In this issue the Our Weekly staff with help from the budding journalists who are part of our non-profit sister organization–Urban Media Foundation–take a look at various aspects of the what the green movement is all about.
Easy tips for a cleaner lifestyle
Going Green is a term that we hear all the time now. In 2001, you heard the term “Global Warming” thanks to the documentary by former Vice President Al Gore. People still think global warming is the reason why the “going green” idea happened. Now we often see commercials on TV giving green tips to save energy or suggestions such as “bike or walk to work”. Breathing clean air, driving fuel-efficient cars, and eating smart is all everyone talks about currently. The big question is: How can we do all this and still live our lives?
I got the idea to go online and to search the keywords “going green.” What I found was numerous foundation websites about how to reduce carbon emissions, re-use bags and where to recycle plastic, cans, and bottles. There are also tips online on how to go green. For example, 90 percent of plastic water bottles are not recycled, so they wind up in landfills where they take thousands of years to decompose. Why not leave behind a better legacy where future citizens don’t have to deal with this problem?
Approximately 8 percent of global electricity output is made from reusable sources. The other 92 percent comes from non-reusable sources like oil, coal, and natural gas.
“So many people think that going green means they have to completely change everything about their lifestyle and become a tree hugger. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All you have to do is make a few small changes to initiate a more green lifestyle. In addition to recycling cans and bottles, you can check your account balances online to save the costs associated with printing paper. You can use a laptop instead of a desktop computer and turn the lights out when you leave a room. That actually sounds pretty easy.
“If you try to make huge changes, you will probably give up and return to your old ways, so it is best to make small changes to start.” This was an actual answer to my question on yahoo answers. The person who answered my question was right. It is our job as human beings to keep our planet clean. If we all do our part, we can have a cleaner environment.
Green on the job
Incentives for eco-friendly career moves
By Juliana Norwood
OW Staff Writer
The job market is ever-changing and in recent years, “going green” initiatives, specifically in agriculture, manufacturing, and research and development, which contribute to preserving and restoring environmental quality, have been on the rise.
Southern California Edison (SCE) recently launched their Green Jobs Education Initiative and donated $1 million to support students at 10 California community colleges. The scholarships, which will be $2,000 per student, will provide students in need, extra assistance in their efforts to become certified for green jobs in a variety of industries.
“The Green Jobs Education Initiative holds the triple crown in our philanthropic portfolio. It will support education programs for college students, encourage environmental sustainability efforts and prepare skilled employees for the growing green jobs workforce,” said SCE President John R. Fielder. “It also has the additional economic benefit of supporting students and colleges facing crippling financial pressures.”
According to an article in “Fast Company” magazine, which is dedicated to the future of business, and highlights the best practices in the job field and changes in the marketplace, over the next decade green jobs are going to see a significant increase in popularity.
In their top ten, they named farmers, foresters, solar power installers, energy efficiency builders, wind turbine fabricators, conservation biologists, green MBA and entrepreneurs, recyclers, sustainability systems developers, and urban planners.
Currently the United States has approximately two million farmers, and there is an extreme need for millions more. The way that food is produced now relies very heavily on fossil fuel, and petroleum that is running short. By getting more Americans into the farming industry, we protect the environment by reducing the use of machinery that emits gasses that are detrimental to our way of life. A great majority of energy can be conserved by replacing the fossil fuel with human labor.
Solar power installers are becoming an increasing necessity with the country striving to be more energy efficient. The industry currently employs around 770,000 employees globally and the pay ranges from $15 to $35 an hour. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) expects an increase of about 100,000 jobs in the industry in the next five years.
Cindy Godzisz from goinggreen.com said that jobs in green technology and solar energy are getting increasingly popular. “Retrofitting [which refers to adding new technology or new features to older systems] or retrofitting consulting is an area where someone interested in green technology can really be successful. When it comes to green energy, wind, and geothermal energy, all aspects around it can lead to a successful business whether it is on the building and construction side, selling it, or marketing it.
“There is plenty of money out there to fund companies that are training people in green technology, no matter what the business is, if you train your employees in something new that is benefiting the business and the environment, you can get reimbursed by the government,” said Godzisz.
President Barack Obama has set aside $40 billion of his $787 billion stimulus package, to go towards the creation of green jobs, so employment seekers who are preparing themselves to become green certified are expected to be in very good shape in the near future.
Greening the workplace
Saving the planet from your cubicle
By Gregg Reese
The Deepwater Horizon drilling platform explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico highlight the importance for everyone to bear the responsibility of maintaining and upgrading the ecosystem. While the negligence of any one individual will not approach the economic, environmental, and political damage caused by British Petroleum to the American Gulf Coast, collectively our efforts can enhance the ecosystem and our overall quality of life.
In the workplace, individual contributions can make a difference, regardless of one’s position or level of authority, even by merely making the choice to recycle glass, metal, and plastic food and beverage containers. Expanding on this, a recycling program may be implemented throughout the company by distributing containers and receptacles at strategic spots like break rooms and individual workspaces.
Further up the pecking order, management can direct that incandescent light bulbs be replaced by alternative light sources such as halogen lamps, which are more efficient since the filament within the bulb works at a higher temperature. Compact fluorescent lamps have also become popular as replacements for incandescent in recent years. Although they are several times more expensive, their five-year life expectancy makes them more cost-effective, and fewer bulbs will be replaced, cutting down on disposable waste.
Similarly, replacing office thermostats with programmable ones can offset the initial installation expense through the automatic lowering or increase of interior temperatures in order to correspond with the changing seasons. In due course, heating and air conditioning units will work more effectively with regular inspection of doors and windows so that they are properly sealed. Regular maintenance of these units via cleaning and filter replacement will cut down on energy usage as well.
Multi-national conglomerates now factor in the needs of the world’s ecology within the implementation of their business models. The Xerox Corporation’s manager of public relations, Elissa Nesbitt, granted an interview to Our Weekly from their New York headquarters to share a few of her company’s many “green” programs. Originally, a manufacturer of paper and equipment for the photographic industry, Xerox began to recycle the metal from the photoreceptors of the photocopiers that regenerated the bulk of its revenue in the 1950s. Since then, it has implemented numerous methods and techniques to enhance the environment as part of its over all four-part health and safety sustainability program. These include:
1) Reducing energy use and protecting the climate
2) Preserving biodiversity and the world’s forests
3) Preserving clean air and water and
4) Prevention and management of waste
Xerox has worked to incorporate its customers and suppliers in the green movement. Towards this end, it provides purchasers of its products with access to its office assessment service to determine methods in which energy and materials may be conserved. One of these techniques is the use of communal printers instead of individual units at each workstation. This has proven to cut the overall amount of collective printed material produced, and saves on both paper and ink.
Small and medium sized companies do not have the resources and revenues of multi-national businesses like Xerox, but the advent of technology has afforded modest enterprises with the opportunity to reduce our collective carbon footprint.
Locally in Los Angeles, the Green Jobs Ordinance that was passed last year is projected to encompass revitalizing the economy with the retrofitting of city buildings to become energy efficient. Also underway are efforts to create jobs within the environmental industry, such as the Green Careers Training Initiative (GCTI) under the auspices of the Apollo Alliance a non-profit progressive group devoted to securing U.S. energy independence since the 9/11 calamity.
The green movement has reverberated back to the nation’s capitol as celebrities like actress Daryl Hannah are urging the President to expand his policies beyond the organic vegetable garden on the official residence’s south lawn. Alternate energy solutions were first introduced to the White House when President Jimmy Carter put on a sweater, turned down the thermostat, and installed solar panels during the initial energy crisis of 1979. In the interim, the Chief Executive’s stance on non-conventional and naturally derived fuel sources has ebbed and flowed with the changing of administrations, notably Ronald Reagan who dismantled the panels and had them shipped to a college in Maine. Now the push is on and a cottage industry of advocacy groups has formed with slogans like “Globama,” and establishing online petitions for Obama to replace the panels and make other green environmental adjustments.
During our current extended economic hardship, individuals as well as large and small companies alike are more concerned with belt tightening and making ends meet then environmental issues, but conservation can go a long way towards lowering operating expenses as well as being kind to the earth.
Don’t lose it, re-use it
The not-so-new trend
By Erdavria R. Simpson
Urban Media Foundation Student
People are changing from plastic bags to reusable bags and from plastic bottles to reusable water canisters. Most people don’t actually know the effect of their efforts, only that it is a “new” trend.
At Hamilton High School, we see these changes every other day. Recently, it’s been noticeable that someone has given up his or her plastic water bottle for a new trendy metal water bottle with a carabineer as an added bonus.
When you see so many other people with metal bottles, it draws you to want to get one yourself. One of my peers, Princeton Parker, said to my teacher, “You know what? Just because you have that [reusable metal water bottle] I want to get one, even though I have two cases of plastic water bottles in my garage.”
This shows that many students and people are influenced by what they see around them. This also encourages changes to be made just to fit in with people around you and other “not-so-new” trends.
Consumers are purchasing reusable water bottles and grocery bags in record numbers, choosing to live in eco-friendly lifestyles. Either way, every little bit helps and the choice to live eco-friendly helps reduce waste, costs, and conserve our earth’s precious materials.
Many companies, like Target, Ralphs, Food4 Less and the Payless Shoe Source support the cause by encouraging customers to purchase reusable bags and go green. With a lot of emphasis focused on reusable bags, many people are getting closer to living eco-friendly lifestyles.
Major companies are getting on the band wagon of environmental sustainability because new studies are done everyday, which allow us to see the effect our old habit of using plastic had on the environment. This caused people to act. Any good company could see the mass interest of people going green and they have joined or are joining the cause. Therefore, saving on company costs and giving their customers what they want.
With constant updates on new eco-friendly trends via stores and peers, why not take a step further and find out how much you are affected by it. By switching to a reusable bag, you remove plastic litter from the ocean that could have possibly ended up in landfills. You reduce the amount of plastic used worldwide, which experts estimate that 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide.
By switching to a reusable water bottle, you can decrease the amount of biodegradable plastics used in the world. This helps by decreasing the amount of plastic produced for the manufacturing of water bottles. You can also reduce pollution, whether in the parks or on the beach by purchasing a reusable water bottle.
Your small actions increase positive environmental change and affect a positive influence on others. They also move you closer to maintaining an Eco-friendly lifestyle.
From the kitchen to the garden, save money and preserve health
By Brittney M. Walker
OW Staff Writer
It seems like everyone is trying to do a little something to be environmentally conscious. Well, it is not always easy to start, but once you start feeling those bills getting a little lighter and your wallet hold onto your money a little longer, it is hard to stop.
Going green is not just a fad; it is a lifestyle. You can start with greening your home. Nikki Henderson, executive director at People’s Grocery, a food justice store in Oakland, Calif., says going green is returning to our roots.
“When it comes to people of color, we’ve been green for a while, we stopped being green when we started trying to be more American,” she said. “Being green is remembering your ethnic heritage and honoring that more than you honor more western values.”
Henderson is passionate about preserving the environment for today and the future, for the sake of living well and keeping culture alive.
Green Kitchen – Let’s start where the soul of the home is, the kitchen. Cooking green is a great way to jump-start a healthier, more environmentally sound way of life. Along with cooking organic foods, choosing the most eco-friendly cookware is important to the process. Selecting pots, pans, and even food containers can strengthen your new walk in the green way. Green cookware products are made chemical free and usually last longer than typical Teflon based items.
Getting rid of large appliances can definitely save money, energy, and space. But, if you find that you just cannot live without that bulky piece of metal in your kitchen, shop smart and purchase an environmental/wallet friendly appliance.
Also, shopping fresh can reduce energy use. Eliminating the extra freezer or frudge in the garage can save a bundle.
If you live in an urban environment or in an apartment complex, cooperate buying is a way to save money within the community. Henderson says purchasing locally grown food from farmers who do not use pesticides and other harmful chemicals is the smart way to shop.
Finally, choosing refillable bottles for water or juices is a great way to save money and go green.
Green Gardening – Some of you might say, “Isn’t gardening already green?” Yes, but it can get better. Planting native greenery will cut down water cost. Also, planting trees around house will provide shade, cooling your home; they also protect from the wind.
Do not use pesticides and toxic-chemicals in your garden. They not only pollute your soil, water, and air, but if you are eating anything growing in your back yard, you are ingesting them as well.
If bugs feasting on your lovely greens are a problem, try garlic or citrus-based insecticide to ward off and kill those freeloading pests, says cleanairgardening.com.
Planting in season, when the soil is healthy and the temperature is just right for crops is another way to ward off pests.
There are plenty of other ways to go green in the home. Visit some of these great websites for further information on how to green proof your house: greenhomeguide.com, greenhome.com, hgtv.com, and homegreenhome.com.
Consider green fireworks
Environmentally safe way to celebrate Independence Day
By Joseph Wright
OW Senior Staff Writer
For Arnold Matthews, a pyrotechnics expert with Catalyst ‘Crackers, one of his company’s most explosive displays this Independence Day will be its Catalyst Gold-Split Comet, with its record-setting 15-second hang-time. “Wherever we’ve taken our act and products to, the crowds always love and look forward to the blast that forms a happy face in the sky,” Matthews said.
However, the same chemistry that captivates and draws response from the crowds also rains potentially toxic compounds on their heads. Because of this, scientists across the world are helping pyrotechnicians to make their colorful fireworks “greener” for the environment.
The chemical reactions in a firework, begin first with a stream of hot gas released by burning fuel–a charcoal mixture called black powder–that pushes the rocket upwards. This fuel feeds on oxygen produced by an oxidizer. At the top of the rocket’s path, a second charge of powder ignites and explodes with a hue determined by a”color agent” mixed with the powder.
“Fireworks get their color from the metal barium and burns thanks to the oxidizer, perchlorate,” says Fresno Refinery chemical technician Adrienne Micheaux. “It is the same chemical that NASA puts in the solid rockets that take astronauts into outer space.”
When a firework explodes outdoors, it scatters traces of these chemicals into the environment. In 2009, the snow on New Year’s Day in Saalbach, Austria contained 800 times more barium than it did the previous night prior to its New Year’s Eve fireworks show. A 1,000-fold increase in barium levels was found in the air of a Far East Indian region celebrating the Hindu Festival of Lights, in which families set off their own firecrackers and sparklers. A 2007 Environmental Protection Agency study of a lake in Oklahoma found perchlorate levels spiked 1,000-fold, with the ensuing contamination lasting several weeks after an Independence Day celebration.
In large enough quantities, barium can interfere with the thyroid, cramp muscles, disrupt heartbeats, and constrict lungs. Perchlorates can also impair the thyroid and affect fish population, as well, although the levels found in the Oklahoma lake where about half those that have been conclusively found to cause these ecological problems.
Experts recommend that people who have respiratory ailments should reconsider before sitting underneath the shower of particles that come from exploding fireworks. “Studies in Hawaii and India have shown an increase in the number of asthma cases on Independence Day,” Micheaux said.
A final word
Getting personal about saving the planet
By Sarah Long
Urban Media Foundation Student
Every morning, around 6 a.m., a lady who lives on the corner of Hollywood and Gower rides her bike down to our house and separates aluminum cans from plastic soda bottles.
She then trades them in for money to buy cat food. We don’t know the lady’s name but we have always wanted to thank her for reminding us to recycle. I know it sounds stupid and kind of uptight, but if you think about it, that is what this planet needs.
Our seas are poisonous because oil boats cannot seem to keep their product contained, and our streets are filthy from food wrappers and cigarette butts.
I thought this was our planet, but lately it feels like I’ve been working overtime getting the message out. It makes me wish there were more people at my school like the recycling lady.
I go to Hamilton High School. When it comes to the kind of people at my school, the best way I can describe them is: A bunch of “save-the-planet” hypocrites.
How do I know this? Every year we have a sort of “How to Behave” assembly, and at the end of the meeting, fellow students are allowed to go up and express their feelings. Every time this assembly happens, the one thing most complained about is how filthy and littered the school campus is, and the audience cheers and hoots after the comments are made.
But the same people hoot in’ and holler in’ are the same people I see littering the quad. Don’t you think that if everyone agrees there is a problem at your school, they should show support for the solution?
I know I may sound crazy and absolutely over reactive, but I get so frustrated, when I see this recurring littering problem and student hypocrisy. It just makes me what to grab people by the neck, push their faces into the litter they just tossed and say ‘ look what you did.’ You probably think I am insane right? I have bigger things to worry about right? Wrong.
I just wish that more people would open up to the idea of a clean campus. I am sure it’s possible for a handful of people to get off their lazy bums, walk over to one of those green trash cans the school so graciously provides and throw out their trash. It’s not like running a marathon–it only requires students walking about 10 steps, to change the filthy condition of our school.