GREEN SUSTAINABILITY BLOG

Welcome to StainedGreen.com – It is cliche, but true, that we live in an ever changing world. Unfortunately most of these changes are negative, and the direct result of humanities abuse to the environment. There is truth to the fact that much of the abuse the earth has suffered was due to ignorance, but with the research and problems in the world today we are, for the most part, without excuse, moving forward. It is upto you and I to take individual action and to do our part to ensure a healthy environment for future generations.

It is our hope that you will find the information you need to play a part in bringing not only awareness, but also action to all those you meet. In so doing you will find that what would be impossible for one person to accomplish, becomes possible when we work together as a collective whole. For sustainability to work most effectively, it must become a movement that inspires, not an idea that retires.

Green Living - Practical Ways to go Green

FARM SANCTUARY’S 35 CITY WALK HOPES TO RAISE OVER $1 MILLION FOR ABUSED ANIMALS

The Farm Sanctuary event promises to bring upwards of tens of thousands of people together to support life saving care for animals rescued from horribly inhumane situations. Participate in an event, join a team, or sign on to the virtual fundraiser: Sleep in for Farm Animals.

Not sure who to support? Meet the animals–Apollo the turkey, Blitzen the calve, Nikki the pig, Georgia the hen, Ian the sheep, and Eva the duck. The walk has grown in a big way from its humble beginnings in Watkins Glen, N.Y. nearly 25 years ago to 35 cities across North America including Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Calgary, Providence, Rochester, Milwaukee, Ottawa, Toronto, and Boston. Events will take place September 10 through November 6, but you can start raising money today for your team or individually.

Even if you’re not interested in the event, taking a moment to meet each animal shines some light on the extreme cruelty of some factory farms. It’s reason enough to show your support with a vegan or humanely vegetarian diet, eating dairy only when you know exactly where it comes from. Not just choosing organic, but small sustainable providers close to home.

More on Farm Sanctuary
Make Your Lover’s Heart Melt By “Adopting” a Deserving Farm Sanctuary Animal
Ellen DeGeneres Wants You to Adopt a Turkey This Holiday Season

SUPPORTING FOOD SECURITY IN NEW ORLEANS’ LOWER NINTH WARD

A Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans food project could promise real change to a struggling community. Our School at Blair Grocery is a Food Security Academy in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. According to Kickstarter, the school is working to provide a safe space where kids can come to learn, work, and cultivate sustainable foods in a part of the country that’s been hit hard by poverty, natural disasters, and a lack of basic resources.

Kickstarter is listing a seriously worthwhile project and you can help fund it. The school is working to raise $10,000 by August 2 to support their small but productive 1 acre farm in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.

Currently Our School at Blair Grocery is working with over 30 at risk kids to teach them the importance of sustainable farming and more importantly, how to farm.

Here’s what the money will go toward, according to Kickstarter:

100 yards of organic soil to supplement our compost
Seeds for sprouts, row crops, and heirloom vegetables
Hoophouses (inexpensive, quick-to-build greenhouses)
New bee hives and a new queen bee
10 new worm bins for vermicompost
Shovels, hoes, and rakes for students
Irrigation necessities: water meter, hoses, and sprinklers
Help support the project by August 2.

More on the Lower Ninth Ward
Built on Stilts: Images from the New Ninth Ward in New Orleans
Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation Unveils Floating House
Tom Darden on Making It Right in New Orleans

58 PERCENT OF CONSUMERS PREFER ORGANIC

A recent Thompson Reuters poll found that 58 percent of consumers prefer organic to conventional foods if given the choice, according to an article on Huffington Post. The numbers are highest in the young and educated segments of the population. But does this mean that we’re buying more organic than conventional? Not so fast.

Each month Thompson Reuters surveys about 3,000 people on varying health issues and this month the questions revolved around organic food. While Americans are more concerned with toxins and want to support more local farmers than ever before, cost seems to cause them to often make different choices. With world food prices growing as a result of increased demand, external conflict, and strange weather patterns, consumers are hesitant to buy organic which they deem more expensive.

According to NPR’s SHOTS:

A majority — 54 percent — say organic food is too expensive. Harsh weather and strong demand for all kinds of food are pushing prices higher across the board, as NPR’s Marilyn Geewax reported last month.

After price, the second-most common reason people prefer non-organics is that they’re more readily available, a sentiment expressed by 21 percent of respondents.

This is more than a little disheartening considering that while organic can be more expensive at the grocery store when compared to many conventional foods, there are many ways around this. Buying organic foods that are in season is always the best way to go. If you live in South Carolina and you buy a mango from Mexico or an avocado from Chili you’re bound to pay top dollar. So cook with what’s growing in your area and avoid organic foods that travel a long way to get to your plate. Secondly, consider joining a natural foods co-op where you can find organic foods at reduced prices in exchange for being a member and volunteering or join a CSA.

Support local farmers, organic or not, by making sure that they use sustainable practices in the growth and production of the foods you love. Cut out meat and dairy as much as possible, considering that these are often the most expensive items on your grocery list. And minimize your grocery list by removing as many processed foods, organic or not, from it. Processed foods are also pricey. These steps can have a HUGE impact on the prices you pay. Here are more tips for saving green while eating organic.

More on Organic Foods
Ask TreeHugger: Does An Organic Diet Matter?
TreeHugger Picks: Organic Food is Better
UN Report Released: Can Organic Farming Feed the World?

IS IT VEGAN? GELATIN MADE FROM HUMANS

It’s one of those truths that you’d rather not know. That bright red, orange, and green gelatin you slurped down as a child is actually made from animals. Vegans avoid it like the plague because it’s derived from the collagen in an animal’s skin and bones. But what if it was made from humans? How do you categorize it then?

According to a story on Inhabitat, scientists are experimenting on ways to derive gelatin from humans and their research will be appearing in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

The process the researchers perfected actually involves taking human gelatin genes and inserting them into a strain of yeast. With their technology they were able to grow gelatin with controllable features.

Though I’d be interested to know where the genes are derived. According to Science Daily, not only would this prevent the use of gelatin made from innumerable animals, it would also eliminate the risk of Mad Cow disease in addition to creating a predictable source of gelatin. Working with animal based gelatin is at times unpredictable because you don’t know how the end product will turn out.

Human-based gelatins are actually being studied for use in drug capsules and other medical applications for the most part, though marshmallows and neon gelatin molds are what I initially envisioned.

This is right up there with meat substitutes made from poop. I’m not sure how you categorize it either. It’s not plant-based but it’s not animal-based either. Or maybe it is animal-based depending on where you place humans. But don’t worry, you’re not eating your neighbor here.

More on Gelatin
What exactly is Jell-O made from?
What is Gelatin?
7 Common Hidden Animal-Derived Ingredients to Avoid

WHY ARE CATTLE DROUGHT DEATHS ACROSS TEXAS BEING BLAMED ON TOO MUCH WATER?

This summer has thus far been brutal across the nation. Drought and high temperatures are making life difficult for farmers and ranchers alike. And it’s no surprise that widespread drought in Texas specifically is causing the deaths of cattle, but the reason behind it is certainly unexpected. According to the Associated Press and seen on Accuweather.com, the deaths are caused by too much water. Cattle aren’t dehydrated in the way you would expect. Instead, they drink too much.

HOW MUCH PLASTIC DO FISH INGEST?

Our world is becoming more and more plastic each year. From toys to packaging to gadgets and bags, it’s not just that we produce more than 250 million tons each year around the world, but it’s the fact that little of what we produce is ever recycled, so much of it ends up littering our planet. Specifically, the oceans have ended up becoming a giant dump for our plastic waste; some seven million tons end up in our oceans. A new study, according to The New York Times, seeks to calculate just how much of that plastic ends up in fish.

In the north Pacific ocean alone between 12,000 and 24,000 tons of plastic end up in fish. This is 9 percent of fish found in the north Pacific, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego. Keep in mind that this does not include fish that die from ingesting plastic and it doesn’t include fish that pass the plastic through their systems. So in reality, the numbers are likely even higher than study calculations.

The study, published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, came to this conclusion by traveling hundreds of miles throughout the north Pacific Ocean testing fish along the way.

According to The New York Times:

The research team, including the authors of the study, Peter Davison and Rebecca Asch, traveled across hundreds of miles of the North Pacific ocean gyre, collecting fish specimens, water samples and marine debris at depths ranging from the surface to thousands of feet under. Just over 9 percent of the fish caught during the expedition had small pieces of plastic in their stomachs.

These findings are undoubtedly disturbing but they only include a small piece of the plastic pie. These huge numbers only tell the story of the north Pacific though other oceans likely have similar pollution problems.

The main challenge, said Mr. Woodring of Project Kaisei, is that the infrastructure for proper waste management and recycling “simply cannot keep pace with the exponential growth of plastic in our daily lives.”

Therefore, it ends up covering our planet and being ingested by a huge number of marine species, many of which die as a result.

More on Plastic and Oceans
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: “Out of Sight, Out of Mind”
“Recycled Island” Turns Ocean Plastic into a Paradise
PSA Shows Life in a Sea of Plastic

100 PERCENT BIODEGRADABLE EYEGLASSES MADE FROM HUMAN HAIR

What will they think of next? Two students from the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London have come up with biodegradable eyeglasses made from human hair. That’s right, they’re using your lovely locks as the main ingredient in eyeglass frames.

Studio Swine is using human hair as the main ingredient in their chic eyeglasses instead of petroleum-based, energy-intensive wire and plastic frames.

According to Eccouterre:

Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves’ aptly named “hair glasses,” however, tap into a readily available and renewable resource: the millions of pounds of hair cuttings that salons across the United Kingdom throw away each year.

The glasses contain hair and bioresin and are 100 percent biodegradable at the end of their life. The glasses are currently on exhibit at RCA in London.

More on Eyeglasses
Ask Pablo: What Is More Sustainable: Eyeglasses Or Contact Lenses?
Modo Breaks Out New, 95% Recycled Eyewear. But Are We Impressed?
Upcycled Eyewear Bridges the Conversation Gap

ORGANIC HOT DOG LABELS MISLEAD CONSUMERS

Just in time for the Fourth of July, let’s take a closer look at hot dogs. Are they dangerous? What about organic and natural products? Recently The New York Times examined some misleading hot dog labels. Consumers are especially concerned with avoiding nitrates and nitrites because of their link to cancer but it turns out confusing labeling could be giving us a false sense of security.

Nitrates and nitrites are used in the processing of meat to provide the color and taste we’ve all grown accustomed to in our dogs. They’re also used to kill bacteria and prevent botulism. Conventional hot dogs use sodium nitrite, the synthetic version of the additive, while natural and organic versions use celery powder or celery juice to preserve their product. But in fact both have healthy doses of nitrate, according to The New York Times.

The New York Times reports:

A study published earlier this year in The Journal of Food Protection found that natural hot dogs had anywhere from one-half to 10 times the amount of nitrite that conventional hot dogs contained. Natural bacon had from about a third as much nitrite as a conventional brand to more than twice as much.

Current labeling standards require products that use the non-synthetic source of nitrites and nitrates to say “Uncured” or “No nitrates or nitrites added,” when products are cured and nitrites and nitrates are added, just from a natural source. In fact, food manufacturers are pushing for more clear food labeling rather than the USDA, in order to clear the confusion with consumers.

Again The New York Times:

Applegate and other natural companies have proposed alternate wording to the U.S.D.A. in the past without success. They say they are confident their products offer enough other benefits — all natural ingredients, meeting the standards for the humane treatment of animals, for example — that it is best to be upfront with consumers about the preservatives. Ms. Boardman said tests showed the amount of nitrite and nitrate in Applegate products was similar to conventional brands.

Whether organic or not, processed meats should not be a regular part of your diet. In fact, studies have shown that they endanger your health. This holiday weekend why not consider grilling healthier like this grilled romaine, grilled tomato and eggplant, or Cambodian grilled corn? Tasty eats that are free of dangerous additives. Cheers to that.

More on Hot Dogs
Celebrate 4th of July the Vegan Way in Austin Texas
Jonathan Safron Foer Explains Why Hot Dog Makers Won’t Eat Hot Dogs on Colbert Report: (Video)
Just What We Needed Dept.: The Happy Hot Dog Man

STUDY: WEIGHT DEPENDS ON THE QUALITY OF YOUR DIET MORE THAN QUANTITY

A fascinating new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says that the quality of the foods that you eat has more to do with weight than the quantity of food. And you’ll never guess what food causes the most weight gain.

A new extensive study outlined the best and worst foods for a healthy body weight. Potato chips, it turns out are the worst food for weight gain causing more gain per serving than any other food. Yogurt led to the least weight gain. The authors of the study dispute the advice that staying lean is really just a matter of eating less and exercising more, stating that this notion alone could be naïve.

“For diet, conventional wisdom often recommends ‘everything in moderation,’ with a focus only on total calories consumed,” says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and lead author of the study. “Our results demonstrate that the quality of the diet — the types of food and beverages that one consumes — is strongly linked to weight gain.”

According to Time’s Healthland:

For each extra serving of potato chips eaten in a day, for instance, people gained 1.69 lbs. every four years, the study showed. Among the other extra-fattening foods it highlighted: potatoes of any kind — baked, boiled, mashed or French fried, each extra serving was associated with an average 1.28-lb. weight gain (looked at separately, however, French fries were particularly unhealthy, linked with more than 3 lbs. of gain alone). Rounding out the top five most fattening foods were sugar-sweetened beverages, red meat and processed red meat, each associated with about 1 lb. of weight gain every four years.

Refined sugars and white flours had a similar impact on weight overtime. The findings were based on three different studies following over 400,000 people.

High quality vegetarian foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains led to the least weight gain. Other factors including watching too much television, sleep, inactivity, and alcohol consumption not surprisingly also impacted weight gain over the years.

Science is proving not surprisingly that eating a diet loaded with unprocessed foods overtime impacts weight gain in a positive light not just calorie control. The less processed, the less impact on the planet as well. And if you want to enjoy a diet rich in fruits, veggies, and high quality dairy, choose one that’s sourced close to home. You’ll find your local bounty tastes SO much better and fewer fossil fuels were wasted in transport.

More on Weight Loss
6 Wacky Ways America Battled the Bulge Last Year
New Anti-Obesity Housing Unveiled in New York
7 Ways To Slim Down Instead of Blowing Up on Summer Vacation

SENATE INTRODUCES BILL TO LIMIT USE OF ANTIBIOTICS IN LIVESTOCK

Antibiotic resistance has finally made its way onto the Senate radar again and with good reason considering that we’ve seen antibiotic resistance across British farms and this year in US hospitals and nursing homes to name just a few. It’s a problem that’s only getting worse with the expanded overuse of antibiotics. It’s this practice that a Senate bill is looking to limit with the re-introduction of The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA).

According to Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the primary sponsor for PAMTA, reported on Civil Eats. “[t]he effectiveness of antibiotics for humans is jeopardized when they are used to fatten healthy pigs or speed the growth of chickens. This is a basic food safety initiative that would phase out the misuse of these drugs so that food in supermarkets across America will not spread strains of drug-resistant bacteria.”

The Federal Register outlined how the sub therapeutic use of antibiotics actually causes resistance:

Misuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs creates selective evolutionary pressure that enables antimicrobial resistant bacteria to increase in numbers more rapidly than antimicrobial susceptible bacteria and thus increases the opportunity for individuals to become infected by resistant bacteria.

According to the FDA, 80 percent of the antibiotics produced in this country are used in animal agriculture. This amount is estimated to be more than four times the amount of drugs used to treat human illness.

The bill, which Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), all have worked together on was outlined by Civil Eats and does the following:

Phases out the non-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics in livestock;
Requires new applications for animal antibiotics to demonstrate the use of the antibiotic will not endanger public health;
Does not restrict the use of antibiotics to treat sick livestock or to treat pets.
“PAMTA will limit the agricultural use of seven types of antibiotics that have been identified by the Food and Drug Administration as critically important in human medicine to ensure that antibiotic-resistance is not inadvertently accelerated,” according to Feinstein’s office.

Let’s hope that this time it gets some traction.

More on Antibiotics
Denmark Drastically Limits Antibiotics in Livestock: Here’s Why
The FDA Releases the Amount of Antibiotics Used in Factory Farmed Livestock and It’s a Ton
Can We Get Antibiotics Out of the Meat Industry?

Technology - Green Technology Articles

SUNGEVITY’S SOLAR POPSICLE TRUCK PROMISES MORE THAN JUST A COOL TREAT

It’s a perfect storm for expansion in the solar leasing business which has led the smallest of the big three solar lease providers to march eastward. Sungevity credits high energy costs, especially in some of the Northeastern states, with new found interest. We’re moving beyond ethical principles and onto economics. Sungevity is showing consumers that they can cool down on the cheap by pushing popsicles in a biodiesel solar powered ice pop truck, while at the same time reminding them that solar power is no longer out of their financial reach.

Aptly named the “Rooftop Revolution,” Sungevity’s solar powered popsicle truck will be hitting up farmers’ markets, festivals, and other public events in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Delaware, hoping to seize up business that’s moved far beyond their humble start in Oakland, Calif. Sungevity has made their mark by offering customers a low budget way into the solar market with zero money down solar leases. Sungevity also offers online quotes so that customers know immediately how much they can save through installation. In fact, their ice pop truck is equipped with iPads so that iQuotes can be done at no charge onsite.

“Sungevity’s ‘Rooftop Revolution’ is a true first in the solar industry and drives directly to what we believe – that going solar is a lifestyle choice that makes dollars and sense,” said Patrick Crane, Chief Marketing Officer at Sungevity.

Solar Poised for Expansion
According to Huffington Post, solar power lease agreements are growing in popularity because the solar company assumes much of the upfront costs of installation and ownership making it a more realistic endeavor for a host of customers that once found it too pricey. While some of their business does come from full solar installations, the boom is born out of their solar lease programs. USA Today reports that high electricity bills across the board are motivating those who have never before thought solar to jump right in.

“We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the price of solar power over the past year,” said the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Tom Kimbis to USA Today. “That has helped residential and commercial use of solar.”

According to a Sungevity press release, a Harris Interactive poll found that 71 percent of U.S. adults are “overwhelmed” by rising energy costs and an “estimated 9.4 million expected to consider solar power in the next five years.”

State Solar Incentives
Incentives for solar are increasing as well. It’s no coincidence that Sungevity chose expansion where they did. According to Clean Technica, Maryland has started to increase solar rebates and so has New Jersey and Massachusetts. In fact, Massachusetts will offset $68 million for the cost of PV systems, especially in schools and government buildings.

Even in a struggling economy there’s a clear opening for a less expensive solar market and Sungevity isn’t the first to make the move. Big competitors SunRun and SolarCity have also begun eastward expansion. But Sungevity hopes to make a dent in the market with the help of its delicious strawberry, mango and hibiscus mint popsicles on a hot summer day. It’s cool treat with a host of incentives.

Like this? Follow my Twitter feed.

More on Solar Leasing
Lowe’s Buys Into Sungevity, Will Offer Solar Quotes in Stores
No Money Down Solar Lease Program Announced in Connecticut
Solar City Offering No Money Down, Residential Solar Panel Leases In California

100 PERCENT BIODEGRADABLE EYEGLASSES MADE FROM HUMAN HAIR

What will they think of next? Two students from the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London have come up with biodegradable eyeglasses made from human hair. That’s right, they’re using your lovely locks as the main ingredient in eyeglass frames.

Studio Swine is using human hair as the main ingredient in their chic eyeglasses instead of petroleum-based, energy-intensive wire and plastic frames.

According to Eccouterre:

Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves’ aptly named “hair glasses,” however, tap into a readily available and renewable resource: the millions of pounds of hair cuttings that salons across the United Kingdom throw away each year.

The glasses contain hair and bioresin and are 100 percent biodegradable at the end of their life. The glasses are currently on exhibit at RCA in London.

Like this? Follow my Twitter feed.

More on Eyeglasses
Ask Pablo: What Is More Sustainable: Eyeglasses Or Contact Lenses?
Modo Breaks Out New, 95% Recycled Eyewear. But Are We Impressed?
Upcycled Eyewear Bridges the Conversation Gap

PRO SURFER KYLE THIERMANN, JACK JOHNSON, AND OTHERS ON ‘TOXIC TUMBLEWEEDS’ AND MORE SINGLE-USE PLASTICS

Plastic has most certainly been demonized over the past decade and with good reason. But even still, we spend roughly $100 billion every year on bottled water. And that’s just plastic water bottles. Single-use plastics have caused devastating repercussions to our planet to put it mildly. But what may surprise you is that our own Hawaiian Islands, especially the east side of Oahu, have become a filter in the Pacific Ocean for plastic waste from the mainland.

GRASS IS GREEN, GO GREEN AND MOVE THAT GAS MOWER OVER

t’s time to see just how green the grass can be on your side of the fence. That’s right, AQMD is sponsoring a lawn mower exchange program throughout California, checkout the availability in your area. So you are used to that old gas mower, and are afraid of missing it, but why? Is it the smell of the gas you spilled on your clothes or hands? Maybe it’s way you are partially deaf for the hour following each use. No? Well maybe it’s the ‘tug, tug, choke, tug’ it takes to get the mower going. Whatever your reason is, here is what it isn’t:

“Based in reality.”

With the deal that the AQMD has negotiated you can get a $300-$600 electric mower for as little as $40! That is, unless you are like me and go for the BIG one, the 36v Black&Decker battery powered, that’s right friends no tangled extension cords, for a price of only $170 with the exchange of your old noisy gas mower. So what are just a few of the benefits?

So you are sold on the idea now and want to know how to get yours. It’s actually quite simple just visit this website for more information:
https://www.pelouse-gazon.com

Make sure to check the site now so you can get registered for the event in your area.

SUSTAINABLE BLOOM ENERGY

Bloom Energy, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California has developed an incredible technology that traces its roots to NASA’s Mars program. This technology is one of the few available that saves you money and helps you to go green at the same time. Not many people are willing to pay to take there home, company, or organization to the ‘green side’, but what if you can be more environmentally cautious and save money in the process.

If you are thinking this sounds like a great opportunity then you are in good company. There are a number of companies already taking advantage of this technology such as: Google, eBay, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and FedEX to name a few. So you might be wondered, what exactly is this technology all about? Well let me start by saying, as an electrician, what they have developed is truly incredible.

Bloom’s Energy Servers are truly revolutionary in the way they help you to lower your energy costs and improve your energy reliability all while helping to save the environment at the same time. Their Bloom Electron Service offers you the ability to start small and pay as you go. You have the opportunity to eliminate up front costs and simply pay for the electricity that you use. For those looking to maximize the return on their investment they have the opportunity to purchase the equipment outright eliminating the need to pay for consumption.

Due to the fact they have a simple modular, building block system it is easy to install, maintain, and upgrade. Visit http://www.bloomenergy.com/ to find out more information today.

Fun Fact: With this technology a box the size a snow globe can power a European home, two boxes the same size can power an American home.

MASSIVE ETHICAL BUSINESS STRATEGY REVEALED BY COOPERATIVE GIANT

From Wal-Mart’s controversial sustainability efforts to Marks & Spencer’s aggressive Plan A program, there have been some major top-down green strategies revealed in the business world. But one chain of supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and more is setting out on an incredible effort to embrace green business. From cutting carbon emissions 35% by 2017, through tackling poverty, to purchasing 90% of its developing-world primary commodities from Fair Trade suppliers, this is big, big news.

According to the Guardian, the UK-based Co-operative Group—which is a member-owned mega cooperative running supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, car dealerships, travel agencies and more—is setting out on a corporate journey that it hopes will provide a “benchmark for corporate responsibility”. As Tom Bawden explains, the idea is to tackle every possible angle of greener, fairer business:

“The group, which employs 120,000 staff, also plans to increase its membership from 6 million to 20 million and double its support for green energy to £1bn. In addition, it will increase its involvement with schools and create 2,000 apprenticeships in the next few years, as well as invest £5m a year to tackle poverty around its stores and branches.”

As a democratically controlled, member owned cooperative, The Coop has always had a strong ethical angle to everything it does. But this is clearly a move intended to regain the “ethical” momentum from other high street retailers and I for one am all for it. Competition, as we know, is a great motivator—and what better thing to compete over than who can do the least damage and the most good at the same time.

So who’s next?

More on Sustainable Business Initiatives
Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Initiatives Explained
Marks & Spencer Reveals Plan A
Tesco Turns Meat into Electricity

SOLAR SUPERHEROES WANTED: WIN A TRIP TO AFRICA (VIDEO)

From solar transforming school performance in East Africa to creating hundreds of solar entrepreneurs in developing countries, the work of Solar Aid tackles development, clean energy and climate change at the same time. They are also getting pretty innovative in their fund raising efforts too. Their latest effort sees them recruiting real live superheroes who can fly bikes, meditate underwater, throw offgrid parties, and even make it rain in England. It’s impressive stuff.

IS URBAN WIND TURBINE UK’S “MOST USELESS?”

Ecotricity has long been known for building urban wind turbines on brownfield sites. Perhaps their most famous turbine sits just outside London on the M4 motorway (highway) at Green Park industrial complex in Reading. But while the Green Park turbine may have made our slideshow of stunning urban wind turbines, and it gets many people excited to see renewable energy generation that doesn’t have to spoil the view, others are claiming that this landmark is “the most useless” turbine in the country.

Wind Turbine inefficient and Expensive?
According to Britain’s tabloid Daily Mail, the Green Park turbine is producing woefully inefficient electricity. It has, says the Mail, been working at “15 per cent of its capacity” last year, producing GB£100,000 worth of electricity, but using up GB£130,000 worth of Government subsidies to do so.

Is Wind Power “Efficiency” Relevant?
Unsurprisingly, the turbine owners Ecotricity say that this is a load of anti-wind-power, anti-green spin (pun intended). They claim the estimates of revenue generated are wrong (although they do not give a figure for the right amount), but more importantly when it comes to the wider wind-power debate, they claim that the incessant focus from wind critics on load factors, and efficiency measured by percentage of actual output versus maximum output, is a deceptive and pointless statistical trick.

This from Dale Vince’s response to The Daily Mail:

“Opponents of wind energy often refer to their load factor or the % of their maximum output that they produce in a year. It’s a statistical nonsense to use this figure as a measure of the value or merit of any device or machine. Take the average car – it runs at less than 1% of it’s maximum capacity in any given year. A mobile phone, even a heavy user will struggle to rack up more than low single figure percentages. Are these devices inefficient or worthless….?”

Yes, this is the same Dale Vince making headlines by banning red meat from an entire soccer stadium. Outspoken, no?

More on Wind Power and Opposition to Wind
Ecotricity: 20 More Urban Wind Projects Planned
Stunning Urban Wind Turbines Circumvent NIMBYs
Residents Demand More Wind Turbines
NIMBYs in Minority? Many Residents Welcome Wind Turbines
Cape Wind Faces Spiritual Opposition from Native Americans
Earth First! in Anti Wind-Power Protests

EFFICIENT COOK STOVE MOVEMENT FACES DIVERGING APPROACHES

Rocket Stove Science
NPR has a great piece covering both the principles and the politics of the rocket stove. The article is a useful starting point for anyone wondering why rocket stoves are quite so efficient:

“The stove is made from a steel 55-gallon drum, but that belies the precision engineering of what’s inside. A well-insulated combustion chamber made out of a special steel alloy concentrates the fire of just a few sticks of wood. The combustion is more complete than what you’d get in an open fire, burning the particles that usually become smoke. The hot gases are directed around the cookpot. As the water boils, the stove’s metal skin and stovepipe barely get warm, an indication of how little heat is wasted.”

Rocket Stove Politics
Besides the mechanics of the stove though, there is also a philosophical debate underway. On the one hand we find traditionalist NGOs like Aprovecho which have championed open-source, locally-built cook stoves, with the idea that by seeding micro-entrepreneurs around the Globe you can both hone the efficiency of stoves, and also create economic development in the process.

On the other hand, however, are people who argue that the need is too urgent, and progress too slow, not to opt for a more commercial solution:

“There have been thousands of stoves programs; I’m familiar with hundreds of them,” says Bryan Willson, a professor of mechanical engineering at Colorado State University. “And it’s hard to identify programs that have been successful.” Willson says it’s time to bring 21st century capitalism to bear. “There’s a global need for 500 or 600 million cookstoves,” he says. “And nobody is willing to write a big enough check to donate our way to that solution. So we really need to be able to develop products that people will want to buy.”

Willson and his team started a company called Envirofit which manufactures clean-burning cookstoves for the developing world—and even Aprovecho has developed a stove-manufacturing arm.

False Choice?
Ultimately, as with so many things, it seems to be a false choice between the open-source, grass-roots approach of teaching people to build their own stove, versus the centralized, commercial yet efficient approach. Most likely both will serve their purpose in different communities, and with over half the world still cooking with solid fuels, the main thing is to get moving.

More on Efficient Cook Stoves
Envirofit & Shell Create Efficient Cook Stoves for India
Rocket Stoives: Build Your Own Ultra-Efficient Cook Stove (Video)
Rocket Stoves Aid Relief Effort in Haiti
The New Yorker on Efforts to Hone Efficient Cook Stove Design

PEAK OIL & OUR CULTURE OF DENIAL

via internet business politics

Brian Merchant already reported on WikiLeaks revelations about Saudi Oil reserves being overstated by 40%, a claim that could mean that Peak Oil would be upon us as early as 2012. Now Jeremy Leggett over at The Guardian is also raising the alarm, arguing that we are asleep at the wheel when it comes to peak oil, and unless we address this issue now, we could be facing a threat much worse than any credit crunch. “Peak oil is not a theory.” says Leggett. “Because oil is a finite resource, it is an inevitability.” Hear, hear [spelling corrected thanks to comments…].

Development - Architecture, Construction, Design

RANDOM USDA TESTING FINDS 34 UNAPPROVED PESTICIDES ON CILANTRO

Hold the guacamole for just a moment and make sure that your cilantro is organic. Food safety came front and center this week when random USDA testing found 34 different varieties of pesticide residue atop a batch of conventional cilantro.

The Chicago Tribune reports that when the USDA randomly tested a batch of cilantro for the first time in its 20 year program, it found 34 unapproved pesticides.

According to the story:

Azoxystrobin and captan are legal for use on potatoes but were found 16 times at levels that exceeded federal limits, the most such detections in this round of testing. Next on the list for excessive amounts of legal pesticides were imported asparagus and domestic spinach.

“We would not pooh-pooh these violations,” said Roy, of the FDA. “They all constitute adulterated food. But we are also talking about a relatively minor food. … We have to be risk-based and apply our main resources to foods consumed most often by infants and children — and those are your major fresh fruits and vegetables.”

I don’t consider cilantro a minor food at all. It’s used in tons of recipes, especially in the summer time. But at least medical experts are beginning to refer to the risk of pesticide residue.

Again, the Chicago Tribune:

Some medical experts, however, are increasingly concerned about even low-level exposure to pesticides, especially in utero.

“The story of pesticides in food is part of a larger story of our growing knowledge of the exquisite vulnerability of the developing human brain to pesticides and other toxic chemicals,” said Dr. Phillip Landrigan, director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Along with colleagues, he has been researching the effects of chlorpyrifros on humans.

Why calculate risks when you can simply buy it organically grown without dangerous levels of pesticide residue? Or better yet, grow it on your back porch or in your garden.

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More on Pesticide Residue
Avoid Pesticides in Fruit and Veggies
In Utero Pesticide Exposure Increases Risk of ADHD
Produce Industry Mounts Campaign to Entice Us Back to Conventional Pesticide-Loaded Fruits and Veggies

SUSTAINABLE BLOOM ENERGY

Bloom Energy, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California has developed an incredible technology that traces its roots to NASA’s Mars program. This technology is one of the few available that saves you money and helps you to go green at the same time. Not many people are willing to pay to take there home, company, or organization to the ‘green side’, but what if you can be more environmentally cautious and save money in the process.

If you are thinking this sounds like a great opportunity then you are in good company. There are a number of companies already taking advantage of this technology such as: Google, eBay, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and FedEX to name a few. So you might be wondered, what exactly is this technology all about? Well let me start by saying, as an electrician, what they have developed is truly incredible.

Bloom’s Energy Servers are truly revolutionary in the way they help you to lower your energy costs and improve your energy reliability all while helping to save the environment at the same time. Their Bloom Electron Service offers you the ability to start small and pay as you go. You have the opportunity to eliminate up front costs and simply pay for the electricity that you use. For those looking to maximize the return on their investment they have the opportunity to purchase the equipment outright eliminating the need to pay for consumption.

Due to the fact they have a simple modular, building block system it is easy to install, maintain, and upgrade. Visit http://www.bloomenergy.com/ to find out more information today.

Fun Fact: With this technology a box the size a snow globe can power a European home, two boxes the same size can power an American home.

MUST CEILING FANS BE SO FUGLY? READERS PLEASE HELP…

Ceiling fans may have made it into our top 10 ways to keep your house cool, but boy is it hard to find one that doesn’t look like a ridiculously over-ornate blob. True, Collin’s batman ceiling fan was pretty awesome, and the sycamore-shaped ceiling fan has a certain something to it, but for a product with such potential to save energy, the ceiling fan could sure do with a makeover if we want it to remain mainstream. Maybe our readers could help…

My wife and I have long marveled at the white, eighties ugliness of the ceiling fans that came with our home. They look like there’s some kind of alien flying wedding cake levitating in the middle of the room. But, try as we might, we’ve found very few alternatives that look any better.

Type “ceiling fans” into Google and then search through the top entries or head down to your local hardware store, and you’ll most likely see what I mean. It seems that whoever designs ceiling fans seems to think that fake, retro country antique or ultra-modern space age minimalism are the only too directions you can go. (Let’s leave out the Jimmy Buffetesque palm leaves and such for now, we don’t even need to go there…)

This may just come across as a frustrated rant, but there is a serious sustainability question at stake here. As the rise of local organic food has shown, green will only become popular if it offers a superior experience to the mainstream. Sure, people might not care if their HVAC system out the back of the house looks ugly, but if we are asking folks to hang a gigantic contraption from the center of their living room in order to save energy, we sure as heck should be able to make one that looks good.

But then it hit me. TreeHugger is blessed with wise, sophisticated and tasteful readers, so why not throw out the challenge—surely somebody, somewhere must know of a ceiling fan that doesn’t suck. Please share your knowledge in the comments below.

UPDATE: Fellow Treehugger Chris alerted me to Web Urbanist’s round up of cool and unusual ceiling fans. With the exception of Fanimation’s sophisticated looking fans, however, most of these look like the designer was on drugs. I’m still looking…

More on Ceiling Fans and Green Home Cooling
Sycamore Ceiling Fan: Works Smarter, Not Harder
Holy Ceiling Fan, Batman!
10 Overlooked Low-Tech Ways to Keep Your House Cool

IS URBAN WIND TURBINE UK’S “MOST USELESS?”

Ecotricity has long been known for building urban wind turbines on brownfield sites. Perhaps their most famous turbine sits just outside London on the M4 motorway (highway) at Green Park industrial complex in Reading. But while the Green Park turbine may have made our slideshow of stunning urban wind turbines, and it gets many people excited to see renewable energy generation that doesn’t have to spoil the view, others are claiming that this landmark is “the most useless” turbine in the country.

Wind Turbine inefficient and Expensive?
According to Britain’s tabloid Daily Mail, the Green Park turbine is producing woefully inefficient electricity. It has, says the Mail, been working at “15 per cent of its capacity” last year, producing GB£100,000 worth of electricity, but using up GB£130,000 worth of Government subsidies to do so.

Is Wind Power “Efficiency” Relevant?
Unsurprisingly, the turbine owners Ecotricity say that this is a load of anti-wind-power, anti-green spin (pun intended). They claim the estimates of revenue generated are wrong (although they do not give a figure for the right amount), but more importantly when it comes to the wider wind-power debate, they claim that the incessant focus from wind critics on load factors, and efficiency measured by percentage of actual output versus maximum output, is a deceptive and pointless statistical trick.

This from Dale Vince’s response to The Daily Mail:

“Opponents of wind energy often refer to their load factor or the % of their maximum output that they produce in a year. It’s a statistical nonsense to use this figure as a measure of the value or merit of any device or machine. Take the average car – it runs at less than 1% of it’s maximum capacity in any given year. A mobile phone, even a heavy user will struggle to rack up more than low single figure percentages. Are these devices inefficient or worthless….?”

Yes, this is the same Dale Vince making headlines by banning red meat from an entire soccer stadium. Outspoken, no?

More on Wind Power and Opposition to Wind
Ecotricity: 20 More Urban Wind Projects Planned
Stunning Urban Wind Turbines Circumvent NIMBYs
Residents Demand More Wind Turbines
NIMBYs in Minority? Many Residents Welcome Wind Turbines
Cape Wind Faces Spiritual Opposition from Native Americans
Earth First! in Anti Wind-Power Protests

EFFICIENT COOK STOVE MOVEMENT FACES DIVERGING APPROACHES

Rocket Stove Science
NPR has a great piece covering both the principles and the politics of the rocket stove. The article is a useful starting point for anyone wondering why rocket stoves are quite so efficient:

“The stove is made from a steel 55-gallon drum, but that belies the precision engineering of what’s inside. A well-insulated combustion chamber made out of a special steel alloy concentrates the fire of just a few sticks of wood. The combustion is more complete than what you’d get in an open fire, burning the particles that usually become smoke. The hot gases are directed around the cookpot. As the water boils, the stove’s metal skin and stovepipe barely get warm, an indication of how little heat is wasted.”

Rocket Stove Politics
Besides the mechanics of the stove though, there is also a philosophical debate underway. On the one hand we find traditionalist NGOs like Aprovecho which have championed open-source, locally-built cook stoves, with the idea that by seeding micro-entrepreneurs around the Globe you can both hone the efficiency of stoves, and also create economic development in the process.

On the other hand, however, are people who argue that the need is too urgent, and progress too slow, not to opt for a more commercial solution:

“There have been thousands of stoves programs; I’m familiar with hundreds of them,” says Bryan Willson, a professor of mechanical engineering at Colorado State University. “And it’s hard to identify programs that have been successful.” Willson says it’s time to bring 21st century capitalism to bear. “There’s a global need for 500 or 600 million cookstoves,” he says. “And nobody is willing to write a big enough check to donate our way to that solution. So we really need to be able to develop products that people will want to buy.”

Willson and his team started a company called Envirofit which manufactures clean-burning cookstoves for the developing world—and even Aprovecho has developed a stove-manufacturing arm.

False Choice?
Ultimately, as with so many things, it seems to be a false choice between the open-source, grass-roots approach of teaching people to build their own stove, versus the centralized, commercial yet efficient approach. Most likely both will serve their purpose in different communities, and with over half the world still cooking with solid fuels, the main thing is to get moving.

More on Efficient Cook Stoves
Envirofit & Shell Create Efficient Cook Stoves for India
Rocket Stoives: Build Your Own Ultra-Efficient Cook Stove (Video)
Rocket Stoves Aid Relief Effort in Haiti
The New Yorker on Efforts to Hone Efficient Cook Stove Design

POTATO DAY CELEBRATES BIODIVERSITY IN THE GARDEN (VIDEO)

Biodiversity in the Garden
Much like Seedy Sunday’s massive seed swap, the idea behind Potato Day is not just to celebrate the diversity of varieties available, but to actively promote their use—keeping this diversity as a living, evolving collective treasure. After all, potatoes are a highly nutritious staple in much of the world—with some experts even claiming that an increased consumption of potatoes could help us feed the world.

Food Security in Challenging Times
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its focus on food security and resilience, the Transition Movement—a community-led response to peak oil and climate change—has embraced the Potato Day and helped it to spread. Below is a video of Potato Day activists in action as part of Transition Stroud’s efforts to increase food growing in the community.

It must be my British blood, but even the sight of seed potatoes makes me crave malt vinegar…

More on Potatoes, Potato Day, and Biodiversity in the Garden
Can the Potato Feed the World?
It’s Potato Day in England
Potato Day
Massive Seed Swap Keeps Biodiversity Growing

HOW TO COMPOST INDOORS (VIDEO)

From NatureMill’s high-tech indoor composter, to building your own worm bin, there are plenty of options for the would-be composter who doesn’t have a yard, or who would just like to keep composting through the winter. The video below gives a very basic, cheap methodology for building your own compost bin. Apparently you need some thin mints to do it…

OK, so the thin mint joke is kinda goofy, but this is a classic example of just how easy composting can be. While you can get all worked up about the correct ratios of nitrogen to carbon, or temperatures, or any number of other things, I always appreciate compost enthusiasts who accept that compost basically happens.

Using little more than some leaves, some coffee grounds, some dirt and some water, Praxxtube shows us how to make smell-free, almost mess-free compost in a plastic bucket.

Anyone tried this at home?

More on Composting at Home
Build Your Own Worm Bin (Video)
Compost Conundrum: Backyard Bin, Can-O-Worms or Indoor Composter?
How to Make Compost Tea & Why You Should

HOW ‘GOING GREEN’ CAN HELP YOUR HOME, SMALL BUSINESS, OR INSTITUTION

Whether you are a renter or a homeowner, run a small business or a large institution, when it comes to going green there is something for everybody. Going green encompasses a vast area of topics. From plumbing to electrical, and landscaping to recycling, the list is so long that it can be difficult to decide where to begin.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you are the homeowner on a shoestring budget, or the president of a major institution with no room left in the budget for the next decade, there is one place anyone can start, your “luminaires”. What are luminaires? Simply put, a luminaire is a ‘complete light unit’, that is to say a lamp, light fixture, etc.

Why are lights so important? Simple they return the highest savings yield for the least investment. Actually, if you are reading this in hopes of finding out how to help your business or institution, you are in luck. In your case you can likely get this all done without adding one dollar to your budget.

There are contractors whose entire business model is built upon the structure of changing out 100% of your lighting without charging you anything upfront. Additionally, there is no need to change your budget to accommodate repayment for their work as the money is already in your budget. Where is this hidden money in your budget? Simple, it’s in your electric bill.

That’s right, lighting alone can reduce the price of your electric bill by 50%, and by redirecting this savings, you repay the contractor never having to come up with the capital to pay for the lighting retrofit yourself. After about 3 years of paying the 20-50% savings amount of your electric bill to your contractor, 100% of the savings is then yours, with about 2 years left on the warranty.

All this was accomplished without paying a dime more than you were already dishing out to Edison each month anyways. So don’t get discouraged with the hand powered drills, and that new AC unit just yet, you may just find that a lighting retrofit is exactly what you need to brighten up your life without lightening up your wallet!

PROCTER & GAMBLE BUILDS A WIND TURBINE AT ITS COEVORDEN PLANT (VIDEO)

Good Start, But Don’t Stop There
Procter & Gamble was founded in 1837, and since then it has grown to a market cap of over 180 billion dollars by making mostly consumer good, a lot of them of the disposable kind (paper towels, razor blades, diapers, etc). It’s certainly not the greenest company, but it’s not the worst either, and in this post, I want to take the “carrot” approach rather than the “stick”. Let’s look at a good thing that P&G just did and encourage them to go much further…

The company built a wind turbine at its Coevorden plant in the Netherlands and installed solar panels at its Beauty & Grooming plant in Cologne, Germany. The video above shows the construction of the wind turbine, saying that P&G “long term vision” is to go “100% renewable energy”.

Switch “Long-Term” for “Short-Term”
How about making that a short-term plan? Instead of making enough wind power capacity to produce 17% of a plant’s needs, how about 100% for that plant, and then moving on to the next one, and so on. How about making fewer disposable products and using greener chemicals in your soaps, implementing zero-waste policies in your factories, etc…? Now that’s a powerful vision that would position P&G for the next 200 years. They certainly have the cash to do it, and it would mostly be a one-time investment (the wind and sun are free, after all).

You have to aim higher than this, P&G.

Via P&G

More on Wind Power
Wind Turbines Might Help Crops Absorb More CO2, Fight Fungal Infections, Etc
Base Jumping Off Wind Turbines Is Insane (Video)
Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Orders 258 Wind Turbines for Iowa Wind Farm
Driving Through a Huge Wind Farm in Indiana (Video)
We Could Have 10 MW Wind Turbines by 2011 and 15 MW Turbines by 2020

Tranportation - Cycling, Hybrids, Public transit

SUNGEVITY’S SOLAR POPSICLE TRUCK PROMISES MORE THAN JUST A COOL TREAT

It’s a perfect storm for expansion in the solar leasing business which has led the smallest of the big three solar lease providers to march eastward. Sungevity credits high energy costs, especially in some of the Northeastern states, with new found interest. We’re moving beyond ethical principles and onto economics. Sungevity is showing consumers that they can cool down on the cheap by pushing popsicles in a biodiesel solar powered ice pop truck, while at the same time reminding them that solar power is no longer out of their financial reach.

Aptly named the “Rooftop Revolution,” Sungevity’s solar powered popsicle truck will be hitting up farmers’ markets, festivals, and other public events in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Delaware, hoping to seize up business that’s moved far beyond their humble start in Oakland, Calif. Sungevity has made their mark by offering customers a low budget way into the solar market with zero money down solar leases. Sungevity also offers online quotes so that customers know immediately how much they can save through installation. In fact, their ice pop truck is equipped with iPads so that iQuotes can be done at no charge onsite.

sungevity solar ice pop truck roof photo
Photo: Mat McDermott

“Sungevity’s ‘Rooftop Revolution’ is a true first in the solar industry and drives directly to what we believe – that going solar is a lifestyle choice that makes dollars and sense,” said Patrick Crane, Chief Marketing Officer at Sungevity.

Solar Poised for Expansion
According to Huffington Post, solar power lease agreements are growing in popularity because the solar company assumes much of the upfront costs of installation and ownership making it a more realistic endeavor for a host of customers that once found it too pricey. While some of their business does come from full solar installations, the boom is born out of their solar lease programs. USA Today reports that high electricity bills across the board are motivating those who have never before thought solar to jump right in.

“We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the price of solar power over the past year,” said the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Tom Kimbis to USA Today. “That has helped residential and commercial use of solar.”

According to a Sungevity press release, a Harris Interactive poll found that 71 percent of U.S. adults are “overwhelmed” by rising energy costs and an “estimated 9.4 million expected to consider solar power in the next five years.”

State Solar Incentives
Incentives for solar are increasing as well. It’s no coincidence that Sungevity chose expansion where they did. According to Clean Technica, Maryland has started to increase solar rebates and so has New Jersey and Massachusetts. In fact, Massachusetts will offset $68 million for the cost of PV systems, especially in schools and government buildings.

Even in a struggling economy there’s a clear opening for a less expensive solar market and Sungevity isn’t the first to make the move. Big competitors SunRun and SolarCity have also begun eastward expansion. But Sungevity hopes to make a dent in the market with the help of its delicious strawberry, mango and hibiscus mint popsicles on a hot summer day. It’s cool treat with a host of incentives.

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More on Solar Leasing
Lowe’s Buys Into Sungevity, Will Offer Solar Quotes in Stores
No Money Down Solar Lease Program Announced in Connecticut
Solar City Offering No Money Down, Residential Solar Panel Leases In California

HIGH FOOD PRICES TRIGGER CHANGES TO FAIR TRADE COFFEE

Food prices are no doubt sky rocketing and the impact is being felt around the globe. And foods like coffee, more specifically Fair Trade certified, are feeling the pains as well, according to Food Navigator. Read on to see how Fairtrade International (FLO) is reacting to high food prices.

FLO has increased required price gaps for Fair Trade coffees as the cost of coffee commodities sees its highest prices since 1977. This reduces the sting of high food prices for Fair Trade certified farmers that have had trouble making ends meet as a result of poor harvests and farmers that had signed price contracts before food prices hit their record highs earlier this year.

According to Food Navigator:

FLO has decided to amend its coffee standards to bring greater stability to Fairtrade coffee supply chains, ensure greater fairness in market gains and protect farmers when prices fall. The changes come into effect for contracts signed on or after 1 April this year.

The cost of coffee has gone up in response to both poor harvests and the fear of poor harvests because a decrease in the amount of the commodity means an increase in the price on the market. Increasing the set price paid to farmers is crucial to ensuring that farmers continue to be willing to sign fair trade contracts which ensure better wages as well as stricter environmental standards.

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More on Fair Trade Coffee
Starbucks Challenge: Fair Trade Coffee
Fair Trade Coffee In Bloom
Starbucks’ Farmers Discuss the Impact of Fairtrade

MONBIOT: BIOFUELS FOR ELECTRICITY IS “ECO VANDALISM”

Monbiot reports over at The Guardian on controversial plans for a biofuels-burning power plant in Bristol, England. While he still opposes biofuels for most applications in transportation, he does admit that this is a response to a problem with a limited set of options—namely finding a liquid fuel replacement for gasoline that can be used in moving vehicles.

Making electricity, however, has no such limitations, with renewables, nuclear, gas and even coal providing an environmentally preferable solution. Using edible oils for power is, says Monbiot, “eco-vandalism on a staggering scale.” Furthermore, he argues, this situation is being entirely brought about by perverse subsidies as the result of misdirected Government action:

“…you get twice as many certificates for producing a given amount of electricity from vegetable oil as you do by generating it from wind, even though it’s far less green, and far less renewable. This situation is entirely an artefact of government policy and it’s time the government brought it to an end.”

More on Biofuels and Environmental Damage
The Dangers of Biofuels
Palm Oil Giant Agrees to Set More Sustainable Standards in Indonesia
Biofuels Comparison Chart: The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly

EVEN MORE COAL ASH POISON FOUND IN DRINKING WATER

TN coal ash photo
The December 2008 Tennessee coal ash spill. Photo Credit: Lyndsay Moseley, Sierra Club

The words “hexavalent chromium” may not be ones you come across everyday, but they have made the news before. The deadly toxin first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now, new information from a joint report indicates that this chemical leaks readily from leaking coal ash dump sites maintained for coal-fired power plants.

The joint report (PDF) comes from public interest law firm Earthjustice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Environmental Integrity Project and the Sierra Club.

Coal ash is the by-product of burning coal for power, and there are hundreds of coal ash wet and dry storage sites around the U.S. Hexavalent chromium is a highly toxic carcinogen when inhaled, and recent studies from the National Toxicology Program indicate that when leaked into drinking water, it can also cause cancer.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson even mentioned this report and the dangers of hexavalent chromium when testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday.

Beyond hexavalent chromium, coal ash contains arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, selenium and many other chemicals that can cause cancer and damage the nervous system and organs, especially in children.

But there are no federal safeguards to protect the public and the environment from toxic coal ash. As such, we are part of a coalition pushing for federally-enforceable safeguards from coal ash.

Among the findings from the new report:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that the type of chromium that leaches from coal ash sites is nearly always of the hexavalent variety, which is the most toxic form of chromium.
The threat of hexavalent chromium contamination in drinking water is present at hundreds of unlined coal ash sites across the country.
At least 28 coal ash sites in 17 states have already released chromium to groundwater at levels exceeding by thousands of times a proposed drinking water goal for hexavalent chromium.
Power plants dump more than 10 million pounds of chromium and chromium compounds into mostly unlined or inadequately lined coal ash landfills, ponds and fill sites each year. The electric power industry is the largest single source of chromium and chromium compounds released to the environment.
The U.S. Department of Energy and electric utility industry have known for years about the aggressive leaking of hexavalent chromium from coal ash.
Hexavalent chromium contamination from coal ash is clearly a grave threat. Yet EPA, which is currently in the process of deciding whether or not to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, has completely ignored the cancer risk from chromium in groundwater.
It’s time for EPA to act. The Obama Administration should keep its promise to respect science and protect the public’s health, by putting strong federal standards in place to keep this contamination from spreading even further.

Read more about coal ash:
600 Coal Ash Dump Sites Found in 35 States: Is There One Near You?
Should Coal Ash Be Getting LEED Credits?
Why We Need Federal Safeguards for Coal Ash

RECENT NATURAL GAS ACTIONS SHOW NEED FOR REFORM

The past month saw several significant developments on the natural gas reform front. From Texas to New York, to Arkansas, new studies have revealed how damaging fracking really is, sparking some governments to take steps to protect their citizens from contaminated drinking water and other threats.

Texas: From Pennsylvania to Texas we are seeing drinking water threatened by gas operations.

And recently, showing just why we need better safeguards for natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”—which involves injecting water and chemicals into the ground at a high rate of pressure to fracture shale) the Environmental Protection Agency just indicated that fracking had contaminated water supplies in Parker County, Texas.

This example demonstrates how absolutely critical it is to have an environmental cop on the beat to protect communities from health and safety threats such as this.

“Parker County residents are heavily reliant on individual wells, so they are particularly vulnerable to contamination by natural gas production from drilling and disposal activities,” said John Rath, a Sierra Club activist in Ft. Worth.

“In the north Texas region there is increasing recognition by citizens of the dangers of natural gas drilling regarding air, water and land. Numerous citizen advocacy groups have formed to side with the Sierra Club in its opposition to unsafe drilling.”

Rath added that water quantity is also a concern—the water table in Parker County is threatened by the massive withdrawals required for hydraulic fracturing.

New York: Since July of 2008 there has been a de facto moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracturing in New York while the state studies how it harms the environment and prepares new safeguards. Recently, advocates were successful in getting both houses of the legislature to pass a bill that would ensure that this moratorium would pass on to the next administration and cover vertical hydrofracked wells in addition to the horizontal wells.

But On December 11, Governor David Paterson vetoed a statewide Hydrofracking Moratorium bill.

In its place, said Roger Downs of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Paterson issued Executive Order 41, which compels the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to complete its review of the more than 13,000 public comments and integrate those responses into a new draft environmental impact statement on fracking. The order extends his de facto moratorium until at least July of 2011.

Downs said that while the veto and executive order were not exactly what the community wanted, “At the end of the day the mandate of a second draft is a significant win for those wishing to expose hydrofracking’s dangers.”

Arkansas: One state where reform is happening is Arkansas, where the state Oil and Gas Commission recently proposed fracking disclosure rules, which would make public what chemicals drilling companies use in the fracking process. When the Sierra Club pointed out that the rules needed to be strengthened in several ways, including, notably, making sure that medical professionals immediately had access to all information in the event of a spill, the commission took the hint.

We continue to work with the commission on making the rules stronger overall, as our state chapter and local activists have long been pressing for fracking disclosure rules. This is a good first step, and we’re planning on continuing to improve the rule through work with the activist community and the agency and plan to keep meeting with all involved parties.

The Sierra Club is actively working for strong federal and state safeguards on natural gas exploration and development, including supporting the FRAC Act in Congress. We are holding the industry to a higher standard.

The natural gas industry currently enjoys unacceptable federal exemptions from landmark environmental and health laws, including key parts of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and many others.

If natural gas companies want to be beneficial members of the communities they work in, they should welcome additional scrutiny and embrace safeguards that will protect public health and the environment.

As we look ahead to 2011, we need to reach a clean-energy future, but only by protecting communities and habitats along the way.

Read more about fracking:
Jargon Watch: Fracking
Residents Speak Out on Natural Gas Fracking
Uranium Released by Fracking May Pollute Groundwater

CAN NATURAL GAS BE RESPONSIBLE?

Out of all the issues on which the Sierra Club Allegheny Group in Pennsylvania urges people to take action, few have gotten as huge a response as natural gas drilling.

While in Pittsburgh last month, I spoke with Claudia Kirkpatrick of the Sierra Club Allegheny Group about Pennsylvanians finding themselves at the center of a fight over natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region. The Marcellus Shale is a massive underground formation stretching across several states that is believed to contain trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.

Many Pennsylvanians have a problem with just how the natural gas is extracted from the shale, using hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”). Fracking involves injecting, under high pressure, huge amounts of water laced with sand and more than a hundred chemicals into rock formations deep under the ground. Fracking has contaminated some communities’ water supplies (see the Pennsylvania communities of Hickory and Dimock).

And so residents are speaking out. “People are finding it important and worrisome,” said Kirkpatrick.

Others are finding themselves becoming something they never thought they’d be: activists.

“A lot of opposition (to fracking) has come straight from grassroots groups of citizens who’ve never been involved in this sort of thing before,” said Peter Wray, conservation chair for the Sierra Club Allegheny Group. “So many have spouted up—there a good dozen or more of those kinds of groups around Pittsburgh alone.”

As such, the Sierra Club Allegheny Group and the Pennsylvania Sierra Club are working with a broad coalition in western Pennsylvania to call for rules that will protect residents both from predatory natural gas leasing and from the toxic chemicals that come with fracking. The groups are also planning a major protest at a Nov. 3 natural gas industry conference in Pittsburgh.

Many – including the Sierra Club—want the natural gas drilling process cleaned up and regulated to keep citizens from being harmed.

“It’s a gas rush now, like a gold rush, and the state is being forced to do things far too quickly,” said Wray. “We really should be very careful with this. Pennsylvania itself has seen the state devastated by lumbering in the early 19th century, we’re still seeing the impact of unregulated coal mining in state – and don’t want this to happen again.”

This is also a national concern—natural gas drilling must be done properly. The Sierra Club supports strong state and federal rules to prevent natural gas exploration, development and distribution from causing damage to the environment and communities. Tough regulations that identify where drilling is acceptable can protect surface and ground water, ensure air quality, and protect wildlife, natural areas, and local communities.

We also support ending the regulatory loophole that exempts the gas industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act , as well as the full disclosure of all chemicals used in the drilling process.

If natural gas is to help replace coal and oil and accelerate America’s transition to wind, solar and geothermal energy, then natural gas companies have to be subject to additional scrutiny and strong national and state regulations that protect our air, water, and communities.

If you want to get involved with our efforts to clean up the natural gas industry, join our Fracking Team on our Activist Network.

Read more about natural gas:
Run Cars on Green Electricity, Not Natural Gas
Burning Tap Water and More: GASLAND Exposes the Natural Gas Industry
Residents Speak Out on Natural Gas Fracking

MOVE BEYOND OIL WITH EVA MENDES AND ED BEGLEY, JR.

What do Eva Mendes and Ed Begley, Jr., have in common? Both green celebs are calling on President Obama to move our country beyond oil—and they want your help.

Having partnered with the Sierra Club these celebrities are calling on President Obama to move Beyond Oil, and using a petition and video campaign to spread the word.

TESLA MOTORS LAUNCHES A NEW BATTERY RECYCLING PROGRAM IN EUROPE

Tesla Motors battery recycled
The battery pack of a Tesla Roadster electric car. Photo: Tesla Motors

Turning Batteries Into Batteries
In a gasoline car, the majority – on the order of 80-90% – of the environmental impact comes from usage (ie. burning fossil fuels). But with an electric car, most of the impact comes from manufacturing and disposal, especially if you charge it up with clean energy. The latest news from Tesla Motors is that they’re trying to do something about the eventual disposal of their vehicles in Europe by setting up a lithium-ion battery recycling program in partnership with Belgium’s Umicore. They will “use the expended pack material to produce an alloy that will be further refined into cobalt, nickel and other metals. After that, Umicore will transform the cobalt into high grade lithium cobalt oxide, which can be resold to battery manufacturers.” Via Tesla Motors, ABG. See also: Nissan’s Smyrna Lithium-Ion Battery Plant is on Schedule

RAHM EMANUEL’S BIKE PLAN FOR CHICAGO SEEMS PROMISING

Yes We Can… Do Better for Cyclists
Now that Rahm Emanuel is back on the ticket in Chicago, let’s look at what the potential next Mayor has revealed so far about his plan for cycling in the windy city. Chicago blogger Steven Vance has a good post about it. In general, Mr. Emanuel’s plan to improve biking seems pretty promising.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION AS AN INTERACTIVE STRING INSTRUMENT (VIDEO)

Train Conductor, in the Musical Meaning of the Word
Public transit is our favorite way of moving large number of commuters around (except for walking and biking, when that’s possible), but it’s also – surprisingly – the inspiration for a piece of interactive art. Alexander Chen has taken New York City’s MTA subway schedule and turned it into a kind of virtual string instrument: “the piece begins in realtime by spawning trains which departed in the last minute, then continues accelerating through a 24 hour loop. The visuals are based on Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 diagram.” Read on for a video that shows it in action.

Conductor: www.mta.me from Alexander Chen on Vimeo.

Length determines pitch, with longer strings playing lower notes. When a string is in the middle of being drawn by a subway car, its pitch is continually shifting. You can ‘pluck’ the strings with your mouse cursor by holding the left-click button and dragging over the string.

The piece follows some rules. Every minute, it checks for new trains launched from their end stations. The train then moves towards the end of the line, with its speed set by the schedule’s estimated trip duration. Some decisions were made for musical, aesthetic, and technical reasons, such as fading out routes over time, the gradual time acceleration, and limiting the number of concurrent trains. Also, I used the weekday schedule. Some of these limitations result in subtle variations, as different trains are chosen during each 24-hour loop.

The system has changed since 1972, and some lines no longer exist. For example, the 8 train, or the Third Ave El, was shut down in 1973. The former K train was merged into other routes. I decided to run these ghost trains between 12am-2am. (source)

You can try it for yourself here (best to set your browser to full-screen mode): MTA.me

More on Green(er) Transportation
Carpooling Declined 50% Since 1980 in the U.S.A.
Seattle Metro Bus Cake for Bus-Obsessed 2-Year Old’s Birthday = Awesomeness
Chicago Bus Tracker: Transit goes 21st Century With User-Friendly Online GPS Tracking (Video)
L.A. Metro Retires Last Diesel Bus, Now Relies on Cleaner CNG Buses