Friday, January 29, 2010

Go Organic As Possible (OAP)

Almost two years now that I’ve been a vegetarian. I had a few slips over the family holidays as to not offend the chef. Yet, through my journey I found a new love with my summer CSA program, found that Sashi Sushi is best in the U.S., and never knew how awesome local goat cheese could be on my lips. To be clear, most vegetarians eat fish, honey, eggs, cheese and butter. It’s the Vegans who don’t eat anything that has been produced by an animal. Hence, the mention of honey as some believe that bees are being exploited.

Simply put...I'm against factory farming.

I want to eat meat that is grass-feed meat
and from free roaming animals, organic, not those that have been genetically modified, forced fed antibiotics or grown in a vat. I have managed to stay away from all milk and butter. As an alternative, I’m now addicted to my morning cereal with soymilk and use olive oil for all my cooking.

The truth is I can’t find any decent meat that is grass-feed or reasonably priced. Granted, I don’t waste my money on junk food, cookies, or alcohol and can afford shopping in the organic aisle. But what about those on food stamps who can barely get by today? Two or three dollars goes a long way at McDonald’s yet we are paying for it on the back end with rising obesity cases, diabetes, high blood pressure and other healthcare costs. I haven’t even begun to comment on pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, and other yummy preservatives in our food system. I’ll save that for another post. Yet, when you have the opportunity to choose your food, I hope you choose wisely. My vote is to stop factory farming at your MOUTH and go OAP – organic as possible.

Image Source:
Frederique Morrel Needlework

Monday, January 25, 2010

Give Us EVs

With my morning coffee half way gone and a quick review of Wired News, something disturbing occurs to me as I read the latest report IHS Global Insight on EV technology and plug-in hybrids. Sure, it is easy to imagine that 20% of our market can comprise plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles. DUH! But we continue to talk about plug-in hybrids as the next best thing for the U.S.!

Come on...we already have 100% EV options! Why do we continue to talk about plug-in hybrids? We need to simply get off the dependency of foreign and domestic oil that we continue to rely on for daily transportation (not just cars; of course, there are buses, motorcycles, and trucks). President Obama has already set aside $2.4 billion as a catalyst for research and development, and if that is not enough motivation, then look at the proof of what other manufacturers have already accomplished.

Nissan LEAF, Mini E, RAV4 EV, FT-EV II, GM Volt, Tesla Motors, and I have not even begun to mention some of the electric motorcycles.

The media should stop telling us that plug-in hybrids are the next best thing since sliced bread. We have the technology, brains, money and creativity to go beyond that and develop beautiful, functional, long-lasting electric vehicles for all types of families (yes, soccer moms and Mr. CEO...those cars are already available to you).

As we work on the challenges of battery life, charging infrastructure, and general renewable energy, folks just can't wait for the opportunity to drive on electricity. I was fortunate enough to drive a MINI-E for a whole weekend in Los Angeles during the Opportunity Green Conference this past November. Smooth, quiet, regenerative brakes is something that just didn't fit in my stocking that Christmas. However, I am continuously pleased to see the amount of excitement on both coasts to tap into zero emission vehicles. I encourage each of you to get out of your bubble, learn one or two cool new facts about EV technology and report back to me on this blog. I want to hear about your EV adventures and see how the U.S. can turn things around with an electric buzz.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kennedy vs. Blankenship

The mountain top debate unfolded last week at the University of Charleston, West Virginia. A selected few, of 950 environmentalists, residents and politicians, including the famous Alec Baldwin all gathered to hear the point of view of two important individuals.

It was environmental attorney, Bobby Kennedy, Jr. versus CEO of Massey coal, Don Blakenship. While you can imagine the coal topic was heated on multiple fronts, the structured debate focusing on production and consumption had the local and online media on the edge of their seats. From putting food on the table and paying mortgages to destroying creek beds and polluting the water supply...everyone was glued in for 90-minutes. To see more updates, read here.

Image Source: Huffington Post

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Solar Hope in Haiti

What do Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and the latest horrible earthquake in Haiti all have in common?

This cheap, reliable, solar lighting system from Sol. This is not the first time this company has reached deep down and donated supplies. Their units along with roughly $300,000 are helping to keep food distribution centers and hospitals up and running after dark.

In addition, other companies such as Netherlands based Invitation have delivered over 1,000 solar phones with built-in solar chargers. Even Faith Comes by Hearing has donated 600 solar powered audio bibles that broadcast scriptures in Haitian Creole, which is helping to prevent violence during these times of chaos.

Help the planet. Help the people. Donate to the Red Cross, click here.

Image Source: Fast Company

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cutting Wisely

A new standard unfolds for 2010 from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. It was under an 18-month public review and addresses key changes to conservation to biodiversity, fiber sourcing, bioenergy, logging training and much more. What does this mean for businesses today?

The SFI requires its program participants to be strong stewards by reaching out and partnering with non-certified family forest owners. The goal is to protect the endangered species of wood fiber, protect the watershed quality and promote reforestation. While the program is taken very seriously, it cannot certify forests outside of North America. However, their work does have a global impact and global reach as they push to improve forest practices. To find out more of the details on the offshore risk assessments, click here.

Image Source: GreenBiz 2009

Monday, January 18, 2010

Flying Solar Around the World

Adventurer Bertrand Piccard circumnavigated the Earth in a hot-air balloon. Now he offers us a new challenge and shares his own plans to do what many say can't be done - to fly around the world, day and night, in a solar-powered aircraft.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

BPA Alerts

The FDA has finally stepped up to the plate as they shift their position and have formally declared concerned about the notorious bisphensol-A (BPA) chemical often found in food packaging and plastic bottles. BPA has been extensively researched and has gained infamous press coverage for "leaching out" of polycarbonate. Basically, those toxins are breaking down and presenting themselves into whatever is contained in the plastic. A classic example is Nalgene, manufacturer of drinking containers. I give them credit for quickly eliminating water bottles from the shelves of Dicks Sporting Goods and REI stores and now marketing BPA-free products.

According to the New York Times,
the FDA said Friday that it had “some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children,” and would join other federal health agencies in studying the chemical in both animals and humans. Don't you think the other sustainos out there have already figured that out? Now why would they all of sudden shift their position? Evidence and research have clearly been made available for years. Why now? New medical or manufacturing contracts?

The research, backed by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, the EPA, NIH and well documented in Nature and Science have explained that this nasty environmental contaminant is the devil on your endocrine system, especially for children going through puberty. Scientists are still divided as to what types of "diseases and cancer" it causes. Some just to name a few include breast and prostate cancer, ADHD, and type 2 diabetes. Others are worrying that BPA affects the maturing brain in unspecified ways. According to an article quoting the National Institute of Environmental Health Science’s Chris Portier as saying that “there’s sufficient evidence now to give people who want to be prudent—especially parents—a reason to avoid BPA.”

Image Source: Flickr:
Parents and stores are ditching baby products that contain the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA for alternative products like these drinking bottles made from polyethyl styrene.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Smart Thermostat

From time to time, I report on uber, techy devices that have a sustainable focus. Whether it is the triple bottom line, metrics, or biomimicry, more brands in the consumer electronics category are carving out a green niche, and a profitable one, too.

Next up is Silver PAC - an intelligent thermostat designed to manage energy usage in one's home through a sexy, interactive touchscreen. No fancy buttons, just a slick interface that is visual and graphical on a 7" display that illustrates patterns in energy usage. Equipped with WiFi, it can send real-time data straight to the utility plants (or perhaps your iPhone?). It is great for eliminating the need for monthly meter reads, even remote reads, given the advanced control system. While it might look a bit like "mission control", it is a new smart energy system that takes a closer look at the triple bottom line and brings innovation to your home.

Source: DesignBoom, January 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

2010 Solar Eclipse

The first solar eclipse of 2010 will take place today, January 15th. A great way to jump start the new year with a powerful, natural event. What is unique about this eclipse, is that it will be an "annual solar eclipse" which is different from a total solar eclipse given that the diameter of the moon seems smaller than the sun's diameter. This is because the moon is farther away from the Earth. The 11-minute show, at its peak, will mostly be seen by residents in Africa (where it begins), crossing over the India Ocean, and continues through China and other parts of Asia.

Image Source: NASA, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2010 Leagues Under the Sea

While many of us are trying to clean up our oceans, recycle or remove floating plastic in the North Pacific Gyre, others are designing sustainable structures that will clean waterways through sustainable practices.

Meet Physalia!

She is a prototype of an amphibious garden designed by Vincent Callebut Architectures. This floating beast of biomimicry aimed at going after the source and cleaning the nasties in our waterways. Her roof top has PV solar cells and a double pneumatic membrane. Under the belly are hydro-turbines for generating electricity and the surface is made from aluminum. There is also a silver-plated dressing covered by a TiO2 layer of anatase shapes that reacts to UV rays and reduces water pollution. To top it off, there are 4 garden themes of fire, air, water and earth, where the rooftop network filters the water and purifies it biologically. To read more details about the 2010 European program, click here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Zero Emission Research Station

The main Utsteinen, Antarctica research station has just turned up the heat in their new, Star-Trek futuristic pod. The Princess Elisabeth Station is the first zero emission scientific research station that has been designed to faciliate collaboration between the Belgian government and the International Polar Foundation. While a 16-man crew of scientists are busy measuring ice mass variations, climate change and taking pictures of penguins, the building is keeping its residents warm using primarily wind and solar technologies. With nine wind turbines (3 blade design), each generating 54 kwh of electricity, the self regulating rotors are ideal for shifting winds based on intensity and direction. Also, with two bioreactors and two heavy duty filtration units, 100% of the waste water is recycled and 75% is reused. Sounds like a place fit for a King, but indeed is the new age Princess Elisabeth Research Station.

Source: Ode Magazine and Belgian Antarctic Research Station, Jan. 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Running into Products

During my driving and research adventures, I often look for where the nearest Whole Foods is to me, I mean Whole Paycheck, or Nature's Bin and Trader Joe's. Often living in Ohio, there are limited options for good, wholesome grocery stores other than the classic Giant Eagle or Heinens, especially in the winter when farmer's markets are closed. Yet, what happens when you start to observe all the trendy sustainable canvas bags and mugs transition out of coffee shops, book stores, and gyms? They begin to hit you in the face or within isle dividers in your local grocery stores.

I literally ran into Aladdin's ($9.99) Recycled & Recyclable mugs with my shopping cart. These are colorful, earth friendly mugs, supposedly BPA-free, 100% recycled polyproplene, and dishwasher safe. Now, I'm a big advocate for bringing my own mug/container to my business meetings, while traveling, on-the-go, etc. But do I really need another one? Probably not thanks to Ecological Intelligence and consumerism. However, the idea is not enough products are made from recyclable content. We, as a market, continue to search for affordable, sustainable, practical products that fit in our special criteria boxes (fair trade, local, eco-friendly, Union, Made in the USA).And while I value those system beliefs, whatever, happened to basic functional design. Does it fit into my MINI-E cup holder? my solar powered tote? my LG dishwasher? And while all the answers might indefinitely be, "yes, of course", think next about what you put into these containers. Again, kudos to limited to no packaging!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Climate Dress

With the New Year ringing in, why not dress up our climate change egos with Diffus's Climate Dress. This Danish design company worked hard to raise awareness in Copenhagen as they laced up thousands of LEDs that respond to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. With an intelligent microprocessor and CO2 detector, this hot techy dress transmits the information to the hand-stitched lights that simply...light up depending on the amount of nasty, transparent, carbon in the air. Next, we will be wearing laced tree leaves to absorb daily carbon; however, here's to 2010 innovation and green technology.