The Wild World of Waste Grease

July 24th, 2014 by Matt de la Houssaye No comments »

Fryer Recycle

Global Green USA has been working on organic waste recovery—mainly food waste from restaurants—for a number of years (see NYC Mayor’s Food Waste Challenge and NYC Passes Historic Food Waste Bill). We know that one company’s trash can be another company’s treasure, and nowhere is this more true than in the world of used cooking oil, also called “yellow grease.” While it may not sound like the most appetizing product, over the last ten years yellow grease has gone from a waste that restaurants had to pay haulers to remove to a valuable commodity that restaurants can sell to be processed into biodiesel, a more sustainable alternative to petroleum-based diesel.

To better understand both the challenges and the opportunities, we took on the topic of waste grease as the focus of our latest resource recovery webinar. We heard from Dehran Duckworth of Tri State Biodiesel and Amanda Maeyaert of Wastequip, a waste industry equipment manufacturer, about the biodiesel market as a whole, the wild world of waste grease, and how cities can take advantage of the benefits of biodiesel recycling.

According to Duckworth, “Only around 30% of waste grease in NYC is picked up by licensed waste grease collectors.” If it’s so valuable, why is so little getting recovered? The two main barriers to 100% yellow grease collection are improper disposal, either in the trash or down the drain, and theft. The good news is that policy, equipment and regulatory solutions are available to help increase waste grease diversion.

Check out the full report, “The Wild World of Waste Grease” here.

To find out more about getting a comprehensive biodiesel collection and production program started in your city, contact our Coalition for Resource Recovery staff or check out this document created by Santa Cruz, CA non-profit organization Ecology Action.

 

 

 

 

7 Ugly Truths of Bottled Water

July 24th, 2014 by Alison Pugash No comments »

Left-right, top-down: Brian J Matis, flickr, Aristocrats-hat, Flickr, Reto Fetz, Flickr, Horia Varlan, Flickr

 

This July, how are you quenching your thirst? At Global Green USA, we want to ensure that you hydrate in the healthiest way possible for your body, for the community, and for the planet.

Many people understand that single-use, plastic water bottles harm the environment in some vague way. However, most do not realize the true cost of bottled water– a price that includes a toll on human health, ecological systems, and economic security. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of seven ugly truths behind the face of elegant marketing:

 

1. Corporations pump water from local communities, even in times of drought.

Nestlé Brand, Pure Life (Wilson Hui, flickr)

Pure Life, another Nestlé Brand (Wilson Hui, flickr)

Bottled Water industries often extract local, public water free of charge, then reap a profit from customers around the nation. Problems with this process only increase in the face of climate change and worsening drought. Right now, Nestlé continues to bottle water for its Arrowhead label in the California Desert, amidst  the state’s worst drought in history (see the Desert Sun’s report on the controversy). Award-winning documentary Tapped offers other examples. For instance, the residents of Fryeburg, Maine went a day-and-a-half without water while Nestlé (acting under label Poland Springs) continued to pump their dwindling water supply. This exploitation of resources has occurred around the nation in such places as the Arkansas River Valley, Colorado, Florida, California, and Michigan, to name a few.

 

2. Bottled water actually wastes water.

In a study on the resource requirements for bottled water, researchers found that every liter of water sold requires three liters of water to produce. That means you’re tripling your drinking water footprint every time you choose bottled versus tap water.

 

3. Bottled water is virtually unregulated.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water with fewer requirements than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency that regulates municipal tap water. The FDA only suggests an annual testing of bottled water and does not require the results to be posted to the public. The FDA does not test for E. Coli, while the EPA does. In addition, only one worker in the FDA oversees all of the bottled water industries in the U.S. Finally, plastic water bottles that are bottled and sold within the same state are exempt from any FDA standards. Unfortunately, this means that 60-70% of all single-use, plastic water bottles in the U.S. are not even regulated by the FDA.

Municipal drinking water (tap water) falls subject to stringent regulations. Tap water is regulated at least 400 times per month in government-certified labs. The results of the tests are made available to the public online. To find the results of your municipal tap water, click here!

 

4. Bottled water is no cleaner, safer, or healthier than tap water.

About half of the time, bottled water is merely tap water re-sold in plastic bottles. In 2009, 47.8% of all bottled water was derived from the tap.

Unfortunately, bottled water’s regulatory gaps result in the sale of water that may be contaminated. As documented in Tapped, 38 contaminants were found in ten different brands of bottled water during an independent test. They found traces of arsenic, bacterial contaminants, leaching from plastic bottles, and toluene, a constituent of gasoline and paint thinners. Another study tested water that was left in the trunk of a car for a week; they found styrene and thalates, chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects.

 

Drake D'Ambra

Water bottle filled 25% with oil, to represent oil consumption in the production and transport of plastic water bottles.

5. That plastic bottle is made from oil and natural gas.

The stages of a single-use plastic water bottle’s “life” require massive amounts of energy and fossil fuel. Here’s a rough overview:

  • Creating the PET plastic bottle (requires petroleum or natural gas)
  • Filling the bottles with water at the factory (requires water and petroleum/natural gas)
  • Transporting the water by truck, train, ship, or air freight (requires petroleum)
  • Cooling bottles in grocery stores and at home (requires petroleum or coal)
  • Recycling and/or throwing away the bottles (requires petroleum and/or coal)

In 2006, a research study concluded that the US used roughly 17 million barrels of oil (or 714 million gallons) to make the PET for single-use, plastic water bottles. As a result, 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide were emitted. Unfortunately, our consumption and emission rates are even higher now, since the global consumption of bottled water increases about 10% per year.

 

6. 70-80% of single-use plastic water bottles aren’t recycled.

Bottled water industries enjoy advertising that their bottles are “highly recyclable.” Unfortunately, however, most Americans do not recycle these bottles – only about 20-30% do, mostly thanks to state cash refunds. As a result, these bottles contribute to landfills or worse, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. PET Plastic never biodegrades – it only breaks into smaller components that end up in the food chain, which can end up in our bodies.

 

7. The manufacturing of bottled water harms disadvantaged, low-income communities.

Tapped also reveals that residential communities located near PET factories suffer from unusually high levels of chronic illness and birth defects. Members of Corpus Christi, Texas live close to the nation’s largest PET manufacturing facility; the birth defects in this town are also 84% higher than the state average.

The PET in plastic bottles fall within the Benzene chemical family, a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agent. During the manufacturing process of PET, carcinogens leak into the local air, groundwater, and soil. This pollution causes nearby property values to decrease so only low-income families inhabit the area. Tragically, these economically disadvantaged communities struggle to pay their health care costs at the same time that they are outnumbered by powerful factories.

 

Go re-usable!

Re-Usable Water Bottle, photo cred: xlrider, flickr

Re-Usable Water Bottle (Xlrider, flickr)

So, now you know: single-use, plastic bottles not only harm the environment, but they also deteriorate public health and negatively impact low-income communities. Luckily, your individual habits can make a difference. Using a reusable water bottle might seem like a small decision, but it truly does make an impact–especially when you lead others by example. Help your family, friends, and others understand the realities of single-use water bottles by spreading the word, carrying your own re-usable, and avoiding bottled water purchases at grocery stores and gas stations.

To learn more about the importance of drinking tap water, watch Tapped on Netflix or for free online here!

Water Wise Tip: Disconnecting Your Downspout

July 23rd, 2014 by Monica Rowand No comments »

Global Green Downspout Header

Rainwater management tips from Global Green’s New Orleans Water Wise program*

One fairly simple water wise measure is to disconnect your downspouts from existing standpipes and let the water flow over landscaped areas or lawns.  Disconnection can be a low-maintenance option to help move water away from building foundations and allow it to soak into the ground.  By disconnecting your downspouts from pipes that take the water into a constructed stormwater system, your property will reduce demand on the stormwater pumping system and create opportunity for filtration.

Tools needed:

  1. Tape measure
  2. Hacksaw
  3. Drill
  4. Needle-nose pliers or crimpers
  5. Screwdriver

Overview of steps:Downspout 1

  1. Measuring and cutting the downspout
  2. Plugging any existing standpipe
  3. Attaching elbows over the downspout
  4. Measuring and attaching extensions and splash blocks to direct water to flow away from the house
  5. Securing the materials to existing structures

Step 1:

  • Measure the existing downspout from the top of the standpipe and mark it at about 9 inches above the standpipe. You may need to cut the downspout higher depending on the length of your extension.
  • Cut the existing downspout with a hacksaw at the mark. Remove the cut piece.

Downspout 2Step 2:

  • Plug or cap the standpipe using an in-pipe test plug or an over-the-pipe cap secured by a hose clamp.
  • DO NOT use concrete to seal your standpipe.

Step 3:

  • Attach the elbow. Be sure to attach the elbow OVER the downspout.
  • DO NOT insert the elbow up inside the downspout, or it will leak.
  • If the elbow does not fit over the downspout, use crimpers or needle-nose pliers to crimp the end of the cut downspout so it slides INSIDE the elbow.

Step 4:

  • Measure and cut the downspout extension to the desired length.
  • Attach the extension to the elbow by slipping the extension OVER the end of the elbow.
  • DO NOT install the extension inside the elbow, or it will leak.
  • The length of the extension will depend on site conditions and where you want to downspout to drain.
  • Downspouts must drain at least two feet from crawl spaces and concrete slabs.
  • The end of the downspout must be at least 5 feet from your property line, and possibly more if your yard slopes toward your neighbor’s house.

Downspout 3 Step 5:

  • Secure the pieces with sheet metal screws at each joint where the downspout, elbow, and extension connect. It helps to pre-drill holes for the screws.
  • Using a splash block at the end of the extension is optional, but it will help prevent soil erosion.

For additional steps and considerations when disconnecting downspouts, consult the full Joy of Water cookbook here.

*Information excerpted from Joy of Water: A Homeowner’s Cookbook to Becoming Water Wise, created by Water Works, in collaboration with Global Green USA, Dana Brown & Associates, Bayou Land RC&D, Longue Vue House & Gardens, and Louisiana Urban Stormwater Coalition, and was funded by the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

For more tips and info, follow @globalgreen on Twitter and check out our ongoing #WaterWise tweets! 

Staff Spotlight: Keeley Locke

July 21st, 2014 by Global Green USA No comments »

 

Keeley Locke (center) with guests at Global Green USA's Millennium Awards.

Keeley Locke (center) with guests at Global Green USA’s Millennium Awards.

Sitting down with Keeley Locke, Development Associate.

How would you describe your role at Global Green USA in 5 words or less?

Facilitate Global Green’s Development Efforts

What’s your biggest priority right now at Global Green?

Connecting more people to our mission and sharing with them the powerful and important work we do.

Biggest accomplishment?

When I started at Global Green I was, no pun intended, green. Coming into the organization during a period of transition meant having to step up and take on multiple responsibilities including the planning of Global Green’s four title events:

The coordination of these events has been both the highlight and the greatest accomplishment of my tenure at Global Green. 

What do you hope to have accomplished by 2015?

I hope we will have secured the necessary funding to:

1. Expand and grow our National Green School Makeover Competition.

2. Complete the Holy Cross Project Community Center in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. The center will be a multi-use facility with solar battery backup and will serve and support the needs of the neighborhood and local residents by providing community meeting and conference space, a fresh food retail store, and a shelter for the community and its first responders during a major storm event.

What is your favorite thing about Global Green

That despite being a national organization with an international affiliation, many of our programs and initiatives operate on, or started at, a grassroots level. Our vision might be from a macro perspective but our belief in starting with and working with communities and individuals is what makes us unique and, in my opinion, more effective.

Getting to Know Green Infrastructure

July 15th, 2014 by Monica Rowand No comments »


global green green infrastructure

Excerpt from “The Joy of Water: A Homeowner’s Cookbook to Becoming Water Wise”*

The Holy Trinity of Rainwater Management

Green infrastructure is the use of plants and trees to manage rainwater and reduce flooding.  By including plants in urban landscape design and directing rainwater to flow through them, homeowners can balance the negative effects of concrete and other impervious surfaces.  Green infrastructure reduces flooding and helps filter out pollutants in three ways:

  1. Infiltration: By allowing water to infiltrate or soak into the soil, we help balance the water table. A balanced water table reduces the constant expanding/shrinking of our clay soils and the shrinking of our rich organic soil, which in turn helps to stop the ground from sinking – a process called subsidence.
  1. Filtration: As rainwater flows through plants, the roots absorb the dirty water and filter pollutants before they can reach the pipes and drains. This means cleaner water flows into our lakes and bayous, benefitting recreation and fishing.
  1. Detention: Large planted areas can be used to detain or temporarily store rainwater, allowing water to be absorbed by plants and the soils rather than run directly into the storm drains. This decreases flooding by preventing the drainage system from being overloaded with rainwater.

Want to see how it’s done? Check out a few of the ways green infrastructure is being used to infiltrate, filter, and detain rainwater at our Holy Cross Project here.

Next up, we’ll give you a complete how-to on disconnecting your downspout to create another opportunity for stormwater filtration. For more tips and info, follow @globalgreen and check out our ongoing #WaterWise tweets!

*The Joy of Water was created by Water Works, in collaboration with Global Green USA, Dana Brown & Associates, Bayou Land RC&D, Longue Vue House & Gardens, and Louisiana Urban Stormwater Coalition, and was funded by the Greater New Orleans Foundation.

Composting Comes to Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles

July 14th, 2014 by Lily Kelly No comments »

Global Green compost pilot

For those of you who have read my previous blog posts, you know how much I love getting out of the office and bringing Global Green’s work where it’s needed most. This past week, I got to head down to an apartment complex in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles to launch the largest multi-family residential composting project in the city to date.

In partnership with Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR) members Athens Services and EcoSafe, we hosted a building-wide composting kickoff complete with multi-lingual training on how to compost, a raffle for gift certificates and Dodgers’ tickets, a bin-and-bag giveaway to residents, a six-foot party sub, and demonstrations by a few of the younger residents on how it’s done. There’s nothing more rewarding (or adorable) than watching kids argue good-naturedly over who gets to be the first to put the food scraps in the compost dumpster. As property manager Cristal Gonzales stated, “[Composting] is a great way to give our tenants the opportunity to act on their desire to reduce landfilled waste, and teach their children about caring for the environment.”

Young resident tosses compostable bag of food waste into new compost dumpster at Lincoln Heights apartment.

Young resident tosses compostable bag of food waste into new compost dumpster at Lincoln Heights apartment.

 

According to the EPA, 95% of food scraps are landfilled each year, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to seven coal-fired power plants. While some cities have begun introducing residential composting programs to reduce these impacts, multi-family buildings are often the last to be included in these programs due to their complexity relative to a grocery store or a single-family home. In our usual fashion, we’re tackling this system precisely because it is the toughest: Our pilots focus specifically on multi-family residences to help set the stage for broader implementation across the country. With Los Angeles aimed at 70% waste reduction by 2020, the Lincoln Heights neighborhood was a great place to start.

With support from building management, the residents, and the waste hauler, we look forward to tracking the successes and challenges of the program. As we launch additional residential composting pilots in Los Angeles and beyond, our findings will serve as a toolkit to share with policymakers and property managers across the country. Stay tuned for more as the project continues!

Read more about the Lincoln Heights project here.

If you’re interested in bringing a compost pilot project to your multi-family building in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York City—contact us here!

For field updates and news from Lily Kelly, follow her on Twitter @LilyKellyGG.  

 

 

Regaining Ground Documentary

July 2nd, 2014 by Jeff Supak No comments »

Regaining Ground is a short documentary film produced by Rhonda Chan Soo that highlights pioneering approaches to saving Louisiana’s vanishing wetlands.  Featured in the film are Webster Pierce’s ‘Wave Robber,’ Dr. Sarah Mack’s pilot blue carbon project, and Louisiana State University’s blue carbon monitoring of black mangroves in partnership with Global Green USA.

At Global Green, we know that costal Louisiana is ground zero for the impacts of climate change—and we also know that wetlands are our front line of defense. As coastal wetlands continue to erode in Louisiana, the security of our communities erodes with them. The work that we have done to build a more resilient New Orleans is being undermined by land loss due to subsidence, storm surge, canal dredging from oil companies, and sea level rise due to climate change.

Thankfully, many people and organizations are working to save our coast. Global Green’s Louisiana Wetlands Action Program is finding ways to introduce blue carbon as a tool to finance coastal restoration, and we’re partnering with LSU to better understand the science behind blue carbon. By supporting innovative techniques to restore and protect costal wetlands, Global Green is doing its part in regaining ground along our coast.

Watch on YouTube

Follow us @globalgreen on Twitter and Like us on Facebook for more #WetlandsWednesday news and special features! 

Global Green USA & Green Cross Applaud Key Step in Safe Destruction of Syria’s Chemical Weapons

July 2nd, 2014 by Global Green USA No comments »

Syrian chemicals trans-shipped in Italian port

Some 560 metric tons of dangerous mustard agent and precursor chemicals for nerve agents will be placed on board a US merchant marine ship in the Italian port of Gioia Tauro this week for destruction. Global Green USA and Green Cross International congratulate all countries and organizations involved, including Syria, Italy, Denmark, and the United States for organizing and implementing this important effort to build a world totally free of chemical weapons.

Elio Pacilio, President of Green Cross Italy in Rome, commented: “This is a major step forward in safely eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. I want to congratulate the Italian Government, the people of Reggio Calabria, the citizens of San Ferdinando, and the port workers of Gioia Tauro for their willingness to participate in this vital step to establish a more peaceful and less dangerous Mediterranean region.”

MV Cape Ray web versionA Danish freighter, Ark Futura, and a Norwegian freighter, Taiko, have been loading Syria’s chemicals in the Syrian port of Latakia since January 2014. The last shipment of 100 metric tons was made on 23 June. The Ark Futura will now deliver 560 metric tons of “Priority One” chemicals, including over 20 metric tons of deadly mustard agent, to the US Merchant Marine ship, the MV Cape Ray, in the southwest Italian port of Gioia Tauro this week, on 2-3 July. The Cape Ray will begin sea trials in the Mediterranean next week in order to treat these Syrian chemicals in two “Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems (FDHS)” on board over the next 2-3 months. The Cape Ray will be protected by an international fleet of naval vessels.

Dr. Paul Walker, Director of the Global Green USA/Green Cross Environmental Security and Sustainability Program and coordinator of the international Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition, stated: “This neutralization process on board the Cape Ray is well known and widely used in both the US, Russia, and elsewhere to mix chemical agents with hot water and a caustic agent. The chemical weapons are thereby destroyed, but a secondary process is always necessary to further eliminate the toxicity of the effluents.” This secondary process will take place in Germany, Finland, and the US when some 6,000 metric tons of effluent are delivered by these three ships.

Walker also added: “We commend all parties involved, especially the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the United Nations, the United States, and the 30 or more countries who have contributed financially and in-kind to rid the world of a dangerous chemical weapons stockpile in Syria. Once the transfer is made to the Cape Ray, we all need regular updates on the hydrolysis process, as well as updates from the land processing facilities in Finland, Germany, Britain, and the United States.”

For more news and updates on environmental security and sustainability, follow Dr. Paul Walker on Twitter @PaulWalkerGG

A Mottainai Neighborhood: Little Tokyo Embodies the EcoDistrict Model

June 25th, 2014 by Walker Wells No comments »

 

Little Tokyo

Thinking sustainably usually means taking the long view, so it is inspiring to see the rapid progress occurring in the burgeoning EcoDistrict movement for district-scale urban revitalization. For the past several years, the Green Urbanism Program at Global Green has been exploring the potential for working at the neighborhood or district scale to accelerate and increase the transformation impacts of green design. Through a variety of green affordable hosing projects, Sustainable Neighborhood Assessments, and LEED for Neighborhood Development certified plans, we are moving towards realizing how “green urbanism”—the practice of creating communities mutually beneficial to humans and the environment—can be manifest.

EcoDistricts’ unique contribution to the sustainability conversation is the recognition that green design strategies, standards, and techniques are a part of a larger, more complex picture. Affecting change in a community also means identifying and nurturing local organizations that can help shape the local vision and stay the course in implementation. I saw importance of this perspective earlier this year as a facilitator at the EcoDistricts Incubator: One of the main insights of the group I worked with was the need to clarify their governance model before launching into revitalization projects. This helps ensure that each organization and individual is able to contribute most effectively to realizing the projects.

Recognition of the critical role played by community organizations is a core aspect of EcoDistricts’ Target Cities program, recently announced at the Clinton Global Initiative Denver meeting. A two-year partnership with nine development projects in seven North American cities, Target Cities aims to accelerate district-scale community regeneration and to create replicable models for urban revitalization. The projects are located in Atlanta, Boston, Cambridge, Denver, Ottawa, Washington, D.C, and, most exciting for me, Los Angeles.

Little Tokyo, a 20-acre area in Downtown Los Angeles, is the specific neighborhood selected to represent Los Angeles. Global Green, along with a number of other non-profit and community development groups, has collaborated with Little Tokyo and EcoDistricts for the past year to help shape the overall vision and identify how to implement innovative concepts by bringing our national expertise in green urbanism to project. This includes our participating in the community charrette last October, contributing to an analysis of integrated infrastructure opportunities, and serving as an advisor to Little Tokyo Service Center staff.

We are excited to be able to continue our involvement as a supporter and contributor to the Little Tokyo effort. Being part of the national pool of Target Cities will both help bring best practices to Los Angeles, and also enable the sharing of innovative conceptual work being done in Little Tokyo, built around the cultural and philosophical concept of “Mottainai”—roughly translated to “do not destroy (or lay waste to) that which is worthy.”

Fostering a shift to sustainability takes patience and perseverance, so it is deeply rewarding and exciting to see the significant progress made in both the EcoDistricts movement and on the ground in Little Tokyo. I expect that the Target Cities partnership and the efforts in Little Tokyo will provide a catalyst for future district-scale green urbanism projects in Southern California and nationally.

For more green urbanism insights and updates from Walker Wells, follow him on Twitter @WalkerWellsGG.

 

Learning to Live in Your Microclimate

June 24th, 2014 by Global Green USA No comments »

Global Green Microclimates

A microclimate can be as small as a few square feet—or as large as a few square miles. From your neighborhood to your living room, pay attention to trends in temperature, sunshine, and airflow throughout the day.

When does it heat up and cool down?

Tightly close doors and windows as soon as it starts to heat up (could be as early as 5 or 6am). Open them up again for cool air and ventilation when the heat breaks or the breeze picks up.

Do your windows get direct sunlight?

If so, keep them closed and covered during the day. Blinds, shutters, trees, and awnings, especially to the south and west, can significantly reduce heat gain in your home. If you live in a hot, desert area, consider landscaping for more shade cover or installing solar screens.

Which rooms get hottest?

Heat rises, so you’ll feel it upstairs. Plus, rooms packed with heat-generating appliances – like ovens and dishwashers – can also become uncomfortable. Try to use these appliances minimally during the day, and wait to do dishes, laundry, or take hot showers until the sun goes down.

Where do you spend most of your time?

Ceiling or standing fans can keep you cool and comfortable in your office, bedroom, or living room – and you won’t need to air condition the whole house.

Other Tips & Quick Fixes to Stay Cool

  • Switch from incandescent bulbs to CFLs:  They not only use ¼ of the energy and last up to 10x longer, but CFLs also emit 75% less heat.
  • Still, make sure to turn off lights – and appliances – when not in use.
  • Install a smart or programmable thermostat so you’re not cooling an empty house.
  • Make your bed with lightweight and breathable organic cotton sheets.
  • Stay hydrated!

 For more green tips and info, follow us on Twitter @globalgreen.