Posts

Water, Water, Why Don’t You Save Yourself?

Water saving devices are often the unsung hero, forgotten solider, forlorn hope, and every other bad war cliche you can think of.  But it really is important to do our part in the fight for water conservation.  That’s one reason we started carrying the Instant Off Water Saver, (a pack of 3 is only $20 as of this posting).  And why we’re really excited to profile the President and founder of Instant Off.

And how can you go wrong with a product that pays for itself in 2-3 months!?

Name: Steve Gordon, President
Company: INSTANT OFF, INC.Instant Off

Greening to me means making the choice to be the type of person who respects the world’s natural resources and make an effort to conserve and protect them. Greening means being concerned with the state of all of our natural resources including the air we breath, the water we drink, natural habitat, rivers and streams and open space.

I got started in green business in 1991 because I wanted to make a difference. Water conservation has always been my passion.  I was lucky enough to design a product that can do so much for so many people. After 19 years I still get excited telling people about the INSTANT-OFF. I like things that don’t break and that attitude has led me on an ongoing quest for ever increasing durability and quality.

We are constantly searching for environmental companies that are committed to selling innovative products that make a difference. We found Green Home while doing research on the internet. I was impressed with their selection of products and their website.  We chose Greenhome.com as a marketing-partner to increase our sales and public awareness of our products.

Of course we have the INSTANT-OFF installed in our facility.  Our assembly plant and corporate offices share the same building space to reduce power consumption.   We have reduced the amount we print and are trying to become virtually paperless.  We also recycle all bottles and cans. At home I do my best to conserve, turning the thermostat up, using the cold water from the shower to water the plants, recycling more and turning off lights that aren’t being used.

The best greening advice we can give people who want to start “greening their home”  is to start with installing the INSTANT-OFF on all their faucets.  Start with a product that is easy to install, easy to use,  inexpensive and is made in the USA.  If half the homes in America installed the INSTANT-OFF we would save Tens of Billions of gallons of water every year.

Other than my biased answer that the INSTANT-OFF is the best product GreenHome.com carries, I would have to say that the AQUS Grey Water System (Editor’s note only $295 as of this writing saving 10-20 gallons per day) is a very cool addition that homes should have.

I think the biggest change in the green sector is that it’s now popular to be “green”.   Since the Presidential election in 2008, corporate America has finally embraced environmental responsibility.  I’ve been in water conservation for 19 years and its great to never hear your people tell me that I’m ahead of my time.

Green products make a difference because they help get consumers involved in the environmental movement. One small change leads to another small change that leads to more positive changes. Green products facilitate positive change toward environmental responsibility.

I think consumers are aware, but there is a lot more education that is needed.  I feel most average consumers think that being “green” involves too much work and requires changing habits that are tough to break. It is important for environmental companies to carry a wide range of different products and to have a tool on their website that sorts by price. Providing price sorting encourages people to start “greening” even though they may be on a budget and makes giving environmental gifts easy.

Actually I am already working on the perfect green invention. Can’t go into many details but I will say that’s it a new way to save power in your home and it will be the perfect expansion of the INSTANT-OFF product line.

Thanks Steve!  Keep up the world greening.

Energy Versus Water

There is a growing awareness that there are two convergent crises facing the world: Energy and Water. Scientific Amercican just launced a dedicated environmental publication this month, Earth 3.0 and the cover story? … ‘Energy Vs Water’.

The article explores the dichotomy between the fact that we need energy to produce water and we need water to produce energy. Both resources are running out. As we are reaching Peak Oil, we also appear to approaching Peak Water. This creates a very interesting dilemma and one which will require no small amount of innovation to solve.
Biofuels, cited as one option to wean us away from petroleum, can consume 20 or more times as much water for every mile traveled than the production of gasoline. Not all biofuels are created equal however, some are worse offenders than others, and the US National Research Council addresses this very well in ‘Water Implications of Biofuels Productions in the United States’.
Electric hybrids are another solution to get away from imported gasoline. But if we switch to electric cars, we will need more electricity and at the moment 90 percent of electricity in the US is generated at thermal power plants, – those that consume coal, oil, natural gas or uranium, and these plants are water hogs. They use vast quantities of water for cooling. The US Army Corp of engineers is currently trying to find a middle ground in an interesting water drama unfolding between the states of Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Part of the problem is that both Georgia and Alabama have come dangerously close recently to having to shut down their nuclear power plants due to lack of water.
The Energy Vs Water article goes on to say that ‘any switch from gasoline to electric vehicles or biofuels is a strategic decision to switch our dependence from foreign oil to domestic water’.
The Concept of Virtual Water
To help assess issues relating to water use and water balance, Professor John Anthony Allan from Kings College London, developed the concept of ‘Virtual Water’. He was awarded the Stockholm Water Prize this year for his work in this area. The idea is that you can calculate how much water there is in, say an apple, not just physically in the apple, but on a life cycle basis, how much water went into growing it, transporting it etc, By doing this with various food items or other commodities, a country could take a view to import ‘water heavy’ items, as a kind of a virtual way of importing water. For instance behind that morning cup of coffee, are 140 litres of water used to grow, produce, package and ship the beans. The ubiquitous hamburger needs an estimated 2,400 litres of water. Put simply, it may be more cost effective to import oranges from a region that has plenty of water than to try and de-salinate water at home to irrigate an orchard. Now that doesn’t always work though, you can’t grow things like oranges in wet damp countries like England.
And herein lies one of the fundamental problems. There is a reason why it is easier to grow 50% of the nations fruit and vegetables in California – it’s warm and sunny. And for this same reason, populations have been moving to the sunshine belt. If we could all live in California and import melons and oranges and strawberries from England, wouldn’t that be great? And you can’t cool a nuclear reactor with virtual water – at least not yet!

Californian City Considers Buying back lawns to save water

How ‘green’ is your lawn? The City of Fresno in California think’s not very ‘green’ at all and is proposing to ‘buy back’ lawns from home owners in an effort to stop people pouring the States’ precious water resources all over them. This is part of an Urban Water Management Plan approved by the Fresno City Council last month. The Assistant Director or Public Utilities, Garth Gaddy, said he could see the City paying $9 or $10 a square foot to homeowners who sign contracts saying they won’t reinstall lawns.

Given that Fresno’s peak water usage during the winter, when most residential sprinkler systems are shut off, is approximately one third of what it is in the summer, this makes good economic and environmental sense. In a City with an expanding population based, it’s a cheap of way of not having to find, treat and deliver new water.
Those “cash for grass” type programs are growing in popularity, said Jennifer Persike, public affairs director for the Association of California Water Agencies.

In Minnesota people were also concerned with the environmental footprint of lawns and enacted the Phosphorus Lawn Fertilizer Law to restrict application of phosphorus fertilizers to prevent nutrient enrichment of their lakes and rivers. While they are the only state so far in the US to enact such a law, the Province of Manitoba in Canada has just followed suit and enacted a similar law.

In addition to a plentiful supply of water and fertilizer, any home owner worth his salt knows that it’s only right and proper to give his lawn a good dose of herbicide every now to keep any insolent daisies at bay. This practice too however is coming under pressure, with several municipalities across North America enacting by-laws to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides and herbicides to protect the environment.

The solution to all of this? Jim Hagedorn, the CEO of and Chair of ScottsMiracle-Gro thinks it genetically modified grass. ‘When it comes to grass, people worry about watering, maintenance, and weeds, three headaches that genetic engineering – transgenic turf – could dramatically alleviate. “That’s the big kahuna for consumer lawns,” he says. “Solve those three issues and you’re a friggin’ hero!”
Nearly 50,000 square miles of the continental US is covered by lawn, according to estimates by ecologists at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Using satellite and aerial imagery, the team calculated that irrigated grass covers three times more land in the US than irrigated corn does. That makes turf the nation’s most widespread irrigated crop.
Lawn care and gardening is also the most popular outdoor leisure activity in the country, and the global industry supporting it generates an estimated $7 billion a year. ScottsMiracle-Gro accounts for more than a third of that – $2.4 billion in 2005.

It’s safe to say that no other nation commits even a fraction of the land, resources, chemicals, and water that the US does in pursuit of the perfect greensward.
So how did such a wholly unsustainable practice become so deep rooted in the fabric of suburbia? In American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, historian Ted Steinberg traces it to three factors: 1. Indoor plumbing, 2. Suburbia, and 3. Clever marketing on the part of the lawn care industry.

The lawn care industry saw tens of thousands of men returning from the war to a society where leisure time was increasing. These men, disciplined by military service, were looking for something to do in their spare time, so the lawn care industry gave it to them. Through their marketing efforts, they convinced people that clover and various other weeds were ‘enemies’ to be ‘eradicated’. Prior to the late 1950s, most lawns were a mix of Kentucky Bluegrass and clover. It was an ideal mix because of clover’s ability to take nitrogen out of the air and self fertilize the lawn. However this cut into sales of nitrogen fertilizers, so the lawn care industry decided the clover had to go. This created a market for both nitrogen fertilizers and herbicides in one fell swoop.

In the article ‘Turf Warrior’ David Wolman reports that all that vegetation does however have some environmental benefit. According to the NASA group, lawns collectively absorb some 12 billion pounds of carbon each year – effectively cutting greenhouse gas emissions. And if that grass weren’t there, much more soil would run off into storm drains, waterways, and rivers, polluting reservoirs and hastening the erosion of hillsides and valuable farmland.

So maybe hold off on concreting that lawn, cut back on the water, hold the fertilizer, embrace those daisies and at the risk of being burned as a heretic, consider some GMO grass???

Paul O’Callaghan is the founding CEO of the Clean Tech development consultancy O2 Environmental. He lectures on Environmental Protection technology at Kwantlen University College is a Director with Ionic Water Technologies and an industry expert reviewer for Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

Counting the Cost of Water

I was contacted last week by a journalist doing a story on ‘the future of water’. When I asked what the publication was, I was told it was for Esquire. Needless to say I was only too glad to help, – it’s not often I have the opportunity to have my name in print alongside the Jolie-Pitts of the world!

Some of the questions I was asked were: ‘Where is our water going to come from?”Is it going to be from desalination?’, ‘How much growth can we expect to see in desalination, and what breakthroughs if any in this area are we on the verge of?’

There was a very good session on water at the Always On Going Green Conference in San Francisco last week chaired by Christopher Gasson of Global Water Intelligence (GWI). I am going to borrow a little bit here from that session and from the GWI report “Desalination Markets 2007: A Global Industry Perspective’.

Desalination is a rapidly growing industry and there is no shortage of the raw material required. The Global Desalination industry is predicted to grow from 39.9 million m3/d at the beginning of 2006 to 64.3 million m3/d in 2010, and to 97.5 million m3/d in 2015. This represents a 61% increase in capacity over a five-year period, and a 140% increase in capacity over a ten-year period.

Beyond 2015, the rate of growth in the industry is expected to accelerate, as large markets such as the US, China and India will by then have established the financial and political models to pursue large-scale desalination projects. The rate at which the installed capacity increases is expected to move into double figures, and the annual increment to capacity is expected to increase by an average of more than 15% between 2015 and 2020.

To understand why desalination is so important, you first have to understand just how little of the world’s water is actually fresh water. If all the water on Earth were compressed to a single gallon, only four ounces would be fresh water. Only two drops would be readily accessible and human beings already use one of those drops. But about 92 percent of that single drop is used by agriculture and industry; just 8 percent goes to cities, towns, and municipalities. So for every gallon of water on the planet, only 8 percent of one drop is available for drinking, bathing, and other personal consumption.

A number of other factors compound this scarcity:
· Political & economic instability
· Uneven freshwater distribution
· Population growth in areas of limited natural resources
China has only 8 percent of the world’s fresh water to meet the needs of 22 percent of the world’s population, while Canada has 30 times more water and only 0.5 percent of the world’s population. While Global warming has no predictable impact on overall scarcity it is believed to increase the risk of both floods and droughts.

The good news is that costs for desalination have been dropping dramatically. Forty years ago the cost was $10 per m3. Now it’s down to $0.50/m3 (GWI). However 50% of the current costs are associated with energy use, and energy costs are only going one way. Given the huge impact that energy has on the cost of desalinating water, it is difficult to see how the industry can continue to deliver further significant reductions in desalination costs.

So what’s the next big thing going to be in desal membranes? Some say nanotechnology. Oak Venture Partners and Khosla Ventures clearly think so as they have just invested $15M into the UCLA spin-out company, NanoH20 to help them commercialize their Thin‐Film Nanocomposite (TFN) membrane system.
What NanoH2O are doing is very clever, they are nano-engineering the characteristics of the membrane so that it ‘wants’ to let water through’ and ‘wants’ to repel other contaminants. Its almost Taoist in principle, as opposed to trying to push water through a very small aperture with brute force, you are engineering that aperture so that its natural tendency is to let water pass through it and to repel other contaminants.

If desalination continues to increase, the water produced will have to be metered. Smart metering technology with remote on-line data collection is an area to watch.

Paul O’Callaghan is the founding CEO of the Clean Tech development consultancy O2 Environmental . He lectures on Environmental Protection technology at Kwantlen University College is a Director with Ionic Water Technologies and an industry expert reviewer for Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

Whiskey’s for drinkin’, water’s for investing in

Last week I put out the idea that we were approaching a tipping point in water re-use. There were a few other headlines this week which support that. For one thing California’s second largest reservoir is now ‘at its lowest level in 30 years’. Last Monday the California Department of Water Resources Director, Lester Snow, stated that next year “could be the worst drought in California history”. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein have proposed a $9.3 billion plan to the Legislature to fund a number of measures aimed at improving California’s water system.
So that’s California, – which bear in mind would be the 7th largest economy in the world if it was a country and has been the number one food producer in the United States for more than 50 years. Now let’s take a look at what’s happening in the capital of the world’s second largest economy. In Beijing, in the run up to the 2008 Olympic Games, Siemens Water Technologies has started up a wastewater reuse system at the city’s Beixiaohe wastewater treatment plant. The goal is to process 90% of the wastewater with 50% of the treated wastewater being recycled and reused.

2008 may be remembered as the year in which China hosted the Olympic Games but is also an auspicious year for another reason. 2008 is the first year in which the population of the planet will be more urban than rural. (Apparently this change occurred May 23rd 2008!). That’s an important turning point and if we are to increasingly live in cities, this of course means that we need to have means of sustainably meeting demands on water use in these cities.

Al Gores’ challenge to the US to move towards 100% non fossil fuel energy by the end of the decade, may be a long shot, but at least in theory it is achievable. There are alternatives to fossil fuels. The same can’t be said of water. There is an elasticity in water use, – up to a point, but there comes a point where you can not reduce water use any further without seriously impacting our ability to live. Mark Twain put it well when he said ‘Whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting over’. Whether or not we end up fighting over it, history has shown that times of crisis leads to accelerated technological innovation.

This technological innovation is likely to take place in small start-up companies. Commenting on this in his article Inventing Water’s Future, William Pentland, noted that in purchasing Zenon Membranes for $700M, GE is effectively outsourcing their innovation in clean technology to small start-ups.

Some venture capital firms, like Toronto’s XPV Capital have placed big bets on this and are choosing to invest in innovative water start ups on the assumption that they will be future targets for ‘Big Water’ industry giants like GE Veolia, Siemens etc as scarcity, climate change and energy prices increase the value of water. In fact overall the amount of money invested in water and wastewater technologies in the U.S. rose 436% between 2006 and 2007, according to the Cleantech Group,

A good general yard stick to track the water business is the ISE Water Index (HHO). This index tracks a bundle of 36 companies engaged in water distribution, water filtration, flow technology and other water solutions. The ISE Water Index has enjoyed an impressive rally this year, has tacked on nearly 5% since the start of 2008, which compares favorably with the S&P 500 Index’s (SPX) loss of 7.7% during the same time frame. In fact, the index has climbed steadily higher since it was created in January 2006, gaining more than 36% along the way. As was outlined in Jocelyn Drakes ‘Cross Currents In Water World’ article.

Finally to close, one technology I came across this week which I thought was really ingenious and also just a lovely idea is called Play Pumps. It’s basically a children’s merry-go-round that pumps clean, safe drinking water from a deep borehole every time the children start to spin. So the system utilizes the energy of children playing, to purify water. Genius. You can check out a video of it in use in Africa on You Tube.

Paul O’Callaghan is the founding CEO of the Clean Tech development consultancy O2 Environmental. Paul is the author of numerous papers environmental technologies and lectures on Environmental Protection technology at Kwantlen University College. He is chair of a technical committee on decentralized wastewater management in British Columbia, is a Director with Ionic Water Technologies and an industry expert reviewer for Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

A tipping point in water re-use?

There were two interesting recent headlines which support the view that we are approaching a tipping point in relation to water scarcity and water resources.
Firstly, Orange County, California was awarded the Stockholm Industry Award for its pioneering work to inject treated wastewater into deep wells to re-charge ground water aquifers. This water can then be extracted at a later date for water supply. What you are seeing here is the start of a convergence in advanced wastewater treatment and water supply. They say that water has no memory, but the public certainly does, and they don’t like the thought that what comes out of their tap, might in the not too distant past have disappeared down their toilet. Aquifer injection provides that one degree of separation.
However water is the ultimate re-cyclable commodity and re-cycle it we must if we are to avoid some of the alarming predictions reported at the Goldman Sachs ‘Top Five Risks Conference’ Goldman Sachs reported that a catastrophic water shortage could prove an even bigger threat to mankind this century than soaring food prices and the relentless exhaustion of energy reserves. The report said water was the “petroleum for the next century”, offering huge rewards for investors who know how to play the infrastructure boom.
So how exactly do you go about playing this boom? Goldman Sachs suggest eyeing companies that produce or service filtration equipment, ultraviolet disinfection, desalination technology using membranes, automated water meters and specialist niches in water reuse.
Water re-cycling is going to be huge, particularly in the sunshine belt between California and Florida. Groundwater, in the context of our lifespans at least, is a non-renewable resource. If you drain it down, it can take hundreds of years to re-charge. Nicholas (Lord) Stern, author of the UK Government’s Stern Review on the economics of climate change, warned that underground aquifers could run dry at the same time as melting glaciers play havoc with fresh supplies of usable water.

There are a myriad of companies out there that can take salt out of water, but if someone can comes up with a) the midas touch to turn the briny waste produced into a product, or b) a lower energy method of doing it they will be on to a winner.

Paul O’ Callaghan is the founding CEO of the Clean Tech development consultancy O2 Environmental. Paul lectures on Environmental Protection technology at Kwantlen University College, is a Director with Ionic Water Technologies and an industry expert reviewer for Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

Sink Positively and Save Water

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: Environmental Designworks Sink Positive Toilet Tank Lid

What is it?
The manufacturer calls it a “multi-purpose accessory sink.” But basically it’s this fabulous direct greywater system. It’s a toilet tank lid that’s also a sink. It allows you to take the clean water that usually goes to fill your toilet tank, wash your hands with it first, and then use that to flush the toilet the next time around. You connect the sink to the water supply line in your toilet tank and then each time you flush, the water first comes out the faucet and then drains into the toilet tank.

Why is it better?
Greywater recycling in general allows for great amounts of water to be used for multiple purposes. In this world of increasing freshwater scarcity, that kind of conservation is a good thing (thank you, Captain Obvious).

The average single family home uses about 11 gallons of water from faucets daily. Let’s say just a quarter of that goes to hand washing post-bathroom use. With a Sink Positive, you would be cutting out that faucet use. It allows access to the clean tap water which normally goes straight into your toilet bowl. In all, that might save you 1,000 gallons of water a year.

But there are other benefits too. Each time you flush, that water is going to be there, allowing you to wash your hands. There’s no “accidental forgetting.” So you stay cleaner and less germy. Also, the water automatically stops running after the toilet tank runs its normal filling course. That means you don’t have to touch any faucet handles afterwards (even better for germaphobes).

And they save space! Take my apartment for example…we have a split bath. In the toilet room, there’s no sink (it’s in with the shower). But if my roommate is showering, oh no! Where do I wash my hands? Sink Positive is here to save the day. (Note: I don’t actually have one yet but I do plan on getting one as a housewarming gift for my brother as his place is set up the same way. Shhh…don’t tell. It’s a surprise.)

Where can you find it?
You can order the Sink Positive (either in Standard or Deluxe) directly from the Sink Positive website. The Standard model costs $89 and the Deluxe costs $109 (plus $10.95 S&H).

Besides her green products column on Cleantech Blog, Cristina is a passionate advocate for green living at the Green Home Huddle at Huddler.com, which focuses on electric cars, energy efficient appliances, and other green products.

Save the Suds and Water with Eco Touch Waterless Car Care

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: Eco Touch Waterless Car Care

What is it?
Eco Touch Waterless Car Care is a waterless car wash made with water, plant-derived surfactants (coconut and soy), a water-based polymer, and a soy-based solvent.
It simply requires you to spray and wipe with a microfiber towel. One 22-oz. bottle should allow you to wash your car 4 to 8 times.

Why is it better?
I first came across Eco Touch at the San Francisco Green Festival in 2007.
The founders were there and they had just come out with a waterless car wash. I picked up a bottle and have been using it ever since. It works very well on the every day wear and tear.

According to Eco Touch, the typical driveway carwash uses 100 gallons of water. That means each bottle of Waterless Car Care could save up to 800 gallons of potable water. That’s a lot of water that doesn’t need to go down the drain. Beyond that, Eco Touch is non-toxic, biodegradable, and phosphate-free. In December 2007, Eco Touch was approved as a certified green business by Co-op America.

The company has just added three new products to its line for dashboard and trim care, carpet and upholstery care, and metal polishing.

Where can you find it?

You can buy Eco Touch products directly from the company website.
Each bottle costs $9.99.

Besides her green products column on Cleantech Blog, Cristina is a passionate advocate for green living at the Green Home Huddle at Huddler.com, which focuses on electric cars, energy efficient appliances, and other green products.

Press Release:

Feb 26, 2008
The First Comprehensive Green Car Care Line is Introduced by Eco Touch

Portsmouth, New Hampshire—Eco Touch, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire based manufacturer of environmentally friendly car cleaning products is pleased to announce the national release of its comprehensive line of green car care products including Waterless Car Wash, Dash + Trim Protectant, Metal + Chrome Polish and Carpet + Upholstery Cleaner. For the first time a car can be effectively cleaned and detailed without using harmful, petroleum-based products.

Eco Touch’s Waterless Car Wash features an all-natural water-based formula with high concentrations of organic soaps and plant-based surfactants which break down surface grime. Its naturally derived polymers leave a protective layer that acts similar to a carnauba wax and gives that new-car shine. The application is simple: spray on, wipe off. No water required. Eco Touch is safe for the user and the environment. And it takes less time and less effort than a traditional car wash.

“The real challenge is changing people’s mindset”, said Eco Touch Co-Founder and Director of Sales Anne Ruozzi. “From the first Ford ever driven, water was essential to cleaning a car. Once people see the Eco Touch results, it opens their eyes to a whole new experience. Eco Touch is more than just a great option to saving our natural resources, it’s an innovative way to clean and protect a car’s finish with outstanding results.”