Half a Dozen Green Things I Give Thanks For

DONE PERFECT AGAIN

As I had the pleasure once again of preparing my world famous rosemary smoked turkey (that’s it above) for my homeless and down-on-their-luck friends at the Barker Ranch out in the valley for Thanksgiving, naturally enough I was thinking of all the things I was thankful for.  The list was quite long for I am a fortunate person indeed.  But just because Thanksgiving was almost two weeks ago doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped thinking about what I’m thankful for on the green side of the ledger.  And with the bird now just a memory – except for the extra pounds – here are half a dozen green things I am incredibly thankful for:

LIVING WITH ED

When it comes to using Creative Greenius to promote sustainable living, no one has done a better job than Ed Begley Jr. on his hit HGTV show, “Living With Ed.”  It’s my wife’s favorite show and she’s not alone. 

Ed co-stars with his own wife, Rochelle, who plays the perfect all-American consumer counterpart to Begley’s green purist.  The show is funny, entertaining and highly informative with new energy saving and sustainable practices featured in every half hour episode.  It’s clever, it’s inspiring and it’s effective.  

Each episode also brilliantly features a celebrity showing off their own home’s eco features. Recognizing the power of celebrity in the “Entertainment Tonight” era we live in Ed features everything from Jay Leno’s legendary garage, Larry Hagman’s and Jackson Browne’s solar arrays, Supermodel Cheryl Tiegs’ house, Helen Hunt getting an energy audit or Ed’s neighbor Bill Nye (the Science Guy) competing with Ed for green supremacy.  

The success of the show has led to Begley’s collaboration with Home Depot to promote their Eco Options line of energy efficient products.  I admire the hell out of the work Begley has done and expect his influence and success to just keep growing. 

And I’ve learned a lot from the show and been motivated to make many of the green changes we’ve made around our own home.  Our latest – rain barrels connected to the downspout to collect rainwater for use in Debra’s gardens.

Living with Ed season two episodes have just started repeat broadcasts and can be seen on Sundays at 11:30 pm (ET/PT) on HGTV. 

$100 A BARREL OIL

Even though we’ve only hit $99 a barrel so far, the mere threat of $100 and the certainty that it’s coming is serving as the catalyst renewable energy has long needed to be looked at with fresh eyes and considered seriously.  And it’s the only way conservation efforts will become a reality for the average person when it comes to their personal transportation..

Just look at the energy bill currently working its way through Congress.  For the first time ever, both the House and Senate are poised to mandate 35 mpg standards for car company fleet wide averages.  They may still screw it up, but right now that’s here they’re at… 

Sure, that standard is at least 10-15 years overdue, but it took $3.50 a gallon gasoline to finally make it possible.

Hell, even the American auto industry’s chief advocate and apologist, Michigan Congressman, John Dingall, is going along and he’s been fighting against safety and environmental regulations since he’s been in office – 1955!  It’s not the threat of global warming or the collapse of the American industry that’s motivated Dingall it’s that $3.50 a gallon at the pump. 

$4 a gallon is not far off either and I believe that’s what it’s going to take to get people convinced they need a plug-in or electric car – or even out of their cars and into mass transit – then so be it.  Because let’s face it, the majority of Americans have proven that if gas is cheap enough they will drive as big a behemoth as they can finance and the mileage and emissions be damned.  At least half the people looking at smaller more fuel efficient cars right now would go right back to giant SUVs if gas went down to $2.00 a gallon.

So making change happen is about making those same folks experience financial pain points that cannot be ignored and responding to them with green answers.

And yes, even though the people who are worst off economically will suffer exponentially until we move away from gasoline, they’ll also benefit exponentially from affordable, clean renewable energy – especially since the poorest neighborhoods also happen to be among the most polluted.  

You might think it’s easy for me to say since I work out of my home studio and drive a car that already gets 35 mpg and you’d be right.  

But I’m also right in being thankful for oil and gas prices that force people to do the right thing despite their own bad instincts

BREAKTHROUGH IN SOLAR

The hottest buzz in the very hot solar field is solar without silicon – CIGS, which stands for copper, indium, gallium, and selenium. It’s a new semiconductor material that will compete with the more traditional crystalline silicon solar cells.

Popular Science just gave their Innovation Product of the Year award to Nanosolar.  Imagine solar power without heavy, glass-based panels but delivered instead through flexible rolls of thin film material that can be installed not just on roofs, but also on the sides of buildings and almost anywhere else. 

To quote PopSci: “The company produces its PowerSheet solar cells with printing-press-style machines that set down a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil, so the panels can be made for about a tenth of what current panels cost and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute.”

 Here’s a video from CNN that shows how this stuff is made.

Here’s another video from CNBC on Nanosolar.

Nanosolar isn’t alone in the CIGS solar field and some analysts think that their competitor, Miasole, might be the leader in this new industry based on their technology having been used successfully in the disk-drive and optical industries.

Either way, these products will be a paradigm shift in how we think about and use solar.  Imagine sides of buildings, sidewalks, the exteriors of trains, planes and automobiles as well as ships and anything else you can think of covered with inexpensive skins of thin film that is literally printed on presses.  

The fact that there are already two industry leaders both attracting serious investor capital is a great sign of just how much promise this CIGS technology holds.  Among the investors in Nanosolar are the founders of Goggle.

Speaking of Goggle… 

GOOGLE TARGETS COAL

This could easily be my #1 in the list of things I am most thankful for because Killer Coal must be stopped right now.  

The more you learn about how deadly coal is and how many coal-fired electric plants are currently being built in China and India… and the United States, the more you’ll want to see the use of coal banned once and for all. 

Thankfully the big brains at Google get it.  They know that coal is not just the dirtiest fuel on the planet it’s also the cheapest, and when it comes to energy Goggle also know that cheap will always win over clean.  That’s why they’ve launched their new initiative to develop renewal energy that’s cheaper than coal.

I don’t have an ounce of faith that our government can get that job done but I do believe in Google and the way they’re approaching this global challenge.   

Here’s what Larry Page, Google Co-founder and President of Products said: “There has been tremendous work already on renewable energy.  Technologies have been developed that can mature into industries capable of providing electricity cheaper than coal.  We are also very interested in further developing other technologies that have potential to be cost-competitive and green.  We are aware of several promising technologies and believe there are many more out there.”

There better be, because right now the United States Department of Energy predicts the construction of more than 1,000 coal plants in just the next five years, primarily in China and India.  Today China is opening a new coal-plant every single week.  Not a single one of them is a “clean coal” plant either.

The real inconvenient truth today is that if all those plants get built then none of our conservation efforts will mean anything.  Not to put a harsh on your mellow or anything but, 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK 

When I get too worried about the implications of coal or the backwards steps the United States has taken during the last seven years of rule by the oil industry’s front men in the White House, I follow the advice of John Muir and I go to Yosemite.

Muir said, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” And I can testify that his words ring even truer today than when he spoke them. 

I’ve been going to Yosemite for the past 25 years and it never disappoints.  (These are photos I’ve taken in the last 12 months) It always renews my spirit and my soul.  It is a constant source of joy and pleasure for me and I feel blessed to have it just a 7 hour drive away. 

People come from all over the world to visit Yosemite, but it’s my home park and I don’t feel right if a year goes by without me spending some time there.  I’m a proud member of the Yosemite Association and the Yosemite Fund and I’ve supported Yosemite financially for years through both.  

I have to, because without their help the Park would not be the place I am so thankful for.   

Despite the neglect by our federal government and the massive budget shortfalls for maintenance and repairs Yosemite remains a unrivaled masterpiece whether you go to overcrowded Valley, or the Wawona area, or the Tuolumne Meadows high country or the Hetch Hetchy Dam area or anywhere else in the park. 

THE INTERNET & MY FAVORITE GREEN SITES

Finally, I am most thankful for the Internet that is linking us all and allowing us to discover the truth and teach ourselves about the facts.  Because without the net the deluge of propaganda, misdirection and con jobs from the biggest polluters on the planet would overwhelm the public and effectively create a fog of noise that would obscure the truth. 

Right now people are reading this blog all across the United States and in London, Hong Kong and even Dunwoody Georgia.  And my readership is small enough to fit into the navel of a flea and still have room for George Bush’s moral values.  But some of these great sites that follow are read by thousands and hundred of thousands of people all around the world.  And for good reason too as you’ll discover when you check them out.   

I spend hours every day reading, researching, learning and exploring green issues – and many others.  It’s a great privilege for me to engage in such auto-didactic practices.  Here are 25 of my favorite go-to sites and blogs:

Treehugger – The leading media outlet dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream. Partial to a modern aesthetic, they strive to be a one-stop shop for green news, solutions, and product information.

The Green  Guide – Green living tips, product reviews, environmental health news

Grist – Environmental news, advice, cartoons, a blog, and more that’ll make you laugh out loud.

ENN – Environmental News Network offers daily news and feature stories, press release service, and live chats.

Pure Waste Series Challenge – Become an agent against global warming and generate a $100 contribution to the Solar Electric Light Fund

The Daily Green – the Consumer’s Guide to the Green Revolution

Planet Green – Discovery & Treehugger work together in this Beta site

Auto Blog Green – For all green car lovers

Green Yahoo – Yahoo’s green portal

Wombat -Environment plus Technology

Green Biz – Daily News and Resources for Green Business

Marketing Green – Green Marketing Strategies for A Sustainable Future

The Green Office – an online retailer of recycled, environmentally friendly, and sustainable business products, school supplies, and paper

The °Climate Group – an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing business and government leadership on climate change. 

Carbon Footprint – Calculate your carbon footprint, reduce it and then offset it.

Climate Counts – A nonprofit organization rating corporations on their efforts towards mitigating climate change.

Climate Crisis – Official site for the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” on the Earth’s climate crisis.

The Nature Conservancy — the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.

The Green Grid – a consortium of information technology companies and professionals seeking to lower the overall consumption of power in data centers around the globe.

International Panel On Climate Change – the Nobel Prize winners

EV World – The Eco Friendly World of Electric Cars,  Hybrids, Plug-In Hybrids, Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicles

Plug In America – Plug In America advocates the use of plug-in cars, trucks and SUVs
powered by cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity.

The Nature Conservancy – the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people

THE GREEN – On Sundance Channel is television’s first regularly- scheduled programming destination dedicated entirely to the environment.

Care 2 Make a Difference– The global network for organizations and people who Care2 make a difference

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