By John Lynch – Dec. 26, 2022
In 1975, Cal Poly graduate Mike Emrich founded a green energy company in San Luis Obispo County after the 1973 oil embargo began to strain the energy industry. That company became Solarponics, which, according to its website, was one of the first to begin installing solar power systems in SLO County.
Some 47 years later, Kristian Emrich — Mike’s son and current president of the company — oversaw the installation of Solarponics’ 20,000th solar power system in the county. TOP ARTICLES Emrich said the milestone is a “validation” of his father’s vision for sustainable energy on the Central Coast, which started with the installation of solar water heaters, some of which are still in use today. “(Solarponics has existed) a lot longer than I think (Mike) ever anticipated, and maybe it’s even exceeded his expectations in some ways,” Emrich said. “I think he’s sitting there in retirement, enjoying the direction that the world’s going at this time.”
Read full story.
Solarponics has partnered with local nonprofits to host the first annual Share the Sunshine Volunteer Signup Day event happening this Friday, November 18, from 11 AM to 1 PM at Solarponics office in Atascadero. Attendees are invited to meet a nonprofit that is a perfect fit for them to volunteer.
Solarponics created Share the Sunshine as a way to introduce their employees to nonprofit organizations in the community that need help. At Solarponics, every employee gets a paid day off to volunteer for a cause of their choice.
When employees started inviting family members and friends, they quickly realized how rewarding and valuable this program was for everyone involved. The idea quickly expanded to our community-wide launch of Share The Sunshine Volunteer Signup Day.
“We saw how our employees jumped at the chance to volunteer when the opportunity presented itself,” says Kristian Emrich, Solarponics president. “Share The Sunshine is that opportunity, made easy and approachable for everyone in the community.”
Over a dozen area nonprofit organizations are expected to be on hand to share what they do, and what type of volunteer help they need. Organizations attending may include; health services, animal rescue, faith, arts and education, food services, community development, environment, and more.
Come by and meet your local nonprofits Friday, November 18, from 11 AM to 1 PM at Solarponics office, 4700 El Camino Real, Atascadero. Find a nonprofit that is a perfect fit for you. Give your time, and your heart to those in need in our communities. For more information, visit
By Frank Scotti, Sustainable Energy Advocate – When you think of Christmas, you probably don’t think of how much impact a simple Christmas tree can have on the environment. Your Christmas tree, whether live or artificial, has a significant environmental impact considering Americans purchase over 48 million trees each year.
Let’s first look at artificial trees. It may seem obvious that a real tree is better than a fake Christmas tree from a sustainability point of view. But the reality is a little more complex. A Life Cycle Assessment study looked at factors like raw materials, processing, manufacturing, waste, water use, carbon emissions, chemical use, transportation, lifetime of product, and end of life disposal.
More than 23 million artificial trees are purchased each season in the U.S. alone. They are typically made of a combination of PVC and steel and are not recyclable at end of life. Artificial trees are also non-biodegradable so they never break down.
Artificial trees contain potentially harmful material. Part of what makes artificial trees so sturdy are the components used in their construction. PVC plastics are made from petroleum by-products, heavy metals are used to stabilize the plastics and the metal branches are mined from the earth. Flame retardants that cause cancer and other health issues are also added to artificial trees. In California, warning labels are even required on artificial trees to alert users of the potential risk of hazardous materials…including lead.
Most artificial trees are made in China and have to be shipped thousands of miles, in plastic sleeves and cardboard boxes.
The A.C.T.A, a group representing manufacturers, says the environmental impact of an artificial tree is less than real trees if you reuse the artificial tree five or more times.
However, a 2009 study by Ellipsos, an environmental consulting firm in Montreal, found an artificial tree used over six years still had three times greater impact on emissions and resource depletion than six real trees over six years. The study said an artificial tree had to be kept for 20 years before it would have a lesser impact than 20 real trees.
Artificial trees are not recyclable nor biodegradable and will eventually end up in landfill even after years of use. It takes centuries for materials like polyvinyl chloride plastic to decompose. Green America advises that consumers with artificial trees donate them rather than throw them away.
Now let’s look at real trees.
Again, a Life Cycle Assessment study looked at factors like land use, CO2 emissions from growing and harvesting equipment, chemical use, transportation, and end of life disposal.
25 million live trees are cut down for Christmas trees each year in the U.S. Real Christmas trees are primarily grown on Christmas tree farms, and aren’t cut down from large, wild forests, as some may think. Most Christmas trees are planted and grown on farms for the express purpose of harvesting them.
As Christmas trees grow, they clean the air, help the soil, absorb carbon emissions and provide a habitat for wildlife, all while being grown on land not suitable for other crops.
Once a tree is cut down for sale, another one to three trees are planted in its place, making for a sustainable, well-managed way to source an environmentally friendly Christmas tree.
According to Green America, an environmental advocacy organization, a real tree is even better for the environment when it is mulched and returned to the earth as ground cover.
In the same study, Green America also determined that thousands of tons of real trees wind up in landfill, where they produce methane — a pollutant 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Decomposition of real trees in a dump takes decades and produces a higher carbon footprint than incineration.
There are a lot of considerations, but I am able to come to a conclusion regarding which type of tree is least harmful to the environment.
Real trees have less of an environmental impact than artificial trees. Real trees have an even greater environmental advantage over artificial trees if they are organically grown, locally sourced, and recycled.
If you already have an artificial tree, don’t go throwing it out though. Keep using it for as long as possible so you can keep it out of the landfill. Then donate it to extend its lifecycle even further.
By Frank Scotti, Sustainable Energy Advocate – October 01, 2022 – As far back as I can remember, my mom always used liquid laundry soap, or detergent, to wash our clothes when we were kids. Like most everything, my parents never questioned the product, or its environmental impact. Liquid detergent was just what you used. Then, when I moved out and was responsible to wash my own clothes, I, too, chose liquid detergent out of familiarity and habit.
But now I know that liquid laundry soap is not good for the environment. Heck, it’s not really even a soap. Detergents are mainly a synthetic combination of chemicals designed to produce optically clean clothes, but as a result, also introduce a ton of chemical pollutants. These chemicals include; phosphates, formaldehyde, chlorine bleach, ammonium sulfate, dioxane, sodium lauryl sulfate, optical brighteners, ammonium quaternary sanitizers, dyes, benzyl acetate, dichlorobenzene. After your clothes are washed, all of these chemicals are drain out with the water and remain in our water, forever.1,000 loads of laundry are started every second of every day in the US. Assume we use an average of 2 ounces of detergent per load, that equates to 492,750,000 gallons of chemical detergent pollutants added to our water supply each year from laundry alone.
In addition, 700 million empty plastic detergent jugs are thrown away each year in the US alone, with less that 30% ever being recycled. Factor in all of the water used to create the detergent, and all of the CO2 emitted to transport these heavy jugs from factory to consumer, the environmental impact of liquid laundry detergent is simply staggering.
Recently we have finally seen an innovation in the category, laundry detergent sheets.
Laundry sheets are lightweight, compact, don’t use water, are pre-measured amounts, and come in compostable paper packaging.
The basic ingredients of laundry detergent sheets are: deionized water, natural plant-derived surfactants, enzymes, and in some cases, a fragrance. A box of 100 load sheets weighs only about 7 oz., compared to the equivalent liquid weighing almost 10 lbs. Plus, laundry sheets and packaging contain no plastic at all.
I tested a laundry sheet brand called Earth Breeze for one month. I use a front-loading wash machine, so the sheet goes in the top detergent cup, folded. I was skeptical at first. But here’s what I found.
The sheet dissolved fully. There was no residual residue or signs of soap or other chemicals. Surprisingly, clothes seemed to be just as clean. I did not notice any difference. I used both the fragrance free and the Fresh Scent. I did prefer the Fresh Scent over fragrance free.
Like I said no noticeable difference between the Earth Breeze laundry sheets and my other liquid detergent. I shall admit that I do not have heavily soiled clothes. Both my boys no longer live at home, and I don’t regularly work on cars getting oil stains on my work clothes. But the average garden variety soiling came clean with no issues. The switch for me is a no-brainer, especially since the cost per load of laundry sheets vs. liquid is about the same.
I have freed up extra space in the laundry cabinet to store other stuff I don’t need. I don’t have any large jugs to dispose of and hope they get recycled. I can take on with me when I travel. My clothes get just as clean.
No matter how hard I try, I really can’t find anything to complain about. Laundry sheets are an amazing substitute to liquid laundry detergent.
Since testing laundry sheets, I have not reverted back to liquid detergents. I think I may have finally broken the cycle of habit and complacency and made the full-time switch to laundry sheets. I suggest that everyone give them a try.