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The PristinePlanet.com Newsletter
1 August 2009 — Issue #58
Editor: Michael J. Ross
Environmental News
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Carbon Dioxide Reduction Using Synthetic Trees

As one of the so-called "greenhouse gases" that are trapping heat within the Earth's atmosphere, carbon dioxide (CO2) is increasingly being viewed as an airborne pollutant and a danger to the environment, although paradoxically it is essential for plant life. Scientists and environmental engineers have for years been considering a number of different ideas for reducing the amount of CO2 in the planet's atmosphere, as well as ideas for offsetting the increased temperatures by deflecting ultraviolet radiation from the sun, should the CO2 levels prove to be irreducible.

However, the main focus now is formulating a workable plan to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide generated in the first place, and also sequester the excess CO2 already in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide sequestration is performed naturally by all plant life, as well as the world's oceans — and has for billions of years. Yet with our ongoing deforestation and urban sprawl — as well as the limits of the surviving trees to keep up with our growing fleets of automobiles — environmentalists argue that we cannot rely solely upon natural CO2 sequestration, and should consider alternatives.

Along these lines, scientists have designed a "synthetic tree" that traps airborne carbon dioxide. The device looks not like a tree, but more like a large cylinder sitting atop an even larger rectangular box — about the size and shape of a cargo container. Nonetheless, it theoretically would be able to trap about one ton of CO2 per day, which is roughly the amount produced on average by 20 cars, and the amount captured by 1000 trees. The trapped CO2 is compressed and then stored in liquid form, in preparation for sequestration elsewhere. Each synthetic tree would cost an estimated $30,000 to build, mostly for the technology used to remove the CO2 from the sorbent.

The idea was developed by Dr. Klaus S. Lackner, a physicist with the Earth Engineering Center at Columbia University. He has worked on the concept since the late 1990s, and leverages the technology used at coal plants to remove carbon from flue stacks. He has built a model at his company, Global Research Technologies, in Tucson, and hopes to have a working prototype finished within three years.

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Member Profiles
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Compostable Goods

With a renewed and growing interest in preserving the environment upon which we all depend, countless people are pondering such questions as, "If our current modern lifestyle is depleting Earth's limited resources, while generating more toxins and their deleterious effects, can we develop a way of life that is comfortable yet sustainable? If so, what can we use as a model of such a workable system?" The answer is right in front of us — in fact, all around us: Earth's entire ecosystem was entirely self-sustaining, for untold millions of years — at least until humans showed up and started wrecking it. A critical component of that ecosystem is composting, i.e., the natural breakdown of dead organic matter into its elemental components, which can be used by living plants and animals. Lynn Blevins — of Williston, Vermont — well understands the practical applications of this process. As a mother of twins, she saw firsthand how modern living can result in considerable trash — none of it designed to be compostable. With a background in medicine and public health, and a strong interest in ecology, Lynn became frustrated with the ecological ignorance of conventional public health policy, and decided to do something about it. In the fall of 2007, she began developing her own company, Compostable Goods, which is dedicated to making available a broad variety of compostable household products — including clothing, linens, and diapers for babies and young kids; accessories for adults; gardening supplies; products for every part of the household; soaps and other personal care items; pet supplies; yarns and related accessories; and music and sports equipment (even biodegradable golf tees, for deep "diggers"!). All the items in her catalog are distinguished not only by their high quality of manufacture, but every single one of them is compostable or biodegradable. This is achieved by selecting only products made from hemp, wood, organic cotton, wool, bioplastics, and other Earth-friendly materials. As reflected in the company's slogan, compostable goods are certainly good for the soil, as well as the soul. Learn more by browsing her site and reading her blog.

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Global Exchange Fair Trade Store

Even though worldwide trade has increasingly allowed consumers access to a far wider range of goods, and has allowed producers access to a much larger overall marketplace, it has also resulted in poor people of all ages toiling in sweatshops, typically located in developing nations. Advocates of the "fair trade" principle hope to alleviate these people's suffering by developing and encouraging equitable relationships among producers and buyers — so that low-income artisans, farmers, and other workers can earn living wages. One company on the forefront of this movement is Global Exchange Fair Trade Store, based in San Francisco, California. It was founded in 1998 by Kevin Danaher, Medea Benjamin, and Kirsten Moller — three individuals with diverse backgrounds (academics, nutrition, and welding, respectively) but with a common vision to create an organization that could inspire other US citizens to become more active internationally in helping others. The founders continually work towards educating the public concerning fair trade. For instance, their "Reverse Trick or Treat" campaign, run during Halloween, mobilized thousands of children throughout the United States to raise awareness of the movement. In addition, this terrific trio has demonstrated the financial viability of a fair trade business, as evidenced by their online store, which makes available an intriguing collection of gift items ethically produced by more than 100 artisan groups in over 40 countries. The website has sections for gourmet foods (coffee, chocolate, tea, olive oil, etc.), crafts (household items, candles, incense, pottery, stationery, dolls, and other toys), jewelry (for women and men), gift baskets, and books. You can shop by recipient type, occasion, price, country of origin, and specific producer. Furthermore, you can purchase with full confidence, because the company offers a complete money back guarantee. Customers often comment on the quality of the items they receive, and the fact that they know that their purchases are better for the environment and the people living in it.

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Yes It's Organic

Before launching their own enterprises, many eco-entrepreneurs already have decades of experience and knowledge doing businesses in the green sector. An excellent example of this is Ed Mass — a resident of St. Louis, Missouri — with over 45 years working in the environmental arena. Back in the 1970s, he designed super-insulated housing and solar energy systems for residences, and performed energy audits for corporations — at a time when then-President Carter was strongly advocating energy conservation and independence for the United States, largely as a result of the OPEC oil embargo that began in October 1973 and shocked Americans out of their energy complacency. (Sadly, for most Americans, that increased consciousness and willingness to conserve energy, disappeared almost as fast as did the long lines at gas stations.) With the current growing interest in organic foods and other environmentally friendly products, Ed decided to raise awareness of the connections between textiles and furniture on the one hand, and the quality of our air, soil, and water on the other. His online venture, Yes It's Organic, sells a large number of organic products, in several categories: clothing (for men, women, children, and babies), linens (bath and bedding items), shopping bags (made from organic cotton), bamboo furniture, and toys. The company also offers logo promotional products, gift certificates, sales items, wish lists, and registries. Shoppers can find items by category, brand, and fabric content, where applicable. Be sure to sign up for Ed's free newsletter, and check out his blog. He notes that his latest enterprise "is not just about developing a business. It's about developing a business around a common passion that I hear from a growing chorus of voices — healthy living and acting in a way that's healthy for the environment."

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All material copyright © 2009 PristinePlanet.com™, except for Environmental News articles copyright © 2009 Michael J. Ross. All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter can be copied without express written permission from its copyright holder.

Letters and guest articles posted in the Newsletter section of the Forum or sent to the publisher become the property of PristinePlanet.com, and may be edited for brevity or clarity prior to publication.