Apr 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day:)

As you all know today is Earth Day. So in honor of today we should all celebrate.
There are 10 things you should know about Earth Day:

1) Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 every year, and is a chance to appreciate the environment – and encourage us to help save it.
2) Earth Day celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.
3) It was founded in the US by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970, who expressed concern that the environment was not on the political agenda.
4) More than 20 million demonstrators took part in the first event to raise awareness about the world’s environmental problems. Senator Nelson said that it "organised itself"
5) Today the event is celebrated by 500 million people around the world, keen to enjoy the festivities and get involved in any way they can.
6) It doesn’t take much to help. Every aluminium drink can you recycle saves enough energy to keep your TV running for three hours.
7) Some people celebrate for more than just one day. Earth Week runs from April 16 in certain American cities, building up to Earth Day itself.
8) LA-based power pop band Dramarama released a song about Earth Day in the early 1990s, called What Are We Gonna Do?
9) President Obama called for all of America to help improve the environment in 2010 – and send their individual Earth Day stories to the White House.
10) The Equinox Earth Day is a similar celebration usually held around March 20 – with bells tolling to welcome the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, and the first day of autumn in the southern hemisphere.
So I hope we all participate today and help save the environment by joining in the action!

Apr 11, 2011

Resolution: Compost

Every year millions of people make New Year resolutions like losing weight. My New Year resolutions for 2011 were all about eco-friendly living. They can be listed as: using less paper products and plastic water bottles, reducing the use of gas by driving less, and (the most important one) learning how to compost.

Composting is one of the most eco-friendly things you can do for household kitchen waste. Up to 50-70% of kitchen waste can be turned into valuable, organic fertilizer. It reduces the amount of methane emitted from landfills and can be used in your garden as a cost efficient, organic way to increase soil fertility. Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus will be produced naturally by the feeding of microorganisms, for that reason very few soil additives will be needed in your garden. Also, composting brings down the over-all footprint of your home as it contributes towards waste saving.
This is the cheapest and easiest way to compost.
Options, you have so many composting options...  In the old days, they used to dig a pit in the ground or build a compost box for the kitchen waste out of wood in the backyard. The only problem was that it was a little messy. Nowadays, companies like Nature Mill sell home composting bins which are quite expensive, but really convenient. In addition, there are websites that offer composting services with worms. You should know that if you want to try and have your own home composting bin, like I do for a fraction of the cost, it is a very simple process. 
All you need is a plastic container with a lid, like the ones they sell at supermarkets and home improvement stores. Then you need to drill a few holes on the side for ventilation; you are ready to start composting. You can put vegetable and fruit peels, egg shells, flowers, leaves, coffee grounds, corn cubs, and spinach stems in your pile of compost. You should know that composting organisms need 4 equally important things to work effectively:
  • Carbon (or carbs) for energy - the oxidation of carbon produces the heat. High carbon materials tend to be brown and dry.
  • Nitrogen (or protein) to grow and reproduce more organisms to oxidize the carbon. High nitrogen materials tend to be green and wet.
  • Oxygen to oxidize the carbon for the decomposition process.
  • Water- in the right amounts to maintain activity.
Furthermore you need to stir it every day to ensure aeration; the pile should not be too wet or too dry - it should have the moisture content of a sponge. Even more important, avoid putting in rotten or cooked leftover food especially it if contains spices, meat, fat, grease, and oil. A compost pile uses aerobic respiration and apart from attracting fruit flies, which are a normal part of the process, it does not attract house flies, worms, cockroaches, or rats. These will appear only if you add meat to the pile. 

Now that we all know how easy it is to build the perfect composting bin, we can start our own compost pile following these simple rules. This will be another way for all of us to reduce our carbon footprint, and create less waste for the land. I will keep you posted with photos on my progress.

Mar 25, 2011

Earth Hour

Saturday 26 March is an exciting day because I will be joining millions of people around the world celebrating the Earth Hour at 8.30pm. Every year Earth Hour asks individuals, businesses and communities worldwide to show their commitment to the environment by switching the lights off for one hour. This Earth Hour, I hope you will turn off your lights too. But when the lights go back on, we need to go beyond the hour and think about what we can change in our daily lives that will benefit the planet.

I have been participating in the Earth Hour for the last few years; to me this is about sending an important massage to the world showing what we can all achieve together globally. Consequently, our actions taken together will make the world a better place. In order to do that, I believe we all need to go beyond the Earth Hour to make a difference and change the world we all live in.

We can do things like: Recycling and reusing, reducing the use of plastics and the use of paper products (we can use recycled ones instead of the conventional ones that are bleached), buying Organic and locally grown foods that are not processed, turning off the lights when leaving the room, plugging off all unused electronic appliances, buying energy efficient appliances, and taking shorter showers.     

There are hundreds of countries around the world joining the Earth Hour by doing different things. Here are some of the things they did earlier today:
In mainland China, 84 cities committed to go beyond the hour this Earth Hour, with major urban centers from the southwest to northeast switching off their lights and taking action for the planet.
Beijing’s most famous landmarks including the Olympic sites – Bird's Nest and Water Cube - turned their lights off for an hour. This is in addition to the China World Trade Centre Tower 3, the tallest building in Beijing.

The League of Cities and Municipalities ensured an overwhelming turn-out for Earth Hour in the Philippines by signing up 1661 cities and communities for the event. After a minute’s silence for Japan and the planet, acoustic performances provided low-carbon entertainment at the switch-off event. The Department of Energy Secretary Rene D. Almendras lit the official candle outside the Mall of Asia at Pasay City followed by the vice president of The Philippine’s Climate Change Commission. A long line of government and company representatives, celebrities, regional representatives and students then lit their candles from the official candle and recited their pledges for beyond the hour actions for the environment. 

As millions of people across the country switched off the lights, Australia’s most inspiring stories of people going beyond the hour were recognized at the inaugural WWF Earth Hour Awards.
In further proof of Earth Hour’s exponential growth, WWF Canada saw a 37% increase in the number of cities participating in Earth Hour this year with their national list of cities growing to 417.

In the end,millions of people join together to make an impact in the environment, because they believe that their actions add up to make a difference. A very small action like turning off the lights when leaving the room, can turn into a much bigger action when done globally. So instead of feeling insignificant, just start by doing something small to change the world. I hope you all join me this Saturday first by switching your lights off, and then trying to go beyond the Earth Hour by doing more.

Mar 23, 2011

Animal Kingdom

I always loved the month of March, not because it is the beginning of spring, but because it includes my birthday as well as spring break. To celebrate these happy occasions we decided to go to Disney's Animal Kingdom for the first time last weekend.

My previous job required a lot of travelling. After all, I went to several Safaris, fed baby lions and saw the Big Five in Kenya and South Africa, so I thought it would not be as exciting; I have to admit I was wrong. It is full of attractions, adventures and entertainment that reflected Disney's dedication to nature,conservation, animal care, education, and research. It's home to more than 1,700 animals from 250 species and spreads across 500 acres of lush landscape, and in fact it's the largest animal-themed park in the world. The park is divided into seven areas: Oasis, Discovery Island, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Asia, Dinoland and my favorite Rafiki's Planet Watch.

The reason I liked Rafiki's Planet Watch the most is that it included attractions like Affection Section where you can pet animals, and Conservation Station where they give you a fun and educational behind-the-scenes look at the animals in the park. There're many things I learnt and like to share with you on Disney's inspiring conservation efforts. As an illustration, Disney's Friends for Change: Project Green encourages kids help the planet through simple actions they can make in their everyday lives. Disney is saving habitats through large-scale efforts to preserve and restore ecosystems, resulting in thousands of acres protected and 3 million trees planted in the Amazon, the Congo and the U.S.; this will help benefit the climate and protect the environment.

Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is supporting programs and people, making a difference by providing community and non-governmental organizations with 14 million dollars in grants since 1995; it has a positive impact on local species, communities and the ecosystem. Their efforts include promoting habitat conservation and working with the scientific communities to preserve the Earth's biodiversity. Accordingly, among other achievements, their work lead to the discovery of 2 new species: a butterfly in Myanmar and a tree frog in Nicaragua.
Seeing the conservation station and learning about their research and protection efforts helped me see that as individuals there are certain things we can do to make a difference like:
  • telling others about the value of wildlife and ecosystems
  • learning more about conservation issues
  • purchasing products that are eco-friendly and sustainable
  • creating habitats for wildlife in your backyard
  • planting fruit and vegetable gardens
  • reducing, recycling, and reusing
  • choosing your pets carefully
  • supporting conservation by volunteering or donating

In short, we don't have to be a multibillion dollar company to make a difference in the world that we live in. A very fun day at a theme park made me realize that there is always new information to be learnt about the environment and how to protect it. I'm trying to make a difference by sharing what I learnt, I hope you do the same and spread the word.

To learn more about how you can help save the environment and its habitats visit:
Cotton-top Tamarins
African Elephant Research at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Green Sea Turtles Satallite Tracking

Mar 9, 2011


Recycling is the process of taking a product at the end of its useful life and using all or part of it to make another product. Although recycling may seem of concern to only a small group of people (I see only a few of the green recycling bins in my neighborhood every Tuesday), it should in fact concern anyone who cares about the environment.

We all know that paper, plastic, glass and metal are recyclable, but we should also realize the importance of recycling items like batteries, cell phones, electronic items, plastic bags and ink cartridges. According to a report by the EPA ,by the year 2020 there'll be so many old, unused, or broken computers, cell phones, and printers that will fill enough dump trucks to circle the earth twice.

Furthermore, my friends say I have recyclemania. By recyclemania, I mean being very enthusiastic about  the process of recycling in this context (I don't think such a word even exists in the English language). Let me explain it a little further. I used to live in a lovely apartment complex; the only problem for an eco-friendly person was the lack of recycling services or facilities. I'm not one to give up easily, so I decided to collect paper, plastic, cans, and glass items in my spare room. Every 2 weeks or so, I used to take them to the closest Recycling Center. I have to admit it was not easy, but it was rewarding because I knew I was trying to do something good for the environment. I'm glad to say since my move to this town-home in 2009, I can recycle without the hassle of going to the Recycling Center. I really think apartment complexes should get a recycling container for its residents who are concerned about the environment.

This is one of the green bins provided by the City for recycling purposes.

I believe that besides recycling, there are other measures to take to lessen our impact on the environment by:
1- Using reusable bags instead of plastic ones that eventually break down into tiny toxic pieces polluting the soil and water.
2- Unplugging unused electronics, extra appliances and chargers when you are not using them.
3- Setting your computers to hibernate or sleep to save energy.
4- Setting your thermostat to 68 degrees for daytime, 55 for night in the winter, and 78 degrees in the summer.
5- If you're planning to buy new appliances making sure that they are energy efficient.
6- Making sure you turn off the light when you are leaving the room.
7- Using a stainless steel thermal bottle or the new reusable filtering water bottle (I actually purchased this item and it works great), instead of plastic water bottle that contains BPA.
These suggestions are good for the world as well as your budget, since you'll save money.

Additionally, I came across a research that shows we currently recover only 5% of the plastics produced. What happens to the rest of it? Unfortunately, 50% is buried in landfills, some is remade into durable goods, and much of it remains “unaccounted for”, lost in the environment where it ultimately washes out to the ocean. If we want to do our part to leave a better world for the next generation, we should reduce our consumption of toxic plastics, resuse paper and other materials, and recycle everything we can. Our goal is basically to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
I'd like to share a few facts that might interest you, and help you influence others on the subject if you realize how easy it is to make a big impact on the environment in a positive way.
Did you know recycling...

  • One aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV or a computer for 3 hours, or a 100-watt light bulb for 20 hours.
  • Six pack of cans save enough energy to drive a car 5 miles.
  • One glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for 4 hours.
  • One gallon plastic milk jug saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for 11 hours.
  • One pound of steel saves enough energy to light a 60-watt light bulb for 26 hours.
  • One-foot high stack of newspapers save enough electricity to heat a house for 17 hours.

Mar 1, 2011

Endangered Plants

I was researching sources for a class project a few days ago when I came across this online advertisement that mentioned Bok Tower Gardens, so I thought I should check it out since I love exploring new places.
It is located on Iron Mountain which is the highest point in the Florida peninsula, on top of the Lake Wales Ridge, 298 feet above sea level. Coincidentallly, it is only an hour drive from where I live. You enter through a big gate where you pay, and then you are surrounded by these orange trees that smell so wonderful that makes you want to get out of your car, grab one and eat it right there.

So many orange trees...

Anyway, after a 2 minute drive you arrive at the Visitor Center where you can find brochures and info about the garden. There are quite a few things to see in this heavenly place that is full of flowers and life. There is the Singing Tower which houses the carillon (has 60 bronze bells and creates this poetic music that matches well with the gardens), the historic Pinewood Estate where Edward Bok (who was the Pulitzer Prize-winning author that built the gardens) lived with his family, Pine Ridge Trail that is a Longleaf Pine-Turkey Oak Habitat, and the most interesting part of it all the Endangered Plant Garden.
This is the Singing Tower.

The Endangered Plant Garden is a display garden of rare Florida native plants; the ones within the circular bed are all federally listed as being globally threatened or endangered. Note: endangered. Plants outside the circular bed are native grasses and wildflowers that grow in association with these rare species. Some of these plants are: Lakela's Mint, Apalachicola Rosemary, Etoniah Rosemary, and Scrub Plum. If anyone is interested, they also have Latin names like Condradina Etonia and Justicia Cooleyi.

This is one of the endangered plants in Florida

Another endangered plant.

The process of creating this Endangered Plant Garden works like this: The National Collection plants are housed in a network of participating institutions across the country. Live material from rare plants is collected from the wild and then maintained under controlled conditions within the network as seed, rooted cuttings, tissue culture, or mature plants. The staff maintains plants for the National Collection on site in the nursery and endangered plant beds. Here, at the Endangered Plant Program, conservation efforts to save endangered plants and their habitats from extinction include seed collection and long-term seed storage, monitoring, reintroduction of plants to the wild, research and education. Their research includes the study of  basic biology of endangered plants and genetics.Bok Tower Gardens has helped to conserve 38 rare Central and North Florida plant species, part of the National Collection of endangered and threatened plants. Of this collection, 29 are federally listed and 35 are state listed as endangered or threatened native flora.

There are many reasons for preserving endangered species and the habitats they live in. These plants provide clean air, water, food, shelter and energy; their existence is vital to the community of plants and also animals. They provide history about the land on which they live and the distinctiveness of Florida habitats.
We need to preserve the plant or the animal , as well as its habitat; the balance is essential to protect the ecosystem. While it is true that the loss of one species may not affect a natural community significantly, it does not necessarily follow that the loss of key or many species won't harm the ecosystem forever.

At the end of the day this road trip introduced me to endangered plants, their research and conservation here in Florida. It was amazing to see the ways we can try to preserve the ecosystem,starting with the endangered species. As Edward Bok once said, "Wherever your lives may be cast, make the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." In other words, try to make the world that you live in a better place by doing good things like protecting the environment. One way we all can make our planet better is to help save rare species so that the future generations can understand their function and see their beauty.

Feb 22, 2011


I was reading an article a few days ago, when I realized the solution was in my hands. The article Planet can be 'unrecognizable' by 2050  states that the population of the planet Earth will climb to 9 billion by the year 2050. Researchers claim that due to this increase, we will have to produce so much food that the planet will be unrecognizable. Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund  says, "More people, more money, more consumption, but the same planet." In other words, the population growth of 2 billion people translates to people eating more than before, but the planet and the resources will still be the same. Anyone familiar with the subject should agree that this predicament is undeniable since our planet has limited resources for a demanding population. This will also increase the amount of other environmental problems like global warming.

My idea of reducing my own carbon print starts with planting a small garden. Now that spring is here, I'll grow my new vegetable and herb garden where I'll try to be sustainable and eco-friendly.
Some of you may recall that I grew my own dill, basil and parsley before, as seen in one of my previuos blogs, but that was a little amateur. Last week I included a How to guide  to create your own Hydroponic garden; this weekend I went to my local Hydro-Organic Garden Center, where I purchased different types of Organic seeds like tomato, oregano, cucumber, arugula, pepper, and a Biodegradable Greenhouse Kit that can be used for all flowers and vegetables.

Here are the steps I took:
1- I poured 76 oz. (2.25 L) of warm water over the Fiber Grow pellets that are placed in the tray. When the pellets expanded to 2" (4-5 cm), I drained the excess water from the tray.

2-I put 2-3 seeds in each pellet gently, and sprayed some water over them.

3-Then I placed the Greenhouse in a warm and bright location, which is in the back garden over the table since it should not be in direct sunlight.

When the vegetables and herbs grow and the roots penetrate the walls of the pellet, I'll remove the weaker plants leaving only the strong ones in each. In about 5-6 weeks, they can be transplanted directly outdoors where they can be exposed to direct sunlight. Hopefully, I will update you with new pictures in a few weeks as the plants grow, and we can all share the joy of growing our own vegetables and herbs. I wholeheartedly believe that this will help lower my carbon footprint in the world, which will also help reduce global warming. That's why I invite all of you to try and plant your own little vegetable, fruit or herb garden in your backyard or balcony. It's never too late, or too small of an effort to try and accomplish something good for the environment.

Feb 16, 2011

The Land

Travelling has been my dream as a child; I grew up reading about fascinating places in different parts of the world. Before I moved to the U.S., I worked as Cabin Crew for Emirates Airlines for 2 years; I was based out of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Thanks to my dream job, I had the opportunity to see many places in Africa, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Last weekend I wanted to feel like visiting some of those places again, that's why I've decided to go to Epcot in Orlando, which is one of four theme parks owned by Disney. My favorite part of the park is called the World Showcase, which is a collective of Pavilions that wrap around the World Showcase Lagoon. Inside the Pavilions, you can find shops, attractions and restaurants that represent the culture and cuisine of 11 countries that reminds me of my travels around the world. I love tasting the food, watching the shows, seeing the smaller versions of the famous landmarks and the stores with different teas, chocolates, and perfumes.
One of the best parts of this theme park is this attraction called Living with the Land, which is a 14-minute boat ride in Future World that explores agricultural advances in the rain forest, Africa and beyond. You can see living laboratories as you cruise past the American plains, a tropical rain forest and the African desert to witness the latest developments in aquaculture and desert farming. Float by experimental greenhouses—where produce is grown for Epcot restaurants—and take a fascinating first-hand look at an aqua environment, the Aquacell, with alligators and fish. The greenhouses grow crops native to many cultures including rice, sugar cane, and bananas. Here scientists are helping farmers grow vegetables and fruits in organic, sustainable ways, and without the use of harmful pesticides.
Wintermelons grown without soil.

Variety of lettuce grown by Hydroponic techniques

 Have you ever seen watermelons grown like this?
Living with the Land has a variety of advanced and experimental growing techniques.
The most interesting method for me is the Hydroponics. The Research Department at Epcot states, "Hydroponics- growing plants without soil-can even be done on your own patio or rooftop, or in your basement or garage if you provide the source of light! Some systems can be set up at a relatively low cost, and if maintained properly, can provide you with delicious fresh herbs and vegetables." In other words, anyone can grow their own Hyroponic garden in their house with a few simple materials and light. I agree that growing your own fresh vegetables and herbs is great, because my experience of growing Organic herbs was so good.

Spiral Nutrient Film Technique

The Hydroponic systems supply the plants with the things that the soil normally provides like support, water, nutrients, and aeration. Nutrients are dissolved in water, and the solution is delivered directly to the plant roots.

Tomato tree grown with no soil.

In the Land  Hydroponic garden, they use several plant varieties that can live well in greenhouses in Central Florida. They have Hungarian Wax pepper, Micro Tom tomato, Extra Curled Dwarf parsley, Red Salad Bowl leaf lettuce, chives, herbs, strawberry, melon, lemon, and other vegetables.

If anyone is interested in growing a Hydroponic garden without the use of fertilizers, I'm including a How to guide here. I hope you'll try it.

How to create a hydroponic gro-tank
10 gallon aquarium
Opaque material (cardboard or construction paper)
Air pump, tubing, wand bubbler, hydroponic nutrients, litmus paper and pH adjusters (all standard aquarium equipment)
Polystyrene board (foam-1"thick- available at hardware stores)
1" Rockwool or Oasis grow cubes (available at Hydroponic Supplier )
seeds (lettuce, herbs, tomato)

1- Set the aquarium in a south window for full light, or an artificial grow light if it's in the garage. Cover the sides of the aquarium with opaque material to prevent light from entering the aquarium; it'll prevent algae growth in the solution.
2- Place air pump outside the aquarium and the air wand bubbler on the bottom of the tank; run the air tubing from the air pump to the wand.
3- Fill the tank with clean water and add hydroponic nutrients. Turn on the air pump and adjust air flow for a soft flow of bubbles.
4- Using the litmus paper, test the solution. The target pH (acidity or basicity level) should be between 5.5 to 6.5.
5- Cut the polystyrene board so that it floats on the solution and fits tightly into the tank. Cut 1" square holes in the board, 6-7 inches apart. You can put 6 plants in the tank.
6- Insert the Rockwool or Oasis cubes containing small seeds into the holes in the board. Make sure that the cube extends below the board so it can actually absorb the solution.
7- Check and adjust the pH of the solution every week. If the solution level has loweres, you can add a half-strength nutrient solution to increase the volume.
8- After your plants are grown, make sure you drain and clean the tank before you start a new cycle.
Good luck and enjoy your fresh eco-friendly veggies and herbs!

Feb 9, 2011

The Hybrid War

To buy a Hybrid, or not to buy? Where should I begin? These are the questions on my mind this week.

A Hybrid car uses more than one source to generate the power to move the vehicle. Some use a smaller gasoline motor to generate electricity needed to run the car and its accessories, while others use a combination of fuel and electric motors, or fuel cells to move. Although Hybrid cars are more expensive and not as appealing as regular ones, they are superior because they offer savings at the gas pump; they are less harmful to the environment and have superior mileage unlike regular ones.

They offer savings because they switch between a gasoline engine and an electric motor. These cars tend to be more expensive due to the motor, battery and extra parts. Basically, a Hybrid uses less gas because it creates its own electrical energy when stopped; breaking converts energy into electricity stored in the battery. The ability to shut off the engine while the motor is running brings further savings to owners. Nationwide sales of Hybrids peaked on April 2008 when gas was about $3.50 a gallon.

This is how the engine works in a Prius.

Cars are the main producers of carbon emissions that are causing global warming. Driving Hybrid vehicles helps reduce the amount of harmful gases. Carbon emissions from U.S. cars contribute to about 5% of the world's total carbon emissions, more than any other industry sector, including the airline industry. Supporters of Hybrid vehicles stated that, by 2050, we'll see dramatic climate changes causing drought in the Amazon, Mediterranean and eastern U.S. These extreme weather patterns reflect the effects of the excess in carbon dioxide emissions from cars.

In addition to creating huge savings at the gas pump and being eco-friendly, Hybrids also have superior mileage. A standard economy vehicle has an MPG of 25 to 30 miles, whereas a Hybrid has an average of 45 to 50 miles. Kim Reynolds, a writer at Motor Trend magazine, states "Prius Profile-aerodynamic streamline shape- will become increasingly common as the EPA's 2020 mandate for a 35 mpg fleet average draws nearer". In other words, she believes that the aerodynamic shape of the Toyota Prius gives it an advantage over other cars to have a higher mileage capacity. Its technologically advanced shape and engine gives it an edge over regular cars and even other Hybrids.

It is true that Hybrids are still more expensive than regular ones, but they are environmentally sensible with better fuel efficiency; their power is a cleaner option for air quality and fuel consumption. Nevertheless, the concept of a better car continues to grab consumers' attention. I think the most positive side of replacing regular vehicles and dependence on foreign oil supplies is the Hybrid car for now. So, whether it is to protect the environment, to pay less at the gas pump, or to brag about how trendy you are by driving the latest Hybrid car, you are better off driving a Hybrid than a regular one with higher carbon emissions and one that uses more gas that costs more.