Fox News, USA Today, and a number of other major media outlets reported this week on news from Maryland where dozens of parents were notified by a district court that either they vaccinate their children or go to jail. The media reports have caused a lot of confusion around the U.S. among parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children for certain illnesses based on concerns about possible negative impacts from the vaccines themselves. While the mainstream medical community claims vaccines are safe and effective, some people blame immunizations for a rise in autism and other medical problems. In actuality, there are no federal laws requiring vaccinations. Providing schools with vaccine exemption forms for your child is all that is required by federal law. If you have thoroughly researched the vaccine issue and have decided one or more vaccines may not be right for your children, follow this link to a website where you can download exemption forms for your state or country. http://www.vaclib.org/exemption.htm
Up to this point, we've focused on the most basic features of your living space: those elements designed to keep you protected from the elements and comfortable. The places where we live, though, are more than shelter: they're also a reflection of ourselves. Now that you're in the process of greening your life, you'll want to choose furnishings, wall coverings, window treatments and other items that mirror your commitment to living well while living green.
You'll want to think about (and ask about) the following elements when choosing home decor:
Materials: Decor items often include a range of materials: wood, cloth, and metal are among the most common, In each case, find out what you can about:
The source of these materials (i.e., Is the wood from a sustainably managed forest? Is cloth made from eco-friendly fibers like organic cotton, hemp, or bamboo.
The amount of reused recycled materials (reclaimed wood from a variety of sources is very popular), and the amount of material that can be reused or recycled.
Durability: Quite simply, are the items made to last? Are they things that you could resell or give away, rather than throw away, if you decided you wanted to go for a different look?
Chemicals: What kinds of finishes and treatments are used on the materials? Will they offgas toxic fumes into the air in your home?
Your Action for Today: Go Browsing for Green Furnishings and Decorative Items
Most American's use more energy for space heating than anything else, and if you've got air leaks in your house, that means energy and money are leaking out with that heat. When making choices about repairs and upgrades to make your home more energy-efficient, start off by looking for leaks.
Some leaks you'll be able to feel easily. Others may require a few tricks. Try dampening your hand when feeling for leaks. Or, use the following method to increase the flow of air:
First, close all exterior doors, windows, and fireplace flues.
Turn off all combustion appliances such as gas burning furnaces and water heaters.
Then turn on all exhaust fans (generally located in the kitchen and bathrooms) or use a large window fan to suck the air out of the rooms.
You may also want to burn incense while doing this: the smoke will float to spots where air is moving. You'll also want to check your home's exterior for leak points, such as:
All exterior corners
Where siding and chimneys meet
Areas where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet.
Of course, you don't want to seal your house so tightly that you create an unhealthy situation from indoor air pollution or "backdraft" from fuel-burning appliances (stoves, furnaces, etc.). According to EERE:
When sealing any home, you must always be aware of the danger of indoor air pollution and combustion appliance "backdrafts." Backdrafting is when the various combustion appliances and exhaust fans in the home compete for air. An exhaust fan may pull the combustion gases back into the living space. This can obviously create a very dangerous and unhealthy situation in the home.
In homes where a fuel is burned (i.e., natural gas, fuel oil, propane, or wood) for heating, be certain the appliance has an adequate air supply. Generally, one square inch of vent opening is required for each 1,000 Btu of appliance input heat. When in doubt, contact your local utility company, energy professional, or ventilation contractor.
Leak-hunting isn't just for homeowners or house renters: apartments can have leaks, too. If you rent, you'll probably want to report any leaks to your landlord.
Your Action for Today: Go Hunting for Leaks
Using the methods and information above, go looking for leaks in your home. When you find them, you'll want to seal or fill them with the proper material: caulk or weather stripping will work in most cases.
Record your activities in your Green Journal. And keep in mind that you may want to call in a professional for some leaks and repairs.
Since the first day of the e-course, we've discussed ways to lower your energy usage. Most of that involves turning things off or down. But, did you know that some appliances and electronics still use electricity when they're turned off?
That's right: there are probably "energy vampires" in your home, and, according to a 2000 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, they may account for up to 10% of your electricity use (source). The Federal Energy Management Program provides several clues to identifying potential home power suckers:
An external power supply (i.e., cell phone chargers, inkjet printers).
A remote control (i.e., TVs, VCRs, ceiling fans, audio equipment).
A continuous digital display (i.e., clothes washers, microwaves, VCRs).
A rechargeable battery (i.e., cordless telephones, battery charger). These products continue to use standby power even after the battery is fully charged.
While efforts to regulate power-guzzling by electronics in standby mode are underway at both the state and federal levels, you don't have to wait for new rules or laws to lower the amount of standby power used in your home. You can take a number of actions to drive stakes through the hearts of the vampires in your home!
Your Action for Today: Go Vampire Hunting!
Take a look at the list above, and decide which of these items you can unplug when not in use. That kills the vampire effect immediately!
If you must be absolutely certain, buy or borrow a Kill-o-Watt or another home wattage meter. These devices will tell you which electronics are drawing the most power.
Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying new electronics, and then check that the product meets the recommended low standby power level (generally 1 watt or less).
New "smart" power strips regulate the flow of electricity to electronics when they're in standby mode.
Tomorrow: Keep your vehicle maintained for efficiency
If we're living a pretty typical contemporary existence, we've got stuff: lots of it. Of course, we probably also want more stuff. While thinking about the impact of our buying habits, and even reducing our purchases, can be an important part of living a greener life, let's face it: we need things, and, sometimes, we just want things. Living like a monk or nun isn't the goal of a green life; living abundantly while minimizing our impact on the environment is.
So, what if, instead of going out a buying new stuff, we leveraged the value of things we already have? In other words: why not trade what we don't want for things we do? It sounds kind of old fashioned - we all remember learning about bartering systems in school - but trading and swapping is back in style. All you need is an internet connection and things you don't want, and you're in business.
Freecycle is one of the most established swapping sites: it works on a localized model, and people simply offer things up that they want to people who do. Gigiot is a newer site that claims to eliminate some of the challenges of Freecycle. And Switch Planet allows a user to "offset" the price s/he doesn't pay for items received from others by donating to selected charities. We've covered twoof these three of these services on the Green Options blog; there are dozens of others that are more specialized by item type or location. Regardless of which service you use, you'll lighten your environmental impact by "recycling" your own items, and "shopping" for quality goods that might otherwise be thrown away.
Your Action for Today: Go Swapping!
Start digging around in these services - you might come across a book, a CD or DVD, a piece of furniture, a yard tool, etc., that you can't live without. And when you're looking at the stuff that's accumulated in your basement, attic, garage, study, don't haul it to the trash can or dumpster: if it's in good shape, list it. It may be just the thing another swapper can't live without. As always, record what you find and do in your Green Journal.
Tomorrow: Add some green food to your shopping list.
Days until an investigation was ordered into the Pearl Harbour attack: 9 Days until an investigation was ordered into the Kennedy assassination: 7 Days until an investigation was ordered into the Challenger disaster: 7 Number of days until an investigation was ordered into the sinking of the Titanic: 6 Number of days until an investigation was ordered into the 9/11 attacks: 411* Amount of money allocated for the 1986 Challenger disaster investigation: $75 million Amount of money allocated for the 2004 Columbia disaster investigation: $50 million Amount of money allocated for Clinton-Lewinsky investigation: $40 million Amount of money allocated for the 9/11 Commission: $14 million *
____ * The911 Commission did not investigate who committed the crimes of 911. Instead it assumed Osama bin Laden and Al Quaida committed them and focused on why the U.S. was so unprepared. There has never been an investigation into who committed the crimes of 911.
When Rolling Stone magazine announced its first "green issue" (devoted to global warming, and on newsstands this week), it joined magazines as diverse as Vanity Fair, Elle, and Good Housekeeping, which have each jumped on the sustainability bandwagon and published a "green" issue within the past year.
Unfortunately, like many other "green" issues published recently, Rolling Stone declined to print on recycled paper, though the magazine did take a step in the right direction, by selecting a paper mill that works to make its production processes carbon neutral. When the New York Times began researching whether this step makes Rolling Stone truly green, the reporter called Co-op America.
Our PAPER Project director, Frank Locantore, pointed out that "all the evidence shows that the greatest benefits come from using recycled paper," and urged Rolling Stone to go greener. In defending its no-recycled-paper decision, one Rolling Stone editor told the New York Times, "we're publishing some of the world's greatest photographers and artists," and the print quality on recycled paper does not do them justice. "What we're trying to do is what we can do. We can't put out the magazine we put out on recycled paper."
The fact is, Rolling Stone's editor is mistaken. Co-op America's "magazine heroes list" reads like a who's who of beautifully designed and executed magazines all currently printed on recycled paper, such as Fast Company, Mother Jones, Ranger Rick, and Adbusters.
Check out our sample letter to magazines, and consider sending Rolling Stone a polite nudge to consider how well some of their peers are doing on recycled paper. Invite them to contact our PAPER Project at firstname.lastname@example.org for help finding quality eco-friendly paper that meets their needs.
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