November 10, 2006 – Volume 10, Issue 15
I N · T H I S · I S S U E


Bio-Cycling at Home
At a seminar last weekend, Tom Brady, the City of Glendale’s recycling expert, rattled off some of the basics of composting and then vermiculture, the use of worms to create high-quality compost, the castings that experts call “black gold.” Brady was not particularly motivational, and there were only three of us in the audience, but the logic of his message is compelling: Bio-cycling is a step beyond recycling, a means of keeping valuable organic materials on site, tightening an ecological loop.

Imagine a tree in the forest that sheds its leaves in the fall. These mix with green grasses on the forest floor. This mix – laden with carbon and nitrogen -- experiences the elements – water and air – and is digested by naturally occurring microbes in the soil. It then becomes rich humus ready to retain moisture and to provide essential nutrients to the trees and the forest, the lungs of the universe.

Now take that same system in modern suburbia: The leaves are raked and removed from the site, the grasses are manicured and their clippings removed. The soil is replenished by fertilizers that are trucked in, produced in energy intensive ways -- an ecological loop that extends far from the property boundary.

Brady gave each of us a composter and a pitch fork compliments of the City since bio-cycling reduces wastes and the City’s ecological footprint. With little instruction, some humor about composting “recipes,” my fellow students and I were eager to get started. Within a week we too could have compost piles approaching 140 degrees!

I must admit, having composted for many years of my life, I had succumbed to the convenience of trashing my kitchen wastes and putting green wastes in the appropriate bin. But now I return to my belief system – and to eco-logic - and composting. And I encourage you to do the same, to be part of the basic wonder of bio-cycling, keeping valuable nutrients on site, lessening the manufacture and transportation of fertilizers, and letting nature coupled with a little effort do nature’s productive work for the next season.

Check with your city or local recycling center. What support can you get for bio-cycling?

Here’s what Glendale, California offers:

• Free workshops on composting and vermiculture
• Lots of literature including “The Composting Cookbook”
• Choice of composting bins. I took the Smith & Hawken “Bio Stack” (value $100)
• Free pitch fork! (value $20)
• $100 rebates for green waste shredders ($200-500 cost) to accelerate composting
• Discounted vermiculture systems, “worm hotels” ($25 net cost; $75 incentive)

Finally I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the City offers discounted trash collection rates for those who have done so much recycling that they can now use smaller garbage bins. I’m going to sign up, get a new smaller bin, and save money while saving the Earth!


Santa Monica

Ted Flanigan addresses 19 solar contracting firms in Santa Monica during the Solar Contractor briefing there. EcoMotion is facilitating Solar Santa Monica, a demonstration project involving the retrofit of 50 buildings. EcoMotion’s task is to develop a market- based model to help the City achieve its goal of energy independence. To do so, EcoMotion is bundling energy efficiency and solar power and melding the good standing of the City, the interest of its citizens, and advanced technologies to make Santa Monica a net zero electricity importer by 2020.

Corona Department of Water and Power

Working for Corona (California) Department of Water and Power, EcoMotion has completed a detailed evaluation of one new customer’s “excessive” power bills. EcoMotion analyzed eight factors to provide CDWP and the customer with detailed recommendations for tightening operations to reduce bills, the facility’s footprint, and for nearby, new developments.

Corona Department of Water and Power

In partnership with Facility Dynamics Engineering – and its lead Southern California engineer Tony Pierce – EcoMotion has recently completed an analysis for the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition, developing a strategic air conditioning approach for its new La Quinta Dunes housing development.

Harbor Gateway North Neighborhood Council

Pictured above are B.J. Mynatt (right) and Bettye Watson (left), President and Vice President of the Harbor Gateway North Neighborhood Council, with Ray Paduani and Ted Flanigan at the site of a new Sam’s Club just north of the Port of Los Angeles. Mynatt asked EcoMotion to help her community minimize the environmental footprint of the new “big box” by maximizing solar power.

Cindy Lee, Intern

University of California Irvine student Cindy Lee interns at EcoMotion.

“Long live EcoMotion and Director Chen! Thanks again for what sounds like a wonderfully productive effort with our Chinese colleagues.”
Ralph Cavanagh, Natural Resources Defense Council

Movie Review: The Great Warming

This past weekend, I had a hot date. Well, better put, my date was flexible. Instead of taking her to a thriller like Mission Impossible III, we made a big effort to go see The Great Warming, another documentary on global warming. Like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, the Great Warming presents a sobering picture of man’s role in changing the climate and threatening our existence on what now appears to be a very fragile global ecosystem. The Great Warming was produced in Canada and features a wealth of fascinating footage from around the world. Unlike An Inconvenient Truth, it presents few if any charts and graphs, and has no talking head. Instead, if features compelling animations and scientists from around the world, as well as concerned citizens and professionals, telling their stories. And the movie concludes far more optimistically than Gore’s dire tale, presenting a wide variety of solutions that leave the viewer with hope for the future. But back to viewers for a moment: While its advertisements featured Alanis Morissette and Keanu Reeves, and pledged to reach those that would never listen to Gore in any circumstance, my date and I were the only ones in the theater. At one point a few second-movie opportunists straggled in, and then straggled out after catching the drift of the film in a few minutes or less. While I appreciate the movie, and recommend it, it – like the Gore movie -- is not worthy of the big screen, and certainly cannot be recommended as date material! For more information see:

Water Turbines Hit New York

Water turbines, or more accurately underwater tidal energy turbines, are a hot topic around New York. In fact, three water turbine companies are competing for the best sites in New York’s East River. Others are competing for sites in “the race” of the Plum Island gut and near Fishers Island where the currents are strong and the waters deep. Water turbines capture natural currents and generate renewable electricity.

The most ambitious proposed project covers 136 square miles at eastern end of Long Island Sound. Permits have been filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for rival projects as well. One firm, Natural Currents, plans a 1 MW pilot installation, followed by a 250 MW water turbine underwater array. The modular units will be placed ten meters or more beneath the surface to avoid interfering with shipping lanes. Local environmentalists, however, are concerned about the impacts on lobster trapping. Others are “flabbergasted” calling the schemes, “another industrialization of our waters.”

The three companies – Verdant Power, Natural Currents, and Astoria Tidal Energy – believe that water turbines can be either affixed to pylons driven into the bedrock at the bottom of rivers and the sea, or suspended using buoys and guy wires from docks and or floats. They claim that the use of slow RPM (revolutions per minute) technologies, and amply spaced systems well beneath the surface even at low tide, will avoid fish kills and will have minimal effect on navigation.

Solarizing Google and LA Community College

Google's new Silicon Valley headquarters will soon shine with one of the largest private solar power systems in the United States. At the "Googleplex" campus in Mountain View, California, every available surface was evaluated for solar, and ultimately a 197,000 square foot solar generating system mounted on rooftops and new parking shade structures will be installed. The photovoltaic system has a generating capacity of 1.6 megawatts, enough to supply about 30% of projected use at the administrative complex, reducing the complex’s CO2 footprint by 3.6 million pounds per year, equivalent to 4.28 million car miles per year.

Remarkably, Los Angeles Community College District plans to take its nine campuses “off the grid.” The nation’s largest community college district, LACCD educates 200,000 students each year and plans to produce one megawatt of electricity at each of its nine colleges using photovoltaics, enough for all daytime power needs.

The solar program is part of LACCD's Energy Strategy Plan which includes performance-based efficiency service contracts and a sustainability curriculum at each campus. Future plans call for excess daytime generation to produce hydrogen for use in fuel cells for night-time electricity use. LACCD's plan is to make each of its nine colleges energy self-sufficient.

Installation of the solar panels is projected to be completed in 2008 and to cost $7-9 million. The "greening" is part of its $2.2 billion Proposition A/AA Bond modernization and sustainable development programs, funded and approved by Los Angeles voters in 2001 and 2003. LACCD will also use incentives from Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and Southern California Edison.

A Million CFLS Hit the Midwest

Commonwealth Edison of Chicago has launched the Midwest’s largest CFL promotion in partnership with the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA). ComEd will make 1 million CFLs available to residential customers for up to 60% off regular prices at more than 350 stores across northern Illinois. The program enables residential customers to purchase up to 12 CFLs for as low as 99 cents each at participating Ace Hardware, Do It Best Hardware, Menards, Home Depot, and True Value Hardware stores. ComEd will make about 250,000 of these bulbs available to Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) participants who will receive a coupon in the mail to be redeemed for four free CFL bulbs at participating retailers.

Triple-Certified Coffee

So what’s up with the coffee you drink? Is it organic? Is it a product of fair trade practices? Are the coffee plants shade grown, maintaining biological diversity in their harvest? More and more coffee drinkers are beginning to link their values with their caffeine fixes and triple-certified coffee. Café Femenino takes it a step further, featuring woman- owned and operated Peruvian coffee farms. So why drink organic coffee? Bluntly, according to Treehugger, “So people don't have to pick coffee amid pesticides, and so you don't have to drink pesticides.” Why fair trade? Fair trade coffee ensures that farmer co-ops receive at least $1.26 per lb of green coffee — a lot more than most coffee farmers get in the commodity market. “The coffee biggies [Kraft, Nestle, Sara Lee, and Proctor & Gamble] helped engineer a huge overproduction of coffee that made coffee farmers dirt poor — a situation dubbed the coffee crisis.”

A Million CFLS Hit the Midwest

The marked success of the Prius has Toyota planning more versions of the Prius, notably a mini city car and even a “beefier” crossover sport utility. Reportedly Toyota’s goal is to triple sales of its popular gas-sipper. Toyota’s Endo (shown above) once a concept car, will soon enter the Asian market and may be a clue to the look of the mini city car to come.

In related news, an update from EcoMotion Charter Member Henry Dudley: “And on the new car front, last week we bought a Smart car. 60+mpg and so much fun to drive!!! It’s our first new car in seven years and a reward for years of hauling seven or eight people all over the region in our Suburban. The Suburban sits quietly in our carport, waiting for its next big road trip, but for local driving for up to two people it’s the Smart car. It was quite an adventure going over Wolf Creek pass last weekend in a snowstorm after picking the car up near Denver.”