Jimmy Carter’s solar plant powers half his Georgia hometown

February 25, 2020 by  
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Half of Plains, Georgia’s energy comes from solar panels, thanks to former President — and former farmer — Jimmy Carter. Since installing a solar plant on his former farm in 2017, Carter’s nearly 4,000 solar panels have kept the lights on for many of Plains’ 727 residents. The company SolAmerica first approached Carter with the idea to turn his land into a solar farm. SolAmerica Energy President George Mori recently told People that this experiment is still fueling the town a few years later. On a good sunny day, the panels provide 1.3 megawatts of power, Carter told the Sierra Club soon after the panels were installed. One megawatt provides enough energy to power 400 to 900 homes . Related: Jimmy Carter built a solar plant on his old peanut farm Carter was the first president to embrace solar energy. In 1979, during the Arab oil embargo, he had 32 solar panels installed on the White House. This semi-symbolic gesture served as a reminder to ordinary citizens about the importance of conserving energy. “A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil ,” Carter said at the time. The White House has undergone a changing relationship with solar energy , as reflected by successive administrations and their attitudes. After Carter left office, President Ronald Reagan had the panels removed. President George Bush had solar panels installed on the grounds during his administration, and in 2010, President Barack Obama ordered panels be reinstalled on the White House. Despite changing trends over time, the 95-year-old former president has remained true to his alternative energy vision. “Distributed, clean energy generation is critical to meeting growing energy needs around the world while fighting the effects of climate change ,” Carter said in 2017. “I am encouraged by the tremendous progress that solar and other clean energy solutions have made in recent years and expect those trends to continue.” Via People and ThoughtCo Image via Baxter Slate

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Jimmy Carter’s solar plant powers half his Georgia hometown

Why should the Scottish woodlands be protected?

February 25, 2020 by  
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Although Scotland is more heavily forested than England or Wales, much of its woodlands have been lost to logging, urban sprawl and climate change. Initiatives to reverse  deforestation  have been underway to contribute more trees, protect woodlands and ensure the  ecology , sustainability and longevity of Scotland’s forest resources. Why has reforestation become important in recent years? Last summer, a  YouGov  poll found that the environment is now viewed as the third most critical public issue, given our planet’s burgeoning  climate crisis . Reforestation has thereby become an important tool in combatting Earth’s climate emergency. Related:  More than half of Europe’s native trees face extinction Essentially, trees fight climate change and offer a solution. How?  Planting trees  encourages the absorption of carbon dioxide, one of the key greenhouse gases  responsible for  global warming . The more trees planted, the better they are at making a positive impact. According to the British nonprofit  Woodland Trust , the harnessing of tree  power significantly counteracts climate change: “Each year an estimated 20 million tonnes of CO2 are absorbed and locked away by the UK’s existing trees and woods.” And, in the face of a planetwide environmental emergency, the increase of forest  cover in Scotland, and by extension the United Kingdom, can help towards achieving Britain’s  carbon zero  target of 2050. Thus, implementing a sustainable cycle of replanting immediately after harvesting ensures the healthy renewal of both the supply of wood and the reduction of atmospheric carbon. “There is also a huge environmental significance to the increase in tree planting,” Fergus Ewing, Rural Economy Secretary, explained further. “In Scotland alone, around 9.5 million tonnes of CO2 each year are removed from the atmosphere by our forests – this is a clear example of why an increase in tree planting is so important in the fight against climate change.” In 2019, the  Independent  reported on Scotland planting 22 million trees. England, by contrast, “is falling significantly short of its targets” with “just 1,420 hectares of woodland was planted, despite a target of 5,000 hectares being set.” In other words, England “missed its annual target by seven million trees.” Therefore, as of last year, the UK’s amount of woodland cover remains at 13%, with Northern Ireland at 8%, England at 10%, Wales at 15% and Scotland at 19%. Indeed, Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, “a membership organisation for sustainable forestry and wood-using businesses,” said: “Scotland is leading the way in the UK, with 84% of all new planting happening in Scotland.” Meanwhile, The Woodland Trust encourages the turning of a new leaf for another reason. Besides helping to tackle our planet’s climate crisis, planting trees and increasing tree cover also resets  nature , improving ecosystem equilibrium for the protection of fragile habitats in Scotland and across the UK. Woodlands, at the heart of it all, support pollinators and endangered flora and fauna species. Restoring forests, then, would mean more protection for native wildlife, nurturing local biodiversity and the overall stewardship of the  environment . Reforestation  delivers yet other environmental public goods beyond improving habitats. Flood risks are alleviated. Soil quality and quantity are maintained.  Wildfires  are reduced, and the land can recover faster. Landscapes are also preserved, made more versatile and resilient. These benefits are far-reaching for land managers, not just of farms but also of landed estates. Besides conserving the forest, its  wildlife , soil and landscape, trees are imperative for the maintenance of local water resources.  Scottish Forestry has documented that a healthy forest “is also fundamental to good  water quality .” Understandably, a healthy forest ensures resilient catchment, especially for groundwater, indicating that a good forest will help restore underground water reservoirs. But trees can also hold water and maintain the water vapor in the air, thus encouraging precipitation so that the water cycle for an area remains robust. Interestingly, creating new woodland also helps protect existing ones that hold high  conservation  value, especially where ancient trees live and where wildlife struggles to thrive. As such, these ancient or established woodlands are irreplaceable as habitats, becoming strongholds for vulnerable flora and fauna. One such paragon is Scotland’s rainforest, more commonly known as the Atlantic woodland or Celtic rainforest, situated along the west coast and the inner isles, says the  BBC .  “Scotland’s rainforest is just as lush and just as important as tropical rainforest, but is even rarer,” Adam Harrison of Woodland Trust Scotland shared. This rainforest “is a unique habitat of ancient native oak, birch, ash, pine and hazel woodlands and includes open glades and river gorges. Our rainforest relies on mild, wet and clean air coming in off the Atlantic, and is garlanded with a spectacular array of lichens, fungi, mosses, liverworts and ferns. Many are nationally and globally rare and some are found nowhere else in the world.” Gordon Gray Stephens, of the  Community Woodlands Association , which was established as a representative body of Scotland’s community woodlands groups, said, “Our vision for regenerating Scotland’s rainforest is clear. We need to make it larger, in better condition, and with improved connections between people and woods.” Unfortunately, development sprawl and human activity (logging, overgrazing, mismanagement, invasive species introductions) threaten Scottish woodlands, both ancient and new, unique and common. Vegetation is cleared, and native  animals  are evicted. In the UK, the term is called ‘habitat fragmentation’ — which the Woodland Trust describes as “when parts of a habitat are destroyed, leaving behind smaller unconnected areas. This can occur naturally, as a result of fire or volcanic eruptions, but is normally due to human activity.” Fragmentation adversely impacts wildlife because it creates environmental “loss of total habitat area,” “reduction in habitat quality” and “increased  extinction  risk.” And so, while there have been proposals and legislation seeking to overcome status quo shortcomings, more work needs to be done to bridge the extensive environmental governance gap. Conservation efforts through woodland restoration, the planting of trees and advocacy for environmentally-friendly legislation all help as starting points.  One Scottish charity invested in rewilding the Scottish Highlands,  Trees for Life , advocates for more trees by informing the public of why trees are positively transformative, even beyond fighting climate change, preserving native trees and securing wildlife habitats for  species  survival. The additional benefits from woodlands include providing the natural environs for people to decompress for restorative wellness and absorbing pollutants (ammonia, nitrogen oxides, ozone, sulfur dioxide) to clean the air. Only by offsetting the poor management, curtailed budgets and neglect of years past can Scottish woodland heritage be safeguarded to ensure a healthy, resilient and  sustainable  future.  Images via Pixabay

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Why should the Scottish woodlands be protected?

This aluminum water bottle is a reusable alternative to single-use plastic

February 25, 2020 by  
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Pathwater, based out of northern California, began with a Christmas Eve run to a grocery store, where three friends lamented about the lack of truly sustainable water bottle options. So they rented a space, added two like-minded partners and got down to the business of providing water in something other than plastic . The result is a sleek, aluminum water bottle that keeps you hydrated, even when you are on the go. The team knew there were already alternatives to single-use plastic on the market, such as paper-based products. But even though paper is a more eco-friendly option to petroleum-based plastic, it is still resource-intensive and ends up in the landfill or littering beaches. Related: Coca-Cola to offer Dasani water in aluminum cans and bottles to reduce plastic waste The team brainstormed around the idea of widely popular, refillable metal water bottles. From there, they settled on a sturdy, aluminum bottle with a wide-mouth, twist-off lid that is easy to refill. The bottle is filled with locally sourced water purified through a seven-step reverse-osmosis process.  Pathwater is readily available in the northern California region and is continuing to grow in popularity. It can be found online through Amazon and in a growing number of stores and hotel snack centers — more than 4,000 to date. When you find a bottle of Pathwater, you will also discover it is fairly priced at $2.19 for a 25-ounce bottle that is both reusable and recyclable. It makes it easy to use sustainable options, even if you might be traveling and forgot to pack a reusable vessel. The future could see Pathwater bottles in vending machines and on store shelves instead of plastic bottles. In addition to taking the steps to create a viable alternative to single-use plastic, the team is dedicated to fighting plastic pollution by regularly volunteering for and partnering with beach clean-up organizations. The company has launched the PATHWATER Student Ambassador Program (PSA) to inspire and educate youth. The BAN Single-Use Plastic Bottles at Schools initiative also inspires the next generation to carry the torch in the fight against single-use plastic. + Pathwater Images via Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat

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This aluminum water bottle is a reusable alternative to single-use plastic

California pulls no punches on climate action

October 23, 2019 by  
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Governor Gavin Newsom is unabashed about fighting climate impacts and the White House. He’s got good company.

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California pulls no punches on climate action

Trump orders Perry to take steps to curb coal plant shutdowns

June 4, 2018 by  
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It seems President Donald Trump doesn’t want to let coal die. Bloomberg reported he ordered Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to take steps to stem closures of nuclear and coal power plants. An emailed statement from White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders read, “Impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix and impacting the resilience of our power grid .” Coal and nuclear plants are losing money as cheaper renewable energies and natural gas gain steam. Trump’s administration alleges that declines in nuclear and coal power jeopardize America’s security. According to the White House statement, the president told Perry “to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources and looks forward to his recommendations.” The Department of Energy’s strategy, as detailed in a memo Bloomberg obtained , could be to draw on power given by federal laws to create a “strategic electric generation reserve” and compel grid operators to purchase power from plants that are at risk. The National Security Council was to meet last week to talk over the idea. Related: Biggest grid operator in US attacks Perry’s proposal to prop up coal One purpose of this draft plan, Bloomberg reported, is to buy time for a two-year study probing vulnerabilities in the country’s energy delivery system. Administration officials have already used up a year of this time. Following an Energy Department grid reliability study, Perry suggested a rule that would have compensated nuclear and coal plants — and federal regulators killed the proposal. Major grid operator PJM Interconnection said in a statement its grid “is more reliable than ever” and “there is no such need for any such drastic action.” The company said it has analyzed planned deactivations of nuclear stations and found no immediate threat to reliability. PJM said, “Any federal intervention in the market to order customers to buy electricity from specific power plants would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers.” Electric Power Supply Association president John Shelk said, “National security is being invoked by people who once favored markets. Everybody loses in a fuels war.” Via Bloomberg Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Trump orders Perry to take steps to curb coal plant shutdowns

Gorgeous barn is built of reclaimed, century-old oaks from the site itself

June 4, 2018 by  
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In 2017, Dutch design firm HilberinkBosch Architects found out that seven of their century-old oak trees were in ailing health and would need to be cut down. Instead of sending the oaks to the paper mill, the architects decided to try their hand at building a timber barn using traditional construction techniques. The result—called the Sixteen-Oak Barn—was a stunning success that combines modern and rustic features with large panels of glazing and untreated timbers. The idea for a barn came from the local building vernacular in the Dutch region of Meierij van ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which features gabled farmhouses traditionally built from locally available materials . In a design the architects describe as “haphazard aesthetics,” the Sixteen-Oak Barn was constructed of the locally felled, century-old oak trees in addition to a couple of oaks sourced from the nearby Wamberg estate. The barn comprises a carport, storage room, and a workshop / meeting room for office use. There is also an addition loft space located above the storage room. A mobile sawmill brought on-site was used to cut the core sections of the felled oak tree trunks into structural timber for the frames, roof, and siding. The transverse-frame barn involves tie rod trusses and roof rafters to hold up an asymmetrical shingled roof clad in cleaved soft sapwood. Stanchions with bark serve as solar fins to shield the glazed facade from unwanted solar heat gain. Board-formed concrete complements the timber palette indoors. Leftover timber was chopped and stored as firewood in the barn’s recessed north facade. Related: Traditional barn raising techniques bring a modern cost-effective farm to life “The barn’s aesthetics have been strongly influenced by coincidence,” wrote the architects. “It lends this contemporary building a vital expression that merges old and new in a wonderful and extraordinary way. Untreated timber, concrete and glass have been intermingled in various ways. The irregular dimensions of the wood used to build the formwork resulted in far from perfect concrete surfaces.” + HilberinkBosch architects Images by René de Wit

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Gorgeous barn is built of reclaimed, century-old oaks from the site itself

Astronomers spot the most distant star ever seen 9 billion light-years away

April 2, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to undo Obama -era greenhouse gas emission regulations and fuel economy standards that were designed to encourage the development of cleaner, more efficient vehicles. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt will likely describe the move as lifting burdensome regulations on automakers to support the production of cheaper vehicles, but it doesn’t account for the costs of increased air pollution and continued climate change. Left in place, the rules would have reduced oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels while reducing carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of vehicles produced under the regulations. The rules that are set to be rolled back under the Trump Administration were created in 2012 as one of President Obama’s major initiatives to combat climate change . If allowed to be fully implemented, the rules would have required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Some worry that the United States ‘s decision to step away from stricter emissions standards could set a dangerous precedent around the world. “The concern is that automakers will go around the world basically trying to lobby regulators, saying, look, because the United States has reduced the pace, everywhere else should too,” Anup Bandivadekar, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation, told the New York Times . Related: Congress rejects Trump’s renewable energy budget cuts While American automakers had initially lobbied the Trump Administration for more relaxed standards, they did not expect to see a complete repeal of the rules. “We didn’t ask for that,” claimed Robert Bienenfeld , assistant vice president for environment and energy strategy at American Honda Motor. “The position we outlined was sensible.” In a blog post, Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett wrote that “we support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.” The relaxed standards proposed by automakers were viewed as less likely to cause a showdown with California and the dozen other states that follow its lead on strict environmental standards. Now, California is preparing for battle. “We’re going to defend first and foremost existing federal greenhouse gas standards,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told the New York Times . “We’re defending them because they’re good for the entire nation. No one should think it’s easy to undo something that’s been not just good for the country, but good for the planet .” Via the New York Times Images via Depositphotos and the White House

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Astronomers spot the most distant star ever seen 9 billion light-years away

Van Jones on solving the greatest social and climate challenges

December 11, 2017 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: The author and former White House green jobs czar on equity and sustainability.

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Van Jones on solving the greatest social and climate challenges

The Power of Business Advocacy to Accelerate a Clean Economy

October 2, 2017 by  
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How does public policy determine clean economy business outcomes?  Why is it imperative for business leaders to leverage their market power to truly accelerate clean energy, climate and sustainability innovations at the policymaking level — especially under this challenging federal administration? A Congressman, Google’s head of energy policy and market development, and a former White House Chief Sustainability Officer turned renewable energy finance entrepreneur share their stories and insights on the way forward.

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The Power of Business Advocacy to Accelerate a Clean Economy

Trump budget proposes 31% cut to EPA funding

May 24, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump is still trying to take a swing at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The White House’s most recent budget proposal, released yesterday, would cut money for environmental cleanup, clean air , and water programs. And thousands of people could lose their jobs as the number of full-time employees drops from 15,416 to 11,611 . The recent Trump budget proposal lowers EPA funding to $5.65 billion. If that still sounds like a hefty sum, consider what the EPA won’t be able to do with this slashed budget: restore areas like the Great Lakes and Puget Sound and run a lead risk-reduction program. They also won’t have as much money for climate change research, environmental justice efforts, or radon detection programs. The White House proposal also just about halves categorical grants which help states and local areas address water and air quality. Related: Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers EPA administrator Scott Pruitt stood behind Trump’s drastic cuts; the agency put out a statement praising the returned “focus to core statutory mission,” which we guess means dirty air and polluted water for all. Pruitt even decided to say Trump’s “budget respects the American taxpayer.” This praise comes even though the proposed budget would reduce funding for Pruitt’s Superfund cleanup program – which he’s listed as a priority – by almost one third. Toxic accidents or industrial activity have polluted these Superfund sites, many of which, according to The Guardian , are close to low-income or minority communities. National Association of Clean Air Agencies executive director S. William Becker said he was astounded the administration didn’t change much from their initial March budget proposal, even after bipartisan opposition from Congress. Lawmakers recently reached a deal for government funding through September that cuts the EPA’s budget by around one percent. In a statement on the recent proposal, Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook said, “This isn’t a budget – it’s a road map for the President, EPA Administrator Pruitt, and polluters to see that millions of Americans drink dirtier water, breathe more polluted air, and don’t have enough nutritious food to lead healthy lives.” Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency on Flickr

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Trump budget proposes 31% cut to EPA funding

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