Environment Forum

Designers pitch ‘trashy’ island in Pacific

An artist's rendition of the urban portion of Recycled Island, courtesy of WHIM Architecture. REUTERS/Handout

From time to time we are reminded there is a floating pool of plastic bottles, caps, and broken down debris roughly the size of Texas swirling in the Pacific Ocean.

There’s a collective disgust when it bobs back into view, like it did this week after the Guardian profiled a group of Dutch eco-architects and their ambitious design of a so-called Recycled Island made entirely of the trash now floating in the North Pacific, between Hawaii and San Francisco.

Most commentators acknowledge the award-winning architects‘ project, with costs still undetermined, is realistically never going to get off the drafting table.

But the project is winning accolades all over the blogosphere for its innovative infrastructure based on natural resources like solar and wave energy. The island even has its own agricultural region (See below).

Artist's rendition shows the agricultural region of Recycled Island, courtesy of WHIM Architects. REUTERS/Handout

The design is also winning points for resurrecting the issue of the garbage patch, an entirely preventable environmental disaster for birds and marine life who populate the same regions as our used water bottles, lighters, and plastic shopping bags, to name a few of the most commonly-found contents.

R.I.P. cap and trade? Not just yet

– Valerie Volcovici is a Washington, DC-based journalist for Point Carbon, a Thomson Reuters company that provides news and intelligence on environmental and energy markets. Any views expressed here are her own. —

The architects of the Western Climate Initiative couldn’t have asked for better timing for the release of the blueprints for their planned cap-and-trade system on July 27.

With national headlines the week before calling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s legislation to set up a federal greenhouse gas emissions trading system “shelved”, “jettisoned” or even “dead”, the release of the highly technical details of the WCI’s cap-and-trade plans drew more attention than would have otherwise been expected.

The Green Gauge: Black mark on Enbridge

Gretchen King holds a protest sign as she joins residents in downtown Marshall to protest the oil spill on the Kalamazoo River July 30, 2010. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Enbridge’s stain on the Kalamazoo River in central Michigan pushed this Calgary-based energy delivery company to the headlines as details emerged about 840,000 gallons of crude that spilled from one of their pipelines into a creek on July 26.

Enbridge leads this installment of The Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies that made headlines July 18 to August 9 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.

Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

Irresponsible to declare Gulf oil crisis over

A barge hauls booming material near Grand Isle, Louisiana July 23, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Celano

– Dr. Bruce Stein is associate director for wildlife conservation and global warming at the National Wildlife Federation. Any views expressed here are his own. —

Here at the National Wildlife Federation, we’re encouraged by reports of progress in permanently sealing the Gulf oil gusher and at removing oil from the Gulf’s surface. But we’re concerned that both BP and our federal government seem eager to declare the crisis over even as oil continues sullying the habitats on which the Gulf’s wildlife and seafood industry depend.

While Wednesday’s NOAA report touted that only a quarter of the oil is in marshes or still on the surface, it says another quarter was naturally or chemically “dispersed” beneath the surface.

Utilities may win big from energy bill

The sun rises over electric power lines in Encinitas, California in this file photo from September 4, 2007.   REUTERS/Mike Blake

–Andrew Leckey is President of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Any views expressed here are his own.-

Having spent the past two weeks in record high temperatures in Beijing and Shanghai, with global warming being noted publicly by Chinese officials as the primary cause of severe weather, I find the situation faced by U.S. companies somewhat ironic.

The now-grounded U.S. climate legislation, rather than clearing a general or modest environmental path for U.S. companies and emerging nations, underscored the significant differences of opinion over the environment and the economic impact of regulation.

Dalian oil spill is all cleaned up

A laborer cleans up oil at the oil spill site near Dalian port, Liaoning province July 23, 2010. China's Xingang oil port has resumed some refined fuel loading for the domestic market, but fuel exports remain temporarily halted, industry officials said amid continuing efforts to clean up an oil spill at the country's major port of Dalian. REUTERS/Stringer

The Chinese government this week announced the oil spill is all cleaned up in Dalian harbor, off the north coast of Liaoning province in China.

That was fast.

Not even two weeks ago, on July 17, a blast hit two oil pipelines and spread an estimated 1,500 metric tons of crude oil (462,000 gallons) into the Yellow Sea.  (Update: Greenpeace on July 30 said as many as 60,000 metric tons could have been spilled.)

It’s a minute fraction of the amount of crude that has spilled into the Gulf of Mexico since the BP Deepwater explosion of April 20, with an estimated 414,000–1,186,000 tons — but it’s still significant enough for 8,000 workers and 800 fishing vessels to dive in to clean-up efforts, some literally.

How green are your gadgets?

A Blackberry mobile device, made by Research in Motion (RIM), is seen on a shelf in Toronto, July 13, 2010. The company will hold its annual general meeting of shareholders today. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

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This article by Teri Schultz originally appeared in GlobalPost.

Do you know how much of your beloved BlackBerry can be absorbed back into nature? Have you envisioned the end-of-life plan for your precious new iPad? Considered cradle-to-cradle care for your webcam?

High-tech entrepreneurs Marc Aelbrecht, Jean-Pierre D’Haese and Xavier Petre are betting that if you haven’t factored these questions into your purchasing choices yet, you soon will — and you’ll go looking for companies like theirs.

The three Belgians are the brains and consciences behind United Pepper, the first electronics producer in the world to receive certification for “fair trade,” signifying the sustainability of its production process and good working conditions in its manufacturing facilities in Vietnam.

The Green Gauge: Sinar Mas under fire

An aerial view is seen of a cleared forest area under development for palm oil plantations in Kapuas Hulu district of Indonesia's West Kalimantan province

Indonesia’s Sinar Mas came under heavy fire last week from non-government organization Greenpeace as a report named and shamed some of its biggest clients for their role in the destruction of rainforest and peatlands.

Following is a breakdown of the companies that made headlines July 3 to 16 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity, led by Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas.

Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

“The other oil disaster”

billboard

Forget the BP oil spill for a moment. An international PR war is heating up this week between environmentalists and the oil industry over an entirely different sore spot: The Alberta oil sands in northern Canada.

Billboards targeting the region with the largest crude reserves outside the Middle East sprang up in four major U.S. cities this week in the launch of a multi-million dollar, multi-year campaign led by NGO Corporate Ethics International.

The campaign, supported by a network of foundations including Polaris Institute, Friends of the Earth and Earthworks, is scheduled to also run in Europe and Asia.

Power utilities want less of your business

Tarya Seagraves-Quee loads laundry into the washing machine at a laundromat in Cambridge, Massachusetts July 8, 2009.    REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Avoid mopping your floor, laundry and washing your dishes during the day and save energy in the process – that’s what power utilities in the U.S. are telling customers this summer.

Heard this before?

The difference is this year, heat waves have already caused blackouts and power-grid strain across the country, and it’s only mid-July. This begs the question: Do power utilities want less of your business?

Heat waves last month meant increased cooling needs – up as much as 76 percent in some regions – which adds in turn to the threat of power outages.

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