Here’s a nice inspirational video to pass along this weekend. It’s from Unitus, as part of their Empowering Women campaign.
Perhaps spawned by the immense popularity of Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma or just the recent explosion of interest in both food safety and climate change, people are demanding locally grown. Such “locavores” are participating in the 100 Mile Diet and are making the local farmers’ market the place to be. In March 2005 the BBC published an article entitled “Local food ‘greener than organic’” in which they quoted a report in the journal Food Policy that states “Food miles are more significant than we previously thought, and much now needs to be done to encourage local production and consumption of food.” Foodmiles is a term coined by Tim Lang, professor of food policy at London’s City University, that refers to the distance that a given amount of food travels from farm to plate.Click to continue reading »
You might need a subscription to read this Wall Street Journal article, so I’ll paraphrase it here: it’s a glowing article on the miracles of bike transportation in Amsterdam and Copenhagen where an astonishing 40% and 33% (respectively) of commuters bike to work. Granted these cities are flat, but they also have phenomenal biking infrastructure that makes biking safe, practical and popular. In contast, the US remains woefully difficult (and often dangerous) to commute by bicycle in. More importantly, even here in San Francisco, popular culture seems adamant that using a bicycle for daily transportation is anathema to being a good American – a deeply set paranoia that is made all the more difficult to overcome given our astonishingly bad bicycle infrastructure. Even in Manhattan (the west side highway notwithstanding), getting around by bike is a challenging and gutsty proposition.
Needless to say, I’m thrilled that America’s leading business publication is singing the praises of the Danish and Dutch. Hopefully it means influential people are listening.
Having been thinking about “Green” for a long time, I’ve been very concerned lately about the idea that we’re in the midst of a bubble in terms of public awareness of environmental issues. If I were Alan Greenspan I might be calling for a ‘cooling of an overheated economy’ – the fear is that people are jumping on this bandwagon without much of a clue and that if any number of things, like a crash in oil prices, were to happen then interest would evaporate like just another fad…
But when you look specifically at the greening of business, you get a much different story, with a much rosier future:
Since most power plants cannot be “turned down” at night to compensate for lower energy demand the energy they generate is wasted in off-peak hours and extra strain is put on the system during peak daylight hours, especially when it’s hot outside and people clamor for air conditioning.
There are a lot of ideas to deal with this problem, my personal favorite being to use plug-in hybrid cars to absorb low-rate electricity at night, then give back their energy during the day. Other schemes have involved using nighttime energy to pump water in reverse into reservoirs so that it can be used again the next day as hydro power.
One new idea, championed by a California company, Ice Energy, is to offer a device that makes ice overnight, then uses it to augment air conditioning during the day. Here’s how it works:
In Part I we learned about the energy required to overcome rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag. In Part II we learned about the energy consumed in acceleration. Now it’s time to bring it all together. We know how much energy it takes to get a vehicle up to a certain speed and to keep it there. We also know that the fuel we put into the tank contains more energy than we get back out. My car’s efficiency came out to be 19.9% (see Part I), but where does the other 80.1% go? And is there anything else to consider?Click to continue reading »
I’ll have to talk to Pablo about the actual calculations behind this, but my hunch is that giving a way free high-quality reusable shopping bags makes smart business sense for a supermarket chain. The reasoning is that it’s a one time cost, which ought not to be all that high with the right economies of scale in place, and once the bags are in regular use, the company gets free advertising wherever the bags are used. Additionally the company earns big amounts of goodwill and loyalty on behalf of customers. It avoids some amount of cost on plastic and paper bags that it would otherwise have had to supply, and possibly avoids government regulation by taking a voluntary proactive step toward reducing waste.
Sainsbury’s (a major UK chain) has done just that. They’re giving away what they call a “bag for life” tomorrow across the UK. It’s not a canvas bag, but rather a bag made to last for repeated uses. It is made of plastic that is said to be 100% recycled and once it wears out, it can be exchanged for a new one at no cost.
No more food on the plane…hmmm…Wolfgang Puck is right there; high quality food and now more veggie options, more organic ingredients, and a Humane Farm Animal Treatment program. I liked Puck’s already and these are even better reasons to eat there. With more than 80 Gourmet Express restaurants, Wolfgang Puck announced a systemic nine-point program aimed at the worst abuses of farmed animals in full compliance with the Humane Society of the United State’s (HSUS) requirements including: Click to continue reading »
I get a lot of press releases these days and always read them with a critical eye. Take this one from the Coca Cola Corp. It’s packed with great stuff – a fairly substantial re-tooling of their giant headquarters in Atlanta which is said to reduce energy consumption by 23% and water consumption by 15%. The added bonus: over a million dollars in savings annually.
The critic in me is starting to get triggered by this constant barrage of good news, when I think to myself – ‘gee, this is really just common sense stuff they’d be doing anyway, why not just throw on some green PR points as a bonus?’. But when you think about it, what’s really wrong with that? The fear is that the meaning of conservation and reuse gets lost in the PR-speak, but the reality is that impressive efficiency is still achieved and people find out about in a way that not only inspires them to do the same, but makes good business sense. A million dollars is a lot, and this sound’s like a good move by Coke. So I raise my glass of HFCS to them as an earth-day salute….
This week we are continuing last week’s discussion on vehicle efficiency, from well to wheel. In last week’s column I introduced calculations for determining the energy needed to overcome aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance at a constant freeway speed of 65 mph. Using these equations I was able to show that my car is about 18.8% efficient at converting fuel energy into constant forward motion.Click to continue reading »
In 2005, 1200 concerned scientists issued a statement that “Biodiversity is being irreversibly destroyed by human activities at an unprecedented rate”. It was estimated that as many as 50, 000 plant and animal species disappear each year. In April 2007, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned “there is observational evidence” regarding the impact of climate change on physical and biological systems. It has serious consequences for agriculture and food security. Examples of this include drought and famine in Africa, and heightened frequency of flood in Asia.
Sadly, while increasing number of progressive Christians are beginning to view the environmental crisis as a spiritual issue deserving the attention of all people of faith, the Christian Right has chosen to limit their discourse to homosexuality and abortion. Demonizing the environmentalists as “New Age worshippers of Satan”, and calling them everything from “tree-hugging pagans” to “socialists”, the neo-cons have ignored the undeniable facts about environmental degradation.
Carbon Dioxide is having it’s heyday as the eco-villain du jour, but we mustn’t forget the litany of other serious pollutants out there. Nitrogen (via it’s massive use as fertilizer as well as in industry) is causing significant pollution in waterways and other areas. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has set up a WiKi for discussion on the matter which, assuming such in depth discussion interests you, can be found right here.
Despite recent controversy about whether or not carbon neutrality is all it’s cracked up to be, Yahoo is going carbon neutral and that’s a good thing. Yahoo will invest in a variety of projects in renewable energy and other “greenhouse gas reducing” activities. Obviously such things are only a first step toward real eco-effectiveness, but it’s an outstanding move for Yahoo that will pay off, not just for the company, but for parties all over the world.