Debra Atlas

As an environmental journalist, professional blogger, and radio personality, Debra focuses on the newest, most innovative and affordable green products and services, as well as environmentally related breaking news.

For more than three years, Debra has been writing a weekly newspaper column called “Distinctly Green.” Her weekly radio program, “Eco Trends,” features the latest affordable products that can help you easily green your lifestyle. She also recently launched her first CD, “Eco Trends: Keys to Affordable Green,” which features profiles of 24 top quality, innovative green products that present great solutions to everyday problems.

Debra writes for a number of Web sites, including Beamingsun.comEnvirothink (her own blog), and the Red Ferret Journal (where she is the eco editor).

A member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, Debra can be reached either via her Web site,, or at [email protected].

Check out articles by Debra:

Curbside Food Waste Collection – A Growing Trend


Almost half of the nearly 250 million tons of garbage that winds up in landfills in the U.S. each year could be composted. Curbside food waste collection programs could be the solution.

Crowdfunding for Green


Companies seeking venture capital to expand or launch new projects have a tough time of it, particularly green-based companies. More green entrepreneurs are turning to crowdfunding as a viable option to help them succeed.

Can Your Collection of Business Cards Grow Flowers?


What could you do with all those business cards? How about plant a garden! These new breed of business cards can do just that.

Sustainable Farming Gets New Look in the State of Jefferson


The mountainous region of northern California and southern Oregon comprises an area referred to as “the state of Jefferson” – an area that since 1859 has officially clamored at least three times to become the 51st state. A participant at the Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge is launching an exciting new food venture that could bring a renewed focus to this region – sustaining farms, farmers, and crops.

Film Fosters Community By Helping to Restore California Delta


“Over Troubled Waters” highlights new water projects in California and how to save the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Streaming Movies is Now Portable with mUVichip


Some of us remember VHS – those big plastic boxes we used to record and watch movies and our favorite TV shows on. Then came DVD’s and CD’s, which allowed for more portability and higher quality viewing, although there’s still a lot of plastic involved. At the recent Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge, a small start-up company called Flixchip may well make those devices obsolete – and put a lot more fun in movie watching.

Auto Toilet Could Save Water by the Millions


Inventor Dan Andreiu, New Age Hygienic Systems’ founder and CEO, created the award-winning patented Auto Toilet, which will change the fundamental design and operation of the toilet for the first time in 200 years. What makes it unique is that it utilizes only two pints or one liter of water, making it 6 times more efficient than low-flow toilets on the market today. (Photo by Our United Villages, Flickr)

California’s Troubled Waters: The Estuary vs. The Tap


SACRAMENTO — On Wednesday, California Governor Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced what they consider a landmark solution to the state’s water shortage: plans to build a massive twin tunnel system that will bring precious water from the San Joaquin River Delta to farms and cities. These two 33-mile-long tunnels have stirred the pot of an ongoing water war. This controversy is at the heart of a new documentary, Over Troubled Waters. (Photo courtesy of Russell Fisher)

Carbon Footprint Shrinks, Trees Grow with Green Air Project


This unique organization reclaims abandoned farmland that was previously clear-cut, and plants trees on it. It intentionally keeps overhead costs low, so that the majority of funds can go straight to planting and maintaining a beautiful habitat for plants and wildlife. In fact, individuals can offset their carbon footprints for as little as $10 a month. (Photo courtesy of Green Air Project)

This App Can Fight Forest Fires


FireWhat Inc., a start-up company founded by two firefighters and an MIT graduate, has developed a free, game-changing mobile platform for the Fire Service. Its Web site and mobile app helps firefighters get the latest information on forest fires, rather than having to depend on “updates” that can be 12 to 24 hours old. This helps save lives and, in some surprising ways, the environment. (Photo by Jake Spurlock, Flickr)

Environmentalism and Innovation at Sierra Nevada Competition


CHICO, CALIFORNIA — California has long had a reputation for moving environmentalism forward while fostering innovation. This was more than apparent at the first annual Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge, held at the Sierra Nevada Brewery last week. (Photo courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.)

Polymer Lawn Care Saves Water – A Ton!


Aqua Cents is a new technology from All Commercial Landscape Service that injects polymers into lawns. These polymers absorb the water, retaining up to 400 times their weight and holding the moisture in until it is required by the lawn’s root system. (Photo courtesy of Tom De Lany)

Park in the Sky


The High Line, a 1 1/2-mile-long greenway, runs above ground on what used to be an elevated rail freight line. The line spans three New York neighborhoods: Gansevoort Park Meatpacking District, West Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton. In 1999 two New Yorkers, Robert Hammond and Joshua David, decided to try to save this special piece of Upper West Side history. (Photo courtesy of Friends of the High Line)

A Fight for Our Parks


SACRAMENTO — Moody, Valentino, and their fellow producer Cory Brown began their film odyssey with a Kickstarter campaign. While the initial goal was to raise $35,000, the campaign garnered over $57,000! The three twenty-somethings then set out in a converted airport shuttle bus that ran on veggie oil to see all 70 of the state parks slated for closure. They covered 3,000 miles in four months, and made a point to camp in as many of the parks as possible. (Photo by Debra Atlas)

A Stove That Saves Lives and Slows Global Warming


While the arduous burden so many women face of collecting firewood and the health problems cooking smoke causes women and children may seem like a tragic but distant problem, wood and charcoal cooking actually affects all of us. Approximately one quarter of global co2 emissions are generated by the rural poor, more than all transportation-related emissions worldwide combined. (Photo courtesy of Elsen Karstad, BURN Design Lab)

Restoring the Gulf Beyond Deepwater Horizon


Since 1900, Louisiana has lost more than 1 million acres of wetlands and barrier shoreline. In just the past 50 years, more than 1,500 square miles of coastal Louisiana disappeared. The state could lose an additional 1,000 square miles of land by 2050– an area roughly the size of Rhode Island. What is more, since the oil spill of 2010, there has been some marshland die-off in critical marine life habitat areas like Barataria Basin. (Photo courtesy of Scott Madere)

The Gulf Oil Spill, Two Years Later


Two years have passed since Deepwater Horizon, the environmental disaster that coated the Gulf of Mexico in oil. The huge oil slicks are gone, as are the heart-wrenching pictures of dying seabirds and littered wetlands. Commercial and recreational fishing has resumed and beaches look pristine once more. Yet much is unresolved in this large, ecologically diverse area that was the site of environmental mayhem two years ago. And while some beaches do not show it, many ecosystems and animals are still suffering. (Photo by Lauren Lockame)

Bubble Buildings


According to Dr Noel Brown, President & CEO of Friends of the United Nations, there is a shortage of 50 million housing units around the world. There is a low cost, energy efficient, elegant looking solution available – concrete dome buildings. Even the most skeptical consumer will be hard pressed to ignore the facts about these domes. They’re more resistant to fire, earthquakes, and hurricanes than any traditionally built structure. They’re impervious to mold, mildew and termites. They’re energy efficient and they’re cost effective. (Photo courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press)

Driving on the Sun


SANDPOINT, ID— The Solar roadway project has a number of exciting and innovative features to it. Other than being able to generate enough electricity to power the nation, inventor Scott Brusaw’s project is designed to do the most economic and environmental good possible in several other capacities. (Photo by Dan Walden)

Solar Roadways: Energy and Transportation Solution in One


There are currently 28,000 square miles of roadways and driving surfaces spread across the lower 48 states. With the cost and availability of traditional paving materials becoming an issue, innovator Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer (MSEE) with over 20 years of industry experience, sees solar highways as the solution. (Photo by Mark Dixon,

Underground Eco Park in NYC


NEW YORK- Most New Yorkers have no idea that they may be walking above long-forgotten underground tunnels and railways, relics of the horse-drawn trolleys and electrified cars of the early 20th century. There are at least 13 acres of unused tunnels throughout the five boroughs, many of them unsafe and unusable. As technology evolved, these systems became obsolete and fell into disuse. Now, however, there is a chance to turn them into environmentally friendly parks with natural lighting systems that bring sunshine underground. (Photo by Daniel H. Fuchs)

Gardens by the Bay – Singapore’s Latest Green Extravaganza


SINGAPORE — The creation of a green garden paradise has been underway since 2010. Gardens by the Bay, a waterfront themed park located at the Marina Bay area of Singapore’s new downtown, will overflow with hundreds of thousands of tropical plants from around the world. (Photo by Craig Sheppard, courtesy of Wilkinson Eyre)

Changi Airport, Singapore’s Green Gateway


Singapore’s Changi Airport, one of most highly awarded airports in the world, was reclaimed from swampland and from the sea. In 2010, the Changi Airport Group (CAG) established an environmental management system designed to proactively protect the environment, prevent pollution, and improve environmental performance and regulatory compliance. This program is based around the ISO 14001 standard, and debuted at CAG’s and Clean and Green Singapore “Changi Goes Green” event in November 2010. (Photo by Snoopaki, Flickr)

Sustainable Singapore Balances Building and Nature


With a population of over 4.4 million, Singapore is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Juxtaposed to this crowded urban area is also over 2,000 plant varieties, 57 types of mammals, 98 types of reptiles, and 25 varieties of amphibians. Hundreds of bird and butterfly species migrate there each year and one third of the world’s hard coral reefs are found in its surrounding waters. The natural diversity that is Singapore includes rainforests, freshwater swamp forests, mangrove forests, and coastal forests. (Photo by )

LED Bulbs Brighten Up with SWITCH


SAN FRANCISCO—Recently SWITCH Lighting gave me a personal demonstration of their new LED bulbs, and it convinced me that incandescent light bulbs’ days are numbered with this new technology coming out next month. (Photo courtesy of SWITCH Lighting)

Energy Efficiency Leaps Forward Nationwide


As the economy shows signs of moving in the right direction, so does our personal and national energy consumption. A growing number of energy efficiency programs are noticeably increasing our energy savings and our usage efficiency. According to a new report from the Institute for Electricity Efficiency (IEE), in 2010, our overall national energy efficiency programs saved enough electricity to power almost 10 million homes. That almost 112 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity was a 21 percent increase over 2009 levels. (Image courtesy of The Edison Foundation)

Khmu Craftswomen Create Earth’s Greenest Bag


NORTHERN LAOS — High in the isolated mountains of northern Laos lives an ancient tribe called the Khmu. Their culture is being preserved through Khmu women artisans who handcraft what could be considered the Earth’s Greenest Bag. (Photo courtesy of

New Windows Generate Solar Power


Florida-based SAF-GLAS, which creates disaster-resistant and security-related glass products, recently introduced EnergyGlass at a solar seminar at GlassBuild America. This transparent glass incorporates inorganic nanoparticles into clear laminated glass. With its use of a proprietary polycarbonate interlayer and patented film, this turns a window into a 24-hour a day solar “farm.” (Photo by Ecstaticist, Flickr)

Plastic Bottles from Plants: Step Forward or Spin Marketing?


It takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce the amount of bottled water Americans buy each year. Coca-Cola’s brands Dasani and Odwalla, claim to have a solution: plastic made from plants. Sierra Club Green Home decided to find out how these PlantBottles compare to conventional plastics. (Photo by Leonardo Bonanni, Flickr)

Underwater Marine Parks Expand


LOS ANGELES — The California coast offers its visitors fishing, boating, public beaches, and other fun activities.

Today, throughout the southern California coastal area there will be a grand opening of a new series of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). A science-based network, the new MPAs were designed by local fishermen, conservationists, and business leaders to help protect California’s most productive ocean areas while still leaving nearly 90 percent of the coast open for fishing endeavors. (Photo by Dana Roeber Murray, flickr)

Architecture at Zero: Beyond Energy Efficient


Many design challenges stand in the way of making buildings zero net energy, and Sierra Club Green Home is pleased to see this competition tackle them head-on. The goal of the contest is to spark creative thinking about developing these types of buildings. (Photo courtesy of American Institute of Architects)

Bottled Water Ban in National Parks: Common Sense or Controversy?


One culprit is causing nearly a third of the waste in our national parks. It’s something you might grab for a long hike, or camping, or washing down a meal cooked over the campfire. It comes in a convenient yet remarkably wasteful package, and it’s become an unlikely source of controversy. (Photo by Zanus Tungare, Flickr)

The Future of Plastics


Plastic is a large expense in the beverage industry. The global price of oil directly affects the type of plastic being produced. In 2008, when the price of oil soared to more than $100 per barrel, companies began scrambling to find alternatives to plastics. Several companies have created bottles made from plant-based materials. (Photo courtesy of BioCor)

A Greener Christmas Tree


Every year, 25 to 30 million live Christmas trees are sold in the United States. Their ornaments and decorations help brighten our holiday. But after the holiday, they end up curbside as trash or, in towns offering such services, as recycling. A sad fate for such a wonderful part of Christmas.

Around the country, a new tradition is growing: renting a living tree for the holidays. (Photo by Monica Hudson,

Dangers of Artificial Turf Shown by Fourth-Grader’s Research


SAN FRANCISCO — A young soccer player from San Francisco is making waves in the scientific community with her research on local playing fields. Claire Dworsky collected 110 water samples from 10 soccer fields across San Francisco, half of them with grass and half with artificial turf. Her research showed dangerous chemical run-offs from artificial turf. (Photo courtesy of Action for Nature)

An Energy-Efficient Military: Saving More than Energy


The Pentagon announced it would “develop more energy-efficient weapons, embrace non-oil energy sources and demand more energy-conscious behavior from the troops.” This move towards energy efficiency in all the branches of the military was mandated by congressional directives and presidential orders, many dating to former President George W. Bush and expanded on by President Barack Obama. (Photo by ExpertInfantry, Flickr)

The End of Plastic Bags?


In California alone, consumers use upwards of 19 million plastic bags per year, which require approximately 8 million barrels of oil to produce. What’s more, about 90 percent of the bags used in the United States never get recycled. Globally, of the 500 billion of the single-use, flimsy bags we go through, many end up either in landfills or as wind-blown or ocean gyre litter that are consumed by wildlife and marine life, resulting in many painful deaths. For many environmentalists and concerned consumers, plastic bags represent public enemy number one. (Photo by Vaidyarupal, Flickr)

Urban Farm


If predictions are correct that climate change and rising sea levels will create greater numbers of urban dwellers, the need for greater local food resources will be critical. Back in World War II, a large percentage of Americans had gardens to help supplement their food. This tradition, which continues today, has spread to the middle of some of our largest urban areas.

Old Plastic Bottles Bring Light


PHILIPPINES — Millions of people in the Philippines live in relative darkness. With the cost of electricity beyond the means of many, residents of poorer communities resort to using candles or kerosene lamps, which pose serious health and fire hazards. But, there is an incredibly simple solution that is both greener and safer. (Photo courtesy of

Thanksgiving Trouble: BPA in Canned Food


A new report by the Breast Cancer Fund called “BPA in Thanksgiving Canned Food” reveals that many of the canned foods associated with Thanksgiving contain high levels of BPA (Bisphenol A). BPA is used in a wide variety of applications, including linings of metal canned goods. BPA can leach from the inner metal coatings of the cans into the food itself. It also leaches from products like plastic food storage containers and water and baby bottles.

Public Parklets Make Use of Urban Sidewalks


SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco is famous for many things, not the least of which is being the #1 Green City in the United States. Since the first Park(ing) Day in 2009, the city’s Pavement to Parks program has been creating garden space that is carved out of excess public roadways for city dwellers and visitors to enjoy. (Photo courtesy of San Francisco Planning Department)

The Great Smart Grid Debate


Countries across the globe are investing in the technology necessary to implement the Smart Grid, including New Zealand, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and France. Japan and South Korea are adopting the Smart Grid, and China will soon come onboard as well. Smart Meter programs also are rolling out in India and Brazil. The United States, however, is spending the most money on the innovation and deployment of Smart Grid technology. (Photo © HaerperDreward |

The Benefits and Challenges of “Smart Meters” for the Smart Grid


A key component of the success of the Smart Grid is the SmartMeter. Smart Meters use wireless signals to transmit up-to-the-minute usage data, eliminating the need for visits from a meter reader. Constant two-way communication between electricity generators and electricity users is at the heart of the hope for a smart grid, but there is a lot of consumer mistrust and resistance to this technology. (Photo by Lynn Friedman, Flickr)

Smart Grid: Smart Idea


While few consumers understand how a Smart Grid works, it has the potential to transform the way we generate energy. From the beginnings of energy-regulating grids to going open source, to getting hundreds of companies to work on refining it, this technology is growing in a way that promises to revolutionize our energy consumption. (Photo © Jean Schweitzer |

Recipe for Healthy Eating: It’s ‘Morselicious’


If you put together sodium-free, gluten-free and vegan ingredients without any sugar, would you want to eat the result? You would if it’s a recipe from Maura “Mo” Knowles’s cookbook, The 12 Days of Morseliciousness. (Photo courtesy of Maura Knowles)

Fall Fun in NYC


NEW YORK — Here are some unique activities and outings to make the Big Apple shine. So plan your outings ahead of time, savor the weather, and enjoy!

Green Living Project Brings Eco Projects to the Screen


SAN FRANCISCO — A Green Living Project showcase features six short films focused on sustainability and conservation as shown through the lives of indigenous communities in Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico, as well as conservation efforts in Illinois and New Mexico. GLP also has a student film competition open until December.

Solar City


SAN JOSE, CA — San Jose’s Clean Energy Showcase displays solar, wind, and electric vehicle technologies to the public from a display across City Hall. Close to 6,000 people have toured the showcase since it opened in December of last year, including local schoolchildren, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and a group of Russian entrepreneurs. (Photo courtesy of the City of San Jose)

The Solar Power of San Jose


SAN JOSE, CA — In San Jose, there are large solar arrays at the airport, the city parking garage, the central service yard—and even city hall. The City Council recently signed off on a new power purchase agreement for its 28 city facilities and parking areas, and the city promotes solar energy use to residents and businesses. (Photo courtesy of Rex Solar)

San Jose’s Green Vision


SAN JOSE, CA — San Jose adopted a visionary plan to reduce its carbon footprint while also building the local economy. From water usage to waste diversion, this 15-year plan covers everything the city needs to create an eco-conscious, clean-tech boom. (Image courtesy of the City of San Jose)

Occupy Wall Street: Alternative Eco-Unit?


NEW YORK — The Occupy Wall Street protest has rapidly become a global phenomenon that offers a window into a different type of ecological unit: a totally organic type of social organization. (Photo © Nikiya Palombi |

Northern California City Reinvents Itself as Green


SAN JOSE, CA — Amidst the economic downturn, many cities still are investing in green. A number have done so in a big way, practically reinventing themselves, such as San Jose. The city shows San Francisco is not the only Bay Area city with a reputation for being environmentally conscious. (Photo by kqedquest)

On-the-Go Solar Charges


The beauty of FTL Solar’s larger charging units is that they can provide a sustainable, secure source of renewable power. Able to power everything from small temporary structures that power laptops, cell phones, water purification and sanitation systems to large scale, state-of-the-art installations, the electrical energy produced by these lightweight, high density solar panels can be immediately used, stored in batteries, or even sold back to the grid. (Photo courtesy of FTL Solar)

Rain Gutter Protection With Water Reclamation


As summer blends into fall, the annual clearing of clogged rain gutters looms for most homeowners. A thankless but necessary job, it seems no matter what kind of gutters one has, they’re going to require a trip up the ladder. Someone has finally invented a system that changes all this. (Photo courtesy of MasterShield)

Squash Bed Bugs With This Natural, Effective Solution


Bed bugs have become a reality in such diverse places as luxury hotels, well-known department stores, and in many homes. There is a proven, natural remedy using cedar as a natural pest deterrent.

Online Retailer Delivers Customer Service


Online retailers generally are not known for great customer service. Instead, they build their reputation on offering quality products and prompt delivery, and many carry a variety of eco-friendly or sustainable products.

One online retailer has figured out how to put all this together. Bucking the norm, Greenfeet strives to offer online shopping that is easy, fun, and steeped in customer service. (Photo courtesy of Greenfeet)

Electrifying Auto Racing: Going Green at the Track


SONOMA, CA — The motorsports industry is beginning to recognize the need to be more green. A leader in sustainability, Infineon Raceway’s recent Accelerating Sustainable Performance Summit highlighted the challenges and new technologies presenting the industry. (Photo by Mike Finnegan, courtesy of Infineon Raceway)