Tag Archives: carbon footprint

Algae Industry

Could The Algae Industry Become Arizona’s No. 1 Industry?

Arizona would benefit from a strong new industry that provided more revenue than housing or hospitality, more fascination than sports, more food than agribusiness currently produces and more energy than has been produced in the history of the state. It would be nice too if the industry aligned with the current focus on biosciences. The industry should also employ engineers and scientists and other high salary professionals.

Arizona needs a new industry with a strong competitive advantage and a business model that is sustainable. Sustainability requires a green industry that is minimally consumptive―requiring little land, water or other resources. A sustainable industry should provide more energy than it consumes and provide a positive ecological footprint.
The business model should strengthen with growth and demonstrate a vitality and versatility to support a variety of niches. The industry should also integrate with the high technology associated with Arizona’s $600 million investment in genomics, medical information systems and biosciences.

The new algae industry might be called the “Green Gold Rush.” The analogy has validity because the attraction to gold mining is finding a free resource at one’s feet. Similarly, algae production takes nearly free resources: sunshine, waste water and desert and creates high value foods, fuels, nutraceuticals and medicines.

Declining industries

Arizona’s economy flourished for decades with the 4C’s: cattle, citrus, cotton and copper. More recently, electronics and semiconductors were added to the economy mix. However, resource constraints and global competition have taken a toll and key Arizona industries have been diminishing in employment, revenues and prospects.

Arizona’s migration from historical industries to new industries has occurred for a variety of reasons. Water availability, land and costs limit agribusiness. Heavy irrigation requirements, often three acre-feet, 36 inches, per crop, drive up costs. Many farmers must also pay for the energy to pump water from surface sources or most often from underground aquifers. Aquifer levels are declining requiring bigger pipes and stronger pumps. Heavy irrigation also imparts salts to the soil which reduces crop vitality.

The severe summer heat makes some crops impractical to grow and others develop poisonous toxins such as aflatoxin due to the heat. Population growth has consumed the prime farmland in and around cities which has benefiting the housing industry but damaged agribusiness. As communities expand, outlying land becomes increasingly more expensive as speculators take options on development.

New farmland becomes increasingly expensive as infrastructure such as laser leveling, pipelines and irrigation systems must be put in place in remote locations. New farmland tends to be more costly yet less productive than already developed land. Consequently, agribusiness becomes a continually less attractive investment. Currently, business models show that even gifted new land may not be profitable for agriculture due to the increasing capital costs necessary to manage a farm.

Many of Arizona’s agricultural products that historically had high value have become commodities. Early or late season crops that were possible to grow only in Arizona due to early spring warmth and late fall sunshine gave growers a competitive advantage. Now, many fruits and vegetables are imported year-round.

Copper, electronics and semi-conductors have felt the impact of global competition and especially cheap foreign labor, Figure 1. While each industry will continue in Arizona, the scale will reduce along with revenues and employment.

Figure 1. Arizona’s Old and New Industries

Algae Industry

Unfortunately, some Arizona industries have not been sustainable because key resources were insufficient to sustain the industries. Arizona’s strategic resource is water.

Water strategy

Water availability and use hold the key to Arizona’s future. Failing sufficient clean water, Arizona cannot sustain its valuable tourism industry, industrial businesses or growing population. Only three sources of water are available:

1.    Surface water – from the seven reservoirs and the Colorado River water that flows through the CAP aqueduct
2.     Groundwater – from underground aquifers
3.    Reuse water – from wastewater treatment plants

Surface and groundwater are largely committed under contract to existing users. Therefore, a new industry must be water efficient and able to use wastewater or grey, partially purified water.

Algae have the capacity to become a critical part of Arizona’s water strategy as algae can thrive in most kinds of wastewater such as city sewer water, industrially polluted water with heavy metal such as mining or even saline water. In addition to growing in mucky water, algae can be used to clean wastewater for reuse by citizens, industry or agriculture.
Agriculture cannot use saline water because the salt kills land plants by blocking water absorption from the roots. Algae have no root structures and some strains simply absorb water pollutants. Those pollutants can be separated from the algae during processing. The clean water has value and the metals can be collected and resold for reuse in industry.
Algae are robust, water-based plants that grow at an extremely high rate, often doubling or tripling their biomass in a single day. They need only sunshine, warm temperatures, impure water and modest nutrients to flourish. Algae grow so fast in commercial production that biomass harvest occurs daily or even continuously. Once the green biomass is removed from the water, the water and remaining nutrients may be recycled in a continuous growing loop.

CO2 conversion

Algae grow biomass quickly in a wide variety of conditions. Plants use the sun’s energy through photosynthesis to convert sunlight into chemical energy. They convert inorganic substances such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and other nutrients into organic matter such as green or blue-green biomass.

Algae feed on the greenhouse gas, CO2, and convert it to simple plant sugars and lots of O2, Figure 2. Water stores little dissolved CO2 naturally so cultivated algae need added CO2 for food. Photosynthesis takes in CO2, nutrients and water and produces the algae biomass with proteins, carbohydrates and lipids (oils). The process releases considerable oxygen to the atmosphere.

Figure 2. Algae Takes in CO2 and Produces O2

Algae Industry

Even though algae represent only 0.5% of total global biomass by weight, algae produce about 40% of the net global production of oxygen on earth – approximately equal to all the forests and fields combined.Algae, often called microscopic phytoplankton, grow in most bodies of water and provide the foundation for nearly all marine food chains. Subtract algae and phytoplankton from the water column and fish, shellfish and other aquatic creatures cannot survive.

The Arizona algae industry has extraordinary potential worth billions of dollars because with advanced technologies, algae can produce a wide variety of high-value foods, medicines, nutraceuticals and biofuels as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Algae Products and Use

Algae Industry

The lipids can be removed and made into biofuels such as jet fuel, JP-8. The remaining starches and proteins can be made into a limitless variety of human and animal foods and other coproducts. Since there are over 30,000 known algae strains and probably several million in nature the product and coproduct possibilities for this biomass are nearly limitless.

The harvested algae are extremely malleable in the sense that they can be stored in the same form as corn, wheat, rice or soy products. These include protein-rich milk, soft mash of any size, shape or texture, tortilla, cracker or flour. They can be made into texturized vegetable protein with added fiber or extruded to make additives for meats that improve moisture retention and increase protein while lowering fats.

Processing can match the form of nearly any food such as peanuts, pesto or protein bars. Fortunately, years of food processing for land-based plants that have an unappealing natural taste such as soybeans make it easy to add flavors, textures (fibers) and aromas.
Algae are currently used in hundreds of products such as beer, gum, cosmetics, nutraceuticals and medicines. Newly discovered or genetically engineered strains hold potential for mass production of vaccines, vitamins and other high-value nutrients.

Arizona’s advantage

Arizona stands alone in competitive advantage for algae production. No other state offers the unique combination of sunshine, warm weather with few frosts and low-cost flat, non-cropland. Arizona even has numerous saline aquifers with water that cannot support agriculture. Compared with cattle as a protein source, for example, algae need less than 0.001 the land and water.

Iowa won the non-sustainable corn ethanol sweepstakes and Iowa benefits from all the subsidies for corn and ethanol refining. Government subsidies for ethanol in Iowa amount to $640 for each citizen due to the “Presidential Caucus Effect.” Every presidential campaign begins in Iowa and every candidate supports larger corn ethanol subsidies.

However, the industry is not sustainable because Sierra Club calculates that the 44 new Iowa ethanol refineries will crash Iowa’s freshwater aquifers. An average ethanol refinery uses the water equivalent of about 5,000 households. In addition, 326,000 acres in Western Iowa use irrigated corn for ethanol, further depleting their groundwater. Irrigated corn requires about three acre-feet of water which translates to about 3,000 gallons of water to produce each gallon of ethanol. Several cities in Iowa also have found their groundwater contaminated and undrinkable due to Nitrites from cornfield fertilizer run-off.

Many states can grow corn but only a few can grow algae productively without the prohibitive costs of controlled environment buildings. Algae can be grown anywhere but are far less productive in many climates as they stop growing on cloudy days. The biomass also grows more slowly with cooler temperatures. Sustainable commercially scaled cultivation requires the climate and terrain associated specifically with Arizona and parts of Southern California. Other locates in the U.S. south may build production systems that produce only in the summer similar to existing land crops.

Algae are sustainable because growth requires only a tiny fraction of the inputs – energy, water, land, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides required for land-based plants like corn, citrus, cotton or cattle. The industry is ecologically positive because algae can take flue gasses from coal-fired power plants and sequester the CO2; use the excess heat for growth while producing tons of O2. Algae can remediate the nitrogen and other pollution from agriculture in groundwater and wastewater. Algae production is ecologically positive because it has minimal input needs and no waste products are produced to leach into the soil or fill waste dumps.

Arizona State University also offers a competitive advantage in the knowledge workers needed for the algae industry with excellent engineering and business schools and the only Laboratory for Algae and Biotechnology in the U.S.

Growth

Algae grow high-value biomass at speeds 30 to 100 times faster than land plants for one reason: they do not waste energy on structures like trunks, roots and leaves. Land plants have to withstand all the forces of nature – wind, weather and predators. Algae are water plants that are supported by the water in situ, in which they grow. For algae, it’s like being in a womb; all support systems are local and focus on growth and development.

In nature, algae’s greatest strength acts as a weakness. Fast growth shades new and prior plants from sun light. The underlying plants are shaded or receive too little light for photosynthesis and die. Cultivated algae require constant mixing to enable all the cells sufficient access to light.

Another unusual strength works against algae in natural habitats. The high protein composition, often around 50% of the biomass, means the plant begins breaking down faster than shrimp – which for practical purposes means immediately. Cultivated algae harvest occurs daily but algae in natural settings begin to rot quickly and give off the associated gasses and fragrances.

Consequently, people tend to think of algae based on its natural settings where it often presents itself as smelly green slime. In contrast, cultivated algae give off rich O2 which smells similar to walking through a redwood forest (without the trees).

Algae are infamous for causing problems in public waterways and in personal pools, ponds, pots and aquariums. Algae’s tolerance for a wide range of growing conditions means it demonstrates its resilience and fast growth in any moist or wet area that gets sunlight. As a result, algae research has focused nearly 10:1 on trying to kill, control or remove the productive green biomass versus cultivation. As a consequence, our survey research indicates 98% of people view algae as a pest.

Biomass production

Cultivated algae grow quickly and display continuous growth in sunshine where the biomass may double or triple daily. Algae slow their growth on cloudy days and go into respiration at night.

Algae grow similar to other plants and grow faster with increasing sun or heat. Algae grow within the boundaries of the “law of the minimum.”

Algae Industry

Figure 4. Arizona State University Polytechnic Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology, LARB

The plant grows quickly to the maximum it can until it hits a mineral, chemical, nutrient, light or temperature limitation. When the last of the limiting nutrient is absorbed, N for example, the plant stops growing until more of the minimum constraint becomes available.

The challenge for algae cultivation becomes insuring that sufficient nutrients are continuously available to the fast growing plant.

Algae differ widely in the levels of chemical, light and temperature parameters that limit their growth. For example, some algae flourish in low pH water (high acid) while others prefer high pH. Laboratory analysis can determine the concentrations of major nutrients and other growing parameters. Nutrient concentration ratios such as N/P can predict which algae strains should predominate under stable resource conditions.

Biomass composition varies by variety but may be 60:30, oil to foods, with about 10% waste. Therefore, it offers a solution to both fuel and food. The biomass is demoistured and stored in a convenient form such as a cake. The biomass does not require refrigeration and has a two-year self-life.

Algae are clean and healthy. The natural product has a hint of the fresh green smell of alfalfa and a soft organic taste. Several newly discovered varieties are odorless and tasteless and take on the smell and taste of the food they accompany.

Algae cultivation typically occurs in tanks or ponds, so no soil tilling, heavy equipment or pesticides and herbicides are required, although light tractors are common. Algae grow all over the Earth, so its range substantially exceeds corn. However, cultivated algae grow best in sunny, warm regions. Algae can grow where other crops cannot grow, such as deserts, mountains and rooftops.

Productivity

Algae do not have the cellulosic trunk, tassel, leaves, roots and cob – the structural overhead – necessary for land plants like corn to withstand the land environment. Algae invest their growth energy in creating oils and proteins with light carbohydrates for the cell walls. An algae strain with 60% oils produces over 55% net oils that can be made into liquid fuel like high-powered jet fuel or biodiesel.

Biodiesels are typically about 33% more energy producing per unit than gasoline. In contrast, corn produces 98% non-energy producing cellulosic biomass called stover and yields less than 2% energy biomass. Most of the plant is waste in an energy sense and the stalks are left in the field. The corn energy biomass can be converted into a low-powered fuel that has only 64% the energy per unit as gasoline.

Some power companies such as Arizona Public Service have turned their problem with CO2 emissions into an opportunity. The Redhawk 1,040 megawatt power plant recycles greenhouse gases into renewable biofuels and uses algae to capture the CO2 gas emissions. The power plant exhaust is routed through algae growing systems and can eliminate part of their CO2 emissions during the day. Power plants run 24/7, so this presents only a partial solution.

Some power plants also use waste heat from power generation in the growing systems that increase the velocity of biomass growth. The only company supplying these systems currently, Greenfuels Technologies, associated with MIT, claims that using algae-fed CO2 and warm water from the power plant could potentially create annual yields of 8,000 gallons of biodiesel plus about 8,000 gallons of ethanol per acre. These production levels may be theoretically possible but are well beyond any current operational systems.
However, some power plants are operating their biofactories at a profit on a stand-alone basis. Reducing emissions may earn the power plants CO2 emissions credits and tax credits.

Compared with corn, algae offer substantial productivity, ecologic and economic advantages as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Algae Advantages Compared with Corn

Algae Industry

Challenges

Unfortunately, R&D on algae has taken a hiatus since 1995 when the U.S. Department of Energy decided to close down the Aquatic Species Project and algae research to focus on the politically expedient biofuel – corn ethanol. Since then, the majority government biofuels funding and subsidies has gone to support corn ethanol and ignored other renewable fuel sources.

The most pressing challenge lies in scaling up algae biofactories for continuous commercial production. Sparse R&D means the favored technologies have not been tested on a large scale. Fortunately, much of the necessary production knowledge comes from hydroponics and aquaculture where R&D has moved those technologies forward.
The challenges presented by algae production are nontrivial. Commercial biofactories producing the health food Spirulina currently operate in California, Hawaii, South Africa, Japan, India, Thailand and China where algae products are used for food. Focused R&D can have scaled algae production systems operating in Arizona within several years.

Algae industry: A new Arizona industry?

An algae industry would employ primarily high-technology knowledge workers because the business models substitute advanced technologies for labor, similar to wind turbines or solar collectors. Research in progress at ASU Polytechnic is examining ways to combine solar collectors and algae production. Quite possibly, the same land footprint could support wind turbines in the right location.

Early entrants to the algae industry will employ numerous engineers and scientists to solve the fascinating technical challenges for large scale production. For example, algae production business models often include labs for selecting productive strains and monitoring strain vitality and quality in the growing systems. Fortunately, Arizona is blessed with many capable technical brains who are no longer employed in electronics and semiconductors.

The algae industry is unlikely to match the 12,000 jobs created in the existing Arizona bioscience industry. Algae production will use relatively few high-tech managers orchestrating largely automated growing and harvesting systems. Food, fuel and coproduct manufacture and refining will employ a substantial number of people. Salaries will probably be around the current bioscience levels, averaging about $50,000.

The revenue generated from an algae industry could exceed the other bioscience niches. It is too early to predict which algae products will produce the most revenue but several appear very promising, including:

Liquefied energy – biodiesel, jet fuel, ethanol or methanol
Foods – high protein replacement for grains such as wheat, corn and soybeans
Health foods – Spirulina, vitamins, special nutrients
Medicines – nutraceuticals, vaccines and high-value medicines

The algae industry business models are very attractive because with relatively modest investments, high value products are possible that can be sold for substantial profits. However, Arizona has seen failed attempts before at building industries around new crops such as guayule, a weed that can be made into a rubber product, and jojoba, a bean than produces oil. Similarly, early attempts at new growing systems such as hydroponics never lived up to their hype.

Algae businesses will have to prove their ability to scale-up to commercial production levels and also show they can sustain high production to take advantage of Arizona’s 360 days of sunshine. The initial cultivated algae production systems will need to be a public and private partnerships to share the risks associated with early R&D.

The combination of biofuels, foods, nutraceuticals and medicines all delivered from a renewable resource that is ecologically positive means Arizona can look forward to a strong new industry. Some may call this the green gold rush because the products and coproducts offer such high value.

The path to build this exciting and high value industry begins with a first step: focused R&D on sustainable scaled algae production systems.

Mark R. Edwards has taught food marketing and entrepreneurship in the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness at Arizona State University Polytechnic for more than 30 years. This article is derived from his recent book “Biowar I: Why Battles over Food and Fuel Lead to World Hunger.” Biowar I algae as a case study to illustrate the foolish waste associated with the corn ethanol industry.
High Speed Rail

Will Arizona Ever Climb Aboard The High-Speed Rail System?

High-Speed RailLast year, the Obama administration rolled out an ambitious $8 billion program to fund 21st century transportation via high-speed rail (HSR).  U.S. Secretary of Transporation, Ray LaHood, said, “High-speed-rail will be our generation’s legacy.”

This bold 21st century vision of new transportation options promises to revitalize the economy, reactivate the manufacturing sector, create millions of jobs, end the country’s oil dependency, and cut the carbon footprint by epic proportions. But has Arizona climbed aboard HSR? Its California neighbors, frustrated by miles of clogged freeways, passed a $10 billion voter approved bond to begin building an 800-mile system. Anyone familiar with the herculean effort to get light rail approved and funded in Arizona might wince at the thought of laying out a regional high-speed rail system.

Like the 1950s Interstate Highways System of the Eisenhower administration, which linked cities by a series of inter-state highways, this new plan aims to connect cities via rail line. In August, LaHood estimated that “New high-speed trains will link 80 percent of Americans within 25 years, at a cost of about $500 billion.” This includes a 17,000 mile national rail system to be built in four phases, with completion by 2030. It should be noted that the initial cost estimate of the Eisenhower system was $25 billion over 12 years; it ended up costing $114 billion (adjusted for inflation, $425 billion in 2006 dollars) and took 35 years.  Maybe that is why conservative Arizonans cringe.

Phasing In HSRThis said, the visionary map phasing championed by the U.S. High Speed Rail Association follows the most logical sequence for a national system build out — starting with the largest cities in the busiest corridors, then growing to connect those together across the country.  The busiest corridors are known as “megaregions,” none of which are in the Rocky Mountain West. The plan calls for a national system of HSR express lines connecting cities and states into an integrated system. The plan sets high standards for state-of-the-art dedicated track, advanced control systems, elegant multi-modal train stations, and top-of-the-line 220 mph trains connecting major cities. The plan calls for a support network of 110 mph trains connecting smaller cities and towns (such as between Phoenix and Tucson), together with the high-speed system.

Last year, the Obama administration awarded funding to 23 regional rail projects nationally. Neither Phoenix nor any Rocky Mountain West community received any of the funding. This was an unfortunate reminder that Arizona needs to position itself for future federal awards, notes Arizona Department of Transportation rail chief, Shannon Scutari.

“For us to be taken seriously,” Scutari said, “it’s very important that our two major metropolitan areas (Phoenix and Tucson) are building momentum and trying to connect by rail, and for us to show we are becoming a rail state. The key to that effort is to finish a state rail plan.  Without a state rail plan, the federal government will not consider funding applications.

On Feb. 8-10, the U.S. High Speed Rail Summit 2010 will convene in Washington, D.C. to further lay out its agenda. The summit recognizes that many obstacles lie in the path of completing the HSR plan, including:  overcoming partisan politics, ongoing permanent funding support, linking the various different agencies, real estate development opportunities, and integrating regional and local systems.HSR

In light of Arizona’s dependence on real estate development as a major part of its economic agenda, being on board with HSR seems like a “no brainer.” This national movement isn’t merely a trend. Only time will tell whether the train has already left the station  — and whether a stop in Arizona is on the map.

TeslaRoadster Electric Car

Electric Cars For The Eco-Friendly Commuter

“Going green” can be difficult in a city like Phoenix. You can keep track of your recyclables, buy organic and even compost, but what about that long commute every Monday through Friday? There are a few options open for those determined to reduce their carbon footprint: bus, light rail, carpool, bicycle or some combination thereof. However, each of these options comes with problems as well.

For the public transportation group the logistics and timing of catching a bus or light rail can mean adding extra time or distance onto your commute. The same could be said for carpooling, depending on the location and morning routines of any “carpool buddies.” As for bicycling, this mode of transportation is restricted by the distance you need to travel: too far and it’s just not possible for a morning commute. Fortunately, there is another option out there for the ardent environmentalist.

Electric vehicles. No, not hybrids, but completely electric cars run by batteries. Not only are these cars a way to stay green in a city with one of the worst commutes in the country, but when you buy an electric vehicle you are eligible for a $7,500 tax credit.

Recently, Wired Magazine tested and rated four electric cars currently available to consumers. Following are the stats for those cars.

Chevrolet Volt
Price: starts at $40,280 ($32,780 after tax credit)
Range: 25 – 50 miles
Horsepower: 150
0 – 60 mph: ~ 9 seconds

Nissan Leaf
Price: starts at $33,720 ($26,220 after tax credit)
Range: up to 100 miles
Horsepower: 107
0 – 60 mph: ~ 10 seconds

Tesla Roadster 2.5

Price: starts at $109,000 ($101,500 after tax credit)
Range: up to 245 miles
Horsepower: 288
0 – 60 mph: ~ 3.7 seconds

Coda Automotive Coda
Price: starts at $44,900 ($37,400 after tax credit)
Range: 90 – 120 miles
Horsepower: 134 0 – 60 mph: ~ 10 – 11 seconds
Extra: View the history of the electric car and stats on carbon emissions and oil consumption.

Southwest Build-it-Green Expo & Conference

Speaking Opportunities At The Annual Southwest Build-It-Green Conference

Don’t miss out! The annual Southwest Build-It-Green Expo & Conference is scheduled for April 15-16, 2011 and speaking opportunities are still available! Fill out your speaker form (PDF) today.

As the largest sustainability expo in Arizona, this is one event you won’t want to miss. Last year’s expo attracted more than 200 exhibitors and 10,000 attendees, with topics ranging from green awareness, to solar power, LEED certification, water filtration, and many more.

BIG also features guest speakers of local, national and international prominence. Among some of the speakers last year were Anthony Floyd, AIA, LEED-AP Green Building Manager for the City of Scottsdale; Dr. Tom Rogers, professor and Chair of Construction Management at Northern Arizona University; Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward; James Brew from the Rocky Mountain Institute; Lori Singleton, manager of Sustainability Initiatives and Technologies at Salt River Project and many more.

In addition to the conference, the exhibits showcase products such as eco-friendly appliances and environmentally conscious landscaping techniques that aim to reduce Arizona’s carbon footprint. There are a wide variety of topics and something for everyone – homeowners and businesses alike.

For more information visit www.builditgreenexpo.com.

Tartesso Elementary

Elementary School Leaves A Small Carbon Footprint

Buckeye’s Tartesso Elementary School is receiving high marks, but it has nothing to do with the kids in the classroom.

On Aug. 19, 2010, the United States Green Building Council awarded the 3-year-old school with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification for sustainable building design.

Tartesso, a part of the Saddle Mountain Unified School District, is the first fully state-funded LEED Silver School in Arizona with this recognition.

“Having the certification is a big bonus to our district,” said Dr. Deborah Garza-Chavez, principal of Tartesso. “It’s nice to be noticed as a small district by trying to provide the best learning environment for our students and staff.”

The school had just a little more than 200 students upon opening in 2008 and only served kindergarten through 6th grade. Now fully functioning up to 8th grade, more than 600 students walk the halls of a completely sustainable and environmentally conscious building.

Architects and engineers from DLR Group were responsible for the building designs of the school and worked with budgets allocated by the Arizona State School of Facilities Board.

“Before we started designing the facility in early 2006, we brought our team into a brainstorming session where we could evaluate and strategize as to what sustainable products we wanted to use,” said Bill Taylor, a LEED-accredited professional with DLR Group.

The staff and students at Tartesso have a wide variety of energy saving technologies and products that create a healthy learning environment.

In an effort to reduce water shortages, the building design provides a plumbing system that conserves water. All of the boys’ restrooms contain waterless urinals and the kitchen sinks have low flow water fixtures, a reduction that saves half a million gallons of water per year.

The school provides a high performing mechanical system that goes above and beyond state standards.

A completely computer controlled airflow system continuously brings in new air circulation and automatically turns off air conditioning in an unoccupied room.  This reduces the annual energy cost by 20 percent, in comparison to a building that just meets the state code requirements.

In addition to significant energy savings, DLR Group improved the indoor environmental quality of Tartesso.  The building is positioned so that natural daylight offsets the artificial lighting in all occupied academic spaces, reducing energy and improving the educational environment.

Only low organic compound paint was used and primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) free carpets were installed to promote a healthy interior for students and staff.

“[Students] have benefited from not having those harsh smells,” said Angel Tellez, Facilities Engineer for Saddle Mountain Unified School District. “Everything is kid friendly and environmentally friendly and that is improving the learning environment.”

Not only has the school been a leader in sustainable innovations, but it has served as an asset to the economy by purchasing materials from local companies. Ingredients in the concrete were all locally harvested and nothing was shipped long distance.

“This is a place that has students, staff and the community in mind,” said Premnath Sundharam, Senior Associate for DLR Group. “It’s an educational tool for what can be done on limited funds while still making an impact on the environment.”

Eco Tourism - travel green

Ecotourism – The Green Way To Vacation

The United Nations designated 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism. Well it’s 2010 and I bet that the majority of people haven’t taken an eco-vacation.  I know I haven’t.

We try to be eco-friendly.  We buy reusable water bottles and lunch pails.  We turn off the lights more often and take shorter showers.  But what if we could reduce, reuse and recycle while having an amazing vacation?

I’d say, “Sign me up.”

I did some Internet research and I found out some major and minor ways you can be an eco-tourist.

Minor Ways to Help Mother Earth

The International Ecotourism Society has 10 energy saving tips for travelers.

Here are three of them:

Stay longer at your destination to avoid frequent air travel. I think we could all stand to stay a little longer at our chosen destination. This way you can discover, learn and play more while reducing your carbon footprint.

Travel light. Every extra, unneeded item in your bag adds to the weight of the plane, which increases the carbon emissions of your flight.  Travel light and leave a light carbon footprint behind.

Just like at home, turn off water and unplug electronics when you leave. When you’re on vacation, you’re most likely not spending too much time in your hotel room.  It’s easy to forget that just because you’re not paying for the electricity that doesn’t mean that Mother Nature should have to pay too.

Major Ways to See and Save the Earth

Travel somewhere that involves more hiking and less traffic. Hiking, kayaking, biking and other similar activities involve little to no adverse impacts on the Earth.  Plus, it’s a great way to explore the beauty and diversity of nature.

Stay at eco-friendly hotels. Although it may be a bit more expensive it is doable.  Some hotels claim to be green simply because they ask you if you want to reuse your towels and sheets.  Hopefully these websites will help sort out the imposters from the true blue “green” hotels.

Be a voluntourist. A voluntourist is a combination between a tourist and a volunteer.  He or she travels a location and gives back to the community, whether it be through developing wildlife and plant life or helping at a local school.  Being a voluntourist might sound like something college students do, but anyone, at any age can do it.

Ecotourism covers a broad range of vacation destinations and activities to help preserve the Earth, which is one of the reasons why eight years ago the U.N. made an effort to promote it.  Along with the range of ecotourism choices comes a range of things tourists can do – from giving their time to leaving that tenth pair of shoes that probably won’t get worn anyway at home.

Go Green, One Step at a Time

Go Green, One Step at a Time

Nobody ever said being “green” was easy, but it doesn’t have to be that hard either. Recently, I read a great blog by Liesa Goins in Newsweek titled “Easy Environmentalism: How to Go Green Without Going Overboard.”

In the entry, Goins gives her two cents on how to live a more sustainable life in a practical way. Sure, we’d all love to have a low carbon footprint but the only way to get there is one careful step at a time. And as for beating ourselves up for not being “green” enough? Goins suggests we’re better off not and instead focus on the positive things we’re already doing and continue to make small changes.

From finding eco-friendly vacation destinations to buying from companies that are making an effort toward sustainability, the author stresses that being green doesn’t have to be an enormous lifestyle change.

As for me, I agree with Goins that we shouldn’t overwhelm ourselves with becoming “green”. Helping our environment is an ongoing process that we can implement in small steps. Recycling, reusing, etc., all those little things count.

Check out the rest of her tips here