Tag Archives: environment

Supreme Green: How the Dutch and Danish Dominate Sustainable Living

Wind Farm Off Copenhagen

The effect is melodic — clankety clank, clankety clank — the sound of bicycles plugging along. At first you don’t notice — the absence of taxi horns squawking with ire, or tailpipe exhaust assaulting your lungs, or stressed-out drivers mouthing invectives behind the wheel – but as soon as you do, as soon you notice the beauty of a car “light” society, it becomes your new optic. NOW I see. Cities like Los Angeles and Manhattan truly suck.

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Recycling creates a million jobs

If you send trash directly to a landfill not much happens, but if you recycle it a series of business touch the trash and that creates jobs. Here is a report from a few years ago that shows recycling creates 25 jobs, while sending trash to the landfill only creates one job (per ton of trash). A huge economic impact and one that highlights my favorite green idea - the double impact.

I’ve always believed the key to our green future is to find ways to improve lives as we go green. It can’t just be about sacrifices and volunteering, it also needs to help people. And that is usually the way it works, it just sometimes takes a little extra time to think things through.

The recycling report, from the Institute for Local Self Reliance, also gathered data for specific items, and it’s impressive: 85 jobs for clothes recycling, 93 jobs for plastic, and 296 for computers.

Which makes recycling a valuable sector of the economy employing hundreds of thousands of people. A report from the EPA says there are “56,000 establishments that employ more than 1.1 million people, generate an annual payroll of nearly $37 billion, and gross over $236 billion in annual revenues.”

Now that is a double impact – jobs, GDP, and businesses for greening the planet.

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The first step towards zero waste – reduce the amount of trash cans in your home

Living a zero waste lifestyle isn’t hard if you start simple. And the first step is to get rid of some of the trash cans in your home. Leave a few in the major areas and make sure to leave one for recycling. Soon you will find the majority of your trash to be recyclables and the trash you send to the landfill dropping like the rain.

When I made this change, I found a trash can in each room. Most contained only a few pieces that I had to empty every week. I thought about it and determined that the kitchen and the bathroom were key places to keep a trash can. Everything else was put in storage, or converted into a recycle bin.  The fewer trash cans freed up a little time and allowed me to focus on what I was throwing out.

It happened that I wasn’t recycling enough. I visited the website of my trash company and found their list of approved recyclables. I was recycling only half of what I could and quickly doubled the amount in the recycle bin. It’s amazing how this one step – reducing the trash cans – led me to the easiest and biggest step towards zero waste. I was halfway there.

The next step was a little harder. No big reductions, just making one small change at a time. I noticed my shampoo and conditioner bottles weren’t recyclable, so I switch to a brand that was. The little yogurt cups weren’t recyclable but the big ones were. I began paying attention to each item I was sending to a landfill, and found that each had a recyclable alternative.

And that’s it. The path to zero waste is simple and easy. At first glance it sounds like an extreme lifestyle and impossible to do. But it’s not and everyone I recommend this to is shocked at the simplicity. A little step in the green direction and we all do our part.

 

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More reading on zero waste:

 

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Third Industrial Revolution – led by renewable energy and the internet

Jeremy Rifkin is a renowned economist on the environment, author, and advisor to the European Union. And he has a theory about the next great movement of the world – The Third Industrial Revolution.

From Omega:

The great economic revolutions in history occur when new communication technologies converge with new energy systems. New energy revolutions make possible more expansive and integrated trade. Accompanying communication revolutions manage the complex new commercial activities made possible by the new energy flows.

Ushering in the First Industrial Revolution during the 19th century, cheap steam-powered print technology and the introduction of public schools gave rise to a print-literate work force with the communication skills to manage the increased flow of commercial activity (which was made possible by coal and steam power technology).

That was followed by electrical forms of communication in the 20th century – mass media – and energy powered by oil and the combustion engine. And now we are at the beginning stages of the third step, with renewable energy and the internet as the drivers of change.

Read his full piece – Five Pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution – to learn more, or watch this short video from CNN:

 

European Union leads the world in renewable energy – achieves 100 GW of wind power

Renewable energy continues to surge in the European Union (EU). The latest achievement is 100 GW of wind power, the equivalent of 62 coal power plants. The growth has been fast, “it took twenty years to get the first 10 GW grid connected…only 13 years to add 90 GW.” And half of that was added in the last six years.

To produce the same amount of electricity with coal – in one year – would require the mining, transport and burning of 72 million tons of coal, at a cost of $6.48 billion.

For a broader perspective, the United States is also booming having recently achieved 50 GW of installed wind power. But the most important number is the total electricity used in the EU – 3.6 million GW. And this wind milestone only represents 0.003% of that. Like an ant standing at the foot of the mountain.

The good news is that growth is continuing at a rapid pace – 13-16% in each of the past 5 years – and only a tiny fraction of “Europe’s vast domestic wind energy resources” have been put to use. Follow the curve of this graph and you can see where the future is headed:

 

source: European Wind Energy Association

 

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Obama vs Romney – on climate change, renewable energy, and the EPA

In every election the presidential candidates are forced to make a bold statement, one way or the other, on the environment. And since this blog is focused on sustainability their positions are an important topic. Here are three of them – climate change, renewable energy, and the EPA – from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

I apologize for the strong Democratic Party bias in this piece, but the Republican Party has yet to embrace sustainability. There are glimpses of it from Mitt Romney, but he is backing away from many of those. And honestly, we need the Republican Party to adopt sustainable ideas to make real progress in this country.

 

Climate Change

Barack Obama

  • Supports international efforts to forge a climate change agreement.
  • Enacted regulations to double the fuel efficiency of vehicles by 2025.
  • Directed the federal government to reduce emissions from its buildings and vehicles by 28 percent by 2020.

Mitt Romney

  • Wary of international climate negotiations.
  • Opposes Obama’s new fuel efficiency standards as extreme.
  • Believes climate change is happening but not due to human efforts.

 

Renewable Energy

Barack Obama

  • Invested billions in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Set ambitious clean energy goals, vowing that 80 percent will come from renewable sources by 2035.
  • Supported legislation, now set to expire, that extends production tax credits to the wind industry.

Mitt Romney

  • Opposes extending the tax credit for the wind industry and has vowed to end federal subsidies for renewable energy projects.
  • Supports nuclear, coal, oil, and gas in equal amounts to solar and wind.
  • As governor of Massachusetts, supported renewable energy authorizing the investment of $24 million.

 

EPA

Barack Obama

  • Empowered the EPA to draft stricter CO2 emissions standards for power plants.
  • Supports proposed EPA regulations limiting emissions of mercury and other toxics from power plants.
  • Supports continued federal regulation of oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

Mitt Romney

  • Opposes EPA regulating carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Says the states, not the federal government, should exercise control over oil and gas drilling on onshore federal lands.
  • Has called for fewer regulations on the nuclear power industry to help revive it.

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Video: North Pole shrinks to record levels, could be gone in 4 years

 

This animation shows the 2012 time-series of ice extent. The black area represents the daily average (median) sea ice from 1979-2000. Layered over are the daily satellite measurements from January 1 — September 14, 2012. A rapid melt begins in July, whereby the 2012 ice extents fall far below the historical average.

 

This melting has caused many to reconsider their predictions. A Cambridge scientist in the Arctic believes we could be only 4 years from a North Pole without ice.

From Yale’s Environment 360:

Peter Wadhams, who heads the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge and who has measured Arctic Ocean ice thickness from British Navy submarines, says that earlier calculations about Arctic sea ice loss have grossly underestimated how rapidly the ice is disappearing. He believes that the Arctic is likely to become ice-free before 2020 and possibly as early as 2015 or 2016 — decades ahead of projections made just a few years ago.

 

 

// Thx – DB

Good news – United States greenhouse gas emissions are declining (graph)

I hate the doom-and-gloom focus of global warming. For an issue that asks people to make big changes, there couldn’t be a worse message. And so I’m proud to present another piece good news:

  • As our economy grows we are lowering our emissions (blue lines)
  • As our population our emissions are remaining steady or decreasing (orange lines)

 

source: EPA

 

This makes it look like we are cleaning up our economy and our habits, and we are. Good news.

And, one piece of bad news. The declines aren’t strong enough to stop climate change. For that we need a much steeper decline. So keep up the great work and double your efforts!

Here are some ways to do so:

Residential water trends for the United States

Here is a report that studied water trends from the past 50 years (pdf) and found both good/bad news.

The good:

A household in the 2008 billing year used 11,678 gallons less water annually than an identical household did in 1978.

To investigate the causes of this decline, a local study of statistically representative households of the LWC was conducted in Louisville. Adjusting for weather, water use per LWC customer fell from 208 to 187 gpd between 1990 and 2007, a decline of 21 gallons.

 

The bad: declines are leveling off.

Most homes have installed low-flow appliances and that accounted for the biggest drop. There was a drop in family size, from 3.38 to 2.59, and that’s not going any lower.

There were no recommendations for next steps. Future declines may be up to us.

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Nine Lights founder Jeff Beck – improving surfboards by placing the stringer on the outside

Last weekend, while attending the Sunset Beach Handplane Demo Day, I met a fascinating surfboard shaper by the name of Jeff Beck. Through his company, Nine Lights, Jeff is performing some incredible experiments that could change the surfing industry. He had many of his boards on-hand to try for free, which is a regular part of the “demo day” ethos.

The first board that I tried, called the Slipper, perfectly represents Jeff’s unique design sense. The board has no stringer and instead uses a thin piece of wood on top (fiberglass bottom). According to Jeff, “when you remove the stringer it opens up all sorts of design possibilities. You can experiment with different shapes and sizes.” He said the wood top provides as much, or more, strength than the stringer would provide.

I took the board out to try him at his word. Now, I’m 6-feet tall and weigh 180+ pounds. I pounded the hell out of that board because it is a modified Alaia, which means no fins, long and real thin (picture below). You have to pop-up quick and immediately start turning. The board never once gave or bent and felt stronger than my classic stringer boards. I definitely think Jeff is on to something, and it was so much fun to ride that it was my favorite of the event.

 

The Slipper

 

To give you more insight into Jeff’s innovative thinking I want to tell you about his handplanes made out of aerospace airplane wings. Made from the foam in the wings they are super-strong and amazingly lightweight. When you hold it in your hand all the weight you feel is in the leash. I tried one out and it definitely feels stronger than regular surfboard EPS foam (I kept smacking it because I couldn’t believe how strong it was). An amazing way to recycle old airplanes and turn them into a fun ride.

 

Hand(air)planes

 

Overall, I was truly impressed by Jeff’s deep understanding of surfboard design, experimental concepts, and his environmental focus. The next time I’m in the market for a surfboard I will assuredly be checking out Nine Lights Surfboards.

Here are a few other designs from Jeff, and make sure to visit his website and like him on Facebook.

 

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