Online Interior Design Goes Green

As the green movement progresses, there are few industries that remain untouched. The interior design industry is no exception. While interior design has always been a part of the sustainability movement, it is the more recent trend of e-decorating that has seen the most rapid shift towards an embrace of green practices. 

E-decorating is a form of interior design that utilizes online technologies to facilitate the design process. E-decorating projects are done entirely via electronic communications. E-decorators provide their clients with detailed surveys to be filled out, which include room dimensions, personal design tastes, and digital images of the space to be designed. The e-decorator can then build a custom room design for their client based on the information provided. 

Like many industries that have gone online, e-decorating is also a green way to design a space. Online interior design firm Homegrown Interiors’ head designer notes “online interior design is often embraced by unique and forward-thinking individuals, which provides us an opportunity to do some really creative work for our clients. While we are not specifically a ‘green design firm,’ online interior design provides us an opportunity to work with some very sustainable materials and practices.” 

Some of the other ways that online interior design firms are able to be more green, range from giving clients the option to purchase items all from a single source to cut down on their shipping footprint, to focusing on the re-purposing of existing pieces in a space to avoid creating unnecessary waste and production costs. 

While online interior design is a relatively new offshoot to the traditional interior design industry, it is leading the pack when it comes to creative and sustainable design. As new industries emerge throughout the economy, we can only hope they are willing to embrace sustainable practices as quickly as the online interior design industry has done.

Bear Baiting in Pakistan: An Exercise in Malice

The cruel hobby of bear baiting is more medieval torture theatre than actual game, but it has snaked its way through the centuries under the guise of being a real sport. Much like dog fighting and cock fighting, bear baiting events are held at the behest of a crowd of delighted onlookers hoping to cash in on the bloodshed of animal versus animal.

As can be guessed by its name, during bear baiting, bears become the victims of a fight that pits them against dogs trained specifically to attack and kill them.  Common in areas throughout Asia, China, and Pakistan, bear baiting contests have relied heavily on secrecy to maintain an equal level of popularity throughout the years.  As many as 2,000 onlookers on average congregate to areas of Pakistan’s countryside in order to place their bets on their animal of choice as part of this organized crime. Put on by wealthy and local landowners who buy and train dogs (usually bull terriers) specifically to take on black bears, bear baiting events can mean a hefty profit for those who get involved.

In an average event, bears—who are no older than seven years old, if they are lucky—are tethered to a post in the middle of an open arena.  Dogs are then released, usually in groups of two or more, and immediately converge on the helpless bear. As the dogs bite and lash at the restrained animal, the bear has no way to defend itself against the attack since its teeth and claws have been removed long beforehand.  The dog that manages to grab a hold of the bear’s head area long enough to bring the bear down is declared the victor.  Of course, there is a way for the bear to win, although it is extremely rare.  If the bear remains standing, then it wins the match.  But as excitement swells around the fight, other dogs may be unleashed in order to join in, shoving the odds well against the bear.

Believed to have originated when Pakistan was still under British rule, the game itself has changed little.  Today, as in the years before, bears are picked up as cubs whose parents have been killed by poachers.  Travelling in groups of gypsies, the animals are rented out to landlords in order to earn all parties concerned some extra money.  Native to this region in Paksitan, Asiatic black bears are exclusively used for these bear baiting events.   Listed as a vulnerable species currently in decline on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List, Asiatic black bears were last estimated in 2006 to number approximately 1000 in the Pakistan region. 

Leading the charge for wildlife conservation, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has already joined forces with the Pakistan Biodiversity Research Centre (PBRC) to take action in eliminating bear baiting contests.  Through campaigning and education, the organizations have helped to spread the word that not only is bear baiting an unnecessary means of earning money, it is illegal and is discordant with Islamic teachings, which specifically forbids it.

First tipped off to the practice in 1993 by Dr. Inayat Chaudry of the Habitat Integrated Pakistan, who witnessed such contests in the Pinjals and Sindh areas of Pakistan, the WSPA has worked endlessly to expose these crimes.  Through their work, the agency has already raised the money necessary to construct the Kund Park sanctuary as a home and rehabilitation center for bears confiscated by officials.

But there is still plenty of work that still needs to be done. In order to ensure the end of bear baiting in Pakistan, government officials need to pass a law that would make it illegal for anyone in the country to own bears. Although it may seem a small step, it is a landmark move that will help the cause tremendously.  To help eliminate bear baiting in Pakistan and urge the Director General of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency to take action, sign the petition here.


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America’s Pastime, Made In China

Two things that often aren’t mentioned in the same breath are sports and the environmental movement.  Taken together, they are somewhat contradictory.  Sports require a lot of resources for both fan and player, and for the sake of what?  Entertainment?  Economic stimulus for a city?  The spirit of competition?  However, one particular sport and the environment are beginning to come together. 

Back in 2009, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental group based out of New York, and Major League Baseball (MLB) teamed up to work on “greening” the sport.  The NRDC started with the biggest consumer of all, baseball stadiums.  Stadiums operate for at least 4 months out of the year and see millions of fans walk through the gate every season.  

Some of the highlights include solar panels and biodegradable cups in Cleveland, wind turbines and biomass burning in Philadelphia, and a $60,000 recycling program and composting in Seattle.  However, the most impressive achievement goes to the Washington Nationals; whose new stadium, which opened in 2009, was the first LEED certified stadium in Major League Baseball.  Both the Minnesota Twins and Florida Marlins followed suit with new LEED certified stadiums in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

In many ways, baseball stadiums embody the obstacle of “greening” an institution whose practices and traditions do not mesh with the green movement; certainly stadium construction and energy needs are an obvious top priority for environmental updates.  But, a less obvious aspect of baseball exists whose environmental, social, and economic effects need to be addressed, merchandising

In 2007, MLB signed a seven year long contract to give team apparel rights to VF Corporation, the owner of apparel manufacturing giant Majestic.  Other than the actual uniforms worn by players, which are made in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, the production of Majestic merchandise happens almost exclusively in China.  This shouldn’t come as any great surprise because most clothing items are made abroad, but baseball is America’s pastime. 

Sports franchises pump millions of dollars into local economies, which is why having a sports team is desirable; but on a more philosophical level, sports teams represent the competitive spirit of an entire city or state.  A fan wearing a piece of team apparel sports his/her team’s colors as a means of monetary support for his/her team and pride in his/her team and city.  Why should sports merchandising not be localized to the city/state of the fans that love and support their team?

The localized production of sports merchandise provides added benefit to being home to a sport franchise.  A sports team’s city/state would see the creation of thousands of well-paying jobs from the production of apparel products.   Additional ancillary businesses would see increased profits as a result of localized merchandise production; for example, team T-shirts could be produced with locally grown cotton, which would provide a huge profit boost to local growers.  MLB merchandising produces $3 billion of sales annually; in each city/state with an MLB franchise, those revenues would be directly invested back into local markets through merchandising employees.  This creates a more sustainable local economy.

Also, environmentally speaking, localized apparel production is a more sustainable option.  The shipping of apparel via boat, plane, train, or truck, creates millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions which would be spared in the localized production of sports merchandise.  Additionally, merchandise producers would have to adhere to stricter American environmental standards, as opposed to more lax standards in developing countries.  This alone saves countless tons of unnecessary pollution in foreign environments.

Lastly, from a social standpoint, localizing merchandise production is a more humane option when you consider that many foreign sweatshops harbor unsafe, unhealthy, and hostile work environments for their employees.  Furthermore, foreign sweatshop jobs often do not pay employees well enough for them to afford basic necessities.

Ultimately, fans have control over their franchises; and, if they want, they can have control over where their franchises’ merchandise comes from.  Indeed, Major League Baseball has a contract with VF Corporation but that doesn’t mean that fans need to buy their product.  A true fan of a team and city would boycott MLB merchandise as it is made now.  A true fan would demand that his/her city have the rights to their own team’s merchandise; and that the production and sale of that merchandise directly benefit his/her team and city.  It is time for America to take back its pastime.

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Cat Returns Home After 5 Years, Demonstrates Importance of Microchips

A calico cat named Willow was returned to her family in Boulder, Colorado after disappearing five years ago and reappearing 1,800 miles away in Manhattan. In 2006, Willow was accidentally lost to the Squires family during a home renovation. The family who lived in a coyote filled area believed her to have been lost to them. How she made the long journey remains unknown. In September 2011, a man found Willow on East 20th Street in Manhattan and turned her in to local animal shelter. Workers at the shelter were able to scan the microchip imbedded in her and use the information on it and the registration information associated with it to locate and contact her family. After more than 5 years and almost 2,000 miles, Willow was able to return to her home and family. 

This touching story however is not a reality for many families that have lost pets. The statistics on lost pets are startling. Every year between 5 and 7 million pets go into animal shelters across the country. Of those about 3-4 million are euthanized. The animal return rates are even more discouraging. Less than 2 percent of cats and 15-20 percent of dogs are returned to the owners. The majority of these returns were made possible by tags, tattoos or microchips. Microchiping a pet substantially increases the likelihood of it being returned to its home and family. Dogs with microchips have a much higher return rate at 52 percent while microchipped cats have a 38 percent rate.

The procedure itself is simple and non-invasive but should always be performed by a trained veterinarian. A small microchip enclosed in a glass cylinder no larger than the size of a grain of rice is inserted into the animal via hypodermic needle into the subcutaneous space between the animals shoulder blades, without the need for surgery or anesthesia. The animal rarely feels any pain or discomfort and the whole experience takes no more than a few seconds. 

Having a pet microchipped is not the end of the matter though. A few simple steps are required after the pet is microchipped to ensure its safety and usefulness.

  • After having a pet microchiped, ensure that the registration information on the chip is kept current. If you move and change address, ensure that the information registered to the microchip is changed to match the new address. Keeping current tag and microchip information increases the likelihood of return. 
  • During routine ch
    eck-ups, have the veterinarian check the microchip to ensure it has not moved. Though rare, microchip sometimes migrate to other sections of the animal.
  • When adopting a new pet, ask whether or not the animal is microchiped. If they aren’t, ask the seller to begin doing so.
  • Don’t forget to also maintain current tags and collars on pets. Microchips aid returning the pet if they are lost but not all people know to return found animals to shelters. Keeping current tag and microchip information increased the likelihood of return. 

Have your pet microchip and ensure that like Willow he or she can make it back to you safely.  



Munich 2018 Winter Olympics Bid Opposed by German Environmental Groups

[img_assist|nid=193465|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=299|height=189]Sept. 13, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – The Munich 2018 winter Olympics bid took a hit from environmentalists this week as a consortium of German environmental groups disavowed plans to host part of the games in the resort town of Garmish-Partenkirchen.

The German Nature Conservation Ring (DNR), representing 96 environmental groups, complained the olympic plans would be to damaging to the local environment to support.

DNR General Secretary Helmut Roescheisen told Reuters, “We consider, after careful examination of the bid files and two long talks with leading bid representatives that the hosting of the Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen with its narrow valleys and its ecologically important areas is irresponsible,” explaining, “There is just far too much infrastructure work involved, what with the athletes village, the media village, even the expansion of the skiing slopes, that we just cannot be part of this commission and are dropping out of it.

The DNR was initially established by the German olympic bid organizers with the goal of ensuring the bid was environmentally friendly. However, the DNR broke ranks with the German olympic committee by coming out against the bid.

German olympic bid officials dispute the characterization of the bid as environmentally unfriendly.

According to Michael Vesper, head of the Munich 2018 supervisory board, “The vision for an environmentally friendly Games has in no way failed. Quite the opposite. This is the the most ambitious environmental concept for an Olympic bid in decades. We will continue working to convince the critics.”

Germany is competing with South Korea’s Pyeongchang and France’s Annecy bids for the 2018 Winter Games.

Pet Parade: Bullfighting and Debarking

It’s been a good few months for animal rights advocates: Massachusetts banned surgeries to silence a dog or cat and a Spanish province approved a ban on bullfighting.

The silencing procedure, called debarking, severs or removes an animal’s vocal cords making it difficult or nearly impossible for a dog or cat to vocalize. Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., signed a bill April 22 banning the procedure, which activists said left scar tissue in the pet’s throat making it difficult for the animal to breathe.

Some dogs and cats that underwent “debarking” were left wheezing, coughing and choking for the rest of their lives, said Beth Birnbaum of the Coalition to Protect and Rescue Pets. The law bars veterinarians from performing the surgery and carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $2,500 fine.

“This is so remarkable, the passage of this legislation,” she told the Boston Globe.

Massachusetts may also consider making it illegal for landlords to require a cat be declawed or a dog be devocalized to rent an apartment.

Opponents of debarking said it was usually performed on dogs owned by commercial breeders and the public should understand it was done for convenience.

Animal advocates say it’s more important to understand why a pet is making noise, adding behavior modification and obedience training can help keep chronically noisy pets quiet.

Is the dog barking because it is left alone, isolated or unsupervised for long periods? Is there constant noise in the environment, especially in urban areas? Does the dog have other bad social habits like constant chewing?

Some techniques to mitigate barking include confronting a dog immediately when it starts to bark. Approach the animal and say “No!” or immediately spritz it with a blast of water from a spray bottle, suggests. Don’t reinforce bad behavior by running to play with a dog to get it to stop barking. You have to be in charge, not the pet.

Some owners use electronic bark collars that deliver a mild electric shock when the dog begins to bark. Others leave a radio or television on when they leave home so the pet left alone won’t be totally bored.

Exercise or the presence of another pet, even a singing or talking bird, can ease isolation and be a good non-aversion barking deterrent. The Monks of New Skete, in their book “How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend,” warn keeping a dog in a rectangular outdoor dog run can encourage fence running and incessant barking in some dogs. Their advice: Enrich the dogs’ environment by turning a kennel into a fun obstacle course with bridges, tunnels, curved boards, rope toys and safely hanging toys with bells. Shrubs planted around a dog run can block a dog’s view and help keep it quiet.

In the Spanish region of Catalonia, lawmakers voted to ban bullfighting, considered a part of traditional Spanish culture, starting in 2012.

Animal welfare groups had campaigned against bullfighting for more than 18 months calling the ritualized killing of bulls barbaric and outdated.

However, observers said bullfighting has been on the decline in the region for years and had been mainly a draw for tourists. They contend an end of bullfighting is akin to the gradual disappearance of the afternoon siesta as Spain modernized.

“This is a historic day for all who have worked to promote animal rights in a modern society like ours,” animal rights activist Jose Ramon Mallen of Fundacion Equanimal told the New York Times. “This is not about politics and Catalan identity but about ethics and showing that it’s simply wrong to enjoy watching an animal getting killed in public.”

Catalans have long sought greater independence from Madrid and the rest of Spain.

Odds and Ends:

While some 4H members may consider a prized bull more pet than livestock, few farmers go as far a Canadian bison rancher Henry Makinson, who lets buffalo roam inside his home in Grandview, Manitoba. The 80-year-old rancher allows his massive pets inside a one-room farmhouse and a larger home, and one bison likes to lie down and nap on the living room carpet. The Winnipeg Free Press said Makinson’s bison can perform tricks like dancing in a conga-like line at rodeos.

Best Friends Pet Care Resort opens Aug. 27 at Disney World in Florida. People traveling with their pets to the Magic Kingdom can drop them at a 50,000-square-foot resort that includes a water park for dogs, a “kitty city,” VIP suites with flat-screen televisions and two doggy day camp rooms that open onto a yard. The suites rent for $69 to $79 a night. Smaller pets like rabbits and ferrets can stay for $12 to $23 a night, but no reptiles or primates are allowed.

Chew Chew, an all-organic restaurant for pets, opened in Sydney, Australia. The popular spot has a regularly changing menu with such entrees as beef steak, carrot and shitake mushrooms, goat yogurt jelly and lamb bones and chicken wings — for dogs and cats only. Pet owners can buy a coffee or cappuccino next door for themselves.

Online voting ends Aug. 16 for the second annual “VPI Hambone Award, given to the pet responsible for the most unusual pet insurance claim of the year. The award is named after a dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate a Thanksgiving ham. This year’s nominees include a Labrador retriever that ate an entire bee hive — bees and all — and a cat that tumbled around inside a clothes dryer.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

All Southern Antarctic Ice Shelves Melting

RESTON, Va., Feb. 24 (UPI) — The U.S. Geological Survey says every ice shelf in the southern section of the Antarctic Peninsula is retreating because of climate change.

The USGS says its report is the first to document that every ice front in that area has been retreating overall from 1947 to 2009, with the most dramatic changes occurring since 1990.

The retreat, scientists said, could result in sea-level rise if warming continues, threatening coastal communities and low-lying islands worldwide.

The USGS previously documented the majority of ice fronts on the entire peninsula have also retreated during the late 20th century and into the early 21st century.

Officials said the ice shelves are attached to the continent, holding in place the Antarctic ice sheet that covers about 98 percent of the Antarctic continent. As the ice shelves break off, it becomes easier for outlet glaciers and ice streams from the ice sheet to flow into the sea. That transition of ice from land to the ocean is what raises the sea level.

“This research is part of a larger ongoing USGS project that is for the first time studying the entire Antarctic coastline in detail, and this is important because the Antarctic ice sheet contains 91 percent of Earth’s glacier ice,” USGS scientist Jane Ferrigno said.

“The loss of ice shelves is evidence of the effects of global warming,” she added. “We need to be alert and continually understand and observe how our climate system is changing.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Madeira Storms Subside, at Least 40 Dead

FUNCHAL, Portugal, Feb. 21 (UPI) — Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Portuguese island of Madeira Sunday where floods and mudslides claimed at least 40 lives, officials said.

A spokesman for the civil protection agency told CNN at least 120 people were injured and an undetermined number of people were missing on the tourist island.

Spokesman Pedro Barbosa told CNN the casualty totals could rise as the day goes on.

“We have some parts where we can’t go because the bridges are down,” he said.

Barbosa said hundreds of people were evacuated to shelters as the torrential rain washed away roads and damaged homes in the capital of Funchal and in Riberia Brava.

Portugal has asked the European Union for disaster financial aid, Radio France Internationale reported Sunday.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates was on the island to assess the damage, while President Anibal Cavaco Silva pledged support for the victims of the storm.

The worst damage was on the southern portion of the island, located about 600 miles southwest of Portugal.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Winter Overcomes 1,200-year-old Oak

[img_assist|nid=127126|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=347|height=214]CHIRK, Wales, Feb. 10 (UPI) — A Welsh oak tree, already more than 300 years old when King Henry II spared it in 1165, couldn’t withstand the unusually cold winter of 2010, locals say.

Mark Williams, a historian of the Wrexham area in North Wales, told the BBC he and Deryn Poppit visited the tree Tuesday and found its trunk had been split. He said ice apparently formed around the base of the tree, which had a circumference of 34 feet.

“The tree is on marshy ground in a basin with a stream running down nearby,” he said. “With the stream overflowing because of melting snow, the water must have settled around the trunk and it looks as if this has caused it to split.”

The Great Oak at the Gates of the Dead near Chirk was 1,200 years old, dating from the 9th century. According to legend, in 1165, King Henry II of England, preparing to meet Owain Gwynedd in the Battle of Crogen, commanded his men to clear Ceiriog Woods but ordered the Great Oak to be spared.

“Although some parts of the tree were rotten, some of it was still as strong as an oak,” Williams said.

Mike McKenna, owner of Kronospan, a wood-panel producer in Chirk, has retained a firm of tree surgeons to determine if anything can be done to keep the Great Oak going.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

Canadian Zoo Sued over Solitary Elephant


EDMONTON, Alberta, Feb. 2 (UPI) — A Canadian zoo in Edmonton, Alberta, is being sued by two animal rights groups over its treatment of an aging and ailing female elephant.

The suit was filed against the Valley Zoo by Zoocheck Canada and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, alleging the 34-year-old elephant named Lucy isn’t being cared for properly and should be moved, the Edmonton Journal reported Tuesday.

The suit is backed by an affidavit by retired San Diego Zoo veterinarian Dr. Philip Ensley who said the solitary Asian elephant should have company and claims the harsh winter conditions are contributing to a decline in her health.

“It is my opinion that the conditions and standard of care at the Valley Zoo are causing Lucy unnecessary distress and that these conditions are not in conformity with (zoo association) standards,” Ensley’s filing said.

He said his research suggests Lucy is overweight and has respiratory problems and arthritis, the report said.

Television personalities Bob Barker and William Shatner began making public appeals last year to move the elephant to a sanctuary in California where she could be with other elephants in a more temperate climate.

City lawyer Steve Phipps told the Journal he was confident the city could prove its care conformed with zoo association standards.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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