A (cold) room with a view

 The Aurorea Borealis

If you’ve never had the chance to experience the Aurora Borealis, if you’re willing to include a trip to the frozen wilderness, the Hotel Kalslauttanen will be a light in the dark (literally). 


The ice hotel presents an amazing panorama of winter's spectacle

The ice hotel presents an amazing panorama of winter's spectacle

The Hotel & Igloo Village Kakslauttanen in Finland’s famed Lapland has 21 first-class igloo-like cabins. Its igloos could be mistaken for snow but are instead transparent glass fashioned to look like clear transparent ice but designed to keep heat in for a cozy stay.


Imagine being snug in the warmth of your igloo surrounded by nature

Imagine being snug in the warmth of your igloo surrounded by nature

The domed igloos present an amazing panorama of the night sky minus any city lights to detract from the majestic views. The Igloo Village offers a glass tepee for parties under the northern lights, a snow chapel for services, and a stylish ice lounge, 


The hotel's Ice Lounge - a James Bond moment anyone?

The hotel's Ice Lounge - a James Bond moment anyone?



With such amazing natural splendor all around, sure makes me wish I could be there to enjoy New Year’s!



Sanyo's new 2-sided solar panels deliver 50% more energy

Sanyo's HIT Bifacial solar panels raise the bar in the solar industry

Sanyo's HIT Bifacial solar panels raise the bar in the solar industry

Sanyo has introduced their newest solar panel – the HIT Double Bifacial, a new type of photovoltaic that raises the bar for the solar panel industry.

This revolutionary system lets solar panels generate power from both sides simultaneously, using Sanyo’s HIT (Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin-layer) proprietary bifacial technology Its two glass layers increase the amount of energy produced by up to 30% compared to a single-sided HIT solar panel – delivering 50 percent more power per square inch than the average solar panel.

DuROCK Alfacing International Inc., a Canadian company specializing in innovative interior and exterior coatings, has combined these new solar panels with its  Tio-Coating reflective white roof membrane, which reflects up to 89% of the solar radiation. This lets the double-sided solar panels do double work, said Gary Campacci, President of DuRock.

Sanyo HIT Bifacial solar panels 2Sanyo officials said the company’s products have the world’s highest solar-light-to-electric-energy conversion efficiency per installed square foot.

According to the Statesman Journal, a Salem, Oregon factory that produces silicon for Sanyo HIT panels has just entered production.

And so another step forward for the solar industry. Stay tuned to see where it goes next!

Environmentalists outraged at prospect of mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska

Bristol Bay, Alaska 1The proposed Pebble Open Pit Mine  – which would be the largest North American copper and gold mine – has outraged environmentalists who see Bristol Bay, Alaska as a “vital ecosystem” for salmon and other species.

The threat puts the headwaters of the two most famous salmon producing river drainages in Alaska –the Mulchatna/ Nushagak River drainage and the Newhalen / Kvichak River drainage, both of which feed into the renowned Bristol Bay – at risk. Anticipated to be the first of many, the mine would also include the largest dam in the world – larger than Three Gorges Dam in China – and would be made of earth, not concrete, to hold back the toxic waste created in the mining process.

Alaska's wildlife and salmon habitat would be at risk with the proposed Pebble Mine

Alaska's wildlife and salmon habitat would be at risk with the proposed Pebble Mine

Bristol Bay – home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery – is a pristine premier fishing and wildlife area. Its waters are the source of the most productive commercial and sport salmon fisheries in the world. Many native groups and commercial fishermen are opposed to the proposed Pebble Mine.


According to the National Resource Defense Council:


“The only way to extract the low-grade ore from the region would be to use a brutal and pollution-prone technique known as hard-rock mining, which includes powerful explosives and massive drilling equipment. At one of the proposed mines in Pebble, a remote, roadless area sandwiched between two national parks, spongy, lake-studded tundra would be scraped away, leaving a yawning two-mile-wide, 2,000-foot-deep pit in its place. This would be the largest open-pit mine in the world — wide enough to line up nine of the world’s longest cruise ships end to end and deep enough to swallow the Empire State Building. At a second mine, explosives would be used to create a series of underground cave-ins to extract ore.”

Bristol Bay, Alaska 3While posing a potentially terrible risk to the environment, this project would actually provide little economic benefit to Alaskans.

According to the EPA, the hardrock mining industry is the single largest source of toxic releases in the U.S.  According to Lance Trasky, former ADF&G Habitat Regional Division Supervisor for Bristol Bay for 26 years:

 “If mine permitting is allowed to proceed under current state and federal standards and permitting processes, the very large scale mining of sulfide based copper ore in the Nushagak and Kvichak drainages will physically destroy thousands of acres of very high quality spawning and rearing habitat and over time will almost certainly seriously degrade fisheries habitat and fisheries production in downstream portions of these drainages.”

As former Governor Jay Hammond said “I can’t imagine a worse location for a mine of this type unless it was in my kitchen”.

The Non-GMO Project

Eden Foods logoI recently received an email from Eden Foods – a top quality company that operates with integrity and sustainable practices – and thought I’d bring this important information to you.

Recently, members of the natural product industry from across the U.S. and Canada (including Eden Foods) created the Non-GMO Project (The Project). The Project’s goal is to provide consumers and makers a 3rd party non-GMO verification program through all levels of the supply chain, thus providing verified non-GMO alternatives to consumers.

The Non-GMO Project will certify that seeds aren't genetically modified

The Non-GMO Project will certify that seeds aren’t genetically modified

Continue reading

Airlines must let people go!

20090318_zaf_e47_884.jpgThe U.S. government has done something that consumers have been pushing them to do for years. The Transportation Department has ordered airlines to let passengers stuck in stranded airplanes to deplane after three hours.

Until now, airlines have had complete say-so as to when or if stranded passengers can deplane, no matter how many hours their plane sits in line on the tarmac. Today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the three-hour limit and other new passenger protections long fought for by consumer advocates. This year, from January to June, 613 planes were delayed on tarmacs for more than three hours, with passengers kept on board.

Under the new rule, airlines must provide food and water for passengers within two hours of a plane being delayed on a tarmac and maintain operable lavatories. They must also provide medical attention when necessary.

For those who remember the TV series LA Law, there was an apisode on this exact topic (“The Plane Mutiny”, 1989). One of the attorneys was stranded on the tarmac for hours and finally had to threaten a major lawsuit in order to get himself off the plane. Nice to know that the government has finally listened, even if it’s been quite a few years in the making.

This new rule takes effect in 120 days.

Three U.S. airlines sue UK over carbon emissions plan

Continental AirlinesIn typical fashion, three U.S.-based airlines – American, Continental and United Airlines have filed suit, along with the Air Transport Association, to stop initial implementation of EU emission trading regulations for the  aviation industry.

The EU’s cap and trade system caps CO2 emissions, requiring polluters  – including all airlines -to purchase offsets in order to continue operating within EU airspace. Earlier this year the UK started allowing its Environment Agency to fine UK airlines that don’t those emissions standards,

In their complaint, the three American air carriers and the ATA stated that the rules were in violation of a 2007 bilateral air transport agreement between the U.S. and EU. They argue that a flight from London to the U.S. would almost  exclusively occur outside EU airspace.

Ironically, the ATA has repeatedly called for a global solution to limit aviation emissions.

Seems like talk is one thing but actions are another animal altogther. Hmm – business as usual?

Kohl's – more green than ever!

kohls3Kohl’s has long been recognized for providing quality and good prices. But did you know they’re green too?

Since 2008, Kohl’s has been making major strides in their green practices. They’ve:

  • recycled more than 95,000 tons of paper and cardboard – enough to make more than three billion Christmas cards.
  • recycled more than 100,000 tons of cardboard, plastic and hangers. During the holiday season alone, they recycle 30,000 tons of it!
  • made transporting merchandise efficiently a priority, eliminating more than 825,000 empty miles driven – the equivalent of driving from Kohl’s headquarters in Wisconsin to the North Pole more than 260 times.
  • Kohl’s circulars are printed on paper made from 100 percent certified forest sources.
  • A number of their stores are powered by solar.To date, 79 locations have solar panels that provide 20 to 50 percent of the energy needed to power the stores.
kohls2For those who want to green their holiday shopping, Kohl’s gift boxes are made from 100 percent recycled cardboard and can be used again season after season. Also their “Flights of Fancy” gift card is made from 100 percent recycled plastic, it never expires and is redeemable at any Kohl’s location or on Kohls.com. All this plus great products and prices. That’s a terrific combination.

Copenhagen Summit severely limits NGO participation

World on Fire 2With the eyes of the world on Copenhagen and the U.N. Climate Change Conference, it seems that organizers will be limiting who can get inside during the last most critical decision-making sessions. While 45,000 people are registered, today and tomorrow only 7,000 civilian observers will be allowed entrance, with those numbers reduced to 1,000 on Thursday and a mere 90 allowed in the conference center by Friday, the day of final negotiations. Continue reading

A bit of creative whimsy

creative whimsyHere’s a little something different to enjoy. It features some of the most creative, whimsical and sometimes absurd items I’ve seen.

Take a look and imagine what having any of these in your life would be like. Fascinating!

Solar's too complicated and expensive? I think not, Mr. O'Reilly

The following is a guest post by Mr. Tom Rooney of SPG Solar. It’s also a follow-up to a story I did recently on a soon-to-be implemented solar program in Irvine, California.
Last night (Wed.) on the O’Reilly Factor, Bill said solar power was too expensive and too complicated for him.

His unusual comments came just hours after a school district in Orange County voted to build a solar power system at no cost to the district — and which will save the district $17 million over the life of the project.


FarNiente Winery's Floatovoltaics by SPG

FarNiente Winery's "Floatovoltaics" by SPG Solar

My company, SPG Solar, is building that system — and there is nothing complicated or expensive about it.


You want complicated? Go to one of our solar installations in Napa Valley where we built a solar energy array on top of a pond of water — the panels actually float.

You want complicated?  How about building an acre of solar panels in one of the most desolate places on earth: A hotel in the middle of Death Valley.

We did those, and more, including movie theatres, farms, and yes, plain old office buildings.

The owners do not operate these systems any more than they operate their oil or gas or electric heat.

Between the tax credits and rebates, and the cost cutting in the price of installing and buying solar panels, solar energy is a simple decision that thousands of people are making every day.


Guest blogger Tom Rooney

Guest blogger Tom Rooney

Nothing expensive or complicated about it. Just good business (and) sound economics.

—-  Tom Rooney
          President and CEO
          SPG Solar
         Novato, California
         415 883-7657