A significant portion of the pollutants generated by humans is the direct result of our ground- and ocean-based transportation, burning diesel fuel and gasoline, and our coal-fired power plants, generating electricity. If we could successfully convert all of our cars, trucks, trains, and ships to run on electricity, and find a cleaner and safer source of electricity than coal, then the ecological gains could be enormous, and with time the environment could gradually heal itself by absorbing the residual carbon pollutants.
Yet reliable, eco-friendly, and large-scale sources of electricity still seem beyond our reach. Natural gas power plants are cleaner than their coal counterparts, but still require a resource whose supply is limited and declining. Nuclear power plants are quite efficient, but require another limited resource, uranium, and generate radioactive waste, as well as political friction (and fiction). Wind turbines and wave energy sources are renewable, but can harm and even kill wildlife, and have been blocked by federal and state bureaucrats (who claim to be pro-environment).
While biofuels, wind, geothermal, and other alternative energy sources are important, in the long run, the only source of energy sizable enough to power all of mankind's needs on earth, would be an enormous nuclear reactor. If only there were a constant and reliable source of power that generates, in a single hour, all the energy needed by humans for an entire year, with no carbon emissions.
Well, there is such a source, and it makes all life on Earth possible. It is of course the sun, and we have still barely tapped its potential for electricity.
Admittedly, solar panels are seeing increasing innovation by engineers and use by consumers. But the levels of efficiency — converting sunlight to electrical power — are still quite low. Even worse, widespread use of solar panels throughout the United States is constantly stymied by civic and residential resistance, especially from homeowners association tyrants more interested in short-term property values than long-term sustainable living values. Solar cells of even the greatest possible efficiency will be useless if their deployment throughout the American suburbs are blocked by an army of HOA busybodies.
When people think of solar cells, what comes to mind are the large and not particularly attractive solar panels that are attached to a hillside, or to racks bolted to a commercial building (thereby invalidating the roofing warranty). These solar modules are designed and sold with the producer in mind, and not the real world customer, who has to deal with roof leaks, homeowners associations, etc.
All that may change, through the efforts of Open Energy Corporation, a company located in San Diego County that is developing renewable energy technologies — including solar roof tiles that can blend seamlessly with the exteriors of residential homes and the designs of commercial buildings. Boosting likely acceptance, the tiles are rated not as solar panels, but instead as UL-certified fire-rated weatherproof building materials. Thus they can be installed by a conventional roofing contractor, and do not require solar panel specialists. Better still, at least in San Diego County, if your new home plan includes an integrated solar system, then your project goes to the front of the zoning and permitting queue.
In fact, the tiles integrate so well with a conventional roof that they can actually be difficult to discern... until the (reduced) electricity bill arrives!
As more companies jump on the environmental and organic bandwagon, smart consumers are becoming increasingly wary of companies that have simply "greenwashed" themselves, making deceptive claims simply to tap the growing green marketplace. Fortunately, some of the oldest and highest-integrity firms are still flourishing and open for business. A stellar example of this is Mountain Rose Herbs, which since 1987 has been steadfast in offering the finest and freshest organic botanical products, as well as truly living by the principles of sustainability, fair trade, ecological care, and the organic lifestyle. The company sells only 100 percent organic products, in several categories: bulk organic herbs and spices, aromatherapy and essential oils, tea and tea supplies, natural healthcare products, home garden supplies and gifts, eco-responsible containers and packaging materials, and bulk ingredients such as butters, clays, oils, salts, and waxes. The enterprise was founded by Rosemary Gladstar, a respected and published herbalist, so as to provide needed herbal supplies to her students at the California School of Herbal Studies, which she founded. Over the years, some of her students, including Julie Bailey and Rose Madrone, carried on the work of the mail-order division, which blossomed into what is today a well-respected source of organic products. Through customer referrals and other trustworthy recommendations, the business has grown tremendously over the years, and yet its core tenets — quality herbs, ethical and friendly service, and a passion for healing — have been preserved.
Everyone would agree that body care products should enhance one's health, and not degrade it. Yet the majority of those consumers continue to purchase soaps, shampoos, lotions, and sunscreen products that contain a laundry list of harsh and even carcinogenic chemicals — the kind you might find in laundry soaps! Fortunately, there are alternatives available that are far more friendly to one's skin, one's health, and one's planet. Simmons Natural Bodycare offers just those sorts of healthier items. For instance, their special soaps are free of any fragrances or toxic chemicals, and handcrafted using the traditional cold process method, from natural oils of coconut, olive, and palm. Sixteen varieties are currently available, including mint, apricot poppy, French lavender, orange spice, oatmeal, and, more recently introduced, lemon shea butter, rose clay, and green clay / tea tree. Every bar of their wonderful soap is wrapped by hand in eco-friendly Thai papers, and then labeled using recycled paper and soy-based inks. This family business — located in the mountains of northern California, in Bridgeville — is run by Dennis and Dottie Simmons, their daughter, Amber, and her husband Paul. As self-labeled "techno-Luddites", these eco-entrepreneurs have created a truly green business: Their online store is running on an iMac powered by solar panels, a micro hydro-power system, and a small windmill. This sort of ecological sensitivity is reflected in all of their products, including natural shampoos, body scrubs, fragrances, and gift baskets. PristinePlanet.com salutes the Simmons family — and all of our members — for serving as inspiring examples that one can fulfill consumer and business needs, while remaining environmentally aware and responsible.
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