Monday, December 29, 2014

Stay Up to Date: December Update

Our SJVCEO team has been pretty busy over the past few months with many things coming to an end as well as ramping up for the coming year. We are all very excited here at SJVCEO for what 2015 has in store.

                During the month of November our team was spread throughout California to attend our utility partner planning meetings. While attending these meetings staff learned about what each utility has in store for the coming year. No matter which utility meeting our staff attended we all walked away invigorated for another year of helping others on energy efficiency projects.

                One great opportunity that SJVCEO has coming up in 2015 is bringing on two to three interns from CivicSpark. The CivicSpark program is a group of individuals in a national service volunteer program to help local governments reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions. These interns will be working very closely with our staff to benchmark municipal buildings in the San Joaquin Valley. We are all excited to see what this new opportunity with CivicSpark will bring.

                Lastly, SJVCEO as well as the VIEW partnership will be receiving a website face lift. Don’t worry your bookmarked pages will still work as the new websites will be under the same domain names. We thought it was time to fix up the websites to stay current with those of our partners. We hope that when they are debuted that you will like them as much as our staff does.

Make sure to stay up to date with what SJVCEO is up to. We hope to make 2015 one of our most successful years!

Monday, December 22, 2014

How to Green Your Holiday

During the holiday season we are inundated with bright sparkly lights, the smell of pine and festive decorations. Sadly, not all of those items listed are good for our environment. So this year try adding a green spin. You will see how easy it is to go green during this holiday season.

Outdoor Decoration

When it comes to house lights for the holiday try upgrading your older lights to new energy efficient LED lights. These lights are 80 to 90 percent more efficient that incandescent's. LED's are also safer for your family, since they run cooler which makes them less of a fire hazard. Also for a 30 day period of time incandescent lights can cost around $18 whereas LED lights only cost $.19. One last nifty note, if one LED bulb goes out on the strand the rest of the strand will stay lit.[i]
As for your other outdoor decorations try and reduce the size of your display this year. Decorating for the holiday is not a challenge it is about spreading holiday cheer. Go with what you think is spirited and not try to challenge your neighbor to a light dual. Another note would be to turn your lights off when going to bed. Its not energy efficient to leave your lights on whilst everyone is asleep.One such item that will help you make sure your lights go on and off at the right time would be a light timer. Light timers range from 10 dollars to around 25 and can be found at most home improvement stores.

The Tree

Though your artificial tree seems so easy and convenient for your busy lifestyle as well as environmentally friendly, try going with a live tree this year. Artificial trees are made up of PVC, a petroleum-based plastic, and carry a large carbon footprint. A study shows that a household would have to keep their fake tree for 20 years to have an impact on natural tree levels.[ii] Also, once your artificial tree has called it quits it will go to a landfill where a majority of it will sit for decades, since it is not biodegradable.
If you were to switch to a live tree this year you would be making a more sustainable choice. Live trees for the most part are locally sourced so their carbon footprint is much smaller. Also live trees help with air pollution while they are growing on the tree farms as well as if or when you replant them after the holidays. 

Wrapping Paper

Wrapping paper is one of those items that is a must for your holiday celebration. It’s not as if you can let others know what you got them, but much of that wrapping paper goes to the waste once it has been used. So this year try an option that is easier on the environment.

Some options would be using hemp or recycled paper from previous years as well as fabric scraps, comic books strips, old calendars and maps. With some of these options you can get pretty creative with how you present the gift. Also, when choosing gift wrap try to steer clear of glossy foil or metallic wrap, since those types of papers are difficult to recycle. It is hard to separate out the heavy metals from the paper itself so the paper can become mulch.

Green Gifts

Whenever it comes to thinking of gifts for others people usually revert back to the almighty gift cards or sweaters, but this year think outside of the box and give a green gift. See some green gift ideas below. [iii]

Help a Good Cause: Give a gift that can help animal or environmental conservation groups.

Recycle or Upcycled Goods: Visit sights such as Etsy to find items that are beautiful and are made of recycled items.

Help Reduce Waste: Give a gift that will help others cut down on waste. These items can range from small to large in size.
Kill the Watts: Give a gift that should be counted as two gifts. Help someone cut down on energy use and in turn saves them moolah! I think that this gift goes above and beyond 

[i] “How to have a ‘green’ Christmas”, Dec., 5, 2014,
[ii] “Drought Intensifies Christmas Tree Debate:, Dec., 18,2014,
[iii]“ 9 Green Gift Ideas For the Holiday Season”, Dec. 15, 2014,

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Oh No! Falling Gas Prices

So my wallet told me that in the month of November, gas prices had gone down.

Awesome. Fantastic. Insert Happy/Smiley face emoji here.

This fall gas prices hit their lowest since the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009. On December 3, 2014, Costco gas was reported at $2.71 a gallon ( and personally, my aging Honda civic is now filling up at approximately $35 a tank. Now to the casual onlooker, this is good news – more money in our pockets, motivation to travel and do holiday shopping with a little looser budget all sound great, right?

But wait a sec.   .   .

One must take in the bad in with the good.

According to U.S. News and World Report consumers are beginning to purchase vehicles that were well known prior to the recession as “gas-guzzlers”. You remember, Hummers, Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades, right? Well those brand items are making a big comeback. To add insult to injury, besides sucking your wallet dry for gas, the emissions of these vehicles are not good for the rest of us. A Cadillac Escalade emits around 9.6 tons per year[1] of CO2 into the atmosphere and it stays there for, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a few years to thousands of years.[2]  9.6 tons is just one Escalade driving about 15,000 miles a year. As trends have shown in the past the cost of gas will go right back up. Then what? The consumer puts their car in the garage? What about the emissions, they stay in the atmosphere.

As a history of major, I’ve read and experienced enough of the ups, downs, lefts and rights of the federal, state and local governments. Ultimately I believe the power is held by the taxpayer. People really do need to think about the environment – especially in the Central Valley. I absolutely believe that climate change is not a myth. The drought throughout the state and the extreme weather conditions in the Eastern United States prove that our environment is changing and that it is completely up to the people to correct it.

From my perspective we need to start with the gas guzzlers being deeply regulated. Car manufacturers have been putting great technology into their cars, so why not lower an SUV’s emissions to be comparable to that of a Honda Civic? Since the automobile industry isn’t going anywhere, I’m thinking there are plenty of engineers who can make this a reality, it’s just the manufacturers have to make it a top priority.

This is also just a small piece of the pie.  Decreasing our gas dependency, realizing climate change and reducing SUV usage are just a few of the contributing factors in the recovering and preserving of our environment.

[1] “Compare Side-By-Side”, U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, accessed December 5, 2014,
[2] “Overview of Greenhouse Gases”, Environmental Protection Agency, accessed December 4, 2014,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Expanding Community Fuels

Community Fuels is a Stockton-based biofuel producer committed to providing easy access to cleaner fuels and consequently expanding the clean energy industry to strengthen regional economies here in California.

As some of our readers may be aware, the SJVCEO is participating in the Workforce Investment Board Regional Industry Cluster of Opportunities (WIB RICO II) grant to support the Alternative and Renewable Fuel Vehicle (ARFV) Technology program.  The California Energy Commission (CEC), under this ARFV Technology Program, awarded Community Fuels a $4.9 million grant for expansion of their production facilities. Community Fuels will be expected to build commercial-scale facilities that “can sustainably produce at least 15 MMgy of low carbon transportation fuels” (according to this article in Biodiesel Magazine).

I was curious about the consumption of gasoline in both our wonderful state of California and the country as a whole and so I put my math skills to good use to figure out how much of an impact this one, small company in the Central Valley could make. Here’s what I found:

Photo Source: LA Times

California is responsible for consuming nearly 11% (14.5 billion gallons) of what the US consumes as a whole (about 133 billion gallons per year, as of 2012). This means that Californians use about 39.7 million gallons of gasoline each day.

So, what can we conclude?

Well, once Community Fuels expands, they will produce enough clean transportation fuels to replace at least 40% of what all Californians use in one day (or 0.1% of what Californians use in a year). Sure, that doesn’t really sound like a whole lot, ESPECIALLY when we compare it to the entire country’s gasoline consumption, but the more traction Community Fuels and the ARFV Technology Program receive, and the more California adapts to the influx of alternative vehicles (i.e. building more alternative fueling stations), Community Fuels and other similar production facilities will expand even further to replace many more gallons of gasoline.

Unfortunately, all of this will take lots of time, money and resources. But there’s good news, too: the SJVCEO and our partners on this WIB RICO grant are making moves to expedite the transition to a San Joaquin Valley with cleaner, more efficient transportation.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Homebrew your way to an energy-efficient, neo-noir, sci-fi pad

When I first remember watching Blade Runner, it wasn’t the computer you could talk to and have it turn 2D pictures into 3D, or the cars that could drive and fly, or the humanoid robots that didn’t know they were robots, but rather the apartment lighting. Call me weird. As Harrison Ford was walking around his apartment, each room he entered dimmed up its fluorescent lighting, and dimmed to off as he moved away. This motion-sensing awesomeness was probably most engrained in my memory because I was often reminded by my parents to turn the lights off when I left the room. A good lesson and a constant annoyance to me, but I’m sure I was to them too. I probably still am.

Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard hunts down humanoid-like robots, and better ways to conserve energy.

This past weekend I read about this company called Ubiquiti Networks. Like their name suggests, they make networking equipment, like wireless internet antennas for long distances. But they also create energy managing devices, like power strips, power outlets and dimmers and switches.  The cool thing about these devices is that they wireless connect to the network, creating an Internet of Things.  And they can be programmed.  This is where the fun begins.

I might never have to flip a switch ever again.

By connecting motion sensors to your network, and replacing your light switches, you can now program the lights in any room to ramp up or down depending on the activity on the room.  And with time already a part of the system, you can have the lights dim up to a lower level at 4:15 in the morning so you don’t have to shield your eyes from the fury of instant-on brightness.  Another benefit is that each device monitors the energy usage of what is connected to it.

Now I can let prank callers know if my fridge is running anytime I’m away from the house.

You can know easily track energy usage of your lights and even plug loads, which can be pretty difficult.  If you have your electrical outlets replaced with theirs, you can also use a motion sensor in the kitchen to not only dim up your lights, but also to turn on your devices that have phantom loads!  I hope to one day purchase these when I buy a home so I have a much better picture of how much energy my home uses and, well, not have to worry about forgetting to turn off the lights.

My parents would be so happy.