Earth Day 2010 Fast Approaches

Official Earth Day Flag, Ecology, Environment

Earth Day Ecology Flag. The symbol is a combination of the letters "E" and "O" taken from the words "Environment" and "Organism," respectively.

It’s coming.  Earth Day 2010.  April 22 will be here before you know it.The first Earth Day, as you may know, was in 1970.  It was the creation of Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in.  Earth Day is not an American holiday, it is celebrated in many countries around the globe.  Earth Day is designed to inspire both awareness and appreciation for the earth’s environment.  As the state of the earth’s environment becomes increasingly troublesome, Earth Day has become more important.

In keeping with the spirit of Earth Day, it is not only important to observe the day, it is imperative that we use the day to teach and educate as many as possible about the perils facing our environment.  Earth Day is a day to reflect on how we intend to leave the earth for subsequent generations – a sequentially better place, environmentally.  Our Earth Day resolutions should be sincere, actionable and sustainable.  It is a time to revisit our personal, household and corporate sustainability plans and make changes and adjustments.

Here are just a few ideas from us at EnviroCitizen.org on how to celebrate Earth Day.  We hope that you will respond to this post with some of your own thoughts and ideas as well.  Ideas for celebrating Earth Day might include:

  • Planting a tree with your children.  This creates a welcome opportunity to discuss the meaning of the day.
  • Learning more about the environment.  The articles library at EnviroCitizen.org has well over 1000 unique articles that might be the basis for your environmental discovery.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  Develop a plan for your home and perhaps your business that supports year round sustainability.
  • Gather up all those old clothes, toys, games and other household items that are of no use to you but perhaps great use to someone else.  Sell your items on EBay, plan a yard sale or give the items to charity.
  • Put together a crew and gather litter in your town or city.
  • Hold an Earth Day Fair at your local school or in a local park to teach children and others about appreciating and caring for the environment.
  • Have an Earth Day Meal, complete with all organic foods, as much locally grown ingredients as possible and a table decorated with items made from recycled or repurposed materials.
  • Consider buying carbon offsets to make up for the greenhouse gas emissions you create on the other 364 days of the year.  Carbon offsets fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  EnviroCitizen.org has a truly unique program to make it simple and affordable to do this.
  • Ride your bike.  Take mass transit.  Share a ride.

Remember, everyday is Earth Day.  We use April 22nd as a reminder that it is our responsibility to walk gently on the earth and its resources, and to leave the earth a better place for each successive generation that inhabits it.  Earth Day is simply a reminder of our individual and collective responsibilities to make careful choices about the earth and our environment.

Happy Earth Day!!

Green Investing: Eco-friendly Investment Choices

Green Investing  Eco-Friendly Investing

You CAN Invest Successfully in Green Businesses.

By Mike Valenti

At EnviroCitizen.org we support and encourage green investing.  We can’t assure that investing in companies that are leading the way to a more energy efficient, sustainable planet will pay off any better than investing in any other companies or in general market indexes like the S&P 500.  However, companies working to modernize the woefully inadequate power grid, as well as companies designing and providing renewable, sustainable energy sources will probably be decent bets.  With the U.S. and other countries allocating hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars to research and development in these areas, it is likely that many profitable technologies will emerge and blossom.

Investing in green companies can mean many things.  One can invest in companies that develop and market solar panels and wind energy equipment or one can invest in their customers who are implementing these strategies and projects on a large scale basis.  Another strategy is to seek out small and medium sized companies that are researching and developing the technologies of the future to deliver a more eco-friendly, sustainable planet.  Yet another strategy is to look to larger companies like IBM (IBM), General Electric (GE), Cisco (CSCO), Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT) and others who have small but fast growing businesses tilted toward green initiatives.  Don’t overlook engineering and construction firms such as ABB (ABB), Siemans (SI) and others who are developing meaningful, eco-friendly products, processes and technologies. 

Other plays on eco-friendly investing can range the gamut from makers of non-toxic, green cleaning products, natural cosmetics, makers of recycled or reclaimed furniture and building materials and even eco-tourism operators.  Remember that investing in any individual company has its risks.  So, always consider a diversified portfolio where green investing is a well thought out slice.  Remember that smaller companies can have a higher risk to reward ratio than larger ones – although they will generally provide more of a pure-play investment in green products, processes or services.  Because green investing is in its infancy, it may make sense to take a long-term perspective on any eco-friendly investment you buy for your portfolio.  As always, it makes sense to consult your investment advisor as well as to calibrate your portfolio appropriately for your risk and reward tolerance level. 

Another strategy for green investing may be to invest in mutual funds or ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) that invest in a broad range or portfolio of green, eco-friendly investment opportunities.  Many green mutual funds will likely be actively managed – which means a portfolio manager is evaluating companies one by one for the portfolio and deciding everyday which ones to keep in the portfolio and which to jettison.  Picking a green mutual fund is not easy as there is no category for them yet at any of the major ratings agencies.  There are quite a few green ETFs out there with more popping up every day.  Some of these funds and ETFs have very little track record as they are relatively new.  ETF’s are bought and sold like stocks and can be traded during the entire trading day.  Mutual funds may only be traded at the market close each day at the calculated net asset value of their holdings.

Here is a partial list of some green mutual funds and green ETFs:

Alger Green (SPEGX)

Calvert Global Water (CFWAX)

Claymore Global Solar Energy ETF (TAN)

Claymore/LGA Green ETF (GRN)

Dreyfus Global Sustainability (DGYAX)

First Trust Nasdaq Clean Edge Smart Grid Infrastructure Index (GRID)

First Trust ISE Global Wind Energy Index Fund (FAN)

First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge ETF (QCLN)

Gabelli SRI Green (SRIAX)

Global Warming ELEMENTS ETN (GWO)

Green Century Equity (GCEQX)

Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy (GAAEX)

Market Vectors Solar Energy (KWT)

Northern Global Sustainability (NSRIX)

Pax World Global Green (PGRGX)

PFW Water (PFWAX)

PowerShares Water Resources (PHO)

PowerShares Cleantech Portfolio ETF (PZD)

PowerShares Global Clean Energy Portfolio ETF (PBD)

PowerShares Global Nuclear Energy Portfolio ETF (PKN)

PowerShares Nasdaq OMX Clean Edge Global Wind Energy ETF (PWND)

PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy Portfolio ETF (PBW)

PowerShares WilderHill Progressive Energy Portfolio ETF (PUW)

SAM Sustainable Climate (SMCNX)

SAM Sustainable Water (SMWNX)

Van Eck Market Vectors Environmental Services ETF (EVX)

Van Eck Market Vectors Global Alternative Energy ETF (GEX)

Van Eck Market Vectors Nuclear Energy ETF (NLR)

Winslow Green Growth (WGGFX)

Please also see the green investing section in the EnviroCitizen.org forum.  Click the following link to be taken to the green investing topic in our forum:
http://www.envirocitizen.org/forums/green-investing/

The Green Vacation - Practical Planning Tips for Eco-Travel

It's time to plan your Green Vacation.

By Mike Valenti

If you’re planning a vacation and want it to be as eco-friendly as possible, EnviroCitizen.org knows that a little research can go a long way. You could hire a green vacation planner, however, if you don’t want to spend the money on a green vacation planner or you are a do-it-yourself kind of traveler, you can create your own customized green vacation.

  • The first step is to figure out how you’re going to get to your destination. If you’re traveling within North America, a train just might be the best option. It’s the most energy-efficient, eco-friendly traveling option out there, so long as you can handle the extra time that it will take you to get there. If traveling by train isn’t an option, consider buying carbon offset credits to neutralize the carbon footprint of your vacation.
  • Stay at an eco-friendly resort. Hotels that cater to a sustainable, green sort of business plan can be found in practically any city and are not always more expensive than a comparable, traditional hotel.
  • Use alternative methods of transportation. You could ride a bike, take public transportation or walk depending on your destination. You could also rent a hybrid vehicle.
  • While vacationing, do it local! Eat foods that are local to the area and support farmers markets, if available. Purchase gifts that are made in the area, instead of buying some of the more mainstream tourism paraphernalia.
  • Reuse items that tourists typically throw away, like plastic bottles.
  • If you’re not able to stay at an eco-friendly resort, ask the hotel staff to not change your sheets and towels every day (to cut down on water and chemical use). You can also help by turning off the air conditioner or heater in your room when you’re not present.
  • While vacationing at your destination, support environmental causes or issues in the area by recreating at national parks, beaches, mountains or other places where nature is preserved.
  • Try to incorporate activities into your vacation that will enable you and your travel companions to learn about local environmental issues. By educating yourself, you can become an informed traveler that will maintain a connection to your destination (one of the most important aspects of any environmental cause is maintaining a connection to a place).
  • Finally, in order to make your vacation as green as possible, leave your home in the right condition. Unplug every appliance except for the refrigerator (unless you are leaving for an extended period of time and emptied it) and make sure that every light is turned off. Turn off all heating or cooling systems and check that every window is closed and sealed tight. Water your lawn as infrequently as possible (and late at night, so that less water evaporates) and turn off any water features in your yard.

As EnviroCitizen.org has learned, a green vacation is a very doable form of eco-friendly travel. So, if you like to handle your travel plans on your own, do some research and find the best eco-friendly destination that suits your needs and vacation desires while filling your time away with green activities and modes of travel!

Long-Term Investment Benefits of Converting to Solar Energy

Solar Panels, Alternative Energy, Photovoltaic, Renewable, Sustainable

Solar Energy: Eco-Friendly and a Good Investment.

By Mike Valenti

Many individuals have their hearts and minds in the right place when they consider solar energy. The environmental benefits of solar energy are immense. Solar energy produces no pollution as well as no greenhouse gases. The products last for decades and also create renewable energy. However, solar energy can also benefit individuals financially. The long-term benefits of solar energy are astounding.

      First and foremost, solar energy is a protected investment. By paying upfront for installation, you will save yourself from rates of inflation as the years go by. Average warranties on solar energy panels are around 25 years. Many solar panels are still working well after 40 to 80 years. Just imagine that during this time you are saving 75%-100% of your energy costs, or even selling energy back to the local power company. Of course, minor maintenance costs may occur, but this is minimal in comparison to paying regular energy bills or in comparison to paying on inflation.

      The government pays rebates and tax credits to those who generate their own solar power. Depending on where you live, federal government and local government rebates can cover to 70% of the total cost of the system. Government incentives combined with a decrease in solar equipment prices make solar energy a good and easy investment decision.

     Solar energy provides long-term reliability and low maintenance costs. Originally, photovoltaic cells were developed for use in space. Because of this initial design, solar cells were made to last for extensive periods of time with little to no maintenance costs. Once installed, solar power systems will quietly last a minimum of two decades, especially if they don’t use batteries for storage.

     It is necessary to have regular maintenance which includes removing debris such as dirt, dust, smog, and gravel, as well as making certain that tree branches do not interfere with the sun’s rays. During winter months it is imperative to remove snow which will block all of the sun’s rays which give the solar panels energy. This can be difficult, especially if the solar panels are on a slanted or steep roof.

      Becoming green will eliminate major uses of fossil fuels and will also allow you to use renewable energy. This is an investment in your future as well as in generations to come. It will reduce dependence on foreign energy and will lower every individual’s part in global warming, providing safety and health for many people.

At EnviroCitizen.org, we support and encourage the use of alternative energy sources.  Solar energy is just one of many ideas you may want to look into.  Depending on your situation, you may want to explore the benefits of wind energy, solar thermal energy and  geothermal energy, amongst others.  We all have collective as well as individual choices available to us regarding how sustainable and renewable our energy sources are.  If we can make a choice that will benefit the environment as well as our financial situation then it is really a win-win situation.  The short- and long-term positive effects on the earth’s environment, combined with the medium- and long-term positive effects to our pocketbooks and wallets certainly make alternative energy worth investigating and implementing.

For over 100 interesting and informative articles on alternative energy topics, please visit the EnviroCitizen.org  articles library.   In addition, you may enjoy visiting the EnviroCitizen.org  forum Green for Life section for numerous discussions on alternative energy topics.

Exploring Green Landscaping Ideas

By Mike Valenti

Springtime has arrived!!  We are all thinking about some work around the yard.  Some of us are looking at small changes and projects, others are thinking about bigger, more radical changes to our landscape.  Either way, here are some useful thoughts from us here at EnviroCitizen.org on a more eco-friendly approach to gardening and landscaping.

What is Green Landscaping ?Green landscaping is the process of creating beautiful scenery through the planting of native plants, the implementation of environmentally friendly designs and the limitation or complete removal of the use of pesticides and herbicides. Green landscaping helps to reduce the negative impacts that development may otherwise have on land, water, air and energy use. In short, the use and implementation of green landscaping can help preserve natural resources and prevent waste and pollution.
   
Green landscaping is also far more economical than traditional landscaping. Recently, green and environmental living has grown in popularity and in turn, green awareness is quickly growing as well. Environmental awareness came heavily into effect in the late ‘90s, which led to an explosion of green projects.
   
Green landscaping can create a green, beautiful and highly efficient garden. A green landscape focuses on native plants and species diversity. Plants should be plotted in an efficient and logical way. There are many things that need to be taken into consideration with green landscaping. You must take into consideration the particulars of the region in which you live, that way you can determine specific needs of your terrain and the ways in which you can conserve on certain resources while still meeting these needs. One of the things you might want to consider is a homemade compost pile made from yard waste and household biodegradable waste. This will create natural fertilizer to use in lieu of chemical fertilizer. Natural pest-reducing measures can be taken instead of pesticides. Options such as bug-eating birds and bats are great, eco-friendly alternatives!
   
Green landscaping also contains the ability to reduce heating and cooling bills. This is done through the strategic placement of native plants. They can help a building be much more heat efficient which can lead to the reduction of reliance on air conditioning and heating systems. Green buildings can be combined with green landscaping which can help to manage energy bills in a highly significant way. Many trees can also work as a wind barrier, protecting buildings from chilling winds and other weathers to help reduce energy bills. You may also want to consider a living roof (created from native grasses) or try covering the sides of your home with native vines which will help maintain shade in the summer and retain heat in the winter. 

Green landscaping is a wonderful alternative to traditional landscaping and can be incredibly beneficial to the environment and to your wallet. If you are ready to begin your green landscaping project, check out some of the eco-friendly gardening and landscaping tools and supplies offered right here on EnviroCitizen.org ! 

You may also like to visit our articles library where you will find over 100 informative, educational articles on green, eco-friendly lawn, gardening and landscaping topics.  The EnviroCitizen.org forum section on Green Gardening is also a great resource and provides a community atmosphere where you may congregate and converse with others whose interests are similar to your own.