Eco Blog: dedication to Green Hauling

Altamont Wind Farm to Power Google Offices in 2016

February 17th, 2015

Long time residents of the Bay Area are sure to be quite familiar with that Altamont Pass Wind Farm. The hills along Interstate 580 as you pass Livermore and head towards the Central Valley are dotted with massive wind turbines, erected as a result of the energy crisis of the 1970’s. The wind farm is one of the oldest and earliest examples of wind power, and at one time was the largest in the US.

altamontwindIf you are not familiar with the wind farm you might want to Google it, seeing as the Mountian View-based Internet giant is about to fund a massive equipment overhaul. As part of a 20-year power purchase agreement that will allow their home offices to be completely powered by the wind produced by the turbines, Google will oversee the replacement of over 700 older turbines and replace them with 48 new machines capable of producing twice the amount of energy.

This landmark deal means that beginning in 2016, 50% of the power (about 43 megawatts) produced by the wind farm will drastically lower Google’s carbon footprint, a goal the eco-friendly company has been working towards with the implementation of solar panel arrays and natural gas.

Besides the environmental and financial benefits that Google will reap, a few factors on the other side of the deal make this a win-win situation for NextEra Energy, the Florida-based company that owns and operates the turbines. Some of the biggest critic’s of the turbines were local conservation groups concerned with the staggering number of birds killed by them. It has been reported that thousands of birds, including eagles, raptors, and hawks, are killed every year by the turbines.

The Google deal is looked on as a major contributor to a 2010 deal that called to shut down all of the archaic turbines and replace them with newer, bird-friendly models.

Sources

http://www.contracostatimes.com/business/ci_27503195/google-buys-altamont-wind-energy-power-googleplex

http://www.sfgate.com/green/article/New-Altamont-wind-turbines-aim-to-cut-bird-deaths-2526070.php

Food Waste Recycling Drops Dramatically in Alameda County

February 9th, 2015

It looks like the green bins in the Bay Area are not getting the love they deserve.

In a recent study completed by StopWaste, a public agency tasked with reducing waste, numerous Alameda County cities are showing drastic increases in food scraps being discarded in trash bins in 2014.

The data was complied by workers who randomly sampled 3,000 garbage bins, both commercial and residential, in 15 Alameda County cities. The data shows that all 15 cities added to the percentage of food scraps in the trash compared to data collected in 2013. For example, the city of Fremont more then doubled its figure, going from 21 percent to 43 percent. On the lower end, Union City only saw a 2 percent increase, although they were the outright worst performing city going into 2014.

20150205_061722_OAK-COMPOST-0206-WEBOther data collected by the agency shows that homes in these cities are more reluctant to put out their green bins on pickup day, with 47 percent of home opting out compared to 28 percent in 2013. Whichever way you decide to look at it, the fact is that Bay Area residents are not recycling organics like they were in the past.

Several possible reasons for this unsettling trend have been hypothesized, one being that transplants new to the Bay Area are not familiar with the concept of separating food scraps from trash, a practice not particularly common in the US. Another could be that folks who were actively composting in 2013 are simply tired of the process.

Composting and recycling organics can be a messy (and sometimes smelly) job, but it is a huge weapon in the fight against global warming on this planet. Organic matter, when mixed in with regular trash, greenhouse gases like methane get released which contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer.

Below you will find some tips that will hopefully make collecting organic was easier in your household:

  • Remember what can and cant be put in the green bin:
    • Good: all food scraps (meat and bones, cereal, dairy, coffee grounds, fruit, veggies), food-soiled paper (paper towels, plates, napkins, pizza boxes, paper bags, coffee grounds), yard trimmings (grass clippings, tree clippings)
    • Bad: plastics, glass, metal, liquids, pet waste
  • Line both your indoor and outdoor organics bins with crumpled newspaper to help absorb any moisture. Replace the newspaper frequently to keep it from getting too soaked and stuck to the bottom.
  • Aviod animals and bugs by keeping your outdoor green bin away from fences and closed securely.
  • Sprinkle rock salt or lime to help kill any insects (like maggots) that might pop up.
  • Wrap extra messy organics like meat, fish and  in newspaper or put it in a cereal box (without the plastic bag) before adding it to the green bin.
  • If possible, freeze meesy food waste untill you are ready to roll your green bin out, it will help control strong odors.
  • Empty your household container early and often, and roll your green bin out to the curb even if its not completely full to prevent stink-ups.
  • Wash both your indoor and outdoor bins on a regular basis using vinegar or baking soda to kill bad smells.
  • Biodegradable plastic bags can help control food waste, but not all recyclers allow them in green bins. Check with your recycling service to see which bags they accept. Most recycling service providers prefer you use paper bags.

E-Waste Recycling: The Next Step In National Defense

January 21st, 2015

e-wasteHere at Fast Haul, we are HUGE fans of electronic waste (or e-waste) recycling. The electronics we use and replace on a daily basis are filled with some of the most harmful and toxic chemicals on the planet, and can wreck havoc on the environment. Although recently, another great reason to increase e-waste recycling efforts has come to light. In a recent piece by the National Defense Magazine, e-waste recycling programs benefit the U.S. defense system by curbing the amount of counterfeit parts that can in the electronic components they use.

The U.S. military depends heavily on electronic components in their defense systems; you can find them in thousands of pieces of equipment like aircraft, submarines, night vision goggles, thermal weapons systems, and helicopters. You would think (and hope) that the US military only uses the highest quality electronics and technology in their equipment, but as noted by the story, more then 1 million pieces of counterfeit electronic components were identified in US military equipment in 2009 and 2010.

You might be wondering how this can happen, and an investigation by US Senate Armed Services Committee has uncovered why. The committee traced various supply chains back to the Guangdong Province in China, known as the “epicenter of counterfeit activities”. The outfits that make these counterfeit components rely heavily on e-waste shipped over from the west to provide “feedstock” (i.e. the raw materials). Once the materials are collected, they are subjected to a plethora of harmful and destructive techniques before being implemented in “new” equipment (i.e. being soaked in acid, heated over open fires, left outside in the rain, etc.). These techniques make the components extremely unreliable and susceptible to failure.

Your next question might be “how can I make sure my e-waste doesn’t contribute to a malfunctioning missile or fighter jet crashing?” Well, the answer is to do your research before disposing of you e-waste and make sure the recycler can show you proof that your e-waste is being handled responsibly.

(Source)

Safeway to Pay Nearly $10 Million for Waste Disposal Infractions

January 12th, 2015

SafewayFor the second largest supermarket chain in the nation, the New Year is off to a bad start.

In a decision levied by the Alameda County Superior Court, Safeway Inc. will have to pay $9.87 million as part of a settlement for improper hazardous waste management. The charges brought against Safeway are a result of a 3-year investigation of nearly 500 stores (including stores of Safeway-owned chains like Pak ‘N Save, Pavilions, and Vons) and distribution centers across the state.

Ironically, the investigation into Safeway started when district attorneys in Southern California were looking into the practices of a different business.  They discovered that Safeway was shipping hazardous waste from stores back to distribution centers without using licensed transporters. This information gave prosecutors enough reason to begin surprise waste inspections at stores across the state.

As the inspections rolled out, investigators discovered that workers at hundreds of Safeway locations were disposing of hazardous waste into common dumpsters. On top of that, workers were also tossing sensitive documents like pharmacy patient records without shredding them, leaving customers susceptible to identity theft.

On top of the financial penalty, the settlement stipulates that Safeway must continue its First Assistant Store Manager Program, which identifies and addresses compliance issues at the store level and oversees yearly store audits.  Between the start of the investigation and now, district attorneys have already been working with the company to develop new procedures to ensure proper waste disposal.

While Safeway admits no wrongdoing (a move we are used to seeing among big companies like this), they have agreed to “continue to dedicate significant resources to these important [waste management] programs”.

(Source)

Despite Recent Storms, California Still Far From Optimal Water Levels

December 18th, 2014

vineyardGiven the recent downpours that northern California has received, many people are left to wonder if they can take this as a sign to resume watering their lawn and taking longer showers. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. According to recent data, the Golden State is still faces a significant deficit in water levels.

According to recent satellite data collected by NASA, California needs around 11 trillion gallons of rainwater to end the record-setting drought. That’s enough water to fill an Olympic swimming pool 17 million times! The study to determine the amount of water the state needs was the first of its kind, using Earth’s gravitational field to measure fluctuations as well as documenting changes to the shape of the planet’s surface.

NASA also reported on the groundwater levels and the state of the snowcap. Data suggests that California’s 2 biggest river basins, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin, have lost a combined 4 trillion gallons of water per year since 2011. This year’s snowpack was one of the three lowest on record and the worst since 1977. With less snow we tend to see less sunlight reflection, which means Earth is absorbing much more heat then usual.

While the rain might not have put much of a dent in the amount of water we need, the states reservoirs received a substantial boost. According to measurements taken by the Department of Water Resources, 2 of the states largest reservoirs, Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville, saw their water levels rise from 41% to 53% and 44% to 54%, respectively. The 10 other smaller reservoirs also saw their water levels rise.

California residents should take these signs as a reason to continue monitoring personal water use and cutting back as much as possible. That means checking pipes for leaks, taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet when washing your hands, and only washing full loads in the washer. You can find more water saving tips HERE.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/18/us/california-rains-and-drought/index.html

 
 
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