Greenify Your Morning Coffee

July 29, 2008

I discovered a new way to greenify my mornings! You’ve heard of Fair Trade, shade grown and organically grown coffee. And now there is Solar Roast! Two brothers in Pueblo, CO roast coffee via the sun. Four years ago, Dave and Mike invented a solar coffee roaster using mirrors, a broccoli steamer and a satellite dish. Today they are the only commercial solar coffee roasters in the world. They have a coffee shop in Pueblo and also sell their coffee via retail and wholesale. As far as I could tell, only the Tanzania Peaberry is certified organic. Interestingly enough, carbon neutral roasting doesn’t take much longer than more conventional roasting.

One company has decided to revert back to the sailing days of old to beat fuel prices. The French shipping outfit Compagnie de Transport Maritime a la Volle (CMTV) chartered the Kathleen & May, a 106 year old tall ship, to transport 30,000 bottles of wine from Southern France to Dublin. The ship travels at half the speed of a modern cargo vessel at a top speed of 8 knots and emits exactly zero carbon dioxide. One could say that the voyage was a gimmick in order for the wine producers to Greenify their labels, but ultimately, the tall shops could turn into an economically viable means of transportation as oil prices keep increasing. CMTV has chartered four other ships to transport Fair Trade coffee (hear that Solar Roast?), jams and alcoholic beverages. Start your day off right and Greenify your morning cup of coffee!


Green Communities

July 25, 2008

How much more Green could one be than to live in a community powered completely by alternative energy? There are several communities where you can do just that if you so desire.

Johnny Depp’s island may be getting most of the press this week. Three years ago, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star purchased a 35 acre island in the Bahamas. Now Depp is purchasing a solar hydrogen energy system from New Jersey engineer Mike Strizki. The system first generates electricity via solar cells. Excess electricity powers an electrolyzer which separates a tank of water into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is released into the atmosphere and the hydrogen is stored, to be used in the winter or other times when the solar panels do not generate enough electricity. The price tag makes this system less than practical for most, ranging from $250,000 - $500,000, depending on the size of the home.

Rock Port, Missouri has become the first US town to be solely powered via wind generators owned by the Loess Hill Wind Farm. The rural town of 1,300 is in the midst of 75 wind turbines spread over three counties. However, only 4 turbines are needed to power all of Rock Port.

Drake Landing, a bedroom community of 52 homes, in Alberta, Canada is powered solely by solar energy. 800 solar panels line garage roofs supply 1.5 megawatts of electricity on a typical summer day. The homes have other green features including upgraded insulation, recycled materials incorporated into the drywall, superior insulation and more.

Rizhao, China is another solar powered city. Solar water heaters are used by 99% of all homes and the price of a new solar water heater is very close to that of a conventional water heater. Solar energy also powers traffic and street lights as well as 60,000 greenhouses.

All in all, these are some exciting starts to Greenifying our communities!


Five Green Myths

July 21, 2008

Myth: Screen savers save energy

Maybe. Screen savers were developed to prevent images from being burned into old CRT monitors (hence the name “screen saver”). LCD monitors are the most commonly used monitors these days and do not run the risk of images burning in. If your screen saver is blank – i.e. - black, yes, you will save some energy.

A better choice: Hibernate or sleep mode will save the most energy after actually turning your computer off.


Myth: Earth friendly groceries cost more and are always better for the environment

It depends. If you are buying organic vegetables grown on another continent or across the country, chances are they will indeed cost more than conventionally grown vegetables. And if you take into account the fuel used in transporting the vegetables to you, not much good is being done for the environment. On the other hand, if you visited a farmer’s market and purchased locally grown vegetables, the prices may be even lower than conventional vegetable grocery store prices. And with no added transportation, local vegetables are definitely better for the environment.

Another choice: Grow your own vegetables. Even an apartment balcony can hold a container or two of tomatoes or herbs.


Myth: Save gas by not using your car’s air conditioning

No, drag from open windows makes your car less aerodynamic and thus less efficient. If you are driving slowly in town, you may save a little by not using your air conditioning.

Other choices: Save gas by keeping your car properly tuned up, carpool, walk, bike or use public transportation.

Myth: It doesn’t matter what I do. I can’t save the planet alone

Small steps add up. One ream of 100 % recycled uncoated copy paper will save 40,000 BTU’s of energy, 5.3 pounds of greenhouse gases, 21.3 gallons of water and .6 trees. There are approximately 24 million businesses in the US. If each firm used only one ream of 100% recycled copy paper a year  - 960 billion BTU’s would be saved, 1.272 billion pounds of greenhouses gases saved, 5.112 billion gallons of water and 1.44 million trees.


Myth: There is only one way to Greenify

Nope. There are definitely better choices than others; but the number of ways to Greenify is only limited by our imagination. While it is true that corn and soybeans are not very efficient crops to turn into biodiesel, canola, hemp, flax and algae are. And that is only one example of looking for alternatives. I have been watching a new Wal-Greens being built in my neighborhood and cringe every time I look inside. I’d love to see some solar tubes being utilized to capture some daylight rather the fluorescent lights I see being installed.


Hawaii is Greenifying

July 17, 2008

Hawaii is making headlines in recent eco-news. 85% of Hawaii’s energy now comes from imported fossil fuels, but the tide is turning. New home construction is now required to include solar water heaters. Hawaii is the first state to mandate the solar water heaters, and about 20% of homes are currently equipped with them. Water heaters generally consume a quarter to almost half of all household power, although solar water heaters are almost ten times as expensive as traditional water heaters, the electric savings will recoup the expense in a few years.

Next in the eco-news is air conditioning. Downtown Honolulu will soon be welcoming a 25,000 ton seawater air conditioning district cooling system developed by Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning. The process should save up to 80 % of the electricity used for air conditioning. The process will actually only use the coolness of the sea water, rather than the actual sea water.

Another interesting project in the works is the development of an algae biodiesel plant. Algae may prove to be the best source of bio fuel we have available. The energy yield in an acre of algae is estimated to be at least 30 times more than that of soy beans or almost 13 times the amount of energy from corn. HR Biopetroleum is currently in negotiations with Maui Electric, Hawaiian Electric and Alexander and Baldwin to develop an algae facility in Maui.

Hawaii is still big on vacation plans and hoteliers are no strangers to greenifying. The Mauna Lani Resort was recently recognized by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, National Geographic Traveler Magazine and Golf Magazine for their eco-practices. Other green-friendly hotels include the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, the Kauai Marriott Resort and Spa, the nine Hilton properties and the 12 Starwood properties.

So, whether you are in Hawaii to work or play, your chances to Greenify are many!


More Ways to Greenify your Commute

July 15, 2008

Social networking has been helping us make new friends, find partners or new jobs. And now, the latest incarnation of social networking will help to greenify your commute! GoLoco.org is a new service, started by the same woman who founded ZipCar, which help you create your own personal public transportation network.

Coming to a car dealership near you in 2009 is the Th!nk City and the Th!nk Ox (yes, there really is an exclamation point there) 10,000 Th!nk City auto’s will be for sale in Europe during 2008 and Th!nk is planning on reaching the US market in 2009. The cars sell for about $25,000.00. The City charges overnight and can travel 124 miles on a single charge. The Ox which will be in production during 2010 will be able to travel between 125 miles and 155 miles on a single charge. Solar panels imbedded in the roof will keep the radio, instrument panel, air conditioning and navigation system fully charged.

You probably won't want to commute to work in a ZeroTruck, but if you own a delivery service, you might want to check it out. ZeroTrucks, a medium payload truck, will be launched during the fall of 2008 at the South Bay Truck Center in Carson, CA. The zero-emission electric truck has a 100 mile range, will charge overnight
and can haul between 4,000 and 6,000 pounds.


Green Resources Part 2

July 10, 2008

New links to Greenify have been coming our way fast and furiously. The Clothesnik from Reusenik.com eliminates the need for plastic bags from the dry cleaner. Simply take your clothes to the dry cleaners in the bag and ask them to use the 100% cotton bag to cover your clothes with when the clothes are cleaned. You will be in good company- Rob Reiner is a devotee!

An ingenious dance club Club 4 Climate is opening up this week in London. Club 4 Climate will waive the entry fee to any club goer who can prove they arrived via foot, bicycle or public transit. Green standards of low voltage lighting, organic and fair trade beverages and recycled materials are employed throughout the club as well as a grey water system to flush the toilets. But what really makes Club 4 Climate unique is where the power comes from. 60% of the power used is generated via the dance floor.

The British are on a roll this week. The BBC is looking for a UK-based couple getting married in 2008 and planning a green wedding. If you qualify and want to participate, contact Mark Wheeler at the BBC (mark.wheeler@bbc.co.uk).

And in other international green news, The Green School is opening up in Bali for pre-schoolers through 8th grade. The school is remarkably sustainable with organic vegetable and permaculture gardens; using a variety of organic materials to produce electricity; aquaculture ponds and more. They plan to accept international boarding students in the 7th grade and up.

And finally, the Kiwi from PLX Devices will help greenify your driving. The Kiwi is a diagnostic tool which can evaluate any inefficient driving patterns. It is reputed to save you up to 33% of your fuel usage!


Green Hotel Options

July 7, 2008

Vacation time is here! I’ve recently been doing some research on green vacations and green hotels and have been fascinated to see all the different ways hoteliers are making efforts to Greenify. Almost fifteen years or so ago, I remember thinking some hotels in Arizona to be extremely eco-minded in that they were working to conserve water by not washing towels or bedding every day.

And while that practice seems to be spreading nationwide, I’m glad that lots of new ideas are coming into vogue as well. The Environmentally Friendly Hotels website has gone into depth as to what each hotel in their database actually does to be green. You can plug a destination into their search engine such as “Sarasota” and all the hotels with green practices in that area will come up. The hotels are rated with one to seven trees depending on how many practices they follow and you can check out exactly what those green habits may be.

The Green Hotel Association maintains a list of green hotels both within the US and internationally.

Some of the new innovations in the green hotel industry include recycling buildings (rather than just building a new one); the Kimpton hotel chain has remodeled old hotels, a post office, a warehouse and a department store. Other hotels are using alternative energy for power, solar tubes for light, supplying organic snacks in the mini-bar and eco-friendly toiletries in the bathroom and installing low-flow faucets in the showers and sinks.

Next up, entrepreneur Richard Branson is planning an eco-resort on the British Virgin Island’s Mosquito Island. Solar and wind will supply the energy, guests will be fed from an on island organic garden and orchard and beach mobiles will be moving along with bio-fuels. I wonder if he will consider a more eco-friendly name for the island?


Green Resources

July 3, 2008

As you can imagine, here at the Green Business Alliance, we come across a lot of very cool ideas, links and ways to Greenify. I thought I’d share some of our new finds today.

Our friends at Southeastern Printing offer “GreenInk” which is an environmentally friendly printing process using recycled paper, Forest Stewardship Council/Smart Wood certified paper, low VOC’s, and computer to plate technology which reduces film waste. They have gone a step further and are now offering green friendly carbonless forms from NatureSolv featuring organic, low VOC ink and recycled paper. Check them out the next time you need to order carbonless forms!

I’ve just started checking out the UK based site Green Uses for Waste. Following up on last month’s Greenify your wedding post, they have ideas for reusing the materials used at your wedding. They’ve also got some interesting facts- such as that it takes two liters of oil to create one laser ink cartridge.

Carbon offsets are talked about a lot these days. Offsetters has an interesting site with calculators and descriptions of partners and projects they work with in an effort to reduce CO2 pollution.

BuyGreen sells just about everything you can imagine needing from recycled paper to ties for your dog (all right, maybe your dog doesn’t need a tie) to organic bedding.

Anyway, they all offer some neat ideas, maybe something will tickle your fancy and Greenify your life a little more! Happy 4th of July!


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