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The PristinePlanet.com Newsletter
1 February 2009 — Issue #52
Editor: Michael J. Ross
Environmental News
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Biodiesel from Waste Coffee Grounds

Anyone who has experienced the energizing effects of coffee, will not be astonished to learn that researchers have reported that waste coffee grounds could be an inexpensive and environmentally responsible source of biodiesel fuel. Mano Misra, Susanta Mohapatra, and Narasimharao Kondamudi — scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno — published their findings online in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a publication of the American Chemical Society (ACS). They note that used coffee grounds comprise 11 to 20 percent oil, by weight, which is roughly equivalent to that of palm, rapeseed, and soybean sources. Given that coffee growers produce in excess of 16 billion pounds of coffee every year globally, it amounts to 340 million gallons of biodiesel. The use of spent coffee grounds as an energy feedstock, would be an alternative to its usual fate, as a soil conditioner, or as additional waste in our growing landfills.

The researchers confirmed the feasibility of this new feedstock, by collecting waste coffee grounds from a well-known coffeehouse chain, separating out the oil, and then converting all of it into biodiesel, utilizing an inexpensive and eco-friendly process. The resultant fuel — which naturally retains the aroma of coffee — possesses at least three major advantages over traditional biodiesel fuels. Firstly, it does not consume food, unlike corn-based ethanol, since it uses only a waste product. Secondly, it is more stable, as a result of the higher levels of antioxidants in coffee. Thirdly, even the leftover solids can be used as compost or for creating ethanol. The scientists estimate that, in the United States alone, this energy source could generate over $8 million of profit. They intend to develop a modest pilot plant in order to experiment in producing this new fuel.

Critics of coffee-based biodiesel argue that the maximum amount of fuel that could be produced is a tiny fraction of the total amount of gasoline used worldwide. According to motor gasoline data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) for 2007, the United States alone consumes more than that 340 million gallons of gasoline, in less than half a day. On the supply side of the equation, by some calculations, a single gallon of biodiesel would require 47 pounds of coffee grounds. However, supporters of this new energy source point out that it is not intended to completely replace petroleum-based liquid fuels, but instead to be used in conjunction with all other forms of biodiesel — in other words, to serve as a part of the solution. It also can serve as inspiration to point up the countless untapped sources of alternative fuels that are ecologically sound and sustainable.

Detractors sometimes claim that shipping the spent coffee grounds to a processing plant, would waste energy. But the same trucks that deliver new coffee grounds could just as easily cart away the used ones.

Some critics point out that biodiesel has seen limited adoption in the United States. Yet proponents counter that diesel fuels are used successfully in Europe and Asia, and would work equally well in the United States if state governments ceased raising roadblocks to its adoption. The two largest car markets, California and New York, repeatedly ratchet up diesel standards, making it uneconomic for car makers to try to design, manufacture, and sell diesel vehicles into those states. Thus, it is not a problem of technological limitations, but rather the intellectual (and possibly ethical) limitations of state legislators.

If this potential source of biodiesel sees widespread deployment in the future, it would give new meaning to the phrase "unleaded coffee".

Member Profiles
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Be Good to Your Mother

Hiouchi, California is a small town nestled in the redwoods of Northern California, and located not far from Crescent City. Like so many other towns its size, it offers quite limited options for people seeking organic, non-toxic, and environmentally responsible products that would be safe for their homes and families — especially newborns and infants. This is especially true for towns like Hiouchi, where small mom-and-pop stores have been put out of business by Wal-Mart. This problem became quite noticeable to Lisa Sellars, an elementary schoolteacher in Hiouchi, during her pregnancy in 2006. In response to this challenge, she founded Be Good to Your Mother, an online store for people seeking organic clothes for babies, toddlers, and children; toys, accessories, and other gifts; baby diapers and supplies; BPA-free baby bottles; organic mattresses, hammocks, and other bedding items; baby room furniture made of solid maple, with a hand-rubbed, non-toxic finish; organic pet toys and other supplies; as well as air filters and purifiers. The Web site, like the enterprise itself, is fairly new, and Lisa plans on expanding it in several areas: pet products, creations from local artisans, and adult bedding, clothing, and housewares. In the future, Lisa hopes to use part of the proceeds from customers' purchases to support worthy causes, such as protecting animal rights. In addition, future enhancements to the site will include self-educational product and materials information. The selections offered on her site make it easy for people to be good to themselves and their family members, and also Mother Nature.

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Fresh & Green

Any entrepreneur who has ever partnered up with a like-minded colleague, knows that two heads certainly can be better than one — for sharing ideas, challenges, and triumphs. For instance, Sasha Windes and Jennifer Jordan, two friends both committed to protecting the environment, formed a synergistic team in order to create an online enterprise, Fresh & Green, which makes available a variety of "fresh ideas for green living". These encompass ecologically responsible home and garden items, body care supplies, clothing and accessories, as well as products for babies, children, teenagers, pets, and expectant moms. Moreover, their Web site features green school, office, and garden supplies, plus energy saving devices. Sasha and Jennifer founded the firm in November 2007, after months of research. Each member of this team possesses complementary skills, based on their different backgrounds: With the birth of her children, Sasha became even more aware of the human impact on the environment, and how that in turn will impact our children in the world they will inherit as adults. In the real estate business, Jennifer is a certified eco-broker, which allows her to identify homes that save energy and have additional green features. Together, these two entrepreneurs are committed to offering products that they have personally tested and confirmed to be of the highest quality. All of the items are tagged according to a dozen categories, designating them as biodegradable, energy-saving, recyclable, fair trade, and more. Visit their Web site today, where you too can get some fresh green ideas.

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People who use conventional body lotions in order to moisturize their skin and protect it from environmental stressors, oftentimes find to their dismay that those products can do more harm than good, by irritating their skin. This is especially true for individuals with abnormally sensitive skin. These mainstream products — containing fragrances, alcohols, and other potential skin irritants — are one of many causes of eczema, which is a category of skin difficulties, such as dryness, rashes, edema, itching, and bleeding. Even switching to body lotions labeled as "natural" may not resolve the problem, because they can contain natural fragrances, minerals, oils, and other potential irritants. Fortunately, Softress, based in New York City, offers a unique line of vegan-certified moisturizing oils completely free of all fragrances, alcohols, preservatives, essential oils, aloe vera, mineral oils, and nut oils (with one exception). Nina Birnbaum founded the company in 2003, partly as a result of the extensive research she did to determine why her daughter's eczema was worsening, and not improving, when subjected to the conventional treatment recommended by a respected dermatologist. Sadly, the most common treatments include steroid ointment, which Nina learned can have serious long-term effects, including weight gain, insulin resistance, and eventually diabetes. In contrast, her proprietary skin care blends are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, with no steroids or other deleterious ingredients found in far too many products. Softress is one of the few sources for moisturizing products that contain no essential oils, for people with extremely sensitive skin, including babies. The company's Web site allows one to search for items by skin condition, to locate a retail outlet in New York City, to read valuable information on eczema and breast cancer, and to learn more about how Softress's moisturizing oils are safer and healthier.

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All material copyright © 2009 PristinePlanet.com™, except for Environmental News articles copyright © 2009 Michael J. Ross. All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter can be copied without express written permission from its copyright holder.

Letters and guest articles posted in the Newsletter section of the Forum or sent to the publisher become the property of PristinePlanet.com, and may be edited for brevity or clarity prior to publication.