energy efficiency, sustainability, green buildings, solar, hybrid cars and alternate fuels.

"A society built on green design, sustainable energy and closed loop systems, a civilization afloat on a cloud of efficient, non-toxic, recyclable technology." ~~Alex Nikolai Steffan

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A solar option like the one from Solar City isn't available in Tallahassee today. 

Google just announced a $300 million investment in SolarCity’s residential solar power model. This model provides an option to homeowners to install distributed rooftop solar without a large upfront investment. This option is available in different parts of the US. Google’s initial investment would pay for the system outright through a lease or power purchase agreement.

This Think Progress article explains the basics:  
A homeowner works with SolarCity to design a customized system for their roof.  Past electric bills and the rate charged by the utility are reviewed and Solar City guarantees a lower rate that locks in a lower monthly payment.

The homeowner does not have to pay for the design or placement of the panels, but enters into lease agreement with SolarCity who installs and maintains the panels throughout the life of the lease.

For instance, if your normal monthly bill is $200, it could drop to $60 after the installation, plus $100 in the monthly solar lease, yielding a new average monthly bill of $160.

The Renewable Energy Committee of Sustainable Tallahassee recently sent a letter to the Mayor of Tallahassee specifically requesting that the City Utilities look into the concept called 'community solar' which would allow distributed solar. You can read the letter here.  Sustainable Tallahassee and the League of Women Voters of Tallahassee have been working jointly on this issue and the League also sent a letter to the Mayor on this issue.   

Currently in Tallahassee, we have 1.7 megawatts of solar electric production capacity. That’s less than ¼ of one percent of our total electricity production, including both city and customer owned solar arrays. However, this week the City Commission voted to move forward with a Request for Proposal (RFP) that would develop a ten megawatt system of solar power production by the end of 2016. 

Developing solar capacity is a much needed first step away from our current total dependence on non-renewable energy (natural gas). Details of how the City plans to develop the solar production will be outlined in the RFP.  Will this system include the opportunity for distributed solar as in the solar garden or community solar concept? We'll have to stay tuned to see what develops.  

*for background on Tallahassee's solar efforts, read February's Greening Our Communities Blog here.  The "Greening Our Community” articles are produced brought by the Capital Area Sustainability Council (CASC), a forum organized by Sustainable Tallahassee. 



Teetotalism is the practice or promotion of complete personal abstinence from alcoholic beverages. A person who practices (and possibly advocates) teetotalism is called a teetotaler or is simply said to be teetotal.  When at drinking establishments, teetotalers may often consume non-alcoholic beverages such as soft drinks, tea, coffee and mocktails.from Wikipedia
and yes, I had to look up the spelling.
My friend Gareth (obviously not his real name) wanted to go to Green Drinks.  In Tallahassee, like many places that host Green Drink events, this is an opportunity to network and meet people with like interests related to the environment, climate change,sustainability, going solar, biking, growing good food, land-use planning, protecting clean water, loving wildflowers and a host of other things.  
"But, I don't drink (alcohol), won't I feel out of place?" he asked.
I said, "No, Midtown Pass is a restaurant, also and in addition to some making some great guacamole and chips, they serve all types of sodas, iced tea etc".

So, he came and listened to the speaker,  He liked what he heard and came back to Green Drinks the next month. 
Sponsored by Sustainable Tallahassee, Green Drinks meets on the last Wednesday of every month at the Midtown Pass, 1019 N Monroe, Tallahassee, next to what sadly WAS the Paperback Rack and in the same strip as the restaurant, Masa.  



Last evening there was a showing in Tallahassee of the video, Disruption, about the recent climate change march and groups organizing a significant people presence to bring about real political action on climate change.  

Discussions follow the showings of films organized by Transition Tallahassee and other groups at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Tallahassee.  Last night's conversation included the Citizen's Climate Lobby and their mission to have legislation passed to create a tax on carbon.  If you haven't been following this issue, it's beginning to gain traction.  

You can read up on the revenue neutral carbon tax that is being proposed here:  Also, you can read a short summary of the book on Climate Policy written by FSU professor Shi-Ling Hsu here:  HSU_carbon_tax_precisFinal  (downloads as PDF)

If you want to get up to speed locally on the proposed tax on carbon, Tallahassee's chapter of the International Citizen Climate Lobby meets monthly and also has telephone calls with national leaders updating folks on issues.  You may want to join their Facebook page at:

The next meeting of the Citizen's Climate Lobby local chapter is: 
Thursday, October 2nd. at 6:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church Education Building
110 North Adams Street, #Tallahassee.

This article from Resilience highlights Oil Companies Quietly Prepare For a Future of Carbon Pricing:
The toll of fossil fuel emissions — from the ballooning costs of crop insurance tied to climate-related weather extremes, to the ravages of sea level rise in coastal areas, to stresses on health services as tropical diseases migrate northward — is part of the discussions at the UN climate summit in New York this week. And the new carbon mathematics is putting a spotlight on the oil industry: Earlier this year, all four of the major oil companies were listed in the journal Climatic Change as being among the 90 global businesses responsible for two-thirds of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. 
If you missed the showing of Disruption, you can watch it online here:  it's an hour long.

Films related to the environment are shown as part of Transition Tallahassee's on-going video series shown at 4:00 PM on the fourth Sunday of the month at the UU Church, 2810 North Meridian Road, Tallahassee.  They are free and open to the public--with snacks! 


Using Solar Energy to Generate Wealth in Lower Income Communities.

Yes, this actually was the topic of the September 23rd, GW Solar Institute's 6th Annual Solar Symposium at George Washington University.

This was the first national conference to bring together stakeholders and decision-makers from all over the country to share and develop the emerging solutions needed to achieve solar affordability and accessibility for all Americans. 

Panels and presentations focused on the best ways to broaden the solar market through creative incentive and financing solutions, elimination of legal and regulatory barriers, and integration of solar investments with existing federal low-income programs.

Details of speakers and conference sponsors here:

Key points from a recent white paper for Washington D.C. on this topic include: 
+ While solar energy has become increasingly affordable and residential solar installations are booming, most panel installations occur in higher income neighborhoods.
+ Multiple market barriers inude renting, living in a multi-family building, lower credit scores, or having utility bills covered through government support programs.
+ The District’s enactment of the Community Renewables Energy Act 2013, creates new opportunities for solar developers and community leaders to improve energy affordability and accessibility.
+ Innovative solar programs spurred by similar reforms in other states, like California’s Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program, have enabled families to reduce their monthly electricity bills by an average of around 80%, savings that will continue for the life of these solar systems (at least 25 years or more).




A page from a 1981 Popular Science magazine

A concept to create clean energy in a 2,250 foot tower that looks similar to a nuclear power plant may be constructed in the Arizona desert. This  huge tower will cost $1.6 billion, which has reportedly been raised. 

According to a post at
The Tower operates on a simple concept in which mist is sprayed at the top of the tower, while evaporation causes cool air to rush to the bottom, at a rate of up to 50 mph. This rush of wind causes turbines to spin and gets the energy flowing.
It would be the world's fourth tallest structure, would operate 24 hours a day and generate 435 megawatts of power.  

The concept was first patented by Dr. Phillip Carlson, then at Lockheed Aircraft Corp. in 1975, and was shown in Popular Science magazine in 1981

Check out this video:

Photo by Solar Wind Energy Tower

Read more at:



An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days

 In An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days, best-selling mystery novelist Susan Wittig Albert invites us to revisit one of the most tumultuous years in recent memory, 2008, through the lens of 365 ordinary days in which her reading, writing, and thinking about issues in the wider world—from wars and economic recession to climate change—caused her to reconsider and reshape daily practices in her personal life.

As her eclectic daily reading ranges across topics from economics, food production, and oil and energy policy to poetry, place, and the writing life, Albert becomes increasingly concerned about the natural world and the threats facing it, especially climate change and resource depletion. Asking herself, "What does it mean? And what ought I do about it?", she determines practical steps to take, such as growing more food in her garden, and also helps us as readers make sense of these issues and consider what our own responses might be.


Why The White House Plan on Carbon Reduction Could Work

From Wired Science, a detaled look at the plan:



The IFAS Extension Office in Leon County is hosting its second series of workshops on the New Economy.  If you missed the first course, try to schedule time to attend when these topics are repeated, beginning in March.  

Can our economic system withstand the shocks of climate change, peak oil and financial disruptions?  Are there alternatives that can best sustain our planet? The purpose of the course is to explore some possible answers to these questions and to explore ways to work together to renew our community through economic transactions that mimic Earth's natural economy.  

The flipped classroom concept provides an opportunity for participants to read selected online readings and watch videos related to each of the week's topics.  This provides the time 'in class' for discussions and insights based on common knowledge.  

Topics that are covered are:

  • Money, Security and Wholeness of Life in the Era of Corporate Economic Globalization
  • Capitalism, Democracy and the New Economic Paradigm
  • Growth, Consumption, Work, Time and Plenitude
  • Money, Complementary Currencies, Local Stock Exchanges and the Green Economy 
  • Worker Cooperatives
  • Time and Skill Banking
  • Earth Rights, Land Trusts and Land tenure
  • Earth Responsibility, Earth Democracy, Degrowth and Open Market Sustainability 

The weekly classes begin March 12th running seven Wednesday evenings from 5:30 - 7:45, with dinner provided via potluck from participants.  

The Leon County Extension office is located at 615 Paul Russell Road, Tallahassee.  The course fee is $15.00 and requires registration at:
Contact the course facilitator, Will Sheftall if you have questions. E-mail: 



Solar panels make in part from repurposed or recycled components?  

This Pop-Can Solar Space Heating Collector uses recycled aluminum soda pop cans for the absorber. The pop cans have the tops and bottoms drilled out, and are assembled into vertical columns that the air passes through. 

In operation, the black painted soda pop cans are heated by the sun, warming the air that is flowing up through the cans.

Here's a link to the set of instructions on the webpage, Build It Solar.  



Check out the Choices for Sustainable LivingNorthwest Earth Institute.  This book was recently used as a text by the Leon County Extension's class on "Food & Diet: Gateways to Sustainability" course.  

Shopping for the holidays?  More information and other books at the Reading Table tab.  


Plastic Bags - Why?

click the graphic



photo by
This 10 x 10 x 10 'cube' is a net zero emissions house for one, which generates income via the UK's feed-in tariff.  This allows excess solar energy that feeds back to the grid to be sold the the utility company at an agreed-upon rate.  City of Gainesville is currently offering this program to its solar users. It's still going strong since we featured it in this March 2012 post.   

The video below highlights the built-in features and energy saving equipment of the Cube.  I imagine placing it in a climate with mostly year-round outdoor living, would resolve some claustrophobia issues!  



photo by Green Tallahassee

Goodwill will accept your old computers and laptops, cords that no longer match your equipment and other peripherals. 

The store has closed its location on West Tennessee Street. Take your electronics donation to any Goodwill drop-off center. The new storefront for sales of refurbished computers and peripherals is located at 2734 Capital Circle NE, Tallahassee. Telephone: 850.504.0958.

Check out the Recycle Where? tab at the top of this page for more information on what to do with your stuff.  

Check out the Green Calendar for the latest Hazardous Waste Round-Up to properly dispose of Fluorescent and CFL bulbs, paint, fertilizers and more.  



photo by Green Tallahassee

You and I, we love our coffee.  I give a cursory nod to my one or two friends who allegedly are tea drinkers, but we and 25 million of our closest friends from around the world drink coffee. 

Since coffee is not a locally grown product, how does this importation for our consumption impact our carbon footprint?  

This web article estimates:
  • One pound of coffee can generate as much as 4 pounds of carbon emissions before leaving its country of origin:
    • Roughly 2 pounds on the farm, 1.25 pounds at the mill, and another .75 pounds in shipping preparation--depending on the size of the farm, the processes and technologies used, and adding all the shipping energy into the equation
  • Of the 10 to 11 pounds of carbon emissions that the average pound of coffee creates, as much as 50% is created at the retail and consumer level.
Energy efficient measures in shops where machines and lights are turned off overnight would help.  Check out this a post from a while back that highlights some innovative energy efficiency choices made by the first LEED certified restaurant/coffee shop in St. Petersburg, Florida that included:   

  • Energy-efficient insulated concrete foam walls to reduce air conditioning usage by approximately 40%
  • Energy-efficient lighting, including motion sensors for restrooms and offices
  • Water-efficient plumbing fixtures, low-flush toilets, and the usage of well water rather than potable water for all irrigation
  • Waste from the construction site was diverted to the local recycling center
  • Designated areas within the restaurant for storage/collection of recyclable materials
  • Met IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) standards for debris/dust/garbage levels during construction
Brewing and drinking can reduce the amount of carbon impact. We, as consumers, can reduce the impact by using cups and mugs instead of paper (or Stryrofoamtm) cups, composting our coffee grounds and skipping the paper napkins. Walking inside the shop rather than idling in the drive-thru (a particular pet peeve)! Or brew at home, just don't forget to unplug the coffee maker.

But, if you're ready to change things up and look for a local solution for (at least) some of those cups of coffee, check out this post on the 100 mile diet alternatives to the coffee bean.  



Art often captures more than words. In 2009, Brazilian artist Nele Azevedo carved 1,000 ‘Melting Men’ out of ice and placed them in Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt Square to bring awareness to Global Warming.

Nele Azevedo
More photos of this amazing art work at:



Single-stream recycling is here!  

City of Tallahassee residents are able to put all recycling in the container without separating paper and plastic/glass bottles, etc.  The program launched in October 2013, using the same recycling containers that are 
now used by residents.  Containers will be retrofitted on a rolling basis.  

This should increase the ease of recycling and hopefully increase residents' commitment to recycling 100% of everything that can be recycled.  

Not sure about an item?  Check the tab at the top Recycle Where?



Photo by City of Adelaide  
The southern Australian city of Adelaide is moving toward powering its public transit system solely through solar power.  

Beginning in 2010, the city began implementing a sustainability plan including extensive pedestrian walkways and bike paths as well as the new fleet of Tindo (Aboriginal for "sun") buses.

According to the City of Adelaide website
Unlike the gas-powered or hybrid fleets found around the world, the Tindo is completely electric so it's zero emission, and unlike San Francisco's MUNI, it doesn't draw power from overhead lines. In fact, the bus doesn't power itself at all. 
There are no solar panels actually on the vehicle itself. Instead each bus charges like an overgrown Roomba at the Adelaide Central Bus Station before setting out on its routes around town. In average traffic conditions, the Tindo can cover 200 km (about 125 miles) before needing to recharge, thanks in part to a regenerative braking system that increases the vehicle's energy efficiency by some 30 percent.  
Tindo is air-conditioned and can carry up to 40 passengers, with 25 standard seats, 2 seats especially designed for disabled passengers and room for 13 standing passengers. The bus saved the Council over 14,000 litres of diesel and the environment over 70,000kg of CO2-e in its first year.
Now that the City of Tallahassee has the first electric buses in the US, can we ask that the Phase Two of this development be electric buses powered by solar instead of electricity generated via natural gas?   




A student from the Swedish American Green Alliance (SAGA) visited Tallahassee at the end of August to learn about our efforts to be more energy efficient and environmentally responsible. Check out her impressions at this SAGA blog post.


photo by Green Tallahassee

Park in the shade of the new solar panel array at the Four Points Sheraton, Tallahassee.  

Four Points by Sheraton Hotel received a grant of $359,000 from the City of Tallahassee's Community Redevelopment Agency to conduct extensive  fa├žade
improvements and renovations to the formerly vacant building we still call the 'Round Holiday Inn.'

According to estimates from the City of Tallahassee, total building renovations were estimated at $13.6 million.  The grant funds were used to support more than $250,000 in LEED certified enhancements, including a green roof over the main entrance and the installation of solar panels, and over $100,000 in improvements to the restaurant and interior/exterior entertainment venues. 



photo by Inside Climate News

On the Reading TableClean Break: The Story of Germany's Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn from It by Osha Gray Davidson.

An e-book, available through Amazon for $.99.  Osha Davidson is a writer for Inside Climate News and and president of the Worldwatch Institute.  The book explains Energiewende (energy change), changing Germany's energy economy from one based on fossil fuels and nuclear power to a sustainable one that is based on clean renewable energy. You can read more at Inside Climate News.  



Grassroots organizations in Boulder, Colorado have taken on the Xcel Power Corporation to turn back the ownership of power generation from the large corporation to a system that is locally owned and that moves power generation from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  In 2011, the citizens of Boulder voted to create their own municipal utility. They even agreed to increase taxes on themselves to pay for the costs. However, the process is far from complete and future local elections and a ballot initiative could change Boulder's momentum in making this transition. This Forbes article paints a bleak picture of the possibility of success.  Currently, over 100 cities across the US are taking a look at moving their utility's ownership from corporate to municipality.

Below is the New Era Colorado video outlining their campaign. Xcel Power is heavily dependent upon coal as its fuel for power generation.  About 11 per cent of Boulder's power is generated from renewables, mostly wind power. The non-profit group recently completed a successful indiegogo campaign to raise funds for further organizing their Campaign for Local Power.   

The City of Tallahassee already is a municipally owned power company.  It gets the majority of its power from natural gas.  While being excited that Tallahassee is the first City in the nation to have all electric buses added to its fleet, the electricity powering the buses still comes from natural gas.  

Where is the City of Tallahassee in moving from dependence on fossil fuels to renewables? What regulations impede things like establishing solar gardens that would allow small groups of homes or businesses to generate and share electricity through solar collectors? How cumbersome is the permitting process to install a solar array on a home? 

Discussions of solar cooperatives and collectives will be part of this Sunday's World Cafe, hosted by the non-profit Transition Tallahassee.  If these are issues you care about and if you want to learn more about the future of transitioning away from a fossil fuel dependent economy, this community discussion is for you.  Breakout discussions will include:

 * making a local market economy, 
 * building a healthy local food system, 
 * the New Economy and time banking, 
 * fossil fuel divestment and local reinvestment and 
 * solar coops and collectives.

 and it's free!

Sunday, September 8th beginning at 1:30 PM
FSU Center for Global Engagement Auditorium "The Globe"
110 S Woodward Avenue, FSU campus, Tallahassee
More information at the Green Calendar and at Transition Tallahassee's website.  



Single stream recycling is coming the Tallahassee/Leon County the beginning of October.  All this means is that you no longer have to separate the plastics and glass from the paper.  It all goes into the bin and it gets sorted from there. The idea is that more people will recycle at home and at the office if they don't have to separate items into separate containers.  

In 2008, the State of Florida adopted a goal of statewide recycling of 75% by the year 2020.  Data from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection says the state is recycling at a rate of 48% in 2012, up from 30% in 2011. [note:  the Department did count solid waste burned to produce energy for the first time, which is a calculation not commonly used when calculating the recycling rate.]  The 2012 data shows Leon County ranked 5th in the state, with a rate of 43%, behind the number one county [yes, you guessed it] Alachua with a rate of 54%.  Leon increased in rank from 8th in 2011. Alachua was #1 in both years.

The top ten counties ranked in 2012 were:  Alachua, Martin, Sarasota/Brevard (tied), Leon, Duval, Orange, Hillsborough/Collier (tied), Putnam/Escambia (tied), and Broward.

So, why don't people recycle more?  

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research proposes an explanation as to why recycling isn't as ingrained a a habit as we might like. From the study, it appears that our sense of an object's utility, as well what we consider to be 'trash' has an effect on what we recycle.  
The research project started with the team rooting through the rubbish and recycling bins in one of their university's office buildings. During their after-hours trips through the trash, they noticed a rather distinctive pattern: sheets of paper that were close to the standard 8.5 x 11 inch size were more likely to be recycled, while smaller sheets tended to be thrown into the trash. This trend held even when the researchers adjusted for the total volume of paper in the different size categories.
The researchers concluded that if a sheet of paper is close to the normal size we use every day, then people will mentally categorize it as still useful and will be more likely to recycle it. If, in contrast, it's a smaller size, then we'll view it as damaged and less useful. As a result, we'll tend to throw it in the trash.
Does this mean that things like packaging and food containers may typically be viewed as trash once they're emptied and are therefore less likely to be recycled?  Many of us like to think we have already adopted categorizations of:
  1. Useful
  2. Trash
  3. Recyclable 
Disagree with the theory totally?  Or has it caused you to ponder what you toss in the trash? The abstract for the report from Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, can be read here.  (Full Journal access is $14.00 or via some libraries.)




July 1 through 7 is Independents' Week, a nationwide campaign to engage our local independent businesses and community members in celebrating the spirit of entrepreneurism and freedom independent businesses embody. 

Independents Week is an occasion to recognize independent businesses’ contributions to the community–and to recognize local residents’ role in shaping your community’s future. Tallahassee has many great local businesses.  Check out Locally Owned Tallahassee for new ideas.  

When you buy local from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms -- continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community.  

Keep our community unique: Where we shop, where we eat and have fun -- all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of Tallahassee.  

Shopping local is good for the environment.  Local purchases require less transportation and generally shops are set up near downtown as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.

Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally.  

Get better service: Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know customers. 

Put your taxes to good use: Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.

Encourage local prosperity: A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

Click here to see summaries of a variety of economic impact studies, including comparing local business to big box retail.  



Yes, young people are the problem solvers of tomorrow, only some are doing it today.  The video below from the website social consciousness highlights a young man who looked at oak trees, figured out the math ( Fibonacci sequence) and came up with a potentially better way to build solar arrays to collect energy--and he is 13 years old!   

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