Green Living Guy News

Bamboo’s Role toward International Day of Biodiversity 

Biodiversity, or the occurrence of a wide range or plants and animals within any given environment, is critical for the healthy functioning of our planet. Healthy soils, climates, water systems, are all dependent upon the greater ecosystem in which they exist, which in turn depends upon the biodiversity that creates it – in essence a full circular system with many parts all interconnected and dependent upon each other.

May 22nd represented the International Day of Biodiversity, a day set aside by the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity with a unique theme each year. More than 196 countries are Parties to this convention, committed to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, as well as the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits that come from diverse natural resources. 

Over the past few months we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the interest in bamboo, in everything from bamboo charcoal and soil amendments to bamboo toothbrushes to Gucci’s latest line of perfume – Gucci Bamboo. With this interest we decided to take a look at how bamboo aligns with the importance of the International Day of Biodiversity. 

Bamboo is a mystical plant that is closely associated with huge ecosystems in China, along with the iconic panda, but the typical image of a bamboo forest does not make one think of ecosystems that are high in biodiversity. For example the “bamboo seas” typical of southern China seem to be endless expanses of a single species as the photo shown below. These forests are beautiful and magical and drawing in thousands of visitors each year they do seem to contribute to the 2017 theme of sustainable tourism. But a deeper look suggests that they seem to be extremely low in biodiversity, with some sources suggesting that China’s bamboo sea might actually be a single plant – a plant with an amazing ability to colonize, but with a cost to biodiversity.

 

So how and where does bamboo contribute to the Convention on Biological Diversity and in particular the International Day of Biodiversity? The answer comes when we move away from the iconic image of China’s pandas munching on bamboo and look instead at some of the key areas of concern under the CBD, those areas that fall into biodiversity hotspots. In these countries, regions and ecosystems there seems to be a recent trend of native species of bamboo, such as Guadua aculeata in Nicaragua, being used to actually restore the biodiversity of an area. In this situation non spreading bamboo is used to reconnect the remaining areas of biodiversity, effectively providing a buffer zone and conserving these remaining areas. One project has received gold level certification from the Climate Community Biodiversity Alliance for its biodiversity impact, contributing to the CBD commitments.

The question is can other biodiversity survive and thrive amongst bamboo, and if so it seems to be a win win situation. The European Tropical Forest Network published a special edition paper on how and why bamboo can not only contribute o increasing biodiversity within these hotspots, but also providing increased protection of remaining biodiversity. The projects highlighted in this paper come from Central America, but also South and West Africa

If this is true I’d say that this is a win win situation for those of us who want to live greener, but were never sure if this increase in the occurrence of bamboo products was just a fad. Therefore in celebration of this year’s International Day of Forests, let’s also celebrate bamboo.

Green up your grocery cart

We are all trying to eat more sustainable, organic food. Chef Gerard has simple steps to “green-up” your grocery carts and eat more sustainably.

Culinary expert Chef Gerard Viverito is the Director of Culinary Education for Passionfish; a NGO non-profit organization dedicated to educating people around the globe on the issue of sustainability in the seas.

Eat less meat and more beans. Peas, lentils and other legumes are called nitrogen “fixers”. They convert inert gas from the atmosphere into the type of ammonia needed for plant food, reducing the need to use as much synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Livestock is a major driver of deforestation and loss of biodiversity. Livestock requires about 3.9 billion hectares of land for grazing and to produce animal feed. That’s an area that’s five times larger than Australia.


Buy wild-caught U.S. seafood. American fisheries have some of the most stringent ecological rules in the world. Be open to sampling different fish species. If we ate what the oceans were sustainably supplying instead of insisting on only a few preferred fish species, we would further cut down on over-fishing our waters.  
Improve your oil: It doesn’t make sense to buy healthy, sustainable foods and then cook them with oils made from genetically modified plants. Your family will love the buttery texture of palm oil which is natural and sustainably produced. Because it is heat stable, palm oil can be used for grilling, baking and frying without burning and making food taste bad.

Upgrade your favorite spices : The use of chemical fertilizers and plant pesticides is a growing concern in the spice industry. But organic spices and herbs can be pricey, so invest in organic only for those that you use all the time. Here’s another money-saving tip: Whole ginger root is a fraction of the price of powdered. Buy a root and cut into 1-inch cubes then toss them into the freezer. Grate a cube whenever a recipe calls for this fragrant spice.

Oven fry leafy vegetables: Kale and spinach grow quickly in most climates. This means they have a lower impact on our environment and may require less fertilizer than slower growing veggies. Up the kid-friendliness of these greens by making tasty oven-fried veggie chips. Drizzle Malaysian sustainable palm oil over the greens, sprinkle with salt and then bake in a 350 degree oven until slightly brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Eat on their own, sprinkle on pizza or add to cheesy omelets.

Look for “grass-fed”, “organic” or “pasture-raised” beef: Raising livestock takes a big toll on our environment. It uses more than 70 percent of our agricultural land and is the largest driver of deforestation in the world. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up meat if you want to eat sustainably. Just choose quality over quantity. When cooking, combine meat with healthy plant-based foods. Throw some black beans into ground beef when making tacos or combine chicken with quinoa when making a casserole.


Chef Gerard Viverito

Chef Gerard Viverito, is a culinary instructor as the Director of Culinary Education for Passionfish, a NGO non-profit organization dedicated to educating people around the globe on the issue of sustainability in the seas. [www.passionfish.org] He is also operator of Saveur Fine Catering, a company whose beliefs and products center on local, sustainable and organic foods. Chef Viverito’s pantry is loaded with items commonly overlooked in the supermarkets, yet he has a thorough understanding of them and a passion to teach others how to cook more healthfully.

In addition, Chef Viverito has dedicated a large part of his career to what he terms “functional cooking”. This is where he adds nutritional ingredients to dishes to gain healthful results. He is well known for his ability to lower the glycemic index value of food, add omega fatty acids, and whole proteins to dishes without compromising the texture or taste. He appears regularly on radio and television programs demonstrating this as well as consulting clients on their dietary needs. www.ChefGerard.com

Marine incentives programs may replace “doom and gloom” with hope

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Incentives that are designed to enable smarter use of the ocean while also protecting marine ecosystems can and do work, and offer significant hope to help address the multiple environmental threats facing the world’s oceans, researchers conclude in a new analysis.
Whether economic or social, incentive-based solutions may be one of the best options for progress in reducing impacts from overfishing, climate change, ocean acidification and pollution, researchers from Oregon State University and Princeton University say in a new report published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

And positive incentives – the “carrot” – work better than negative incentives, or the “stick.”

Part of the reason for optimism, the researchers report, is changing awareness, attitudes and social norms around the world, in which resource users and consumers are becoming more informed about environmental issues and demanding action to address them. That sets the stage for economic incentives that can convert near-disaster situations into sustainable fisheries, cleaner water and long-term solutions.

“As we note in this report, the ocean is becoming higher, warmer, stormier, more acidic, lower in dissolved oxygen and overfished,” said Jane Lubchenco, the distinguished university professor in the College of Science and advisor in marine studies at Oregon State University, lead author of the new report, and U.S. science envoy for the ocean at the Department of State.

“The threats facing the ocean are enormous, and can seem overwhelming. But there’s actually reason for hope, and it’s based on what we’ve learned about the use of incentives to change the way people, nations and institutions behave. We believe it’s possible to make that transition from a vicious to a virtuous cycle. Getting incentives right can flip a disaster to a resounding success.”

Simon A. Levin, the James S. McDonnell distinguished university professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University and co-author of the publication, had a similar perspective.
“It is really very exciting that what, until recently, was theoretical optimism is proving to really work,” Levin said. “This gives me great hope for the future.”

The stakes are huge, the scientists point out in their study.

The global market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is about $3 trillion a year; more than 3 billion people depend on fish for a major source of protein; and marine fisheries involve more than 200 million people. Ocean and coastal ecosystems provide food, oxygen, climate regulation, pest control, recreational and cultural value.

“Given the importance of marine resources, many of the 150 or more coastal nations, especially those in the developing world, are searching for new approaches to economic development, poverty alleviation and food security,” said Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, a postdoctoral scholar working with Lubchenco. “Our findings can provide guidance to them about how to develop sustainably.”

In recent years, the researchers said in their report, new incentive systems have been developed that tap into people’s desires for both economic sustainability and global environmental protection. In many cases, individuals, scientists, faith communities, businesses, nonprofit organizations and governments are all changing in ways that reward desirable and dissuade undesirable behaviors.

One of the leading examples of progress is the use of “rights-based fisheries.” Instead of a traditional “race to fish” concept based on limited seasons, this growing movement allows fishers to receive a guaranteed fraction of the catch, benefit from a well-managed, healthy fishery and become part of a peer group in which cheating is not tolerated.

There are now more than 200 rights-based fisheries covering more than 500 species among 40 countries, the report noted. One was implemented in the Gulf of Mexico red snapper commercial fishery, which was on the brink of collapse after decades of overfishing. A rights-based plan implemented in 2007 has tripled the spawning potential, doubled catch limits and increased fishery revenue by 70 percent.

“Multiple turn-around stories in fisheries attest to the potential to end overfishing, recover depleted species, achieve healthier ocean ecosystems, and bring economic benefit to fishermen and coastal communities,” said Lubchenco. “It is possible to have your fish and eat them too.”

A success story used by some nations has been combining “territorial use rights in fisheries,” which assign exclusive fishing access in a particular place to certain individuals or communities, together with adjacent marine reserves. Fish recover inside the no-take reserve and “spillover” to the adjacent fished area outside the reserve. Another concept of incentives has been “debt for nature” swaps used in some nations, in which foreign debt is exchanged for protection of the ocean.

“In parallel to a change in economic incentives,” said Jessica Reimer, a graduate research assistant with Lubchenco, “there have been changes in behavioral incentives and social norms, such as altruism, ethical values, and other types of motivation that can be powerful drivers of change.”

The European Union, based on strong environmental support among its public, has issued warnings and trade sanctions against countries that engage in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. In the U.S., some of the nation’s largest retailers, in efforts to improve their image with consumers, have moved toward sale of only certified sustainable seafood.
Incentives are not a new idea, the researchers noted. But they emphasize that their power may have been under-appreciated.

“Recognizing the extent to which a change in incentives can be explicitly used to achieve outcomes related to biodiversity, ecosystem health and sustainability . . . holds particular promise for conservation and management efforts in the ocean,” they wrote in their conclusion.

Source: OSU College of Science, 11-28-16, By David Stauth

EV Connect to Increase EV-Ready Communities Throughout New York State

100 Dual Level 2 stations to be installed in 50 locations throughout New York

LOS ANGELES, CA, March 8, 2017 – EV Connect, a leading provider of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging solutions, including development of the industry’s most innovative, robust and open cloud-based software platform for managing the EV charging ecosystem, today announced that it will install and manage approximately 200 EV charging ports in 50 locations throughout New York State funded through an award by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).


The installations support Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Charge NY program, which is accelerating the growth of the electric vehicle market in New York State through education, research, consumer outreach and financial support for the installation of charging stations across New York.

In addition to installing the charging ports, EV Connect will conduct marketing and outreach programs to local communities and manage an innovative financing component to make installing EV charging stations more economically viable for site owners., EV Connect will also provide management of the charging ecosystem, which includes the charging stations, host locations, electric utility interaction and the driver experience.


The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) awarded $1.4 million to EV Connect to implement these initiatives. EV Connect will also work with the New York Power Authority and Skyview Ventures on various aspects of the program.

John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA, said “These projects will help New York meet Governor Cuomo’s clean transportation goals and reduce emissions in the transportation sector. Increasing the use of electric vehicles is critical to New York’s nation leading energy strategy, ensuring a cleaner environment for all New Yorkers.”

“EV Connect has been a large provider of EV charging stations throughout New York State for many years through programs sponsored by NYSERDA and other entities”, said Jordan Ramer, EV Connect CEO. “This award enables us to continue to greatly expand our presence within the State. EV Connect’s deep experience in the management of the entire EV ecosystem will continue to provide an efficient, reliable and easy-to-use experience for the communities, utilities and drivers.”

The hardware and software used in this project will be built on an open standards-based architecture. EV Connect is the nation’s largest and most successful provider of an open standards-based platform for EV charging. This NYSERDA award follows the recent California Energy Commission (CEC) grant to EV Connect to complete key routes of the West Coast Electric Highway.


Source: EV Connect, Inc., www.evconnect.com

Mercedes-Benz Energy and Vivint Solar Team Up to Bring Automotive Battery Innovation to the U.S. Residential Solar Market

Exclusive collaboration marks entrance of Mercedes-Benz Energy products into U.S. market

Mercedes-Benz Energy and Vivint Solar (NYSE: VSLR) today announced an exclusive strategic collaboration to bring the Mercedes-Benz customizable home energy storage system to the U.S. The two companies will introduce a joint offering that will provide customers with the German engineering and performance of Mercedes-Benz batteries coupled with Vivint Solar’s expertise in designing, installing and servicing solar energy systems.

For Vivint Solar, which has a proven track record of installing solar energy systems in more than 100,000 homes across the U.S., this is the first collaboration to integrate batteries with its offering. This will also be Mercedes-Benz Energy’s first collaboration with a U.S. solar provider, bringing its premium, high-performance, road-tested technology for home use to the residential battery market. These storage systems are made to Mercedes-Benz quality standards and based on the same automotive-grade battery technology used in its electric and hybrid vehicles.

“As Mercedes-Benz electrifies its vehicle fleet, solar plus storage is essential to enable those vehicles to be powered by clean energy,” said Boris von Bormann, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, LLC. 

“With batteries featuring the best in automotive engineering from Mercedes-Benz, and high-quality solar energy systems from Vivint Solar, our solution allows customers to take the next step toward a sustainable energy future. The launch of our home battery system in Europe has been successful and we are thrilled to be working with Vivint Solar to bring a reliable and compelling solar plus storage offering to American homes.”

Mercedes energy
With energy storage to complement rooftop solar, Vivint Solar customers will be able to have more control over the renewable energy they generate. In addition to providing a backup power source if the grid goes down, the new combined solution may help customers reduce energy costs. For instance, in areas with time-of-use electricity rates, customers can store excess solar energy produced by the system during the day in the batteries and then consume it during periods of peak energy usage in the evening and at night when electricity rates are typically higher.


Each energy storage system will consist of modular 2.5 kWh batteries that can be combined to create a system as large as 20 kWh, making it easy to scale and tailor energy storage systems to individual customer profiles. Vivint Solar will customize each system based on the customer’s individual energy consumption needs, providing consumers with an important tool to help them manage their energy costs while utilizing clean energy.

“The choice to work with Mercedes-Benz Energy, a world-class innovator in energy storage, was an easy one,” said David Bywater, CEO of Vivint Solar. “We believe their energy storage system is going to delight our customers and are impressed with their ambitious plans for the future. We look forward to bringing this innovative solution to consumers, beginning in our California markets, and to empowering greater renewable energy usage.”

“According to Parks Associates research, 79% of rooftop solar PV owners purchased their system to save money on electricity,” said Tom Kerber, director IoT strategy, at Parks Associates. “Adding storage is an obvious approach to improve the return on investment on a solar solution. Three-quarters of households view battery storage as an important addition to solar panels.”


California is the first U.S. market where Vivint Solar will exclusively offer this solution directly to homeowners. Beginning in Q2, new customers in California will be able to buy the offering outright or finance the purchase, either through one of the institutions Vivint Solar has relationships with or their preferred lender.


Sources: Mercedes-Benz Energy, visit vivintsolar.com/battery, Mercedes-Benz Energy, www.mercedes-benz.com/energy, May 18, 2017 – LEHI, Utah and SUNNYVALE, Calif.