Phone(y) Health

April 29, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Government, Health, Technology

With all this talk about health care, toxicity, and who knows ‘the facts’, it seemed only appropriate to shed a little bit of light on a lesser recognized health issue, our cell phones. It is estimated that 4.6 Billion individuals use cell phones on a regular basis. An astounding number that attests to the epidemic that is cell phone use. So what of these electromagnetic wonders?

SARs for Phones

The most major concern is about “SAR”, or Specific Absorption Rates that have been loosely tied to various negative human health issues including cancer. Governments have regulated the maximum SAR level in the US to 1.6 W/kg over 1 gram of tissue on the head. You can check your phone’s SAR rating online. Phones with more features, like camera’s and the internet typically produce significantly more radiation than the older phones that work for calls and text only.

Science on the Hazards: Can you hear us now?

How hazardous are our new gadgets? There is a large debate, with very little consistent (or funded) scientific evidence that directly links cell phone use to cancer, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and heart palpitations. The World Health Organization declared the studies ‘inconclusive’ and are scheduled to product their own report this year on the issue. The National Radiation Advisory Authorities on the other hand recommend the Precautionary Principle. By avoiding use and exposure to cell phone radiation, you can avoid waiting for an “Uh Oh” response, like DDT in the 1960s.

Precautionary Principle

The Precautionary Principle appears to be the smartest option. There is a large vested interest in the spread of cell phones, from building towers in African deserts with the assumption of future markets to coming out with a new ‘must have gadget’ every two years. With this type of investment, it is difficult to evaluate the scientific studies that have been conducted. Similar to the Genetically Modified Organism debate, the science investigating the health effects of cell phones has been muted.

The general agreed upon studies request that studies are conducted for 10 years, more time than I myself have even used a cell phone, with new technology evolving constantly modifying the reliance on cell phones. So instead of waiting for a report, it may be helpful to adhere to these guidelines suggested by various radiation, cell phone, and health organizations.

Cell Phone Use Safety Tips

Here are some helpful hints to reduce your exposure:

  • Use handsets & headsets
  • Text instead of voicemail
  • Limit children’s exposure and use of cell phones
  • Do not sleep with your phone near you, for instance on your bedside table
  • Do not use your phone in low to no coverage areas. They require more radiation to gain the signal.
Depicts 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day.Cell Phones
Photo by Chris Jordan.

If you learn that your phone is above the regulated and/or suggested limits and need a new phone, please be sure to recycle your cell phone. In 2007, it was estimated that 426,000 cell phones are thrown out in the US every year! So close the loop, recycle or donate your phone when needed and see what the Precautionary Principle can do for you!

GoodSearch: A Charitable Internet Search Alternative

April 27, 2010 · Filed Under Green, Technology

If your internet habits are anything like mine, then you perform several internet searches every day.  A great way of getting more out of your searching is to use GoodSearch (www.goodsearch.com), a charitable alternative powered by Yahoo! Search.

Unlike conventional internet search engines, GoodSearch donates half of its revenue to the nonprofit organization of your choice.  This amounts to a donation of about a penny per search but, as you can imagine, the pennies add up after a while.  For instance, searches on GoodSearch have raised over $1,900 for the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council).

You can add a GoodSearch bar to your browser if you use Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.  Part of the beauty of GoodSearch is that, beyond choosing an organization to help and adding the bar to your browser, using GoodSearch requires no extra effort on your part.

And just think of all of the environmental organizations that you can help.  The National Audubon Society, Earthwatch Institute, the Rainforest Action Network … or a small, local nonprofit on your choice.  My searches help Riverkeeper (Tarrytown, NY), New York’s Clean Water Advocate.  Who will you search for?

Swaptree and Save a Tree

April 26, 2010 · Filed Under Green, Technology

Free Books,  Fewer Resources

If you are anything like me, then you keep most of the books that you have read up to this point and have either shelved them (where most of mine have landed), lent or gave them away to friends, or tried to sell them at a yard sale or to a second-hand store.  I have never thrown away a book that I no longer wanted, and I’ll bet most people do not.  Throwing already-been-read books away is probably not a big environmental concern as books tend to hold value for us, even after we’re done reading them-either sentimental value or an aesthetic one, as many of us like to display them in our bookcases.

What is more of an eco issue, however, are the numbers of new books that we Americans purchase on a regular basis.  Libraries are great, but what if it is a new, best-seller you seek?  Borrowing a book that is in great demand at your local library can take weeks, even months.  And if you have a child at home who is obsessed with getting the next installment of Magic Tree House or Captain Underpants, being on a library wait-list, no matter how green it may be, just isn’t going to cut it.  So I, and undoubtedly many others, find myself taking regular trips to our local bookseller to pick up a copy of our new must-have.  As a regular customer of eBay, I began to wonder if there wasn’t some kind of a swap site that focuses primarily on books.  One simple web search later and voila!  Apparently many other folks thought this would be a good idea, too.

As I am mostly in the market for children’s chapter books, which my daughter blazes through at a lighting-fast pace, I visited many sites hoping that I would find one that offers a large selection of this particular genre.  I also looked for a site that was well-organized, user-friendly, and had a lot of members, making successful swapping possible.  I settled upon Swaptree.com right away.  Easy to use, with an excellent design, I signed up on the spot and began listing items I was willing to swap with others.  Not just books, Swaptree also welcomes swapping of  video games, Cd’s and DVD’s.  Within hours, I had made three trades.  Our first Wii game arrived today and two books are also on their way.  When you become a member of Swaptree, you can decide what you want on your wish list as well as what items you are willing to offer in trade.  Every trade must be authorized by both parties, and much like eBay, members can give each other ratings to ensure that proper trading etiquette is maintained.

So how green a concept does Swaptree have on their hands?  As I stated earlier, I do not think people are throwing away these items on a regular basis, but many of us do purchase new ones fairly frequently.  In contrast, however, when you swap with others, rather than buying new, there is an ongoing savings of paper and plastic as well as resources.  And like eBay, members of Swaptree make up their own community, where people are excited to share what they already have with others.  Messages can be passed back and forth and today I received an enthusiastic “Your book is on its way.  Enjoy!”  As it is stated on the Swaptree website, “When you share well, you swap well.”  What a great message to receive as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day this past week.

Consumer Reports Electric Car Survey

March 19, 2010 · Filed Under Automobiles, News

Consumer reports recently conducted a survey on the features consumer would want from an electric car.  Out of the 1,752 respondents, over 70% would consider buying an electric car based.  That’s a good percentage especially considering that there are no electric cars available on the market.  There were also many features that would have to be met for many of the people to buy.

  • A range of around 89 miles.
  • Only slightly higher price range than current gas-powered cars.
  • Available charge stations, especially at work

Many of the expectations that the respondents could be met by the Nissan Leaf, an affordable price with a fairly high range.  The hardest part to draw people to buy EV is going to be charge stations.  Until many more charge stations are set up, people will be hesitant to buy.

For the full survey, check out Consumer reports.

Choosing a Hybrid Vehicle

March 8, 2010 · Filed Under Automobiles, Green

The Union of Concerned Scientists has recently released a hybrid scorecard on their website, www.hybridcenter.org , which ranks hybrid vehicles by environmental impact, value (price) and forced features (features which do not come standard that drive up the cost of the vehicle).   The scorecard can be found at www.hybridcenter.org/hybrid-scorecard/index.html.   Clicking on any of the vehicle links will give you detailed summaries about each model as well as additional information about their findings.   For more information about choosing a hybrid vehicle and other helpful recommendations, visit the hybrid score findings link at www.hybridcenter.org/hybrid-scorecard/hybrid-scorecard-findings.html.

Toyota Prius Greenest Car in 2010?

March 1, 2010 · Filed Under Automobiles, News, Polls

Consumer Reports announced it list of top cars in various categories, including green.  The Toyota Prius received the award for being the top Green Car in 2010.  This is the seventh year in a row that the Prius has won this award in this category.

It’s still the most fuel-efficient car in our Ratings, getting 44 mpg overall. That distinction helped it earn our pick in this category for the seventh straight year, the longest of any current model. In addition, the Prius is a pleasant car to drive, with a roomy interior, a steady ride, hatchback versatility, and excellent reliability and crash-test results. The 2010 redesign also gave it a more solid feel and a dedicated EV mode that allows it to run longer on electric power at low speeds, an advantage mainly in slow, congested traffic.

I would question the reliability aspect because of the recent recalls, but it seems pretty apparent that the Prius seems to be considered the best “green” car by many, not just Consumer Reports.

I have not driven a Prius or driven in one, but I have not had good experiences with people I know who drive them.   It’s great that people want to buy a car that uses less gas mileage and is more eco-friendly, but some people buy these cars like they do new electronic devices.  Another thing that made me a little frustrated is the fact that some feel they can drive more just because they now have a more gas efficient car.  This mentality negates the whatever benefit you are receiving from having a more fuel efficient vehicle.

My experiences are with some of the owners of the Prius, not the car itself.   Overall, the Prius seems like a pretty good vehicle and great car to consider if in need of a new vehicle.  I would still much rather have a full EV than just a hybrid, but they are still a few years away from hitting the market.  It’s also good to find other ways than buying a new car to save on gas or avoid using a car at all.  Some include biking, car pooling, public transportation and many other gas saving tips.

I decided to include a poll to get an idea of how you feel about the Prius being the top green car on the market.

Is the Prius the Greenest Car of 2010?

View Results

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Nissan’s Leaf Electric Vehicle

February 3, 2010 · Filed Under Automobiles

Nissan has finally come with an electric vehicle that separates itself from the other major manufacturers.  The Nissan Leaf was released late last year with a lithium-ion battery system which has a range of 100 miles.  The production version of this vehicle has already been released and should be available in markets later this year.

Turn Down Thermostat
Photo by cliff1066™.

The Leaf is the first electric vehicle on the market that offers both a fairly long range and affordable price.  Let’s take a look at some of the features of this vehicle:

  • Battery: 24 kWh lithium ion battery
  • Battery Life: 100 miles per charge
  • Speed: Up to 90 miles per hour
  • Seating: 5 seat hatchback
  • Charge: Quick charge of 30 minutes at 440V / Full charge in standard US home, 8 hours
  • Monitor: Dash mounted system monitor
  • Cool Feature: Mobile connected to charge battery.
  • Cost: $25,000 – $33,000

All these features cover the majority of American drivers today.  It may not be practical yet for a drive across the country, but it would cover most people.  The average driver doesn’t even get close to 90 mph and 100 miles is plenty for the daily commuter.

The Leaf recently won Green Car Journal’s Vision Award because of the practical pricing of this vehicle.  Unlike many of the other electric vehicles in America, it was able to achieve an affordable price, yet still get good speed and range.

There are still two major challenges that electric vehicles still have to face: better battery technology and charging stations.  Battery technology is constantly getting better, so that problem should resolve itself as times passes.  The bigger problem is to get charge stations set up throughout America.  Until that day comes, electric vehicles will not be the car of choice for the average commuter.

For a fully comprehensive look at the Nissan Leaf, check out Autoblog’s in depth look.

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