Beijing Beats Bush's Hydrogen Promise, Brit Kit Bags for Kenyan Vets, Energy Champs and Green Gyms, Going Green in Glastonbury, Something You Can Put Your Trust In, The Magical Mister-E Tour, No More Wasted Effort, Tree-free Paper.
February 21, 2003

Beijing Beats Bush's Hydrogen Promise
CHINA - In his State of the Union address, George W. Bush envisioned fleets of hydrogen-powered cars reaching US roads by 2020. At that rate, Detroit stands to lose the H-car Race to Bejing. China plans to have hydrogen-fueled cars rolling off the assembly lines in as little as seven years.

Scientists at the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp and Tongji University's Clean Energy Automotive Engineering Center have taken a great leap forward with the announcement of China's first hydrogen-powered car. The pollution-free Chao Yue I ("Surpass") can reach a top speed of 110 kilometers per hour (70 mpg). The only waste product of the fuel-cell engine is water so, instead of polluting the air like oil-fueled autos, the Chao Yue waters the ground.

Beijing spent $4.57 million to develop the engine and plans to spend another $10 million before commencing mass-production of H-cars by 2008.

"We lag behind our western counterparts by around 20 years in terms of conventional auto-making, but only five years for hydro-powered vehicles," Tongji University researcher Sun Zechang told the Shanghai Daily News.

And that's the dirty little secret that Bush left out of his speech - the US doesn't have to wait 18 years to produce pollution-free H-cars: With serious government support, US drivers could have been driving H-cars today. and

Brit Kit Bags for Kenyan Vets
KENYA - The residents of Kathekani, a region in eastern Kenya that borders the Tsavo Kenya's National Game Reserve, are fighting a pitched battle against the tsetse flies that afflict their cattle with trypanosomosis. Their first line of defense against the flying plague is a team of rural veterinarians (the "para-vets") who bicycle from village to village carrying medical instruments and medicines on their backs, packed into cheap plastic rucksacks. But the backpacks are cumbersome and they fall apart quickly.

Last year, Paul Mandi, one of the para-vets, wrote to the Schumacher Centre for Technology and Development [Bourton Hall, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, CV23 9QZ,] expressing the need for "a more comfortable bag made from light but tough material. It needs to be waterproof." The request was passed along to Ian Capewell, manager of the center's Sustainable Design Award.

Mandi's request caught the eye of Sarah Gaunt, a young student at Denbigh High School in the United Kingdom, who set about researching designs of back packs, saddle bags and panniers. Gaunt then determined the materials, tools and skills that were available and most affordable in Kenya. After passing several design options to the paravets for feed-back, Guant's teachers recently report that "she's almost ready to go into production."

"I've really pleased it's going to meet a real need," Guant states. "Now I've looked at another culture, I've realized how much we over-consume here and how much energy and materials we use. It's been a challenge - but I've enjoyed it."

Energy Champs and Green Gyms
UNITED KINGDOM - On January 28, Britain's National Grid company announced its latest round of Community 21 Awards for "the best new ideas in sustainability" []. The winners included a solar-heated community garden, student-run clean-up program and school in the London Borough of Hillingdon that decided to install a wind turbine to provide electricity.

The Oxford City Council was honored for its plan to deputize teams of "energy champions" to help residents lower fuel costs and carbon emissions. The Kirklees Metropolitan Council was recognized for its "Cardboard to Caviar" program, which used worms to compost shredded animal bedding while using excess worms to feed a commercial sturgeon farm.

The West Berkshire Council took top honors for a Sustainable Lifestyles project that provided new residents with "welcome" baskets containing recycling kits and energy-saving products. Finally, the Sedgemore District Council was saluted for an innovative alternative to the commercial indoor "health spa." Sedgemore's "Green Gym" project created free outdoor exercise areas for residents who preferred to keep trim by exercising al fresco.

Going Green in Glastonbury
UNITED KINGDOM - On January 21, the town of Glastonbury became the 121st municipality to launch a Green Business Club to help local businesses "eliminate, reduce and recycle waste." The club was born from the collaboration of the Glastonbury Chamber of Commerce and the nonprofit Sustainable Living Company.

Carol Bond of Envirowise, the UK's waste reduction agency, noted that "legislation, stiff penalties and rising operating costs are forcing businesses across the board to reduce their use of resources."

One of the town's first initiatives was the promotion of a "Real Glastonbury Breakfast" designed to minimized transportation costs by offering meals of eggs, bacon, butter, bread, cereals and fruit all produced locally, within a 40-mile radius of the city center. Glastonbury has also won a Green Tourism Merit Award for supporting eco-friendly hotels, cafes and tourist attractions.

More than 480 local companies were invited to enjoy a free "Glastonbury Breakfast" while learning about cost-saving ways to reduce their consumption of materials, water and electricity.

Something You Can Put Your Trust In
USA - While owning a home is the American Dream, the task of actually buying a house (especially during the Bush administration's surplus-sapping recession) can be a nightmare. One innovative way to help the non-rich to enjoy the pleasures of home-ownership is through a "community land trust" (CLT).

A CLT lowers the cost of a home by separating the cost of the house from the cost of the land it sits on. A non-profit land trust purchases the land so the homeowner only has to pay for the house. This strategy not only lowers the entry level for home ownership, it also works to stabilize property prices - even during periods of rampant speculation.

There are now 5,000 "land trust" homes in 31 states stretching from Burlington, Vermont to the San Juan Islands off the Washington coast. The Community Land Trust Network reports that the number of community land trusts (CLTs) has "exploded, particularly in markets where the price of housing has become outrageously high."

As Ian Williams, the interim executive director of the Northern California Land Trust observes, with "the real estate market going sky-high and having the entire middle class unable to buy anything·we really have to do something."

Homeowners typically agree to take a "limited profit" if they decide to sell their homes. The remainder of the profit goes to support the expansion of the trust fund.

Community Land Trust Network, Institute for Community Economics, Inc., 57 School Street , Springfield, MA 01105-1331, (413) 746-8660, Fax: (413) 746-8862,,

Magical "Mister E" Tour
USA - Thirty-one-year-old Californian Trathen Heckman runs a one-man environmental roadshow called the Sustainability Tour, which introduces fellow residents of northern California to the practicality of sustainable lifestyles. Heckman, who also spends his time as a computer programmer and snowboarder, has turned the concept of "door-to-door" salesmanship inside out. When people sign up for one of Heckman's tours, they find themselves going "on-the-road" and knocking on the doors of a variety of green businesses and organic farmers who are profiting from living sustainably.

Heckman, an enthusiastic environmental entrepreneur who is also known as "Mister E," typically begins his Sustainability Tours at Laguna Farms, a community-supported organic farm in Sebastopol, north of San Francisco. Heckman praises the farm's use of solar power and wind energy and notes that "they just converted their tractors to run on vegetable oil, so they're beyond organic."

The tour then moves on to Eric Ohlson's organic outpost "in a backyard in the middle of downtown Santa Rosa" where guest learn about permaculture gardening and how to use worms to compost food scraps in an urban setting.

On the outskirts of the nearby town of Occidental, lies Ocean Song, a conventional home that has been "naturalized" with earth plasters and natural paints. Visitors are also introduced to homes built from straw-bales and cob, a moldable, adobe-like mixture of sand, clay and straw.

The day-long excursion ends in Monte Rio, where Heckman makes his home. True to his calling, Heckman insists on hauling his charges through northern California's eco-wonderland in an assortment of vehicles powered by electric motors, biodiesel and vegetable oil.

Heckman's next Sustainability Tour is set for 10 AM- 4 PM Saturday, Mary 25. The deadline for reservations is May 18. Contact: Daily Acts, Box 826, Monte Rio, CA 95462, (707) 865-2915, Suggested donation: $10-$20.

No More Wasted Effort
USA - The 15,000 families and the industries that populate Oroville, California saw their sewer bills drop last year when the local utility installed a massive 520-kW Sun Power photovoltaic system. The PV array, the fifth largest in the US and the largest dual-tilt PV system in the world, was placed in operation last November. Solar power is now providing 80 percent of the energy used by the sewage treatment plant.

The Oroville Sewerage Commission decided to go solar after watching its grid-based electric bills soar 41% over the previous two years. The new panels will provide enough power to treat 1.2 billion gallons of wastewater annually, saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars and avoiding rate hikes for Oroville residents.

Sun Power president Dan Thompson boasts that the three-acre spread of panels "shows what solar is really capable of. It can power a critical utility for an entire district, pay for itself in a few years, save money and do it cleanly."

Sun Power, which has been recognized as one of the "Hot 100" fasted growing companies in the US, has also installed a 31-kW solar panel system atop the police headquarters in Vallejo, California.


Tree-free Paper
USA - A number of environmental organizations have undertaken the extra effort and expense to shift their publishing to tree-free paper made from kenaf, a fast-growing annual plant that is related to the hibiscus.

According to Vision Paper, a major kenaf manufacture based in New Mexico, these enlightened green groups include the Environmental Research Foundation [] which has published its widely honored Rachel's Environment and Health Weekly on kenaf since 1995), the Glen Canyon Action Network [] publishes its newsletter, Living Rivers Currents, on tree-free paper, the Allegheny Defense Project [] prints its Hellbender Journal on kenaf, Johnny's Selected Seeds [] prints its planting newsletter on plant paper and the Dionondehowa Wildlife Sanctuary and School [] was an early convert to the use of kenaf paper.

Contact: Vision Paper, 4930 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, (505) 2924-0293,

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