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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Living on Earth Updates

Air Date: Week of December 2, 2011

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Artist Christo’s Over the River project wins the government okay; the historic Landreth Seed Company gets a second life; and why a refrigerator repairman believes our Cool Fix on ice boxing is not so cool on efficiency. . .Living on Earth updates some of our recent stories.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: Time now to update some stories that recently aired on Living on Earth: You may recall our interview with environmental artist Christo. His latest project - Over the River - would suspend nearly 6 miles of shimmering fabric over the Arkansas River.
Critics call it Rags over the Arkansas, but Christo told us this - like his other art works - is designed to disturb.

CHRISTO: They are totally irresponsible. All our projects - they’re irrational, totally useless, and the world can live without them. But, they cannot be bought. (from LOE Nov 7, 2011).

GELLERMAN: Well, since we aired our story about Over the River, it’s gotten through the federal regulatory woods. Christo’s Environmental Impact Statement was approved by the Bureau of Land Management. It'll go up: August 2014.

A few shows ago, we reported on the extensive use of antibiotics in animal feed. The FDA wouldn’t talk to us while there were petitions by environmental groups wanting to stop the practice. Well, days after our report, the FDA denied the petitioners' request. The agency didn’t challenge the need to reduce antibiotic use, but argues that the withdrawal process itself is too expensive.

And money was also the issue when we spoke with Barbara Malera of Landreth Seed Company - the 227 year old firm was on the brink of bankruptcy despite its deep roots in the nation's agricultural history.

MALERA: In 1798, it introduced America to the zinnia - one of its most beloved flowers. 1811, the white fleshed potato. 1820, it was the first time that tomato seeds were sold commercially in this country. (from Living on Earth September 23, 2011).

GELLERMAN: Malera tells us since our interview aired, listeners' response has been - quote - truly amazing - and sales of Landreth's seeds and catalogs have bought the company time to renegotiate its debt.

But a listener's response to our request for a Cool Fix for a Hot Planet got us in hot water. His suggestion: Save energy by turning your refrigerator into an old-fashioned ice box -freezing water outside in winter, and putting the ice on the top shelf of your fridge.
Well, that got a lot of listeners hot under the collar. They wrote: that would just confuse the fridge’s thermostat. So we put it to refrigerator repairman Ken Lynch:

LYNCH: The theory is a good one, it’s not going to be super efficient in terms of keeping things cold. You'll create cold spots. The refrigerators today, they rely on air circulation to really move the air to efficiently cool the entire unit.

So, when you have no fan movement, basically all the cold air is just going to drop to the bottom of the compartment - be it the freezer or the refrigerator. It’s a good temporary fix, but aside from packing ice in it, there are definitely ways that you can reduce the energy consumption of the refrigerator.

GELLERMAN: So, what are some ways that I actually could cut down on my refrigerator’s energy use.

LYNCH: One of the best things is if you don't use the icemaker. The icemaker accounts for about 15 to 20 percent of the refrigerator’s energy consumption when the icemaker is running.

GELLERMAN: Ah, so putting ice in your refrigerator is an inefficient thing and actually making ice in your refrigerator is not an efficient thing.

LYNCH: Yeah, I would use the old copper ice cube pop trays, or even the plastic ones. Just something that doesn’t use energy to create ice.

GELLERMAN: And Ken Lynch should know - his company Ken’s Appliance Services is in Arlington, Massachusetts, home to Spy Pond, where in the 1800s, they used to cut blocks of ice out of the frozen pond, pack them in sawdust and send them on clipper ships to customers as far away as India.

Well, we’re always as close as your keyboard. Check out our website - that’s L-O-E dot ORG - where you'll find a new survey about the show. Please take a few moments to fill it out, and let us know what's hot and what leaves you cold. That's L-O-E dot ORG.

[MUSIC: Herbie Hancock “4 AM” from Mr. Hands (Happy Birthday Jaco )(Sony Music 1980).]

GELLERMAN: Coming up - How sweet it isn't - what's missing from most honey. Stay tuned to Living on Earth!

 

Links

Consumer Energy Center on Refrigerators

Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

 

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