The What? The Plant! That’s What!

For many years, Jesse and Samuel Edwin Evans brewed beer at an independent brewery in Northern California. Now they’ve come to Chicago.

Part of a massive vertical farm in an old South Side warehouse, the location of the new brewery will house one of the most sustainable beer-making processes in the world.

Summer before last, John Edel and Bubbly Dynamics LLC purchased the former Peer Foods meat processing plant in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The Plant, is a true green machine, a combination of biological and technological innovations of self-sustaining, off-the-grid food production system.

The Plant gives the following diagram to summarize its inner workings on its website:

The “brewery” portion on the bottom-right is where the Evans brothers come in. Their New Chicago Brewing Company will use some of the facility’s resources, and provide its waste products as fuel.

Jesse told the Huffington Post:

“In the beer-making process, there’s an amazing amount of spent grain that’s produced…At most breweries, around 50 percent of that goes to the landfill…In the beer-making process, there’s an amazing amount of spent grain that’s produced…At most breweries, around 50 percent of that goes to the landfill.”

The steam will be especially helpful to the Evans brothers.

“If you put it in perspective, we’re going to be using a 3,000-gallon pot that we boil for two, three hours.” Instead of having to burn gas for the boil, the steam will do the trick. “So that’s a huge cost savings…Microbrewing is usually a closed-door thing…Here, beer nerds are going to get to be a part of the process.”

Building Green Neighborhoods With Kaid Benfield

Kaid Benfield

Kaid BenfieldAuthor of “Once There Were Greenfields” (NRDC 1999), “Solving Sprawl” (Island Press 2001), “Smart Growth In a Changing World” (APA Planners Press 2007), and “Green Community” (APA Planners Press 2009); Kaid Benfield is also co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council and co-founder of Smart Growth America.

In 2009, he was voted one of the “Top urban thinkers” on, and named one of “the most influential people in sustainable planning and development” in 2010 by Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

You can check out his blog at NRDC’s Switchboard.

Recently he wrote about an exhibit on building green neighborhoods:

The Chicago Architecture Foundation, Farr Associates and the U.S. Green Building Council produced an exhibit about how to build green neighborhoods. It opened last year in Chicago and now is on display at the American Institute of Architects headquarters in Washington.

The world of architecture has played the part of both villain and hero. Hero because many of the first leaders of sustainability and smart growth in the built environment have been architects.

As far as architecture is concerned, LEED for Neighborhood Development has revolutionized the game. Invented by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. Green Building Council and the Congress for the New Urbanism, LEED-ND evaluates the internal environmental performance of developments.

However, LEED-ND, its 47-page “certification policy manual” and 400-page “reference guide,” its 56 technical credits and prerequisites, are not for those short on patience and time for hyper-precise measurement, or for planning and construction trivia.

Sup? Suberra, That’s Sup!

Suberra CorkAfter cork bark, the wood used to make wine bottle corks, is plugged, it may be fashioned into a durable, high-density slab called Suberra by the Eco Supply Center in Richmond, Virginia. This company has compress post-industrial recycled cork grain with a polyurethane binder to create 1-1/4 inch composite slabs, 25-1/2 inches wide by 36-1/2 inches long.

Cork is made from Cork Oak bark which regenerates hastily. It is composed of suberin, a water-repelling and waxy substance. Suberra gets its name from this substance.

The material may be installed using woodworking tools and standard adhesives, according to the Eco Supply Center. Suberra may also contribute to LEED in the renewable, recycled content and no-added urea formaldehyde provisions.

According to lab tests, Suberra has a fire rating of Class B and a good resistance to stain and abrasion (except for mustard, ammonia and black shoe polish in raw, unfinished samples). Each slab weighs about 31 pounds and may be used to make vanities, tables, desks, kitchen islands, countertops, and other surfaces.

Suberra usually goes for about $250-$300 per slab.

Eco Contraceptives

There are a plethora of environmental concerns pertaining to a number of contraceptives, especially ones containing hormones. For instance, with sex hormones being detected in the drinking water of nearly 41 million Americans, prescription drug pollution is becoming a pressing problem. Synthetic estrogens in wastewater even feminize male fish; our own hormonal systems might also be vulnerable.

And then, for non-hormonal contraceptive methods, there is the issue of waste. Even condoms may become a problem considering that 437 million of them are sold in the US every year. While latex is a natural material, the additives in most condoms compromise biodegradability. On top of this, the non-recyclable wrappers create their own mountain of waste.

Here are some good things to know:

  • Fair-trade condoms are made of 100 percent natural latex from sustainably managed rubber plantations, fair-trade condoms such as French Letter are also vegan, since they do not contain the dairy product.
  • Lambskin condoms are made from natural lambskin which is biodegradable.
  • Both diaphragms and cervical caps are reusable, which makes them a smart contraceptive candidate where waste is a concern.
  • Copper IUD remains the gold standard for eco-friendly contraception. They are almost 100% effective, hormone-free, and last up to 10 years.
  • Introducing: The BamBike

    Bryan McClelland has made the “Green form of transportation even greener…” with his new invention, the BamBike!

    BambikeThe BamBike is a bicycle that is made out of bamboo. Built in Manila, Phillipines, which is among the most polluted capitals in the world, these bikes, costing around five hundred dollars, are built by local skilled laborers, and the company advertises that as a company that is interested in helping out people and the planet, their bicycles are, of course, made with fair-trade labor.

    The BamBike frame is constructed from cut and dried bamboo lumber and wrapped with Manila hemp fibers.

    McClelland says

    “Bamboo is one of the greenest building materials on earth, so bicycles built out of bamboo are, more or less, the greenest way to get around.”

    So far, not everyone has jumped on the bamboo bandwagon, though. Some locals, according to McClelland are skeptical about the bike’s durability. McClelland, however, insists that compared to metal, bamboo has quite the same tensile vigor and an even greater strength to weight ratio.

    Climate Research in Israel’s Dead Sea

    Recent research shows evidence of truth to the Sodom and Gomorrah story. Five miles out from the shore of the Dead Sea, near to the center of that mysterious body of water, an international team of scientists from Israel, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Japan and the United States have been drilling beneath the seabed with the hopes of digging up a record of climate change and earthquake history, which would stretch back half a million years.

    Dead SeaThe 40 day project, led by Israel and bank-rolled by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program, based in Germany, culminated in finding a wood fragment, roughly 400,000 years old and a layer of gravel from a mere 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. These findings evinced that what is now the middle of the Dead Sea was once a shore.

    The objective of the experiment was to extract a geological core that might supply information of global importance on natural processes and environmental changes.

    The Dead Sea, in Israel, sits in the deepest, largest basin in the world. The scientists drilled at the center because they assumed the sediment accumulated there had always been underneath the water and the better preserved for never having had exposure to the atmosphere.

    The first borehole reached nearly 1,500 feet below the seabed until the drill-head actually died. That hole produced scores of plastic tubes filled with continuous segments of sediment. They will be sent to Germany for analysis.

    The varying layers of mud and salt seem to represent both wet and dry periods, respectively. The gravel at the bottom was similar to what is found today on the shores of the Sinai Peninsula. While the Dead Sea’s levels have dropped, purportedly because of human intervention, the famous body of water had in history reached yet lower levels and still managed to bounce back.

    The Green Light Is On Wine

    Ever since Julius Caesar ruled much of the world, the wine business has been huge. In 2009, California alone sold 554 million gallons domestically and abroad. But back when Caesar was toasting his latest military victory they probably weren’t thinking about the ecological effects of a 100 B.C. vintage. By the same token, their vineyards weren’t maintained with the same chemicals and pesticides which are used by most modern wineries use.

    These days, you will have to look a little harder to find a wine which is not synthetically manipulated in any way, be that man-made fertilizers, pest deterrents, or chemical-laden bottling processes.

    But while they are hard to find, they are indeed out there: more and more winegrowers are now producing organic grapes using low-impact and biodynamic viticulture procedures. They are also upping the sustainability of their properties by controlling erosion, irrigation, and fertilization with the long-term health of the earth in mind.

    Other vineyards are cutting back on their packaging and consumption. Some small local wineries offer neighborhood customers an energy efficient alternative to vintages shipped from overseas. So whether you are looking for that perfect party chardonnay or just a Merlot for sipping after a busy week, it is now easier than ever to green your reds and whites.

    The Green Light is on Beer

    We are on the heels of the hot sunny summer season – and what with global warming, things are only going to be getting hotter. Let’s face it, you’re going to want something cold to drink – and if you’re anything like me, you’ll go for a beer.

    Since environmentalists love The Ancient Brew of Hops, in our environmentally aware time we’ve witnessed a boom in green, organic spirits, sustainable and renewable energy-powered breweries.

    There’s a lot that you can do to be a green drinker: you can support sustainable and even solar powered breweries, you can drink strictly organic, pesticide-free beers. And by God steer clear of excessive packaging in cans and bottles.

    Luckily, organic beer is a growing force in the booze industry. If a beer bears an organic label, that means that it has been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It adheres to strict, legally binding farming regulations. It means that you can expect the barley and hops to be organically grown: no toxic pesticides, no chemical preservatives and no artificial fertilizers. Drinking and buying organic is also a nice way to support more sustainable agriculture, and even to contest global warming.

    Look out for beer companies that are going the distance to achieve environmental responsibility. For instance, Sierra Nevada, powers its brewery with solar power, while Anderson Brewery in Chico, could well be the first truly 100% sustainable brewery. Or check out Cascade Green, an Antipodean beer company that offsets its emissions by 100%. Plus they’re delicious beers.

    Bottoms up.

    Calera to Produce Carbon Absorbing Cement

    Calera logoA Silicon Valley start-up says that it has found a way to capture the carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas power plants and absorb them in cement.

    Cement production is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in the United States; coal-fired electricity plants are the biggest source.

    “With this technology, coal can be cleaner than solar and wind, because they can only be carbon-neutral,” said Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley billionaire. His venture capital firm, Khosla Ventures, has invested about $50 million in Calera. On Monday, Calera will announce that Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, has invested $15 million.

    Calera says that by changing carbon into a building material, it can make carbon reduction economically attractive, especially in places where there are no government subsidies or carbon taxes.

    In 2007, Brent Constantz and Mr. Khosla formulated plans for Calera. Though the company declines to share precise details of its process, it says that it combines carbon dioxide with seawater or groundwater brine, which contains calcium, oxygen and magnesium. It gets left with calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, used for making cement and aggregate.

    To make its cement more usable for manufacturers of traditional Portland cement, it is also making concrete blends of 20% Calera cement and 80% Portland cement – the calcium silicate binder used in concrete for buildings, bridges and highways.

    Eco-Friendly Recovery from the Flu and Common Cold

    box of tissuesSneezing green may be a duality – one interpretation comes with ease, the other, very much not so. When your head is pounding and you’ve been hacking up a lung all night, the last thought on your mind is, how can I make this experience more eco-friendly?

    Times of illness do not a conservationist make: It is pretty much just scrapping for whatever will provide relief, whether that is three-times-a-day deliveries of tom yum gai or a medicine cabinet stuffed with decongestants.

    I’m actually just recovering from a two-week bought with bronchitis. I feel quite guilty about this; yesterday, I stood in the tissue aisle of the drugstore for a full 10 minutes, debating whether my nose was worth the destruction of so many old-growth forests.

    In this case, sadly, I must admit: I decided that it was. Had I felt like my normal and healthy, eco-crusader self, I would have made the schlep to the supermarket that I know stocks sustainable boxes of 100% recycled, chlorine-free Seventh Generation tissue.

    With a bit of knowledge, even the most pathetic of cold-sufferers can lessen the damage of their feverish footprint. Here are some ideas:

    Washable tissues are an elegant, eco-friendly option. In the privacy of your home, who cares if you look like a granny when you’re blowing your nose in an old-timey tissue? You’ll find that they’re also a nice alternative to recycled facial tissues, which feel like sandpaper.

    It’s not fun or easy to cook when you’re sick, but a week’s worth of wonton soup delivery can add up to a pile of trash, definitely due to all of that unnecessary packaging (who needs 10 packets of soy sauce anyway?). Just cook up a giant pot of soup that’s full of organic veggies.

    With the threat of H1N1 this flu season, it seems like everyone’s going crazy with the hand sanitizer. Though many conventional sanitizers contain harmful chemicals like phthalates, and can actually promote the growth of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria if they contain the antimicrobial triclosan, a suspected endocrine disruptor. Bottom line? To prevent your illness from infecting others, nothing is as safe and effective as washing your hands with soap and water.

    Don’t pressure your doc into prescribing an antibiotic for your runny nose. The common cold and flu are viral illnesses, and while it’s not fun to wait it out for a week while your cough dies off, a dose of amoxicillin will not make you healthier. In fact, it could harm you, since every time you take an antibiotic when you don’t actually have a bacterial infection, you actually increase your risk of later developing a life-threatening superbug.

    It’s very tempting to arm yourself with an arsenal of decongestants and sleeping aids, but most of these medications come with a whole slew of side effects — and actually do nothing to lessen the duration of your illness. They also will pollute our soil and groundwater with chemicals once they’re thrown in the trash. Interestingly, some of the best remedies are also the most eco-friendly: a salt water gargle to soothe a sore throat and hot lemon water with honey to calm a cough.