Renewable energy and its real potential for this country

Solar Day - celebrate the opportunities of renewable energy

Contrary to what the conservative media continues to focus on, renewable energy is alive and well and holding strong in this country. And its potential to replace fossil fuel-based energy sources looks pretty darn good.

In July, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a report examining and applying methods for estimating the current and future economic potential of domestic renewable energy. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which recently crunched the numbers, NREL’s analysis shows that renewable energy sources have the potential to supply anywhere from “35 percent to as much as 10 times the nation’s current power needs.”

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Toshiba technology introduces copier that produces erasable documents

Long known for top quality photocopiers, Toshiba  is set to introduce a green copier from their subsidiary Toshiba Tec that creates erasable reusable documents.

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Kohl's recognied as 2010 Energy Star® Partner of the Year

Kohl's logoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have named Kohl’s Department Stores the 2010 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for Energy Management for the company’s commitment to energy management and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Selected from more than 17,000 organizations that participate in the ENERGY STAR program, Kohl’s will receive the award March 18th at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Kohl’s has implemented a wide range of sustainable business practices. This commitment led Kohl’s in December 2009 announce their plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by the end of 2010. Last year the Environmental Protection Agency recognzied this family-focused Wisconsin-based company as a 2009 Green Power Partner of the Year.

Expect to hear more about Kohl’s sustainability initiatives.

Chocolate Valentine’s for your Sweetie

You know you had a great reason.

You’ve been swamped at work. You’re worried about your job, your boss, the economy…AND you forgot that today’s Valentine’s Day!

I may have something that will get you back in your sweetheart’s good graces – and it’s even eco-friendly!

If your sweetie likes chocolate – and almost everybody does – the Midnight Crunch bar is sure to mend all hurt feelings. To say it’s delicious is a pale understatement. Made from Fair Trade dark chocolate with quinoa (that’s keen’ wah) sprinkles, eating it is a sensual savoring EXPERIENCE.

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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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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?

Corporate energy reduction – real or hype?

SAP Headquarters

SAP America's new HQ - a story of big time water and energy efficiency

News stories abound with corporate carbon emission and energy reductions. But what’s real and what’s hype?

Today’s story that cruise line Costa has “cut fuel and potable water consumption by five percent during the fiscal year starting in December 2007”  is notably a good step in the right direction. That they’ve also “increased its “special waste” (cooking oil, used batteries, neon lamps, photo developing fluid) recycling to 30 percent in 2008, up from 26 percent in 2007” is a better news story.

But the one that really got my attention today was about SAP America’s new $90 million Philadelphia headquarters. When complete, it’s expected to have an energy and water savings of 40-50 percent, when compared to similar buildings.

So far the building is using about one kilowatt of electricity per square foot, said SAP Project Manager Brian Barrett. That compares to about 2.5 kilowatts per square foot typical in other buildings, he said.

So tell me about the big steps you’re taking,  corporate America, not the baby steps that you hope will make you look good. The bigger the step, the bolder and more progressive you’ll look to your customers. And with growing consumer demand for corporate responsibility, that’s what they really want anyway.

Get the hint?

Brazil takes on deforestation

Amazon rainforestIn today’s Bioneers conference, speaker Jim Garrison announced that Brazil has taken on the “80 in ’20” goals big time.

For those who don’t know, that’s reducing CO2 emissions by 80% by the year 2020.

Brazil’s media – one of the largest in the world – has is actively supporting the “2020” movement. According to Garrison, Brazil’s media is running environmental advertising daily to remind and support people about cutting carbon emissions., something unheard of on this side of the Gulf of Mexico.

Also, Garrison said that the governors of the Amazon regions have committed to reducing deforestation of the Amazon to help meet those 2020 goals.  This unprecedented commitment – coming from politocos in the areas where the devastation is occurring, could end up leading the world in moving forward to real positive action. Now if our own leaders would pay attention to the herald’s call.

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 Carbonfund.org 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.

Even the Friendly Skies are Going Green

It’s official. Green is everywhere. From green building to tote bags, from hybrids to clothing, you can’t turn around without hearing or reading about another environmentally-friendly company or product.

Now United Airlines has announced that as part of their “environmental commitment”, they, along with their “partner” Conservation International,  have launched a carbon offset program to “counter the impact of carbon emissions.

Fascinating that United would announce this on Earth Day. Whether it’s merely a ploy to capitalize on one of the largest environmentally-focused days of the year or a make-a-difference venture, the timing raises a red flag of caution.

Consumers should investigate this before jumping on this bandwagon.