Friday, August 21, 2009

GreenWorksLinks Back-to-School Environmental News Digest

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.
This week GreenWorksLinks goes back to school and looks at energy savings at institutions across the country and other items of environmental interest for returning students. While the following links are not news stories that would have made your local papers they are all steps in the right direction.

An Education in Energy Efficient Schools
Charlottesville Elementary Schools Receive Honor for Saving Energy
Global Youth United in Efforts to Stop Climate Change
Green jobs place teens in a learning environment
Wellness in the Schools
Atlanta area schools going greener
Ohio school renovates stadium with environment in mind
New 'Princeton Guide to Ecology' explores topics from climate change to community organization
Eco-Schools in the UK
LEED for Schools

Next week GreenWorksLinks looks at a project in a New York school while squeezing in a course on why the Internet goes down at inopportune times.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Emperor's new clothes - Don't be bamboozled by green clothing claims states FTC


The FTC came down on four clothing companies this week for claiming that their clothing apparel was made of bamboo and environmentally friendly. In its findings against Sami Designs LLC, doing business as (DBA) Jonäno; CSE Inc., DBA Mad Mod; Pure Bamboo LLC and; the M Group Inc., DBA Bamboosa the FTC opened a lot of eyes as its complaint went beyond greenwashing.

While the companies could have been using bamboo as the basis for their clothing lines what the cited companies were selling to consumers under a green banner was in fact rayon.

Rayon, neither a natural or synthetic fiber, begins its journey to the store shelves as a cellulose fiber. Any plant or tree - including bamboo - can be used as the basis of the fiber. During the energy intensive manufacturing process of rayon the fiber source of the plant is dissolved in harsh chemicals. The process eliminates all natural properties of the bamboo plant and any claims to the benefit of bamboo clothing run counter to the science involved. Worse yet, hazardous air pollutants are emitted in the rayon process.

“With the tremendous expansion of green claims in today’s marketplace, it is particularly important for the FTC to address deceptive environmental claims, so that consumers can trust that the products they buy have the environmentally friendly attributes they want,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When companies sell products woven from man-made fibers, such as rayon, it is important that they accurately label and advertise those products – both with respect to the fibers they use and to the qualities those fibers possess.”

Bamboo is not the only niche clothing market that has had troubles backing up its environmental claims.

Cotton, the undisputed king of fibers, has strayed from its roots to become a toxic environmental offender accounting for more than a quarter of all agricultural pesticide use. Organic cotton hopes to reverse that trend. Representing less than one half of one percent of global cotton production organic cotton faces an uphill battle for marketplace acceptance. An expensive proposition, organic cotton includes costly chemical process challenges to keep the boll organic in the growing and manufacturing phases. The cost threshold for consumers has led the industry to focus more of its environmental efforts on cleaner cotton.

Hemp, once an agricultural staple has seen a resurgence in popularity and applications as consumers and legislators now see the difference between hemp and its outlawed cousin cannabis. Using less land, one acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as 2-3 acres of cotton and contribute to a healthy, enriched, microbial soil life. As with cotton and bamboo clothing alternatives the problem with hemp has more to do with the unregulated manufacturing process in underdeveloped countries where the hemp is primarily milled.

Closer to home, clothing made from the durable, long fibers of hemp could be entering the mainstream sooner rather than later. Hanesbrands Inc. in partnership with Naturally Advanced Technologies Inc. announced this month that it is now developing a process facility for commercial grade organic hemp production in North Carolina.

Is America being bamboozled by misleading environmental claims? Jonäno, Mad Mod, and Pure Bamboo have agreed to settlements with the FTC and a final report may be issued at the FTC's discretion after September 10. Jonäno who has agreed to conform to the new labeling guidelines has issued a statement of its own that addresses the FTC's complaint.

Monday, August 17, 2009

'Killer spices' provide eco-friendly pesticides for organic fruits and veggies


WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2009 — Mention rosemary, thyme, clove, and mint and most people think of a delicious meal. Think bigger…acres bigger. These well-known spices are now becoming organic agriculture's key weapons against insect pests as the industry tries to satisfy demands for fruits and veggies among the growing portion of consumers who want food produced in more natural ways.

In a study presented here today at the American Chemical Society's 238th National Meeting, scientists in Canada are reporting exciting new research on these so-called "essential oil pesticides" or "killer spices." These substances represent a relatively new class of natural insecticides that show promise as an environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional pesticides while also posing less risk to human and animal health, the researcher says.

"We are exploring the potential use of natural pesticides based on plant essential oils — commonly used in foods and beverages as flavorings," says study presenter Murray Isman, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia. These new pesticides are generally a mixture of tiny amounts of two to four different spices diluted in water. Some kill insects outright, while others repel them.

Over the past decade, Isman and colleagues tested many plant essential oils and found that they have a broad range of insecticidal activity against agricultural pests. Some spiced-based commercial products now being used by farmers have already shown success in protecting organic strawberry, spinach, and tomato crops against destructive aphids and mites, the researcher says.

"These products expand the limited arsenal of organic growers to combat pests," explains Isman. "They're still only a small piece of the insecticide market, but they're growing and gaining momentum."

The natural pesticides have several advantages. Unlike conventional pesticides, these "killer spices" do not require extensive regulatory approval and are readily available. An additional advantage is that insects are less likely to evolve resistance — the ability to shrug off once-effective toxins — Isman says. They're also safer for farm workers, who are at high risk for pesticide exposure, he notes.

But the new pesticides also have shortcomings. Since essential oils tend to evaporate quickly and degrade rapidly in sunlight, farmers need to apply the spice-based pesticides to crops more frequently than conventional pesticides. Some last only a few hours, compared to days or even months for conventional pesticides. As these natural pesticides are generally less potent than conventional pesticides, they also must be applied in higher concentrations to achieve acceptable levels of pest control, Isman says. Researchers are now seeking ways of making the natural pesticides longer-lasting and more potent, he notes.

"They're not a panacea for pest control," cautions Isman. Conventional pesticides are still the most effective way to control caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles and other large insects on commercial food crops, he says. "But at the end of the day, it comes down to what's good for the environment and what's good for human health."

The "killer spices" aren't just limited to agricultural use. Some show promise in the home as eco-friendly toxins and repellents against mosquitoes, flies, and roaches. Unlike conventional bug sprays, which have a harsh odor, these natural pesticides tend to have a pleasant, spicy aroma. Many contain the same oils that are used in aromatherapy products, including cinnamon and peppermint, Isman notes.

Manufacturers have already developed spice-based products that can repel ticks and fleas on dogs and cats without harming the animals. Researchers are now exploring the use of other spice-based products for use on fruits and vegetables to destroy microbes, such as E. coil and Salmonella, which cause food poisoning.

Other scientists are currently exploring the insect-fighting potential of lavender, basil, bergamot, patchouli oil, and at least a dozen other oils from exotic plant sources in China. Funding for this study was provided by EcoSMART®, a botanical pesticide company based in Alpharetta, Ga.

Friday, August 14, 2009

GreenWorksLinks Environmental News Digest

All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil. The fight to the finish spirit is the one characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers.
This week GreenWorksLinks takes a look at gadgets, gizmos and pie-in-the-sky ideas that may or may not take off. While the following links are not news stories that would have made your local papers they are all steps in the right direction.

We begin this week with a touch of whimsy before heading to Mars and returning safely to the desert.

Low Impact Wooden Home
Magenn Air Rotor System
Biologically Inspired Ocean Power Systems
Quiet revolution
'Cloud ship' scheme to deflect the sun's rays is favourite to cut global warming
Electric car future may power a charging industry
Reduce your Carbon skateprint: K2 Eco inline skates
Extend Your Laptop Battery Life
Free Heat From An Old Window And Some Soda Cans.
EPA Puts Weight Behind EcoCAR Competition
ASU To Save $127K Annually With LEDs

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. Has the environmental movement grown or stagnated since 1969?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

UN greenplex to dock at Navy Shipyard after $500 million environmental clean up

Will Hunters Point become another SF landmark?
The much maligned Hunters Point Shipyard on San Francisco Bay - a site poisoned by toxic waste for most of its 100 year life - is getting a lifeline extended to it by the UN after a $500 million cleanup that has been ongoing since the 1990s is completed.

When it's completed in 2012, the 80 000 square foot complex will be home to the UN Global Compact Sustainability Center. The think tank will address climate change challenges and include a conference center and UN offices.

"We are excited to partner with the City of San Francisco to work towards securing a sustainability center for the UN Global Compact", said Gavin Power, Deputy Director of the UN Global Compact. "California, in general, and San Francisco, in particular, have been at the forefront of environmental sustainability for many years and all the right ingredients are here. This would also have poignant significance given that San Francisco is the birthplace of the United Nations," he added.

The UN greenplex is but one component to the redevelopment of the 500 acre site. A site once so contaminated that it qualified as a Federal Superfund Site. Hunter's Point is now the focus of a $2 billion revitalization project that will see the lands transferred back to the City of San Francisco.

A major aspect of the urban renewal project is affordable housing. One-third of the more than 10 000 housing units to be developed on the site are to be set at or below market values. A key component of the housing initiative is the rebuilding of a nearby public housing development.

Encircled by 300 acres of parkland Hunters Point, as envisioned by planners, will also include an office park and retail shops in addition to the UN greenplex and housing components.

The developer, Lennar Corp., states that Hunters Point, "will be the first neighborhood in San Francisco powered entirely by clean, reliable public power."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bangladesh to receive additional $130 million for rural energy project

Most people in Bangladesh do not have access to electricity.
The World Bank has approved $130 million in financing to support rural access to energy in Bangladesh. This new funding builds on the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Credit and is targeted toward three programs for the south Asian country on the Bay of Bengal. Financing will focus on solar home systems in rural areas, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) and additional energy distribution networks.

With more than 250 000 rural applications worldwide solar home systems are a cost-effective way to improve rural quality of life. The plan in Bangladesh is to provide electricity to 300 000 households through solar home applications. "Many of these households in poor areas are too remote to connect to the electricity grid and would never receive electricity through conventional electrification methods,” states Rob Floyd, Acting World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh.

In areas of the country with the highest electricity demand 10 million CFLs will be distributed to replace incandescent bulbs. The Government’s long-term objective is to replace all incandescents with 30 million CFLs in the long term. “Replacing these lamps, which will be free of charge for residential consumers, is expected to reduce the peak demand by about 360 MW,” said Raihan Elahi, Senior Energy Specialist and Task Leader for the project.

Only 40 percent of Bangladesh has access to electricity and demand is growing at a rate of over 500 MW a year. Per capita electricity generation is among the lowest in the world, at about 165 kWh per year and REREDC supports the continued renovation of the electricity distribution network. The development credit provides financing for renewable energy projects that include biomass and biogas power plants among other initiatives.

The World Bank credit is additional financing for REREDC. Since 2003 REREDC has connected 600 000 consumers to the electricity grid and constructed about 8 500 km of new distribution in addition to the solar home systems.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Declarations, warnings and goals dominate climate change news

What will the future hold for these children in Mexico?
The leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States issued a declaration on climate change at the conclusion of the Three Amigos summit this past weekend in Guadalajara, Mexico.

President Calderón, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper as heads of the three countries meet annually at what is formally known as the North American Leaders’ Summit. Issues of climate change along with H1N1 virus and the economy were the focus of this year's discussions.

The declaration on climate change comes on the heels of United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon stating that climate change is the most pressing issue facing the planet today. In a keynote address to the Global Environment Forum in his native South Korea, Ban Ki-moon said, "The human suffering will be incalculable," if climate change remains unchecked.

"As we move toward Copenhagen in December, we must seal a climate change deal that secures our common future," added Ban.

The North American leaders declaration addresses the Copenhagen conference. "Building on our respective national efforts, we will show leadership by working swiftly and responsibly to combat climate change as a region and to achieve a successful outcome at the 15th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change," reads the joint statement.

North American Leaders’ Declaration on Climate Change and Clean Energy "recognizes the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2 degrees C, we support a global goal of reducing global emissions by at least 50 percent compared to 1990 or more recent years by 2050, with developed countries reducing emissions by at least 80 percent compared to 1990 or more recent years by 2050."

The 80 percent reduction in GHG from 1990 levels is the same number and time frame that the G8 countries agreed to at its July meeting in Italy. These distant targets were also agreed to by the House of Representatives in passing the ACES bill last month.

New York Governor David Paterson signed an executive order late last week that establishes a goal to reduce 80 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 2050. The executive order also creates a climate change council.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Picture your children discovering one of 30 million species

Along came a spider...

You can see the finish line. There are only a few weeks left until the kids go back to school and you are running out of ideas and things to do to keep them occupied this summer. Get them to explore the world around them with a camera and they could win a trip to National Geographic's headquarters in Washington D.C.

See the Bigger Picture is a photo contest aimed at children to examine local biodiversity through photography. With 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity your children will have a head start on ecological issues going into the new school year.

Sponsored by National Geographic, Airbus and the Secretariat of the Convention of Biological Diversity the competition is "designed to stimulate and raise worldwide awareness on biodiversity and the preservation of threatened ecosystems amongst children, families and educators."

There are up to 30 million unknown species of plants and animals out there. Encouraging your child to look for one of them could benefit the family peace and science as well.

The campaign ends on September 8th - the children should be back in school by then.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Turning brownfields into green

A potential urban renewal site.
The province of British Columbia is dishing out $1 million to 12 brownfield projects in the western Canadian province. The cash outlay is the first major financing package of its recently formed Brownfield Renewal Strategy program. The BRS is providing up to $40,000 for preliminary site investigations and up to 85 percent of the costs for other types of work.

“The Brownfield Renewal Strategy program is focused on encouraging the redevelopment of under-used lands that have potential for community benefit,” said BC Agriculture and Lands Minister Steve Thomson. “The goal is for this funding to support the initial environmental work necessary to return these sites back into productive use. The program acts as an important catalyst for local economic growth, because for every dollar of government funding we put into these investigations, two dollars are invested by the successful applicants.”

With a scarcity of land in metropolitan areas brownfield properties are being eyed for urban renewal projects. Once deemed unpalatable to developers owing to their industrial lineage and potential site contamination, the costs associated with rehabilitating brownfield lands has dropped while the technology to clean up the lands has advanced.

Organizations such as the non-profit National Brownfield Association encourage the use of green design when developing brownfield sites. Headquartered in Chicago, the NBA acts as a resource center for public and private sector professionals in both Canada and the United States.

At the federal level in America the EPA has a brownfield website with information on how to access grants and funding, while reading up on applicable laws and statutes and success stories.

The EPA has recently provided federal stimulus funds to a number of communities nationwide from a pool of close to $7 million. The funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is intended to provide brownfield job training across the country. Tacoma, Washington received $500 000 this week to provide training for up to 200 interested job seekers.

“This brownfield job training program will put people to work in jobs that help clean up the environment and boost Tacoma’s economy,” said acting EPA regional administrator Michelle Pirzadeh.

Back in Canada, the province of BC will host the Canadian Brownfields 2009 Conference in Vancouver this fall. The October date marks the first time that the conference is being held outside of eastern Canada. The NBA's flagship "The Big Deal 2010" conference is headed to Atlanta in April.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Urban campaign launched to Green the Block

Green the Block will reach out to under-served communities.
The White House in moving forward with its clean energy economy knows that it is imperative that marginalized groups are not left behind. With $60 billion already invested in green jobs all Americans must be informed and have access to the new opportunities available.

Green the Block is a new campaign to engage and ensure that vulnerable communities are part of the process. Organized by Green For All and the Hip Hop Caucus this new initiative will "encourage education, legislative advocacy, private-sector development and youth activism." Launched on August 4, Green the Block will target communities at risk and provide them with the requisite tools to access the benefits and opportunities that arise from clean energy investments.

“Green the Block is a movement to build a clean-energy economy where everyone has a chance to succeed,” said Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All. “That starts with making sure that those who are often left out and left behind – low-income people and communities of color – have a voice and a presence in this movement. These communities also need a fair share of the economic, social and environmental benefits this transition is creating.”

Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr., president of the Hip Hop Caucus, states, “The building of a clean-energy economy in the United States can serve to create new pathways out of poverty for the 78 million people in this country who are presently poor or near poor.”

Yearwood adds that, "The first milestone for Green the Block will be on our National Day of Service, September 11, 2009, where we will organize Green the Block service events around the country in coordination with the President's initiative, United We Serve."

Members of the White House "Green" Cabinet were also on hand for the announcement. Secretary Shaun Donovan, Department of Housing and Urban Development said, “The transition to clean energy and the benefits from it should extend to every corner of the country and penetrate communities that have long been passed over whenever waves of economic innovation are developing.”

Under Secretary Kristina Johnson, Department of Energy, said, “Cleaner communities are more livable communities. This is a chance for us to significantly change course in our use of energy and lift up the economic fortunes of individuals and families.” To date the DOE has earmarked more than $8 billion for weatherization projects in local communities. These projects include the installation of new energy-efficient windows and doors and better forms of building and housing insulation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Climate change a threat to beach quality

How safe is your beach?
A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on the state of American beaches show that climate change will make water pollution worse.

NRDC’s report – Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches – compiled with data from the EPA, illustrates that American beaches are egregiously contaminated. One of the main sources of contaminants and cause of beach closures is storm water runoff. Funneled through stormwater pipes and the sewer system, human and animal waste matter can infiltrate local beaches after heavy rains.

“Pollution from dirty stormwater runoff and sewage overflows continues to make its way to our beaches. This not only makes swimmers sick – it hurts coastal economies,” said Nancy Stoner, NRDC Water Program Co-Director. “Americans should not suffer the consequences of contaminated beachwater. From contracting the flu or pink eye, to jeopardizing millions of jobs and billions of dollars that rely on clean coasts, there are serious costs to inaction.”

Health concerns identified
According to the NRDC report the health of swimmers nationwide was compromised last year as the number of beach advisory and closings exceeded 20 000 for the fourth year in a row.

Without climate change mitigation beach conditions are expected to worsen. Exploring the effect of climate change on beachwater quality for the first time the NRDC report opines that through a combination of rising temperatures and more, intense summer storms pollution and health problems will rise.

Issues arising from climate change include health issues from pathogens found on the nation's beaches. These pathogens cause intestinal and neurological problems. The report states that health concerns from polluted beaches can be fatal for people with weak immune systems, children and the elderly.

“Nobody wants their trip to the beach to send them to the bathroom or, worse, the emergency room,” said Stoner. “It is vitally important to remember that if it has recently rained – or you see or smell a pipe discharging onto the beach – keep your head above water or avoid swimming altogether.”

Stormwater issues
Stormwater runoff - the primary source of pollution - continues to be a serious problem that has not been addressed. The NRDC suggests that federal, state and local governments act together to make beachwater quality a priority.

Proven measures to lessen the impact of climate change on beach quality include enhanced stormwater controls and filtering rain where it falls on the ground. Filtering includes green roofs, permeable pavement, rain gardens and tree boxes on city streets.

Measures such as those outlined above would help regions like the Great Lakes. Wetter than usual conditions in the area in 2008 saw a 13 percent increase in closing and advisory days. The region also happened to have one of the highest levels of contamination in the nation as 13 percent of its samples exceeded health standards. Historically, the Great Lakes region has been the dirtiest in the nation over the last four years of the NRDC reports.

Nationwide, samples containing human or animal fecal matter averaged seven percent - showing no change from 2006.More than 200 beaches are rated in the report.

Five-star ratings
Not all is gloom and doom in the report as the NRDC takes a page out of popular guide books and provide a five-star beach rating system. The ratings can help you plan your next vacation spot or warn you away from certain local beaches.

Communities that can boast of having five-star beaches include Laguna, Newport and Huntington Beach in California, Duluth, Minnesota and Ocean City, Maryland.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Special Delivery - NYC's largest green roof courtesy of USPS

Manhattan's largest green roof is perched atop the Morgan mail processing facility. The USPS facility on West 28th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues is not just NYC's largest green roof it is also one of the largest in the nation at 2.5 acres in area.

“The Postal Service is taking the lead when it comes to making a positive impact on the environment,” said Tom Samra, vice president, Facilities said at yesterday's launch. “We’re proud to dedicate our first green roof, and we are pleased to showcase this environmental oasis today in New York City.”

Green roofs are noted for the ability to reduce the energy load of the buildings they sit atop.The Morgan green roof will help the USPS meet its energy reduction target for the facility of 30 percent by 2015. Contaminants in storm water runoff that empties into city sewers will be reduced by 75 percent in the summer months, dropping to 35 percent during winter.

When built in 1933 the roof of the historic landmark was originally expected to serve as an extra mail processing station. Able to support 200 pounds per square foot the roof was deemed strong enough to withstand the added load incumbent with a green roof. Not only is the project environmentally friendly it is financially sound. Another benefit of a green roof is that it extends the life of a roof. In the case of the Morgan site the life expectancy of the roof - 50 years - is twice as long as that of a conventional roof.

Sam Pulcrano, vice president, Sustainability stated that the roof provides employees with a beautiful outdoor environment. Sitting seven stories above midtown Manhattan, the 2.2 million square foot roof offers breathtaking vistas. Landscaped with native plants and trees the postal park comes furnished with 14 certified-sustainable Brazilian wood benches and maintenance-free grass.

Sky-high accomplishments aside the USPS has also expanded its recycling program at NYC outlets. Since adding mixed paper and cardboard the post office is recycling 400 tons of materials per month. With more than 2700 tons recycled that is nearly three times the amount recycled prior to last October.

In the last 12 months, the Postal Service also has expanded its recycling program in New York City to include mixed paper and cardboard, resulting in nearly 400 tons of materials recycled each month. Since last October post offices in New York City have recycled 2,770 tons of mixed paper and cardboard, an increase of 1,861 tons, or nearly triple what was recycled in the same period the previous year.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cash for clunkers hits bump in the road

CARS has stimulated $4 billion in new vehicle sales.

The Car Allowance Rebate System otherwise known as "cash for clunkers" may have already siphoned off the $1 billion that was budgeted for the program within a week of its launch.

White House and Transportation officials were sending mixed messages as to whether there was any more funding available for the program. The White House said that it was evaluating its option while the DOT was alerting lawmakers that they could suspend the program on Friday due to a lack of funds.

The much maligned program provides cash incentives of $3500-$4000 for consumers who trade in older vehicles for new more fuel-efficient models. CARS has proven so successful that an estimated 250 000 cars were sold in its first week.

Therein lies the problem.

As of Wednesday, more than 22,000 documented purchases of new cars and trucks were reported through CARS. But backlogs and delays in reporting from car dealers across the country may see the needle move past 250 000 vehicles sold when the numbers are tabulated.

That high end estimate is a cause for concern as it would represent the total funding allocated for the program. That concern has transportation officials calling for a suspension of the program until all the data is in.

It was thought that the stimulus package would last through to November or whenever the $1 billion was doled out. Politicians, caught off guard by the success of the program, did not expect the cupboard to be bare within a week.

Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., in a letter to House leaders on Wednesday, requested additional funding for the program. "This is simply the most stimulative $1 billion the federal government has spent during the entire economic downturn," Miller said Thursday. "The federal government must come up with more money, immediately, to keep this program going."

The CARS program is seen as a measure to prop up the ailing auto industry while providing environmental benefits through improved fuel economy. The car industry is reeling from its worst sales slump in more than 25 years. New car and truck sales are down 35 percent from this time last year.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Amtrak to Report Greenhouse Gas Emissions

WASHINGTON - Furthering its commitment to be a transportation leader on environmental issues, Amtrak is joining efforts to voluntarily and publicly report its greenhouse gas emissions and undergo an independent assessment of its programs to reduce its carbon footprint.

"Putting our emissions data out in the open for all to see and getting an outside review of our environmental programs will help make Amtrak a greener railroad" said Amtrak president and CEO Joseph Boardman.

Boardman announced that Amtrak is a new member of The Climate Registry, a non-profit organization founded to set consistent and transparent standards for businesses and governments to calculate, verify, and publicly report their greenhouse gas emissions. As a member, Amtrak is committed to the organization’s comprehensive reporting standards for recording and managing greenhouse gas emissions throughout its system including those from diesel and electric locomotives, passenger rail cars, maintenance equipment, stations, offices and other facilities. Amtrak is the first railroad to join this group.

Amtrak also is a new participant in Climate Counts, a non-profit organization which provides an independent and verifiable assessment of a company’s commitment to reduce its impact on the environment. The group uses 22 specific criteria to produce a scorecard to rate companies on how they measure their carbon footprint, reduce their impact on climate change, support effective climate legislation, and publicly disclose their climate actions in a clear and comprehensive manner.

Boardman explained Amtrak intends to use the information generated by these new initiatives to help assess the effectiveness of its greenhouse gas reduction program, determine what changes might be needed to strengthen it, compare itself with industry competitors, and identify opportunities for energy efficient transportation.

Currently, Amtrak is a charter member of the Chicago Climate Exchange that established a "cap and trade" market after organizations committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Amtrak committed to reduce its emissions from diesel locomotives by six percent from 2003 through 2010, the largest voluntary commitment in the United States. To date, Amtrak has exceeded all of the required interim annual reduction targets.

In addition, Amtrak offers its passengers the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets from the non-profit organization Carbonfund.org and direct those funds to such areas as certified sustainable reforestation and alternative energy projects. Also, Amtrak is reducing the amount of "idling" time on diesel locomotives; using dynamic and regenerative braking systems on electric locomotives to return energy to the grid; employing bio-lubricants in hydraulic systems; and using lighter and more aerodynamic vehicle carriers on the Auto Train, among other efforts to move the railroad toward a more sustainable transportation system.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Vote for the "New" Wonders of Nature

The Grand canyon made the list.
And then there were 28...

Starting from a list of 440 locations from 220 countries, the New7Wonders of Nature is asking for your vote to decide on the seven finalists. This vote follows on the heels of the successful and controversial New7Wonders of the World from 2007.

“We are finding the New7Wonders of Nature campaign to be excitingly different from the first campaign," states New7Wonders Founder and President Bernard Weber. "So many breathtakingly beautiful, natural places are still quite unknown to many. From waterfalls to fjords, rainforests to mountain peaks, freshwater lakes to volcanoes, we are discovering together the incredible beauty and variety of our planet.”

Regarded as more of a popularity contest by scholars and organizations, the New7Wonder campaigns are some of the more popular online voting schemes. The original contest was the most popular poll at the time with a reputed 100 million votes cast. Curiously, North America's most famous natural wonder - Niagara Falls - did not make the cut.

The Round of 28

  • Amazon Rainforest

  • Angel Falls

  • Bay of Fundy

  • Black Forest

  • Bu Tihah Shoals

  • Cliffs of Moher

  • Dead Sea

  • El Yunque

  • Galapagos Islands

  • Grand Canyon

  • Great Barrier Reef

  • Halong Bay

  • Iguazu Falls
  • Jeita Grotto

  • Jeju Island

  • Kilimanjaro

  • Komodo National Park

  • Maldives

  • Masurian Lake District

  • Matterhorn

  • Milford Sound

  • Mud Volcanoes

  • Puerto Princesa Underground River

  • Sundarbans Delta

  • Table Mountain

  • Uluru

  • Vesuvius

  • Yushan


Voting for this third and final stage continues through 2011 when the top seven are to be announced.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oxfam: Climate change could leave 75 million homeless



In the midst of a three-day meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh 21 of the poorest countries in Africa and the Asia-Pacific who are trying to draft a climate change declaration received ominous news.

Oxfam Australia says that climate change could leave up to 75 million people in the Asia-Pacific region homeless by 2050. The Future is Here: Climate Change says that these island nations are already suffering from drought, food shortages and rising water levels.

“People are already leaving their homes because of climate change, with projections that 75 million people in the Asia-Pacific region will be forced to relocate by 2050 if climate change continues unabated," says Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett. "Not all will have the option of relocating within their own country, so it’s vital that the Australian Government starts working with Pacific governments to plan for this now.”

The Australian government which has committed $150 million to help islanders adapt to climate change will host the Pacific Islands Forum next week where climate change talks are expected to dominate the proceedings. Hewett adds that Australia needs to show leadership at the meetings and that it is willing to do its fair share to mitigate climate change in the region.

To meet existing needs in the region Oxfam says that Australia should immediately double its financial commitment to $300 million and cut its emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

The report details how nations at risk have already begun to adapt. In Micronesia and parts of the Solomon Islands villagers have been forced to move to higher ground. Mangroves and native grasses have been planted on Fiji in an effort to abate coastal erosion. Other measures have been put in place to protect Fijian food staples and water supply.

In Dhaka, the Bangladesh minister for environment and forests, Mostafizur Rahman said, "It is a matter of life and death for us." The countries attending the Dhaka conference are low carbon emitters who suffer disproportionate to their carbon footprint. By speaking with one voice these vulnerable nations hope to be heard during the Copenhagen round of climate change talks in December.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Water trail system in Illinois officially launched

The region’s extensive water trails network emerged from the Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Trail Plan.

Think globally. Act locally.

A noble phrase that is used to rally local action to protect the environment. As global leaders look toward a new climate change agreement later this year it is important to remember that it is the local efforts of citizens and organizations that leave the most tangible and desired results.

Openlands, an Illinois group that has been protecting the natural habitat and open spaces in the state since 1963 is one such group. The Chicago-based Openlands recently marked the completion of 500 miles of water trails in northern Illinois.

The network of water trails - 10 years in the making - primarily focused on the Little Calumet, DuPage, and Fox rivers. The trails provide Illinois residents with a non-motorized boating environment and other ecological activities. Fifty new launch sites and improved signage were added to more than 250 miles of waterway. The project also rehabilitated shorelines, improved the quality of life for local communities and is a source of civic pride.

“When we began this project more than ten years ago, it was the first initiative of its kind in a metropolitan region in the United States,” said Openlands executive director Jerry Adelmann at a recent celebration to mark the occasion. “We looked at our system of creeks, rivers, streams, and Lake Michigan more comprehensively and identified ways to unify them into a rich and vast resource for people of all ages, interests, and abilities.”

Where it takes a village to raise a child it takes the efforts of many to create a natural water park. Community leaders, three levels of government, NGOs including the Grand Victoria Foundation and business groups banded together to create this unique environmental legacy. The efforts to create the trail are now bearing fruit throughout the nation as the project has been used as a blueprint for replication in Maryland, Minnesota and Washington states.

Friday, July 24, 2009

GreenWorksLinks Enviro News & Links Digest

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
While the following links are not news stories that would have made your local papers they are steps in the right direction. Few environmental stories ever make the front page unless they scream catastrophe. These links don't scream danger, they offer hope.

We also mix it up a bit by adding an environmental resource website or two that are worth checking out.

Find a Certified Green Restaurant
How Cell Phones Are Changing the Face of Green Activism
Worldwide attention as Scotland’s green isle slashes carbon footprint
No Impact Man
Pearl Jam Offsets Their Tour: Rock Out Guilt-Free
Echoing Green: Leveraging Skills Based Business Volunteers for Social Enterprises
Bamboo Boom: Is This Material for You?
Putting the cost of going green in context
Greening With Envy
Solar Power Generation to Double by 2010

GreenWorksLinks is looking for a catchy title for its weekly digest of links and tips. Any suggestions? First prize...continued good kharma.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sea Temps at Record Highs say NOAA

Sea temps are at record highs.
Surface temperatures of the world's oceans are at their highest levels since records have been kept says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This is particularly bad news for people living on the Atlantic coast as rising ocean temperatures fuel hurricanes and raise sea levels.

Preliminary data extrapolated by the National Climatic Data Center reports that sea level temperatures for the month of June were 1.06°F above the 20th century average. To pour salt on the wound the NCDC also reports that land and sea temps combined for the second warmest June in history behind June 2005. At just over 61°F the global temperature rose 1.12°F over the 20th century average.

The G8 recently agreed that a rise in global temperatures of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would set off a catastrophic chain of events. While many environmental groups chastised the G8 for setting distant and ambiguous targets it should be noted that the record temperatures that the NOAA has reported on for June 2009 are a little more than one half a degree Celsius.

Record cold in North Dakota.The NOAA report also states that the Arctic sea ice continues to melt at a record pace shrinking 5.6 percent below the 1979-2000 average extent.

Closer to home, the temperature-related energy demand for June was up two percent. Depending on where you live in America you were either using your air-conditioner too much or in the case of North Dakota, which had a record cold June, using your furnace to keep warm.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Toronto garbage strike reminds us to reduce waste

Toronto, one of the most populous cities in North America is crippled by a garbage strike.
For the second time this decade the city of Toronto has killed its summer tourism trade with yet another garbage strike. It has been more than a month since the city's parks and parking lots have been turned into "temporary waste transfer stations." About the best that politicians can do is to tell people to double bag their garbage in an effort to keep the smell down.

Torontonians, reminded on a daily basis that North Americans produce too much waste could soon face health repercussions for the city of three million plus. With the stockpiling of waste comes fertile breeding grounds for rats and mice. Provided with an ample food source rodents are now birthing their first garbage strike induced offspring.

While pest controllers are seeing business pick up so to has environmentalism. Grassroots groups have formed across the city to offer tips and advice. Some groups literally sweep through neighborhoods removing litter in an effort to keep the garbage at bay. Other residents haul their garbage with them on Friday evenings to be disposed of in the municipality of their summer getaway.

George Smitherman, a member of the provincial government, has organized cleanups throughout the city and launched a website for concerned citizens that encourages them to be part of the solution.

OneToronto.ca "is not designed to replace existing services, instead we want to go after spots in our neighborhoods where litter and trash is becoming problematic and unsightly."

One man's garbage is another conglomerate's marketing opportunity. Glad has crews throughout the city handing out free garbage bags. Similar to its efforts in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Glad has distributed more than 25 000 bags and set up a website that offers information on how to manage garbage locally.

The city however, seems no closer to ending the strike of its civic employees. The major fly in the ointment to a deal is that Toronto wants to end the practice of allowing union members to bank sick days. Unused sick days can result in a cash payout equivalent to six month's wages upon retirement.

As the union has no reason to rescind this perk Toronto the Good will remain Toronto the Odoriferous until the city comes up with Plan B.
Recyclables are not being picked up in Toronto's garbage strike.
10 ways to reduce waste
Here are 10 ways you can reduce waste during a garbage strike.

Ditch the paper towels and napkins
Avoid disposable products
Use your own shopping bags
Buy in bulk
Compost your organic waste
Brown bag it to work. Avoid fast food restaurants.
Use a travel mug for that commute cup of joe
Use concentrates
Change your habits

Most importantly, buy what you need and use what you buy. You don't need a garbage strike to reduce your carbon footprint.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuvalu hopes solar project inspires climate talks; nation sets goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2020

The first major solar system in Tuvalu, atop the stadium roof in the capital, Funafuti, is the first step towards a national goal of being powered entirely by renewable energy.

Amid worsening climate change-related problems for small island states, Tuvalu has established a national goal of being powered entirely by renewable energy sources by 2020.

Government officials and the donors of Tuvalu's first large-scale solar energy system alike hope the moves help inspire much larger nations later this year in negotiations of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol agreement on climate change.

The solar system installed on the roof of Tuvalu's largest football stadium now supplies 5 percent of the electricity needed by that nation's capital, Funafuti.

In its first 14 months, the operation has reduced Tuvalu's consumption of generator fuel, shipped from New Zealand, by about 17,000 litres and reduced Tuvalu's carbon footprint by about 50 tonnes.

In the process, it has also reduced the risk of diesel spills around the archipelago of four low-lying coral islands and five atolls.

Based on the project's success, the country now aims to be powered entirely by renewable energy sources by 2020, a goal requiring an investment estimated at just over $20 million, according to government estimates.

At their summit last week in Italy, the richer G8 countries committed to help finance efforts by poorer nations to battle climate change.

Tuvalu's first grid-connected, 40 kilowatt solar energy system was implemented under the leadership of Japan's Kansai Electric Power Co. with the support of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, both members of the e8, an international non-profit organisation of 10 leading power utilities from G8 countries.

"There may be other, larger solar power installations in the world but none could be more meaningful to customers than this one," says Takao Shiraishi, General Manager of the Kansai Electric Power Co.

"The plight of Tuvalu versus the rising tide vividly represents the worst early consequence of climate change," he adds. "For Tuvalu, after 3,000 years of history, the success of UN climate talks in Copenhagen this December may well be a matter of national survival."

The Tuvalu government is working to expand the initial US $410,000 e8 project from 40 to 60 kilowatts, and will extend solar power to outer islands, starting later this year with the commission of a US $800,000, 46 kilowatt solar power system for the Motufoua Secondary School in Vaitupu, being implemented with the support of the Italian government.

With a population of 12,000, Tuvalu is halfway between Hawaii and Australia, 26 square km in size, with a maximum elevation of just 4.5 meters and most of its land less than a meter above sea level.

Tuvalu is already experiencing flooding amid predictions of a large sea level rise this century.

Says Kausea Natano, Minister for Public Utilities and Industries: "We thank those who are helping Tuvalu reduce its carbon footprint as it will strengthen our voice in upcoming international negotiations. And we look forward to the day when our nation offers an example to all – powered entirely by natural resources such as the sun and the wind."

The e8's Tuvalu project was initiated after a series of regional renewable energy feasibility workshops, jointly organised by the Pacific Power Association (PPA) and the e8.

e8 members agreed to donate and install the first facility, is monitoring its success and building local expertise to ensure the project's sustainability.

Run by the state-owned Tuvalu Electricity Corporation (TEC), the system in Funafuti today powers households, healthcare facilities, small-and medium-sized enterprises and other facilities.

Johane Meagher, Executive Director of the e8, expressed thanks for the support of the Pacific Power Association, with whom the e8 has established a long term collaboration to support development of small scale projects in the Pacific Islands and strengthen the capacity of the engineers and technicians of the islands' utilities to enhance renewable energy power in the Pacific region.

Says Ms. Meagher: "We are proud of the role the e8 has played in creating this clean energy project, which was intended to generate far more than just electricity in Tuvalu. It is a message to the world about the urgent need to promote sustainable energy development and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a massive scale."

Contact: Terry Collins
terrycollins@rogers.com
416-538-8712

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sarkozy shows climate change leadership in talks with UN chief

United Nations.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy discussed climate change in New York City on Friday with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Sarkozy stressed the need for a new organization that would oversee climate change initiatives.

The French President's comments come on the heels of the G8 conference earlier this month in Italy where members agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Sarkozy's call for a new global group comes scant weeks in advance of G20 talks scheduled for Pittsburgh and the meeting of United Nations General Assembly.

Both of these meetings are expected to lay out the final climate change groundwork that will be necessary for the Copenhagen Conference in December when the successor to the Kyoto Protocol will be established.

Ban Ki-moon praised Sarkozy during the working lunch at the French consulate for his, "full commitment to work together to seal the deal in Copenhagen on a globally acceptable" agreement.

The Secretary General, who considers the recent G8 commitments as insufficient commended Sarkozy for his climate change initiative during the working lunch. "I am very happy to have such a strong support," he said. Ban Ki-moon added that he was "very grateful for his commitment on climate change."

Sarkozy has become increasingly vocal lately with regards to climate change and many in the environmental community see him as one of its champions including Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Panel will be responsible for the successor of the Kyoto Protocol.

As host to the European Union last year, Sarkozy helped negotiate the climate change deal that saw member countries agree to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2020.
Rush hour in Paris is dominated by small cars and motorcycles.
Prior to the recent G8 meeting, Sarkozy met with his British counterpart, Prime Minister Gordon Blair to forge a common vision in advance of Copenhagen. At the time Sarkozy said of the upcoming G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, "We won't be satisfied with very long-term goals," adding that he wanted to set ambitious targets that reflected the goals discussed during the London meeting of the G20 in April.

"We will fight, hand in hand, a battle against the consequences of climate change," said Sarkozy on Friday. "We must create a global organization on the environment."

France, which receives most of its energy from nuclear sources has long been at the forefront of environmental change. Measures big and small, include an advanced rail system and the novel approach of renting bicycles in Paris. Both have been lauded and replicated in other cities and countries around the world.

Exclusive of climate change, the two leaders had intense discussions on international trouble spots including Iran, Darfur and Somalia.



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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Averting Deforestation in Southern Chad

Deforestation is a major environmental problem in southern Chad.
by Titki D. Tarassoum

Chad is experiencing several environmental problems.

Lake Chad has shrunk to 1/10th of its size over the past 40 years as a result of climate change and human activity. The north-central African country's northern desert is encroaching upon its central Sahel zone due to overgrazing and overuse. While air and soil pollution in this landlocked country may be localized to specific areas surrounding industrial facilities and urban areas, the greatest short-term environmental health risk in much of the country is water contamination.

However, the most significant environmental problem in southern Chad has been and will continue to be, the deforestation of the tropical woodlands and forests.

Deforestation in southern Chad is caused by the lack of access to electricity, resulting in the continued dependence on firewood. Less than three percent of the population in Chad have access to electricity. Firewood and charcoal is the only source of energy for more than 97 percent of the country and for rural families that figure jumps to 100 percent.Refugee camp in Chad.
The recent influx of refugees from Central African Republic and Sudan into southern Chad exacerbates the situation as displaced refugees now compete with local inhabitants over natural resources. This leads to more deforestation, soil erosion, and depletion and pollution of scarce water resources.

Barh Koh ESDA - an international non-profit charitable organization promoting poverty relief through environmental protection - is working to provide environmentally safe alternative energy sources to the disadvantaged inhabitants and refugees in the region of Maro in southern Chad. The group's efforts focus on cooking and indoor lighting, to help reduce dependence on firewood and thus, reducing the rate of deforestation.

A Three Point Action Plan
Barh Koh's three point action plan to avert deforestation in southern Chad involves providing solar cookers, lanterns and flashlights to villagers:

1) Providing solar cookers/ovens to poor rural families.
Solar cookers cost approximately $40 while solar ovens are in the vicinity of $300; which constitute a very small investment to help relieve poverty and save the environment at the same time. Solar cookers and stoves are safe; they cause no danger of fire, burns or smoke inhalation associated with wood burning.


2) Providing solar lanterns for poor families and students. A set of two solar lanterns can cost around $40 to $60, including shipping and handling. Solar lanterns are eco-friendly and will reduce the risks of fire hazards associated with kerosene lamps and firewood burning. A solar lantern will also enable a rural student to study and do homework after sunset. Solar lanterns also provide indoor lighting in the otherwise dark rural dwellings.

3) Providing solar flashlights to poor families and students. A single solar flashlight could save lives in a rural family that spends its evenings and nights in perpetual darkness, subject to all sorts of insects, reptiles and other elements. A solar-powered flashlight costs between $20 to $30 and can make a significant difference in a rural villager's life.

How Can You Help?
Averting deforestation and improving living conditions in southern Chad is a significant undertaking that will protect the natural environment, improve the rural built environment, and improve the well-being of local inhabitants as well as the displaced refugees.

This work simply wouldn't be possible without your support. For more information or to donate online visit us at: http://www.barhkoh.org

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Brothel offers green discount to cyclists



The Maison d'Envie brothel in Berlin is offering a seven percent discount to its customers who arrive by bicycle. And the gimmick is working too! Brothel owner Thomas Goetz says that the incentive draws in an extra three to five clients per day.

The discount is not only open to cyclists but to any other customer who can prove that they arrived by public transit.

"The recession has hit our industry hard," Goetz told Reuters. "Obviously we hope that the discount will attract more people. It's good for business, it's good for the environment – and it's good for the girls."



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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nevermind the Bastille - French to Storm Mediterranean with Hydrogen Yacht

Artist rendition of the world's first hydrogen yacht.
The Zero CO2 - the world’s first-hydrogen powered yacht - is expected to set sail around the Mediterranean Sea next March.

While most sailboats are typically by nature, a carbon-free form of transportation the Zero CO2 will have an electric motor driven by a hydrogen fuel cell. All other on-board energy needs on the Zero CO2 are to be obtained from renewable energy sources.

Zero CO2 is not just a yacht, its also a floating 12 meter laboratory.

The integrated on-board lab will study air and waterborne pollutants on its 10 month research mission with an eye to "develop and promote new energy sources that will replace fossil fuels and consequently lead to a reduction in carbon emissions and an improvement with regards to the greenhouse effect."

Following trial runs in Savoie, France Zero CO2 will be launched in the Mediterranean off the southern coast of France and head for Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Tunisia, Crete, Turkey, the Greek coast, Montenegro, Croatia, the Italian coast, Spain, and the Balearic Islands before returning to Marseilles in December, 2010.

During the mission researchers will also study the feasibility of green hydrogen production. This form of hydrogen would be produced by solar panels and wind turbines mounted on the roofs of port-side buildings.

The odyssey is also a vehicle to raise climate change awareness amongst sailors and promote respect for maritime environment. Now under construction, the boat is to debut at the Paris Boat Show in December.

Monday, July 13, 2009

G8 Moves Forward on Climate Change

Earth: 2050?

The eight richest industrialized nations - the G8 - gathered in L'Aquila, Italy last week to discuss among other things climate change. Unfortunately, the only news that grabbed the world's attention was a photo of who was looking at what.

It was expected that the G8 - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States - would agree that a rise in global temperature of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would set off a catastrophic chain of events that would send our planet spiraling out of control ecologically speaking.

The G8 also agreed to greenhouse gas reductions that echo the recent reduction targets passed in the US Congress. The Group mandated its members to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. This commitment reasserts the targets and principles set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and cites the statement adopted in Toyako, Japan last year.

With its new targets in hand the G8 then challenged developing countries to cut global carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050.

China and India do not support such a measure as they believe that it would cripple their burgeoning economies. Other developing countries are particularly concerned that the G8 will not offer financial aid and technical support to help them adapt and meet these targets.

The Italian meeting of the G8 was held in conjunction with the Major Economies Meeting. The MEM is comprised of Australia, Korea and Indonesia, the G8 and the G5 - China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico. Together, these 16 countries account for more than 80 percent of global CO2 emissions.

This meeting marks the last time that all the major players are together until the Copenhagen Conference in December. At that time a new global agreement is expected to be reached that will replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol which sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 6-10 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

Talks on addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions have been ongoing since the Rio Accord of 1992.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Enviro News & Links You May Have Missed This Week

Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.

Happy Birthday America! You probably won't find these headlines on the front page of your local papers but they are steps in the right direction.

We also mix it up a bit by adding NGO and environmental resource websites that are worth checking out.

What is the Car Allowance Rebate System?

A Central Texas Water War
Report Points the Way for a Zero Waste Vancouver
Roadsters embrace green racing
Surfing the Nations
Get Started Saving Energy: A Video Guide to Busting Inertia
Top 10 organic fast-food restaurants

Next week Green Works Links will take a look at the first LEED museum in America.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Calculate the Footprint of Your Water Use

Do you know the risks of your water supply?
The Global Water Tool was developed by the World Council for Sustainable Business to help assess your water footprint and assess risks where water is not in plentiful supply.

Working within an Excel spreadsheet the Global Water Tool can be downloaded along with other supporting information and video tutorials.

It was first developed in 2007 - used by companies such as Dow Chemical and PepsiCo - and updated in 2009 for the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul.

“Green” fireworks may brighten eco-friendly Fourth of July displays in future

Happy Independence Day!
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With millions of people in the United States eagerly awaiting those July 4 fireworks displays here’s a prospect for those light shows of the future likely to ignite a smile on Mother Nature’s face: A new generation of “green” fireworks is quietly making its way toward the sky.

That’s “green” as in environmentally friendly.

Fireworks, flares and other so-called “pyrotechnics” traditionally have included potassium perchlorate as the oxidizer, a material that provides the oxygen that fireworks need to burn. Perchlorate, however, is an environmental pollutant with potential adverse effects on people and wildlife. Pyrotechnics contain other ingredients, such color-producing heavy metals, with a similar potential.
Studies have shown that perchlorate from community fireworks displays conducted over lakes, for instance, can lead to perchlorate contamination of the water. For full details about how perchlorate contaminates lakes after fireworks displays, see a study published in the American Chemical Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

Researchers, however, have developed new pyrotechnic formulas that replace perchlorate with nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose that burn cleaner and produce less smoke, according to an article in ACS’s weekly newsmagazine, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).
Fireworks.
In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Bethany Halford says these nitrogen-rich formulas also use fewer color-producing chemicals, dramatically cutting down on the amount of heavy metals used and lowering their potentially toxic effects.

Some of these fireworks have already been used at circuses, rock concerts and other events, but none have been used at large outdoor displays. The problem: cost. The big challenge in launching these “eco-friendly” pyrotechnics into the sky is making them cost-competitive with conventional fireworks while maintaining their dazzle and glow, the article explains.

The article notes that fireworks manufacturers have little incentive to further develop the new green fireworks because no federal regulations currently limit releases of perchlorate from pyrotechnics.

(The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 154,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mariposa: The Greening of a Music Festival

The hills are alive with the sound of music.
Summertime and the living is easy.

This is the time of year when we kick back and enjoy life at a slower pace. It's also when the music festival scene kicks into high gear and whether its rock, jazz, blues or folk there is a festival for every taste and every genre.

High energy concerts take an inordinate amount of energy to run and the single biggest energy use is getting back and forth from the concert. While finding alternative transportation is the greenest thing that you can do festivals are now seeing that there carbon footprint can also be shrunk.

In honor of Canada Day we look at the efforts of one of the oldest folk festivals on the continent and see how after 50 years they are starting to reinvent themselves in a green hue.

Approaching its 50th anniversary next year the Mariposa Folk Festival is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of its return to its Orillia roots. Over the course of its long history the annual event has been hosted in Toronto and neighboring Barrie.

Greening Mariposa, as the new environmental initiative is known, focuses on five key areas to reduce Mariposa's carbon footprint. These measures are: Bring Your Own Cup (BYOC); Composting; Cycling; Souvenir Program; and Virtual Audience Survey campaigns.

"As this is really our first year at such an initiative our focus is to reduce the amount of non-biodegradable waste produced at the festival," says Aaron Howes, Chair of the Green Team, Member of Mariposa Folk Foundation Board of Directors. "We will be aiming for a water bottle free festival and to use biodegradable serving materials wherever possible."
Mariposa Folk Festival celebrates 50 years by going green.
The festival has added water "hydration" stations this year in the hopes of eliminating single use plastic water bottles. The Bring Your Own Cup campaign, primarily aimed at the festivals volunteer base is a case of leading by example. Festival organizers are also encouraging volunteers and attendees to cycle to the Festival.

"Other initiatives include our festival programme and posters being created by Rose Printing who is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified. We are also moving the audience survey online to eliminate paper usage at the festival," states Howes.

Throughout the festival's three day run volunteers will work the crowds and collect email addresses. Afterward, concert goers will be queried electronically for their thoughts on the Festival and their overall experience in attending Mariposa.

Composting is also being introduced this year and Mariposa has purchased biodegradable cups and utensils for its food stands and beer tent. Compost bins will be set up throughout the grounds with volunteers to sort through the detritus.

While there are no hybrid vehicles to shuttle talent back and forth from the grounds organizers are hoping to make a difference with the artists. "In terms of the artists we will be supplying them with hard reusable plastic mugs to fill up with water over the weekend. And all the supplies used in the Green Room will now be biodegradable."

With the Festival kicking off this weekend, Howes is already looking to expand Mariposa's environmental efforts next year. "In our second year we will be adding to our strategy to include energy usage at the festival amongst some other sustainable strategies."



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