Thursday, January 30, 2014

Extreme pruning puts Florida palm trees in peril

Some believe 'hurricane haircuts' prevent accidents, but experts say it damages the trees.
Jim Waymer, Florida Today -- January 29, 2014

MELBOURNE, Fla. — Palm trees endure periodic hatchet jobs around Florida, making them liable to snap when days get stormy.
They resemble upside-down feather dusters, with tufts of meager fronds jutting up.
Others look worse, nearly frondless, like pineapples propped on sticks.
The reason for this overpruning, the so-called "hurricane haircuts" is simple: People think it makes for a cleaner, greener tree that needs trimming less often. And many, incorrectly, believe these extreme makeovers will keep fronds from blowing astray in storms.
But professional arborists say that's not so, and that overzealous pruning puts palms on a path to destruction.
"For some reason, it caught on," said Avalon Standstall, an arborist in Melbourne. "People started doing that without researching it."
He points to about 100 palms recently pruned in front of the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne as an example of overtrimming.

Drastically trimmed palm trees around the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne, Fla. (Photo: Craig Rubadoux, Florida Today)

"They could lose a lot of them by just falling over," Standstall said.
The King Center's trees were pruned to reduce the necessity for repeat trimming, to save money and for safety reasons, said John Glisch, a spokeman for the college.
"It reduces the possibility that branches could break off in winds and hit a student or a vehicle," Glisch said.
"No tree has ever been damaged or killed in pruning this way," he added.
But University of Florida experts say overpruning can shorten the tree's lifespan and sometimes lead to worse hazards.
The King Center's palms aren't alone. Problematic pruning runs rampant throughout Brevard County and elsewhere in Florida, with curbside mounds including both yellow and green trimmings, most prominently in the months leading up to hurricane season.
Healthy palms should resemble a big globe, arborists say. Even yellowing fronds that dangle down help provide palms with food.
"The only thing that's going to come off in wind is the dead leaves, they're very lightweight," said Tim Broschat, a professor of environmental horticulture at University of Florida in Gainesville.
But palms weakened by repeat overprunning can lose their entire top crown during storms, he said. "It'll snap off and kill the tree, and when it comes down it will cause greater damage," Broschat said.
Palms that have crownshafts — a region of smooth, usually green, tightly clasping leaf bases at the top of the trunk — rarely need pruning, as long as they're adequately fertilized.
Part of the problem is that most Florida palms suffer potassium or magnesium deficiencies, studies show, because fill soil used in developments lacks those two elements.Yellow or discolored fronds are the main symptom of the deficiency, but hacking those or anything other than the deadest of fronds removes a reservoir of nutrients the tree needs to sustain itself.
As a survival tactic, palms cannibalize older leaves.
Removing only brown fronds and flower stocks is fine, horticulturalists say. But cutting off the yellow fronds exposes the tree's "bud" to the cold, raising the potential of death in the winter and the same fate from tropical winds in the summer.
"If they keep doing it, it could set them up to lose their cold-hardiness," said Sally Scalera, a horticulture agent at the Brevard County Extension. "The best thing for them is to never remove anything but brown fronds."
In the city of Melbourne, businesses need a permit to trim more than 20 percent of a tree canopy. Residential property is exempt and owners can trim and remove trees without city approval.
But in unincorporated Brevard County, violators can face code enforcement fines if their trimming permanently disfigures a tree or renders it a public hazard.
Still, excess pruning persists — for practical but faulty reasons. Neighbors exert peer pressure on others to pretty-up their palms. Businesses worry about fronds dropping onto customers' cars. And untrained landscapers do what clients ask them.
"They want to see a cleaner look, now you're opening it up to insects and disease," Standstall said.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Last one (for a while) on greening your burial

When I posted the article on Monday concerning building a wooden casket a friend of mine made a suggestion on a “greener” alternative to traditional burials.  He recommended, as he has done, to donate your body to science.  There are several websites that walk you through the process and I was even surprised that at least one service allows for your love ones to receive your cremated ashes back in a period as short as 6 weeks.  It’s something that I really haven’t ever considered beyond organ donation but will start thinking about.  
From Science Care – “As an alternative to traditional burial, funeral, or cremation, Science Care’s whole body donation program offers the chance to make a contribution that benefits others. By providing a vital service and a pathway to greater knowledge and discovery, together we can help save lives, advance medical research and education, and improve quality of life for families and the community.”
From LifeQuest Anatomical – “Full body donation is one of the most compassionate alternatives to a funeral. Body donation is not the same as organ donation. Although organ donation is perhaps a better known alternative to a funeral, anatomical donation is an equally important gift to the future of humankind - and the cost of cremation is free. By donating your body to science, you're not only saving your family money, but are helping give surgeons a learning opportunity which may lead to a more efficient technique or a new life-saving surgical procedure. Full body donation makes cutting edge developments in the fields of cancer treatment, thoracic research and neurology studies possible." 
A few websites that I found on donating your body to science (I’m sure there are many more and you need to check the rules in the State that you live in):

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Eco-friendly green burials catching on in the U.S.

In keeping with yesterday’s subject –

By Steven P Johnson
GAINESVILLE, Florida Sat May 11, 2013

(Reuters) - After a two-year battle with cancer, Joseph Fitzgerald was determined to leave his final resting place to Mother Nature.
On a quiet February day in rural Florida, Fitzgerald's body was carried through the Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery on a bamboo stretcher made by family members.
In an ecologically approved "green burial," he was laid to rest on a plot of land surrounded by oak trees and Spanish moss he picked out just months before his passing in a grave that was dug by hand just two days prior.
Green burial options have become a small but growing trend in the U.S. funeral industry, with an increasing number of funeral homes offering eco-friendly services and about 30 green cemeteries across the country, according to the Green Burial Council, or GBC, a non-profit organization operating in the United States, Canada and Australia.
The most recent survey conducted by funeral industry publishers Kates-Boylston Publications in 2008 found that 43 percent of respondents said that they would consider a green burial. That was a significant increase from the 21 percent who expressed curiosity about green burials in an AARP study conducted the previous year.
"There is a movement toward it, but it's gaining traction very slowly," said Jim Ford, vice president of operations at Neptune Society, the largest cremation-only funeral company in the United States. The firm also offers green burials at sea on a reef off Miami.
At Prairie Creek, there have been 43 whole body natural burials, 14 cremated remains burials and 10 pet burials since it opened in late July of 2010, with another 197 future burial bookings.
"It's so much more natural and simple," said David Gold, 64, a dental hygienist who plans to be buried at Prairie Creek. "It's harmonious. It puts things (funeral plans) back in people's control."
Freddie Johnson, the executive director of Conservation Burial, the non-profit organization that runs Prairie Creek, says he has noticed an increase in interest.
"The biggest hurdle is getting the awareness of these choices and having choices in the proximity of where people are," he said.
People who choose green burials don't use concrete vaults, traditional coffins with metalwork or any embalming chemicals. Instead, the body is wrapped in biodegradable shrouds or placed in a pine coffin and laid to rest where it can decompose and become part of the earth.
Other options are available for green caskets, often called ecoffins. These coffins can be made of bamboo, pine, woven willow, recycled cardboard and even cord from dried banana plants. They range in cost from $500 to $1,000, depending on the material.
It is estimated that more than 60,000 tons of steel and 4.8 million gallons of embalming fluid are buried each year. That is enough steel to build eight Eiffel Towers and fill eight Olympic size swimming pools, according to Mary Woodsen, a science researcher and writer for Cornell University and research director for the GBC.
At a half-dozen fully certified "conservation cemeteries" around the country, the GBC performs ecological surveys of the grounds and sets rules that include hand-digging the grave site, markers, replacement of the same soil removed and no vault or cement grave liners. Only biodegradable material is allowed to be buried with the body.
"Even the grave sites themselves have no conventional memorial stones," said Johnson. "What you see is nature."
Green burials can be less expensive than conventional funerals, where costs can run between $6,000 and $10,000, because they do not incur the costs of embalming and metal caskets.
But a green burial is still a more expensive option than cremation, which remains the fastest-growing funeral preference. In 2011, cremation was chosen instead of burial in 42 percent of U.S. deaths, up from 30 percent in 2003, according to the Cremation Association of North America. It predicts the cremation rate will jump to nearly 56 percent by 2025.
In a green burial ceremony at Prairie Creek, Johnson attends to every detail to ensure it is environmentally friendly. From removing all non-biodegradable objects to placing a branch in an open grave site to allow critters an escape before the soil is replanted, the result is a cemetery that resembles a typical Florida hiking trail more than a final resting place.
At the Fitzgerald burial, the family asked the funeral director to place the ashes of their deceased son, Kyle, in the pillow that was to be buried with his father.
"There is a real sense that 'from dust you were made, from dust you will return,'" said Michael Fitzgerald, Joseph's brother.
Fitzgerald chose to be buried in a University of Michigan shroud, a final gesture to his devotion to all things Michigan football, which began after his father took him to his first game when he was in middle school.
After friends and family members shared memories, they said their final goodbyes with shovel in hand, replacing the dirt that was recently removed and creating a mound that will, over time, settle back to its original form.

(Additional reporting by David Adams; Editing by David Adams, Arlene Getz and Dan Grebler)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Natural Wood Casket

I know death is not something that most of us like to think about but planning for it makes life so much better for those we leave behind.  As this article states in the beginning, more people are thinking about continuing to protect the environment even in the way they are buried. 

Natural Wood Casket

Author or Source: Elizabeth Fournier

People are returning to traditional burial practices in order to protect our environment and to honor lives that have been lived with care for the planet. Many talented wood workers are joining them in taking an environmentally conscious, long-term view and working to make natural burial a real option.
Wood is the oldest material known to man makes it a natural and environmentally sound choice when selecting a casket. The warmth and textures insures each piece is unique, and being a renewable resource assures a legacy tor the next generation
Wood is also strong, beautiful, and shock-resistant. And just as no two pieces of wood are exactly the same, handcrafted timber has its own, warming identity. Choosing a wood casket also leaves a legacy for the next generation because wood is a renewable resource.
By building caskets in harmony with the natural order through responsible stewardship of the earth's resources, many wood crafters are also fulfilling a person need of finding peace.
When Richard Clarke starts to build a casket it is work. Then after time and energy it starts to come alive, and the joy of creating truly comes alive. This process goes on. Sometimes for quite a while then it stops and the piece is complete. There is joy and sadness in that moment for him.
For more information on Richard and how to build your own casket (yes, there’s information about that) see -

Think before you print!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

An Old Tree Doesn't Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Bodybuilder

January 16, 2014

Like other animals and many living things, we humans grow when we're young and then stop growing once we mature. But trees, it turns out, are an exception to this general rule. In fact, scientists have discovered that trees grow faster the older they get.
Once trees reach a certain height, they do stop getting taller. So many foresters figured that tree growth — and girth — also slowed with age.
"What we found was the exact opposite," says Nate Stephenson, a forest ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, based in California's Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. "Tree growth rate increases continuously as trees get bigger and bigger," Stephenson says.
There have been hints before that mature trees grow faster than they age, but the idea had been controversial, he says. So he got together with 37 scientists from 16 nations to answer the question on a global scale.
They examined nearly 700,000 trees that have  been the subject of long-term studies. Their conclusion, published in this week's issue of the journal Nature: While trees did stop getting taller, they continued to get wider — packing on more and more mass the older they got. And we're not talking about the tree-equivalent of an aging crowd with beer guts — old trees are more like active, healthy bodybuilders.
"It's as if, on your favorite sports team, you find out the star players are a bunch of 90-year-olds," Stephenson says. "They're the most active. They're the ones scoring the most points. That's an important thing to know."
Because, in the world of trees, that means the oldest members of the forest are doing the most to pull carbon dioxide out of the air and to store it as carbon in their wood. Stephenson says that's another argument for preserving old-growth forests.
"Not only do they hold a lot of carbon, but they're adding carbon at a tremendous rate," Stephenson says. "And that's going to be really important to understand when we're trying to predict how the forests are going to change in the future — in the face of a changing climate or other environmental changes."
Some ecologists have argued that young forests are more important than old forests for combating climate change, because the thousands of small trees that replace the few big ones do, collectively, pull more carbon dioxide out of the air than the mature forest does. But Stephenson says that doesn't give full credit to the importance of old trees.
And the results have implications that go beyond conservation strategies. The findings challenge an assumption that has seemingly applied to all of biology.
"We didn't think that things could have unlimited growth potential," says Nathan Phillips at Boston University. "There's been a long history of that kind of thinking."
But the new study shows that when it comes to growth in trees — well, the sky's the limit. And this leaves Phillips wondering whether trees might, in fact, have the potential to live forever. He tries to imagine how long a tree would live if you could prevent it from being blown down or succumbing to drought or disease.
"How long could it go? I think it could go for a long, long time — basically indefinitely," he says.
Phillips has seen 500-year-old Douglas fir trees that are still producing scads of cones, which means they're still reproducing. So when it comes to aging, trees have something very special going on.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Giant, Green Windmills Added To Fort Lauderdale Skyline

Giant, Green Windmills Added To Fort Lauderdale Skyline

By Carey Codd, CBS4

The next time you drive on I-95 in Fort Lauderdale keep your eyes out for the big, green windmills. They're actually wind turbines designed to harness the wind's power to create sustainable energy to improve the environment.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler is excited about the $200,000 project, which is being paid for through a federal grant.

"We owe it to our kids and our grandkids to do something and make a difference," Seiler told CBS 4′s Carey Codd.

Seiler said the energy from the turbines will be used to power four electric car charging stations inside Mills Pond Park, where the turbines are housed. He said any leftover power will be sent to the city's electric grid. Seiler hopes the real payoff from these turbines comes in the form of conversation especially from kids playing in the park asking questions of their parents.

"'Mom, dad, what is that all about? Is that something I should know more about?'" Seiler imagines the children saying.  "Mom and Dad can explain, 'Hey, the City of Fort Lauderdale is doing something about renewable energy, trying to preserve our environment, protect our resources.'"

Fort Lauderdale knows a bit about environmental struggles. Remember the massive flooding and damage to A1A caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012? Seiler says the city became more focused on environmental issues, like rising seas, after that.

The first turbine went up inside the park on Wednesday and some people wondered what they were.

"I thought it was a big fan or something," said Karim Rashedul, who added that he thinks they're a great idea.

Seiler said these are first turbines the city has built but he pointed out that the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort built 6 windmills on top of their hotel and he said they're about to start operating at the end of the month.

Seiler said it's incumbent upon local leaders to make positive environmental changes if state leaders will not.

"The cities have decided that if the state government's not going to step up, we'll step up and lead the way," Seiler said.

See video on 

Photos taken by me:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Food Hubs Bring Local Food In Reach

Co-ops Stress Economic and Environmental Benefits
By Sara Booth Sustainability
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Demand for local food is growing. Yet city dwellers often find it easier to buy a cabbage that has traveled 500 miles than one that was grown in the next county over. And farmers might find it easier to grow corn for a national market than table vegetables and fruits for a local one.
Who benefits when food is eaten closer to where it's grown? "Everyone!" said Jason Grimm, food system planner with Iowa Valley Resource Conservation & Development and a member of the Iowa Valley Food Co-op. "It's better for the environment. Better for the community. There are economic impacts on businesses and farmers. It's even better for schools, because local tax dollars can go back into the local economy."
The food hub was born to bridge the gap between growers in rural areas and the stores, restaurants, schools, and hospitals in cities.
The National Good Food Network defines a food hub as "a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand."  In other words, conventional agriculture serves customers by working at a large scale; a food hub serves customers by helping a large number of producers work together.
How, exactly, do they do that? The two basic tasks of a food hub are to help combine food from multiple producers and to help distribute it to individual buyers, retail outlets, and institutions. But the services take many forms. Some food hubs connect farmers with resources for processing and storing produce (from simple storage space to freezers and greenhouses); others help with licensing, insurance, and inspections. Some provide volunteer crews to help with planting and other tasks. Others offer financing.
Nick McCann, food system value chain coordinator with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, has seen the progress that can be gained when a food hub offers something as simple as a refrigerated truck, providing custom hauling so that farmers can focus on growing rather than transportation.
Local food has the reputation for costing more. "We've found that it's not always price, though that's a perceived barrier for some consumers," Grimm said. "The larger issue is access."
Another innovation from McCann's office is workplace CSAs. In a traditional Community Supported Agriculture system, buyers go to a central location each week to pick up a box of the items in season that week on the participating farms. This attracts highly motivated buyers, but for the rest of the market, having a box delivered to their place of work may be the factor that makes a CSA convenient enough to be worth considering.
"But 90 percent of us get our produce from the grocery store," Grimm said. Some local or regional grocery chains are stocking more local produce in response to customer demand, but warehouse stores continue to prefer the larger-scale possibilities of conventional agriculture.
"For local vegetables to happen more often, we need farmers growing more quantity, cooperating together," Grimm said.
All these point to things that municipal leaders can do to support local food:
* Form groups of citizens and officials to discuss issues and recommend changes. In some counties, such councils can be government-appointed, but simply having officials present and knowing they're listening might be enough.
* Help fund the research stage of food hub formation. Good feasibility studies beforehand can help food hubs choose the appropriate level of staffing, locate producers and consumers, and learn from successful food hubs in other parts of the country. McCann offers consulting services, and producers come to him to learn sales strategies, the effects of more frequent deliveries, and other information that can help them succeed.
* Help with space -- for aggregating and storing, of course, but also for processing crops into value-added, multi-season items such as jellies and pickles that can expand the market for local produce. "Rural Iowa has a lot of vacant buildings," McCann said, and many cities also have valuable real estate standing empty due to changes in patterns of population and industry.
* Generate community support. "A lot of people don't know what's out there right in their own backyard," McCann said, "and they'd be surprised at the quality of local food during the growing season. And it's beneficial for people to have relationships with the people who grow their food and what goes into making it."
"I think of food as a necessary service that cities should be working on," Grimm said, "not just for low-income people, but for everyone."
For the whole article:     Food Hubs Bring Local Food In Reach

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tree Islands more effective way to replant the world's forest

By: Liz Kimbrough
January 09, 2014

Worldwide, large swaths of land lay barren in the wake of agricultural expansion, and as global forest cover continues to decline, carbon and water cycles, biodiversity, and human health are impacted. But efforts to restore abandoned pastures and agricultural plots back into functioning forest ecosystems are often hindered by high costs and time requirements. Fortunately, scientists have developed a new method for a more cost effective solution to forest restoration, the establishment of "tree islands."
Figure 1 Forest eight years after replanting.  Photo courtesy of Karen Holl

Typically, forest restoration involves planting rows of trees, plantation style, which cover the entire restoration site. However, a team of researchers led by Rakan A. Zahawi of Las Cruces Biological Station in Costa Rica and Karen Holl of UC Santa Cruz recently tested an innovative method known as applied nucleation or the "tree island method" to facilitate forest recovery. In the tree island method, clusters of trees are spread out across the site instead of covering the whole deforested area. For this study, the researchers tested three different treatments on abandoned pasture plots in Costa Rica: planting tree islands, plantation style planting, and no planting or what is known as "passive restoration."

"We were surprised," Karen Holl told, "that the applied nucleation strategy was as effective in facilitating the natural establishment of forest tree seedlings as planting the entire area with trees, even though we only planted 27% of the trees in the applied nucleation treatment."

The establishment of tree islands, around the size of 100m2, serves as an "activation energy" of sorts. As the trees grow, they shade out competitive pasture grasses and also attract frugivorous (i.e fruit-eating) birds that spread the tree seeds around. Once the bird-dispersed trees reach maturity, they provide habitat for more seed dispersing birds and animals, which will bring more seeds. Once this ecological process is jump-started successfully, it should proceed without further intervention.
Figure 2 Two-toed sloth hanging out in tree plantation five years after planting.  Photo by: J. L. Reid

"There are large areas of degraded lands in the tropics that are in need of restoration and there simply aren't enough resources to do so," says Holl. "The overarching goal for the tree island method is that we will be able to restore forest in former agricultural lands in a more economical manner so larger areas can be restored with the added benefit that this restoration approach will create habitat conditions that are more similar to the forest than planting trees in straight lines."

The biggest obstacles to implementing the tree island method on a large scale are logistical. It can be more difficult for land managers to plant in irregular planting designs, and rows of tree seedlings may be easier to maintain, especially if the maintenance is mechanized (irrigation lines, mowing, etc.) There are also issues with how people perceive the idea of planting tree islands.

"We have had questions from farmers who want to know why we are only planting part of the site with trees rather than the whole area," notes Holl. In other words, people are more familiar with a standard plantation-style design. This requires additional education about the goals of forest restoration."

Additionally, Holl calls for more long-term research. "There are many studies of forest restoration that are five years or less. But, forests take decades to recover and there are very few long-term studies of forest restoration. We know that planting trees in rows and in tree islands help speed up forest recovery early on in forest succession. But, we honestly don't know if it will make a difference over the longer term."

  • Zahawi, Rakan A., Karen D. Holl, Rebecca J. Cole, and J. Leighton Reid. Testing applied nucleation as a strategy to facilitate tropical forest recovery. Journal of Applied Ecology. 50. (2013): 88-96.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

50 Creative Ways to Repurpose, Reuse and Upcycle Old Things

I’m not going to post all 50 even though they all are pretty cool!  Here are my five favorites from the above link:

Reuse Toilet Paper Rolls to Organize Cables and Cords

Create a Window Cover Using Old Picture Slides

Turn Old Picture Frames into Serving Trays

Use Marbles to Plug Holes in Fences

Use Post-It Notes as a Collector when Drilling