Monthly Archives: August 2008

Will Desalinization Come Soon to Southern California?

Desalinization can be a tough topic. On the one hand I love the thought of a drought-proof source of water for the region I live in. On the other… well, it’s a bit rough around the edges so far, environmentally speaking.

A desalinization plant is pretty much approved for construction in Carlsbad, CA. They just have to get around the lawsuits now.

I agree with the points brought up in the lawsuit. They’re things I’ve often wondered about, such as what happens to the extra-salty water left over by the process? Plus the very good point that we could be doing more to conserve water.

But I also do understand that our water situation here is only likely to get worse. That’s something that needs to be planned for.

For those who are wondering, I’d cheerfully move someplace where water is less of an issue. My husband doesn’t want to move away from his family, so here we sit. I can’t complain too much, as I do overall love this area. But as it appears very likely that the water situation will keep getting worse, I have my doubts about the wisdom of that.

I have no doubt that desalinization plants will be built in California, and I expect some to start within the next few years. The demand for water isn’t going to decrease, after all, or at least not enough. Conservation isn’t a welcome habit to many people. But we do have to recognize that we are in a very water-poor climate that may be getting drier yet, as are many of the sources of our imported water. Some solution will have to be found.

So the question comes: Is now the time to start building desalinization plants? Or should more research on limiting the harms be done first?

What Do You Need to Buy to Be Green?

One of the great temptations of trying to go green is to buy all the organic, fair trade, etc. stuff you can to show that you really believe in saving the environment. It feels good, but it’s the wrong answer to the question of what you should buy in order to be green.

shop less

The right answer is: Buy less. Much, much less.

When you need to buy something, then look at what it’s made of, where it comes from, and the conditions under which it was manufactured. Those are great points to consider.

But there is nothing in the least bit green about throwing away the things you have that are perfectly good. It’s somewhat better to send them to a thrift or resale shop so that someone else can use them. Even in sending things on to the thrift shops, you should be thinking about whether or not you need to be replacing them.

I’ll admit it’s fun to look at the beautiful things you can buy now that are environmentally friendly or sustainable. Having such options is a real privilege. Just don’t go overboard.

If it’s not a health hazard, it probably ought to stick around until it really does wear out. That right there is the key to this whole deal.

Some things may be better off replaced, however. Old appliances may use sufficient power that replacing them will be greener than continuing to use them ought to go as your budget permits.

Cleaning supplies are a great target for replacement. I still recommend using up the old nasty chemical ones; you’ve used them this long and it probably won’t hurt you to finish off the various bottles. The chemicals would end up in the landfill, being poured down your drain or given to a less concerned friend anyhow.

There are plenty of green alternatives out there. You can make up a great variety of cleansers just using vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and other safe, common household items. There are a variety of green cleaners out there for you to choose from, such as those made by Method and Seventh Generation.

Going green on anything you use up makes a whole lot of sense.

If you have the room, buying seeds and supplies for your garden can also make a lot of sense. Even just a herb garden can be a nice thought for those of you who are apartment dwellers. It’s a little touch of nature, and control over how some of your food is produced.

Do your best to keep track of the real goal when you’re going green. It’s not about having the best stuff. It’s not showing your green cred by dressing in the latest organic fashions or driving a hot new hybrid. It’s about doing your part to do the least damage possible to the environment.

Wind Turbines Kill Bats?

I just came across this story on Discovery. It seems that the air pressure drop caused by wind turbines is sufficient to cause the lungs of bats to pretty much blow up.

That just amazes me. You just never know what impacts you will cause when you’re trying to do right.

I would imagine this is going to be a tough one to beat. How do you keep bats and birds from flying into hazardous areas like this, especially when the bats are avoiding the actual blades of the turbines?

This is the kind of thing that will no doubt continue to challenge scientists as we try to use greener sources of energy. Some of the impacts we have just cannot be forecast.

Guest Post: Saving the Planet, One Diaper at a Time

By Alan Greene, M.D.

As a father and pediatrician, I’ve changed many diapers—enough to teach me that diapers are a daily reminder that as humans we deplete resources as we consume, and we make messes with our waste.

Those landfill diapers that are so easily tossed into the trash are clearly a major ecological issue. But what about the energy, water, and often chlorine involved in laundering cloth diapers? Comparing the environmental impact of different types of diapers has been the subject of a number of studies—with differing results often linked to the vested interests of those behind the study.

The largest and most objective study to date was carried out by the Environment Agency, the public body responsible for protecting the environment in England and Wales. The panel compared disposable diapers to home-laundered cloth diapers and commercially laundered cotton diapers in terms of global warming, ozone depletion, smog formation, depletion of nonrenewable resources, water pollution, acidification, human toxicity, and land pollution. The study did not include what I call hybrid diapers—the reusable diapers equipped with flushable, biodegradable liners.

This study found that overall environmental impact is about the same for all three options they did consider; the biggest impact is on global warming, resource depletion, and acidification. For disposable diapers, the most significant impact comes during manufacture; for home-laundered diapers, the primary impact comes from the electricity used in washing and drying; for commercially laundered diapers, the biggest impact comes from use of fuels and electricity.

Thus, according to the Environment Agency, if you choose cloth diapers, the first focus should be on reducing the energy used during washing and drying and reducing fuels and emissions during transportation (see Chapter Seven for more information about laundry). If you choose disposable diapers, focus first on greener manufacturing, such as used by the Eco-Diapers mentioned previously.

Although the Environment Agency report is more thorough than other analyses to date, it is still quite incomplete. For instance, it looked only at the major brands used—not the greener alternatives. It didn’t look at making choices back at the very beginning of the manufacturing process: at the oil rigs where the plastic liners of landfill diapers begin, at the forests where the wood pulp starts as trees, and in the cotton fields long before cotton is a cloth. There is a big difference between cotton grown drenched in toxic chemicals and cotton organically grown, between sustainable forestry and irresponsible logging, between dioxin-producing chlorine gas in pulp mills and bleach-free diapers.

Whatever we choose for diapers, we have an unavoidable impact on the environment. But whatever we choose, we can make those diapers a little greener.

About the author: Dr. Alan Greene, author of Raising Baby Green, is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of California San Francisco. In addition to being the founder of, he is the Chief Medical Officer of A.D.A.M. He is the Chair of The Organic Center and on the Advisory Board of Healthy Child Healthy World. Dr. Greene appears frequently on TV, radio, websites, and in print including appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, The Wall Street Journal, Parents Magazine, and US Weekly. Dr. Greene is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University’s Packard Children’s Hospital.