Mr. Motavalli

Eco-Friendly Practices

Points of Light: The World Wakes Up to Climate Change

By Jim Motavalli, Editor, E Magazine

There are 60,000 square feet of solar panels on San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center, enough to power 675 houses, and all new municipal buildings in the city by the bay must comply with U.S. Green Building Council standards. In Portland, Oregon, transportation activists and the "Green Team" (made up of city employee volunteers) sponsor Car Free and Care Free (CFCF) weeks that encourage employees to get out of their cars by telecommuting or by using alternative transportation. In 2005, 1,900 commuters took part, avoiding: 37,630 auto trips, 317,000 vehicle miles traveled and the emission of 317,974 pounds of the major global warming gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). And in Buffalo, New York, General Motors' Tonawanda Engine Plant has drastically reduced emissions and gone "landfill free," a feat it achieved by reducing waste generation, recycling and converting waste to energy.

Welcome to a new world, where the debate over the science of global warming is over, but the hard work of combating it-with only a very limited window of opportunity-is only just beginning. We have to act quickly. According to new studies published last March in the respected journal Science, warming temperatures are likely to cause a catastrophic, long-term meltdown on the roof of the world in Greenland and in Antarctica. Scientists say we have a decade at most to reduce our emissions and avoid a nightmare scenario that would flood not only below-sea-level New Orleans, but also much of south Florida and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, as well as the California coast.

The average global temperature, according to the international climate scientists banded together in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will rise by three to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century.

The public is only beginning to wake up to the reality of climate change. A record 57 percent of Americans, according to the most recent Gallup Poll, now believe that climate change is underway, but only 36 percent say they worry about it "a great deal." Worse, an ABC/Time/Stanford University poll reveals that 64 percent think there's "a lot of disagreement" among climate scientists on the reality of global warming, when there's actually a near total consensus. According to a Science essay by Naomi Oreskes, 935 peer-reviewed papers on global warming appeared from 1993 to 2005 and, of 700 that dealt with modern climate change, none challenged the consensus that humans were causing global warming. Another 54 percent of poll respondents think climate change is "a problem for the future," versus only 44 percent who think it's already a serious problem.

A team of researchers reported in the journal Nature that, unless the world is getting half its energy from non-carbon sources by 2018, we will see an inevitable doubling-and possible tripling-of atmospheric carbon levels later this century. Another study, published in Science, called for a Manhattan-type crash project to develop renewable energy. Using conservative estimates of future energy use, they found that within 50 years, humanity will need to be generating at least three times more energy from non-carbon sources than the world currently produces from fossil fuels to avoid climate disaster.

Despite the refusal by Australia and the U.S. to ratify the international Kyoto Accords, they have gone into effect, adopted by 55 industrialized nations (responsible for 55 percent of global emissions). The Kyoto signatories have pledged to cut six key greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. It probably won't be enough, since some climate scientists say that a far more dramatic 60 percent cut is needed to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

It is unclear how many countries can actually meet their Kyoto commitments. In the environmentally oriented European Union, for instance, only England and Sweden are on track to meet their targets. Among the leading countries with emission problems are Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Austria and Belgium.

But it's far too early to give in to despair, since important carbon-saving programs are being launched below the radar, often by local governments, private companies and even ambitious individuals. The best initiatives use novel approaches and innovative thinking to achieve real emission reductions, tapping into and modifying consumer habits and ingrained business practices.

Countries worldwide have already begun making major changes in the way they do business, creating "cap and trade" CO2 emissions schemes; writing global warming reduction into procurement policies; mandating clean-fuel municipal fleets; and subsidizing clean energy projects. London, England now has its own Climate Change Agency, and is committed to a 20 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2010. Denmark has also announced a switch to clean energy; it is already 20 percent wind powered, and the Danish Wind Energy Association's goal is to produce 35 percent of national energy needs by 2015.

But those are only a few of the many ambitious projects that are acting to fill the void caused by official U.S. inaction on the issue. Here's a country-by-country survey, compiled mostly by local writers, that is by no means complete but representative of a world waking up to the realities of climate change:

North America

The California Law: High-Stakes on Emissions

"Ten states have adopted California's clean car emission rules," says a clearly energized Dan Becker, the Sierra Club's climate change coordinator. "This is about the most exciting thing out there to fight global warming, and it shows that the U.S. doesn't have to have its head in the sand. Governors and mayors get it even if the President doesn't."

In 2004, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) approved regulations that would result in a dramatic 22 percent reduction in global warming emissions from vehicles by 2012, and a 30 percent reduction by 2016. That's coupled with California's existing regulations (far more stringent than those put in place by the federal government) to cut the tailpipe emissions that cause local smog. States have the option of following California's tough standards or the feds' relaxed ones, and an increasing number of legislatures are siding with Sacramento.

Becker and other campaigners talk about a "tipping point" at which automakers will finally want to relieve themselves of the burden of producing two versions of their cars and trucks-a super-clean one for California states and a dirtier one for everyone else. That point will be reached when states all around the country sign on to the California program, creating a shipping nightmare for Detroit. One or two more states may force the automakers' hands.

To comply with California's global warming provisions, the automakers would have to make their vehicles more fuel efficient, and with most of their profits coming from SUVs they've been loathe to do that. Through the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), the carmakers filed suit in 2004 against the California law, claiming that it would cost consumers an average of $3,000 extra for a compliant car, and that only the federal government is empowered to set fuel economy standards.

"What the auto companies should be doing is letting their engineers figure out how to work with these standards," says Bill Magavern, the Sierra Club's senior representative in Sacramento. "Instead, they're letting their lawyers loose." Magavern dismisses as "ridiculous" the automakers' argument about fuel economy jurisdiction. "The California law is about global warming emissions, not fuel economy," he says. "And the federal law was drafted in the 1970s, before climate change was even an issue."

Meanwhile, California, 11 other states and a coalition of cities (including Baltimore, Washington and New York), environmental groups and the island of American Samoa (which is threatened by sea-level rise) are fighting a court battle with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which said in 2003 that it had no authority to regulate CO2 or three other global warming gasses produced by vehicles. The EPA ruling was upheld by a federal appeals court last year, but the states are determined to carry the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court. "It's time for the EPA to step up and fulfill its responsibility to fight this problem," says California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

Federal intransigence on global warming will likely continue as long as President Bush is in the White House. But the states and environmental groups are looking beyond his administration, when a friendlier approach is almost a given. Nearly every 2008 Presidential candidate of either party takes climate change more seriously than does President Bush.

Hull, Massachusetts: Winds of Change

John MacLeod, operations manager of Hull, Massachusetts' Municipal Light Plant, gestured out past Windmill Point across the bay, with the city of Boston visible in the distance. "We intend to have 100 percent renewably generated power in Hull," he says. "By 2009 or 2010, we want to install four offshore turbines totaling up to 15 megawatts."

MacLeod was standing next to the tower of Hull Wind I, a Danish-made 660-kilowatt Vestas turbine that has the distinction of being the first commercial-scale windmill to go online anywhere on the eastern coastline of the U.S. It's also, if you want to get technical, the first commercial-scale turbine in suburbia, and the first within walking distance of mass transit-in this case, a ferry line.

Last April, Hull had a brand-new distinction: It now has not one but two wind turbines. Hull Wind II, a much larger Vestas turbine (1.8 megawatts) was installed at the town's landfill. According to Malcolm Brown, vice chairman of the Hull Light Board, the new turbine is expected to produce three times the electricity of the first one and will enable the city to get 10 percent of its energy from wind.

Unlike Cape Cod, where vociferous NIMBY opposition threatens to doom the much larger offshore Cape Wind project, Hull's efforts have drawn only token "viewshed" opposition. One homeowner claimed it was like "putting oil derricks on Waikiki Beach," but only a few others agreed. In almost five years of operation, no one is aware of a single bird kill resulting from the first turbine, and noise complaints have been minimal.

In Hyannis, meanwhile, a vocal group of opponents under the banner of the well-heeled Alliance to Save Nantucket Sound is pulling out all the stops to kill Cape Wind. The alliance has powerful allies in Senators Ted Kennedy and John Warner, Governor Mitt Romney, and other prominent politicians.

Hull remains distinctly wind-friendly. And there are 40 towns in Massachusetts that have municipally owned electric utilities, a situation that is ideal for public wind power. Towns like Hull can generate a kilowatt of electricity for 3.4 cents, but because of production tax credits and tradable renewable energy certificates (RECs), it takes in 6.3 cents. "We get the financial benefit, plus because it's a green source of energy the turbine becomes a focus of goodwill for the town," says Hull selectwoman Joan Meschino.

Around the U.S., wind power generates less than one percent of energy needs, so Hull is running at 10 times the national average. "I think we could probably sign the Kyoto Protocols on our own," says Brown. "The Hull experience shows it is easier to win approval for wind projects if the benefits are enjoyed close to home, flowing to the local residents transparently and directly. This way the project is ours, not theirs. We're the investors and we're the beneficiaries." Currently, Massachusetts towns Arlington and Ipswitch are looking into following Hull's lead.

Seattle: The Mayors' Initiative

As of May 4, 230 U.S. mayors representing 45 million Americans had signed on to be part of the solution. The document they signed was the Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, which commits its signatories to acting locally to address global warming.

The agreement launched by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels started small, with 10 municipal leaders signing their names in March 2005. But it has been expanding daily. If you check Mayor Nickels' web page today, you're likely to find far more than 230 names.

The mayors aren't getting involved with climate change because it's a "feel good" issue; they have real concerns. "Small, localized flooding of the Potomac River in Old Town is a regular occurrence and is now a manageable problem," says Alexandria, Virginia Mayor William Euille. "With the impact of global climate change, flooding will become a significant issue, impacting public safety, causing property damage and affecting the city's economy." Adds Mayor Carolyn Peterson of Ithaca, New York, "I chose April 24, the day Ithaca celebrated Earth Day, to announce the city's participation in this agreement, and we made the announcement next to our wastewater plant, where methane is recovered for energy production."

Seattle is not only spearheading a national campaign, it is acting locally. The municipal government has already reduced its own emissions from car fleets, buildings and other sources by more than 60 percent below 1990 levels. It boasts a mostly hydro-powered municipal utility, City Light, with zero net greenhouse gas emissions.

Last year, Mayor Nickels created the Green Ribbon Commission on Climate Protection, chaired by Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation, and Orin Smith, president and CEO of Starbucks. The group's report calls for a wide variety of highly specific reforms, including reducing Seattle's auto dependence and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 170,000 tons annually through increased use of public transit (already likely, as the city's light rail system is finally under construction), doubling the number of striped bike lanes and bike trails, as well as increasing pedestrian access, imposing a commercial parking tax for downtown to discourage car-based commuting, charging drivers progressively priced "user fees" (also known as tolls) with revenues going to transit projects, and using zoning policy to expand walkable, transit-friendly neighborhoods.

Seattle has 400,000 vehicles, and the Green Ribbon Commission wants to see them running on bio-fuels or electricity, if not left at home entirely in favor of walking, biking and car-sharing. The car fleet should also become cleaner overall, because Washington State is now signed on to California's very clean tailpipe standards, meaning vehicles with near-zero evaporative emissions will be on state roads. The commission also recommended reducing diesel emissions by the cruise and freight industries (partly by providing clean electricity at the docks and rerouting truck corridors) and increasing the use of natural gas.

The mayor's office of sustainability created its own "action agenda," which calls for the city to reduce its paper use at the end of 2006 by 30 percent, and to purchase only 100 percent recycled copy paper. It calls for development of a Bicycle Master Plan, which theoretically could echo the reforms that have been put in place in Portland, Oregon (mandatory bike racks on buildings, bikes on buses and trains, free showers downtown for bikers, and more). The office also wants to plant 1,500 new trees in downtown neighborhoods and business districts, restore 60 acres of urban forest, and remove 20 miles of logging roads in the Cedar River Watershed.

Can Seattle actually do all this? Politically, it appears that Mayor Nickels can't be stopped. In 2005, he spent $500,000 to get re-elected, steamrolling over a field of primary and general election opponents who together managed to raise only $24,000.

"What we want to do is difficult but not impossible," says mayoral spokesperson Marty McOmber. "Obviously, there are a lot of challenges, and Seattle can't do it alone. We need partners, including county governments, the state and the regional transportation agencies. But Seattle is a very environmentally conscious city, and it's very concerned about global warming. So if we can't do it here, it's hard to imagine doing it elsewhere."

Chicago: Following the Green Plan

Last June, when 45 American mayors heeded actor Robert Redford's invitation and showed up in Utah to describe steps they were taking to respond to global warming, the unquestioned star of the conference was Chicago's Democratic Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Since taking office in 1989, Daley has steadfastly pursued an increasingly sophisticated economic development strategy based on making America's third-largest city greener, more energy-efficient, more environmentally sensitive and more prosperous. At the Sundance Summit, Daley framed his environmental agenda around the steps he's taken to reduce emissions of global warming gases. But in other venues, he's marketed Chicago's green initiative around improvements to public transit, water and wetland conservation, energy efficiency, park restoration, open space protection, green building design and construction, and encouraging workers and residents to walk instead of drive.

Chicago, in the mayor's parlance, is not only determined to be the "greenest city in America," it probably already is.

Though Daley's environmental program started as a vigorous effort to replace the urban forest of his youth that was lost to various blights-his administration has planted more than 500,000 trees-it has blossomed into something much bigger.

One way to combat global warming, says Daley, is to erect the most energy-efficient and environmentally sensitive buildings in the country. Buildings use a third of the country's energy, after all. Daley ordered all of Chicago's new police and fire stations, schools and libraries to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, an initiative that spurred duplicate programs in New York, Salt Lake City and elsewhere. Since 2001, when the mayor installed an energy-conserving, heat-reducing green roof on City Hall, some 200 other green roofs covering 2.5 million square feet have been constructed in the Windy City.

The city also isn't afraid of using market forces to encourage greenhouse gas reductions. Developers are provided much faster permitting if they construct "green" buildings. The city purchased one megawatt worth of solar panels from a local supplier, and 1.2 megawatts of solar hot water heating systems for its municipal buildings in order to spur a budding local solar manufacturing sector. The mayor also promised to secure 20 percent of the electricity used by the city from renewable sources, though the date for achieving that goal is not yet clear.

How much all this is helping to reduce the effects of climate change is difficult to quantify. But Chicago is gradually developing measurements of performance. City-owned buildings, for example, are undergoing energy efficiency retrofits. The modernization of old fire stations alone this year will save $250,000 in electricity costs and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 3,515 tons, according to David O'Donnell, who oversees intergovernmental affairs for the city's Department of Environment.

Thompsonville, Michigan: Where's the Snow?

Jim MacInnes, the president and general manager of Crystal Mountain, this region's largest private employer, says he "hates waste."

That's why the 56-year-old executive, an electrical engineer by training, buys high-efficiency motors and energy-saving appliances, insists on conserving water, and pursues environmentally sensitive design and construction practices to save money and reduce pollution at his successful northern Michigan ski resort.

MacInnes' Scottish values also are designed to do his part in combating the warming winter temperatures that are steadily reducing the length of the ski season, and putting Crystal Mountain's business plan at risk. Ski resort operators in northern Michigan report that the average length of the winter season has shrunk from 127 days in the 1980s to 115 to 120 days in this decade. Crystal Mountain counts on winter sports to attract 200,000 visitors, who generate more than half of the resort's annual revenue.

"When I first came here we had more natural snow earlier in the season," says MacInnes. "It got cold earlier in the season. Normally we'd be open in the first week of December. Now it's usually a week or two later."

According to a Colorado College report published in April, the potential effects of global warming on the snow sports industry are even more severe in the eight Rocky Mountain states. The climate-trend model used by the college showed that by mid-century, in every region, springtime snowpack is likely to decrease by at least 37 percent. In Taos, New Mexico, and in the mountains near Salt Lake City, the spring snowpack could drop by 80 percent, more than enough to have "devastating effects on ski areas in the region," says the study.

Crystal Mountain is among the most active resorts on global warming issues in the Midwest. Alone among its peers in Michigan, Crystal Mountain joined 70 ski resorts in 20 other states in signing a letter last year supporting the Climate Stewardship Act, a Congressional proposal to begin limiting greenhouse gases.

MacInnes' company, which dates to 1956, buys low-wattage lights and air-conditions in the summer with cold water drawn from wells that also is recycled for use on its golf courses. The company's construction program discourages waste, relies on high R-value insulation, and emphasizes green building principles.

These and other environmental measures, including offering guests menu items prepared with locally grown organic fruits, vegetables, grains and meats, will not solve global climate change. But because of Crystal Mountain's size and influence-it employs 600 people in the winter-the resort's environmental focus is stimulating other regional employers to follow suit.

"Global warming is a real problem and we think there needs to be movement on it," says MacInnes.

New Mexico: The World's Biggest "Solar Farm"

New Mexico is stepping up to the climate change challenge by lassoing its most abundant resource: the sun. In April, state officials signed a lease allowing construction of a massive, $1.6 billion solar facility on state lands near the town of New Deming, in the southern part of the state. The 300-megawatt solar farm, which will generate enough juice to power 240,000 homes, will be the largest solar operation in the world.

New Solar Ventures and Solar Torx, which will jointly operate the facility, also plan to build a factory nearby to make photovoltaic panels for the farm.

The new solar giant, which will take advantage of New Deming's 350 days of sunshine a year, is part of Governor Bill Richardson's push to make the desert state the "Saudi Arabia of renewable energy" and slash its greenhouse gas emissions. Richardson, a Democrat who served as Secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton, has pledged to reduce the state's output of CO2 and other global warming pollutants to 2000 levels by 2012 and 75 percent below those levels by 2050-one of the first oil- and gas-producing states to commit to such a target.

"The federal government has been inactive on climate change, so states and cities are taking action on their own," says Richardson. "I hope we are setting an example for others to follow."

Richardson, who recently traded in his self-described "big SUV" for a hybrid Ford Escape, also joined with Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sponsor a region-wide "clean and diversified energy initiative." Adopted by the Western Governors Association, the initiative calls for the development of 30,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2015 and a 20 percent boost in efficiency by 2020.

The solar farm and panel factory, which still need federal approval to build on adjacent federal lands, should be up and running within the next five years.

WESTERN EUROPE

Sweden: Oil-Free by 2020

In late 2005, the Swedish government caused a mix of worldwide excitement and astonishment when it announced its ambition to break the country's dependency of oil by 2020. As the second-most environmentally friendly country in the Environmental Performance Index (behind New Zealand), Sweden is now clearly aiming for the number one spot.

"Climate change is the greatest and most important environmental challenge of our time," says Mona Sahlin, Swedish Minister for Sustainable Development. Martina Krueger, energy expert at Greenpeace Sweden says, "The target might sound a bit ambitious, but considering that Sweden's consumption of fossil fuels is already rather low compared to other countries, it can be achieved. The main focus will be on the transport sector."

Environmentally friendly cars in Sweden already receive a package of tax reductions, free parking and exemption from environmental charges, such as Stockholm's congestion fee. Further, beginning last April all major gas stations in Sweden are obligated by law to offer either sustainably produced ethanol or biogas.

Ethanol in the U.S. is a corn byproduct. In Europe, ethanol is produced from a wide variety of agricultural products, including forest residue (a pilot plant is up and running, and seven more are planned), sugar beets and grains.

The Swedish car industry is embracing the current developments. Saab's 9-5 BioPower vehicles run on E85 ethanol (which contains 15 percent gasoline). Volvo, meanwhile, has sold 7,500 bi-fuel cars that can run on either gasoline or methane (sourced from landfills and waste sludge). Because using it in vehicles avoids its release into the atmosphere, bio-gas is a zero net climate contributor.

"Right now, 350 of the 4,000 gas stations in Sweden offer ethanol, and bio-gas is available at 70," says Matthias Goldman of Gr"ona Bilister (the Swedish Association for Motorists). "By the end of 2006 the number of gas stations offering ethanol will double."

"The Swedish companies have recognized that clean cars are important for future business, and the domestic market offers a perfect test for them," says Goldman, who believes that renewable fuels will be ready to take over by 2020.

Peter Hagst"om, a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, is skeptical about such a quick transition to bio-fuels, but is optimistic about the long term. In a recent study, he found that waste products from Sweden's forestry industry could provide enough bio-energy to cover 95 percent of the country's vehicle fuel needs, or 39 percent of its electricity generation needs.

"A lot of research is needed to be able to make full use of the potential of biomass," says Hagst"om. The government is currently budgeting $110 million per year for the effort.

If all goes according to plan, Sweden will be the first country in the world to become independent of oil. Against a backdrop of constantly rising oil prices, other countries are likely to follow Sweden's example by developing their own unique energy portfolios, based on their available resources.

Germany: Green Beacon of Alternative Power

One of the world's foremost proponents of zero-emission energy, Germany is home to what is, at least for now, the world's largest solar electric system, the Bavaria Solarpark. Further north, development has started on the country's first wave energy system. When the Social Democrat/Green coalition took the helm under Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder in 1998, the push for renewable energy in Germany began to accelerate and it shows no sings of abating.

Spread over 62 acres and using 57,600 solar panels, the Bavaria Solarpark went live last year with 10 megawatts of power. Berkeley, California-based PowerLight constructed the park on three separate Bavarian sites: Muehlhausen, Guenching and Minihof. "During its anticipated lifetime of at least 20 years, the solar systems of Bavaria Solarpark will produce hundreds of millions of kilowatt hours of clean electricity," says PowerLight CEO Thomas Dinwoodie. "Our system uses solar tracking technology, which follows the sun rather than remaining stationary. It is reliably producing clean, renewable energy." For the most part, the solar panels are not visible from the ground, avoiding the "eyesore" complaints that have bedeviled the country's plentiful wind turbines.

Germany is also looking to harness the energy in the waves of the North Sea. The system proposed by Voith Siemens Hydro would be the world's first commercial-scale, grid-connected wave power station, providing 250 kilowatts of energy to 120 households. It could generate 400 megawatt hours of zero-emission electricity annually.

While the proposed station isn't breaking any records (for that, look to the new four-to-seven-megawatt station being built by Wave Dragon in Wales), it certainly shows that Germany wants to be a player in the field. "The world's largest photovoltaic system further validates Germany's forward-looking energy policies," says Dinwoodie.

Spain: Emissions Trading on the Agenda

Spain has very good reasons to be worried about global warming. In a continent not known for tropical climates, Spain has its only desert. Beach-based tourism at resorts like Malaga and Torremolinos accounts for 11 percent of Spain's national economy.

According to the country's environmental ministry, in the last 100 years Spain has warmed up 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to a European average of .95 degrees. Summer temperatures that currently reach 113 degrees Fahrenheit could rise by as much as seven degrees by 2070 to 2100, the government said, threatening Spain's ski industry.

Spain's beaches also face inundation by seawater that could rise more than two feet by 2100. Rare species, including lynx, bears and migrating birds are also under threat from ecosystem changes.

Spain is a Kyoto signatory, but is not close to meeting its goals. In 2002, Spain was 40 percent over the 1990 baseline, despite the target of achieving 5.2 percent under 1990 levels by 2012. Today, the most recent report to the European Commission shows the Spanish government in excess by 47 percent. That means 8.5 million extra tons of CO2, mitigation of which could cost 80 million euros (more than $100 million).

Spain is hoping that emissions trading will reduce its global footprint. On May 5, in Barcelona, Spain's Fundaci'o F`orum Ambiental and Sendeco launched ExpoCO2 as the first point of contact between Spanish industrialists and the new stock market for CO2 emissions trading. The trading will help Spain comply with its Kyoto commitments, says Javier Tordable, manager of Sendeco. Companies that emit CO2 below established limits can sell their emission rights to companies that are out of compliance and profit from their good environmental performance. The plan uses dedicated software that tracks federally set emission levels for some 1,000 Spanish companies, and facilitates trades.

EASTERN EUROPE

The Czech Republic: Breaking out of the Energy Shell

Czechoslovakia had a thriving business culture many years ago, before Vaclav Havel's so-called "Velvet Revolution" of 1989 and before the Second World War. Generations of small companies operated by inventive craftsmen with good mechanical skills serviced heavy industries. In recent years, however, the dormant smaller business sector has only partly come back to life.

Local businessman Zdenek Lomecky expects to give it a good try. Helped by the Renewable Energy and Energy-Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), he wants to jump-start a vigorous new incubator called the sustainable energy accelerator, or e5-SEA.

"We are approaching a West European enterprise culture, but the old system is still very much in evidence," Lomecky explains. As a completely new industry, the renewable energy sector provides a welcome channel for introducing new business practices, and for keeping money in the domestic economy.

Backed by REEEP and the European Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the project has many challenges. Partly as a result of its former isolation, cronyism continues to damage the productivity and growth of a sustainable economy by creating unfair market conditions. This is particularly true of German-speaking businesses, which are often the butt of Czech prejudice.

But now the timing is excellent, because the Czech Republic passed a renewable energy law in 2005 introducing subsidies for wind, photovoltaics, geothermal, hydro, biomass, landfill- and bio-gas for 15 years.

Biomass is widely thought to provide the greatest potential for renewable energy, because its production can be both low-tech and decentralized. "Small businesses will benefit less from wind energy, because the technology is so expensive," says Lomecky. The potential for small hydro plants-previously the main form of renewable energy-has by now been largely realized.

Estonian Energy at the Crossroads: Wind, Solar or Nuclear?

The small northern European country of Estonia has an estimated five billion tons of oil shale reserves, so it's not surprising that this resource drives the country's electricity production. But joining the European Union is forcing Estonia to abandon this somewhat antique (and dirty) habit and find a cleaner way to quench its fast-growing thirst for energy.

According to Greenpeace, shale oil production results in four times the greenhouse gas emissions of standard oil refining, as well as highly toxic dioxins. Nevertheless, the Bush administration is calling oil shale "a domestic resource with staggering potential," and is funding experimental efforts on U.S. federal land to exploit the relatively expensive energy source.

The Estonian energy market is dominated by the state-owned monopoly Eesti Energia (Estonian Energy). Annually, 10.5 billion tons of oil shale is mined, which fuels the two power plants that produce 95 percent of the country's electricity. Both plants are in eastern Estonia, just a few miles from the Russian border. Olavi Tammem"ae, deputy minister of environment, points out that this makes electricity generation "an issue of national security."

As a legacy of Soviet occupation (1940-1991), most workers in the east Estonian oil shale mines are Russian speakers who relocated from the Soviet Union. Oil shale, then, is a delicate issue: It's not only about producing electricity, but also keeping thousands employed and therefore loyal to their new homeland.

But oil shale power is very polluting, and a mere 33 percent efficient. Only a small part of the shale is burned, and the rest is dumped as ash and gangue, resulting in huge waste mountains. The process is also heavily water intensive.

According to EU's directives, Estonia has to open its energy market 35 percent by 2008 and fully by 2012, when all EU companies will be allowed to sell energy in the country. Estonia is also directed to impose pollution taxes on oil shale by 2013. Expensive, polluting and ineffective oil shale power will be forced out of the market one way or another.

Eesti Energia, which favors centralized power, wants to join Latvia in buying a share in a new Lithuanian nuclear plant. This plan is supported by many politicians and scientists, and also by 50 percent of the Estonian people in a recent poll. The plant is likely to begin construction next autumn.

Meanwhile, Internet businessman and visionary Rainer N~olvak is calling for 100 percent green energy. Marek Strandberg, chairperson of the Estonian Fund for Nature, supports the idea. "Estonia could be 100 percent sustainable, if we are talking about electricity and heat," he says. "We have adequate wind resources. We can combine wind power with a power link to Sweden, allowing us to buy energy on calm days and to sell on windy days. Next step would be hydrogen fuel cells to help through the highs and lows of wind energy. Then biogas, solar panels and micro-turbines."

Deputy Minister Tammem"ae also prefers wind and biomass over nuclear, but is skeptical that Strandberg's revolution could be easily achieved. He believes in environmental tax reform, which would give entrepreneurs a choice: pay environmental taxes that rise every year on dirty industries, or invest in a new and cleaner technology. The first phase of environmental taxation was put in place by the Estonian legislature last year. The next step, Tammem"ae says, is taxation of energy products and transportation. "I see the political will to go on with this reform," he says.

ASIA

China: A New Course for the Ship of State

China is the second-largest emitter of global warming gas, with a population four times that of the largest emitter (the U.S.). Ryan Wiser, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab who conducts energy policy analysis in China, says the country (with 12 percent annual economic growth) has seen a 15 percent increase in energy demand over the last couple of years.

More than 80 percent of that growth has been met with new coal-burning power stations, which worries scientists since coal is one of the most serious global warming aggravators. However, China's government passed a comprehensive renewable energy law that went into effect last January. It enabled the widespread development of solar, wind, geothermal, small hydro and biomass, and also encourages research into tidal power.

Jan Hamrin, president of the Center for Resource Solutions, a U.S. renewable energy organization working in China, says Chinese officials were receptive to the security and environmental benefits of the technology. "Almost everyone in China is painfully aware of the air pollution, most of which is caused by the burning of coal," she says. "That pollution results in respiratory disease, increasing the cost of health care, and lowers agricultural production. One estimate by the Chinese government is that China's farms perform 30 percent below what they should just because of acid rain."

The government has set an impressive target of 15 percent renewable energy by 2020. "Given the rate at which China's demand is increasing, that's a huge commitment," says Hamrin. The target excludes large hydropower, but sets a host of internal targets for biomass, wind and small hydro. "One thing is important to recognize here," cautions Wiser. "Laws in China generally look a lot different than laws in the U.S. They tend to be broad statements of political principle, often not backed by enforcement mechanisms."

At the 2004 China Wind Power Summit, Huang Yicheng, president of the China Energy Research Association, noted that China has a potential wind power capacity of 250 gigawatts, the largest in the world. Recently, GE Energy supplied 34.5 megawatts of wind turbines for the first large-scale project in mainland China's Hebei Province.

"China is like a supertanker, says Hamrin. "It takes an awful lot to make it change course, and you can push and push and you're not always sure that you're having an effect. But once it starts to change, it is very hard to stop."

India: Conquering Gridlock?

In one of the world's most polluted cities, long-time advocates for air pollution control are now pressuring the government to introduce measures that would also decrease global warming. The New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says that the recent rise of individual car ownership in India needs to be controlled, and quickly.

India, the world's second-most populous nation, currently produces six percent of the world's greenhouse gases. And Indian CO2 emissions are projected to increase 102.4 percent between 2001 and 2025, according to the Government Accounting Office. Only China will experience a larger rise.

Under the leadership of Sunita Narain, CSE is pressuring the government to improve public transportation, so people will actually use it. Of the 35 cities in India with more than a million residents, only eight have viable bus services, and the road tax for buses in Delhi is approximately twice that of cars. Buses carry up to 61 percent of metropolitan traffic, but are only three percent of the highway vehicle mix.

CSE is also pressuring the government to introduce fuel-efficiency standards and research new vehicle technology. USAID is working in India to develop the country's first zero emission battery-powered electric car, the Reva, which is being test marketed in several other countries, including Japan and China. What is needed in India, CSE claims, is nothing less than to "reinvent the idea of mobility."

The Philippines: Reforesting and Reforming

It is the practice of Filipino families to spend time in resorts and bathing in rivers and waterfalls during summer to temporarily escape the cruel heat. That practice has taken on a new urgency as global warming is turning the Philippines into one of the world's hot spots.

According to USAID, land-use changes brought on by overpopulation are responsible for a major increase in CO2 emissions. The country's inefficient electrical generation and energy sector contribute 50 percent of those emissions, and deforestation is also a serious problem. Manila, with a population of 12 million, is one of the world's most polluted cities, with particulate levels four times above national standards.

But solutions are in sight. In the Philippines, a recent global warming educational effort by the media is bringing cooperation among the people, the government and the private sector. The campaign has encouraged some big companies to get involved in projects such as recycling of solid waste to save energy. Glass, paper, plastics and aluminum cans are now being recycled, as are car batteries, broken electronics and appliances. Also recaptured are used motor oil, ink and toner cartridges and tires. Metro Manila generates nearly 7,000 tons of solid waste a day. About 13 percent is captured now, but experts hope that will improve.

Aid programs have helped the Philippines government place some 1.4 million acres of forest land under protection. The Save the La Mesa Watershed project is spearheaded by the Bantay Kalikasan (Environment Watch), which gathered five million signatures to help pass the Philippines Clean Air Act in 1999. The 6,600-acre La Mesa Forest, next to the Sierra Madre ranges in Luzon, provides many benefits, and acts as the largest CO2 sink in the national capital region. La Mesa also hosts the reservoir that supplies water for millions of residents in Metro Manila.

Eight years ago, La Mesa Watershed was badly denuded by rampant burning of trees so that the area could be turned into illegal vegetable gardens. But the watershed has been reforested through the replanting of an average 617 acres every year. The planting involves only indigenous trees such as Narra, Kamagong and Molave. Now there are about 40 different endemic species planted in the watershed. Under construction next to La Mesa is an 81-acre Resort and Ecological Park, which will bring back nature to the lives of the people in the metropolis.

On Mindanao, a USAID program worked to install renewable electrification systems in more than 35 communities, reducing household electric bills by 70 percent. The Philippines is composed of 7,000 islands, so it takes great effort to monitor every environmental development. Because of that, people are encouraged to report violators of environmental laws.

AFRICA

Kenya: Saving the Forests

Hakima Kerrow, who lives in Qalankalisa, a small village in Northern Kenya, rolls a bucket of water home, too weak to carry it. Her frail child clings to the hem of her dress, sobbing hysterically. Kerrow, like thousands of other mothers in Kenya, does not know where and when she will get food to pacify her hungry child.

This is the dilemma that faces thousands of Kenyans, many of whom have recently died of starvation as the result of severe drought. And while Kerrow's baby tries desperately to force non-existent milk from her breast, another mother in the Kenyan highlands, hundreds of miles from Qalankalisa, will be burying a child who died of malaria.

These are some of the effects of global warming that are already taking toll on Kenyans and the environment. According to Richard Leakey, the famous archaeologist who served as head of the Kenya Wildlife Service, "Our dry months are longer, they're hotter and the dessication of the land in dry weather is worse....Many of the rivers that used to run year round are now seasonal. Part of that is human activity, but part is climate change."

Environmental activists have been trying unsuccessfully to convince the government to ban the "shamba" system, in which indigenous forests are replaced with exotic species for the timber industry while allowing the local population to grow food crops alongside the non-native trees. "This has resulted in the depletion of forest cover, which now stands at less than three percent," says Nobel Peace laureate and Green Belt Movement founder Wangari Mathaai, Kenya's assistant minister for the environment. "We need to stop the cutting, and stop cultivating crops in our indigenous forests. When the forests are cleared, rivers dry up, biodiversity is lost and rainfall becomes erratic. This is threatening livelihoods and other species."

The Kenyan government slapped a ban on collection of firewood in the region around Mount Kenya (a once snow-capped mountain that has lost its permanent ice) after realizing the alarming depletion of forest cover due to logging and charcoal burning. This, however, produced yet another problem: All schools and colleges in the area rely on firewood from the Mount Kenya forest. The cost of firewood shot up to about $25 a ton as a result.

"The heavy use of firewood had greatly affected the environment," says David Kamau, the manager of a small company, Rural Technology Enterprises, which is working with nonprofit groups to install efficient heavy-duty brick insulated steel stoves in school kitchens. More than 100 schools now use the technology, 20 of them funded through the Global Environment Facility's Small Grants Programme. Kamau says the stoves have contributed to a 70 percent drop in demand for firewood from the schools over four years.

But the demand for firewood obviously extends beyond the schools, and the Small Grants Programme explains in a project report that home firewood collection leads to the destruction of trees that otherwise absorb CO2 emissions and protect local ecosystems. Environmental groups say that, so far, there is a lot of talk and little action from the government on expanding the availability of the ovens.

Kenya's CO2 emission per capita, just 0.3 metric tons, is relatively low compared to the levels seen in developed and oil-producing countries. And some improvements are being made. Government spokesperson Dr. Alfred Mutua says a tax on cooking gas has been scrapped to reduce dependence on charcoal and firewood. He adds, "The uphill task is to find alternative incomes for charcoal dealers."

The government has also imposed a ban on importing vehicles older than seven years, which it says will reduce dumping of polluting used cars from abroad. But Kenya has yet to impose a deadline for all car owners to switch to unleaded fuels.

A National Environmental Management Agency has been created to monitor and ensure environmental compliance by many industries. According to Dr. Mutua, the government is now encouraging people to harness solar and wind energy to supplement the electricity supply that is dependent on rainfall levels.

The Kenyan government's track record on forest protection is not good, however, and efforts to plant tea bushes around the boundaries of forests to prevent human encroachment have lapsed.

A major source of the global warming gas methane is Kenya's huge cattle population. With a single cow capable of producing almost half a pound of methane per day, the problem is no laughing matter. But with a strong tradition of cattle herding and no alternative sources of income, the problem is not going to go away.

Some analysts believe the government is not committed to upholding the Kyoto protocol, due to political wrangling. "The leaders have mismanaged the environment," says Maathai. "Unless we change course, the coming generations will inherit an impoverished environment that will mean a hungrier, less fertile and more unstable world."

Nigeria: An End to Gas Flaring

Gas flaring, or the burning off of natural gas by-products into the atmosphere, has been going on in the oil-rich Niger Delta of Nigeria for more than 40 years. Oil companies like Mobil, Shell, Chevron, Total and Agip have all made profits from the oil resource in Nigeria, while the local communities have been left to face the pollution and the greenhouse gas emissions. According to Climate Justice, "The flares contain a cocktail of toxins that affect the health and livelihood of local communities, exposing Niger Delta residents to an increased risk of premature deaths, childhood respiratory illnesses, asthma and cancer." The group also reports that flaring has been technically illegal in Nigeria since 1984.

Flaring in Nigeria releases more CO2 than the combined total of all other climate-related emissions in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria, more gas is flared than anywhere else in the world-20 percent of global totals.

Due to increasing pressure from local and international environmental groups, the Nigerian government set 2008 as the deadline to end gas flaring in the country, and to ask the oil companies to capture and process the gas, both for export and for local use. Nevertheless, some observers are sceptical that the deadlines will be met.

Nigeria's crude oil production is accompanied by 40 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, of which 80 percent is currently flared. The end of routine flaring has spurred development of easily transportable liquefied natural gas (LNG). The $3.8 billion Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Project (NLNG) was completed on Bonny Island in 1999. Other projects are expected to come on stream in the next few years.

Malawi: Climate Crisis Aggravates Floods and Famine

In Malawi's Kayuni Village, in the northern Karonga district, lies a small but very hard-working community of about 10,000 people. The residents of this village faced a major food crisis during the 2004 to 2005 growing season, the worst in decades. Their main food crop, corn, withered when it was just knee high as a result of drought. "It was a year of survival of the fittest," says Adamson Mwalughali, a 56-year old father of five.

Like most of the districts in Malawi, Karonga could always count on a significant rainy season. "Last year was different," says Mwalughali. "A number of children died of malnutrition and this too has an impact on the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS since they did not have food to eat." Director of Environmental Affairs Ralph Kabwaza explains, "The adverse effects of climate change are already evident. Natural disasters are more frequent now, and have brought widespread misery."

Malawi also has the highest rate of deforestation in southern Africa with 2.8 percent lost annually, which translates into 123,000 acres of forest being cut each year. Most of the trees are lost due to human activities, especially the burning of charcoal, which provides 93 percent of home energy.

Malawi is a Kyoto signatory, and one of its first actions was to establish a Department of Disaster, Relief and Rehabilitation. Says Njewa, "We need to increase sustainable agricultural practices."

And just such a project is underway in Mwanza District, on the southwestern border with Mozambique. Funded by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation and implemented by the Wildlife and Environmental Society, the project attacks deforestation directly by working with the traditional fuel gatherers: women. The project first educates women (through drama, dances and songs) on the dangers of excessive tree cutting, then promotes community tree nurseries and the setting up of environmental youth clubs and village natural resource committees. So far, the project has resulted in 17 community and 13 individual tree nurseries, and six based at schools. To supplement lost income from wood gathering, the project has set up bee-keeping efforts, guinea fowl rearing, fruit juice processing and seedling production.

Liberia: Hope Grows From the Ashes

Global efforts to reduce the buildup of greenhouse gases have finally gotten the attention of the Liberian government. After living in isolation for almost two decades due to a tragic civil war (which ended in 2003), this tiny West African country has joined hands with the United Nations to implement the UN's Framework on Climate Change.

A 2004 UN assessment of the country's environmental needs found a dire situation: poaching of wild animals (including threatened chimpanzees) had increased dramatically, due to road building by illegal loggers (who have cut down seven percent of Liberia's forests since 1990). Water and sewer systems were marginal, and only 26 percent of the population had access to safe drinking water. The civil war devastated hydroelectric power plants, increasing dependence on burning wood for fuel. Municipal waste collection had all but ceased, forcing people to pollute by burning refuse.

The UN plan for Liberia includes environmental education campaigns, "debt for nature" swaps, the establishment of conservation corridors, development of small-scale poultry farms and sustainable fishing, restoration of non-polluting hydroelectric power and alternatives to using wood for cooking fires.

The Liberia Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chartered but only recently enacted, is the body charged with the responsibility to combat global warming, and has developed a working plan to regulate industrial chemicals. According to Earl A.R. Neblett, the assistant project manager of the EPA's National Ozone Unit, the government has banned the importation of refrigerants that damage the ozone layer, and has organized training for refrigerator technicians to educate them on the need to stop using these chemicals. "We are also training customs officials to be able to identify and block these chemicals from entering the country," says Neblett.

The next stage is curbing the incessant burning of firewood and coal (the major means of cooking in Liberia) through a vigorous awareness campaign. Another part of this package is reforestation. Logging companies in Liberia waiting to take advantage of the imminent lift of the United Nations' ban on wood from the country have been told by the government to ensure an adequate reforestation program before the first tree falls.

Ghana: Turning On the Gas

Before she started using gas for cooking, Malia Idriss used to get up at four every morning. She would start the wood fire, heat up the water and make sure her children got breakfast before heading out to school. The smoke sometimes burnt her eyes and constantly made her cough.

Like Malia once did, over 90 percent of Ghanaians still rely on fuel wood or charcoal as their main source of energy. According to government estimates, every person in Ghana uses around 1,400 pounds of fuel wood annually-the bulk of it for cooking. "Unless you use plantation wood exclusively, this is unsustainable," says Madeleine Bolliger Klah, program officer for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Along with logging, agricultural practices and mining, reliance on fuel wood contributes to the depletion of two percent of Ghana's forest annually.

In an effort to curb this rapid decline, the UNDP, in partnership with the government and local groups, is promoting the use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) - butane or propane-as an alternative to wood fuel. Gas is clean, safe and efficient, but remains scarcely used in Ghana. In Accra, the country's capital, only 22 percent of households use gas. In rural areas, this number drops to one percent.

The overdependence on fuel wood not only poses an environmental threat, but also has serious health impacts. When used in poorly ventilated areas it causes acute respiratory infections that primarily affect women and children. "Our main aim with this LPG program is basically to solve what we consider both a health issue and an environmental issue," says Holliger Klah.

Through media campaigns, workshops and door-to-door visits, the Ghana-based group New Energy was able to improve the image of gas as a safe alternative to fuel wood. The next hurdle was that most of Ghana lacks proper gas distribution networks and supply is often erratic. To solve this, New Energy created LPG users associations. "The association lets people know when the [delivery truck] is coming, and in three to four hours it's sold all the load," says Mahama. -Olivier Asselin

The Caribbean Dominica: After God, the Earth

The Commonwealth of Dominica, with just 75,000 people, is nestled between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean's chain of windward islands. Dominica is known as the land of many rivers-reputed to be 365-one for every day of the year. With a relatively pristine natural environment, Dominica is marketed as "the nature island of the Caribbean." Lush vegetation and rain forests cover the island's mountainous terrain and Dominica is home to the world's largest boiling lake. The area surrounding Dominica's second-highest mountain, Morne Trois Pitons, was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1997.

With all its beauty and exotic natural resources, however, Dominica is inherently very susceptible to climate change. Global warming poses serious threats to an island with a small economy that is prone to natural disasters, particularly hurricanes. Some 90 percent of the island's population and vital infrastructure lies on the coast.

Dominica, with a traditional agricultural base in banana production, is learning to diversify its crops and reduce the use of dangerous chemicals. "Organic agriculture is something serious and dear to me," says Dominica Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and the Environment, Dr. J. Collin McIntyre. "In terms of the environment, it is the safest way, the only way. Nature was placed here for us to enjoy, but we must do so in a sustainable manner."

The minister recently opposed a proposal by the Windward Islands Farmers Association to aerially apply chemicals to control fungal disease on the island. "I told them in no uncertain terms that I will not stand behind a helicopter indiscriminately distributing spray oil and fungicides over our island," McIntyre says.

"Climate change is very important to us in Dominica," adds Lloyd Pascal, head of the environmental coordinating unit that is the national focal point for climate change. "We have been working on issues of mitigation. Now we are attempting climate change adaptation with the islands of St. Lucia and St. Vincent. Our pilot project has never been tried or tested anywhere else in the world."

The three countries will work together to lessen the destruction to property and lives from hurricanes, floods and other disasters. Its first hurdle is Dominica's lack of a stated policy governing the management of its land and water.

"We have a Forestry and Wildlife Act, but a plan to take care of the environment is still absent," says Pascal. "We need a comprehensive environmental protection and management act. We have secured the funding for the necessary legislation."

Dominica has also joined St. Lucia and Grenada in the Global Sustainable Energy Islands Initiative (GSEII), with the aim of replacing the islands' polluting diesel generators, which burn expensive imported fuel. The initiative imagines a much broader portfolio for Dominica, including possible use of geothermal, wind and solar energy, and an enlarged role for hydropower. Dominica has natural steam for geothermal, and substantial wind resources. To give Dominica a cleaner vehicle fleet, the Initiative suggests creating barriers to the importation of polluting older cars, building public transit, and constructing an emissions testing facility.

The Waitukubuli Ecological Foundation (WEF) was created in 1996 to conserve and enhance Dominica's great wealth of natural beauty. The foundation has declared 2006 as "The Year of the Rivers," and has embarked on a major campaign to address the impending crisis caused by the growing loss of water volume in Dominica's rivers and the poor conservation of water resources.

"Let history record that we did not allow the rivers to dry without attempting to do something about it," says Bernard Wiltshire, WEF's president. "Future generations may well blame us for not having had the patience and the carefulness to protect what we've inherited."

In support of WEF's attempts at saving Dominica's depleting rivers, Atherton Martin, president of the Caribbean Conservation Association, promises to promote the issue internationally at the United Nations, through the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Martin is an environmental hero in Dominica. A winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, he worked with community leaders in opposing the potentially devastating Australia-based BHP Copper Mine, which would have further threatened the country's endangered wildlife (including two rare parrots) and impacted the Caribs, the sole remaining indigenous culture in the Caribbean.

Sustainable development is also key to Dominica's eco-tourism thrust. In 2004, Dominica became the first country in the world to be Green Globe 21 benchmarked, and is now focused on achieving full certification.

According to the Ministry of Tourism's Ginetta Williams, "To achieve the next phase, which is certification, we must successfully implement an environment management system, which is a roadmap for finding practical ways to save water, energy and materials and to reduce negative environmental impact. This will help us to take greater responsibility for managing resources wisely, use best practices where the environment is concerned and monitor performance and efficiency."

Though the task ahead for Dominica continues to be challenging, the future looks bright, as all sectors of society come together and work decisively towards sustainable development. As Dominica's motto states, "Apres bondie c'est la ter" (after God, the Earth).

America's Colleges: Raising the Bar on Green Power

It's no big surprise that the very environmentally friendly Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington is buying renewably generated "green power," but the appearance on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) annual top 10 list of schools like the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois is more eye-opening.

"We want to influence the country," says University of Pennsylvania Executive Director of Operations Mike Coleman. UPenn began in 2001 by signing a three-year, 20,000-megawatt-hour (MWh) contract to purchase wind energy, and then extended the contract to 40,000 MWh and an unprecedented 10 years in 2003. "Most recently," says Coleman, "we have tripled the amount of wind energy we purchase. We're going to continue to manage our energy while achieving our business needs."

This 120,000-MWh purchase ranks the University of Pennsylvania as the number one buyer of renewable energy among American universities, and number eight overall. The next largest buyer, Northwestern University, purchases 40,000 MWh. For the University of Pennsylvania, the green power is 28 percent of the school's total usage, but some smaller schools have aimed higher. Two Washington State colleges in the top 10 buy 100 percent green: Western Washington University in Bellingham (35,000 MWh) and Evergreen State College (16,250).

"We purchase energy from Puget Sound Electric, which uses a combination of solar, wind and biomass," says Western Washington senior Molly Ayre-Svingen. She helped found Students for Renewable Energy in 2003, and by 2004 the group had helped place a 100 percent renewable energy initiative on the student ballot. After 85 percent of students voted in favor, the energy started flowing on the first day of the 2005 to 2006 school year. "When we wrote the proposal, we said green power would cost no more than $19 per quarter, per student, and it ended up being half that," says Ayre-Svingen.

Further south at the Evergreen State College, a similar student-led effort got the windmills turning. Evergreen Public Relations Officer Anthony Sermonti says, "We're really proud of where we're at. Sustainability is important here." Students at Evergreen State are motivated to take green power to the next level. "We're aiming for reductions in energy use, and we're hoping to actually have green energy generation, such as windmills, on the campus," says Brad Bishop, a student and coordinator of the campus' Clean Energy Committee.

Jim Motavalli is Editor of E Magazine, which has won national design and editorial awards. He is the author of Breaking Gridlock: Moving Toward Transportation That Works (2002) and Forward Drive: The Race to Build "Clean" Cars for the Future (2000), both published by Sierra Club Books/Random House. Feeling the Heat: Dispatches From the Frontlines of Climate Change, edited by Motavalli, was published by Routledge in 2004. Green Living: The E Magazine Handbook for Living Lightly on the Earth (published by the Plume division of Penguin) was released for Earth Day 2005. Mr. Motavalli can be contacted at jimm@emagazine.com Extended Bio...

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