Tag Archive | "protecting the environment"

Eco-Friendly Construction

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The built environment is an important aspect of human life. Our way of life would not exist without construction of some sort. There have been many advances in construction throughout history. However, with these quick advances, many risks have arisen. As problems have arisen, solutions have been offered up. It seems that what a building is constructed of is just as important as where and how it is constructed. Accounting for both health and environmental risk are important in the construction of new buildings. Building with eco-friendly factors in mind helps to alleviate stress on the environment as well as harm to the human body.

Where a building is built is of importance, because the ecology of the area directly contributes to the health of those within the environment. Not only can eco-friendly construction help protect the environment that contains the building, but it also helps increase the cost efficiency of the building itself. Being sensitive to the local environment promotes health as well. In order for there to be a possibility of locally obtained materials, sustainable growth of the environment must be achieved. Setting aside areas to grow in abundance can increase the amount of local resources that are available. Utilization of locally grown timber and other materials reduces building costs and can increase local commerce. Furthermore, utilizing local businesses can increase production and the need for labor, which in the long run raises the standard of living, increasing the overall health of the community.

How a building is constructed is important as well. If a building is designed with efficiency in mind, it will be much more cost effective, and will produce less waste. A building designed from the beginning with green ideas in mind reduces cost by utilizing waste saving strategies. Onsite water treatment as well as collecting rainwater for use in gardens is much more efficient than simply wasting the local water supply. The sources of light can also reduce cost. Designing a building to allow natural light to come in and automatically adjusting lights powered by solar panels will dramatically decrease power consumption.

What a building is constructed of, though, provides not only cost and environmental benefits, but also health benefits. Non-toxic and lead free paints are important to the health of the occupants. Lead has been shown to adversely affect all parts of the body if it gets into the system. Also the use of cellulose or recyclable insulation as opposed to insulation created from asbestos fibers can decrease health risks. Asbestos found in products such as insulation, piping, and tiling can all lead to a type of cancer known as Mesothelioma. 

Robbed: Nature’s Beautiful Jewels! (The Terrible Plight of the Frog)

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When God promised Noah He would never again destroy the Earth with floods, we’d assumed that Noah’s was the last ark we’d ever hear about.  We were wrong.  Centuries after Noah led his animals “two by two” up the gangplank, modern-day arks have sprouted up worldwide.  In the U.S., Central America, and Australia alone, these structures exist.  Their hastily cobbled together exteriors belie the focus and reverence of the work within.  You see, these arks are home and indeed, refuge, to but one species: the frog.

Disappearing rapidly from ecosystems the world over, the tiny, beautiful frog and his larger cousin, the toad, face extinction.  Dedicated researchers have rescued as many of the surviving little croakers as possible, both male and female.  They are attempting, against the odds, to breed frogs in temporary captivity and then reintroduce them to the wild when things get more amicable beyond the arks’ sheltering walls.   But with the odds stacked against them, no one knows when — or if — that will ever happen.

To cite but one example, in many places in Central America, frogs have been eradicated from the environment.  Where once the canopy was bright and alive with frog song, now there reigns an eerie silence.  Algae once eaten by the frogs is overtaking the streams, and the snakes that preyed upon the frogs may soon themselves be extinct, leaving other species to dominate the environment in a major ecological imbalance.

Why all the fuss about frogs?

Apart from being beautiful living jewels of the most breathtaking colors and patterns, frogs claim a critical link in evolution as well as the current food chain.  As amphibians, they were the first to crawl out of the murky swamps onto land, where some of them evolved into forms such as dinosaurs and later, early mammals.  In fact, frogs survived the cataclysm that felled the dinosaurs!   Now, frogs control harmful pest populations, help keep our natural waterways clean, and serve as food for other life forms.  Because their skin allows them to breathe both on land and in the water, frogs also serve as man’s best barometer of what transpires, ecologically, on Planet Earth.

The primary suspect on their murder list is a fungus the baffled scientific community refers to as BD (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), more commonly known as “chytrid” (pronounced “kit-rid”). Chytrid appears almost everywhere, including pristine environments such as Yellowstone National Park.  The freaky thing about this killer fungus is that it is actually billions of years old.  But, roughly ten or so years ago, something in the environment activated it.  It’s rubbed out large frog communities and, in fact, entire types of the species as quickly and efficiently as Tony Soprano’s hit men rubbed out his enemies.

As the scientists soldier on to uncover the no-doubt manmade trigger and subsequent the cure for chytrid, other suspects are taking the stage on the hot seat.  And guess who the head perp is?  If you said, “Mankind,” you guessed right.  The more we develop the land, the more natural habitat we rob from the frogs, and that’s far from the end of the tale.  California, which ironically has the most stringent environmental laws in our nation and represents one of the country’s largest agricultures, is also the biggest user of pesticides. The chemicals sprayed onto fruits and veggies eventually find themselves into the water table.   The frogs and toads are not only dying, they are mutating!

If you recall the original Jurassic Park film, you’ll remember the ethical conundrum highlighted by the rebirth of dinosaurs via DNA embedded in mosquitoes preserved in amber.  In order to suppress breeding of the most dangerous dinos, the theme park’s scientists had genetically altered them, so that only females were hatched.  If you watched the movie to its conclusion, you know how well that scenario played out (and if you didn’t, it backfired).   Well, here in the U.S. of A., all we need is some heavy-duty pesticides to turn bucks into does.   Now, frogs born male are not only morphing into egg-carrying critters, they also act like females looking for males to give them a hot night out in the pond.  They lay eggs that normal males fertilize, that hatch into tadpoles!

Moreover, many frogs that hatch in polluted waters manifest mutations ranging from extra limbs to deformed limbs resembling those of the unfortunate Thalidomide babies. Researchers who study frogs have a sinking suspicion that human hormones are to blame for many mutations – particularly, the chemical traces of birth control pills excreted and flushed down the toilet.  Add to this all of the other chemicals we use on a daily basis, and it spells a death sentence for the frogs.

If this disturbs you, as it does me, there are a number of things that you can do that will have minimal impact upon your life and a very positive impact upon the frogs.

Deep Six the Harsh Chemicals.  I began to use Deirdre Imus’ Greening the CleaningⓇ products when I first heard about them several years ago, as they disinfect without harming the environment and protect human health.  Nominated by Time Magazine as Woman of the Year, Deirdre also spearheads the ongoing transformation of Hackensack Medical Center, here in New Jersey, as the first totally green hospital nationwide.  Greening the CleanⓇ can now be found in most grocery stores, in the cleanser aisles.  To learn more about these products, please visit:


Buy organic produce.   Admittedly, this can be a little pricey, though it boggles my mind to know that we must pay for what is not on or in the fruits and veggies!   If you buy non-organic, wash your produce thoroughly in one part white vinegar to three parts tap water and then continue to rinse it thoroughly.   The vinegar will render many pesticides harmless

Join the Nature Conservancy.   As a dedicated non-profit, the Nature Conservancy’s approach is uniquely straightforward and efficient.  In a nutshell, the group uses donations to buy up land slated for development, including wetlands.  Then it outbids the money-grubbing corporate developers and secures sanctions declaring those lands conservation areas.   The organization has chapters in every State of the Union, so you can find one in yours.  I let my membership in this worthy organization lapse a few years ago so that I could support other environmentally conscious groups, and am now going to re-up my membership.  Give them a closer look at http://www.nature.org/?kw=yahoo

Hit this website and its sister links:


Most, but not all, of the information gleaned for this article was taken gratefully from a PBS documentary, and the above link, specific to frog conservation, from the pbs.org website.  For years, I’ve known about the plight of the frogs, but only through the documentary did I understand how critical it’s become.

There is a rather wild strip of land not far from where I live.  Some nights, particularly in summer, I’d drive down that patch just to hear the chorus of frogs.  Now, it’s more like a lonely solo or two.  I’d love to hear that beautiful, free concert again and will work to get it back. Hopefully, you will do the same. 

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