I’m taking off for the long weekend and I highly recommend you do the same. All work and no play ya know. But here’s a Wal Mart Video featuring Andy Rubin, Adam Werbach and others talking about CFLs, along with a whole host of others. It’s a veritable youtube of options. The one about skylights in Kansas City is noteworthy.
It’s basically a bunch of advertisements, but some of them are very well done and worthy of merit. Of course the question is, what’s going on behind this propaganda? For the most part I’m still giving Wal Mart the benefit of the doubt as there is clearly a lot of sincerity behind many of their efforts. But I’m stuck wondering – is the big-box model itself inherently flawed in terms of the context of either environmental or social sustainability? That’s my thought for the weekend.
It’s amazing the difference a little green makes. Perhaps inspired by San Francsico’s PARKing project, but with a much grander scale in mind, a group promoting tourism in London has temporarily ‘greened’ Trafalgar Square.
It’s not a permanent installation (I can only imagine how quickly that grass would be trampled) but it really looks great. Trafalgar Square has always been grand, if a little stoic, but that grass really looks great and livens up the place in way almost no human-made object can.
Every time I see a major windfarm in California, regardless of the wind conditions it seems that half of the turbines are not spinning. I attribute this to the age of the windfarms around here (30 years or more) and an apparent lack of maintenance budget. But it’s still puzzling that we’re not doing more with windpower – Popular Mechanics notes that we’re using 2 million times *less* that our potential output of wind energy in the United States. They also outline three main reasons for the setback along with solutions:
1) Cost of transmission lines from relatively remote locations where wind is best. Solution: Small, local turbines, including personal sized ones that augment the grid with diffuse power generation and negligible transmission costs.
2) The inevitable windless day. Solution: Hook up generators to batteries that store electricity for peak demand and low wind conditions.
3) Difficulty of offshore construction. Solution: This is a tricky one, involving technology that’s not yet here at as-yet unknown costs.
Check out the whole article here.
Today’s NYTimes has a great announcement from New York City that’s been a long time coming – The entire city’s taxi fleet is proposed to be replaced with hybrid vehicles over the next few years, replacing the woefully inefficient Crown Victorias that now patrol the streets. The plan comes from Mayor Bloomberg himself, which certainly lends some likelihood that it will, in fact, be implemented.
The new taxis will only get a comparatively modest 25 miles to the gallon, but that’s about double the mileage of the current fleet and as anyone who’s ever walked near the street on a hot summer day in Manhattan knows, the reduction in emissions is going to be, shall we say, breathtaking.
GreenBiz has launched a new website called Greenercomputing.com. The site will be a resource for IT professionals concerned about the environmental effects of computers and other pieces of high tech equipment – not just in terms of energy use, but in terms of manufacturing and disposal issues. Additionally, there’s a twice-monthly newsletter to keep you posted.
Click to continue reading »
Here’s an interesting puzzle of priorities. AirTrain airlines, a discount carrier based in Atlanta is attempting a hostile takeover of Midwest Airlines, a premium-service carrier based in Milwaukee. The story is getting downright fascinating.
AirTran, the reincarnation of ValuJet, is known for cheap fares, but not a whole lot else. Midwest, although a far cry from what it used to be, is still know as “the best care in the air” offering first class seating on most of its flights, along with their trademark baked-in-flight chocolate chip cookies. Mmmm…
AirTran has been trying for months to take over Midwest, citing fleet commonality and complimentary route structure as well as new destinations and low fares among the benefits it purports to be bringing to stakeholders. Midwest management and employees have been fighting tooth and nail to resist the takeover. Midwest customers and many members of the Milwaukee business community are also up in arms for fear of being stuck with what they see as a second-rate airline, bad for business and community spirit, not to mention local jobs.
Midwest stock is up from $8 to $15 since the take over efforts began, and AirTran recently announced they’ve managed to get the support of 57% of Midwest Shareholders (Midwest dismisses this as a ‘straw poll’). So is this a no-brainer for sharholders? What’s slowing things down? And what would you do?
Energy supply problems and the realization that a carbon-based economy cannot be sustained indefinitely have prompted us to look for alternatives. One such alternative is hydrogen, a noble gas abundant in water (H2O). Combustion of hydrogen releases only pure water and hydrogen fuel cells have a theoretical efficiency of 83%. Why is there not a fuel cell in every car and every basement? As this emerging technology matures, prices will decrease and fuel cells will become increasingly prevalent. Is hydrogen fuel cell technology suitable for use in vehicles? Or will the internal combustion engine remain the vehicle propulsion of choice? Bill Ford, Chairman of the Ford Motor Company says, “I believe fuel cells will finally end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion engine.”Click to continue reading »
I am very happy with Mayor Daley’s goal to become the “greenest” city in the nation. We’ve made such progress in promoting sustainable agriculture, with the Green City Market and other farmer’s markets providing convenient outlets for purchasing humanely-raised, sustainable food. Chicago hosted Farm Aid two years ago with events around the city, where I first met Sadhu Johnston, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Environment. We are also the host city of the annual FamilyFarmed.org conference and the All Things Organic conference.
Last year, the Chicago City Council passed a ban on foie gras, which is a product created by force feeding young ducks and geese with a metal pipe in order for them to develop fatty liver disease. You can see for yourself at www.banfoiegras.org to understand why this inhumane practice is not allowed in sustainable agriculture under certified organic guidelines. Foie gras is already banned in many European countries and a Zogby International poll found that 77% of people in the U.S. think that foie gras should be banned.
“Smithfield is taking a first step in phasing out crates for pigs, but I’m concerned about 1) the lack of producers moving to truly humane animal husbandry standards and 2) the recovery of the family farm,” my colleague at the Animal Welfare Institute told me.
Yes, group housing for thousands of breeding sows in warehouses is a much better option than sows being crated within that warehouse and I really laud this improvement, however, Smithfield’s practice still entails:
• Pigs living their lives on slatted floors , breathing in urine and manure-filled pathogens as feces fall through the floor and are piped into huge, environmentally-unfriendly lagoons
• A lack of nesting materials for sows and piglets
• Confinement to warehouses with no natural daylight or outdoor access
This week Julio asks: “Is it more environmentally friendly to shop online or shop in-store? Or, is there a guideline I should use, since I shop online a lot?” I will try to offer my best answer and hopefully we will all learn something. I would like to remind the rest of you to please send in your sustainability-related questions or just topics that interest you. Just send me an e-mail at: Pablo.Paster(at)gmail.com.Click to continue reading »
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: