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.

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.

Just Another Solar Powered President

Last month, the White House snubbed a proposal by activists to reinstall one of former President Carter’s solar panels atop the executive mansion.

This was not, however, a snub of solar energy, altogether.

Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, and energy secretary, Steven Chu will unveil plans to put photovoltaic solar collectors and a solar hot water heater atop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Secretary Chu said in a statement:

Solar Whitehouse

“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home…Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”

President Carter’s solar array was dismantled in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan; but the first President Bush installed a modest solar-charged system to power a maintenance building and heat the White House swimming pool.

The solar power industry applauded the White House action as a sign of its commitment to renewable energy.

“As we enter the second decade of the 21st century experiencing a horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a devastating natural gas explosion in California, death of 25 West Virginia coal miners, kidnapped uranium miners in Niger — it’s about time for the United States to reposition itself as a global leader in solar and the entire portfolio renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies critical to our economic and national security.”

Explained Scott Sklar, president of the Stella Group, which promotes renewable power generation.

He continued:

“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home…Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”

The President’s move, indeed, is a step in the right direction; but he has not by any means one-upped his predecessors. He is no more innovative than Carter or Bush, and therefore he is not actually doing anything for the green revolution. Cap and Trade is an unfulfilled dream – an idea in vain, perhaps. And oil and coal prices have not been raised in order to make room for the alternative energy industry, like electric cars, for example. Coal power still accounts for about half of the country’s electricity; and we continue to increase our fossil fuel supply by engaging in offshore drilling.

Coming Soon To a Gas Station Near You: E15

Give your automobile an adult cocktail!

The Environmental Protection Agency will approve the ethanol blend, E15, for cars in the 2007 model year. This is a result of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, mandating an increase in renewable fuels for the transport sector.

The decision will apply to more than 42 million vehicles; that’s almost 20% of all passenger cars and light-duty trucks in the U.S.; that is, all 2007 and newer.

Then, come November, after the engine testing on those models is finalized, EPA is expected to decide whether to approve E15 for vehicles 2001 to 2006. Approval of those 86 million trucks and cars would mean that E15 would be permitted in more than half of the total passenger cars and light-duty trucks on the road today.

E15 is a compound made of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. It is the highest ratio of ethanol to gasoline possible for auto manufacturer-recommended vehicles in the US.

In March 2009, Growth Energy, a lobbying group from the ethanol industry requested the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) to allow the ethanol content in gasoline to be increased to 15%, from 10%.

By June 2010 the E.P.A. failed to reach twice the self-imposed deadlines to rule on this issue. The necessary tests had not been completed, they argued. But now it is set to take action.

The blend will show an initial appeal, thanks to the novelty. Ethanol is cheaper, measured by volume than gasoline, so a blend that is 15% ethanol will be cheaper than a blend at the current 10% standard.

However, writes Matthew L. Wald, in the New York Times’ Green Blog,

“…in a quirk of fuel production, it often turns out to be more expensive to use. Ethanol has only about two-thirds as much energy per gallon as gasoline, so it has to sell for about one-third less than gasoline before it is equal in price per mile.”

Growth Energy, raised EPA eyebrows though when they explained that

“If one retailer began selling E15, others would be forced to follow or customers would be drawn to the competitor.”

Growth Energy official, Jeff Broin said:

“We are not surprised that retailers are cautious at the offset…You know we have been producing ethanol for 23 years, and E10 is just now reaching market saturation. So even though E15 is not a mandate, we expect it to be a good value for consumers, and that will drive adoption.”

When one retailer starts selling the mixture, “and they can sell it a lower price, it will encourage others to sell it.”

Is Your Bathroom Green

fairy canKeeping it green at home? We certainly hope you are. In case you are stumped about what you can do to get along with the environment in the bathroom, here are some good tips!

Wiping It:
Well I don’t know about you guys, but when I get into the bathroom, and I know I am going to be there for at least a few minutes, besides reading material, I am going to be checking for crucial supplies. On this thought, I urge you to do away with the two-ply designer toilet paper! Switch to recycled. It is less expensive for both you and Mother Earth. Every ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 4,000 kilowatts of electricity, 7,000 gallons of water, and 3 disgusting cubic yards of landfill. Also, look for toilet paper which is unbleached and chlorine-free.

Washing It:
Did you know that showers are the biggest resource spenders in the home? Well you do now! Replace your old showerhead with a WaterSense or another energy-efficient model. By doing this you can save up to 3 gallons of water a minute. Listen to this: if just one out of every 100 homes was retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, we would avoid 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year. Amazing!

toilet houseSteaming It:
While almost everybody has an exhaust fan in their bathroom to reduce mold, we shall not forget that the fan is not a friend of the environment. Make the switch to exhaust fans which are thermostatically controlled and not connected to the light switch – this way they will not become over used.

Draining It:
Remember not to let the faucet run. Using a cup of water when brushing your teeth, is one way to conserve water. Use the drain stop when washing your face or shaving – and make sure the drain stop works efficiently, and is not actually swallowing water.

Flush It:
Did you know that flushing the toilet is responsible for about 30% of all water used by the average American household – in other words almost 44,000 gallons of quality water is lost per family every year. YIKES! Make the switch to a high-efficiencytoilet, so you can use 1.3 gallons or less per flesh, as opposed to the 3.5 to 7 gallons of good water which you were using with your old throne.

Effectively Replacing Petroleum

oil drillingI need not strain myself by explaining that people and governments are both stubborn when it comes to going green. Global warming is nearly an impossible sell and as for energy, well, “if it ain’t cheap, it won’t compete.” Governments, worldwide apparently do not have the cajones to legislate a significant cut in oil consumption. And while the global oil supply is not actually running out, it is getting harder to find. Drill drill drill, that’s been the motto for as far back as we can remember. Now oil companies are anxious to begin drilling in the North Pole, the only untouched continent in the world.

Given the global aloofness to environmental concern, oil will only disappear as a necessity for transportation fuel when someone replaces it with a power-packed, cheap, stored energy alternative, which is easy to handle and quick to refuel with. These, my friends, are the facts.

As far as energy cost goes, the one obvious choice for replacing diesel and gasoline is pure battery electricity. Electric vehicles can be recharged from the grid for much less than the cost of gasoline or diesel from the pump. However electric vehicles and their batteries ARE expensive.

Currently lithium-based rechargeable batteries are used. And they cost an arm and a leg. They are costly because of the combination of using a rare, expensive metal combined with an involved production process. So what’s the cost solution? How about, Rechargeable Zinc-Air batteries!

It has long been thought that zinc battery chemistries could not be electrochemically recharged. ReVolt Technologies of Norway, proudly denies this myth. They have developed zinc-air technology which is indeed rechargeable. They have developed a technology which may be used to power anything from cars to cellular phones. ReVolt claims that their zinc-air chemistry has twice the amount of stored energy than conventional Lithium-ion batteries.

ReVolt is trying to break into the U.S. electric vehicle market; they are opening up a U.S. headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Currently the company is applying for $30 million in grants from the US Department of Energy (DOE) under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), in order to speed up the commercialization process of its large format zinc-air batteries for energy storage and electric vehicle applications.