Archive for the ‘Resources’ Category

Green Film Picks At The San Francisco International Film Festival 2012

Monday, April 16th, 2012
Last Call at the Oasis

Last Call at the Oasis

With the San Francisco International Film Festival 2012 just around the corner, we wanted to offer a Green/Sustainable  sneak at some of the Green themed films on the festival plate.

Most of the Green themed films come in the form of documentaries such as Bitter Seeds, which delves into a story of how genetically modified seeds in India continue to make farmers desperately poor. This film could be particularly relevant with several US states attempting to get GMO food labeling on the 2012 ballots.

We’ve seen water films in the past and we’re excited (and frightened) to see Last Call at the Oasis, which focuses on the ever-increasing global water crisis. This documentary from Oscar-winner and Palo Alto native Jessica Yu, shot by SF local Jon Else also features several Bay Area experts, deals with the impending worldwide fresh water shortage.

We also heard good things about a narrative film, called Valley of Saints, which deals with fisherman who battle water pollution  and shrinking water supply in Dal Lake in the Kashmir region of India.

Green films here we come.

Spirited Solar Talk and Tour at West Coast Green 10

Friday, October 1st, 2010
Lot's of good natural light in the solar house

Lot's of good natural light in the solar house

On the first day of West Coast Green 10, only a handful of bloggers (like Zem Joaquin of Ecofabulous) showed up for an informal solar talk presented by SunPower and Luminalt but as they say, we respect the quality more than the quantity. We quality people brought about a spirited talk mentioning the progress of solar and how solar fits just a small green option in the big picture. We raised the question of considering that if someone who has only $50,000 in their pocket would they be better off installing a PV system or maybe a water catchment system, hydronics, some new eco-star appliances.

To be fair, Luminalt made a good case for just making a sales pitch. They work with GoSolarSF, which combines environmental justice and social justice for lower income neighborhoods like the Bayview here in SF. They made a point, which we have seen before, that be having a solar system that reduces their PG & E bill to sometimes nothing can transform the life of someone.

Now part of the discussion ended up being a show and tell of one of the local installation. Of course we would have preferred to see one of the homes in the Bayview but we settled for a posh house in Presidio Terrace. Honestly, the people who opened their house to us do live a mansion and the PG & E bill to them will hardly make a difference but they continue to make a conscious green effort. Besides the 3 7.5 KW solar system they repurposed much of their old furnishings to Building Resources (instead of the dump), they installed eco star appliances, used low VOC paint and drive hybrids. The couple mentioned that they will be purchasing fully electric cars soon.

Although not militantly green they do make an effort. We hope soon that we can say the same for everyone else.

Better Place CEO Shai Agassi Creates Buzz at Churchill Club

Monday, July 19th, 2010
Shai Agassi and Mark Johnson

Shai Agassi and Mark Johnson

Sometimes when walking into a room you can just feel the buzz and in this case the buzz came from the talk of electric cars and batteries by Better Place CEO Shai Agassi. We actually heard about this guy sometime ago with his vision to make zero emission vehicles a worldwide standard. Seeing Agassi in person at the Churchill Club event on July 15, moderated by Mark Johnson of Innosight, offered insight into Agassi’s thinking and business model of his company and infrastructure that will allow the electric car to move from back of the bus status into a major transportation option.

Americans simply don’t want to give up their $20,000 pollution emitting cars due to convenience. Americans don’t consider the $40 of black gold that they fork out each week to fill their tanks. Add that amount up versus the price of a rechargeable electric battery and the car expense seems less prohibitive. In terms of car expense, Agassi mentions that when the electric car is priced like a 3-year old gas car, then we will hit a tipping point. The cost to recharge batteries is based on “cheap electricity” like charging a battery in the middle of the night, so the costs are less. Even before the BP disaster, the cost to extract oil keeps rising and costs 20 times more to get than any other energy source.

Agassi made an interesting technology analogy where in the past we used snail mail, then moved to faxes, then to email and similarly we went from gas cars to hybrids and now we won’t move back to gas cars but forward to more technology driven electric cars. Agassi claims that each year batteries have improved eight percent so eventually we wont need (battery) switch stations.

Of course, the US and the moribund US automakers will take a wait and see attitude. Renault has put forth 15 percent of its R&D budget to work on the electric cars. The last company chief who put 15% of the R &D to a non-existing product was Steve Jobs (Ipod, Ipad). Agassi whose switch stations now dot Israel and Denmark said that the electric car versus the end of using oil would be a huge factor that determines the survival of the US dollar and US economy. If we can get crawl out form the oil wells and at least offer the same oil type incentives (subsidies) to people like Agassi and the electric car industry, then America and other counties will definitely find themselves in a Better Place.

World’s First Convention Center Achieves LEED Platinum Rating

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

vancourvercovcenterNo doubt the current Olympics has and continue to dazzle people with the drama (some outside of the venues) but somehow lost amongst the sports accomplishments remains the fact that Vancouver touted this Olympics as the Greenest ever. It seems that China also made that claim a couple years ago. Instead of getting into a comparison of this green aspect versus that sustainable item, we took a look at the Vancouver Convention Center West, which marks the World’s First Convention Center to Achieve LEED Platinum Rating.

Yes, we’ve discussed our feeling about the LEED label and how we would like seeing more money going toward sustainable aspects versus a LEED plaque but nonetheless they built an impressive structure, which currently hosts the international media for the Olympic games. When the Olympics pack-up Vancouver will still have the dazzling sustainable structure.

What we like most is the six-acre living roof (Canada’s largest) which contains 400,000 native plants and grasses, and the green roof acts as an insulator to mediate the exterior air temperature, as well as reduces the building’s storm water runoff and integrates with the waterfront landscape ecosystem. With Vancouver being such a water friendly city, we also applaud the on-site black water treatment and desalinization systems that are projected to reduce potable water use 60 to 70 percent over typical convention centers. On the energy side, the center includes a heat pump system that takes advantage of the constant temperature of the adjacent seawater to produce heating and cooling. Very cool.

The people of Sochi have their work cut out for them if they hope to continue the Green trend of Olympics venues and buildings.

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.

Scrap – Source for the Resourceful

Monday, July 27th, 2009

For some people the act of walking in to a shopping mall during a huge sale makes them sort of shake like they are on crack and for me and my friend Mouse, walking into Scrap for the first time, it caused a similar reaction. How could I not have known about this place? True, the location could not be less in the middle of nowhere and in San Francisco that is quite a trick. But still, I have no excuse.

Scrap, which their pamphlet calls “a creative reuse center and workshop space” came about in 1976, way before recycling and Green became trendy, as a resource for artists and teachers. Scrap also set out to promote environmental awareness and creative reuse.

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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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How Green are Firelogs?

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Ah, the smell of coffee wafting through the evening air. Except this time that aroma doesn’t come from our French press but rather our fireplace. No, we haven’t thrown can of perfectly unacceptable canned, non-fair trade supermarket java into the fire, but rather a firelog partially made from coffee grounds. Sounds rather sustainable, huh?

Okay, we probably won’t often claim that burning anything is sustainable as the CO2 wafts into the atmosphere. However, some firelogs present a greener way to warm up a room while creating that sexy atmosphere that only fire can offer.

We checked out some firelogs to see what makes up these bad boys. (more…)