Friday, July 31, 2009

Boston City Council to vote on "green roof" initiative

Boston City Councilor (and mayoral candidate) Sam Yoon will introduce a city ordinance tonight that would give property owners financial incentives for converting rooftops in the city to "green roofs." New York City approved a similar ordinance last year.

A green roof is one that has been transformed using layers of vegetation and soil. The benefits of such a roof are numerous, including improved storm water run off and improved air quality.

If the ordinance passes, the city will give a $5 tax incentive for every square footage of roof that is converted to a green roof. There would be a $10,000 cap on the payouts.

If you'd like to read more about the proposal, check out this story from The Globe.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

U.S. and China sign climate change pact

U.S. State Department and Chinese officials signed a pact today to work together to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions by promoting environmentally-friendly technologies.

The U.S. and China are the two leading emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. While the deal is almost entirely symbolic because it contains few specific details, the fact that the two countries can agree on this is a good thing as the U.N.-led climate change negotiations approach later this year. At the negotiations, countries from around the world will meet in Copenhagen in an effort to form a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had this to say of the pact: "[The agreement] provides our countries with direction as we work together to support international climate negotiations and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

City releases more details of upcoming bike share program

As Boston city officials continue to work on plans for the nation's first bike share program that is set to begin next spring or summer, more details of the program are emerging.

For those who are not familiar with municipal bike share programs, the way they work is pretty simple. The city will place bike "stations" around the city (mostly at public transit stops and other attractions). Anyone who wants to rent a bike can pay to unlock it and rent it for a set amount of time. When the rider reaches their destination, they drop off the bike at another station to lock it back up.

As far as the new details, here's a quick run down. The city has said it plans to have 1,000 to 3,000 bikes available at stations around the area. The stations will be 300 to 400 yards apart.

Under one proposal, bikes could be rented for $2.50 for a single rental or $40 for a yearly membership. A rental would be good for 30 minutes, and the rider would have to pay an additional fee after 30 minutes. The reason for this is the fact that, in other cities, the average bike sharing trip is less than 30 minutes long.

For more information on the bike sharing program, check out this story from The Globe.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nike and Coke improve supply chain sustainability

Shoe manufacturer Nike and soft drink giant Coca Cola have often been criticized for the environmental impact of their supply chains. However, it seems like both companies are turning over a new leaf in the interest of becoming more eco-friendly.

Similar to other shoe manufacturers, Nike's supply chain has been shown to do significant damage to Amazon rain forest. By July 1, 2010, the company plans to make all Brazilian hide suppliers (the leather used to make their shoes) certify that their cattle are raised on land that is not cleared rain forest.

Meanwhile, Coke has pledged to be more "water neutral" than it has been in the past. The company has been accused by many environmental groups of creating water shortages in developing countries around the world. However, the company has pledged to return as much water as it uses to the water supply in these countries.

For more info on the supply chain changes at Nike and Coke, check out this story from Business Green.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cambridge bio tech company unveils new fuel making process

Today, Joule Biotechnologies, a Cambridge-based start up, announced that it has created a fuel that is literally made from sunlight.

The fuel, dubbed SolarFuel, is created in a process called helioculture, where carbon dioxide and sunlight are combined in a device that resembles a solar panel. Inside the device, engineered organisms (the company won't say what they are for proprietary reasons) absorb the sunlight and carbon dioxide. The organisms will then omit a combination of fuel ethanol, petroleum-derived compounds, and hydrocarbons that, in theory, can be used to fuel things.

While this process certainly is revolutionary, the big question (as with all biofuels) will be whether it can be produced efficiently in mass quantities. For more info on SolarFuel, check out this story from The Globe.

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Balance debuts eco-friendly running shows

Boston-based shoemaker New Balance has launched its first eco-friendly running shoes, dubbed the New Balance 70.

Seventy percent of the shoes are made from "environmentally-preferred materials." New Balance has gone out of its way to reduce waste in the production of the shoes, including shipping them without that useless paper you find inside shoe boxes. People have reported that the shoes are extremely comfortable because they are very light-weight and supportive. They also are very durable, meaning that even though they will cost slightly more than shoes that are not as eco-friendly, they should last longer.

While we would love to see major shoe manufacturers debut shoes that are made from 100 percent recycled and eco-friendly materials, this is definitely a step in the right direction. Check out this blog post from The Daily Green if you'd like to read more about the New Balance 70 shoes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Exxon invests $300 million in algae-based biofuels

Oil giant ExxonMobil has made plans to invest at least $300 million (and up to $600 million) in research involved with developing algae-based biofuels.

To conduct the research, the company is teaming up with DNA pioneer Craig Venter and his biotech research company. Venter is credited with being instrumental in the completion of the Human Genome Project and is a regular on Time's yearly list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

"We believe that biofuel produced by algae could be a meaningful part of the solution in the future if our efforts result in an economically viable, low net-carbon emission transportation fuel," said Dr. Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, in a press statement.

As Venter said in another statement, the real challenge to this project will be creating the ability to efficiently mass produce any algae-based biofuel that is developed. Fore more info on ExxonMobil and Venter's work with algae-based biofuels, check out this story on

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Honda announces production date for its CR-Z sports car hybrid

In 2007, Honda first introduced its hybrid sports car, the CR-Z, and said that its new models over the next several years would change the way people look at hybrids. Well, it's yet to be seen if the company will be successful with that goal, but the CR-Z is definitely something to look forward to.

This week, Honda announced that the car will go on sale in Japan in February and in the rest of the world later in 2010. The company is expected to announce specific launch dates for Europe and North America by the end of the year.

For more info on the sporty CR-Z, check out these stories from The Daily Green and Auto Blog Green. The Daily Green link includes videos of the car in action.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Funding for transit projects remains on shaky ground

The Globe is reporting today that MBTA and state administrators are tempering expectations on many public transportation projects, including the legally-mandated Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford.

Because of the MBTA's growing debt issues as well as current economic conditions, MBTA administrators are rethinking a number of other proposed projects, including a downtown Silver Line bus tunnel and the Blue Line extension to Lynn. Because the projects other than the Green Line extension are not legally-mandated, they will likely be pushed aside until the MBTA's financial situation improves.

Clean air regulations require the MBTA to extend the Green Line to Union Square and Tufts University by 2014. There have been proposals to extend the line even further, to Route 16, but extending the line that far is not legally required, and, therefore, not likely to happen in the first wave of the extension.

Hopefully, both the state and MBTA's financial situation improves enough where they can fund all of the worthwhile transit projects in a timely manner because public transportation goes along way towards reducing congestion, pollution, and the harmful effects of global warming.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Renewable energy consumption increasing in U.S.

A report released today by the Department of Energy shows that the use of renewable energy in the U.S. in on the rise as the use of fossil fuels continues to decline.

The report found that about 11 percent of energy consumed in the U.S. came from renewable sources, including hydroelectric, wind, biomass, and geothermal sources, during the month of April. While the use of coal is still the largest source of energy at 46 percent, the number fell by 13.9 percent from April 2008 to April 2009 and will likely continue to fall because of the increased emphasis on creating and using renewable energy.

You can click here if you want to review the hard facts and data from the DoE, or if you prefer an easier to digest version, here's a story from Business Green.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wal-Mart makes plans to create sustainable product index

Retail giant Walmart announced plans this week to create a worldwide Sustainable Product Index. Company officials said the index will measure the environmental impact of the products its stores carry.

To create the index, Walmart is expected to do two things. First, it has a created a 15-question survey that it will send to suppliers to gauge the environmental impact of each product and company. Second, the company will fund a group of universities, retailers, suppliers, and government agencies to do a lifecycle analysis of the products. Not many details were given about this part of the plan, but we're assuming that means the group will examine the environmental impact of the creation, shipping, and disposal of each product.

The form that the Sustainable Product Index will take has not been determined. It could be a color-coded sticker, a number score, or something else, according to company officials. For more info on the index, check out this story from The Daily Green.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

MBTA releases more fare increase info

The MBTA has posted a booklet on its website detailing the fare increases that the transit agency has proposed. The booklet lists what the new fares will be for all services if the proposal is adopted. It also lists the dates for all rider workshops as well as the public meeting that is scheduled for August 27.

One thing to note is that while the MBTA is pushing the fare increase option, it is also listing service cutbacks (or a combination of both) as an option. However, officials at the agency have said that service cuts alone would not be enough to meet the budget deficit. If you think the service cuts would be a better option than increasing fares, then attending one of the rider workshops and/or the public meeting would be a good idea.

If the fare increases have you thinking about changing the way you commute to work, remember that there are other cost-effective and environmentally-friendly ways to commute to work. While we still believe that transit is a great way to commute to work, carpooling is also a great option. Remember to register in our ridematching database to see if there are other commuters that match your commuting patterns. The more people we have in the system, the more likely it is for everyone to find a good match. If you have any questions about your commuting options, don't hesistate to contact your Transportation Coordinator.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Carbon footprint of the internet drives energy-efficiency movement

Researchers estimate that every second you spend browsing a website creates about 20 milligrams of CO2. That's certainly not a lot, but when you consider that there are millions of people using the internet every second, it really adds up fast. In fact, the carbon footprint from internet usage alone is as much as the carbon footprint of the entire aviation industry.

So, what's being done to mitigate this issue? A lot of work is already being done to make electronics more energy-efficient, from the personal computer level all the way up to the data center level. Many large companies are switching to green hosting providers that use solar-powered data centers. On the PC level, some companies boast creating computers and monitors that are better than current energy-efficiency standards (which, quite honestly, are not very strict).

On a personal level, we can support the energy-efficiency movement by buying electronics that meet or exceed Energy Star standards. Also, remember to do the little things, such as powering down your computer at night as well as setting it to run at lower power levels when you are using it. A little bit goes a long way.

Hub On Wheels - Join us for Boston's only citywide bike ride

HOW2009 Banner w/ Date

Riders on Storrow Dr.

Happy group of riders
 A City that Bikes Together...
0615logosB2BB...gets helmet-hair together, among other things. Like an unobstructed view of the city and a chance to fall in love with Boston all over again. So on September 27th, grab your bike and join Mayor Menino and thousands of your neighbors for Hub On Wheels.
A ride for everyone. Hub On Wheels is your chance to ride a car-free Storrow Drive and to explore the greenways, shoreline, and neighborhoods we call home.
  • Choose your course: 10, 30 or 50 miles
  • Registration is $45
  • No minimum fundraising amount
  • Discounted parking (only $3) available

Visit to register and find out more.

No Bike? No problem. Contact Urban Adventours to reserve one and have it waiting for you at the start.
Join a team, get free stuff...  
Join one of our featured teams and get free goodies. These teams are open to everyone, but sign up early because the goodies go fast!
  • Team Boston Volvo Village:First 50 get a free Boston Volvo Village jersey
  • Team Charles River Saab: First 25 get a free Charles River Saab jersey 
  • Team International Bicycle: First 100 get a free $15 gift certificate
  • Team Landry's Bicycles: First 100 get a $15 gift certificate
  • Team Ski Market: First 100 get a $15 gift certificate
  • Team Wheelworks: First 100 get a $15 gift certificate
  • Team Zipcar: First 100 get a free $15 gift certificate

And don't forget that our successful fundraisers and donors will be rewarded with gift certificates from generous sponsors like Ski Market, Boloco, Whole Foods Market, International Bicycle Centers and Landry's Bicycles.

A great cause, a fabulous time.TGH Family
Proceeds from Hub On Wheels help Boston Public Schools students get the technology and the skills they need to succeed in today's world. Learn more.
Don't miss what's sure to be the bike ride of the summerSign up today!
The Hub On Wheels Team
  • Bike Friday's: Ride into work with experienced ride guides. July 31st and August 25th.  Learn more and register at
  • Rock, Roll and Ride: Community bike days for the entire family. July 18th, July 25th and August 8th. Click here to learn more.
  • Boston Bikes on Facebook: Mayor Menino's Boston Bikes is now on Facebook. Learn about all things biking. Go to and search for "Mayor Menino's Boston Bikes".
  • Tour de Farms: Visit urban and community farms in the Boston area by bicycle and get a chance to sample fresh, locally grown food. Click here to learn more.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lexus launches the first "luxury hybrid"

You don't often hear the phrase luxury car and word green (or hybrid) used in the same sentence. Lexus is looking to change that. Today, the automaker launched its HS 250H model in Japan, with a launch in North America planned for September.

The vehicle gets a reported 54 miles per gallon and will cost between $42,000 and $57,000 depending on which optional features are included.

The car contains typical hybrid engine technology, is made of eco-friendly recycled plastics, and features a very unique green driving navigation system. Apparently, the nav system awards the driver points for complying with eco-friendly driving habits. The points will go towards money that can be donated to charity, according to the company.

Monday, July 13, 2009

UMass researchers attempt to turn plant matter into environmentally-friendly fuel

In a laboratory at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, graduate students hover around a complex setup that involves tubes, chambers, and dials. The students load sawdust into one side of the machine and, within moments, a brown liquid begins to drip into a catch basin on the other side.

The liquid - known as green gasoline - is the chemical equivalent of traditional gasoline, but cleaner and less expensive. According to its inventor, that means the green gas, also referred to as grassoline, has the potential to transform the economy.

“The goal is to make all of the same compounds you can make from petroleum,’’ said George Huber, the professor leading the research. “When you look at biomass versus crude oil, biomass is significantly cheaper.’’

Huber estimates that once perfected, his technique would be able to produce the equivalent of three barrels of oil for between $30 and $100. By comparison, the price of barrel of crude oil has steadily risen over the past few months to about $70.

To read the rest of this story from The Boston Globe, click here.

Gas prices tally largest one-week drop of 2009

The good news continues in regards to gas prices. AAA New England's survey of gas prices in the area revealed that prices are down for the third consecutive week. Furthermore, the three-cent drop from last week to this week is the biggest decrease of 2009.

AAA's July 13 survey found that the average price for a gallon of unleaded fuel in New England was $2.569. While this is about four cents above the national average, the current prices are more than $1.50 per gallon less than they were this week in 2008.

Despite the fact that gas prices are dropping, you can still save a good chunk of change by carpooling or taking transit to work. Your employer offers you incentives to use these methods to commute, and if you'd like more info on how you can save money on your commute, don't hesitate to contact your company's Transportation Coordinator.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bottled water is bad for the environment and your body as well

The amount of bottled water people are consuming has more than doubled in the last 10 years. Producers of the products claim that the water is cleaner, more pure, and better for you. Well, in many cases, they are flat out misleading consumers.

The fact of the matter is that bottled water is regulated by the FDA, which has much weaker restrictions and regulations on water than the EPA. The EPA regulates all tap water in the U.S. and has very strict rules in place to keep the water contaminant-free. Basically, the FDA doesn't have the funding, the authority, or the staffing necessary to regulate the water as much as they should. In fact, bottled water providers are not even required to test for contaminants in their products, and if they do test and find that their water violates drinking water standards, they don't even have to report this to the FDA.

In addition to the health concerns with bottled water, the environmental impact of the bottles is substantial. Most bottles are made out of petroleum and require a substantial amount of energy to produce, store, and transport. And, after they are consumed, only 20 percent of the bottles end up being recycled.

So, the next time you think about buying bottled water, buy yourself a stainless steel water bottle (because it won't leech chemicals like a plastic one will), and drink water from the tap. It'll keep both your body and the environment safer. Not to mention that it will save you a good chunk of change.

If you'd like more info on the health and environmental concerns involved with bottled water, check out this story from The Daily Green.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

T fares set to increase by almost 20 percent

T riders can expect the cost of their trips on public transit to increase by as much as 20 percent based on a proposal released today by MBTA administrators.

The proposal calls for a series of 13 public meetings where riders can voice their concerns about the increase before the proposal is voted on the by the MBTA's Board of Directors sometime in August. The increase is necessary because of the long-term debt problems facing the T, officials said. For every dollar that the agency collects in fees, 30 cents goes towards its debt.

Single rides on subway lines and buses will increase by either 30 to 50 cents. Monthly subway and bus passes will increase $10, and commuter rail passes will go up by as much as $31, depending on the zone the rider travels in.

While any increase is certainly bad news, the good news is that your employer offers benefits and incentives to encourage you to take the T to work and may even subsidize part or all of your monthly pass expenses. If you have any questions about what commuter benefits are available to you, click here for the contact info for your company's Transportation Coordinator.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

McDonald's installs electric car charging stations at North Carolina restaurant

Fast food giant McDonald's has taken a big step this week, announcing that it is installing electric car charging stations at its location in Cary, North Carolina.

The company has opened several green stores around the world that were constructed out of environmentally-friendly materials and feature living roofs and LED lighting.

The charging stations will be operated by an independent company, and people who want to charge their cars using them can either sign up for a subscription or pay for a single use via a toll-free call.

For more info on McDonald's first electric car charging stations, check out this story from Business Green.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

EPA proposes stricter boat emissions standards

The EPA has proposed a new set of boat emissions standards that could drastically affect the world's shipping fleets, forcing shipping companies to use more environmentally-friendly engine technologies.

Under the two-part plan, the first stricter requirement would go into effect in 2011, and the second one would go into effect in 2016. The 2016 standard would require ships to produce 80 percent less emissions than the current standard.

Shipping fleets around the world contribute significant amounts of nitrogen oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that is believed to be one of the causes of global warming. For more information on these proposed standards, check out this story from Business Green.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The future of green automobiles

We hear a lot about the next big technology that is going to change the way cars are manufactured, purchased, and/or driven. But the average person likely doesn't know enough about the technologies (We sure don't.) to know which one could actually latch on and make a large impact on society.

The good news is that The Daily Green has done the work for you. Their columnists know a good bit about the technologies and have written a column talking about which technologies have the best chance to make an impact. From flying cars to zero-pollution engines and beyond, these technologies are certainly coo,l but are they feasible enough to make it into mass production? Check out the article to see.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Arctic ice continues to melt at a record rate

Satellite photos released today show that the Arctic ice sheets will likely reach yet another record low this summer before they stop melting for the year in September.

Furthermore, a study released today concluded that there is more methane in the permafrost in the Arctic regions of the Earth than was originally thought. When the permafrost melts, the methane is released into the atmosphere, which will speed up global warming even further. That's a scary thought indeed.

For more info on these photos and this study, check out this story from The Daily Green.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Earn cash for cutting your emissions

Do you want to earn some extra cash for cutting your home energy use? A new site, My Emissions Exchange, offers credits for people who sign up and then lower their utility bills and carbon footprint.

Environmentalists say the voluntary carbon market has doubled since the beginning of 2008. Using My Emissions Exchange, consumers can sell their credits to participating companies. The credits are currently trading between $10 and $25 on the site.

For more info on the voluntary carbon market and My Emissions Exchange, check out this story from The Daily Green.