Friday, October 31, 2008


When we moved to the Ozarks, I was excited to be able to get well water. The water at my aunt's was so good and clean.
Unfortunately, we weren't so lucky with the water the well company found for us. We haven't yet found a filter that will allow us to drink our water, but we need to and soon. The gallon jugs we buy are wasteful and expensive - I spend at least $6 a week on water.
I received a press release this morning from an outfit called Tappening. Their motto is the "campaign to make water cool."
It seems they convinced presidential candidate Barak Obama to give up bottled water in favor of tap water.
They describe Tappening as "a campaign and website designed to educate the public about the massive and unnecessary waste of money, fossil fuels and resultant stress on the environment caused by the bottled water industry, and to encourage people to drink tap water whenever possible."
They reminded me that I need to look into that water filtration system and soon. Did you know you could drink 1 million glasses of tap water for the price of one bottled water?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Warning, Warning! Internet Hoaxes Abound

Many of us are concerned these days about where our food is coming from, and what is being added to it. The growth of the movement for organic produce and organic and free-range meat and dairy products is evidence of this.
Many times, well-meaning people, who are concerned about food and tainted products pass along Internet hoaxes that warns people of contamination. I received one such hoax email this morning from a well-meaning friend. The hoax warned people about chocolates and well-known cookies and snacks made by household name companies contaminated with melamine. The hoax also contained a Snopes link, which, I suppose gave it legitimacy for my friend.
The problem is when I checked into the email, it was completely false. While the companies mentioned were having some contamination problems overseas, none of the companies used contaminated products in U.S. based manufacturing.
Who knows what motivation people have to start these false rumors - a disgruntled former employee, or someone who thought they were otherwise wronged by these companies, maybe. One could argue, I suppose, that maybe these emails originated in the countries affected, but this particular hoax specifically warned parents about Halloween and their children possible eating contaminated chocolate. While Halloween is gaining popularity in some other countries, it is still a largely U.S. based holiday.
The larger problems these hoaxes sometimes create is that the hoaxes become so widely spread and known that they actually affect sales for these companies to the negative. One such example was a popular air freshner a few years ago that was supposedly linked to pet deaths. In this economy, U.S. based companies are having a hard enough time keeping their workforce employed without having to also fight unfounded Internet hoaxes.
I know it wasn't my friend's intention that someone may lose their job today over sagging sales because of a hoax, but I hope that everyone considers this before spreading such rumors.
It only takes about 5 minutes to check out the email at and if the scare isn't worth 5 minutes of your time, consider the possibility that it isn't important enough to forward anyway and hit "delete" instead.
We have enough real threats in the world right now without perpetuating myths.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dear American Airlines, United Airlines and Chicago O'Hare (ORD)

Sorry for the extra week off. The trip was so good that it took me another week to wind down. The weather was perfect, the sights were unbelievable and the conference - what I got to attend of it - was great.
I say what I got to attend of it as I missed a full half day of the conference on the first day due to my flight the night before being delayed by a full 3 hours.
I made an important decision after this trip. Although my travel writing has really started to take off (pun intended), I've decided that I will minimize my carbon footprint further by specializing in places I can get to by car, train or bus.
The primary reason isn't necessarily environmental, it is one for my own sanity. When I was a child, flying was such a dignified way to travel. My mother and I would dress up and the people at the airport, as well as the crew in the planes were so nice.
I'm not a masochists and I refuse to pay $600-$900 a ticket to be humiliated by security by practically stripping down; walk through a gross, germ infested terminal in my socks, and be told by a jerk at Chicago's O'Hare airport that my small, billfold sized purse that is hanging from my neck is a 3rd carry on while he makes me step out of line and take it off and crunch it down in my book bag before I check my other carry on with the valet (on regional, small sized jets, they allow you to throw your own bag onto the luggage cart before boarding so you're only boarding with usually one bag anyway). I traveled in 6 airports that week and ORD is the only airport in the country that counts a small billfold sized purse as a carry on.
All of that, and I got to spend an entire evening in the Knoxville, TN airport that completely closes at 8 p.m. (they even closed the bathrooms for a time so they could clean them)while AA brought in a plane so we could make it to Chicago and spend the night in a hotel across from the airport. The next day was my conference, which began at 8 a.m. While Milwaukee is only a 15 minute flight from Chicago, the first flight out wasn't until 9:15 and I had another hour drive from the airport to the conference resort.
So, count me among the people who will not be flying any longer. Not only is it the most environmentally unfriendly way to travel, it is the most undiginified, unpleasant way.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Missouri Removes Animals From the Endangered Species

Most of us know about the federal Endangered Species Act, but until this week, I didn't realize that each state also has one of its own as well.
This week, Missouri removed three animals from the state endangered species list. Those include the bald eagle, barn owl and western fox snake.
If not politically motivated, removing animals from the endangered species lists signals that the conservations efforts have been sucessful, and that's a good thing. What can you do to help? Find out what animals are on your state's endangered species list and teach your children about the importance of conservation. If you don't live in the country, take your kids camping - fall is a beautiful time to do it - and look for wild animals. Make a game of it by seeing how many wild animals you can spot and list, or photograph. I spent an hour last week following and photographing a tarantula who has taken up residence near our house. It's fun and provides you with documentation of your outing.
Here are the websites for the endangered species lists in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. For my friends and readers who live outside of these states, the lists are usually on your state's fish and wildlife conservation page, you can find them by googling your state and "endangered species list."


I will be out of the office traveling on business next week to the beautiful Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and then heading to a writer's conference in Wisconsin, where the trees should be in full autumn color.
I will return with new posts and tips on October 20.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Where Have All of the Bees Gone?

A fellow writer posted a note on a writer's forum I frequent the other day. The note was reportedly from the wife of Michael Schacker, the author of the book, "A Spring Without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply."
Schacker reportedly had a stroke shortly after the book was published and never had a chance to do any marketing for his book. I haven't verified these claims, but the purpose here is to let you know about a book that theorizes that bee colony collapse has been caused by our environment.
This is a very serious problem I don't think has received nearly as much attention by the public as it should. Without bees, we will not have fresh produce. It's as simple as that.
Here's a portion of the email reportedly written by Barbara Dean Schacker:

"You can help right away by buying a copy of "A Spring Without Bees" and reading it. It is not a "depressing environmental disaster" book, but rather is written in a surprisingly smart, easy style, almost like a mystery novel--you'll see! Then you can pass the book along to a friend and ask them to put the message out on their email or urge them to buy a copy and pass it along if they wish. You can also go to Plan Bee Central online to sign up for the Plan Bee Action Plan and to find out more about what you can do to ban these pesticides. Buy a copy for Thanksgiving and give thanks to the bees for creating the food you are eating. Buy them as Christmas or holiday gifts so that people can read them over the winter and be prepared to ban locally, plant their bee garden or get their hive to replenish honeybee populations in the spring. I guarantee you will be rewarded for your efforts by meeting a lot of nice people on this journey--I have!"

So there you have it - I'm going to try to convince my bookclub to go for this one.

Monday, October 06, 2008

And While We're on the Subject of Water...

When we picked out the toilet for my new Belle Creative Writer's Studio, we didn't get a super environmentally friendly water saving one, but one that is better than the one that is in the house.
Here's a partial press release on a super water saving urinal:
Zurn Engineered Water Solutions, one of the largest manufacturers of commercial plumbing products in the nation, is introducing a “green” urinal system that uses only one pint of water per flush. By comparison, most urinals use one gallon or more per flush. The Zurn EcoVantage™ Pint Urinal System is a certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) product.

The EcoVantage Pint Urinal is an excellent alternative to waterless urinals. Its extremely low water consumption represents an 85% water savings compared to a one-gallon urinal. This overall savings translates into an average of up to 30,000 gallons per urinal per year, which makes this product ideal for both retrofits of existing facilities and new construction.

Green product information, conservation information, success stories and a list of participating industry leaders can be found at

Friday, October 03, 2008

The H2O Calculator

Since we moved to the Ozarks, I've added water conservation and environmentally friendly sewage disposal to my lists of concerns. In Kansas, we had a wealth of rivers from which to draw water and it never seemed we could ever run out, even during times of drought.
Here, we rely soley on our well. While this year has been a record breaker for rain, the possibility of a drought could significantly lesson our water supply.
Here's a fun website and a great tool for the family to calculate your water useage:

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Keep the Home Fires Burning

I don't know what the official temperature was here this morning, but let's just say it was quite chilly. Sweater weather - at least in the mornings. As we prepare for another few months of colder and colder temperatures, many people will also be firing up their wood burning stoves or fireplaces. However, fireplaces can be hazardous to one's health if you suffer from COPD, asthma or any other lung disease. Here's some tips from the American Lung Association if you decide that heating with wood is best for you:

*If your wood burning stove was manufactured before 1995, it should be replaced by one certified by the EPA, or better yet, one certified for use in the state of Washington, where standards are stricter.

*The association recommends burning natural gas or propane, or converting wood burners to this. However, with the cost of heating oil, many people are seeking a more economical way to heat their homes. Both propane and natural gas must have outside ventilation.

*If you will be burning wood, make sure the wood is untreated by chemicals and has been cut at least 6 months prior to burning. This helps it burn more efficiently and cleaner.

* Make sure your chimney pipe or chimney is in good working order and has been inspected and cleaned by a professional before the season begins. It is easy to have a fire in the chimney and not realize it. However, internal, unseen damage from a fire can make your home vulnerable to catching fire and burning down. (We had an unknown chimney fire at our home in K.C. Luckily, the house never burned).

*The American Lung Association also cautions against burning other materials such as colored paper, plastics, rubber and trash. These items generate more harmful chemicals, increased pollution and produce less heat than untreated wood or manufactured fireplace logs.

*Pay attention to local burn bans. No one wants to burn their mountains or neighborhoods down.

*Be mindful of the weather. When air is cold and still, temperature inversions trap wood smoke and other pollutants close to the ground. Wood-burning should be avoided on hazy, windless days and nights.

*And if you use a furnace, now is the time to make sure it is serviced and clean with the filters changed.