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Lars Davenport

Intern Spotlight: Lars Davenport

Lars Davenport was an intern for CEC following his graduation from the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. He is currently working for the Santa Ynez Chumash Environmental Office as an environmental specialist, focusing on community energy programs.
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Gavin Feiger

Intern Spotlight: Gavin Feiger

After finishing his degree at the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, Gavin Feiger went on to work as the executive director for the Sierra Nevada Alliance. When he was at UCSB, Gavin was an intern for CEC.
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Intern Spotlight: LeeAnne French

LeeAnne French, after finishing her degree at the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, went on to work for UCSB’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). Before her job at NCEAS, LeeAnne was an intern for CEC.
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Intern Spotlight: Ashley Koide

Ashley Koide is an Account Executive at Yelp! where she assists small business owners with online advertising. Ashley worked at CEC as a Green Business Program intern while in her last year as an undergraduate student at UC Santa Barbara, majoring in Environmental Studies.
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Intern Spotlight: Luke Feinberg

Luke Feinberg -- recent graduate of the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UCSB and former CEC intern -- has accepted a Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship in Washington D.C., where he will pursue his environmental career.

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Intern Spotlight: Kristin Van Abel

As part of a two-person sustainability team at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Kristin Van Abel is responsible for the entire campus sustainability program. A former CEC intern and Bren School of Environmental Science & Management graduate, she now provides strategic planning support for Caltech in all of the school’s sustainability initiatives—from climate and energy to water, transportation, and waste.
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Intern Spotlight: Becky Dempsey

Becky Dempsey works as the Marketing Programs Manager for GreenBiz Group in the Bay Area. Becky completed a six-month internship at CEC following graduation from UC Santa Barbara with a double major in Environmental Studies and Business Economics.

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Intern Spotlight – Kelly Rae Kacmar

Kelly Rae Kacmar currently works as a fire inspector for the City of Burbank Fire Department in Southern California. Kelly interned for CEC while in her last year as an undergraduate student majoring in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Barbara.
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Intern Spotlight: Logan McCoy

Logan McCoy works as the Environmental Program Coordinator for Patagonia in the Bay Area. Logan is a two-time intern at the CEC. Both internships took place during his undergraduate years as a student majoring in Environmental Studies Major at UC Santa Barbara.

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Intern Spotlight: Marjan Riazi

Marjan Riazi works as the New Student Requirement Coordinator for the UC Santa Barbara Alcohol & Drug Program. Marjan completed a 9-month internship at CEC following graduation from UCSB with a major in Environmental Studies.

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Rebeccac

A New Mother’s Struggle with Climate Change

I used to be uncomfortable with the concept of grace. I had been asked to believe that grace was something bestowed upon us from above, but that idea didn't fit with what I was observing around me in the natural world. Then a few months ago I had an encounter with grace that changed my life forever.

But first, some background.

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Stevehahn

Steve H. Prefers to Bypass the Pump

Steve Hahn has been interested in sustainable transportation and electric vehicles for as long as he can remember.  Growing up in Detroit, he was steeped in the car culture, as well as the big city’s trains and subways. Later in life he moved to Santa Barbara and began working for the Metropolitan Transit District (MTD). Residing close to work, Steve drives a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) every day. It seemed like an efficient and sustainable decision, and “bypassing the pump has also been nice.” He has enjoyed it so much so that he even converted his neighbors, creating Santa Barbara’s very own EV Neighborhood.

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Cher_tunes

Rock out to electric tunes in your electric car

My dad was a Mercedes man. My favorite of his cars? A buttermilk 300E with matching leather seats. I loved to slip into that luscious interior and escape to the hardware store for father-daughter bonding. While different models came and went, the Mercedes always got the prime garage spot - with other cars relegated to the driveway.

You can imagine my surprise when I arrived at his house two months ago and encountered the Mercedes parked in the driveway.

Something had changed.

A squeaky clean Chevy Volt was now plugged into the prime garage spot. Dad had purchased the Volt and installed a rooftop solar system through a zero money down lease program. The Department of Energy and the State of CA helped fund his 240 volt charger (no pun intended), which is set to charge only during off-peak periods. With this setup, his electricity bills are about the same, though sourced from renewables instead of fossil fuels, and hedged against inflating energy costs. However, he's saving about $100 a month in gasoline.

To celebrate Dad's shift in priorities, I made him an electric car playlist to bump to while silently whirring down the highway.

I put a lot of thought into the order of these songs and thought there might be other plug-in / hybrid electric vehicle owners who would enjoy a playlist selected specifically for their automobile. I would love to hear what I might have missed and welcome your suggestions.

I hope you'll enjoy this playlist in your electric vehicle!

  • "Electric" by Lisa Scott-Lee
  • "Danger! High Voltage (Soulchild Radio Mix)" by Electric Six
  • "Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant
  • "Electric Youth" by Debbie Gibson
  • "Electric Lady" by Con Funk Shun
  • "Electric Feel" by MGMT
  • "Plug In Baby" by Muse
  • "She's Electric" by Oasis
  • "Don't Bring Me Down" by Electric Light Orchestra
  • "Running On Empty" by Jackson Browne
  • "Charge Me Up" by Jennifer Lopez
  • "Electric Barbarella" by Duran Duran
  • "Electric Man (Radio Edit)" by Mansun
  • "Charge" by The Renegades
  • "Electricity" by Spiritualized
  • "Together In Electric Dreams" by The Human League
  • "It's Electric" by Metallica

Listen to the full playlist through CEC's YouTube page →

 

About the author:

Cherlyn Seruto is currently commuting 80 miles a day via gasoline, and is considering selling her soul for an electric Porsche Speedster a la Reverend Gadget.

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Jaysolar

Jay H. soaks up the sun with solar panels

I have quite a bit of experience with solar systems in terms of remote telecommunications facilities where utility power isn't practical. These involve large battery banks and over-engineering to ensure reliable power for radio, microwave, and telephone relay stations that need to be up 24/7.

So, the idea of a solar system in a suburban area with plentiful utility power didn't make sense to me at first. Electricity is readily available at reasonable rates. It would be satisfying but not practical to pull the plug on Edison.

Then, I stumbled across a mention of solar "co-generation" on Southern California Edison’s website. Co-generation is when a customer connects a source of power such as solar or wind into the electric grid. With solar, California supplies a rebate to pay part of the cost, and the federal government provides an additional tax credit.

On further research I found the idea of co-generation kind of exciting. I can use the entire utility grid as my energy storage. I don't need a battery and I don’t need to design the system any bigger than my load.

I was also considering my electric vehicle (Chevy Volt). I decided the convenience of the 240-volt charger was worth it. Rebates cover half the cost of the charger and installation. If I came home from a day trip with a depleted battery I could plug in for a couple of hours and then go out to dinner on electricity. However, the Volt would be away from home when my solar panels would be generating power from the sun.

With co-generation, I just produce more power than I need when the sun shines, feed it to Edison, and then pull power from Edison at night to run my home and charge the car. I also switched to a rate plan that gives me much lower electric rates at night and credits me at higher rates in the daytime when the sun is shining and I'm producing electricity. Some friends were predicting that the Volt would cause my electric bill to skyrocket –ha!

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As luck would have it, I have a great roof for solar. It is south-facing and doesn't have any vents or obstructions. I had enough area to install panels that could generate about 4kW peak power. I'm good with my hands and have a lot of experience with wiring and electrical things. My initial plan was to install the solar as well as the level 2 car charger myself.

I quickly changed my mind about installing the solar because I'm not comfortable with the permit process and roof penetrations kind of scare me. I shopped around and chose Coastal Constructors to provide the hardware, do the mechanical work and take care of the permit paperwork. They did the wiring at the same time as they wired the charger, and everything passed inspection. Modern panels are a lot better looking than the earlier ones. I'm very happy with the appearance as well as the performance.

Another modification I considered was the inverter systems. Most grid-tied systems connect a number of panels in a series string to produce high-voltage DC, and then put in a large wall-mounted inverter to convert this to conventional AC power. I was not excited about this design. A fault in one panel can bring down a whole string. Due to the high DC voltages, the wiring is complicated.

I discovered a company in the Bay Area, Enphase, that does things differently. They manufacture micro-inverters. Each micro-inverter handles the output from one solar panel. One mounts underneath each panel and they connect in parallel. If one panel or inverter goes bad, the rest of the array keeps going. The DC wiring is low-voltage and needs no conduit.

In addition, my solar system has its own website that not only shows real-time and historical data for every panel, but can also alert me if there's ever a problem. If there's debris such as bird droppings on or an electrical problem affecting one panel, the other panels are not affected, and I get an email describing the issue and showing me which panel is in trouble.

It's now been in service for almost 10 months. I've ”banked” a bit over 6 megawatt-hours of electricity with Edison. Carbon offset a bit over 4 tons. Every month since installation I've produced more electricity than I've consumed. Not only am I driving on daylight, I'm powering my house with it and even providing solar energy to my neighbors via the grid-tie.

Kermit was wrong. It's easy being green. Take a look at my solar production >

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Film screening inspired Michel S. to buy a Leaf

Michel Saint-Sulpice is a gentle soul who takes his responsibility for the planet seriously, and always has. Growing up in France, his family was careful with resources, and he has carried forth that strong environmental ethic into his adult life as a Santa Barbara architect.

Michel aspires to be fossil fuel free by the end of 2012, and he’s well on his way. Solar panels provide his home with electricity, and he’s been driving a Toyota Prius since the second generation first hit the market. He completely removed his lawn to make room for a beautiful drought tolerant landscape. Greywater and collected rain water (with back-up well water) will soon irrigate a “food forest.” On the drawing board is a geothermal system that will heat the entire house (with cooling option), all his domestic water and his swimming pool year round. Since Michel produces all his electricity, his carbon footprint will be zero, and he will not be paying electric and gas bills any longer. He has taken these measures to express his deep appreciation for nature and beauty.

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Eatlocal1

A month of eating (mostly) local

Suppose you had dinner guests whose trip to your table covered thousands of miles and took several weeks. Surely that would represent a special occasion, and you would probably forgive them for being a bit listless and travel weary from their journey. You might even overlook the large energy expenditure and carbon footprint it took to reach you. But what if this situation was repeated every day, for every meal? That would be crazy, right?

Indeed it would be crazy, and yet that is very nearly what happens in the average American household. Only it's not dinner guests that travel great distances, but rather the food itself. The typical meal item originates more than 1,500 miles away and spends weeks or more being processed, packaged, shipped, and stored before ever reaching your plate. Are you willing to forgive listless, travel-weary food that has a large carbon footprint?

My wife Gina and I decided we are not willing, and so for the last few years we've been eating a more local, environmentally-responsible diet. In fact, we just spent the month of October participating in the Eat Local Challenge, with a goal of eating only foods grown or produced within 100 miles of our Goleta home. The following is an accounting of all the food we ate, where it originated, and some reflections on the experience.

Food sources

The ultimate in being a locavore is to walk out into the yard and gather some food just moments before preparing and eating it. We have a productive, healthy garden which provides roughly half of our fruits and vegetables, along with abundant eggs from our happy chickens! From just outside our door we have apples, oranges, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, herbs (rosemary, time, oregano, cilantro), squash, carrots, lemons, figs, strawberries, lettuce, cabbage, beets, chard, and eggs. We also had blueberries harvested in the spring and stored in the freezer (powered by rooftop photovoltaic panels).

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The next best source of local food is the Farmers' Market, and we are fortunate to have good ones every week here on the south coast. During October we patronized those growers with farms within 100 miles. From them we bought almonds, grapes, squash, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, dry beans, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, avocados, walnuts, spinach, corn, peppers, and leeks. We also had local free-range beef and chicken, as well as cheese made from the milk of Santa Barbara county dairy cows. We used Santa Ynez honey the entire month instead of sugar, and twice we bought bread made by the Solvang Pie Company using locally-grown wheat.

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We did visit grocery stores a couple times during the month, and in particular, the Isla Vista Food Co-op was a great surrogate when we missed the Farmers' Market. From them we bought locally-grown lettuce, broccoli, and apples, as well as wine and olive oil made in Santa Barbara County.

Exceptions to the rule

I must confess that we had some "cheats" or exceptions to the 100-mile rule. We got milk and yogurt from the Straus Family Creamery, an organic dairy in Sonoma County. They use returnable glass bottles, thus cutting down on wasteful packaging. We allowed ourselves a few other small indulgences with local connections: coffee from Handlebar Coffee Roasters in Santa Barbara, tortillas and chips from La Tolteca, and ice cream from McConnell's. We also made an exception for spices and condiments, although you might think our definition of a condiment was a bit liberal... for example, parmesan cheese and caramel sauce fell in this category!

Reflections

Gina and I choose to eat local for many reasons. We believe the industrial food system is too reliant on toxic chemicals and fossil fuels, so we prefer to support local farmers and ranchers who practice environmentally-responsible agriculture. There is something comforting about buying a piece of fruit directly from the farmer who grew it, knowing that it was picked recently and only a few miles away.

We also found during October that we had significantly less trash because very little of our food had packaging. Our meals didn't come from a box or jar with a lengthy ingredient list; instead we prepared everything from scratch. It took more planning and time, but the end result was worth it. Ironically, our food budget during October was lower than normal, primarily because we eliminated junk calories and processed foods, and we never wasted leftovers. Eating local doesn't need to be more expensive.

Modern society has become disconnected from food in many ways. People don't really know what they are eating and how it got to their table, and yet the negative impacts on health and the environment are profound. Choosing to eat local is a major step in the right direction. It reconnects us with our food, and perhaps most significantly, the food tastes better!

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Hennigan

A tech geek’s journey into electric vehicles

I never intended to be green. I confess to having owned and thoroughly enjoyed driving a Plymouth Barracuda equipped with a big-block V8 and twin four-barrel carburetors in my younger days. I'm a technology geek, so interesting and elegantly engineered technology has always appealed to me, cars included.

The Prius Era

Think back to the 2004 Prius. Yes, it got great gas mileage, but that car was thinking out of the box. It was visually different from any car on the market, a little geeky but kind of cool in a VW Bug sort of way. Plus, the tech was awesome for 2004. It had voice recognition, electronic entry, cool sound system, navigation, bluetooth, all of the bells and whistles. Technology geeks like myself were buzzing about it, so I got on the waiting lists at a couple of dealerships. As I was waiting and reading, other techies started talking delivery and my anticipation began building.

Boom - out of nowhere, I saw an online posting about a dealer in Barstow that had a red Prius, fully loaded. I was on the phone in a flash, closed the deal, and hopped on a Greyhound to Barstow the next day. It was a very cool car, a technology wonder, and a whale of a lot of fun.

The cool tech has changed me. I find myself becoming greener and greener. Watching my MPG readout has become a video game. Could I beat my old high score? Could I get 600 miles on one tank (11 gallons)? Plus, using the old line, "Come here often?" to that Hummer driver at the gas station who gave me weird looks, well *that* was sheer joy.

Fast-forward 7 years. The Prius has over 110,000 miles on it. It's never had a brake job and isn't going to need one for a long time to come. The engine, likewise, doesn't have the wear and tear that you would expect after that kind of mileage.

Into the World of EVs

The buzz shifted in 2009. Spotting another Prius on the road isn't a rare event anymore. They're everywhere. The new buzz was about going to the next level. People started talking about adding battery capacity to the Prius to increase the storage capacity and hence the mileage. I heard a lot about the electric Tesla, which was way out of my price range, but would blow the doors off of my old Barracuda. Then I started hearing rumors of an electric Chevy.

A co-worker had a chance to drive an EV-1 back in the day and still raved about it. Pretty soon the talk about the Volt really spiked. I was interested. The Prius was still going strong but I was ready to explore. I went to the GM websites, followed the buzz, and visited the local Chevrolet dealer. They had lots of slick color brochures on Chevy trucks, Corvette, Camaro, etc. but nothing solid on the Volt. I left the dealership with a black-and-white photocopy of the PDF from the GM website stapled to the guy's business card. “Not ready to take an order but I'll take your card. Don't call us, we'll call you.”

I wanted this car.

July 2010 rolls around and California is one of the first markets. They're available for pre-order and the Santa Barbara dealer is on the Volt list. Back I go. Different salesman. This time I left with a grainier photocopy copied from the first, stapled to another business card. At least he wrote my name down and said he'd call.

I returned to the fan sites and blogs. After a few weeks, people are posting confirmed order numbers and target build dates. The GM sites were exploding with new information.

Back to Graham I go. I make an appointment with the guy who previously sold me a car there. I walk into the dealership with my checkbook literally in my hand. The sharks are circling as soon as I step onto the lot. A Volt? “Well, I'll put your name on *my* list, which is better than that other guy's list, and we'll call you and you can come back in a few days and put down a $5,000 deposit. We don't know how many we're getting or when. Don't call us, we'll call you.”

Oh-kaay....

What's going on? It's now coming up on Labor Day 2010. I pick up the phone and call the Chevy dealer in Lompoc. "We have 4 Volts allocated to us out of the first build cycle and one is sold. Come on up and give us a $500 refundable deposit. We sell at sticker, no markup."

Well, Lompoc is 40 miles away but it’s worth the drive. 20 minutes after walking in the door I have my very own GM order number. 40 miles just happens to be the electric range on the Volt. Welcome to my next video game. When I pick it up fully charged, could I make it home without using any gas?

There's a $7,500 federal tax credit and my car rolls off the assembly line just before GM shuts down for Christmas. I picked up the car on December 30, 2010. I made it with 2 days to spare. I lost the video game, though. The gas engine came on at Winchester Canyon. I guess I'll have to practice my technique.

Nine months and 7,000 miles later my best all-electric range is 46 miles. I've filled the 9-gallon tank 6 times, typically on trips to Los Angeles. It's a very rare day that I use any gasoline at all tooling around town. The dashboard indicator says my oil life is down to 80% so I guess I'll need to get it changed in another year or so.

I guess I'm green now, but the cool tech made me do it.

I love this car.

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