Saturday, January 31, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Not knowing much about light pollution, I decided to do some research on the Internet and within minutes I stumbled upon The International Dark Sky Association's website. This organization's mission is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting by following the three goals listed below:
1. Stop the adverse effects of light pollution, including;
-Energy waste, and the air and water pollution caused by energy waste
-Harm to human health
-Harm to nocturnal wildlife and ecosystems
-Reduced safety and security
-Reduced visibility at night
-Poor nighttime ambiance;and
2. Raise awareness about light pollution, its adverse effects, and its solutions; and
3. Educate about the values of quality outdoor lighting.
While I knew and understood that unnecessary outdoor lighting wasted energy, I had no idea that outdoor lighting also caused disruptions to plant, animal and even human life. Through the Dark Sky website, I discovered that artificial outdoor lighting affects flora and fauna by preventing many trees from adjusting to seasonal variations. Animals are impacted because light pollution can alter their behaviors, foraging areas and breeding cycles. Birds are additionally affected when they are attracted to the lights coming from tall buildings and end up colliding with the building. The impacts to humans are shown in an abstract featured on the Dark Sky website called "Missing the Dark: Health Effects of Light Pollution" by Ron Chepesiuk.
Source: http://www.lightpollution.it/ © 2001 P. Cinzano, F. Falchi, C.D. Elvidge
The picture above shows how we have increased our use of artificial light over the years and the increases that are expected through 2025. There are some things that we can do right now to reduce the impact of light pollution:
-shield all outdoor lights and lower the wattage.
-use only the light you need to get the job done.
-use timers, dimmers, and sensors to darken unoccupied areas.
-Shut off lights when you can
I have always felt it was a good idea to keep an outdoor light on in the areas around my house at night in order to discourage intruders, yet the Dark Sky website mentions that night time outdoor lighting may actually be lighting the way for those that want to break into homes. Makes me wonder how much safer street lights or parking lot lights really do keep us, especially when considering the amount of crime that happens during the day.
After learning about light pollution and its harmful effects on plants and animals, I realize I need to rethink my use of outdoor lights. I was glad to discover that the city of Chicago is leading the way in this effort. Chicago is the first U.S. city to dim its lights and thus reduce its light pollution in the interest of saving birds. "Lights Out Chicago" is a collaborative effort of the Chicago Audubon Society, the city of Chicago, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago, and the Field Museum. Throughout the city, lights are either turned off or dimmed during spring and fall migration which results in the saving of 10,000 birds each year.
Finally, as it turns out, all is not lost when it comes to star gazing opportunities for my family. The Fox Valley Astronomy Club holds monthly star gazing parties at Peck Farm Park where members of the club set up their telescopes and interpret celestial happenings for the public. We will be sure to head over there the next time they are offered.
To view past Winter Wednesday posts please click here
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Our first experiment involved laying construction paper on the snow and leaving it for 3 hours to see which color would soak up the most sun and thus sink the furthest into the snow. My son guessed that black would sink the most and he was right. The next color that sank the furthest was blue, followed by green, orange, yellow and finally white. No surprises there.
Above is a picture of the snow after removing the construction paper. The black snow above represents where the black paper was and hopefully you can see the indentation of the snow along with where the other colors were. The black snow also has a particularly deep depression where my dog decided to check out our experiment and stepped on the black paper. A controlled scientific experiment this wasn't.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Yesterday morning, my husband and I headed over to Heritage Prairie Market to pick up some milk and honey. Heritage Prairie, located on a beautiful farm, just minutes from our house, is a unique market in that many of its offerings come from local farmers in Illinois and Wisconsin. Very little is trucked across the country to come to the store which saves on fossil fuels and also provides us with fresher products.
On this winter day, grass fed beef was available along with chicken, eggs, cheese, milk, butter and many cold weather crops including beets, spinach and winter squash. Additional offerings included locally made muffins, pumpkin butter, and other treats. The honey produced at the farm comes from the hives of honey bees I have seen foraging for nectar in my own backyard. Pretty cool!
With our milk and honey purchased, we headed over to the Inglenook Pantry to check out the Green Market’s Winter Farmer’s Market and pick up some meat from a local farmer. Inglenook Pantry is a restaurant that serves organic and local food and houses the Green Market on Saturday mornings in the winter. Here it is possible to pick up locally grown vegetables, herbs, apples, mushrooms, cheese, milk, and meat during a time of year when it is usually impossible to obtain local food. At the market, we talked to Mark of Farm Direct Black Angus, the farmer who raises our meat. We have been buying from him for several years now and it is nice to have a relationship with the person growing our food. We also ran into Beth of Erehwon Farm who runs a local CSA but was offering up freshly baked breads and vegetables on this winter day.
If you are interested in finding out what local sources of food may be near you, check out the website Local Harvest. This national site lists where one can find CSA’s, farmer’s markets, family farms, and organic food in many parts of the country. It was through this site that I discovered what local foods were available to me and hopefully you will find a source of local winter food as well.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Sometimes it is really hard to strike out and do things a bit differently than those around you, even if you know you are doing the right thing environmentally. What helps is by looking for and discovering other folks who have also chosen a different path. By coming together with these people, both locally and on the internet, one can become empowered to continue making the choices that are right for the planet, no matter how unusual they appear to those following the status quo.
On that sunny wind-whipped day, as I clipped the last clothespin onto a pillowcase, I felt a bit better about my choice to venture outdoors and hang my clothes, if for nothing more than to get back indoors where it was warm. As I returned to my house, leaving behind my frozen stiff laundry, I doubted anything would dry in those bitter temperatures. But six hours later, when I returned to remove the bedclothes, I was surprised to find that most everything had dried. I removed the stuff from the line and discovered the damp things quickly finished drying once they came into the warmth of the house.
Later that night, as I made up my son's bed, the fresh smell of winter on his sheets, I felt really good about the choice I made that day. Little choices added collectively together, become bigger choices. Being the first one to make a different choice in my neighborhood, may encourage someone else to make the same choice at which point change grows exponentially. It has got to start somewhere and why not with me?
For more of my experiences in outdoor line drying, please click here.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
I figured I'd start out slow and take a look at one of our newer items. A Sony analog TV purchased in 2000. We don't plan to buy a new TV anytime soon, especially when we consider the fact that the oldest television we have in our house is almost 20 years old.