Word to Your Mother E

helping family relations since 2008

Do it in the dark October 29, 2008

Filed under: Renewable Energy — Katie @ 8:11 pm
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.. or rather, use less electricity at least.


 Do it in the Dark is the campaign slogan for the Campus Environmental Center’s  Energy Challenge Month at the University of Texas.  The campaign will take place during the entire month of November and is asking students around campus to do their part to cut down on their electricity usage throughout the month. 

A few tips to cutting back: make sure to turn off lights when you’re not in a room, unplug electronics that aren’t in use and now that the weather’s cooler, it shouldn’t be too big a sacrifice to turn down A/C. 

Students can take the Bleed Orange, Think Green energy pledge, and by signing up, the Campus Environmental Center will email tips for green living every month. 

Dorms and cooperative housing units that cut their usage down the most compared to previous months will actually receive a cash prize.


Do you believe?

Filed under: Reports — Katie @ 4:03 am
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A recent study known as the American Climate Values Survey and published by ecoAmerica says that 18 percent of Americans strongly believe that climate change is real, human-caused and harmful.

According to the survey, published at the beginning of October, most people (73 percent) do believe in climate change, but don’t attribute the full impact to humans.  Interestingly enough, politics had the biggest impact on whether or not people are believers –  54% Republicans survey believe in climate change while 90% Democrats are believers. 

Bob Perkowitz, founder and chairman of ecoAmerica, says that people need to start relating to global warming as an American issue, and not merely a political issue, if we’re ever going to get around to finding plausible solutions. 

The survey found that another reason people are not that interested in finding answers as soon as possible is because too great an impact has been placed on solutions for the environment alone – very few perceive a personal benefit from the expense that it might take to invest in green technologies. 

ecoAmerica hopes that, based on the answers people provided, this survey will provide a framework on which to adjust the message of global warming and climate change that might make people pay more attention to it as one of the primary problems facing our world today.

You can view the ACVS survey results for yourself by clicking here and downloading the PDF.


PowerVote October 28, 2008

Filed under: Politics — Katie @ 3:20 am
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Al Gore will be webcasting live to a student organization known as Power

Power Vote asks students to get involved in the election process.

Power Vote asks students to get involved in the election process.

Vote at campuses around the country Wednesday night, congratulating them on their efforts to get the student vote out. 


Power Vote is a group of students campaigning to make green living a real issue in legislatures across the country.  They ask that students sign a pledge to vote for representatives who have a legitimate concern regarding the promotion of green jobs and an economy that runs on clean energy. 

The pledge is a physical representation of how many students consider global warming and green living to be a real issue and are looking for change.  Power Vote hopes to use the number of students who sign the pledge as leverage to show representatives this is an issue that people are concerned about.   

The group has interviewed several congressmen, including Austin’s Elliot Naishtat, to find out what their stances are on clean energy.  Power Vote keeps a record of people’s answers in their blog. 

On Wednesday, Oct. 29, Al Gore will discuss how critical the youth involvement is in this issue, as well as issuing a call for us to vote for clean energy-minded officials on Election Day, Nov. 4. 

Students can view his webcast and meet UT Power Vote students in WEL 2.256 on the University of Texas campus at 7:30.


Man with a Plan October 24, 2008

Filed under: Politics,Renewable Energy — Katie @ 6:39 pm
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Pickens plans to use more environmentally friendly resources.

Pickens plans to use more environmentally friendly resources.

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens has a proposition for America, and he’s looking for public support to back his Pickens Plan to decrease our dependency on foreign oil.  The man wants American private industries to invest a trillion dollars in establishing wind turbines around the country to use for power generation in our homes and businesses.  Oil currently used on power generation can then be used solely for transportation purposes.. fueling our cars, trucks, scooters, whatever. Pickens estimates that this plan could save the U.S. $300 billion that we annually spend on foreign oil, meaning the plan would pay for itself in about three and a half years, and says that, with the right leadership, we could expect this to successfully take off within a decade.  The plan has merits – wind energy and a focus on using natural gas instead of oil to fuel our vehicles would significantly decrease the amount of carbon emissions in the air.  But, it’s important to note that full carbon reduction potential isn’t Pickens’ goal… his main proposal is to decrease our dependency on foreign oil.  His plan has been endorsed by Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club, who says that “to put it plainly, Pickens is out to save America.” Presidential candidate Barack Obama has also said he supports parts of Pickens’ plan.  PIckens will need to garner enough political support for his plan to get passed in Congress before it becomes a reality.  Check out his site or watch the video below and decide for yourself.  


Water you doing?

Filed under: Food — Katie @ 12:16 am
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Only 3% of the Earth's water is fresh, usable for drinking and agriculture.

Only 3% of the Earth

We’ve all been told we need to watch our carbon footprint in order to save the world, right? How many of us have considered our water footprint?  

Your water footprint is basically the amount of water it took to produce the items or goods you consume per year.  This includes each drop of water it takes to grow the banana plant your fruit came from, to water the cotton it takes to produce your T-shirt, to the amount of water it takes to make the paper you write on every day. 

Only 3 percent of water on Earth is available in the form of freshwater, and our impact on these systems “can ultimately be linked to our consumption,” says Waterfootprint.org.  The site says that watching our water footprint can help ease issues like our pollution impact and worldwide water shortages (Discover Magazine reports that 1.1 billion people don’t have access to freshwater at all!). 

We’ve grown up learning that it’s environmental to take shorter showers or to turn the water off when we’re brushing our teeth.  While these are definitely good habits to promote, it ignores the fact that it takes 6,340 gallons of “virtual water,” as Discover Magazine calls it, to produce a leather bag from beginning to end.

The point is, we use water more water for agriculture.. growing the plants it takes to feed people and produce consumer goods.. not for drinking or bathing. 

Check out the water footprint on a few items, according to Waterfootprint.org: 

250 mL cup of beer: 75 L of water, mostly to produce the barley 

1 100 g apple: 70 L of water 

1 cup of apple juice: 190 L of water

1 kg chicken meat: 3900 L of water

1 kg beef: 15500 L of water

.. just a few numbers to keep in mind.  You can calculate your own water footprint by clicking here. 


Raise the roof October 22, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Katie @ 5:55 pm
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As people are becoming more aware of the urban heat effect on climate change, creating green roofs by adding plants to the top of your building is one solution that’s gaining popularity. 

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a green roof is essentially a “vegetated roof cover with growing media and plants to take the place of traditional roofing materials such as shingles or tiles.” 

Benefits of such an undertaking include improving air quality, adding shade, providing insulation which can lower electric bills, and reducing water runoff that can flood our streets after a storm.  LBJWC research suggests that buildings with green roofs can actually be up to 80 degrees cooler than adjacent buildings with traditional roofs! 

Our own city has jumped on all the possible benefits, and Austin City Hall was actually recognized for a 2008 Award of Excellence by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.  The roof of City Hall is covered with plants native to Texas, including mountain laurel, agaves, yuccas, and prickly pears.  Award wording says “As a project Austin City Hall combines depth of vision with practicality of execution and so sets a superlative example for government and institutional building owners.”

Austin City Hall received a 2008 Award of Excellence for its green roof.

Austin City Hall received a 2008 Award of Excellence for its green roof.

Before you jump on the bandwagon and start tearing shingles off your roof to create your own green garden, University of Texas recently completed a study showing that not every company that sets up green roofs create them equally.  The study hopes to help manufacturers know what they need to do to make all potential benefits a reality.

The study suggests that, if you hire a contractor to build a roof for you, make sure you specify exactly what benefits you’re interested in and the type of native plants you want.  Hopefully the impact of this study will grant validity and credibility to the idea of green roofs.  

Next time you walk by City Hall, be sure to look up!


Upcycling October 16, 2008

Filed under: recycling — Katie @ 8:47 pm
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Click here to take a look at a few possible ways to upgrade your old recyclables.  It’s a fun reminder of the old adage “one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure,” proving that your own creativity is the only limit to what you can do with your home recyclables. 

The site offers 16 different ways you can take your old clothes, milk bottles and paper towels and turn them into household objects so useful, you’ll wonder how you ever threw them away in the first place. 

One of my personal favorites is the use of hole-y clothes as wrapping paper.  Your favorite t-shirt has way too many memories to just toss .. it’s perfect for wrapping carefully thought-out gifts for only your most favorite people. 

Don’t forget toothbrushes melted slightly into bracelets.. they were all the rage in high school, and just enough time has gone by that it’s not too early to bring them back.  Fo sho.

This site helps to reinforce that your own creativity is the only limit to everything you can do with old recyclables.

This site helps to reinforce that your own creativity is the only limit to everything you can do with old recyclables.