State cracks down on plastic in landfills

Recycling logoTomorrow, it will be illegal to dump plastic bottles into North Carolina landfills.  The new law – passed in 2005 – also bans wooden pallets and oil filters from reaching landfills.

A press release from the city of Greensboro, N.C. says almost four of every five plastic soda containers, water bottles, milk jugs and detergent bottles — almost 288 million pounds of plastic — are thrown away in North Carolina every year. Recycling all the plastic bottles used in the state would keep more than 2.4 billion plastic bottles out of landfills annually.

Seems like  North Carolina’s  ahead of the crowd. They already ban scrap rubber and aluminum cans from the solid waste stream. This new law is designed to promote increased recycling and to boost the state’s recycling industry.

Definitely a step in the right direction. Wonder who’s next to jump on this bandwagon?

Royal Caribbean makes environmental headway

I have to admit when I first read about this, my first take was “what’s the big deal on 4%!” But there’s more “juice” to this than I originally thought.

In their 2008 Stewardship Report, Royal Caribbean Cruises. Ltd. announced they had reduced fuel consumption by four percent, NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions by three percent, and water consumption by six percent. BUT they’ve also reduced refrigerant loss by 33 percent and solid waste generation by 32 percent!  Much more impressive accomplishments, don’t you think?

The Celebrity Solstice - the first cruise ship with solar panels and a "green" roof

The Celebrity Solstice - the first cruise ship with solar panels and a "green" roof

As part of their environmental commitment, Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Solstice is the first cruise ship to sport solar panels, a “green” roof and a dedicated environmental venue. But their newest ship, the Oasis of the Seas, goes even further to reduce its carbon footprint.

These efforts include a new hull design with environmentally safe coatings to improve performance and reduce energy use and air emissions, smokeless gas turbine engines, and solar window films that keep the ship cooler while reducing fuel consumption and associated emissions.

The cruise line is also replacing onboard halogen and incandescent light bulbs with LED and compact florescent lights to reduce heat production and energy consumption. These replacements have resulted in up to 80 percent reduced energy, a 50 percent reduction in heat generation and also less maintenance. The new lighting can also be recycled or returned to the vendor to be rebuilt.

Since cruise ships are responsible for emitting three times more CO2 than airplanes, these gains represent a real step forward – one that other cruise lines would do well to emulate.

Federal Judge says no to GMO sugar beets

GMU.S. District Judge Jeffrey White says the government illegally approved a genetically modified, herbicide-resistant strain of sugar beets without adequately considering they might contaminate other beet crops.

In 2005, the Department of Agriculture began allowing Monsanto to sell their “Roundup Ready” sugar beets.

White said that in concluding that the new crop posed no significant environmental effects, the USDA discounted the likelihood that wind-borne pollen would spread to fields where conventional sugar beets, table beets and the beet variety known as Swiss chard are grown.

Planting genetically-modified sugar beets has a “significant effect” on the environment, White said in his ruling Monday, because of “the potential elimination of a farmer’s choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer’s choice to eat non-genetically engineered food.

Though White said the agency must prepare an environmental impact statement that includes public input, he didn’t prohibit the immediate distribution of the genetically modified sugar beets.

So far, over 70 companies have pledged to not use genetically modified sugar beets in their products, and the courts have ruled in their favor.

The ruling “sends a very clear message to the USDA to protect American farmers and consumers and not the interests of Monsanto,” said Kevin Golden, a San Francisco attorney for the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, which opposes genetically modified foods and supports organic farming.

For more details on this story see

With the mounting evidence of potential problems posed by GMO food crops, this is a step in the right direction. Stay tuned to see how this serious melodrama plays out.

The sweet (green) taste of Hawaii

Royal Hawaiian HoneysWith these cool mornings and longer days, steaming hot coffee or tea helps start the day. For sweetness, instead of sugar, stevia or the pink-or-blue stuff, my favorite is honey.

I recently came across rich Royal Hawaiian Honey, from Tropical Traders Specialty Foods. This artisan product originates from Hawaii’s Big Island. One of only a handful of family-run apiaries in the U.S., these 100 percent raw honeys are certified organic by the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association.

Most commercial honey is heated, blended and filtered, losing its nutritional properties, unique flavor and characteristics. But heat’s never applied to Royal Hawaiian Honey’s raw product – in harvesting or production – and it’s never blended. To preserve its natural enzymes and nutritional values, the unfiltered honey’s harvested by using gravity and centrifugal force, strained, then bottled immediately.

“It’s a simple process, honoring the characteristics and flavors of the honey,” said Rebeca Krones, Tropical Traders’s co-founder.

In Hawaii, Krones’ father, Michael, breeds queen bees. He used to sell the honey by-product to honey packers until 2005, when Rebeca and her partner decided the product was too high quality to waste.

A centuries-old natural remedy, studies show raw honey helps with weight reduction, boosts immunity, and helps burns and wounds heal more quickly, due to presence of hydrogen peroxide. It’s a good antiseptic and anti-bacterial.

I’ve personally experienced honey’s ability to help balance blood sugar. A teaspoon helps me prevent a blood sugar drop, and tastes great!

Royal Hawaiian Honey comes in three varieties – the 3 main blooms on the Big Island. Only one of these isn’t organic – the Macadamia Nut Blossom honey – because no macadamia nut orchards are certified organic. This dark amber-colored honey has a rich, caramel-like flavor I loved.

The Christmas Berry – a pink peppercorn plant with white flowers that bloom in the Fall – is a light amber-colored, slightly grainy honey rich in antioxidants. Its flavor hints at brown sugar and molasses.

The third variety is the Lehua honey, from the lehua flower.

“The Lehua flower is one of the last surviving native species in Hawaii,” said Krones. Known as a “pioneer species”, the lehua’s one of the first plants to put roots down into lava after a lava flow, a regular occurrence in the Hawaiian islands.

Light golden Lehua Honey tastes of a creamy butterscotch with a floral scent.

Hawaii’s the only state to produce certified organic honey, due to being an isolated landmass. But the handwriting may be on the wall.

An aggressive Asian mite was found in 2008 on Oahu. Eradicating it through chemicals would eliminate Hawaii’s organic certification. There are some plant-based remedies, Krones said, but they’d affect both the mites and the bees, and the national organic program won’t allow these yet.

As a queen bee breeder, Krones’ father has been working on genetics and hopes his selective breeding will give him a leg up with this situation.

Tropical Traders is the first U.S. food company to be certified CarbonFree, offsetting their carbon footprint. They pay for their carbon emissions – from harvest through production, shipping and distribution. Carbonfund then invests in reforestation, renewable energy and energy efficiency projects around the world.

These delicious honeys range from $12 to $15 and are available at natural food stores in Hawaii and California and Whole Foods in Florida. Costco wholesale will offer them soon in the Bay area. They’re also available online.

Volvo to utilize a cleaner green fuel

Volvo CO2 carbon neutral truckVolvo announced plans to test Dimethyl ether (DME), a cleaner burning fuel sourced from renewable materials, in some of their trucks.

DME isn’t new, but its impact on the environment is impressive. This colorless, clean-burning gas has the potential to be 95 percent carbon neutral, with zero particulate emissions  According to Wikipedia, as a fuel source DME shows promise for diesel, standard gasoline and gas turbine engines.

The DME for the Volvo project will be an energy-rich, highly viscous by-product of the paper pulp industry. Volvo plans to have selected customers test 14 of their trucks at four locations in different parts of Sweden  between 2010 and 2012 at four Preem oil company stations.

To learn more, check out the video.

A Pesticide by any other name

North Face shoesThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down on what retailers can claim their products can do, especially if they supposedly do something that’s healthy.

They’ve filed suit against San Leandro, California  based VF Corporation for the alleged sale and distribution of unregistered pesticides through their outdoor gear and apparal retail company, The North Face.

The issue centers around over 70 styles of footwear that have an AgION silver treated footbed. The North Face sold these with claims that the footwear would prevent disease-causing bacteria. Their claims included:

•    AgION antimicrobial silver agent inhibits  growth of disease-causing bacteria
•    Prevents bacterial and fungal growth
•    Continuous release of antimicrobial  agents

Making these claims, says the EPA, is a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and are unsubstantiated public health claims regarding unregistered products, and their ability to control germs and pathogens.

“The EPA takes very seriously its responsibility to enforce against companies that sell products with unsubstantiated antimicrobial properties,” said Katherine Taylor, associate director of the Communities and Ecosystems Division in EPA’s Pacific Southwest region.  “Unverified public health claims can lead people to believe they are protected from disease-causing organisms when, in fact, they may not be.”

The North Face has since ceased making these claims, removing them from their website, and have revised their product packaging.

The EPA considers products that kill or repel bacteria or germs to be pesticides which then must be registered with the EPA prior to distribution or sale.  Until a pesticide has been tested to show that it will not pose an unreasonable risk when used according to the directions, they won’t register it. Registered products have an EPA registration number printed on product labels.

The North Face’s parent company now faces nearly $1million in federal fines for making these unsubstantiated claims.

Promises of Emission cuts are snowballing

The news is rampant with promises by corporate giants of large emissions cuts in the wake of the UN Climate Talks currently taking place in New York City.

AirplaneThe International Air Transport Association announced that airlines will cut 50 percent of their CO2 emissions by 2050. Representing 230 airlines which make up 93 percent of scheduled international air traffic, the association is targeting1.5 percent average annual improvement in fuel efficiency through 2020. Of course consumers can expect higher fares as fallout from adopting newer, more sustainable, energy efficient planes and related technologies.

HP logoOn the corporate side, HP has raised their goal to reduce energy consumption and related greenhouse gas emissions from its products to a 40 percent reduction by 2011, compared to 2005 levels.

According to a recent press release, the computer giant has already met their original goal of a 25 percent reduction by 2010.

HP plans to go even further. By 2013, they say they’ll reduce absolute emissions from all its operations by 20 percent. Reductions will come from renewable energy investments and energy efficiency measures.

Kudos to HP for walking their talk. It will be interesting to see what strides the airlines take and how much resistance they have to achieving their trade association’s goals.

Wonder what the friendly skies will be like then?