Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

The Bitter Seeds – Documentary About GMO Seeds In India

Monday, April 23rd, 2012
The Bitter Seeds - Documentary About GMO Seeds In India

The Bitter Seeds - Documentary About GMO Seeds In India

Just after Earth Day seemed like an appropriate time to see The Bitter Seeds at the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival. The third in a globalization trilogy by Bay Area Filmmaker Micha X. Peled following Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town and China Blue. The opening images in Bitter Seeds of an Indian farmer who just committed suicide due to the economic hardship. It creates a disturbing beginning for this character driven docu film that focuses on the effects that GMO seeds have on the cotton farmers in Central India.

The root of the film, investigates the how Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds negatively impact the livelihood of the Indian farmers. The farmers face a viscous cycle that circles around the GMO seeds, refused loans by legitimate banks and exorbitant loans by local moneylenders (a.k.a. loan sharks). The farmers fall into a cycle of debt that often results in suicide. The film only touches on the fact that large US cotton growers receive huge subsides from the US government while the small Indian receive nothing.

Beside the economic impact, the well- balanced documentary also follows 18 year old Manjusha whose desire to become a journalist and find the deep reasons about these suicides stems from the fact that her farmer father committed suicide. The film also address the social and family impact of the family farmers and how the pressure continue to mount.

The film creates a natural tie-in to the second film in the trilogy China Blue as much of the cotton harvested in this region gets shipped to China.

More interesting remains the fact that Bitter Seeds got a last minute nix from the London Film Festival due to “legal reasons”.

While not quite a David versus Goliath tale, it does contain elements that pit US GMO seed maker Monsanto versus the Indian Farmers. Toss in the family issues, and the local flavor and the film offers an informative piece of a well balanced trilogy.

Screens at the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival:

Tue, Apr 24
8:50 / PFA

Thu, Apr 26
6:15 / Kabuki

New Microsite Makes It Easier To Find Green Home Products

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

LEED logoSeveral years ago before the real estate market imploded, the trend in the real estate and building industry looked Green. True, not ever building or homeowner slapped on solar panel or installed a tankless water heater but many did move in direction of sustainably built homes.

Then with the real estate industry tanking, Green building went out the dual paned window. Maybe things in the real estate will again turn that Green corner

Homeowners and contractors can now find Green building products through the LEED Home Depot. This microsite within the main Home Depot site lists over 2500 products, many of which qualify for LEED points.

We’ve said before that we’re not all about LEED points. People often get caught up in the points and forget about the aspect of Green building itself.

Green building offers homeowners opportunities to reduce energy and resource consumption. However Green building offers more than just lower utility bills, as the often overlooked aspect of heath and superior air quality remain paramount in the overall Green picture.

Last year, Green building comprised 17% of new residential construction, tripling since 2008, and expected to increase to 29%-38% of the market by 2016, according to a McGraw-Hill Construction report.

Here’s to a Green real estate recovery.

True Sustainable Eco Lodge At Hix Island House In Vieques

Friday, January 13th, 2012
Casa Solaris

Casa Solaris

The tourism department for Puerto Rico claims that the ex-military base for the US turned tourist destination Vieques offers visitors a eco-island experience. They may claim eco-island status as a whole however we had to search pretty diligently to find anything authentically eco friendly. Our diligence paid off with a visit to the muy verde Hix Island House

Our timing couldn’t have been better as the hillside eco resort recently opened a new additional called Casa Solaris. We see many lodges called “eco lodges” but Hix Island House offers a true and tranquil eco-villa experience.  Firstly, the architect John Hix created his new Casa Solaris building completely off the grid. The completely self contained wing offers six minimalist designed rooms powered by both a photovoltaic system and solar hot water. The pool also gets its heat from the nearby solar panels and contains a locally used a low chemical cleaning system significantly less toxic than the typical chlorine based products.

Speaking of water, in addition to dual flush toilets, the building contains a greywater system that transports used sink and shower water to the nearby field to irrigate the soon to be planted bananas trees and other indigenous fruits.

Lest we forget abut the materials used to create the building. Originally John Hix wanted to use wood however he discovered that wood doesn’t hold up well through hurricanes so he opted for concrete. The use of concrete in the overall design includes the floor, walls, countertops and showers. The al fresco shower may be the best experience with the cement floor and walls, the views of the rain forest and ocean, as well as the fact that the heated water comes via the sun.

We also enjoyed the fresh baked bread and the local fruit (Mango). One of our few disappointments comes from the fact that locals don’t grow more local tropical fruit (Corazon, passion fruit) which they grow on the main island. The Hix Island House staff already planted various fruit trees to rectify that issue.

Besides letting guests know about the sustainable design of this villa, they continue to educate the locals so that Viequenses will use the sustainable knowledge to create sustainable homes and lodges of their own.

The education, design and sustainability make the Hix Island House one of the true eco-resorts not only in Puerto Rico but in todo el mundo.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. at the 2011 Green Festival in San Francisco

Monday, November 14th, 2011

lennox green fest 2011 sfDid 2011 see us take a step backward in the Green movement?  It may be so with the residual cleanup from the BP oil spill and the federal government relaxing there stance on creating tougher emissions standards. The lost momentum on one side may be offset by the momentum gained on another. This philosophy came courtesy of Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. who spoke so passionately at the Green Festival in San Francisco this weekend whose spoke about “Green Mojo” How the Green Movement Can Get It Back and Keep It In The Future

Lennox voiced how the Green movement is about equality and existence not just organic foods and Prius cars. He talked about how the only green that took center stage this year came in the form of dollars from the Wall St one percent.

It remains an important aspect to connect the dots of environmental and economic justice. People who often lack economically often have little environmentally. It would benefit the Green movement to rally around the new found economic justice push and tie them together. Using this Green mojo will only allow the playing field of the Green movement to become more level and allow everyone to take part.

New Environmental Documentary Patagonia Rising Plays at DocFest 2011

Monday, October 10th, 2011

IMG_0687We all make decisions in life. For Chile they have a whopper of a decision that centers on Patagonia. The new documentary film Patagonia Rising that plays at Doc Fest 2011 revolves around issues that will likely alter the region and have far reaching effects in the future.
Patagonia Rising investigates a plan to build five large hydroelectric dams on two of the world’s purest free flowing rivers in Patagonia, Chile.

The film highlights the various cultural communities caught in the middle of a conglomerate with their renewable energy plan, scientists with alternative energy ideas, local pro-dam business people and various local citizens who claim that their culture and livelihood will cease to exist if these dams become a reality.

Besides power and energy, the film also delves into the issue of water rights. As fresh water becomes scarcer, it will someday move ahead of oil as the resource that countries fight over.

The title refers to the climate change that has affected the glacial melt and overflow of many rivers that flow through the region. The film displays how flooding continues to dramatically disrupt communities, agriculture and lifestyle.

Like other enviro doc films, Patagonia Rising creates a well-balanced story that brings awareness to an important situation. Oakland based director Brian Lilla offers some stunning cinematography and subtly brings a human aspect to the situation. Althugh the film offers a mostly anti-dam slant, Lilla attempts to give all sides a voice and let the viewers decide for themselves. Although interesting and insightful, the film lacks emotion and raw energy that other docu films offer. Many of the locals who highlight Lilla’s focus lack dynamism which causes a certain passiveness to the film. A film like this needs more energy and outrage.

The film, produced in 2010, has a fairly short shelf life, with the hydroelectric decision to be made sometime in 2011. Depending on that outcome, the film could represent a historical archive of how things once appeared in Patagonia.

Green Festival Rolls Into San Francisco

Monday, April 11th, 2011
Joey Shepp

Joey Shepp

The Green festival rolled into San Francisco this past weekend with less fanfare than in the past. Not that the participants, vendors and speakers didn’t have the energy of years past but this recent version saw a drop in vendors and also in the overall show days (from 3 to 2). Maybe the festival needs work on the “less is more” thinking and revert to the November only event.

The event did offer some notable and thought provoking speakers. We spent time to hear local Joey Shepp discuss social media for sustainable business. Even for people experienced with sustainable business ideas he certainly added some innovative ideas. We saw several business people typing notes madly on the Smart Pads. Some of the products and ideas worth mentioning include: the Fujitsu scansnap that quickly scans documents and business cards and the like quickly and efficiently. Of course he mentioned the world of cloud computing and how they will cut down on paper use. He mentioned that currently products will be about what the client wants not what the company wants (crowd sourcing) and that great sustainable ideas don’t have to come from angel investors or VC with organizations like Kiva, Kickstarter, and Crowdfire as outlets for people to start their own business. With so much info, he quickly rushed through his belief that Wikileaks will add truth and cause companies (or governments) to be more transparent. It adds truth, and what remains is education and creativity.

The other thing that seemed to be generating buzz is the GMO talk. Organizations may be angling toward getting mandatory labeling of GMOs on the California ballot because a high percentage of consumers want GMO labeled and because supermarkets, products and apparently are government don’t want to be transparent about what our food contains.

Solar Powered Laundromat

Monday, February 21st, 2011

solar laundromatWe’ve passed this tucked away laundromat in Duboce Triangle a few times and we’ve seen the soar panels up top (not sure how big a system it is) but we finally decided to give this place a post. Doing laundry remains one of those necessities in life and the best way to do it (with a low carbon footprint) remains the old fashioned way by hand and then line dry. That’s real solar!

However in this modern age and big city life, using eco-star washers and dryers and powering the dryers with solar (the carbon footprint is much higher for drying than washing) can be considered a good option. We’ve even seen one laundromat in Bernal Heights who installed a tankless hot water heater which not only cut the wasted hot water but boy did the laundromat owner’s energy bill drop.

Inside we spied four new eco star commercial washers.  Although the other washers and dryers were the standard (non eco-star) machines, we and most people would say use the machines that exists until they can’t be repaired. We don’t need more washers and dryers filling up the landfills. Either way, it would be a good idea if all laundromat owners took the initiative to make their business more sustainable (and more profitable to boot).

First LEED Platinum Hotel in California

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

olive oil press sculptureWhile most people venture to Napa valley looking for the ultimate Zin or even the latest trendy eatery, others (like those who arrive in Teslas) like to plug in at the region’s Greenest spots. Although dubbed by many as the in new in, chic, trendy inn, the sustainably designed Bardessono (named for environmentally conscious Italian family who still own the land) might be better described as a way for travelers to get their eco-solace on.

The first and currently only LEED-Platinum hotel in California, the Bardessono will give overnight guests the opportunity to truly appreciate the reuse and repurposing of almost every substance rather than just the Green classification acronym. That reuse extends not only to creative use of building and structural materials but also the creative aesthetic touches like the reused Corona bottle glass that outlines the bathroom mirrors.

Although Green and minimalist, the Bardessono offers nods to its Italian roots and well as Zen like touches. Thoughtfully placed within view of several rooms, the olive oil press sculpture offers meditation inducing water (reused) flow to represent olive oil. Not only does the piece offer a pleasing sight and sounds but the fact that the entire piece comes via salvaged items like the stone that used to be part of an 100 year old olive oil press makes it even more attractive.

The fact that Bardessono considers water such an important aspect not only with the various Zen like pieces but the fact that they value the H2O as a precious resource. In addition to the ubiquitous low flow water fixtures and toilets for the indoors, the outdoors contains landscaping designed with native and drought tolerant plants as well as a drip irrigation system. Even the grey and black water gets a second life as irrigation by the town of Yountville.

For us super Greenies who felt somewhat guilty about relaxing in the indoor whirlpool bath or the rooftop based outdoor hot tub and pool, we felt somewhat better knowing that the both solar and geothermal wells go toward heating both the hot tubs and pool. Even the room tubs contain a self-sanitizing feature so chemicals don’t have to be used to clean to fight mildew.

Although many hipsters consider this boutique hotel a new, hip, minimalist trendy overnight option, many guests don’t realize how much sustainable creativity went towards the design. Although some eco-travelers do make a special trip to the Bardessono (like the many electric car owners who know that they can recharge their car or we who arrived in a Prius) many don’t fully appreciate the full environmental thought and how hotels like this one will raise not only the Green building bar but also everyone’s consciousness.

Those Green values and education will help anyone get good night sleep.

GreenCycler – Simple Composter at West Coast Green 2010

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

compost item

It may be a few weeks after West Coast Green 10 but we’re still digging out from various events, items and gadgets. Many companies offered products with fancy displays and high tech visuals. One of the gadgets that caught our eye also caught this piece of celery. The simple GreenCycler comes by way of Denver and offers a new take on compost.
We like to think of it as a trash compactor for compost. It basically condenses the compost then stores it in a fruit fly proof container before a human takes the ultra condensed compost, hopefully into the their own compost bin then eventually their yard. We realize that this item wouldn’t be such a great benefit for people who toss their compost into the large green city compost containers but for those who have their own compost bin then GreenCycler which mulches the food to a smaller mass which works to speed up the compost process.

We could see this item being a good seller for restaurants that compost their scraps, schools that show kids how do compost as well as people with their own victory gardens. Is the GreenCycler the great Green invention of 2010? Not really but it shows some innovation and some thinking outside the box.

On Coal River Screens At SF Docfest 2010

Monday, October 11th, 2010

coal riverOne of the great aspects of the upcoming 9th San Francisco Documentary  Festival is not only the number of environmental based docu films but the fact that the eclectic selection comes from other regions that might not be on the general green radar. On Coal River would be one of those deeply environmental films that register emotionally strong notes by way of West Virginia.

A few of us viewed On Coal River which that takes place in the bucolic mountain area of Coal River Valley which immediately brings us into a David and Goliath struggle with the town residents confronting the notorious Massey Energy (the same Massey Energy that had the coal mining disaster on April 5, 2010).

Directors Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood take a back roads approach for the footage and back-story. The films smartly keys on some of the more active residents and colorful residents who have either been coal miners or know coal miners. The film makers go out of there way to show how coal mining (or rather mountaintop removal) continues to be a vital aspect to the economy (although they point out that the percentage of miners sits significantly lower that in past years) but many people believe that this business has also become a toxic and environmental liability for local residents.

The film focuses on several local community members who like to call themselves hillbillies but also educated hillbillies. In the forefront stands former miner Ed Wiley an activist/environmentalist who fights the good fight to get people to recognize that their local elementary school where their children attend should be recognized as an environmental hazard. The filmmakers capture the passionate and emotional Wiley spearheading protest efforts, leading educational meetings as well as him walking from West Virginia to Washington DC to raise awareness and get his point across.

On Coal River does a great service by not creating an overly polished film, and by sticking to capturing real emotion. The rough footage works well to demonstrate that people will fight for an environmental cause in states other than west coast states. It offers some insight into what the other people who support Massey (mostly people concerned with the local economic concerns if they fight Massey) but the film doesn’t get any official response from the energy giant. Did Massey officials decline to be interviewed for this film? Although the focus on the school offers a solid storyline and a hot topic, the film might have added some additional conclusion and information about the polluted water supply and toxic health conditions. What good is it to have a new school when the water supply and air remain poisoned for the whole town?

Despite some loose threads, it is great to see an emotionally charged environmental film where David wears a hillbilly hat.

ON COAL RIVER
Francine Cavanaugh, 81 min, USA
Fri 10/22 9:30p; Mon 10/25 7:15p