Saturday, May 30, 2009

Energy Efficient Homes




ENERGY EFFICIENT HOMES
In the world of rising energy costs , energy efficiency is important to today’s consumers. It is something that impacts the environment and hit’s the pocketbook , especially with the dramatic rise in energy costs.
How to make a home more energy efficient , it provides added comfort : warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It increases a homes value , as buyers are more likely to pay top dollar for well designed homes with small utility bills. It also represent s a cost savings to homeowners, as energy efficient homes are less costly to operate . And in turn, leaves a smaller carbon footprint.
The following list is a great start in reducing energy usage - and many of the upgrades are inexpensive and easy to implement.
1-CREATE NEW ENRGY CONSERVING HABITS
We can turn down the thermostat or install a programmable one. Also turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Use less hot water by washing clothes in cold. Try a clothesline instead of a dryer. Run dishwasher s only when full.
2- IMPROVE LIGTHING
Convert lighting to florescent or LED bulbs; Install sensors and timers to turn off lights when not needed.
3-INCREASE APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY
Replace refrigerators that were manufactured before 1993, as they use a considerable amount of energy , consider ENERGY STAR appliances , which are energy efficient.
4-ADD INSULATION
Installing more insulation in attics, walls and floors is the best energy saving measure.
5-IMPROVE WINDOWS AND DOORS
Look into energy -efficient windows and doors to keep cold air out and warm air in.
6-IMPROVE HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEMS
Heating and cooling systems account for the utility expense ,look into energy efficient models.
7-SEAL AIR DUCT SYSTEMS
Sealing ducts prevents drafts, and prevents heat loss during the winter

FOR MORE INFORMATION
www.energystar.gov
www.acee.org/consumerguide
www.energysavers.gov

By Yasemin Candelen

Friday, May 29, 2009

Think Before You Kill!

Posted by Kelly Wu

Is that RAID you are using? No matter how much you care about your health, or how much you stay organic, bugs can be a weak spot for many people. According to Dini Miller, an urban pest management specialist at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, “The biggest abusers of pesticides are consumers.” Although the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has reviewed all the pesticides for home use, it should be used in an appropriate manner but not overused.

You may ask if there is a safe pesticide available. Well, it does available on the market today. EcoSMART - Safe Pesticide Brand™ claimed to be as effective as conventional products. It also claimed that EPA classifies EcoSmart products as “Minimum-Risk” pest control products. It is so safe that EPA does not require it to have an extensive list of precautionary and first aid statements on its labels. Its formulas are primary organic plant oils which FDA classifies those as “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS) if they are to use on foods or beverages.



While there are reviews on the internet about the EcoSMART products, it will be hard to judge its effectiveness as every one of us has different sensitivity towards bugs. Also, as we all know with scientists finding new things daily, something that is safe today may prove to be not safe tomorrow, so its safety-ness is also a relative unknown.

Another important point is that something organic does not necessary mean it is non-toxic. If it can be use to kills insects, then it is toxic no matter how you define it is. The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Pesticide Database is an excellent source online where it provides details on toxicity and regulatory information for different pesticides, which can be search by products name.

So what’s the best thing to do next time when you see a bug, here are some of the tips from Dini Miller:

1) Don’t Panic – Most inserts are harmless, and instead of going for the pesticide spray can, go for the vacuum cleaner instead or just stomp on it.

2) Monitor – If it is just a single lost ant and no more others are coming back, why use the whole spray can?

3) Trace – Try to find its source can help you get rid of its nest. You may also be surprised to find a wall crack to fix.

4) Be caution – If you do use pesticide, make you have the right product for the right pests and make sure you follow the instructions.

Source:
USATODAY.com – Bug control goes beyond the spray can
EPA - Pesticides
EcoSMART FAQ

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Less is More


Tankless water heaters are an innovative way to cut water heating costs dramatically while providing more hot water A traditional water heater consists of a holding tank that heats and stores water at a desired temperature, usually between 125 degrees to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, until it is drawn off to be used for showers or other washing within the home. As the temperature drops with incoming water, the heater, which can either be gas or electric operated, comes on, and brings the temperature back up to standard. This takes time requires a lot of energy.

The tankless water heater however only works on demand without holding water. When hot water is needed, such as when a bath faucet is turned on, a water flow turbine signals a control board. The temperature difference between incoming water and the temperature that is needed is calculated and a gas burner ignites (or electric element comes on). This heats water through a heat exchanger to the predetermined temperature as it flows to the faucet. When the faucet is turned off so is the heat exchanger. The water is heated almost instantly and there is no waiting time while tank has to reheat more water. No energy is lost through heating too much water or holding temperature reheating. Cost savings can be as much as $250 a year depending on source of heating used.

Some other advantages of tankless water heaters are that they provide clean water and take up very little space. Traditional water heaters rust and build up metal and other debris. In the course of the standard ten year life time of these tanks that can amount to a lot of dirty water. Tankless have no such debris and have lifetimes typically of 20 years. Further, without the tanks, there is more space for other uses in the home and retro-fitting old homes is not a problem.

Tankless water heaters qualify for tax credits and energy rebates. For more information:

www.energystar.gov

by Erik Richardson

Making Packaging Eco-Friendly







Frito Lay has showed great innovation by creating a plant based bag for Sun Chips that is due to be on the market by Earth Day 2010. The bag is expected to be fully compostable from home and made from renewable resources.

In addition, HP has designed a laptop that come in a messenger bag and Jedlicka Design has redesigned its CD spindles and memory card packaging by using fewer materials.

Clearly, these companies are thinking of ways to use packing to the marketing advantage without being harmful to the environment. Because the bags that house the Sun Chips will be made from renewable, non-petroleum resources, this practice will result in less greenhouse emissions. It will take years to expand this practice throughout the entire Frito Lay product line; however, this is a great start! Including the packing ideas in the innovative ideas of the product at the start of a project will be helpful to continuing to be eco-friendly and expanding this effort.






Greener Design- May 20, 2009



Posted By: Nakita Ragsdale

The Power of Chocolate!


Currently, the world has been introduced to its first Formula 3 racecar made from eco-friendly materials.

The car consists of a biodiesel engine that gets its power from biofuel created from vegetable oil and chocolate waste. In addition, the car is steered by a polymer wheel made from carrots. Many of the components are made from potato starch, flax, and cashew nut shells.

This racer is expected to reach speed up to 144 mph with modifications. It has a BMW turbo diesel engine. Currently the car had reached 60 mph. It is amazing to see the technological advances that result from putting renewable and sustainable resources to use!

Green Design- May 19, 2009
Posted By: Nakita Ragsdale


Making Chicken Feathers Useful


Currently, approximately 11 billion pounds of chicken feathers are used around the world and made into feedstock or thrown away into landfills. Feathers are a major byproduct of chicken production.

Andrew Poole along with his team of Australian researchers from the Commonwealth Research Organization (CSIRO) are working turning this prosperous byproduct into fiber that can be used for clothing and textiles.

The basis of this research is to replace massive production of petrochemical-based synthetic fibers. CSIRO would like to emphasize less use of plant-based cellulosic fibers and more protein fibers.

“Currently the feathers are practically seen as waste,” Poole said. “They are rendered down as a low value stock feed or in some places, I believe, they are dumped. But, the feathers have really good chemical and mechanical properties and are systematically produced in a reliable production pipeline, a huge benefit for any industry that wants to use them” (Green Design- May 8, 2009).
Nakita Ragsdale

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CO2 Getting Better?


Sky-high fuel prices, declining energy use and a slumping economy gave the U.S. its largest annual decline in fossil fuel-based carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since 1982, when emissions fell 5.3 percent. It seems that there is a silver lining to today’s worst economy since the great depression.


The country is making some small steps –baby steps, but there still steps at least – in the right direction for CO2 emissions control. Energy-related CO2 emissions in 2008 fell 2.8 percent compared to the year before, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In comparison Gross Domestic Product (GDP) inched up a modest 1.1 percent in 2008. At the same time, energy demand shrunk 2.2 percent. This means the amount of energy used to produce one unit of GDP dropped 3.3 percent last year.

The decline in carbon dioxide intensity -- the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of GDP -- was even more dramatic at 3.8 percent. Since 1990, U.S. carbon dioxide intensity has plummeted 29.3 percent. The electric power sector is the largest emitter of CO2 in the U.S. Power generation emissions declined 1 percent, due in part to a boost in wind generation. Coal-based emissions fell 1.1 percent.


The EIA also breaks down CO2 emissions by end-user: transportation, residential, commercial and industrial. Fossil fuel-based emissions in each category declined, with the exception of the commercial sector, which includes stores, office and government buildings, schools and hospitals. Emissions in this sector rose 0.5 percent.


Hopefully this reduction in CO2 emissions is a trend that is going to continue for a long time and not just a small blip in time.

Let’s all Eat Seasonal Food!

What’s the most important thing that you do everyday? Yea, that’s right; it is to satisfy your stomach. Now, we have another option to make an effort to create a sustainable life for ourselves by purchasing fresh seasonal food in our local area. Although we have the opportunity to purchase any kind of fruits and vegetables all year round in today’s marketplace, they are not the most sustainable option we have. An important fact about purchasing seasonal food is that you get the freshest fruits and vegetables.

There are a lot of advantages of buying local foods in-season. By purchasing seasonal foods in local area such as farmers’ market, we are significantly eliminating damages caused by shipping and handling food across the country. A lot of foods in global marketplaces are shipped from another country which is thousands of miles away. The environmental damage caused by shipping and packaging is unimaginable.

Also, by purchasing local foods, you are giving money directly to the farmers who did their hard works to grow your sustainable foods. The money is spent more worthwhile in that way. The most important key is that your families are enjoying the healthy foods and benefiting from eating fresh. They also taste a lot better than the processed fruits and vegetables that came from thousands of miles away as well.

However, I understand that making a change in your eating habits can be hard. But we can at least try buying local foods when they are available rather than buying the same kind of food from marketplace that you have no idea about the number of people that have handled and packaged your food before they even get there.

Below I found a seasonal food calendar that will provide information about when and what food is in season.

SEASONAL FOOD CALENDAR

Month
Fruit & vegetables
Fish & meat

January
Cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, forced rhubarb, leeks, parsnips, turnip, shallots, squash
goose, lobster, scallops

February
Cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, chard, chicory, forced rhubarb, kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, spinach, swede, turnip
mussels, halibut, guinea fowl, lobster

March
Beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, mint, mooli, parsley, broccoli, radishes, rhubarb, sorrel
sardines (fresh ones!), lobster

April
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, morel mushrooms, wild garlic, radishes, rhubarb, carrots, kale, watercress, spinach, rosemary flowers
spring lamb, cockles

May
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, gooseberries, parsley, mint, broad beans, rhubarb, new carrots, samphire, asparagus
sea bass, lemon sole, sardines, duck, sea trout

June
carrots, cherries, elderflowers, lettuce, strawberries, peppers, asparagus, redcurrants, peas, rhubarb, gooseberries, tayberries, tomatoes, courgettes, broad beans
welsh lamb, crab, salmon, grey mullet

July
carrots, gooseberries, strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, watercress, loganberries, sage, cauliflower, aubergine, fennel, asparagus, cabbage, celery, cherries, lettuce, mangetout, nectarines, new potatoes, oyster mushrooms, peas, peaches, radish, raspberries, rhubarb, tomatoes, French beans
Trout, pilchards, clams, pike, pigeon

August
carrots, gooseberries, lettuce, loganberries, raspberries, strawberries, cauliflower, aubergines, nectarines, peaches, peppers, courgettes, rhubarb, sweet corn, greengages, basil, peas, pears, apples, French beans, tomatoes
crayfish, hare, skate, john dory

September
apples, aubergines, blackberries, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, damsons, elderberries, figs, French beans, grapes, kale, lettuce, melons mushrooms, nectarines, onions, peppers, parsnips, peas, peaches, pears, potatoes, pumpkin, raspberries, rhubarb, spinach, sweetcorn, tomatoes
duck, venison, oysters, sea bass, grouse, mussels, partridge, wood pigeon, brown trout

October
apples, aubergines, beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, courgettes, grapes, lettuce, marrow, mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, watercress
guinea fowl, partridge, mussels, grouse, oysters

November
cabbage, pumpkin, swede, cauliflower, potatoes, parsnips, pears, leeks, quinces, chestnuts, cranberries, beetroot
grouse, goose

December
Celery, cabbage, red cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, pumpkin, beetroot, turnips, parsnips, sprouts, pears, swede
wild duck, goose, sea bass, turkey



Buying seasonal food also gives you a chance to try a lot of new foods and recipes. Hope we will all be enjoying the freshness from our local foods on our tables soon. Let’s all eat seasonal foods!
-Shuyu Feng

Monday, May 25, 2009

An Argument For Public Transportation


While busses and heavy trucks are generally the least efficient vehicles on the road today, they may very well become the easiest and most cost effective method for reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The option of mass transit through city busses, trains and subways is one that is already in existence in the majority of our most populated urban areas within the continental United States. Considering the fact that only about 10% of those living in urban areas in the U.S. today actually use public transportation as their only means of getting around, there is a tremendous opportunity to greatly increase that amount by offering subsidies, tax incentives and direct marketing programs to people in order to increase ridership of public transportation. There needs to be a catalyst in order to make it happen, but what might that catalyst be, and does it necessarily have to be one of ominous portent?

The U.S. population is approximately 5% of the total world population, yet we emit 25% of the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Of that 25%, 27% comes from transportation. And from that 27% of transportation greenhouse gas emissions, just 10% of those emissions come from public transportation. What this means is that if the world emits about 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day, the U.S. is responsible for 4 million metric tons of that. Of that 4 million metric tons, our automobiles are responsible for over 900,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every day. That’s more than 328,500,000 metric tons per year just in the U.S. alone. If more people take mass transit, we can greatly reduce our consumption, while providing these companies with needed funds in order to upgrade their systems and purchase more vehicles with greater fuel efficiency, such as hybrid and even electric busses. Given the fact that Oregon’s electricity is produced primarily by non-coal technology (hydropower and nuclear, as well as a smattering of solar and wind), we are in a prime position to take advantage of reducing our reliance on carbon based fuels.

In Portland, Oregon, Tri Met has announced a budget shortfall which will cause them to reduce or completely shut down some of the less used bus lines within the metropolitan area. Given the fact that the residents of Portland tout themselves as being one of the most “green minded” individuals in the country, it seems that these budget shortfalls run counter to that mind set. If we Portlanders are so environmentally conscious, why do we continue to clog our streets and freeways with all of those automobiles? If we indeed intend to play our part in the reduction of greenhouse gasses, it’s time to practice what we preach.


Posted by Charles Wilcox

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mindful Consumption


In a country where products are readily available it is easy to over-consume on things that are not really necessary. Every corner we turn, there are places that are more than willing to take our money. With organization at its peak in the United States, we may fall into comfort all too easily and be happy to spend our money on items which we may otherwise not need. It is my concern that we are not stopping to think about the things we consume and the effects they may have.

"Go Green" has turned into trendy rhetoric where some of us may feel like it is ok to consume many things just so long as they are "Green" products. However, going "Green" may not be the answer for everything; perhaps if we simply consume less then we will be doing better for the world than if we consumed "Green" products heavily. American culture has been transformed from freedom of choice into freedom to gain more and rise higher. In a place that seems obsessed with amplification, any notion of decrease seems, well, unproductive. Maybe productivity is not productive if it is in excess though.

What are some things we can do to decrease our consumption then? Sadly, we do not have the power to promote large change in a fast manner, so we must be patient and make decisions with precision and mindfulness. As individuals, we can simply save and reuse items instead of constantly buying new ones. If something breaks, it is often cheaper to fix it on our own than to throw it out and buy something new. Asking ourselves if it is necessary to have that bigger, flatter television if the one we have works fine; sewing torn clothes or taking them to a dry cleaner to get sewn instead of buying all new clothing; pulling ourselves away from the latest fashions to realize that last year's clothes are still wearable and worthwhile.

Instead of acting impulsively or habitually, we can stimulate our minds before making a decision to consume or not to consume. Fast change for the environment may not be possible, but we can be patient and take care of the Here and Now in our lives and in the world.


-Khaled Almazrouei

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Green Heat


What could be more earth friendly to heat your home than the Earth itself? Traditional heat pumps use a heat exchange process to extract heat from the air during the Winter in order to warm your home, and reverses the process during the Summer to cool. A new class of products is even more efficient because it use the warmth of the Earth to heat your home.


As with traditional heat pumps, these geothermal pumps exchange heat from the Earth by circulating water through loops buried beneath the ground and then re-circulating the water back through the house to heat it. This system can also be connected with the water heater to preheat water. This attachment is called a “desuperheater”. This reduces the energy needed to heat the water to optimal use temperature thus also saving money. Studies show that these geothermal pumps are as much as 70 percent energy efficient and have low maintenance costs.


These systems have a higher installation cost than traditional pumps- about $7,500 as opposed to around $4,000 for a regular heat pump. Additionally, there are drilling costs for the piping which can be anywhere from $10,000-$30,000, depending on if new construction and terrain. Depending on the region, these costs can be recouped in about 5-10 years through energy savings. Additionally, there are government tax credits and rebates for the installation of these systems.


-Erik Richardson


http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=geo_heat.pr_geo_heat_pumps

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ARE WOOD STOVES GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?


That depends on the stove you have in your mind's eye. The old-fashioned, pot-belly stoves that appear in most Western movies didn't do the atmosphere any favors. But today's wood burning stoves, engineered with fuel economy in mind, are a different story.

Back in the days of cowboys and general stores, wood stoves could have been mistaken for indoor smokestacks--and that wouldn't have been too far from the truth. But modern stoves are actually one of the "greenest" sources of radiant heat available to home owners today. Here are some of the big reasons why.

Let's start with a little history. In the early 20th century, even the most efficient wood burning stoves left a lot to be desired and it wasn't hard to tell. The smoky haze these stoves produced was a telltale sign that an unknowing home owner was literally giving the torch to his heating budget. Fortunately, there has been a revolution in stove design since those days

Around 1990, there was a growing interest in alternative heating sources, caused by the rising awareness of the impact of fossil fuels (oil, coal) on the environment. In addition, the goal of energy self-sufficiency caused home owners to reevaluate wood stoves as a heating method. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) got involved, instituting demanding emissions standards to make sure that new stoves would be kind to the environment.

As new stoves were produced, engineers incorporated the EPA standards, and the "modern" wood stove came into being. Since 1990, every new wood stove is approved by the EPA, and produces a mere trickle of smoke (2-5 grams per hour) and very little ash. This amounts to a 33 percent increase in fuel efficiency over the old potbelly stoves, and a 90 percent decrease in emissions. In plain English, this means that advanced wood burning stoves burn a lot less wood and are simultaneously kinder to the planet.

At this point, a natural question would be, "Don't wood stoves put pollutants into the atmosphere just like other heating sources--gas, oil, or coal?" The answer is nuanced. When fossil fuels are extracted from the earth and consumed, they release carbon dioxide into the environment at unhealthy levels. And after the monumental costs of extracting and producing these fuels, once they're burned, they're gone for good.

As a fuel source, wood is different on several counts. Trees , like all other green plants, take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and convert it to fiber in order to grow. When trees die, and wood decomposes, this CO2 is released back into the air. But in this case, it is a natural cycle, since all trees eventually die. The same thing is true when wood is burned. Making the wood-burning cycle sustainable is the fact that wood is a renewable source of fuel.

We started this article asking the question, "Are wood stoves good for the environment?" The answer, when you compare stoves to other heating methods, is yes. Today's stoves are fuel efficient: they produce more heat with less wood, keeping emissions to a minimum by meeting strict EPA standards. Best of all, perhaps, they don't deprive the earth of non-renewable fossil fuels.

So, call to mind that rusty, black iron stove you saw in a Western movie, a vacation lodge, or at your grandparents. Then prepare yourself for an updated picture as you explore the world of modern wood stoves. Environmentally speaking, today's stoves are very green.
Tonia Castilleja












Living Green





Living Green Made Simple:
I learned a lot how to live green through the class tin this term . I would like to give some tips about living green . Whether you are newly interested in green living or sustainability guru, our green living checklist will give you ideas for contributing to a healthier environment and a greener life for yourself , your family , and your community. Once you get started , you will be amazed at how many simple changes you can make to live.
How could we change energy user:
Change all your light bulbs to CFL’s or LED’s.
Lower your thermostat and water heater a few degrees.
Insulate your walls and ceilings.
Sign up for green power through your local power provider.
How do we waste and recycle :
Buy products with recyclable or minimal packaging , or better yet , no packaging.
Educate yourself, your family and your employees about recycling , composting and waste reduction.
Think about reusing ,repurposing or donating something before you recycle or throw it away.
How about buildings:
Use local green builders who focus on reducing waste , using non-toxic materials, and energy efficiency.
Get an energy audit for your home or business.
Invest in energy efficient upgrades on existing buildings , to save energy.
Green Transportation:
Walk, bike, carpool or take public transit to work whenever possible.
Drive a fuel efficient or hybrid car or scooter.
Consolidate travel by planning outing for maximum efficiency.
How about pollution:
Switch to eco-friendly cleaning, personal and home products.
Green Community:
Volunteer and donate to environmental and social causes.
Choose to support green businesses whenever possible.
Join environmentally focused council, groups and associations in your areas.
We can add more of these in our list. We all learn how to live green.
By Yasemin Candelen
 

Sunday, May 17, 2009



Grilling With Charcoal Less Climate-friendly Than Grilling With Propane, Study Finds

Do bio-fuels always create smaller carbon footprints than their fossil-fuel competitors? Not necessarily, finds a paper published in Elsevier's Environmental Impact Assessment Review.
The article reports that in the UK, the carbon footprint for charcoal grilling is almost three times as large as that for LPG grilling. (Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), often referred to as propane, is a mixture of mostly propane and butane).


The overwhelming factors behind the difference, notes author Eric Johnson, are that as a fuel, LPG is dramatically more efficient than charcoal in its production and considerably more efficient in cooking. Charcoal is produced by heating wood in a kiln; commercial yields of charcoal are only in the 20-35% range, i.e. most of the rest of the wood is converted to gas and emitted into the atmosphere. Yields of LPG, by contrast, are greater than 90%.

LPG grills are akin to conventional cookers and ovens, in that they have power ratings and can easily be switched on and off. By contrast, charcoal grills do not offer easy mechanisms for regulating fuel consumption, and Johnson explained: "The primary factor in determining fuel consumption is the griller's loading, which is determined by the amount of charcoal that is used along with the quality and quantity of starting-aid that is required. "


Developing countries, primarily in Africa, are likely to be the source of charcoal loaded in the UK, the study points out. Contrary to a claim by the European Commission that "Trade in charcoal from Africa to the EU is not significant," [1] in 2008, the UK imported 80% of its charcoal from developing countries, and 50% of its charcoal from Africa. Nearly 70% of the total import comes from South Africa, Argentina, Namibia and Nigeria.


Forest stocks in the latter three countries are in decline, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization, as they are on a global scale, especially in the developing world.



Environmentally-friendly Refrigerators Coming Soon

Magnetic refrigeration technology could provide a 'green' alternative to traditional energy-guzzling gas-compression fridges and air conditioners. They would require 20-30% less energy to run than the best systems currently available, and would not rely on ozone-depleting chemicals or greenhouse gases. Refrigeration and air conditioning units make a major contribution to the planet's energy consumption - in the USA in the summer months they account for approximately 50% of the country's energy use.
A magnetic refrigeration system works by applying a magnetic field to a magnetic material - some of the most promising being metallic alloys - causing it to heat up. This excess heat is removed from the system by water, cooling the material back down to its original temperature. When the magnetic field is removed the material cools down even further, and it is this cooling property that researchers hope to harness for a wide variety of cooling applications.

The technology, based on research funded in the UK by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), has proved possible in the lab but researchers are still looking for improved materials that provide highly efficient cooling at normal room temperatures, so that the technology can be rolled out from the lab to people's homes and businesses.

They need a material that exhibits dramatic heating and cooling when a magnetic field is applied and removed, which can operate in normal everyday conditions, and which does not lose efficiency when the cooling cycle is repeated time after time.
The new study published May 15 shows that the pattern of crystals inside different alloys - otherwise known as their micro structure - has a direct effect on how well they could perform at the heart of a magnetic fridge. The Imperial College London team behind the new findings say this could, in the future, help them to custom-design the best material for the job.

Professor Lesley Cohen, one of the authors of the paper, explains that by using unique probes designed at Imperial, her team, led by Dr James Moore, was able to analyze what happens to different materials on a microscopic level when they are magnetized and de-magnetized. This enabled the team to pinpoint what makes some materials better candidates for a magnetic fridge system than others.

Professor Cohen, from Imperials Department of Physics, said: "We found that the structure of crystals in different metals directly affects how dramatically they heat up and cool down when a magnetic field is applied and removed. This is an exciting discovery because it means we may one day be able to tailor-make a material from the 'bottom up', starting with the micro structure, so it ticks all the boxes required to run a magnetic fridge. This is vitally important because finding a low-energy alternative to the fridges and air conditioning systems in our homes and work places is vital for cutting our carbon emissions and tackling climate change."
This new research follows on from another study published by the same Imperial group in Physical Review B last month, in which they used similar probing techniques to precisely measure the temperature changes that occur when different materials are removed from a magnetic field, and to analyze the different ways they occur.

The lead scientist Kelly Morrison found that at the molecular level two different temperature change processes, known as first- and second-order changes, happen simultaneously in each material. The team think that the extent to which each of these two processes feature in a material also affects its cooling capabilities.
Professor Cohen says this means that whilst the majority of research to perfect magnetic refrigeration worldwide has tended to involve analyzing and testing large samples of materials, the key to finding a suitable material for everyday applications may lie in the smaller detail:

"Our research illustrates the importance of understanding the micro structure of these materials and how they respond to magnetic fields on a microscopic level," she concluded.

The research was carried out in collaboration with the Ames Laboratory, USA.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Green Buildings

GREEN HOMES:

Green Building has been evolving for decades as a bona fide solution to the climate crisis and worldwide resource depletion, and is unequivocally the future of construction . Green houses are built to save money , carry a higher lifetime value, are more comfortable , quiet healthy , clean , safe and durable than traditionally built homes and consumers know it.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY:
Home energy efficiency has become a key feature of green building . Green homes are ideally oriented to take advantage of natural heating and cooling from solar gain, shading and cross-ventilation. The building envelope ( the continuous system of walls, ceilings and unconditioned spaces) must be well -insulated and air-sealed with highly-performing windows. A green home will have appropriately -sized, highly -efficient, heating and cooling , and energy efficient (preferably tank less) water heaters.

HEALTH STARTS AT HOME:
Healthy homes have good natural day lighting , low or non-toxic paints , stains, finishes and building products , and good natural or mechanical ventilation . Many traditional building materials( press wood products , carpeting and surface finishes , for example)
Can outgas chemical toxins for months or years. Avoiding these products in a home will go a long way toward improving the health and well-being of the occupants. Indoor air quality can also be greatly improved by adding air filtration or cleaning devices.

WASTE NOT; RESOURCE EFFICIENCY
Nothing goes farther to reduce resource consumption than buying or building a smaller home near public transit and neighborhood services. Green homes conserve water by integrating drip irrigation and pervious pavers into outdoor spaces. Low-flow showers and faucets and dual flush toilets save water indoors. A green home might also use reclaimed building materials, and follow a recycling plan to keep waste out of landfills during construction.

U.S. Green Building Council
www.usgbc.org
Energy STAR
www.energystar.gov

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A learning process.

Before I began this class, I was already somewhat environmentally aware. I knew that the amount of driving I did should probably be reduced (by a lot), that my household used products that were a drain of resources, that more things my family used could be recycled, and that though I was aware of these issues, I didn't do much to change it initially. I told myself that it was too much of a hassle to find recycling locations for cans and bottles (I lived in Vancouver, and Washington does not have a bottle/can deposit, and therefore, fewer recycling locations), that there wasn't much I could do, since my roommate and boyfriend probably wouldn't change, and that I would make more of an effort once we moved out on our own.

Well, we didn't move out on our own. Our circumstances were such that my boyfriend and I were forced to move back in with my parents around the same time that this term started. It effected an interesting change, though. My mother had begun a system a few years ago in an effort to be more environmentally positive (and less nobly, to have fewer bills to pay) that revolved entirely around recycling everything possible that came into the house. Initially, I was frustrated because I couldn't remember what went in what bin. However, I saw something that interested me - my mother's system reduced the amount of actual, un-recyclable trash that went out of the house to nearly nothing. Everything is recycled - paper, cardboard, glass, any kind of metal, hard plastics, and all food waste is composted. The only material I have noticed that goes into a larger bin (to be taken to the local dump at a later time) is soft plastics, such as yogurt seals. Not only was the drastic reduction in waste impressive, but her recycling system actually saves her a large amount of time and money. No longer does she pay for garbage service. No more does she have to drag the trash cans out to the end of the driveway.

I came the realization that I was under the misapprehension that recycling was difficult and more expensive. Frequently, I have discovered that not only I, but many other people shared the thought that specifically "recyclable" products were more expensive, when the reality is that more household products, containers, etc. are recyclable than one would think. There are websites that will tell you exactly what kind of plastics are coded for recycling, which I will include at the bottom of this post.

My mind was so drastically changed by this experience that I started thinking about what else we had that could be recycled. I chuckled a little when my boyfriend pointed out that the broken arrows we had (he is an avid archer) could be grouped in the metal bin.

Not only do we follow a recycling system in this house, but just last year, my parents had also installed solar panels on the house. These, unlike the ability to make sure that materials are reused, are cost prohibitive. There are only enough panels on the house to power it about 50% of the time, and cost roughly $10,000 to install. However, we all believe it was worthwhile. The panels have reduced the power bill substantially, and store enough energy to run the water heater for all four adults in the household to shower and then some. My parents' eventual goal is to install another set of solar panels, so that the entire house will be powered by solar energy instead of relying on the power companies, thereby eliminating another bill and providing a much more environmentally-friendly source of energy.

In the long run, slight changes in habits help give environmentally positive results. However, the largest problem in trying to get people to change these habits is education. Far too many people have misconceptions about the financial impact of recycling, thinking that it will cost them more to purchase recyclable materials, when in fact, it will save them money and often, will put money back into their pockets. Many recycling locations will pay for certain materials. Another idea that is worth trying is purchasing used items instead of new - it's not recycling in the sense of reusing the raw materials, but it's also a method that will save people money and put less of a strain on resources. I never thought about it much before, but I do a fair amount of shopping at thrift stores and via eBay, where frequently you're purchasing a used product for a lower price.

Obviously, at this juncture, installing solar panels is not feasible for everyone. While it's a fantastic idea, not everyone has $10,000 to spend on having them installed. But if the power companies could be persuaded to look into cleaner and renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, or tide power, the effects could be enormous.

Right now it is vital to inform everyone of the impacts they have on the environment. People can no longer stand idly by and ignore the problem. I wish everyone could have an epiphany like I did, but hopefully the website we're working on will have a similar effect. I hope we can change peoples' minds and show them that it doesn't take a massive change to be just a little more environmentally positive.


Oregon Department of Energy, Business Energy Tax Credit Info:

http://www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/CONS/BUS/BETC.shtml


Solar Panel Information:

http://www.solarpanelinfo.com/


Portland Electronics Recycling Info:

http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=10755


Portland Metro, Recycling at Home:

http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=13638


Portland Metro, Find-A-Recycler (has a guide on how to recycle ANYTHING you can think of):

http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=1383


PGE's claim that they are working on making 25% of their energy come from renewable resources by 2025 (do note that they don't specify what that renewable source is):

http://www.portlandgeneral.com/community_and_env/environment/green_power/renewable_energy_standard.aspx


-Claire Craig-Sheets

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Where are our points?




Posted by Shuyu Feng

How can we help reducing contributions to the current environmental problems? A lot of companies now are offering green products and energy saving products, but they are so expensive. How can people afford buying those products while our economy is not doing so well these days? As I was surfing the internet last week, I found out that Japan actually pays their people to encourage energy saving. I think that is an excellent idea for Japan’s government has in helping both the environment and economy.

The program that Japan started is called Kyoto Eco-Action Points Program. The general idea is for people to save energy and earn points. This great program actually started in October 2008. A committee for environmentally friendly activities in Kyoto which is called Kyoto Carbon Dioxide Reduction Bank, issued points to families based on the amount of CO2 they reduced. People are able to earn points when they reduced certain amount of CO2 in their energy consumption, such as usage from electricity and gas. These points that they saved up then can be used as shopping credits at participating stores locally. The Kyoto Eco-Action Points program is actually the first program in Japan which mainly aimed to significantly reduce the energy consumptions for households and CO2 emissions for the country as a whole

The Eco-Action Points Program also issued points for individuals in purchasing energy-saving products or services. Customers can exchange earned points for energy-saving products and services as well. Points were given to families that install solar energy equipment, such as solar water heating systems and photovoltaic power generation systems at their homes. Households that make an effort to reduce their electricity and gas consumptions on their bills will receive points based on how much less energy they used. The results then will be compared to the same month from last year. Households would have opportunity to look over how they did. It’s fortunate for Japanese to have such a great program in contributing to the environment. It’s always good to see what other countries are doing and learn from their good practices. The points from this program not only encourage people to use energy efficient products; it also teaches people how they can make an impact to the world we are living in.


So now, what about our points? Don’t we also need a program like this in America? Don’t you want a green home yourself with a lot of fancy energy-saving electronics? Yes, we need to make this happen. We must show our efforts in reducing environmental problem. We need to show everyone else on the globe that we Americans care. Our behaviors do count, and we do have the ability to make a change. We can do this by sharing this great idea to friends and families, and promote it with letters to congressmen. Share this with your employers; perhaps they can get it start in your departments today. I believe we will make a change. Start small, and we’ll make it big. Our points are waiting for our actions. So act now!


- Japan's Environment Ministry Selects Projects for Eco-Action Points Program http://www.japanfs.org/en/pages/027112.html

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ethanol Fuel From Corn

Posted by Mia Nguyen

Several studies compared the total energy that goes into making ethanol gas from corn, such as harvesting and refining with the energy needed to produce gasoline from fossil fuels. The researchers ended up with a conclusion: Not only does corn-based ethanol gas reduce petroleum use by 95 percent, it also reduces greenhouse gas emission about 13 percent.

Kammen-a researcher-told LiveScience, “Making ethanol from corn is a good thing if you want to offset fossil fuels from overseas. On the greenhouse gas side of things, it is not clear if corn, as grown today, is a good thing. We just don’t know yet, but it appears to be a mildly good thing.”

Brazil has converted nearly all its cars and gas pumps to run on a 96 percent ethanol duel produced from sugarcane. They have already seen the benefits of sugarcane fuel- it is cleaner burning and it is half the price of imported gasoline.
In the US, some 5 million of the cars and trucks on the road are “flex-fuel”, however, there are very few pumps offering ethanol fuel.

With world energy and food demands increasing, do you think we should convert the entire economy to corn-based ethanol?




Switchgrass, Corn, Mustard? Where’s my next tank of gas coming from?


In the ever expanding need to diminish greenhouse gas emissions, the best alternative to coal and petroleum seems to change with the ocean’s tides. What is the best alternative? Solar, wind, biofuel, hydrogen, ocean tides? Scientists are working on a seemingly unending supply of different plants and plant materials in order to come up with inexpensive and viable alternatives to the petroleum based fuels that help to proliferate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). In preparing for this posting, I have found some interesting research being conducted in the arena of switchgrass, a perennial native to the U.S. heartland, that has left me with more questions than answers as to how we might be able to find alternative fuels which would not only control GHG’s, but also help to reduce them by simply growing the plants. This posting will show how ethanol and electricity produced by swithchgrass may very well lead us to the green revolution that we all seek.

The other evening I was watching a program on television on fuel alternatives. It was probably either Discovery Channel or History Channel or something along those lines, but that’s beside the point. One thing that caught my eye during this program was an alternative to corn based ethanol and the research currently being conducted to test the viability of the product. Switchgrass, a perennial native to the U.S. was once a plant so abundant that it spread from one coast to the other. As the nation grew west and the mid-west evolved from a vast savannah to the nation’s bread basket, switchgrass became a hardy invader to be destroyed. However today, the hardy plant which grows even on marginal land in abundance is being studied as an alternative not only to petroleum based fuels, but to corn ethanol fuel as well.

Because all plant material is largely composed of cellulose (which is in turn composed of long-chain complex sugars), scientists are conducting methods that would be able to efficiently break down cellulose into simple sugars that can then be fermented and turned into ethanol to fuel our cars and generate electricity as well. This process is called cellulosic fermentation and, while today remains a highly expensive alternative to corn base ethanol production, it is becoming less expensive every day as newer extraction methods are being developed.

So what does this mean for all those who wish for alternative fuel to power our lives? According to research done by M.R. Schmer, K.P. Vogel, R.B. Mitchell and R.K. Perrin for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, switchgrass has the potential to create 540% more renewable than non-renewable energy through carbon sequestration, and can help to reduce GHG’s by upwards of 85%, while corn based ethanol essentially does not help reduce greenhouse gas emissions at all simply because of the fuel used in the production process which offsets any environmental benefits from converting corn to ethanol. Switchgrass poses not nearly as much of this problem, and in fact the by-products of the cellulosic fermentation process can be used to generate electricity, further offsetting GHG’s.

So why doesn’t the government help finance research into switchgrass production as a fuel alternative? Actually it is, to the tune of over $300 million. There are several companies, both here and abroad, dedicated to the purpose of refining the process of cellulosic fermentation not just in switchgrass, but other cellulose based products as well, such as rice hay and forestry biomass. What remains is for the general public to become more aware of this fuel alternative and to send letters to their elected officials demanding that more research be conducted. The scientists have done the research and have concluded that the process of cellulosic fermentation may very well be the best shot we have at offsetting greenhouse gas emissions without limiting our reliance on automotive transportation. It’s up to all of us to take heed.

Posted by Charles Wilcox

Thursday, May 7, 2009





What is renewable energy?Renewable energy is sourced from the sun, wind, water and waste, all of which produce limited greenhouse gas emissions.

What is accredited renewable energy?Today around 90 per cent of electricity generated in Australia is still generated from the burning of fossil fuels. The benefit of accredited renewable energy is that it does not burn fossil fuels like coal or natural gas which add greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere and contribute to climate change. The accreditation means that an independent third party ensures these renewable energy products meet a certain standard.

What environmental benefits should accredited renewable energy deliver?For the energy you use, purchasing accredited
renewable energy should:
• cut your greenhouse gas emissions;
• reduce your contribution to climate change;
• help drive demand for greener energy; and
• develop the renewable energy sector, helping it to compete with less costly, but more polluting coal and gas based generation.


Where does the electricity go?
Your purchase of accredited renewable energy does not mean your electricity will come directly from a renewable source to your property. Instead the equivalent amount of new renewable energy is added to the electricity grid on your behalf every year so you will be responsible for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

I myself have not been up to date on alot of this information I have ran into. For example:

What Is GreenPower?

GreenPower is a national government renewable energy accreditation program which organises publicly available independent auditing of energy provider sales and purchase records. Accredited GreenPower products are available from all Australian energy providers. GreenPower is run by the NSW Government on behalf of Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia Governments.


Choosing a GreenPower product

 Look for the GreenPower logo to make sure the product is GreenPower accredited and delivers the best environmental standards.

 Check what proportion of the product is GreenPower. You can choose what
percentage (10, 20, 25, 50, 75 or 100 per cent) of your electricity account you would like to come from GreenPower to best suit your budget. It is recommended that you buy 100 per cent GreenPower products for the elimination of all your electricity-related greenhouse gas emissions.

 The percentage of accredited GreenPower should be clearly displayed in the retailers’ marketing material and included as part of the GreenPower logo.


Tonia Castilleja

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7? Which One is Safe?


Posted by Kelly Wu

It is plastic that we are talking about here. The controversial health concern on how safe is plastic is not something new, especially with plastic water bottle. Plastic is made with all sorts of chemical, but one ingredient that raises the most concern is bisphenol-a (BPA). If the plastic is used as a food container, BPA can leach out of the plastic and the food is consumed by human can caused a side effect to our body’s hormones function. [Source: HowStuffWorks] So what is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7? How does it related to BPA?

In 1988, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) developed the SPI Resin Identification Coding System. The original goal of this coding system is for recycling purpose by categorizing plastic into 7 different categories based on the polymer used. [Source: SPI] Below is the table of the 7 different types of plastic, theirs polymer name, and their common food product applications.

SPI Resin Identification Coding System [Source: American Chemistry Council]
Symbol
Polymer name
Food Product Applications
1Polyethylene terephthalate
  • Plastic bottles for soft drinks, water, juice, sports drinks, beer, mouthwash, catsup and salad dressing.
  • Food jars for peanut butter, jelly, jam and pickles.
  • Ovenable film and microwavable food trays.
2High density polyethylene
  • Bottles for milk, water, juice, cosmetics, shampoo, dish and laundry detergents, and household cleaners.
  • Bags for groceries and retail purchases.
  • Cereal box liners.
3Polyvinyl chloride
  • Flexible packaging uses include bags for bedding and medical, shrink wrap, deli and meet wrap and tamper resistance.
4Low density polyethylene
  • Bags for bread, frozen foods, fresh produce, and household garbage.
  • Shrink wrap and stretch film.
  • Coatings for paper milk cartons and hot and cold beverage cups.
  • Container lids.
  • Squeezable bottles (e.g., honey and mustard).
5Polypropylene
  • Containers for yogurt, margarine, takeout meals, and deli foods.
  • Medicine bottles.
  • Bottle caps and closures.
  • Bottles for catsup and syrup.
6Polystyrene
  • Food service items, such as cups, plates, bowls, cutlery, hinged takeout containers (clamshells), meat and poultry trays, and rigid food containers (e.g., yogurt).
  • Protective foam packaging for delicate items.
7Other plastics, including acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, fiberglass, nylon, polycarbonate, and polylactic acid
  • Three- and five-gallon reusable water bottles, some citrus juice and catsup bottles.
  • Oven-baking bags, barrier layers, and custom packaging.


Majority of the products make with plastic should have the SPI Resin Identification Code symbol on them to inform recyclers on what can be recycled, but consumers can also use this symbol to understand what the plastic container is made of to prevent potential health hazard. For example, plastic with BPA is considered as #7 plastic. While BPA is known to cause side effect to our body’s hormones functions, what about other types of plastic? Which one is safe for our health?

The answer is none or we don’t know yet. “I used to say: ‘4, 5, 1, and 2. All the rest are bad for you.’ Now, I’m not saying that anymore. We don’t know about 4, 5, 1, or 2. This raises questions about all plastic bottles,” said Martin Wagner, an ecotoxicologist at Goethe University in Frankfurt, who finds that PET plastic also has similar side effect as BPA when it was tested on snails. [Source: Discovery News] His experiment is to test plastic bottle water against tap water and does find that estrogenic compounds are found in plastic bottle water. “It’s too soon to say whether drinking out of PET plastic bottles is harmful to human health, but it now appears possible that some as-yet unidentified chemicals in these plastics have the potential to interfere with [our health].”

So what are our options and alternatives to plastic? The only way to avoid health concerns with plastic is to minimize its use, but even some of the non-plastic container does have traces of plastic in it. Canned foods, cartons milk, or aluminum bottles are lined with some kind of plastic materials, and “plastics manufacturers do not deny that BPA is found widely in canned foods and beverages and is routinely ingested.” [Source: The Green Guide] Glass container seems like is the only container that is safe in term of not having unknown chemical leaching into the food, but no matter what we do, this is very difficult to avoid as plastic exists in so much aspect of our lives. From candy wrappers to toys, or cell phone and computer mouse, we are always in close contact with some kind of plastics. These may not have a threat to our health at this moment, but this is always an unknown until some scientists decide to look into it more, so the best we can do is to increase our awareness and pay attention to any plastic thing we use.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Shipping, The Economy, The Environment, and You

Posted by Dylan Ribb

I work for a fairly well known company in the Portland area. I handle inventory control and Shipping and Receiving. I see a lot of products come in that say “Eco”, “Green”, “Environmentally Friendly”, and other green buzzwords all over them. This, I would imagine, is an attempt to cater to those who are eco-conscious and want to purchase products that are environmentally friendly. I would say that good portions of our customers consider this when they make a purchase, and as such the marketing ploy seems to be quite effective. What is ironic to me is the fact that these products usually come covered in layers upon layers of plastic and are shipped with boxes full of Styrofoam peanuts and plastic packing materials. Not only are the products sealed in plastic packaging, but they also have an extra layer of plastic around them to make sure that the packaging doesn’t get any unnecessary dings, and then it shoved into more plastic to make sure they don’t get broken in shipping. Additionally, almost all of them come from China. I would say that I see about 20 boxes a day packed like this. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find this kind of backwards in terms of what the company is saying they support and what they are actually showing with their packaging and shipping methods. Not only does this see far from “Eco-friendly”, it also seems downright expensive.

In contrast, the last company that I worked for had very different shipping methods. They were a company that focused on “Peace” oriented products that are made from recycled glass and other recycled materials. This company, rather than buying boxes, recycles the boxes that are given to them by friends of employees or customers. They do use packing peanuts and plastic bubble-wrap, but only sparingly and usually it’s recycled in a similar way to the boxes. We also have to consider that a glass sphere actually has a need to be protected, whereas a piece of Chinese plastic probably isn’t nearly as fragile. They also used shredded newspapers, recycled cardboard, recycled brown paper, recycled cardstock for their signs, and other more “eco friendly” materials to ship their products. Not only did this enhance the image that they were trying to portray, but it also saved them a LOT of money.

How does this relate to us as individuals? I’d say it’s pretty clear. The next time you go out to ship Christmas presents or birthday gifts, consider how much you might be saving in terms of money and environmental impact if you decided to use recycled brown paper instead of bubble wrap and Styrofoam. Consider how much you might save in terms of boxes if, instead of buying a box from the UPS store, you found some old boxes in your or your neighbors garage and used those to send out your packages. This also goes for companies. If you run a company, don’t break down your boxes and throw them in the dumpster. Call around and see if anyone needs some recycled boxes, or better yet, use them to ship your own products and cut your materials costs significantly rather than cutting someone’s hours or salary. Not only will your wallet feel better, but so may your conscience.