Silver Oak is building the state’s most eco-friendly winery

  • Silver Oak Alexander Valley Winery in Healdsburg, Calif. Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Photo: Mason Trinca, Special To The Chronicle



Can there be many brands in wine as powerful as Silver Oak? It’s an American institution, its shiny label an emblem of the rich, luscious ideal of California Cabernet. Silver Oak has built its success on stylistic consistency — if you liked it one year, you’ll like it the next — and a commitment to people-pleasing. The wines are not meant to challenge. They’re meant to gratify.

For many of its fans, Silver Oak is synonymous with one place: Napa Valley. But Napa Valley represents only about a quarter of Silver Oak’s wine production. In addition to that famous Napa Valley Cabernet, Silver Oak makes another — arguably, depending on your taste in wine, better — Cabernet, from Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley.

Both the Napa and Alexander wines are 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and both, under winemaker Nate Weis, are made in the winery’s distinctive style: generous and concentrated, imbued with the unmistakable flavors — vanilla, coconut, dill — of American oak barrels. (It’s a meaningful point of departure: Most high-end California wineries use French oak barrels, whose flavors are different.)

Of course, Silver Oak’s Alexander Valley wine has always lived in the shadow of Napa. The Napa bottling is more expensive ($125 to Alexander’s $75), more famous (LeBron James and Draymond Green are fans) and hails from the name-brand California wine region.

As for Alexander Valley — where is that again, exactly? A refresher: eastern Sonoma County, nestled between the towns of Healdsburg, Geyserville and Calistoga.

It’s no surprise, then, that Silver Oak’s Napa Valley winery in Oakville — a wine-tourism temple that in 2016 earned a platinum LEED certification — has long outshone the functional, no-frills Alexander Valley location in Geyserville. But that’s about to change. In April, Silver Oak president David Duncan unveils a new, state-of-the-art winery, vineyard and tasting room for the Alexander Valley wines, this time on the outskirts of Healdsburg.

The new Alexander Valley winery won’t just be a better place to make wine, Duncan hopes. He expects it will also be the most environmentally friendly winery built in California.

“The goal is zero net water and zero net energy,” Duncan says, walking on the elevated walkway that connects the winery to the barrel chai. The place is still under construction; he’s wearing a hard hat. “Eventually, this property should be producing 105 percent of its energy output.”

Duncan purchased the 113-acre property, formerly Sausal Winery, in 2012. The price, according to county records: about $10.9 million. Resting in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains, facing Geyser Peak with Sausal Creek at its edge, it had 75 acres under vine when he bought it, mostly Zinfandel. Duncan’s team gradually has been replanting the site to — what else? — Cabernet Sauvignon.

Owning a property like this comes with the requirement to treat your own wastewater. Typically, a vineyard owner would install a pond that can filter the wastewater with underwater motors; you’ve likely seen such reservoirs around Napa and Sonoma before. But a pond takes up land that could be used for grapevines, and its treatment mechanism is inefficient, since its stores are subject to evaporation.

So instead of digging a pond at the new Silver Oak winery, Duncan purchased a membrane bioreactor, a compact system for processing wastewater that can be kept indoors and is, he claims, the most environmentally efficient system available. The machine cost about $1 million, Duncan says, which is a lot. But it saved him from having to remove two acres of vines. “When you translate that to wine, that expense was a super easy decision to make,” he says.

The goal: Every drop of water gets used three times on the property. That means the same water used to clean barrels could then be used in a sink faucet and then to water grapevines. The membrane bioreactor “would cover a small city,” Duncan says.

Is this the Winery of the Future? It has 2,000 solar panels, which will not only light the property but also heat all its water. The vineyard boasts a top-of-the-line mechanical grape harvester; it can pick, destem and optically sort grapes while still in the vineyard (and goes for north of $100,000). There’s even a mechanical barrel racker — the first I’ve ever seen — that moves wine between barrels at rapid speed.

It isn’t just LEED platinum that Duncan is chasing. He’s also going after the Living Building Challenge, a certification program administered by the Seattle-based International Living Future Institute, which addresses not only input and output but also criteria like how you treat your employees. Both certifications would be challenging for any building to meet; for a facility growing grapes and making wines — energy-intensive endeavors, to say the least — it’s a serious undertaking.

And David Duncan isn’t kidding around. “This should last forever,” he says of his new winery.

It’s a little-known fact, but the Duncan family’s history in Alexander Valley predates its involvement in Napa wine. In 1970 David’s father Ray Duncan went in on a vineyard in Alexander Valley called Los Amigos with Jack Novak, who would soon after purchase the Spottswoode property in St. Helena. It wasn’t until 1972 that Ray and winemaker Justin Meyer bought the Oakville dairy barn that would become Silver Oak. (Meyer, a monk who had worked at Napa’s legendary Christian Brothers Winery, left the order when he co-founded Silver Oak; the longtime winemaker sold his company shares to the Duncan family in 2001.)

The inaugural Silver Oak vintage, 1972, was comprised of fruit from both Napa and Alexander valleys. It was labeled “North Coast,” since Alexander Valley was not yet an official American Viticultural Area. In 1977 and 1978, Alexander Valley was the only wine Silver Oak made. “Napa Valley” would not appear on its bottles until the 1979 vintage.

Today, at 75,000 cases, the Alexander Valley wine makes up the majority of Silver Oak’s 103,000-case production. And though both Silver Oak Cabernets share that consistent, American oak-tinged signature — “Silver Oak is an adjective,” Duncan likes to say — the Alexander is the more restrained of the two. It uses only 50 percent new oak, for example, as opposed to Napa’s 90 percent. (In 2015, Silver Oak acquired its longtime cooperage in Missouri — the first American winery to own an American cooperage — so it now completely controls the production of its barrels.)

Even as Silver Oak has moved aggressively into new businesses — this year alone, it purchased cult Napa winery Ovid and Oregon’s high-profile Erath Vineyard for Twomey, Duncan’s Pinot Noir-focused brand — it hasn’t relented on more development in Alexander Valley. Also this year Duncan bought two more vineyards in the area, Big River and Crazy Creek; added to Miraval, Red Tail and, of course, the vineyard at the new winery, that makes Silver Oak the owner of 277 acres of Alexander Valley vineyards.

Why invest so much in Alexander, when Napa is — and likely always will be — the marquee? “I’d argue that our property here is superior to almost anything in Napa Valley,” Duncan says. “Plus, the land costs half as much, so the fruit costs half as much, so the wine can cost almost half as much.” And of course, opening a tasting room — with elaborate food pairings, organic vegetable gardens, scenic verandas — is half as much trouble.

And Silver Oak, perhaps more than most California wineries, knows its customer. “A lot of people in Napa are chasing the same high-end customer, but not us,” Duncan says. “We are for most of our customers still an aspirational product — a once-a-year special occasion.”

Now, maybe, those customers will pay a little more attention to the Sonoma side. After all, whether from Napa or Alexander Valley, a Silver Oak wine still tastes like Silver Oak. “If there’s one thing we’re committed to,” Duncan says, “it’s to keeping the promise of how our fans think about the wine.”

If you go:

Silver Oak’s new winery is expected to open in early April. Reservations won’t be required for a standard tasting, but other experiences must be planned in advance. There will be vineyard tours (highlighting the property’s sustainability features), plus food pairings, under the direction of Dominic Orsini, also the chef at Silver Oak’s Oakville winery. As in Oakville, there will be a wood-fired pizza oven.

7300 Highway 128, Healdsburg

Tesla Receives First Semi Order From Middle East

8 hours ago by
Mark Kane

Tesla Semi

Bee’ah to add 50 all-electric Tesla Semi trucks to its transport fleet

Bee’ah becomes the first in the Middle East to announce an order for all-electric Tesla Semi trucks – 50 units were reserved and are expected to arrive in UAE from 2020 on.

Tesla Semi

Inside The Tesla Semi

This is one of the largest orders for the Tesla Semi to date, in line with Sysco Corporation, and second to only PepsiCo (100) and UPS (125).

Bee’ah placed reservations immediately after the launch but remained tight-lipped until now.

The trucks will be used for waste collection and transportation, including transportation of materials for recovery.

“In line with its efforts to provide a better quality of life in the Middle East, Bee’ah, the region’s fastest growing environmental management company, has underscored its unshakeable vision for sustainability by purchasing the first and largest fleet of Tesla Semi trucks in the Middle East. The announcement was made in-line with Bee’ah’s participation at the “World Future Energy Summit”, which is taking place in Abu Dhabi from 15 to 18 January 2018.

The organization placed an order for 50 of the automotive brand’s revolutionary all-electric vehicles immediately after their launch on November 16, to underline Bee’ah’s steadfast commitment to sustainability across its entire operations.

The incoming Tesla Semi trucks, which enter production in 2019, will primarily be used for waste collection and transportation, including transportation of materials for recovery. They will also add to Bee’ah’s growing fleet of vehicles, which total over 1,000 today, and continue upgrading the organization’s transport options in making the fleet as eco-friendly as possible. Overall, Bee’ah’s modernized fleet will continue to make a significant contribution to reducing the company’s carbon footprint, and that is by using the new Tesla Semi trucks alongside the existing electric vehicles, the vehicles that run on compressed natural gas and the ones that run on bio diesel, in addition to the boats that use solar energy while cleaning lakes and water bodies.”

His Excellency Salim Al Owais, Chairman of Bee’ah commented:

“We are extremely pleased to turn towards Tesla for a solution that enhances our leadership of sustainable practices in the region. As a company that strives to be the best in our field, we only work with partners that we consider to be the best in theirs,” . “Through this latest investment, we hope to demonstrate to others the value and importance of seeking out better, more viable ways of achieving our business aims, all for the greater good of our communities.”

Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee’ah commented:

“As a torchbearer for environmental responsibility, Bee’ah’s move to bring the first and largest fleet of Tesla Semi trucks to the region is a significant milestone in our operational evolution. Sustainability is at the very core of what we do, and the pursuit of this feeds into every level of our organization. That is why we have made this investment in our transportation fleet, which occurs with a view towards a larger goal – achieving the objectives of the National Agenda for UAE Vision 2021,”

Trucks are the second Tesla product chosen by Bee’ah. Earlier company ordered Powerpack energy storage system for its state-of-the-art net zero energy headquarter

“Bee’ah’s latest involvement with automaker, energy storage, and solar panel company Tesla isn’t its first. Earlier this year, the organization made a major investment with Tesla to fit the company’s world-leading Powerpack battery technology at Bee’ah’s spectacular, state-of-the-art net zero energy headquarter complex, which is currently under construction. The Tesla batteries will store solar energy to power the building, and any excess electricity generated will be fed directly into Sharjah’s main power supply grid, thereby ensuring maximum efficiency.

The use of Tesla Powerpack technology marked a significant step towards Bee’ah’s vision of a future where buildings are powered solely by renewable energy – starting with its own headquarters. Designed by revered British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, the new headquarters is currently under construction in Sharjah, UAE, and will become a platinum LEED certified building upon completion.”

Bee’ah Headquarters

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5 responses to “Tesla Receives First Semi Order From Middle East”

  1. G2 says:

    Huge savings with solar coming in at 2 or 3 cents/kwh.

  2. CDAVIS says:

    Will be interesting to see what semi truck market share % Tesla manages to capture inside next 10 years.

    My guess: ~24% … which would be a huge disruption to the trucking industry.

    The established traditional semi truck makers have a huge advantage over Tesla in that they have an existing built-in customer base and deep legacy knowledge of the trucking industry… but non of them are today (nor within next 3-5 years) capable of making an electric semi that can compete against Tesla Semi TCO wise.

    1. Mikael says:

      Hmm… with ~2,5 million truck sales (real trucks, not over-sized cars) per year those 24% would be 600 000 trucks…

      If Tesla could get past 1% market share during the next 10 years I would be happy. 4% and I would be ecstatic. 10% and I would breakdance to the Macarena on repeat for a month with no breaks but to sleep.

      1. CDAVIS says:

        @Mikael said “Hmm… with ~2,5 million truck sales (real trucks, not over-sized cars) per year those 24% would be 600 000 trucks…”

        “Class 8” Commerical Truck (anything above 33,000lbs …which is what Tesla Semi is rated at) is 250,000 truck sales … so 24% of “Class 8” would be 60,000 semi-trucks…

  3. ffbj says:

    Cool Building.

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Home biogas: turning food waste into renewable energy

Last night I cooked my family a delicious pasta dinner using biogas energy. This morning we all had eggs cooked on biogas. I’m not sure what’s for dinner tonight, but I know what will provide the energy for cooking: biogas.

And not just any biogas – it’s home biogas, produced in our suburban backyard, as part of my ongoing “action research” into sustainable energy practices.

Read more: Biogas: smells like a solution to our energy and waste problems

In an age of worrying climate change and looming fossil energy decline, the benefits of biogas are obvious. It is a renewable energy source with zero net greenhouse emissions. And yet its potential has largely gone untapped, at least in the developed world.

Based on my research and experience, I contend that home-produced biogas is an extremely promising technology whose time has come. In fact, I believe it could provoke a domestic green energy revolution, if only we let it.

What is biogas?

Biogas is produced when organic matter biodegrades under anaerobic conditions (that is, in the absence of oxygen). This process produces a mixture of gases – primarily methane, some carbon dioxide and tiny portions of other gases such as hydrogen sulfide.

When the biogas is filtered to remove the hydrogen sulfide, the resulting mixture can be burned as an energy source for cooking, lighting, or heating water or space. When compressed it can be used as fuel for vehicles. On a commercial scale biogas can be used to generate electricity or even refined and fed into the gas grid.

The types of organic matter used to produce biogas include food waste, animal manure and agricultural byproducts. Some commercial systems use sewage to produce and capture biogas.

Biogas benefits

The primary benefit of biogas is that it is renewable. Whereas the production of oil and other fossil fuels will eventually peak and decline, we will always be able to make biogas as long as the sun is shining and plants can grow.

Biogas has zero net greenhouse emissions because the CO? that is released into the atmosphere when it burns is no more than what was drawn down from the atmosphere when the organic matter was first grown.

As already noted, when organic matter biodegrades under anaerobic conditions, methane is produced. It has been estimated that each year between 590 million and 800 million tones of methane is released into the atmosphere. This is bad news for the climate – pound for pound, methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO?.

But in a biogas system this methane is captured and ultimately converted to CO? when the fuel is burned. Because that CO? was going to end up in the atmosphere anyway through natural degradation, biogas has zero net emissions.

There are other benefits too. The organic matter used in biogas digesters is typically a waste product. By using biogas we can reduce the amount of food waste and other organic materials being sent to landfill.

Furthermore, biogas systems produce a nutrient-rich sludge that can be watered down into a fertiliser for gardens or farms. All of this can help to develop increased energy independence, build resilience and save money.

My biogas experiment

In the spirit of scientific research, I installed one of the few home biogas systems currently available, at a cost of just over A$1,000 delivered, and have been impressed by its ease and functionality. (Please note that I have no affiliation, commercial or otherwise, with the manufacturer.)

In practical terms, I put in about 2kg of food waste each day and so far I have had enough gas to cook with, sometimes twice a day. If I ever needed more gas, I could put in more organic matter. I will continue to monitor the system as part of my research and will publish updates in due course. If interested, watch this space.

My personal motivation to explore biogas (related to my research) arises primarily from a desire to decarbonise my household’s energy use. So far, so good. We have disconnected from the conventional gas grid and now have more money to spend on projects such as expanding our solar array.

Given the alarming levels of food waste in Australia, I also like the idea of turning this waste into green energy. My neighbours kindly donate their organic matter to supplement our own inputs, increasing community engagement. When necessary I cycle to my local vegetable market and enthusiastically jump into their large food waste bin to take what I need, with permission.

They think I’m mad. But, then, I think using fossil fuels is mad.

Hurdles and hopes

Home biogas is widely produced in developing regions of the world. The World Bank and the United Nations actively encourage its use as a cheap, clean energy source. China has 27 million biogas plants.

But developed regions, including Australia, have been slow to exploit this vast potential. Given that Australia is one of the most carbon-intensive countries on Earth, this is unfortunate.

The failure to embrace home biogas is partly due to a lack of clear regulations about its use. Where is the Home Biogas Act? Almost every Australian backyard has an independent gas bottle to power the ubiquitous barbecue, so clearly storing gas in the backyard is not a problem. My biogas system came with robust safety certificates, warranties and insurance, and these systems do not feature high-pressure gas pipes.

Read more: Capturing the true wealth of Australia’s waste

Home biogas production is unusual. But I believe that state governments should draw up legislation to accommodate it, and that local councils should offer advice and assistance to householders who are interested in taking it up. Hoping for progress in this regard, I recently made a submission to the Victorian government as part of its Waste to Energy consultations.

My own carefully managed experiment demonstrates how home biogas can be used safely and successfully. Nevertheless, biogas is a combustible fuel and needs to be filtered for poisonous hydrogen sulfide. Like any fuel, it should be respected and used responsibly. But biogas need not be feared. Fossil gas is far more dangerous anyway.

Alternative energy, food waste among sustainability focus areas

Produce companies continue to look for ways to make operations more sustainable, from using alternative energy sources to reducing waste to taking on social responsibility initiatives.

Many organizations have extensive information about these efforts on their websites so consumers can easily learn about them.

The Nielsen Co. describes that sort of communication as critical, given the increasing interest from shoppers.

“From a consumer standpoint, companies should ensure that their strategies are both comprehensive — across all aspects of their business and supply chains — as well as observable,” said Crystal Barnes, senior vice president of global responsibility and sustainability for Nielsen. “What are you doing in-store to demonstrate your commitment to sustainability, perhaps in the context of reducing food waste? If you’re a fast-moving consumer goods company, for example, how are you communicating the importance of sustainability through your product packaging?”

Companies have invested in numerous sustainability initiatives and have created ways to track their efforts.

“We’ve developed a Limoneira Sustainability Matrix that categorizes these elements by whether they pertain to resources, nature or people,” said John Chamberlain, director of marketing for the Santa Paula, Calif.-based company. “This enables us to see the interconnectivity between elements and measure to the extent possible impacts and reductions.”

Kori Tuggle-Dinner, vice president of marketing and product development for Salinas, Calif.-based Church Brothers Farms, said the company has been tracking and reporting measurements on sustainability activities since 2014.

“2016 was the first year we had enough data to summarize year-over-year statistics and set benchmark recordings from 2015,” Tuggle-Dinner said. “We now share a report card that summarizes efforts at the field level for seven primary sustainable focus areas. In 2018 we will introduce benchmark measurements at our salad processing plant.”


Waste reduction

Selling produce that does not meet cosmetic retail standards is one way companies are working to reduce waste. Examples include the Eco-Friendly line from Church Bros. and the Misfits line from Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Robinson Fresh.

The industry has also worked to avoid sending more material than necessary to landfills.

“A 10-acre facility on Limoneira property receives over 200 tons a day of organic green waste that would otherwise be transported to landfills,” Chamberlain said. “The end product produced at this facility helps us and other growers to significantly reduce the use of water, herbicides, and fertilizers.”

Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers also creates fertilizer from green waste and looks to extend the life of other products as well.

“We find that reusing is just as important as recycling and have a full-time recycling manager who finds new homes for reused parts and equipment (either at Stemilt, or sells to other companies), as well as manages the recycling of various materials,” said Brianna Shales, communications manager for Stemilt. “We send all of our green waste (culled fruit, pallets, leaves, etc.) to the Stemilt Compost Farm, where it is regenerated into natural fertilizer for our orchards rather than being added to a landfill.”

Especially in California, where drought has been an issue in recent years, companies are also cognizant to avoid wasting water.

“100% of our berries are grown using drip irrigation, which is very water-efficient compared to many other crops,” said Cindy Jewell, vice president of marketing for Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms.



California Giant plans to keeping working this year on making the packaging of its products more sustainable.

“We continue to look at ways to use less packaging material,” Jewell said. “We have made changes to our tray in each of the last two seasons that have reduced the amount of paper used without compromising the shipping of our product. We also ensure that all of our facilities recycle all paper, damaged packaging, office paper products, etc.”

The company also wants to work with other berry grower-shippers to limit the number of packaging options in an effort to reduce waste.

“We are working to eliminate multiple packaging types for our berries with our commodity board to hopefully change the industry standards … which will cut down on paper and plastic usage in the future,” Jewell said.

Ideally, another industry-wide area of focus will be the popular clamshell.

“We would like to see the berry industry work together in the future on a recycling waste stream for plastic clamshells. They are all made from PET, which is the most recycled plastic (most water bottles),” Jewell said. “The problem is there is no collection stream for them across the country so consumers are not always able to actually recycle these clamshells since there are issues with removing the labels. We have some solutions for different label materials and/or adhesives but these are very costly at this time.”


Alternative energy

Solar power and other alternative energy sources seem to be growing in use.

Church Brothers debuted its clean power station last year.

California Giant does not use solar energy but is exploring options for its cooling facilities, Jewell said.

Stemilt will be entering the solar arena this year with its new distribution center in Wenatchee.

“We’ve installed several solar panels on the building and will be the largest user of solar energy in Chelan County once the building is in use,” Shales said. “Stemilt also benefits from hydro power across our packing and orchard operations.”

Limoneira has six solar installations, which it expects to benefit the business as well as the environment.

“Limoneira is generating clean energy and capturing savings too,” Chamberlain said. “As energy costs continue to rise, we have locked in our electrical rates. The projects reduce our electrical costs from Southern California Edison by approximately 70%.”

The company also is working with Tesla on another energy endeavor.

“Tesla storage systems provide us with the ability to reduce our energy costs by charging the battery during off-peak hours and dispatching the battery during peak hours,” Chamberlain said. “The system measures energy pricing arbitrage value using utility tariff data and autonomously controls the battery to maximize value.”


Social responsibility

Along with taking care of the environment, companies also want to take care of their people.

One example was a program mentioned by Stemilt.

“This was the second year of operation for the Stemilt Family Clinic, a clinic at one of our facilities that offers employees and their dependents free primary health care and prescription filling,” Shales said. “It’s an amazing benefit of working here and has helped immensely in touting preventative/well care. We are looking to expand the clinic to have mobile sites in order to offer the benefit to employees of our orchards.”

10 Tips For Creating an Eco-Friendly Business

Around eight million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans each year. Scientists warn that plastic pollution is as great a threat as climate change.
As an eco-friendly business, you know your decisions about waste, energy and water make a huge impact on customer perception of your company and significant savings to your bottom line. Many businesses go green these days, from a simple office paper recycling program or employee carpool to sophisticated solar and geothermal power co-generation and smart building technologies.
But where to start? Read on for 10 tips for creating an eco-friendly business.

Start With Sustainable Packaging

Consistently reducing the amount of waste generated and the energy and water used in your packaging makes a huge difference, both to the environment and to your profit margin.
An eco-friendly business avoids:
– Plastics Made From Polyethylene
– Styrofoam
– Multi-layered Packaging
– Polystyrene
– Fossil Fuel Energy
– Non-Recyclable Materials
Use instead:
– Biodegradable Plastics
– Plant-based Plastics
– Recycled Products
– Alternative Energy Sources
– Post-consumer Recycled Polyethylene Bags Made From Recycled Waste
– Recycled Molded Packaging

When possible, select items with the least amount of packaging possible and retool your own products to eliminate excess packaging.

Use Digital Recordkeeping

Thoughtful paper use is a simple step and businesses already use online contact forms and newsletters. Think of the impact you could have if you insisted on digital copies as your first choice, double-sided copies when you did have to print and recycled paper sold in 5000 sheet boxes rather than shrink-wrapped 250 sheets.
How much paper (and office supply costs) could you save over the course of a year? How much waste and plastic are you diverting from the landfill? A few small changes – but big results!

Eco-Friendly Business Buildings

Consider a Building Management System (BMS) to control lighting and Heating, Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. Between 30% and 70% of the energy used by commercial buildings is consumed by HVAC. Businesses with an updated Building Management System (BMS) controller can cut operational costs up to by 15%.
A more sophisticated BMS takes advantage of strategic electrical tariff pricing. Rates for electricity in most commercial buildings include both peak demand and consumption charges, with large potential savings available from shifting demand to off-peak hours.

Be Water-wise

Audit your taps. A dripping faucet can cost you 10,000 liters a year, a running toilet can lose that much in a month. Drinking water is increasingly precious and running it away wastefully reflects badly on your business and your costs.
Many buildings install waterless urinals and low-flow toilets. Gray water recycling systems to flush toilets or water landscaping are popular in some areas. Investment in rainwater collection and xeriscape landscaping is also smart.
Consider upgrading equipment like dishwashers, cooling towers and laundry systems to their low water and low energy consumption equivalents. A 15 year-old warewasher uses almost three times as much energy and twice as much water as a newer model. Given energy and water savings, good for the environment is good for the bottom line!

Donate, Don’t Discard

When you discard furniture or other large pieces, look into creative reuse or donation before adding them to the waste stream. Many items can be reused as is, broken into component parts for repurposing or turned into art!
Also, look to purchase repurposed or recycled when seeking new furniture pieces. Often, “good as new” can be purchased at a fraction of the cost.

Go Local!

Choose the most fuel- and time-efficient modes of transportation to both purchase goods and deliver your product to customers. Your first choice should always be to buy products locally made over goods traveling a long distance. Order larger amounts with less frequency to minimize trips.
For delivery, consider a minimum order size to reduce the frequency of deliveries and use common carriers where possible. Where your own delivery fleet is used, GPS software can be used to create routes with reduced in-traffic idling time and the most fuel-efficient distances.

Use Renewable Resources

Adding solar panels to heat water or generate electricity is a typical change many eco-friendly businesses make. But have you considered wind, fuel cell or geothermal energy? How about recapturing heat generated by your computers or refrigeration equipment and using it to heat your water?

Reduce Fossil Fuel Use

An eco-friendly business looks for ways to decrease use of fossil fuels by purchasing hybrid or alternative fuel company fleet vehicles. Some companies even offer employees an incentive to purchase hybrid or electric vehicles.
Consider allowing employees to avoid coming into the office at all. Avoiding even one daily commute per week, per employee makes a big difference in carbon emissions for the year.
Encourage alternate transportation like biking or public transport. Additionally, specialized software can create optimum carpool partners and routes.

LEED and Beyond

Should an eco-friendly business pursue LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification? Many businesses find that having the third-party validation of their efforts is valuable, especially if customers prefer those businesses with the “seal of approval” an LEED Gold or Platinum level brings.
LEED certification is not without cost. The fees to apply are approximately 2% of the total construction budget in addition to making selections in materials and methods that are initially more costly. However, many components such as all LED lighting, occupation sensors or gray-water recycling can be implemented without certification documentation and still save your business money!

Incentivize Your Customers

Extend your eco-friendly business ideas to your customer and employee lives by offering incentives to make green changes. Perhaps a small discount for customers who bring in their own coffee cup rather than taking a disposable, or for bringing a bag rather than using plastic.

Make Merchant Money Your Eco-friendly Business Partner

With these ten tips for taking charge of your business’ environmental impact and sustainability in mind, how are you going to reduce waste and use energy and water wisely? Every step, large or small, benefits the planet and benefits your bottom line.
Contact Merchant Money today about unsecured business finance options to improve your building systems and equipment. Making your business green and eco-friendly is not unobtainable. Let us help!

Renewable waste to top up Istanbul transport cards

A recent project by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) aims to increase the volume of renewable waste collected from Istanbulites through a new system that will refund the value of each deposit to the resident’s megacity transport card.

Named as “Smart Mobile Waste Transfer Machine,” the automated machines will initially be installed in 25 locations as a part of the pilot project, with the number set to increase to 100 by the end 2018.

The machines will feature an electronic interface that will be able to recognize and sort out paper, metal and plastic waste through sensors, shred them and store them.

Visual and audial directions will guide people through the use of the machines.

The machines will refund the economic value of the waste to “Istanbulkart” cards used in the city’s public transport systems and several other municipal services.

In addition to economic contribution, the project also aims the increase awareness on recycling, which remains low in Istanbul and in Turkey in general.

Istanbul, which is home to nearly 15 million people, produces an average of 17,000 tons of domestic waste every day, out of which 6,000 tons are processed in IBB’s garbage collection and recycling centers.

Hyperloop: Will it live up to the hype? – Energy Digital

Thanks to the rise of hybrid vehicles and electric cars, we can now choose our own more efficient and sustainable modes of transport that aim to put the environment first. But what is Hyperloop and what is all the fuss about? 

Hyperloop is a high-speed train system championed by Tesla’s Elon Musk. In 2013, Musk published a white paper calling for an open-source approach to realising the technology needed to create Hyperloop. Likened to a vacuum tube system in a building used to move documents from floor to floor and touted as a “fifth mode” of transport, Musk describes Hyperloop as “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table.”

Hyperloop is based on the ‘very high-speed transit’ (VHST) system first proposed back in 1972, combining a magnetic levitation train with a low-pressure transit tube. With the potential for speeds in excess of 700mph, the subsonic transporter is being touted as a credible, cleaner alternative to short-distance flights and would be much faster than existing rail networks.

There are, of course, challenges to overcome with Hyperloop, such as the high G-force which could be felt during turns and the practical implications of the acceleration and deceleration sensation passengers would experience on stop-start journeys, but we are edging closer to a transportation system that could totally transform the way we travel.

From A to B

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) is working to realise Elon Musk’s original vision for Hyperloop by removing the problems associated with the friction of wheels at high speeds and replacing them with air bearings so transportation pods can float on air through the tube. The idea is similar to maglev trains in Japan, where electromagnetic levitation can allow speeds of up to 500km/h by eliminating the friction associated with traditional trains running on tracks. Propulsion would be delivered via linear motors, but as the vehicle would coast for 90% of the route, these motors would only be installed in short stretches near stations, and at regular intervals in longer stretches, to maintain speed. 

Hyperloop One – now rebranded Virgin Hyperloop One following Richard Branson’s recent investment in the company – is taking a slightly different approach by using passive magnetic levitation, where the magnets are affixed to the trains that zip along an aluminium track to “deliver airline speeds for long distances due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.” Recent tests at the company’s Las Vegas track have clocked speeds of 200mph, meaning there’s still work to be done to realise Musk’s 700mph Valhalla.

Both systems plan to use low pressure tubes which could tunnel underground, lessening their environmental impact, or alternatively be built on columns. These tubes would mimic high-altitude flying which offers less resistance against the pod moving through the tunnel, allowing for high speeds combined with optimum energy efficiency.

Devised as an ecosystem, Hyperloop would include sources of renewable energy – so expect to see tubes plastered with solar panels, with wind and geothermal energy being sourced along the tracks and within the tubes themselves. The target is to generate more energy within the ecosystem than the Hyperloop will consume.

When will it be operational?

Musk has yet to give a date when he expects to see Hyperloop services up and running, with his focus trained on his SpaceX and Tesla businesses. However, last summer he pledged that his business The Boring Co. will build the world’s longest tunnel running from New York to Washington DC via Philadelphia and Baltimore, utilising his Hyperloop technology in a bid to connect the Big Apple with America’s capital in a journey time of just 29 minutes. For now, a one-mile test track has been built by SpaceX next to Hawthorne, its California headquarters, where some of the first successful tests were carried out.

Shervin Pishevar, co-founder and chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One, aims to shuttle both passengers and cargo in its high-speed pods, which will be designed to depart as often as every 10 seconds. In an interview with CNBC, he said that “Hyperloop will be operational, somewhere in the world, by 2020,” and maintained that it was now the dawn of the commercialisation of the Hyperloop, with his company in dialogue with governments around the world on the scope of its routes.

Where will it run?

Musk has completed work on the first test section of a tunnel to serve a proposed route between Los Angeles and San Francisco which could rack up a $6bn construction bill for a passenger-only model or up to $7.5bn for a system that could also carry vehicles, and therefore offer larger returns, on the 354-mile journey. HTT is also investigating opportunities across Eastern Europe in a potential bid to link Slovakia, Austria and Hungary. Meanwhile, Musk’s plans to create a five-mile test loop in California by the end of 2018 are nearing fruition.

Working with partners such as the engineering and construction multinational AECOM, Virgin Hyperloop One plans to link cities across North America and will include these proposed routes: Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo; Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh; Miami-Orlando; Dallas-Houston and Toronto-Montreal in Canada. In the UK, routes are planned for Edinburgh-London and Glasgow-Liverpool. Mexico will be connected via Mexico City-Guadalajar and India will feature two routes: Bengaluru-Chennai and Mumbai-Chennai.

Environmental Impact

Musk claims Hyperloop pods will be faster than trains, safer than cars and much less damaging to the environment than aircraft. With his focus on changing the world’s energy systems, Hyperloop fits in with Musk’s aim to shift transport away from carbon to renewables.

A feasibility study by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates Hyperloop routes could be up to six times more energy efficient than air travel on short routes while delivering speeds three times faster than the world’s fastest high-speed rail system.

Examining the potential for Hyperloop pods to be more eco-friendly than traditional transport, researchers at the Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg estimated the effects of building a 300km freight-dedicated Hyperloop in northern Germany. Quantifying the impact of removing thousands of trucks from roads, reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, they found Hyperloop could avoid emitting up to 140,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year (along with up to 0.2% of Germany’s production of air pollutants like methane and nitrous oxide) while delivering up to $1.07bn of value – equal to a third of its estimated $3.2bn investment.

How can it benefit businesses?

Hyperloop offers a huge opportunity for industry transformation. The obvious potential for speedier deliveries would offer savings versus short haul flights and regular rail and road freight options. Allied to this, by cutting down travel times between major cities, it could provide cheap and easy access for workforce enablement. Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Dirk Ahlborn suggests a ticket for a journey between Los Angeles and San Francisco could cost as little as $30 and allow the company to pay back its initial costs in just eight years.

Both HTT and Virgin Hyperloop One are open-source projects actively looking for innovative partners to achieve their operational goals, so the opportunity exists to become part of what could rapidly become a game-changing transportation success story with Musk even running a third annual Hyperloop pod design competition in 2018.

Virgin Hyperloop One’s Pishevar maintains it will be “the cheapest, cleanest, fastest form of public and cargo transportation in the world” while, with typical bravura, Musk suggests that realising the tech is “not that hard”. Will the billion-dollar brain be proved right? The journey to the future starts here.

Turning Dog Poop into Renewable Energy: Lamppost in England Now Powered by Pet Waste

A street lamp in England will soon be powered by dog poop, multiple outlets have reported.

The lamp was created by inventor Brian Harper of Malvern Hills, who reportedly was inspired by seeing bags of dog waste left on the street.

The lamp works by extracting gas from the poop. After walking their dog, as a BBC video shows, a person would take a free paper bag and use it to collect their dog’s waste. Then, they pop the bag into a chute built into the streetlamp, and rotate a lever that pushes the bag into a biodigester. Once inside, the poop is heated and stirred, causing it to give off biomethane gas, which is collected and then used to power the light.

GettyImages-894894534 A streetlamp in the Czech Republic Michael Cizek/Getty

This town in England is not the only place making use of dog poop, let alone animal waste writ large. In Sweden, energy from human waste produced in sewage plants is used to power cars, according to The Guardian. In Waterloo, Ontario, politicians are reportedly considering collecting dog waste from three local parks so biodigesters can convert it into electricity in much the same way as the streetlamp. A representative of the company that makes the containers estimated to the CBC that the fuel collected by one container could power 26 homes per year. A newer estimate from The Guardian suggests the pilot program could power about 13 homes per year. That might not sound like much, but the point of the project is reportedly to avoid environmental contamination from the dog waste people were leaving in the parks.

Biofuel technology is far from the only way companies and governments have tried to recycle energy from everyday life. Wired has previously reported on Pavgen, a company that converts the energy from human footsteps into stored electricity.

But there is still the question of whether these projects are scalable, and if the benefits outweigh the costs. In the case of using dog poop to fuel streetlamps, the point may be more to clear off streets and save the shoes of innocent bystanders, not to mention urban water systems.

A video of Harper demonstrating the lamppost process is available here.

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How Communities Living in Poverty Can Benefit From Renewable Energy

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Impoverished communities around the globe lack access to essential amenities including heat, electricity and clean drinking water. Residents of rural communities are also in a similar situation. Electric companies have little incentive to add additional infrastructure to the electrical grid to provide these areas with electricity since it isn’t economical. Instead, residents are forced to use kerosene, diesel, candles and other antiquated technologies to meet their needs. Fortunately, renewable energy technologies can help.

Cost savings over time

Poverty and electricity are a negative cycle. Poor people are less likely to be able to afford access to electricity, and a lack of electricity is more likely to keep them from moving out of poverty. Residents in rural and impoverished communities can expect to pay up to five times the cost per kilowatt hour for electricity compared to more developed areas, and their access to electricity is spotty at best. Energy efficient systems offer a solution to this issue.

Efficient energy systems reduce the amount of energy needed to operate a system which means excess energy can then be used somewhere else. A relevant measure of electricity is looking at a cost comparison. Geothermal energy, for example, costs approximately 80 percent less than traditional fossil fuel sources while solar energy prices are rivaling if not falling below fossil fuel prices.

Over time, renewables can save a significant amount of money on electricity expenses. However, the initial installation cost is beyond what most poor people can afford to pay. Solar power, geothermal and wind power infrastructure requires users pay upfront energy costs equivalent to ten years-worth of power. Typically, people living in poverty don’t have this kind of extra money to invest.

Localized energy resources

Renewable energy such as geothermal, solar and wind power allow communities to use natural resources to produce green, clean energy on location. This bypasses the community’s need tie into the main electric grid and gives them energy independence. In the event of a natural disaster or significant storm situation, they will have access to electricity sooner as they won’t need to wait for cabling and large-scale infrastructure repairs.

Communities located near geothermal features are especially well suited to take advantage of renewable geothermal energy. Underground, the temperature remains nearly constant year-round. Geothermal heating systems have water-filled pipes that run into the ground.

The pipes naturally heat or cool to the earth’s temperature before returning to the ground surface, which in turn regulates the temperature of a home or business. Geothermal units can also direct hot water to a water heater, which virtually eliminates the costs of heating water conventionally, which in turn reduces energy costs.

Reallocating energy subsidies

Across the globe, countries spent a combined $550 billion in subsidies for fossil fuels in 2013 alone. Subsidies for fossil fuel promote the usage of dirty energy sources and benefit those with regular access to fossil fuels, such as the wealthy and those living in more developed areas.

Reallocating this funding to create renewable energy infrastructure in impoverished areas will increase access to regular electricity and improve the resident’s quality of life. Subsidies that offset the initial installation costs of renewable technologies can help economically disadvantage communities move forward.

Improved air quality

Traditional energy sources in rural and poverty-stricken communities include diesel-run generators and kerosene lamps. These sources generate high volumes of pollutants which create poor air quality in homes and neighborhoods, which can lead to respiratory ailments and early deaths. Renewables offer an eco-friendly alternative.

Solar, geothermal and wind energy produce a fraction of the emissions of fossil fuels and kerosene. Improved air quality can reduce instances of cancer and other diseases related to breathing harmful pollutants.

Poor communities across the globe can benefit from the lower cost and emissions of renewable energy as it offers a more sustainable and accessible alternative to traditional fossil fuels.

Featured image credit: Black Rock Solar, courtesy Flickr

The post How Communities Living in Poverty Can Benefit From Renewable Energy appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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Eco-friendly condos in Dorchester

The West on Washington condominiums, a new, eight-unit development in Dorchester, is about as environmentally efficient a property as you’re going to find.

Located on the back side of Ashmont Hill, each of the building’s units offers three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an off-street parking space. But the true luxury for future residents will be the fact that developer Tom Piatt built the “net-zero” building “for the next 100 years.”

“I wanted to do three things: create an environmentally efficient building, offer three bedrooms in all of the units and make it a place where families will want to live,” Piatt told the Herald yesterday of the building at 717-719 Washington St.

The self-sustainable building, which uses roughly the same amount of energy on a yearly basis that it generates through renewable energy, will have 120 photovoltaic solar panels on the roof. It also has low-flush toilets, super-efficient heating and cooling systems and top-of-the-line insulation.

The units are expected to go on the market as early as next week and will start at $449,000.

Each unit has three bedrooms and two bathrooms over about 1,100 feet. Large windows provide plenty of light, and the condominiums’ hardwood floors and kitchen design provide the kind of urban-rustic feel you rarely see in the city. There’s also a communal outdoor space featuring a grill and picnic tables and on-site secured bike storage.


Home Showcase:

  • Address: 717-719 Washington St., Dorchester
  • Bedrooms: 3
  • Bathrooms: 2
  • Starting price: $449,000
  • Square feet: 1,100
  • Location: Not far from Codman Square and the Ashmont MBTA station
  • Broker: The Galvin Group, 617-504-4003