, it took in $427 million, Wikipedia says. ranks it No. 83 in the "Top 100 Films of All Time" for its domestic gross.

A seed pod from Fort Lauderdale's Rain Tree.

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches,
and a thousand tempests and floods.  But he cannot save them from fools.
— John Muir



Cal Deal

1317 SE 2nd Ave.
Fort Lauderdale FL 33316
(954) 295-3726

"Always do right. This will gratify some people 
and astonish the rest."
— Mark Twain


The Go SOLAR Fest!
Friday January 25, 2013 - 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Saturday, January 26, 2013 – 9:00 a.m. to Noon

Broward County Convention Center 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

Who Should Attend?
Local, State and Federal government officials, licensed solar and electrical contractors, financial institutions, solar installers, potential customers, legal experts and interested parties

Why Attend?
The Go SOLAR Fest is an event highlighting the successes of the Go SOLAR Broward Rooftop Solar Challenge. The Go SOLAR Fest will include:
Open forum discussion of solar challenges, solutions, and recommendations to advance solar regionally and statewide
Overview of the Go SOLAR Online Permitting System
Discussion of potential financing options for the installation of rooftop PV solar systems
Description of solar rights in Florida and revisions to local zoning ordinances amongst partner cities
Summary of best practices for interconnection and net metering

For more information visit our website at

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

9 Ways to Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Okay, I know it’s January 23, but in walking a neighborhood yesterday I was amazed at the number of Christmas trees put out for curbside so obviously some of you are still hanging on to them.  Here are some suggestions on what to do with those trees. 

9 Ways to Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Opting for a real Christmas tree lends a delicious and seasonal scent to your home that an artificial tree simply cannot replicate. Unfortunately, a real tree can’t just be shoved into a box to await its triumphant return at the end of the year. If you’re Christmas tree is still hanging around long after the season ends simply because you aren’t sure how to dispose of it in an ecologically responsible manner, these nine solutions can help you get your home back to normal, so that you’re not the last family on the block with the sad remnants of a once-beautiful tree languishing in your living room.
  1. Check for Curbside Services in Your Area – If your community offers curbside recycling pick-up services, there’s a good chance that they will also accept discarded Christmas trees during at least the first two weeks of the New Year. Checking with any existing facilities in your area is the most effective way of determining whether or not this is an option where you live. Be aware before you drop your tree on the curb, however, that almost all curbside pick-up services will require that all lights, tinsel and ornaments be removed as a condition of pick-up.
  2. Big Box Retailers – Some big box home improvement chains like Home Depot offer free recycling for your Christmas tree at the end of the season, provided that you’re willing to drop it off yourself. As with most recycling options, you will need to be sure that any lights, tinsel or decorative flocking has been completely removed before you drop the tree off.
  3. Brush Pile Roosting Area – If you’re a bird-watching enthusiast, few recycling options for your old Christmas tree will be as appealing as the idea of creating a brush pile for birds to roost in. Sparrows, finches and other small birds will seek shelter from bad weather in the branches of your Christmas tree, providing them with safety and you with plenty of opportunities to watch them flit about.
  4. Make Mulch – As long as all of the remnants of your tinsel or decorations have been removed from your Christmas tree, it is a completely biodegradable structure. It will also make great mulch for your landscaping and gardening needs, provided that you have access to a wood chipper.
  5. Let it Sleep with the Fishes – Film noir references aside, a Christmas tree actually makes a great habitat for fish when it’s sunk to the bottom of a lake or pond. When your tree is nestled in the deep waters, fish and other marine wildlife will be able to create habitats within them. Shallow wetlands can also benefit from tree placement, as they provide barriers against soil erosion. Before sending your tree to public shore through, you’ll want to be sure doing so is not against the law in your area.
  6. Planting – While it won’t be an option if you chose to purchase a real tree that was cut down, ball-and-burlap trees are designed to be replanted at the end of the holiday season. To boost your tree’s chances of survival and ensure ease of planting, it’s wise to pre-dig your hole in the autumn, before the ground freezes.
  7. Non-Profit Pickups – Most non-profit Christmas tree pick-up programs are sponsored by scouting groups like the Boy Scouts of America, who will usually pick up old Christmas trees during a designated period after the holidays for a donation of around five dollars.
  8. Create a Soil Erosion Barrier – If you live on a shore line and are concerned with soil erosion, your Christmas tree can provide an effective barrier against the problem. Coastal and waterfront communities often use old Christmas trees specifically for this purpose, so check to see if such programs exist if you’re not living directly on the water yourself.
  9. Donate Your Tree – Municipal programs that accept donated Christmas trees at the end of the season typically turn them into mulch for park landscaping, cover for hiking paths and other sustainable, ecologically sound products. Looking into the programs that exist in your area can help you determine whether or not donating your tree is an option and figure out the logistics of completing the donation if such programs do exist.
However you choose to recycle your Christmas tree, be sure that you’re following all local ordinances and guidelines or that you have permission to leave it on someone else’s property. Even if you’re trying to provide a roosting place for the birds or a habitat for the fish, property owners aren’t likely to take kindly to an unceremonious dumping of a discarded tree on their land or in their pond.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

20 Clever Uses for Plastic Bags

Try as we may to use reusable bags, we still wind up with plastic bags from time to time.  Here’s some ideas on what to do with those bags.

20 Clever Uses for Plastic Bags
Posted on January 3, 2013

By Karen M. Harris for Home Rehab Online
Even with the world going green, plastic bags seem to be everywhere. Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags a year, but they recycle less than 1 percent of that amount, sending 300,000 tons into landfills, according to the Clean Air Council. Those bags that are dumped into landfills don’t biodegrade. Instead, sunlight breaks them down into particles that contaminate our soil and water.
Why let this happen when there’s a solution? It’s easy and eco-friendly to reuse plastic shopping and sandwich bags. Try these ideas to put plastic bags to new use. (Of course, remember to wash well before reuse!)
Pastry bag. Why buy a pastry bag when you can use sandwich bags? Put your icing, deviled egg mixture or whipped potatoes into a sealable bag and push the air out. Seal the bag and snip off a corner. Start with a small hole and try to pipe. If necessary, you can make the hole larger.
2.  Funnel. Just snip a corner off, fill and funnel. You’ll be able to pour anything from peppercorns into a peppermill to olive oil into a decorative container.
3.    Cheese storage. Fresh cheese just tastes better than pre-shredded. Save the time of having to grate cheese for every pizza and make up a bulk batch. Double-bag and store in the fridge or freezer to preserve freshness.
4.    Chocolate melter. Mess free! Put chocolate in a sealable freezer bag. Fill a pan or bowl with hot water. Put the bag in the water and, in a few minutes, you’ll have melted chocolate. Double duty alert! Snip off a corner of the bag and you have an instant pastry bag (see above).
5.       Closet cedar. Love the smell of cedar but don’t have the cash to do your whole closet? Buy a bag of hamster bedding chips and place a handful in a resealable sandwich bag. Punch some holes in the bag and hang it on a hanger in the closet. The cedar will also keep fabric-munching moths at bay.
6.      Pencil case. Make sure your students always have pens, pencils and crayons ready by putting some in a zippered sandwich bag. Punch three holes in the bottom of the bag and slip it onto the rings of a three-ring binder for even more organization.
7.       Makeup case. Keep your luggage free of goopy spills by putting toiletries into plastic bags. You can do this for jewelry too. Use one bag per “outfit” so that necklace and earrings are together, and all your necklaces don’t get tangled into one mess.
8.     Clutter keeper. Corral junk drawer items in bags. This is perfect for batteries, marbles, crafters beads and even rubber bands and clothespins.
9.       Cold pack. Freeze a wet washcloth (or several of them) in a sandwich or freezer bag so you’ll always be ready when the kids twist an ankle or hit their head.
10.   Baby wipe holder. Save some money by making your own baby-safe wipes, then storing them in zipper-lock sandwich bags. The earth-friendly wipes will stay wet for months. To make the wipes (courtesy of Cut a roll of paper towels in half width-wise. Place the paper towels in a deep bowl. Combine 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons baby wash or shampoo, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of baby or olive oil. Pour liquid over towels and soak through. After 10 minutes, flip the roll over. Take the cardboard center out, place the paper towels in a sandwich bag and you’ll be able to pull the wipes out one by one.

1.       Package padding. Foam packing peanuts usually end up in the landfill, plus they’re a nightmare to clean up. Create an eco-friendly home by using plastic grocery bags to protect valuable items you plan to ship. Include a note asking the recipient to reuse the bags.
2.       Produce keeper. The fruit and veggie bags from the produce section are perfect to reuse the next time you go grocery shopping. Toss them in your tote and reuse during your next trip to the grocery store or farmer’s market. If the bags get wet, hang them to dry to prevent mildew.
3.      Hand protectors. Not looking forward to that messy job? Put grocery bags on your hands for cleaning the toilet or paintbrushes. You can also put one on when the phone rings and you’re wrist-deep in pie dough.
4.       Flower pot fixer. Instead of tossing that cracked flower pot or vase, re-glue the container and slip a plastic bag inside. It’ll be ready for peonies in no time.
5.       Purse reshaper. Handbags should be stored upright, not piled on the closet floor. Help them keep their shape between uses by stuffing them with crumpled plastic bags.
6.       Paint pal. Whether you’re doing arts and crafts or painting the bedroom, plastic bags have many uses. Wrap wet paintbrushes while you grab lunch to prevent the brushes from drying out. Slip one over a paint tray, or put a smaller bag in the bottom, to make cleanup a breeze. Put them under trays and cans to catch drips and spills. Spray paint a small item inside the bag to prevent splatters.
7.       Crochet material. Because bags are so durable, they make great “yarn” projects. You can crochet everything from slippers to clothing; find inspiration at BagsBeGone.
8.       Pet pillow. When the padding in Fido’s bed isn’t so fluffy anymore, take it out and replace it with crumpled plastic bags. Or, if you’re handy, make your own pet pillows for friends and family and the local shelter. Sew two pieces of fabric together (with a zipper on one end for easy restuffing). Pack with used plastic shopping bags.
9.      Travel mate. Keep clothes clean in your suitcase by placing shoes in grocery bags. Use another one as a laundry bag to keep dirty duds away from clean. You can use them for short trips, too: put wet bathing suits in a bag to contain the drips on the way home (just remember to take it out when you get home!).
10.   Small wastebasket. Grocery bags are a perfect fit for bathroom or bedroom wastebaskets. You can reuse the bags over several cleaning frenzies if you’re just tossing in used paper towels and other non-icky disposables. Keep a few bags on the bottom of the wastebasket for a quick change when you do need a refresher.
[About the author: Karen M. Harris is an Associated Press-award-winning journalist who has written for magazines such as Runner’s World, Orange magazine, Aspire and Shawn Elliot Luxury. She is managing editor for the wellness website Zenfully Delicious. She has also edited the Gilded Fork Entertaining at Home: A Year of Dinner Parties.]


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tree Thursday - Manchineel

If you thought the Poisonwood was bad, here’s the…

Manchineel Tree
Hippomane mancinella
The Manchineel tree is a species of flowering plant in the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), native to Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America.  The name "manchineel" is from Spanish manzanilla ("little apple"), from the superficial resemblance of its fruit and leaves to those of an apple tree. A present-day Spanish name is “manzanilla de la muerte” meaning  "little apple of death" or  “arbol de la muerte” meaning “tree of death”.  The manchineel is one of the most poisonous trees in the world.  The tree is so poisonous that this warning on the top of the University of Florida’s IFAS Extension’s fact sheet “Warning: all parts of manchineel are extremely poisonous. The content in this document is strictly informational. Interaction with and ingestion of any part of this tree may be lethal.”  I’ve only seen this tree species once in a state park on Key Largo in an area off limits to the public.  In many cases, when a Manchineel tree is located, it is marked with a large red ‘x’ or red band.  In Florida, manchineel is in danger of becoming extinct and is a state listed endangered species.
The manchineel tree typically occurs along the seacoasts and in brackish swamps where it grows among mangroves. Manchineel is usually a tall shrub, but it can reach heights of up to 50 feet. The leaves are simple, alternate, very finely serrated or toothed, and 2–4 inches long. Each leaf has a small gland where the leaf joins the stem. The bark is reddish-to-grayish brown and deeply furrowed or cracked looking.
The sap has been known to cause burn-like blisters when it comes in contact with the skin. People have reported heavy inflammation of the eyes and even temporary blindness from irritants carried in the smoke of this tree's burning wood.  Native peoples used the poisonous sap to coat their arrows when hunting and would tie captives to the trunk of the tree, ensuring a slow and painful death.. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was struck by an arrow that had been poisoned with Manchineel sap during battle with the Calusa in Florida, dying shortly thereafter.  In Florida, manchineel is in danger of becoming extinct and is a state listed endangered species.  It has been documented that gum from the bark of this tree has been used to treat venereal disease and dropsy in Jamaica, while dried fruits have been used as a diuretic.  Though the manchineel tree is poisonous to humans and many animals, the iguanas of Central and South America are able to eat the fruits of this tree, and are sometimes found living among the tree's limbs.
Many references to the poisonous nature of the manchineel have appeared in the arts.  A couple of examples are the heroine of Giacomo Meyerbeer's 1865 opera L'Africaine commits suicide by lying under a manchineel tree and inhaling the plant's vapors. In the 1956 film Wind Across The Everglades, a notorious poacher named Cottonmouth (played by Burl Ives) ties a victim to the trunk of a manchineel tree.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to Inspire Someone Else to Go Green

If you have already made the conscious choice to be eco-friendly and enjoy the benefits of natural living, it’s hard not to have the itch to help share your interest in the environment with your friends and family. To “convert” someone to the mindset of going green, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Don’t be Preachy
Nobody likes to be preached to. Instead of motivating somebody to go green by telling them all of the harm that is being done to the environment, focus on the positive side of what one person can do to make a difference. Instead of taking a stand against something, be “for” something. Pick out one simple suggestion to give them some green momentum, and elaborate on why it’s a game-changer. Take recycling for example. Why do you recycle? Share that with them, and help them understand how easy it is to get started.
What Will They Get Out of It?
You’re selling a new world view to the uninitiated. It’s hard to have the interest or desire to change habits and opinions without first knowing what the reward will be. It’s going to be your job to point out a few benefits that your loved one will get out of going green and being more earth conscious. For many, cost savings can be enough of a motivator to get them to change their actions. Relate to your friends or family the long-term savings of simply changing out energy-sucking light bulbs in their home for CFL bulbs that are more energy and cost efficient. Or, help them understand the health benefits of walking or biking to some of their destinations instead of always driving so they can lessen their carbon footprint.
Baby Steps
Suggest some alternatives. Everyone (including you) started somewhere. Whereas some people can make a switch to a completely different set of habits all at once, most people need to make smaller steps or even one simple step at a time. Give your loved one some ideas of simple choices to make. It may be something as small and simple as changing their laundry detergent to a more natural and healthier alternative. Once they can “feel safe” about the results of some small change, they are more apt to making additional changes towards being more eco-friendly.
 Be an Example
Sometimes it’s not so much verbally sharing your depth of knowledge and passion of being environmentally friendly as much as it is showing it through your lifestyle habits and activities. If you do something environmentally friendly that is a little peculiar but cool, your friends and family might just ask you about it on their own accord. That is the best time to share. Once somebody takes notice of your good example, it’s much easier and more comfortable for you to begin sharing how and why the eco-friendly lifestyle makes sense.
Following the above steps gives you the best chance to win converts to the green way of living. Being non-combative and a helpful resource to go to when people have questions about the transition to going green will give you a lot more mileage in the long run.
[About the author: Amber Merton is a green living advocate and a health and fitness aficionado. She also writes for the natural latex mattress manufacturer and retailer, Image: tracitodd]