Thursday, January 29, 2009

A President who's green

The best line I've heard yet this year about the new Obama administration is this: "It's not that we have a President who's black; it's that for the first time we have a President who's green." - by Van Jones, quoted by green blogger Joel Makower.

I'm too young to remember much about the Carter administration, but from what I hear, Jimmy was fairly green... what with his cardigan sweaters and putting solar panels on the White House roof and all.

But if the proof is in the political actions, then Obama seems to be making some progress: already he has taken action with the EPA and Department of Transportation to limit greenhouse gases from cars and trucks. And actions like this are coming none too soon for the leaders of Europe, who have been calling for the USA to get serious about reducing emissions and join the Kyoto Protocol for some time now.

Let's hope he keeps moving in the right direction.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Baltimore County green news

And now, a long-overdue post about what's been going on in Baltimore County green news!

I attended a community meeting on 2 Dec 2008 that was co-sponsored by Baltimore County Office of Sustainability and the Sierra Club. There were speakers from Maryland Dept of Environment, Baltimore County Commission on Environmental Quality, Baltimore chapter of the USGBC, in addition to the sponsor organizations.

We heard about the Regional GHG Initiative (RGGI), the Maryland Climate Change Commission that was founded in April 2007, the 2008 Climate Action Plan (1. Mitigation, 2. Adaptation, 3. Science), and Baltimore County's carbon footprint measurement progress.

Some other organizations and ideas I picked up at this meeting included:

* "pay as you drive" car insurance may be available from GEICO in the future. This would especially benefit Zipcar customers and telecommuter/public transit riders.

* carbon footprint note: buildings in the mid-Atlantic region require more heating and air conditioning than those in the north or south regions, because we have both cold winters and hot summers, whereas north or south regions have one or the other.

* Baltimore County encompasses 600 square miles and 315,000 households. Something like 80% of the population lives on 30% of the land here: there is a distinct line of demarcation between urban and rural areas. Its carbon footprint is mostly comprised of carbon from electricity generation, followed by transportation emissions. The area with the greatest potential for carbon reduction is waste management and recycling, which brings me to...

** SINGLE STREAM RECYCLING IS COMING!** We in the county have been jealous of Baltimore City's single stream recycling program with weekly pickup for months now, but not for much longer. The date has yet to be announced, but watch for an announcement in 2009. Here's an article I found online about it. And if somebody can tell me how to upload and link pdf documents to a Blogger account, I'll attach the Towson Times article I clipped on 12/24/08. Merry Christmas, County!

* For citizens disgruntled about the local bus routes that have been moved or cancelled... sorry. MTA public transit is funded by the state, not by the county.

* Check out the Baltimore Sustainability network's webpage at

* All new county buildings are to meet LEED silver rating standards from now on. County and City schools will be retrofitted as feasible.

* I also heard of Builders for the Bay for the first time at this meeting.

That's all for my local green news catchup today. I have been and will be attending some good green lectures lately, so stay posted for more in this vein...


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Holey Ecofont!

If you like Swiss cheese, you'll love this: a font with holes! The Dutch creators claim that it uses up to 20% less ink than normal fonts. What will they think of next?


Monday, January 12, 2009

US Postal Service going green

I've been using to look up zip codes and miscellaneous postage info for years, and just today I noticed a green subsite! It has tips about eco-friendly mailing products, how to make greener choices regarding your mail service, and info about what the Postal Service is doing to reduce fuel and energy usage.

Check it out here.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chasing the wind

What did you do on your Christmas vacation? I went snowmobiling and saw a wind farm in upstate New York, at the Tug Hill plateau near Utica. Snowmobiles = not so green, I know, but this wind farm was tremendously green. If you've never been up close to a modern wind turbine before, let me tell you, they are huge! The base diameter is wide enough for a man door.

See more photos and read about the Maple Ridge wind farm here.

You might be able to see a piece of the farm on this live snowcam at the Flat Rock Inn, a fine snowmobiling establishment complete with sweet golden retrievers and marshmallow fluff in their hot cocoa. Yum!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Office carbon calculator by EPA

When asked about my job, I usually introduce myself as "chief tree-hugger" for my company. What that really means is that I manage the carbon footprint, or greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory for over 100 offices worldwide. Know what *that* means? Hundreds of spreadsheets, with thousands of conversion factors, bits and bytes of data, and a bookkeeping nightmare.

Unless you care to use this nifty spreadsheet tool created by the EPA. It even converts solid waste materials into carbon emissions based on whether they get recycled or dumped, which is handy if you want to do a waste stream audit.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Dishwasher cooking, anyone?

Unlike most of the stuff I blog about, I haven't tried this, nor am I sure that I even advocate it, but it's a pretty fascinating idea. Therefore, I cautiously submit: it might be possible to cook dinner in your dishwasher.

How to poach salmon in the dishwasher. Video and recipe included. In the comments, somebody mentioned a dishwasher lasagne recipe too.

Kids, don't try this at home.