Word to Your Mother E

helping family relations since 2008

Sounds of nature September 28, 2008

Filed under: Technology — Katie @ 6:57 pm
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When podcasts first premiered back in late 2004, they didn’t take off quite as well as some may have hoped, but recent technology trends may be about to change all that.  The iPhone is like that kid in high school – all she had to do was nod at someone and they’d automatically be cool by association.  Well, the iPhone’s given her nod, and now podcast subscriptions have taken off.

Nature lovers, don’t be left out!  By subscribing to the weekly Nature Stories podcast, you’ll have access to hundreds of personal stories about people’s interactions with nature.  Topics range from worms to urban farming to photography, and subject matter comes from all over the world – there’s definitely something for everyone. 

You can download the free podcasts directly to iTunes or an MP3 player which makes these great tidbits to listen to during daily commutes, while you’re stuck indoors or as background noise to help keep you connected with the wilds of nature.  

Take a listen to this week’s podcast Frogs on the Road.

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Living in debt September 24, 2008

Filed under: Reports — Katie @ 5:53 pm
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As of two minutes ago, the US national debt is $9,789,785,427,082.16.. try saying that number out loud.  Since the Bush administration took office, America’s had to get used to living in debt.  But according to the Global Footprint Network, yesterday marked a different kind of deficit spending.

September 23 marked Global Overshoot Day as “the day humanity has used all the resources nature will generate this day.”  This means from here on out, we’re eating into resources that the planet won’t be able replace before we need them again.  Currently, the earth is still in surplus mode so luckily, there are still fish available for us to catch in rivers and forests for us to cut down for building supplies.

However, the site says we now consume resources at a pace of 1.4 planets per year, which means Global Overshoot Day comes earlier each year.  It also means that who knows how many years from now, Global Overshoot Day will come and we’ll find that our planet’s surplus is gone.

This overshooting of our resources, says the site, is one of the roots to most other global problems – climate change, decreasing biodiversity, the increasing need for fish farms, rising food prices, etc.

September 23 is the 267th day of the year, which means we still have just under 100 days left to consume this year.  hmm.

 

Business benefits by lowering emissions September 23, 2008

Filed under: Reports — Katie @ 9:43 pm
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UK Carbon Trust published a study yesterday about the benefits mainstream sectors of the economy have to gain from lowering carbon emissions. 

Car manufacturers have the most to gain by harnessing hybrid technologies, but also have the most to lose should they not meet future emissions standards, the report says.  We’ve already seen that impact on Hummer sales in the United States as CEO Rick Wagoner announced the possibility of remodeling or discontinuation of Hummer models earlier this summer.  

The sooner businesses realize the money that can be saved by harnessing energy-saving technologies (not to mention the money to be made as people are beginning to make lifestyle changes in favor of lowering their impact), the better for everyone. 

Business standards may be readjusted next year at a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen next year.  In the meantime, hopefully they’ll take heed of this report and begin to make industrial changes on their own accord.

 

Streamline recycling September 22, 2008

Filed under: recycling — Katie @ 2:43 am
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Beginning in October, Austin is going to try a new method of recycling.. your small blue recycling bins will be replaced with huge, blue 90-gallon recycling bins!  Residents will be able to throw all their recyclable paper, cardboard, boxboard, cans, plastic (numbers 1-7) and glass in a single container, instead of sorting it into separate bins for your local recycling person. 

Even though people may have tried to recycle them before, this is the first time curbside recycling can accommodate ordinary paper, such as junk mail, and boxboard, such as food container boxes.  When this takes affect, and all 90-gallon recycling bins have been distributed, the city will stop picking up recycling in small blue bins.

On a recycling side note, while water bottles are made from #2 plastic, the caps are made from a different, harder plastic.  At this time, the city doesn’t have the means to reuse these caps, which means they are not recyclable.  Taking off the caps before you recycle your bottles will speed up the process at recycling plants (and it’s a nice thing to do).  Perhaps this is an opportunity to test your creativity as you try to find a use for any extra caps you have floating around?

 

Save the world.. while you sleep September 19, 2008

Filed under: Technology — Katie @ 4:41 pm
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.. while your computer sleeps, that is.  

You’ve heard that it’s best to turn off your appliances when you’re not using them, but for those who use their computer sporadically, forget, or just find it a hassle, distributed computer networks have figured out a way to put your computer’s unused energy to work.  

Climateprediction.net is one such network run by Oxford University.  This particular research group is working to develop a model that’ll estimate how our climate will change under different circumstances.. if carbon dioxide increases, if ocean currents change direction, the impacts of the sulfur cycle, etc. Once you join their network, you’re asked to download a climate model that runs scientific research data as a backup process on your computer.  Results are automatically sent back to the server, and you can check the status of said research at the parent site.  

According to the site, by allowing them to run data on so many computers, they’re able to tweak data in tiny increments to make sure their research is as accurate as possible. 

BOINC is another similar program supported by the National Science Foundation.  Its research focuses on disease cures, global warming and pulsars.  You can definitely download more than one volunteer computing project at once.  

Go, put your computer to work!

 

Future Volt September 16, 2008

Filed under: Technology,Transportation — Katie @ 12:34 pm
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General Motors released the production model of its plug-in electric car in Detroit this morning.  They call it – The Chevy Volt

The Chevy Volt runs on a lithium battery for up to 40 miles.
The Chevy Volt runs on a lithium battery for up to 40 miles.

 – and it came out in honor of GM’s 100th anniversary.

 

According to www.chevrolet.com, the Chevy Volt is a series hybrid that runs on a lithium battery.  The cool thing is that once you get it in your garage, you should be able to use a regular household plug that’ll fully charge your car in about six hours.  What this does to your electric bill, I cannot say, but what a zero-emissions vehicle can do for the environment?  Lordy!  

 

The site says 75% of Americans live within 20 miles of their job site, meaning they should be able to make it to work and back without emitting anything.  Should someone need to drive further, there’s also a three-cylinder gas engine that can recharge the battery and gives the driver another 600 miles.  The car can run on both gasoline and ethanol, and in that situation, it gets up to 50 mpg.

 

Chevrolet is finishing up testing of lithium batteries under different circumstances, so the Chevy Volt should be available to the public by 2010. 

 

A bright idea September 13, 2008

Filed under: recycling — Katie @ 2:29 pm
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Energy aficionados have been hailing the creation of the compact fluorescent light bulb as a way to save energy, and money, in your homes.  And they are.  The only trouble is that they work, in part, based on mercury, which can be a major hazard if disposed of improperly.  What’s a homeowner supposed to do?!

 

Up until recently, it’s been nearly impossible to find recycling centers for these bulbs.  Places like Ikea are sometimes wiling to take on the bulbs, and Wal-Mart occasionally designates a recycle day.  All that changed when at the end of this summer, Home Depot announced that it will take any C.F.L. at all their locations as a free service, and a means of proper disposal.

According to a Home Depot press release, “if every American switched out one incandescent bulb to a CFL, it would prevent more than 600 million in annual energy costs and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from 800,000 cars.”

 

It’s been estimated that there’s a Home Depot within 10 miles of 75% of homes across the U.S., leaving customers with almost no reason not to switch to these energy savers.