Northern California city reinvents itself as green

This is the first in a four-part series looking at the environmental efforts of San Jose, California.

Many cities are trying to break away from fossil fuels by investing in solar, wind, and geothermal energy. San Jose, California, however, has practically reinvented itself energy-wise.

Find out about the green initiatives and successes of San Jose bu going to http://bit.ly/qkvaEQ.

UK company promotes sustainability through "green oil"

Jatropha may be the perfect alternative renewable source of green oil

Jatropha may be the perfect alternative renewable source of green oil

As the current environmental disaster of unchecked oil spewing from a wrecked oil rig unfolds in the Gulf of Mexico, the importance of non-fossil fuel is growing exponentially.

UK-based Carbon Credited Farming PLC (CCF PLC), a green energy company, has been making headway with their worldwide focus on developing “green oil” from jatropha (juh tro’ fa) plants.

“Our goal and vision is to provide alternative renewable energy sources through a sustainable commercial framework that benefits everyone – from farmers to governments to end users – and benefits our environment with conservation and sustainable practices,” said Gregg Fryett, CEO of Carbon Credited Farming PLC.

To achieve this, CCF has been operating jatropha plantations in Thailand, Cambodia and Africa. Previously viewed as a poisonous weed, this drought-resistant plant is now seen by many as the perfect biodiesel plant with seeds containing a high percentage of usable oil.

Jatropha grows well in poor or infertile soil. It’s excellent at helping prevent soil erosion, giving some environmentalists hope as to its use for preventing desertification.

Jatropha fruit

Jatropha fruit

More than this, jatropha oil can be combusted as high quality biodiesel fuel without being refined, burns with a clear smoke-free flame and has already successfully tested as fuel for simple diesel engine.

CCF recognizes that the stakes for jatropha’s success are high. But the company takes its commitment to sustainability further. 

“We educate farmers in marginal communities on sustainable farming practices that can be used on all value crops,” said Fryett, “giving them the tools to gain long-term financial independence for their communities.”

It helps farmers raise their standard of living, said CCF spokesperson Lauren Chen.

The oil from jatropha seeds makes an excellent biodiesel

The oil from jatropha seeds makes an excellent biodiesel

Jatropha has definitely gained interest among automobile-related companies as a viable fuel alternative. Companies like Daimler have cultivated it in southern India. And Toyota Tsusho Corporation, parent company of Toyota Motor Corporation, has invested in jatropha to refine it as a biofuel.

“CCF is about long-term,” says Chen.

Expect to hear more about CCF and their carbon and energy credit programs in the near future. It’s a company making a difference.

Fallout from volcano forces Europeans to eat local

The plume from Iceland's volcano  (Photo courtesy Icelandic Coast Guard)

The plume from Iceland's volcano (Photo courtesy Icelandic Coast Guard)

With millions of travelers stranded at airports and in countries around the world due to the eruption of Iceland’s volcano, fruits and vegetables from around the world lay rotting, unable reach their European destinations.

Farmers in Kenya are hard hit by the flight snarl. They usually ship 10-15 tonnes of produce every day to different parts of the world and, so far, have had to lay off 5,000 workers, with  thousands more layoffs pending. 

Kenya flowersHorticulture is one of Kenya’s top foreign earning crops - 97 percent of Kenya’s flowers are delivered to Europe. To date the country is experiencing $1.3 million in lost shipments.

So far, AAA Growers of Nairobi has donated or dumped 50-60 tonnes of vegetables. Ariff Shamji, AAA Growers’ managing director, said he’s delayed harvesting some produce and might try shipping to Belgium or Spain. From there vegetables can be trucked to market.

Consumers around the world have grown used to being able to get their favorite produce almost year round. The idea of eating locally – a new concept for many – is one we should  explore and embrace. It’s taken a volcano to shine a light on a simple strategy that could prove critical in the coming years.

Ford Cuts Energy Costs by $1.2M by turning off PC's!

Ford Motor Co.Electronics are notorious for energy “leaks”. Ford Motor Company is discoveing just how much energy they’ve been wasting when they implemented their new PC Power Management program. The company anticipates it will save $1.2 million when the system is fully implemented. It also expects to reduce its carbon footprint by 16,000-25,000 metric tons annually.

ComputerUnder this new program, power settings on Windows laptops and desktop computers are controlled centrally. This reduces energy waste and allows for optimizing software updates. Shutting down computers that aren’t in use – nighttimes and weekends – also helps reduce weated energy.

Computers will, however, be “awake”, connected to Ford’s intranet so as to be able to receive system updates and software upgrades during off hours.

PC Power Management is being rolled out to Ford”s U.S.-based computer users this month and expanded to Ford operations around the world later in the year.

Ford Lincolm Mercury logoFord’s U.S. facilities have increased their energy efficiency by almost 35 percent since the year 2000. The company is urging their Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions at their facilities, encouraging employees and customers to do the same, as part of their commitment to sustainability and to the Energy Star program.

All this from just turning off those computers! Now what about turning off all those lights?

Japan says no to bluefin tuna ban

Bluefin -TunaOnce again Japan’s in the news for their negative stance on marine life, this time the seriously endangered bluefin tuna.

Japan eats an estimated three-quarters of the world’s annual bluefin tuna catch. Over the past 50 years, the adult population of eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin has plunged 74 percent, most of this in the past decade. In the western Atlantic, the population has fallen a whopping 82 percent.

Late last year Monaco proposed the bluefin ban . This year the U.S. governmenet said it supports a proposed ban on international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna because the species is at risk of extinction. The European Commission has asked that member governments go along with the ban.The ban needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

Bluefin -Tuna.2The proposed ban will be considered in mid-March when representatives from 175 countries meet in Doha, Qatar, to vote on measures to protect bluefin tuna and other at-risk species under CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

It seems that the issues comes down to tradition and money versus purdent stewardship and protection of a species, posturing versus scienfitic evidence. And when the fish are gone, what will Japan say then?

Unilever to stop buying palm oil from Indonesia

Palm Fruit harvest in Indonesia

Palm Fruit harvest in Indonesia

Top consumer goods manufacturer Unilever has reportedly told dealers to stop buying palm oil from Indonesian planter Duta Palma due to concerns over rainforest destruction.

Unilever, who has been one of the world’s foremost palm oil buyers, halted their contract with the planter shortly after a documentary aired by the BBC which showed Duta Palma staff clearing rainforests for oil palm estates that produce the oil used in Unilever products including Dove soap and Stork margarine.

The consumer products giant uses around 1.3 million metric tons of palm oil annually. Targeted by environmentalists sand green-minded consumers for their deforestation and peatland clearance practices, Unilever has pledged to only purchase from certified sustainable palm plantations after 2015.

Deforestation makes way for palm oil plantations

Deforestation makes way for palm oil plantations

Indonesia and Malaysia produce at least 80 percent of the world’s palm oil supply.

One could be cautiously optimistic about this announcement. However, based on my observations and limited research last Fall into the real sustainability of palm oil, I wonder if perhaps this is a simply case of finding a better way of looking good while continuing to make hand-over-fist profits.

Millions of pounds of commercial flooring diverted from landfills

CarpetLast year Resource Commercial Flooring Network members diverted an astonishing 6.8 million pounds of carpet and carpet waste from landfills.

By reducing and sometimes eliminating waste in carpet projects, through their ReSource initiative, Ecolect™ (their national material collection and recycle program), members promote sustainable business practices. They recommend effective, sustainable methods for reclaiming material, diverting it from landfills across the country. 

ReSource members diverted 1.7 million pounds of carpet waste from landfills in 2008. This year´s goal is 5 million pounds. Given what they accomplished in 2009, that goal definitely needs to be raised!

Target and Safeway move to provide sustainable seafood

Sustainable seafood 3Driven by consumer demand, more corporations  are adopting sustainable business practices,  Retailers carrying food products are particularly engaged in this process.

Recently, Target and Safeway announced that they would discontinue carrying farm-raised seafood and switch to wild caught. Environmentalists have been pushing for this, criticizing that net-pens salmon farms, which release pollution, chemicals and parasites into the surrounding ocean, disrupt and sometimes decimate nearby wild fish populations. 

Sustainable seafood 1Greg Duppler, senior vice president, merchandising for Target, said “Target strives to be a responsible steward of the environment, while providing our guests with the highest-quality food choices.”

Safeway is also on the sustainable bandwagon. They recently announced their partnership with marine conservation group FishWise to develop and implement a more comprehensive sustainable seafood policy.The company will also implement a traceability system to screen out suppliers that don’t conform to its new policies, and will discontinue selling grouper, monkfish and red-snapper, due to overfishing concerns linked to these species.

Sustainable seafood 1.2“We hope this partnership will lead to a more sustainable product selection for our customers,” said Jim Bluming, vice president of seafood marketing for Safeway, “as well as improved transparency with our suppliers, and ultimately, healthy oceans and freshwater ecosystems for future generations.”

Good news for consumers and a hopeful sign that more corporations will make more steps into sustainability.

Will Costa Rica be the world’s first carbon neutral country?

Will Costa Rica be the world's first carbon neutral country?While in Costa Rica last Fall, I wrote a number of posts about that country’s ongoing commitment to sustainability. In one of them I mentioned Costa Rica’s goal to become the world’s first carbon neutral country.

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