Solar in the Community – Creating a Greener Britain

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Grey skies, wind, rain and no sign of the sun. That’s the British Winter, most of the Autumn, much of the Spring, and a good deal of the Summer too! But, regardless of the climate, there is clearly enough sunshine for solar energy to thrive, and in recent years the UK has witnessed an unprecedented […]

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Sustainability – A Personal Journey… by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D.

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When I started reading Sustainability by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D., I expected to learn about the innovative community he and his wife, Trina, had designed and built in Poquoson, Virginia. And I did. But I also learned many more things about sustainable communities and futurism that I hadn’t expected.

The book is an easy read, but also sort of quirky. Rose has a habit of ending one thought with ellipses and trailing off into a new paragraph. He has an interesting idea about where to place commas (e.g., as the last character before closing parentheses) — not exactly standard English composition. But it’s kind of charming in its literary naiveté.

Rose, however, is far from naive. As readers learn at the beginning of the book, “Dr. Rose is a registered architect, and a graduate structural engineer. He holds a doctorate in organizational development, has been a professor at three major universities, and has worked for several decades as an educator and a consultant to architects, consulting engineers, and other design professionals. Sustainability is arranged in chronological chapters, beginning “Circa 1985″ with the author’s professional and personal concerns about global sustainability.

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Striving for Sustainable Design

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Eco-friendly, or “green,” design options are better for everyone involved, from the builders and painters to the people who use the completed structure. The new norm is sustainable design, and “green is the new black” in building and decorating homes, offices, and other buildings.

The primary purpose of sustainable design, according to Wikipedia, is to “eliminate negative environmental impact completely through skillful, sensitive design.” Sustainable design includes green building materials, paint/stain, flooring, counter tops, furniture, hardware/fixtures, lighting, and even decorative accents.

It may sound easy, then, to choose sustainable products and materials when you are building, renovating, or improving a home. Yet, there’s still much to learn in this relatively new field, and the importance of doing things right is overwhelmingly obvious. After all, the more resources we use right now without acknowledging the necessity of sustainability, the less we will have to work with later….

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Small Footprints – Cruising with the Claytons

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When Rick and Linda Lacy Clayton decided four years ago to retire on a sailboat, they didn’t do it with the intention of becoming environmentalists. But what they’ve learned since is that their very survival — and their finances — depend on their ability to sustain themselves with minimal fuel, power, and water.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with the Claytons to learn how the experience of living on their sailboat, Sojourner, has changed their daily habits and taught them to keep a small (wet) footprint. The Claytons hail from Dallas, Texas, where Rick retired as a policeman, then spent eight years as a truck driver, and Linda retired from a career in marketing….

BPGL: What a life you have! How did you decide to live on a sailboat?

RICK: We both had some experience sailing. The first vacation after we got married, we chartered a sailboat down in the British Virgin Islands for a week — the two of us on a 35-foot boat. Of course, I knew I was going to love it. On the way back, Linda said, “How soon can we sell everything, buy a boat, and take off?” …

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SPG Solar – Bill O’Reilly and Me

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I did not set out to pick a fight with Bill O’Reilly. As a new edition of the old saying goes: Don’t pick fights with people who use power by the gigawatt.

But let this be said: O’Reilly drew First Blood.

It happened just a few hours after the Irvine (California) Unified School District selected my company, SPG Solar, to install solar energy at 21 of its campuses. The new energy system will save the district $17 million over 20 years; will generate about half the energy the schools need; and best of all for this cash-strapped district: It all comes at no cost….

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Francis Thicke on Renewable Energy Resources

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In the first part of our conversation with Francis Thicke, Ph.D., candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture in the 2010 election, we discussed the use of perennial crops as biofuels, using a process called pyrolysis. In this part of our discussion, Thicke talks about increasing biodiversity and farm-based power generation.

Thicke and his wife are organic dairy farmers who live near Fairfield, Iowa. Thicke is a respected agricultural scientist, who has testified twice before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee in Washington, D.C….
THICKE: I would like to see wind energy development become more targeted toward systems that profit farmers, landowners, and rural communities. Currently, we have quite a few large wind farms in Iowa. One study shows we now have the capacity to produce about 15% of our electrical energy needs with wind in Iowa. It is very good that we have developed so much wind power capacity, but we should look at how ownership of wind energy production is structured, and who profits from it….

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Book Review – Who Turned Out the Lights? Your Guide to the Energy Crisis

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Being an environmentalist means I have to choose from a million aspects of concern, direction, and interest. Planet Earth is facing a flood of problems, too many for one writer to assimilate, even for one magazine. For me, there is too little time to read about all the daily assaults on our planet, let alone verify the data in print; seek out authorities on the subject; interview them; type, edit, and post their points of view.

Being a journalist, as well, compounds the problem. Now, it is just as important to seek the opposing opinions and compare conflicting scientific data. Every topic has many angles, often many points of view, and frequently, two polar-opposite conclusions.

The fact that I try to keep an open mind on these issues is exactly why I like this book. The writers, Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson, have tried to present both sides of every energy issue, or at least, remain neutral in their presentation. The book gives “just the facts,” not opinions, and provides extensive end notes for the reader to verify all sources. …

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I-Renew Executive Director Announces Renewable Energy Workshops and Tour

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Mike Carberry, Executive Director of Iowa Renewable Energy Association (I-Renew), has only been on the job four months, but he’s already hosted the organization’s state-wide, annual conference and is planning four significant renewable energy events before the end of the year….

“I read Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, about five years ago, and realized that what I was doing wasn’t enough. Even though I had been an environmental volunteer and an environmental and political activist, I wasn’t doing enough to change the world,” Carberry says. “I was starting to think about legacy and what would be on my tombstone — that I was a great antique dealer? a nice guy? a spiffy dresser?” He chuckles, but then gets serious. “I wanted to know, Could I do something that would effect change in the world and turn my passion into a vocation? That’s when I decided that I would make a change to something that I thought was really important.” …

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Hall Wines St. Helena Earns LEED Gold Certification

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You’re out to dinner with friends, ready to order a glass of wine with your meal. You look over the wine list, considering your options: White or red? Dry or sweet? Domestic or imported? Organically grown or not? And on and on… But it’s a good bet that you never stop to wonder whether the wine you will choose was produced with energy-savings in mind. For most of us, energy savings don’t spring readily to mind when we’re sitting in a restaurant. But starting today, there’s another factor to consider when choosing a wine…

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Green Jobs + Renewable Energy = A Stronger Nation

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On February 17, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Then, in an address to a joint session of the Congress on February 25, he told our nation, “Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector — jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.”

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Notes from India: Greenathon Raises Funds for Solar Lights

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One of India’s biggest green events, the Greenathon, aired recently on NDTV (a leading Indian television station). The purpose was to raise money to support a program sponsored by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). TERI’s “Lighting a Billion Lives” (LaBL) initiative is working to “provide solar lanterns to villages that would otherwise be without electricity for a decade or more.”

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Praise the Lord and Green the Roof

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Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear about a religious order of nuns that grows its own vegetables and cares for the environment. But nuns sharing a Zip car? Nuns wearing organic cotton habits? And nuns living under a green roof in New York City? Joseph Huff Hannon sent us this fascinating post about a group of green-living nuns who are serving their fellow humans and the planet by living Earth Wise, Money Smart.

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Seeking Sustainability in a Harsh and Beautiful Land

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Miriam Kashia, a Peace Corps volunteer who returned from Namibia one year ago, recently spoke with Blue Planet Green Living about her experience. What follows is Part 2 of a two-part interview.

BPGL: I’ve heard, over the years, about problems with poaching of African game. Is that an issue in Namibia?

KASHIA: In almost all African countries, there’s been a lot of poaching of wild animals. And most animals now only live in the game parks. There are very few left just roaming wild. There are still many varieties of antelope and, depending on where you are, a few others. But most of the more exotic animals now live in game parks or on game farms, actually. When I say farm, I’m talking about what we would call a ranch. Because it’s a desert, it takes thousands of hectares to support their livestock of goats, sheep, cattle, and wild animals.

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Peace Corps Volunteer Teaches Green Living in Namibia

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Seated across from me is a gentle, silver-haired woman. She speaks in soft tones, gesturing slightly from time to time. Her manner is warm and welcoming. You could easily call her mild-mannered. But don’t let her appearance fool you. Miriam Kashia is a force to be reckoned with when there’s a job to be done. And that’s just the spirit with which she tackled her recent Peace Corps assignment in Namibia, home to some of the world’s most impoverished people.

Kashia returned to the United States a year ago, in January 2008. She’s had time to reflect on her experience, and to see from a distance the effects of the work she did half a world away. I interviewed her in her Iowa City home.

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Tax Incentives Boost Green ROI

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Rob Rafson, P.E., is V.P. Engineering of Full Circle, a Chicago-based sustainability management solutions firm. He is also co-author, with Harold J. Rafson, of Brownfields: Redeveloping Environmentally Distressed Properties (1999). What follows is Part 2 of a four-part interview.

BPGL: You’re known in Chicago for the largest rooftop solar installation in the city, on top of a brownfield redevelopment project. But people say solar technology has a long payback. Is solar economically viable?

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“We Can Get Completely Off Oil in 15 Years”

January 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Books, Electric Cars, Events, Front Page, Oil, Slideshow, Solar, Wind

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Jeff Wilson has a plan: “We can free the United States of its dependency on oil, not just foreign oil, in 15 years.”

Yeah, sure. This guy’s dreaming. I thought, as I began to read his book, The Manhattan Project 2009. I’ve heard pie-in-the-sky schemes before.

Then I read his book, and I was convinced. My next thoughts were, Everybody needs to read this book. It’s all here, in a step-by-step program. He’s even written legislative proposals for congressmen. It’s all here, and it is possible. I wanted to talk to this guy.

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Tailgating for A Common Green Purpose

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Did you watch the Bears play the Packers yesterday from the warmth of your home? Or maybe you were among the frozen fans braving 7-degree weather to root for your favorite team on the shores of Lake Michigan. Blue Planet Green Living was there, too, tailgating in the parking lot of the Adler Planetarium near Soldier Field.

So, go ahead, ask. What does the Bears/Packers game — and tailgating, for that matter — have to do with green living? It’s a fair question.

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Renewable Energy, a Tool for Social Equity

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A dozen volunteers swarm the yard of the Villareal house on the east side of Austin, Texas. The atmosphere is jubilant, almost celebratory — a real coming together of people with a purpose. By the time the volunteers leave today, the home will have been retrofitted with energy-saving improvements that the family could not have afforded to make themselves.

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Solar Living Institute Sustainable Living Workshops

November 2, 2008 by  
Filed under 2008, Biofuels, Blog, California, Mexico, Solar

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Want to get off the grid? Build an electric car? Sell solar systems for fun and profit? Find your own place in the green collar market? Then sign up for one or more sustainable living workshops sponsored by the Solar Living Institute. Courses still available at the time of this post include the following offerings.

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