renewable energy

logoCities, towns, counties, states, regions, and countries all over the world are making large strides towards shifting to renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, and wave/tidal energy).

Within the U.S., the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 program reports that (to date, as of early 2018), more than 50 cities, 7 counties, and the State of Hawaii have adopted the ambitious goal of 100% clean energy. The first five cities to hit their targets, generating 100% of their electricity from non-polluting, renewable sources, are:

In addition, Georgetown, TX is expected to hit its 100% renewable goal this year (2018). And the city of Palo Alto, CA currently provides 100% carbon-neutral electricity and carbon-neutral natural gas, by supplementing their use of renewables with carbon offsets (renewable energy certificates, which help fund renewable projects in other areas). Meanwhile, the other 50+ cities that have committed to achieving 100% renewable energy include several large cities, such as Atlanta, GA, San Diego and San Francisco, CA, and St. Louis, MO.

Worldwidemore than 40 cities now get all of their electricity from renewables, and more than 100 cities (including Seattle, WA, and Eugene, OR in the U.S.) now get more than 70% of their electricity from renewables; that is more than double the number of cities that met that threshold in 2015. Here’s a full list of the cities studied by the CDP (Climate Data Project). (Note: Some of these cities, especially in Latin America, use primarily hydropower; large dams are controversial, as they are environmentally destructive to ecosystems and habitats. Biomass & landfill gas sources are also sometimes controversial.)

A few of the countries that are leading the way on using renewable energy sources are: Iceland, Costa Rica, Germany, Uruguay, Scotland, Kenya, Portugal, and New Zealand.

Some programs that help cities and regions move towards 100% include:

Let’s all ask the leaders of our cities, towns, counties, and states (mayors, city council members, county supervisors, governors, and state legislators) to commit to a 100% (or at least 90%) renewable energy goal, and enact forward-thinking policies right away to move rapidly towards that goal. You can share these program links with them, so they will be aware of networks they can join and resources they can use in setting their policies and meeting their renewable energy goals.

One way to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy sources at a local level is to create a county-wide or regional Community Choice Energy program. Per the Center for Climate Protection, “Community Choice agencies are local, not-for-profit, public agencies that provide electricity services to residents and businesses. Community Choice introduces competitions and consumer choices into the electricity sector with a focus on local, renewable energy to stimulate rapid innovations in clean energy systems.”

Energy efficiency is also critical. It is as important as shifting to renewable energy sources, because the less energy we need/use (the lower the demand), the less we have to produce (supply) from any source. (All types of energy production, even non-polluting renewables, require material inputs and have impacts.) The Union of Concerned Scientists ranks states by their energy efficiency progress.  In 2017, they found that the most energy efficient states were: Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Vermont, Oregon, Connecticut, New York, Washington, and Minnesota.

 

For more information on cities with 100% renewable energy goals, see:

Also see these other 100% renewables efforts, for other sectors (beyond cities and towns):

 

Share

March 26, 2018
[Click here to comment]

imagesThis is a listing of some enviro-relevant groups in Canada (though not all of them are focused solely on environmental issues).

Even for those of us who aren’t Canadian, it’s important to support stronger Canadian environmental and climate protection efforts, especially at a time when there is somewhat more political will in Canada for environmental protection than there had been in the recent past, while the U.S. government is heading in a decidedly anti-environmental direction at the federal level rather than demonstrating international leadership.

Also, many international environmental organizations have a Canadian office or programs that include Canada.  For example, ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) has a Canadian office (and many Canadian cities and towns are members of ICLEI).

If you know of other environmental (or environmentally-relevant) groups in Canada, please mention them in the Comments. Thanks!

Share

January 26, 2018
[Click here to comment]

We post daily morsels of illuminating information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page. Anyone can view the page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” the page) and Share the page with your friends.

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the various topics that it covers. You are welcome to comment on the posts and we hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last few months:

  • Costa Rica now uses almost 100% renewable energy
  • Uruguay uses almost 95% clean energy
  • Aspen, CO, Burlington, VT, and Greensburg, KS use 100% renewables
  • San Diego plans to shift to 100% renewable energy
  • The island of Bonaire is switching to 100% renewables
  • Community solar for groups and neighborhoods
  • Ireland rules out fracking
  • COP21 Paris Climate Summit Commitments
  • CatalogChoice free junk-mail opt-out service
  • Organizations and Initiatives: Earthworks, Center for Environmental Health, Story of Stuff Project, Politifact, FactCheck.org, Solar Ready Vets, Troops to Solar
  • Books: Voices of the Wild, The Heart of Sustainability
  • New films: Time to Choose, Racing Extinction, Medicine of the Wolf, Last Days of Ivory
  • Quotations, photos, graphics, cartoons, etc.
Share

December 28, 2015
[Click here to comment]

Here’s a selection of five good TED talks related to the environment, energy, public health, nature, and other relevant topics. The engaging speakers who have given these talks are experts in their fields. Check out these free videos of the following brief and fascinating talks.

The Business Logic of Sustainability / Ray Anderson

The Voice of the Natural World / Bernie Krause

Biomimicry in Action / Janine Benyus

A 40-Year Plan for Energy / Amory Lovins

Protect Our Oceans / Sylvia Earle

 

UPDATE: We’ve now posted a second set of talks: More TED Talks to Watch (Part II)

And here are some other collections of environment-related TED talks:

Share

September 29, 2015
[Click here to comment]

The rapid rise of the global fossil-fuel divestment movement is a very promising and heartening sign of real progress.

A growing number of people are trying to “put their money where their mouth is” (i.e., where their values are). They want to stop giving their unintentional financial support to destructive, polluting companies and industries, such as the fossil fuel industry, and to shift their support over to clean, forward-thinking companies and industries that aim to have a positive impact on our world.

Putting your money where your mouth is might involve more than just being selective about which stores you go to and which products you buy. You could be unwittingly giving some of your money to companies you don’t want to support, through your accounts and investments: e.g., mutual funds, retirement accounts (IRAs, 401Ks), or any other stock-based accounts or investments. If you look at the list of company holdings that are part of your accounts’ portfolios, you might discover that Exxon and other oil/gas companies are in there, or Walmart, or Monsanto, or Koch Brothers-owned companies (also see the Buycott campaign/app), or McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or cigarette companies… Even if you don’t have any stock-based accounts of your own, there’s a good chance that your city, your college’s endowment fund, your church, or your pension provider invests in companies that don’t align with your values. Institutions like these are increasingly being confronted by local and national divestment campaigns.

_DshqZRQ_400x400Fossil Free maintains this list of the hundreds of institutions (including colleges and universities, cities and counties, religious institutions, and foundations) that have committed to divesting from fossil fuels. They include: Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the City and County of San Francisco; Seattle, WA; Dane County, WI; Ann Arbor, MI, and many, many more. Countries committed to divest billions of dollars at the UN’s 2014 Climate Summit, and many world leaders have spoken out in support of the divestment movement; they include Desmond Tutu, Ban Ki-Moon, Christina Figueres, Mary Robinson, and even the President of the World Bank. People and institutions are divesting from fossil fuels for a variety of reasons. In addition to the values motivation, or to limit the political influence (lobbying budgets) of oil and gas companies, some are simply divesting because they feel that we’re approaching (or have already hit) “peak oil” and/or that fossil fuel reserves will soon become “stranded assets” and fossil fuel stocks are going to rapidly or drastically drop in value.

942A5VXM_400x400At the Divest-Invest site, you can pledge to divest from fossil fuels or to invest in clean stocks, and learn more about the issues and options. At Fossil Free Funds, you can do a search to find out whether your retirement plan/mutual funds have fossil free stocks. (Also see the links below.)

Whether or not you have any accounts that can be divested from fossil fuel or other harmful companies, you should think about investing some money in clean energy or other socially beneficial companies. If you want to switch your mutual fund or retirement accounts over to—or start a new account with—a “socially responsible investment” (SRI) fund, there are many to choose from. Going this route does not necessarily mean that you have to settle for a lower return on investment. SRI funds often perform as well as (or even better) than market averages. (See some performance stats here and here and here.) And socially responsible investing has become much more popular in recent years: U.S-based SRI assets jumped 76% between 2012 and 2014 and reached $6.57 trillion, according to US SIF. You can learn more about fossil-free funds and other SRI funds at the following sites:

A few funds that are fossil-fuel free (to date) include: Green Century Fund (both of their funds: Balanced and Equity), Green Alpha FundsParnassus Endeavor FundCalvert Investments’ Green Bond FundPortfolio 21 Global Equity Fund, and Pax World Global Environmental Markets Fund.  A couple of fossil-fuel-free indexes have been developed, as well:  FFIUS Fossil Free Indexes, and FTSE ex Fossil Fuel Index.

Note: In addition to the relatively new fossil-fuel-free criterion (which most SRI funds do not yet meet), there are a number of other environmental and social issues and criteria that SRI funds can screen for, in areas such as: pollution/toxics, nuclear power, defense/weapons, human rights, animal welfare, executive pay, labor relations, diversity, tobacco, alcohol, and many others. (When you click on the link above, select the Screening and Advocacy tab to find out how/whether various funds address each issue.) Note: It’s important that you look at each fund’s holdings and portfolio policies, as many SRI funds do include some companies that are widely seen as problematic (including oil and gas companies); some but not all of those funds explicitly try to influence and improve those companies’ policies through shareholder activism.

If you would like to have an investment advisor assist you in selecting a fossil-free or other SRI fund, these are a couple of advisory firms that I am aware of:

(You can also do a web search to find firms or advisors who specialize in SRI or clean energy investment or fossil-fuel divestment and who are also based in your area.)

logoAnother way to invest your money is to make a direct investment in a social impact venture, AKA a social enterprise. One place to find some social enterprises and funds that anyone can invest in is CuttingEdgeX. Among their current offerings (which are called Direct Public Offerings) are the RSF Social Investment Fund and the Calvert Foundation’s Community Investment note at Vested.org. For a list of some other funds that are available to everyone (but with a focus on food and farming-related enterprises), also see the top section of this page.

Some people are also able to invest their money in local, distributed solar projects in their area or elsewhere (on housing, schools, etc.). These are two platforms that allow people to do that—though unfortunately, for now, most of these platforms’ offerings are only open to California residents, due to current securities regulations (which could change in the future):

(Note: Having solar panels or a small-scale wind turbine installed on your own property is another good way to invest your money and get a solid return on investment.)

Most direct investment opportunities are only open to “accredited investors” (who, basically, are people wealthy enough to endure the risk of losing a considerable amount of money on investments: an accredited investor is currently defined as someone with an individual income of more than $200,000/year or a joint income of $300,000, for the past two years; or a net worth exceeding $1 million, individually or jointly with one’s spouse). If you are an accredited investor, there are all sorts of social enterprises you can invest in, e.g., through groups like these:

And there’s yet another way that everyone can make a difference with their dollars: Move your regular (checking/savings) accounts (as well as any credit card accounts) out of the huge, greedy, bail-out banks (e.g., Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Wells Fargo, etc.) and into a local credit union (credit unions are non-profit cooperative banks that share profits with their members) or a small community bank that won’t charge you ridiculous fees for basic transactions with your own money; won’t gamble with your money, your mortgage, and the economy for short-term gains; and that will give back to its members and your community. There are also a few banks that have an explicit social and environmental mission (and are certified B Corporations), such as:

The Sierra Club offers a credit card with Beneficial State Bank. (Most affinity cards are affiliated with the big, bail-out banks. This is one of the few that isn’t.)

Efforts are also underway to create Clean Energy Victory Bonds, which would be treasury bonds where all the funds raised go to support clean energy in the United States. Click that link to learn how you can support this initiative.

 

Other general resources for further information:

Related posts:

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

Climate and Energy-Related Solutions and Resources

Share

February 27, 2015
1 comment

The following are the posts on The Green Spotlight that provide information and links that are related to energy, power, fuel, and/or climate change—with a strong focus on solutions.

SLB102_Blk_LimeGrThese posts are the most directly related to such topics:

And these posts are also related to energy and climate issues, in ways that might be less obvious but are equally important:

In the near future, we will add posts on fossil fuel divestment and renewable energy investment; local power (local renewable electricity utilities, Community Choice Aggregation); reforestation and carbon sequestration initiatives; and other important efforts to slow/mitigate the progression (and severity) of climate change.

Here are a few other online resources for good information related to climate change and climate solutions:

Share

September 21, 2014
[Click here to comment]

B Corporations (known as B Corps, for short) are “a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” As of May 2014, there are now more than 1,000 certified B Corporations, in 33 countries and 60 industries. Among the most well-known companies that are certified B Corporations are: Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s, Method, and Seventh Generation.

Each year, B Lab recognizes a group of B Corps as “Best for the World” honorees for creating the most positive social and environmental impact. These companies have earned an overall score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, community, and the environment. These are businesses that go beyond simply being benign or reducing their harm to society; they strive to be beneficial and could even be considered benevolent. (For more information on B Corp certification, see our previous post on this topic.)

I’d like to highlight a small selection of this year’s “Best for the World” companies, within a few types of industries:

Financial

Energy/Solar

Consumer Products

There is also an Environment sub-group of Best for the World honorees, for the companies that scored in the top 10% of all B Corps within the environmental impact category. And there are sub-groups for the top 10% companies for worker impact, as well as community impact.

Click here to find other B Corps (you can search by location, name, industry, keyword).

Note: B Corporations and “benefit corporations” are similar but different things. For an explanation of each and the difference between the two, please see our previous post on this topic:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: Businesses for the Common Good

You might also be interested in this post on green and socially responsible business:

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

 

Share

May 5, 2014
[Click here to comment]

This is a listing of some of the green-themed films that came out in the last couple of years. Click on each of the links below (or go to IMDB.com) to see previews/trailers, reviews, and descriptions of each film.  Update: Also check out our newer listing of green-themed films of 2015.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a list of some green film festivals; those websites provide information on more films, including some brand new ones that haven’t been shown widely yet.

Energy / Power

 

Health / Toxic Chemicals

(Note: Many of the films in the Energy section above also relate to health issues, especially Hot Water, Gasland II, and the Atomic States of America)

 

Food / Agriculture

  • Bringing It Home: Industrial hemp, healthy houses, and a greener future for America (2013)

 

Animal Sentience / Animal Rights

 

Water (Oceans, Rivers, Glaciers)

 

Environmental Movement / Activism

  • Green Gold (2012) – Entire film is available to watch online

 

Related posts (more films):

If there are other relevant, recent films that you’ve seen and would recommend to others, please add those in the Comments section below.

Green Film Festivals

These are a few of the annual film fests that I’m aware of. Please let everyone know about others by contributing a Comment! Many of the festivals’ websites feature video clips or entire films (short and full-length films), and they list many additional, new, independent films, beyond what I’ve listed above.

Share

March 25, 2014
[Click here to comment]

The 13 buildings that are highlighted in this post are among the greenest building and renovation projects of recent years. They include Living Building Challenge certified projects (and a couple of projects that are currently pursuing that certification), as well as some of the highest-scoring LEED Platinum certified projects around the world. (Bear in mind that many traditional and indigenous structures were built using more sustainable materials and methods than those that are typically used in these modern times, so many of the world’s greenest buildings were constructed long before the advent of green building certification systems.) The following projects were all built or renovated within the past decade.

Living Building Challenge Projects

The Living Building Challenge, administered by the International Living Future Institute, is widely recognized as the most rigorous certification system for green buildings; it can also be applied to infrastructure and other types of development projects. It goes beyond most of the LEED requirements. In their own words, “It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements, including net zero energy, waste and water, over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.”

So far (as of late 2013), these are the only four buildings to have achieved the full Living Building certification:

Bertschi School’s Living Building Science Wing
Seattle, WA

More Info

Hawai’i Preparatory Academy’s Energy Lab
Kamuela, HI
This building also achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED for Schools v2007.
More Info

Omega Center for Sustainable Living
Rhinebeck, NY
This building also achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED NC v2.2.
More Info

Tyson Living Learning Center
(at Washington University’s Tyson Research Center)
Eureka, MO

More Info

[February 2014 Update: A fifth building has now achieved the full Living Building certification:
Smith College Environmental Classroom
, Northampton, MA]

These two ultra-green buildings have also been completed and their project teams are currently pursuing the Living Building Challenge certification:

Bullitt Center (Bullitt Foundation office building)
Seattle, WA

(Living Building certification pending)
More Info

Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes
Pittsburgh, PA

This building achieved LEED Platinum certification under LEED NC v2.2.  (Living Building certification pending)
More Info

 

Top-Scoring LEED Platinum Certified Buildings

So far (as of late 2013), the following projects have achieved the highest scores among all LEED certified projects with the Platinum rating (LEED’s highest rating level). Some are new buildings; some are renovations. And a couple of the projects involve interior spaces (office or store interiors) only.

In the United States

LaraSwimmerPhotoSt. Martin’s University, Cebula Hall Engineering Building
Lacey, WA

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction) v2009
(97 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

Integral Group’s Deep Green Office (remodel)
Oakland, CA

LEED Platinum CI (Commercial Interiors) v2009
(102 out of 110 points)
Info
Video Tour

The Bridge Building (historic renovation)
Nashville, TN

LEED Platinum CS (Core & Shell) v2009
(99 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

502 Second St. NW office building (historic renovation)
Grand Rapids, MI

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction & Major Renovation) v2.2
(66 out of 69 points)
Info
More Info


In other countries

Pixel office building
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

LEED Platinum NC (New Construction) v2009
(105 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

The Change Initiative store
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

LEED Platinum Retail CI (Commercial Interiors) v2009
(107 out of 110 points)
Info
More Info

ITC Green Centre office building
Gurgaon, Haryana, India

LEED Platinum O&M: EB (Existing Buildings) v2009
(99 out of 110 points)
Info

To see other Platinum projects, check out our listing of LEED Platinum Certified Buildings, Offices, and Homes worldwide.

This post has provided a selected, not a comprehensive, list of super-green buildings.  If you know of another completed, ultra-green building that you’d like others to know about, please mention it in the Comments, with a link to information about the project.

Related posts:

LEED Platinum Leaders: January 2012 Update of Top-Ranking States and Countries

Model Sustainable Neighborhoods: LEED ND Developments in the U.S., Canada, and China

Share

December 11, 2013
1 comment