We got some rain this weekend, but I can still count the number of this Summer’s rainfalls on one hand. While our drought situation will affect everything from food to gas prices, it’s still only one year: Unless these conditions really becomes the “new normal,” we Midwesterners will probably continue to assume that water will be available to meet our needs (as we currently define them). Back in my old stomping grounds of the desert Southwest, though, drought conditions have been in place for more than a decade. While the warnings I remember hearing about water literally running out for places like Las Vegas haven’t come to pass, the Colorado River system is severely strained: The river that defines the region generally does not make it all the way to its delta in the Gulf of California before it dries up.
If you can power your phone with sunlight, and carry water purification equipment on your back, is there any need for large-scale, dirty utilities in the developing world? Those ideas and more in this week’s green tech finds.
What’s your neighborhood’s Bike Score?: The five-year-old Walk Score online service, which rates walkability of neighborhoods, cities, and addresses, now offers a similar metric for bicyclists. The new Bike Score is available in ten cities (and, apparently, Minneapolis is more bike-friendly than Portland – who’da thunk it?). (via The Atlantic Cities)
It’s Earth Week again, and, more and more, we treat this event as a sort of green New Year’s Day: what changes can I make to benefit the natural environment? For many of us Americans, the answer could be as simple as “take a walk.”
It turns out that Americans walk less than the citizens of any other industrialized nation. Unless we live in dense urban centers, we drive to work, drive to the store, and often even drive to places to, well, take a walk. Despite this being the most natural of activities, we design it out of our daily lives: how many suburban subdivisions have sidewalks, much less stores, restaurants, and other destinations within walking distance. Shoot, we even speed it up when we have to do it: think of the moving walkways in airports.
Heard that the light bulb that won $10 million from the government will still cost you $50? Wonder if the UK’s watering ban will really make a difference in terms of water savings? Read on: we’ve got the facts on these questions and more in this week’s green tech finds.
Just because we’re all trying to stay warm right now doesn’t mean that some techies aren’t thinking about cold – or at least cool. From climate-friendly freezers to arguments for space heating, we’ve got what’s cool – and what’s cold.
CES and the Detroit Auto Show are going on this week, and we’ve got finds from both!
The tiny electric pick up: Need to haul stuff? You won’t get much into the Smart For-Us, but, as Charis Michelsen at Gas 2.0 points out, it’s awfully cute, and may serve the actual hauling needs of most truck drivers.
Your plants are Tweeting: And they’re thirsty. That’s right: the Botanicalls gadget (not sure what else to call it) sends you a tweet when your plants need watering. Only marginally green, but kind of cool. (via Crisp Green)
Lots of green tech on wheels this week: Ford’s concept e-bike, Peugeot’s tiny electric car, and the Air Force’s big move towards EV adoption.
Ford getting into the bicycle business? Maybe: the company released an e-bike concept at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The frame weighs in at a very light 5.5 pounds, and the electric assist motor can run for 53 miles. (via Matter Network and Rodale)
The printed bicycle: The Aerospace Innovation Centre’s bicycle concept on display at the London Design Festival is made from nylon and created by a process similar to 3D printing. The result: a lightweight frame that’s supposedly as strong as steel. (via Do the Green Thing)
While I don’t have numbers at my fingertips, I’d be willing to bet that most new LEED certified commercial buildings fall into the office space category: corporate headquarters or other buildings in which lots of people work behind desks. There’s nothing wrong with that; These structures certainly use plenty of energy and water, and elements of green building such as the focus on daylighting and air quality make for more pleasant and productive workplaces.
But what about those buildings where products are manufactured, processed and/or distributed? In many cases, these are the real resource hogs sorely in need of, at the very least, a good green retrofitting. And new structures built around resource efficiency can be real cost savers for their owners.
As a musician who tours by bike and train with the Pleasant Revolution, and also powers performances by pedaling, Heather Normandale already has a lot of green cred. But her environmentalism doesn’t stop with her methods of traveling or amplification; She also finds the inspiration for her music in the natural world. Her current project looks to the source of all life on the planet: water.
Feeling paralyzed by news of environmental challenges like climate change, water shortages, and biodiversity loss? Fed up with political inaction and posturing on these issues? Groups of people around the world have decided to take matters into their own hands, and the transition movement represents efforts to by towns, villages, and even countries to adapt to changing environmental circumstances, to lighten their impact, and to even create more meaningful ways of life.
Lots of solar news this week… from a new efficiency record, to solar company corporate responsibility rankings, to a DIY solar cooker.
- Solar powered washing machines: They’re just one part of a test to see if people are ready for the smart grid in Breda, The Netherlands. (via Crisp Green)
- ENERGY STAR certification for senior facilities: Living and care facilities for elders are now among new commercial building types eligible for ENERGY STAR certification (via Earth Techling)
- Floating solar panels: “Offshore renewables” has generally meant wind or wave power, but an Australian company has developed a prototype for floating solar panels… and Indian company Tata Power is going to give the concept a go. Check out the Liquid Solar Array in action above. (via Calfinder’s Residential Solar blog)
- Plastic bottle schools: Plastic bottles get recycled into all sorts of consumer products… but the Bottle Schools Project is turning them into literal building blocks for schools in the developing world. (via Springwise and @COSEnergy)
This Saturday, April 2nd, is National PB&J Day. While such an event seems aimed at our sense of childhood nostalgia, the folks at the PB&J Campaign have latched on to it (they didn’t add it to the calendar… they swear) as an opportunity to get us all thinking about the environmental impact of our lunch choices.
Lots of solar this week… plus an app for Earth Hour, and lighter footprints for U.S. embassies.
- Water, water everywhere: It’s World Water Week, and this cool new interactive map and tool allows you to explore water supplies and consumption by country, and to see the embodied water in a wide range of products. (via @togethergreen)
- The Earth Hour app: Earth Hour 2011 is this Saturday… and this year, while the lights are off, you can check in on activities around the world with the Earth Hour iPhone app. (via The Alternative Consumer)
A couple of weeks ago, I looked at New York City’s efforts to provide disadvantaged youth with green job skills through its MillionTreesNYC initiative. On the other side of the country, a non-profit organization is also helping young people develop the skills they’ll need to take advantage of green job opportunities… by sending them out into their neighborhoods to help residents save energy, water, and money.
Raise a glass of Guinness to St. Paddy… and to a couple of Irish green tech finds this week.
Social gaming app for saving energy: JouleBug, a social gaming iPhone app for saving energy, was released this week at SXSW.
ENERGY STAR certified buildings increase by nearly 60%: That’s just one finding from this week’s release of its third annual report on the top 25 cities for ENERGY STAR certified buildings.
An electric unicycle, iPad recycling, and creating your own bike lane on the go… this week’s green tech finds.
- California farmers leading the way on renewables: According to the USDA’s new On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Survey, “California farms and ranches now make up more than 20 percent of all operations in the nation with solar, wind and methane digester use.” (via Calfinder’s Residential Solar blog)
- Harvesting energy from slow tides: That’s the concept behind Minesto UK’s Deep Green technology, a “kite-like device [which] is tethered to the seabed and is steered by a rudder, which allows it to adjust the speed at which water enters the turbine.” The UK’s Carbon Fund has awarded Minesto £350,000 to test the device.
We greenies just love our reusable water bottles… with good reason: bottled water provides little benefit at a high price, and creates a ton of waste (only 20% of which gets recycled). Refilling those bottles on the go can be a challenge, though. Sure, you can use a water fountain, but they’re designed for direct drinking… so refilling a bottle can be a slow process.
The Ecology Club and Office of Sustainability at the University of Georgia have addressed this problem head on with the installation of three water bottle filling stations in the Odum School of Ecology building.
Green tech spanning the globe, from Ohio to New York City to Algeria… your finds for the week.
What’s up with switchgrass: Remember all the discussion about biofuels produced from switchgrass? The talk’s died down, but the experimentation hasn’t… but there are still some arguments out there about the efficiency of this feedstock.
Ohio’s green economy: Ohio? Really? While it’s still small and growing, this Rust Belt state made the most of the manufacturing infrastructure already in place to create green jobs. (via Calfinder’s Residential Solar blog)
Water & Rocks, New Zealand from Metron on Vimeo. When posting my favorite Vimeo video of the week round these parts I find myself returning to moving, ethereal short films focusing on natural beauty. This week’s choice, Water & Rocks, is one of those types. As I have two friends in New Zealand now I…
Fuel cells, iPhone apps, and chicken coops… this week’s green tech finds.
The fuel cell that does… everything: Think fuel cells are just for energy? Think again… researchers at the University of Colorado, Denver, are working on a microbial fuel cell that desalinates and cleans wastewater… in addition to producing electricity. (via Cleantechnica)
Border checkpoint to feature Living Machine: The US General Services Administration has approved a Living Machine wastewater treatment system for the border crossing point at Otay Mesa, California. That’s an artist’s rendering above… (via Water and Waste Water)
Thought football was the main competition going on between colleges and universities this fall? Well, it will get the lion’s share of the attention… but we’re smack dab in the middle of another intercollegiate competitive event that could make a difference for the planet: the Campus Conservation Nationals.
Lots of electric vehicle news this week, plus mushroom plastics and watching watersheds with your iPhone… this week’s green tech finds.
- Sun-powered transportation… in the Sunshine State: Sarasota-area beachside community Pelican Bay will be using solar-powered trams to move people around the development. (via Cleantechnica)
- GE making massive EV purchase: General Electric will not only make components for electric vehicles, but plans to become the largest single purchaser of them.