New Bill would create $250 million in Waste to Energy Grants

One of my earliest posts focused on innovative ways of creating energy

One of the most energy efficient processes is Waste-to-Energy.  WTE plants convert municipal trash into steam and electricity, providing one of the most environmentally beneficial renewable energy options in the world, generating clean, renewable energy for local communities.

Now U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is proposing new legislation to create a $250 million grant program that would provide up to $5 million to individual projects.

The “Rubbish to Renewables Act of 2009” would have this new program be overseen by the US Department of Energy.

Speaking at an existing landfill gas project at the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio on May 28, Brown said “One man´s trash can be another man´s source of clean energy.”

“With the right investments” Brown said, “we can develop new clean energy sources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create new jobs and economic activity.”

The new bill, which Brown announced today, would create jobs and increase demand for clean energy technology.

 It would provide grants of up to $5 million to fund WTE projects. Grants would be awarded to projects based on their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create new jobs and economic activity.


Green lighting exceeds New York Times savings expectations

NY Times Building's energy efficient lighting system exceeds expectations

NY Times Building

 The new New York Times building has seen over $315,000 in savings due to their green lighting system.

Lutron Electronics, whose Quantum total light management system is featured in the building, released the performance data yesterday.

The 52-story high New York Times building, opened in late 2007, was designed to produce a large reduction in energy savings, or 1.28 watts per square foot.  Glen Hughes, Director of Construction for the NY Times Co. during the design, installation and commissioning of their new building, said “with Quantam (lighting), it’s only using 0.38 – that’s 70 percent less!”

Quantum lighting optimizes light use, dimming or switching all electric lighting, controlling daylight by using automated window shades. The Quantum’s software shows real-time energy savings and reports 30-day energy use and savings.

The Times Tower and projected operational savings

The Times Tower and projected operational savings

Over three of the past four seasons, the performance of the lighting system exceeded all expectations . Here are the figures released by Hughes and Lutron:

• 0.37 watts per square foot in winter 2008-2009
• 0.37 watts per square foot in fall 2008
• 0.33 watts per square foot in summer 2008
• 0.38 watts per square foot in spring 2008

Hughes said the lighting system paid for itself in less than a year.

With this level of energy reduction and operating cost savings, perhaps other large corporations can afford to make the switch.

Recycled water in Space

To infinity and beyond!

Well, at least to the  U.S. Space Station. The US astronauts are now enjoying recycled water in space.  See a video clip of first tasting (which looks pretty good) at

It’s an awesome accomplishment – straight out of the movie “Water World”. Just don’t think about where the clear water came from. 

Solar Panels for Rent

Massachusetts homeowners can now lease solar panels

Massachusetts homeowners can now lease solar panels

Residential solar panels – generally a hefty $25,000 or more to install – can now be leased for a fraction of the cost in Massachusetts.

Sun Run has entered the solar lease business in the Bay state, the first company to do so. Now homeowners can pay an up-front fee of $1,000, sign up for an 18-year long-term lease (similar to signing up for cable TV) and have solar panels installed on their roofs. Homeowners will likely make back their investment within 7 years or less and, by locking in the rate they pay for electricity generated, will save on future bills as well.

SunRun owns the solar panels but partners with local installers like Alteris Renewables and groSolar in Massachusetts. Homeowners who sign up to lease their panels don’t have to worry about upkeep or breakage. If a panel breaks, it’s replaced at no extra charge.  Homeowners also don’t have to worry about details like tying the panels in to the electric grid or applying for the rebates and subsidies as the companies gets the state and federal subsidies (it owns the panels).

But homeowners do have some perks and options. When they move, they can transfer their solar agreement to the new homeowner, buy out the contract, or purchase the panels.

Governor Deval Patrick is hoping “solar as a service” will help Massachussetts reach an ambitious goal of getting 250 megawatts of solar power by 2017.  Currently the state has $68 million available for solar electricity rebates between 2008 and 2011.

A fascinating use of Ethanol

bankWith the introduction and growing marketing of ethanol, the loss of food corn created food shortages around the globe.

The FlameDisk Charcoal (grilling) Alternative is fueled by solid ethanol
The FlameDisk Charcoal (grilling) Alternative is fueled by solid ethanol

Regardless of this, new ethanol-based products are coming to market that manufacturers hope consumers will go wild about.  In time for hot summer days and family cook-outs, uGo has reintroduced their FlameDisk Charcoal Alternative

With claims of being environmentally-friendly, the FlameDisk boasts it will reduce carbon monoxide output by 99% and deliver 91 percent lower VOC. It’s recyclable packaging is also aimed at reducing waste.

According to Sierra Magazine,  on July 4th, Americans in the US will burn enough charcoal to power 20,000 households for one year. uGo boasts that the Flame Disk is faster, easier and cleaner than wood or charcoal burning methods and won’t alter the taste of our favorite foods.

Available online and at national hardware stores, this sounds like a cool alternative. BUT considering the product’s source (food corn diverted to make ethanol for recreational use), plus the fact that 4 ethanol production plants just filed for bankruptcy, perhaps we need to find another alternative.

Mexico company creates first true biodegradable Snack Bag

Grupo Bimgo expands their commitment to sustainability with new eco-friendly packaging

Grupo Bimgo expands their sustainability commitment with eco-friendly packaging


Grupo Bimbo SAB de CV of Mexico City, a multi-national baking corporation, has introduced what they claim is the world’s first oxodegradable metal polypropylene snack bags.

I recently posted an article on recyclable trash bags that were oxodegradable This technology far surpasses what’s considered to be biodegradable, particularly as a recent archiological-type experiment showed that materials in landfills aren’t breaking down due to lack of air.

Grupo Bimbo’s snack packages degrade between three and five years after the end of a product´s predetermined life span, Symphony CEO Michael Laurier said. Symphony Environmental Technologies plc of Borehamwood, England, provides additives for Bimbo’s packages.

“Bimbo (has) been working with us to change ll their packaging to d2w,” Laurier said.  Bimbo produces 5,000 products in 18 countries and owns 150 brands, with net sales of $7.4 billion in 2008.

Bimbo´s Organización Barcel snack food subsidiary is currently Ricolino logousing Symphony´s d2w additive for two of its products, Takis and Ricolino, which are sold in Mexico. Laurier said Barcel plans to change all its packaging to oxo-biodegradable which, according to Daniel Servitje Montull, Bimbo´s managing director, will take until the end of 2010 to complete.

“We are honoured and delighted to be creating history with the Grupo Bimbo for the betterment of the environment,” said Laurier, “as well as for the plastic industry in general.”

San Francisco Reaches Nation’s Highest Recycling Rate!

Recycling in San Francisco rose to 72 percent in 2007, photo by Ian Britton

Recycling in San Francisco rose to 72 percent in 2007, photo by Ian Britton

According to San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom, the “city by the Bay” achieved a recycling rate of 72% in 2007 – the highest rate in the country.

Continue reading

Changing Wind Turbine Speeds can Reduce Bat Fatalities

Shutting down wind turbines can reduce mortality rates during bat migration

Shutting down wind turbines can reduce mortality rates during bat migration

A new report on a study of the interaction between bats and wind turbines shows that shutting down wind turbines during low winds reduces bat mortality by more than 70%, with minimal accompanying energy loss.

The study was the first U.S.-based experiment on the effectiveness of changing turbine cut-in speed on reducing bat fatality at wind turbines at the Casselman Wind Project in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

Twelve of the site’s 23 wind turbines were part of the experiment The amount of power loss from the experiment was approximately 2% of total project output during the 76-day study period for the 12 turbines, the report revealed. The report speculated that had all 23 turbines participated in the experiment, total energy loss would have been limited to 0.3 % of total annual output.

“Shutting down turbines at certain wind speeds during periods when bats appear most vulnerable at this Northeastern U.S. wind farm may have the potential to be a cost-effective way to reduce the impact on bats during their late summer migration season,” said Andy Linehan, wind permitting director for Iberdrola Renewables, who partnered with Bat Conservation International to address potential wind energy impacts on bats.

With this demonstration, perhaps wind farms will practice good stewardship and “trim their sails” to help protect the bats.

Giving Trash A New Life with Drink Pouch Brigades

TerraCycle turns used drink pouches into new products like pencil cases and backpacks

TerraCycle turns used drink pouches into new products like pencil cases and backpacks

Think recycling only means paper, plastic and aluminum?

There’s a new program that recycles drink pouches your kids take to school.

In 2007, TerraCycle – a company founded on nothing being wasted and everything reused – created the Drink Pouch Brigade program, a free, nationwide program that “upcycles” used drink pouches, turning them into something new.

TerraCycle has pioneered programs that take items like white plastic bags, used soda bottles and food wrappers, and turns them into grassroots ventures that reduce waste and create fundraising opportunities.

The Container Recycling Institute (CRI) says over 5 billion drink pouches are produced each year. Non-recyclable, practically all end up in landfills.

Honest Tea Inc.– a company that makes organic juices and teas, including their “Honest Kids” drinks in pouches – teamed with TerraCycle to creatively change those statistics, launching the Drink Pouch Brigade in 2007.

“This is great example of a model for change,” said Seth Goldman, Honest Tea’s CEO. “We only really have an impact,” he said, “when we can create scale.”

The Drink Pouch Brigade filled its first 100 “slots” within 24 hours!

When Capri Sun came onboard in 2008, 500 people had signed up. Today, says Albe Zacks, Vice President, Media Relations, “we’re (at) around 17,000 people / locations,” who credits the support and marketing efforts of Capri Sun.

To create a Brigade, go to TerraCycle’s website, enter your information and activate the account. TerraCycle will send pre-paid UPS shipping labels to send drink pouches back to their factory.

“We made it easy,” said Zacks.

Anyone within the continental U.S. can start a Brigade – offices, families, individuals. Collect used pouches, then, using your own packaging, use the shipping labels to return them to TerraCycle.

The program’s sponsors – Capri Sun, Honest Tea and TerraCycle – make a 2 cent donation for each returned pouch. You can donate to non-profits with a tax ID number, including schools (private and charters), community groups, even houses of worship.

Between 80 to 85 percent of participants are schools, said Zacks, though individuals can run brigades from home.

As of March, $100,000 had been donated, over $27,000 going to schools and local communities.

In 2008, the Drink Pouch Brigade “rescued” and reused over 40 million pre and post consumer pouches, around 1 million of them used drink pouches. As a marker of the program’s growth, Zacks says they’ll collect 1 million post-consumer drink pouches this month!

TerraCycle turns these into pencil cases, reusable tote bags, homework folders, backpacks and lunch boxes, available at Target, Walgreens and ShopKo. They also create tote bags and purses for Moms.

“Here’s a program,” says Vinay Sharma, Capri Sun’s Director of Marketing for Kids Ready-to-Drink Beverages, “that makes it easy for schools and easy for Moms to directly impact the environment.”

The program’s sponsors are committed to being green. TerraCycle partners with non-profit Zerofootprint to offset all their carbon emissions. Capri Sun is constantly working to reduce their carbon footprint. “As a responsible business, that’s something that’s important to us,” Sharma said. Honest Tea is switching their current plastic bottles to one that’s 22 percent lighter, which, Goldman says, will save around 1 million pounds of petroleum based resin.

The Brigades are a great way to get kids involved. And, Zacks says, Drink Pouch Brigades “are easy to run, never cost a dime and there’s no risk involved in signing up.”

Go to to get started.

Pollution Emission Permits to Be Free

Representative Mike Doyle (D-Pa) told reporters on Wednesday that most of the pollution emission permits that industry needs under a climate change bill being negotiated in the U.S. House of Representatives will initially be given to companies instead of sold.

He also said that the first 10 to 15 years of the program, most of industry’s permits would be free.

Many of Democrats in the US House of Representatives are demanding free permits to help oil refinery, steel, utility and other industries in their districts.  Those opposed to giving the pollution permits away fear companies that got them would raise their prices. Also the free permits would likely gain value in the future if the company wanted to trade them to other firms.

Doyle said leading Democrats were working to ensure consumers are protected by the legislation.

Asked what percentage of the permits would be sold to utilities, manufacturers and other firms, Doyle responded, “Not a big number initially…in the first 10 to 15 years.”

The free permits, Doyle said, will give companies time to capitalize on technology as it improves in coming years, as well as to work out trade considerations so that U.S. jobs are not lost to foreign companies that might pollute more.

“These allocations are not going to be given away to coal fired power plants,” said Tony Kreindler, spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund.  They would be given mostly to local distribution companies, he said, and wouldn’t represent a windfall to heavy polluters such as happened in the early years of the European Union’s cap and trade program.