Archive for July, 2010

Good Morning Gorgeous!

Posted on July 30, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

So after writing that blog post about old spice (see blog post: Trying to smell like a manly man?), I found the Environmental Working Group website so interesting. I searched some of my bathroom products I use in the morning, when getting ready for work. I  found out that some of the products I was using daily were actually extremely toxic. For example, I love using Jergans Natural Glow Moisturizer, however it contains Ceteareth-20. Ceteareth is “classified as a Penetration Enhancer – alters skin structure allowing chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin, increases the amount of toxins that reach the bloodstream, and is linked to cancer”. Makes you wonder, what’s in your bathroom products?

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NASA uses “first of its kind” satellites to illustrate global forests heights

Posted on July 28, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

NASA’s ICESat, Terra and Aqua satellites have created a first-of-its-kind map that details the world’s forests and oceans.  These satellites were recently used to show images of the Gulf spill, but were originally created to catalog the globe’s forest cover.  The map uses “uniform method for measure” rather than using local and regional canopy maps.  It will help scientist study how forests across the world stores and use carbon.

“The laser technology called LIDAR was used to capture the data. It is capable of taking vertical slices of surface features.  It measured the forest canopy by shooting a pulse of light at the surface and observed the time it took to return in comparison to the time recorded for the tree top.”

“LIDAR is unparalleled for this type of measurement … it would have taken weeks to capture this data in the field where LIDAR can capture it in seconds”, explains Michael Lefsky of the Colorado State University, responsible for capturing the data.

“What we really want is a map of above-ground biomass, and the height map helps get us there,” said Richard Houghton, an expert in terrestrial ecosystem science.

With this evidence, scientists have concluded that that old growth forests obtain carbon from the simple process of photosynthesis, while second growth forests are drastically absorbing large amounts of carbon, more than the old growth forests.

This is just the beginning of new technology that can enlighten us more about global climate change.

More info

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Tragedy

Posted on July 27, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , |

In the past week we witnessed the failure of our elected officials passing a comprehensive climate/energy bill that would have imposed a price or limit on carbon.

Many media pundits (mostly of the FoxNews genre), Chamber of Commerce reps, and oil industry execs laud this failure as a “win” for the American economy.  Their perspective is that since carbon is a byproduct of almost everything our economy does – from the generation of electricity, to manufacturing, to transport – if carbon is priced, the American economy will suffer as a result.  But study after study reveals that pricing carbon would have a very minimal impact on our GDP.

Conversely, not enforcing a price on carbon will simply perpetuate our current system of pumping millions of tons of CO2 unabated into our atmosphere through burning coal and oil for energy, causing untold immediate and long-term (climate change) damage.  Calculating the true cost of climate change is impossible – but one thing is sure, that its cost to our economy and our wallets will be staggering.  What is ironic is that the very sectors of our economy that lobbied against a climate/energy bill will likely be the worst affected by climate change.  All sectors of the economy – most notably infrastructure, agriculture, energy, and transportation – will be negatively affected.  This does not even take into account the damage to our global ecosystems, on which our quality of life relies.

This entire argument of pro/anti a price on carbon goes back to Economics 101.  The fact that carbon is not aggressively priced to makeup for its negative effects on our ecosystems and human health is called a “tragedy of the commons“.  What the oil, coal, big business, and big ag industries have denied and failed to communicate to the American public, is that their continued spewing of Co2 into the atmosphere IS costing the US and the globe untold sums.  Emitting carbon into the atmosphere is technically free at the moment, but its repercussions are far from free.  A simple comparison is the Clean Water Act.  In 1972, Legislators recognized that unabated corporate pollution of America’s waterways was bad for the common good.  Thus, the created a law that enforced pollution limits and fines for breaching these limits – essentially instituting a price on and regulating water effluent & discharge.  Our nation’s waterways went from being flammable to considerably cleaner, all while our economy has expanded many fold since 1972.

Corporate (specifically coal and oil) greed triumphed last week.  The rest of us will have to pay the price.

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Sol Systems and Clean Currents Announce SREC Partnership

Posted on July 27, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Sol Systems and Clean Currents, two pioneers in distributed solar energy finance and development, have partnered together.  The collaborative partnership between Sol Systems and Clean Currents ensures more prospective solar energy system owners across the mid-Atlantic will have access to SREC financing, which makes generating solar energy both affordable and simple.  “With Clean Currents’ accomplishments in context, it is a great honor for Sol Systems to announce this collaborative partnership” said Sol Systems CEO, Yuri Horwitz.  Under the new partnership, Sol Systems will work with Clean Currents to ensure their customers continue to receive the highest value for the sale of their SRECs.

Clean Currents is a leading independent solar energy installer and clean energy broker, operating in the mid-Atlantic region.  Clean Currents provides a diverse array of services, ranging from solar installations to power switch agreements for homeowners and businesses.  Recently, Clean Currents provided Sol Systems with a Wind Renewable Energy Credit (REC) purchasing agreement that offset Sol Team’s entire business and personal carbon footprint.  Clean Currents has been honored with such awards as the Maryland Green Company of the Year in 2010 and the DC Mayor’s Environmental Excellence Award in 2009.  For more information about Clean Currents, please visit www.cleancurrents.com.

Sol Systems is a Washington D.C. based solar energy finance and development firm.  With more than 1,000 customers across 13 states, Sol Systems has become a critical player in developing SREC markets and financing solar energy systems.  Sol Systems currently offers long-term, fixed price SREC contracts, upfront SREC contracts, and SREC brokerage solutions in New Jersey.  By utilizing Sol Systems’ options, customers can reduce solar installation costs anywhere from 20-40%.  For more information about Sol Systems, please visit, www.solsystemscompany.com.

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Support Small Wind in Baltimore County- Help Pass Bill 62-10!

Posted on July 26, 2010. Filed under: News, Recommendations | Tags: , , , , , , , |

**UPDATE** June 30, 2010: County Councilman Moxley is supporting Bill 62-10. Here’s his note to Gary:

Dear Mr. Skulnik,

Thanks for the email.  I am supporting the bill.

Sincerely,

Sam Moxley

Baltimore County residents- support a new bill introduced by Councilman Gardina to promote small wind turbine installations in Baltimore County via a five year pilot program.

Get informed with the fact sheet and talking points below from Baltimore County Climate Coalition (BCAN’s Baltimore County Offshoot)

BALTIMORE COUNTY WIND TURBINE BILL – The Facts

  • Currently wind turbines cannot be erected as a matter of right in Baltimore County.
  • Without a specific zoning law, turbines will continue to be subject to legal challenges and lengthy, costly and uncertain zoning processes.
  • Bill 62-10, “Zoning Regulations – Small Wind Energy System PILOT Program”, introduced by Councilman Vince Gardina on July 6, would set up a 5-year pilot program for small turbines.
  • Wind turbines could be installed as accessory to commercial agricultural and institutional uses in the RC zone (outside the Urban-Rural Demarcation Line, or “URDL”), and in manufacturing zoned parcels that are not next to residential properties.
  • Residential wind turbines are excluded from the pilot program.
  • “Wind farms” are not permitted.  Turbines must be for the property owner’s own energy needs, although excess energy can be sold back to the grid.
  • Once approved and erected, a turbine can stay up after the pilot program ends unless it is unsafe or out of operation for a year.
  • Applicants must apply for a building permit that includes a site plan demonstrating that the turbine meets limitations on height, setbacks, noise levels and other safety and aesthetic performance standards.
  • Ground-mounted turbines can’t be taller than 80 feet on lots of one acre or less.
  • For larger lots, ground-mounted turbines are limited in height by the property’s setback requirements and Federal Aviation Administration standards.
  • Ground-mounted turbines can’t be closer than 1.1 times their height from the nearest property line nor closer than 1.5 times their height from a neighbor’s house.
  • Roof-mounted turbines must meet the building’s height and setback restrictions.
  • Turbines can’t exceed 55 decibels as measured at the neighbor’s property line.
  • Meteorological towers (METs) can be erected to gather wind data for the site for a period of one year.  METs are NOT a prerequisite for erecting a turbine and can be erected after the 5-year pilot program sunsets.

BALTIMORE COUNTY WIND TURBINE BILL- Talking Points

  • Currently wind turbines cannot be erected as a matter of right in Baltimore County.
  • Without a specific zoning law, turbines will continue to be subject to legal challenges and lengthy, costly and uncertain zoning processes.  This bill came about because of a neighbor vs. neighbor lawsuit over a proposed turbine.
  • Bill 62-10, “Zoning Regulations – Small Wind Energy System PILOT Program”, is limited in scope and duration, informed by best practices around the state, and responsive to concerns raised at the Council hearing on the Planning Board recommendations.
  • Councilman Gardina worked closely with the Maryland Energy Administration on technical requirements and the County’s Planning Department on safety and aesthetic issues.
  • Limits:
    • The pilot program will sunset in 5 years.
    • Residential turbines and wind farms are excluded.
    • Turbines are permitted only as accessory to commercial agricultural and institutional uses outside the URDL and in manufacturing zoned parcels not adjacent to residential properties.
    • Height limitations, setbacks, noise levels and other performance standards are prescribed in the bill and vetted through the building permit process.
  • Seventeen other counties in Maryland and several municipalities have wind turbine ordinances on the books or in process, including our neighbors Howard, Carroll, Harford and Anne Arundel counties.
  • Wind turbines, or wind mills, have been used for hundreds of years in Baltimore County, particularly on farms.  The pilot program will protect the traditional, historical land use practice of harvesting benign, renewable energy to power operations on one’s own property.
  • Baltimore County has many properties with microclimates suitable for wind turbines.
  • The pilot program will improve the economic competitiveness and viability of Baltimore County’s agricultural, manufacturing and institutional communities by reducing energy costs.
  • The pilot program will support Baltimore County’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the County by 10% by 2012.
  • The pilot program will continue Baltimore County’s leadership tradition in environmental stewardship.
  • The pilot program will support the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions statewide by 25% by 2020 – a legal requirement of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 – and the renewable energy initiatives in the state’s Climate Action Plan.

IMPORTANT DATES:

July 27 Work Session, 2 PM. County Council will take public testimony on the bill.

August 2 Legislative Session, 6 PM. County Council will vote on the bill.

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The flipside of going green

Posted on July 23, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Everyone is going green these days…. with their organic groceries, installed solar panels, and brand new Prius hybrid. People often brag to thier neighbors, family,  and friends about what they are doing to help the  environment. Even though you are going green, there is always a flip side of going green. When purchasing those organic groceries, are you driving you SUV just around the corner, or do you keep your television on because your solar panels are providing the electricity?  

“There are so many contradictions in the today’s world, especially when it comes to green issues, said Keith WAre, who has watched with raised eyebrow as Hummers pull up to his environmentally friendly appliance store, Eco-Green Living, near the nuclear free zone. From a threoritical perspective, the research has shown that “its like we can withdraw from out moral banned accounts… “it’s the lens through which you see the rest of your behavior, but it may not even be conscious”

For example, a lot of people who purchase green appliances to seem to overuse them because they think “its okay” because it’s a green appliance. 6 percent of consumers upped clothes washing after getting a high efficiency washer and 33% of people in a study of 500 saw no reductions in their bill after the had greened their homes. 

Does this make us all hypocrites?

More info: Express Article Michael S. Rosenwald (Washington Post)

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How to Ride this Heat Wave

Posted on July 22, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , |

This summer is panning out to be a scorcher.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has already reported that this past June was the hottest June on record.  Aiming to live a greener lifestyle can help to alleviate the amount of carbon that your daily activities directly and indirectly emit into the atmosphere.  However, combating global climate change is not a short-term endeavor with quick results.

But there are some things that you can do now that will show immediate results and provide some relief from this heat.

1) While summer is not the ideal planting season, you should look into planting shade trees on your property and around your home.  One shade tree on your property can equate to a 15% savings on home cooling bills.  This is because shade trees reflect radiant heat from the summer sun.  Many of us live in urbanized areas that suffer from “urban heat island effects“, where temperatures are often 5-10 degrees warmer than in nearby rural areas.  Trees and vegetation can help to mitigate this heat island effect.

2) Draw your shades!  By simply keeping your blinds shut during the most intense sun hours of 11am-4pm, you can save 10% on summer cooling bills.

3) Buy a fan rather than turning your thermostat lower.  The urge to turn the dial to below 75F can be great, but for every degree that you turn your thermostat lower in the summer, you increase your utility bill by 3-5%.  A fan is a cheap and effective method of keeping your house comfortable during hot days.

4) Schedule a home energy audit.  I’ve covered this topic before, but I cannot give it enough attention.  An average American home wastes up to 75% of the energy that it consumer, by allowing cool air to escape through poorly insulated windows, doors, and attics in the summer (and warm air in the winter).  Two wonderful companies that conduct energy efficiency audits are:  EcoBeco and Weatherize DC.  A small upfront cost could save you literally thousands over the course of a few years.

Learn more about quick summer fixes here:  http://greenhomeguide.com/know-how/article/10-ways-to-beat-the-heat

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Non-Profits + Clean Currents = Love

Posted on July 22, 2010. Filed under: Recommendations | Tags: , , , , , , |

At Clean Currents, we’ve always had a special place in our heart for non-profits. Though we’re a for profit company, we often say we have a non-profit mission– we believe that businesses have a responsibility to protect and improve our environment. We worked with numerous non-profits to control their electricity costs, green their operations, and further their missions. 

By locking in fixed rates for electricity with Clean Currents, non-profits can protect themselves from market fluctuations. Clean Currents has also helped non-profits get even better rates by coming together in buying groups and purchasing electricity in bulk.

A recent Montgomery County buying group included Manna Food Center, Guide Program, Montgomery Housing Partnership, Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church,  Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, Housing Unlimited, Mental Health Association of Montgomery County, Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington , Montgomery Hospice, Montgomery Preservation, National Capital Trolley Museum, The Arc of Montgomery County, St. Luke’s House, and Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring.
Our associates give non-profits personal attention by promoting them in this newsletter, on twitter, our blog and our website. Beyond that, we get involved in events through sponsorship and attendance. As a local company, we have an interest in the development of the community around us. Our GNEC program is an innovative fundraising mechanism that gives money back per sign-up to further the non-profit mission. All in all, Clean Currents and non-profits are a great match!

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Going Green is the new trend

Posted on July 22, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Consumers who care about the environment are a prime target of green washing, fake “green” companies. This is no surprise. Environmentally conscious consumers are generally well educated and well off. They are a great target market and thus tempting to companies that might otherwise have no green interest (environmental “green,” that is).

You have to do a little additional homework to separate the truly green companies from the green washers. I propose this simple three part test to figure out who talks “green” and who actually walks “green:”

1. Does the company only offer green products or is a green product part of a group of products, including polluting products?

Are they promoting “wind power” on the one hand, while selling massive amounts of coal or nuclear power on the other hand?

2. Are the company’s operations certified as being sustainable by a legitimate third party entity, which performs an actual on-site audit?

For example, when Clean Currents got certified by Montgomery County Maryland’s Department of Environmental Protection, we had auditors visit our office to ensure we are doing everything we claimed we were. Any kind of “green registry” that does not require a third party audit is worthless.

3. Does the company work with advocacy groups to support environmental legislation beyond legislation that would directly improve the company’s business?

A solar company that advocates for increased solar incentives does not count. That’s pure self interest. But companies like Clean Currents that push for broad legislation that reduces carbon emissions, or that cleans up the Bay make a real difference beyond their immediate self interest.

So, if a company claims they are sustainable on their web site, ask them for proof. If they say they donate money to non profits, or support planting trees or something like that, tell them that’s not enough. Even Exxon Mobil donates to charities like that. The true test is what are they doing to change the laws of this nation (or of their home states or cities)? Voluntary green actions are great, and they are important in terms of making a difference. Environmental consumers have the power to change the way business is done, to ensure that every company becomes a true green minded entity instead of a green washer trying to make a quick buck on the latest fad. By purchasing products only from green companies that pass the simple green test, you are ensuring that there will be a growing industry of truly green businesses that protect the planet while protecting their bottom line.

From Garys blog!
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PA Gov. Rendell & State Rep. DePasquale Speak about Progressive Energy Policy at PA Conference

Posted on July 22, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Clean Currents President Gary Skulnik and Pennsylvania Coordinator Karen Sander heard PA Governor Edward Rendell give an inspiring speech at the Sustainable Energy Conference in Bethlehem, PA.  

The gov. spoke about making Pennsylvania a leader in pursuing energy independence and creating jobs in the emerging alternative energy field.  This will not only reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy and save families money, it will stimulate our economy.  

The alternative energy field has created thousands of jobs across Pennsylvania and will continue to create jobs that will give this economy the boost it needs.  He questioned why we seem to be funding both sides of the war on terror, with money going to pay for oil to regimes that don’t necessarily support us.  Great question.  His ambitions with alternative energy don’t stop at creating jobs for our residents, but they aim to save and improve the beautiful environment found all across Pennsylvania.  He passed a Growing Greener environmental investment package worth $625 million that is being used to clean up rivers and streams, improve parks, preserve farmland, and return abandoned industrial sites to productive use.  

The Governor ended by talking about the national scene. He pushed hard for Congress to pass laws that strongly encourage clean energy and reduce greenhouse gases. We agree!

 Pennsylvania House Respresentative, Eugene DePasquale also spoke at the conference.  He is the prime sponsor of HB 2405 which would significantly boost the amount of energy in Pennsylvania derived from cleaner, alternative energy sources. This shift would help create manufacturing jobs in the Commonwealth and provide enough clean energy to power 2.1 million homes!  He is on the Environmental Resources & Energy committee and has many goals in mind for the state of PA and it’s future as an environmental leader. Rep. DePasquale was very inspiring. In his short time in the Assembly, he has already shown what a dedicated public servant can do to pass bi-partisan clean energy legislation.

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