Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fashion Forward: Eco-Conscious Clothing Brands

A lot of companies are becoming environmentally aware with their products—including fashion brands. Although some companies actually uphold their brand values, there are some brands that do not really change the whole production process.

Thinking of going green? Here are some brands that promote eco-friendly and sustainable products.

Amour Vert

This brand is highly recommended by Hollywood’s biggest stars, and was featured in Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP blog. The company is committed to the zero-waste philosophy. They also use low-impact dyes and sustainable fabrics.

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Image source: commonprofit.wordpress.com

H&M Conscious

H&M Conscious is a fashion line made out of sustainable and local fabrics. It stays true to the brand’s promise—stylish and affordable.

Kowtow

Kowtow promises 100% fair trade and organic cotton materials. The line features chic, minimalistic styles that are perfect for people who are always on the go.

Elroy

This Vancouver creative line produces from Indonesia. Elroy helps foster responsible textile production in the said country. They advocate for socially responsible and environmentally conscious design. Textile includes products from bamboo, organic cotton, linen, wild silk, pineapple, and upcycled fabrics.

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Image source: treehugger.com

Loomstate

Loomstate may be mainstream and mass-produced like H&M Conscious, but it is true to its eco-friendly clothing-making techniques. Their 321 collection ensures that every garment can be worn in five different styles which helps reduce waste while still being stylish.

Janique Goff works as a business development manager in San Diego, California. She is a supporter of different environment-friendly and sustainable technologies and projects. Learn more about her by visiting this page.

Starting Small: Advantages of Owning a Small Business

Starting a business is no piece of cake. It requires knowledge of the industry and industry prowess. However, the payoff is well worth it, if done right. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur but if you want to try your luck in business, it’s a good idea to start small. Here’s why:

Being your own boss

If a 9 to 5 office job drives you crazy and you hate having a boss to answer to, then maybe becoming a small business owner is the right path for you. Being your own boss gives you the independence that working for another person can never give you. Mind you, it also comes with a lot of responsibilities so you best be prepared.

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Image source: ithinkbigger.com

Income

Whether you’re thinking of doing your business full-time or on the side, small businesses are a good source of income. Of course, you will have to finance everything from the equipment to the manpower you need. When your business venture becomes successful, that’s when you can reap the most benefits.

man-alone-in-officeImage source: thenextweb.com

Flexibility

Small businesses have the advantage of market flexibility. Because your business is small, you can easily adapt to the latest marketing trends. When people start favoring a particular product or service, large corporations or conglomerates have to spend so much to incorporate these changes into their business. Small business can swiftly respond to the needs and wants of consumers.

Hello, I am Janique Goff, business expert and avid supporter of green projects. Follow me on Twitter for business tips and advice on how to go green.

Going Green Starts at Home: Green Living for Everyone

It’s no big secret that with today’s progress and dependency on technology, people are slowly destroying the environment. However, it is never too late to start saving our planet. Now is the time to go green and below are a few ways to start right at home:

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          Image source: howstuffworks.com

Changing the light bulb

Fluorescents and incandescent light bulbs cost more energy than their CFL or LED counterparts. Invest in this change for longer lasting and energy saving fixtures.

Improve insulation

Proper insulation can help households save on energy costs. Insulation prevents leaks, which can lower energy loss by up to 20 to 30 percent. Low-cost insulation fixes include thermal blinds or draft guards.

Look for the label

Replace old appliances with ones with the Energy Star label. These are appliances that are sponsored and approved by U.S. Department of Energy that guarantee 30 percent better energy efficiency than others.

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            Image source: therealdeal.com

Save on water

Fix leaking faucets, change showerheads, and avoid keeping the water running; there are many simple ways people can reduce water consumption in their homes.

Get an energy audit

Knowing how much energy is consumed and how to cut back on these consumptions can really help kick-start green living in every household. Hiring an auditor can be costly but it will be a big help in the long run.

Janique Goff is an environmental advocate who champions green businesses. Follow this Twitter account to learn more about going green.

Clean Under the Hood: 2015’s Best Green Cars

The developments in technology have brought humanity a lot of comforts, but accompanying these innovations are substances that destroy the environment. In recent years, however, a new type of technology has been developed, which continues to find new horizons today. Environment-friendly technology or green technology is on the rise.

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Image source: businessinsider.com

Among the industries that incorporate green tech is the automotive industry. Brands like BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota, Chevrolet, Tesla, Honda, Nissan, and Ford are just some of the names that have joined the race in green car innovation. Below is a list of the best green cars of 2015:

Volkswagen Jetta TDI: In some circles, the Jetta TDI is considered a legend. This is the only diesel-powered car on this list. The Jetta offers a mix of European appeal and affordability.

2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid: This car is available in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid (C-Max Energi). With a bigger battery, C-Max Energi boasts an all-electric range of 21 miles.

2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid: The Toyota Camry hybrid model received significant improvements in interior design and driving response compared to previous Camry models.

2015 Chevrolet Volt: While most hybrid plug-ins deliver a range between 10 and 20 miles, the Chevy Volt remains at the top with 38 miles of range in electricity alone.

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Image source: kbb.com

2015 Tesla Model S: This Tesla’s electric car is a combination of aesthetics and engineering. Not only does it offer the longest range of any all-electric, it could reach to 60 mph faster than many performance cars.

Janique Goff is a business development manager who supports the development of green technology. Get access to more articles about green technology here.

Beyond cotton: Turning plastic bottles into eco-friendly clothing

Approximately 200 million tons of cotton are produced each year in textile mills all over the world. Cotton is breathable and durable and is easier to wash and care for than other fabrics. As a result, it’s used for virtually every type of clothing from undergarments to coat, and even in home furnishings and medical supplies. Cotton and its advantages as a textile, however, come at a very high price.

Image Source: pinnacle-recycling.com

Traditional farming and production methods of cotton cause massive harm to the environment. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), it takes about 5,000 gallons of water to grow a kilo of cotton- just enough for a shirt and a pair of pants. The cotton crop also accounts for 24 percent of the world’s global sales of insecticides, while accounting for only 2.4 percent of cropland.

Image Source: ecouterre.com

Organic cotton does not require commercial insecticides to produce. However, it still requires a considerable amount of water to grow, and many organic cotton textile mills, particularly those outside the United States, produce cotton that still contains inorganic chemicals and treated with artificial dyes. In addition, transporting organic cotton from other countries adds to its carbon footprint and makes it prohibitively expensive.

A few companies, however, are choosing to make high-quality fabric from a resource that does not need to be grown, watered, cultivated, or imported from other countries: used polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. PET bottles are turned into a recycling center, where they are washed and turned into flakes, which are then transformed into recycled fiber, then into fabric. Recycled polyester from PET bottles can also be blended with virgin polyester or other eco-fabrics.

Image Source: en.wikipedia.org

The United States throws away 60 million plastic bottles per day, of which only a small percentage are recycled. Turning PET bottles into fabric prevents them from clogging up landfills: Approximately 25 two-liter PET bottles can be made into enough recycled polyester for a ski jacket. Fabric from recycled PET bottles tends to be more wrinkle-resistant than organic fibers, holds dyes better, experiences less shrinkage, and can be treated to enhance performance and comfort. In addition, while fabric from recycled PET bottles is slightly pricier than regular polyester, it is cheaper than cotton and is the least expensive of all eco-fabrics.

For more articles on eco-conscious businesses, subscribe to this Janique Goff blog.

REPOST: Cities and towns choose renewables to save money

Cities and towns throughout the country and the world are adopting renewable energy systems to reduce energy costs, taking advantage of the dropping prices in renewable technology. Brittany Patterson and ClimateWire, writing for Scientific American discuss how this will affect the popularity of renewables.

Technological innovations have dropped the price of wind and solar in some markets to be not only competitive with traditional fossil fuel power generation, but sometimes less expensive.

Image Source: scientificamerican.com

Georgetown, Texas, is home to the oldest university in the Lone Star State and is affectionately called the “red poppy capital” of Texas. It will soon add another accolade to the mix: the state’s first city-owned utility to run on 100 percent renewable energy.

Last Wednesday, the city announced a 25-year contract with SunEdison to buy 150 megawatts of solar energy. In order to supply the power, SunEdison will build a solar farm in West Texas. The solar will complement a deal Georgetown signed last year with EFD Renewables for 144 MW of wind power from its West Texas wind farm through 2039.

Between the two sources, the city of about 50,000 people will have more than enough power even with projected population growth, said Keith Hutchinson, a spokesman for the city.

When it came down to it, Hutchinson said the price was right for renewable power.

“With renewables, you avoid the price volatility of fossil fuels,” he said. “We’ve certainly seen plenty of volatility in the price of natural gas and gasoline. This removes that uncertainty and locks in a long-term low cost.”

Georgetown is the latest city to join the renewables quest, which has been slowly growing across the country.

Technological innovations have dropped the price of wind and solar in some markets to be not only competitive with traditional fossil fuel power generation, but sometimes less expensive, said Malcolm Woolf, senior vice president of policy and government affairs for Advanced Energy Economy. In many other places, renewables are gaining ground quickly. Coupled with increased transmission infrastructure, favorable policies, subsidies, and renewable energy goals in states and cities, it’s becoming more common to see wind, solar, hydropower and biomass use.

By 2017, more than 13,000 MW of new wind energy capacity is expected to come online in the United States (ClimateWire, March 17). Solar grew 39 percent in 2014, according to the AEE 2015 Market Report.

As states consider cutting emissions 30 percent by 2030 under EPA’s Clean Power Plan, renewable energy is increasingly becoming part of the conversation, as well.

Cheap land, incentives helped fuel Texas boom
Texas in particular is experiencing both a wind and solar boom, called a “land rush” by some, in part because of the completion of 3,600 miles of new transmission lines that can bring renewable energy from West Texas where it is being generated to the metropolitan areas in East Texas where it is in demand.

The Competitive Renewable Energy Zone, or CREZ, is a $6.8 billion project, paid for by the electric ratepayers of Texas. The transmission project can accommodate 18,500 MW of generating capacity.

That move was championed by Republican leadership and the Texas Public Utility Commission and has opened the possibility for renewables as a substantial part of the energy portfolios for multiple cities, said Thomas Edgar, a professor of engineering and chairman of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin.

“The basic infrastructure investment from the state was created at a scale that has made renewable energy economic,” he said. “Currently, we’re riding the coattails of that forward-looking decision made six or seven years ago.”

Cheap land prices in West Texas are also helpful, as is a bounty of both wind and sunshine, Edgar said.

Texas is a wind leader in the United States, with 20 percent of the country’s total capacity of the resource generated in the state. It produces 12,800 MW of wind power, with wind capable of supplying over a quarter of the grid’s power.

Investments have boosted renewable prospects. Last May, Austin Energy announced it will partner with a California company to build a 150-MW solar farm in West Texas to help meet demand in San Antonio, for example. However, the Texas Legislature is debating ending the renewable energy program (EnergyWire, March 18).

Also making it possible for cities to consider renewable options more seriously is that engineers have had decades of experience adding renewables to the grid and implementing the technical fixes needed to make them better, said Mike Jacobs, senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Furthermore, advancements in technology have driven prices down.

“The technology has gone from the Model T Ford of 30 years ago to being Formula 1 race cars for wind,” Jacobs said. “In the case of solar, it went from being tremendously expensive to being cheap enough to compete with local utilities.”

Fighting public opinion and technical glitches
One of the challenges for cities that want to switch to renewable power is explaining to customers that when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, they’ll still be able to turn on their lights.

“We realize we have our work cut out for us in explaining what this means,” Hutchinson said.

Because Georgetown’s electricity grid is managed by a regional entity, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the city is well-positioned for 100 percent renewable electricity, Edgar said. The city calculates its demand for electricity and contracts for the amount of renewables it needs, and ERCOT makes sure supply and demand is taken care of.

If there is a surge in demand, ERCOT can send Georgetown electricity, including from coal- or gas-fired plants. But overall, Hutchinson stressed, the city is contracting for more than 100 percent of the energy the city will use in the form of renewable power.

It doesn’t really matter whether a city goes the 100 percent route with power purchase agreements or by investing in its own local renewable power sources, Woolf said. San Antonio’s city-owned municipality, CPS Energy, has plans for 400 MW of solar power farms, with more than 45 MW already installed.

“Either way, you’re getting the same electrons at the same price,” he said. “It depends on the city’s goals. If the goal is to power the city with clean renewable power, you can get by with whichever.”

Even though technology has brought the cost of renewable power down, there are still technical fixes that would make it challenging for larger cities than Georgetown to make the switch. Solar power comes in during the day, while wind blows strongly at night, typically. During peak times, or if demand surges, that can cause problems for the grid, which needs flexibility.

“This is why renewables are a good mix with natural gas production,” Woolf said. “You can turn those on and off easily. You can have towns that go 100 percent renewable, but you can’t yet have 100 percent renewable grids. You need some base-line generation.”

‘These cities are test cases’
Georgetown owns the utility that controls electricity distribution, but the city doesn’t have any generating capacity—it retired its last plant in 1945. Instead, it contracts for electricity. In 2012, the city’s contract with the Lower Colorado River Authority expired and the city began asking for proposals.

“SunEdison had the best price,” Hutchinson said. Because nearly all electricity customers are served by the city-owned utility, Georgetown has a fair amount of autonomy to choose renewable energy for its electricity for the entire town, he said.

But not all cities have that option. In the case of Windham, N.H., for instance, the city of about 12,000 recently choose a contract to power all of its city buildings on renewable energy.

The town selected an eight-month energy contract from Consolidated Edison Inc. that begins April 1. Mark Kovacs, chairman of the Windham Local Energy Committee, which is the entity that solicits bids and makes the suggestion to the Board of Selectmen—which ultimately approves power contracts — said the town went looking for at least 50 percent renewable energy and ultimately decided to pay a small premium for 100 percent renewable power.

“The Local Energy Committee pitched to them [the Board of Selectmen] that the additional cost is overcome by the benefits to society in general by going the green 100 percent route,” Kovacs said. “I think there’s a general feeling in town we would like to support renewable energy.”

Ultimately, Kovacs said, because the town does not have a municipal-owned utility—Windham is served by two electricity distribution companies—the best the city can do right now is to choose renewable energy for government buildings if the price is right.

Yet, if for price reasons the city decides to go back to “less green” power, that option is slowly incorporating more renewable energy as New Hampshire’s renewable portfolio standard is incrementally increasing.

Meanwhile, Tallahassee, Fla., is considering an agreement to add solar to its energy mix though a third-party concept deemed “community solar.” Tallahassee’s electric utility is city-owned, and it also owns three natural-gas-fired plants responsible for the city’s energy generation.

To add solar to the mix, the city wants to contract with a third party for a 20-year purchase power agreement. The third-party company currently being solicited by city officials would build a 100-acre, 10-MW solar farm near the North Florida community, as well as any transmission lines needed to connect the farm to the grid.

“We’ve been watching the market over the years, seen the prices go down,” said David Byrne, manager of electric system integrated planning for Tallahassee’s electric utility. “Given where the price is and given that we’re looking to achieve diversity in our fuel supply, we’ve seen the value of solar improving for us.”

The company would own and manage the farm, and the city would purchase the electricity. The idea was deemed the best way to add renewables to the city’s 99 percent natural-gas-powered generation because the city retains control of the relationship with its 116,000 utility customers.

A 30 percent tax credit for the development of solar power set to expire at the end of 2016 also is pushing the project forward. Project developers can take the credit, but city-owned utilities cannot.

“We want to minimize our risk in the project. Solar is something relativity new to us,” he said. “I think that having someone else that can be responsible for owning and maintaining the plant makes sense to us.”

Other cities have reached 100 percent renewable energy on a citywide basis by a mixture of local generation and power purchase agreements.

For one, Burlington, Vt.—a city of 42,000 residents and the largest town in the state—produces more power than it uses from biomass, wind, solar and hydropower. The city-owned utility has invested in and jointly runs some of the renewable energy facilities, such as the McNeil Generating Station, a biomass plant located near the city capable of producing more than 50 MW of power. The Burlington Electric Department is operator and 50 percent owner of the facility.

Jacobs, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, said when cities announce they’re choosing 100 percent renewable energy, it gets people’s attention. Plus, he said, if the world wants to get off fossil fuels, states and regions need to see that it can be done at a smaller scale.

“These cities are test cases,” he said. “It’s informative because we really have to have interim goals.”

Hutchinson said Georgetown hopes running on sunshine and wind, and having lots of it, will draw technology firms and maybe even big data centers. In addition, he said existing customers, such as a newly built Sheridan Hotel, have a bonus message to share with their customers: “When you come to Georgetown, you’re not burning fossil fuels when you turn on the lights.”

Janique Goff supports green innovations. Follow her Twitter for more updates on eco-friendly technology.

REPOST: Obscure Electrochemical Technology Could Make Residential Cogeneration Pay Off

‘The U.S. is increasingly burning cheap natural gas,’ but NanoConversion Technologies has something up its sleeve to make conversion more efficient. This article from Greentech Media has the details.

Image Source: greentechmedia.com

OK, name three types of electrochemical cells.

1.Batteries, of course.
2.Fuel cells, because reasons
3.And third (drumroll, please) is the thermally regenerative concentration cell.

It’s that third, more obscure species that startup NanoConversion Technologies is betting will make residential combined heat and power cheaper and more efficient.

The U.S. is increasingly burning cheap natural gas — but centralized power generation, transmission and distribution is wasteful. The CEO of NanoConversion Technologies, Mike Staskus, said that the conversion efficiency of a gas-fired power plant to a residential wall plug is about 33 percent, citing Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s “spaghetti chart.”

Image Source: greentechmedia.com

Staskus suggests that making electricity from gas, close to the user, is more efficient. It’s a similar centralized versus distributed energy debate happening with other forms of power production. And it’s the same argument made by Bloom Energy as the justification for that company’s widely used solid-oxide fuel cell technology. (Bloom has sold 150 megawatts of its distributed generation units, equivalent to 1 gigawatt of solar, according to the company.)

NanoConversion’s device, called the C-TEC, would live in the homeowner’s boiler or water heater and produce some of the home’s electricity as well as its hot water. There is the potential for dramatic reductions in waste and emissions, according to the startup.

A number of technologies have been tried in pursuit of viable residential CHP — whether it be fuel cells from troubled firm ClearEdge or now-defunct Ceramic Fuel Cells, Stirling engines from European firms and Dean Kamen, or internal combustion engines. The technologies must economically scale down to residential scale (~1 kilowatt), and that’s not always easy.
Weird science

Drive by any office park in Silicon Valley and it’s as likely as not that there are wild-eyed entrepreneurs doing dangerous things with weird materials in what is essentially a garage. NanoConversion has 12 engineers, many from SDL and JDSU, and bootstrapped its initial development from founders and friends before winning funding from Frank Marshall, a former VP of engineering at Cisco. As an investor at Big Basin Partners, Marshall was also an early funder of Covad and NetScreen.

The technology employed by this startup is the alkali-metal thermal-to-electric converter (AMTEC), invented by Ford in the 1960s. (NanoConversion actually purchased the remnants of the Ford technology and is using some of that vintage equipment today.)

The device takes 850°C heat as an input and produces direct current electrical power and thermal heating power at 200°C, at potentially high efficiencies of up to 30 percent, according to Staskus, and when using the heat, over 90 percent. Because it’s a closed system, the company claims that it is not subject to the fouling and reliability issues that can afflict fuel cells when contaminants in natural gas compromise the fuel-cell stack and “coke the anode.” Because it has no moving parts, it was targeted for 15-year deep space missions with plutonium as the heat source.

The device makes use of a thermodynamic cycle of expanding and condensing sodium; the work generated by the expansion of sodium vapor is converted into electric power. Staskus likened it to a fuel cell where the fuel is burned outside of the unit, calling it “a fuel cell that doesn’t die.”

This is how the company breaks down the device’s operation:

  • Input heat vaporizes sodium
  • Ion transport through BASE creates DC current
  • The heat sink condenses sodium and delivers thermal power
  • The electromagnetic pump returns sodium to the evaporator

Image Source: greentechmedia.com

BASE is the solid electrolyte material sodium beta-alumina. My tour of the NanoConversion garage included a primer on how the startup compacts alumina powder into a little ring which is then sintered using a Rube Goldberg microwave oven hack by the resourceful company. (High-tech startups have variously attempted to burn, smother or electrocute me in these types of demos, so I try to keep my distance.) The same beta-alumina material is also used in sodium-sulfur batteries.

We’ve covered the funding and development of semiconductor-based thermoelectric devices from companies such as Marlow and startups GMZ, Alphabet Energy, Phononic, and MTPV. These technologies have tended to have lower efficiencies than the AMTEC.

NanoConversion has a demonstration unit in the garage. Made of six cells, the device produces 3 watts at 2.5 volts and 1.2 amps, according to the company. The company also claims the device will last up to 15 years. As with other electrochemical devices, the small cell will be able scale akin to the way Tesla builds its battery packs with small 18650 form-factor lithium-ion batteries, in Staskus’ view.
Applications for the novel thermoelectric device

A successful distributed power solution will have the characteristics of a boiler or water heater, according to the CEO. He said that residential CHP with a reasonable payback time (less than five years) opens up a multi-billion-dollar market for the startup that would produce customer-specific cogeneration subsystems for boiler manufacturers such as Rheem, Bosch, GE, and Rinnai. Staskus claims that 13 million boilers will be purchased each year for new builds and as replacements in the EU, U.S. and Japan.

But before the company gets to that mass market, it’s going to need to prove out and scale its technology and manufacturing. Its initial target markets are off-grid — a bit more niche-y than residential power.

  • When power is needed for an off-grid system or device in an extremely remote location that can’t be regularly serviced, a solution provided today by firms like Global Thermoelectric is to burn propane (in a big tank) and heat a relatively low-efficiency semiconductor thermopile. This configuration is used to power telemetry at oil well sites and communications for rural communities, as well as a surprising range of other applications.
  • The technology could also be used to provide auxiliary power for diesel trucks at idle.
  • Another remote application is cathodic protection of pipelines. Any natural gas pipeline in alkaline soil will plate itself away in about a year, according to Staskus. The pipeline operators keep some current flowing through the metal, and that inhibits plating in the pipeline.
  • Flare gas energy recovery is another potential application.
  • Government hijinks could also be powered by the device; Staskus spoke of operations where those in power feel the need to bury something in the desert that needs “several watts for five years.”
  • The military is always looking for better remote power.

Staskus also suggests that residential solar with micro-CHP and battery storage will be the best residential energy solution when net metering eventually subsides, because on-site baseload power reduces the solar array and battery size and cost to reasonable levels.

The startup is looking to raise a $10 million round B to move the company from technology demonstration to product development.

Janique Goff has been involved in business development, marketing, and advertising, with emphasis on green technology. She is also an advocate of cleaner environment. Follow her on Twitter for more green technology updates.

REPOST: China vows to be open about environment as viral film is erased

China’s enviornment, as documented by celebrity journalist Chai Jing in her viral video ‘Under the Dome,’ is currently in peril as pollution and other environmental issues continue to plague many of its cities. The country’s industrial boom is now taking a toll on the natural environment.

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Pedestrians wear masks as smog descends on Beijing | Image source: telegraph.co.uk

China’s environment minister vowed to provide more information to the public about the toxic air they breathe on Saturday, less than 24 hours after Communist Party censors purged a viral film about smog from the internet.
Under the Dome, a documentary by celebrity journalist Chai Jing, took China by storm this week, stirring up heated debate about the state of the environment. In just a few days, the film – dubbed China’s answer to An Inconvenient Truth – was watched more than 200 million times.

Chen Jining, the environment minister, was among those who initially heaped praise on the project, comparing it to Silent Spring, a seminal 1962 book that is credited with starting the environmental movement in the United States.
However, less than a week after Under the Dome was released, it began mysteriously vanishing from Chinese websites on Friday afternoon after the Communist Party decided that public criticism had gone too far.

The video’s disappearance – sarcastically attributed by one academic to “gremlins” but in truth the result of a directive from propaganda chiefs in Beijing – placed China’s newly appointed environment minister in a fix.
He was scheduled to meet the media on Saturday afternoon, as part of a round of carefully choreographed “press conferences” held during the National People’s Congress, China’s annual rubber-stamp parliament. Questions about Under the Dome might have been expected.

Yet there was not a single mention of the film – or its fate – during the session. Organisers permitted 12 questions during the apparently scripted 70-minute event, but not one referred to biggest environmental story of the week.
China’s leaders offered some tough rhetoric on the environment this week, as more than 3,000 delegates joined the annual political summit. “We are going to punish, with an iron hand, any violators who destroy ecology or environment, with no exceptions,” said President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party chief, on Friday. He spoke as a thick smog descended over Beijing.

One day earlier, Li Keqiang, the prime minister, told the NPC’s opening session: “Environmental pollution is a blight on people’s quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts. We must fight it with all our might.”
Chen Jining, the environment minister, repeated those promises on Saturday, admitting he felt “uneasy” about the state of his country’s skies. Asked if he had the power to defeat the smog, he said: “Can we do it? Yes we can – but it will be very difficult.”

Mr Chen, who studied at Imperial College London during the 1990s, claimed China was facing an “unprecedented conflict between development and environmental protection”. He said that “extra effort” was needed to solve the problem. “We will deal with today’s crisis to avoid a bigger crisis tomorrow,” he promised.

Chinese state media was quick to report those pledges, with Xinhua, the official news agency, publishing four stories about the minister’s press conference on its website. One of those articles heralded Mr Chen’s commitment to “enhance information transparency and guarantee the public’s rights to supervise the fight against air pollution”.

The Communist Party then decided to erase a film that sought to do just that. “The real pollution is bad governance,” one user of Weibo, China’s Twitter, commented on Friday night as censors purged Under the Dome from the internet. “If we cannot get rid of those bad people, the smog will always hang over us.”

Janique Goff is a major supporter of green initiatives. Find out more about the projects she is part of here.

REPOST: The next energy revolution won’t be in wind or solar. It will be in our brains.

Seeing the urgency of using fuel clearer now, leaders from the marine and naval corps are intending to bank on behavioral changes against wasteful habits to target energy requirement reduction. The Washington Post discusses how this could be made possible through this article:

Image Source: washingtonpost.com

In the arid lands of the Mojave Desert, Marine regimental commander Jim Caley traveled alongside a 24-mile stretch of road and saw trucks, tanks and armored tracked vehicles all idling in the heat — and wasting enormous amounts of expensive fuel.

Caley had already led forces in Iraq, and at the time was charged with seven battalions comprising 7,000 Marines. But this was a new and different challenge. Overseeing a major spring 2013 training exercise at the Marine Corps’ Twentynine Palms base in southern California, he was struck by how little he knew about how America’s war-fighting machine used energy.

“No targets prosecuted, no miles to the gallon, no combat benefit being delivered,” Caley, a Marine colonel, says of the scene. “At the time, I had no system to understand what was going on, and what was occurring, and how much further I could go on the same fuel.”

The Department of Defense is the single biggest user of energy in the U.S. — its energy bill in 2013 was $18.9 billion — and Caley now plays a central role in trying to ensure that just one of its branches, the Marine Corps, uses that power in the optimal way. The implications for the military are vast. For instance, the Marines alone have estimated that they could save $26 million per year through a 10 percent energy reduction at their installations and bases, to say nothing of Marine field operations, which used an estimated 1.5 million barrels of fuel in 2014.

But most striking is how these changes are coming about. As head of the Marines Corps’ five-year-old Expeditionary Energy Office, Caley is tapping into one of the hottest trends in academic energy research: looking to use psychology and the behavioral sciences to find ways of saving energy by changing people — their habits, routines, practices and preconceptions.

“The opportunities that we see on the behavioral side of the house are phenomenal,” Caley explained during a recent interview in his Pentagon office. “And they’re frankly less expensive than us trying to buy new equipment.”

Through behavioral changes alone — tweaking the ways that Marines drive their vehicles, power their outposts, handle their equipment — Caley thinks he can increase their overall battlefield range by as much as five days, a change that would provide immense tactical benefit by cutting down on refueling requirements (and the logistical hurdles and vulnerabilities associated with them). If he succeeds, the Marines would stand at the forefront of an energy revolution that may someday rival wind or solar in importance: one focused not on changing our technologies or devices, but on changing us. And its applications would touch every corner of our society, from how we behave in our homes to how we drive our cars.

For the rest of the article, click here.

Climate change is one issue that Janique Goff’s causes address. Follow this Twitter account to learn more about the other environmental initiatives that she supports.

REPOST: Biofuels Show Promise for Alternative Energy: Which Two Show Most Promise In The Race For Sustainable Energy?

The number of US-based companies that are working on alternative biofuel projects are growing. While their work on finding cheaper and greener energy solutions is promising, more needs to be done.DesignNTrend.com discusses the issue further in the article below:

Image Source: designntrend.com

The number of alternative energy biofuels in the works is clipping along at a frenetic pace. With a seemingly endless supply of interesting, if not surprising, sources serving as inspiration for that pace, researchers are making headway in their efforts to find cheaper and greener energy solutions.

Unfortunately, though many appear quite promising, few of them are anywhere near advancing on levels of traditional fossil-fuel use.
But things are moving forward. Presently there are some 28 U.S. states that can boast having advanced biofuel companies. The top five are California, Illinois, Colorado, Texas and Iowa. While encouraging, more needs to be done.

Contenders for Best Biofuels

From algae to methane, woody biomass, flowering plants, cellulose and even animal fat, we have choices. There are others as well besides the corn, canola oil, sugarcane and soy that usually make the news and are already in use to some extent.

Alas, few are without their drawbacks. The biggest problem with many of them is limited growing space or sustainability. The debate rages on concerning the wisdom of diverting land intended for agriculture for fuel and not food when hunger is a real consideration.

Without sustainability, biofuels lose their ground as viable alternatives to petroleum. The two that appear to have the most promise are algae and woody biomass, and for similar reasons.

Woody Biomass

This particular resource for biofuels is very similar to cellulose in that certain grasses or plant materials are ingredients, but not the only ingredients.

Woody biomass is made up of non-food feedstocks, agricultural waste, and Miscanthus, a type of grass indigenous to parts of Asia and Africa. All of these appear to have good prospects for sustainability.

California-based Cool Planet Energy has developed a biofuel using this woody biomass that claims to be chemically identical to gasoline with the added benefit of being carbon negative.

Besides this major plus, it costs just $1.50 a gallon with no government subsidy. By mid 2013 the company was happy to report it had already raised $30 million out of a goal of $100 million to fund the first commercial facility in connection to the project.

Their hope is to create small modular biorefineries that could produce up to 10-million gallons of fuel per year.

Algae

Algaculture, as it’s being called, is currently at the center of a lot of excitement in regards to meeting the world’s renewable energy needs. As opposed to other biofuels, algae have the unique ability to produce large quantities of biodiesel without the need for fertile land or watering.

Add to that its natural abundance and staggering growth rate, and it would seem you’ve got a real contender for heavy, long-term consumer demands.

At first glance this renewable energy source has no drawbacks, but some scientists are concerned about the very same thing that makes it so alluring: growth. It can quickly crowd itself out, which causes massive die offs due to lack of light and photosynthesis.

A promising solution may lie with Vertigro, an experimental system engineered by Glen Kertz at a facility near El Paso, TX.

For and Against Biofuels

Back in 2009 Norway’s Finance Minister proposed a ban on gas-powered cars in favor of those powered by alternative energy by 2015. This applied to new vehicles only, but it was still a bold move considering they were the 6th largest oil exporter in the world at the time.

Obviously, big oil has the most to lose. The players on that stage would doubtfully ever [willingly] vacate their thrones without a fight. Not only do we know how deep their pockets are but — at least in this country — we know who’s in them. Gradually, though, with the right biofuels, resistance is futile.

Janique Goff is a business development manager who supports biofuel projects and other sustainable development initiatives.Follow this blog for more articles on green technologies.