Saturday, December 29, 2007

GREENSburg Kansas

Greensburg, a tiny town on the vast, flat prairie of western Kansas, is at the center of a grand experiment. In May, a tornado obliterated nearly every house, tree and business, killing 10 people and displacing almost 1,400 residents. The community had been in steep decline before the storm, but city leaders quickly saw opportunity in the disaster. Perhaps they could revive Greensburg and sustain it for generations to come by making it the greenest town in America.

LEED gold certified Townhomes are beginning to rise from the ragged tree trunks, weeds and ruins off Main Street. The new homes will be almost twice as efficient as they used to be.
Danny Wallach, head of Greensburg Greentown, a nonprofit group leading the push for environmental sustainability in Greensburg, began rallying the effort to make the city more energy efficient just days after the tornado hit. "I mean, it literally struck me, green — Greensburg — and at the time, I wasn't aware of just how perfect the timing in the national green movement was," Wallach said.

Wallach says residents here embraced environmental sustainability as good old-fashioned thrift and independence.

The City Council resolved that all new city buildings should meet the very highest environmental standard — LEED platinum. An energy company has announced plans to build a biodiesel plant in Greensburg. Google is considering building a wind-powered data center here. Several other companies are watching closely. Meanwhile, 100 new homes are going up, all of them more efficient than those they replaced.
Greensburg just may be writing a modern survival guide for rural America.

Source: Frank Morris, Grist -- Full Story

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shame on Edison

The new energy bill signed this week makes it official. When 2012 hits, stores can no longer sell the cheap but inefficient incandescent light bulbs that are fixtures in most homes.

Congress has not specifically outlawed incandescent bulbs, only inefficient ones.
In February, G.E. said that it was developing a high-efficiency incandescent that will radiate more than twice the light of conventional incandescents. It expects to make that one commercially available by 2010, and one that is twice as efficient a few years later.
And so far, consumers have been slow to give new products a chance. Compact fluorescents, for example, are already ubiquitous in stores. Many retailer have promoted the economics of the bulbs — though compact fluorescents generally cost six times what incandescents do, they last six times as long and use far less energy.

Currently, cfl's account for 15 percent of bulbs in use in homes.

Sylvania recently introduced a fluorescent that CEO Charlie Jerabek said mimicked the light of incandescents. He concedes that incandescents are about 10 percent warmer, but he insists that “the average consumer would have trouble detecting the difference.”

Compact fluorescent lights have problems beyond light quality. They contain mercury, and few recycling centers will accept them. So at the end of life, they still pose an environmental hazard.
“We’re working to reduce mercury, but the amount will never go to zero,” Mr. Petras said.
That is why Jerabek, for one, calls compact fluorescent lights “a temporary fix.”

Manufacturers are putting a lot of stock in light-emitting diodes — or L.E.D.’s. They operate with chips made of nontoxic materials and last for about 50,000 hours, compared with 1,000 hours for an incandescent and 6,000 for a compact fluorescent. A tiny L.E.D. can shed as much light as a cumbersome bulb, which makes them easier to integrate into a home’s d├ęcor. And, they are extremely energy efficient.

But today, they are too expensive to use for all lighting applications. And, while manufacturers are able to make pretty good colored L.E.D.’s — the kind that are already available for Christmas tree lights — they have yet to perfect a white L.E.D. that would be useful for lighting homes. But they're working on it.

Source: NYTimes

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Greening the Capitol

Cafeterias in the House of Representatives are getting a makeover today: out with the high-fructose corn syrup, in with the free-roaming hens. (Well, there won't actually be hens roaming in the cafeterias -- you get what we mean.) Under Speaker Nancy Pelosi's ambitious Greening the Capitol initiative, the privately owned House food service -- which provides more than 2.5 million meals a year -- will start dishing out local, organic, seasonal chow, which can be taken out in compostable containers and eaten with biodegradeable utensils. Unfortunately for hungry senators, the Senate-owned food service will continue to provide iceberg lettuce, processed chicken tenders, and is-it-OK-to-call-them-French-now? fries.

Source: Grist

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Even the Grinch wants you to Reduce your Packaging and Purchasing!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,Was singing! Without any presents at all!He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming!IT CAME!Somehow or other, it came just the same! And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?It came without ribbons! It came without tags!"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Don't forget to tread lightly on the planet this seasons greetings!


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tracing Your Trash

“…We don’t need a better way to get rid of things. We need to not get rid of things, either by keeping them cycling through the system—or by not designing and desiring them in the first place.”

On the whole, a little more than half of America’s household garbage goes to landfills. The rest goes to incinerators, recycling centers, or composting facilities.

While garbage pickup is generally organized by the local government, it changes hands at a transfer station and becomes the responsibility of private haulers, who are paid by the ton to take it away. Transfer stations are large warehouses where tons of garbage are dumped by collection trucks and repacked into trucks, barges, and rail cars for their journey to the landfill or incinerator. The garbage thrown away by city dwellers may travel to a distant landfill several states away—many solid waste companies have paid rural towns to landfill garbage from larger urban areas.At every step, trash headed for the landfill takes a toll on the environment. There is pollution generated by the fleets of diesel-powered trucks that transport it, and landfill gas, methane and carbon dioxide, and fluid that drains from the garbage. This liquid, known as leachate, is a toxic “juice” of the chemicals that erode off of electronics, pet waste, nail polish remover, food waste, cleaning products, batteries, and more.

Incineration- Despite the pollution and lack of popularity for incineration, 13 percent of America’s garbage is still burned. Modern-day incinerators are enormous columns the size of an office building, where thousands of tons of garbage a day burn at 3,000°F temperatures. Despite pollution controls, which recover some energy from the process, burning plastic still produces carcinogenic dioxin and leaves behind ash laced with heavy metals.

Recycling-There are 9,000 curbside recycling programs across the country, a growing number of which are “single stream” programs in which residents place empty glass bottles, aluminum cans, and plastic containers together in their bins. Bins are collected, and brought to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where creative mechanical processes like blasts of air and magnetized devices sort recyclables. Teams of workers do the remaining sorting manually.
Some materials are truly recyclable over the long-term, while others can only be diverted from the landfill once or twice. Glass and aluminum are perpetually recyclable, while paper can be “downcycled” several times into lower-grade products. Plastics can usually only be “downcycled” once into a different material that is not itself recyclable.

The markets for various materials fluctuate, and MRFs end up landfilling or incinerating some “residuals”—a share of whatever they collect that cannot by recycled or sold for recycling (some mixed plastics are sent to developing countries, especially in Asia, where they may be recycled, but are often burned or dumped unsafely.) For just about all materials, recycling waste into a new product saves significant energy over creating the material from scratch. 79 percent of all aluminum, 78 percent of glass, half of the paper, and 95 percent of plastic in household garbage was going out with regular trash, instead of being put into a recycling bin, according to the EPA in 2005.

“Garbage should worry us,” writes Elizabeth Royte in Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash (Back Bay Books, 2006). “…We don’t need a better way to get rid of things. We need to not get rid of things, either by keeping them cycling through the system—or by not designing and desiring them in the first place.” –AMEN

There’s always composting!

Source: Joelle Novey, Co-op America

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Compost Everywhere

Cool Compost Tip: Do you know where "Compost Road" is in Manhattan?Why, its on the Manhattan Compost Map! Created through a collaboration between Green Map Systems and LESEC, the Manhattan Compost Map was made to put compost 'hot-spots' and resources on your radar. Explore whether a garden in your community accepts kitchen scraps, or take a trip down Compost Road...and have fun composting! Go ahead, download it. It's so easy to compost. You can put it in the freezer and then just drop it off.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Park Slope Event - Thursday Evening

Park Slope's first annual shop local / shop late night will take place this Thursday, December 13th. To see a list of participating merchants and organizations—and their discounts for the evening—please visit It includes basically every single shop in Park Slope (Over 150 participants include Brooklyn Industries, 3rliving, Applewood, etc.)
Rain or shine, come out on Thursday to take advantage of the sales and show your support to this wonderful group of merchants and neighbors.

Top 10 Reasons to Shop Locally
1. Significantly more money re-circulates in Brooklyn when purchases are made at locally owned, rather than nationally owned, businesses: More money is kept in the community because locally owned businesses often purchase from other local businesses and service providers. Purchasing local helps grow other businesses as well as the Brooklyn tax base.
2. Non-profits receive greater support: Non-profit organizations receive an average 350% greater support from local business owners than they do from non-locally owned businesses.
3. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of Brooklyn's distinct character: The unique character of Brooklyn is what brought us here and what will keep us here. Shopping at local businesses will help maintain Brooklyn's unique urban landscape.
4. Reduced environmental impact: Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases, requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing in fringe areas.
5. Most new jobs are provided by local businesses: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and provide the most new jobs to local residents.
6. Customer service is better: Local businesses often hire people with more specific product expertise for better customer service.
7. Local business owners invest in community: Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community's future.
8. Public benefits outweigh public costs: Local businesses in urban commerce centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.
9. Competition and diversity leads to more choices: A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.
10. Encourages investment in Brooklyn: A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

For more information on SBANYC contact

Monday, December 10, 2007

Al's Call for Action

Today Al Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize bestowed upon him and the many scientists of the U.N. Climate Panel today in Oslow, Norway. It was an inspirational speech, one that all of us should have watched or heard rather than a re-run of Will and Grace or Grey's. Here are some of the highlights:

. . . In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.

. . . Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent “carbon summer.”

As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, “Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice.” Either, he notes, “would suffice.”

But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.

. . . But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters — most of all, my own country –– that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.

. . . These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:

The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.

. . . We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures – each a palpable possibility – and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.

The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, “One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door.”

The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: “What were you thinking; why didn’t you act?”
Or they will ask instead: “How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?”

We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.

So let us renew it, and say together: “We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act.”

watch the speech

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Even the Bridge Loves the Planet

The Brooklyn Bridge's necklace lights will soon be replaced with energy-efficient bulbs in an effort by the city to reduce carbon emissions. The project is one of 132 short term initiatives announced by the city, aimed at reducing the city's carbon footprint by 30 percent within the next ten years. "We are not just planning something for the future, we are starting it and we are demonstrating that we can do something about it short term,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “And, you know, if you do a little bit each day after a period, you will look back and you will be shocked at just how far you have come."

The Bloomberg administration is dedicating ten percent of the city's energy budget, or $80 million, to the initiatives. A comprehensive long-term energy reduction plan is expected to be announced this summer.

Source: NY1

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Greening All the Houses

Mayor Mike, former President Bill Clinton, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson today announced the first-ever sustainability partnership with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the nation's largest public housing authority. This new partnership will allow NYCHA to become more energy efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping to fulfill the goals of PlaNYC, the Mayor's long-term sustainability agenda. The partnership among the City, the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) and HUD will help provide access to energy-efficient and clean-energy technologies at reduced prices. "The New York City Housing Authority is home to more than 408,000 low and moderate-income residents throughout the five boroughs. These energy saving measures will help the Authority save money, and the environmental impact of these measures will result in cleaner, healthier air for the residents living in public housing," said Mayor Bloomberg. "These environmentally-friendly enhancements will help us do our part to put the brakes on global warming and they will also help us build a greener, greater New York."
Retrofits and moderizations include: Computerized Heating Automated System (CHAS) an Authority-wide heating-plant management technology. CHAS is a software application that allows for the remote monitoring and hands-on management of NYCHA's 210 large, central heating plants from any Internet-equipped personal computer. Instantaneous Hot Water Heater Program - the new heaters reduce heating fuel consumption, simplify maintenance, and provide safer and more reliable hot water service to residents. Apartment and Common-Area Lighting Upgrades - The retrofitting program as it is also referred to looks to replace an average of 7 light fixtures per dwelling unit from incandescent light bulbs to energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). CFLs use less than one-fourth the amount of electricity as traditional domestic incandescent bulbs and last eight to ten times longer. This program also includes common-area lighting upgrades that replace T-12 fluorescent bulbs with super-efficient T-8 technology. The new initiatives will further advance NYCHA's goals and contributions to PlaNYC and to the global green agenda.

President Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation with the mission to strengthen the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence. To advance this mission, the Foundation works with like-minded organizations and forms partnerships with national and local governments around the world to make an immediate and measurable impact in several areas, including bringing HIV/AIDS care and treatment to underserved populations, developing sustainable economic growth in Africa and fighting global climate change.

Full Press Release:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Say Thank You.

About a month ago my local corner grocery store started stocking Seventh Generation laundry products. I was so pleased by the new addition that I thanked the manager after my first purchase. Yesterday on my way home I stopped in to pick up some groceries and the manager spotted me. He was very excited to show me that he ordered an eco-friendly line of cleaning products and reusable grocery bags.

It is really amazing what a little positive feedback can do. Next time you are at your local store and you spot something they are doing that is helping the environment, just point it out and say "thank you". Chances are the manager will remember this when ordering new products for the store.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fly Away

Airlines contribute 3 percent of U.S. carbon emissions linked to global warming and should be regulated by the federal government, California and New York City said in a petition to the Bush administration. California and New York partnered with Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico and Pennsylvania on a petition released today calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate aircraft emissions, which account for 12 percent of national transportation-industry emissions. U.S. aircraft emissions are expected to increase by 60 percent by 2025, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Yikes. The European Parliament approved a plan last month to add EU and foreign airlines to Europe's emissions-trading system, which imposes carbon-dioxide caps on businesses and requires those exceeding their limits to buy credits from companies that pollute less. The rule still must be approved by EU governments.

Source: Bloomberg

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My Good Friend Al Reaches out to Me (and several million others)

Dear Amanda,

In Bali, Indonesia thousands of delegates from nearly 190 countries have gathered at the UN Conference on Climate Change. In nine days, I will address the conference to urge the adoption of a visionary new treaty to address global warming and I want to bring your voices with me.
Click here to sign my petition today and I will bring your signatures on stage with me as a clear demonstration of our resolve:

Together, we will call on the US government to assume a new leadership role in solving the climate crisis.

World leaders including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have all agreed to aggressively battle the climate crisis – yet our country still lags behind.
Over the next nine days, I would like you to help me get people from across the country to sign our message to the global community. We can demonstrate that the American people understand the immediacy of the climate crisis and want to work with the nations of the world to solve it.

Time is short – we need to mobilize everyone to bring this message to Bali.

The American people want a visionary treaty to address climate change and for the US government to play a positive leadership role in its development.

Thank you,
Al Gore

go ahead, sign the petition. It's for all of us.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Go Ahead, Check out Wintuk.

Cirque du Soleil is already recommended by PETA and other animal-rights organizations concerned about the welfare of performing animals in traditional circuses.

Lately, the Cirque is further upping its already significant do-gooder cred by going green. The San Francisco publication Common Ground reported that the performers’ newest earth-friendly considerations extend from the troupe’s costumes all the way up through reusing their old tent. Some of the circus’ costumes are donated to children’s theater groups. As for other recycling, costume scraps, bits of trim, and sequins from the costume shop are placed in glass balls along with shreds from Cirque programs, and the kooky crafts are then sold as Christmas ornaments and the circus tents get repurposed in the form of limited-edition messenger bags.

This billion-dollar operation has eight touring shows, one of which experimented with using biodiesel tour buses. Two of the touring shows have recycling bins, which might seem like a very basic effort, but it has to be coordinated with each new tour location. Beginning in 2006, the company announced its commitment to the environment. The Montreal headquarters recently expanded to become almost 100 percent sustainable, including capturing rainwater and using it in the building and for irrigation.

Impressive, and no whips.

Source: Plenty Magazine

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Algae Could Drive your Car

Algae has emerged as a potential energy source for your car. Driven by renewed investment as oil prices push $100 a barrel, scientists around the world are racing to turn algae into a commercially viable energy source. Some algae is as much as 50 percent oil that can be converted into biodiesel or jet fuel. The biggest challenge is cutting the cost of production, which by one Defense Department estimate is running more than $20 a gallon. Researchers are trying to figure out how to grow enough of the right strains of algae and how to extract the oil most efficiently. Over the past two years they have received more money from governments, the Pentagon, big oil companies, utilities and venture capital firms. An algae farm could be located almost anywhere. It would not require converting cropland from food production to energy production. It could use sea water (which if you read BGT’s most recent email, the Water Issue, you would know most water on earth is salt water) and could consume pollutants from sewage and power plants. The Pentagon’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is financing research into producing jet fuel from plants, including algae. The agency is already working with the Honeywell subsidiary, General Electric and the University of North Dakota. In November, it requested additional research proposals.

Source: NYTimes