Thursday, October 28, 2010

Single stream recycling comes to Cambridge

Recycling has gotten a whole lot simpler in Cambridge. Cambridge is the latest city to switch to single stream recycling. Cambridge residents can now throw all of their recyclables (glass, plastic, metals, paper, and cardboard) in one bin. The recycling plant in Charlestown will sort the products through a series of magnets, rotators, eddy currents, and optical scanners. Residents have also been given new larger bins with wheels (toters) to hold their recycling.

The new recycling trucks can compact the material, so they can now accept cardboard (no need to cut it up anymore), empty pizza boxes, empty paper coffee cups, large plastic items, and spiral cans (such as a Pringles can). The city expects the new, simpler program to increase recycling rates from 25% to at least 35%. Medford will begin single stream recycling on November 1st.

Watch this short animation from RecycleBank to see how it works

Article courtesy of The Boston Globe Posted by Dara Olmsted, The Green Blog


Wednesday, October 20, 2010


"Planning our communities smarter means parents will spend less time driving and more time with their children; more families will live in safe, stable communities near good schools and jobs; and more businesses will have access to the capital and talent they need to grow and prosper."
– Shaun Donovan, HUD Secretary

Article courtesy of The Smart Growth Network

Backyard Cottages Address Housing Need

Many parts of Seattle are now allowing backyard cottages in residentially zoned neighborhoods. Though the practice is not legal throughout the Puget Sound area, a host of other cities allow it. Backyard cottages allow people to live where they work and play, and have smaller carbon footprints then typical homes. Additionally, structures built on already-developed land increase urban density and generate tax income, making them appealing for many cities.

Article courtesy of The Smart Growth Network

Oregon's First Full-Service Bike Transit Center

The Grand Opening of the Bikestation Hillsboro bike transit center was announced by Mobis Transportation/Bikestation. The new Bikestation facility offers a range of amenities including electronically secure indoor bike parking, showers, restrooms, lockers, a bicycle self-repair stand with tools, and transit information. Bikestation is designed to address the needs of current cyclists and people who would like to bicycle but shy away due to concerns about theft and convenience. The transit center operates on a low-cost membership model and members can use not only the Hillsboro facility, but any Bikestation located across the country.

Article courtesy of The Smart Growth Network

Planning for a New Energy and Climate Future

by: American Planning Association   

Planners have an important role to play in helping communities meet energy needs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and adapt to a changing climate. While most planners recognize the significance of these issues, they are still working to translate these imperatives into on-the-ground plans, actions, and regulations. Planning for a New Energy and Climate Future, the culmination of a three-year research and education project on the integration of climate change and energy issues into planning practice, was prepared by APA in collaboration with the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of North Carolina Asheville.

The report presents fundamental information about energy and climate change, provides a framework for how to integrate energy and climate into the planning process, and offers strategies for communities to address energy and climate across a variety of issues, including development patterns, transportation, and economic development. Case studies illustrate communities that have already begun taking steps in these areas.   


Article courtesy of the Smart Growth Network


Friday, October 15, 2010

Different views on threat of radon

Radon — an odorless, colorless gas that seeps from uranium in the soil — accounts for more than half of the ionizing radiation most people encounter in their lives. When inhaled, this radioactive gas can set the stage for lung cancer.
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Article courtesy of The Los Angeles Times by Chris Woolston

Green energy field is fertile ground for wild concepts

Spray-on solar panels, power beaming down from outer space and gasoline-like fuel made from bacteria.

Sound far-fetched? Maybe, but these and other futuristic concepts for producing power are being taken seriously in scientific, business and academic circles. Some have even raised millions in funding.
Article courtesy of the Los Angeles Times by Tiffany Hsu

WASHINGTON — Google and a New York financial firm have each agreed to invest heavily in a proposed $5 billion transmission backbone for future offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Seaboard that could ultimately transform the region’s electrical map.The 350-mile underwater spine, which could remove some critical obstacles to wind power development, has stirred excitement among investors, government officials, and environmentalists who have been briefed on it. Article courtesy of The New York Times by Matthew L. Wald

To read more


Stonyfield yogurt uses plant-based packaging

Stonyfield Farm announced today that they will be using plant-based packaging for their multi-pack yogurts. The packaging, made from corn, will replace the petroleum-based plastic that is traditionally used in yogurt cups. The cup will be 93% plant-based; the other 7% will be made out of titanium dioxide (for color) and additives. When the label and lid are included, the entire package is 81% plant-based.

Traditional plastic is made from oil or natural gas. The bio-based packaging is made from polylactic acid (PLA). PLA can be made from a variety of plant products, but in the US, corn is used. The corn is turned into corn starch and then fermented into lactic acid (similar to how yogurt is made). The lactic acid is then made into plastic. Stonyfield hopes to make the plastic out of non-food crops in the future, such as switch grass.

Stonyfield has tried to make the process as environmentally-friendly as possible. Their concern about the prevalence of genetically modified (GMO) corn pushed them to create an offset through the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Working Landscapes program to pay farmers to grow non-GMO corn using sustainable production standards. A life-cycle assessment of the packaging found that it would reduce Stonyfield's greenhouse gas emissions from packaging by 9%.

Technically, the cups can be recycled, but there are only two facilities in the world that can separate the lid and packaging from the cup, so it is not feasible for the most consumers right now. Most interestingly, Stonyfield found that, "the independent review of PLA’s environmental impact found that composting is not the best option for disposing of the cups, anyway. This is because composting would release back into the atmosphere the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the plant-plastic which was absorbed by the corn when it was growing
Article courtesy of The Boston Globe-Green Blog posted by Dara Olmsted

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More Transit = More Jobs

by: Transportation Equity Network   

What would happen if 20 metropolitan areas shifted 50 percent of their highway funds to transit? They would generate 1,123,674 new transit jobs over a five-year period — for a net gain of 180,150 jobs over five years — without a single dollar of new spending.

That's the finding of the Transportation Equity Network's new study, More Transit = More Jobs.

First, it's important to look at how much cities currently spend on public transit. As a percentage of total transit spending, the top five cities are:
1. New York, NY
2. Honolulu, HI
3. Portland, OR
4. Philadelphia, PA
5. Kalamazoo, MI

The five cities that spend the least on public transit are:
1. Minneapolis, MN
2. Boston, MA
3. Atlanta, GA
4. Denver, CO
5. St. Louis, MO

Article courtesy of smart Growth Online



Low Supply of Workforce Housing Persists in Employment Hubs Throughout Boston

Housing that is close to major employment centers remains unaffordable to a large portion of workers in the Boston metropolitan area, despite the decline in home prices that occurred in many parts of the region during the recession. This is the conclusion of new research published by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing. In Priced Out: Persistence of the Workforce Housing Gap in the Boston Metro Area, researchers examine the availability of for-sale and rental housing near six major employment hubs in the Boston area, specifically in terms of housing that is affordable to workforce households. The study found that there is currently a shortage of about 25,000 housing units affordable to workforce households near each of the six employment centers, with the number expected to increase.

Article courtesy of Smart Growth Online