Videos on Sustainability

Sometimes the hardest part about wanting to move to a more abundant life that is sustainable is helping others to understand.  There are many videos out there that address the subject, but a few stand out.

First the Videos: The video “The Story of Stuff” by Annie clearly and effectively identifies what happens to all of the “stuff” we buy.  This is a cradle to grave story of the cycle of stuff.  It is a look at the cycle from raw material mining to the final resting place, usually the local landfill.  Through simple black and white drawings on a whiteboard the ideas of how government and individuals interact in this cycle are simply and poignantly explained.  The genius of this format is it will leave a class of fouth graders or political science PhDs discussing the issues for weeks to come.  As individuals it is a chance to think, “What are we really doing here?”

The video “Carbon Nation” was recently released on DVD.  The subtitle of the video says it all “A climate change solutions movie [that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change]”.  The main issues discussed in the video are national security, clean air and clean water.

Of course the best know video dealing with the issue of climate change is the “The Inconvenient Truth”.  The movie that
brought emphasized the need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and other sources that increase the amount of carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide equivalents, such as methane, into the atmosphere.

What are some of your favorite sustainability videos?


Ray Anderson: “Reimagining the World was a Responsibility”

On August 11 a memorial service for “Sustainable Industrialist” – Ray Anderson, was held. The eulogy titled, “Reimagining the World Was a Responsibility” was presented by Paul Hawken, author of The Ecology of Commerce and inspiration for his radical rethinking of the way business should be done.  After reading Hawken’s book, he recreated his carpet industry based on the philosophy – “taking nothing from the earth that is not rapidly and naturally renewable, and doing no harm to the biosphere.”  His  multimillion dollar business, Interface Carpets provides carpet as a service to businesses.  Up to this point the goal of carpet companies was to sell carpet.  The more that was sold, and consequently thrown away, the more “successful” the business.  Ray Anderson, reimagined the carpet business and provided carpet as a service.  With his unique tile format of carpeting, it is only necessary to replace the worn or stained portions of the carpet and he provided this carpet service on a yearly contract.  With this new service model, he was responsible for the life of the carpet from manufacturing to uninstalling.  With this new model Interface is able to provide a product, often seem in airports and business, that was recyclable.  With Ray’s reimagining, not only is the need to throw yards and yards of carpet into the dumpster to end its life in the landfill eliminated, but the amount that needs to be replaced because it is worn or stained is a fraction of the total.  This cradle to cradle philosophy is seen every day in nature where the end of life for one provides the beginning of life for the next. 

“Ultimately, Ray’s work was not about making a sustainable business, it was about justice, ethics, and honoring creation. Zero waste was the path to 100% respect for living beings.” – Eulogy for Ray Anderson by Paul Hawken.

Composting Toilets: an important step toward sustainability in third world

Composting Toilet In Mexico Built by Resource InstituteInside a composting toilet facility

Imagine a young woman in a camp in Haiti walking and opening latrine door after latrine door only to walk away from the stench and filth. Where does this young woman “go”?  Often she will attempt to find a private location, but this leaves her easy prey for attack.  At the same time the feces carrying pathogens of diarrheal diseases will wash into the water supply with the next rains.  This lack of adequate toilets and fear of violence have lead to a culture where there is a lack of human dignity and public defecation is common.  These poor sanitary conditions leading to the cholera outbreak and other diseases make the people of Haiti part of the statistic that 5 million people die of diarrhea and dehydration every year; more people than die of HIV and malaria combined.  

Even if latrines are serviced regularly and a large truck comes and vacuums out the contents which is then transported and dumped into a lake-like fecal storage area.    A better solution would be to use composting toilets.  Not only do these toilets cut the cost of waste handling and transportation by 90%, they fully contain the feces and its pathogens.

An example of successful installation of composting toilets is in Nicaragua where UNICEF built 100 homes. For twenty five of these homes they partnered with the Resource Institute and provided composting toilets. The people refer to these homes as “The Twenty-Five”.  These are the homes that are the elite homes.  They do not have the stench of the 75 homes with traditional latrines.  The families that live in these elite homes are also spared from the detestable chore of removing the waste, since waste can be contained for decades and during this anaerobic composting pathogens are neutralized.  In addition, the liquid, with its high phosphorous, nitrogen and other nutrients can be retrieved and utilized as a fertilizer, completing the natural cycle by returning the waste to nature for use.

According to Chris Lindstrom, grandson of the inventor of the composting toilet, “[composting] toilets are a huge step in rebuilding the dignity of the people” and “If Haiti had composting toilets, they would probably have averted the cholera outbreak”. Chris is currently overseeing a project for composting toilets in Haiti and exploring the concept of providing composting toilets as a micro-business.  This model of charging a nominal amount to use a sanitary toilet has been successful on a small scale in Africa. The need for sanitary toilets exists.  There are currently more than 2.5 billion people in the world without access to toilets, including 3 out of 4 people in India.

San Diego’s first solar powered electric vehicle charging station

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) building in Kearney  Mesa  is now home to the  first Solar Powered Electric Vehicle Charging Station.  The power is supplied by the roof mounted 90Kwatt solar array which the IBEW began installing as training exercises of the union electricians more than 10 years ago on the office space and training center building. 

To celebrate the  inauguration of  the two solar powered electric vehicle charging stations speeches were made by: IBEW Local 569 business manager Johnny Simpson, California Senator Christine Kehoe, and member of Operation Free  Lance Corporal Brian P. VanRiper, USMC.  According Johnny Simpson , “San Diego’s electric vehicle industry is a win-win for local electricians and the community. It’s creating good, middle-class electrical jobs and helping us reduce harmful air pollution. IBEW Local 569 is thrilled to do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by offering free, solar-powered EV charging to the community.”

Senator Kehoe talked to San Diego creating a strong infrastructure for electric vehicles with the addition of 1500 EV charging stations to San Diego and the reduction of green house gases due to the reduction of gasoline fueled vehicles and increase of electric vehicles.  This free charging station will be one of a growing infrastructure. 

Van Riper spoke to the importance of decreasing the amount of fossil fuels used in the United States.  He pointed out that many oil rich countries are hostile to the United States.  By moving to renewable energy we will decrease our reliance on these countries.  He also shared with the audience that it currently costs more than $400 to transport and secure one gallon of gasoline into Afghanistan.  Van Riper said, “As a veteran, I’ve seen firsthand that America’s addiction to fossil fuels is not just about public health or climate change, it is also an issue of national security,”.

The IBEW has installed these electric vehicle charging stations to the training program for the IBEW members.  Training is also the reason for the 90kWatt solar array which has been set up with more than a dozen independent inverters (See the photo of both the array and the Sunnyboy inverters)

Electric Bikes in San Diego

Electric Bikes in Little Italy - San Diego

This afternoon we got to check out electric bikes!  Sitting on the bike and riding around brought out the inner child in me.  The bike was so easy to use.  You can just get on press the throttle forward and ride or if you want to go faster and get some exercise you can pedal.  It was absolutely quiet even when taking the hills of downtown San Diego.

There was also a fit looking bicyclist that had the sad story that his electric bike had been stolen and he was in to get a replacement before commuting to work on Monday.  He used to ride his road bike, but was no longer thrilled to show up at work sweaty.  With his electric bike he avoids the need for gas, obviously, but also the need for a license for the vehicle, paying to park, and he can still get some exercise.  The bike he had was powerful enough that he is passing the serious bicycle riders on the long hills.

All I know is that the ride brought out the inner child in me.  I was smiling ear to ear while cruising around downtown San Diego.  Many bicyle shops have electric bikes in varies quality levels, but the only shop in San Diego that stock only electric bikes is Ivan Stewart’s Electric Bike Center



car2go: First all electric car sharing program in North America debutes in San Diego

car2go at the beach

car2go fortwo at the beach in San Diego

San Diego’s Electric Vehicle presence continues to grow.  Today car2go announced North America’s first 100% electric vehicle (EV) carshare program will start here in San Diego.  This historic event was held at the historic El Cortez hotel, just minutes from Balboa Park last month’s inaugural location for ECOtality’s electric vehicle charging stations in San Diego.  Speakers at this event were: Jerry Sanders, Mayor of San Diego; Nicholas Cole, President and CEO of car2go; and Jonathan Read, CEO of ECOtality.

Mayor Sanders said, “We’re proud that car2go has chosen to launch the first North American all-electric carsharing service in San Diego.  Car2go’s launch here further supports our efforts to make San Diego the nation’s electric vehicle capital.” 

The car2go is a smart two passage all electric vehicle which utilizes the Daimler smart car type body.  The roomy interior but smaller outer profile makes it perfect for the urban user to get into urban parking spaces.  Dr. Annette Winkler, Head of smart, said, ”I love driving the smart electric drive and I am convinced that the car2go members in California will enjoy using this forward technology to get around their hometown of San Diego- a new method of transportation both pleasing to the ear and the environment.”

When the car2go membership program starts its operations before the end of 2011 there will be 300 smart fortwo electric drive vehicles available, driving a car2go will follow a simple 6 step process.  The process begins with checking your smart phone to find or reserve a car, using a pin to sign in and driving it.  Then you can park it and log out when you are done.  And though the need is rare for the car2go member to need to charge, since the car’s range is more than 85 miles and an average member’s trip distance is 5 miles, San Diego will soon be home to more than 1500 ECOtality blink charging stations.

World Beat Center applies for LEED certification

It’s official! On July 15, the World Beat Center has applied for LEED-EB.   Many months of dedication by the volunteers of the Green Associates program of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) San Diego and staff of the Balboa Park’s World Beat Center has lead to submission for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) of the World Beat Center building. This will be the third museum to achieve LEED following the San Diego Natural History Museum and Reuben H Fleet Science Center.

The project was kicked off in October 2010 by: Doug Kot, USGBC-San Diego chapter; Rory Ruppert, Director of Environmental Sustainability for the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership; Makeda Dread Chatam, Founder and Executive Director of the World Beat Center; and more than 50 volunteers.  The kick-off included on opportunity for the volunteers to chose which of the five categories of credits they would like to work on.  The credit categories are:

  • Sustainable Site
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy and Atmosphere
  • Material and Resources
  • Indoor Air Quality

Surprisingly an almost even number of people were interested in volunteering for each of the categories.  The volunteers included architects, landscape designers, heating, ventilation and air conditioning engineers, along with people truly interested in learning more about LEED.  Over the next nine months the teams learned about the categories and how it applied to the World Beat Center. The following articles will cover the process and the categories toward to application.  Word of the level of certification is expected in November.