White House Easter Egg Roll Goes Green

Easter is just around the corner and everyone is anticipating the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. This year’s event will have a bit of a different, albeit healthier, greener feel to it.

White House Easter Egg Roll will be held on Monday, April 5, 2010 with the theme of “Ready, Set, Go!” promoting health and wellness. The event will feature live music, sports courts, cooking stations, storytelling and, of course, Easter egg rolling. All of the activities will encourage children to lead healthy and active lives and follow the First Lady’s ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative, a national campaign to combat childhood obesity. The White House will open its South Lawn for children aged 12 years and younger and their families.

Rather than using chocolate or real eggs, the White House has opted for environmentally friendly FSC-certified hardwood eggs dyed with vegetable based eggs featuring the signatures of the American President and First Lady. The White House Easter Egg Roll attracts about 20,000 people each year and invitations are issued via an online lottery.

Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative forms to foster adoption of the smart grid

Washington, DC –To help build consumer acceptance and use of the smart grid, a group of smart grid leaders today announced the formation of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC).   The founding members of the SGCC include consumer electronics and technology companies, retailers, consumer advocacy groups, and utilities dedicated to maximizing the value of the grid for consumers.  Launched at DistribuTECH, which is the nation’s largest gathering of energy utilities and technologists, the SGCC will work to understand consumer needs and preferences, reach out to build awareness and educate consumers about the benefits of the smart grid, and share best practices for consumer engagement and empowerment.

The SGCC has three priorities:

1. In-depth research on consumer awareness, acceptance, and use of the smart grid with emphasis on their needs, preferences and priorities 2. Outreach and education to allow consumers to better understand the smart grid, its issues and its potential 3. Development of  best practices to involve and empower consumers  in the roll out of smart grid technologies

The federal stimulus program for the smart grid will reach more than $4 billion and by 2015, nearly half of all North American consumers will have next generation smart meters.   The SGCC wants to ensure these investments engage consumers and deliver the energy efficiency and the savings promised.  Consumer adoption of the new technology and services being deployed is the key to the success of the smart grid.

“For many reasons — energy independence, energy efficiency, integrating renewables, accommodating electric vehicles, and global competitiveness — we must modernize our electric system. But we can’t do that without the support and involvement of the ultimate customer,”  said Jesse Berst, acting Executive Director of the SGCC.  “We formed the SGCC to bring important stakeholders together to do the necessary research, education and collaboration to make sure we include the consumer in the conversation.”

The cross-industry initiative started after Control4, a leader in affordable IP-based home control systems and newcomer to the smart grid space, recognized a common concern emerging from partners, customers, and smart grid conferences; that the industry wasn’t equipped to understand and support consumer reactions to the technology upgrade.  In just a few months’ time, the concept to bring industry leaders together to take on smart grid consumer education became a reality in the formation of the non-profit organization, the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative.  The broad representation of the group and support from established smart grid and consumer advocacy organizations reinforces the importance of the SGCC’s mission.

“There’s been intense work and focus on the technology, energy efficiency and economic advancements the smart grid enables, but if we as an industry don’t turn our attention to the consumer, to drive participation and acceptance, the real promise of the smart grid, energy independence, can never be realized, ” said Richard Walker, President, Control4 Energy Systems.

“The smart grid is of critical importance to the future of the United States.  The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative will help its member companies to further the transformation of our power grid by focusing specifically on the energy consumer,” said Guido Bartels, General Manager of Energy and Utilities at IBM.  “Along with our utility clients we have long been looking at ways to empower consumers to make informed decisions, so taking on a founding role with this collaborative is a logical next step for IBM.”

“Around the world, countries, including the United States, are realizing the clear need to modernize our electrical infrastructure to support the energy demands of our 21st Century society,” said Bob Gilligan, vice president, GE Energy Services. “A smarter electricity grid will enable us to integrate and optimize more renewable energy such as wind and solar, as well as plug-in electric vehicles. It will also increase power reliability and operational efficiencies to deliver greater productivity both for the utility and the consumer.  It will empower consumers to manage their energy usage and save money without compromising their lifestyle. To make this smarter grid a reality, informing and engaging consumers is critical. The SGCC is an opportunity for key stakeholders to work together to better understand consumer needs and articulate the value and benefits of a smart grid for consumers.”

“It is crucial that all stakeholders can work cooperatively to move our industrial-age electric grid into the information age,” said Katherine Hamilton, President GridWise Alliance.  “We have reached a point of deployment where consumers are as important an ingredient as the technology that backs the system and the dollars that fund the modernization of this nation’s new energy economy.  The GridWise Alliance is looking forward to participating in the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative to help consumers reap the benefits of the smart grid.”  The GridWise Alliance is a coalition of 125 organizations advocating for the deployment of a smarter grid for the public good.

“There is a tremendous amount of change going on in the electric world,” said Janine Migden-Ostrander, Ohio’s Consumers’ Counsel. “The availability of carefully designed programs that can benefit residential consumers is key to providing them additional choices and giving them more control over their energy consumption.  But education will be a key component to making the smart grid a useful consumer tool. We are excited to work with the SGCC, to share our knowledge and draw from the expertise the collaborative will offer.” The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC), the residential utility consumer advocate, represents the interests of 4.5 million Ohio households in proceedings before state and federal regulators and in the courts.

Members from Industry to Consumer Advocacy The SGCC launched today with founding  member companies that span key stakeholder groups, including utilities, technology  and consumer electronics companies, retailers, and consumer advocates.

•     Magnolia/Best Buy

•     Control4

•     Ember

•     General Electric (GE)

•     GridWise Alliance (GWA)

•     IBM

•     NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

•     Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC)

•     Silver Spring Networks (SSN)

Additionally the Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition (www.drsgcoalition.org) and the Future of Privacy Forum (http://www.futureofprivacy.org/) have  joined as affiliate members, contributing resources to the SGCC.

For more information about the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative,  visit  www.smartgridcc.org.

UPS’s Green Smart Pickup Option

UPS announced last week their new Smart Pickup option, a new “green” option within their Decision Green program. Smart Pickup is for small to mid-sized businesses and gives them the option of scheduling a pickup for a package only when a package is actually being shipped. UPS will use their technology to make sure a driver only stops at the customer’s location if and when a package is ready to be shipped. Before this option many UPS drivers would stop daily at customer locations and there would be no packages, only there wasting time and fuel.

UPS says this new service is expected to eliminate 8 million miles from the total driven by UPS each year in the United States and will save an estimated 793,000 gallons of fuel and 7,800 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions. This new option saves time, miles, and lessens the UPS carbon footprint overall.

UPS customers will also be happy to know that if they enroll in this new “green” option they will be saving money as well. The weekly flat fee for the Smart Pickup is $10. The process is also convenient and easy, all you have to do is use one of UPS’s three online shipping systems (UPS WorldShip 2010, UPS CampusShip, or UPS Internet Shipping) to process a package and notify a driver that you have a package.  

Other options in the Decision Green program include UPS Carbon Neutral Shipping. This is a way for your business to reduce its environmental impact, just pay five cents more per package and UPS carbon neutral will offset the carbon dioxide emission generated by the transportation of your packages.

The Brown-Deeply Rooted in Green plan is another part of Decision Green that uses advanced route planning, reducing left turns for thousands of vehicles, and using one versus multiple trucks for international, air, and ground deliveries; another way for UPS to use less miles, fuel, and lower emissions.

Posted by Megan/ Follow me on Twitter

Veggies Fresh from the Farm–Without Getting Dirty!

…well unless you want to…

Imagine receiving a weekly delivery of farm fresh vegetables, flowers, dairy and pasture grazed beef every week without getting one ounce of dirt on your hands…for those that agree that a little dirt won’t hurt you, there are ways to get your farming fix by helping to plant crops for your local farmer and with each delivery you’ll smile knowing you played a part in cultivating the delicious bounty before you.

This perfect balance of free veggies with or without dirt does exist, and it’s called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) my friends!

Community farming initiatives started out in Japan and Chile in the early 1970s, with influence in the United States coming from the biodynamic agricultural traditions of post World War II Europe from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The idea crossed the pond in 1986 and the idea of CSAs was born simultaneously at Indian Line Farm in Massachusetts and at the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire.

CSAs help to create a local, safe, and sustainable community. When people share in the harvest and even planting of their own food they feel a sense of pride. The benefits of owning a share in your local CSA is knowing exactly where your food is coming from, how it’s grown, and who the farmer is, minus the concerns of genetically modified organisms, cruel animal farming practices, and the contribution to fertilizer laden ecosystems from harsh over use. Because they are not government funded, the best part about CSAs is that all they need to thrive is involved members, farmers looking for community support, green thumbs and a good piece of land.

CSAs do have a few drawbacks just like anything else in this world. Shareholders must adjust to eating with the seasons and the inconsistencies of the harvest. Many CSAs will send out surveys asking what’s working and what families would like to see grown, but the farmers make the final call, and with any CSA, you take what you get.

But the thought of paying half the price of retail for locally grown produce, flowers and locally raised dairy and meat products outweighs any negative aspects in my opinion. If you keep track of how much you spend on average in the produce section or your local market each week–then multiply that by 26 you’ll have a figure to compare with what a six month share at your local CSA would be.

Great websites like Local Harvest and Sustainable Table can help you find local CSAs in your area, the farmers are more than happy for you to contact them regarding CSA product and pricing information.

Love your farmer–eat locally!

Posted by Amanda| follow me on Twitter

Greenest Communities in Westchester win first Green Star Awards

142-Point Evaluation Addresses Local Efforts on Climate Change, Sustainability and Environmental Health

Pleasantville, NY, March 24, 2010 — Grassroots Environmental Education, a non-profit organization, in partnership with the Pace University Academy for Applied Environmental Studies, announced today the results of a county-wide assessment of the efforts of towns and villages in Westchester County to address key environmental issues.

Using a comprehensive checklist developed by Grassroots called “How Green Is My Town?”, over 100 Pace students conducted interviews with municipal, school and business officials of 43 Westchester towns from November through early March.

The communities with the highest combined scores on 142 widely-accepted attributes of a sustainable and environmentally-aware community will receive Green Star Awards in recognition of their achievements at a ceremony today in Pleasantville.

The six towns receiving Green Star Awards are: Bronxville, Chappaqua, Katonah, Larchmont, White Plains and Yorktown. Survey results for these and all other communities in Westchester have been posted, with recommendations, online at www.HowGreenIsMyTown.org/westchester where the municipalities are rated but not ranked.

Electric vehicle parking?

Pace University is the first to complete a pilot program that Grassroots intends as a model for change on a national level. Students from universities in Nassau and Suffolk counties will be next to complete the assessments of their areas. The pilot program in Westchester was funded in part by Con Ed.

Questions included in the survey ranged from “Does your town provide special incentives for ‘green’ building projects?” to “Does your town recycle e-waste?” and “Does your town offer preferred parking for electric vehicles?”

“We were delighted to find so many of the towns in Westchester out in front on these issues,” says Patti Wood, Executive Director of Grassroots, “but there is always room for improvement. The goal of our program is to help communities share ideas and resources, and to find ways to move ahead on a green agenda even during these tough economic times.”

“Each sector of the community has a vital role to play in making a town truly green,” says Michelle Land, Director of the Pace Academy, and the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges & Universities. “When the local government, school system and business community are working together in a cooperative effort, the results can be innovative and significant.”

Ready-to-go ideas

Grassroots first announced the launch of their comprehensive, science-based web site, www.HowGreenIsMyTown.org last spring. The “greenweb” offers a resource for government agencies and school systems seeking to address key environmental issues, providing links to ready-to-go policies, program ideas and cost-effective solutions. It is designed to give local citizens and decision makers the tools they need to bring about change.

Patti Wood of Grassroots stressed that the evaluation scores for local towns are dynamic, and towns that adopt policies or take other steps to address the issues contained in the program should contact Grassroots to have their scores updated. An annual review and update of the evaluations is planned.

All of the questions, answers, as well as details of every town’s scores, are available online at the web site: www.HowGreenIsMyTown.org/westchester

About Grassroots Environmental Education
Grassroots Environmental Education is a NY-based not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) organization founded in 2000. Grassroots is dedicated to educating the public about environmental toxins and their impact on human health. Through the production and distribution of science-based materials, the organization seeks to empower individuals to act as catalysts for positive change in their own communities.

About Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies
Pace University Academy for Applied Environmental Studies works with every academic unit of Pace University in a comprehensive program to increase interdisciplinary educational opportunities for students and faculty, expand collaborations and partnerships with external institutions and experts, and create research and advanced study programs on matters of community, national and global import. www.pace.edu/academy

Become a Jedi of the Farmer’s Market

Now that spring has officially sprung itself here in our lovely state of Rhode Island my thoughts are drifting towards the 2010 farmer’s market season. I am a huge fan of the Aquidneck Growers’ Market; I get there early so that I can get first dibs on all the goodies while sipping on an icy cup of deliciousness from Custom House Coffee. Since buying locally is the biggest way to high five mother earth I thought I’d put together some tips and tactics in preparation for the upcoming season–to make sure you find the produce you are looking for.

Straight from the horses—or in this case farmer’s mouth

Don’t be afraid to talk to the person tending the booth—it is an amazing opportunity to speak with the people who grow it–they want to answer your questions! Ask where your food comes from, are they certified organic? If not ask why, I guarantee they’ll have a good reason…maybe they are a very small family run farm who practices sustainability because the price tag of organic just doesn’t add up…but hey…sustainable farming is great too!

If you don’t know how to cook parsnips, rutabagas, artichokes or that some squash blossoms are edible (and delicious when panko breaded and fried!), ask for suggestions on preparing them.

Make a list, no need to check it twice

Knowing what’s in season won’t be very hard to figure out while you are at the farmers market since it will be all around you…but doing a little recon before making any purchases will help you out in two ways.

  1. Do a little research for in-season produce and look at seasonal menus to help you figure out what you’d like to be looking for and what to do with your locally grown haul. Oranges and Avocados don’t grow in Rhode Island in May…but Asparagus does!
  2. Make a loop around and take in all the sights before buying (I like to grab a coffee and a blueberry muffin…grazing while I take in the sights) you’ll kick yourself if you find amazing looking basil two tables down…for half the price!

It always helps to have a few loose ideas in your head as to what you are going to do with your produce…often the grower will want to hear about that delicious blueberry trifle you made the week before, your feedback can help them sell to the next person who doesn’t know what they’d do with a pound of fresh berries.

Money talks…debit cards walk…

Please oh please do not get frustrated when the farmer forgets their credit card machine at home…unless you are at in indoor farmer’s market most of the time there is no electricity at such events. You’d think this was common sense…but since I’ve seen it—I had to put it out there…

Also don’t be afraid to use your cash to shop for bargains—it doesn’t hurt to ask especially if you are at the tail end of the day—if two items for $5 instead of $6.50 will work.

Tote along for the ride…

Since fresh produce hasn’t been dipped in wax or petrified to survive shipping thousands of miles it will absolutely bruise and damage easily. Collapsible market totes, boat tote bags and coolers will become your new bff and always go with you to the market. Damp paper towels or cheese cloth in water proof containers or baggies will protect herbs from wilting on your way home—and can be used in the refrigerator to help keep them a little longer. Chances are your farmer will have a few recommendations for storing, watering, and enjoying your purchases.

Do or do not…there is no try.” ~Master Yoda

Happy hunting–see you at the market!!

Here are a few great websites to help you along your journey:

Local Harvest

Epicurious’ seasonal map

Farmers Market online in season listing

Posted by Amanda| follow meow on Twitter

Toshiba Ends Incandescent Bulb Manufacturing

After 120 years of manufacturing incandescent light bulbs, Toshiba announced last week its planned to switch solely to CFLs and LED light bulbs.

via CNET:

The Japanese electronics manufacturer said the phaseout is part of a strategy to ultimately concentrate on LED (light-emitting diode) lighting products, though it will continue to produce certain specialty incandescent bulbs.

Incandescent lighting has been dwindling in use over the last five years in large part to citizen and government phase-out campaigns that include laws for an eventual ban on the sale of the electricity-guzzling light source. Many countries have already passed laws with deadlines looming.

Australia was the first country to ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs, which took effect in 2010. In December 2007, the U.S. passed a law phasing out the sale of the 100-watt incandescent bulb beginning in 2012 with a ban to take effect by 2014, as well as several regulations regarding bulb efficiency rates.

Many companies have responded to the changes by reducing production in favor of new lighting technology like LEDs and CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs). Even newer technologies like electron stimulated luminescence (ESL) lights and incandescent bulbs with ultra-fast short-pulse lasers are also on the horizon.

“Toshiba estimates that switching 60 percent of the world’s incandescent lights with LED lights would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 125.5 million tons in 2025, compared to 2000,” the company said in a statement.

It marks the end of a technology era. Since 1890, Toshiba–that is the company that eventually became part of Toshiba–has been manufacturing incandescent lighting.

Hakunetsu-sha & Company was Japan’s first electric incandescent lighting factory and produced its first bulbs in 1890 at a rate of 10 bulbs per day. The company was renamed the Tokyo Electric Company in 1899, and in 1939 merged with Shibaura Engineering Works to become what is today known as Toshiba.