It's the Environment, Stupid.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

EcoBabes 2007

Looking for that perfect eco-friendly holiday gift? How about a 2007 EcoBabes calendar?

Supporting the California based Climate Protection Campaign, an organization working to reduce emissions in Sonoma County, the ecobabes calendar “portrays passionate, driven women pursing a vision of sustainability by modifying their daily actions and initiating systemic social change… [and] inspires and educates people of all ages to make changes in their personal and professional lives that help create a more sustainable world.”

Curious about the actual calendar? It was printed on 100% post consumer paper, with vegetable based inks, printed by a California printing company. You can purchase the calendar online and find out more about the women featured in it at the EcoBabes website.

(this is cross-posted at EcoStreet)
(and covered by TreeHugger back in Sept.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Organic Fish?

The latest dilemma in front of the Agriculture Department - what's the criteria for organic fish? An article from the NYTimes looks into the debate.

Is a free swimmin', ocean lovin' fish more "organic" than its farmed, fish-food-fed, carnivorious counterpart? Can aquaculture be considered under the same rules as agriculture? The latest recommendations put before the USDA for consideration: "the group recommended far less stringent rules, including three options for what organic fish could eat: an entirely organic diet; nonorganic fish during a seven-year transition period while fish farms shift to organic fish meal; or nonorganic fish meal from “sustainable” fisheries. Sustainable fisheries are those that ensure that their fish stocks do not become depleted."

While it may be a necessary evil, it seems to me that further defining regulatory terminology is missing the point. The bigger question that needs to be addressed is the health of their habitat, our ecosystems. Has the demand for fish really increased so much that we must rely on farmed fish to satisfy our seafood needs, or have we overfished and overpolluted our waterways so much that the "wild" catch has dwindled beyond our care?

Growing up in salmon country in the lush Pacific Northwest I've learned a thing or two over the years about our silver scaled friends. I can probably tell the difference between a coho and chinook. I've been to the hatcheries and seen thousands upon thousands of orange eggs, and at the dams have watched them struggle up those "convenient" ladders. I've even helped raise tadpoles, put them in creeks and come back to see if any of them have returned to spawn, and later covered the debates between officials and Native American tribes over fishing rights. I can't say I've seen a time when the fish were so abundant that they were jumping out of the riverbeds, but the fishing inudstry is not the same as it used to be and neither are the salmon.

This is where the consumer comes in - if we get too wrapped up in the organic label, the "wild" fish just might go by the wayside and no one will be the wiser. However, if the consumer can see beyond the organic label, and take a look at and appreciate the natural processes (a-la Michael Pollan's look at Joel Salatin's farm) we might be able to generate a sustainable fishing industry and save a few ecosystems along the way.

Monday, November 27, 2006

LA to Vegas for $12

Ecorazzi caught onto this earlier this month, but Yahoo featured it on their homepage this evening: "The gas-hungry SUV gets a green makeover with veteran electric driver, Ed Begley, Jr."

In the video featured on Yahoo, Begly shares his electric car history - he's been driving 'em since the '70s because he didn't like the LA smog, and he's been plugging and driving ever since. He showed off a new electric SUV and then told the reporter that his trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (where the video peeps caught up with Begly) was a mere $12 - not bad for the electric car that was once thought to be extinct....

You can keep up with all the green celeb do gooders at Ecorazzi - check it out if you haven't already.

China goes solar

Well, they're into coal and nuclear and massive scale hydro plants - why not get in on one of the world's biggest solar power station?

According to the WBCSD, China is slated to build a 100 megawatt solar facility (trumped only by an Australian project of 154 megawatts.) The project, which will be completed in five years, is touted to reduce GHG emissions by 400,000 a year.

While the article doesn't mention it, I'm a bit skeptical that this will make any significant contribution to overall energy production within the country, and I doubt that the reduction of GHG emissions claimed by this project will offset the GHG emissions that will increase due to the projected number of new traditional coal fired plants.

But hey - a large solar facility certainly is visible, and will hopefully spur additional investments in alternative energy projects in the emerging nation.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Turkey day message

I know the picture is a repeat, but since I've got little time to post today here's a quick message - have a happy turkey day, eat local if you can and don't shop on Friday (although if you must do it at somewhere like 3r living).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Seattlites think carbon offsets are a scam

I went to the Seattle-PI online yesterday to check out more news about this construction crane that fell over in a suburban city outside of Seattle, and another headline caught my eye, "Feel Less Than Green? Buy Back Your Pollution."

It is, of course, an article about going carbon neutral, reducing your carbon footprint, buying carbon offsets (is it okay to use those interchangably I wonder?) In any case, the article made buying carbon credits out to be a new thing that's all the rage. It also laid out some of the basic details of how the system works - determine your carbon footprint, and since you probably won't want to (or can't) do less carbon emitting things you can buy carbon credits to offset your own personal emissions. (And depending on which organization you buy them from the money gets put to different uses, mainly invested in emission reduction ventures.)

As perhaps many of you reading this know, this isn't all THAT new, but it is apparently a new concept to the population at large (another win for mainstream media coverage). The great thing about the Seattle-PI online is that you can comment on nearly every story, which they've termed "sound-offs". Now, I'm sure a great number of people who read online don't "sound-off" as do many readers of the print edition, but for those who took the time to make their opinions known, the running thread in the "sound-off" to this article was this: carbon credits are a SCAM.

As of this morning there were 47 comments - about a third of which were back-and-forth interchange comments to one of the more outspoken this-is-a-sham-global-warming-is-not-happening comments, and one comment was from TerraPass founder Adam Stein correcting some misguided "facts" in the article, but most were skeptical of the whole carbon-offset thing.

Personally, I'm still not sold on the whole offset thing myself, mainly because of the underlying assumption that in order to "combat" global warming (thus assuming it is combattable) the sole end goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at any cost. In doing this I believe that we are losing sight of other parts of the bigger picture, and may even be causing some unwanted externalities along the way (shall I venture to put the word nulcear in here?) However, I do think carbon offsets are a step in the right direction, and the more people choose to go carbon neutral, the more carbon markets will benefit, and most importantly, buying carbon offsets are increasingly making individuals collectively accountable for their own actions.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Extended Producer Responsibility

Maybe because it's the holiday season but I've had several conversations with people lately revolving arund the purchase of new items: computers, printers, cell phones, blackberries, televisions, DVD players, I-pods, furniture, automobiles, clothing. The reason behind these puchases is often because their previous goods are either too old (there's a newer, cooler one on the market), or have broken (and no one fixes things anymore).

As consumers we are stuck in a quandary - technology outdates itself immediately, so even if a product still works, there's a newer, faster, better thing that was just released. Or companies make things with a short usable lifespan, forcing you to purchase new items repeatedly. So in our current affluent western society, the choice to buy isn't really a choice at all, it is a given. In our disposable, consumer oriented culture the assumption is you will buy and you will throw away.

I've blogged about this consumer burden before, and how I believe that the responsibility for a product's afterlife should shift to the producer. Companies should design with the product life-cycle in mind (Cradle to Cradle of course), however until that practice happens on a mentionable scale, more companies should institute additional take back programs.

Steve Attinger has a column on that talks about Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). He highlights a few manufacturers that do take back their older/broken products (and competitor's products) once the consumer is ready to purchase a new one. He also makes the business case for EPR, one result is building customer loyalty, another is streamlining the production process, which often saves the company money. EPR just seems to make business sense, and until everyone is doing it will give added value to the consumer and a leg up on the competition.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Environmental Action - light bulb challenge

All Environmental Action wants for Christmas is for Wal-Mart to spread the green cheer.

EA's latest campagin is asking the retail giant to sponsor 'Free Energy Efficient Light Bulb Day'. The goal/result: if each of their 18,000,000 customers took home a CEF lightbulb and used it, the impact would reduce CO2 emissions by 2 billion pounds - that's like taking 200,000 vehicles off the road.

Tell Wal-Mart you'd like their customers to get a little CEF gift for the holidays here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Behind the Label

Eco-model Summer Rayne Oakes goes Behind the Label - now with a video addition to her contribution to Lucrire magazine.

Summer takes a behind the scenes look at how/where the products in her photo shoot were made, choosing the most stylish, eco-friendly products and designers around. Watch the You Tube video here.

Also check out Summer's industry magazine S4 and her other ventures.

Via Ecorazzi .

(oh - and a little shameless self-promotion, I was a cinematographer on this shoot).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Green Drinks NY

Taking a cue from Mark at 3r Living - tis the week for NYC green drinks.

Tonight - Green Drinks in Manhattan 6p-10p at Slane (102 MacDougal Street between Bleecker and West 3rd.)

Wednesday - Brooklyn Green Drinks starts at 3r Living in Park Slope (7p - 276 5th Avenue (between 1st Street and Garfield Place) then later (after you've taken advantage of the 10% discount at 3r), will move a few doors down to Great Lakes (284 5th Avenue @ 1st Street).

Not in NYC? Find out where the green drinkers are in your area here. Green drinks is a monthly event where people across the green spectrum gather to network, socialize, and yes, sometimes there is drinking involved. I've even gone to a green drinks while traveling.

Monday, November 13, 2006

PVC gets animated

Want to know how to spot the PVC around you? Watch this clever awareness video put out by the The Center for Health and Environmenetal Justice - Sam Suds and the Case of PVC, Poison Plastic.

Sam Suds is a noir-like private dick - er, bar of soap - who works out of the bathroom of the Johnson family. He has already cleaned their home of lead and DDT - his latest criminal is PVC. After being tipped off by a damsel in distress - a rubber duck in a pink hat - Sam Suds gets down to business. The message of the video: PVC is the poison plastic, also known as vinyl. You can spot it by the 3 or the v.

I'm embarrassed to say, this is something I actually didn't know prior to watching. Of course I knew that PVC was bad, and that it's probably in everything around me, but I didn't know it was actually labelled as such. I knew that those numbers in the recycle symbol on plastic bottles stood for something, 1, 2, 3 - but I didn't know the 3 meant PVC. I took a look around my own bathroom after watching the video and realized Sam was right - proof that PVCs are all around me.

Watch the video here. And then take action - ask Target to go PVC free. Then take a look around your home for the PVC.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Gobble, gobble

Does anyone know how much energy these things use?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Green Office Lens

I've been inspired by Sustainablogger, creator of The Green Web Headquarters on Squidoo, and have started my very own lens - Green Your Office.

There's not a whole lot up there right now, but as I do my own research on greening the workplace I'm going to be continually adding stuff to it. So be sure to check back regularly. (Plus the more you visit, the higher it gets ranked, and I think the higher ranking it gets the lensmaster gets some cash - which I've told them to donate to EcoTrust.)

And if you've got any green office stories or tips - please share them!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sustainable Office - Cook + Fox

The cell phone pic doesn't really do it justice, but the new office space of Cook + Fox is very, very cool.

Non-profit organization O2, striving to blend environmental sustainability with design, hosted this green office event last night. The event included a tour of all of the sustainable features of the architecture firm's newly renovated office space, which is currently under consideration for a platinum rating under LEED-CI. (that's the commercial interiors version of the green building standard).

The office is really a showcase for many green materials - Interface flooring, Plyboo and non-toxic MDF for the cubicle walls, IceStone countertops in their kitchen - but also other green design elements such as daylighting, light fixtures on dimmers, a CO2 monitor to control air flow, waterless urinals and low flush toilets, not to mention their green roof. They're also working on ways to encourage recycling within their office, as well as trying to get other tenants in the building to do so. And as part of the green factor, Cook+Fox even gave each employee $10 to buy a plant for their desk.

Cook + Fox is the architecture firm behind the potentially LEED Platinum Bank of America building at One Bryant Park, currently under construction. By striving to make their office as green as possible will only enhance their position as one of the leaders in sustainable architecture in NYC. You can read more about this office space in and upcoming issue of Metropolis magazine.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

China shutting down more coal mines

According to an AP article, the Chinese province of Shanxi is slated to shut down 900 additional coal mines. Around 1,1500 have been shut down since July of 2005 as part of a coal-mine safety campaign launched last year.

However, one big question not posed (or answered) in this AP brief is how will China make up for the coal production lost from the closing of these mines? Considering 70% of China's power is generated from (old technology-thermal) coal fired power plants, and overall energy consumption is expected to increase, the coal will have to come from somewhere. Will it come from increased production in other mines? Will China turn to more open-pit coal mines (requiring less labor and increased environmental destruction)?

While the closure of these mines may be a boon for worker safety, there are additional issues that should be addressed.

Side note: if you haven't already, you should read Jeff Goodell's book Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future.
And thanks to my friend Shawn for fwd the coal story to me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Wind Power Gift Card

Whole Foods and Renewable Choice Energy have teamed up to offer a wind power 'gift card'. By purchasing these cards you're buying wind credits - it appears to be another way to offset your CO2 footprint and support renewable energy.

For a better explanation and discussion about these check out the thread on Sustainablog. Start here for the introduction and initial discussion. Then here, for a closer look at the display and explanation in Whole Foods stores. And for some points of clarification, here. (Or just go to Sustainablog and scroll down...)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tis the season for Gore

Al is using to spread his message again... this time all you need is a phone and a computer to make a difference - I mean that's all he has and look what a difference he's making (see photo left, notice phone & computer combo in action.)

Why should you pick up the phone? Because... "the ice is melting in the Artic, in Greenland and all over the world, and unless we take on the climate crisis soon, we could cross a point of no return." Sure there are other political-anti-GW reasons, but you get the picture. Melting ice caps + dying polarbears = political action.

So - join Al (or, rather, in making phone calls - click here. No money needed to save the world this time around. Just a phone call and a computer.

What's hot in the green blogosphere? has got an enviro section listing the hottest news from the green blogosphere.

And Sustainablogger Jeff McIntire-Strasburg has started up The Green Web HQ on squidoo (bigger than the green lens that was...)

The green just keeps on coming...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sundance Channel picks green

The Sundance Channel continues to go green as it picks up two new shows. According to ENN, The Sundance Channel (indy spinoff cable channel of Robert Redford's acclaimed film festival held annually in Utah) has hired Scout Productions to shoot a 13 part series for the channel's 'green block'. The show, currently under the working title of "Change Agents," is set to feature innovative designers, and other so-called entertaining green experts to expose the hipster, fun side of the enviro-friendly world.

In the same headline-update, ENN also picked up on another recent acquirement by the Sundance Channel - this one is a British show called, "It's Not Easy Being Green" where a family of four is uprooted from their suburban comforts to an all green, modern "country" life.

It maybe an indy-film channel, but I either know of or have been involved in some aspects of a few other shows that are hoping for a chance in this same green spotlight - I just may have to break down and get cable to check out all the new, green programming. Or I could just wait a little bit longer for network television to deem it safe to follow suit.