<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Green News - Energy Saving Tips, Environmental News]]>Copyright 2018 https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/green http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago https://www.nbcchicago.com en-usSat, 20 Oct 2018 01:22:17 -0500Sat, 20 Oct 2018 01:22:17 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Backlash Builds Against Straw Bans]]> Thu, 26 Jul 2018 10:46:20 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/NC_straws0726_1500x845.jpg

Cities and businesses across the U.S. are moving to ban plastic straws in an effort to ease the burden of plastic waste on the environment. But those bans may also make life more complicated for disabled people.

Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Deforestation Threatens Some of Earth's Natural Cures]]> Thu, 12 Jul 2018 08:56:00 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/deforestation.png

Amazing medical cures from the Earth’s forests are threatened by deforestation.

<![CDATA[DC's Cherry Blossoms Reach Peak Bloom]]> Thu, 05 Apr 2018 13:27:02 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/DIT+NAT+CHERRY+BLOSSOMS+THUMB.jpg

The perennial marker of spring has officially blossomed in the nation's capital as Washington DC's famous cherry blossoms have reached peak bloom. Peak bloom generally occurs in the last week of March or the first week of April and means that at least 70 percent of the Shoshino flowers are out.

<![CDATA[Hurricane María Exposes Problems Within Puerto Rico’s Solar Panel Industry]]> Tue, 30 Jan 2018 09:43:35 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/rafael-rivera.jpg

Although her solar panels successfully sustained Hurricane María’s winds, Madeline Batista couldn’t turn on her lights, her refrigerator or other appliances that needed electricity. The photovoltaic system, installed at her Naguabo home by Sunnova, stopped working. It was connected to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) network, which was destroyed by the hurricane. 

Meanwhile, in the mountains of Adjuntas, community organization Casa Pueblo still had power. Neighbors sought help from the facility, the only place with power in town during the María emergency. Casa Pueblo’s solar panels were equipped with batteries that allowed it to operate full time, independently from PREPA, and have power at night. The place became an autonomous energy oasis. People went there to charge their phones, receive respiratory therapy with energy-powered machines, and above all, organize to help each other after the worst natural catastrophe the island experienced in its modern history. It was a concrete example of community self-management. 

However, most of the more than 10,362 renewable energy units installed by Puerto Ricans ended up as a roof ornaments, as in the case of Batista, according to an investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI). The Naguabo resident belongs to a group of consumers that purchased energy packages from Sunnova Corporation, whose photovoltaic panels and services have not delivered on the promise of saving money. Although it is not the only company that installs this equipment in Puerto Rico, the Texas company is the main provider of renewable energy for residences, and the only one certified by the Energy Commission to offer them as leases.

Before Hurricane María, more than 1,000 people had filed complaints against Sunnova at the Independent Office of Consumer Protection (OIPC), a consumer advocate that monitors PREPA and energy companies. The complaints were mainly related to overbilling problems from Sunnova. 

Batista’s backyard is a parcel of land that can be crossed from one end to another in less than a minute. It has cement planters on both sides of her clothesline, where Batista grows yautía, moringa, mango, chives, papaya, kale, in addition to raising chickens and geese. She says it is for food security and self-sufficiency. That’s part of the reason why she decided to install solar panels—Batista wanted to be ready for when PREPA’s service failed. 

Three years earlier, she signed a contract with Sunnova to buy solar energy and rent 16 photovoltaic panels. The bill was $108 per month for 25 years, with an additional payment of $3 per month to PREPA. She says she always has to pay more. 

Batista climbs an aluminum ladder up to her home’s roof and shares her frustration: “I like solar energy because it is clean and produces no noise, but if you do not have a battery that allows you to disconnect from the network, the panels do not work.” When she entered into the energy purchase agreement with Sunnova, nobody from the company or PREPA informed her that the photovoltaic panels wouldn’t work even during the day, when the sun was out. 

According to Batista, Sunnova said it can solve the battery problem, but it would mean a an additional contract for energy storage equipment. Batista believes it is not a good deal for her, since it means spending even more money.

Products Without Batteries
Solar products without batteries were never established in the Puerto Rican market to withstand hurricanes, but to produce savings on customer bills, said Máximo Torres, an engineer and founder of Puerto Rican company Maximo Solar. 

“That model is for the United States, but in Puerto Rico there are blackouts and hurricanes,” Torres added. His company supplied photovoltaic panels financed by Sunnova until 2017, but it is no longer associated with Sunnova. Now his company installs equipment with batteries, like those at Casa Pueblo. 

The realization that solar equipment connected to power grids would not work in stronger hurricanes was not a new revelation for companies like PREPA (a public corporation), Sunnova or Maximo Solar. In 2012, for example, hundreds of residents in New York and New Jersey could not operate their solar energy equipment during Hurricane Sandy, a category 2 storm. 

That was a learning experience for the industry: when the transmission and distribution of energy are carried out through a centralized infrastructure, the system is more vulnerable to hurricanes—as demonstrated by María, which led to Puerto Rico’s grid collapsing because power plants were connected to a single source at PREPA. 

Faced with the reality that most of Puerto Rico’s energy is produced in the island’s southern region and is mainly consumed mainly in the metropolitan area (after being transported through the mountains by cables that the winds destroyed), the alternative is to produce power through microgrids. In other words, produce energy in many sectors near different consumption centers, said engineer Lionel Orama, coordinator of the Island’s National Institute of Energy and Sustainability (INES), a group of University of Puerto Rico academics that conducts research to solve the island’s energy problems. 

“María slapped us in the face and made us learn that we have to change the way we see the photovoltaic system, not just as a way to pay less money to PREPA, but to achieve security during hurricanes,” Orama added.

Energy Independence in the Mountains
On Dec. 26, Alexis Massol, one of the Casa Pueblo founders, drove to the Saltillo sector of Adjuntas, crossing a bridge over a ravine, traveling through a muddy road and arriving at a cement house. There, the transmission antenna of Casa Pueblo’s radio station was being set up. Unlike the organization’s headquarters located in Adjuntas’ urban area, this house had to depend on a power plant after the hurricane. 

Since then, there are now 42 solar panels that Radio Casa Pueblo has recently installed on the roof and on a ranch behind the house. Inside, there is a battery bank that provides power for three straight days, in case bad weather does not allow the panels to receive enough sunlight. 

Efraim Ayala, a technician for Maximo Solar, lowered a “PREPA” lever to take Radio Casa Pueblo “off the grid” or outside the network. “They are now disconnected from PREPA,” he informed Massol. And that’s how Radio Casa Pueblo created Puerto Rico’s first radio transmission tower powered entirely by a renewable and independent source from PREPA. 

“We no longer have to pay money to the Authority. We will have savings,” said Massol, who is internationally recognized with the Goldman Environmental Prize (considered the “green” Nobel). “I feel happy. The energy we produce does not have to affect the environment because it is clean. We want to be prepared for climate change.” 

Casa Pueblo, with almost 40 years of community self-management and activism in favor of environmental causes, is one of the few organizations that can claim victory. Hurricane María revealed that of all the residential, commercial and industrial solar projects connected to PREPA (including those of companies besides Sunnova), only a few were able to operate independently after a failure in the power network. The equipment is part of the net metering system, in which companies sell part of the energy they produce with their renewable systems to PREPA. 

“About 10 percent of all those connected to the net metering system have batteries,” Francisco Rullán, executive director of the State Office of Public Energy Policy (OEPPE) told the CPI. “Now, with the onslaught of the hurricane, I would tell you that most want to install them.” María brought about a great change in the island’s renewable industry: the push to install batteries. 

For Efraín O’Neill, energy systems researcher at the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez campus, talking about energy security and independence also means that local companies must be in charge of managing the renewable system. 

Texas-based Sunnova has 62 percent of all the net metering system business at the residential level in Puerto Rico, according to research by the CPI. 

The net metering system has 10,362 customers, PREPA told the CPI. In addition to Sunnova’s 6,000 customers who are already connected to the network, it has almost 4,000 customers waiting for PREPA to connect them into the net metering system, which would give the company 97 percent of Puerto Rico’s residential business for renewables. 

“We went from fossil dependency to renewables dependency with a company that is not from here. We continue to send the money out of the island,” O’Neill said about Sunnova’s market dominance. 

“This worries me. You have another PREPA basically. This is a problem,” said José Alberto Pérez Vélez, the OIPC’s director, regarding the development of a possible monopoly. “The company then has more responsibility in terms of the guidance it must offer to customers. We have to prevent these companies from becoming what PREPA was, through overbilling, poor service and inefficiency.” 

Cars Become Generators
In Batista’s garage, there is a car with the hood open. She had to connect a 1,500-watt inverter to the vehicle’s battery, and plug in an extension cord to carry power to the refrigeration appliances and the fan. But she needed to pump more and more gas every time to keep the car on and protect the battery.

“Sunnova told me that in the meantime, to solve the problem, I should buy a power generator,” she added. “And I can’t stand generators. I can’t sleep with the noise.” 

Having a power generator or using the car completely goes against Batista’s goal of cleaner energy. According to Batista, using more power from fossil fuels is what causes global warming. 

“This movement from citizens who are for renewable energy, for cleaner energy, don’t deserve that after they make such a large investment,” said Pérez Vélez. 

Sunnova’s Response
Sunnova, however, blames PREPA for the interruption of its customers’ service. 

“People were left without power because of PREPA’s regulations. Solar panels cannot work if PREPA’s grid does not work. If the network collapses, all renewable systems collapse 100 percent,” said Karla Zambrana, general manager of Sunnova in Puerto Rico, during an interview with the CPI. 

Renewable equipment is automatically disconnected when PREPA’s service is interrupted. It is a security measure to avoid sending electricity to PREPA’s network and protect employees who are repairing the grid. 

On Oct. 10, during meetings that Gov. Ricardo Rosselló held with different sectors, he asked Sunnova representatives to find solutions. “The goal was to eliminate the bureaucracy of the interconnection process with PREPA, so that customers, once the grid is restored, can begin to enjoy the service quickly without the bureaucratic process,” Zambrana told the CPI. 

For the OIPC, the problems with the net metering system are a shared responsibility with PREPA. “When the net metering system started, you could have been waiting for PREPA to connect you for more than a year. Then there was 2014 and 2016 legislation that lowered the time to 70 days. It is a significant step forward, but we are well behind,” Pérez Vélez said. “There are jurisdictions in the United States where you can do it online and it takes two or three days. It’s not fair that you have to wait so long to produce clean energy.” 

As of today, the island generates only 2 percent of its energy from renewable sources, mainly from solar and wind utilities contracted under the administration of former Gov. Luis Fortuño. The process is currently being questioned in the courts. Law 82 of 2010 ordered Puerto Rico to generating 12 percent of all electricity with resources such as solar and wind by 2019. 

Confusion Following Sunnova’s “Media Tour”
The day after meeting with Rosselló, Sunnova’s chief executive officer, John Berger, appeared in Puerto Rican media, talking about bringing batteries to solve the lack of power among customers. But he overlooked a key detail: he did not say that there would be an additional cost. 

As a result, Lydia Rosa, a Carolina resident with 30 Sunnova solar panels, believed that the batteries were going to be provided for free, because she thought that the company assumed the responsibility to fix the problem. 

She wasn’t alone. “Many people called my office to complain that they needed a battery,” Pérez Vélez said, addressing the confusion created after Sunnova’s media tour. 

The company had to clarify information with the media: customers had to pay for the batteries. 

Rosa said that when she contacted the company to solve her problem, she was offered a 13.5 kilowatt hours (KWh) battery, at $100 per month, for 10 years. The energy storage device would never belong to her because, like the solar panels on her roof, Sunnova offers equipment only through leasing, a business model known as PPA (Power Purchase Agreement). Sunnova does not allow its customers to buy batteries at a better price from another supplier. 

“Puerto Ricans were treated like idiots,” Rosa said. 

So why is Sunnova offering batteries now? 

“María’s impact made us change our business model to provide a solution to the customer so they are able to enjoy energy continuously. That’s when we made this market decision,” Zambrana told the CPI. 

The CPI also asked Zambrana if the company had thought about this offer before Hurricane María. 

“Yes. What Hurricane María did was speed up the time to bring the product,” she replied. Sunnova has been in Puerto Rico since 2012. 

The hurricane also highlighted the tensions between PREPA and Sunnova, a company eager to expand its business and resolve confusion with customers. Rosselló’s latest executive order did not lead to a resolution, since PREPA did not expedite the process of connecting private equipment to the public electricity grid. 

As of Dec. 1, the net metering system had 10,362 subscribers, the same as before the hurricane. PREPA’s slow response caused Sunnova to respond. The company’s management sent a letter (which it did not make public) to PREPA executive director Justo González and governing board, as well as to Rosselló, alleging the agency’s inaction and the reluctance to work with Sunnova. 

“PREPA has not complied with the governor’s Executive Order, which unfortunately creates a situation that casts a shadow over PREPA’s efforts and commitment to expeditiously bring back power to its clients, and commitment to its obligations. Sunnova hereby requests a final and definitive date to complete this process,” Berger said in the statement. “The lack of power after three months, and the reluctance of PREPA to work with companies like ours, continues to hinder relief and recovery efforts on the island—to the detriment of local residents.” 

PREPA’s executive director did not respond to several requests by the CPI for interviews to talk about this matter and other aspects related to renewable energy.

Quality of Life in the Face of an Emergency
In the remote sector of El Hoyo in Adjuntas, there is a three-feet wide cement path that leads to 25 modest homes built mainly of wood. In eight of the homes, Casa Pueblo has installed solar equipment that looks like a doll house. The equipment works well. There are two photovoltaic panels and a battery, with a 300-watt inverter, that connects to two light bulbs, a handheld radio and a mini-fridge. 

A neighbor keeps two bottles of water in the mini-fridge, along with a snack and the insulin she needs to keep cold for her diabetic husband. In another house located on a hill, María Medina can now turn on the machine she needs to conduct her daily dialysis and address her kidney failure. She will no longer have to follow manual treatments, which is less effective than automated treatments. “For me, this has been an opportunity to get out of the crisis,” explained Medina, who got two additional panels from Casa Pueblo for the dialysis machine. “This was my Christmas present.” 

Reducing Consumption
For Puerto Rico to make the leap into energy sustainability, it must begin by reducing consumption and thinking about equipment that meets the most important needs, Orama told the CPI. 

“These days you can mount solar panels with energy storage that is costing 20 cents per kilowatt hour, almost the same as what you are paying PREPA. We have to start talking to people again about the fact that there is equipment that provides, at the very least, quality of life in emergencies. That is much better than zero energy or a noisy power generator that harms the environment and makes you spend money and time standing in lines to buy gasoline,” said Orama, referring to alternative systems outside of Sunnova. 

The emergency solar equipment that Casa Pueblo distributed costs about $1,800 and has been a salvation for the massive blackout caused by María. “We have to think about a system that serves us for the essentials, to gradually become independent from an oil-based system,” Massol added. 

A few steps from Adjuntas’ town square, at Casa Pueblo’s headquarters, Massol walked into the location just as the power was beginning to be restored in the town. It had been more than three months since the hurricane hit on Sept. 20. He saw a neighbor asking for a hand lamp, which charges by leaving it in the sun all day. After seeing a Casa Pueblo employee supply the equipment, Massol pointed to a sign posted on the roof of the organization’s headquarters, which says: “Transforming the crisis with solar energy alternatives.” 

That motto is not a fantasy, he told the CPI. “There is an energy option here that works perfectly. This environmental discourse is not a utopian message. It’s a practical message,” Massol said. 

When Solar Energy Is More Expensive
At the OIPC, Pérez Vélez reviews the importance of renewable energies and how poorly they have been implemented in Puerto Rico. 

Many of the complaints to the OIPC are from consumers who paid about $300 to PREPA and after signing a contract with Sunnova to lower their bills, paid this Texas company up to $200 per month plus almost $200 to PREPA, for a total of $400. 

“They went looking for something better and came back with worse,” Pérez Vélez said. 

When consumers entered into leasing agreements for the photovoltaic panels with Sunnova, the panels were expected to produce about 1,500 kilowatts. They ultimately generated half of that. “Because the panels generate less than the customer needs, the equipment is interconnected with PREPA to buy electricity. You will never pay only the $3 to PREPA that they promised you. It will always be more,” he explained. 

Sunnova said it cannot guarantee customers that they will only pay the PREPA the estimated $3. “PREPA’s bill for each client depends on the amount of energy used in the network after the production of solar energy has been discounted,” the company said in a statement. 

The CPI confirmed that at least one company, Alpha Solar, sells Sunnova contracts, so sometimes customers are doing business with Sunnova without knowing it. After signing an energy purchase agreement, the companies that install Sunnova equipment are Windmar Home, New Energy, Pure Energy, Integrated Solar Operations and Mel Pro. 

Sunnova arrived in Puerto Rico six years ago, when the cost of PREPA’s energy was quite expensive, at about 28 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). It tried to compete with PREPA by implementing a cost of almost 20 cents per kWh. But that was not going to last long. 

“The company knew that the cost of PREPA’s kilowatt hour was not going to stay that high. The people of Puerto Rico could not continue paying those amounts,” Pérez Vélez added. 

Batista pays 19 cents per kWh to Sunnova, plus 21 cents per kWh to PREPA. When the cost of the public corporation’s energy fell to 17 cents per kWh in 2016, Sunnova’s cost remained higher. She always paid two high bills, with different collection criteria—and she always paid more than what she was promised. 

The OIPC considers Sunnova contracts as burdensome. For instance, the contracts do not permit disputes in local Puerto Rican courts. All disputes go through an arbitration process in Texas, which consumers themselves have to pay, according to Pérez Vélez. 

Of the complaints filed with the OIPC before the hurricane, 300 became formal complaints before the Energy Commission (EC), which oversees the island’s public energy policy and investigates these issues.

“Now we have to add a new factor to the investigation: seeing what the customer’s expectation is when a contract is signed and if the expectation was to have only clean energy or to have sustainability when the grid collapsed,” said José Román, interim president of the EC. The investigation is looking into if, according to customers’ energy expectations, Sunnova now has to provide the battery service free of charge, added Román. 

As for the town of Adjuntas and Casa Pueblo? Despite costly solar equipment, many know that their strategy can lead the island to energy independence. For example, when the entire town was in darkness, a group of neighbors went to a community cinema powered by solar energy, as they did on Dec. 23 to watch a documentary. And that Casa Pueblo can send a cable to power the radio station’s cabins, which are behind the house, as they did after Hurricane María. The organization has already distributed almost 10,000 solar lamps. At night, in the darkness of the mountains, you can see the lights moving.

This story from Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism was made possible as part of a collaboration with the Futuro Media Group, supported by the Ford Foundation. English Version by Michelle Kantrow and Julio Ricardo Varela. Leer in Español

Photo Credit: Photo by Leonardo Fabrizi Ríos Center for Investigative Journalism
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<![CDATA[Polar Bears Get Snow Donations]]> Wed, 26 Jul 2017 13:13:52 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/DIT+POLAR+BEARS+GET+SNOW+THUMB.jpg

High temperatures at a Finland Wildlife Center were making life uncomfortable for a family of polar bears. However, the child of an employee at a local ski resort had an idea on how to cool them off: the resort could donate excess snow they had saved up from last winter. After some initial hesitation, the bear family seemed much happier with the new addition to their pen.

<![CDATA[Last Orca Born in Captivity Dies]]> Tue, 25 Jul 2017 14:18:23 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/DIT+SEAWORLD+DEATH+THUMB.jpg

The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld’s former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company’s San Antonio park. Veterinarians were treating the calf for an infection, possibly pneumonia, but her health continued to decline. The park discontinued its breeding program in March 2016.

<![CDATA[Macron Targets 'Make Our Planet Great Again' Site at US]]> Fri, 09 Jun 2017 19:18:13 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-683370816-Macron.jpg

In the wake of the United States' withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron fired back on Thursday with the launch of a new website titled "Make Our Planet Great Again."

On the site’s homepage, Macron calls President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the agreement "unfortunate" but adds that the decision “only reinforced our determination.” He calls for those working on climate issues to do so in France. 

"To all the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the President of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland," Macron said in a video address on the site’s homepage. "I call on them, come and work here with us to work on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment."

The site includes information for researchers, educators and students on applying for a four-year grant to study in France, according to Business Insider. Businesses and NGOs can also apply to receive funding from the French government.

"You will be able to stay in France at least for the duration of the grant, and longer if you are granted a permanent position," the site explains.

The site cost €22,000 (approximately $24,637) to build is produced and managed by Business France, according to Politico.eu.

By clicking on the "I Want to Make Our Planet Great Again" button on the homepage of the website, users can describe why they are fighting climate change. They can also detail current projects and "dreams" of carrying out the fight against climate change.

"The planet needs your innovative skills. So are you IN to change (literally!) our daily lives and make our planet great again?" the site reads.

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The title, a play on President Trump's signature campaign slogan "Make America Great Again," reflects the increased efforts to combat climate change by France and other signatories of the Paris agreement. Macron first used the modified slogan in an address from the Elysée Palace on June 1, after Trump announced the withdrawal.

You can visit the Make Our Planet Great Again site by clicking here.

Photo Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Build It Green: TreeHouse to Open World's 1st Net-Zero Energy Store]]> Thu, 01 Jun 2017 09:52:56 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/treehouse-store.jpg

Home improvement has long been synonymous with Home Depot and Lowe's. But a Texas-based green conscience start-up is aiming to make sustainable home improvement appeal to more than just environmentalists.

TreeHouse will open the world's first energy-positive home improvement store in Dallas Friday. Through the use of 539 rooftop solar panels and two Tesla Powerwalls the store will actually generate energy well in excess of its needs.

“This store runs on 100 percent sunshine,” Treehouse's Ben Kusin said, adding that the excess renewable energy that the store generates will be put back onto the power grid and made available for others to use.

The company is the first retailer authorized to sell Tesla's home energy storage battery.

"A home battery could make energy bills an archaic relic of a past system," said TreeHouse co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard, speaking at Tesla’s energy storage event in California. "You can now own your own production and storage of the energy you need. This takes us one step closer to completely powering homes without fossil fuels."

The store will be the retailer’s second location. It's flagship store opened in Austin in 2011. An additional store, planned for the Plano area, is due to open this fall. Dubbed the Whole Foods of home improvement, TreeHouse's expansion highlights a demand for eco-friendly products and a desire to reduce carbon footprint. 


Yet, President Donald Trump is expected to announce Thursday whether the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. White House sources tell NBC News that the president is leaning toward an exit. 

The 2015 agreement, which is not a binding treaty, was spurred by the overwhelming global scientific consensus that rising global temperatures over the last several decades are caused by man-made activity. The accord's goal is aimed at preventing the planet from warming by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which scientists warn could have damaging consequences.

The agreement calls on countries to make voluntary national pledges to reduce emissions. Despite Trump's decision, businesses like TreeHouse will forge ahead with eco-friendly alternatives.

"The home consumes the highest amount of our natural resources, such as water and energy, produces the largest amount of landfill waste, and is where we will be exposed to the greatest number of toxins in our lifetime," the company said. "By working to solve these problems, TreeHouse finds new routes to dramatically change the quality of our lives. We can build better shelters for ourselves, our communities, and our planet."

TreeHouse offers a carefully curated selection of products and services that promote healthful and sustainable living spaces, with an emphasis on performance and design. Every product is scored based on health, performance, corporate responsibility and sustainability.

“TreeHouse is reinventing home improvement with the twin goals of ecological and human health,” the company explains on its web site. “Our core principles are applied to everything in the store. From thoughtful and innovative products to comprehensive, high-quality services -- every element is designed to build a better home.”

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Green Initiatives of Top Companies ]]> Wed, 19 Apr 2017 20:00:25 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/DIT+Earth+Week+Companies+THUMB.jpg

In honor of Earth Week, NBC looked at 5 of the most valuable companies to see what kind of green initiatives they are engaged in.

<![CDATA[From Your Recycle Bin to China: 360 Recycling Plant Tour]]> Tue, 18 Apr 2017 20:26:04 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/360+Recycling+THUMB.jpg

What really happens to your recycling? Take a 360 video tour of the Burbank Recycle Center to see what happens to your recyclable waste and learn how you can be a more eco-friendly consumer.

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<![CDATA[Badlands National Park's Climate Change Tweets Deleted]]> Tue, 24 Jan 2017 21:04:07 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Badlands+park.jpg

The Twitter account for the Badlands National Park in South Dakota published a series of tweets Tuesday on climate change. A few hours later, the tweets were deleted.

The first tweet, posted an hour after President Donald Trump signed executive orders advancing the construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, said: “The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm.”

Just moments later, the account posted another tweet: “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years” — with the hashtag “#climate” added for good measure.

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The next tweet said: “Flipside of the atmosphere; ocean acidity has increased 30% since the Industrial Revolution. ‘Ocean Acidification’ #climate #carboncycle” 

The last tweet said: "Burning one gallon of gasoline puts nearly 20lbs of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere." 

According to a National Park Service spokesman, the tweets were posted by a former employee who is not authorized to use the park's account. Tom Crosson, NPS's chief of public affairs, told NBC the park was not told to remove the tweets but "chose to do so when they realized that their account had been compromised."

"At this time, National Park Service social media managers are encouraged to continue the use of Twitter to post information relating to public safety and park information, with the exception of content related to national policy issues," Crosson added.

Tweeting about climate change isn't out of character for Badlands. The park's Twitter account feed addresses the national security implications of climate change, rising water temperatures and the decline of species driven by global warming. But it does contradict President Trump's stance on the issue. He has repeatedly claimed climate change is a hoax.

In response to the tweets being deleted, DNC national press secretary Adrienne Watson released the following statement: “Vladimir Putin would be proud.”

Tuesday's tweets followed a brief suspension Friday of the National Park Service’s Twitter account, as well as those of all its bureaus, over retweets the Department of the Interior deemed "inconsistent with the agency’s mission."

The prohibition came after the National Park Service’s official Twitter account, a bureau of the department, retweeted a pair of posts to its 315,000 followers. One of the tweets was a photo that compared the crowd gathered on the National Mall for Trump to the much-larger gathering that stood in the same spot eight years earlier for President Barack Obama's first swearing-in. The tweets were later removed from the feed, and the National Park Service apologized for sharing them.

A day later, Crosson said the agencies could resume tweeting “Now that social media guidance has been clarified.” It was not immediately clear what information was in the guidance. 

Photo Credit: Badlands National Park
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<![CDATA[Greenhouse Gases Biggest Threat to Polar Bears: Study]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:55:39 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-77960094polarbears71151.jpg Greenhouse gas emissions remain the "primary threat" to polar bears, according to a study released Tuesday by the U.S. Geological Survey. Polar bear populations will decline even if emissions are stabilized by the end of the century, the study said. Polar bears have been categorized as a "globally threatened species" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 2008. The two main threats to polar bears are melting sea ice and disappearing prey. The study concluded that polar bears would suffer whether carbon emissions grew at their current pace or peaked in 2040 and then declined. The only optimistic scenario would involve "immediate and aggressive" cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, researchers said.
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Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Want to Save Coral Reefs? First, Save the Fish: Study]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 19:04:11 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP080816183919.jpg A new study has found that more fish may be the answer to saving coral reefs, NBC News reported. Overfishing on reefs and other threats like pollution can lead to a collapse of underwater ecosystems, so keeping fish on the reefs is crucial to their health, according to the study of 832 reefs. "The methods used to estimate reef health in this study are simple enough that most fishers and managers can take the weight and pulse of their reef and keep it in the healthy range," Tim McClanahan, WCS senior conservationist and study co-author, said in a release. "Fishers and managers now have the ability to map out a plan for recovery of reef health that will give them the best chance to adapt to climate change."
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Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Stunning Historic Photos of Air Pollution ]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 11:36:12 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/air-pollution-AP7004221649_7.jpg Click to see some fascinating images of air pollution throughout the US from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Green Car Wash Sanitizes Without Soap]]> Mon, 05 Aug 2013 12:37:08 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/128401773.jpg A car wash in Arizona installed a water filtration tank allowing high levels of oxygen to sanitize the water they use to clean customers' cars — all without soap. An environmental engineer at Arizona State University is skeptical about the car wash's filtration system.]]> <![CDATA[Energy for Sale: Is It Worth It?]]> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 12:58:12 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000003170932_722x406_37270083593.jpg Door-to-door salesmen, telephone calls and direct mail, all trying to sell you electricity or natural gas. The pitches promise to save you money. They are called alternative energy suppliers. There have been more than 1,000 consumer complaints about them to Maryland and D.C. authorities so far this year, and we've been receiving emails asking whether these companies are real and are the deals worth it. CLICK HERE for a list of legitimate suppliers.]]> <![CDATA[Giant Head Sculptures Pop up on Michigan Avenue]]> Tue, 02 Jul 2013 19:30:08 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000003595469_722x406_35825219986.jpg New sculptures are turning heads on Michigan Avenue and getting people to think green. LeeAnn Trotter reports.]]> <![CDATA[State-of-the-Art Green Workplace Provides Lunch, Games and Slides]]> Wed, 01 May 2013 14:13:33 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Slide_aweber.jpg AWeber Communications headquarters in Chalfont, Bucks County, Pa. isn't your average workplace as it features video games, a pool table and even slides. NBC10's Jesse Gary reports ahead of the ribbon cutting.
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Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Junkyard Trash Turns to Art]]> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 12:42:18 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/ben+in+trash.JPG With his castoff treasures rattling in the cart, Ben Cowden wheeled back toward his art studio in San Francisco's Recology Recycling Plant to continue work. Joe Rosato Jr. reports on a man who turns others trash into treasure. Read the full story here.

Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[Cemetery for Green-Friendly Burials]]> Tue, 23 Apr 2013 10:17:32 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/meadow.jpg A cemetery in Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia, has become environmentally friendly for burials.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Baxter Brewing Company Goes Green]]> Wed, 24 Apr 2013 13:49:39 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/baxter-brewing.jpg Luke Livingston, president and founder of Baxter Brewing Company, talks about ways in which he is expanding his business sustainably, with the help of John Rooks, president of The SOAP Group.]]> <![CDATA[D.C. Has The Worst Traffic]]> Tue, 05 Feb 2013 10:49:47 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/traffic-4.jpg Washington, D.C. has the worst traffic congestion in the nation, according to a new report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.]]>