On December 15, 2011, the city council in Austin, Texas, voted unanimously to approve the Zero Waste by 2040 plan. And now the program is starting to take effect.
Starting with the comprehensive master plan (pdf), the executive summary:
Zero Waste is a design principle that goes beyond recycling to focus first on reducing wastes and reusing products and then recycling and composting the rest. Zero Waste works to redesign the system to mimic natural systems, recognizing that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and everything is a resource for something or someone else. Currently, Austin is estimated to lose over $40 million annually by sending materials that could be recycled or reused to area landfills.
Austin’s Zero Waste system will strive to recover that estimated loss and eliminate waste, or get darn close. This Plan defines success as reducing by 20% the per capita solid waste disposed to landfills by 2012, diverting 75% of waste from landfills and incinerators by 2020, and 90% by 2040.
Then, bringing the children into it with a program called Generation Zero. Offering educational programs at each grade level:
- Kindergarten – 2nd grade – classroom composting
- 3rd – 5th – learning about recycling
- Middle School – learn about landfills and visit a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)
- High School – history of trash in America
And, my favorite, offering discounts on the utility bill for reducing your trash. If you throw away more you pay more, allowing greener families to save up to $20/month:
- 24 gallon bin – $13.35
- 32 gallon bin – $14.60
- 64 gallon bin – $19.75
- 96 gallon bin – $33.50
This is exciting to watch Austin transform itself, starting from a very low recycling rate of 38% and moving all the way to zero waste.
An article from The Atlantic focuses on the value of trees:
I was approached by someone from an initiative called San Diego County Trees…(a project) extolling the benefits of urban trees. I just spent time on the website, where the coolest feature is an interactive map of the whole county showing very specific tree locations and information, including quantified benefits…(like) carbon sequestration, water retention, energy saved, and air pollutants reduced.
Wow! Look at that image…millions of dollars in savings, water conservation, improved air quality. That is impressive.
Some more facts include, “the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day,” and the energy savings of planting a tree on the sunny side of your house (3% after 5 years, 12% after 15 years).
I love trees.
A new study from Carnegie Mellon University found that in 2010, video games wasted about 1% of America’s electrical energy.
They found that up to 75% of energy consumed by video game consoles is during idle use, because the machines don’t have an auto-power-down feature (like every computer does).
The authors of the study say the cost of implementing this feature is marginal and would save more than $1 billion in utility costs.
- By the end of 2010, over 75 million current generation video game consoles (Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Sony PlayStation 3) had been sold, meaning that many homes have two or more current generation game consoles
- We estimate that the total electricity consumption of video game consoles in the US was around 11 TWh in 2007 and 16 TWh in 2010 (approximately 1 % of US residential electricity consumption), an increase of almost 50 % in 3 years.
- The most effective energy-saving modification is incorporation of a default auto power down feature, which could reduce electricity consumption of game consoles by 75 % (10 TWh reduction of electricity in 2010).
- A simple improvement that could be implemented now via firmware updates to power the console down after 1 hour of inactivity. Though two of the three current generation consoles have this capability, it is not enabled by default, a modification that would be trivial for console manufacturers.
- Saving consumers over $1 billion annually in electricity bills.
Scott Lowe at The Verge points out that in May 2011, Microsoft did update Xbox 360′s firmware to enable auto-power-down by default. Now it’s up to the rest of industry to catch-up.
Full study available – Electricity consumption and energy savings potential of video game consoles in the United States
// Photo – Jami3.org
I love this story because it backs up my own behavior. With gas prices skyrocketing I find myself biking for local errands, and I’ve begun to love it!
Nearly 70 percent of Americans’ car trips are less than two miles long. It’s a no-brainer that biking instead of driving to take care of these trips is a great way to get exercise while cutting air pollution.
Last week, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives published findings from a study by scientists at the University of Wisconsin on the economic and health benefits of switching from a car to a bike for trips shorter than five miles long in 11 metropolitan areas around the upper Midwest…they’d create a net societal health benefit of $3.5 billion per year from the increase in air quality and $3.8 billion in savings from smaller health care costs.
via Good - (thx to Amy Senger)
The full story via NPR’s Health Blog.
The Department of Energy (DOE/FEMP) is holding a monthly online seminar focusing on sustainability. The sessions provide support for legions of federal workers that are leading the nation into our new green economy.
The first session (of six) focuses on Executive Order 13514, commonly called the sustainable order. The following training sessions are as follows:
- Mar 4 – Energy 101
- Apr 1 – Water Efficiency Planning and Implementation
- May 6 – Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting
- Jun 3 – Advanced Metering Requirements and Best Practices
- Jul 1 – Operations, Maintenance, and Commissioning
Each session is available for free through online video streaming.
I attended the first one (virtually) and here are my notes. Also, I am keeping out the presenters emails but if you have questions and would like their contacts, please let me know.
“As the largest consumer of energy in the US economy the Federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible products and technologies.”
The thinking behind the Order is to:
- have the federal government “lead by example”
- “take pride in agency accomplishments” (highlight work already being done)
- encourage agencies to think “integrated planning”
- push/pull/force agencies to reach across “stovepipes”
The Federal Government:
- Occupies nearly 500,000 buildings
- Operates more than 500,000 vehicles
- Employs more than 1.8 million civilians
- Purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services
Benefits to the Nation:
- Energy savings – Avoided Costs – Jobs – Innovations – Improvements to Local Infrastructure
- Establish an integrated agency strategy for sustainability, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the federal government in order to lead by example and achieve a clean energy economy.
- “really talking about practical application”
- “requires strategic perspective bringing together the right components”
- “planning is crucial”
- GHG reduction targets, energy efficiency, water use efficiency and mgmt, pollution prevention, waste elimination
- Regional and local integrated planning
- High performance sustainable Federal buildings
- Sustainable acquisition
- Electronics stewardship
- Environmental mgmt systems
Scopes in Greenhouse Gasses, asking for an absolute percentage reduction target for FY 2020, relative to FY 2008. Due:
- Scope 1-2 – jan 4, 2010
- Scope 3 – jun 2, 2010
By FY 2015 achieve a %50 or higher solid waste diversion and construction/demolition diversion
This represents “nothing less than a transformational shift in how federal governments operate”
- DOE to develop greenhouse gas accounting and reporting recommendations by April/Oct
- DOT to site sustainable locations for federal facilities
- GSA to develop local transportation logistics
- DOE to write federal fleet mgmt guidance
- GSA to pass along vendor and contractor emissions guidnace
- EPA to write stormwater guidance for federal facilities
Full copy of the briefing: Executive Order 13514 Training