ONE EASY FREE WAY TO SOLVE CLIMATE CHAOS

scientists-clues-printIt’s been unusually warm and dry in Alaska and in Utah this winter and freezing and snowy in the Northeast.  I’d like to get rid of the term Climate Change or, worse, Global Warming and start calling what seems to be happening in our world these days Climate Chaos.  That’s my term and that should be your term.  Maybe if we all start using it people will start paying attention.  Weather Chaos would be even better since it dumbs it down a notch but it’s not as catchy.  Say it, live it breathe it – “Climate Chaos“.  Apparently I didn’t invent the term, though I thought I did, but I love it as if it were my own.

I’ve been thinking on this for quite a while and although there are some nifty things we could do to solve Climate Chaos like driving electric cars, implementing hugely complicated and controversial carbon tax credits or installing more public transport, I wanted to suggest some very simple, very basic things you and everyone else can do now with little or no investment of funds, no new inventions, no research, no real lifestyle change and very little time commitment.  A couple of these have to do with the double standard we have for commercial spaces and residential spaces.  What we’d never do at home, we seem to do regularly in our commercial buildings.  I’ll put these in 5 separate blog posts since we’re all short on time and attention these days.  This is my favorite suggestion.

USAtNight11.  TURN OFF NONESSENTIAL LIGHTS AT NIGHT – EVERY BUILDING, EVERY CITY, EVERY TOWN, EVERYWHERE.  Why is this so difficult?  If every city in the world agreed to turn off the lights in their commercial buildings at night when not in use from midnight to 5:00am (other than those absolutely necessary for safety of pedestrians and aircraft and any used by cleaning staff or employees who are actually using them), we’d probably solve the climate crisis right then and there.  Yes, cities are pretty at night, but when we’ve got no food or water due to climate chaos, that will be a luxury we’ll look back on as ridiculous.  Not to mention the fact that all of this light pollution interferes with the circadian rhythms and migration patterns of birds and wildlife.  See Dark Sky for more information about that.  You don’t leave 20 lights blazing in your house all night, why do it in your office?  Paris, The City of Light, enacted legislation in 2012 to turn off the lights and is saving 250,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually.  That’s the equivalent of 750,000 homes.  If Paris can do it, why can’t we?

Honestly if the UN wanted to be useful in any meaningful way they would pass an international resolution on this issue.  It will do more for global security in terms of keeping climate chaos at bay (and the potential for world instability) than anything the UN can do with all the peacekeeping forces in the world.  Turning out non-essential lights doesn’t hurt anyone and could save millions of tons of greenhouse gases.  Why is this so difficult?

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Talk to the property management company at the building where you work and find out why the lights are on at night and what can be done about it.  Ask them how much money owners would save in a year by turning the lights out at night.  Tell everyone you know to do the same via social media.  If you live in New York City, tell your local representative that you support Queens Councilmen Donovan Richard’s Lights Out Legislation which is Bill No. 578.  This bill exempts iconic NY landmarks, holiday lighting, etc., but would save hugely on emissions.  At the very end click WIN on this Buzzfeed Post I wrote about Councilman Donovan Richards.  If you don’t live in New York, ask your local representative to introduce similar legislation in your city.  Make it a lights out movement.  It’s not controversial, it’s smart.

EASY, EFFECTIVE, SMART, SAVES MONEY, DONE!

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ONE EASY THING MOMS CAN DO TO STOP THE CRAZY & SAVE THE PLANET

memestache.com_279921_1355464802Are you ready for this?  Do you want to make your life easier, save money, save time, and save the planet for your children?  There is a Very Easy Way to do this.  Drum roll please.  Boycott the Children’s Party Favor Bag.  Do not, I repeat, do not hand out party favors at your child’s birthday party.  Inevitably these gift bags contain everything that is wrong with the world today – tiny toxic pieces of disposable plastic crap invariably made in China.  Can we just stop with the party favor bags?  Kids should go to a party to have fun, not to bring home more junk for Mom and Dad to feel guilty disposing or for the dog to eat or the toddler to choke upon.  Who came up with the idea of the party favor bag and how do I maim them?

If you feel you absolutely must give the little creatures something then nix the cheap plastic (yes, all of it, every last bit) and the plastic bags.  Instead give them a colored paper bag with candy and stickers, or bubbles, or  play doh, or a kite, or wildflower seeds, or a small plant, or crayons, or soap, or bubble bath, or heart shaped suet for birds (make your own, spend three days showing the other moms that you are superior to those lowly beings who buy from the store!  That’ll teach ’em).  I’d really rather see the whole party favor trend die a flaming death so Moms everywhere could use the time they save thinking about, shopping for, arranging and transporting said party favors, to drink margaritas with their friends.  Starting today, Moms of the world you need to start a Pro-Margarita Anti-Party Favor Movement.  If everyone stops the insanity, you can too!

While we’re at it, let’s Boycott Balloons.  I admit, I’m a total party pooper on this one and a hypocrite because I’ve had them at my child’s parties.  Just so you know, there is a drastically increasing amount of balloon pollution and it is choking our wildlife, especially the sea turtles.  So if you want to save the turtles, you’ve got to get creative and use fun balloon alternatives.   I know, I know, it isn’t a party until some kid loses his balloon and throws a bloodcurdling fit ending the party early so you can head off to Margaritaville.

If you must have balloons then at the very least, don’t release them and use twine or string which biodegrades, instead of the crinkle tie ribbons that take much longer to biodegrade.  Crinkle tie is also responsible for many bird and other wildlife deaths because they get caught in the ribbon.  Also, use the latex balloons which at least biodegrade in 4-6 months over the mylar balloons that won’t biodegrade in your child’s lifetime.   The clerk at the store might look at you like you’re a freak, but ask for string or jute on the balloons.  The kids won’t know the difference but the animals sure will.

Now you’re ready to party!

 

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Mr. Fuzzy Boots Shnubbywubbins As Murderer and Adulterer! What Cat Cams Are Revealing . . .

evil_cat_by_emelfiIs your precious Twinkletoes Cattywumpus killing baby bunnies in cold blood, then coming home and snuggling up to your baby?  Or cheating on you with another family?  Or fighting off dogs and coyotes in his spare time?  Or sleeping under cars when you’re home snuggled in bed unaware?  Several recent studies show that cats lead lives in and out of the home that are far different than what we imagined.  Last year researchers outfitted cats in Athens, Georgia with little cameras that take pictures every few minutes to better understand the secret lives out outdoor cats.  These kitty cams showed that cat predation rates on birds and small mammals were much higher than researchers originally expected.  The kitty cams also showed that cats enter into risky situations and even eat weird things on a regular basis.  Another study that was just completed showed that cats are enemy #1 for birds and small mammals.

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute just completed the first systematic review of cat predation rates in the United States and the results are shocking.  According to the Institute, free-ranging domestic cats kill between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 and 20.7 billion small mammals.  That’s billion, not million, people.  Prior to this study, scientists estimated that rate to be much lower at hundreds of millions of birds and a little over a billion small mammals.  The kitty cams in Athens discovered that cats only bring home about 25% of the prey that they kill so if you think your cat is only killing about once a week, chances are the number is four times that amount.  Cats are, by and large, uninformed about the Endangered Species Act so they go after both common songbirds like Cardinals, Warblers and Wrens and endangered birds such as Piping Plovers, and the California Least Tern.  Cats are now considered the largest human related source of mortality for birds and small mammals.

Kitty cams also revealed interesting facts about cats’ lives outdoors, particularly the risks they face daily.  One kitty cam showed a cat that led a double life spending time during the day with another family and going back to its owners at night.  The cuckolded owner was not amused!  Other cams showed cats living in the sewer during the day, hiding out under cars, and chasing the neighbors’ chickens.  More importantly, these cameras revealed in over 2,000 hours of footage that 85% of the 60 cats experienced at least one risk factor a week, making their outdoor lives more dangerous than owners or researchers anticipated.  In the study, 45% of the cats darted across roads and 25% ate or drank things they found lying around.  They also encountered dangerous wildlife and dogs.

The bottom line is that you’ll be doing your cat and the environment a huge favor by leaving them indoors.  If you think Kittykins Pawsywawsy really needs they types of challenges only found outdoors, leave some crumbs around indoors for the mice.  He’ll earn his keep and have fun while doing it!  If mice aren’t your thing (and really do you know anyone who likes wild mice in their house?) spend time playing with your cat, make sure they have several scratching posts, let them entertain themselves with different items like paper bags, balls, cardboard boxes, fake mice or suitcases and think about building a large climbing post that looks out the window.  I love this minimalist cat climbing post made with rope and a pole (file this under “things to do with the old stripper pole”!).   I also love the idea of repurposing an old suitcase and making it into a hip and cool cat bed.  So, go get ’em Tiger, just do it inside, please.

Ed. Note:  The author’s new indoor tuxedo cat has a much more preposterous name than any of the fake names in this article.  His name is Sir Spencer Clyde Dark Skies Twinkletoes Noble Phillips.  Sir Phillips was rescued from the euthanasia list at a kill shelter by an amazing no-kill shelter in Salt Lake City called the Utah Animal Adoption Center.  They have great cats and lots of puppies and dogs too.  If you’re in the market for a new dog or cat, check them out or, in Park City, check out Friends of Animals.

Sources:

http://www.geekosystem.com/kitty-cam-murderous-cats/

http://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/migratorybirds/blog/default.cfm?id=128

http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/index.html

http://web4.audubon.org/bird/cat/

http://www.pawnation.com/2012/05/16/cat-cams-expose-the-secret-life-of-housecats/

http://www.kypost.com/dpps/entertainment/cat-cams-capture-secret-lives-of-outdoor-house-cats_7528446

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Cute! Live Webcam Shows Mama Bear Hibernating With 2 Cubs

black bear cubsI didn’t know bears move so much when they hibernate, did you?  This is pretty cool – a live webcam showing a four year old black bear hibernating with her two one year old cubs.  At times you can get a good view of the bear cubs rustling around while snuggling up for warmth.  According to the website, the mama bear is actually a little famous.  “She and her brother Jordan are the 2 cubs appearing in the final scenes for the BBC’s ‘Bearwalker of the NorthWoods’ and also the 2 yearlings playing with Gordon Buchanan’s camera equipment in the BBC’s ‘Bear Family and Me'”.

Click here to see the hibernation “action”.

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Old Apple, New Poison

poison appleDid you know that every time you throw away a computer, it is reincarnated?   Seriously, this is true.  Instead of coming back to life as, say, a Park City dog which is the fondest wish of many, your adorably useful but dated Apple computer gets a second chance at life in the landfill.  Only this time it is reincarnated in the form of a hazardous chemical soup of carcinogens and neurotoxins.  A villainous new life even the most frustrating of computers doesn’t deserve.

It’s not just computers that have this amazing ability of reinvention once they hit the landfill – it’s all electronic waste, which is pretty much anything with a plug or a battery.  Electronic waste doesn’t have a chance to redeem itself and come back as a higher life form, such as a chairlift or a gondola,  it always comes back as the same chemical soup no matter how many good deeds it performed in its lifetime.   This soup leaches into the groundwater and is released into our air when trash is incinerated.  The recipe for this soup?  Frightening.  It contains lead, mercury, brominated flame retardants, PCB’s, arsenic, PVC plastic and cadmium.  These toxins have been linked with kidney disease, reproductive problems, central nervous system damage, lung cancer, and prostate cancer to name a few.  That is certainly bad news for our health, but it is particularly disturbing for our children whose little bodies and brains are still developing.

The statistics about electronic waste disposal are astounding.  Every day, people in the United States throw away 112,000 computers according to the EPA.  That’s almost forty one million computers a year sitting in our landfills and oozing all kinds of chemicals into the water and releasing those chemicals into the air.  And that’s just computers.  In addition, Americans dispose of 100 million cell phones and 20 million televisions annually.  In 2010, 2.4 million tons of e-waste were tossed into the landfill and 20-50 million tons were trashed worldwide.  To give you a visual, that’s the same as throwing away 45,000 to 125,000 fully loaded commercial airplanes a year.   To date, the EPA reports that only 27% of all e-waste is recycled.

Here’s what you can do to help combat this growing problem:

First, support legislation in your state that would ban e-waste from landfills.  Seventeen states ban e-waste from landfills, if yours doesn’t, consider introducing or supporting legislation that would.  In those seventeen states where e-waste is banned from landfills, electronics manufacturers are responsible for the cost of recycling and properly disposing of the items they have created.  This makes sense – you produce a hazardous item – you pay for the cost of responsibly disposing of that item.  These types of programs known as Extended Producer Responsibility also encourage producers/manufacturers to phase out or recycle toxic components of electronics and discourage illegal dumping.  In all thirty five states have e-waste recycling requirements or are considering them.  In 2007 Mike Thompson introduced the National Computer Recycling Act but it appears that it went nowhere.

Second, minimize consumption of electronics and be mindful that a cheap purchase now could have long term disposal ramifications.  Try to work with what you have by de-bugging your computer, getting good antivirus software, running only the programs you need, and generally taking good care of it.  Ditto for cell phones.  If you know you drop your phone all the time, get a really strong case for it and for crying out loud, stop taking it into the bathroom!  A 2007 study in England found that 850,000 cell phones were dropped in the toilet annually.

Third, try to donate your newer electronics to a thrift store or give them to a friend.  If you’re going to donate them, get rid of them quickly so they don’t rot in the basement and become useless.  Call the thrift shops first, because even the thrift stores don’t want T-Rex, the Mesozoic Era television set.  Barring donation, bring any electronics – that’s anything with a cord or a battery – to your local recycling center where they should be recycled properly.  97% of a computer can be recycled which is remarkable.

Fourth, encourage friends and family to recycle their electronics.  We’re lucky enough to be enlightened about these things but most Americans don’t know where or why they should recycle e-waste.  Make it your business to help.

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Animal of the Week! What Is An Unau?

unau_evelinThe next time you want to insult someone really lazy or slow moving, say “ugh, you’re such an unau!”.  That’s pronounced yoo-no.  It’s also a great Scrabble word if you’re trying to get rid of two u’s, you know.

A Unau is a two toed sloth, weighing in at 10 – 20 pounds, that spends its life hanging upside down from trees in Central and South America.  According to the San Diego Zoo, these sloths “spend so much time upside down that they are the only mammal whose fur is parted running belly to back to allow water to run off quickly during rainstorms”.  Unaus grow green algae on their fur to blend in with their surroundings which is one of their few defenses against predators.  Primary predators of unaus include big cats like jaguars, birds of prey and even large snakes such as anacondas.  The green algae on their fur comes in handy not only as camouflage but as a source of food.  When the unau runs out of its usual repast of berries, leaves, nuts and the occasional rodent, she can eat the algae from her fur.  Yummy!

Unaus move along tree limbs by climbing limb over limb at, what can best be described as, a glacial pace.  They have four inch long claws which make it almost impossible to walk on land but they are adept swimmers.  They are known to drop down from their branches into water to swim across rivers.  Not surprisingly, these sloths sleep 15 – 18 hours a day (just like your teenager!) and have extremely low metabolisms.  They also have the most variable body temperature of any mammal with a range of 74 degrees to 92 degrees Fahrenheit.

And know you know about the unau!

 

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Press the Easy Button: Stupidly Noncontroversial Global Climate Action With The Flip Of A Switch

taft 2We collectively need a major turn off in the world.  And no I’m not talking about the lost sex tapes of William H. Taft (did you know he earned the nickname “Tubby” because he was so portly he got stuck in the White House bathtub several times?).  What we need to do is turn out the lights.  Not in our houses, I think we’ve gotten that down pretty well although there are some husbands out there who shall remain nameless who are completely hopeless in this regard, but in our commercial spaces.  Did you know there’s no good reason we leave the lights on all night in commercial buildings?  And yet we persist in leaving on all of these lights, burning money, burning coal and burning gas in the process for “no . . . good . . . reason”.  How does this make any sense?  How has no one grabbed this low hanging carbon reducing fruit by the cajones and run with it?  Turning off lights would save money and is easy.

Why don’t we turn off commercial lights at night?  Lights Out Boston indicates that some buildings leave lights on all night for branding purposes.  Branding?  Seriously?  How about a nice lit sign out front, a spectacular lobby, a great P.R. person and competitive rents and call it a day?  There’s no doubt we should make an exception for beautiful branding lights in the towers ala the Chrysler Tower in New York or the Custom House in Boston, but I doubt it’s ever necessary to light an entire building.  Plus they don’t need to stay on from 2am – 5am no matter how beautiful unless it’s for safety purposes.  I’m pretty sure saving our environment from climate change is more important than branding commercial buildings through lighting.  Why, you ask?  Those coastal commercial buildings are going to be a lot less useful under 10 feet of water.

The other reason we leave lights on is that older buildings have one switch per floor that control all of the lights for that floor.  As a result cleaning crews may need to turn on all the lights on a floor when they are cleaning.  This makes sense except that when you look at an urban skyline typically buildings are lit top to bottom, so the cleaning crew argument is bunk.  And you can’t convince me that some employee is working at 3am on every floor in that building.  If they are, I want to hire all of them!

The final reason is safety and I get that.  If lights are on for safety purposes and are absolutely necessary for that purpose, like the nightlight we leave on for granny when she comes to visit, I get it.  My only suggestion would be to minimize those lights and make sure they’re efficient.

The City of Boston has a program called Lights Out Boston that encourages commercial building owners and managers to turn off the lights from 11pm – 5am during the spring bird migration season.  NYC, Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis,, St. Paul, and Toronto are also involved in similar programs focused on lights out during bird migration.  This is very admirable, crucial for birds during migration and a step above many cities, but why not do this all year long?  Why not do this in every city every night worldwide?

This is so ridiculously easy, it’s stupid.  First, commercial building owners in the U.S. are easy to reach through their various commercial organizations like NAIOP or ICSC and publications like CIRE or NREI or at the very least through the commercial agent community.  Second, if they’re already turning off lights during the spring, it should be easy to extend that program throughout the year.  Third, if they aren’t doing this during the spring, they can be easily incentivized to do it through savings statistics from buildings that are.  Fourth, it costs nothing.  Fifth, it’s as easy as flipping a switch.

Who wants to write an article about this for a commercial real estate publication?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Oh, I guess that leaves me.  I have to do everything around here.

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