Harpoon Brewery recognized for its green initiatives

Mayor Menino gave the 2012 Boston Green Business Award to the brewery for its work to reduce waste, responsibly use chemicals and improve operational efficiency.

Green beer might not sound like something that would be exactly winning awards. However, the Harpoon Brewery in Boston, Massachusetts, received recognition last week for its sustainability efforts.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino gave the 2012 Boston Green Business Award to the brewery for its work to reduce waste, responsibly use chemicals and improve operational efficiency, according to a press release.

"It's an honor to receive this recognition from Mayor Menino. Not only are we are passionate about making great beer, it is part of our mission to be good neighbors within our community. Sustainability is important to us and we do whatever we can to reduce waste and increase efficiency," Warren Dibble, vice president and chief financial officer at Harpoon, said in a statement. "Demand response is part of our mix. Our employees know that it helps the larger energy grid and are completely supportive of it."

Additionally, the Harpoon Brewery has teamed up with EnerNOC, an energy management company, to spearhead initiatives to efficiently use electricity since 2007. Harpoon's been a key player in a program called DemandSMART, in which the brewery contributes to the capacity of local grids during periods of peak demand for electricity, according to the release.

The popular beer producer has made a number of adjustments to its facility to make it more energy efficient. They've added motion-sensing lights and innovative temperature controls that are used for their fermenters.

In addition to recycling programs for its excess paper, glass bottles and cardboard, Harpoon has also been giving its spent grain to local farms. While these are relatively common recycled goods, Harpoon even recaptures condensate water, which they use to save on heating hot water.

U.K. student designs one-of-a-kind green vacuum

Jake Tyler’s eco-friendly cleaner has earned him global recognition.

Going green and saving money oftentimes go hand in hand. The popularity of environmentally-friendly products is growing every day as more and more consumers realize the multitude of benefits they can experience by leading a green lifestyle. Because of this expanding interest in eco-friendly items, manufacturers are working hard to come up with innovative, energy efficient products.

Even young people are jumping on board now, and are making impactful contributions to the green technology industry. A student at Loughborough University, Jake Tyler, in a collaborative effort with vacuum maker Vax, designed a product in his final year of studies that has earned him global recognition.

According to British newspaper, the Leicester Mercury, Tyler blue-printed the Vax Eco Vac, which is constructed of sustainable goods such as cardboard. He explained to the source that roughly 100 trillion kilograms of trash is contributed to landfills in the United Kingdom every year, and they are reaching capacity.

With that alarming statistic in mind, he looked to lessen the number and in order to do that, he developed the Eco Vac.

"We need to find new ways to make the consumer goods we need, without creating so much waste," he told the media outlet. "The Vax Eco Vac is a fully functioning, high-powered vacuum cleaner but, as it's made from recycled and recyclable materials, it's totally sustainable too."

And, he's not the only one who thinks so. Tyler earned a first class honors degree when he graduated last year, and was hired to work as a full-time engineer with Vax, the Mercury stated. Additionally, Tyler's green cleaner has made it to the final round of the 2012 International Design Excellence Awards, which is organized by the International Design Society of America.

LED street lights a bright idea for communities

Studies have shown that as much as 40 percent of municipality’s total energy costs come from streetlights.

Anyone who is living a green lifestyle is likely inclined to turn off lights whenever they leave a room or building, but leaving some lights on is unavoidable. Street lights are often left on from the early evening until the sun rises the following morning. Roadways all over the country are lined with the massive light fixtures and, without question, consume an enormous volume of energy each night. 

As a matter of fact, studies have shown that as much as 40 percent of municipality's total energy costs come from streetlights. With so many advances in lighting technology, it's a wonder why more cities haven't switch their street lights to more energy efficient alternatives. Fortunately, that seems to be a trend that some communities are following.

With help from one energy company, two Northern California cities – Dublin and Livermore – have replaced their streetlights with LED bulbs that use half as much power and require far less maintenance.

"LED lighting is the biggest advance in lighting since Thomas Edison showed off his bulb in 1879," Bridgelux CEO Bill Watkins said in a statement. "But, LEDs and solid-state lighting represent more than just a technical advance. They will usher in new business models and capabilities for running our homes, businesses and cities. Lights are going to become more than just something you screw into a socket."

Today, another company announced that it has partnered with Puerto Rico to replace roughly 4,000 high-pressure sodium 100 and 150 watt street lights with a new model of LED solution that is expected to reduce energy expenditures by 50 percent, according to a press release. Additionally, the bulbs won't need to be changed nearly as much as the previous lights.

Carnegie Mellon researchers take a close look at the efficiency of AC vs. DC power

Traditionally, AC technology has been the main way to produce and utilize electric power, but research shows it may not be best.

When we talk about improving the efficiency of energy consumption, it's oftentimes in reference to a new alternative type of renewable energy source. What goes overlooked is the way we actually receive electricity.

Traditionally, alternating current (AC) technology has been the main way to produce and utilize electric power. While Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse's innovative technology has been useful for the past hundred years or so, recent research indicates that perhaps AC circuits may not be the more economically friendly means of generating electrical power.

In a press release, internationally recognized research institute Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) announced that recent studies have shown that Thomas Edison's direct current (DC) technology may be more financially efficient for powering lights in commercial buildings.

As part of the study, CMU researchers used many different lighting systems and scenarios in a nearly 50,000-square-foot-building. They tested the efficiency of both lights powered through AC and DC power supplies, according to the release.

Executive director of CMU's Climate and Energy-Decision Making Center, Ines Azevedo, said in a statement that buildings with fluorescent light powered through DC circuitry produced energy readings that would cost the same – as or more than – AC grids. 

Interestingly though, DC power supplies were much more cost-effective with one change. By swapping regular lighting sources with light emitting diodes (LEDs), the study's researchers discovered that using DC as opposed to AC could save as much as $24,000. In addition, if the building is using solar photovoltaics (PV), its energy costs could drop by an extra $5,000 with DC instead of AC.

VCU teams up with leading energy provider to find green solutions

The two will work together to determine the effectiveness of using micro-grids to manage energy consumption.

Universities are great places for prestiged researchers and scientific leaders to conduct their work. With so many eager young minds available to help out in labs and in the field, they can not only carry out experiments and studies affordably, they also can spark interest in their work so that it can be improved and expanded in the future.

To conduct research on green energy technologies, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Dominion, a leading energy provider in the United States, will work together for the next five years on the VCU campus, according to a press release.

The two entities will utilize the VCU School of Engineering's West Hall to explore the effects of making minor adjustments to improve energy efficiency. Over the course of the experimentation, researchers will be recording the results of real-time energy modifications such as changing lighting and environmentally friendly products to see what actually saves money and energy.

"We're excited to create a working model that can be used by students and researchers to investigate and create innovative methods for maximizing energy conservation and cost savings," Ed Bennett, executive director of Physical Plant and deputy for Facilities Management at VCU, said in a statement. "We foresee this as an extension of our efforts to predict and save future maintenance costs based on equipment energy analysis."

To capture the energy data, the research team will be using micro-grid technology. Paul Koonce, CEO of Dominion Virginia Power, explained in a statement that if these micro-grids prove to be effective, they could be very useful for use at other higher education institutions, military bases and office buildings. The technology allows users to see what areas of their facility needs more energy, reduce its amount of energy consumption, and of course, cut costs.

Hair-care company celebrates Earth Day with historical wind project

Zotos International announced its completion of the largest wind project by a U.S. manufacturing company ever.

A lot of businesses are spearheading projects to show the public that they are going green around this time of year as Earth Day approaches.

None, however, may be doing more than hair-care product manufacturer Zotos International Inc., which, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), will be celebrating the largest wind project that any manufacturing company in the United States has ever carried out.
The company's 670,000-square-foot facility In Geneva, New York, has two on-site 1,650 kW wind turbines, according to a press release.

On Friday, Zotos announced that it has officially met its goal of generating 100 percent of the operation's electricity with renewable energy sources. Not a bad way to roll into the weekend before Earth Day.

"After years of hard work, dedication and an unwavering commitment to sustainability, we have finally achieved a key milestone toward our vision of sustainable beauty," Anthony Perdigao, vice president of operations and chief sustainability officer at Zotos, said in a statement. "This is a historic moment for Zotos, our parent company and our community. If we can do it, so can others."

The wind turbines don't generate all of the plant's energy though. Almost 60 percent of the Geneva facility's electricity comes from the turbines, so to compensate for the other roughly 40 percent of their energy needs, Zotos has purchased about 9 million kWh of energy from green sources, according to the release.

The company said that it was able to fund 30 percent of the historical project with help from the 2009 federal stimulus bill called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Number of green travelers is growing, hotels taking advantage

The popularity of green travel is expanding rapidly, but with hotels using the trend as a marketing tool, it’s not always easy to find truly eco-friendly lodging.

The popularity of green travel is growing rapidly, but unfortunately, the demand for more eco-friendly accommodations seems to be outweighing the availability of them.

The results of a recent survey of more than 700 American travelers by website TripAdvisor showed that 57 percent would be interested in making green vacation arrangements.

"Green initiatives are an increasing priority for hospitality businesses that are trying to reduce their environmental footprint," Jenny Rushmore, director of responsible travel for TripAdvisor, said in a statement. "Our survey shows that TripAdvisor travelers are interested in eco-friendly practices, but hungry for more information about which green plans and policies are actually in place."

Finding a truly eco-friendly hotel can be difficult though. While, ideally, travelers should look for hotels that have received recognition with a Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) rating, there isn't always one available. Rachel Muir, an ecologist employed by the U.S. Geological Survey, told the San Jose Mercury News that she couldn't find a LEED certified hotel in Atlanta, so she chose one that was in close proximity to the venue she was attending meetings at.

As a certain Muppet taught us, it isn't easy being green and many hotels simply claim to be thoroughly eco-friendly for marketing purposes. Muir explained that there needs to be a universal method of measuring how environmentally-conscious hotels actually are so that travelers who are leading a green lifestyle can make informed decisions when booking accommodations.

Even if that means the price of lodging rises, it shouldn't have an effect on green travel. Half of the respondents to TripAdvisor's survey said that they would be willing to pay more money to stay in an eco-friendly hotel.

Solar energy bill could help California’s most vulnerable communities

Not only could the bill open new job opportunities in struggling communities, it could also clean up neighborhoods that are suffering from pollution.

While green energy sources like solar panels can ultimately save money in the long run, they may require some hefty upfront costs that deter homeowners with low incomes from investing in the technology.

A new bill was introduced to California legislators this month that is geared to promote renewable energy sources in communities that may not be able to afford solar panels, yet suffer significantly from the negative effects of long-reliance on fossil fuels. 

Assemblyman Paul Fong, a democrat from Mountain View, authored the bill and explained to California Watch that not only would it open new job opportunities in struggling communities, it could also clean up neighborhoods that are suffering from pollution.

One of the more interesting aspects of the bill is called a "feed-in tariff," in which households that have installed solar panels can actually earn money by selling any excess energy they generate and don't use.

Attorney Michael Hindus explained to the source that he thinks that small solar projects will be easier to carry out with a feed-in tariff system. He added that while the tariff shouldn't be too difficult to employ, the difficulty of implementing environmental initiatives could outweigh the benefits.

"The uncertainty is how to meet the social justice and environmental justice criterion which are set forth in the bill," Hindus told the website. "As it goes through the legislative process, the ease of implementation will need to be balanced with the environmental justice goals."

Professors at University of California Berkeley, the University of Southern California and Occidental College put together an environmental justice screening system that looks at both social and environmental factors. With this information, they can narrow down which areas meet the bill's environmental justice criteria.

Study: 72 percent job seekers prefer green employers

Not enough companies are actively trying to be eco-friendly, the report indicates.

Reports last week indicated that businesses that are going green have improved employee morale in the workplace. A new study shows that prospective workers have a tendency to go for the company that shows them more green. But no, not money. They're looking for employers that demonstrate clear efforts to lessen their impact on the environment.

Based on the results of a recent survey it conducted, TheLadders, an online service that helps job seekers find employment, revealed that 72 percent of respondent candidates said they would chose a company that made eco-friendly practices a priority over companies that did not. In comparison, 10 percent said that they would not choose the environmentally conscious option, and 18 percent said it would not affect their decision.

"Since launching almost a decade ago, we have seen a growing desire for job seekers to work in an environment that reflects their personal values," Alex Douzet, chief operating officer and co-founder of TheLadders, said in a statement. "It is clear from our survey that professionals are attracted to employers who share their priorities, enabling us to offer this exclusive data to our almost 20,000 recruiters nationwide. Our research provides a critical wake-up call to employers who do not consider eco-conscious efforts to be best practice."

Not enough companies are actively trying to be eco-friendly, the report indicates. Just 48 percent of respondents said that their most recent employer can be characterized as green, while 35 percent said their company is not environmentally conscious.

Perhaps, it's time for businesses to go green, as 87 percent said that working for a green company is important. Companies don't have to do much more than just provide incentives to their employees to have eco-friendly habits at work, as 75 percent of the respondents said they would change their daily routine if this were the case.

Chicago signs on with Oregon-based bike sharing program

The ultimate green form of transportation doesn’t require any gasoline or alternative fuel sources.

The ultimate green form of transportation doesn't require any gasoline or alternative fuel sources and has been around for more than 100 years. Of course, we're talking about the bicycle. While it may seem like it's impossible to make the bike any greener than it already is, cities across the country have been taking advantage of a program that does just that.

Based out of Portland, Oregon, Alta Bicycle Share, Inc. designs, implements and manages bicycle sharing programs for cities. The company sets up stations filled with public bicycles all over metropolitan areas that allow locals to rent bikes that can be returned to any other Alta bike station in the city.

The next city to add the bike sharing system will be Chicago, which has been in the news a lot recently for its efforts to go green. Alta already had ties to the Windy City, having once employed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's transportation commissioner, Gabe Klein, as a consultant for the implementation of its bike sharing project in Washington D.C.

“The idea behind this is to create an environment that allows people to be more active by making changes to our infrastructure and environmental changes, such as the bike share program,” Efrat Stein, spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Public Health, said in an email to Medill Reports out of Northwestern University.

Chicago's new bike share program will feature 4,000 bikes at 400 city-wide stations, and will cost $19.5 million. In order to use the bikes, memberships are available for $75 annually or $7 daily that permits an unlimited number of 30-minute-or-less rides.