10 Earth Day links to help your planet

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This is the message Jack Johnson is sending to children (and anyone else listening) in his song “The 3 R’s” found on the Curious George Soundtrack “Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies.” It’s one of my son’s favorite songs to sing along to – well for an 18 month old, it’s more like a hum. Today while singing, I turned to him and said, “This is a great song for Earth Day.” He nodded!

This is what Earth Day is partly about … educating young and old alike on taking care of our planet for a better future. This shouldn’t just be one day of caring and giving back to the Earth; it should be something we strive to recognize in every action we take.

Where to begin though? It can be something simple. My pledge is to purchase a countertop composter and start composting my family’s food waste.

Looking for ideas to help the Earth every day? Here are 10 sites containing tips, articles and resources to get you or your company started:

ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=7395740

Clean Techies: http://bit.ly/djWave

Climate Counts: http://www.climatecounts.org/

Earth911: http://earth911.com/earthday/

EPA: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/tips.htm

Inc: http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/04/earth-day-initiatives.html

Jetson Green: http://bit.ly/aouQrN

Preserve: http://www.preserveproducts.com/recycling/index.html

Whole Foods Market: http://bit.ly/asQi7G

Yo Baby: http://bit.ly/9beYFO

Let us know what you think.

Top green tech links for the week 4/11

  • Plug-in hybrids are so 5 minutes ago. DARPA has its eyes on flying electric car (via Inhabitat).
  • Speaking of PHEVs…wondering where you’ll be able to fuel up while on the road? Try a local Whole Foods grocery chain (via Green Car Congress).
  • First Walmart, now IBM telling its suppliers to green up or take a hike (via Treehugger).
  • Forget peak oil threats. Peak phosphorous may be a more urgent problem if you want to eat (via Greenbang).

A green consumer reaches the Hotpoint of no return

Kermit the Frog was right when he said it’s not easy being green. But he didn’t warn us how freakin’ expensive it can be, too. I learned for myself recently, when I got a personal lesson in environmental math and the correlation between corporate brands and environmental responsibility. It all came courtesy of an electric range.

My 30-year-old Hotpoint stove has been decaying steadily since I bought my house 10 years ago, and when one of the burners fell apart it was time to start socking away money for a new one. I had resisted replacing the stove for years, even though the burners were too small, the oven looked like the gateway to the third ring of hell, and it was the color of an under ripe avocado. Why? Because it worked. And, God help me there must be a penurious Yankee hidden on my family tree someplace, I couldn’t bear to get rid of something that worked. Not just for the money, though that had something to do with it, but because of the environmental impact of throwing out a major appliance. There is close to 200 pounds of steel, copper, plastic and assorted insulating materials in an electric stove. There was no way I could re-use the stove by selling it on Craig’s List or donating it to a charity – it was too old and decrepit. The Hotpoint was landfill fodder, and though my town has an excellent recycling program, the energy and new raw materials consumed by disposing of my old stove and replacing it with a new one weren’t worth it to me.

Then the front left burner crumbled like a Bermie Madoff hedge fund, and it was off to Consumer Reports to find a good quality replacement. I trust Consumer Reports the way I used to trust Larry Bird to hit the game-winning three-pointer with no time left on the clock. I don’t buy a roll of Life Savers unless CR says it’s okay. I’ll pay extra to buy something that CR recommends as a quality product with a long life span and low maintenance costs. So when all signs pointed to yet another Hotpoint in my price range, all that remained was to accumulate the last few bucks of the purchase price and head off to the appliance store.

Then my church had a “sustainable gift fair” for the holiday season, I bought a little book called “The Better World Shopping Guide,” and green reality clubbed me behind the ear.

The Guide rates companies according to a social responsibility formula that includes social justice, animal protection, human rights, community involvement, environmental record. I looked up appliances, found Hotpoint, and almost choked. It wasn’t just rated low, it was rated the lowest – a big fat “F,” alongside General Electric. The Guide counsels against doing business with any company graded “F.” And it doesn’t mince any words. “This category is reserved for companies that are actively participating in the rapid destruction of the planet and the exploitation of human beings. Avoid these products at all costs.” The companies that rated high on the list were the BMWs and Acuras of the world. They were expensive but, according to Consumer Reports, often weren’t a good value and didn’t last as long as the less expensive Hotpoints and GEs.

So there was the choice: a high-quality product with a long life from a company with a crummy environmental rating or a mediocre product from a company with a high environmental rating. A high-quality product from a highly rated company wasn’t an option because by the time I saved enough to buy one the old Hotpoint would have either crumbled or burst into flames.

Ellis Jones, author of “The Better World Shopping Guide” and a professor at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., said my dilemma is pretty common among socially conscious consumers, and that there are no fix-all answers.

“Unfortunately, in a market economy it’s often more expensive to be a responsible corporation, and that cost is passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices,” Jones said. “What I tell consumers is that it’s important to understand the limits of choice and still stick by one’s guns as much as they can in any given situation. Everyone comes to the table with different resources, or they live in an area where they have limited choices of products and companies to buy them from. You can only do the best you can with what you have.”

If we want to make a difference socially and environmentally, Jones said, we have to increase the quality of our purchases, buy from higher rated companies, and decrease the quantity of our purchases. He predicts that it will get easier to buy conscientiously over the coming years because companies realize how social responsibility resonates with their consumers, and they want their brands to represent progressive ideals. In the meantime, he says, we will have to compromise on one front or another when voting with our disposable incomes.

So I compromised. Sort of. I didn’t buy a new stove. Actually, I couldn’t. I had to use the money I saved for a stove to replace the front left fender on my Honda Accord after a hit-and-run driver punched a hole in it. The Honda, with 165,264 miles on it, is a much bigger environmental issue than the stove. And what the hell, I still have three burners left on the stove. Maybe in 2011 …

Top green tech links for the week of 3/22

  • The Green:Net conference announced its Top 10 LaunchPad green startup company winners. My favorite: ecoATM, which pays you cash for your old electronics through an automated kiosk. (Via GigaOm)
  • Egg-beater-style windmill maker says it can double wind farm output by creating mini-tornados. (Via GreenTech Media)
  • Vegan buzzkill: Study says cutting back on animal products won’t have a major impact on global warming. (Via Green Car Congress)
  • Environmental journalist Marc Gunther calls out Corporate Responsibility Magazine for numerous implausible winners and ommisions in its Top 100 Best Corporate Citizens list. (Via marcgunther.com)
  • If you’re not a big fan of blowing up mountain tops for mining, you’ll enjoy the video of “Rev. Billy” dumping a wheelbarrow load of mountain blow at one of the mining company’s bank investors. Can I get an amen? (via TreeHugger)



SAGE’s re-imagining of windows will help save $300 billion in energy

This morning Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu – joined by Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar – announced $100+ million in DOE funding and IRS green manufacturing tax credits for our client SAGE Electrochromics.

These funds will help SAGE establish a new 250,000 sq. ft. facility in Faribault, Minnesota used to manufacture energy-saving, electronically tintable dynamic glass that  makes buildings more energy efficient and creates hundreds of new, skilled, green manufacturing jobs.

While hundreds of buildings have already installed SageGlass windows, this new government funding will enable the company to mass produce its glass and bring this energy saving technology to the world.

Secretary Chu has repeatedly said the biggest gains in decreasing this country’s energy bill, the amount of carbon dioxide and our dependency on foreign oil will come from energy efficiency and conservation in the next 20 years. SageGlass is a leading example of an energy efficiency technology.

SageGlass products transform windows from an energy liability to an energy source. The potential for energy savings is significant because energy loss through windows accounts for about 30% of heating and cooling energy. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), electrochromic windows like those produced by SAGE can save one-eighth of all the energy used by U.S. buildings each year. This is equivalent to about 5% of the nation’s energy budget. This translates into savings of approximately $300 billion over the next 20 years.

That’s not chump change.

SAGE focused on something each of us experiences every day – glass – and re-imagined it, transforming glass into something innovative that helps make the world a better place and America more competitive.

This is a great example of how something seemingly mundane like a window can become highly transformational.

A few environmental predictions worth checking out

Forecasting anything except the weather in Antarctica is a low-margin game, at best, so I usually discount forecasts and predictions (including my own) at a hefty rate. Having said that, however, the American Society of Landscape Architects recently wrote some environmentally-related predictions that were engaging enough that I hope they come true – or in a few cases, don’t come true.

Aside from the subject matter itself, the thing I like about the ASLA’s predictions is that they communicate well. What I mean is that most of the predictions describe changes that would be very visible in the average person’s life – the proliferation of bicycles for commuting, or the growing cost of fuel making urban agriculture economically viable again. Check out the predictions on the ASLA’s “The Dirt” blog. What do you think?