Archive for June, 2009

Friday was a big day with the House narrowly passing a climate bill, 219-212, and President Obama was mostly pleased with it, says the Washington Post, which also has a transcript from a roundtable interview with Obama, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and policy advisor Carol Browner.

The vote on the climate bill may become a key campaign issue, this New York Times article speculates.  Here’s a roll call breakdown. Also in the Times, the Sears Tower is getting a green retrofit.

The LA Times has this Q&A about the bill, and has this editorial blaming the farm lobby for watering down the bill.

Garbage disposals use 500,000 gallons of water per day in the U.S. Composting instead reduces energy use.

Editor’s note: Location has changed

Come support Lights Out, Green In as it raises money to donate low-energy bulbs to low-income residents and also to promote its message of conservation.
The fundraiser is from 12-3 p.m at DownCity restaurant in Providence.
$10 at the door gets you: Free hors d’ouevres and entry into one of our raffles.
Please come and support our cause as LOGI fights global warming.
NOTE: Feel free to invite others, this event is open to the public

(First of a two-part series)

Remember when you first went to an amusement park and you saw all the different rides you could take? It was information overload, right? Just too much to process.

When I arrived at Genzyme’s Cambridge headquarters early this month, this is what I felt like. The 12-floor, 350,000-square-foot facility earned the highest rating (Platinum) from the U.S. Green Building Council and is an environmentally-aware mecca that serves 900 daily workers. Louis Capozzi, the facilities engineer, took us on the tour.

What drew me to Genzyme Center was its renowned use of natural sunlight – which is something right up Lights Out, Green In’s alley – but once I got there, I was wowed by other steps Genzyme takes to curb its energy use. Today’s blog will focus on that and next week’s entry will look at the use of natural light in Genzyme’s building.

Genzyme’s roof overlooking Cambridge has all sorts of environmental gizmos. In addition to housing the solar panels, it also has 3,000-square-feet of soft vegetation. There’s also a rainwater collection tank that is used to help make the steam that is used for the building’s hot-water use.

Elsewhere on the roof is an odd-looking metal piece that is about 15 feet high that looks as if you crumpled a star-railing into a pretzel and then tried to pull it out. This piece was originally just created for architectural reasons, but there are plans to erect windmills on the front of this piece in order to generate more electricity.

Genzyme also features: low-flow showers and fauctes, waterless urinals and dual-flush toilets, which end up saving 575,000 gallons of water a year.

In building the Kendall Square gem, Genzyme was committed to setting environmentally friendly standards from the beginning. The main feature was that a little-used type of concrete, Filigree Wideslab, was used. The builders also used low volatile, organic compound paints, sealants, adhesives and carpets.

Sounds like a lot, huh? Well, we haven’t even gotten to the best part: the use of natural sunlight. Stay tuned for next week’s entry. Until then, check out a couple of photos from Genzyme on Lights Out, Green In’s Facebook site.

Read Part II

Forty years after the infamous fire, the Cuyahoga River has been reborn, says the New York Times.  Also in the Times, Europe has once again turned its eyes to Africa, but this time it’s for solar power.  The Times also has this story about an effort to remove levees in Louisiana.

The latest iteration of the energy bill gives a helping hand to coal, writes the LA Times, which also reports that the Obama administration has taken some unexpected positions in environment-related court cases.  Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that some feel that proposed carbon offsets may be too generous.

The year 2100 won’t look so good in the U.S. if nothing is done about climate change, according to a federal report from last week (Washington Post).  Concern about climate change legislation is strong in the Midwest, writes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council continues to be a victim to separation of powers foot-dragging (Providence Journal).

Faucet aerators will reduce water use while protecting your water pressure

The EPA yesterday issued its first report under President Obama and concluded what many have already known: “Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.” The report also found that the effects of climate change are ALREADY here. This was the key part of the report.

Farmers are already going to have to change their ways since our climate has shifted. But there are more changes nationally as the report outlines. You can expect: stress on water resources, crop and livestock production, coastal flooding and erosion, poor air quality, extreme heat, extreme weather events, and easier spread of disease.

Regionally, the Northeast has already seen a 2 percent increase in temperatures since 1970 – even more during the winter. The report says that by the end of the century Boston could have 60+ days of 90 degrees or more. Ski resorts in New England will be very rare, with only one area in northern Maine still being viable.

The report goes on to detail further changes for the Northeast …

- Extreme heat and declining air quality are likely to pose increasing problems for human health, especially in urban areas.
- Agricultural production, including dairy, fruit, and maple syrup, are likely to be adversely affected as favorable climates shift.
- Severe flooding due to sea-level rise and heavy downpours is likely to occur more frequently.
- The projected reduction in snow cover will adversely affect winter recreation and the industries that rely upon it.
- The center of lobster fisheries is projected to continue its northward shift and the cod fishery on Georges Bank is likely to be diminished.

Folks, it’s not only unequivocal, it’s also urgent. We need to start conserving because there is no greater silver bullet than just decreasing consumption.

With wind power generation up, some environmentalists think it’s time to tear down dams, says this New York Times article.  The Times also reports that a new global climate change treaty is expected by December, and the city of Venice is trying to cut down on bottled water usage.

The fate of the climate bill reamins hazy thanks to various disagreements, writes the Washington Post, which also reports that international leaders are unimpressed with the bill, and here’s a story about the push for white rooftops.

The cash-for-clunkers bill isn’t sitting too well with some environmentalists, says the LA Times.  Also in the Times is this story about plans for a coal plant that could cpature greenhouse gases.

The Western Governors’ Association talks about water issues (San Jose Mercury News).  Speaking of water, oceans are not only rising, but are themselves suffering from global warming effects (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

Production of palm oil, found in many processed foods, is a major cause of deforestation.

You couldn’t ask for more suitable weather than what the RI Girl Scouts got for their Go Green Globally event on Sunday down in Kingston, R.I. The sun was strong on the grounds of Camp Hoffman, thrusting Lights Out, Green In’s exhibit from the shade to sun.

Fellow board member Pat Dochety and I manned the Lights Out, Green In booth Sunday afternoon as more than 800 people turned out to the environmental event. Let me tell ya, it’s a lot easier to pitch people on the idea of using natural sunlight in their office or house than on cloudy days. When it’s sunny, people can see for themselves how strong the sun is. The results showed: We got more than 20 people to take the pledge and we had a VERY steady rush of kids and their parents heading to our table.

While the pledges are great, the best part of the day might have been educating the kids – and grown-ups, too – on ways to conserve. As I mentioned in the June newsletter, I turned my April blog post on the “Starting 9 of Conservation” into a Family Feud style game. I had the 9 ways I had identified as the easiest ways to conserve energy hidden on a board and I revealed the answer if people correctly guessed it. For participating, the kids each got bumper stickers until we ran out. There had to be about 200 kids who participated and the parents got vocal as well. We did the game with just about everyone who stopped by.

Most people got the “Take the pledge” option and the “Recycle” answer. After prodding, some got “Switch to CFLs” and “Reuse.” A few parents got “Use Reusable Shopping bags” or “Use paper plates” and one person got “Use the flip side of the paper. Other answers such as “Don’t use wrapping paper” and “Set it to cruise control” were met with agreement, but never guessed. As Pat said, “Hopefully in 10 years the girls will remember that cruise control answer.” Wrong audience for this one, though!

We also were educated by the people. Apparently the kids leave the water running when brushing their teeth or leave the TV on when not in a room because these were frequent answers. Parents also often mentioned the energy savings in drying clothes on the line and using front-loaded washers.

Pat and I were able to avoid the bad effects from the sun – that’s right, sunburns. And we were also able to snag something that made the event even more enjoyable – Girl Scout cookies! All things considered, it was a shining success.