Thursday, August 28, 2008

Jetta TDI versus Prius Hybrid Challenge

I love driving my diesel TDI Jetta and when I bought it a year and a half ago I felt I was really doing something to reduce our dependency on oil by running Bio-diesel. Even though corn and soy based bio has taken a beating in the press recently, I still believe that there is a future there with biomass or other organics. It just makes too much sense and the model has been successful in other countries (Ie: Brazil).

Now VW has come out with this years TDI Diesel and it's ultra clean burning even with low sulfur instead of bio that no matter what you put in the tank, you're contributing way less harmful emmissions. The factory website touts 97% less sulfur and 95% less sotty emmissions
A buddy of mine sent me these link for a promotional stunt that a local dealer here in Seattle did. Called Auburn to San Francisco on a tank of fuel it's a series of video shot "from the road".
Check it out, it' fun, and definately worth a look. Beyond the obvious, it really does show that we're "evolving". And nice to know that being green comes with options!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax

Okay, so if you've been reading this blog for awhile you know we think the Mayor and crew pulled a fast one the citizens of Seattle. If this had really been about reducing the use of plastic bags, this should have been set up differently.

Here's what the opponents of the Seattle Bag Tax are up to.

Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax is working to put the power in your hands by placing this issue on the 2009 ballot. Sign the petition to place this issue on the ballot.


Here's part of their "information".

"The City's own research shows that 91% of Seattle's citizens reuse or recycle their bags. Seattle is the only place in the United States that has such a tax. Research shows that in Ireland, where a similar tax was enacted, consumers ended up purchasing heavier plastic bags to replace the shopping bags they previously reused around their homes. Today in Ireland, they use even more plastic bags of all types than they did before the tax".

I don't where they got THAT statistic, the city is citing the SAME Ireland study as evidence a bag ban works (that's what I love about statistics)!

ALWAYS FOLLOW THE MONEY! Wow, it's so great that someone else is worried about the fact that MY groceries are going to cost $300 a year more. Who are these caring kindhearted souls? As noted in small print at the bottom of the web page. "Paid for by the Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax. Coalition Members:Washington Food Industry 7-Eleven Inc. Progressive Bag Affiliates of the American Chemistry Council" Who? Why none other than the folks that MAKE the plastic bags

We're not liking necessarily getting into bed with 7-11 and the plastics industry (althought together they make a mean slurpee) but I wonder if this "initiative" opportunity might open the door for doing the bag ban right.

What do YOU think?

Monday, August 18, 2008

More on the bag ban!

Kudos to the Seattle PI for staying on this.

Parts of the article of particular note.

"But as the number of people who bring their own bags to the supermarket has increased -- allowing Fred Meyer, for instance, to order 3.5 million fewer plastic bags in 2007 than in 2006 -- there are new dilemmas for customers."

"Spokespeople for QFC and Safeway also have seen a change. QFC donates 3.5 cents to the Nature Conservancy every time a customer brings a reusable bag to the store, said QFC spokeswoman Kristin Maas. Last year, it donated $37,000 to the group, compared to the $21,000 it donated in 2006."

"The Washington Food Industry, a trade group representing independent grocery stores, prefers rewarding customers who bring their own bags with a small discount. The group is trying to gather enough signatures to force a citywide vote on the bag fee next August."

Saving it or Ruining it? Patos Island Lighthouse San Juan

When does "preserving" something ruin it?

Had a fantastic trip up to the San Juans over the weekend. Taken my boat up there many times and one of the things we always try to include is a trip the lighthouse on Patos Island. Patos is the most Northwestern Island in the San Juans and is accessibly only by private boat. The first year we hiked to the lighthouse, we had to navigate a hidden path so overgrown you could hardly find your way. We passed an old ramshackle house and finally found our way to the old boarded up lighthouse.

This time, it was completely different. The path had been cleared, the lighthouse painted and instead of the remote feeling we anticipated, there was a work party weed wacking and a lady in the lighthouse selling t-shirts. Really! She was part of a lighthouse society that had "renovated" the lighthouse and wanted donations.

We had mixed feelings to say the least. On the one hand, I guess it nice to see the lighthouse preserved and I'm sure this was all good work done by volunteers with noble intentions who cared. On the other hand, they, with their good deeds, had unintentionally took away a good portion of the adventure of discovery for us and future visitors.

Did they do a good thing? In my opinion, not necessarily.

What is the lesson here for how we should "care" for the environment?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sustainability and the Olympic Games.

I admit I've been pretty enamoured by the Olympics so far. Here in Seattle area, we're lucky to get CBC's coverage in addition to NBC so there's lots to watch.

But then I saw an ad for the 2010 Winter Games coming to Vancouver. With all the bad press China got about the environmental impact of the games, and knowing how environmental Canadians are got me wondering how they plan to handle things and what the impact of those games would be to our region. So off I went a surfing and not surprisingly, they already have a plan in place.

Here's an excerpt off their web site.

Sustainability and the Olympic Games.

While sustainability is still a relatively new discipline within Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committees, it is arguably a good fit with the core values and ideals of the Olympic Movement.
For VANOC, sustainability means managing the social, economic and environmental impacts and opportunities of our Games to produce lasting benefits, locally and globally.

VANOC has established a set of six corporate-wide sustainability performance objectives. Our sustainability performance objectives have been incorporated into all of our business systems. As a result, responsibility for our sustainability commitments and outcomes is distributed across the entire organization and reflected in the performance plan and compensation of VANOC employees.

Environmental Stewardship and Impact Reduction
To conserve natural environments and manage, mitigate and offset negative impacts

Performance Objectives:

To conserve natural environments and manage, mitigate and offset negative impacts
Location and size of land used within or near protected areas or areas of high biodiversity value
5.9 km 2 across 11 venues

Number of infractions and/or value of monetary fines for non-compliance with environmental laws and regulations. (To have) 0 infractions of environmental laws and regulations. Number and volume of significant spills 0

Total energy consumed: 59,194 gigajoules. Total GHG Emissions 3,366 tonnes CO2 Equivalent

Composition of vehicle fleet: total and per cent low emissions
96 vehicles total; 50% low emissions (19 hybrids; 29 Advanced Fuel Management)

Number of newly constructed venues and/or villages applying for independent certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system
9 of 10 (UBC Winter Sports Centre is complying with UBC's own green building criteria)

Weight of waste diverted from landfill and percent of total
526 metric tonnes; 98% of total waste (not including land clearing debris)

One of their stated goals is to demonstrate that sustainable innovation and practice makes good business sense.

Read more here, meantime enjoy the games!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Want to calculate a carbon footprint?

Good luck, because numbers can vary widely

"Carbon neutrality" is definitely in, with everyone from Al Gore to U2 to the Mariners calculating their carbon footprints and offsetting it with donations to wind-energy plants or tree-planting programs. And now the average environmentally conscious citizen can get in on the act. All you have to do is pick from a large offering of online carbon calculators, plug in numbers from utility bills and transportation habits and press "submit." The calculators compute the amount of carbon produced each year -- your so-called "carbon footprint" -- and tell you how much money to give to compensate for it. With a few clicks of the mouse, anyone can achieve the ultimate state of environmental perfection: carbon neutrality.

That is, if you can believe the calculator you're using.

As reported in the Seattle PI, a recent University of Washington study found that when the same values were used with 10 different online calculators, the results varied greatly. In one category, the bottom line for a typical American homeowner varied by more than 32,800 pounds of carbon produced per year. The variation suggests tallies of carbon emissions have been oversimplified to produce a "one-click" solution to an extremely complicated problem -- global warming. Some experts fear calculators suggesting a person plant a few trees to offset driving a gas guzzler may actually discourage needed lifestyle changes that can benefit the planet.

"Everyone assumes that every calculator they use will produce an accurate result, but in reality, there are vast inconsistencies between the calculations being done," said Anne Steinemann, a UW civil and environmental engineering professor who headed the research. "I was really surprised by the magnitude of inconsistency."

CARBON CALCULATORS The Web sites offer calculators that the UW study examined:

American Forests, nonprofit forest conservation organization --

BeGreen, from Green Mountain Energy Co., which sells environmentally friendly energy products and carbon offsets --

Bonneville Environmental Foundation, nonprofit that markets renewable energy products --

CarbonCounter, from The Climate Trust, an environmental nonprofit --

Chuck Wright Consulting, sustainable energy consulting firm --

Clear Water, environmental advocacy group for the Hudson River --

The Conservation Fund, environmental nonprofit --

Environmental Protection Agency --

SafeClimate, from World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank --

TerraPass, social enterprise that sells carbon offsets --

Saturday, August 2, 2008

And Now Seattle Public Utilities Seeks 46% Rate Increase

Today's Seattle Times reports that the Seattle Public Utilities is seeking a 46% increase for garbage collection. BUT THAT'S EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT'S SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN ACCORDING TO CITY OF SEATTLE'S OWN WEBSITE.

Acoording to the City of Seattle's FAQ section on the passage of the plastic bag fee, this fee is estimated to generate $10 million dollars in new fees, $8 million of which is supposed to LOWER solid waste rates. HERE'S THE EXACT WORDING, FROM THE CITY'S OWN WEB SITE "The rest of the money, approximately $8 million, will go to support and beef up waste prevention and recycling programs and environmental education programs already in the budget or planned for coming years. THIS REVENUE WILL HELP KEEP 2009-2010 SOLID WASTE RATES 5 PERCENT OF MORE LOWER THAT OTHERWISE PROJECTED."

But today the solid waste division asked for a 46% INCREASE? So 46% AND $8 MILLION DOLLARS?

And they do this the same week they get the bag ban? The City Council and Mayor are loving this "Green"! All the way to bank!

Where's the oversight on this new "tax" revenue?