Thursday, June 28, 2007

knú: Sustainable Furniture, as Green as it Gets

Grand Rapids and West Michigan are famous for unique, creative furniture designs. knú takes it a step further, pushing the Midwest furniture industry toward sustainability. From suppliers to manufacturing to online sales, knú is riding the crest of the green wave. It's just like surfing Lake Michigan.

knú has recently partnered with IBM and Shared Vision to create an e-commerce site to sell furniture online; knú will save trees and energy by not producing bulk mail catalogs to clog landfills. An impressive array of designs is produced from Forest Stewardship Council certified sustainably harvested wood products, the legs and hardware of the furniture is made from 40% post-consumer waste recycled (and fully recyclable) steel, and the few plastics used are also fully recyclable.

knú uses very low VOC finishes to reduce toxic air pollution and greenhouse gases. There are no toxic adhesives used in any of furniture.

In addition, the majority of knú's suppliers are local. 90% are within a 50 mile radius of the manufacturing facility, which by the way, uses highly energy efficient f-bay lighting and infra-red heating.

What's really cool is that knú offsets all of its carbon emissions. 100% of their CO2 created by executive air travel, vehicle use, and the electricity and natural gas used in manufacturing is offset by the purchase of renewable energy certificates and investments in renewable energy. There are very few companies doing this so far, knú is leading the way.

The crew at knú are a group of folks you'll wanna sit down and have a brew with. From the top down they are true West Michigan progressive thinkers, environmental activists, wilderness lovers and outdoorsmen. They are also founding members of the newly formed Sustainable Furniture Council, a non-profit coalition of over 40 small furniture companies doing it the green way.

I'm getting sick of the big corporations telling us that they're green, especially when we know they're just trying to force their crap on us. You've gotta look through the green-washing and see the real folks who are really trying. Well here they are, right in your backyard. Check them out at

Saturday, June 16, 2007

We're Headed to Telluride, Baby!!!

I'm leaving for 10 days for Colorado, going to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
This year's festival is outrageous!

The line-up includes the Counting Crows, Los Lobos, Allison Kraus, Chick Corea, Emmy Lou Harris, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Mike Marshall, Tony Rice and Peter Rowan to name a few. But the real news is that Kalamazoo's own Greensky Bluegrass is going to take the main stage for their first ever appearance after winning last year's new band competition.

Since 2003, the festival has purchased renewable energy - in the form of Renewable Energy Credits (REC’s) - to offset the carbon dioxide (CO2) created by its electricity, diesel and gas consumption. This year they are offsetting 100% of the emissions created, including travel to and from Telluride.

Solaicx has big plans

Just a note to the boys at United Solar Avionics, here comes the competition. Solaicx, a manufacturer of mono-crystalline silicon ingots and wafers for solar photovoltaic applications, has selected Portland, Oregon, as the location for its new silicon manufacturing facility.

Of course, there's plenty of room in the growing solar market. Right guys?

Read More

EPA awards $100,000 environmental justice grant to Cleveland Tenants Organization

The Cleveland Tenants Organization is one of 10 non-profits across the country awarded a $100,000 environmental justice grant by the EPA. This is noteworthy as this is probably the first time the Office of Environmental Justice has ever done anything worthwhile.

The grant is part of EPA's Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving program that supports environment and public health improvements in low-income communities around the nation. According to a report by the national bar association in 1993, 96% of hazardous toxic waste dumps were in minority own areas. That hasn't changed, the pricks in the Bush administration have done nothing about it.

From the Press Release (caveat emptor): Cleveland Tenants Organization - in conjunction with Environmental Health Watch - plans to reduce exposure to indoor air hazards in low-income, multi-family rental housing. It hopes to accomplish that by conducting educational outreach, performing building inspections, organizing tenants to affect local policy decisions and providing resources such as home visits in Greater Cleveland.

According to Cleveland Tenants Organization Executive Director Michael J. Piepsny, "Greater Cleveland's housing landscape embodies the affordable housing crisis facing our country." There are currently 230,000 rental properties in the Cleveland area, 89 percent of which were built prior to 1979, before laws regulating hazards like lead in paint.

"Deplorable conditions -- disrepair due to aging housing stock, poor management or owner neglect and disregard for building and health codes -- place low-income people at risk for lead poisoning, asthma and other health problems," said Piepsny. "We look forward to working with Environmental Health Watch and EPA to assure that this sensitive population's homes are healthy and safe."

In 2007, EPA awarded $1 million in grants across the country for improving the environment in low income communities. Financial assistance under the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving program is available to all non-profit organizations designated by the IRS or recognized by the state, territory, commonwealth or tribe in which it is located.

The purpose of the funding is to assist affected communities so they can develop new approaches to environmental justice issues and to achieve community health and sustainability. Since 1994, EPA's Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving program has provided more than $31 million in funding to more than 1,100 community-based organizations.

Black Bear Speaks in no way endorses the actions of the EPA as it is currently controlled by the assholes in the Bush Administration. This problem is so monumental and the funds being sent are tiny in comparison. Most likely this program will accomplish nothing until the Bushies are ousted from power.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

US/Canadian Study says Lakes Need Help

CHICAGO (June 7, 2007) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada today released the 2007 State of the Great Lakes Highlights Report at the International Joint Commission meeting in Chicago.

Overall, the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem is mixed, with some conditions improving while others are getting worse.

Every two years the Great Lakes community reports on the condition of the Great Lakes ecosystem at the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference. The last conference was held Nov. 1-3, 2006, in Milwaukee, Wis. The State of the Great Lakes Highlights Report summarizes the information provided in indicator reports presented at the biennial conference.

The 2007 State of the Great Lakes Highlights Report, for the first time, includes a section on "What is Being Done to Improve Conditions." According to Gary Gulezian, EPA Great Lakes National Program Office Director, "As never before, legislators, managers, scientists, educators and the Great Lakes community are working together to understand and respond to Great Lakes environmental challenges." These efforts to restore and preserve the Great Lakes are spotlighted in the 2007 SOLEC Highlights Report.

The good news is:
*Over the past 30 years there has been a marked reduction in the levels of toxic chemicals in the air, water, flora, fauna and sediment.
*Great Lakes continue to be a good source for treated drinking water.
* In 2005, 74 percent of monitored Great Lakes beaches in the U.S. and Canada were open more than 95 per cent of the swimming season. Wildlife waste can be more of a contributing factor in bacterial contamination than previously thought.
* Air quality is improving, although there still are regional areas that continue to have ozone and smog problems.
* Significant natural reproduction of lake trout is occurring in lakes Huron and Superior.

The bad news is:
* New chemicals of concern, like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants) and various pharmaceutical and personal care products are being detected more frequently.
* Decline in contaminant concentrations has not eliminated the need for sport fish consumption advisories.
* Non-native species (zebra mussels, spiny water fleas) continue to invade the Great Lakes and impair the food web.
* Declines in the duration and extent of ice cover on the Great Lakes and declines in lake levels due to evaporation during the winter are expected to occur in future years.
* Continuing wetlands loss and degradation results in loss of habitat for birds, amphibians, fish and wildlife.
* Aquatic habitats on the coasts continue to deteriorate due to development, shoreline hardening and non-native species.

For the State of the Great Lakes 2007 Highlights Report and other documents about Great Lakes indicators and the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conferences, visit or