Monday, October 6, 2008

National Grid Wants Your Roof!

This looks very promising. It would be wonderful if utility providers all over would consider offering such incentives to businesses and individual home-owners. Think about all the roofs and roof-tops that are currently sitting vacant, absorbing the sun's energy but giving nothing in return.

With solar panels on those roofs they would actually be generating energy and income for their owners. Sweet!
National Grid Wants Your Roof! Utility Looking to Install Solar Panels on Customer’s Homes & Businesses
National Grid Wants Your Roof! Utility Looking to Install Solar Panels on Customer’s Homes & Businesses : TreeHugger

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mag-Wind Vertical Axis Turbine for your Home

This looks like a good option for urban areas.
It's a "Magnetically-Levitated Axial Flux Alternator with Programmable Variable Coil Resistance, Vertical Axis Wind Turbine' , and it has just come on the market. Designed by Thomas Priest-Brown and Jim Rowan in Canada and manufactured in Texas, it"solves 11 different problems that previously limited the development of vertical-axis wind turbines for generation of electricity ."

The center hub floats on a magnet, and the coils that generate the power are at the outer ring, with magnets at the tips of the blades flying over them at high speed. It is designed for home installation in urban settings; It is only 4 feet high, so neighbours are unlikely to complain about its appearance. We asked about issues with ice and snow, and were assured that there was no problem. We also asked about noise (often a complaint) and was told that it was inaudible.

Unlike normal turbines, it doesn't mind a little turbulence, works well in developed areas, and gets an extra kick from something called "the roof effect" -evidently "A roof with a 10-foot vertical rise and a 30% angle will provide nearly a 200% increase in the amount of wind energy that is available to be turned into electricity. Compared to the same turbine just sitting on a pole, the roof effect increases the power yielded by operation of the wind turbine dramatically."

Mag-Wind Vertical Axis Turbine for your Home : TreeHugger

Going Solar: Lessons from Experience

Thinking of going solar for your water heating? Here's an article from one family who did so and wrote about their experience.
(One) TreeHugger Goes Solar

We’re not quite at the stage where every roof boasts a solar water heater, as Lloyd has advocated, but there is no doubt that as energy prices rise, solar water heating becomes increasingly attractive. And I’m proud to say that today my wife and I took our first solar showers – yes, we’ve finally taken the plunge and gone solar. Because we weren’t confident enough in our DIY skills, we avoided making our own solar hot water heater, and instead used a recent inheritance (thanks Naini!) to invest in this most practical, and relatively affordable, of micro-generation technologies. Given that there are plenty of readers likely to be interested in renewables for their own homes, I thought it might be helpful to go through our experience. So here’s what we’ve learned…

Firstly, we can say that the installation process was pretty painless. The installers were here for three days, four if you include the fact that work was rained off one day. Besides a little noise coming from the roof and the crawl space, the only intrusion into our lives was a 3 hour period when the water was turned off, and workers occasionally needing access to our attic space for the plumbing.

Secondly, it looks like it should be a good investment. Between federal and state tax credits, it looks like we will end up laying out somewhere in the region of $3,500 for the system – and while we don’t have figures for our typical water heating costs, the installers reckoned it should pay for itself in 8-9 years. With a 25 – 30 year lifespan we are confident that the system will more than pay for itself in the long run (and we’re much happier putting our money in solar than we are in stocks and bonds right now!). Of course, being solar enthusiasts and environmentalists, we’re not necessarily focused on the payback period – as blogger and Transition Town founder Rob Hopkins once commented, payback periods for solar are not necessarily the whole story...

Going Solar: Lessons from Experience : TreeHugger

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sanyo's New Washer Uses 96% Less Water

The drum-style machines converts air to ozone to eliminate bacteria and odor, a process previously used only in commercial washing machines like those in hospitals with ozone-generating machines. But Sanyo is now packaging the technology for household use. Water is purified using a recycling process. The ozone washes away bacteria, which can lead to smells, and dirt.

“By making a washing machine that can reuse bathwater and recycle it in Japan, customers not only save on their water bills, but they save water than needs to be used for drinking,” says Sanyo spokesman Aaron Fowles in an article published in Digital World Tokyo last month. “[T]hat type of water makes up less than one per cent of the Earth’s water supply.”

The machine is only available now in Japan and Taiwan, but the company hopes to eventually enter the U.S. and European market.

Sanyo's New Washer Uses 96% Less Water | Via: EcoGeek

Monday, September 1, 2008

STAR Community Index : A Framework for Green Communities

The STAR Community Index is a new tool designed to help local governments plan, track and measure their sustainability programs. Inspired by the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED ® Green Building Rating System ™.

STAR Community Index - ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA

Saturday, August 30, 2008

You'll become a fan of whole-house fans

This is really cool. Fan's can definitely save more energy than an air conditioner and are also more environmentally friendly.
...a whole-house fan uses only 10% to 20% as much electricity as a central air conditioner. Also, it uses significantly less electricity than a window air conditioner, yet it keeps the entire house more comfortable, not just one room. Installing one generally provides a good payback on the investment.

You'll become a fan of whole-house fans | | Detroit Free Press

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Backyard wind turbine generates generate 25-30% of your home’s power

Windspire a 1 kW vertical wind turbine designed to be placed in your backyard which its manufacturer, Mariah Power claims will generate 25-30% of your home’s power.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Xeriscape, the Art of Water Conserving Landscaping

As climate patterns shift, xeriscaping is catching on in other areas and has been very popular here in Spain for the last few years. The term itself derives from the Greek word ‘xeros’, meaning dry, and the word ‘landscape’.

The idea behind Xeriscapes is to create gardens with a rational water use, to avoid any waste of water, especially in Mediterranean and warm temperate climates. Saving water however is not the only objective of Xeriscaping. It also intends to eliminate the amount of chemical fertilizers and pesticides as well as petrol-driven machinery to keep the garden in shape. Plus is saves you money and maintenance.

How does it work? When designing the landscape, plants whose natural requirements are appropriate to the local climate should be chosen. They don’t necessary have to be all local plants, but they should originate from the same climate. Furthermore, water loss through evaporation and run-off should be avoided.

Examples for common plants used in Western xeriscaping are agave, cactus, lavender, juniper, sedum and thyme, according to Wikipedia.

Xeriscape, the Art of Water Conserving Landscaping

Lumeta Makes Peel-and-Stick Solar Panel

Solar rooftop installations just got a lot easier: Lumeta, a subsidiary of construction heavyweight DRI, has developed a solar panel sticker -- the Power-Ply 380. The company says its convenient peel-and-stick solar technology allows it to be installed almost twice as fast as regular rack-mounted panels -- a claim put to the test in the above video.

The panels are half as heavy as concrete roofing tiles and can be tailored to fit on most tile designs -- concrete, clay, profile and flat (added bonus: they come in a variety of colors). As Wired Science's Alexis Madrigal notes, the Power-Ply's main downside is that it loses the sun's optimal angle, thus making the peel-and-stick panels less efficient than some of its alternatives.

That energy loss amounts to around 5% of the panels' power production. According to its promotional datasheet, its panels can each produce 380 Wp of power under peak performance conditions. Lumeta is hoping to ride on a wave of growing consumer interest in solar panels -- particularly new homeowners looking to invest in energy-efficient technologies for the long run.

Lumeta Makes Peel-and-Stick Solar Panel Installations a Breeze : TreeHugger

Electric bikes selling briskly as gas prices climb

The surging cost of gasoline and a desire for a greener commute are turning more people to electric bikes as an unconventional form of transportation. They function like a typical two-wheeler but with a battery-powered assist, and bike dealers, riders and experts say they are flying off the racks.

Official sales figures are hard to pin down, but the Gluskin-Townley Group, which does market research for the National Bicycle Dealers Association, estimates 10,000 electric bikes were sold in the U.S. in 2007, up from 6,000 in 2006.

Bert Cebular, who owns the electric bike and scooter dealership NYCeWheels in New York, said his sales are up about 50 percent so far this year over last. Inc. says sales of electric bikes surged more than 6,000 percent in July from a year earlier, in part because of its expanded offerings.

"The electric bikes are the next big thing," said Frank Jamerson, a former General Motors Corp. executive turned electric vehicle guru.

They're even more popular in Europe, where Sophie Nenner, who opened a Paris bike store in 2005, says motorists boxed in by traffic jams are looking for an alternative for short journeys that doesn't involve navigating overcrowded transport systems.

Industry associations estimate 89,000 electric bikes were sold in the Netherlands last year, while 60,000 power-assisted bikes were sold in Germany.

The principle behind electric bikes is akin to that behind hybrid cars: Combine the conventional technology — in this case, old-fashioned pedaling — with a battery-powered motor.

The net result is a vehicle that rides a bit like a scooter, with some legwork required. Most models have a motorcycle-like throttle that gives a boost while going up hills or accelerating from a stop. On some models, the motor kicks in automatically and adjusts its torque based on how hard the rider pedals.

Although regulations vary by state, federal law classifies electric bikes as bicycles, and no license or registration is required as long as they don't go faster than 20 mph and their power doesn't exceed 750 watts.

Electric bikes selling briskly as gas prices climb - Yahoo! News

Monday, June 2, 2008

10 Ways to Green your Fridge

Some good tips from Vegetarian Times

Remember as a child when your father yelled, “Close the door!” as you stood in front of the fridge, pondering what to eat? Well, he was right: The refrigerator consumes more energy than any other household appliance. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average American fridge uses around 1,383 kilowatt hours a year, which is 14 percent of your household’s electrical needs and about $90 a year. But there are simple steps you can take to lighten your refrigerator’s impact on your wallet—and the environment. More importantly, many of these changes—some large and some small—can cut down on the chemicals and bacteria lingering in your fridge, which is healthier for everyone in the house.

Plastic containers may be a kitchen staple, but there are some great reasons to switch to glass storage for your leftovers. Glass keeps food and beverages colder, which means less work for the fridge. Glass is an all-natural, recyclable material, while many plastics are not. And with the potential health hazards associated with leaching plastic, glass containers are a smart alternative because they can go from fridge to microwave to table without having to transfer and generate additional dirty dishes. Finally, when it comes to avoiding spoilage—which is both a waste and a health issue— glass is the clear winner. “Using transparent containers instead of opaque ones is more likely to get leftovers noticed and eaten in a timely manner,” says Kirsten Ritchie, director of sustainable design at Gensler Corporation in San Francisco.

By replacing a fridge bought in 1990 with an Energy Star–qualifi ed model, you could save enough energy to light a household for nearly four months, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). To fi nd a list of Energy Star–approved models, log on to When you’re out shopping, look for the yellow U.S. Energy Guide sticker, which rates models for effi ciency. Keep in mind that units with the freezer on top perform 10 percent to 25 percent more effi ciently than side-by-side models. Also, consider buying a smaller model that consumes less energy and discourages waste, says Alicia Silva, an interior designer at Synergy Design Studio, a Seattle-based company specializing in green building. “With a smaller fridge, you realize you can only save what you are going to eat,” she adds. When you’re ready to switch out your old fridge, call your local recycling center to ask about proper disposal.

Automatic ice makers and through-the-door ice and water dispensers increase your unit’s energy use by 14 percent to 20 percent and raise the price of a new refrigerator by $75 to $250, according to the DOE. Skip these features and keep fully stocked ice trays, and use a pitcher-style fi lter to keep drinking water clean and chilled. If you just can’t live without an automatic ice maker, make it the internal variety, advises Ritchie.

A full refrigerator uses less energy than an empty one: The more space to cool, the harder the fridge has to work. However, Ritchie warns, “You don’t want it too full because you still need room for the chilled air to circulate and cool down new items.” If you live alone and often have bare shelves, the California Energy Commission recommends fi lling the extra space with water-fi lled containers (plus you’ll have water on hand in case of an emergency).

Tara Gidus, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, warns that most people keep foods much longer than they should. “Check labels for dates and throw out anything that is past expiration,” says Gidus. Better yet, get expiration-date savvy, and use up your groceries before they have a chance to expire. A “sell-by” date tells grocers when to pull a product off store shelves; as a consumer, you have a few days past this date to use a product. A “use-by” date means exactly that: Use by that date, or toss the food. (For more guidance on the shelf life of common perishables, see “Is It Safe to Eat?,” right.) In general, leftovers should not be kept longer than three or four days.
Even the tiniest spills can lead to bacterial growth, which speeds up food spoilage—and waste. Yet conventional cleaning products introduce toxic chemicals into your food zone. Instead, Gidus suggests these simple, homemade formulas for effective natural cleaning: For a quick wipe down of shelves, use mild liquid soap or a one-toone solution of white vinegar and water; for sticky spills that require gentle scouring, use baking soda and a damp sponge.

The refrigerator coils, located both behind and underneath the fridge, are at the heart of the unit’s refrigerant system. They are also natural dust magnets: A cooling agent passes through the coils, and a fan blows across them, stirring up and attracting dust. The more dust, the less effi cient the fan is at removing heat. Twice a year, use a vacuum cleaner with a long brush attachment to clean thoroughly around the coils.

While you’re examining the exterior of the fridge, make sure the seals on the doors are tight. Place a dollar bill in the refrigerator door and close it. If you can easily pull out the dollar bill, the door needs to be adjusted or you may need to replace the rubber seal. Also, be sure to wipe down the seals regularly to prevent dust and grime buildup, which can interfere with the seals and, over time, lead to brittleness.

If your refrigerator is sitting next to the stove or a sunny window, consider moving the fridge to a different spot. For each degree above 70°F surrounding the fridge, the unit uses 2.5 percent more power to keep its contents cool. Moving a fridge out of a potentially 90°F spot could save you up to $70 a year. The best location is against a north or east wall, says Ritchie.

The optimal temperature range in the refrigerator is 36°–38°F (in the freezer, it should be 0°F). But, for every degree below 38°F, the unit consumes 5 percent more energy. Because a built-in thermometer might not tell you the whole story, purchase a refrigerator thermometer, leave it in an easy-to-see spot, and check it periodically. Move the thermometer around in the refrigerator to determine which spots are coldest, and use this information to help guide storage decisions. For instance, spoilage-sensitive eggs generally should not be stored in the door, which tends to be a few degrees warmer than interior shelves.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Students in Punjab, India, build a 250 km per litre 'wonder car'

Imagine doing a 250-km journey... in just one-litre of petrol (just over $1)!

That's exactly what students of a technical institute in Punjab - the Rayat Institute of Engineering and Information Technology near Ropar, 50 km from here - claim to have developed.

"It is a rare solo car which can generate a mileage of up to 250 km per litre. Our team of students have not only achieved this feat, but are going to showcase it at a world super-mileage competition in the United States next month," Gurvinder Singh Bahra, vice chairman of the Rayat and Bahra group of institutes, told media persons here as he unveiled the 'wonder car' with the team.

Though the students' team claims that the car will cost Rs.500,000, its research and development cost over Rs.2.13 million to the institute.

The car, having a 92cc engine, has been developed by a seven-member team of students from the sixth semester of the institute's mechanical engineering course. The team is led by Gaurav Aggarwal as captain and other members are Mayank Tyagi, Bhavuk Makkar, Arun Salaria, Rahul Kumar, Ramandeep Singh and Navneet Kumar. The team had Jujhar Singh and Rajesh Chaudhary as faculty advisors.

It took them one year to develop the car, said Bahra.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

18 Ways to Keep It Clean, Naturally

Check this article for Natural Solutions for your cleaning needs and avoid using harsh chemicals that can harm your health.

18 Ways to Keep It Clean, Naturally

10 Ways to Save the World and Your Health

"Learn how to identify the toxic culprits in your home and make your living environment healthier for you and the rest of the world just in time for Earth Day."

10 Ways to Save the World and Your Health:

Sustainability Means We're All Responsible

Here's a wonderful article written by my friend Annemarie Marek to celebrate Earth Day and remind us all to be active participants in this important endeavor.
The bottom-line is that we must all pitch in by resolving to collaborate on ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Sustainability is a moral and economic imperative, and it is incumbent on all of us to participate.

Sustainability Means We're All Responsible

Get paid to recycle your old gadgets

Check out the following links and get paid to recycle your old electronics and gadgets (keep them out of the landfill).

Recycle Bank rewards You for recycling

Gadget Recycling Programs: Turn Your e-waste to $$$

Monday, March 24, 2008

Young farmers: An emerging social movement

A new farming movement is afoot.

Steeped in years of talk around college campuses and in stylish urban enclaves about the evils of factory farms (see the E. coli spinach outbreaks), the perils of relying on petroleum to deliver food over long distances (see global warming) and the beauty of greenmarkets (see the four-times-weekly locavore cornucopia in Union Square), some young urbanites are starting to put their muscles where their pro-environment, antiglobalization mouths are. They are creating small-scale farms near urban areas hungry for quality produce and willing to pay a premium.

Leaving Behind the Trucker Hat

Worlds smallest car

This is cute and funny :)

For more fun, watch this.

Jeremy Clarkson Test-Drives World's Smallest Car (via Treehugger)

Subaru Tests R1e Electric Car in New York City, Previews G4e

Subaru will test its R1e electric vehicle in New York City this summer. It will provide two R1e electric cars to the New York Power Authority (NYPA)...

The R1e is a small two-seater city car (50 miles range, 65 mph top speed). We're guessing Subaru's using it mostly as a learning platform; its first mainstream electric car will probably be based on the G4e concept, a hatchback very similar to Nissan's Versa that will have a longer range (124 miles/200 km) and carry 5 passengers.

Subaru Tests R1e Electric Car in New York City, Previews G4e (via Treehugger)

REGREEN: Remodeling Guidelines to Re-Green Your Interior Design

Interesting new initiative to set guidelines for remodeling, similar to LEED certification for new building construction. A set of guidelines are available as a PDF download from the REGREEN website.
Last week, at its annual conference in New Orleans, the American Society of Interior Designers released REGREEN, its set of guidelines for home remodeling with a shade of green.

In contrast with LEED, which scores and certifies green buildings, REGREEN is a set of guidelines, designed to give homeowners and interior design and buildings professionals the background and resources to evaluate green products and energy systems in the systems-based context of how an entire home operates.

REGREEN: Remodeling Guidelines to Re-Green Your Interior Design (via Treehugger)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Volkswagen Turbo Diesel-Electric Hybrid Golf

I wonder if we'll see this car in the US.
"Fuel economy is still rated at 3.4 L/100km, or 69 miles per US gallon, or 83 miles per imperial gallons. CO2 emissions are pretty low at 89 g/km. In comparison, the Toyota Prius hybrid emits 104 g/km of CO2, though emissions of NOx and particulate matter are lower than the Tier 2 Bin 5 Golf diesel-electric hybrid."

More Details: Volkswagen Turbo Diesel-Electric Hybrid Golf : TreeHugger

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pushing Paper Out the Door

"Some people are happy to throw away their past. Not me,” says Brad Templeton, who has founded an Internet newspaper and a software company and is the chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “I’m a digital pack rat. I have phone bills from 1983 and taxes from the 1990s. But I have everything scanned, so it takes up no physical space. For me, scanners provide the magic of still having all my documents without the clutter."

Pushing Paper Out the Door - New York Times

Friday, January 25, 2008

The "Work From Home" Generation

The Good and the Bad of working from home, besides the obvious benefit of saving on fuel and energy cost associated with commuting back and forth to work.
"With the invention of modern laptops, ubiqity of broadband Internet access, and advances in communication software, there is no longer a need to be in the office. At least not everyday. Thousands of companies are rolling out work from home policies and hundreds of thousands of people are starting to take advantage of them. What are the pros and cons of working from home?"

The "Work From Home" Generation - ReadWriteWeb

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hyundai i30: 2007 Green Car (and Car) of the Year

"If you can’t wait for the commercial arrival of Trev, the renewal energy vehicle, then roadsters in places like the UK and Australia may wish to consider the Hyundai i30, which picked up both the 2007 Car of the Year and 2007 Green Car of the Year in Australia.

Although claimed to have a fuel consumption of 4.7 litres per 100km, the i30 1.6-litre turbo-diesel managed to complete the 2007 World Solar Challenge conventional vehicle class (PDF) on a smell-of-an-oily-rag 3.2litres/100km (73.5 mpg!), while producing 97g/km of emissions. For comparision a Prius petrol hybrid averaged 5.6litres/100km with emissions of 146g/km.

So for Australians this means travelling from Melbourne to Brisbane on less than a tank of petrol, (Britons could do London-Paris return!) and with the cost of fuel on the rise this fuel economy should appeal to many.

The Hyundai i30 won the 2007 Green Car of the Year not only because of its spectacular fuel efficiency but because it matched this with pretty efficient pricing too. In Australia the i30 CRDi costs $21,490, while the Prius goes for about $37,400. (In the UK it looks like £12,995 on-road for the Hyundai i30 1.6 CRDi Manual.)"

Hyundai i30: 2007 Green Car (and Car) of the Year : TreeHugger

Trev, the Two-seater, Renewable Energy Vehicle

"Staff and students at the University of South Australia have designed and built a prototype of what they reckon might be the future commuter car for Australian cities. Trev sounds rather impressive. [It] goes from 0 to 100kph in 10 secs, has a top speed of 120 km/h, with a travel range of 150+km between charges of his 7kWh 44kg lithium ion polymer battery.

When charged from mains power [it] costs you $1 AUD per 100km to run, using what is said to be 1/5th of the energy of conventional car."

Meet Trev, the Two-seater, Renewable Energy Vehicle : TreeHugger

Friday, January 18, 2008

50 Ways to Leave Your Cell Phone

Good list of options to recycle that old cell phone to prevent it from ending up in the landfill.
"Got a new VoIP-ready mobile phone? Tossing your old phone supports civil war in Africa, endangers gorillas and generates huge amounts of e-trash. Do one of these things instead"

50 Ways to Leave Your Cell Phone - VoIP News

Monday, January 14, 2008

Motionbulb: The Motion-Sensing Light Bulb

Interesting concept, but LEDs would be much better.
"You always hear about how you should change to compact fluorescent lightbulbs and turn out the lights when you leave the room; with something like Motionbulb you can have both at the same time. A slick motion sensor is embedded in the bulb's housing, turning itself on when it senses motion within 25 feet, and switching off when you leave the room."

Motionbulb: The Motion-Sensing Light Bulb : TreeHugger

Eco-friendlier Leather From India

If this technique is widely put to use, it will go a long way in cleaning up the Ganges and improving the environment in many parts of India.
"... scientists based near Chennai, India have now developed a more environmentally-friendly and cost-efficient method for tanning leather.

Raghava Rao and a group of researchers at the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) in Adyar have found a simple way to reduce the amount of chemical pollutants involved in tanning by merely reversing the order of tanning and post-tanning steps. By doing so, they were able to cut the amount of chemicals released by 82% and increased energy efficiency by 40%, without observable reduction in quality."

Eco-friendlier Leather From India : TreeHugger