Stability in Israel (environmental stability that is)

Jul 30 2014 • Posted by

This past week I was fortunate enough to take a trip to the Middle East, more specifically Israel. In a time of tension, I was able to truly see the country in all its glory. I went to the holiest city in the world, Jerusalem and swam in the lake up north. I floated in the Dead Sea and slept in a Bedouin tent. However as an Intern at the South Coast Energy Challenge, I found myself looking at Israel’s environmental sustainability and I was impressed. The first environmentally friendly object that I saw was solar panels everywhere. I saw solar panels on houses, schools and buildings. After experiencing the hot sun I understood why it was everywhere. I also saw windmills in certain areas, turning and making clean energy. The last thing I noticed were giant recycling cages all over Israel filled with plastic ready to be recycled. These cages were in public places and I saw multiple times people throwing bottles and other recyclable goods in the cages. Upon further research I found that Israel was more environmentally friendly then I thought it was.

After researching a little on Israel’s green goals I found out that they are in fact in the coming year will be creating a special green town. The Mt. Gilboa town of Nurit will be Israel’s first green town. This means it’s power will be fully run off of windmills and solar PV units while also planting trees to naturally cool the area. Another astonishing fact is that Ninety percent of Israeli homes have a solar water heater and the company, Arava Power, will have 10 solar fields up and running by the end of 2016. Other inventions like the battery powered car and the cardboard bike was though of in Israel. The fact is that Israel is aware of environmental problem and even as a very small country they are trying to make a difference in the world.

http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/churchhistory/madeinisrael/EZ27_Made_In_Israel_Environment.aspx

http://www.israel21c.org/environment/israel-builds-its-first-eco-friendly-town/

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Benefits of Cold Showers

Jul 30 2014 • Posted by

I have a friend who swears by cold showers — he takes them in the morning and claims that he feels refreshed and rejuvenated in a way that doesn’t compare to hot showers. The science adds up — taking cold showers causes your blood to flow more rapidly. During a cold shower, your body forces blood to circulate towards your organs to keep them heated. This can have a profound effect on mood and energy, which is something we all could use a boost in. Cold showers are also good for your skin — the cold water reduces the expansion of skin pores, which benefits your complexion by preventing foreign substances from entering your skin. I’m always tired in the mornings, but the shock-factor of the cold water can cause even the most lethargic sleepy-head to feel brand new after a quick cold shower. The health advantages add up, and the benefits don’t stop there.

Cold showers are good for the environment. The hot water we use to shower every day is an energy-hog, contributing to high utility costs and increased carbon emissions. One website I found claims that taking cold showers for an entire year would save you approximately $150 on your utility bill. Now, I know we all love our hot showers, which is absolutely fine. Hot showers are definitely a relaxation haven. However, I’ve been considering trying cold showers for a while now, and I’m beginning to feel that there’s an environmental incentive to give it a try. I’m excited to challenge myself to a week of cold showers. The energy savings won’t be substantial, but every bit counts. I’ll keep you updated next week as to how my experiment turned out. Wish me luck!

Mike Salhany

 

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The Bike! A Reflection on Last Week + Some Additional Maundering

Jul 22 2014 • Posted by

It fell to me this week to be a manager of the Energy Challenge’s Energy Bike. The Bike was donated by a science teacher, and when pedaled enough, it produces enough power to light up four CFL bulbs. While I wouldn’t say the bike is the easiest prop the Challenge uses, the effort is all is worth it when people’s faces light up (see what I did there? Puns, friends) when they realize that their energies were translated into electricity, just by pedaling a bike.  Some common questions I received this weekend were whether we were selling it, could it be hooked up to a TV or video games, and other suggestions along this line. Although the power generated by the bike is honestly quite menial, the idea brings solutions in an age where people (myself included) struggle to get exercise and use tons of electricity.

Let me pan out. In the age of convenience, I think it is rare for people to actually consider what energy is used to create their electricity, and where it’s from. Is it an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico? Is it a product of mountaintop removal in Appalachia?  Maybe it’s a solar farm based on the top of a closed landfill. I often think of this mindset when contemplating the Not In My Backyard attitude. NIMBites (or NIMBans) are generally against wind farms because, stereotypically, they do not like the way a surfeit of wind turbines look on their horizon, or otherwise scenic views. In response to this, I would comment on two sentiments.

The first: I believe that money should not be able to buy the privilege of not caring about where energy comes from, because energy is something that everyone on the planet needs and uses. One shouldn’t be able to purchase a view that everyone shares, an unpopular sentiment in my coastal town. The beach is fantastic, and I love appreciating the raw beauty of nature, but until technology is developed that allows the same amount of clean energy output, everyone must pitch in, rich or poor, whether your house borders a landfill or Nantucket Sound. The second point expands on the previous thought. My step-father says that he feels more American when he passes the wind turbines that power my town’s wastewater treatment plant and dump. At first, I thought this comment was ridiculous. Similarly to my friends, I’m not crazy about uber-patriotism. Quite honestly, I feel awkward sometimes about facing the flag and putting my hand on my heart during the National Anthem, and I find Stephen Colbert’s nationalism-on-steroids attitude hilarious. However, I thought about what my stepfather said, and it is really more, dare I say it, profound, than upon first hearing.  I’m thinking he feels American because wind turbines, and by extension renewable energy, is the way of the future. The wind turbine is an example of innovation: a technique that’s been in use for ages (remember Don Quixote?) with a twist of modernity.  What I think the United States is all about, and what makes this country truly great, is the ability of the people within it to come together for the common good. Our democracy may be dysfunctional, but I trust it. As a result of this tradition of collaboration and connection, it’s American to all do our part in the battle against climate change, a dependance on foreign energy sources, and our instinctive nature to desire “more”.

A TV show I’ve been watching posits that America is no longer the greatest country in the world, and I believe that’s true. However, I do know that we have the potential to be. I want to be part of the change. I would love to hear your thoughts about what I’ve written about this week.

Until next week!

Gabi

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NeuroPLASTICity

Jul 10 2014 • Posted by

Let’s talk brains. The brain is essentially a giant supercomputer that functions both chemically and electrically to form the most complex molecular machine known to mankind. Neuroscience is the beautiful study that aims to brave this mystery that is the brain. Research in this field will undoubtedly be monumental in fields such as medicine and technology. There’s an immense amount of cool stuff surrounding neuroscience, one of most astounding has to be the concept of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the fantastical ability of the brain to physically alter its structure in response to experience. In an amazing reciprocal relationship with behavior, the brain can literally rearrange itself to better respond to stimuli and to adapt to new behaviors.

All of this is relevant because I’m trying to change my behavior. As a part of my sustainability goal this summer, I’m making an effort to reduce my consumption of plastic water bottles, and I believe neuroplasticity can help. If I begin to adjust my behavior and perspective regarding plastic, then my brain may gradually adapt to the new behavior and physically reorganize to a mental state that is more environmentally conscious. It’s a long-shot, but it’s based in science, so I’m willing to give it a try.

Somewhere along the line, my brain adjusted to the understanding that plastic is everywhere. This isn’t totally surprising, seeing that world generates approximately 32 million tons of plastic each year. Out of habit and society’s influence, I’ve become numb to this sea of plastic that surrounds myself and the rest of the world. Plastic is made up of organic materials that degrade very slowly, posing environmental hazards as our nation of consumers use-up and throw-out plastic at ever-increasing rates.

I’ve made the transition to a reusable steel water bottle that is both efficient and fashionable, and I’m beginning to readjust my view on the wasteful luxury that is plastic water bottles. NeuroPLASTICity may be my ticket to fully achieving a refreshed lifestyle of sustainability and conscious consumerism. Healthy habits require consistency, and so I’m eager to “train my brain” into considering the environment more than I’m used to. Thanks for reading,

Mike Salhany

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Not Another Plastic Bag!

Jun 30 2014 • Posted by

My sustainability goal has been to reduce the amount of plastic bags I use. I had my plan all laid out in my head. I had my goal, I had my reusable bags, and I was ready to go. I went to the super market yesterday, got my groceries, and the second I got to the checkout a sense of panic instantly crawled in to my head. I planned so well so that I could practice my sustainability goal and then when it came down to it I had failed. I had forgotten all my reusable bags and I was already halfway through the register. I realized that part of the process of becoming a more sustainable person was getting over old habits. I have already placed my reusable bags in my car so that the next time I go shopping I know that I am prepared. I still plan on succeeding at my goal by the end of the summer.  All I need to do now is be more aware before I go shopping and I think that forgetting last time will actually help me remember for the long run.

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Water’ya Waitin’ For? Drink From the Tap!

Jun 30 2014 • Posted by

Our little blue planet gets its colorful description from the huge bodies of water that collectively cover over 70% of the world’s surface. Water is almost everywhere on Earth – even inside of you - about 54% of an average human’s body weight is attributed to water. In fact, life as we know it simply could not exist without water. This wonder-molecule is made up of a single Oxygen atom covalently bonded to two Hydrogen atoms. The way these atoms interact with each other gives way to water’s unique polar geometry. This polarity is why it’s so special – water’s shape makes it a universal solvent – allowing life’s basic components (DNA, proteins, etc) to have a place in which they can exist and interact.

So what’s the big deal? Well, a United Nations report published in 2008 revealed that approximately one billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. This shocking statistic is humbling, and it makes me realize how grateful I should be to have access to clean drinking water. Many Americans take for granted the luxury of being able to turn on a faucet and quench their thirst. Many claim they “don’t like the taste” of tap water, but is this honestly a concern when 1 in 7 individuals would be thankful to have access to that same faucet water? I don’t think so, and so as part as my sustainability goal I aim to significantly reduce my use of bottled water. I’ve been a slave to bottled water for too long, and I’ve just now come to understand that the plastic that I’m wasting by consuming bottles of water is not at all necessary. So, for the 1 in 7, and for the sake of environmental sustainability, I went out and a got a hip new reusable water bottle. I’m super excited to break it in and to finally end my addiction to bottled water by making use of the clean faucet water available almost anywhere in Massachusetts!

Mike Salhany

 

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The Rebeiro Family Effort to Obtaining Sustainability, Week 1

Jun 26 2014 • Posted by

There are 8 [eight] of us: an old-world wife, a new age husband, three giddy girly girls and three of the best bad boys I’ve ever come to know. I am known amongst friends and family for happily being polite, some might even say too polite. “Ladies first” is an ideal that I hold in my heart as the correct order of things and to my understanding of her very broken English, my wife appreciates that quality about me quite a bit. Even though this is a value I try to keep within my everyday actions to make the women in my life feel special, the boys were first in the birth order. I feel as if they cut in front of their sisters in the “line of life”, which I guess is why I try to enforce that value onto my boys as much as possible because in some weird way.

We are nothing like the Brady Bunch, although by looking at the arrangement of our family, it is humorously close but with a twist. As of right now, we live in very tight quarters and pray for more living space faithfully every night before bed. The saying “more is not always better” makes at least four of my children roll their eyes in a way that then causes me to have the same reaction, but for slightly different reasons. They want more games, toys, snacks, candies, clothes, shoes, etc.; while my wife and I just want more space, patience and financial security, which would all bring the two of us some peace of mind. It seems like the only thing that our kids don’t want more of is, well, more kids.

As you can imagine, this wish a very sturdy common ground we share with our kids, especially the older ones. But I think our rationale might be different. The problem is that they have this twisted idea- if we have more kids, the less things they will receive on special occasions like Christmas and birthdays. Mrs. Rebeiro and I had known for some time now that this was not the case, even before the point of no return when we found each other and fell in love. We knew that life would not be all that kind to us if we remained weak minded and afraid with myself having three children and her with two. As a result, we chose to solidify our love and commitment to one another through marriage and with one more bundle of joy. Not the best thing we could have done for our pockets, but it was the only thing we could think of that could of filled our hearts with that feeling of eternal and everlasting love, and it did the job very well.

You must be asking yourself right about now, “What does this have anything to do with obtaining sustainability for the Rebeiro family?” It is a challenge every day to find a way to use and reuse what resources we have at our disposal to keep our way of life stable without using too much. If we use too much and don’t track our consumption of certain facets of our life then towards the end of the month we will be without certain things that we feel that we need to keep us and the kids satisfied and comfortable. In my opinion, we are very resourceful due to the nature of our financial status.

I believe that we could use our “financial brokenness skills” to help us lower our carbon footprint and heighten our awareness through certain daily/weekly actions. I think these actions greatly affect the world in which our children will become adults, or at least the frame of mind they will have in the future, no matter what the world looks like. One examples is that since we are consistently eating fruits and vegetables in our home, I suggested that we stop throwing the scraps of such foods away in the trash and start a simple compost bin or pile in the backyard. In time we would then be able to use this compost in our fairly large garden boxes that are in the backyard as well. They have great potential to grow a very healthy harvest again and again each year.

Although it is pretty late in the season, I also suggested that we start growing food together as a family and make days where all we do is spend the day tending to our garden and letting the kids pick what they want to help grow. Teaching them about gardening would be something that would be relaxing, therapeutic and could spark some interest and more ideas that the kids could get excited about and act upon themselves. My wife has extensive knowledge of farming and I have several years of experience in urban agriculture, however, neither of us have really used these skills to pass onto our kids due to life just being a bit hectic. However, now that our family is complete, we can start thinking about creating a structure of sustainability and I believe that we should start with composting, gardening and teaching our children about how the simple act of planting a seed and showing it the proper love can feed us in more than one way throughout the entirerty of our lives. Eventually, I believe gardening could feed the soul of my family and bring us closer than ever before.

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Week 1 Struggles

Jun 26 2014 • Posted by

This was my first week at trying to achieve my sustainability goal of driving less. For the most part it did not go as well as I thought it would, mainly because I was working a lot so I was forced to drive. Even when I wasn’t working, I had to run little errands at the bank and the supermarket. You would be surprised though at how far you drive from your home to these places that are in your town. To the super market it is a short drive, but it’s like an eighteen mile round trip which I never noticed until now. I have to start debating whether I need to go out and get it immediately or if I can wait until when it’s convenient.

On the plus side, I did start doing things to my car that will save on gas when I’m driving. I finally discovered the great invention of cruise control, allowing me to stay at a constant speed while on the highway. This way, I don’t waste fuel accelerating or decelerating. I can’t believe it took me this long to actually use it, highly recommend it to everyone who uses the highway. Another thing that helped me work on my sustainability goal was that I was allowed to work from home one day since I was only doing event research. I didn’t have to drive the 35 minute commute to work that day which saved me plenty of gas. I also looked up some ways to help save gas while driving and I plan on using those actions for the rest of the summer.

Next week, I may attempt to bike to my other job which is in my hometown and about a 10-15 minute drive by car. It will be a challenge, but it will definitely help me lower my carbon footprint and it will be a good workout. I plan on also checking my tire pressure this weekend as well to make sure it is at the optimal level since not only will it lower my carbon emissions, but also increase my safety when driving . The tires are one of the most crucial parts of the car and it is vital to the efficiency and my safety that they are properly inflated. Plus, this action is totally free of cost and will save me an estimated 332 pounds of CO2 emissions and will allow the car to operate closer to its highest fuel efficiency.

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Green: More Than Just My Favorite Color

Jun 26 2014 • Posted by

I’m not usually one to choose favorites. I have a few favorite things, like my favorite day of the week (Friday), my favorite season (Summer), and my favorite baseball team (the Red Sox). Any sane person probably shares these favorite things with me, however I do have a favorite that isn’t so obvious and slightly sets me apart: My favorite color is green!

Favorite colors exhibit individuality – the color spectrum is so mysterious and beautiful that choosing just one is like choosing a single piece of candy in a whole candy store. It’s a tough decision, and though orange and blue will always have a special place in my heart, there’s so much to green that just speaks to me on a personal level.

I look outside and see green all around me – the plants and trees breathe with life and glow a brilliant green, reflected by the sunlight and distinguished by thousands of respective shades. Nature is beautiful. Nature is our home and composes the precious framework that secures our prosperity as humankind. It is logical and imperative that we protect our home, as it won’t be very forgiving once it’s too late.

“Going Green” is more than just a catchy tagline. Going Green envelops the philosophy of sustainability by encouraging individuals to become mindful of their carbon footprint and to adapt to a lifestyle of environmental awareness. Before I “woke up” and made the decision to Go Green, I found tasks such as recycling and conscious consumerism to be trivial and inconvenient. The reality is that true inconvenience exists in a world where human greed and lack of action lead to the destruction of our only home.

While I stop to admire the allure of the green trees, their essence whispers back with a message of hope and optimism. It is not yet too late to control pollution and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is not yet too late to wake up and prioritize the future over the present, and to live in a world where mankind and nature exist in balance and harmony. It will never be too late to start protecting our home. So join me and millions of others – Go Green, take the Challenge, and together we can help ensure a better world for all, for goodness sake! Let’s save the planet!

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Take Out the Trash- The End of Caffeine-Induced Waste

Jun 26 2014 • Posted by

Let me get one thing straight. I love a good cup of coffee. It’s a little ridiculous, I know, but it’s little things that go a long way in my experience. It’s just the thing to pick me up from that afternoon slump. However, I’m putting a stop to it this summer. I’ve had enough of my trash-generating habit, even though it seems kind of menial.  Approximately, I drink four takeaway coffees a week, and it’s even more when school is in session. Although I never purchase coffee in Styrofoam cups, it’s summer, and that means iced coffee in plastic cups. According to carryyourcup.org, only about a fourth of the 4.47 million tons of plastic beverage containers sold were recycled in 2006, and I’m sure the number has only grown as demand has risen. The news is similarly poor for paper cups- according to the same website, each paper cup manufactured is responsible for  .24 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, which adds up if one is purchased every day.

As a result of this news, I’m swearing off disposable coffee cups this summer. I have purchased a thermos, and am looking for a similarly reusable container for iced coffee. The trash piles up in my car, and I’m sick of feeling guilty about it. Hopefully, I can stop buying coffee altogether, since it’s a big waste of money anyway. If this goes well, I’m hoping to progress to another sustainability goal by the end of the summer.

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