He’s the world’s first environmentally conscious superhero. Now kids and adults alike can get the animated series “Captain Planet” on DVD. Season one of Captain Planet and the Planeteers will be released on DVD in April, just in time for this year’s Earth Day celebration. The ever-changing eco-hero from within the Earth battles against villains who are out to loot and pollute the Earth’s resources. Captain Planet enlists the help of five young people from around the globe called Planeteers who use their powers to take on the environmental disasters created by eco-villains. The group fights everything from garbage dumping to the destruction of the rainforest. With the aid of rings given to them by spirit Earth, the Planeteers each control one special element of nature – earth, wind, water, fire and heart. Each episode ends with a 30 second tag including tips on how people can be a part of the solution. The children’s series which first ran in the 1990′s has never before been offered on DVD. The box set is even being sold in eco-friendly packaging made of 100 percent recycled paper. ToonZone reports the 4-DVD box set will be in stores nationwide on April 19th.
A new building in the works in Portland brings the idea of green building to a whole new level. The high-rise will generate all of the electricity it uses, will only use rain for a water source and will treat all of its waste. The green building ideas add up to make the Oregon Sustainability Center the tallest “living” building in the world. The center will meet the Living Building Challenge which requires qualifying buildings to meet net zero energy and water performance. Living buildings must also be toxin-free and built with locally sourced materials. The high-rise building will achieve net-zero energy while creating zero carbon emissions in several ways. A massive solar disc on the roof will help harness energy from the sun. Smart design of the high-rise will help it capture solar heat in the winter and shade canopies will help cool the building in the summer. The center will also keep tabs on its tenants by monitoring energy and waste in each office space. A 200,000 gallon storage tank will collect and treat rainwater for use in the building and wastewater from hand and dishwashing will be recycled in the building’s toilets and used for cooling mechanical equipment. The building will also use geo-thermal to regulate the inside temperature instead of a typical forced air heating system. The net-zero energy high-rise building is beginning to land tenants including Portland State University which will set up some classrooms and faculty offices.
Dow Chemical and their contractors allegedly hired private investigators to spy on the environmental group Greenpeace. That’s according to a lawsuit filed in federal district court in Washington. The lawsuit by Greenpeace alleges that private investigators including some former security experts were hired to steal documents, tap phones and hack into Greenpeace computer networks. The lawsuit also claims operatives posing as activists infiltrated Greenpeace offices and meetings. The environmental group alleges that some of the confidential documents stolen included campaign plans, employee records, donor and media lists. The spying allegedly occurred between 1998 and 2000 when Greenpeace was campaigning against the release of dioxin, which is a toxic byproduct of chemical manufacturing in Lake Charles, Louisiana and other communities. The executive director of Greenpeace USA, Phil Radford says “We believe it is every citizens right to stand up for the health of their children and community without fearing retribution, an invasion of privacy, conspiracy against them or theft of their belongings.” Spokespeople for the companies listed in the complaint have declined to comment.
Companies with ideas for a smarter, cleaner and more efficient energy use were awarded this week for their innovation. The goal of GE’s ecomagination challenge is to encourage new energy-efficient technnologies in three areas including renewables, power grid and eco-buildings. One winning company, Soladigm, makes windows that automatically tint to help keep buildings cool and reduce glare. The technology can reduce energy use by 25 percent. Clarian Power won for its easy to install home solar system that plugs into the home’s existing power outlet. The technology provides payback in energy savings to the homeowners in four to five years. ClimateWell was recognized for a cooling and heating system that is run by solar powered hot water rather than electricity. Other winning ideas include an , a turbine that instantly de-ices blades so they never slow or shut down and an intelligent water meter that generates its own power. The award winners will each receive funding to help develop their ideas. The ecomagination challenge generated nearly 4,000 ideas from more than 150 countries over a ten week period.
British actress and Harry Potter star Emma Watson says she loves fashion and the planet. Last year she collaborated with People Tree, a clothing company that creates fair trade and organic clothing and accessories. The collection she endorsed caught the eye of Italian designer Alberta Ferretti. Watson agreed to work with Ferretti if the designer was prepared to make the clothing line fair-trade organic. Elle.com reports the name of the collection has not yet been released but the clothing line is expected to make its debut after Christmas. Fair trade is an approach that helps producers in developing countries obtain better working conditions and promote sustainability. It empowers farmers and other workers to lift themselves out of poverty and protect the environment. Fair trade certification guarantees consumers that strict social and environmental criteria were made in the production and trade of a product. Organic clothing is made from environmentally sustainable material or organic cotton which is made without the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
An international group of scientists is hoping to find sustainable practices that can keep our planet habitable. In order to do that, the team detailed the top five challenges the world needs to meet in order to sustain the planet. The International Council for Science published the scientists findings in a report called Earth System Science for Global Sustainability. The report proposes research on five challenges that must be addressed in order to manage environmental change. Scientists say the key issues include forecasting future environmental conditions and their consequences, observing and recording environmental change and managing any environmental change when it occurs. The other key issues include determining institutional and economic responses that will make global sustainability possible and encouraging innovation in technology and policy to achieve sustainability. The next step which is already underway is to create an organized and focused international body that can make these five recommendations a reality.
Between March 1 and May 31 of this year Keep America Beautiful challenged Americans to “green” communities through individual actions. Earlier this week, the nonprofit released the tallying figures of the nationwide effort. The reports show that 76 million pounds of debris were removed from public lands which included parks, waterway shorelines and hiking, biking and nature trials across the country. In addition, 3,100 playgrounds and community recreation areas were improved, restored or constructed and 6,500 illegal dump sites were reclaimed. Recycling records this year also rose with volunteers collecting and recycling more than 266 million plastic (PET) bottles, 7.2 million pounds of electronics, 1.1 million tires, 91.5 million pounds of newspaper, and 15 million pounds of glass. Keep America Beautiful reports that volunteers helped create 5,600 gardens, xeriscapes and greens paces, planted 129,000 trees, planted 2 million flowers and bulbs, and helped remediate 10, 600 graffiti sites.
How can you Do Your Part?
Do Your Part and make a difference through green volunteering! Keep America Beautiful is on of the many environmentally focused groups that rely on volunteers to help protect the environment. One DoYourPart.com favorite is Adopt A Stream which helps clear litter away from local waterways. Other volunteer opportunities can be read about in this DYP column.
Faced with a $4.5 million bill to save Mary Lake, Bob McMinn, the head of the Mary Lake Conservancy found fund-raising inspiration in Twitter and Facebook. The 86-year British Columbia resident knew that the global reach of social media could help and so he developed a plan. To engage online web of users, McMinn launched SaveMaryLake.com where site visitors can purchase a virtual piece of the property for $10 per square meter. McMinn then sent tweets and updates through social media platforms to get the world involved. So far supporters from across the continent have purchased more than 11,200 square meters to save the 107-acre property that is home to an endangered Dry Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem. Mary Lake is also home to several endangered species. To learn more about the project and how to donate, visit the Save Mary Lake website.
How can you Do Your Part?
Do Your Part and get involved to actively conserve and protect the environment. Green volunteering is an excellent way to jump right in and help. Volunteering opportunities can be both indoors and out. Those who enjoy the hands-on experience of working outside can work with local groups to plant trees or volunteer for cleanup projects at nearby beaches. If you’re more suited for indoor work, try volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity ReStores which resell used furniture and home goods to fund the nonprofits mission. To learn more about green volunteering, read this DYP column.
Photo Credit: Save Mary Lake
In September Seattle University became the first Washington state higher education institution to stop selling plastic bottled water campus-wide. Bottled water sales were removed from vending machines, athletic concessions stands, the bookstore, on-campus restaurants and catering services in order to reduce the university’s impact on the environment. The final campus-wide decision was a culmination of a 3-year student led initiative which campaigned against bottled water because of its effects on social justice and environmental impact. The New York Times writes that the Jesuit university and the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point are the two latest colleges to enforce a campus-wide ban on bottled water. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education there are six other colleges across the nation that have similar restrictions.
How can you Do Your Part?
Do Your Part and ditch the plastic bottled water! Disposable plastic water bottles are a drain on resources. Continuing to use them encourages the country’s dependence on petroleum since the production of each plastic bottle requires oil. Here’s how you can kick the habit: switch to reusable bottles. If you don’t already have a few in your home, purchase ones made from BPA-free plastic, aluminum or stainless steel. If filtered water gives you peace of mind, there are many home choices including faucet attachments or filtered free-standing pitchers. On the rare occasion that your only choice is the disposable plastic types make sure you recycle them.
Is it possible for a small business to go green without a huge investment and slow payback period? According to a recent article in Yale 360, Tom Bowman of southern California would say yes. In two years Bowman’s creative services company reduced 65 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, 63 percent of gasoline use, 45 percent of landfill waste and 18 percent of water use from simple energy efficient improvements. Bowman achieved savings by choosing efficient replacement equipment. When the copier contract expired, the company switched to a multipurpose efficient machine that took the place of the copier and eliminated the need for several other pieces of office equipment. When the air conditioner broke, Bowman replaced it with the most efficient model the company could afford. Other infrastructure improvements included upgrading to efficient lighting and eliminating vampire power used by office equipment. Bowman also traded in the company SUV for a more fuel efficient Prius, encouraged employees to telecommute, and rescheduled supplier visits to coincide with commuting. Bowman says that his company’s methods may not work for every small business, but it does show that building ownership and financing for expensive upgrades are not prerequisites for success.
How can you Do Your Part?
Do Your Part and find ways to reduce your home’s footprint with practical home improvement projects. One simple switch is to install efficient lighting. Next, identify electronics that use vampire power, and use power strips to fully shut them down. Another option is to try some of these DIY projects to better insulate your home. Your home wastes energy and money when problem areas are left unattended. Another way to reduce heating and cooling costs is to install a programmable thermostat to switch to levels of lower consumption when you and your family aren’t at home.