Sunday, December 13, 2009

Recycling For Charities

Been meaning to post this for a while now. It's an interview I did for a pretty cool company called Recycling For Charities that raises money by recycling used electronics. Check it out.



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Can Consumers Affect Climate Change?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oil Rigs in The Heart of LA? You Bet.

Found this on LA Green Girls Blog. Oil Derricks in Beverly Hills? Wild.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Gyre As It Looks On Midway


Return to the Gyre

For anyone interested in an update on the North Pacific Gyre, the plastic floating mass of garbage in the middle of the pacific, my friend Lyndsay just returned from a month at sea and had an article in the New York Times today. She told me that Captain Moore, who was back out with her, said that it has grown quite a bit since he was last there.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Can't Afford Solar? Lease Them Instead of Buying

Watch CBS News Videos Online


Friday, October 2, 2009

$200K Worth of Cow Poop?


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Off The Grid

Les Stroud shows how he achieved a lifestyle off the grid.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Whole Foods and Sigg Bottles

Check with your local Whole Foods, but many of them are taking the older Sigg Bottles and offering replacements.



Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jane Goodall


Can Organic Farming Be Profitable?


Blind Spot

Check out this preview from the web site that sells this film about the perils of peak oil.  It's a bit of a depressing film but an important one nonetheless, and, most importantly, very accessible.



Walmart going renewable

I'm not a fan of Walmarts for a lot of reasons, but I think credit needs to be given where it's due. Check out this story about their stated goal to use only renewable energy in all of their stores. Of course it may just be hype, but seeing as they are already among the top 50 green power purchases in the US, there may be something to this. Hopefully other corps will take note.



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Some new news from the North Pacific Gyre



Monday, September 21, 2009

Inspirational Kennedy Quote

"But even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction - purpose and dignity - that afflicts us all. Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product - if we judge the United States of America by that - that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."


Friday, September 18, 2009

Great Fair Trade Video


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Go see The Age Of Stupid

A very cool looking movie that will hopefully make folks think a bit.  A man in 2055 looks back at the year 2008 through video clips and asks the question : Why didn't they do anything when they had the chance?

Monday Sept 21, the makers of the film are holding a worldwide premiere in order to get it in the Guinness Book Of World Records and get some attention.  To be a part of it check out the site.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Full Length Story Of Stuff Finally Online


MIT Tracking Seattle Trash

A very cool story about a group of MIT students who are electronically tracking trash right from the source.  They have been tagging garbage that is leaving peoples homes and will then have an exhibit up at the Seattle library that show where everything ends up. A very cool idea that will hopefully impress on everyday folks what the impact of their purchasing decisions is!


Check Out Veggie Trader for local produce

OK, so your dream is to be a farmer, but just like Eva Gabor you can't give up the city life.  Fear not though because Veggie Trader is here.  Basically set up like craigslist, but for fresh produce, it's a way to barter/sell your extra backyard or windowsill crop and find something that you may need.  How cool is this?  But be careful, if this takes off, pretty soon we'll have enough fresh local vegetables for everyone and then who knows what that will bring.

Check it out.



Sunday, September 13, 2009

Container City


Container Homes!

There is no doubt that shipping containers are tough.

Built tough from weathering corrugated steel, these incredible tough building blocks of international trade are designed to withstand stacking, stuffing and strapping and are reused over and over again. There is an estimate of over 18 million of these containers floating, riding and flying around the earth today, but the most recent sustainable design trend has found these containers revamped to contain a more delicate cargo: People.

More Here


The Future of Transportation!

I Love This!

The Conference Bike


Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Cove

It's one thing to find a great documentary. It's another to find one that enlightens and inspires. And it's still another to find one that is so well made, that you'd swear it was scripted.

The Cove is just that and more. Check out the trailer below and then go see it with all your friends. Then call everyone else and tell them to see it.

Why you ask?

Because this illustrates how powerful one man can be, and moreso, has actually had an effect. To date, the annual dolphin slaughter that takes place in Taiji, Japan, has not begun. Will it eventually? Not if enough people see this film it won't.

If you've ever said "i'm just one person, what can I do", run out and see this film!

Oh yeah, and one final note. If you don't want to see the film because you think it'll be too graphic, fear not. I won't lie to you, there's a tough 2 minutes of film towards the end of the movie, but it's not nearly as bad as what you probably think you'll see, and what these filmakers probably saw. Check it out, you'll be glad you did.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

City Chicken

Want to raise chickens in the city but don't know how?  Sure you do.  So what are you waiting for?  Check out The City Chicken.



Sigg contains BPA afterall

As many of you may have already read, information came out the other day that Sigg bottles have contained BPA.  Much different than what they have said in the past.

There are people out there who say that BPA isn't a problem, and as far as I'm concerned, it's academic in this case.  The bottom line to me is that they were not honest about their product with consumers.

I used to carry a Sigg bottle and even talked with some folks at the company back in February of last year.  But after some research, I decided that i'd be happier with a stainless steel bottle than an aluminum one with the coating.  While Sigg states that they have extensively tested these coatings, my thought has always been "Why take a chance?".

According to the president of the company, Steve Wasik, the bottles in question are pre 2008 and you can figure out if you have one and see a list of FAQ here.  In addition, if you want to email Steve himself, he can be reached at steve.wasik.ceo(at)sigg.com.

Supposedly they are accepting returns of BPA bottles but I can't find any info.  I'll post it up when I do.


Update:  The Sigg Bottle Return Site is http://mysigg.com/bulletin/exchange_program.html. You ahve to get your bottles in by 10/31 and you are required to pay to ship it to them.


The Seven Deadly Plastics

Fantastic little song that will help you remember what's what in the recycling world.


Monday, August 31, 2009

The Daily Ocean

Finaly getting around to posting this. A reader sent in a link to her cool blog called The Daily Ocean. For 365 days she is picking up all trash she finds on the beach and cataloging it. Talk about an eye opener! Very cool.




Another great doc, this one on the importance of topsoil and the problems we are facing in losing it.



Another movie that everyone should see.


It's Over: 5 Reasons Why The Electric Car Wins

Original post at TriplePundit

It could take ten years or more to become apparent, but I’ll call it now: the electric car will replace the internal combustion engine.

A caveat: I am not an automotive industry expert. Which is why I’m right. I’m not mired in the details, the past failures, the what ifs or the buts. All I see are the big, obvious things. When it comes to sea change in human behavior, though, obvious matters.

So, since no prediction is worth its salt without an accompanying list, the following are five overlapping reasons why our children will all be driving electric cars.

(By the way, these all assume that business as usual; that is, running cars on gasoline derived from (imported, finite, polluting) oil is unsustainable. If you disagree, you’re at the wrong website.)

1. Momentum, aka, Forget Tesla. “Automotive start-up” may be an oxymoron, but it doesn’t matter. Even if electric car company Tesla and its little buddies don’t succeed, the fact is the big car companies are all developing EVs, or hybrid plug-ins, where the emphasis will increasingly be on the electric part, not the gasoline part.

Meanwhile, a zillion companies, plus many national governments, are furiously developing batteries that are powerful, quick to charge, and inexpensive. It’s practically a new arms race.
And then there’s the burgeoning smart-grid industry, which will make charging those cars even cheaper. “Smartness” will also make managing when and where to charge your car much easier.

2. People get it. I read an interesting op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that predicted the healthcare bill would fail because, unlike Social Security or Medicare, it’s too complicated. People just don’t get it. And while I personally believe in universal healthcare (I’m a freelance writer), I understand the point.

People get electric cars. People get where the fuel comes from: the wall socket – the same place you plug in your toaster or your TV (cars are increasingly appliance-like anyway). People get how electric cars move, too. Most people are at least familiar with the concept of an electric motor, and they’ve seen a Prius in action, if they don’t already own one.
And what people already get, people are more willing to a) fund development of, b) support through government, and c) buy.

3. Biofuel is foreign oil. And so is natural gas. Not literally, of course; but to an economy dangerously dependent on imported fossil fuels, they might as well be. And that’s bad news for these main competitors to electric powered cars.

Without going into the details, it would take a long time for biofuel to replace foreign oil as a source of our automobile fuel. Meanwhile, the price of oil will continue to climb, pushing the price of biofuel up with it. The public, seeing no relief from gas prices, will turn to non-oil alternatives, e.g., EVs.

So the chief selling point of biofuel, that it is a cheap domestic source of gasoline for our cars, is wrong in the short term and moot in the long term. Sure, we might be using biofuel in our hybrids, but those hybrids will be getting 200+ miles to the gallon, and eventually infinity/mpg.

Meanwhile, recent discoveries have pegged domestic reserves of natural gas at 2000 trillion cubic feet, enough to last us 100 years at current rates of consumption. If we use natural gas to power all our cars, however, we will run out a lot quicker. And it’s still a dirty fossil fuel with a limited supply and a wildly fluctuating price related to – you guessed it – oil.

Oh, and by the way: fuel cells are dead.

4. It’s electricity, stupid. Critics of EVs point out that anyone who lives in an apartment building or parks on the street, or ever wants to drive more than 100 miles at a time, can’t have an electric car, because without a recharge it will die.

Good point. But let’s put it another way:
Which would you rather pay for? New infrastructure to develop, extract and/or grow and then pump and/or truck the heavy, expensive “carbon fuel of the future” to gas stations…

…or longer extension cords?

Providing public places for electric cars to charge will not happen overnight, or for free, but the technology is here, it’s simple and it’s easily scalable. The problem of range will be solved either through quick charging batteries, battery-swapping, or an extended reliance on hybrids, until people feel confident they will always find a place to charge.

5. Dawning Obsolescence. Using gasoline to power your car is the 21st century equivalent of heating your home with firewood. I love gathering and chopping wood for a nice cozy fire on a winter night, but if I had to do it all winter, every winter, I would be eager to find a replacement technology.

In the future, people will look back on our once or twice weekly ritual of driving to a gas station and pouring a noxious, flammable and very expensive liquid into our loud, dirty vehicle and wonder what “life back then” must have been like.
By “dirty” I don’t just mean polluting, I mean actually dirty, the dirt that accompanies any vehicle that moves by means of burning things: rocket ships, steam locomotives, Corollas, whatever.

Next time you’re at a gas station, think about it. Is it really so hard to imagine the rubber pumps and hoses, and the smell of gasoline and oil as just so…19th century?

Resistance is Futile.

The EV revolution will not happen overnight. Stakeholders in various competing technologies will not allow their ventures to die without a fight. While problems of range and charging persist, consumers will be hesitant to switch, even as they are squeezed by gas prices. And of course, the shift from gasoline to electric can only happen one car at a time.

But my guess is that the shift to electric cars will happen sooner than we think. Change happens very slowly, and then, all of a sudden, very fast. Think of VHS to DVD, or the road from vinyl records to iTunes – four different technologies in less than 30 years (five, if you count eight-tracks).

The automotive industry is a whole lot bigger than the record business, but that also means there’s more incentive to make the switch to the leading technology. It also means once that technology is in place, there’s more incentive to support it. That technology is electric.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Buy It, Use It, Break It, Junk It


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Food Inc

Simply put, everyone in America should see this movie.


And A Little Town Shall Lead Them

Did you hear the news? Finally, a government led by the people has stood up and said “no” to plastic water bottles and the environmental degradation they cause. And may I say, it’s about time.

The small town of Bundanoon in New South Wales Australia voted last week to officially ban the sale of plastic water bottles from within the cities limits. The 350 residents who turned out to vote (a record by some accounts) agreed almost unanimously with two residents voting no; a gentlemen worried that the ban would increase soda usage, and another resident who just so happens to be a member of the plastic water bottle industry (shocking, no?).

This is huge. Not because of all the “As Bundanoon goes so goes the world” bumper stickers that everyone has seen all these years. And not because this, as a single act, will impact the water bottle industry all that much. But simply because this small group of people stood up and said, this isn’t ok with us anymore, and we’re not going to put up with it. It’s a huge start and as an indication, the town has been inundated by reporters and tourists seeking more information, and perhaps wanting to be a part of the start of the end.

OK. I just read back on all of that and I’m all over the place, so I’m grabbing a glass of tap water (dear lord, not tap water), taking a few deep breaths and I’ll be back in a minute.

There we go, and my apologies, it’s just that I’ve been waiting for this to happen for a while and am so psyched that it has occurred in a town such a Bundanoon. You see, contrary to what you might think, it’s not a town of Uber Hippies looking to drop out, but of ordinary every day citizens who got upset when a Sydney based beverage company announced plans to tap an underground aquifer, siphon off their water, bottle it, and then potentially sell it back to them down the road.

The great thing is that they didn’t just do this and hope everybody was ok with it. Instead, they looked at the establishments in town that would lose revenue and came up with a solution. Instead of selling bottled water, they’d sell reusable containers that can be filled up around town for free or for a small fee, at filtered stations in certain stores. So essentially, they had everything to gain, and not much to lose.

While Bundanoon is a small example of what needs to be done, we can look at them and realize that we are all in the same boat. Is someone tapping the water you are paying 1000 times more than tap water for and then selling it back to you? Most likely not, but having said that, they are tapping someone’s water somewhere and that makes you responsible. Not only for the plastic and all the problems associated with the bottles, but for depleting someone else’s water source so you can buy something that for a good many of us reading this, comes into our house practically free and clean. Today it’s Fiji, tomorrow it’s Pittsburgh.

As always, I’ll head a few folks off at the pass and point out that I am only speaking to those of us who live in residences that have clean running water. If you are looking at this piece on your computer, chances are better than not that this means you.

So is it going to take a multinational corporation buying up our water rights for us to stand up and say enough? Or should we all stand up now, join in with Bundanoon and just say no. I know where I stand.

Finally, if you think this won’t have an impact, the government of New South Wales has just announced their own plans to stem the sale of plastic water bottles. Let the ripples begin.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the life of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy, build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Senator Robert F. Kennedy


Monday, July 20, 2009

Carbon Offset Guide

For anyone interested, Greenopia has put together a list of their top ten Carbon Offset Companies. Carbon Offsets are a way of taking responsibility for your footprint. They have caused a lot of controversy because many people feel that they are being used by rich people to buy their way out of changing their habits, and the truth is, in some instances, they have.

Having said that, if you have changed what you can and are struggling with the next steps to take, CO's offer a chance to make things a little better. By using their calculator you can figure out what your offset needs to be and give them some money to help offset the cost of renewable energy, plant a tree, or invest in renewable energy technology. Bottom line is it's a way of doing a little more than you already are, if you have the funds. I dn't think it means you have any less responsibility to change than anyone else, but it does help speed the process and may make you feel a little better at the same time.



Monday, July 13, 2009

XS Projects

A great clip about one woman's idea on how to help the poor of Indonesia support themselves while alleviating the trash problem as well. Check them out at XS Projects.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Nissan's Big Bet: Mass Market For EVs

We'll finally get to see the new Nissan August 2nd (that's Tokyo time, it'll still be the 1st here). I assume they'll have the name finalized by then, too. I'm kind of excited to see this car, having tested the drivetrain in the Nissan Cube. The drivability was similar to my RAV, but quicker. Since the Cube is 200 lbs heavier than the final body of the EV, it should be a bit quicker still.

The best thing about the Nissan is the expected price range of $25K-$34K. This is before the $7,500 federal tax credit.

Some think Nissan is taking a gamble by rapidly moving into mass marketing of EVs. They compare Toyota and Honda's approach of "wait and see how the market materializes for EVs, then jump in". I think it's Toyota and Honda that are gambling. They own the hybrid market and are doing quite well, thank you, so why adopt a whole new technology that's untried on a large scale? The gamble is that Nissan grabs the EV market and dominates it till BYD (China) enters the U.S. in 2012.

Those who make the decisions to forgo battery EVs in favor of plug-in hybrids only, ignore a sizable market. I can only assume they have not spent any appreciable time in a well made EV. The benefits overwhelm the perceived problem of range. Once several thousand people get the opportunity to buy a well made EV the likes of Nissan's, the demand from the early adopter's friends and family will expand exponentially. Of this I am certain.

Of course, we need millions of plug-in hybrids, too, so more power to everyone contributing to that market. It's interesting to speculate as to the relative market share the EV will have to the PHEV. I'm guessing close to 50/50. It'll be mostly driven by the cost of gas, that's a given.

All I can think is that Carlos Ghosn (Nissan CEO) has driven an EV, maybe the RAV itself, and this is why he's positioning his company to be the leader in EVs. He knows how good it feels to drive a quiet, powerful car that doesn't pollute. One that only uses domestic energy. He knows that if given the choice, millions of people would choose that over a car that poisons the air and uses mostly foreign energy.


Nissan's big bet: Mass market for EVs

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn is spending big money to make electric vehicles in high volumes -- and soon.

On Aug. 2, Ghosn will unveil the first of three electric models in three vehicle segments that he plans to sell by 2013. The vehicles will be made in the United States, Japan and Europe.

"We have a different strategy from other car manufacturers," Ghosn says. "We are the only ones investing for mass marketing, which is a risk, yes. But we think it is a bet in the right direction."

That bet takes shape at a new lithium ion battery plant and at an electric-vehicle assembly line that Nissan will build at its Smyrna, Tenn., manufacturing complex. A $1.6 billion low-interest loan from the U.S. government will cover some of the costs. Analysts question the payoff.

Nissan is not alone in going electric.

-- In June, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru cars, began leasing electric cars in Japan. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. follows later this month.

-- Toyota Motor Corp. will sell a plug-in Toyota Prius after 2010, taking on the Chevrolet Volt, which goes on sale in November 2010.

-- BMW AG's Mini brand is testing a plug-in model in the United States.

-- Tesla Motors Inc., owned 10 percent by Daimler AG, received a $465 million government loan to help bring its $57,400 Model S electric sedan to market.

'Go for mass market'

But rivals see initial volume in the hundreds or thousands. Ghosn wants hundreds of thousands. "If you go for EV, you should go for mass market," he says.

Analysts warn of hype. Battery-powered cars may be the wave of the future, but costs are high; the recharging infrastructure isn't there, and hefty government subsidies are needed to make electric vehicles competitive.

Nissan sees the technology as its best chance to eclipse Toyota and Honda Motor Co., which beat Nissan in introducing hybrid vehicles.

"This is an opportunity to go into a whole new technology and own that space," says Andy Palmer, head of Nissan's electric-vehicle program. "Hybrid vehicles compete with the internal combustion engine. But EVs are a segment all their own."

Nissan's consumer research shows that "there are definitely more than 100,000 in the United States who want" their next car to be an electric, Palmer says.

Dealers excited

"We can't get them soon enough," says Bill Newton, owner of Newton Nissan in Gallatin, Tenn. "Customers have already been asking about the cars since the news broke about Nissan's plans to build the car here in Tennessee."

In California, Nissan of Elk Grove owner John Driebe thinks Nissan has identified a powerful new market segment. "A lot of Americans really want to stop using imported oil," he says. "We're excited about being able to market a car that will never use a drop of gasoline."

Driebe's market near Sacramento is home to about 80,000 California state employees, many of whom are worried about the state's current budget crisis. Driebe sees commuting state employees as an ideal demographic group for the car.

"By the time the electric car comes on line in 2012, the economy in California will be in a better place," says Driebe, the 2006 chairman of the Nissan Dealer Advisory Board. "Nissan is really committing to this idea, and I think they're going to be proven right."

The Tennessee factories will have capacity for 150,000 vehicles and 200,000 battery packs a year. Production begins in late 2012.

Nissan also will build electric vehicles at its Oppama assembly plant south of Tokyo, starting next fall with a capacity of 50,000. It also plans an electric-vehicle plant for Europe and is studying a plant for China.

The first Japan-built car goes on sale in the United States and Japan next year to fleet customers such as corporations and local governments. It will be a four-door hatchback seating five people -- about the size of the Nissan Cube or Versa -- with a range of 100 miles per charge. Pricing isn't set.

Oil vs. electrons

Batteries are expensive. But Ghosn thinks rising oil prices will tilt the economics in favor of electrons. If crude oil rises above $80 a barrel, Nissan's electric vehicles will be cheaper to own and operate than gasoline-powered cars, he says.

Crude trades for around $70 a barrel today. Analysts say that will rise as the global economy recovers.

Ghosn aims for Nissan's electric cars, minus the battery, to cost as much as a standard car. Consumers will lease the battery at a cost that, including charging, will match what they would have paid for gasoline.

Chris Richter, an analyst with CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, says, "If they can make good on Ghosn's promise of a price comparable to a normal car, I think people will lap these up."

Nissan hasn't said how much it is spending on its electric ambitions. The first of the three models costs as much to develop as three normal cars, a person familiar with the situation says. The total investment in battery and car assembly at Smyrna is expected to exceed Nissan's $1.6 billion loan from Washington, he says.

The machinery needed to make 50,000 batteries a year costs more than $300 million, he said. Add in other costs, and the price tag just for battery plants in the United States, Japan and Europe -- which together will make more than 300,000 battery packs a year -- could total about $1.5 billion.

Analysts ask whether Nissan's bid to take an early lead in electrics is worth the cost. Kurt Sanger, an auto analyst with Deutsche Securities Inc., says, "If the competition just sits back to see if it works and then uses its brand credibility to enter the market, there's no need to be first."

But Ghosn sees his bet as positioning Nissan for the future, not just beating rivals to market with a single model.

"It's a complete new lineup. Big cars, small cars, vans, light commercial vehicles, entry-level cars," Ghosn says. "It's a complete new way of looking at our industry."


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Governor's School of North Carolina

I spoke last night (and am speaking again tonight) to the best and brightest students in North Carolina who are attending a state funded summer program on two North Carolina campuses. To say that the experience has been (and I'm assuming will continue to be) overwhelming is a complete understatement. The reception that I received, their open minded approach and the intelligence I saw in these students gives me great hope. The Governor's School is truly shaping tomorrows leaders and I just wanted to throw a shout out to the incredible minds that I have been encountering and continue to encounter while here.

While the students have impressed me to no end, the faculty is equally if not more impressive! In the short time that I have been here I have seen a level of commitment that is fairly unparalleled. These are the bright minds that should be molding our future and it is my hope that they continue to do what they are doing for a long time coming. These are the folks that are doing it right!

Every state should have a program like this and every young mind should be challenged the way these kids are being challenged - to think, to explore, and to continue learning and evolving.

Thank you to everyone who has made my experience memorable.....you inspire me.


P.S. Ironically, the reason that I am here in the first place is because of Katherine T., a teacher who asked me come to speak to her class in California last year. One of her students who heard me speak sent me one of the greatest letter I have ever received, so I'm glad I was able to return the favor.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Secret Life of T-shirts

I found this really good write up about what goes into the making of an average t-shirt at emagazine.com. It's quite the eye opener.


COMMENTARY: The Secret Life of T-Shirts
The Toxic Legacy of Conventional Cotton Clothing, and Why You Should Seek Alternatives

By Brian Clark Howard

The conventional cotton in most T-shirts is responsible for 25% of the world’s pesticide use.

Whether you got it at a rock show, thrift store, vacation spot or trendy boutique, chances are you own a favorite, well-worn T-shirt. Soft, comfortable and cool, the tee is the ultimate laid-back attire, but can just as easily be dressed up with a sports coat or simple skirt and accessories. But there’s more to the T-shirt than wearability—the wardrobe staple leaves behind a serious environmental impact.

Toxic Fields

Most T-shirts are made of cotton, or at least a cotton blend. Unfortunately, the fabric of our lives has a huge impact on the environment and workers' health. Conventionally grown cotton occupies only 3% of the world's farmland, but uses 25% of the world's chemical pesticides. In the U.S., which produces cotton on 1% of agricultural land, 10% of all agricultural chemicals are used on the crop. A 2000 U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that eighty-four million pounds of pesticides were sprayed on cotton in the U.S., ranking it second behind corn. Seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton are considered "likely" or "known" human carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency.

And it's not just pesticides. Conventional cotton farmers also use heavy inputs of synthetic, petroleum-derived fertilizers, soil additives, defoliants and other substances, which affect soil, water, air and living things for years to come. Further, 75% of the conventional cotton grown is now genetically modified, a fact that worries critics of the technology, who fear it could contaminate natural organisms and lead to super pests.


After harvesting, cotton is often treated with chlorine bleach to whiten it. Not only is chlorine toxic at acute doses, but it can also be a skin and lung irritant at lower concentrations. The fabric is also frequently treated with formaldehyde resins—often to render it "easy care”—another highly toxic chemical.
Traditionally, colors are created with dyes that may contain heavy metals, such as chromium copper. Even some so-called “natural dyes” can be mixed with heavy metals to prolong their color.


If you made T-shirts in art class, chances are you used screen printing. Although there are less-toxic screen printing techniques available today, most major operations rely on the old methods—including an ink called plastisol, a variation of the toxic-to-produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Discharge printing is faster and produces more vibrant colors, but often uses toxic chemicals as well. For example, zinc formaldehyde sulfoxylate (ZFP) is often used to print light colors onto a dark shirt. But again that includes formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Some people have even gone so far as to suggest that it might not be a good idea to wear such shirts to sleep or while working out.


Our economy is global, and so are our T-shirts. Much of today's cotton is grown in the Middle East and India, yet garments are most commonly made in East Asia. Finished products are typically shipped from China and elsewhere to North America and other markets. That results in a substantial use of fuel (often the very dirty stuff burned by container ships), not to mention release of greenhouse gases, particulates and other pollutants.

Plus, it's not uncommon for shipping companies to spray fabrics with insecticides in transit.

Buy Local, Buy Organic

You can help decrease the footprint of your wardrobe, and still look great, by buying locally produced goods, especially stuff made from fibers sourced in your region. Yes, it can help to buy American, although as the above notes sometimes only part of the entire process happens domestically.

It's always a good idea to buy used clothes, or swap things with friends, family or even strangers (swap meets can also be a lot of fun). Used clothes already exist—they don’t consume energy during growing, production and distribution like new clothes—so their overall carbon footprint is a lot less.

You can also find an increasing selection of clothes made from organic cotton, or alternative fibers like bamboo, hemp or recycled materials. These greener goods keep coming down in price, and in many cases are cost competitive with all but the very cheapest, low-quality duds.

Organic cotton, in particular, is grown without synthetic pesticides and herbicides, using techniques that replenish and maintain soil fertility and biodiversity. By buying third-party certified organic, you have greater assurance that the product is produced with genuine sustainability in mind. In the U.S., no genetically engineered materials are allowed in organic products.

The good news is that the farming of organic cotton has been on the rise. That segment increased 152% during the 2007-2008 crop year, according to the Organic Cotton Farm and Fiber Report 2008 by Organic Exchange. Next time you’re shopping for a new favorite tee, look for the organic label.

BRIAN CLARK HOWARD is the Home and Eco Tips editor for The Daily Green


Chocolate Powered Cars?

Very Cool.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Where Can I Recycle.....?

Just type in what you need to recycle and where you are and voila, instant answers. It's just that simple.


Recycling and Composting in San Francisco Now The Law!

Mayor Gavin Newsom just made SF the first place in the country to make recycling and composting mandatory. This is a huge step forward and one I hope other cities will follow. Check out the writeup here.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

DOE Money Heading Towards Electric Vehicles!

According To Paul

We've been waiting for several months to hear this good news. Three EV pioneers, Tesla, Nissan and Ford, are receiving loans from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. Totaling $8 billion, the funds will be used to manufacture efficient vehicles and electric drive components.

In Tesla's case, they'll receive a total of $465 million to set up their factory in Southern California for the production of their hot Model S. This car has generated a lot of interest given its superb styling, performance and efficiency. The price point of $57K makes it affordable for a large segment of the population. Part of the money will be used to set up a production line for their battery packs and electric drive trains to be sold to other manufacturers such as their new partner, Daimler.

Nissan will receive $1.6 billion to build EV and battery factories in Tennessee. Having experienced the drive train for their new EV, I am very pleased that this will enable them to ramp up quickly to 150,000 EVs annually. This car will appeal to a larger segment of the population given its price of around $30K.

Ford is the big surprise for me. They're getting the lion's share of the money at $5.9 billion. They'll use it to increase the efficiency of several of their cars and trucks. I assume some will go toward building their new EV with the help of Canadian parts supplier, Magna.

This announcement assures that large numbers of electric vehicles will be available to U.S. customers starting late next year and growing rapidly soon after. Additionally, tens of thousands of jobs will be created.

There will more announcements to come. I'm betting that Bright Automotive in Indiana will be on the next list of recipients. They sure deserve to be.



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In House Sewage Treatment Coming To An Office Near You

From Wired Magazine.

Picture the lobby atrium of a new, green building, one filled with leafy plants and trees. Now imagine that those trees are growing in waste collected from the building's toilets.
If that idea has the whiff of failure about it, well, sniff again. Increasingly, building designers are managing sewage in-house—really in-house. The Port of Portland, for example, is integrating waste management into the lobby of its new headquarters under construction. The Living Machine uses soil and bacteria to filter out pathogens, essentially turning wastewater into nonpotable water. But the signature element of the system is the plant life that grows up and out of it—right into the lobby. "It's going to provide a kind of greenhouse feel," says Greg Sparks, engineering design manager for the port. "It'll soften the hard edges of the typical office building."
Everybody likes trees, but (aesthetics aside) sending poop from the bathroom to the lobby may seem sort of icky. In environmental terms, though, it's a solid choice. Just as photovoltaics can help take a building off the power grid, living machines take strain off the pipes and municipal wastewater facilities on the "sewage grid." They also show that being green means thinking more creatively about our brown and yellow.

1 Wastewater from the entire building flows into a holding tank where solids settle, like in a septic tank. The reclaimed liquid up top gets pumped to the lobby.

2 Garden-like "wetland cells" layered with plants, soil, and rocks collect the water and capture biological compounds and pathogens.

3 On its way out of the garden, the water is further sterilized by ultraviolet light in the pipes. Then it's recycled back into the plumbing system.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Lazy Environmentalist

For anyone who gets the Sundance Channel, the Lazy Environmentalist premieres tonight and I am one of the experts in the opening show. Not sure how it came out as i haven't seen it, but we don't get Sundance so if anyone catches it, let me know.




Saturday, June 13, 2009

Student Creates A Paper Bottle


PIA's Plug-In Vehicle Tracker

Want to know who'e coming out with what electric vehicle and when?  Plug In America has put together an awesome page that tracks pretty much everything you want to know about new EVs in the works and when to expect them.

Check it out.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Energy Secretary Chu At CalTech

According To Paul

Full Speech Here

I heard that Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, was giving the commencement address at CalTech this morning, so I jumped in our solar-powered RAV and drove over to Pasadena to hear what he had to say.

Pasadena is a beautiful city, and the section of town where CalTech is located is old and very wealthy. Walking through the leafy campus, Jacarandas in full bloom, I admired the buildings that for decades housed some of the smartest students our country ever produced as well as a sizable number of foreign kids intent on getting the best education possible in their chosen fields of mathematics, science and engineering. My anticipation over Dr. Chu's speech grew with each step.

He did not disappoint.

Those of us in the EV movement were overjoyed when Obama picked Dr. Chu to head the Energy Department. An actual Nobel-winning PhD in physics who has a deep understanding of our predicament regarding energy and climate change in charge of the Energy Department. A true breath of fresh air!

He broke the ice by defining the term, nerd, using the Wikipedia definition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerd), since most in his audience proudly considered themselves as such. I think it's actually on the form when you apply to CalTech.

Having dispensed with the obligatory humorous start, he got down to business by reminding the audience that, in the early 70's, scientists solved the pressing need to grow more food in order to keep millions from starvation and expressed that our problems today are every bit as important if not more so. He implored the students to take seriously the need to act fast in solving these problems and to not allow those who prefer faith over reason to interfere with the task at hand.

As one would expect, he talked about energy mostly, but my ears pricked up when he said we needed to prepare for the "inevitable transition to electricity as the energy for our personal transportation". While most may have missed the importance of this comment, it meant everything to me. Those at the top of the Obama administration understand the need to move from dirty fossil fuels to renewable electricity, and their efforts so far show they are serious.

Chu's defunding, at the federal level, of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle means he knows we need to put our efforts toward solutions that are ready now, not some expensive, inefficient technology that requires us to continue buying our energy from oil companies.

As the speech ended and I started to go, the strains of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 "Ode to Joy" flowed out of the loud speakers and I walked through the beautiful purple flowering Jacarandas happier than I've been for a while. Maybe these scientists, engineers and mathematicians can indeed help us to ward off the worst of what will come.



Air France Search Hindered by Garbage

I was wondering if this would be a problem and indeed, it looks like it is going to be. Apparently, the searchers for the Air France flight that went down the week before last are having problems telling what's plane debris and what's trash.

Now let's take a look at this for a moment. Middle of the ocean and a plane that has hit the water. Other than depth and visibility, there should be no problem locating this stuff if you could figure out where it was. The idea that they are finding stuff, only to rule it out as garbage and not from the plane is absolute insanity. It just goes to show how bad things have gotten and it's sad that it takes a tragedy to bring it to light.



Monday, June 8, 2009

Food Inc. The Movie

I saw the filmmakers speaking about this movie back in February. It looks to be a really amazing film that has important info that everyone in the industrialized world needs to see. Food and they way we consume it is at the heart of the problems at hand and I truly believe that the way to start a change is by educating people as to what they are a part of.



Friday, June 5, 2009

Port of Long Beach goes electric!

According To Paul

It's been a long time coming, but we have finally achieved the first "cold ironing" of a tanker in the Port of Long Beach. Cold Ironing is the term for plugging a ship's electrical system into the on-shore grid to supply power so that the ship's giant diesel engine can be turned off while it's docked. Normally, these engines crank out massive amounts of pollution, equal to "a day's worth of driving by 187,000 cars", according to estimates by the Port of Long Beach.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) initiated suits against the ports over 7 years ago to make this happen, and it was a long difficult fight, but the NRDC's attorneys persevered and eventually won. This event marks the first of what we hope will be the electrification of all the tanker and cargo ships while docked in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. For too long, the people living downwind of the ports have suffered the ill effects of this pollution with heart and lung disease, cancers and asthma rates that are significantly higher than average.

An earlier post of mine highlighted the hybridization of the tugboats that guide these massive ships into berth, further extending the benefits of electrifying what had been exclusively internal combustion-powered vehicles. Every kilowatt hour used to replace the burning of petroleum helps us to clean our environment, saves us money and reduces the need to fight wars over oil.


Port of Long Beach takes 'giant step' toward pollution reduction

Port officials unveil what is billed as the world's first electrical shore-side power system for tankers, which are notorious fuel guzzlers and air polluters.
By Ronald D. White 
June 4, 2009
Docked in Long Beach on Wednesday with a fresh load of oil from Valdez, the Alaskan Navigator didn't look like much of a trailblazer.

The massive tanker sat silently, with a few thin cables draping down to some gray metal boxes. Missing was the incessant rumble of diesel engines, which on an average cargo ship would be running constantly to keep electrical systems going -- burning quite a bit of diesel fuel and generating a significant amount of pollution.
But the 941-foot Navigator, anchored at the BP oil terminal's Pier T on the Long Beach port's main channel, isn't average. The vessel, owned by Alaska Tanker Co. of Portland, Ore., was plugged into what is billed as the world's first shore-side electrical grid.

Only the Navigator's sister ship, the Frontier, is similarly equipped. Oil tankers are notorious fuel guzzlers and air polluters because of the power that's needed to pump vast amounts of crude out of a ship. It's the rough energy equivalent of a day's worth of driving by 187,000 cars, according to the Port of Long Beach.

At a ceremony formally unveiling the port's dockside power system, port Executive Director Dick Steinke described it as "another giant step" toward cleaning up the air.

The project cost $23.7 million and took three years to complete, port officials said. The port contributed about $17.5 million to the project and BP paid the rest.

Roger Brown, regional vice president of BP, said the emissions reductions amounted to 50% even when factoring in pollution created by power plants in generating the electricity.



Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lighting Up the Darkness in Rural Africa

Check out this very cool article from the NY Times about a solar powered LED lantern that Phillips is using to change lives in Ghana.



Farm To School Programs

A friend turned me on to this article on connecting school lunch programs with local farms.  What a concept?  Better nutrition and supporting local farms which decreases food miles as well as helping to bolster the local economy.

Check it out.


Farm to School Programs: a lesson in win-win relationships

May 28th, 2009 by LeeAnn Smith MPH, RD

This September the federal Child Nutrition bills which cover the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, will be up for evaluation and amendment during the reauthorization process. This window of opportunity arises every five years for lawmakers to improve upon child nutrition programs. The nation’s burgeoning childhood obesity epidemic is forcing health leaders and politicians alike to prioritize childhood nutrition. This is an opportune time to position school food as a key factor in improving health and nutrition of American children who, on average, receive 35 to 40 percent of their daily calories from school meals.

School food services are fighting a difficult battle to provide healthy food today, due to rising costs, tight budgets and competition from fast food chains. Major changes are crucial, and this is why farm to school (FTS) programs, supported by the National Farm to School network are a vital part of improving the current situation. Furthermore, they are sustainable.

FTS programs help schools procure seasonal produce and other food from local farmers. In addition to getting better quality food into schools, the programs help support local economies by supporting family farms across the country.

Currently children in over 2,000 school districts in 40 states are benefiting from farm to school programs, which have resulted in greater consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and numerous other positive outcomes outlined in the publication Nourishing the Nation One Tray at a Time. The National Farm to School Program was established in 2004 as part of the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization. Although the program was authorized, the funds for it were never appropriated and efforts to date have been privately funded. A reliable stream of public funding is essential to ensure the growth and success of FTS programs across the country.

New York City schools recently signed a $4 million contract to receive apples from upstate New York farms. In Colorado, local grass-fed beef is used in tacos in some school districts. A cost-analysis for Colorado’s Missoula County Public School District found that buying local seasonal produce was either less expensive or comparable in price to purchasing similar items from wholesale suppliers. Creative grassroots FTS programs are popping up all over, increasing the quality of school food while supporting the livelihood of farmers.

On May 15th, the National School to Farm Network and other school health and nutrition experts presented at a special hearing on the “Benefits of Farm to School Projects, Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for School Children,” convened by the United States Senate’s Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee in Atlanta, GA. Those in attendance included Senators Tom Harkin (D-Ia) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and representatives from theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture. Glyen Holmes, of the New North Florida Cooperative Association and the South Regional Lead Agency Coordinator for the National Farm to School Network testified, “Every child deserves the opportunity to eat food in school that ensures their health and well-being, and Farm to School programs are one solution to incorporating healthier foods into school meals.” He called funding farm to school programs a top priority in the efforts needed to improve child nutrition in the United States.

In addition to allocating necessary funding to FTS programs, the network recommends amendments to ensure that the benefits of FTS reach all children, including increasing reimbursement rates for all child nutrition programs, improving standards for school meals, encouraging procurement of local produce, and an educational component focused on agriculture and food.

So what is the first step in getting a program going in your community? “Passion and interest is all it takes to start a farm to school program,” explained Debra Eschmeyer, Program Media & Marketing Director of the Farm to School Network. Free tools and resources, including a communications guide, surveys, downloadable curricula and brochures, and valuable information about existing state and county school programs are readily available to get your own local program off the ground. The Farm to School Network, its eight regional offices, and partnering organizations are invaluable resources for both start-up and existing programs. The excitement of FTS lies in the grassroots approach, which involves a wide variety of community stakeholders in creating programs that meet the needs of students and schools, while tapping into the resources of local agriculture. It truly is a win-win relationship.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Clean Power Supplies For The Future?

This is a pretty good post from Edmunds.com about an article in Energy and Environmental Science on the dangers of cellulosic ethanol as an answer to our energy needs.  I've often felt that biofuels are not a long term solution (although in reality I don't think there will be a silver bullet solution but a hodge podge of different ones) and the findings in this study are interesting to see.  According to the study, wind powered battery electric vehicles are the least environmentally damaging solution to our transportation needs.  Interesting reading and worth checking out.


Cellulosic ethanol, which people from President-elect Barack Obama to struggling farmers from his home state view a promising biofuel, is actually worse than much-criticized corn ethanol because cellulosic ethanol results in more air pollution, requires more land to produce and causes more harm to wildlife, a major study has found.

The energy alternatives "that are good are not the ones that people have been talking about the most. And some options that have been proposed are just downright awful," said Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, in a paper that reviewed and ranked major proposed energy-related solutions to global warming, air-pollution mortality and energy security.

"Ethanol-based biofuels will actually cause more harm to human health, wildlife, water supply and land use than current fossil fuels," he said, adding that ethanol may also emit more global-warming pollutants than fossil fuels, according to the latest scientific studies.

Jacobson has conducted the first quantitative, scientific evaluation of the proposed major energy-related solutions by assessing not only their potential for delivering energy for electricity and vehicles, but also their impacts on global warming, human health, energy security, water supply, space requirements, wildlife, water pollution, reliability and sustainability.

His findings indicate that the options that are getting the most attention are between 25 to 1,000 times more polluting than the best available options. His findings were published in this month's issue of Energy & Environmental Science.

The Most Promising

The raw energy sources that Jacobson found to be the most promising are, in order: wind, concentrated solar (the use of mirrors to heat a fluid), geothermal, tidal, solar photovoltaics (rooftop solar panels), wave and hydroelectric.

Jacobson, who is also director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford, recommended against nuclear, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol made from prairie grass. Granted, cellulosic ethanol can be made from other sources and those were not studied.

To place the various alternatives on an equal footing, Jacobson first made his comparisons among the energy sources by calculating the impacts as if each alternative alone were used to power all the vehicles in the U.S., assuming only "new-technology" vehicles were being used.

Such vehicles include battery electric vehicles (BEVs), hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) and "flex-fuel" vehicles that could run on E85 -- a blend that's 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

Wind was by far the most promising, Jacobson said, owing to a better-than 99 percent reduction in carbon and air pollution emissions; the consumption of less than 3 square kilometers of land for the turbine footprints to run the entire U.S. vehicle fleet (given the fleet is composed of battery-electric vehicles); the saving of about 15,000 lives per year from premature air-pollution-related deaths from vehicle exhaust in the U.S.; and virtually no water consumption.

The Least Promising

By contrast, corn and cellulosic ethanol will continue to cause more than 15,000 air pollution-related deaths in the country per year, Jacobson asserted.

Because the wind turbines would require a modest amount of spacing between them to allow room for the blades to spin, wind farms would occupy about 0.5 percent of all U.S. land, but this amount is more than 30 times less than that required for growing corn or grasses for ethanol. Land between turbines on wind farms would be simultaneously available as farmland or pasture or could be left as open space.

Indeed, a battery-powered U.S. vehicle fleet could be charged by 73,000 to 144,000 5-megawatt wind turbines -- fewer than the 300,000 airplanes the U.S. produced during World War II and far easier to build. Additional turbines could provide electricity for other energy needs.

"There is a lot of talk among politicians that we need a massive jobs program to pull the economy out of the current recession," Jacobson said. "Well, putting people to work building wind turbines, solar plants, geothermal plants, electric vehicles and transmission lines would not only create jobs but would also reduce costs due to health care, crop damage and climate damage from current vehicle and electric power pollution, as well as provide the world with a truly unlimited supply of clean power."

Jacobson said that while some people are under the impression that wind and wave power are too variable to provide steady amounts of electricity, his research group has already shown in previous research that by properly coordinating the energy output from wind farms in different locations, the potential problem with variability can be overcome and a steady supply of baseline power delivered to users.

The Most Damaging

He described biofuels as "the most damaging choice we could make in our efforts to move away from using fossil fuels." He said the money going into biofuels would be better spent promoting energy technologies that cause significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and air-pollution mortality, "not technologies that have either marginal benefits or no benefits at all."

During the recent presidential campaign, nuclear power and "clean coal" were often touted as energy solutions that should be pursued, but nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and sequestration were Jacobson's lowest-ranked choices after biofuels.

"Coal with carbon sequestration emits 60- to 110-times more carbon and air pollution than wind energy, and nuclear emits about 25-times more carbon and air pollution than wind energy," Jacobson said. Although carbon-capture equipment reduces 85 percent to 90 percent of the carbon exhaust from a coal-fired power plant, it has no impact on the carbon resulting from the mining or transport of the coal or on the exhaust of other air pollutants.

In fact, because carbon capture requires a roughly 25-percent increase in energy from the coal plant, about 25 percent more coal is needed, increasing mountaintop removal and increasing non-carbon air pollution from power plants, he said.

Nuclear power poses other risks. Jacobson said it is likely that if the U.S. were to move more heavily into nuclear power, then other nations would demand to be able to use that option.

"Once you have a nuclear energy facility, it's straightforward to start refining uranium in that facility, which is what Iran is doing and Venezuela is planning to do," Jacobson said. "The potential for terrorists to obtain a nuclear weapon or for states to develop nuclear weapons that could be used in limited regional wars will certainly increase with an increase in the number of nuclear energy facilities worldwide."