Category “New Projects”

Internships and Volunteers needed for 2009

Tuesday, 3 February, 2009

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Triangle Green Fund: A Sustainable Community Energy Project

Friday, 30 January, 2009

Our goal will be to develop a new financing model, attracting private sector investment to create and operate a local, voluntary carbon mitigation fund, the Triangle Green Fund (TGF). The Fund will provide both micro-lending and grants to community-based, green businesses and projects. Additionally, working with partner organizations, The Fund will leverage funding from existing financial institutions, training lenders in green practices, providing interest rate reductions and offering loan guarantees. The Fund will help capitalize organizations that meet strict criteria in environmental sustainability, social equity as well as economic viability. Grants will be provided through an application and advisory board review process to those groups with the highest potential, measurable impact in reducing pollutants, or can provide maxim multipliers in promoting community sustainability. The Fund will take approximately a year to raise initial funding, constitute an Advisory Board, hire staff and market to area organizations, with the goal of providing its first loans and grants in early 2010.

A unique feature of The Fund is that it has the ability to create profound environmental protection through its voluntary carbon mitigation system. The Fund would establish a way for organizations and individuals to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing carbon offsets from local sources. The Fund will then loan green businesses that provide products and services in a variety of sectors, including but not limited to: transportation, renewable energy, water conservation, energy efficiency, green space and green workforce development. This Fund will effectively internalize external costs of pollution, while instilling a sense of community, keeping money local (maximizing the economic multiplier effect), while financing the local, emerging green economy. Funding may also come from Federal and State grants to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency investments, enabling low interest loan systems working with local governments and lending institutions.

The jobs will be created in the first year, with the expectation to maintain low overhead using existing infrastructure of partner organizations, maximizing the amount of funds redirected into the community. The multiplier effect for The Fund in employment in both direct and indirect job creation may average approximately 5 direct jobs and 20 indirect jobs per $100,000 invested/donated. With each local governmental entity in the Triangle signing on to carbon reduction, the existence of The Fund will greatly help in facilitating real and measurable goals and may become a significant player in growing the green economy.

Importantly, this model can be emulated across the State as a national system of carbon trading or pollution tax may be years from taking effect and will be national in scope, focusing resources away from our State. Environmental affects can be calculated for each of the investment sectors and using academic resources in the area, many indicators can be developed and used to track and evaluate the effectiveness of The Fund. The plan is to market to Triangle organizations with existing commitments for carbon mitigation, who are currently purchasing carbon offsets using products outside of the Triangle or the State and wish reduce their environmental and social impacts by investing locally. Self-sufficiency will be achieved through an administrative fee and interest on loans to cover Fund management. Additional funding may come from individuals and foundations wanting to provide capital for sustainable community development. This project will be a collaboration with  Good Work, The Forest Foundation and other local organizations with expertise in these fields.

The Fund will budget approximately $150K per year for 3 staff members, housed within existing non-profit organizations, with a goal of achieving a $2 million endowment (or annual, mitigation/donation flow rate) to cover its basic overhead. Roughly 90% of the funds will be available for reinvestment and grants, leveraging capital at an estimated 5 times the expected donation income. The hope is to double The Fund size within 3 years to $4 million in capital annually, increase staff and to leverage local financial institutions to take responsibility and leadership for carbon mitigation, pollution reduction and sustainable community development. Staff will provide technical assistance in reviewing mitigation equivalents as well as applications, and others will be involved in marketing and liaison as well as training and assisting financial partners. Some part-time staff borrowing from partner institutions may be required to help during certain times of the year as applications are received and selections for funding made. The Advisory Board will be responsible for final selection of grant recipients.

Triangle Green Investors Club

Another option is to establish an “investors club,” which have shown remarkable success in communities across the nation (See www.usinvestorclubs.org).  Michael Shuman, the Author of The Smallmart Revolution,  has been promoting these types of systems across the US.  Working with organizations like Plenty, and the newly forming Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) groups here in the Triangle, small to medium size business could be identified, resources found to help in business management, and business plans developed for review.  Loans and investments could be made to these organizations showing growth potential, solid management and good business plans.  The Club can work with The TGF and CSE Projects, creating and providing several tiers of capital needs and promoting more sustainable, local community development.

"Triple Bottom Line," a False Model

Tuesday, 6 January, 2009

The Forest Foundation does not subscribe to a “triple bottom line” approach as we feel this model is superficial. We prefer to follow the concept and understanding of natural capital and the philosophy of the great North Carolinian theologian, Thomas Berry, who has written extensively on our cosmology in terms of knowledge, unity, communion and integration. Particularly, it is a fact that our human economy is a subset of and wholly dependent on the natural world, governed by the laws of physics and ecology. This worldview is hierarchal, as the planet’s species and ecological interactions are the base and we are one of many species sharing these resources. These species and their ecological connections have intrinsic value and are needed for our own survival. If human economy is to thrive, it must understand and learn to mimic the natural systems of our planet. In so doing, the energy requirements will be more in line with the true natural systems that we currently undervalue.

The Foundation also seeks to value the wisdom of women, indigenous communities, who have lived closer and longer in unity with nature, as well as the basic labor and culture reflected in hand made items and fairly traded goods. Because of cheap energy provided by fossil fuels, much of our economy and its transactions are improperly valued. In addition, market externalities are keeping our most important things needed for human community from being properly valued and traded. Technology has a role to play, but ultimately it will be a process of becoming more knowledgeable and aware of how our natural systems work and our place within them, that will allow us to survive.

Using the “triple bottom line” as an introduction and simplified model may help, but it creates and false impression that if we optimize our social and economic values with environmental values we will find the best solution. This inherently over weights our human economy at the expense of the natural world.

Join Us: TFF and Greenway Head to DC Inauguration

Friday, 2 January, 2009

Green Bus Inauguration Tour

Greenway will be offering a complete transportation package for The Inauguration, including a 100% biodiesel powered bus for up to 47 passengers, catered lunch, drinks, and dinner on the return at famous Bottoms Up Pizza in Richmond.  We will be leaving from Durham and its Green Oil Campus on January 19th at 8:00AM, arriving Franconia-Springfield Station Metro Station at 2:00PM.  And returning the 20th at 5:00PM, leaving Franconia-Springfield Station, arriving Durham… who knows when?!  Price for the complete package will be $200, which includes a $50 donation to The Forest Foundation.

For transportation and Inaugural details:

http://inauguration.dc.gov/index.asp

http://www.wmata.com/getting_around/metro_events/inauguration.cfm

Accommodations

Greenway will not be offering official overnight accommodations, but some limited space is available for first come first serve.  Prices for accommodations that are Metro walkable (30 mins. to the Mall) vary from floor space camping, to couches, to bedrooms.

Pedicabs on the Mall

In addition, Greenway’s new Pedicab Manager, John Bair, will be bringing our two pedicabs up to service the Inaugural festivities on and around the Mall starting Jan. 9th.  He will be running multiple shifts and two of Greenway’s founders will be on hand to drive and to make policy suggestions to any errant decision-makers who decide to “Go Green” and ride pedal power!  If John is smart, he may be able to get in the parade and give us some real nationwide publicity!

Sponsorship

The Bus and Pedicabs are looking for sponsorship for the Inauguration tour.  The Bus will have sign space on either side and on the rear, and the Pedicabs will have their back panel space available.  We expect hundreds of thousands to see us on tour, so given our high profile as probably the only biodiesel bus headed to DC and one of only a few pedicabs on the Mall, we think this will be a great marketing opportunity. Contact us for pricing.

Proceeds from the trip and sponsorship will help fund The Forest Foundation’s non-profit work.

Trip Stipends and Discounts

For those who can not afford the full price of the tour, but can show volunteer service and dedication to the cause will be provided stipends or discounts.  Other non-profit and environmental groups may also be offered discounts.  Two stipends of $100 each are available to students on a first come basis from Dr. Sandy Smith-Nonini of YIKES!  Contact us for details.

Deadline for Deposits:

Jan. 16th

Email us at:

info@greenwayrides.com, or info@theforestfoundation.org

New Research disputing Connection Between Health and Economic Development

Thursday, 1 January, 2009

Having just finished Jeffrey Sach’s Book, Common Wealth, I was impressed in his articulate and concise understanding of the world’s current problems. I know of no better identification and articulation.  In fact, it (along with Lester Brown’s Plan 3.0)  made me want a prescription for anti-depressants.  However, Sach’s analysis of solutions (unlike Lester’s work) was found to be desperately needing.  Interestingly, on one our layovers returning from Europe I picked up the November 22, 2008 copy of the Economist, and there in black and white (p. 90), was an article on two recent studies confirming my misgivings over both his view of development economics ( or lack of ecological economic training), and the decades of poorly spent development money.  I have complained about this for sometime, mostly to friends and anyone else who would listen, mostly receiving the “he is such an embarrassment, keep him off the stage” look.

The two studies, one by MIT (Acemoglu and Johnson, “Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth”);  and the second by Brown University (Ashraf, Lest and Weil, “When Does Improving Health Raise GDP”), show that investing massively in human health improvement, as we are doing, does not result in immediate improvement in economic development.  In fact, it actually causes serious problems, often delaying development for decades.  It is obvious that what investments in human health do (and don’t get me wrong as I believe in helping people from a purely humanitarian standpoint, but let’s do it smartly, maximizing investments with the limited resources we throw at it), is to bring more humans through the perils of childhood into adulthood.  Why is this bad?  It is a proverbial no-brainer to anyone who has endured Psychology 101 rat study data (don’t knock the rats as they are profoundly more like us than you think), we overpopulate.

See:

http://econ-www.mit.edu/files/2129

http://ideas.repec.org/p/bro/econwp/2008-7.html

Given the scarcity of resources, poor resource management,  control of these resources through horrendous graft and corruption, mis-valuation of resources through GDP and GNP measures, etc. that characterize so many of these developing countries and our development policy, it is no wonder that more people surviving means less for everyone else, crushing what little possibility that anyone can eek out an existence.  “Blasphemy!” I can hear the health and development community (Christian fundamentalists and many of my “bleeding heart” friends) scream.  But this data from these reports seem to confirm what has been obvious.  The way to development is not through human health  initiatives, though it is an important part, but through a myriad of other reforms, of which empowerment of women, population planning and better natural resource management are likely at the top of the list.  Our human economy is dependent on and subset of the natural capital of this planet, and we are doing a terrible job of taking care of it (much less creating proper valuations).  This new research data does not confirm directly this hypothesis, but it would make sense (given the rat research) that if your natural environment is conducive to stable populations (all populations, not just humans), then you will likely create a foundation for development that is more lasting.

(SEE BBC News "Population: The elephant in the room,"
Environmentalists must accept that uncontrolled population growth threatens to undermine efforts to save the planet.
< http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/7865332.stm >)

Which brings me back to Sach’s book.  Nowhere does he mention market externalities and the need to use market economies (if we can so trust them, given our recent global meltdown) to properly value natural capital.  What is so frustrating is the billions of dollars we have spent on human health initiatives, that have actually contributed to long term worsening of conditions within these developing countries.  Organizations, like The Gates Foundation, the largest Foundation in the world bolstered by the billions of Warren Buffet, have a central focus on human health, at the expense of most everything else.  Let us hope/pray that the development community reads this research and better directs our limited resources to development policies that offer the “bigger bangs for the buck.”  And that cheap Americans, who think they give, but in fact, are the last of the western world in percentage of GDP in giving, start giving more.  Critical are strategies of integrated conservation and development and fundamentally restructuring our global economies to properly value the truly important things, like clean air, water, biodiversity, human labor and energy.

Green Oil Campus/Ecolounge: Solar Hot Air Workshop

Wednesday, 10 December, 2008

The Ecolounge hosted another successful workshop, attended by over 40 folks,  presented by Rebekah and Stephen Hren.  Braving the cold of the unheated space,  (how ironic) folks were impressed with the hands-on presentation by our areas’ two, green entrepreneurs, who just published their Carbon Free Home guide, which contains lots of great and easily implementable, energy saving ideas.

Many folks in the environmental community have been pushing solar hot water and PV units, however, solar hot air hands-down is more cost efficient and is an easier to install technology than anything else, except maybe CFLs and energy efficiency through insulation and home improvements.  This is a particularly viable technology for those with some sun that hits their house in the winter and for low income families.  Solar hotwater requires significant investments in pumps, plumbing and installation and is viable only for large users of water.  Instant on technology used in Europe extensively is a better plan for smaller households.  PV units are still expensive, but their prices are dropping and the ability to grid tie and receive energy credits through net metering are improving.

Folks gained insight into several styles of hot air systems and plans exist to conduct a demonstration build here at the Green Oil Campus, along with a solar hot water system to help heat waste veggie oil processing and our biodiesel production systems.  Stay turned for more events of the Ecolounge, YIKES! and The Forest Foundation’s Green Oil Campus.  Thanks goes to Sandy Smith-Nonini and her hard work in organizing the event while MK and Marc were away.

Solar Hot Water System at Carolina Biodiesel Install Workshop

Thursday, 18 September, 2008
I am writing to solicit your help to form a technical support team to assist
in installing a solar hot water system at Carolina Biodiesel in Durham,
which will heat the biodiesel during fuel production and will serve as a
demonstration project for yikes! (Youth Involved in Keeping Earth
Sustainable) and Ecolounge educational workshops we're developing at the
site. We are working with two high school science classes -- one at NC Sch.
of Science and Math and one at Chapel Hill High School, who are considering
this as a science project for some of their students. We have many
ingredients of the project, but need a little more techical back-up to make
it happen in coming months.

Marc Dreyfors already has a set of 8 used collectors (need to be pressure
tested), an 80 gal hot water heater, a pump, and access to cheap copper
pipe, and I have a run of pex left over from our system, so that should cut
costs for parts greatly. Also, for starters we may just hook up 2-3
collectors facing south, mounted at ground level on a mound right outside
the biofuel production bldg. With option of adding more later, perhaps on
the roof -- after he has fixed leaks there.

Also, for the science project part -- I have a 10-watt PV panel we can use
(as we did on our system in UNC project) to test efficiency of water heating
against degree of sunlight on daily basis, and I have copy of the Hoboware
program that we used for recording our data, and Rebakah Hren has a Hobo
recording device for the data gathering (sunlight and H2O temp). I can give
an introductory presentation to the students (w/ Darrell??) using the slide
show we developed from the UNC project. Rebekah has also offered to give a
technical workshop on installation, as long as we work around her travel
schedule. But we may need a 2nd technical day, and we'll need some hands-on
assistance on the actual work-days, and help with complications of plumbing
and elec., mentoring students, etc.

A follow-up project some of the students are interested in is building a
good appropriate technology design of a system -- perhaps using some of the
home-made plans available on the internet, that would be adaptable for
low-income households in US, drawing on what's being promoted and tested now
in poor countries.

I'm not sure of the total timeline for this, but I think we'd like to get
installation of the basic system done before December.

Can you help?  Can you refer us to others who can help?  What if we held an
NC Powerdown session on solar hot water, followed by a planning meeting w/
the students at the EcoLounge?

Sandy

Sandy Smith-Nonini, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Dept. of Anthropology
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
Email: scsmith @ email.unc.edu
http://snonini.wordpress.com
http://yikeslink.blogspot.com