Posts tagged ‘green’

For Earth Day, 7 New Rules to Live By

On the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, is the middle-aged green movement ready to be revived by some iconoclastic young Turqs?

No, that’s not a misspelling. The word is derived from Turquoise, which is Stewart Brand’s term for a new breed of environmentalist combining traditional green with a shade of blue, as in blue-sky open-minded thinking. A Turq, he hopes, will be an environmentalist guided by science, not nostalgia or technophobia.

Ordinarily I’d be skeptical of either the word or the concept catching on, but I believe in never ignoring any trend spotted by Mr. Brand, especially on this topic. He was the one, after all, who helped inspire Earth Day by putting the first picture of the planet on the cover of his “Whole Earth Catalog” in 1968.

Now he has another book, “Whole Earth Discipline,” in which he urges greens to “question convenient fables.” In that spirit, let me offer a few suggestions gleaned from the four decades since Earth Day. Here are seven lessons for Turqs of all ages:

1. It’s the climate, stupid. The orators at the first Earth Day didn’t deliver speeches on global warming. That was partly because there weren’t yet good climate models predicting warming in the 21st century and partly because the orators weren’t sure civilization would survive that long anyway.

They figured that the “overpopulated” world was about to be decimated by famine, the exhaustion of fossil fuels, global shortages of vital minerals, pollution, pesticides, cancer epidemics, nuclear-reactor meltdowns, and assorted technological disasters. Who had time to worry about a distant danger from a natural substance like carbon dioxide?

Well, the expected apocalypses never occurred, and it’s the unexpected problem of greenhouse gases that concerns scientists today. Greens say they’ve shifted their priorities, too, but by how much?

2. You can never not do just one thing. Environmentalists of the 1970s liked to justify their resistance to new technologies by warning that you could never do just one thing. It was a nice mantra and also quite accurate. New technologies do indeed come with unexpected side effects.

But resisting new technology produces its own unpleasant surprises. The “No Nukes” movement effectively led to more reliance on electricity generated by coal plants spewing carbon. The opposition to “industrial agriculture” led to the lower-yield farms that require more acreage, leaving less woodland to protect wildlife and absorb carbon.

3. “Let them eat organic” is not a global option. For affluent humans in industrialized countries, organic food is pretty much a harmless luxury. Although there’s no convincing evidence that the food is any healthier or more nutritious than other food, if that label makes you feel healthier and more virtuous, then you can justify the extra cost.

But most people in the world are not affluent, and their food budgets are limited. If they’re convinced by green marketers that they need to choose higher-priced organic produce, they and their children are liable to end up eating fewer fruits and vegetables — and sometimes nothing at all, as occurred when Zambia rejected emergency food for starving citizens because the grain had been genetically engineered.

In “Denialism,” a book about the spread of unscientific beliefs, Michael Specter criticizes the “organic fetish” as a “pernicious kind of denialism” being exported to poor countries.

“Total reliance on organic farming would force African countries to devote twice as much land per crop as we do in the United States,” he writes. “An organic universe sounds delightful, but it could consign millions of people in Africa and throughout much of Asia to malnutrition and death.”

4. Frankenfood, like Frankenstein, is fiction. The imagined horrors of “frankenfoods” have kept genetically engineered foods out of Europe and poor countries whose farmers want to export food to Europe. Americans, meanwhile, have been fearlessly growing and eating them for more than a decade — and the scare stories seem more unreal than ever.

Last week, the National Academy of Sciences reported that genetically engineered foods had helped consumers, farmers and the environment by lowering costs, reducing the use of pesticide and herbicide, and encouraging tillage techniques that reduce soil erosion and water pollution.

“I daresay the environmental movement has done more harm with its opposition to genetic engineering than with any other thing we’ve been wrong about,” Mr. Brand writes in “Whole Earth Discipline.” “We’ve starved people, hindered science, hurt the natural environment, and denied our own practitioners a crucial tool.”

5. “Green” energy hasn’t done much for greenery — or anything else. Since the first Earth Day, wind and solar energy have been fashionable by a variety of names: alternative, appropriate, renewable, sustainable. But today, despite decades of subsidies and mandates, it provides less than 1 percent of the electrical power in the world, and people still shun it once they discover how much it costs and how much land it requires.

6. “New Nukes” is the new “No Nukes.” In the 1980s, Gwyneth Cravens joined the greens who successfully prevented the Shoreham nuclear reactor from opening on Long Island. Then, after learning about global warming, she discovered that the reactor would have prevented the annual emission of three million tons of carbon dioxide. She wrote a book on the nuclear industry titled, “Power to Save the World.”

Mr. Brand has also renounced his opposition to nuclear power and now promotes it as green energy because of its low-carbon emissions and its small footprint on the landscape. He wants to see the development of small modular reactors, and he quotes a warning from the climate scientist James Hansen, “One of the greatest dangers the world faces is the possibility that a vocal minority of antinuclear activists could prevent phase-out of coal emissions.”

Some groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council, are still resisting nuclear power, just as groups like Greenpeace are fighting genetically engineered crops. But if Mr. Brand is right, maybe some greens will rediscover the enthusiasm for technology expressed in his famous line at the start of “The Whole Earth Catalog:” “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.”

Technological progress, not nostalgia or asceticism, is the only reliable way for greens’ visions of “sustainability” to be sustained. Wilderness and wildlife can be preserved only if the world’s farmers have the best tools to feed everyone on the least amount of land. Solar power will be widely adopted only if there are breakthroughs that make it more efficient.

Greenhouse gases will keep accumulating unless engineers build economical sources of low-carbon energy or develop techniques for sequestering carbon. And if those advances aren’t enough to stop global warming, we’ll want new tools for directly engineering the climate. Given the seriousness of the danger, Mr. Brand supports climate-engineering research, and he has updated his famous line from four decades ago. The update makes a good concluding lesson for Turqs:

7. We are as gods and have to get good at it.


April 21, 2010 at 9:43 AM Leave a comment

Turf grass not always a ‘green’ thing, study shows

Green is good, right? Not necessarily when it comes to lawns, according to a new study by UC Irvine researchers.

For the first time, scientists compared the amount of greenhouse gases absorbed by ornamental turf grass to the amount emitted in the irrigation, fertilizing and mowing of the same plots. It turns out keeping a lawn is not good for Mother Earth.

In four parks near Irvine, researchers calculated that emissions were similar to or greater than the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the air through photosynthesis — a finding relevant to policymakers seeking to control the gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

“Green spaces may be good to have,” said geochemist Amy Townsend-Small, the lead researcher in the paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “But they shouldn’t be automatically counted as sequestering carbon.”

The paper is particularly timely, she added, because governments are calculating their carbon footprints and discussing whether parkland could offset other sources of emissions, such as refineries, power plants and automobiles.

Turf grass, covering an estimated 1.9% of the United States, is the most commonly irrigated crop and increasingly in demand in urban areas.

Townsend-Small and colleague Claudia Czimczik measured the carbon content of the parks’ soil and compared that with emissions from producing fertilizer, mowing with gasoline-powered equipment and pumping water to irrigate the plots. The water was recycled; but if it were fresh water transported from distant rivers, as is much of Southern California’s water, emissions would be higher, Townsend-Small said.

They also factored in the nitrous oxide released from soil after fertilization. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, which is released by fossil fuel combustion.

California has no regulations to control turf grass, but the study “shows the importance of full life-cycle analysis for greenhouse gases,” said Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, which is charged with reducing the state’s carbon footprint. Research is underway, she said, to develop varieties of grass that need less mowing and use less water.

Southern Californians, Townsend-Small said, could reduce the carbon footprint of their lawns by using rakes rather than leaf-blowers and hand mowers rather than gasoline-powered equipment.

“About 40% of the drinking water we import at great financial and environmental expense is used for ,” said Paula Daniels, a Los Angeles Department of Public Works commissioner. “This study hopefully will motivate more of us to make changes in our landscapes.”

Click HERE for article

February 26, 2010 at 4:14 PM Leave a comment

Vancouver Olympics going for the green

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada – As is normally the case for top city officials during the Olympics, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has a car and driver assigned to shepherd him through the whirl of the Winter Games.

But the 45-year-old former organic farmer, who earlier ran the Happy Planet juice company, has shown up for most Olympic events as he always does: on his battered but serviceable mountain bike, suit pants tucked into his socks.

Since he became mayor in December 2008, Robertson has doubled Vancouver’s bicycle infrastructure budget, set landmark electric-vehicle-charging standards for new buildings, and expanded the city’s “car-free” days.

It was probably a foregone conclusion that any city with Robertson at the handlebars was not only going to host a green Olympics, but would try for the gold.

The 2010 Winter Games, the Vancouver Organizing Committee announced, will generate fewer greenhouse gases during the seven years it took to organize and put on than what was emitted in only a few weeks in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy.

The 2010 Games also will be the first in history to achieve a “carbon neutral” status for not only the Games, but also the travel of the 7,000 athletes, coaches and officials.

To do it, the city is relying on renewable hydropower for 90% of its electricity and the most ambitious set of green building standards ever achieved at Olympic venues, along with a fleet of hydrogen-powered SUVs and buses, heat from a curling rink’s refrigeration plant to warm an aquatics pool and heavy dependence on mass transit — there is no spectator parking at venues.

The Olympic torch is 90% recyclable and emits minimal greenhouse gases, and medals are made from recycled electronic waste. The Olympic athletes’ village this month received the highest environmental certification in the world, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, “platinum.” Powered by its own neighborhood energy utility that converts sewage to power, the residential complex for about 2,700 competitors features a “net zero” building that produces as much energy as it consumes.

“We feel like we’ve raised the bar,” Robertson said. “Some of these technologies will be a legacy for generations to come that will benefit cities all over the world.”

Robertson’s goal is not just to produce a green Games, but to use the Olympics to help develop a new clean-technology industry base in British Columbia. At least $3 million in carbon offsets — investments in clean-energy projects whose climate change benefits “offset” the greenhouse gases generated by the Games — is being provided by a private sponsor. With it, city officials hope to see a direct injection of money into local clean-technology companies, giving the region a potential leg up on cities like Seattle and Portland that are also vying to become hubs of the new-energy economy.

“The big gains in our Games came from the fact that everybody associated — all our venue partners — adopted the green building standards,” said Linda Coady, the Vancouver Organizing Committee’s vice president for sustainability. “We made a business case for it early on, making the argument that yes, there’s an incremental cost associated with building green buildings, but for the most part you could recoup those costs within the first five years.”

Two other venues, the day lodge at Whistler Olympic Park, which features an on-site wastewater treatment plant, and the Whistler Sliding Center, where waste heat from the refrigeration plant helps heat buildings, have attained LEED gold certification.

How well the sites are actually performing is already apparent, via a sophisticated software system installed at each venue that tracks energy usage minute-by-minute and compares it with how the building did last week and last month.

The first five days’ readings showed a savings of 112,700 kilowatt hours, or about 16%, compared with what venues built without energy-saving features would have used. Spectators and managers can click into the energy tracker on their mobile phones or at home for an instant readout.

For all the accomplishments, critics say the Vancouver Olympics missed an important opportunity to advance the Vancouver region’s transition from automobiles to transit, toppling thousands of trees to make way for a new highway and cross-country skiing trails.

And while the organizing committee’s sponsor is making investments in energy-saving projects around British Columbia to make up for the 118,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases generated by the Games, that represents just 44% of the Olympics’ total footprint.

Organizers will not compensate for an additional 150,000 tons of emissions generated by sponsors and the 1.6 million spectators traveling to Vancouver for the Games. They have, however, agreed to assume these emissions as part of the Games’ total, 268,000-ton carbon footprint.

The David Suzuki Foundation, which was invited to evaluate the environmental record of the 2010 Games and gave them a decent-but-not-great “bronze” medal, suggested that ticket prices could have been raised to pay for spectators’ carbon emissions.

But Coady said the committee already had built a day’s worth of free transit ridership into every ticket and was under pressure to keep from adding more to the cost.

Further, imposing a carbon surcharge on the majority of ticket buyers who live within B.C. wouldn’t have been fair, “particularly when you consider that British Columbia is the only jurisdiction in North America where local citizens are already paying a provincial carbon tax,” she said.

The organizing committee instead is encouraging spectators to take responsibility for their emissions by buying their own offsets.

The Olympic offset sponsor, Offsetters Clean Technology of Vancouver, has a Web calculator for ticket-holders to add up their emissions. The company hopes to place staffers at the airport as the Games wind down to hawk additional credits to spectators as they fly home.

Half the proceeds from the voluntary offsets get invested in British Columbia clean energy projects, such as a cement plant that burns construction debris, and a greenhouse heated with wood chips; the other half goes to offset endeavors around the world.

Though corporate sponsors have voluntarily offset about 75% of their share of carbon emissions, hardly anyone is expecting spectators to beat down the doors to buy credits.

“Will we take down the whole 150,000 tons?” Coady asked. “That would be a gold medal performance.”

Click HERE for article

February 26, 2010 at 12:27 PM Leave a comment

Multitasking, Climate Saving Measures

by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News

On a clear, hot summer’s day a barefoot walk on an asphalt road is a foot-burner: The black surface is absorbing sunlight and heat is radiating into the soles ones’s feet and everything else nearby. A barefoot walk on a on light gray sidewalk is not so bad, hot perhaps but not burning. Sunlight is being reflected from the light-colored surface, not absorbed. As a whole our planet is like the street and sidewalk. The dark oceans, which cover most of our home, absorb the Sun’s rays as do the land areas not covered by snow and ice. Those areas that are the glistening white, those cloud tops and snowy icy areas, reflect sunlight back into space where it can do us no harm. Yet as glaciers and the ice caps shrink (mostly the Arctic cap for the time being) more dark sunlight-absorbing surfaces are being exposed adding warmth to the planet. The ability to reflect sunlight is known as a change in Earth’s albedo, and it is changing. But if man is responsible for warming the planet’s atmosphere with his emissions and causing white, reflecting areas to melt and disappear, man can also counteract the changing albedo by adding man-made reflectivity to his surroundings.

For full story click HERE

February 22, 2010 at 4:16 PM Leave a comment

RECYCLEMANIA updated results

Current Results—RecycleMania 2010

Below are the top five schools in each competition.

To view the full standings of each RecycleMania competition, please click on the competition name

Competition Division

Grand Champion

USF: Currently in 33rd of 234
Per Capita Classic

USF: Currently 62nd of 305
Waste Minimization

USF: Currently in 85th of 182
Gorilla Prize

USF: Currently in 88th of 305
Targeted Material – Paper

USF: Currently not ranked
Targeted Material – Corrugated Cardboard

USF: Currently not ranked
Targeted Material – Bottles and Cans

USF:Currently not ranked
Targeted Material – Food Service Organics

USF: Currently in 7th of 98

February 16, 2010 at 1:27 PM Leave a comment

San Francisco vs Amsterdam in Green City Rivalry

December 2, 2009 by Glenn Chapman

Click Image for full story

San Francisco and Amsterdam set an online stage for an environmental rivalry regarding which city is more nature-friendly. Mayors of the major US and Dutch cities on Tuesday kicked off a green match-up while joining technology titan Cisco in a call for urban centers worldwide to rally to fight global warming and other environmental woes.

December 2, 2009 at 3:43 PM Leave a comment

How Saving the Planet Adds Up

Despite the downturn, green has remained the new black for retailers.

Shopkeepers have thrust aside concern about consumer spending to continue to invest in making their businesses more sustainable.

According to Bob Gordon, head of environment at the British Retail Consortium, the trade body for retailers: “If anything, the recession has focused the mind. It’s hard to tell whether [the emphasis on the environment] is due to the recession or the age we are living in. Whatever is driving it, what is clear is that investment is not slowing down.”

Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), says: “Far from it being an agenda that is ‘nice to have’, it is considered by the food and grocery industry to be a ‘must have’ for the environment, for the consumer and for business success.”

Read the complete article here:

November 30, 2009 at 3:27 PM Leave a comment

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