LED bulbs have not been known for their brightness,
but manufacturers are working hard to change that. EarthLED is lighting
the way with its EvoLux and ZetaLux bulbs, pictured here, which
deliver the equivalent of 100-watt and 50-60 watt incandescents,
—FROM THE EDITORS OF E/THE ENVIRONMENTAL MAGAZINE
Dear EarthTalk: What’s the story with LED light bulbs that
are reputed to be even more energy-efficient than compact fluorescents?
—TOBY ESKRIDGE, Little Rock, AR
Perhaps the ultimate “alternative to the alternative,”
the LED (light-emitting diode) light bulb may well dethrone the
compact fluorescent (CFL) as king of the green lighting choices.
But it has a way to go yet in terms of both affordability and brightness.
LEDs have been used widely for decades in other applications—forming
the numbers on digital clocks, lighting up watches and cell phones
and, when used in clusters, illuminating traffic lights and forming
the images on large outdoor television screens. Until recently,
LED lighting has been impractical to use for most other everyday
applications because it is built around costly semiconductor technology.
But the price of semiconductor materials has dropped in recent years,
opening the door for some exciting changes in energy-efficient,
green-friendly lighting options.
According to www.HowStuffWorks.com,
LED bulbs are lit solely by the movement of electrons. Unlike incandescents,
they have no filament that will burn out; and unlike CFLs, they
contain no mercury or other toxic substances. Proponents say LEDs
can last some sixty times longer than incandescents and ten times
longer than CFLs. And unlike incandescents, which generate a lot
of waste heat, LEDs don’t get especially hot and use a much
higher percentage of electricity for directly generating light.
But as with early CFLs, LED bulbs are not known for their brightness.
According to a January 2008 article in Science Daily, “Because
of their structure and material, much of the light in standard LEDs
becomes trapped, reducing the brightness of the light and making
them unsuitable as the main lighting source in the home.”
LED makers get around this problem in some applications by clustering
many small LED bulbs together in a single casing to concentrate
the light emitted. But such LED “bulbs” still don’t
generate light much brighter than a thirty-five-watt incandescent,
much too little light for reading or other focused tasks.
If LEDs are going to replace incandescents and CFLs, manufacturers
will have to make them brighter. EarthLED is lighting the way with
its EvoLux and ZetaLux bulbs, which use multiple LEDs in a single
casing to generate light.
The EvoLux delivers light equal to that of a one-hundred-watt incandescent,
the company says. But the $80/bulb price tag may be tough to swallow.
The ZetaLux, which retails for $49.99, delivers light equivalent
to a fifty- or sixty-watt incandescent, will last fifty thousand
hours and costs only $2/yearly to run.
Other bulb makers are working on similar designs for high-powered
LED bulbs, hoping that an increase in availability will help spur
demand, which will in turn lower prices across the board. Until
then, consumers can find LED bulbs suitable for secondary and mood
lighting purposes in many hardware and big box stores. C. Crane’s
1.3-watt LED bulb, for example, generates as much light as a fifteen-watt
incandescent bulb. Check your local hardware store for other options,
as well as online vendors such as Best Home LED Lighting, Bulbster,
and We Love LEDs.
Do you have an environmental question? Submit it
You name it, Rio Rancho will recycle it...well,
Keep Rio Rancho Beautiful (KRRB) will be conducting America Recycles
Day on Saturday, November 1 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The collection
will take place at Wal-Mart, located at 901 Unser Boulevard, in
the northeast parking lot.
As part of this citywide collection of recyclable and reusable
items, local organizations and businesses will be collecting specific
items. These items will include plastic bags, used children’s
books, eyeglasses, hearing aids, ink/printer cartridges, propane
tanks, charged fire extinguishers, non-perishable food, used clothing/shoes
of wearable quality, passenger vehicle tires (limit four; no rims
or truck tires), refrigerators, washers, dryers, stoves, freezers,
AC units, hot water heaters, dishwashers, cardboard, office paper,
newspaper, magazines, coated book stock, all plastics #1 through
#7, aluminum, copper, brass, steel, bronze, stainless steel, computers,
scanners, monitors, printers, VCRs, digital phones, DVD players,
copiers, fax machines, televisions, microwaves, cell phones, and
This collection is for Rio Rancho residents only and is subject
to weather. Trash (household, yard), animal waste, biomedical waste,
and hazardous waste will not be accepted. Beneficiaries of this
event include Shining Stars Preschool, Rio Rancho Host Lion’s
Club, Kiwanis, Bolton Iron Works, Storehouse West, St. Felix Pantry,
Boy’s Appliance, and Enchantment Electronic Recycling.
For more information, please call 896-8729. KRRB is a division
of the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Department.
You may also visit the city’s website (www.ci.rio-rancho.nm.us)
and look for KRRB’s Kerby Coyote mascot icon and link.
River otters back in New Mexico
A native New Mexican once found in streams and rivers throughout
the state has returned home after a sixty-year absence. Five river
otters were released in the waters of the Rio Pueblo de Taos on
The wild otters were trapped and transported from Washington by
USDA Wildlife Services and Taos Pueblo as part of a larger otter
reintroduction program organized by Taos Pueblo; The New Mexico
Department of Game and Fish; the U.S. Bureau of Land Management;
and the New Mexico Friends of River Otters, a coalition of citizens,
agencies, and conservation organizations dedicated to restoring
otters to the state.
“Protecting and restoring native wildlife is important to
the heritage and ecology of New Mexico, and one of the main roles
of the Department of Game and Fish,” Department Director Bruce
Thompson said. “Today’s release is a positive first
step in an effort to return otters to watersheds across the state.”
River otters are highly social, playful, semi-aquatic members of
the weasel family. They are believed to have once inhabited the
Gila, upper and middle Rio Grande, Mora, San Juan, and Canadian
river systems and occasionally were mentioned in the journals of
There have been no confirmed sightings of river otters in the state
since 1953. Decades of trapping and habitat loss are believed to
be two factors in their disappearance.
“We are extremely excited that Taos Pueblo has taken the
initiative to ensure that our playful furbearing friends are once
again diving and swimming in the Upper Rio Grande Watershed,”
said Melissa Savage with the New Mexico Friends of River Otters.
In 2006, the State Game Commission directed the Department of Game
and Fish to initiate efforts to restore otters to state waters.
A Department study identified several rivers as suitable restoration
sites, including the Upper Rio Grande, White Rock Canyon, and Middle
Rio Chama in the Rio Grande Basin; and the Upper Gila, Lower Gila,
and Lower San Francisco rivers in the Gila River Basin. A second,
larger release is scheduled on the main stem of the Upper Rio Grande
The New Mexico Friends of River Otters, a coalition of government
agencies and conservation organizations, plans to release additional
otters. Members include Amigos Bravos, Earth Friends Wild Species
Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife,
the Four Corners Institute, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation,
the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Upper Gila Watershed
Alliance, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Local residents author book with great insight
and knowledge of our beautiful surroundings.
Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies: Revealing Their
by Carolyn Dodson and William W. Dunmire
It might seem there are already plenty of guides to Western plants.
But Christmas just became easier for people who have wildflower
lovers on their shopping lists. Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern
Rockies creates its own niche, part field guide, part good old-fashioned
storytelling, making it a delight to carry along on rambles and
to add to any collection of resources on native plants. This book
is special, both informative and entertaining with uncommon extras,
reflecting the authors’ widespread interests.
Both authors are well-qualified to compile this book. Carolyn Dodson,
retired after a career in library services, holds a master’s
degree in biological sciences and teaches wildflower identification
classes in the continuing education division of the University of
New Mexico. William W. Dunmire served as a naturalist in national
parks for many years, has been a field biologist with The Nature
Conservancy, and has authored other books about plants in the region.
At present, he is an Associate in Biology at the University of New
Mexico. The splendid line drawings are the work of the late Walter
The result of this impressive collaboration is a superbly illustrated
and enthusiastically recommended field guide to the principal wildflowers
most commonly associated with Southern Rocky Mountain landscapes,
including the Sandias and Jemez Mountains, during the high country
seasons ranging from spring to the end of fall. It features 201
good-sized four-color photographs, fifty-eight line drawings, a
map, and 192 pages of information, including each featured plant’s
physical description as a wildflower, the plants’ individual
roles in human history, their relationship with birds and insects,
their origins and family characteristics, as well as their evolutionary
details. From western wallflower, columbine, larkspur, shooting
star and lupine, to water hemlock, primrose, flax, scarlet penstemon,
and bluebells, the flowers showcased in this very highly recommended
reference include the individual flower’s Latin name, and
the guide also features a glossary, suggested references, a selected
bibliography, and an index. Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern
Rockies could well serve as a template for similar field guides
for wildflowers in other sections of the country.
The beauty and variety of native plants the authors present in
this work is astounding. They both pass on their admiration for
and joy in becoming acquainted with the spectacular summer show
put on by the southern Rocky Mountains every year. Bill Dunmire
will be signing copies of the book, available for sale at the winery
during the Placitas Holiday Sale, November 22 and 23.
Rainwater harvesting saves water, breaks the law
—PETER FRIEDERICI, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
All Mark Miller wanted to do was wash some cars and water the grass
in front of his new car dealership.
As the proprietor of Utah’s first LEED-certified, environmentally-friendly
car dealership, Miller wanted to minimize his reliance on water
from Salt Lake City’s public utility. So his extensive remodel
of the building included two large new cisterns designed to capture
rainwater for irrigation and car washing.
But Miller was surprised to learn that trapping water on his own
roof would be illegal. “The state said no,” he explains.
“In order to use the system, we had to have an existing water
share. It’s ludicrous.”
Miller is not the only water-conscious Westerner to run afoul of
the region’s prior-appropriation doctrine. Conservation advocates,
including many utilities, have embraced the idea of using water
collected from roofs, and stored in cisterns or rain barrels, to
reduce reliance on dwindling surface water or groundwater supplies.
Yet in Utah, Colorado and Washington, it’s illegal to do so
unless you go through the difficult—and often impossible—
process of gaining a state water right.
That’s because virtually all flowing water in most Western
states is already dedicated to someone’s use, and state water
officials figure that trapping rainwater amounts to impeding that
legal right. No one actively enforces these laws, as Boyd Clayton
of the Utah Division of Water Rights notes: “We’re not
like cops out looking for speeders. Spending time enforcing these
cases is not a priority.”
As a result, would-be water harvesters often learn about potential
legal trouble only when they try to do the right thing, as Miller
did, by asking for a state permit. That’s what happened to
Kris Holstrom, who runs an organic farm outside Telluride, Colorado.
The well she’s relied on for years provides less water than
it once did—a change she attributes to drought and increased
development. So she asked the Colorado Division of Water Resources
for a permit to collect runoff from building roofs—and was
“They felt that the water belonged to someone else once it
hit my roof,” she says. “They claimed that the water
was tributary to the San Miguel River”—which runs some
three miles from her place and is fully allocated to other users
downstream. How much of the precipitation that falls on Holstrom’s
farm eventually reaches the river? Likely not much.
A recent hydrological study found that little precipitation that
falls on undeveloped areas in Colorado’s Douglas County actually
reaches streams. In a wet year, fifteen percent of the precipitation
does; in a dry year, none. Most observers agree that water collection
by a few scattered rural residents is not going to affect overall
supplies. Intensive collection by many urban residents, on the other
hand, really might affect a region’s water budget—though
advocates argue that widespread adoption of the practice can reduce
reliance both on other water supplies and on costly storm water
management and wastewater treatment.
Many municipalities embrace the practice; Austin, Texas, has subsidized
residential rainwater-collection systems for years. Elsewhere, the
practice thrives underground. In July, a store in Durango, Colorado,
hosted about thirty people at a presentation about water harvesting.
“All these folks were either collecting or interested in
getting started,” says Laurie Dickson, owner of the Eco Home
Center. “Some live in town; some live out on the mesa where
they have to haul water, and they don’t want to do that anymore.”
Dickson readily acknowledges that she regularly sells such water-harvesting
supplies as rain barrels and filters. “It’s not illegal
to sell the parts. It’s kind of like ‘don’t ask,
State legislators in Colorado, Utah, and Washington are working
on new laws that would allow small-scale collection of runoff without
a specific water right. But given the numerous interest groups with
a stake in water law, it’s no easy task. Legislators in Washington
and Colorado have had a hard time crafting rules dealing with the
issue, though some expect that water harvesting—by rural residents,
at least—in Colorado will be legalized next year. In hopes
that it will be, Kris Holstrom is planning to install a five thousand-gallon
Cities have stepped in, too. Seattle now has a master water permit
that allows residents of most neighborhoods to collect some rainwater.
A similar solution is in the works for Mark Miller, who has worked
out a deal whereby he will be covered for free under the city utility’s
water rights. City officials view that as a good deal for them,
“The advantage to the city is that we can then take some
demand off our system,” says Jeff Niermeyer, the city’s
public utilities director. “That means we won’t have
to develop other (water) sources as soon.”
Ski tips at the Esther Bone Library
Parabolic skis, straight skis, twin tip skis—what’s
the difference? Ski professionals from Twin Tip National will conduct
a workshop at the Esther Bone Memorial Library on November 18 at
6:30 p.m. to get you tuned in to what has been going on in the ski
industry over the last ten years. You will learn why twin tips are
different, why the twin tips skis have created a new revolution,
how they compare to snowboards, and exactly what freestyle skiing
is all about.
This workshop is free and prior registration is not required. The
Library is located at 950 Pinetree Road SE in Rio Rancho. For information,
please call 891-5012, extension 3128.
Take a hike!
—ROB PUDIM, WRITERS ON THE RANGE“
I thought we’d go for a hike,” I told the boy I’m
mentoring. “You know, look at stuff.”
“How about we go to a movie?” he parried. “Or
we could play electronic poker.”
He’s not an unusual kid. There has been a major swing in
his generation away from all things outdoors. The National Academy
of Sciences said, “All major lines of evidence point to an
ongoing and fundamental shift away from nature-based activity.”
When I was a kid, you couldn’t keep me inside a building.
This was long before iPods, Xboxes or computers and the Internet.
We were so poor we didn’t have a television set until I was
in high school.
Outside was another story. There were no adults watching what you
did; there were semi-feral kids to run with, neat things to poke
and whack with a stick, trees to climb, and places to start a fire.
We didn’t worry about Lyme disease from ticks, West Nile from
mosquitoes, and we thought bugs were fun to play with. Parents didn’t
worry about stranger-danger, residential restrictions, and unsupervised
games. If we did get in trouble, it was our fault and we should
have known better.
“If you get a broken leg, don’t come crying to me,”
my mother would say.
To this day, mountains are a wonderland and refuge for me. Yellowstone
National Park Supervisor Suzanne Lewis agrees. She tries to lure
children to national parks, telling parents about the fun of “No
Child Left Indoors.” She said television has caused kids to
fear nature because it shows mountains full of predators, poisonous
snakes, and rabid bats. Filmmakers spend years waiting for animals
to do something ferocious, so they can manhandle or wrestle them
into higher ratings. The truth is, when you clomp along a trail,
your chance of seeing any animal is small.
In all the years I’ve spent hiking the mountains, I have
seen only two bears. Both of them ran away from me. I might have
glimpsed a mountain lion. I have seen more deer, foxes, raccoons,
squirrels, skunks and, yes, mountain lions in the city of Boulder
than I have in the mountains. The mountains are boring, if you expect
them to be like what you see on television or in the movies.
At the same time, advertising has encouraged us to remove smells
except for flowers or citrus and to avoid germs and dirt of all
kinds. There are plenty of city people who shudder at the thought
of sleeping in a tent, pooping in the woods, and not taking a shower
for days. As one juvenile said with disdain as he watched me stuffing
my backpack, “You’re going to grub in dirt again, huh?”
Dirt is not all bad. I read somewhere that a too-clean house can
lead to more illness than a sloppy one. Our immune systems need
to be challenged by sub-acute doses of antigens so they can fight
off bigger, disease-causing amounts. Living in a slightly dirty
house may actually be good for you. Grubbing in the dirt is probably
a healthful activity.
I can hear the doors slamming on that argument.
The good news is that Western states lead the nation when it comes
to participation in hunting and fishing—for people aged sixteen
and older. The West probably also leads the rest of the country
in kids just messing around outdoors, thanks to our vast amounts
of easily reached public land. Nonetheless, young people from eight
to eighteen spend an average of six hours a day involved with electronic
media, including three hours of television. They spend less than
a half-hour of the day outside.
How do you get a boy or girl to like the outdoors? I suppose if
you started them really young and took them outside, perhaps using
bribery or sheer force, you might eventually get them to like it.
To me, it’s a no-brainer: Swinging on trees, plotching around
in water, getting dirty and not caring, building a fire and camping,
is pure delight.
So it’s frustrating and discouraging to me as I look out
across the foothills. I hear their “Bali Hai” calling
song, and I want to get outside and hike in the open air.
How is it possible youngsters can’t hear that? How can they
not like what I love?