2 | BANGOR DAILY NEWS | Thursday | April 21, 2011
Pay-as-you-throw disposal programs gaining strength statewide By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS
Pay-as-you-throw programs in Maine first began in 1987, and over 24 years the idea has caught on across the state — albeit slowly. But with 141 Maine communities — 28 percent of the total communities in Maine — it looks as if the movement is gaining steam amidst rising trash-processing prices and profits from recyclables. Many communities are instituting a one-two punch of PAYT and rampedup recycling programs. Here’s how PAYT works. Residents pay to dispose of their garbage, usually by purchasing official stickers or special bags; the trash crews only haul away authorized trash. To compensate, communities frequently offer recycling programs to help residents reduce their garbage. Recycling is either by curbside pickup, drop-off at a recycling center, or both. The biggest complaint is probably “Aren’t my property taxes supposed to pay for trash pickup?” Maybe, but communities offer free recycling because they can sell the recycled waste. Charging for trash pickup encourages residents to recycle. Property taxes might not drop, but they won’t go up
THE LAST 10 YEARS: PAYT IN MAINE PAYT grew steadily from the first programs in the 1980s, and in 2001 128 communities had PAYT programs. Ten years later, the number has only grown to 141, but that number is expected to grow quickly in the coming years. But the methods of PAYT have changed a lot. Stickers Bags Weight Cash Other TOTAL:
2001 70 29 15 6 2 128
2010 52 63 12 4 10 141
Other systems include punchcards, tokens, tags, tickets, and by weight.
A FEW MAINE PAYT FACTS Bags rule. In 2001, more than half of all PAYT programs used stickers; about one-fifth used bags. In 2011, half use bags, with a little more than a third using stickers. Big communities. Eleven communities — Portland, Brunswick, Windham, Gorham, Kenebunk, Falmouth, Wells, Bath, Topsham, Old Orchard Beach, and Freeport — account for almost half of all Mainers with PAYT programs. Brewer’s big. North of Topsham, Brewer is the largest single community doing PAYT, with 8, 987 residents. Bucksport and Orland combine for 7,042, Ellsworth has 6,456, and Belfast has 6,381. Cost per bag. Stickers or bags run from 50 cents to $3, depending on the community. Some have weight limits; others give X number of stickers or bags free, and you pay beyond that. Cost increases. 38 communities reported cost increases since 2001. Others charge per bag at drop-off centers, with no special stickers or bags.
either due to rising trash-pickup costs. with other communities with successful The city of Brewer instituted a PAYT PAYT programs — and Sanford, which program beginning in January 2011, had done the distance only to see the and represents the largest population plan fail. Fussell says she’s open to connorth of Topsham in Maine to launch a tacts from any communities considering PAYT program. And so far, results have PAYT if they’d like to benefit from her been tremendous. experience, which she says has been “The response from residents has overwhelmingly positive. been above and beyond our expecta“Brewer’s been very pleased with the tions,” said Karen Fussell, Brewer’s success of both of the programs,” she finance director and the person who said. “The results in terms of trash spearheaded the research and publicreduction and recycling increase have information efforts. exceeded our most optimistic estimates For the first three months of 2011, and for that Brewer residents deserve the trash has been reduced by about half. highest praise.” Recycling in January, February, and (In the interests of full disclosure, March has increased 424, 436, and 445 I’m a Brewer resident who is happy with percent respectively over those months the program. So far this year, my wife in 2010. and I have thrown out just one bag of trash every two or three weeks. We’re Many people were nervous at first, definitely recycling the vast majority of but Fussell said that education was key. what we used to throw away. We expect “Once people heard the City’s reasons to spend about $40 to $50 in orange for adopting the change and learned PAYT bags over the course of the year, about the expanded recycling program, which isn’t bad considering our taxes most agreed it made sense,” she said. would likely have gone up significantly The idea for PAYT has been bandied if trash pickup and incineration costs about in Brewer for over a decade, but were to rise.) Fussell said it resurfaced again in late 2009. “It was certainly not a new idea, Bag Problems? but it was an idea whose time had There has been one complaint of come,” she said. note in Brewer: The bags tear too easily, So why did Brewer do it? Two key people claim. But where typical storereasons. The first is that the city’s conbought garbage bags run from 0.9 to 1.1 tracts with Pine Tree Waste for trash mils, Brewer’s PAYT bags are 1.5 mils. In and recycling pickup were due to expire an attempt to address comments about soon, and the city expected a substanbag quality, the city is increasing the tial increase in contract fees — which thickness of the large bags to 1.7 mils, would likely have been passed on to resbut according to bag manufacturer idents in the form of taxes. The second Waste Zero, that’s never been much of a is that the city’s contract with the PERC problem. plant in Orrington, where waste is Some people have reported split incinerated, will expire in 2018. If seams; others say the drawstrings rip PERC is still around, Brewer expects a PHOTO BY JAMES DUNNING, CASELLA/PINE TREE WASTE out. Waste Zero President Mark Dancy hefty increase in fees; if it isn’t, Brewer Trash and recycling being picked up in Brewer. The orange bag is said that they haven’t seen any specific would have to pay to have waste a pay-as-you-throw bag. The trash can, marked with a recycling quality-control issues during productrucked a long distance to be incinerated. With trash and incineration con- sticker, is unsorted recylables. Brewer residents don’t have to pay tion. Common problems involve people for recyclables, which Pine Tree can turn into a profit. Pine Trees overstuffing the bags, which have tracts almost certainly going to skysingle-stream, unsorted recycling program, which the company weight limits, or trying to pull a bag out rocket, residents will likely be paying a called “Zero-Sort” recycling, has been a bit hit in Brewer. In the of a trash can by the drawstrings; as lot more in taxes if the recycling and first three months of 2011, residents have well exceeded a 400 anyone who has tried this with any bag PAYT programs hadn’t been implepercent increase in recycling over the first three months last year. knows, the suction from the can might mented. put quite a strain on those strings. And Fussell said that since Brewer But “It still needs to perform, and we take that pays for trash by the ton, residents who were throw- garbage pickup and increase recycling. There’s a fair ing out very little garbage were subsidizing those list of things that aren’t allowed, but it doesn’t take very seriously,” Dancy said. Dancy instituted a check who threw out a lot. The PAYT program instead long to get accustomed to what goes in the trash on the Brewer bags at the factory, and found no trouble with seams or drawstrings. He stressed that encourages people to recycle for free as much as and what goes in the recycling. they can, which reduces their waste. While Brewer residents seem to have mostly if any Brewer residents have problems with bad Brewer opted for a one-two punch of single- embraced the PAYT program, not everyone else- bags, they can return them to the retailer to stream recycling through Pine Tree Waste, which where has done so. In March, nearly 100 Palmyra exchange for new bags or to get refunds. Waste Zero serves 300 cities, mostly east of the calls its process “Zero-Sort Recycling,” and PAYT. residents turned out for a marathon five-and-a-half Instead of residents having to separate various types hour meeting in which two proposed PAYT pro- Mississippi and in the Northeast, including Bath, of recyclables — such as paper, certain types of grams were shot down. Sanford recently worked to Brunswick, and Portland. Between those three complastic, metal, and glass — residents need only put enact a PAYT program, but after a lot of work, resi- munities and Brewer, Waste Zero’s bags cover nearly a third of the Maine population using bags with out any recyclables without sorting. The city also dents voted it down. increased recycling pickup from once to twice a To become better informed before getting deep PAYT programs. “We make lots of bags,” Dancy said. month. Along with PAYT, this has helped reduce into the PAYT idea, Fussell did plenty of research
This Bangor Home Show supplement was produced and published by the
Editor/Layout: David M. Fitzpatrick Writing/Photography: David M. Fitzpatrick, et al. Cover Design: Chris Quimby Sales: John Browning, Linda Hayes
To participate in next year’s Energy Wise, contact Linda Hayes at (207) 990-8136 or firstname.lastname@example.org or John Browning at (207) 990-8177 or email@example.com. To reach a wide audience with your organization’s message, run your own Special Section. For information, contact Mike Kearney at (207) 990-8212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS | Thursday | April 21, 2011 | 3
Casella Waste Systems follows ‘Giving resources new life’ credo Company developing and implementing technologies on many levels for reclamation, recycling By Pine Tree Waste A DIVISION OF CASELLA WASTE SYSTEMS
Most people see trash simply that: worthless scrap to be thrown out, buried, and forgotten. At Casella, we see things differently. We believe that we live in a closed-loop environment, and we have an obligation to work towards resource sustainability. It’s critical to find ways to reduce our waste, and renewing the life cycle of our consumables is an important first step. With trash, we see only potential — everything from new sources of clean energy to the raw materials for new products. Our mission rests upon this idea giving resources new life. Sustainability has always been our focus. For more than three decades, Casella has worked to change the industry by crafting an innovative strategy that encourages sustainable value beyond traditional disposal methods. In 1977, we built the first recycling center in Vermont, an early effort that has evolved and flourished into recycling facilities in 15 states. In 2002, we launched our Sustainable Environmental and Economic Development program and constructed sustainable infrastructure around our landfill sites and disposal projects. We continue to pioneer in the recycling field, investing heavily in recycling infrastructure and research and developing the next generation of recycling technologies and programs. Consider our recent Zero-Sort Recycling program, which makes recycling easy and promotes greater participation; all types of recyclables go unsorted into a single bin, where they’re later mechanically sorted at our facilities. It saves time, effort, and money, and has been remarkably effective at many locations. Recent success stories include dramatically increased recycling levels at the American Folk Festival, the offshore community of Islesboro, the towns of Northport and Abbott, and, most notably, the city of Brewer, where the Zero-Sort implementation has resulted in a 400-plus percent recycling increase. We’re leading the industry in the struggle to meet the demand for resource conservation, transformation, and renewal. We’re a charter member, and the only solid waste and recycling company involved in, the EPA’s Climate Leaders Program, an industry-government partnership dedicated to developing comprehensive, long-term reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions. As CLP members, we’ve set an aggressive company-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 10 percent over seven years, from 2005 to 2012. This will reduce our emissions by 100,000 metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents each
See CASELLA, Page 13
4 | BANGOR DAILY NEWS | Thursday | April 21, 2011
Low-interest PACE loans for energy-efficient home improvements By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS
Need to make energy-efficient improvements to your home? Thanks to Efficiency Maine’s winning grant proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy in December 2009 — one of just 25 nationwide — Maine qualified for federal stimulus funds for just that purpose. Mainers have the opportunity for lowinterest loans that can help make their homes more efficient. Perhaps best of all, the loan is attached to a property, not a person, so if you sell your home, the loan transfers to the new owner. The program is called PACE, for Property Assessed Clean Energy. Similar programs have received negative press in other states, but Maine’s program han-
dles things differently: loan payments will not be added to, or treated like, property tax, and don’t have priority over a home mortgage. And as homeowners pay back their loans, the fund replenishes — providing money for future applicants. So what can you do with the loan? Just about anything to make your home energy efficient, including air sealing with foam or caulk, heating-system upgrades, installation of efficient hot-water heaters, installation of better controls and thermostats for boilers and furnaces, and insulating. The loan is set at a fixed 4.99 percent over five, 10, or 15 years. There are rules. Your proposed improvements must meet the cost-effec-
tiveness test — basically, that your financial benefits from the improvements must exceed the financial costs over the life of the improvement. Homeowners must also have a debt-to-income ratio of not more than 45 percent and be current
on all taxes and sewer payments, and the property must be lien-free and not subject to a reverse mortgage. And there’s a catch. In order to qualify for a PACE loan, the homeowner’s municipality must adopt a PACE ordinance. Municipalities have no legal requirement to do so, so it may be up to you to bring it to your town’s attention. It’s easy to do, but the town has to decide whether to raise its own PACE funds or use Efficiency Maine’s revolving-loan program. The town should also develop public-outreach program to educate its residents about the benefits of energy-saving measures and about the loan program and available rebates. PACE is a great partner with Efficien-
cy Maine’s Home Energy Savings Program. HESP offers cash rebates for weatherization and efficiency measures that reduce energy use by at least 25 percent. This is great, but the homeowner’s up-front costs can be quite expensive. With a PACE loan, those costs can be deferred, and paid back at an impressively low interest rate. And when you factor in federal tax credits, this might be the perfect time to do such projects. For more information about PACE and how you can enjoy its benefits, or how you can establish a PACE ordinance in your municipality, visit http://www.efficiencymaine.com/pace.
Top 10 Dream Home Features (MS) -- If you were given a chance to design a dream home, what features would you choose first? Take a look at the most popular wish list in 2011 from Nudura, a leading firm in building technology, and how those 10 things can be made energy efficient, sustainable, or green. Curb appeal. Home exterior, driveway, and landscaping must attract admiring attention. Blacktop looks great when new, but grays and cracks, and the tar comes from fossil fuels. A well designed and maintained gravel drive can look just as good. Concrete and natural stone, rather than wood framing and brick. These homes are not only beautiful, they are stonger, more sound resistant, and far more energy efficient than wood frames and brick. Maximum energy efficiency, from top to bottom. That’s the key focus for many today, particularly in new construction. Many people think it’s super-expensive to add energy-efficient features to a home, but for new construction, it isn’t that dramatic. And new or old, energy-efficient extras can pay for themselves. Solar panels to generate a personal energy source. Financially, solar power is where it needs to be for the average homeowner, and with a PACE loan (see above) and other incentives, it’s a solid answer. A large designer kitchen with natural stone countertops and futuristic appliances, cabinetry and waterworks. Appliances alone are shoo-ins for energy efficiency, as anything being made today sticks to stringent standards. They’re big money-savers over old models. Natural hardwood floors like Brazilian cherry and sustainable bamboo. A sunroom, a front porch, and a backyard finished patio. A sunroom can really be an energy saver, warming up nicely even in the winter, and providing a breeze in the summer. Vessel sinks, or freestanding bowls above the bathroom countertop, accompanied by wall-mounted faucets. Low-flow toilets, faucets that conserve water, and anti-drip mechanisms all help save money. Bedroom walk out or balcony. Instead of cranking up the AC in the summer, imagine stepping out of your bedroom and relaxing on the balcony on a cool evening. Designer bathtubs and walk-iin shower with marble tile, a seating bench and rainfall showerhead. Again, water-conserving fixtures can make a difference, along with low-flow showerheads.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS | Thursday | April 21, 2011 | 5
By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS
With the recent nuclear disasters in Japan, more than ever people are asking if nuclear power is worth it. Proponents point to the fact that it took a 9.0 earthquake and a major tsunami just off the coast to lead to those failures and do the kind of damage it did, especially in a country that built its nuclear reactors with those sorts of disasters clearly in mind. Opponents argue that all the preparation in the world can’t outwit Mother Nature. Probably most reactors aren’t built as well as those that catastrophically failed in Japan, where they built them with earthquakes in mind. But even if they were, the potential for deadly problems is always there. So what alternatives are cost-effective and can provide the power we need? And how can we find any source capable of generating our entire global power requirements? The fact is, nuclear power is the answer, but not in power plants. Instead, we could access the biggest, most powerful nuclear reactor within about 25 trillion miles of us: the Sun. The Sun accounts for 99.86 percent of the mass of the entire solar system. It’s 109 Earths wide and has the volume of 1.3 million Earths. In its core, it fuses 620 million metric tons of hydrogen into helium every second. It’s been doing it for about 4.57 billion years, and will continue to do so for longer than that. It will be producing energy for a long time. That energy is in the form of light and heat, and we can capture light using solar panels. Build large-enough solar collectors at the best hotpots around the world, and all our power needs are covered. Build satellite facilities as backups, and power will never be a problem again. As technology for more-efficient solar collectors develops, upgrades will be easy, and old collectors will work with new collectors in the meantime. The idea isn’t science fiction, and the data-gathering portion of this experiment was done almost 20 years ago. From 1991 through 1993, continuous data from geostationary weather satellites around the world mapped the solar irradiance across the whole planet. The black dots in the graphic represents the centers of solar-power systems in key locations. Installing such systems will supply the world’s current total primary energy demand. This assumes a conversion efficiency of 8 percent (the current maximum efficiency of a highperformance photovoltaic cell, according to a 2010 Caltech report, is 85 percent, but even their prototypes have hit nearly 100 percent). The one in the United States would need to be 170,455
square kilometers, more than two-fifths of the Great Basin. And if we could construct such systems with that 85-percent efficiency Caltech reported, instead of 8 percent, those systems could feasibly be less than 10 percent those projected sizes. These seven systems could provide all the energy we currently use in the form of electricity, nuclear power, fossil fuels, propane, and so on, in all homes, businesses, factories, cars, trains — anything that uses any kind of power. These systems would produce 18 terawatts per year, which is equivalent to an energy output of over 13.5 billion tons of oil. To put that in perspective, in 2003, the total primary energy supply worldwide was equivalent to burning about 10.5 billion tons of oil. (Note that not all energy output is achieved by burning oil;
energy production on a worldwide scale is often described of in terms of how many “toe” — tons of oil equivalent — it would take to produce it.) There are further challenges, such as storing solar energy. Since the weather can make a major difference in how much solar energy can be collected at any given moment, it’s imperative to be able to store the solar energy for use later. But check out solutions like the one by Palo Alto-based Ausra, where solar power is converted into steam and stored for later use. Sound ambitious? Certainly. But if you consider the replacement of oil refineries and coal mines with solar fields and refinery workers and miners with field tenders, and redirected manu-
Continued on next page
Two years of satellite surface mapping produced this heat map of the Earth’s surface. Building massive solar-collection facilities on the black dots would result in power generated for all the human race’s needs.
Ideas in energy efficiency. It is possible to reduce home energy costs without compromising your comfort. Dead River Company can show you how. Here are just a few ideas:
Save by premoney ve heat lonting Call u ss. learn ms to ore.
A programmable thermostat: This is one of the easiest ways to save energy and money. An ENERGY STAR® certified programmable thermostat can help you regulate your home’s temperature and save you upward of $150 a year in heating costs. Space heating: Reduce your overall fuel oil consumption with a propane space heater. Turn back your home’s central heat and use a propane space heater to warm the room you spend the most time in. A fuel economizer: An energy-saving device like the IntelliCon® Heating System Fuel Economizer can be installed on an existing heating system. With the IntelliCon Economizer, you’re guaranteed to reduce fuel consumption by at least 10%. A more efficient water heater: Heating water is the third largest energy expense in your home. You can conserve by using less hot water, insulating your hot water heater, or lowering its thermostat. You can also install a more energy-efficient water heater. Dead River Company offers several models, including the Rinnai® propane tankless water heater, which provides up to 30% energy savings over electric models. Your energy source: Dead River Company is a full-service fuel oil and propane company dedicated to keeping our customers comfortable throughout the year. That also includes helping you save money on your energy bills. To learn more about how we can help, call our office.
Brewer: (207) 989-2770 • Ellsworth: Calais: (207) 454-7511 • Houlton: Madawaska: (207) 728-6307 • Presque Isle: Millinocket:
(207) (207) (207) (207)
667-4681 532-2283 769-2931 723-5151
6 | BANGOR DAILY NEWS | Thursday | April 21, 2011
12 interesting things you might not know about plastic Plastic is everywhere. It’s taking over the world and we’ll soon be swallowed up by it! Plastic-based life forms will evolve in landfills and wreak havoc on the land! Well, it might not be that bad, especially if we continue surging forward with recycling efforts. Here are a few things you might not know about plastic.
1. PLASTICS AREN’T NEW The first plastic, celluloid, was developed in 1855, and was later used as motion-picture film. And Hans von Pechmann accidentally created polyethylene in 1899, although it was 34 years before it came into use. We’ve made it into everything from plastic wrap to soda bottles ever since.
2. PLASTIC CAN COME FROM THE EARTH Plastic can be made from natural gas. But it’s often made from the byproducts of petroleum refining. That makes it another product supporting our dependency on oil —and our dependency on foreign oil.
3. PLASTIC CAN BE GROWN Many plants, such as corn, potatoes, and sugar cane, produce dextrose, which can be used to make polylactic acid, which is formed into polymers. Biodegradable plastics are ideal because they break down very quickly, unlike those we’ll discuss next.
4. PLASTIC DEGRADES SLOWLY Okay, you probably knew this one. But did you know how long? It can take 1,000 years or more for plastic to degrade in a landfill. Plastic bags generally take 10 to 20 years if exposed to air and sun. Biodegradable bags are becoming more common, which quickly decompose with the help of microorganisms.
5. PLASTIC ISN’T ALWAYS RECYCLABLE Check the plastic for the triangular resin identification code, which contains a number that identifies the type of plastic. Some communities with recycling programs limit which types of plastic they’ll take.
6. YOU MIGHT WEAR PLASTIC CLOTHING Plastic fibers are found in carpeting and clothing. Think “polyester,” which is a type of plastic. Plastic can also be found in the dyes used to color them. We don’t often think about recycling shirts and rugs, but we should be.
7. PLASTIC COMPONENTS WON’T GROW YOU A BEARD Bisphenol-A, an organic compound used in some plastics, won’t make women grow little beards, despite Gov. Paul LePage’s woeful misunderstanding of the science. BPA simulates the female hormone estrogen, which we’ve known since the 1930s. It can leach out of plastics into food and drink. BPA’s confirmed side effects, and other potentials being studied, are especially harmful to developing humans — such as fetuses, infants, and young children. There’s no doubt BPA is bad news. Sorry, governor.
8. PLASTIC IN FIBERBOARD Speaking of LePage, the murals he had removed from the Department of Labor offices contain plastics. The medium-density fiberboard that artist Judy Taylor painted on contains resin as a binder. (But I doubt recycling the murals is the answer.)
9. PLASTICS AREN’T ALL TOXIC Not all plastics leach toxic chemicals into your food and drink. Polyethylene products marked #2 or #4 are safe. But while polyethylene is recyclable, most of it ends up in landfills, where it takes several centuries to degrade. However, in 2008, Daniel Burd, the 16-year-old winner of the CanadaWide Science Fair, discovered how two strains of bacteria working together can degrade over 40 percent of the weight of polyethylene bags in just three months.
10. PLASTIC IS RAMPANT Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. But a 2008 report showed that, worldwide, humans used 1 million plastic bags every minute. And each year, we manufacture about 60 million tons of polyethylene. Oh, and if you lined up all the polystyrene foam cups manufactured in just a day, they’d circle the Earth. Talk about the importance of recycling.
Ecofriendly KITTY LITTER On the surface, cats have relatively small carbon footprints. They don't drive gas guzzlers, their smaller statures mean they generally consume less food than dogs and, for the most part, they self-groom. However, cats use a litter box for their business and all of that discarded litter and waste can be an environmental hazard depending on the type of litter used. Litter is often scooped and disposed of in plastic bags, which don't decompose, compounding the problem. In the past, finding eco-friendly cat litters was hard to come by. Today, many of the products on store shelves are environmentally friendly, and many brands offer eco-conscious cat owners a host of options. Shoppers can consider a clumping product, in which waste is flushed down the toilet and the box is not frequently dumped. Environmental products like shredded newspapers, recycled paper, corn husks, peanut shells, and even garden mulch can be used as litter. Some people choose to bury the used litter in the yard to naturally decompose instead of putting it in the trash.
11. PLASTIC IN STYRO-FORM Speaking of polystyrene, commonly known by the brand name Styrofoam, it’s not biodegradable. But it is recyclable; unfortunately, recycling it isn’t cost-effective, so we recycle very little of it. That’s a lot of plastic to sit in the ground for a lot of years.
12. PLASTIC FILM IS ABUNDANT If you took all the plastic film and plastic wrap manufactured in one year, you could shrink wrap Texas. Or you could shrink-wrap Maine seven times, and use what’s left over to wrap the city of Bangor 602 layers deep.
Continued from previous page facturing to capturing, storing, and using solar power, it wouldn’t be so outlandish. If it’s money the moneymakers want, there’s plenty of money to be made in this project — all while satisfying the need to protect the environment. Sounds like a pretty easy choice. And the best part? A limitless supply of energy from the most massive nuclear reactor around... with no worries of a meltdown!
Three Fun School Solar Projects: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/03/donutsolar - Make a solar cell out of a donut and tea! Inefficient, but cool! http://scitoys.com/scitoys/scitoys/echem/echem2.html - Make a solar cell by cooking a copper sheet on the stove! http://scitoys.com/scitoys/scitoys/echem/echem3.html - A flat-panel version of the copper-sheet project.
Build Your Own Inexpensive Panels http://www.mdpub.com/SolarPanel/index.html This guy built a solar panel for a fraction of the cost of similar commercial units using inexpensive, mildly damaged solar cells bought on eBay. Damaged cells work just fine, even if they don’t look so nice. One Web site even demonstrates making a solar panel using shattered panel shards!
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Get started with simple and easy home composting for Earth Day By StatePoint Media With Earth Day on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to get the whole family involved in doing something at home for the good of the environment. Composting is a great project to get you started going green: It’s easy for the entire family, costs nothing, is simple to keep doing and can save you money on fertilizer. A natural form of recycling, composting turns your organic garbage — such as food waste, paper, disposable tableware, grass clippings, and much more — into one of nature’s best mulches for your garden or yard. By setting up a
TIPS ABOUT COMPOSTING From the UMaine Cooperative Extension • Aerate the compost pile at least once per week. Compost needs oxygen to help break down the composting items. A long stick will do to aerate the pile. • Add fluid to your compost. The pile shouldn’t be too wet, or too dry. Watered-downed fruit juices are a great treat for your compost pile. • Keep a covered pail in your kitchen to collect the items for your composter each week.
Items that can be composted • Paper goods: Shredded newspaper, plain white computer paper, cardboard rolls, clean paper, biodegradable disposable tableware; • Grass clippings, yard trimmings, and leaves not treated with pesticides; • Fruits and vegetables; • Coffee grounds and filters, tea bags; • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint; • Eggshells, rice and pasta; • Fireplace ashes (sporadically to prevent the compost bin pH from getting out of balance); • Hair, nail clippings, and fur; • Algae and seaweed (rinse excess salt off before putting in the bin); • Shredded branches and disease-free garden plants; • Straw, hay, or manure.
Items that should NOT be composted: • Coal or charcoal ash which may contain substances harmful to plants; • Dairy products such as butter, egg yolks, and milk; • Meat or fish bones and scraps may contain parasites, bacteria and germs, fats, grease, lard, and oils, which can create odor problems; • Pet waste and animal products; • Diseased or insect-ridden plants that can contaminate other vegetation; • Sawdust.
PHOTOS FROM WIKIPEDIA
Above left: A close-up view of a typical composting bin. Note the slits in the side. This helps keep the composting matter aerated, as the microorganisms within require oxygen to live. Even still, you’ll need to “turn” your compost about once a week; basically, all you do it open the lid and stir it around with a stick. Some compost bins have handles that let you spin the bin around for quick and easy aeration. Above right: Fresh compost. It probably began as leftover vegetable matter, grass clippings, and other compostable materials, and ended up as the perfect fertilizer for your lawn or garden. And composting helps reduce the garbage you throw away. compost pile or bin, your family can take positive steps in reducing its carbon footprint while saving money on commercial fertilizers. “The average American produces four pounds of landfill waste daily. That’s more than 50 tons over a lifetime. About half of this waste is compostable, which means we have fantastic opportunities to put our garbage to use to help save the planet,” says Julie Stoetzer, brand manager and environmental expert for Chinet disposable tableware. And with gardening the number one pastime in America, all that waste can be added to yards to improve soil fertility and root development in plants and grass. Here are simple steps from Stoetzer and the experts at Huhtamaki, the mak-
ers of Chinet, to get underway composting: • Select a convenient spot. It should be semi-shaded and well drained. Don’t put your compost pile under acid producing trees like pines. If you do not have space for an outdoor pile, use a bin indoors which can be purchased or made at home. • Combine organic wastes such as yard trimmings, food wastes and biodegradable paper plates into a pile. Add bulking agents such as wood chips to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials, allowing the finished material to fully stabilize and mature through a curing process. • When choosing disposable tableware such as plates, bowls and platters, select those made of 100 percent pre-
consumer recycled content, such as Chinet Casuals and Chinet Classic White lines that also are biodegradable in home composting. • A properly managed compost bin will not attract pests or rodents and won’t smell badly. • Typical compost will turn into rich soil in two to five weeks. Use compost in home gardening or donate it to city or public benefit projects. “Composting is a simple solution to reduce the waste your family puts into a landfill,” stresses Stoetzer. “We kept this in mind when developing premium disposable Chinet tableware, using recycled
materials that otherwise would have gone into a landfill, to produce new biodegradable plates and bowls.” For more tips on composting and other environmental activities, visit www.mychinet.com and click on “Environment.”
For more information, check out the State Planning Office at www.maine.gov/spo; the Maine Composting School at www.composting.org; the U.S. Composting Council at www.CompostingCouncil.org; and the Compost Council of Canada at www.compost.org.
12 | BANGOR DAILY NEWS | Thursday | April 21, 2011
Electrical future: Solar panels gleaming their way across Maine Supercuts a great local solar-power example By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS
They used to be few and far between, but these days, solar panels are making more frequent appearances. And it’s no wonder — with an effectively limitless supply of energy shining down on us every day, and with a properly installed system capable of supplying most or even all of our electrical needs, solar power might well be the ideal solution for anybody. ReVision Energy of Liberty knows this better than anyone. Since forming in 2003, the company has done over 2,500 installations of grid-tied solar electric systems, which tie directly into your house power and the power company’s grid instead of using batteries, and solarthermal arrays, which heat your hot water. Business has been so good that the 32-employee company has expanded several times, with offices in Portland and now in Exeter, N.H. You can find ReVision’s projects everywhere. Locally, the new SuperCuts building in Brewer is very visible, with a roof full of solar panels. The building was carefully designed and situated at the perfect angle to take the best advantage of the sun for most of the day. Installed on the building are 78 solar panels that pipe DC current to three inverter boxes, which transform it into the AC power the building needs to produce roughly 23,000 kilowatt hours per year. “This is an industry that’s really come a long way just in the time that I’ve been doing it,” said John Luft, general manager of ReVision’s Liberty branch, who began doing solar-thermal installations in 2004. “Things are really getting more and more mainstream.” As with any experienced solar installer, ReVision assesses a potential project to determine what sort of system will work best for the residence or business. The engineers need to know what the building’s annual electricity usage and roof orientation is to design an effi-
By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS
PHOTO COURTESY OF NASA
You can’t run an extension cord to the International Space Station, so NASA does it with solar panels. Without an atmosphere in the way, the panels get plenty of sunlight to convert into electricity. Down here on the ground, we still get plenty of sunlight, even in Maine in the winter. Solarpanel costs have been falling quickly, and such a system is now financially manageable for the average homeowner. A properly designed system can balanceyour power needs, return power to the grid when you have excess to qualify you for credits when you need extra power, and reduce your electric bill to almost nothing. cient system. The idea is to engineer an affordable system that is reliable and significantly reduces the building’s energy load. Because of high up-front costs, designers typically suggest conservation measures first and then try to cover the rest of the energy load with a system the fits on the available roof or budget. With advent of the grid-tied inverter, on longer summer days, a solar system can generate more electricity than you need; the rest is sent to the electrical grid, and you get a 1:1 credit from the power company. On shorter winter days, those earned credits offset the cost of the power you draw from the grid. Except for a base charge through the power company, a solar system that offsets 100 percent of a building’s electrical usage is possible. Through 2016, installing a solar sys-
tem qualifies a home or business for an uncapped 30 percent tax credit; businesses can take the credit as a grant and depreciate the equipment cost. At the same time, Maine will pay you a $2,000 rebate on a solar-electric system, provided you have an energy audit first. Wrap those incentives up with a PACE loan, and a solar system becomes a very attractive option. Luft said that although ReVision is in business, he’s just as concerned that his competitors excel as well. He’s concerned that poorly designed systems might breed a perception that solar power isn’t viable, reflecting badly on the industry as a whole which is a good reason to have these systems installed by a certified installer. “We feel like there’s a lot on the line here,” Luft said. “We’re trying to make this a viable industry.”
Look To The Sky In A Whole New Way Investments come in many forms. See how solar energy can give you a guaranteed return right from your roof top. 91 West Main St., Liberty
In the Greater Bangor area, one solar project is very noticeable. Supercuts, which recently opened on Wilson Street in Brewer where Coffee Express used to sit, is quite an eye-catcher. It features a dramatically sloped roof adorned with a glimmering array of solar panels. Carol Epstein, who owns the building, was familiar with the work ReVision Energy had done, because the company had outfitted her house, too. She’d built her super-efficient home 12 years ago, oriented to the south and planned for panels. “Finally, I felt the economics and the technology had come to the point where it really made sense,” she said. “The numbers really work on solar electric now.” When Epstein Commercial Real Estate entered into talks with Supercuts, Epstein found the company’s vision of energy efficiency a good match for hers, and she and her team took the challenge of creating the new store very seriously. “We looked at their electric bills for three of their typical stores around New England to figure out how much electricity
they use,” Epstein said. “We sized the system to that.” Epstein Commercial Real Estate has been pushing for energy efficiency in several of its properties in the past four years, doing such things as installing energy-efficient lighting inside and outside, increasing insulation, and adding timers and motion sensors. “We’ve really looked at the whole spectrum with heating, lighting, air conditioning, insulation on all our properties,” Epstein said. “I think we’ve put in close to a thousand new lighting fixtures.” That push translated well to the SuperCuts building, and it was more than function. Epstein wanted to showcase the exciting new building. “We could have done a flat roof and put panels on a little stand, but we really wanted to show off the panels, so we did this big, pitched roof,” she said. “We’re within a couple of degrees of perfect here. That’s what made this site work so well.” The building sports an 18.3-kilowatt system, which ReVision assessed would cover the needs of the business. So long
See SUPERCUTS, Page 14
BANGOR DAILY NEWS | Thursday | April 21, 2011 | 13
Casella Continued from Page 3 year. We’ve also improved the fuel efficiency of our vehicle fleet, deployed energy conservation programs at our facilities, and implemented the best energy-saving practices created by our team of employees. Our most ambitious effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is our landfill gas-to-energy project. Every year, Casella is responsible for the safe disposal of over 3 million tons of solid waste, which
contains organic materials; when they decompose in a landfill, they release methane and carbon dioxide. Instead of venting or flaring the gas into the atmosphere, we’ve developed methods of capturing it before it escapes using a series of vacuum-connected wells, pulling it to our power plants, and converting the methane into electricity. This improves air quality by substantially reducing greenhouse gases, and it offsets the use of fossil fuels with domestic renewable energy. Casella and its partners are producing 25 megawatts at our landfills, enough to power about 25,000 homes. As we all meet the environmental challenges of this century, we’re faced with an important decision: continue with outmoded ideas, or find sustainable, alternative ways of living. Casella has chosen the second option, and we have long devoted ourselves to developing inventive ways of reducing and reusing our waste. No matter how large or small your waste and recycling needs, Casella will work with you to create a customized program. We’re committed to providing superior service, and to offering innovative programs that help us help you transform waste into resources.
Where most people see garbage, the folks at Casella see raw materials for manufacturing new products. Above, material is dropped onto the floor and is being prepared to travel through Casella’s state-of-the-art sorting technologies. At right, Elroy Morgan of Bradford shows off the 1,200-pound pumpkin he grew with the help of Casella’s Earthlife products, a line of bulk composts, mulches, and custom soil amendments for landscapers, garden centers, golf courses, nurseries, sports fields, and contractors. Left: Bangor’s annual American Folk Festival attracts about 100,000 people every year. Roughly 100 trash barrels have a Casella Zero-Sort recycling bin next to them. A team of Casella employees and their families volunteer to patrol sections throughout the event and handle all the waste and recyclables.
Make a difference this (MS) - In 2010, Earth Day celebrated its 40th birthday. Originally the brainchild of United States Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day began as an environmental teach-in but has since grown into a global day meant to inspire awareness and appreciation of the environment. This year, Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22. Because it’s right in the heart of the spring season, when many people feel rejuvenated after a long winter, Earth Day is the ideal time for men, women and children to take that
extra energy they have in the spring and channel it into eco-friendly behaviors that benefit the environment. To do just that this Earth Day, consider the following tips. Take a walk! Or a jog or a bike ride. Men and women can help reduce air pollution by walking, jogging or riding a bike to get from place to place. While this might not be doable across the board, particularly for men and women with long commutes, when running errands around town on the weekends dust off your bicycle instead of gassing up the car. If you’re taking kids to the park on the weekend, walk or bike to the park. It’s a great way to spend time outdoors and benefit the environment at
See EARTH DAY, Page 16
14 | BANGOR DAILY NEWS | Thursday | April 21, 2011
Solar-thermal systems heat household hot water, even in winter By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS
We’ve seen solar-electric systems. But what is solar thermal? Solar thermal is a way to harness the Sun’s energy to heat water. There are two basic varieties: flat-plate collectors, which look much like solar panels, and evacuated-tube collectors. Flat-plate collectors can prove very effective in Maine’s climate, but evacuated-tube systems are gaining popularity. Evacuated-tube collectors are usually composed of glass tubes that are angled to best absorb the Sun’s heat. And how they work is pretty fascinating. Each tube is an entirely closed system, with double-layered glass on the outside, a metal sheath on the inside, and a sealed copper tube within. Inside the copper tube is a heat-transfer solution in a vacuum. The vacuum and the chemical properties of the coolant lower its boiling point to just 86 degrees. It doesn’t take long, even in the winter or on a cloudy day, for the solution to boil. When it does, it turns to steam and rises through the copper tube to a condenser bulb at the top. A second closed system pipes another heat-transfer fluid through pipes that pass by the condenser bulbs, and the heat is transferred to this system; The steam in the in the copper tubes then condenses back into the copper tube, and the process continues. Meanwhile, the heated fluid in the collector is pumped to a heat exchanger in the hot-water tank, where it heats the water in the tank. Even on a gray day or when outside temperatures get to zero, these collectors can harvest heat from the sun; they can hit 165
degrees on sunny days in the winter. The most practical application for a solar thermal system in Maine is to heat the domestic hot water that goes directly to your tap. The water temperature can actually be too hot for our use, so a mixing valve is employed to reduce the temperature if need be. What about heating your home? Probably 90 percent of the time, it isn’t a viable solution. If a solar-thermal installer tells you it’s easy, get a second opinion. It almost never can work. You’d need a well-insulated, modestly sized building with radiant heat, and even then a solar-thermal system can deliver about 10 to 30 percent of the annual heat load. Obviously, the more sunlight, the better the system works, but even on a sunny February day the system can generate enough hot water to satisfy a household’s needs. Family size and water usage makes a difference in how the system is designed, but the right experts will be able to assess your needs and engineer a system that will work for you. Best of all, a solar-thermal system likely qualifies for a 30 percent federal tax credit, a rebate from the state of Maine for $1,000 to $1,500 with no audit required, and eligibility for a PACE loan (see the accompanying article in this supplement).
BDN PHOTOS BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK
Above left: An evacuated-tube solar-thermal collector. Within the glass tubes are metal sheaths surrounding sealed copper pipes. The sun heats a solution, sealed in a vacuum, in those pipes. The solution boils at 86 degrees, and steam rises into bulbs atop the copper tubes. Above right: Note the pipe tube jutting into the insulated area; the heat from the steam inside the bulbs atop those copper pipes transfers to a second closed system. The heated solution heads to the house’s hot-water heater, while the cooled steam in the first pipes condenses back to liquid and falls into the pipe.
Supercuts Continued from Page 12
as there’s bright sun, it can generate a lot more, which generates energy credits for use during the winter months. On one sunny day in March, it generated 100 kilowatt-hours. That SuperCuts location also serves as a training center for its area stores, and is something of a model store for the company. In addition to the solar panels, the building is very green in its design. It features big windows for plenty of natural light, low-watt fluorescent lighting, supplemental LED lighting, and many other features. As for the solar array, a remote control that looks like an electronic Rolodex allows you to flip through data screens that report the electricity being generated, or what was generated that day, week, month, and so on. “Our tenant is very excited about it,” Epstein said. “They have a number of SuperCuts all around New England, and … they were designing this building — we were all designing it — to be their showcase in the area for SuperCuts.” BDN PHOTO BY D.M. FITZPATRICK
Above left: Supercuts employees Geraldine Giordani and Halie Snowman at the front counter of the bright and spacious new Supercuts store. The store is energy efficient in many ways besides the solar panels, including low-watt fluorescent lights, supplemental LED lighting, plenty of natural light, and more.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS | Thursday | April 21, 2011 | 15
So just what are geothermal and geo-exchange systems? By David M. Fitzpatrick BDN SPECIAL SECTIONS
Geothermal energy is all the buzz lately, but what is it? Geothermal energy is energy that is gotten from the ground. You don’t have to go down very deep before the ground begins getting warmer, even in the cold of winter. Go down deep enough, and the heat is enough to keep your house heated. The ground is warm for two reasons: first, the Earth contains a lot of thermal mass, and can absorb heat from the Sun; and second, because the Earth’s core generates heat. Technically, true “geothermal” systems require deep drilling and harvest greater heat emanating from deep underground. The term has become colloquial to refer to any ground-based heat pump, but most such systems are technically “geo-exchange” systems. Basically, geo-exchange systems work through ground-based heat pumps that send coolant through underground pipes; when the coolant returns to your home, it’s significantly heated, and that heat is relayed for other purposes, such as in radiant heating tubes in the floor or baseboard heaters. Some geothermal systems don’t even have to go underground; they can be sunk in existing ponds, lying on the bottom and absorbing heat in the same manner. Geothermal heat pumps can also work in reverse, removing heat from a home to cool it. But how can you get heat out of the frozen ground in Maine in the dead of winter? Simple: Only the top few inches of the ground is actually frozen. Dig down a bit, and the ground stays at a relatively constant temperature yearround — about 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, although that can vary depending on where you are on the planet. You’d have to dig quite deep to get true geothermal energy, but with deep wells drilled, or coils of flexible piping laid out in a dug trench (or even laid at the bottom of a pond or lake), the consistent temperature is all you need. Through geo-exchange, the depth of the well or size of the field depends
on how big a building you have. An average house, properly sealed, has dramatically lower requirements than a sprawling commercial complex. For closed-loop systems, the installer may drill 400 to 600 feet deep. The closed lines meaning no liquid is dumped into the ground. A refrigerant is piped through the system, gathering heat as needed, or carrying heat that is dispersed to the cooler ground around it. Indoors, heat is usually transferred through radiantfloor heating or hot-water baseboard, but can also be water-to-air for heating or cooling. Like anything, installing a geothermal system requires a level of expertise fueled by education experience. How deep you drill? Do you used a closedloop system, and how deep do you bury it? If there’s a pond nearby, is it a viable source to sink geothermal tubing? Because of the explosive popularity of geo-exchange, it’s easy for anyone to jump onboard the bandwagon. Just running a well-drilling company or electrical service doesn’t mean the expertise in geo-exchange is there; be sure you check your potential geoinstaller to ensure the business has the right education and experience installing such systems. Key to any type of energy-efficient installation is to have a whole-house audit done before you do anything — and a professional geo-exchange installer should insist on one being done before you make your move. It’s important to view the entire house as a system. Until recently, we haven’t that much here, but in Europse, where oil prices for years put the worst times in the U.S. to shame, people have had to become more energy-efficient. They build houses with thicker walls and better windows, which greatly helps the efficiency of geothermal systems — or any heating and cooling systems, for that matter. We’re starting to get there in the U.S., and an energy audit is key. Find out if you can tighten up the windows and doors, add insulation, seal up the roof, and so on. The best geoexchange system in the world probably won’t help you if your house is bleeding heat.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA
Top: A typical “slinky loop” geo-exchange system before being buried underground. A heat-transfer solution flows through the long, continuous system, either picking up heat to bring into the house or removing heat from the house and transferring it to the ground. Above: A similar system being sunk in a pond.
Geothermal Energy Simplified EarthPoint simplifies access to geothermal energy by eliminating the up front costs and complexities that are often the barrier to installing a system. EarthPoint will install and maintain the geothermal loops for your home or business and invoice you a low, fixed rate, monthly fee for your geothermal energy. Homes and businesses currently using gas, oil, propane or electricity would immediately and significantly reduce their energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
16 | BANGOR DAILY NEWS | Thursday | April 21, 2011
Earth Day Continued from Page 13
the same time. Plant a tree. Spring is a time of year when many homeowners get back to working on their yards. When cultivating your green thumb this spring, plant a tree or several trees around the yard. Also, when working outdoors, lessen your reliance on pesticides. It might be difficult to eliminate pesticide use entirely, but whenever possible look for more natural, eco-friendly alternatives to keep your lawn looking lush. Turn off the lights! Daylight Savings Time now starts earlier than it did in years past. The reason for that is to reduce energy use, which only works when people actually reduce their daily energy usage. If it’s still light outside, turn the lights off inside and enjoy a warm spring evening outdoors. Go paperless. Many banks and credit card companies now encourage consumers to go paperless with their statements as a means to becoming more e c o - f r i e n d l y. Some banks even offer incentives to choose
online statements over traditional paper statements. When possible, reduce waste by going paperless with bank and credit card statements. Use eco-ffriendly cleaning products. Many household cleaning products pose a threat to the environment by leaking harmful toxins into the air. When spring cleaning this year, choose non-toxic ecofriendly cleaning products that help reduce both air and water pollution.
Green is in our Nature.
TD Bank is committed to environmental responsibility. TD Bank is the largest US-based bank to go carbon neutral and the first company to have a North American, closed-loop recycling system which diverts 1,500 metric tons of paper from landfills to the production of recycled paper. In addition, we purchase renewable energy credits for 100 percent of the electricity used by our operations from Maine to Florida. TD Bank is committed to building environmentally-friendly buildings, and this year, we are building the first “net-zero energy” bank location in the US in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. To learn more about these and our other green initiatives, visit www.tdbank.com/green.
TD Bank, N.A. | ‘USGBC®’ and related logo is a trademark owned by the U.S. Green Building Council® and is used with permission.
Energy Wise 2011: Energy conservation, alternatives, and solutions. Read about solar panels, solar-thermal, geothermal and geoexchange, plas...