Is The Ozone Hole Contributing To Global Warming?

A new study published in the academic journal Geophysical Research Letters has concluded that the hole in the ozone layer, situated above the Antarctic, may be contributing to climate change. This contradicts conventional wisdom, which states that the hole – created by human use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were banned in the 1980s – had a positive affect on global warming, though this did not offset the effects it has on public health, including exposure to ultraviolet rays.

But researchers at Columbia University in New York, led by atmospheric scientist Kevin Grise, have determined from new weather models that the ozone hole may be affecting the direction of airflow in the jet stream, pushing clouds into arctic areas where they are less effective at deflecting sunlight and mitigating climate change.

Previous findings had indicated that the ozone hole was introducing a "net negative effect" on global temperature change, as the lack of ozone was allowing more of the sun's radiation to escape into space.

But Nature Magazine reports that the new study takes into account the way the ozone influences cloud distribution in such a way that more energy is absorbed, and consequently temperatures rise. The change is small, though Grise warns that it is "not non-negligible".

"A negative radiative forcing is what you'd expect when the ozone is depleted, but our research shows that there is a positive net radiative effect during the Antarctic summer," Grise told the source.

The discovery reinforces the notion that more needs to be done to slow warming patterns if people are to avert a climate catastrophe. For more news on renewable energy and global warming, keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com.

Can Bioplastics Become Commercially Viable?

One of the more promising new innovations in the environmentally friendly products industry is bioplastics, which are synthesized naturally from microbes rather than from petroleum. The fact is that all of those plastic containers you throw in the trash every day are derived from the same oil that is used to make gasoline, and it's just as bad sitting in a landfill as it is being burned in an internal combustion engine. This is why scientists have tried to come up with other ways to create plastic that is more sustainable.

Bioplastics offer such a promise, but the problem researchers have run into is that these materials are expensive to produce. Typically, they're manufactured using giant fermenting tanks full of bacteria, which harvest glucose to produce Poly 3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB), a substance commonly used in plastics. This process is energy intensive and takes a lot of resources to pull off.

But EarthTechling, a clean technology news site, reports that new research presented at the 2012 Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference may provide a solution to the problem. Scientists were able to create bioplastics from bacteria raised in used cooking oil. The microbes produced three times as much PHB, and the process kills two birds with one stone as the researchers were able to make use of kitchen waste that is often tossed out.

If successfully scaled up, these bioplastics could be used in the manufacture of prosthetics and other medical devices. This would be a boon for patients, who could receive replacement limbs for a fraction of their current cost.

For more information on the science and research behind going green, check back with LifeIsGreen.com.

Recent Wildfires Reinforce The Need To Address Climate Change

Many people still think about climate change and global warming as events that will happen many years from now and that the consequences of reliance on fossil fuels won't be felt for decades to come. But the recent wildfires that have been tearing through the desert communities around Los Angeles demonstrate that renewable energy and going green need to be the priority for citizens, public officials and policymakers now, not later.

A fire near Banning, California, a couple hours east of L.A., has grown so rapidly and so large that the state has shutdown Highway 243 and evacuated at least 1,500 people, reports local affiliate ABC-7. Fifteen structures have been destroyed, and firefighters are unsure how many of those were homes. Furthermore, there seems to be no end in sight for the disaster, as the temperature is expected to remain in the mid to high nineties for the next week. Things may get much worse before they get better.

The wildfire is another sign that the California climate is experiencing its driest year on record. Many states in the Southwest are under "moderate drought" or worse, while record rainfall in other areas signals that weather patterns are continuing to destabilize because of climate change.

If these conditions persist, the economic and environmental costs could be catastrophic. Ecosystems will be disrupted, more communities will be threatened by wildfires in the hottest parts of the summer, and local economies that depend on seasonal weather, such as ski resorts and agricultural areas, could fall into decline.

For more information on the effects of climate change, stay tuned to LifeIsGreen.com.

Will Lab-Grown Meat Replace The Real Thing?

Recently, a small group of food critics was given the opportunity to try a hamburger patty made from meat grown in a laboratory, rather than from a dead cow. The burger was created by researcher Mark Post of the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, and was sponsored by Google co-founder Sergey Brin. The goal of the project is to develop meat that can be raised from stem cells and grown without killing an animal.

The environmental implications of such an accomplishment would be significant. Livestock produce one sixth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, and animal welfare advocates are right to point to the factory farming system as unethical and unsustainable. The development of a lab-grown alternative could save trillions of animal lives and dramatically reduce climate change.

Unfortunately, the taste testers reported that although the burger had the feel of genuine beef, it was mostly tasteless (it was pure muscle tissue, and had no fat cells).

The biggest impediment to widespread use of lab-grown meat is that it is expensive. The hamburger that was tested cost over $300,000, and the process of making it involved using fetal bovine serum – blood derived from cattle fetuses – meaning that some animals had to die in the production of the meat.

But the process has promise. Some scientists believe fetal bovine serum could be replaced with blue-green algae, and technologies and processes often start out as costly experiments before scientists figure out ways to industrialize and scale them up for mass production. Post believes that we could see lab-grown meat in supermarkets within a couple decades.

For more information on new environmentally friendly products, keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com.

Green Building Practices For Home Construction

In recent years, construction of new homes has begun to pick up again as the national economy recovers from the Great Recession. This presents an amazing opportunity for the housing market to make widespread, much-needed changes to the ways buildings are constructed that would emphasize sustainability, low environmental impact and energy efficiency.

But what, exactly, do these terms mean in the context of home construction, and how can the average person looking to build a new house do so in such a way that allows them to maintain their green lifestyle without making major sacrifices in comfort or cost?

The first thing to consider is the procurement of sustainable building materials. Lots of components make up the home, from drywall, lumber and piping to electrical wire, paint and concrete. A responsibly built home will have been made from as many recycled materials as possible. For example, hardwood flooring can often be found on sites like Craigslist as contractors will sometimes buy more than they need when re-flooring a house. Recycled concrete can be used for some aspects of home building, though this is more limited.

Another important factor in green building is the efficiency of the structure. Rather than simply incorporating Energy Star appliances and installing double-paned windows (both of which are good ideas), residents should also consider how windows and doors can be positioned to allow for cross ventilation, thus eliminating the need for an AC unit in the summer.

These are just a few of the things you may want to keep in mind if you're thinking about the possibility of building a new home. Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for more information on going green and sustainable building.

Eco-Friendly Cleaning Solutions For Tile And Floors

For many families, summer is the time to head to the beach, park, mountains or other recreational area and have lots of fun in the warm weather, soaking up the sun. But once your family returns from these excursions to the house, they're likely to track mud, dirt and sand throughout the house. The kids will also probably spend more time at home during the summer, which means they'll be in and out frequently, and often without cleaning their shoes.

But if you're a fan of green living, then you probably don't want to use conventional cleaning chemicals from a big box store because they often involve toxic, caustic substances that you want nowhere near your children. Nor do you want them washed down the drain where they can eventually affect the groundwater as well as marine life. Instead of buying these awful cleaners, try using environmentally friendly products, both DIY and store-bought:

  • HGTV recommends simply using a microfiber mop and warm water to clean ceramic tile. It's a good idea to sweep with a broom first to remove large particles, then give the area good rinse. You can add some lemon juice to the water to give it a pleasant scent and a little more kick in removing grime.
  • If you're cleaning hardwood floors, they suggest boiling water with two tea bags and using this to wash the boards. Tannic acid in the tea will make your floors shine. Instead of a mop that is dripping wet, they recommend getting a towel damp, as it doesn't take much to clean floors.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide tips and information on going green.

Get Rid Of Mosquitoes With These Eco-Friendly Candles

If you live in a humid area close to a body of water, you're probably spending many of your mornings and evenings dealing with swarms of mosquitoes that are feasting on your arms and legs. The feeling is unpleasant, and can prove dangerous if any of those bugs transmit West Nile Virus.

But getting rid of them isn't all that easy. Insect repellant creams are gross and typically contain chemicals that may not be the healthiest for your skin, and mosquito zapping lights use a lot of electricity that can be saved by using candles.

Apartment Therapy, a small-living lifestyle site, provides a list of five options for those who want to get rid of mosquitoes without an environmental cost. Here are some of the best products they recommend:

  • Fly Away Sticks by Madison James –  These incense sticks will clear the area around you of bees and other insects, but you'll want to stick around to enjoy the pleasant aroma of orange and citronella oils. 
  • Without Mosquitos Candle Making Kit by The Greatest Candle – Using recycled vegetable oil, you can make mosquito-repelling candles yourself with the powder provided in this kit. You can also purchase premade candles.

Being comfortable and going green aren't mutually exclusive goals. These products can help you stay bug-free without making an environmental impact.

Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for more information about green lifestyles.

New FDA Guidelines To Improve Safety Of Imported Foods

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed stricter guidelines for ensuring the safety of imported food. The rules were announced on July 26 as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011.

For the first time, importers will need to verify that the products they bring into the U.S. are safe for consumption. There will be strict accountability for ensuring that the imports will not lead to foodborne illnesses, which affect some 48 million people every year.

Prior to passage of the law, imported food was not subject to the same regulations as domestically produced agriculture. This was a problem, as 15 percent of the food Americans eat comes from abroad, twice as much as a decade ago, according to The New York Times. As U.S. citizens become more dependent on food grown elsewhere, the more difficult it will be to practice a healthy, green lifestyle.

"FSMA provides the FDA with a modern tool kit that shifts the paradigm for imports, as well as domestic foods, from a strategy of reaction to one of systematic prevention," Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in a news release. "Rather than relying primarily on FDA investigators at the ports to detect and respond to food safety problems, importers would, for the first time, be held accountable for verifying, in a manner transparent to the FDA, that the food they import is safe."

As is typical with legislation passed by Congress, much of the regulatory framework was left up to executive agencies to determine the best rules that will balance safety with consumer welfare.

Check back with LifeIsGreen.com for more news about responsible agriculture and green living!

New GMO Oranges Show The Advantages And Drawbacks of Genetically Modified Crops

The orange industry in Florida has been experiencing a growing crisis over the last few years, as a disease has been spreading through orchards that causes the fruit to sour and turn green before it can be picked. The problem had previously been mitigated by pesticide use, but the strain of bacteria that has been responsible for the disease has evolved to be resistant to these chemicals. This has forced growers to try developing genetically modified crops that aren't susceptible to the infection, which has begun to spread throughout the world.

Genetically-modified organisms (GMO) are an extremely controversial topic with the environmental community. While proponents say the production of GMO crops could help hedge against disasters such as the one currently afflicting orange growers, opponents say that not enough is known about these plants to make them safe for widespread consumption. There are also concerns about the grip that "Big Ag" companies (i.e. large agricultural conglomerates that control the industry) have over the use of these crops.

The New York Times recently published a report about the efforts of farmers to stop the spread of the bacteria they call "citrus green", which include chopping down and burning the trees that are affected. But this hasn't slowed the spread.

As Grist, an environmental news site, points out, it is worth noting that many of these diseases that affect agriculture are themselves the result of overzealous pesticide use. As farmers use more chemicals to try battling these infections, the microbes evolve to resist the pesticide, creating a more dangerous strain that could spread even faster. 

Check back with LifeIsGreen.com for more information relating to green living and eating concepts.

Single Serving Coffee Convenient, But Environmentally Costly

Over the last several years, one of the trends sweeping the coffee industry has been the advent of single-serving coffee machines and products, best exemplified by Keurig, the brand of coffeemakers that lets users brew one cup at a time. These devices are great for those times when you need a caffeine fix but don't need to brew a whole pot, which was traditionally the only option for most office workers. But the K-cups – containers filled with micro-ground coffee that make one mug of coffee each – are typically disposable, non-reusable and made from non-recycled, non-biodegradable plastic. In essence, if everyone began using a Keurig machine or a similar device, landfills everywhere would begin filling up with used K-cups.

The single serving coffee trend demonstrates one of the major drawbacks of the disposable, one-time use culture that is so attractive to many Americans but so disastrous for the environment.  This presents a dilemma for those who love the convenience of such products but want to maintain a green lifestyle.

The good news is that some companies are taking notice of this problem and responding by developing ways to make such industries more sustainable. Canterbury Coffee Corp. has created single-serving coffee cups that are 90 percent biodegradable, using resin and paper that will breakdown in a landfill or anaerobic compost bin. In addition, some companies have created reusable K-cups that can be refilled for multiple cups, giving environmentally conscious consumers the advantages of the Keurig system without all the waste.

That these businesses have responded to customer pressure to provide more sustainable, responsible products shows the power that green living advocates can have when they make their voices heard. Keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com as we continue to provide news about the latest environmentally friendly products.