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Earth Saver: part three

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The third instalment of Earth Saver sees Clare’s mum, after weeks of Clare trying, agree to give eco-living a go.

The dinner discussion turns out to be a disappointment. Instead of talking about switching to low energy bulbs Dad, Mum and Daisy get into a fight over something she’s been doing on the internet. Ben listens to his MP3 player to avoid being pulled into the argument.

However, I am not put off. For the next two weeks I try and continue my one woman eco-campaign. But nothing goes as planned. Mum won’t swap brands to eco-friendly cleaning products. Dad finds my box of batteries, intended for recycling, leaking fluid onto the hall table. Daisy comes in one day and says my compost bin, a more suitably re-used jar, is causing a stench and throws it into the normal rubbish.I also keep seeing Mum throwing stuff away without bothering to separate it and recycle stuff properly.

One night cleaning the fridge, she throws out a bag of never opened, wilted salad, straight into the bin – it should have been compost and plastic. I even get my pocket money docked when Dad finds out I’ve used a whole roll of kitchen foil, putting it down the backs of radiators to reflect the heat. The book said to put it behind radiators against outside walls, but all our radiators are inside. So I just did all of them.

The final fiasco was when I tried to turn down the temperature on the thermostat programmer. I’d read on the Energy Saving Trust website that if you turned down the temperature by one degree, you saved  230kg of carbon dioxide a year! I thought I might as well turn it down three degrees and save even more. However, I wasn’t quite sure how the programmer worked, and I wasn’t able to see clearly anyway as I had to reach through a mass of coats.

So I think I must have turned it up instead of down. I didn’t realise until later though, when I saw Dad in a T-shirt asking Daisy if she’d turned up the heating. Daisy likes a tropical climate as her clothes aren’t practical in conditions other than a heatwave. I went back to the under-stairs cupboard to fix the problem, but unfortunately Mum spotted the door was ajar, closed it and locked me inside. I was eventually found by Dad when he went to check the thermostat programmer. He wasn’t impressed when I explained what I was doing in there.

So here I am, at the end of another evening, doing my maths homework, and feeling pretty fed up. The only place that’s anyway near eco-friendly is my own room, and that’s only because I’m attempting to do algebra by wind-up torch light. Meanwhile the rest of the house is running like normal. Heat on high, lights blazing, Dad washing our third car, Daisy having another bath and Ben listening to music, watching TV and playing Halo all at once. I sigh and put down my calculator. Perhaps it’s time for to me to give up. Everyone’s either too busy to go eco-friendly, or just not interested. And as I’ve found, at age 11, there’s not a huge amount I can do without my parents’ permission, or without someone moaning at me afterwards.

I decide to take a break and go down to the kitchen to pour myself a drink. Mum is sat at the table with a couple of books, which is a little unusual, as she’s normally in her office. She watches me as I open the half-empty fridge. I sigh, we’d save more energy if was full – and I don’t mean full of week old, sodden cornflakes left in the bowl by Ben.

“Dad told me about the thermostat”, Mum says suddenly, looking at me over her glasses. It’s not quite the ‘questioning the witness’ look she gives you when she’s about to tell you off, but my heart sinks anyway.

“I was trying to turn down the heating. To conserve energy”, I mutter, taking out the orange juice bottle.

“Yes, I noticed you’ve been trying to do that recently”, Mum says, “I also remember what you said about the electricity bill, before I got distracted by Daisy’s online boyfriend…”

I look up, mid-pour.

“What?” I exclaim.

“Don’t worry, your father and I are dealing with that”, Mum says casually, “I want to talk to you about being eco-friendly. You’ve stuck to it over the last few weeks and I’m very impressed. You’re obviously passionate about it.”

“Of course I am! I love polar bears! I don’t want them to drown!”

Mum smiles at me as if I’ve said something funny.

“Well I agree, the environment is important, and goodness knows if we can save some money that would be great too”, Mum says, “So, I thought, we might actually give it a go. Try and become completely carbon neutral.”

“Really?!” I say, gobsmacked.

“Yes…”

“Really, really, really?!” I repeat. I can’t believe it.

“Yes”, Mum smiles, “I’ve been talking to your Dad about it, and he agrees it might be a good move, especially with oil prices at the moment.”

“Great…” I start, but Mum interrupts.

“But, before you get too excited, we also decided we’d try it for one year first, see how we go. What do you say?”

“Oh yes!”

“Good. Because since it’s your idea, you can be in charge of the project, with me and your Dad. What do you think?”

“Yes please!” I cry, putting down the juice and the glass, and giving her a hug. Mum laughs.

“Alright, but  first we need to do some research, make a plan…”

“I have a list, and some eco-living books from school!”

“Excellent, that’ll be our starting point. Go and fetch them.”

I run to the kitchen door excitedly. Yes! I have made a difference, we’re going to be eco-friendly! I skid to a halt at the doorway, with a sudden thought.

“What about Ben and Daisy?” I ask.

Mum gives me stern look.

“Who pays the mortgage on this house Clare?” She says.

“Err… you and Dad?” I guess.

“Exactly. So they can either like it or lump.  Now, go fetch those books.”

I just nod and head off to my room, still wondering what a mortgage is.

Next Sunday:

Clare and her Mum form a plan to work through the house, starting with the energy aspects, and start by putting in energy efficient light bulbs and recycling the white-goods they don’t need.

Part one // Part two.

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2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage

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Natural Disaster Damage
Shutterstock / By Droidworker | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/droidworker

Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.

Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.

Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each

The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.

Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.

Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.

That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.

Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.

Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.

Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.

The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.

Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity

Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.

Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.

Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight

The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.

The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.

2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded

People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.

Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.

Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.

Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.

Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.

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Environment

How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018

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eco-responsible
Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/kengmerrymikeymelody

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly

eco-friendly

Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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