Monthly ArchiveSeptember 2007

The Top 5 Nastiest Creatures Getting Stronger Due To Climate Change

ByGroovy Green Sep 29, 2007

When some people think of Global Warming, a vision of comfortable winters, more days at the beach, and less sweaters comes to mind. For those living away from coastal regions, the concerns of hurricanes or sea levels is non-existent. Out of sight, out of mind.

The realities are that climate change will affect each and every one of us. From the ways our communities rely on food produced in other states and nations; to the costs of energy and sourcing of water. But it gets worse. Much worse. We now present to you The Top 5 Nasty Creatures Getting Stronger Due To Climate Change. Some of them seem straight out of science fiction.

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The Goat Justice Leage – Fighting for Ruminate Rights!

ByGroovy Green Sep 29, 2007

In recent news from the Seattle Times:

Thanks to the work of the Goat Justice League, ruminants now have the right to life and limited liberty in Seattle.

On Monday, the City Council acknowledged the miniature goat’s attributes as human companion, weed whacker and milk maker, and unanimously voted that the goats could be kept as pets.

“One small step for man, one giant step for goatkind,” said Councilmember Richard Conlin, who sponsored the legislation.

As of late, goats have gained the environmental status of hybrid cars and bovine-growth-hormone-free milk, prized for their ability to mow lawns without using fossil fuels. University of Washington and Seattle City Light recently hired herds to clear slopes of blackberry brambles.

Monday’s vote marked yet another gain for miniature goats, which are about the size of a large dog. Also known as pygmy or dwarf goats, the animals weigh between 50 and 100 pounds and grow to about 2 feet tall. Owners keep them as pets and sources of milk.

I live in a city just outside of Seattle. Recently our fair city adopted Seattle’s domestic animal regulations. This was a big step for our city and the adoption allowed me to keep chickens. Hopefully this change in the regulations in Seattle will filter out into other cities.

My first thoughts of the Goat Justice League:

 

Is Iron Fertilization The Key To Preventing Global Warming?

ByGroovy Green Sep 28, 2007

Give me half a tanker of iron and I’ll give you the next ice age so said oceanographer John Martin in a famous speech to colleagues during the 80s. Martin was referring to the process of “iron fertilization”; which when applied to the oceans in slurry form promotes vast blooms of algae. The algae in turn consume carbon dioxide as they grow; thus removing more from the atmosphere and preventing climate change. Problem solved? From the article,

“‘There are many critical questions that require both better scientific understanding and an improved legal, economic, and political framework before iron fertilization can be considered either effective or appropriate,’ said Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist in WHOI’s Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department and a participant in two iron fertilization experiments at sea. ‘The time is right to bring scientists, policymakers, and commercial interests together to inform each other and the public.”‘

Though common on land, dissolved iron is rarely found in the oceans. This may be for a good reason as no one is exactly sure what massive blooms of algae would do to ecosystems. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is holding a conference this week to determine the benefit of iron fertilization and if it may indeed prove to be a safe, cheap, counter-attack to climate change.

While it’s great to have these weapons in hand, the real silver bullet in preventing pollution and catastrophe is to address our own emissions and practices.

Titanic Being Recycled, Turned Into Watches

ByGroovy Green Sep 28, 2007

We’re all for reuse and recycle, but Romain Jerome’s Titanic DNA Watch is borderline macabre/bizarre. Granted, we really dig the design — but taking actual steel from the titanic and incorporating it into a watch? From the release,

“The watches will have black dial faces thanks to lacquer paint, the ingredients of which consist of coal from the Titanic, while pieces of steel from the vessel will also be used in their creation.

Yvan Arpa, Chief Executive of Romain Jerome, revealed that the number of watches made will be limited to 2,012, to coincide with the centenary anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, when it struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on April 14th 1912.”

We’re pretty sure these things are not going to be cheap; but if you can’t afford the Heart of the Ocean, this might be your next best bet.

Wal-Mart to Sell Only Concentrated Laundry Detergent

ByGroovy Green Sep 28, 2007

It’s been a busy week for the happy smile, but Wal-Mart released a press release stating that they are going to start selling laundry detergent in concentrated amounts only.

From the article:

Wal-Mart expects to sell only concentrated detergent in all of its U.S.
stores by early May 2008 — more than 800 million units over the next three
years. The transition will occur in waves beginning in the Southern region
in October, extending to the North and Midwest by February and finishing in
East coast states in April 2008. (I assume this should be 2009 but it was like this in the article.)
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The Pentagon Is The Largest Consumer Of Oil In The World

ByGroovy Green Sep 27, 2007

Some interesting facts to pass along regarding the US Military and its consumption of oil. According to a Energy Bulleting report from earlier this year, the Pentagon is the world’s largest consumer of oil. In fact, there are only 35 countries (out of 210) in the world that consume more oil per day than the Pentagon. Here’s the breakdown:

>>Fiscal Year 2006 the Pentagon consumed 320,000 barrels per day of site delivered oil, compared to about 360,000 barrels per day in 2005. While consumption may have gone down, prices skyrocketed from $8.5 billion in ‘05 to $17 billion in ‘06.

>>These figures do not include oil for “fuel obtained at no cost overseas, fuel consumed by contractors, fuel consumed in some leased and privatized facilities, and not last but least oil consumed by certain leased and rented fleet vehicles.”
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I Ride My Bike

ByGroovy Green Sep 26, 2007

Enough with the gloom and doom over peak oil and climate change you say. You want an empowering story of change? Alright here’s an example of a personal adjustment I’ve made in my own life in an attempt to address both the above events because after all, the basic answer to both peak oil and climate change is roughly the same. Stop using fossil fuels; or at least cut way back on using them. But that’s so hard everyone says. It can’t be done. Nonsense. Or as Tom Athanasiou recently said, Change is necessary and because it is necessary it is possible.

I decided 2007 would be the year I got rid of my car. Not completely, but I’ve known for some time that driving a car keeps me dependent on the oil economy and pollutes this planet. I’ve known I needed to cut back on my automotive oil addiction. But it wasn’t until 2007 that I got serious about making change. Here are the numbers for the year so far.

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Grooming The (Gen Y) Consumer Generation

ByGroovy Green Sep 24, 2007

As I prepare to head back to school, I’ve been thinking about how interesting it will be to interact with the next generation of students. Many of them will have grown up with the ability to log on to the internet and gain instant information, the ability to contact friends and family at a moments notice, and an overall different perspective on life. Not that I am that much older that they will be, but 10+ years is difference enough to grow up with a completely different set of ideas, beliefs and interests.

I came across a blog post that gives me pause, however. I wonder how many of these students will have spent a lifetime being groomed to grow up and be consumers.

This past weekend I had the occasion to visit a dorm at George Washington University. I hadn’t been in a dorm in years and was shocked at how nice it was. Each room in this particular dorm had its own kitchenette and bathroom. Some rooms have their own washer and dryer. Apparently, this is the norm. When I was in college we were crammed into tiny rooms with no amenities and sharing a bathroom with 6 other girls was the norm. We shared the laundry room with the entire dorm.

Apparently, today’s college students have grown up with certain standards and aren’t going to lower them just because they are in college and away from the comforts of home. In fact, they expect those comforts to follow them there. When deciding where to go to college, dorms and dining halls play as much a part as do the classes and football team.

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The Venturi Astrolabe: A Street-Legal Formula One Solar Car

ByGroovy Green Sep 21, 2007

With a top speed over over 70mph and a range of almost an equivalent amount, the Veunturi solar car allows you to draw stares while commuting to work in Formula One style. 3.6 sqm of photovoltaic cells operating at 21% efficiency work to power what is considered the first ever commercial vehicle that’s capable of using absolutely no fossil resources. From the site,

“Capable of working with very little energy (16 kWc motor) and of recharging even when in motion, this vehicle of another era does not need to be permanently exposed to the sun in order to move. Its last-generation NiMH Venturi NIV-7 batteries ‘liquid cooled’ in fact enable it to restitute stored energy, whether solar or from the electricity supply, making it the first electro-solar hybrid vehicle. To attain this level of performance while using very little energy, Astrolab has been designed like a Formula 1 : its carbon monocoque chassis is ultra-light and serves as an oversized protection cell ensuring the safety of its occupants in the event of a collision. Its profile recalls the aqua-dynamic design of great racing yachts.”

Yum.

The PowerLeap: Harnessing Human Energy With Floor Tiles

ByGroovy Green Sep 20, 2007

Our friend Ruben Miller sent us an email on an alternative energy concept him and his wife submitted to the Metropolis’ Next Generation 2007 competition and we think it’s pretty cool. While the idea of harnessing human energy has been around for awhile, this one actually seems feasible. From the article,

“Imagine a nightclub where dancers generate the venue’s electricity just from the impact of their steps. With Redmond’s innovative flooring system, this vision of a human-powered energy source may be close to a reality. The floor tiles, cast in durable concrete and recycled glass, are fitted with piezoelectric brass-reinforced ceramic plates covered in nickel electrodes. With the impact of each footstep, a metal pointer inside the tile compresses the ceramic plate, generating an electric impulse. The resulting voltage activates four LED lights, visible through the glass surface, allowing energy-generating participants to see the power of their steps.”

This type of technology is intended for high-traffic areas; sidewalks, playgrounds, school hallways, etc. Obviously, you could do away with the LED lights and incorporate the idea into flooring that makes the whole thing less obvious. We love the concept, however, and hope Elizabeth and Ruben keep pushing to make it a reality.

The 4 Day Work Week

ByGroovy Green Sep 20, 2007

The notion of our standard work week here in America has remained largely the same since 1938. That was the year the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, standardizing the eight hour work day and the 40 hour work week. Each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday workers all over the country wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast and go to work. But the notion that the majority of the workforce should keep these hours is based on nothing more than an idea put forth but the Federal government almost 70 years ago. To be sure it was an improvement in the lives of many Americans who were at the time forced to work 10+ hours a day, sometimes 6 days of the week. So a 40 hour work week was seen as an upgrade in the lives of many of U.S. citizens. 8 is a nice round number; one third of each 24 hour day. In theory it leaves 8 hours for sleep and 8 hours for other activities like eating, bathing, raising children and enjoying life. But the notion that we should work for 5 of these days in a row before taking 2 for ourselves is, as best I can tell, rather arbitrary.

The idea of a shorter work week is not a new one to anyone old enough to have lived through the energy shocks of the 1970’s. It should be fairly obvious to anyone interested in conserving oil that reducing the number of daily commutes per week would reduce the overall demand for oil. There are about 133 million workers in America. Around 80% of them get to work by driving alone in a car. The average commute covers about 16 miles each way. So let’s stop and do some math:

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The Not-So-Green Picture: First Air Conditioned Bus Station

ByGroovy Green Sep 17, 2007

First Air Conditioned Bus StationDubai is boasting of their latest creation: the first air-conditioned bus station in the world; ironically located next to some recycle bins in this photo. Instead of employing some green building techniques to reduce the heat, the affluent country opted instead to build an energy-hungry haven instead. Not only that, but more than 800 of them are planned in the coming years.

UPDATED: Making Homemade Laundry Soap

ByGroovy Green Sep 14, 2007

Last night after cooking supper I decided to cook up a batch of laundry soap. A friend had sent me the recipe for homemade laundry soap a while back and I’ve been anxious to try it since. I followed the recipe shown here (if you check the comments there is even one for a dry laundry soap.)

eco friendly soapFirst things first, I got some water boiling and started to carve up the bar of soap. We used Caress, which I don’t recommend, the smell was overpowering. And it reminded me of my grandmother too much. If you purchased a bar of eco friendly soap you’d be in even better shape. Or a local bar of soap would be good too.

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Solar (Assisted) Electric Boat Navigates the Erie Canal

ByGroovy Green Sep 13, 2007

This news story caught my eye during the busy month of August. While electric cars have been the talk of the green blogosphere over the last year, this is the first instance I’ve heard of electric boating.On August 12, the Tamarack Lake Boating company launched “The Loon” a pontoon boat with 738 watts of solar panels mounted on its cover, and a 30 mile range on its 48 Volt deep-cycle battery array. (Syracuse.com)

With the flick of a switch, Canadian boat builder Monte Gisborne turned on his solar-powered pontoon boat, The Loon, and quietly slipped out of Oswego Harbor.

“It’s beautiful. It’s my first time on this canal and it’s beautiful,” Gisborne said as The Loon approached the Minetto Bridge. “The sky is clear, there’s a nice breeze blowing and people along the shoreline are waving I couldn’t be happier.”

The 12-day journey will take the Gisbornes – Monte is accompanied by his wife, Denise,
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Green Ideas We’d Like To See: The Bike-Shopping Cart

ByGroovy Green Sep 5, 2007

I had a great idea forwarded to me by RubenMiller through StumbleUpon. Basically, it’s a shopping cart bike that adds to the already growing list of ways you can go bagless at the supermarket. In his own words,

“Here’s a scenario: Imagine riding up to the grocery with a shopping cart bike. You park your bike at a rack and unlatch the cart to wheel into the store. Without using any bags, you can pay, put the groceries back in your cart, hitch up to your bike and ride off!

Some years back, IDEO worked on a concept for a smart shopping cart. I wasn’t sure how practical it would really be. Somehow, I think this simpler variation is much more likely to make it past prototype phase and into real stores.

You might argue that multi-level dwellers couldn’t manage without bags, but for those who don’t have an elevator, a removable insert/basket could be built into the design.”

It’s a cool idea — perhaps not practical for all and a little unwieldy — but an interesting integration beyond the traditional bike basket. What do you think?

Excess Nightime Grid Energy Could Power More Than 70% Of Electric Vehicles

ByGroovy Green Sep 3, 2007

According to a recent U.S. Department of Energy study, there is so much excess energy on the U.S. grid nightly that if every light-duty car and truck in America today used plug-in hybrid technology, 73 percent of them could be plugged in and “fueled” without constructing a single new power plant. So much for the myth that electric vehicles will cause more emissions.

The Portland Press has a great article on the potential benefits of harnessing this excess energy and making the switch to plug-in vehicles. Apparently, each night there is a large amount of renewable power generation capacity that sits idle. Tapping into this source by plugging in our vehicles at night would harness a vastly unused portion of the U.S. grid. From the article,

“Studies have shown that plug-in hybrids produce at least 67 percent fewer harmful emissions than a standard gasoline-powered car. Even when accounting for emissions from the production of electricity, national studies have shown greenhouse gas production would fall by almost 40 percent if plug-in hybrids became commonplace. Plug-in hybrids could easily be expected to get over 100 miles per gallon of gasoline, and owners would do most of their refueling at home where the equivalent cost of electricity is about $1 per gallon.”

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