Solar Power How Does It Save The Environment Saguaro The King Of Cacti Recycling Resolutions Bio Fuels The Fuel Of The Future

You’ve probably heard a lot about solar energy and how efficient it is. Moreover, over the last few years, there have been several moves to see how effectively we can use solar power in an attempt to alleviate the energy crisis that the world faces. So, how does using solar energy fit into the bigger picture of protecting our environment? The point is that even small changes in the way we do things go a long way in terms of saving our environment.

Solar energy is a renewable energy source

The sun offers us a great source of renewable energy; it’s been around for over four billion years and is likely to stay around for another five billion years, during its life it will supply us with a steady stream of energy. So, apart from the obvious fact of solar energy is in abundance, people who are environmentally conscious find that using solar energy is an excellent way to help protect the environment.

But what makes solar energy an attractive option is the fact that unlike polluting fossil fuels, its availability is not governed by the oil industry, an industry that is riddled with capitalistic individuals, and influenced heavily by several geographic and political factors that invariably affect the supply.

Solar Energy on the other hand is a clean environmentally friendly energy resource and a very viable alternative to existing fossil fuels that pollute our lands, water and air, threaten our health, and contribute substantially to global warming.

Solar energy transformed into thermal (or heat) energy can be used to:

* Cook food
The visual identity of the American southwest has certain iconic signifiers: desert plains, tumbleweeds, rusty-red rock formations and a certain towering cactus called the Saguaro. These cacti, some as tall as 50 feet and as heavy as 8 tons, are one of the greatest symbols of America’s wild deserts.

The Saguaro Cactus is found only in the Sonora Desert, from sea-level to elevations of approximately 4,000 feet, and limited by freezing winter temperatures. Though their habitat is threatened by human encroachment, the Saguaro is a common cactus and is not endangered. They are a protected species in the confines of Arizona’s Saguaro National Park.

Though it may eventually grow as tall as a 2 story house, the Saguaro is a very slow-developing cactus that only grows between 1 and 1 1/2 inches in the 1st 8 years of its life.

Its initial survival strategy involves finding protection under the bows of a “nurse tree”.

Species of trees used by the Saguaro in this manner include the Palo Verde, the Ironwood and the Mesquite. Often, as the Saguaro grows ever-larger, the nurse tree is killed as the cactus monopolizes all the nutrients and water in the soil. The Saguaro cactus is considered and adult at 125 years old. Its life span is normally between 150 and 175 years, though some are thought to be as old as 200. The Saguaro cactus has a number of distinctive physical features. The roots of the Saguaro grow in a radial pattern, the better to absorb moisture. Pleats on the cactus’ surface can expand to store enormous amounts of water, which comprise most of its bulk. Inside the cactus are a number of interconnected woody struts or ribs, numbering the same as the cactus’ pleats, which provide the structural stability needed to support its great weight. When the cactus reaches approximately 35 years of age it begins to produce flowers, normally on the tips of its branches and its trunk, and continues to do so for the rest of its life. The famous arm-like branches of the Saguaro begin to appear when the cactus is between 50 and 100 years old, depending on the amount of precipitation its habitat receives. Damage or mutation sometimes causes the formation of rare fanlike crests on the top of the cactus.

The Saguaro cactus is an important source of food and shelter for a variety of Arizona wildlife. Birds as diverse as the Gila Woodpecker and the Red-tailed Hawk make their nests in these cacti (one on the inside, one on the outside). Birds, coyotes and other animals eat the Saguaro’s fruit when it ripens in the late summer. The cactus’ pulpy flesh is also a food-source for everything form large animals like deer and Bighorn Sheep to rodents like jackrabbits and packrats. Local peoples also use the fruit as a foodstuff.

From April to June the bats, birds and insects that feed on the nectar of the Saguaros’ large, white flowers help to pollinate the cacti. When animals eat the Saguaro’s fruit its roughly 2,000 little black seeds pass harmlessly and unharmed through their digestive systems to be scattered throughout the Sonora Desert in the creatures’ droppings. Though only a tiny number of seeds take root, and few cacti survive to reach their gigantic potential, enough do to ensure the Saguaro’s status of the American King of Cacti.

Happy New Year!

It’s not too late to make your recycling resolutions.

The holidays are finally over and we can all hopefully begin slowing down and getting our lives back to normal.

If your home is like mine, the holidays left you with a huge mess. Empty boxes and torn wrapping paper litter the floor after the kids excitedly open their gifts. It’s so tempting to gather it all up and through it in the outside garbage bin.

But this is a great opportunity to not only recycle, but to reuse. Almost all of the wrapping paper and boxes can be recycled, so consider keeping your contribution out of the landfill. And for the reuse possibilities…they are practically endless. I’m pretty sure that most of the ribbons I use have been used for several years. And many of the boxes that hold the gifts are great to use for packaging gifts next year. Do you realize that many stores now CHARGE you for a gift box? Sheesh, I’ll save mine for next year, thank you. Not to mention the gift bags. I LOVE getting my gifts in those pretty little bags. Especially since I know I will be using it for someone else’s gift somewhere down the road. Do you know how much those things cost? They are outrageous. No way would I throw them away. They are too valuable.

Now what are we to do with the tree? If you use an artificial tree, it’s a pretty easy decision. You fold it up and store it for next year. Simple. And if you are lucky enough to live in a warm environment and purchased a live tree including the root ball, you can get to work planting it in your yard to enjoy for years to come. But what about cut trees? Most communities offer some sort of Christmas tree recycling. The lucky ones have curbside pickup to recycle their trees. The rest of us need to decide what to do. What convinces me to haul the tree to the recycling facility is a couple of things.

I was willing to haul it home after I purchased it, so I can just as easily take it to be recycled.

Some communities use the old trees to shred and cover pathways and trails through parks. This helps to repair and reduce the damage we create as we enjoy our hikes.

Some communities turn the old trees into mulch and then provide it to the public for free! What a deal. Spring is just right around the corner, by the way.

So that pretty much covers what we can do to reduce our holiday effect on the environment. Now it’s a new year and we can begin thinking about getting a fresh start.

Some resolutions to consider:

– Resolve to begin recycling if you don’t already. You can start small. This site provides a wealth of information about getting your recycling efforts off the ground.

– If you already recycle, step it up a notch. If your curbside recycling service doesn’t accept a particular item (like glass or cardboard), resolve to begin taking that item to the drop off facility in your area.

– Resolve to purchase more products packaged with post consumer recycled materials. The higher the percentage listed on the package, the better.

– Resolve to purchase more items made from recycled materials. Paper towels, toilet paper, napkins, and many other paper products fall into this category.

– Resolve to purchase more items in bulk, thus reducing packaging waste.

– Resolve to create at least one creative craft using something you might otherwise throw away. This is fun, gets your creative juices flowing, can reduce stress, and is a g reat way to spend some quality time with your family.

Biomass burning has an overall impact on the atmospheric chemistry as well as the climate. When there is a fire in the savannas, or tropical forests, or like the recent California fire, large quantities of particulate matter and trace gases are released.

Biomass fuel is also known as Bio-fuel. Bio-fuel is defined as liquid, solid or gaseous fuel that consists of biomass. Biomass fuels can be used for generating power and also for heating purposes.

Biomass fuels can help greatly in reducing the various greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time can increase energy security by being an alternative to fossil fuels. Today, you will find expansion of bio-fuel industries in Asia, Europe, and America.

Bio-fuels are most commonly used in automotive transport like the E10 fuel. They can easily be produced from any source containing carbon like plants. Biomass is mostly derived from living organisms, which includes animals, plants, and their by-products. Manure, crop residues and garden waste are some of the different sources of biomass. This is a renewable energy source that is associated to the carbon cycle as compared to various natural resources like coal, petroleum, and nuclear energy.

Some of the most popular agricultural products that are grown for the purpose of creating Bio-fuel in the United States are soybeans and corn while Europe uses wheat, rapeseed and sugar beet; sugar cane is grown in Brazil, Jatropha in India and palm oil in South-East Asia.

In the early part of 2007, Diversified Energy Corporation with the help of North Carolina State University (NCSU) geared itself for a breakthrough in biofuel technology, which has been named Centia. Centia has been positioned for producing military and commercial jet fuel and can even act as a biodiesel additive in cold or freezing weather. The process of developing Centia looks promising and is expected to deliver a high energy efficiency level that can be in excess of 85%.

There are a wide variety of scientific experiments being conducted, globally, to produce a viable bio-fuel that will be efficient and environmentally friendly. Scientists have started to look beyond the bio-fuels and started to work on the various byproducts of bio-fuel that can be used and even consumed as food in our daily lives.

Considered as an integral part of the green revolution, bio-fuels offer quite a few advantages over other fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. Bio fuels have the ability to recycle carbon dioxide with every growing season by getting it from the air to convert it into biomass. So unlike coal, which upon burning releases carbon, biomass in a way traps all the carbon that is in the air. This is an important aspect from the point of view of global warming because it doesn’t release any carbon components into the air. The biggest advantage over conventional fuel is that bio-fuel is renewable and hence they will not deplete the limited natural resources of our planet.

Common Biomass Fuels

Here is a list of some of the most common first generation Biomass fuels:

Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil is used for cooking food and also as a fuel. Vegetable oil is not high quality oil for fuel use but it is still used in older diesel engines, which are equipped with an indirect injection system.

In most of the cases, vegetable oil is used for manufacturing bio-diesel that is compatible with most of the diesel engines. It is normally blended with conventional diesel fuel for optimum efficiency.

Bio-diesel

Bio-diesel is one of the most common Bio-fuels in Europe. It is produced mainly from fats or oils using the process of trans-esterification. It is a liquid that has a similar composition like that of mineral diesel. The chemical name for bio-diesel is fatty acid methyl ester (FAME).

The oil is mixed with methanol or ethanol and sodium hydroxide, which initiates a chemical reaction to produce glycerol and bio-diesel (FAME). The process produces 1 part of glycerol per 10 parts of bio-diesel.

Bio-diesel is extensively used in diesel engines after it is blended with mineral diesel. Some countries like Germany have manufacturers Volkswagen, who provide a cover on their diesel engines as a part of their warranty for 100% bio-diesel use.

A majority of vehicle manufacturers still limit to use of 15% bio-diesel blended with mineral diesel. In some of the European countries, 5% bio-diesel blend is widely used and even available at gas stations

Bio-ethanol

Ethanol is one of the most common Bio-fuels across the world. It is also known as an alcohol fuel and is produced by fermenting sugars, which are derived from corn, wheat, sugar cane and sugar beet. The various production methods for ethanol are fermentation of the sugars, enzymatic digestion, distillation and drying.

The use of Ethanol has been widely seen in petrol engines where it replaces gasoline. Almost all the petrol engines in the world can run on 15% blends of bio-ethanol with gasoline.

With an eye on the diminishing natural resources, its time for us to usher in the bio-fuel era!

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