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Prince Charles presents Ashden Awards for innovative environmental projects

(Adam Vaughan, The Guardian) A network of 28 demonstration green "superhomes" and a low-tech greenhouse for growing vegetables in a remote Himalayan region were today presented awards by Prince Charles in an environment competition. Other winners in the prestigious Ashden Awards for sustainable energy included a solar electricity project in Ethiopia, an innovative Ugandan scheme selling biomass briquettes to prevent deforestation, and a Surrey school that halved its electricity consumption.


Nokia developing phone that recharges itself without mains electricity

(Duncan Graham-Rowe, Guardian) Standby mode is often accused of being the scourge of the planet, insidiously draining resources while offering little benefit other than a small red light and extra convenience for couch potatos. But now Nokia reckons a mobile phone that is always left in standby mode could be just what the environment needs. A new prototype charging system from the company is able to power itself on nothing more than ambient radiowaves – the weak TV, radio and mobile phone signals that permanently surround us.


Rainforest is worth more standing

(Victoria Gill, BBC News) The Indonesian rainforest is worth more standing than felled say researchers. A new analysis has shown that payments to reduce carbon emissions from the forests could generate more income than palm oil production on deforested land. Protecting the forests could become profitable under a proposed scheme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (Redd). In the journal Conservation Letters, they say this scheme will help protect threatened forests.


Clean Energy Funding Trumps Fossil Fuels

(James Kanter, New York Times) Global investors spent about $250 billion building new power capacity in 2008, and for the first time the lion’s share of that money went to renewable sources, according to the United Nations Environment Program. Renewable sources accounted for 56 percent of investment dollars, worth $140 billion, while investment in fossil fuel technologies was $110 billion.


California forests hold one answer to climate change

(Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times) Silvery light flickers through the redwood canopy of the Van Eck forest down to a fragrant carpet of needles and thimbleberry brush. A brook splashes along polished stones, through thickets of ferns. How lush. How lovely. How lucrative. This 2,200-acre spread in Humboldt County does well by doing good. For the last four years, Van Eck's foresters restricted logging, allowing trees to do what trees do: absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


Gray water's grass roots

(Gloria Goodale, Christian Science Monitor) If water is the next battleground for a globe facing dwindling water resources, then this 1960s-style community center at the northern end of Los Angeles's Koreatown is at the forefront of the fight. On this day, Laura Allen, cofounder of Greywater Action, a group that encourages conserving and reusing household water, is in her fourth of a five-day workshop teaching Californians how to reclaim and recycle what has been dubbed "gray water." Typically, gray water includes the discharge from washing machines, sinks, showers, and tubs, which is then used to provide moisture for outdoor plants, from backyard rosebushes to large orchards.


How Cows (Grass-Fed Only) Could Save the Planet

(Lisa Abend, Time) On a farm in coastal Maine, a barn is going up. Right now it's little more than a concrete slab and some wooden beams, but when it's finished, the barn will provide winter shelter for up to six cows and a few head of sheep. None of this would be remarkable if it weren't for the fact that the people building the barn are two of the most highly regarded organic-vegetable farmers in the country: Eliot Coleman wrote the bible of organic farming, The New Organic Grower, and Barbara Damrosch is the Washington Post's gardening columnist. At a time when a growing number of environmental activists are calling for an end to eating meat, this veggie-centric power couple is beginning to raise it.


From slaughter to sanctuary

(New Zealand Herald) To the south and east of New Zealand, in the great Southern Ocean that encircles Antarctica, lie seven island groups. They are inhospitable places, blasted by unremitting westerly winds. Yet a striking range of wildlife survives on these specks of land. Megaherbs grow in warmer spots, their flowers and leaves bigger than mainland relatives. Seals and seabirds cluster on rocky coasts in their thousands. Some are found nowhere else on the planet.


Sea to provide power for 250,000 homes

(Wayne Thompson, New Zealand Herald) A tidal power station on the Kaipara Harbour seafloor could be providing power to a quarter of a million homes by the end of the decade. The Environment Court has made a positive recommendation to Conservation Minister Tim Groser on a plan to generate electricity from the harbour's swift tidal flow. The approval is subject to fine-tuning of consent conditions. Crest Energy plans to spend $600 million on sinking 200 tidal power turbines to the seabed of the harbour entrance, creating New Zealand's first tide-driven power station.


New Life for Solar-Updraft Technology?

(John Collins Rudolf, New York Times) The solar updraft tower, which uses the greenhouse effect and thermal convection to drive wind turbines and produce electricity, has been hailed as a novel — and promising — approach to renewable energy generation. The technology relies on an elementary principle of physics: heat rises. To generate power, a massive greenhouse creates hot air and funnels it into a tall chimneylike structure. This hot wind propels a wind turbine within the tower. According to some estimates, such towers could, if sufficiently large and in the proper environment, generate emissions-free power at a considerable discount over traditional renewable sources.


Sun, wind and wave-powered: Europe unites to build renewable energy 'supergrid'

(Alok Jha, The Guardian) It would connect turbines off the wind-lashed north coast of Scotland with Germany's vast arrays of solar panels, and join the power of waves crashing on to the Belgian and Danish coasts with the hydro-electric dams nestled in Norway's fjords: Europe's first electricity grid dedicated to renewable power will become a political reality this month, as nine countries formally draw up plans to link their clean energy projects around the North Sea.


'Green' buildings in vogue

(Elizabeth Gibson, Columbus Dispatch) Environmentally friendly construction is not new, but building experts say it's just beginning to go mainstream in central Ohio. "After all this talk, it's finally starting to happen," said Meera Parthasarathy, chairwoman of the central Ohio chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. "There was a learning curve, but people have seen more and more buildings, and they're finally ready to jump into the fray."