Archive for July, 2010

Brewery’s Bio Energy Plant

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 30th, 2010

Source: Food Climate Research Network (FCRN)

Image: Hops by Susan Simon via flickr CC

The brewery Adnams has announced the completion of the construction phase of an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant, which will be the first in the UK to use brewery and local food waste to produce renewable gas for injection into the national gas grid as well as providing gas for use as a vehicle fuel. In partnership with British Gas and the National Grid, the facility will start injecting renewable gas into the gas grid later this summer. It is intended that the facility will produce enough renewable gas to power the Adnams brewery and run its fleet of lorries, while still leaving up to 60 per cent of the output for injection into the National Grid.

The Adnams Bio Energy plant consists of three digesters – sealed vessels in which naturally-occurring bacteria act without oxygen to break down up to 12,500 tonnes of organic waste each year. The result is the production of biomethane as well as a liquid organic fertiliser.

In addition, following an agreement with Centrica – the parent company of British Gas, Adnams Bio Energy has deployed British solar thermal panels and will shortly install cutting edge photovoltaic cells, which will in effect create a mini energy park.The deal will ensure that all of the site, including the Adnams Distribution Centre, will be using renewable energy generated on-site with some surplus energy available for export.

Read the full press release for more information.

Bicycle-Based Coffee Service

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 29th, 2010

Source: Springwise

Brooklyn-based Kickstand Coffee uses two bicycles, a fold-up stand and a hand-cranked grinder to serve up sustainable hot and cold coffee at events around NY City.  Kickstand’s stated goal is to provide the best possible cup of coffee to community events in NYC with the smallest environmental impact possible.

The brainchild of three baristas, Kickstand Coffee relies on two 160-pound rolling carts that are each towed to location by a custom-built bicycle, according to a report on Once there, the carts unfold and attach to create a 9-foot-long bar that includes everything the trio need to make coffee. Beans are hand-ground on a cup-by-cup basis, and the iced coffee is cold-brewed; only Kickstand’s hot coffee – brewed on location using specially adapted Chemex glass beakers—uses any propane or electricity. The company is working on a mini folding bicycle that customers will be able to use to grind their own beans. Pricing for Kickstand’s coffee is USD 2.50 per cup, hot or cold.

Read the Springwise article.

Greening My Office Blog: First Success!

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on July 21st, 2010

Source: Greening My Office via The Ecologist

Image: petrr via flickr CC

From I got them to switch the heating off! by Sylvia Sunshine:

My office is over 70 square foot in size, but only half of the space is ever being used at one time. The other half lies empty.  The organisation that pays my wage rents a large office space and sublets out to two other companies. However, my company has been unable to sublet the remaining space on the floor.  According to research by the property agent NB Real Estate, there is now over 10 million square foot of office space lying empty in London alone, up from 7.8 million in 2008. The capital has been left with over 10 per cent of its offices empty, with the situation at its most drastic in the West End (where I’m based).  And of course, with this waste comes the predictable onslaught of environmental damage.

Because there are so few people in the space I’m in, it takes more energy to heat, in both real and relative terms. Furthermore, in the empty office adjacent to my office, we heat the entire space day and night, even though it lies vacant (and has done for nearly a year).

The next morning I approach the company head honcho about the empty space in our office.  ‘No one wants to buy at the moment,’ he says. ‘We’ve tried to lower to price too, but nothing seems to work’.

‘Can we switch off the heating in there?’ I murmur, head hanging low over a bowl of organic museli.  My boss looks at me carefully. I can see the cogs turning as he remembers previous conversations. As time stands still I think he’s about to upbraid me for being too much of a goody (non-leather) two shoes. But instead of attacking me – as has become par for the course – he glances over to Jill and squawks: ‘Can we get building services to switch off the heating in the other offices? Rooms 2a and 2b? They’re not being used at the moment, are they?’

‘Sure,’ Jill shouts back across the empty office, ‘I’ll email the landlord now’.

‘Wow,’ I think. No qualms, no questions and no awkward silences. Just action. Maybe my technique is improving? Or maybe some kind of sea change is underway?

Read more about Sylvia Sunshine’s efforts.

Extending Value: The Life Box

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 19th, 2010

Source: Core 77

From “The Life Box: Packaging That Turns Into Trees“:

Now this is some truly brilliant package design: Mycologist Paul Stamets’ Life Box, a simple cardboard box impregnated with a mixture of Department-of-Agriculture-approved seeds.

The Life Box suite of products builds upon the synergy of fungi and plants by infusing spores and seeds together inside of packaging materials that can be planted.  The Tree Life Box is made of recycled paper fiber. In this fiber, we have inserted a wide variety of tree seeds, up to a hundred, dusted with mycorrhizal fungal spores. The mycorrhizal fungi protect and nurture the young seedlings. For millions of years, plants and beneficial fungi have joined together in a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship.

You can get started by simply tearing up the box, planting in soil, and watering.

The fungi “sprout” or germinate to form an attachment with root cells and extend into the soil with a network of fine cobweb of cells called mycelium. The mycelium mothers the seed nursery by providing nutrients and water, thus protecting the growing trees from disease, drought, and famine.

Stamets estimates that 1 tree out of 100 will survive to the 30-year mark, at which point it will have sequestered one ton of carbon. And how’s this for an endorsement: Al Gore is shipping his new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, in Life Boxes.

Read the full article on Core 77.

Retro-Fitting Suburbia: TED Talk

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on July 16th, 2010

Source: TED

Images above: Suburban retrofits contribute to sustainability in a variety of ways, most of which are manifest at Belmar in Lakewood, CO. It replaces an auto-dependent, private mall with an urban, walkable, and bus-served mix of uses and public spaces. It provides a range of housing types, diverse architectural styles, and variety of cultural activities, including but not limited to shopping, with the intention that it function as a downtown. It also uses green bonds to finance rooftop photovoltaics and a small wind farm.

Ellen Dunham-Jones fires the starting shot for the next 50 years’ big sustainable design project: Retrofitting Suburbia – dying malls rehabilitated, dead “big box” stores re-inhabited, parking lots transformed into thriving wetlands.  Ellen Dunham-Jones teaches architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is an award-winning architect and a board member of the Congress for the New Urbanism. She shows how design of where we live impacts some of the most pressing issues of our times — reducing our ecological footprint and energy consumption while improving our health and communities and providing living options for all ages.

Dunham-Jones is widely recognized as a leader in finding solutions for aging suburbs. She is the co-author of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs. She and co-author June Williamson share more than 50 case studies across North America of “underperforming asphalt properties” that have been redesigned and redeveloped into walkable, sustainable vital centers of community—libraries, city halls, town centers, schools and more.

Watch the TED talk.

Greening the Concrete Jungle: Report

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on July 14th, 2010

Source: The Ecologist

From “Trees a ‘low-cost’ solution to air pollution and biodiversity loss in cities“:

Native woods and trees in urban areas, including gardens, provide haven for wildlife, reduce air pollution, surface run-off and flooding  Reversing the declining numbers of native trees and woods in cities would provide numerous benefits at ‘relatively little cost’, says a report from the Woodland Trust.  As well as access to green space, the report, ‘Greening the Concrete Jungle‘, says trees provide a wide range of free ecosystem services including reducing the risk of surface water flooding and improving air quality that could save millions in flood defence and healthcare costs.

The UK has one of the world’s highest rates of childhood asthma, around 15 per cent, particularly amongst lower socio-economic groups in urban areas. Research shows asthma rates among children aged four to five falls by a quarter for every additional 343 trees per square km, as they help keep the air clean and breathable and reduce ambient temperature.  Trees are also able to reduce the pressure on the drainage system during flooding. The University of Manchester has shown that increasing tree cover in urban areas by 10 per cent reduces surface water run-off by almost 6 per cent.  A major international study published earlier this year, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), put the global value of services provided by forests and biodiveristy at between £1.2-2.8 trillion a year.

Despite these ‘invisible’ benefits, the report says urban tree cover is actually deteriorating in many areas, with concerns over tree safety and insurance claims as well as development. Many places have seen a decline in older trees with large spreading crowns, replaced with smaller, more manageable alternatives. Smaller crowned trees have less capacity to intercept rain.  Fewer than 10 per cent of city dwellers have access to local woodland within 500m of their homes. Evidence suggests proximity to a wood encourages physical exercise, whilst a woodland walk lowers the heart rate and mental stress.

The Woodland Trust said socially disadvantaged groups were the most likely to lose out with around two-thirds of urban trees in private or less accessible public grounds. It is campaigning to plant 20 million native trees annually accross the UK for the next 50 years.

‘Towns and cities also tend to put into sharp relief some of the key problems we are facing as a society – physical and mental health problems, childhood obesity and asthma, differences between rich and poor, air pollution, soaring summer temperatures, flash flooding, energy conservation, diminishing wildlife – so they are a good place to start when trying to illustrate just where green space can deliver significant improvements for relatively little cost,’ said report author Mike Townsend.

Read the full article on The Ecologist.

Sustainable South Bronx: Community-Scale Action

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 12th, 2010

Via PostCarbon Institute

Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx) is a community organisation dedicated to Environmental Justice solutions through innovative, economically sustainable projects that are informed by community needs. In 2001, SSBx was created to address policy and planning issues like land use, energy, transportation, water, waste, education, and, most recently, design and manufacturing.

The Hunts Point neighbourhood in the South Bronx is one of New York City’s last remaining industrial areas. On the one hand, the neighborhood has numerous assets, including a waterfront location on the Bronx and East Rivers, proximity to Manhattan, the economic engine of the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center (the second largest in the world), new City-led development projects, waterfront parks, and a strong local organisational infrastructure. Simultaneously, it exhibits one of the highest poverty and unemployment levels in the City, with poor community health, noxious uses and commercial traffic, substance abuse, and prostitution issues.

Caught in the middle of these pressures are approximately 11,000 residents who have been neglected, under-served by the neighbourhood local economy. The one-square mile area of Hunts Point is bound by the Bruckner Expressway to the north and west, and the Bronx and East Rivers to the south and east.

Sustainable South Bronx has a diverse range of ongoing projects which deliver multiple benefits.  The South Bronx Greenway, for example, will create bike & pedestrian paths to connect key areas, but will also provide spaces for physical recreation, improve local travel options and create more employment, as well as improving air quality and reducing the heat island effect.

Visit their website for a better insight into the range of programs this 9-year old organisation delivers.

Food Hub: Connecting Regional Producers & Consumers

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 9th, 2010

Source: Springwise

From “Site connects producers and buyers of local food“:

The locavore movement may be focusing new interest on locally produced food, but regional farmers, ranchers and fishermen continue to struggle to find a market for their products. That’s as true in the Pacific Northwest as everywhere else, which is why Portland, Ore., nonprofit Ecotrust created FoodHub.

Launched late last year, FoodHub aims to increase food trade in the Pacific Northwest by connecting food buyers of all types and sizes with local farmers, ranchers, fishermen and food manufacturers. For food sellers, FoodHub offers an easy way to let buyers know what products are available and how to make contact to complete a sale. For food buyers—including local restaurants, public schools, grocery stores, caterers, universities and hospitals—FoodHub provides a robust database of food products that are available. Customisable search features allow a buyer to hone in on the exact product specifications they’re seeking — “pallet quantities of Northwest-grown certified organic black eyed peas,” for example. After paying an annual membership fee of USD 100, both buyers and sellers can create detailed online profiles; FoodHub’s message center, meanwhile, streamlines communications.

Deborah Kane, vice president of Ecotrust’s Food & Farms program, explains:“FoodHub is designed to be a one-stop-shop for the chef who needs six dozen artichokes for a menu special, the baker looking for a local source for flour, or the large institutional food buyer whose purchasing power could significantly stabilise a family farm.”

Currently, FoodHub is open to food buyers and sellers of all types in Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. However, Ecotrust intends to make the FoodHub platform available to qualified partners in other parts of the country as well.

EV Recharge Stations: Re-purposed Phone Booths

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 7th, 2010

From “Phone booths repurposed to charge electric vehicles“:

Now that mobile phones are ubiquitous, public phone booths are fast becoming obsolete. In a bid to find a viable new use for its 13,500 phone booths around the country, Telekom Austria has begun converting them into battery recharging stations for electric cars, scooters and motorbikes.  Unveiling its first phone booth-turned-recharging station in front of the company’s Vienna headquarters in May, Telekom Austria announced plans to convert an additional 29 phone booths by the end of this year. During the initial trial period, recharging is free. The company eventually plans to charge a single-digit euro sum for the recharging service, with payments to be made via mobile phone.

Telekom Austria’s forward-thinking scheme comes at a time when, of the total 4.36 million cars on Austrian roads, there are only 223 electric cars and 3,559 hybrid cars registered -the Austrian motor vehicle association, VOeC, predicts that the number of electric vehicles in Austria will rise to 405,000 by 2020.

The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises

Posted in Movements, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on July 6th, 2010

How do population, water, energy, food, and climate issues impact one another? What can we do to address one problem without making the others worse? The Post Carbon Reader features essays by some of the world’s most provocative thinkers on the key issues shaping our new century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and community resilience. This insightful collection takes a hard-nosed look at the interconnected threats of our global sustainability quandary and presents some of the most promising responses.

In 2009, Post Carbon Institute recruited 29 of the world’s leading sustainability thinkers to answer one fundamental question: How do we manage the transition to a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable world?

Like us, our Fellows see five key truths:

* We have hit the “limits to growth.” This is not a moral question (or not only one); nor is it merely a question about the fate of our children and grandchildren. The truth is that we have no choice but to adapt to a world of resource constraints, economic contraction, and climate upheaval. And thus the only question that remains is this: How will we manage that transition?

* No issue can be addressed in isolation. Thankfully, recognition of these crises has grown in recent years. However, all too often they are viewed in isolation. We must connect the dots in order to get to their source — not just their symptoms — and to maximize what little time and resources we have to address the enormous challenges they pose.

* We must focus on responses, not just solutions. As John Michael Greer says, we face a predicament, not a problem. “The difference is that a problem calls for a solution; the only question is whether a solution can be found and made to work and, once this is done, the problem is solved. A predicament, by contrast, has no solution. Faced with a predicament, people come up with responses.”

* We must prepare for uncertainty. While the general trends are clear, it’s simply impossible to predict, specifically, how world events will unfold. Therefore, it’s critically important that we aim to build resilience on the individual and community scales. Resilient people and resilient communities are characterised by their ability to manage unforeseen shocks while maintaining their essential identity.

* We can do something. The bad news is that we simply cannot avoid hardship or suffering in the journey from a fossil fuel- and growth-dependent world to communities that live within ecological bounds. The good news is that we can prepare and make positive changes in almost any area of our lives and the lives of our communities. How much and how successful those efforts are all depends upon the thought and effort we invest.

The first step, as we saw it, was to aggregate the most current, systems-oriented thinking about these interconnected threats, as well as the most promising responses. The outcome of this effort — The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises — will hit bookstores and classrooms in October 2010.

The Reader includes 35 essays by 28 Post Carbon Institute Fellows, including Bill McKibben, Richard Heinberg, Stephanie Mills, David Orr, Sandra Postel, Michael Shuman, Wes Jackson, Erika Allen, Bill Ryerson, Gloria Flora, and many other leading sustainability thinkers.