Why Exactly Is Flying Bad for the Environment?

2959294675_c4e94455a7_o (1)

Dear EarthTalk: Why is it that airplane exhaust is so much worse for the environment than engine emissions on the ground?
– Winona Sharpe, New York, NY

While air travel today accounts for just three percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants that come out of jet exhaust contribute disproportionately to increasing surface temperatures below because the warming effect is amplified in the upper atmosphere.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the United Nations (UN) to provide comprehensive scientific assessments of the risk of human-induced climate change, reports that CO2 emitted by jets can survive in the atmosphere for upwards of 100 years, and that its combination with other gas and particulate emissions could have double or four times the warming effect as CO2 emissions alone.

Modern jet engines are not that different from automobile engines—both involve internal combustion and burn fossil fuels. But instead of gasoline or diesel, jet fuel is primarily kerosene, a common home heating fuel used around the world. Just like car engines, jets emit CO2, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and soot.

Beyond their contributions to global warming, airplane emissions can also lead to the formation of acid rain and smog, as well as visibility impairment and crop damage down on the ground. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that aircraft engines contribute about one percent of total U.S. mobile source nitrogen oxide emissions and up to four percent around airports in some areas.

What worries environmentalists is the fact that the number of airline flights is on the rise and is expected to skyrocket by mid-century, meaning that if we don’t get a handle on airplane emissions, our other carbon footprint reduction efforts could be for naught. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports that commercial flights grew nine percent from 2002 to 2010 and will rise another 34 percent by 2020.

(more…)

Best Travel BB Cream Ever: Marie Veronique Organics Moisturizing Face Screen

Starreflowers2
Starre Vartan wearing Marie Veronique Organics Moisturizing Face Screen—and nothing else.

Remember that old tagline from American Express in the 80′s? “Don’t Leave Home Without It” was said zillions of times about all sorts of stuff when I was growing up (and not just because my father was part of the ad team that came up with the expression). The phrase is less popular now, but still comes up often to me when I’m traveling; in the last year or so, it’s been in reference to Marie Veronique Organics Moisturizing Face Cream. This BB cream really does it all—which is what you need when on the road (when I don’t wear any other makeup); moisturizer, sun protection and skin-evener all in one natural product.

MarieVeroniqueBBCream

According to the Marie Veronique Organics site, the cream “Protects against both UVA and UVB rays with higher concentrations of non-nano zinc oxide, ideal for heavier sun exposure days,” which I’ve found to be true. Even though I almost always wear a hat and keep out of the midday sun, I find that it can be hard not to be out and about when you are traveling, and for that, I need a real sunscreen, not just a basic moisturizer with a bit of SPF. This screen is 30 SPF and not only does it block sun naturally, it moisturizes beautifully, and covers up my imperfections very thoroughly. It doesn’t rub off easily, and has never made me break out (which other sun protection usually does). Zinc oxide, a natural sunblocking agent, and a green tea/white tea infusion work together for sun protection, and red raspberry seed oil was “the subject of a study published in 2000 that showed that it could help prevent rash, eczema, and other skin lesions, and had superior anti-inflammatory properties. Raspberry seed oil also showed the potential to act as a broad-spectrum UV-shield due to its high anthocyanin content.”

Ingredients:

Active Ingredient: 20% non-nano zinc oxide

Camellia sinensis (green& white tea), non-nano zinc oxide, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba oil), Prunus armeniaca (apricot kernel oil), Limnanthes alba (meadowfoam seed oil), Helianthus annuus (sunflower oil), emu oil, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), vegetable glycerin, Elaesis guineensis (red palm oil), Rubus idaeus (red raspberry seed oil), lecithin, potassium sorbate, allantoin, Cosmocil CQ*, xanthan gum, mica, Hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn oil), Calodendrum Capense (yangu oil), Rosemarinus officinalis (rosemary oleoresin), pearl powder, Daucus carota (carrot seed) essential oil, Cistus incanus (cistus) essential oil, Helichrysum italicum (helichrysum) essential oil, iron oxides, Spirulina platensis (spirulina) (medium tint only).

*Paraben-free anti-microbial agent

**Not a vegan product

Eco Chick Tested means that this product passes the personal ethical, health and environmental standards of the staff at Eco Chick (as any product we feature in any way has to); it also means that we genuinely love how it works, smells, and wears.

Mexico City: A Young, Modern, Colorful Metropolis

StarreBikeMexicoCity
Starre Vartan in Mexico City.

This story was originally featured on MNN.com

Over the years, I've heard my fair share about Mexico City, mostly negatives—crime, terrible air pollution and, well, crime topped the list. But upon a recent visit to the capital, I non only felt totally safe (a vibe which is backed up by plenty of news reports that have called the city a 'refuge' from crime in the country), but that I was wandering in the midst of a European city, not one south of the border. In addition to the city's much-reduced crime rate, it has been seriously (and successfully) fighting its pollution problem (like Los Angeles, its once-noticable smog wasn't in evidence when I visited), and even boasts some air-cleaning giant green walls

I spent four days enjoying this capital city; here are some of my favorite sights and experiences, as captured by my camera (there is plenty more to see, so I'm planning a return voyage sometime next year!)

DSC06455

Street cafes and al fresco dining were ubuiquitous in some neighborhoods; the exterior of this restaurant was a gorgeous example, with potted plants shading the sidewalk (and pedestrians walking through the dining area, which would make for some ideal people-watching!) 

DSC06440

Decorative ironwork is popular in most places with a warm climate; Mexico City's Roma neighborhood has plenty of examples that catch the sunshine and give beautiful attention to light and shadow. 

DSC06198
I had such a blast in Mexico City: I can’t wait to go back! (more…)

Killington Ski Mountain’s Gondolas are Powered by What?

killington

I had been looking forward to a family ski trip over this past New Year’s for quite a while. I was ready to hit the slopes again. The last time I had skied was several years back when I made a frantic descendance down the mountain with tears streaming down, and freezing on my face. I thought I had frostbite on my hands and feet.

As it turned out, I did not have frostbite and I hadn’t gone insane. I learned I had developed a pesky condition called “Raynaud’s Phenomenon” which can make the cold very painful. For years, I’d get attacks of Raynaud’s where my fingers and toes turned white and went numb. It’s really not very attractive or comfortable, at all.

I limited my exposure to the cold during the winter, or as best as I could living in New York. Walking down the refrigerated isles in supermarkets was miserable, and skiing was most certainly off the table which really bummed me out. I grew up skiing, and with every winter that passed, I missed the thrill and the serenity of the sport more and more.

More recently my sensitivity to the cold hadn’t been bothering me as much and my Raynaud’s attacks were less frequent. So I figured ‘what the heck,’ why not give skiing one last shot.

My first day of skiing in years was this past New Year’s Eve at Killington Resort. Fittingly, I rode a gondola powered by cow manure up the mountain for my first run.

killington 2

Killington partnered with Green Mountain Power to cleverly use uses cow manure — a byproduct of dairy farming that already exists in abundance throughout the state — as an energy source.

Under GMP’s Cow Power program, manure is collected from Vermont’s dairy farms: 10,000 cows from 13 farms across the state produce roughly 300,000 gallons of manure per day. That is a lot of manure.

Under the process, farms collect cow manure throughout the day, mixing it with wash water from the milking equipment which is then pumped into an anaerobic digester. The slurry flows through a digester for about three weeks at 100 degrees Fahrenheit allowing bacteria to convert the manure into biogas, about 60% methane gas and 40% carbon dioxide. The biogas is then delivered to a modified natural gas engine, which drives an electric generator to create electricity. Finally, the energy generated is fed onto the GMP electrical system which ultimately powers the K-1 Express Gondola.

Geotourism: About More Than Just the Environment, Includes Culture, Aesthetics, Heritage

ecotourism
A woman cooks traditional Mexican food in the mountain town of Cuetzalan. Photo by Starre Vartan.

Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard of Eco-Tourism, but what on Earth is “Geo-Tourism?
– Sally Kardaman, Sumter, SC

“Geotourism” describes tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a given place, including its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of local residents. The idea is that tourism can be a positive force that benefits both travelers and local environments and economies.

National Geographic Senior Editor Jonathan Tourtellot coined the term in 1997 to distinguish it from “ecotourism” or “sustainable tourism,” both which more narrowly focus on travel’s ecological impacts. In addition to a “do-no-harm” ethic, geotourism seeks to enhance prospects for sustainable development based on the specific character of a given place rather than on standardized international branding, generic architecture and food, etc. In other words, a geotourism tour won’t involve sending you to an exotic locale only to put you up at a Hilton or Marriot and give you discount coupons to Taco Bell and McDonald’s.

“Today the world’s great destinations are under assault as visitor numbers rise exponentially every year,” reports the non-profit National Geographic Society, publisher of National Geographic. “The result is damage to the sites, overcrowding and erosion of the local culture and environment.” The Society hopes to reverse these trends with geotourism. Its Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD) helps local communities, governments, tourism bureaus and private businesses enhance and sustain their distinct character while harnessing the power of tourism for positive impact: “Residents discover their own heritage by learning that things they take for granted may be interesting to outsiders,” reports CSD. “As local people develop pride and skill in showing off their locale, tourists get more out of their visit.”
(more…)

1 3 4 5 6 7 14