Thursday, December 18, 2008

Only an Energy Revolution will save the Ganges says Greenpeace

Varanasi, India — On the eve of the Global Day of Action on Climate Greenpeace highlighted the threat from global warming to the Ganges and called for an Energy [R]evolution[i] to save the iconic river from drying up. A flotilla of local boats carrying 15 ft replicas of windmills floated down the river to call for a shift from a carbon intensive energy pathway to one that focuses on clean renewable energy. Local boatmen and citizens joined Greenpeace in the activity at the Dasashvamedh Ghat demanding global action to save the Ganges that was their very lifeline.

Dr. Virbhadra Mishra, Mahant (Head Priest) Sankat Mochan Temple hailed for his efforts to clean up the Ganga, spoke of the importance of the river to millions. He said, "About 400 million people look to the Ganga as a primary source of freshwater. No other river in the world supports such a large population's livelihood. Ganga is the focal point where all the diversity, faith and culture of India unite and we cannot imagine India without her."

Recent studies, including one carried out by the India's Department of Science and Technology[ii] have found that the Gangotri glacier, which supplies 70 per cent of the flow during the dry season is shrinking at a alarming pace. Fears are being expressed that the glaciers could retreat completely by 2035 making the Ganges a seasonal river, jeopardizing the lives of more than 50 crore people[iii].

"We are running out of time to save the Ganga. Accelerated global warming would cause irreparable damage and we must do everything we can to prevent that. The solutions are available. We can address energy security, electricity for all while reducing Green House Gas emissions by switching to Renewable Energy and using energy efficiently. The time for this is now, not after we have lost the Ganga" said Brikesh Singh, Greenpeace India Climate & Energy Campaigner

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Greener homes are in the spotlight these days, but what about the other places where many of us spend huge chunks of our time--our offices? Some simple changes of habit can save energy and resources at work, and these small steps can be multiplied by persuading the powers-that-be at your workplace to adopt environmentally friendly (and often cost-effective) policies.

1. Be bright about light

Artificial lighting accounts for 44 percent of the electricity use in office buildings.

> Make it a habit to turn off the lights when you're leaving any room for 15 minutes or more and utilize natural light when you can.

> Make it a policy to buy Energy Star-rated light bulbs and fixtures, which use at least two-thirds less energy than regular lighting, and install timers or motion sensors that automatically shut off lights when they're not needed.

2. Maximize computer efficiency

Computers in the business sector unnecessarily waste $1 billion worth of electricity a year.

> Make it a habit to turn off your computer—and the power strip it's plugged into—when you leave for the day. Otherwise, you're still burning energy even if you're not burning the midnight oil. (Check with your IT department to make sure the computer doesn't need to be on to run backups or other maintenance.) During the day, setting your computer to go to sleep automatically during short breaks can cut energy use by 70 percent. Remember, screen savers don't save energy.

> Make it a policy to invest in energy-saving computers, monitors, and printers and make sure that old equipment is properly recycled. Look for a recycler that has pledged not to export hazardous e-waste and to follow other safety guidelines. Old computers that still work, and are less than five years old, can be donated to organizations that will refurbish them and find them new homes. (You may even get a tax deduction.)

3. Print smarter

The average U.S. office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year.

> Make it a habit to print on both sides or use the back side of old documents for faxes, scrap paper, or drafts. Avoid color printing and print in draft mode whenever feasible.

> Make it a policy to buy chlorine-free paper with a higher percentage of post-consumer recycled content. Also consider switching to a lighter stock of paper or alternatives made from bamboo, hemp, organic cotton, or kenaf. Recycle toner and ink cartridges and buy remanufactured ones. According to Office Depot, each remanufactured toner cartridge "keeps approximately 2.5 pounds of metal and plastic out of landfills...and conserves about a half gallon of oil."

4. Go paperless when possible

> Make it a habit to think before you print: could this be read or stored online instead? When you receive unwanted catalogs, newsletters, magazines, or junk mail, request to be removed from the mailing list before you recycle the item.

> Make it a policy to post employee manuals and similar materials online, rather than distribute print copies. They're easier to update that way too.

5. Ramp up your recycling

> Make it a habit to recycle everything your company collects. Just about any kind of paper you would encounter in an office, including fax paper, envelopes, and junk mail, can be recycled. So can your old cell phone, PDA, or pager.

> Make it a policy to place recycling bins in accessible, high-traffic areas and provide clear information about what can and can not be recycled.

6. Close the loop

> Make it a policy to purchase office supplies and furniture made from recycled materials.

7. Watch what (and how) you eat

> Make it a habit to bring your own mug and dishware for those meals you eat at the office.

> Make it a policy to provide reusable dishes, silverware, and glasses. Switch to Fair Trade and organic coffee and tea, and buy as much organic and local food as possible for parties and other events. Provide filtered drinking water to reduce bottled-water waste.

8. Rethink your travel

> Make it a habit to take the train, bus, or subway when feasible instead of a rental car when traveling on business. If you have to rent a car, some rental agencies now offer hybrids and other high-mileage vehicles.

> Make it a policy to invest in videoconferencing and other technological solutions that can reduce the amount of employee travel.

9. Reconsider your commute

> Make it a habit to carpool, bike, or take transit to work, and/or telecommute when possible. If you need to drive occasionally, consider joining a car-sharing service like Zipcar and Flexcar instead of owning your own wheels.

> Make it a policy to encourage telecommuting (a nice perk that's also good for the planet!) and make it easy for employees to take alternative modes of transportation by subsidizing commuter checks, offering bike parking, or organizing a carpool board.

10. Create a healthy office environment

> Make it a habit to use nontoxic cleaning products. Brighten up your cubicle with plants, which absorb indoor pollution.

> Make it a policy to buy furniture, carpeting, and paint that are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and won't off-gas toxic chemicals.