Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The world’s most eco-friendly cities

Good follow up to yesterday's post.  Have you thought about what makes an eco-friendly city?  You can see from this list, the list long and varied.  It depends a great deal, of course, on local natural resources, weather, density of people and buildings, historic social and political customs, and many other factors.  

Certainly, though, there's many common elements around transportation, food production, energy use, waste reduction, good leadership.  These eco-friendly cities span the world.  They have much in common and they are very different in so many ways.  They still, like each of us, have much work to do.

Austin, Texas, as you saw yesterday, is well on its way to the top ranks.  What about your city?  How have you helped transform where you live?

As we enter a brand new year, full of hope and promise, we encourage you to contact us and contribute to Renewable Now and our mission of using the business side of green to build a cleaner future.  We'd love for you to help us.

Have a great and transforming 2015.

Living in: The world’s most eco-friendly cities


From offering plentiful bike paths and thriving farmers’ markets to ensuring cleaner air, a city’s environmental efforts don’t just help the planet – they benefit residents too.
According to the Siemens Green City Index, an ongoing project researched by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the world’s greenest cities score high marks in CO2 emissions, transportation options, water and waste management, and overall environmental governance.

Different urban areas have different sustainability strengths, so we talked to residents in the top-ranked cities across the globe to find out what living in them is like.
Vancouver, British Columbia

Compared to other cities of its size, Vancouver scored incredibly well in C02 emissions and air quality, due in part to the city’s emphasis on promoting green energy and its use of hydropower. Vancouver has vowed to reduce emissions by 33% by 2020.
Vancouver, British Columbia, gardening, green, eco-friendly
One of Vancouver's many gardens. (AFP/Getty)

That commitment doesn’t surprise resident Lorne Craig, who moved to the city from Calgary in 1985 and writes the Green Briefs blog. “Vancouver has been home to a deeper green counter-culture since the 1960s and is recognized worldwide as the birthplace of Greenpeace,” he said. “Mountains tower over the city. It reminds everyone here that we are part of something bigger and more beautiful.”

As other cities continued building freeways that promoted driving and sprawl, Vancouver remained committed to urban living, as evidenced by the development of Granville Island, a pedestrian-friendly peninsula where residents frequent large public market and art studios.

Plenty of other Vancouver neighbourhoods are eco-friendly too. A large network of bike routes makes cycling around town easy, especially West 10th Avenue, where people regularly cruise on bikes, electric scooters and even unicycles. Craig said the neighbourhoods of Commercial Drive and Strathcona, both east of downtown, are “more left-wing green” – meaning, more politically active – while Kitsilano to the west and the Main Street neighbourhood to the south of downtown are “more the Prius type of green” – wealthier, with a more laid-back approach to activism.

Curitiba, BrazilOf all the cities on the South American Siemens Index, only Curitiba scores above average in the green rankings. After building one of the planet’s first large-scale, rapid-transit bus systems in the 1960s and developing a world-leading recycling program in the 1980s, the southern Brazilian city continues to be environmentally forward-thinking. In fact, the heavy use of public transportation means Curitiba has one of the highest air qualities in the index.
Curitiba, botanical garden, Brazil, green city, eco-friendly
Curitiba's botanical garden. (David Silverman/Getty)

However, the city could use some revitalization, according to resident Stephen Green, who moved to Curitiba 15 years ago from London and writes the city lifestyle blog Head of the Heard. While Curitiba plans to build a metro system and an additional 300km in bike routes, the projects are expensive and the city needs more funding to complete them. Still, compared to other cities in the region, “Curitiba is excellent,” Green said.

Green lives in Merces, a traditional city-centre neighbourhood that’s popular with older residents. “We have a good market on Sundays, decent public transport links and the biggest park in the city is close by,” he said. Farmers’ markets move around the city, helping residents find local organic produce.

Copenhagen, DenmarkThough fellow Scandinavian cities Oslo and Stockholm trail close behind, Copenhagen consistently ranks as Europe’s greenest city. Almost all of the residents live within 350m of public transportation and more than 50% regularly use a bicycle to commute. As a result, Copenhagen has extremely low C02 emissions for a city its size.
Copenhagen, Denmark, windmills, eco-friendly
Windmills off Copenhagen. (Tore Johannesen/Getty)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One Texas City Plans

One Texas City Plans To Get Over Half Of Its Power From Renewables By 2025

Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas
Plenty of Texas’ politicians may be ignoring climate change, but individual cities and municipalities in the state are still making moves toward renewable energy. The latest gambit is coming out of Austin, where last week the city passed a new plan to get 55 percent of its power from clean energy by 2025.

The proposal lays out the future plans for the municipal utility, Austin Energy, and it passed the city council last Thursday with a six-to-one vote, according to GreenTech Media. Under the topline goal for 2025, the plan includes 600 megawatts of utility-scale solar, plus another possible 150 megawatts once further cost-benefit analysis is concluded next year. A further 200 megawatts of locally-sourced solar are called for, at least half of which must be customer-owned.

Energy efficiency and demand response improvements — provided by smart grids, smart meters, and the like — are to provide at least another 800 megawatts over the next ten years, and possibly up to 1,200 megawatts. Finally, the plan calls for 10 megawatts of storage technology from batteries to thermal storage, with studies to be done on the possibility of bringing yet another 200 megawatts online via that route.

“This is the start of a process to get us to a place where we’re not using coal anymore, where we’ve reduced gas and we’ve increased renewable and solar,” Cyrus Reed, the acting director of the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter, told KXAN News. “This is a plan, it’s a road map, it’s going to take constant vigilance.”

Reed was part of the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force the city council appointed back in April to make recommendations for the city’s energy future. Austin Energy, the Electric Utility Commission, and local environmental groups were all part of the task force, which hashed the plan out over the last few months. That back-and-forth included an agreement to shutter Austin Energy’s coal-fired Fayette Power Plant by the end of 2022, and a plan to replace the older units at Austin Energy’s Decker natural gas plant with more efficient 500-megawatts combined cycle technology. That last bit, however, is contingent on “a third-party independent study before we spend any money on gas and before we move forward with any gas plant project” said Mike Martinez, a city council member and candidate for mayor.

“The gas plant is a component Austin Energy does feel strong about. I’m not convinced that we absolutely need it.”

An earlier version of the plan called for phasing Decker out completely as well, and many of the people who commented at the city council’s final meeting on Thursday also wanted the natural gas plant scrapped entirely. But even with that compromise, the plan is expected to cut carbon emissions from Austin’s electricity generation by 75 to 80 percent by 2025, according to PV Magazine.

Texas boasts some of the lowest prices for small-scale solar installation in the country, and Austin’s recent contract with Recurrent Energy for a 150-megawatt solar plant was hammered out for an astonishingly low five cents per kilowatt-hour. Similar deals for solar plants in other states, which lock buyers and providers into long-running agreements, are an indication that players in the market are increasingly confident solar’s low prices are here to stay, and likely to keep dropping.

Those trends also led Austin Energy to conclude that the new plan shouldn’t increase electricity rates more than two percent. But some of the people who spoke up at the city council meeting also pointed to those same falling solar costs as evidence the revamped natural gas plant at the Decker site was unnecessary.

Thanks to the Better World Club

For this timely article.  We echo and share their wishes to you for continued health and success, and the collective health of our planet.


Given the holiday shutdown, we dug through the KA Archives and found this article which indicates that peace & love are not the only eternal issues. Happy New Year Everyone!

163 BC

"All the News That's Fit to Chisel!"

Jews Claim to Set New Record for Energy Efficiency

No Longer Have to Depend on Persians for Eternal Oil?

It's a Miracle!

The Jews of Jerusalem claimed a new record for energy efficiency today as their temple's eternal light burned for eight days despite having only one day's supply of oil.

Does this mean an answer to the Eternal Oil Crisis?

As the eternal flame is based on olive oil, this could be a challenge to OPEC--the Olive Petroleum Exporting Countries.

However, doubts were generated as word of the oil miracle was contained within an epistle stating that the Jews defeated the Greeks in a battle over the Temple of Jerusalem.

A spokesman for pro-roadway lobbying group Alpha Alpha Alpha (AAA) put it this way. "Right! And the guys who teach abacus in town can kick the Spartan's asses! And I'm King Antiochus the Fourth!

"And, what if it is true? We're not going to run our horses on olive oil, are we? Sorry, Pegasus, no more hay, here's some olive oil.

"So, is it really such a big deal? Geez, why don't we make an annual holiday of it for Athena's sake?"

Jewish community leader Judah Maccabee responded, "This miracle is just the first of many. We believe that it is Jehovah's will to replace the horse with the hybrid mule. And, by the way, if you have to take a mule on a long trip, you should offset its methane emissions."

But, Britannia Petroleum, multinational producer of olive oil and hay, also downplayed the significance of the Jews' achievement. "Zeus wouldn't have put hay in the ground if he didn't want us to use it. Alternatives to hay might be feasible in ten to twenty years, but not now," asserted a BP spokesman.

Monday, December 29, 2014

New York City may ban Styrofoam cups

This is something we've been advocating for here on the blog and on the radio show.  Why is it that we can show sustainable improvements in all areas, energy, food production, transportation, education, but can't rid ourselves of environmentally-damaging packing material like Styrofoam?

We can.  We should.  Kudos to NYC, a clear leader in green management of urban areas, for taking the lead on this.  Come on Dunkin Donuts, get rid of your noxious, cheap cups we are sick of seeing littered across our landfills and landscape.


New York City could soon become the biggest U.S. metropolis to outlaw Styrofoam food and beverage containers.

Currently, most Styrofoam products used in the city end up in landfills.
nyc ban styrofoam
At issue now is whether polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, can be effectively recycled in a way that doesn't cost too much.
New York passed a law last year restricting the sale and use of cups, food containers and packing materials made out of polystyrene. It will apply to restaurants, coffee shops, food carts and various other establishments.
But the ban was put on hold to first give manufacturers and the city time to see if they can come up with a way to recycle the material.
If the city deems polystyrene recyclable, it will begin processing it at a recycling facility in Brooklyn.
If it decides it cannot be recycled, the ban is expected to go into effect in July.
A decision is expected soon.
A ban would put New York City in the same league as San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose and Portland, all of which have restrictions on Styrofoam containers.
Dart Container, one of the leading makers of foam cups, counters that polystyrene can be recycled in an economically feasible and environmentally effective way.
Dart has proposed a plan that would guarantee that all of New York's foam products will be recycled for the next five years -- at no cost to city, according to a statement from Michael Westerfield, the company's director of recycling.
Westerfield added that businesses stand to gain "millions in revenue" by recycling polystyrene, though he did not elaborate on how the proposal would be funded.
However, critics disagree that recycling is a good option.
A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that there is no safe and cost-effective way to recycle polystyrene and that a ban is the only option.
In 2013, San Jose, California, found that polystyrene cannot be recycled because of its low market value and the risk of food contamination.
In pointing out the possibility of the upcoming ban, a recent Goldman Sachs (GS) report said it would be good news for Berry Plastics Group (BERY), which makes cups out of a material similar to polystyrene that is recyclable.
Dunkin' Donuts, the coffee and donut chain with many locations in the city, will likely be a big buyer of Berry's Versalite hot and cold cups, the report says.
Goldman estimates that Versalite could generate an additional $10 million in revenue next year for Berry Plastics.
The investment bank said its sources suggest that New York is likely to ban the use of foam containers sometime over the next 12 months. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Study: Your all-electric car

We've done shows on this.  We just came back from CT and saw two great car charging stations at a resort in Old Saybrook.  New England will soon shut down some of the remaining coal plants, and our power supplies here continue to get cleaner with natural gas dominating, and renewables getting to be a much larger part of the mix.

However, if you are on a grid system dominated by coal, this is very relevant to your buying decision.  You'd be better off with a hybrid.

Study: Your all-electric car may not be so green

If your all-electric car gets its power from coal, new study says it is dirtier than gasoline


Study: Your all-electric car may not be so green

In this photo taken July 14, 2010, an electric plug charges a Smart Car electric drive vehicle in New York. People buying all-electric cars where coal supplies the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study shows those coal-powered plug-in vehicles can be making the air dirtier and worsening global warming. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming.

Ethanol isn't so green, either.

"It's kind of hard to beat gasoline" for public and environmental health, said study co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota. "A lot of the technologies that we think of as being clean ... are not better than gasoline."

The key is where the source of the electricity all-electric cars. If it comes from coal, the electric cars produce 3.6 times more soot and smog deaths than gas, because of the pollution made in generating the electricity, according to the study that is published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They also are significantly worse at heat-trapping carbon dioxide that worsens global warming, it found.

The study examines environmental costs for cars' entire life cycle, including where power comes from and the environmental effects of building batteries.
"Unfortunately, when a wire is connected to an electric vehicle at one end and a coal-fired power plant at the other end, the environmental consequences are worse than driving a normal gasoline-powered car," said Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who wasn't part of the study but praised it.

The states with the highest percentage of electricity coming from coal, according to the Department of Energy, are West Virginia, Wyoming, Ohio, North Dakota, and Illinois.

Still, there's something to be said for the idea of helping foster a cleaner technology that will be better once it is connected to a cleaner grid, said study co-author Jason Hill, another University of Minnesota engineering professor.

The study finds all-electric vehicles cause 86 percent more deaths from air pollution than do cars powered by regular gasoline. Coal produces 39 percent of the country's electricity, according to the Department of Energy.

But if the power supply comes from natural gas, the all-electric car produces half as many air pollution health problems as gas-powered cars do. And if the power comes from wind, water or wave energy, it produces about one-quarter of the air pollution deaths.

Hybrids and diesel engines are cleaner than gas, causing fewer air pollution deaths and spewing less heat-trapping gas.

But ethanol isn't, with 80 percent more air pollution mortality, according to the study.
"If we're using ethanol for environmental benefits, for air quality and climate change, we're going down the wrong path," Hill said.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

How to have a 'green' Christmas

Some holiday gifts fill a practical need and need to be bought new. But many gifts are really gestures of thoughtfulness. You can give more while spending less.

• Not all gifts have to be store-bought.
You can give more while spending less by giving gifts that are personal and unique. While young children may favor the bright, shiny store-bought item, most adults appreciate anything that shows thoughtfulness. Here's a page with some great ideas for meaningful holiday gifts that aren't found on store shelves: Tips for sustainable giving
• Simplify the 'gift-go-round'. 
Feeling overwhelmed by a gift list that's just too long? Here's an idea to help shorten your list and simplify the family gift-giving ritual. We tried this in our own family last year and it was appreciated by all.

Before the holiday season begins (Thanksgiving is a good time because the extended family is often together), put the names of all adult family members on separate slips of paper and put the slips in a hat. Take turns picking one name per adult - the name you pick is your gift recipient. Keep your chosen pick a secret, to help maintain an element of surprise. 

Your gift list for the adults in your family has just been shortened to one! You can now focus on a special gift for the person whose name you picked, without the difficulty and expense of finding just the right gift for everyone.If the family's not together on Thanksgiving, ask Grandma or someone else in the family to pick the names from the hat for everyone, by proxy. It works just as well. An agreed on spending limit will also help everyone from feeling they have to go overboard with a fabulous gift for the person whose name they chose.

Buy Smart - think 'green'
• look for locally made giftsMany gifts in today's marketplace come from halfway around the world, and the impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Local craft fairs and artisan shops are a good source for gifts that come without the added costs of transportation. And gifts made locally often have a story which goes with the gift, since the artisan and the origin of the gift are known.
• choose gifts made from recycled sources 
Many individuals and small businesses have developed great products using recycled materials. Supporting these businesses helps reduce the waste stream while promoting the concept of making best use of available materials. Here are some examples for you to consider: Gifts from recycled materials
• give 'battery-free' gifts 
According to the EPA, about 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. Even rechargeable batteries find their way into the waste stream eventually. Here are a few examples of gifts that have less of an impact on the environment: Naturally-powered toys• avoid children's toys that promote violence 
There is too much violence in the world, and the new wave of video games for children is disturbing. Remember the theme of Christmas is "Peace on Earth". There are many toys and games that are fun, and nurture childrens' creativity and sense of active play. Here are some examples: Educational toys and games
• 're-gifting' is OK 
There's much discussion these days about the etiquette behind the trend to 're-gift', that is, to pass on a gift you received but do not need. What's to discuss? Re-gifting makes perfect sense. If you receive something you really don't need, look for ways you can reuse this gift by passing it on to someone who can use it. Of course, re-gifting needs to be done with care so as not to offend the original giver, but keeping a gift you don't need is wasteful.

"A great way to teach children the spirit of giving (and simplifying) during the holidays is to ask them to pick 3 toys that they don't play with very much, and donate them to a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter etc. I saw children bring toys in to the shelter I worked at year after year - it was a wonderful experience for everyone!" ........Lauren, New Hampshire 

Connect with Nature
Christmas is a time for giving, and a time for family. What a great opportunity to start a family tradition of giving back to the earth and instilling the values of sustainable living to your children, friends and community. Start an annual, earth-friendly Christmas family tradition! It will also get you outdoors for a few hours to build an appetite for the big dinner.

Annual Christmas Day Bird Count
Take your binoculars, a field guide to local birds, a small pad or journal for each participant and walk a course through your neighborhood, local park or countryside. Try to identify and count every bird you see, and make a note of it in your journal. At the end of the hike, list the species seen and number of birds per species. There's always a surprising discovery, and the activity highlights the presence and value of our feathered friends.

Compare the results from former years and you'll become experts on your local bird population and migration habits. This is a great family activity because even the youngest eyes are just as good at spotting the birds and contributing to the event.

For more information, see our page Annual Bird Count

Family nature hike
A peaceful walk through nature on Christmas day will be remembered and valued more than the score of the football game. Plan your walk before the holiday meal while everyone still has lots of energy. The walk will also pique appetites and provide a shared topic for conversation during mealtime.Nature restoration activity
Planting a small tree together symbolizes the value of nature and offsets the 'taking' of the Christmas tree. An hour spent cleaning up or enhancing a natural area also enriches the giver and acknowledges nature as the source of our well-being.

Decorate a tree for the birdsPlace seed bells, suet, pine cones with peanut butter and seed trays on any tree in your yard, preferably a tree in the open where cats can be seen easily by the birds. To attract a wide variety of birds, use varied seed types such as black oil sunflower seed, wild bird mixed seed and nyger seed bells. This is a great activity for kids, and offers an important food source for birds during the winter...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Vanadium Flow Battery Technology being Tested by U.S. Navy

This is a very important article, technology and enhanced me of battery storage that we need as we head into the new year and new millennium of trying to build an energy storage system that will make grids capable of handling renewables and all forms of clean energy to power our changing needs.

We are focusing many new shows on possible brownouts and blackouts we will see here in the US as we take plants off line--coal, nuclear--and fail to adequately replace the base load.  Upgrading the electrical grids is a critical step towards building a clean-energy economy.  Our antiquate systems that we've ignored and failed to rebuild are collapsing around us.  Other parts of the world have never had adequate infrastructure to support  population growth.  It is time to invest in the core of our future.

The U.S. Navy has announced it will deploy Imergy Power Systems’  vanadium-based flow battery technology for a new Smart Microgrid project designed to optimize the storage and consumption of solar energy at military bases, college campuses and other institutions. 

The system will be rolled out at the Navy’s Mobile Utilities Support Equipment (MUSE) Facility in Port Hueneme, California, and  used to demonstrate the effectiveness of energy storage on regulating the often uneven flow of solar power into a power grid.

The project will  incorporate releasing bursts of stored power at times of high demand to reduce consumer electricity bills; timed load shifting and management and the smoothing of troughs and peaks in solar energy generation. It will also involve an off-grid islanding application that will show how well an off-grid photovoltaic (PV) solar system with combined battery storage can provide energy for users deployed at remote or mission-critical facilities.

Three Imergy Energy Storage Power (ESP) 30 vanadium flowbatteries will be incorporated into the system. Each has a capacity of up to 50 kilowatts and stores up to 200 kilowatt-hours. These batteries can be built for cost below $300 per kilowatt-hour storage, well below the industry benchmark of $500.

The company says this efficiency is possible due to its proprietary process for recycling the rare and expensive element vanadium used in its flow battery systems from secondary sources such as mining slag, oil field sludge and fly ash. This process lowers vanadium cost by 40 per cent relative to Imergy’s competitors.

“Other manufacturers of vanadium flow batteries build their devices with virgin vanadium extracted from mining. It must then be processed to a 99% plus level of purity. Imergy’s flow batteries from low-grade vanadium will also be capable of storing more energy per kilogram than conventional vanadium flow batteries by more than twice,” the company states.

In this type of battery, the chemical interaction of two liquids“flowing” next to each other produces electricity. The ESP30 is Imergy’s flagship storage solution, boasting an unlimited shelf life and the ability to operate in conditions above 55 degrees Celsius.

As the U.S. military transitions away from expensive and burdensome oil-based fuel supply – the Navy currently generates 12 per cent of its energy from renewable sources  – transportable battery systems for solar and wind energy will play a larger part in operations at home and abroad, according to Imergy Power Systems CEO Bill Watkins.

“For military personnel, energy security can mean the difference between life and death. This Smart Grid project will pave the way for more secure energy solutions at mission critical military and other facilities.”

Monday, December 22, 2014

P&G Releases 2014 Sustainability Report

Gifts on the corporate side that are meaningful and give us a good feel for 2015.  We hope to see similar reports from every major company in the world, and their suppliers.

P&G Releases 2014 Sustainability Report, Showcasing Advances in Environmental and Social Commitments

The Procter & Gamble Company (PG) released its 16th annual sustainability report today, detailing projects and goals that are reducing the environmental footprint of the Company and of those who use its products, while improving social conditions for those with the greatest need.
The report underlines the Company’s commitment to create industry-leading value with brands and products that consumers prefer, while at the same time conserving resources, protecting the environment.
The report highlights P&G reaching its waste reduction goal six years early and its pulp certification goal a year early, and growing to 70 the number of global facilities delivering zero manufacturing waste to landfill (video). In addition, P&G delivered its 7 billionth liter of clean drinking water through The P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program (CSDW) and delivered disaster relief to millions of people around the world.
“Our teams are driven to make a significant, positive and lasting impact on the communities we serve through our operations, product designs and innovative partnerships, and this year’s report showcases the results of that dedication,” said Martin Riant, P&G Executive Sponsor of Sustainability and Group President, Global Baby and Feminine & Family Care. “Our work to drive zero manufacturing waste to landfill across our manufacturing facilities has exceeded expectations with nearly 50 percent of our sites achieving this goal since 2010.”
The report details P&G’s work on:


  • Waste, exceeding its waste reduction goal by achieving only 0.4 percent of input materials being disposed of as manufacturing waste to landfill across all its facilities; the goal called for less than 0.5 percent by 2020.
  • Pulp, exceeding its third party certification goal by having 54 percent of the virgin wood fibers used in its tissue and towel products from Forest Stewardship Council® certified sources; the goal called for 40 percent by 2015.
  • CO2, reducing total emissions by 14 percent, and installing two co-generation energy systems that will considerably reduce CO2 emissions, including 120,000 less metric tons per year at its largest global plant in Mehoopany, PA.
  • Cold-water washing, helping drive to 53 percent the number of machine laundry washes done in cold water through consumer education programs, closing in on its goal of 70 percent cold-water washes, as washing in hot water is one of the largest uses of energy in a family home.
  • Water, committing to 25 percent less water in every dose of liquid laundry detergents sold in North America by 2018.
  • Packaging, delivering innovations including Mr. Clean Liquid Muscle that includes a 2.5x compaction formula with 45 percent less packaging and 64 percent less water per bottle, along with a unique single-dosing cap that ensures people don’t use too much.
  • Product Formulation, committing to another round of compaction in its liquid laundry detergents by 2018 in NA, with 25 percent less water, less CO2 and less plastic.
  • Social programs, exceeding its goal of improving the lives of 50 million people annually through its social programs, including Disaster Relief and CSDW.
The report also highlights four new 2020 sustainability goals P&G launched in October:
  • Reduce water usage at manufacturing facilities by 20 percent per unit of production
  • Provide 1 billion people access to water-efficient products
  • Double the use of recycled resin in plastic packaging
  • Ensure 90 percent of product packaging is recyclable or that programs are in place to create the ability to recycle it
“Our teams, in collaboration with some leading external partners, have delivered high-impact innovations and projects, helping us exceed goals in two key areas of the business, and closing in on others. We recognize that there is more to be done and are committed to focusing on areas where we can make the biggest positive impact,” Martin said.
To learn more about P&G’s long-term sustainability vision, goals, projects and to view the entire report, visit

Friday, December 19, 2014

Methane being released into the Pacific Ocean

Now, this is scary stuff.  This may be one of those tipping points, sending us spiraling down an environmental disaster, that we look back on in 20 years with chagrin.

Methane is a very potent gas.  Its release will speed the warming of our planet.  According to the research referenced below, this is large-scale decomposition and escape into the ocean.  We are not sure we've seen this alarming rate before, but we doubt we can fully predict the ramifications.  Very scary stuff.

Methane being released into the Pacific Ocean at an alarming rate

| Written by Joseph Nordqvist | NewsScience / Environment / Energy   

Water at intermediate depths in the Pacific Ocean is warming up to a point where methane gas, trapped in frozen layers below the seafloor, is being released into water at an alarming rate.
According to a new study by researchers at the University of Washington, water at intermediate depth off the West Coast of the US is warming up to a point in which carbon deposits will begin to melt and release methane into the surrounding water.
Over the past forty years nearly 4 million tonnes of methane has been released from hydrate decomposition off Washington state – an amount each year equal to the amount of methane from natural gas that was released off the coast of Louisiana in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout.
Researchers found that water off the coast of Washington is warming at a depth of 500 meters – where methane transforms from a solid to a gas.
This is worrying as methane is a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet.
Bubbles rising from Washington coast
Sonar image of bubbles rising from the seafloor off the Washington coast. The base of the column is 1/3 of a mile (515 meters) deep and the top of the plume is at 1/10 of a mile (180 meters) deep. Photo Credit: Brendan Philip / UW
“A lot of the earlier studies focused on the surface because most of the data is there,” said co-author Susan Hautala, a UW associate professor of oceanography. “This depth turns out to be a sweet spot for detecting this trend.”
Evan Solomon, a UW assistant professor of oceanography and co-author of a paper to appear in Geophysical Research Letters, said:
“We calculate that methane equivalent in volume to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is released every year off the Washington coast,”
“Methane hydrates are a very large and fragile reservoir of carbon that can be released if temperatures change,” Solomon said. “I was skeptical at first, but when we looked at the amounts, it’s significant.”
At cold temperatures methane combines with water and turns into a crystal called methane hydrate. The Pacific Northwest has very large deposits of methane hydrates because of its strong geologic activity. However, there are other coastlines around the world that could also be vulnerable to sea temperatures increasing.
“This is one of the first studies to look at the lower-latitude margin,” Solomon said. “We’re showing that intermediate-depth warming could be enhancing methane release.”
The reason why the water is warming is thought to come from the Sea of Okhotsk, where surface water becomes extremely dense and spreads east into the Pacific and then reaches the Washington coast.
Ocean temperature Washington coast
The yellow dots show all the ocean temperature measurements off the Washington coast from 1970 to 2013. The green triangles are places where scientists and fishermen have seen columns of bubbles. The stars are where the UW researchers took more measurements to check whether the plumes are due to warming water. Photo Credit: Una Miller / UW
As ocean temperatures rise the boundary between frozen and gaseous methane is going to move deeper and farther offshore. The Washington boundary has moved approximately 1km offshore since 1970 and the researchers estimate that the boundary for solid methane will move another 1 to 3 kms out to sea by 2100.
Researchers are now hoping to find a new way of to verify the calculations with new measurements. Over the past few years, fishermen have provided UW oceanographers with sonar images showing mysterious columns of bubbles.
“Those images the fishermen sent were 100 percent accurate,” Johnson said. “Without them we would have been shooting in the dark.”
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Washington takes heat at UN talks

Not sure if you saw this when it first ran, but the good news in this story is the pressure now put on all countries to set and meet aggressive emission reduction goals.  There seems to be uniform recognition that this is a critical step in rebalancing the economy with the environment.

Washington takes heat at UN talks over targets

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Washington is on track to meet its targets for reducing emissions in heat-trapping greenhouse gases despite an uptick last year, U.S. officials insisted at climate talks Monday.

Quizzed by rich and poor countries about its efforts against global warming, President Barack Obama's envoys sought to explain how exactly the U.S. plans to cut emissions 17 percent by 2020 based on 2005 levels.
Emissions were down about 10 percent but rose slightly last year and in early 2014 due to an "extraordinarily cold winter" that required high energy consumption, deputy U.S. climate adviser Rick Duke said in response to a question from China. He said emissions are projected to be down next year.
South Africa challenged whether the U.S. target for 2020 is ambitious enough, asking how much of the emissions drop since 2005 has been due to recession.

Duke said about two-thirds was policy-driven, with the rest attributable to factors including the recession and a switch from high-polluting coal to natural gas in power generation.
Since the U.S. Congress voted down climate legislation in 2009, Obama has largely leaned on existing laws to make progress — boosting fuel standards for cars and trucks and proposing stricter controls on carbon pollution from power plants.
"I think we are making good progress," Todd Stern, the U.S. delegation chief, told reporters at his first news conference at the two-week negotiations.
Experts said the jury is still out on whether the U.S. target can be reached.
"The U.S. definitely has a shot, if it continues to implement measures under its Climate Action Plan. But it is by no means guaranteed," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resource Defense Council said more measures are needed, including reducing methane loss in leaks from refining and drilling for oil and gas as well as finding alternatives for the super-potent greenhouse gases used in air conditioners and refrigerators.
The White House pledged last month to lower U.S. carbon pollution 26 percent to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 as part of the negotiations for a global climate pact next year. Those goals are expected to face stiff resistance from climate-skeptical Republicans in Congress.
"Ultimately the U.S. must confront its profound political divide on climate change to provide certainty that it will meet its pledges," said Paul Bledsoe, who worked on climate issues in the Clinton White House.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

World's largest solar farm

In renewables bigger is better (based on what the grid can absorb from each installation, and how consistent the production).  Congratulations to everyone involved in this project (see below story), and let's make this the model for meeting or exceeding these standards on mega-watt systems.  

Renewables are now competitive with traditional sources of power, they lock in rates/costs while fossil fuel plants do not, and they are much friendlier neighbors.  They also allow us to rethink our distribution and grid infrastructure, and get us exited about designing microgrids.  All good steps in terms of achieving energy independence, much of which can come from local sources.  And create jobs and economic benefits.

This is a great lead in to the radio show we are doing today as we focus on taking federally protected land and putting it back in the economy by using it, while protecting wildlife, for renewable energy.  See yesterday's post.

World's largest solar farm is up and running in California

by Nancy Owano

Topaz Solar Farm in California is up and running       
The world's largest solar plant is up and running in California, with the completion of Topaz, a 550 megawatt plant; the Topaz solar project completed its final 40-megawatt (AC) phase, reported Greentech Media, making history not only as the first 500-megawatt plus solar farm to come on-line in the U.S. but also as the largest solar plant on-line in the world. Reports are talking about a plant with 9 million solar panels installed across 9.5 square miles.

 Read more at:

This is a $2.5 billion , said io9, with construction that began two years ago. The owner is MidAmerican Solar, a Pheonix, Arizona-based subsidiary of MidAmerican Renewables. Topaz is described by MidAmerican Solar as a 550-megawatt photovoltaic power plant. The developer for the project is listed as First Solar, discussing on its website the project that will produce sufficient electricity to power 160,000 average California homes. Topaz is located in San Luis Obispo County, California, on the northwestern corner of the Carrisa Plains.

First Solar said that site was chosen after considerations regarding available solar resource, proximity to existing electrical transmission lines, current land use, and environmental sensitivities. They said that Topaz is sited on largely "non-prime," actively tilled agricultural land that has "limited productivity." At the northwestern edge of the Carrisa Plains, added First Solar, Topaz is more than six miles from the more sensitive habitats in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. According to fact sheet notes from MidAmerican Solar, the Topaz project is being built on previously disturbed agricultural land with a minimally impervious surface that allows for natural drainage and low-impact development and has the best solar insolation in Pacific Gas and Electric's service territory. The Topaz project is designed to function as productive grassland habitat for native plants and animals while being used for passive farming of the sun's energy. Water used during construction is primarily for dust control. During operation, the panels do not require washing and vegetation is maintained to help with dust control.

 "As of today," wrote Eric Wesoff on November 24 in Greentech Media, "the project has installed 9 million across 9.5 square miles in San Luis Obispo County on California's Carrizo Plain. Construction began in 2012 and was expected to be complete in early 2015—so call this an on-time delivery." Engadget said that "It's an impressive feat that should power 160,000 homes on Pacific Gas and Electric's grid."

The Greentech Media report said that Pacific Gas and Electric will purchase the electricity from the Topaz project under a power-purchase agreement. MidAmerican Solar said that the Pacific Gas and Electric Company will purchase the electricity from the project under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

What is more, the project is expected to displace 377,000 tons of CO2 annually, equivalent to taking 73,000 cars off the road, according to First Solar.