Green Farms in Brooklyn?


A very cool idea – environmentally-sound rooftop farms in Brooklyn.

Check out the video – you’ll be impressed!

Association asks pharmaceutical companies to pay for medical disposal

medicationsThe National Association of Counties has asked pharmaceutical companies to be financial responsible for disposing of unwanted medicines.

The  group would like Big Pharma to handle the expense of taking back prescription and over-the-counter drugs without relying on state or local government funding.

The association says leftover drugs – over-the-counter and perscription – may play a roll in drug abuse and accidental poisonings. It’s documented that improperly disposed of medications contribute to ground and surface water contamination.

“Like Europe and Canada, the United States can develop programs to cover the costs of collecting, transporting and disposing of these medicines. It´s imperative we do so,” said Bill Sheehan, executive director of the Product Policy Institute.

Now let’s see what Big Pharma has to say about it. The “right thing to do” doesn’t often factor in with them.

A Man-made Environmental Disaster – Wildlife Cancers

marine-life-cancerThis item is under the heading of “how bad does it have to get before we wake up and face the issue?”

According to a paper published in July’s edition of Nature Reviews Cancer. “Wildlife Cancer: a conservation perspective,” animals in the wild are increasingly affected by a range of cancers rarely seen before.

There’s mounting evidence of man’s tampering with nature’s balance  thanks to man-made toxins dumped into wildlife’s natural habitats.

“As the human population continues to grow and utilize resources and damage the environment,” said Denise McAloose, the report’s lead author and chief pathologist for the Wildlife Conservations Society’s (WCS) Global Health Program, “I do believe we will continue to see the emergence of disease, including cancer in wildlife.”

sea-lion1San Francisco’s famed Pier 39 is notorious for the sound of barking sea lions.  Frances Gulland, the director of veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Centerin neighboring Sausalito, periodically get calls from the pier reporting a sea lion crippled by tumors. Gulland reports that 17 percent of the sea lions brought to the center die of renal failure or paralysis, caused when tumors linked to Otarine herpesvirus-1 travel up the genital tact and push against the kidney and spine.

Sea lions that died of genital carcinoma had an 85 percent higher concentration of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in their system than other sea lions. (PCBs are toxic compounds used in coolants and electrical transformers.) Gulland notes that blubber samples of sea lions who died of cancer also show high concentrations of the pesticide.

“The more we contaminate the environment, the more we will see problems,” Gulland says. “If you dump a pollutant, it doesn’t just go away.”

Sea lions have company facing this deadly situation. Equally threatened are beluga whales in Canada and tasmanian devils in Australia.

For more information on this ecological disaster, see

Environment "1", Santa Barbara Oil Project "0"

santa-barbara-coastlineThe California State Assembly atypically has stopped an “end run”, preventing the Tranquillon Oil & Gas Project off the coast of Santa Barbara.

The California State Lands Commission denied the Tranquillon Oil & Gas project in a 2-1 vote  in January.  Special budget legislation was then proposed that would have allowed the California Director of Finance to effectively override the State Lands Commission’s decision.

The Surfrider Foundation and other environmental organizations joined together to fight this, especially concerned that such tactics would establish a precedent that controversial decisions of the agency could potentially be reversed through legislative tricks.

For more details, go to

EPA ranks San Jose-Santa Clara in top 20 for green power

epa-green-pertnershipThe U.S. EPA has recognized San Jose-Santa Clara among the top 20 partners across the country in their Green Power Partnership for generating the most green electricity onsite.

The San Jose-Santa Clara Pollution Control Plant – one of 8 California organizations to be recognized by the EPA – generates 56 percent green power from biogas.

Green power – from renewable resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, biogas, and low-impact hydropower – generates less pollution than conventional power and produces no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA’s Green Power Partnership works with over 1,100 partner organizations – Fortune 500 companies,  local, state and federal governments, and a growing number of colleges and universities – to voluntarily purchase green power to reduce the environmental impacts of conventional electricity use.

Once again, San Jose-Santa Clara County have raised the bar for their commitment to sustainability. Wonder what they’ll do next?

Brazilian technology lets cars run on any amount of E85 and gas

Though admittedly I’m not a fan of ethanol, there’s a new development that bears noting.

flex-fuel-1A technology widely used in Brazil called “1HourFlex” will let any car run on any amount of gasoline or ethanol in less than 1 hour.

This conversion system – offered by a new company called Alkol – has 3 components:

  • an Electronic Converter that alters fuel injector timing

  • an Ignition Remapper which alters the spark plug firing time

  • a Cold Start System which lets the engine start quickly on cold days (ethanol requires higher temperatures than gasoline to run properly).

Alkol's conerstion system turns cars into Flex Fuel vehicles

Alkol's conerstion system turns cars into Flex Fuel vehicles

According to Alkol, installing the conversion system takes less than one hour (hence the name), creating a “flex vehicle” and can be done either by a professional or a handy consumer. Though the company sells individual components, their main focus is the complete system. 

Al Costa, CEO of Alkol, says converting a car to run properly on ethanol is not as simple as competitors try to make it look.

“Flexing a car improperly can lead to a number of problems: the engine failing when most needed, ridiculously high fuel consumption which basically nulls any savings you could get from the new fuel, fuel injectors clogging, even the fuel pump burning up. We focus on installing (what) the car will need to properly work without the customer having to do anything”.

Alkol’s system is fully automated, unlike their competition. Alkol has begun enering the U.S. market, pricing their system around $900 for an already-installed system. It plans to establish agreements with existing E85 fuel pumps around the country so the system can be installed and then fueled there.

British Zoo to to create a green food wall


Britain’s Paignton Zoo known since 1923 for its conservation and botanical efforts – will soon make horticultural history. Partnering with Valcent Products – a company on the cutting edge in their global efforts to find new ways of growing plants in a world of rapidly-diminishing resources – the zoo will install the first of a new generation of vertical farming systems.

” Installing VertiCrop at Paignton Zoo means we can grow more plants in less room, using less water and less energy,” said Paignton Zoo Curator of Plants and Gardens Kevin Frediani. This amazing green wall will bring down the zoo’s annual bill for animal feed, which is currently exceeds £200,000 a year.

The zoo wil begin their new horticulture venture with a wide range of herbs, leafy vegetables, cherry tomatoes and strawberries. Most of the mammals – including primates and big cats – reptiles and birds will benefit from year round  production of  fresh food. Zoo animals munch through about 800 carrots a day and approximately £8,000-worth of fruit per month.

““VertiCrop,” says Chris Bradford, Managing Director of Valcent, “is the latest in plant growing technology, meeting the needs of the human population while reducing the pressure to clear precious habitat to grow crops. This technology could usher in a new era of urban horticulture.”

VertiCrop is a commercial high-density vertical non-GM growing system which increases production volume for field crops up to 20 times over but requires as little as 5% of the normal water supply. Using  trays on a looped dynamic conveyor belt and automatic feeding stations to grow plants efficiently, this system’s installation near the Zoo’s education building should be completed this summer

NOAA bans Krill Fishing – an opportunity for a new technology?

carlifornia-krill1A few months ago, I wrote a story on an amazing new technology from a company called TimberFish that produces fish food (and thus cleaner, safer fish to eat!) from wood (

I bring this up because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) fishery services has issued a ban on krill fishing along the coast of Oregon, Washington, and California. Krill are a major food source for many marine life.

William Douros, NOAA’s West Coast regional director of marine sanctuaries, explains, “Krill is a critical prey for a huge number of vertebrate species there.”

NOAA has banned krill fishing within 200 miles of the West Coast. Krill are more freely fished off the coast of Antarctica, however, posing a threat to not only whales but sea birds, rockfish and other marine life, according to a Associated Press report.

The ban on krill fishing starts on August 12, 2009.

Perhaps this is an opening for this new technology to step into, an opportunity for fisheries to step more fully into sustainability. Sure makes for interesting possibilities.

Senate websites lack accurate information on climate and energy issues

senate-websites-fail1Grist– a noted website for environmental and news-related accuracy – reviewed the websites of US Senators, grading them on how well each explained a senator’s positions on climate change and energy policies. They were rated (the sites, not the Senators) on a variety of points:

  1. whether or not he or she agrees with the scientific consensus on climate change
  2. whether a site lists criteria for how the lawmaker will evaluate a climate bill  
  3. whether it describes a senator’s positions on  various energy policies

What they found was an amazing lack of accurate information – from Democrats and Republicans alike. And, without a grading curve, they scored poorly – 53 senators got a C or worse. That’s 53 out of 100, folks. And there were quite a few F’s! These folks are the one who are supposed to be leading the way in what’s good for the country?

Two  past climate legislation sponsors , John McCain and Joe Lieberman, had sharply differing scores. Lieberman (I-Conn.) scored 20 on the 25-point scale—a relatively high score. McCain (R-Ariz.) scored a 7.   Senators from Pacific states (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii) had the highest-scoring sites, averaging 17.3 points out of 25. Next were Northeastern senators, with an average score of 17.1.

According to Grist’s report, “The range of information on climate and energy, from useful to useless, is par for the course for congressional sites, according to John Wonderlich, policy director of the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington group that works to promote transparency in government.”

Okay, so see for yourselves how your own US Senator scored Then perhaps it’s time to educate our legislators. If they’re the ones making the laws, shouldn’t they have all the facts first?

From LED to OLED means greater light efficiency

New OLED technology - a breakthrough in energy efficiency

New OLED technology - a breakthrough in energy efficiency

For energy efficiency, you can’t beat LED lights. Or can you? The the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) just announced a breakthrough in OLED technology that stands to shatter previous efficiency standards.

For those who don’t know (and I had to look it up), OLED stands for organic light emitting diodes. This new technology is supposed to reduce the energy consumption of this very thin light source by 75%.

GE's OLED-embedded wallpaper

GE's OLED-embedded wallpaper

For a light that already significantly reduces energy use, this is an exciting development. This cool technology will likely first be used for computer monitors and TV’s, easily replacing LCD-based screens. It’s already being applied to cell phones and, due to its flexiblity, GE has already printed it onto some amazing looking curved wallpaper.

To learn more about how OLEDs work, check out this video.

No set date for when they’ll actually hit the market but rumor has it that will be in the not-too-distant future. This should make for some fun and cool-looking new “toys”.