Thursday, April 30, 2009

The 10 greenest oil companies

Putting a term such as "green" in front of oil company may seem like an oxymoron. But, as long as renewable energy sources and alternative fuels remain underdeveloped, the majority of people are going to rely on oil companies to fuel their cars.

So, if we are going to have to rely on fossil fuels, we should support the companies that are the greenest—that is, those companies that are spending some of their profits on alternative-fuel research and honestly and accurately file environmental reports. Consumers also need to keep it mind that not all companies follow the exact same processes for getting oil out of the ground, refining it, and shipping it to your oil pump, meaning that one company's carbon footprint can be smaller than others.

With that said, one company—BP—stands above the rest in the rankings of the greenest oil companies. However, much of this can be attributed to money spent in the past on alternative fuel research, something the company hasn't been doing as much of since its ownership changed in 2007.

Sonoco and Shell ranked second and third on the list, and the largest oil company (and currently the most profitable company in the world) Exxon Mobile ranked sixth.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Boston rates well in American Lung Association's State of the Air Report

The U.S. has made a lot of progress in terms of cleaning up its air pollution in the last few decades. But there's much more work to be done as the introduction to the annual State of the Air Report says, "Air pollution continues to threaten the lives and health of millions of people in the United States despite great progress since the modern Clean Air Act was first passed in 1970. Even as the nation explores the complex challenges of global warming and energy, air pollution remains widespread and dangerous."

The report examines air pollution on a county level, ranks the best and worst areas in the country in terms of pollution, and assigns each county a grade. While Boston did not make the list of the top 25 cleanest cities in the U.S., it did fare pretty well in the rankings. The city ranked among the top 50 or so cities in the country in terms of short-term particle pollution and received a grade of an A in the particle pollution categories.

One area of concern for Boston, however, was the ozone pollution (smog) grade for the city. The city did not rank in the list of the most polluted cities as far as smog goes, but it did receive a grade of F in this category from the American Lung Association. This means that a lot of people are still driving alone to work instead of taking transit, bicycling/walking, or carpooling. Don't forget that your company offers you programs and incentives to help you use these methods to get to work each day. You should check them out and think about commuting some way other than driving alone.

To read the full State of the Air Report, go to this website.

Tree Story: Mellisa Z.

Mellisa Z., from Forma Theraputics in Cambridge, won a tree at one of our Earth Day commuter benefit promotions.

This is what she had to share:

"When I first saw this Dwarf Alberta Spruce, I was signing up for a raffle and learning about the Commuter Benefit Programs that Transactions Associates provide for green-commuting at my work. I looked at it's beautiful young, springy needles, and I actually said out loud, "I'm gonna win you, little buddy!" Low and behold, two hours later, Jax Adele from T.A. brought me my little green friend; synchronicity! My boyfriend Dan and I planted this special tree on Arbor Day at Endicott Park in Danvers, a beautiful garden and nature reserve. I'm sure my spruce will be happy there, as we were happy to help it grow! :)"

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wind turbine set to be installed on Pike land

Massachusetts transportation officials are taking bids for the installation of a wind turbine at the Blandford rest area on the Mass Pike, about 20 miles west of Springfield.

This is part of Governor Patrick's "Greening the Turnpike" initiative that promotes energy efficiency and environmental friendliness among government agencies. "This is a great example of how state agencies can work together to achieve our common goals," Patrick said in an e-mail to the Globe. "This wind energy project is good for the environment, and it will help create jobs within our clean energy economy."

The site was chosen because it is believed to be the windiest location on the turnpike. For more information on the wind turbine, check out this story from The Globe.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Create an organic garden in nine easy steps

With warmer weather approaching (it's expected to be as warm as 90 degrees in Boston on Tuesday), many amateur farmers are planting or preparing to plant their home gardens.

In fact, environmental enthusiasts are reporting that home gardens are becoming more popular as the economy slumps and concerns about food supply increase, fueled by the recent salmonella outbreaks in peanuts and pistachios.

To many, growing their own food sounds like a neat idea, but where do you start? That's where this slide show and story can help. The Daily Green has complied a list of nine steps to start and manage your garden. The Web is also full of dozens of other resources to help you if you have other questions.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Whole Foods, Wal-mart to install solar panels on stores

In a growing trend among retailers looking to cut costs, organic supermarket chain Whole Foods and retail giant Wal-Mart announced plans this week to add solar panels to a number of their stores.

Whole Foods officials said the panels will generate about 30 percent of the power needed to run the stores. Wal-Mart has been toying around with alternative energies since it unveiled its solar-powered store in Dallas, Texas. The retailer will now expand the program to include up to 20 stores in California.

For more information on this and solar energy in general, check out this story from Business Green.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pikes removes monthly fee from FastLane transponders

At its board meeting yesterday, the Mass Turnpike Authority voted to remove the 50 cent per month fee associated with FastLane transponders to encourage more people to get them. The Pike began offering the transponders for "free" in February (they used to cost $25.95) with the monthly fee attached.

However, after backups as long as eight miles that lasted several hours at toll plazas on the Pike during the Easter weekend, Pike officials began rethinking the policy.

“There should be absolutely no reason why everyone in the Commonwealth wouldn’t have a transponder,” Transportation Secretary Jim Aloisi said after members voted to keep the transponders free of charge. While Aloisi has not done the best job of managing the Pike, he's right about this at least.

Fast Lane transponders can be applied for online at or by calling 1-877-627-7745. Transponders can also be picked up in person at the Fast Lane service centers in Auburn, Natick, and East Boston, as well as at many Registry of Motor Vehicles branch offices.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day for beginners

While sites such as The Daily Green and Business Green help readers celebrate Earth Day every day, The Daily Green has done a good job today of compiling a sort of beginner's guide for people who are looking for where to start when it comes to living a greener life.

As you'll learn as you look at some of the resources in the guide, the idea that going green has to cost you more money simply is not true. There are hundreds of ways to live a greener life that will actually save you money. In addition to tips for saving money, you'll find Earth Day facts, tips on how to help the environment, and ways to improve the greenness of your diet in the guide.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nine uses for ketchup that can save you time and money

We all have those extra packets of ketchup in our desk or car as well as that half-empty bottle of the condiment in our fridge just sitting there. Instead of letting them go to waste, The Daily Green has a list of nine ways to use ketchup that can be fun, save money, save time, or do all three.

From cleaning pots and pans or even your car to repairing the damage chlorine does to hair, there are many surprising uses for ketchup that you probably never thought of. Check out this story from The Daily Green to read more about creative ways to use ketchup.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Earth Day 2009 approaches

With Earth Day coming up on Wednesday, many of you may be wondering how you can celebrate and observe this occasion. While the traditional method of celebration is planting a tree, there are other things you can do as well.

From special exhibits at the Boston Children's Museum to an Earth Day walk and tree planting around Walden Pond, there is plenty to do in the Boston area this week. Check out this slide show on the Globe's website for these and other ideas.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Natural swimming pools allow you to cool off without the chemicals

Everyone loves to take a dip in the pool during the hot summer months, but chlorine and other chemicals can damage your body. Besides the obvious effects that the chemical has on hair, recent studies have linked chlorine with increased asthma rates, and children who swim in pools seem to wheeze more often than those who don't

So, what's the alternative? As people become more and more aware of the effect that chemicals have on their bodies, many are turning to completely natural pools at their homes to cool off in the summer. Companies are popping up that offer products that keep natural pools clean without the use of chemicals.

The Daily Green has a slide show with 23 of the best all-natural swimming pools and ponds they could find. Check it out here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spam e-mail has giant carbon footprint

A study released today found that the carbon footprint for those annoying, unsolicited e-mails we all get in our inbox is enormous.

The study estimated that 63 trillion spam messages were sent last year, resulting in a usage of 33 terawatt hours of energy. That's roughly the same energy consumption as 2.4 million houses!

While each e-mail itself only results in a very small emission, the emissions resulting from all spam e-mail are equivalent to that from over three million cars.

"There is an energy cost with the transaction, storage and deletion of any email," McAfee's Dave Marcus told Business Green. "When you start to add it up, we are talking about a significant impact."

For more info on the study, check out this story from Business Green.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Holiday traffic jams on the Pike may become a trend

Travelers on the Mass Turnpike over Easter weekend were greeted with an unwelcome guest: massive traffic jams and delays.

Pike officials said the delays were caused by toll workers calling in sick, and a new policy that does not allow other toll workers to work overtime to fill in. The Pike is facing a huge budget deficit and doing everything it can to conserve money.

Pike director Alan LeBovidge said the delays will be just as bad, if not worse, over Memorial Day weekend. He is encouraging drivers to get FastLane transponders, so they do not have to wait in toll lines.

Getting a FastLane transponder is not a bad idea, even if the Pike's methods for encouraging people to get them might be a little shady, as many people have pointed out.

For more info, check out this story in The Herald.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Check your driving record online

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles introduced a system today where residents can go online and view their driving record. To view your driving record, go to the registry's website here.

Registry officials said that they dealt with over 57,000 requests for records last year, and this system will decrease the burden on the RMV, while making is quicker easier for drivers to view their records.

Viewing the record costs users $6, which seems a bit ridiculous, but it is probably easier than the hassle of going into an RMV branch and waiting in line. Keep in mind, though, that your insurance agent can likely get you a copy of your driving record for free.

For more info, check out this story from The Globe.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Five fuel-efficient cars that aren't available to you yet but will be soon

At the New York Auto Show, several next-gen green cars received plenty of press. The Daily Green has a slide show with the five cars that stood out among the crowd.

Their favorite, and mine too, was the Toyota Scion iQ (pictured to the right). It's been a huge hit in Japan and Europe, but it will be interesting to see if it catches on in the U.S. My guess is at a cost of only $14,000 and fuel efficiency at around 54 miles per gallon, several people in the U.S. will be willing to give this microcar a chance.

For more info on the Scion and the other four cars on the list, check out the slide show from The Daily Green.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Local communities receive stimulus funds to improve energy efficiency and conservation

Six communities in the Greater Boston area are eligible to receive money from the federal stimulus package for energy efficiency and conservation projects.

Massachusetts communities of over 35,000 people will divide the $28.2 million allocated from the stimulus plan, meaning that Arlington, Brookline, Framingham, Marlborough, Newton, and Waltham are among the communities eligible for the funds.

Each community can accept or reject the funds, but several of the communities have already said they will use the funds.

"It's extraordinary, and we're very grateful," Framingham Town Manager Julian Suso told the Boston Globe. "There is a broad range of opportunity for utilization of these funds. We look forward to that and applaud the support for those needs."

For more info, check out this story in The Globe.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

GM and Segway team up todevelop two-seat scooter

GM announced yesterday that it will be teaming up with scooter maker Segway to build a two-wheel, two-seat scooter that will run on battery power.

GM has been testing a prototype of the scooter as part of what it calls Project PUMA, or Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility. The company hopes to have the scooter developed by 2012.

Company officials said the scooter will likely be able to reach speeds up to 35 miles per hour, have a range of up to about 35 miles, and have an enclosed passenger compartment, unlike current Segways.

The vehicle may contain wireless technology to help the driver avoid traffic jams or other adverse road conditions. GM has even hinted that the technology could allow the scooters to navigate themselves through city streets.

For more info, check out this story on the Wall Street Journal's website.

EPA calculator informs residents about their carbon emissions

The EPA has a nifty household emissions calculator that you can use to determine how much greenhouse gas emissions your household is currently responsible for, ways you can reduce emissions and energy use, and how much money you could save while doing so.

The last part may be particular useful in tough economic times that see house values decreasing while many cost of living factors increase.

Check out this calculator when you get a chance because everyone can play a small role in protecting the environment by reducing their personal greenhouse gas emissions. And don't forget that you'll likely save some money as you do so.

Verizon teams up with the EPA to promote National Cell Phone Recycling Week

Verizon Wireless asks consumers to take time this week to give back to their communities and help improve the environment by donating old cell phones, batteries and accessories to the company’s HopeLine program during the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Cell Phone Recycling Week.

The EPA reports that more than 100 million cell phones are discarded annually. If all these cell phones were recycled, it would save enough energy to power more than 18,500 U.S. homes for one year. HopeLine provides a convenient way to improve those statistics.

“Consumers demand more from their cell phones today than they did when we created HopeLine 14 years ago,” said Jack Plating, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Verizon Wireless. “Recognizing that having the latest technology means more old phones are left behind, Verizon Wireless makes it easy for consumers to recycle their phones during National Cell Phone Recycling Week – and throughout the year – in our stores or online through HopeLine.”

To read the rest of this story, click here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Empire State Building goes green

The owners of the Empire State Building are investing $20 million in efforts to reduce the CO2 emissions of the New York City landmark.

The building, which was the tallest building in the world until 1970, will have upgrades made in an effort to increase its energy consumption by 40 percent. The upgrades include extra layers of insulation on the 6,500 windows on the structure and a new, modern cooling system to replace the current one in the basement of the building.

The upgrades will also allow officer workers in the building to take responsibility for their own carbon footprint. Each worker will be able to access information on the Web detailing how much energy in being consumed in their part of the building.

For more info, check out this story in The Guardian, a UK newspaper.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Biodegradable gum on sale in England

A British company is launching what it calls the world's first biodegradable chewing gum this week.

The gum, called Chicza, becomes non-sticky once it dries and then decays into dust within six weeks, company officials told

Besides the obvious environmental benefits, British authorities are celebrating the release because it could save millions on clean-up costs associated with removing gum from streets and public buildings.

The gum sells for the equivalent of just over $2. For more info on the world's first biodegradable chewing gum, check out this story from

Friday, April 3, 2009

13 things made from recycled bottles

Environmentalists tell us that only 20 percent of all bottles are recycled despite their best efforts. However, even those bottles that are recycled can only be recycled a few times before their polymers break down.

So, what is one to do? The Daily Green has this great article on 13 things you can make using recycled bottles. Check it out here because several of these ideas are actually really, really good and could save you some money as well.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

NBA goes green to promote environmental awareness

The National Basketball Association launches its first ever Green Week today in an effort to promote environmental awareness and raise money for the National Resources Defense Council.

Each individual team in the league is sponsoring local events to help the environment, and the league itself will hold auctions with the proceeds going to the NRDC.

In addition, several teams in the league will be wearing green jerseys instead of their usual home colors to promote the event. Some teams are offering 25 percent off the cost of tickets to fans who take public transportation to games, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are even giving free upper-level seats to those who take transit to a game.

For more info, visit the NBA's special website for this event.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Need a new laptop? Check out these greener options

Most electronics that are made today contain a multitude of toxic chemicals and materials, such as mercury, lead, and arsenic. When these electronics are improperly disposed off (such as in landfills), the toxins leak into the environment.

But, if you're in the market for a new laptop, you're in luck. Several computer makers have given you the option of buying environmentally-friendly laptops. From Apple to Toshiba to HP models, these laptops are made using non-toxic chemicals and materials and also use much less energy than their non-green counterparts.

EcoGeek has put together an informative list of the five greenest laptops on the market. Check it out here.