by Stephen Wade on June 19th, 2013
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Bureaucracies are frustrating. Once a bureaucracy gets moving in a certain direction it can be quite effective. Numerous roadblocks often appear when one tries to change its direction, usually centered around secrecy and power. In light of the growing debate about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance practices and the changing perception of privacy, making community change on the local level similarly involves publishing data and analyses that will make some people uncomfortable. In making communities more sustainable, what should Margaret Mead’s “small group of thoughtful, committed citizens” do when they confront a roadblock?
by Samantha Page on June 18th, 2013
Cue the nanny-state cries from Fox and the general grumbling from the fine folks in the Empire State: Mayor Michael Bloomberg is at it again, striving to curb residents’ behavior.
This time, he’s targeting New York City’s organic waste problem — and it is a problem, to the tune of nearly 1.2 million tons and almost $100 million a year, according to the New York Times.
The city, the Times reported, will expand a previous pilot program for collecting food scraps (and other organic waste), offer a contract for 100,000 tons of waste to a composting plant, and issue a request for proposals for a new plant to be located nearby.
Participation will be voluntary at first, but sorting yet another component of trash is expected to be mandatory in the next few years.
by Sean Connell on June 17th, 2013
Perhaps no U.S. state faces more acute challenges to sustainability than Hawaii. The unique biodiversity and ecology that make the Hawaiian Islands so compelling to outside visitors also make their sustainability fragile, and particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of over-development and climate change. During several weeks in Hawaii this spring, I frequently encountered the theme of sustainability and what often struck me as a much stronger consciousness of and sensitivity to these challenges relative to the mainland United States.
by Mac Maloney on June 16th, 2013
In the early 1990s, prior to the craft beer revolution, the only beers I was used to seeing at family functions were Heineken, Amstel Light, MGD and Coors Light. However, that all changed on a trip to California to visit relatives in the early 90s. My uncle, an early proponent of craft beer, had a number of unfamiliar beers in his fridge, and none stood out more to me than one with a green label with a river and trees: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. At that point, Sierra Nevada was still mostly regionally known. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then, and Sierra Nevada is now the second largest craft brewer in the country (by sales), one of the top American breweries (by production), and brews up the second best-selling craft beer (Pale Ale). Also since the early 90s, Sierra Nevada has not only increased its visibility in its beer, but also on its green initiatives, eventually allowing it to be selected as the 2010 Green Business of the Year (Region 9) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
by Megan Stilley on June 15th, 2013
This weekend I got around to finally watching Vanishing of the Bees (2009). This was a very interesting and well put together documentary. The documentary focused on colony collapse disorder (CCD) and the causes of entire bee colonies disappearing. It was first noticed in 2006 that bee colonies were vanishing into thin air. Beekeepers would look into a hive and find some young bees and the queen with all the drones gone and they never returned. The crazy thing is that there were no mass amounts of dead bees to be found and no simple answer (such as a single virus or pathogen) as to why this was happening.
I had heard many reasons why CCD (cell phones, pesticides, nutrition, etc.) is happening but many scientist are still wary to agree to one reason or any reason really. The interesting thing about this movie was that they didn’t necessarily talk to scientists or focus on what they said, but instead talked to actual beekeepers or “local knowledge”. Beekeepers are the ones dealing with this major issue and are the ones that have the greatest interest in finding a solution. This to me was big since often we only listen to scientist and their studies. The issue with this is that scientist are often funded by big industry, meaning they are finding results that are only good for big business.
by Eric Wilson on June 14th, 2013
The tar sands in Canada are nothing new. Humankind has been aware of and used them for hundreds of years. The ability to convert this resource into oil at a reasonable economic (not environmental mind you) price is new. This week’s Five Friday Facts are a bit of a history lesson regarding the tar sands. They come from Andrew Nikiforuk’s Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, reviewed this past April.
- In 1778 Alexander Mackenzie described the Athabaskan tar sands as “‘bituminous fountains.’” About a century later, Canadian botanist called it “‘the ooze.’”
by Chris DeArmond on June 13th, 2013
Global Fresh Foods, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in “naturally extended shelf-life technology,” announced in May the successful completion of ocean shipping 40,000 lbs. of fresh, unfrozen salmon from Chile to California—a route that previously required fish to be shipped by air. Rather than freezing the Salmon, the 30-day project relied on the company’s patented fuel cell technology to control the atmosphere inside the shipping container.
by Eric Wilson on June 12th, 2013
Shai Agassi may make the world a better place some day, but apparently it won’t be today. Late last month, his electric car battery swapping venture filed for a court motion in Israel for the appointment of a temporary liquidator, which will effectively cease company operations. The Wall Street Journal sees this as a blow to Renault, the French carmaker that had produced a vehicle capable of having its battery replaced using Better Place’s system. The Journal goes on to report that only 2,500 of the 100,000 Renaults ordered by Better Place had been sold.
by Sean Connell on June 10th, 2013
An important challenge for the broader deployment of renewable energy systems, and for making them more reliable and cost-competitive, is overcoming the power generation gaps resulting from the variability of renewable resources. Energy storage technologies and processes such as batteries hold the key for addressing this, and as has been reported in earlier posts on this website are the focus of significant research and development efforts. While it is essential to develop means of energy storage that can be utilized across diverse environments, local conditions can also offer solutions. In some regions where wind energy is rapidly expanding, one possible energy storage option may literally lay right beneath people’s feet.A recent study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) explored the feasibility of storing energy in the form of compressed air energy storage (also referred to as CAES). The concept of CAES is to utilize excess energy–for example, when wind turbines generate more electricity than is needed at a particular time–to generate compressed air, which is then captured and stored underground in suitable geological structures.
by Justin Manger on June 7th, 2013
- Solar panel prices declined an astonishing 75 percent from 2008 to 2012.
- In the United States, solar capacity has quintupled since 2008, and grown by more than 50 times since 2000,according to US Energy Information Administration data.
- In 1977, solar panels cost $77 per watt. Today, they are less than a dollar per watt.
- Germany generated 5 percent of its electricity from solar last year. By contrast, last year the United States produced just 0.18 percent of its electricity from solar, according to the EIA.
- For a few hours during a sunny weekend day, solar provided 50 percent of Germany’s electricity; only five percent of the country’s total electricity came from solar in 2012.