Eco News


Eco-friendly art that explores the dichotomy of human nature


Arts have traditionally not been big on environment, but Iram Wani and Aleem Dad Khan take pride in their techniques being eco-friendly. Their choice of symbols — fetus for Wani and Yin Yang for Khan — serve to shift the viewer’s focus heavily on their techniques.

But this is not to say that their techniques are similar. They could hardly be more different from each other. While Wani’s approach is more sensitive and theme based, Khan’s is more technically inclined and experimental.

Wani explores the duality of the conditioned and unconditioned self and exalts the primal and overpowering part of human nature that socialisation tries to curb. “The fetus, for me, is the symbol of our most unconditioned self,” said Wani. She added that she believes all great art is an exploration and expression of the unconditioned self.

Her work use techniques such as linocut and chine-colle heavily which add a quality of cleanliness and focus to her work.

Khan, in contrast, borrows more from reductive and collagraphy techniques that are more experimental and overlapping. Ironically Khan uses the symbol of balance, Yin Yang, in a somewhat chaotic way — separating the two components of the symbol in some paintings while joining them together in unexpected permutations in others.

Referring to his painting “Yin Yang Bang”, Khan said, “I’m trying to show the balance and imbalance in the universe, the organised chaos that is responsible for our evolution.”

The two artists do also try to look to other sources for their paintings. Wani showcases a scene of urban life with buildings in her piece “Contrived”.

“This is a depiction of the conditioned life we all lead, it is not natural but man-made, hence the title,” said Wani.

Similarly Khan too has used the image of buildings in his “A depiction of the city Swansea in Wales”. He shares it is a collaborative piece with his teacher Sara Hopkins.

Both artists have shown their work in numerous exhibits and have done their Bachelors of Fine Arts from the National College of Arts, Lahore. The exhibition will continue at the Nomad Gallery till May 31.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2012.

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Eco-city not green, but offers hope

New city will provide an opportunity to test new technologies that can be used elsewhere

The world’s largest eco-city is not a green, carbon-free paradise where cars are banned from the streets.

Instead, as its first residents moved in this month, they found it is remarkably like most other Chinese cities: shrouded in smog and depressingly grey. But then the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, just over an hour from Beijing by train, is not supposed to be a whizzy vision of the future.

It is far more practical – a model for how Chinese cities could develop and solve some of the enormous problems facing them: permanent gridlock, a lack of water and ruinous electricity bills.

If a few of the changes adopted in Tianjin were rolled out nationally, the results could dramatically change China’s devastating impact on the environment.

“Our eco-city is an experiment, but it is also practical,” said Wang Meng, the deputy director of construction. “There are over 100 eco-cities in the world now, and they are all different. If you look at the one in Abu Dhabi, they spent a huge amount of money and bought a lot of technology. It is very grand, but is it useful?”

To date, almost all of the world’s eco-cities have been green follies, crippled by a central parado the more they enforce bothersome environ-mental rules, the less people want to live in them.

In Tianjin, the residents will not be expected to make any particular effort to be green.

“If they take the bus and sort their rubbish for recycling, they will be making their contribution,” said a spokesman for the city.

Their main contribution, in fact, is to be guinea pigs as planners experiment with the city around them. General Motors, for example, is using Tianjin to work out if electric driverless cars can function in a normal traffic system.

“Some eco-cities are too idealistic. In Tianjin they do not want to stop people from driving, but they do want to put into place policies that will help our vehicles to operate success-fully,” said Chris Borroni-Bird, the head of GM’s autonomous driving project in Detroit.

He said Tianjin would allow GM to road-test the next generation of vehicles: small urban cars that drove themselves but were safe in an environment full of unpredictable drivers and pedestrians.

Not only does China desperately need to solve its traffic problems, but it is one of the few countries that can throw significant resources at new ideas and build cities from scratch in order to experiment.

Other projects on trial include a low energy lighting system from Philips and garbage bins that empty themselves, sucking litter into an underground net-work, by a Swedish company called Envac. “We are not sure about that one,” said a spokes-man. “It requires people not to put the wrong sort of rubbish in the bins, or it could jam the system and prove expensive to maintain.”

By the time it is finished, in the next decade or so, 250 billion yuan ($40 billion) will have been spent by the Chinese and Singaporean governments, and a number of private companies, on transforming the site into a comfortable home for 350,000 people. Sixty families have already moved in.

Already, one new technology has been patented. “We had an industrial reservoir that was full of heavy metals,” said Wang. “It used to be so bad that people could not go near it because of the smell. Now we have cleaned it with a special process that we can send to other parts of the country.”

In a country where 70 per cent of the rivers are too polluted to provide drinking water, the technology is likely to be a money-spinner. Having ruined vast swaths of its countryside as it raced to wealth, China is now likely to spend billions on cleaning up the mess.

Elsewhere, government-owned buildings collect their own rain water for reuse, are powered by geothermal energy, have window shutters that move with the light, in order to keep buildings cool, and heating systems that use solar energy.

In a sign of how seriously the project is taken, eight out of the nine members of China’s politburo standing committee, which rules the country, have visited.

“The idea is to create something that can be adapted to other cities in China,” said Wang.

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Mitsubishi i-MiEV Eco Tourism Pilot Demo Program starts – EV is now available at Four Seasons Resort, Langkawi

Langkawi seduces, not for the first time. Peering out from MH1438′s window, the cluster of 99 islands in the blue sea that make up Langkawi immediately calms the mind, and brings a smile. And when the Four Seasons Resort is your home away from home, you’ll want to stay for awhile. But we got work to do, so time to get down and dirty.

Or not, because the car we’re here to drive is as clean as they come. Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia, which in October last year became the first to register a full electric vehicle in Malaysia, is launching its Eco-Tourism Pilot Demonstration Program, starring the i-MiEV.

If you don’t already know, the i-MiEV is based on MMC’s i minicar, but there’s no internal combustion engine and no need to refuel, because it’s 100% battery powered and rechargeable. Zero tailpipe emissions, too.

And it’s no fancy concept either – the i-MiEV is a production car already on sale elsewhere, and hopefully one day, Malaysia. It was first sold domestically in 2009, before European sales started in 2010. The little car was launched in North America late last year.

Here’s how the program works. MMM is loaning one unit of the i-MiEV to Four Seasons Langkawi, where guests of the five-star resort can use around the island, for free. No money required, just feedback.

This will go on for two months from 23 February. The stated mission is to gain better understanding of customer behaviour and expectations from an EV. There’s some prestige to be had for both parties too, in my opinion, since everyone is flashing their eco credentials these days.

“Fundamentally, eco tourism means making as little environmental impact as possible and encouraging the preservation of environment when visiting a place. 100% electric with zero emissions, yet offering surprising power and a smooth quiet ride, the i-MiEV is the greenest way to drive in Langkawi,” Tetsuya Oda, CEO of MMM proclaimed.

“This fits perfectly into our philosophy of engaging in sustainable practices that conserve natural resources and reduce environmental impact,” Philippe Larrieu, Four Seasons Langkawi Resort Manager chipped in.

We understand that after its stint at Four Seasons, WVY 159 will continue to serve Langkawi at another location. By the way, MMM, as pioneer, went through nearly one year of working with various authorities to help chart a new course in a system where tax is charged according to engine cubic capacity (the i-MiEV has none, remember), among other obstacles.

And of course, there’s the usual process of getting type approval etc. If you’re wondering, road tax for the i-MiEV is RM10 per year, after a 50% EV discount. Not sure how they arrived there, though. Notice the road tax sticker says “49000 W” in place of where the engine cubic capacity normally as – it reflects the i-MiEV’s 49kW motor power.

At the event, we also learnt something new from Takayuki Yatabe of MMC’s EV Business Promotion Department. In a “did you know” moment, the Tokyo based exec shared that the i-MiEV is great as an emergency power source, since its lithium ion battery pack stores the equivalent of one and a half days of the electricity used by a typical Japanese household.

He added that MMC is developing tech that will allow i-MiEVs to supply up to 1,500 watts of electricity to power electric jugs, rice cookers, hair dryers, and other small but vital appliances. Not so useful here perhaps, but Japan is frequently hit by earthquakes, which could knock out electricity supply. In fact, 60 units of the i-MiEV were used for relief purposes in the earthquake/tsunami disaster last year, when gasoline supply dried up.

After all that, I hopped into the car for a spin round the block. Having driven various EVs before, including a pre-production i-MiEV, the stint wasn’t as eye opening as it could be, but it’s still a stark contrast from regular motoring. For one, you twist the key (same design as other Mitsus) but there’s no resulting sound or vibration, only a signal from the instrument cluster that the i-MiEV is ready to roll. Step on it and it glides off with a synthesised whirr.

Yes, the sound on take off and low speeds is manufactured and comes out from a speaker. This is for safety purposes, in case pedestrians can’t hear an EV coming. Apparently, the sound has been agreed upon by all carmakers, sort of like an “official EV noise” if there’s such a thing. Sounds very natural, and I wouldn’t have noticed if they didn’t say, honestly.

Keep your foot on the gas and the ample torque (180 Nm from rest) gets you to highway speeds in a blink. It’s like a powerful regular car, just without the engine/exhaust note we’re accustomed to. The rate of acceleration tapers off once you’re cruising along, but one’s not meant to race around in this anyway. Instead, keeping an eye on the Charge/Eco/Power bar becomes second nature. Lower is better, battery lasts longer.

Everything else feels regular, except that tyre roar becomes so much more apparent when it’s the only noise you hear. The steering felt a little heavy for me, although there’s no big issue with the regenerative brakes (some early hybrids with these brakes had odd pedal feel).

The i-MiEV is a great runabout, and I can see myself driving it everyday without compromise. Measured by the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) the car is capable of 150 km on a full charge. Even if we take 100 km as a realistic figure, many daily routines will be covered, and charging can be done overnight (eight hours at 230 volts). Can’t be that cumbersome, since some people charge their smartphones more often than that!

The only thing stopping MMM is cost. EVs and their batteries are currently expensive to make, and it will be uncompetitive without government incentives in the form of rebates and subsidies. If you’re wondering how long the batteries in the i-MiEV will last – Mitsubishi estimates about 70% capacity by the end of 10 years.

o give you an idea, the Japanese government gives a subsidy of 50% of the difference in price between EV and regular model. For instance, if a 660cc Mitsubishi i is RM100k and the i-MiEV’s natural price is RM200k, the subsidy will be worth RM50k. Currently, the G model i-MiEV is priced at JPY 3.8 million (RM145,017), but after subsidy, the price becomes JPY 2.84 million, or RM108,381. In the US, the i-MiEV is priced around $29k after rebate.

Norway is a great example of how popular an EV can be with support. Tax and VAT exempt, the i-MiEV also pays zero toll and can use bus lanes, making it the best selling A-segment vehicle in the country. Is the future electric? It’s all about the money, at the end of the day.

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Shedding some light on eco-friendly bulbs

Jake Wallis Simons untangles the mystery of the modern light bulb

The simple act of buying a light bulb has become unimaginably stressful. Before European regulations were introduced, the only challenge was remembering whether the fittings were bayonet or screw-in. These days, however, we are faced with a bewildering array of white curly things that take ages to warm up and give our homes all the cosiness of a morgue. Just deciphering the terminology – Energy Saving, Energy Efficient, Warm White, White – is almost impossible, as it has not yet been standardised across brands.

According to Lucy Martin, design director at the specialist lighting company John Cullen, there are many good, eco-friendly bulbs that people are simply unaware of. The key, she says, is learning what options are available and how to use them.

But first a word about the traditional, incandescent light bulb. Wasn’t it a thing of beauty? The light was golden and welcoming at 100 watts, and bronzed and intimate in the dimmer ranges. However, 90 per cent of its energy was wasted through heat leakage. So the main challenge facing modern manufacturers is to match the light quality of the incandescent bulb by using greener technologies.

Which is where those curly fluorescent things come in. These bulbs, which last much longer and provide better value for money, can generate the same amount of light as the old bulbs while using at least 45 per cent less energy. The problem is the quality of that light: deathly white at the brighter end of the spectrum, ashen grey at the dimmer end. And there are more sinister implications, too. Fluorescent bulbs contain traces of toxic mercury, so unless they are recycled by a specialist, this is released into the ground and eventually into the water supply. According to Lucy, they should only be used in utility rooms.

Luckily, there are better options. The first – and nicest – is an Energy Saving (as opposed to Energy Efficient), infrared-coated halogen bulb. It looks almost identical to the old incandescent bulb, responds well to a dimmer, and emits almost as good quality of light. The technical difference is on the inside. Rather than a coil of filament, it has a small, transparent lozenge.

“The invisible coating of infrared helps to retain the heat,” says Lucy. “It is also filled with Xenon, an inert gas, which makes it more efficient.” This allows energy savings of around 30 per cent. The best, in her opinion, is made by Osram and is known as the ES Classic A (Classic B is the candle version, and Classic P is the shape of a golf ball). These can be recycled normally, and are available on the high street at around £1.80 (

The final alternative is LED. It is extraordinarily efficient, with a single watt of power producing a very bright light. And as the luminescence is emitted by tiny chips rather than bulbs, they can be inserted almost anywhere (see example above). John Cullen has just launched a new LED spotlight called Polestar 4, which offers 90 per cent of the light quality of a regular spotlight while using a fraction of the energy.

Usefully, LEDs now also come in the form of bulbs. Well, sort of. The Phillips MyAmbiance LED Bulb, which is currently only available in a 12 watt version (but emits 60 watts worth of light), looks more like a racing car gearstick than a light bulb. But it gives a nice, warm glow, so long as you don’t use a dimmer. It may cost £54.99 but it will last a lifetime, is extremely energy efficient, and is easy on the electricity bill (

Finally, a secret. Current building regulations state that 25 per cent of your home lighting can still be energy inefficient. So, according to Lucy Martin, when you want the very best light – to draw attention to fine artworks, for instance – a little bit of “naughty lighting” wouldn’t do anyone any harm.

John Cullen Lighting runs masterclasses on energy efficient lighting at their Chelsea showroom (

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The cutting edge of eco-friendly style

OLD curtains, sheets and junk clothing have been transformed into cutting-edge fashion by school and college students.

The aim of the event, which included Longcroft School, Bishop Burton and East Riding College, was to highlight the mountain of clothing sent from the county to landfill.

GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK: From left, Charlotte Smith,15, Linzi Hirst, 14, Susan Ktchen,15, back, and Hannah Hurt, 15, of Beverley Longcroft School, with some of their creations that won them accolades at East Riding Council’s Recycling Fashion Awards. Picture: Simon Kench

Organised by East Riding Council, it culminated in an awards ceremony, held at Bridlington Spa where the students got to show how unwanted items can be creatively recycled.

East Riding College student Liz Shipley, of Brandesburton, was the winner in the 16-plus category after crafting a wedding dress made from a pair of curtains.

The mature student, who is studying a BTEC in fashion and clothing, said: “I was thrilled to win. I designed a spring equinox bridal gown.

“It took quite a while to make, but I was pleased with the finished product.

“I think it’s a great idea to show what can be done with clothes which would otherwise be thrown away.”

Longcroft became the first school to take part in the annual competition.

Pupils in the 14 to 15 years category had to make an outfit from a discarded pair of jeans and T-shirts.

The winner was Hannah Hirst.

Her teacher Elaine Cherington, said: “In the current financial climate, it is a great idea to try to divert clothes away from landfill.

“All the students enjoyed taking part and they used clothes that otherwise would have been thrown away.

“I was impressed with what they made.”

A mountain of clothing, weighing up to 4,000 tonnes, equivalent in weight to more than 3,500 Mini Coopers or nearly four million pairs of jeans, is thrown away across the East Riding every year. Much of this clothing could have been repaired or refashioned.

Councillor Stephen Parnaby, leader of East Riding Council, who presented the awards said: “They have shown that not only are they into their fashion, but are conscious of the need to reduce the amount of clothing sent to landfill every year from the East Riding.”

The winning entries will be on display in the entrance to the Treasure House, Beverley until Thursday.

Eco-friendly holiday decorating

Wonder why our dedication to eco-friendly products wanes during the holidays? You don’t have to look far to see artificial wreaths, mass-produced plastic bows, inflatable lawn decorations and energy-sapping lights, all of which demonstrate eco-indifference.

Perhaps it’s time to apply the three R’s of sustainability — reduce, reuse, recycle — in our holiday decorating.

“Use what you have, and if you don’t have enough, then branch out,” suggested David Pippin, adjunct professor of horticulture at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. “Bring out old decorations and make new combinations. Mix it up.”

During a Christmas Decor for the Home class held in partnership with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Pippin inspired workshop participants to visit their attics as well as thrift stores and consignment shops before starting their holiday decorating.

“Whether it’s your old stuff or someone else’s, use it,” he said. Pippin turns sentimental into environmental as he regularly recycles old wreaths, leftover ribbons, antique ornaments and the like in his own personal decorating. Even for floral arrangements, Pippin encourages use of nontraditional holders that are on hand, such as a casserole dish, loaf pan or ordinary kitchen container.

“It just needs to be watertight if you’re using fresh greenery. And if it’s not the right color, spray (paint) it.”

Eco-savvy decorators also know to turn to nature for do-it-yourself holiday crafting. Pippin demonstrated how fresh-cut greenery, flowers and berry sprigs can be enhanced by juxtaposing nature’s “found” treasures, such as seed pods, pine cones, moss, wispy sticks and small, lichen-covered branches. Preserved botanicals, which are another eco-smart decorating option, are especially meaningful if harvested and dried from your spring or summer garden.

“After the holidays, recycle the greenery and flowers to the compost pile,” Pippin said. “Just don’t forget to save the rest for next year.”

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Christmas and New Year is around the corner, this is another good chance to be creative in decoration. Save the money and go for eco-friendly decoration.

Coca-Cola Pushes New Eco-friendly Labeling In China

Coca-Cola (China) has announced that the company has replaced the PVC labels used on its full-line of products in China with the new environmental ones to reduce the pollution risks caused by improper handling in the recycling procedures.

Chinese local media reported that starting from 2007, Coca-Cola launched a campaign involving many departments to develop new environmental materials to replace the PVC labels. From 2010 to 2011, Coca-Cola established a non-PVC films supply chain in China.

Bai Changbo, vice president for public affairs and communication of Coca-Cola Greater China, told local media that replacing PVC with non-PVC ones is a specific move for Coca-Cola’s realization of the sustainable packaging strategy on the sustainable development platform.

Coca-Cola is the first international beverage enterprise which removed the PVC labels from its full-line of products in China, said Zhao Yali, chairman of the China Beverage Industry Association. They hope more enterprises will pay attention to packaging innovation and environmental protection, and work together to promote the sustainable development of the entire industry.

PVC, which is the abbreviation for polyvinyl chloride, contains elements that can reportedly increase the risk of cancer. Incineration of PVC waste will also produce cancer-causing dioxin and pollute the atmosphere.

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Eco Chic

Left to right: Eco-chic designs from Helen Lee, Niki Qin and Camilla Wellton. Gao Erqiang / China Daily

China and Sweden come together for a new approach to sustainable style, Mary Katherine Smith finds out in Shanghai.

Trying to be fashion-forward while at the same time eco-friendly doesn’t mean wearing a burlap sack and 10-year-old T-shirts, at least not for the designers behind the Swedish Institute’s “Eco Chic – Towards Sino-Swedish Sustainable Swedish Fashion” exhibition, currently in Shanghai. Whether it is shoes that are made by hand and use naturally tanned leather, a coat made from recycled polyester or wool products that are locally and organically sourced, each of the Swedish designers featured in the exhibition demonstrate how even fashionistas can be green. The 20 Swedish outfits shown at the exhibition not only push the envelope in their designs and concepts but also show how those in fashion can be more environmentally and ecologically friendly in the way they make their products.

Kajsa Guterstam, the project manager from the Swedish Institute for the exhibition, says the theme is meant to inspire people to be more sustainable one step at a time.

“No one can guarantee to be entirely eco-friendly. It’s really difficult and they might end up not doing it,” she says.

That gives designers the encouragement to make small or significant changes to their production. “It’s a humble way and the only way to move toward a more sustainable way of living.”

While eco-friendly fashions may not be on the radar for most in the industry, Guterstam says it’s an important market. Environmental issues are something we all have to deal with, she says, “so we ask ourselves: ‘How can I contribute to make my living more sustainable?’ Clothes are something that applies to everyone”.

The Swedish labels included in the exhibition were picked based on how ecological the products are, whether they use organic or locally sourced materials, methods of production and whether they reduce the supply chain. Many are leading designers in the Scandinavian country; some have collaborated on special lines for international chains like H&M.

For a few of the featured artists, it is more than just making a fashion statement. “The way you dress yourself expresses how you feel,” says Camilla Wellton, whose fashions are featured in the exhibition. “In turn it shows how (you) treat the environment.”

“Beauty is not about being outwardly beautiful,” says Emy Blixt, founder and creative designer of Swedish Hasbeens, which sells handmade and eco-friendly clogs, shoes and other accessories. “Making goods that don’t harm the environment is also beautiful,” she adds.

The exhibition, started in 2008, has already traveled to eight other cities around the world, but its stop in Shanghai is unique. Along with the 14 Swedish designers that make up the exhibition, seven established Chinese designers and two Chinese students from Raffles Design Institute of Donghua University are included in the show.

The Shanghai installment of the exhibition offers a mix of more practical and ready-to-wear items that are iconic, while the Chinese designs showcase how clothes can be fashionable and organic.

While finding organic materials is difficult in China, designers like Shanghai-native Helen Lee are making it their mission. She’s made changes in how and where she sources some of the products and reuses leftover material for other garments or accessories.

She says one way to start is by educating her customers about the value of sustainability. Like Blixt from Swedish Hasbeens, Lee thinks that fashion and beauty go beyond the surface level. “Fashion is about beauty,” she says, “and more importantly, inner beauty.”

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Firecrackers go green this Diwali

Diwali promises to be truly a festival of lights this year with an increasing number of environmentally-conscious people in the metros, especially in the national capital, opting for eco-friendly and smokeless firecrackers.

Made of recycled paper, eco-friendly crackers do not contain as much chemicals as conventional firecrackers, and thus emit less smoke and noise. “Unlike the normal cracker making method, the eco-friendly crackers are based on vacuum combustion method. These crackers produce colourful sparks with a considerable sound and less smoke,” A. Muthu, a fireworks dealer in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, told IANS.

“All the major metros demand eco-friendly crackers, while people in villages and small towns still prefer high-decibel crackers,” Muthu said.  According to a recent survey by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Sivakasi, home to over 9,500 firecracker factories, produces almost the entire fireworks output of India.

It has increased production of smokeless firecrackers due to rising demand. “With demand increasing for environment-friendly crackers, we are producing more of them by adding less of chemicals like sulphur and potassium nitrate,” another dealer S. Anbumani said.

He said Delhi and Kolkata lead in the purchase of these varieties.  “There is definitely a shift in choice among the customers. Earlier, they used to prefer high-decibel crackers. Now, over 55 percent go for eco-crackers, which do not cause much noise pollution,” said Piyush Sharma, a shopkeeper in Sadar Bazar in Delhi.

Costing from Rs.15 to Rs.3,500, these crackers are also less expensive than the traditional ones. “The ‘magic whip’, a long red-coloured string which doesn’t emit smoke, whistling sparkler and crackling bullet — a rocket which produces a colourful explosion, are good option for kids,” another shopkeeper Shavi Aggarwal said.

And for people who want to have a blast on Diwali, these varities are great for having fun without feeling guilty about harming the environment. “Diwali is known for fireworks, it is not complete without bursting crackers. So the best way is to opt for eco-friendly crackers and save the environment without dampening the festive mood,” said Akhilesh Gupta, a businessman.

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Firecrackers is going green too? That’s a great news to everyone who celebrate in this festive season. Anyway, be sure to play safe with the fire. Have a fun Deepavali day ahead.

Birmingham’s eco village attracts international interest

Birmingham’s first eco village has been hailed a success and has attracted international interest from countries looking to mirror the scheme. Summerfield, in Ladywood, became an eco-village in 2006, with £2.3 million invested in the area to help make homes more energy efficient and teach residents how to use less energy. The project saw six large Victorian properties transformed into eco homes, with another 329 homes fitted with solar panels, super insulation, energy-efficient heating and lighting.

The project, by affordable housing association Family Housing, Summerfield Residents Association, Birmingham City Council, Urban Living and Be Birmingham was designed to reduce fuel poverty for people on low incomes. The area has now been visited by American councillor Rex Burkholder who wanted to find out why it has flourished, as part of research into climate change policies that have worked across Europe.

Since the area received its green makeover it is estimated fuel bills are being reduced by at least £150 per year per household and the eco-technology produces on average 60 per cent of the hot water used by each household per year. Residents’ attitudes to green issues have been transformed with an amazing 75% saying they’ve changed how they think about energy.

Residents’ behavior has been positively influenced by the scheme with many changing their lifestyle habits in order to be eco-friendly and to take full advantage of the energy-savings on offer. For example, many people reported they had begun taking their showers in the evening, rather than the morning, when the water heated by the sun throughout the day was still hot.

Further added-value spin offs included training placements for local unemployed residents resulting in valuable work experience as well as one resident gaining full-time employment and creating a genuinely sustainable community.

Selena Ellis, project co-ordinator at Family Housing, said: “It was a good surprise to find out that our work had been highlighted as an example of international good practice. We worked closely with Birmingham City Council and our other partners to transform this estate to reduce fuel poverty and we’ve since rolled out a similar project in Lozells.”

Mr Burkholder’s research was on behalf of the German Marshall Fund, a US policy group dedicated to increasing co-operation between North America and Europe.

He described the Victorian homes as “beautiful” but said: “I understand the challenges this poses to make homes more environmentally efficient. For me the success is that Family Housing was able to talk with residents to discuss how to make their lives more sustainable and this was turned into action.”

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Brilliant idea! Without help from the resident, eco village will never be successful. Both parties have done a great job. Let’s hope this project will be long last and influence others too.

5 Amazing Eco-Friendly Office Buildings of the Future

NASA’s Sustainability Base

The name itself says it: NASA wants this building to be the greenest in history, a piece of architecture that not only refuses to hurt the environment, but actually benefits it.

The $20-million project, located at the Silcon Valley’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Federal Airfield will generate most of its needed power through the use of solar panels. For approximately 325 days out of the year, the building — which was built using mostly recycled materials — will need no artificial lighting. Most interestingly, the building will be able to adapt to changes in sunlight, temperature and usage over time and automatically optimize its performance.

Oregon Sustainability Center

The city of Portland has an ambitious goal: to be the home of the world’s greenest office building. The $62 million project aims to be the first mixed-use office building in the U.S. to meet the Living Building Challenge standards, which includes net-zero levels of electricity and water usage.

To do that, the building will be blanketed with photovoltaic cells for collecting energy. It’ll have an underground tank that collects water and a geothermal well system that heats the building during winter and cools it during summer. Finally, the building will be toxin-free, built with locally sourced materials.


This pyramid-like structure, due to be finalized in 2015, will be a unique sight in Manhattan. Designed to marry a perimeter block and a skyscraper, at 467 feet it won’t tower above the New York City skyline, but it will be one of the greenest buildings around, anticipated for LEED Gold certification.

Bjarke Ingels Group strives to make this building a pleasant and desirable to live, so it gave every residential unit in the building a balcony (or a bay window) opened to natural light. Furthermore, the building’s courtyard will provide the inhabitants with a large green area, an uncommon feature among New York skyscrapers.

Apple’s Spaceship Campus

In August 2011, Steve Jobs proposed to the Cupertino City Council a new campus building for Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, which attracted a great deal of attention since it just might become one of the most technologically advanced office buildings in the world.

Among other bold plans, the building’s power will be self-sufficient. The huge building ring (larger than the Pentagon) will be 1,615 feet in diameter, with a huge amount of greenery in its middle. Apple plans to plant 2,300 trees, with greenery covering approximately 80% of the 150-acre site.


The winner of eVolo’s 2011 Skyscraper Competition, LO2P is a groundbreaking concept: a skyscraper which cleanses a city — in this case, New Delhi.

Acting as a giant lung for one of the world’s most polluted cities, the enormous turbine-like structure would be built out of recycled cars, and purify the air using large-scale greenhouses as filters. In addition, LO2P would use rotating filters to capture suspended particles from the air, then recycle waste heat and CO2 to grow plants.

Sustainable design. Experts have been telling us for decades that we should be building with these two words in mind, but which projects are really pushing the envelope, and which are merely adhering to the current standards?

We’ve done some digging and found wonderful architectural designs that are either planned or in development. The projects are not only beautiful — they’re also easy on the environment.

Be it by reducing the carbon footprint, saving water, or harnessing renewable energy sources such as sun and wind, these projects stand out as examples of the direction we should take if we want to make the world a more pleasant and healthy place to coexist.

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Awesome!! These ideas are brilliant! We hope there will be an eco-friendly residential area in the future too, don’t we?

Singapore’s Supermarts Go Green With Eco-Features and Products

Cold Storage has launched its first green supermarket in Jalan Jelita, with eco-friendly features such as energy-saving lighting and chillers. The chain of 42 supermarkets also stopped selling shark’s fin and other shark products from last Friday. (Straits Times Photo/Desmond Lui)

Shoppers passionate about the green movement now have an ally in the supermarkets.

The major ones in Singapore have been doing more to promote environment-friendly consumption by expanding their range of eco-products and introducing green features and practices in their outlets.

Retailers say it is because the green movement has gained momentum in Singapore and shoppers are now more eco-conscious.

Since last Friday, for instance, the Cold Storage chain of 42 supermarkets has stopped selling shark’s fin and other shark products so they are no longer party to endangering the survival of the fish.

The move was taken under the chain’s partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore to promote the consumption of seafood that is caught or farmed responsibly, so it is not eaten to extinction.

Cold Storage outlets now offer more than 10 sustainable seafood items, including red snapper from New Zealand and mussels from Australia. These items are identified by stickers marked “Friend of the Sea”, an international non-governmental group which certifies sustainable seafood sources.

Cold Storage has also launched its first green supermarket in Jalan Jelita – it has eco-friendly features such as energy-saving lighting and chillers.

This is Singapore’s second such supermarket, the pioneer being the FairPrice outlet in the eco-themed City Square Mall in Kitchener Road in 2009.

That FairPrice outlet, which has energy-saving lights and refrigeration systems, has expanded its range of environment-friendly products to more than 400 items.

This year, hypermarket Carrefour jumped on the green bandwagon by introducing dedicated checkout lanes for shoppers who bring their own shopping bags.

Cold Storage supermarket chief executive Victor Chia said it is timely for the chain to intensify its green efforts because it has the support of shoppers.

He said: “The awareness of sustain-ability and green issues is up on their antennae.”

He noted that since Cold Storage began selling eco-friendly products about five years ago, its range has grown from 10 products to more than 100 today, with their sales posting double-digit growth year on year.

WWF Singapore managing director Amy Ho said Cold Storage’s commitment to promoting sustainable seafood “makes it easier for consumers in Singapore to play a bigger role in safeguarding the future of our fish stocks”.

Singapore Environment Council executive director Jose Raymond said the various green initiatives by supermarket chains “go a long way in raising the awareness of sustainable living”.

Shopper Jennifer Ow Yeong, a 61-year-old nurse, welcomed the range of sustainable seafood at Cold Storage.

She said: “It is a good thing that shoppers can choose to support the environment by what they buy. I think for that, it is worth paying a little more for sustainable seafood.”

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Supermarkets start to support eco-friendly campaign by reducing the use of the plastic bag and now, they take further action.  This is really encouraging other supermarkets as well. Hope all the supermarkets around the world would start to take the actions too.

Interesting Eco Hotel Products

As we become increasingly aware of the fragile ecosystem and the effect that we have on it, hotels are introducing new ways to conserve and protect the Earth. The following are a few highlights of some of the more interesting products that are new for the industry.

Sustainable Cards: Wooden key cards have been used in Europe for a few years, but are just starting to gain wide popularity. The Democratic National Convention in Denver this coming month will feature exclusively these sustainable cards for hotels. While it does not seem like such a small item would make a big difference, switching from plastic cards to biodegradable wood can reduce plastic waste equal to the volume of seven 777 airplanes in one year.

Pre-Fabricated/Modular Design: Prefab buildings and modular units are being integrated into hotel projects more and more every day. Prefab housing is not new – in fact, simply having components that are manufactured in off-site industrial facilities constitutes the basic definition of prefab, and has been a part of home construction for decades. However, in recent years, a new movement has sprung up which ties prefab almost inextricably to modernist aesthetics, and also increasingly purports to have an inherent upper hand where sustainability is concerned. Advantages of these projects can include eco-friendly LED lighting, sustainable and recycled wood, solar power, and eco-conscious water filtration systems, among other features. The following image is the Q-bic Hotel system which features technology from Philips, Hästens, and Philippe Starck.

Sustainable Mini-Bars: Fair Trade products and Organic food products have also managed to find their way into hotels´mini bars. Products like 360 Vodka hope to establish new sustainable product development and packaging standards in the distilling industry and hotels are eager to promote these aspects of their vendors.

If there are any additional products you have come across that are particularly interesting with an eco-friendly perspective, please comment!

360 Vodka: Eco-Luxury Vodka

Weston, MO’s McCormick Distilling is now offering Vodka 360, their entry into the burgeoning eco-friendly luxury spirits market. McCormick says that Vodka 360 is the “world’s first Eco-Luxury vodka.” What makes this vodka so green?

The answer: everything. From 360’s energy-efficient distillation process that saves 200% more energy than tradition distillation systems, to their recycled packaging, to their reusable bottle stoppers (send them back in the postage-paid envelopes and they’ll make a $1 donation to an environmental organization), 360 Vodka demonstrates the incredible amount of thought the distillery put into crafting this eco-luxury item.

More than being just a green product, 360 Vodka represents the company’s green philosophy. Vic Morrison, Vice President of Marketing at McCormick, told me a bit about the amount of thought the company puts into the vodka. For instance, asked about their decision not to use organic grains, he explained how they weighed the option of trucking in organic grain long-distance at unpredictable prices against the option of using locally-grown grains. “By using locally-grown grains we’re able to use less fossil fuel and minimize the carbon emissions in transport,” Morrow said. “This is, without a doubt, much better for the environment.”

When asked what new green initiatives were up the company’s sleeve, Morrow replied, “We are working hard to improve on 360 Vodka’s sustainable packaging and put an environmental stamp on the rest of our products. We’re constantly looking for better resins, recyclable glasses, biodegradable labels, and recycled stock to use in our products.”

So, when you’re drinking 360 Vodka, you’re not just drinking a trendy, luxury product that’s helpful for the environment; you’re aiding a trend-setting company’s philosophy of providing luxury goods while bringing balance to nature. So drink up!

You can find 360 Vodka at select distributors, or online starting at $30 for a 750 ML bottle. Check their website at for more details.

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This idea is really cool. Besides enjoy the drink, you could also go green by using the eco-friendly packaging. I hope the eco-friendly packaging is not only for vodka, but also for other products as well.

Vancouver targets eco-crown as planet’s ‘greenest’ city

If you look at Vancouver from the Strait of Georgia it is hard to believe you are sailing into the greenest city in Canada.

From the upper deck of a B.C. Ferry on a sunny, cloudless day, you will see a ghastly blue haze drifting away from the city’s glistening towers, toward the Fraser Valley.

One of Vancouver’s biggest exports is smog, which has long been a sore point for people in neighbouring Abbotsford and Chilliwack. Those much smaller towns are surrounded by farmland and by rights should have cleaner air than the big city.

Vancouver the greenest city in Canada, index shows

But Vancouver – which has its heart set on becoming the “greenest city in the world” by 2020 – has better air quality, because that’s the way the wind blows.
It’s not clear how much that helped in a recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which rated Vancouver as the second greenest city in North America, and the greenest in Canada. But the city did get high ratings for its low CO2 emissions and high air quality.

Fancy that.

Of the 27 cities examined, only San Francisco rated better overall. The nearest Canadian challenger was Toronto, which came 9th on the index.

The EIU study, which was sponsored by Siemens, has drawn some criticism because the other Canadian cities (Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal) all sprawl over much larger areas. The City of Vancouver is relatively small, with a population of 580,000 in an administrative area of just 114 square kilometres. By contrast, Toronto has 2.5-million people within its 641 square km and Calgary has a population of 1,090,000 in 725 square km.

It might not seem fair to compare little Vancouver, with its onshore breezes, to bigger cities with more stagnant air columns. But the study addresses that concern by noting “a combination of metropolitan and city-level data” are used in the index for all cities.

Any time anyone compiles a “best of” list there will always be critics of the methodology. It is clear by looking at the U.S. and Canada Green City Index, however, that the EIU has strived for accuracy and fairness. And until something else comes along, it must be regarded as the gold standard for measuring the “green-ness” of cities.

So, air pollution or not, Vancouver can rightly claim boasting rights to being the greenest city in Canada.

But don’t expect Vancouver to be satisfied with that.

City council recently adopted an ambitious action plan that aims to make Vancouver the world’s greenest city.

A report that went to council in July noted that development of the plan involved “thousands of hours of volunteer time . . . and input from more than 35,000 people.”

So it is a plan that has already engaged the public and focused city hall staff, which are two of the biggest obstacles in getting any such project launched.

The first goal of the plan is to double the number of green jobs in the city and to “secure Vancouver’s international reputation as a mecca of green enterprise.”

Goal number two – and this should come as good news to neighbours up the valley – is to reduce community-based greenhouse-gas emissions by 33 per cent. Other initiatives aim to reduce solid waste going to landfill or incinerator by 50 per cent, to increase the number of parks, to plant 15,000 new trees and to reduce Vancouver’s per capita ecological footprint by 33 per cent.

One of the other goals is to “breathe the cleanest air of any major city in the world,” but that – thanks to onshore breezes – may actually have already been accomplished.

In the U.S. and Canada Green City Index, Vancouver, with 81.3 points came very close behind San Francisco, which had 83.8 points. The two cities were virtually tied in several categories, but San Francisco took the lead because of better waste management.

If Vancouver implements its green action plan, its waste management score should shoot up, other categories will improve and it could soon be named the greenest city in North America. From there, “greenest in the world” does not seem impossible by 2020. But for now, looking at that blue haze, it is hard to believe.

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What a great ambition Vancouver has its sight on. So how do we actually calculate or measure a city’s “green-ness”? It would be a discussion that will take hours one can assume. Personally, the bottom line is to make one’s city as eco-friendly as possible, with the thought of and “Eco-Crown” as a side dish. We are all here to preserve mother nature. Shall it be a race to save mother earth, so be it. But is certainly great to see everybody doing their bit. May it be a big deed or a little one, every one of you counts. Kudos to Canada!

Light to the Poor, One Liter at a Time

In the slums of Manila, an innovative project is shedding light on the city’s dim and dreary shanties. Plastic bottles jut from the roofs, bringing light to the dark dwellings below. The technology is as simple as it could be. Each bottle contains water and bleach. When placed snugly into a purpose-built hole in the roof, the home-made bulb refracts and spreads sunlight, illuminating the room beneath.

Eco-entrepreneur Illac Diaz is behind the project.

[Illac Diaz, A Liter of Light Project]:

“What happens is, the light goes through the bottle, basically a window on the roof, and then goes inside the water. Unlike a hole which the light will travel in a straight line, the water will refract it to go vertical, horizontal, 360 degrees of 55 watts to 60 watts of clear light, almost 10 months of the year.”

The initiative, known as “A liter of light”, aims to bring sustainable energy practices to poor communities, an idea originally developed by students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Working with low-income communities, local governments and private partners, the project has installed more than 10,000 bottle lights across Manila and the nearby province of Laguna.

For residents, it means less money spent on electricity to power lights during the daytime, and more money on food.

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All revved up: Futuristic electric cars make debut on track in eco-marathon

Petrolheads flocking to the British Grand Prix this weekend can get all revved up at this stunning line of new electric cars ahead of their trip to Silverstone.

More than 1,000 engineering students and tutors across Asia showcased futuristic motors at the Shell-Eco Marathon in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The Asian leg of the annual contest, launched by the oil giant to inspire innovation in transport, pitted some of the brightest minds on the continent against each other on and off the track.

Knight Rider: This space-aged design by a team from Singapore's Ngee Ann Polytechnic caught the eye at Shell's Eco-Marathon
Knight Rider: This space-aged design by a team from Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic caught the eye at Shell’s Eco-Marathon

Hypnotising design: Team Innogen KMITL V.1 from Thailand drew an audience as they sped around the track

Hypnotising design: Team Innogen KMITL V.1 from Thailand drew an audience as they sped around the track

Teams were tasked to build and drive a vehicle that can travel the furthest distance on the least amount of fuel and lowest possible emissions.

Budding engineers, from universities across Asia, entered vehicles into two categories – either prototype or urban concept – at Kuala Lumpur’s Sepang International Circuit.

Fast as lightning: Malaysia's Mekamethan Govendarajoo squeezes into his helmet-like car Engineers from from Dhurakij Pundit University in Thailand inspect their bubble-shaped design
 Fast as lightning: Malaysia’s Mekamethan Govendarajoo squeezes into his helmet-like car, whilst right, engineers from from Dhurakij Pundit University in Thailand inspect their bubble-shaped design

They then sped around the track in either the electric class, using hydrogen fuel cells, solar and plug in battery power sources, or the internal combustion class, for gasoline and diesel.

Drivers were forced to attain an average speed of at least 15mph over a distance of 10 miles.

On-track: Eco-racers from across Asia lined up before their green marathon

On-track: Eco-racers from across Asia lined up before their green marathon

The teams pulled out all the stops with their futuristic designs and colourful paint work including flames, lightning bolts, paint blobs and squiggles.

One car looked like a cross between a spaceship and David Hasselhoff’s heavily modified Pontiac Trans Am from Knight Rider.

It's a belter: The Ayuthaya Technical Commercial College in Thailand showcased their conveyer belt-like design

It’s a belter: The Ayuthaya Technical Commercial College in Thailand showcased their conveyer belt-like design

The design by Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic was a dead ringer for the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) – with its black body paint, tinted windows and sharp angles.

Another car, by a team from Thailand’s Ayuthaya Technical College, appeared to have a conveyer belt on top.

Painting the track: Team NUS Urban Concept from Singapore during day three of the competition
Painting the track: Team NUS Urban Concept from Singapore during day three of the competition
Green machine: Donmuang Technical College's three-wheeled eco-car
Green machine: Donmuang Technical College’s three-wheeled eco-car
Jump for joy: Team Luk Jao Mae Khlong Prapa from Thailand's Dhurakij Pundit University celebrate after their victory
Jump for joy: Team Luk Jao Mae Khlong Prapa from Thailand’s Dhurakij Pundit University celebrate after their victory
Lampang Rajaphat Universtiy from Thailand parade their space-age car
Lampang Rajaphat Universtiy from Thailand parade their space-age car
Yellow submarine: This wacky design from Kong Thabbok Upatham Changkal Kho So Tho Bo School in Thailand looked like it belonged underwater
Yellow submarine: This wacky design from Kong Thabbok Upatham Changkal Kho So Tho Bo School in Thailand looked like it belonged underwater
This driver from Malaysia pushes his vintage creation to the maximum Kuala Lumpur's Sepang International Circuit
This driver from Malaysia pushes his vintage creation to the maximum Kuala Lumpur’s Sepang International Circuit
Behind the wheel: A racer from Pakistan shows off his sleek motor during the Shell Eco-marathon
Behind the wheel: A racer from Pakistan shows off his sleek motor during the Shell Eco-marathon
Green power: A driver from the Polytechnic State of Pontianak in Indonesia just fits inside his team's innovative design

Green power: A driver from the Polytechnic State of Pontianak in Indonesia just fits inside his team’s innovative design

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Research sheds light on the eco-friendly wallaby

Scientists have identified a bacterium in the gut of Australian Tammar wallabies that minimizes their output of methane, a greenhouse gas. The next step is figuring out how to reduce the vast amount of methane produced by cows, whose diet is similar to the wallaby’s.

Wallabies eat essentially the… (Justin Best, Associated Press / The Herald)

Scientists have isolated a bacterium from the gut of Australian Tammar wallabies that allows them to consume and digest grasses, leaves and other plant material without producing copious amounts of methane, as cattle do.

The microbe was discovered through a process described in a study published online Thursday by the journal Science. Ultimately, it might be put to use to reduce the carbon footprint of cows and other ruminants, said study coauthor Mark Morrison, a microbial biologist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Queensland.

“Now that we have that picture [in wallabies], we should be able to look at livestock and find ways to try and replicate it,” Morrison said.

The methane-rich burps and flatulence of livestock have been blamed for 28% of that greenhouse gas’ global emissions due to human activity. Like other cud-chewing mammals, they produce methane as their systems work to break down and ferment the plant matter they eat.

Wallabies, close relatives of the kangaroo, eat largely the same diet as ruminants and also host microbes that help to partly digest their food. But they produce just a fifth as much methane as ruminants do.

Previous efforts to catalog the constituents of the wallaby gut’s microbial soup revealed that wallabies were full of a then-unidentified bacterium that was perhaps responsible for the difference.

To study this key microbe, the researchers would have to get it to grow on its own. So Morrison and colleagues took samples from wallaby guts and genetically analyzed the whole community. They figured out that their target bacteria — which they dubbed WG-1 — was related to the family of soil bacteria called succinivibrionaceae. They looked at genes they knew must be associated with WG-1 and tailored the growth medium to those genetic specifications.

Certain genes they found told them the critters preferred to eat starch over other sugars. Other genes showed that they obtained their nitrogen by consuming urea, rather than in complex amino acids. They also found a gene that indicated the bacteria were resistant to the antibiotic bacitracin, which they then used to kill off other interfering microbes. The target bacteria thrived.

As suspected, the microbes produced a chemical compound called succinate instead of methane. Unlike methane, which cannot be put to further use by the body and must be expelled, succinate can be broken down into propionate by other gut microbes, which can then be used by the host animal.

Thus, having more succinate-producing bacteria allows wallabies to get more nutrients out of their food in addition to being eco-friendly, Morrison said.

This line of research will help scientists understand how some bacteria help animals break down food and extract nutrients — and may even give them clues on how to manipulate that process in the future, Morrison said.

But the work won’t produce low-methane cattle anytime soon, said Robert Forster, a microbial ecologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Alberta, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Though ruminants do have relatives of WG-1 in their systems, they don’t seem to flourish, let alone dominate — and that might be because they’re not as well-suited as methane-producing bacteria for the long-term churning that goes on in the cow belly, he said.

The study, he added, “gives us a bit more of an understanding as to why there’s less methane production in wallabies, but it doesn’t give us a way as to how we could use it to lower methane production in ruminants. That’s a big leap.”

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Eco rickshaws to grace Ludhiana roads soon

 Ludhiana: Environment friendly eco rickshaws will soon ply on the roads of Ludhiana. Under the state funded Eco Rickshaw project, a camp was organised in the mini secretariat campus on Saturday to issue quick license of eco rickshaws.

Six applicants got their license made and loan approved while other will get the formalities done on Tuesday. The cost of eco-rickshaw ranges from Rs 9300 to Rs 10,500. Bank loans were also available at the camp. Municipal officials made the license on the spot.

The eco rickshaw weighs 20 kg less than the normal rickshaws. It has low-floor facility for women and elderly, FM radio, water bottle, stand for reading magazine or newspaper and space for luggage and first-aid box, besides a folded sleeping arrangement for traction men.

One rickshaw can save around 3 litre fuel per day.

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Hundreds enjoy eco walk and car boot sales at FRIM

HUNDREDS of visitors took part in the Forest Research Institute Malaysia’s (FRIM) celebrations in conjunction with World Environment Day 2011 recently.The event, themed “Forests: At Your Service”, was held at FRIM Kepong, Kuala Lumpur.The aim of the event was to promote a sense of responsibility among the public to play a more active role in the conservation of the forest and environment.

Observing keenly: Participants of the guided nature walk looking at fishes at the lake in FRIM.

FRIM director-general Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Mohmod urged the public and corporate bodies to support forest conservation efforts in the country.

“The aim of the celebration is to strengthen public awareness on the importance of forests, not only to the economy and environment but also to the collective wellbeing of the people. We would like to take this opportunity to remind people of the various ecological, economic and socio-cultural services provided by forests.

“This includes regulating water, preventing floods, maintaining soil quality through provision of organic materials, reducing erosion and protecting soil from direct impact of rainfall, modulating climate and being home to rich biodiversity, among others.

“FRIM opens its doors to the public to enjoy its forest environment, providing nature education facilities and activities and it also welcomes collaborators with corporate bodies in various programmes including tree planting, recycling and environment education,” he said.

During the event, Latif also launched a collaborative programme between FRIM and HSBC in which HSBC staff will participate in field research activities related to forest and climate change which are being carried out at the FRIM Pasoh Research Station in Negri Sembilan.

“The Pasoh Forest Reserve under the care of this station is the most extensively studied lowland tropical forest in South-East Asia. The first research was initiated in 1964.

In focus: A participant during the Era Art Club colouring contest.

“Since then, FRIM actively promotes research, capacity building and awareness activities related to the field of ecology, including biodiversity conservation and climate change by providing necessary facilities and technical assistance.

“Under the FRIM-HSBC programme, the bank’s staff will be educated on the role of the forest in mitigating climate change so that they may do their bit for the community,” he said.

“We hope the collaboration will give recognition to the local forest research efforts, support environmental awareness in the corporate sector and together fulfil social responsibilities,” he added.

Latif said this after flagging off participants of the Eco Fun Walk during the FRIM World Environment Day celebrations.

Besides the Eco Fun Walk, there were many other activities organised for children, youth and parents to have fun together. There was a nature walk in the forest in FRIM with guidance from FRIM nature guides.

There was also a car boot sale and recycling counter where visitors could buy items or send their newspapers, bottles, aluminium cans for recycling.

For the kids, there was an Erra Art Club colouring contest for children aged between five and 12 as well as a storytelling session at the Perah Camp in FRIM Kepong.

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Environment Day is a wake-up call for world

The United Nations World Environment Day (WED), observed globally on Sunday, is a wake-up call for the world community to take practical measures to protect the global forests.

This year’s theme is Forests: Nature at Your Service, which highlights the crucial environmental and economic roles played by forests.

Each year a different country is chosen as the principal venue for the WED celebration which falls on June 5 and this year the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) selected India as the global host.

India’s Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said: “The message is largely to the international community that India is willing and determined to play and is playing a very important role in defining the terms of environmental debate.

“On this auspicious occasion of celebrating today the World Environment Day, I congratulate the Unep for declaring 2011 as International Year of Forest.”

In fact, for seven billion of us, every aspect of our quality of life is intrinsically linked to the health of forests. And each one of us can play a role in protecting this vital life-support system.

Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, we are destroying the very forests we need for survival. Global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually, equal to the size of Portugal.

But it’s not too late to transform business as usual into a future where forests are at the heart of our sustainable development and green economies.
Zimbabwe held an environmental exposition.

The fact that Zimbabwe held an environment exposition from June 1-3 to mark this year’s WED, tells a lot about a country that is going through political crises of some sort.

Just finding time to look at how Zimbabwe can do it right is a step in the right direction. The diverse composition of the exhibitors told a story of its own.

If Environment minister Francis Nhema can sustain these initiatives, Zimbabwe will definitely play an important role in defining the terms of environmental debate at global level.

This year’s theme underscores the variety of life-sustaining services that forests provide and calls us all to take action to protect these resources and move towards greener economies.

The world recognised the immense importance of forests as a global environmental agenda 40 years ago, but practical measures to protect and develop global forests are not up to the mark.

WED is a wake-up call for the world community to realise our land and water resources are under acute threat of degradation that would badly impact on lives of all creatures.

Climate change is posing a major threat to our economy and existence, and this is largely owed to Green House gases, emissions mainly from the anthropogenic sources.

Environment is what we live in and breathe in, but the bulk of the people would rather read, watch, listen or write about anything but the environment. It is as much of our own creation as it is of nature.

Life became possible on earth because it had an atmosphere conducive to sustain living beings.

But for us it became the proverbial goose which laid just one golden egg each day, enough for its owners to live comfortably.

Greed overpowered common sense and we killed the goose to get all the gold at one go. This has left us gasping for fresh clean air and panting for clear drinking water, let alone other basic necessities of life.

How does it matter to us if our summers are becoming hotter and winters cooler? We systematically pollute and deplete our natural water resources and then cling proudly to our bottled mineral water.

Love for our environment cannot be created merely by introducing environmental education as a compulsory subject in schools. It has to become a way of life to be inculcated from infancy through the influence of family and society.

Only if we could encourage our children to love and appreciate nature as much as the mobile phones, laptop and iPod, help them to realise the importance of trees by making them plant and nurture at least one; teach them to conserve resources by simply turning off the fan, light, tap when not in use; instill in them the dignity of labour by making them do small household chores; develop their taste buds to savour delicious but healthy food and teach them to be sensitive by loving, sharing, and caring for others!

On this WED, I decided against another piece on asbestos despite responses from a wide spectrum of readers among them lobby groups, environmental scientists and the government following an asbestos article last week.

What came out clearly from these interactions was asbestos is a toxic mineral that has been banned in the West but is widely used in developing countries, where it poses serious health threats to millions of people. The World Health Organisation says asbestos kills nearly 100 000 people each year.

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Eco-friendly garbage bins to manage waste

The bins have separate compartments to collect paper, plastic and organic waste

Saving resources

Dulsco has launched a line of garbage bins that have separate compartments to collect different categories of waste. -Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Does your office have a bin for recycling paper, in which you can dispose of unwanted printouts and documents? Conservative estimates put the weekly amount of paper thrown out at up to 50kg per 100 staff members, when it could be recycled.

Prakash Parab, director of Dulsco Waste Management Services, said many companies have reduced their paper usage and are adopting environment-friendly practices at the workplace but the waste generated depends on what practices are in place, and the type of business activity.

“It is very difficult to [state] the exact quantities with respect to the number of people working in an organisation. If an organisation prefers to rely on e-mails for communication and has a practice of printing on both sides of the paper, the waste paper (office paper only) generated is to the tune of 30-50kg per week for an organisation with 100 to 120 staff,” he said.

Reprocessing material

To help paper recycling and general waste segregation in the workplace, Dulsco has launched a line of garbage bins that have separate compartments to collect paper, plastic and organic waste. The contents can then be taken to any recycling centre across the country to help reprocess the material.

It is estimated that paper has approximately seven generations, meaning it can be recycled up to seven times. Each time paper is recycled, the fibre length decreases, which impacts its strength. Most paper recycling plants add some virgin paper with recovered fibre in the production of new paper and paperboard products.

According to, an online recycling directory, the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA) reported that 57.4 per cent of the paper consumed in the US was recovered for recycling in 2008, in part due to recycling efforts taken at home. Every tonne of paper recovered for recycling saves 2.5 cubic metres of landfill space.

Precious resources

“By segregating the waste into recyclable and non-recyclable material, we can prevent precious resources from reaching landfills. Once sorted at the workplace, the recyclable waste can be deposited at any of the recycling centres run by the municipality, shopping malls, supermarkets, bus stations or petrol stations,” said Parab.

Dulsco also collects waste material from companies and organisations. The waste paper is taken to paper recycling mills in the UAE. A part of the collected material is also exported to paper mills in other countries.
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Google, Ann Arbor landlord work together for eco-friendly building

Albert Berriz is the CEO of McKinley Properties. The Ann Arbor-based company is working with Google to transform its McKinley Towne Centre office building in downtown Ann Arbor, where Google has its offices, into a green zone.

Albert Berriz is the CEO of McKinley Properties. The Ann Arbor-based company is working with Google to transform its McKinley Towne Centre office building in downtown Ann Arbor, where Google has its offices, into a green zone. Albert Berriz is the CEO of McKinley Properties. The Ann Arbor-based company is working with Google to transform its McKinley Towne Centre office building in downtown Ann Arbor, where Google has its offices, into a green zone. / REGINA H. BOONE/Detroit Free Press

A greenhouse. Solar panels. Two Zipcar vehicles. And an eco-friendly rooftop deck.

This spring, Google’s Ann Arbor office is going green in a big way.

The search engine giant that wowed southeast Michigan in 2007 with its creative, employee-friendly work environment is aiming to be a leader when it comes to saving Planet Earth.

That means going beyond recycling paper, composting food at its café and switching to fluorescent lights.

At the five-story McKinley Towne Centre where Google operates its main Michigan office, a large array of rooftop solar panels are turning sunlight into clean energy. Work has begun to create an outdoor green space on another portion of the building’s roof. And two vehicles from the car-sharing service Zipcar can be found in the parking lot, making it easier for employees to walk, bike or take the bus to work without having to worry about needing a car later in the day.

Greenhouse veggies coming

Work has begun to create an outdoor green space on another part of the building's roof for Google employees to benefit from. Its Ann Arbor office has 250 to 275 employees.

Work has begun to create an outdoor green space on another part of the building’s roof for Google employees to benefit from. Its Ann Arbor office has 250 to 275 employees.

Google also plans to transform part of the building’s basement into a greenhouse. The vegetables grown there will be used by Google’s chef for meals served in the company’s café.

“I don’t think we are going to stop,” said Mike Miller, head of Google’s Ann Arbor office. “We are about trying new things and trying to do what’s best.”

Last year, when Google was in the midst of renewing its lease at 201 S. Division St., it decided to make its office as green as possible. Its landlord, Ann Arbor-based McKinley, embraced the idea, and the two companies are sharing the costs of the green building projects.

“If we can set the standard in this location … we’ve done the right thing,” said Albert Berriz, CEO of McKinley, which owns offices and apartments in 20 states.

McKinley and Google won’t disclose how much they are spending on the projects but describe the amount as significant. Berriz said it will take nine to 11 years to recoup the cost of buying and installing the solar panels. The panels won’t generate all of the power needed by Google in Ann Arbor.

But Google hopes its green efforts will help it attract talented workers in Michigan. Though the company slowed its hiring during the recession, it is now in the midst of its biggest work force expansion with plans to add more than 7,000 employees worldwide this year alone.

Google has 300 employees in Michigan and aims to expand that by 20% to 25% this year, said spokesman Jake Parrillo. Its Ann Arbor office has between 250 to 275 employees.

The green overhaul is part of a larger transformation occurring at Google.

It has made similar investments at several of its other U.S. offices, such as those in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Cambridge, Mass.

“We’ve always been very green, but we continue to try to do more,” Miller said.

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Green Gary’s five-year plan for eco-friendly football

Gary Neville will use his Old Trafford testimonial on Tuesday to encourage supporters to consider environmental issues.

Proceeds will be shared between a project to build a supporters’ club centre near Old Trafford and Sustainability in Sport, an organisation the former Manchester United and England right-back has set up to encourage sports clubs to use alternative forms of energy.

Go-ahead: Gary Neville has won a 17-month planning permission battle
Go-ahead: Gary Neville has won a 17-month planning permission battle

Neville, who is building a home on moorland near Bury fuelled entirely by wind and solar power, follows in the footsteps of former England team-mate David James, who hugged a tree to raise awareness of environmental issues.

‘Over the past five years a series of events have made me recognise that I need to make a personal change in my lifestyle,’ said Neville, who retired earlier this year.

‘I’ve changed my car, I’m more aware of locally produced foods and I’m building a zero-carbon home. I still have a lot of changes to make and I’m sure if you followed me you could pick a lot of holes in my life. But it’s a journey I want to make and one I feel we’ll all have to make.

‘I recognised that we had to change our energy consumption and knew that I couldn’t make the difference in one day, so I decided it was going to be a five-year plan and that I would try to be someone who could promote the message, make it more accessible and encourage people to join in.’

Underground bunker: The house will be on the edge of the West Pennine MoorsUnderground bunker: The house will be on the edge of the West Pennine Moors

Neville’s partner in Sustainability in Sport is green entrepreneur Dale Vince, a former New Age traveller and founder and managing director of the green energy company Ecotricity, a sponsorship partner for Tuesday’s match against Juventus.

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Jaguar C-X75: the inside story behind eco supercar

Jaguar C-X75 supercar, unveiled at the 2010 Paris motor show

Today’s Jaguar C-X75 announcement tells us plenty about the health of Jaguar. That a small Midlands company can take on Porsche – which sells around twice as many cars each year – with a 200mph supercar as clean as a Prius speaks volumes about the ambition of Jag in 2011.

Although they didn’t say so explicitly, reading between the lines execs hinted that this would never have happened in Ford’s day. Now Jaguar is owned by Tata Motors, it is a nimbler, more agile business. One not afraid to put an £840,000 petrol-electric supercar into production, one that’ll hit 100mph in six seconds yet pump out less than 99g/km. Yep, it’s Jaguar’s take on the Porsche 918 Spider hybrid supercar.

‘This is why we bought Jaguar’

‘This is part of the reason we invested in Jaguar,’ admitted Carl-Peter Forster, CEO of Tata Motors. He hailed the unusual tie-up with Williams F1 as an example of how newly independent Jaguar could strike partnerships with specialaists to devastating effect.

The engineers at JLR say that they have learned an enormous amount in the past five months. In F1, Williams don’t have model-year changes; they upgrade components week by week. ‘This way of thinking is new to us,’ admitted Jag’s group engineering chief Bob Joyce.

He said he fretted over Christmas 2010 which powertain should be fitted to the production C-X75. ‘We could have used one of our regular V8s, but what sort of statement would that have been? By choosing a small-capacity hybrid in association with an F1 team, we’ve certainly made a splash. In my mind, this is a bigger statement than us launching a BMW 1-series rival.’

Tellingly, they’ve opted not to repeat the ZF hybrid module to be used in full-sized Land Rovers and forthcoming XJs and XFs. Jaguar’s opted for a full F1-inspired, downsized high-output turbo.

But where are the turbines of the C-X75 concept car?

Suit after suit lined up to defend the switch to a petrol engine from the concept’s diesel turbines. Joyce said JLR was pursuing turbine tech through its deal with Bladon Technologies and hinted that a production application might be ready by 2015, right at the end of the C-X75’s life (it’ll be built from late 2013 in a two-year production run). They are serious about using such tech for a range-extending application.

As it is, the tech on offer in the Williams F1-inspired four-pot is a techhead’s dream. The C-X75 will use a ‘state-of-the-art, small-capacity, highly boosted internal combustion engine’. Off the record, CAR understands that means a 1.6-litre petrol four-cylinder, most likely super- and turbocharged to an astronomical 5 bar for a very serious power output. Hence the 200mph+ and sub 3.0sec 0-60mph claims.

‘Hybrid tech has become an area of intense development in F1,’ Williams F1 CEO Adam Parr told CAR. ‘We are working on downsized internal combustion engines with hybrid capacity that can run on EV mode down the pitlane… The engine for the C-X75 is being developed in parallel to the F1 concept for 2013.’

And in a nutshell, there you have the beauty of the C-X75 project. On the face of it, this car is a pricey irrelevance. But then, so is F1 in general. As a halo car for Jaguar, as a statement to remind us that it is one of Britain’s biggest R&D spenders and a company that punches above its weight, I can think of little better. I just hope they don’t get caught in a Veyron-esque spiral of broken promises. Joyce says the company still bears the scars of the diluted XJ220 and vows that won’t happen again.

If – as they promise – some of the C-X75 tech then filters down to mainstream Jaguars, then that’s the icing on the cake.

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Eco-friendly traffic light

TRAFFIC lights at the corner of Wood and Wallace streets will soon be a different breed of green, with the intersection lined up for an eco-friendly make-over.

The lights at the corner of Wood and Wallace streets are in line for an environmentally-friendly make-over.

TRAFFIC lights at the corner of Wood and Wallace streets will soon be a different breed of green, with the intersection lined up for an environmentally friendly make-over.

Main Roads said the lights would receive an electrical upgrade later this month, to make them more reliable and energy efficient.

Main Roads minister Craig Wallace said the electrical upgrade would increase the reliability and visibility of the traffic signals.

“The upgrade will include the rewiring of the intersection and installing energy efficient LED traffic lights as well as new fittings including signal poles, electrical pits and footings to improve the reliability of this traffic system,” Mr Wallace said.

“This upgrade has been brought forward from July-August and will be carried out under our normal maintenance schedule.

“Safety is one of our key priorities and we are constantly looking to improve our roads so that people enjoy better and safer trips.”

The current signals have served the community for more than 25 years and were last month victim of an electrical fault, which saw them out of action for two days.

“As well as improving the energy efficiency of this traffic system, the upgrade will mean brighter lights and better visibility, rain or shine,” Mr Wallace said.

During the scheduled works, the intersection will operate under changed traffic conditions with lane closures and traffic control in place.

The works are expected to take about two weeks to complete.

The Daily News was hoping to speak with Tony Prentice, director of development for the former petrol station at the intersection, at the weekend to hear about his plans for a new bottle shop.

He said he would be able to divulge more information later this week.
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Nissan Leaf Crushes the Car Competition With Eco-Kindness

 nissan leafLooks like the auto industry is having a happy Earth Day! At this year’s New York International Auto Show, the Nissan Leaf became the first electronic car to win the 2011 World Car of the Year award. The car beat out the short list of three finalists that included the Audi A8 and the BMW 5 Series (drool — I love me some Beamers).

As jurors made their case for the eco-friendly ride, they explained that they loved the Nissan Leaf for many reasons:

The Leaf is the gateway to a brave new electric world from Nissan. This 5-seater, 5-door hatchback is the world’s first, purpose-built, mass-produced electric car … It feels just like a normal car, only quieter.

For you car nerds, some of the awesome stats on the Leaf-mobile include its 108hp and 206 lb ft of torque (generated by its lithium-ion battery modules and electric motor), which can speed the car right up to 60 mph in 11.5 seconds (oofah!) and get it up to 90 mph. It has a range of over 100 miles on a full charge (or so says Nissan), and takes around 8 hours to recharge.

What’s more, the Leaf has something called a Carwings system, which connects all Nissan Leafs to a network, wirelessly feeding their energy economy statistics to a central server. The “Regional Rankings” system compares the driver’s energy economy to other Leaf drivers in the region, and the winner receives a gold trophy icon on the Carwings dashboard control center. The second, third, and fourth place winners can also win a place on the graphical podium, receiving icons depicting gold, silver, and bronze medals.

That sounds hella cool! I want a nifty little trophy icon on my dashboard control center!! I wanna be queen of the green road!

Sounds like the Prius may have some serious competition. The Nissa Leaf is the car of the future! Given all of its cool features, I’m surprised that it won the top honors at the Auto Show. Oh and if you’re thinkin’ of picking one up for yourself, the list price is $32,780, about $8,200 cheaper than the Chevy Volt.

Would you consider owning a Nissan Leaf?

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Green “train of ideas” goes on sustainable living tour of Europe

Hamburg train goes on the grand tour of eco-living
Hamburg train goes on the grand tour of eco-living

Hamburg, European Green Capital 2011, has taken to the tracks of Europe with a rolling exhibition on sustainable living.

EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik and Hamburg’s Mayor Olaf Scholz set the wheels in motion for the six-month tour of 18 European cities at the train’s launch today.

The novel approach to sharing best practice aims to demonstrate to thousands of European citizens how cities can be both attractive and sustainable in the future.

Commissioner Potočnik said: “The Train of Ideas is a wonderful expression of European values. The European Green Capital Award is all about sharing. If we want our cities to change for the better then we cannot keep all the good ideas to ourselves.

“Hamburg has much to teach other cities. It has shown that economic growth and environmental protection are not conflicting issues. I encourage as many Europeans as possible to visit this exhibition when it pulls in to their cities.”

The Train of Ideas was a deciding factor in the decision to select Hamburg as the 2011 European Green Capital. The exhibition, entitled “Visions for the Cities of the Future”, focuses on the challenges of designing European cities that are sustainable, environmentally-friendly and attractive to live in.

With more than 70 exhibits and 26 touch screens, the exhibition will present best practices from Hamburg and feature exemplary projects from other European cities. Oslo, for example, will teach Europe how to light its streets intelligently, Vienna will present its “ÖkoKauf” programme, encouraging environmentally-friendly consumption habits and Copenhagen will present Nordhavnen, a model district for sustainable building practices and cycling.

The exhibition presents the topics of “Urban Development and Living”, “Mobility”, “Energy and Climate Protection”, “Nature and Urban Green”, “Resource Protection and Business” and “Consumption” in an interactive way. Visitors get to see the city from various perspectives, including personal, local, regional and global points of view.

Hamburg was chosen as the European Green Capital 2011 from 35 applicants. The city, which is home to 1.8 million people and boasts very good air quality, was singled out for its energy-saving measures. The city has introduced extremely ambitious climate protection goals such as reducing its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020 and by 80% by the year 2050.

Measures introduced include a cost-efficiency benchmark for energy-saving measures in public buildings, with programmes for lighting, boilers and refrigerator replacement. Over 200,000 conventional lamps in more than 400 public buildings have been replaced, saving energy and €3.4 million per year, and in recent years €18 million has been spent replacing over 600 boiler systems with modern condensing boilers.

Hamburg has an excellent integrated waste management system with high levels of source separation of individual materials and energy recovery. The city has also made good progress in reducing water consumption and leaks. Innovative pilot schemes are helping to reduce the amount of water used in public toilets.

The city has 11 657km of bus routes and 10 426 stops. Almost 100% of Hamburg’s citizens have public transport within 300 metres. Hamburg is impressively green in comparison to most cities of similar size, with over 16.7% of the urban area given over to forests, recreation and green spaces.

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Dutch astronaut unleashes 155mph ‘Superbus’

Dutch astronaut unleashes 155 mph ‘Superbus’

Radical electric stretch limo concept

A Dutch former astronaut is hoping the future of public transport could be a 250 km/h (155 mph) “Superbus” – a 23-seater electric beast stretching an impressive 15 metres (49 ft).

Wubbo Ockels, who flew as a mission specialist on Challenger’s STS-61A mission back in 1985, has worked with a design team from the TU Delft University to create the “new concept for sustainable mobility”.

According to chief designer Antonia Terzi, former chief aerodynamicist of the BMW-Williams Formula 1 team, the carbon fibre vehicle will “tackle the challenges of mobility, spatial planning, service detail and environmental demands all in one”.

Superbus packs lithium polymer battery-powered electric motors producing 530bhp, although it will need a dedicated road system to make use of all that power.

The Dutch have already examined the possibility of linking Amsterdam and Groningen with such a highway, and the designers are eyeing the United Arab Emirates as the first customer outside Europe.

The first Superbus prototype is set to strut its stuff at the Dubai National Exhibition and Convention Centre this weekend, ahead of government tests to see if a proposed plan to whisk passengers between Abu Dhabi and Dubai has legs.

View of the Superbus with its doors open.Pic: Superbus

While Superbus is designed to be light on the planet, it’s heavy on technology. It boasts “navigation system, obstacle detection, communication system, fail safe system and control system”, plus all the “seat belts, airbags, TV, internet, air-conditioning, heating, etc” you’d expect from an electric stretch limo.

If it does one day hit the streets, passengers will be able to call for a taxi-style pick-up without leaving the comfort of their own home. Terzi explained: “Superbus will have an intelligent routing system rather than a fixed schedule. Commuters will book online or with their mobile phone, and the bus picks them up and drops them at their desired location.”

This, the designers promise, will offer a luxury ride “for a fare which is comparable to the prices of present day’s public transport”. ®

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Pepsi Will Soon Make All Bottles from Plants


PepsiCo, makers of geek favorite Mountain Dew, is set to deploy bottles made entirely of plant materials in 2012.

Not to get all green on you, but the human race consumes a lot of soda. The resultant waste from millions of plastic bottles fills up landfills and is generally a self-defeating practice that furthers our dependence on fossil fuels because most plastic is petroleum-based. Food manufacturers have experimented with different ways to reduce waste or devise a commercially viable way to create plastic from plants instead of oil, but research has stymied at only using about 30 percent bio-plastic. Pepsi announced that it has finally “cracked the code” and will begin using bottles derived from 100 percent excess plant material – switch grass, pine bark, corn husks, orange peels, oat hulls, and potato scraps. The plan is to produce a few hundred thousand bottles as a test run this year before going full plant-plastic with over a billion bottles sold each year.

Rocco Papalia, an advanced researcher from Pepsi who spent years on the project, said that the bottles made from plants are just like ones you’d find in stores now. “It’s a beautiful thing to behold. It’s indistinguishable,” he said.

Independent scientists are chiming in with what they believe is a packaging revolution. “This is the beginning of the end of petroleum-based plastics,” said Allen Hershkowitz from the Natural Resources Defence Council. “When you have a company of this size making a commitment to a plant-based plastic, the market is going to respond.”

Pepsi is certainly using the opportunity to slap Coca-Cola in the face with its discovery. Coke, Pepsi’s much larger competitor, recently stated that its research was several years away from a 100 percent bioplastic bottle.

While its a step in the right direction for companies to begin using excess plant materials instead of oil to make plastic, these new bottles are not biodegradeable. Not all bioplastics break down naturally, whether from microbes or exposure to oxygen and sunlight. Pepsi’s new bottle is just as environmentally durable as petroleum-based platics, but it can be recycled. We still have a long way to go before our landfills become less clogged with the refuse of human existence, but at least I won’t feel as terribly guilty popping open a bottle of that sweet caffeine elixir, Mountain Dew.

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Prof-Student Team Make Eco-Friendly Golf Balls Out of Lobster Shells

They’re not exactly the environmental scourge of our time, but tens of thousands of golf balls made from the petrochemicals Surlyn or urethane end up in rivers, forests, lakes and oceans every year, and there they will stay for hundreds of years.

A golf ball made from Lobster shells is seen in this handout photo from the University of Maine.

University of Maine
A University of Maine professor and student teamed up to make eco-friendly golf balls, like this one, from lobster shells.

A professor-student team has tackled the problem of eco-unfriendly golf balls by making them out of lobster shells.

University of Maine professor David Neivandt and golfer and undergrad Alex Caddell have created a ball made from the byproduct of the lobster-canning industry, TV station WMTW reported.

The lobster golf balls solve two environmental problems, actually. “We’re using a byproduct of the lobster-canning industry, which is currently miserably underutilized — it ends up in a landfill,” Neivandt said.

Neivandt and Caddell see the golf balls as particularly useful on cruise ships. They can be used with both drivers and irons, Caddell told WMTW.

Biodegradable golf balls currently on the market sell for about $1 a ball retail; the raw materials for the lobster shell balls cost as little as 19 cents.

The University of Maine has filed a provisional patent for the lobster shell recipe, which can also be used to make things such as planters and surveying stakes that decompose.

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More than lights-out: Earth Hour success shows world ready to go Beyond the Hour

As the lights come back on in the Cook Islands, the 134th country to celebrate Earth Hour 2011 – a record breaking year for the annual lights-out event – the global community has shown it is united in commitment to a sustainable future.

Around the world, Earth Hour was embraced by the global community, transcending race, culture, age and economics as individuals took leadership in their communities in the pursuit of a cleaner and safer planet. In 2011, Earth Hour asked the hundreds of millions of people taking part in the one hour switch-off to take the next step and go beyond the hour, using Earth Hour to commit to ongoing action for the planet.

“The Beyond the Hour call to action has been unanimously answered by people worldwide,” said Andy Ridley, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Earth Hour. “From school children in Singapore, to Heads of State from the UK, to Australia, Pakistan and Colombia, people have shown that Earth Hour has evolved beyond lights-out.

“This year’s event has illustrated without question what can be achieved when people unite with a common purpose and rally to action.”

Earth Hour 2011 gathers steam crossing Atlantic
As Earth Hour progressed towards the conclusion of the 2011 lights off event across the planet the Americas celebrated the arrival of the global movement with a breadth of lights-off events across the region. Brazil continued the stronger showing for Earth Hour in emerging economies as the wildly successful call for action on the environment continued to roll around the globe.

Hundreds of millions in thousands of cities, towns and communities in a record 134 countries were expected to have participated by the time the lights out and pledge action beyond the hour completes its passage from New Zealand on one side of the International Date Line to former New Zealand dependency the Cook Islands on the other.

Brazil set its own record with 124 cities taking part this year compared to the still creditable 98 of 2010. This included around two-thirds of the state capitals and coverage across all five Brazilian regions. More cities and towns are likely to reveal Earth Hour activities in the coming days.

A huge and emotional event involving more than 3,000 was held in Rio, in front of Arcos da Lapa, a colonial era aqueduct which faded into darkness for the event for the first time. Popular Brazilian singer Toni Garrido warmed up the crowd for addresses from Brazil Environmental Minister, Izabella Teixeira, and Rio de Janeiro Mayor, Eduardo Paes.

The leading landmark to fade into the night sky was Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, but it was accompanied by more than 300 others including the Copacabana Beach it looks down on, the National Congress (Brasilia), Estaida Bridge (São Paulo) and the Amazon Opera House (Manaus). Generous corporate support from Banco do Brasil, Coca-Cola, TIM, HSBC and Rossi supported the events. Online, the hashtag #horadoplaneta (Portugese for Earth Hour) was trending strongly on Twitter in Brazil.

In Juazeiro do Norte in north eastern Seará state, the leading attraction to go dark was the 27 metre statue of Padre (Father) Cicero, built in 1969 and the central focus of what is considered a major pilgrimage centre and grassroots religious centre.

Celebrations in Mato Gross do Sul, home to the Pantonal wetlands, kicked off in the state capital, Campo Grande. In the Praça (plaza) do Rádio a countdown led by the city mayor, Nelson Trad Filho marked Campo Grande’s third participation in Earth Hour. Capoeira circles, a samba school and a local band accompanied the switching off of various icons including the historical building Morada dos Baís. Companies also took their own initiative in switching off.

Special symbolism celebrated as Chico Mendes house goes dark
For the third year in a row, the Amazonas Theatre, one of the biggest icons of the city of Manaus, State of Amazonas, switched off its lights for an hour, as did many other “manauaras”, symbols like the Praça da Saudade, the Amazonas Shopping and the State Prosecutor building. In the centre of the capital, artists recited poetry and short stories, and performed musical pieces. According to Michelle Andrews, the objective was to revive old Amazonian ways. “Like small talk on door steps, an exchange of ideas under candle light on a sidewalk,” she said.

Capital Rio Branco and the towns of Xapuri, Santa Rosa do Purus and Sena Madureira in environmentally conscious Acre State took part officially in the Earth Hour movement. In Rio Branco, the state government palace had the lights turned off for one hour.

“It is not a matter of saving energy, but thinking about what we have been doing to the world”, said state secretary for the Environment, Edgard de Deus, saying Acre’s participation in Earth Hour shows a concern of the local society about conservation and environmental issues.

Celebrations in Xapuri including turning out the lights of the house where rubber tapper, environmentalist and union leader Chico Mendes was assassinated in 1988 for fighting deforestation. His life may have been extinguished but his example inspired a generation who have had a gradual but profound impact on deforestation levels and human rights across Brazil.

Elenira Mendes, daughter of Chico Mendes, is pleased that her father was honoured as part of the global lights-out event. “It’s a unique symbolism, of great importance. My father, who has shown to the world the Amazon and the importance of the forest, would be very happy to know that our house has been part of this worldwide movement,” she said.

Girl Scouts lead US by example.
Girl Scouts across the United States of America – from Louisiana to Missouri to Utah and Indiana – led the action for Earth Hour. In Los Angeles, local troops gathered for a candlelit vigil while 500 Colorado Girl Scouts created a giant glowing ‘GS’ on the steps of the State Capital Building in Denver.

Also from LA, Earth Hour Ambassador Verne Troyer pledged to go beyond the hour and replace all his light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs, and said, “Earth Hour brings attention to the need for environmental action. I believe that each one of us has the power to do more, especially in areas such as the conservation of our planet’s finite resources. I will go beyond the hour this year by replacing all the light bulbs in my home with energy efficient lighting. Make your footprint on this planet as small as mine.”

All 96 UN buildings in New York including its main headquarters flicked off for the occasion. Simultaneously, the lights of Broadway theatres dimmed their marquees and roof signs in honour of Earth Hour. Iconic sites including the Empire State Building and numerous buildings in Times Square also rose to the occasion by switching off.

US-based Australian model Miranda Kerr, who earlier this year signed up as a global ambassador for Earth Hour went further and committed to an action in keeping with the event’s ‘beyond the hour’ message, “This year I will be going beyond the hour by continuing to recycle and by buying organic produce from local farmers markets thereby cutting down on the pesticides and insecticides used on our planet and reducing food miles,” Kerr said.

Myspace has allowed Earth Hour ambassador Miranda Kerr to ‘Hijack’ the site for the three days in the lead-up to Earth Hour. Kerr is curating content on the Myspace homepage, including several playlists featuring past and present Earth Hour ambassadors and supporters Temper Trap, Tom Jones, Nelly Furtado, Alanis Morissette and Coldplay.

One of the biggest transitions from light to shadow occurred again along the Las Vegas strip – the scene for some of the world’s brightest stars over the years, with many hotels committing themselves to go beyond the hour by committing to everyday action for the planet. World famous Caesar’s, turned off its lights not only in Las Vegas, but in 40 of its worldwide locations, in addition to its ongoing sustainable business practices and environmental programs through CodeGreen, a comprehensive environmental strategy that focuses on critical issues of energy, waste, water and carbon management throughout the company’s casino resorts.

“Caesars’ leadership in the gaming industry and its steadfast commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship are reflected in our resorts’ continued participation in Earth Hour,” said Gary Loveman, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Caesars Entertainment.

In Southern California, the Queen Mary blasted its horn to indicate the beginning of Earth Hour. The Long Beach landmark followed by turning off lights on its smokestacks, the string of lights atop the ship, as well as encouraging guests staying in staterooms to do likewise.

In Chicago, another celebrated skyline dimmed as Earth Hour commenced. ComEd officials along with students from the Chicago Conservation Corps flipped the switch at Merchandise Mart, a Chicago landmark now the largest LEED-certified building in the U.S. Hundreds of other city buildings were also reported to have gone dark for one hour including Navy Pier, Willis Tower, Custom’s House, the Prudential Centre, the John Hancock Building, and the Children’s Museum.

American citizens across the US have also been embracing Earth Hour’s beyond the hour theme. One man in Stillwater, Oklahoma first took part in Earth Hour last year and whilst turning off the lights for that hour sparked the interest of his neighbours who over the year became increasingly inspired. Last night the neighbourhood and whole town of Stillwater participated in Earth Hour demonstrating the difference that one person can have in bringing people together as a community.

“Through the simple gesture of turning off the lights, Earth Hour has captured the world’s imagination, growing significantly year after year and 2011 is no exception. Our goal this year was for even more people to engage in Earth Hour, and the response has been simply amazing,” said Terry Macko, chief marketing officer at WWF US. “We appreciate the individuals, communities, governments and organizations that are stepping up to the plate and ‘owning’ Earth Hour and helping spread the critical message of sustainable living across the world.”

Canada embraces Earth Hour as never before
An impressive roll-call of 422 cities, municipalities and towns took part in Earth Hour 2011 – a pleasing outcome for a team that rightly thought it had done very well with 304 in 2010. Another 73 universities and 30 major landmarks from across the country including the CN Tower, Parliament Buildings, Niagara Falls and the Lions Gate Bridge, took part in this year’s event.

This year Canada highlighted a “clean energy” message, asking Canadians to “let their support for clean energy shine this Earth Hour”, helping to build awareness of clean energy as a key solution for climate change.

Earlier this week, WWF Canada’s Director General of Climate Change, Josh Laughren, presented the ‘Earth Hour List’; an honour roll of the top 10 leading cities on climate change in Canada. The prestigious accolade were given to recognise those cities that are going beyond the hour, the theme for this year’s Earth Hour, with the most active programs to reduce carbon emissions, promote renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation.

In British Columbian community of Squamish, Earth Hour was marked with a screening of the documentary Aftermath: A World Without Oil, followed by a candlelight dinner featuring local foods and a night of music.

Grand Palladium Jamaica and Lady Hamilton Resort and Spa in Lucea Hanover continued their support of Earth Hour by switching off. Embracing ‘beyond the hour’, both also committed to activities to become Green Globe Certified. Activities include recycling, water and energy management and staff training. Jamaican telco Digicel joined hundreds of thousands of companies and households across the world this evening in powering down in observance of Earth Hour.

This year was the first year that Trinidad and Tobago officially participated in Earth Hour, after University of the West Indies student Christopher Naranjit obtained approval to host an event on the night of Earth Hour. Businesses in the capital city (Port of Spain), and boroughs of Chaguanas, San Fernando and Arima supported the event, with whole neighbourhoods going dark. Four radio and TV stations held a minutes’ silence for Japan and devoted the hour to tips about Going Beyond the Hour. In Bermuda a public gathering was held at City Hall, a central location in the main City of Hamilton.

Latin America ups the ante
Venezuelan co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2007, Juan Carlos Sánchez, lent his support to Earth Hour 2011 whilst his motherland celebrated lights-out with a plethora of events; EcoStyle Fashion, an unplugged concert, and a series of plays were performed. Over 1,000 people in Plaza Alfredo Sadel in Caracas, led by the city’s Mayor, brought the Earth Hour logo slowly to life as volunteers lit over 500 candles to show their solidarity with the planet. Venezuelan Earth Hour ambassadors were out in force at the event with Karen Britton, Maickel Melamed, Jean Mary, Alejandro Leon and other prominent Venezuelans stating their commitments to go beyond the hour as part of the celebration. Performances by local theatre actors, musicians and dancers along with a fashion parade kept the crowd entertained as candlelight illuminated the streets of Caracas. Putting their money where their mouth is, Venezuelan organisers ensured that all materials used at the event were recycled or environmentally friendly – including all clothing that was part of the fashion parade and a ‘garden’ made from recycled plastic drink bottles. Also lending her support was Miss Venezuela Earth 2011.

In Colombia residents turned off their lights and other non-essential electrical devices for a symbolic “wave of darkness”. In the capital, Bogota, 500 people took part at a concert event in Usaquen Square as the lights flicked off at the Mayor’s Building, the Presidential Palace, Gold Museum, Maloka Interactive Museum and Monserrate mountain overlooking Bogota. Medellin saw 4,000 people attend a performance by the Philarmonic Orchestra as EPM’s Intelligent Building and Interactive Museum, the Bancolombia building and local TV station, TeleMedellin, all led the mass switch off. Mocoa and Cali also participated in the action with over 4,000 people turning out in support for environmental action, turning off the lights and enjoying community activities in celebration of their commitment.

Lost city Machu Picchu an Earth Hour site
Cities, towns and buildings neighbouring the lost City of the Incas, Lake Titicaca and the largest Ramsar Site in the Amazon went dark for 60 minutes joining world icons like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

Mayor Susana Villarán led the Earth Hour 2011 celebrations turning out the lights of all the monuments and major buildings of the Historic Centre of Lima (Cultural Heritage of Humanity), in a ceremony that was replicated in 35 of the main cities of Peru, including Arequipa, Trujillo and Tarapoto. Mayor Villarán announced the environmental commitments from her administration to take Earth Hour beyond the hour, including a strong commitment to reduce the carbon footprint of the Municipality. Her call was supported by both current president Alan Garcia as well as next month’s leading presidential National Election candidate, Alejandro Toledo.

The historic Sacred Valley of the Incas along the Urubamba River in Cuzco went dark, and the lights of the only building in the remote region of Lake Titicaca in Puno, Casa Andina Hotel, were switched off to mark the hour.

The Datem del Marañon district in Loreto is not only one of the most isolated in the Amazon, but also home to indigenous Kandozi, Ashuar and Quechua peoples, and hosts the largest wetland throughout the Amazon acknowledged as a conservation priority site by the Ramsar Convention: the Abanico del Pastaza. Although the district’s capital, San Lorenzo, has only a few hours of electricity per day, its authorities sent a powerful message by turning the lights out, and committed to take Earth Hour beyond the hour by implementing a solid waste management program which will help recover one of the most important rivers in the Peruvian Amazon.45 of the country’s leading businesses, joined the global initiative, using it to launch ‘beyond the hour’ eco-efficiency policies and environmental management practices.

Earth Hour celebrations in Chile spanned the length of the country with tens of thousands of Chileans taking part in the capital, Santiago, as well as major regional centres Valdivia, Punta Arenas, Concepcion and Temuco. A raft of famous Chileans lent their name to the cause as Earth Hour ambassadors including María Ignacia Benitez (Environment Minister), Amaya Forch (singer and actress), Amarils Horta (Director for the Centre of ‘Bicycle Culture’) and Andrea Obaid, Chile’s leading science and technology journalists. The lights went out across Santiago as candlelit Earth Hour celebrations lit up the capital at landmarks such as the La Moneda Presidential Palace, Entel Tower, Constitution Place and Plaza De Armas. A huge canvas of 260 square meters was also illuminated with candles to mark the occasion.

In Mexico City, a candlelit event was held at the Monument to the Revolution, with other monuments in the Mexican capital including El Angel de la Independencia, la Diana Cazadora and the National Government Palace switched off their lights. In Cancun and La Paz, activities began with environment workshops followed by a local group performing batucada. Plaza Forum in Cancun, a major tourist destination, went dark in an event that took place with the support of local venues.

Other cities switching off included Guaymas, Huatulco, Oaxaca, Campeche, Puebla, Nogales, Chihuahua, Delicias, Estado de Mexico, San Luis Potosi and Reynos – where scores of volunteers rallied through Facebook and other social media channels to make Earth Hour a huge success.

In Argentina, an Earth Hour competition earlier this month saw supporters get creative fashioning a ‘60’, representing the 60 minutes of Earth Hour and submitting photos through Facebook. The first prize winner made a 60 out of 1000 plastic lids. Saturday night’s Earth Hour celebrations featured singer Elena Roger, a group show of taiko (Japanese percussion), in commemoration of the earthquake and tsunami, and a groupe of jugglers and fire twirlers created the ‘60’ from flames. Argentina’s landmarks united with the nation’s people – the Obelisk, Puente de la Mujer, and Piramide de Mayo (the oldest national monument in Buenos Aires), all standing in darkness in support of action for the environment.

In the Bolivian capital, La Paz, an eco-torch parade to the Plaza del Bicentenario was led by the Mayor Ing. Luis Revilla, who also led a countdown to the 8:30pm switch-off. Simultaneous events were held in Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Potosi, Oruro, Trinidad City, Quijarro, Puerto Suarez, San Matias and Sucre, where organisers and volunteers held celebrations featuring lanterns, musical performances, and traditional dance.

Earth Hour ambassador and First Lady of Belize Mrs Kim Barrow hosted a Black and White Gala event for Earth Hour on behalf of her non-profit organisation, the Lifeline Foundation, with lights switching off for 60 minutes. Participants at the Gala event included the Prime Minister of Belize as well as other dignitaries.

Press Release excerpted from

‘Knights’ to reward ‘green, creative’ youths

SMK (P) Sri Aman students performing at the launch of Anugerah Hijau 2011 at the Malaysian Productivity Corporation    on Tuesday.  — Picture by Hasriyasyah Sabudin
SMK (P) Sri Aman students performing at the launch of Anugerah Hijau 2011 at the Malaysian Productivity Corporation on Tuesday. — Picture by Hasriyasyah Sabudin

There is a need to eradicate the perception that one needs to have a science background to protect the environment.

EcoKnights, a non-profit environmental organisation, hopes to achieve this with Anugerah Hijau, a competition challenging youths, between 14 and 25, to think “green” creatively.

The competition was launched on Tuesday at the Malaysian Productivity Corporation here.
The competition comprises two categories — Totally Active and Wildly Creative. Totally Active is about making a one to two-minute short film on any green issue, while Wildly Creative involves creating fashion attire where 70 per cent of its materials have to come from everyday recyclable items.

“This year’s theme is all about bringing creativity and innovation to understanding and addressing green issues through short films and fashion wear,” said Yasmin Rasyid, president and founder of EcoKnights, which has been organising Anugerah Hijau since 2009.

“We want to build a future generation of shakers and movers, those who can champion a green cause by designing sustainable and/or eco-friendly fashion wear and by making films with urgent and inspiring green messages to the general public,” added Yasmin.
Every year, the competition’s goal is the same — to give back to the environment by encouraging innovation and creativity among youths.

“We need to eradicate the ‘fear’ that one needs to have a science background to protect the environment. That’s a big misconception.

“We want this competition to ignite creative ideas among youths from all backgrounds, whether in engineering school, boarding school, arts or science stream, multimedia students or even aspiring accountants or lawyers. We can’t expect only the scientists to save the world, all of us live on the same planet, and that means all of us have to individually do something positive. Collectively, we can be a force,” added Yasmin.
The competition is open to all secondary schools and higher institutions of learning in Peninsular Malaysia. There is no limit to the number of ideas an individual or a group can submit. All submissions must be done electronically via the official web portal,

Upon selection by Anugerah Hijau’s panel of judges, ten best ideas from each category will be shortlisted and announced in June.

The finalists will have to attend a one-day facilitated workshop in July where their original ideas will be moulded, improved and expedited. The workshop is designed to help prepare the finalists for the competition.

Finalists will also get a chance to pop by the Sepang International Circuit for a pit tour and a chance to watch the Shell Eco Marathon Race.

One of the workshop facilitators is Lara Ariffin, an experienced local filmmaker who has made films such as The Smart Tunnel, The Malayan Emergency and Among the Great Apes with Michelle Yeoh. Silas Liew, who won MIFA’s Most Promising Designer of the Year in 2001, is the other facilitator.

Individuals or groups from secondary schools, colleges or universities who sign up and participate in this competition between now and May 31 will automatically qualify for a free environmental awareness talk and environmental film screening by EcoKnights.

Anugerah Hijau ambassador Sari Yanti and expert judges will be evaluating all ideas submitted after its May 31 deadline and a special announcement will be made with the New Sunday Times as its official media partner.

Prizes include RM3,000 for the winner of each category, a certificate, trophy, an opportunity to catch the Shell EcoMarathon Race in Sepang (July), a CIMB Junior account with RM100 deposit, free privileged movie passes to watch the premiere of Green Hornet, courtesy of Warner Brothers, a spot in a special environmental leadership camp courtesy of Yuber, special green hampers and more.

Article excerpted from

Earth Hour School: Student pledge to recycle better

Over the next 20 days leading up to Earth Hour on March 26 students at St. Andrew Catholic Elementary School in Oakville will share their environmental success stories. Here a Grade 2 student talks about the Eco Pledge.

When a group of teachers came up with the idea to turn St. Andrew into an Eco school, the first thing they did was form an environmental club which included students. Together, they wrote an Eco Pledge promising to do their best “to reduce, reuse and recycle.”

As Stewards of the Earth, they promise to conserve energy, save water “and protect our natural resources and environment.” And they vow to inspire family, friends and neighbours “to make our world a cleaner and healthier place in which to live. Let every day be Earth Day.”

They’re words to live by for staff, students, parents and the community.

Madeline Ahn, 7, Grade 2:

“Every Monday, morning, we say prays and recite the pledge because it’s important to be stewards of the earth. I also recycle at home and so does my family. At school, we make sure that right stuff goes in the right bins. Leftovers go in the green bins. Recycled paper goes in the blue box.”

Madeline already knows the Eco Pledge by heart. She also brings a litter less lunch to school. One day, Madeline hopes to be an Eco Detective.

Article excerpted from

Bangalore City to get greener buses

Some 1,000 less polluting buses will replace the smoke-belching ones of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) shortly and Bangalore will be the first Indian city to have these new Euro IV-compliant vehicles. The BMTC board recently approved the purchase of 1,000 such buses to reduce pollution.

Even a city like New Delhi does not have Euro IV-compliant buses,” Transport and Home Minister R. Ashok said here after inaugurating the eighth Traffic Transit Management Centre (TTMC) in the city at Vijayanagar on Saturday.

The Rs. 58.1-crore TTMC, constructed under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme, will be named after poet-laureate Kuvempu, and a directive in this regard has been issued to the BMTC Managing Director.

Facility: The Rs. 58.1-crore TTMC at Vijayanagar, constructed under the JNNURM scheme, was inaugurated on Saturday

Five more TTMCs have been planned in Malleswaram, Jayanagar, Katriguppe, Indiranagar and Hebbal under public-private partnership (PPP) while those at Banashankari and Yeshwanthpur will be ready in a month and a half.

Stating that the TTMCs would fetch the BMTC and Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) an annual revenue of Rs. 30 crore, Mr. Ashok said that such steps had been taken to make these transport corporations financially independent.

Article excerpted from

Surprise! Not All of the Most Eco Friendly Cars are Hybrid or Electric
eco friendly honda civicThe buzz about hybrid and electric cars being better for the environment may be loud and on the front page of all the news outlets, but here’s a fact: not all of the most eco friendly cars out there are hybrid or electric. According to the private American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)’s fourteenth annual  environmental ratings chart, it’s a gas-powered car that takes top honors.

The Honda Civic GX, a traditional gas-powered car, scored fifty-four points in the survey and took top honors for the eighth consecutive year. This year second place went to the Nissan Leaf and third place to another gas-powered car- the two-seater Smart Fortwo.

In fairness, the next three spots were taken by hybrids – the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic and Honda Insight, respectively). Ford’s new Fiesta SFE (Super Fuel Economy) and the Chevy Cruze Eco followed. Rounding out the top twelve were the Chevy Volt and three gas-powered cars, the Hyundai Elantra, Mini Cooper and Toyota Yaris.

Said ACEEE vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan, while announcing the results (which included five new models in the top twelve), “We’re seeing an increasing number of highly efficient gasoline options from both foreign and domestic automakers along with the first electric vehicles.”

It may be surprising to you that hybrids and plug-ins weren’t dominating the list, but as Therese Langer, ACEEE’s transportation director explained, it actually makes sense. “Vehicles running on electricity emit nothing from the tailpipe, but their ‘upstream’ emissions can be substantial depending on where they’re charged. As U.S. power generation becomes cleaner, these vehicles scores will rise.”

We love this survey because it’s not just about what comes out of the tailpipe, but a three-sixty look at fuel consumption, emissions that create global warming and climate change and pollution and emissions associated with battery manufacture and disposal. Hybrids actually lose points because of their batteries.

Article excerpted from

Plastic fantastic! Carrier bags ‘not eco-villains after all’

Unpublished Environment Agency research shows polythene may be less harmful than cotton or paper

Plastic carrier bags have had a bad press

Unpublished Government research suggests the plastic carrier may not be an eco villain after all – but, whisper it, an unsung hero. Hated by environmentalists and shunned by shoppers, the disposable plastic bag is piling up in a shame-filled corner of retail history. But a draft report by the Environment Agency, obtained by the Independent on Sunday, has found that ordinary high density polythene (HDPE) bags used by shops are actually greener than supposedly low impact choices.

HDPE bags are, for each use, almost 200 times less damaging to the climate than cotton hold-alls favoured by environmentalists, and have less than one third of the Co2 emissions than paper bags which are given out by retailers such as Primark.

The findings suggest that, in order to balance out the tiny impact of each lightweight plastic bag, consumers would have to use the same cotton bag every working day for a year, or use paper bags at least thrice rather than sticking them in the bin or recycling.

Most paper bags are used only once and one study assumed cotton bags were used only 51 times before being discarded, making them – according to this new report – worse than single-use plastic bags.However, despite being commissioned in 2005 and scheduled for publication in 2007, the research has not been released to the public.

Officially, the Environment Agency says the report, Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags, by Dr Chris Edwards and Jonna Meyhoff Fry, is still being peer reviewed. However it was submitted to the peer review process “more than a year ago”. Despite the long peer review the Environment Agency does not have a date for its publication, except to say that it will be soon.

The report set out to find out which of seven types of bags have the lowest environmental impact by assessing pollution caused by extraction of raw materials, production, transportation and disposal.

It found that an HDPE plastic bag would have a baseline global warming potential of 1.57 kg Co2 equivalent, falling to 1.4 kg Co2e if re-used once, the same as a paper bag used four times (1.38 kg Co2e).

A cotton bag would have to be re-used 171 times to emit a similar level, 1.57 kg Co2e.

The researchers concluded: “The HDPE bag had the lowest environmental impacts of the single use options in nine of the 10 impact categories. The bag performed well because it was the lightest single use bag considered.”

The 96-page report comes amid an ongoing controversy over plastic bags and plans by Wales to introduce a 5p plastic bag tax in October.

Six billion plastic bags are used across the UK annually and there is no doubt that they cause environmental problems such as litter and marine pollution as well as using up oil, and limiting their use and re-using them reduces their harm.

However the new report suggests that if shoppers to switch to alternatives, they have to use those time and time again to be greener.

Barry Turner, chief executive of the Packaging and Films Association, which represents plastic bag manufacturers, suggested the report had been “suppressed.” “They [the Environment Agency] have kept it fairly quiet and tried to suppress things,” he said.

“This [report] has dragged on and on. It was a report that could have been done relatively quickly, probably within 12 months but it has gone on for years.

“If these are the conclusions that have arrived at it wouldn’t really surprise me. It was buried because it didn’t give the right answers. It doesn’t support the political thrust at the moment.”

He added: “People at CEO level [in retailers] have been consistently telling Wrap [the publicly-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme] and Defra [Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] that they have been missing the point. They have had very closed ears on this and I have never have been able to understand why they have been so rigid in their approach.”

The Environment Agency denied the report had been suppressed. “No. The initial draft went to the review panel just over a year ago but they have not been constantly engaged in the review,” he said.

“We amended the report after the comments from the first review and then the revised report was resubmitted to them last summer but, because it was a panel and because of their other commitments, it has taken them some time to complete. We expect this to be completed shortly.”

Asked whether the draft findings had been seriously challenged, he said the reviewers had “questioned some aspects of the original draft, although much was about emphasis and balance.”

The report brings to mind another life-cycle assessment carried out by the Environment Agency, into disposable nappies, which suggested that reusable “eco” nappies were typically more damaging to the environment than disposables such as Pampers because washing uses so much carbon-emitting electricity.

Following publication of that report, the Government dropped its advice for parents to use eco nappies. The Womens Environmental Network also dropped its campaign.

So which bag should you use?

All bags have an impact. The best solution would be to use a cotton bag several hundred times, probably using it constantly for years. If you are not going to do that, a plastic bag – re-used as a bin liner – is the next best option, better than paper. Avoid accepting a plastic bag unless you need one, though.

Article excerpted from

Artful eco-cafe sets the scene green

JOOST BAKKER’S new temporary cafe at The Rocks may be one of the greenest buildings on Earth.

Named ”Greenhouse by Joost”, everything about the installation artist’s cafe has been created using inexpensive recycled or recyclable materials down to glasses made from sawn-off beer bottles and uniforms sourced from the Salvation Army and election campaigns past.

Bakker stands inside a shipping container, a row of jam jar lightbulbs illuminating his face as he explains the incredible structure around him. Furniture is made from old irrigation pipes and leather treated with vegetable dye, rubber floor tiles arranged in a herringbone pattern were once conveyer belts.

In the dining area a flattened wine bottle is used as a cheese tray – the neck now a handle.

”We … set out to build a place that was completely recyclable – made from steel, not wood, and had straw in the floor, walls and ceiling,” Bakker said.

The first eco-cafe prototype was developed by Bakker in Melbourne in 2008, a project that attracted millions of hits on YouTube.

Last year he was commissioned to build a cafe by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, a job that took just three weeks.

The design has caused some confusion among patrons – the toilets in particular producing furrowed brows.

Hand-wash basins inset in the toilet cisterns continue to flow until there is enough water to flush – minimising water use. ”We get people coming in and going, ‘Your toilet’s broken,'” he says.

Every detail of the building is the result of years of research, experimentation and tracking down the best materials.

Article excerpted from

Along Sega, eco warrior and tribal chief, dies in Borneo

Along Sega, one of the last nomadic tribesmen of Borneo who won fame for his battle to save the forests and traditional lifestyle of his Penan people, has died aged in his 70s.

Jailed twice for his struggle against the logging companies that devastated ancestral lands in Sarawak on Malaysian Borneo, he was also a mentor to Swiss activist Bruno Manser who brought the outside world’s attention to the plight of the Penan.

“When I die, they will continue our struggle because I asked them not to give up,” he said in a 2005 interview, according to the Bruno Manser Fund which continues to campaign for the people of the Borneo rainforests.

Along Sega died in hospital in Sarawak last Wednesday, according to the Fund which said the cause of death was unknown, as was his exact age.

“He was really an inspiration to us. He was courageous and was determined to defend the lifestyle of Penans,” Harrison Ngau, a lawyer and native rights advocate in Sarawak told AFP Monday.

A leader of one of the last nomadic Penan groups, Along Sega was bitterly disappointed in broken promises by the Sarawak government to create a protected forest reserve which he said had turned out to be “all lies” and “nonsense”.

In the 1980s logging companies entered the Penan forest homeland, tearing out the valuable timber and decimating the wildlife, fish and rainforest products like rattan that had long sustained the local people.

The Penan began building roadblocks against the logging companies, filed lawsuits, and lobbied fearlessly to save their traditional territory in a losing battle which continues to this day.

“We want our forest to remain untouched. Because only then we can go hunting,” Along Sega said in the 2005 interview.

“When I was young, no one disturbed the animals. The forest was good and we could go hunting close to where we lived,” said the tribesman, who sported the traditional Penan fringed haircut, beaded necklaces and loincloth.

“The women could easily catch the fish and get their food. Nowadays, life has become very difficult because of the logging in our area.”

With much of Sarawak’s timber now cut and sold, the Penan face a new threat as the logging firms clear-fell the degraded forest and turn it into palm oil plantations, in what activists say could be the final blow.

The plight of the Penan was made famous in the 1990s by Manser, who waged a crusade to protect their way of life and fend off the loggers, before vanishing in Sarawak in mysterious circumstances in 2000. Many suspect foul play.

The Penan of Sarawak are estimated to number around 10,000, with only about 300-400 thought to still be nomadic. Most settled in villages by the 1970s under the influence of Christian missionaries.

The Bruno Manser Fund said Along Sega himself decided to settle in a village in the early 2000s, mostly because of the depletion of the forests.

Even the settled Penan still retain a deep connection to the jungle, foraging for rattan, medicinal plants, fruits, and sago palm, a starchy staple. Wild game are hunted with finely crafted blowpipes and poison darts.

Eco-friendly art that explores the dichotomy of human nature


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