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.

Making the world greener one label at a time

When it comes to reducing carbon emissions, every detail counts.

When it comes to reducing carbon emissions, every detail counts. From unplugging cell phone chargers to remembering to turn off lights, minor adjustments to your everyday routine diminish energy consumption quickly. When a company mandates that its employees shut off their computers everyday, that dramatically reduces their carbon footprint. So, if the entire industry of suppliers and manufacturers changed this one small habit, the impact could be enormous.

In that vein, Sato, a Japanese labeling solutions company, is attempting to change the industry one label at a time. When items tagged with labels such as radio-frequency identifications (RFIDs) are incinerated, they release carbon dioxide. Sato's new line of labels, named Econano, is designed specifically to reduce the amount of carbon emissions these labels produce when they're destroyed.

"Reducing carbon emissions is a challenge for all businesses today," Etsuo Fujii, president of Sato, said in a statement. "But, the cutting-edge technology Sato employs in its Econano series labels offers our customers a helping-hand in achieving their environmental targets, and provides them with solutions beneficial to all levels of consumer goods product identification and supply chain labeling."

The adhesive on the Econano labels is made with a carbon dioxide absorbent additive that reduces the amount of emissions produced by the labels by more than 20 percent compared to other labels, according Sato's website.

If 1 million standard labels were replaced by Econano labels over the course of a year, the amount of eliminated carbon emissions would equal the sum of the similar gases that are released by incinerating 4,814 plastic bags, according to the site.

This isn't the first of Sato's environmentally friendly products though. The company's Nonsepa linerless labels were made with less material to reduce the amount of carbon-emitting substance that gets burned. Sato's website says that combining the Nonsepa labels with the Econano absorbent adhesive could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 50 percent over conventional labels.

Is seaweed a legitimate source of renewable energy?

A group of scientists were able to produce ethanol from the sugars in seaweed, but is it more efficient than other biofuels?

When oil companies build large offshore drilling rigs, they may actually be pushing a viable source of renewable energy to the side. The results of a peer-reviewed study published in the January 20 issue of Science suggest that seaweed, of all things, is an ideal source of biofuel.

Researchers from Bio Architecture Lab, Inc. (BAL) and the University of Washington found that by successfully breaking down the complex sugars found in brown seaweed, they could produce ethanol.

Seaweed lacks a polymer called lignin, the compound that makes plants stiff, and therefore more difficult to extract biofuel from. While this alone makes seaweed, or macro-algae, a more appealing source of biofuel than corn or sugar cane, the complex sugar compound it does have, alginate, has been impossible to break down until now.

To complete this process, the researchers needed to find a microbe that could metabolize alginate to produce ethanol. Since there are no industrial microbes that can do that, the team modified the DNA of Escherichia coli bacterium, or E. coli. By introducing both the genetically tailored microbe and an "enthanol-producing" pathway to the seaweed, ethanol was created.

So, if drawing biofuel from macro-algae is so complex, what makes it a better option than corn? It turns out that experts say it's remarkably cleaner and more efficient to produce. Seaweed is harvested in a field that takes up two-thirds of the planet – the ocean – which means there would be no need to clear fertile land for cultivation, and the crop doesn't take up space that could otherwise be used for food production. Additionally, harvesting seaweed doesn't require freshwater or fertilizer.

Dan Trunfio, BAL's chief executive, told The New York Times that at a fraction of the cost, seaweed produces 50 percent more ethanol per acre than sugar cane and triple that of corn. He added that BAL could be selling renewable chemicals by 2014 and fuel made by this process by 2017.

Breaking down corporations’ largest impact on the environment

Even though a company may be producing an environmentally friendly product, it might have already left a bigger carbon footprint than you’d think.

Manufacturers need supplies. That's obvious, sure, but in order to make a computer, those pieces must come from an enormous series of suppliers based all over the world. But those pieces, like modems, for instance, are assembled with parts from even more suppliers. This series of manufacturers and suppliers is known as the supply chain, and research into the process has shown that it has a substantial effect on the environment.

As a result, even though a company may be producing an environmentally friendly product, it might have already left a bigger carbon footprint than you'd think.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), an independent not-for-profit organization, researches the impact that businesses and cities have on the environment. Each year, the CDP releases a series of reports about its studies on a handful of different industries. Among them is a detailed breakdown of how their members, some of the largest corporations in the world, are disrupting the ecosystem by acquiring supplies. According to the 2011 CDP Supply Chain Report, more than 50 percent of the average corporation's carbon emissions come from its supply chain.

Among the CDP's many members are Google, PepsiCo, IBM and Bank of America. Taking into consideration the size of these corporations and the others that are members of the CDP, the organization's work could dramatically change the amount of carbon emissions produced through the chain if companies pay attention to its research.

For example, the CDP's 2011 Supply Chain Report revealed that about 2,500 of the largest global corporations create roughly 20 to 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

The study serves a reminder that if you're looking to truly go green when you buy products, it may be wise to look for businesses that make homemade goods or get their supplies locally.

Report finds that the recession is changing the environmentally friendly products market

Overall, the research group found that 9 percent of all consumers identify as “dark green” – meaning that most of the products they buy are environmentally friendly.

While the recent economic recession has changed the green buying habits of many Americans, the number of die hard green consumers has increased, according to newly published research. In a November report by Grail Research, researchers found that overall, the enthusiasm of the pro-green consumer segment of the population has remained despite the prevailing economic pressures many Americans are facing.

Overall, the research group found that 9 percent of all consumers identify as "dark green" – meaning that most of the products they buy are environmentally friendly. This represented an increase from figures found in 2009, which indicated that 8 percent of the population fell into this group.

This data suggests that tried-and-true eco-warriors have been spreading the word about their way of life and how they make their buying decisions, and that they have been successful at converting friends and family to this method of thinking. However, the report said that companies could do more to help consumers make the best green choices. It suggested that many businesses fail to advertise their green characteristics, which may entice more buyers away from more harmful products.

Researchers said that green messaging on the package is one of the first places consumers gain information on not only that specific product, but also on how it compares to their other buying options. As such, this simple exchange of information can prove highly valuable at changing the purchasing habits of consumers.

Businesses could benefit by putting certain information on the package itself. For example, the report indicated that the display of natural ingredients, green certifications and the recyclability of a product favored most heavily into the consumer perception of green products.

Green shopping for the holidays: Buying a new computer

While Apple may have a nature-friendly name, it may not be the best purchasing option for consumers looking to provide their friends and loved ones with great gifts that aren’t only exactly what they want, but also what the environment needs.

While Apple may have a nature-friendly name, it may not be the best purchasing option for consumers looking to provide their friends and loved ones with great gifts that aren't only exactly what they want, but also what the environment needs. However, to determine this conclusively, shoppers will need to conduct research before heading to their local electronics stores this season.

Before purchasing a computer or eco-friendly products to go along with it – such as cases, hard drives and other accessories – consumers who want to make sure their money is well spent can go online to determine the materials that go into each company's computer. HP, Apple and Dell are a few of the companies that post this information. For example, on HP's website, shoppers can find a detailed breakdown of the percentages of each material that make up a given computer.

Apple's website, on the other hand, details how it has elimated or is working to reduce the levels of harmful chemicals such as polyvinyl Chloride, arsenic, mercury and cadmium from its products, and provides information on the minerals and chemicals it still uses. But, to further help the environment, computer shoppers may want to pick up some essential accessories away from the store.

For example, extra power chargers, cables and accessories can often be found from secondhand stores. By buying these items at consignment locations, consumers are helping to increase awareness about how recycling can reduce the mining and other harmful processes that go into making these essential computer tools.

Still, the best gift addition may be for green consumers to package their gift with some tips to reduce the computer's energy use. By reminding the recipient that they need to turn off their PC, turn off power strips and save ink and paper when printing, consumers can satisfy their friends and family while also proudly displaying their commitment to a greater cause.

Going green for the Holidays: Buying eco-friendly plasma TVs

Green consumers have helped bring about big changes in the electronics industry, and as a result, new electronic items now strive to meet government standards that could help the nation as a whole conserve resources.

Green consumers have helped bring about big changes in the electronics industry, and as a result, new electronic items now strive to meet government standards that could help the nation as a whole conserve resources. This holiday season, green shoppers can make sure they get all the items on their list while still sticking to their principles and values.

To make the best purchase for the environment, shoppers should look for the government's Energy Star label. The products, which are equipped with a bright blue sticker, are around 40 percent more energy efficient when compared to non-Energy Star models. As a result, these models could help reduce a substantial amount of energy over the lifetime of its use. Larger TVs also need to meet heightened standards. Energy Star-qualified 60-inch televisions, for instance, are about 60 percent more energy efficient when compared to other models.

However, while looking at the label can ensure the TV is eco-friendly, some TVs may be better for the environment than others. Unlike LCD TVs, which use a light bulb to generate the picture, plasma TVs use emissive displays.

In these TVs, gas is used to make the pixels in the TV glow, creating the image. Buyers may want to note that while some experts believe smaller LCD TVs are generally more efficient than vacuum tube TVs, plasmas are generally considered to conserve most energy.

But, while these differences are debated, consumers may want to choose a TV that has all of the other specifications they desire. For example, picture and sound quality often need to be assessed. Regardless of the type of TV they purchase, consumers who purchase any model that has been Energy Star-rated can rest assured that they are doing their small part to help less environmentally minded individuals secure helpful products. 

Choosing the right tree for an environmentally friendly Christmas

One of the most challenging decisions for individuals concerned about the environment can be decided whether to forgo the family tradition of selecting a Christmas tree.

This year, many Americans are looking to add a bit more green to the holiday season by purchasing environmentally friendly products for their like-minded family and friends. However, these individuals should be careful to take the environment into account when decorating their homes, as many of the season's traditions weren't created with the best interests of nature in mind.

One of the most challenging decisions for individuals concerned about the environment can be decided whether to forgo the family tradition of selecting a Christmas tree. This decision can pose challenges as plastic trees provide for easy clean up, but also put a strain on the Earth's natural resources, whereas living trees often end up in the trash after the year's festivities.

Those looking for a viable alternative in California, however, can choose to rent a tree from The Living Christmas Company. The business, which only currently caters to consumers in Southern California, gives area residents the chance to rent a living, potted tree for the season.

"It's exciting because not only are we meeting our mission; we're also bringing the opportunity for more folks to begin a family tradition more in-line with their values," Scott Martin, founder and CEO of The Living Christmas Tree, told the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.

Ranging from $95 to $140 for rental, delivery and pick up, the trees also come with eco-friendly lights and ornaments, and can be purchased in a variety of sizes. Those who aren't in the California area can purchase artisan Christmas trees that are made from recycled materials or that incorporate candles and other sustainable natural resources.