Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Weekly Green Report

Architects Design Vertical Urban Farm, Residencial Building
An urban design firm in Seattle has won a green building award for its combined urban farm and residential building (pictured below), where humans, plants and chickens would live in a combination of green commerce and eco-harmony.

A group of cutting-edge Seattle, Washington architects from the firm Mithun have designed a mixed-use, "eco-friendly" development that combines residential apartments with a vertical urban farm. The ambitious green development is designed for high density cities like Seattle, New York City, San Francisco and others where there is no place to go but up when it comes to residential and commercial development. The combination urban farm and residential building would be build on .72 of an acre of land. The building includes fields for growing vegetables and grains, greenhouses, rooftop gardens and a chicken farm. The building also would completely independent from municipal water according to the designers, providing its own drinking water in part by collecting rain from the building's 31,000 square-foot rooftop collection basin. The rainwater would be treated and recycled on sight. Solar panels and cutting-edge solar technology would be used to produce nearly all of the building's electricity.

The building would house humans along with the chickens and plants. The structure would contain 318 studio, one and two bedroom apartments to house all the potential urban farmers and others. The bottom, entry level of the building would feature a cafe serving organic foods grown on-site in the urban farm. The produce, grains and eggs produced on the would be marketed and sold to local retail foods stores which the designers say would save even more energy in addition to providing a very local food source to the community.

The innovative urban design recently won first prize in the Cascadia Region Green Building Council's Living Building Challenge. The group is a green building organization serving the Pacific Northwest region and British Columbia building design industries.

Bert Gregory, the CEO of the Mithun architecture firm, says "constantly developing creative and challenging ideas is the best way to uncover innovative solutions to today's problems." The ambitious goal of the design is to introduce and integrate crops and animals into an urban skyline as well as into the city itself.

The architects admit this isn't likely to be achieved anytime in the near future. However, the U.S. Census Bureau projects a world population of more than 9.4 billion by 2050, and the majority of these new arrivals will be living in cities. As such, the Mithun design for an integrated, vertical urban farm and residential building doesn't seem all that far-fetched. Nor does it need take decades to be tried in a city like Seattle, where the designers hope to build the first prototype.

More Than a Tree Grows in Brooklyn For This Family

While we're on the topic of urban "eco-farming" we want to introduce you to Manny Howard of Brooklyn, New York. Howard has embarked on an experiment to see if he can feed his family of four out of his backyard Brooklyn garden. Howard was reading various books and articles about the "locavore" (eating local) movement and decided he could do the "buy local" crowd one better--he would feed his family from his urban, backyard farm and reduce the miles his food traveled to just a few feet. A true experiment in green living from a couragous soul.

Howard (that's him pictured at left on his urban farm) describes his adventure in a witty article in New York magazine titled, "My Empire of Dirt." The urban farmer sums up his current experience as follows: "The locavore movement says we should eat what is grown within a few miles of where we live. How about a few feet? (Mine is) an experiment in Brooklyn-style subsistence farming , starring smelly chickens, an angry rabbit, a freak tornado, a vegetable garden to die for, two psyched kids, and a marriage in the weeds." You can read Howard's story here. There's also a link here where you can watch a video tour of Howard's backyard urban farm.

Adam Platt, food critic for New York magazine, has a humorous companion piece to Howard's article called "Local Smocal." It's well worth a read regardless of where you come down on the eating local issue. You can read his piece here.

Industry Green Briefs

Tesco Gets the Fresh & Easy Green Delivery Fleet Ready

The Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets distribution team says it will be using a fleet of green, "eco-friendly" delivery trucks to distribute products from its distribution center in Southern California to its Fresh & Easy stores in California, Nevada and Arizona. The first stores are slated to open in November.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO Tim Mason says the company has worked with the leading companies in green technology to develop and build from the ground-up "an entire fleet of aerodynamic, fuel efficient and neighborhood-conscious trailers in our first round of manufacturing."

The delivery trucks/trailers are designed with new technologies that reduce the use of diesel fuel. The units also are designed to be much quieter than the average delivery truck in order to minimize neighborhood noise. The delivery truck lift gates are designed so that they make very little noise during product unloading. You can read in more detail about the green Fresh & Easy delivery fleet here.

The green fleet is part of Tesco's program to make its entire supply chain--from warehouse and delivery to the stores--green. Their Southern California distribution center is built to strict green building standards and has a large solar power array on the roofs of its six buildings.

The stores currently under construction also are being built to strict green standards and a number of them are said to have solar panels on there roofs. In-store recycling and other environmental practices are detailed in the retailer's handbook which includes a complete green mission section.

Tully's Coffee Chain Switches to Green Paper Cups

Tully's Coffee has become the first retail coffee chain to introduce a fully renewable and compostable paper cup for its hot beverages. Tully's has just began using "Ecotainer Hot Cups," a new product made by International Paper Company. The "eco-cups" are lines with a bioplastic made from corn rather than petrochemicals. The cup is currently the only commercially available available 100% compostable hot cup certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute, an industry certification specialist.

Along with introducing the biodegradable and compostable cups the coffee chain has launched an in-store collection program to divert the used cups and other compostable food waste to organic composting facilities rather than disposing of them in landfills. The first customer for International Paper's "Ecotainer Hot Cup" was the U.S. Army and Navy. Go Army, Go Navy--green leaders.

Specialty Cookie Maker a Green Triple-Threat

The Liz Lovely brand of cookies has acheived a rare green triple-threat. The gourmet, all natural line of cookies has become not only certified organic but also vegan and Fair Trade certified, achieving a green trifecta. The cookie company says it has done its research and the nationally distributed cookie brand is the first of its kind to acquire all three certifications. The cookie line is 100% trans-fat free. You can read more about the triple-certified cookie line and the company here.

Study: Generation Y Shoppers Split on Green Importance

A new survey finds only 50% of generation Y shoppers say that retailers environmental policy and sustainability influence their shopping behavior. The survey by the Maritz market research firm found these young shoppers split right down the middle--half say retailer green policies influence where they shop and the other half says it doesn't matter. When asked to describe their attitude towards a retailers "eco-friendly" positioning , 46% said they'd shop at a retailer more if they were environmentally-friendly, while 54% said it wouldn't alter their behavior.

In terms of actually purchasing products, 47% of the respondents said they would be willing to pay more for "eco-friendly services, products or brands. While one might think the percentages are low for people in the Generation Y age bracket 50% still isn't bad in terms of green attributes having an influence on their shopping behaviors. Psychological studies show behaviors like "pro-environmental" tend to become more demonstrative as people get older, especially when they have children. So the results of the survey aren't a bad start for such a young age cohort.

Green Packaging: Plastic Shopping Bag Bans

The cities of San Francisco and Oakland in California, Baltimore, Maryland and a few others have enacted laws banning the use of plastic grocery or shopping bags in retail stores. Now the city of Louisville, Kentucky (hardly a left wing outpost) is considering such a ban. Metro Council Member Jim King wants a law against the use of all plastic bags unless they are biodegradable. You can read more about this proposed legislation and similar proposals across the country here in this recent (09-07-07) article from the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Outdoor Advertising: Billboards Getting Greener

The billboard industry is making new efforts to become more green and energy efficient. About 170,000 billboards line the freeways and roads across the U.S. And nearly all of these outdoor advertising signs are made out of PVC, which is less than environmentally friendly. An additional 200,000 billboards or more are made made from thick paper panels. Neither PVC or the paper panels are practical to reuse or recycle--hence the crux of the industry's environmental problem.

One company, CBS Outdoor, the second-largest outdoor advertising company in the U.S., plans to remove (and not replace) the PVC from 17,000 of its billboard faces by the end of next year. Another solution which a number of billboard companies are adopting, is a product called "Eco-Flexx," invented by a company called Circle Graphics. The reusable product is made from woven polyethylene and can replaced the one-time use PVC and cardboard. Other billboard companies are experimenting with using thin, light weight sheets of metal, which can be used to replace cardboard and paper.

Lastly, outdoor advertising companies are making a major push to reduce energy use for the billboards the industry lights up at night. They are purchasing more energy efficient lighting fixtures and lights and some companies are experimenting with using renewable solar and wind power to operate the lighted and electronic billboards.

Green Beer: Craft Brewery Goes Solar Powered

By early October Chico, California-based craft brewery Sierra Nevada hopes to be nearly off the power grid. The brewery currently has four high-powered solar cells providing 75% of its electricity and its installing more solar panels so the facility can be as close as possible to 100% solar-powered (and off the grid entirely) when the sun is at its peak. And that is fairly often in Chico, which is located north of Sacramento.

Cheri Chastain, the brewery's sustainability coordinator (yes the have one of those), says she expects the operation will be able to run on at least 80% renewable solar power even on non-peak sunny days, at night or on cloudy days. Chastain reports the brewery is becoming a model of sustainability. In addition to the solar energy program the green brewer focuses on comprehensive recycling, heat recovery, water conservation, carbon-dioxide recovery and more. That's impressive enough to raise a (green) glass of beer to. Salute!

Green Food Retailing Report

Breaking Story: Hannaford to Build New Green Supermarket

Northeastern chain Hannaford Bros. Co. announced today it plans to build the first supermarket in the U.S. that meets the U.S. Green Leadership Council's highest environmental standard. The council is a group that sets standards for green building in the U.S. Hannaford is pursuing the group's platinum designation for its new store, which is the green building organizations highest standard for environmental buildings.

Hanaford's plan calls for such green building concepts for the 49,000 square-foot store as a garden on the roof to add insulation and to be used to control stormwater. Other green features of the proposed new store include the expansive use of solar photovoltaic cells to provide electricity, geothermal (water) heating and cooling, high efficiency refrigeration, energy efficient lighting and a fully-integrated store recycling program in addition to the vegetation-topped roof which would be a part of the stores integrated water recovery and recycling system.

Hannaford is estimating the new store will be 40% more energy efficient than a standard supermarket, according to Megan Hellstedt, the chains sustainability manager.

Scarborough, Main-based Hannaford wants to build the "eco-store" on the former site of Cony High School in Augusta, Maine. The state court is challenging the decision to build on the site however saying the trust of Daniel Cony, the man who gave the land to the school district originally, specifies the site can only be used for education purposes. However, Maine's Governor John Baldacci joined Hannaford CEO Ronald Hodge, other company executives, community members and environmentalists Wednesday at the planned store site to make the announcement. As such it would appear the Governor supports building the green store on the school site.

"The proposed Hannaford market would be the U.S. Green Building Council's first platinum-certified 'green' grocery store in the world," said Hannaford CEO Hodge. The group's system includes ratings of silver, gold and platinum, which is the highest.

It's important to note the fact that the U.S. Green Building Council hasn't yet certified another gorcery store in the world as "platinum" doesn't mean other retailers in other countries aren't building equally green stores. For example, Marks & Spencer (as NSFM has reported) is opening two new "eco-stores" in Scotland next month. UK-based Tesco also has a green store in the works as does the Co-operative Supermarket Group in the UK. Western European and other developed countries have their own green building certification groups. Additionally in countries such as the UK, France and Germany the governments have much stricter green building standards and rules then in the U.S.

However, Hannaford's plans are major not just for green retail store building (and all commercial building) in the U.S. but globally as well. If they build the store the food retailer will be on the cutting edge of green store construction among retailers worldwide.

Hannaford currently operates 160 stores throughout the Northeastern U.S. The chain is owned by Brussels, Belgium-based Delhaize Group, a global retailer with current annual sales of 17.3 billion U.S. If built on the site of the former school the new green strore would replace an older, more conventional store just down the street.

Just last week in an article about the new Marks & Spencer "eco-stores" in Scotland NSFM was asking the question in our conclusion who the first U.S. supermarket chain would be to announce plans for a similarly comprehensive green store in the U.S. It looks like Hannaford Bros. heard us and is providing the answer with its announcement.

Resources: You can visit the Hannaford Bros. website here. You can visit the Delhaize Group website here. Natural~Specialty Foods memo (NSFM) will be covering Hannaford and this development closely and in-depth in the next few days.

Community: Wal-Mart Kicks-Off Kid's Recycling Challenge

Wal-Mart will kick-off its fourth annual "Kid's Recycling Challenge" on October 1rst. Started in 2004, the recycling challenge encourages kids in the communities where the retailer has stores (most of the country) to pick up plastic shopping bags, and turn them into cash as part of a recycling contest.

Wal-Mart partners with schools for the recycling challenge. Participating schools each receive $5.00 from the chain for each 60-gallon collection bag the students fill with plastic shopping and grocery bags and bring to their local Wal-Mart store by March 31, 2008. Additionally, schools are grouped into three regions in the U.S. for the contest part of the challenge. The three schools in each region to bring in the most collection bags full of the plastic shopping bags receive cash prizes. First place is $3,000, second place $2,000, and third place $1,000.

The challenge is designed to teach elementary school students about the importance of recycling while earning money for their schools, according to Wal-Mart. It's also a great opportunity for the chain to spread its green message, eliminate numerous plastic shopping bags with the Wal-Mart name on them from the roadsides, and to show its support for the communities the chain does business in.

Since the recycling challenge began in 2004 students at 2,800 U.S. schools have participated. These student recyclers have recycled more than 1,400 tons of plastic shopping and grocery bags, earning more than $1.2 million from Wal-Mart. Sign-ups for this year's recycling challenge are over but interested schools and others can find all the information on how to sign-up for next year's event here. Weekly Green Report tips its (post-consumer recycled) hat to all the kids participating in the program beginning next month.

Wal-Mart Introduces Private-Label Green Light Bulbs

Wal-Mart is introducing a line of energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL's) and is currently selling the line, branded under the chain's "Great Value" brand, in 3,000 stores nationwide in the U.S. The CFL's are being produced for Wal-Mart by General Electric Co. and Royal Philips.

CFL's normally have a tiny amount of Mercury in them but Wal-Mart says the retailer has worked with the manufacturers to eliminate the mercury in the "Great Value" brand CFL's because they feared consumers might dispose of the bulbs in the trash (which is common) rather than at a hazardous waste dump site or program. The chain says four of the private label CFL's will sell for the same retail price as three brand name CFL's, essentially offering shoppers a "buy three get one free" deal compared to most other brands on the market. You can read more about Wal-Mart's private-label CFL's introduction here. The U.S. Green Building Council site is here.

British Grocer Gets Greener With its Online Delivery Service

If done properly online grocery retailing can not only be convenient but also very "eco-friendly." For example, researchers in Britian have estimated that one grocery delivery van making multiple houshold deliveries can replace 20 car trips, resulting in the use of less fuel by consumers as well as a real reduction in C-02 emmissions. Others though say online grocery delivery services actually are less green than traditional brick and mortar grocers. With the use of electricity to order via the internet, the quantitites of packaging the delivery services use and the like, many environmental advocates have not been so keen on these E-grocers.

The facts, like they are most of the time, are somewhere in between--and the reality is that both online and brick and mortar grocers can be "eco-friendly" if they want to. One such online grocery delivery service in Britian is out to show it is green. Ocado, the E-grocery division of the Waitrose supermarket chain, has launched a major environmental initiative and marketing program to tout its green credentials. The online grocer has acquired new, more energy efficient delivery vans, launched a massive corporate recycling program, introduced resusable grocery bags and made numerous pro-green changes to its operations, from the distribution facility to the customers' door step.

To tell this story Ocado has made a huge TV advertising buy in Britian and is running commercials featuring its green team of delivery drivers in their new bright green and white delivery vans. The E-grocer also is running other spots, all of which tout its environmental policies and initiatives, and talk about how it fits in to its delivery service.

Green Notes

Green spirts brand a hit at the Emmy's: Last week Green Notes wrote about how TV's Emmy Awards (broadcast Sunday night) were featuring an "eco-friendly" green lounge backstage for VIP's and celebs. Our Emmy-insider tells us the green lounge was a big hit with award winners and others alike. Not only were the free designer "Nothing On Me Is Plastic" reusable shopping bags (which we reported were going to be given out for free) a huge hit but it appears a new green, alchoholic beverage was all the rage backstage in the "eco-lounge.

This cocktail beverage, called VeeV and produced by a company called VeeV acai spirits, was happily consumed in the form of "eco-mojitos" by actors James Spader and Jeremy Piven, music great Tony Bennett, director Rob Marshall and former Saturday Night Live and current TV Sitcom writer, producer and actress Tina Fey. VeeV is made using the acai berry, which is known for its healthy antioxitant properties. The company's ethics elements take on many forms. For example they donate $1 from the sale of every bottle of the spirits to environmental groups such as the Rainforest Action Network and the Sustainable Acai Project. The company also powers 25% of its distillery in Idaho using renewable wind power. You can learn more about the company and its VeeV acia berry spirits here.

Celebrities going green: Speaking of celebrities, this month's InStyle magazine interviews a few of them about becoming green consumers. A few snapshots: Actress (and camper) Charlize Theron buys Endstar brand camping gear because the company makes it in part out of recycled plastic bottles. Actress Alicia Silverstone doesn't use her fossil fuel-powered clothes dryer but rather drys her clothes on an old-fashion outdoor laundry line. "The sun does all the work and it makes me feel like I live in Italy," she tells InStyle.

Actress and mother Courtney Cox says she uses only Little Twig brand unscented soap on her three year old daughter. The soap line is sulfate and paraben-free. And when you return four of the recyclable soap packages you get 30% off on your next online purchase as a reward for keeping the planet clean, Cox tells the magazine. You can read about what other celebrities are doing to be green consumers in the article here. InStyle also has a piece on "eco-chic" product "hot finds." You can check out their green product discoveries here.

Hollywood goes green: Actor and green activist Ed Begley Jr. has organized a major environmental conference called "Hollywood Goes Green." The green event is scheduled for December 11-12 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California. The event is a serious green business conference and Begley has lined up some heavy hitters including NBC-Universal, Inc. as a major corporate sponsor and a former movie actor who now makes his living as the Governor of Califronia as one of the many keynote speakers.

The conference includes dozens of speakers representing corporate America, the entertainment industry, environmental organizations and academia. There also will be educational seminars, break-out work sessions and other green educational programs during the two-day event. You can read more about the conference here. The food industry has considerable synergy with the media industry in the form of advertising, product placement and the like. For food industry companies going green there should be many joint-opportunities as the entertainment and related media industries follow the same green path.

The company farmers market: To busy at work to be able to shop at your local farmers' market. No problem if you work for Zutano, a maker of children's clothing in Babylon, New York. As a way to make their employees lifestyles easier--and healthier--the clothing-maker has created a farmer's market right on it property so workers can merely go outside on a break and do their organic fresh fruit and veggie shopping. "If you can't bring the company to the farm then bring the farm to the company," is the motto of Zutano founder and president Michael Belenky.

The farmers' market is held weekly in the company's parking lot and features a full selection of conventional and organic fresh fruits, vegetables and other delights. The company is promoting a green lifestyle for its workers as well since being able to do their shopping once a week at work allows them to cut-down on the nnumber of trips they need to make to the grocery store which conserves gasoline.

Commuter Creep: The newspaper USA Today has conducted a major study about commuting in the United States. In a series of articles in today's paper USA Today reports how commuting is changing peoples lives in the U.S. as well as having serious environmental implications. The average American now spends a full-week (total) per year in traffic getting to work. They also are getting up earlier.

In fact 15 million Americans are out the door before 6AM to commute to work today, up by 2.7 million in 2000. The report calls this concept "commuter creep" and says it's changing the lives of tens of millions of Americans in many ways. It's also changing industries ranging from breakfast food companies, fast food outlets, television, personal fitness and more. The increased commuting by automobile also is adding to amount of carbon in the air and having other negative environmental effects. You can read all about this comprehensive research and reporting project in today's USA Today here.

Weekly Green Report Ender

Shrimp You Can Trust: The Blue Horizon Organic Seafood Company, an organic seafood company based in Monterey County, California, is pulling out all the "green" stops and introducing a line of fresh, organic-certified shrimp, raised in ponds located north of Ecuador. The company calls the pure and tasty creatures "Shrimp you can trust."

The ponds where the shrimp are raised are certified by Naturland, an international aquaculture certification firm. In addition to being fed only organic feed, the company touts their shrimp's pond-raised upbringing as being much more "eco-friendly" than wild shrimp caught in ocean waters. To prove their point the company points to statistics which say in many cases up to 10 lbs. of fish and other seafood are killed by the process of ocean shrimp fishing. Additionally, preservatives and sulfites often are used to treat most wild-caught shrimp (especially in Asian waters) as soon as the sea creatures are brought onto the boat. Blue Horizon says it uses no preservatives, additives or artificial colorings in their "trustful" shrimp.

Fishwise, a non-profit fish-advocacy group based in the coastal city of Santa Cruz, California has rated the Blue Horizon shrimp "green" in its yellow-to-green seafood sustainability system. Green is the highest rating. Numerous retailers use the Fishwise rating system as a guideline for merchandising organic and sustainably-raised seafoods.

Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in the U.S. according to the National Fisheries Institute. Blue Horizon is introducing their new line of organic,"eco-friendly" and trustful shrimp at the Natural Products Expo-East, which runs from September 27-29 in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to displaying the "green" delights the company will be offering show attendees shrimp ceviche and shrimp cocktails prepared with organic cocktail sauce. Since shrimp is the favorite seafood of Americans (and we assume food industry-employed Americans as well) we expect to see long lines at the Blue Horizon booth.

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