Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Pearl Jam's band members are working to be better men.
The rock group is partnering with Cascade Land Conservancy -- which works to preserve forests, parks and other natural areas -- to plant approximately 33 acres of native trees and plants around the Puget Sound. It's all in an effort to offset carbon emissions from the band's 2009 world tour. The group generated an estimated 5,474 metric tons of carbon during that 32-date run of concerts.
Pearl Jam is donating $210,000 to fund the plantings, which are expected mitigate more than 7,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. The greenhouse gas contributes to climate change. To see where the trees will be planted, click here.
The band, which will perform in Boston in May, also plans to offset whatever emissions its current tour generates.
"We are constantly moving, using carbon-dependent forms of transportation and a great deal of energy," said Stone Gossard, Pearl Jam's guitarist and founder. "Since 2003, we have elected to mitigate our carbon output by tracking andcalculating our emissions and contributing money to projects that strategically work to improve the environment. We view this as a cost of doing business."
Article courtesy of The Boston Globe/Boston.com Greenblog by Erin Ailworth
Monday, March 29, 2010
A nonprofit group, Key for Hope, collects old keys and melts them into scrap metal for recycling. They take the money earned from selling the metal and donate it to a food pantry.
A few Whole Foods stores in the area have teamed up with Key for Hope to raise money for food pantries in their towns. Key for Hope also has collection spots across Massachusetts.
So, clean out those junk drawers and donate your old keys to a good cause (or, better yet, set up a key drive at your school or office — it’s as easy as putting out a box and sending an e-mail).
Participating Whole Foods stores are: Medford; Prospect Street, Cambridge; Walnut Street, Newton; and University Heights, Providence.
Article courtesy of The Boston Globe-- Green Living The Green Blog DARA OLMSTED
The 50-member staff will occupy 15,000 square feet at 114 Western Ave. that once housed WGBH’s headquarters.
The organization, one of the largest private funders of research expeditions, will offer three fellowships for Allston and Brighton public school teachers to join one of its research expeditions to advance public understanding of science and the environment.
The group, which helps volunteers partake in scientific research, also plans to hold lectures, open houses, and other outreach events for neighboring communities, starting in June.
Harvard University said the move will help create green jobs in Boston and help build stronger ties between Harvard and Allston. --
Article courtesy of The Boston Globe-Green blog BETH DALEY
The rankings are based on the number of buildings with an Energy Star label, a government-backed certification of efficiency.
Boston had 74 Energy Star-labeled buildings as of last year. Leading were Los Angeles, with 293 buildings; Washington, D.C., with 204; and San Francisco, with 173. --Courtesy of The Boston Globe ERIN AILWORTH
Friday, March 26, 2010
DOVER — In outward appearances, the 1990 Mercedes-Benz sedan parked outside Dover-Sherborn High School is just another well-preserved classic. Its white paint is unblemished, its blue leather seats are intact, and its engine purrs like a kitten.
Paid for by the Climate Protection Action Fund
On March 27, 2010 at 8:30 p.m. local time, please join us and unite with millions of others in turning out and taking action. We’re turning out for Earth Hour because we care about our country, our planet and our future.
Earth Hour was conceived by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as a way to raise awareness among the general public about climate change and to convey that, by working together, each of us can have a positive impact.
Earth Hour’s non-partisan approach has captured the world’s imagination and the annual event has become a global phenomenon. Last year during Earth Hour 2009, nearly one billion people in more than 4,000 cities around the world turned off their lights to demonstrate their commitment and encourage the world to take action
Article courtesy of www.myearthhour.org
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
The huge oil reserves of Canada, where the stuff can literally be dug out of the ground, provide the U.S. with a nearby alternative to importing crude from distant, unstable countries. But Alberta oil-sands production has one major shortcoming: It results in far more greenhouse gases than traditional drilling.
by Ángel González Seattle Times business reporter
FORT McMURRAY, Alberta Energy security is not for the fainthearted.
In the giant, open-pit mines north of this sub-Arctic boomtown, oil literally is carved out of the ground. Shovels the size of buildings scoop hundreds of tons of oil-soaked dirt into Caterpillar dump trucks as big as two-story houses. The trucks move to and from the pits in a perpetual storm of dust.
Everything in the Canadian oil sands from the machinery to the seemingly infinite oil reserves is extra large.
"This is mining to the max it's very extreme," said Brian Patey, who came from Newfoundland in eastern Canada and now runs the truck shop at the Albian Sands Energy mine, a joint venture by oil companies Shell, Chevron and Marathon. Patey said that when he first saw a mine truck, "I thought it was the biggest thing in the world."
Once shunned by oil companies that preferred easier-to-exploit reservoirs of liquid crude, Alberta's oil sands now have made Canada the top foreign supplier of crude to the U.S. They contain the world's second-largest storehouse of crude surpassing U.S. reserves by a factor of eight.
If the United States is to reduce its reliance on importing oil from countries that are unfriendly or unstable, Canada's oil sands are the place.
Yet, no other source of oil better illustrates our society's Faustian dilemma between energy security and environmental responsibility.
Extracting the tarlike oil called bitumen and converting it into the light crude that refiners want is an energy-intensive process that annually produces as much carbon dioxide as 6 million cars.
Put another way, extracting oil from the sands creates about three times the greenhouse gases as conventional drilling.
Canada, which in 1997 signed the Kyoto treaty on reducing emissions, now struggles to reconcile its newfound role of energy superpower with its promise to cut greenhouse gases. Some say oil-sands profits have cooled the country's enthusiasm for the treaty.
"It's the one thing that is really dragging us in the opposite direction from Kyoto targets," said Simon Dyer, a fellow with the Pembina Institute, a Canadian environmental think tank.
Some U.S. policymakers question whether this country should continue to increase its reliance on the oil sands, due to their heavy environmental footprint.
And President-elect Obama could add pressure on the oil-sands industry to clean up its act, said Chris Sands, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute think tank in Washington, D.C.
Article courtesy of the Seattle Times
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Once you pledge to reduce your electricity use, you can track your utility usage through a free web-based tool - Wattzy. You can also take advantage of a free energy audit of your residence and free air sealing (even if you rent rather than own), which is provided through Next Step Living and the MassSAVE program. If you're interested, you'll also be able to use rebates for further work to retrofit and weatherize your home or apartment, provided by contractors who have signed a "Green Collar Hiring Pledge." Consider taking the Commonwealth Challenge pledge to reduce your utility costs and make your home more comfortable, while reducing the greenhouse gas impact of homes and buildings and helping drive important legislation to make Massachusetts a leader in addressing climate change.
Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries participating. Global landmarks such as the, Sydney Harbour Bridge, The CN Tower in Toronto, The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.
In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative.
Earth Hour 2010 takes place on Saturday 27 March at 8.30pm (local time) and is a global call to action to every individual, every business and every community throughout the world. It is a call to stand up, to take responsibility, to get involved and lead the way towards a sustainable future. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Europe to Asia to the Americas will stand in darkness. People across the world from all walks of life will turn off their lights and join together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet. So sign up now and let’s make 2010 the biggest Earth Hour yet!.
It’s Showtime! Show the world what can be done
Article courtesy of (earthhour.org)
What do Thin Mints have to do with Team Earth? More than you might think.
As you know, Team Earth is anyone and everyone who wants to do the right thing to protect our planet. And the Girl Scouts of the nation’s capitol (Washington, D.C.) are all-stars when it comes to doing something for our planet.
Their Council has challenged each of its 63,000 members to replace at least one incandescent light bulb with a CFL—one of Team Earth’s core climate challenges.
The group has calculated that if every local Girl Scout did this, almost $300,000 in energy costs would be saved.
Through our own emission reduction calculations, we’ve found that changing that many light bulbs would also result in enough energy savings to power more than 2,000 homes for a year!
These savvy Girl Scouts know how powerful collective action can be. (Who hasn’t bought a package of cookies from a determined Girl Scout?) I am thrilled to to see their energy and enthusiasm behind an action that Team Earth is also undertaking.
How many Girl Scouts does it take? There are 3.4 million Girl Scouts. If every Girl Scout replaced one incandescent light bulb with a CFL the Girls Scouts could prevent 1,258,000 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Now that would be collective action.
Article courtesy of Julie Blackwell, Team Earth (email@example.com)
Monday, March 8, 2010
The thick, wet forests of the Pacific Northwest are the carbon storage powerhouses of the U.S. -- in fact, they store more than 1-1/2 times as much carbon as the entire amount of carbon dioxide burned in fossil fuels throughout the country each year, a new study shows.
Two analysts for the Wilderness Society looked at data compiled by the U.S. Forest Service and identified 10 national forests, from the Tongass in southeast Alaska to the Siskiyou in southern Oregon, that together store about 9.8 billion metric tons of carbon on a total of 19 million acres.
By absorbing carbon dioxide, forests accumulate and store carbon in trees, roots and soil -- a valuable depository for greenhouse gases that, if released into the atmosphere, might contribute to climate change.
"To get a better idea of how much carbon this really is, we could compare it to the CO2 equivalent contained in the fossil fuels burned n the U.S. each year, about 5.8 billion metric tons," said Ann Ingerson, an economist for the Wilderness Society who co-authored the analysis with Mike Anderson, a senior resource analyst at the organization.
While forests act as carbon banks, logging, past studies have shown, often results in a large portion of a forest's stored carbon to be emitted back into the atmosphere, either through the burning of excess vegetation or the decay of what's left, Anderson said.
That was one of the points of the study: about 1 million of the 19 million acres of forests named as the heavyweight carbon banks have no formal protections in place against logging or other development.
The top 10 forests with the highest carbon density also include the Willamette, Umpqua, Siuslaw and Mt. Hood national forests in Oregon, and the Olympic, Gifford Pinchot and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie in Washington.
And while tropical forests typically have the most robust carbon storage capacity on Earth -- usually 360 to 460 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per acre, compared to an average of 230 metric tons for forests in the Pacific Northwest -- some of the towering old growth stands of the Western Cascades appear to top the competition.
One study of the Wind River old growth forest in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, cited in the Wilderness Society report, found carbon stocks of more than 900 metric tons per acre.
Article courtesy of The Los Angeles Times-- Kim Murphy
In the past, Brazilian leaders have been wary of foreign interference in the Amazon, Earth's largest tropical forest. But climate scientists are raising loud alarms that the slashing and burning of forests, which cause about 15% of the emissions that are trapping heat in the atmosphere, threatens to dangerously disrupt the world's climate.
Indonesia and Brazil are, respectively, the globe's third and fourth biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, after the U.S. and China, mainly because of how rapidly they are destroying their forests. In Copenhagen in December, a group of nations made progress in negotiating rules for quantifying the carbon saved by avoiding deforestation, so that credits could be used to offset industrial emissions, a program known as "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation" -- or REDD.
But when the Copenhagen negotiations collapsed without a formal treaty, the deforestation agreement was left in limbo. Now the bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Brazil "shows the world's major nations are moving forward," said Jennifer Havercamp, international climate policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund. "We can really move the ball forward with bilateral efforts like this."
In two articles and an audio/slide show last month, the Los Angeles Times chronicled efforts to save the Amazon forest and described a REDD project sponsored by local leaders outside Manaus that has encouraged river-dwellers to preserve trees around their villages. Read more here, in a report from Taruma Mirim. And in a report from the Juma reserve, learn how U.S. companies are funding REDD projects. Listen to the sounds and see the scenes of the rain forest in Brian Vander Brug's audio slide show here.
Article courtesy of the Los Angeles Times--Margot Roosevelt
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Starting in late 2011, the Bank of Canada will replace the country's cotton-paper bank notes — prone to wear and tear — with synthetic polymer ones that last two to three times as long.
By STEVEN CHASE
Toronto Globe and Mail
OTTAWA — Canada's paper money is going plastic.
Starting in late 2011, the Bank of Canada will replace the country's cotton-paper bank notes — prone to wear and tear — with synthetic polymer ones that last two to three times as long.
These far-hardier bills won't be indestructible — a flame is still a threat, for instance — but they will be virtually waterproof, meaning Canadians need worry no longer if their bank notes go through the washing machine by mistake.
The Bank of Canada is staying mum on the specific technology.
Plastic bills introduced in Australia and elsewhere apparently harbor fewer germs because their slick surface makes it harder for bacteria to cling to the money.
Dirty money is not a theoretical risk. Swiss scientists in 2007 demonstrated that some strains of flu virus could live for up to 17 days on bank notes. The most common flu strain lasted 72 hours.
Bugs aside, the new bills also will be less grubby. That's because the nonporous surface will not absorb sweat, oil or other liquids such as drinks. "They are very resistant, durable and clean," Bank of Canada spokeswoman Julie Girard said of the new currency.
The change is meant to reduce the cost of printing bills and create a currency that's much harder for the casual counterfeiter, at least, to fake.
Ottawa will rely on a sole supplier — an Australian company — of the special polymer bank-note material.
Plastic bank notes, developed in Australia, tend to cost more to print than paper currency, but Girard said Canada will end up having to print far fewer bills overall, which is where the savings will accrue.
Plastic notes also perform better in automated vending machines.
Article Courtesy of the Seattle Times
Premium for backing renewable energy would rise
NStar customers who pay a premium to ensure that a portion of their electricity is generated by wind could be hit with a rate hike that will increase their monthly bills by as much as 16 percent by next month.
NStar spokesman Michael Durand said yesterday that the increase “is beyond our control.’’
“We have to sell energy for what we pay for it,’’ he said. “This change is a way to reconcile the cost of the Green program with fluctuating energy prices.’’
The program, which enables customers to support electricity generated from renewable sources, offers the choice of having half or all of a customer’s electricity use support wind power for a premium.
If approved, the rate hike that NStar is proposing to take effect on April 1 would increase the premium for customers in the 50 percent plan to 2.356 cents per kilowatt hour of power from 0.837 cents per hour, raising the average bill by about $7.50. For those electing to have all their electricity use powered by wind, the premium would rise to 4.435 cents per kilowatt hour from 1.396 cents, adding about $15 more per month.
Lisa Capone, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, said the agency is reviewing NStar’s request. The complicated pricing and regulatory factors that go into calculating NStar’s Green premium rates “are really confusing for customers,’’ said Sue Reid, a senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation.
“We hope this won’t have a negative impact on the program. We hope people will continue to support this option,’’ she said.
The news angered at least one NStar customer. David Baeumler, a writer and filmmaker who lives in Jamaica Plain, has been paying “an extra five or six bucks a month’’ for more than a year for the utility’s green program. When Baeumler read that an average customer like him would be paying an additional $15 for the service in an e-mail from NStar earlier this week, it “felt like a slap in the face,’’ he said.
“It’s more than just the hit to my wallet,’’ Baeumler, 39, said yesterday. “What worries me is what effect this will have on everyone who felt concerned enough to sign up for the program.’’
The move comes just after NStar chief executive Thomas May in January told Globe editors and writers that the utility was “disappointed’’ that participation in the company’s Green program was not greater.
“We thought it would do better,’’ he said.
Lori Bird, a senior analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory who has studied green pricing, is not surprised at the level of participation in the NStar program. Of the 25 percent of the nation’s utilities that offer premium green programs, Bird said, most enroll about 2 percent of a company’s total customer base.
Meanwhile, John Rowe, chief executive of
“When they [utilities] charge a premium for wind power - lets say that’s the most economical - and natural gas is high, that premium can be really small,’’ he said. “But if gas goes down - and it’s gone down from $14 to $5 - that premium is actually big.
You’ve probably heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – that vast concentration of plastic litter trapped by ocean currents in the
The organization, which runs undergraduate sailing oceanography programs, has been towing nets in the western North Atlantic Ocean from
The exact size of the patch is unknown but the plastic is likely gathering for the same reason the garbage is in the Pacific: Because of gyres, or rotating ocean currents that trap the waste. And while you may expect to see plastic bags and milk jugs floating in a garbage ocean dump, most of the plastic is in tiny bits, broken down by the ocean and elements. Some of the material marine debris but most are plastics that make up common household products from straws to milk jugs.
It’s pretty clear to researchers some land garbage is getting in the sea. And that’s a problem: Plastics can soak up harmful chemicals that fish and seabirds can eat and accumulate. And sometimes, humans eat the contaminated fish.
“We really decided to look at this more closely,’’ said Kara Lavender Law, Sea Education Association’s oceanography faculty scientist. Lavender and Sea Education colleague Giora Proskurowski recently presented their findings at the Ocean Sciences meeting held by the American Geophysical Union in
They also found that the amount of plastic remained constant in their tows even though production and disposal of plastics increased in that time. On other cruises in the Pacific, the researchers found that the plastic isn’t all at the surface – the small pieces appear to go down for tens of feet.
In June, the researchers will launch the first-ever expedition dedicated solely to examining the accumulation of plastic marine debris in the
Thursday, March 4, 2010
by Beth Daley March 3, 2010 04:05 PM
Remember those great white sharks that swam so close to shore last summer officials closed some Cape Cod beaches?
At least two - and likely a lot more - are enjoying the warm water off Florida this winter, according to new research. And indications are they'll be back.
The sharks' whereabouts are being transmitted to state marine biologists from electronic tags they managed to affix on five of the mysterious, fierce creatures last September, providing some of the first ever data on the Atlantic Ocean travels of great whites. A third shark's data is being transmitted now.
New England waters have long been known to host the occasional great white -- the iconic species made famous in the movie Jaws -- but they were considered rare visitors. The new findings, however, come as an increasing numbers of the sharks have been seen closer to shore in recent years, perhaps to feed on growing colonies of gray seals that are populating the coast.
"These two sharks have turned out to be snow birds,'' said State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles at a press conference in front of the shark tank at the New England Aquarium. "I'm hoping that the tags still on other sharks will tell us more about the travels of these great creatures."
Greg Skomal, a shark expert with the state Division of Marine Fisheries said he expected at least one of the sharks to go offshore, as better-studied Pacific and African sharks do. But the sharks hugged the coast and traveled 1,000 miles south in two months to hang out in waters off Jacksonville, Fla. He said sharks deep-dived to 1,500 feet at times on their travels.
"We are just beginning to understand them,'' said Skomal. "What is their size and population? That is a big blank."
Article courtesy of The Green Blog/Boston.com
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
As part of their global study on ocean plastic pollution, the Santa Monica scientist couple of Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins recently returned from the Sargasso Sea with some startling news -- plastic pollutants may be working their way up the food chain to humans.
The voyage, which began in St. Thomas and set sail from Bermuda on Jan. 8, lasted six weeks and took the pair to a sargassum seaweed mass directly between Europe and North America that, regardless of its distance from either coast, is full of plastic.
Although discussion of the plastic problem was once reserved for the north Pacific Ocean, Eriksen and Cummins are studying pollution's widespread effects in all the world's oceans through their 5 Gyres Project in conjunction with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF). Cummins, 5 Gyres Project researcher and director, said a gyre is created by a series of currents and winds, which naturally draw debris. The couple's research is funded mainly by Blue Turtle and AMRF, although the project has many other sponsors as well.
"The goal is to get data from all 5 gyres on plastic and with that to bring this issue to a global audience," Cummins said. "What we are seeing now is that this plastic is starting to enter the food chain."
The plastic found at gyres is often depicted as floating in patches. While recognizable items, such as bottle caps, flip flops and toothbrushes, are found at these sites, 5 Gyres Project co-director and researcher Eriksen disagrees with this description. While plastic is non-biodegradable, the UV rays at sea weaken the material, which is then broken down into small particles by waves. It is these pieces that foraging fish mistake for food, initiating the pollutants entrance into the food chain.
"I wouldn't call either of them a patch, it's more like a soup," Eriksen said. "The majority of the mass is fragmented stuff that peppers the water coast to coast."
Another issue the plastic centers raise is their ability to attract other pollutants. The plastic acts like a sponge, drawing in toxic chemicals used on land that have gotten into the water. Because of this attraction, one piece of plastic debris contains a million times more pollutants than the water particles around it, Eriksen said.
The pair are on the cusp of cutting edge science, and spent their time on the voyage researching the toxicity of marine life ingesting plastic, the potential harm this causes humans and the effect this will have on future generations.
"The ultimate story of this whole plastic issue is, are we leaving a toxic legacy?" said Eriksen.
While on their recent voyage, the couple agreed on the most fascinating object they found. A fish swam into a plastic jug as a baby and, while inside, grew too large to get out. The fish now swims around with most of its body stuck inside the jug, with only its tail free to propel it.
Eriksen said the only way to stop continued harm like this is through legislation. Bans on plastic bags or fees for their use are good steps, he said, but an effective recovery and reuse system is needed. The couple now plans to continue their work by visiting the remaining gyres, while continuing raising awareness here like they did last year during a bike tour along the Pacific coast, handing out ocean samples to local leaders.
"To put a sample of the ocean in [their] hands … they see it, they get it, they want to do something about it," Eriksen said.
During the cycling tour last spring, the couple did make some time for fun. They stopped to get married in Big Sur — fittingly wearing outfits designed out of plastic bags
Article courtesy of Miriam Finder /Santa Monica Daily Press
Spring break is a great time to relax and let loose, but that doesn't mean you have to leave all your green habits behind. This week's tips will help make your spring break more eco-friendly.
A flight from New York to Cancun can generate as much as 1,000 pounds of carbon, so consider purchasing carbon offsets to help neutralize your impact. And look for a nonstop flight, which saves time and burns less fuel.
Road-tripping? Consider leaving your clunker at home and renting a hybrid: you'll save on gas and prevent wear and tear on your car. Once you're at your destination, using a bicycle or public transportation for sight-seeing will reduce your footprint and burn off a few of those vacation libations.
Article courtesy of The Green Life [Green.Life@sierraclub.org]
Monday, March 1, 2010
Organizers used hydropower, green building standards and other measures to make the Games more earth-friendly, achieving 'carbon neutral' status for the first time.
But the 45-year-old former organic farmer, who earlier ran the Happy Planet juice company, has shown up for most Olympic events as he always does: on his battered but serviceable mountain bike, suit pants tucked into his socks.
Since he became mayor in December 2008, Robertson has doubled Vancouver's bicycle infrastructure budget, set landmark electric-vehicle-charging standards for new buildings, and expanded the city's "car-free" days.
It was probably a foregone conclusion that any city with Robertson at the handlebars was not only going to host a green Olympics, but would try for the gold.
The 2010 Winter Games, the Vancouver Organizing Committee announced, will generate fewer greenhouse gases during the seven years it took to organize and put on than what was emitted in only a few weeks in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy.
The 2010 Games also will be the first in history to achieve a "carbon neutral" status for not only the Games, but also the travel of the 7,000 athletes, coaches and officials.
To do it, the city is relying on renewable hydropower for 90% of its electricity and the most ambitious set of green building standards ever achieved at Olympic venues, along with a fleet of hydrogen-powered SUVs and buses, heat from a curling rink's refrigeration plant to warm an aquatics pool and heavy dependence on mass transit -- there is no spectator parking at venues.
The Olympic torch is 90% recyclable and emits minimal greenhouse gases, and medals are made from recycled electronic waste. The Olympic athletes’ village this month received the highest environmental certification in the world, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, "platinum." Powered by its own neighborhood energy utility that converts sewage to power, the residential complex for about 2,700 competitors features a "net zero" building that produces as much energy as it consumes.
"We feel like we've raised the bar," Robertson said. "Some of these technologies will be a legacy for generations to come that will benefit cities all over the world."
Robertson's goal is not just to produce a green Games, but to use the Olympics to help develop a new clean-technology industry base in British Columbia. At least $3 million in carbon offsets -- investments in clean-energy projects whose climate change benefits "offset" the greenhouse gases generated by the Games -- is being provided by a private sponsor. With it, city officials hope to see a direct injection of money into local clean-technology companies, giving the region a potential leg up on cities like Seattle and Portland that are also vying to become hubs of the new-energy economy.
"The big gains in our Games came from the fact that everybody associated -- all our venue partners -- adopted the green building standards," said Linda Coady, the Vancouver Organizing Committee's vice president for sustainability. "We made a business case for it early on, making the argument that yes, there's an incremental cost associated with building green buildings, but for the most part you could recoup those costs within the first five years."
Two other venues, the day lodge at Whistler Olympic Park, which features an on-site wastewater treatment plant, and the Whistler Sliding Center, where waste heat from the refrigeration plant helps heat buildings, have attained LEED gold certification.
How well the sites are actually performing is already apparent, via a sophisticated software system installed at each venue that tracks energy usage minute-by-minute and compares it with how the building did last week and last month.
The first five days' readings showed a savings of 112,700 kilowatt hours, or about 16%, compared with what venues built without energy-saving features would have used. Spectators and managers can click into the energy tracker on their mobile phones or at home for an instant readout.
For all the accomplishments, critics say the Vancouver Olympics missed an important opportunity to advance the Vancouver region's transition from automobiles to transit, toppling thousands of trees to make way for a new highway and cross-country skiing trails.
And while the organizing committee's sponsor is making investments in energy-saving projects around British Columbia to make up for the 118,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases generated by the Games, that represents just 44% of the Olympics' total footprint.
Organizers will not compensate for an additional 150,000 tons of emissions generated by sponsors and the 1.6 million spectators traveling to Vancouver for the Games. They have, however, agreed to assume these emissions as part of the Games' total, 268,000-ton carbon footprint.
The David Suzuki Foundation, which was invited to evaluate the environmental record of the 2010 Games and gave them a decent-but-not-great "bronze" medal, suggested that ticket prices could have been raised to pay for spectators' carbon emissions.
But Coady said the committee already had built a day's worth of free transit ridership into every ticket and was under pressure to keep from adding more to the cost.
Further, imposing a carbon surcharge on the majority of ticket buyers who live within B.C. wouldn't have been fair, "particularly when you consider that British Columbia is the only jurisdiction in North America where local citizens are already paying a provincial carbon tax," she said.
The organizing committee instead is encouraging spectators to take responsibility for their emissions by buying their own offsets.
The Olympic offset sponsor, Offsetters Clean Technology of Vancouver, has a Web calculator for ticket-holders to add up their emissions. The company hopes to place staffers at the airport as the Games wind down to hawk additional credits to spectators as they fly home.
Half the proceeds from the voluntary offsets get invested in British Columbia clean energy projects, such as a cement plant that burns construction debris, and a greenhouse heated with wood chips; the other half goes to offset endeavors around the world.
Though corporate sponsors have voluntarily offset about 75% of their share of carbon emissions, hardly anyone is expecting spectators to beat down the doors to buy credits.
"Will we take down the whole 150,000 tons?" Coady asked. "That would be a gold medal performance."
When the curators of the 2009 Hong Kong-Shenzhen Biennale began assembling exhibits for the urbanism and architecture showcase, they decided to focus on the theme of sustainability. It turns out that most of the artists, architects and designers who answered their call for submissions had the same idea.
Spirit of the age
"It's almost a zeitgeist," says Eric Schuldenfrei, one of the biennale's four curators. "When you ask people for new work, the dialogue with nature is very strong. It might be subtle, but if you look for it, there is that element in almost every project in the biennale. It's curated to an extent, but it's also what everyone was already working on."
Sustainability might be a buzzword, but the philosophy behind it goes far beyond a bit of greenery here and there.
A scan of the biennale's lengthy roster of exhibitions, installations, lectures and events shows a preoccupation with the question of how to reduce Hong Kong's impact on the environment and bring city-dwellers back into contact with nature.
"We're looking at sustainability not just from a point of view of greening, but also through this concept of social sustainability," says Schuldenfrei. "It's about how you pass on information and knowledge from one generation to the next, or how the younger generation can inspire thoughts in the older generation, so it comes up from below, instead of always being imposed from the top down."
Greening Hong Kong
Some of the brightest ideas come from the biennale's youngest participants.
One of the team members, Choi Kit-wang, said they were inspired by the banyan trees that grow on the old stone walls found in the hillier parts of Hong Kong.
"We want to encourage the government to hold more competitions like the one for the flyover," says Schuldenfrei. "The only reason that one was held was because a district councillor insisted on it -- he was tired of the Highways Department always building the same ugly noise barriers, especially the glass ones, which birds fly into and die.
"The biennale is meant to push through this kind of change."
Another project called Eco Farm -- Green Pixel, brought together architect Humphrey Wong and Pad Chu Pui-kwan, who has been running an organic farm on Lamma Island for the past 15 years. Last month, the two invited teenagers, kindergarten students and other volunteers to plant rapeseed, wheatgrass, romaine lettuce and herbs in containers made from recycled paper. The containers have been arranged on the biennale's site in West Kowloon like pixels in a computer animation.
Over the next three months, as the plants grow and change colour from green to white and yellow, volunteers will harvest them and make salads. When the biennale is over, they'll be able to take the containers home.
"This is our connection to nature," says Chu. "You don't have to put [plants] in a garden or a farm, it can be on your balcony, on your roof, along the walls or in some other part of your building."
"People think green architecture needs a lot of investment and a lot of new technology or serious research before it can be done, but it's not just about vertical farming or green roofs. It's actually very easy do to something like what we've done," says Wong.
While it's impossible to judge exactly what people will take away from the biennale, Schuldenfrei says it has already sparked collaboration among its participants.
One design firm that specializes in vertical gardening -- walls covered in vegetation -- has already shared its expertise with the young architecture graduates who designed the Green Tapestry. The biennale's impact, he says, might not truly be felt for many years.
"If you give a kid a green pixel and they have nowhere to plant it, because their apartment doesn't accommodate that, you start to think about whether there's space in the city that we can provide for them to plant in, like in schools or in a public park. Often, some of these ideas might take 30 years [to come to fruition]. It's the things that someone did 20 or 30 years ago that we feel the impact of now
Article courtesy of The Seattle Times
ROME - An oil spill that fouled a small river in northern Italy reached the Po River, with officials warning of an ecological disaster as they scrambled to contain the sludge before it contaminated Italy’s longest and most important river.
The cisterns “were opened by someone who was familiar with the plant and knew how to operate them,’’ said Cinzia Secchi, a spokeswoman for the Milan provincial government.
There were varying accounts of the amount of oil released. Secchi said officials now believed 660,000 gallons had poured out, down from the initial estimates of 10 million liters but significantly more than the 600,000 liters reported by the ANSA news agency and environmental groups.
Article courtesy of Tommaso Balestra/ Associated Press/Boston.com