June 18th, 2009
Written by Andrew Williams, courtesy of Gas2.0
Subaru has become the latest in a long line of car manufacturers to start producing electric cars. The Japanese company plans to start selling a compact all-electric plug-in number called the Stella EV in Japan over the coming weeks.
Unusual for such a compact EV, the Stella boasts four seats and a top speed of 60 mph, which is likely to prove just about bearable to drivers using it as a second car for city use (photo gallery after the jump).
The Stella features a mains-charged li-ion battery, capable of a 15-minute fast-charge to 80% of the maximum, delivering a range of around 55 miles. Subaru has announced an initial run of 170 cars, which will available to Japanese customers in July. The price has been set at ¥4,725,000 (around $49,000) but buyers will be eligible to apply for a ¥1,380,000 (around $14,000) Japanese government subsidy through its Next Generation Vehicle Promotion Center program. Additional tax reductions are also expected to further encourage buyers following special measures brought in by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
No news yet on a global release but we’ll keep you posted.
Popularity: 5% [?]
June 17th, 2009
If you’re like me, then you know that feeling of confusion and disappointment you sometimes feel after going shopping for a new green product. You’ve done your research to find the right item and you’ve checked online versions of a store to see that they have it, but when you get there that specific lightbulb, organic cotton t-shirt, or MSC-certified halibut on sale is nowhere to be found. In its place are ten other options that might or might not offer the same benefits you were looking for.
Fortunately, there are some great tools/services/websites that can help you sort through options as you’re standing there in the store. Some are text messaging-based services, others are simple websites easily navigable on a cell phone, and still others that use the latest iPhone apps and related technologies to make shopping decisions easy and nearly real-time. Here’s a rundown on some we’ve found to be most helpful.
Green Household Products. Good Guide is a relatively new company that aspires to provide information on the health, environmental and social impacts of common products that we use in our home. They cover over 70,000 products so far in food, personal care, toy and household products category. The best part is that these ratings and reviews are available via an iPhone app and also via SMS / text messaging. You can get information on products by searching on product categories, product names, and also on the bar code (the numbers that appear right beneath it). To use it, simply send a text message to “41411″ and then include “gguide” and whatever you’re searching on in the message body.
Example: You’re in a store comparing two green cleaning products (let’s say Seventh Generation Shower Cleaner and Tilex Fresh Shower Cleaner). Text “gguide seventh generation shower” to 41411, and you get a report back showing Seventh Gen’s Shower Cleaner overall score of 8.5 and Health, Environmental and Social scores of 8.0, 9.2 and 8.4 respectively. Text “gguide tilex shower” and you soon get an overall score of 5.4 (8.0 Health, 3.5 Environmental and 4.9 Social). The website provides much more information about what’s behind these rankings. Fast, easy and helpful!
Seafood. Seafood is a veritable minefield of sustainability choices. The global seafood industry is very poorly controlled, meaning that you can find fish in your local grocery store that should instead be on the endangered species list. Fish can also pose health risks due to the accumulation of mercury and other toxins in fish at the top of the food chain. How it’s grown can make a huge difference — the same seafood farm-raised might cause environmental problems, while the wild-caught version might be fine. And it’s highly seasonal/local, so you’re never quite sure what you’ll find in the store.
This handy one-page guide from Neil Banas (brought to my attention by Grist) lays it all out on one easy sheet, clearly showing pitfalls such as choosing between Alaskan wild salmon (nearly the best) and Atlantic farmed salmon (nearly the worst). If you don’t have room in your wallet for that, though, try out the Blue Ocean Institute’s FishPhone text messaging service. Text a message starting with “fish” followed by the name of the fish you are looking for to 30644 and receive a short report on the merits of that particular option in a few seconds. The same content is available at the URL http://fishphone.org, which is specially formatted for viewing on mobile phones.
As an example, texting “fish bluefish” (a relatively common East Coast predatory fish) to 30644 and you get the following message: “YELLOW: some environmental concerns: HEALTH ADVISORY: High mercury, PCB and pesticide contamination. “Fish salmon” returns several different messages depending on the point of origin and whether it was wild caught or farm raised.
Other Categories. We’ll post updates on other helpful services as we find them. Please feel free to bring any of your favorites to our attention!
Popularity: 6% [?]
June 12th, 2009
Green-collar workers — who include everyone from energy-efficiency consultants to wastewater plant operators — constitute a tiny but fast-growing segment of the U.S. economy, according to a study published today by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The “clean-energy economy” grew 9.1 percent between 1998 and 2007 to 777,000 jobs. While that is just half a percent of all U.S. jobs, the clean-energy economy is poised to grow significantly with financial support from the public and private sectors, the Pew report concludes.
“The nation’s clean-energy economy is poised for explosive growth,” said Lori Grange, the Pew Center on the States’ interim deputy director. “The trends include surging venture capital investment … a critical growth rate in clean-energy generation, energy efficiency and environmentally friendly products.”
About 80 percent of venture capital investments in 2008 were in the clean energy and energy efficiency sector, broadly known as “cleantech.” And while cleantech slumped with overall venture capital in the first quarter of 2009, the sector outperformed telecommunications, media and other sectors, according to an analysis of Thompson Reuters data by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.
“[Cleantech] is faring better than the rest of the venture capital sectors — that’s driven by the sense that the government policy thinking has changed radically with the new administration,” said David Prend, a NVCA director and managing general partner at the venture capital firm RockPort Capital Partners.
Indeed, the Pew report cites the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which President Obama signed in February, as a significant force driving the clean-energy economy. The stimulus includes nearly $85 billion in direct spending and tax incentives for energy- and transportation-related programs.
The report finds that job growth in the clean-energy economy outperformed total job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia between 1998 and 2007, the most recent year for which data are available. The total number of jobs grew 3.7 percent during that period, which included the dot-com boom and bust and the beginning of the current recession.
Popularity: 5% [?]
June 11th, 2009
I recently had the good fortune of participating in a New York Times piece (published in the Home section today) on green home consultants. After a few hours of in-home work and many more of analysis, reporting, product research and follow-up with my clients, it was somewhat ironic that the lead image for the story was a picture of me peering into the tank of a toilet!
One could argue a toilet is a fitting representation of our times, after all. The economy remains in the tank, we continue to do relatively little as a society to combat climate change, and the residential green sector continues to dragged down by the horrible housing market (unless you happen to be in one of the few sectors directly benefiting from stimulus funding).
However, we still see a very bright future for the overall green remodeling/retrofit market. The lowest hanging fruit on the path to a lower-carbon economy lie in our homes, from weatherization to low-flow water fixtures to efficient appliances and lighting. The environmental savings can be significant, and many projects will start contributing to your bank account in less than a year. Although each of our individual actions might be a drop in the bucket (as noted by some of the skeptical folks interviewed in the Times article), our collective actions will amount to significant change and send a message to both companies and our elected officials that the old way won’t work anymore.
The first step is getting started, of course, and a good green consultant can help by explaining both the environmental and economic benefits of particular green projects. Even with that information, a long list of recommendations can be pretty hard to digest. As a result, we always recommend that projects be tiered in a way that puts the ones where you get the most bang for your buck first. Tackle green projects in these four groups, and we guarantee that you’ll soon be on a logical and profitable path to a lower impact:
- Make the easy fixes that have high environmental and economic benefits first. Many first steps can be done for $0 - $100, and can cut major chunks out of your energy, water and carbon footprints. Good examples include turning down the temperature on your water heater, replacing inefficient lighting, installing low-flow water fixtures, sealing leaks and drafts and installing a programmable thermostat.
- Swap out key house systems, starting with the biggest hogs and/or systems that have multiple impacts. Once you’ve cut your baseline down based on #1, turn to these bigger projects. Great places to start are the water heater and furnace, since they influence the energy use of everything downstream, and the clothes washer, since it consumes both water and energy and produces greenhouse gases and wastewater.
- Install sustainable systems where possible for remaining water/energy needs. By now, you’ve probably cut your energy, water and sewer bills by 30-50%. But there’s a huge added benefit to this tiering of projects: you’ve also reduced the cost of major sustainble system upgrades. These projects, like solar panels, solar hot water heaters, wind turbines, graywater systems and rainwater capture/reuse systems, will be as much as 50% less expensive if they follow the projects in Tiers 1 and 2!
- Offset the rest. In most existing homes, it’s nearly impossible to competely cut your outside energy use and associated carbon footprint. Buy offsets for this remaining piece. We believe it’s always best to cut your own carbon footprint first rather than paying someone else to do it via offsets, but they’re a great solution for those stubborn emissions that elude even the most eco-committed of us.
Of course, a consultant isn’t necessary for any of this. Many websites offer great resources to help you sort through the options. And many online tools like our Environmental Impact Calculator can help you estimate the savings of green home projects, both environmental and economic, so that you can create a prioritized list based on your home’s unique characteristics.
Oh, back to the toilets. Toilet leaks can be huge water guzzlers, and I see leaks in as many as 10% of the homes that I visit. In this case, though, they were in perfect working order!
Popularity: 2% [?]
June 3rd, 2009
There has certainly been a lot of media coverage on the growing array of “green jobs.” That is a pretty broad term– encompassing renewable energy, green building, bio-fuels, energy-efficiency technologies and much more. All of these sectors have been affected by the larger global economic challenges we are facing, but there’s little doubt that in the long run these industries will offer many new employment opportunities.
So, where can you find these green jobs?
Fortunately there is a ton of resources available online. It seems like a new green jobs board crops up almost every day! Here is our review of the leading sources:
- Green Dream Jobs is one of the best job boards out there. They have a good cross-section of low to high level jobs spanning many industries. They’ve been at it since 1996 so they know what they’re doing!
- EcoEmploy is another good resources. They tend to have more technical job listings, as well as some non-profit positions.
- Treehugger has a strong job board. You’ll find traditional as well as some “zany” listings– like “deli staff and cyclist” or “adventure planner.” Fun!
- GreenBiz.com also has a job list with solid geographic reach.
- VentureLoop is a site I find most people don’t know about–which is too bad. This is a site that features jobs from companies that are backed by major venture capital outlets. There are technical, sales, marketing and management positions in the mix. Not all of the jobs are green jobs, but there are many exciting, high-growth green companies included on the job board. You just need to do a bit of reading about the companies.
- SustainLane recently launched a green job board and we’ve seen some good listings there. They are still growing and adding more cities.
- SolarJobs can be good if you’re specifically interested in that industry.
- Idealist.org is great if you want to find environmental non-profit jobs.
If you know of other good resources, please share them in the comments section.
Also, if you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, there is a great event coming up called Green Jobs, Healthy Communities: Building a Green-Collar Economy. They event is being hosted by the California Endowment on June 9 at 6PM. Learn more about the event here.
Popularity: 4% [?]