News

A Climate Awakening

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Joanclair guest post

This year has been the hottest year on record and this has been a trend for the past 3 consecutive years. Fire season has moved from summer to February in many wildfire hotspot locations. For 3 days last week, I was trained by Al Gore on the current state of the climate and how to become a leader in the topic – a Climate Reality Leader. 972 people being in Denver, CO wanting to learn, network, connect, motivate and take action had me certain that the most successful people would see the possibility of tackling this pertinent issue head on.

With 97% of scientists aware that the climate is changing due to human causes, climate change is no longer a liberal or conservative issue. Al Gore calls it the Sustainability Revolution. Like the Industrial Revolution and the Digital Revolution, sustainability is finding its way into every industry and its making business more efficient and cost-effective, and with it comes a better quality of life. Yet deniers still wave their hands in protest.

Climate denial comes in various forms:

  1. Climate change is not happening
  2. All is due to natural causes
  3. Sure it’s happening, but we’re going to love it. (more beach days)
  4. We can’t afford to do anything

Perhaps the facts are too big to take on – they are relentlessly suggesting urgency in climate action. Global warming is a global issue with planet-wide variables and consequences, so an individual can get lost in the crowd and wonder why they must be the one to change and ask why today, rather than next year?

If we stopped emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere tomorrow, 50 percent would fall out of the atmosphere within one generation. That would make a world of difference for our environmental hazards like flash floods, droughts, wildfires and ocean acidification that now affect every population, not just the residents in coastal Florida or the divers in Australia. We have a renewable market that is currently competitive and is already replacing coal and natural gas. Does this mean you have to install solar panels today? There are a world of possibilities from changing your light bulbs to turning off power strips when you leave the house to installing a Nest thermometer. Whether you make these small changes or can afford larger ones like an electric car, everyone has a place in transitioning.

And if you think its up to liberals and people of the green mentality, the red state of Texas is today’s leader in renewable energy. Why? Because renewables are a growing industry with pay off, both financially and for the health of the planet. With financial payoff, even if you’re a climate skeptic, there’s a monetary reason to reverse our impacts and plan for our future.

Guest Contributor, Joanclair Richter

Environmental Consultant in Entertainment Industry/Sustainability/Entrepreneur

MovieMind is her company and we also have it listed in our directory, check it out!

 


May 8, 2017 |

In Case You Needed Another Reason To Visit Aruba

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Aruba, like many countries, is heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels for energy. Currently, nearly 85% of the energy is generated by heavy fuel oil but that is going to change. Aruba pledged to transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2020, particularly variable wind and solar.

This 19 mile long island launched it’s Green Gateway Initiative in 2011 at the UN Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. With the support of Carbon War Room, an international nonprofit, Aruba created its plan of action beginning with wind farm development, a waste-to-energy plant, and a Airport Solar Park. They are taking the Smart Growth Pathway that addresses many different areas of an expanding economy, such as; eco-tourism, incentives for household retrofitting and commercial energy efficiency, the sustainable agriculture practice known as controlled environment agriculture, urban planning that supports this transition, and investments in innovation. This plan focuses on three components of growth: Energy, Transportation, and the Built Environment with a four-phased approach. As more renewable energy sources are configured into their system, their fossil fuel dependence will decrease.

In order to achieve 100% renewable electricity, Aruba will have to be at the forefront of storage capacity and demand response innovation. Justin Locke, director of the island energy program at the Carbon War Room, says it makes sense for islands to switch to clean power. “Islands currently pay some of the highest electricity prices in the world. At the same time, they also have some of the best renewable energy resources.” Aruba has excellent wind and solar resources. Wind and sun sources are consistently strong, although this kind of energy is “intermittent” which require other sources of energy to be available on standby to make up for fluctuations and spikes in demand. An issue they face is land. The ability to be fossil-free will depend on Aruba’s available land, 180 sq kilometers, and the inevitable investment in more expensive, offshore sources. Another issue is their electricity usage per capita. While renewable energy production strategies make the supply more sustainable, reducing the demand for energy is equally important.

Aruba’s move towards renewable energy can create a significant number of jobs, whether in the production of energy itself, in the retrofitting of the existing building infrastructure to accommodate renewable energy systems and the installation of energy efficiency and conservation measures and systems, and the booming eco-tourism. The job-generating capacity of renewable energy is well documented by several sources, including in a recent working paper by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), “Renewable Energy Jobs: Status, Prospects & Policies”.

As the largest source of economic activity in Aruba, the tourism industry is a particularly important focus for energy efficiency efforts. Almost three-quarters of Aruba’s gross national product is earned through tourism or tourism-related activities, drawing in almost 900,000 visitors to the island annually (Aruba Tourism Authority 2012). As the centerpiece of Aruba’s economy, integrating sustainability efforts across the tourism industry will be vital to the country’s aim of transitioning off fossil fuels. Furthermore, by demonstrating its far-reaching commitment to sustainability, the tourism industry in Aruba can differentiate itself from its island neighbors while insulating the island’s economy from price fluctuations in the cost of imported fuels.

The Government of Aruba aims to balance quality of life and environmentally friendly economic growth through what they call a sustainable and shared prosperity. To achieve these goals, Aruba promotes economic growth, social equity, and environmental awareness through various educational programs and community projects. Aruba has designed an initiative to develop the island as a Green Gateway between Europe and the Americas in the areas of green technology, business support services, and creative industries, which is intended to bring greater economic diversification, stability, growth, and increased sustainability to Aruba.

Thanks to this strong platform and leadership, Aruba has shown strong early progress on the path to true sustainability. Leading our countries in how a low-carbon transformation does not need to hinder the pursuit of an improved quality of life and a healthier economy, but rather that it can power sustainable economic development and prosperity.

Want to learn more? Check out Energy Transition Initiative: Islands, Carbon War Room Research Report


April 24, 2017 |

Renewable Energy Developers Wanted to Spread the Green

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by 
Ken Silverstein for Forbes

Smaller enterprises want energy developers to spread the green, allowing them to get in on the renewable wave rolling through America. The dynamic has made it easier for larger corporations with more demand to buy wind and solar electricity but it has nudged out the less brawnier brands.

The guys at Google and Facebook, for example, are stimulating the need for wind and solar energy that they are using to feed their electricity-starved data centers. The developers of those energy projects, in return, are getting solid customers that are buying their output at a fixed price over a certain period of years.

But individual commercial and industrial customers aren’t generating the type of demand that can propel big energy projects into the market. Now, though, that may change. The same so-called power purchase agreements that are used to attract the likes of Microsoft, Intel and SAP can also be parceled out to smaller businesses, albeit in much smaller blocks of energy and for much shorter time frames.

“We connect the corporate community to power purchase agreements,” says Paul Schuster managing director for Altenex, a unit of Edison Energy, in an interview. “We have noticed those larger-to-mid-sized energy users need to achieve cost efficiencies, which can be done by buying smaller blocks of renewable electricity.”

A traditional power purchase agreement, for example, might require a company to buy 100 megawatts and it would last 20 years. But the contract now offered to the smaller players might be for 10 megawatts over 10 years.

So how does all this work? A wind developer can’t go forward until it knows that it can sell its output into the market at a fair price. Because there are tax breaks for both building the project and buying the output, developers have proved able to sell that product into wholesale markets.

Let’s say it is an insurance company or a bank that buys the bulk of the wholesale power before it would be resold into retail markets: They often line up the major corporate outlets or Internet giants and contract with them to sell the energy at fixed prices over a set number of years. What Altenex is doing is going to that insurer or banker — in this example — and offering to market smaller blocks of electricity to commercial and industrial businesses.

“The return on equity should be infinite,” says Schuster. “Customers, in fact, are not putting down any upfront capital. Hopefully, they are buying renewable energy at the same cost or lower cost than they are paying for fossil energy.”

Is the corporate green market on fertile ground? PriceWaterhouseCoopers says that it has grown over the last 24 months and that it will continue to expand. Seventy-two percent of the companies it surveyed said that they are pursuing renewables, noting that they want to be more sustainable and to use green energy to hedge against volatile energy prices.

Green electricity sales in the form of voluntary power purchase agreements grew by 4% in 2015, adds the National Energy Renewable Laboratory. Contracted green power sales from those deals grew by 13% in 2015, it notes, and now total 10.2 million megawatt hours.

The larger companies are the main drivers with the likes of General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Tata Motors and Walmart setting a goal to run their entire operations using green energy. That includes a number of different options — everything from investing directly into deals to buying their electricity through power purchase agreements.

Read more


January 22, 2017 |

Forget the Wicker Basket and Go for gopicnic Ready-to-eat Meals

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Being a huge fan of ready-to-eat meals all my life, I am always on the look out for new products to try. Just the other day, I was perusing the isles during my usual grocery shopping trip and came across a new ready-to-eat lunch box. Seeing that it was on sale, I was drawn to taking a look. After checking out the products within the gopicnic lunchbox, I was sold – and bought three flavors. Being familiar with the usual high amounts of sodium, fat, and sugars in other ready-to-eat meals, I was surprised to find a different quality (and taste) in the nutrition of these gopicnic products. Quite a pleasant surprise!

GoPicnic logo

gopicnic brands

gopicnic ready-to-eat meals is an innovative company based out of Chicago, IL. First founded in 2006 to provide airlines in the United States with easier food for customers, gopicnic has thrived over the years and is now available in retail stores across the nation (gopicnic, 2012). Priding themselves in having “nutritionally balanced, shelf-stable, ready-to-eat boxed lunches… that require no refrigeration, heating, or preparation,” this company creates delicious meals for on-the-go. Another pride and joy for gopicnic brands is all their products contain “clean ingredients, no trans fat, no high fructose corn syrup, no added monosodium glutamate (MSG), and no artificial flavors or colors.” They are perfect lunches for those with special diets, such as gluten-free, vegan, and/or nut free diets; or simply for the busy consumer needing an affordable, quick, and healthy lunch source. (gopicnic, 2012)

There are many different flavors of these lunchboxes, and I have only to make my way through three of them – Sunbutter & Crackers, Turkey Slices & Cheddar, and Turkey Pepperoni & Cheese.

Sunbutter & Crackers

The sunflower seed paste was creamy and delicious, tasting exactly like sunflower seeds. It paired well with the salty crackers and multi seed and fruit mix. The seed and fruit mix had lots of sunflower seeds and raisins with some dried apple and other seeds. The fruit strip was quite enjoyable with a sweet and tropical flavor to it; and to finish it all off was some guiltless chocolate chip cookies. Four of the five pieces in this lunchbox were made in the USA, with the fruit strip from Canada. All five included foods are gluten-free and peanut allergy safe. My only disappointment is the chocolate chip cookies were a bit too dry for me (but that is just my opinion). Overall, this is my favorite of the flavors I have tried.

Turkey Slices & Cheddar

The turkey slices were not too strong in flavor (thank goodness), but were a bit salty for my liking (270mg of sodium per serving). The cheddar cheese is a dip, or spread if you prefer it, – gluten free and vegetarian, and tastes just like normal cheddar. Both paired well with the light and slightly sweet crackers, which had hints of honey. All three together tasted exactly like the typical lunchable you would buy in the store, but had healthier ingredient lists and nutrition facts. The side of applesauce was unsweetened (and yet still tasty), soft and smooth to the tongue, and even included a plastic spoon. I definitely enjoyed the fruit chews; which were gluten-free and sweet (they were even shaped like little jets). Overall, this was an enjoyable meal.

Turkey Pepperoni & Cheese

The turkey pepperoni slices tasted just like pepperoni slices (which is good), yet they were very slimy and high in sodium. They did pair very well with the asiago cheese dip/spread, which was not very overpowering in flavor. The crackers, whether enjoyed with the cheese and pepperoni or by themselves, were delicious. They had a good seed and sesame flavor and were very crunchy – not to mention, they were made in the USA and are gluten-free. Brownie points! The fruit and nut mix, also made in the USA, was sweet and slightly hot. It was a wonderful mix of flavor choices; and for the grand finale, a sea salt and caramel lollipop. Let me just say, “Wow.” Made in France this delectable pop is super sweet and salty. 53% of it is made from milk, and then sugar, leaving the ingredient list short and to the point. Surprisingly, no artificial flavors or colors for this sweet treat. Overall, this lunchbox had its good and bad parts, but certainly is on the top of my list for that salted caramel lolly.

 

In conclusion, gopicnic read-to-eat meals have been such an enjoyable alternative for my work lunches that I will certainly be going back for more! Everywhere I take these, people are curious. If you want my opinion, two thumbs up all the way! For more information on gopicnic brands and products, you can visit their online shop and website at: gopicnic.com.

I will leave you with a fun fact I found written in one of the adorable picnic-style, reclosable, gingham lunchboxes:

Did you know? … “Crackers were created in 1792 after a baker burned biscuits and heard the ‘cracking’ sound from the oven.” Enjoy!

References

gopicnic. (2012). About GoPicnic. Retrieved May 6, 2014, from gopicnic website

 

 

 

 


August 6, 2016 |
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