Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

Local water supply in rural India

Local water supply in rural India from the New York Times

  • Dr. Nocera at MIT is reserching the ability to capture energy through photosynthesis, so that we can harness solar energy at night
  • A cap and trade system for carbon emissions is looking like it is gaining consensus as the best option for  accounting for externalities of pollution, but how much will it cost our society?
  • More on green schools, this time talking about “the halo” system that enables natural light to shine into the classroom even on cloudy days at Da Vinci Arts Middle School in Portland, Oregon
  • Design your own graywater capture system!
  • Google tackles office greening in London. Best way to increase recycling? Take away trash cans at individual desks.
  • How can a hotel go green but still cater to visitor needs? Take a hole out of the soap bar…
  • A new analysis report was released recently, showing that India could face a severe water supply problem if they do not change their usage patterns soon

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Check out these awesome street ‘redesigns’ from the GOOD Livable Street Contest. There’s lots of ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of how people would redesign their streets to make them more walkable, breathable, and permeable. While some of them would likely face technical challenges, they represent a good slice of the ideas out there for making better streets.

The contest is closed now, but due to the overwhelming volume of responses, they’ve given the judge an extra week to pick a winner. Check back May 18th for an announcement……


Treehugger brings word of the new Z-Competition: Re-skin old buildings to make them zerofootprint. Or at least, come up with scalable designs for retrofitting older, energy-inefficient buildings to reduce their consumption and improve functionality.

The competition will be judged on the aesthetics, energy efficiency, smart technology, return on investment and potential as a solution for a large number of buildings.

Like the X-Prize, this isn’t just a design competition. Five finalists will be chosen, their designs implemented and monitored over three years. The Z-Prize ca$h will be given to the building that has most reduced the energy per square foot.

Retrofitting existing buildings is one of our most pressing global challenges. It’s the most bang for the buck, the most quickly implemented, and with billions and billions of square feet of building stock out there, could represent a serious dent in carbon emissions.

The competition welcomes teams from all over the world.The deadline for the submission of designs is September 1, 2009.

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The Wall Street Journal’s blog “Independent Street” has asked its readers about Sherwood’s ‘green surcharge’.

We’ve begun adding a .05% surcharge to our contracts to offset the emissions we produce in a client’s name (i.e. $5 for every $10,000 billed).

We all know that computers use electricity, plans are printed on paper, and air travel causes emissions. These are simply the costs of doing business – costs counted in greenhouse gases and resource depletion.

What’s the best way to handle these costs? Would you pay a ‘green’ surcharge?

WSJ’s readers had some interesting comments:

“No I would not pay something to someone to do something they should morally be doing anyway,” says Richard.

Yes, we should morally be doing it, and we may soon be required legally to do it. But there is still a cost. All companies pay for health and safety measures, and pass them on in some way to their customers.

“Yes I would mind. I do not ask you to pay for my charity work,” says another reader.

As opposed to the first reader who views offsetting as a moral necessity we shouldn’t charge for, this reader views it as something extra – a form of environmental charity – that we shouldn’t ask clients to pay for. Opposite views – same result. What do you think?

One reader compared it to being charged “every time the toilet gets flushed,” another suggested we just add it to the cost of doing business without creating a separate surcharge.

Do you think it’s more transparent to let clients know we’re incorporating the cost of offsetting our emissions? Or should we simply add it in with the cost of the lights, plumbing, rent and other overhead (including toilets!) on our P&L sheets?

There are lots more interesting comments from readers:

“Only in SF. What arrogance, imposing a extra tax on customers.”

“CO2 is a CRUCIAL plant NUTRIENT!!!….So, why on earth should we REDUCE our emission of this highly beneficial CO2???”

“If businesses truly want to be green, they will put money where their collective mouths are. Do the right thing.”

“Carbon offsets are a sick sick joke.”

“I would be happy to pay such a fee if I can be assured the money is doing what they say it is doing.”

Read the article here, and let us know your thoughts!

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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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  • Delta goes green by eliminating their paper newsletter. Not so impressive, but they already have an on-board recycling program and have many options to allow customers to purchase carbon offsets. Jet Blue is going green too, attempting to do energy saving things like using one engine instead of two during taxiing, using ground power instead of engines for power at the gate, and eliminating paper tickets.
  • There is some improvement in sulfur dioxide emissions and water quality measures in China, but overall, pollution has increased over last year.
  • Climate bill dies in the Senate – we’ll have to wait until next administration for any kind of movement on the cap and trade issue.
  • Alain Robert scaled the NY Times Building in NYC as a protest against global warming for World Environment Day. He was detained by police on the 52nd floor. I was alerted to the action by swarming helicopters since our office is across town.  Another man climbed the building later that afternoon.
  • Adnam’s brewing company is creating “East Green”, a carbon neutral beer available in the UK only. Among the carbon saving features are using locally grown barley and reusing steam from the brewing process for the next batch.
  • If you have to have a lawnmower (that isn’t a push model), follow these instructions to convert it to solar powered.
  • A portion of Times Square got turned into a park on Thursday in honor of World Environment Day.
  • It is more efficient to turn off your car than to idle if you are going to be idling more than 10 seconds.
  • Guerrilla gardening greens up pockets around New York City.
  • GM is closing four of its truck and SUV plants due to rising gas prices. And they may cancel production of the Hummer.
  • Some major American corporations have been meeting regularly with environmental groups for the past couple of years to develop proposals for federal limits on carbon emissions.
  • Best Buy is testing an electronics disposal program at their stores.
  • Fiji Water is trying to green their image, despite being criticized for promoting bottled water, from Fiji at that.
  • Price does matter, and as a result, driving miles have gone down an estimated 4.3% nationally over this time last year.

Photo of a successful guerrilla gardening effort in London from The Guerrilla Gardening Homepage

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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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