Saturday, April 29, 2017

Innovators in food waste

 Food waste is a serious problem in this country. And when it gets thrown in the landfill it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Read this article to identify resources that might help you reduce food waste in your community.  It includes a national database organizations working to reduce food waste.

Movie on seed saving

Industrial agriculture has decimated our plant diversity. But some people are fighting back, saving seeds from year to year, developing varieties that suit their location. With climate change, it will be important to have a diverse gene pool to pull from and let evolution guide us.

Did you know there's a seed library in the Verde Valley? And Verde Valley School has been collecting seeds from their best farm plants for years. If you have a garden at home, you can do this too. Why pay for seeds when your own garden provides seed that suits your microclimate? Maybe this movie will inspire you...

Friday, April 28, 2017

CVS taking aim at nasty chemicals in cosmetics

A couple years ago, CVS decided to stop selling cigarettes. Now they are vowing to remove weird chemicals from their branded cosmetics.

You might be shocked to know what is in some lipsticks, face cream, hand soap and shampoo. For decades, cosmetic companies have made safer products for the European Union where these chemicals are not allowed but continued to sell the less-safe products in the US....lead in lipstick, hormone-mimics, formaldehyde.

Your skin is porous. That's why The Patch (for smokers) works. What you put on the outside finds its way to the inside of your body. If our bodies can't break down and excrete certain chemicals, they build up in our bodies, often stored in fat cells. I dare you to google "body burden."

Only bad news in the CVS story: they're giving themselves till the end of 2019 to pull this stuff from shelves.

How do you keep yourself and your family safe? Read labels. If you can't pronounce it or eat it, don't buy it.

How racism Is embodied in our food system

 Sustainability is not just about the environment. It's also about social justice. Many have heard about 'food deserts' where poor communities don't have easy access to fresh food and a grocery store. But social justice issues run much deeper. Read how and learn what you can do about it.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

L'Oreal runs US factories on 100% renewable energy

it's not so surprising that L'Oreal is using 100 percent renewable energy. Lots of major companies are headed in that direction, both for the PR value and the predictability of costs. What is perhaps more interesting is where these L'Oreal plants are....

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Does APS support solar or are they trying to kill it?

As I talk to people in the solar industry and sustainability community around town, I've heard great concerns about the upcoming Arizona Public Service rate case. Some say that APS is trying to kill rooftop solar by getting rid of net metering.

So I went to Darla Deville, our local rep, and asked her to give us APS's perspective. What follows is what she sent me. I'm curious. Does this alleviate your concerns or confirm them? Does this seem fair to all parties and will it support dramatic expansion of renewable energy in this state or stand in the way of progress?

We want to understand what the issues and concerns are. What should citizens be asking for if they contact the Arizona Corporation Commission regarding this case? Most citizens don't know much about how utilities operate so we need to explain the issues in plain English.

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Hope the following information helps to inform and educate our customers and community members on what’s currently taking place across the nation- not just in the State of AZ or in APS service areas.

·         Regarding the Value of Solar (VOS) and net-metering:
o   The ACC took action in December based on facts and a need to move solar forward, while protecting customers who do not have solar.  This was NOT part of the APS rate review, it was an issue that has been on their docket  for some time- with a ruling that affects all customers and utility companies in the State.
o   APS statement on the VOS decision was positive and shows why it could allow solar to flourish- Please note that rooftop solar isn’t the only kind of solar APS supports.

·         APS reached agreement on the rate review with a number of groups including the rooftop solar industry, with a  compromise that furthers Arizona’s solar leadership. In fact, the group Kris Mayes was working for is a signatory to the agreement.
·         Links to  settlement agreement news release and summaries, pointing out that several rooftop solar organizations are part of the settlement agreement. 

·         APS continues solar leadership through policy and programs like our Solar Partner Program
·         By the end of 2016, 50% of our diverse energy mix was carbon-free. We reached this level with a combination of traditional and renewable energy resources and energy efficiency actions.
·         2016 marked the seventh year in a row that the EPA awarded APS with its highest honor–the ENERGY STAR® Sustained Excellence Award–for continued leadership in protecting the environment through energy efficiency.

Why renewable energy is unstoppable (in 15 charts)

Keep in mind, these charts are not from an environmental NGO. They're from Bloomberg. They create a telling picture about the enormous progress the world has made toward clean energy, both for  power and vehicles.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Make roads with waste plastic

A man in Scotland has figured out how to turn plastic waste and at waste into pellets that can replace oil in asphalt. The resulting road is stronger and cheaper to build. Watch this short video.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Turn wastewater into gas for vehicles

Portland is in the final stages of a plan to convert methane from their wastewater plant into a fuel for buses. While the project will cost around $12 million, they expect the payback period to be only 3 years!

How sustainable is your diet?

We all know we should eat more fruits and veggies. Did you know it's also good for the planet? Take a look at the chart in this WRI report.

If becoming vegan feels like too much of a leap, just focus on moving down the food chain, eat less of the resource-intensive products. Your heart, your waistline and the planet will thank you!

Monday, April 10, 2017

James Hansen, climate scientist, not worried about demise of Clean Power Plan

James Hansen, formerly with NASA and one of the first public officials to warn about climate change, isn't too concerned that Trump might scrap the Clean Power Plan. He's been pushing a different solution: fee and dividend. We would basically assign to fossil fuels the total cost to society (building up over time) and then return that money to citizens. Imagine what a barrel of oil would cost if the portion of the US Military charged with protecting oil-rich countries and sea lanes was assigned to it. What are the health costs associated with burning coal? Interestingly some members of the GOP have proposed a similar approach.

Money talks so if you get the "externalities" embedded in the price of the product, it will change people's behavior. Years ago Sweden shifted most homeowners to biofuel for heating in one weekend by assigning a tax that made fossil fuels more expensive. That approach wouldn't be popular with the GOP but it shows the power of pricing. Shouldn't a product have to cover the costs it pushes onto society?
Legendary Climate Scientist Likes a GOP Proposal on Global Warming - Scientific American - News

Thursday, April 6, 2017

How to talk to people who think differently than you about climate change

The Association of Climate Change Officers has recently released research conducted by Yale and George Mason University on the 6 America's regarding climate change. The most recent article talks about how to approach people on the topic. It's important to understand where they are coming from and link your conversation to examples that will resonate. Their advice includes 'mind your demeanor' and 'never get in an argument.'

As a way of thinking, I would add the stakeholder engagement framework (not sure of its source) where you identify where someone is on this scale and where you really need them to be:

  • Stop it
  • Resist it
  • Allow it
  • Help it
  • Make it happen.

We may not need everyone on the planet to believe in the science. And creating an enemy is worse than respectfully 'agreeing to disagree' because it hardens people's positions and damages the relationship.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Employment insecurity has wide-ranging impacts

In my parents' generation, many people started with a big company and retired there with a generous pension. No longer. Now many Millennials have to cobble together a variety of part-time opportunities and passions to make ends meet. People get ground up in the gears of this new economy: technology, AI, globalization and lean-and-mean management. This article explains how this impacts longevity and creates problems at home.

Here in Yavapai County, official unemployment figures are low but U6, the measurement for unemployment which includes discouraged people who stopped looking for work and people who are forced to have part-time work when they want full time is much higher. Arizona has one of the highest unemployment ratings, although they have improved a lot since 2008.

Chart source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Recycling best practices

It's hard to get accurate data about our local recycling rates but we are probably around 10% recovery of recyclable materials. The Phoenix area is over 20%, thanks in part to composting. So what would it take to be a leader? Here's an article that claims 50-80% is a reasonable goal with existing technologies.

What can you do? Separating is key. When you take your recyclables to a Sedona Recycles drop off site, they get around a 98% recovery rate (note this only includes recyclables--not compostables). Waste Management's recycling rate is reportedly around 80%. Haulers that have your throw trash and recyclables into one bin are doing well if they can recover 20%. Until we have a compostables pick-up service, compost at home.