Category Archives: Sustainable Living

Fairbanks borough administrators rewriting air pollution plan

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, December 23, 2010:

Administrators for the borough are rewriting an air pollution prevention plan following October passage of a voter initiative. The borough’s public pollution control commission will review the changes Monday.

The changes follow commissioners’ request that borough officials try, “as much as possible,” to retain oversight of pollution’s impact on visibility and trans-property boundary effects, Mayor Luke Hopkins said.

The commission meets Monday at 6:30 p.m. at a special venue, Pioneer Park’s Civic Center and Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts.

EPA forms group to increase tribal role in pollution prevention

From The Tundra Drums, Tuesday, December 21, 2010:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is forming a new tribal committee to provide tribes with an opportunity for greater input on issues related to toxic chemicals and pollution prevention, the agency said in a press release.

The move is part of Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s priority to build strong tribal partnerships and expand the conversation on environmental justice.

EPA is establishing a National Tribal Toxics Committee (NTTC) that will give tribes a forum for providing advice on the development of EPA’s chemical management and pollution prevention programs that affect tribes. Given the uniqueness of tribal cultures, communities and environmental problems, the forum will help EPA better tailor and more efficiently address a variety of issues, including preventing poisoning from lead paint, expanding pollution prevention and safer chemical initiatives in Indian country, and better evaluating unique chemical exposures on tribal lands.

“This new committee will help increase our already close collaboration and communication with federally recognized tribes and intertribal organizations on critical issues relating to chemical safety and pollution prevention that affect Native peoples,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We are committed to reducing toxic exposures and increasing pollution prevention among tribal communities, and to respecting tribal sovereignty, culture and heritage.”

Continue reading: EPA forms group to increase tribal role in pollution prevention

Anchorage elementary getting wind turbine

From The Associated Press, Tuesday, December 21, 2010:

Begich Middle School in Anchorage has won school board approval to install a wind turbine.

The Anchorage Daily News reports it’s part of a federal program to teach renewable energy. The turbine will generate enough electricity to run up to eight computers.

Alaska is one of 11 states in the Energy Department’s Wind for Schools program.

Sherrod Elementary in Palmer also has a turbine. Schools in Juneau are working with the Coast Guard station’s wind turbine.

Continue reading: Anchorage elementary getting wind turbine

Green Gift Wrap Ideas


Gift wrapping is fun and necessary for many occasions, but there are the environmental costs of resource extraction, manufacture and waste disposal to be considered. You can create attractive gift wrap yourself by reusing paper, fabric or even using the Sunday comics. If you prefer buying gift wrap, look for recycled content gift wrap paper whenever you can find it.

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Group developing efficient homes for rural Alaska

From Alaska Journal of Commerce, Saturday, December 10, 2010:

With high fuel prices and harsh winter climes, constructing energy-efficient housing in rural Alaska communities can be a difficult task that is compounded by the prohibitively high costs.

In Fairbanks, Jack Hebert and a team of engineers with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center are rising to the challenge, designing and building prototype homes and empowering communities to build more of them for themselves.

In 2008, the CCHRC began its Sustainable Northern Shelter Program. CCHRC designs sustainable home technology, with its aim being to reduce the amount of fuel used to heat rural homes.

The group contracts with local crews to get the homes built. In fact, CCHRC officials don’t actually build the homes; with input from the locals, they design it and the locals themselves build them.

Consultations with the community help establish what their cultural needs are, among other things, Hebert said.

The goal, Hebert said, is to enable local residents to build their own sustainable homes without the aid of outsiders.

 “The wisdom of the people who have lived here for 10,000 years is important,” Hebert said.

Continue reading:  Group developing efficient homes for rural Alaska

Tainted wells in North Pole spur Alaska officials to issue garden alert

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Monday, December 13, 2010:

The state is preparing to caution gardeners using well water contaminated with sulfolane.

Department of Environmental Conservation project manager Ann Farris said a study last summer shows the chemical contaminates garden plants.

“The bottom line is that sulfolane was in the plants,” Farris sad. “We have already asked Flint Hills (Resources) to be prepared to provide people with water for their gardening until we can get more information on the toxicity or on the uptake of sulfolane in these plants.”

About 200 wells in North Pole and outside the city have water contaminated with sulfolane, an industrial solvent used to refine oil.

A fact sheet detailing the garden study and making recommendations is due in the coming weeks, Farris said.

Flint Hills discovered the groundwater contamination last year. It stretches from the refinery to about three miles northwest of the refinery.

Tok School burns biomass in big boiler

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Monday, December 6, 2010:

A new wood energy project in Tok has turned surrounding forests from a fire hazard into renewable fuel. The Tok School lit a new wood chip-fired boiler for the first time several weeks ago.

The 5.5-million-BTU steam boiler produces the school’s heat, saving the school district thousands of dollars in heating fuel and saving forest managers untold costs fighting fires and eliminating waste wood. The school district plans to add a steam turbine generator to the system in May to produce 75 percent of its electricity.

“We’re the first school in the state to be heated entirely by wood,” said project manager and assistant superintendent Scott MacManus, who has been trying to spur wood energy in Tok for 10 years. “As far as I know, we’d be the first public school in the country to produce heat and power from biomass.”

At the school’s new biomass facility, trees and slash are fed into a Rotochopper grinder, processed into chips that resemble wood shavings, spit into a bin and carried by conveyor belt into the boiler, which is

17 feet tall, six feet wide and 12 feet long. Fuel comes from forest thinning projects, scraps and nearby sawmills. The forest around the school has yielded enough biomass for the first year, according to Alaska Division of Forestry spokeswoman Maggie Rogers. Project leaders hope the system will be used as a model of energy independence for other school districts, communities and utilities.

Healy coal plant slides off restart timeline

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Tuesday, November 23, 2010:

Restart plans for a dormant coal plant in Healy have slipped off schedule again. The proposed owner, Golden Valley Electric Association, said signs of progress still offer hope.

State environmental managers pulled permitting plans for the unit, dubbed the Healy Clean Coal Project, from a federal review desk in September.

The decision offered the federal Environmental Protection Agency more time for discussion, the state and GVEA explained following the decision. Brian Newton, CEO of GVEA, said at the time the decision reflected a “good sign” federal regulators wanted to clear the plan eventually.

Newton said the same Monday, even as the restart plan’s timeline appeared to backpedal again.

State environmental managers, carrying the proposal on behalf of GVEA, had suggested two months ago they’d likely resubmit the plans in November. Newton said Monday it will instead take weeks longer.

How to have a green Thanksgiving


Holidays usually don’t provide for the most environmentally-friendly options. But Marketplace’s Adriene Hill is offering her tips on how to have a green Thanksgiving without having to compromise your holiday fun.


Steve Chiotakis: Grocery stores will be packed this weekend, as people grab up Thanksgiving fixings. What does all that eating, traveling and family visiting mean for the environment?

We’ve called on Marketplace Sustainability reporter Adriene Hill to help us out. Good morning Adriene.

Adriene Hill: Good morning, Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: So a big green thumbs up or green thumbs down on Thanksgiving?

HILL: You know, it would be super easy to apply the whole bummer environmental vibe to yet another American tradition.

CHIOTAKIS: Like a Debbie Downer.

HILL: But it’s no fun. I don’t want to be that reporter. Yes, the best thing you can do on Thanksgiving is to sit at home, alone in the dark, without any heat, don’t eat anything — you’ll save a ton of carbon that way. But I really like Thanksgiving. So instead I want to focus on how you can make the holiday more environmentally-friendly.

Continue reading: How to have a green Thanksgiving

Bottle gardens add indoor greenery all winter long

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Tuesday, November 23, 2010:

Are you missing the green of your garden? Grow a garden year-round with a bottle garden.

A bottle garden, also known as a terrarium, is a self-contained, closed system that sustains itself much like Earth’s atmosphere. Photosynthesis and decomposition occur in a balanced state, creating an environment that requires minimal care.

Bottle gardens enable you to grow plants that require high levels of humidity, which can be difficult during the dry winter months in your house. It is an excellent option for the Fairbanks gardener.

You will need a glass container, small rocks, activated charcoal (available in the aquarium section at the store), sphagnum moss, potting soil, a few complementary plants that have similar growing requirements, and a spoon or tool that can reach into the jar.