One of my readers has asked “are Natural Gas cars really cleaner?” Well, what do you think? Many people believe that CNG stands for “Clean Natural Gas” but it actually stands for “Compressed Natural Gas”, no doubt a result of clever marketing. CNG is compressed methane (CH4) gas, which is extracted from the ground, often along with oil. CNG is not to be confused with LNG, which stands for “Liquid Natural Gas.” The main difference is that LNG is liquid wheras CNG is gaseous. Natural Gas is usually transported as LNG because it is less voluminous, but it is also more costly to cool it enough to make it liquid.Click to continue reading »
- Sustainable Brands® Announces 2014 Innovation Open Semi-finalists
- OF THE SEA, a new film about seafood & sustainability launches on Kickstarter
- Global Reporting Initiative celebrates new era for non-financial information disclosure in the EU
- More Renewable Energy Needed to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Change
Our friends at Worldchanging have created a real masterpiece of a book – “Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century”, a sizable tome packed with insight, stories, and tips on how to steer our planet and society in a greener direction. (I also wrote a little piece in it!). Anyway, by rallying readers and fans to buy the book simultaneously yesterday morning, the Worldchanging team managed to “pop” the book’s Amazon sales rank to #12 in the United States. That’s impressive, and a testament to the power of networked individuals. It will also likely lead to many more people finding out about it than would otherwise have been the case. The rank has slipped to #19, which is still impressive, and you can keep it there by grabbing a few as xmas presents. Buy the book here. (Sorry about the sales pitch, but this one’s a goodie)
Change is sometimes slow. It’s taken years for banks to have the guts to make paper statements optional, and I still get the occasional 100+ page prospectus for a mutual fund which goes straight into the bin – and millions of other bins around the world (I wonder how many people even want an annual prospectus).
Annual Reports, however, are something differet – they are meant to be glossy, fancy showcases of information and accomplishments with just enough financial details to make them readable. The sort of document that might actually be interesting. Many annual reports now contain non financial accomplishments such as sustainability reporting and other green news. But the darn things are still shipped out by the zillions at great expense both financial and environmental and, as reported in Ethical Corporation, they do little to promote real dialogue. Enter web based technology. In addition to saving paper, an online annual report, which could be more like an annual “event”, could create the same positive face annual report does but would open the doors to immensely valuable shareholder dialogue that otherwise never transpires. (Thx John!)
TreehuggerTV’s little short today was too good not to pass on. Enjoy!
A couple weeks ago, I was invited to attend a briefing by ecoAmerica in San Francisco on the demographics of environmental interest in the United States. It was an eye opening event that started with a psychological study known as VALS. Take a few minutes to take the test here and see how you score. Imagine where on the list you’ll find the majority of environmentalists, the majority of evangelical christians, the majority of Nascar fans, and how those groups might interact and overlap. The bottom line is that the majority of Americans are not especially engaged in environmental matters but darn near all of them *care* if you ask the right questions. Joel Makower has a more in depth break down of the study and the briefing, check it out here.
Happy Halloween! It’s an orange and black carnival of the green this week brought to you by Groovy Green.
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This week I am looking into the theoretical maximum efficiency of a heat engine. Then I will focus on a technology that harnesses ocean water to generate electricity.
The ideal engine runs on the Carnot cycle. According to our friends at Wikipedia “it is the most efficient cycle possible for converting a given amount of thermal energy into work.” In a Carnot cycle there is a heat source (flame, sunlight) and a cooling source (water, cold air). The definition of Carnot efficiency is 1 – Temp.Cold /Temp.Hot, where temperature is in Kelvin.
The economic costs of doing nothing about climate change are expected to be deep, long term recession – according to UK report due out soon. According to The Guardian the Treasury-commisioned report fears economic collapse on a level similar to that of the great depression. While it’s a report that will most certainly be worth reading, I take it as an invitation to immense opportunity. If, as the report says, $15 Trillion is going to be needed to invest in new energy sources alone worldwide, think of the business that represents.
No one disputes that deforestation, particularily in tropical locations such as Brazil, is a major problem for the health of the planet and of humanity. However, one also cannot blame tropical countries for engaging in deforestation when they are in desparate need of economic growth for an impoverished populace. A carbon trading solution suggests that an acre of forest left intact might actually yeild more money for a country’s coffers if the carbon sequestering value of that acre could be sold on an open exchange. Critics, however, point out that some degree of carbon trading may help, but it has the potential nagative side effect of discouraging industrial nations for changing their habits by simply letting them pay to pollute. Read more on WBCSD.
The Recycline Razor looks by all accounts to be a very good idea and it probably is. It’s made of 65% Stonyfield Yogurt containers and the rest is “100% Recycled“. It’s also fully recycleable provided one’s community offers #5 plastics recycling, as are the company’s other products such as toothbrushes.
However, this got me thinking about a report I read once on the website of this Radius Toothbrush company which had a very articulate calculation of why it was, in fact, not worth it to recycle their products. The website is offline now, but see this space for it in the future. The gist was – the amount of fossil fuel used to send the toothbrish back to the plant to be melted down and made into a new toothbrush was actually greater than the amount used to simply make a new toothbrush and send it one way. Radius advises customers to re-use their old toothbrushes for other household purposes instead of trying to recycle them.
It’s a very interesting little puzzle! My guess is that at some point economy of scale kicks in and by using, for example, Stonyfield Yogurt containers recycled in bulk for the original manufacturing of the toothbrushes, Recycline saves considerably on fossil fuel use, but we’d need many more details to be sure!
Ed Note, Oct 30 – John Lively from Recycline got in touch with me (see comment below) to say that the reason the Radius calculation is no longer on the website is that it incorrectly stated that old toothbrushes from recycline would be manufactured into new toothbrushes. This is not the case and Radius agreed to remove the calculation pending something more accurate in the future. Please see John’s full note below!
Despite government incentives and a known payback period, many companies still find the startup costs associated with going solar to be prohibitive. A group called “Developing Energy Efficient Roof Systems” has emerged to challenge that concept. Starting with a major General Motors facility in southern California, they have assumed all the financing, risks, and installation costs for a huge solar array to be placed on the roof of the GM factory. In return, GM signs a contract to buy electricity and a certain rate from the company (DEERS). It’s a pretty brilliant idea. Read more in the NYtimes.
There were people fearing that Jeffrey Skilling was going to get off easy, but the ex-Enron CEO was sentanced today to 24 years in prison. Ouch. You’d almost feel bad for the guy until you see the (literally) thousands of people he hurt or crushed financially, not to mention the immense cost to business in both reputation and added costs associated with Sarbanes Oxley. Hopefully this sends the message that needs to be sent regarding breaches of ethics and the outright greed that has come to pollute the business world in the past decades.
Monday, monday monday… carnival of the green time! Pop over to “how to save the world” for this week’s reading.
Not only is China’s richest person a woman, but she made her fortune by recycling paper. The Financial Times has an inspiring profile of Zhang Yin who’s company, Nine Dragons Paper, thrives by collecing scrap paper in the United States, recycling it, and selling it in China. Talk about trash to cash – her empire is now worth an estimated $3.4 Billion dollars.
(Also Reported on Treehugger)
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This week on AskPablo I address the question: “Why does burning one kg of gasoline in my car’s engine result in more than 1 kg of tailpipe emissions?” Well, you could dust off your college chemistry textbook and figure it out yourself, or you could leave the headache to me.