29 September 2012

This Way to the Garden

With fall starting to make its presence felt, it might seem like an odd time to discuss gardening. However, I want to share a Web site that puts gardening at the center of life regardless of the season.

A Way to Garden is a blog from Margaret Roach, who provides tips on gardening, cooking, canning, and other issues related to home and food.

Lately, she has been talking about how to deal with the onset of fall. She had an interesting take on it, suggesting that this is when she makes her gardening resolutions for next year.

Above all, the site serves a great guide for how to put the power of the garden to work for you. Check it out by clicking here.

27 September 2012

Air Apparent

My sister and her husband have been revamping their house. This effort includes the installation of solar panels and the use of plants to improve the inside air quality.

She found the idea of employing plants as air cleaners in an article from the Mother Nature Network. The fifteen plants on the article's list help remove chemicals and other particles that impede breathing and make our homes less healthy. In addition, the article gives tips on how to care for the plants.

According to my sister, the difference made by the plants was noticeable almost immediately. Her allergies are not as bad, and it is easier for her to breathe.

24 September 2012

Environmental Communication Technology

In my last entry, I talked about breaking down barriers and embracing new approaches to addressing environmental issues. Today, I want to talk about how new forms of communication can help with this.

If you are a frequent visitor to this blog, you might have noticed that I recently added another blog to my blog list. That blog is The Net Naturalist, which you can access through the blog list or by clicking here. It is run by Danielle Brigida, who coordinates social media for the National Wildlife Federation. Brigida uses the blog to highlight new social media and nature-related apps along with tips for using these technologies to connect with nature and promote environmental issues.

The following video explains how Brigida is also using social media to help transform the NWF:

As a longtime follower of the NWF and someone who is interested in communication, I like that the organization is branching out to form new relationships. These connections will likely help the NWF achieve its goals and contribute to a healthier planet.

22 September 2012

The Center of it All

It's funny how a certain idea or topic will pop up in a number of places all around the same time.

Taylor's checkerspot
The idea I've been running into a lot in the last couple of days is that solving our problems requires people from seemingly different walks of life and perspectives coming together.

On Thursday night's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, President Bill Clinton talked about how his Clinton Global Initiative focuses on finding solutions by identifying the different strengths people have and putting them in the same room. Many of these solutions revolve around environmental issues.

Then, this morning, I read an article from the National Wildlife Federation about programs that unite conservation groups, communities, and local farms. These programs emphasize both conservation and local buying and commerce. By working together, people address many problems and strengthen the health of their communities and local environment.

Oregon spotted frog
Finally, tonight, I came across a Huffington Post article about prison inmates in Washington state helping endangered species. The story would be great even if it only involved the inmates and the endangered species, including the Taylor's checkerspot and the Oregon spotted frog. However, it's so much more than that. It involves the military, some institutions of higher learning, the Oregon Zoo, nonprofit groups, the National Science Foundation, and many agencies, and they are all working together to address species' population declines.

These are the kinds of things that we are capable of if we look past our self-imposed limitations and barriers. They make for a better world and stronger communities, and at the heart of it all, we find a stronger commitment to the environment.

19 September 2012

It's Mine

As promised way back in June, I am going to share the experience I had upgrading my computer.

First, to give you a little background information, I purchased my Macbook laptop four years ago from Apple. However, it was not new when I got it. Instead, Apple had refurbished it (Apple sells refurbished computers at discounted prices on its online store). Along with saving me some money, buying a refurbished computer meant that I was essentially reusing something that already existed.

The computer has served me well from the beginning, but within six months, I began to make some changes. First, I added more memory, which I purchased from a great company called Other World Computing. Memory improves a computer's performance, and OWC sells memory that meets or exceeds Apple's standards for considerably less than Apple sells its memory. I also bought an external hard drive from OWC, giving me a reliable place to back up my information.

For the next few years, I didn't make many changes to the computer. Then, this spring, I had to buy a replacement for my power adapter. I got a used one in good condition from OWC for considerably less than the ones Apple was selling.

The next decision I made about the computer was a pivotal one. At almost four years old, the computer's software was a bit out-of-date, and I was getting low on hard drive space, so I realized I would soon have to either get something new or update what I had. I decided on the latter option.

Upgrading the computer involved getting a new hard drive (actually a solid state drive) from OWC and a new operating system plus additional software. I also decided to invest in protecting the hardware with a keyboard cover, screen protector (both from OWC), and a shell case for the exterior. (Since I was making a commitment to keep my computer around for a while, I figured I should protect it as best I could.)

All the updates were successful (it was actually pretty easy), and my computer is running faster than it ever did. Also, with the help of a kit I got from OWC when I ordered the solid state drive, I was able to turn my old hard drive into another backup device.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I found out I needed to replace the computer's battery. Again, I turned to OWC for a less expensive, more powerful version of what Apple was selling.

Importantly, I feel like my computer is truly my own now. I was able to participate in the creation process that made it what it is today (it's probably as much an OWC computer as it is an Apple). Above all, I was able to get what amounted to a new computer without discarding my old one. This helps conserve resources, making me even happier and more proud about my upgrade.

To check out what is available at OWC (they also have equipment for PCs), click here. The company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau, receiving an A+ ranking. Also, it offsets all its carbon emissions and makes its solid state drives in the United States, further cutting down on the carbon footprint when it ships to customers in the US.

17 September 2012

Hot Talk

The election season is heating up, and the weather has been scorching all year, so it is strange that our elected officials seem so cold to the idea of talking about global warming.

News about record heat and heat-related disasters continues to mount. Last week, MSNBC reported that as of the end of August, 2012 is the hottest year in the history of the United States. Today, USA Today published an article saying this summer was the third warmest summer on record in world history. Then, there is the following video, which shows the record amount of ice melting that occurred in the Arctic this year:

Additionally, in my corner of the world, the Pacific Northwest is beginning to experience the kind of drought conditions that have occurred across the country. Washington state and Oregon are both fighting many forest fires, and I spent last week breathing the smoke from those fires.

Despite all these events, global warming doesn't seem to be a very hot topic of discussion among politicians. In response, I would like to encourage everyone to contact their elected representatives and ask them to talk about global warming and how we should address it.

10 September 2012

It's Gone

Last month, I spent some time talking about bicycles and our communities here and here. Today, TreeHugger ran an article on similar topics.

The part of the article that stood out the most for me was the following video about how people, including police, hardly bat an eyelash at someone stealing a bike:

Some of the pieces of the video would be funny if they weren't so sad. What struck me was that we can lose pride in our communities to the point where we won't even say a word when we see them filled with wrongdoing.

I am becoming convinced that with every bike that rolls away in the wrong hands, we have a little of our own sanctity stolen as well.

04 September 2012

Nose News is Good News

There are good stories, and there are great stories. Yesterday, The New York Times published an article I can't help but love.

The story tells of Tucker, a dog whose nose is being used to help research and protect orcas off the coast of Washington state. Amazingly, Tucker can smell orca scat in the water. This allows researchers to find the scat and use it to evaluate the whales' health.

That's pretty cool, but the story gets even better because before he landed his scent-tracking job, Tucker was a stray in Seattle. He was adopted by Conservation Canines, an organization that gets unwanted dogs with good noses and employs them in wildlife research.

I love everything about this story and just had to share it.

For more information about Conservation Canines, click here.

02 September 2012

This New House

I'm not really much for plugging housing developments. The truth is that each time I see a new one, I get a little sad. I hate seeing natural spaces bulldozed and built and paved over.

With that perspective in mind, I will share some information my sister sent me. It concerns a community called the Garden Atriums. You can visit the community's Web site by clicking here.

From what I can tell, Garden Atriums is a gated community (not my favorite kind). However, it is based on some interesting principles that I think could be good, especially if applied in other areas.

First, Garden Atriums has a community garden, which brings food production close to home and gives the community a central space that will hopefully make for stronger connections between residents. Also, its homes feature less lawn space, decreasing the need for water, fertilizer, and mowing.

Another interesting idea is the use of atriums with plants at the center of the houses. This provides some innovative ways of creating climate control and challenges the barriers that traditionally separate human dwellings from nature. Additionally, the houses generate the power they need with solar energy.

I like that Garden Atriums seems to take sustainability seriously, but I would like to see someone try to incorporate the ideas from this community in one that already exists. If renovation and rejuvenation projects borrow from Garden Atrium's inspiration, the need for brand new developments will hopefully decrease.