Puppy Love


One of my new cousins!

This past month I was lucky enough to welcome 2 new members to my extended family. Norwood, a mutt, and Arwen, a Labrador/Sheppard mix. As a person with a history of volunteering at animal shelters, I was extremely pleased to find that my extended family had used shelters and sites like Petfinder to find my new cousins, instead of going to a pet shop or a breeder.

America Loves It’s Pets.

Pet ownership in the United States is increasing. According to the Humane Society of the United States, in the 1970’s 67 million homes owned a pet. As of 2012, 164 million homes (62%) now own at least one pet.

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans today own 83.3 million dogs and 95.6 million cats. That’s a lot of animals. For more pet ownership statistics click here.

The Problem With Puppy Mills

Adopting from a shelter is a great option for anyone interested in getting a pet and is definitely a better option than buying a pet in a pet shop. Many dogs bought in pet shops come from ‘puppy mills’, which ASPCA defines as “large-scale commercial dog breeding operations, where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs”. Puppy mills are inhumane. Dogs kept there are in too small cages with limited food and water. Puppies are taken from their mothers before they are ready so that their mothers can be bred again. It is estimated that there are 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, producing 2.15 million puppies a year. Buying puppies from pet stores supports this cruel system.

Many breeders also breed their dogs in puppy mills. In order to avoid adopting a puppy from a puppy mill, check out these questions to ask a breeder.

The Pros (and Cons) of Shelters

Shelters are a great option for anyone interesting in adopting a new feline or canine family member.  Every year 6 to 8 million animals enter shelters. Unfortunately, 2.7 million shelter animals have to be euthanized because there is not enough space.

Just because an animal is in a shelter doesn’t mean it did anything wrong. Many animals are forced to live in a shelter because their owner had to move into a new home that doesn’t allow pets, allergic reactions to the animal, or an owner can’t afford the time or money to take care of them anymore. Because of this, many animals you find in a shelter are already house or obedience trained and would make great pets.

At a shelter, you can find animals in a range of breeds and ages. In fact, 25% of dogs in shelters are pure breeds. If you are interested in a particular breed, you can ask your local shelters to ‘keep an eye out’ or find a breed rescue group.

The Importance of Spaying and Neutering Your Pet

It is important to spay and neuter pets in order to prevent overpopulation (In a previous article I wrote about the damage to bird populations done by stray cats).  The good news is most shelters neuter/spay their pets prior to adoption so that new owners don’t have to worry about accidental litters/new shelter residents.

My Last Bark

Choosing to get a pet is an important decision.  A pet requires time, resources, and love. It is not fair to you or the animal to adopt without thinking long term.

On another note, dogs make excellent companions. I have never seen a greater joy then a person talking about their pet and look forward to meeting my new cousins.

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Marveling at Nature (Thats Right, We Made a Comic Book Pun!)

In the opening scene of last week’s “Simpson” episode, ‘Married to The Blob’,Bart’s favorite comic book hero, Radioactive Man, battles The Fossil Fuel Four.  The Fossil Fuel Four, Old King Coal, Petroleus Rex, French Femme Fatale Charcoal Briquette, and The Fracker are attempting to destroy the Nuclear Power Plant. Radioactive Man tries to stop them by telling them that Nuclear Energy is the cleanest form of energy but the The Fracker retorts by saying that studies show that fracking is the best option for America if it wants to have energy independence. To this Radioactive responds by calling the Fracker out by saying those studies were industry funded, and by calling for help from sidekicks Citizen Solar and Wind Lab. Unfortunately Citizen Solar and Wind Lab are unable to help because it is too cloudy and “people don’t like the noise”, and Radioactive Man is killed.

Though this scene is a farce it got me thinking about the relationship between comic superheroes and environmental issues. Whether it is the source of their origins, or their type of superpower, many superheroes have links to the environment.

Super Powers That Replicate Nature

Many superheroes have superpowers that derive from nature. In the X-Men, Storm has the ability to control weather, while Ice Man has the ability to turn water into ice. These powers indicate respect for nature while at the same time express humans’ ultimate fascination in controlling the world around them.

The villain Poison Ivy uses nature-based powers another way. She uses her plant-like abilities to protect nature, even if it harms humans.

Super Powers Replicating That of an Animal

There is something fascinating about animals and their natural super human abilities. That is why there are so many super heroes who’s abilities, whether acquired or man made, are modeled after animals. Super Hero’s like Batman, Catwoman, and Wolverine are modeled/model themselves after animals while others like The Beast did not choose to emulate animals

I find animal derived super powers the most interesting. If I could be a super hero modeled after any creature I would choose the cockroach. With speed, the ability to fly short distances, and heavy armor that cam still fit in small spaces I would be impossible to defeat.

Other super heroes have powers that are less species specific. The super hero named The Animal Man can morph into any species of animal, whether alive of extinct, while AquaMan has the ability to speak  to sea creatures.

Origins That Reflect Fears of Science and Technology

Superheroes like the Hulk, Spider-man, The Fantastic 4, and the Toxic Avenger gained their super powers accidentally. This type of origin reflects the readers/society’s technological fears at the time of the superhero’s conception. Many of the comics were conceptualized in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s  which is why radioactivity is a particularly common cause of powers. Spiderman is a particularly quintessential example of this concept, not only does his radioactive spider bite implicate the fear of radiation but it also implicates a fear of genetic engineering.

Two Words: Captain Planet (And the Planeteers)

When I was a child I was a big fan of watching Captain Planet protect earth from pollution and environmental destruction. With help from the Planteers, 5 Teens from different parts of the world with powers, Captain Planet showed young viewers of the different hardships facing the earth. I remember finding the show educational and entertaining and can still practically sing the theme song by heart.

Since the show started in the 1990’s the show has expanded into “The Captain Planet Foundation” which funds young environmental stewards create their own “Captain Planet” worthy projects.

If Superheros’ reflect American values, comic super heroes emphasize that nature and the environment are an integral part of our lives and without them we are powerless.

super child with earth via shutterstock

super child unleashed via shutterstock


by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

“Naturally Melt Ice Away”

This past weekend the Northeast was hit by a snowstorm, making travel and transportation near impossible. Though the roads and sidewalks have since been cleared (mostly) travel is still dicey because of the risk of falling and sliding on ice. Luckily citizens and municipalities have a “natural” tool to protect us from accidents. But is road salt healthy for the environment?

Granulated sodium chloride was first used in New Hampshire as an experimental deicing agent in 1938. By World War II salt use had spread to highways nationwide. Now, 22 million tons of salt are used for de-icing a year and road salt equals 65% of salt sales in the country.

Many people assume that because road salt is natural (it is the same salt as you find on your dining room table) that it is healthy for the environment, but the addition of any outside substance to the environment can be unhealthy.

Pets and wildlife can get sick from accidentally ingesting high quantities of salt. Salt attracts deer to roadways, increasing the risk of accidents. Salt can also irritate animals paws, making them prone to infection.

Another issue caused by the mass use of salt is the gradually increasing salt concentrations in our waterways and groundwater. The EPA suggests that 20 mg/l is a safe level for sodium in drinking water but salt in water runoff puts these levels at risk. Higher concentrations of salt are more likely to occur in shallow wells in proximity to highly salted roads or storage facilities.

Chloride ions can dehydrate plants, kill small wildlife, and reduce water circulation in lakes, reducing aeration. The substance potassium acetate can melt ice without introducing chloride into the environment but unfortunately it is much more expensive than salt.

For now the best way to address the salt problem is to improve the effectiveness of road salting programs. Road design that reduces runoff is helpful.  Other strategies to keep the salt from finding its way into the environment include spraying wet salt, which keeps the salt from slipping off the road, and pre spraying before a storm.

Municipalities (and individuals) also need to be conscious of how much salt they use. This will not only save money but it will also reduce the salt that’s introduced into nature. The use of GPS, thermal mapping, and sensitized salt distribution can help municipalities accurately spread salt.

Salt may be natural (sodium is the 6th most common element), but we need to be more conscious of how we use it because even natural substances can shift the environment and get us (and animals) sick.

Salt piles via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Using Shrooms to Solve the Packaging Problem

The holidays have just ended and I’m sure most people can confess to shipping a package padded with Styrofoam. This Styrofoam is destined for the landfill, where it will stay for eternity, because Styrofoam doesn’t decompose. There’s got to be a better way to safely ship valuables without using a product that is so wasteful.

In fact, there is.

The company Ecovative has developed a sustainable Styrofoam alternative (short for ecology and innovative), which they’ve named aptly named “Mushroom Materials”. As the name suggests, “Mushroom Materials” is made from agricultural waste bound together by fungus’s mycelium, which is the vegetative growth stage in fungus. Instead of being thrown in the trash,  used “Mushroom Materials” can be thrown to decompose in the garden.

Though they do not make packing peanuts, they do come in a variety of shapes and can be customizable for businesses. Ecovative is hoping to expand the uses of this innovative product, and are working on a range of other experimental projects besides packaging. Some of these projects include insulation materials, a house (see below video) and surfboards. According to their website “Mushroom Materials” are cost competitive with plastic foams when bought in volume.

Ecovative has received grants from the National Sciences Foundation, the EPA, and the USDA to name a few.  Hopefully Ecovative will continue to receive funding to experiment with the power of mushrooms.

Mushrooms via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Fast and Frugal Tips for Greener Living This Winter

By: Emily Harper, Guest Contributor

Compared to winter, it is easier to live green during any other time of the year. With all the extra need for heat, winter becomes a period when more energy is required by each household. Heaters alone require tremendous amount of energy. To add to this are the festive lights that adorn houses just in time for Christmas. And since it’s the season for holidays, a surplus in food consumption can also be observed during wintry weather. It may seem hard to live green during winter, but it is not impossible. The ways by which you can continue living green during winter may surprise you since they are mostly simple steps that aim to prevent waste of important energy before they even happen.


Heat is vital during winter. And though there is a need to conserve energy that produces heat at home, it doesn’t mean that you should just endure the cold, cold winter. There are ways to achieve costless heat or the heat that can be generated through optimizing the heat sources of your home.

Insulate, caulk and basically seal any crevice, nook, gap, crack or shaft that may allow cold to enter your home. For a warmer home, you need not to produce too much heat. The first step you can take is to keep the cold outside and to keep the heat inside the home. Insulate entrances to your home to ensure that heat does not escape and the cold does not get in. The same purpose is behind the need to seal leaks and to put door snakes on doors. The best part is the heat maintained through this simple step does not require excess energy. It’s basically free heat.


Maximize the use of other appliances at home that do not necessarily contribute to heating the house. Dryers and washing machines, for example, take up a huge deal of energy, so wash and dry the most number of clothes in one load. Televisions and computers that are left plugged continually taking electricity despite being unused, so unplug them when they are not used. Switch light bulbs to ones that consume less energy, CFL or Led bulbs are better compared to incandescent. You need all the energy you can conserve to power heat-producing appliances at home, such as your heater. To conserve, you should then limit the consumption done by other appliances. Compensate for the excess you might incur for heating.


Make sure that your heat-producing appliances are efficient and working properly. Energy is wasted when some of it is used to overcome faulty parts or unclean filters. Cleaning the filters in your furnace or heater for example, saves a lot of energy since the heater works much more efficiently when its filters are clean. Generally, the need to conserve energy can be attained through maximizing those appliances that produce heat. This is to ensure that heat is produced at the cost of the least amount of energy possible. You can also try using the furnace for real. The idea of it never gets old.


If keeping a green yard is no longer possible, keep your home green, literally. Indoor plants may help lighten up the home and make it cozier. Since the presence of greeneries is limited in the outdoors during winter, you can make up for it inside your home. You can try container gardening and plant trees that are suitable for cold weather. Plants are extremely beneficial; they are essentially a costless source of unlimited clean energy. With just that, it’s easy to see their necessity inside the home.


Since the holidays are approaching, you can conserve not only energy, but also other resources. Holidays are festive and common practices during this time are compounded with excess use of plastic bags and gift wrappers and a glorious feast of sumptuous food. For plastic bags and gift wraps, recycling is necessary. Use recyclable cloth bags or baskets when shopping instead of plastic ones. When shopping, make sure that all the items you need are written on a list. This is to prevent instances where you may forget something and thereby need to go back to stores. Limit your trips to the store to limit the amount of energy used in transportation.

To live green during winter, inexpensive energy solutions are important. The governing principle is that since more energy is consumed in producing heat, other energy-consuming activities or appliances should be limited. Though the outside is white and cold, keep your house green and warm this winter with this fast and frugal checklist.

Image credit: Bill Barber via Flickr.

About the Author: Emily Harper is a green advocate, one of the many brave people aiming to color the world back in green.

by Editor


The Benefits of Smog

Last week China made headlines when the country’s Media tried to put a positive spin on China’s smog problem (For those of you of haven’t read the story you can catch up at  Time or Reuters). It is only human nature to try and put a positive spin on an unnatural phenomenon that can put lives and the environmental at risk, remember all people trying to put a positive spin on global warming?

Personally, I was surprised that the Chinese State Media only included 5 reasons (See the First 5 Listed Below), so I decided to brainstorm some additional benefits to China’s Smog Problem.


1. It unifies the Chinese people.

2. It makes China more equal.

3. It raises citizen awareness of the cost of China’s economic development.

4. It makes people funnier.

5. It makes people more knowledgeable (of things like meteorology and the English word haze).

6. Smog provides an excuse for wearing fluorescent clothing.

7. Improves imagination by turning China into a fantasy smog land.

8. Introduces China to a new range of tastes and smells.

9. Smog provides added shelter for animals of prey (and predators).

10. Smog improves the beauty of sunrises and sunsets.

Pollution Sunset via Shutterstock



by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Go Green with Fiber Optic Christmas Trees

By Guest Contributor: Ariel Nagel

There are few seasons in the course of the year that are so closely tied to feelings of both joy and dread. Each holiday season, we anticipate time spent with loved ones, great food, and perhaps a present or two. Any fears we experience are likely concerned with the balance of our checking accounts on December 26th, or perhaps with the expense associated with lighting that Christmas tree for several weeks or heating all that hot water for our in-laws’ baths.

We can’t help you with the in-laws, but there’s good news where your Christmas tree is concerned. Fiber optic Christmas trees have become a welcome alternative to traditional Christmas tree lights, and offer a solution that’s kind to your pocketbook as well as to the planet.

Why Fiber Optics?

When most people think of fiber optics, they likely associate the term with high-speed Internet, thanks to tech companies like Verizon and Google, who have brought fiber optic Internet mainstream attention. The truth is, there are a number of unexpected applications for fiber optic Internet, and one of them can make its way into your living room this holiday season.

The leading providers of fiber optic Christmas trees claim that the average household could save a great deal on their holiday energy bills: fiber optic trees can boast up to ten times the savings as traditional incandescent Christmas tree lights.

A Ready-Made Holiday Solution

Fiber optic Christmas trees offer a host of other benefits as compared to traditional trees: to begin with, they’re not as messy. Most fiber optic trees are artificial, and come with the lights already strung. What this means is that you won’t be picking pine needles out of your socks until next April. Artificial trees help to slow down our consumption of trees during the holiday season, and save you some of the headaches you’ve come to associate with post-Holiday cleanup.

Best of all, these trees offer just as much variety as traditional Christmas trees, with a multitude of colors and adjustable lighting levels available. In other words, personalizing your family’s tree will be easier than ever.

During a season where we’re already expecting to face a great many expenses, doesn’t it make sense to save where we can? If you’re looking for a way to keep a little extra cash in your wallet, while at the same time doing something good for our planet, then a fiber optic Christmas tree might be just what you’ve been looking for.

Christmas tree image via Shutterstock.

Arielle Nagel is a freelance writer with a focus on environmental sustainability. She can be found hugging trees while typing away on her laptop in Cleveland, OH. Arielle welcomes your feedback via email


by Editor

SCA: Young and In Love With Conservation

“Photo Courtesy of Student Conservation Association. All Rights Reserved.”

Are you or do you know a young adult who is interested in the environment and conservation, but doesn’t know how to get involved? If you do I would suggest you check out the Student Conservation Association, better known as “America’s Conservation Corps” or SCA. SCA has programs in all 50 states for high school students, college students, and recent graduates, interested in conservation and the environment.

I first heard of SCA a few years ago, when one of my close friends moved up to a National Park in New Hampshire, to work with High School Students on trail maintenance. When I would get the chance to talk to her while she was working there, I was always impressed (and jealous) of her experience. I finally visited her and I was blown away by all the work her and her crew mates had completed. Before, I had taken for granted the uptake required for keeping America’s National parks useable, now I know that it’s our country’s youth that keep are parks running smoothly.

SCA is a pioneer on all fronts. It was one of the first modern service corps, founded even before Peace Corps and Americorps.  SCA was also founded before the EPA and the enactment of the Wilderness Act.

SCA was founded in 1957 by Liz Putnam, while a student at Vassar College. Putnam modeled SCA after the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a public work relief program from the 1930’s and 1940’s, as part of the New Deal. Unlike the CCC, which recruited unemployed and unmarried men to service parks , SCA relies on  students.

Since its founding in 1957, more than 70,000 young adults have done work with SCA, providing over 28 million hours of service. In 1994 SCA became partners with Americorps and are their largest conservation partner. In 2010 Liz Putnam received a Presidential Citizens Medal from Barack Obama for her work with SCA on conservation.

SCA provides a range of programs to fit the schedules and interests of members including a Alternative Spring BreakHigh School Summer Program,  Saturday ConServevation programs  in New York City, and internships and national and community crews to name a few. Program length varies and some programs last up to 12 months. Depending on the location, service projects range from trail maintenance to wildlife management and nature interpretation. Many of the projects require crews to do work off-the beaten-path, requiring members to camp out.

SCA is a great option for anyone who loves the great outdoors. It provides a way for students and young adults to fight back against the daily degradation that happens to nature and the environment. By working in small teams, SCA volunteers learn leadership skills and get the opportunity to make long lasting friendships with a diverse group of people who share similar values toward the environment.


“Photo Courtesy of Student Conservation Association. All Rights Reserved.”



by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Start Them Early: Seven Fun Ways to Teach Kids The Importance of Recycling

By Guest Contributor: Tim Brown

Recycling is extremely important. Not only does recycling help the planet, but it can even earn you some money in the process, as well. It is fairly well known that when kids learn a habit early on in life, they are more likely to continue that habit throughout their lives. Teaching your kids about recycling early on, then, can encourage environmental responsibility for life. But how do you go about teaching your child about which rubbish is which? Incorporating games and activities that teach them about recycling is a fun and easy way to teach your children how to protect the environment through recycling; a few ideas are below.

Read a Book 

It seems rather simple, but books can help teach your children the “why” behind recycling. When the characters in a book learn why recycling is a good idea, your child learns, as well. Finding books that include characters with whom your child will relate is key to encouraging them to learn from their behaviour.

Go to the Zoo or Museum 

Most kids love animals, and since recycling can actually help protect animals, taking your kids to the zoo or an animal or natural history museum can help them see these beautiful creatures. Explain that animals can get sick if rubbish isn’t disposed of correctly, and ask them to explain what they learned. Asking a child to repeat back what they’ve learned helps them cement it in their minds, and it also helps you ensure they’ve got the right message.

Rubbish Games 

Colour-coded trash cans, like the kind you can find at ImRubbish, can help you set up a game where certain items of rubbish must be sorted into the correct container. For instance, you can set a pile of different types of rubbish on the ground in front of three cans. Have one can colour be for paper recycling, one for cans and bottles, one for general rubbish, and so on. Have your child sort the rubbish properly against the clock, and reward them for what they accomplish correctly.

Word Search 

A word search is a relaxed but effective way of teaching children about recycling, as well. Several sites have such activities available to be printed straight off the computer, and you and your child can search for the words together. Casually ask your child to explain to you the different things he or she has learned about recycling as certain words come up. Alternatively, you can ask your child for definitions of the words that are to be found. This rhetoric helps to ingrain the principles and verbiage associated with recycling in your child’s mind so they learn it at a deeper level than if they just read it once in a book.

Field Trip 

Taking a field trip to the local recycling centre is another great way to involve your child in recycling, and teach them about recycling, as well. Most kids are really interested in how things work, and they’ll think it’s really great to have an opportunity to tour the recycling centre. However, they walk away with a hands-on learning experience and a deeper understanding of what can be recycled, why recycling is important, and what types of things can be made from recycled material.

Save Rubbish to Save Money 

There’s nothing like some monetary incentive to encourage your child to participate in the family recycling efforts. Since most recycling centres will pay you for your recyclable rubbish, pick up a few coloured bins that are just for your children and tell them to sort the rubbish they create into the appropriate bins. Whatever they collect they get to keep the money from, but only if they come with you to deposit the recyclables. Not only do they learn about recycling, but they’ll learn about hard work and earning money, as well.

Recycling Drive 

Another great way to involve your family, and even your entire community, in recycling is to join or create a recycling drive. Gather your family and get the community involved, and see how much recyclable rubbish your community can gather. You can add some fun elements to this activity, as well, like using the funds to pay for an auction item that can be raffled, or simply spreading the wealth among the members.

Letting your kids experience recycling is the best way for them to learn about why things should be recycled, how they’re recycled, and how it helps the environment. Show them the types of things that can be recycled, and how it can turn into a brand new item. Reward them with positive reinforcement when they demonstrate that they have learned what you have taught them. And remember, you have to set a good example for your children to follow, so be sure to keep up with your own recyclable rubbish, as well.


Tim Brown is a primary school teacher with a passion for the environment. He enjoys blogging about ways to engage children in caring for the earth in a responsible way.


Children recycling image and children reading image via Shutterstock.

by Editor

It’s Time to Talk Turkey

Gobble gobble goo

and Gobble gobble gickel

I wish turkey

Only cost a nickel

– Adam Sandler (Thanksgiving Song)

Most people know that Benjamin Franklin had wanted the Turkey to the Official Bird of the United States. We are instead represented by the Bald Eagle, a bird that is less intelligent and lacks the “moral character” held by the turkey. Wild turkeys hold themselves with an awkward dignity that most people only get a chance to admire during Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, domesticated turkeys don’t get to live with such dignity

In order to create the “best” food product domesticated turkeys have been “engineered” in ways that diminish the quality of their lives. Domesticated turkeys weigh an average of 10 pounds more than a wild turkey (Check out this graphic at the Huffington Post).  Because of this excess weight, domesticated turkeys cannot fly like their wild counterparts, which can fly short distances at speeds up to 55 miles per hour. Domesticated turkeys also develop swollen joints and crippled feet.

Domesticated turkeys are breed to have white feathers instead of brown feathers which wild turkeys have. White feathers have finer shafts making the shafts less visible once the feathers are plucked. Though these white feathers make a more appetizing plucked turkey (no nasty ingrowns), they do not have the beautiful rainbow sheen that the brown feathers of a wild turkey have.

99% of turkeys raised for Thanksgiving will be “broad breasted whites” and most will be produced in industrialized farming. Industrialized farming is bad for the birds (besides being debilitated from being overweight their beaks are also clipped beaks so they can not hurt each other). It is also risky to the industry and humans.  Most Industrially raised turkeys are raised using high levels of antibiotics which can lead to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Instead of picking out an industrially farmed turkey from your local supermarket try a Heritage Breed Turkey from a independent poultry farmer.

Heritage Breeds are usually raised on small farms and have longer “growing periods” than their commercially raised brethren. Longer growth periods result in a bird with more flavor. Unfortunately this longer growing period also means that Heritage Breeds are also more expensive, costing upwards of $5 per pound.

To find your nearest Heritage Turkey Breeds visit Local Harvest or Slow Foods USA, websites dedicated to helping people find local sustainable food.

For more Thanksgiving tips from the ENN Blog Click Here

*Fun fact: Only male turkeys (aka toms) gobble, female hens make a clicking noise.

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel