Where’s My Wind? Outdated Grid Transmission in the U.S.

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday June 26th, 2008 | 0 Comments

grid.jpeg Wind energy is facing yet another obstacle in the U.S. This time it’s about transmission issues. How do we connect various renewable energy projects to our nation’s grid? Currently, the U.S. transmission grid needs serious upgrading to handle the additional input of energy. In the meantime, wind turbines slated for installation have been collecting dust instead. Last week, the U.S. Senate held their first hearing on renewable energy and transmission. Don Furman (President-elect of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Chair of AWEA’s Transmission Committee) gave testimony at the hearing and proposed the following considerations to mobilize our leaders into action.

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Dell first to offer 80 PLUS Gold power supply, the highest in energy efficiency

| Thursday June 26th, 2008 | 0 Comments

80plus_logo.gifDell wants to be the “greenest” tech company out there. With commitment to industry standards like EPEAT and ENERGY STAR in addition to their recycling initiatives and WEEE compliance, you might say they are well on their way.
This week brings an industry first for the company: an 80PLUS Gold power supply for servers. 80PLUS Gold is the highest rating for power supply energy efficiency. The standard requires 92 percent minimum efficiency for the power supply unit at 50 percent of rated output. What exactly does that mean? Not all of the electricity that a computer uses goes to power the computer; some is released as excess heat. To be 92 percent efficient means 92 percent of the energy that goes into the computer is actually used by the computer. More efficient power supplies cut down on the wasted excess heat.

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Waste Recycling Targets set in EU

| Thursday June 26th, 2008 | 1 Comment

recycling.jpgAgreement has been reached in Strasbourg by Euro-MPs to set new waste recycling targets, with tough penalties for non-compliance. By 2020 50% of household rubbish and 70% of construction and demolition waste must be recycled – with mechanisms to penalize governments through court action when the targets are not enforced. The new standard is, for some, a clear statement of the ongoing progressive, environmental mindedness emerging from the European centre. For others it is a compromise; it is too weak a solution that will not change the fundamentals of consumerism and problems surrounding waste management that persist with modern lifestyles.
The Waste Framework Directive increases recycling levels, requires the preparation of national programmes for waste management, international partnerships and more stringent measures for waste incineration. The author of the waste report, conservative MEP Caroline Jackson suggested that:

“this is the best deal available. Anyone who thinks that we could get anything better would be deceiving themselves.”

Furthermore, the conception of waste as an opportunity emerges within the agreement:

“This deal marks a shift in thinking about waste from an unwanted burden to a valued resource and helps to make Europe a recycling society, said European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.”

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Sustainable City: Tijuana, Mexico

| Thursday June 26th, 2008 | 9 Comments

For many, the very mention of Tijuana conjures up images of debauchery, drunken 18-year olds, and Montezuma’s Revenge. What it might not conjure is a vision of sustainability. Especially when it’s in terms of tract housing developments. Yet Urbi, one of Mexico’s premiere housing developers, is attempting to create just that.
Working in concert with Conavi, Mexico’s equivalent of the National Department of Housing, Urbi’s Valle Las Palmas that was announced last year is planned as a satellite city with aspirations of being a completely self-sufficient community. “It’s practically a doctoral thesis,” said Evangelina Hirata, General Sub-director of Conavi, referring to the scale of the project, one that will create an independent, “ordered and sustainable” municipality for 1,000,000 inhabitants, complete with energy-independence, industry, and services. Though the developers intended to fill 10,000 homes as early as last October, the satellite city project isn’t envisioned to reach full completion until 2030.

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Icerocks: Hermetically packaged ice cubes. This must be a joke.

| Wednesday June 25th, 2008 | 2 Comments

As many consumers continue to question the impact of their bottled water guilty pleasures, somehow a company called the Water Bank of America is producing packaged water, “made from spring water drawn from the Vend√©e Region of France in the Massif Central.” Check out their website, complete with pictures of b-list celebrities and Ferraris, an unfinished foundation page, and soothing music.
The company’s latest news page hasn’t been updated for a year. Perhaps if this post finds its way to Digg, the website will be taken offline permanently, spending any last pennies left in the company’s bank account. And a shame that would be, as they’d never have the chance to reveal what on Earth they could have possibly meant by their catch phrase “think blue, be green,” and how it possibly relates to plastic wrapped water cubes.

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James Hansen: Oil Company CEOs Are Criminals Against Humanity

Shannon Arvizu | Wednesday June 25th, 2008 | 4 Comments

hansen.jpg James Hansen released an alarming statement this week on the twentieth anniversary of his first testimony to Congress on global warming. In it, the renowned climate scientist says that the conclusions of the global scientific consensus “have a certainty exceeding 99 percent.”
The thrust of the statement consists of an urgent call for renewable energy mobilization. He argues that, “A path yielding energy independence and a healthier environment is, barely, still possible.” To help us along this path, Hansen calls for several immediate steps – including charging CEOs of fossil energy companies with high crimes against humanity.

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Bringing wind & solar power to the masses: Recharge Pod at Glastonbury

| Wednesday June 25th, 2008 | 1 Comment

recharge%20pod%20solar%20wind%20mobile%20phone%20charger%20station.jpgGlastonbury, for those who’ve not been, is a massive annual music festival in the UK that encompasses 175,000 people on 900 acres of land. And it tends to rain. A lot. Keeping in touch with your friends is no mean feat, especially if your phone should die on you. This year will be different.
Orange, one of the top mobile phone companies in Europe, has partnered up with GotWind, a company known for its DIY wind power kits, to create the Recharge Pod. This structure will combine wind and solar power to charge up to 100 phones an hour. According to Orange, the power generated will be the equivalent of running a dj booth for 88 hours!

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Better World Books: A Virtuous Online Bookseller

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday June 25th, 2008 | 4 Comments

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My love of books coupled with my passion for social justice led me to start purchasing books from Better World Books, a triple-bottom-line company that sells new and used books, and donates a percentage from every sale to literacy projects around the world. “We believe that education and access to books are basic human rights. That’s why books sold on BetterWorld.com help fund high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world,” the company’s website states.
Started by University of Notre Dame college students in 2002 who sold textbooks online, Better World Books now has over two million new and used book titles. For the frugal social conscious book lover, Better World Books provides something Amazon does not: free shipping in the U.S., and $2.97 internationally.

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Lululemon’s competitor Horny Toad acquires Nau assets

| Tuesday June 24th, 2008 | 2 Comments

Look out lululemon!
Sustainable yoga and athletic sports apparel behemoth, lululemon has got some competitors on the way…
There’s no better time to buy sustainable clothing than Nau. The stringent fashion line that appeals to sports enthusiasts to fashionistas alike was close to shutting down until Horny Toad, entrepreneurial adventure clothing company in Santa Barbara decided to take up Nau’s assets, as was announced in WendMag today.
Horny Toad will be launching a new line of Nau clothing in August, but through the month of July, Nau enthusiasts and environmentalists can find spring and summer clothing on sale at 50% off to the end of July.
Saving money, the earth’s environmental and contributing to social change in one single mouse click: Nau is what I’m talkin’ about.
A quick browse through Nau’s website and I found most clothing in shades ranging from carbon black to a cloudy sky blue. Pieces like the Flection Skirt for women ($39) looks great for a Casual Friday while keeping you cool for a stroll in the park on a hot summer’s day.
In the same vein, men will appreciate the Gauzian SS Shirt ($38) which suggests trendy and sporty all in one cool glance.

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Agilewaves: Knowledge is Power – Conservation through Information

| Tuesday June 24th, 2008 | 4 Comments

Agilewaves - Knowledge is PowerCollin Breakstone is passionate about the environment, positive change, and creating a sustainable world. He’s just the kind of guy you’d expect as VP of a startup like Agilewaves. I spent the better part of an hour on the phone with Collin last week discussing Agilewaves, energy efficiency, sustainability issues, climate change, and reasons to remain hopeful in a troubling world. Ostensibly our chat was about the company he represents, but it was clear that Collin’s job is his mission in life.

The idea of the triple bottom line lies at the heart of what drives Agilewaves. And in pursuit of “people, planet, and profit” is the Resource Monitor, an integrated system that helps energy consumers – businesses, building owners, even individual homeowners – understand their energy consumption and carbon footprint.  

It’s one thing to tell people about energy efficiency and ways to increase it. It’s quite another to actually show them. Mark Twain once said that the key to telling a good story is by not “telling” at all, but by showing: “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” 

The concept on weaving a compelling tale that Twain demonstrated so eloquently holds true today in changing behaviors – to paraphrase, “Don’t just tell people they can save energy and lighten their footprint, show them how”.  It’s a proven concept. Research shows a 10 to 15% reduction in energy consumption through behavioral change driven by feedback alone (for more read the pdf report The Effectiveness of Feedback on Energy Consumption). 

The Resource Monitor makes that concept a reality.

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Home Depot Announces Nationwide CFL Recycling

| Tuesday June 24th, 2008 | 0 Comments

homedepot.jpgWith CFL bulbs quickly replacing incandescent bulbs in homes and businesses there is a growing disposal problem. CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury that if disposed of improperly can end up in the environment. But what do you do with a CFL bulb once it has burned out? Home Depot announced today a major step toward solving this problem. The world’s second largest retailer is going to offer a nationwide in-store CFL recycling program. Anyone with an unbroken CFL bulb will be able to drop the bulb off at any Home Depot store and Home Depot will ensure that the bulb is properly transported and recycled.

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Scientists Are Developing Alloy Based Fridges Running On 50% Less Energy

| Tuesday June 24th, 2008 | 0 Comments

fridge.jpgEuropean researchers say they have begun to develop fridges that are powered by a 100% alloy which will reduce their energy usage by 50%. In the last 15 years, fridge technology developers have had to consider what option would be the lesser of two evils. Environmentalists alerted them to the harmful side effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the refrigerant chemical, but alternative refrigerants require a lot more energy.
European scientists now claim that they’ve found the alternative to both chemicals, a solution that will reduce your fridge’s energy bill by half. Trick is, they say, to use electromagnetic fields. No joking. The scientists work on behalf of BASF, the chemicals company, and a Dutch foundation called Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM). They are pioneering technology based on magnetocaloric materials (again, no joking). These materials are a new class of refrigerants and are set to significantly reduce the negative impact of today’s cooling systems on the environment.
Magnetocaloric materials could be highly efficient cooling technology. Research leader Prof.dr. Ekkes Br√ºck from Delft University of Technology has reserved five years for developing the materials with the best properties. He and his team will be working in the BASF laboratories in the Netherlands and Germany to improve the alternative chemicals requiring lower energy levels. Magnetocaloric materials are solid alloys and earlier research by the scientists has already proven that it’s set to be an attractive alternative for cooling fridges. “The [magnetocaloric materials] warm up in a magnetic field and cool down when the field is removed. Theoretical considerations show an energy savings potential of up to fifty percent”, the scientists say. Not only will the technology be applicable to fridges, but because of its compactness it’s likely it can easily be installed in air conditioners, central heating systems and even in computers.

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How much should I spend for my Indulgences: Voluntary Carbon Offset Pricing

| Tuesday June 24th, 2008 | 3 Comments

So you’ve heard about all the pitfalls in the voluntary carbon offset market, and you still want to buy. How much is the right amount to spend? You might think that bargain shopping is a good idea–that it’s no different than shopping around for the best deal on paper towels. In the carbon offsets industry, cheap offsets are the equivalent of off-brand condoms: they might be fine, but the stakes are so high they are not really worth messing around with.
First things first. There is an enormous variation in the price per ton for carbon offsets. The Katoomba Group’s Ecosystem Marketplace, Voluntary Carbon Markets 2007: Picking Up Steam found an enormous variation in the prices of offsets available for purchase on the voluntary carbon offset market, from 45 cents to 45 dollars per ton! (See the PDF Here)
They included a lovely chart, showcasing the variation in prices by offset project type:
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How Do You Run An Entire Country Without Oil?

Shannon Arvizu | Monday June 23rd, 2008 | 1 Comment

Shai Agassi, founder of Project Better Place, is largely regarded as one of today’s hottest eco-entrepreneurs. In less than two years, Agassi has secured agreements with Israel, Denmark, and Renault/Nissan to bring fully-electric vehicles to the market in mass quantities. At this month’s¬†“Plug-In Electric Vehicles 2008: What Role for Washington?,” Agassi explains the four elements that have converged to make this awesome project viable. Enjoy!

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AskPablo:What can I do to help stop global warming?

| Monday June 23rd, 2008 | 1 Comment

On this day 20 years ago, June 23, 1988, James Hansen, head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that it was 99 percent probable that global warming had begun. With 20 years of lost opportunities behind us, the need for definitive action is growing ever greater. So what better time to answer your question?
When I saw Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the 700-page “Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change,” give a talk at the University of California at Berkeley in March 2007, he was asked this same question. I liked his answer because it didn’t start with changing your light bulbs for the curly ones. In his opinion, the most important impact that individuals can have on climate change is by expressing our concerns and opinions to our elected officials. Individuals’ actions are important but are almost symbolic if not widely adopted. Only government policies, applied across various sectors of our economy and society, can bring about the sort of wide-scale action required.
Continue reading at: Salon

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