Green Bits: March 2010

By Pax Rasmussen

New ideas from near and far for a healtherier, more sustainable future.
by Pax Rasmussen

Rapid rebates

By now, most CATALYST readers are well aware of the possibility of getting rebates on new energy efficient windows, heaters and other appliances. Figuring out what to buy for the best rebates, though, can be a pain. Now it’s easier to figure out which hot water heater to buy to replace that rusting, natural-gas-guzzling hunk of junk in your basement. The Coalition for Energy Star Water Heaters (a national awareness and education campaign run by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency of Boston) has launched a new Web tool that lets consumers to search for rebates from local utilities on water heaters quickly and easily. It also provides lots of information about heating and efficiency in the home.

Junk mail? Return to sender!

Remember the “Do Not Call” registry that Bush Jr. signed into law back on ’03? Well, now there’s something similar to stop folks sending those pesky catalogs in the mail. There’s no law backing this registry up, but more than 1,300 retailers have voluntarily agreed to honor requests to stop sending catalogs. Just go to the website, find the catalogs you want to stop, and fill out the form.

Money talks

Turns out, Patrick Michaels, one of the tiny minority of scientists to question global warming and often called the “most credible climate skeptic,” isn’t so credible. In fact, there’s evidence he’s received hundreds of thousands of dollars from big polluters, including a number of energy and mining companies. Mother Jones magazine has a great article about this, here:

Clean those stacks

The Four Corners area of the southwestern U.S. has long been famous for some of the cleanest, clearest air in the country. Lately, though, places like the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Arches, Canyonlands and other national parks have seen their share of haze. Admittedly, a fair portion of this funk comes from tourists’ vehicles (especially in the Grand Canyon), but the fact that New Mexico’s dirtiest coal-fired power plant is within 200 miles of 16 national parks and wilderness area doesn’t help. That’s why last month, a coalition of eight conservation groups petitioned the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture to declare that the pollution from the Arizona Public Service Company’s Four Corners Power Plant on Navajo land in northwest New Mexico is violating the Clean Air Act by causing poor visibility in protected areas in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado.

Green jobs gonna save our asses

The results are in: Investing in green energy could bail out Utah by 2020. According to a local study conducted by Utah Clean Energy (called “Building the Clean Energy Economy: A Study on Jobs and Economic Development of Clean Energy in Utah”), a 20% increase in energy efficiency and switching to 20% of electricity sales from renewable energy development by 2020 would yield 7,000 new ongoing jobs, $310 million in new earnings and a $300 million increase in the state’s gross domestic product (GDP). Although that’s not a huge percentage of our state’s overall economy, it’s nothing to shake a stick at – and it’s renewable!

Albedo anxiety

A reflective roof doesn’t just look cool, it’s good for the planet. Last month, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center published a study claiming that a 25% increase in the reflectivity (albedo) of roofs (and a 15% of pavements) in urban areas could lead to an offset 57 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Reflective roofs keep solar radiation from converting to heat and warming the surface and atmosphere, plus it saves on cooling costs during the summer.

Where’s the money going to come from?

From the EPA, that’s where. A little of it, anyway. It’s good that Utah Clean Energy has shown us how much we can save if we invest in green tech and jobs, but it’s hard to pony up the dough lately. Luckily, Salt Lake City last month was awarded $368,000 of a $7.8 million EPA grant to combat greenhouse gases. The city will spend the money on a project called “Sustainable Transportation for a Sustainable Future,” which is designed to “move our Clear the Air Challenge, Salt Lake Sustainable Schools and Travelwise programs to the next level,” says SLC’s Mayor Ralph Becker. Kennecott/ Rio-Tinto, UDOT, Salt Lake County, Utah Clean Cities Coalition and Salt Lake Solutions are also contributing to the overall $552,000 cost of the project.

SLC gives the green light(s) to LEDs

Last year, Salt Lake City burned 14 million kilowatt hours of electricity to power street lights, releasing 6,500 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But don’t fret—technology to the rescue! Salt Lake City is now considering a project that will replace a “large portion” of its 15,000 streetlights with more efficient lamps. On the table are two technologies: induction lamps (similar to fluorescent lights, but better) and LEDs. SLC residents can express their preference for either lamp by taking the survey at the web address below. Street locations of the lamps are provided in the survey.

This article was originally published on February 28, 2010.