At the federal level, the US tends to rely on various forms of tax incentives to spur consumer demand for energy efficiency and renewable installations. States and cities have tended to be a bit more creative in providing forms of up-front cost support, such as property tax financing and loan programs. Perhaps the feds should take a look at approach the new British government floated in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech: a “pay-as-you-save” loan program.
Cajun-style oil spill clean-up, solar powered iPod speakers, and beer cans that convert to cups… your green tech finds for the week.
- Low-tech oil clean-up: Louisiana shrimper Alex Pellegrin didn’t wait for others to come up with ideas for cleaning up the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Using shrimp netting and “blue roof” tarp, he designed a prototype for an oil skimmer.
- Mayans were the OGBs: That’s “Original Green Builders.” Archaeologists, with help from NASA, “…have ‘unearthed’ a complete ancient Mayan city that employed a system of green urban architecture.”
No doubt, you’ve heard stories about the evangelical “creation care” movement, and perhaps even efforts by Jewish and Islamic groups to incorporate environmental practices and teachings into the practice of their faiths. But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka the Mormons)? Well, they do ride bicycles when knocking on doors…
Turns out the Mormons have been thinking green in terms of their meetinghouses and buildings for quite some time… and a new pilot project involves putting solar panels on churches.
Got a student at home trying to make the big choice of a college to attend? Are schools’ commitments to sustainability a part of his/her criteria for choosing one?
If so, your budding collegian isn’t alone: according to the Princeton Review’s 2009 College Hopes & Worries Survey (which solicited information from college applicants and their parents), “66 percent of respondents said they would value having information about a college’s commitment to the environment. Moreover, of that cohort, 24 percent said such information would ‘very much’ impact their decision to apply to or attend the school.”
But where do you find this information?
Omega Center for Sustainable Living, Rhinebeck, NY
Yesterday was Earth Day and the blogosphere was abuzz with all the handy, dandy and most often meaningless catchphrases that abound in our newly environmentally conscious world (see, I just dropped one myself). Keep in mind that however good Earth Day is at making more people more aware of their environment (I saw a homeless man use one of his own plastic bags at a deli counter), it was invented by an ad man, just like Valentine’s Day and Secretary’s Day (now Administrative Assistant’s Day). So if you want to join in the fun of hyphenating your words with eco- and green- take a minute to learn what it really means.
Kroon Hall in Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT
Lesson 1: Architecture. The AIA (American Institute of Architecture) recently announced the Top Ten Green Buildings of 2010. But before we take a look at the winners, let’s go over the criteria:
If people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, can people who live in plastic houses throw whatever they want? Actually, yes, if the house is made of polli-bricks, which hold seven world records in green construction. The polli-brick is a self-interlocking brick that can be used for a variety of purposes, from lighting design to the walls of actual, livable buildings. Its honeycomb-like structure provides thermal and sound retention and it’s made from plastic recycled with a minimal carbon footprint through a “mature PET bottle recycling and manufacturing process.” It’s being hailed as “the world’s lightest, movable, breathable environmental miracle,” and it looks good too. Still skeptical? Check out the Fashion Pavilion at the Taipei International Expo later this year (or just look at these pictures).
Nestled at the foot of a low mountain range in Emigration Canyon at the edge of a 200-acre camp site in Salt Lake City, UT lies the first private residence in the state to achieve LEED Silver certification. The 2,500 square foot structure features an operable wall that can be moved to instantly transform the…
Ink-saving fonts, energy-producing homes, and pedal-powered prison television… here are your green tech finds.
- No package? No pick up…: Sounds like a lead-up to dating advice, but it’s actually the concept behind UPS’ new Smart Pickup service for small and medium-sized businesses. Customers use a tracking service so that drivers only stop to pick up packages when there are some… (via SmartPlanet)
- The font’s the thing…: Want to save printer ink? Change your font.
What do you do with food scraps? OK, some of them probably go into the trash can or garbage disposal, but you may also compost vegetable and fruit peelings and leftovers. If you’re really die-hard, you may even use a bokashi system, which allows you to compost meat and dairy scraps.
Lots of solar and phone news this week in our green tech finds…
Solar for renters: Landlord won’t put up solar panels? No problem… the “solar garden” concept is catching on from Sacramento to St. George, Utah (as well as points East). (via HuffPo Green)
Green wireless systems: Feel kind of silly when your sprinkler system starts running during a rain storm? That just one wasteful scenario People Power believes its new wireless application development platform could be harnessed to address. (via Green Technology at TMCNet)
Since 2005, the tiny town of Reynolds, Indiana, has been hard at work developing itself into Biotown USA. This designation awarded by the state government meant that Reynolds would become a hub for energy experimentation… particularly in using agricultural wastes and byproducts to power the community.
State-level budget crunches are taking their toll on local school systems, with many resorting to layoffs and service cutbacks to stretch funds. The Los Angeles Unified School District is no different: a quick scan of their news releases shows the board approving layoffs, and the district’s superintendent proposing a shorter school year and even taking furlough days.
LAUSD is also considering some more unusual, and more sustainable, approaches to making ends meet: cutting energy and water use through the implementation of green building and transportation.
The Earthship, the radical, self-contained housing concept created by architect Michael Reynolds (and documented in the film GARBAGE WARRIOR), has become a worldwide phenomenon: over 1000 of these buildings now exist around the world. Many of them, despite their location, still bear a striking resemblance to the original Earthships first built in the New Mexico desert… just take a look at the photo above of one in Brighton, England. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a group of Northern Irish advocates for sustainable housing would like to see the concept reflect a European aesthetic… and are challenging students at the University of Ulster to come up with designs for a European Earthship.
Many critics of environmentalism accuse greenies of “wanting to take us back to the 19th century.” Residents of Quinhagak, Alaska, appear to be OK with that idea… or going back even further … at least in terms of their housing stock.
Turns out that many of the homes in this small village on the Bering Sea are in bad shape: recent engineering reports showed “…that a sample-test of 55 houses built in the 1970s showed that many were ‘unsafe for occupancy’ because of such problems as rotting beams and moldy walls.” These same houses are also really expensive to heat in the winter — a homeowner may use as much as 750 gallons of heating oil a year. Village leaders decided something had to be done, and commissioned the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) in Fairbanks to design a plan for a house that would meet the needs of Quinhagak residents… without costing an arm and a leg.
New skins for old buildings, hybrid race cars, and solar chargers that work inside… your green tech finds for the week.
- Reskinning old buildings: New green buildings are great, but what about older, existing structures? Australia-based Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) has conceived of a building “skin” that “which could create a microclimate, cooling the building inside,” and could contain all sorts of sustainable goodies like solar panels and rainwater collection systems. (via Fast Company)
- Poop to carbon capture: West Virginia chicked farmer Josh Frye is trying to do his part to curb climate change — and make a little extra money — by turning chicken manure into biochar.
If you’re thinking about any kind of home improvement or renovation, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the array of “green” choices out there. Paints, appliances, building materials, decor items… there are lots of products claiming green cred.
Of course, longevity is one of the key elements of product sustainability, so you need paints, appliances, building materials and decor items to work… and to work for your lifestyle. Architect and LEED AP Maia Kumari Gilman has a post up at Green-Buildings.com that provides an overview of some of the products she’s worked with, and which ones she really likes (and doesn’t). Among the winners:
While the 2009 Solar Decathlon officially wrapped up yesterday, the winners of the solar-powered home design competition were announced Friday morning. While sixteen of the twenty student teams hailed from the US, an international competitor took the gold: Team Germany received the highest number of points, and scored a repeat of its ’07 win.
With all of the talk of green jobs as a source of recovery from the economic doldrums, and climate change as a top priority for legislative action, the timing couldn’t be better for the next edition of the Solar Decathlon. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, this event brings twenty teams of college students from around the world together every two years to compete not in running, jumping, and throwing, but designing, building, and displaying a home that runs completely on solar energy.
Avoid road rage, build your own house, and blow up your solar panels… all in this week’s green tech finds.
Ethanol from waste gases: Australian company LanzaTech won the Green Technology Innovator of the Year award at the Asia Pacific Industrial Technologies Awards in Singapore for its technology that captures waste gases from steel mills for recycling into ethanol.
Build your own green house… Lego style: German company HIB has developed a kit building system that works an awful lot like Legos, and creates a well-insulated, soundproof, and non-toxic frame for almost any style of house. (via Springwise)
Turns out that Madison, Wisconsin’s Benedictine sisters aren’t the only ones greening their house of worship: churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples around the US are implementing a range of green building and energy saving features. In most cases, they’re driven by religious imperatives; cost-savings likely play a role, too. The federal government’s even trying to encourage this behavior: Environmental Leader noted today that congregation buildings are now eligible for ENERGY STAR status.
Solar power is one of the first things most of us consider when trying to cut our energy costs and lighten our carbon footprints. Religious congregations are no different… here are a handful that have added solar features to their houses of worship.
The First Presbyterian Church of Washingtonville, NY, has been heating the building with DIY solar systems for over 30 years!
Bridgeview, Illinois’ Mosque Foundation added solar water heating in 2008, making it the first mosque in the US to adopt solar technology.
Yesterday, the Holy Wisdom Monastery in Madison, Wisconsin, held its first mass in a new 30,000 square-foot building that may be the greenest in the country. The Benedictine Women of Madison‘s new home features “Geothermal heating and cooling; solar panels; windows that open and natural lighting in all occupied spaces; rain gardens; roof gardens; tankless water heaters; and a slew of reused furniture including a renovated organ…” The sisters believe their new building has a “high probability” of receiving 63 of 69 LEED points, which would beat out the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center (also in Wisconsin), the current top dog of the US green building scene.
Can the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid really deliver 230 mpg? Can you power your DVD player with your exercise bike? Answers to these questions and more in this week’s green tech finds…
- Powering up with your bicycle: Exercise bikes aren’t just good for keeping fit; many people are figuring out innovative ways to harness that power and create electricity.
- A showcase green home in Silicon Valley: Eco-entrepreneur Marc Porat has turned his 1936 English Tudor Revival home into a carbon-neutral showcase of green tech.
Solar panels are certainly sexier than insulation, and new LEED-certified buildings look better on the front page than aging houses. Are aesthetics the main reason that newer technologies and practices get all the attention, while retrofits and efficiency upgrades are relegated to the sidelines of most conversations about a clean energy future?
From Spain to Toledo, green tech stories are popping up everywhere. Here’s your round-up for the week.
- Electric vehicles are winners on CO2 emissions: DVICE crunches the numbers, and finds that, even when electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, EVs produce less CO2 than gas-powered cars. (via AutoBlog Green)
- Solar Mudhens: Rust-belt poster child Toledo, OH, is on its way to reinventing itself as a hub of solar manufacturing.
Elephant poop, chicken feathers, and iPhone apps… that’s the stuff of good green tech stories!
Smart water: You’ve heard all about smart electrical grids… now Rotterdam, in partnership with IBM, is working on a smart water management system. (via Fast Company)
Transformers 3 — The Solar Edition? No greenlights on the movie yet, but these cool 6-toys-in-1 solar-powered robots can introduce your kids to the wonders of solar power (via The Fun Times Guide to Living Green and Inhabitots).