Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

William McDonough at West Coast Green 10 – Deep Dive Part 2

Monday, October 4th, 2010

mcdonough wcg10Being so busy at West Coast Green 10 and in honor of ecoMonday we post part two of the William McDonough “deep dive”, and he does get deep. While most people throw around the term “carbon footprint” or simply use it in passing, McDonough talked about a skyscraper that he worked on 21 years ago, and calculated the amount of trees that would be need to be planted not only to offset the building of the skyscraper but to operate it as well. He convinced the person financing the building that the cost of the trees could be used in place of the marketing budget. Who needs a marketing budget when the story of the tree planting ends up as a front-page story on the Wall Street Journal? Green does pay.

Speaking of trees, we fully agree that people need to start thinking about the “rights of nature” and not just human right. We need think more in terms of abundance, not scarcity.

He mentioned things like the Endangered Species Act, which seems to be thinking in the wrong direction, with the reactive thinking. We need to start thinking proactively.

Our government and other governments and entities continually throw about numbers and plans to deal with our environmental impact. Think about the lofty goals for the UN, US government whatever about reducing carbon emissions by 20% (or whatever number) by 2020 that don’t illustrate “less bad” thinking. As McDonough states, “being less bad is not good”. And that is what our country continues to do or promote. We warn people in CA entering buildings (thanks to Prop 65) that the building contains various materials that cause cancer yet they remain legal and we continue to use them to construct buildings. Isn’t there something illogical about that thinking?

Seeing McDonough makes us (and the rest of the crowd) more motivated. We’re not here to be less bad, we’re here to be more good.”

Here’s a call to action to start being more good.

Inman Winery – Pinot, Green and an Old Barn

Friday, September 10th, 2010
Inman Pinot on Terrazzo Countertop

Inman Pinot on Terrazzo Countertop

When someone puts more emphasis on their practices and product rather than their marketing then that might cause one to ponder. Such was the case when we almost passed by Inman Family Wines on our sustainable wine journey. They basically have no signage and they certainly don’t have a big banner (like some other businesses) stating “We’re Green.” Instead owner Kathleen Inman speaks softly and carries a big green stick. In other words – Green deeds not words.

Although Kathleen’s Inman has been selling wine and receiving accolades for over 10 years, she only recently opened her tasting room in July. But like the rest of her operation she thinks about the big picture, as she took the effort to repurpose an old redwood barn into the tasting room and production facility. Although it would certainly qualify for LEED (maybe Gold) status she wisely decided to use the $60,000 or so that it would cost to get LEED certified on things that actually make a difference.

The tasting room utilizes wood from the barn as doors and panels, Nearly all of the steel used to make the primary frame of the building came from post consumer and post industrial recycled materials (old cars), the countertops are either made from Terrazzo (repurposed wine bottles), and the remaining countertops (not quite completed) will be from a composite concrete with high percentage of fly ash. The roof boasts a full array of solar panels (enough to power 98% of the winery), and we wondered around back to check out the water reclamation biomass system, which costs a few hundred grand and will save over 54,600 gallons of water per year with the ability to save even more.

We even liked the story of a local contractor who offered to pave a black tarmac over her decomposed granite parking lot but she told him that they prefer to minimize the heat-island effect. She didn’t really say that to him but we just embellished the story a bit.

Lot’s of people talk big when it comes to Green this and sustainable that but she puts her philosophy (and her bank account) in action. Her farming practices come as close to organic and biodynamic (although she has not received certification yet) and probably exceed most of the standards. We nibbled on the grapes right off the vine (don’t try that at a conventional farm) before even sampling her well respected 2008 Pinot Gris , 2008 Endless Crush Rose, and three Pinot Noirs all 2007 – the Thorn Ridge Ranch, the OGV Estate (Olivet Grange Vineyard, which is the organically farmed vineyard surrounding the winery) and the Russian River.

Most winemakers have wine running through their veins but Katherine Inman has big carafe of Green mixed in as well. She believes in making great wine but doing it the right way. We clink glasses to that philosophy. Cheers.

Leave No Trace Graffiti

Friday, August 20th, 2010

leave no traceWe took off for a few days hiking a long loop trail through Yosemite and the Ansel Adams Wilderness and we spotted one item along our multi-day hike that caused us to ponder. Check out the stone. On the backside of Koip Peak we spotted a rock with “Leave No Trace” carved into it.

How curious.  Is this irony? Would we carve Leave No Trace into a tree? Is the person who carved this creating natural graffiti or were they honestly trying to make a point about not leaving anything behind?

We think that people can make a better choice to spread the word about Leave No Trace then carving it on natural items. Like try a blog, dude.

Great Plastic Adventure Completes Journey

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Plastiki arrival in Sydney

Plastiki arrival in Sydney

It seemed like just a short while ago that David De Rothschild set sail from San Francisco aboard his boat made of 12,500 plastic PET bottles, the Plastiki touched base in the planned destination of Sydney the other day.

De Rothschild and his crew completed the historic expedition in four legs: San Francisco – Kiribati – Western Samoa – New Caledonia before reaching the Australian Coast (Mooloolaba) on Monday 19 July and continuing on to Sydney. The innovative catamaran carrying a crew of six made its trip without major incident.

De Rothschild’s inspiration for this journey came after reading the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) report ‘Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and High Seas’. His journey included sailing through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

While most cruise ships maintain poor to awful records of creating pollution the Plastiki set out to educate people about the use and misuse of plastic bottles. The Plastiki which uses core principles of “cradle-to-cradle” design and biomimicry receives 68% of her buoyancy from 12,500 reclaimed plastic soft drink bottles and the super structure is made of a unique recyclable plastic material made from a self-reinforcing PET called Seretex.

Hopefully more people will put down their two liter plastic soda bottles to realize how much plastic we overuse in our throwaway society and how we can move toward inspired ideas as a sustainable alternative.

BP Oil Spill Poster Art

Monday, June 28th, 2010
BP Oil Spill Poster Art

BP Oil Spill Poster Art

During this past weekend, while practically everyone in San Francisco roamed the streets, we spotted some timely art. No it didn’t have anything to do with Pride Week or the upcoming 4th of July festivities. Instead, these posters cleverly highlighted the disastrous BP oil spill while taking a shots and the often-ridiculous alcohol advertising.

These posters plastered in the Castro district not only make people think about the continuing devastation in the Gulf of Mexico but to what vodka you might be drinking.

Choose your oil and vodka responsibly.

New National Wildlife Refuge System Coloring Book

Monday, January 11th, 2010

colring bookEven if the U.S. government continues its pseudo protection to save the planet’s wildlife and natural resources they can be thanked indirectly as they recently created a new National Wildlife Refuge System Coloring Book. Most people might not be aware of the U.S. Refuge System, which includes more than 540 refuges, with at least one in every state and one about an hour’s drive from most metropolitan areas. Here in the Bay Area we have a few including Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Newark.


The book, aimed at primary grade students, offers various refuge scenes for the kids to color. I’m not that into drawing but my niece had a great time coloring the desert big horn sheep that live in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. The book also allows kids to create a list of wildlife sightings. The book also encourages kids to ride bike through the refuges instead scaring the wildlife with vehicular monsters.

We like the style of Katie R. Schipps’s drawings, which offer a rough and ready look with large lines, and creates the perfect fit for attacking with a crayon or colored marker. Hopefully the refuge system will survive for many years but at least kids today will have some insight into the all important refuge system and how important it is to our future.

New Documentary “Tapped” Makes Bottled Water Look All Wet

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

While watching the new documentary “Tapped” with some of my other Greenies, we glanced at each other when one of the water rights experts used a notable quote courtesy of Mark Twain, “Whiskey is for sipping and water is for fighting.” So true, and the fighting will only get worse at least if you believe the water wars that will soon steal the headlines from the oil wars. Twain’s words echo much of the sentiment for this interesting, informative and thought provoking new docu flick.

Directed by Stephanie Soechtig, the film deconstructs the various aspects of the bottled water industry. Tapped examines the role of the bottled water industry and its effects on our health, climate change, pollution, and our reliance on oil. Unlike oil which people think of as a commodity, water hasn’t truly hasn’t been considered a commodity until recently. Although water wars and rights have become big news in various countries, Tapped jumps into the fray and pulls no punches right here in the U.S. The film targets (among others) the big three bottled water companies (Nestle, Coke and Pepsi who declined to be interviewed for the film), the International Bottled Water Association, and the FDA.

Tapped leaps right into water rights war between Swiss owned Nestle (who owns various bottle water brands including Poland Springs and Arrowhead) and the town of Fryeburg, ME. The film shows compelling footage and as well as local interviews which show that Nestle stealthy bought the rights to land in an effort to suck all of the water supply from the ground that it can without the consent or payment to the public. The film captures footage of tanker trucks quietly rolling into town but instead of loading up with black gold, they fill up with blue gold (H2O). Soechtig creates more drama as she displays the protests and grassroots movement demonstrations while showing and discussing the Nestle tactics.

They say that oil and water don’t mix, but nothing could be further from the truth when considering the plastic water bottles. The film flows with information about the hazardous materials found in the petroleum based plastic water bottles. Most companies produce water bottles using BPA which as the film claims can causes cancer, brain disorders and diabetes among other diseases. Even though the FDA claims that small levels of BPA to be safe that approval is based upon two chemical company studies. We loved the footage of Senator John Kerry grilling an FDA employee about the lack of third party, independent studies that the FDA uses to determine the safety of various plastic water bottle ingredients.

Speaking of the FDA, the bottled water does not fall under FDA jurisdiction as far as water quality, and it’s horrifying to watch the FDA spokespeople (as well as the spokespeople from the International Bottled Water Association) refuse to answer or simple gloss over questions about various studies and quotes about the quality of the water and the containers. It’s pretty much a self regulated industry so caveat emptor to all bottled water drinkers.

The film also pulls a few heart strings when Soechtig interviews local residents in Corpus Christi who live next to the largest private manufacturer of plastic water bottles. The documentary makes a strong case that the manufacturer looms as a sort of plastic Three Mile Island for the local residents who deal with various diseases and defects because of their proximity.

Tapped surprises with info about the worldwide effects of plastic water bottles (i.e. the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is only one of five ocean plastic zones in the oceans) as well and lots of insider info from various experts and even an ex-FDA employee.  At some points the film becomes a bit repetitive as it encircles the same points but overall the film offers keen insight into the bottle water industry and leaves the companies making the bottles, sucking the water from the ground, and regulating the industry looking all wet.

Coral Reef Alliance 15th Anniversary Party

Monday, September 28th, 2009

“We’re on a mission and we’re in a hurry,” represented one of the slogans or rather calls to action for the small but influential Coral Reef Alliance. They celebrated their 15th anniversary a couple of nights ago with an energetic, education and edible gathering at the oh so elegant Bently Reserve building here in San Francisco.

The festivities brought together their field representatives from all over the globe including: Belize, Fiji, Mexico, Indonesia, Honduras, almost anywhere coral reefs have become an endangered species. Over locally produced and multilayered Lagunitas IPA and tasty hors d’oeuvres the crowd mingled and discussed the state of coral reefs worldwide. Talking to the various field reps, we got the idea that they create awareness and educate many locals and tourists with little resources. It was as if the field reps paraphrased a quote from the film The Grapes of Wrath, “Wherever there’s a fight about coral reefs, I’ll be there.” (more…)

Mt. Whitney Water and Pollution

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

It’s not that Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the Lower 48, needs any more publicity. After all, about 30,000 hikers annually make the trek up to the thin air of 14, 496 feet. People who secure even a day use wilderness permit (not much fun making the ascent in one day) through the Mt. Whitney lottery system often feel better than if they had won a state run lottery where they actually win money.

On a recent (this past week) stroll up into the thin air of Mt. Whitney my hiking buddies and I discovered some things. While most hikers have courtesy and smarts to be as conscious as possible toward environmental stewardship it always happens where a few conventionally grown apples ruin it for everyone else. Case in point being at the last reliable water source (High Camp Tarn) before the final push up the 99 switchbacks to reach the summit what did we spy? A dazzling reflection of the various peaks? Yes. A plethora of discarded Mountain House packages resting on the floor of the tarn. You bet. Not only did these packages tarnish the beauty of the scenic watering hole but even forgetting esthetics, who wants to drink water from a polluted lake before a major climb? (more…)

Free Federal Tax Incentive Green Decoder

Friday, July 10th, 2009

de-coder-logoDid you know that if you install a Biomass Stove – wood, pellets, etc. that you can nab a  30% tax credit ($1,500  max) up until 2010? Who knows that homeowners can get a 30% tax break for installing Solar Hot Water Heating until  2016? Maybe the new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which was signed into law by President Obama in February 2009 isn’t as complicated as the IRS tax code but does anyone really want to delve into the 400 pages of legislation to figure all the ins and outs about how to qualify for the green tax credits available to homeowners?

In a Cliff’s Notes version of the myriad incentives, rebates, and tax incentives GREENandSAVE has created a Federal Tax Incentive Decoder and condensed the material to 11 bite sized pages. Best of all, this resource does not cost a dime and can be downloaded at: http://www.greenandsave.com/homecheckup/free_federal_tax_incentive_decoder

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