Archive for the ‘Green’ Category

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Björk Gets Her Own Sustainable Investment Fund

January 26, 2009

April Streeter, TREEHUGGER    •  header
Singer and celebrity Björk has become something of a sustainability whirlwind. Björk’s already been vocal about her opposition to a proposed aluminum smelter for the economically-challenged country of Iceland. After she did an environmental benefit concert earlier this year called Nattura and became depressed at the thought that the show would do little to deter aluminum smelter proponents, she wrote a chaotic song (also called Nattura) and launched it on ITunes in October. That led her to a trip round Iceland to find sustainable business ideas and tell the government about them. Finally, this month, Björk gave her name, her image, and an undisclosed sum of money to a new venture capital fund dedicated to getting money to the best and brightest local businesses.

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Are your Skittles destroying the rainforest? Part 1

January 5, 2009

ross Ross Levin • Operation Itch Contributing Writer header
more in  NEWS & ANALYSIS  
See all posts from Ross Levin

Today, I’ve decided to start a series on palm oil and palm ingredients – and alternatives to them.  I’m in the process of building a website on the same subject, but that will take a bit of time, and time is not something worth wasting in this context.

One of the biggest populations of wild orangutans on Borneo will be extinct in three years without drastic measures to stop the expansion of palm oil plantations, conservationists say. AFP/AFP/Getty Images

One of the biggest populations of wild orangutans on Borneo will be extinct in three years without drastic measures to stop the expansion of palm oil plantations, conservationists say. AFP/AFP/Getty Images

A specific type of vegetable oil may not sound like a particularly interesting subject, but palm oil is no ordinary vegetable oil.  It is one of the more destructive forces on our planet today.  Or maybe I should say that the machine of people and corporations in place to grow and distribute palm oil is one of the more destructive forces on our planet.  Either way, consuming this ingredient – which is in an unbelievable amount of foods and cosmetics and other things – is something which makes one responsible for encouraging this. 

If you want some outside info, here’s a good place to start:  http://www.cspinet.org/…

Let’s start with a basic statement, and add more to it as we go:

The rainforest is being cleared at an alarming rate to make room for palm plantations.

The rainforest is being cleared at an alarming rate, particularly in Southeast Asia, to make room for palm plantations.

The rainforest is being cleared at an alarming rate, particularly in Southeast Asia, to make room for palm plantations.  Many species – both discovered and undiscovered – are being driven to extinction because of habitat loss.

The rainforest is being cleared at an alarming rate, particularly in Southeast Asia, to make room for palm plantations.  Many species – both discovered and undiscovered – are being driven to extinction because of habitat loss.  The most notable is the orangutan, which could become extinct within the decade because of deforestation in Malaysia, Borneo, and Indonesia.

Now you’ve got the gist of it.  Palm oil plantations – while providing a considerable amount of jobs and a product that is used in many places – are hurting our climate (through the burning of forest and the destruction of a carbon sink), the local environment, and even small landowners.  Take a look (below the break) at this recent AFP story:

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Ethanol and Water

December 19, 2008

Robert Glennon    •  more posts in: GREEN        top

If I could offer our soon-to-be Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack one piece of advice, it would be this: “We’re already running low on water. Don’t make matters worse.”

I would offer my advice with hope, but out of fear. My fear is that in Des Monies and in his short-lived presidential campaign, Mr. Vilsack was an ardent supporter of ethanol, so has been President-elect Obama. Once he becomes agriculture’s advocate in the new administration, it will mean more and more ethanol plants for America.

Mr. Vilsack is in for an unpleasant surprise. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Hilda Solis: Obama’s Labor Secretary

December 19, 2008

AP          more in: NEWS & ANALYSIS    GREEN    top

Democratic Rep. Hilda Solis of California will be Barack Obama’s pick for labor secretary as the president-elect fills the last open positions in his Cabinet, a labor official told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Solis, who is the daughter of Mexican and Nicaraguan immigrants, has been the only member of Congress of Central American descent. She just won a fifth term representing heavily Hispanic portions of eastern Los Angeles County and east LA.
Obama planned to announce Solis’ selection on Friday along with his selection of Republican Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois for transportation secretary. The official spoke on conditions of anonymity because an announcement has not been made yet. A call to Solis’s office was not immediately returned.

Solis, in 1994, was the first Latina elected to the California Senate, where she led the battle to increase the state’s minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75 an hour in 1996.

In Congress, she wrote a measure that authorized $125 million for work force training programs in areas such as energy efficiency retrofitting and “green building” construction.

Andy Stern, president of the 1.9-million member Service Employees International Union, the 51-year-old praised Solis for her deep roots in the union movement. He recalled marching with her in Los Angeles — well before she was elected to Congress — to seek higher wages and benefits for janitors.

“We were with her fighting for the rights of people who work from the beginning and we’re so proud that she’s been chosen to be the labor secretary,” Stern said.

More high praise for Solis in statements from SEIUUnite to WinAmerican Rights at Work, andChange to Win.

Here’s video of Solis speaking on the House floor about the Employee Free Choice Act, a top legislative priority for the labor movement.


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Considering All the Benefits of Residential Renewable Energy is Critical

December 16, 2008

Andy Posner • Huffington Post            (see all posts in GREEN)  (jump to top)

Ask most people about the benefits of residentialrenewable energygeothermal, rooftop solar photovoltaic and solar thermal, and backyard wind turbines, primarily–and the response is usually the same: they are good for the environment, raise property value and lower or eliminate utility bills. While undoubtedly true, these responses present an incomplete picture of the benefits of distributed renewable energy. In certain instances, such as last week when a single ice storm left over 1 million homes and businesses in New England without power, a residential energy system can mean the difference between seeking shelter and being able to shelter others. Other times, particularly during peak demand, renewables stabilize the grid and lower costs for all utility customers.
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Japan harnesses energy from footsteps

December 13, 2008

Telegraph UK                 jump to most recent post 

japan_footsteps_en_1204540cTrain stations in Tokyo are harnessing the energy of legions of commuters to power advertising hoardings and ticket machines.

Experiments have started this week at two of the Japanese capitals’ busiest stations, with special flooring tiles installed in front of ticket turnstiles. Every time a passenger steps on the mats, they trigger a small vibration that can be stored as energy.

Multiplied many times over by the 400,000 people who use Tokyo Station on an average day, according to East Japan Railway, and there is sufficient energy to light up electronic signboards.

“We are just testing the system at the moment to examine its full potential,” said Takuya Ikeba, a spokesman for JR East, adding that the tiles are constructed of layers of rubber sheeting, to absorb the vibrations, and ceramic.

Deeply dependent on imported fuel to power its industries, Japanese companies are at the forefront of research into clean and reuseable energy sources.

On the other side of Tokyo, a remarkable 2.4 million people pass through the sprawling Shibuya Station on an average week day, with many of them now treading on Soundpower Corp.’s “Power Generation Floor.”

“An average person, weighing 60 kg, will generate only 0.1 watt in the single second required to take two steps across the tile,” said Yoshiaki Takuya, a planner with Soundpower Corp. “But when they are covering a large area of floor space and thousands of people are stepping or jumping on them, then we can generate significant amounts of power.”

Stored in capacitors, the power can be channeled to energy-hungry parts of the station, he said, including the electrical lighting system and the ticket gates.