We Need Renewable Energy Mandates

This is the 23rd post in a series of posts this December that will chronicle the 25 things we would most like to see in Roswell. None of these are actually happening... at least in the way we'd like them to. Please enjoy and have a happy holidays!

This is going to be a quick hit because its not my area of expertise but it is really important to me.  I think it's high time that our city, region, state and nation get on the ball and embrace renewable energy.  The Chinese are going to eat our lunch if we don't do something here.  There is no argument that peak oil does not exist, it's just a question of when we hit it.  If we don't want to be crushed by the price of our foreign oil addiction, we need to make some changes.

Solar energy is quickly become cost effective and solar hot water heating is already the most cost effective way to heat your water.  Plus, there is a ton of sun in Georgia.  We have a decent amount of hydro potential here with Vickery Creek and the Chattahoochee.  I'm sure there are laws preventing us from using it but this is my wish list and I'm not going to let legal mumbo jumbo get in the way of a good idea.  Geothermal is a no-brainer in most areas in Georgia.  Finally, energy efficiency is ridiculously logical.  So, why aren't we doing it.  Well, that's a good question for our loyal public servants in Washington DC and the Gold Dome.  

My only other request is that the city enact legislation requiring that all new construction, residential or commercial, be required to meet LEED, Energy Star, EarthCraft or equivalent standards.

OK.. tomorrow's Christmas Eve so you can look forward to my equivalent of the Red Rider BB gun and a few stocking stuffers.  The only difference between my request and Ralphie's is that I know Santa isn't going to come down the Roswell chimney and drop off what I'm wishing for.  Oh yeah.. and you won't shoot your eye out with what I'm wishing for either.  

image: Lauren Nelson @ Flickr

City Sustainability Rankings from SustainLane

It's very useful to compare yourself against others to determine where you need to improve. Knowing where our city stands on a number of sustainability and environmental issues would be very useful. SustainLane does just that for the top 50 metro areas in the U.S. They rank cities based on 16 environmental criteria and then assign an overall ranking. Atlanta was the most improved city from 2007 to 2008 moving up from number 38 to number 19. That's a nice move. Our bright spots on the report are Green Building, where we are #3 overall, Transit Ridership and Local Food. Our low spots are congestion, air quality and planning/land use.

Check out the chart to see how Atlanta ranked on all of the criteria.



Source: SustainLane.com

Sustainable Atlanta Releases its First Sustainability Report

Last month, Sustainable Atlanta released its first report on the state of sustainability in the city of Atlanta. The mission of Sustainable Atlanta is the following; "Sustainable Atlanta leads Atlanta's quest toward sustainability by developing strategies and policy recommendations with partners from Atlanta's business, non-profit, academic, community and government leadership. I would highly suggest downloading and reading the .pdf. It is very insightful and will give you hope that the city is moving in the right direction. The report is broken up into 5 categories and each is broken down by statistics with briefs on partnerships and what is planned for the future. Below are the areas that Sustainable Atlanta is focusing on along witha notable quote from each:

  • Water -"Atlanta - Which depends on the Chattahoochee River as its water source - is the buggest U.S. city not built on a large body of water."
  • Energy & Climate Change - "For nearly 10 percent of all the days in 2008, our air reached unhealthy levels."
  • Parks & Green Space - "Among the nation's 25 largest cities, Atlanta has the least amount of land dedicated to parks."
  • Recycling & Materials Management - "Together, paper and pastic account for over half the materials that go into our waste stream. But organic material makes up almost a quarter."
  • Leadership - "It's about changing the way we behave. It's about choosing to preserve more and throw away less. It's about finding healthier ways to commute. It's about designing and building better so that we live and work in more efficient and healthier buildings. it's about changing what you do - and convincing your colleagues and neighbors to do the same"


The city is ranked 19 out of the top 50 most populous metro areas in the U.S. We currently lead the southeast and are number three nationally in the number of environmentally friendly buildings. You can find more rankings broken out by category at SustainLane.

Earth Hour 2009 Reminder

Don't forget about Earth Hour tomorrow from 8:30 to 9:30. Thousands of people and businesses across Atlanta will be participating. Here's a quick clip of some images from last year's Earth Hour in Atlanta. I think it's hilarious that they show the Big Chicken being turned off..

iPhone Apps for GreenPeaches

Now, we totally understand if you don’t own an iPhone so we apologize in advance that this post is not dedicated to you. However, if you do, you will already know that it's not the iPhone that sets you apart, it's the apps you have on the iPhone.  We have been looking high and low for apps that can help you be green in Atlanta. Although there aren’t too many out there that are solely dedicated to green topics, there are a lot that really help even if they don’t know it. Here are four that we found that are either great in their current form or could be great with a little bit of work.

Seafood Watch from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium

This app makes eating seafood for the eco-conscious much easier. The app is the online version of their printable wallet card and is much more in-depth. It divides the country up into regions and has an alphabetized list of seafood in that area. It uses the following three classifications; Best Choice, Good Alternative and Avoid. When you view a specific type of fish, it will give you a brief reason for the rating then it will go into a consumer note followed by a summary. An added plus is that you get a picture of the fish so the app almost doubles as a field guide.

ATL Traffic

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to avoid it. So, the best thing you can do is know where it is and how long it’s going to keep you from where you want to go. The app taps you into the traffic cameras for all of the local freeways and streets (that have cams). You also can pipe into the road signs and see all of the local traffic alerts. This one is a must when you are on the road a lot. It will definitely help you avoid sitting helplessly in some traffic jams. We know, some of them are just going to be unavoidable.

Green Guide


We’re not too sure about this one yet but it is a great concept. The green guide takes consumer reviews and ranks thousands of consumer products on their environmental merits. Right now, they focus on Toys, Personal Care and Household Cleaners. They have ratings for over 60,000 products. The idea is great but I don’t know that the rankings are accurate. As an example, when comparing the top 5 Deodorants & Antiperspirants on the Green Guide to their respective rankings on the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database (www.cosmeticsdatabase.org) we found TK that ranked in the Lower TK percent. The idea is great but the jury is still out on this one. It will keep you away from really bad products though.

Maps

 

The maps app comes standard with the iPhone and is a lifesaver. It is pretty normal as far as map functions go and it interfaces with Google Maps. What makes maps green is the fact that you can save gas and time by finding the best route before ever getting into your car. It has saved us on many occasions. The app also will pipe into Google’s transit and walking directions databases if you prefer to use those modes instead of driving.

 

Here are some others that might be worth checking out:

Carbon Footprint

GreenMeterp

pConsumpt

MeterRead

Get Green

ShopGreen

Green You

Growing Up Green

Green Lemur

iLocovore

Gas Buddy

iGreen

Recycler

 

Look For the Stars

energy_star.gifOne of my favorite government iniatives has to be the EnergyStar program.  This is probably and in some ways unfortunately one of the most effective campaigns that our governent runs.  It is a joint program run by the US EPA and the US Department of Energy that aims to help America save energy and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.  How could we not like it.  My intention with today's article is to shed some light on the Energy Star accomplishments and what that little star actually means.

The voluntary labeling program began in 1992 and only covered computers and monitors.  It now covers almost all major electonics products and appliances and has even branched out into new homes and commercial/industrial buildings.  

What makes a product an Energy Star Product?

The label is only given to products that meet the strict energy efficiency criteria set by the EPA and the DOE.  Here are some examples from the Energy Star website.

Some examples:

  • Qualified refrigerators are at least 15% more efficient than the minimum federal efficiency standard.

  • Qualified TVs consume 3 watts or less when switched off, compared to a standard TV, which consumes almost 6 watts on average.

  • Office equipment that qualifies automatically enters a low-power "sleep" mode after a period of inactivity.

  • Qualified light bulbs (CFLs) use two-thirds less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and must meet additional operating and reliability guidelines.

  • Qualified furnaces offer a rating of 90% AFUE or greater, which is about 15% more efficient than the minimum federal efficiency standard.

 The website offers a wealth of info on Products, Home Improvements, New Homes, & Commercial Buildings.  The Products and Home Improvement sections are full of resources related to home energy efficiency and efficient appliances.  You can find Product breakdowns from Appliances to Lighting making the website an easy place to find info on new products you may want to purchase.

All in all, the Energy Star program has been a success and you should expect to see more of these little stars on your products as America becomes more aware of the problems its inefficiencies are causing.

MDH

Efficency Tips from the Sierra Club

We always love anything that is put together in a professional, fun package that presents energy efficiency in a simple, common sense light.  The Sierra Club has a short video on it's website doing just that.  Mr. Green as he calls himself in the video takes the viewer through each room in a sample house to show seme easy ways to save energy.  The video is about 8 minutes and if you are at all interested in making some efficency upgrades to you home, it is a good way to get an idea or two.

 Check out the video on the Sierra Club website here.  You can also look it up on Google Video here.

 SierraClub.jpg

Save $ With A Chimney Balloon

As we get into the new year, we are going to start seeing some colder weather and thus some higher heating bills.  Luckily, we've had a pretty mild winter so far and here in Georgia, we've really only had one strong cold snap.  Something tells me more is on the way so I have once again started to look for ways to keep the heat in and the cold out.

Chimney Balloon Diagram2.JPG

One of the major culprits for heat loss in the home is the chimney.  A quick and easy fix to a leaky chimney is a Chimney Balloon.  They run anywhere from $35-$50 and can sometimes pay for themselves on the first month's heating bill.  There aren't too many energy efficiency fixes that will return the intial investment as quickly as a chimney balloon.   It is estimated that a slight leak in a chimney can result in around $200 in lost heat over the course of a winter.  A large or severe leak can result in much more. 

 The balloon is extremely simple.  Basically, it is inflated inside the chimney and acts as a plug to keep the cold air from sneaking in.  Most of the chimney plugs have a failsafe built in to automatically melt when and if an owner forgets to take it out before lighting up a fire. 

This efficiency fix is highly recommended and can be purchased here

Take the Slate/TreeHugger Energy Challenge

We may have missed the boat on this green contest/challenge but we still feel that it is worth talking about.  Two months ago, Slate and TreeHugger SlateGreenChallenge.jpgteamed up to create a voluntary challenge that would spur average people to cut their CO2 emmissions by making commitments and taking steps that would lead to a reduction of energy use and thus cut emissions.  The challenge ended last week but is still open to anyone who wants to take it. 

More than 30,000 people signed up for the challenge and together pleged to reduce emissions by 60 million pounds of CO2.  Unfortunately only 1,373 people took the wrap up quiz but out of that group, they claim to have cut their emissions by 9 million pounds already.  I'd call that a substantial success.

So, if you would like to test your carbon reducing skills and have the fortitude to stick with it, sign up and take the challenge yourself.  You won't get the free t-shirt but you will make your small contribution to what is quite possibly the worlds most pressing problem.

Link to Challenge 

Go Down Under for Right Side Up Ideas

HomeEnergyEfficiency.jpgThis article came out earlier this month from New Zealand.  The government has proposed a new home energy rating scheme that they hope to have in place by the end of 2007.  This would take home energy efficiency to a whole new level and make it visible to everyone who buys a home.  The program would be voluntary at first then move to a more mandatory nature in the years to come.  The goal would be to have a scaled level of home efficiency 'fitness' that would account for insulation, lighting, water heating, and windows.  Eventually, home owners would be required to disclose their rating to potential home buyers.  It would be great if this home efficiency rating somehow became a common measurement of the value of a home similar to mileage ratings in automobiles.

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