Tag Archives: sustainability

40th Anniversary of Earth Day

40th Anniversary Of Earth Day – Then & Now

As April 22nd draws near, sustainability-minded folks around the world are preparing to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the event. It’s hard to imagine that before Senator Gaylord Nelson created the event as a way to “force this issue onto the national agenda” there was no real concentrated efforts to do anything for the environment.

A lot has changed since 1970, when President Richard Nixon and Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency — the Environmental Protection Agency — in response to the growing public demand for increased environmental awareness. Now, sustainability and being “green” is a hot topic across the globe and Earth Day is a worldwide movement.

The Environmental Protection Agency also has evolved greatly since its inception and is doing its part to raise awareness about the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. The agency has numerous incentives and programs that you can learn more about on their website www.epa.gov/earthday/. The Pick5 initiative lists simple things you can do to help the environment. Just click on a category, for example “Waste” and a list of tips pop open to show you what you can do to help! An interactive map lets you see what Earth Day activities will be going on in your area and much, much more.

This Earth Day, as we reflect on the history of this worldwide event, lets join together to create a successful future of continued environmental awareness.

Green Economy

Green News Roundup – Building A Green Economy, Solar Power & More

Welcome to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about the benefits of making your home energy efficient, building a green economy and solar in Arizona.

Feel free to send along any stories you’d like by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.


Best of Green 2010: Business and Politics

Find out who the best political ambassador is, the best politics Web site, the best non-profit partnership and so much more, all with a “green” twist.

Building a Green Economy
This New York Times Magazine essay addresses how to cut greenhouse gas emissions without further injuring our economy. Along with a synopsis of climate change economics, the author dives into controversial aspects of the issue and sorts it all out so we don’t have to.

Arizona to world: Do we have solar!
The LA Times spotlighted Arizona’s efforts to draw solar companies to the Grand Canyon State. Greater Phoenix Economic Council president and CEO Barry Broome is quoted in the article, emphasizing the state’s commitment to a sustainable economy.

Motivating People to make homes energy efficient
In this piece from the Washington Post, the author makes the case for energy efficient homes and looks at why homeowners don’t implement more measures. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration data, in the U.S. buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming. However, making your home more energy-efficient reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Green News Roundup-Green Expo Conference & More

The Southwest Build-it-Green Expo & Conference was a great success in numerous ways. You might be wondering why, so let’s go over a few reasons.


  • One-Stop-Shopping: The BIG Conference showcased a wide variety of options for people looking to move their business, organization, or home in more sustainable perspective. Instead of having to hunt for each piece of a project individually, it gave participants the opportunity to get projects started and things moving in one setting.
  • Community Engagement:  Looking to become “greener?” The BIG Conference brought those who are new to the idea and those who are seasoned veterans together under one roof. This provided a great opportunity to make networking contacts, to further your education and understanding of sustainability, and to get involved in local ideas and projects. When people get involved, things start to happen.
  • Education: The impressive array of speakers and topics gave participants the ability to see some cutting edge projects, work, and innovative ideas first hand. Not only were the speakers excellent, they were readily available and happy to chat with the participants about any questions that came up. This was a “two for one” when looked at from a community engagement perspective, as well.
  • Business Development: While the recession is still a reality check, the BIG Conference illustrated that there is current opportunity within the marketplace for ideas, products, and services related to sustainability. I firmly believe that businesses and organizations tied to furthering issues related to sustainability – be it solar, water, wind, materials, et cetera – will be wildly successful in the coming years.
  • The Right Direction: Getting people excited to go green and to move in a more sustainable direction is always a great thing. The conference helps to demonstrate that being green isn’t scary or difficult. To the contrary, the BIG conference helps people understand that it’s easy, fun, and a smart idea – personally, professionally, socially, environmentally – to move towards and adopt ideas of sustainability.


 

Copenhagen Climate Summit, Wind Energy and more

Green News Roundup – Copenhagen Climate Summit, Clean Technology & More

Welcome to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about greening your workplace, the results from the Copenhagen climate summit, clean technology and more.

Feel free to send along any stories you’d like by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com. Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.

Clean technology investments bounce back
In an optimistic first quarter of 2010, $1.9 billion was invested into green tech startups – an 83 percent increase over a year ago, and the strongest start to a year ever. Where did the money go? Electric car-related startups got $704 million, and half of that went to a single Silicon Valley company. Other top industries were solar and energy efficiency.

Copenhagen climate summit wasn’t a flop, reports say
December’s Copenhagen climate summit was generally considered unsuccessful since it did not produce a new treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But now experts say that the summit wasn’t a total failure after all – and may have had some successes, including garnering more pledged emissions reduction than the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

George W. Bush: wind power champion?
Wind power may have a new famous face. In a rare public appearance (he’s made very few since leaving office), George W. Bush will address the 2010 national conference of the wind power industry in Dallas in May.

Chemical exposure may triple breast cancer risk
Obviously chemical exposure is never good, and we’re all pretty familiar with the dangers. But a new study indicates that women who are routinely exposed to synthetic fibers and petrol products could be three times as likely to develop breast cancer. It’s a new study and there’s still that chance the link could be coincidental — but better to be safe than sorry.

How to: green your workplace in 6 steps without driving your co-workers nuts
We all know those people who take going green to the extreme, and it can be pretty annoying. Don’t shy away from going green for fear of being that person. Check out this article – the title speaks for itself.

Green Cosmetics

Green News Roundup – Climate Change, Eco-Friendly Cosmetic Packaging & More

Welcome to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about planning for climate change, eco-friendly cosmetic packaging, and homemade nontoxic spring cleaning materials.

Feel free to send along any stories you’d like to share by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com

Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles focusing on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.


When ‘Green’ Consumers Decide, ‘I’ve Done Enough’
Although it seems odd, a new study seems to indicate that those who purchase ‘green’ products may have a tendency to be less generous and possibly even be more inclined to thievery. The article speculates that perhaps those consumers are compensating for the fact that, in their minds, they have already done their part to help the world.

    Planning for Climate Change in the West (Policy Focus Report)
    The product of the joint venture partnership of the Lincoln Institute and the Sonoran Institute, this report focuses on the political and cultural aspects of preparing for climate change. It includes a survey of government officials indicating skepticism, and explains why these officials are focusing on sustainability and economic efficiency instead of climate change.

      Now, the Cosmetic Jar Matters, Too
      You’d think the most important part of make-up would be, well, the make-up. But last year, one in five women reported that eco-friendly cosmetic packaging matters just as much to them as how well the product inside works. This article explores why, and delves into how the cosmetics industry is responding to this new sudden demand.

        Coral Reef Extinction Could Cripple Nations’ Economies
        Coral Reefs are dying quickly, and most people assume that doesn’t affect them. But as the foundation of the ocean food chain, coral reefs are necessary to keep the planet functioning. Without them, poverty and hunger will prevail, and it could influence politics and economies in a very negative way.

        How to Spring Clean With Nontoxic Homemade Products
        Spring is finally here, which means it’s time to get cleaning. This year, try these homemade, environment-friendly products. They’re easy to make and easier to use!

          Hybrid Vehicles

          Green News Roundup – Electric Vehicles, Spain’s Solar Industry & More

          Welcome to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about green driving, the solar industry in Spain and green Oscar fashion.

          Feel free to send along any stories you’d like to share by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com

          Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles focusing on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.

          Solar Industry Learns Lessons in Spanish Sun
          After the small Spanish town of Puertollano hosted a brief solar power boom in 2008, the government squashed it, cut payments and capped solar construction. This article outlines how the United States, which is dragging behind Europe in solar power, can learn from Spain’s mistakes.

          Department of Energy Announces $100 Million Available for Innovative Research Projects
          At the inaugural ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit last week, it was announced that $100 million in Recovery Act funding will go toward innovation in green technology. It will also increase America’s competitiveness and create new jobs. The opportunity focuses on three technology areas, including Grid-Scale Rampable Intermittent Dispatchable Storage, Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology and Building Energy Efficiency Through Innovative Thermodevices.

          10 Innovations That Could Make Us Greener Drivers
          With more and more evidence that electric vehicles are the future, here are 10 suggestions – some real and in the works, others farther off and seemingly ridiculous – to help us further save the environment as drivers. According to this, it won’t be long until our cars are driving themselves while we kick back and read a book behind the wheel.

          New Vending Machines Stay Cool Without Warming the Planet
          The Coca-Cola Co. has come up with a great way to help the environment: vending machines that actually cool the planet as well as the soda. The secret ingredient? Carbon dioxide. Sounds ridiculous, but “fighting fire with fire” may be the best way to combat global warming.

          Red Carpet Green Dress: A Catalyst for A Revolution
          One of the best parts of the Oscars every year is seeing the beautiful dresses and gowns. This year, James Cameron’s wife set out to prove that the dress making process can be environmentally friendly as well as gorgeous. She created the Red Carpet Green Dress Contest, and her own dress was about 85 percent green.


          Photo Credit: reviews.carreview.com

          Minnesota flag

          Adding Leverage To Going Green At Arizona Businesses

          Minnesota is kicking our butt. No, I’m not talking ice hockey or the fact that they have 10,000 lakes — yes, it’s not just their state motto. Rather, I’m talking about their killer support for their environment — hey, they have 10,000 lakes to keep pristine remember? But seriously, Minnesota is leaving us in the dust when it comes to supporting the environment through workplace giving. What’s that you ask? Workplace giving is just that – where employees in companies, cities, counties, universities, or really any organization can give to charities through their workplace, usually via payroll deduction.

          For decades, the United Way has been the biggest player on the block. But more recently, other groups, called federations, have joined in looking for an equal piece of the workplace giving pie, representing other nonprofit sectors including the environment. EarthShare is the granddaddy of environmental federations and has 19 state affiliates across the country. There are however a few of us ‘rogue’ independent greenies, like our own Environmental Fund for Arizona, but the Minnesota Environmental Fund is one that we Arizonans would be wise to emulate.

          In a little over 15 years, MEF has established itself in 140 campaigns across the state, including private companies as well as cities and counties, and now brings in on average $900,000 in donations annually for its 25 environmental group members. No matter how you slice it, that’s a nice chunk of change for MEF members to help continue their missions.

          Now contrast this to how Arizona is matching up…or not. Just 17 workplaces across the entire state currently include a ‘green’ choice in their workplace campaigns. For those of us who connect the environment, smart growth, and sustainability to the health and vitality of Arizona’s future, not to mention who believe in the ‘spirit of philanthropy,’ you’d think offering an environmental choice to workplaces would be easier. It’s not. Unfortunately, sometimes long-standing tradition trumps common sense and cool ideas.

          Why is ‘giving green’ at work so darn great and why should Arizona take notice? I’ll tell you. Not only does it introduce hundreds, if not thousands of folks to smaller environmental nonprofits who might not have access to companies themselves, but do amazingly cool work for our environment, but it allows Arizona employees to learn about the significant variety of environmental issues being tackled across the state, and helps them to get involved. Think Sonoran Institute and their work with Superstition Vistas. Think Audubon Arizona and their recent opening of the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, the gateway to a lush Sonoran riparian habitat used by over 200 species of birds and other wildlife. And don’t forget Grand Canyon Trust. They’re our champions of Arizona’s – and the nation’s – spectacular treasure, the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau. These are just three of 29 organizations that make up EFAZ. Here’s another reason — one that is ridiculously obvious. Arizona is pushing ‘green’ in a big way, no not just to save the planet but for more practical reasons, like recharging our state’s economy with green jobs. Solar energy, water issues — we’re all over it. Why wouldn’t companies, cities, counties, and universities welcome a green choice into their campaigns?

          So, what’s the moral of the story? Let’s not let Minnesota keep kicking our environmental butt. Aren’t the Grand Canyon and the Sonoran Desert worth saving? I say ‘wake up Arizona and smell the organically-grown, fair trade coffee.’


          www.efaz.org
          www.mnenvirofund.org

          White House Goes Green

          Green News Roundup – White House Goes Green, Eco Month & More

          Welcome to the second installment of our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about Eco Month, the Sustainability Consortium, solar windows and more. Feel free to send along any stories you’d like to share by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com

          Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles focusing on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.

          2010 Southwest Build-it-Green Expo & Conference
          The second annual Southwest Build-it-Green Expo & Conference is just around the corner, taking place March 18th-20th at the South Building in the Phoenix Convention Center. The expo will feature more than 200 exhibitors featuring the latest in green design, architecture, green products and more. Also, learn more about sustainability from the 2010 conference speakers by registering for sessions here.

          2010 AIA Arizona Eco Month
          March is Eco Month for AIA Arizona, and they are heading up lots of related events, including a Green Shopping Tour at Phoenix Public Market March 20. Read the AIA’s 20 steps to shopping green in a pdf here and e-mail Diana Smith at diana@aia-arizona.org to RSVP for Eco Month events.

          Grocery Retailer Adds Force to ASU’s Green Efforts
          Safeway is the first U.S.-based retail grocery chain to join the Sustainability Consortium, administered by ASU and the University of Arkansas. Safeway plans to use the data from the consortium’s Life Cycle Assessment, which analyzes emissions, waste and the natural resources used in food and non-food items, to create its supply chain sustainability policy.

          New Solar Windows Appear Blinged Out
          A research consortium wants us to stop wasting energy with plain glass windows on office buildings – they’re designing a prototype for solar windows! It only makes sense to utilize the large surface area of the sides of buildings instead of only the roofs. An additional perk? The solar windows would prevent the glare during morning and evening hours, providing natural light all day long without having to draw the blinds!

          White House Replaces Bush-Era Cups
          This week, even the White House is going green with brand new, eco-friendly hot beverage cups. Twelve percent of the cup and 99 percent of the interior liner are made from post-consumer recycled content. If only they’d tell us where they got them!

          Canada vs. USA Final Made Power Consumption Jump by Around 600 Megawatts in Ontario
          Are major sporting events bad for the environment? Apparently so. Ontario experienced a major power consumption jump during the Olympic hockey gold medal showdown as everyone turned on their televisions to watch.


          Green News Roundup

          Green News Roundup

          With so much going on in sustainability these days, I always find it difficult to narrow it down to just one thing to write about. Instead, I’ve decided to post a weekly green news roundup with some interesting green stories from around the Web. Enjoy! Feel free to send along any stories you’d like to share by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com

          Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles focusing on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.

          Vancouver Olympics Going for the Green
          The 2010 Winter Olympics have been at the center of the news for 2 weeks now, but I didn’t know until I read this LA Times article that they’re the greenest Olympics in history! The mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, rides his bike to events even though he was provided with a car and driver. Using renewable hydro power for electricity and high green building standards, Vancouver generated fewer greenhouse gases in seven years of preparation than Salt Lake City and Turin did just during their Games!

          An Inn Is an Oasis From Environmental Affronts
          Topia Inn in the Berkshires is committed to providing guests with a completely green, organic experience. Guests are asked to remove their shoes before entering the no-smoking facility where they are provided with complimentary organic bath and body products and an organic breakfast. It’s a vacation that helps the environment too!

          The Waste of Eating Out
          No time to read through an entire article? Check out the Huffington Post’s visual representation of just how much waste we create by eating out. The captions really put things in perspective; for example, Americans use 15 billion disposable coffee cups a year. It also includes tips on how to reduce your waste next time you eat out!

          Green Style: Earth Day Refashioned
          Dressing fashionably and helping the environment? Sounds great to me! Marie Claire magazine offered up some ‘green’ clothing tips. Not only does it feature green items such as organic tee-shirts (imagine how soft!), but it brings to our attention entire fashion lines consisting entirely of green clothing. For example, Raw Bags by Beth Kelly Warner features sustainable  bags made entirely out of bamboo. Fashionable and good for the environment!

          Students Prompt City of Mesa to Get Rid of Plastic Bags and Go Green
          Here’s a great local story as well. A group of 8th graders at Rhodes Junior High School came up with the idea to ban plastic bags in Mesa during their Project Citizen Class in their quest to make the city more “green.”

          MP900202205(2)

          Solar Trees: Growing Green

          We’ve all heard that money doesn’t grow on trees. Does it grow on solar trees?

          One of the latest solar inventions, the Solar Tree, is digging its roots into the business world and residential communities. The idea of the solar tree first sprouted on the streets of Vienna. The concept was a little different, but the overall theme and name are the same.  In Europe, solar trees are used in place of streetlights. The artificial trees provide enough light throughout the night, even if the sun doesn’t shine for four days in a row.   These solar lights even look like trees with branches that hold 10 solar lamps. Designed by Ross Lovegrove, the solar trees saved the city 524,000 KWh of electricity and $96,800 in 2005.

           

          Solar Trees: Growing GreenIn the United States, San Diego-based Envision Solar is spearheading this energy-efficient invention with its own Solar Tree. Envision CEO and architect Robert Noble, who wanted to give parking lots more purpose than just a place to keep your car, created its aesthetically pleasing design. With its Solar Tree system, Envision Solar is on a mission to turn parking lots across the country into gardens of alternative energy by “planting” scores of the devices. Each “tree” is topped with a 1,000-square-foot canopy that is covered in solar cells built by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Kyocera.

          This system of “planting” several Solar Trees is called a Solar Grove. The Solar Groves work best on large parking lots, and they not only use the sun as a way to produce energy, they also shade cars, displace unwanted run-off, and even have a place to plug in electric vehicles. According to Envision Solar’s Web site “a Solar Grove can pay for itself in as little as five years, and create positive cash flows from the first day of operation by avoiding the cost of existing electricity bills.”

          The prices of these “power plants” vary by size, installation, site conditions and a company’s energy usage. Envision Solar will work with a company to create a financial analysis and see what’s right for the business. Also, many states offer incentives for using solar energy. These can be found at www.dsireusa.org.

          Solar Trees: Growing GreenOne of Envision Solar’s better-known Solar Grove projects can be found at one of the nations “greenest” college campuses, the University of California at San Diego. Each tree generates more than 17,000 hours of clean energy per year and eliminates 13.2 metric tons of carbon emissions.

          Various other kinds of solar trees can be seen all across the U.S. and are not solely produced by Envision Solar. One of the more ambitious projects is at Google’s California headquarters.  Energy Innovations, a company that also produces solar panels for parking lots, installed the 1.6-megawatt design.

          Solar Trees were initially created by Envision Solar for large businesses, but have now been transformed to work on a smaller scale. Envision Solar recently started a new line of residential solar applications. An example of this is the LifeTree, a single post steel structure with a cantilevered canopy. It costs around $18,500 and provides about 1.4 kilowatts of clean energy.

          Living in Arizona provides businesses and consumers with more than enough sunlight to take advantage of this cost-effective energy system.  Solar Trees are a way to conserve space and energy. They can save a company and consumers money, and make an “eco-friendly” statement. Solar energy is the future and planting these solar “trees” has never had a bigger payoff.

          Green Icon

          [stextbox id="grey"]Envisionsolar.com
          Wired.com
          Renewablenergyworld.com[/stextbox]

           

          California Leads the Way in Green Building

          CALGREEN Leads The Way In Green Building

          California has long been a leader in sustainability and now the state is taking it one step further. Officials from the the California Building Standards Commission recently adopted the country’s first mandatory statewide green building code. The regulations, called CALGREEN, will require every new building to reduce water usage by 20 percent and recycle 50 percent of its construction waste. Other stipulations include separate water meters for indoor and outdoor water use in commercial buildings and mandatory inspections of energy systems for nonresidential buildings over 10,000 square feet. These regulations take effect in January 1, 2011.

          The objective of the code is to help the state achieve their goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020.

          In Arizona, the Arizona Corporation Commission has goals for achieving 15 percent renewable energy by 2025. With the Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program, along with many other initiatives we are making big steps toward making this a reality.

          California is definitely ahead in their efforts to incorporate environmental standards on many levels. Other states, Arizona included, are sure to learn from the example that the Golden State sets.

          For more information visit http://gov.ca.gov

          Avatar Sends an Eco-Friendly Message

          Avatar Sends An Eco-Friendly Message

          You don’t need to be a sci-fi buff to love Avatar. James Cameron makes his much anticipated return to movie making with this alien biopic of epic proportions. Outfitted with a stunning visual landscape, strong cast and concept as well as a multimillion-dollar budget, the movie is sure to provide an out-of-this world cinematic experience.  (Especially if you see in 3D, like I did).

          What you probably don’t know is that beneath the action-packed drama, Avatar sends an eco-friendly message. It makes a pretty strong statement against the wastefulness of our industrialized society. In the film a corporation will stop at nothing in order to obtain a rare, expensive mineral — including eliminating an entire indigenous species of people. The film promotes sustainability and preserving the gifts that our natural environment has bestowed upon us, instead of plundering our natural resources and placing a dollar value on something that is irreplaceable. We as a society need to respect and value the natural resources we do have. If we continue to exploit them, the plotline in the film doesn’t feel that farfetched — rather a very scary glimpse into what our future may one day look like if we don’t implement changes.

          This message really resonated with me and it’s great to see such current themes in movies. Though Avatar isn’t the first film to include an eco-friendly storyline, his stunning visual effects highlighted this concept and helped drive such large crowds to see it. Marketing this film to young adults (it’s rated PG-13) was a great way to spread the message about sustainability and encourage individuals to become ecologically responsible. The entertainment industry is a perfect medium to send such a message and can really make an impact. Oh and if you couldn’t tell from this post, I loved the movie and would definitely highly recommend it.

          Photo Source: www.avatarmovie.com

          China Skyscrapers

          China Leading The Way In Green Technology

          Though the country is the world’s top polluter, that isn’t stopping China from leading the way on new green technology. China has begun an effort to figure out how to burn coal without releasing carbon into the atmosphere.That’s quite an ambitious goal — especially for a country that is the biggest source of carbon emissions — but one that could completely alter the future of the green industry.

          And that’s not all. China is making strides in several sectors and is on the road to revolutionizing the green industry.

          In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Shai Oster writes:

          “China’s vast market and economies of scale are bringing down the cost of solar and wind energy, as well as other environmentally friendly technologies such as electric car batteries. That could help address a major impediment to wide adoption of such technologies: They need heavy subsidies to be economical.
          The so-called China price — the combination of cheap labor and capital that rewrote the rulebook on manufacturing — is spreading to green technology. “The China price will move into the renewable-energy space, specifically for energy that relies on capital-intensive projects,” says Jonathan Woetzel, a director in McKinsey & Co.’s China office.”

          The article goes on to state that China is facing some tough challenges. Their low-cost manufacturing base can slow down their innovation, or worse yet, could restrain technology advancement in other countries as well.

          Read the full article here to find out more.

          What do you think? What kind of an impact will China’s surge in the sustainability sector have?

          www.wsj.com

          No Impact Man

          The Adventures Of No Impact Man

          Can you imagine a life without toilet paper, electricity, or any of the modern conveniences many of us consider a staple in our daily lives?

          Colin Beavan — aka No  Impact Man — and his family did without any of this (and more) for an entire year. During their experience, Beavan wrote a blog that later spawned a book and documentary film about what it’s like to go off the grid while living in New York City. The goal of the No Impact project was to live life in the city while causing no net environmental impact. They did this by giving up on many things i.e. electricity, toilet paper to decrease their negative impact. In order to increase their positive impact they volunteered at various environmental groups, cleaned the banks of the Hudson River and donated to charity among other things.

          In an excerpt from his book: “NO IMPACT MAN: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes and Our Way of Life in the Process” Beavan writes:

          “This book, in short, is about my attempt with my little family to live for a year causing as little negative environmental impact as possible. If what I’ve described so far sounds extreme, that’s because it’s meant to be. My intention with this book is not to advocate that, as a culture, we should all give up elevators, washing machines, and toilet paper. This is a book about a lifestyle experiment. It chronicles a year of inquiry: How truly necessary are many of the conveniences we take for granted but that, in their manufacture and use, hurt our habitat? How much of our consumption of the planet’s resources actually makes us happier and how much just keeps us chained up as wage slaves?
          What would it be like to try to live a no-impact lifestyle? Is it possible? Could it catch on? Would living this way be more fun or less fun? More satisfying or less satisfying? Harder or easier? Worthwhile or senseless? Are we all doomed, or is there hope? Is individual action lived out loud really just individual action? Would the environmental costs of producing this very book undo all the good, or would the message it purveyed outweigh the damage and add to the good?
          But perhaps most important, at least when it came to addressing my own despair, was I as helpless to help change the imperiled world we live in as I’d thought?”

          I was able to catch a showing of the documentary at the Global Institute of Sustainability on Monday and thought the film was fantastic. It portrayed a family that went to the extreme, all in the name of Mr. Beavan’s experiment and came out of it with a truly renewed perspective on the environment. Now, the goal of Mr. Beavan’s message isn’t to ask people to go to the lengths he did, but rather bring attention to an important issue. He hopes that his family can, in a sense, lead by example and others will be inspired to do what they can to help the environment.

          I was surprised to read a lot of backlash against Mr. Beavan and his No Impact experiment. He was doing a good thing, after all, why all the bad blood? Some dismissed this as a gimmick for a book deal, but I think they’re missing the bigger picture. Did the premise land him a book deal? Sure. However, after watching the documentary it’s hard not to believe the fact that Mr. Beavan and his family really are striving to do the right thing — help the environment and make a difference. According to Beavan, this change has to begin on the individual level, and only then will government implement laws that will hopefully undo the years of havoc we’ve wreaked on our planet.

          Most importantly, Beavan himself admitted that the project didn’t end after their year was over, rather it had begun. His family had to decide what kind of a life they would lead, while still maintaining their principles and desire to help the environment.
          They turned the electricity back on, but air conditioners, dishwashers, and freezers are still gone. They continue to eat locally-grown food, but have added previously banished coffee, olive oil and spices into their diets. Most importantly, they recognize the need for individual action and continue to take steps in helping the environment.
          Beavan has also launched the No Impact Project, a nonprofit project that encourages individuals to “make choices which better their lives and lower their environmental impact through lifestyle change, community action, and participation in environmental politics” as stated on the project’s Web site at noimpactproject.org

          noimpactman.typepad.com
          noimpactproject.org

          Valley Forward 2010

          Valley Forward: Tracy Williams

          Tracy Williams
          Area Manager
          Altrade Supplies
          www.altradesupplies.com

          Is there a better way to become interested and involved in environmentally friendly issues than with the Girl Scouts?

          That’s what opened Tracy Williams’ eyes to recycling and the need to protect our environment. It started when she was a Girl Scout and continues today with six of her daughters, who also are scouts.

          Williams is area manager for Altrade Supplies, a Milpitas, Calif.-based distributor of a variety of biodegradable products. Its motto is, “Leading the way to a Green Earth.”

          “I’ve been a Girl Scout all of my life,” Williams says. “And six of my eight daughters are scouts. One of the things we do is recycle. We’re serious about Girl Scouting and recycling.”

          She’s also serious about the products Altrade Supplies sells, such as biodegradable food service products, including cutlery and eating utensils; biodegradable cleaning agents; industrial safety supplies, including personal equipment to protect an individual in case of a fall, spill-control equipment and traffic safety equipment.

          “Finding out about products made out of sustainable materials has really been interesting, such as the biodegradable food service products that I sell,” Williams says. “I was intrigued by that; that’s what really interested me in what sustainability was all about.”

          About a year ago, George Brooks, an environmental scientist and the company’s sustainability director, introduced her to Valley Forward.

          “We call him our green guru,” she says. “I was all excited to learn about this big green movement that was going on and what my place was in it. Valley Forward is an environmental organization that has been around for about 40 years, has a voice in the community, great knowledge, and has a handle on the sustainability movement.”

          She joined to learn more about green efforts.

          “Valley Forward is a great program and a great group of people,” Williams says. “People mingle with each other like family. It has enabled me to get out into the world and talk about my products.”

          Williams became active in several Valley Forward committees, hoping to match her skills with what Valley Forward offers. She joined the membership committee because she enjoys meeting people, and she served on another panel involved in arranging events and luncheons.

          Environmentally friendly products boost Arizona’s quality of life, Williams says, “by lessening our carbon footprint overall.” Her goal for Arizona is the three “R’s”: “Recycle, reuse and reduce.”

          Valley Forward: Colin Tetreault

          Colin Tetreault
          Master of Arts Student
          Arizona State University, School of Sustainability
          schoolofsustainability.asu.edu

          As a student at the Arizona State University School of Sustainability, Colin Tetreault is exploring ways for the business community to play a greater role in enhancing the global environment.


          It’s a natural blend of interests for Tetreault, who is pursuing a master’s degree in sustainability and has a bachelor of science degree in marketing from the ASU W.P. Carey School of Business, as well as a minor in sociology. He has a diverse business background and skill set tempered in marketing, business development and philanthropy. His goal is to integrate his business acumen and cutting-edge knowledge of sustainability.

          When ASU President Michael Crow said, “Sustainability is a way to grow and prosper while reducing the stress on the planet,” and asserted that sustainability would be a hallmark at ASU, Tetreault says, “I knew this was absolutely something that I not only wanted to pursue, but I felt compelled.”

          Tetreault’s background led him to the field of sustainability.

          “I grew up hiking and climbing and having an appreciation of the outdoors,” he says, “but my parents are both business individuals. My mother was a professor of marketing and my father was a business executive. I loved being outside, but I also loved what business can do. Business can accelerate change and can act as an advocate for it.”

          Some individuals may view business as being unfriendly to the environment, and with some justification, Tetreault says.
          “Admittedly, in certain instances they may be right, but now business has done more than ever for the environment and can act as an advocate for the world,” he says. “It marries two areas that I love — a synthesis of business and the entire global perspective of sustainability, which is not just hugging trees and savings animals.”

          Sustainability will provide a “meaningful, productive and just way of life,” Tetreault says, adding that it is vital to save the trees and have clean air so humans can live on this planet.

          “Sustainability is paramount to that, to help achieve economic viability and a robust society,” he says. “Everything is connected. Our actions have a direct impact on us now and in the future and on everything around us. I feel this is my calling.”

          Tetreault, who joined Valley Forward this year, hails the organization for its role in preserving the environment and for being “not only an aggregator of information, but also an advocate for positive change.”

          “Valley Forward embodies those type of ideals,” he says.

          Recycling Bins

          Green News Roundup-Greener Building, Education & More

          For those of you involved in the green/sustainability arena, you are probably still decompressing from the impressive event that was the Greenbuild 2009 Conference and Expo that was held last week. With over 27,000 attendees, the Phoenix Convention Center, Chase Field, local businesses, and the entire community were host to a remarkable event.

          Produced by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), the conference aimed to bring leading minds, businesses, and the community together around the premise of green building, education, and professional networking.

          During my time visiting the impressive conference, some of the following thoughts came to me:

          • The Gargantuan Expo: The expo (which was an exhausting feat to see all of it in detail) was filled with an incredible array of vendors showcasing their particular products that contribute to green buildings and lifestyles. There are – it is not a stretch to say – innumerable creative manners in which a business or individual may contribute towards a “greener” building, property, and subsequent environment.
          • Intellectual Development and Discussion: There were several intriguing presentations by industry experts, academic researchers, community members, and perspicacious interdisciplinary practitioners. The presentations that blended elements of “green” building/design with a social cohesion element had particular merit.
          • Keynote Speeches: Nobel prize laureate Al Gore gave the keynote address on Wednesday evening at Chase field. While much of Mr. Gore’s speech was information that many of the participants may have already heard via self subscription to the “green” lifestyle, he did offer a particularly compelling charge to the audience. It was a call to arms advocating that the audience move beyond discussing green tactics and immediately work to make a substantive difference, now.

          Given the participation of the conference, I would challenge each individual to consider some of the following points:

          • How do we, as individuals who have a particular interest in this field (and its success), bring the tenants of green building to those who need it most? What are the ways in which we are enabling and setting up our communities – of all socioeconomic and demographic representation – for success? Are the technologies and methods we recommend commensurate with a practical application to those who need it most?
          • What are the implications of the commoditization of green building ideals? While there are too many integrated issues to list here, how could the exhibitors at the Greenbuild expo make a difference in areas of abject poverty and subsistence-level construction (i.e. the applicability and practicality of technology towards the greater good)?
          • Given the awesome level of experience and mental aptitude that accompanies these conferences, what type of demonstrable impact can they have on the community in which they are held?

          I’d love your thoughts, reactions, and recommendations on what you thought of Greenbuild and how to make conferences, like this one, better in the future.

          Green Job Opportunities for Women

          Green Job Opportunities For Women

          Recently, I attended the “Women & the Green Job Movement” panel hosted by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and Zion & Zion.

          Our very own Tina Robinson, exhibit director for the Southwest Build-it-Green Expo & Conference, was asked to be part of the panel and speak on various aspects of women employment in the sustainability field. The roundtable was comprised of individuals from various organizations, cities and schools with a vested interest in women and their future in green jobs.

          Jenny L. Erwin, regional administrator for the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor, opened the roundtable discussion. Some of the main points covered were:

          • Ensuring green jobs are “good jobs” with benefits and livable wages and career paths.
          • Definitions of green jobs and other common terms that are understandable to a broad range of working women.
          • Information on how women in community-based organizations focusing on women, women business owners, labor unions and others can access funds for green jobs.
          • Best practices related to women.
          • Green jobs that are in demand, new career paths and entrepreneurial opportunities.

          The roundtable began with the reason we were all gathered at the event — where do women fit in the green industry? Though the number of green jobs is on the rise, there is indeed a disparity in the quality and quantity of jobs available to men and women. This spurred discussion on why this paradox exists.

          One of the main issues women must face as we try to alter this uneven landscape is changing the perception that women can’t hold jobs in male-dominated industries. The math and science-related fields are typically over-represented by men, and changing this will be the first step in encouraging women to enter the green industry.

          I left the roundtable discussion with a bright outlook. Green industry jobs vary; some are more technical than others; and there is always room for those who need to market the technology and spread the message to others. Bottom line — there is a huge opportunity for women to capitalize on the amazing benefits the green movement offers. So let’s get to it ladies!

          www.chandlerchamber.com
          www.builditgreenexpo.com
          www.dol.gov/wb/

          Greenbuild

          Greenbuild 2009 Arrives In Phoenix

          The time has come! Greenbuild 2009 has officially begun. For those unfamiliar with Greenbuild here’s some background information listed on the Web site for the event.

          “Greenbuild is the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. Thousands of building professionals from all over the world come together at Greenbuild for three days of outstanding educational sessions, renowned speakers, green building tours, special seminars, and networking events.
          Greenbuild 2009 is heading to the American Southwest, a region with unique environmental and social challenges and opportunities, and the imperative is clear: Green building can and must come home to all people, boosting the quality of life on main streets across the country and around the world. Join us at Greenbuild 2009 in Phoenix, Nov. 11-13, 2009 and engage in the conversation we must have to bring green to everyone, and bring everyone to green.”

          Gov. Jan Brewer and Mayor Phil Gordon have proclaimed the week of Nov. 9-13 as U.S. Greenbuilding Council (USGBC) and Greenbuild International Week.  In separate statements, the governor and mayor cited the work of the Arizona Chapter of the U.S. Greenbuilding Council (USGBC) in hosting the conference and expo as well as the mission of the USBGC which is to alter the built environment.

          Greenbuild is bringing 25,000 people from 90 countries to Arizona to attend this exciting conference and expo. The expo will showcase more than 1,000 vendors while the conference will offer 125 educational sessions on various green topics taught by local and national industry leaders. Sometimes referred to as the “Super Bowl of building green” Greenbuild is bringing some famous faces to town. Former vice president Al Gore is this year’s opening keynote speaker and singer Sheryl Crow is set to perform at Chase Field as part of the Greenbuild Opening Keynote & Celebration.

          In recognition of this significant event hitting the Valley, the Arizona Greenbuild Host Committee and the Arizona Chapter of the USGBC have organized outdoor activities, off site education programs and 18 tours that showcase the best of the sustainable built environment in Arizona.

          Several events will also be going on in the Valley throughout the week. From Tempe to Flagstaff, the entire state will be bringing sustainability into the spotlight with fun festivals and events for the public.

          www.greenbuildexpo.org

          www.tempe.gov/events/greenstreet
          www.greenstreetscottsdale.com
          www.rooseveltrow.org/greenstreets.html
          www.usgbcaz.org

          Rebuilding Greensburg

          Rebuilding Greensburg for a Sustainable Future

          I recently read an interesting piece in the New York Times about the rebuilding of Greensburg, Kan. Some of you may recall the devastating tornado the tore through the region back in 2007 leaving 11 dead and millions of dollars in damages. The devastation was immense but local residents were determined to rebuild. And rebuild they did. Greensburg was ready to start fresh and rebuild in a way that would generate new business and jobs. Dea Corns, a real estate agent who manages the Greensburg State Bank with her husband Thomas V. Corns was quoted as saying “We put the ‘green’ back in Greensburg.”

          The community has already taken steps to make it as green as can be. An ordinance requiring all municipal buildings larger than 4,000 square feet to be built to LEED-platinum standards has been passed.

          Several buildings are being renovated with green features such as geothermal pumps for heating and cooling, high-performance lighting and others that qualify them for LEED designation.

          Greensburg is also one of the first cities in the nation to use LED lamps in their streetlights, saving 70 percent in energy and maintenance costs over the old lights.  The list of all the other green features that are being implemented into the city goes on and on.

          This got me thinking. If Greensburg is able to rebuild in such a sustainable way after such devastation why can’t we use them as an example for future rebuilding/renovations? This is definitely something to think about. If a city so ravaged by a natural disaster can emerge stronger than ever, the potential for future new developments is incredible.

          The city’s dedication to sustainability is refreshing, after all rebuilding this way is more expensive and more time-consuming than conventional methods. But higher upfront costs are often replaced with lower operating costs and a bigger payoff in the long run. Most importantly, residents and city leaders alike seem to have the big picture of the future of the city in mind.

          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

          Sustainable Walmart

          Sustainable Walmart

          When you think of the global retail giant Walmart the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t sustainability. But think again.

          The company plans to introduce this initiative in three phases:

          First, Walmart will provide each of its 100,000 global suppliers with a survey of 15 questions to evaluate the company’s sustainability. The questions will be divided into four areas:

          • energy and climate
          • natural resources
          • material efficiency
          • people and community

          U.S. suppliers are being asked to complete the survey by October 1st. Outside of the country, timelines will be set up for suppliers to complete the survey.

          The consumer king’s second step is helping create a consortium of universities, administered by Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas. The sustainability consortium will be comprised of universities that will collaborate with governmental agencies, businesses, and non-government organizations (NGOs) to create a sustainable product index for consumer products. Walmart supplied the initial funding for the Sustainability Index Consortium, and has appealed to retailers and suppliers to contribute.

          The final step is providing customers with the information from the index in an easy to understand rating system. How this information is delivered — whether a color coding system or a numeric score — will be determined in coming months and years by the sustainability consortium. Hopefully, the rating system will help consumers make sustainable choices.

          After visiting Walmart’s website I was impressed how much emphasis they place on sustainability. On the site I found information about climate, energy, zero waste and more. I wasn’t aware that the store was so dedicated to the environment and was definitely pleased to find out that the chain is more than just rock bottom prices.

          Photo Credit: www.walmart.com
          www.asu.edu
          www.uark.edu

          Arizona State University Named Green School by Sierra Magazine

          Arizona State University Is Lucky #13

          Just a few weeks after being named one of the “greenest” universities by the Princeton Review, Arizona State University has racked up another green recognition.

          Sierra Magazine, a publication of the Sierra Club, the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the U.S., has released their list of the nation’s top 20 “coolest” schools and ASU has been named as lucky number 13.

           

          Arizona State UniversityThe schools were recognized for their sustainable efforts based on questionnaires addressing a variety of categories including: academics, administration, efficiency, energy, food, purchasing, transportation, and waste management. Schools could earn up to ten points in each category with an additional five bonus points if they had extra green initiatives.

          Again, ASU was in some pretty elite company with Yale, Harvard, New York University and others. The University of Colorado at Boulder may have taken the top spot but for ASU this is another notch on its green belt of accomplishments. Being sustainable is no small feat and this type of national recognition gives Arizonans not only a reason to be proud, but also motivation to keep the mission going.

          For the full list of school’s check out the Sierra Club’s website.

          schoolofsustainability.asu.edu

          Sustainable America

          How Does America Feel About Sustainability?

          In a previous blog post I wrote about the amount of money being set aside for sustainability in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act — $467 million to be exact.

          With so much money being spent, are you wondering what the American people really think about sustainability-related matters? Me too. As luck would have it, a research team from the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication conducted a nationally representative survey of 2,164 Americans to get some insight. Titled “Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans’ climate change beliefs, attitudes, policy preferences and actions” the survey included various matters relating to “issue priorities for the new administration and Congress, support and opposition regarding climate change and energy policies, levels of political and consumer activism, and beliefs about the reality and risks of global warming.” The survey was conducted in September and October of 2008.

          Obviously, the biggest issue on the minds of most Americans right now is the economy. Hence, some of the survey results were to be expected (76 percent of Americans rated the economy as a “very high” priority). Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that global warming was a “high” or “very high” national priority for a majority of Americans. Also, 72 percent said the issue of global warming is important to them personally.

          When asked who should act to address global warming, 76 percent of respondents said corporations and businesses should do more, or much more. Another 67 percent said Congress should do more to address global warming. Yet, 72 percent believe that citizens themselves are responsible.

          Who’s right?

          I don’t think there’s a right answer to this one; collaboration is the only path to a truly more sustainable way of life. Still, these findings are definitely a positive sign in my opinion.

          Some other notable positives the study found:

          • 92 percent of Americans surveyed supported more funding for research on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
          • 85 percent supported tax rebates for people buying energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels.
          • 79 percent supported a 45 mpg fuel efficiency standard for cars, trucks and SUVs.

          Here’s the kicker: 79 percent of respondents supported this 45 mpg fuel efficiency standard EVEN if this meant a new car could cost up to $1,000 more. Now that’s dedication!

          Unfortunately, though going green can sometimes be a bit more expensive upfront, hopefully with time these costs will be lowered and these kind of vehicles (and other green initiatives) will become the norm.

          Overall, what I gathered from this study is that Americans do indeed care about the environment. Although our country is in a precarious time, sustainability hasn’t been entirely forgotten.