CSUN Sustainability Overview

For our final class project, the Save the Planet team interviewed two of the key players in the California State University Northridge sustainability movement: Dr. Ashwani Vasishth, the recently appointed head of the new CSUN Sustainability Institute, and Tom Brown of the Physical Plant Department. We also talked to some students about recycling.

Burbank Airport Unveils First LEED-Certified Hangar

This story was posted on the San Fernando Valley Business Journal website on Dec. 9, 2008. Photo is courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, photo credit goes to Scott Firestone.

Solar power, drought-resistant plants and recycled materials all contribute to Hangar 25 at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, what its builder is calling the most sustainable aircraft hangar in the world.

The hangar built by Shangri-La Construction was given Platinum LEED Certification, the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The building, which is powered by a solar array on the roof, plugs the aviation industry into the green market, said John Picard, a consultant on the project.

“The doors have opened to the industry and now can ask, ‘What can we do next?’” Picard said.

The building has a concrete floor that uses no chemical polymers, a hi-fog fire suppression system that reduces water usage and minimizes waste from fire damage, and bicycle racks to encourage employees to not drive to work.

Shangri-La is in negotiations to construct a similar facility for Maguire Aviation at Van Nuys Airport.

Way back in April of 2007, the City of Burbank City Council passed a resolution to put a project in motion to bring hydrogen-powered buses to Burbank. The bus, when it goes into use in March of 2009, will be the first kind in Southern California.

The Burbank Leader reports that $2 million dollar project was paid for predominately by the State of California, though the city partnered with private developers to make up around $600,000 not covered by state funding. The bus, which will be fueled by hydrogen stations being built into city infrastructure. The bus's only emissions are water, and in addition to its positive impact on city pollution it will be significantly cheaper to run as far as day to day costs once the project is completed. Burbank plans to add more such buses as time goes on.

Image credit City of Burbank Press Release

Green Job Growth to Benefit California

A study by researchers from the Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness shows that growth in sustainable industries could directly benefit California, among other states.

"Manufacturing Climate Solutions" identifies manufacturing jobs that already exist and which new ones might get started as the U.S. moves forward in its sustainability policies.

"Until now, there was no tangible evidence of what the jobs are, how they are created and what it means for U.S. workers. We are providing that here," said Gary Gereffi, the report’s lead author. "We don't guess where the jobs are; we name them. Our report uses value chains to show that clean technology jobs are also real economy jobs."

These five carbon-reducing technologies with potential for future green job creation were the subject of the study:

- Concentrating solar power

- LED lighting

- High-performance windows

- Auxiliary power units for long-haul trucks

- Super Soil Systems (a new method for treating hog wastes)

The report includes a detailed breakdown of the supply chains that provide parts and labor for these five industries and also identifies companies already positioned to support green jobs.

Burbank Signs Natural Gas Deal

From the San Fernando Valley Business Journal website

The City of Burbank has extended for an additional 14 years a partnership for compressed natural gas from Clean Energy Fuels Corp.

Clean Fuels opened its first natural gas station in 2002 and under the modified agreement will design, build and operate a new station at the Burbank Public Works Yard to support the city’s growing fleet of natural gas-powered refuse trucks.

The effort will significantly support the City’s efforts to meet its sustainability goals and reduce its carbon footprint, while enhancing both the health and environmental benefits of all its citizens,” said James Harger, Clean Energy Senior Vice President.

Waxman Wins Battle for Key Chairmanship

Rep. Henry Waxman was successful in his bid to remove another Democrat, Rep. John Dingell, from his position as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Dingell, the most senior member of the House, represents Michigan, the automaker's state while Waxman gains his constitutency from California, which has been battling the EPA and automakers to set even greater emissions reductions and efficiency increases.

The vote was close, 137-122, and signals a significant increase in California's Capitol Hill power.

Obama Addresses Los Angeles Climate Conference

Gov. Schwarzenegger announced Barack Obama as a surprise guest speaker at the Governors Global Climate Summit he hosted in Los Angeles on Nov. 18 and 19. Obama addressed the gathering via this four-minute video. Enjoy!

Chevrolet Volt Smashes EPA Fuel Economy Rating Methods

The day is finally upon us where passenger cars running on more than straight ol' war starting fossil fuel are hitting the mainstream. While this is great for consumers all around, it is forcing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rethink their methods for testing a car's fuel economy. The last generation of hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, ran their gasoline and electric motors at the same time, making fuel economy estimates easier.

But how do you test fuel economy for a car like the Chevy Volt, which will be able to run for around 40 miles on electricity alone? Traditional EPA test methods include stretches of highway and city mileage around 11 miles long, which the Volt can pull off without ever using a sip of fuel. So how do you rate it? Many have called for a new EPA testing system that will be fair to all new cars and automakers, and still give consumers a good idea what they can expect to pay at the pump.

Opportunity Green Conference Recap

Happy America Recycles Day!

Business Recycling Made Easy(er)

Tonight my husband told me that the person who used to pick-up his company's used cardboard boxes to recycle has stopped doing it because the price he was getting for the material has dropped drastically. Now what can he do?

A quick Google search first turned up a company cleverly named usedcardboardboxes.com. Businesses with a minimum of 1,000 same-size cardboard boxes can contact the business to have their waste picked up.

But my husband's Chatsworth-based business doesn't have that kind of output, so we next found a nifty resource closer to home on the DWP website. The site asks what kind of material you have to recycle, and then pops out a list of every recycler in Los Angeles County that accepts that material along with address and phone number. It's a little tedious to find someone in your specific area but it's doable.

Waxman Wants Key Energy Post

The Sacramento Bee reported yesterday that U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, whose 30th District includes much of the West Valley, is attempting to replace Rep. John Dingell of Michigan as the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Click here to read Sacramento Bee article in its totality.

Palmdale Farm Goes Solar

This item was posted as a Daily Update on the San Fernando Valley Business Journal website on October 31, 2008.

Bolthouse Farms Inc. in Palmdale completed a clean energy project that uses a 1.9 megawatt solar power system to provide 80 percent of the farm's electricity.

The more than 10,000 solar panels were designed and installed by Regenesis Power in Simi Valley. The ground-mounted solar arrays use a tilted single-axis tracking system that follows the sun during the day for greater efficiency.

Bolthouse Farms has a long history of responsibly using natural resources to ensure sustainability, said President Jeffrey Dunn. “We’re excited to be able harness the sun to power our farming operations,” Dunn said.

MMA Renewable Ventures owns and operates the solar system and sells the power generated by the solar arrays to Bolthouse through a purchase agreement.

Don't Just Recycle - FREEcycle

So you just opened a brand new shiny 17" computer monitor and can't figure out what to do with your old, but still working, CRT monitor. What are your options?

Well, you could throw it in the trash. BAD IDEA. In addition to the non-biodegradable plastics and glass, there are toxic chemicals in there.

You could wait for an electronic waste recycling event to come around. BETTER IDEA. Usually the electronics at these events are cannibalized for reusable parts and the non-usable stuff is recycled or disposed of properly.

Or you could Freecycle it. Freecycle groups, such as the Northridge Freecycle Group on Yahoo groups, allow people to post items they want to get rid of and others to request the items. All transactions occur with NO FEES. This is not a way to make money or find free stuff you can then re-sell (although some people do that). The idea is to get stuff from the person who doesn't want it or need it to the person who does. Groups tend to operate locally so find one in your area.

Craig's List is another option. Each Craig's List site has a FREE section (under the For Sale label) where people can post something they want, or something they are giving away.

Do you have a freecycling experience? Tell us about it.

How Green is Your Representative?

The California League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club both released scorecards showing the voting records of California senators and assembly members as relates to environmental issues. As might be expected, party played a part in the votes with Republicans generally getting very low scores and Democratics for the most part scoring very high.

Following is a snapshot of the ranking for the representatives of our wonderful network of Valleys. If you're not sure which district you're in, the Your Legislature webpage will tell you just by requesting your zipcode.


District 17: George Runner (R) 6%
District 19: Tom McClintock (R) 11%
District 20: Alex Padilla (D) 94%
District 21: Jack Scott (D) 100%
District 23: Sheila Kuehl (D) 100%


District 36: Sharon Runner (R) 0%
District 37: Audra Strickland (R) 19%
District 38: Cameron Smythe (R) 24%
District 39: Felipe Fuentes (D) 86%
District 40: Lloyd Levine (D) 100%
District 41: Julie Brownley (D) 100%
District 42: Mike Feuer (D) 100%
District 43: Paul Krekorian (D) 95%

*New* CSUN Institute for Sustainability

Provost Harry Hellenbrand announced yesterday the creation of the Institute for Sustainability at California State University, Northridge. Dr. Ashwani Vasishth, assistant professor in the department of urban studies and planning has been named director.

Hellenbrand said that the institute is the result of a group of deans led by Dr. William Jennings, dean of the College of Business and Economics. He sees it as part of the broader Campus Greening Project that is supported by a "greening initiative core team," that has been meeting regularly.

The mission of the institute, wrote Hellenbrand in a campus-wide announcement, "is to promote, facilitate, and develop educational, research, and university and community programs related to sustainability."

Huntington Park Group Receives Environmental Justice Award

The Huntington Park-based Communities for a Better Environment
was one of two southern California environmental organizations honored with the Environmental Protection Agency’s first annual Environmental Justice Achievement Awards.

Communities for a Better Environment focuses on environmental health and justice within working class communities of color through organizing, scientific and policy research, and legal assistance.

One of their key local initiatives it their role in the LA Apollo project, launched in 2006. The project's first goal is to create 2000 good paying, union, "green jobs" by the year 2009 for residents of LA's communities of color, while helping to improve the city's environment.

City Council Proposes Solar Ballot Initiative

The Los Angeles City Council is proposing a new initiative that is tentatively being called the Los Angeles Basin Solar Power, Green Energy and Jobs Development Mandate for Los Angeles Initiative. The motion for the initiative passed handily in the October 15 council meeting and is being looked at by the Rules and Government committee.

The initiative would mandate that the DWP produce 3 percent of its energy demand from solar power; create a solar jobs recruitment and training program; and offer bid preferences and other incentives to support the creation and expansion of solar-related industry in the City.

But they're going to have to come up with a snappy acronym if the thing is ever going to go anywhere! LABSPGEJDMLAI is just not going to cut it.

No mention of how this initiative might be duplicating mandates set forth in AB32.

Heal the Bay Founder Dies

Dorothy Green, founder of Heal the Bay, died Oct. 13 at her home in Los Angeles at the age of 79.

From her first gathering Santa Monica residents concerned about the health of the ocean in 1985, Green created Heal the Bay, an organization that became one of the leading water quality watchdogs in California.

Heal the Bay first successfully advocated to have the Los Angeles Hyperion and Carson sewage treatment plants comply with the federal Clean Water Act. The group also devised the Beach Report Card, providing water quality grades for more than 500 beaches statewide.

“Dorothy Green was simply the most influential water quality activist in California for the last 30 years,” said Mark Gold, her protégé and current president of Heal the Bay. More of Gold's thoughts about Dorothy can be read in his blog.

A public memorial service will be held Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 2 p.m. at Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to Heal the Bay, the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council or California Water Impact Network.

Valley Bicycle Concept Plan

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is working with the Metropolitan Transit District to develop a Concept Access Plan to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to six transit hubs in LA County.

The LACBC website a new "Current Projects" tab, which has the history of the program, updates and powerpoint presentations of the Newhall and Van Nuys stations' existing conditions and recommendations. You can also find a link to an email so any comments you have on the plan may be included in the final report.

L.A. County Approved New 'Green' Ordinances

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved three new ordinances that they hope will improve the quality of life in Los Angeles.

As reported in the Los Angeles Daily News, the three ordinances will require builders of new homes, and businesses, to "use power more efficiently, retain storm water on site, and use drought-tolerant plants."

More on this to follow...

The San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center has reported a marked decline in air quality in large swatches of the San Fernando Valley, coupled with a decline in the ozone layer reports Daily Sundial Staff Reporter Reiko Kanazawa for the CSU Northridge student daily publication.

Writes Kanazawa:

The particulate concentrations in the East Valley are rising and mixed results were found for the West Valley, which is worse by state standards but better by federal standards, according to the study.

Besides ozone and particulates, all pollution measures registered well below federal and state standards and their levels either fell or remained low, the study said.

The dichotomy between state of California and federal pollution standards shows just how stringent California has become in tackling gross polluters, of which there are many in the industry-heavy San Fernando Valley.

As one of the most dedicated local news sources in the Valley, serving the CSU Northridge community, the Daily Sundial consistently reports these concerns in a way that your average anti-treehugginghippie environmentalite can understand.

And we're not biased. Not at all (:

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute video that makes an even better case for personal environmentalism than Inconvenient Truth in my humble opinion. Why, you ask? Mainly because it shows how the consumption of everything, not just natural resources, is impacting the world. Buy less stuff, save the world (and money, too!) Watch the whole video by going to The Story of Stuff website. Here's a teaser video

Solar Tax Credits Also Extended

The Solar Electric Power Association also weighed in on provisions in HR1424 that will have a positive impact on that form of alternative energy.

According to their press release, the solar investment tax credit provisions in the bill include:

1) Extension for 8 years of the 30% tax credit for both residential and commercial solar installations;

2) Elimination of the $2,000 monetary cap for residential solar electric installations, creating a true 30% tax credit (effective for property placed in service after December 31, 2008);

3) Elimination of the prohibition on utilities from benefiting from the credit;

4) Allowance for Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) filers, both businesses and individuals, to take the credit; and

5) Authorization of $800 million for clean energy bonds for renewable energy generating facilities, including solar.

Biodiesel Tax Incentives Extended

The Bailout Bill approved by the House of Representatives today (officially known as H.R. 1424, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act) would extend certain tax incentives that directly affect alternative energy production. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law soon.

Specifically, according to The Biodiesel Bulletin, H.R. 1424 will:

1) Extend the biodiesel tax incentive for one year through Dec. 31, 2009.

2) Allow all biodiesel to qualify for the $1 per gallon biodiesel incentive. (Currently, biodiesel produced from yellow grease is eligible for a 50 cents per gallon tax incentive.)

3) Close the so-called "splash-and-dash" loophole. Splash-and-dash is where foreign finished fuel is sent to the U.S.; splash-blended to claim the tax incentive; and then shipped to a third country for final use. Effective May 15, 2008, fuel produced outside the U.S. for use outside the U.S. does not qualify for the biodiesel tax incentive.

4) Redefine the biodiesel incentive to exclude co-processed renewable diesel.

Green Goes to the Dogs

Want to make sure your faithful companion has an environmentally friendly, not to mention totally cool, place to hang out? Check out what is being billed as the first "eco-friendly doghouse."
The project was conceived as part of the Project Playhouse fundraiser for HomeAid-Los Angeles/Ventura County in which four "playhouses" were designed and built by local companies and put up for auction. Some proceeds from this particular structure will also go to The Rescue Train, an animal rescue organization.

You can bid at the online auction thru Oct. 19. The playhouses are in residence at The Lakes shopping center in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Santa Clarita Firm Applies for Solar Cell Patent

From the San Fernando Valley Business Journal website Posted 9/30/2008

Bio-Solar Inc. has applied for a patent for improvements to produce solar cells from renewable plant sources.

The Santa Clarita-based company already makes its BioBacksheet product at a 25 percent cost reduction by using plant sources rather than petroleum-based parts. The patent application is for a new material configuration and manufacturing technique to produce a version of the solar cells that can potentially deliver a 50% reduction in cost.

Bio-Solar shipped BioBacksheet samples to a select group of manufacturers for their evaluation in several regions of the country.

“Initial test results are very encouraging and we continue to receive positive feedback and be responsive to the needs of potential buyers,” said Bio-Solar CEO David Lee,. “With solar cell demand expected to exceed supply for the next 5 to 10 years, we believe there is tremendous opportunity for growth.”

Annette Bening Opens TreePeople Teaching Garden Oct. 2

Annette Bening will be the celebrity ribbon-cutter for the new Watershed Teaching Garden and Center for Community Forestry at the TreePeople headquarters in Coldwater Canyon.

The event on Oct. 2 will start at 10:30 a.m. with a press conference and ribbon cutting, followed by an Eco-Tour.

The new $10 million campus is designed to help residents of Los Angeles "adopt water-conserving lifestyles, improve the quality of their communities, and protect their families and neighborhoods from climate change."

Porsche Boxter Running on Compressed Air - Not so Fast (Literally)

AltCar Expo brought many exciting new technologies to the automotive world and the eco-friendly Santa Monica community.

Perhaps none of the technology showcase cars on display garnered as much attention as the MIIN-Air Porsche Boxster, which, as it sounds, is a Boxster converted to run solely on compressed air. While it is, for Glenn Bell of Air Fuel Auto, certainly a wonderful idea to pursue, it is not exactly ready to challenge stock Boxsters on the freeway.

The MIIN-Air carries a measured top speed of 45 mph, and at current time has a range of not quite 50 miles. While these numbers are not ready to win over any air car converts just yet and the method for power delivery is relatively inefficient, it is certainly a promising technology. The MIIN-AIR Boxster was available for test drive for the select few lucky enough to get on the list, and we can attest to the fact that it does indeed run. With no gasoline engine anywhere and massive compressed air tanks filling every compartment, is this the future of green automotive technology or...sorry...just a bunch of hot air.

photos by jesse sears for Save the Planet | Not the Hippies

Come Meet the "Not the Hippies" Team at Alt Car Expo!

Greetings to all 6 of our loyal readers.

We'd like to point out a noteworthy event most worthy of your attendance happening in Santa Monica, Calif., this Friday and Saturday Sept. 26 and 27.

The Alt Car Expo, an annual event where patchouli-biodiesel types can mix it up with the scientists and businessmen who are, much to their delight and quite beyond their comprehension, spearheading advances allowing them to live their "free" lifestyle all the more cheaply.

There, you will be able to obtain information on how you can reduce your carbon footprint, save money and make your chosen mode of transportation go just that much faster, all in a few simple steps.

And, you can see cool little machines like these!

If you think you might be attending, drop us a comment! We would love to see you, and we will buy you some kombucha that was cultured in Willie Nelson's tour bus... or something like that.


The Fallacy of Renewable Energy Credits

We’d all like to get “off the grid,” but most businesses and residents in the San Fernando Valley are married to the DWP for our electrical power, and many of us don’t have the financial resources to invest in our own personal solar generating systems.

Have no fear, renewable energy credits are here!

With this scheme, one first determines, through the use of a simple computer program, your “carbon footprint” or how much pollution you are spewing into the atmosphere. Based on the calculations, you can then purchase “renewable energy credits” from a broker like Manhattan Beach-based 3 Phases Renewables to become “carbon neutral.”

In effect, RECs, also known as "green tags" or "renewable energy certificates," subsidize renewable energy producers.

One REC represents one megawatt hour of emissions-free electricity (the average person in the US each year consumes more than 12 megawatt hours of electricity). Though the purchaser of the credit doesn't actually use the electricity themselves, the clean power is fed into the electric utility grid somewhere in the world where it is used by others. It’s a way of compensating for the environmental impacts of consuming un-green electricity.

But while this may have an effect on the environment somewhere, it doesn’t have the same local effect as when you and I cut back on our personal energy expenditures, be it electricity or gas.

Thinking globally is nice, but acting locally is the only way to make a real difference for your friends, family and neighbors.

~Linda Coburn

Glendale Eco-Community Garden

The City of Glendale, Calif., in collaboration with the Coalition for a Green Glendale, is seeking volunteers to participate in a new Eco-Community Garden that will spring to life in early 2009.

This will be the first project in a City initiative aimed at revitalizing vacant parcels of land and turning them into green space for the community.

It is hoped that a neglected, vacant lot on the 800 block of Monterey Road, near the entrance of the 134 freeway, will be transformed into a vibrant community garden, where city residents may grow vegetables and flowers.

Contact Coalition for a Green Glendale co-founder Alek Bartrosouf at (818) 359-0108. The Green-Glendale.org website should have information available about the project soon.

More information on Community Gardens.

EPA Orders SFV Companies to Pay Up or Clean Up

From the San Fernando Valley Business Journal website www.sfvbj.com Sept. 22, 2008

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered several San Fernando Valley businesses to either pay $500,000 or find another way to keep chromium-contaminated groundwater out of the local water table.

The press release identifies four companies and three trusts subject to the order: Los Angeles By-Products Company; Pick Your Part Auto Wrecking; Waste Management; and Hawker Pacific Aerospace; the Wagner Living Trust, the Basinger B Trust and the Basinger C Trust.

A $1.3 million voluntary settlement was reached by the EPA earlier in the year with Honeywell International, Lockheed Martin, Calmat and California Car Hikers. The companies that are now being ordered to pay opted out of that settlement agreement.

The EPA is using the settlement funds to construct and improve the wellhead treatment system for the North Hollywood region of the Superfund site.

Solar Powered Cinema

The Fairfax 5 Theaters in Fairfax, Calif., is now partially powered by solar energy with the completion on Sept. 9 of a 27-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system.

The historic theater, built in 1952, is owned by Cinema West. Dave Corkill, founder of the company, recently turned the Fairfax 5 into Marin County's first all-digital projection theater and believes it is the first multiplex cinema in the U.S. to go solar.

Over the 30-year life of the SPG Solar PV system, it is expected that in addition to more than $627,000 in energy cost savings, it will also offset more than 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide.

The system has 42 solar modules on the building's roof. Nearly half of the system's cost was recouped through the use of a State rebate and a federal tax credit.

CSUN Journalism Students Blog Green

This blog is being created by three California State University Northridge journalism students for our New Media class.

The focus of our blog is Saving the Planet - with technology solutions being our primary interest. So we'll be talking about the environment, energy, transportation, fuel usage and that sort of thing.

We'll also be posting events in our area, Southern California, that may be of interest to others with the same interests.

Any suggestions? Please comment!

Jesse, Linda & Sean