Monday, September 30, 2013

How Recycling Bias Affects What You Toss Where

Does this sound like you?  Good article from the NPR station in Wisconsin.  Changing people's behavior, and recognizing the environmental and economic benefits derived from increased recycling, is a positive first step:

During an experiment, marketing professor Remi Trudel noticed a pattern in what his volunteers were recycling versus throwing in the garbage. He then went through his colleagues' trash and recycling bins at Boston University for more data.
He found the same pattern, says NPR's Shankar Vedantam: "Whole sheets of paper typically went in the recycling, but paper fragments went in the trash."
Same type of paper, different shapes, different bins.
Trudel and fellow researcher Jennifer Argo conducted experiments to figure out why that might be. Volunteers received full pieces of paper as well as fragments, and they also received cans of soda.
"After the volunteers had drunk the soda, when the cans were intact, the cans went in the recycling," Vedantam tells Morning Edition host David Greene. "But if the cans were dented or crushed in any way, the volunteers ended up putting those crushed cans in the trash."
Trudel and Argo developed a theory, which has to do with how we perceive a product's utility.
"When a product is sufficiently distorted or changed in size or form, consumers perceive it as less useful," Trudel says. "And when they perceive it as less useful, they're more likely to throw it in the garbage, as opposed to recycle it."
Vedantam describes it as following an "unconscious rule of thumb."
"After we finish using a product, we somehow evaluate, does the product still look like it could be useful? So a can that isn't dented still looks like a can; it could conceivably still hold soda in it, and so we think of it as being useful," he says.
We have internalized the idea that "useful things go in the recycling, and useless things go in the trash."
Things that could have been recycled actually make up a significant portion of what's thrown in the garbage every year. The Environmental Protection Agency estimatesthat paper and paperboard accounted for 28 percent of waste generated in 2011. Plastics and metals made up an additional 22 percent.
Trudel says the first step in changing these habits is to be aware of our bias about usefulness. He's running experiments to tell people how much energy individual cans are worth, so that something that may seem useless is actually valuable.
"He's also thinking of putting these big red frowny faces on the trash cans as a way to get people to stop for just one second and make a conscious decision," Vedantam says.
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit

If you sometimes forget the mission, the importance of our collective desire to preserve and protect the Earth

Here's a good reminder (and our thanks to one of our upcoming guest on a show, Ed Cardinal) for sending this to us):  a very nice trailer on an upcoming documentary that explores astronauts bond with the Earth after seeing our beautiful planet, and its fragile composition, from space. 

As you watch, think about hanging suspended from the Space Station and taking those remarkable pictures.  What energy, emotion, divinity would you feel?  Would there be any doubt that you would fall in love again.

Enjoy.  Our thanks to Planetary Collective for a moving piece.  Here's their description with a link to the video.  Send us your comments and we hope you feel more compelled than ever to build a brighter, cleaner future:  

On the 40th anniversary of the famous ‘Blue Marble’ photograph taken of Earth from space, Planetary Collective presents a short film documenting astronauts’ life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside – a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect.


Friday, September 27, 2013

We are always happy to help promote national events with the Sierra Club

And, as we did last  year, we want to tell you about Plug-in Day, coming up this weekend, and share with you the great news on the clear, unmistakable rise in EV sales.  Take a look at this post from Sierra Club:

As you may know, this weekend is the third annual National Plug In Day. People will be checking out EVs for themselves at events in about 90 US cities. I hope you'll register for an event near you at!

One way to spread the word is to read, share, tweet, and comment on this Sierra Club blog post (it will be re-posted on Huffington Post). Sierra Club has been thrilled to collaborate with Plug In America and the Electric Auto Association -as well as many other local partners -to organize this effort. I wanted to send out a big shout-out to Sierra Club volunteer extraordinaire Dan Redmond who has done a terrific job supporting local event organizers



This weekend the third annual National Plug in Day celebrates surging electric car sales at more than 90 events. Today, less than three years after electric vehicles arrived on the mass market, more than 130,000 Americans are driving EVs. With more than a dozen models now on the road, EV sales have been rising by about 200 percent a year.
Ever wondered what it's like to drive an electric car? Ever wanted to talk to someone who is not a car dealer about how these cars are charged, and which cars are the most reliable or lowest in emissions? Want to hear how 130,000 Americans like the electric cars they are already driving daily? National Plug In Day events will take place Saturday, September 28 and Sunday, September 29 across the United States, plus Amsterdam and Mexico City. The fact is, people who are already driving electric cars love them and want to show them off. More than 1,700 EV drivers have already signed up to participate at these events nationwide, and thousands more of the EV-curious will attend, too. You can register for an event near you here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Congratulations to Massachusetts for a great step forward on wind energy

This must be our week for covering stories in MA.  Earlier, on Monday, we released a great interview we did with a leading Mayoral candidate in Boston, and now we are very happy to bring you this wonderful story on Massachusett's big push into wind energy.

Before we do that, we want to thank Tracy from Healthline for posting on our blog and offering their group's expertise in health/medicine in providing us future content.  We welcome them to Renewable Now and welcome you if you like to contribute to "the business side of green" in your area of expertise.  You can find us and reach us at:

Now, thanks to Seth Handy of Handy Law, and North American Wind Power we bring you this terrific update:

Massachusetts Utilities File 565 MW Wind Energy Plan

Massachusetts' four utility companies have jointly filed contracts with state regulators for a total 565 MW of wind energy. According to the Gov. Deval Patrick administration, if approved, the deals would represent the largest procurement of renewable energy in New England.

Northeast Utilities, which owns and operates NSTAR and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. (WMECo), National Grid, and Unitil filed the plan with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). The Patrick administration says that the weighted average price from all of the contracts is less than $0.08/kWh.

The deals call for six projects to be built in Maine and New Hampshire by developers First Wind, Iberdrola Renewables and Exergy Development Group.

First Wind, for example, has been selected to supply over 330 MW from two projects planned in Maine.

The 147 MW Oakfield Wind project, which received siting approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in January 2012, will comprise 48 turbines. According to the developer, construction is scheduled to start by the end of this year, and the project should be completed and online in 2015.

First Wind’s planned 186 MW Bingham Wind project is in the advanced permitting stages with the Maine DEP and would feature 62 turbines. The developer expects both projects will qualify for federal investment tax credits.

In August 2012, Patrick signed into law new energy legislation directing Massachusetts’ electric distribution companies to solicit proposals for long-term contracts associated with renewable energy projects to provide 4% of their total energy demand. The four companies issued a joint request for proposals, which the DPU approved on April 1, 2013. The following month, the companies received 40 bids to jointly consider. Short-listed bids were selected in July, and contract negotiations took place throughout August.

“We are pleased with the results of this solicitation. By pooling the resources of all the utilities, we were able to purchase a large amount of clean, renewable energy for the state at below-market prices,” says Ronald Gerwatowski, senior vice president of U.S. regulation and pricing at National Grid. “In addition to delivering environmental benefits for years to come, these agreements have the potential to save customers money over the long term. Renewables are an investment in our green energy future. These long-term power supply contracts are great news for our customers and the Commonwealth.”

The DPU will begin its review process, including a public comment period and public hearings for each of the utilities.

Currently, the Patrick administration says Massachusetts has 311 MW of solar power installed, with more than 130 MW installed in 2012 alone. There has been an increase in wind energy from 3 MW to 103 MW since 2007.

From our weekly show update

Great story is running on our newsletter this week profiling a somewhat unknown but certainly established EV manufacturer:   Wheego Motors.

Subtitled, "The Electric Little Car That Could",  the story shows that Wheego is a true international, global market example of using resources from around the world to assemble and distribute a product.  With tentacles in the US (Atlanta), China and Canada, Wheego is a fascinating story, refereed to at the United Nations of car companies".  Very cool.

Our viewers know all about Wheego Motors--we interviewed one of their dealers, based outside of Boston, MA, while we covered a wonderful event in Boston, Carbon Day.  Go to our site and our archived shows to see our segment on Carbon Day and to see our piece with the dealer.

In the meantime here's the story.  

Wheego, The  Electric Little Car That Could.

When it comes to electric cars we often think right away of Tesla, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and now the coming of electric cars from such companies as BMW. But one company that may not get as much attention as it should is a small electric car company right here in the United States that goes by the name Wheego. This company has defied the odds when it comes to electric automobiles while many other have gone waist side Wheego keeps chugging along.

The Wheego has a very interesting manufacturing trail, Wheego CEO, Mike McQuary provide the cars origin's in the company's premiere newsletter back in October, 2009. This is how he explained it.
"Wheego is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia- but nothing too exciting  happens there. It is mostly just administrative functions. Assembly of the Wheego happens in two places. Just outside of Shijiazhuang, China the Wheego chassis and body are manufactured to our specifications and then shipped to Ontario, California. Parts that we source from all over North America meet up with the "gliders" in Ontario and the "electrification" and final assembly takes place there. The AGM Batteries are from a Canadian company, the motors are made in Wisconsin, the Controller is made in Puerto Rico (by a NY based company), the Dashboard is made in Michigan, the Seat Belts are from Oklahoma, and well you get the picture.

I like to think of it as the United Nations of cars, we source the best parts from around the world and put them together with expert engineers and technicians in the U.S. to make the best electric car in the world."

A United Nations of cars...Wonder if it comes in the UN powder blue? But seriously when we look at effective manufacturing that needs to take place for a small start up to compete against the established giants this model makes a lot of sense. But what was even more interesting is that we learned from an article posted on PLUGINCARS that Wheego has actual partnered with a Chinese company to produce cars in China and to also sell them there. The details weren't disclosed but again it reinforces China's interest in the electric car and their efforts of moving away from carbon emission vehicles.

What also caught our eye with Wheego is the dealership opportunity. From our perspective they are almost doing a grass roots effort in building these dealerships where almost anyone can apply for the opportunity to be a dealer.  Currently Wheego has one base model Wheego Life, but building on its small but stable base, Wheego is planning expanding its line-up to include an electric SUV at some point in the next year. Like the LiFe, this new model will use a body made in China along with US components. The expected prices is $44,000 (before any government incentives). The LiFe starts at $32,995.

So just like that little train that kept chugging along with a positive attitude Wheego keeps moving forward at it's own pace. And if you remember your childhood stories that little train did pretty well - See more at:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Good work by our partner, Rhode Island College and their "coolest" president

Rhode Island College is a true educational leader in green.  Take a look at this story from GoLocalProv and click on RIC's green initiatives page to review their progressive sustainable programs led be their innovative sustainability director, Jim Murphy:

Rhode Island College President Nancy Carriuolo, Congressman David Cicilline joined RIC faculty, staff and community members for the annual RIC Green-Up Clean-Up day, held to help beautify the college campus and promote school pride within the community. The largest event to date, over 130 volunteers from 20 different campus groups and organizations gathered to clean up litter from key spots around campus. The event was sponsored by Lowe’s, Stop and Shop and the Henry Barnard School Parent Association.
"Rhode Island College is committed to maintaining a sustainable campus in which all our faculty, students and staff can take pride," said President Carriuolo. "This year's Clean-up Green-up was Rhode Island College's most successful to date, and the wonderful support we received for this event illustrates that the community is equally committed to this mission. It is rewarding to have so many community members actively engaged in our mission to keep our campus beautiful."
Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island also got involved with the clean-up effort by offering free electronics (e-waste) recycling and collecting gently used clothing, footwear, and household linens and accessories that will help fund its programs to train Rhode Islanders with disabilities and other employment barriers.
RIC has taken on a number of green projects. Its Fruit Hill Farmers Market will be open for two more Thursday this season, producing soaps, honey, bread and baked goods, herbs, and more. The school also maintains its own beehive and community garden, led by the college's first ever susainability coordinator, Jim Murphy. To read more about RIC's green initiatives, click here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Walmart Requires ‘Greener’ Chemicals, Recycling, Energy Efficiency

Many pure environmentalist dismiss as "inadequate" the sustainable efforts of companies, and even go so far as refusing to work or cooperate with businesses.  We think they are wrong in their approach and ultimate chances for real success.

The business world is too big, too sprawling and too big a player in the economic and environmental arenas not to fully engage them in the fight for green.  Here's a good example of huge player in the retail space making a difference not only in the business world, as they lead their suppliers to better choices in products, but make much easier on the consumer to buy green as well.

We applaud Walmart and every other business out there making a positive difference and pushing us towards a cleaner future:

BENTONVILLE, Arkansas, September 16, 2013 (ENS) – Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has decided to offer products with less harmful chemicals, increase the use of recycled materials, reduce fertilizer use in agriculture, and increase energy efficiency in the products its stores carry. The new standards apply to Walmart stores in the United States and elsewhere around the world.
At its Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting Thursday, Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke highlighted the company’s Sustainability Index, a measurement system used to track the environmental impact of products.
Mike Duke
Walmart chief Mike Duke (Photo courtesy Walmart)
“We’ve reached an acceleration point where we are moving from measurement to results. We’re starting to really drive progress with the Index,” Duke said.
“This is about trust and value. Using less energy, greener chemicals, fewer fertilizers and more recycled materials – all of this – is the right thing to do for the planet and it’s right for our customers and our business,” he said.
The Sustainability Index has been applied to 200 product categories, and to more than 1,000 suppliers. By the end of this year, Duke says the Index will expand to include more than 300 product categories and as many as 5,000 suppliers.
Since the Index rolled out to Walmart product categories in August 2012, it has shown a trend of improved product sustainability. Walmart’s general merchandise department has improved its Index product sustainability score by an average of 20 percent; the grocery department by an average of 12 percent; and consumables and health and wellness by an average of six percent.
“With the Sustainability Index, Walmart is applying the science and research that we’ve developed to create a more sustainable supply chain globally,” said Kara Hurst, CEO of The Sustainability Consortium, a citizens group in the United States and The Netherlands that works with member companies to improve consumer product sustainability.
“We’re excited about the significant progress Walmart and its suppliers are making and value their partnership with us to address big issues and drive real social and environmental change,” said Hurst.
Walmart has been working with suppliers, nonprofits, industry experts and government to develop and implement solutions that address critical problems and opportunities across the global supply chain.
Five major initiatives are underway.
Walmart in Tabb, Virginia (Photo by RetailbyRyan95)
Walmart aims to grow both the supply and demand for recycled plastics so they can be diverted from landfill and get a second life. More than 29 million tons of plastics are sent to landfills every year in the United States at a cost of about $6.6 billion annually.
The company is working with cities to increase plastic recycling and with suppliers to increase the use of recycled content and make packaging more recyclable. Changes in packaging are already being implemented in product categories such as beverage, over-the-counter drugs, dairy creamers and berry containers.
Last week, Walmart and Sam’s Club announced a smartphone trade-in program in the United States that goes into effect September 21. The company will not send these trade-ins to landfills, domestically or internationally, a move that could keep hundreds of thousands of smartphones from landfills every year.
Walmart is working with suppliers to reduce or eliminate the use of priority chemicals used in consumables products in favor of less harmful alternatives. It will begin with household cleaning, personal care, beauty and cosmetic products, asking suppliers to transition to greener substitutes for priority chemicals.
Starting in January 2014, Walmart will begin to label its private brand cleaning products in accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended Design for the Environment Safer Product Labeling program.
Walmart declined to say which specific chemicals would be phased out but confirmed that they all appear on the list of chemicals that the U.S. advocacy group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families published in April as part of its Mind the Store campaign. The campaign asked the top 10 retailers to phase out 100 hazardous chemicals in the products they sell.
Walmart cosmetics section in Baxter Springs, Kansas (Photo by Nathan Bush)
Andy Igrejas, executive director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families said today, “This is an unusually substantive announcement and Walmart deserves credit for that. We’re encouraged that they’ve described this is as just the beginning of action on chemicals rather than an end.”
“While the number of chemicals is limited, the action is meaningful. They are not just moving away from several known toxic chemicals but are going deeper, using their position to make sure the alternatives are safer,” said Igrejas. “That’s progress that can ripple across the marketplace.”
Igrejas said the EPA’s Design for the Environment label is “one of the few eco-labels that means something.”
“Clearly, the problem is much bigger, but Walmart’s announcement today appears to be a meaningful down payment on an enhanced chemical policy,” said Igrejas. “We urge other the other retailers to both learn from and improve upon it.”
“Walmart’s decision to banish cosmetics and cleaners made with toxic chemicals will revolutionize the marketplace and help all of us live better by making safer products the new normal,” said Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund and co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
“Kudos to Walmart for responding to growing consumer demand for cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, make-up and cleaners that don’t contain chemicals that are harmful to our health,” said Nudelman. “Eliminating as many as 10 toxic chemicals from Walmart’s inventory is a big step forward, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We know there are many more dangerous chemicals linked to breast cancer and reproductive harm that should be removed from products.”
In another initiative, Walmart is requiring suppliers who use commodity grains, such as corn, wheat and soy in their products, to develop a fertilizer optimization plan that outlines clear goals to improve performance based on research conducted through the Sustainability Index. Walmart says the company and its suppliers have the potential to reduce fertilizer use on 14 million acres of farmland in the U.S. by 2020.
Walmart will expand the Sustainability Index and measurement to international markets with the goal of improving product sustainability at the global level.
Walmart Chile and Walmart Mexico will launch the Sustainability Index in their respective markets in 2014. In addition, South Africa’s Massmart has begun to include key Index questions in its supplier sustainability surveys.
Duke said the Index has uncovered the importance of energy efficiency in several product categories, such as televisions, plastic toys, small appliances and greeting cards. By working with suppliers to improve energy efficiency through the supply chain of these products, Index energy scores have already improved 23 percent in general merchandise categories, the company said Thursday. Walmart is now providing tools for suppliers to help track and reduce the energy used to produce these products.
Walmart has announced its goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy. In 2012, Walmart added nearly 100 renewable energy projects, bringing the total number of projects in operation worldwide to nearly 300 today. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, it has more solar power capacity and number of systems than any other company in America.

EPA's tighter rules for centralized plants

We know there will be some mixed reviews on this new regulation.  Some will see it as boasting the future costs of energy.  Some will see it as making the US non-competitive in terms of power plant production as countries like China are bringing new coal-fired plants on line at an alarming rate.

However, we see this new regulation as an important first step in modernizing our centralized grid systems and addressing one of the core contributors to air pollution.  We believe it will give griid operators, all of whom seem to enjoy huge profits, the right economic incentives to switch their facilities to cleaning burning fuels, like natural gas, and to invest heavily in diversifying more into renewable sources and to transform their plants to smart grids.

What do you think?

"Today's announcement by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is an important step forward for our nation and our planet. From now on, future coal- and gas-fired power plants must take responsibility for their global warming pollution by reducing or capturing their overall emissions.
This is a critical achievement for President Barack Obama and his administration. In the face of an intransigent and inactive Congress, the President has made halting the climate crisis a priority. The policies announced today, combined with the rest of the President's Climate Action Plan, will put us on the path toward solving the climate crisis, but Congress must also soon face the reality of the situation.
Three years ago, Congress failed to put a price on carbon and, in doing so, allowed global warming pollution to continue unabated. We have seen the disturbing consequences that the climate crisis has to offer -- from a drought that covered 60% of our nation to Superstorm Sandy which wreaked havoc and cost the taxpayers billions, from wildfires spreading across large areas of the American West to severe flooding in cities all across our country -- we have seen what happens when we fail to act. We need a price on carbon. We need it now.
This is a historic step in the right direction. Head to the EPA's website for more information on the announcement."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Governor Brown intends to sign historic clean transportation bill in CA

CA is a proven leader in US on setting government standards for reducing emissions and cleaning the air.  Here, again, they have stepped into the forefront in not only establishing incentives for fleet's to upgrade their trucks, but, in doing so, creating positive economic impact through job creation.  That is a very nice win for their citizens and businesses.  I'm sure we'll see other states adapting these same standards, with incentives, we hope, so the new legislation does not just attack air pollution levels, but also adds financial incentives to help fleets modernize, which is very expensive, as we can attest, but drives job growth as well. Good news:

We found this on a great web site:  Calstart does a wonderful job of reporting and pushing positive changes in our nation's transportation and energy independence movements. 

Increases Chances State Will Meet Air Quality and Climate Targets

On a bipartisan vote, the California State Senate and Assembly recently approved a measure that would continue the state's clean vehicle and fuel incentives through 2023. Assembly Bill 8, authored by Assemblymember Henry T. Perea, with Senator Fran Pavley as Principal co-author, would provide more than $2 billion in funding to help fleets and consumers purchase clean and low carbon cars, trucks, buses, and construction equipment. The Senate voted to pass AB 8 on a bipartisan 29-6 vote. The bill went back to the Assembly for concurrence, where it garnered the required a 2/3 majority. It is now with Governor Jerry Brown awaiting his signature.

"This legislation authored by Assemblyman Perea and Senator Pavley is historic. It represents an unprecedented commitment by the state to help fleets and consumers transition to cleaner and lower carbon fuels and vehicles. If signed by the Governor, this legislation will create tens of thousands of jobs in California's clean transportation tech industry and set us on a course to meet our clean air and climate goals," said CALSTART President and CEO John Boesel. 

The programs that would be extended include the AB 118 clean fuel and vehicle programs and the Carl Moyer and AB 923 local air district funds for diesel emission reduction. By extending the programs through 2023, AB 8 would provide more than $2 billion in clean air and transportation funding in California. The bills also dedicate funding, in lieu of regulatory action, to construct the minimum fueling infrastructure necessary to support the impending introduction of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

In addition to CALSTART, the other two co-sponsors of the Perea-Pavley bill are the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) and the American Lung Association in California.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cities in Romania Moving Towards Green

Here's one of the great stories running on our site this week.  Our intent is to continue to grow and expand our international coverage.

Here's the link to the story.  Feel free to stay on our site and explore our many channels, many reports and our radio/TV shows.  We are looking for great contributors.  Please get in touch if you are an expert and would like to work with us:

After joining the European Union back in 2007, the word “sustainability” started to be heard more frequently in Romania. New opportunities for people to explore and learn from Western countries were suddenly opened, but also new minimum requirements to be met. Baby steps have been taken since then, sometimes because of bureaucracy, sometimes because of other priorities, and sometimes just because of lack of money.

Let’s have a look at the five biggest cities in Romania and their way to the green side: Bucharest – the capital city (population 1,677,985), Cluj-Napoca (population 309,136), Timisoara (this is my city, population 303,708), Iasi (population 263,410) and Constanta (population 254,693). They all share a few things in common: they want an urban regeneration, to reduce energy consumption and use modes of transportation other than cars.

A bit late, but in March 2009 the Romanian Government approved a program for the rehabilitation of residential urban buildings constructed from 1950–1990. And there are plenty of those. There were four benefits from this action plan: increasing the energy efficiency of the buildings by 40%, changing the facades (I must tell you, some of them were not very nice), protecting the environment by reducing emissions and a reduction in the amount of money spent by building owners, a lot of which was being funded by national and local governments.

In the matter of alternative transportation, all five cities agree that bikes will need to be used more frequently. The largest bike-sharing project in the country – I’Velo – was launched in May 2010 in Bucharest. Cluj-Napoca followed in July 2010, Constanta in April 2011, Timisoara in April 2012 and Iasi in June 2012. Each city is hoping this will help reduce their carbon footprint, build a community of bike lovers and sustain the development of adequate infrastructure for cyclists.

Additionally, over the last three years, Timisoara, Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest celebrated European Mobility Week - an annual campaign encouraging sustainable urban mobility. Citizens are beginning to embrace it, with more people taking part every year.
- See more at:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Continuing from yesterday's radio show

Here's the rest of the questions answered by Mike Ross, mayoral candidate in Boston, as presented to the Boston Globe:

7. What would you do to promote renewable energy in Boston? Do you envision more solar panels on city buildings? Wind turbines on city land.

In 2008, I held a city council hearing on the feasibility of implementing wind turbines in the city of Boston to explore both turbines along the water and on municipal buildings themselves. While Boston is one of the windiest cities, permitting and installing wind turbines are very difficult.

Luckily, there are a large number of opportunities for solar energy installation sites on city-owned buildings like schools. Boston should continue working toward the goal of 25 Megawatts of installed solar energy by 2015, leading by installing solar in city-owned or managed property as well as promoting solar to businesses and homeowners through Renew Boston. Solar thermal often has even greater financial return than solar PV and the City of Boston should establish an aggressive goal for kBTU/hrs of installed solar thermal, including Boston Housing Authority buildings.

8. The state’s bottle law has not been updated in more than 30 years to allow noncarbonated beverages to be redeemed for a nickel, as it allows for soda, beer, and malt beverages. Would you support a ballot initiative to change the law, and would you use the mayor’s bully pulpit to seek support? 

Reducing the use of bottled water and ensuring the ability to easily recycle used bottles are critical to minimizing the amount of plastic waste generated and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated from transporting bottled water. I support the current iteration of the Bottle Bill in the State House as a way to reduce waste associated with bottled water. I also strongly support public education efforts to encourage people to drink tap water and use reusable water bottles instead of single-serve bottled water.

As Mayor, I would support the legislation to ban the use of municipal funds to purchase bottled water with the exception of use by first responders in emergency preparedness and response situations when no other option for potable water exists. I would, however, direct emergency personnel to investigate viable alternatives to bottled water so that the city can be completely free of bottled water.

9. Six years ago, city officials set a goal of planting 100,000 trees by 2020, but for many reasons, as of last year, they had only planted about 10 percent of the promised trees. Is this a priority for you and what if anything would you do to try to complete the goal?

We need to commit to that goal. As with many problems, my first instinct is to say, “who is doing this better?” New York, with their MillionTrees NYC program, is seeing a lot of success by bringing together local partners with corporate sponsors. I’d see what we could do to duplicate that model and get back on track towards our goal.

10. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that Suffolk County has more diesel pollution — 300 times the amount considered acceptable by the federal government — than 99 percent of the nation’s counties, more than one-third of it spewed by construction equipment. What would you do to reduce diesel and other pollution?

It’s unacceptable that our levels of air pollution are that high, and it’s unacceptable that a lot of that pollution is concentrated in some of our poorest neighborhoods. Children from those neighborhoods are more likely to have asthma and other medical conditions, which plague them for the rest of their lives. One way we can fight air pollution is by enforcing laws that are already on the books. Idling — leaving a car or truck on while parked — is a huge contributor to air pollution. It’s actually a ticketable offense, but we only have a few people covering the whole city. I have suggested deputizing our parking enforcement officers so those officers are able to also give out tickets for idling. They are already out walking the streets, and would be uniquely positioned to be our first line of defense in tackling this problem.

On yesterday's radio show

We interviewed Mike Ross, a mayoral candidate in Boston.  We focused, of course, on his environmental/energy policies and thoughts on how to build a more sustainable city.

The Boston Globe previously sent questions to all mayoral candidates.  Three candidates did not respond.  We believe that every single person running for office--local, national, international offices--should clearly, unequivocally state their positions on growing an economy while protecting our Earth's natural resources and should have passion and vision for building a brighter, cleaner future.  If they do not, they do not, in our opinion, merit your time or vote.

Here's how Mike answered those questions.  The rest of the responses you can find at the Globe's web site.  We'll break it into two since it is fairly long.   Keep in mind these issues affect every city and town across the globe.  Think about how they apply to where you live as well, and think about whether these answers fit with how you see government's role in crafting a sustainable future.

Mike Ross
Candidates’ responses to environmental questionnaire
August 26, 2013

The Globe sent the Boston mayoral candidates 10 questions on environmental issues. Each candidate’s full answers are provided below. Three candidates — Charles Yancey, Charles Clemons Jr., and David James Wyatt — did not provide answers.  Those that did answer (9)were Felix Arroyo, John F. Barros, Daniel F. Conley, John R. Connolly, Rob Consalvo, Charlotte Golar Richie, Mike Ross, Bill Walczak, and Martin J. Walsh

1. Should the city try to reduce carbon emissions, and if so, what would you propose to do that?

The city absolutely has a responsibility to reduce carbon emissions and to do everything we can to address our city’s contribution to global warming. I support the goals of the city’s existing climate action plan that aims to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050 I would work to reduce emissions by supporting more sustainable forms of transportation like the public transit and bikes; I would strengthen programs to help make homes and businesses more energy efficient; increase the amount of electricity the city uses that comes from renewable sources; and increase recycling to reduce Boston’s solid waste incineration.

2. Is the city too ambitious or not ambitious enough by aiming to cut carbon emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050?

Both goals are essential. The challenge for the next mayor will be making sure we stay focused on the immediate goal while aggressively pursuing the long-term vision to cut carbon emissions by 80% in the next 35 years, essentially achieving carbon neutrality. I will do both.”

3. As sea levels rise, do you favor requiring new building codes to put critical systems on higher floors, even if it reduces the city’s tax base? And what about existing buildings? 

How would you respond to developers’ concerns? Anything else you think the city should be doing about rising seas?

We must codify resilient design standards into all new development along Boston’s waterfront and within critical flood zones. I don’t believe it will reduce the city’s tax base. The cost of inaction is greater. Insurance companies are already rewarding properties that are designed for climate resistance. I led a process much like this before, when I pushed the Building Energy Reporting Disclosure Ordinance through the City Council. While there was opposition to the legislation from developers, I brought leaders from the community to the table and we got the legislation passed.

4. As the state moves to ban large institutions from discarding food waste and considers doing so for residents, should Boston act first and require residents to compost or recycle food waste rather than tossing it in the trash?

I led the efforts to expand recycling in Boston as a city councilor. I believe very strongly in recycling — we pay extra so we can recycle at my campaign office. Boston still has a long way to go to achieve the waste diversion rate we need, and curb-side composting is a key part of getting there. I’d favor piloting curb-side composing programs in a few neighborhoods to better understand how to make it a success across the city, with the ultimate goal of expanding them city-wide.

5. Would you support an anaerobic digestion facility to be built in Boston to convert food waste into energy?

Anaerobic digestion facilities are increasingly becoming an important component of our state’s renewable energy portfolio. There are significant benefits to this technology that can turn organic waste into useful energy. I would be open to an anaerobic digestion facility being built in Boston. However, there are important questions that any city looking to site such a facility needs to ask, ranging from how related odors and noise would be managed to what the traffic impacts of the trucks bringing in the waste would be. Through a community planning and discussion process, we can determine if this is a facility that makes sense for Boston.

6. Until recently, despite tens of millions of dollars spent, a raft of new programs, and the availability of curbside recycling to nearly everyone, only about 20 percent of all residential garbage is recycled in Boston, much less than is recycled in other major cities. What would you do to change this?

Despite efforts to increase recycling for multi-family residential buildings and businesses - efforts that I helped lead - Boston still has a long way to go to achieve the waste diversion rate we need. There are a number of steps that we can take in cooperation with the real estate and business communities to reduce barriers to large building recycling that will greatly help us increase recycling rates. While other cities have had success with Pay As You Throw (PAYT) systems, I believe that a residential PAYT system would need to be gradually phased in in Boston as we address basic issues that are preventing greater recycling rates. Things like stronger public awareness programs, greater adoption of basic recycling in large buildings, and recycling in public spaces will all help residents shift their behavior to recycling more ahead of implementing a PAYT scheme. Efforts to reduce waste in our city also must be measured against core principles of environmental justice and must not place a burden on low-income families and communities.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

German Scientists Create Lithium Ion Battery that Can Charge an Electric Car for 27 Years

Great article we picked up from a terrific site (; thank you to them and all the other great sites, writers, contributors and readers who are posting positive comments on this blog and sending us leads on new stories.  We really appreciate the collective effort of green rolling across the globe.

On this story it is one more piece of evidence that technology will drive success for EV's.  All the obstacles, the hurdles of getting people to really consider hybrids and EV's will fall by the way side as we give drivers the power and range of conventional autos.  We are really excited about the electrification of our transportation system.  This will go down in history as one of our greatest, positive revolutions and will forever change the global economy--in  a very good way.  Here's the story:

Scientists at the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Wurttemburg (ZSW) have developed one of the most efficient lithium-ion batteries yet. The super li-on batteries herald a bright future for energy storage systems, and in an electric vehicle they’re expected to retain 85% of their capacity after being charged every day for “about 27.4 years.”

Read more: German Scientists Create Lithium Ion Battery that Can Charge an Electric Car for 27 Years | Inhabitat - Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building 

After 10,000 complete charging and discharging cycles, with a complete charge and discharge cycle per hour, these lithium-ion batteries still retain more than 85% of the initial capacity. This means that an electric car with those batteries could be fully charged every day for about 27.4 years and still be going strong. The power density of these batteries, which measures the available power per unit of weight, is also very high at 1,100 watts per kilogram. For an electric vehicle, this means short charging times and a superior acceleration capability.
The small cells are produced in a plant in the ZSW Laboratory for Battery Technology and are funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. Next, the scientists want to develop electrodes for large prismatic lithium batteries that could be used to store power from wind and solar systems.

Read more: German Scientists Create Lithium Ion Battery that Can Charge an Electric Car for 27 Years | Inhabitat - Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

More examples of clean energy providing global solutions

Our company and our whole group has invested heavily in solar--on warehouse, trucks, lighting.  Our return on investment has been great.

Beyond that, though, we recognize that clean energy technology, which is constantly evolving and improving, can bring innovate solutions to age-old problems.  We applaud this type of innovation and look forward to reporting on this in more detail on the radio side.

Solar-powered system used to produce clean water in rural villages

Clean drinking water is often an overlooked privilege in first world countries. However, in areas such as the rural villages of the Yucatan Peninsula, potable water is at least a day’s drive away and costs more than local residents can afford.
MIT researchers have recognized this problem and have developed a simple, inexpensive system to purify water. Led by Steven Dubowsky, professor of mechanical engineering and of aeronautics and astronautics, the team has built and tested a system that consists of photovoltaic panels, a large tank to hold purified water, and a small shed which houses the pumps, filters and membranes, and computers that allow the system to run itself.
The solar panels power the system’s pumps, which push brown, brackish well water through the semiporous membranes. These membranes filter out salts and other heavy minerals, producing clean, potable water. This system is capable of producing about 1,000 liters of drinking water every day, enough for all of the residents of a small Mexican village.
The MIT water purifier is installed directly in the village. This relieves the stress of having to purchase bottled trucked-in water, which costs 20 pesos, because the system can produce a 20-liter bottle of potable water for less than one peso. It only requires brackish water to be delivered twice a week by local authorities from distant groundwater wells or the collection of rainwater by residents.
If this system is successful in the long run, it may be replicated and become an invaluable resource in other parts of the world where fresh drinking water is scarce and costly. According to Dubowsky, "There may be 25 million indigenous people in Mexico alone. This is not a small problem. The potential for a system like this is huge."
After four months of testing the system, the team is now training community members to maintain it — occasionally changing filters and replacing additives in the water. "The maintenance of the system is going to be in the hands of the community,"Dubowsky says. "The idea is to give people a real sense of self-worth and self-reliance."
"This project approach is somewhat unique in work for small communities in the developing world," Dubowsky says. "It is based on bringing to people the best technology to meet their needs. The challenge is to provide the training so they can operate and maintain the system."
Read more at MIT News

Last week's radio show

Is now available 24/7.   Keep in mind we are live each Wed from 1-2p, EST.

Here's a description of last week's show and the link.  Enjoy the show:

 The Great March For Climate Change?
This week on Renewable Now Radio we had the opportunity to learn about a great movement that will try to enlighten people from all walks of life on climate change and its effects on our society . 

Listen in as we interview Zach Heffernen and Courtney Kain from climate and find out more about The Great March for Climate Change that is slated to take place in 2014.  

The link to the show: