Thursday, January 31, 2008

Austin Wins National Award For Recylcing Efforts

Via: Austinist

What do you get when you recycle 80,000 pounds or approximately 2.7 million cans? Well, evidently $5,000 dollars and a national award for the City Recycling Challenge. Mayor Will Wynn accepted the "Cans for Cash" prize on behalf of the City of Austin at the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting taking place last week.

The nationwide campaign was developed to promote and encourage growth in aluminum can recycling. According to Kevin Greenawalt, President of Novelis North America. "In addition to its economic benefits, recycling reduces carbon emissions which help combat climate change; so it is more important than ever to energize community recycling and build a sustainable environment."

Municipal Waste Management Association
reports the national aluminum recycling rate is currently at 51.2%, another $1 billion in recyclable cans end up in landfills annually. A few additional factoids from MWMA for those needing some small talk fodder:

The average American drinks 370 beverages in aluminum cans each year; it only takes 60 days to turn the empty cans in your recycling bin into new cans on retailers’ shelves; recycling 40 cans saves the equivalent of one gallon in gasoline; the energy saved by recycling one ton of aluminum could fuel a car that gets 35 mpg for 82,250 miles.

While there may be some debate on whether the city is doing enough in its recycling efforts, it looks like the people of Austin are doing something right!

Cynic or Softy: Socially Responsible Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

Valentine's day is a conflicting holiday of which people typically fall into two categories. First, the die hard romantics who thrive on the sentiments that Valentine's day brings. Second, the bitter and cynical few who are quick to blame this "Hallmark" holiday as coprorate conspiracy to increase consumption. Regardless, when it comes to socially conscious gifts of the heart there is something for everyone. The Green Guide recently came out with their list of V-Day gift ideas, and below are some of our favs: Ethically sourced gifts, housewares and accessories.
Organic Style: Buy Organic Roses and 5% goes to charity.
Furturenatural: For Natural and Organic Pampering.
EconsciousMarket: For gifts that support charities (50% goes to a charity).

Whatever category you fall in, single or coupled, take a moment to appreciate all the loved one's in your life. Or, if you prefer to stay cynical and bitter, at least forego the bon bons and consider curling up with some fair trade chocolate instead.

Via: Naturalpath

Friday, January 25, 2008

Blue Bins Be Gone - New Recyling Progam Hits The Streets

Via: Austinist

For all the avid recyclers out there who are suffering from multiple blue bin clutter, good news is on the way. The City of Austin's Solid Waste Services Department has announced a new program that will replace the blue bins with 90-gallon carts that can be filled with all recyclables, including new items like cereal boxes.

The new recycling plan, set to begin in October and rolled out over three months, coincides with Austin's recent announcement to create a zero-waste plan. The 32 year strategy aspires to reach some lofty goals including plans to reduce the garbage we send to landfills by 20 percent per capita by 2012. The new carts were tested in a pilot program for over 5,000 homes which ultimately increased the amount and frequency they recycled. According to the Statesman:

Under the new system, recycling collection will occur once every two weeks, instead of weekly, which is expected to lead to savings on gasoline and reduce harmful emissions. Also, rather than workers lifting recycling bins manually, newly outfitted trucks will pick up the carts and dump the recycling inside. "We'll be able to recycle more stuff, and we'll be able to pick the equipment up without literally hurting the backs of our crews," Mayfield said. "We're going to be getting more (recycling) at one time, and we're hoping to have the trucks on the streets less."

Streamlined facilities, less congestion on the streets, and more user-friendly carts - sounds like a recycling dream come true!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Eco-Luxury Transportation Comes To Austin

Via: Austinist

While high-end luxury transportation may not always be associated with sustainability, a new limo service is rolling into town to change all that. Clean Air Limo is Austin's first eco-luxury private car service. Traditionally, most limousine companies in Central Texas use Lincoln Town Cars, which get poor gas mileage and have high emissions. Clean Air Limo uses only eco-friendly vehicles in their fleet. According to Charlotte Luongo, President of Clean Air Limo,
The vehicles in our fleet, such as the Lexus RX 400h hybrid, are at least 50% more fuel efficient than a Town Car—that's 50% fewer emissions our vehicles will be releasing into Austin's air." In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, a Lexus RX 400h hybrid that drives 50,000 miles a year will consume almost 1,000 fewer gallons of gasoline than a Lincoln Town Car.

Clean Air Limo will not only include hybrids in their fleet. They will also have vehicles that can run on alternative fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Even their Mercedes Benz stretch limousine (shown) will run on biodiesel, making it easy for brides and business people alike to travel in an environmentally friendly style.

While other car services such as Planettran and Ozocar exist in other cities, Clean Air Limo is Austin's first eco-luxury private car service and is committed to minimizing its impact on the environment. So next time you must have the star-studded treatment of a private car service, add some sustainability to the mix and check out Clean Air Limo.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Austin Energy's GreenChoice Program - It's Back!

Via: Austinist

After being closed to new subscribers for a period of time, Austin Energy's GreenChoice program is extending its green arms for Austinites far and wide. Claiming to be the nation's most successful utility-sponsored green power program, GreenChoice is an opportunity to walk the sustainability talk.

In a world of anonymous carbon offsetting claims, Austin Energy's green power flows into Austin from wind turbines in McCarney and Sweetwater, Texas in addition to receiving electricity from several solar installations and three landfill gas projects in Austin and San Antonio.

So how does it work? By subscribing to the program, you will receive a charge of 5.5 cents per kWh which is fixed until December 31, 2022 (compared to the fuel charge of 3.65 cents per kWh). In short, the average residential customer consuming about 1,000 kWh per month wil pay about $18.50 more per month for GreenChoice power. But before you get in a monetary tizzy, take a moment to look at the bigger green picture.

As natural gas and fossil fuel prices continue to rise, an investment in GreenChoice decreases our reliance on these sources and will decrease air pollution. Here is the caveat, when you sign up, this does not necessarily mean your individual home or business specifically receives the renewable energy. It is a tried and true community model based on giving to get. According to Austin Energy:

When you subscribe to GreenChoice, Austin Energy contracts for green power to meet your needs. Green power then is delivered to our electric system daily. This means less electricity is needed from natural gas or coal-fired power plants. The green power reaches Austin over the statewide transmission system. Once it enters our system, it mixes with power from the generating plants. This means the electricity generated from "green" sources is not be directed to a specific home or business. Rather, as more customers subscribe to GreenChoice, the proportion of green power in that mix grows larger and larger.

So do your part today and subscribe at Austin Energy or call (512) 972-7548 while there is not a waiting list.

Apple Goes Green - For Real This Time!

Is there anything that Apple can't do? Granted the company received some attacks from a Greenpeace campaign last spring on its proposed claims to going green. But as transparency rules to mitigate any potential greenwashing, the company introduced the MacBook Air. Beyond being ultra lite and ultra cool, it adheres to some pretty potent green claims.

According to the Apple Website:

MacBook Air embodies Apple’s continuing environmental progress. It consumes the least amount of power of any Mac and is also designed with the following features to reduce environmental impact:

  • Highly recyclable aluminum enclosure
  • Mercury-free LCD display with arsenic-free glass
  • PVC-free internal cables
  • Largely recyclable, low-volume packaging
  • Meets ENERGY STAR requirements
  • MacBook Air received a Silver rating from EPEAT

No need to sell me, I drank the apple cool-aid a long time ago....

Via: Naturalpath

Sunday, January 13, 2008

EnviroMedia Establishes Greenwashing Index

Via: Austinist

Just as the F.T.C gathered last week to revisit new guidelines surrounding green marketing claims, Austin's own EnviroMedia has launched the Greenwashing Index (GWI). In a partnership with University of Oregon, consumers can post, review, and assess the credibility of new ads claiming the green word. Volkswagon, BP, and Lexus are among some of the first ads posted.

"We've been witnessing a tidal wave of green advertising over the past year," said EnviroMedia President Kevin Tuerff. "It's our hope the Greenwashing Index will help eradicate bad environmental marketing claims and, at the same time, shed a positive light on companies making measurable reductions in carbon emissions related to climate change."

The GWI scoring index is based on five factors that will guide consumers in the rating process. These range from using ads or graphics in a misleading way to exaggerating greenness.

Bringing transparency to a new level, the GWI is a user-friendly tool that empowers skeptics of greenwashing to take action, create better informed consumers, and bring a new level of accountability to corporations claiming green good. The GWI and the F.T.C's scrutiny of carbon offset programs are two critical steps that help make sure individuals and corporations are putting their "green" where it counts.