Archive for October, 2009

9500 Liberty Documentary Fuels Immigration Debate

Friday, October 30th, 2009

For anyone who has seen the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, they might get that same feeling of “us” versus “them” that fills the truly indie 9500 Liberty. Body Snatchers grabbed its content and texture from the red scare, the McCarthy era where people believed that Communists (or rather aliens) launched an invasion of the small town. 9500 Liberty takes that same feeling with a Virginia town that according to some locals has been invaded by Zapatistas but the scary thing here is that the film here is a documentary.

In the McMansion and McMall loaded Prince William County, a wealthy suburb of Washington D.C., directors Annabel Park and Eric Byler weave a hot button topic film that shows a community hatefully splitting itself in half  — one side the conservative, wealthy lower and middle class Anglos who wish their community to remain lily white and the other side the immigrants who moved into the lower and middle class neighborhoods but also built the McMansions, cook the food and represent much of the quiet economy of the town. The film shows the racial divide that forms as a result of a one notable blogger who creates a fear campaign camping and gets the city council to enact an immigration policy that requires police officers to question anyone they have “probable cause” to suspect as being an undocumented immigrant.

Although the film documents the protests in and front of the local government offices, the real battle takes place through the Internet as the immigrants and their supporters create their own resistance using You Tube videos (shot by the filmmakers) as well as counter blogs.  The filmmakers create an all too scary vibe mostly because of the scary xenophobia and racism that exists under the guise of politicking. As director Byler mentioned before last night’s West Coast Premiere in San Francisco, “When people are made to be afraid, they tend to act in very predictable ways, and there are people who know to exploit these fears, in particular racial or cultural fears, in order to influence elections or advocate for or against legislation.”
“This is a cautionary tale where people are afraid to act in predictable ways.” He followed up by saying, “It’s a cheap lesson.” For the price of a movie ticket, the people who see the film will get a town full of objective education.

Big Important Speeches and Little Breakout Groups at BSR

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

No matter who attends the BSR conference, we always seem to find a balance between the people who legitimately wish to improve sustainability, not just for their company but the planet, and those who set out to further their profits by subtle or blatant greenwashing.

During the Thursday morning breakfast, Zhang Yue, chairman and CEO of China-based Broad Air Conditioning woke the crowd up as he spoke through an interpreter. A few minutes before that, I found myself asking a colleague “Who is this guy?” After 10 minutes, I changed my mind. More people should listen to this guy. True, I haven’t done due diligence on his company but if his company does half the things that he says they do then I’m on board. Yue created China’s first “non-electric chiller” and insists on showing consumers how triple paned windows will reduce their need to use air conditioners. Consider that their business revolves around making air conditioners. (more…)

BSR 2009 – Biodegradable Lanyards and Microsoft Sustainability

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Ah, it feels good to have the BSR conference back in San Francisco. Even though the economy has gone to hell, it is good see that probably close to 1000 attendees hit the conference so the sour economy has not killed the whole notion of notion of sustainability and companies.

Good start — as we walked in and registered the staff handed me a recyclable, biodegradable, compostable lanyard.

The theme for this year’s conference – Sustainability in a Reset World

After admiring our lanyards and breakfast we jumped into packed conversation with Pamela Passman of Microsoft. Of course we considered today’s launch of Windows 7.

The discussion centered on the sustainability of Microsoft. Now, most people will admit that the technology business isn’t the least sustainable or “dirtiest” business. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t press a heavy carbon footprint. Passman discussed that companies need software to track their own carbon footprint.Microsoft may have many ideas for other comanies but they need to look in the mirror as well.

She admitted the two most pressing issues that Microsoft needs to improve in so far as reducing their carbon footprint that includes:

1- Traveling (lots of it)

2 – Data centers — The data centers continue to be electric and water intensive.
Microsoft claims to be attempting reduce the footprint of these data centers. (more…)

Whisky – Real Slow Food

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Before the recent Whisky Fest in San Francisco, a select group gathered for a whisky tasting of the Bowmore whisky which in itself should be deemed a special treat especially when sipping on the 25 year Bowmore single malt and the 44 year old (older than most us in the room) Bowmore Gold, which up until that moment had only been savored by a few ones in the U.S. Toss in the fact that we sampled this whiskey at the classic power lunch spot meets oh la la One Market and everything seemed to be going as smooth as the and Bowmore 12 and the Tombo Tuna (we hope wild caught).

But of course, being in San Fran, we struck up the whole Green thing as far as Bowmore and whisky production. The Bowmore crew being from Scotland aren’t exactly strangers when it comes to Green or sustainable practices. After all, we would have to say that whisky might be one of the ultimate slow foods. A few tastes later only spurred the spirited dialogue. The fact that Bowmore came in second in the Green Apple award a few years ago impressed us. We even liked the fact that they got downright innovative in the fact that they use the waste heat generated from the stills plant to not only dry the barley but heat the local public swimming pool as well. They also use the generated hot water to pre-heat the facility that works like a form of radiant heating.

Now we can’t over look the fact that the distillery runs on petroleum and they do emit healthy amounts of peat burning smoke into the air but each year they maintain stricter CO2 emissions than the government targets.

The mention of organics caused another stir. Not that organics represents the be all and end all of whisky ingredients but the topic opened up another barrel of whisky that we will post shortly. Where does the barrel wood originate? Are there GMOs in whisky?

We’re not going to mess with 200 plus years of tradition and think that whisky distilleries will change green overnight. Meanwhile, we got back to the task at hand. We need to savor the Bowmore Gold and the pear dumpling with brown butter caramel sauce.

Checking Out the Treasure Island Music Festival Green Flavor

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

It’s getting to be almost a cliché here in San Francisco with large music festivals that have either a green backbone or a heck of lot of social justice behind it. Both Outside Lands and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass sit only slightly in the rear view mirror but this weekend we hit the Treasure Island Music Festival to check out the music, happenings and the overall Green flavor.

Considering that several thousand people crammed into the festival space on Treasure Island we think that overall they handled the transportation issue in a pretty Green way. We made our way to the festival via zero-emission Bauer buses that picked most of the masses up at AT&T Park. The only real griping we heard came from East Bay attendees who said that they had to drive or take BART to SF instead of having shuttle buses come to the East Bay as well.

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The Green Elements of CAR Expo 2009

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Attending the recently concluded CAR Expo in San Jose CA we could see that things weren’t exactly hopping, especially in the Green seminars and Green expo booths. Who could blame everyone, with the still lingering effect of the economy, unemployment and overall uncertainty? The Expo offered a bevy of economic forecasts, short sale sessions and new DRE laws going into effect but of course we went to check the green goings on. How’s the Green movement within the ranks of the real estate world? If my Green colleague and I would guess from the sparse attendance at the few green sessions and Green display booths then the state of Green Real Estate isn’t exactly on everyone’s radar.

The Going Green Member Forum offered informative green facts from a CHEERS rater as well as some finer points from Build It Green’s Elise Hunter about the Green Point Rated system. We discovered that the HERS Phase II rating will include: whole house energy homes, uniform rating system based on a statewide rating scale, as well as labeling procedures for homebuyers, renters, real estate industry, mortgage lenders who have an interest in home energy ratings. We say Hoorah to that! The speaker also snuck in some tidbits of info that even surprised us such as the “”Energy Efficient Mortgage” that ties into the 203B FHA loan that allows five percent of property value in most cases, while VA loans allows up to $6,000 in green upgrades. (more…)

West Coast Green 2009 Comes Back to San Francisco

Monday, October 5th, 2009

It’s good to have West Coast Green back in SF. Not that San Jose didn’t play a fine host to last years bigger conference but the show lacked something last year, call it a vibe, or energy but something didn’t gel. So, this year’s scaled down but energetic and education West Coast Green found itself a new home at the Fort Mason. Maybe the ocean air and bay views added a green spark to the conference.

The economy definitely had an impact on this year’s West Coast Green with less venders but with less money that mean that people just had to get more creative with less moola such as the floating island, show gardens and even the sustainability built Jewish Sukkoth. The usual green rock stars like Eric Corey Freed and Michelle Kaufman made their presences felt with their energetic personalities. (more…)