Friday, March 29, 2013

Growing a Greener Grass

The sorry state of my front and back lawn and the warmer temperatures have me researching the best ways to organically fertilize and grow grass so our house can look nice and tidy come spring and summertime. What kind of grass did you think I was talking about? I choose organic and to avoid pesticides for my health and the health of our environment. I found some tips here that I plan to implement.
Photo source:

What do you do around your garden to protect your health and air quality, save water, and save energy? We are all in this together and even the smallest of efforts add up!  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Energy Efficiency in March Madness

My brackets were busted before the first point was scored in March Madness 2013. My commissioner failed me and The Hulk Hogan Hair Club for Men (don't judge me by the company I keep) failed to host a pick'em pool.  Apparently traveling for work trumped getting the group page up and going, and there were promises up to the 11th hour that there would be a pool, yet here I sit--at my desk late in March with no score feeds downsized on my computer screen for the first time in 12 years.  Hell, there are games on right now--AND I'M WORKING!  All is not right with the world.

The most exciting thing I have going for me is our friends over at the Alliance to Save Energy came up with the EE Eight, the eight most energy efficiency campuses in the NCAA tournament.  I would not have chosen any of these to go to the Big Dance, but it's a nice list all the same.

For the record I would have seated Gonzaga and Louisville--I always send Gonzaga beyond where a reasonable person should and I don't even have  good cause for it, but this year--THIS YEAR! they're going in ranked #1 in the West. As for Louisville, well come on now, wouldn't you? Oh probably did and you're probably loving it.

Photo Credit: Gonzaga University

Monday, March 25, 2013

Emission Benchmarks for Industrial Processes

California Air Resources Board (CARB) has been working hard to achieve California’s goal of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. This is equivalent to a 30% reduction in projected emissions--a lofty goal to accomplish within the next 7 years. Ultimately, the intent is to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. If you factor in situations such as population growth and thus increased demand, it becomes a very ambitious goal. 

Can we make it? 

It has become apparent to me that when the cost of compliance becomes more cost effective than the cost of pollution, pollution be able to be controlled.

The University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern University are working with the CARB to establish output-based benchmarks for industrial processes. Such benchmarks will be used for the distribution of free emission allowances facilities covered by the California Cap-and-Trade Program, which is one of the newest policy instruments the state has adopted to reduce emissions cost-effectively. 

One of the main results of the project will be output-based benchmarks for selected sectors, for which benchmarks do not currently exist (mainly food processing, important for the Central Valley). Another major part of the project focuses on the benchmarking approach for refineries in the period after 2015. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

US Climate Action: Calling individuals to put on the uniform and step up to the plate.

By adopting an ambitious mandatory energy saving target for 2030 the State of California is well on its way to addressing the pressing issue of Climate Change. Global climate change affects the American public with growing visibility and ferocity. As severe weather events wreak havoc on the East coast or wildfires consume hundreds of thousands of acres here in the West, concern about the effects of climate change grows. In addition, the American public bears a heavy financial burden as tax dollars fund increased firefighting efforts; provide disaster relief to flooded cities and towns; and subsidize the climate issues affecting the American bread basket. However, despite the growing cost to cope with the effects of climate change, national policy to address climate change is still a long way off.

Cap-and-Trade in the US
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory CO2 reduction cap-and-trade program in the US. Under RGGI Northeastern and Mid Atlantic states have capped the CO2 emissions in the power sector with the goal of reducing power sector CO2 emissions 10 percent from the 2002-2004 average by 2018.

California began its own cap-and-trade program as well, with several major industrial sectors joining power as capped entities. Many other states – and hopefully the federal government- are watching intently to see how the California program plays out, as California prides itself on its trailblazing adoption of many environmental policies.

Federal cap-and-trade programs are not new in the U.S., with many people being familiar with the 1990 Clean Air Act Acid Rain Program’s SO2  trading system. This cap-and-trade system is widely considered a major success,with an Office of Management and Budget study finding benefits exceeding costsby a 40:1 ratio

Policy on Climate Change
Americans, witnessing a relentless onslaught of wildfires, droughts and recent flooding are fearful of losing their freedoms and way of life. As severe weather is becoming the new normal across the U.S., the price of inaction is becoming ever clearer. The specific cost and benefits of the cap-and-trade programs are yet to be determined, and a public that traditionally looks so favorably on market-based solutions and “quick wins” remains unconvinced on the potential of a market-based cap and trade solution.

Climate change could fundamentally change how we as Americans interact with each other, the rest of the world, and our environment. As the U.S. struggles with national policy on climate change, we fall behind other countries on this important global issue. In his victory speech on election night, President Obama gave brief but equal mention to ending the dependence of the US on foreign oil and tackling climate change. Perhaps by addressing climate change in terms of energy security federal action stands a chance. Perhaps, under the emerging “new energy economy” America can reclaim its position of leadership in the world.

Photo Credit:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

EE Tip From Fig & Olive: Laundry Day

Olive says, "in our house we wait until we have a FULL load of laundry before washing in order to help save energy. In addition, we like to use cooler water settings, hang clothes to dry when possible, and if we do dry we make sure not to over dry or else mommy's pants get too tight...oh, and it saves energy and money! Now, who wants to help me fold?!"

Monday, March 18, 2013

Green Tax Credits

'Tis the season to file those taxes! April 15th is quickly approaching so don't forget that if you made any green home improvements in 2012 you may qualify for a tax credit. Check out this page from the EPA on more information for what does and does not qualify for a tax credit and how to apply for it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Going green on St. Patrick's Day

As a woman of proud English lineage married to a mostly Armenian man the 17th of March is always a bit tiresome as my barely 25% Irish heritage husband frolics about the house dancing his interpretation of an Irish jig and speaking in what may be the world's worst Irish accent.  Oh, and he curses the English.  Basically its a mish-mash of confused cultural impressions and does nothing but irritate me.  Likely the point.

"We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English." --Sir Winston Churchill

However, this year I am determined to reclaim St. Patrick's in my own way and focus on how being engulfed in green can be of benefit--not in the green beers and trashy 'kiss me I'm Irish' (or God forbid 'kiss me I'm Iowa-ish') t-shirt way, but in going green and making a commitment to sustainability.

Each year blogger Julie Urlaub of the Talga Company writes about going green on the world's greenest day.  You can read her posts from the past three years here, here and here.  Each post is a nice reminder that there is much we can do to make small changes in our every day lives that can make a really big difference.  With this inspiration I give you, the first annual SJVCEO "Get Yer Green On!" St. Patrick's Day challenge:

I thought we should make year one easy even a drunken leprechaun could manage.  So, this year the team at SJVCEO challenges you to Get Yer Green Beer On!  No. Do not--I repeat DO NOT--add artificial food coloring to your cheap brew.  Instead, select your golden goodness from a green-leading brew!  Huffington Post ran a piece on the top eight green U.S. breweries, with Fat Tire and Sierra Nevada leading the pack in sustainable business models and taste.

So what should you be looking for in a green brewery?  Well, New Belgium Brewery (maker of Fat Tire) uses renewable energy in production to prevent 8 million pounds of coal from being burned, recycles waste product, and uses sustainable lighting in their facilities. The Alaskan Brewing Company reuses CO2 produced during the fermentation process and one percent of sales are donated to the non-profit Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone (and I really like their label...). Brooklyn Brewery pays it's electric utility, Con Edison, a premium rate so that all the energy it uses every year is replaced by energy produced on a wind farm. And, Great Lakes Brewing Co. composts the brewery's restaurant food, gives left over barley to local farmers and makes deliveries with a biodiesel fleet.

"Here's to a long life and a merry one. A quick death and an easy one. A pretty girl and an honest one. A cold beer--and another one!"

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wellness Wednesday: BPA

Image from
Let’s just get right to it: as a ginger and the daughter of a stage 4 breast cancer fighter, I don’t need anything else to be messing with my hormones. We can’t change our genetics so I make every effort to watch what I put in and on my body and encourage others to do the same. This article on the HuffPost blog discusses how exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) has some seriously scary side effects. Studies are even showing that exposure during pregnancy can cause health problems in later generations - even if those generations are not directly exposed to BPA. Ladies and Gents, we are talking about lowered sperm counts, damaged uteri in females, and obesity, just to name a few – yeah, I thought that might get your attention. BPA is commonly found in plastic food and water packaging/bottles and safety concerns over the organic compound have sparked efforts to produce BPA-free products; however, the chemical substitute for BPA-free doesn’t look to be that much safer

Like I said, seriously scary. But I am a half-glass-full type of person and I like to think that findings like this help us in more than one way, both of which support the work I do at the SJVCEO and Wild Ginger Wellness. We just read about the toxic effects on our health, but what about the environment? Plastic manufacturing utilizes petroleum, which has the potential to be highly toxic, and requires a significant amount of energy. Plastics can also take up to 1,000 years to degrade so they sit in landfills or in our water supplies, further polluting.  

What can we do?

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This topic is something that has weighed heavy on me lately because I do bring my lunch to work every day and like most people, I have my fair share of plastic Tupperware. Last time I checked, plastic containers weren’t the only type of packaging available. While it isn’t as lightweight, use glass or stainless steel containers when storing and transporting food. My goal is to replace all plastic storage with glass counterparts (note to self: update wedding registry). Glass and stainless steel alternatives are safer to use (especially when storing warm items), more durable, and last much longer without getting dingy like their plastic friends. Let’s also re-start the trend of being civilized again and use anything but plastic eating utensils. And those with little ones, don’t forget about researching alternatives to plastic bottles and those toys that end up in your kids’ mouths.

There are countless ways to keep ourselves and our environment healthy and avoiding products with BPA is most definitely one of them. For my fellow holistic health nuts, I also suggest this blog post for further reading on ‘conscious consumption’ – just a few more things to think about which can help save money, energy, and, of course, our health. 

Note to reader: I do also recognize the benefits of plastic, particularly in its role in saving lives - helmets, bullet proof vests, car seats, etc. This blog post primarily concerns those plastics that are related to food/beverage packaging/containers. As with any post topic, I encourage our readers to do their own research and formulate their own, educated opinions.

Monday, March 11, 2013

California Cap-and-Trade Auction Proceeds Investment Plan meeting

The evening of Tuesday February 19th welcomed a convergence of environmental activity in downtown Fresno. It was at 5pm in room 1036 of the Mariposa Mall Building that leaders and concerned citizens from a wide range of backgrounds came together to discuss where the initial funds generated from the California Cap-and-Trade program should be invested. The first of three planned workshops started off with panelists from the Department of Finance, EPADepartment of Transportation, ARB, Water Board, SGC and others  

The goal of this public meeting was to come together and share comments on how best to establish a framework for developing an investment plan for projects and programs to be funded with Cap- and Trade auction proceeds. SB 535 further requires that 25% of the proceeds that will be expended benefit disadvantaged communities and at least 10% of the proceeds expended to be invested in projects located within those communities. One of the best comments made was that although these numbers are minimum criteria, it is important to understand that they are a minimum and not a maximum.

The EPA has developed and GIS based program (CalEnviroScreen) which takes into account 16 different indicators to establish geographical priority areas. This tool uses existing environmental, health and socio-economic data in order to evaluate the impacts of environmental pollution throughout the state. It is expected to aid state and local government address pollution abatement, prioritize enforcement of environmental laws, and make informed planning decisions.(   

Take a look at the finished produce and let us know what you think.

This first link is to the maps showing CalEnviroScreen Statewide results 

This link is to the maps showing the top 10% highest scoring census zip codes 

This link is to the maps showing the top 5, 10, and 15% highest scoring census zip codes 

We would like to know how you think California decision makers should invest these funds. By using the following two criteria please submit your answers as we would love to hear what it is your thinking.

  1. What criteria should be prioritized in the development of an investment plan for auction funds and why?
  2. How can California effectively invest the auction funds to meet the goals of Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32) including support of long-term, transformative efforts to improve public health and develop a clean energy economy?

Photo Credit: