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Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day 2012: Garnering The Power Of Technology To Protect "Nuestra Tierra"

By Mark Magana
Executive Director
National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC)

This Sunday marks the 42nd observance of Earth Day, commemorating the first massive nationwide protest against the degradation of our environment. Across the U.S. close to 20 million people held demonstrations to place environmental protection on the national political agenda. Over the years, Earth Day has turned into an event of global proportions, raising public awareness about pollution, conservation, sustainability and more importantly, urging world leaders to translate environmental concerns into public policies that will curb the threats of climate change and decrease our reliance on dirty and harmful sources of energy.
For our organization, the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC), environmental protection is about safeguarding the health and quality of life of the Latino community, a population that is heavily concentrated in areas where pollution from industry and vehicles are not only accelerating climate change but also making our air harmful to breathe. Through research, policy, and educational outreach, we are building the knowledge base about environmental issues among Latinos. We are informing Latinos across the U.S. about the stake that we have in protecting the environment, promoting a clean-energy economy and ultimately, making local and national environmental goals work for our families and communities.
The question now is, how can individuals take action to stand up for our environment, nuestra Tierra. Luckily there are some exciting new technologies and devices that can amplify our efforts and help make it easier for individuals, communities, and businesses to work together for the good of the Earth, particularly reducing carbon and greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases.
There are now a variety of “green” apps available for mobile devices, which can help people choose the best energy-efficient light bulbs, discover nearby walking and biking trails to explore the outdoors, and even find locally-grown foods with a smaller carbon footprint. The list doesn’t end there: Eco-friendly apps are available to help people learn about recycling, monitor fuel efficiency, and locate green products (and even verify product label claims).
Individuals and families can use technology to enhance green lifestyles and to improve their conservation efforts, but there are many technologies available to help Latino businesses be more efficient and environmentally conscious too. For example, Machine to Machine (M2M) technology allows companies to connect different systems and use a smartphone or tablet to monitor operations remotely. M2M technology can save companies money and help save the Earth by making it possible to monitor warehouse stock and maintain just-in-time inventory, which means less product to store. Additionally, M2M makes it possible to monitor and regulate thermostats, air quality measurements, irrigation, and even pollutant levels—and from remote locations.
More and more companies in a variety of industries are discovering that telecommuting— eliminating the commute to work by giving workers the flexibility to work from home or a location of their choice— is both cost-effective and good for the environment. By reducing traffic and pollution, telecommuting—even just a few days per week—can drastically diminish the environmental impact of the daily rush-hour commute and may even increase worker productivity. In many cases, video teleconferencing can eliminate the need for long-distance travel to achieve “face-to-face” meetings.
All of these innovative Earth-saving technologies rely on wireless communications technologies. And wireless technologies run on spectrum; however, the amount of available spectrum is running out even as more and more green technologies and wireless devices are being developed. A “wireless traffic jam” will halt progress and it’s imperative that more unused and underused spectrum is freed up. In doing so, more and more people and businesses can use the available wireless technologies to help conserve energy, reduce costs, and make smart ecological choices. That way it can be Earth Day everyday.
MARK D. MAGAÑA is the Executive Director of the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC) and founder/Principal of Magaña Associates and Hispanic Strategy Group. He is the first Latino to serve as senior staff for both Congressional Leadership and the White House. Mr. Magaña has amassed over 20 years of high-level governmental, legislative and policy experience in the nation's capital, advocating for policies beneficial to the Latino community.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Keep Cool During The Heat Wave

North Carolina is going to have record making, 100 degree, temperatures in the following days. It is extremely important to keep hydrated and cool. As the temperatures go up and up, so does energy usage and your energy bill.

Is not necessary to sacrifice your comfort level because of the heat, you just have to be more strategic about it. Here are eight simple approaches that might just help keep your cost down while helping you stay cool in the next few days.

1. Curtains: Keep those curtains, drapes or blinds closed. It may be a little dark but it will help shield the sun from coming in through your window while keeping your house cooler.

2. Air Conditioner: Keep your thermostat at one or two degrees warmer than usual. It will conserve as much as 5 to 10% off your energy bill and it really will not feel that much different. In the summer, we keep ours at 78° during the day and 75° at night. It works well for us. Also, don’t forget to keep the air conditioner clear for better performance.

3. Ceiling Fans: If you have ceiling fans use them. They will help circulate the cool air around the house making it more confortable. Just make sure you have it in the summer setting.

4. Turn off Lights: One 60 watt incandescent bulb can heat a small room as much as five degrees in one hour. Although CFL’s are better, they still put off heat.

5. Unused Appliances: Disconnect all appliances that are not in use. Appliances put out heat and even in the off position it continues to draw power. So unplug the toaster, coffee maker, the computer or the VCR when you are not using them.

6. Laundry & Dishes: Do your laundry or run the dishwasher early in the morning or after 7:00pm when power usage is lower and is not such a drain on the system.

7. Cooking: Forget about the oven in really hot days. It is much better to use the microwave or cook on the grill (although it can be hot too). It will aid in keeping down the temperature in your house.

8. Refrigerator: Keep your refrigerators and freezers as full as possible. A full refrigerator uses less energy than an empty one.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

New Electronics Recycling Law

Computer equipment and televisions will be banned from disposal in North Carolina landfills as of July 1.
The law bans from landfill disposal of computer equipment, which includes laptops, desktops, monitors, printers, scanners and peripherals such as mice and keyboards.
Other components of the law are designed to create recycling opportunities for discarded electronics across the state and to place significant responsibilities on electronics manufacturers to help fund and create those opportunities.
 Citizens and businesses have a variety of options for recycling electronics in North Carolina. Most counties offer collection programs and more community programs are emerging. All computer manufacturers are required to offer at least free mail-back for their own equipment, and some offer additional kinds of recycling options. A number of retailers also offer recycling of electronics, as do some nonprofit and charitable agencies.  A comprehensive list of recycling options can be found at:
Computer equipment and televisions join a list of other materials banned from disposal in North Carolina, including most recently plastic bottles, wooden pallets and oil filters. For details on this law, visit

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day: Learn, Teach and Share

Reduce: 90% of what we buy is in a landfill in around a year.
Reuse: Cloth napkins and hand towels save trees.
Recycle: You can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide a year by recycling half of the waste your household generates.
And last but not least, buy locally grown foods. The money stays in the local economy and cuts transportation pollution.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My holiday surprise-fresh can be better

Over the Christmas break my husband the kids and I went to visit my husband’s sister and mother in California. My sister-in-law has a beautiful Valencia orange tree in the back yard. She also has a lovely lime tree that she says wants to be a lemon tree…they did look like lemons. The orange tree had dozens of oranges ready for the pickings. My boys found it really fun to pick the oranges and probably did so for an hour or so. It was great to see them entertained with something wholesome and away from their DSI’s.

Seeing so many oranges sparked a conversation about how some of us grew up drinking fresh squeezed orange juice and how good we remembered it tasting. How the supermarkets had machines for you to make fresh juice if you wished. My grandmother made her juice by hand every morning which made it even that much more special.

All the talk of fresh juice made my sister-in-law break out the brand new juicer she got for their wedding two years ago. We all helped peel the oranges and my in-laws and the kids put the oranges through the machine. That maybe took 45 minutes to an hour, but I don’t think any of us thought it was a major chore. It was actually a fun family activity.

We manage to make about half of gallon of juice from the dozen, maybe thirteen, oranges the boys picked. I think the hardest part of the whole process was waiting for the juice to chill so we can taste it. WOW! We weren’t disappointed in any way. It was refreshing to taste orange juice the way it was meant to be…pure oranges with no additives, preservatives, food coloring, sweeteners or pesticides involved. My youngest said the best part of the process was the taste. “It was the best tasting orange juice I’ve ever had”, he said.

It has been days since we returned and I'm still thinking about that orange juice. I might have to go out and buy myself a juicer and start making my own juice. You can’t beat that fresh taste, plus it is better for you.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Planning an Eco-friendly Holiday Party

Getting together with family for the Holidays or throwing a hopping New Year’s party is par for the season. But don’t you hate the amount of trash it produces? Can you believe that from Thanksgiving to the New Year, our household waste increases by more than 25% - it all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. And this does not even include all the resources we spend on electricity.
Put together an Eco-friendly party as a way to make your party even more special while reducing the waste you are generating ….and saving money in the process.

When planning your party, first thing you should do is select a date and then send out invitations to guests. But invitations can be expensive and then there is the postage. As long as your friends have an email address you can use free electronic invitations sites such as Evite or Pingg. These sites help you track RSVP’s and send out reminders. Of course you can always send out recycled paper invitations or make your own from things you have around the house.

Aside from food, purchasing tableware is the highest expense of organizing a party. Instead of buying why don’t you use real plates, metal utensils and cloth napkins? If you don’t have enough of something, I’m sure a friendly neighbor will let you borrow theirs.

Instead of using paper tablecloths, invest in fabric ones which can be washed and used over and over again. Just don’t go out and buy a yellow tablecloth if you don’t think you’ll have a use for it in the future. Use colorful fabric scraps as napkins or recycled paper napkins. Empty wine bottles, with the labels removed, make for great flower vases.

Food and Beverage
If your budget permits, try serving organic, local and in-season foods and products. These are better for you and the environment. By serving “finger foods” on napkins, you can get away with not using plates. Try to select wines and beers that are made of organic products or simplify things and make a signature drink using local products while minimizes expenses.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Harvests the First “Executive Honey”

Even the Governor of North Carolina is getting into the home gardening fever sweeping the country. On Tuesday, Gov. Bev Perdue suited up in beekeeper attire and approached a job perhaps no other North Carolina governor has tackled – pulling honeycombs from beehives with thousands of honeybees buzzing nearby.

Two beehives were installed on the north lawn of the executive mansion in Raleigh late last year, after grounds supervisor Gerald Adams decided to explore the benefits of having bees to pollinate the gardens on the grounds. Adams, who oversees production of a number of crops used by the first family and donated to local area food banks, has already seen a dramatic difference.

“Apple trees that have never had more than a handful of apples on them now show 50 or 60 or more,” he said. “The pollination benefits of the bees have been clear already within the first six months of having the hives.”

“The honeybee is not only North Carolina’s state insect, but also a crucial player in North Carolina agriculture. Their role in pollinating our crops is essential, and often overlooked by people who don’t know the important part they play,” said Gov. Perdue. “Having the bees here on the mansion grounds not only gives us a chance to boost our own fruit and vegetable production, but also serves as an education tool for the school groups and tours who visit the mansion regularly.”

The honeybees, which may fly up to a 2-mile radius around the hive every day. So just how much honey did the group harvest? Nearly 12 gallons, or some 150 pounds. The honey, which was inspected and deemed “Grade A,” will be bottled and used at the mansion, given as gifts from the governor and first gentleman, and donated to local food banks.