Earth Saving News > September 28, 2010

Shrinking federal footprints.

Capitol BuildingWhen it comes to reducing their carbon footprint, the U.S. federal government has a clear goal in mind: a 28% reduction by 2020. This figure comes from an executive order penned last fall, and this year some 56 government agencies are outlining their plans to cut emissions. With nearly 500,000 buildings, more than 600,000 vehicles, and 1.8 - 4 million combined federal employees (because differing ways of measuring federal employment produces different counts), the government represents the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. So a 28% reduction in government emissions would translate into significant cost savings for agencies and American taxpayers!

What are some of the government’s big green ideas? The Army Corps of Engineers is installing solar electric systems on nine dams in California; across the country the Environmental Protection Agency is already converting several office rooftops into green spaces; and by 2030 the Department of the Interior is planning for all of its new buildings to achieve net-zero energy, outputting as much energy as they consume.

With thousands of green ideas submitted to the White House, the federal government is poised to become a leader in sustainable business practices. But government employees already lead the charge by giving back to the environment each fall through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC)! Pledges made through EarthShare during the critical CFC season support hundreds of non-profit environmental and conservation organizations working to protect your health and our natural resources. Our thanks go to the millions of federal employees who have donated more than $120 million through EarthShare since 1988.

Please renew your gift through the CFC this year!


Mutant fish fry in your future?


We’ve all been hearing about genetically modified salmon in the news, and last week AquaBounty Technologies, the Massachusetts company proposing the fast-growing fish, met with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make their case. After three days of hearings, the FDA was unable to come to a decision on allowing the sale of the fish.

So what’s the difference between a regular salmon and an AquAdvantage salmon? The modified version is described as an Atlantic salmon with added growth hormones from the Chinook salmon and the ocean pout fish. All of these extras would allow the genetically engineered (GE) salmon to grow twice as fast and require 10% less feed than regular farmed salmon, making them considerably cheaper to produce. Although the FDA found the fish to be safe for human consumption, many organizations are very concerned with the limited amount of testing conducted on the modified salmon -- and the nonexistent testing by the FDA. “There can be a lot of unintended side effects when you do genetic modification," Wenonah Hauter of EarthShare member charity Food and Water Watch tells Mother Jones, "In the case of salmon, one test on six fish just seems very insufficient for something that will open the floodgates to other GE meat and fish."

Environmentally speaking, the new super salmon could pose a serious threat to native salmon populations if they ever escape into the wild. Because farmed salmon are already outcompeting wild salmon for food and mates, GE approval may mean extinction for the remaining native fish.

Concerned about genetically modified food hitting your supermarket prematurely? Check out Food and Water Watch’s new Frankenfish video and learn what you can do to prevent GE fish from reaching your dinner plate.


Don’t let the bedbugs (or the cure) bite.


Last week, the recent nationwide bedbug boom took center stage at a first-of-its-kind bedbug convention. The sold-out event welcomed researchers, pest control specialists and government officials, all aiming to find solutions for controlling the newly thriving insect. This is because the bedbug has been enjoying a resurgence in cities like New York, where infestations have been reported at movie theatres, retail stores and even office buildings. And since the critters can live for months without food, can travel easily, and will find a hiding spot almost anywhere, the latest influx has become a particularly sticky (and itchy) situation.

One of the biggest problems with ridding ourselves of this pest, which feeds on human blood while we’re sleeping, is the harsh and expensive chemical process typically prescribed to remove them. Although the rebound of the bedbug is often blamed on the 1970s banning of the pesticide DDT, it turns out that the bloodsuckers are actually resistant to DDT and have been developing resistance to a growing list of alternative pesticides. The current poison of choice, pyrethroids, are quickly becoming less effective at controlling the bountiful bugs.

Considering that even EPA-approved pesticides are linked to cancer, organ damage, asthma, and more ill-effect in humans, many people are understandably interested in the greener pest control solutions highlighted at last week’s summit.

What to do if you discover bedbugs in your home? Get educated about your options before you rush to dial your local exterminator. Check out EarthShare member charity Beyond Pesticides’ Bed Bug Factsheet for a list of tips, monitoring advice, and safe, non-toxic solutions.



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