Green Technology

Hemp Shield: The Greenest Solution in Woodstaining
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By Erin Hiatt, photos courtesy of Hemp Shield 


Using a wood finish, in particular for decks and wooden furniture, can serve both form and function. Wood finish can give a rich and beautiful luster while simultaneously keeping out water, protecting from the sun’s rays, slowing down the growth of molds and mildew, giving traction to the surface, and helping ease the cleaning process. But any typical finish found at your local hardware store is bound to be rife with toxic chemicals and pollutants.

However, for the eco-conscious there is a very viable, if not superior, solution. Hemp Shield is a hemp seed oil-based wood finish that may be the greenest on the market. “The thing to understand is that the revolutionary basis of Hemp Shield is the hemp seed oil molecule,” explains David Seber, president of Hemp Shield. “Turns out the hemp seed molecule oil is smaller than all the other molecules that are in oils for coatings. Therefore, not only does it penetrate the wood better, but it causes this amazing synergy among all the other components in the mixture.”

A quick glance at the label of a well-known and ubiquitous Hemp Shield competitor says, “WARNING! This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” One of the ingredients causing such mayhem is ethylene glycol, which can cause intoxication, drowsiness, or coma. Finishes also frequently contain polyurethane that contain isocyanates, considered a potential human carcinogen demonstrated to cause cancer in animal tests. Within isocyanates are VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, that have been shown to induce vomiting, dizziness, lung irritation, asthma and can exacerbate migraines.         


“Starting out, Hemp Shield is a new kind of a coating,” Seber begins, “It’s called a hybrid and it’s waterborne. It’s oil-based but waterborne. The first thing this does, it allows you to eliminate the amount of VOCs.” Seber, who has a long history in the wood and timber industry, wanted to stay in the business but in a way that eased his conscious regarding the environmental ramifications. “I had a redwood lumber yard,” he recalls. “And I felt that I owed dues to the forest.” The myriad uses of hemp first came to Seber’s attention through Jack Herer’s treatise on the plant, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.”

Seber’s work in the lumber business harkens back to the early ‘80s, before the environmental disregard of the Reagan administration and the machinations of Wall Street caused him to reassess the industry. “So I did a study on what we could do to replace the amount of fiber that was taken out of the forest,” he continues. “In a temperate climate, the only one that would do it was hemp.”

Seber co-created Hemp Shield with Steve Neiswander, a former research director for a prominent paint company. “I met Steve in the depths of the recession (of 2008) without [either of us] knowing what the other person did. And the truth of it is that Steve is a world-famous paint chemist who’s been in the business for 30 years,” says Seber. “We collaborated together and Steve took every trick that he learned during his 30-year career and put them into Hemp Shield.”

Neiswander’s paint expertise and Seber’s extensive timber background enabled them to create an environmentally friendly finish that performs as well or better than their less conscientious competitors. ”Hemp Shield was designed consciously,” Seber says. “We established a principal with Hemp Shield of using the greenest components, the highest quality and the highest concentration possible on the market,” Seber explains.

There is a wood finish recipe, so to speak, that creates a synergy among the ingredients to create the final product. Standard Paints, Inc. writes on its website, “stain protection is accomplished mainly by three methods: pigment, vehicle, and bio protections. These three methods are the materials left on and in the wood and endure ongoing exposure to the elements water, temperature fluctuation, and ultraviolet light.”

Pigments, made from rare earth elements, are intended to deflect UV rays known to weaken wood, and absorb certain rays of light. About pigments, Seber explains, “They dig them up and they powder them, then they put them in something for color.” To protect the wood, Hemp Shield’s pigments are processed on a micro level into what Seber describes as a tiny needle-like formation, the same type of system used on Ferrari’s and other expensive cars. This pigment formation directs UV rays sideways, allowing the color and substance of the wood to shine through the sealant.

The “vehicle” is a solvent in which the pigments are suspended, and this is where Hemp Shield can really walk its eco-friendly talk. Seber uses Canadian-sourced hemp seed oil as his vehicle, another method to keep the environmental costs down. The hemp plant is known to grow well in a variety of climates and needs little water, pesticides, or fungicides. It has the additional benefit of being an excellent plant for crop rotation because it replenishes rather than depletes soil like many other crops.

And lastly, biocides, or bio protections, also present in wood finishes, are chemical substances intended to kill harmful organisms like mold and mildew by biological means. “Hemp Shield does have biocides in it,” says Seber. “We’ve tested them for toxicity. Hemp Shield is .00126 parts by volume. That’s less than your body, or my body, or any plant or animal in our environment.”

Seber says that using hemp seed oil helps improve the performance of the other ingredients, and that it’s not just for decks. “You can use it for anything made out of wood,” he says. Hemp Shield has in stock a formula intended for log cabins and can also be used on canvas. “Hemp Shield has no HAP (hazardous air pollutants),” he adds. “There are no fumes to Hemp Shield, you can use it inside.”

Mitigating environmental fallout continues to top Seber’s priority list. “From the very beginning, my main interest has been about the environment and I don’t think we have a lot of decades left before we have to do something heavy duty,” he says. “We don’t have enough time right now to do something about the paper or the textile [issues] before you kill everyone! That’s why I concentrate on Hemp Shield.” ♦



Science Fiction or Future Fact?
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by Erin Hiatt

The headline is definitely an attention grabber: "Solar panels that you can drive, park, and walk on. They melt snow and ... cut greenhouse gases by 75 percent!"

That’s the lead-in for the "Solar Roadways" campaign, and it sounds like it’s straight out of science-fiction fantasy. But it is, by far, the largest grossing campaign in Indiegogo’s history, closing at $2.2 million, more than 220 percent of the company’s $1 million goal. With more than 48,000 donors from all 50 states and around the world, the idea is clearly one that has mass appeal.

Interstate at Dusk

The Indiegogo campaign page ( says that "Solar Roadways is a modular paving system of solar panels that can be installed on roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, etc., literally any surface under the sun. They pay for themselves primarily through the generation of electricity, which can power homes and business connected via driveways and parking lots. A nationwide system could produce more clean renewable energy than a country uses as a whole."

Scott and Julie Brusaw, based in Sandpoint, Idaho, are the co-inventors and co-founders of Solar Roadways, and their relationship goes back to early childhood when Julie’s mom babysat the young Scott.


Scott is an electrical engineer who has always had "electric roads" on the brain. He even has a childhood drawing depicting his vision of a solar roadway. Julie took a different path, studying psychology, and her voice has been very inspiring to Scott, who says that Julie is the one "thinking outside the box. She’ll be sitting in a meeting with all these engineers and she’ll say ‘What about this?’ and we all think, ‘Huh, that’s a great idea.’"

But it was former Vice-President Al Gore’s movie "An Inconvenient Truth" that really set Scott thinking. Julie had always been environmentally conscious but it was after seeing that documentary that Scott became more than another guy who recycles his aluminum cans. He was a true believer in green technology, a convert who wanted to create some meaningful change.

"The solar panels can withstand 250,000 pounds of weight, which is four times the legal weight of a semi-trailer truck and have traction to stop a vehicle moving up to 80 miles per hour," Scott says. "They won’t break or crack if something crashes on them. The base layers are made of 10-percent recycled glass."

Scott started tinkering with his initial prototypes and a lot of people took notice, including policy makers within the federal government. Avid fans of the Brusaws, who have a knack for snappy YouTube videos, include George Takei, aka Sulu, of the original Star Trek series fame.

The federal government reacted first. In 2009, Solar Roadways received a $100,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the Department of Transportation, then in 2011 another SBIR grant of $750,000, to develop and build a solar parking lot.

Parking lot west

panels only

Earlier this year, a fan made a video called "Solar Freaking Roadways" and posted it to YouTube. To say it went viral is an understatement. It’s had around 17 million views and counting. Then George Takei chimed in.

Takei has honed a very popular online presence since moving on from his Hollywood days, collecting over 1.2 million Twitter and 7 million-plus Facebook followers. Takei caught wind of the "Solar Freaking Roadway" video and composed the tweet heard ‘round the world: "I like the sound of that. Worth a look. Dare to dream, I say."

Literally overnight the Brusaw’s met their $1 million goal on Indiegogo. Scott, an admitted Star Trek fan, was thrilled with Takei’s attention, laughing, "How can you be an electrical engineer and not be a Star Trek fan?"

The prototype of a solar roadway that Scott is working on is made up of three layers:

The first is the road surface layer. It is an incredibly strong, bulletproof-type glass. It provides traction yet is still translucent enough to pass sunlight to the solar cells underneath. There are also LED lights and a heating element to melt snow. This layer must be weatherproof to protect the electronics. It is also responsible for redirecting sunlight to hit the solar panels at appropriate angles.

The second is the electronics layer. This houses a microprocessor board for sensing loads on the surface and controlling the heating element. It also controls communications, lighting, etc. The plan is to have a communications device every 12 feet, so it can be "intelligent" and change the LED pattern to relay messages to drivers.

The third is the base plate layer, and this distributes the collected solar power as well as data signals to all the homes and businesses connected to the roadway.

"The solar panels can withstand 250,000 pounds of weight, which is four times the legal weight of a semi-trailer truck and have traction to stop a vehicle moving up to 80 miles per hour," Scott says. "They won’t break or crack if something crashes on them. The base layers are made of 10-percent recycled glass."Tractor

Scott was also tasked with coming up with a solution for polluted stormwater. Stormwater is an abnormal amount of surface water due to a heavy rain or melting snow. With that drainage comes pesticides and herbicides that we use on our lawns, antifreeze and oil from our driveways, and other toxic substances. This now polluted water goes through our drainage systems and into waterways. Scott is working on a section in the cable corridors for storing, treating, and moving stormwater.

Traffic safety is another part of the concept. Scott explains that "the panels can also detect weight. It doesn’t know what it is, if it’s a person or an animal or a tree branch, but if 200 pounds, for example, steps on a panel then it can send a warning a quarter mile ahead to slow down or be cautious, and that is done within the microprocessor."

The LED lights in the second layer are the most sensitive, traffic-changing, and to some detractors, most worrisome part of the panels. Scott cited the city of Los Angeles because of its traffic problems, especially during work-time commutes.

"When you have eight lanes of traffic and the four lanes that go away from the city are practically empty and the lanes coming in are completely full, you could change that with the LEDs so in the morning you have six lanes coming into the city and two going out, then vice versa in the afternoon, and that can be done remotely."

The remote aspect to the LEDs has some people worried. They predict hacking and worst-case scenarios of madness and mayhem should anyone be able to change the lane patterns on dangerous whims.

There are also more general concerns of road workers losing their jobs, light pollution, noise, and the guesstimated astronomical cost, with some critics saying construction of solar roadways throughout the country could cost a whopping $60 trillion.

Brusaw shrugs off these criticisms. He says that displaced workers wouldn’t need advanced degrees to work the electronics, and that workers will be trained to learn the solar roadway system. He says the high cost is an apples-to-oranges comparison scenario. After all, there are no plans to just start tearing up roads around the nation and laying down solar panels.

"We are going to start here in Sandpoint with parking lots, walkways, etc. Then we’ll move onto bigger things, rest areas for example. We won’t go to high traffic roadways until it is absolutely perfect," he says.

Bike Path

The Brusaws were recently made honorary "Makers" by President Obama for the first-ever White House Maker’s Faire, a presidential forum where tech enthusiasts gather to share ideas. Bill Nye the Science Guy posed for a picture with Scott and Julie. The only thing that might have made that cooler was if Neil DeGrasse Tyson had been in the picture.

Or maybe George Takei for the photobomb.





Gone With The Wind?
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by Skyler Cannabaceae

Wind power advocates were down but not defeated when the Expiring Provisions, Improvements, Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act suffered a setback in the U.S. Senate earlier this year. A vote for consideration of the bill fell seven votes short of the necessary 60 to end debate and force action.

"This bipartisan idea - born on the plains and thriving across the country - is too important to fall victim to partisan games and procedural gambits. I will keep fighting to ensure our wind energy manufacturers and the middle-class families they support have the certainty they need to thrive," Mark Udall, the senior U.S. Senator for Colorado said in a statement.

Udall is a strong supporter of wind energy in Colorado. He made 27 floor speeches in 2012 in support of the tax credits and helped to extend them until the end of 2013. He extolled the benefits of the bill, especially the Production Tax Credit the industry holds dear.

"The Production Tax Credit for wind energy is a smart investment in our economy that strengthens our energy security, supports a strong Colorado industry and creates good-paying manufacturing jobs," he said.

The bill would have renewed the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), both of which are tax relief measures to help fund wind power and research. The tax credits received strong support from both of Colorado’s senators.

Senator Mike Bennett lamented the defeat in a statement: "This is yet another example of Washington not doing the work that Coloradans and the American people expect us to do. This tax extenders bill was approved by the Senate Finance Committee with strong bipartisan support. Coloradans and the American people deserve better."

The PTC lets taxpayers claim a tax credit equivalent to 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour produced for a 10-year period, while the ITC offers the option of taking a 30-percent investment tax credit instead. Under the terms of the EXPIRE Act, the credits would have been extended through the end of 2015. As it stands now, the credits are in limbo; still being considered, but officially expired and only able to be used for tax years before 2014.

Bennett pointed out that the tax credits are a great benefit to the Colorado renewable energy industry and that there were economic repercussions when they previously expired that hurt the growth of the wind power industry. He quoted statistics showing that as many as 37,000 people will lose their jobs nationally if the credit permanently expires, including 5,000 employed in this state. Colorado is number six in the nation for percentage of power produced by wind.

Both senators issued statements encouraging their colleagues to support the measure two days before the vote. The bill needed 60 votes to continue in the Senate, but only received 53, with 40 votes against, mostly along party lines. Only one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, voted with Democrats in favor of an up-or-down vote.

Bennett worked with Udall and used his seat on the Senate Finance Committee to include the wind PTC extension that would keep it in place until 2016. Bennett said that the jobs created by the credit gave a boost to the state’s economy "and a two-year extension will provide much-needed certainty to this growing industry."

The tax-extenders bill contained over 50 tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013, including deductions or credits for increasing research expenditures, charitable contributions of food, and investment in empowerment zones. The author of the originally bipartisan bill, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), is reportedly working on changes so that he can bring it up again with more support.

Tax Credits

by Rick Macey

Federal tax credits for wind power businesses are important for creating jobs and securing investment. What is less well known is that they provide incentives for industry standards.

According to Jeff Hebert, owner of Colorado’s Wind Orchard Energy, without those credits, wind power’s growth as a viable green technology will be curtailed.

"Big energy companies are trying to dry up these credits so they can keep their foothold on fossil fuels," Hebert said while working his booth at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s summit in Denver. "It’s certainly going to slow down the pace if those incentives are not there."

Before there were tax credits, companies which manufactured and marketed wind turbines could make unsubstantiated or exaggerated claims about how much electricity they would produce.

Hebert said the tax credits changed that. They forced companies to get their wind turbines certified so their customers would qualify for those tax breaks, giving a boost to the American Wind Energy Association and its standards.

Wind Orchard Energy specializes in small wind turbine systems. Hebert described a vision of a small town powered by 10 of them - "community wind."

He cited recent advances in design, materials, and control systems. "Finally technology has come to the small wind industry," he said.

And with that green tech comes the opportunity for people to free themselves - at least partially - from the fossil-fuel power grid at very compelling price points.

Hebert said one home with two small turbines would generate enough electricity to pay for the investment within two years. Each year afterward would be like getting free green energy and possibly payments for selling the excess electricity to the local utility company.

That is certainly one reason for the push back from big energy corporations, whose lobbyists are notorious for influencing public policy. "They want to keep us on a meter," Hebert said.

Without tax credits, investment in this green technology would likely shrink, and unscrupulous turbine manufacturers "would bring out the junk again," he said.

The moral of this story is the power of green - as in money for campaign contributions - can undermine green power.




DIY:Backyard Composter
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by Greg Holdsworth

Properly composted food scraps can be turned into an excellent fertilizer for gardens. However, composting food scraps in an open pile can attract some unwanted urban pests - rats, mice, raccoons and who-knows-what.

One of the simplest ways to compost food scraps is in a sunken garbage can. Also called a “bio digester,” the magic of this food waste composter is that it’s partially buried in the ground. There, holes allow earthworms, microbes, and other critters to ‘walk on in’ and do what they’re good at. A tight-fitting lid allows protection from unwanted pests, excessive rainfall, and drying winds.

The list of things you’ll need:

  • Galvanized metal trash can with lid (about $30 new). Plastic should be avoided.
  • Electric drill
  • Drill bit - at least 1/4”
  • Shovel
  • Gloves (no blisters on my watch)
  • Masking tape
  • Permanent marker
  • Spot to dig in


Step 1. Drill about 20 to 30 holes, at least 1/4-inch, in the bottom of the can.

Step 1

Step 2. Drill 20 to 40 more holes in the sides of the can, but only in the lower third. This is the part that will be covered by soil.

Step 2

Step 3. In a well-drained spot, dig a hole about 15 inches deep (about half as deep as your container).

Step 3

Step 4. Set the can into the hole. Then, push the soil back in around the sides and press it down with your hands, foot or the shovel.

Step 4

Step 5. Your new digester is ready to use! Collect food scraps, storing them in a container in your kitchen, and once or twice a week, throw the food scraps into the food scrap digester. I also add a little soil after the scraps to add more microbes and to increase the surface area to be broken down.

Step 5

Step 6. Here’s a cool tip: Take a piece of masking tape and place it at the top of the compost mixture. Then take a permanent marker and write the date that the digester was full and left to compost. You can open the lid periodically to see that the level has dropped from the material being broken down. Sweet!

Step 6

If odor or fruit flies are a problem, you can add leaves, grass clippings, sawdust, straw, or shredded paper to place a thin layer on top of each new food scrap addition to the digester. No worms need to be added to this digester. Worms will find their way in through the holes and will help break down the food scraps. If pests are still opening the lid, you can tie a bungee cord to the lid handle and hook it to the handles on the sides of the garbage can.

Step 7

Harvesting the Compost

Depending on your household’s food habits, a digester will fill in 2 to 6 months. Harvest the compost by shoveling the upper foot or so of non-decomposed food off to one side and shoveling the dark, soil-like compost out of the bottom of the digester.

If the unfinished compost is wet and smelly, mix it with some soil and wait a week for it to dry up. Return the top layer (which was set aside) back into the digester to finish composting and continue to add food scraps.

I’m in the process of installing a second digester. Similar to the traditional aboveground “three-bin” composting method, when one digester gets full, I’ll start to use the second digester. After 6 to12 months, all the compost in the first digester should be finished and ready to use.

Do Compost

Vegetable scraps, grains and pasta, fruit rinds and peels, breads, coffee grounds, filters, tea bags, newspapers and eggshells

Don’t Compost

Meat, fish, poultry, cheese, oily foods, butter, dairy products, other animal products, pet waste

Viola... fresh compost in a can!

Greg_Garden_New_Large_sqsGreg Holdsworth is a contributor to and owns a gardening business in the Dallas area called Your Own Victory Garden


A Sweet Energy Solution
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by Skyler Cannabaceae

You’re running some errands and your cell phone battery is about to die. Every regular mobile phone user has experienced this type of situation. There are no electrical outlets for you to use to charge your phone, so what do you do?

How about popping the battery out of your phone and refilling it with sugar?

It sounds like a pipe dream, but a team of researchers at Virginia Tech published a paper in January showing that a sugar battery is not only possible, but can feature a higher energy density than others. This could lead to it being stiff competition for the standard lithium-ion batteries used in most electronics.

Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech and the primary author of the study, said that this battery “has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled.”

Zhang goes on to suggest that his battery could be ready in as little as three years to power all sorts of electronics, such as the cell phones and tablets that continue to grow as staples of American life. “Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang told VA Tech’s campus news. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

This isn’t the first time a battery has been created that runs on sugar. In 2007, Sony announced that they had created a “biobattery” that would use glucose as a power source. Building on the established science, Zhang and his fellow researchers created enzymatic fuel cells that contain a 15 percent maltodextrin solution. The paper claims that these could serve as ecologically friendly power sources for the portable electronics in years to come.

The battery would not be able to produce enough power to sustain large requirements for fuel sources, like cars, so don’t go pouring that bag of sugar into the tank just yet.

It could very well replace lithium-ion batteries, though. By creating a synthetic enzymatic pathway, the solution is broken down more slowly leading to a steady and even flow of energy; the lack of which had been a problem in previous bio-batteries

This new battery interests people who are concerned about lithium-ion batteries, the battery type most used in portable electronics, ending up in landfills all over America and wreaking havoc on the environment.

A report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a part of the U.S. Department of Health, says that these batteries, “enter the solid waste stream and can contaminate soil and water.”

Zhang’s battery would neutralize this concern since the only byproducts are electricity and water. It would also eliminate the need to throw batteries into a landfill because they are refillable.

Not rechargeable, but refillable, which is better.

The new battery would not need to be plugged in to recharge the way that most lithium-ion batteries do. Instead, it could be refilled with more of the solution to continue to generate energy. This would not only lead to less waste, but the low cost of sugar compared to toxic metals used in lithium-ion would result in a cost as low as one-tenth that of the current batteries used.

The new batteries have over 10 times the energy density of lithium-ion, the study shows, and can last as much as two times longer than lithium-ion batteries weighing the same amount.

No need to start looking for sugar batteries on store shelves, though, as Zhang expects, it will take at least three years for them to be produced and ready for use.

No worries. When it’s ready , the cannabis community is too.

Blinded by the Light
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by Skyler Cannabaceae

RJ Harrington Jr. is like thousands of other Coloradans. Years ago, he and his family made a large investment in rooftop solar power. At the time, Xcel Energy provided the full retail credit for the power that Harrington’s home provided to the “grid” for redistribution. This was the rate on which he based his investment strategy.

But now the Colorado utility company says his investment is worth much less than he thought, and is losing value more quickly than he imagined. “To reduce … that investment really makes an impact,” Harrington said.

Here’s the dilemma: Excel now claims that the power generated by rooftop solar panels is worth about half of the value of energy generated by other means, particularly its power plants.

Harrington believes that the benefits of his solar panel system are being miscalculated by Xcel. Things like deferred expenses were not taken into account. Even so, when is a volt not a volt?

“The benefits from a homeowner’s point of view are that I am providing power to my neighbors,” Harrington said. He disputes the idea that he is not paying his fair share because, in addition to providing power in the form of “green electrons,” he also saves Xcel the costs of maintaining and replacing their equipment as often.

“[Excel] can defer maintenance to generation stations, they can delay purchasing new generation … we have made investments in generation that help to delay the investments in generation that they have to make.”

Xcel Energy doesn’t think that solar power provides enough benefit for the cost. Citing a study it commissioned, Xcel decided that the rate at which Colorado homeowners and small businesses are credited for the solar energy they provide is more than double what the usable energy they provide is worth. Whether that’s true or not, the utility doesn’t want to cover the difference.

In July of last year, Xcel proposed a change to their current plan with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC). “Netmetering,” as the solar energy practice at issue is known, is a policy required of each state by the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005. Xcel gives a credit on the electric bills of homeowners and small businesses that install solar panel systems on their roofs, which in turn send energy to the utility company’s grid for redistribution.

In addition to being a homeowner and investor, Harrington is executive director of Clean Action Energy, one of the groups which organized a rally in December and presented a petition to Xcel’s Colorado Headquarters. A press release issued by Vote Solar Initiative the same day states that the there were 300 protestors to present the petition, which was signed by 30,000 solar proponents.

The petition requested that Xcel withdraw its proposal saying that, “Your proposal significantly undervalues rooftop solar power at the expense of your own customers.” This appears to have done little to change the utility’s plans, to the chagrin of solar energy supporters.

“With the prices that they’ve proposed, it basically cuts the benefit in half,” Harrington said. “Right now, we expect our solar system and our investment in that solar system to be completely paid off within about seven years.” Excel’s cut in the rate will double that time to 14 years.

Activists for solar energy are not pleased with Xcel’s sudden devaluation of rooftop panels. “Coloradans feel strongly that we need to increase energy self-reliance, clean our air and fight climate disruption,” said Margaret McCall, energy associate at Environment Colorado. “We should make it more affordable for Coloradans to harness sunshine,” instead of rolling back the programs that work.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), Colorado ranks 18th out of the 50 states in terms of renewable energy produced at 1.4 percent. The most recent statistics produced by the Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy office in 2011 show that Colorado is a standout in more than one area. It generates 5.76 percent of America’s solar power and 4.33 percent of the country’s power from wind.

The DoE’s Energy Information Administration has projected that power consumption in the state will be 43 percent higher in 2030 than it is today. With Colorado ranking 27th in electric consumption, but seventh in average annual increase from 1980-2010, the battle for who produces that electricity and how it is generated means more than ever.

In Colorado, coal accounts for 62.7 percent of all energy, followed by natural gas at 27.4 percent. Wind is 5.8 percent, hydro is 4.1 and solar is less than one percent, according to statistics from the Institute of Energy Research.


It's Not Easy Being Green
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by Erin Hiatt

It’s a very pretty can of bug killer. It’s green, has the word “earth” on the label and is decorated with tree bark and daisies. Those dirty, pesky bugs are dead on their backs, little legs frozen midair just like the pictures on the other cans of not earth-friendly bug killer, so it must work just as well, you reason.

So you buy it because you want to do your part for the environment. This can of bug killer, with the very homestyle kind of grass-rooty label,” says Cliff Drill, owner and founder of Splaff, a manufacturer of environmental clothing, footwear, and accessories. It makes you think, “Oh, this is a green product, I’m doing something good by buying it.”

Right? Wrong. You have been officially “greenwashed.” Like the more familiar term “whitewashing,” it refers to a glossy sheen to cover up something less than desirable.

Our sheds, closets, and kitchen cupboards are likely full of things that we conscientiously purchased, hoping that those greener products would be better for the environment. But in reality they are most likely just as bad as the generally much cheaper mainstream product.

Take the example of the bug killer. When you look at the ingredients list, it does contain a natural bug-killer from the chrysanthemum flower called pyrethrin, number three out of four listed on the label. Piperonyl butoxide, number four, is another natural ingredient that helps boost the killing power of the chrysanthemum. That’s wonderful, yes?

Not so fast. Coming in at number one on the list is isobutane, a freon gas that depletes the ozone layer. Number two is propane, a by-product of natural gas and petroleum.

Let’s see. Ingredients one and two alone could easily kill any bug without adding the chrysanthemum combination. Why would these companies even bother adding the green components?

Cliff Drill believes it’s all about the money. Splaff is about “90 percent eco-friendly. When you buy ‘green’ products from a huge corporation, their initial goals are not to do things environmentally, they’re just companies doing things for profit. Then later on they see, oh, there’s a green consumer and we have to find a way to attract them and to market to them and to get that piece of that pie as well.”

The biggest problem with greenwashing is that it’s pretty much impossible to tell what is “green” and what is not. The Federal Trade Commission, the regulatory overseer, allows corporations to police themselves. That’s why a bottle of bleach, one of the most corrosive and deadly chemicals, can come in a bottle made with 10 percent recycled plastic and call itself a “green” product without fear of being penalized.

Underwriters Laboratories is an independent testing and certification organization. It puts out a report called “The 7 Sins of Greenwashing.” It can help spot a greenwashing offender:

Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: This suggests that a product is “green” without noting its “trade-offs.” Paper from a sustainable forest is an example of this when you don’t factor in the energy, greenhouse gases, water, and  pollution created in the papermaking process.

Sin of No Proof: Just like it sounds, if they can’t prove that it’s green, it probably isn’t. The most common offenders are tissue manufacturers.

Sin of Vagueness: Look out for the words “all-natural” here, since arsenic and formaldehyde are natural ... and also poisonous.

Sin of Irrelevance: This is usually spotted when you see the words “CFC free.” CFC’s were long ago banned by law and it’s great to be rid of these chemicals, but it’s not relevant when looking for a “green” product.

Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: Imagine a cigarette with organic tobacco. Imagine that same cigarette contributing to deforestation and creating liquid, airborne, and solid waste. Not to mention the millions of cigarette butts on the sidewalks, in the gutters, and landfills.

Sin of Fibbing: This one is the hardest to pull off but it does happen. Some corporations just flat out lie, often in expensive media campaigns.

Sin of Worshipping False Labels: This usually happens when companies use clever words or imagery to give a false impression about the product.

“And that,” says Drill, “is the whole problem with greenwashing.  It’s too much marketing ... and not enough actual action.”

Huge corporations have money-making ambitions and they want to get the green consumer to buy their toxic stuff because they know we need to clean our floors, wash our cars, or paint our houses. Those corporations are counting on you to not do your research when you’re picking a product.

Drill knows from his business experience that “doing things eco-consciously and green is more expensive and less convenient. "It takes more work and it costs more money.”

So how can an eco-conscious consumer avoid greenwashing?  First, do a little research. A great resource is GoodGuide at (also available as an Android app).  Listed there are hundreds of products, from deodorants to cell phones, along with both good and bad ratings for the products. Some corporations, such as Seventh Generation, Endangered Species Chocolate, and Method have consistently high scores from GoodGuide.

When it comes to our food, it is a bit easier to tell if something is actually organic or not since the USDA requires that the ingredients be certified organic before it can get a USDA Organic stamp of approval on the package. And Drill does believe that things are getting better, with more large corporations trying to roll out actual “green” products for the conscientious consumer.

It’s in a corporation’s nature to try and make a profit, so as consumers, the one thing we can do is to give our money to companies that uphold our ideals and not, Drill reminds us, to a corporation that “doesn’t give a crap about the environment.”

No Fracking Zones
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by Chris Tucker

It took a monumental effort to ban hydraulic fracturing - fracking - in Boulder, Fort Collins, Broomfield and Lafayette during the recent elections. Coalitions of citizens, organizations, and lawyers came together to show that some Colorado voters will not be deterred in their efforts to make their towns a safer environment. Many people worked many hours to put what they need ahead of corporate greed.

There are more than 47,000 fracked wells throughout Colorado. That number could skyrocket in the next decade if the oil and gas industry has anything to say about it. Colorado is a major epicenter of fracking in the United States and a substantial expansion could be in order if Coloradans do not continue to make their voices heard. Voters who banned   fracking dealt a major blow to the carte blanche previously enjoyed by oil and gas companies, but there is a long way to go toward a statewide ban.

The coalition group Protect Our Colorado takes a strong stance opposed to fracking and played an enormous role during the recent elections, spreading information and talking directly with voters in affected counties and towns.  The oil and gas industry in Colorado spending more than $900,000 trying to defeat the measures on ballots in Fort Collins, Broomfield, Lafayette and Boulder. Opponents of fracking, on the other hand, spent only about $26,000 to promote the bans. That speaks to the resolve of voters and what they feel is most beneficial for their communities.

“The oil and gas industry is lowering our quality of life along with our property values,” says Audy Leggere Hickey of Boulder County Citizens for Community Rights. “Governor Hickenlooper needs to show strength, courage and integrity. He needs to stand up for the people of Colorado to ban fracking.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper fully supports the industry. He says that there is no harm caused by the thousands of chemicals left behind by fracking. He claims that he had a drink of water from one of those wells.

Way to take a stand there, Governor … you drink “one” small glass of water and didn’t succumb to any health related illnesses. You are quite the ambassador. You are now free to go back to your mansion and drink your filtered, unaffected tap water.

But what about the residents who are forced to drink, cook, and farm with fracked well water on a daily basis?  Who speaks for them? Remember the lesson from John Hanger, former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, who actually took a stand for the citizens of his state. He took the fight directly to the oil and gas industry - and he prevailed.

Casey Sheahan, CEO of Patagonia, Inc., has said “Fracking endangers our health and contaminates our clean air and water. For the future of our children and our state, it’s essential that we stop fracking in Colorado and move  immediately to a renewable energy economy.”

Fracking is environmentally hazardous. Citizens, not corporations, pay the price for those hazards as evidence links fracking to health-related illnesses. Hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer, infertility and other health problems have been found in water samples collected at and near fracking sites in Colorado.

The journal Endocrinology recently published a new study which revealed that elevated levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, were found in surface water and groundwater samples collected in the state’s Garfield County, a fracking hotspot with more than 10,000 natural gas wells.

The Colorado River has also been found to contain significantly higher than normal levels of EDC’s. Susan Nagel, who is the lead author of the recent study on fracking and EDC’s, has said, “With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.” Because EDCs interfere with normal hormone action, they have been linked to a number of health issues.

The World Health Organization issued a report last year highlighting the health risks associated with EDC’s, including cancer, infertility and impaired neural and immune function.  Previous studies have also suggested that EDCs may have adverse effects on the reproductive system in both women and men, and another study has shown the same in animals.

Suzanne Spiegel is with the group Frack Free Colorado, which is part of the Protect Our Colorado coalition. She has a video on YouTube about a horrific fracking related incident.  Members of a family were forced to move from their home after their farm animals’ offspring began suffering from birth defects. They also showed major signs of trauma from polluted air caused by fracking wells.

“When citizens across the front range realized that their local and state officials intended to do nothing to protect their communities from the dangers of industrial fracking, they were forced to take matters into their own hands,” Spiegel said. “Residents that had never been activists before came together in a fight to protect their families and homes. Each city formed a citizens group that introduced a municipal ballot initiative restricting fracking … We mobilized volunteers, hosted educational events, and helped raise enough money to print educational materials. Being vastly outspent by oil and gas [companies] on these campaigns made our wins all the more astounding. It was incredible to be a part of a movement whose vision for Colorado united citizens across the front range, and ultimately, overcame all odds.”

Since Colorado’s governor is not willing to be the voice of the people, citizens must continue to steadfastly fight until fracking is banned once and for all.

Clean Up After Your Holiday Guests With These ‘Green’ Products
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Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day

The Meyer’s line has a wide variety of products ranging from household cleaners, laundry detergent, air fresheners, hand and body and more. All products come in innovative and amazing scents like basil and rhubarb and classics like lavender and lemon verbena. These delicious cleaners are made from plants and essential oils from flowers and herbs- so no harmful chemicals, bleach, ammonia, petroleum, etc.  They are also cruelty free and free of animal testing.  Available in most grocery stores or online.


Ravioli Scrubby from Twist

This neat little creation is a biodegradable sponge wrapped in hemp burlap. It is absolutely scrubby enough to remove the food but gentle enough not to scratch your nonstick pans.  The entire thing is free of dyes or other harsh chemicals that you don’t exactly want to be cleaning your dishes with! Can be cleaned in the dishwasher (top shelf only). Acquired through buygreen.  com, The Ravioli Scrubby was designed in Boulder by Twist LLC. Check out their site for other great products.

wipesWipe It Away Products from Full Circle

Ever find yourself going through tons of paper products? Wouldn’t you like to save a little money, especially around the holidays? Full Circle makes a reusable cloth for every type of cleaning situation. The Wood Fiber Cleaning Cloths (pictured above) are great for all spills and cleaning delicate surfaces. The Neat Nut, made from walnuts, is perfect for scouring.  The Terra Towels are hand towels made from organic cotton and The Stick ‘Em has a built in magnet--never lose your towel again.

garbage bagsRecycled Kitchen Bags from Seventh Generation

This conscious company makes trash bags, Ziplocs and other paper products all made from recycled plastic and post consumer products. From baby care to kitchen cleaners, Seventh Generation (an American company from Vermont) offers a variety of eco-friendly and gentle products.  Available at most grocery stores, these environmentally friendly goods are affordable and convenient, so do you and your loved ones a favor by stocking up this holiday season.






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