Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Patagonia: An Environmentally Friendly Company

By Linn Smith

“We all saw what was happening in the remote corners of the world: creeping pollution and deforestation.”

As I was listening to the radio this morning, I heard an interview with the founder of Patagonia sports gear and clothing. I realized that Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, is a phenomenal man! His methods of sustainability and helping Planet Earth have been consistent throughout Patagonia’s almost 50 year existence, with the company’s environmental practices ranging from discouraging people against buying new products when they can fix the old, to sending trucks around the U.S. to fix Patagonia products, thus saving them from being discarded.

As an owner of a Patagonia jacket for many years, I not only realize the hardiness of this product but I now know if the zipper breaks, Patagonia will fix it!

Yvon Chouinard developed an environmentally friendly company because, not only does he make a quality, long lasting product, he witnessed the environmental injustices when Patagonia was new and attempted to create a low carbon footprint as his company developed.

Fighting for our Environment

In an excerpt from Yvon Chouinard’s book, “Let My People Go Surfing,” he states, “We all saw what was happening in the remote corners of the world: creeping pollution and deforestation, the slow, then not so slow, disappearance of fish and wildlife. And we saw what was happening closer to home: thousand year-old Sequoias succumbing to L.A. smog, the thinning of life in tide pools and kelp beds, the rampant development of the land along the coast. What we began to read – about global warming, the cutting and burning of tropical forests, the rapid loss of groundwater and topsoil, acid rain, the ruin of rivers and creeks from silting-over dams – reinforced what we saw with our eyes and smelled with our noses during our travels. At the same time, we slowly became aware that uphill battles fought by small, dedicated groups of people to save patches of habitat could yield significant results.”

Environmental Practices of Patagonia

Following are some environmentally friendly practices of Patagonia (from http://www.patagonia.com):

* In 1986, they committed to donate 10% of profits each year to these groups. They later upped the ante to 1% of sales, or 10% of profits, whichever was greater. They have kept to that commitment every year since
* They participate in grassroots efforts to save our planet.
* They make donations to small groups that restore/save the environment.
* In 1988, they initiated their first national environmental campaign on behalf of an alternative master plan to deurbanize the Yosemite Valley. Each year since, they have undertaken a major education campaign on an environmental issue.
* They took an early position against globalization of trade when it meant compromising environmental and labor standards.
* They have argued for dam removal where silting and marginally useful dams compromise fish life.
* They have supported wildlands projects that seek to preserve ecosystems whole and create corridors for wildlife to roam.
* Every eighteen months they hold a “Tools for Activists” conference to teach marketing and publicity skills to some of the groups they work with.
* They have been using recycled-content paper for their catalogs since the mid-eighties.
* They worked with Malden Mills to develop recycled polyester for use in their fleece.
* Their distribution center in Reno, opened in 1996, has achieved a 60% reduction in energy use through solar-tracking skylights and radiant heating; they use recycled content for everything from rebar to carpet to the partitions between urinals. They retrofitted lighting systems in existing stores, and build-outs for new stores became increasingly environmentally friendly.
* They assessed the dyes they used and eliminated colors from the line that required the use of toxic metals and sulfides. Most importantly, since the early nineties, they have made environmental responsibility a key element of everyone’s job.
* They changed to organic cotton because, the “natural” fiber used in most of their sportswear proved to be by far the greatest environmental evildoer of the fibers studied. They learned that 25% of all toxic pesticides used in agriculture was (and is) used in the cultivation of cotton, that the resulting pollution of soil and water was (and is) horrific, and that evidence of damage to the health of fieldworkers is strong, though difficult to prove. Cotton was the biggest villain – and it didn’t have to be. Farmers had grown cotton organically, without pesticides, for thousands of years. Only after World War II did the chemicals originally developed as nerve gases become available for commercial use, to eliminate the need for weeding fields by hand.”
* They continue the search for more environmentally friendly fabrics. They are using more hemp, in some products in combination with recycled polyester.
* They will repair their products.
* Worn Wear is an online program that will sell your old Patagonia gear. They say, “Why extend the life of your gear? Because the best thing we can do for our planet is get more use out of stuff we already own, cutting down on consumption, repairing, sharing and recycling your gear.” During the 2017 fiscal year, they made 50,295 clothing repairs. They also have a trade-in program to swap old gear and Patagonia’s Worn Wear trailer makes stops across the U.S. to repair their products.

Patagonia products may be a bit more expensive but they hold their value in resale. So, for all of the environmentally friendly practices of this company, I want to give a “hats off” to Patagonia for caring about our environment!

Patagonia

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The Fairphone: Reducing Human and Environmental Destruction

Fairphone

Tracing minerals back to source.

It is a long process that Fairphone has begun in the hope of achieving a truly ethical smartphone.

By Linn Smith

February 22, 2016—We all have them! Cell phones! Have you ever wondered where the materials to make our cell phones come from?

Child Labor and Cell Phones

Cobalt is an important element in the lithium-ion battery of our cell phone. Emmanuel Umpula, director of an organization that works with Amnesty International says that companies linked to Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung are buying cobalt, “Without asking questions about how, by who or where it was mined.” Umpula did ask questions and found children as young as 7 used in the mining of cobalt. In 2014, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, UICEF put the number of children working in mines at about 40,000, earning about $1 a day and leaving negative health impacts by exposure to the cobalt dust. Child labor in the mining of cobalt isn’t a thing of a year or two ago—it is happening today! Besides the use of child labor, mining has negative impacts on our environment resulting in erosion, dumping tailings that could include mercury and cyanide in the river systems and contaminating the water of people and wildlife.

Child Labor and Smartphones

Minerals in our cell phones can be traced back to child labor.

Conflict Free Minerals

Today we have a choice—a choice to choose a more sustainable product. The Fairphone Company is attempting to lessen the human and environmental negative impacts of cell phone production. Fairphone, a small company in Amsterdam, is 100% independently financed (mostly through crowdfunding–pre-orders), and is trying to integrate materials in their supply chain that supports local economies, not armed militias. They’re attempting, one-step-at-a-time, to produce conflict-free minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Fairphone: Seeking Alternative Mining Practices

Fairphone registered as an independent social enterprise in 2013, so is a fairly new, still developing company. In a pilot project in 2014, they sold 60,000 phones–phones containing minerals which Fairphone is working to establish a trace back system to, to assure sustainable practices both for the workers and the environment. “It is a long process that Fairphone has begun in the hope of achieving a truly ethical smartphone, but it is a process that is revolutionizing electronics, piece by piece,” stated an article in the January 2016 Newsweek Magazine. Fairphone says that it wants to work with mines in the Congo to provide alternative mining practices where there is extreme conflict. “We want to become a vehicle for change in the regions that most need it.”

Fairphone’s Goals to Improve Mining Practices

Here are a few of the goals Fairphone has adopted to work with mines in the Congo:

1. Increase employment for small-scale miners and contribute to economic development and stability of the region.
2. Work directly towards contributing alternative practices to current mining practices.
3. Address child labor and empower workers while improving the livelihoods of the local populations
4. Bring stakeholders together to participate in dialogue, decision making, and implement solutions to common problems or goals and establish the sources of minerals used in Fairphones.
5. Increase industry and consumer awareness for issues surrounding mining and existing alternatives.
6. Reduce environmental impacts of mining

Also, in the phone’s manufacturing, Fairphone’s policy is to ensure worker representation, safe working conditions and fair pay.

Fairphone can last at least 5 years.

The Fairphone shows its parts when flipped over.

Fairphone 2

Fairphone 2 has a 5″ screen and runs on android 5.1, although the company is in discussions to allow other operating systems. It is a modular smartphone which is designed to be repaired and replace parts by the user if needed. When you turn this phone over you will see the parts through a transparent case–easily covered by a protective case just as other cell phones are.

Fairphone will sell parts for this phone which will allow users to replace those that are broken and outdated, such as the camera, and replace them with newer versions. Estimated life of this phone–at least 5 years. This phone is available on Fairphone’s website at: http://www.fairphone.com.

The Fairphone, using sustainable mining practices.

You can replace the parts of this cellphone.

Review of Fairphone 2

Newsweek Magazine reviewed the Fairphone. They stated, “With moderately heavy use, the battery can easily last 2 days without a charge. When not being used much after a week there was still more than 50% of battery life left–and when the battery life dwindles after a couple of years a new battery can be ordered from Fairplay for about $20. Newsweek says, “When considering the price tag of about $500, the length of time it lasts should be taken into consideration along with the ethical ecosystem of the phone.” The potential to upgrade this phone is also being explored by the company.

For Fairphone 2016 brings the move toward growth with a goal of selling 150,000 phones. They realize they can’t do this through pre-orders alone so they are seeking “investors that are interested in generating social and/or environmental impact as well as financial gains”–investors aligned with the values of the Fairphone Company.

You can follow Fairphone’s regular updates on Facebook or Twitter.


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Renewable Energy Sources Dominate Human History

Reduce Pollution

Women coming together can make a difference in cutting CO2 in our atmosphere

“A windmill is known to have existed in Alexandria, Egypt as early as the first century AD.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore
February 12, 2016—For most of human history the energy available to our species was the strength of the individual. The first supplemental energy source humans began to use was fire. Fire was being used in Yunan province of southeast China more than a million years ago. Fire provided energy for light, for cooking, and other uses. It most likely provided these individuals an advantage in growing their population.

Renewable Resources of Early Man

The use of fire spread through the global population. It may also have come into use independently in different areas. As the use of fire spread as a resource, a variety of fuels were used depending on what was available in the region. All were renewable energy sources. In the forested regions dried, downed limbs and twigs served the purpose. In the grasslands dried grasses and stems of shrubs provided the fuel. Bones from dead animals were also used as fuel. In the Great Plains of the United States, the early farmers burned wheat straw and corn stalks for heat in the winter. Often an empty metal barrel served as the stove.

Changing Earth

An additional organic fuel source in many areas was dried dung from herbivores, such as elephants and buffalo, were used. The use of these renewable fuels continues today in parts of Africa, Asia and South America. Even in the modern world of the internet and drones, dried dung is still being sought for fuel. In India cow dung is mixed with grasses and dried into patties. Piles of drying dung are common in rural villages, as are walls plastered with drying cow patties. In fact in cities in India, residents can purchase cow dung patties from internet retailers such as Amazon and eBay. While not in great demand, they are still used in some religious ceremonies and occasionally for nostalgic reasons. The use of natural organic fuels continues today in many cultures, such as the Amazon rain forest where tribes use the same fuels as the earliest human’s use of fire.

Windmills and Waterwheels in the 10th Century

Eventually the use of animal power was added as an energy source for transportation and pumping water for irrigation among other things. This gave the people a physical source of mechanic energy. Draft animals are believed to have been used as early as 7000 years ago.

The use of wind and flowing water came into use in different areas around the world at different times. Water wheels were used to lift water for irrigation or to drain mines in the first or second century BC. A windmill is known to have existed in Alexandria, Egypt as early as the first century AD. They were certainly in use for pumping water and grinding grain in the 10th Century. Paintings of landscapes in the Netherlands show windmills in use. Both windmills and water wheels were in widespread use by 1500 AD. The additional power source increased the amount of food that could be produced and so the global population grew rapidly.

Industrial Revolution: Use of Fossil Fuels–Coal

The industrial revolution began in what is now Britain during the period from 1783 to 1812. By this time the global population had passed the 500 million mark. The pressure of the growing population had severely reduced the supply of wood for fuel and as a building material. This brought about a transition to the use of fossil fuels. People began burning chunks of coal that were found scattered on the surface. Mining coal began soon after. When the steam engine was invented the demand for coal grew even faster. Coal supplied a seemingly unlimited source of non-renewable source of energy. The consumption of coal has increased rapidly after the onset of the industrial revolution. It is the most used fuel for generating electricity. The consumption of coal increased by more than 50% in just a few years from 2000 to 2011. The use of oil and natural gas has also expanded rapidly since their introduction as usable fuels.

Growth of Renewables in 21st Century

In the 21st Century there has been a resurgence in the use of renewable energy. The traditional sources of renewable energy, such as vegetation, wind, and water continue. To these are added solar energy. There are a number of reasons for the growth of renewables, such as the hazards of burning fossil fuels. Also, new technologies for obtaining energy from renewable sources are rapidly reducing in cost. Only the growth of hydroelectric power generation, which was highly developed in the 20th Century, has slowed. This is largely due to the fact that large dams tend to completely alter the river morphology both above and below the dams.

One bit of trivia related to the increasing use of renewables is that the stadium in which Super Bowl 50 was played is powered by solar energy. Significant also is the fact that automobile companies expect to have a practical and affordable electric car on the market within five years. The future? Experimental cars and buses are being developed using solar energy. Are we coming full circle back to pre-industrial life out of necessity–trying to save the only planet we have?

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The Land Art Generator Initiative

Providing clean energy to 800 homes.

Art and harmony generating clean energy.

The Land Art Generator Initiative has shown the world that creating clean energy can be combined with art.

By Linn Smith

November 18, 2014—The Land Art Generator Initiative was founded by Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry in 2010. In 2008, they went to Dubai and found it to be one of the least sustainable cities in the world. They began brainstorming, looking around at all the natural resources available in Dubai that had possibilities for creating clean energy. They decided to combine art with sustainable energy and attract innovative people from around the world to take part in a yearly contest. Monoian and Ferry reached out to artists, architects, scientists and engineers to create art that produced sustainable energy and was environmentally friendly. This art would work towards solving today’s energy problems and would be educational to the public. They wanted projects submitted that were “Useful Solution Based Art.”, useful in reducing the CO2 levels in our atmosphere and in harmony with the earth.

Creating Energy in Harmony with Nature

The end result was the formation of the LAGI organization–The Land Art Generator Initiative. The creative teams submitting the entries would capture energy from nature and convert it into electricity. The designs would transform and transmit the electrical power to a grid connection point, supplying homes in a nearby city with electricity. They also wanted the designs submitted to create educational opportunities and be safe for the viewing public. Would they get any entries? They put the word out and recieved hundreds! They felt like it was Christmas as they poured over the submissions of public art that would supply electricity to the cities and generate tourism.

Creating clean energy: Dumping less CO2 in our atmosphere

Art can be combined with the generation of clean energy.

The Solar Hourglass

The 2014 contest was held in Copenhagen and The Land Art Generator Initiative recieved 300 designs from 55 countries. The winner was a design called “The Solar Hourglass” by Santiago Muros Cortes of Argentina. The upper dish of the hour glass is made up of heliostat tracking mirrors, which turn as they keep reflecting the sunlight as the earth moves around the sun. The Solar Hourglass reflects the solar heat onto mirrors which concentrate the reflections and shoot them down the neck for storage. The lower dish contains energy generation and storage equipment. This design, when built, will provide enough electricity for 860 homes and be constructed from recycled steel and aluminum.

The Land Art Generator Initiative has shown the world that creating clean energy can be combined with art and in harmony with the environment. Thank you to all the innovative thinkers who work towards creating a healthier planet