Greenwashing

All Natural. Organic. Eco-friendly. Green. Farm Fresh. These are the sexy buzzwords that draw us in to products that unscrupulously exploit our desire to go green. The FDA doesn’t regulate these terms, and they are often nothing more than just words. “Green” products contain the color green on the packaging. “Farm fresh” covers essentially any meat or dairy product. “Natural” is more of a sentiment than a descriptor. And just to give you a sense of the word “organic”, Dichloromethane is an organic compound and is toxic. I definitely wouldn’t want that in my salad. So then, how should caring consumers discern the environmentally-sound eggs from the chemical-ridden cosmetics?

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How Clean Can UV?

“UV radiation affects microorganisms by altering the DNA in the cells and impeding reproduction. UV treatment does not remove organisms from the water, it merely inactivates them.” – Water Research Center

For the longest time this summer I worked on a machine that performed persulfate-ultraviolet oxidation, but I really had no idea what it was. Looking at the machine, I could see that an oxygen tank and a beaker of persulfate solution were combining with my water samples and traveling through various tiny twisted tubes into a swirl of madness that then shot out in all directions and ended up in a scramble of numbers on the computer screen. So I asked around. Ten weeks of “asking around” later, and still all I knew was that somehow the glowing blue light was breaking down the carbon in my water samples and measuring its concentration.

On the left, persulfate-ultraviolet oxidation. Right, SteriPEN technology.

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Interview: Michael Oppenheimer

Recently I had the unique opportunity to interview renowned climate scientist Michael OppenheimerWe met at the Hubbard Brook Annual Conference following his motivational speech. Dr. Oppenheimer is not only a professor of Geo-Sciences and International Affairs at Princeton, but also is a former member of the Environmental Defense Fund, and has an active role in the International Panel on Climate Change. He attained an undergraduate degree in Chemistry and a PhD in Chemical Physics, but is also versed in Atomic and Molecular Astrophysics and has even taught Astronomy at Harvard. Oppenheimer is able to speak about climate change in such a way that he has been a guest on several significant shows such as Oprah Winfrey, ABC News, and the Colbert Report. Aside from his credentials Dr. Oppenheimer is actually a very humble and inspiring person. Once you speak to him you will find he is quite delightful.

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Dr. Oppenheimer is an astute climate scientist, but was also very warm and welcoming to undergraduates Jessica Turner (left) and Brandon Colon (right)

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Hubbard Brook

 

On Sunday night we arrived back at the University from our trip to Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire. There were around a hundred researchers who attended the annual conference there. And let me tell you, not a single one wasn’t in shape. The mountain was steep, with an occasional dirt path leading the way, but other times you had to bushwhack to get where you were going. Although I had no cell service or internet for miles around and people were scarce, the restaurants we ate at were pure heaven. In the picture above: Woodstock Station and Brewery, view from Shamrock Motel of the White Mountains, the lab, and view of the brook.   Continue reading “Hubbard Brook”

Energizing a Continent

Off-grid provides lighting for families using a subscription service.
Off-grid provides lighting for families through a solar panel subscription service.

In my last post I mentioned non-profit and for-profit business ventures around the world with a mission to improve society and the environment. It would be naïve to say that the driving force in business is to benefit others. So what is driving entrepreneurs to Africa? An article recently featured in The New Yorker called “The Race to Solar-Power Africa” says it all. Continue reading “Energizing a Continent”

Echoing Green

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Abubaker Musuuza is the founder of: Village Energy Limited.

Echoing Green is a non-profit organization that provides support to entrepreneurs with solutions to social issues worldwide. Once an entrepreneur presents their idea, they are granted 90 thousand dollars to start their business. Financial advisers and other professionals support each business as they take off with their innovations. I chose to cover three such innovations and their creators on the blog today because I find non-profits essential to humanity. Sometimes it gets discouraging to think about how much financial support is needed to start a business. With Echoing Green, those issues are taken care of and inventors are allowed to do what they do best. They are free to create.

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SU-mmer Studies

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Welcome to the beautiful campus that is my new summer home: Syracuse University (SU). Situated on an enormous hill next to the basketball dome and College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) this campus practically gleams. Continue reading “SU-mmer Studies”