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PURE Energies Visits the Amazon Rainforest

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 6:44am

PURE Energies Returns from the Amazon Rainforest Demonstrating that Sustainable Societies are Possible Without a PhD 

KENDJAM, BRAZIL–(Marketwired – December 03, 2014) - PURE Energies visits the extraordinary indigenous tribe protecting one of the world’s largest surviving tracts of tropical rainforest.

A team from PURE Energies, part of the NRG family of companies, went on an expedition to the Brazilian Amazon, where they spent a week with the indigenous Kayapo Tribe in the Kendjam community on the Iriri River. Zbigniew Barwicz, head of PURE Energies, led the team to learn from the Kayapo’s model of sustainability and independence and offer support. Barwicz and the PURE Energies team were motivated to bring the Kayapo success story to the busy homeowners of North America to showcase a pure form of sustainability, wealth and happiness. PURE Energies was the first group to visit the Kayapo people since National Geographic Magazine gained entry two years prior.

“Maintaining the Amazon rainforest is integral to the global landscape; tropical deforestation on a global scale is responsible for almost as much carbon emissions as all of the world’s trucks, cars, ships, trains and planes,” said Barwicz.

Barwicz is a long-time admirer of the Kayapo for their proven ability to protect their land, independence, and sustainable lifestyle, in the face of mounting threats. The Kayapo are exemplary in their efforts to keep their culture and traditions intact, while defending 1,550 miles of border from invasion and encroachment. “I was initially attracted to the Kayapo story because of the size and complexity of their mission. After living alongside them, I’ve realized that there is nothing complex about their lifestyle. They just make it happen,” observed Barwicz.

PURE Energies’ expedition to the Amazon contributes to a broader theme for the company which is interested in social and environmental improvements in remote areas. Barwicz kicked off 2014 with the Climb for DSF, climbing Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemispheres, to raise awareness and funds for the David Suzuki Foundation. Project Kayapo is another addition to PURE Energies’ commitment to exploring remote territories and doing so for a cause. Barwicz suspects that this will not be his last trip to the Brazilian Amazon.

PURE Energies donated $90,000 to the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC), the first Canadian charity to focus solely on conserving nature in the tropics. The ICFC works directly with the Kayapo tribe to support conservation of Amazon rainforest. The PURE Energies donation will support the purchase of a new 4×4 vehicle, fuel and expedition supplies for territorial monitoring. The team also donated a Goal Zero solar powered lantern to every household in the community: a most welcome technological advancement for the people of Kendjam. The solar powered light sources do not require gasoline or diesel and improve the quality of life at night through practical uses, such as delivering babies to extending hours for socialization and processing the forest products the Kayapo sell. Goal Zero is an affiliate of PURE Energies, and both entities are subsidiaries of NRG Energy, Inc., a leading independent power producer in the United States.

“To be one of the few people invited to live alongside the Kayapo tribe was an honor. Learning their unique way of life was eye-opening. They are an incredible people. They don’t even think about sustainability because they don’t introduce destruction into their land. What they do doesn’t require a PhD, it requires practicality,” said Barwicz. Barbara Zimmerman, Kayapo Program Director, reported, “The fact that a private company is so interested in a remote territory in Brazil is remarkable. PURE Energies isn’t an NGO. They are attempting to balance profit with corporate responsibility; they care and they want to share the story. We look forward to future endeavours.”

PURE Energies Releases Expedition Video
In maintaining the world’s largest protected area of rainforest, the Kayapo also preserve a way of living and joy that must be seen to be believed. PURE Energies will be releasing a video on December 2nd which will summarize their Kayapo mission. The video will reveal a beautiful, rich and remote area of the world, with an up-close view of the proud people who preserve and protect it. See the video now.

The Power to be Free
“One of the qualities that first attracted PURE Energies to NRG Home Solar was their mission and values, which align with our core mission, the Power to be Free,” said Kelcy Pegler, President of NRG Home Solar. “Solar at home is a no-brainer, and thousands of people across the United States are adopting it as a win-win for the environment and their budgets.”

About PURE Energies Group
PURE Energies has developed the most comprehensive online marketplace in residential solar power. Through its proprietary platform, PURE Energies delivers a time-saving, complete analysis of the benefits of solar energy for homeowners. Doing so, PURE Energies has become the trusted advisor in the North American solar energy market. Operating across North America, PURE Energies is headquartered in Toronto. PURE Energies Group has expanded to include San Francisco-based One Block Off the Grid (www.1bog.org), and Seattle-based Cooler Planet (www.coolerplanet.com). PURE Energies Group is part of theNRG Energy, Inc. family. For more information, please visit www.pureenergies.com

About The International Conservation Fund of Canada
The International Conservation Fund of Canada is the first Canadian charity to focus on conserving nature in the tropics. All people no matter where they live benefit from natural ecosystems and the richness of life worldwide. Nature in the tropics, especially rainforests, is under escalating intense threat and conservation action is urgently needed before the planet’s richest ecosystems are lost forever. The ICFC believes the most effective conservation method is to invest in empowerment of local and traditional communities whom live near or in rainforests. The Kayapo Project is a stellar example of this work. Tropical ecosystem conservation addresses many of our greatest challenges: climate change (to which deforestation is a major contributor), biodiversity loss, deteriorating fish stocks and marine ecosystems, flooding, droughts and desertification. For more information please visit:www.icfcanada.org

 CONTACT INFORMATION  Leah McLean PURE Energies 416.340.7873 x326 leah.mclean@pureenergies.com

The Real Jungle Book: the Kayapo Tribe in 2014

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 2:43pm

In the 1500s, when the Portuguese arrived in Brazil, there were about five million Amerindians. Today there are 1/25th that many — about 200,000. Of these, a few thousand are the unstoppable Kayapo – determined, independent, freedom-loving conservation warriors.

Since the 1950s, the Kayapo have successfully battled waves of squatters, loggers, miners, ranchers and government officials to maintain their land and way of life. Lucky for us! The destruction of the Amazon rainforest has implications far beyond its borders – for our planet’s air, water, plants, fish, animals and well-being.

Housing

The Kayapo live in large family groups in villages. Their fields and villages are built in a circle to reflect their belief in a round universe. They live in roomy, thatched-roof, undivided huts; the thatch is made of palm leaves. The Kayapo weave their own hammocks, a practical type of bedding for a jungle environment.

Travel

The Kayapo build their own canoes and use them to travel long distances. They may also trek for days or weeks at a time.

Food

The Kayapo have a varied diet. They grow vegetables, harvest wild fruits and Brazil nuts, and hunt animals – including monkey and turtle. Fish is a main source of protein. The Kayapo are skilled hunters; young children barely out of toddlerhood are already proficient with knives.

Clothing

Traditionally, the Kayapo wore a range of cloth bands in a rainbow of colors – knotted below the waist, crisscrossed across the chest, tied around the arms. Today these bands are typically mixed with Western-style garments. Brightly-colored beaded necklaces are prevalent. Shoes are less so, particularly for children.

Time to party!

Marriage rites, naming ceremonies, crop dances, puberty rites – Kayapo religious, social and festive activities are interconnected and continue year-round. Singing, chanting and dancing are a major part of Kayapo life. The Kayapo are often taking part in a ceremony or getting ready for the next one.

Body paint!

Body paint is an art form, a tradition and a societal glue. Each marking is meaningful, linked to a ritual or ceremony. Learning how to prepare body paint is an early lesson for young Kayapo; adults are skilled in applying complex, delicate designs. The Kayapo also make beautiful beaded necklaces, often in brilliant blues or yellows. They make bracelets and earrings using shells or stones, and headdresses from the colored feathers of Amazon birds.

Education, Education, Education

Kayapo continue to teach their young people traditional skills, including hunting, fishing, growing vegetables and building and using canoes. They have been reluctant to accept Western-style schooling; few Kayapo children have ever been to “school.” Some Kayapo chiefs are turning their people to additional activities such as building housing for settlers. But the traditional, ancient lifestyle remains very strong.

Swimming, storytelling and sharp knives

Kayapo children love to swim in the Xingu River, it’s a major form of play. Children as young as two will swim on their own. Children as young as eight will carve their own toys with machetes. A Kayapo childhood is remarkably free and unfettered, lacking schedules, restraint or a formal education. The main goal is to become a contributing member of the tightly-knit Kayapo tribe.

Storytelling is a big part of Kayapo life, serving to pass on tales from the past, preserve identity, and of course entertain. Storytelling is a big part of dance rituals and ceremonies.

Threats

Everything threatens the Kayapo way of life! Deforestation, mining, land over-grazed by ranchers – the list is harsh and endless. Yet the Kayapo may be one of the world’s most successful groups of conservationists. They inhabit and protect an area of the Amazon rain forest that is larger than 45 percent of the countries in the world. Not a bad claim to fame, for a culture that has successfully resisted virtually every form of modern Western culture, including its tools and armaments.

5 Things I Learned in the Amazon, Part 1

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 2:42pm

I was fortunate enough to spend a week with a secluded tribe in the Amazon Rainforest called the Kayapo. When I first embarked on the journey, I wasn’t sure what to expect – living without electricity, showers, beds and any other commodity of our daily life seemed exiting – but was it actually, if that’s how you live permanently?

Let me give you a little background on these amazing people and the great work that they do for you and me every day of their lives, without even knowing. As you may know, the Amazon rainforest is in danger, a large amount of it has been destroyed over the last 50 years due to deforestation, illegal mining, illegal logging, etc. You’re probably thinking, “So what? It’s just a forest, and so far removed from our lives that the closest most of us will ever get to thinking about this or even visiting this place is by watching Disney’s ‘Rio.’”

The Kayapo live in this rainforest, they are a population of around 8,000 indigenous people who for hundreds of years have managed to maintain their livelihood and traditions simply by protecting what is closest to their heart: nature. I don’t want to sound like a treehugger or hippie, because I’m not – BUT: After spending a week with the Kayapo, I can truthfully say my outlook on life has changed. Here is a short list of some of the many, many things I learned while living in the bush with indigenous people.

1. You need less than you think.

In a world where constant advertisements, products and all kinds of companies are pushing images, videos, messages into our life about new things we should be buying, eating and doing it becomes really hard to live life simply. It becomes difficult not to want the new pair of boots, or new iPhone or new apartment. And so our life is filled with “wants.” Many people base their entire life’s happiness on these wants and their journey to obtain them.

But maybe the reason we feel like we need more and we continue to buy things, is because once we bought that thing we saved up months for we quickly realize it didn’t make us as happy or revolutionized our life in the way we thought it would. So we enter into this endless cycle of materialism that becomes difficult to escape.

The Kayapo live modestly – they don’t use money on an everyday basis and they have very few material possessions that they’ve slowly adopted over time from the “outside” world. Their happiness isn’t based on social status, material wealth, or career development. They don’t want to become lawyers or CEOs. What they do want is to care for their families, they want to make sure everyone in their community is happy and okay.

2. Use your freedom.

It took me at least three days to get used to the fact that I had no meetings scheduled, no phone calls to make or emails to write, I didn’t have to be home to make dinner or live according to all the things people expected from me and the rules that society has surrounded us with to maintain order.

The Kayapo live in perfect disorganization. There is no dinner time, no time for anything in that matter, no specific calendar – they live life as they feel it. If they feel like swimming they go, if they are hungry, they hunt. Kids are completely free – no one is constantly watching over them and their every move. They become free, fearless and self-sufficient at a young age. Yet, there is so much love between everyone in the community that it’s impossible to not want to stay.

So I learned that it’s okay to break the rules, it’s okay to take a Sunday to do nothing except what you want – relax, read, spend time with the people you love. It’s okay to slow down from time to time and not feel like your running around all day, because without the hecticness suddenly your life loses its meaning. Let’s take more time to enjoy the little things. The streets, the noises, the people around us. Let’s take it all in – slowly, profoundly — and allow things to inspire us.

Let’s live our lives at our own pace, not at everyone else’s.

3. Don’t be afraid.

After coming back from the Amazon I realized how many of the fears we have are constructed by other people and we’ve adopted as our own. Isn’t that silly? To be afraid of things – because you are taught to. Before going on this trip I was afraid of the snakes, of the scorpions, the piranhas, of all these things people told me to be afraid of. But when I got there, I quickly learned that while those threats were present, you just had to be careful. Careful – not afraid.

I keep referencing the kids because I was the most amazed by them. They swam alone at like 2 years of age, held knives to make their own airplane toys, climbed crazy high trees and had the best time of their lives. They weren’t afraid of the water or the forest, because they weren’t taught to. The adults weren’t afraid of constant failure, because their society doesn’t make them feel that way. Everyone is seen as an integral part of the mechanism, and wants everyone else to succeed in their role. There is no “I“ – everything in Kayapo is “we.”

4. A smile goes a long way.

I spoke no Kayapo and my Portuguese was rusty at best, yet a smile makes such a difference. People are people everywhere. We breathe the same, we feel the same – we want to care for our families, we want to find meaning in our lives and live happily and healthy. In many ways we are all the same. A smile goes a long way in making people feel loved, comfortable, listened to, and it goes a long way in feeling empathy, joy and understanding. If we all smiled a little more, I bet our lives would be better.

The Kayapo are the most smiling bunch I’ve ever met – and it really makes a difference. Everyone is calm, in a good mood, smiling to each other. I understand life isn’t always smooth sailing, but there is definitely good in it and it’s up to us to choose to see it and recognize it. We are alive, we get to experience the world everyday – and we forget about that.

5. Appreciate what you have.

I’ve never met such charismatic loving, happy and nice people. They protect the forest with their lives because it is their home, because they love the land they live on. It’s a land that gives them life – that sustains their needs, that provides them with food, home, a shelter and a life. They respect this land, its traditions. They respect their stories, their battles and learnings and strive to maintain true to themselves. I don’t think that there is anything more courageous than fighting to be yourself, when everyone tells you that you are wrong.

We don’t do this enough. None of us. We need to learn as a society to respect each other, to fight for each other – others’ battles are our own battles. The city, town, place you live in is part of your daily life, your environment, your surroundings and we should be taking care of it. If not us, who? If not now, when?

3 Tips for Raising Kids in the Jungle – Urban or Actual

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 2:39pm

Ever been to Kendjam? My guess is no – it’s a remote village in the Amazon rainforest, part of eastern Brazil. The tiny village sits within 10.5 million hectares of rainforest territory that belongs to and is protected by an indigenous people called the Kayapo. To give you a better idea of what 10.5 million hectares means, the area that the Kayapo protect is larger than 45 percent of the countries in the world.

The Kayapo are the finest blend of courage, strength, wisdom and kindness I have ever encountered. By Western standards they live modest lives, even though they have had contact with the outside world (by outside, I mean anyone not Kayapo) since the late 1960s, with many chances to trade for Western material goods. By choice, they have no appliances, internet, vehicles or modern media. And their lives are amazingly rich.

I was lucky enough to spend just over a week there. I took home lessons about many things, but I think what captivated me most is their family life. The Kayapo don’t have jobs, money or economies. Their purpose is to serve their families and communities. Because of this there is an incredible energy of love, respect and peace that spreads across their villages and their society.

Here are three standout lessons I learned about nurturing strong, independent, loving children from the amazing Kayapo mothers, fathers, and elders that I met.

1. Don’t teach your kids to be afraid

Spending time with the Kayapo children was magical. They are so full of joy – all the time. Not, of course because they have the latest iPad or game. In fact, they have no toys or technology. Rather, they spend time exploring their surroundings, climbing trees, playing with their friends and swimming. Parents don’t teach their kids to fear. There is no coddling, no overprotecting, no helicopter parenting. Kids are taught at a very young age to be independent, to be strong, to help one another, and to protect and care for those around them.

Experiencing this firsthand was life-changing. I saw 7-year-olds carving toy wooden airplanes with machetes half as long as their arms. I saw 10-year-old girls climb 30-foot trees to cut açai berries, barefoot, a machete held firmly between shoulder and cheek.

This is how the Kayapo raise strong, resilient children, children who become wise adults because they are taught to be free and fearless. It’s incredibly liberating to watch.

Fear holds us back from reaching our dreams. Kids need and deserve to experience the world through their own eyes. To play in the water, to climb trees, to explore their limits, to push their boundaries and to learn for themselves what works, what doesn’t, and what they should be afraid of.

2. Expressing emotions makes you strong, not weak

I was surprised at how open, kind and emotional the Kayapo were to both young and old. Fathers, mothers and grandparents were not afraid to hug, kiss, and play with their children. Families were loving, open and kind to each other. The Kayapo believe that expressing our emotions make us human, not weak. They teach their kids that protection comes from loving and giving to others – freely, openly and without fear.

3. Who’s better than anyone else?

In a Kayapo community there is almost no sense of I, no individualism – everyone works as a collective. Kids aren’t taught to undermine other kids or to compete against them in a destructive way. They don’t base their self-awareness and self-worth through manipulation, putting down or rising above others. On the contrary, everyone is a team – everyone has the same goal. As a result, everyone is respectful.

It was an incredibly refreshing change to live in a real, connected, loving community. To see what children were like when their parents weren’t out to make sure that they play every sport, fill every hour, and get to the most prestigious university. To see what happens when everyone thinks about everyone else. I wish that every parent could see what kids are like when they are raised this way.

**     **     **

The things that really struck me about Kayapo childrearing – building a lack of fear, expressing emotions, and living as part of a community – are not what I hear most parents talking about today. And it’s true, most modern parents aren’t planning to have their children live off the bounty of the jungle, dedicate their lives to their community, and preserve the rainforest they live in. But still. We could all learn a lot from the Kayapo. I’m grateful I had the opportunity. I won’t forget.

Another Benefit of Going Solar: Encouraging Others to Go Solar

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 10:56am

We talk all the time about the many benefits of home solar: You save money on your electric bill, you cut your carbon footprint, you can gain a little bit of independence from your utility company, and solar panels are just beautiful to boot.

But wait: There’s more! New research from Connecticut finds that one of the reasons that people go solar is because one or more of their neighbors have also gone solar.

It’s like the best kind of peer pressure imaginable.

The study, which appeared in the October 7 issue of the Journal of Economic Geography, bears an inscrutable title: “Spatial patterns of solar photovoltaic system adoption: the influence of neighbors and the built environment.” But the findings from Marcello Graziano of the University of Connecticut and Kenneth Gillingham of Yale University, are anything but ho-hum: “Our empirical estimation demonstrates a strong relationship between adoption and the number of nearby previously installed systems as well as built environment and policy variables.”

In other words: The biggest factor that determines whether people go solar is not their income level or their monthly electricity bill, but whether or not someone near them has already gone solar.

The full study is trapped behind a paywall, but over at the Washington Post, Chris Mooney has a rundown of the findings.

Graziano and Gillingham looked at Connecticut’s recent solar boom and used data from the state’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority for 3,843 home solar installations between 2005 and 2013. Mooney explains the “dramatic findings:”

The installation of one additional solar photovoltaic rooftop project within the past six months in a given area increased the average number of installations within a half mile radius by … almost one half. As the spatial area widened, meanwhile, the influence of peer solar installations steadily decreased, a finding quite consistent with a theory of peer influence….

But while prior installations seemed to have a big influence on future ones, Graziano and Gillingham failed to find nearly as much of an influence for other socioeconomic and demographic factors. That included income, political party registration, and the unemployment rate.

Mooney notes that the researchers do also identify Connecticut’s solar incentives as a driver of the state’s solar boom. We have covered Connecticut’s use of the Solarize platform to speed solar adoption, a tool that has since expanded into more Connecticut towns.

Solarize in particular seems to be an ideal tool to leverage the peer pressure model of solar adoption. Through a Solarize program, homeowners in a town are encouraged to commit to going solar, and if enough homes make the pledge, then they all receive a discounted rate on their solar installations. These group processes then offer an active financial incentive for spreading the word about solar in addition to the passive peer pressure incentive identified in Graziano and Gillingham’s research.

Check out Chris Mooney’s full article in the Post here; he’s got a good chart and explanation of how this peer pressure effect happens independent of income levels and other demographic data. And the full article, for all of our Journal of Economic Geography subscribers, is here.

Solar neighborhood photo courtesy of SMUD and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Talk to Your Kids About Solar

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 6:56am

If you’ve got kids, you know that they are little bundles of limitless curiosity. And maybe they’ve already asked you about the solar panels they’ve seen in the neighborhood, or at school, or when you’re out shopping.

For my preschooler, the first time he asked about solar panels was when he watched the Pixar film Wall-E for about the four-hundredth time. In addition to being a sweet movie about love and environmental stewardship, Wall-E is also about a solar-powered trash-compacting robot, and my curious little kid wanted to know all about the solar panels Wall-E uses to power up his batteries.

Solar technology is obviously a complex topic, but there’s no reason you can’t talk to your kids about solar starting at almost any age.

There are a few great resources online to help you dig into the topic. Solar Energy International has created solar FAQs for younger kids as well as for older kids and adults. And the U.S. Energy Information Administration has a useful page of solar basics for kids as well.

Below are some simple ways you can start teaching kids about solar, starting today. And read on for more details about our new solar quiz and prizes you can win.

Your Inverter: The Gateway to Energy Use

The inverter in your home solar system — the box that converts the energy generated by your solar panels into the electricity that powers your home — can be a great teaching tool for a child of any age. Show your child the data the inverter presents about the amount of energy you’ve generated during the day and teach her about electricity and units of measurement.

For an older child, ask him to keep track of the daily power generated by your solar panels for a week or a month, and graph that information to see how your family uses electricity. Families that have a home energy management system in place can very easily connect your daily energy use to the output from your rooftop solar system.

A Home Solar Science Fair

There are a number of ways you can turn your home solar system into a teaching tool. For younger kids in particular, explain how the panels generate more energy at different times and under different weather conditions, and ask him to connect the day’s weather to the day’s energy generation.

Another cool project is trying to make the meter run backwards. Get your older child to gauge the effects of turning on and off various energy-using devices in the home. How much impact does turning off all the lights have? When she cranks the air-conditioning — or turns the thermostat way up — what happens to energy use?

Everyday Solar

Connecting solar power to your kids’ everyday lives is another sure-fire teaching method.

Solar-powered ovens are a great way to show just how much energy the sun offers us every day. Using a cardboard box, some spray paint and some foil, you can help your child build a solar oven in no time.

Maybe the best way to teach your kids about solar power is to show solar in action. It seems like every day there are more and more solar gadgets hitting the market and entering our lives. You probably had a solar-powered calculator when you were in school — and there are still plenty of those around — but now we’re also able to make use of portable solar panels to charge our gadgets, solar-powered lights for landscaping, and solar-powered tchotchkes of all kinds. Each of these offers a chance to help your kids understand about the power and benefits of solar energy.

And for the month of October as we prepare for Halloween, everyone who takes our new solar quiz will receive a cool Spark solar-powered flashlight from Silicon Solar. This gadget will not only help you show how solar panels work, but it will come in handy when you go trick-or-treating.

Here’s to a solar-powered October, and a sunny and spooky Halloween!