Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wasting Food is as American as Apple Pie

America wastes a lot of food, according to the New York Times health blog Well:

For a detailed look at how much food the typical family wastes each month, check out this great graphic that appeared in The Times this weekend, along with this story on food waste by my colleague Andrew Martin.
I’ve also started reading, a great blog byjournalist Jonathan Bloom, who chronicles food waste and efforts to salvage food. Recent blog postings highlight the fact that 60,000 pounds of shrimp are consumed in Las Vegas each day, and how immigration policies can lead to food waste in the field because there aren’t enough workers to pick it.
To see a slide show illustrating how much edible food gets wasted every day, click

The USDA publishes information about food recovery and gleaning (the ancient practice of going through a harvested field a second time to recover food missed in the first pick).

The Society of St. Andrew has information about a gleaning network.

Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 26 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at out the National IPL Blog.

Find discounts on energy saving products at

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Greening Glastonbury Connecticut

This article about faith communities making a difference for the environment appeared in the (Vernon, CT) Reminder News on May 6, 2008:
Glastonbury’s religious leaders are collaborating on a new green scheme with a strident environmental message.

The Green Action Calendar is the brainchild of retired Reverend Gordon Bates, a member of the First Church of Christ, Congregational and chairman of the National United Church of Christ task force on environment and energy.
Under the scheme, each of Glastonbury’s participating faiths and congregations will be allocated two-month slots during which they will promote environmental themes through talks, events, sermons and educational programs.
The First Church of Christ is leading the way through June and July, focusing on the themes of water conservation, organic lawn care and environmentally friendly transport. Buckingham Congregational Church picks up the campaign during August and September, when it will encourage Glastonbury citizens to avoid using pesticides and insecticides . In October and November St James Episcopal Church will promote energy efficiency, and as the year draws to a close, Congregation Kol Haverim will encourage the town to enjoy a green holiday season.
Bates says that, if successful, 5,000 of Glastonbury’s citizens could be reached through the program. The message, he says, is an urgent one. ”We don’t have a lot of time to play around with this… There are environmental dynamics that are irreversible, once they meet a certain point, and we are very close to several of those tipping points.”
Climate change is already a reality in Connecticut, said Bates, referring to the state’s increasingly warm summers and mild winters. “Less than 60 years ago the Connecticut River would freeze enough that they could drive wagons across it,” he said, adding that now we are in a very different era.
Of the new scheme, Rabbi Craig Marantz of Congregation Kol Haverim said, “We are very privileged to have a strong inter-faith , inter-congregational reality in Glastonbury. The clergy are friendly, and the congregations are friendly, and we find ways to interact. This is yet another chapter in the story of that relationship .
“From Jewish perspective, we are always obligated to preserve our environment . So, whether there is a specific environmental crisis or not, we have to take care of our planet,” he said.
The Connecticut Audubon Society is also supporting the Green Action Calendar . Judy Harper, director of the society’s Center at Glastonbury, thinks that churches have a dual role to play. “First of all, they touch an awful lot of people. Second, they have pretty big buildings,” she said, which could be the focus of sustained efforts to cut fuel bills through insulation , changing to energy efficient light bulbs and recycling.
Harper continued, “It pleases us as the environmental community to know that the churches are involved, because stewardship of the earth is pretty basic to almost every religion. For a long time it wasn’t their highest priority, but now I think they are realizing that they have a piece of this action too,” she said.
The project’s coordinator, Bates, said that his passionate advocacy of environmentalism began when we saw his grandchildren growing up. He said, “To change your whole lifestyle for something that may not happen for years and years only begins to register when you reach my age, and you are thinking increasingly about your children and grandchildren and even the next generation down. You ask yourself, what kind of world do they have a right to have? What kind of earth resources will be left for them?” We know we are running out of fossil fuels, he said, but, “that only begins to register to the average person as increasing gas costs.”
“Its been the American dream to have anything you want whenever you want it, in as much quantity as you want it, regardless of the cost to anyone else. That dream has the danger of becoming a nightmare for us and the world, if we are not careful – and so far we haven’t been very careful,” he added.
Bates commented that everyone has a role to play in protecting the environment . It can be as straightforward as swapping light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs. He said, “That one simple step, if the majority of people would take it, would have an enormous impact on electricity demand.”
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 26 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at out the National IPL Blog.
Find discounts on energy saving products at

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Polar Bears "Threatened" Species

In a victory for environmentalists, Polar Bears were named a "threatened" species by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, according to the Washington Post.
Under the law, the federal government is now required to draft a recovery plan for the species, which entails assessing the population and its habitat. The ruling also compels federal agencies to consult with the Interior Department when considering decisions that could further imperil the polar bears.
Administration officials, however, sought to minimize the policy consequences of the decision -- the first time the Endangered Species Act has been invoked to protect an animal principally threatened by global warming. Kempthorne made clear that the decision would not justify regulating emissions from power plants, vehicles or other human activities.
Dale Hall, who directs the
Fish and Wildlife Service, which decides how to protect listed species, said such regulations would be justified only if the administration could prove a direct connection between the emissions and the polar bears' predicament.
"We have to be able to connect the dots," Hall said. "We don't have the science today to be able to do that."
But environmentalists, who by and large praised the decision, said the administration would have no choice but to curb greenhouse gases.
"The law says what it says, not what the administration wishes it says," said Kassie Siegel, climate program director at the Arizona-based
Center for Biological Diversity. "This is great news for polar bears. . . . It's also a watershed moment, the strongest statement we've had to date from this administration about global warming."
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 26 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at out the National IPL Blog.
Find discounts on energy saving products at

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

CT Legislature Passes Climate Bill

Both houses of the Connecticut Legislature has passed a sweeping new Climate protection bill. Governor Jody Rell has not yet signed it but is expected to do so. See the details below as reported by The Nature Conservancy:
Monday, the Connecticut State Senate, in a unanimous vote, approved Bill 5600, An Act Concerning Global Warming Solutions. Passed last week by the House, the bill will now go to the Governor's desk, and even though the recently announced state budget woes have thrown many initiatives into doubt, it appears the Governor will sign this bill.
The bill establishes a mandatory greenhouse gas emissions cap, requiring the state to reduce our emissions by 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80% by 2050. The legislation includes provisions directing state agencies to investigate and implement actions to achieve the caps.The bill also includes a provision, introduced by The Nature Conservancy, that directs the existing Governor's Steering Committee on Climate Change to establish a subcommittee, comprised of additional state agencies and outside experts, to assess the impacts of climate change on Connecticut's human infrastructure and natural communities, and to make recommendations for enabling our human and natural communities to adapt to the those impacts. Here is the link to the bill's language.If Governor Rell signs it, Connecticut will join 4 other states (California, New Jersey, Hawaii and Washington) that have established mandatory greenhouse gas emission caps, and 3 other states (Alaska, New York and Maryland) that have established state bodies to look at how to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change on natural and human communities.
The emissions cap levels are in accord with the reductions that the Interplantetary Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), among others, have said are necessary globally if we are to have any chance of keeping carbon dioxide levels in the range of 450 parts per million (they're currently at about 380-390, up from about 260-280 pre-industrial). That 450 ppm level will create very serious impacts, but exceeding it will be catastrophic, according to many scientists.
The Nature Conservancy is on the Steering Committee of the coalition that introduced the legislation; the other members being Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Environment Northeast, Clean Water Action, Environment Connecticut, and Environmental Defense.
Legislators who warrant particular mention for their efforts on this bill include Representatives Pat Widlitz and Bob Godfrey and Senators Don Williams, John McKinney and Ed Meyer.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 26 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at out the National IPL Blog.Find discounts on energy saving products at

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Miriam MacGillis at Mercy Center in CT

Miriam MacGillis Will Provide Lecture and Day of Reflection

MADISON, Conn., MARCH 12, 2008 – Mercy Center is pleased to announce Miriam MacGillis, winner of the The Thomas Berry Award is providing two opportunities to learn more about sustainability and cosmology. Only One Future: Perspectives on Cosmology and Sustainability will be covered in a lecture on Friday, June 27 at 7pm and on Saturday, June 28 from 9:30am – 4pm will be a day of reflection facilitated by Miriam to allow participants to go deeper into the connection of cosmology and sustainability.& nbsp; Both events are fundraisers for the Mercy Northeast Ecology Project.

Drawing from the writings of geologian Thomas Berry and cosmologist Brian Swimme, Miriam will open perspectives from "deep time" into the seamless fabric of our planet's origin in the stars, and the intricacy of the memory woven into the DNA of the one single community of life. The unity of the whole provides the perspectives for our generation to re-vision itself in a new identity and purposefulness.

Friday night's lecture will provide an overview of this perspective with a sense of direction for ending the ecological and social devastation of our times. Saturday's Day of Reflection, a day of retreat, will be on the same themes of Friday's night lecture, but will provide more resources for the inner and outer transformation to which we are called.

Miriam Therese MacGillis is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, New Jersey. She lives and works at Genesis Farm, which she co-founded in 1980 with the sponsorship of her Dominican congregation. She sees Genesis Farm as a learning center where people of good will are welcome to search for more authentic ways to live in harmony with the natural world and each other.

Miriam also coordinates programs exploring the work of Thomas Berry as he has interpreted the New Cosmology. Miriam describes herself as having been formed by the three rivers which have shaped the regions of New Jersey where she has lived her life. In 2005, Miriam was presented with the Thomas Berry Award by the Center for Life and the Environment, and in 2007 was named among the planet’s top 15 green religious leaders by Grist magazine.

Mercy Center is a spiritual retreat and conference center for human development. We seek to a center that runs efficiently and economically while incorporating more sustainable operations throughout our facility. As we educate ourselves, we also strive to provide workshops and events to help the community learn about local environmental concerns and connect with nature and offer opportunities for greater spiritual connections to Earth.

Registration is required. Registration for Friday night’s lecture is $10 and Saturday’s day of reflection is $65. Saturday’s retreat includes lunch. Register for this program online at or for more information please contact Betty Orosz at 203.245.0401 or
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 26 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at out the National IPL Blog.Find discounts on energy saving products at

Sunday, May 4, 2008

LED Lights, Bargain or Ripoff?

Salon's Enviro-expert Pablo takes on LED lights. Read an excerpt below:

A 7W LED can be compared to a 10W CFL, which also emits 500 lumens. The closest incandescent bulb that I could find was a 460-lumen or 40W bulb. The next thing is to compare the efficacy of the bulbs. This is done using the measure of lumens per watt, or light emitted per electricity input. The incandescent bulb has an efficacy of 12 lumens/watt while the CFL has an efficacy of 50 lumens/watt, only to be outdone by the LED at 71 lumens/watt. So it's clear that LEDs are by far more efficient than incandescent bulbs. But does this justify forgoing CFLs in favor of LEDs? At over $50 per bulb, the high upfront cost will give everyone pause. But is the long lifetime or the high efficiency worth the cost?
A 10W CFL, available online for $6.90, has an expected median lifetime of 10,000 hours. While this is about 10 times longer than the life expectancy of an incandescent bulb, it is only one-fifth the expected life of the LED. So LEDs have the potential of cutting down on ladder time by a factor of 50 over incandescent bulbs! At about 25 cents apiece, the incandescent has by far the lowest upfront cost, which is why many people still use them. If we normalize the cost of all the bulbs over a 50,000-hour period, the incandescent bulbs cost $12.50, while CFL bulbs cost $34.50, and the LED bulb costs $59.95. But, as you may already know, the upfront cost of a bulb is by far the cheapest part. It's the electricity required to operate the bulb that adds up.
Over a period of 50,000 hours, a 40W incandescent bulb will use 2,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh). At 15 cents per kWh, this will put $300 in the pocket of your local utility, bringing the total cost of the incandescent bulb, over 50,000 hours, up to $312.50. The CFL bulb only uses 500kWh over the same time period, or $75, totaling $109.50. Finally, the LED bulb will use 350kWh for $52.50, with a total cost of $112.45. So, in this example, the LED light does cost a few dollars more but the difference is negligible. Think of the time you will save by not running to the store to buy bulbs and climbing the ladder to change them.

As for their disposal, LED lights, unlike CFLs, contain no mercury and many of them are compliant with the European Union's Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive. Like CFLs they do contain electronic circuits, which are hard to separate back into individual materials for recycling. But with a life span of 50,000 hours, the relative amount of waste created will be quite minimal.
There are still some limitations to LEDs. The best idea is to figure out your lighting needs and speak with a lighting professional at a local lighting store or at LED Waves to find the solution for you. Be sure to tell them if you are looking for area lighting or spot lighting, bright light or colored light, indoor or outdoor, on/off or dimmable. There are a growing number of options in the LED bulb market and you should be able to find the right bulbs for you. An exciting lighting innovation that comes with the commercialization of LED lighting is the versatility of LEDs in creating changes in brightness and color using a computer controller. It's now possible to wake up to a simulated sunrise or to set the mood for a romantic dinner at the touch of a button.

Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 26 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at out the National IPL Blog.Find discounts on energy saving products at