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Have you ever wondered about the air quality in Wichita, KS? I had the opportunity to visit one of the air quality monitoring sites in Wichita. This site continuously measures the amount of particulate matter (tiny particles that can be inhaled and can negatively impact the heart and lungs), radiation, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide in the air. Daily Wichita air quality information is available online at the Wichita Air Quality Index. You can also visit the Air Now site for additional information and health warnings.

 

Have you ever heard warnings about our ozone levels – especially on hot summer days? Ozone is colorless and is found in air all around us. An ozone rating of 0 to 50 is good and will not result in negative health effects. However, a rating between 101 and 150 is unhealthy for people with respiratory problems, small children, the elderly, and people working or exercising outside. Some key contributors to increased ozone levels are motor vehicles, industries, and gas stations. Emissions from these sources react when exposed to sunlight and ozone is one of the products.

According to Air Now, there are ways to reduce your contribution to Wichita ozone levels:

  1. Limit driving whenever possible – combine errands, work from home, teleconference, carpool, walk , or use public transportation
  2. Refuel your vehicle early in the morning or after sunset
  3. Minimize idling of your vehicle
  4. Conserve electricity by using a programmable thermostat
  5. If you use a gas mower, postpone mowing to a day when the ozone levels are expected to be lower

One way to help our pollinators, especially the honey bees, is to plant a bee garden at our home or office. The choice of plants for a bee garden is determined by multiple factors. It is advantageous to use native plants because they are well-suited to a particular climate zone. Plant choice should take into account both the pollen and nectar requirements of honey bees. Flowers for a bee garden should be single (such as daisies or marigolds) rather than double (such as most roses and carnations). It is important to select a variety of plants so that they will bloom at different times throughout the year, thereby providing a constant food supply whenever temperatures are high enough to allow bees to forage. Keeping these factors in mind, individuals or communities can help increase honey bee habitat.

Helpful website: top 30 flowers for bees http://honeylove.org/top-30-flowers-for-bees/

The honey bee, or Apis mellifera, plays an important role as a pollinator in the American food system (Great Plains Nature Center). People enjoy many fruits and vegetables pollinated by honey bees; however, Americans may have to seek other pollinators if annual survival rates of honey bees do not improve. A bee hive is composed of interactions between bees of different ages each helping the colony ensure its survival. If any part of the life cycle is disrupted by parasites, fungi, toxins, malnutrition, or starvation then the colony may not be able to survive. One solution is to plant bee gardens that provide bees with the necessary resources to help them face threats.

Honey bees are not only important because they are part of a larger ecosystem, but also because they have a significant role in the human food system. Humans manipulate the relationship between bees and plants in order to produce large quantities of food. In 2009, the American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA), stated that

   Honey bees provide essential pollination services to US fruit, vegetable and seed growers, adding $8-14 billion annually to farm income and ensuring a continuous supply of healthy and affordable foods for the consumer. About 2 million colonies are rented by growers each year to service over 90 crops. The almond crop alone requires 1.3 million colonies and is predicted to require 2.12 million by 2012 (about 95% of all colonies currently in the US). (para. 1)

Approximately 90% of commercially-grown crops and 33% of U.S. food depends on honeybees for pollination. Common bee-pollinated foods include apples, nuts, blueberries, and strawberries. This dependence on honey bees for pollination of large areas of a single crop demands colonies of migratory rental bee colonies, as referenced in the AAPA quote. The health of these traveling rental pollinators as well as the health of other honey bees is critical.

There are several things that average citizens can do to contribute to the survival of honey bees in the United States. First, homeowners can avoid using pesticides in their yards. In addition to not harming the environment that already exists, citizens can improve that environment by growing native plants which are a rich in the nutrients needed by bees. Better nutrition will strengthen the immunity of bees so that they have a greater chance of being able to withstand the variety of threats to their health.

See my next blog for information on planning a bee garden for your home or business.

Nature's Toolbox: Biodiversity, Art and Invention

If you are interested in art and the environment, please check out this display.

This display will be at the Ulrich Museum of Art on the Wichita State University campus until December 15, 2013.

According to the Ulrich website, “this exhibition's innovative, eye-capturing art helps visitors understand and appreciate the life-or-death interdependence between Earth’s 10 to 20 million species--including humans--and the quality of the environment we share.”

 

 

Science Café Wichita

Topic: Agriculture & Climate Change

Speaker: Amber Campbell Hibbs – Kansas State University

Date: Monday, November 11th at 7:30 pm

Location: The Donut Whole (1720 E. Douglas)

Check out the link to Science Café Wichita. This is a great venue to hear speakers presenting about very relevant topics. The November presentation will focus on how climate change is affecting and will continue to affect food production in Kansas.

incoln Street Dam

Have you had an opportunity to visit the Lincoln Street Dam? The new dam, which incorporates a fish passage and safe canoe/kayak transition, provides improved drainage and flow for the upstream area during heavy rains and floods.

 

The boat passage is a secret feeding ground for some smart birds. This bird isn't telling anyone (except his buddy up on the ledge)!

 

There were lots of sandbars everywhere, likely from the last flood we had. This pair of ducks made good use of one of the sandbars.

 

When you have a chance, do check out the Lincoln Street Dam. And pick up a little trash around you when you leave, would you?

 

I happened to visit Wichita Transit last week and noticed a brochure entitled “Carpool.” What a great way to reduce one’s carbon footprint! What a great way for a business to reduce its carbon footprint – by offering incentives for its employees to carpool. Click here for information about the Wichita Transit Rideshare program. A computer program will match commuters by location and work days and times. The Carpool brochure includes useful tips about setting appropriate ground rules. I have heard a few horror stories (from another city) about wild carpool drivers making passengers so sick that they quit the carpool and returned to solo commuting. Hopefully the ground rules will help create a more harmonious rideshare experience. Here are the ground rules from the Wichita Transit brochure:

 

  1. Decide on a schedule and exchange phone numbers with the other members of the carpool.
  2. Decide on a specific pickup location(s) and pick-up time(s). Plan the route.
  3. Come to an agreement (possibly a contract) regarding smoking ,eating, drinking ,safety, radio/music choice, vehicle maintenance, bad weather, and reasonable wait time
  4. Share the driving responsibilities. Make a schedule. Does each member have a car? Will they drive their own car? What is the fee for a member who does not have a car?
Click here for the carpool application form.

 

I have been pondering the question from my previous blog since Earth Overshoot Day. One answer is quite simple – no new technology required, no self-sacrifice needed – simply unplug appliances that are not in use. There could be many of these in our homes and work places. The Earth Day Network explains that “turning off an appliance doesn’t completely stop the flow of electricity; it merely slows down the rate of energy consumption. And to make matters worse, many appliances don’t ever turn off. Instead they enter standby mode and continue to draw electricity to power displays, remote controls, and charge batteries.” Hence the term vampire energy. “In the US alone, more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity are wasted each year [through vampire energy], which collectively costs consumers over $11 billion!” Unplugging vampire appliances not only saves the average homeowner approximately $100/year, but also reduces resource consumption. If we use less energy, fewer fossil fuels need to be burned at power plants. As a result, smaller amounts of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere.

So, who are the major vampires? Which appliance should I go home and unplug? Dosomething.org gives the following top 5 list of energy vampires: televisions, video games, laptops computers, DVD players, and cell phone chargers.

Did I plant any trees? No. However, I did go to Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine, KS to volunteer for a few hours. It was not realistic for me to set a goal of planting trees, but it was possible for me to help an organization that does plant and care for trees.

The Global Footprint Network site states that it takes 1.5 years for the earth to regenerate 1 years’ worth of resources for us.

What REALISTIC options do we have to help with resource regeneration or reduction of resource consumption?

  

 

I opened up my e-mail this morning to find a sobering message from a classmate. The e-mail was about Earth Overshoot Day – the day when our consumption of resources has reached the earth’s capacity for this year. According to Global Footprint Network, Earth Overshoot Day gets earlier and earlier each year. In 1993, we reached this day on October 21, in 2003 it was September 22, and now in 2013 it is August 20. It is not acceptable for a business to overshoot their financial budget when there is still 1/3 of the year remaining. It is not acceptable for us to use up the ecological budget either. The Global Footprint Network states that we are incurring “an ecological debt, and the interest we are paying on that mounting debt—food shortages, soil erosion, and the build-up of CO in our atmosphere—comes with devastating human and monetary costs.” What happens when we spend all of the money in our budget? We have to conserve and dip into our savings. If we are dipping into our ecological savings earlier and earlier each year, our behavior is not sustainable.

Click here to watch a short video about Ecological Overshoot.

Click here to calculate your personal ecological footprint.

            I am “celebrating” Earth Overshoot Day by contemplating not only how I can consume less, but also how I can add ecological capital back into the account. For example, I could plant some trees to help capture excess carbon dioxide. What if we could slowly raise awareness, change behavior, and push back Earth Overshoot Day?

In February of 2013, I wrote a blog about Ray Anderson and Interface Flooring.

 Anderson frequently read the following poem at the conclusion of his

presentations.  It was written by an Interface employee, Glenn Thomas

and was obtained from the TED blog.

Tomorrow’s Child
© Glenn Thomas
Without a name; an unseen face
and knowing not your time nor place
Tomorrow’s Child, though yet unborn,
I met you first last Tuesday morn.

A wise friend introduced us two,
and through his sobering point of view
I saw a day that you would see;
a day for you, but not for me

Knowing you has changed my thinking,
for I never had an inkling
That perhaps the things I do
might someday, somehow, threaten you

Tomorrow’s Child, my daughter-son
I’m afraid I’ve just begun
To think of you and of your good,
Though always having known I should.

Begin I will to weigh the cost
of what I squander; what is lost
If ever I forget that you
will someday come to live here too.

On June 26, 2013, Green Biz Wichita hosted a water conference at the Ambassador Hotel. Ben Nelson from the City of Wichita began by explaining the current situation and how the city has responded to the drought. On June 4, 2013 the City of Wichita switched the amount of water coming from the Equus Beds and Cheney Reservoir. Prior to June 4, 60% of Wichita water was being drawn from Cheney Reservoir and 40% came from the Equus Beds. By switching those percentages, Wichita was able to extend its water supply by 22 months. In February of 2013, Cheney Reservoir was only 58% full. By June 26 it had risen to 73% full. When we are not experiencing a drought, the Reservoir is 100% full. In addition to switching the amount of water drawn from each source, the City will sink its wells deeper into the Equus Beds in order to take full advantage of water rights there. There will also be some modifications made to the Water Treatment Plant.

After the May 30, 2013 rain in Wichita, the City did not require such drastic water conservation measures as had previously been proposed. For this year, water use is down 13.5% from last year - partly due to rain, conservation, and cooler weather. Residents are still encouraged to voluntarily conserve water. The City is offering a water conservation rebate program to help fund installation of low-flow toilets, high-efficiency dishwashers and washing machines, rain barrels, and irrigation controllers. Wichita has also released a website called Save Wichita Water. The slogan for the website is "Every Drop Makes an Impact."

In the second part of the water presentation, Kay Drinnen spoke about conservation. A side benefit of water conservation is that it not only reduces water bills, but also lowers energy costs and makes a business more economically resilient. According to Drinnen, many businesses can save up to 63% in water use by updating plumbing fixtures and repairing leaks.

Businesses should do a water audit to discover what their current water use patterns are. A water audit includes looking at: historical water usage, plumbing plans, domestic water use, water used in commercial/industrial processes, water used in cooling and heating, irrigation, and energy use. Can any parts of the business that use large amounts of water be replaced? retrofit? Can a process be altered so that it will use less water? The next steps are to develop a timeline for changes and to educate employees about conservation. Each business will have to tackle water conservation in a unique way based on their particular usage patterns. There are some inspiring case studies available from the Southwest Florida Water Management District site.

As you move forward and take steps to conserve water, remember, "Every Drop Makes an Impact!"

As I walk along the path beside the Ark River, I have been paying attention to the paradoxes of the beautiful things (wildlife, flowers) and the ugly things (trash). I plan to post a weekly picture of one of these paradoxes.

I think the following Mary Oliver poem, from the book Red Bird, is a fitting introduction.

From This River, When I Was a Child, I Used to Drink

But when I came back I found

that the body of the river was dying. 

 

"Did it speak?"

 

Yes, it sang out the old songs, but faintly.

 

"What will you do?"

 

I will grieve of course, but that's nothing.

 

"What, precisely, will you grieve for?"

 

For the river. For myself, my lost

joyfulness. For the children who will not

know what a river can be - a friend, a

companion, a hint of heaven.

 

"Isn't this somewhat overplayed?"

 

I said: it can be a friend. A companion. A

hint of heaven.

 

 

We live in a marvelously convenient age! We can purchase fruits and vegetables regardless of the season. We can replace our television on a moment’s notice. We don’t have to wash dishes after a party – we just throw away all the disposable plates and cups and plastic ware. We roll our dumpster to the curb once a week and never have to think about where our trash is actually going. Convenience comes at a hidden cost. The hidden cost of our throw-away society is the mountain of trash it produces. Most of us are never confronted by that mountain.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to find out where Wichita trash goes. I went on a tour of the Waste Connections transfer station and the Plum Thicket landfill. A friend described the field trip as an “olfactory adventure.” It certainly was! It was also both an uplifting and a depressing experience. It was uplifting to see the passion of the Waste Connections staff for protecting human and environmental health. However, it was depressing to see all of the things that were being thrown away. Some items could have been used by people in need (perhaps donated to Goodwill or the DAV or given away via Craig’s List) while other items could have been recycled.

In Wichita, trash is hauled to the Waste Connections transfer station.

 

From the transfer station, semis haul the trash to the Plum Thicket landfill in Harper County. It is discouraging to stand atop the 100 foot mountain of trash – especially when so much of it could have been recycled. There should be no cardboard or paper in the landfill, no plastic bags, no cans, nor plastic bottles. Waste assessments in Wichita have shown that almost 25% of our municipal solid waste is composed of paper products. This is easily avoidable since it is convenient to recycle paper in Wichita.

 When the landfill is full in a few decades, it will be the highest point in Kansas and a monument to our throw-away society.

 

Photos taken by Catherine Johnson 5-18-2013

With recent rain, I have heard people wondering about the drought situation in Wichita. Have we had enough rain to lessen the threat of running out of water? According to the National Weather Service, short-term drought conditions have improved with the rain we received over the past few months. This affects shallow soil, which benefits crops. However, we are still facing the consequences of a long-term drought that began in 2011. The long-term drought is evidenced by low reservoir and aquifer levels. It would take 8-15 inches of rain in excess of the normal amounts to replenish reservoirs, aquifers, and deep soil moisture levels. Not only is the amount of rain important, but also the way in which it falls. Heavy rains sometimes accumulate too quickly and run off without soaking into the ground. We are in need of intermittent rains falling over a period of weeks. This will allow the moisture to soak in and ease the long-term drought.

 Whether the drought ends within months or years, we must learn to conserve. Many newer homes have efficient fixtures. However, if you have an older home, you may need to install low-flow faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads. Eartheasy.com states that we use 75% of our household water in the bathroom, and 28% in flushing toilets.

What is one thing you can do to conserve water in your home or office bathrooms?


Last week I heard about bicycle commuting reimbursement. This made me wonder, “Could I safely ride my bike to work? Would the reimbursement benefit make it worthwhile?” Fortunately, I can use bike trails for about two-thirds of my commute. Thus, I could ride safely to work; however, there is no shower at my workplace, so that is a deterrent.

I did some research on the League of American Bicyclists website to find out how the reimbursement program works. The website defines a qualified bicycle commuting month as any month in which an employee regularly uses a bicycle for a substantial portion of their commute.  Some companies document this by having participating employees sign a monthly pledge card stating that they have ridden their bicycle to work at least three days per week (if fulltime) during a particular month. For each month that the employee completes a pledge card, they are eligible to receive, from their employer, up to $20 reimbursement for normal expenses related to the use of a bicycle for commuting . The reimbursement is exempt from taxation. Examples of eligible expenses could include cost of bicycle service, repair or storage, or purchase of cycling equipment. The employee must submit receipts for qualifying expenses. The details can be found in the Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits For use in 2013.
During my research on the Bicycle Commuter Act, I discovered the national list of Bicycle Friendly Businesses on the Kansas Cyclist website. Unfortunately there were no Wichita businesses on the list. What does it mean to be a bicycle friendly business? It means that the business actively supports cycling and encourages employees to ride a bicycle for commuting as well as for fun and fitness. According to the application description, a bicycle friendly business encourages employees to ride a bicycle to and from work and on errands. A bicycle friendly business engineers an environment that is conducive to cycling (including bike racks and shower facilities). A bicycle friendly business educates people about bike safety and bike maintenance. A bicycle friendly business evaluates its current bicycle programs and sets goals for improvement. 

What would be one simple step you could take to make your business more bicycle friendly? And what do you see as the greatest obstacle to being a bicycle friendly business?

My previous blog explained that calculation of CO2e is a way to include all greenhouse gases and their global warming potential compared to that of carbon dioxide. What are these other greenhouse gases (abbreviated as GHG)? They include methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

The David Suzuki website has a handbook for managing greenhouse gas emissions. The handbook contains very practical ways for measuring and reducing emissions. The first step in managing emissions is to decide which emissions to measure, for example: only those relating to employee transportation, or those related to electricity usage. Then the data from utility bills, accounting receipts, fuel logs, odometer readings, or other sources is collected. Finally, the emissions can be calculated using the data. The general formula for calculating CO2e emissions is: (activity data) x (emission factor) = GHG emissions


The challenge is to find the correct emission factor. I am still researching greenhouse gas emissions calculators and emission factors. However, a simple
calculator can be found on the EPA site. You can type in gallons of gas consumed or kilowatt-hours of electricity and the calculator will convert the amount to tons, pounds, or metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. A good place to begin experimenting is the Household Carbon Footprint Calculator. Once you have determined your quantity of GHG emissions then you can consider ways to reduce or offset it.

Let's set a goal to reduce our carbon footprint by Earth Day 2014!

What are carbon offsets? They are financial investments in projects that directly reduce energy consumption or create renewable energy.
In 2007, half of Vancity Credit Union’s carbon offsets went to local projects. This not only offset the credit union’s own carbon dioxide emissions, but also helped the local economy. That is definitely a win-win solution.
Vancity’s website lists
3 steps to achieving carbon neutrality. In the steps the abbreviation CO2e is used. This means “carbon dioxide equivalent” and is a way to include all greenhouse gases and their global warming potential compared to that of carbon dioxide. Thus, when we see a carbon footprint measured in CO2e, we know that all greenhouse gas emissions have been included in the calculation. Vancity’s three steps are:
1. “Calculate your CO2e footprint by adding up the emissions your organization creates. At Vancity, we used the World Resources Institute's greenhouse gas protocol, and the ISO 14064 standard.
2. Reduce your CO2e emissions by making operational changes to reduce the amount of CO2e you create.
3. Offset what you can't reduce by investing in high quality offsets to balance your remaining emissions.”
I think step 1 is the most difficult and also the most important. We need to be able to calculate our current footprint in order to reduce it and to measure our progress toward carbon neutrality. Stay tuned for more information on this in my next blog.

I have been fascinated by the steps that Vancity Credit Union in Vancouver, Canada has taken to reduce its ecological footprint. Vancity is the largest credit union in Canada. In 2006 they set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2010. They reached their goal two years early and have continued to work on reducing their own environmental impact as well as helping others to do the same.
What does it mean to be carbon neutral? First, the carbon dioxide emissions created by a company are tabulated. The company then achieves carbon neutrality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and purchasing carbon offsets (more about carbon offsets in the next blog) to compensate for the emissions that cannot be omitted.
In equation form, when carbon emissions – (carbon reductions + carbon offsets) = 0, you have achieved carbon neutrality.
How did Vancity reach their goal? They focused on waste and energy reduction. In 2007, 44% of Vancity’s energy use resulted from employee transportation (commuting). Each year Vancity surveys employees to learn about how they commute. Between 1998 and 2008 the credit union was able to encourage employees to carpool or use public transit yielding a 13% decrease in the number of employees driving to work alone. Vancity also greatly reduced the amount of energy consumed by their buildings. They updated heating and cooling systems to make them more efficient. They also reduced the energy cost of their outdoor signs by 75% by converting to LED lighting and programming them to turn off later at night – when few potential clients would be driving by. Vancity claims that in the last 20 years, their strategies to reduce energy consumption have saved them at least $3.6 million.
For more information, visit the
Vancity website.

How do we measure sustainability? One way to do this from a business perspective is to use the Triple Bottom Line, or TBL. This idea is discussed in an article published by economic analysts, Slaper and Hall, from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. The TBL allows one to measure not only economic growth, but also environmental impact and social impact. I have heard these three areas referred to as the 3 P’s: profit, planet, and people. We are accustomed to measuring financial gain, but measuring environmental and social impacts is less clear. The latter two areas have been regarded more qualitatively than quantitatively.
Slaper and Hall state that the first obstacle to measuring TBL is what unit to use. Effects on planet and people are difficult to measure with monetary value. Another option would be to design an index to allow businesses to compare their performance to a national standard. 
In an index system, each of the 3 P’s can be measured differently, as can the sub-components of each P. Profits would continue to be measured in dollars. Environmental impacts could be measured in terms of concentration of specific pollutants, amount of electricity used, amount of fuel used, and amount of solid waste produced or recovered. Social measures would vary greatly by company. Some companies might measure health, income, or level of education for employees or for the community.
The next step is to analyze the data and determine what actions to take. This involves collaboration between all the stakeholders. It would be difficult to address all the subcategories of the 3 P’s, so stakeholders would have to narrow their focus by prioritizing the subcategories. This focus might be dynamic – changing over time.
A few challenges of a TBL index are that some of the ratings would be based on an evaluator’s opinion, not numerical data. There would be questions about the importance of each of the 3 P’s and the categories in each. However, the benefits of an index system are that it allows flexibility based on the data available for a particular business or project.
According to Slaper and Hall, using the Triple Bottom Line can help a business to be more financially profitable over the long term. Simple steps like reducing energy consumption and waste production are very tangible and have financial benefits. An example of this would be building a LEED certified building that saves on energy costs for heating and cooling and conserves water. These savings add up over time. While the environmental and social factors might seem separate from financial decisions at the present moment, they will have significant impacts on future profit. As consumers become more educated, they will be more likely to support businesses that see themselves as part of a community – a community which includes the environment we all share and the people with whom we share it. 

aster - The Green Way
The Easter holiday is about a religious experience but is also commercialized with plastic eggs, cellophane grass and chocolate. These things are fun but not environmentally friendly. Here are a few easy alternatives to make your Easter as green as the spring grass. 

As always, reuse and recycle this holiday starting with the Easter basket. Instead of buying a new one reuse from a previous year or find a second-hand basket. If you buy a new basket store it to be reused next year or passed on to a younger sibling or neighbor. And if you're crafty, try making your own Easter basket by using materials you have at home.

Eliminating the plastic Easter grass is an obvious way to go green. Use paper from your office shredder or use packing peanuts or decorative cloth. Again, save and reuse this material next year. 

There are alternatives to chocolate treats. Use coins or marshmallows, stickers or chalk to fill the prize eggs. Using plastic eggs can be done as long as you are also reusing them year after year. Plush toys that squish down are great alternatives or use books, garden tools, flower seeds and scarves to add trinkets to the basket and give a much longer-lasting treat. 

Make homemade bubbles and place them in older containers, small Tupperware or glass jars that you would have recycled anyway. Here is a homemade bubble recipe for non-toxic bubbles. 

1/4 cup natural dishwashing detergent 
3/4 cup water
5+ drops of glycerin 
Mix together in a small bowl, or add to a mason jar and shake gently. 

As we dye eggs for the kids to hunt, there are great alternatives to commercial dyes and kits. Here is an at-home recipe for several colors made from natural products you probably already have.

Robin’s Egg Blue: 2 cups coarsely chopped red cabbage and 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
 
Vivid Pink: 2 large beets, peeled and shredded and 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
 
Tropical Orange: 2 cups loosely packed yellow onion skins and 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
 
Spicy Yellow: 1 tablespoon ground turmeric, a big pinch of saffron threads and 1 teaspoon white vinegar
 
Deep Purple: 1 cup thawed frozen Concord grape juice concentrate, 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar and
3 cups water

For blue, pink, orange, or yellow, combine the ingredients along with 4 cups water in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes to extract the color and reduce the liquid. Let cool and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Add cold water to bring the total to 3 cups if necessary.
 
Place the eggs in the dyes for 20–30 minutes. Using the slotted spoons, lift the eggs out of the dye and place them in the egg cartons. Allow the eggs to sit until dry about one hour before handling.

Happy Easter!

eet KMUW From a Green Angle

KMUW is a National Public Radio member station on the WSU campus. I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation about KMUW’s “green” transmitter building in Colwich, KS. It was exciting to learn about the great features of the building and the sustainable building materials used. The foundation is made of flyash concrete. I learned that flyash is a by-product from coal-fired power plants. In flyash concrete, 20% of the cement is replaced with flyash which results in a stronger foundation. Another product that was new to me was agriboard. It replaces cinderblock walls and can withstand F-5 winds. Agriboard provides structure and insulation as it is filled with compressed wheat straw.

As I think about businesses in Wichita, I know that each one has their own environmental challenges. A unique challenge for KMUW was how to protect their new building from falling ice from the 1,000 foot broadcast tower.  First, they installed a 4-inch thick layer of light weight concrete. This was topped with a modular green roof. I had been told that a green roof was impossible in Kansas because the weather fluctuates so wildly and the summers are so hot. However, it can be done! The plants are succulents, so they are very drought –tolerant and do not need to be watered once they are established. The plants and soil not only absorb the impact of the falling ice chunks, but also cool the building, reduce rainwater run-off, and protect the roof from UV damage.

Finally, cooling is a significant issue for a transmitter building. KMUW chose to incorporate a geothermal cooling system into their building. According to Renewable Energy World, geothermal heat pumps take advantage of the fact that the ground within about ten feet of the earth’s surface stays at a steady temperature around 50°F. KMUW’s geothermal system uses pipes buried four to five feet underground over a surface area about the size of a football field. The liquid circulating through the underground pipes is cooled by the surrounding soil. This system yields 30-40% energy savings on cooling. This is a great example of the economic benefits of “going green.”

I guess it should have been a red flag for me when my co-worker replaced some light bulbs in January and asked me if I knew how to dispose of them. I looked up online how to dispose of CFL’s. Hmmm…if you have to take something to the Sedgwick County Household Hazardous Waste Facility – and they will only accept it if it is unbroken – you might have a hazardous product. At the time, that did not cross my mind.

A few weeks ago a client came into my workplace, looked up at the CFL’s above me and commented, "You know, those are bad for the environment. They have mercury in them." I smiled and replied, "Oh, really?" I thought the man must be mistaken. I had heard that compact fluorescent lights are supposed to be a better environmental choice than regular incandescent bulbs. I realized I didn’t really know much about incandescent bulbs, CFL’s or LED lamps, so I decided to enlighten myself on the subject.

I read a post on the LED Source webpage entitled Bye Bye 75W Incandescent Light Bulb – Phase-out Continues. The post describes how some incandescent bulbs are being phased out due to their inefficiency. The technology of these bulbs has changed minimally over time. It is surprising that they convert only 10% of the input energy into light and the rest is dissipated as heat. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires light bulbs to be 25% more efficient. Thus, traditional 100W, 75W, 60W, and 40W bulbs are gradually being phased out because they cannot meet this target.

According to the EPA, the mercury contained in CFL’s is not a significant environmental hazard. Because CFL’s require less electricity, less coal would have to be burned at a power plant. Since the process of burning coal releases mercury, if we burn less coal to generate electricity, we also release less mercury into the environment.

My conclusion is that CFL’s really are better for the environment than incandescent bulbs because they use significantly less electricity. Last fall my mom asked me to help her replace a couple of incandescent bulbs with LED lamps at my parents’ winter cabin. She was eager to do the replacement because the LED’s would require much less electricity. I was so concerned about which wire I had to connect to which other wire that I didn’t think to ask how much less electricity the LED lamps would save. The U.S Department of Energy gives a comparison on their site. The information below is an excerpt from their table. While the table shows the life of an LED lamp to be 25,000 hours, other sources list it as high as 50,000 hours. The annual energy cost in the table is based on having the light on 2 hours per day and the cost of electricity being $0.11/kwh.

Comparisons between Traditional Incandescent and Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs

 

60W Traditional Incandescent

43W
Energy-Saving Incandescent

15W CFL

12W LED

Energy $ Saved (%)

~25%

~75%

~75-80%

Annual Energy Cost*

$4.80

$3.50

$1.20

$1.00

Bulb Life

1000 hours

1000 to 3000 hours

10,000 hours

25,000 hours

 

What’s the catch? Why have we not all switched to LED lamps? The initial cost of an LED lamp is higher than for an incandescent bulb or a CFL; however, over time the difference is made up by the efficiency and the lifespan of the lamp. I am looking forward to the next time I see the client who informed me that CFL’s are harmful to the environment – I can’t wait to tell him what I have learned. That will be right after I inform my boss that we really ought to replace our office CFL’s with LED’s – to save money and the environment.

To see detailed comparisons of cost and other features of incandescents, CFL’s, and LED’s check out the Eartheasy website.

 

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This week, I have had several conversations with people about the water situation in Wichita. You may have read the following articles:

http://www.kansas.com/2013/02/25/2691188/wichitas-water-supply-dwindling.html

 

http://www.kansas.com/2013/03/01/2697598/brownback-kansas-needs-to-plan.html

The first article states that if the draught continues, Wichita will run out of water by the summer of 2015. Peak water use occurs during the summer because of irrigation. Solutions could include the recharging of the Equus Beds (known as the Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) program), voluntary water conservation and higher water rates for people who consume the most water. Unfortunately, the tone of this article is not optimistic about any long term solutions.

The second article highlights the unpredictability of the drought duration and describes Governor Brownback’s response to the current conditions. Brownback advocates for statewide conservation by individuals and businesses, as well as development of alternative water sources. Farmers may have to plant crops that require less water. People who pump excessive amounts of water from wells will be penalized. The lack of water also affects recreational areas. Many lakes in Kansas have become inaccessible to boats because the water levels are so low. Conservation, higher water prices, and improvement of the Equus Beds wells to allow increased pumping, will only stretch the city’s water supply by about 4 years. Unfortunately we cannot predict how long the drought will last.

I have been thinking a lot about water conservation, especially as I consider my yard and what landscaping I might do this spring and summer. My professor alerted me to a graywater bill that was introduced in the Kansas Legislature on February 13, 2013. Household graywater is water that has been used once in washing machines, showers, bathtubs, or bathroom sinks and is safe for watering plants. The bill proposes that graywater from homes could be used for gardening, composting, or landscaping, but not for watering fruit or vegetables. The water would have to flow through a drip-irrigation system or an underground system and could not spray into the air or flow onto pavement or onto other people’s property. Homes with graywater systems would have to have the graywater tanks and piping clearly labeled as non-potable. It is exciting to see that it might become legal in Kansas to use household graywater for irrigation of a flower garden or landscaping. In order to use graywater, it has to be simple to collect. For me, the most accessible source of graywater would be my washing machine. I discovered that there are many cities in the U.S with graywater programs. A great resource specifically on using graywater from washing machines comes from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

May we all find creative ways to conserve our precious water!

 

 

This week I read an article about Interface Flooring and the steps they have taken to become more sustainable. The opening Ray Anderson quote: "In the future, people like us will go to prison" is very sobering and makes me think twice about how my actions impact the environment. The first paragraph is an indictment of Interface’s business practices. However, the rest of the document describes Interface’s response. Once we evaluate our current ecological footprint, then we can move forward to implement the necessary changes.

The article names "7 faces of sustainability" and how they might be applied both in personal and business life. Step 1 is to eliminate waste. At home I can recycle, compost, use cloth handkerchiefs, and use my own grocery bags as well as my own bulk food containers (if I make the effort to shop at places that will allow me to refill my own containers – easier said than done). What about at work? We can recycle office paper, print 2-sided when printing is unavoidable, install programmable thermostats, use efficient lighting and maybe even install motion sensors so that lights go off automatically in unused rooms. The paper from shredded confidential documents could be recycled or composted (maybe in a worm bin). Perhaps we are unaware of how much waste we are creating and what the most prevalent components are. A waste assessment would tell us exactly which items we are throwing away.

What steps have you taken to eliminate waste? What challenges have you encountered? What benefits have you seen?

eet our Blog & Blogger

Welcome to the brand new Green Biz Wichita blog! As we start this endeavor, I thought it might be helpful for you to learn a little bit about me.

My name is Catherine and I am a student at Friends University in the Masters in Environmental Studies Program. Having grown up in British Columbia, Canada, I have always cared about the environment. As a kid, I spent a lot of time outdoors and came to value nature. In the summer I played in a "fort" with rooms delineated by spruce boughs and tree roots. In the fall I had to be careful walking from the bus stop (at the end of the driveway) to the house because there might be a black bear in the vicinity.

One of my favorite winter memories is cross-country skiing to the end of our road and off into the forest. We would follow tracks made by snowmobiles to a frozen pond. There we replaced our skis and boots with ice skates. I was terrible at ice skating, but there was something amazing and simple about being able to enjoy the natural ice and not have to drive into town to an ice rink.

In light of my background I have been contemplating what I might have to offer to Green Biz and its members. I hope that I will be able to share what I am learning in my classes and in my own personal environmental experiments. I know that I also have a lot to learn from the members of Green Biz. I believe that each step we take (no matter how insignificant it might seem) to reduce our environmental footprint is one small and step for "envirokind."