The MS Beluga Skysails Leaves Port on her Maiden Commercial Voyage

| Tuesday January 22nd, 2008 | 1 Comment

MS Beluga Skysails sets out on its maiden commercial voyageLast month I wrote about an innovative idea from SkySailsof Hamburg Germany set to make shipping more energy efficient while reducing carbon emissions (merchant shipping accounts for some 800 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year): A computer controlled, deployable kite system that harnesses the wind and, under ideal circumstances, can reduce fuel consumption by up to 20% – a very old idea utlizing the latest technology.

To update the story, the MS Beluga Skysails set sail today from the northern Germany port of Bremerhaven on her maiden commercial voyage, carrying parts for wind turbines (ironically enough) to Guanta Venezuela.

The voyage is the first of a series of practical tests in which SkySails hopes to fully prove their system to the wider shipping industry.

We’ll keep an eye on the Beluga Skysails as the voyage progresses.

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Wind Energy Grows 45% in 2007

| Tuesday January 22nd, 2008 | 2 Comments

American Wind Energy Association reports 45% growth in 2007The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported last week record growth in wind power generation with 5,244 megawatts of capacity installed in 2007 – a 45% increase reflecting $9 billion in investment and 30% of all new power generating capacity in 2007.

2008, however, will likely show growing pains as there is a current shortage of wind turbines, a situation that the AWEA sees as a big opportunity for manufacturers and entrepreneurs wishing to get in on a growing market. There’s always a better mouse trap – wind energy technology is ripe for imaginative innovators to not only fill the current need for parts, but to continually make those parts better.

It is also time for government to step up to the plate and push forward in support of alternative energy in a big way. Congress is debating this week the future of alternative energy tax credits set to expire this year with no current provision for renewal.

While the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 recently signed in Congress does provide $2 billion dollars in research for alternative energy, it still pales in comparison to subsidies given the fossil fuel industry.

Farmers also have a great opportunity to capitalize on wind power generation, “growing” energy from wind and leaving their corn for food instead of ethanol. After all, not all alternative energy is created equal.

 

 

 

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Israel and Renault/Nissan Team Up to Bring Electric Cars to the Masses

Shannon Arvizu | Monday January 21st, 2008 | 2 Comments

photo_shai_agassi.jpgIsrael and Renault/Nissan announced today that they will work together, as part of Project Better Place, to create a market and an infrastructure for the mass production of electric vehicles. This move is a testament to the potential of sustainable development when the political will and entrepreneurial spirit are in place.

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Maximum impact restaurant greening

| Monday January 21st, 2008 | 3 Comments

logolarge.gif Are you eating? Here’s a few statistics to chew on: In the US, restaurants are the top electricity consumer among retail businesses. 33% of it. Each restaurant produces an average of 50,000 pounds of waste. Eat up, unless you want to add to that last figure. That is, unless you happen to be dining at a restaurant certified by the Green Restaurant Association, which aids member restaurants in achieving a near zero waste status.
There are several local green restaurant certification programs out there these days, with varying levels of requirements. But for the most impact on your bottom line, the one that rises to the top is the Green Restaurant Association. Why? It comes down to their reach, resources, and impact. They are national, take a hands on, multi stakeholder approach, and have several ways to generate awareness of your restaurant, online, in person, and in the community you live in.
This non-profit claims to have the world’s largest database of environmental solutions for the restaurant industry, and couples that with consultants personally involved with helping restaurants become green, or in the case of Ike’s Quarter Cafe, greener. Ike’s, in business for 7 years as of this month, has long been a green minded restaurant, from their choice of produce to their focus on local resources. Why get certified? Ike’s is in the small, charming town of Nevada City, California (home to the recent Wild and Scenic Film Festival) While it’s well loved by locals and visitors who happen to find it, having a national presence, an easy conduit for those seeking out restaurants whose practices match their values, is a clear reason to want to be a part of an association such as GRA.
So your restaurant is put up on a few websites, what else do they do for you?

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Renewables May Power 100% of Germany

| Monday January 21st, 2008 | 0 Comments

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States vs. Fed: Environmental Justice Comes to the Fore

| Saturday January 19th, 2008 | 0 Comments

ppp-nywater.jpg The issue of states’ rights was a central and hotly debated one in the late 18th century as the U.S.’ Founding Fathers sought to establish an independent nation. It continues to be one today, and environmental laws and regulations are often at the cutting edge.
The field of environmental justice is the offspring of two prominent, originally counter-culture movements of the 1960s and ‘70s Рthe civil rights and environmental movements. It began to coalesce and take shape in the 1980s and in Oct. 1991 the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit was held in Washington D.C.
“Seventeen principles of environmental justice were drafted and adopted. Among those were assertions that environmental justice ‚Äòdemands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias’,” wrote Taylor Sisk in a Nov. 15 article in North Carolina’s Carboro Citizen.
This charter statement of principles also “affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples”; “demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making”; and “protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation and reparations for damages.”
Environmental justice has since evolved and grown, and now serves as a nationwide forum for a wide range of related issues – from emissions, fuel efficiency and renewable fuel and power standards to where and how we should dispose of our trash and toxic waste – as well as a well-spring of grass roots, democratic action.

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Toyota and Ford Give In and Plug In

Shannon Arvizu | Friday January 18th, 2008 | 2 Comments

toyota.jpgToyota and Ford unveiled plug-in hybrid-electric versions of their vehicles at this week’s Detroit Auto Show. This decision to give in and plug in is monumental. Consumer pressure from organizations like PlugInAmerica and Plug-In Partners most likely played a significant role. The growing number of entrepreneurial companies that offer plug-in conversion services could have also influenced Toyota’s and Ford’s decision to offer plug-in models themselves.
Both the Plug-In Toyota Prius and the Ford Escape Hybrid will run on lithium-ion battery technology known for high-efficiency and high-range capabilities. Although Ford did not announce when it plans to deliver its model to the public, Toyota President Watanabe said it will offer its Plug-in Prius models to fleet owners and governments in 2010.

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Patagonia and the Footprint Chronicles: Showing that Honesty is the Best Policy Toward Sustainability

| Friday January 18th, 2008 | 2 Comments

Yvon Chouinard - Founder of Patagonia“There is no business to be done on a dead planet.”
-David Brower

These are the words etched into the front door of Patagonia’s headquarters in Ventura, California. And it has been Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s mission to model his company upon that foundation.

Chouinard and Patagonia aren’t new to readers of Triple Pundit, but what you may not be aware of is a new online project called the Footprint ChroniclesFrom here you can track the environmental footprint of five Patagonia products from design through delivery. Each product is thoroughly examined including distance traveled (an admitted weak spot for Patagonia’s production cycle), carbon emissions, waste produced, and energy used.

Under Chouinard’s leadership, the company has never been prone to – dare I even use the word – greenwashing. Patagonia is, in fact, the antithesis of that dreadful term. The Footprint Chronicles advances that antithesis and with it comes complete honesty – the good, the bad, and the ugly. A customer can easily get a complete picture of the impact a product has on the environment, something sorely missing in mainstream consumer products, where at best there is only a vague notion of what happened before those nifty hiking boots showed up on the store rack. 

For Patagonia, the idea is simple:
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

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McMansions: Unsustainable Housing Meets Unsustainable Finance

| Thursday January 17th, 2008 | 6 Comments

A hillside of unsustainable homes - how many are in foreclosure?The “sub-prime meltdown” hit me personally when my bank calmly informed me one day last fall that they had ceased to be, and, due to the bank’s apparent policy of making questionable loans that were simply unsustainable for too many borrowers, had become insolvent  and thus had gone into receivership by another bank.

With news today of a 306 point drop in the Dow precipitated by $16 billion in mortgage related “write downs” for a net quarterly loss of $9.8 billion coming on the heels of an $18 billion dollar write down with another $9.83 billion loss posted for Citigroup’s fourth quarter, the impact of the sub-prime mortgage spree is clear and pervasive.

At the other end of this scenario are the homes going up for foreclosure. A recent report by Matthew Yglesias of the Atlantic Monthly describes the areas hardest hit by the sub-prime collapse: subdivisions built on the edges of urban areas where once arable land is bulldozed to make way for over-sized, energy-intensive houses, with landscaping consisting grassy yards adorned with non-native species of trees and shrubs, the whole lot of it out of character with the natural surroundings and located so that most residents are forced to drive miles and miles to get to work, for too often there is no public transportation available. McMansions tucked cheek-by-jowl in some aspirational attempt to find the American Dream.

But is this the American Dream run amok, paid for with money people don’t have?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

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Sierra Club Way Too Bothered By CA High Speed Rail Plan

| Thursday January 17th, 2008 | 8 Comments

tgv.jpgI never thought I’d say this, but shame on the Sierra Club. That venerable organization is opposed to a particular routing for the long overdue California High Speed rail line which will someday connect the Bay Area with Los Angeles. [more here] The organization is threatening to sue if another, less convenient route is not chosen as the favored one by planners.
My beef is this – although the Pacheco Pass routing of the rail line may involve a higher immediate impact on certain environmental grounds (read those articles to see what I’m talking about), you’d have to be out of your mind to think that you’re doing the environment a favor by delaying high speed rail in California. This is a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees and meddling on relatively trivial matters when great progress might otherwise take place. It makes environmentalists look bad and slows down one of the most environmentally beneficial projects in the history of the State.

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Amazon Kindle: Save Trees, Support E-Book Readers

| Thursday January 17th, 2008 | 2 Comments

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As much as I love to read, turning pages one by one, breaking a new paperback book into a well-weathered memory to trophy in my book case, I realize it is costing some forest, somewhere, a tree.
Although e-books have existed since the 90′s a portable platform designed just for e-books that is truly functional has not been available until recently. I read up on two products out there, Sony Reader, which I liked, and the Amazon Kindle, of which I liked a little better.

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Aptera: Entrepreneur developed 3-wheeled hybrid

| Wednesday January 16th, 2008 | 2 Comments

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The Aptera has received a lot of press during the past couple of months, thanks in part to two critical characteristics: One- Its radical three-wheeled design. Two- the hybrid gas-electric version claims to be capable of 300 miles per gallon! How? The inventive drastic reduction by means of weight and drag.
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Although many concepts remain just that, a “concept,” the great news here is that the Aptera Typ-1e hits California streets sometime this year. The Aptera looks like it has been time-warped from the future and brings with it some relatively radical innovations. The skin of the car is constructed of epoxy resin and let’s not forget that is has only three wheels, two in front, one in the back.

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Ask Your Senators to Strengthen Promising New Climate Bill

| Wednesday January 16th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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To quote the following:
” Over the last year, Union of Concerned Scientists supporters across the country have sent thousands of letters to state and federal lawmakers urging them to reduce global warming pollution. While we’ve laid important groundwork and celebrated some concrete victories at the state and regional level – the United States still needs national comprehensive climate legislation.”
“Recently, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA) introduced America’s Climate Security Act (S. 2191). The bill’s bi-partisan support and strong framework for reducing global warming pollution will help build momentum for real congressional action. However, the Senate must act to strengthen a few elements of the bill. Please urge your senators to ensure that the bill helps avoid the worst effects of global warming.”

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Inflatable Cars

| Tuesday January 15th, 2008 | 4 Comments

whisper.jpg
Inflatable cars? What?!! A Bay Area startup, XP vehicles is tossing in its radical idea for a proposed ultra light, ultra-efficient car that is powered by both fuel cells and batteries. The body of this radical concept is proposed to be made up of preinflated airbags, of which, the company claims will be so safe that you could actually drive the car off of a 25-ft cliff without inflicting injury. The inflatable car is scheduled to be targeted at Asian markets initially.
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The entire car will ship in two smash-packed, Costco-type, cardboard boxes that consumers should be able to assemble and hit the road in roughly two hours after initial assembly. Keep in mind that this will only happen if the manufacturers are able to convince the local authorities that the inflatable vehicles are actually roadworthy.

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UPS launches a small zero emissions fleet

| Tuesday January 15th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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UPS has secured a lease for 42 electric three-wheeled utility vehicles with green in mind, as in the bengamins. This environmentally friendly investment is part of a pilot program in Petaluma, California that is geared toward increasing profits by reducing transport costs.
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The ride, a very small three-wheeled one-seater called the Xebra Truck. This tiny truck-like rig has a small bed in the back, bearing the two wheels and a tiny little cab in the front, riding on the one wheel. These little cars can only travel 35 to 40 miles per charge on the few lead-acid battery powertrain and top out at 40 mph.

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