Sustainable Blog

On the Road with CNG

What we learned driving a bi-fuel van from North Carolina to Connecticut

CNG fill-up

Earlier this year, Piedmont Natural Gas generously donated a bi-fuel van, meaning it runs on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and gasoline, to the Sustainable America fleet. We were thrilled to have the 2002 Chevy 2500 Express Passenger Van to use in our alternative fuel programming and educational outreach, but first we had to drive it from Charlotte, N.C., back to our headquarters in Stamford, Conn. Here’s how it went…

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2014 Sustainable America Gift Guide

10 eco-friendly gifts for everyone on your list

Gift tags

Looking for the perfect gifts for the sustainability-minded folks on your list? We’ve put together some ideas for just about everyone, from kids to gardeners to cooks. (If you happen to shop through amazon.com this year, keep in mind that .05% of your purchases can be donated to Sustainable America if you sign up with AmazonSmile.)

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12 Ways to Make Your Next Party More Sustainable

Make memories, not waste

Pumpkins and hay bales make great natural party decorations

When my daughter celebrated her bat mitzvah this fall, we were incredibly proud of her accomplishments and poise, but also pleased with her choices to make the reception a sustainable one. Weddings, funerals and rites of passage like bar mitzvahs and confirmations can generate a tremendous amount of waste, but with a little forethought, these celebrations can be meaningful, fun and sustainable.

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7 Technologies That Can Slash Idling

Annoyed by vehicles idling in your area? These solutions can help clear the air.

tailpipe exhaust fumes

We’ve been known to get more than a little irked when we notice people idling their vehicles unnecessarily, like at drive-thrus or school pick-ups. It wastes gas, it pollutes the air, it stinks and it’s just, well, unnecessary. But some drivers get a free idling pass, right? Don’t refrigerated trucks, utility vehicles, safety and emergency vehicles and long-haul trucks often need to keep their engines running to power auxiliary functions? Yes, and no. Here, we explain.

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Join Us for #GivingTuesday

Give to Sustainable America on Dec. 2 and get a 1% match!

#GivingTuesday 2014

December 2 is the third-annual #GivingTuesday, and we love the idea—it’s a great reminder to support the important causes you believe in. This year, when you give to Sustainable America, PayPal will match 1% of your donation!

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An Investment in Organic Farmland

Farmland LP is working to make organic farming a sustainable, profitable business for farmers and investors

Chickens grazing on pasture at a Farmland LP farm

A road trip to Oregon farmland crystalized a new business idea for partners Craig Wichner and Jason Bradford. “It was very clear farmland was a great asset and that it was basically being underutilized,” says Wichner, “that growing monocrops was operationally efficient, but it was the worst way to get returns from farmland itself.” With investment and the use of sustainable agriculture templates, they developed Farmland LP, a system of livestock, vegetable and grain rotations that could both reclaim land for organic farming and turn a profit.

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Students Seeking Fuel Cell

A high school engineering group mirrors an automotive industry ready for alternatives

Darien High School Fuel Cell Team's car

We’re inspired by a group of high school students in Connecticut who are building their own hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle — a project that has been in the works for a decade. There’s just one catch: They need to raise money for a new fuel cell in time to compete at the Shell Eco-Marathon in April. Learn more about these enterprising kids and how to support their project.

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Free Aquaponics Workshop

Learn how to grow organic food year-round through aquaponics

Fresh Farms Garden

On Dec. 3, 2014, we’re teaming up with FRESH Farm Aquaponics to host a free Introduction to Aquaponics Workshop at our office in Stamford, Conn. This two-hour class will explore how you can grow food organically, year-round, through a variety of highly productive aquaponic growing mediums.

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Eat Your “Unusual” Greens!

What to do with all of those stalks, leaves and tops

Turnip greens

One of my favorite things about participating in a CSA program is learning about new foods. This year’s most pleasant surprise was sweet potato greens. Our very own farmer didn’t realize these beautiful greens were edible until this year, and boy were we happy that he shared his newfound secret!

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Sustainable America Celebrates Launch of Stamford 2030 District

A new initiative to reduce energy use, water use and transportation emissions

Downtown Stamford, Connecticut

What if our cities could help solve pressing climate and energy issues instead of contributing to them? That’s the idea behind the 2030 Challenge for Planning, a national movement that asks the global architecture and planning community to find ways to reduce energy use, water use and transportation emissions from new and existing buildings dramatically by 2030.

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Skin to Seed: How to Eat an Entire Pumpkin

27 ways to make the most of fall pumpkins

three pumpkins

Pumpkins. The plump, orange orbs are everywhere this time of year. While you’re picking out a few for Halloween decorations, it’s worth it to set aside a few for eating too. We’ve rounded up some recipes that will help you make use of everything but the stem, and we’ve found some ideas for what to do with the ones that get carved as well.

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Adventures in Indoor Growing

We get down and dirty with vertical gardening, aquaponics and hydroponics

lettuce, basil and chives

Over the last few months, we’ve been experimenting with a menagerie of indoor food-growing systems at our office: a vertical garden, a hydroponic system and an aquaponic system. While the versions we’ve installed won’t revolutionize the local food landscape in our neighborhood, if scaled up, these alternative growing methods have the potential to help urban areas meet the growing demand for food. We wanted to get hands-on with a few of these methods to learn more and to provide a showcase of what’s possible. Here’s how we did…

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We Came, We Gleaned, We Fed Thousands

'Feeding the 5,000' rescued food, raised awareness about food waste

Volunteers for Feeding the 5000: Oakland

We had the privilege of participating in a tremendous event on Saturday: Feeding the 5,000: Oakland. The event saved thousands of rolls and loaves of bread and a staggering 11,200 pounds of apples, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, acorn squash and spaghetti squash that normally would have been destroyed because they were cosmetically imperfect and could not be sold to grocery stores. Learn more about this groundbreaking event.

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Food Waste in 9 U.S. Cities, Exposed

See all the good food Rob Greenfield rescued from grocery dumpsters to raise awareness about food waste

Rob Greenfield recovered all this food from dumpsters in Cleveland

This week, environmental activist Rob Greenfield completed a most unconventional road trip. Not only did he travel from Wisconsin to New York City on bike, along the way he recovered food — thousands of pounds of unspoiled, perfectly edible food — that grocery stores and restaurants had thrown away. See photos of what he found in nine cities.

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6 Ways the Coffee Industry Is Turning Waste Into a Resource

Coffee can fuel the world in more ways than one

Espresso

Consider this over your morning coffee: Almost half the biomass of the coffee cherry — the fruit that contains coffee beans — ends up as processing waste. With worldwide coffee production reaching 9 to 11 billion pounds on an annual basis, that’s a lot of byproduct to handle. Thankfully, industry players keep striving to solve this problem. Here are six ways they are turning coffee waste into a resource.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.