Sorry if this is a little frank, and out of character for this blog in it's nastiness, but there comes a time when you just have to wonder why we support systems that don't work. I know the bailout may be necessary for the economy, but if we are going to give these companies all of this money, why not demand they make the cars we need.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Sorry if this is a little frank, and out of character for this blog in it's nastiness, but there comes a time when you just have to wonder why we support systems that don't work. I know the bailout may be necessary for the economy, but if we are going to give these companies all of this money, why not demand they make the cars we need.
Posted by Dave at 1:33 PM
Thursday, December 11, 2008
According to this article in the UK Telegraph they can. A new system that can be installed in water moving as slowly as 1 mile and hour. This makes the ability to generate power off of waves/currents much more viable. Here's a link to some more info on the subject as well.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
I was able to go to the Alt Car the week before last and am finally getting to some of the video I shot. I may edit things a bit better down the line when i had time but I figured it was better to get it out there sooner than later. I'll be adding videos as they finish so check back every few days. By the way, if you live near Austin, they are having an expo in a few weeks.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Shockingly it looks like an American car company may be heading towards the finish line first on the Plug In Hybrid Front. Chevy has announced that they will have production ready prototypes of the Chevy Volt within 10 days.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The op-ed piece below is on a topic I have been following for a little bit now. I try to stay apolitical as much as I can on these blogs, but I also think that with a big US election coming up, the facts are important to know. John McCain has been talking about wind and solar a bit recently, yet he still missed an extremely important vote the other day involving tax credits that would have made wind and solar much stronger viable options and, as a result of not being passed, will kill a lot of movement in those areas. This is the eighth time that the bill has been voted on and McCain has only been in attendance for one of those occasions, and he refused to head to the floor to vote on that one. Check out the piece, do some research, and decide for yourself.
Eight Strikes and You’re Out
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: August 12, 2008
John McCain recently tried to underscore his seriousness about pushing through a new energy policy, with a strong focus on more drilling for oil, by telling a motorcycle convention that Congress needed to come back from vacation immediately and do something about America’s energy crisis. “Tell them to come back and get to work!” McCain bellowed.
Sorry, but I can’t let that one go by. McCain knows why.
It was only five days earlier, on July 30, that the Senate was voting for the eighth time in the past year on a broad, vitally important bill — S. 3335 — that would have extended the investment tax credits for installing solar energy and the production tax credits for building wind turbines and other energy-efficiency systems.
Both the wind and solar industries depend on these credits — which expire in December — to scale their businesses and become competitive with coal, oil and natural gas. Unlike offshore drilling, these credits could have an immediate impact on America’s energy profile.
Senator McCain did not show up for the crucial vote on July 30, and the renewable energy bill was defeated for the eighth time. In fact, John McCain has a perfect record on this renewable energy legislation. He has missed all eight votes over the last year — which effectively counts as a no vote each time. Once, he was even in the Senate and wouldn’t leave his office to vote.
“McCain did not show up on any votes,” said Scott Sklar, president of The Stella Group, which tracks clean-technology legislation. Despite that, McCain’s campaign commercial running during the Olympics shows a bunch of spinning wind turbines — the very wind turbines that he would not cast a vote to subsidize, even though he supports big subsidies for nuclear power.
Barack Obama did not vote on July 30 either — which is equally inexcusable in my book — but he did vote on three previous occasions in favor of the solar and wind credits.
The fact that Congress has failed eight times to renew them is largely because of a hard core of Republican senators who either don’t want to give Democrats such a victory in an election year or simply don’t believe in renewable energy.
What impact does this have? In the solar industry today there is a rush to finish any project that would be up and running by Dec. 31 — when the credits expire — and most everything beyond that is now on hold. Consider the Solana concentrated solar power plant, 70 miles southwest of Phoenix in McCain’s home state. It is the biggest proposed concentrating solar energy project ever. The farsighted local utility is ready to buy its power.
But because of the Senate’s refusal to extend the solar tax credits, “we cannot get our bank financing,” said Fred Morse, a senior adviser for the American operations of Abengoa Solar, which is building the project. “Without the credits, the numbers don’t work.” Some 2,000 construction jobs are on hold.
Roger Efird is president of Suntech America — a major Chinese-owned solar panel maker that actually wants to build a new factory in America. They’ve been scouting the country for sites, and several governors have been courting them. But Efird told me that when the solar credits failed to pass the Senate, his boss told him: “Don’t set up any more meetings with governors. It makes absolutely no sense to do this if we don’t have stability in the incentive programs.”
One of the biggest canards peddled by Big Oil is that, “Sure, we’ll need wind and solar energy, but it’s just not cost effective yet.” They’ve been saying that for 30 years. What these tax credits are designed to do is to stimulate investments by many players in solar and wind so these technologies can quickly move down the learning curve and become competitive with coal and oil — which is why some people are trying to block them.
As Richard K. Lester, an energy-innovation expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, notes, “The best chance we have — perhaps the only chance” of addressing the combined challenges of energy supply and demand, climate change and energy security “is to accelerate the introduction of new technologies for energy supply and use and deploy them on a very large scale.”
This, he argues, will take more than a Manhattan Project. It will require a fundamental reshaping by government of the prices and regulations and research-and-development budgets that shape the energy market. Without taxing fossil fuels so they become more expensive and giving subsidies to renewable fuels so they become more competitive — and changing regulations so more people and companies have an interest in energy efficiency — we will not get innovation in clean power at the scale we need.
That is what this election should be focusing on. Everything else is just bogus rhetoric designed by cynical candidates who think Americans are so stupid — so bloody stupid — that if you just show them wind turbines in your Olympics ad they’ll actually think you showed up and voted for such renewable power — when you didn’t.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Check out this very cool article by Joseph Romm from Salon.com. He lays out very simply and with great examples how the US can cut energy use simply through efficiency and halting energy leaks in the grid. Sighting California as an example, he writes
"In the past three decades, electricity consumption per capita grew 60 percent in the rest of the nation, while it stayed flat in high-tech, fast-growing California. If all Americans had the same per capita electricity demand as Californians currently do, we would cut electricity consumption 40 percent. If the entire nation had California's much cleaner electric grid, we would cut total U.S. global-warming pollution by more than a quarter without raising American electric bills. And if all of America adopted the same energy-efficiency policies that California is now putting in place, the country would never have to build another polluting power plant."
Check it out, it's a quick read.
Coal? Natural gas? Nuke? We can wipe them all off the drawing board by using current energy more efficiently. Are you listening, Washington?
By Joseph Romm
Jul. 28, 2008 | Suppose I paid you for every pound of pollution you generated and punished you for every pound you reduced. You would probably spend most of your time trying to figure out how to generate more pollution. And suppose that if you generated enough pollution, I had to pay you to build a new plant, no matter what the cost, and no matter how much cheaper it might be to not pollute in the first place.
Well, that's pretty much how we have run the U.S. electric grid for nearly a century. The more electricity a utility sells, the more money it makes. If it's able to boost electricity demand enough, the utility is allowed to build a new power plant with a guaranteed profit. The only way a typical utility can lose money is if demand drops. So the last thing most utilities want to do is seriously push strategies that save energy, strategies that do not pollute in the first place.
America is the Saudi Arabia of energy waste. A 2007 report from the international consulting firm McKinsey and Co. found that improving energy efficiency in buildings, appliances and factories could offset almost all of the projected demand for electricity in 2030 and largely negate the need for new coal-fired power plants. McKinsey estimates that one-third of the U.S. greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 could come from electricity efficiency and be achieved at negative marginal costs. In short, the cost of the efficient equipment would quickly pay for itself in energy savings.
While a few states have energy-efficiency strategies, none matches what California has done. In the past three decades, electricity consumption per capita grew 60 percent in the rest of the nation, while it stayed flat in high-tech, fast-growing California. If all Americans had the same per capita electricity demand as Californians currently do, we would cut electricity consumption 40 percent. If the entire nation had California's much cleaner electric grid, we would cut total U.S. global-warming pollution by more than a quarter without raising American electric bills. And if all of America adopted the same energy-efficiency policies that California is now putting in place, the country would never have to build another polluting power plant.
How did California do it? In part, a smart California Energy Commission has promoted strong building standards and the aggressive deployment of energy-efficient technologies and strategies -- and has done so with support of both Democratic and Republican leadership over three decades.
Many of the strategies are obvious: better insulation, energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling. But some of the strategies were unexpected. The state found that the average residential air duct leaked 20 to 30 percent of the heated and cooled air it carried. It then required leakage rates below 6 percent, and every seventh new house is inspected. The state found that in outdoor lighting for parking lots and streets, about 15 percent of the light was directed up, illuminating nothing but the sky. The state required new outdoor lighting to cut that to below 6 percent. Flat roofs on commercial buildings must be white, which reflects the sunlight and keeps the buildings cooler, reducing air-conditioning energy demands. The state subsidized high-efficiency LED traffic lights for cities that lacked the money, ultimately converting the entire state.
Significantly, California adopted regulations so that utility company profits are not tied to how much electricity they sell. This is called "decoupling." It also allowed utilities to take a share of any energy savings they help consumers and businesses achieve. The bottom line is that California utilities can make money when their customers save money. That puts energy-efficiency investments on the same competitive playing field as generation from new power plants.
The cost of efficiency programs has averaged 2 to 3 cents per avoided kilowatt hour, which is about one-fifth the cost of electricity generated from new nuclear, coal and natural gas-fired plants. And, of course, energy efficiency does not require new power lines and does not generate greenhouse-gas emissions or long-lived radioactive waste. While California is far more efficient than the rest of the country, the state still thinks that with an even more aggressive effort, it can achieve as much additional electricity savings by 2020 as it has in the past three decades.
Serious energy efficiency is not a one-shot resource, where you pick the low-hanging fruit and you're done. In fact, the fruit grows back. The efficiency resource never gets exhausted because technology keeps improving and knowledge spreads to more people.
The best corporate example is Dow Chemical's Louisiana division, consisting of more than 20 plants. In 1982, the division's energy manager, Ken Nelson, began a yearly contest to identify and fund energy-saving projects. Some of the projects were simple, like more efficient compressors and motors, or better insulation for steam lines. Some involved more sophisticated thermodynamic "pinch" analysis, which allows engineers to figure out where to place heat exchangers to capture heat emitted in one part of a chemical process and transfer it to a different part of the process where heat is needed. His success was nothing short of astonishing.
The first year of the contest had 27 winners requiring a total capital investment of $1.7 million with an average annual return on investment of 173 percent. Many at Dow felt that there couldn't be others with such high returns. The skeptics were wrong. The 1983 contest had 32 winners requiring a total capital investment of $2.2 million and a 340 percent return -- a savings of $7.5 million in the first year and every year after that. Even as fuel prices declined in the mid-1980s, the savings kept growing. The average return to the 1989 contest was the highest ever, an astounding 470 percent in 1989 -- a payback of 11 weeks that saved the company $37 million a year.
You might think that after 10 years, and nearly 700 projects, the 2,000 Dow employees would be tapped out of ideas. Yet the contest in 1991, 1992 and 1993 each had in excess of 120 winners with an average return on investment of 300 percent. Total savings to Dow from just those projects exceeded $75 million a year.
When I worked at the Department of Energy in the mid-1990s, we hired Nelson, who had recently retired from Dow, to run a "return on investment" contest to reduce DOE's pollution. As they were at Dow, many DOE employees were skeptical such opportunities existed. Yet the first two contest rounds identified and funded 18 projects that cost $4.6 million and provided the department $10 million in savings every year, while avoiding more than 100 tons of low-level radioactive pollution and other kinds of waste. The DOE's regional operating officers ended up funding 260 projects costing $20 million that have been estimated to achieve annual savings of $90 million a year.
Economic models greatly overestimate the cost of carbon mitigation because economists simply don't believe that the economy has lots of high-return energy-efficiency opportunities. In their theory, the economy is always operating near efficiency. Reality is very different than economic models.
In my five years at DOE, working with companies to develop and deploy efficient and renewable technologies, and then in nearly a decade of consulting with companies in the private sector, I never saw a building or factory that couldn't cut electricity consumption or greenhouse-gas emissions 25 percent to 50 percent with rapid payback (under four years). My 1999 book, "Cool Companies," detailed some 100 case studies of companies that have done just that and made a great deal of money.
There are many reasons that most companies don't match what the best companies do. Until recently, saving energy has been a low priority for most of them. Most utilities, as noted, have little or no incentive to help companies save energy. Funding for government programs to help companies adopt energy-saving strategies has been cut under the Bush administration.
Government has a very important role in enabling energy savings. The office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy has lots of (underfunded) programs that deliver savings every day. Consider, for instance, Chrysler's St. Louis complex, which recently received a DOE Save Energy Now energy assessment. Using DOE software, Chrysler identified a variety of energy-saving measures and saved the company $627,000 a year in energy costs -- for an upfront implementation cost of only $125,000.
The key point for policymakers now is that we have more than two decades of experience with successful state and federal energy-efficiency programs. We know what works. As California energy commissioner Art Rosenfeld -- a former DOE colleague and the godfather of energy efficiency -- put it in a recent conversation, "A lot of technology and strategies that are tried and true in California are waiting to be adopted by the rest of country."
So how do we overcome barriers and tap our nearly limitless efficiency resource? Obviously, the first thing would be to get all the states to embrace smarter utility regulations, which is a core strategy of Barack Obama's plan to reduce greenhouse gases. But how does the federal government get all the states to embrace efficiency?
We should establish a federal matching program to co-fund state-based efficiency programs, with a special incentive to encourage states without an efficiency program to start one. This was a key recommendation of the End-Use Efficiency Working Group to the Energy Future Coalition, a bipartisan effort to develop consensus policies, in which I participated. The first year should offer $1 billion in federal matching funds, then $2 billion, $3 billion, $4 billion, and finally stabilizing at $5 billion. This will give every state time to change their regulations and establish a learning curve for energy efficiency.
This program would cost $15 billion in the first five years, but save several times that amount in lower energy bills and reduced pollution. Since the next president will put in place a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases, the revenues from auctioning the emissions permits can ultimately be used to pay for the program.
We should restore a federal focus on the energy-intensive industries, such as pulp and paper, steel, aluminum, petroleum refining and chemicals. They account for 80 percent of energy consumed by U.S. manufacturers and 90 percent of the hazardous waste. They represent the best chance for increasing efficiency while cutting pollution. Many are major emitters of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide. A 1993 analysis for the DOE found that a 10 to 20 percent reduction in waste by American industry would generate a cumulative increase of $2 trillion in the gross domestic product from 1996 to 2010. By 2010, the improvements would be generating 2 million new jobs.
For these reasons, in the 1990s, the Energy Department began forming partnerships with energy-intensive industries to develop clean technologies. We worked with scientists and engineers to identify areas of joint research into technologies that would simultaneously save energy, reduce pollution and increase productivity. The Bush administration slashed funding for this program by 50 percent -- and keeps trying to shut it down entirely.
Indeed, conservatives in general have cut the funding or shut down entirely almost all federal programs aimed at deploying energy-efficient technologies. Conservatives simply have a blind spot when it comes to energy efficiency and conservation, seeing them as inconsequential "Jimmy Carter programs."
I recently testified at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on nuclear power and spoke about how alternative technologies, particularly energy efficiency, were a much better bet for the country. Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said this was "poppycock," and then asked all the pro-nuclear witnesses to address the question, "If nuclear power is so uncompetitive, why are so many utilities building reactors?"
Voinovich apparently has forgotten about the massive subsidies he himself voted to give the nuclear industry in 2005. He seems to be unaware that states like Florida allow utilities to sharply raise electric rates years in advance of a nuclear plant delivering even a single electron to customers. If you could do that same forward-pricing with energy efficiency, we would never need to build another polluting plant.
Although he is a senior member of the Senate and a powerful voice on energy and climate issues, Voinovich doesn't seem to know the first thing about the electricity business; namely, that a great many utilities have a huge profit incentive to build even the most expensive power plants, since they can pass all costs on to consumers while retaining a guaranteed profit. But they have a strong disincentive from investing in much less costly efforts to reduce electricity demand, since that would eat into their profits.
The next president must challenge the public service commission in every state to allow utilities to receive the same return on energy efficiency as they are allowed to receive on generation. That single step could lead the country the furthest in solving our ever-worsening climate and energy problems.
-- By Joseph Romm
Monday, July 21, 2008
Forget the politics, forget what you think about him, forget what you've heard and listen to the speech that Al Gore gave last week on a challenge to go completely renewable within 10 years. It's a spcae shot for sure, but one that we sorely need and he lays out the need well.
Monday, July 7, 2008
This is something I've been aware of for some time now. Biodiesel that comes from algae, specifically vertically grown algae like what they are talking about here. There are still a lot of questions to be answered, but I've always suspected that this is the right direction for a lot of our energy needs to be headed.
Monday, June 30, 2008
An interesting little article from Seattle on the choices in hand drying. Just goes to show you how complicated some of these things can be.
Want a gas/electric plug in hybrid or full EV but are tired of waiting for it? Here are a number of stories about how close they may be. Sadly you'll notice that most fo the companies going electric are not American. Seems the US auto industry is yet again, poised to miss the boat.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
From Democracy Now
Four Nations Attempt to Become Carbon Neutral
World Environment Day is being marked around the world today. It comes as four countries are competing to become the first nation to go entirely carbon neutral. Iceland, Norway, Costa Rica and New Zealand are all attempting to reduce their net emissions of greenhouse gases to zero. Jeanette Fitzsimons of the Green Party in New Zealand said great progress has already been made.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: “Our electricity system is nearly 70 percent renewable now, mainly from hydro, but with some geothermal and increasingly a little bit of wind. We have a goal, a government goal, to raise that to 90 percent renewable by 2025.”
Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting the United States will announce next month that it cannot meet an international goal of making big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Chief US climate negotiator Harlan Watson said, “It’s frankly not do-able for us.”
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Here's a cool little story about a high school kid who just won a bunch of awards for isolating the microorganisms that break down plastic bags. The hope is that if done on a large scale, this can help clean up some of the mess that is out there.
While I think this kind of research is a double edged sword, we need to stop using plastic bags, not give people a reason to think it's all going to be ok, I like the idea of how this came about. Here's a kid who got sick of opening the closet door and having all those bags come out on top of him. So he decided to do something. It's why I have faith in the fact that we are going to fix this whole mess, kids are black and white, they are smarter than us, and they don't like being told that they can't do something.
And he's got a cool haircut to boot!
Thanks to Nick for sending this in.
Monday, May 19, 2008
A lot of people have contacted me about worm composting, including most recently, Rex who works for the company that makes The Worm Factory, the composter that I use. He liked the videos that I put up on youtube and we got to talking and before you know it, he offered to have folks who come from the blog here get either 10% off on a bin or an extra tray when they order.
Got this in my inbox the other day. I've always know that slowing down saves gas but I like thier factual representation of it.
Memorial Day Weekend is coming and -- in spite of gas prices -- more Americans than ever are planning to getaway by car. But that doesn't have to cost as much as you think.
There are lots of ways to save gas (checked your tires lately?) but the easiest and most effective way is to slow down (just a little bit). When you add up the savings, it's like getting paid to relax.
So before you get behind the wheel for the upcoming holiday, show us what you're made of. Pledge to Drive 55 (or whatever the speed limit is on the roads you're traveling) for Memorial Day Weekend. Poor Sammy Hagar can't do it, but we bet you can. After all, even jets are slowing down to save money!
The Union of Concerned Scientists tells us that dropping from 70 to 60 mph improves fuel efficiency by an average of 17.2 percent. Dropping from 75 to 55 improves fuel efficiency by 30.6 percent!
Put another way, in a family sedan, every 10 mph you drive over 60 is like paying 54 cents per gallon more for gas you bought at $3.25 a gallon. That extra cost is even higher for big SUVs and other less-efficient vehicles.
And the time you save by going easy on the accelerator may not add up to as much as you thought. On a 300-mile trip, driving 65 instead of 70 mph would cost you only 20 minutes -- but save money and spew less carbon.
Have a great Memorial Day,
Director of Conservation
I guess this is really for anyone out there who still wonders whether we are running out of oil. Saudi Arabia has now rejected Bush's request to amp up oil production 3 times (well on the levels that he has requested anyway) and now it looks like the US is going to help the Saudis build a nuclear power program.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
This is an email that my good friend Chris sent out a few weeks back. Chris is an amazing guy who truly works to make the world a better place and I really admire all he does (but have no idea how he does as much as he does). Of course it resonates a bit more specifically if you live near him in Minnesota but the concepts are universal.
Two thoughts on simple steps for saving the world this week:
If you are shareholder of a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, call them, see if they need help recruiting members, and throw a house party to build a member-base. (If you're not a member, find a good one and join!).
An audacious goal if there aren't CSAs or co-ops in your area: Start them. It can be done. Anna and I were charter members of one of our two food co-ops for some time before the actual ground-breaking.
Last night we threw a party for Mike Noreen, owner of Burning River CSA. We are a neighborhood drop-site for his farm, and have helped him build support for two (perhaps three) other drop-sites in town (and close to one another to help him reduce his travel expenses).
For those attending from our immediate neighborhood, the other purpose was to build more local support for our neighborhood food coop. Mike also has a drop-site there.
Anna cooked a variety of appetizers - all featuring greens (kale, chard, cabbage). So many of our friends indicated that they simply didn't know what to do with so many greens.
In any event, we're on the journey to support Mike as he builds up to 150 members (his goal for this year). We think we will definitely help him hit 15 members this year, possibly 20+ from these drop-sites. (Seven folks actually broke out their checkbooks and signed up during the party. We have commitments from several more, many of whom couldn't attend last night, some of whom came but sans checkbook.)
All this by way of saying we had a great time, built community, geared folks up to take more control over their food lives, helped drive support for sustainable local agriculture, and will help everyone save money, as Mike's farm shares yielded an immense amount of food for the cost through the course of last summer.
Two great ways to learn more about CSAs: Read the fabulous book, "This Common Ground - Seasons on an Organic Farm," by Scott Chaskey. Watch the documentary, "The Real Dirt on Farmer John."
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
This is an interesting articles about the Seven (New) Garbage Wonders of the World. As you may recall, a bit back they voted to decide on the new seven wonders of the world, a sort of best of the best if you will. This article lists the 7 worst of the worst, from The North Pacific Gyre to the Electronic Waste Dumps in Guyiu China, they are testament to the problems of a disposable society and are somehitng that each of us needs to confront.
This is a really great campaign that Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish spearheaded. Clorox, who now owns Brita North America, does not accept filters back for recycling and re-use while their European counterparts have been doing this since 1992. It makes no sense and in an environment where people should be heading towards filtered water and away from bottled, we need to keep the pressure on companies to be responsible for the waste involved in the filters. For more info about the campaign check here and makes sure to sign the petition as well!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
A great article from The Atlantic about the wasted energy in the business sector and how the technology to recapture it is not only old, but tried and true.
"A 2005 report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that U.S. industry could profitably recycle enough waste energy—including steam, furnace gases, heat, and pressure—to reduce the country’s fossil-fuel use (and greenhouse-gas emissions) by nearly a fifth. A 2007 study by the Mc Kinsey Global Institute sounded largely the same note; it concluded that domestic industry could use 19 percent less energy than it does today—and make more money as a result."
A lot of people I talk to are always on the "technology will save us" train. Like this article illustrates, technology may already be there, but if we don't recognize and adopt it, it won't do much to change things.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Here's a pretty cool little story that my friend Marc sent me. It was on NPR's Day to Day a month or so back and really speaks to what i think makes this country great. A bakery in Northampton Ma, tired of volatile wheat prices and the problems that lawns create (think water shortage and fossil fuel use, not to mention pollution) asked some of the local townsfolk to tear up a ten by ten patch of lawn and plant wheat.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Ok, so I've pretty much cut out all plastic bags from my life by having a bunch of cloth bags around, using my backpack, and juggling things out of the store like an idiot when I've forgotten to bring them. Having said that, produce has always been a tough one. While most things I can go without (do you really need to put apples into a flimsy plastic bag) there are some things that are tougher (think green beans). Fear not, the answer is here. ResusableBags sells these awesome little mesh cotton produce bags and I finally got around to trying them out.
Not only am I hooked, but the missus loves them too (no small feat that by the way). They are lightweight, see through, washable, sturdy and basically awesome. They sell for $3.95 a piece but if you get together with friends and but ten or more they come down to $3.25. Now I know this is a fair amount when you consider that the plastic produce bags in the store don't cost you, but when you think about it, they do, just not in the immediate out of pocket sense of the word. While I've only had these bags for a few weeks, I gotta say that they are well made and I can see them lasting for quite some time.
Check em out
Monday, May 5, 2008
Sunday, May 4, 2008
This is way overdue for a lot of reasons, but lets' just say I've got a lot on my plate and I tend to bite off more than I can chew and leave it at that. We are all familiar with the little green recycling symbol on the left that appears on so many products these days, but how many of us actually understand what the codes that go with them mean? HDPE, PETE, LDPE? I sure didn't and so I decided to do a little investigating. I'm going to hit the highlights, but there are a ton of good sources of info out there like the one at The Daily Green. Also, if you are trying to figure out where to recycle ANYTHING at all near you, check out Earth 911.
Number 1 Plastics: PET or PETE (plyethelene terephthalate)
PETE is most commonly found in soda and water bottles but is also used to make peanut butter jars and veggie oil containers as well. It is usually downcycled to make items like polar fleece, tote bags, fibers and carpet. Most beverage bottles are made of this stuff as it is inexpensive and lightweight, but shockingly the recycle rates are only at around 20%.
Number 2 Plastics: HDPE(high density polyethylene)
This stuff is a bit heavier and is most commonly recognized in milk jugs, household cleaner bottles, shampoo bottles, some garbage bags, and cereal box liners. HDPE is generally recycled into laundry detergent bottles, plastic lumber, pens, and floor tiles to name a few.
Number 3 Plastics: PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
PVC is found in clear food packaging, some window cleaner and detergent bottles, and the outer jacketing of electrical cables (think ethernet cables). It's not as readily recycled and is pretty nasty stuff as its manufacture and burning releases toxins into the atmosphere. When it is taken for recycling, it can be turned into mudflaps, cables, speed bumps and floor mats. PVC can contain a softener (di-2-ehtylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)) which has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor and human carcinogen so you may want to avoid it altogether. Good times!
Number 4 Plastics: LDPE (low density plyethylene)
This is the stuff we probably see the most of after PETE in water bottles as it's what goes into those plastic shopping bags. Other uses are squeezy dispenser bottles, bread and frozen food bags, and some clothing and furniture. LDPE is becoming easier to turn in for recycling and can be used to make trash can liners, shipping containers, composters and envelopes.
Number 5 Plastics: PP (polypropylene)
You'll see PP 5 in bottle caps, plastic drinking straws, some plastic food containers and medicine bottles. Polypropylene is one of the more commonly accepted plastics for recycling and can become signal lights, brooms and brushes, ice scrapers, and landscaping borders. Because it has a high melting point, it is commonly used in things that will come in contact with heat.
Number 6 Plastics: PS (polystyrene)
Another commonly found one, PS is used on carry out containers, compact disc cases, egg cartons, and "disposable" cups and plates. It is fairly hard to recycle this stuff (many areas do not accept it) and has been proven to leach carcinogenic toxins in many instances. Polystyrene is most commonly found in Styrofoam (they inject it with air to make it light and give it that texture) and can be turned into insulation, light plate switches, foam packing and egg cartons and carry out containers.
Number 7 Plastics: Everything else.
Ok, this is a weird one. In an attempt to label everything, they came up with number 7 for things that don't fit in 1-6. Some of the products that carry a 7 are 5 gallon water dispenser bottles, bulletproof material (hopefully you won't need to recycle this stuff), computer cases, dvds, and a whole host of other things. A lot of local recycling programs won't take number 7 for the obvious reason that they don't immediately know what's what. This is a bummer cause as of right now, many compostable products carry a number 7 on them and are therefore not always recyclable. Crazy but it's true. It should also be noted that Polycarbonate which carries a number 7 and is used in many baby bottles and reusable sports bottles(Nalgene), as well as those office water jugs, contains the hormone disruptor bisphenol-A which has been shown to leach out due to age or heating over the long term. Ain't science fun?
So there you have it. This is only meant as an overview but I think it's worth noting that many of the plastics listed above are not truly recycled (turned back into what they were originally intended for) but instead downcycled (turned into other stuff). As a result, while the plastic is getting a longer life, eventually it's still most likely going to end up in that landfill and they're just going to have to keep on starting the chain over new from the top every time. All of this requires a tremendous amount of energy, creates a tremendous amount of waste, and adds a ton of pollutants to the planet. So while we all need to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and let it Rot, it seems like we should add Refuse to the head of that list and not use these products to begin with.
Food for thought.
I went to work the other day and my buddy Duane comes over with a present for me, this totally cool Orikaso foldable bowl for my backpack. It's extremely cool, easy to clean, easy to carry, has a lifetime guarantee, is "unbreakable"(although i find that to be a challenge more than a claim), inexpensive, and is recyclable and comes in recycled packaging. On top of all that, the package says it's even good for Picnics and Parties. Parties! How cool is that!
Posted by Dave at 7:54 PM
This seems like a pretty good no brainer and while it doesn't specifically deal with the waste issue per se, it's a good reminder of how lucky most of us are to have enough to eat, and that there are those all around us who don't.
On Saturday, May 10, Campbell Soup Company will join forces with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) to Stamp Out Hunger! across America . Now in its 16 th year, the Stamp Out Hunger! effort is the nation's largest single-day food drive, having collected more than 836 million pounds of food since its inception in 1993.
To help Stamp Out Hunger! this year, simply leave a sturdy bag containing non-perishable foods, such as canned soup, canned vegetables, pasta, rice or cereal next to your mailbox prior to the time of regular mail delivery on May 10. Food items should be in non-breakable containers, such as boxes and cans. The nation's 230,000 letter carriers will then collect donations from homes across the country and deliver them to food bank members of America 's Second Harvest – The Nation's Food Bank Network and other hunger relief organizations in more than 10,000 local communities.
To find out more about the annual Stamp Out Hunger! effort in your community, ask your letter carrier, contact your local post office or visit www.helpstampouthunger.com.
Greendimes has announced that they will pay the next 5 million people who sign up $1 each to stop their junk mail for a year.
Now how can you beat that?
What are you waiting for?
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Hymotion/A123 has announced that it is now taking orders to convert 2004-2008 Prius' to plug in hybrid technology. The conversion adds a battery pack where the spare tire sits, costs about $10k and has a three year warranty. The battery will charge off of house power in under 5 hours and will make the Prius able to achieve 100 mpg over a 30-40 mile range. Also of note is that the cars have met governement crash safety tests, so the whole battery exploding thing should be behind us. There's a great animation worth checking out on the site to see what the batts are made of.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
In case anyone out there has any leads, Plug In America is looking to fill it's executive Director position. See below for more info.
Dear members of the EV community,
Plug In America is excited to announce that we are seeking a full-time executive director to help manage our phenomenal growth. This is an exceptional opportunity for a qualified plug-in advocate to work with founder Chelsea Sexton and the rest of our experienced board of directors to take us to the next level. To further expand our programs and influence, the new executive director's role will combine organizational management and fundraising, as well as increased representation of Plug In America at meetings and events across the country.
Please forward the job description below to qualified candidates. Together, we will get plug-in vehicles back in consumers' hands soon.
Plug In America Executive Director Job Description
Reports To: Board of Directors
Employment Status: Full time
Salary: Highly competitive salary based on experience. Benefits package available. Possible bonuses.
FLSA Status: Exempt
Location: Negotiable in the Los Angeles region or San Francisco Bay Area (work at home okay initially)
Deadline: Open until filled
About Plug In America:
Are you tired of being dependent on oil for transportation? We are. Plug In America is a non-profit organization advocating the use of plug-in cars, trucks, and SUVs powered by cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity to reduce our nation's dependence on petroleum and improve the global environment. Dozens of studies show that driving on electricity, even on today's electrical grid, is cleaner than driving on gasoline. As the grid gets cleaner, so do plug-in cars. We work to educate consumers, regulators, legislators, and the auto industry about the benefits of driving all-electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Our supporters come from all 50 U.S. states and 10 other countries. Many of Plug In America's founders were featured in the film Who Killed the Electric Car? (Sony Pictures Classics). Our strategies range from working inside the auto and electrical industries to obtaining government grants for educational programs to staging street demonstrations and protests when needed. Most of our funding so far comes from individuals and philanthropic organizations, with some funds from corporations and government grants. www.pluginamerica.org
Our next visionary leader will take the reins from our first executive director, who will remain active on the board of directors. The new executive director will devote half-time to organizational management and half-time to development and fundraising, helping our young organization grow from a $200,000 annual budget to $500,000/year over the next 3 years, with additional staff. We're looking for a highly motivated self-starter who will establish and execute programs to grow the organization's base of supporters and members, develop ongoing sources of funding, and create tools and programs to ensure solid financial growth. Join us and get in on the ground floor in our "virtual" office – we have no physical office yet, though that's part of the 3-year plan. With successful growth, we plan to hire a dedicated development director to assist the executive director. Much of the day-to-day duties of the executive director will be established on the candidate's own initiative, with frequent contact with board members. It's an exciting time in society's transition away from fossil-fuel cars to plug-in vehicles. If you're a motivated self-starter with experience in non-profit management and fundraising, join our team and be part of the change.
· Manage day-to-day operations of Plug In America, including responsibilities for financial tracking, public relations, and materials and supplies
· Develop and coordinate volunteer programs
· Build coalitions with environmental organizations and other allies
· Help develop and advance Plug In America's strategic plan
· Design, build, and implement a comprehensive development program that incorporates a wide variety of fundraising vehicles including large and small gifts from individuals, foundations and corporations, special events, sponsorships, grants, and online appeals
· Develop, manage, and grow our stable of major donors
· Research and secure foundation grants
· Cultivate house parties, an annual benefit event, or other fundraising events
· Manage individual donor campaigns, including membership renewals and special appeals
· Manage organizational membership database – create profiles and track donors and prospects; and, in coordination with staff, issue e-mail announcements as necessary
· Prepare and submit letters, grant proposals and other reports or materials needed for effective cultivation and solicitation of prospects
· Along with staff and the board, represent Plug In America at public events, conferences, workshops and media events, as requested
Bachelor's degree required, advanced degree preferred
Minimum five years experience in management and charitable fund development
Computer literacy and competency with electronic tracking systems; online fundraising experience is a plus
Strong knowledge of principles, ethics and practices of non-profit operation and fundraising
Experience delivering measurable outcomes
Experience managing organizational finances, public relations, and coalition-building
Demonstrated success with a similar organization in securing major and annual gifts from foundations, corporations, and individuals
Demonstrated success in meeting annual fund goals, development management, grant writing, sponsorships and special events
Demonstrated success in working as a member of a team and developing effective working relationships with staff, volunteers, donors, and board members
Demonstrated passion for reducing global warming, increasing use of renewable power, and empowering consumer choice
Excellent written/oral communication skills
Ability to lead multiple long- and short-term projects simultaneously; ability to plan, prioritize, coordinate, and manage own work; ability to work unsupervised and make decisions and solve problems independently, effectively and creatively
Ability to work comfortably and effectively in a dynamic and sometimes informal structure
Ability to present, inform and motivate individuals and groups about Plug In America's mission and goals
To Apply: E-mail a resume and cover letter to Sherry Boschert at sherry [at] pluginamerica [dot] org. All applicants will receive a response.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I have to admit that i'm actually quite embarrassed that i haven't posted about William McDonough before now. His book Cradle to Cradle is pretty much THE sustainability bible as far as how things should be designed in the future. It's an amazing read and he's truly a visionary in the field.
Monday, April 14, 2008
My buddy Augie sent this site to me a while ago and i'm finally getting around to posting it. It's called How Can I Recycle This, but it's really a guide to finding uses for all sorts of things as opposed to recycling or trashing them.
This is pretty cool if you ask me. The picture you are looking at is the Bahrain World Trade Center in....Bahrain. It's the first modern building to incorporate wind mills in the structure of the building. The turbines, which will operate 50% of the time, will generate approximately 15% of the buildings energy. While this is only a small percentage of the energy the building will use, I like the fact that it was designed with a sense of sustainability in mind and still looks pretty cool. Now replace those windows with solar panels and this thing could cook! Check out the video here.
For anyone who lives in Southern California or who will be in town the week after next, this is a must attend. Very cool event that will get you quickly up to date on the latest and greatest in "green" building opportunities. If you're planning a project this is a great way to see what's out there and if not, it's just a great way to start thinking about things.
Posted by Dave at 10:27 PM
Monday, March 31, 2008
- For starters, check out Greendimes.com. Greendimes costs $20 a year, but for that price they automatically remove you from several lists, plant 10 trees, and continually monitor your account. I did this thinking the trees alone made it worth it, but the junk mail actually fell off from just that pretty quickly. In addition, when stuff does get through, you just go on the site, plug in the info, and they do the rest. I've heard pluses and minuses about them, but I'm a believer.
- Next was the mail from orgs that we give money to. I thought about this for a while and what i do now is call/email them and tell them that for reasons involving saving resources, I have decided to no longer give money to orgs that send me paper solicitations, but will gladly consider them if they send me email solicitations and give them my email addy. In every situation this has proven to be effective so far, and I usually get an email of thanks back.
- As for bills, I pretty much pay online and do auto withdrawal so after all is said and done, not much left. We do occasionally get a Penny Saver ad or something similar, but a call to the number in the editorial section takes care of that and eventually they stop showing up.
- Head over to The Direct Marketing Association and for $1 (I think that's a legal requirement) they'll get you off a whole mess of lists. Your request will be active for 5 years at which time you'll need to renew.
- Catalog Choice is a free service that will help get rid of unwanted catalogs for ya.
- Optout will put an end to most unsolicited credit card and insurance offers.
- If stuff continues to come in, rather than recycling it right off the bat, call the 800 number and asked to be placed on their "do not mail" list. Legally they have to and most will oblige.
- Apparently the USPS sometimes sells forwarded address lists to solicitors, so if you are moving, mark your forward preference as temporary for six months rather than permanent. As a result, your addy won't be sold and you won't bring all that junk mail to your new house.
- Any time you fill out a warranty card or subscription, you are giving advertisers the right to buy that information. To keep this from happening, write "Do Not Rent, Sell, or Trade My Personal Information, Name or Address" on the bottom of the card in big block letters.
- You can also check out 41 lbs which gets it's name from the average amount of junk mail an adult receives in a year.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
This is kind of a cool thing that my friend Joanne sent to me. Apparently the post office is starting a pilot program in 10 cities including DC, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Chicago where they will accept inkjet cartridges, PDA's, IPOD's, Digital Cameras, Blackberries, and MP3 players. They will have self addressed postage paid envelopes by the window and you can take as many as you want.
Cleaning out the old emails and I came across this gem from Rep. Henry Waxman about evidence asserting the White House knowingly censored scientists on Global Warming info. It may be old news, but still just as relevant.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
From A Friend.
We want dead gadget stories!
We would love to receive stories showing clearly how products simply can’t be fixed or upgraded, because of clear choices made by the product designers.
Please send your stories to Stories@deadgadgets.com and include the following information:
•Make and model
•Year they bought it. Is it under warranty?
•Why it’s dead. (Doesn’t turn on, won’t reboot, can’t upgrade it to run certain software, etc)
•Steps taken to try to fix it, or cost to fix it. (Making the call to get an estimate on what it would cost to fix it (vs replace it) is good. But actually getting the company to say they WON'T sell you a replacement part gets to the heart of the issue. So that’s an extra step, but if you could ask them to document this, it will help us tell this story. Feel free to include whom they spoke with at the companies, so there can be no question of misunderstanding.)
•Picture of the dead gadget. (Be sure we can see the manufacturer name or logo!) For our dead gadget gallery (soon to come).
So tonight was Earth Day and I totally dropped the ball. I knew about it, had it in my mind to post about, and somehow totally missed posting about it. Hopefully folks picked up on it on there own. Basically at 8 PM local time they asked folks to turn off all unnecessary power for an hour to show what an effect this can have on CO2. The first one a year ago was highly successful and they were hoping for 100 million to do so this year.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Looking for a cool gift for that someone special in your life? Darwin Design is a company started by my friend/photograpaher/journalist Otto Pohl. They have a really great business model that includes social and enviro causes and have these great shirts that sell the message about global warming and the mess we're in. And if you order before April 1, you get $10 off. Also, mention my name and they'll hear you mentioning my name (hehe....see because you probably thought that I...oh never mind).
Here's a very cool story from the WSJ about how effective windpower in Denmark is and how it looks like they actually NEED electric vehicles to keep the system working well. Talk about a win win situation.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
For those of you who have seen Who Killed The Electric Car you already know that the EV1 was made because of the California Zero Emission Mandate tht called for each car maker to make a certain number of electric cars. The car companies sued the state of California and had the mandate repealed, and the cars were destroyed.
It’s been about 5 years since EV proponents stood here and unsuccessfully pleaded with this board to keep the original ZEV program numbers for electric cars. So what has happened in those 5 years?
According to the World Health Organization, tens of thousands of Americans died as a result of auto related pollution in each one of those 5 years.
Since 2003, the US has spent over a trillion dollars for foreign oil. The burn rate is well over a billion dollars a day and climbing fast.
The price of gas 5 years ago was $1.40. It’s now $4.00. Even the oil industry has agreed that peak oil will occur within the coming decade. Bush’s multiple entreaties to the Saudis over the past three months to increase production have all been denied. In times of both record prices and record demand for oil, the only possible reason that the Saudis will not increase production is because they cannot. According to Matthew Simmons in, “Twilight In the Desert”, if the Saudis have peaked, the globe has peaked.
We’ve spent close to a trillion dollars fighting a war in Iraq, and we all know we’re there because of the oil under their ground. The Chinese are buying oil contracts all over the world with the intent to lock up as much of this resource as possible for their own growing needs.
Over the past 5 years, the scientific evidence of climate change has become widely accepted, and according to NASA’s James Hansen, we are rapidly approaching a tipping point, after which, we cannot stop significant climate change.
If 100% of the vehicles sold every year were ZEVs, it would still take over 20 years to convert the American fleet to zero emission. The auto industry sold about 85 million vehicles in the US over the past 5 years. Not one of those vehicles was Zero Emission.
Carmakers say they cannot build EVs fast enough to meet the goals in the current regulation, but I’ll remind you that in 1941, the entire auto industry switched inside of 12 months to making tanks and planes for the war effort. I submit that the problems we are facing today are every bit as crucial as then.
The consequences of delaying implementation of ZEVs, means more Americans will die from pollution, we will move closer to the devastating tipping point of climate change, and more billions of our dollars will go out of the country, with much of that money going to buy the bombs and the bullets that will kill our soldiers.
The decision you are making today is historic. Whether you choose to continue down the hydrogen highway on the hopes that fuel cells will solve these problems is a huge gamble. The clock is ticking, however, and I’ll remind you that the capital you are using in this gamble is the environment, our national security and human lives.
I ask that you please vote with this in mind.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
This is Subaru's R1e, a two seater EV that they are presently testing in North America, Asia, and Europe. It has about a 50 mile range, top speed of 65 mph and can recharge 85% in...get this....15 minutes! Amazing. Check it out here and then scroll down and tell them your thoughts.
Live Sustainably (and drive a small ev)
Looks like electric cars are getting closer and closer. Mitsubishi has announced plans to test it's new EV in the states this fall.
Presently max speed is 80 and range is about 80 miles between recharges which will take about 10 hours on 110v house power. And while this will most likely improve over time, this is more than enough for almost all second cars, and for most first cars to boot.
And if you want EVs sooner than later, check out Subaru's R1e and then let them know what you think about it at the bottom of the page.
Here's a cool website I came across recently. The Eat Well Guide is an online resource where you type in your zip code and they come up with a list of different companies in your area that serve healthy organic foods. A quick type of my zip came up with 1 Baker, 1 Farmer, 49 Stores, 1 Co-Op, 21 Restaurants, and 1 Organization all within 20 miles of me. And they even have ratings like a water droplet to indicate establishments that are water conscious. Very cool and anything that makes it easier to make informed choices is, in my book, a good thing. Of course, you should check into the establishments yourself as well, but from what I saw of the places I know, this is a pretty good dealio.