North American Rainwater Harvesting Conference, 2007

The planning for the ARCSA 2007 National Rainwater Harvesting Conference is now underway, which will be held at the Kilauea Military Camp, Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii. The conference runs from August 15-17. Looks like they picked a very interesting place for the conference for 2007:

The entire 50-acre campus of Kilauea Military Camp is on rainwater catchment, making the conference venue a self-contained “tour stop” for persons interested in rainwater harvesting. In addition, tours to communities entirely dependent upon rainwater harvesting are planned. In addition, a preconference hands-on workshop in the planning stages.

The event is hosted by ARCSA (The American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association), whose goals are:

1. To promote rainwater catchment systems through meetings and seminars,
2. To provide networking between people with experience in rainwater catchment systems and those who might need technical or professional assistance in developing or building such systems,
3. To provide a forum for discussion of new methods, techniques, and materials pertaining to rainwater catchment systems,
4. To develop informal publications to assist in the design and use of rainwater catchment systems, and
5. To establish acceptable treatment methods for harvested rainwater.


Green Mountain Environmentally-friendly Coffee Cup

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Unfortunately, it’s looking like our modern society no longer affords us the pleasure of drinking a hot cup of coffee in our own homes these days. Not that the “To-Go-Cup” for coffee is anything new, but drive up windows at Starbucks and other joints where you get your java to go are a scary sign of the times. This means more and more disposable coffee cups getting picked up and then tossed away. An evil cousin of the plastic water bottle? Ugh! More waste in the landfills, cluttering up the highways, etc.

Not to fret, my caffeine addicted friends! There is hope! Looks like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and International Paper have decided to develop a new disposable coffee cup that uses renewable resources and has less of an environmental impact. The secret of the Ecotainer™ cup is that it uses a lining made from corn instead of petrochemicals. After use, the Ecotainer™ cup will break down into water, carbon dioxide and organic matter, making it suitable for your compost pile. Also, it’s appropriate for a variety of hot beverages, not just coffee!

Here’s some websites to check out with more information:

Green Mountain Coffee Website about the Ecotainerâ„¢ cup.

BusinessWire report on Green Mountain Coffee.

Ecofriend.org blog post on the Ecotainer cup.

Environmentally Friendly Packaging

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Virwanti International is a company that offers natural and organic packaging for a variety of products. They have packages made from seagrass, natural papers, and other materials. They are members of the following organizations: ORGANIC TRADE ASSOCIATION, GREENPEOPLE.ORG, ALLORGANICLINKS.COM, WINNERNET.ORG (Women Into the New Network for Entrepreneurial Reinforcement, HSMG (Handcrafted Soap makers Guild – www.soapguild.org) and the Organic Consumers Association. All their products are considered natural and organic. They also provide package design consulting.


The History of Environmental Website MongaBay.com

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The other day we mentioned an environmental organization called MongaBay.com, and today I found out a little bit more of the history of this interesting organization. In fact, the San Francisco Chronicle has a feature article about its founder, Rhett Butler, who actually quit his day job in Silicon Valley to promote the preservation of rainforests. How? Simply by writing about his experiences and publishing them on the internet.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Spurred into action, Butler started writing a book about the rain forest that became the foundation for a grassroots Web site he created in 2000. His goal was to gather support for saving the wildlife and wild lands he had grown to love. What he didn’t expect was that the trajectory of his career would shift dramatically.

In just three years, Mongabay.com became such a popular encyclopedic resource for teachers, students and others researching the tropical world that it began to make money from clicks on small text advertisements tied to the site’s content. Enough money, in fact, that Butler could quit his day job at a small Internet search engine to follow the call of the wild.

This is an interesting example of the power of the internet to make change and spread important information far and wide. Read the full article about MongaBay.com here.


Rubber Sole and Sidewalks

Man, I wish they would do this in my city! The city of Washington, D.C. is currently testing a new tree and people friendly sidewalk technology–rubber! While this way of building sidewalks can be more expensive than concrete, it is much easier on the environment, trees, and people. This article from the Washington Post explains more.

Rubber sidewalks — good for the trees, easier on the knees, no cracks to break your mother’s back. In one of the biggest tests in the nation, the District recently installed several blocks’ worth of rubber sidewalks in Northeast. The cost was $60,000, roughly three times more than if it had been concrete.

Around tree roots, the walkways are said to last about 14 years — nearly three times longer than concrete ones — and are favored by city bureaucrats who last year took 2,600 complaints about broken concrete, got slapped with three lawsuits from people who fell on sidewalks and replaced hundreds of trees. Next year, if all weathers well, there may be a springy surprise in store for even more of Washington.

These innovative sidewalks are made from recycled tires, and can easily be molded to fit around trees and other landscaping features. Drawbacks? You can’t use chalk on rubber sidewalks, and the company that makes these sidewalks is located in California.


6 Steps to Saving the Planet

Forget about a twelve step program! According to MongaBay.com, we can save the Earth in 6 (not so easy) steps. Here’s a few of the steps that they recommend:

* Protect and restore wildlands, which will encourage and protect bio-diversity
* Fight corruption, especially in developing nations
* Achieve a smaller world population
* Education, education, education!

I’ll leave it up to you to read the full article if you want to find out the rest of the 6 steps. Have any other ideas to share? Please leave a comment!

BTW, Mongabay.com is an organization that helps to protect wildlands and wildlife.


Cool Biodiesel Blog

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Check out this very cool blog all about biodiesel technology and innovations. I was very impressed by the content and number of posts on their blog. They’ve been active since 2004. Some recent posts include: New Biodiesel Rebate Program, San Francisco Biodiesel Progress, and my favorite, this post about a recent article from Wired magazine on Biodiesel.


The Colibri Ecotourism Award Winner

Here’s an update on the Colibri Ecotourism award which celebrates ecotourism in Mexico:

The Colibri Ecotourism award was presented on June 5th, World Environment Day, to Steve Bridger. As the winner of this prestigious award, Steve received a trophy, diploma, and a $1,000 cash award from Emilio Kifuri, president of Canyon Travel, for his work reporting Mexico’s recovery from devastating Hurricane Wilma. You can read his work at AfterWilma.ifo.

Steve is based in Bristol, England, making him the first non-Mexican winner of the Colibri Ecotourism award. He collaborates with his wife, who is from Mexico (the state of Queretaro), on a number of projects, including Mexicanwave.com.

You can read the complete report on the Colibri Ecotourism award at the Planeta website.


Fuel Cell Facts

EarthToys.com, is a fantastic resource for those interested in alternative energy, green building, and all manner of things green. Their newsletter has articles written by some of the alternative energy movement’s greatest innovators. I was happy to find a great article about fuel cells in their April newsletter. The article helped me get a grasp on some concepts that were troubling me about fuel cells and how they work, and that is exactly what it’s intended to do:

With the current debates over energy, more people are aware of the benefits and potential applications of fuel cells. However, few would be able to describe the basic chemistry differentiating the application, power output and energy efficiencies of the various types of fuel cells; much less the unique challenges each face. Hence, a simple lesson in fuel cells is in order.

This is a clear and concise discussion about fuel cells for those looking to clarify some of the more confusing aspects about a technology that is sure to dramatically change the way we live.


EarthShips Are Us

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Taos, New Mexico is the unofficial (or perhaps official? How do they determine these things?) home of the “Earthship” movement. Earthships are ecologically friendly homes that are heavy on solar energy and use lots of recycled products in their construction. Some earthships even use recycled stuff like tires, cans, etc. A lot of them are actually partially built into the ground.

The company Earthship Biotecture takes the concept of an earthship to a new level. They define their construction technique in the following manner:

Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.

Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.

They seem to use some concepts in permaculture in their design ideas, so these homes are theoretically very self-sustainable. They’ve got some very cool designs on their website.

My only complaint about earthships? The price tag. Reports from some people I know in Taos say that earthships in general (not just from this company) are not what you’d call affordable housing. They’re more like housing for the very elite. Let’s hope that one day the earthship movement can open their doors to middle and low income folks as well!


Waste News….Waste Not…Want Not

Just came upon a very interesting website called “Waste News.” It sounds a little strange, but the gist of the site is all things that have to do with solid waste, energy, alternative energy, and more! There are some fascinating articles on their site, including articles on composting, water quality, recycling, etc. Worth a visit if you like waste…..or like to get rid of it responsibly anyway.


Eco-Travel in Mexico

The Sierra Gorda is a large mountain range in central Mexico that has the distinction of being one of the most biologically diverse regions of the country. El Grupo Ecológico de la Sierra Gorda has been working for about 20 years to protect and promote this unique part of Mexico. Ron Mader, a writer for the award winning website Planeta, has this to say about the organization:

The local organization Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda has been working since 1987 to protect the Sierra Gorda Queretana and is the only established tourism provider in the region. Ecotourism is being used to generate revenues as well as to provide environmental education for both locals and visitors. Profits from these trips are used for environmental education and sustainable development programs in the region. Destinations include the tropical deciduous forest near the Jalpan Dam, the Ayutla River Canyon, Escanela River, and El Sótano del Barro.

You can read more about the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve and El Grupo Ecológico de la Sierra Gorda at Planeta.com.

Read up on other cool destinations in Mexico and about Mexican culture in general here.


Eco Car Rentals

At one point in time, Shaun Stenshol was an environmental activist who spent a lot of time getting arrested. Now, he runs a bio-fuels car rental service in Hawaii. He claims that the idea works on multiple levels. Not only do travelers get to drive an eco-friendly car while they visit this island state, he says, they also get to “test drive” one in case they’d like to buy one in the future. His idea has caught the attention of a lot of folks, including the magazine Business Week, who wrote this feature article about him last week.


N.M. Wilderness Alliance

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Yesterday I mentioned the “new” Ojito Wilderness area in New Mexico, but I wanted to take a moment to promote the folks who helped preserve this space. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is a great bunch of folks who work hard to preserve beautiful places in this beautiful state. Most of the land they work on is designated as BLM “Wilderness Study Areas,” which are public lands that are protected, but have the potential to be put to other use if not designated as wilderness. The wilderness status would protect these lands from vehicle traffic, mining, ranching, etc. Here’s some information about what they do from their website.

NMWA has conducted an inventory of public wildlands throughout the state of New Mexico to assess the suitability of public lands for Wilderness designation, and to identify any illegal activities or impacts within designated Wilderness or Wilderness Study Areas.

Since the spring of 1999, NMWA has conducted an ongoing field inventory of public wildlands throughout the state of New Mexico. The purpose of this inventory is to assess the suitability of public lands for Wilderness designation, and to identify any illegal activities or impacts within designated Wilderness or Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs). A staff of professionals directs and manages the Wilderness Inventory Program. The inventory program is currently comprised of two types of surveys: Roads, Boundaries & Impacts Survey and Wilderness Characteristics & Values Survey.

They’ve got lots of projects in the works including protecting the Otero Mesa in southern New Mexico.


“New” Wilderness Area

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Ok, this is probably not real news if you live in the state of New Mexico, but it’s news to me! The Prez (Bush, that is), recently (like late last year) signed a bill creating a new wilderness area in this western state of wide open spaces and majestic scenery. The Ojito wilderness is a rather stark landscape, but if you’re looking for surreal desert landscapes, natural springs, and archaeological sites, this place is for you. I’ve strolled the narrow desert canyons and scrambled up the steep mesas, and it’s definitely one of the most unique places I’ve explored in the Southwest. It’s close to both Albuquerque and Santa Fe, so it’s worth checking out if you ever visit my neck of the woods. Thanks to the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance for fighting to preserve this important place.


Greening the Urban Environment

At retirement or other times in their lives, many people try to escape the big city by moving closer to nature. (If tons of people flee the city and move the sticks, pretty soon there won’t be too many attractive places you can go to escape the urban scene, though. Wyoming, maybe…?) However, there is a movement going on in some of the biggest cities of the U.S. to restore a sense of the natural world within the city itself. Places like Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Seattle are prime examples. This post from the GristMill offers a sneak-peak of a program called Edens Lost and Found, which exams the ideas of greening urban spaces and connecting city dwellers once again with nature.


Cool New Blog: GreenGOP

Hi everybody! Just “discovered” (like C.C. “discovered” America) a brand new green blog on the block. GreenGOP is a great blog for conservatives, liberals, and all manner of green, conservation, energy efficiency minded folk. Ok, my old grammar teacher would kill me if she saw these long-ass run on sentences. Ok, sorry, back to the blog. Some recent posts include:

-Brazil out-matches the U.S. in bio-fuels (and in soccer)
-Republican Senators fight pollution in the Northeast
-The power of bird poo

Take the time to check it out! And thanks to whoever posted the comment here and helped me find your site!


New Tools for Composting

Gardening is one of the best ways for the average person to get in touch with nature and relax. Composting adds to the gardening experience and gives you the opportunity to recycle organic waste back into the earth. However, lots of people avoid composting because they think it’s messy or will attract pests. The April EarthToys newsletter features an article called “No More Excuses, Home Composting is Easier Than Ever!” The article talks about unique composting products that are easy to use, attractive, and make composting very easy and user-friendly. You can check out the article here.


Tidal Energy is Making Waves

Tidal shifts caused by the moon and sun’s pull on the earth are further being explored as a way to generate energy. While this technology may sound new, it has actually been around since 1966. Here’s a short list of existing tidal energy projects and projects in development:

• Kislo Guskaya Tidal Power Station (TPP) in Russia
• Lumkara Plant (300 MW) in Russia
• Bay of Fundy TPP in Canada
• Jianagxia TPS in China
• Sihwa TPP in South Korea
• New York’s East River TPP
• Sunderban TPP in India
• Doctors’ Creek in Derby, Western Australia ( 48 MW)
• Severn Estuary TPP in UK

Learn more about tidal energy, how it works, and international tidal energy projects here.


Turning Wildlife Foes into Friends

One of the biggest challenges in protecting wildlife in many parts of the world is to eliminate activities that are profitable for some communities, such as hunting or poaching, and turn these same community members into protectors of the environment. A project in Cambodia is doing just that. Cambodia is home to the most important water bird habitat in Southeast Asia. The conservation project has all but eliminated poaching in the area and turned the community towards protecting these birds. How? Wildlife conservationists enlisted the poachers to work as rangers, making about $5.00 a day. This is significantly more than they made poaching. The poachers also have extensive knowledge of where to locate eggs and protect them, making them experts of the birds they are working to protect. Please read more about this fascinating and very successful project here.