Thursday, 20 August 2009

A whole bunch of green snippets

This very long post is various snippets from the net about all sorts of initiatives which are stealthily snowballing to allow us to follow a more sustainable path. The more these things come about, the easier it will be for yet more to come about and so on and so on. I think quite a few won't be good enough, or ultimately prove not even to be particularly green, and so will fall by the wayside but I'm sure it is very important to let people's ingenuity try lots of things in a sort of creative frenzy before the best solutions float to the top and win the eventual metaphorical "sustainability" prizes.


There's a lot of advice in the media these days about living greener lifestyles by buying a hybrid car or buying certain products which have green, organic or sustainable labels stuck on them. Quite often the best thing is not just to soften your environmental impact by what you purchase or do - sometimes the best thing is to do nothing. With the amount of "greenwash" out there, not making a purchase at all can often be greener than buying something with a green sticker on it. Here's a link to a "think piece" on this topic on the great "Twilight Earth" blog.


On 21 July I did a post about how our plastic bag use has almost halved in the UK and how Jersey was ahead of the UK generally.

We're not ahead of the whole world though!

Apparently China banned them outright in 2008 which, so far, has cut usage by 66 percent in the first year, saving 40 billion bags and 1.6 million tons of petroleum despite some initial problems with compliance. There they call them the “white pollution.”

The idea has taken off worldwide. Taxes or bans have been implemented in Australia, Russia, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and South Africa. Thin plastic bags have even been banned in some of the world’s poorest countries, including Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.

Cities in the United States have been leading the charge against the plastic nuisance. San Francisco became the first American city to ban the bags in 2007. Los Angeles has passed a tax as well that goes into effect next year. And just last month, Washington, D.C.’s city council approved a five-cent fee on both paper and plastic bags. It will go into effect following a public awareness campaign and distribution of reusable bags to low-income residents.

There has even been some movement in the US Congress. Rep. James Moran (Dem-VA) introduced the Plastic Bag Reduction Act of 2009 in June. The bill would phase in a nationwide five-cent fee on plastic bags starting in January of 2010. Unfortunately, it does not cover paper bags and currently appears stuck in committee.

Info taken from the Center for American Progress website.


Small isn't always more beautiful. At least, not yet. Very big buildings, to some extent are currently easier to engineer to generate their own power, waste treatment systems etc.

These days, it seems like skyscrapers are in a race to be the greenest, as well as the tallest. New York City's Hearst Tower is largely made from recycled steel and uses rainwater for 50 percent of its needs. China's 71 story Pearl River Tower will soon use wind, sun and geothermal energy to power itself, and even the Empire State Building, one of the world's oldest skyscrapers, is currently undergoing an energy retrofit facelift to stay in the race.

To be the greenest skyscraper on the block, designers are incorporating cutting edge energy and water saving technologies like helical wind turbine technology, thousands of solar panels, sunlight-sensing LED lights, rainwater catchment systems and even seawater-powered air conditioning. One building awaiting construction is the Burj al Taqa "Energy Tower". With a 197-foot roof turbine and 161,459 square feet of solar panels, this 68 story skyscraper, if built, would create all its own power on site.

Info taken from the "World Changing" blog


Many people are thinking up ingenious ideas for living more sustainably, yet trying not to compromise standards of living. While the current trend to carry bottled water around at all times is slightly bizarre to me, it seems very popular but it does generate a huge amount of waste plastic bottles. The New York company Tapit click for link to Tapit have come up with this simple idea! Businesses supply free water fill-ups to the public and in return they get their business implanted in the mind of the water seeker who may have never noticed the business before. The seeker looks up, on Tapit's site, or via their iPhone app, where there are businesses that have water, then goes in and fills up, free. On the other side, the business signs up to be a Tapit partner, specifies how people can get the water (ie from the counter staff, from the waiting staff, or self service) and what kind of water it is (room temperature/chilled, filtered/unfiltered). While this was started in, and still remains a primarily New York City thing, a visit to their Twitter page quickly shows you they are slowly expanding to other cities.


Coca Cola are trying to green their act.The Coca-Cola Company recently took the first steps towards what CEO Muhlar Kent said was their, "vision to eventually introduce bottles made with materials that are 100 percent recyclable and renewable."

Kent was referring to the company's new PlantBottle due out sometime later this year in select markets holding their Dasani brand bottled water and sparking brands. Coke's Vitaminwater is expected to follow - being packaged in the PlantBottle sometime next year.

The PlantBottle is currently made through an innovative process that turns sugar cane and molasses, a by-product of sugar production, into a key component for PET plastic.

Manufacturing the new plastic bottle is more environmentally efficient as well. A life-cycle analysis conducted by Imperial College London indicates the PlantBottle with 30 percent plant-based material reduces carbon emissions by up to 25 percent, compared with petroleum-based PET.

According to the company, another advantage to the PlantBottle is that, unlike other plant-based plastics, it can be processed through existing manufacturing and recycling facilities without contaminating traditional PET.


Nestlé ditches plastic for 100% recyclable Christmas boxes.

Along with their reduced Easter packaging, Nestle is making this year’s Christmas selection boxes totally recyclable by replacing plastic inserts with a paper-based alternative.

Nestlé plans to remove plastic inserts from its selection boxes and replace them with a card presentation tray that is easily recyclable.

Nestlé said that the change would save it 200 tonnes of packaging compared to 2007.

Info taken from the great My Zero Waste blog (about half way down the page).


Greenpeace has had it in for Kimberly Clark, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands, for a number of years because of their unsustainable wood pulp procurement policy.

After years of being worn down by Greenpeace’s arsenal of corporate campaign tools, Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle tissue brands, announced (on August 5th) stronger fibre sourcing standards that will increase conservation of forests globally and will make the company a leader for sustainably produced tissue products.

Greenpeace, which worked with Kimberly-Clark on its revised standards, announced that it will end its “Kleercut” campaign, which focused on the company and its brands.


When you think of socially responsible companies, Mars, the candy-focused food company is not likely to be the first one that comes to mind. And yet, perhaps it will, as they have recently made two monumental commitments, with action and money to back it up. They encompass both what’s in and outside the wrapper.

100 million tons of sustainably certified cocoa bean purchases by 2020 sounds impressive, but especially so when it’s with $10+ million a year being spent to enable the right conditions for there to be enough supply for such a goal. And this is not just for some niche candy lines, but all chocolate used in Mars products.

UTZ Certified is who they’re working with on this initiative. While not as well known as, say, TransfairUSA, their work is of no less substance. Along with source sustainability certification and verification of supportive workplace practices, they actively reach out to farmers and those in the surrounding communities the viability of and market for sustainably grown cocoa. Fair-trade marches on.

Info taken from the Triple Pundit blog


China is often portrayed by climate change deniers as an excuse for we in the West not to do anything "because they won't". It is true that China will remain a serious polluter for the immediate future - its reliance on cheap coal, to generate the bulk of its electricity, makes that almost inevitable.

At the same time, however, “this country is installing a one-megawatt wind turbine every hour,” points out Dermot O’Gorman, head of the World Wide Fund for Nature in Beijing. “That is more encouraging than the one coal fired power station a week” that normally dominates foreign headlines.

Indeed, China is pushing ahead on renewable technologies with the fervor of a new space race. It wants to be in the forefront of what many believe will be the next industrial revolution. If it succeeds, it will hold far-reaching implications for the planet – affecting everything from Detroit’s competitiveness to global warming to the economic pecking order in the 21st century.
China has vast areas of land for wind turbines and concentrated solar power (electricity from steam generators) so has the potential of being the first "big" nation to end up free of the yoke that dependence on foreign oil brings


Once upon a time, Jersey had a "green bike" scheme whereby bikes were provided (often unclaimed stolen bikes or refurbished old ones) for everyone to use. Here is a new version of that idea - the Bixi bike. What do you get when you cross a taxi with a bike? A Bixi of course! You pick up the bikes from street stations, ride to your destination then lock it into the nearest street station. Having already become an enormous success in Paris and Montreal, the wildly popular Bixi bike sharing program is finally coming to the States early next summer in Boston. Why Boston? The Bixi program was initially developed to cut down on city traffic congestion. If you’ve ever been to and driven in Boston, then you probably are already aware that it is one of most tightly packed and congested cities in the country. So it seems only natural that it be chosen as the trial city for the U.S.

The Boston program, and its accompanying infrastructure, will closely resemble the Paris and Montreal programs which allow riders to pick up a bike from one of over 280 installed bike stations using a credit card or a Bixi-key (which is essentially a membership card). Similar to how Zipcar works (only with a bike instead of a car), riders can ride their borrowed bikes anywhere they like and then simply return them to a station closest to their final destination. The stations require no locks or locking done on the part of the rider and are designed for ease of use both in the borrowing and returning phase of the rental process.

Info taken from "Sincerely Sustainable" blog


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