A Green Start to the New Year

Posted on January 4, 2011. Filed under: Questions, Recommendations | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Its that time of the year again…time to make a resolution and stick with it (at least this week!!) You’ve probably already made your personal resolution, but this year, why not also make an environmental resolution too? Keep it simple and small or think big!

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Support wind power at home. If you live in Maryland, DC, DE or PA, you can choose to support wind power by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) at home through your electricity bill. Sign up for Clean Currents and choose 50% or 100% wind power. Signing up takes 5 minutes, and our rates are competitive with utility rates, so it’s a pretty painless resolution. Learn more about wind power for home here.
  2. Get a water bottle.  Toting a BPA-free water bottle  is a great way to stay hydrated and reduce your use of plastic water bottles and disposable cups.
  3. Cut out disposable coffee cups. Use of those gift cards to get a reusable mug you like and carry it around with you when you think you’ll need to stop for coffee (so definitely Monday morning).
  4. Commit to reusable shopping bags. The fold-away ones are really portable and fit in your pocket or purse. If you’re driving keep them in your car for unexpected grocery runs. Also, even when you forget your bag, just ask yourself if you really need one. It seems like most cashiers just toss your items in a bag, no matter how small it may be. Just say “no thanks” if you’re going to throw the bag away in 45 seconds anyway.
  5. Embrace the CFL! If you havent already done so, switch out your old incandescents and commit to buy CFL bulbs instead. These use 75% less electricity (which saves you $). Done that already? Here are lots of easy ways you can save money by cutting back on usage.
  6. Research a solar install at your home. By installing a solar system at your home, you can generate your own power and cut your electricity use, as well as your carbon footprint. This option is definitely not for everyone, as the up front costs of solar are still significant. However, if you are in the position to make an investment, the payback might be better than you think. With government incentives and financing options, solar is becoming a more affordable option. Ready to go? Start with a free solar evaluation.

What are your environmental resolutions for 2011?

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Camping in the Great Outdoors: Fresh Air, Nature, S’mores and…WiFi???

Posted on August 30, 2010. Filed under: News, Questions | Tags: , , , , , |

WiFi is now blanketing the nation in more remote areas than ever… parks and campgrounds. Campground owners feel almost obligated to include internet accessibility to their list of basic amenities simply because their customers are demanding it.

Many believe that encouraging technology use while camping is in direct conflict with the principle of fully experiencing the great outdoors. Hiking and camping are usually activities people enjoy because one can “get away from it all”. Being disconnected from the modern world and the hectic activity of the daily grind is often part of the beauty of spending time in remote locations. The inability to communicate with anyone other than those you are with and with nature itself is considered part of the experience. Could suddenly offering that tempting ability to stay in constant contact with the world diminish the value of the outdoor experience?

 On the other hand, grounds managers with internet connections can use the added communication ability to boost the marketing of their facilities. Some have installed webcams in strategic locations to feature amazing views on their websites. This may entice more people to come visit the parks. Hikers are encouraged to take photos on trails, share them on their personal blogs, and tweet about their adventures. If the best marketing tool is word of mouth, then taking advantage of technology could simply promote that phenomenon in today’s world.

 For better of for worse, the internet is now accessible, as are you, in areas that were once quite isolated. As outdoor aficionados debate the pros and cons of this, you can now decide if you want to bring that iPad for late night video watching in the tent, or if you’d rather leave the tech-gadgets at home and just “rough-it” on your next outdoors experience.

Rustic Camping

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Sanders Hits Gas and Oil Companies hard by Eliminating Tax Exemptions

Posted on June 14, 2010. Filed under: Events, News, Questions, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

It’s not looking so hot for the gas and oil industry, after Bernie Sander’s proposal in congress.  Sander has always been pro environment in congress, and now he has launched legislation trying to ban offshore drilling and now introduced the idea to end tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. These tax breaks are worth 35 billion dollars to be exact. In the past, the US has giving 70 billion dollars worth of subsidies for gas and oil companies, and only 12 billion to wind and solar companies. ‘With oil giants like BP earning annual profits upwards of 14 billion dollars while the federal deficit continues to grow by the trillion, I think I agree with Sanders that these companies can afford to pay their taxes.’

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BP covering up animal murder

Posted on June 9, 2010. Filed under: Events, News, Questions | Tags: , , , |

BP withholds photos of animals who have been murdered by the oil spill. BP  especially did not want President Obama to see .

“There is a lot of coverup for BP. They specifically informed us that they don’t want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It’s important to me that people know the truth about what’s going on here. The things I’ve seen: They just aren’t right. All the life out here is full of oil.”

Kate Sheppard from Mother Jones estimates animal body count to: 444 dead birds, 222 dead sea turtles, 24 mammals (including dolphins) so far. Most of the animal carcasses that haven’t been washed up on shore, have sunk down to the bottom of the ocean, thus the body count could be more.

BP is going to deny that these animal murders were due to the oil spill, however with these pictures as the evidence, it is is blatantly obvious.

BP, c’mon who are you trying to fool.

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What’s holding up green job growth in the US?

Posted on December 3, 2009. Filed under: News, Questions |

Here’s a really interesting analysis from the New York Times of why US green job growth has been slower than many hoped. The author, Steven Greenhouse  (a name that made him destined to study climate and energy?), discusses the policy differences that are causing the US to fall behind Spain, China and other countries in green jobs and green manufacturing. The conclusion is mixed, with a few companies closing factories in the US and/or relocating to other countries, but a few opening up new facilities in the US.

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Fact or Theory? Renewable Energy Credits Support Clean Energy and Bring Down Dirty Energy Use

Posted on October 16, 2009. Filed under: Questions | Tags: , |

Thanks to Allison for this great discussion question she posted on our Facebook page:

“The more green tags [Renewable Energy Credits or RECs] that homes and businesses purchase, the more clean energy sources that come on line, and the less polluting sources our society uses.

Does this really work, or is this just theory?

Answer: The short answer from Gary Skulnik, President of Clean Currents,

“The voluntary market (ie the purchase of green tags) has been a major driver in the growth of wind power in this country”

Here are some graphs from presentations by the Center for Resource Solutions and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) at last month’s Renewable Energy Conference in Atlanta that support this conclusion:

Source: NERL data in CRS Presentation

Source: NREL data in CRS Presentation

This graphic shows the growth in the voluntary market (or the market for the purchase of green tags). This growth has been substantial and was at a level of nearly 25,000GWh of power by 2008.  Another key element of this graphic is that it shows that purchases in the voluntary market have outpaced those in the compliance market–in other words, more green tags are purchased on a voluntary basis than to satisfy legal requirements. Now take a look at this graph:

Source: NREL Presentation

Source: NREL Presentation

This one shows that wind energy capacity (both annual and cumulative) has grown in line with the purchase of green tags shown in the first graph. So REC purchases appear to be a major driver in the growth of the wind energy industry in the United States.

It’s a little more difficult to say that this growth in the wind power industry is contributing to the decline of our dependence on dirty energy sources, as the share of renewables in US energy consumption shows more fluctuation than the graphs above. But the next graph, from the Energy Information Administration shows that there has definitely been an increase in the share of renewable energy in total US energy consumption in recent months.

US Monthly Energy Consumption by Fuel Source

So, in conclusion, green tags support wind energy development and potentially (hopefully) lead to a reduction our consumption of dirty fuel sources.

For more information on RECs and how they work see here.

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Electric Cars (and Ben Stiller) at the Clinton Global Initiative

Posted on September 25, 2009. Filed under: News, Questions | Tags: , , , , , |

Tesla Roadster electric car by Renault-Nissan

Tesla Roadster electric car by Renault-Nissan

Green Inc reported on the “lively panel discussion on the future of clean energy infrastructure” at the Clinton Global Initiative Summit in New York yesterday. The panel featured the chairman and CEO of Renault-Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, the CEO of Cisco, John Chambers and the head of GE, Jeffrey Immelt. It also drew celebrities like the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway, and even recognizable ones like Ben Stiller.

A key number thrown around was 1.5 billion. This is the number of vehicles that are expected to be in use in the near future as developing countries catch up with their developed counterparts. The number today is 700 million, so the projected increase is significant. Ghosn, of Renault-Nissan, quoted these numbers and said that his company believes, “the time is now” for electric cars. According to the BBC, Renault-Nissan is investing 4 billion euros (~$5.9billion) into electric vehicles hoping to become the world leader.

However, industry experts say this is a less than certain bet which could make or break the company. The future of electric vehicles is by no means universally agreed upon. According to Takeshi Uchiyamada, head of R&D and environmental technologies, at Toyota:

“The electric vehicle has become a fever and everyone is talking about it…but in the 1990s, lots of vehicle manufacturers launched electric vehicles, and Toyota did too…and if the question is if there have been any major technological developments since then, the answer is no.”

To this point, Ghosn argues that there certainly have been advances in battery technology in the past 10 years- and that current models suit the needs of 95% of the world’s drivers who travel less than 100 miles per day.

Another crucial question for electric cars discussed at the Clinton Global Initiative Summit is the challenge of infrastructure development and the source of electricity. The goal of reducing vehicular carbon emissions is lost if the electricity that powers electric cars is generated by coal.

When looking for a large scale low carbon technology capable of powering 1.5 billion vehicles, it is hard to avoid considering the nuclear option. According to the BBC, even in Germany, a world leader for renewable technologies:

“Without massive investment, it is inconceivable that renewable power sources can emerge fast enough to replace Germany’s nuclear power plants”

GE’s Immelt supports the development of nuclear power in the US as well, but broadly argues that instead of picking winners, the government should put a price on carbon and let the market decide which technology is most efficient. He believes that infrastructure must be sustainable, replicable and scalable to succeed.

This debate leaves many questions unanswered: What is the future of electric cars? What will the release of the Chevy Volt late next year mean for the car industry? Will the development of infrastructure prove to be as big of a barrier as it seems? Is Renault-Nissan’s gamble a good one?

Maybe a piece of the answer is that cars should not be considered as a necessary part of the equation for everyone. May electric cars can be a good alternative to fossil fuel powered models, but what if we need less of them? Minimizing the reliance on cars, and planning development based on sustainable community design and high speed public transportation systems will reduce that 1.5 billion.

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