Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WWF Animal, Sparrow Boxes, and more!

The past few years, sparrows have been dying because they don't have nesting places. These sparrow boxes are designed to help!
In 2008, when I first moved to Bangalore, I was surprised to find that not even the most basic recycling program existed at school. I noted down things in my mind; areas of improvement around the school where I, a single student of 7th grade, could make the difference. I turned off running faucets in the bathrooms, took only one tissue to dry my hands (and believe me, the piles of tissues that used to end up on the floors of the bathrooms wasn’t funny), and turned off the lights and fans in empty classrooms.

So in 2010, with a friend, I mustered up the courage to create a green club – “The Green Idea”. We started off slowly, creating monthly newsletters focusing on a particular environmental issue such as waste management, water shortages and renewable energy. In 10th grade, we started off with a bang! We hosted the first ever High School Green Conference in all of Bangalore. It was a great success! Schools all over Bangalore came to our school to discuss environmental issues and solutions that students themselves could contribute to.

Next on our list was one of the most basic tasks: recycling. Slowly, cardboard boxes cropped up around school and the first batch of boxes was filled to the brim! It was exciting to see “The Green Idea” make some money, selling the recycled paper!

The school’s biogas unit arrived soon after; it’s still one of the very first portable ones in all of India, so glitches are taking a while to get sorted out. Pictures are on their way! The gas generated from the food waste will be pumped to the cafeteria to cook, saving money, and helping the planet. Two in one – score!  

Just before winter break started, before and after the Christmas performance, we had a little snack fundraiser – goodies from America (you don’t get them cheap here, and the demand is crazy). I think it was brilliant; we decided within 24 hours that the sale was going to happen and we managed to pull it off. Soon after winter break, the school will vote on their first choice of WWF animal and the wooden Sparrow Boxes will be placed all around school. 

And the adventure continues. It’s getting more and more exciting!
Stay tuned!

Visit http://www.worldwildlife.org/gift-center/Default.aspx for more information of adopting a WWF animal!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dead Zone Lakes Coming Back to Life

In June 1969, as Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was on its way to Lake Erie, it caught on fire because of the heavily polluted water. And since the 1970s, the public has started to make an effort to reduce the water pollution levels, leading to the Great Lakes Water Quality Act and Clean Water Act. Since then, levels of pollutants in the lake, such as phosphorous, have reduced by two-thirds.
But the phosphorous levels are back up, claims a Great Lakes expert. The increase in phosphorous levels might be due to storms and heavy rains, which carry the phosphorous into the lake through run-off. The chemical is found in many commercial detergents, water treatments, and fertilizers.
The lake’s waters are warm, creating the optimum conditions for algae, which use the phosphorous ions for growth and development, in the Great Lakes. The algae use up oxygen in the water, leaving little for the fish population. The resulting anaerobic condition of the lake is favorable for avian botulism: “a paralytic disease caused by indigestion of a toxin,” which is produced by bacteria, according to the NWHC (National Wildlife Health Center). The avian botulism and other bacteria can be dangerous to animals and humans. The algae cannot be removed by boiling and large areas of the Great Lake have been considered “dead zones”, as nothing can live with a lack of light or without a supply of oxygen.
              Climate change is causing extreme weather patterns and 2011 is considered to have been a year that had all the right conditions for algae blooms, by Jeff Reutter, the director of the Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory at Ohio State University. The early spring storms filled the lake with lots of phosphorous. The storms were followed by a long drought, resulting in less run off, draining less pollution from the water.
              Another problem that helps the algae blooms: shorter, warmer winters. Ice on the lake now forms later in the winter, rather than in the fall, and thaws earlier, due to the warming climate and falling water levels. Usually, the cold atmosphere would kill most algae and bacteria, but in the warmer winters, the algae bloom under the ice.
              There’s only one direct solution that will help solve the problem; the usage of phosphorous needs to be reduced.
              So whether you live around the Great Lakes or not, try and identify products that have phosphorous and other similar chemicals which promote algae blooms. Don’t use them. Remember - you have the simple power of helping prevent water pollution in any water body, all over the world.

Sources: http://www.great-lakes.net/teach/pollution/water/water1.html, http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/avian_botulism/, http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/weather-changes-mean-more-dead-zones-for-lake-erie

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Go Green, Go Vegetarian

Being a vegetarian myself, I understand the consequences that animals have to go through because of human needs. They end up sliced and chopped up on most of our plates at meal times. And sometimes I wonder if the human taste needs to be at the expense of other living beings.

And being vegetarian has advantages all around. It’s good for the environment. The earth benefits from humans not eating meat. So if you’re vegetarian, not only are you saving the animals but you’re also taking a big step towards environmental conservation!

According to PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – raising animals that will eventually be slaughtered for food requires enormous amounts of land, food, energy, and water. The byproducts play a huge role in the pollution of waterways and air.

Why does this happen?

The animals are using up a lot of natural resources! Animal agriculture is responsible for most of the consumption of water in the US. It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef and only 180 gallons for one pound of whole wheat flour. The farm animals are injected with hormones and drugs, forcing them to grow larger and larger. In the process, they consume more food, more water, and take up more space. For example, when a pig is in its “finishing phase”, it weighs from 100 to 240 pounds, consuming more than 500 pounds of grain, corn and soybeans on its own.

Animals excrete waste products that add to greenhouse gas emissions! Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide contribute largely to global warming and are produced by many of the animals that are grown for mass animal agriculture. Factory farming is the “use of animals and the natural world merely as commodities to be exploited for profit,” according to Farm Sanctuary. Factory farms produce thousands of tons of dust that contains harmful organisms including bacteria, mold, and fungi, coming from the feces and feed of the animals. This dust accumulates in the air, adding to air pollution, but it also impacts human health. In a report by the California State Senate, it is shown that animal waste that emits toxic chemicals can be responsible for inflammatory, immune and neurochemical health issues in human beings.

Factory farming adds to the pollution of waterways through the dumping of manure (87,000 pounds of waste per second!)  in lakes and rivers, which can end up in drinking water. The excrement and fertilizer in the feed from the factory farms contains nitrogen that helps algae populations to thrive. The algae use all the oxygen in the water, hardly leaving any for other life forms.
These days, there are hundreds of vegetarian recipes that can be made and eaten without even thinking about meat. Help save animals from human cruelty and save the environment with one easy step – go green, go vegetarian

Visit PETA or Farm Sanctuary for more information on being vegetarian!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A change in the biology of ecosystems

It is hard to say whether climate change affects the thousands of ecosystems out in the wild. Scientists have proven the effect of global warming on arctic life with the melting of ice bergs. But all over the world, is there a trend that connects the biology of ecosystems and rising temperatures?
                A paper published in the journal Global Change Biology investigates the possible effects of global warming on ecosystems. The research team of scientists from the UK’s Center for Ecology and Hydrology observed more than 700 species of fish, birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, plankton and plants in the UK itself. The research from 1976 all the way to 2005 was combined to discover a consistent pattern. More than 80% of  the ‘biological events’ that take place in nature such as the flowering of plants, ovulation among mammals, and the migration of birds, are taking place sooner. And the pace of change increases as the decades go by. 
               The trend is prominent among the organisms at the bottom of the food chain, leading to problems due to the disruption of the food chain. Some predators will be able to adapt to the changing numbers of their prey but many will not. For example, a bird called the pied flycatcher depends on caterpillars for food. However an earlier spring caused the caterpillars to hatch earlier. The birds only left their winter home at the regular time, and the caterpillars were almost gone. As a result, their numbers decreased tremendously.
                Global warming affects the whole planet. Although the theory of the biology of ecosystems changing due to climate change has not been tested completely, the existing results provide a grave picture of what the present ecosystems suffer from.

Eventually the impact will reach us humans.

So let’s try our best to prevent global warming from getting any bigger.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Getting Back to School the Environmentally Friendly Way!

It’s the time of year again when a new school year is approaching and you need to get organized! Here are a few tips that will help the environment and you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Big Wild Cats!

          Saving the tigers is no easy job; three subspecies of tigers are already extinct all over the world – the Bali, Javan, and Caspian – and the World Wildlife Foundation is trying to prevent the remaining 6, of which all have been given IUCN statuses of ‘endangered’ or ‘critically endangered’, from disappearing as well. WWF has set the goal of ‘Tx2’, aiming to double the number of wild tigers by the year 2022, which happens to be the Chinese Year of the Tiger. According to the WWF, the tiger numbers are as low as 3,200 around the world, due to a number of reasons. The big cats are forced to compete for their habitat, a result of deforestation leading to habitat loss. Poaching and killing the big cats are serious issues, especially near rural communities.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Green Cleaning

Summer’s a great time to clean up the house and make it look fresh and comfortable for the upcoming school year! But how can you make sure you’re cleaning green?
Here are five examples of green cleaning products you can make yourself at home, without doing any harm to the environment or the family!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Water, Water, Wasted Water.

Water used to be an abundant resource on Earth. It was, and still is, one of the main reasons life does not exist (as far as we know) on other planets. A number of drinks have taken over the beverage industry, but water is still on the shelf. It’s a vital necessity for any living organism’s functioning. The water we drink today is scarce; yet we continue to waste water, not thinking about the implications this will cause in the future. Even if the water supply does not run out during our life time, what about the generations to come? Will they be able to sustain on Earth with a limited water supply?
In the last 60 years, the American people have increased water usage by 127%. Producing one kilogram of beef takes 15 thousand liters of water, proving that going vegetarian for just one day, all over the world, can help save a tremendous amount of water! Products we use, eat and drink regularly such as cane sugar, milk, and bread, require thousands of liters each to produce.
Zooming in on…
Cheese: The global average water footprint according to www.waterfootprint.org is 5000 liters for 1 kg of cheese.
The Wine Glass: About 125 ml of wine uses 120 liters of water, as it is used to grow the grapes.
Apple: An apple of 100 grams needs 70 liters to grow. 200 ml of apple juice takes 190 liters to make.
Coffee: 140 liters for one cup. International trade for coffee products requires 80 billion cubic meters of water!
Leather: 16600 liters for one kilogram of leather is atrocious. Skinning the hides of cows for material to wrap around our feet is scary, especially if it takes so much water to produce!
Water may seem abundant but when you take a close look at where all the water is going and how it’s being used, the truth is terrifying! Try to save water! Drink coffee and wine less often and try to resist buying those shiny, polished leather dress shoes. Remember, each effort you make saves water! :)   

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rising CO2 levels, trapped heat, and…

As it rains in the summer and becomes warmer in winter, carbon dioxide levels increase, trapping more heat in the earth’s atmosphere. The result? Higher global temperatures and weird weather, for sure.

The “Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming” by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon claims that the following 7 things can result due to global warming.
1.       Larger and More Itchy Poison Ivy
Urushiol is the toxin in poison ivy that makes it itchy. When carbon dioxide levels rise, poison ivy produces even more urushiol!
2.       Dull Fall Leaves

We all love those fall leaves! The bright reds and oranges are at risk with global warming! Longer summers prevent frosts from changing the color of the leaves.

3.       Worsened Allergies and Asthma

Again it’s the notorious carbon dioxide! More CO2 in the air causes pinecones and plants such as ragweed to produce more pollen, which many are allergic to, all over the world.

4.       Shorter Ski Seasons

The Winter Olympics of 2006 in Italy actually had to use fake snow because there wasn’t an ample amount. At ski resorts in places like Oregon and Washington, it rains more than it snows in the winter!

5.       No More Outdoor Ice Rinks
Ice skating and ice hockey, played usually on outdoor rinks during cold winters, are harder to play during the warmer winters! Lakes and rinks aren’t completely frozen and there is a risk playing such sports, especially if the ice might break!
6.       More Disease Carrying Mosquitos In the World
Warmer climates encourage mosquito and tick breeding. These creatures bring in Lyme disease, malaria, West Nile Virus, dengue, and yellow fever to places where these diseases have never been seen before.
7.       Maple Syrup Depletion
In places like Canada and eastern United States, Maple Syrup is an important business. However, with warmer winters, the sap from the maple trees flows more easily and sugar tappers take too much of the supply, too quickly. This causes less maple syrup for the real winters, where everyone wants some to go around.

Only some of the effects of global warming, impacting us, are listed above. Many more worries and causes of concern are rising every day.

We should all try to reduce the happening of such events and save some maple syrup for ourselves! If more people in the world pitched in, more than just maple syrup could be salvaged! Help the Planet! Think Green!  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Difference of Green

After coming back to India after a trip to California, I realize how much the US strives to be a green community, in comparison to the overall green atmosphere in India.

In California, everyone is required to recycle at home. The recycling bins are twice the size of the trash cans and most packaging, from milk cartons to wrapping paper is recyclable. Many grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods encourage foods grown in environmentally friendly ways.  Offices and schools have recycling bins in addition to trash cans and universities such as Stanford offer tremendous support to the idea of being green. For example, Stanford has some ‘green’ buildings, which focus on being energy efficient.
The story is a little bit different in India; although people claim to be interested in the environmental field, very few actually try and make the difference! India is slowly ramping up to a greener air around the country, but the air seems to get blacker every day! The numbers of vehicles on the road are unbelievable and on a clear night in the city, all that can be seen is smog. City lights ruin the view of stars of the night sky, most of the time, and don’t mention the garbage! It’s garbage galore in big cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi. There are a few recycling programs, but nobody knows where they go.

I believe we need to make the difference! Awareness in India about the environment is minimal and we need to try and educate at least some of the one billion population. There is huge potential in such a big country for being green.

Start a green club, plant a tree, bike to school. These are ways you can help raise awareness, help the environment, and feel good about yourself anywhere in the world! 

Be Green. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Green

The Petroleum Free Water Bottle Sold at Ike's Place
Just finishing a summer course at Stanford’s summer institutes EPGY, I realized how much of a green atmosphere Stanford cultivated. The students strive to keep the green environment in place, along with the professors who encourage them too. Here are a few examples of the green dining experience:
At the dining hall, whether for hot drinks, ice cream, or just ice, Stanford’s dining provided drinking cups of the brand “Eco-Products.” On the back of the cup, Eco-Products claims the product is made of 100% renewable resources, made entirely out of plants. The cups are not made from oil, reducing the effect the cups have on global warming. The other option for drinking cups at the dining hall was hard plastic, washable and reusable. All utensils at the dining hall were stainless steel, and reusable. When plastic utensils had to be used, “Tater Ware” utensils were used. The bag with the spoon, fork, and knife states, “Cutlery, bag and napkin are biodegradable,” allowing us to throw even the cutlery into the recycling bin.
The sandwich shop, Ike’s place, sells water bottles manufactured by the company “Green Planet”. The bottles are petroleum and BPA free and made 100% from plants. The bottle is even compostable!
Such simple, but effective investments just related to dining at Stanford makes us feel good about helping the environment in our own way. Every biodegradable spoon used and recycled makes a difference! I hope that more of these products will be used by the world’s population.
For more information about these products, visit http://www.ecoproducts.com, http://www.greenplanetbottling.com and http://www.earth-to-go.com! =)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Greener IPL

For those of you who don't know what the IPL is - The Indian Premier League, sponsored by DLF (a builder in India), is one of India’s most exciting sports events where thousands of fans cheer on their favorite cricket team. Everyone loves the feeling of sitting in the stands, the thrill of the tumbling hit of a 4 and the big 6 that appears on the viewing screen makes you tingle with excitement and joy. But try zooming out; take a look at the big picture. Comprehend beyond the pitch; see away from the shrieks from the fans. The IPL might look big and grand on the inside, but the overall image is not so pretty – for the environment.   Here are 5 examples of how to make a “Greener IPL”.

1.       As the car drops the fans off at the stadium, there is confusion, a mess, at the various gates. Some realize that they are at the wrong gate and start asking wildly for the gate number specified on their ticket. Some police officials are helpful, others are not. Many travel by car through the indefinite lanes, roads, and gullies that snake together to link around the stadium. And there we are! The first harm has been done to the environment, without the match even starting. Prolonged confusion turns into prolonged waits in the car. The car is being driven and the A/C is on; it is extremely hot and the atmosphere becomes humid and sticky quickly, due to the immense crowd that forms around. The engine is on for a longer time, releasing more unhealthy emissions. Air pollution: affecting not only the Earth, but the people as well.

Perhaps a more organized approach to the chaos, with a map on the ticket or stationed officials at every corner, would help. Fewer cars would be hurrying to and fro, along with smooth parking.

2.       Finally, the car reaches a place where it can be parked and left alone for the next few hours. Grand lighting is placed nearly every meter on the pathway towards the seats. Some bulbs are so small that they hardly make a shadow – proving useless as a part of the intricate lighting designs that they are used along with.

Why not take out the small, yellow lights and replace them with more energy efficient ones that helps fan walk to the entrance easily?  

3.       Some progress has been made among the mad rush of the bustling crowd and you stand near the security scans. Some stations are thoroughly checked, as the scanning of spectators through the big gray arches is made mandatory. Even binoculars are suspected as a camera or any other various devices. However, if you notice closely at the entrance levels of other gates, there is a very minimal security check. One guard looks over to make sure that you have the correct ticket and allows you to pass. The next glances at the blue piece of stiff card, and simply waves his hand. At the third stop, there is a security official who guides fans through the process of inserting their ticket into the machine, as it verifies it, and signals to move on. There are too many people behind, pushing and shoving trying to run as fast as possible, hoping that the game has not begun. People run through the security scanners that beep violently, blink and flash with a bright red color.

Not only is this a security issue, you realize that each of the 4 to 5 scanners in one gate alone is left running on all throughout the night, not being regarded at all. Versions of less energy consuming machines, as well as better usage might prove them a little bit more energy efficient.

4.       The Opening Ceremony was beautiful, with the colorful firework displays and invigorating lights. However, one must ask themselves if this is really necessary. Does the world need to see all of the energy wasted and harmful for the Earth that is put in right at the beginning of the show? The simple answer might be yes, but you, as an individual, among the many others (hopefully), reflect on the volume of carbon emissions released from the fireworks into the Earth’s atmosphere, slowly destroying the Ozone layer.

The lights show the program very clearly, but careful investigation might prove them to have very low efficiency, wasting lots of the power that was input initially. Reduce the fireworks and reuse the lights. There’s a simple solution!

5.       The last and final element of making the DLF Indian Premier League a greener national event lies in the power of the people. Everyone must contribute in creating a greener community. It is not only the government’s responsibility to place energy efficient lights, but the public’s responsibility to be aware, and realize the amount of energy lost, affecting the Earth and its people, on a long term basis.

We, the people, must contribute what we can to try to form an IPL that not only excites the Indian population, but also benefits nature and the world as a whole.