Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Asthma and COPD Inhalers That Contain Ozone-depleting CFCs to be Phased Out; Alternative Treatments Available

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SILVER SPRING, Md., April 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced, in accordance with longstanding U.S. obligations under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, seven metered-dose inhalers (MDI) used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will be gradually removed from the U.S. marketplace. These inhalers contain ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are propellants that move medication out of the inhaler and into the lungs of patients. Alternative medications that do not contain CFCs are available.

The affected products and their phase out schedule include:
Inhaler Medication
Last Date to be manufactured, sold or dispensed in U.S.
Manufacturer

Tilade Inhaler (nedocromil)
June 14, 2010
King Pharmaceuticals

Alupent Inhalation Aerosol (metaproterenol)
June 14, 2010
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals

Azmacort Inhalation Aerosol (triamcinolone)
Dec. 31, 2010
Abbott Laboratories

Intal Inhaler (cromolyn)
Dec. 31, 2010
King Pharmaceuticals

Aerobid Inhaler System (flunisolide)
June 30, 2011
Forest Laboratories

Combivent Inhalation Aerosol (albuterol and ipratropium in combination)
Dec. 31, 2013
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals

Maxair Autohaler (pirbuterol)
Dec. 31, 2013
Graceway Pharmaceuticals





Patients using the inhalers scheduled to be phased out should talk to their health care professional about switching to one of several alternative treatments currently available. Until then, patients should continue using their current inhaler medication.

CFCs are harmful because they deplete the ozone layer miles above the Earth that absorb some of the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. The United States has banned the general use of CFCs in consumer aerosols for decades, and eliminated the production of CFCs in the United States as of Jan. 1, 1996, except for certain limited uses, such as MDIs.

"During this transition, FDA wants to ensure that patients have access to safe and effective alternative medications to treat their asthma or COPD," said Badrul Chowdhury, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Rheumatology Products in FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "We are currently working with professional societies and patient organizations to make sure patients understand which products will no longer be available and have information on which alternative medication might work best for them."

The CFC phase out is part of an international agreement to ban substances that deplete the Earth's ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and the U.S. Clean Air Act aim to protect the public health and the environment from the potentially negative effects of ozone depletion. Bans on products containing CFCs began in the late 1970s.

The decision to phase out the products is the latest in a series of decisions related to the removal of CFC inhaler products from the market as required by the Clean Air Act. The agency proposed to phase-out the seven remaining products in 2007 and reached a final decision after reviewing more than 4,000 public comments and information submitted as part of a public meeting.

For more information:
Seven Inhalers That Use CFCs Being Phased Out
http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm207864.htm
Phase-Out of CFC Metered-Dose Inhalers Containing flunisolide, triamcinolone, metaproterenol, pirbuterol, albuterol and ipratropium in combination, cromolyn, and nedocromil
http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm193896.htm
Metered-Dose Inhalers Clean Air Act Information
http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/LawsActsandRules/ucm071523.htm
Drug Treatments for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease that Do Not Use Chlorofluorocarbons
http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm082370.htm
Media Inquiries: Erica Jefferson, 301-796-4988, erica.jefferson@fda.hhs.gov
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sony Launches 'Road to Zero' Environmental Plan and Sets 2015 Mid-term Targets

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TOKYO, April 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Sony Corporation today announced its "Road to Zero" global environmental plan. The plan, which includes a long-term goal of achieving a zero environmental footprint by 2050, uses backcasting methods to set specific mid-term environmental targets for the next five years in line with that goal. Sony's definition of zero environmental footprint is not only limited to the neutralization of carbon emissions, but also extends to waste and use of finite materials such as oil-derived virgin plastics.

Targets are based on four environmental perspectives - climate change, resource conservation, control of chemical substances and biodiversity - across all product lifecycle stages, from research and development to recycling. The mid-term targets will be implemented globally across the Sony Group beginning in fiscal year 2011 (April 2011), and will extend through the end of fiscal year 2015 (March 2016), at which time new targets for the following 5 years will be set.

Specific mid-term targets include:

* 30% reduction in annual energy consumption of products (compared to fiscal 2008)
* 10% reduction in product mass (compared to fiscal 2008)
* 50% absolute reduction in waste generation (compared to fiscal 2000)
* 30% absolute reduction in water consumption (compared to fiscal 2000)
* 14% reduction in total CO2 emissions associated with all transportation and logistics (compared to fiscal 2008)
* 16% reduction in incoming parts packaging waste (compared to fiscal 2008)
* Increase of waste recycle ratio to 99% or more
* 5% reduction in utilization ratio of virgin oil-based plastics in products (compared to fiscal 2008)
* Assessment of impact of resource procurement and facility construction on biodiversity, and promotion of biodiversity programs such as groundwater cultivation
* Minimization of the risk of chemical substances through preventive measures; reduction in use of specific chemicals defined by Sony; and promotion of use of alternative materials

Click here to find out more!

"We are fully committed to putting our innovative spirit and technological expertise to use to help solve environmental challenges," said Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman, CEO and President of Sony Corporation. "From the development of new materials and energy-efficient technologies, to the introduction of better processes in manufacturing and production, we will work aggressively to meet the ambitious targets we are setting for ourselves and, at the same time, establish a model for others in our industries to follow."

Sony has already made significant progress in reducing its environmental impact around the world. Sony's European sites, for example, have reduced their CO2 emissions from electricity use and facility heating by approximately 93% between fiscal years 2000 and 2009. In addition, the majority of its BRAVIA TV range now carries the EU 'flower,' an eco-label introduced by the EU to certify greener, more environmentally friendly products that comply with strict ecological criteria.

Sony Europe is also a founding member of the 'European Recycling Platform' (ERP). Fully operational in 11 European countries, the ERP effectively manages end-of-life collection and recycling for all consumer electronics products. In 2008, approximately 60,000 tons of electronic waste were collected and recycled on behalf of Sony in 20 European countries.

In the U.S., Sony Electronics (SEL) was the first consumer electronics manufacturer to institute a nation-wide Take Back Recycling Program in 2007 through which consumers can recycle any Sony-branded product free of charge. To date, SEL has recycled more than 13,000 tons of electronic waste through its take back efforts.

In Japan, Sony is the only company that voluntarily collects used small-sized consumer electronics on an experimental basis jointly with a municipality, Kitakyushu City in southern Japan. Gold, silver, bronze and palladium are extracted from the products discarded by city residents and are subsequently reused by Sony. For example, the recycled gold was used in Sony's semiconductor chips that were then adopted for use in Sony Ericsson's "URBANO BARONE" mobile phone (available in Japan through KDDI Corporation since February 2010).

In addition, the new VAIO W eco edition, launched in most major global markets this year and designed to be the industry's most environmentally friendly laptop, features recycled plastic parts, an electronic manual and an innovative carry-bag that saves 10% in CO2 emissions during production.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, based in Culver City, CA, took an important step toward its zero waste goal in June 2009 by partnering with the City of Culver City in a first-of-its-kind organic waste composting program. Thanks to this program, the studio has already diverted up to 80% of its waste from landfills (as of December 2009). In addition, an estimated 8,559 set pieces were reused in 2009, saving over a million pounds (500 tons) of material and helping reduce impact on natural resources. That same year, the studio recycled 81 tons of electronic waste.

Sony's fiscal year 2015 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and power consumption per product were reviewed and approved by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as a renewal of the company's Climate Savers Programme commitments. Sony has been a member of the WWF Climate Savers Programme since 2006. The Programme was organized by WWF International to mobilize companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

To learn more about Sony Group's "Road to Zero," refer to: sony.net/SonyInfo/csr/eco/RoadToZero

About Sony Corporation

Sony Corporation is a leading manufacturer of audio, video, game, communications, key device and information technology products for the consumer and professional markets. With its music, pictures, computer entertainment and on-line businesses, Sony is uniquely positioned to be the leading electronics and entertainment company in the world. Sony recorded consolidated annual sales of approximately $79 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2009. Sony Global Web Site: http://www.sony.net

SOURCE Sony Corporation of America

Source: PR Newswire

Monday, April 12, 2010

How to Identify Eco Friendly Products

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

TAG Heuer Celebrates 150th Anniversary With Event in Basel Honoring Environmental Activist, Actor Leonardo DiCaprio

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BASEL, Switzerland, March 19, 2010 /PRNewswire/ --

- TAG Heuer and Tesla Motors Embark on "Odyssey of Pioneers" World Tour

TAG Heuer today kicked off a celebration if its 150th anniversary at an invitation-only event for more than 600 guests, honoring actor and climate change activist Leonardo DiCaprio for his dedication to saving the environment. DiCaprio has an ongoing partnership with the company that benefits the NRDC and Green Cross International.

To view the Multimedia News Release, please click:

http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/tagheuer/42906/

The evening - dedicated to the pioneering spirit of innovation - also served as the launch for the Odyssey of Pioneers - a unique travelling roadshow that will showcase TAG Heuer's finest timepieces of past, present and future in 15 cities, between March and October 2010.

As an Olympic flame, the tour will be lead by the new TAG Heuer Tesla Roadster, an exclusive model introduced by electric carmaker Tesla Motors at the Geneva Motor Show in early March 2010. This one-of-a-kind collector's car incorporates the defining TAG Heuer avant-garde design elements, and celebrates the core values of both brands: innovation, precision, prestige and performance.

Starting in Basel, "The Odyssey of Pioneers" will be the first round-the-world tour by a zero-emission GT car: 37,000 km/24,000 miles; six-months; 15 stops; 18 watches on show, one record to be scored.

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, was at the wheel of the new vehicle when it made its grand entry on stage. "The engineers of both brands have worked hand-in-hand, convinced that performance-driven technology - whether on the wrist or on the road - must be part of any sustainable development," Musk said.

The night also served as the premiere of the Grand Carrera Pendulum, a 2010 concept watch that turns an immutable principle of mechanical watchmaking on its head - it is the first movement without a hairspring. Jean-Christophe Babin, president and CEO of TAG Heuer, explained how it works : "In the regulation system, we simply replaced the traditional hairspring with magnetic fields. TAG Heuer invented the oscillating pinion in 1887; the Mikrograph, the first counter that was accurate to a 100th of a second; and the V4, with its belt-driven transmission system. Now, we are introducing another major innovation, and another example of the pioneering spirit that has imbued us for a century and a half."

"Mastering time, this has been our challenge since 1860," said TAG Heuer Honorary Chairman Jack Heuer as he opened the celebration.

In his remarks, Leonardo DiCaprio - wearing the new Carrera 1887 - discussed his pride in being an ambassador for the company : "I am excited to be here to celebrate TAG's 150th birthday," said DiCaprio. "I am proud to be associated with a company that not only has a rich and storied history, but also understand the importance of doing good in the world. Our partnership, which enables people to buy a quality timepiece and help save the planet at the same time, is a model I hope other brands will follow."

At dawn on Friday, April 19, the TAG Heuer Tesla Roadster left Basel to carry out its task of taking 150 years of heritage around the world and write a new page in this wonderful story.

For further information concerning the products, please consult our press corner: http://presscorner.tagheuer.com/

To chart the Odyssey in real time and read about the drivers and events, please visit: http://www.odyssey.tagheuer.com and http://www.teslamotors.com/odyssey

In 2010, TAG Heuer proudly celebrates 150 years of pioneering Swiss watchmaking. Founded in Saint-Imier in 1860 by Edouard Heuer, TAG Heuer has set many major milestones of high-end watchmaking, especially in the field of chronographs and ultimate precision. Today, one of the largest and most desired brands in the luxury watch industry, the Swiss legend draws upon its active engagement in the world of sports to create the most accurate timing instruments and watches in the world. TAG Heuer is the first watchmaker to master luxury chronographs with an unsurpassed precision of 1/10th, 1/100th and 1/1,000th of a second. From the Olympic Games in the 1920s to its role as official timekeeper to within 1/10,000th of a second for the legendary Indy 500, TAG Heuer, in a constant quest for innovation, excellence, performance and prestige, continues to aim ever higher. This is reflected in its quarter-century partnership with F1 team Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, its 7-year partnership with 2008 Formula 1 World Champion, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, and his new teammate , 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button. TAG Heuer, more than ever, epitomizes prestige and performance through active partnerships with Hollywood icon Leonardo DiCaprio and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, LPGA star Suzann Pettersen and WTA tennis champion Maria Sharapova. TAG Heuer is a privileged member of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), the most exclusive club in the Swiss watchmaking industry. The newest addition to the TAG Heuer legacy is the Calibre 1887, an in-house, Swiss manufactured, integrated column-wheel chronograph movement that pays tribute to the original Heuer oscillating pinion of 1887, one of the brand's first patents and a major benchmark in modern watchmaking. From March through October 2010, TAG Heuer's revolutionary and ecologically conscious "Odyssey of Pioneers" exhibit, the first-ever round-the-world trip in a 100% electric car designed specifically by Tesla Motors for TAG Heuer, will showcase in Olympic flame fashion the brand's past, present and future collections across 15 key cities of the world.

Energy Crops Impact Environmental Quality

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What happens to the soil when you remove the plants?

Crop residues, perennial warm season grasses, and short-rotation woody crops are potential biomass sources for cellulosic ethanol production. While most research is focused on the conversion of cellulosic feedstocks into ethanol and increasing production of biomass, the impacts of growing energy crops and the removal of crop residue on soil and environmental quality have received less attention. Moreover, effects of crop residue removal on soil and environmental quality have not been compared against those of dedicated energy crops.

In the March-April 2010 issue of Agronomy Journal, published by the American Society of Agronomy, Dr. Humberto Blanco reviewed the impacts of crop residue removal, warm season grasses, and short-rotation woody crops on critical soil properties, carbon sequestration, and water quality as well as the performance of energy crops in marginal lands. The review found that crop residue removal from corn, wheat, and grain sorghum cane adversely impact soil and environmental quality. Removal of more than 50% of crop residue can have negative consequences for soil structure, reduce soil organic carbon sequestration, increase water erosion, and reduce nutrient cycling and crop production, particularly in erodible and sloping soils.

"Crop residue removal can make no-till soils a source rather than a sink of atmospheric carbon," says Blanco, even at rates lower than 50%. Residue removal at rates of less than 25% can cause loss of sediment in runoff relative to soils without residue removal. To avoid the negative impacts on soil, perhaps only a small fraction of residue might be available for removal. This small amount of crop residues is not economically feasible nor logistically possible. Blanco recommends developing other alternative biomass feedstock sources for cellulosic ethanol production.

An alternative to crop residue removal is growing warm season grasses and short-rotation woody crops as dedicated energy crops. These crops can provide a wide of range of ecosystems services over crop residue removal. Available data indicate that herbaceous and woody plants can improve soil characteristics, reduce soil water and wind erosion, filter pollutants in runoff, sequester soil organic carbon, reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases, and improve wildlife habitat and diversity.

Whereas crop residue removal reduces carbon concentration, dedicated energy crops can increase soil organic carbon concentration while providing biofuel feedstock. Because of their deep root systems, warm season grasses also promote long-term carbon sequestration in deeper soil profile unlike row crops.

Growing dedicated energy crops in marginal and abandoned lands instead of prime agricultural fields will further benefit the soil and environment. Warm season grasses can grow in nutrient-depleted, compacted, poorly drained, acid, and eroded soils. Herbaceous and woody energy crops cannot replace natural forest and native prairie lands, but well-managed dedicated energy crops may provide a myriad of benefits to soil and environment while supplying much needed feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production. Developing the next generation of biofuels will not only require new technologies to transform it into fuel, but new agricultural methods for growing it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

No hydel project sans environmental clearance, says Ramesh

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Kolkata: The Centre will not go ahead with any proposed hydel power project in the country if it fails to receive environmental clearance and the people's acceptance, Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh said here today.

"We are now waiting for an environment impact report on the proposed hydel power projects on Teesta, Bhagirathi and Alakananda rivers. Without cooperation from people we can't
implement any such project," Ramesh told reporters after
attending a workshop here.

On the controversies surrounding another proposed hydel power project at Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur, Ramesh said that even as the project was cleared in principle, the Centre would give it a fresh look considering the heat it has generated in both Manipur and Bangladesh.

Ramesh was speaking in the presence of his Bangladesh counterpart Hasan Mahmud, who did not make any comment. "We must ensure that ties between the two countries remain
unaffected," Ramesh said.

Tipaimukh Dam is a proposed hydel power project on Barak river in Manipur. The project sparked controversy as India plans to build the dam just 100 km off the Bangladesh border.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Harmful Effects of Smoking

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*Every year hundreds of thousands of people around the world die from diseases caused by smoking cigarettes - Smoking KILLS.

*One in two lifetime smokers will die from their habit. Half of these deaths will occur in middle age.

*Tobacco smoke also contributes to a number of cancers.

*The mixture of nicotine and carbon monoxide in each cigarette you smoke temporarily increases your heart rate and blood pressure, straining your heart and blood vessels.

*This can cause heart attacks and stroke. It slows your blood flow, cutting off oxygen to your feet and hands. Some smokers end up having their limbs
amputated.

*Tar coats your lungs like soot in a chimney and causes cancer. A 20-a-day smoker breathes in up to a full cup (210 g) of tar in a year.

*Changing to low-tar cigarettes does not help because smokers usually take deeper puffs and hold the smoke in for longer, dragging the tar deeper into their lungs.

*Carbon monoxide robs your muscles, brain and body tissue of oxygen, making your whole body and especially your heart work harder. Over time, your airways swell up and let less air into your lungs.

*Smoking causes disease and is a slow way to die. The strain of smoking effects on the body often causes years of suffering. Emphysema is an illness that slowly rots your lungs. People with emphysema often get bronchitis again and again, and suffer lung and heart failure.

*Lung cancer from smoking is caused by the tar in tobacco smoke. Men who smoke are ten times more likely to die from lung cancer than non-smokers.

*Heart disease and strokes are also more common among smokers than non-smokers.

*Smoking causes fat deposits to narrow and block blood vessels which leads to heart attack.

*Smoking causes around one in five deaths from heart disease.

*In younger people, three out of four deaths from heart disease are due to smoking.

*Cigarette smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of low birth weight, prematurity, spontaneous abortion, and perinatal mortality in humans, which has been referred to as the fetal tobacco syndrome.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Polluting Environment... isn't it a sin?

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Environmental Toxins

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Environmental Toxins & Your Health

Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Pepsi refresh project: An environmental initiative by Pepsi

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Pepsi has initiated a project called 'Pepsi Refresh Project' which is an eco-friendly drive. In order to facilitate the great, no matter big or small ideas in this respect Pepsi has announced to give away prizes worth 1.3 million dollars every month.

PEPSI HAS been refreshing people with its drinks for long, but this time Pepsi is trying to refresh people by launching an eco-friendly project for betterment of environment on the planet.

Pepsi has initiated a project called 'Pepsi Refresh Project'. In order to facilitate the great, no matter big or small ideas in this respect Pepsi has announced to give away prizes worth 1.3 million dollars every month.
The ideas are invited from the US citizens only under the categories Art and Culture, Planet, Health, neighbourhood, education, food and shelter. The prize distribution includes two grants of 250, 000 dollars, ten grants of 50,000 dollars, 25,000 dollars and 5,000 dollars each. There will be 32 recipients of the award each month.


Each month a maximum of thousand ideas will be selected. The winners amongst those selected will be decided by the citizens of US through online polling. The winner will be awarded the prize amount and a time period of 12 months to implement the idea.
The most interesting thing is that the 100 runner-up ideas will get transferred to the next months contest, but the voting will start afresh.


Pepsi is doing its bit in terms of social responsibility for a better tomorrow for the citizens of US. The project has attracted a lot of fans across US

Friday, April 02, 2010

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India is failing its rural poor with 230 million people being undernourished — the highest for any country in the world. Malnutrition accounts for nearly 50% of child deaths in India as every third adult (aged 15-49 years) is reported to be thin (BMI less than 18.5).
India ranks 94th in the Global Hunger Index of 119 countries, the report said.

Beyond climate change: Reframing the dialogue over environmental issues

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TRAVELING in India the past two months has impressed on me the breadth and urgency of the world's environmental crisis. After decades of sustained growth following the "green revolution" in the 1960s, Indian crop yields no longer keep up with population growth.

Topsoil is becoming depleted of natural chemical nutrients so that increasing applications of chemical fertilizers are required to sustain high crop yields. Cropland is being lost to urbanization and topsoil is being stripped from fields to make bricks. Excess nitrogen from fertilizers in the runoff is polluting rivers and wetlands. Water tables are plummeting in response to shortsighted management practices such as "water mining" from deep wells to increase yields of dry-season crops.

Some highly regarded Indian ecologists are concerned about the risk of future biodiversity losses because of the introduction of genetically engineered plant species. India's tiger population is reportedly down to about 1,400. People are sickened by toxic waste from factories producing goods for consumption in developed countries. The list goes on.

Media coverage of India's looming environmental crisis has been eclipsed by the debate about long-term future impacts of global climate change. The revelation that the Himalayan glaciers are not retreating as rapidly as reported in the Fourth Assessment Report of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been front-page news in India day after day. Readers of these news stories could easily come away with the impression that the immediacy of the environmental crisis has been exaggerated when, in fact, it is not being given sufficient emphasis.

It's tempting to blame the media for fixating on global warming, but we climate scientists are partly to blame for the misplaced emphasis. Over the past 20 years we have stood by and watched as governmental and nongovernmental organizations that deal with environmental issues became more and more narrowly focused on the long-term impacts of global warming.

Meanwhile, more imminent issues relating to the sustainability of our planet's life-support system under the pressures of growing human population and the widening gap between rich and poor are not getting the attention they deserve.

By failing to foster creation of robust, broad-based advisory mechanisms, we have allowed the IPCC assessment reports to become the dominant vehicle for representing the views of the scientific community on a widening range of environmental issues. In the IPCC terminology, symptoms of environmental degradation, regardless of their cause, are labeled as impacts of climate change, and the societal response to them is framed in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Scientists still write papers and speak to the media about environmental concerns outside of the purview of the IPCC, but with so much of the world's attention riveted on climate change there is a lack of institutional infrastructure for calling attention to other issues.

Labeling issues such as reduced agricultural productivity, loss of biodiversity, pollution and the looming shortage of fresh water as "impacts of global warming" leaves the public confused and susceptible to propaganda by groups who oppose environmental regulation of any kind. With the IPCC increasingly in the spotlight, the denialists can trivialize the entire environmental crisis simply by casting doubt on the scientific consensus on global warming.

Climate scientists and their detractors are slugging it out every day in blogs and editorial pages while legislative initiatives to get governments to address environmental and resource issues remain stalled, despite broad public support for them.

At the recent Copenhagen Summit, the nations of the world were reluctant to make binding agreements to reduce their production of greenhouse gases. Given the limited public understanding of the intricacies of climate science, the human tendency to be more concerned with current issues than with what the climate will be like 100 years from now, and the glaring inequities in per capita fossil fuel consumption between countries like the United States and those like India, justifying an enlightened energy policy on the basis of concerns about global warming is a tough sell.

The negotiations might have gone better had the justification been framed in terms of conserving the world's dwindling oil reserves, stabilizing oil prices and promoting energy independence.

The current stalemate is likely to persist as long as scientists allow climate change to dominate the environmental policy agenda. In order to promote a more productive dialogue between scientists and policymakers, the discussion of adaptation and mitigation options in the policy arena needs to be reframed so that it addresses environmental degradation and sustainability in the broad sense, not just the impacts of climate change.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Butterflies to give environmental clues

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A Central Australian entomologist says more research should be done on butterflies.

Dr Christopher Palmer says butterflies are a good indicator of the health of the environment particularly during times of climate change.

He says research on butterflies is needed now, more than ever.

"When you know a lot about different species within a particular group you can use those species to monitor the health of the landscape", he says.

"For instance, you do climate change, you can monitor those species and their distributions and whether they're present or absent or not just to see if the landscape is healthy or not".

Friday, March 26, 2010

Air Pollution Control Techniques

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The best control measure, of course, is prevention. However, as long as there are fossil fuel emissions from our coal-burning factories and gas-burning automobiles, there will be air pollution. The key to easing future impacts is control. The sources of air pollution are many, although most authorities identify sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particulate matter as the major pollutants. Identification of sources of pollution offers opportunities for control.

Industrial Solutions
1. Overall, control measures are proving effective. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that air quality has improved significantly since 1990, with control programs for chemical plants, coke ovens, and incinerators, among other pollution sources, in place. The success of such programs depends upon achieving a balance between benefits and costs.

A switch to low-sulfur coal would reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. Power companies have opposed the switch, citing the high cost of implementation and cost to the consumer. However, the EPA estimates the cost to the consumer as only a 1 to 1.5 percent increase in energy costs. Another possible solution is installation of scrubbers on smokestacks. Scrubbers filter emissions with a water and limestone solution, resulting in formation of gypsum, an additive for concrete or for use in wallboard construction. This solution dramatically reduces sulfur dioxide emissions, by some estimates up to 95 percent.

Individual Activities
2. While tangible results can be achieved with control measures, the American lifestyle counteracts a reduction in air pollution. Since 1970, automobile travel has increased 177 percent. The population has grown over 46 percent, accompanied by an increase in energy consumption. Driving a car is the greatest source of pollution from a single individual. Hydrocarbon emissions result in ground-level ozone, which has been linked to respiratory problems in people and wildlife. Driving less and car pooling are two ways an individual can reduce the effects.

Other seemingly innocuous human activities also increase air pollution levels. The EPA estimates that smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contributes up to 80 percent of the particulate emissions during the winter season. Using an EPA-certified control device and cutting back on wood fires are two ways to reduce emissions.

Deforestation
3. Deforestation also impacts air quality in two major ways. As a result of the reduction in plant biomass, the total volume of oxygen released by plants during photosynthesis is reduced. Carbon dioxide that is normally cycled by plants builds up in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is considered a greenhouse gas and a contributor to global warming.

Conclusion
4. Air pollution affects all life on Earth, from reducing a plant's ability to produce food to acidifying lakes and killing fish, to causing human disease and death. The complexity of air pollution with its many causes requires a multi-faceted approach that involves not only industry control but conservation practices by citizens as well.

Drinking weed - Environmental problem proposed as beer ingredient

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Cheatgrass is proposed as an ingredient for beer
in U.S.D.A Ag Report.  Graphic & Photo courtesy
of Wikipedia
Barley growers aren’t going to like this report. It’s a nasty, invasive and non native grass that’s called cheatgrass.  It crowds out native grasses, tangles dog hair and ruins your socks and running shoes and grows all too well everywhere you don’t want it.  But it may be good for beer.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service report titled, An Economic Solution for an Environmental Problem: Cheatgrass  indicates that cheatgrass seed (barley is grass seed too) could be a suitable beer ingredient.

The author claims to have decoction mashed cheatgrass seeds successfully to full conversion of starches to sugars.  The test brew measured a specific gravity of 1.040 (10 degree P) and fermented to a 4.5% alcohol beer.  A “panel of taste testing” determined the beer as a “flavorful, consumable product, similar to amber ales.”

The authors figured that 3,112 pounds of seed can be produced per hectare (2.5 acres). If one pound is used per gallon of beer then 31 pounds could produce one barrel (U.S) of beer.  They conclude that 100 barrels of beer could be made from a one hectare plot.

The idea has merit, but the authors may have been drinking a bit too much of their weed when finally concluding that cheatgrass beer could be a windfall crop: “ … beer can be sold for $200.00 per barrel, estimating $20,000.00 net profit per hectare.

Unfortunately if you grew your own weed and brewed beer yourself, there’s a lot more expense to making beer than indicated  in the report.

Monday, March 22, 2010

E-waste Trade Ban Won't End Environmental Threat

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Crude recycling methods used in developing countries contaminate air, water and soil

A proposal under debate in the U.S. Congress to ban the export of electronics waste would likely make a growing global environmental problem even worse, say authors of an article from the journal Environmental Science and Technology appearing online today.

The authors call into question conventional thinking that trade bans can prevent "backyard recycling" of electronics waste – primarily old and obsolete computers – in developing countries.

Primitive recycling processes used in these countries are dispersing materials and pollutants that are contaminating air, water and soil.

"Trade bans will become increasingly irrelevant in solving the problem,'' says Eric Williams, one of the authors of the article, which offers alternative ways to address the problem.

Williams is an assistant professor at Arizona State University with a joint appointment in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, a part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School of Sustainability.

Electronics waste – or e-waste – is often exported from the United States and other developed nations to regions in China, India, Thailand and less developed countries where recycling is done in a crude fashion.

To recover copper from e-waste, for instance, wires are pulled out, piled up and burned to remove insulation covering the copper. This emits dioxins and other pollutants.

Toxic cyanide and acids used to remove gold from circuit boards of junked computers also are released into the environment.

With the number of junked computers expected to triple in the next 15 years, the authors say, the problem will grow much worse if an effective remedy is not put in place in the near future.

The main approach to solving the backyard recycling problem has been to ban trade in e-waste. Some countries have officially banned e-waste imports, but in some cases, as in China, such legislation has pushed the trade to the black market.

Congress is debating House Resolution 2595, which would ban the export of e-waste from the United States.

"The underlying assumption of this bill and other trade bans is that most e-waste comes from outside developing nations, and that stopping trade with developed countries would cut off the supply of e-waste and stop backyard recycling," Williams says.

But authors of the Environmental Science and Technology article forecast that the developing world will generate more waste computers than the developed countries as soon as 2017, and that by 2025 the developing world will generate twice the amount of waste computers as what will come from developed nations.

"Rapid economic and population growth in developing countries is driving an increase in computer use in these parts of the world that is outpacing the implementation of modern and environment-friendly recycling systems," Williams says. " So without action, backyard recycling is certain to increase."

But he and his co-authors say even a complete global ban on trade in e-waste cannot solve the problem because it covers only a diminishing percentage of the overall supply of e-waste. They argue for direct action to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of backyard recycling.

One proposal is to pay backyard recyclers not to recycle.

"The idea is to let people first repair and reuse equipment, and only intervene to remove materials and components that would be environmentally hazardous when e-waste would be recycled using crude methods," Williams says. "Such a system looks to be an inexpensive way to maintain jobs in recycling operations and maintain access to used computers while protecting the environment."

Sensors to detect engineered nanoparticles to gauge environmental impact

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Washington, March 21 (ANI): A chemist is developing sensors that would detect and identify engineered nanoparticles, a research work that will advance our understanding of the risks associated with the environmental release and transformation of these particles.


The chemist in question is Omowunmi Sadik, director of Binghamton University's Center for Advanced Sensors and Environmental Systems.

"We need to think not just about how to make these nanoparticles but also about their impact on human health and the environment," said Sadik, a professor of chemistry.


A survey by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies found that nanoparticles - particles less than 100 nanometers in size - are now used in more than 1,000 consumer products ranging from cars to food.


Silver nanoparticles are widely used as coating materials in cookware and tableware and as ingredients in laundry liquids and clothes because of their antibacterial properties.


You can even buy socks infused with silver nanoparticles designed to reduce bacteria and odor.


"But what happens if we buy those socks and we wash them?" Sadik asked. "The nanoparticles end up in our water system," she said.


Little is known about how these and other engineered nanoparticles interact with our water systems, the soil and the air.


Some are known toxins; others have properties similar to asbestos, and it's difficult to monitor them.


Current techniques rely on huge microscopes to identify nanoparticles, but the devices are not portable and do not provide information about the toxicity of materials.


Sadik and a Binghamton colleague, Howard Wang, have received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to design, create and test sensors for monitoring engineered nanoparticles and naturally occurring cell particles.


"We need to understand the chemical transformation of these materials in the ecosystem so we can take action to prevent unnecessary exposure," Sadik said.


Her lab has already created a membrane that will not only trap a single nanoparticle but also provide a means of signal generation.


It uses cyclodextrin, whose molecular structure resembles a tiny cup.


"It can be used not only as a sensor, but also for cleanup," Sadik said.


That discovery and others make Sadik believe that nanotechnology may also prove useful in the remediation of environmental pollutants.


"Green nanotechnology could even reduce the use of solvents and result in manufacturing protocols that produce less waste," she said. (ANI)

Friday, March 19, 2010

India and China need to team up to deal with environmental problems

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Washington, March 19 (ANI): A Michigan State University (MSU) scientist and colleagues have said that China and India need to collaborate to slow global warming, deforestation, water shortages and other environmental issues.


"China and India are the two largest countries in terms of population," said Jianguo Liu, MSU University Distinguished Professor of fisheries and wildlife who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability.

"Even while the rest of the world is in a recession, the economies of China and India are growing and the countries' consumption of raw materials is increasing. Cooperation between the two is vital to mitigating negative environmental impacts," he added.


In the report "China, India and the Environment," published in the March 19 issue of the journal Science, Liu and co-authors advocate using scientific collaboration as a bridge to help break down political barriers between the two nations - ultimately benefiting the larger global society.


All the authors have strong research programs in one or both of the countries.


"We all have a huge interest in a sustainable world and the way we're managing it now, it simply isn't sustainable," said Peter Raven, co-author and president of the Missouri Botanical Garden.


"The problems get worse every year; biodiversity loss and climate change have clear global significance.


Our thesis is the two countries share so much adjacent territory that the environmental benefits should be obvious and, informed by scientific analysis, should provide a bridge between them," he added.


According to Liu, water availability could be an increasingly challenging issue facing the two countries and one that will require careful cooperation.


Many rivers flow through both China and India. If one country builds too many dams on its side to generate hydroelectric power, it will likely cause water shortages downstream in the other country.


"Water is a huge issue. It's being discussed extensively. We need to make people aware of the benefits of cooperation," said Liu.


"It's more than just China and India that will be affected if these two countries don't work together. The environmental impacts will be felt around the world, including in the United States," he added.


"One thing we have learned from the recession is that without sustainability there cannot be unlimited growth," said Kamaljit Bawa, University of Massachusetts-Boston distinguished professor of biology and president of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment in Bangalor, India.


"The two countries are not facing recession and it is time for them to exercise environmental stewardship. Future economic growth is contingent upon this stewardship," he added. (ANI)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Environmental And Social Impacts Of The 'Livestock Revolution'

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A new report by an international research team explores the impact of the global livestock industry on the environment, the economy and human health.

Global meat production has tripled in the past three decades and could double its present level by 2050, according to a new report on the livestock industry by an international team of scientists and policy experts. The impact of this "livestock revolution" is likely to have significant consequences for human health, the environment and the global economy, the authors conclude.

"The livestock industry is massive and growing," said Harold A. Mooney, co-editor of the two-volume report, Livestock in a Changing Landscape (Island Press). Mooney is a professor of biology and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment.

"This is the first time that we've looked at the social, economic, health and environmental impacts of livestock in an integrated way and presented solutions for reducing the detrimental effects of the industry and enhancing its positive attributes," he said.

Among the key findings in the report are:

* More than 1.7 billion animals are used in livestock production worldwide and occupy more than one-fourth of the Earth's land.

* Production of animal feed consumes about one-third of total arable land.

* Livestock production accounts for approximately 40 percent of the global agricultural gross domestic product.

* The livestock sector, including feed production and transport, is responsible for about 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Impacts on humanity

Although about 1 billion poor people worldwide derive at least some part of their livelihood from domesticated animals, the rapid growth of commercialized industrial livestock has reduced employment opportunities for many, according to the report. In developing countries, such as India and China, large-scale industrial production has displaced many small, rural producers, who are under additional pressure from health authorities to meet the food safety standards that a globalized marketplace requires.

Beef, poultry, pork and other meat products provide one-third of humanity's protein intake, but the impact on nutrition across the globe is highly variable, according to the report. "Too much animal-based protein is not good for human diets, while too little is a problem for those on a protein-starved diet, as happens in many developing countries," Mooney noted.

While overconsumption of animal-source foods – particularly meat, milk and eggs – has been linked to heart disease and other chronic conditions, these foods remain a vital source of protein and nutrient nutrition throughout the developing world, the report said. The authors cited a recent study of Kenyan children that found a positive association between meat intake and physical growth, cognitive function and school performance.

Human health also is affected by pathogens and harmful substances transmitted by livestock, the authors said. Emerging diseases, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza, are closely linked to changes in the livestock production but are more difficult to trace and combat in the newly globalized marketplace, they said.

Environmental impacts

The livestock sector is a major environmental polluter, the authors said, noting that much of the world's pastureland has been degraded by grazing or feed production, and that many forests have been clear-cut to make way for additional farmland. Feed production also requires intensive use of water, fertilizer, pesticides and fossil fuels, added co-editor Henning Steinfeld of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Animal waste is another serious concern. "Because only a third of the nutrients fed to animals are absorbed, animal waste is a leading factor in the pollution of land and water resources, as observed in case studies in China, India, the United States and Denmark," the authors wrote. Total phosphorous excretions are estimated to be seven to nine times greater than that of humans, with detrimental effects on the environment.

The beef, pork and poultry industries also emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases, Steinfeld said, adding that climate-change issues related to livestock remain largely unaddressed. "Without a change in current practices, the intensive increases in projected livestock production systems will double the current environmental burden and will contribute to large-scale ecosystem degradation unless appropriate measures are taken," he said.

Solutions

The report concludes with a review of various options for introducing more environmentally and socially sustainable practices to animal production systems.

"We want to protect those on the margins who are dependent on a handful of livestock for their livelihood," Mooney said. "On the other side, we want people engaged in the livestock industry to look closely at the report and determine what improvements they can make."

One solution is for countries to adopt policies that provide incentives for better management practices that focus on land conservation and more efficient water and fertilizer use, he said.

But calculating the true cost of meat production is a daunting task, Mooney added. Consider the piece of ham on your breakfast plate, and where it came from before landing on your grocery shelf. First, take into account the amount of land used to rear the pig. Then factor in all the land, water and fertilizer used to grow the grain to feed the pig and the associated pollution that results.

Finally, consider that while the ham may have come from Denmark, where there are twice as many pigs as people, the grain to feed the animal was likely grown in Brazil, where rainforests are constantly being cleared to grow more soybeans, a major source of pig feed.

"So much of the problem comes down to the individual consumer," said co-editor Fritz Schneider of the Swiss College of Agriculture (SHL). "People aren't going to stop eating meat, but I am always hopeful that as people learn more, they do change their behavior. If they are informed that they do have choices to help build a more sustainable and equitable world, they can make better choices."

Livestock in a Changing Landscape is a collaboration of the FAO, SHL, Woods Institute for the Environment, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Scientific Committee for Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD), and Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative (LEAD).

Other editors of the report are Laurie E. Neville (Stanford University), Pierre Gerber (FAO), Jeroen Dijkman (FAO), Shirley Tarawali (ILRI) and Cees de Haan (World Bank). Initial funding for the project was provided by a 2004 Environmental Venture Projects grant from the Woods Institute.

Cassandra Brooks of the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University contributed to this article.

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Image Caption: The growing worldwide demand for meat is likely to have a significant impact on human health, the environment and the global economy in the next 50 years, according to the report, Livestock in a Changing Landscape, released in March 2010. Credit: Keith Weller; Agricultural Research Service; USDA

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Ebay highlights environmental appeal

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Want to do your part to save the environment? Buy a leather handbag.
That is the message eBay is pushing with a new green shopping site and ad campaign.
On the site, green.ebay.com, and in the ads, eBay makes the case that buying something used is as environmentally correct as conservation and recycling.
eBay
"Most people think you have to make a product in a certain way with a certain set of ingredients for it to be green," said Amy Skoczlas Cole, director of eBay's green team. "What we're saying is you don't have to make this new product at all."

It is nothing new for companies to pick something they already do -- selling used products, in eBay's case -- and "rewrap it in nice green marketing," said Casey Harrell, who analyzes the information technology sector at Greenpeace.

Call it greenwashing or not, but Greenpeace has found in its research that reusing products has environmental benefits, he said. "Does this pass the laugh test? I think it can."
EBay, which is recovering from several unprofitable quarters and facing dwindling market share, has been recasting the site to make it more attractive to new kinds of shoppers -- and make it feel less like shopping an Excel spreadsheet. It unveiled a new apparel hub for fashion lovers in February, and now it is going after conservation-minded shoppers.

Its green hub, at green.ebay.com, collects items for sale on the site that eBay qualifies as green. They could be preowned or sustainable, such as a $34 cobalt blue vase made of recycled glass from a seller in Virginia, or resource-saving, like a $14.95 stainless steel water bottle from a seller in California.
The green site displays photo shoots by eBay showing the products in a room -- a shot of a kitchen, for instance, filled with products for sale.

The ads will appear in the April issues of all 15 Hearst magazines, which include Good Housekeeping and Popular Mechanics. They feature close-up portraits of used products on eBay. "Choosing a previously owned espresso machine saves 90 percent of the CO2 needed to produce a new one. So you get the jolt you need without compromising mankind," one ad says.

EBay hired Cooler, a company that calculates carbon footprints, to determine how much carbon shoppers save by buying something used instead of new. They say that the leather handbag, for example, saves as much energy as a flight from London to Paris.

Cooler calculated the total cost of creating a new item, including materials and manufacturing, and factored in the cost of packaging and shipping eBay items via fuel-guzzling planes or cars, Ms. Skoczlas Cole said.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Plastic bags – an environmental hazard

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Issues related to environmental hazards posed by plastic waste have been assessed by several committees. The problem created by the use of plastics bags is primarily due to shortcomings in the waste management system. Indiscriminate chemical additives pose environmental problems including choking open drains, ground water contamination, etc. Plastic itself is a chemically insert substance, used world –wide for packaging and is not per-se hazardous to health and environment. Recycling of plastic, if carried out as per approved procedures and guidelines, may not be an environmental or health hazard.

What are Plastics?

Plastics are polymers i.e. large molecules consisting of repeating units called monomers. In the case of plastic bags, the repeating units are ethylene. When ethylene molecules are polymerized to form polyethylene, they form long chains of carbon atoms in which each carbon is also bonded to two hydrogen atoms.

What are plastic bags made of?

Plastic bags are made from one of the three basic types of polymers -polyethylene- High Density polyethylene (HDPE), Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), or Linear Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDPE). Grocery bags are generally of HDPE, and bags from the dry cleaner are LDPE. The major difference between these materials is the degree of branching of the polymer chain. HDPE and LLDPE are composed of linear, un-branched chains, while LDPE chains are branched.

Are plastics harmful to health?

Plastics are not intrinsically toxic or harmful. But plastic carry bags are manufactured using organic and inorganic additives like colourants and pigments, plasticizers, antioxidants, stabilizers and metals.

Colourants and pigments are industrial azodyes which are used to give bright colour to plastic carry bags. Some of these are carcinogenic and likely to contaminate food stuffs, if packed in these carry bags. Heavy metals such as Cadmium contained in pigments can also reach out and prove to be a health hazard.

Plasticizers are organic esters of low volatile nature. They can migrate to food stuffs as a result of leaching. Plasticizers are also carcinogenic.

Antioxidants and Stabilizers are inorganic and organic chemicals to protect against thermal decomposition during manufacturing process.

Toxic metals like cadmium and lead when used in manufacturing of plastic bags also leach out and contaminate the food stuffs. Cadmium when absorbed in the low doses can cause vomiting and heart enlargement. Lead exposure in long term may cause degeneration of brain tissues.

Problems posed by Plastic Carry Bags

Plastic bags if not disposed properly may find their way into the drainage system resulting into choking of drains, creating unhygienic environment and causing water borne diseases. Recycled /coloured plastic bags may contain certain chemicals, which can leach to the ground and contaminate soil and sub-soil water. Units not equipped with environmentally sound techniques for recycling may create environmental problems due to toxic fumes generated during reprocessing. Some of the plastic bags which contain leftover food or which get mixed up with other garbage are eaten by animals resulting in harmful effects. Because of the non-biodegradable and impervious nature of plastics, if disposed in the soil, they could arrest the recharging of ground water aquifers. Further, to improve the properties of plastic products and to inhibit degradation reactions, additives and plasticisers, fillers, flame retardants and pigments are generally used, these may have health impacts.

Strategies for Plastics Waste Management

Many states have prescribed thicker bags. The inflow of plastic bags into the solid waste stream would be substantiality reduced, as rag pickers would be keen to segregate the same for recycling purposes. Thin plastic bags have little value and their segregation is difficult. If the thickness of plastic bags is increased, it would make plastic bags expensive and check their usage. The plastic Manufacture Association could also be involved in the waste collection and disposal system using the principle of extended prouder responsibility.

Littering of Plastic carry bags, water bottles, plastic pouches have been a challenge for municipal solid waste management. Many hilly States ( Jammu & Kashmir , Sikkim , West Bengal ) have banned use of plastic carry bags/bottles in tourist places. In Himachal Pradesh the State Government of has taken a cabinet decision to ban plastics in all over the State since 15.08.2009 under the HP non- biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, 1995.

The Central Government too, has made assessment of the extent of damage caused to environment by plastic waste in the country by constituting Committees and a Task Force which studied the issue and made recommendations.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests issued the Recycled Plastics Manufacture and Usage Rules 1999, and amended it in 2003 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for regulating and managing plastic carry bags and containers. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has notified 10 standards on biodegradable plastics.

Alternatives to Plastic

The use of jute or cloth bag as alternatives to plastic paper bag should be popularized and prompted through fiscal incentives; however, it needs to be noted that paper bag involve cutting of trees and their use is limited. Ideally bio-degradable plastic bags alone should be used and research work is on to develop biodegradable plastics. -PIB

Palm oil: environmental curse or a blessing?

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AFP

NUSA DUA: It is blamed for everything from deforestation to threatening the extinction of the orangutan, but palm oil is a vital source of income for many developing countries, the crop's producers say.

In Indonesia, the world's largest palm oil producer, where the plant provides work for three million people, the government is keen to promote the benefits of the crop.

Gatot Irianto, research director at Indonesia's Ministry of Agriculture, pleaded with producers, scientists and NGOs meeting on the holiday island of Bali last week to reconsider the plant's reputation.

"Stop demonising palm oil," he urged. Irianto says palm oil should be considered a "gift from nature" that provides a significant economic boon for the country, where it is "helping to eradicate poverty".

But in many parts of the Western world, and in Europe in particular, palm oil is a byword for ecological disaster; a crop that requires the slashing and burning of vast areas of forest and is a major contributor to global warming.

Nazir Foead, head of WWF Indonesia, said the crop's reputation is deserved because of the way the industry has behaved in recent years.

He says millions of hectares (acres) of tropical rainforest have been razed in Indonesia and neighbouring Malaysia to make way for the palm plantations that make up 80 percent of the world's total.

"But things are changing," he accepts. "Some players have understood that their activity could be linked to deforestation."

Financial pressure has forced at least one big producer to review its business practices after a key partner walked away.

Smart, a leading Indonesian palm-based company, involved in marketing and exporting products such as cooking oil, was dropped by Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever after a Greenpeace report accused it of tropical deforestation.

Daud Dharsono, the company's president, disputes the accuracy of the Greenpeace report, but said the firm had since reaffirmed its commitment to sustainable production to limit the environmental impact of its plantations.

"There will be no conversion on land with high carbon stock as well as land with high biodiversity value, no development on peat soil and primary forests."

For its part, Greenpeace said it was pleased with the commitments, but was now waiting to see action on the ground.

The pressure also comes from big European retailers like Marks and Spencer, which recently launched an anti-palm oil campaign, saying it would use alternatives such as rapeseed oil wherever possible.

The retailer is one of the 400 members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, formed in 2004 to promote sustainable palm oil production.

One of the group's founders, WWF, says dedicated plantations have so far produced over 1.4 million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil.

Most experts agree that demand for palm products such as cooking oil, margarine, soaps, cosmetics and resins, will continue to increase and better management is the only way to reduce its environmental impact.

"Rapid growth in global demand, notably from China and India, is likely to drive land use change. We cannot change that," said Moray McLeish of the World Resources Institute.

"The solution is an increased utilisation of degraded land," which usually results from deforestation or overgrazing, he said.

Jean-Charles Jacquemard, an engineer at CIRAD, the French Centre for Agricultural Research said palm oil was too profitable for producers in Asia and Africa to abandon, regardless of pressure from the West.

"It is a plant which has many benefits for them. It produces a large amount of oil per hectare, three to six times more than rapeseed or sunflower," he said.

"Its cultivation uses relatively little fertilizer -- around eight kilogrammes (18 pounds) per tree per year."

In Indonesia, 40 percent of production comes from small producers who, by farming between 10 and 20 hectares, "are able to live decently and send their children to university", he said.

Now, tobacco to clean up environmental toxin

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WASHINGTON: A new research by scientists has suggested that a new strain of tobacco plant can make antibodies to clean up toxic pond scum that affects humans, livestock and wildlife.

In a new research report appearing in the March 2010 print issue of the FASEB Journal, scientists explain how they developed a genetically modified strain of tobacco that helps temper the damaging effects of toxic pond scum, scientifically known as microcystin-LR (MC-LR), which makes water unsafe for drinking, swimming, or fishing.

This plant could serve as a major tool for helping keep water sources safe to use, especially in developing nations.

"We hope that our study will ultimately lead to a reduction in the exposure of humans, livestock, and wildlife to environmental pollutants," said Pascal M.W. Drake, co-author of the study, from the Centre for Infection at St. George's University of London.

To develop this type of tobacco, Drake and colleagues genetically altered a tobacco plant to produce an antibody to MC-LR, by inserting genes which code for the production of this antibody.
With the genes in place, the new strain of tobacco produced the antibody in its leaves and secreted the antibody from its roots into the surrounding hypotonic growth medium.

When the toxin from MC-LR was added to the plant's surrounding hypotonic growth medium, the antibody bound to the toxin, rendering it harmless.

This is the first example of a transgenic plant expressing an antibody that remediates an environmental toxin, but according to Drake, more plants like these will be developed in the future to address different environmental problems.

According to Gerald Weissmann, MD, editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal, "Tobacco is perhaps one of the most cultivated non-food crop in human history, and for centuries it has hurt human health. Now, with smart genetic tweaking, tobacco may prove more valuable in the field than in the pipe."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

India's Coal Tax Proposal

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One wouldn’t expect a country facing energy deficits equivalent to 8% of primary energy demand in proportion to the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to formulate energy policies that promote anything other than cheap abundant sources of fuel – whatever their source. india wires India however, which faces chronic power shortages in nearly every city tied to the grid – not to mention the over 412 million inhabitants who lack electricity all together – has proposed a $1 levy on every ton of coal   – both imports and exports – in order to fund a national clean energy fund.  
The significance of this proposal goes far beyond its ability to raise revenue, or discourage the use of coal. It is yet another example of an increasingly progressive stance on developing clean energy that shows leadership on climate that is sorely lacking in today’s geo politics of climate change.

From developing significant wind resources - despite the fact the country has a small fraction of the potential   of other large emitters like the United States or China - to creating special economic zones for solar PV   manufacturing and distribution, the country is reorienting itself to be a leader in the coming green revolution.

Similar efforts in the United States for reasonable, sensible, and pragmatic policies such as this are immediately met with chants of drill baby drill, and cries of righteous indignation that environmentalists want Americans to live like Europeans – oh the horror! If any nation should be demanding a tax on fuels that are ruining our health, destroying our climate, and miring us in technologies of the past it should be the United States which is hemorrhaging jobs, while still reeling from the Great Recession (which by the way rapidly industrializing nations have already emerged from quite well  ).

Of course the United States and India face entirely different challenges in terms of their development, economies and cultures. But it’s time for American environmentalists to take a step back and reevaluate how India - a country where 412 million people lack electricity - was able to convince its politicians of the opportunity to be found in the enormity of the challenge climate change poses. This lesson is crucial to our struggle against polluting industries and efforts to save the planet.

On Rooftops Worldwide, A Solar Water Heating Revolution

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The harnessing of solar energy is expanding on every front as concerns about climate change and energy security escalate, as government incentives for harnessing solar energy expand, and as these costs decline while those of fossil fuels rise. One solar technology that is really beginning to take off is the use of solar thermal collectors to convert sunlight into heat that can be used to warm both water and space.

sunshine China, for example, is now home to 27 million rooftop solar water heaters. With nearly 4,000 Chinese companies manufacturing these devices, this relatively simple low-cost technology has leapfrogged into villages that do not yet have electricity.
For as little as $200, villagers can have a rooftop solar collector installed and take their first hot shower. This technology is sweeping China like wildfire, already approaching market saturation in some communities. Beijing plans to boost the current 114 million square meters of rooftop solar collectors for heating water to 300 million by 2020.

The energy harnessed by these installations in China is equal to the electricity generated by 49 coal-fired power plants. Other developing countries such as India and Brazil may also soon see millions of households turning to this inexpensive water heating technology. This leapfrogging into rural areas without an electricity grid is similar to the way cell phones bypassed the traditional fixed-line grid, providing services to millions of people who would still be on waiting lists if they had relied on traditional phone lines. Once the initial installment cost of rooftop solar water heaters is paid, the hot water is essentially free.

In Europe, where energy costs are relatively high, rooftop solar water heaters are also spreading fast. In Austria, 15 percent of all households now rely on them for hot water. And, as in China, in some Austrian villages nearly all homes have rooftop collectors. Germany is also forging ahead. Janet Sawin of the Worldwatch Institute notes that some 2 million Germans are now living in homes where water and space are both heated by rooftop solar systems.

Inspired by the rapid adoption of rooftop water and space heaters in Europe in recent years, the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) has established an ambitious goal of 500 million square meters, or 1 square meter of rooftop collector for every European by 2020—a goal slightly greater than the 0.93 square meters per person found today in Cyprus, the world leader. Most installations are projected to be Solar-Combi systems that are engineered to heat both water and space.

Europe’s solar collectors are concentrated in Germany, Austria, and Greece, with France and Spain also beginning to mobilize. Spain’s initiative was boosted by a March 2006 mandate requiring installation of collectors on all new or renovated buildings. Portugal followed quickly with its own mandate. ESTIF estimates that the European Union has a long-term potential of developing 1,200 thermal gigawatts of solar water and space heating, which means that the sun could meet most of Europe’s low-temperature heating needs.

solar panel The U.S. rooftop solar water heating industry has historically concentrated on a niche market—selling and marketing 10 million square meters of solar water heaters for swimming pools between 1995 and 2005. Given this base, however, the industry was poised to mass-market residential solar water and space heating systems when federal tax credits were introduced in 2006. Led by Hawaii, California, and Florida, U.S. installation of these systems tripled in 2006 and has continued at a rapid pace since then.

We now have the data to make some global projections. With China setting a goal of 300 million square meters of solar water heating capacity by 2020, and ESTIF’s goal of 500 million square meters for Europe by 2020, a U.S. installation of 300 million square meters by 2020 is certainly within reach given the recently adopted tax incentives. Japan, which now has 7 million square meters of rooftop solar collectors heating water but which imports virtually all its fossil fuels, could easily reach 80 million square meters by 2020.

If China and the European Union achieve their goals and Japan and the United States reach the projected adoptions, they will have a combined total of 1,180 million square meters of water and space heating capacity by 2020. With appropriate assumptions for developing countries other than China, the global total in 2020 could exceed 1.5 billion square meters.
This would give the world a solar thermal capacity by 2020 of 1,100 thermal gigawatts, the equivalent of 690 coal-fired power plants. This would account for more than half of the Earth Policy Institute’s renewable energy heating goal for 2020, part of a massive effort to stabilize our rapidly changing climate by slashing global net carbon emissions 80 percent within the next decade. (For more information, see Chapters 4 and 5 of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization  .)

The huge projected expansion in solar water and space heating in industrial countries could close some existing coal-fired power plants and reduce natural gas use, as solar water heaters replace electric and gas water heaters. In countries such as China and India, however, solar water heaters will simply reduce the need for new coal-fired power plants.

Solar water and space heaters in Europe and China have a strong economic appeal. On average, in industrial countries these systems pay for themselves from electricity savings in fewer than 10 years. They are also responsive to energy security and climate change concerns.

With the cost of rooftop heating systems declining, particularly in China, many other countries will likely join Israel, Spain, and Portugal in mandating that all new buildings incorporate rooftop solar water heaters. No longer a passing fad, these rooftop appliances are fast entering the mainstream.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ten Things You Can Do to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint

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Most environmentalists agree that government, with its power to regulate, is critical in finding and enforcing solutions to global warming. But consumers represent 70 percent of US economic activity--indeed, the average American's carbon footprint is twenty metric tons, five times the global average.

Individuals can be a powerful engine for change by demanding green products and reducing consumption of fossil fuels. This can make you healthier and save you money too, says Mindy Pennybacker, editor of GreenerPenny.com and author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices , to be published in March. Here are some of her recommendations for small steps that make a big difference.

1 Use less paper, and replace paper towels and napkins with reusable cloths. Buy recycled products containing at least 30 percent postconsumer waste and bearing the Forest Stewardship Council logo, which means they come from well-managed forests (fscus.org/paper ).

2 Buy shade-grown, fairly traded coffee and chocolate. According to the Rainforest Alliance , tropical deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, more than all vehicles combined. Consumer demand for products grown under the rainforest canopy provides economic incentive to preserve these habitats for migratory birds. Look for products certified by the Rainforest Alliance or labeled "bird friendly" by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationandScience/MigratoryBirds/Coffee and transfairusa.org ).

3 Lower your household thermostat below 70 degrees in winter and raise it above 72 in summer. Heating represents about 41 percent of the energy bill in the average home; lowering your hot-water temperature from the standard 140 degrees to 120 will save 200 pounds of carbon a year, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. For more information, see the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (aceee.org ).

4 Replace light bulbs and appliances with Energy Star-approved models. Lighting takes up 15 percent of a home's energy use, and regular incandescent bulbs waste 90 percent of the energy they consume as heat. If you replace five incandescent bulbs with five compact fluorescent or light efficient diode Energy Star bulbs, you'll save at least $60 a year, the EPA estimates. If every US household did so, it would save the equivalent of the output of twenty-one power plants and keep smog, particulates and carbon out of the atmosphere.

5 Plug electronics into power strips and switch them off when not in use. Televisions, DVD players, game consoles, computers and cellphone chargers quietly suck electricity out of sockets even when they are turned off. Breaking the connection can save the average household $100 on its electricity bill and reduce carbon output.

6 Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less meat--livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Choose certified organic and/or locally produced foods (localharvest.org ) to preserve your regional economy and reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

7 Rid your home and garden of synthetic pesticides--nervous-system toxins that have been linked to lower birth weights and developmental problems. Call 1-800-CLEANUP to find out how to safely dispose of these poisons. For DIY nontoxic pest control, see birc.org and watoxics.org .

8 Water-efficient fixtures like faucet aerators, shower heads and low-flow toilets can save households thousands of gallons a year, the EPA says (epa.gov/watersense ).

9 Cut back on plastics. They clutter the environment, and they're made from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource. Many also contain toxic bisphenol-a (BPA) and phthalates, which can migrate into food, water and baby formula. Keep vinyl, which has been linked to reproductive and developmental problems as well as cancer, out of your household. For more information, go to greenerpenny.com .

10 Drive less, and drive sensibly. We can't all afford a hybrid car, but many other cars get nearly as good mileage. Save on fuel and greenhouse gas emissions by following the speed limit and keeping your engine tuned and tires properly inflated. For more information go to the Union of Concerned Scientists (ucsusa.org ).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

SunEdison eyeing plans for the world's largest solar PV farm

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US solar giant is reportedly preparing to announce plans to build a 60MW plant in Italy

US solar energy firm SunEdison looks set to accelerate its push into the booming southern European solar market with plans to build the world's largest photovoltaic solar power plant in Italy.

According to reports from news agency Reuters citing sources close to the project, SunEdison is at the advanced stage of planning for a new 60MW solar PV development in the northern Italian province of Rovigo and is expected to formally announce the project at an event later today.



The source added that the facility is expected to be up and running by the end of the year and will be larger than the 60MW Almedilla de Alarcon solar farm in Spain which is currently regarded as the world's largest operating PV solar facility.

The new facility is expected to use ground mounted solar panels that are capable of turning to track the sun's movement, and has reportedly obtained all necessary planning permissions.

SunEdison is one of the world's largest operators of solar PV farms, and currently manages over 96MW of photovoltaic solar power plants in North America.

The company is targeting the European market for expansion and last year shelled out an undisclosed sum to acquire Germany-based Business Institute Solar Strategy GmbH (BISS), snapping up offices in Germany, Spain, Italy and France, as well as access to over 300MW of European project opportunities