Saturday, May 31, 2014

Seven state park rangers receive commissions as law enforcement officers

Seven state park rangers receive commissions as law enforcement officers

RALEIGH – Seven new state park rangers received commissions as law enforcement officers today, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
The rangers were sworn in by Superior Court Judge Douglas B. Sasser at a special ceremony in Raleigh. John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, spoke to the new park rangers during Thursday’s ceremony.
“It requires a significant amount of dedication and training for our candidates to earn the right to wear the campaign-style hat of a state park ranger,” Skvarla said. “These men and women are true multi-specialists who are frequently asked to assume many roles during a day at work from finding a lost hiker to giving an interpretive program to dealing with violations of state law.”
Receiving a commission as a Special Peace Officer at the end of 17-week basic law enforcement training is generally regarded as the last formal step before a ranger takes on full duties in a unit of the state parks system. During the training period prior to commissioning, a ranger is assimilated into the park and begins assuming duties in resource management and visitor service.
State park rangers are required to have at least a two-year degree, and many come to the job with four-year university degrees in natural resource or park management. Beyond law enforcement training, all rangers are trained in medical first response, search-and-rescue, wildfire suppression, natural resource management, interpretive skills and environmental education.
The rangers who received commissions are: Joshua Aaron Banks at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area; Andrew James Boos at Falls Lake State Recreation Area; Mary Catherine Griffin at Hanging Rock State Park; Autumn Marie Kahl at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park; Aaron Allan Ledford at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area; Joshua Lee McIntyre at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area; and James Thomas Rusher Jr. at Falls Lake State Recreation Area.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The American Meal: The Massive Waste

 The American Meal:  The Massive Waste it has Become.

We talk of sustainability, healthy, and green every day. We try our best to manage what we use, what we don’t, and what we throw away… everywhere but at the table at our favorite restaurant.
Here we want to throw off the restrictions, the cares, and the woes of everyday life and treat ourselves and our children to a nice meal we didn’t have to cook and don’t have to clean up after. The problem is, it’s not just a treat anymore and the modern American family eats out more than it eats at home. So began the restaurant wars.
And what a war it is. Bigger, cheesier, and cheaper. Portions so large; few of us can actually eat it all. However, that is not going to deter us from getting it all, now or later. Having stuffed our faces until we can stuff them no more, we get ahold of the to-go-box and cram it full with everything we couldn’t get down in one sitting; then we take it home to top us off later while we stretch out on our favorite chair and watch American Idol.
Here’s where it gets a little sticky… pun intended. The fact of the matter is, more than half of what we take home ends up in the trash. While some restaurants have a food waste-recycling program (not enough of them by the way), at home you don’t. You simply step on the little black pedal and the trash lid opens and in the trash it goes. With all the other items from the refrigerator or pantry that never made there way into your families’ bellies.
The American Meal:  The Massive Waste it has Become.
Perhaps, and this is just a thought, if you can’t eat it all, let the restaurant dispose of it wisely. If you know the portion is too big… simply order a smaller one. That way we all use less, dispose of less, and magically… we all spend less on food, clothes, and maybe even avoid the onset of type 2 diabetes.
I could get more into the benefits of eating smarter and less, but that’s for you and your mirror to decide.
Restaurants produce millions of pounds of food waste everyday. They pile it in trash dumpsters and send it to the landfill. The most disturbing part of this is, they don’t have to. There are companies out there that can help them with this problem. Quest Resource Management Group for example, will actually take it away and turn in into something useful, like compost.
The American Meal
But just like only eating what you can in one sitting and not taking the rest home makes us feel somewhat cheated, the same goes for the restaurants … they would rather do what they know, which is pile your plate higher and higher for less money. Then they throw what we all know was a waste from the start into the trash and pay someone to take it to the landfill. The worst part of all, is that very little of what is thrown away is actually trash and can be used for so much more.
Want to reduce the amount of landfill? Don’t eat so much. Every time you take your family out to dinner, ask your favorite restaurants to offer human sized portions and not just JUMBO. Perhaps, the more of us that ask, the more they will listen and start to offer them as a regular menu item. At the very least, eat what you can and choose to patronize establishments that dispose of their waste responsibly. After all, it takes consumers to encourage change. The most powerful weapon in the world is that little piece of plastic in your wallet …wield it wisely.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

How “Green” is Your “Suite” Spot?

It’s that time of year again; time to sit through that never-ending conversation with my wife sifting through the travel websites trying to figure out where we are going to spend our precious time and money on this years vacation.
A vacation is supposed to help me get away from it all; a respite from the drudgery of the day-to-day minutia that eventually drives us all insane. So being the eco-friendly guy I am and wanting to make sure the only footprint I leave behind is in the sand, I went looking for the retreat that gives me what I want and won’t be damaged by what I leave behind.
My first dilemma: The accommodations. I said I was eco-friendly, but can I at least have some of the comforts of home? My wife, whose idea of roughing it is “no room service,” is fundamentally opposed to camping of any sort. In fact, the Best Western or the Howard Johnson don’t even make the “short” list of potential lodgings.

So the Google search begins…

And a plethora of “sustainable” vacations fill the browser. By the thousands, the results come back, yet, it appears “sustainable” is just a new buzzword for those resorts trying to peddle their wares to people who wish to feel better about themselves, and is not in anyway a real indication of what is actually offered or how sustainable it is. I want more than just the inability to alter the AC, or have a hot shower when I need it.
Seeing as I have this forum to; A) vent my frustration, and B) get some help from the millions of you out there who may know a little more about this than me, I am seeking your input and help.
But, be warned: I get one vacation a year, I spend it with my family and loathe it when it is wasted on something that’s not as it is advertised.  So, how can you help? Easy, simply send me a link to a site that really is as advertised. Again, be warned: If anyone sends a link trying to sell me on a resort no more sustainable than a gallon of crude oil, I’m going have some fun with it.
 This is what I’m looking for:
Green Vacation List
Now is that too much to ask for in a “green vacation”? I don’t think so. I can’t see why when we say green vacation we think cheap, rugged and not at all relaxing for anyone who has grown beyond a belief in the Easter bunny or the need to express their political and sociological feelings with tie-died shirts. I’m eco-friendly; I am not a poor hippy looking to show how tough I am by camping in the jungle with bears, bugs, and no pesticides or guns.
So if you provide this or know where I can find it, I will be very grateful for the tip, and so will my wife. So much so, we’ll even send you a postcard signed “Wish You Were Here”.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A good Green Sleep

Eco-Friendly Mattresses: Do Labels Matter?

Looking to buy a green mattress? Good luck. Navigating the industry’s definitions, marketing claims and third-party certifications is a huge challenge for conscientious consumers who want clear answers.
Even the most eco-savvy shoppers find themselves enrolled in a masters-level course on mattress construction and materials. Unregulated product labels such as “natural,” “bio-based,” “eco-friendly” or “sustainable” further confuse consumers trying to evaluate the importance of health, safety and environmental issues.

SEE: Breakdown of Green Mattress Labels

Significantly upping the ante: price. Purchasing a queen-size mattress made with, say, all certified organic fabrics and an all natural latex core (i.e. entirely made from the sap of rubber trees) starts around $1,400 and can travel upwards of $6,000. Green mattresses tend to last much longer – some come with 20-year guarantees – but that’s still a major investment over a conventional product that costs a third as much.
To guide consumers, manufacturers tout third-party certifications and industry trade group seals. They’re a help, buyers say, but usually still complicate the picture: what precisely is being verified and how? The material’s source or its processing or the final product? Also some certification programs or seals are still in their infancy, yet to be widely adopted across the industry.
“It’s a bit of the wild west out there,” allows Ryan Trainer, president of the International Sleep Products Association, which launched a program focusing on earth-friendly manufacturing practices and used mattress recycling.
[search type="recycling" what="mattresses" what label="mattresses"]
“Consumers need to ask the right questions. They need to be educated about what they want to purchase and they need to do their homework.”
The Specialty Sleep Association, another industry group, developed a three-tiered seal for manufacturers to help them communicate environmental and safety standards to consumers, along with a disclosure label sewn on to the mattress that details its make-up.
The program’s main goal is truth in green marketing, says Vicki Worden, an environmental consultant to the Specialty Sleep Association, who helped develop the seals.
“We realized the industry needed to play a role in creating a level playing field,” Worden says. “You’ll see a lot of the use of the words ‘natural’ and ‘organic.’ We tried to drill down and see what really applies to green mattresses.”
But some mattress makers carry third-party verifications for every component and its manufacture, resulting in a dozen or more such seals per product from different entities.
“No wonder consumers are daunted,” says Jonathan Gelbard, a conservation scientist and sustainability expert who has written about the mattress industry.
“The benefits of the labels are only as good as the standards, and even if the standards are good, the meaning is only as good as the certifiers ability to verify those claims,” Gelbard cautions.
As a consultant to mattress maker Spaldin, Gelbard found that even when a manufacturer’s claims are clear, sometimes retailers unintentionally mislead consumers anyway.
“The fact that these labels are here and yet there’s so much confusion is a symptom of poor regulation at the government level. The government has to step up and develop standards that reflect the best science,” he says. “Then we wouldn’t have people scared that the mattresses they spend a third of their life on is going to cause cancer or interfere with their endocrine system.”
The Federal Trade Commission is in the process of revising its Green Guides, directions intended to clarify marketers’ environmental claims, but the proposed changes don’t address several green terms such as “natural,” plus they’re many steps removed from regulation in the mold of USDA organic standards for food.
In the meantime, industry observers and insiders agree, the burden remains on the consumer to research mattress materials, evaluate advertising labels, and verify that third party certificates are current and reliable.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What happens inside a battery?

By: John Platt

Have you ever wondered what happens inside a battery? You're not alone; scientists are still searching for new clues to the processes that take place inside batteries as part of the ongoing quest to create better, more powerful, longer-lasting and cheaper energy-storage solutions.

A team of researchers with the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and other institutions have just unlocked some of the secrets hidden within rechargeable batteries. The work, published last month in the journal Nano Letters, could eventually lead to better rechargeable batteries, something that would help to further enable electric vehicles and alternative energies such as wind and solar.

Most research into batteries today focuses on studying "the hard-to-find solid electrolyte interphase layer, a coating that accumulates on the electrode's surface and dramatically influences battery performance," according to a recent news release from PNNL. Other research has been limited, however, because most high-powered microscope work is done under dry conditions. Most batteries, however, contain liquids, and until now, the liquids have slowed the ability to conduct microscopic research.

The team has come up with a new method that bathes battery electrodes in wet electrolytes, allowing them to view the activity in those electrodes under a high-powered microscope. PNNL materials scientist Chongmin Wang said in the press release that this new technique "will help us find the solid electrolyte layer" and that it helped to provide new information about electrode behavior. Specifically, it allowed them to study how positively charged ions ebb and flow into electrodes — and in the process deform them.

It's the latter part of the process that's the most important. As electrodes swell, they also break down. The more they break down, the less they will able to hold charges.

The researchers created a special dry battery for their tests. The battery — which was far smaller than the size of a dime — contained one silicon electrode and one lithium metal electrode within a bath of electrolyte, which was enough to allow the flow of ions but still allow study under a high-powered microscope. That allowed the team to study the electrodes' behavior and show that the dry battery behaved the same way as a wet battery.

"We have been studying battery materials with the dry, open cell for the last five years," Wang said in the press release. "We are glad to discover that the open cell provides accurate information with respect to how electrodes behave chemically. It is much easier to do, so we will continue to use them."

The researchers say this could new study could be the next step in the ongoing quest to create longer-lasting rechargeable batteries.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day Folks. The administrative offices of the Coastal Environmental Partnership are closed today.

The Tuscarora Landfill, Grantsboro Transfer Station and Newport Transfer Station will follow their regular schedules.

Thank you to those who serve, those who have served and their family and friends for the sacrafices you have made for our freedom.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

From clothes hangers to ink cartridges

The second time's the charm for printer cartridges

With some help from clothes hangers and water bottles, Hewlett Packard is now making 75 percent of its inkjet cartridges with 'closed loop' recycled plastic.

Making HP cartridges bodies in Dublin using injection molding. The cartridges have between 50 and 70 percent recycled content (including clothes hangers in this case).

DUBLIN, Ireland — The Hewlett-Packard printer cartridges spinning down an assembly line in a Dublin-area factory (with a lawn heavily populated by hopping brown rabbits) go on a long, strange trip to sustainability. And clothes hangers play a starring role.

The HP campus is a rabbit paradise.

If you send in your used cartridges, or recycle them via the local Staples or OfficeMax, they could get their passports stamped in several countries. But according to a report commissioned by HP, recycling a cartridge has just 33 percent the lifecycle carbon impact (and 54 percent the fossil fuel use) of making a new one.

The company now makes 75 percent of its inkjet cartridges with “closed loop” recycled plastic, and that means not only the aforementioned hangers (made out of just the right kind of polypropylene plastic) but also used cartridge casings, which are ground down into plastic pellets half a world away in Montreal.

Orange end caps on the printer cartridge assembly line.

HP’s PET plastic cartridges take in a more familiar raw material — water bottles. The company’s toner cartridges are on a similar path, though it’s going to take longer. Today, 24 percent of them are made with recycled plastic.

automated printer cartridge recycling line

You may wonder, as I did, if it wouldn’t be easier to simply refill the collected cartridges with ink, the same way glass Coke bottles were once repurposed. HP tells me it wouldn’t work, that it’s a onetime process — performance would suffer and nozzles would clog.

Obviously, HP is not the only company to recycle printer cartridges. Canon lets you drop your empties at FedEx stores. Brother takes back its spent laser jet cartridges. Epson takes back printer hardware, and cartridges, too (though it’s up to you to mail them back). Some private companies will buy old ink.

But HP is really into recycling. I love seeing things made, and the company's cartridge line in Dublin was quite cool. The recycled plastic pellets from Montreal are sent into a clean room where they’re melted and molded into basic black #364 bodies in an injection process, then spit out into bins. The two machines on the line run 24/7 and process 130,000 cartridge bodies per day. Here's video showing that process in action:

From there, the bodies move down a mostly automated assembly line where relentless robots insert such familiar parts as the wick, the lid, the internal foam block and the ship cap. And the ink, of course, in shades of magenta, yellow, cyan and black. Other robots package the cartridges (the internal word is “pens”) for shipment to Germany, where they’re prepared for their final destinations at international markets.

According to Shelley Zimmer, HP’s worldwide environmental leadership program manager, reviving ink cartridge plastic as part of what it calls the “circular economy” has kept 566 million used cartridges out of the landfill since 1991. Together, they’d weigh as much as 47,075 orca whales, or, laid end to end, would cover 24 Tour de France routes.

Some 2.5 billion post-consumer plastic bottles have been used in making HP cartridges since 2005, and 1.1 million pounds of recycled hangers since the polypropylene process started in 2013. The cartridges have between 50 and 70 percent recycled content, depending on type.

Adding cartridge labels on the printer cartridge recycling line

HP calls its reuse of plastic hangers “upcycling,” because it turns them into a more valuable form of commercial material. The cartridges are, obviously, returned empty, but there’s still some residual ink in them. HP doesn’t have a recycling process for ink yet, so it goes to waste-to-energy processes. “We’re working on a solution for our waste ink,” said Zimmer.

All recycling processes are works in progress. Not long ago, we were throwing our printer cartridges in the garbage can. But now they’re out of the landfill and on a global journey to sustainability

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Agency seeks highest level protection for property added to state parks

RALEIGH – Legislation pending before the North Carolina General Assembly will grant ultimate protection to 17,000 acres added to the state parks system in recent years by incorporating those lands into the State Nature and Historic Preserve established by the state constitution.

The proposal that originated from the office of Secretary John Skvarla of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resource was drafted into legislation by the Environmental Review Commission in April and endorsed by the Council of State at a May 6 meeting.

The land has been acquired since 2009 for 23 units of the state parks system, with principal funding from the state’s conservation trust funds. The 91 tracts have an appraised value of $94.4 million and include 3,394 acres at Grandfather Mountain State Park, 1,823 acres at Chimney Rock State Park, 2,916 acres at Carvers Creek State Park and 2,818 acres at Yellow Mountain State Natural Area.

“This action reflects the growth of the state parks system and will ensure the protection of the land in perpetuity,” Secretary Skvarla said. “Lands designated to the State Nature and Historic Preserve are among the most cherished in North Carolina, and the state parks system is proud of its record of stewardship of these natural resources.”

North Carolina’s constitution establishes the State Nature and Historic Preserve as the legal vehicle that ensures conservation of land “as a part of the common heritage,” and designation restricts the use of that property to conservation and recreation purposes. Public land can only be added to the State Nature and Historic Preserve by a three-fifths majority vote in both houses of the General Assembly. Likewise, a three-fifths majority vote is required to remove land from the Preserve. The proposed legislation would authorize some minor deletions requested by the state parks system to improve park management or to allow minor road improvements.

Much of the property in the State Nature and Historic Preserve that is publicly accessible is recognized as an important component of North Carolina’s successful tourism industry as well. Gov. Pat McCrory announced earlier this month that the industry generated record visitor spending of $20.2 billion in 2013. An earlier study for the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation revealed that visitors to state parks contribute at least $400 million annually to state and local economies.

The state parks system manages 219,905 acres, most of it contained in 35 state parks, four state recreation areas and 20 state natural areas.

Friday, May 23, 2014

How to Recycle Food Waste

By Sophia Bennett

Like almost everything that goes into our trash, food is recyclable. In fact, it is one of the easiest things we can recycle at home.

Following paper, food waste is the biggest part of our waste stream, comprising 14.5% of everything we throw away.

Like almost everything that goes into our trash, food is recyclable. In fact, it is one of the easiest things we can recycle at home.

The best way to recycle food waste is to compost it. Compost is a great resource that can help fruits and vegetables, flowers and even house plants grow better. It allows gardeners and farmers to use less water. Creating compost rather than putting food waste in a landfill has a big impact on global warming as well. When food waste breaks down in landfills, it produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Any way you slice it, recycling your kitchen leftovers is a really good idea.

What is compost and how is it made?
Compost is decayed organic matter that has been broken down to the point where it resembles rich, dark-colored dirt. Within that crumbly substance are nutrients like potassium, nitrogen and zinc that plants can easily access and use to grow strong. There are beneficial bacteria that can fight off invaders intent on damaging plants and compounds that will improve soil quality. The list of compost’s advantages goes on and on. Even the U.S. Army uses it to detoxify soils contaminated with chemicals from explosives.

A host of tiny organisms are responsible for making compost. They range from microscopic bacteria and fungi to common garden critters like worms, sow bugs and soldier flies. In a garden or forest, aerobic bacteria (or bacteria that need oxygen to survive) do most of the work.

It is also possible to use anaerobic bacteria (those that do not require oxygen) to create compost. Anaerobic bacteria can harm people and plants, so they are used only in “in-vessel” composting facilities that require large machines to produce compost. The side benefit of using anaerobic bacteria is that they produce methane, which is a great fuel if it can be captured.

What kinds of food waste can be recycled?
It depends on whether you are composting food waste at home or sending it to a commercial facility. Composters using in-vessel systems can handle some materials home gardeners should avoid.

Assuming you are composting at home, plan to put these types of food waste in your compost pile:
•Fruits and vegetables — this includes trimmings such as carrot tops, potato peels and stems from fresh herbs
•Bread, pizza crusts and other baked goods
•Pasta, oatmeal and other grain-based products (as long as they do not have too much oil on them)
•Crushed egg shells (these have the added bonus of helping keep compost from getting too acidic)
•Coffee and coffee filters
•Tea and tea bags
Add citrus sparingly, as it has natural antibacterial properties and can kill off beneficial bacteria if added in large quantities.

These foods should go in the trash:
•Meat and seafood
•Fats and oils
•Dairy products
•Hot peppers (sweet bell peppers are OK)
The other option for these hard-to-compost items is to send them to a commercial composting facility, although not all places accept them. Curbside food waste collection programs in Halifax, NS, Canada, and Portland encourage residents to include things like cheese and fish bones in their curbside bins. The program in Salt Lake City does not take them at all.

What else do you need to make compost?
Successful home compost piles have three main ingredients: nitrogen-rich materials like food scraps (known as “greens”); carbon-rich materials like newspaper and dry leaves (known as “browns”); and water. Get these three components in the right ratio, and you produce an environment where your beneficial organisms can get two additional things they need to produce compost: oxygen and a pile that is the correct temperature.

What is the right composting system for me?
You do not need a yard to produce compost. Even people living in apartments can compost successfully at home.

People with space outdoors can simply build a compost pile, but most folks want something more contained, either for aesthetic purposes or to deter animals. The black Earth Machine compost systems have been very popular in recent years and work reasonably well. They are available at many Home Depot locations or locally owned garden stores. You can also build compost bins from pallets or scrap wood. The Oregon State University Extension Service has plans for building a three-bin compost system, as well as several other resources for home composters.

If possible, avoid composters that require you to turn them. They may seem appealing, but they can get quite heavy and difficult to rotate.

People without yards can keep worm bins in their homes. (Even if you have a yard, you might consider a worm bin because they produce some of the highest-quality compost out there.) A 35-gallon plastic tote is sufficient for most households. Store your bin in a closet or under the sink and feed your worms once or twice a week. You can purchase red wigglers (not night crawlers or other types of worms) online for about $40, or you can find someone with a farm or garden and dig them up yourself.

If you are serious about setting up a worm bin, it is worth investing in a book called Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof. It is considered the preeminent guide for worm bins. Other composting resources include your local extension office and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- See more at:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

State authority announces funding awards

State authority announces funding awards for drinking water and wastewater projects

RALEIGH – State environmental officials have announced the award of more than $63 million to help fund drinking water and wastewater projects in communities statewide.

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the Community Development Block Grants – Infrastructure program and the Water Infrastructure Fund will help pay for 29 projects and 12 studies. The announcement of the latest round of awards from the three funding mechanisms was made by the State Water Infrastructure Authority at its meeting May 12 in Raleigh. The authority includes appointed state and local officials with interest or experience in water and wastewater issues.

“North Carolina communities are faced with a lot of aging water and wastewater infrastructure,” said Kim Colson, director of the Division of Water Infrastructure. “These funds will help repair and replace infrastructure that support needs critical to the future well-being of these communities and their citizens.”

Clean Water State Revolving Fund

Twenty projects totaling about $50 million received funding from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which is made up of a federal grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and a 20 percent match from the state. The revolving fund is a loan program used to improve water quality by financing wastewater, stormwater and other clean water infrastructure improvements.

The projects funded through the revolving fund include money the town of Haw River will use to help rehabilitate part of its wastewater collection system, which has experienced malfunctions that resulted in sewer overflows to the nearby Haw River. Also, Charlotte received a loan to help pay for a waste-to-energy project at its McAlpine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Community Development Block Grant-Infrastructure program

Six projects totaling about $9.8 million will be funded with money from the Community Development Block Grant program. The program is paid for using federal monies from the Housing and Urban Development program. The block grant program aims to improve the quality of life, public and environmental health and economic vitality for low-to-moderate income communities by improving water and wastewater infrastructure. The town of Hoffman received a block grant and a revolving fund loan to finance the installation of a sewer collection system to eliminate failing septic tanks, privies and straight piping.

As a result of state legislation last year, all state administered water infrastructure funding programs are now consolidated in the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources making it easier to pair funding sources for projects like Hoffman’s so the town can better leverage grant funding.

Water Infrastructure Fund

Three construction projects and 12 studies totaling about $3.5 million will be paid for using money from the Water Infrastructure Fund, which is made up of state appropriations. The program aims to meet the needs of rural and economically distressed local governments. The latest round of funding includes a technical assistance grant for Eden to study and model its wastewater collection system. The study will help the city fulfill the requirements of an EPA administrative order and prioritize capital projects to correct wastewater collection system deficiencies.

For more information, including a list of projects funded, visit the division’s website at:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fort Macon State Park

Fort Macon State Park is situated at the eastern end of Bogue Banks in Carteret County, North Carolina. This barrier island has become heavily developed in recent years, leaving the park as the only large natural area on the island. Fort Macon offers a wide range of programs: EELE "Barrier Beginnings," Turtle Talk and Fort History. The environmental education program for school groups centers around a curriculum packet called the Environmental Education Learning Experience (EELE). The EELE contains pre-visit, on-site and post-visit activities that focus on the park's unique natural features and are correlated to North Carolina Department of Public Instruction objectives. Contact the park for more information about the park's EELE and other environmental education programs and activities for the general public.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A $500 House

When Nick Olson and Lilah Horwitz decided to build a new home, they didn’t meet with architects and designers; instead, they visited antique shops and estate sales — or just looked around the area for discarded items. And over a period of a few months, the couple didn’t just watch their dream house take shape; they built it with their own hands.

The home, which they created for a total of about $500 on a piece of property in West Virginia owned by Olson’s family, is made entirely of repurposed windows and salvaged materials. Although it doesn’t have electricity or running water, it has everything the couple needs to watch the breathtaking West Virginia sunsets they so love.

They found their first window in Pennsylvania at the site of an abandoned barn just two days before they moved to West Virginia to begin their project.

“So that kind of started it for us and we collected them on the way,” Olson says.

Olson, a photographer who uses an antiquated technique called the wet plate collodion process to create his work, and Horwitz, a clothing designer who hand-sews everything she designs, left their jobs in Wisconsin to build their home. They refer to themselves as “makers” rather than “artists,” and the painstaking hands-on approach they apply to their artistry is the same technique they used to build their home. They decided to create one wall made completely of windows, stopping at antique sales and even foraging through abandoned properties to complete their design.

“Each [window] has a bit of a story to it,” Olson says. “As an artist, I’ve learned over time that if you have an idea, you can find a way to make it.”

Monday, May 19, 2014

Wild bees are recycling plastic

Two bee species in Canada have begun using plastic waste to build their nests, hinting at the extent of plastic pollution as well as nature's limited ability to adapt.

Plastic is piling up in ecosystems all over the world, not just oceans and lakes. Its harmful effects on wildlife have been widely documented, but a few animals — like bowerbirds and hermit crabs — are doing what they can to recycle it. And according to a new study, wild bees in Canada have joined the effort, using bits of plastic waste to build their nests.

These tiny insects can't recycle nearly enough plastic to put a significant dent in the problem, but their resourceful use of polyurethane and polyethylene is still a rare, encouraging example of nature making the best of manmade plastic pollution.

"Plastic waste pervades the global landscape," the study's authors write in the journal Ecosphere. "Although adverse impacts on both species and ecosystems have been documented, there are few observations of behavioral flexibility and adaptation in species, especially insects, to increasingly plastic-rich environments."

The researchers found two species of leafcutter bees incorporating plastic into their nests, each bringing home varieties that mimic the natural materials they traditionally use. Leafcutter bees don't build big colonies or store honey like honeybees, opting instead for small nests in underground holes, tree cavities or crevices in buildings.

One of the bees they studied, the alfalfa leafcutter, normally bites off pieces of leaves and flowers to make its nests. But the researchers found that three of eight brood cells contained fragments of polyethylene plastic bags, replacing 23 percent of the cut leaves in each cell on average. "All pieces were of the same white glossy color and 'plastic bag' consistency," the researchers report, "and thus presumably from the same source."

While they don't make honey, alfalfa leafcutter bees still make money for U.S. and Canadian farmers by pollinating crops including alfalfa, carrots, canola and melons. The Eurasian insects were introduced to North America in the 1930s for that purpose, and they've since become feral, joining the continent's many native species of leafcutter bees.

The researchers also examined a second bee, the native American Megachile campanulae, which normally gathers resins and saps from trees to build its nests. Along with those natural nest materials, the species was found using polyurethane sealants in two of seven brood cells. These sealants are common on exteriors of buildings, but since they were surrounded by natural resins in M. campanulae nests, the researchers say bees may be using them incidentally and not due to a lack of natural resin options.

"It is interesting to note that in both bee species, the type of plastic used structurally reflects the native nesting material," the researchers added, "suggesting that nesting material structure is more important than chemical or other innate traits of the material."

Plastic can have both advantages and disadvantages in bees' nests, the study suggests. The bees that used bits of plastic bags didn't suffer any parasite outbreaks, for example, echoing a 1970 study of alfalfa leafcutters that nested inside plastic drinking straws. Those bees were never attacked by parasitic wasps, which were unable to sting through the plastic, but up to 90 percent of their brood still died because the plastic didn't let enough moisture escape, encouraging the growth of dangerous mold.

The plastic bags also didn't stick together as well as leaves do, the researchers note, and easily flaked off when they were inspected. But the bees took steps to minimize this structural deficiency, locating their plastic pieces only near the end of a series of brood cells. Because of this, and the blending of manmade with natural materials, "bee naivete does not appear to be the cause for the use of plastic," the study suggests.

It's still unclear why exactly leafcutter bees are using plastic, but as non-biodegradable materials continue piling up in nature, this kind of behavior could become increasingly important. "Although perhaps incidentally collected," the researchers write, "the novel use of plastics in the nests of bees could reflect ecologically adaptive traits necessary for survival in an increasingly human-dominated environment."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Shepard receives Eure-Gardner Award

Shepard receives Eure-Gardner Award for significant contributions to protection of the N.C. coast

RALEIGH — The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission on Wednesday bestowed its highest honor, the Eure-Gardner award, on former Coastal Resources Commission member Melvin Shepard.

Commissioner Bob Emory, who chaired the commission during much of Shepard’s tenure on the board, presented the award to Shepard at a commission meeting in Atlantic Beach.

Shepard, who co-owns and operates New River Nets in Sneads Ferry, served on the Coastal Resources Commission from 2000 to 2013. He was honored for his long-time commitment to the Coastal Resources Commission and his steadfast advocacy for commercial fishing and coastal conservation.

The Eure-Gardner award honors people and organizations who have made significant contributions to protect the natural, cultural and economic resources of the coastal area. It is named for Thomas Eure, the first chairman of the commission, and William Gardner, a long-time member and former chairman of the Coastal Resources Advisory Council.

The Division of Coastal Management regulates development in the state’s 20 coastal counties, helps local governments establish public access to coastal waters and administers the Coastal Reserve Program, which sets aside coastal lands for research and education.

The Coastal Resources Commission establishes policies for the N.C. Coastal Management Program and adopts rules for the Coastal Area Management Act and the N.C. Dredge and Fill Act. The commission designates areas of environmental concern, adopts rules and policies for coastal development within those areas, and certifies local land-use plans.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Small Options speaks volumes

By Allyson Koerner

Simple changes to your daily routine can lead to a greener lifestyle.

Earth Day is not your typical holiday. Families and friends do not gather at someone’s home to have dinner, exchange gifts, play games and catch up on the past year.

It is a different type of celebration where community members join hands and give back to the planet. Some might not see it as an important day, but it truly is.

As cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Woman putting cans and bottles in recycling binJust think, if everyone joined forces like on Earth Day, the planet would be a greener place. If we each give back in some way, we can make a difference.

Some people think it is about the grand gesture, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it is about the small and simple actions.

For example, by using natural light during the day instead of turning every light on in your house, you can save energy. Furthermore, you can save on your electric bill. See how simple that is?

I like to think Earth Day is a day of green reflection and how you can improve the environment, not only on April 22, but also every other day of the year, both beside fellow community members and by yourself.

For me, this year’s Earth Day was a time to look back and see how I have integrated sustainability into my life, and how I can continue to do so.

Admittedly, I have not always been the greenest person, but ever since I began writing about the environment, my view of the planet has changed for the better.

Here are several ways how I’ve change over the past three years:

•I prefer to use reusable, BPA-free water bottles.

•I always turn the water off while brushing my teeth.

•I use reusable grocery bags.

•I only wash my laundry with cold water.

•I turn off lights in the rooms I am not using.

•I only use organic face wash and shower gel.

•At the beginning of the year, I turned vegan and now no longer include animal products in my diet.

In the very near future, I would like to start recycling and begin shopping at local farmers markets whenever I have the chance. These are just a few of the ways I hope to expand my greenness.

If you should get anything out of Earth Day it is this: Small actions speak volumes, with each one adding up and giving back to the planet in big ways.

If you are looking to give back, remember it does not mean you have to go 100% solar, start recycling, maintain a vegan diet and use nontoxic cleaning products all at once. Start small and work your way to achieve the greener picture.

That’s exactly what I have been doing, and I already feel closer to Mother Nature.
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Friday, May 16, 2014

Recycling the Unrecyclable

By Maggie Wehri

Paper Mate and Sharpie teamed up with TerraCycle to offer consumers a way to recycle their used writing instruments.

We all love our favorite highlighter, marker, pen or pencil, but after that last scribble or strike on your paper, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Because we go through these items so often, it’s a wonder there is not a better way to recycle our used highlighters, markers, pens and pencils.

To help lessen our burden on the environment, Paper Mate and Sharpie teamed up with TerraCycle, a company that takes used waste and recycles into new products. TerraCycle says it technically recycles the “nonrecyclable”; these materials must be collected, sorted and processes differently than what some may consider “traditional” recyclable materials.

By sending your spent writing instruments to TerraCycle, your waste can avoid the nearest landfill or incinerator and instead produce new products made from collected garbage. In turn, TerraCycle believes this reduces the need to extract new materials from the planet and therefore lessens the environmental impact.

So, how can you get started? Signing up with TerraCycle is completely free and quick and easy. There are no hidden fees, and the program covers the shipping, too. Once you have joined, collect enough writing instruments to fill up a box or bag, download a prepaid shipping label and ship the box back to TerraCycle by dropping it off at the nearest UPS location. For additional information on how to collect, store and ship these items, check out this guide and read through TerraCycle’s FAQs.

Acceptable waste items include pens and pen caps, mechanical pencils, markers and marker caps, permanent markers and permanent marker caps.

But, what does TerraCycle do with these items? The company managed to make a recycled plastic storage bin. TerraCycle boasts about its versatile bin to store laundry, paper waste, toys, blankets, clothes and pretty much anything else you can think of. At press time, nearly 1.3 million writing instruments have been collected.

If you are looking to recycle other materials beyond your writing instruments, TerraCycle offers a plethora of “nonrecyclable” programs to anyone in the continental US. From scotch tape to energy bar wrappers, TerraCycle is turning the nonrecyclable into useful recycled products for the home
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Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Picnic in a (Biodegradable) Box

Rachel Tardif
Theme-based Boxsal picnic sets utilize post-consumer recycled cardboard and compostable dinnerware.

Who doesn’t love a picnic? It is the perfect green activity — a chance to enjoy tasty food and good company out in the fresh air. Now, thanks to the Dallas-based company Boxsal, you can make your next picnic as stylish as it is green.

The idea behind Boxsal’s portable picnic boxes is simple: to make picnic supplies that are both fun and eco-friendly. After all, it is easy to throw a few supplies in a bag, but why not have a bit more fun when you are headed outside for lunch?

Each Boxsal picnic set starts with the box itself, which is made from 40% to 60% post-consumer recycled cardboard. Built to be sturdy, the boxes hold up to 20 pounds and can be reused up to 10 times. When you are done, they can be recycled or composted. Each box also includes nifty, foldable dividers to help make wine and cheese packing a breeze.

The company offers several different fun designs, including a briefcase complete with Excel spreadsheet to help you keep track of your picnic details (“Office Escape”, above), and a romantic paint-by-numbers (“Today’s Date”). These unique designs are limited editions and are currently sold out, but new boxes will be available in 2013.

Each Boxsal picnic box is equipped with the Eatin’ Tool Set, which includes compostable trays, bowls, cups, napkins and cutlery, as well as a compostable trash bag. Like the box, these picnicking tools are reusable and will go back to the earth when you are done with them (just remember to be sure they make it to the compost pile).

Whether you are getting out of the office or taking your sweetheart out on a date, packing up your hors d’oeuvres and sandwiches in a recyclable, compostable Boxsal picnic box is the green — and stylish! — way to travel. Check out Boxsal’s website for new boxes and a list of retailers where Boxsal products are available.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Recycled newspaper becomes a fresh writing utensil.

Write the Green Way with TreeSmart

By Wendy Gabriel

TreeSmart recycled newspaper pencils According to Rainforest Relief, many of the pencils used in the U.S. are made from endangered rainforest wood from Indonesia and Malaysia. The wood is light in color and has no grain, offering a slight bend. Endangered rainforest wood is also typically used in imported pencils. Yet we are losing rainforest at an alarming rate — a pace of 1.5 acres every second.

Recycling is essential to reduce the demand for new wood, and the good news is that a company is making recycled pencils right now. TreeSmart, a company based out of Lake Oswego, OR, has developed pencils made of recycled newspaper.

The manufacturing process

•The process begins by recycling newspapers.

•Each sheet of newsprint is cut to the specific dimensions of the pencil.

•Then, the safe, nontoxic adhesive is mixed with each sheet of newspaper and the graphite core.

•The graphite is then hand rolled to start each TreeSmart pencil. After that, each is oven dried for 24 hours. A special adhesive formula used to bind the newsprint together dries as hard as wood. After drying, the pencils are smoothed to a consistent round barrel and are ready for custom imprinting if desired.

•After the pencil core is sized, shaped and printed, it is ready for the eraser assembly. Both the ferrule (the brass tube) and a latex-free eraser are attached to the end of each pencil.

Recycling just a 2.5-foot stack of newspapers saves one 20-foot pine tree, and four recycled pencils can be made from one broad sheet of recycled newsprint, according to TreeSmart.

To learn more about TreeSmart, visit its site at
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Spring Cleaning: Recycle Your Denim

By Kara DiCamillo

The time of year when I put a Saturday aside to make the (what I refer to as) “closet switch” is coming around. It happens twice per year — once to switch my summer clothes out with my winter clothes that are stored in bins, and vice versa. Typically, it is also the time of year that I go through my clothes and donate some to Goodwill and take the ones that need to be mended to my local tailor.

One item that I hate to get rid of is my denim. We all know how hard it is to find a great pair of jeans, not to mention how expensive they can be, which almost makes each pair an investment. I have sent countless pairs that I cannot part with to Denim Therapy, a New York-based company that repairs your jeans, no matter how extreme. But, for those that require expensive repairs or are perhaps out of style (such as the denim bibs that are in my costume bin), I have been searching for a solution rather than just tossing them in the trash.

This past week, not only did I find my answer, but I also motivated myself to clean my closet earlier this year. Blue Jeans Go Green (previously known as Cotton From Blue to Green) is an initiative started by Cotton Incorporated in 2006 to emphasize the natural and environmental attributes of cotton and to offer people an opportunity to give back to their community in a unique way.

That first year, 14,566 pieces of denim were collected. The number more than doubled in 2007, and 70,000 square feet of UltraTouch Denim Insulation was manufactured from the recycled denim haul. It was then given to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge (Louisiana) to help in the rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Through the years, the initiative has generated considerable interest from schools and universities, corporate retailers and businesses across the country. In 2013, Cotton Incorporated rebranded the campaign, designed a website (which is why it operated under the radar in the past) and partnered with celebrities, colleges and universities and large retailers to help reach and surpass 1 million pieces of denim collected. In just three months, that goal was achieved, and 250,000 square feet of insulation was distributed to Habitat for Humanity affiliates.

Most recently, Blue Jeans Go Green partnered with J. Crew to collect denim in the retailer’s stores and offered customers 15% off their purchase of a new pair. To date, Blue Jeans Go Green has diverted more than 600 tons of denim from landfills.

So, how do you get involved? Simply print out a mailing label and send your package off to the denim recycling center. It can be any color denim, in any type of condition and nothing needs to be removed (such as zippers and grommets) prior to sending.

Insulation is one of the most important components of a home's energy usage. It keeps a home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. So, do not forget to take a moment and think about those you are helping that are in need.
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Home Electronics Disposal