Saturday, December 12, 2009

Portland Public Schools

I am a teacher with the Sun (Students Uniting Neighborhoods) program @ Sabin Elementary School in NE Portland, I also am in charge of the snack, before we go to our classrooms. I started noticing things that were not sustainable, especially the styrofoam plates and the incredible amount of food that is thrown away, so I called Nancy Bond the head of PPS's Sustainable department and I asked her a few questions, like why styrofoam, that is really bad for the environment, it is not degradable. She told me that by the end of 2010 PPS will be going to sustainable trays, and there is really no way to police the food that is tossed, so 4 times a year PPS donates food and money to the food banks. I was glad to hear that.

I didn't get to do the activity that I wanted to do with my kids and this project, but I did ask them questions about the world that they wanted their world to be. One wanted a world full of video games and cats. But for the most part, all of them recycle at home. and are quite knowledgeable about the environment. Their parents are adept at teaching them to leave a smaller carbon foot print. I was pleasantly surprised.

Transportation Reform

According to the US Census Bureau there are 301,348,025 people in the United States with 3,421,399 of us living in Oregon. ( There are 176,628,482 lcensed driver in the US, with 2,541,873 living in Oregon. According the the US Department of Transportation the need for transportation reform is great. "congestion results from poor policy choices, and a failure to separate and embrace solutions that are effective from those that are not." ( According to Anthony Downs of the Washington Post 87.9%  of the daily comuters use private transportation.

Americans love our cars, but our addiction is killing us. In the first part of the decade we saw George Bush taking office in a very flawed election, Enron was his biggest campaign contributor. When it emploded, it was  the largest bankruptcy in history. His VP Dick Cheney said "energy conservation...maybe a sign of personal virtue, but is not a sufficient basis sound, comprehensive energy policy."

"Voices from across the political spectrum say oil dependence is bad for America's national security, economy, and environment."(

Meanwhile the Energy Information Agency predicts that the global demand for oil would continue to grow, increasing 60% by the year 2020, that is roughly 120 million barrels of oil per day.

We must curb our addiction to oil it is killing us.

State of Oregon Website

The state of Oregon website has some really great information regarding renewable energy resources.  Their website is: By visiting this website you can find out lots of different information regarding this subject and this website provides you with different links of websites to visit for further exploration.  It's a great resource for everyone.

Jillian Blake

Teaching Kids about Renewable Energy

Are you looking for ways to teach your children about renewable energy?  The following websites are good links that help teach children about renewable energy and the different options available for conserving energy:

Jillian Blake

Pacific Gas and Electric

In what could be a major step forward for alternative electric power generation for the region, Pacific Gas & Electric is preparing to seek approval to study a future wave energy project located off the California coast near Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The project, which could take years to make operational, would generate as much as 100 megawatts of power, providing permanent non-fossil-fueled electricity for the base, one of the largest employers in Santa Barbara County. PG&E is expected to seek the permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has been designated as the umbrella agency for wave energy project approval in the nation.

“We’ve entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Air Force to let us proceed with wave energy in that area if findings are favorable,” said PG&E spokesperson Kory Raftery. At press time, the permit application was expected to be filed on Dec. 11, and information about the project was provided to the Business Times on an embargoed basis.

During recent weeks, officials at PG&E have met with a number of local elected officials, including Santa Barbara County supervisors. They also have held preliminary meetings with environmental groups, including the Surfrider Foundation, according to people familiar with the talks. In addition, PG&E has hired SAIC and CH2Mhill, two large consulting firms, to help with technology and siting issues.

One advantage of locating the project near Vandenberg is that the Air Force base has an existing power grid that can handle a large interconnection. In addition, the base has launch facilities to allow large wave energy devices to be deployed easily into the ocean.

“Unlike other projects, if we get to that point, there would be no need to develop onshore infrastructure,” Raftery said. The 100-megawatt power generating array would be enough to supply Vandenberg and a portion of PG&E’s Santa Barbara County customer base, which includes the city of Santa Maria.

PG&E is publicizing its focus on clean energy development and recently parted ways with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over climate change policy.

The Tri-Counties is becoming somewhat of a hub for sustainable energy.

Also near Vandenberg, Pacific Renewable Energy Generation, a subsidiary of a Spanish wind energy firm, is moving to build Santa Barbara County’s first large wind installation. Approved by county supervisors in February, the project would build as many as 65 400-foot-tall turbines on ridgelines near the Air Force base. The turbines are expected to generate 97.5 megawatts of energy, enough to power about 40,000 homes, and the electricity will be sold to PG&E through a power purchase agreement.

That project would ask county officials to decide for the first time whether they’re willing to take agricultural land out of production for an energy project.

For its part, the kind of wave power generation proposed for the coast near Vandenberg has been somewhat of a holy grail for clean energy advocates for decades, and there has been some small success with using wave energy devices to power sonar buoys.

Several European countries are aggressively pursuing the technology, but it remains unclear whether large-scale power generation technology will work off either the East or West Coast of the United States.

The goal of the Central Coast project, he said, is to produce reliable electric power with “no significant impact on existing coastal activities.”

With the wave energy permit application, PG&E has two large regulatory undertakings underway for the Central Coast. Earlier this year it filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the license of its twin-reactor Diablo Canyon nuclear generating station near San Luis Obispo.

“It’s exciting that our region could set precedent for our country and the world for creating a diverse power supply,” Raftery said.

Jillian Blake

Friday, December 11, 2009

Renewable Energy is not a new concept

The use of renewable energy is not new. More than 150 years ago, wood, which is one form of biomass, supplied up to 90% of our energy needs. As the use of coal, petroleum, and natural gas expanded, the United States became less reliant on wood as an energy source. Today, we are looking again at renewable sources to find new ways to use them to help meet our energy needs.

In 2008, consumption of renewable sources in the United States totaled 7.3 quadrillion Btu — 1 quadrillion is the number 1 followed by 15 zeros — or about 7% of all energy used nationally.

Over half of renewable energy goes to producing electricity. About 9% of U.S. electricity was generated from renewable sources in 2008. The next largest use of renewable energy is the production of heat and steam for industrial purposes. Renewable fuels, such as ethanol, are also used for transportation and to provide heat for homes and businesses.

Renewable energy plays an important role in the supply of energy. When renewable energy sources are used, the demand for fossil fuels is reduced. Unlike fossil fuels, non-biomass renewable sources of energy (hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar) do not directly emit greenhouse gases.

Why Don’t We Use More Renewable Energy?

In the past, renewable energy has generally been more expensive to produce and use than fossil fuels. Renewable resources are often located in remote areas, and it is expensive to build power lines to the cities where the electricity they produce is needed. The use of renewable sources is also limited by the fact that they are not always available — cloudy days reduce solar power; calm days reduce wind power; and droughts reduce the water available for hydropower.

The production and use of renewable fuels has grown more quickly in recent years as a result of higher prices for oil and natural gas, and a number of State and Federal Government incentives, including the Energy Policy Acts of 2002 and 2005. The use of renewable fuels is expected to continue to grow over the next 30 years, although we will still rely on non-renewable fuels to meet most of our energy needs.

For more information....

Jillian Blake

Fry Your Food, Then Recycle the Evidence

Growing up in a household that cooked a lot of southern soul food, I saw my mother, grandmother, and aunts cook their dishes with some of the best ingredients that would just make your mouth water watching them prepare these foods.  Along with these wonderful ingredients I also watched them cook with plenty of lard and cooking oil.  My mother would always keep her old cooking oil in one of those big Crisco cans and store them to be used at a later time.  She still does do this until this day and now that I have began doing a lot of the cooking in the family I do the same thing.  At least we know not to put them down the drain, but I often wondered "Do we keep this forever?"

Well, while doing some research for some resources in Portland available to the community, I came across a fairly new resource for those living in the Portland area to be able dispose of their cooking oil.  Just last year Far West Fibers and Portland Recycling Centers are taking these cooking oils and are using them to be converted into biodiesels which is a cleaner burning alternative fuel for vehicles that take diesel fuel. I thought this to be a really great thing and couldn't believe that we (Portlanders) were just now getting this resource available to us.

So instead of hanging on to those cans and containers of old cooking oil, we can take these down to the recycling centers and will be contributing to a renewable source and the future.  Now hopefully that we can get rid of the cooking oil maybe we can make some steps to reducing our consumption...but it just makes fried chicken taste so good!

You can learn more about bio-diesels and other alternative fuels sources on our website.
Check out the press release for this resource at

Have Yourself A Very [Sustainable] Christmas - an online forum and community for sustainability and environment conservation, has posted several ways to have a “Green Christmas” without strapping your wallet or taking away the joy of the season! 
They provide some great ideas to keep in mind if you are looking for a way to" branch out" and discover new ways you can conserve resources and energy this holiday!

The tips listed on the site include but are not limited to:
Buying Less - Not all gifts have to be purchased in a store. Meaningful gifts do not need to be brand new and purchased at the department store! Click Here For More Tips on Sustainable Gift-Giving
Holiday Lighting - low-energy LED lights can provide a great aesthetic without adding on the energy costs!
Choose a live tree: one might think that buying a fake tree provides the biggest green impact, however buying a locally-grown Evergreen tree cuts the cost of emissions as there is less transportation cost associated with it, and it is not produced in a plastic-producing factory.
Make Home-made cards add a personal thoughtful touch that is sure to be appreciated

For a Full List of Eartheasy's Christmas Sustainability Tips, Click here!

-Jill Potter

MIT Breakthrough – Same Natural-Gas, Zero CO2 Emissions

With new legislation on the horizon that wants to tax CO2 emissions, the business world could sure use a new energy solution. MIT has recently made a breakthrough with “A new type of natural-gas electric power plant… [that] could provide electricity with zero carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, at costs comparable to or less than conventional natural-gas plants, and even to coal-burning plants.” (The hitch here is that it’s only cheaper if carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will be taxed. As of right now, the new technology isn’t cost efficient.)

The system “uses solid-oxide fuel cells, which produce power from fuel without burning it.” Natural gas is somewhat more plentiful than other fossil fuels (at the current rate of consumption we’re expected to have about 60 years worth of natural gas), and would certainly be more environmentally friendly than coal if we didn’t burn it, which is what produces the CO2. This is great news for people and businesses looking for more environmental energy solutions.

Concerns surrounding the new technology include costs, how it would affect the consumption rate of natural gas, and the new technology still being untested on a commercial scale. Prototypes are only planned for completion by 2012.

- Kaitlyn Hill

What can you do today?

Let me be the first to say that before this ecopol project I fell right into the category of one of those who was completely oblivious to the condition of our earth's natural resources.  I didn't understand much more than it is a good thing to recycle and that was when I was feeling good.  But I have to say while working on this project I learned a lot about the importance of renewable energy and sustaining our earth's resources for my children one day. 

The big question for me was, where do I begin to break hold habits and start new ones?  And I knew it was unrealistic to do this all overnight.  So I begin doing some research because I knew that I couldn't be the only one who wanted to make some changes but needed a guide as to how and what would be the most effective.
I came across I very straightforward "How to take steps toward renewable energy" guide that provides some very simple and free ways to start your green path.  This particular guide found on gives the reader 10 steps to follow and there are two in particular that I have allowed to become habits for me over the course of this project.

The first thing I began to do is reduce the amount of electricity I use.  I had a very bad habit of leaving my television on during the day so my little toy Yorkie would have some company while I was at work.  Well, we had a talk one day and I explained to her that we must do our part to reduce our consumption and she agreed that during the day all televisions, lights and computers would be off. 

The second step that I took was to share. I took the advice of the treehugger professionals and begin carpooling a few times a week with a coworker, so now I share vehicles and transportation.  This reduces the energy I use and thus doing my part to get us toward a renewable energy future.  As time progresses I will continue to practice more sustainable habits and incorporate them into my lifestyle, but it takes making one step at a time.
Take a look at treehuggers website for other tips and guides to your greener future.

Vampires in the House

Have you ever felt like your electricity bill was going through the roof? Did you know? Many common household appliances consume energy even when they are not in use. Electronics are very popular in recent decades.  A variety of household appliances and devices are guzzling down energy when they are not in use, but are plugged in. Environmental Protection Agency reports that these devices cost Americans almost $10 billion a year in electricity, and they account for almost 11 percent of all U.S. energy use.

Here some of the products that will continually consume electricity when the device is not in use:

• Remote control

• External power supply

• Digital display, LED status light, or digital clock

• Battery charger

• Soft-touch keypad

Tips to reduce your power consumption:

• Unplug products that are rarely used. In many American homes, a good example is a television and DVD player in a rarely used guest room.

• Use a power strip with a switch that controls clusters of products. The most likely targets are computer clusters (computer, printer, scanner, speakers, wireless transmitter, etc.).

• Entertainment clusters (television, DVD player, speakers, game consoles, etc.).

• Audio clusters (receiver, amplifier, CD players, etc.).

By Charmaine Reddix

Conserving energy in winter...

It’s getting mighty cold here lately, and we’re well overdue for some tips to keep warm while keeping bills and energy usage down. Here are a few things to cross off your winter to-do list.

1.    Get a warm robe. For around $20 you can save yourself a bundle by getting a nice over-sized fluffy robe to keep cozy around the house, instead of cranking up the thermometer.
2.    Weather-stripping! Make sure there are no gaps and cracks around windows and doors, replace old weather stripping and fill holes that let out heat.
3.    Use heavier draping on windows or cover them with plastic to insulate.
4.    Sometimes a small space heater can save you a lot more than a gas furnace or baseboard heating. If you’re only using one room at a time, try using a space heater.
5.    Turn the heat off a half hour before you leave the house or go to bed, and you’ll save tons.
6.    If a heavy comforter isn’t enough to keep you warm at night, using an electric blanket will keep you cozy and use a lot less energy than keeping the heater on.
7.    Open the drapes on south facing windows on sunnier days to allow sunlight to warm the floor and furniture. Keep drapes closed at night for insulation.
8.    A rug on tile or wood floors can keep them insulated and warmer.
9.    Check the thermostat on your water heater. It should be at 120 degrees.
10.    Keep those Christmas lights off after bed and when no one’s around to appreciate them. Try getting a timer that turns the lights on and off for you at programmed times and never worry about forgetting to turn them off again. You can find them for around $15 dollars at!

Have a happy and green holiday!-

Here’s more on how to conserve energy-

Eco Localizer - 10 Tips for Conserving Energy This Winter

How Stuff Works- How to Conserve Energy at Home

E-How - How to Save Energy in Winter

The Woods 59203 - digital lamp and appliance timer

-Tristia VanNiekerk

Green for All Becoming a Green Leader

While researching some non-profit organizations in our area, I came across Green for All which has a unique position within the communities they reach.

Green for All’s mission is to work within the special provisions in the clean energy bill.  The bill promises to reduce pollution, lesson our dependence on foreign oil, and create millions of new jobs in the green sector.  Although this bill is still awaiting approval from the Senate, the program is continuing to move forward and taking proactive measures to accomplish to very important goals of the U.S. at this time; decrease poverty and get more Americans on board with the green movement.

The main work that Green for All has been founded to do is get people from low income areas into jobs that are focused on sustainability and using renewable energy sources.  Green for All has taken a unique approach because they are helping two causes at once.  First of all, they are helping those who are struggling to provide for their families find job placement and secondly they are placing them in jobs that are benefiting our earth.  What an amazing task they have set out to do!  The other thing that I find interesting about this organization is that for college students coming out of college that are passionate about these issues, this company would seem to be a great fit.

Green for All's work has come to Washington state most recently and hopefully they are able to expand to Oregon because that would be just what we need to take us to even higher heights in our green movement.  Great job Green for All!

Check out Green for All's other projects on their resources page: people & programs

Will the Obama administration fulfill renewable energy goal?

In an article written by Leon Steinberg, National Wind, he has identified some pretty interesting goals, problems, and recommendations for the Obama administration based on what we have seen President Eisenhower do while he was in office.  The one goal that stood out to me was his identification of the administration wanting to secure 25% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2025.  This goal lines us very well with what our website has put together as a milestone in our overall goal of getting to 100&% renewable energy by 2060.
The first claim that Leon had laid out in this article is that President Obama should demand action by Congress much like President Eisenhower did regarding our energy infrastructure.  He goes on to discuss how there is a problem with our current infrastructure because the self interest of the state and regional regulators are acting in their own self interests.  What Leon offers up as a solution is one I think is very fascinating.
He suggests that instead of their being a state plan for our energy there should be a national plan.  In other words, instead of each state only being concerned with what's going on in their own neighborhood and getting a chunk of the budget to handle this energy infrastructure on their own it should be on a national level where Congress deals with the allocation across the national to ensure we are all on the same page.
This article suggests that the Obama administration may benefit from hindsight in this issue and on this issue I would like to see how the administration will handle making it to their goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025.  
Check the article out here

Burgerville: "Fresh. Local. Sustainable"

I have always been an avid follower of Burgerville simply for being a Northwest chain specializing in local products and ingredients. The restaurant also has a bit of an allure: Burgerville is only available in the Northwest. Those of my friends and family that live outside the area come to visit and I make sure to treat them to Burgerville. The food there is just something special given its local products and centralized store locations.

All restaurant plugs aside: what has been increasingly prevalent over the years is Burgerville’s consistent desire to not only help the local community but to help conserve resources and to think sustainably. The chain has adapted their own sustainable business and they are not afraid to help the environment in any way that they can.

The best thing about it as well is that being a local fast food chain, purchasing their products also stimulates our economy and increases local and personal awareness for energy conservation. Local food means less travel cost and above-all less fuel used in transporting ingredients.

The restaurant has lined and described all the ways that they help the community, their partners and above all: the environment. The information can be found here: on Burgerville’s official website. 

-Jill Potter

Starbucks' Mission for Environmental Awareness

“Going green” is not a new trend to our ever-growing consciousness, and the labeling of Green products is abundant. Large corporations are discovering the demand for conservation and sustainability techniques. One of these corporations is Starbucks.

For those who have yet to take a trip to the Starbucks website, or even to set foot in a store; there are not only Free Trade techniques applied by the chain, but also as early as 2007 Starbucks set out on a mission to conserve energy with the light bulbs used in their stores. It didn’t stop there however, as the company has increasingly paid more attention to sustainability.

Starbucks’ goals as of this fiscal year are as follows:
  • Fifty percent of the energy used in our company-owned stores will come from renewable sources by 2010
  • Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by making our company-owned stores 25 percent more energy efficient by 2010

The full chart and listing of how Starbucks plans to better the Environment, take a stroll over to their website and browse how they’re helping and what their mission is overall:
-Jill Potter

Energy explained easily

Want to better understand the way energy is used in this country? Take a look at the Department of Energy’s new website, “Energy Explained” at

The website goes over in detail many interesting energy-related topics, from the basic question “What is Energy?” to the more complex explanations of how biomass works and how much of it is used in the U.S.

“Energy touches us in many ways every day, from the electricity that lights our homes to the fuel we use in our cars,” said EIA Administrator Richard Newell in a press release.  “Energy Explained uses plain language and clear graphics to help explain a sometimes complex, but vital subject.”

One of the more interesting tables, directly related to our goal of the term, is this chart of energy consumption in the U.S.:

Especially when compared to the chart of energy produced in the U.S.:

The difference between how much crude oil we produce vs. how crude oil we consume kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

It’s interesting that this website is a new government program launched jus less than two months ago. Energy policy has been an important factor in American life for a very, very long time. Clear explanation of our energy policy and it’s various effects are much-needed in the current political climate, when energy policy and its related environmental policy are so often in the public debate.

-Ed Johnson

Sustainability Tips for College Students

Thanks to Goucher College, students can be sustainable by applying these helpful tips.  Starting with consciousness of your own energy usage, communities can work toward a more sustainable environment, so what better way to begin than when in college?
In the dorm
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs, which last longer and use less energy than regular bulbs.
  • Turn off unnecessary electrical devices when you leave a room for more than 15 minutes.
  • Enable your computer to go into "sleep mode" when not in use.
  • Do not leave computers on all night.
  • Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use.
  • Unplug cell phone charger when charging is complete.
  • Use natural light rather than electric whenever possible.
  • Pull down window shades at night in the winter and during the day in the summer.
  • Go old school -- try a standard phone with a cord instead of a cordless model, which requires constant energy.
  • Turn off and defrost refrigerator over long breaks.
  • Don't use power strips to turn on your computer and desk equipment all at once.
  • Buy inexpensive mugs and plates that you can wash rather than disposable ones and avoid over-packaged takeout food.
  • Reuse envelopes, advertisements, and previously used paper for notes.
  • Buy a water filter and refill a reusable container instead of buying cases of bottled water.
  • Share magazines and books.
In the bathroom
  • Take shorter showers; don't run the water before getting in, and turn off the water when lathering.
  • Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth and shaving.
  • Report leaky faucets and showerheads.
  • Don't use the toilet as a garbage bin. Toss tissues and waste in trash cans.
In the laundry room
  • Only wash full loads of laundry.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water.
  • Air dry whenever possible.
  • Use products containing the least amount of bleaches, dyes, and fragrances.
In the classroom
  • Use refillable binders instead of notebooks or use a laptop.
  • Use recycled paper.
  • Take notes on both sides of paper.
  • If it’s OK with your professor, hand in assignments by printing on both sides of the page. 
  • Unless you’re handicapped, don’t use automatic handicap doors.

Being Green can not only help decrease your carbon footprint but can be as simple as taking time out to ensure that you’re using less energy; and the great thing is it doesn’t have to strap your wallet for cash or seem like a chore!
To learn more ways that you or other students to be sustainable and to reach full list of tips Goucher provided for sustainability, follow the link here:
-Jill Potter

Bacteria + Carbon Dioxide = Gasoline?

This is just incredible.

Earlier this week, researchers from UCLA announced a new biological process that can turn carbon dioxide—the stuff we’re trying to get rid of—into a liquid with similar properties to gasoline—the stuff we desperately want more of.

How it works, according to Science Daily, is by using a genetically modified bacteria that utilize the energy of the sun convert carbon dioxide particles into isobutanol, which is a liquid with similar properties to gasoline. The study suggests that fuel created in this way could easily be adapted to our already-in-place infrastructure, as well as be used in other petroleum-based products.

“An ideal place for this system would be next to existing power plants that emit carbon dioxide, the researchers say, potentially allowing the greenhouse gas to be captured and directly recycled into liquid fuel.”

"We are continuing to improve the rate and yield of the production," said said team leader James C. Liao, Chancellor's Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UCLA and associate director of the UCLA-Department of Energy Institute for Genomics and Proteomics. "Other obstacles include the efficiency of light distribution and reduction of bioreactor cost. We are working on solutions to these problems."

Obviously, the implications of this technology on deciding where our fuel comes from are huge. This particular idea has two distinct advantages: 1) It uses excess carbon dioxide to create energy 2) The researchers claim it is much more easily adapted to our current infrastructure than biomass.

It also got me thinking about the idea of technological development, and how our goal in this class of divvying up energy demands into different types is made more interesting. Technology is being developed, and will continue to be developed, that we can’t fathom right now. It’s a part of the answer to the question of what type fuel we will use in the future. New technology, new sources of energy, will most assuredly be part of the equation.


-Ed Johnson

More money proposed for clean energy investments

The US government will be spending additional money on green projects in a number of sectors. These investments are designed to spur growth in the development of renewable or 'clean' fuels. According to this Marketwatch article ( ) the proposal from congress lays out a 2.5 billion increase in tax credits for manufacturing companies investing in solar, wind and geothermal energy, as well as technologies for storage, transmission, renewable fuels, conservation, plug-in hybrid vehicles, carbon capture and sequestration to reduce greenhouse gases. It also would give out 1.6 billion in grants for coal and biofuel plants to have been operating at low emissions standards. This proposal is an expansion of government funding for such coal and biofuel operations, as they have already granted billions of dollars to large companies who are in compliance. What I like a lot about the new funding is that there are individual grants in the area of 25 million that are specifically for the purpose of helping companies research more efficient and clean ways of producing energy. So long as it is used responsibly I think this funding for private sector research and investment is a very positive thing and large investments by the government, in the billions of dollars, are also good signs to other nations who might be skeptical of our willingness to put our money where our mouth is when it comes to climate change.

-Damen King

Changing Minds

This term, we’ve worked to change minds about a best fuel balance for the world. In Changing Minds, Howard Gardner listed several elements that are crucial to changing minds on our website. While the term is almost over, our website can still improve based on these elements.
            First, Gardner states that “one should begin by determining what is the present (current) content- be it an idea, a concept, a story, a theory, a skill- and what is the desired content. Once the desired content has been identified, the various competing countercontents must be specified.” (209) Our present content focuses on presenting the facts about energy sources, and suggesting a best fuel balance for the future. In my opinion, desirable content for our website would include more of a focus on the future capabilities of renewable energy and well as more scientific research in order to establish energy percentages for the future. Countercontent that could prevent this from happening would include a lack of involvement from students after the term has ended and an inability to produce any real scientific research that could verify that our future energy percentages are viable.
            Gardner also says that we need to determine the size and type of audience that we will be working with. Currently, our website caters to an audience that would probably live in Portland and already be interested in sustainability. It is probably not a large audience; therefore, we need to approach the website from an individual perspective. As the website grows, we can work to tell powerful stories that reach out to large audiences. I believe that we should approach our type of audience from the perspective suggested by Gardner and assume that we might be dealing with the “unschooled mind.” With that in consideration, simple stories would work best. As we have a lack of those on the website, we should consider implementing them. Perhaps a short and humorous story about how one of us switched over to a more sustainable lifestyle would really reinforce the content we’re trying to promote.
            However, we still need to use Gardner’s key mind-changing levers: specifically, when “reason (often buttressed with research), reinforcement through multiple forms of representation, real world events, resonance, and resources all push in one direction- and resistances can be identified and successfully countered.” (211)
            Finally, we need to remember that we must remain ethical, and use goodware to achieve our goals. We “must continue to believe that the will is free and that individuals can make a difference.” (211) We can make a difference with the website that we’ve created. All minds can be changed. We must remember that the project is something that spans beyond just a term.

Post by Alexandra West

Gardner, Howard. Changing Minds. Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2006.

Power politics

To talk about energy consumption, right now, is to talk about politics.

The world’s eyes are on Copenhagen, where the United Nations Climate Change Conference ( currently sees nations the world over trying to figure out an action plan. And any action plan about climate change, is also, really, an action plan about energy consumption.

The most recent development saw the European Union agree to fund—to the tune of $3.6 billion—assistance programs to help poorer countries develop cleaner energy. The countries that will most benefit from these funds are in Africa, where energy development and sourcing is significantly less technologically advanced than in the U.S. and other developed nations.

Also this week, U.S. senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman announced the first step in passing a Senate bill solidifying a energy plan in this country. In a letter outlining the framework of the bill sent to President Obama, it appears the negotiations for an energy plan include almost every type of energy source out there. The letter is unspecific about a possible balance between theses different sources, as well. It does say that the goal is to cut carbon emission 17 percent by 2020.

The main points are as follows:

  • Better jobs, cleaner air.
  • Securing energy independence.
  • Creating regulatory predictability.
  • Protecting consumers.
  • Encouraging nuclear power.
  • Ensuring a future for coal.
  • Reviving American manufacturing by creating jobs.
  • Creating wealth for domestic agriculture and forestry.
  • Regulating the carbon market.
  • Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution.
  • Building consensus.

The letter mentions numerous times that a lot of negotiation is left before any legislation passes. That’s obvious. Right now, it appears to be everything to everybody, and based more on nice ideas than tough choices. It’s becoming clearer and clearer—just look at the ongoing talks in Copenhagen—that to advance an effective energy policy, not everyone will not necessarily walk away happy.

-Ed Johnson

‘Carbon reduction trumps nuclear waste’

An interesting story in this week’s Sustainable Life, a publication of the Portland Tribune, suggests that nuclear power may be rising in the eyes of some of our region’s energy-decision movers and shakers. The reason? Nuclear power isn’t perfect, but its carbon footprint is better than burning coal or natural gas.

From Steve Law’s article:
“Many people now say coal plants constitute a bigger environmental threat because they spew a large volume of greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Some prominent environmentalists, regional energy planners and PGE’s new CEO say it’s time to rethink nuclear power, given the potential global problems from climate change.
Angus Duncan, chairman of the Oregon Global Warming Commission and president of Portland-based Bonneville Environmental Foundation, is periodically asked his views on nuclear power plants.

“My answer is, ‘carbon reduction trumps nuclear waste,’ ” Duncan says.

He’s quick to point out that cheaper remedies for greenhouse gas pollution should be pursued first, such as energy-efficiency measures and renewable energy. But Duncan stresses that Oregon can’t meet its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals if PGE’s Boardman coal plant continues operating.

Boardman emits about one-tenth of all Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions, while nuclear power plants emit none.”

In Oregon, voters would have to approve the building on any new nuclear plant. And after years of being told the nuclear power is a danger, and fighting to get the old Trojan plant shut down, it seems unlikely that they would change their minds. It’s interesting how scientific data has changed what we view as critical energy-related danger over time. Can power utilities really sell voters on the idea that nuclear is “greener” than other forms of power, even if it still poses some danger?

Later in the article, a spokesman from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council revealed that for the first time in over 20 years, the organization researched nuclear power as an option. In their view, he said, nuclear power isn’t the best viable option in a short-term (20-year) plan, because Oregon, specifically, had better options like wind and hydro. Also, the abundance of Natural Gas in the region means that building an infrastructure around that source would be cheaper.

The Sierra club contends that nuclear power still has a high carbon cost, and so doesn’t support it. But this ( report out of the UK refutes that, putting the carbon cost of nuclear somewhere around the same amount as wind power. However, if more lower grade uranium ore is used in the future, because there is more nuclear power, the carbon footprint could skyrocket.

Moving forward in time, it seems that a true cost-benefit analysis of our power needs, and the damage those needs do to the environment, might lead us to some previously almost unthinkable decisions.

-Ed Johnson

0 Emmission Natural Gas

Recently MIT engineers have been trying to figure out a way to take out CO2 emissions from natural gas plants.  “Because we’re keeping the nitrogen out of there, it’s very, very easy to take the CO2 out,” said MIT engineer Tom Adams, co-author of a paper in the Journal of Power Sources on the new plant design. The impact of this could be enourmous for the plants themselves because they would avoid the CO2 emission tax.

The other exiting part about this article is that, if and when they are able to capture the CO2, they engineers are working on making fuel cells out of the emiissions. In the future fuel cell power plants such as these could have a mojor impact on our quest for low carbon fuel.

Although some scientists think that the projections coming from MIT are unrealistic, the fact is that "The group has been steadily progressing towards building fuel-cell power plants. Right now, solid oxide fuel cells like the ones described by Adams are nearing commercialization by Siemens, but at the kilowatt scale, not the megawatt scale. But Adams believes megawatt prototypes could be operational by 2012."
These types of intiatives and projects couldnt come at a better time. The emission standards that we must meet in order to cap global warming are coming up fast and these timetables are exiting because they are aiming for 2012. Your can catch the rest of the article here .

Thursday, December 10, 2009

NW Natural “Smart Energy”

How would you like to support a cause for about the price of your Sunday newspaper? Well Smart Energy by NW Natural claims that you can fight the climate change by doing just that. The main goal of this campaign is to bring biogas into Oregon so we have another source of alternative fuel to choose from. You may be asking what exactly is biogas and here’s your answer. Biogas is essentially cow manure. The process in which this goes through to become biogas is shown in the picture below.

Did you know a typical cow produces 120 pounds of waste each day? Not very pleasant to smell, but even worse for the environment. Manure produces methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. The good news is that gases emitted from cow waste can be captured and used as a renewable energy source.

That’s where Smart Energy comes in. Projects developed through Smart Energy focus on the development of biogas in our region. And with 14 million pounds of cow waste generated in Oregon each day, there’s a lot of potential energy just waiting to be utilized.

For more information on this project find out more here:

Posted by Alexandra Berreth

Monday, December 7, 2009

Connecting the power grids

Great plans are underway to increase wind and solar power use in the US.  A proposal to build a giant energy hub in spanning 20 miles in New Mexico by a company called Tres Amigas, will connect the three major US power grids.  The potential to generate wind and solar power here is high, but the demand for that power in the area is low.  Connecting the power grids will help transport electricity to the coasts where it is needed.  Tres Amigas’ power hub could level out the varying prices of electricity in different areas.  Areas where electricity price is low may see an increase, but places where electricity is expense will see a drop in price.  The project is estimated to finish in an optimistic 5 years, which many observers believe to be quite short for the sheer magnitude of the project.

So far it seems that Tres Amigas is getting a lot of favorable response.  Partners are already in place to supply the huge cables that will be used to transport electricity, and several transmission companies have agreed to cooperate and build transmission lines.

On the downside, the Texas’ state regulated and isolated power grid (called ERCOT) may not be so cooperative. The jurisdiction on ERCOT is tight and Texas may not be willing to compromise that control. 

Read about it here-

The New York Times -

The Tres Amigas website-

-Tristia VanNiekerk

Ocean Power is on its way to Oregon

Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) is seeking support to use the southern Oregon coast for one of their 10-buoy wave-energy farm. Their goal is to begin work by 2010. The Oregon coast will be the first for this new and improve Ocean Power Technologies.  The cost of this project is budgeted at $10 million. 

What are the Ocean Power Technologies? The Ocean Power Technologies are point absorbers, with a linear generator for a power take-off system. The buoys, based on integrated patented hydrodynamics, electronics, energy conversion and computer control systems, capture and convert energy from the natural rising and falling of waves into low-cost, clean electricity. The generated power is transferred ashore via an underwater power transmission cable. This will produce 150 kW of renewable and reliable power.

by Charmaine Reddix

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Marketing Checklist

The Web Marketing Checklist is a very insightful article to marketing our web page: It gives us ideas and helps to keeping cost low to free. It suggests making creative but useful descriptive keywords on your home page. The reason is that a Google search will find your webpage plus the first 60words out of the body of your webpage. Another suggestion is to use social networking sites to generate buzz, which we can be found on twitter (ecopol_project). The most important way to create buzz is to tell a friend, word of mouth can be the best form of marketing. If we are excited about what we do its easy to excite someone else. Not only is this article useful for our cause but it can proven to be help in our careers to market ourselves or the company you work for.

by Charmaine Reddix

Traditional vs. LED Christmas Lights

‘Tis the season for Christmas lights and this year there has been a big push in the industry for using LED lights instead of the traditional bulbs we all have. Some companies like Home Depot are even letting you bring in your old lights and you get a $3 coupon to use towards your purchase of the new LED lights. So why exactly are these LED lights so much better than what we have been using for years? Well here are a few facts about this:

 LEDs use far less power than incandescent lights; 3-33% less power, saving you up to $10 every 300 hours

 LEDs won the durability test; failed to burn out even after over 4,000 hours, with standards burning one or two out per strand before half that time.

 LEDs were not brighter, but ran cooler—did you know 14 people a year are killed as a result of Christmas tree fires?

 LEDs and incandescent lights tied for initial price, at about an average of 7 bulbs per buck.

For more information on LED lights vs traditional lights take a look at this site:

To learn more about LED lights and how they work/how to repair them check out this site:

Posted by Alexandra Berreth

Electric car infrastructure

Imagine how long it took for there to be as many gas stations around the country as there are today. It didn't just happen overnight and unfortunately neither can electric charging stations for electric powered cars. Being able to effectively charge your car is probably the primary concern for consumers when looking at possibly purchasing an electric car, and the concern is very warranted. Today we are lacking in both number of charging stations, and the technology to allow us to quickly charge our cars. In an article from the BBC titled “Can electric cars attract the attention of drivers?” (found here: ), they discuss these challenges and point to some initiatives that the Japanese government, and their auto manufacturers, are taking to build up both the number of charging stations and the cars that will use them. One thing I found interesting was a new technology that allows for short distance wireless charging, similar to that used by an electric toothbrush. I imagine a good place to implement this would be at company parking lots, where they could install them in a few spaces for employees who drive electric cars. There is also an initiative promoted by Nissan to get over ten thousand charging stations installed on the west coast, including 2,000 in Oregon. This is part of the EV Project which Nissan is using to introduce and test their electric car in the market. If you're interested in participating you can go here: you go to buy a new car, an electric car should be something you consider. The infrastructure is certainly growing and within several years there could be hundreds of pumping stations in every major city, and you can also get one installed in your own home!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Who wants to share a car when you can rent a bike?

Everyone who owns a car knows that gas is pretty expensive these days. Most of us just grin and bear it but others try to find other ways to cut down on their gas bills. A huge success was the car-sharing company in which there are cars placed throughout the town that you can rent online at the time and place that you want. You can even pick what type of car (small, medium, truck, etc). This is nice because you only pay for the time you use the car to do your grocery shopping or what have you. However, here in Portland, another form of rentals is popping up; the bicycle. It’s a fantastic exercise and you can get around many amazing spots that a car just can’t get to…oh and the plus is the only energy you are expending is yours.

Portland is a great bike-friendly area too. The city has recently put in many of these “green boxes” (shown in the picture below) to help keep bicyclers safer and seen on the streets. Many people even ride their bikes to work getting in their exercise for the day.

So it’s up to you: drive a car everyday and hurt your pocket even more, share a car and use less gas, or rent a bike and get healthier while doing your daily activities.

For more information about a Portland bike rental company look at this site:

Posted by Alexandra Berreth

Friday, December 4, 2009

General Motors part in alternative fueling

In a news article from, they stated that GM has invested in a startup company that make ethanol from waste products such as from crop waste, scrap plastic, rubber, wood chips as well as garbage!  From what I have read, its been said that GM has invested in the production of “flex-fuel” vehicles, which ran either on standard gasoline, gasoline with 10 percent ethanol, or an 85-15 ethanol gasoline mix. 

Just to expand a little bit on flex fuel vehicles, they are alternative fuel vehicles that’s engines are designed to run on more than one fuel, usually gasoline blended with either ethanol or methanol fuel, which are stored in the same common tank.

General Motors has teamed up with a company named Coskata which has already developed a process for producing ethanol from waste.  The process for this production consist of a two step process which begins with the feedstock (the waste product), which is cooked into a synthesis gas.  “The gas is then processed by means of bacteria that consume synthesis gas and excrete ethanol as a waste product” (Natural News).
According to Coskata, “ethanol should be 50 cents to $1 cheaper than gasoline at the pump” (Natural News).  The company expects to be at this point by the year 2011.

By Andrew Kim

Energy Efficiency Tips for your House

Winter time is a great time to make sure your house is being energy efficient. You can find out by just looking at your energy bill. If it seems more than last year but you think you have been using it just the same its most likely due to energy leaks in your home (drafty doors, windows, floors, walls, electric outlets, etc.). Here are a few low-cost to no-cost energy saving tips for your home:
 Have your furnace and gas appliances serviced annually by a qualified contractor to ensure maximum energy-efficiency and safety.

 Install a programmable thermostat and set it to automatically adjust temperatures to fit your schedule. If no one is home during the day, there’s no need to keep your house warm.

 During the day, put on your favorite sweater and set your thermostat at 65-68 degrees in the winter. For sleep hours, set the temperature at 58-60 degrees and add a cozy blanket to your bed. If you have infants or elderly or ill people in your home, you may want to keep temperatures warmer.

 Seal your ductwork to save energy and improve comfort and air quality. Leaking ducts can waste as much as 30 percent of the heat your furnace produces.

 Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans only as long as needed to vent moisture or fumes, especially in winter. In just one hour, these fans can blow away a houseful of warm air.

 Or try something as easy as these nifty draft protectors (seen in picture) for your doors.

For more great energy saving tips like these, take a look at this site:

Posted by Alexandra Berreth

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Solar Sustainability

Charge your gear with the power of the sun.

People are starting to look up to our fuel situation, up to the sun. Gadgets of all different applications are being made with built in solar panels to charge greenly and freely. 
Here’s some of the more interesting inventions out there that use solar panels to charge.

A thumb drive of up to 2 gigs contains a small solar panel which displays the remaining memory, and solar powered portable mp3 players in the works. See them here on

More practically, Justin Thomas on describes how he uses a $20 solar charger bought on eBay to charges all his portables, a few lamps and a surround sound stereo system.

Solar paneled messenger bags and laptop cases keep eco-friendly in style. Read about messenger bags here, and here for the solar laptop case that charges.

With your solar panel case, you could get a biodegradable solar power laptop by iUnika to match. Check out the sustainability on this baby.

Even cars are on a move to use renewable energy sources. SEV (Solar Electric Vehicles) has created a “solar suit”, a solar charging system for hybrid vehicles. The SEV system charges the hybrid car’s batteries and lengthens drive times in electric mode.

And that’s just a tiny fraction of all the solar powered gadgets out there, giving a promising look in to the future of solar power.

-Tristia VanNiekerk

You be the Judge: Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy Sources

You Be the Judge: Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy Sources

Nuclear Power

    -Can help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 128 million tons per year 
    -Nuclear power plants are now much safer and efficient than earlier plants.  
    -More expensive compared to other energy sources 
    -Have environmental impacts like the creation and release of heat pollution, radiation, and other contaminants that have been linked to an increase in cancer rates

Solar Power

    -Unlimited supply of this energy source, along with the availability of being all over the world, and not just in certain places.  
    -The reflective panels used to absorb the sun’s energy can be blinding to passing traffic, so it will need to be located where there is no traffic, or very little.  Either or, it’s a driving hazard. 
    -Solar power is not continuous; so when the sun sets, the energy source is gone until the sun rises again the next day.  To offset this drawback, there needs to be some type of storage devise, which will cost a lot of money for being a new technology.

Wind Power 

    -Very clean renewable energy source  
    -Unreliable and its strength relies on the local weather 
    -The equipment is also very expensive compared to other energy sources

Hydro power

    -Hydro power plants help reduce the emission of 530 million tons of carbon annually 
    -The creation of dams disrupts habitats by flooding large areas behind the dam which reduces the water flow downstream.

Ocean Power

    -Nonpolluting and renewable  
    -The energy plants needed to harness the oceans energy reduces the tidal range, tidal current flow, as well as alters sea levels which result in the possible endangerment of migratory fish and wildlife species.


    -Readily accessible 
    -Clean form of energy  
    -Removes the nutrients and other beneficial residues from the soil which can lead to the exhaustion of natural resources through deforestation. 
    By Andrew Kim

For more information:

Economic model sees coal in our future

While looking over a journal article for another class I realized that the content is extremely relevant to the topic of fuel balance. The article, “Oil and natural gas prices and greenhouse gas emission mitigation” can be found in the journal Energy Policy. This article discusses the economics behind increasing oil prices and the potential increase in renewable energy investment and production that can result. The researcher sees two main possibilities occurring in the face of rising hydrocarbon prices, either we begin using more coal which will increase our CO2 emissions, or we will use coal with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), nuclear and wind power. The primary force driving these outcomes in the model is the factor of climate policy. The researcher models three scenarios, one in which oil and natural gas prices are at the low end of future estimates, one in the middle and one at the high end. These prices drive our decision making, and as such our primary method for mitigating CO2 emissions will be natural gas with CSS if prices remain low, but without strong climate policy, our energy supplies will come largely from coal which would greatly increase CO2 emissions. Thus climate policy can balance out the economic forces that would drive us toward using huge amounts of coal in the future. By supporting climate policy such as the efforts to implement a cap and trade system, you can help to guide the economic forces towards investment in renewable energy and reduction of CO2 though mitigation of coal consumption.  

-Damen King  

PSU students can get the article here: