Sustainable Coffee & Agriculture Helping Rebuild in Rwanda

| Thursday October 25th, 2007 | 2 Comments

coffeebike.jpgWhen I think of Rwanda, I think of two things: The genocidal political-tribal conflict in which some 800,000 died and the plight of endangered mountain gorillas that the dedication of American zoologist Diane Fossey made known around the world. More than a dozen years after the horror of the former, a host of individuals and organizations are trying to rebuild a society and an economy.
As it turns out, Rwanda has some prime coffee growing regions and a tradition of cultivating old “heirloom” Bourbon coffee berries on small private farms. One problem the local farming cooperatives face is getting their coffee berries to processing and transshipment stations as quickly as they can to ensure the best quality possible.
Lacking money to purchase vehicles and draft animals due to lack of fodder, farmers’ ingenuity led them to build bikes and carts from wood, rubber, and odds and ends like duct tape. Needless to say, pushing 300 pounds of coffee berries on a 50-pound wooden bike 5 to 10 kilometers is a bit cumbersome…and tiring, points out Jay Ritchie, former program manager for the Rwanda Coffee Bike Program and SPREAD (Sustaining Partnerships to enhance Rural Enterprise and Agribusiness Development), a five-year USAID project lead by Texas A&M University.

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BSR Conference Thoughts from Keith Rockmael of Greenerati

| Thursday October 25th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Those of you who think we have it bad with the tap water here in San Francisco might think twice after attending one of the more
thought provoking sessions at the 2007 BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) Conference here in San Francisco. The panel of John Frazier, Director of Considered Chemistry and Environment for Nike; Pascale Guiffant with the SUEZ company; and Chris Jochnick director at Oxfam, led the environmental session “Green Human Rights: Do Water and Climate Count?” and brought about Paul Hawken-esque issues about water rights tied with human rights.

Oil seems to be on everyone’s mind but good old H2O might be more of a future issue. Even those waiting for the ice caps to melt might think twice when seeing how much corporations pollute that water. The panel tied together ideas how human rights and climate change can be tied to water. Even now the UN only recently started to realize that water can be recognized as a human issue. One problem is that most of the private sector doesn’t cover the local populations’ right to a healthy environment.

We applaud Frazier’s opinion that Nike should talk more about what
they are doing on the environmental side as opposed to how to dunk a basketball. Nike has their new Green shoe and they continue to work on a “Considered Index” that will measure the VOCs and other harmful elements in their shoes. Nike, which used to be a poster child for non-Green companies, seems to be taking a Green Shaq size step forward. We say, “Just Green It.”

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Keith is a editor of Greenerati.com

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Goodwill Revolutionizing Used Clothing

| Thursday October 25th, 2007 | 7 Comments

home-07-1018-whitefrog.gif.gifBuying used clothing is a great way to go green and get an interesting wardrobe at the same time. But it’s still hard to get the mainstream to accept it. Goodwill has never been sexy. That may be about to change.
The venerable charity has teamed up with the founder of Joe Boxer to launch a new line of used-clothing stores called William Good. The first store opens November 5th in San Francisco and is expected to spread. Not only will the clothing be recycled, “The floor of the shop is made from vinyl record albums, the paintings on the wall of clowns and dogs are found art. The racks will be made out of books – they get a lot of books at the Goodwill. We’ll just stack them up in two rows and run a bar across it, and that’s where we’ll hang the clothes.”
More info on SFGate.

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Too Late for Global Warming – 450 Parts Per Million is History – Now What?

| Wednesday October 24th, 2007 | 12 Comments

hurricane-2.jpgI don’t usually like to sulk in the doom and gloom of impending or imagined global catastrophe, but this landmark Christian Science Monitor article deserves a lot more attention that it’s getting.
In brief – a UN report is soon due out that shows greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere is now in excess of 450ppm – the threshold which may provoke an irreversible warming trend. The worst thing about it is we reached that number faster than we thought was possible and are not even close to turning it around. As recently as last month, publications were still reporting the 450ppm number as a relatively distant fate we had a chance to avoid.
So now what?

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Cost of Southern California Fires to Top $1 Billion – What Role Do the Santa Ana Winds and Global Warming Play?

| Wednesday October 24th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Fires rage in southern California. What role does global warming play?Losses the raging wildfires in San Diego county alone are expected to be at least $1 billion dollars.

With 1,500 homes destroyed and more than 500,000 people displaced, President Bush has declared the region a disaster area with many drawing comparisons with Hurricane Katrina (in terms of huge natural disasters – not necessarily the part about Bush’s response).

The fierce and feared Santa Ana winds have borne much of the blame for the unrelenting fires. But as Governor Swarchenegger almost offhandedly mentioned on national television yesterday, global warming may likely have a hand on the number and intensity of the fires.

Wait a minute, we’re going to blame the Santa Ana Winds on global warming?

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The California Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Credit System Makes Electric Cars Affordable

Shannon Arvizu | Wednesday October 24th, 2007 | 2 Comments

tesla-car.jpgContrary to the title of the documentary released last year (“Who Killed the Electric Car?”), the electric car is alive and well. Independent car companies like Tesla Motors and Phoenix Motorcars have demonstrated that all-electric battery vehicle technology is feasible, sexy, and (almost) affordable. While the Tesla Roadster is still out of most people’s price range at $98,000, the Phoenix Sports Utility Truck will be available for fleet purchase in 2008 for $35,000 ($45,000 – $10,000 CA State ZEV tax refund).
How can an independent car manufacturer offer such a great deal on an electric vehicle? The Phoenix actually costs around $130,000 to manufacture, so why are they selling the vehicles to city governments and taxi services for less?

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Bamboo: A Smart Flooring Alternative

| Wednesday October 24th, 2007 | 6 Comments

black%20brushed%20bamboo.jpg
Bamboo is inexpensive, available in a variety of styles and is a renewable resource. Bamboo flooring is similar in appearance to hardwood but is even more durable in terms of scuffing, wear and expansion. Bamboo is harvested in plantations that take only 3-6 years to reach maturity. Although still not widely used, it is perhaps the most efficient material for flooring.
How do bamboo floors compare with other hardwood floors?
There are three common types of bamboo floors. Horizontal & vertical bamboo flooring is harder than Oak hardwood. Strand Woven bamboo flooring is harder than the most expensive Brazilian Walnut. An added bonus is bamboo flooring is actually less expensive than hardwood! A common problem with bamboo is expansion due to high humidity; this problem can be avoided if the flooring is allowed to acclimate for no less than 72 hours.
How is it made? Fresh & mature bamboo clums are split and flattened lengthwise into strips of equal dimensions. These are processed & kiln dried before being pressed against each other and glued under high pressure to form raw planks. From here it is finished in a variety of ways.
Is bamboo environmentally friendly?
In most cases bamboo is specially cultivated and harvested, without damaging the ecological system of renewal. Every year the parent bamboo plant develops new stems, so the stems can be harvested after a few years in a mature plantation without decreasing the size of the forest. Not all bamboo is environmentally friendly however, in some cases toxic glues and surfacing compounds are used so be certain that the product was manufactured in accordance with the E1 safety and emission standards.

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Cap and Trade, Carbon Tax, and the Aspirations of Government

| Tuesday October 23rd, 2007 | 2 Comments

Cap and trade, carbon tax, or aspirations?On hearing that the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) just named Jack Cogen, CEO of Natsource, as the their new chairman, I decided to do some research on the organization and the concept of emissions trading in general. What follows is a quick synopsis.

The IETA fully supports the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Based on this framework the IETA’s vision aims toward an ultimate objective of carbon emissions reduction and climate stabilization through a global “gas market” established with the use of market-based mechanisms such as “cap and trade”. 

Working with government in establishing effective policy and guidelines is an essential component of any global carbon market and the IETA supports the principal objectives of the Lieberman-Warner proposal for climate change legislation set forth on August 2nd.  An open letter outlining the IETA’s position and concerns on the proposal is available in pdf format here.

While it remains the position of the Bush administration to oppose any cap and trade plan, instead focusing on “aspirational goals” over mandatory mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gases, a well structured cap and trade program, as proposed by Lieberman-Warner and generally supported by the IETA, offers a realistic market-based solution to greenhouse gas emission reduction.

But what are the choices other than the simply rhetorical and a “global gas market” through cap and trade?

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Coke, please – no ice, no animal testing…

| Tuesday October 23rd, 2007 | 4 Comments

chimp%20behind%20bars.jpgSoft drinks – animal testing; come again? Earlier this year, Coca-Cola (Coke, Minute Maid, Fruitopia) and Pepsico (Pepsi, Tropicana, Gatorage) made decisions that their value chains will no longer include animal testing. Each agreed to stop directly financing research that uses animals to test or develop their products, except where such testing is required by law. Elaine Palmer, a spokeswoman for Pepsico, said that while the company had never supported the idea of animal testing, ‚ÄòWe had not been policing it, so that part is new.‘” Danny Strickland, Coke’s chief innovation and technology officer said “senior management had not previously been aware of the (animal) studies.”
So who is watching the animals in the value chain?

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The 30 year laptop battery: Fact, fiction, or fission?

| Tuesday October 23rd, 2007 | 8 Comments

Betavoltaic.jpgHow often have you sat there, laptop battery at 3%, plug nowhere in sight, cursing it and the vermin that made it? Well, a recent story in Next Energy News may spell relief to your power woes.
The article expounds the wonders of a battery known as a betavoltaic, which utilizes among other things, radioactive isotopes. Hang on, radioactive? Apparently, it makes use of electron, or beta emissions, which happen as a neutron decays into a proton, and are not harmful to health, being a different sort of reaction then fission or fusion. I’m no scientist, so I’ll let you muddle through the rest. The end result is a battery that can last 30 years, with no recharge needed.
There are some, including myself, who at first found it a little doubtful that this is a true story, as the article, claiming that the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is working on this had no links to either them, or any further documentation/research on this. Perhaps just poor journalism, perhaps just not true. For those scientifically inclined, this page seems to give more credence to the validity of this, and in fact it appears these batteries have been in existence since the 1950s, only in much larger applications, like satellites.

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Anita Roddick Interview – On Success and Women Entrepreneurs

| Monday October 22nd, 2007 | 0 Comments

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Clay: Old World Look in the New Age

| Monday October 22nd, 2007 | 0 Comments

american%20clay.jpgThis past weekend a new all natural earth plaster was unveiled at the Traditional Building Exhibition & Conference in New Orleans. American Clay Enterprises is the company behind the all-natural plaster. The wall plaster is nothing entirely new however; it is the descendant of an ancient wall surface which happens to be an advantageous product for interior finishes. So what is this clay and what are the benefits? It is mold resistant, temperature moderating, humidity controlling, sound attenuating, no VOC’s, flexible and repairable.
The product is popular for the old world finished look bringing with it the new-aged “green” qualities. American Clay Earth Plaster products combine a variety of unique clays, aggregates and natural pigments that offers the building industry a natural and elegant option. If you have an itch to see this product look for it to be highlighted on upcoming television episodes such as E! “Green That House” and on HGTV’s “Living with Ed.” If you have to get your hands on it there is an American Clay “Try-It Kit” containing three bags of sample product, 6″x6″ pre-primed sample boards, instructions, and a mini practice trowel that can be ordered online pr at one of their select retailers.

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Mineral Resources, Society & the Environment: Where’s the Common Ground?

| Monday October 22nd, 2007 | 0 Comments

rainforest1.jpgInvestors of all sizes have for several years now been pouring savings and borrowed money into a growing range of metals, commodities markets and a variety of related investments. Lack of investment during previous decades of relatively low commodity prices and faced with diminishing supply of existing resources, energy and mineral resources companies are now trying to ride the wave and cast their nets farther afield in search of prospects. Rapid growth of the Chinese economy, which has continued pretty much unabated for two decades now, has added a lot of fuel to the fire.
The damaging environmental effects of mining activities and the socio-economic costs and benefits of developing energy and mineral resources have long been a concern and area of focus for the companies involved, as well as governments, environmental and humanitarian groups, and rightfully so. Coincidentally, growing concerns about, and action to mitigate, greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation is again focusing attention on these industries’ environmental, human health and safety records, policies and actions.
This is a contentious area and one that is stereotypically portrayed as pitting crusading human rights and environmental organizations against the evils of corporate-political conspiracy and greed. This may make good Hollywood fare, but the reality isn’t nearly so simple or neat. If real positive change is to be made, it’s going to require participants from all sides to make greater efforts to better understand all facets of the associated challenges and problems, as well as each others’ goals and motivations.

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Carnival of th Green Number 100!

| Monday October 22nd, 2007 | 0 Comments

cotg.gifOn Hundred. That’s the number of “Green Carnivals” that have passed through the blogosphere as of today. The 100th carnival is over at “The Good Human” today, so be sure to check it out. David’s been working extra hard to make it a really good one.
In case you don’t know what it is – the Carnival of the Green is an idea I cooked up with Al from City Hippy over pints of beer in London 2 years ago. It’s a weekly wrap-up of post from environmentally related blogs collected and organized in one place. And that place moves every week, giving a new blog exposure and the responsibility of hosting it. For more info, check out this post on TreeHugger.

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AskPablo: Where do car tires go?

| Monday October 22nd, 2007 | 5 Comments

Kristina recently needed new car tires so she asked me where the old ones go. She wasn’t referring to the big tire pile seen in the Simpsons’ hometown of Springfield but where the tread on the tire goes. In order to answer that question we first need to learn a little bit more about car tires…

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