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NEWS WATCH! BAD DAYS MAY BE AHEAD FOR SOLAR INDUSTRY

Posted in Alternative Energy, Clean Energy, Congressional Inaction, Cool Products, News Brief on September 17th, 2008

CONGRESS DRAGS ITS FEET RENEWING FEDERAL INVESTMENT TAX CREDIT

solarmodul1.JPGThe way it looks today, the federal investment tax credit (ITC), the financial instrument that powers many American homeowner’s move to solar power, may go away at the end of this year, unless Congress puts their partisan differences aside and renews the credit.

Should the ITC be allowed to expire, the cost to the US’s fledging Solar Industry could be as much as $8 billion dollars in investments and more than 39,000 solar-related jobs in 2009 alone.

Whereas should the ITC be renewed between now and the end of the year, “it could create enough solar energy to power as many as five million homes and provide tens of thousands of new jobs while eliminating 130 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year”, according to NatGeo’s Green Guide.

Hopefully we will not have to wait until the next administration to see action on this all-important measure. What our elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, need to appreciate is that besides significantly reducing our nation’s carbon footprint, support of green industry and the jobs that it would create, would go a long way toward healing the ills created by the outsourcing of so many American jobs. Fix the job situation in this country and everything will work itself out.

– Denis

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NEWS WATCH! RETAILERS LOVE AFFAIR WITH SOLAR POWER BLOSSOMS

Posted in Alternative Energy, Clean Energy, Cool Products, Corporate Responsibility, Eco -Chic on August 12th, 2008

WAL-MART STORES, KOHL’S, SAFEWAY AND WHOLE FOODS MARKET AMONG CHAINS RACING TO JUMP ON THE SOLAR BANDWAGON

a-wind-turbine.jpgSolar power is coming to the nation’s retail sector in a big way with Kohl’s stores announcing plans to add solar panels to 85 stores in addition to the 43 that already have them. Macy’s, similarly, plans to install the energy harvesting devices atop 40 more stores this year for a total of 58 stores where at least part of the energy used comes from the sun.

Also wading into the renewable energy fray is supermarket chain, Safeway, where plans call for installing panels atop 23 stores. These retailers are not alone in moving to solar energy. Other chains, including Whole Foods Market, BJ’s Wholesale Club, REI and Wal-Mart, are planning solar projects of their own.

While analysts, according to the New York Times, are not sure how much power the rooftop projects could ultimately produce, the initial estimate is that the solar panels will generate between 10 and 40 percent of the power a store needs, a significant reduction in energy demand in many communities where big box retailers use a disproportionate amount of the available energy.

Not surprisingly, most of the solar conversions to date are centered in California, New Jersey and Connecticut, states where generous incentives are offered for renewable energy projects.

For this phenomena to mainstream nationwide two things must happen. First, the federal government must reauthorize the renewable energy tax credit currently bogged down in the Congressional deadlock over offshore oil drilling and slated to expire at the end of this year. Second, the individual states need to come up with their own incentive plans the way California, New Jersey and Connecticut have.

Whether or not this will come to pass at anytime soon is unknown. What is known is that far too many states still have a vested interest in, and love affair with, coal, even though, we all know that it is among the dirtiest and most toxic of all the energy sources available.

But this is not a battle that can be won with logic. Nor is it one that can be won today. In the interim, the environmental movement should relish it’s victories – - and the move by the major retail players to embrace solar, for whatever their reasons – - is a major victory.

And while the temptation is there to force the issue of incentive plans on a state by state basis, it is not the best use of the green movements time or limited financial resources. Better to leave this battle to the Wal-Marts and Macy’s of the world, as they are better suited to the challenge.

Just know, that when these retailers see the savings that renewable energy will eventually bring to their bottom line, they will lead the fight for local incentives in a manner that the environmental movement could only dream of.

In the meantime, let’s just hope that this mainstream acceptance of solar will one day soon broaden to include wind power as well. There are currently on the market, numerous low profile wind turbines (such as the one featured in the image above) manufactured with city dwellers in mind that offer the benefits of this clean renewable energy source without the drawback of those ugly fifty feet tall spinning propeller turbines.

Perhaps by combining both sources of renewable energy, the day will come when these retail giants will be entirely off the grid, which would eliminate much of the CO2 currently discharged into our atmosphere.

One can only hope.

- – Denis

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HOW TO SAFELY HANDLE COMPACT FLOURESCENT LIGHTS (CFL’S)

Posted in Alternative Energy, Cool Products, Health Watch, News Brief, Toxin Alert! on August 6th, 2008

BECAUSE CFL’S CONTAIN A SMALL AMOUNT OF MERCURY, THE EPA HAS ESTABLISHED GUIDELINES TO OBSERVE WHEN HANDLING, DISPOSING OF, OR CLEANING UP BROKEN CFL’S

250px-compact-flourescent-bulb2.jpg As more and more of us convert out incandescent home lighting to the new soft light compact fluorescent lights, it is important to remember that these odd looking bulbs contain small amounts of mercury.

For that reason the EPA has developed guidelines to observe when handling, disposing of, or cleaning up broken CFL’s.

We here at Greenourscene.com urge you to take a moment and observe the best ways to handle CFL’s.

-Denis

INSTALLING CFL’S

Be careful when removing the bulb from its packaging, installing it, or replacing it.

Always screw and unscrew the light bulb by its base (not the glass), and NEVER forcefully twist the CFL into a light socket.

WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN A CFL WEARS OUT?

PROPER DISPOSAL: Contact your area recycling company to see if they have a program for disposing of worn out or broken CFL’s. If the answer is no, or you are unsure of who to contact, go to www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling or ww.earth911.org to identify local recycling options.

NOTE! Some areas permit you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage. If this applies to your area seal the bulb in two plastic bags and put it into the outside trash, or other protected outside location, for the next normal trash collection.

It is important that you NEVER send a fluorescent light bulb or any other product containing mercury to an incinerator.

WHAT IS THE SAFEST WAY TO CLEAN UP A BROKEN CFL?

BEFORE CLEAN-UP:

Air Out the Room – Have people and pets leave the room, and don’t let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.

Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.

CLEAN-UP STEPS FOR HARD SURFACES

Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with a metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.

Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and powder.

Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.

Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

CLEAN-UP STEPS FOR CARPETING OR RUG:

Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.

Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.

If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.

Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag

CLEAN-UP STEPS FOR CLOTHING, BEDDING, ETC.:

If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.

You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.

If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

DISPOSAL OF CLEAN-UP MATERIALS

Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.

Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.

Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

FUTURE CLEANING OF CARPETING OR RUG

Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.

Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes

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NEWS WATCH! WHOLE FOODS MARKET REFOCUSES – - STRESSES VALUE

Posted in Cool Products, Corporate Responsibility, Eco -Chic, Ethical Business, Healthy Food, News Brief, Sustainable Food on August 3rd, 2008

COMPANY MAKING “A STRONG EFFORT” TO CHALLENGE ITS COMPETITORS ON PRICE

wholefoodsa1.jpegThe sketchy economy, high cost of fuel and skittish job market are taking their toll on Whole Foods Markets, as once loyal customers look elsewhere in search of deep discounts on necessary food and household items.

To combat the losses, the extent of which are unclear, Whole Foods has announced a line of lower-priced generic products, a staple of traditional supermarkets, together with deep discounts on many existing items. The goal here is to make the chain synonymous with value, a tough task after years of being known for upscale gourmet items.

Only time will tell how this works out. Hopefully company management finds a way to serve both masters effectively without destroying what it is that makes the Whole Foods experience special.

Read On

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NEWS WATCH! RAISE A GLASS AS THE PEACE SIGN TURNS 50

Posted in Cool Products, News Brief on May 21st, 2008

POPULAR WORLD-WIDE SYMBOL FOR NON-VIOLENCE WAS CREATED IN 1958

250px-peace_signsvg.pngBesides your’s truly, also celebrating a landmark birthday this year is the ever-popular peace symbol.

This international icon was designed in the early part of 1958 by WWII conscientious objector, Gerald Holtom, at the time a professional designer and artist residing in Great Britain. It was commissioned by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) and intended for use at the groups April 4 march from London’s Trafalgar Square, to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston.

The icon went on to be adopted by counterculture of the time and became the symbol of the 1960s anti-war movement.

According to Wikipedia, the symbol is a combination of the semaphoric signals for the letters “N” and “D,” as in Nuclear Disarmament. In semaphore the letter “N” is formed by a person holding two flags in an upside-down “V,” and the letter “D” is formed by holding one flag pointed straight up and the other pointed straight down. These two signals imposed over each other form the shape of the peace symbol.

Join us not only in wishing this important icon a Happy Birthday, but also inour hope that the day may come, in our life time, when this symbol becomes less important because man has found a way to shed his warrior impulses and live in peace.

-LIB

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GREEN ENERGY INDUSTRY TAKES ROOT IN CALIFORNIA

Posted in Alternative Energy, Cool Products, Eco -Chic, Ethical Business, Ethical Living, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Business, Sustainable Living on February 2nd, 2008

IN RECENT MONTHS, THE INDUSTRY HAS ADDED SEVERAL THOUSAND JOBS IN THE PRODUCTION OF SOLAR ENERGY CELLS AND INSTALLATION OF SOLAR PANELS ON ROOFS

solarmodul1.JPGAs of this writing, three-quarters of the nations demand for solar energy and equiptment comes from residents and companies in California. This is not all that surprising considering that California has among the most warm, sunny days of any of the continental states.

But will it continue a grow to be a mainstream industry, or will it be doomed to fall by the wayside the way it did during the last solar boom in the 1970’s?

To be successful and more than a passing fad, solar energy needs to pass through to the mainstream and not be limited to the elite fringes of California society, as it is today.

In the posting linked below, MATT RICHTEL and JOHN MARKOFF of the New York Times take a closer look at this and other questions facing this fledging industry as it attempts to transition into the west coast’s go-to employer for the twenty -first century.

-LIB

READ MORE

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TOYOTA UNVEILS HOT NEW HYBRID PICKUP TRUCK

Posted in Alternative Fuel Vehicles, Clean Energy, Conscious Actions, Cool Products, News Brief on December 30th, 2007

THE FUEL-EFFICIENT VEHICLE FEATURES 4-FOOT BED, NAVIGATION UNIT AND WI-FI

toyotahybridpickup.jpgToyota Motor Corp. plans to introduce a concept hybrid pickup truck featuring improved fuel economy and lower emissions at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the automaker said Friday.

The A-BAT concept vehicle is equipped with Hybrid Synergy Drive, Toyota’s third-generation gas-electric hybrid powertrain technology, according to the company. Its trapezoidal profile was borrowed from the Prius, another hybrid Toyota vehicle.

The four-passenger pickup features a 4-foot bed, while a translucent roof panel slides open to allow for tall cargo inside the cab. The bed can be extended by 2 feet by folding down the pass through midgate into the cab and by another 2 feet by opening the tailgate

READ MORE…

Source: The Associated Press/ MSNBC

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DISCOVERY: TERMITE GUTS MAY HOLD KEY TO BETTER BIOFUELS

Posted in Alternative Energy, Clean Energy, Cool Products, News Brief on November 23rd, 2007

THE EFFICIENT PROCESSES THAT TERMITES USE TO TURN WOOD INTO FOOD COULD BE HARNESSED TO TRANSFORM WOOD INTO FUEL AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO CROPS LIKE CORN

ethanol1.jpgThe back half of a termite is an odd place to look to solve the world’s energy crisis, but scientists believe the insects’ guts may hold the key to better and cheaper biofuels.

Researchers said on Wednesday that they have identified a rich reservoir of wood-digesting enzymes exuded by bacteria living in termites.

The efficient processes the insects use to turn wood into food could one day be harnessed in factories to transform wood into fuel for transport as an alternative to crops like corn.

The discovery follows a genome-wide analysis of bacteria from the hindgut of the Nasutitermes termite species in Costa Rica, published in the science journal Nature.

Soaring oil prices and concerns about climate change have triggered a boom in biofuels produced from renewable resources like sugar, corn and soybeans.

But making gasoline substitutes from wood – a plentiful but tougher biomass source – has proved elusive.

Termites, whose voracious appetite for wood causes massive damage to homes worldwide, have no such problems. In fact, their intestines are astonishingly efficient bioreactors – chemical processing chambers.

Now the secret of how they convert wood into sugars is starting to be unlocked by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, the California Institute of Technology and biotechnology company Verenium Corp.

MORE….

Source: Reuters

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GENERAL MOTORS TO ROLL OUT BILLION-DOLLAR TEST OF FUEL CELL TECHNOLOGY

Posted in Alternative Energy, Alternative Fuel Vehicles, Clean Energy, Cool Products, News Brief, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Transportation on November 6th, 2007

COMPANY TIRES OF WAITING FOR THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION TO MAKE GOOD ON ITS 2003 PROMISE TO MAKE FUEL CELL TECHNOLOGY THE REPLACEMENT FOR THE GASOLINE ENGINE

altfuelcars.jpg In 2003, President George W. Bush called for a billion-dollar initiative. These clean battery-like devices produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen and giving off only water.

But four years down the road, not many besides California’s Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have been behind the wheel of a fuel-cell car, and a big reason for this is the paucity of hydrogen fuel filling stations.

“The infrastructure is not evolving fast enough,” said Britta Gross, General Motors manager of hydrogen infrastructure and strategic commercialization.

Not waiting for the so-called “hydrogen highway” to be built, GM has launched its own Project Driveway, in which 110 Chevy Equinoxes equipped with hydrogen fuel cells will be lent—at no charge—to ordinary customers for 3-month test periods.

MORE….

Source: Live Science

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CAR-SHARING SERVICES ON BOTH COASTS, MERGE

Posted in Cool Products, Eco Warriors, Sustainable Transportation on November 2nd, 2007

ZIPCAR BACKED BY BENCHMARK, GREYLOCK AND GLOBESPAN AND FLEXCAR BACKED BY STEVE CASE’S REVOLUTION, MERGE

flexcar2.jpgVenture-backed Zipcar, whose by-the-hour car-sharing service is used by college students and urban dwellers, is merging with Flexcar, a cross-continent rival service funded by Steve Case’s Revolution, the companies said Wednesday.

In a conference call, Scott Griffith, chairman and chief executive of the combined company, said the top post-merger shareholders will be venture capital funders Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, Globespan Capital Partners, and Revolution.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Jonathan Seelig, a managing director at Boston-based Globespan, said in a telephone interview that bigger is better in the car-share business. “This business is better at scale,” he said. “I love that I can use cars in San Francisco, where I travel frequently and Seattle, where I also spend some time. It’s about more people, more cars, more places.”

The only markets where the companies compete head-to-head are San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Zipcar operates in markets including New York City, Boston, Toronto, and London. Flexcar operates in Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Seattle, where its headquarters were located.

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