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My frugal heart is going pitter-patter.

I knew saving all those Altoids tins would come in handy.

Here’s a great DIY present that blends a dash of electronics education with a splash of solar savvy.

Build your own solar-powered iPhone/iPod charger.

Brown Dog Gadgets also offers a ready-to-build kit for $25 plus shipping. Just add your own tin.

Two links on calculating the risk–and rewards–of solar investment as a smart business choice:

Via Treehugger.com

I bet they are feeling lucky. Good-neighbor Google invests $94 million to create clean power for 13,000 Sacramento, CA homes.

Google Ends 2011 With a $94M Investment in Solar Power

Google has announced yet one more investment in clean energy (just following Warren Buffett’s two big solar power acquisitions). This time, they are investing $94 million into 4 different solar photovoltaic (PV) projects being built by Recurrent Energy near Sacramento, California. The combined PV projects have a capacity of 88 megawatts and will provide their electricity straight to the grid, unlike Google’s previous investments in rooftop solar PV. They should generate enough electricity to power about 13,000 US homes.

Via Greentechmedia.com

It’s not that solar is more expensive; it’s more that solar economics aren’t being measured to demonstrate solar’s long-term economic benefits. Read this post on how the pricing equation changes when you factor in peak load, certainty and price stability.

Guest Post: Why the Solar Industry Lacks Pricing Power

By educating consumers about solar’s role within electricity markets and emphasizing solar economics relative to conventional power — specifically natural gas — the solar industry can attain some pricing power and be a non-trivial part of the energy market.

For gardeners, astronomers and nature buffs, Wednesday night into Thursday morning ushers in the Winter Solstice.

In my house, the Winter Solstice — the shortest day and longest night of the year — means both that winter has begun and that the sunlight is returning. Even though the natural world seems to have stopped cold, the earth’s movement towards spring is underway.

Whatever your faith tradition, I believe that acknowledging the Winter Solstice is an opportunity to connect with the seasons and contemplate how we depend on the sun’s energy for life.

I like to light a lot of candles on this night to fill my house with bright warmth.

The Solstice will occur Dec. 22 at 12:30 a.m. eastern time, marking the moment when the northern hemisphere is tilted the furthest distance away from the sun. After this point, as the earth continues its tilted axis rotation around the sun, our daylight increases by about a minute a day through January and February. Those minutes add up. By March, our days will be 12 hours long compared to the nine hours we get today.

If I can stay awake, I plan to be in my backyard garden appreciating the darkness and welcoming back the light.

Here’s a tree-topper that beats them all. The NJ DEP confirms that there are over 100 nesting bald eagle pairs in the Garden State.

The survey by the DEP’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program counted 102 pairs of actively nesting eagles, plus 11 more pairs in the process of establishing nesting territories. The survey documented a record 22 new nests, of which 16 are in southern New Jersey, four in northern New Jersey and two in central New Jersey.

While the bald eagle was removed from the nation’s Endangered Species list in 2007, it remains an endangered and protected species in New Jersey.

“The recovery of the bald eagle from one nesting pair in an isolated swamp in southern New Jersey in the early 1980s to more than 100 pairs today is a truly remarkable success story that is a testament to the excellent work that has been done to manage the species, and to how far we’ve come as a state in restoring and protecting our environment,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said.

This is an end of the year gift that we can all enjoy.  If you feel like leaving a little something under the tree for our state’s bald eagles, consider making a donation on your 2012 NJ state taxes for Wildlife Conservation or purchasing a Conserve Wildlife license plate for your car

Dec. 19 press release

Project report with nesting site map

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey

Green Living: Christmas Choices

December 16th, 2011 | Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Living - (1 Comments)

For the second year running, I’ve chosen not to put up a Christmas tree. Instead, I redirected that time and money to rehabbing the garden cold frame.

I’m looking forward to a very Green Christmas–in the form of flourishing winter spinach, kale, lettuce, and chard. Wishing you and yours the very best, however you choose to make the season bright.

Here’s a 2010 essay I wrote about getting more by choosing less:

The Year Without A Christmas Tree

Sometime next week, after all the shoveling is done and the last cookies are eaten and the thank you cards are mailed, I won’t be doing something I’ve done ever other year in my adult life.

This year, for the first time, I did not put up a Christmas tree. This was a deliberate choice on my part and one that came to me slowly. December was jam-packed with work commitments and holiday events. We don’t have kids, weren’t hosting any parties and were going out of town over Christmas. If I could jettison the tree, I could free up a significant chunk of time, as well as money for the tree.

When I floated the idea to my husband, his response was, “I’m fine but are you sure you are OK with not having a tree?” As the Keeper of the Ornaments after my parents downsized, he knows how important hanging these family heirlooms is for me.

Once I thought it through, I was. Doing so gave me more time and money to spend with friends and family.

For me, this greener living choice came down mainly to conserving my time and some money, but the environmental impact is worth thinking about as well.

In the end, Christmas comes just once a year and it’s meant to be enjoyed. The choices we make are generally the best ones we know how to make for our families. With Christmas 2010 behind us, I can say for sure that the choice I made was the right choice for us. Doing less meant enjoying more. I look forward to seeing how this lesson will help me make better choices in the year ahead.

NJ natural gas producers, fracking opponents, and renewable energy supporters met Dec. 16 at Rider University for a NJ Spotlight Roundtable to debate the fossil fuel’s future in the state’s energy mix.

The conclusion?: It’s inevitable.

Silver lining? Natural gas use can be a bridge to a cleaner NJ with less reliance on dirty coal production and and more reliance on cleaner, sustainable energy sources:

With tough new air pollution rules likely to lead to the closing of many coal-fired power plants, which supply the bulk of the electricity in the country, natural gas will have to be a bridge fuel to a greater reliance on other cleaner source of electricity, most of the panelists said.

Read NJ Spotlight’s recap.

 

 

 

Call it the law of unintended consequences. Sometimes zoning laws impede green improvements and green construction. The laws as they stand today inadvertently block beneficial green solutions that didn’t exist when the laws were first implemented. NYC’s planning department is taking a sensible approach to loosen these restrictions for existing and new buildings.

NYC Considers Loosening Zoning Roadblocks for Green Retrofitting and Building

Building on the work of the Green Codes Task Force, the Department of City Planning proposes a Citywide zoning text amendment to remove zoning impediments to the construction and retrofitting of green buildings. This proposal would give owners more choices for the investments they can make to save energy, save money, and improve environmental performance. This proposal will help bring our buildings into the 21st century while protecting the character and quality of life of our neighborhoods.

 

I wish the green, renewable argument would play a bigger role in solar installation conversations, but frankly it’s all about the money.

It’s not enough for solar to be good, or clean. It has to be cheap.  Cheaper and better than other energy delivery systems.

We need to show that the upfront and downstream cost benefits and output from renewable technologies demonstrate a clear, compelling bottom-line win.

SunShot Initiative Home

It’s like the MoonShot, but for solar price parity and adoption.

The DOE SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national initiative to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Reducing the installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75% will drive widespread, large-scale adoption of this renewable energy technology and restore U.S. leadership in the global clean energy race.

A new study that claims that Solar Price Parity is Already Here

I need to dig into these numbers but the major price components seem to be here.

 

Welcome B.I.G. Members

December 13th, 2011 | Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Business - (0 Comments)

Thank you to Tara and the entire B.I.G. team for this opportunity to share my business with you.

I believe that a rising tide lifts all boats. As we support each other, we all succeed. That’s what B.I.G. is all about.

As the owner of Kayak Media and a full-time professional writer, I help make the world a greener, bluer place. I partner with environmentally conscious businesses to help them connect with customers, close sales, and champion sustainable practices.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog. Let me know how I can support you in achieving your goals and dreams.

Sincerely,
Claire Sommer
West Orange NJ Pod Member

P.S.–If you are in the West Orange, NJ area tonight, join us for our inspiring monthly meeting with speaker Rita Desnoyers-Garcia, Founder of Becoming Awake, LLC.

“Building Confidence: What you think, feel, and create in your life (including your business) is based on what you believe. Learn how to change your beliefs to change your business.”

Tuesday December 13th 7:30-9:00PM at Pal’s Cabin, corner of Eagle Rock and Prospect Avenues, West Orange, NJ 07052

Being green isn’t only good for the planet, it’s good for business. Here are 5 ideas to get your 2012 off to a greener, more profitable start.

1. Cut Energy Costs—You’ve heard the adage that it’s cheaper to save energy than to make it? Put that into practice with a top-to-bottom energy efficiency audit that includes a plan for recouping your upgrade costs.

2. Improve Processes—Boost your green impact by creatively slimming how you work. What elements of what you make, package, and ship can be eliminated without compromising safety and usage? Where can you digitize and streamline steps to reduce hand-offs, bottlenecks and missed opportunities?

3. Pursue a Triple Bottom Line—Consumers are increasingly weighing a company’s sustainability profile before they buy. Measure success by your company’s ability to positively impact People and the Planet, as well as your Profits. You’ll gain a competitive marketing edge as a bonus.

4. Support Sustainable Partners—Strengthen your business community by working with local suppliers who share your green mindset.

5. Share Your Success—Demonstrate your commitment to making the world a better place for everyone, and then make sure your employees, customers, and shareholders know about it.

Need some help getting started? Big or small, I can help you use a green advantage to attract customers, inspire employees and and close sales. Call me to talk about creating a cost-effective social media and marketing campaign for your business’ 2012 success.