Intel Prioritizes Sustainability With Water Recycling Program

Intel, the world's biggest manufacturer of semiconductors and computer chips, needs a lot of water. The company's Chandler, Arizona, facility specifically uses millions of gallons every day to wash the silicon wafers that are eventually made into the processors that can be found in laptops, servers and other computing devices. Once they do this, the water contains a great deal of salt that would make it undrinkable for humans, but the company purifies the water and sends it back to the aquifer where it originally came from.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Intel recycles 5 million of the 9 million gallons it uses daily. This is important given that Arizona is currently experiencing a 14 year drought that is the worst it has dealt with in 100 years. 

Efforts like this are important because often, business advocates cite environmental sustainability efforts as an impediment to economic growth. Making companies operate with environmental responsibility, they say, puts an undue burden on those firms that are "creating jobs" for the rest of us. But Intel has as much to lose from a dwindling water supply as do residents of Chandler and other areas of the Sonoran desert. If it cannot maintain a stable water supply, the company would have to close up shop and move somewhere else, an expensive undertaking that would harm its productivity and public image – not to mention the community that depends on its facility for jobs.

Other major corporations, such as PepsiCo and SABMiller Plc, have also implemented water recycling programs, further proving that this isn't just a trend limited to small firms, but a major effort by the world's biggest companies to make sustainability a priority.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide news and updates related to environmentally friendly products.

Portland Planning Dense Communities

Portland has experienced considerable growth in the last decade, and as a result city planners are trying to spur development that encourages new residents to live in denser communities. Such neighborhoods are seen to be more conducive to green living, as they require fewer resources and reduce the need for automobile usage.

One notable example is the Hassalo on Eighth development, which will incorporate 657 apartments and 58,000 square feet of retail space within a relatively small, dense area. Rather than devoting acres of land to parking, the community will be a walkable, more dynamic neighborhood where people can find all their needs within a short distance.

EarthTechling reports that all of the buildings constructed a Hassalo on Eighth will be LEED-certified Platium, the highest energy efficiency rating under the LEED program.

"There is a gap in the urban grid of this neighborhood where mid-century planning principals called for surface parking lots in lieu of dense, walkable communities," co-developers GBD Architects explained on their website. "We are repairing this urban fabric by introducing mixed-use, dense development that creates a 24-hour neighborhood."

The structures at the development will be equipped with several innovative green technologies and efficiency measures. GBD notes that apartment buildings will recycle and re-use all of their water rather than having it sent to sewers.

One of the keys to getting people out of their cars and into walkable neighborhoods is removing barriers to the development of such communities. Portland, along with other cities including San Francisco and Seattle, are slowly but surely moving in that direction.

Check back with LifeIsGreen.com for more green living news and updates.

Green Buildings And Productivity

We've been talking a lot lately about green building practices and how these can help the environment while also saving businesses money. One aspect we haven't yet focused on is the fact that there is evidence these structures contribute to a more productive, healthy workplace.

Researchers at Michigan State University recently surveyed two groups of workers who moved from conventional facilities that were not "green" to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED-certified) buildings that featured energy efficiency improvements, sustainable construction materials and other features intended to promote public health. What they found is that in both cases, the companies experienced reduced absenteeism and other issues that affect worker productivity.

Among other improvements, the survey found that employees experienced lower rates of depression, suffered fewer complications from asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and had reduced levels of stress and anxiety in their new work environments.

Overall, workers were expected to spend 1.75 more hours in the office because of the LEED certification improvements than if they had remained in their previous locations.

"These preliminary findings indicate that green buildings may positively affect public health," stated the researchers in their report, published in the American Journal of Public Health and reported on by healthy living site Care2.com.

LEED certification is awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council to structures that are developed using sustainable methods and materials. Buildings are given silver, gold and platinum status based on the degree to which they pursue these efficiency standards. The two buildings in this study were silver and platinum LEED-certified.

For more updates and news about green living and building, keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com.

Success Of Swedish Renewable Energy An Important Lesson For U.S.

With all the news about the Syrian Civil War, many people may not have realized that President Barack Obama is actually in Sweden holding a bilateral conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. The reason this pertains to green living is that one of the topics on the table is the success of Sweden's renewable energy industry, and the lessons that the United States can learn from it.

Like many Scandinavian countries, Sweden is particularly progressive (and aggressive) when it comes to sustainability and environmentalism, and nowhere is this better demonstrated than its renewable energy portfolio. The country derives 47 percent of its power from renewable sources, and much of the remainder comes from nuclear reactors.

As political news site ThinkProgress points out, this didn't happen by accident. Sweden began a concerted effort in the 1950s to move its energy infrastructure in a more sustainable direction. In 1991, the Swedish government instituted a carbon tax of $133 per ton emitted. This policy, along with heavy investment in biofuels and a general lack of reliance on coal, gives Sweden one of the lowest carbon footprints for any developed country.

During a joint press conference with Prime Minister Reinfeldt, President Obama listed Sweden's commitment to energy sustainability as one of the areas from which the United States could learn a lot. The same could be said of many European countries, which have done a much better job persuading citizens that it is vital to their economic wellbeing and independence that they develop a dynamic renewable energy portfolio. Hopefully the president's visit will push the debate in such a direction.

For more information on going green, check back soon with LifeIsGreen.com.

U.S. Department Of Energy Holding Solar Decathlon In October

For the sixth time since 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy, along with several sponsors including Bosch, Cisco and Wells Fargo, will be hosting the Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. The competition pits teams of college students from universities all over the world against each other in an effort to design and construct solar powered homes that are energy efficiently, cost effective and aesthetically pleasing.

Twenty teams will be given ten days to build solar homes that generate as much or more energy than they consume. They will also be required to meet certain efficiency benchmarks, and the houses need to be built affordably. The goal of the competition is to promote renewable energy and demonstrate the viability of homes that meet strict environmental and sustainability criteria. In addition, the organizers are hoping to educate the public about clean technology, and encourage the students participating to pursue careers in green tech industries.

Jury panels made up of architecture, engineering and design experts will judge each team's structure in ten categories, including its ability to produce enough hot water for residents, the comfort of the interiors and whether the HVAC system works as planned.

The winners of the competition receive name recognition and networking opportunities. The popularity of the U.S. Solar Decathlon has spawned similar events in other countries spread throughout Europe, Asia and the Pacific.

The competition will take place from October 3-13. Last year's winners, the University of Maryland, won't be participating, but teams from Arizona State University, Santa Clara University and Czech Technical University in the Czech Republic will be taking part.

For more news about the green living and technology industry, check back with LifeIsGreen.com soon.

Wisconsin Hospital Leading The Way In Energy Efficiency

Something not commonly known is that hospitals and medical facilities consume a great deal more energy than typical commercial buildings. On average, they use 2.5 times as much electricity, leading to significantly higher carbon dioxide emissions, not to mention costs (which are passed on to patients and health insurers). It's easy to see why: Hospitals are open 24 hours a day, run heating, air conditioning and air filtration systems almost continuously, and utilize large pieces of medical equipment that eat up a lot of power.

So it's no surprise that many health facilities are making a major effort to cut down on energy waste and increase efficiency. To give an example, consider the Gundersen Health System, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin, whose leadership was recently honored by the Obama Administration for being "Champions of Change". Led by Dr. Jeff Thompson, Gundersen has been engaged in an effort to cut his organization's carbon emissions and make the facility energy independent by 2014.

In an interview with EarthTechling, a clean technology news site, Thompson described Gundersen's energy solutions that have been most effective. Among the many measures they've undertaken are a switch to methane from a local landfill to provide heating and electricity, which accomplished several goals: It lowered the hospital's electricity bills by $400,000 annually, and diverted methane that was simply being burned and released into the atmosphere so that it is actually put to good use.

"…We try and think about the patients' whole environment rather than just a single patient encounter," Thompson told the source. "Healthcare organizations contribute to pollution, workplace costs, landfill waste and many other problems that affect communities. We need to take responsibility and take action."

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide the latest news on renewable energy and green living.

New EPA Chief Seeks To Make Climate Change The Number One Priority Of Agency

Last week, the U.S. Senate confirmed Gina McCarthy, an administrator in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to succeed Lisa Jackson as the head of the agency. Her appointment follows an extended fight between Senate Republicans and President Obama over her nomination, which was delayed because of opposition over how best to confront climate change and promote renewable energy infrastructure.

McCarthy, a Boston native, will be taking over the EPA at a time when its attention is devoted almost singularly to the goal of mitigating the disastrous effects of climate change. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling stated that greenhouse gases qualified as a pollutant, and that therefore the Agency had the authority to regulate emissions. Because legislative solutions to the problem have been slow to materialize due to political opposition, President Obama is seeking to use executive power through his cabinet departments to make an impact on the problem.

McCarthy will be in an extremely important position, as she'll be able to dictate rules and regulations regarding things like coal plant emissions, automobile mileage standards and other measures that are meant to combat climate change.

According to The Hill, a political news site, McCarthy delivered a welcome message and remarks to EPA employees in a video after her appointment.

"This agency has the courage to act. We can make it happen — but we need all hands on deck," McCarthy said. "Together we can and we will rise to today's challenges, working as one EPA."

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide updates on the EPA's efforts to encourage American citizens and businesses into going green.

Power Purchase Agreements Make Renewable Energy More Accessible

As renewable energy becomes more of a priority for U.S. public policy, there is a growing interest in ways to expand the country's electrical generating capacity from sources such as wind and solar power. One of the ways to make this happen is to develop a distributed system where homes and businesses are given incentives to install solar panels and windmills on their property.

However, this approach doesn't completely solve the problem. Even with rebates and tax credits, solar panel systems are still very expensive to buy and construct. Particularly for small businesses and homeowners on a limited budget, it's very difficult to come up with the cash to purchase photovoltaic panels outright.

But there are ways to overcome these obstacles. One of the most promising developments in the energy consumption industry has been the advent of power purchase agreements (PPA), which offer property owners an incentive to have renewable generating sources built on their land or rooftop without the large upfront costs.

A PPA is an arrangement in which an installer agrees to design and build a power source on the property of a buyer. The installer pays for the cost of the system, in exchange for a contract with the buyer that states it will purchase electricity from the system once it is built. This ensures that the installer will secure a consistent revenue stream from their work, while the buyer is able to reap the benefits of renewable energy credits. In the case of solar and wind PPAs, the buyer's local utility company agrees to supply electricity for those times when the system isn't producing energy.

For more information on PPAs and other energy consumption developments, check back with LifeIsGreen.com.

Texas Is One Of Nation’s Wind Power Leaders

Texas is quickly becoming one of the nation's leading wind power producers. Typically associated with its massive oil and gas industry, the Lone Star State is making massive investments in its wind power infrastructure and is poised to deliver more of this renewable energy to major metropolitan areas in the eastern half of the state.

Legislative incentives and an abundance of wind in the Texas panhandle have much to do with the explosion of this industry.

Northern Texas serves as an excellent location for wind farms, with average wind speeds close to 25 miles per hour in some areas. Additionally, Texas added changes to its tax code in 2011 that allowed wind farms and renewable energy producers to pay lower property tax rates. These two conditions have paved the way for greater reliance on wind to power Texas homes and businesses.

The biggest obstacle to the integration of wind power into the Texas power grid is geography. While most of the major wind farms in Texas are located in the Panhandle and northern areas, the major metropolitan areas like San Antonio and Houston lie in the east. To remedy this problem, Texas is investing $6.8 billion in its power transmission infrastructure, doubling its capacity to send electricity to cities like Houston, San Antonio and Dallas in the east.

According to Sustainable Business, a website that tracks the global green industry, Texas derives 9.2 percent of its total energy from wind power with an installed capacity of 12.2 gigawatts. 

Going forward, the question is if Texas and other states will stick with their Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), policies that are meant to set benchmarks for how much energy is derived from renewable sources. Residents of states with RPS guidelines will reap many benefits from the transition to renewable energy, including improved air quality and less exposure to volatile fuel prices.

Arkansas Oil Spill Reveals Dark Side Of U.S. Energy Policy

Last week, an oil pipeline operated by Exxon burst near a small Arkansas town, spilling thousands of gallons of crude oil and creating an enormous ecological emergency. Treehugger.com, a green consumer news source, reported on March 31 that over 80,000 gallons has leaked so far, much of it close to water sources in the region.

The event, which may cause lasting environmental damage, highlights a major concern among eco-friendly activists in the United States: that the energy industry isn't taking spill threats seriously enough. The accident is especially conspicuous as national lawmakers and the Obama administration debate the future of the Keystone XL project, which would stretch for over a thousand miles across the country and transport the same type of oil that spilled in Mayflower, Arkansas.

According to NPR, the pipeline in question has been in operation for over 65 years, strung over 800 miles between Illinois and Texas. While some state officials, like Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, have publicly called on Exxon to do more to maintain their pipes, it's unclear how the oil giant will change its practices due to some of the legal technicalities associated with the pipeline.

Exxon is reportedly exempting itself from paying into a national oil spill clean-up fund due to the official designation of the type of oil known as diluted bitumen, which technically classifies it as a non-regulated oil. This ultra-heavy crude includes a synthetic chemical additive which makes it easier to transport. However, because of this tweak in labeling, Exxon will not be forced to comply with the standards that apply to the rest of the oil industry.

It may be years before scientists and government officials determine the full extent of the damage, considering how recently the event occurred. Stay with LifeIsGreen.com as we monitor this situation closely and the facts continue to develop.