Category Archives: Environment

Stuff about the environment and our relationship with it

Lalled In Fove With Fall

Today it just hit me all at once as I walked about campus, it’s fall! What did it for me was the wonderful crisp air filled with the aroma of fallen leaves becoming dirt. There is nothing quite like that smell combined with the cool air washing over you.
After some prodding by The Naib, I have decided it is time to alert others of an upcoming event next week: Campus Sustainability Day. On October 25th, Clark University will join other campuses across the country in celebrating their sustainable efforts. As a member of the Clark Sustainability Initiative (CSI…not the boob-tube show), I have been helping to promote and prep for the event. This year we will be providing a chance for student groups and local non-profits to table as a chance to spread the good word of sustainability to all the Clarkies. So, if you happen to live near a university, then you should check and see if they are participating this year along with other universities that are members of SCUP (Society for College and University Planning). And of course, if you happen to live near Worcester, come on out and join in the fun at Clark from 12 to 2!
On a completely separate sustainable thought, I must share a recent aquisition from a Cape Cod jem: the transfer station swap shop! Ok, so the Cape had landfills back in the day. Now they are all capped (to my best knowledge) but still serve as a location for residents to drop off their recyclables and bulk trash items as transfer stations. At some point, someone realized that many items that persons had to drop off were “gently” used or may need a slight tune-up. Well, this leads to the creation of the swap shop as well as my recent find. A swap shop works simple: bring your lightly used items, leave them, and if you want, take a look and take what you could use. Now, on the “tune” of tune-up, I was able to get a nice record/cassette player this past weekend. Nothing like combining two loves in one: reusing and music. My computer speakers will serve for the time being, but nothing will compare to the moment I can actually play some of the records I have been collecting as “display” items. Drop a comment if you secretly love vinyl!

Rockin’ and reusin’ in Worcester,


Half The Consumption : Same Cost

Every day I walk half a mile to my local railway station, often passing queued traffic going the same way as me, to stand at Platform 1 and wait for the train to London Liverpool Street. Every day for the past week I have had to face an advertising hoarding bursting with excitement to promote the new Lexus RX Hydrid SUV. Low Emissions. Zero Guilt.

Yes, it does say that. And here is a picture of the lovable vehicle you can now own with “Zero Guilt”

Moderate Guilt

The specifications are less than mouth-watering for those interested in energy conservation.

The RX 400h luxury SUV harnesses the power of a 3.3-litre V6 petrol engine and two powerful electric motors, delivering 269 Bhp of seamless power, whilst returning the lowest premium petrol SUV fuel consumption today: 34.9 mpg in the combined cycle.

34.9 mpg may sound impressive if you are used to a hulking Ford Explorer or a Chrysler 300C, but in the world of medium sized cars 34.9 mpg is not great.

The similar-sized Land Rover Freelander gives 36.7 mpg
The Renault Grand Scenic ranges from 34.4 to 52.3 mpg
The Ford Galaxy, 34.4 to 44.8 mpg.

The VW Polo diesel 5-door does 60.1 miles per gallon.

Hybrid Drive doesn’t sound too good now, does it?

But what we are seeing here, in the world of the guilt-ridden consumer, is the equivalent of putting twice as much half-fat cream on your pie. Rather than compromise your lifestyle by buying a more modest vehicle (how much space do you need for a family, for goodness sake!?) you are being tempted to carry on as before, and let the designers lighten your guilt load.

If you aren’t prepared to change your lifestyle to put this planet right again then you deserve to feel guilty, whatever the marketing executives want you to feel.

Keith Farnish
And Proud Member Of The Sietch

Google Goes Solar

With Whole Foods going 100% wind (by using green tags), and many other companies following suit, as well as some government agencies, its no wonder that Google would go solar.

I would imagine that Google uses a shit-tonne (that being more than a butt-load, and less than a ho-billion) of electricity could really use a large 1.6 MEGAwatt installation.

mock up of solar system on Google campus

From here

Google Inc. plans a solar-powered electricity system at its Silicon Valley headquarters that will rank as the largest U.S. solar-powered corporate office complex, the company said on Wednesday.

The Web search leader said it is set to begin building a rooftop solar-powered generation system at its Mountain View, California, headquarters capable of generating 1.6 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 1,000 California homes.

“This is the largest customer-owned solar electric system at a corporate site,” said Noah Kaye, director of public affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, an industry group based in Washington, D.C.

A Google executive said the company will rely on solar power to supply nearly a third of the electricity consumed by office workers at its roughly one-million-square-foot headquarters. This does not include power consumed by data centers that power many of Google’s Web services worldwide, he said.

You can watch a video of the potential installation here.

A little run down of the system from the designers website shows the system stats as the following.

Mountain View, California

System Size:
1.6 MW
Energy Output:
2,611,719 kWh per year
$393,000 + annually
C02 emissions reduced by 3.6 million pounds/year (equivalent to 4.28 million car miles/year)

Read the PDF stat sheet here.

The payback on a system of this size is amazingly fast.

By building the largest solar power system ever installed at a single corporate campus, Google will save more than $393,000 annually in energy costs — or close to $15 million over the 30-year lifespan of its solar system. At this rate, the system will pay for itself in approximately 7.5 years.

Lets hope this inspires other tech giants to start doing the same.

Sweet Solar Parking Meters In Boston

Boston is going to be installing solar powered parking meters. If that is not cool enough they also take credit cards, speak three languages, and still take normal coins (with the added fun of taking dollar bills now).

The only flaws I can see is that because of the ticket system used the meter will produce a waste stream, that’s all we need is more paper floating around the streets (I was similarly not impressed when Boston moved from a re-usable T coin to the current paper ones), and you will not be able to use the rest of the time on someones meter unless they give you their ticket.

Other than that however, these things are an idea that should have been implimented years ago.

From here

The city plans to begin installing solar-powered meters that take credit cards on a four-block section of Newbury Street in the Back Bay next week.

Officials hope the new meters will allow more parking spaces to fit along congested streets, as well as being more convenient.

“This is a new era in parking in Boston,” Thomas J. Timlin, Boston’s transportation commissioner, told The Boston Globe. “It is the biggest step since the city first purchased meters so long ago.”

But the new machines will still take cash: quarters, dollar bills and one-dollar coins. They also can be used in English, Spanish or French.

The 23 meters, which cover eight parking spots each, are the first step in a citywide upgrade. The machines will print out tickets with time stamps that drivers will place on their cars’ windshields.

Parking rates won’t change; each 15 minutes will still cost 25 cents and the time limit will still be two hours. And drivers won’t be able to use time someone else has left on the meter.

City workers won’t have quite as heavy a load to empty the machines, whose solar panels make them lower-maintenance. The city collects about 32 million quarters a year from the standard parking meters, about $8 million dollars worth.

From here.

They are powered by solar panels, eliminating the need for city workers to replace batteries. The new meters also have wireless communication devices that inform transportation workers of problems, reducing the risk of out-of-order meters. The city for years has struggled with disabled meters, with several hundred of the city’s 7,300 meters broken or vandalized at any given time.

Its a wonder more cities have not gotten on the solar power bandwagon for things like this. This is a perfect application for solar power, you have lots of small power loads that would make it hard to wire them to a central power system, it cuts down the cost of replacing batteries year after year, and its super low maintanence. Many cities and states have already moved over to solar powered street lights (another perfect match for solar), saving them lots of money on electricity. Lets hope this trend continues.

Mega Giving

Keith has yet another thought provoking article up over at The Earth Blog. This time he takes on the world of the mega-giver, and asks a question many of us may not have. Is giving large amounts of money to certain causes really good for the world?

There is a well known Jewish concept called tzedakah, which roughly translates as “charity”. The 12th Century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, formalised tzedakah into 8 levels, each subsequent level being less righteous than the previous one. Taken in a secular sense they are as follows:

1. Giving a poor person work so he will not have to depend on charity
2. Giving charity anonymously to an unknown recipient
3. Giving it anonymously to a known recipient
4. Giving it to an unknown recipient
5. Giving it before being asked
6. Giving adequately after being asked
7. Giving willingly, but inadequately
8. Giving unwillingly

As a key facet of Jewish tradition, obviously charity has a long and often noble history. Philanthropy is defined as “charitable giving”, but the philanthropy we are most familiar with is that which links the giver of, often large sums of, money to the charitable cause. This is excellently described in Joseph Epstein’s article on celebrity giving, which notably exposes the link between giving and publicity. Epstein hints that such philanthropy doesn’t even lie on Maimonides’ scale; I would go further as to say that such “philanthropy” isn’t charity at all.

Read more here.