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Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Snowden is missing.  The IRS scandal is ongoing. SCOTUS struck down DOMA and punted on affirmative action. A Texas filibuster over a proposed abortion bill was picked up by a historic crowd at the state capitol who effectively blocked the legislation through sheer willpower. A red panda went missing from the National Zoo. DC United won a game. It’s been a hell of a week, and it’s only Wednesday.

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I feel ya, buddy.

In the middle of it all, President Obama delivered the policy speech that environmentalists have been waiting for since the day he took office: the one on climate change. The President’s agenda outlined broad goals for the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, invest in renewable energy, respond to the ongoing impacts of climate change, and finally, lead the international community in all of those areas, too. The official White House fact sheet is available here. But what about the details?

Coal, more than any other industry, took it on the chin in this one – not surprising given just how much pollution is generated by coal-fired power plants.  The plan directs EPA to move forward with regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by June 2014.  The plan also included expanded effort to fund renewable energy and use public lands for renewable energy sources, efficiency initiatives, and reforestation measures.

The plan was met with mixed reactions.  Commentators were quick to judge the measures as a scaled-back version of the lofty goals that Obama set at the outset of his Presidency, and not surprisingly, many Republicans continued the drumbeat of erroneously pitting environmental initiatives against economic goals. (Side note: when will they give up, and realize the renewable energy can also create jobs? Sigh.)  Coal stocks responded by plummeting.  Many environmental groups, including Sierra Club and 350.org applauded the measures as the long-awaited concrete action to back up the President’s constant promises to tackle climate change.  Former Vice President and environmental advocate Al Gore called the speech “terrific and historic,” responding optimistically to the steps proposed in the President’s plan as well as his willingness to finally move forward on a longstanding issue.  The mention of the infamous Keystone XL pipeline caught many by surprise, as did the President’s comments that the pipeline will not go forward if it is found to increase GHG emissions.  That of course, is a finding that in reality is stupid – of course expanded tar sands development, and continuing to enable fossil fuel exports, will increase emissions and accelerate climate change.  But, the “official” outcome could go either way depending on how groups calculate the emissions and how directly they tie the impacts to the pipeline itself.  You know the saying- lies, damned lies, and impact assessments.  Another surprising feature was the mention of fossil fuel subsidies, which was included in the President’s international goals, but not within his steps to curb emissions in the US.  (Honestly, I don’t know why nobody listens to me on this one.  Cut fossil fuel subsidies, cut federal spending, and cut emissions by forcing people to think about how much and how often they drive and make better choices. Oh well.)

Overall, while the actions were not as bold as some groups hoped, the result of the speech was a net positive – an acknowledgement that climate change is real, here, and happening, and a specific plan for moving forward.  Let’s hope that the follow-through is real.

A summary of the main points of the plan is available through Grist.org right here. A full transcript of the President’s speech is available here. As for Team Spinach, a detailed analysis of the plan by our resident climate expert, El Nino, will follow soon.

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Hi all!

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I think everyone was busy last week worrying the NSA is judging them for not calling their grandmother more often.  I know I was.  Which is why it took me a bit to get this post up, and also why so many fascinating things happened in the energy and climate world that I had to talk about them all in one post.

First of all, our least favorite pipeline that doesn’t even exist yet is back in the news.  The Sierra Club has quietly taken the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline over to the judicial branch.  The litigious environmental nonprofit (for those of you who don’t know, Sierra Club has acted as plaintiff for some of the nation’s most pivotal and groundbreaking environmental lawsuits – it’s one of their specialties as an organization) filed suit against the State Department last week regarding the sketchy-as-all-hell (from what I’ve read) environmental impact statement that the agency issued about the pipeline.  The impact statement – which suggests the pipeline will have no negative impacts – was prepared by a third-party contractor that has an active membership in the American Petroleum Institute, which Sierra Club and other environmental groups widely regard as evidence of a conflict of interest.  Perhaps more critically, the State Department did not respond to requests to produce documentation proving that the department screened for such a conflict of interest.  The lawsuit is seeking access to those documents and extension of the public comment period for the agency to finalize the determination so that the documents can be considered.  In the continued debate, Al Gore weighted in on the pipeline in a recent interview, stating that the project was ‘an atrocity.’  

Meanwhile, climate change is happening, you guys.  A five year study by FEMA that was just released has predicted a 45% increase in flooding in the United States during the coming decades – as a result of climate change.  (Except in North Carolina, of course, where flooding and climate change is illegal.  I suppose all the hurricanes will have to stick to Florida and South Carolina this year?) FEMA, which manages disaster relief, is expecting to have to insure 80% more properties, with a 90% increase in the average cost of a claim when filed.  But, this is all totally worth it, because it was definitely too expensive for us to regulate carbon through a cap-and-trade or tax system, and it was also definitely too expensive to make some of those fossil fuel companies maybe pay a little instead of collecting government subsidies.  What? Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit?

Fine. I’ll end on a good note.  Behold, Robert Redford for NRDC:

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Still better looking than you.

Redford, an environmental activist and partner to National Resources Defense Council, has put together a series of short ads calling for action on climate change and clean energy initiatives.  You should watch them.  Because it’s Robert Redford.  And, he’s got something really important to say.  And then you should send them to everyone you know.

That’s all for now folks.  I’ll be back next week, and maybe I’ll be less cranky.

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We haven’t talked much about Keystone XL here at Spinach HQ for a while now, mostly becauase the news on that front continues to be more of the same – and more depressing.  Quite frankly, I’m not sure whether or not the general public (those of you outside the environmental field, that is) are sick of hearing about Keystone or not.  False claims and an incredibly convoluted regulatory and political process regarding approval of the environmental impact determination as well as the pipeline itself have slowly muddied the waters better than an oil spill.  I’ll be honest, even I’ve had a hard time keeping track of the timeline and the number of times the pipeline has been resurrected and then killed.

Which is why I was somewhat surprised (but excited!) to wander into the Foggy Bottom Metro stop in D.C. on Tuesday and be greeted by something that looked like this:

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I couldn’t capture the whole ad in my camera phone (especially while trying not to look like some creeper taking a picture of the metro floor during rush hour….) but activist group SumOfUs.org is continuing to fight the good fight not just against Keystone XL, but against the expanded Tar Sands extraction that would come with it.

The ads direct you to the SumOfUs anti-tar-sands site, where they have already collected more than 17,000 of their goal level of 20,000 signatures for a petition to President Obama regarding the pipeline and expanded tar sands extraction.  Rather than solely attacking Keystone XL, the group is focusing on the impacts of the recent ExxonMobil tar sands oil spill in Arkansas.  Exxon’s response to the spill has been heavily criticized, with many community members voicing their doubts that the spill is contained or that Exxon is truly doing their part to take responsibility for the spill, contain it, and mitigate damages.

While the Keystone XL pipeline is likely to be decided by politics and not environmental impacts, the statement made by SumOfUs here is clear – and is taking the debate one step farther.  Instead of focusing on the impacts of the pipeline alone, the group is working to inform regarding some of the inherent risks (both environmental and economic) to expanded tar sands oil use as an energy source.  I’m happy to see these ads placed front and center in several key metro stations – maybe it’s a chance to finally have some dialogue about the real issue here, which is the overall direction of our energy future, and not one single pipeline.

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Memorial Day is just about here, and summer is peaking around the corner. BBQs, tubing trips, baseball games, sleepovers, and pool parties (Hot Child in the City) are in your near future and you need a couple summer reminders. As you already know, I think everything in our environment, and all the actions we take are interconnected and affect our health and well-being and our wallet.

I came across this Top Ten List on the benefits of local food from Fox News (omg yes Fox News, everything is ok). You can find the full list here, but here are a few of my favorites:

1. Locally grown. Items at farmer’s markets have not “travelled” far. The carbon footprint to transport from nearby farms is teeny compared to what’s consumed over hundreds and thousands of miles by sea, air or long-distance trucking. Also, local produce is stacked in wooden crates, which avoids the environmentally polluting packaging, which protects produce from bruising or extends its time before perishing in long-distance transport.

2. Cleaner and safer. Farmer’s markets produce is grown organically or with far less use of chemicals. Produce sold in regular stores is full of toxic pesticides, fungicides, and other chemical fertilizers and sprays. Similarly, breads & baked goods aren’t pumped full of unhealthy preservatives that extend shelf life.

3. Keeps our communities healthy, too. The more we support local farmers who grow food in healthy ways, the more they–and their beautiful farmland–will flourish. Buying at local markets puts money directly into the pockets of local farmers and craftspeople rather than industrial conglomerates.

4. Free exercise. We can often walk or bike to the markets, getting free exercise. Besides, simply walking in the open air is a good way to get vitamin D.

Lastly, on biking and how it does a body good (which I’m sure you’re in the know about), D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare company released the results of its recent membership survey.  I admit I have a love affair with Capital Bikeshare; although its riders may be nuts, I appreciate what the company has accomplished (remember when I posted about Capital Bikeshare last year?). Riders saved an estimated $800 on transportation costs annually!  After obtaining a membership they were 76% more likely to ride to work.  Membership is still mostly within D.C., and now the company hopes to expand to areas like the Anacostia (Northeast D.C.) so that those neighborhoods can see the health benefits as well.  All communities should have access to safe and healthy transportation options.

Here is a summary of a few of the health benefits from the bikeshare survey: “Nearly 27 percent reported improved stamina after joining the system, 31.5 percent said their stress levels diminished, and 18.4 percent reported losing weight thanks to bicycle sharing. The numbers of members who consider themselves in good or excellent condition increased, while figures for those who consider themselves in poor, average, or fair health decreased.”  You can read the full article here.

Enjoy those tasty local foods, and bike/walk/public transit more. Cheers.

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#prospective

This grandma was told she should be green.

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truly recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

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Hello Spinach Fans!  My name’s Aaron, El Peatón, and I’ll be joining my fellow Spinach heads here on the blog.  As you’ve probably already noticed, we here at Spinach like to share all things happening in the greenosphere, and try to do so in the most lighthearted and friendly way possible   We provide you breaking news, environmental trends and tips on how to make your life a little greener.  I plan to bring some urban issues to the Spinach table, and hope to cover topics such as sustainable transportation, greener urban development, and general topics affecting those of us living in and around cities.  But, to kick things off, I wanted to share something I think many of you (I know the Spinach Team will), may find useful as we enter the Holidays.  A Green Boozing Guide!

Yes, the Holidays are a time to give, spend time with friends, family and loved ones, reminisce on the year’s events, and be thankful for everything we have going for ourselves.  But it is also the time for indulging in libations.  So, what could be better than getting your drink on with friends and family this holiday season?  Why, doing it by being green of course!  Below is a list (by no means complete) of a few of the breweries, wineries, and liquor distilleries that do their best to provide you with something good to drink without stepping all over the planet.  I hope you find this list useful.  And remember, you can do your part and make green choices while having a good time.  Cheers!

BEER

1.   New Belgium Brewing: Fort Collins, CO

All of the brewery’s energy needs come from its on-site wastewater treatment facility as well as wind energy.  New Belgium is a strong bicycle advocate, and even included planet Earth as a stakeholder in its strategic planning!

Ranger IPA

New Belgium’s Ranger IPA

2.   Bison Brewing: Berkeley, CA

Touting USDA-certified organic ingredients, an energy grid comprised of renewables, and resource saving brewing practices, Bison Brewing is a green-brew fan’s best friend.

Bison Brewing's Gingerbread Ale

Bison Brewing’s Gingerbread Ale

3.   Peak Organic Brewing Company: Portland, ME

Like Bison Brewing, Peak Organic sources all of its ingredients locally and organically.  The brewery has also given back to the community, working closely with local farmers to bring organic commercial grade hops back to Maine, the first time in the state since 1880.

Peak-Organic-King-Crimson

Peak Organic’s King Crimson Imperial Red Ale

4.   Brooklyn Brewery: Brooklyn, NY

The first brewery in New York City to purchase 100% of its energy needs from wind farms, Brooklyn Brewery strongly stands by its commitment to sustainability.  Awesome beer, with out the CO2!

brooklyn-lager

Brooklyn Brewery’s Brooklyn Lager

5.   Full Sail Brewing Company: Hood River, OR

Preferring the term “responsible” rather than “sustainable”, Full Sail Brewing Company was thinking about the planet when it set up shop in 1987.  Repurposing a derelict canning facility, a waste-water treatment plant on-site, all beer making by-product used as animal feed locally, and using 100% recycled materials in all of its packaging are only a few of the many weapons in Full Sail’s sustainability arsenal.

Full_Sail_amber-bottle-pint

Full Sail Brewing Company’s Amber Ale

Wine

1.   Alma Roas Winery: Buellton, CA

Award winning wines that are certified organic and grown using sustainable agriculture practices.

Alma Rosa Winery's 2008 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

Alma Rosa Winery’s 2008 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

2.   Stratus Winery: Niagara, ON

Featuring the fist LEED-certified  winery in North America, Stratus Winery embodies what it means to be green.  The facility also uses geothermal heating and cooling, uses recycled materials in the construction, and even has a staff bike room and Prius!!

Stratus Winery's Assemblage Red Wine, a mixture Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Gamay and Syrah

Stratus Winery’s assemblage’ red wine, a mixture Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Gamay and Syrah

3.   Rodney Strong Vineyards: Healdsburg, CA

As if going 100% solar energy powered back in 2005 wasn’t enough, Rodney Strong Vineyards went a step further, and installed a 766-Kilowatt solar array on its own property.  The vineyard now produces all of its own energy, plus provides solar energy to the grid, enough to power nearly 800 homes per day!

Rodney Strong Vineyard's 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

Rodney Strong Vineyard’s 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

Spirits

Alcohol Giant Diageo is in the process of building a bioenergy plant at it’s Glenlossie distillery in Scotland.  The plant will produce steam that will help power the distillery, as well as animal feed from the distillery by-product not suitable for energy production.  The plant is estimated to keep nearly 6,000 of CO2 out of the atmosphere every year, the equivalent of removing 1,134 cars of the road.  Diageo’s brands include Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray, and Smirnoff.

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Tanqueray

Tanqueray

Smirnoff

Smirnoff

If you’ve got a favorite green libation, let us know, and we’ll do our best to add it to the list.  Thanks for reading, and go out there enjoy the Holidays, without feeling bad about it!

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From our team to yours – we hope you had a nice Labor Day.  We know you grilled sustainable meat, drank organic beer, and pitched in with a beach cleanup this weekend.

In case you missed it, the Republican National Convention was held last week in Tampa, FL.  Tampa has the highest number of registered independent voters in the large swing state, so Republicans set out to turn those Floridians red.  I always try to listen to both political sides (until frustration kicks in) and then I make up my own mind/informed decision (how do you determine “informed?”).  I missed the speeches of the biggest headliners, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, but I’m glad I caught Clint Eastwood.

#eastwooding #oprahiscryingtoo

I’ll admit, Eastwood got a few laughs out of me.  It was a change of heart I had after Chris Christie informed me about leadership.  That aside, this week, the Democrats have their turn in Charlotte, and fortunately for us they’ve released their plans on how they’re making the Convention green (how liberal of them!).

The Hill.com reported on the Democrats’ plans to make Charlotte green for the Democratic National Convention (DNC).  The plans include:

  • Increased recycling
  • Use of low toxic paints
  • Use of reusable water bottles
  • Use of shuttles to the Convention (instead of cars) powered by natural gas
  • Use of pedestrian bicycle taxis (even better than shuttles)
  • Use of battery-powered machinery, such as golf carts around the DNC
  • Increased use of recycled products.  The convention center carpet will be made of recycled plastic bottles, and center stage will be made of recycled metals!
  • And lastly, an onsite “Green Team” made up of volunteers to answer questions about reuse and recycling.

35,000 people are expected to be in Charlotte this week for the DNC, and these actions can help minimize their impact.  I applaud these efforts; if I came across these plans for the RNC I would have reported on it too.  Being sustainable is not always a matter of being right or left on the political scale because in the end we all benefit.

Have a great week. Cheers.

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