Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What did you do to celebrate Earth Day?

In honor of Earth day many things happened at my home, work place and in my local community.  My family and I dedicated a huge portion of Earth Day to do prep work in the garden.  This included putting down mulch, turning the soil in the vegetable and flower beds, moving soil and rocks to get an area ready for a retaining wall and weeding.  It was great to be out with hands in the dirt and thinking about the anticipated returns (flowers, veggies and herbs for months to come).  It was also nice to engage in Earth-friendly prep work.  For instance, to get rid of the annoying weeds that grow between the bricks on our patio we boiled water, added a bit of salt to it and poured it over the bricks. 

At work – here at the Groundwater Foundation – we participated in numerous activities this week; one example was hosting an educational booth at our local zoo, kids and families learned about growing with groundwater.  Hundreds of children made their own terrarium – and are now anxiously waiting for their seeds to sprout.  It sure is uplifting to see the enthusiasm and joy of the kids learning about the water cycle and its magic on Earth.
In celebration of Earth Day our local community had events taking place from morning until night and I know that was the same in communities across the globe.  What a great day, what did you do to celebrate Earth Day?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cruise Ships Go Green

More than 200 cruise ships operate worldwide, stopping in over 1800 ports across the seas.  In 2009, in excess of 13.5 million people around the globe took an ocean cruise.  In less than 2 weeks my family will be among the cruisers of the world!  Before we set sail, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the behind the scenes happenings on these ships to see how these floating cities are becoming more environmentally friendly. 

As the world’s largest cruise operator, Carnival Cruise Lines understands the company’s future depends upon the health of the world’s oceans.  The cruise line is aggressively seeking both high- and low-tech solutions to manage the environmental impact of its fleet and preserve important natural resources.   

Carnival recycles, incinerates or offloads all waste materials for disposal on land.  Guests are also involved in the recycling program.  Specially marked containers are placed throughout the ships to encourage them to recycle.  Cooking oil and grease are stored in special holding tanks after use and then reused onboard as alternative fuel.   Carnival’s environmental efforts are not just limited to recycling and waste disposal.  The line is also researching the development of several options for the treatment of gray water (wastewater from sinks, showers and kitchens).  They currently have two ships with advanced waste water treatment systems.  After treatment this water can be used for toilet flushing, laundry and deck washing.  In addition, all shipboard employees are required to attend a course which provides instruction on waste management. 

Other cruise lines are also working to improve their environmental impact.  Many have also invested millions of dollars on high-tech wastewater treatment and onboard recycling.  Newer ships are being equipped with state-of-the-art solid waste grinding and incineration equipment, in addition to the installation of cleaner gas and diesel engines.  On Disney Cruise Lines, the laundry facilities use water that is generated from the air conditioning system—specifically 280 tons a day of water.  Excess heat is used to power evaporators that turn 1,200 tons of seawater into potable water each day.  Norwegian Cruise Lines was the first to install an eco-ballast system to ensure that water leaving the ship does not send out toxins or other invasive species.  The elevators on the Celebrity Cruise Lines Solstice-class ships are designed to run on solar power, which is an industry first.

As you can see, the cruise industry has come a long way from the days of birds following the path of a cruise ship to feast on the discarded garbage.  Today’s ships are designed for fun, exploration and the creation of vacation memories--not at the expense of future generations!  What are other cruise companies doing to improve their environmental impact?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

EPA Releases Draft “National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change”

EPA's Draft Strategy describes how EPA’s water-related programs plan to address the impacts of climate change and provides long-term visions, goals and strategic actions for the management of sustainable water resources for future generations.

The 2012 Strategy, which builds upon EPA's first climate change and water strategy released in 2008, focuses on five key areas: infrastructure, watersheds and wetlands, coastal and ocean waters, water quality, and working with Tribes. It also describes geographically-based strategic issues and actions.

EPA will accept public comments on the draft strategy until May 17, 2012. To read or submit a comment on the draft “National Water Program 2012 Strategy: Response to Climate Change,” visit: http://epa.gov/water/climatechange.