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Posts Tagged ‘consumption’


The Learning Farm Fundraiser in Brooklyn

by Rich Awn

Tomorrow night at 7:30pm (Thursday, October 28th, 2009) at Habana Outpost, Brooklyn’s “eco eatery,” a benefit for an amazing and vital learning center in Indonesia called The Learning Farm, will be held involving awesome food, awesome speakers, awesome music, and me, your awesome host!

Here’s what Boston-based NGO and founding organization World Eduation has to say about The Learning Farm’s purpose:

In Indonesia, poor, vulnerable youth have been deeply affected by the country’s economic crises and lack both education and economic opportunities. Many feel hopeless at a time when they should be optimistic about the future. Lacking education, skills, or support, they are at risk of being trapped in a cycle of poverty and never realizing their full potential.

rockinThe Learning Farm seeks to address the lack of skills, opportunities and hope amongst vulnerable Indonesian youth by providing entrepreneurial and life skills training in the context of an operational organic farm. Located in Puncak, West Java, the Learning Farm provides Indonesian youth with the tools and skills needed to live healthy and productive lives and become change agents within their own communities.

The Learning Farm is a community where vulnerable youth can find opportunity and support; an educational center where these youth can obtain practical skills and knowledge; a productive organic farm as the primary educational medium; a social enterprise where youth apply their new skills to benefit themselves and support the sustainability of the Learning Farm; and a networking center where experience and lessons learnt are shared with other organizations working with vulnerable youth as well as with the community at large.

The farm serves as both an educational center and an organic farm, where students take responsibility for tasks related to running the farm and participate in structured learning activities that utilize a “learning by doing” approach. The farm’s curriculum includes basic literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking skills, organic farming, enterprise development, health, life skills, computers, and English. Using environmentally-sound growing methods, the youth work in teams to produce organic vegetables for their own consumption and also for sale. Most importantly, the farm has become a community where young people feel welcome, work directly with supportive adults, and have a chance to focus their energy and intelligence on building meaningful skills and relationships that will help them over the course of their lives.

Speakers include:

Please RSVP to [email protected]

If you cannot make the fundraiser but would like to contribute, please email [email protected] for a PayPal donation page.

Habana Outpost is located at 757 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY 11217.  Take the G to Fulton St. or the C to Lafayette Ave.

See you there!!!

Headline photo by Gill & Andy of Bogor Blog.  Midroll photo by David Hagerman of Eating Asia.


Ted Bier, President of TM Bier & Associates

by The Green A-Team

Discussed: Saving money, saving the planet, USGBC, Hidden charges on your electric bill, Renewables at the low end of ROI, Offshore wind farms on LI and NJ, Why turning off lights at work is essential, Economic Recovery Act, Secretary Chu and the Department of Energy

The following is a conversation with Ted Bier, President of T.M. Bier & Associates providing control systems integration and building automation for new construction and existing buildings to help businesses save money and reduce their carbon emissions.

TMBA was established in 1977 by Mr. Bier and since that time, the company has grown into the region’s most prominent independent control systems engineering company. The design and installation of HVAC systems, lighting controls systems, security systems and various industrial controls is only part of the solution they provide to their clients.

GA: I see your company is a member of the USGBC and supports Energy Star products and services.  Do you find that your customers seek out your services because they’re interested in reducing their carbon emissions or is it because they’re just trying to save a couple bucks?

bierTB: Most of our customers in the commercial and industrial world are trying to save money and be more competitive.

GA: So, it’s just more of an added bonus that they’re…

TB: It’s more of an added bonus and it’s of more interest to many of our customers are not-for-profit and they are very interested in what their public image is so they are more willing to do the projects for the overall welfare of the community, they also need a return on their investment.

GA: When did you start to see that the environmental impact started to become even more of a concern.  You’ve been doing this since the late 70s so…

TB: The environmental issues really have started to become more of a concern in the last 2 or 3 years, kind of concurrent with the Green Building Council and these organizations doing their jobs and getting people to be seriously worried about what we’re doing to our environment.

GA: How can you convince a huge corporation with multiple buildings, old and new, in different parts of the world to overhaul all of their energy systems with the promise that their energy bills will go down?

TB: This happens to be one of those events where doing right also makes the most money.  Most of these projects have very hight proven return on investment in the order of 15, 20, even 40% so that if you can get the attention of the appropriate level of management, this becomes a very attractive investment

GA: We spoken previously about hidden charges on your electric bill.  Can you explain what those are?

TB: Well, you make it sound kind of sinister and it really is a plus.  There is in the case of most electric utilities an energy efficiency charge embedded in the electric rate and that is mandated by the appropriate state agencies that approve rates in order to create a fund to subsidize the projects that are needed to reduce energy consumption.  So, that you have kind of what appears odd to the customer, you have the utility paying you to reduce your bill to the utility but, in fact, that is money you’re providing through this charge.

GA: How can consumers protect themselves when energy is only coming from only a few select suppliers?

TB: First of all, in most jurisdictions, we have deregulated energy so you can, in fact, purchase your energy from a number of suppliers although typically not at the homeowner level, more at the business level.  But the consumer can have a major impact on what energy they choose to consume and at some point they’ll have a choice of what time of day to do it because the cost both in dollars and in the impact on the environment of energy varies by the time of day.

GA: So, you as a business owner have even more of a choice and you’re saying that you can choose when…

TB: I can buy my gas from National Grid or I can buy it from any one of a large number of other suppliers and, in fact, we enable many of our customers to do so, to buy electric or gas from other suppliers, not from the traditional utility.

GA: Do you see any renewables popping into the market now that are attractive to you?  Would you recommend any?

TB: Renewables come in at the low-end of the return on investment so that’s more of the area where public interest becomes a bigger factor but solar at this point, in most states, with the proper rebates and tax credits which we have in New York and New Jersey, have gotten solar to where it’s a return of 7 or 8 years which translates to 10-11% interest on your money which is not a terrible return in this world we live in now.

GA: Those are systems that are put on the buildings of your customers themselves or these are solar farms?

TB: These are systems that are put on the roof of the customers premise for solar voltaic as opposed to solar hot water.  They produce electric energy and the exciting new development in New York State is that since roughly the beginning of ‘09 we have what is called net metering.  Net metering is a very exciting concept, it basically says your electric meter goes either way and you pay the utility for the net amount of electricity you use so that on a sunny day if you building happens to be using relatively little energy, you are actually selling energy back to your appropriate local utility.

GA: What are some of the newest innovations beginning to be implemented in your field?

TB: People often ask about wind and I have to say that wind at this point is primarily a large-scale type of project that is not suitable for the individual homeowner or business and is going to require government interventions such as projects you may have heard about being offshore of Long Island or offshore of New Jersey, these are very big, capital-intensive projects and they really require decisions on the part of government entities that this is where we want to place resources.  But within business, there are many… you may have referred to them as “gadgets,” but there are many pieces of technology that offer return on investment of 2-3 years such as occupancy-based lighting controls, motor controls, and various devices like this.

GA: You offer building automation.  Can you explain that a little bit?

TB: Building automation in the simplest terms is the brains of a building.  When buildings were built 50 years ago, you had basic on and off switches, thermostats, things like that, that’s all that existed.  Today, for more than 30 years, we’ve been using micro-processors to control everything in a building that consumes energy.  Logic says that we’re all using PCs and laptops now, they do things more efficiently.  If you can use a computer to coordinate heating, air conditioning, ventilation, lighting, and security in a building you can significantly and permanently reduce consumption, make people more comfortable, give them better air quality. and accomplish this overall objective of lowering carbon emissions.

GA: What have you seen to be some of the most successful energy systems upgrades in your history with the company?

TB: Well the most successful thing you can do in an existing building is getting the lighting under control and that is actually required by law in many states for new construction or renovations.  It sounds very simple but it’s turning the lights off when nobody’s in the space and we don’t do a good job of that in this country and if you can do it by building automation, you can do it by occupancy sensors, the utility companies provide very generous support for it and a typical return on an investment of going into an existing building is on the order of 2 years; which means, basically, you’re getting 50% return on your invested dollars.  It’s a really win-win project in almost any building.

GA: Seems so simple.

TB: It’s being done in the newer buildings but you started this conversation talking about the Green Building Council and it’s nice that we’re doing all these things for new buildings but we only replace 1 and 1/2% or so of all our buildings every year in this country, which means it will take 70 years before we’ll have replaced every old building out there.  That’s a long time to wait for efficiency, we can make these changes right now to existing buildings.

GA: How can we find out more about TMBA?

TB: Well, that’s what we do!  We come into an existing building we show you where energy is being wasted or where the air is not good to breathe or where the security systems need to be updated and then we show you how to do that using microprocessors and these other techniques I’ve spoken about to accomplish the objectives and we’ve done that in several hundred buildings in the New York Metropolitan Area.  One of the problems right now, going back to issues you’re familiar with with the economy is that the credit markets are still frozen and even though these companies have these very high returns on investment, they cannot get funding.  We have actually formed a subsidiary and gone to Washington and approached the Department of Energy under the Economic Recovery Act to see if we can’t get some type of a revolving fund to make no or low-interest loans available to businesses to do this work.

GA: So you would actually help in finding some creative ways to finance these upgrades.

TB: The concept was that, instead of asking a building owner to put up $150,000 to do a project, we would suggest they put 10% of their own money and we would put 10% of our money and we would use this revolving fund to provide the other 80% supported by engineering calculations to prove the savings are real.

GA: Wow!  I’m sold.

TB: Well, we’ve contacted Secretary Chu at the Department of Energy, if you can get him sold and get some money moving we can make this happen.

Photo by KQED QUEST.


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In Germany, a City’s Famed Industry Now Keeps It Afloat

by The Green A-Team

Full New York Times article here.

Green Air Filter:

A high priority for these recent years has been to look for an alternate form of travel on the road. Maybe we’ve been looking in the wrong place. In Friedrichshafen, Germany, a forgotten innovation has made its way back to saving its citizens from the plight of high fuel prices.

The zeppelin provided the first form of airline service in the early 1900s. And now it appears that it can make a comeback as a public transportation in the sky. Not only does it run on low fuel costs, it does not appear to have a negative impact on air quality. We may be a long way from the Jetsons’ flying cars, but the zeppelin has certainly opened the skies for newer possibilities.

Photo by Hans Erbraut.


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