Global Green USA Helps Pass Styrofoam Ban in Our Nation’s Capital City!

August 27th, 2014 by Chris Weiss No comments »

District citizens, wildlife, and environmental advocates had a good day this month when the District of Columbia Council successfully passed, and sent to District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray for signature, both the “Sustainable DC Omnibus Act of 2013” and the “Sustainable Solid Waste Management Amendment Act of 2014.”DSC_0106b2

These important bills had provisions to help the District keep garbage—including Styrofoam—out of local rivers, and to move DC towards becoming a zero waste* and more environmentally friendly city.

Highlights of the two bills:

Major Zero Waste Provisions of the “Sustainable DC Omnibus Act of 2013”:

  • Calls for a ban of the use of Styrofoam for food service businesses in the DC by January 1, 2016.
  • Requires food service businesses in DC to only use compostable or recyclable food service ware by January 1, 2017.

Major Zero Waste Provisions of the “Sustainable Solid Waste Management Amendment Act of 2014”(partial):

  • Requires DC to develop a zero waste plan that lays out the programs necessary to achieve Mayor Gray’s “Sustainable DC” plan goal of 80% waste diversion, including a Pay as You Throw (PAYT) system that can help increase the District’s waste diversion rate.
  • Prioritizes reuse and recycling over landfilling and incineration.
  • Requires separation of waste into recyclables, compostables, and trash.

What made this first step in the legislative process particularly meaningful is that the District of Columbia Council—much like Seattle, San Francisco, and other cities—did not back down when high paid corporate lobbyists from the American Chemistry Council, DART Container Corporation and other large corporate interests, lobbied aggressively against these provisions.

Global Green USA and partner the DC Environmental Network (DCEN) both played a pivotal role in making this important policy change happen. DCEN also enlisted the assistance of many DC-based organizations including the Anacostia Riverkeeper, Anacostia Watershed Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Water Action, DC Statehood Green Party, Earthjustice, Energy Justice Network, Foundation Earth, Global Bees, Green Cross International, Institute for Local Self Reliance, Potomac Riverkeeper, SCI/Community Forklift and Sierra Club DC Chapter.

Zero Waste Badge bAchieving zero waste in our nation’s capital city is a major priority for Global Green and DCEN, and we will be pushing to make sure the District moves towards achieving the already established 80% waste diversion goal.

*What’s Zero Waste? 

“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.” 

For more information, please contact Chris Weiss at cweiss@dcen.net.

Staff Spotlight: Sharon Williams

August 26th, 2014 by Global Green USA No comments »

Sitting down with Global Green USA Receptionist Sharon Williams.

Sharon Staff Spotlight 2000

Sharon Williams (right) at Global Green USA Earth Day booth in 2000.

1. How would you describe your role at Global Green USA in five words?

Incredibly earthy dependable positive organizer.

2. You have been at Global Green for fifteen years! How has it grown and changed over the years?

When I started working with Global Green USA in 1999, we were the new kids on the block. With the organization only being about five years old, it was a challenge to capture people’s attention about the environment.

“The Green Power Campaign” totally captivated my heart and soon many others. Marching up and down the promenade, shouting “Go Green Power” and holding up signage reading the same, was the beginning of a new era for all. Thank you Joe Costello! We knew we had to become stronger advocates for the environment, and now we have the tools with legislators, celebrities, scientists, and community leaders on our side. We grew stronger in getting our message out, tabling at events throughout Santa Monica and surrounding cities. Now Global Green USA has a national presence with offices in New Orleans, New York, Washington, and San Francisco.

Yes, we have grown a lot, but our values remain the same.

3. What are your biggest accomplishments at Global Green?

- Greening the whole office with eco-friendly products.

- Keeping my ‘Diane’ tree (named for Global Green USA founder Diane Meyer Simon) alive and healthy for fifteen years.

- Teaching my grandchildren what I’ve learned at Global Green USA, and to watch/hear them implement it in their daily lives…is priceless.

4. What do you hope to have accomplished by 2015?

I want to implement a successful composting program that is supported by all our staff in the Santa Monica office.

5. What is your favorite thing about Global Green USA?

The Green Urbanism Program has been the most exciting program in the organization to me. It’s inspiring to see them transforming communities, cities to sustainable living.

 

Back to School with ‘Be Energy Smart’

August 26th, 2014 by Monica Rowand No comments »

Teachers are assigned.
Lunches are made.
Backpacks are zipped.
And ‘Be Energy Smart’ kits are packed!

Global Green USA’s NOLA Wise crew is getting ready for a busy first semester teaching 6th grade science classes about being Energy Smart, and they have some back-to-school energy tips for all!

Be Energy Smart Global Green USA

  1. Change ALL of your light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) – or better yet, LEDs. 
    • LED bulbs use less than ¼ of the amount of energy used by an incandescent light bulb PLUS they can last up to 25x longer!  This means the cost to light the bulb is lower and you don’t have to purchase as many, saving you money and saving waste from the landfill (CoRR will thank you for that, too!).
  2. Replace your showerhead with a low-flow model. 
    • This will save energy by reducing the amount of hot water used in the shower.  It will also of course save water, so it’s basically like double savings!
    • Look for the EPA WaterSense label and you’ll be sure to reduce water use from that fixture by 20%.
  3. Add low-flow aerators to your kitchen and bathroom sink faucets. 
    • This is another way to save both energy and water.
    • Again, look for the EPA WaterSense label on faucets and accessories.
  4. Get your HVAC systems tuned up. 
    • Just like a car, air conditioning and heating units should be tuned up each season to make sure that everything is running smoothly.  A CoolSavers A/C tune-up can increase the efficiency of your air conditioning unit by 30%.
  5. Change your HVAC filter at LEAST twice a year. 
    • A clogged filter will prevent energy-intensive conditioned air from getting to you.  Replacing filters with new, clean ones every six months will keep your HVAC systems from working harder than they should, therefore saving energy and money.  If you run your system more often or have severe allergies, you may consider changing your filter more frequently.
    • A filter whistle can be attached to the filter and will alert you when it is ready to be changed.

New Orleans 6th grade science teachers interested in having the ‘Be Energy Smart’ program in their classroom should contact Monica Rowand at mrowand@globalgreen.org.

Big Win for Energy Efficiency in Los Angeles

August 13th, 2014 by Gina Goodhill Rosen No comments »

LosAngeles EE

After years in the making, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) approved new energy efficiency targets for the City that will save Los Angeles 50% more energy than previous targets.  These targets will allow LADWP’s 3.9 million customers to immediately start saving money on their utility bills, and will act as a model for national action on energy efficiency.

Global Green USA’s policy team testified in support of the proposal, and helped gather support from key stakeholders to stand in favor of the proposal as well. We have long advocated for energy efficiency to be the first strategy for saving energy, as it is the cheapest, easiest, and cleanest option. For years, California has been a leader in approving bold energy efficiency targets; this forward thinking has saved residents billions of dollars and avoided millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

However for much of this time, LADWP’s investment in energy efficiency has lagged behind other California utilities. This all changed in 2012 when, under the leadership of David Jacot, LADWP doubled its investment in energy efficiency, and set a goal to save 10% of their current energy use by 2020.  Through ongoing analysis since 2012, LADWP was able to prove that the utility could in fact reach 15% savings by 2020. On August 5th, the Board of Commissioners approved this ambitious target. Commission President Mel Levine declared that he had never seen more people testify on an any issue than they did on the new energy efficiency target, and every piece of testimony was in favor of the proposal.

Achieving a 15% target by 2020 will cost $151 million per year, one-half to one-fourth the cost of a new power plant. Energy efficiency savings on this level would also create an estimated 22,000 jobs by 2033, more jobs than any other energy industry. In the long term, it will also save the city’s residents $775 million in energy bills.

With a growing population and many more days of extreme heat ahead, this decision could not have come sooner. Increasing our energy efficiency translates to cleaner air, immediate savings for Angelenos on their utility bills, and increased comfort.  We’re proud to continue to work with Los Angeles on rethinking how we use energy, and on turning these energy efficiency targets into programs that deliver results.

 

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.