1/10/2014 3:38:42 PM

Good News Friday {Kerry on Climate, Zero Energy Store, Rhubarb Batteries, and Bag Ban in Hawaii}

We like to go into the weekend with a smile on our face and we bet you do too. It's easy to get caught up in all the bad news for polar bears and the planet, and we want to change that.

On Fridays we look at the good things that are happening for polar bears and carbon reduction.

• In his first year as secretary of state, John Kerry has worked publically on diplomacy in the Middle East, but behind the scenes, he's focuses on climate change. His goal is to become the lead broker of a global climate treaty in 2015 that will commit the United States and other nations to historic reductions in fossil fuel pollution. He may not have a specific plan, and his climate change related bills have failed in the past, but as the New York Times writes, "climate experts point to one significant, recent accomplishment. As a result of midlevel talks Mr. Kerry set up to pave the way for a 2015 deal, the United States and China agreed in September to jointly phase down production of hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air-conditioners." 

• While the US government is whittling away at climate change issues, private companies are making bold moves. Pharmacy chain Walgreens opened what it calls America's first "zero energy" store. Installations throughout the building should generate enough energy to run it without a single electron from the power grid. The new shop in Evanston, Ill., packs in more than 800 solar panels, two wind turbines, and geothermal technology. Altogether, they will generate an estimated 220,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, 28 percent more than the store will need. 

• Rhubarb is delicious in pies, but could be even better in batteries. Harvard scientists announced a potentially game-changing breakthrough in energy storage technology, involving a molecule similar to that found in the rhubarb plant. The organic flow battery could allow massive amounts of renewable energy to be cheaply stored and delivered on demand. Yum!  

• Hawaii will soon become the first state in the US to enforce a plastic bag ban. All four of the populated counties in Hawaii have passed legislation banning plastic bags at checkout counters. (There is a fifth county, Kalawao County, in Hawaii, but it is very remote and barely populated.) On the Big Island, where consumers have been paying for plastic bags at checkout lines for the past year, the ban officially begins on Jan. 17 at grocery stores, restaurants and retailers. Consumers can opt for paper bags or bring their own, reusable bags. Plastic bags will still be available for bulk items such as nuts, fish, meat, grains, and fresh produce. The islands of Kauai and Maui already enforce such a ban, with the most populated island, Oahu, set to join them in July of 2015.

Have a great weekend!

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