Friday, September 28, 2007

Macy's goes solar today

. . . & Walmart & Whole Foods & BP & a lot of others!

Macy's goes solar
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.
This is from an ad in the LA TImes on Wednesday. Some of the text reads
Join us as we dedicate our first solar-powered, energy-efficient store Friday, September 28.
Enjoy energy-conscious events taking place throughout the day. Plus, be one of the first to arrive and receive a free eco-tote.
This installation, the first of 28 Macy's stores in California in partnership with SunPower Corporation, will help reduce our energy consumption as well as our greenhouse gas emissions. It's all part of Macy's commitment to cleaner technology, a healthy environment and a more sustainable future.
Congratulations, Macy's!
I found an article online about this, which I thought was very good:

...and an AP article: More firms focus on climate change
A report finds more widespread disclosure of carbon emissions by the biggest companies.
The thing is, companies are discovering that keeping track of their energy use is good business that very clearly improves the bottom line.

I learned just that taking courses in Environental Management in Denmark 10 years ago, but the US government was so busy telling everyone that doing anything about global warming would hurt the US economy big time, that no one even tried to investigate if it was true. So European and Japanese companies are way ahead in areas where US companies were first movers back in the 70's!

Walmart and Whole Foods are also busily putting panels on their expansive roofs, adn there was an article in the LATimes this week with a picture of a very sculptural new BP station equipped with solar panels. And Ted Turner did a keynote speech at this week's with 12,500 participants (I wish I’d gone!) You can watch webcasts, including Turner’s keynote speech, from the conference website.

Just thinking about all that wonderful space for solar panels is really exciting! And I figure the panels on the roofs will shade them somewhat, so they won't need as much airconditioning in the summer. I discussed this with our local Vons (Safeway) manager. He had been reading about SunEdison, which is working with Whole Foods, and thought it was a great idea. I have also thought that parking lots would be a great place for panels, which would also help shade the cars in the summer!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Candy Wrappers

Candy Wrappers
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.

The candy in the picture all purport to be organic or sustainable or good for you or the earth or free trade.

Some are packaged in biodegradable paper or cardboard (the ones on the right,) some include a layer of metalic film with the paper, and some are packaged in decidedly non-biodegradable plastics.

If very fragile chocolate and even cookies can be packaged in paper, why can't Clif energy bars, Newman's Peppermint Cups or Barbara's Snackimals?

When I was a kid all candy was packaged either in paper wrappers (lke Mars bars and Baby Ruths,) cardboard boxes (Raisinettes, little chocolate mints and Malt Balls) or cellophane (like jelly beans,) if we didn't get them loose into a little paper bag.

As far as I remember, they all lasted very well like that, thank you, except for the occasional forgotten chocolate bar that got a bit white after a while. We weren't all that good about littering back then (although in Girl Scouts, we learned "Don't be a litterbug!") But the wrappers were biodegradable and disappeared with time.

I don't remember when the first plastic packages came - maybe in the late 60's or 70's? Now, if you aren't a litterbug, your packaging will last forever in a landfill.

If you are a litterbug, you'll be seeing that wrapper next time you climb the mountain, unless, of course, some animal tries to eat it - if it tempted you in the store, maybe it will tempt a deer or bear or wid sheep? Or maybe the rain will wash it away, down the stream and finally out to sea, where either it will end up in the belly of some marine animal, or in one of two the Texas-sized plastic dumps in the Pacific?

If you've been following my blog, you may know that I've been taking a class in Adobe Illustrator for which I made a lovely picture called Solar Sister. Our second project involves redesigning the packaging of some product, and I decided to redesign the Clif Bar the I've been eating to get me back home up hill on my bike after class.

I thought I would be just redesigning it so there would be a picture of the Oatmeal, Raisins and Walnuts on the package, since it's hard to tell which flavor you're picking up. But we were supposed to do a little research before attempting the design, during which it occured to me that all the energy bars, including the organic ones like Clif, are packaged in plastic, which I think is called Mylar. So then I started thinking about the package material as well. When I contacted the company, I received this reply from Jeff in Consumer Service:

Our packaging is made of a two layer structure which sandwiches a metalized coating and the printed design between the layers. This structure enables us to provide a product which retains its freshness and moisture on the shelf. However this structure is not recyclable. At this time, there are no materials that are recyclable and meet our standards for retaining product freshness.

We are pushing our packaging vendors to come up with a structure that is recyclable and provides adequate barrier properties. If such a material becomes available in the future, our R&D department will strongly consider its use.

As I wrote back,

How long a shelf-life do you need to work with? It seems to me that freshness should require a shorter shelf-life. Obviously carrying bars in the bottom of my knapsack or back pockets doesn’t help them keep looking good, but I’d assume that some sort of sustainable material – several layers if you need – would be preferable to candy papers trashing a mountainside or ending up in the gullet of a fish.

When the trade-off is the sustainability of the land that I am hiking in, I’d prefer a shorter shelf-life! You don’t always have to listen to the plastics people.

What do you think? I'm thinking of going over entirely to chocolate bars for my energy food, preferably ones that don't have a metal foil liner to the paper packaging. But I guess I'll have to eat all the products I bought for this little packaging study!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


We have been enjoying watching episode after episode of Northern Exposure through Netflicks. Although we realize that most of it was filmed in Washington, the thought of those wide=open spaces, which you seem to have to reach only by plane, is intriguing (and daunting as well!) We watched Grizzly Man recently, too, so I guess that we've been enjoying Alaska vicariously through the media. I hope to get there some day!

But Alaska has so much that is "just" wide open spaces that I guess some Alaskans don't realize the treasure they have and that it must be preserved. We hear of the affects of global warming and other environmental disasters regularly: islands sinking into the sea, taking villages with them, or permafrost melting, so houses list and roads give way. There's always a new issue about the Artic National Wildlife Reservation, with its caribous and other wildlife threatened by oil production.
(Note This last link is a defense of oil production, just to get the other side of the story. I do not agree with its conclusions!)

And then there's this new "sport" of using airplanes to track down and kill beautiful wolves in Alaska. After you've watched the video below you might want to visit this site of the Defenders of Wildlife.

The Truth About Aerial Hunting of Wolves in Alaska

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Peace in Portland (ME)

Peace in Portland (ME)
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.
My sister, Lu, sent me this picture, with this description:

"I was there in the peace symbol... this summer some time. I just received these photos of the event. We didn't quite break the record in the Guiness Book of Records.. but it was a wonderful time.In some photos they had us all lie down on the grass..
They were sent to me by the fellow who piloted the helicopter for the photographer!"

If I find out who the photographer was I will credit him.

I picked this picture of all of them, because of the great view of Portland. The Peace symbol is right in the middle of the picture.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why globalization won't make everything the same

Home made Sausage Pizza
Originally uploaded by pelleb.
My son, who has lived in Maine, New Hampshire, Miami, San Francisco, Denmark, England, Wales, Jamaica and various other Caribean islands, Panama and even a month in Argentina, got thinking about whether globalization is as bad as some people think.

Are there McDonald's and Starbucks now on every street corner? Does everyone eat American food, drink American coke, watch American movies and dance to American music?

He wrote a great blog entry called Why globalization won't make everything the same, illustrated with pictures he's taken various places he's lived or traveled. (He has a whole Flickr section called Food and Drink, including a set called Food and Booze Porn!) As you can see from the picture, he's pretty good at creating his own global fusion food as well.

Of course there's one bit of globalization that does worry me: our global environment. Pollution from China is affecting California weather, Midwestern Coal is causing acid rain in New England, Tchernobyl spread its radiation in Sweden, and warming is affecting low-lying areas around the world.

That makes the environment a global interest, not just a local or regional one. I hope that we can reverse the bad parts of globalized pollution by working together globally to clean up our air, conserve our water and make the world a healthier place for everyone.

We can start working globally in our own homes, by thinking about the products we buy and the packaging they come in; by taking our own bags to the supermarket; bu using less water and in time re-landscaping with native plants; and by installing solar panels on every east, south- or west-facing unshaded roof around - and encouraging builders to make sure there's a roof like that on every new home built!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Willits, California Escapes from Suburbia

I just watched this very encouraging trailer for the film Escape from Suburbia.

The trailer (and, I understand, a good bit of the movie) is mostly about the little town of Willits, CA, whose residents got together after watching the prequel to this, End of Suburbia, to see how they could join forces to form a viable and sustainable local economy. This is their Willits Economic Localization (WILL) site for inspiration.

Obviously getting 13,000 people of all persuasions to work together was one mean feat. I am very impressed, and hope to learn how they managed to do that! In the trailer they said that they can't discuss the war or religion and any number of other topics without getting into an argument. But if the talk is about Willits, then they can pull together!

More (sustainable) power to them!

Brighter than sunshine

Moths on flowering green onions
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.
I just took this picture in the garden, and thought I'd just use it as decoration.

I thought you might like to read a very good newspaper article from the Maryland Gazette called Brighter than sunshine. It is an excellent story about our solar panel venture, including interviews with skeptics, local installers and Erika Morgan, our VP of Communications.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Eco-Urbanite: Another Option for Solar Power

The Eco-Urbanite: Another Option for Solar PowerI just found this blog and thought it might be fun to keep up with her ideas, and particularly if she decides to become one of our customers.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Solar Fundamentals

Solar Fundamentals
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.
I'm done!
I made this picture for my class in Adobe Illustrator. We were supposed to create a project based on a super hero of ourselves. So of course I am Solar Sister!
The picture was supposed to be used in some realistic function, so most of my classmates used it as a comic book cover. But since I'd just edited a training book on Solar Fundamentals, I figured it could be a cover for that, if anyone wants to use it that way!

This used a number of different techniques. The picture of me was done entirely with the devilish but versatile pen tool, most of the background was made with the Live Trace tool directly from pictures. The sky picture was based on one I took in Maine. You'll be able to find it in my Flickr pictures!
And then I used a scatter brush to scatter solar panels!
The windturbine (which was in the original picture of the power plant from the Ruhrgebiet in Germany) I did partly with the pen and partly by generating the tower by revolving a "path."
The last thing I did was remove many bits of cloud on the front cover to show a clear blue sky!
I hope you enjoy my picture.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Too much junk mail?

Carbon Conscious Consumer
I just received a campaign email about stopping junk mail, which we always just throw in the recycle bin without looking at it.

I must admit that the colorful addressed clothing catalogues sometimes catch my eye, but usually I am annoyed that one more company has given away MY name to some stupid list that just generates more PAPER!

Sometimes I've even called to get off a mailing list, but it doesn't really work. Unfortunately every time you get tempted by one of the catalogues you end up on a few more mailing lists, because they know they've found another gullible person!

Recycling is fine, but it would be better if the catalogues didn't even get printed! Think of all the trees that are used for them, because most of them don't even use recycled paper or vegetable inks. And besides that, think of all the fuel used to transport the trees, pulp and finished catalogues to wherever they're going. And those trees would have helped removed the CO2 that burning petroleum produces!

At any rate, this website has all the forms you need to get off of many of the mailing lists. So you can at least get rid of some of them! And they're running a contest with monthly prizes. (I didn't look to see what the prizes are, but you can.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

It would really help if we just ran out of oil!

I was writing with a former colleague I hadn't heard from recently. We've always enjoyed a certain give and take, because our backgrounds and politics are pretty far from each other. The title for this entry was his comment to the following. It was how I answered his reaction to finding out that I've started working with solar energy: "I'm for more nuke plants until the horsepower of the solar is improved."
(I took the picture at sunset from the Falmouth Forside ME Ocean Grill in mid August.)

This is what I had answered:
Solar is ready to go. We just have to build plants to produce all the panels we need. We have more than 20,000 people on our waiting list. Since we’re a start-up we can’t begin installations for about a year, but there is a tremendous demand as long as the price is right! There is enough sun on this earth to easily cover our needs, the “fuel” is free and since there are no moving parts it is almost maintenance free. Think of all the roofs where they could be placed – on factories, business parks, supermarkets, not to mention all the houses built after a certain date.

Nuclear on the other hand takes at least 10 years from the drawing board to production. Plants are extremely expensive, as is the fuel. There is a considerable unsolved problem about what to do with the waste – and the biggest issue of all is that uranium, like oil and even coal, is peaking, which means total production per year will be falling soon, even to feed existing reactors, while the need is increasing.

Which means that the most important energy “source” is actually energy conservation – higher fuel standards, better insulation, Energy Star appliances including light-bulbs, and changing our behavior to remember to turn out lights and computers we’re not using, or using this computer CO2 saver.)
Trouble is, I replied, there’s lots of oil and coal – it’s just not very accessible from oil sands and removing mountain tops (and ruining landscapes and lives!) So people keep saying all we need is the technology to keep up going. (And that technology is solar!)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Baby, it's HOT out there!

I've experienced hotter weather since I moved here, but that doesn't make this less hot! I've discovered that no one else wants to go out to our condo pool in this heat, so I can have it for myself. The water is probably pretty hot, but a lot cooler than 107°, so it's refreshing!

When I arrived in California from cool Denmark 7 years ago, I remember going to a football game at Pomona College in our neighboring town against Oberlin College (my alma mater) when the temperature was said to be 108°! Pomona beat the Yeomen by about 56-0, partly because the Obie team was pretty new, but certainly also because they weren't used to heat like that!

The summer of 2002 I was working in North Palm Springs, right on the edge of the desert, for Vestas-American Wind Systems. I loved driving out to the desert early in the morning, and much less the drive home with the sun in my eyes and a lot more traffic. I remember it got up to 120°! Going outside it felt like being hit by some object! I had to cover my Honda Insight hybrid with a special sun-reflecting cover to keep the battery at ambient temperature. I understand that it wouldn't have worked over 160°!

And there was also the summer of 2001 when the temperature got up to a very humid 100° in Maine!

Before that, my hottest summers were when I was studying in Chapel Hill, NC, between 1965-72. My son was born in August 1970 in 90° humid weather and wore nothing but a diaper and an undershirt his first 2 weeks, before we took him off to cooler Denmark for a couple of weeks, where he got his first cold, poor dear!

I remember, however, getting used to the heat in Chapel Hill, (for the most part.) One of the delights of Chapel Hill summers were the torrential rains every afternoon at 4 pm, which (I think) cooled things off. (My husband, who moved himself out here from Georgia because of bugs and humidity, among other reasons, says the rain just turned into steam.)