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The Bottled Water Controversy

It’s funny. If you talk green and excercise your conciousness near others, it will only be so long before people will throw it back in your face, and call you a hypocrite. For example, I’ve recently been given a whole lotta gruff about my bottled water consumption. Here’s what we know about buying Bottled Water:

  • It’s expensive – Many bottled waters exceed the cost of a gallon of gasoline! A fossil fuel that has been sucked up miles below our earth and shipped forever away so that our cars can move and our houses warmed. And we gripe about the price of oil but don’t think twice about a bottle of Fiji water that costs $3.99
  • It’s wasteful – Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. According to Food and Water Watch [ ], that plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce. And while the plastic used to bottle beverages is of high quality and in demand by recyclers, over 80 percent of plastic bottles are simply thrown away.
  • It supports the privatization of water supplies – Water is being called the “Blue Gold” of the 21st century. Thanks to increasing urbanization and population, shifting climates, and industrial pollution, fresh water is becoming humanity’s most precious resource. In the documentary film Thirst, authors Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman demonstrated the rapid worldwide privatization of municipal water supplies, and the effect these purchases are having on local economies.
  • It’s of equal quality to your tap – Now this is where I have my beef. Though it is true that most bottled water companies are highly unregulated when it comes to quality, it is just as true that not all tap is created equal.

I live in Williamsburg Brooklyn NYC. In my particular area of Williamsburg, old pipes are dirty, and every so often [very] grey water is often released into the tap. After a few dead plants and ingesting this delicious water, I set out to find a solution.

So I spent over $300 on a home reverse osmosis system to distill my faucet water, however, the pressure minimum for these units can’t be met because my apartment is located on the 5th floor of an old grubby building with poor plumbing. No worries, I’ll just call a local water company (e.g. Arrowhead or Poland Spring delivery) and they can drop off my clean water for me. Plus, their water is contained in bottles that are reused! Boy was I wrong. These delivery companies have a 3 stair flight limit. So if you’re on the 4th floor as I am, you’re outta luck. Believe me I argued with them and they insisted. So while all my friends and family are eager to point the finger at the wasteful hypocrite, the well is getting dry. So what’s a guy to do?

I am selective about where I waste and I believe there’s a time and a place to resort to unecological methods of consumption. I think my situation clearly qualifies for permission from the “greeney police” to drink bottled water. Believe me it’s no fun carrying 5-1 gallon bottles up five flights of stairs. And hey! I buy in gallon sizes and recycle each one I can. Give me a break!

The fact of that matter is 99% of bottled water drinkers don’t need to drink it. A close friend of mine was telling me about how his family stocks small 8oz bottles to the ceiling as their main source of water. Walk into the house, ask for tea, and she’ll open up a bottle, poor it into the kettle and chuck it into the trash/recycle. Meanwhile, perfectly potable tap is available as well as the water pressure for an R/O System. What a waste!

World’s Largest Solar Array is Under Construction (15-18MW!)

LAS VEGAS–A groundbreaking took place at Nellis Air Force Base, just north of Las Vegas, Nevada, in the desolate, arid, windswept Mojave Desert. The ceremony will initiate construction on what will be the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) array in the United States, capable of producing 15-18 megawatts of power.

At least for a year or so, say Air Force officials, the plant will also constitute the largest such facility in the world, encompassing an investment of $100 million on 140 acres. The land will largely be covered by silicon wafers that will rotate each day to doggedly follow the sun across the sky

Expecting to eventually save $1 million a year on their electric bill, thanks to the new solar plant, base officials expressed pride at being able to demonstrate leadership in developing a significant on-base alternative. They said they expect the new plant to go online by the end of the year.

Though most of the energy generated will power the base, depending on time of day and usage, a small amount of the power generated by the facility may go off base to surrounding communities. However, the Nellis plant will produce electricity during the day–not after sundown. Lacking battery storage capacity, its power will constitute a useful supplement, not an impressive primary generating source, for the base’s own needs.

Some estimates suggest the plant may supply only 25 percent of the base’s needs. That figure has been listed elsewhere as 30 percent. Both figures are still impressive, considering 12,000 people work on the base and 7,215 live there.

But those percentages hardly inspire confidence that the plant will produce any spare solar-generated power for Southern Nevada’s high-growth communities-notably Las Vegas, directly south, and Mesquite, about 40 miles to the north-traditionally dependent on cheap, abundant electricity, not to mention adequate water supplies from adjacent Lake Mead (currently down 100 feet from normal).

So the new venture actually points up the foreboding limitations on solar electric power development-even in places that engineers deem “highly insolated” like the Mojave, whose clear, blue skies pretty much make it an optimal setting in which to undertake a larger PV project.

Algae Farm to Produce 4.4 Million Gallons of Experimental Jet Fuel

An Arizona energy company is betting big on algae. PetroSun Biofuels has opened a commercial algae-to-biofuels farm on the Texas Gulf Coast near scenic Harlingen Texas. The farm is a 1,100 acre network of saltwater ponds, 20 acres of which will be dedicated to researching and developing an environmental jet fuel.

PetroSun’s gameplan is to extract algal oil on-site at the farms and transport it to company bideisel refineries via barge, rail or truck. The company plans to open more farms in Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mexico, Brazil, and Australia in 2008.

Of all the options for future jet biofuel production, algae is considered one of the most viable. It yields 30

times more energy per acre than its closest competitor, and requires neither fresh water, arable land used for

cultivation, or consumable food, giving it an advantage over ethanol. PetroSun asserts that an area the size of Maryland could produce enough algae biofuel to satisfy the entire fuel requirements of the United States.

Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, the once skeptical Boeing is now said to be working with alternative

fuel developers from around the world to accelerate alternatives to jet fuel, which at $110 a barrel is threatening to sink the major airlines. Continental has said that it will conduct a biofuel test flight next year, the first US airline to do so. Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic flew a 747 partially powered by coconut and babassu oil. In addition to its commercial applications, PetroSun says, somewhat cryptically, that it is also working with a “government laboratory” to co-develop an algae-based fuel for military use.

Gordon LeBlanc, Jr., the CEO of PetroSun, is quoted as saying that the company’s success is a combination of a superior technological approach, sheer luck, and a “redneck can-do attitude.”

Oooh Guurl…He Want My Vote Bad!

Looks like Obama really wants my vote. Democratic nominee and all-around superhero Barack Obama took the weekend “off” after a pretty low-key, non-eventful week and enjoyed a bike ride around Lake Michigan on Sunday. With gas prices now creeping ever-faster towards $5/gal, we’re happy to see the democratic contender enjoying a little two-wheel action.

The helmet, white sneakers and tucked in shirt are totally endearing. My psychee visualizes a pant suit, a mullet and a Hybrid Civic for Mrs. Hilary, and maybe a fully loaded War Tank racing 90 mph through a residential street for Mr. McCain.

Ladies & Gentlemen, the Volts-Wagen

I love how he starts out his home vid picking up his little baby out of the car. Just kinda like, “Oh hello there! You just so happen to catch me in the middle of my perfect life alongside my Volts-Wagen!” Don’t get me wrong, I still want to be him.

Don’t Be Sad Bloomy!

ALBANY — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s far-reaching plan to ease traffic in Manhattan died in a closed conference room on the third floor of the Albany, New York state capital.

Democratic members of the State Assembly held one final meeting to debate the merits of Mr. Bloomberg’s plan and found overwhelming and persistent opposition. The plan would have charged drivers $8 to enter a congestion zone in Manhattan south of 60th Street during peak hours.

Mr. Bloomberg and his supporters, including civic, labor and environmental organizations, viewed the proposal as a bold and essential step to help manage the city’s inexorable growth.

But the mayor’s plan was strongly opposed by a broad array of politicians from Queens, Brooklyn and New York’s suburbs, who viewed the proposed congestion fee as a regressive measure that overwhelmingly benefited affluent Manhattanites.

“The congestion pricing bill did not have anywhere near a majority of the Democratic conference, and will not be on the floor of the Assembly,” Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, said after the meeting.

The plan’s collapse was a severe blow to Mr. Bloomberg’s environmental agenda and political legacy. The mayor introduced his plan a year ago as the signature proposal of a 127-item program for sustainable city growth that helped raise his national profile. Without approval from Albany, the city now stands to lose about $354 million worth of federal money that would have financed the system for collecting the fee and helped to pay for new bus routes and other traffic mitigation measures.

The Organic Import

Organic simply means any of the variety of non genetically modified (No-GMO) food product(s) grown and/or containing ingredients that have been produced without the use of antibiotics, chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides. Organic agriculture is also directly related to the wellness of our environment as conventional agricultural practices are known to erode soil, create superbugs, contaminate bodies of water, deforest, and kill other species.

Most consumers and supporters of organic agriculture have the environment and their personal health in mind and are willing to pay a premium for these products. However with so much unlabeled and mislabeled produce in our markets, it’s very easy to over look the energy embodied in these food items. Even if you stumble into whole foods (especially in the winter) you’ll find that most of your “fresh” fruits and vegetables have been imported from unimaginable lengths!

Your New Zealand apple didn’t make it hear on a wind-powered boat or a solar-powered plane, but instead on a gas guzzling vehicle of some sort. Yes, it’s fossil fuels that keep food imports (organic or conventional) going strong. Who would’ve thought so much guilt could be brought on by a bag of veggies!

Knowing the above, it’s still hard to give up some of my favorites (mangos, bananas, advocados, etc.) because they aren’t grown anywhere in my city, state or even the surrounding states. But I’m such a foody and a sucker for good grub that somewhere in my head I justify the polluting system while chomping down on a big ol’ organic banana. I love them I do!

So the chances of me going completely local are pretty slim, but what can I do to reduce my impact? Farmers Markets are amazing events in that they bring the best small local farmers to your door step who are truly passionate about what they do. Many own just a small amount of land and work to prolong it’s life by practicing sustainable agriculture, or at least minimizing pesticide use. There’s always an abundance of organic or low spray fruits and veggies, you know where it came from, and if you don’t, just ask! The farmer who grew it all is right there! You’ll find most farmers market vendors don’t come from very far at all! If we work to buy the majority of our produce from these groups, gas guzzlers will feel the blow.

Solar Energy Systems Solar Array Install – Milford, CT. 350kW

For your viewing pleasure, here’s what I’ve been up to lately.

Or you can just copy this link:

P.S. – In the lower right hand corner of the slideshow, click options. Then click “Embiggen items” & “Always show title & description”

Building Up instead of Out

These green buildings are a far stretch from the ugly concrete skin of low-rise development that have engulfed much of the world. It’s such a shame that creativity and attention to detail cost a premium.

And play this song because it has nothing to do with anything in this blog: Sometimes – Erykah Badu

Celebrating Green Ink.

“The MTA will observe Earth Day (April 22nd) by stocking MetroCard vending machines with five million limited-edition green MetroCards. The cards aren’t “green” in the eco-friendly sense – they’re still not made from recycled material – they’re just, you know, green colored. So they’ve got that going for them. Oh, and some environmental factoids will be printed on the back.” – the Gothamist

I for one want more trains in better condition running more frequently to many more areas before I’ll give them a point for anything. It’s clear Manhattan has a lot more greening to do on a large scale before we the people will be satisfied.