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Future Fuels
January 2012

U.S. Renewable Energy Surpasses Nuclear

Renewable_EnergyBeginning in 2011, renewable energy production in the United States surpassed nuclear production in overall quantity and percentage. As a percentage of total U.S. energy generation, renewables are steadily, if modestly, gaining. California’s leadership goal targets the utilization of 33 percent renewable energy sources by 2020.

Hydroelectric, geothermal, solar/photovoltaic, wind and biomass combined make up a growing segment of the mix: 11.7 percent as of June 2011, surpassing nuclear at 11.1 percent. For the same period in 2010, nuclear was 11.6 percent, and renewable was 10.6, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Forbes reports that many environmentalists, however, think that the two prominent technologies that currently make up much of the renewables sector—hydroelectric power, at 35 percent, and biomass, at 48 percent—are the least attractive. (Wind is the third-largest, at 13 percent of renewable, 1.5 percent of the total.) Large-scale hydroelectric power production has harmful impacts on river ecosystems and has become less popular in the developed world. As for biomass, each of the many types of feedstock must be evaluated individually for its emissions profile, water footprint and other considerations, such as whether farm fields or forests need that material to decompose in place in order to retain soil or ecosystem function.

 
The Greenest Tree
December 2011

Go Natural for Christmas

treeThe star of many families’ seasonal décor, the annual Christmas tree does not need to become an environmental burden if selected with care. While some individuals have strong opinions about the virtues of a natural tree versus an artificial one, each can have pros and cons.

The National Christmas Tree Association points out that 85 percent of the plastic trees sold in the United States are imported from China and may contain toxic chemicals, while evergreen trees can be grown in all 50 states. Even with a real tree, however, there are factors to consider.

How far did the tree travel? The distance traveled from its source impacts the carbon footprint, due to the fuel expended to transport it. Most vendors can tell you the state of origin, but how about pesticides? Conventional Christmas tree farms are reputed to use abundant pesticides to keep their product looking picture-perfect. Ask if the seller is the grower and/or knows the answer. Typically, a temporary sidewalk or street corner seller may not; a better bet can be a u-pick-it tree farm.

Put a cut tree in water within a few hours after trimming the base a flat one-half to one inch; some people add an aspirin to the water to enhance absorption.

According to the 2009 National Geographic Green Guide, Americans annually discard 30 million cut trees after the holidays, with the wood wasted in landfills. Alternatively, a program in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, collects them to combat coastal erosion.

Locate tree growers by state and learn how to dispose of trees responsibly atPickYourOwnChristmasTree.orgGreenPromise.com publishes a list of organic Christmas tree farmers at Tinyurl.com/65oqh9.

When choosing a live tree, keep it properly hydrated and just repot it in the yard after the celebrations conclude. Find detailed steps for care and planting from WikiHow.com atTinyurl.com/6dyauj and Tinyurl.com/3rj582n.

 
Meaningful Giving
December 2011

Tips to Simplify the Season

homemade_gift'Tis the season, and a U.S. poll by Harris Interactive reveals that a majority of the stress 90 percent of us feel about the holidays is related to gift-giving. So, solving this problem will set us well on our way to ajoyeux noël. The same study found that given a choice, most of us prefer investing in good family relationships instead of more material things, anyway.

Natural Awakenings has uncovered four ways that we can make the holidays less hectic and more relaxing and meaningful. First, says Barbara Kilikevich, author of A Mindful Christmas–How to Create a Meaningful, Peaceful Holiday, we have to stop buying into the notion that more is better and that extravagant, expensive gifts are equal to how much we care for one another. “We need to stop believing that doing it all is productive and having it all is meaningful.”

 
Acupuncture Eases Unexplained Symptoms
December 2011

A Natural Alternative May Offer Relief

acupuncturePatients that experience medically unexplained symptoms might benefit from acupuncture, according to new research by the Institute of Health Services Research, Peninsula Medical School, at the University of Exeter. The study involved 80 adults that had consulted their general practitioner eight or more times in the previous year for problems such as headaches, muscle pain, extreme fatigue or joint and back pain. Half received up to 12 sessions of five-element acupuncture during a period of six months; the remainder received no extra treatment.

The patients receiving acupuncture reported improved well-being and scored higher on an individualized health status questionnaire  than the control group. They reported that their acupuncture consultations became increasingly valuable and that the interactive and holistic nature of the sessions gave them a sense that something positive was being done about their condition.

Professor Andrew Gould, who led the study, says it is important to offer patients other options when conventional medicine isn’t working. “It’s soul-destroying for both the patient and doctor when there’s no clear reason for the symptoms patients are suffering from,” he explains. “We don’t know how acupuncture is making a difference, but it seems to be something to do with the treatment, rather than just a placebo or the one-to-one care the patients are getting.”

The study was the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. The research results were published inThe British Journal of General Practice.

 
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