Suppot Navajo Adults with Developmental Disabilities


October 9, 2009 @ 10:46 am
CNN Picked Up the Solar Decathlon Story

Their article can be seen here: “Going for Gold in the Solar Decathlon

Here is the permalink to my article.

September 5, 2009 @ 10:12 am
Plastics by the Numbers

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My post on plastic bag bans proved popular, so I thought I would follow up with some interesting statistics I came across in the latest Discover Magazine (Credit: Jeremy Jacquot):

  • Plastic Packaging – 63 pounds per person end up in U.S. landfills yearly (plastic represents 16% of all municipal solid waste and 50-80% of litter in beaches, oceans and seabeds
  • Plastic recycling – 6.8% of plastics used in 2007 were recovered for recycling (37% of plastic soda bottles and 28% of plastic milk and water jugs); making products with recycled materials takes 50% less energy than starting from scratch
  • Plastic production – expected to be 300 million metric tons in 2010, half of which will be used for disposable applications (about 25% goes into long-term infrastructure
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) – a 2007 CDC study found 93% of individuals 6 years and older had detectable levels of BPA in their urine; a number of studies have found safety/health issues with this chemical including a National Toxicology Program report that indicated there was “some concern” over the developmental effects of BPA on infants and children
  • Degradation – it takes 450 years for a plastic bottle to completely degrade in a marine environment (at least plastic beverage packaging uses over 50% less energy than glass or metal packaging)


August 23, 2009 @ 3:20 pm
Mexico City Adds Itself to the Bag Ban List

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One thing I haven’t talked about much in the green building context is waste. There are benefits to be had from using recycled materials, using new materials more efficiently, converting waste to heat, composting, etc. Obviously, the article implies something much simpler, but beneficial – eliminating the scourge of plastic bags. It takes more than 1,000 years for the bags to decompose and they contaminate soil and water in the process. Any retailer who wants to be greener can easily contribute in this regard. Or can they?

Plastic bags require less energy and water to manufacture, ship and recycle than paper bags (4 times less for production, 85 times less for recycling) and take up less space in a landfill (about 90% of plastic bags aren’t recycled). However, if it takes 2 or 3 bags to do the equivalent work of one bag, the advantage lessens. Both types can be reused, but it’s hard to say which is or can be reused the most number of times. Then you have canvas or similar reusable bags. I would think that the long life of these bags would make them win out economically and environmentally even if their initial cost and carbon footprint is greater. According to a study cited by the Wall Street Journal, “A reusable bag is better for the environment regardless of what it is made from, as long as it is used at least four times (a 2004 study by the French retailer Carrefour).” Biodegradable, oil-free plastics will likely have a place in the market as well.


Along with many other countries and metropolitan areas, Mexico City has now made it illegal for businesses to distribute non-biodegradable plastic bags (with 1 year grace period for compliance). For years, Mexico City has been known for choking air pollution and crowded living conditions, but the city has been pursuing more environmental improvement policies in recent years. According to the UN, plastic bags are the 2nd most common litter (after cigarette butts) on land and largest form in the oceans (endangering and/or killing thousands of sea animals). With a population of almost 20 million consumers, Mexico City’s bag ban should eliminate billions of bags and save millions of barrels of oil.

In the U.S., we have been the second largest (behind China) consumer of plastic bags – somewhere between 87.5 billion (2003 International Trade Commission report) and 380 billion (according to this article and others). If you’re laughing at the disparity in figures, don’t worry, so was I. The anti-plastic bag and pro-plastic bag supporters and lobbies are absolutely maniacal, greatly obscuring the facts in the process. I wanted to come up with an accurate barrel of oil comparison to see how much less we could import by eliminating plastic bag production. Alas, I couldn’t get believe anyone. The most neutral statistic seems to be about 12 million barrels per 100 billion bags. With the U.S. consuming about 20 million barrels a day that is less than 1% savings. From my research and experience acquiring a chemical/plastics company I gather many plastics are now derived from natural gas and other feedstocks rather than so much oil. Which makes sense because oil is a high value commodity and plastic bags are a low value product. At the other extreme, is an unsourced study that found 1.6 billion gallons used (over 38 million barrels at 42 gallons per barrel) based on the 380 billion bag number.

In any event, there is significant momentum against plastic bags. San Francisco was the first city to impose a ban in the Western Hemisphere (in 2007) and D.C. instituted a tax. Continue reading for many other global locations with plastic bag statutes. Read More…

August 18, 2009 @ 12:29 pm
Follow Up to Green “Stimulus”

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Ironically, the overall stimulus package was the subject of a front page article on USA Today yesterday…Great timing on my part, but I didn’t see the article/poll numbers until last night. According to the USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,010 adults from Aug 6-9 (+/- 4 percentage points margin of error), the public has a general distaste for the package so far:

  • 78% are very worried (46%) or somewhat worried (32%) “that money from the economic stimulus plan is being wasted”
  • 57% think the stimulus plan has had no effect (33%) on the economy or made it worse (24%)
  • 60% think that over the long term the stimulus plan will have no effect (22%) on the economy or make it worse (38%)
  • 81% think that in the short term the plan has had no effect (68%) on their financial situation or made it worse (13%)
  • 70% think that in the long term the plan will have no effect (36%) on their financial situation or make it worse (34%)

The article can be found here.

August 12, 2009 @ 10:23 am
New Most Popular Post

RewardAugust’s “Got Water? Wait Until 2025…” post has been quickly riding up the ranks and just became my 3rd most popular post this week, surpassing my July post on Toronto’s Green Roof Bylaw. You can link to my most popular posts at left; at its current pace, the water post may well reach 1st place. The water post permalink is here. You can also read it on my featured tab along with my first feature article on Masdar City in Abu Dhabi (or click “UAE’s Supergreen City” permalink here).

July 26, 2009 @ 12:07 pm
Technorati Code

If you happen upon this post, don’t mind it, it’s just a code for Technorati verification: cgrhqm6jtk.

July 24, 2009 @ 11:58 am
1% For the Planet

trees_smallvertIn case you haven’t heard about this organization I wanted to give them a quick plug. I read about the group recently and logged my membership interest through their website today. Hopefully, I’ll be able to join and you’ll see the 1% logo on my site in the future. In essence, all members of the organization commit to donating 1% of their revenues to environmental organizations of their choosing. According to the site, 1,795 environmental organizations around the world have received donations through the program. Green business is good business these days so if you’re in a position to get involved with 1% For the Planet you should check it out here. Also, assuming I receive membership I’m interested in hearing from you, my loyal readers and future business partners on suggested organizations to donate to. I would be partial to those  environmental organizations operated like businesses…not agents of activism with large administrative and lobbying budgets. To leave comments, please click on the permalink below or on the article title above. Thanks!

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July 9, 2009 @ 2:05 pm
Thank You, Thanks, Takk, Merci, Danke, Euxaristw, Tack

In the past week I’ve had friends and visitors from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Norway, Switzerland, Greece and Sweden and have thus far received comments in German and Norwegian so I wanted to thank you all in your native languages and encourage you to keep spreading the word about my site!

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I also want to write posts specific to green building in each of my visitor’s countries. These are in process and I’m open to suggestions. One of my life goals is to visit every country in the world and I would love to write a green building post about each country as well!

July 4, 2009 @ 1:29 pm
Happy 4th of July!

fireworks_smallAs you celebrate American liberty, pride and patriotism on this beautiful Independence Day 2009, please take a moment to reflect on your personal energy dependence. Collectively, our Nation wastes enormous amounts of energy (see 2007 McKinsey study) and we buy much of it from foreign countries. Behaviors that contribute to building energy conservation (ex: turning off your AC while outdoors at your picnics and BBQs today) and energy efficiency (ex: using technology such as compact fluorescent or LED lights) can save enormous amounts of energy. Lastly, consider this interesting tidbit; a study by the U.S. Department of Energy showed that excess electricity produced by the power grid overnight would be enough to fuel 84 percent of our passenger cars and trucks if they were all converted to electric power.
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