Showing posts with label eco-friendly products. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eco-friendly products. Show all posts

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

'Clunkers' program is costly way to cut carbon

University of California, Davis
August 14, 2009


New UC Davis estimates say the federal government's Cash for Clunkers
program is paying at least 10 times the "sticker price" to reduce
emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

While carbon credits are projected to sell in the U.S. for about $28
per ton (today's price in Europe was $20), even the best-case
calculation of the cost of the clunkers rebate is $237 per ton, said
UC Davis transportation economist Christopher Knittel.

"When burned, a gallon of gasoline creates roughly 20 pounds of
carbon dioxide. I combined that known value with an average rebate of
$4,200 and a range of assumptions about the fuel economy of the new
vehicles purchased and how long the clunkers would have been on the
road if not for the program," Knittel said. "I even assumed drivers
didn't change their habits, although some ......

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Despite Rules, Electronic Waste Remains a Hazard

Recycling an old PC might not be enough to keep it out of a landfill. Despite a swath of regulations, discarded televisions and computers are finding their way into scrap heaps all over the world, with potentially harmful environmental consequences, reports National Geographic’s Chris Carroll.

Some 50 million tons of unwanted and obsolete electronics are discarded every year, according to the United Nations’ Environment Program. The U.S. contributed between 1.5 and 1.9 million tons in 2005, and the total is expected to climb as people replace their analog TVs with digital versions and upgrade PCs to faster models.

Even though a growing number of state laws prohibit putting electronic waste in the trash, more than two-thirds of U.S. TVs and computers eventually end up in landfills, where they could leak lead, mercury, arsenic and other toxins into the ground. The old machines also contain potentially reusable quantities of gold, silver and other metals that could be extracted with less of an environmental impact than from mining new sources in the ground.

While some old products end up in recycling centers, that is no guarantee that the gear will be processed safely, says Mr. Carroll. Some recyclers around the world sell old electronics to brokers, who then funnel it to developing countries. In parts of Asia and Africa, enforcement of environmental regulations are weak, and people are often eager to mine discarded goods for valuable bits of metal scrap. In Accra, Ghana, Mr. Carroll uncovered old electronics bundled into shipments of used clothes from Germany, even though the European Union has put in place safeguards blocking the shipment of hazardous waste to poor countries.

The outlook for used electronics isn’t entirely bleak, however, says Mr. Carroll, who visited a state-of-the-art recycling center in Florida that can process around 150 million pounds of electronics a year. While just a handful of U.S. recycling companies can handle large volumes of electronic waste, with the addition of just a few more plants, it would be possible to safely recycle the country’s entire output of high-tech trash. – Wendy Pollack

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Water 'more important than oil'

Dwindling water supplies are a greater risk to businesses than oil running out, a report for investors has warned.

Among the industries most at risk are high-tech companies, especially those using huge quantities of water to manufacture silicon chips; electricity suppliers who use vast amounts of water for cooling; and agriculture, which uses 70% of global freshwater, , says the study, commissioned by the powerful CERES group, whose members have $7tn under management. Other high-risk sectors are beverages, clothing, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, forest products, and metals and mining, it says.

"Water is one of our most critical resources – even more important than oil," says the report, published today . "The impact of water scarcity and declining water on businesses will be far-reaching. We've already seen decreases in companies' water allotments, more stringent regulations [and] higher costs for water."

Droughts "attributable in significant part to climate change" are already causing "acute water shortages" around the world, and pressure on supplies will increase with further global warming and a growing world population, says the report written by the US-based Pacific Institute.

"It is increasingly clear that the era of cheap and easy access to water is ending, posing a potentially greater threat to businesses than the loss of any other natural resource, including fossil fuel resources," it adds. "This is because there are various alternatives for oil, but for many industrial processes, and for human survival itself, there is no substitute for water."

In a joint statement, CERES' president Mindy Lubber and Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, urged more companies and investors to work out their dependence on water and future supplies, and make plans to cope with increased shortages and prices.

"Few companies and investors are thinking strategically about the profound business risks that will exist in a world where climate change is likely to exacerbate already diminishing water supplies," they say.

"Companies that treat pressing water risks as a strategic challenge will be far better positioned in future," they add.

The CERES report adds to growing concern about a looming water crisis. In the Economist's report, The World in 2009 , Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of food giant Nestl├ę, wrote: "under present conditions… we will run out of water long before we run out of fuel". And at its annual meeting this year the World Economic Forum issued what it itself called a "stark warning" that "the world simply cannot manage water in the future in the same way as in the past or the economic web will collapse".

CERES, which has members in the US and Europe, made recommendations, including that companies should measure their water footprints from suppliers through to product use, and integrate water into strategic planning, and that investors should independently assess companies' water risk and "demand" better disclosure from boards.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Coke's Big Recycling Plant

Roughly 75 percent of plastic soda and water bottles end up in landfills, by some estimates. What a waste. We could argue about whether to blame lazy consumers, governments that fail to promote recycling, or the beverage industry. We could debate whether bottle bills will solve the problem. (They won't, by themselves.) We could try to persuade people to give up bottled water. (They won't.) Or we could look for market-based solutions, and see if they have the potential to scale.

That's what the The Coca-Cola Co. is doing. This week, Coke stages a grand opening for the world's largest bottle-to-bottle recycling plant in Spartanburg, S.C. (The plant's been running at less than full capacity for months.) The facility is a $60 million joint venture of Coke and the United Resource Recovery Corp. (URRC), which calls itself the world leader in transforming waste bottles into new ones. URRC has a patented process for recyling food and beverage containers made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET.

The plant will have the capacity, when fully operational, to produce 100 million pounds of recycled PET plastic chips—enough to produce 2 billion 20-ounce bottles of Coke or Dasani or whatever.

It's a small step toward the goal of sustainable consumption—the idea the we can buy and consume stuff in a ways that don't degrade the environment or create waste. Coke has said that it ultimately wants to recycle or reuse all of its plastic bottles and cans.

I spoke earlier today with Scott Vitters, the director of sustainable packaging for Coke. Scott is passionate about the environment, albeit in a geeky way, and he's proud of the plant, which has been in the works for years.

"It's an important milestone for us," he said.

The best thing about the plant is that it is intended to make money for Coke and URRC. That means that the project can be duplicated elsewhere.

Here's how it will work, as explained by Scott: A separate recycling company, led by Coca-Cola Enteprises, the world's biggest Coke bottler (don't ask me to explain the interconnected Coke system), will recover PET from a geographic area stretching from the northeast to Florida. The used PET bottles will come from its own manufacturing system, from government recycling centers and from high-profile venues like NASCAR events, college football stadiums and the House of Representatives. As the "official recycler" at the Democratic national convention in Denver, Coca Cola Recycling even collected waste from the arena known as the Pepsi Center. "All that material went back into our bottles—gleefully," Scott says.

Another source for feedstock is a Coke-backed startup called RecycleBank, which rewards consumers who recycle more and throw away less. VC firm Kleiner Perkins is also an investor in Recycle Bank.

Getting enough feedstock into the plant is crucial to its success. "That traditionally has been a major hurdle to recycling," Scott said.

The plant will produce a plastic chip, which will be sold to yet another Coke-backed company. Most of the chips will be refashioned into plastic bottles. Coke also makes T-shirts, tote bags, fleeces and other stuff from recycled PET, mostly as a way to encourage consumers to recycle and burnish its own image.

How will the new plant make money? "Explaining the economics around recycling is always an adventure," Scott said. "You have to keep in mind different things. One is the evolution of the technology. This is about the fourth generation of recycling technology, and earlier generations were costly and environmentally ineffective. Second is the question of feedstocks, and how much they cost. Third is the cost of virgin PET. Today, that's dropping."

In other words, it's hard to know today whether the investment will pay off. "The driver for this program was environmental," Scott said. "It's not going to make anyone wildly wealthy. But we're looking to turn a profit, long term."

That's good news, for obvious reasons. If the Spartanburg plant makes money, more will be built. Right now, there's a need for a similar plant in the Midwest. Plastic bottles that are recycled near the west coast wind up in China, of all places, since it's cheap to send them over there on container ships that have delivered Chinese imports to west coast ports.

None of this is truly sustainable. Not even close. Think of the trucks, powered by gasoline, moving all of those bottles around. I didn't think to ask Scott how the plant is is powered, but chances are it's operated by electricity made by burning coal.

But Coca-Cola, to its credit, is doing its part to solve a big and needless waste problem. Now we need governments to do more to promote curbside recycling–maybe with "pay as you throw" programs, that charge wasteful people more money. And, of course, we need consumers to think twice before throwing a bottle in the trash or, worse, by the side of the road.

Monday, December 15, 2008

E-waste certification program launched

• Commits to no dumping in landfills or developing countries

• ‘Our planet’s glut of e-waste is no longer a problem we can sweep under the rug’

The Basel Action Network and the Electronics TakeBack Coalition have joined with Electronic Recyclers International of Fresno to create the “e-Stewards Initiative” — a certification program for North America’s most responsible e-waste recyclers.

The e-Steward Initiative is described as the first independently audited and accredited electronic waste recycler certification program forbidding the dumping of toxic e-waste in developing countries, local landfills and incinerators; the use of prison labor; and the unauthorized release of private data.

“Unfortunately today, most companies calling themselves electronics recyclers are scammers,” says Sarah Westervelt, e-Stewards project coordinator at the Basel Action Network (BAN) in Seattle. “They simply load up containers of old computers and ship them off to China or Africa.”

The e-Stewards announcement follows Sunday’s report on CBS’ 60 Minutes exposing fraudulent electronic recycling and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s recently aired Electronic Dumping Ground. These programs reveal that computers given to many recyclers in the United States and Canada are likely to be dumped in China or Africa, where e-waste is causing environmental and health problems.

“The genuinely responsible recyclers in North America face unfair competition from thousands of unethical, so-called ‘waste recyclers’ that would more accurately be called ‘waste shippers,’” says John Shegerian, chairman and CEO of ERI. “We strongly support a certified, audited program to separate the legitimate recyclers from the low-road operators.”

“Our planet’s glut of e-waste is no longer a problem we can sweep under the rug,” Mr. Shegerian says.

Funding to create the certification program was provided by 14 recycling companies.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why electric cars have stalled

Facing technical challenges and a weak market, many of Silicon Valley's electric-car startups are changing direction.

1 of 4Wrightspeed's 180-degree turn

Full story: Why electric cars have stalled

The Wrightspeed X1, a sports car whose three-second acceleration from 0 to 60 makes it one of the fastest autos in the world, is also super-clean: It's powered by an electric motor and gets about 170 mpg. Ian Wright, the Burlingame, Calif., entrepreneur who created the X1 several years ago, had planned on ramping up production on a line of similar electric cars in 2009. But over the summer, he changed his mind.
"It's one thing to build electric cars, but it's another to go out and get some kind of respectable market size and funding," Wright says. "At this stage of the game, when oil is cheap and batteries still expensive, spending two to three -times the price on an electric car doesn't really make sense."

In a 180-degree turn from where his company, Wrightspeed, was a year ago, Wright has completely abandoned the concept of bringing an electric car to market. Instead, while he waits for the electric vehicle market to mature, Wright is focusing on a more lucrative venture: Wrightspeed will make and sell electric powertrains - the battery pack, software, and other components that generate power to a vehicle - to existing car and truck manufacturer.

"We're not looking at GM or Tesla Motors," Wright says. "Electric vehicles for the mass-market - that's at least 20 years away."

By Maggie Overfelt

Friday, November 28, 2008

How Geothermal Heat Pumps Could Power the Future

By Michael Schirber, Special to LiveScience

A schematic of a typical geothermal heat pump with an additional hot water heater. Credit: Geo-Heat Center Editor's Note: Each Wednesday LiveScience examines the viability of emerging energy technologies — the power of the future.

The term "geothermal energy" might bring to mind hot springs and billows of steam rising from the soil, but you can get energy from the ground without moving to Iceland or Yellowstone. You just need a geothermal heat pump.

"We call anything below the ground geothermal," said John Lund, director of the Geo-Heat Center at the Oregon Institute of Technology.

This includes geothermal heating, in which hot underground water is used to heat a building, and geothermal power, in which steam from very hot underground rock (more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit) is used to drive an electric generator.

However, these hydrothermal resources are only available in select areas. A geothermal heat pump (sometimes called a ground source heat pump) can work anywhere.

"They are the fastest growing geothermal use in the world," Lund told LiveScience, with about 20 percent annual growth.

Refrigerate the outdoors

If you've ever touched the tubes on the back of a working refrigerator, you know that it is pulling heat from the inside and radiating it to the rest of the kitchen.

A heat pump is like a refrigerator run backwards. It pulls heat from outdoors (as if it were trying to cool the outside) and releases it indoors.

In both a fridge and a heat pump, a system of tubes circulates a refrigerant fluid that becomes hot when compressed and cold when expanded.

To heat a home, the hot compressed fluid is typically passed through a heat exchanger that warms the air that feeds into a duct system. This "spent" fluid is then cooled through expansion and brought into contact with a ground source, so it can "recharge" with heat.

Although pumping the fluid requires electricity, a geothermal heat pump is more efficient than any alternative heating system. In fact, current models can produce as much as 4 kilowatts of heat for every 1 kilowatt of electricity. This is because they are not generating heat, but rather moving it from the outside.

And some heat pumps can cool as well as heat a home. A valve controls the direction of the fluid, so that heat can flow in both directions.

Down to earth

Some people are familiar with heat pumps that exchange heat with the air outside. These sometimes get lukewarm reviews because they do not work well when the temperature drops below freezing — just when you need them the most.

Geothermal heat pumps overcome this problem by exchanging heat with the ground, which maintains a constant temperature between 45 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the location.

"You wouldn't notice the difference between a home with a geothermal heat pump and one with a gas furnace," Lund said.

There are a number of ways to pull heat from the ground.

The most popular is a vertical geothermal heat pump, in which holes are drilled 150 to 200 feet below the surface. Pipes installed in these holes circulate water (with a dash of anti-freeze) that brings up heat to warm the refrigerant fluid.

An alternative is the horizontal heat pump, where the water-filled pipes are laid about 6 feet deep over a wide area. Although less expensive, these systems require a lot of land to heat a moderate-size building.

For those who live near a body of water or who have their own water well, it is possible to use that water directly as the outside heat source.

Ground swell

The biggest drawback for geothermal heat pumps is that their initial cost can be several times that of traditional heating and cooling systems. The installation for a typical house can run from $6,000 to $13,000, according to ToolBase Services, a housing industry resource.

However, geothermal heat pumps can pay for themselves over time with reduced energy bills. A homeowner can save 30 to 70 percent on heating and 20 to 50 percent on cooling costs over conventional systems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This may be why their popularity is growing. The United States leads the way with close to a million geothermal heat pumps, mostly in the Midwest and East Coast. Another million units can be found throughout Europe and Canada.

"Maybe in Antarctica it wouldn't work, but everywhere else it does," Lund said.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Solar panels on graves give power to Spanish town

Solar panels sit on top of niches at the Santa Coloma de Gramenet cemetery, outside Barcelona, Spain,

Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a gritty, working-class town outside Barcelona, has placed a sea of solar panels atop mausoleums at its cemetery, transforming a place of perpetual rest into one buzzing with renewable energy.

Flat, open and sun-drenched land is so scarce in Santa Coloma that the graveyard was just about the only viable spot to move ahead with its solar energy program.

The power the 462 panels produces — equivalent to the yearly use by 60 homes — flows into the local energy grid for normal consumption and is one community's odd nod to the fight against global warming.

"The best tribute we can pay to our ancestors, whatever your religion may be, is to generate clean energy for new generations. That is our leitmotif," said Esteve Serret, director Conste-Live Energy, a Spanish company that runs the cemetery in Santa Coloma and also works in renewable energy.

In row after row of gleaming, blue-gray, the panels rest on mausoleums holding five layers of coffins, many of them marked with bouquets of fake flowers. The panels face almost due south, which is good for soaking up sunshine, and started working on Wednesday — the culmination of a project that began three years ago.

The concept emerged as a way to utilize an ideal stretch of land in a town that wants solar energy but is so densely built-up — Santa Coloma's population of 124,000 is crammed into four square kilometers (1.5 square miles) — it had virtually no place to generate it.

At first, parking solar panels on coffins was a tough sell, said Antoni Fogue, a city council member who was a driving force behind the plan.

"Let's say we heard things like, 'they're crazy. Who do they think they are? What a lack of respect!' "Fogue said in a telephone interview.

But town hall and cemetery officials waged a public-awareness campaign to explain the worthiness of the project, and the painstaking care with which it would be carried out. Eventually it worked, Fogue said.

The panels were erected at a low angle so as to be as unobtrusive as possible.

"There has not been any problem whatsoever because people who go to the cemetery see that nothing has changed," Fogue said. "This installation is compatible with respect for the deceased and for the families of the deceased."

The cemetery hold the remains of about 57,000 people and the solar panels cover less than 5 percent of the total surface area. They cost 720,000 euros ($900,000) to install and each year will keep about 62 tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, Serret said.

The community's leaders hope to erect more panels and triple the electricity output, Fogue said. Before this, the town had four other solar parks — atop buildings and such — but the cemetery is by far the biggest.

He said he has heard of cemeteries elsewhere in Spain with solar panels on the roofs of their office buildings, but not on above-ground graves.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Business Leader of the Week

John S. Shegerian, Chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), discussed the urgent environmental and human rights implications of effective "e-waste" recycling today on "The Alan Autry Show," hosted by Fresno's Mayor Autry.
Shegerian was featured as a guest on the "Business Street: Business Leader of the Week" segment of Autry's show, on Fresno-based KYNO 1300 AM. Autry is a former NFL football player and actor. He achieved success by starring in the TV program "In the Heat of the Night," among other roles in film and television before becoming Fresno's Mayor.

As this week's "Business Leader of the Week," Shegerian shared insights on his personal life and career as a social entrepreneur, launching a number of businesses that benefit society and the environment, including his current venture, ERI, the nation's leading recycler of electronic waste.

"It's a great honor to have been named 'Business Leader of the Week' and to have been asked to guest on our great Mayor Autry's show," said Shegerian. "The Mayor has been very supportive of our environmental mission and of our effort to recycle lives by giving individuals a second chance at making a n honest living. At ERI we tip our hat to the excellent job he has done here in Fresno."

Now the largest recycler of electronic waste in the world, Fresno-headquartered Electronic Recyclers is licensed to de-manufacture and recycle televisions, computer monitors, computers, and other types of electronic equipment. ERI processes more than 140 million pounds of electronic waste annually.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Green Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great time to go green. The season of Thanksgiving is about celebrating the earth and what it has to offer us, so respecting the environment is a great way to send the planet an eco-friendly thank-you.

Using eco-friendly products, reducing, reusing and recycling during Thanksgiving can help diminish waste to the environment. An eco conscious Thanksgiving will enrich your family’s holiday experience, because you’ll know you have helped reduce the impact on the environment, something we all should be thankful for. Here are a few tips for having a green Thanksgiving.

When running around picking up all your necessities for the big day, make sure you bring along reusable bags. See if you can reduce the amount of waste you produce by buying only as much as you need and choosing products that come in packaging that can be recycled.
Reusable Shopping Bags

Buy locally grown food. It’s a great way to have a green Thanksgiving. Locally grown is generally organic and therefore good for your health and the environment. It requires less fuel to reach local store shelves which saves on fuel. It also contributes more to your local economy by supporting the local farmers and merchants. Foodroutes can help you find local merchants in your area.
Buy organic fruits, vegetable, (apples and potatoes are very high on the pesticide hit list, and retain huge amounts of the chemicals sprayed on them), and grains grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Organic farming also increases soil fertility, prevents erosion, and is more cost-effective for farmers.
If you’re having Turkey as part of your dinner, search the Eat Well Guide. You can find types of meat by production methods, and locations where you can purchase an organic turkey. The “production methods” section allows you to select items labeled 100% vegetarian fed, grass fed, free-range, non-confined, no antibiotics, organic, etc. You can also contact your local grocery store and ask if they carry turkeys labeled “American Humane Certified,” or “USDA Certified Organic.”
Lift a glass of organic or biodynamic wine, (in recycled glasses of course), and give thanks to sustainability. Serve organic wine with “real” corks not plastic or twist off tops. Your eco-friendly Thanksgiving party can help preserve the cork industry.

Protect Our Earth Glasses

If you have to fly for the holidays, purchase carbon credits at Carbon Planet to offset your portion of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by your flight. A typical long-haul flight produces nearly four tons of carbon dioxide.
Plant a Tree as part of the family affair. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming. By planting one tree, in one year, that tree will absorb roughly 26 pounds of carbon dioxide and return enough oxygen to supply a family of four. The Plant-A-Tree-Today (PATT) Foundation was formed with its mission to react to problems caused by the massive and increasing levels of deforestation worldwide. Help raise awareness of environmental issues and the role forests play, take action against climate change, educate children on these issues and to Plant a tree this Thanksgiving.
Keep your thermostat at an acceptable setting, and start a fire in your fireplace to keep warm. If you normally keep your temperature at 74 degrees Fahrenheit, try lowering it two degrees on Thanksgiving. This will conserve extra energy.
Nature always decorates best, especially this time of year as the trees shed their brightly colored leaves. Take a nature walk and gather signs of the season from your local environment to create a simple, beautiful harvest centerpiece. With a little imagination, you can make great eco-friendly Thanksgiving decorations and have a lot of fun in the process. Gather found items such as pinecones, colored leaves, seedpods, branches and colorful berries and leaves. Place your treasures in recycled vases or bowls for a naturally green centerpiece.
Decorate your table with beeswax candles rather than petroleum-derived paraffin candles. The beeswax is not only healthier for you and the planet, but it smells better too! For an extra touch, fill a recycled glass bowl with seasonal grains, (such as corn), and place a pillar, (soy or beeswax), candle in the center.

Early Bird Candle

All flowers remind us of nature’s bounty, but not all flower companies are eco-friendly. Most spray their crops with heavy amounts of pesticides. Order a gorgeous Thanksgiving centerpiece from Organic Bouquet. They’ll give ten percent of your purchase to The Nature Conservancy, and send your flowers in biodegradable, corn-based flower sleeves. Head to your pantry for empty containers such as seltzer bottles, spice jars, wine bottles, cans, etc. to use as vases for your flower arrangements.
Purchase recycled paper products, if you need to have disposable plates and cups. Otherwise, use regular plates and cups that can be washed so you don’t produce any waste.
Try and cook just the right amount of food for your family and friends because nothing is worse than wasted food. However, if you have too much food, send your guests home with a doggie bag. You can also donate leftover food to a local shelter or food bank. Mahalo can help you with this.

Sustainable Agriculture Chardonnay 2006
Whatever else you do on Thanksgiving, make it a time to say thank you to the people in your life who matter most. Many of the best moments in life are those spent with friends and family. As part of your eco-friendly Thanksgiving, give thanks to the many ways the environment sustains and enriches our lives.

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles