Ideas and actions for a more ecological and sane future
The Progressive Review
Just the facts. . .
ABC News - [In 2009] about 43 million U.S. households intend to grow their own fruits, vegetables, berries, and herbs -- up 19 percent from just last year -- according to data from the National Gardening Association.
Your Home is a formidable tome, but it does cover all the bases, from the usual suspects of green homes, such as insulation and solar orientation to rainwater harvesting and double glazing. But it also comprehensively details myriad other aspects of building a home, that other mainstream publications might not include, the ilk of strawbale, mud brick and rammed earth wall constructions, design for bushfire prone areas, and even adaptable design, like when the inhabitants become noisy teenagers, or develop mobility issues needing walking aids or wheelchairs. Plus, the whole thing is also available free on the web. - Tree Hugger
Using a tub and a toilet plunger when you don't have a clothes washing machine
If you've got an oil-based paint, primer, or grease on your hands, just grab your trusty cooking spray, spray a good amount on your hands, and rub them together. - Life Hacker
Drugs & alcohol
Bread goes stale about six times faster in the refrigerator then when kept at room temperature. On the surface, this might seem counter intuitive; after all, everyone knows if you want to keep food fresher longer, you put it in the fridge. The problem stems from what bread is made out of, specifically starch molecules, and how those starch molecules react in certain conditions.
Easy way to turn a toilet paper roll into a neat substitute for a box of tissues
If for some reason you want to keep your wireless network open but don't want unauthorized users connecting to your Wi-Fi, Digital Inspiration offers an ingenious tip: rename your network something most people will not likely connect to, like c:\virus.exe.
A hundred tips from a professional photographer
Packing: Drumming up packing material when moving isn't always an easy task. While newspaper has been the go-to means to keep your breakables safe, home improvement site Apartment Therapy recommends using clothes as an alternative since you're moving them anyway.
HIGH RISE TOWN HOUSES WITH GARDENS
TREE HUGGER - Rotterdam
designer Reinier de Jong notes: "Housing in big city centers
seems to consist of small apartments. High rise equals apartments.
Or so it seems. However many cities economically really need
well-to-do middle class dwellers. They flee to suburbia as soon
as salaries go up and kids arrive."
"The project TUIN ('garden') combines high rise with a typical suburban housing typology: a two storey dwelling with garden. A height of seven meters and a depth of one meter of soil guarantees a true garden. Enough for sunlight, rain and wind to enter and nourish trees, shrubs, flowers and grass."
DESIGN WITHIN REACH - This 9'x13' structure redefines conventional prefab with its proprietary clamping system that makes installation quick, economic and practically waste-free. What also caught our attention about Kithaus is how it can tuck into any area, even remote locations, without needing ultra-heavy equipment. All of the lightweight, anodized aluminum pieces are pre-cut and drilled in Southern California and shipped to you for on-site assembly. Installation is fast, taking only a few days, and Kithaus is built with eco-friendly components. Wondering where you can use Kithaus? How about anywhere you need a fully insulated, pre-wired comfortable space. . . The complete Kithaus, including decks, canopies and louvers, is $44,900.
A GUIDE TO RECYCLING STORAGE CONTAINERS
FIRMITAS - This is a webpage devoted to listing as many examples of people using shipping containers as architectural elements as I can find, in an effort to embolden people to use containers in building projects, when and where doing so is feasible and appropriate. Be aware that containers are not a perfect building material, since they tend to corrode, but they have been used effectively in some cases, especially in areas near saltwater.
ARCHITECTURAL RECORD - KTA's Loblolly departs most wholly from past prefab models through its innovative component-based design, in which KTA minimized the number of parts. "We want materials we can take apart like used auto parts, as opposed to ending up with rubble," Kieran says. Unlike many houses, even those built with sustainability in mind, Loblolly's components, or elements, as the architects call them, could be unbolted and reconfigured at another site for a different house or, as the architects like to demonstrate in their public lectures, sold off in pieces on Ebay. . . The architects divided the chain between three tiers of suppliers and a final assembler, much in the way automotive companies outsource major components of each car with final assembly at factories throughout the world.
SEEPING INTO MAINSTREAM
RON SCHERER, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR - A model home here that gives Katrina's displaced an alternative to trailer living is starting to take the country by storm. The Katrina cottage - with living quarters about the size of a McMansion bathroom - is now appealing to people well beyond the flood plain. Californians want to build one in their backyards to use for rental income to help with the mortgage payment. Modestly paid kayakers in Colorado see it as a way to finally afford a house. Elsewhere, people envision building one so a parent can live nearby.
Flying in the face of a "big house" trend, designers of these tiny abodes seem to have found a new housing niche. Some experts cite an interest by some Americans in downsizing their habitats, a reaction to the supersized home, and note the challenge of heating and cooling a big house at a time when family budgets are flat. Others note that changing demographics - more empty-nesters and single adults - may mean a timely debut of the Lilliputian homes. . .
Commercialization of the concept is limited - but that is about to change. Late this year, perhaps as soon as next month, Lowe's, a national hardware and building-supply company, intends to begin selling the plans and materials for four models in 30 stores in the Gulf Coast region.
The "Lowe's Katrina Cottage" offerings range from a two-bedroom, 544-square-foot model to a three-bedroom, 936-square-foot house. The cottages will cost $45 to $55 per square foot to build, Lowe's estimates, meaning the smallest would run about $27,200 and the largest $46,800. Estimates do not include the cost of the foundation, heating and cooling, and labor.
CONTAINER CITY Container City is a versatile system of stylish but affordable accommodation for a range of uses made from shipping containers. The concept was devised by Urban Space Management. Container Cities offer an alternative solution to traditional space provision. They are ideal for office and workspace, live-work and key-worker housing.Container Cities do not even have to look like containers. It is a relatively simple matter to completely clad a building externally in a huge variety of materials. Short-life sites can have Container Cities that simply unbolt and can be relocated or stored when land is required for alternative uses.
ARCHITECTURE FOR HUMANITY - Kathy Everard lives in Waveland, Mississippi. She uses a walker and is living in a small FEMA trailer with her 17-year-old granddaughter, and all their belongings. Their home was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. She, like many residents, has been fighting with insurance companies and expects it will be a year to 18 months before they can rebuild. In February, members of the New York City Fire Department came to Waveland to volunteer their time. To alleviate the Everard's cramped quarters, the firefighters offered to build the family a small wooden storage shed and laundry room. Architecture for Humanity and students of University of Minnesota College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture came to their assistance, designing and building a small facility that includes a refurbished washer - dryer and storage space to be sited next to the family's trailer.
STRAW BALE HOUSING
WE RECENTLY MENTIONED STRAW BALE HOUSES. Here's are a few of the advantages:
Straw is abundant and renewable.
Straw is a waste product of a basic food source
Straw bale walls exceed building insulation requirements. A typical rendered straw bale wall has an R-value of 4.9.
Straw bales produces no waste. Any excess straw on site will be utilized in the gardens.
Fire resistant properties. A rendered straw bale wall provides a 2.5 hour fire wall.
Durability. Houses dating back to the early 1900's are in excellent condition.
Straw is termite resistant to most termite species.
In demolition straw walls can be added to the garden rather then landfill.
bathing a baby easier
Known as the "Workbed," the piece is able "to be transformed by a rotating system from a bed into a big table" in order "to make the two functions co-existing in one room."
Portland OR gets new kind of public loo
OR THIS ONE
Little free libraries
Iowa now gets 20% of its power from wind, more than any other state
THE HIDDEN POTENTIAL OF PEE
Josh Peterson, Planet Green - Many of us do not have the privacy required to dispose of our cellular waste in the out of doors. This is a shame, because urinating outside can save, on average, three gallons of water per water-closet visit. Of course, you can let your yellow water mellow, but if you eat a lot of asparagus, you might be headed for a smelly situation. You can also urinate into an old pop bottle and put the urine outside, then reuse the bottle. But that means you have to carry around a bottle full of pee. This might be hard to explain to visiting relatives.
But if you are determined to pee outside, then you might as well try and put that pee to good use. Urine is mostly sterile cellular waste. It's safe to use in the garden, unless you are afflicted by a urinary tract infection, in which case, you should see a doctor and have that taken care of.
Our urine is full of useful chemicals like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. But urine contains salt, making it a bit powerful to apply directly to plants. You'll have to mix the urine with grey water at a ratio of 8 to 1. You don't necessarily have to dilute for lawn fertilization, but you need to make sure to spread the wealth around.
When you use urine fertilizer in your garden, make sure to use the urine as soon as you make it. Old urine won't keep. It will go bad. Don't apply the urine to the leaves of the plants. The urine needs to go in the soil around it. If you use bottle-top funnels to save water, the urine fertilizer would be best applied that way.
If you find yourself, with too much urine, you can always put the urine on the compost pile.
Tree Hugger - A Brazilian environment group, SOS Mata Atlantica, [is] encouraging their citizens to pee in the shower, and save 1,157 gallons of water annually per household. And not just with a press release, but also with very cute television ad campaign. The absolutely delightful cartoon advert shows all manner people from the Statue of Liberty to Gandhi to a frog piddling in the shower. . .
This 'pee in the shower' campaign has its own website in Portuguese. But the message is universal, which might be why the story has been picked by media outlets the globe over.
Padosa is a site for small businesses seeking to become more sustainable and helping the planet to become likewise
Tree Hugger - Gas prices in Turkey are among the highest -- if not the highest -- in the world. . . The SAHI.MO is a hydrogen-powered car built by students from Sakarya University in northwestern Turkey. Last year, it was voted the third-most fuel-efficient vehicle in the 26th Shell Eco Marathon, an annual race across Europe. . . The SAHI.MO cost $170,000 to build and weighs just 110 kilograms. The 40-member SAI.TEM team previously created a solar-powered Grand-Prix-style race car called the SAGUAR and has also experimented with solar-powered boats.
Life Hacker - Potatoes seem like the kind of plant you'd need a substantial garden for-the kind your grandparents had, right? Actually, tubers aren't all that picky, and you can harvest a whole lot from almost any yard. . . [Here's] a great tip, courtesy of The Seattle Times, on how to grow a lot of potatoes in a rather small space. The Times' guide for building a potato growing box yields up to a 100 lbs. of potatoes in a mere 4 square feet. By planting your potatoes in layers within a tall box, you're essentially building a potato growing high rise. You can wait until the fall for a full harvest or if you're getting antsy for some garden fresh potatoes you can pop a board off the bottom and steal some of the mature potatoes.
Tree Hugger - Shares are now available in Milwaukee's first rooftop CSA. The extensive variety of organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs are being grown atop The Community Building and Restoration Building just south of the city's Capitol for $800 per share. The CSA season will run longer than most because of the community greenhouse also erected to continue the harvest season for tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, and cauliflower into the winter season. . . A sample CSA box would include two small heads of some combination of buttercrunch, royal red, or simpson lettuce; one bag of spinach, and one bag of spring salad mix (composed of swiss chard, kale, arugula, and a variety of baby lettuces). But as with any CSA, this changes weekly. . .
Tree Hugger - With too many [Santa Monica] gardeners filling up the waiting list for community gardens, it's taking as long as 5 years to finally get a plot of dirt to grow veggies. So gardeners and city officials started a registry to connect homeowners willing to have their yards turned into gardens with the people who are willing to do the gardening.
Check out your neighborhood's walkability by entering your address at Walk Score. It will show how close you are to various services and how high your 'hood ranks.
Tree Hugger - Apartment designs are usually fixed and people have to move a lot. That is why the designs recently approved in Burnaby, BC are so intriguing; they are purported to be the first legalized secondary suites within apartments. Designed to provide housing for students, the blue zone can be "locked off" and rented out separately and has its own entrance. It's kind of like a basement apartment in the sky. . .
Condos and apartments are not very good at adapting to life cycles; one starts out with a small one, moves when they have kids, then has too much space when the kids are gone. (Or you are stuck with them and have no privacy when you want it).
Designs like this would let young people rent out part of their apartment until they need it, getting some extra income to help with the mortgage, and then could use the space with the family comes along. . .
It isn't a new concept;
Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett talk about it a lot in their
important book Cohousing: A contemporary approach to housing
ourselves. They demonstrate how "flexible rooms or "give
and take" rooms can be exchanged between the dwelling on
either side, which is another twist.
A CRAFT MADE OF PLASTIC BOTTLES
Yardscaping - Reason #1: Water quality Carpet-like lawns and beautiful yet hard to grow plantings add value and enjoyment to any home. But these benefits can come at tremendous cost to our environment. Yard care practices can impact water quality. The pesticides and fertilizers you apply to your yard may wind up in our waterways. At risk are lakes, streams and eventually the ocean.
Reason #2: People, Pets and Wildlife Too often people think pesticides are safe because they can be bought at the hardware store. This is absolutely not true. Pesticides are designed to be toxic--that means they kill something. If used incorrectly, a pesticide could pose risks to people, pets and beneficial creatures and plants. Yardscaping will allow you to grow lawns and landscapes that create better habitats and demand less of any chemical.
Reason #3: Money A yardscape can save you money. Shrinking your lawn and growing hardy plants will reduce out-of-pocket costs: gasoline, pesticides, fertilizers, water, plants and planting materials. Plus, preserving natural resources, like lakes, from polluting chemicals will increase your property value unlike the alternative.
Reason #4: Time. Growing a Yardscape, which uses low maintenance plants and has only the amount of lawn your lifestyle needs, adds up to more play time for you.
Reason #5: Air pollution Think of it this way: one power mower = 40 cars. In fact, a lawnmower pollutes as much in one hour as an automobile driving 350 miles. It is estimated the average American spends 40 hours every year mowing their lawn.
Reason #6: Make a statement A landscape rich in diverse vegetation is unique. It expresses a property's own character. Better yet, a lush Yardscaping property conveys an important message
Treehugger - The City of Montreal is banning [wood stove] installation in new construction or renovation. Andrew Chung of the Star notes that using a wood stove for only nine hours, or a high-efficiency stove for 2 1/2 days, produces as much fine-particle pollution as does a car in a year, according to a study by Environment Canada. Since Quebec gets almost all of its energy from electric hydropower, in winter 47 per cent of the air pollution is attributed to stoves and fireplaces, far more than either industry sources or cars and trucks.
Wendy Koch, USA Today - For the first time in at least a decade, builders are substantially reducing the size of new houses. "We're trending toward smaller homes," says Gopal Ahluwalia, director of research for the National Association of Home Builders. He says growth in the average size of new single-family homes, which went from 1,750 square feet in 1978 to 2,479 in 2007, is starting to reverse. His analysis of Census data shows that homes started in the third quarter of 2008 averaged 2,438 square feet, down from 2,629 square feet in the second quarter. Ahluwalia, who began the quarterly analysis in 1999, says there have been slight dips before, but the latest drop was much steeper and is likely to hold even after the economy recovers.
NY Times - The Prius has a new use, and it does not involve driving. The Harvard Press - which serves the Massachusetts town of Harvard as opposed to the university ' reported that the car's battery helped keep the lights on for some locals during the recent ice storms.
The newspaper reports that John Sweeney, a resident who lost power, "ran his refrigerator, freezer, TV, woodstove fan and several lights through his Prius, for three days, on roughly five gallons of gas." According to the newspaper, "the device allowed the engine to run every half hour, automatically charging the car battery and indirectly supplying the required power."
In fact, this development, which comes at a tough time for Toyota, which makes the Prius, may not be as strange as it sounds. Mr. Sweeney's tinkering is along the lines of the "smart grid" technology that many utility executives and other experts say lies in our future. The idea is that the battery of an electric car - a plug-in, in most smart-grid scenarios - can feed power to the electricity grid when the grid needs it.
Tree Hugger - New York City, which has been working hard to promote cycling of late, has now proposed "bicycle parking rules that could be among the toughest in the nation, requiring one secure bike parking space for every two units in new apartment buildings and one space for every 7,500 square feet in new office buildings." This comes on the heels of city-sponsored bike rack design competition, the unveiling of a new cycling master plan and several initiatives which have resulted in a rise in bicycle commuting in the Big Apple. The new proposal, if approved, would help ease one of a significant "stumbling block preventing New Yorkers from cycling to work or to perform errands": a lack of secure parking for bicycles. Both the League of American Bicyclists and Transportation Alternatives support the initiative, which would "require weather-protected, lockable bike parking spaces at apartment buildings with at least 10 units, at commercial office buildings and at stores, hospitals, universities and automobile parking garages."
Food and Water Watch - American consumers drink more bottled water every year, in part because they think it is somehow safer or better than tap water. Rather than buying into this myth of purity in a bottle, consumers should drink from the tap. Bottled water generally is no cleaner, or safer, or healthier than tap water. In fact, the federal government requires far more rigorous and frequent safety testing and monitoring of municipal drinking water. In some cases, beverage companies use misleading labels, including marketing bottled tap water as spring water. In fact, as much as 40 percent of bottled water is bottled tap water. Furthermore, the production of bottled water causes many equity, public health, and environmental problems. The big beverage companies often take water from municipal or underground sources that local people depend on for drinking water. Producing the plastic bottles uses energy and emits toxic chemicals. Transporting the bottled water across hundreds or thousands of miles spews carbon dioxide into the air, complicating our efforts to combat global climate change. And in the end, empty bottles are piling up in landfills.
Tree Hugger - Earth Friendly Product's 'New
Wave High-Performance Auto Dishwasher Gel' held its own against
Cascade in an independent study showing that these phosphate-free
cleaners can perform just as well as conventional cleaners. .
. Both solutions performed equally well when it came to removing
dirt and grime from dishes. Then dishes were inspected for spotting
and filming and both received high scores.
THE RISE OF URBAN FARMING
Lest you think there isn't an American precedent for urban farming, check this photo CQ's Craig Crawford found of President Taft's pet cow, Pauline, grazing next to what is now the Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. Below, a more recent photo of London
Guardian, UK - Londoners will be encouraged to turn flat roofs into vegetable plots as part of a scheme to grow food on 2012 patches of land across the capital by 2012, Boris Johnson said today. The "Capital Growth" project is the first initiative delivered by Rosie Boycott since she was appointed chair of London Food by the London mayor over the summer.
The former newspaper editor wants councils, schools, hospitals, housing estates, and utility companies to identify derelict land that can be turned into vegetable gardens by green-fingered Londoners keen to grow their own spuds rather than buy transported produce from the supermarket.
Boycott also envisages that spare pieces of land can be found on canal banks, banks of reservoirs, and disused railway yards.
Boycott said: "London has a good deal of green spaces - some derelict or underused - but not being used as well as they could be. We also have a veritable host of enthusiastic gardeners who are well equipped to turning derelict or underused spaces into thriving oases offering healthy food and a fantastic focus for the community. . .
Boycott said in an interview in yesterday's Times that it was hoped that the 2012 makeshift plots could be found in time for the Olympics so that some of the homegrown food could be provided to athletes.
The demand for allotments has rocketed over recent years as environmental awareness has increased. But a survey conducted by the London assembly two years ago found Londoners in some parts of the capital were waiting up to 10 years for an allotment, due to a dramatic decline in the number of available plots caused by owners wanting to put the land to other uses. . .
Capital Growth - 30,000 people in London rent allotments to grow vegetables and fruit, and 14% of households grow vegetables in their garden.
There are 12,064 hectares of farmland in Greater London, representing approximately 8% of London's land area.
Farmland in London declined by 30% between 1965 and 1997.
In a survey conducted in 2005, about 57% of farmers in and around London were either approaching or over retirement age (i.e. aged over 55); less than 1% were under 30 (about 14% in total being under the age of 44). Some of the main barriers to entry for enthusiastic younger people wanting to take up food growing are money, access to land, appropriate business support, training, and connection to strong and loyal market outlets for their food. This is one of the things that Capital Growth will seek to address - connecting enthusiastic food growers with land, skills and community, to help them establish thriving food businesses for the future.
THE ECO APPROACH TO MEETINGS
A recurrent, if lonely, theme in the Review has been this: if you want to save energy, stop moving around so damn much. For example, cities might have neighborhood conference centers where staffers working at home could meet via video with other employees of a firm. Or companies might downgrade the use of unimportant meetings. This has not been a topic of much interest in the environmental movement, which is far more concerned with improved miles per gallon, and so there has not been a lot of research. The following is a rare and important exception.
Scientific Blogging - At a recent "Informatics Day at the Technopark Zurich," a Microsoft booth allowed visitors were able to test how much CO2 they would save, if any, if they replaced a "real" meeting with a videoconference. . .
Example: The management of an international company is planning to hold a one-hour board meeting in Zurich, to take part in which one director must travel from London. The management would like to know which option is more environmentally friendly - a teleconference over the internet or traveling by car, train or aircraft to be physically present at the meeting. Is the difference really significant?
This is the basic hypothetical scenario which Empa scientist Roland Hischier, of the institution's Technology and Society Laboratory, has analyzed. . .
Microsoft provided Hirschier with a list of all the equipment which would be necessary to arrange the videoconference, such as laptop computers, video cameras, projectors, servers, routers and so on - together with details of their power consumption and other technical data such as transmission rate and necessary cooling capacity. Using this information alongside the "ecoinvent" data relating to the electronics equipment, power production, and the various travel options available, the Empa expert was able to calculate the resulting emissions of greenhouse gases, measured in CO2 equivalents. . .
The results painted a clear picture. The most important factor in a real journey is the energy consumed by the means of transport, i.e. the train, car or plane. This is responsible for more than 99.8 per cent of the environmental impact, regardless of how one travels. However, a video conference over the internet also consumes large amounts of electricity, for serves, routers, laptop computers and projectors all need to be powered up and some devices need to be cooled too. Together, they are responsible for about 95 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with this option.
Nevertheless, the two different scenarios considered differ decisively in the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions generated. The virtual meeting emerged with the best marks by far, producing a mere 20 kilograms of CO2 equivalent. . . The most favorable travel option, by rail (in this case taking a high speed train via Paris) causes 108 kilograms, about a five-fold increase. Travel by air or road increases equivalent CO2 emissions to 315 and 373 kilograms respectively, a 16 to 18-fold increase over the virtual meeting.
Hirschier also calculated how the distance traveled affects the result. In other words, over what distance is a "real" meeting still acceptable or even better than a virtual meeting in terms of environmental impact? The results were surprising; for distances of less than 200 kilometers he found that it is environmentally less damaging when a single participant travels to the meeting by train than organizing a videoconference.
"This is only true, however, when a single person has to travel this distance," says Hirschier. If two persons need to travel to the meeting then the distance is halved, to 100 kilometers. And, of course, if ten or more participants were to travel to a meeting, as is frequently the case with conferences and seminars, then a virtual meeting is many times more environmentally friendly than a real one.
This is the same result as that arrived at by an older investigation, in which Hischier, together with Lorenz Hilty, the head of Empa's Technology and Society Laboratory, calculated the environmental impact of the International Environmental Informatics Symposium in Zurich, which they themselves organized. The study demonstrated that transporting the over 300 conference participants to and from the event was responsible for more than 96 per cent of the environmental effects. Particularly striking was the fact that nearly two thirds of the environmental impact was caused just 6 per cent of the travelers - those who journeyed more than 8000 kilometers. In comparison, a completely virtual conference would have caused about 45 times less impact, according to calculations based on the Empa scientist's model.
Because personal contact is an important factor at meetings and conferences, and because it is the delegates' intercontinental flights which cause the greatest environmental impact, Hischier and Hilty evaluated the effect of a third option, a conference held in various different locations in parallel, in this case Zurich, Dallas und Tokyo. This approach caused the impact to be almost halved. Hilty plans to employ this trick next year during the organization of the R'09 Twin World Congress on Resource Management and Technology for Material and Energy Efficiency. This event will once again be arranged by Empa and the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences to take place in Davos, Switzerland, and also simultaneously in Nagoya, Japan, with, of course, live video transmissions between the two venues. "As a little project on the side, we also plan to investigate how easy the participants find using the new technology, and how much CO2 we save with the new arrangement," says Hilti.
New Rules - A new, independently owned grocery store has risen in the place of what had been a run-down, sparsely stocked market in the small town of Williamsburg, Pennsylvania (pop: 1,345). Two hundred miles away, another new independently owned grocery store is opening. This one is in a low-income, African-American neighborhood in North Philadelphia, which has been without a supermarket for ten years.
Meanwhile, one of the oldest farmers markets in the country, which has operated in the center of Lancaster since the 1730s, recently took steps to stay in business for years to come by upgrading the systems in its 19th century building.
All of these projects were made possible by the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a four-year-old, statewide grant and loan program for grocery store development. The first of its kind in the nation, the program aims to combat a problem plaguing many low-income communities across the country: a severe shortage of stores selling fresh groceries.
By providing loans that commercial lenders deem too risky and grants to make up for the higher costs of developing stores in central business districts and urban neighborhoods, this $120 million investment fund is seeding a new crop of food markets across the state.
To date, FFFI has made $42 million in grants and loans to finance 58 projects, about 40 percent of which are new stores and the remainder are expansions and major renovations of existing outlets. The stores range in size from tiny greengrocers to 70,000-square-foot supermarkets. About half are located in urban neighborhoods in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and the rest in small towns across rural Pennsylvania.
Low Tech Magazine - If we cut the average speed of all vehicles by half, fuel consumption would decrease by a whopping 75 percent. . .
Engineers treat velocity as a non-variable, while in fact it is the most powerful factor to save a really huge amount of energy - with just one stroke, at minimal cost, and without the need for new technology. Lower speeds combined with more energy efficient engines, better aerodynamics and lighter materials could make fuel savings even larger.
Air resistance (drag) increases with the square of speed, and therefore the power needed to push an object through air increases with the cube of the velocity. If a car cruising on the highway at 80 km/h requires 30 kilowatts to overcome air drag, that same car will require 240 kilowatts at a speed of 160 km/h.. . .
Drag can be partly offset by better aerodynamics: a boxy car like the Volvo 740 has a drag area that is almost twice that of the most aerodynamic standard car, the Honda Insight. The Volvo needs almost two times the engine power of the Honda when driven at 120 km/h.
Yet a Volvo 740 driving at 60 km/h will face less than half the drag and will need 4.6 times less energy power than a Honda Insight driving at 120 km/h. When compared to velocity, the potential of aerodynamics is limited. . .
The blindness for the importance of speed leads to doubtful conclusions, like the environmentally friendly label of high speed trains. The French TGV that set the most recent speed record at 575 km/h for wheeled trains in 2007 has an engine output of 19,600 kilowatts. A contemporary "slow" train like the Siemens ES64 with a top speed of 240 km/h has a maximum power output of 6,400 kilowatts.
Travelling 1,000 kilometres, the "slow" train will consume 26,240 kilowatt-hours (over 4.1 hours) while the fast train will consume 33.320 kilowatt-hours (over 1.7 hours). . . .
A decrease of 75 percent in fuel consumption is not peanuts. More than 60 percent of world oil production is used for transportation, which means that total oil production would be almost http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/SmartHome/story?id=5998756&page=1halved. In combination with more efficient engines, better aerodynamics and lighter materials a 75 percent reduction of oil production is not unrealistic.
Yet, when the International Energy Agency argues that the average car sold in 2030 would need to consume 60 percent less fuel than the average car sold in 2005, it claims: "With current technologies, only plug-in hybrids are capable of this".
This statement is wrong.
We could lower the fuel consumption of cars (and other vehicles)
by at least 75 percent, we could do it today, and we can do it
with present technology.
Scientific Blogging Imagine windows that not only provide a clear view and illuminate rooms, but also use sunlight to efficiently help power the building they are part of. MIT engineers report a new approach to harnessing the sun's energy that could allow just that. The work involves the creation of a novel 'solar concentrator.' "Light is collected over a large area [like a window] and gathered, or concentrated, at the edges," explains Marc A. Baldo, leader of the work and the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering.
As a result, rather than covering a roof with expensive solar cells (the semiconductor devices that transform sunlight into electricity), the cells only need to be around the edges of a flat glass panel. In addition, the focused light increases the electrical power obtained from each solar cell "by a factor of over 40," Baldo says.
Because the system is simple to manufacture, the team believes that it could be implemented within three years-even added onto existing solar-panel systems to increase their efficiency by 50 percent for minimal additional cost. That, in turn, would substantially reduce the cost of solar electricity.
Bionx has created a conversion system that allows you to add electric power to any bike, adding now more than 15 pounds. Only problem: price is in the four digits. Reports Tree Hugger: A seven pound, 350 watt gearless and brushless motor replaces the rear hub and the battery pack is fastened to the frame. The lithium-manganese battery charges in three hours and go for seventy miles, helped along by regenerative braking. Use up a lot of juice going up a hill?
TREE HUGGER - Bidets [are] a key green technology, because they eliminate the use of toilet paper. They also provide important health benefits. These include increased cleanliness, and the therapeutic effect of water on damaged skin (think rashes or hemorrhoids).
We use 36.5 billions rolls of toilet paper in the U.S. each year, this represents at least 15 million trees pulped. This also involves 473,587,500,000 gallons of water to produce the paper and 253,000 tons of chlorine for bleaching purposes. The manufacturing process requires about 17.3 terawatts of electricity annually. Also, there is the energy and materials involved in packaging and transporting the toilet paper to households across the country.
Toilet paper also constitutes a significant load on the city sewer systems, and water treatment plants. It is also often responsible for clogged pipes. In septic systems, the elimination of toilet paper would mean the septic tank would need to be emptied much less often.
Basically, the huge industry of producing toilet paper could be eliminated through the use of bidets. Instead of using toilet paper, a bidet cleans your posterior using a jet of water. Some bidets also provide an air-drying mechanism.
In Japan, high-tech bidets
called Washlets are now the most popular electronic equipment
being sold -- 60% of households have them installed. In Venezuela
they are found in approximately 90% of households.
NY TIMES Wind turbines, once used primarily for farms and rural houses far from electrical service, are becoming more common in heavily populated residential areas as homeowners are attracted to ease of use, financial incentives and low environmental effects. A residential wind generator that has built-in controls and an inverter. Some "plug and play systems plug directly into the home panel
No one tracks the number of small-scale residential wind turbines - windmills that run turbines to produce electricity - in the United States. Experts on renewable energy say a convergence of factors, political, technical and ecological, has caused a surge in the use of residential wind turbines, especially in the Northeast and California.
"Back in the early days, off-grid electrical generation was pursued mostly by hippies and rednecks, usually in isolated, rural areas, said Joe Schwartz, editor of Home Power magazine. "Now, it's a lot more mainstream.
"The big shift happened in the last three years, Mr. Schwartz said, because of technology that makes it possible to feed electricity back to the grid, the commercial power system fed by large utilities. "These new systems use the utility for back up power, removing the need for big, expensive battery backup systems.
Some of the "plug and play systems can be plugged directly into a circuit in the home electrical panel. Homeowners can use energy from the wind turbine or the power company without taking action.
DAILY GREEN - A new generation has discovered the pleasure - and the power - of growing your own fruits and vegetables, Anne Raver writes in a New York Times article.
Perhaps most surprising to those who don't grow their own, is the taste difference between something that's been shipped 1500 miles to reach your plate - the average distance it takes a food item to get to us - and something that has been just plucked from the ground. I've never tasted a fresher, more flavorful vegetable than the heirloom tomatoes fresh from a friend's garden. . .
One kitchen gardener, Roger Doiron, started a movement, Kitchen Gardeners International, where you can learn the tricks of the trade. He is quoted in the Times talking about who his audience is: "people out there who are concerned about peak oil, or the gardening gastronomes who want the freshest food possible. Or the people who joined a C.S.A." - a community-supported agriculture project - "last year, and this year are thinking, you know what? I can do some of this myself."
Doiron is trying to get one of the presidential candidates to follow in the steps of their forefathers and use the White House lawn to grow a garden. The article says John Adams grew a vegetable garden, Woodrow Wilson had sheep grazing the grounds, and Eleanor Roosevelt grew peas and carrots on the White House lawn.
TREEHUGGER Londoner's have three free newspapers foisted on them every day in the streets. This adds up to a lot of waste and a lot of people are getting pretty upset by it. As a response to this litter, and as a political statement about "making something high-quality out of something that has no value", Sumer Erek has created a five meter high Newspaper House out of all the discarded free papers around. The house has been built in a London square. Along with numerous volunteers, he has been constructing it out of donated papers for the past five days. Using almost 150,000 discarded free papers carefully packed inside a wooden frame for the construction, people were encouraged to write their own thoughts and wishes on the paper before it was rolled into logs. GREAT PHOTOS
FUEL AND LOCAL FOOD
ANTHONY FLACCAVENTO, WASH POST - Of late, a number of commentators have disparaged local food economies, based on two claims: First, that shipping food long distances in fully loaded tractor-trailers is more efficient than local transactions; and, second, that consumers travel much further to buy local foods, creating more, not less carbon emissions. They're wrong.
A full tractor-trailer hauls about 32,000 pounds of produce. On average, according to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, this food travels about 1,750 miles from farm to market, in trucks that get about 5.5 miles per gallon. That's 320 gallons of fuel to transport 32,000 pounds, or about a gallon of fuel for every 100 pounds of food.
SCIENTIFIC BLOGGING - Applying organic fertilizers, such as those resulting from composting, to agricultural land could increase the amount of carbon stored in these soils and contribute significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research published in a special issue of Waste Management & Research. . .
One estimate of the potential value of this approach - which assumed that 20% of the surface of agricultural land in the EU could be used as a sink for carbon - suggested it could constitute about 8.6% of the total EU emission-reduction objective.
"An increase of just 0.15% in organic carbon in arable soils in a country like Italy would effectively imply the sequestration of the same amount of carbon within soil that is currently released into the atmosphere in a period of one year through the use of fossil fuels," write Enzo Favoino and Dominic Hogg, authors of the paper.
"Furthermore, increasing organic matter in soils may cause other greenhouse gas-saving effects, such as improved workability of soils, better water retention, less production and use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides, and reduced release of nitrous oxide."
However, capitalizing on this potential climate-change mitigation measure is not a simple task. The issue is complicated by the fact that industrial farming techniques mean agriculture is actually depleting carbon from soil, thus reducing its capacity to act as a carbon sink.
According to Hogg and Favoino, this loss of carbon sink capacity is not permanent. Composting can contribute in a positive way to the twin objectives of restoring soil quality and sequestering carbon in soils. Applications of organic matter (in the form of organic fertilizers) can lead either to a build-up of soil organic carbon over time, or a reduction in the rate at which organic matter is depleted from soils. In either case, the overall quantity of organic matter in soils will be higher than using no organic fertilizer.
TELEGRAPH, UK - Drinking bottled water should be made as unfashionable as smoking, according to a government adviser. "We have to make people think that it's unfashionable just as we have with smoking. We need a similar campaign to convince people that this is wrong," said Tim Lang, the Government's naural resources commissioner. Bottled water generates up to 600 times more C02 than tap water Bottled water generates upto 600 times more CO2 than tap water
Phil Woolas, the environment minister, added that the amount of money spent on mineral water "borders on being morally unacceptable". Their comments come as new research shows that drinking a bottle of water has the same impact on the environment as driving a car for a kilometre. Conservation groups and water providers have started a campaign against the L2 billion industry.
METAEFFICIENT - The largest modular green roof, has been installed on top of the new "Court at Upper Providence" shopping center in Pennsylvania. The 2.3 acres green roof was constructed with Green Grid modules. These modules are made with recycled plastic, and they contain small but hardly plants like sedums. The lightweight modules are then delivered to the facility, where they are laid out on top of the roof. As many as 4,000 square feet can be installed in one day.
THAT GOT 80 MILES BETWEEN CHARGES
AN ECO-TOWN IN BRITAIN
TREE HUGGER - Wintles has 12 acres of shared woodland and allotments, so that people can feed themselves, and they even bought a failed pub in town and are turning it into a micro-brewery. The houses are built in clusters of about ten to twelve homes. . .
The houses are wood framed with lots of insulation, careful placement of windows for passive solar heating, with wood stoves. That didn't stop the authorities from questioning the designs;
"The banks that lent the money insisted on central heating being put in, even though the homes were heated perfectly well by wood-burners. The heating engineers would not sign off the properties without insisting on radiators being installed upstairs, even though, due to the very high insulation, they were unnecessary. The water company insisted on Living Villages taking external liability for any problem with the rain-harvesting system, which caused further problems with the banks. And the council insisted on the approach road being wide enough for two refuse trucks to pass - even though this is deepest Shropshire."
INDEPENDENT, UK - Ireland became the first country in the world to ban the traditional lightbulb. Householders will be forced to switch to new long-life low-energy bulbs in 12 months' time. . . As the normal lightbulb expires, householders will have to replace them with the more environmentally friendly long-life bulb which uses far less energy. Consumers will save E185m in electricity costs every year as a result of the measure.
On October 5th Philly Carshare signed up member number 30,000. In October they signed up a record 4,000 new members and they are now over 35,000. And 10,000 of these members have given up their cars. . . The City, the Parking Authority and SEPTA (the City's transit agency) all got on board. The city even got rid of 330 cars and started saving $7 million a year as a result. Philly Carshare management now believes they could someday get to a million members.
TREE HUGGER - The University of Washington is teaming up with Intrago to create an electric bike share program for its Seattle campus. The self-rental bicycles will work much like traditional bike share programs: users are given a special pass to unlock bicycles from stations located throughout campus, and then return them just as easily. The only difference between this system and a more conventional one is that the bikes have an electric assist for hills and longer distances, circumventing one of the more common excuses for not riding a bike. It is unclear what kind of battery the bicycles make use of. . . The pilot system is being funded by a grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation in the hope that "corporate campuses, vacation destinations and high-density urban and public transit locations" will see the value of these systems.
A BETTER FLUSH FOR THE FUTURE
CNN - [Scott Kelley's] Philadelphia company urges its customers to install high-efficiency toilets, which use 20 percent less water than the previous generation of low-flow toilets. . .
Toilets built 30 years ago guzzled 5 or more gallons of water per flush, but in the early 1980s manufacturers designed new models that needed only 3 1/2 gallons per flush. Congress emphasized further conservation in 1992 when it passed the Energy Policy Act, which mandated that regular toilets made starting in 1994 use 1.6 gallons.
Consumers weren't pleased with those early low-flow models. The first flush didn't always clear the bowl, and subsequent flushes negated any water savings.
But the newest generation of high-efficiency toilets -- developed in the last two to seven years -- does the job on the first try and uses only 1.3 gallons per flush, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. . .
One high-efficiency model that's gaining in popularity is the dual-flush toilet, in which users press one button to flush liquid waste with 0.8 or 0.9 gallon of water, or an adjacent button to flush solid waste with 1.6 gallons. The flushes amount to an average of about 1.3 gallons, complying with the EPA's definition of a high-efficiency toilet.
While a water-friendly toilet can be several times more expensive than a standard one, which typically costs less than $100, consumers can expect to recoup the cost within about two years after water savings and possible rebates from the local water company.
TRYING TO COME UP WITH A SOLAR POWERED CAR
DANIEL B WOOD, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR - In the local airport parking lot, Steve Titus clicks shut the lightweight fiberglass door of his fireman-yellow Solar Bug. . . Mr. Titus straddles the saddle-style seat and revs the Hi-Torque Pancake motor. It whirs away quietly, reaching a top speed of 40 miles per hour in a few seconds.
On display at a recent alternative-car expo here, this is Titus's second and latest rendering of a solar-powered car concept. It gets up to a fourth of its 60-mile capacity from 200 watts of roof-mounted solar panels. . .
Titus, who is based in Bozeman, Mont., has 25 years of experience bringing alternative-power products to market, working with more than a dozen businesses that range from medical equipment to lasers. About seven years ago, he got tired of driving to the gas pump, paying high prices, and watching the geopolitical clashes over oil in the Middle East. . .
INDEPENDENT, UK - British shops hand out a staggering 13 billion every year. But after a decision by 33 London councils yesterday, plastic bags could be soon be consigned to history, unmourned by anyone who cares about cleaning up the environment.
Eighty villages, towns and cities, including Brighton and Bath, have introduced or are considering a ban on them since shops in the Devon market town of Modbury went "plastic bag free". But yesterday represented the most significant move yet. The capital is now on board.
All 33 authorities in the London Councils group voted for legislation to prevent shops in the capital handing out free plastic bags. In the next fortnight Westminster Council will present a private Bill to the House of Commons which would apply to every London shop from the humblest newsagent to Harrods.
Shoppers clutching large numbers of bags in London's West End could become a thing of the past; instead they will be asked to use sturdy reusable plastic "bags for life" or cotton or string hold-alls. London's authorities said they needed to halt the environmental damage done by plastic bags, which use oil and landfill space and kill marine wildlife. . .
Peter Robinson, director of Waste Watch, said: "We've seen successful action taken on carrier bags all across the world from Australia to Zanzibar, and now it's time for London to take a lead on this issue in the UK."
TREE HUGGER - [A] nifty little shed on a suburban street in Gothenburg, Sweden is filled with microbes busily eating household garbage in a pilot project to dry up compost before it's turned into methane at the local biogas plant.
Brainchild of Lars Smedlund, the Somnus Hus is a system that helps remove 75 percent of the moisture, and most of the odor from compostable food waste. About 180 families in a condominium complex in the pilot will share the shed and deposit their paper bags with food scraps into the green shute (each family has a key to the shute). After the scraps are shredded, moisture is sucked away via a wet filter system filled with odor-eating bacteria. In 4-5 days the scraps resemble finely-chopped wood chips.
Unlike other compost systems, which are subject to rot when too wet, the Somnus system is designed to control the humidity and smell, and the smaller resulting volume of compost only requires a pick-up once or twice a year, versus the once a week or every two weeks for food compost collection systems such as San Francisco's.
HOW BAD IS A LIGHT BULB?
[From Be Turtle]
Q - Are traditional light bulbs really that bad? They're so small-- how much harm can they really do?
A - If we decided to ban traditional light bulbs 5-10% of our power stations could be turned off. In the case of China, a ban on traditional light bulbs could mean that the Chinese didn't need to build 25-50 of the 500 coal power stations they are currently planning to construct over the next decade, whilst a similar ban in the US could mean that 25-50 of the power stations which already exist could be turned off. . .
At the domestic level, using 70% less electricity to make the same amount of light also saves approximately L9 ($18) worth of electricity per bulb per year.
An average, rather small, British house has been estimated to contain 23.5 light bulbs. While a good quality energy saving light bulb from one of our biggest supermarkets, Tesco, costs as little as 81p.
This means that replacing all of the light bulbs in a typical British house, at a cost of L19 ($38), with energy saving bulbs which have a 6 years lifetime could in theory allow you to save up to L1,057 ($2114) on household electricity bills over the lifetime of all the new light bulbs.
These savings are even greater if you install some of longer lasting energy saving light bulbs, which have lifetimes of up to 8 - 15 years.
If you still think this is too small a saving to justify they effort, then I would like to ask for your help with identifying other politically acceptable measures which would allow us to reduce our energy imports (whilst experiencing little obvious pain), to save large amounts of money (at little upfront cost) and to cut our carbon dioxide emissions by millions of tonnes (within the next couple of years).
[Dr Matt Prescott Director, Ban The Bulb]
GUIDES TO HOME ENERGY EFFICIENCY
From the Rocky Mountain Institute
Building Envelope. On average, a typical family can spend as much as $680 per year to heat and cool its home. This brief explains why this expense is not necessary, even in extreme climates, and can be reduced by up to 50 percent through investment in building envelope improvements such as sealing air leaks, adding adequate insulation, and upgrading window features
Lighting. There are many lighting designs and technologies available today that can not only meet all your lighting needs, but can do so using less electricity. This Brief details a few steps to make your home lighting more energy efficient while maintaining and improving lighting quality
Space Cooling. Space cooling typically accounts for 13 percent of total energy use, costing homeowners an average $197 per year. A well-insulated and tightly sealed home that uses the natural movement of heat and air to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures can reduce cooling costs by up to 50 percent while also saving on heating bills. This brief outlines how to first minimize the amount of heat that enters and is generated inside the home, and then, if additional cooling is still needed, take steps to increase the efficiency of cooling equipment and/or buy new, more efficient equipment.
Space Heating. Space heating costs the average homeowner $480 per year and accounts for about 32 percent of the total energy bill. This brief details how a well-insulated, tightly constructed home can require little supplementary heating, and how retrofit measures that minimize heat loss can reduce heating requirements even in old, leaky homes.
Water Heating. Water heating
accounts for approximately 19 percent of total home energy use
and costs an average household over $300 a year. This brief outlines
the many things you can do to cut your water heating costs, including
using hot water more efficiently, switching to water-efficient
shower and faucet fixtures, and making a few simple adjustments
to your existing heater.
Electronics Home office equipment, audio and video systems, and miscellaneous electronics consume almost 20 percent of all electricity used inside the average home and can cost as much as $175 per year to operate. This brief shows that while buying more efficient electronic devices can save some of this energy and money, changing how you use the equipment is more effective.
Kitchen Appliances. Having an energy efficient kitchen means understanding the energy consumption of the appliances in your kitchen, the energy life cycle of the food that comes into it, and all of the wastes that leave it. No matter what your lifestyle is, there are numerous energy efficient practices that you should consider. The options in this brief range from locating your refrigerator away from heat sources, to sizing appliances to match the job to be done, to considering your food disposal habits.
Whole System Design This brief introduces the powerful tool of whole system design within the context of the building envelope - introducing the synergies that exist between thermal mass, windows, and other components of passive solar design. Whole system or integrated building design actively considers the interconnections between systems, occupants, and the environment, and uses these connections to develop single solutions to multiple problems (shelter, energy savings, aesthetics, natural daylight, indoor environmental quality, affordability, etc.)
LIVING OFF THE GRID IN BRITAIN
NICK ROSEN, GUARDIAN - I reckon there are 75,000 people living in nearly 25,000 off-grid homes in the UK. These are homes not connected to mains gas and electricity, water and sewage or even the phone lines that bind the rest of us into a system that wastes energy transporting it around the country, and loses up to 30% of water through leaks.
To get some idea of how many are living this way, I traveled round the UK for most of last year researching a book, How To Live Off-Grid. I met some of the thousands of normal families living this way, in everything from brick houses to yurts. . .
Perhaps the nation's off-grid housing stock can be classed as an investment in a carbon-free future. Every off-gridder automatically reduces their energy and water consumption by up to 90% compared with a typical household. . .
The figure of 75,000 is only those living off-grid all year round. It does not include part-time off-gridders - the winter renters who go out in their vans or take to their yurts and caravans. This triples the winter numbers.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, NY TIMES - Most people are not aware that electricity prices fluctuate widely throughout the day, let alone exactly how much they pay at the moment they flip a switch. . . Participants in the Community Energy Cooperative program, for example, can check a Web site that tells them, hour by hour, how much their electricity costs; they get e-mail alerts when the price is set to rise above 20 cents a kilowatt-hour. If just a fraction of all Americans had this information and could adjust their power use accordingly, the savings would be huge. Consumers would save nearly $23 billion a year if they shifted just 7 percent of their usage during peak periods to less costly times, research at Carnegie Mellon University indicates. That is the equivalent of the entire nation getting a free month of power every year. Meters that can read prices every hour or less are widely used in factories, but are found in only a tiny number of homes, where most meters are read monthly.
The handful of people who do use hourly meters not only cut their own bills, but also help everyone else by reducing the need for expensive generating stations that run just a few days, or hours, each year. Over the long run, such savings could mean less pollution, because the dirtiest plants could be used less or not at all.
ABOUT SOLAR HOT AIR SYSTEMS
DON CHIRAS, H20POWER - Solar hot-air systems capture sunlight energy and use it to heat incoming air. Heated air is then transferred into your home, often with a small electric fan. The solar energy costs what it always has cost - nothing. Solar hot-air systems can help alleviate homeowners' worries about rising fuel costs and provide years of inexpensive, maintenance-free comfort. They can heat homes, offices, workshops, garages and barns.
All solar hot-air systems rely on hot-air panels or collectors. Collectors are typically mounted on south-facing walls, roofs or even on the ground, if it's unshaded during the heating season. Some commercial systems are simple thermosiphon collectors that rely entirely on convection to distribute hot air, but most use fans or blowers controlled by relatively simple electronics. A temperature sensor mounted inside the collector monitors internal temperature. When it reaches 110 degrees, it sends a signal to a thermostat mounted inside the home, which turns on the fan if room temperature is below the desired level. When the temperature inside the collector drops to 90 degrees, or the room reaches its setting, the thermostat turns the fan off.
Solar hot-air systems actively produce heat only in the daytime, but some of that heat is absorbed by the building's thermal mass: drywall, tile, framing lumber, etc. At night, the heat stored in the thermal mass radiates into the rooms. The more thermal mass, the greater the nighttime benefit
SPRINGWISE - Kicking off in Rotterdam's Off_Corso is the Sustainable Dance Club. . . Enviu, an environmental NGO for young people, is working together with architectural firm Döll to create a truly sustainable nightclub. The club [features] energy-generating dance floors (excellent way to extract kilowatts from energetic clubbers), toilets that flush with rain water, walls that change color as a reaction to temperature changes, a rooftop garden and other elements . . . Some 80 Enviu volunteers (young professionals and students) have developed the concept over the last 8 months.
Household Power Usages
45W - Outside Christmas
SURVEY FINDS BUYERS RESPOND TO THINK LOCAL CAMPAIGN
NEW RULES - A three-year-old campaign to encourage people in northwest Washington state to "Think Local First" is having a dramatic effect on spending behavior, according to a recent survey. The survey of 300 people in Whatcom County found that 69 percent are familiar with the Think Local First campaign and 58 percent are making a more deliberate effort to patronize locally owned businesses than they did before the campaign started three years ago.
"These results are phenomenal," said Dr. Pamela Jull, the lead researcher. "Normally, if 1 in 5 households claim familiarity with your program, and change their behavior because of it you would consider it a success. To have nearly 3 in 5 households attributing a behavior change to this program shows an amazing impact."
They survey also found that 86 percent respondents are spending the same or more money at locally owned businesses than they did before the campaign. Only 12 percent reported spending less.
THE ECOCITY FARM
TREE HUGGERS - The developers of the Ecocity Farm reckon all you need is a standard urban house block. They've come up with a commercial aquaponic system that effectively recycles its own water and waste, while being space efficient due to it's vertical stackable design. Barramundi fish are harvested alongside vegetables. Waste from the fish is reduced, via a biodigester, to water soluble feedstock for the hydroponically grown plants. Plans are even afoot to prototype a process that converts human food scraps into fish meal. According to the designers the concept can produce 12 times the quantity of food from conventional farming. And the idea is develop the system to a complete all-in-one, out-of-the-box unit that can be franchised worldwide. Traditional farmland is preserved as the package can be used in urban blocks or even on building rooftops. Farmers will then be able to service their customers with minimal transport and energy costs.
MICHAEL KANELLOS, CNET - University of California, Davis wants to light the world with old melon rinds. The university will show off an experimental facility that takes wilted lettuce, fish heads and other leftover food bits and turns it into biogas, a combination of natural gas and carbon dioxide. Separating the CO2 leaves commercial grade natural gas.
The technology, called an anaerobic phased solids digester, has been licensed from the university and adapted for commercial use by Onsite Power Systems. In the digester, microbes eat the garbage and give off valuable gases.
Several companies are experimenting with figuring out ways to exploit waste products as an energy source. Natural gas releases fewer pollutants than coal or car gas. And the fuel stock costs little to obtain and has little independent value. Who wants a chewed up piece of meat that got spit out into a napkin, after all? In fact, garbage costs money to get rid of, so using it as fuel can cut other operational costs.
BEFORE YOU GET A GREEN ROOF, FIGURE OUT HOW TO MOW IT
TREVOR MARTIN, DAILY RECORD, UK - Bosses at the new Scottish Natural Heritage HQ are facing a L5000 bill every time they cut the grass - on their roof. The L13 million centre, which has won acclaim for its eco-friendly credentials, includes a roof garden. But health & safety regulations mean scaffolding and other safety measures must be installed when people are working above ground. . . Local councillor Jimmy MacDonald said: "It seems the extra costs to cut the grass will make this building not as eco-friendly as first believed." An SNH spokesman said: "The roof was chosen due to its low-maintenance regime, which is why it is so popular for green roof projects."
ETHANOL HIGH COULD RAISE FUEL ECONOMY
PLANET ARK - Injecting small quantities of ethanol into car engines at moments of peak demand -- such as accelerating sharply or climbing a steep hill -- could improve the fuel economy of gasoline engines by 20 percent to 30 percent, a scientist said. A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is working on the system, which scientists say would allow carmakers to use smaller engines in their vehicles, reducing weight and improving fuel economy at a lower cost to consumers than by adding a hybrid engine. . . He estimated that adding the ethanol injection system to a car would cost about $1,000 and that cars using the new system could be in mass production by 2011.
THE BOTTLED WATER LIE
MICHAEL BLANDING, ALTERNET - The corporations that sell bottled water are depleting natural resources, jacking up prices, and lying when they tell you their water is purer and tastes better than the stuff that comes out of the tap. . . In the past decade, the bottled water market has more than doubled in the United States, surpassing juice, milk, and beer to become the second most popular beverage after soft drinks. According to a 2003 Gallup poll, three in four Americans drink bottled water, and one in five drink only bottled water. Together, consumers spent some $10 billion on the product last year, consuming an average of 26 gallons of the stuff per person, according the Beverage Marketing Corporation. At the same time, companies spend some $70 million annually to advertise their products. Typical are Aquafina's ads advertising the beverage as "the purest of waters," Dasani's ads contending the water is "pure as water can get."
In fact, says Kellett, not only does tap water often taste the same as bottled water, but it is also often safer to drink as well. "They are spending tens of millions of dollars every year to undermine our confidence in tap water," she says, "even though water systems here in the United States are better regulated than bottled water." That's because tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which imposes strict limits on chemicals and bacteria, constant testing by government agencies, and mandatory notification to the public in the event of contamination.
Bottled water, on the other hand, is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which according to federal law is technically required to hold itself to the same standards as the EPA. The devil is in the details, however, since FDA regulations only apply to water that is bottled and transported between states, leaving out the two-thirds of water that is solely transported within states.
UTNE - A 10-unit condo in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego [will get] up to 70 percent of its energy from solar panels. In addition, the project will use chemical-free building materials, wood discarded by lumber companies, and a landscape of fruit trees and herbs. Developer Craig Brod [said] that environmentally sound condos are worth the 3 percent to 5 percent extra in building costs, adding that, "[t]he majority of builders in America are creating a travesty. They're charging people a lot of money for a product that is basically inferior to what it could be."
Though a green condo may be more expensive than its conventional counterpart, buyers can walk away with a satisfaction that's more tangible than the warm and fuzzy feeling of shrinking their eco-footprint. This' Saunders points out that since much of the work goes toward making buildings more energy and water efficient, the savings from reduced bills will add an extra layer or two to owners' wallets in the future.
Some developers are going a step further, combining green living with green transportation. Saunders writes that designers often incorporate ways to minimize gas usage, like constructing condos a walkable distance from amenities and cultural centers or including a membership to a co-op car in the condo package. In Dallas the purchase of a "Buzz" condo comes complete with an electric moped. Residents can recharge in the garage using wind-powered electricity, writes Christine Perez of the Dallas Business Journal.
THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF BIOFUELS
JEFFREY A MCNEELY, BBC - The grain required to fill the petrol tank of a Range Rover with ethanol is sufficient to feed one person per year. Assuming the petrol tank is refilled every two weeks, the amount of grain required would feed a hungry African village for a year Much of the fuel that Europeans use will be imported from Brazil, where the Amazon is being burned to plant more sugar and soybeans, and Southeast Asia, where oil palm plantations are destroying the rainforest habitat of orangutans and many other species. Species are dying for our driving.
The expansion of biofuels would increase monoculture farming If ethanol is imported from the US, it will likely come from maize, which uses fossil fuels at every stage in the production process, from cultivation using fertilizers and tractors to processing and transportation. Growing maize appears to use 30% more energy than the finished fuel produces, and leaves eroded soils and polluted waters behind.
[Jeffrey A McNeely is chief scientist of IUCN, the World Conservation Union, based in Switzerland]
FREE OR LOW COST WAYS TO GREEN YOUR KITCHEN AND LAUNDRY
[From Consumer Reports]
Run the dishwasher and the washing machine only when they are full.
Don't prerinse dishes before loading the dishwasher. You'll save as much as 20 gallons a load, or 6,500 gallons per year. Our tests show prerinsing doesn't improve cleaning.
When your dish load is small, fill the sink or basin and wash dishes by hand. Place soapy dishes on a rack, and spray rinse.
Wash vegetables and fruits in a bowl or basin using a vegetable brush; don't let the water run.
Use recycled water on plants. Sources: water left from boiled eggs, tea kettles, and washed vegetables; dehumidifier condensate.
Investigate using waste water from the washing machine, bathtub, or sink on outdoor, inedible plants. States vary in their approach to so-called gray-water use. . .
Steam vegetables instead of boiling. Besides using less water, you'll retain more vitamins in the food.
Chill drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the faucet until the water is cold.
Defrost food in the refrigerator, not in a pan of water on the counter or in the sink. Besides saving water, it's less likely to breed bacteria.
SHOULD YOU OBSERVE 'USE BY' LABELS ON FOOD?
LUCY SIEGLE, OBSERVER, UK - According to a recent report, 70 per cent of produce is dumped by producers and retailers before it even gets to the store. . . One quarter of all the food waste that goes into British landfill is reckoned to be edible, and a sizeable portion of that will be food with highly conservative end-of-life dates. Whether you observe dates depends on whether you view them as labels that protect our health or as a ruse to get you to buy more. If it's the latter, you'll appreciate the freegan movement, which throws all culinary caution to the wind by advocating urban and rural foraging - from dumpster diving and skip harvesting (rooting in bins outside restaurants and supermarkets) to plate scraping (going into restaurants and scraping the leftovers straight from diners' plates - you can't be shy in this business). I am yet to find one freegan who admits to ever having had food poisoning.
Noticeably, if you buy produce unwrapped from a farmers' market it comes without a directive on when to throw it out, requiring use of eyes, nose and common sense to judge when food is dangerous. These are the kind of sustainable talents worth fostering.
GREEN GIZMO UPDATE
JUSTIN MCCURRY, GUARDIAN - Heated seats and computerized bidets are practically standard in modern Japanese toilets, but what greenie points the country's WCs lose in electricity consumption, they try to make up for in water savings. The addition of a tap and basin on top of the cistern - so that, when you wash your hands, the water from the basin then re-fills the cistern - seems a far more elegant solution than any of the electronic add-ons. . . Most feature handles you can turn one way for a big flush, the other for a smaller, less wasteful one.
Modern Japanese homes are designed so that the washing machine is installed just a few meters from the bathtub - and with good reason. Many households now save water by feeding it from a pipe placed in a tub of used bathwater into the washing machine. . .
Philips has come up with a new light bulb design that may eventually replace the compact fluorescent light bulb as our best green lighting option. Based on light emitting diodes, the bulb is said to use far less energy even than CFLs. In the meantime, ponder the thought that, if every household in the US replaced one traditional (incredibly inefficient) incandescent bulb with a CFL, it would be the equivalent of taking one million cars off the road. . .
Samsung has created a prototype widescreen LCD television that consumes only 80 watts. ..
SOLAR REFLECTIVE PAINT
TREE HUGGER - One of our very early posts was on the enviro benefits of Green Roofs. . . But if you have some deep seating aversion to growing grasses and strawberries on your upstairs, you might alternatively be curious about Texcote. It claims to be 10 times thicker than normal paint, and to be infused with a special reflective pigment. Now your house, or commercial premises, unlike a Stealth bomber, may not need to reduce its radar signature, but reducing roof temps by 40°F is a practical application of the technology. Apparently the US govt think such energy reduction possibilities might have merit, so are said to be researching just what the savings could be. And the stuff is robust, in some instances not needing a repaint for 40 years. Yet for all this heavy-dutyness, it is said to have a low volatile organic compound emissions.
LONDON SUBWAY CARS BEING RECYCLED AS WORKSPACES
TUBE LINES, UK - A new charity is helping Tube Lines, the company responsible for rebuilding the Tube's busiest lines, to recycle obsolete Tube carriages which have been lying disused for years. Over the weekend six old Jubilee line carriages were removed from sidings in Uxbridge and taken for cleaning up before being turned into workspace for start-up creative businesses by Village Underground, a new charity which supports new small companies.
Typically carriages which no longer serve the traveling public are taken to pieces, the metals separated and the various parts disposed of, some into landfill
TREE HUGGER - California-based Phoenix Motorcars is in the game to mass produce full-function, freeway-speed electric automobiles; their first model was a reproduction of a 1937 Ford Cabriolet, but they've moved on to light pickups, small vans and a mid-size SUV coming in mid-2007. With a minimum range of 120 miles per charge and max speed of 95 mph, the vehicles compare favorably with most other electric vehicles in production.
TREE HUGGER - Hertz is this week launching its "Green Collection" of rental cars (with USEPA ratings of 28+ mpg, highway). "More than half of the 35,000 vehicles are Smart Way certified, the highest EPA marks for limiting air pollution and greenhouse gases. Travelers can reserve one of 42 types of cars, including the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion and Buick LaCrosse, at 50 airports around the country".
TREE HUGGERS - California-based Phoenix Motorcars is in the game to mass produce full-function, freeway-speed electric automobiles; their first model was a reproduction of a 1937 Ford Cabriolet, but they've moved on to light pickups, small vans and a mid-size SUV coming in mid-2007. With a minimum range of 120 miles per charge and max speed of 95 mph, the vehicles compare favorably with most other electric vehicles in production.
COMPACT FLUORESCENT BULBS: UGLY BUT THEY WORK
ALICE HILL REAL TECH NEWS - Like most people, I hated the compact fluorescent bulb or CFL when it first came out, and to be honest, for some time after that. They were priced high but packaged in a gimmicky way that made me suspicious. Most hotels used them and it felt like it took five minutes for the light to come on and when it did, there was not much light, and it was not a warm looking lighting color. And then the price - at double or even three times the cost, who would take the chance on a bulb that would last years when there was little known about them? So I stayed away.
How wrong I was. Here is a great round-up of facts from Fast Company that may change the way you think of these bulbs.
- If every one of 110 million American households bought just one ice-cream-cone bulb, took it home, and screwed it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people.
- Compact fluorescents emit the same light as classic incandescents but use 75% or 80% less electricity.
- A $3 swirl pays for itself in lower electric bills in about five months.
- Compact fluorescents, even in heavy use, last 5, 7, 10 years. Years. Install one on your 30th birthday; it may be around to help illuminate your 40th.
- The single greatest source of greenhouse gases in the United States is power plants-half our electricity comes from coal plants. One bulb swapped out: enough electricity saved to turn off two entire power plants-or skip building the next two.
- In terms of oil not burned, or greenhouse gases not exhausted into the atmosphere, one bulb is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads.
- Last year, U.S. consumers spent about $1 billion to buy about 2 billion light bulbs - 5.5 million every day. Just 5%, 100 million, were compact fluorescents.
- A 60-watt classic bulb and a 15-watt swirl are identically bright-the swirl just uses 45 fewer watts.
HYBRID MINI-COOPER HAS MOTORS IN EACH WHEEL
TREE HUGGER - A British engineering firm has put together a high-performance hybrid version of BMW's Mini Cooper. The PML Mini QED has a top speed of 150 mph, a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. The car uses a small gasoline engine with four 160 horsepower electric motors - one on each wheel. The car has been designed to run for four hours of combined urban/extra urban driving, powered only by a battery and bank of ultra capacitors. The QED supports an all-electric range of 200-250 miles and has a total range of about 932 miles. For longer journeys at higher speeds, a small conventional internal combustion engine is used to re-charge the battery. In this hybrid mode, fuel economies of up to 80mpg can be achieved.
SOLAR POWERED TRASH COMPACTORS
MATT VISER, BOSTON GLOBE - They're boxy and green and, at first glance, don't even look like garbage cans; as Mayor Thomas M. Menino demonstrated their use yesterday, some people downtown mistook them for mail drops or traffic-light switch boxes. They are Menino's latest idea for keeping the city litter-free: solar-powered, self-compacting trash receptacles. Delivering a rant about overstuffed trash cans, while trying to scrape gum off the bottom of his shoe at a Downtown Crossing unveiling, Menino described the virtues of the new devices. They need emptying only once or twice a day, not the 15 or more sanitation worker visits required by some downtown trash cans. They don't spill. They smell less. And, they hold some 150 gallons of trash, about five times more than a standard city receptacle. Developed by a Jamaica Plain inventor, they are powered by photoelectric panels, which supply power to motor-driven compactors inside. Workers extract neat, 40-pound trash bricks instead of trying to manhandle the messy contents of an overflowing can. The city has placed 50 of the $4,300 machines in neighborhoods and hopes to buy more as it gauges how much it can save in labor costs.
COLLEGE STUDENTS DESIGN CAR THAT GETS 3,145 MPG
PHYSORG - A team of engineering students from The University of British Columbia has built a vehicle so efficient that it could travel from Vancouver to Halifax on a gallon of gasoline. The futuristic-looking, single-occupancy vehicle won top prize at a recent international competition, marking the UBC team's fourth win in as many years. The Society of Automotive Engineers Super-mileage Competition took place June 9 in Marshall, Michigan. Forty teams from Canada, the U.S. and India competed in designing and building the most fuel-efficient vehicle. "We achieved this level of efficiency by optimizing many aspects of the vehicle design, including: aerodynamics, light-weight construction, a small displacement engine, and conservative driving habits," says Team Captain Kevin Li. The UBC design, which required the driver to lie down while navigating it, achieved 3,145 miles per US gallon - equivalent of Vancouver to Halifax on a gallon of gas -- costing less than $5 at the pump. . . Universite Laval took second place this year with a score of 1,823 mpg.
CHECK OUT THE WINNERS, which include five high school teams that got better than 200 mpg.
HOW TO GET HALF AS MUCH MILEAGE OUT OF THE SAME CAR
PORTLAND PRESS HERALD, ME - Wearing a fleece slipper on her right foot, Beth Nagusky eased the 2006 Chevy Malibu onto the interstate. Slowly and smoothly, she brought the vehicle up to highway speed. "I'm feeling the pedal," she said. "I am one with the pedal." Nagusky, who heads Maine's Office of Energy Independence and Security, was driving a 30-mile loop between Richmond and Brunswick. Her mission was to coax the best gasoline mileage she could from the state-owned vehicle. That explained her Zen-like mindset and the bedroom slipper.
An hour later, Ted Hunter got behind the wheel wearing fire-resistant racing shoes. Tires squealed and rubber smoked as he hit the on-ramp. Hunter owns TNT Drag Racing in Brunswick. His idea of fun is to see how fast he can propel a 1994 Camaro Z28 over a quarter-mile. On this day, his task was to get the worse gasoline mileage he could, while staying within the legal speed limit
THE CASE FOR GREEN ROOFS
SAM BROOKS - The debate surrounding school modernization has, for good reason, centered around the source of the funding and the structure, management, and scope of the project. Yet it's worth pausing for a moment to give attention to a topic I've hardly heard a word about from city leaders. Not only does school reconstruction present an incredible opportunity - utilizing green roofs could yield numerous benefits to the city, not the least of which is long-term cost-savings - but it also speaks to the short-sighted public policy that can plague our city.
For those who don't have
a clue what I'm talking about, here's a quick definition from
Google: "A green roof is a roof of a building which is partially
or completely covered with plants." The rationale behind
incorporating green roofs into new - and existing - buildings
is straightforward and well-documented: Green roofs effectively
insulate buildings and, as a result, reduce energy consumption;
they reduce storm-water runoff; they improve air quality; they
can last twice as long as traditional roofs; if enough were utilized
in a given city, the so-called 'urban heat effect' could be substantially
Now, some forward-thinking locales are beginning to include them in public projects. Chicago, for instance, recently installed a green roof atop its City Hall; the project is part of a city-wide plan to vastly increase the number of environmentally-friendly roofs in the city. Mayor Richard Daley, who is spear-heading the effort, has estimated the city could cool by up to 4 degrees if enough city buildings used green roofs. Toronto has gone even further. The Canadian city has made green roofs a city priority, with a city website even devoted to the issue, in the hopes of reaping the many potential environmental benefits.
A green roof project would yield long-term cost savings to the city. The added insulation provided by green roofs is especially pronounced in low-story buildings with extensive, flat roofs - which is typically the structure of a public school. An academic benefit is clear as well: a school could easily incorporate the environmental design of its roof into the curriculum. And, finally, if we incorporate a green roof project into what might be the reconstruction of scores of schools, economies of scale could help reduce the up-front costs.
TORONTO'S GREEN ROOF WEBSITE
SPEECH BY CHICAGO MAYOR