People all around the world invest themselves every day to create a sustainable way of life, no matter how daunting the challenge. It is so easy to miss their progress and achievements. This is for them.
there is will,
there is a way
Updated August 28, 2015
Photo by Melissa Dinwiddie
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People all around the world invest themselves
every day to create a sustainable way of life,
no matter how daunting the challenge. It is so
easy to miss the good news of their progress
and achievements. This is for them.
"I have not met a single human being who's motivated by
bad news. Not a single human being.“ ChristianaFigueres,
Executive Secretary at UNFCCC. “The Weight of the
World”, The New Yorker, Aug 24, 2015.
Eco system and public health are being restored in India as a result of the 2006 ban of diclofenac,
a painkiller for cattle that causes rapid liver failure and death in vultures. In India, where cows are
sacred, vultures are the undertakers of decaying cattle carcasses often left to decompose naturally.
Vultures had declined 97% by the mid-90s. Sources: The Nature Conservancy; PBS; Bird Conservation
International; zsl.org; countercurrents.org; newscientist.com; The Independent.
REVIVING A MENACE
Photo by ZSL Living Conservation
About $100 billion of solar was installed around the world in 2012, the average project about 34 kW
or $100K. That is roughly 1 million very local solar projects. Sources: Jigar Shah, Author of
“Creating Climate Wealth”; John Farrell of The Institute of Self Reliance.
Photo by solarbusinessfocus.com
SCALING LOW CARBON
Big move towards low carbon world: The 2014 UN investment in new State Street Global Advisors
and BlackRock ETFs tracking the MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target Index. The investment is estimated
at $165 million from the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, in holdings producing 81% less carbon emissions
relative to the standard ACWI Index. Sources: marketwatch.com, blogs.barrons.com, msci.com.
Photo by flickr.com/photos/lifeexposed
WATCH READ READ
THE CLEAN ENERGY CITY
With the purchase of a 7.4 MW hydroelectric facility, ultra-liberal and free-thinking Burlington, VT,
became the first American city to use 100% renewable electricity. The move also keeps electricity
rates steady into the future. Sources: pbs.org, cleantechnica.com, benjerry.com.
Photo by davidseaver.com
Growing produce closer to home is here: Brooklyn Grange is a 2.5-acre NYC rooftop farm that grows
50,000 lbs of produce/year for local restaurants, CSA members and weekly farmstands; BrightFarms
helps grocers grow fresh produce onsite or nearby, with long-term deals in 8 cities; and, urban startup
Lufa Farms locally distributes 190 metric tons of produce year-round for 10,000 people. The outcomes
are fresher produce, less food waste, energy efficiency, better land-use. Sources: citiscope.org, lufa.com,
washingtonpost.com, upstart.bizjournals.com, brooklyngrangefarm.com, brightfarms.com.
Photo by Bob Wiebes and popupcity.net/apps-for-urban-farmers/
OF FOOD WASTE
In the U.S., the EPA’s “Food Recovery Challenge,” a government food donations program to reduce
food waste, is taking aim at 30 million tons of food that go to landfills each year. Per an analysis by
ResponsEcology, 99% of those donations feed people in need while preventing 13,000 metric tons of
greenhouse gas emissions — the same as not consuming 1.5 million gallonsof gasoline, 31,000 barrels
of oil, or 57 rail cars of coal. Sources: epa.gov, foodforthoughtfulaction.com, responsecology.com.
Photo by Laura Dunn and faowashington.org
In 2013, renewable energy became available 24/7. That summer,
after operating for two years, solar thermal plant Gemasolar
owned by Torresol Energy produced energy 24 hours per day
over 36 consecutive. Sources: torresolenergy.com, sener.es.
Photo by torresolenergy.com
1000X SOLAR POWER
Researchers at MIT found that a stack of two one-molecule-thick materials, Graphene and
molybdenum disulfide, could be used to make effective solar cells. Jeffrey Grossman, who led this
work with the support of the MIT Energy Initiative, feels this new approach to producing super-
thin solar cells "pushes towards the ultimate power conversion possible from a material.” While
not as efficient in converting sunlight to electricity as standard silicon solar cells, overall power
generation is projected to be far greater than conventional solar cells -- as much as 1,000 times
more energy per pound. Sources: web.mit.edu/newsoffice (June 2013), sciencedaily.com.
Photo by americanplainsartists.com
In 1974, Professor Wilhelm Barthlott discovered that certain plants have a micro-roughness on
leaf surfaces which causes water droplets to bead up and collect dirt. Known as the Lotus Effect,
his work inspired paint which today enables self-cleaning buildings that help keep our air and
water clean. Sources: Tom McKeag of BioDreamMachine, UC Berkeley; mother nature network,
mnn.com; greenbiz.com; odewire.com.
Photo by Claire Houck, flickr.com/photos/unforth
Two Massachusetts towns and Boston University signalcomposting momentum at all levels. Hamilton
and Wenham, 7,764 and 4,875 residents, respectively, have a 90% curbside composting adoption rate
while at BU, with 30,000 students, 85% said they would sort their trash into the appropriate bins, if
given the option. Both towns report substantial cost savingsand waste reduction. In 2014, BU diverted
73% of waste from landfills at its GSU food court. Sources: bu.edu/dining, nerc.org, Manchester Cricket.
READ READ WATCH
Photo by notrashproject.com
In 2012, Guangzhou implemented license plate auctions and lotteries to put quality-of-life
issues ahead of short-term economic growth. The ambition is a dramatic reduction in new
cars on the streets, by roughly half. Most interesting is that Guangzhou is one of China’s
largest cities and one of its biggest auto manufacturing centers.
Sources: inhabitat.com, nytimes.com.
Photo by spfaust.wordpress.com
Momentum towards sustainable
living is exceptionally visible in the
younger generation, thanks to
parents, teachers and caregivers all
over. By committing to their passions
and beliefs, they raise the human
spirit every day, like the young
beekeeper who opened the world of
his bees to his curious classmates by
starting the Thacher Bee Club.
READ READREADWATCH WATCH
Photo by sowingbysea.com
Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 2012 drilled eight 1,500 ft geothermal wells and
installed ground source heat pumps with an efficiency of up to 300% . That means 3x the thermal
energy put into the system will be used -- much more efficient than traditional heating and cooling
sources. Great solve for maintaining the 65-70 needed to preserve the museum’s collections.
Most interestingly, geothermal heat pumps have been around since the late 1940s.
Sources: masscec.com, gardnermuseum.org, energy.gov.
Photo by Eva Chan Photography
By 2018, the roughly 1.2 MM daily train trips
operated by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS)
across Holland will be climate-neutral. To
run the trains, Eneco’s wind farms, local and
in Scandinavia and Belgium, will be providing
electricity comparable to Amsterdam’s needs
each year. Sources: energymatters.com.au.
Photo by Dirk J. Ambtman, flickr.com/photos/dirk_jan
12,000 cells powered Solar Impulse HB-SIA’s flight from San Francisco to NYC to provoke dialogue
about CO2 reduction targets. With the wingspan of an Airbus A340, the aircraft accommodates
enough photovoltaic cells to charge its batteries for flying through day and night without jet fuel.
Sources: bbc.co.uk, solarimpulse.com.
Photo by Solar Impulse / Associated Press
Re-usable totes for internally distributing chocolate annually save
800 tons of food waste, 660 tons of corrugate, $520,000 in costs,
and, equally importantly, all those chocolates that no longer
get crushed inside collapsing cardboard boxes.
Sources: stopwaste.org, Ghirardelli.
Photo by Dianne Faw
days to shared bicycle
non-motorized transport is on a
dramatic rise. The Economist reports
10x growth since 2004. The Earth Policy
Institute projects bike-sharing bicycles in America
to quadruple to 37k in 2014. Best of all is that 43% of B-cycle
members in Denver use the program’s bikes to replace car trips.
Sources: economist.com (blogs, news), peopleforbikes.org, bmj.com.
Photo by pentaxforums.com member Ikoflex
The Science of Light at Grass Valley
Elementary School is making electricity
from sunshine beautiful. At the Cathedral
of the Holy Family, solar-stained glass is
generating upwards of 2,500 KWH annually
to offset energy costs. One stunning project
at a time, Sarah Hall’s work is getting
people excited about renewable energy.
Photo by ecoartsofla.org
In 2013, Lockheed Martin announced its deal with Concord Blue USA “to offer an advanced waste
conversion system to address waste disposal, energy security and climate control issues.” With 2012
net sales of $47.2 billion, this public commitment to advanced waste conversion is a major vote of
confidence for this emerging technology.Sources: waste-management-world.com, lockheedmartin.com.
Photo by RAF Crown
GREENING GREEN BIRDS
Steve Sauer’s Pico Dwelling is an 11'3" x 16'2" x 10'4" storage room turned full-featured
Seattle living for two people. With an area of roughly 182 sq ft and inside 1900 cubic feet,
it is a cool achievement and example of small, high-quality, supplemental urban living that
could become an efficient alternative to spending hours in traffic between office and home
each day. Sources: oixio.com, Kirsten Dirksen, tinyhousedesign.com, realestate.aol.com.
Photo by Steve Sauer
Marine cloud brightening explores if seeding clouds
with moisture from seawater sprays can increase
howmuch heat fromthe sun they can reflect back into
space while reducing global warming caused by CO2
emissions. Sources: scientificamerican.com, Jonathan
Photo by plantsciences.ucdavis.edu
SWITCH(GRASS) TO PLASTIC
Metabolix patents point to reducing our reliance on petroleum for plastics. The company’s goal is
genetically engineered Switchgrass to make a biodegradable polymer that can be extracted directly
from the plant. One outcome would be lowering the cost of biodegradable, plastic shopping bags
since the new plant-based process would use crops grown on marginal lands and require less
equipment. Sources: metabolix.com, technologyreview.com.
Photo by fieldbioinohio.blogspot.com
Photo by Boon Edam Inc.
The “door without draft of air,” invented in 1888 by Theophilus Van Kannel and
known as the revolving door, dramatically reduces air exchange compared to
traditional swing doors. In 2006, MIT students demonstrated that increasing
the usage of a revolving door from 50% to 100% can cut energy consumption
by 75% and prevent CO2 emission close to 5x. With 64% of participants in that
MIT study choosing traditional swing doors, the revolving door – unfortunately
and fortunately – is a big idea in sustainability with potential that is yet to be
realized. Sources: greenovateboston.org; slate.com; “Modifying Habits Towards
Sustainability (MIT Revolving Door Usage) Study”, web.mit.edu; www.good.is.
The ambitious outcome of ITER is commercial reactors that generate more than 10x the power they
consume and that use the overabundant fuel source hydrogen. “Terawatts of power with no carbon,
virtually no pollution and scant radioactive waste”. Now in its 29th year, ITER is a pursuit to solve
the world’s energy problems for millions of years. It may be humanity’s greatest sustainability
endeavor -- ever. Sources: iter.org; Raffi Khatchadourian, The New Yorker; ecofriend.com.
Photo by ITER Organization, April 2013
The Cleveland Browns braved a big home game to show
how they reclaim food scraps for conversion to renewable
methane gas versus sending it to a landfill. Replicated across
the NFL, Grind2Energy or similar systems would annually
divert about 620 tons of food scraps, reduce CO2 emissions
by 465,000 pounds and create over 80,000 pounds of natural
fertilizer. Best, fans would be buzzing about renewable energy.
Sources: T. Casey, TriplePundit; Cleveland.com; rewmag.com.
Photo by Chris Brown, flickr.com/people/zoonabar/
LIGHT AT THE END
OF THIS TUNNEL
Photo by enfinitycorp.com
16,000 photovoltaic panels installed on 164,000ft2 of roof
of a 2.1 mile rail tunnel between Paris and Amsterdam are
expected to generate 3.3 GWh and cut CO2 emissions by
2,400 tons yearly. The panels have an expected life span
of 30 to 40 years and are projected to reduce the cost to
run the trains by about 30%. Sources: enfinitycorp.com,
In Vienna, old-fashioned technology is being used to run shiny new electric buses by making it
possible to recharge their batteries using the older trams’ overhead power lines. That integration
of new technology and existing infrastructure is making it achievable and financially feasible for
the city to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 300 tons a year.
Sources: ec.europa.eu, nytimes.com.
NEW OLD TECH
Photo by Siemens
Simple solar-powered hand pumps are improving the supply of water to villagers in India and
Africa. The impact is remarkable. From more reliable, uninterrupted water to better sanitation
and hygiene to higher quality standard of living to greater opportunities, especially for women
and children. Sources: grundfos.com, economictimes.indiatimes.com
Plastic waste that washes up in 3rd World countries may soon help reduce poverty. Still early
in its development, The Plastic Bank sees value in plastic waste that can be harvested for free
and by anyone in exchange for credits to acquire new objects. Those new objects could be
anything from small household items to toys, and would be made from recycled plastic pellets
using new 3D printing technology. The start-up is on a mission to “turn waste into a life and
ecosystem-changing currency called social plastic.” Sources: kalev.com, plasticbank.org.
Photo by plasticbank.org
Proving that we can move beyond blame, government and
community came together in Copenhagen to address climate
change. No matter the cause of the dramatic changes in our
environment, the city now has countless proactive design
solutions in one master plan, potentially making it the first
climate proof, attractive and green capital in the world.
Photo by inhabitat.com
Sierra Nevada diverts 99.8%
of its waste from landfillsand
incineration. In 2012, 261 tons
of the brewers’ organic waste
were composted for fields
and gardens. Sierra Nevada
also captures, recycles and
then reuses 95% of CO2 from
fermentation. Sources: Mike
Hower, TriplePundit; USZWBC.
Photo by Rob Hill @TWMBeer, blog.totalwine.com
Photo by Robert Heazlewood
Shipbuilder Incat Tasmania in July 2013 delivered
the world’s fastest ship. Equipped with two
22MW GE LM2500 gas turbines operating
on liquid natural gas (LNG), the ship
travels at speeds of up to 58 knots
or 107 km per hour and has
cargo capacity of over 1,000
passengers and 150 cars.
GREEN OCEAN FLYING
In this story, renewable energy is only 1 of 3 big wins for the sun. The other two are reducing
energy poverty and empowering women in rural Africa. Through non-profit Solar Sister, women
entrepreneurs in Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan receive a ‘business in a bag’ -- including
tools, training and networking -- for selling solar-powered lamps. The impact of teaching and
supporting these entrepreneurs to switch out kerosene lamps for clean energy is staggering.
Every $1 that is invested in a Solar Sister Entrepreneur results in $46 of economic impact.
Sources: solarsister.org, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Photo by UNFCCC
One of the pioneers and drivers of cloud computing, Salesforce, is stepping up to transform
the cloud to a beautiful green by committing to become fully powered by renewable energy. It
is a great signal from a prominent IT leader that rising demand for electricity to support cloud
computing must be addressed with renewable sources. Facebook and Google recently made
similar commitments. Sources: sustainablebrands.com, salesforce.com.
Photo by twitter.com/heatherface
CAR CULTURE 2.0
Many years in the making, Tesla’s Model S is now the best-selling U.S. electric car despite costing
more than $70,000. It has a 265 mile range, zero emissions and goes from 0 to 60 in a mere 5.4
seconds. Tesla’s momentum continues through the second half of 2014. Still more buyers than
cars, and a stock price up +84% over the past year. Sources: teslamotors.com, techcrunch.com,
reuters.com, bloomberg.com, technologyreview.com, ibtimes.com.
WIND ON DEMAND
When Duke Energy installed a 36-megawatt (MW) battery alongside
its 153-MW Notrees wind farm, it began to answer a key question
for renewable energy. What happens when the sun is not shining
and the wind is not blowing? By storing energy and managing the flow of power to the grid with
the biggest battery connected to a wind farm ever, the Notrees project is answering that question.
And, it is increasing the value of the renewable energy it provides, which for the people of Ector
and Winkler is like to wind energy on demand. Sources: duke-energy.com, nytimes.com.
1 MW unit similar to systems at Notrees
Photo by americanplainsartists.com
This green roof mitigates urban island effect -- when hard surfaces joined together result in
higher temperatures than green areas. Since it decreases heat absorption, Chicago’s City
Hall keeps cooler in the summer and requires less energy for air conditioning. The garden
also absorbs up to 75% of a 1-inch rainfall before storm water runs off. Non-profit Green
Roofs for Healthy Cities recorded 982 projects like this in 2012, or 5.6 million sq. ft. of new
green roofs, up +24% over 2011. Sources: greenroofs.org, cityofchicago.org.
Photo by greenroofs.com
Earth Hour in 2014 took place in over
7000 cities and towns, 162 countries
and territories across all 7 continents.
It is considered the world's largest
voluntary action for the environment.
Iconic landmarks, entire skylines and
millionsof homes went dark as the hour
moved around the globe and brought
energy consumption, sustainability and
climate issues into our individual lives.
Sources: earthhour.org, theatlantic.com,
ALL DARK READ
Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images (2013)