Tag Archives: solar technology

Willow Bend Environmental Education Center

Willow Bend Center Provides Environmental Education to Flagstaff Residents

Willow Bend Center Provides Environmental Education to Flagstaff Residents

If you had to pedal a bicycle to produce the energy needed to run the computer you were on right now, how much energy would it need? The Willow Bend Environmental Education Center in Flagstaff can give you an idea.

The Willow Bend Center has been bringing environmental education to Arizona since 1978. Each year, the Willow Bend Center educates 14,000 students in northern Arizona through its classroom programs and field trips.

The Willow Bend Center

The center has a Green Building, Discovery Room, gardens and the Biobug. The Green building was built in 2002 with the helping hands of volunteers from the community and incorporates a host of sustainable living practices.

“The building is passive-solar straw bale with a grid-tied photovoltaic system, rainwater cisterns, backyard habitat landscaping and native crop gardens, composting and more,” says Sapna Sopori, director of the 
Willow Bend Environmental Education Center. “In addition, our Discovery Room has interactive displays that demonstrate how how easy it is being ‘green’ in our personal lives.”

In the Discovery Room, you can ride the light bike to find out how much energy it takes to light up a regular light bulb as opposed to a compact flourescent light bulb, as well as how much water a person in Flagstaff uses each day and how recycled soda bottles become a fleece jacket.

Many of the education activities, such as the Discovery Room exhibits and Quest: A Natural History Treasure Hunt, are free. To supplement the educational experience on site, Willow Bend will be getting a shade structure and new outdoor learning space for educational use through its relationship with the Coconino County Parks and Recreation.

“This structure will be made of local small-diameter Ponderosa pine and will provide an outdoor learning space for Willow Bend,” she says.

The Willow Bend Center Educational Program

“We are best known for our Pre-K through 12 public school programs and work within the school districts to make teaching [environmental education] easier on teachers,” Sopori says. “Each of our 50 unique classroom programs is state standards aligned and offered free or low cost to teachers.”

The Willow Bend Center Discovery Room

The Willow Bend Center sends qualified educators to the schools with materials for hands-on, engaging, environmental science programs that focus on the bio-region and associated with community issues. Supplementary field experiences that build on the classroom programs are also offered. Currently these field workshops are held at Willow Bend or Sawmill County Park, and can even be provided at the schools themselves, to reduce busing costs and turn schoolyards into explorable habitats.

“Over 85 percent of the teachers that use Willow Bend rated our programs as above average or excellent, and 99 percent plan to continue using us in the future,” Sopori says. “[But,] children aren’t the only ones who can benefit from our programs; we also offer amazing teacher workshops to prepare and inspire educators to incorporate [environmental education] into their curriculum, both in the classroom and in the field.”

Willow Bend offers day-long programs such as the Science of Solar to more intensive 12-day programs such as the Yellowstone workshop, to help educators feel comfortable using the environment as the context for learning. These programs can be used for continuing education credit through FUSD, so formal teachers can meet their certification requirements as well.

The Willow Bend Center Community Events

The center has a variety of educational public programs for people of all ages. Though the Willow Bend Center focuses much of its time with the school system, they recognize the benefit of extending environmental education to the community as a whole.

“For this reason, we offer Family Science Events so families can enjoy experiencing nature and learning together,” Sopori says. “For example, our Radical Reptiles class is a great way for parents and kids to learn why snakes, lizards, turtles, etc. are such amazing creatures and see beautiful live specimens up close and personal.”

The center also offers Adult Adventures, where adults can get outside, get active and learn directly from professionals in environmental science.

“Willow Bend is dedicated to connecting northern Arizona to the environment, empowering our community to live more sustainable, and always providing hope for a fruitful tomorrow,” Sopori says.

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If You Go: The Willow Bend Center

703 E. Sawmill Rd.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
(928) 779-1745
willowbendcenter.org

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USA Energy Guide

Green News Roundup – Alternative Energy, USAEnergyGuide & More

I’m always on the lookout for developments in the local sustainability industry. USAEnergyGuide was started by three Arizona entrepreneurs passionate about the environment. Realizing that rebate and tax incentives are hard for consumers to navigate, they jumped at the opportunity to create a site that would be simple and user-friendly.

Originally only for Arizona residents, the site has recently expanded to include California and Texas with plans to add more states in the future. USAEnergyGuide is your free online source used to calculate rebates and savings that you can receive by switching to more sustainable forms of energy.

I had the pleasure of meeting with two of the company’s founders — Michael Barber, director of operations and Ken Bonham, director of business development — who took the time to answer a few questions I had about their company.

What led to the creation of USA Energy Guide?
One of our Founders was going through the process of researching how much it would cost to install solar panels on their home, how much they would save on a monthly and yearly basis and what the tax incentives and rebates were, but couldn’t find a site that answered all these questions. So, we sat down and mapped out how we could make this process easier for consumers.

What challenges did you encouter and how were these overcome?
Similar to many startups we had the classic chicken and egg scenario. In order for the company to be successful, we needed installers who matched our qualification criteria and qualified leads (consumers) who were interested in being contacted by these installers. We worked to introduce ourselves to every installer in the markets we served so they could understand how we could help them be successful and also focused on connecting to consumers via social media. Along the way, various local media outlets stumbled across our site and did stories on us. The press stories and word of mouth helped us overcome both these initial challenges.

What are the company’s full line of  services?
For consumers, we provide simple ways to understand how much money alternative energy would save them, what rebates and incentives are available in their geographic area and all associated rebates for the products they are interested in. For installers, we provide leads to consumers and business owners who are qualified and ready to purchase these products.

What is your favorite aspect of the industry/company?
Our favorite aspect of the sustainability and alternative energy industry is that it is rapidly expanding and changing every day. There are new advances in solar technology and energy efficiency regularly, and more and more consumers are trying to understand how they can minimize their impact on the environment. This makes every day different and pushes our team to understand how we can help both our customers — installers and consumers — reach their goals.

What kind of a role do you think sustainability plays in today’s Arizona economy?
Right now, the sustainability industry in Arizona is only in its infancy. As costs for alternative energy technology decrease and consumers’ interest in living a greener lifestyle increase, the industry has nowhere to go, but up. However (and this is big however), the industry’s Achilles heel is support from local, state and federal governments. Without broad based government support to spur continued growth, the industry could die a quick death.

What has been the company’s greatest achievement to date?
From the beginning our greatest achievement has been providing information to consumers they couldn’t easily find before. Along with this, it’s the stories we hear from people who have used our site, found qualified installers and are now enjoying solar panels or solar water heaters in their home.

What are your future plans for the company?
While we have been primarily focused on the solar and energy efficiency industries, the sustainability industry goes well beyond those two verticals. We have big plans to not only expand the site beyond those verticals, but become a community where visitors can find a wealth of information across a wide variety of sustainability topics, both on a national and local level.

www.usaenergyguide.com

Light Bulb - Power Center

Local Groups Are Working To Protect The Link Between Water And Energy

It’s a given that oil and water don’t mix, but Arizona’s two key resources — water and energy — are inextricably linked.

Experts from the public and private sectors are exploring the water-energy nexus, how the two resources are connected and what needs to be done so Arizona continues to have a sufficient supply of both.

To highlight the importance of water sustainability, Gov. Jan Brewer formed a blue-ribbon panel in August to focus on increased conservation and recycling. She directed Herb Guenther, head of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Ben Grumbles to work with Arizona Corporation Commission Chairwoman Kris Mayes on a plan. Among the issues being considered is the need to recognize the nexus of water and energy. Grumbles says the missing ingredient in water conservation is energy.

“A deeper understanding of the water-energy nexus is the key to saving more water, energy and money,” he says. “Energy efficiency not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions and ratepayer costs, it also reduces the demand for water. By cutting water consumption and waste upstream, we save energy and money downstream, avoiding big costs for pumping, treating and distributing the community’s lifeblood.”

Michelle De Blasi, a partner with Quarles & Brady and chairperson of the Valley Forward energy committee, cites a connection between energy and water, noting that all forms of solar technology use water to a varying degree. Some rely on super-heated steam and cooling towers, while others need an adequate supply of water to keep solar panels clean.

“A lot of people don’t realize that,” she says. She calls the solar-versus-water conundrum “the green paradox.”

A recent trend, De Blasi says, is the conversion of farms to solar properties. Agricultural property is water intensive, so shifting to solar, which uses a lot less water, is generally well received by the public.

“Farming properties offer tracts of flat land, which are ideal for large solar panels, and they have great water rights,” De Blasi says. “And if they’re near transmission lines, that’s even better. You’re getting a net benefit. They’re offsetting that water use and replacing it with energy-producing carbon neutral technology, in most cases.”

According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, irrigated agriculture uses about 73 percent of Arizona’s available water supply, down from a high of 90 percent some years ago. The reduction is the result of urbanization of agricultural lands and investment by the irrigated agriculture industry in conservation measures.

Steve Olson, executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, a nonprofit corporation established by municipalities in Maricopa County for the development of urban water resources policy, emphasizes the need for conservation as the demands for energy and water continue to grow.

“We recognize that the era of cheap water is over,” he says. “We need to look at more expensive water supplies further from demand, we have to fully utilize effluent, and we have to store water when it’s available.”

Another issue that brings energy and water together, he says, is climate change.

“If we go to a hotter climate, we can expect more variable water supplies,” Olson says. “There is a direct relationship between drought and energy consumption.”

Salt River Project is the epitome of a water-energy nexus organization, providing both resources to Arizona residents and businesses. Karen Collins, SRP water sustainability analyst and incoming chair of the Valley Forward water committee, is involved in a study to determine how much of the state’s energy usage is related to treat and supply water. A California analysis put the figure for that state at 19 percent.

SRP wants the public to know how much energy is linked to water and how the right choice of plumbing fixtures and appliances saves both water and energy.

“People have to understand that these two resources are linked so closely, as we move forward and have increased needs for both,” Collins says. “Anything we do on the water-saving side is going to help conserve energy.”

Grumbles of ADEQ says Arizonans and the agencies that serve them must connect the dots between water conservation and re-use with environmental and economic sustainability.

“Now, more than ever,” he says, “we must work together to connect the drops and the watts so the water-energy nexus gets the attention it deserves and the water-sustainability movement gets the boost it needs.”

Pizza Parlor

The Parlor Turns An Old Beauty Salon Into A Pizza Paradise

There are no hair dryers, manicure stands or various grooming products to be found at The Parlor, a new gourmet pizzeria in Phoenix, but the ghost of them remains.

The Parlor now occupies the long-time site of the Salon de Venus on 20th Street and Camelback Road. The co-owner of The Parlor, Nello’s Pizza scion Aric Mei, salvaged as much as he could from the old beauty salon for use in his new eatery. Using the wood from the original roof, Mei created a new bar, tables, wall treatments, a host stand and the front doors. From the steel of the salon’s old sprinkler system, Mei constructed a wine storage, fireplace, door handles, bar pendants, bench supports and various other items.

Mei took his recycling efforts one step further. When he found out that a restaurant across the street was being razed, he purchased the contents of the building and outfitted The Parlor with its booths, bar, kitchen equipment, faucets, sinks, flush valves, shelving and speakers.

His efforts at sustainability didn’t end there. Committed to utilizing solar technology on the restaurant, The Parlor installed a thermal solar system that supplies the building’s hot water. Mei says he has the plans and The Parlor has the dedicated space to eventually have a 10-kilowatt array of solar panels on the roof.

The resulting look is simple and streamlined without being oh-so-trendy. Hipsters, power lunchers, couples and families all have a place at The Parlor.

But enough of that; what about the food? In a word — great.

The Parlor combines simple and gourmet ingredients to create seemingly simple dishes that boast complex tastes. We started our evening at The Parlor with its meat and cheese selection appetizer. The meats are primarily ham, prosciutto and salami, paired with an array of hard and soft cheeses and served with grilled rosemary flatbread.

For the next course, we dove into the salad selections. The table settled on the Parlor Insalata with mixed greens, feta cheese, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, crispy chickpeas, pepperoni and oregano dressing.

The Parlor also serves sandwiches and burgers, and like the décor, they are deceptively simple. For example, The Parlor’s version of a club sandwich features duck breast, apple wood smoked bacon and a red wine tomato jam. The Parlor also offers a limited but imaginative selection of pasta dishes. The pappardelle Bolognese has a hearty meat sauce and tender but firm noodles that had everyone raving.

But of course, the stars of The Parlor are the pizzas, which range from the exotic (wild mushrooms with goat cheese and truffle oil) to the familiar (pepperoni). The crusts are light and crunchy — the perfect foundation for the rest of the pie. We chose the salsiccia pizza, which is topped with a special Parlor sausage, grilled radicchio, sage and saba, a type of vinegar. The combination of ingredients was delightful and quickly won over my dining companions. We also ordered the pepperoni pizza just to see how they executed the pie.After all, as any chef will tell you, it’s the simple dishes that are the easiest to ruin. The Parlor hit it dead on. You can also create your own pizza from a list of toppings. I put together goat cheese, rock shrimp and prosciutto for my pizza. My companions opted not to try my creation, which was fine with me because I loved it and got to eat it all by myself.

If you have room for dessert, make sure you pick The Parlor’s chocolate cake with Italian cherries, vanilla cream and chocolate sauce. Hey, if you ate a whole pizza, you might as well grab dessert.

    If You Go:
    The Parlor
    1916 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix
    (602) 248-2480