Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Understanding the IPCC Report

A big report on climate change (IPCC AR5) came out recently and our Green Ninja Science Team has been poring over the details.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll share some of the more interesting results from the most detailed and peer-reviewed assessment of our climate system ever.  So let’s get started!

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) has completed their Scientific Assessment report and it is full of new findings and figures.  Chief among those was a new statement that goes something like this:

“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century”

Although this may not seem such a big deal, for a scientific organization like the IPCC, it’s like someone screaming at the top of her lungs – we’ve found it, we’ve found it!!  So what are they yelling about?  They are now sure that humans are causing our recent climate to change – period.

Of course there is more to the story, but this conclusion is firm.

Ok, and now on to a pretty picture!

surface temperature

This Figure SPM.1 (from the Summary for Policymakers) shows how temperatures have changed on Earth over the last 150 years.  In the top plot, the annual average temperature is shown from a couple of different observation networks.  A couple of points do jump out.  First, the temperatures bounce around a lot from year to year – a bit like a pinball machine bouncing around.  However, we can also see that there were two strong warming periods – one from about 1910 to 1940 and the other from about 1970 to about now.  The second part of the figure, we see the same data now grouped by 10-year averages that filter out all the wiggles.  Now the warming periods are even clearer.

Let’s look at another picture!

change in surface temp

The second plot (Figure B) looks at how much temperatures have changed over the last 110 years at different points on the Earth.  As you can see, most places are between 0.5 and 1.5 degrees C warmer today compared to 1900.  Although that may seem a small number, it’s actually quite noticeable if we stop and notice.  So for sure the planet is warmer.

If you have any questions, send them along and our Science Team will do our best to answer them.

Please tune in next time and we’ll look at another aspect of the new IPCC report!

Autumn and Shampoo

autumnAutumn here!

This week I was introduced to the idea of all natural shampoo, which consisted of just baking soda and water. I was stoked on the idea for two reasons, it was cheap and good for the environment. But I was hesitant, because I love having scented shampoo. Unlike most people I know, I only use shampoo and do not use conditioner. I haven’t used conditioner in probably over a year because I wanted to reduce the number of products in my hair and it made my hair more oily than it already is. Recently, I switched to Head and Shoulders Ocean Lift because I heard that it wasn’t just for those with dandruff, but it balanced your natural oils in your hair. After I tried it, I fell in love with it. But then I really started to wonder about what kind of chemicals were in this product. I found there were plenty of chemicals, some that were even apparently linked to cancer. So I decided to give the baking soda a try for five days.

Day 1: For lack of better words, it sucked. My hair was left feeling disgusting and not clean at all.

Day 2: I tried adding more baking soda and less water. My hair still felt gross.

Day 3: I added more baking soda again. My hair was getting oily from not being washed properly and I was getting annoyed that my hair didn’t smell good.

Day 4: I was counting down the days to fresh clean hair.

Day 5: I added lemon juice to the baking soda and water because I read that citrus would help the oiliness… NOPE. I officially gave up,

Day 6: I washed my hair with Head and Shoulders again.

I read that the mixture ratio really didn’t matter because there was no right or wrong way to do it, so I knew it didn’t have to do with that. So I gave up on that shampoo and went back to my old chemical habit. In the mean time I’ve started looking for a new natural shampoo that is better for the environment and could balance my natural oils. Any suggestions??

Illustration by Tamara Chang

Illustration by Tamara Chang

Looking for help!


Small change, big difference

Sometimes small changes make a big difference. Take 6 minutes and check out this great story about how one Tuscon resident figured out a simple way to use available rainwater to create a healthy, natural oasis in the desert. Do you think this could be done where you live?

Autumn’s Carbon Footprint


Autumn here!

This week I stumbled upon a link to a carbon footprint calculator. So, I decided I would calculate my carbon footprint. The calculator was divided into different components of lifestyle habits that contributed to CO2 emissions. Some examples of the CO2 emitting actions included  flights, electricity, car travel, and eating habits. I thought it was interesting to see how all the components came together in the calculations. It  also showed how everyday habits emit COand how much impact I, personally, have on the environment.

According to this calculator, over the last 12 months my carbon footprint consisted of:

1.44 metric tons of CO2 from electricity and gas

1.54 metric tons of COfrom plane travel

5.19 metric tons of COfrom car travel

0.01 metric tons of CO2 from public transit

4.47 metric tons of CO2 from secondary emissions (including shopping and eating habits)

My total carbon foot print was 12.66 metric tons of CO2 from February 2012 to February 2013. My largest number was from traveling via car and plane. I have done a lot of traveling over the past year, for conferences, trips to my home town, and visiting friends. I also spent my summer traveling all around Oregon since I had an internship there for two months. Most of my trips consisted of carpooling with other interns. I would consider this to reduce my overall carbon footprint.

Even so, my footprint is almost half of America’s average carbon footprint, which is 20 metric tons of CO2. This site said the world-wide goal for individual carbon footprints was 2 metric tons of COa year. This would lead to a drastic change from the typical American lifestyle, including my own lifestyle.

My goal is to reduce my carbon footprint by next year by using more public transportation, eating less red meat and buying more foods with less packaging.

What’s your carbon footprint!?

Stat tuned!


P.S. If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out our Green Ninja animation “Footprint Renovation.”

Autumn and Conferences

Autumn here!

A few weeks ago I traveled to Austin, Texas for the 93rd Annual American Meteorological Society’s Conference. At this conference, meteorologists and climatologists gather together to discuss their work and future studies.This conference was a great opportunity for students like me to understand the industry more and talk with future employers and graduate advisors.

One thing I started thinking about during all the talks about climate change was all the resources that went into making this meeting happen.  Every attendee received a name badge; ribbons for different conferences, classes and labels; a big schedule booklet; reusable bag; and other paper handouts.  It made me think.  Are we contributing to climate change too?


Around the conference building, there were a few recycle bins for the big booklets, which was good because when they ran out of books they were able to grab them out of the bins. But it was interesting to think of all the booklets, how much paper was used and how each booklet will be used for a week and then sit on a shelf to collect dust. It might be interesting to see if this format eventually translates to electronic handouts or apps.

There were also snacks and coffee offered to the attendees throughout the conference. These were served on plastic and paper settings. It made me wonder if they were made from post consumer products or decomposable products.  With all the free coffee offered, I really wished I’d traveled with my reusable coffee cup. From now on, I vow to make a little extra room in my travel bag for my reusable coffee cup. My cup is going to see a lot more than just the Bay Area now.

I seemed to notice fewer recycle bins around compared to home, I did find this one and it made my day. It’s nice to see people caring for our environment and future generations.


Has any one else been to a conference and had similar thoughts?

Stay Tuned!Illustration by Tamara Chang

Illustration by Tamara Chang


Autumn and The Flu


Autumn here!

For the last week, I was sick with a cold. After a day with a constant runny nose, I wondered how many trees I had killed with as many tissues I used. I decided I needed to find some kind of alternative. I went to Target first, I found out that most tissue companies make their cardboard boxes from 45% post consumer recycled products… but other than that, these products weren’t any better for the environment.

The end of the paper product aisle, however caught my eye. I found a whole section devoted to “green” products, such as PrideGreen and Scott Naturals. These products included biodegradable trash bags and sandwich bags made of up to 100% recycled materials.This made me wonder if other stores had these products too.IMG_1768IMG_1765

When I went to Trader Joe’s, I found 100% recycled tissues but they had this warning on the bottom not to leave them in the wash, I am guessing because they would disintegrate. Because they were single-ply they seemed like I was going to use more tissues than I already had been.IMG_1764

When I went to CVS, I found toilet paper again but no tissues and Walgreens was the same. IMG_1851

When I searched online, I found Seventh Generation, a company that provides biodegradable and recycled products. These tissues had reviews for very soft tissues that were considered to be better that products with lotion in them. This company also provides laundry detergents, cleaning products, baby diapers, and other disposable items. Surprisingly, the prices were also about the same as their competitors.

During my search, I was pointed toward an article that talked about paper napkins versus linen napkins. Did you know that paper napkins have a smaller carbon footprint? Paper napkins have 10 grams of greenhouse gas emissions, while linen napkins have 127 grams and cotton napkins have 1020 grams. But  remember this is only for one use so if the napkins are used once then a paper napkin is the better choice. but if you plan on using the napkin multiple times the cloth would be the better choice. The same goes for picking up a spill, instead of using ten paper napkins to clean up one towel or cloth napkin would be the better choice.

Stay Tuned!


Earthman Rap

Earthman Rap. As good today as it was in 2007. Thanks to Sarah Miller of for finding this gem!

Teachers: check out the Earthman Project’s cool web site for some great resources to bring music, art, and the environment into you classroom.

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