Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holy Massive EV Experiment

Thanks to a $99.8 million U.S. DoE grant, the largest electric vehicle experiment in our country’s history is underway. The company, ECOtality, will oversee the placement and installation of the charging stations, which is a $250 million, six-state roll-out program of roughly 15,000 charging stations. Their pilot program called, "The EV Project", is a data-gathering exercise intended to document the performance of electric vehicle charging stations and monitoring of driver habits. More importantly, Portland, Oregon is leading the way when it comes to building sustainable communities with the help of several major automakers Ford, Mitsubishi, and Navistar. They have selected Portland as a test market for their massive batch of electric vehicles that hit the roads, which has economic development officials salivating over Oregon’s positive reputation for currently being the leader in the still-every-developing-and-testing world of EVs.

At the
most basic level, ECOTality’s EV Project, funded with nearly $1 million in federal stimulus funds, will bring work to a network of regional contractors who will be accountable for installing the charging systems, 1,000 of which will be peppered around businesses, 150 at public buildings, 90 at the homes of Nissan Leaf owners, and another 45 quick-charge units. At a more practical level, public awareness is increasing at a national level. Personal "range anxiety", which is EV slang related to the fear of running out of gas, is making an EV purchase a more practical and realistic option for consumers. And even more exciting in how start-up companies are thinking of creative ways to help consumers get from Point A to Point B in their fast, buzzing, fully charged EVs.

Source: Sustainable Business Oregon, 2010

Plastic to Steam

It is reported that we can reduce usage of natural resources by 1/10, and that the environmental efficiency will increase ten times. We should think about this more as we are consuming nation of "stuff." With the hope of reducing production and stuff by merely 10 percent, a design company, One Tenth Design, has rethought the product life cycle for classic, simple plastic water bottle. Their project known as HOLLOW is a unique approach to everyday humidifiers.

The HOLLOW design uses ordinary plastic bottles in a specially designed base to create a small humidifier. Its production is resource-efficient, involving only three sets of parts for the base, which draws water from the upside-down plastic bottle and releases it as moisture-laden steam.

Source: Design Boom

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Vision for Sustainable Restaurants

If you've been in a restaurant kitchen, you've seen how much food, water and energy can be wasted there. Chef Arthur Potts-Dawson shares his very personal vision for drastically reducing restaurant, and supermarket, waste. He is creating, recycling, composting, and transforming to run sustainable engines for good (and good food). Arthur Potts Dawson wants us to take responsibility not just for the food we eat, but how we shop for and even dispose of it. And he's showing the way.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuna Manifesto

It took 10-days for the officials at ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) to reach an agreement on how to combat illegal fishing. The key takeaway was to reduce the quotas - plain and simple. At the heart of this matter is the bluefin tuna. That is the red, delicious meat that most of you so greatly enjoy during your sushi dinners. This amazing fish goes for about $100,000 on the Japanese seafood market and is rapidly in danger as it continues to be over fished. Now, surely, after having a round table of intelligent environmentalists, fisherman, and representatives, that a more aggressive and potentially strategic approach would be devised. In the end, a simple quota to reduce from 13,500 tons to 12,900 tons in 2011 was the game plan.

Many including PEW Environment Group feel the quota is not enough. There is also some belief that ICCAT is simply selling out to the short-term interests of fisherman. “After years of observing ICCAT and countless opportunities to do the right thing, it is clear to us that the commission’s interests lie not in the sustainable harvesting of bluefin tuna but in pandering to short-term business interests," says Dr. Tudela - head of the WWF Mediterrean’s Fisheries Programme . "There have been no effective measures implemented here to deal with widespread illegal and unreported fishing for bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.”

Many retailers, such as Carrefour, Ikea, Sodexo, famous sushi restaurant chains Itsu and Moshi Moshi have decided to take action themselves. These business are signing the Tuna Manifesto. This agreement states that a business will decide not to sell Atlantic bluefin tuna in any of its outlets around the world until the fisheries are being managed in a way that will allow the tuna to recover. While that waiting period unfolds, the ICCAT’s scientists will next assess bluefin tuna stocks in the East Atlantic in 2012, when they vow to address the uncertainties in data to ensure recommendations are clearer.

To see the full listing of companies that signed the manifesto, click here.

Sources: NPR News, WWF

Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Lieu of Turkey

I thought it would be appropriate to re-iterate how corporate transparency doesn't start or stop just with food prices. It is more about the "system" and how our food is properly grown, processed, labeled, shipped and marketed. Actually, it is more about how the system is broken, and consumers (like you and I) that care, will find out the truth and not wait for Thanksgiving, holiday demands.

Let's start with chickens and corn. For a juicy, inside look into the hazardous, toxic environments, I recommend watching Food, Inc. It is a documentary that showcases the unflattering events that have led to America's corporate controlled food industry. We want breasts, right? Big, white, meaty breasts from chickens and turkeys. The last time, I checked a chicken should not be so fat it can't walk, should not be sleeping or walking in its own feces and definitely should not be treated like a "bug in a jar". But if you'd like to eat an animal that mistakes its own poop for food, then by all means you can surely eat that "type" of protein if you'd like.

And actually, I enjoy meat! Beef burgers, chicken tortillas, fish tacos, etc. However, the critical factor is that my life should not be a gamble when I eat food that is processed by unregulated laws. Why can't I determine if my chicken is from Ohio or from China or Brazil? Why can't I read on a simple label like my cereal that my turkey or beef was fed and raised naturally knowing that I won't get E.Coli or die from virulent strain of O157:H7. In our nation, this contamination has led to the recall of beef in 3,000 grocers in 41 states due to numerous deaths of our simple staple. Of course, in lieu of turkey or meat, there are many tasty vegetarian options. However, may I remind you we had this with spinach, tomatoes, jalapenos, and what is next? What can I eat safely?

Do your part to be educated, informed, buy local, choose local and push for reform that puts the power of eating safe food back in the hands of consumers, and not at the table of greedy corporate board members and executives. From barn to bowl, or pasture to plate, we have a choice to eat healthy, reduce our obesity epidemic, get off the sugar-fat cycle and eat wholesome meat and potatoes just like before with a smile on our face.

Source: NY Times, E.Coli news
Image: Trendwatching, 2009

Friday, November 12, 2010

Toxic Colors

I have written numerous posts about toxins that are in our bubble and around us in everyday household products. Yes, the classic BPA bottles, formaldehyde in our Orbit gum, and even how Teflon is associated with PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls). But ever stop and wonder what you put on your skin?

Think about your masculine Gillette shaving cream for sensitive skin or your jazzy Revlon Colorstay lipstick? You actually think these personal care products are safe? I did, until I reviewed their toxicity levels now available at Skin Deep, a free, online database provided by the Environmental Working Group, which document toxins in our hair, skin, makeup, and personal care products. Yes, they have men and women products available for review (by brand, by type, etc.) These toxins, while deadly and crazy scary are fairly easy to determine through a red, yellow and green color coding system. The brand reports commonly explain how the basic ingredients used in your product of choice impact Neurotoxicity, Endocrine disruption, Persistence and bioaccumulation. Scary shit!

Skin Deep also helps fuel the nationwide Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of public health, educational, labor, women, environmental and consumer groups working to protect the health of consumers and workers by requiring the health and beauty industry to phase out the use of dangerous chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives. Let's just say that L’Oreal, Revlon, Avon and few others weren't every happy about this campaign. Through the Campaign, as of May 2007 over 500 companies have joined the effort by signing the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. Environmental Working Group is a founding partner of the Campaign.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Leaf Letters

When is the last time you sent a card? I'm not referring to a card where you simply sign your name and seal the envelope. A real card with a real message that isn't printed with some cheezy gold lettering in old English style writing. For those close friends and relatives that truly know me, I prefer the "no card means no trash" approach and typically like to send e-cards or emails. Some of you lucky friends have seen my real handwriting.

If only we could adopt an ancient Japanese approach to communication, right? In Japan, people used leaves as a tool in which to exchange their messages. This form is known as hagaki - the Japanese postcard. A design concept known as leaf letter takes this idea of writing on leaves and brings it into modern times. With the spread of personal computers and mobile devices, we are beginning to seem further away from nature. Their design focuses on a question of wondering can sending a message on a leaf, reduce our distance between nature and one another,
by reviving the hand-written letter? To see additional printing concepts, click here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vampire Suck

Vampires love blood - always have and always will. It is like a jolt of electricity that gets them going. Even today, vampires still exist.

Certain electronics such as laptops, televisions, and especially cell phone chargers continue to draw power even when you are not using them. It is called the "vampire suck" and you can kill them at the source by using handy devices that have on/off switches.
Devices like the WattStopper and the Smart Strip Power Strip can be ordered online or used in tandem with special surge protectors. They perform the same task that basically save power by plugging your desktop, printer, and fax machine through a "smart" power strip. Smart strips can sense when electronics are idle and simple cut off the power flow to vampires. Give it a try and see the electric bills reduce over time.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The N Word

So here we are in the year 2010, and I've been thinking of some things that have been missing. Shouldn't we already have flying cars? Better infrastructure? More telecommuting? We live in a digital age and we still can't get things right such as dog food free of fertilizers or E.coli in your burgers.

To make this conversation a bit more intellectual, I'd like to discuss nuclear power. Yes, the "n" word of 2010. Many countries are scared by the potential dangers of nuclear power. I'm not talking in the form of weapons, but more so the use of energy. Honestly, they should be given the hazards of towns melting down and radioactive waste that has to be stored.

Yet one particular country is in a unique bind - France. Since the oil shocks in the mid 1970's, the nation built a network of reactors (59 to be exact as of 2008) that now produce roughly four-fifths of the country's electricity. That is pretty amazing, but why? France has no oil, no coal and thus no choice! Secondly, a majority of their political leaders are trained scientists and brilliant in various disciplines. And last but not least, they choose nuclear because quite frankly the decision-making process has been centralized. So while they might be energy independent, is it perhaps at too high of a cost or risk? Are we overlooking that the byproduct is simply radioactive and where do we store it?

Source Stats: National Geographic, 2009

The Wave Hub Project

If you haven’t heard of the Low Carbon Economic Area, then tune in because the U.K. government just invested £20 million in a project known as The Wave Hub Project. It got the thumbs up from the South West RDA (Regional Development Agency) to be a groundbreaking renewable energy project to create the UK's first offshore facility to operate wave energy arrays. In simple terms, kick ass buoys that harness energy from waves/ocean currents.

Imagine this as an underwater grid. Sure, there are cables, sea beds, sand dunes and aquatic life – all of which live in harmony. The area, 1km x 2km, will have a leasing option for developers to begin installation from 2010 and going forward. Some leases will run for five years, perhaps longer; however, the kicker is each developer can generate a maximum of 4-5MW of power.

Source: BBC News, 2009

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Seoul Cycle

Ivy (by Sono Mocci from Italy) is one of many creative, cool design entries from more than 3000 participants in the recent DesignBoom competition, Seoul Cycle Design Competition 2010. While it might be irrelevant that the design is made of plastic (i.e. metal rusts quite easily), potentially too thin, etc, it is more about ideation. Features can easily be augmented and adjusted accordingly. Rather, it is simply the concept and notion of how competition helps us brew creative ideas. Inspired by nature, the design of this cable wire lock is mimicry of ivy. It is unified in our daily scene and promotes protection of the environment. This is a classic example of true biomimicry and as the competition unfolds, more brilliant ideas are being shared. While the awareness is spreading, many have their eye on the prizes and awards in three main categories of cycle design, cycle fashion and accessories and cycle infrastructure (storage and equipment).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rachel Carson Legacy Conference

The conference opens with views of a sustainable future, and a message from Senator Casey urging support for his legislation rescinding the Marcellus Shale exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act.This conference examines the health, environmental and community effects we will experience from Marcellus Shale drilling and offers solutions from other places.

As we urge precautions to be taken to protect our air, water and fertile land from the effects of development, we also continue to focus on building the infrastructure, economic and social structure to move to a renewable and sustainable energy base soon. Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert of Sweden, founder of The Natural Step framework and principles will give the keynote address, followed by Mayor Ken Melamed of Whistler British Columbia whose community has implemented a sustainable policy. There will be several presenters discussing energy systems based on wind, solar, anaerobic digestion of municipal sewage or dairy manure to produce methane in a sustainable way while solving other water and land use issues. This is a provocative discussion with an eye toward moving forward now to a sustainable future.

Register at

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Plastic to Cash - The Giving Cycle

Funny how the economy continues to thin out jobs for hard, working individuals that pay taxes and actually spend money towards sustainable items. Which brings me to the idea of giving to others? Why is it that some people give and often give more while others continue to consume without any regard? How do we change this disgusting habit? Surprisingly this isn't a new concept. We have been trying to change our ways for sometime, yet often fail and resort back to our Neanderthal ways.

Well, kudos to one Cleveland-based company named Earthworks System. They just aren't any old company buying and selling resins, exporting scrap and developing recycling programs. They are special because they too are part of the continuous "giving cycle." With the holidays approaching, millions of the plastic cards are heading for the hands of joyous consumers. The sad part is those ignorant fools are sending those cards to the landfills once they get their kicks of buying more consumer based goods. This thought actually inspired a Cleveland-Solon man to develop a new recycling method used today at Earthworks System.

The principle is simple.

They collect polyvinyl chloride scrap left over from the card manufacturing process, discontinued stock, canceled jobs, and spent cards. Card manufacturers and distributors donate most of the PVC, with retailers and individuals supply the rest. Earthworks then ships the plastic to a manufacturer where it's shredded and pressed into plastic sheets, ready to be made into new cards. With only being founded in 2005, the company has recycled nearly 4 million pounds of plastic. And funny how simple things can go viral, too.. An employee at an Ace Hardware in Sacramento, CA, learned about Earthworks online and mailed an envelope stuffed with a couple hundred spent gift cards.

What's next on your list to recycle?

Source: Plain Dealer News

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Atlantic Garbage Path

It only seems logical that the Pacific Gyre (Largest Garbage Patch) would have a twin in the Atlantic Ocean, right? The swirl and splashing of ropes, diapers and plastic bins is likely to make any fish hungry for more plastic pellets. The new patch located closer to Portugal's Azore Islands is really a sore sight as well as other larger concentrations between 22 to 38 degrees North Latitude equivalent to the area between Cuba and Washington, D.C.

With no true realistic, technological means of cleaning up our one-an-only ocean, the goal by oceanographers and scientists is to raise awareness to challenge our dirty culture to switch to biodegradable products which are often more expensive for common, everyday products. As the plastic counter continues to click, landfills and oceans also continue to overflow and overstock on with some of the most disgusting, leaky junk imaginable.

To learn more about the 6,000+ plastic samples pulled for research, be sure to check out the Algalita Marine Research Foundation based in Long Beach, CA, or the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

GINA - BMW's Concept Car

Our human skin is designed to be light, flexible and functional. It is our largest organ of the body designed with a purpose. What if that purpose was integrated into design for everyday products? Essentially, biomimicry is shifting from applying nature’s design to solve problems to now applying human elements to design, form and function. As for BMW, see how this company is integrating design on a whole new radical scale when it comes to industrial design, sustainability and more with a concept car called GINA. GINA, which stands for Geometry In “N” (infinite number) of Adaptations.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

80 Days Around the World on Renewable Energy

Is it possible to make a tour around the world in 80 days with emission-free vehicles? Five teams from four continents are taking up the challenge. The Zero Emissions Race event aims to generate popular enthusiasm for the use of renewable energy sources for vehicles and set the highest environmental standards for the future. An enthusiastic event focused on sustainability, mobility and transport. More interestingly, the requirement for each team is to produce their own electricity using renewable sources such as solar, wind, wave and or geothermal. This electricity must be then fed into the grid system in the home country of each team, so that during the race, the equivalent can be harnessed to power the vehicles along the worldwide journey.

As of August 16th, they hit the road! It's the Swiss team in the Zerotracer come in tight behind South Korea's Power Plaza EV. Followed by the Australians as they pass up the German's Vectrix motorcycle. Day after day...the blog entries are recorded and shared with laughter and excitement as the teams' journey starts in Geneva (Switerland), takes them across 16 countries with stops in approximately 150 major cities, and the event is planned to be completed in 80 days (excluding ocean crossings). To learn more about the race, click here.

The Wind Blows at Night

It is no surprise that the mid-section of the U.S. is really the ideal hot spot for wind activity. Most of us Sustainos know that the best time to harvest the wind is at night (or perhaps during storms). Yet, there is good news on the horizon that our government entities might have underestimated our nation's wind potential. After reworking the numbers, The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) highlights that onshore wind could generate 37 million gigawatts per year.
A hard number to grasp, right? Put it like this, 10 megawatts (MW) can power 64,000 homes. Thus 1 gigawatt (GW) can power several large cities or one large space station. So, 37 million GW is a huge potential for the U.S.

The only thing that I would like to see is the measurement of off shore wind (e.g. Great Lakes). And we know it is possible as is the case of The Horns Rev 2 Project, Denmark's largest off shore wind project (photo above). It has 91 beautiful beasts that supports 200,000 homes. Of course on the Great Lakes our measurement could be based on wind censors placed on test turbines, buildings near the lake, buoys and other locations. Advancements have already been made by Cleveland State University (turbines on the water tower) and Case Western Reserve University, but I feel we are still far away until ordinances and regulations catch up to our modern day progressive thinking! When is the last time you saw a working on shore or off shore wind turbine?

Image Source: Recharge and Fast Company 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Quick Charge

There is nothing more beautiful to us Sustainos than seeing more renewable, sustainable technologies integrated into our infrastructure. The race continues with more investments and competition unfolding in the EV market. It seems like only yesterday (actually it was May 15), when Nissan LEAF, a zero-emission, all-electric vehicle opened reservations to the general public. Now, our nation is seeing more cities open quick charging stations for electric vehicles like this week in in Portland, Oregon. Operated by Portland General Electric (GE), the station is capable of recharging an electric vehicle in 20 to 30 minutes. It was the lucky Governor Ted Kulongoski, who was the first man to charge a Nissan Leaf from the new station. Portland has been tagged as one of the top markets for the first wave of EVs, and I'm sure we will be seeing more communities revisiting their green initiatives to bring in federal funds, keep citizens happy and promote viable healthy living.

But what about the competition when it comes to healthy living and working? With the launch of the WattStation, GE continues to push hard with strong innovation and design of electrical distribution systems. GE’s WattStation enables fast level 2 charging at home and on the road. This is important because...

Level 1 is your standard household current (120Volt) and charges at a rate of 4-6 miles per hour of charging. Level 2 is like a dryer plug and charges at 240V 30 amps up to 90A. That's a range of from 18 miles to as much as 80 miles per hour of charge. Level 1 & 2 have been standardized in the U.S. under something called SAE J1772. Level 3 has not been standardized. (as per EV expert, and Plug in America board member, Paul Scott)

So, what is cool to me is this modular design crafted by famous industrial designer Yves Behar, who I was fortunate enough to meet at the Opportunity Green conference at UCLA. He (and GE) make each station future proof, allowing customers to easily upgrade as more communication options become available. This allows citizens to stay current with the latest technology in a rapidly changing space, while providing the ability for commercial property owners to qualify for LEED points. A great compliment to both!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Giant Ivanpah

California's Mojave Desert just turned up the heat. US DoE had approved a $1.37B loan guarantee to BrightSource Energy for the construction of the 392-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. The plan is to build next to a flat, dry, ancient lakebed about 4.5 miles from the gambling resort of Primm, Nev.

This massive solar thermal facility has been recommended for approval by the California Energy Commission. Reportedly, it will generate enough electricity to power 140,000 homes. This massive collection of mirrors, each measured at 7 feet by 10.5 feet, form a circular pattern totaling over 300,000. At its core are power towers, where the mirrors on the arrays reflect the sun's energy to a dedicated tower. This iconic tower boils water to steam that travels through long pipes to provide power to a turbine. See the video showcasing BrightSource Energy's research work in Israel's Negev Desert.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gasland - Free Film

Join in for a free community screening of GASLAND, an eye-opening film about the controversial form of gas drilling called "fracking."

Time: 6pm
Date: August 5th
Location: 518 Foreland Street, Pittsburgh, PA

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," is a process to extract oil and natural gas deep within the earth. Drillers blast water, sand and chemicals 8,000 feet into the ground. The natural gas industry says fracking will create jobs and provide cheap energy for decades. But the truth is that fracking poses a serious threat to clean air and water, biodiversity, and the health of our communities. Companies are now drilling, or seeking to drill, all throughout the Marcellus Shale: a region in the Appalachian Basin that includes large chunks of Pennsylvania which contain largely untapped natural gas reserves. And Halliburton is building a huge outpost in Williamsport, PA to service decades of drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

The PA Department of Environmental Protection has granted five permits for fracking sites in Allegheny County. They list two of those sites as "active."

About GASLAND - When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. A recently drilled nearby Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND. Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown."

Gasland website -

Marcellus Shale Info -

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Window Farms

You can grow up to 25 fresh live vegetable plants - lettuce, herbs, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, peppers, kale, small squash, edible flowers, and many more in a normal 4'x 6' window in your home. That could be a salad a week. What if you had a kit to help you during those days you forget to water? Or what if you want a plant that you can’t kill because you don’t have a green thumb?

That was the exact idea that entrepreneurs, Britta Riley and
Rebecca Bray, had in mind when the Window Farm Project was born. The goal is to empower urban dwellers to grow some of their own food inside year-round. Many neighborhoods (particularly low income ones) in cities around the world are considered food deserts, meaning little fresh food is easily accessible. Residents tend to consume processed, packaged, and canned food having depleted nutrients. It is estimated that with current US industrial food production, it takes 7-10 calories of fossil fuels to produce 1 calorie of food. Furthermore, many of the vegetables we get at the store have lost a good deal of their nutritional value in transit.

Since the pub
lic launch last year, the community of window farmers have contributed innovations from the perspective of end uses that helped evolve the Window Farms designs through more than 12 sub-versions. Today, that community has grown to more than 13,000 members around the world. The project has been featured on NPR's Weekend Edition, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and in dozens of publications. Get your starter kit and being growing!

Source: and Design Boom

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Urban Art

The urban land artist, Anna Garforth from the UK integrates her interest in urban ecology and sustainability through her creative practice. Some of us know this art as "graffiti art" and it crosses many different mediums such as reusing materials, plants, moss, reverse graffiti, chalk, or the use of other natural resources. Various activities have driven her to discover and understand more about her natural surrounding and express this passion through the following projects.

Rethink is an installation set up in front of regents canal in London, England which is an electrical power site with two main resources: gas and water. This simple word communicates a need to rethink what our society consumes and how we collectively use our resources.

Head Gardener is a guerrilla gardening project. The approach involves turning milk bottles into characters with plant hair styles. Some of these guys took to the streets, while others couldn't handle getting their hair wet.

Have you seen any local graffiti art? Share with us on Twitter @GoSustaino and Facebook.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Yves Behar resurfaces again this week with recognition for Fuseproject. I had the opportunity of meeting him in person at UCLA during the November Opportunity Green conference. A passionate industrial designer, innovative, one who found his own path, with a focus on environmentally friendly products. For those who don't know who is Yves Behar, you might be familiar some of this projects.

(Birkenstock Gardening clogs, One Laptop Per Child, Mission Motors, and Puma packaging)

Yves focuses on humanistic design and the "giving" element of his profession, creating projects that are in tune with sustainable practices and mindful of human emotions and the enablement of self-expression. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the prestigious National Design Award for Industrial Design, which celebrates design as a 'vital humanistic tool shaping the world' - awarded by Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum. He has also received the INDEX: Design to Improve Life, "Community" award for his role in creating the "XO" laptop. Go Yves! Go Sustaino!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Portable Gardens

Italian designer Gionata Gatto has more than a green thumb. Inspired by small scape gardening, culture and beauty, his sustaino idea has taken gardening to a whole new level – portable with style.Users can grow vegetables and fruits on each side of the structure; approximately 36-plants can be grown vertically. We urbanites call them "urbanbuds" to reference the portable, vertical nature of green modern day gardening. Shaped like a suitcase and designed for easy watering, weeding, mobility and moisture and soil control through proper potting. This could offer new inspiration for inner city gardening, portable farmer's market in tight NYC-style streets and backyard educational workshops. Go Gatto! Go Sustaino!

Source: DesignBoom

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mandating Bike Spaces

Move over car parking lots and make way for bicycles. It's part of the Mejor en Bici program in Buenos Aires - a city known its tango music, high crime, and of course, bike theft. The program is designed to force private parking lots availability or space for bicycles. The most important part of the program is the obligation for all private parking lots to offer 8 bike spots for every 50 vehicle spots they have, at a rate that can never be higher than 10% of the car fare.

This new government law aims to place 350 new bike racks all over the city and is announcing another 550 will be put to tender. The idea is to place these next to subway stations. They're also building parking facilities next to train stations, which will offer whole day parking for the very cheap price of one peso (about 25 US dollar cents), the first one next to major transport hub Constitucion.

It's good to see local governments try to reduce traffic congestion, pollution, and road rage. Next on the horizon would be a bike sharing program similar to London and Montreal.

Summer Flings with Frisbees

There is nothing better than integrating sports and sustainability. The values of working hard and playing hard go hand in hand especially for the summer. You know how it goes - summer flip flops, plastic beach balls, sun tan lotion - the works. Even better in my opinion are summer frisbee games (or ultimate frisbee for the hard core fans).

Interestingly, I recently came across frisbees that are made by Ethix Ventures. This is not your typical sweatshop-made, petro-based gift. These are the real thing, a true gift, that is printed with union labor in the
Bronx, NY. I'm pretty certain this non-toxic toy will be long lasting for any dog, family or game because the company considers the life cycle of their sports products along with labor standards, recycled content and biodegradable materials.

Another cool thing is that readers of the blog and friends of green sports have the chance to get your own frisbee by clicking here.
Solidiarity eXchange is the program organized at Ethix, trying to steer more purchasing dollars to buy things that promote labor and environmental justice. Click, tell a friend and play!

Reduce and Get Paid

We all become forgetful. Even with our technology gadgets, sexy electronics, and automatic reminders, we still forget to set it, click it, share it and understand it. However, what if we had reminders with an incentive - a cash, money incentive - that had your interest at heart as well our lovely planet. Why not?

Earth Aid does exactly that! It is online program that educates, rewards, monitors and reminds consumers of new trends in energy efficiency. Members will be asked to connect to the local power company, water and gas company. Once a member, Earth Aid will monitor each member’s energy consumption. The goal is that with energy efficiency tips, members will conserve resources as well as save money. As a reward, local businesses offer the discounts for their services to the degree of energy saved by the member.

Image Source: Ode Magazine, 2009

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sexy Solar

I love the solar industry. It's mature, predictable, has a reliable energy source (compared to wind) and is even sexy. Yes, I said it - sexy!

Forget the bulk, heavy panels when one can opt for slim, sexy, photovoltaic that can be applied to rooftops, posts, shingles and more. One company that can do this is SRS Energy of Philadelphia that designs the curved solar roofing application. Basically, the silicon cells are bonded to special tiles, often made of the same materials as car bumpers.

A solar tile-based system that meets half the power needs for a typical CA home would cost roughly $20,000 to install after rebates. In the example above in the Bermuda Dumes, CA home, a four-hour job. See more details here.

Source: NY Times, 2009

Monday, July 19, 2010

Milking Algae for Oil

I traveled on a plane Saturday morning and headed to the Sunshine State (FL) for a family reunion. Though I've made this trip hundreds of times already since I was eight years old (back then a child could safely travel solo), I saw cotton ball clouds, white sandy beaches, and green water. The Atlantic had me comparing it to the algae-filled Lake Erie. I lived next to the one of the largest fresh water assets of the Great Lakes. I've seen needles wash up on shore, zebra mussels claim their territory and recently heard about an infamous dumper of cooking oil in the open water. Yet one of our greatest assets might be that wonderful, green algae.

Research is continuously underway to figure out exactly how to milk algae. That's right, NPR (Science Friday) covered a great story of how to milk algae like a factory for energy/oil. Of course, this is not any ordinary algae, diatoms, almost 200,000 species, can give us the potential for oil and gasoline. Perhaps through genetic manipulation, these single cell algae beasts can be kept "alive" or "reused" for continuous production.

But where does one find our special little, green friends? The rich diatoms are in the scum of aquariums or even your pool. The secret ingredient is basic moisture and sunlight. Let's get cookin' and make some oil!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Good Eats

Food, glorious food. Oliver sang it well.

The color of our food is equally important as the type of food we put into our bodies everyday. If food wasn't appealing to look certainly would not be appetizing. As foodies from another the world are smelling, eating and sharing their joys,
photographer and food stylist Linda Lundgren is capturing our "good eats" one shot at a time.

In her work, she organized her food by color to create a series of photos that showcase some of the most common food hues from yellow to red, blue, and green. The photos not only contain foods that are a specific color but also
food packaging. It's a completely unique perspective that blends color along with packaging and art.

Source: Design Boom

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hot in the City

Celebrating our nation's independence goes beyond fireworks and city parades. It is a time when kids make stale old popcorn and try to sell for a $1.00 after the parade. Then their cute smiles make you feel guilty and you purchase a sugary cup of lemonade for another $1.00. What ever happened to paying a quarter?

Well, we do live in America. Land of the free. Free markets. Free parking. Even free runs through water sprinklers that look like the Earth!

I couldn't help capturing the irony that I saw in this as the kid flagged us down, literally, with this red, white and blue marketing prop that lead us to his popcorn stand. While the ice caps are melting and the oil is spilling, it made me smile to see the Earth peeing fresh water from various continents. It surely was a hot one that day, and luckily I received a free sprinkler run around the globe.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

American Solar Challenge 2010

Today we recognize multiple Sustainos from the 2010 American Solar Challenge. This is a competition to design, build, and drive solar-powered cars in a cross-country rally event. Teams compete in a 1,100 mile drive from Broken Arrow, OK to Naperville, IL. The route was chosen to combine pieces of old routes used in previous events, giving a bit of an historical tribute for the 20 years of organized events in North America.

The winner was University of Michigan's Infinium car. It was U of M's third straight national championship and sixth overall. The car crossed the line after six days on the road with an average speed of 40 mph. The second place winner was University Minnesota with their 400-pound beast of fiberglass composite. The next Challenge is set for October 2011. The competition, billed as the world's premier solar racing event, runs every two years.

Source: Treehugger and American Solar Challenge

Food Solutions

Can the food you choose play a role in chronic pain and symptom management?

Join Dr. James N. Dillard, formally and uniquely trained in three health professions—acupuncture, chiropractic and conventional medicine—for a day of discovery and innovative hands-on cooking in a supportive environment. Dr. Dillard will discuss evidence-based causes of chronic pain, explore pro-inflammatory dietary habits and explain how he helps patients navigate from illness to wellness with conventional and unconventional modalities. The day will close with a panel discussion of medical, nutrition and culinary experts.

Early Registration : $60 (by July 16th). Registration : $80 per ticket
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
9AM – 2:30PM
Urban Zen Center at the Stephan Weiss Studio
711 Greenwich Street at Charles Street
New York, NY 10014

For more information, please email or call 1.212.414.8520.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunshine Bamboo Inn

A team of Chinese students from Tongji university has designed and built the Sunshine Inn (aka uber cool bamboo house) as an official entry into the first European Solar Decathlon in Madrid, Spain. Of course it is made of bamboo; however, the reduced carbon dioxide levels throughout the whole production phase. The raw material is also locally cultivated and has a very short and efficient renewable cycle of 5 years.

The house also features two curved roofs and a solar-facing wall which are covered top to bottom with PV panels that can generate enough energy to sustain the house, and potentially sell back to the grid. Another highlight is the innovative interior wall covering, which utilizes phase change materials (such as those used in heat packs) to heat and cool the house.

Source: Design Boom

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I recently came across the Zerotracer, a two-man electric motorcycle with an uber, exterior, kevlar shell. The motorcycle is the creation of four, young Swiss designers at DesignWerk who created the vehicle to compete in the ‘around the world in 80 days’ electric vehicle race.

The design has some serious stats including a 350km range with a top speed of 250 km/h. Can you say X-Prize? It certainly seats two in tandem inside, and with lithium ion batteries that can be fully charged in 2 hours. When you watch the video, be sure to note design feature of unique training wheels that move out when traveling at low speeds.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Power of DC

The Power of DC is an annual racing event. This year it took place in Hagerstown, Maryland (June 5-6) and what attracts car enthusiasts to this event is pure electric! Production electric vehicles, some modified, batteries, and racing all in one. It's one of the best events for electric and hybrid autocross along with the NEDRA drag race. Check out Don Auker's electric Tesla vs Shawn Lawless' (OBS-Orange Blossom Special) electric junior dragster driven by Chip Gribben in 2009. While the goal is to win and beat the clock, the spectators appreciate the more quite sound of the zooming engines.

Nokero LED

Can you image paying $15 for a light bulb?

What if I told you that it is rainproof, made from impact resistant plastic, has four solar panels, a replaceable and rechargeable battery, plus five light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

The Nokero LED is the world's first solar light bulb, and the company is on a mission to replace kerosene lanterns and work with NGOs. To see some of the everyday applications from natural disasters, to recreation and domestic living, check out their site here.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chevron Spills in Salt Lake City

Our corporate entities have been in a new rhythm as Chevron joins the pedestal with their Salt Lake City oil spill. A underground pipeline has leaked at least 400 to 500 barrels of oil into the Red Buttle Creek leaving the Canadian geese and ducks with a new brown glow. Spewing about 50 barrels per minute, this unique pipe flows to Salt Lake City from Colorado and feeds the city's oil and gas refineries. The birds where taken to Hogle Zoo, dead fish were already found in Liberty park, and oil has been spotted four miles down the Jordan River.

One would question that with the recent Deep Water Horizon disaster, that corporations would be investigating and monitoring their operating lines/wells. However, that would call for more money to pay wages to weekly employees or outside contractors. Week after week our nation seems to have a crisis - explosion at WW Massey coal mine, Deep Water Horizon, methane explosion in Texas, Marcellus Shale drilling, etc. If you believe that all of this is simply out of your control, then I would strongly urge you to get off your seat and change your attitude. Thousands are disgusted; yet many are organizing a coordinated march to Washington, D.C. The goal is to demand transformation on energy reform and request immediate change in the handling of the Deep Water Horizon event. Join us and Reclaim Our America!

Image Source: Huffington Post

Friday, June 11, 2010

Why Food Matters

It is remarkable how much progress the sustainable food movement has made in the last 18 months. Only a few years ago, in 2006, Michael Pollan’s best-selling book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma was published, highlighting 40 years of a movement and building off the wisdom of J.I. Rodale, Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson and countless other visionaries who believed that growing food in ways that improved human health, the environment, soil and communities was the best approach to an agriculture that could renew the American spirit rather than degrade it.

After years of wandering in the wilderness, the sustainable food movement has gone mainstream. Just last month Time magazine celebrated four sustainable food thinkers and doers among The 2010 Time 100 List. For those who still haven’t seen a copy of the magazine, joining Michael Pollan in the 2010 Time 100 List are Will Allen, Milwaukee urban farmer and MacArthur Genius award winner, Temple Grandin, the renowned animal scientist and Kathleen Merrigan, current Deputy Secretary at the U.S Department of Agriculture. Together, we continue to make history, proving that a united community can make positive change.

Source: Food Democracy Now and Babble Photo