Dreaming of Springtime

Green Frog

In my daily hikes through the forest here in Southeast Missouri, I’ve been listening to the training cd of frog and toad calls, and feeling like it is already Spring, even though the trees are bare and colder weather is on its way back into our lives during the coming week. Spring is still over 3 weeks away, “officially”. Lately, we have had some relief from the more severe winter we have endured this year. We can hope that it has an impact on the insect population come summertime. But the mild and sunny days, have many thinking about Spring already.

NAAMP Seal

I’ve been reviewing the sounds of frogs and toads, in preparation for the annual surveying that I do for the Missouri Dept of Conservation, in partnership with the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program through Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the USGS. This year I must take the certification test, so that my data can be verified as valid for compiling with other such efforts all across the eastern United States. Our family goes out 3 times from March through the end of June. We make 10 stops and I spend 5 very peaceful minutes, standing out in the darkness, listening. Because of our participation, my older son often catches and brings frogs and toads to me to identify. Not to worry, he is a rescuer (has saved many from our backporch outdoor kitties) and is very gentle and considerate of them. The blessing is, not only do I know what they sound like but I get physical experience with what they look like as well.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

And thoughts of Spring, have caused my older son to begin asking when our family will go on our annual float trip to the Jack’s Fork River, in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, that we are blessed to have access to, only a few hours away. We always spend about 3 days and 2 nights on the River, camping out on gravel bars. We have taken our boys on these canoe river floats since they were yet infants and they are naturals out in the wild. We usually do not go before April. We like to go for our annual outing before the crowds begin to take over the river, after the fall and winter have cleansed the shores a bit and downed some more wood for campfires. That can also mean some difficult obstacles in the river as well, because the park service has not gone out to remove them yet. Still, it is wonderful to be away from modern human necessities – electric lights, television and telephone calls – for a few days. Very refreshing; and it always re-centers us in family strengths, and reminds us of all that is truly important in life.

For a long time, our families had aluminum canoes; but they are really not the best material on Missouri float streams due to the hard granite rocks that one must navigate around with varying degrees of success. When our boys were very small, a single canoe was adequate for our family. I would paddle in the front and my husband in the rear (he has been out on Missouri float streams for over 50 years; and so, is very skilled and has always been resourceful too). We would put each boy in the center of the canoe, in large plastic coolers with the lids removed. On more than one occasion, these functioned as floating escape pods to secure the children’s safety, after an unexpected, unfortunate event with a downed tree or unavoidable boulder. And of course, the kids wear flotation vests; and we do too, since they do.

But the boys are older now; and so, a few years ago, my older son and I split off into a separate canoe (leaving my husband and younger son together in a second canoe); and we began to find that it was more efficient and convenient to rent the lightweight, modern canoes that have very tough shells and are not so prone to leaking as our heavy, aluminum canoes became. So, it was with a bit of concern and sadness that I read in Plastics News this week, that the ONLY manufacturer of that canoe shell Royalex material, a factory in Warsaw, IN, is ceasing production. This is an outcome of an acquisition by PolyOne, of Spartech Corp. It is entirely driven by the bottom-line profit motives that guide many American corporations. And profit is admittedly a necessary to remain a viable business.

PolyOne said that “Royalex is a low volume, unprofitable product that was in a steady decline in demand well prior to our purchase of Spartech last year. We have not identified upside or growth opportunities for Royalex that would make it viable as a continuing product line.” They also tried increasing the price first by 25%, after the acquisition for the Royalex material, to their canoe manufacturer customers – thereby reducing the “affordability” factor that had been one of the material’s more attractive features. Most of the canoe manufacturers did expect at least 3-5 years “notice”, that PolyOne intended to close that plant; but they were actually only given less than a year.

"Royalex" Canoe

“Royalex” Canoe

It is said that “canoeing” is a struggling business. Most of the Canoe Manufacturers use Royalex as one of their primary materials. That is because it can handle “difficult” waters. It has also been affordable and lightweight, while very strong and durable. Well known names like Mad River, Old Town and Wenonah have been using the material in their fabrications. Now, it is likely that canoes will still be made from some other material; but the manufacturers are scrambling for that alternative, and they’ve not been given very much time to make engineering and fabrication changes. Wenonah has a blend of polyester and fiberglass called Tuff-Weave, which they expect to bridge some of their own material “gap”.

Royalex Material Diagram

Royalex was developed by Uniroyal in the 1960s. Royalex is a customized, hand laid-up material that is layers of ABS and ABS foam sandwiched between vinyl. The foam core offers resilience, shock absorption, insulation and buoyancy. The substrate provides strength. The surface ply gives color, a smooth texture, and resistance to weather and abrasion. Uniroyal (and then, Spartech) initially had higher hopes than a single market of canoe manufacturers for Royalex. They expected to find additional markets with go kart makers, for bus fenders and other complex shapes. However, when PolyOne acquired Spartech, they found there was only one market where Royalex was fully accepted and that was with canoe manufacturers. The oldest canoe “material” dates back to the Netherlands, a single pine log, carbon dated to 8040-7510 BC.

It is true that any time a manufacturer deals with a single-source material or supplier, ongoing business can be put at risk at any time. Because we have been in business now for over 30 years, we have had our own moments of challenge and we have always found a way through these, usually more easily than we thought, when first presented with that. Yemm & Hart is a niche provider. Our size allows us to provide our customers with uniquely custom, 100% post-consumer recycled options, that the large, profit-and-cost-driven manufacturers have no interest in.

YH Origins 523 Purple Garden, a good choice reflecting Pantone's 2014 color - Radiant Orchid.

YH Origins 523 Purple Garden,
a good choice reflecting Pantone’s 2014 color – Radiant Orchid.

I think there is a definite place for small scale and targeted manufacturing in this country, as a continuing source of employment. I am grateful that our business has survived the extreme contractions of the economy and its effects on the construction industry. So many jobs have been lost in this country since the 1990s, due to off-shoring and technology. Some who have sent their business over to China have found themselves in serious difficulties, due to cultural and legal differences. It is short-sighted to eliminate upward mobility and the middle class “consumer” market; due to having made a narrow perspective, “maximizing profit”, the guiding rule. At this time, not only the United States of America but much of the planet, is struggling to balance the basics of valuing the quality of life for a country’s entire population, as impacted by private business decisions. There will be a ripple effect from closing the Royalex plant, that won’t adversely impact PolyOne; but that is likely to impact many others down to the river level, float outfitter and canoeist.

~ Information Resources

I am unable to provide you with an “online link” to my information resource for this week’s blog. The news isn’t all that new – a big uproar over in the “canoe community” over this can be found via google, around July-Aug 2013, after news leaked out to the public. I would still like to acknowledge my own source for this blog –

“PolyOne rocks the boat for canoe manufacturers” by Catherine Kavanaugh printed in Plastics News, Feb 17, 2014 issue, as a main cover story “Special Report”, under the category of “Thermoforming”.

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Aging in the New American Home

2014 The New American Home

2014 The New American Home

I was initially attracted to taking a look at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) 2014 The New American Home to consider the “latest” in green building materials. The new home takes green building techniques to a new level, meeting “Emerald” status in the National Green Building Standard and “Platinum” status with the US Green Building Council’s LEED program. Certainly, the materials do not disappoint. Most impressive are advances in open-cell spray polyurethane foam insulation systems as made by Bayer MaterialScience LLC. Although these “tighten” the house to make it extremely energy efficient, the newer versions now allow the house to breathe a little more and do not trap as much moisture between the dry wall and insulation. Of equal interest was the roofing foam and coatings also supplied by Bayer. I grew up in the desert at El Paso TX, so interesting to me (from my own life’s experiences) were the qualities of keeping sand and dust, as well as heat, out of the home.

Other “green” features in the 2014 The New American Home were LED lights, tankless water heaters, a 16kw solar photovoltaic panel system, natural gas and electric car charging stations plus a weather-sensitive, moisture-controlled irrigation system.

Photo-voltaic System

Photo-voltaic System

The perspective in this home, while not so much materials oriented but design perspective is the multi-generational aspects. I was literally fascinated by that aspect within the design and floor planning considerations as explained by Jeffrey Burkus, the architect, with interiors by Marc-Michaels Interior Design Inc (watch the video at “Virtual Tour“). I believe this is an important trend in family style living – a return to the nurturing and care of multi-generational families sharing living space together.

We live on a farm and when my in-laws were in their “dying” years, they lived 5 mins away, our closest neighbors. This allowed them to remain independently in their home but supported by their son and daughter-in-law along with other caregivers and relations. We had our two sons at an advanced age and because I perceive our time together as limited and because I enjoyed so much the 20 years that I had with my in-laws as a regular and present factor in our lives, I have no expectations nor desires for my 2 sons to ever “leave home”. I realize that they may choose otherwise but I see this as a significant shift in human perspectives going into the future.

Main-Level Floor Plan

Main-Level Floor Plan

The 2014 New American Home encompasses this shift rather nicely. Allowing choice in living space and a mix of inhabitants and ages within a single dwelling. A long-view of life together as a family.

2nd-Level Floor Plan

2nd-Level Floor Plan

While my parents are several states away, I see that same desire in them, to remain in their home and they are making plans and receiving a great deal of assistance in order to continue to do so, as they age and decline naturally as our bodies do. There is a lot of social assistance becoming available because it is definitely less expensive and more natural for people to continue to live the kinds of life they have become accustomed to, whenever that is possible – given medical considerations and local capabilities.

So, the 2014 New American Home in Las Vegas (actually Henderson) NV does not disappoint on many levels – both in the environmentally sensitive material choices or in the forward thinking of the architect and builder. Such considerations are the leading edge of quality of life issues for all of us going into the future, but available to anyone who can afford to design and build a new home today. I realize that many people are struggling financially at this time but let us hope similarly forward thinking people are working on a world where basics of survival in a comfortable sense are available to all of us.

~ Information Resources

“Foam, other plastics featured in ‘The New American Home’ ” by Catherine Kavanaugh posted Feb 11, 2014 in Plastics News – http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20140211/NEWS/140219977/foam-other-plastics-featured-in-the-new-american-home

“NAHB: The 2014 New American Home” – http://www.tnah.com/showpage_details.aspx?showpageID=11138

“NAHB – Aging in Place” – http://www.nahb.org/reference_list.aspx?sectionID=717

“5 Universal Design Needs for Aging in Place” by Michelle Seitzer posted at Reader’s Digest – http://www.rd.com/home/improvement/5-universal-design-needs-for-aging-in-place/#ixzz2tVwBzlXK

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Is Winter Fading From The Olympics ?

Sochi 2014 Olympics

Like many people, I am aware of the Winter Olympics taking place in Sochi Russia at the present time. I am not watching them. Not because I do not love the winter events; but because we have chosen NOT to have any commercial television in our home. There is some good content on commercial TV and we lose out on being able to watch that. In the past, I would have loved watching the figure skating events; and now, I would enjoy the snowboarding as well, as my sons mild interest in skateboards has made me more aware of that modern culture.

The Nagano Japan post-game IOC report in 1998 contained the first mention of climate change in the context of the Olympics. The authors of the report said, “The depletion of the ozone layer and global warming are two examples of issues affecting our natural ecosystem on a worldwide scale. Therefore, striving to host the Olympic Winter Games in harmony with nature is especially important, and we ask the IOC and future Olympic Winter Games host cities to pay close attention to the environment.” The pool of locations capable of hosting the games will shrink as the climate warms — and the colder mountain cities that may be the best fit may not have the infrastructure to handle a massive influx of athletes, spectators and organizers. That will force some difficult decisions, making it an interesting dilemma the International Olympic Committee will be caught in.

By 1980, when Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics again, organizers were tinkering with making snow on the alpine ski courses. The practice became commonplace after the 1998 Games in Calgary, and this year Sochi is boasting an armada of over 500 snowmaking guns, one of the largest in Europe. Snow making requires the use of vast amounts of electricity, and the utility bill has now become one of the largest costs for resorts. The act of making snow where coal is used to generate the energy to make the snow is only exacerbating the situation. The good news is that, many ski resorts are increasing the wind, solar and other types of renewable, clean-burning fuel they use for power generation. Plus, snowmaking equipment is increasingly energy efficient. It takes about 150,000 gallons of water to make enough snow to cover an acre of ski trail one foot deep.

Glacier before and after

We need to be more concerned about climate change, whether we can reverse or slow it down, or whether we must adapt and cope with the changes that it will bring into every life on this planet. It does no good to pretend there are no impacts. I remember being shocked at the retreat of glaciers. One can’t help but be seriously impressed that a change is happening in our climate. Already, signs of an unwelcome thaw have appeared at even the highest elevations. This season, the Verbier 4 Vallées resort in Switzerland eliminated two chair lifts after the lower edge of Tortin Glacier, at 2,800 metres elevation, receded by 40 metres in just 15 years.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the snow season has shrunk by about three weeks since the early 1970s and snow cover is projected to decline substantially by the end of the century, according to a report released in September by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Being a casual student of Earth science, I know that the climate has never been a stagnant or stable force in planetary existence. And so, today, I consider that the “winter” environments so celebrated by the Winter Olympics, may become a 100% artificial creation in the future – indeed has already become such, to a great extent. In the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts, here in the USA, there is a combined total of 17 skiing areas. A recent study suggests that by 2039, none will sustain a viable skiing season — defined by industry as 100 days or more — even with artificial snow-making.

Typical Snow Cannon in Russia

Typical Snow Cannon in Russia

Skiing is a winter sport that prides itself on being harmoniously in step with the rhythms of nature. But sometimes, it turns out, nature falls out of step, failing to drop enough snow to meet the early demand for skiers. So technology steps in. And what about artificial snow making ? What are the environmental impacts of depending on such methods to create artificial winter sports environments ? A warmer, moister atmosphere will produce heavier, wetter snow, not the dry, fluffy ‘champagne powder’ prized by many recreational skiers. Artificial snow created with snow-making cannons is often icy, perfect for laying the base of lightning-fast competition runs but less favorable for the average skier. And temperatures that skirt the freezing mark increase the risk that precipitation will fall as rain, not snow, and will raise the density of the snowpack.

The fluffy blankets on the trails at the Loveland Colorado resort are largely produced by snow guns using water pumped from nearby streams. Environmentalists have been raising concerns for years, that the ski industry is becoming so reliant on water diverted for artificial snow that fish in rivers and streams might be endangered. “For most skiers, who tend to be environmentalists themselves, this hits a little close to home,” said Lewis Milford, a lawyer with the Conservation Law Foundation in Montpelier, Vt., a private environmental group. “When it comes to environmental damage, we tend to think of the traditional bad guys — mining, logging, ranching. But snow making takes a lot of water out of rivers and streams, in some cases depleting them to dangerously low levels. And this is something we’ve got to face up to.”

The Russians have spent the last year stockpiling snow for the Olympic venues. I can relate to the temperature shock that skiers, snowboarders and other athletes got when they arrived in Sochi, Russia, for the 22nd Olympic Winter Games. When we traveled from Missouri to Hawaii in Nov 2010, we experienced a similar effect. So, the athletes as they traveled into town from the airport, passed rows of palm trees, which thrive in the breezes blowing off the Black Sea. Only 40 km away, on the ski slopes of Rosa Khutor, the Sochi Olympic organizers have spent a year, manufacturing and stockpiling snow as a hedge, against the region’s mild climate.

A group of environmentalists filed suit in the Colorado Supreme Court in an effort to block a planned snow-making expansion by the Aspen Skiing Company at Snowmass. And ski operators in New England have also faced resistance from environmental groups. The growth in artificial snow has been fueled by fierce competition among resorts to provide the deep blankets demanded by customers and to stretch the ski season. The Loveland and Keystone ski areas in Colorado open now nearly two weeks before Halloween. A generation ago, ski resorts typically did not open until after Thanksgiving, often not until after Christmas, unless the mountains were hit with an early storm. Ski resorts in Colorado are now diverting three or four times the volume of water for snow making that they used a decade ago, said Hal Simpson, the director of the Division of Water Resources in Colorado. Even so, the volume of water used for making snow is tiny compared to the amount used for agriculture.

Brown Trout  in a Colorado stream

Brown Trout
in a Colorado stream

“There is an emerging and growing list of compounds [about which] we don’t know the affects”, according to Taylor McKinnon, public lands director for the Center for Biological Diversity. He says, “… we know that endocrine disruptors [in wastewater] will change fish sex ratios. This points to the need for additional research and more advanced water treatment.” Brown trout incubate in the gravel of stream beds and hatch in the spring. The danger of low water flows is that streams could freeze and then rip the fish eggs from the water bed. “It could lower the flow so much that the trout wouldn’t survive,” said Mr. Simpson, “especially since they make snow in the late fall, just when the streams are at the lowest.” But he said he did not believe that snow making had yet caused serious ecological damage.

The Arizona Snowbowl resort in the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff AZ would be the first resort in the U.S. to use 100 percent treated wastewater to make snow, it’s a common practice in Europe and in parts of Australia. Experts believe that it does not make people sick nor does it result in contaminates reaching flora or fauna. There are concerns that the water may contain chemical inputs from pharmaceuticals and other potentially hazardous hard-to-trace sources. To avoid the battle over diverting water from streams and rivers, some ski resorts have turned to retention ponds, an alternative that has been praised by environmentalists. The Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow VT built a huge pond for snow making, a pool that covers eight acres and is up to 50 feet deep.

We don’t make snow (we make materials with recycled content – www.yemmhart.com) but we do care about climate change. The last time we skied was at Yellowstone National Park in Jan 2013; and they did not need to make snow. Our family enjoyed cross-country skiing there. Visitors to the park, at that time of year, are brought in groups of 10-12 people, in specialized equipment called Snowcoaches. Snowmobiles have limited access. Founded in 1872, the park takes care of the environment they are entrusted with protecting. For that concern, and the opportunity to ski on natural snow, we are exceedingly grateful.

Yellowstone Snowcoach

Yellowstone Snowcoach

~ Information Resources

“Winter Olympics: Downhill forecast” by Lauren Morello posted at Nature.com on Feb 4, 2014 – http://www.nature.com/news/winter-olympics-downhill-forecast-1.14639

“The Battle Over Artificial Snow” by Dirk Johnson posted in The NY Times online on Nov 14, 1994 – http://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/14/us/the-battle-over-artificial-snow.html

“Winter Olympics Inadvertently Adapting to Climate Change” by Brian Kahn posted at ClimateCentral.org on Feb 7, 2014 – http://www.climatecentral.org/news/the-olympics-have-been-a-model-for-climate-adaptation-for-90-years-17041

“The Nasty Environmental Impact of Making Snow” posted at Outside online on Oct 11, 2012 – http://www.outsideonline.com/blog/outdoor-adventure/science/the-environmental-impact-of-making-snow.html

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Even the Super Bowl has gone Green

Super Bowl Green
Since everyone is focused on the Super Bowl today as I write this, I thought I would ask – Do you ever stop to think about the “big mess” left behind after the Super Bowl ? Actually, I can tell you that today, I actually do appreciate all of the efforts that The National Football League (NFL) is putting forth, along with the MetLife Stadium, to “go green” with this 2014 Super Bowl. Actually, the National Football League (NFL) has sought to gradually reduce the footprint left behind by the Superbowl, since the early 90′s; and this year they are planning to make it the most environmentally friendly Super Bowl event to date.

“We try and stay ahead of the curve,” said Jack Groh, a consultant who directs the NFL’s environmental programs. “We try and push the envelope every year.” In the weeks leading up to this year’s Super Bowl, the NFL sponsored e-waste recycling events in New York and New Jersey that collected 9,000 pounds of old phones, computers and other gadgets, according to Verizon Inc., which partnered in the program. The NFL sponsored the planting of tens of thousands trees in the metropolitan area to offset carbon emissions related to the Super Bowl game (makes my tree hugging, forest dwelling self smile !!). And after the game, the league will donate several miles of fabric signage to nonprofits or other groups for re-purposing. In New Orleans, Groh said, local designers took the fabric and used it to make purses, dresses, shower curtains, beanbag chairs, tote bags and wallets. “Our primary objective is to see that it doesn’t go to a landfill,” he said.

“The NFL is doing a better job reducing greenhouse gases and offsetting carbon than the state of New Jersey is,” said Jeff Tittel, President of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club and a consistent critic of Gov. Chris Christie’s environmental policies. “That’s the irony, they understand climate change better than our governor does.”

The stadium selected, MetLife, is the first stadium in the world to meet the rigorous standards of the Green Restaurant Association, although it only got a score of 2 out of 4. Because our business IS recycling, I am especially happy to learn that staff at the stadium pledge to recycle plastic, glass, aluminum and paper during and after the big game.

MetLife Stadium

MetLife Stadium


But that isn’t “all”. From composting food waste (we do that too but this will be a “first” for a Super Bowl event) to using biodiesel (processed from waste cooking oil) to power generators, MetLife Stadium is leading by example. Infrequently, storms knock the power out in our wildly remote home’s location, so we have a gasoline powered generator here too, in order to stay in touch with our business’ needs, until the power can be more conventionally restored. We have not considered the possibility of an alternative fuel for that purpose so far. This is definitely out on the leading edge.

A biodiesel mix will be used in generators that will power Super Bowl Boulevard, the 13-block party on Broadway that will feature entertainment and a giant toboggan slide, as well as generators that are augmenting the power supply on the MetLife Stadium grounds. The head of Public Service Electric & Gas, the utility that provides power to the complex, has estimated that it will take about 18 megawatts of electricity to power the entire complex for the game, or what would be needed to power 12,000 homes. Of that, PSE&G president Ralph LaRossa said as much as 1/3 or six megawatts could be provided by the generators.

Whether you are rooting for the Denver Broncos or the Seattle Seahawks (or really could care less, as I will admit is true for my own self) – you can definitely applaud, that even the traditional football face-off of mid-Winter, is thinking about the color of Spring. That old codger, Punxsutawney Phil, says 6 more weeks of winter. His predictions remain controversial but that the winter trends towards the more severe in much of the United States this winter, is a known reality to the many experiencing it first-hand. Heating Fuel prices are through the roof, thanks in part to the export of supplies (due to higher prices accepted elsewhere) that could have taken a bite out of the cost of off-setting winter’s cold, for many people in our own country.

Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil

Information resources –

“Superbowl 2014- Coldest and Greenest One Yet?” by Denielle D’Ambrosio posted in “GreenWizard” on January 27, 2014 – http://blog.greenwizard.com/wp/2014/01/superbowl-2014-coldest-and-greenest-one-yet/

Super Bowl will be coldest, could also be greenest” by David Porter posted at HuffPost Business, on January 27, 2014 – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20140127/fbn-super-bowl-2014-green-initiatives/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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