Are sustainable indoor farms a promising enterprise?

One comapny has developed a system of indoor harvesting that lessens energy consumption.

Agriculture, though visibly green, isn't necessarily always environmentally friendly. Cultivating a lucrative crop typically requires patience, pesticides, water, carbon-emitting equipment and adventageous weather. In addition, many fruits and vegetables can only be harvested in specific climates, limiting the places they can be produced. Consequently, that means that some foods that only grow in one location must be shipped across the globe.

One Netherlands-based organization believes that it can solve all of these problems while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ironically, with modern, research-based greenhouses. PlantLab, a private research company, has developed a system of indoor harvesting that not only lessens energy consumption compared to traditional cultivation, it also produces the same amount of food in half the time.

Outdoor crops heavily rely on natural sources like the sun, the Earth's rotation and its climate, but PlantLab challenged the efficiency of those conventional conditions. With its research, the company created a more ideal environment for crops, which is primarily based around LED lamps.

Using high-tech computers, researchers gathered more than 160,000 reports per second to determine the precise amount and type of light that was best for each plant. The system PlantLab devised uses mostly red and blue LED bulbs as the main source of lighting. To simulate night and day, the lights turn on and off at frequencies that are specific to each plant, as their research indicated that a 24-hour cycle isn't optimal for every crop.

Since the plants are housed indoors, there's no need to use pesticides or compensate for unfavorable weather patterns with enormous amounts of water. By using researched-based quantities of water and recycling the excess, PlantLab's model expends 90 percent less water than outdoor agriculture, making its success part of a convincing argument that could lead to the widespread adoption of indoor farms.

Vermont looking to lessen it’s dependence on troubled nuclear plant

Governor Peter Shumlin asked for less reliance on Vermont Yankee amid license renewal controversy.

Vermont has the lowest total energy consumption of any state in America, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). As a matter of fact, Vermont consumes less energy than the District of Columbia and more than 70 times less than Texas. Those staggering numbers are thanks to the fact that about 75 percent of the energy generated within the Green Mountain State comes from nuclear power, more than any other state in the country. However, Vermont's primary source of energy has also been one of the state's main topics of debate as it looks to be even more environmentally friendly.

The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which has supplied the state with as much as 35 percent of its energy requirements, is in the final year of its operational license. While the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved its own 20-year extension in March 2011, the Vermont Public Service Board's ongoing review of the license has been held up due to a variety of issues brought up by New England Coalition (NEC), a nuclear watchdog group.

Raymond Shadis of the NEC told The Associated Press in January that he feels as though there are problems with Vermont Yankee that need to be addressed before the extension is officially approved by the state. Shadis explained that in 2009, plant employees claimed there was no underground piping that carried radioactive materials. But, just one year later, the pipes were not only found to exist, but also be leaking tritium into the surrounding ground and water.

Because of this delay in the process, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sued both the state of Vermont and New England Coalition for not bringing this issues forward during the five-year period they had to review the power plants' license extension request.

The case is ongoing, but regardless, Governor Peter Shumlin revealed in a comprehensive energy plan in December 2011 that the state intends to lessen its reliance on Vermont Yankee. If the governor gets his way, the state will receive 90 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2050, thereby reducing the burden of citizens whose health and safety are currently being put in jeopardy.

An eco-friendly Super Bowl: Throwing a green party

Hosting an eco-friendly Super Bowl party can be easy.

Super Bowl Sunday has almost become an American holiday, and in recent years, the popularity of the game has soared to record heights. According to research by Neilsen Co., four of the five most watched television events ever have been the last four Super Bowls.

If the trend continues, and it should considering the teams that are playing, this year could be the biggest televised event ever. If you plan to host or even just attend a viewing party this weekend, you should follow the lead of the New England Patriots, the New York Giants and the National Football League (NFL), and make Super Bowl XLVI the greenest one yet. With these tips from Eco-Friendly Party LLC, you can do just that.

♦ Avoid paper and plastic. It's best to serve food to your guests on reusable tableware, but if you're worried about "that" friend of yours breaking an expensive dish, don't just buy any disposable plates. Opt for biodegradable utensils and dishes instead.

♦ Buy a keg of local brews. For a lot of people, beer and the Super Bowl go hand-in-hand, but there are more environmentally friendly products out there than the name brands. Locally brewed beer doesn't require excess energy consumption from being shipped across the globe, and chances are, it'll taste much better. Unlike cans and bottles that get thrown in the trash, kegs can be returned to their original source for reuse.

♦ Designate drivers. Of course, if your party does offer alcohol, make sure guests drink responsibly and get home safely. Having a designated driver bring home groups of people can both keep the roads safe and reduce carbon emissions.

♦ Make snacks with organic or local food. There are a lot of staple snacks at Super Bowl parties that can be easily replaced by fresher, greener food. Some eco-friendly munchies can be anything from homemade guacamole with avocados bought at the farmers market to organic chips from the grocery store.

An eco-friendly Super Bowl: NFL making the big game greener

While Super Bowl XLVI will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium, it might be the greenest championship game yet.

While Super Bowl XLVI will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium, it might be the greenest championship game yet.

With extravagant half-time shows, enormous video displays and all of those lights, the Super Bowl has traditionally been a mecca of energy consumption. The National Football League (NFL) has been trying to make the big game progressively greener for each of the last 18 years, but it's really stepping up to the plate this time around.

The Indianapolis Super Bowl XLVI Host Committee and the NFL have teamed up to extend the use of renewable energy sources at the six major facilities that will power everything from computers to the stadium's lights for the season's final game, according to a press release from the NFL Environmental Program.

In an effort to offset the carbon emissions that will inevitably be released from the venues despite those initiatives, the country's oldest green power provider, Green Mountain Energy Company, will grant 15,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy certificates (RECs) to the event's partners. According to the statement, the RECs are estimated to prevent more than 14,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from Super Bowl XLVI's festivities through the generation of clean energy at wind farms in North Dakota.

Green Mountain has said that it is also prepared to plant trees in Indianapolis and neutralize the greenhouse gases that were emitted from the New York Giants' and New England Patriots' transportation to the game with carbon offsets.

The NFL Environmental Program has a list of other initiatives geared to help the ecosystem as well as the Indianapolis community, which includes a waste management and recycling plan, and donations of food, supplies, books and other materials to local nonprofits.

An eco-friendly Super Bowl: The Patriots and Giants battle for green glory

They may be the NFL’s two best teams on the field this year, but their efforts to reduce their environmental impact puts them in a league of their own.

The New England Patriots and the New York Giants are set to face off in the Super Bowl this weekend after establishing their prowess as the NFL's top two teams this season. And while the rematch of the 2008 championship game is set to be a monumental sporting event, each organization has made history in recent years that would unfortunately be far from top headlines on ESPN. While many teams have made efforts to reduce their organization's energy consumption, none, perhaps, have gone as far as this year's two conference champs.

In 2010, the Giants moved into the brand new MetLife Stadium, which was promised to be one of the most environmentally friendly venues in sports after team management signed a partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The facility was build with about 60,000 tons of recycled steel, and features seats that were made from recycled plastic and iron.

According to the stadium's website, the new arena has reduced its carbon footprint since 2009 by more than 268,000 MTCO2e (metric ton carbon dioxide equivalent), which is similar to the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from more than 30 million gallons of gasoline.

Just 200 miles north, the Patriots ownership has spearheaded an effort to increase reliance on renewable energy sources at Gillette Stadium and its neighboring attractions. In an agreement with energy provider NRG, the team has pledged to triple the amount of clean solar power generated at Patriot Place. Additionally, NRG and the Patriots owners, The Kraft Group, will look into adding a full-sized wind turbine that would be one of the largest renewable power installations at a major sports venue in the country.

The winner of the big game may be a toss up, but there's no question both organizations have proven to be champions when it comes to going green.