“Breathtaking,” says BMW. “I shall call him… Mini-E.” With that, BMW jumps into the electric car derby, unveiling its electric version of the Mini Cooper. The high-profile test program/publicity stunt will involve a limited run of 500 of the electric cars, to hit the streets of southern California and New York in January.
This one’s tech is a lot like the Tesla, with 5,088 lithium ion batteries stuffed inside, powering a 150kW electric motor. That results in acceleration that’s enthusiastic but not jaw-dropping, going from 0 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. The rest of the car looks a lot like the stock Mini Cooper, except for those blaring electric car graphics that let all onlookers know how this go-kart gets its kick.
The 500 cars will be leased to glamorous customers in hopes of attracting attention to the fact that BMW is, you know, doing something about electric cars. After this year-long Mini E test is done, BMW says it’ll build an electric car from the ground up, but didn’t say what would happen to these cute little electro-buggies.
Read the rest of Charlie’s blog on DVICE.com
y Rachel Gray, iVillage.com
Are you starting to get creative with the peppers, tomatoes and zucchini that are still hanging around from your fall harvest?
Check out what artist Ellen Hoverkamp is doing with the exquisite colors, shapes and textures of vegetables, fruits and flowers. She uses a process called “scanner photography” to create life-like images that are so crisp and deep, they seem almost three dimensional.
Learn more about her work and how to order her incredible prints that any garden lover will adore.
Rachel Gray, Associate Producer
“Greening” the company line is standard practice in the electronics
industry, and we’ve been getting plenty of it here at CES 2009. After
all, if washing machine A uses half as much energy as machine B, it
must be better for the environment.
If only power consumption was the sole culprit, then corporations
really would be as green as they claim to be. The industry has plenty
of massive hurdles to clear in non-recyclable components,
phantom/standby energy, harmful byproducts caused by manufacturing
processes and — the worst — electronic waste.
So what makes a company come off as having nothing more than a green tongue, and who’s actually walking the walk?
By Lisa Kiss, asaphouse.com
Not that long ago, maybe four or five years my kids and I went to our monthly visit to the Museum of Natural History to see an IMAX film about the depleting coral reefs. A few words uttered in that film triggered something in me to make me realize I had to act and not just be a spectator anymore. They said that in just 40 years these reefs may all be gone! 40 years! At the end of the film there was a website where one could go to help fight to save the coral reefs. Well, I went to that site, http://www.reefcheck.org, and from there I eventually signed on to some others, and once I was signed up I began getting their newsletters and action e-mails. In a matter of a month or two I was signing hundreds of petitions and internet action letters on issues of global warming. It was like a domino effect. I began reading up a storm – finding out more and more about all the other ways in which our planet is suffering at our own hands. The planet’s assets that have allowed living things to thrive for millions of years are now being taken for granted and all our lives are at risk and we must face the serious challenges of change. My shock and initiative to stop sitting idle was pronounced in just those few words. 40 years. The thought that our own children will not be living in the world as it is now. And, what would they say to us as they watched it all change? When did we know and why didn’t we do anything about it?
I am writing this entry to say how this one day triggered a life shift for me and my family. A trigger that turned inertia into action, how one change then led to another and then so many others in our lives. I wanted to tell you about just a couple of really big ones here. We literally changed how we live, eat, shop and sleep. It has even changed how we make our living.
Three years ago we needed a new car. My husband knew about the Prius, he mentioned it briefly but he thought it would be too small for us. It was hard to even see one on any Toyota lot. Finally we found one on a lot, but the dealer could not open it up for us to even sit in because it was for a customer. We looked in the window and knew we wanted it. If it was the only car on the road with the best available gas mileage, then that was going to be our new car! We got one without even sitting in or test driving it before ours arrived. At the time, everyone was saying how the price is not commensurate with what you may or may not save on gas, but this was not the point to us. We were buying this car because of what it could do to cut down on CO2 emissions and oil useage! And, by the way, we so save money on gas – every month!
Light bulbs? Where could we buy these new light bulbs? Once we found them we weren’t going to buy just one. Sure, everyone was saying how much more expensive they were. Again, we are not thinking of the purchase as “what a light bulb usually should cost”, it was for a bigger purpose, and we were not going to just change one light bulb in the house. Why not change as many as we could while we were doing it?
These purchases I speak about making are not easy for everyone, I know this. But, what frustrates us is when a family can afford it, why do they choose not to?
The biggest purchase of all was our home. My husband, Laszlo Kiss, is a great architect. So, when we sold our home we hoped to build our first house for ourselves as a zero energy house. He knew that to stay within a budget we could afford we had to build it as a prefabricated house in a factory, not stick build it. But, it had to be Zero Energy designed with a floor plan that wasted no space. It took a long time to figure this all out for just the right price. This two year project has now become our new family owned business. The house is now being marketed to the general public as one of the first Green Prefabricated homes of it’s kind in the northeast that has the Solar and Geothermal energy systems included in it’s overall price! We have called it the ASAP House – House About Saving A Planet! (ASAP because it has to happen As Soon As Possible plus prefab helps get the house there ASAP!)
For my husband and I, the past three years have seemed like getting a mini graduate degree with all the reading and knowledge we have acquired. Researching and brainstorming and formulating some really innovative ideas of how to help our own communities to be as inspired as we have been in just this short period of time. If it could happen to us and change our way of thinking about so many things, then it certainly could happen for lots of other people as well. Obviously the wave is occurring and more and more people are stepping up and making great changes, but not enough to really impact the kind of change needed.
We wanted to figure out how to make more happen in our own neighborhood in a big way. We came up with a great idea for a non profit organization that would act like a Carbon Offset program that would create more renewable energy systems across Long Island. We call this company GreenLIEF – Green Long Island Energy Fund. (The word “Lief” in old English means willing and able!) All the money raised will be distributed right back into our own region, not sent half way across the world. The sole reason and idea for this stems right from the “trigger” idea again. Once you see your own neighbor or local store up the block putting up solar panels or espousing all they have just done to reduce their own “carbon footprint” it is now “in your air space”. By trying something for yourself, or hearing about someone else you know and respect trying something. We learn from each other. We may not always be open to hearing or seeing a lot of things all the time, but if it is happening more and more in your own backyard it gets harder and harder to miss! This is the goal and this was how our lives changed so completely.
Some of our most valuable insights came from organizations such as: Native Energy, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Rocky Mountain Institute. All three of these organizations are innovators in the field of getting more renewable energy into our communities and fast!
VP Sales and Marketting, asaphouse.com
By Richard Bicknell, Universal Studios Home Entertainment Canada
Earlier this year, we started a “Green Committee” at Universal Studios Video. This group has absolutely attacked the issues and opportunities inherent with all things ‘green’ with an energy that quite frankly took my by surprise. I always knew that we had a passionate team but from a personal level it was wonderful to know that I spend my days with so many people who share in my concerns and beliefs about this critical issue.
One of the first things the team thought of was DVD packaging. Traditionally in a polypropylene-based case, the idea was to develop a plastic-free alternative. Working with a Canadian supplier several prototypes were created until we had landed on one that we felt would satisfy our environmental standards. All we needed was a title to launch it with – then along came EVAN ALMIGHTY, with its themes of eco-responsibility and production effort to zero out its environmental impact, EVAN ALMIGHTY was the perfect and natural choice.
Our package uses paper endorsed by the Forest Stewardship Council, soy-based inks and a waterless printing process that eliminates ink getting into ground water and producing VOCs – volatile organic compounds – which have been linked to global warming. Our slim eco-pack also fits 100 to a box – thus requiring less impact on the environment from a shipping perspective. This Canadian-initiative was launched on DVD on October the 9th. Early sales support what consumers told us during our package testing in the summer – that a vast majority would continue to buy the same amount of DVDs even if all of them came in this package. Music to our ears but more importantly great news for our planet!
Richard Bicknell, VP Marketing
Universal Studios Home Entertainment Canada
By Diana Olick, CNBC.com
If you think your car is an environmental monster, then be afraid, very afraid, of your house. I was covering a major home building conference last February when I heard an incredible factoid: your house leaves a bigger carbon footprint than your car. Why? Because, unlike your car, it is ALWAYS running.
So I went home to my hundred-year-old wood and stucco house in DC and started to re-evaluate. Green building is one thing, but the bulk of houses in America are old, so the best we can do is what those in the enviro-industry call “retro-fit” our homes.
Now I’ll admit, I’m not a rabid recycler. I’ve got the bin, but let’s face it, with everything else I’ve got to sort out in my life (husband, two kids, full-time job), sorting the trash just isn’t always in the program. But suddenly I’m juiced; I’ve spent two days at a conference hearing about how I can make my home more environmentally friendly, and I even visited a model “retro-fit” home. This can’t be that hard.
I’m good on the leaky windows. We had them all replaced with Andersen Renewal windows, not because of the heat that we were losing but because of the wind that was coming in. So much for the motivation there. But I have to say, it was pricey! Close to $10,000 for the whole house!!! Now I’m looking at my appliances. I’m cooking with gas, which I think is good, but I’ve got two dishwashers that run for two hours each.
Thank goodness one of them recently broke, so I went online to look at the energy saver models. Unfortunately, the better the energy savings, the less the cost savings. I’m waiting for a sale at Sears, but I guess I’m saving energy because the dishwasher sits there, broken, and so I’m not using it, right?
There’s a lot of talk about water, saving it, cleaning it, recycling it. I recently finished an addition to my home, adding a master bathroom…with a dousing rain-head shower head. I’m sorry, I love it. Sue me. I do use Brita water filters, so as to save on buying bottled water, and all the plastic involved in that. Ok, lighting. I went to the hardware store and bought compact fluorescent bulbs, but I’ve yet to actually put one in because I don’t want to waste the mega-box of regular bulbs I had already bought at Costco. Waste not!
Heating and air. We have a two-zone heating and air-conditioning system, which is a check in the plus column, right? And I’ve programmed both zones so that they don’t run during the day when nobody’s at home, and the downstairs is off while we’re all sleeping upstairs.
Of course, this can be a problem when you forget, like when my daughter was home sick from school last week. She didn’t have a fever, but was sweating profusely. As a matter of fact, so was I. Did I catch her bug?? I started to panic, until I finally realized that it was 90 degrees outside, and the AC wasn’t on, thanks to all my enviro-friendly programming.
Now I should be thinking about insulation, solar, low-flow toilets and composting in the back yard. But DC doesn’t get that cold, solar panels cost a fortune, low-flow toilets sound somehow unsanitary to me (I have absolutely no basis for that comment other than emotional) and I can’t even get my husband to cut the grass himself, so composting is about as likely as world peace. The best I can do right now is yell at my kids to shut off the lights.
From Environmental Leader
The U.S. is ready to accept “binding international obligations” on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to James Connaughton and Daniel Price, environmental and economics advisers to President Bush, BBC reports. The Bush administration wants some kind of binding commitment from major developing countries such as China, India and Brazil.
“The U.S. is prepared to enter into binding international obligations to reduce greenhouse gases as part of a global agreement in which all major economies similarly undertake binding international obligations,” said Price, the president’s deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs.
On the heels of this announcement, EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas has traveled to the U.S. for talks on a possible binding international agreement on reducing greenhouse gases, The Australian reports.
An agreement could be announced “in conjunction” with the G8 summit of the world’s must industrialized nations in Japan in July.
At the Bali conference in December, the EU wanted an agreement to require developed countries to cut their emissions by 25 to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020 to be included in the Bali Plan. The U.S., Japan and Canada opposed those targets. When these specific guidelines were removed from wording about future emission cuts, a compromise was reached which sets the stage for global warming negotiations that will end in 2009.
In addition to today’s news concerning the U.S., major emissions news has been reported from Japan and Canada recently.
Japan is considering compulsory caps on greenhouse gas emissions and a domestic emissions trading scheme for its reluctant companies as it is expected to make tougher commitments in the post-Kyoto Protocol phase, Reuters reported last week.
British Columbia delivered a budget last week that included a carbon tax, CTV reports. On July 1, 2008, the province will begin phasing in the carbon tax, which will hit gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, propane, and home heating fuel. The starting rate will be based on $10 per tonne of carbon emissions, and rise $5 a year to $30 per tonne by 2012.
By Jimmy Wong, amoswong.com
In recent news, the Nordic nations (Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland) via a joint statement have raised the alarm over the melting Arctic. They are worried that this phenomenon will have irreversible consequences, threatening livelihood and doubling the rate of ice melt.
United Nations (UN) has put the blame on burning fossil fuel for this melt. While the nations and head of states work on their protocols and what needs to be done, I have already start practicing “environmental-friendly” life whenever and wherever possible. How? Read on for some of my many ways.
Many of us own a car; the more fortunate ones own more than one. A huge majority of our cars run on fossil fuel; the remaining minority operates on biofuel, natural gas, liquid petroleum gas, hydrogen and electricity. My car runs on fossil fuel because I cannot afford Honda’s new hydrogen car. I drive my car everyday and each minute I burn fossil fuel and contribute to the overall rise in global temperature, although in a minute way.
What I practice are ways to reduce the burning of fossil fuel and at the same time, saving me money against the rising global fossil fuel price. As you may know, Malaysia is right smack in the tropical region and hence is a very hot place. Using the car’s air conditioning consumes about 20% extra fuel. For me, whenever my car is cooled down, I turn off the air conditioning. Call me crazy, call me a fool, but switching off air-conditioning whenever you don’t need it saves fuel, saves money and saves the environment. Fixing heat reflecting films helps a great deal.
I have already changed the way I drive, from being heavy footed to very light. I seldom accelerate more than what is required, using momentum to help push the car, thereby reducing fuel consumption. I also reduce the need to hard brake by looking further ahead, decelerate much earlier on whenever I see traffic ahead.
These simple methods have helped me reduce my fuel consumption by some 15%; at the same time, reducing the emission by the same margin. Can you imagine if 20 million Malaysians reduce 15% emission? Malaysia will have a very blue sky.
By Mary Beth Gonzalez, iVillage.com
Call me ungrateful but I’m a bit disappointed at some of the “Green” Christmas gifts I received this year. My feelings aren’t aimed at the gift givers – in fact – I’m deeply touched that so many people who bought me a gift this year recognized that I would prefer an eco-friendly product. I am upset however how easily well-intentioned “very light Greeners” can unknowingly buy something much less Green then they had expected.
- Harry and David’s online catalog seductively describes the Triple Treat Collection as “Super-premium fruit – selected by America’s fruit authorities. You won’t find fruit this wholesome and extraordinary at the supermarket.” The box included fresh oranges, fresh pears and fresh apples but then printed in small letters on the packing box: “coated with a food grade vegetable, petroleum, beeswax, and/or shellac based wax or resin to maintain freshness.” I kid you not. I could see my pupils in the shellac on the apples. I called Harry and David to inquire as to what exactly was in the shellac and neither Terry, the customer service rep, nor her manager knew but said that it was “simply there to make the fruit shiny and pretty and can easily be washed off”. She then kindly offered to research it and get back to me within a few days (by which time the fruit will likely have spoiled). Now Harry and David make no claims that their fruit is organic, and I realize they must be using approved shellacs, but I’m confident that my brother-in-law had no idea that his gift of fresh fruit would be covered in shiny chemicals.
- EcoExpress.com promotes their eco-website with this tagline “Uncommon Gifts for the Common Good“. Admittedly, some of their gift basket items are organic and some support rain forest conservation. But many of their products are simply fancy Gourmet goodies such as sun-dried tomatoes, Italian breadsticks, stuffed olives and dried portabella mushrooms. An avid label reader, I searched for what made these products eco-friendly or perhaps organic but to no avail. Yet I’m sure that my well-meaning brother thought that he was sending us a Green gift from this self-labeled “eco-minded” website.
- Barielle’s 10 piece natural nail care system: Knowing that I blog about natural beauty products, a close friend sent me this “natural” nail care system. Surprise! Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep score is a high 7 (on a 1-10 scale) with 92% of other nail care systems having lower environmental toxicity concerns. Nothing very eco or natural about that and then I realized that their “natural” means as opposed to “artificial” nails. How confusing…
As pleased as I am that companies are now making an eco-friendly lifestyle more accessible to mainstream consumers, I’m concerned about how easily people with the best Green motivations can purchase gifts not knowing the full picture. Caveat emptor (which we all learned from The Brady Bunch is Latin for “let the buyer beware”) is more necessary than ever in a market where products labeled “natural” may not be and “wholesome” might mean covered with chemicals. And don’t even get me started on how many genuinely Green presents arrived packed in Styrofoam peanuts…
What were your Green gifts experiences this season? Did they thrill or disappoint? Please share your own stories as we walk this perilous Green path together.
Mary Beth Gonzalez
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