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Gr’investing: ETF’s make cents

by The Green A-Team

With stocks at bargain prices in this volatile market, which green energy companies are your best bet?

The future of energy is in critical condition and the largest investment firms are looking more and more to the new industries whose clean energy supplies could salvage the sputtering market.

One way to get involved is with green exchange traded funds, commonly known as ETFs. These are essentially mutual funds supporting renewable and cleaner sources of energy and technologies.  EFT shares are traded all day long on the major stock market exchanges.  These funds can hold dozens, even thousands of companies under one umbrella unified by an environmental theme.

It’s clear that despite the market-wide downturns of late, green ETFs have performed with stability and predictable gains.  The slow and steady approach to green investing may be just the way to inch your way out your hole and be a part of the inevitable movement toward sustainable, locally produced energy.

For more tips on green investing, check out some of these links:

Green ETF’s providing alternatives (ETF Trends)

Clean energy ETFs for green investors (Business Week)

Green ETFs: Super volatile or supercharged? (EVX, PZD) (

WSJ Sunday turns eight (Wall Street Journal)

Photo by Lamanda2.

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GM battles rage down on the farm

by The Green A-Team

Full BBC News article here.

Green Air Filter:

Genetically modified or GM crops have been one of the most promising solutions to the rapid decline in food production. All they require is a simple spritz of chemicals; the grower never even needs to take a step in soil. But that is exactly why farmers have unwittingly waged a war against the miracle crops.

The few farmers who still grow their crops the traditional way have been under investigation by large GM corporations such as Monsanto for ’seed piracy’. GM pollen can easily travel across acres to local farms and potentially be saved by the farmers to use. It seems to be a classic case of ‘evil corporation’ bullying on the part of Monsanto. But maybe it is the action that needs to be taken in order to protect a technology as vital and important in this day and age.

Photo by MillyNeT.

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Green data centers: How nature goes digital

by The Green A-Team

The natural and digital worlds combine to help decrease the global impact of today’s internet addiction.

Nowadays it’s nearly impossible to imagine a world without the internet when just over a decade ago, the internet itself was scarcely a thing of the imagination.  With it’s billions of users, the earthbound mechanisms that keep this digital universe expanding are showing signs that surfing the web can lead to an environmental wipeout.

The bulk of the information that flows through our computers is stored and powered by a network of high-tech data centers.  The hardware used at these sites needs shocking amounts of electricity that generates lots of heat.

New green data centers like Oregon-based Taproot Hosting, power their boards on 100% wind energy.  They even tell their employees to stay home, opting for tele-commuting over terrestrial commutes.  Other centers bury their gear, taking advantage of natural geothermal cooling instead of conventional air conditioning.

For more on how to reduce your carbon e-print, have a look at some of these sites:

Sun’s take on green data centers in 2009 (

Green Data Center Blog

Google: Our green data centers get a lot greener (

Photo by ibmphoto24.

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More than a hint of mint in the stimulus plan

by The Green A-Team

A breakdown of the numbers from the NRDC:

The bill provides:

$6 billion for clean and safe water, creating more than 200,000 jobs

  • This insures critical funding for the nation’s pipes and treatment plants.  We don’t often worry too much about where our clean water comes from and this line seeks to keep it that way.

$4.5 billion for greening federal buildings

  • The Federal building codes and standards apply to buildings constructed or used by any Federal agency that is not legally subject to state or local building codes.  This means that any building, not just the White House, Pentagon, Capital Building, etc., ANY building paying their energy bills with Federal money will be subject to completely revised energy efficiency performance standards which have been set by the DOE.

State energy grants, issued through the Treasury Department, that will fund renewable energy projects that are eligible for the available tax credits.

  • As of October of last year, the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 prolonged tax credits in solar, fuel cells, and microturbines; increased the credit amount for fuel cells; established new credits for small wind-energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, and combined heat and power (CHP) systems; extended eligibility for the credits to utilities; and allowed taxpayers to take the credit against the alternative minimum tax (AMT) subject to certain limitations.  If you’ve got these systems already in place are are planning to build new ones, you should apply here.

Funding for the state energy program, which includes important utility reforms and building code conditions.

$2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy Research and Development.

  • In many cases, the technology just isn’t there yet and it takes resources to get there, hence, this line item.

$5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program, creating approximately 90,000 jobs

  • The expansion of this service will help the program reach a critical mass and deliver what it was designed to do - help low income families make energy efficiency improvements on their homes and spend less on utilities.  See if you qualify here.

A multi-year extension of the renewable production tax credit.

  • Even greater insurance to individuals and corporations interested in these upgrades that their renewable energy improvements will be rewarded for many years to come.  This is the kind of thing that boosts investor confidence in green stocks.

A more effective tax credit for home efficiency upgrades.

$6 billion in loan guarantees for renewables, transmission and leading edge biofuels

  • This is a great boon for companies investing in these industries.  Now there will be real money to back up the loans guaranteed by the government.  This comes as particular significance to the USDA.

$2 billion for advanced batteries

  • More than just rechargeable batteries for your TV remote, this category of tech development may be the most important.  Certainly the automotive industry has a lot to gain with hybrid-electric vehicles seeking to replace the current fleet.  Here’s an interesting piece from the US Advanced Battery Consortium (USCAR).  The storage of electricity produced on a massive scale for residential and commercial use is also an integral component to making the new renewable grid happen.

$9.3 billion for intercity rail, including high-speed rail

  • With these new high-speed rail systems, the U.S. may actually be up to speed with the rest of the world.  Here’s a little more on that idea.

$27.5  billion for highways (this large pot of money is not exclusively for highways, and states and cities must use this flexibility to invest in fuel-efficient public transportation)

  • While this may seem a bit imbalanced up against the public transportation budgets, the ethos behind it suggests the auto fleet will be markedly cleaner by the time the highways are improved.  Like it or not, the U.S. is a car culture which means the industries and infrastructure must change to accommodate it.

$8.4 billion for transit

$1.5 billion in competitive grants for transportation investments (which could be used for public transportation)

  • These last two lines combined with the high-speed rail budget is a pretty formidable sum to help the country’s beleaguered public trans condition.  However, it may also prove to be a mere drop in the bucket if the other energy system improvements are not met.

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E-waste: Where do all the gadgets go?

by The Green A-Team

The International Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up in Las Vegas but what happens to these soon-to-be-obsolete electronic devices once their lifetime has expired?

Electronic waste, made up of discarded TV’s, computers, and cell phones, known as E-waste has swiftly risen to become the fastest growing component of our country’s waste stream.  In reality, the physical stuff of these magic machines consists mainly of lead, mercury, and cancer-causing dioxins that poison the people and habitats around them.

One such habitat can be found in the Guiyu region of China.  Here, nearly 80% of the world’s e-waste is shipped to be sorted, dismantled, and melted down to its valuable elements, including gold.  The result is the highest concentration of cancer and child lead poisoning in the world.

Ensure your e-waste isn’t contributing to this toxic scourge by checking out recycling brokers and accredited e-stewards the next time you’re ready to toss a used gadget.

For more on what to do with e-waste, check out some of these resources:

Electronic Waste - Guiyu, China

Regional Computer Recycling and Recovery (

E-Waste: Dark side of digital age (Wired)

Following the trail of toxic e-waste (60-Minutes)

Photo and slideshow by alistair.ruff.

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My dirty little Valentine

by The Green A-Team

When choosing gold jewelry for your Valentine this year, consider the dirty secrets of this so-called precious metal.

The world’s gold is in short supply and the amount collected in the last 500 yearsd could fill two Olympic sized swimming pools.  Within the last 50 years, the old wild west methods of panning and prospecting have been replaced by mountain leveling, open-pit mining that creates man made earth gashes that can be seen from space.

Having the least vital relevance to human existence, gold generates more waste per ounce than any other metal.  One ounce, the amount found in a typical wedding ring, requires the removal of more than 250 tons of rock and ore.  Cyanide is used to leach gold from the ore and the lead and mercury heavy waste slurry is commonly dumped into local water resources decimating fish, wildlife, and poisoning the food chain for generations.

If you really want to dazzle your Valentine this year, try buy from retailers like Tiffany & Co that are pushing mining standards higher.

For more facts and alternatives to dirty gold, check out some of these powerful images and links:

Women Gold Miners (Chocó, Colombia)

Chocó is a no man’s land. The large inaccessible rainforest jungle area in the western lowlands of Colombia is mainly inhabited by Afro Colombian population, descendents of African slaves. High presence of malaria, guerilla drug traffic routes, tropical deseases and only an irregular river transport makes this region virtually lost. Gold that is found in the jungle rivers of Chocó is the only hope for many although they never find what they dream about. Women goldminers work in a hot tropical humid climate, miring in the goldbearing mud, searching for the gold and platine dust. They will never give up their effort simply because there is no other way to live off. ©

Alternatives to Dirty Gold (

Jewelery retailers target ‘dirty gold’ (Marketplace)

Cleaning up dirty gold (Washington Post)

Photo by danielle_blue.

Slideshow by Jan Sochor.

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Time’s up for gas guzzling automakers

by Rich Awn

The rubber hits the road as President Obama puts car and truck emission regulations in reverse.

With petroleum fueling foreign conflict and gas prices mercilessly gouging  the American people, President Obama announced his plans for decisive action in his first steps toward real energy independence.

The new energy policy now before Congress calls for a massive overhaul in the physical engineering of our current grid; a project that will create a new energy economy loaded with green collar jobs.

As for the new green American auto fleet, the President declares it will be built right here at home.  By 2020, new manufacturing standards will only produce autos that can get at least 35 miles per gallon.  This 40% increase in fuel efficiency could save 2 million barrels of oil per day.

While his wish is not to burden the struggling American auto industry, the President’s swift actions have automakers scrambling to meet these new standards slated to begin in 2011.

For more on the new energy economy, have a look at some of these links:

Environmentalists for Obama

Technology’s fingerprints on the stimulus package (NY Times)

US Secretary breaks with ‘drill only’ energy policy (AP)

Photo by Subject is too Cute.

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The price of green

by The Green A-Team

The high price of green energy culls consumers and Clean Air restrictions on big shipping have port workers gasping for air.

The New York Times released a comprehensive evaluation of American green power programs and found that only 2% of households can voluntarily afford electricity powered by renewables.  The study reveals that while green power may be expensive now, resources like wind and sunlight are free and safe from the price jumps found in oil, coal, or natural gas.

Los Angeles, California: The green wave has rolled into port and commercial shipping giants say less cargo will mean less revenue in 2009.  Pollution from big shipping isn’t from the boats but from the 16,000 trucks on land.  Old, dirty trucks are slated to be replaced with cash from municipal bonds but the weak market is preventing California state money from reaching the program.  The port hopes to postpone any further green initiatives based on declining cargo volumes.

For more on the price of green, check out some of the following links:

California study shows high cost of renewable power (Reuters)

Economists caution Oregon on high cost of biofuel (Renewable Energy World)

One-two punch of high cost renewables (ACCF)

Photo by TW Collins.

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Big tech claims carbon neutrality without standards

by The Green A-Team

The world’s biggest technology giants have vowed to reduce their carbon emissions to win your green dollar.

So who decides what “going carbon neutral” really means?

According to the Wall Street Journal, companies like Dell, Google, and Yahoo are all active in cutting the amount of carbon dioxide produced in their operations.  The problem is that each company defines their carbon neutrality in a different way.

Dell calculates their 490 thousand ton footprint from what comes out of their offices, company cars, and employees who fly.  20 thousand of this was cut making some green building improvements and grounding some of their airborne employees. So what about the other 470 thousand tons?

The solution seems to be in the good work of others. Renewable-energy certificates, or carbon credits, are created by clean energy companies and sold off to offset the remaining tonnage acquired by these big companies.

Until a universal standard for carbon neutrality is decided, the onus is on the consumer to find out how green a product truly is.

For more details on how to calculate corporate carbon neutrality, try out some of the following links:

Google to outspend government on environment (

Revealed: How the Times got confused about Google and the tea kettle (Tech Crunch)

Dell, Apple, Microsoft, H.P. perceived as U.S. green tech leaders (Environmental Leader)

Photo by bobby__emm.

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Elephant poo paper cleans up

by Rich Awn

For no other reason than this kinda made me chuckle when I first caught wind of it on and then again when thepoopoopaper Twittered me, it seemed irresistibly interesting.  Turns out this elephant dung paper ain’t no joke but a potent little eco craze that’s helping keep these mammoth beasts thriving in the wild.

The diet of an elephant consists mainly of fruits, fibrous grasses and bamboo.  These plants can be used to make paper on their own but requires a rather toxic process to achieve what an elephant’s digestive system does on its own.  What’s left behind is the undigested plant matter that is first washed, combined with some other plant fibers, molded into “cakes” or “wafers”, left out in the sun to dry, and then peeled off it’s tray to make poop paper products!

The process is as brilliant as it is beneficial.  The dung used is collected from conservation parks creating a clean environment for the animals while the whole process from elephant grazing to paper raising creates jobs down the entire line.  The Elephant Poo Paper Company, Ltd. even goes so far as to donate a portion of your purchase from their “Poo-tique” to elephant conservation services worldwide.

Who knew poo could be so cool?  Hooray!

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The corn that’s killing us

by The Green A-Team

Is corn killing us?

The endless supply of junk food in our society creates untold amounts of waste and causes health problems like obesity and diabetes but it’s not simply sugar and fat doing the damage.  There’s a common ingredient found in almost everything sold on supermarket shelves from fatty beef to sugary soda - it’s corn.

Curt Ellis, one of the creators of the documentary film, King Corn.

Corn is the basis for fast food.  When we go to McDonald’s, the hamburger is fed corn, the soda is almost completely high-fructose corn syrup, and the french fries are fried in corn oil or soybean oil.

The overproduction of low quality corn as a commodity is a huge problem but there’s a lot you can do to combat it.  Buy locally produced vegetables, switch to grass fed beef, and avoid high-fructose corn syrup.  These easy steps will help you right the wrongs of the American food industry and live well.

For the full interview podcast with Curt Ellis, click here.

Photo by Joeri van Veen.

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Curt Ellis, Co-Creator of King Corn

by The Green A-Team

I’m speaking today with one of the creators of the documentary film, King Corn, he’s also a Food and Society Policy fellow with the Kellog Foundation.

Q: At the very beginning of the film you talk about how our generation is at risk of having a shorter life span based on the foods we eat, specifically regarding the omnipresence of corn in our diet.  Was there one thing in particular that really calcified this fear and got you off the coast and in the corn belt?

A: I think it was that announcement in a major medical journal.  Around that time I was graduating from college, that my generation, I’m in my 20s, my generation is likely to have a shorter life expectancy than my parents generation and that’s something that’s really never happened before and it’s a result of this incredible explosion of obesity.  The fact that obesity has doubled in the last 30 years in this country and now according to the CDC one in three kids is on a path to develop type-2 diabetes.  So we’re seeing this tremendous explosion of healthcare problems that really are being caused by the way we feed ourselves.

Q: Specifically, how is corn putting us at risk of a shorter life span?

A: Corn is the basis for fast food in our country.  When we go to McDonalds or Burger King and order a fast food meal, the hamburger is fed corn in confinement and as a result it’s higher in saturated fat than a grass fed cow would be; the soda is almost completely corn because of high-fructose corn syrup; and french fries are fried in corn oil or soybean oil and all those weird polysyllabic food ingredients like propylene glycol and citric acid, those are corn too.  So really what we’ve done is, in the last half-century, create an industrial food system that uses these highly processed commodities like corn and soybean to fuel a conversion from eating fresh food and nutritious food to eating these empty calories like high-fructose corn syrup.

Q: You and Ian looked like you guys were having a pretty good time throughout the film, was there ever a point where farm life seemed to be getting just a little too much for you guys?

A: Definitely!  We moved to Iowa with this expectation that we were gonna spend our first year out of college as farmers and I think we brought with us a lot of expectations as far as what that meant.  I remember a friend of us gave us work gloves because he imagined we’d be out digging in the soil with a shovel but the reality was completely different and it’s a sign of just how disconnected from agriculture most Americans have become.  For us, farming was not at all like gardening.  If you’re growing 1000 acres of corn or soybeans, it’s about driving giant tractors, spraying some pretty intense herbicides, injecting gaseous ammonia fertilizer into the field.  It was, to us, a totally different experience than we imagined.

Q: It’s all machines now.

A: You know, we didn’t touch the soil with our hands once in the course of growing 10,000 pounds of food and that, on a cultural level, was a real shock to us.  We have this incredible bounty coming from the land but very little interaction with it.

Disturbing.  In your interview with former Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, seemed to be one of the most tense and poignant moments on screen.  Having served for 5 years in that position, Buts is depicted as having probably the greatest effect on the US farm program in history.  Has there been much change to the Farm Bill he created in 1973 that indicates that the overproduction of commodity corn is being addressed?

A: No, there’s been piece meal change over the last 40 years.  But the way our farm subsidy systems work today, like in the early 70s, channels an incredible amount of tax dollars to promote the production of a handful of commodities, the commodities that become the basis for fast food and processed food.  In the last 10 years, we’ve spent more than 50 billion dollars just on promoting corn production through federal subsidies.  And we’re not subsidizing fruits and vegetables, the kind of things we know are healthy for us so what we’ve done is tinker with the free market and create a new system in which fast food and processed food and processed commodities are artificially cheap and abundant.  And the foods we know are good for us, fresh fruits and vegetables, and the things we know are good for the land like conservation practices, those things have not received their fair share of subsidies.

Q: Are we gonna need some new sort of fast food chain of natural foods in order to combat this?  I mean, what can we do?

A: Well, there’s certain things consumers can do if you decide you don’t wanna feed your kids high fructose corn syrup it’s probably gonna make them healthier to not have too many empty calories in their diet but the bigger thing we can do is become policy advocates in however small a way.  One reason the farm subsidy program has stayed intact for the last 40 years and is working against us as consumers and against farmers, family farmers, one reason that program has stayed intact is because there has been no outcry from the public.  Most of us have just assumed that farm subsidies only apply to farmers or to the “farm states” but the reality is this is also a food bill, the farm bill is a food bill, and the way we grow food and the kind of food we promote affects our health down the line and affects what we see when we walk into the supermarket which right now is a whole lot of processed corn and soybeans.

Q: Have you continued your farming practices after this whole thing?

A: I haven’t.  I will admit, I’m part of a growing number of people in my generation who want to get back to the land in some way and it’s pretty important.  The typical farmer now is around 55 years of age so there’s about to be a tremendous turnover in who’s farming the land and what they’re growing.  So I’m off the farm for now and making films like King Corn and traveling around showing them to people.  My desire in the long run is to be a farmer and to not just grow commodities on a 2000 acre scale but also grow some food for direct consumption.

Q: Any more films of this nature that we can expect from you guys?

A: Yeah, we just finished a documentary about the first big green residential building in Boston.  It’s a film called the Greening of Southie and it’s basically the story of couple hundred blue collar jobs going green and I think in many ways it comes from the same place as King Corn which is this idea that we live in the most advanced country in the world but we pay almost no attention to the fundamental things - food and clothing and shelter - which at the end of the day, are still the most important things.  King Corn’s a film about where our food comes from and the Greening of Southie is a film about the buildings we live in.

Photo by Ian Cheney | Independent Lens | PBS

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Artisinal Gold Mining on the Niger River

by The Green A-Team

Ancient practices employed today in search of the river’s treasures.

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Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz

by The Green A-Team

At the recent USGBC New York Chapter Gala,  Borough President Marty Markowitz took the time to address  a few things that are on the minds Brooklyn residents, small business owners, and the environmental community.  It was clear from his direct and sometimes gregarious responses that while every politician is subject to criticism, Borough President Markowitz certainly isn’t afraid to express his personal views.

Markowitz became involved in politics in the 1970s, by organizing tenant and senior citizen organizations in Flatbush, Brooklyn.  His role as a community leader got him elected to the State Senate in 1978, and spent over two decades as a New York State Senator for Brooklyn. During his time as a state senator, he was known for creating a series of oceanfront concerts and other festivals rather than drafting legislation.

Q: What’s Green about Brooklyn?

A: Well, listen, in fact if you look in New York City, the most environmentally active community in the city is Park Slope.  We lead the way, it’s true!  There’s no question about it.

Q: Can small business get help to clean up toxic industrial sites and move in safely?

A: The answer is yes but it’s going to require a partnership with State and Federal Government and as you know right now, finances are such in the State that are most challenging and I’m sorry to say that we’re on a cutting mode right now but once our economy becomes stronger it’s my hope that the Federal and State Governments will be eager participants and provide the resources to allow the city to clean up.  First up, we need that property, we need that land and it’s environmentally a necessity.  I can tell you that, for instance, there’s a business in Brooklyn, I think you know, Whole Foods, that is not able to really get going because of the toxic level of the property that they bought and that’s a shame for all of us, the jobs potentially that we’re losing not only there but other locations.

I see the future as very bright, you know why?  America has no choice! We have no choice.  This is the future.  It’s about our economy in the future.  It’s about our health in the future.  It’s about jobs in the future.  And you know what, we in this nation better get on this curve because Japan and Korea and some of those Mid-East countries are already on the track and we can’t be left behind.  We already failed in the automobile industry and unless we grab that industry back, we’re gonna be further behind and we can’t allow the energy industry to get by us as well.  This is the future of America at stake so I’m convinced that we’ll make it happen.

Q: What are you thoughts on carbon tariffs?

A: I must tell you that I think we have to provide incentives to corporations to do what they have to do.  First you entice then and then you slap them so let’s see what more we can do to entice them before we slap them.  I always believe the first approach, the best approach, is to provide incentives and then if they don’t live up to their public responsibilities, then the hammer comes down.

Q: What’s happening with the Gowanus Canal?

A: Well, there’s some exciting things about the Gowanus Canal.  There are proposals, as you know, of Toll Brothers to build new housing there and I believe the key, by having more development around the Gowanus and having more residential units, it will really really put the pressure on Federal, State and City Govern to clean up the Gowanus Canal once and for all.

Q: Are you involved in the Newtown Creek cleanup efforts?

A: Newtown Creek is another area.  Riverkeeper and I have been very active, I’m part of the suit and there’s no question that Exxon/Mobil I believe, under Barack Obama and Congress, that we’ll have a much better opportunity to get the oil companies to clean up their garbage.  It’s the truth!  This is our shot, this is our chance.

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Give green without being a Grinch

by The Green A-Team

The holidays are here and while the economy may by slowing down Santa’s sleigh, you don’t have to be a Scrooge to give green.

While continuing the tradition of giving this holiday season here are some ways to keep your spirits up, pockets jingling and the planet a-ring-a-ling too:

1.) Try solar powered or LED lights on your trees. Keep your display on a timer and you’ll have more to celebrate when the bill comes.

2.) Reusable gift bags and recyclable wrapping paper make for an even more joyous celebration.

3.) Replant your tree instead of incinerating it.  Living Christmas trees can be purchased at some retail lots, most nurseries and garden centers.

4.) Regift!  There’s never been a better time to swallow your pride and recycle perfectly good items by giving them to your loved ones.  What may be junk to you could make a friend’s holiday a little brighter and your closet a little lighter.

I’m Rich Awn wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!

For more ways to stay green in your celebration, visit these great sites.

How to have a ‘green’ Christmas (

Eco-friendly gifts for Christmas (

Eco Christmas tree by Buro North (

Photo by neil-san.

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Alberta oil sands catastrophe pending:
Act now

by Rich Awn

Hey Americans!

Thought it would be helpful to direct your attention to this little letter put together by some freaked out Canadians about an industrial catastrophe that will nullify Quebec’s carbon reduction efforts.

As stated, if Enbridge is allowed to implement the “Trailbreaker Plan”, increase production and supply this pipeline that ends at the marinas of Portland, Maine, the emissions and massive holes in the ground will leave a tangible and indelible scar on the planet; it will distort and disfigure life as we know it.  This is real.

Submit your attention as a concerned neighbor and read about the players and the plans below.

Good Guys:


Environmental Defense

Forest Ethics

Bad Guys:

Enbridge (Trailbreaker Overview)

Photo by Arkaiyen.

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Oil Sands: True Grit

by The Green A-Team

What’s worse than oil?  Oil sands.

According to Christine MacDonald, author of Green Inc., oil sands is an extremely heavy form of crude oil found in great quantities in Canada and Venezuela.  It requires an open-pit mining process that destroys forests and uses a lot of water, making it even more environmentally invasive than old-fashioned drilling.

Essentially, the oil in oil sands is mixed together with sand and clay to form a viscous and dense form of petroleum that must be separated out in order to be useful.  It takes three to five barrels of water to separate a single barrel of oil from the clay and dirt.

Turning oil sands into something you can pour into your car’s gas tank takes several times more energy than processing conventional oil and contributes more than twice as much greenhouse gas.  So if you hear of legislators trying to pass off an oil sands project as a way to counteract the global energy crisis, fight it with all your might.

For more on oil sands, click on some of the following links:

High stakes in Canada’s vast oil sands fields (

We’re still fans of oil sands (Motley Fool)

The oil sands of Alberta: Where black gold and riches can be found in the sand (60 Minutes)

Tar Sands Basics (Oil Shale & Tar Sands Programmatic EIS)

Alberta oil sands catastrophe pending: ACT NOW

Photo by shanebe.

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Blue dogs and green tax credits

by The Green A-Team

If Green building can save the housing market, what’s holding us back?

Our Government holds the power to dramatically effect the fate of the housing market.  Legislation that offers financial incentives to lenders helps developers and homeowners who put a premium on energy efficiency.  The House Financial Services Committee decides whether a bill that favors Green building will be approved.

Sean Todd, President & CEO of Fox Patomac Resources LLC.

For a tax credit to be passed, it’s gotta be taken out of somewhere else so they have to look for offsets to pay for these tax credits in Green buildings and that has been the major obstacle.

While Republicans objected to the estimated $2.7 billion dollar cost associated with the bill, the Obama administration will surly create a strongly activist Congress to push progressive ideas like this ahead.

For more on the green path out of the housing crisis, check out some of the following links.

The US Market for Green Building Materials (

Cool Housing Market Makes Green Buildings Shine (

Could efficient homes save the US housing market from an Asian takeover? (Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce)

Click here for our full interview with Sean Todd.

Photo by WayneWho?

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Exclusive Inteview with Sean Todd, Founder of Fox Patomac Resources

by The Green A-Team

As founder and president of Fox Potomac Resources, Sean Todd has over a decade of work within the Legislative Branch, Executive Branch and private sector lobbying arena in Washington, D.C. Prior to founding FPR, he spent three years in the government affairs and marketing offices of International Technology Corporation. He is responsible for the development, implementation and management of firm’s activities, including client development, execution of work and deliverables, and sole P&L responsibilities.

Q: What is holding legislative bodies from passing Green building policies?

A: What’s holding back the House of Representatives specifically in passing financial incentives and tax rebates to promote the use of green technologies in buildings is a policy known as pay-as-you-go.  Pay-as-you-go is a principle that if you’re passing tax credits, subsidies as some people call them, that the House of Reps, especially the “blue dogs, the coservative to moderate Democrats, want to make sure that we have a balanced budget.  In other words, for tax credits to be passed it’s gotta be taken out from somewhere else in the general revenues.  So they have to look for offsets, Rich, in somewhere else in the tax code or in the appropriations process to pay for these tax credits in green buildings and that has been, I would say, the major obstacle in finding those offsets to pay for green building tax credits.

Now in the Senate, there is no obstacle there because the blue dogs are a House body and they don’t have as much as a firm pay-as-you-go principle on the Senate side.

Q: What is the current status of the green building initiative before the House Financial Services Committee?

A: Well, Rich, the current status of Green building tax codes and tax legislation really goes before the House Ways and Means Committee which is responsible for all tax pieces of legislation.  So Financial Services is the Committee that really has jurisdiction over mortgage credits, banks… the Financial Services Committee is more of an authorizer, if you will, the Ways and Means Committee has to do more with passing actual tax legislation.

Q: With Republicans objecting to previous bills and other like it, do you feel the new administration will be more aggressive to pushing incentives to building green and other environmental actions going forward?

A: Absolutely, Rich.  The Obama Administration will be more aggressive in pushing green building tax credits.  If you read Obama’s plan, he has a fairly aggressive plan to make all new buildings carbon neutral by 2030, he has a goal to establish new building efficiency by 50% and by 25% over the next decade, he wants to establish a competitive grant program for early adopters to make awards for those states and localities who take the first steps implementing those new building codes.  As far as Federal buildings go, it’s even more aggressive under Obama’s plan; he wants to achieve a 40% increase in efficiency in all new Federal buildings within five years and also ensure that all new Federal buildings have zero emissions, in other words, a zero carbon footprint by 2025.  Very aggressive goal.

Q: It seems most developers are on board with this and it doesn’t seem too far fetched.

A: Well, they are expensive and if you build green technologies into your mortgage they’re not as expensive but they are at the moment, sort of expensive to put in there.  I think the first opportunity will be with Obama’s windfall profit tax initiative.  He wants to all companies to take a share of their windfall profits and use it to provide direct relief to individuals and married couples, $500 for individuals, $1000 for a married couple, and I think that will be an opportunity, perhaps, to insert some of these green building tax credits.  We’ll have to wait and see.  It really depends on the leadership in the House and Senate, Max Baucus in the Senate and Charlie Rangel in the House.

Q: What is the relationship in your perspective between the economic crisis and the environmental crisis?

A: Well that’s a big question, Rich. I’m not sure I have the scope of a mind to tackle this.  I think Obama recognizes that they’re both enormous challenges and Presidents can only do so much, they can only really focus on 4, 5, 6 things at a time and he’s gotta establish his priorities.  He said in his second debate, then Senator Obama said that he would have energy as his top priority so we’ll see if he lives up to that commitment.

Photo by bno20.

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Back at junk value, recyclables are piling up

by The Green A-Team

Full NYT article here.

Green Air Filter:

Is Pixar so prescient?  Will our planet one day be deserted with no one left but WALL-E robots cubing massive heaps of trash our civilization simply couldn’t handle?  If you haven’t seen the movie, this article is another clear representation of the sad irony found in our increasingly futile effort to reuse and manage waste.

The grim fact being that recycled materials are too costly for countries like China to buy back from top exporters like the US is what’s creating the log jam.  This overpriced approach to renewables even goes beyond materials and scares consumers away from such energy utility programs offering wind, hydroelectric, and solar power at a costly premium.  Seems the true innovation here requires absolute altruism on the part of it’s inventors to excavate us from these rising mountains of expensive trash.

Photo by ghb624.

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How McDonald’s finally got green

by The Green A-Team

Full Guardian article here.

Green Air Filter:

There are many ideas and connotations associated with McDonald’s. With an ever-foreboding presence in America as well as the rest of the world, the fast food giant was always the one to present trends to avoid, not to follow. But after a recent campaign for sustainability in the company, it may be wise for other companies to look to McDonald’s with inspiration rather than desperation.

With the fallen economy looking increasingly difficult to salvage by the day, environmental issues have taken a backseat due to its costs. But McDonald’s have proven that sustainability not only keeps in touch with the Green issue, but also creates new jobs and opportunities much needed in our current state. Who knew a beacon of hope could start with Corporate America?

Photo by Scott Klender.

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Slow food epidemic spreading at snail’s pace

by The Green A-Team

Fast food causes some of the biggest health and environmental problems today.

Will the Slow Food movement help?

The Slow Food idea began in Rome in 1986 out of protest against a new MacDonalds restaurant slated for construction.  The protest ballooned into what’s now a movement of 350,000 strong, keeping consistent with centuries of Italian culinary traditions stressing the highest in quality food, ancient organic farming methods, and regional offerings.

Today, slow food organizations, chapters, and restaurants are found in most major cities the world over.  The theme of education through tastings and the preservation of heritage through food seems to be catching on… not to mention, it’s good for you!

For slow food restaurants in your area, check out some of the following links:

Slow Food USA

Slow Food Nation

Slow Food LA

Slow Food Seattle

Slow Food San Francisco

Slow Food Asheville

Slow Food NYC

Photo by Alastair French.

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Greenhouse open for eco-conscious clubgoers

by Rich Awn

Full Gothamist article here.

This post was originally scheduled for News but I thought, “how is this news?”  I mean, it’s significant but it’s not the kind of thing that’ll  determine the pace of the world’s environmental progress/decline.

But I digress.  My feelings about LEED nightclubs and decor that screams GREEN the minute you walk in is something that puts me in a quandary and schedules this post under the Category, “EEEEEK-oh!” - a category loosely defined as “the sound my brain makes when reacting to something that reeks of greenwashing.”  Posts filed under EEEEK-oh! may be a cautionary tale with an undercurrent of truth that connotes a good deed despite it’s flashy exterior.

I digress again.  Does anyone remember the “Pink Room” at the 90’s NYC club, The Tunnel?  The Pink Room looked like the walls had been stuffed with that Pink Panther-endorsed insulation and everything was plushy and furry with globular mirrors all over the place.  Seems like not much has changed since those ecstasy-heavy days but instead of fiberglass insulation as decor, now it’s some other fake fur crap.

Decor aside, has anyone figured out how to do the kinetic energy dance floor thing yet???  That’s seemingly the most intuitive innovation to making a club green but then again, you need people to fill the floor to make the lights come on.  Is clubland still packing the house like it did in the 70s, 80s, and 90s?

Photo by Katie Sokoler.

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Life on the Green Carpet:
Exclusive Interview with Ryan Leslie

by The Green A-Team

Going green on the red carpet.

Rising stars in the worlds of music and entertainment have the voice and popularity to shape a generation.

Ryan Leslie is no stranger to the spotlight.  His recent signing to Universal by way of Sean “P-Diddy” Combs, has thrust him into into a fast-paced world of private jets, tour busses, and a lifestyle surrounded by excess.

I think that my voice will be chiming in with the voices that everyone’s been hearing over the past few years, especially with the work of someone like an Al Gore, who’s really brought to the forefront in a very cool way the importance of taking stock in the environment and the smart use of our natural resources.

Ryan’s talents both as a singer and forward thinking entrepreneur give even more depth to his powerful voice and message.

For more of our exclusive interview with Ryan Leslie, click below.

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Green skyscrapers:
Exclusive interview with Jeff Brodsky of Related Companies

by The Green A-Team

Will the crushing economy derail the big Green development plans for our cities and towns?

As cities continue to grow, large developers are incorporating sustainable technologies into their buildings. Reusing existing materials and installing roof mounted solar panels are two simple ways skyscrapers are going green.

Related Companies, is one of the biggest developers in the country and is responsible for some of New York City’s most aggressive skyscraper builds.

Jeff Brodsky, President of the Management Division of Related Companies.

Our expectation is that we’re going to be building green buildings, sustainable buildings, across our portfolio. Our commitment is over 30 billion dollars not only built but also in the planning stages and development. It’s an expectation of us that the client is expecting a sustainable and an environmentally sensitive product and if you don’t build it green now, three years from now it’s gonna be an obsolete building anyway.

And Related Companies is just one of many developers following through with their commitment to Green building despite the current economic landscape.

For more on building Green, click on the following links.

The Urban Project: A Green Development Company

Chipolte Restaurants Seek LEED for All Chains (Market Watch)

Green Tech for Cities (World Changing)

The New Green Building (New York Times)

Photo by Neil101.

For more of our exclusive interview with Jeff Brodsky, click below.

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