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Archive for the ‘Recycling’ 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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Green Inc, New York Times’s great blog about the economics of green industries, has very interesting piece on how PUR is achieving success through a new marketing campaign.  Known for their filters here in the US, they also market disinfectant powder that can be added to water.   They have been marketing it in developing countries as a way to provide clean water to underserved communities for 8 years, but started achiving great success last year when they changed their marketing strategy to a social marketing technique that stresses this as a public health need similar to handwashing or immunizations.

Image from Citypages.com
Image from Citypages.com

Water was also in the news yesterday when a coalition of bottled water companies filed a lawsuit against New York State to try and stop a new 5 cent deposit from being placed on bottled water.  The issue at hand? Water that adds sugar, such as Vitamin Water, is exempt from the deposit.  I’m all for a deposit tax on bottled water, but how the law was created that doesn’t cover all plastic drink bottles is beyond me, and seems to be suspicious as to which lobbyists were involved in the creation of this legislation.

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A solar array on top of a San Francisco reservoir (NY Times)

A solar array on top of a San Francisco reservoir (NY Times)

In the past couple weeks, some big green news has been coming out of San Francisco.  First there was the news that San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors have approved a plan to construct the largest solar photovoltaic array, with 5 MW capacity, on top of Sunset ReservoirRecurrent Energy will construct the array and sell the power to the city at a fixed rate of 23.5 cents per kWh, plus 3% inflation per year.  The city could potentially get cheaper rates by constructing it themselves, but they would not be eligable for the significant federal tax breaks that a private company gets, which could cover up to half the cost of the project.

And last week, Mayor Newsom announced that the latest numbers on San Francisco’s recycling program were in and they were achieving 72% diversion from landfills, which seems like they are well on their way to 75% diversion by next year.  The SF program includes recycling of almost all plastics, mandatory construction material recycling, and a food scrap collection program which generates compost that is sold to local farms.  Compare that to NYC’s 2008 residential diversion rate of 16.5% and you can see what an amazing achievement this is.  Hopefully they can teach the rest of the country some tips.

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Junk Mail

Junk Mail

I was amazed to read that the US Postal Service would be adding 4,000 recycling bins next to PO boxes across the country to make recycling of junk mail easier.  Not because its that shocking an idea, but because it seems so surprising that the bins weren’t in place already.  Last year, USPS announced free recycling of small electronic items through the mail, but it took them until now to install recycling bins for paper?

I’ve been thinking about this issue for a while for my apartment building.  There is no trash or recycling bin in the mail room, and the junk mail inevitably gets left on the shelf, from which it eventually magically disappears.  What does the super do with it?  And how many people actually recycle in their apartment?  If we put a recycling bin in the mail room, this could help remind people to recycle all those catalogs and other junk mail we receive.  Just like in the post office, it seems like a no-brainer.  But then someone has to empty the recycling bin….

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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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  • Radiohead and their Carbon Neutral World Tour have pushed for venues to go green, including the Daydream festival in Barcelona that features an extensive recycling program and reusable cups.
  • LA Department of Public Works dropped 400,000 black plastic balls into one of their reservoirs, creating a UV reflecting cover for the reservoir. DPW hopes that this will prevent a reaction between bromide and choloride from taking place, thereby preventing the carcinogen bromate from forming.
  • Seven things you thought you could recycle, but can’t. I guess I’d better stop putting my recycling in the bin in plastic bags. (via Archinect)
  • A new washing mashine technology may be available by next year that uses 2% of the water and energy of conventional washing machines. The lack of water also reduces the need for a dryer.
  • Governors Island in NYC started their free bike share program, which will take place every Friday until October 4th. They will also be available on the weekends for a fee.
  • Trees actually modify their temperature so that no matter what the climate, their leaves are usually at an average temperature of 70o F when they are performing photosynthesis.
  • New York City gets its first LEED certified school with the expansion of Poly Prep in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
  • The US accounts for half of the golf courses in the world, which take up an area the size of Delaware. With water crises arising, golf courses will need to go green, using more drought resistant seeds and recycled water.
  • American car makers are not keeping up with demand for more fuel efficient cars in the US, despite the fact that they make fuel efficient cars for distribution in Europe that aren’t available here.
  • County buildings in the heart of coal country may switch to natural gas heating systems, since the system would save the county a significant amount of money.
  • Modern turboprop airplanes are much more fuel efficient than traditional jets, leading more major airlines to use them, especially for short hop and smaller market flights.
  • As more people turn to public transportation with rising gas costs, there is a chance to rethink the nation’s transportation system.
  • Hypermilers are drivers who try to squeeze out every last drop of gas from their car by modifying their driving techniques to improve efficiency.
  • ASCE’s annual report card on infrastructure shows that number of unsafe dams has increased 33% over the last decade.

Photo of plastic balls being dumped into Ivanhoe Reservoir by Ifran Kahn of the LA Times

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