September 2011 - Our Daily Green

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thrifty Homeowner Green

Thrifty, Green Homeowners May Get a Boost

An innovative program is bringing Republicans and Democrats together to boost renovations that would conserve energy and trim electric and gas bills.

While it might seem rare these days for Republicans and Democrats to work together on anything, two Republican members of the House of Representatives recently joined with one of their colleagues in the Democratic Party to introduce an important new piece of renewable energy legislation.
Reps. Nan Hayworth (R-NY), Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) have proposed a bill this summer that would create new green jobs while reducing homeowners' electric and gas bills. The legislation is designed to protect the ability of local communities to adopt an innovative clean-energy financing strategy that has attracted bipartisan support from coast to coast — and with good reason.
This financing strategy, known as "property assessed clean energy," or PACE, allows homeowners to finance the up-front costs of installing residential clean-energy systems through city partnerships that spread out the payments as an add-on to their property taxes for as long as 20 years.
As a way to encourage homeowners to invest in cleaner energy without high up-front costs, PACE programs have proven popular with cities working hard to stimulate their local economies and create green jobs. Since 2008, 27 state legislatures have enabled cities and counties to set up PACE assessments. PACE legislation has passed in state legislatures with both Democratic and Republican majorities. Republicans in Virginia, Missouri, and Texas, as well as Democrats in Oregon, Minnesota, and New Hampshire have approved these initiatives.
(Tai Viinikka / Flickr)
(Tai Viinikka / Flickr)

Despite this groundswell of bipartisan support, PACE programs ground to a halt last summer when the Federal Housing Finance Agency directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stop financing mortgages associated with a PACE assessment. This move, which has baffled some lawmakers, resulted from concerns that PACE loans might have to be paid back first if a property owner goes into foreclosure.
The new House legislation would clearly define in law that PACE assessments aren't loans (and don't become due in full in the case of foreclosure), and would prohibit Fannie and Freddie from discriminating against PACE-associated homeowners. At the same time, the bill seeks to quell the mortgage lenders' fears by limiting their risk through a series of national program standards.
For example, the legislation caps the cost of clean-energy projects at 10 percent of home value, and limits participation to homeowners with a solid tax-payment history and at least 15 percent equity in their home. In addition, to qualify for a PACE assessment, homeowners must undergo energy audits of their properties that show how their projects will pay for themselves in lowered energy bills over the course of the assessment.
This last requirement simply demonstrates what PACE enthusiasts have been telling Fannie and Freddie all along: No other property assessment project increases homeowners' financial stability the way the installation of a clean-energy system does.
In fact, a recent study by the economic consulting firm ECONorthwest found that PACE assessments tend to reduce homeowner default rates, making them a boon rather than a burden to Fannie and Freddie.
Looking at four municipalities that enacted some of the earliest PACE programs, ECONorthwest found a default rate of 0.1 percent amongst PACE-assessed homeowners, versus a 3.2 percent default rate for non-PACE homeowners in the same areas over the same time period.
In these politically contentious times, any program that can bring Republicans and Democrats together to boost both clean-energy installations and job creation deserves to be protected. That this same program can shift the country toward renewable energy, strengthen local communities, save homeowners money during an economic downturn, and help blunt the foreclosure crisis makes it a program that simply must be saved.
Andrew Korfhage is Green America's online and special projects editor.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sustainable Eating Green

7 Ways to Cook Up a Sustainable Diet by Vicki Robin — YES! Magazine

Last year, Vicki Robin lived for a month eating only food from within a 10-mile radius. She's back
with tips for planning a planet-friendly diet to get ready for YES! No Impact Week

by posted Sep 08, 2011

A year ago, I undertook a month-long experiment in making the "idea" of eating local a daily practice: For one month, I ate only food that was produced within a 10-mile radius of my home on Whidbey Island, Washington.

Vegetables photo by Martin Cathrae
Photo by Martin Cathrae
I allowed myself four "exotics"—foods from afar—because living without them would make the experiment a prison I'd never want to visit again. My exotics were olive oil, salt, caffeine and limes (and I discovered while researching my book in progress, Blessing the Hands That Feed Us, that these exceptions—plus chocolate—tend to be everyone's exotics).

The diet forced me to confront my habits, preferences, and obsessions. I had to learn to cook from only what's at hand, and understand my unique place on the earth—with its land and farmers and food—as never before. Sign up for No Impact Week— an 8-day carbon cleanse that could lead to a happier, healthier, and more sustainable way of life. I'm a learner, and what I learned nourished me as much as the food did. Now, as hundreds of you take on the challenge of a sustainable diet for No Impact Week, here are seven tips for happier (and healthier) eating, wherever you are planted.
  1. Savor your food without distractions. Chew it not for "good digestion" but to enjoy the flavors. Don't read or write emails or watch a movie. You may actually notice when you are full and stop. Savoring alone could lead us to eat, spend, and waste less.
  2. Cook with what's at hand. If it is in your fridge or on your shelves, count it as local. How much food do we waste simply because we forget we have it? 
  3. Become competent in your kitchen. Using hand tools rather than a food processor saves energy and sharpens new skills. My 10-Mile Diet When Tricia Beckner asked me to only eat for a month what she can produce on her CSA farm-ette, I was game. We’ve widened the circle a little to include food produced within 10 miles of my home on Whidbey Island. 
  4. Adopt one farmer and stock up. Local food means that specific human beings did a lot of hard work with much love to bring good food to their communities. Pick someone who sells at the farmers market or to your local co-op or grocer. Go to their farm and buy food for your No Impact Week experiment. It's fun. Want to go more native? Buy winter storage food to live local in the cold months. 
  5. Invite someone to dinner. When we eat alone, we tend to wolf down our food. And families are so busy and distracted they often don't think to invite someone over for a meal. I learned that eating is an act of belonging, and we are not meant to be as anti-social as many of us have become. Cook a nice meal from your local supplies and enjoy conviviality.
  6. Read the labels at your grocery store. Where do the 25 foods you most often buy originate? Is your olive oil simply distributed in California, or are those California-grown olives? Is your Napa wine really made with Napa grapes, or is it a blend? Is there information about the people who grew the food, packaged, or shipped it?
  7. Start some alfalfa seed sprouts on your windowsill on day one. By the last day of the week, eat them. Local tools, local farmers, local company, local sprouts—it's all part of your local food system. Here's to No Impact Week showing you how good food can be—for your body, soul, and sense of belonging. 
Vicki Robin wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions for a just and sustainable world. The coauthor of Your Money or Your Life,  Vicki teaches classes about frugal, creative, and self-sufficient living.

This article is reprinted in compliance with the Creative Commons License. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gmail Green

Do you know that the email carrier you choose actually can make a difference for the environment? Even such a small step makes a difference. Today's Do Your Part article explains why G mail also stands for GREEN! 

(republished from Do Your Part: September 8, 2011, Why It's Green to Send Gmail)
Companies often choose ‘cloud computing’ to save time and money. But a new report shows emailing in the clouds is also 80 times more energy efficient than in-house email. A recent study by the Carbon Disclosure Project revealed that cloud computing has the potential to reduce global carbon emissions by millions of metric tons. That study led Google to investigate how the services they offer stack up against the alternatives. 
Google compared Gmail to the traditional email services that it says it has replaced in more than 4 million businesses. Google says it found switching to Gmail can be almost 80 times more energy efficient than running in-house email.
Google says cloud-based services are more efficient because they are typically housed in highly efficient data centers that use hardware and software built for the services they provide. Google’s cloud-based email servers are also largely housed and cooled in more energy efficient environments. The company also builds and designs its own servers to be as efficient as possible. 
A recent study of data center electricity use found Google accounts for .8 percent of the world’s data center infrastructure, but only accounts for .011 percent of overall data center energy use.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Applegate Farms Green

With the nation back to school, lunch packing is also on the rise. Cold cuts are one of the most popular and simple ways to put together a sandwich, but often are loaded with preservatives and chemicals. The founders of Applegate Farms wanted to change that. Stephen McDonald, a former vegetarian, found himself torn. He still enjoyed meat, but couldn't find healthy safe meat to consume.

Applegate has a philosophy that supports local farms, does not give medication to their animals, but instead fresh air, does not use hormones, or growth enhancers, and wants to change the way Americans eat meat.  Fifteen Things you can Tell your Mother about Applegate is a downloadable and printable PDF that explains their company mission in simple and honest terms.

Applegate believes in corporate transparency so strongly that a customer can enter the UPC of a product on their website and trace it from farm to table. Applegate's commitment to transparency extends beyond the boardroom or website and they are a vibrant member of the communities they serve. The Applegate Tour bus goes to community festivals, supermarkets and fairs to promote their healthy food. This fall, in association with the National Archives What's Cooking, Uncle Sam? exhibit, Applegate is helping underwrite the documentary Lunch Line
... illustrates that, while the National School Lunch Program has become an easy target for critics, the program has a unique capacity for addressing child welfare, the public good, and the problem of hunger. Revealing the history and complexity of these issues, Lunch Line shows how those on all sides of the lunch line can work together for a common good: the health of America’s kids.

Our Daily Green is proud to partner with Applegate. We received different samples of their newest products to taste and review prior to this post. We are happy to report complete satisfaction with the product. As a long time personal customer of Applegate lunch meats, it was exciting to taste about their new products and learn more about the company's continued dedication to healthy and sustainable food.

To learn more, find Applegate Farms on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.