New rebate programs provide incentives for home energy efficiency
When talking about sectors of the economy hit hard during the recession, it’s hard to compete with construction. According to the latest job report put out by the U.S. Labor Department, construction unemployment remains around 20.1 percent, or 1.8 million people still looking for work. No matter how you spin it, that’s a lot of people.
Last week, the Green Careers Partnership held a workshop at Cabrillo College aimed at helping Santa Cruz contractors move out of that figure and into the emerging economy of energy efficiency retrofitting for homes. Around 60 contractors sat in attendance at the event, which featured presentations highlighting new rebate programs for green home retrofitting, useful credentials and software for the green home sector, and attempts to create a network of green-minded builders.
Anti-nuclear weapons activists take on Santa Cruz
Beneath a magnolia tree in the parking lot behind the Resource Center for Non-Violence, a group of five young adults pulls a makeshift puppet show out of a dust-covered white Astrovan. A puppet in a lab coat steps out in front of a meager audience—five people, including the press, sit on chairs and a tattered gray couch and watch as “Dr. Lab” learns a nightmarish lesson about the detrimental and lasting effects of his work in a nuclear laboratory. A deformed frog tells the doctor that nuclear waste has poisoned his frog family; a visitor from 30,000 years in the future informs him that the effects of nuclear radiation and waste continue to poison and frighten the world’s residents; and a pile of uranium canisters dance and chant about the cancer they will inevitably spread to surrounding residents.
In April of this year, the Board of Supervisors made a significant first step in addressing an area of major environmental concern when we initiated the process to enact a county ordinance banning single-use plastic carry-out bags and reducing use of paper carry out bags. The action taken by the Board is only a first step in what will be a lengthy process.
Last year I was contacted by local environmental groups who provided information about other jurisdictions in California that have taken action to reduce the litter and pollution caused by plastic and paper single-use bags. Plastic bags are a petroleum product that not only consume enormous resources during their production, but also tend to be casually discarded, causing significant damage to the environment. Statewide, only 5 percent of these plastic bags are recycled. The production of paper bags adds to deforestation and uses large amounts of energy and water.
Blue Marble Planet lover Lea Haratani dives deep
“A lot of people attack the sea. I make love to it.” —Jacques Cousteau
Lea Haratani has had a lifelong passion for the ocean, and every day she tries to show it. Some days, it means not eating fish. Other times, it’s all about taking a walk on the beach—or diving off the coast of Belize with Jim Simon, the vice president of one of the nation's largest ocean conservation organizations, Oceana. She might also be found circulating petitions against offshore drilling with her children at Bookshop Santa Cruz, or organizing a fundraising event for Oceana at the Saint Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco.
One UCSC student’s project will save energy in campus apartments
“The Boardwalk’s going to be gone,” says Jennifer Helfrich, a freshly graduated UC Santa Cruz environmental studies student. “It’ll be underwater.”
While she isn’t talking about tomorrow, next year, or even this lifetime, studies do predict that sea levels will have dramatically risen by the end of the century.
“Climate change is happening,” she continues. “A lot of people are going to die and a lot of people are going to be hurt. There’s probably going to be some violence over it, and ecosystems are going to change. A lot of species are going to die but new species will evolve and some will move around. The environment will be fine; it always has been. It changes. The question is whether humans will be OK.”
Bay Area company comes to Santa Cruz with affordable way to go solar
With as much as 60,000 barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf per day, local economies on the brink of ruin and fragile ecosystems likely tarnished for years, there is no better time to really start thinking about what our dependency on fossil fuels is costing us. Sure BP is the evil company that may have skirted regulators and operated the unsafe rig that has caused the greatest environmental disaster in American history, but could it have been avoided if our demand for oil weren’t so insatiable?
Local company looks to reinvent electric vehicle technology, boost green industry
For many, the word “motorcycle” conjures up the sounds and smells of roaring engines and the kind of mechanical monsters known for startling unsuspecting pedestrians with a mere flick of the wrist. But Zero Motorcycles, a local developer and manufacturer of 100 percent electric motorcycles, is hoping to change that perception—one green bike at a time.
Biotech researchers transform biodiesel waste into additional fuel
Ray Newkirk doesn’t hesitate to wash his hands with dirty soap. Before founding the Green Station on Ocean Street in Santa Cruz, where locals pump Bay-Area-made biodiesel into their cars, Newkirk was a backyard producer, making fuel out of fryer waste from the Saturn Café.
Like other biodiesel producers, Newkirk also inevitably made a lot of dark, thick waste glycerin.
For every 100 gallons of biodiesel made, 10 gallons of the crude goop remain. Last year 600 million gallons of biodiesel were produced, and while a freeze on tax credits has slowed production this year, America will still have millions of gallons of crude glycerol at its fingertips.
California, breathe easy—offshore oil drilling has been tabled
What do President Barack Obama’s decision to open up parts of the U.S. coast to oil exploration, the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s withdrawal of his support for new oil drilling off of Santa Barbara have in common? They may all influence the future of offshore oil drilling in California.
Though the West Coast was conspicuously absent from Obama’s announcement that he would open parts of the Atlantic Coast, northern Alaskan Coast and the Gulf of Mexico to oil exploration, some fear that opening up those areas may pave the way for new offshore drilling in California.