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EWASTE

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

By Clint Dehnert

I have never considered myself and environmentalist or “tree huger” on any scale. But with today’s society it is impossible to not at least be aware of some of the environmental  issues. One issue in particular has stuck in my mind since I saw a show about ewaste a few years ago. We live in a day and age that things that are here today, can be gone tomorrow. Things are changing faster than we have ever seen in the history of the world. In my research for this subject, I found a quote by a reporter at the New York Times that sums it all up; There is no heaven for cellphones.”

The information that I am bringing up is all over Youtube and Greenpeace’s website. We have recently started the holiday shopping season and witnessed “Black Friday” “Small Business Saturday” and “Cyber Monday.” Most of the hot products are electronics like big screen TV’s, Smartphone’s, and the tablet.

Every holiday season around Thanksgiving time you see the new technology hit the shelves and airwaves. With this all in the back of your mind, I ask, what happens to the old TV? What happens to the old computer or laptop?

According to Urbanmining.org 41.1 million computers, 20 million TV’s, and 100 million cellphones are being replaced every year. Only 13% of these millions of electronics are recycled and disposed of properly. To put it bluntly, we are polluting our entire world with toxic chemicals with our insatiable appetite for the latest electronic technology.

Even the recycling centers are a business. To keep profits up, some are breaking the law. After the good, reusable components are reclaimed; they are sending it to the same places that it would have gone if you would not have recycled it at all.    

The examples are in Asia and Africa where policy and regulation is nonexistent or not enforced in some cases. What happens there is what is polluting the environment as well as killing fellow human beings. It is what is putting toxic chemicals in our food chain.

Things like lead, mercury, cadmium, and other toxic chemicals are making it into landfills here in the U.S. Some of the components that are recycled are being burned to claim the precious metals and making it into the air and water supply in other countries. All water eventually ends up in the ocean doesn’t it? The ocean supplies food for all over the world right?  Having to have the latest technology is putting toxic chemicals in your food, water, and the air you breathe.

With the almighty dollar driving our every move, I noticed something in my research that was not stated on any of the sites. On YouTube, I found videos about extracting the minimal amount of gold that is in a circuit board. These videos have been viewed by over 160,000 viewers. Some of the videos that show what this is doing to the environment have been viewed by only a couple thousand. This extraction process utilizes things like Nitric and Hydrochloric Acid.

In this process, you can see the vapors (nitrogen dioxide)  spewing from the container and making it into the open air, this cannot be good for the environment, and in the end, us. I find it ironic that the very products that are causing this “ewaste issue” are a necessity so we can further pollute the vital resources of our everyday life. We need a new computer so we can watch a YouTube video with better picture quality on how to claim gold out of our old computers! See a pattern?


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Plumbing Trends

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Written by: Kim Musel

What does being “Green” mean?  In the plumbing industry this does not just mean more efficient in that it uses less electricity, but that it uses water more efficiently with less waste and with less pollution “downstream”.

WaterSense

In 2006, the EPA launched the “WaterSense” program.  It is a program ran through the EPA that creates and maintains voluntary water efficiency standards.  While the program is currently voluntary it is a major driver for standards and practices within the industry to reduce water use, save resources and money, and is going to become law in several states including Texas and California by 2014.  If a product has a WaterSense label (Insert Watersense Logo here) that means that it meets certain minimum environmental standards, for example, being 20% more efficient than average products, performing as well or better than the old standard, and that they provide real savings as proven by a third-party certifying organization, such as Underwriters Laboratory.  The WaterSense label can be found on sinks and faucets, showerheads, toilets, urinals and even a whole new home.  So while everyone wants the luxurious multi-head shower towers, or the huge waterfall shower heads, they can still have that luxury without all of the waste.

Emissions Requirements for Plumbing Equipment?

Seriously?  Who thinks that they need to worry about emissions for a water heater?  But think about it.  Any appliance or “machine” that burns a fuel has exhaust emissions.  In Texas and Southern California, areas that have particularly high pollution rates, especially in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston and Dallas, it makes sense to look all sources of pollution, not just cars.  For a natural gas fired water heater to be installed in Texas or Southern California a third-party must certify that the appliance meets specific low NOx (nitrous oxides) requirements.  The current requirement is that any emissions being vented directly from the water heater into the atmosphere contain less than 40ng/J of nitrous oxides.

When Gray is Green

So, how about recycling our water…really, I’m not kidding.  it’s not just possible but becoming a real trend, especially in more arid areas where using anything just one time is seen as irresponsible and wasteful.  This “Graywater” is water from showers, laundries, dishwaters, or collected rainwater etc. and is being collected and reused for other non-potable purposes such as flushing toilets and irrigating landscapes.  There are even new technologies that allow the gray water to be filtered to the point where it is cleaner than when it came into the home in the first place.

What else is going on?

Did you know that the temperature just six feet under your feet remains at a constant temperature all year around?  Geothermal heat pumps can not only heat our water but our homes as well.  A geothermal loop system can be installed either straight down or outlying within a trench. During the summer, excess heat from the house can be returned back to the ground where it is cooled and returned back into the home to cool the house, and vice-a-versa, during the winter, the warmth from the ground can be harvested to heat your home and your domestic potable water supply.  I have a co-worker who did this last year and experienced significant savings over the old propane furnace and water heater that she previously had.  She also now has central air conditioning that she never had before.

Ready to Bcycle

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Pete Patten

The city of Madison initiated a bike sharing program that is open to anybody who wishes to participate. The program, called B-cycle, started a soft launch of the bikes in May of 2011. The official start date of the program began in late-July of 2011. This programs aims to boost the local economy along with increase the health benefits of biking. This program is also a “green” decision as people using a bike to cruise through the city is better than a car. Madison is known to be at the forefront of “going green” and the B-cycle fits that mold.

Newly elected Mayor Paul Soglin wasn’t keen on the original contract that was made between the City of Madison and Trek, who supplies the bikes and stations. Back in April, Soglin and Trek modified the contract which reduced the city’s cost from $100,000 annually down to $1 annually. In return for the reduced cost, the city extended the contract out to five years. Cutting down the cost to the city was a key issue that needed to be taken care of considering the tight budgets and today’s economy.
According to B-Cycle, the bikes have software installed on them that calculates the distance traveled. The software also measures how many calories are burned as well as the estimated carbon footprint offset by the ride. There is also a GPS unit on each bike that allows B-cycle officials to know where each bike is located at any moment.

A bike helmet

Image via Wikipedia

Helmets are not provided through the program but bicyclists are recommended to bring their own helmet. The bright red bikes have a basket on the front along with a light and a lock.
The bikes are scattered throughout the downtown area with stations also on campus for students to use.
 Students who become members receive a discount of $20 for an annual pass. Non-student members can
get an annual pass for $65 a year. All rides must be limited to 30 minutes. If a trip lasts for more than the 30 minutes, there is an additional charge. For people that don’t want to become a member, a daily pass will cost $10 per day for unlimited rides under 30 minutes.
Madison has long promoted bicycling. The Capital City State Trail that runs through Madison has over 17 miles of bike paths. This trail provides an opportunity for cyclists to view the scenic landscape of Madison and surrounding areas as it connects to the Glacial Drumlin State Trail.
City officials believe this program will help boost the local economy. Students, friends, and families of any size can enjoy the unique downtown setting of Madison while getting exercise and reducing carbon emissions.
Mother Nature needs to cooperate in order to make this program successful. The spring and fall seasons can be very unpredictable in Wisconsin. Summer months in the Capitol city can bring sticky, humid weather.
Madison remains confident that the bike program will prove beneficial to not only the health of the public, but also all of the small retail shops and restaurants that are in the downtown area.

Making sense, of WaterSense

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment
by: Kim Musel
What does being “Green” mean? In the plumbing industry this does not just mean more efficient in that it uses less electricity, but that it uses water more efficiently with less waste and with less pollution “downstream”.
In 2006, the EPA launched the “WaterSense” program. It is a program ran through the EPA that creates and maintains voluntary water efficiency standards. While the program is currently voluntary it is a major driver for standards and practices within the industry to reduce water use, save resources and money, and is going to become law in several states including Texas and California by 2014.
If a product has a WaterSense label that means that it meets certain minimum environmental standards, for example, being 20% more efficient than average products, performing as well or better than the old standard, and that they provide real savings as proven by a third-party certifying organization, such as Underwriters LaboratoryGeorge Morlan WaterSense toilets
The WaterSense label can be found on sinks and faucets, shower heads, toilets, urinals and even a whole new home. So while everyone wants the luxurious multi-head shower towers, or the huge waterfall shower heads, they can still have that luxury without all of the waste.
Emissions Requirements for Plumbing Equipment?
Seriously?
Who thinks that they need to worry about emissions for a water heater? But think about it. Any appliance or “machine” that burns a fuel has exhaust emissions. In Texas and Southern California, areas that have particularly high pollution rates, especially in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston and Dallas, it makes sense to look all sources of pollution, not just cars. For a natural gas fired water heater to be installed in Texas or Southern California a third-party must certify that the appliance meets specific low NOx (nitrous oxides) requirements. The current requirement is that any emissions being vented directly from the water heater into the atmosphere contain less than 40ng/J of nitrous oxides.
When Gray is Green So, how about recycling our water. really, I’m not kidding. it’s not just possible but becoming a real trend, especially in more arid areas where using anything just one time is seen as irresponsible and wasteful. This “Graywater” is water from showers, laundries, dishwaters, or collected rainwater etc. and is being collected and reused for other non-potable purposes such as flushing toilets and irrigating landscapes. There are even new technologies that allow the gray water to be filtered to the point where it is cleaner than when it came into the home in the first place.
What else is going on?

Did you know that the temperature just six feet under your feet remains at a constant temperature all year around? Geothermal heat pumps can not only heat our water but our homes as well. A geothermal loop system can be installed either straight down or outlying within a trench.

Geothermal power technologies

Image via Wikipedia

 During the summer, excess heat from the house can be returned back to the ground where it is cooled and returned back into the home to cool the house, and vice-a-versa, during the winter, the warmth from the ground can be harvested to heat your home and your domestic potable water supply. I have a co-worker who did this last year and experienced significant savings over the old propane furnace and water heater that she previously had. She also now has central air conditioning that she never had before.

Going Green- and reconnecting with your inner child!

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment
Written By: Steve Krause
Going Green” seems to be a common theme in the world we live in today. Everything from hybrid cars, environmental friendly products like paint, solar and wind energy alternatives, to recycling awareness, going green is definitely an emerging trend that is affecting the way many people live their everyday lives.
Madison's Isthmus (My Home)

Madison's Isthmus (My Home) (Photo credit: robbyb)

One of the newer environmental conscious programs that Madison has gotten involved with is the bike-share program known as B Cycle. Bike-share programs allow people to swipe their credit cards at a kiosk or station that has a number of bikes available for riders to take on rides and then return them to the same kiosk/station or a different kiosk/station in another location. In the article, “Bike-share Program Gets OK From Madison Leaders”, written by Gena Kittner, Kittner states that 350 bikes in 27 stations downtown are being made available to people in Madison through an arm of Trek Bicycle Corp.
Rates for bike share programs vary from city to city. Kittner states that the Denver bike share rates are any ride under 30 minutes are free with day rates being a mere $5 and yearly memberships set at $65. According to their website, Madison B Cycle offers a 24 hour pass for $10, 7-day rate for $30, and an annual rate for $65 with small additional fees being added for any rides over 30 minutes. 
This bike share program is a great opportunity for people to get out of the house and enjoy a nice day with friends, family, or even a great option for a cheap date. It is also great for quick trips for running errands in a timely fashion without having to find a parking spot or pay for parking. It also beats fighting the mad rush of bumper-to-bumper traffic reducing stress levels while also allowing you to reconnect with the inner kid in yourself.
The Madison B Cycle program will also help with lower air pollution in Madison by reducing emissions produced by vehicles. Just think of all the short trips you have to take that are just out of the reach of walking distance resulting in you driving your vehicle. Now Madisonian’s have a nice cheap eco-friendly alternative to help reduce the air pollution in our fine city. According to the bikes belong website, a study showed that the bike share program in Barcelona reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 9,000 metric tons every year.
The Madison B Cycle program can also be a nice healthier alternative for individuals in the Madison area. We all know that biking can be a great and entertaining form of exercise for individuals looking to live a healthy and active lifestyle. Biking gives people a fun way to work on their cardio as opposed to running on a boring treadmill for a certain amount of time everyday. Also, according to the bikes belong website Barcelona bike share studies I mentioned earlier, the health benefits of using the program outweighed the risk of being involved in a crash by 77 to 1. If you ask me, if you are a responsible person and take the proper precautions while riding that’s about as close to peace of mind as you can get.
The Madison bike share program B Cycle is truly a fun, cheap, and unique way for you and yours to get a real feel for the city of Madison while helping the environment and to live a healthy and active lifestyle. Its cheap, its fun, it helps the environment and your personal health, what’s not to like? I encourage everyone to take a look at the Madison bike share website at madison.bcycle.com to get a feel for how it works, what their rates are, how you could be a donor to the program, and how to take advantage of this fun and unique program that is offered to everyone in the Madison area.

Go Green, for $13.75 per month.

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment
 Written By: Kim Graff
 “Going green” is the new trend that is sweeping the nation. We all have the opportunity to get on board, Madison’s own (MGE) Madison Gas and Electric has received national recognition for doing their part in going green.
Now let’s do ours. The program is called Green Power Tomorrow (GPT). We can all make this choice to go green. The cost of this is around $13.75 more per month more than electricity that creates carbon dioxide emissions.
Green power costs money to generate. There is a cost which lies in building the infrastructure to generate the power. The cost to build and install the power costs a bit more today to convert. For us it is important to build this into our power source for the future.
MG&E is required to offer a Green solution. So we can choose on our MG&E bill to use green wind milled power or electric generated power as our choice. Instead of making everyone share the cost, they make it optional for those who want to support this form of energy.
By participating in this, the benefits of this can reduce the climate change, reduce our dependency on scarce resources, and foreign resources.
There are a few forms of green power utilized by and generated at MG&E. The first is called Biomass. It is solar energy that gets stored in organic matter which gets burned. Landfills are a great source of biomass energy. When it rots it releases methane gas which generates power and that power is purchased by MG&E. The energy is transferred by generators. Also the fuel can be created by burning paper and plastic waste.
Then there is  Solar power which converts sunlight into electricity and can heat your water. There are many solar projects in Madison from Fires stations to the zoo. You can actually log-on and see the power being used on MG&E web site to see the power being generated at these solar project locations. But when the sun is not out the solar power does not get generated. At night the solar power does not work due to the sunlight being gone so it is not a perfect yet.
Wind power is the other green power. MGE has their own wind power. The windmills are located in about four different counties. I have seen these myself and they are majestic looking. They are so large that it its hard to even describe. This power is used to offset carbon dioxide emissions.
Today electricity gets generated by burning fossil fuels which are coal and natural gas and in turn that creates the bad “Greenhouse gases” CO2. If we choose wind farms, natural resources are kept intact and untouched by using wind power instead.
These wind farms are normally located on actual working farms and use very little space. They leave about 7.4 acres unavailable on the farm for their turbines, and access roads. Windmills are installed high in the air where the winds are most steady. The windmills run mostefficiently at 25-30 mph wind speeds. When the wind speed reaches between 35-40 mps the windmills shut down because it poses a danger to run them at that speed and it can cause structural damage. They are at the mercy of mother nature.
The more renewable energy we generate the more we can improve the environment. As our need for electricity keeps growing, so does our need for more renewable energy. Each day the wind renews itself when the earth heats and cools. No need for us to restore any resources because we are not depleting them. As part of a natural process plants and trees absorb CO2, we would need a forest of 3,776 acres to remove the CO2 that the wind farm prevents. The future holds plans to expand this technology into the future.

From voluntary to vital- Corporate Social Responsibility

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment
   The global trend for environmental green initiatives is fast becoming mandatory. It seems like everywhere you look businesses are “going green” and are enhancing their reputation for social responsibly. Enacting energy conservation programs, or using solar & wind powered electricity, buying recycled products, buying more sustainable materials, using less hazardous cleaning products or improving lighting, heating/AC efficiencies.
   This trend is becoming so popular that it goes by it’s acronym CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility.
According to The Economist  “CSR reporting can help drive performance in a business, and in just over ten years, corporate sustainability reporting has shifted from voluntary to vital.” Having a corporate social responsibility plan is just as critical as a business plan or a marketing plan.
Traditionally the Madison area has openly and aggressively adapted environmental green
initiatives based on our city’s local behavior and culture. And the surge of toward environmental responsibility has put pressure on business. The trend for businesses to minimizing their environmental impact in the Madison area and positively contribute to the environment by adapting green business practices is growing.
A study conducted by IBM discusses how CSR and responsible business practices fit into society and how it affects consumer perception.
So how can your business adapt a CSR? Join the folks at The Green Scene for tips to get involved.
Or check out a local meet up!
An article in the Wisconsin State Journal shows that UW Madison is recognizing areabusinesses who have adopted efforts to go green with the Green Masters Program
The bottom line is that consumers are interested in corporate social responsibility. They have strong opinions about how the companies they support contribute to the environment and their community.
A consumer is much more likely to support a business that they feel is “doing the right thing”.  To help you earn how CSR affects your business, watch this video.
Local examples of CSR commitments:
Tags: corporate social responsibility, CSR, green initiatives