The Accidental Environmentalist: CNG in Pakistan

CCA LiveE | Tuesday December 29th, 2009 | 6 Comments

by Ahmed Riaz

Summer in Lahore, Circa 2005

As my friend, Mohammad, opened up the truck of his car I noticed something rather strange. Inside was large metal canister with a gauge and pipes sticking out. Obviously seeing something that looked like homemade rocket attached to inside of your car was a cause for concern. As it turned out it wasn’t an explosive but something far more subtle at work.

“What’s that?” I asked Mohammad stepping back a little from the car as he started fiddling with the pipes.

“Yaar, it’s CNG. We had kit put in last month!”

During the years I had been away at University learning about art, design and innovation people in Pakistan had been hacking their cars to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Natural Gas, basically Methane, is an alternative to fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel. While not zero emissions, CNG produces significantly less pollutants than petrol. If coupled with electronically controlled stoichiometric engines Natural gas offer the lowest emissions with relation to the highest possible power output.

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4 Factors Shaping the Wind Energy Industry in 2009

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday December 29th, 2009 | 7 Comments

wind energy economyAfter installing a record 8,600 MW of wind energy capacity in 2008, 2009 will look like a letdown in comparison. Most of the projects that did go online this year were started under a different economic climate, where credit was plentiful. These are some of the factors shaping the industry in 2009:

Electricity Demand Down

Total US electricity consumption declined by 3.5% in 2009, representing the largest drop in the last decade. Electricity use by the industrial sector was down a staggering 12% from January to September of 2009.  Although decreased demand is positive when considering the environmental implications, it does temporarily reduce the interest slightly in increasing green power sources.  This tend is likely to last only as long as the slow economic climate, although increased emphasis on energy efficiency under the Obama administration may help mitigate the trend of electric demand increasing nearly every year.

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Newest Batteries Better for Hybrids than Electrics

| Tuesday December 29th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Doing the math on the newest generation of lithium ion batteries suggests the latest advances in battery technology will benefit hybrid cars more than all-electric ones, one expert predicts.

BMW's ActiveHybrid 7 Luxury Car

Hybridcars has an excellent interview with John German, an expert on hybrid cars who worked for eleven years at Honda before becoming Senior Fellow at the International Council for Clean Transportation.

German says the next generation of lithium batteries won’t help much with electric vehicles’ number one problem: range. That’s because their primary benefit is that they can provide a greater flow of electricity — not necessarily store any more than they already do.

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China Produces More Cars than the U.S.

Shannon Arvizu | Monday December 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments

It’s true: The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that China surpassed the U.S. last year in the total number of cars produced. This is a radical shift from 1980, when the U.S. manufactured 56 times more vehicles than China. In 2008, China produced 9.5 million vehicles, while the U.S. produced 8.7 million vehicles.

What has caused this change? As we know, China’s growing middle class has accelerated demand for convenient, personal mobility. We also know vehicle production in the U.S. has stagnated due to the economic downturn. Given current trends, it is reasonable to assume that China will continue to surpass U.S. vehicle production in the near future.

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Creation of An Agency – “As Is”

CCA LiveE | Friday December 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

By Michael Fox

I am an artist. I was attracted to the DSMBA program at the California College of Arts in my efforts to conceptually frame my artwork as a practice.  The DSMBA program has given me the opportunity to be creative utilizing the core values of innovation that are taught as my approach instead of remaining a manufacturer of goods; or in other words, a “starving artist” hording needless inventory, which represents the fluid, fictitious market value.  In the future people will have to take the reins and become leaders of their own career, instead of waiting for someone else to do it for them.   The DSMBA program aligns with what an artist’s goals should be – ideas and thoughts that are in themselves tangible forms.  The MBA is really the new MFA.[1]

Art schools ought to be platforms for free thinking and creativity without setting boundaries.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  There is potential to engage in education, in which giving away of ideas falls under the egis of a relationship established among an idea, the artist and the community at large.  By focusing on the context of a specific project, rather than pure outcome, the relationships established between the various people involved in it will be stronger and more effective in planning, organization and carrying it out.  The success involved with this kind of perspective should outweigh any risks of failure, and renders the experience worthwhile.

For many years, artists have been trying to restructure the traditional hierarchy between artist/teacher and students.  There has also been a struggle to break away from specialization, as students try to create a more multidisciplinary academic experience.  This is true in art schools, as well.  This was particularly strong four decades ago, resulting in the establishment of groups like, among others, the Artist Placement Group (1966) and the Free Open University (founded by Joseph Beuys in 1971).  The position of the artist is somewhat marginalized, and this is an occasion to take the artist outside of the institution, in order that the boundaries of what would signify visual art can effect change and engage creatively more freely.

In 2010, an agency called “As Is,” is being launched.  “As Is” will be a think-tank of ideas and projects conceived by one individual but will give these ideas away to projects curated by other parties.  The ideas and projects will become commoditized intellectual property that is shared openly and willingly.  The types of projects will vary and not be limited to installations and events only.  They will be designed for site-specific locations.  The concept recalls the notion that home is inside the self, and inside the other, and the potential for multilateral relations with other creative industries is at the heart of the agency.

The name of the agency, “As Is,” is an index, signifying the paradox between the openness of creating a group of talent that work together for the purpose of initiating intercultural dialogue and exchange through art, and the complexity in the actual realization of such an undertaking.

It is all about taking risks and moving forward, and as the art critic Julian Stallabrass rightfully said: “The art world would be a much healthier scene if people would be prepared to stick their necks out.”[2]

[1] Daniel Pink. Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. (Berkeley: Penguin Publishing, 2006)

[2]Richard Marshall, 3am Interview: The Artist as Marxist. 3am Magazine, 2004, Web, 24.10.2009,

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Looptworks – A New Way to Think About Sustainable Clothing

| Friday December 25th, 2009 | 4 Comments


Take a look at the tag of the clothes you just got for Christmas. Where were they made? Most likely, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, China or Peru. And? And with clothing manufacturing comes the scraps. The overage of a particular color fabric or button. The average factory produces 60,000 pounds of excess material each month–much of it thrown away.

But you’re not responsible for that, right? There’s not much you can really do, yes? If Looptworks has its way, that will begin to change. The startup makes clothing that upcycles this material into new clothing. In some cases, particularly the men’s clothing, you would never know the clothing wasn’t made from first run material. So much so that I had my doubts as to whether the clothing was indeed made from waste material, until I delved further into the source – the excess from manufacturers in the countries mentioned above.

I think this is a smart way to go, at least for the men’s line, so it will be more easily accepted, more broadly appealing, and wearable in a greater number of settings, making for a quicker mainstreaming of the idea that wearing clothes made from “waste” can be an everyday activity.

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Strawberry Hands, Bent Backs, Uncertain Futures

3p Contributor | Friday December 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

strawberriesThis is the 7th post in a series on the business of sustainable agriculture by the folks at Bon Appétit Management, a company that provides café and catering services to corporations, colleges and universities. To read past posts, click here.

By Vera Chang, West Coast Fellow for Bon Appétit Management

On the website homepage of one of the largest fruit and vegetable producers and marketers in the world, a blond woman wearing a pink shirt appears, smoothie in one hand and bowl in the other. As the page loads, strawberries fall from the sky, landing effortlessly into her bowl. As the viewer, I wonder where I am to assume these strawberries came from. The strawberry-shaped hot air balloon overhead? Green rolling hills in the background?

Strawberry Fields Forever: I’ve recently started a position investigating sustainability and labor conditions on West Coast farms that supply a major food service operation, Bon Appétit Management Company. Sitting at my computer this December preparing farm visit itineraries, I flash back a few short months ago to strawberry fields along the California Central Coast. This foggy, chilly autumn painted a partial picture of the lives of farmworkers and affected forever how I will view people and their role in the food supply chain. I close my eyes and recall the images that are seared into my mind: Strawberry fields roll as far as my eyes can see.

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EPA’s Gift to Maritime Industry: Stringent Emission Regs

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday December 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Just in time for holiday gift-giving season the Environmental Protection Agency wrapped-up final regulations that slap stringent emission control standards on ocean vessels and marine diesel engines.

And this is one gift the maritime industry can’t return or exchange.

The EPA this week finalized a rule it proposed in July that sets stringent engine and fuel standards for large U.S. freighters, tankers, container vessels and passenger ships.

The rule also harmonizes the U.S. with international standards for all ships.

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Nopenhagen Wrecks Havoc on Carbon Markets, Cleantech Investment

| Thursday December 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

We can pretend that something was accomplished at Copenhagen last week, but the invisible hand of the market doesn’t b-s. After the close of talks at the Bella Center, with its watered down “accord,” the price to emit a ton of carbon plummeted 10%.

That crash could mean a dearth of investment in clean technology as well as — paradoxically — higher energy prices.

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Building a Path to Sustainable Products

3p Contributor | Thursday December 24th, 2009 | 6 Comments

product-shelfby Kelly Flores

Making your products “sustainable” is no easy task. There are a variety of issues for product managers, designers, and engineers to consider about design, materials, packaging and transportation. In a recent study of best practices, we found that companies approach the challenge of creating sustainable products in several stages.

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Seven Things I Learned about Sustainability in 2009

3p Contributor | Thursday December 24th, 2009 | 2 Comments

By Dennis Salazar

Another year has come and almost gone but it has been an exciting and interesting one, especially in our area of packaging sustainability. In spite of many consumer and alarmists’ claims, packaging is a relatively small portion of our overall environmental problem but it tends to make good headlines. So, especially in a year end review, I try to remove those narrow blinders of our packaging industry and look at sustainability from a much broader perspective.

Here are a few thoughts you might consider and possibly agree with:

Today green initiatives must deliver a quick or immediate ROI
If there was ever any doubt before, the current economic down turn makes it an absolute. Gone are the days of green premiums and allowances; today being a sustainable green business begins with being a sustainable economic business.

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Careers in Wind Farm Development: Financial Analyst

Sarah Lozanova | Wednesday December 23rd, 2009 | 2 Comments

wind energy financeThis is the sixth article in a seven part series on careers in wind farm development. (Be sure to read the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth parts, as well.)

Not all proposed wind farms are economically viable. The role of the financial analyst is to determine which are financially sound. The main variables to consider are the quality of the wind resource, the finance costs, the sale price of generated power, and the overall cost of the project.

“The financial analyst must understand and be able to translate various inputs, such as capital costs, operation & maintenance costs, land lease costs, taxes, wind resource potential, future power prices and project risks into a robust and defensible pro-forma model,” says Ari Pribadi, senior vice president of Marathon Capital, LLC .

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Slow Sales of Honda Insight Give Insight into Hybrid Market

| Wednesday December 23rd, 2009 | 11 Comments

Are hybrid cars still considered niche, or even — dare we say — “luxury” purchases?

The failure of the lower-cost Honda Insight hybrid to dent the market for the Prius has some in the auto industry answering yes. Business Week reports that the Insight, which was introduced this year with a base MSRP of $19,800, over $2,000 less than the Prius, is still being outsold by Toyota’s car 6 to 1.

The Insight’s sluggish sales is proving a useful cautionary tale to other automakers looking to catch up to Toyota in the hybrid market, and some have already made major strategic shifts as a result.

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Bioplastech Startup Making Plastic Biodegradable

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday December 23rd, 2009 | 2 Comments

A University College Dublin research team recently patented a process to produce biodegradable plastic from plastic bottles, and that patent has led to the formation of a company, Bioplastech Ltd., to develop, process and market the technology.

Dr. Kevin O’Connor, founder and CEO of Bioplastech, led the team and the biodegradable plastic they produce is called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA).

The Ireland-based Bioplastech converts waste, agricultural byproducts and petrochemical products into PHA, a linear polyester produced by bacterial fermentation of sugar or lipids that can store carbon and energy.

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How Walmart Is Expanding the Reach of Fair Trade Coffee

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday December 23rd, 2009 | 4 Comments

In 2008, Walmart launched its own Sam’s Choice coffee label,  which included fair trade certified coffee. Walmart’s website claims that its Sam’s Choice Fair Trade Certified Coffee “guarantees fair prices, direct trade, environmental sustainability, and community development for family farmers.” The CBS’ website, lists coffee as one of the five items to purchase at Walmart. The article points out that this year Walmart began to offer coffee fair-trade certified by TransFair USA in its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores. According to the article, the coffee is “sustainably grown by farmers who receive a living wage.”

An April post by declared, “When the big boys like Walmart or Starbucks make a move, it has impact.” In other words, by selling fair trade certified coffee, Walmart “vastly expands the market for such goods,” as the article stated.

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