<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Green News]]>Copyright 2017https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/green http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area https://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usSun, 10 Dec 2017 22:38:33 -0800Sun, 10 Dec 2017 22:38:33 -0800NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Polar Bears Get Snow Donations]]> Wed, 26 Jul 2017 10:13:52 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DIT+POLAR+BEARS+GET+SNOW+THUMB.jpg

High temperatures at a Finland Wildlife Center were making life uncomfortable for a family of polar bears. However, the child of an employee at a local ski resort had an idea on how to cool them off: the resort could donate excess snow they had saved up from last winter. After some initial hesitation, the bear family seemed much happier with the new addition to their pen.

<![CDATA[Last Orca Born in Captivity Dies]]> Tue, 25 Jul 2017 11:18:23 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DIT+SEAWORLD+DEATH+THUMB.jpg

The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld’s former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company’s San Antonio park. Veterinarians were treating the calf for an infection, possibly pneumonia, but her health continued to decline. The park discontinued its breeding program in March 2016.

<![CDATA[Macron Targets 'Make Our Planet Great Again' Site at US]]> Fri, 09 Jun 2017 16:18:13 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-683370816-Macron.jpg

In the wake of the United States' withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron fired back on Thursday with the launch of a new website titled "Make Our Planet Great Again."

On the site’s homepage, Macron calls President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the agreement "unfortunate" but adds that the decision “only reinforced our determination.” He calls for those working on climate issues to do so in France. 

"To all the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the President of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland," Macron said in a video address on the site’s homepage. "I call on them, come and work here with us to work on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment."

The site includes information for researchers, educators and students on applying for a four-year grant to study in France, according to Business Insider. Businesses and NGOs can also apply to receive funding from the French government.

"You will be able to stay in France at least for the duration of the grant, and longer if you are granted a permanent position," the site explains.

The site cost €22,000 (approximately $24,637) to build is produced and managed by Business France, according to Politico.eu.

By clicking on the "I Want to Make Our Planet Great Again" button on the homepage of the website, users can describe why they are fighting climate change. They can also detail current projects and "dreams" of carrying out the fight against climate change.

"The planet needs your innovative skills. So are you IN to change (literally!) our daily lives and make our planet great again?" the site reads.

The title, a play on President Trump's signature campaign slogan "Make America Great Again," reflects the increased efforts to combat climate change by France and other signatories of the Paris agreement. Macron first used the modified slogan in an address from the Elysée Palace on June 1, after Trump announced the withdrawal.

You can visit the Make Our Planet Great Again site by clicking here.

Photo Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Build It Green: TreeHouse to Open World's 1st Net-Zero Energy Store]]> Thu, 01 Jun 2017 06:52:56 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/treehouse-store.jpg

Home improvement has long been synonymous with Home Depot and Lowe's. But a Texas-based green conscience start-up is aiming to make sustainable home improvement appeal to more than just environmentalists.

TreeHouse will open the world's first energy-positive home improvement store in Dallas Friday. Through the use of 539 rooftop solar panels and two Tesla Powerwalls the store will actually generate energy well in excess of its needs.

“This store runs on 100 percent sunshine,” Treehouse's Ben Kusin said, adding that the excess renewable energy that the store generates will be put back onto the power grid and made available for others to use.

The company is the first retailer authorized to sell Tesla's home energy storage battery.

"A home battery could make energy bills an archaic relic of a past system," said TreeHouse co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard, speaking at Tesla’s energy storage event in California. "You can now own your own production and storage of the energy you need. This takes us one step closer to completely powering homes without fossil fuels."

The store will be the retailer’s second location. It's flagship store opened in Austin in 2011. An additional store, planned for the Plano area, is due to open this fall. Dubbed the Whole Foods of home improvement, TreeHouse's expansion highlights a demand for eco-friendly products and a desire to reduce carbon footprint. 


Yet, President Donald Trump is expected to announce Thursday whether the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. White House sources tell NBC News that the president is leaning toward an exit. 

The 2015 agreement, which is not a binding treaty, was spurred by the overwhelming global scientific consensus that rising global temperatures over the last several decades are caused by man-made activity. The accord's goal is aimed at preventing the planet from warming by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which scientists warn could have damaging consequences.

The agreement calls on countries to make voluntary national pledges to reduce emissions. Despite Trump's decision, businesses like TreeHouse will forge ahead with eco-friendly alternatives.

"The home consumes the highest amount of our natural resources, such as water and energy, produces the largest amount of landfill waste, and is where we will be exposed to the greatest number of toxins in our lifetime," the company said. "By working to solve these problems, TreeHouse finds new routes to dramatically change the quality of our lives. We can build better shelters for ourselves, our communities, and our planet."

TreeHouse offers a carefully curated selection of products and services that promote healthful and sustainable living spaces, with an emphasis on performance and design. Every product is scored based on health, performance, corporate responsibility and sustainability.

“TreeHouse is reinventing home improvement with the twin goals of ecological and human health,” the company explains on its web site. “Our core principles are applied to everything in the store. From thoughtful and innovative products to comprehensive, high-quality services -- every element is designed to build a better home.”

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Green Initiatives of Top Companies ]]> Wed, 19 Apr 2017 17:00:25 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DIT+Earth+Week+Companies+THUMB.jpg

In honor of Earth Week, NBC looked at 5 of the most valuable companies to see what kind of green initiatives they are engaged in.

<![CDATA[From Your Recycle Bin to China: 360 Recycling Plant Tour]]> Tue, 18 Apr 2017 17:26:04 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/360+Recycling+THUMB.jpg

What really happens to your recycling? Take a 360 video tour of the Burbank Recycle Center to see what happens to your recyclable waste and learn how you can be a more eco-friendly consumer.

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<![CDATA[Badlands National Park's Climate Change Tweets Deleted]]> Tue, 24 Jan 2017 18:04:07 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Badlands+park.jpg

The Twitter account for the Badlands National Park in South Dakota published a series of tweets Tuesday on climate change. A few hours later, the tweets were deleted.

The first tweet, posted an hour after President Donald Trump signed executive orders advancing the construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, said: “The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm.”

Just moments later, the account posted another tweet: “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years” — with the hashtag “#climate” added for good measure.

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The next tweet said: “Flipside of the atmosphere; ocean acidity has increased 30% since the Industrial Revolution. ‘Ocean Acidification’ #climate #carboncycle” 

The last tweet said: "Burning one gallon of gasoline puts nearly 20lbs of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere." 

According to a National Park Service spokesman, the tweets were posted by a former employee who is not authorized to use the park's account. Tom Crosson, NPS's chief of public affairs, told NBC the park was not told to remove the tweets but "chose to do so when they realized that their account had been compromised."

"At this time, National Park Service social media managers are encouraged to continue the use of Twitter to post information relating to public safety and park information, with the exception of content related to national policy issues," Crosson added.

Tweeting about climate change isn't out of character for Badlands. The park's Twitter account feed addresses the national security implications of climate change, rising water temperatures and the decline of species driven by global warming. But it does contradict President Trump's stance on the issue. He has repeatedly claimed climate change is a hoax.

In response to the tweets being deleted, DNC national press secretary Adrienne Watson released the following statement: “Vladimir Putin would be proud.”

Tuesday's tweets followed a brief suspension Friday of the National Park Service’s Twitter account, as well as those of all its bureaus, over retweets the Department of the Interior deemed "inconsistent with the agency’s mission."

The prohibition came after the National Park Service’s official Twitter account, a bureau of the department, retweeted a pair of posts to its 315,000 followers. One of the tweets was a photo that compared the crowd gathered on the National Mall for Trump to the much-larger gathering that stood in the same spot eight years earlier for President Barack Obama's first swearing-in. The tweets were later removed from the feed, and the National Park Service apologized for sharing them.

A day later, Crosson said the agencies could resume tweeting “Now that social media guidance has been clarified.” It was not immediately clear what information was in the guidance. 

Photo Credit: Badlands National Park
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<![CDATA[State Loosens Water Restrictions, But Drought Not Over Yet]]> Wed, 01 Jun 2016 18:14:36 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/th-AP_890013665087.jpg

A wet winter has many people in the state talking about a surge in water and a stop-gap to a decades-long drought.

But did the El Niño season deliver enough water to end the drought?

It wasn’t the "godzilla" El Niño forecasters initially predicted, says Jay Lund, a world renowned water resource expert and director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis.

"The El Niño was touted as bringing us a lot more water than it actually brought this year," he said.

In fact, rainfall in Northern California was decidedly average this year, Lund says.

However, the El Niño was atypical in other ways, he added.

"If you look at it statistically, El Niños are not necessarily correlated with a lot of water in Northern California, but they usually are correlated with more water in Southern California," Lund says.

This year, the El Niño had the opposite impact. Northern California fared much better, while Southern and Central California saw notably little rainfall and still remain in "extreme" or "exceptional" drought, according to the state’s most recent drought map.

Overall, drought conditions have improved in California.

Most of the state’s major reservoirs are in Northern California, where average rainfall has some of those reservoirs, Shasta and Oroville for example, filled to the brim.

Groundwater supplies will take longer to rebuild, but the replenished reservoirs will help with that.

"They kind of go together," Lund said. "The main way we recharge aquifers in the Central Valley is with irrigating crops with surface water."

There will be more surface water to go around this year.

Even though California’s Water Resources Control Board recently lifted its water use restrictions, giving jurisdiction to local agencies, many water districts in the Bay Area have chosen not to change the rules regarding calls for conservation.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission says customers will still be asked for a voluntary 10 percent cut, and restaurants in the city will still serve water by request only.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District hasn’t budged yet, either. The district mandates a 30 percent reduction for now, but the board will meet again in two weeks to discuss.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District has made some changes. Its 1.4 million customers no longer need to meet a 20 percent conservation target or pay fines for overuse.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Wildlife Protection Agencies Warn of 'Nurdle' Problem ]]> Sat, 26 Mar 2016 15:01:15 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/plastic-pieces-large.jpg

Wildlife protection agencies say thousands of tiny pellets – called “nurdles” – are washing up on Bay Area beaches, putting fish and birds in serious danger.

Members of the group “Save Our Shores” say nurdles are basically reproduction plastic that comes from cargo ships. Volunteers say they’ve seen this sort of plastic before, but think the problem is worsening.

The organization started in Santa Cruz but has moved up the California coast, attempting to bring awareness to the pellet problem.

Advocates are advising beach-goers not to let pets eat the pellets and to pitch in and help with clean up.

Photo Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography]]>
<![CDATA[If Approved, New Fee Will Impact All California Drivers]]> Thu, 28 Jan 2016 08:22:56 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0127-2016-Gasoline.jpg

Driving into the new year, California Governor Jerry Brown has already hit a speed bump: the state’s transportation budget is strapped for cash.

That’s because gas tax revenues are down in the state, as drivers in the Golden State increasingly move toward fuel-efficient cars and gas prices continue to drop. About half of California’s gas tax revenue is tied directly to gas prices.

The governor’s office has made headlines with talk of testing a new mileage program to fill the budgetary hole created by falling gas tax revenues. That program docks drivers based on how much they drive.

However, a closer look at this year’s budget reveals a different proposal entirely: a new registration fee. In total, an addition $65 per car, pending approval by the legislature.

That fee is expected to drum up at least $2 billion, or double what California is projected to lose in gas tax revenue by next year.

According to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, revenue totals will drop from $5.4 billion last year to $4.4 billion by 2017.

“That means at some point, sooner rather than later, we have to bite the bullet and enact new fees and taxes for this purpose,” the governor said during his State of the State speech earlier this month.

Drivers at a San Jose gas station told NBC Bay Area that amidst the talk to dwindling transportation funds, they never even heard about a potential new fee.

“I was not area of that fee at all,” said Kim Tran.

“This is something I need to look at because...we have to work harder to pay that kind of fee,” added Josephone Phan.

While many Californians are likely to be irked by an additional fee, University of California at Berkeley clean energy expert Dan Kammen says now is the ideal time to kick start this conversation.

“What the dip in taxes highlights for me is the need to find new revenue, but because we still have significant revenues from the gas tax, it’s the perfect time,” he said.

Kammen says the state can roll out a new vehicle tax like Brown’s current proposal, or use a mileage program, since both systems affect all drivers. The key, he adds, is to make the process tailored to promote cleaner fuel.

““So you’re driving an electric vehicle, perhaps you pay the lowest fee,” Kammen said. “If you’re running a gas-hybrid vehicle, maybe it’s a little bit higher. And if you’re in a regular gas-powered vehicle, perhaps it’s at the highest category. And that’s something which is no more difficult to manage than things we’re already used to doing.”

California currently leads the nation in electric vehicles, but they still make up only a tiny percentage of cars on the road.

It’s clear the state is moving to cleaner vehicles, and more electric cars on the road will only further dry up gas tax revenues.

Bottom line? California needs to switch its formula for raising transportation money, and there are several good options right now.

But that whopper of a registration fee that could come down the pike a year from now?

California voters once booted former California Governor Gray Davis out of office for a similar hike.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Paris Climate Agreement Could Have Little Impact]]> Fri, 11 Dec 2015 19:58:27 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/1211-2015-Sunset.jpg

World leaders gathered in Paris this week in an effort to save the world from catastrophic climate change, but it may be too late, according to Stanford environmental law expert Michael Wara.

“The emissions reductions that countries are coming forward with and promising in Paris are not nearly enough to solve the problem of climate change,” Wara told NBC Bay Area.

The Paris talks are aimed at preventing future droughts, food shortages, rising oceans, and even widespread disease, which climatologists predict will occur if global temperatures increase more than 2 degrees Celsius.

If all countries continue with current policies, the global temperature rise would be about 3.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. Should each country at the conference keep its pledge made in Paris, the world would warm 2.7 degrees Celsius.

That’s better, but nowhere close to the critical benchmark.

No matter the outcome, this week’s talks are unprecedented, says Adele Morris, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“What’s unique about this meeting is that it’s the first time all countries, all major emitters or nearly all of them, have pledged to take action,” she said.

Morris added that the unprecedented nature of the talks has not detracted from criticism about shoddy standards.

“Well every country, or almost every country, is coming forward with its pledge that it designed itself for what emissions objectives they’re going to bring to the table,” she said.

In other words, each individual country is in charge of setting its own benchmark.

Despite those issues on the world stage, there are also several domestic hurdles that could impact the United States’ ability to move ahead with the Paris agreement.

“It’s not going to be an easy one to solve, particularly in the context of US politics,” Stanford’s Michael Wara said.

Wara refers to the 26 lawsuits brought by individual states against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, a joint venture with the Environmental Protection Agency that was announced in August. The plan sets standards for power plants and states to reduce the carbon emissions it says drive climate change.

The plan, however, could be unraveled entirely if the Supreme Court justices rule in favor of the states.

The standards set by the Clean Power Plan and the Paris agreement are also vulnerable to changes by the next president. That could have great impact on views of the U.S. as the world leader in climate change policy.

“Were the Supreme Court to strike down the regulations, were a Republican administration in 2017 to walk back from these commitments, the perception that the U.S. has kind of gotten its act together could change very quickly,” Wara said.

Even if the Obama administration wins in court, and the next president supports the Paris plan, there could still be a holdup in Congress. A climate deal demands contributions in the billions from rich countries to poor and developing ones, and some Republican lawmakers have threatened to leverage the lower house's power of the purse to stall any advance on that front.

The physical impact of the Paris conference could fall short and the future of the United States’ role in the global climate change effort still hangs in the balance, but this week’s talks are still a critical first step in getting more countries involved in climate change efforts.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Colorado Makes Big Money from Legalized Marijuana]]> Mon, 28 Sep 2015 14:31:16 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/N6P+RC+MARIJUANA+TAXES+PKG+-+00001116.jpg

For the first time in history, marijuana tax revenue has outpaced alcohol tax revenue in Colorado, according to a new report by the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization focused on ending marijuana prohibition nationwide.

Is that claim true, or is it just smoke and mirrors?
"It is true," says Joseph Henchman, Vice President of Tax Foundation, a non partisan think tank in Washington, D.C. "Colorado has raised about $70 million over the last year from its marijuana taxes, and that's pretty much on projection."
According to data from the Colorado Department of Revenue, that $69.8 million hauled in by the Centennial State's special marijuana taxes--10 percent on retail sales and a 15 percent excise tax paid by pot producers--certainly outpaces the nearly $42 million brought in by alcohol tax revenue, which ranges from a few cents to a few dollars per gallon.
There are a few caveats to those numbers, experts say.
"It's worth noting, of course, that Colorado has very high taxes on marijuana, and very low taxes on alcohol," Henchman said. "So it's not like alcohol sales aren't still much more than marijuana sales."
In fact, alcohol sales in Colorado are much higher than pot, and the Marijuana Policy Project's analysis doesn't account for general sales tax.
"Overall, [the report is] just the specific special taxes levied on marijuana versus alcohol," said the group's Deputy Director of Communication, Lauren Vazquez. "They are higher for marijuana. We are generating more revenue from marijuana than alcohol."
With alcohol sales outpacing marijuana sales, it's likely that accounting for the general sales tax would greatly distort the report's margin.
Still, it is undeniable that pot sales in Colorado are soaring. 
Over the past year, the numbers have increased by 70 percent.
Now lawmakers from other states weighing the financial benefits of legalization are taking notice.
"We're getting calls from state legislators all over the country wanting to hear, what are the lessons learned and how do we apply to them to our state?" said the Tax Foundation's Joseph Henchman.
A ballot measure to legalize recreational pot in California next year might give the Golden State a chance to test out those pointers first hand.

<![CDATA[Tree Collapses Likely Not Drought-Related, Experts Say]]> Tue, 04 Aug 2015 18:18:00 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0804-2015-tree.jpg

A 75-year-old pine tree collapsed outside a children’s museum in Pasadena last week, injuring eight children and hospitalizing two.

The incident stoked fears that the current California drought could lead to more tree collapses.

But local experts told NBC Bay Area that the factors leading to a tree collapse take time, so despite cutbacks in water usage statewide, it’s unlikely that recent collapses are due to thirsty trees.

“It’s very hard to attribute a broad spectrum of tree deaths to one drought,” said Robert Booty, a consulting arborist with the San Jose-based Arborist OnSite. “California has had many [droughts], and trees live for a long time.”

Larry Costello with the University of California’s Tree Failure Report Program agrees. He’s worked to collect reports of tree failure from independent reporters across the state since the mid-1980’s.

“We’re talking about structural failure of trees, not trees dying or declining,” he said. “We’re talking about branch breaks, trunk breaks, and uprooting.”

Recent news reports have incorrectly linked data from the Tree Failure Report Program to an uptick in tree collapses, Costello said, drawing a correlation between an increase in reports and the current drought.

“The data does not say that, and you can’t pull that out of the data,” he said.

In fact, there’s barely been an increase in tree failures at all, he said.

There were nearly 4900 tree failures in California in 2010, according to Tree Failure Report Program statistics. But that figure is cumulative, and dates back to the start of Costello’s program.

By 2015, the number of reports was up to 5700 tree failures. An increase, to be sure, but broken down that is only an average of 200 tree failures per year.

That figure is not very telling, Costello says.

Recent events have reinforced the fact that drought conditions can make trees more susceptible to harm, but in the long run, Costello said.

“You might see an impact from the drought five years from now, or ten years from now,” he said. “But this year or next year? Probably not.”

Environmental factors during drought periods reduce the health of the tree, according to Robert Booty who adds that this damage isn’t likely to be seen in just a few years.

It takes time to lead to a collapse, he added.

“Different diseases and fungi attack the root system of the tree, and these pathogens have the ability to decompose the cellular content of the wood,” he said. “It reduces the wood to zero strength at times, and the tree fails.”

Arborists like Booty say that governments, schools, and homeowners should take note and inspect their trees regularly.

“Some trees will defoliate” he said. “You’ll see that the leaves will begin to dry up. These are things that even the common homeowner can recognize.”

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Recycled Water Safe for Drinking, Lab Results Show]]> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 09:44:00 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/RHEA+RECYCLED+WATER+PKG+-+000002131.jpg

Recycled water—the so-called “toilet to tap” variety—processed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District could soon make its way to the region’s drinking supply.

The thought of consuming water from drains, sinks and yes, even toilets, provokes a common response.

“Of course, the first thought right away is, ‘Ew, yuck!’” Dawn Ross, a San Jose resident told NBC Bay Area.

But water processed at the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center in San Jose—the largest water purification center in Northern California—is indeed safe to drink, according to tests run by the Pleasonton-based Test America, an independent lab facility.

NBC Bay Area reached out to the lab to run drinking water tests on samples from the San Jose purification center.

One test for total organic carbon, or contaminants that can infiltrate drinking water and threaten public health, yielded an “ND” or a “no detection” result.

Tests for E. coli and fecal bacteria returned a “most probable number” of less than two, which indicates no presence of either contaminant.

In other words, the water is more than suitable for drinking.

That is, if you can get past your initial gut reaction.

“It’s cleaner than what’s coming out of your sinks right now,” said Pam John, North Water Treatment Operations Unit Manager for the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

On a recent tour of the Advanced Purification Center, which treats eight million gallons of water a day, John walked NBC Bay Area through a series of treatment processes that prepare the water to be what she says is “near-distilled” quality.

Up first is microfiltration, where very tiny fibers filter out viruses and bacteria from the water. That process is followed by reverse osmosis, which clears away salts and smaller viruses. The final step at the facility is ultraviolet light disinfection, which disinfects the water without using chemicals. The final product looks immaculate, and is totally drinkable, John says.

The water isn’t used for drinking quite yet, John said, but it is used for landscape irrigation, as well as in industrial processes.

For now, the treatment facility is focused on producing clean water and educating the public about it. The hope is to create transparency around the treatment process and reduce the “toilet to tap” stigma.

“We make no bones about this water. It is really water from a sewer,” she said. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be made safe for drinking, she added.

Sewer water from the region is initially treated at the San Jose Regional Wastewater facility, which treats 110 million gallons of wastewater each day.

Much of that recycled water is returned to the San Francisco Bay.

The rest is sent to the Advanced Water Purification Center.

In total, the water that could end up in drinking cups throughout the region goes through two stages of treatment at the Regional Wastewater Facility and three stages at the Advanced Purification Center.

The plan is to expand the Advanced Purification Center to process up to 40 million gallons of water per day and eventually introduce that recycled water to taps for public consumption, John said.

Southern California areas like Orange County have been doing this for many years and is the gold standard in the state for the process, she added.

With the current water supply dwindling, John stressed that implementation of this type of innovation could have a major impact.

“Being in this unprecedented fourth year of drought, these types of supplies, which we think of as being drought-proof supplies—drought-proof, reliable, and local—these types of supplies are invaluable,” she said.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Greenhouse Gases Biggest Threat to Polar Bears: Study]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 12:55:39 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-77960094polarbears71151.jpg Greenhouse gas emissions remain the "primary threat" to polar bears, according to a study released Tuesday by the U.S. Geological Survey. Polar bear populations will decline even if emissions are stabilized by the end of the century, the study said. Polar bears have been categorized as a "globally threatened species" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 2008. The two main threats to polar bears are melting sea ice and disappearing prey. The study concluded that polar bears would suffer whether carbon emissions grew at their current pace or peaked in 2040 and then declined. The only optimistic scenario would involve "immediate and aggressive" cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, researchers said.
Get More at NBC News

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Toilet is Worst In-Home Water Waster]]> Tue, 26 May 2015 18:29:58 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/toilet1.jpg

Since Gov. Jerry Brown announced new water restrictions in April — to cut 25 percent of 2013 levels by 2016 — homeowners across the state have been called upon to play a part in cutting back.

Efforts to curb water use in residences across the state often focus on the shower or the washing machine, but it turns out the least water efficient appliance in households is the toilet.

According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, toilets consume nearly 27 percent of household water, followed by washing machines, showers, faucets and leaks.

Older toilet models can use on average 5 gallons of water per flush, according to EPA statistics. But experts say fixing the problem is pretty simple: get a new one.

Newer, more high efficiency toilets carry the EPA-certified Water Sense label, which uses a maximum of 1.28 gallons of water per flush.

“The efficiency and the performance is going to [increase] tenfold. You’re going to be able to save water and money,” said Javier Almanza, a plumbing specialist at Lowe’s Home Improvement in San Jose. “Within a couple of months it’ll pay for itself.”

But the upgrade comes with a price tag. New, high efficiency toilets can range in cost from $150 - $300, plus an installation fee. However, the new appliance offers a quick return on investment, Almanza said.

New models use 60 percent less water, and could shave $100 off your annual water bill, according to the EPA. Many water districts, including those in the Bay Area, provide rebates to help homeowners offset the cost to upgrade.

Homeowners can also do a number of other home improvements to cut down on water waste. New shower heads equipped with pause buttons, which start and stop the flow of water, cut down on wasted water while shower-goers lather up. Motion-sensored faucets for the bathroom and kitchen have a similar effect, and mitigate wasted water during teeth brushing and dish washing.

Looking to cut back without any additional cost or upgrades? 

Karen Koppett, Senior Water Conservation Specialist with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, said there are a number of no-cost options for homeowners. Using the dishwasher instead of hand washing is surprisingly more efficient, she said. She also recommended turning faucets off completely during shaving and teeth brushing.

For those looking to get serious about cutting back, Koppett suggested placing a bucket in the tub to collect water during shower time. That water can be recycled around the house to water plants and even flush the toilet.

<![CDATA[Want to Save Coral Reefs? First, Save the Fish: Study]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 16:04:11 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP080816183919.jpg A new study has found that more fish may be the answer to saving coral reefs, NBC News reported. Overfishing on reefs and other threats like pollution can lead to a collapse of underwater ecosystems, so keeping fish on the reefs is crucial to their health, according to the study of 832 reefs. "The methods used to estimate reef health in this study are simple enough that most fishers and managers can take the weight and pulse of their reef and keep it in the healthy range," Tim McClanahan, WCS senior conservationist and study co-author, said in a release. "Fishers and managers now have the ability to map out a plan for recovery of reef health that will give them the best chance to adapt to climate change."
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Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Solar: Where the Jobs Are]]> Fri, 16 Jan 2015 13:42:10 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tlmd_energia_solar.jpg

Need a job?

Go up on the roof.

According to The Washington, DC-based Solar Foundation, the solar industry is about as hot as the sun powering it: Growing at a clip twenty times as fast as the rest of the US economy, putting 174,000 people now in the employ of solar companies.

The forecast is good, too. 2015 looks to be a good year to get a job in solar. According to The Foundation's Andrea Luecke, the jobs cover a wide diversity of backgrounds, and pay well: "The average is 22 dollars an hour," Luecke says, "and don't require a high degree of education. Companies want experience."

Meaning, if you can install, you've got a shot.

There is a catch, though. Part of the reason for all the jobs, and all the panels going up on houses, can be traced to government incentives. If those incentives go away (and they expire at the end of 2016), the industry will face, according to SunPower CEO Tom Werner. "Uncertainty. And it's hard to run a business when you're guessing about the future."

For now, if you need a job, no need to guess. Look to the sun.

Scott talks jobs and tech on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Getty Images for TakePart.org]]>
<![CDATA[Self-Driving Cars Rolling Close To Home]]> Wed, 14 May 2014 05:10:52 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/05-13-2014-driverless.jpg

They're not just for freeway driving anymore.

Those self-driving cars from Google are now roaming city streets, whirling through boulevards, and using technology to avoid obstacles in their path. 

Google let us roll around in the latest driverless vehicles, with Chris Urmson, director of the Self-Driving Car Project, who pointed out that, while new technology makes people nervous, "after five minutes, people will say, that's all it does? This will be common, once you get used to it."

Strangely, the self-driving update happened on the same day the authors of the book "Freakonomics," Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, released their own questions (from their newest book) about the driverless cars. For example: How many jobs will they eliminate? And will we "binge drink" because we won't have to drive?

Well, we asked. 

According to Alain Bertaud of NYU, some jobs will likely be lost, "especially, taxi drivers at airports," but not for some time -- after all, he says, self-driving cars will take awhile to catch on.

As for the drinking, Susan Shaheen, the Co-Director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at UC Berkeley, says, "If someone wants to drink, this allows them to drink safely, without affecting other individuals."

Basically, Google is asking for patience as the cars gradually become part of our lives. Patience, and acceptance. They claim self-driving cars will be much safer, once we give the technology a chance.

Scott rolls on Twitter: @scottbudman 

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Tesla To Launch New Bay Area Stores]]> Thu, 08 May 2014 18:10:10 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/05-06-2014-tesla-store.jpg

At this point, they're all over the Bay Area.

You simply can't cruise through a local city without spotting a Tesla (likely the Model S) out in the wild. It's becoming the luxury car of choice for the well-heeled, and now you'll have more chances to plop down close to six figures for one, if you're so inclined.

Tesla (TSLA) announced plans to officially open two new Bay Area stores this weekend, one in Corte Madera, and one in Walnut Creek.  

Teslas are, according to recent company earning reports, selling quickly, to the point where other car companies (BMW, Ford, etc) are now doing what they can to catch up.

Tesla stock is -- as I write -- above $200 a share, and Wall Street is eagerly watching for the company's latest earning report Wednesday afternoon.

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Exclusive: Inside Apple's Server Farm]]> Mon, 28 Apr 2014 18:12:35 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ipad-release-store-stairs.jpg

Solar panels as far as the eye can see.

Giant boxes to process biogas fuel cells.

Welcome to the newest Apple facility.

Not a store with shiny devices, this is a data center in North Carolina that Apple gave us a chance to see. The company claims it will power the giant server farm with 100 percent renewable energy. That, given the huge energy demands of server centers these days, would be a feat.

There are estimates that close to two percent of all of our country's energy is spent on such farms to power devices that allow us to send photos, snapchats, and texts on a whim. With more devices, not to mention cars, powered by energy these days, the demands on our power grid look to increase by the day.

Apple says it can harness solar power, along with fuel cells from Silicon Valley's  Bloom Energy, to power its devices. Other companies, like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, use some solar power at their data centers. Apple wants to go 100% from renewable energy.

Says Lisa Jackson, who used to head the EPA, and now runs Apple's environmental efforts, "on sunny days, we can generate enough power to handle all our needs, and put extra power back on the grid."

It's an ambitious plan, that could eventually force other companies to follow suit. If that happens, all those powerful devices might sap a little less power from our grid.

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: NBC New York]]>
<![CDATA[Stunning Historic Photos of Air Pollution ]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 08:36:12 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/air-pollution-AP7004221649_7.jpg Click to see some fascinating images of air pollution throughout the US from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Oh, Man! 83% of Tesla Owners are Male]]> Fri, 27 Dec 2013 13:34:45 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tesla_models_car_red.jpg

We see a lot of Teslas on the roads here in Silicon Valley. They're everywhere.

And, if you peer into the windows, chances are very good that you'll see a man behind the wheel.

A new study from Edmunds.com (seen on MarketWatch in the Wall Street Journal) shows that, like Ram trucks, Aston Martins, and Lamborghinis, Teslas are overwhelmingly owned by men. 83 percent of Tesla owners, according to the study, are male.

Now, Teslas are without question status symbols. But don't women want them too? It's not a status that says "I'm a rock star," or, "I'm going to get a lot of women with this car," or, "I'm compensating for something..."

It seems to me that owning a Tesla says "I want to drive a cool luxury car that shows my wealth, and desire to drive without gas." 

Since when is that a dude thing?

Are there any women out there who want to disagree with the study? Are you looking to buy a Tesla? Let's hear it for Electric Ladyland .. at least, for 17 percent of us.

Scott is experienced on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Revolution 2.0: Getting Healthy Food Into Stores]]> Wed, 04 Sep 2013 18:14:28 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/vegetarian+school+lunch.jpg

If you have a child in school, chances are fairly good he or she has come in contact with Revolution Foods.

The company, headquartered in Oakland, has served some 75 million meals in school cafeterias since it was started by two former educators seven years ago.

All those school meals (and 1,000 jobs) later, Kristin Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey have a new target for their food: Stores. They're starting to hit Safeway, Whole Foods, and some others, with a massive runup due by the end of October.

The meals, known for being far healthier than a typical school lunch, are a hit in schools, and the two executives hope for similar success in stores. Their Oakland facilities are already bursting at the seams, and in an area known for bad news, this is a success story that looks to grow much bigger in the months and years to come.

Served with a dash of technology ("Social media is how we get feedback on what we do every day," says Richmond), Revolution Foods is aiming high, in a market dominated by established products  like Lunchables.  Can they continue to serve up success?

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman

<![CDATA[Bee-Friendly Plants Actually Killing Them: Study]]> Wed, 14 Aug 2013 18:13:50 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bee_swarm_bees_generic_honey.jpg

Most of us worry about their stings, when the subject of bees comes up, but the buzz among researchers here in the Bay Area and abroad is the fact that their numbers are drastically dwindling.

A study released today by "Friends of the Earth" says that so-called "bee- friendly" plants, sold at local big box stores, are killing the insects with pesticides.

Terry Oxford is a San Francisco urban beekeeper who says that bees are in trouble and we have to do something about it now.

“I feel like most people don’t know that they pollinate up to 70 percent of our food. It’s interesting the types of food that they pollinate. It’s the sweetness of our life that we’re going to miss,” Oxford said.

Tim Brown is a part of the pesticide research institute and co-author of the study.

He says 13 samples of garden plants, purchased at top retailers like Home Depot and Orchard Supply in Minneapolis, Washington, D.C. and here in the Bay Area contained neuro-toxic pesticides known as neonics.

“The results of the study shows that about half of the composite samples we analyzed detected positive for these neotictinoids, which are potentially harmful toward bees,” Brown said. Researchers are blaming pesticides for the death of millions of bees all over the world potentially threatening the nation’s food supply.

“There is no more time. We have to make a stand now. Bees are in trouble,” Oxford said.

A spokesman for Home Depot told NBC Bay Area they haven’t reviewed the study yet.

"But we certainly appreciate the importance of the bee population and will be reaching out to the study groups to learn more about their findings and methodology," Stephen Holmes said.

<![CDATA[Green Car Wash Sanitizes Without Soap]]> Mon, 05 Aug 2013 09:37:08 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/128401773.jpg A car wash in Arizona installed a water filtration tank allowing high levels of oxygen to sanitize the water they use to clean customers' cars — all without soap. An environmental engineer at Arizona State University is skeptical about the car wash's filtration system.]]> <![CDATA[Energy for Sale: Is It Worth It?]]> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 09:58:12 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000003170932_722x406_37270083593.jpg Door-to-door salesmen, telephone calls and direct mail, all trying to sell you electricity or natural gas. The pitches promise to save you money. They are called alternative energy suppliers. There have been more than 1,000 consumer complaints about them to Maryland and D.C. authorities so far this year, and we've been receiving emails asking whether these companies are real and are the deals worth it. CLICK HERE for a list of legitimate suppliers.]]> <![CDATA[Solar Impulse Airplane Leaves Texas, Bound for St. Louis]]> Mon, 03 Jun 2013 09:59:20 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0423solar1.JPG

 A solar-powered plane that spent more than a week in North Texas has departed on the third leg of its cross-country trip and will attempt to land in an inflatable hangar set up in the wake of last week's tornadoes.
The Solar Impulse took off early Monday from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport bound for Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, where a tornado had damaged several of the airport's buildings including the hangar reserved for the Solar Impulse. But postponing the flight, said Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, is not an option. Therefore, the two said in a release that they must take off Monday for a 21-hour flight, the longest flight to date, and will use its own "inflatable hangar" to park when it lands.

WATCH LIVE:      http://live.solarimpulse.com/
It's the first attempt by a solar plane capable of being airborne day and night without fuel to fly across the U.S.
The plane left Moffett Field in Mountain View on May 3 and landed the following day in Phoenix. The Solar Impulse departed Phoenix on May 22 and landed a day later in Texas.
The plane flies about 40 mph. The Texas to St. Louis leg is about 560 miles.
The end of the journey will be when the plane touches down at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Each flight leg normally takes 20 or so hours, with multiday stops in each city.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Embarcadero's Dying Palm Trees Leave Big Bills]]> Fri, 17 May 2013 05:34:44 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*123/palmtree1.jpg

When San Francisco’s quake-damaged Central Freeway met the wrath of the wrecking ball in the early nineties, it left a sprawling waterfront like a blank canvas. In the grand sprucing-up of the Embarcadero, the city lined the imposing roadway with more than 200 palm trees.

But now a disease is working its way through those trees, leaving many for dead and leaving San Francisco with a hefty replacement bill.

“The palm trees have something called Fusarium Wilt,” said S.F. Dept. Of Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon. “Which is a highly contagious fungal disease that can ultimately kill the trees.”

The disease is a guaranteed death sentence. So far 26 of the Embarcadero’s 220 Canary Island palm trees are confirmed to have it.

Another 34 trees show symptoms of the disease. The city has replaced four of the trees with plans to replace another three before this summer’s America’s Cup Yacht Race. But like the trees themselves, the price tag is way up there.

“To replace these trees is about $35,000,” said Gordon. “That’s both to dig them up and to put in new palm trees.”

City arborists are trying and preserve the diseased trees as long as possible. Gordon said the disease is highly contagious and can even be spread to other Canary Island palm trees using the same saw blades used to prune them.

While the city is trying it’s best to preserve the trees, some think it should cull the diseased trees at a much quicker pace.

“It makes sense in our city to maintain our big trees,” said Doug Wildman of the Friends of the Urban Forest. “But again, you’re subjecting the ones that are healthy to this disease.” '

Wildman said the city should consider different palm trees as it moves forward with roadside development projects across the city. Already, Canary Island palm trees extend down upper Market Street.

“We can’t keep planting them,” said Wildman. “We need to look at different palms if we really want palms for those applications.”

Gordon said city tree crews are replacing the dying palm trees with Mexican Fan Palms which are less likely to be infected Fusarium Wilt.

The city faced controversy over the original decision to plant palm trees since they’re non-native. But in a city of transplants and immigrants, some said the sprawling foreigners, feel right at home. “They really have found a place on the waterfront,” said Gordon.

Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[Tesla Stock Soars After Big Earnings and Car Sales]]> Thu, 09 May 2013 08:55:02 -0800 https://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tesla_models_car_red.jpg

Tesla is for real.

If you had any doubts, just look to Wall Street this morning. Shares of Tesla Motors stock (TSLA) have soared about 25 percent so far this morning. Over the last couple of months, the share price has doubled, adding close to four billion dollars to its market value.

Even more impressively (at least for me, a non stock holder), look at your local roadways. Teslas are everywhere these days. They're outselling The Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, despite the fact that the Model S is much more expensive. What was at first a trickle of Teslas in the wild has become a steady stream.

According to the company's latest earning report, Tesla sold 4,900 cars over the last three months, with sales expected to pick up even more steam in the month ahead. Net income for the quarter was $11.2 million dollars, sharply up from the $89.9 million dollar loss recorded the year before.

On top of all that, Consumer Reports just published a very favorable review, giving the Model S a 99 out of a possible 100 rating. Yowza. This from the magazine that couldn't bring itself to recommend the iPhone 5.

There are, of course, future roadblocks in the way for Tesla. But recently, at least, this company has done just about everything right, and it's being richly rewarded.

Scott, who test drove the Model S, is on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images]]>