You like trivia questions, right? Here’s one for ya: What do Coldplay, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Edward Norton, Wynonna Judd, Cate Blanchett, and Captivate-enabled buildings all have in common?
I’ll give you a hint: March 28.
Still don’t have it? OK, I’ll end your anguish (for those of you who might've missed the headline or the movie above, anyway): They’re all participating in Earth Hour, the World Wildlife Fund’s annual lights-out event that aims “to make a global statement of concern about climate change and to demonstrate commitment to finding solutions.”
And you too can join in the rarefied celebrity/news-monitor-equipped building ranks by signing up at the Earth Hour website. It’s simple to live up to the commitment: You just turn off your lights – all nonessential electricity, actually – for one little hour, from 8:30-9:30p (local times). So join the likes of the Acropolis in Athens; the Sphinx and Great Pyramids of Giza; and Broadway, and live without those lights for one hour.
And find out if your Captivate-enabled building is participating by checking out the Earth Hour map.
Phoenix is looking to arise anew – as the nation’s first carbon-neutral city.
Other cities around the world, such as Abu Dhabi’s Masdar, have been leading the charge, so it’s nice to see a major metro area in the U.S. taking a role. But is it feasible? Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon says indeed it is.
Mayor Gordon’s $1 billion, 17-point plan, "Green Phoenix," includes:
Enlisting residents in a pilot program that installs solar panels on their homes for free
Painting rooftops white to reflect the sun and reduce “heat-island” effect
Using high-efficiency lighting in public places
Expanding recycling programs
Developing the city’s canal system for green-friendly transport
Cleaning up brownfield sites
The specific numbers being talked about -- such as adding as many as 6,000 green jobs and reducing annual CO2 emissions from 25.5 million metric tons to 430,000 -- are impressive, though not exactly “carbon neutral” – Green Phoenix is in partnership with Arizona State, so I asked Dr. Rob Melnick, Executive Dean, Global Institute of Sustainability and Presidential Professor of Practice, School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, for more details. Dr. Melnick says,
Green Phoenix is a comprehensive program to make Phoenix and potentially its neighboring cities especially sustainable. It will create a "lighthouse effect" and act as a model for other cities around the nation and the world that seek to improve their sustainability, reduce their carbon footprint, and improve the quality of life for the people who live and work there.
Collectively, the programs described in Green Phoenix would put the city of Phoenix on a sharp trajectory toward carbon neutrality.
One of the most important features of Green Phoenix is the partnership between Arizona State University and the city of Phoenix. The university's knowledge and innovation, coupled with the city's knowledge and excellent reputation in management, make the ingredients for a highly successful program.
What that sounds like to me is that while strict carbon neutrality may not be in the cards, at least within immediate plans, the steps being taken will get Phoenix pretty darn close.
It’s an amazing initiative – we can only hope it unfolds as planned. We’ll keep an eye on it, and on whether it influences some of our other Captivate markets to follow suit.
UPDATE 3/20/09: Albert Burchsted, a field biologist recently retired from the College of Staten Island, part of the City University of New York, was kind enough to relay some wonderful information for New Yorkers who may be interested in visiting vernal pools.
Anyone who can make their way to Staten Island apparently has a bounty of possible pools to investigate. Dr. Burchsted explains:
A few tidbits from across the environmental news realm:
Head to Mother Nature Network to get the goods on the new environment czar, author/activist Van Jones.
If you’re one of the millions (note: no corroborating evidence to back up this number; could actually be just a handful) who missed something by an hour this past Sunday and were left cursing the 2005 decision to move Daylight Saving Time up a few weeks, check out the Dept. of Energy’s 2008 report (pdf). It should make you feel better to know, the seemingly arbitrary shift has actually resulted in some energy savings.
The Los Angeles Times reveals the sticker price of Honda’s latest hybrid, the Insight, and it’s a shock of another kind: It’s affordable! So the question now becomes, do we buy it as soon as it comes out March 24, or do we wait for the new Prius, due out June-ish?
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the stimulus talk? Have the vague, too-big-to-comprehend “$787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” stories got you feeling a little, well, overstimulated (in a decidedly understimulating way)?
The 10% tax credit for energy efficiency improvements has been boosted to 30%, with a max of $1,500. The old rule where you could only claim certain amounts for certain improvements, like new windows, is out the proverbial window, so that $1,500 cap is aggregate – doors, windows, furnaces, you name it. Americans have this year and next to take advantage – the credits end after 2010.
With the economy listing and layoffs on the rise, now may not seem like the best time to lay out big bucks for, say, a new furnace. But auto and building supplier Johnson Controls claims the money you save in rebates combined with heating efficiency allows you to pay back the cost for a new furnace in as little as two years.
And if you’ve been thinking about getting really bold and going solar, geothermal, wind or fuel cell, now’s the time: There is now no dollar cap on tax credits for residential renewable energy systems. You get 30%, whatever the cost.
The Department of Energy has some great info on how to identify the energy-sapping trouble spots in your home. So evaluate, weigh your cost/reward, and take advantage of what they’re giving us.
After all, it’s our own little slice of the stimulus.
Captivate Network broadcasts in 17 of Energy Star’s top 25 cities, including all of the top 13. At No. 1 is Los Angeles, whose 262 Energy Star qualified buildings put it well ahead of the pack and enabled the city to save $87.2 million in energy costs last year.
For a good illustration of how effective the Energy Star program can be, check out USA Today’s story explaining how JC Penney has saved up to 30% in some buildings.
Rounding out the top 10 are San Francisco, Houston, Washington, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Atlanta and Seattle. (Boston, Captivate’s home city, finished at No. 11).
Kyle Scribner is a born-again nature freak who also happens to be an editor at Captivate Network.
You know that exhilarated feeling you got as a kid when you would go down to the pond to catch frogs? It never really goes away; it’s just dormant. So I'm here to slap a mix of facts and borderline balanced opinion on you, to poke a stick at the nature freak slumbering in us all and maybe get him to once again come out and play.
And we might even learn a few things about the environment as we go.
How do you commune with nature or become part of the solution to the environmental crisis when you're trapped in a cement-and-glass, gas-guzzling, power-sucking, emissions-spewing metropolis 8 hours (or more) a day? How do you go 'green' in a world of gray?
Actually, there are plenty of ways, and Green Among Gray aims to show high-rise inhabitants how they can help ease the load on the environment and on their minds by exploring natural oases, conservation tips, and other ways to stay green while working in the concrete-built world of the big city.
Look for short updates on the latest environmental news along with periodic longer features on specific places and events that allow big-city workers to get close to nature.