VeeV Greens the Liquor Industry with Sustainable Spirits Made from Acai

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When brothers Courtney and Carter Reum decided to launch a spirits company, they were open to different possibilities—but one element of the concept was a certainty. “We knew it would include a sustainability component,” Courtney Reum says. “Nobody was doing anything sustainable in alcohol. There was a lack of innovation. So we realized we had a chance to do something really unique.”

The brothers resigned their positions as investment bankers with Goldman Sachs and set out to “green” the liquor industry.

That was four years and more than 500,000 bottles ago. Since the first 7,500-bottle batch of VeeV Acai Spirit™ came off the line at Rigby, Idaho-based Distilled Resources Inc., this duo has racked up some pretty compelling eco-cred….

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Organic Winemakers: Napa Valley’s Stewards of the Land

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The story of ZD Wines is a family saga—a family as principled about the environment as it is dedicated to wine making.

It’s evident as soon as you pull into the parking lot, where, you’ll note, everyone on staff drives a hybrid. “Except our CEO,” Dustin Moilanen, the vineyard’s hospitality director, explains. Winemaster Robert deLeuze’s car is all-electric. “He plugs it in at his solar-powered home, so his commute to work is completely ‘green.’ ”

For the ride home, he can charge up at the winery, where 712 solar panels generate more electricity than the entire facility can use. “The excess is returned to the grid,” Molainen assures his visitors….

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Electronics TakeBack Coalition Promotes Producer Responsibility

February 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, E-Stewards, E-Waste, EPA, Front Page, Recycling, Slideshow

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Our home stands on top of a toxic waste dump.

And if you’re stockpiling obsolete electronics in the house, so does yours.

That clunky old CRT computer monitor or TV that’s currently collecting dust in the basement, attic, closet, or garage contains anywhere from 4 to 8 pounds of lead. The new flatscreen LCD monitor you replaced it with contains far less lead, so you might think it would be safer for the environment.

Actually, it’s not…

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National Cristina Foundation — Connecting Used Technology to Worthy Recipients

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“The National Cristina Foundation (NCF) is a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the support of training through donated technology,” says the organization’s website. In 1984, NCF co-founders, businessman David Bruce McMahan and special education instructor Yvette Marrin experienced an “aha moment,” when McMahan’s daughter, Cristina, one of Marrin’s students, suggested her father could provide the school with much-needed computer equipment. McMahan and Marrin made a critical connection between problem and solution that resulted in the establishment of the National Cristina Foundation.

They saw a way to address the convergence of several issues: managing the increasing stockpile of millions of obsolete computers, the benefit access to computers offers disabled and disadvantaged people, and the environmental challenge of responsible reuse and recycling of outdated electronics.

“We felt sure that computers coming out of their first place of use, where they were considered of little value, could be transferred to places where they would be of great value,” Marrin stated. Since that time, the foundation has worked to assure that no functioning equipment that can be repurposed is ever wasted….

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Basel Action Network — Part of the E-Waste Solution

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The Basel Action Network (BAN), is “a global toxic-trade watchdog organization” that works to prevent the dumping of used electronics from wealthy nations to developing nations. With so many companies and charitable organizations offering to collect your used computer, flatscreen TV, or cell phone, consumers are often lulled into the illusion that our used goods are going to be used for good. Instead, many of them end up dismantled, burned, and dumped in Ghana, China, Nigeria, and other developing nations.

BAN — named for the Basel Convention, the UN-administered agreement that regulates hazardous waste shipment — is the world’s foremost organization focused on confronting the environmental and economic ramifications of toxic trade. Working to prevent disproportionate and unsustainable dumping of the world’s toxic waste and pollution on the poorest nations, BAN actively promotes sustainable and just solutions to the consumption and waste crisis — banning waste trade, while advocating green, toxic-free design of consumer products….

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The Basel Convention — Protecting Developing Nations from E-Waste

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When industrialized countries began regulating the disposal of hazardous wastes in the 1980s, disposal costs skyrocketed. The cost-efficient solution they arrived at was “toxic trading” — the shipment of hazardous waste to developing countries and Eastern Europe.

International outrage from this practice resulted in the adoption of the Basel Convention, a UN-administered set of guidelines for controlling the movement of hazardous wastes across international borders. The Basel Convention ultimately banned the export of hazardous waste from richer countries to poorer ones….

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Computer Recycling – The Downside of Upgrading

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In an era when prices for goods are escalating while product quality seems to be decreasing (“they don’t make ’em like they used to”), electronics equipment is one bright spot on the consumer landscape. The products keep improving, and the prices keep dropping. That flash drive you’re carrying is about the size of a stick of gum, yet it has quadruple the storage capacity of the laptop you were using on the job ten years ago. With all these advancements in the computer arena, why not upgrade?

The downside of upgrading is disposing of all that old equipment. You can’t sell it, and you can’t give it away. Your local charities and schools won’t accept electronics donations — you’ve checked. So you make the environmentally responsible decision to recycle. Congratulations, you’re living green.

Or are you?

What if you knew that the obsolete cellphones, TVs, and computers you just recycled with a clear conscience are on their way to a “burn village” in China? …

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Earth-Friendly Fashion Cry – “Save the Ties!”

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A few years ago Brooke Costello couldn’t use the word “recycled” in describing the unique line of fashion accessories she produces at the helm of her independent Chicago-based design company, Tongue Tied.

“That didn’t help the sale,” she explains. “So I coined the term ‘respirited.’ I’ve seen it used by other people since, but I believe that term originated with me.”

Now the association of her wares with the recycling movement contributes substantially to the bottom line. “People across every socioeconomic level are responding to the concept,” she says. “Shopping in resale boutiques is born of the philosophy that you don’t have to spend a king’s ransom to wear couture.” …

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Retail Food Safety – Who’s Minding the Meat?

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According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the operations typically conducted at point of retail sale include breaking up of meat shipments, cutting, slicing and trimming of carcasses, grinding, freezing, and packaging for individual sale. All of these operations offer plenty of opportunity for bacteria to be fruitful and multiply.

Of all the cuts of meat we buy, ground beef represents the highest potential health hazard. To begin with, ground meat is subject to the greatest amount of handling, which increases the risk of exposure to contamination. In addition, ground beef frequently combines meats from countries whose regulatory standards differ from our own.

But should that really pose a problem? …

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What’s for Dinner? Piedmontese Beef from Heartland Meats

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Regarding food, most of us used to ask just one simple question: “What’s for dinner?” But in these enlightened times, we now realize the implications of how we nourish ourselves reach far beyond health and personal preference, into political, environmental, and moral territory.

We still want to know what’s for dinner, but we also want to know a whole lot more: Where was it grown? How was it transported? Under what conditions was it produced? Does it contain chemical additives? Will it raise my cholesterol level or cause an allergic reaction? Can I afford it? And, by the way, how does it taste?

John Sondgeroth of Heartland Meats, Inc. thinks you deserve to know the answers to all these questions. …

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Farmers’ Markets – Delicious Produce and a Whole Lot More

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Shopping at a farmers’ market — a staple of village life throughout history — is healthier for you while also being a socially and environmentally responsible act for your community. Buying locally grown food direct from the producer ensures that the produce you purchase is fresher — therefore, more nutritious, with superior taste and texture — than anything you’d be able to buy from a supermarket. Keeping food dollars circulating locally directly benefits your local economy. And, by not shipping produce over long distances, you reduce both fuel and excess packaging, which benefits the environment….

After visiting at least a dozen Chicago area farmers’ markets over the past few months, Blue Planet Green Living’s Chicago-based crew has selected two of our favorites for an in-depth look. Among the longest-running and best-attended markets in the metro area, they offer not only a superior selection of quality goods, but also a number of educational and special programs that benefit their communities. …

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My 5: David Blume, Executive Director, International Institute for Ecological Agriculture

September 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Agriculture, Biofuels, Blog, Books, Front Page, My 5, Organic

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Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked David Blume, Founder and Executive Director of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture, author of Alcohol Can Be A Gas, and a frequent speaker at ecological, sustainability and agricultural conferences throughout the Americas, “What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?” Here are his responses.

BLUME:
* Stop buying oil. Replace oil with ethanol. Ethanol is a clean burning, high octane fuel that sells for around $1.80 a gallon. You don’t even have to pay more to do the right thing.

* Only buy organic products. Vote with your dollars to send the message that you’re not going to continue doing business as usual…

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Chicago Hosts First Annual Carbon Day Festival

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Chicago-area environmentalists gathered in Lincoln Park on September 15 to celebrate Carbon Day, which the Illinois state legislature designated as an official state holiday earlier this year, as reported on Blue Planet Green Living. The festival was ideally sited amid a beautiful stand of shade trees and conifers adjacent to Lincoln Park’s Farm in the Zoo. The event featured demonstrations, educational booths, speeches, and activist organizations. In addition, visitors learned about sponsoring companies and area businesses committed to the goal of reducing the national carbon footprint and making a positive impact on the environment…

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Car-Sharing – Good for the Environment and the Budget

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Car-sharing is an emerging transportation trend that can reduce both your carbon and cash emissions in a single card swipe.

Interested?

We thought so.

The concept originated in Switzerland in the late 1980s and migrated to North America by way of Quebec City in 1994, according to Kevin McLaughlin, publisher of Toronto-based CarSharing.net, an industry resource website. “Car sharing offers city dwellers who don’t require a vehicle to get to work an alternative to owning a private car,” he explains. “About 80 percent of the expense of owning a car is fixed cost that you’ll pay whether you drive or not. If there’s a car sitting out front, you’ll find yourself using it more to justify the expense — even if it’s just to go a few blocks. Car sharing makes it possible to kick the car habit. If you drive less than 5,000 miles a year, this is going to save you money. Also, if you no longer own a car, you’re going to walk or ride your bike those few blocks. So you end up living a healthier lifestyle.” …

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My 5: Michael Roberts, Entrepreneur

September 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Front Page, Missouri, My 5, Sustainability

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Blue Planet Green Living asked entrepreneur Michael Roberts, “What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?” Here is his reply:

ROBERTS:

1. Try to do the best to eat healthy and sustainable food. If we can sustain our bodies, we can sustain the planet…

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Michael Roberts – Creating a Healthy Environment and a Healthy Bottom Line

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Michael Roberts is a futurist, an environmentalist, and a capitalist – inclinations that he feels all work in perfect synergy. “I’m looking for where the business opportunities are going to be in the future. If we take the position that we can create quality of life without destroying the planet, there’s money to be made doing that.” He firmly believes in a healthy environment and a healthy bottom line. “My daddy worked for the post office for 39 years. We weren’t rich, we weren’t poor. We just didn’t have any money. Well, you can accomplish a lot more with capital than just by work alone.”

Roberts and his brother, Steven, his partner in an estimated $500 million business empire that encompasses real estate, hotels, broadcast, telecom, entertainment, publishing, and aviation holdings, have always been eco-conscious. “We started out building green before anyone knew what LEED was. It just seemed like the right thing to do. Sustainable building was reputed to be more far more expensive than typical construction practices. In our experience, it only added about five percent to our cost, and now, as people become more ecologically conscious, they’re seeking our properties out. ‘Green’ brings another form of green,” he says…

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From Swamp to Gas Pump – Cattails Take on New Role

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Cattails are among nature’s most primitive species. They were here when dinosaurs ruled. They kept baby Moses from floating down the Nile to a premature death. They’re ubiquitous, found in ditches the world over. Grown in clean water, they’re edible. Grown in wastewater, they remove pollutants from the sewage so it can be safely returned to the natural water cycle. In the process, cattails absorb the atmosphere’s increasingly abundant carbon dioxide to fuel photosynthesis, producing sugars and starches that can be converted easily, cleanly, and cheaply into alcohol used for biofuel.

Biofuels solve the same problems that petroleum fuel creates. Plants use the carbon dioxide they remove from the environment to grow. Harvested and converted to alcohol, they return that same energy when used as fuel. This is why corn has garnered a lot of attention as a source of biofuel. But corn-for-ethanol is problematic. Land devoted to growing fuel is land that can’t be devoted to growing food. And, unless it’s grown organically, corn is fertilized with materials that pollute our groundwater and contribute to global warming. Gas-powered tractors harvest it; gas-powered vehicles truck it to market. All this for a fuel source that yields – depending on which study you consult — 75 to 200 gallons per acre? There’s got to be a better way…

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Caryn Green, Contributing Writer

August 26, 2009 by  
Filed under BPGL Crew, Contributing Writers, Illinois

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Caryn Green lives in Chicago, where she has spent her career in media on both the business and editorial side of the aisle. An ardent environmentalist and animal rights supporter, she is an outdoor enthusiast and adventure traveler who loves to go places you can’t find on a map…

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