Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category

Water Me Not

Maybe we’re coddling our plants.  Maybe they, too, can do more with less.  Check out this article from the San Francisco Chronicle.  There might be room to reduce the amount of water that is budgeted for irrigation in the design of rainwater harvesting systems.

It wasn’t by choice that Dan Lehrer cut off the water supply to his apple trees. When the irrigation system on his organic farm in Sebastopol broke down five years ago, repairing it was too costly, so his entire orchard of Red Rome Beauty and Golden Delicious went cold turkey.

Accustomed to enjoying drip irrigation 24 hours a day for roughly five months at a time, the trees were thirsty and stressed, but began producing smaller fruit that was less waterlogged and resulted in notably richer and crisper apples. They ripened later and kept better in storage. Meanwhile, Lehrer saved a hefty chunk on his water bill and conserved thousands of gallons each season, both from his well and from the public supply – notable in this low-water area of western Sonoma County. His apples haven’t seen a drop from the tap since.


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Auto-Free NY’s Plan for Improving the City through Better Transit

Come hear how it works this week.
Tuesday, Oct 28. 6-8pm
Auto-Free NY presents an open forum on key transportation issues. Moderated by Jeffrey Gold, Vice-President, Institute for Rational Urban Mobility.

More info on Sustainable Streets in New York City in SF this week from SPUR:
Wednesday, Oct 29. 12:30 – 1:30pm. SPUR Office, 312 Sutter St. (at Grant), 5th Floor. Close to the Powell St. BART station and several Muni lines. Feel free to bring a lunch. SPUR Forums are open to the public, free for members and $5 for non-members.

New York’s Department of Transportation has transformed in recent years into one of the country’s leading advocates for sustainable streets. Jon Orcutt, the agency’s Director of Policy, will discuss the agency’s strategic plan, released in April 2008, and the variety of projects and initiatives designed to align the department with the goals and challenges of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 sustainability initiative

What’s “Humanure”??
Thursday, Oct 30. 7:30 – 9:00pm. 6th Street Community Center
638 East 6th St (btw Aves B and C), in Manhattan

Permaculture Solutions Lecture Series presents: “Humanure” Humanure – the odorous excretions of human beings – can be recycled using natural processes without creating environmental pollution. And it can be done in your own backyard. Joseph Jenkins will cover this topic at least a couple inches deep. Joseph Jenkins, a businessman, organic gardener and author of three books, is perhaps best known for the award-winning Humanure Handbook – A Guide to Composting Human Manure, which is making its way to various United Nations and international development networks, and has been translated into Korean, Hebrew, Spanish, Norwegian and Mongolian.  From the Green NYC Events calendar.

Have a Great Week!

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  • Amtrak is getting record ridership as fuel costs on planes and for cars continue to rise, but it will be hard to keep up with increased demand since the infrastructure to build new cars isn’t able to ramp up quickly since its been deteriorating.
  • LEED homes are now the latest trend and bragging right from the rich and famous out in California. But their green homes probably aren’t as small as most peoples.
  • Cheap air lines have lead to dramatically increased air travel within Europe, mostly to coastal towns with a resort industry springing up near the airports. But this is causing global warming issues that will take a long time to undo.
  • Families are actually using the Xebra electric car for neighborhood errands, spending $10/month to charge the car. But it will be hard to avoid attracting notice in one of them.
  • Jim Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy, sees himself as an environmentalist. If he can only get the other environmentalists to see his side.
  • Obama supports ethanol as a way to help national security by decreasing revenues to oil rich but hostile nations.
  • EPA may reduce the required ethanol yields to ease corn and other crop prices, as a significant amount of farm land has been harmed, destroying this years crops, along the Mississippi.
  • The state of Florida is going to buy US Sugar, with the intention of using their land to help restore the Everglades, creating the largest ecological restoration project in the country.
  • A never ending stream of plastic trash is inundating areas like northern Alaska or some islands in Hawaii. And cleanup isn’t going to solve the problems – the only way to fix the situation is to stop allowing trash into the oceans in the first place.
  • Another power strip has been developed that hooks up to your computer monitor via USB so that you can manage the power controls of each of your outlets on the strip. See how much power you’re saving as well.
  • The New York Times writes an overview of the science behind stream restoration and what has and hasn’t worked.
  • More coverage of the downswing of suburbia as a 1-hr commute each way and the cost of heating a large home start to add up.
  • The Supreme Court ruled to cut punitive damages against Exxon for the Valdez oil spill to $500 million from $5 billion, since the compensatory damages totaled ~$500 million and punitive damages are generally on the same order.
  • Zipcar has a promotion in Chicago called Low Car Diet where if you agree to forgo using a car for one month this summer, they will give you a free 1-yr membership, a transit pass and driving credit. Maybe this plan will spread to other cities?
  • California plans to ramp up programs to cut greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal of reaching 1990 levels in 12 years. Stipulations include utilities required to generate 1/3 of electricity from renewable resources and building high speed rail lines.
  • Hawaii has passed a law requiring all new homes to have solar water heaters, with a few exceptions based on site feasibility.
  • New York City passed a law that goes into effect on January 1st, 2009 to provide a property tax credit of up to $100,000 for homeowners who install green roofs on at least 50% of their available rooftop.
  • The Bureau of Land Management has put a freeze on building new solar energy plants on their land, which is some of the most suitable land for such projects with huge tracts of land in the desert in the southwest.
  • Bird, a mini-chain of boutiques in Brooklyn, is in the process of building a new shop. The owner has been documenting the process, which this week includes the breakdown on demolition quantities as they try for LEED certification.
  • Home Depot will start recycling CFL light bulbs at all stores. Its been in place at their Canadian stores since November of last year.

A photo of the sorted demolition piles at Bird.

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  • NYC buses started going hybrid 4 years ago to try and reduce emissions, but they are having an even bigger payoff these days due to increased fuel prices, causing the city to exceed their budget for gasoline by 56% in April.
  • Glassmakers look at ways to reduce their energy needs as energy costs skyrocket.
  • NYC will start car-free Saturdays in August, where a series of major streets and avenues will create a car-free path from Lower Manhattan to Central Park.
  • Honda releases a mass-produced hydrogen powered car, the FCX Clarity, though they only plan to make 200 in the next three years and they cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And there aren’t many filling stations.
  • Why has the tomato become infected with salmonella? Barry Esterbrook finds some possibilities, but the real answer is the FDA doesn’t know.
  • McCain infuriates environmental groups that have in the past seen him as an ally for calling for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as part of his energy plan.  And to help out his party, Bush flips his previous opinion to say he’ll ask congress to open up the Gulf for drilling.  Another part of McCain’s policy is to build 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030.
  • Recycling machine brings recycling program to Tijuana, but also brings jobs to the poor who live in the dump and scavenge for a living.
  • Is Astroturf a green alternative to a grass field in California, where a lawn would require heavy maintenance and water use to survive the summer?
  • With the rise in gas prices, suburbs will start to disappear and smaller cities will rejuvenate. And those cities out west? Without AC, they’ll probably disappear as well. However, skyscrapers aren’t much more sustainable, so NYC and Chicago will shrink too as sources of natural gas get depleted.
  • Mayor Daley proposes bikes sharing the bus lanes while the city of Chicago catches up with the increased demand for bike lanes on the streets.
  • Its actually better for the environment to upgrade from a 15mph gas guzzler to a 20mph car, then it is from a 30mph sedan to a 45mph hybrid.  Because you’ll use less gas on your commute with the first one.  It would be better to rate cars in gallons per mile than miles per gallon if we are trying to preserve our oil reserves.

Image of the FCX Clarity from Honda

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  • Closer monitoring of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is leading to political conflicts.
  • Jesus Leon Santos has rejuvenated agriculture in Oaxaca, Mexico by looking back to the Meso-American agriculture patterns rather than modern techniques, increasing production by 50% over the last 25 years.
  • We have an ongoing battle in our NY office as to whether to keep the windows open or turn on the AC in the summer, due to poor circulation and ac balancing in our office. But at least we can open our windows if we want, unlike many modern buildings.
  • A high school science fair project in Canada may have found a way to use bacteria to help plastic bags decompose in a matter of weeks instead of 1,000 years.
  • Clark Fork Basin Superfund Complex entails gradual removal of Milltown dam in order to minimize the impact of the release of sediment contaminated with heavy metals that had accumulated behind the dam.
  • Atmospheric deposition of DDT in the Antarctic may have led to DDT being trapped in the glaciers, where it is leaking out in the melt water.
  • New federal report on climate maintains that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will significantly impact water supplies, agriculture, forestry and ecosystems for decades.
  • A new Brookings Institution study released maintains that West Coast metropolitan areas are among the lowest carbon emissions per capita in the U.S. Honolulu ranked 1st, followed by the LA region, Portland/Vancouver, and New York City. The report also includes policy recommendations and factors that contributed to rankings.
  • On Wednesday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into a law “a measure that will establish the nation’s first management and protection plan for a state’s ocean waters.”
  • There are a number of gas pumps in New York State that can’t display a price above $3.999/gal.  Some places are getting leeway to sell by the half gallon, but could this be a reason to switch to metric?
  • The Green Machine is a mini-power plant that can convert your waste heat into energy through a closed-loop zero emission cycle.
  • Lake Victoria is rapidly shrinking in Uganda, leading to ever more heightened battles over the lake’s resources.
  • Women’s rights and environmentalism don’t seem like closely related subjects.  However, improvement of women’s rights can help lead to reduced population rates, and over population is a one of the causes of draining our natural resources.
  • Many scientists worry that clean coal technology, including carbon capture and underground storage, has not been sufficiently pursued recently due to high costs; without proven technology and sufficient research, utilities will continue to construct traditional coal plants.
  • American biofuels policy is being criticized as a major factor in the world food crisis and increase in international food prices.

Photo of the Green Machine by Electratherm, from Treehugger.

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  • Algae might be the next biofuel, one that doesn’t rely on much needed agricultural land.
  • An avalanche recently cut off Juneau’s connection to the hydropower plant that provides most of their power, leading to a 400% increase in fuel costs. Suddenly, the town is becoming experts at energy conservation.
  • President Bush may create the world’s largest marine reserves in the world.
  • Metropolis interviews Patricia Mulroy, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. (via Archinect)
  • More companies are moving towards capturing waste heat and converting it to power, thereby requiring less energy and using energy more efficiently.
  • NYU plans to start a bike sharing program, with swipe card technology developed by the Interactive Telecommunications Program.
  • Details of how to use the world’s first solar powered composting toilet, located in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. (via clintonhillblog)
  • The cost of construction of wind turbines is increasing drastically, partially due to the record demand.
  • The Gresham-Barlow school district in Oregon uses students to make up a Watt Watcher team that checks to see if energy is being wasted in the schools, saving money and raising awareness at the same time.
  • Marketplace tests out a Zero Emissions No Noise (ZENN) electric car, which costs approximately a penny a mile to drive.
  • Democratic staff of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee concludes in a recent report that the White House pressured EPA administrator to deny California’s request to limit automobile carbon emissions in December.
  • Many biologists and botanists are concerned that many non-food crops being used for biofuel production (in order to offset use of food crops, which has contributed to increased food prices) are considered invasive plant species.
  • An urban farm in a low-income Philadelphia community produces vegetables, herbs and honey, runs a nursery selling plants and seedlings and offers produce, meats, breads and cheeses from local growers.
  • The SF Bay Guardian looks at why solar power installations are so low in San Francisco, despite a generally supportive public. Installation costs are the top reason, and subsidies don’t help enough. (via re-nest)
  • Congestion pricing may not have passed in NYC, but the Utah Transportation Commission is looking into it around Salt Lake City as a way of managing increasing costs for road maintenance.
  • With the threat of looming severe water shortages, the mayor of Los Angeles has proposed using heavily treated sewage to increase drinking water supplies, among a number of water conservation measures.

Photo of honey gathering in Philadelphia from The New York Times

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  • Front lawns need a lot of water and light to look pretty, but what about a moss lawn? It doesn’t need nearly as much water and grows well in shade so no need to cut down a lot of trees.
  • New York State will start purchasing green office products, namely 100% recycled paper for both office use and for publications.
  • In an odd turn of events, endangered seals in the Seattle area are eating endangered salmon, which may be even more endangered than the seals. Who do you protect?
  • Keeping a portion of ones farmland fallow each year is important to restoring nutrients to the soil and help protect wildlife habitats. With economic pressures, though, farmers are keeping less and less land fallow. What effect is this having?
  • Really want to do your part to save the planet? Stop eating red meat and dairy.  A new study shows that cutting red meat and dairy out of your diet has a much larger effect on the environment than eating local produce.
  • Do you have something to say about Art and the Environment? Orlo has a call for proposals, submissions and recommendations for their Fall 2008 Contemporary Art Issue for visual artists, curators, gallery directors and writers.
  • San Francisco diverts the highest percentage of waste away from landfills, 70%, of any city in the country, but Mayor Newsom thinks they can do even more. And he’s looking to reach 75% by requiring all residents to compost, instead of doing it voluntarily.  Apparently Newsom has some other ideas in mind for the city as well, including stations where you can exchange your dead battery for your electric car with a charged one, negating the need to wait around to charge it, and changing from a payroll tax to a carbon tax.
  • Quebec is planning on building 2,004 MW worth of wind farms by 2015, which can be used in tandem with they’re already large hydropower program to generate hydropower more optimally. And if there’s energy left over, export power to the Northeast US.
  • LEED’s standards are a good first step, but there is a lot of criticism for the standards, such as why the same standards apply to Las Vegas as New York City, or that the points aren’t necesarily awarded based on difficulty to implement or green impact.
  • New York City and the EPA are building up to have the third New York City Green Building Competition.  This year’s theme is Integration.  The due date is May 30th for submissions, so get integrated! (via New York EcoSpaces)

Image from Washington State Department of Ecology

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