An Eco Friendly Hummer?

green hummer

When one thinks of an eco-friendly car, the humvee isn’t the type of vehicle that normally comes to mind. Nor is a car that would be spotted on the streets of Great Britain, however, last weekend a Humvee was indeed spotted roaming the streets of the city. The car wasn’t turning heads for the normal, obvious reasons, it was catching people’s attention because of its significantly reduced size and because it is electric. This new design is called the MEV HUMMER HX.

The MEV HUMMER HX is the only proportionally correct licensed resort vehicle currently on the market. Its design matches the infamous Humvee and includes the characteristic louver grille, custom wheels, door sills, styled seats, and floor mats.

MEV, or My Electric Vehicle, was formed in 2006; initially trading as Mini Hummer Europe and achieved year on year growth because of its introduction of luxury golf cars manufactured by others to the European market. As a result of poor growth and lack of sales from third party suppliers, a decision was made in 2009 for the company to design and develop their own products.

The greatest thing about this new Hummer is that it is not a gas guzzler like its predecessors. This Hummer is electric and can be charged from a 12V charging point. Despite the fact that General Motors closed the Hummer automotive plant in 2010, it is believed that the little HX model could have saved the brand.

Just before closing the factory, MEV managed to sign the worldwide exclusive rights to manufacture the HUMMER HX as a mini electric vehicle.

Source: My Electric Vehicle

Biofuel from Cows

illustration of cow

Scientists have turned to the digestive tract of cows to study how to break down plant matter and convert it into energy. By using genetic materials from a cow’s rumen, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has begun developing new ways to break down plant fibers for conversion into biofuel.

To convert switchgrass and corn stover, the leaves and stalks of maize, into biofuel requires the plant fibers to be broken down into sugars. The difficulty comes when cell wall polymers are cross-linked in various ways that make them resistant to breaking down. This finding comes from Dominic Wong, a chemist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Western Regional Research Center, located in Albany, California.

Through previous studies, it was discovered that a unique group of enzymes knows as feruloyl esterases (FAEs) are able to break down key links between the polymers. Studies have also shown that the enzymes are produced by specific types of microbes that degrade plant materials.  Wong collected the microbial population from a cow’s rumen and screened their genetic composition to find which genes produced FAE enzymes.

Wong has worked with scientists at Cargill to isolate, sequence, and clone 12 genes which are capable of being introduced into Escherichia coli for production of the enzymes. These enzymes then can be used to break down the polymeric network in the plant cell wall. Wong and the team of scientists at Cargill have written up a provisional patent application on the FAE genes and enzymes.

Furthermore, the enzymes can also be used to enhance the digestibility and nutritional qualities of animal feed, help with the development of nutritional supplements, and be of use in the development of other value-added products.

Agave: A New Bioenergy Crop

image of agave plant

Agave, known for its use in the production of alcoholic beverages and fibers, grows chiefly in Mexico and the south-west of the United States, as well as tropical South America. Agave grows best in semi-arid regions where it will not likely come into conflict with food and feed production. Agave is a succulent with the ability to survive long periods of time without water. An article written in an issue of Global Change Biology-Bioenergy states that there is Agave may potentially be used as a sustainable biofuel feedstock.

In 14 independent studies, scientists have found that Agave yields greatly exceed the yields of other biofuel feedstocks, such as corn, soybean, sorghum, and wheat. Furthermore, scientists have noted that there are various other species of Agave in existences that have not yet been evaluated.

Sarah Davis, a bioenergy analyst, states, “We need bioenergy crops that have a low risk of unintended land-use change. Biomass from Agave can be harvested as a co-product of tequila production without additional land demands. Also, abandoned Agave plantations in Mexico and Africa that previously supported the natural fiber market could be reclaimed as bioenergy cropland. More research on Agave species is warranted to determine the tolerance ranges of the highest yielding varieties that would be most viable for bioenergy production in semi-arid regions of the world.”

The economical and environmental sustainability of Agave could greatly stimulate the economies in Africa, Australia, and Mexico, where large amounts of land are unused due to the arid climate.


Wal-Mart Goes Green

walmart store front

Guest Post By Jim Fitzgerald

Watching baseball’s first quadruple-play was strange. Seeing Wal-Mart go green
is stranger still.

First the baseball: The scene was a game of T-Ball, where everyone bats every
inning, regardless of the number of outs.

The bases were loaded when a line drive ended up in the glove of the pitcher.
While he wondered how it got there, all the runners took off without tagging
up. The pitcher ran to third, then second, then first.

We kept counting the number of outs and they did not add up. First in our heads:
That doesn’t make sense. Then on our hand: That’s crazy. Then our other hand:
It kept adding up to four outs.

It took us a while to believe what we saw right in front of us.

And now Wal-Mart, the original Black Hat, is going green. Or better said, sustainable.
Let that sink in because it is true. Big time.

So much so that says It “could end up being one of the biggest
motivators to make truly ‘green’ products ever.”

As in the history of the world.

Wal-Mart has made believers out of not just the biggest environmental organizations
in the world — like the Environmental Defense Fund and the World Wildlife Federation
– but also Wal-Mart’s suppliers.

It started five years ago when Wal-Mart announced three goals: 1) 100 percent
renewable energy; 2) Zero waste; 3) Sustainable products.

Wal-Mart stores have already gone sustainable on dozens of fronts from shipping
to selling to storing to recycling. Last year, Wal-Mart saved 4.8 billion plastic
shopping bags.

That’s how they roll in Bentonville: Big.

Even the combined efforts of 8400 stores with two million associates doing $400
billion in sales every year was not enough: Wal-Mart figured out 90 percent of
the carbon was coming from its supply chain. So it reached down to all its 100,000
vendors — and their vendors and their vendors — and told them that reducing
carbon footprints — reducing energy — will save money.

Everyone knows that is what Wal-Mart is all about.

“And vendors are listening,” said Tom Rooney, CEO of SPG Solar in Novato, California,
one of the largest solar installers in the country. “We are seeing renewed and
intense interest in industrial- and commercial-scale solar because of Wal-Mart
and Proctor and Gamble and other companies are showing their suppliers how to
change their shipping, packaging, storing, selling, heating, cooling, disposing of,
recycling and other practices to squeeze energy out of the supply chain and save
money. And solar is a big part of that.”

Not that many need much coaxing: Financial incentives for solar today are so
strong that many companies are essentially getting free energy — and more –
by buying a new solar array from the money they will save from lower energy bills.
And having a big chunk left over.

Now on top of that, the largest companies in the world are saying solar and other
renewables have to be a part of their supply chain. By some estimates, 1 in 3
dollars worldwide is associated with a company that does business with Walmart.
So, if you shift Walmart and its suppliers, the global economy shifts with it,
says R. Paul Herman at Or as the New York Times puts it: “because
of its size and power, Wal-Mart usually gets what it wants.”

And Wal-Mart wants renewable energy.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart sent its vendors a 15 part questionnaire to determine
what their companies were doing to become more sustainable. Also leading the
effort is Wal-Mart’s “Sustainability Index.”

Scholars from around the world are gathering at the Universities of Arizona and
Arkansas to create this new measure of the energy created — and wasted — during
the life cycle of a product found at Wal-Mart.

It won’t be ready for at least another year.

“But that doesn’t matter,” says Rooney. “No one is fighting Wal-Mart or complaining
about the reporting that this new index requires. Just the opposite: They are
racing to outdo each other, and surpass Wal-Mart’s expectations. Right now.
Not next year. “

And why not:

In May, the world’s largest consumer product company, Proctor and Gamble, announced
its own, similar, sustainability program for its vendors. Joining IBM, GE, and
other corporate giants on the sustainability train.

The results are already showing up on the bottom line:

“Perhaps more than any other company, Wal-Mart has pursued this approach,” said
the Harvard Business Review of Wal-Mart’s new vision of sustainability. “The
payoffs are already showing up: One of the Sustainable Value Networks, tasked
with fleet logistics, came up with a transportation strategy that improved efficiency
by 38%, saving Wal-Mart more than $200 million annually and cutting its greenhouse
gas emissions by 200,000 tons per year.”

Wal-Mart: Not just for beating up anymore. Or maybe we are just seeing the world’s
first quintuple play.

Could Rice Be the New Concrete?

image of a bowl of rice

According to this article that I came across on Discovery’s website there is a whole new use for rice husks. Concrete obviously isn’t the most eco-friendly thing in this world, however, it is possible that rice husks could change all of that. Take a look at the article on it below. You may find it to be enlightening…

A new way of processing rice husks for use in concrete could lead to a boom in green construction.

Rice husks form small cases around edible kernels of rice and are rich in silicon dioxide (SiO2), an essential ingredient in concrete. Scientists have recognized the potential value of rice husks as a building material for decades, but past attempts to burn it produced ash too contaminated with carbon to be useful as a cement substitute.

The world’s penchant for consuming concrete is a huge problem for climate change. Every ton of cement manufactured for use in concrete emits a ton of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Worldwide, cement production accounts for about 5 percent of all CO2 emissions related to human activity.

Now, Rajan Vempati of ChK Group, Inc. in Plano, Texas, and a team of researchers have figured out a way to make nearly carbon-free rice husk ash. Heating husks to 800 degrees centigrade (1,472 degrees Fahrenheit) in a furnace drives off carbon, leaving fine particles of nearly pure silica behind.

“The process emits some CO2, but it’s carbon neutral. Any that we emit goes back annually into the rice paddies,” Vempati said.

In recent years, concrete has become a repository for various waste products. Slag from steel mills, coal fly ash and silica fume — a leftover from the silicon metal industry — all have found second lives as replacements for carbon-belching Portland cement.

“I think the reason rice husk ash has had difficulty making it into mainstream applications is it typically comes with quite a high carbon content,” Jan Olek of Purdue University, who was not involved in the study said. “If properly prepared, it could be a very useful, good material for efforts to limit emissions of carbon dioxide in the concrete industry.”

Adding the ash makes concrete stronger and more resistant to corrosion. The team speculates that rice husk ash could enhance performance by replacing up to 20 percent of the cement typically mixed into concrete in the construction of skyscrapers, bridges and any structure built on or near water.

Article continues here.

Pharmaceuticals Now Showing Up In Fish?

image of fish swimming

I was checking out some news on MSNBC and just so happened to come across an article that I believe is very important for everyone to read, and so I wanted to share it with all of you. Some fish were caught near wastewater treatment plants by a few major U.S. Cities and apparently had residues of pharmaceuticals in them.

Please read this article as it is very informative…

Fish caught near wastewater treatment plants serving five major U.S. cities had residues of pharmaceuticals in them, including medicines used to treat high cholesterol, allergies, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, and depression, researchers reported Wednesday.

Findings from this first nationwide study of human drugs in fish tissue have prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to significantly expand similar ongoing research to more than 150 different locations.

“The average person hopefully will see this type of study and see the importance of us thinking about water that we use every day, where does it come from, where does it go to? We need to understand this is a limited resource and we need to learn a lot more about our impacts on it,” said study co-author Bryan Brooks, a Baylor University researcher and professor who has published more than a dozen studies related to pharmaceuticals in the environment.

A person would have to eat hundreds of thousands of fish dinners to get even a single therapeutic dose, Brooks said. But researchers including Brooks have found that even extremely diluted concentrations of pharmaceutical residues can harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species because of their constant exposure to contaminated water.

Brooks and his colleague Kevin Chambliss tested fish caught in rivers where wastewater treatment plants release treated sewage in Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Orlando, Fla. For comparison, they also tested fish from New Mexico’s pristine Gila River Wilderness Area, an area isolated from human sources of pollution.

Earlier research has confirmed that fish absorb medicines because the rivers they live in are contaminated with traces of drugs that are not removed in sewage treatment plants. Much of the contamination comes from the unmetabolized residues of pharmaceuticals that people have taken and excreted; unused medications dumped down the drain also contribute to the problem.

The researchers, whose work was funded by a $150,000 EPA grant, tested fish for 24 different pharmaceuticals, as well as 12 chemicals found in personal care products.

They found trace concentrations of seven drugs and two soap scent chemicals in fish at all five of the urban river sites. The amounts varied, but some of the fish had combinations of many of the compounds in their livers.

The researchers didn’t detect anything in the reference fish caught in rural New Mexico.

In an ongoing investigation, The Associated Press has reported trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals have been detected in drinking water provided to at least 46 million Americans.

The EPA has called for additional studies about the impact on humans of long-term consumption of minute amounts of medicines in their drinking water, especially in unknown combinations. Limited laboratory studies have shown that human cells failed to grow or took unusual shapes when exposed to combinations of some pharmaceuticals found in drinking water.

“This pilot study is one important way that EPA is increasing its scientific knowledge about the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment,” said EPA spokeswoman Suzanne Rudzinski. She said the completed and expanded EPA sampling for pharmaceuticals and other compounds in fish and surface water is part of the agency’s National Rivers and Stream Assessment.

Top 10 Eco Friendly Countries

Based on Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) for 2008, which measures factors such as a country’s environmental health, air pollution, water resources and productive natural resources, ten countries have once again made it to the top of the charts as the most eco-friendly nations in the world.

  • 1. Switzerland:
    Thanks in major part to Switzerland’s tough legislation regarding pollution, they made it to number one on the world’s most eco-friendly nations. Their long-term plans target cooperation between organizations and individuals.Individual awareness is also a factor, since Switzerland charges for their water and waste management services as well as establishing a sever environmental taxes, promoting personal responsibility. Prevention is a third key tenet, shown by the 2006 development of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), meant to sustain natural resources and develop safety measures for natural hazards.

2. Norway:
Norway earns a high spot for being first home to the world’s largest solar production plant, owned by REC Group. They have also taken emissions seriously, now planning on becoming carbon neutral by 2030, not 2050 as originally expected, in major part by funding green projects abroad and reducing at home driving and flying.

  • 3. Sweden: Sweden’s mandate for a country free of fossil fuels by 2020 puts it in third. A majority of the country’s power is either nuclear or hydroelectric already. Solutions for automobile and flight transport include ethanol and animal waste conversion.Furthermore, the power of waves is in the process of being harnessed as well. Thanks to development at the University of Uppsala, Sweden is developing “wave power” which converts waves into 4x as much energy as solar power in the same amount of time, with no waste and no emissions.
  • 4. Finland: Finland is a country showing remarkable recovery from industrialization with its initiative to clean up water and air quality in industrial areas as well as land preservation. What’s more is that Finland’s forests are now growing at a greater rate than they are being deforested, showing an environmental gain even with the annual timber harvest.Finland can also be attributed with starting the United Nation’s Environmental Programme (UNEP) Task Force for Sustainable Building and Construction, which looks not only at the sustainability of the building, but of the resources and process used to construct it.
  • 5. Costa Rica:
    While there is a strong correlation between a country’s economic wealth and their environmental stewardship, Costa Rica still scores a five on the EPI scale. With 5% of the world’s biodiversity contained in one country, Costa Rica has always been on the forefront of environmental conservation. In fact, a full quarter of the nation is devoted to park preservation. But other developments such as the used on hydroelectric power in 80% of the country and the 5% gas tax which funds environmental programs put Costa Rica in fifth.
  • 6. Austria: Austria’s environmental conservation measures are enforced by all levels of government, from federal to municipal authorities. Waste disposal especially is a highly regulated department encompassing everything from individual waste to cooperate chemical, air and agricultural pesticide pollution.Water quality and forest preservation, however, is the highest priority. The quality level for Austria’s lakes and rivers is some of the highest in the world. The development of Austria’s National Protective Forest Plan has also helped in keeping the nations natural beauty pristine.
  • 7. New Zealand: This nation’s relatively small population in relation to land mass has helped preserve this nation’s natural resources. While automotive emissions do prove a real threat, as well as industrial pollutants, New Zealand is working hard to develop restrictive legislation and alternative energy sources.The nation was also host to the 2008 World Environment Day, as well as developing the Environmental Risk Management Authority, which regulates the introduction of non-native species and environmental components to determine their threat to New Zealand’s pristine atmosphere.
  • 8. Latvia: Latvia’s relatively small size is no indicator of their pride in their natural resources. By monitoring and reducing water pollution, their salmon and freshwater bodies are all in the range of “good.” Lativia has also begun dismantling unnecessary and pollutive farms to reduce fertilizer and insecticide chemicals and allow room for the return of natural forests.In fact, since 1990 Lativa has decreased stationary pollution by 46% and wastewater by 44%, devoting a major portion of environmental funds to water treatment and energy conservation techniques.
  • 9. Colombia: Beating Costa Rica, Colombia is home to 10% of the world’s species, with a wealth of ecological diversity. While Colombia has had problems in the past concerning deforestation, the detrimental effects of the coca trade, and political strife involving their natural oil deposits, all these factors have helped to move Colombia towards energy conservation and new, less politically tumultuous resources.Colombia has also begun programs for the cultivation of natural parks that support the growth of native medicinal plants. The Orito Igni-Ande Medicinal Flora Sanctuary is a 10,626 hectare preserve that may just show that Colombia is on the right track.
  • 10. France: The French government is very aware of the problem of climate change, and it is for this reason that France has made tenth of the list. Their strict environmental protection measures are incorporated into the national Constitution and reviewed every year with the eventual goal of 54 million tons of saved C02 by 2010, one of the few in the Kyoto agreement to cut such a large amount of emissions in so short a time.These laws are also comprehensive, covering every setup of production from supplier to producer to consumer, also helping to make them the number one producer of renewable energy sources in the EU, 78% of its energy being nuclear powered, which in turn has reduced nitrogen oxide and other hazardous emissions by 70%.
Perhaps these results will help the US in reducing both their enormous consumption of natural resources and in reliable initiatives to restore the environment.



Goodbye Styrofoam, Hello Clamshell

re-usable take-out containers
Styrofoam and paper boxes have always been a staple of my college dining hall. When exam rained down or the dining hall was a bit too crowded, to-go boxes have provided the best option. But unfortunately, they produce a large amount of non-biodegradable waste that ends up in the garbage can all across campus.

Luckily the Student Environmental Alliance (SEA) has started a new campaign to say goodbye to the Styrofoam and hello to reusable take-out containers.
Much like reusing other plastic food containers, made-for-reuse containers like the “Eco Clamshell” by G.E.T Enterprises help keep waste at a minimum. The Clamshell is a dishwasher safe, break-resistant food container ideal for college campuses such as my own, as well as corporate cafeterias or meetings. Surprisingly sturdy, the boxes are also stackable just like regular take-out trays, utilizing three separate sections and an attached lid.
The plastic is polypropylene, a recyclable plastic resin also used in packaging and various automobile components. While

There are a few inconveniences to the re-usable containers, such as the initial four dollar deposit in order to use a box. The system is set up so that an initial four-dollar purchase will allow you to use a container and bring it back at the next meal, clean or dirty. If it is clean it can be reused immediately. If it is dirty it can be exchanged for a clean container at no charge. At the end of the year, the container can also be returned for a complete four-dollar refund.

In addition to this, the dining hall no longer offers the option of any kind of cardboard to Styrofoam container, instead of forcing students who may otherwise decline the option due to minor inconveniences to either purchase a re-usable container or bring their own.

Other complaints center around the inconvenience of carrying the container constantly in case you might have to eat on the run. But it is a small inconvenience in comparison to the large portion of campus daily waste being reduced to zero.
For four dollars I have already gladly invested in my teal container, not only for the purpose of carrying food, but it’s a great way to store leftovers without the eventual disintegration of the cardboard container. On the whole, it’s well worth the money and the effort.