New ideas from near and far for a healthier, more sustainable future.
by Pax Rasmussen
Chipotle goes solar
According to the Associated Press, Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill (with four in Utah, including one in Sugar House) has unveiled an initiative to add solar panels to 75 of its 830 stores. The goal is to reduce electrical grid use between the peak hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. While Chipotle hasn’t released a complete list of intended sites, they plan to focus their solar efforts in the South and Southwest.
Porking out on plastic
In September, Newsweek reported that some scientists are taking a careful look at the role of early exposure to plastics in obesity later in life. Looking to explain a 2006 Harvard School of Public Health study that found a sharp increase in obesity rates of infants, scientists in Japan found that certain compounds, including the notorious bisphenol A (used to make many hard plastics, including baby bottles) can cause certain cells, which normally would become the body’s connective tissues, to become fat cells instead.
Construction employment still declining in 49 states & D.C.
Compared to last year, construction jobs are still vanishing in the U.S. According to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of figures released last month by the federal government, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky took the biggest losses. While not good for people in the short-term, this could be seen as evidence of the inherent flaw in the sprawly, suburb centered direction the country has been taking the last 50 years. A turnaround, perhaps?
Solar Salt Lake Project phase II wins federal stimulus funding
Two years ago, Salt Lake City won an initial federal grant for its Solar Salt Lake Project, which focuses on developing financial mechanisms and addressing regulatory barriers to solar energy use. Last month, the project was awarded another $10 million through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The city hopes to use the money to increase solar energy use throughout the Wasatch Front—mostly by introducing policies and regulations that support solar adoption, the integration of solar in new housing developments, evaluation of solar bonds and other funding sources, and solar education and outreach.
Online resource to expand solar energy use
Last month, the DOE announced its new online system to help local government and community leaders build sustainable local solar markets. The online publication “Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments,” provides local governments with “best practices” for developing a sustainable, robust solar product economy.
Mother Earth on the air
Last month, Mother Earth News magazine announced the launch of their green-living radio show. The show helps listeners get and understand the answers to questions such as: “How can I make my home more energy effecient and save money?” and “When should I plant my spring garden?” Actor and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. appears on Mother Earth News Radio’s inaugural show, Nov. 7 to discuss his approach to green living and his new book, “Ed Begley Jr.’s Guide to Sustainable Living.” Other segments will cover raising backyard chickens, performing a home energy audit and looking back at Mother Earth News’ 40-year history. Mother Earth News Radio airs each Saturday at 9 a.m. CST on CNN 1190 AM in Dallas, and nationwide on the IRN/USA Radio Network. Online listeners can hear archived episodes at MotherEarthNewsRadio.com.
DOE gives U green dough
The University of Utah has received nearly $2.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to research the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide. The plan is to focus on large-scale industrial carbon capture from sources such as cement and chemical plants, refineries, etc. Like a lot of the grant money we mention in Green Bits, this chunk comes from the federal Reinvestment and Recovery Act, too. Go Obama!
Call for presentations
The 5th Annual Salt Lake Sustainable Building Conference isn’t till spring 2010. But deadline for presenters to submit is Friday, November 20, 2009.
Needed are intermediate and advanced presentation abstracts on sustainable transportation, tax incentives for sustainable development, green preservation, regional sustainability, LEED impact on design and more.
City celebrates opening of Greater Avenues Water Conservation Garden
On October 21, city officials opened a water conservation demonstration garden on a once vacant lot on 11th Avenue and Terrace Hills Drive (890 E). The transformed space now provides city residents with examples of native plants—and with ideas on how those plans are best used in an urban environment. It is hoped the garden, three years in the making, will inspire homeowners to take advantage of the beauty and adaptabilty of native Utah plants.
Green while you “go”
Ok, well…after you go. The good folks at Brodell, a San Francisco-based bathroom products company, sent us a “review sample” of their Perfect Flush gadget. Basically it’s a water-powered lever controlled by a battery-operated button that lifts the flapper in the toilet tank, allowing the user to choose a half flush (for #1) or a full flush (for #2). The idea is that you don’t need a whole toilet tankfull of water just to purge some pee. I tried to install it on a toilet here at CATALYST’s office, it had the “ball-cock”-type fill valve, and apparently they sometimes don’t work with Perfect Flush. Luckily another toilet at the office hasa pilot-fill valve, and, after about a half an hour of dinking around with the flush settings, I got it working great.
Utah’s on the green side of the clothesline law
On October 10, the New York Times published an article exploring the radical underbelly of housework: clotheslines. Apparently, many communities around the country have banned the use of outdoor clotheslines (at various levels, both neighborhood and municipal), claiming they’re an eyesore and reduce property values. These rules and laws are thought to affect some 60 million people. Folks are fighting back, though. Last year, Vermont, Hawaii, Maine and Colorado passed laws that trump any local rules, based on environmental concerns—ensuring folks can put up lines. Utah, along with Florida, already has such a law, And Maryland, Oregon, Virginia and North Carolina have similar bills on the docket. So utilize one of Utah’s few progressive policies and dig out those clothespins!
Green is growing
More products and services—along with rebates and tax credits—make more people actively curious about increasing effeciency.
Building green usually means eco-friendly construction from the ground up. The concept of living green is much broader . The Living and Building Green Expo held in Park City last month offered resources for both.
The first expo was held last year as an extension of Build Green Utah, a member-driven organization comprised of builders, architects and the like who invest in green building strategies, providing third party certification for green homes in Utah. It is now considered an annual event sponsored by the Park City Board of Realtors and Recycle Utah, a Park City-based nonprofit and community recycling center for Summit County.
About 70 green living and building experts greeted an estimated 275 attendees, sharing ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint, and offering the products to help them do so—from compact fluorescent light bulbs, organic baby clothes and all-natural cleaning products to sustainable countertops, energy-efficient windows and the most notorious eco-friendly technology of all, solar thermal panels.
Event chair Tom Ward points out that more products and services have become available locally in just the past year: “That, coupled with rebates and tax credits, makes increasing energy efficiency in your home easier than ever.” In turn, he says, vendors were pleased with the high interest level displayed by the people who visited their tables.
This was the day to find someone to come to your home to conduct an energy audit—say, Jason Dittmer of DwellTek or Dennis Gray of Wasatch Energy Engineering. Or perhaps you learned that someone could remove the condensation in your doublepane windows and reseal them, eliminating the costly expense of purchasing all new windows—a service offered, for example, by Window Dynamics.
Or maybe you were interested in outdoor lighting that minimizes light pollution and its impact on the environment such as that sold by Anthony Arrigo, a “dark skies” advocate and owner of Starry Night Lights.
Nonprofits with an environmentally related message also participated. Utah Moms for Clean Air collected names on a petition to make Park City an “idle-free” community. The Summit Land Conservancy invited kids to learn about conservation through their Junior Steward program. Representatives from the Swaner Eco-Center, model of green building with its LEED Platinum certification, were also on hand.
Recycle Utah executive director Insa Riepen marveled, “It was a gloriously wonderful day, perfect for hiking or biking, and people still came.”
That makes sense. In a community where being in the great outdoors is important, it’s nice to see a healthy interest in caring for it as well.
— Liz Yokubison