Show for August 13, 2011

It’s hard to escape the heat we’ve “enjoyed” this summer (is “enjoyed’ the right word?) It’s been on our minds so much lately, it’s the theme of this week’s show. From using geothermal to heat, and more importantly cool, your home, to heat from Hatch, New Mexico, to Andrea’s tips to stay cool, it’s all about the heat this week on the Earth Train.

Contributor Reggie Marston talks with Jay Wilson, President of Geothermal Options in Fairfax, VA. Jay explains why new generations of heat pumps are light years beyond the units your parents knew. They’re efficient, can be installed almost anywhere, and most importantly, they actually work! Reggie also has a great web site packed with resources for homeowners. He’s known as the House P.I.

Preparing to install a geothermal heat pump.

Heat is measured many different ways: Fahrenheit, Celsius, Kelvin, and Scoville. It’s the Scoville heat scale that measures the amount of capsaicin in a chili pepper. In practical terms, the more Scoville heat units, the hotter the pepper.

New Mexican varieties of the Anaheim chile are spreading across the nation this time of year, and perhaps none are more delicious and versatile than the green chiles out of Hatch, New Mexico. In many respects, Hatch is holy ground for chile aficionados, and Gary Naricle is their ambassador. His company,, processes about 8 tons of peppers a season. Gary has tips on how to find, grow, and enjoy peppers!

New Mexico Green Chilis!

And finally Andrea Ridout shares some inexpensive and low-tech ways to beat the summer heat.

You can listen to the show here: The Earth Train – August 13, 2011

Show for August 6, 2011

This week’s show looks at technology and how it can help us and the environment. From measuring radiation on the other side of the world to generating power right here at home, sometimes tech works for us.

Within a week of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan last March, the people behind Safecast realized the information on radiation levels that was being published was questionable. So they decided to do something better. They decided to go there and do some digging. They deployed a network of stationary, hand-held and mobile Geiger counters to measure radiation levels, and made all collected data free and open to anyone. Sean Bonner, co-founder & acting director of Safecast, talks about the project that is making a huge difference to families in Japan.

Over 300 CPM air contamination here

One go-to technology for supplementing or replacing fossil fuels is solar. Standard photovoltaic systems do one thing…convert sunlight to electricity…and they don’t do it terribly efficiently. But what about the rest of the solar spectrum? Can solar technology become more attractive to consumers if it provides additional cost savings by better utilizing available sunlight? That’s the question posed by Dr. Jason Lu and his team at Enfocus Engineering who have developed a new array of “daylighting” solar cells. Each optical module in the array is able to track the sun, accomplishing multiple tasks. It converts heat and sunlight into electricity, at much higher efficiencies than conventional PV arrays, and it acts as an intelligent skylight, piping diffused sunlight into commercial spaces.

Finally, landfills can sometimes get a bad rap in the green community, but until we all achieve zero-impact living, they’re going to be a reality. Far from being the holes in the earth of yesteryear that were simply filled and covered, today’s landfills are designed with minimum impact and sustainability in mind. Susan David is with landfill operator Republic Services. At the Republic Services website you can find the company’s sustainability report, which has more about some of the exciting projects they’ve undertaken.

You can listen to the full show here: The Earth Train – August 6, 2001

EPA Solicits Public Comments on BPA. RSVP ASAP.

It’s in products ranging from hard plastic containers and bottles, to food can liners and cash register receipts. But it’s not without controversy. BPA is getting more attention from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration as the government groups move forward with action plans to research and assess the possible health consequences of BPA exposure.

The EPA is requesting public comment on possible toxicity testing and environmental sampling to study the effects of BPA. You have until September 26 to comment. Follow this link for more information.

Show for July 30, 2011

We’re all natural in the garden this week! We’re talking about how to enjoy gardening this year, sources for heirloom seeds and about a very special garden that has received national attention.

Climate change may necessitate more engineered food, but that doesn’t mean the organic movement is dead just yet. Theresa Marquez of Organic Valley joins us to talk about organic farming.

What to plant, what to plant? Diane Ott Whealy talks about Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. Since 1975, Seed Savers members have collected and distributed thousands of samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners.

KC Compton from The Herb Companion joins us to talk about natural remedies for seasonal allergies, and Paul talks strategies for avoiding allergies all together.

Finally, Andrea talks with master gardener Michael Weishan about a special garden he’s been working with that has a bit of history behind it.

Anti-allergy Strategies

Pollen is the big culprit behind seasonal allergies. Pollen is a joy spring through fall…trees generally releasing pollen early in the spring, pollinating grasses are active late spring and early summer, and weeds are most often behind late summer and fall hay fever.

Pollinating seasons vary from region to region as well. The National Allergy Bureau has helpful seasonal allergy maps.

Home gardeners may be plagued by molds and fungus as well, which are problematic during late summer and fall.

Most plants release pollen in the early morning, so if you know you’re allergic to pollens, that may not be the best time to be out gardening. The weather can also play a role. The worst conditions for allergy sufferers are sunny, dry and windy days. Cool or cloudy days are better for gardening. When it’s wet, damp or humid, pollen is less likely to be floating in the air.

So when we finally get a chance to go out and work in the garden, there are things we can do to reduce the impact of allergens–common sense things mostly. For example, what you wear may help.

Wear gloves, long sleeves, glasses (goggles, even) and a hat. Reserve one pair of shoes and perhaps one outfit exclusively for gardening. Leave these shoes outside, along with all gardening tools.

When you have to include mowing the lawn on your list of chores, disposable paper dust masks may look a little goofy, but they will reduce exposure to pollens that are kicked up by the mower.

Also, as you plan your garden, be selective about what you plant. Native plants are suited to their regions , they are easier to care for and because they are better adapted they often need less fertilizers or pesticides. Flowers with strong fragrances should probably be avoided. They can trigger asthma and allergy-like symptoms.

Composting is the secret weapon of home gardeners, but it’s not without its risks…If you are prone to mold allergies, you probably shouldn’t turn your compost or work with it too closely. Or at least use another one of those fashionable dust masks to avoid breathing in the mold. Also steer clear of working with wet mulch or straw, raking leaves, using power blowers and if possible, mowing your grass.

A lot of those same rules apply to indoor gardening, like avoiding flowers with strong fragrances. Be careful not to over-water your indoor plants. Soggy soil or water sitting in a drainage tray creates ideal conditions for mold growth.

Happy gardening!

Show for July 23, 2011

How can you and I get involved in environmental issues and make a difference in our communities? We’ll talk this week with some every day activists and offer some tips on how you can get involved in spreading the green message.

We begin the hour with Tanna Frederick, an avid Surfer, actress, writer, producer and environmentalist. She founded Project Save Our Surf to bring the entertainment and surfing industries together in support of clean oceans. The 4th annual SURF 24 surf-a-thon is scheduled for October 15th and 16th in Santa Monica with the goal of raising 50-thousand dollars to keep our beaches and oceans clean.

So you’ve found a cause you’re excited about. What is next? How do you organize and run an effective campaign for change? Green Corps can provide the answers and guidance you’re looking for. Josh Buswell-Charkow talks about effective campaigns for change and Green Corps’ Field School for Environmental Organizing.

Finally, Andrea talks with a legend in the green community, Denis Hayes. Denis received his undergraduate degree from Stanford and left Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government after being selected by Senator Gaylord Nelson to organize the first Earth Day in 1970. Since then, the event has grown to have a far-reaching impact.

It all goes to prove that a few individuals, sharing a common vision, can make a difference.

Even Sports Can Go Green…

A coalition of professional sports teams and sporting venues committed to “greening initiatives” in sports will hold its inaugural summit meeting in August in Portland, Oregon. The Green Sports Alliance is the first collaboration between teams from the six major North American professional sports leagues on a common environmental agenda.

One session will focus on Greening major events like the All-Star Games and the Olympics while other sessions will cover solar projects for sports venues, and LEED certification strategies for new and existing buildings.

Show for July 16, 2011

This week Andrea Ridout talks with film-maker Mai Iskander about her documentary “Garbage Dreams”, which follows three young men of the Zaballeen people in Egypt, outside Cairo. Far ahead of any modern green initiatives, the Zaballeen survive by recycling 80 percent of the garbage they collect. You can learn more at the Garbage Dreams website.

What if we could find a way to vastly reduce the volume of waste going in to landfills by 75 to 80 percent, converting a ton of garbage to about 600 pounds of nutrient rich plant food?

Paul Jackson talks with Moe Memon and Jacob Dickinson of Ecologico-Logic about their new product “The Muncher”, a highly efficient state-of-the-art waste reduction system that is poised to transform the waste management industry. Reducing the strain on landfills is an obvious application, but only one of many…

It’s all this week, as we talk a little trash on The Earth Train!

24 Hours of Reality

Al Gore is working to re-focus attention on the issue of climate change. His nonprofit organization, the Climate Reality Project, is scheduling a 24-hour long multinational event presenting the case for a link between climate change and extreme weather events. The “24 Hours of Reality” event will be broadcast live over 24 hours starting September 14 in 24 time zones and in 13 languages. Check this link to see if there’s a location near you. If not, you can catch the presentation on-line.

New Website Coming Soon

A new web site is being developed that will include listen links and tools to help you find a station carrying The Earth Train. Watch for some big changes in the coming weeks!