More often than not, it’s great to have some solid connections in the green world. Shea Gunther— one of the top green bloggers on the web and twitter — casually threw a question my way earlier this week: Would I like to try a pair of New Balance’s first ever green shoe for their “Eco-prefer Collection”. Would I?!
Less than 12 hours after I accepted, a shiny pair of New Balance 070s arrived on my doorstep. I tore open the box, admired the bold colors, and have pretty much been wearing them since. But first, let’s talk about what it is exactly that makes these shoes “green”.
Obviously, New Balance set out to completely re-think they way they design shoes in as environmentally-friendly a manner as possible. To that end, the 070 fits together like a kind of puzzle to reduce waste. The outsole features a rice husk fill that decreases the amount of rubber used in the production of the shoe. The insert, as well as all synthetics, are made from recycled materials. The upper materials use a combination of recycled polyester and natural materials. The upper is also designed so that everything has a symmetrical opposite. This was done to minimize waste as much as possible when cutting the material for the shoes.
Enjoy solar showers, but really want to be completely naked in the process? Unless you’re in a nudist colony, that option might be not available on a public beach. However, this innovative (and stylish) pop-up privacy tent from Guide Gear will hide your bits and bops while giving you a clean, hot rinse. The 6.5 lb tent is quick to setup and includes a 5-gallon PVC Solar Shower. Said one recent reviewer:
Our family has always been more on the “minimal” side for car camping trips, but with my 23 year old daughter and her friends along on our recent trip, we needed a shower. We bought a Zodi water heater and this pop up shower tent. Great decision! The tent pops up in a second, nothing to put together and added almost no weight or bulk to our gear. The olive green material provided total coverage, blended nicely with the outdoor terrain, and had plenty of room for big guys. The 3 adjustments we made were adding a clip/clothespin to attach the shower head to the top, a chair right outside to hang towel and clothes (it cannot support much weight), and a large plastic pan to stand on. With those items, we had eight of us showering daily with no hitch.
That being said, you could also just go and jump in the nearest river. While this item is indeed handy, it may just be another piece of “baggage” that’s rather unnecessary when camping. To each their own, however — you be the judge.
I just came across this “Solar Tree” design from Gurdeep Sandhu and thought it to be a creative take on energy generation. As he explains,
With a little space in your backyard, installing this solar tree will not be a problem. During the day just wing-out the panels and let them absorb the glory of the sun; and in the evening fold them back. If you need to move house, just uproot it and take it along with you. Else if technology changes, you can even upgrade the panels for maximum benefit. Silent, efficient, cost effective are some of the virtues that sound music to my ears. What’s more you can either directly hook it up to appliance during the day or store the energy for later use. The sturdy metallic silver aluminum frame looks neat and tidy when packed up.
Back in June of last year, we dropped the story that harvesting rain water in Colorado was actually an illegal activity. We commented on just how dumb this law was — and over 100 comments later, many of you agreed. Almost a year later, the Colorado legislature has revised the draconian law to give some homeowners rights the water that falls from their roofs. But not everyone will be happy. From the article,
If you live in the city, don’t install a barrel under your gutter spout just yet. The legislation lets residents on wells collect rain and establishes 10 pilot projects for new developments. Residents on municipal water still can’t legally collect rain, and water suppliers are leery of legislation that would let them. “All the water was spoken for here in the Arkansas Basin 100 years ago or more,” said Kevin Lusk, water supply engineer for Colorado Springs Utilities. “If the water falls as rain, that’s water that was going to get to the stream system, and somebody already has dibs on it, and if somebody intercepts that, it’s the same as stealing.”
I have a healthy appreciation for Worm Bins after managing to get through a winter with a DIY version in my basement. Those little red wigglers made fast work of my food scraps and were a nice alternative to trudging to the compost pile in the cold. Plus, the “instant compost” went right into the soil mix for my seedlings and proved a nice boost for spring planting. However, I know my system rather sucks — not enough aeration, poor drainage, and no easy way to access the all-valued “worm tea”. There are plenty of excellent instructions for making your own worm bin online (I took over my current bin from a friend) — but I thought it would worth it highlighting some of the brands out there for those that want to get started right away.
Can-O-Worms | Price: $129.00 (can probably find it cheaper)
Back in November, British banking giant HSBC did a clever thing with a swimming pool: they took a picture of New York City from above and applied it to the bottom to make a point about climate change and rising sea levels. The effect is nothing short of amazing. My eyeballs are still having trouble not believing these people aren’t swimming a thousand feet above the NY skyline. Granted, sea levels would never rise that much — and the water probably wouldn’t be crystal clear (or toxin-free) — but, it still makes you think.
Google’s Street View fleet has a new low-tech edition: the Google Trike. For those not familiar with the street capture technology, it’s a feature on Google Maps that allows you to view actual images of a street location — in 360 degrees. Beyond the fascinating technology that puts this all together — what’s even more impressive is the army of employees out there on the roads of America (and almost every other country) taking panoramic snapshots using the Google camera vehicles.
Of course, cars (thankfully) aren’t allowed to go everywhere. But that hasn’t stopped Google. The search engine giant has instead hacked a trike to carry the necessary equipment to get the digital deed done. From Autobloggreen,
The three-wheeled, human-powered overgrown tricycles carry 250 pounds of ballast in the form of “a mounted Street View camera and a specially decorated box containing image collecting gadgetry,” says the internet giant. All that extra heft reportedly requires a “specially trained super fit” rider. Google’s new trikes will be deployed first in Genoa, Italy, this spring. Assuming that launch proves successful, Google will send its pedal-powered cameras to the United Kingdom, where they’ll point their lenses towards a slew of famous British landmarks.
I’m sure many environmentalists have passed power line towers while cruising in vehicles and wondered aloud, “Why can’t we just throw some wind turbines up there?” In fact, earlier last year, Ericsson unveiled the first-ever cell phone tower with a vertical-axis wind turbine integrated. If we can do it in cell phone towers, why not transmission towers?
That’s the question two architects and an engineer from France used as the starting point for their “Wind-It” concept — a a design to place wind turbines inside existing high-voltage electricity pylons. They’re also the winners of the 2009 Metropolis Magazine Next Generation Prize Challenge: “FIX OUR ENERGY ADDICTION.” $10K was given to the team to take their idea to the next level. From the article,
After discovering this recycled seatbelt hammock from TING, I’m convinced that there’s no limit to the clever reuse of discarded materials.
These gorgeous handwoven hammocks are made from reclaimed seatbelt webbing. They are water resistant, comfy, and most-definitely a conversation starter. Colors available include bright shades like hot pink, orange, camel, turquoise, chocolate or black. The company also makes a line of recycled pillow covers that look just as pretty. But recycled art comes with a price: $585 for each hammock. Ouch.
Remember that picture we had a few months back of a helicopter taking off of an enormous wind turbine? Yea, that 3.6MW behemoth today looks normal compared to this 6MW monster being installed in Germany. Apparently, it’s one of the two currently going up in the city of Hamburg. Huge — just huge.
There are lots of ways to take shorter showers — saving you money, water, etc. We’ve seen shower timers and spouts that turn different colors as time goes on — but the inflatable shower curtain is the first one that seriously forces you to get in and get out, lest you want to suffocate or become trapped.
The idea was designed by Elisabeth Buecher who answered the question: “How can your shower fight water overconsumption in either a disturbing or a gorgeous way, using innovative materials, printing techniques and inflatable technology?” Her response: This shower curtain slowly inflates around you while you shower. It leaves you only a few minutes to take your shower before trapping you.
She’s also got one with inflatable spikes that slowly push you out over a period of time. I actually prefer that one to getting trapped in plastic.
It has come to my attention recently that the real estate trust Prologis is developing the rooftops of their existing buildings by contracting to lease the space to power companies to install solar panels.
From the press release:
Headquartered in Denver, Colo., as a manager and developer of real estate, ProLogis is actively seeking out electric utilities to lease out its rooftops as a way to earn extra income with no capital investment, while meeting the company’s goal of contributing to global sustainability.
As a real estate investment trust, ProLogis isn’t interested in owning the solar installations, but rather in engaging utilities as a renter of its space. Utilities make solid tenants that will enter long-term leases, as most power-purchase agreements for solar power generation are for 15 to 20 years.
You know those electric fields from power lines that some people are always complaining about? Turn out they may have something be worried about. At least, that’s what I can surmise after viewing these photos of an art project on an English farm. The installation is called FIELD and creator Richard Box came up with the idea after hearing about a colleague playinggames with a fluorescent tube beneath power lines in his backyard. So, he bribed a local farmer to let him take a crack at installing 1301 fluorescent bulbs underneath his power lines and “voila” — instant ambient energy. The UK Guardian explains a bit more:
A fluorescent tube glows when an electrical voltage is set up across it. The electric field set up inside the tube excites atoms of mercury gas, making them emit ultraviolet light. This invisible light strikes the phosphor coating on the glass tube, mak ing it glow. Because powerlines are typically 400,000volts, and Earth is at an electrical potential of zero volts, pylons create electric fields between the cables they carry and the ground. Box denies that he aimed to draw attention to the potential dangers of powerlines. “For me, it was just the amazement of taking something that’s invisible and making it visible,” he says. “When it worked, I thought: ‘This is amazing.’”
My home is right under some power lines. Needless to say, I’m moving.
While baskets are the eternal favorites for lugging things around with your bike — there may be times when you’d like those groceries or books to be a bit more contained. That, or you just need some additional space. Either way, these travel bags from Detours are a fantastic option — and with a very green characteristic: they’re made from recycled juice packs.
Each bag is made up of about 100 juice packs — with the company quick to add that no two bags are alike. Each features a bathtub rubber bottom, wide mouth, removable rain cover, reflective tail-light tabs on both ends, and will hold about 15lbs of your stuff. The only caveat is to beware placing sharp objects inside your Toocan — as the pouches can rip and tear up the seam. Otherwise, the company says the bag will last many years and then when done, you can just recycle it!
I never really thought of binoculars are being a contributor to environmental degradation, but after reading what Nikon has done to remove certain nasties from the production of their new “Ecobins” binocs, it’s evident that even uncommon goods are in need of some reform.
The Ecobins feature some nice green touches — like lead and arsenic-free Eco-Glass™ lenses and prisms, non-chloride rubber, and biodegradable materials for the case and strap (made without the use of harmful inks or dyes). The packaging is also eco-friendly, being produced from eighty-five percent post-consumer waste and printed on recyclable FiberStone® paper. The usual bells and whistles associated with binoculars are also included. From Gizmag:
Ecobins are waterproof and fogproof, use aspherical eyepiece lenses designed to deliver distortion-free viewing, internal blackening to minimize light loss inside binocular tubes and multi-coated lenses for improved brightness, contrast and true color.
Well played, Nikon. Well played.
Ever forward on my mission to get more people using rain barrels, I wanted to draw some attention today to the beauty of rain chains. Since aesthetics outside the home is often of great importance to some, plastic or metal downspouts can sometimes be less than pleasing going into your rustic rain barrel. Rain chains are a nice alternative if you’re looking for something else to complete the picture. Harvest H20 gives us a great description of how they work:
Imagine a personal wind turbine that can power a home filled with LED lights — and also only cost $400. Such is the idea behind the Jellyfish — a 36” tall vertical-axis turbine that is a semi-finalist in Google’s 10 to the 100th contest–$10 million for the 5 ideas that helps the most people.
The inventor, Chad Maglaque, figures the total cost of the turbine could be brought down to only $199 — if subsidized with tax rebates. His current version, which he believes is only 12-to-18-months away from stores, is Wi-Fi and WiMax equipped and outputs 40 kWh a month. That’s not enough to take your home off-grid, but it would offset a percentage of energy consumption from other, not-so-green sources. Here’s a bit more detail from the website:
Last year, Americans used over 100 billion plastic bags. Fortunately, thousands of enlightened shoppers are changing the way they shop (for good), by pledging to get off the plastic. Join the movement and get the ball rolling. Together we can keep 1 billion plastic bags off our street this year.
Philips has announced that their new Master LED Bulb will be ready for mass consumption this coming July. For all the energy-savings that CFL bulbs have given us, they’ve also had some PR issues — especially when it comes to light color and mercury. LED takes everything that CFL offers, turns up the efficiency (over 30x more long-lasting than a incandescent bulb), and contains no mercury.
There are still some issues to work out with LED — one being that this Philips is expected to cost $50-$70. But price and aesthetics will be resolved over time. I just find it amazing that with this technology in place, my kid won’t know what it’s like to change a light bulb for many, many, years.
While the words “green” and “mansion” don’t really play nice together, this home — called the Acqua Liana — is certainly a testament to big-thinking green design.
Coming in at over 15,000 square-feet, the Liana resides on about 1.6 acres near the Atlantic Ocean. It is the first home to be built and certified to the rigorous “green” standards as defined and mandated by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Florida Green Building Council and Energy Star for Homes. Some of the green features include:
Solar panels generating enough energy to run the entire home on certain days (generating enough electricity to run 2 average sized homes). When combining the home’s solar use, energy efficient appliances and air-conditioning, insulative characteristics and overall architectural design, the home’s automated bio-feedback system will display its energy efficiency in real time.
I’m a big fan of watching nature re-claim buildings — and this is a perfect example of that. Best I can tell, this is a church in Toronto. Now, I’m not sure whether the building is abandoned or if someone has been neglecting the ivy. Either way, there’s certainly not much sunlight entering through that window anymore!
With Spring so close I can barely stand to wait, I’m making plans for the garden, ordering seeds, and getting ready to reorganize my compost pile. See, during the winter months I’ve been reading up on what an absolutely shitty job I’ve done with my current compost layout. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but I could be getting my food and yard scraps to break down much faster with a bit of proper setup.
Anyways, while continuing this research, I came upon a post over on CleanTechnica discussing the composting technique called Bokashi. Basically, it’s a high-speed breakdown process that takes advantage of anaerobic mirobes. Instead of placing your food scraps in an outdoor, open-air bin — you shove them into an air-tight bin. CleanTechnica gives us the deets:
This is a guest post by Ed Bruske. He writes at The Slow Cook. Ed lives in the District of Columbia. A reporter for the Washington Post in a previous life, he now tends his “urban farm” about a mile from the White House in the District of Columbia. Ed believes in self-reliance, growing food close to home and political freedom for the residents of the District of Columbia.
Warning: The following may contain dangerously subversive thoughts. Young children should probably leave the room….
Although I believe in food gardening, I am also convinced that we will only get so far trying to persuade Americans that there is a healthier way to eat, and that growing your own is a big part of the answer. But I also know there’s something else Americans care very much about: money. That’s why I am proposing right here and right now a big fat tax break on kitchen gardens that will not only spur our fellow citizens to start digging up their lawns like crazy, but will fit right in with President Obama’s economic stimulus efforts by getting everyone busy buying seeds and garden tools.
Using “trash” (construction and other refuse) to build homes. Quote “in a town this size would otherwise be discarding usable building materials that could build a small scale house a week… That’s crazy! when we have families that would do anything to own a house.” Great ideas, funky original homes.
I am an avid reader of DIY projects. Before I begin a project of my own I will most likely spend hours researching and looking at similar projects done by others. One of my favorite sites for finding the real creative and well documented projects is instructables.com.
They recently held a contest to see what their readers could do with used plastic bottles. The entries ranged from an algae bioreactor to fenders on a bike. Currently they are running a contest entitled the Stay Warm Contest: “We want to know what ways you’re staying warm this winter without using of lots of fuel or energy in the process.” Grand Prize is a sleeping bag and an Instructables Robot t-shirt, patch, and stickers. So GG readers head on over and submit your Stay Warm projects. (Contest ends Feb. 8th)
I spied this incredible story today about a giant fossilized snake — almost 43-feet long — that was discovered in one of the world’s biggest open-cast coalmines, in Cerrejon, Colombia. The massive reptile dined on giant crocodiles and turtles, had a height up to your hip, and weighed some 1,600 pounds.
Fantastic images of snakes the size of buses aside, what’s truly interesting about this story is what such a former living creature can tell us about past rainforests — and their abilities to survive climate change. From the article,
Based on T. cerrejonensis, the scientists calculate that the mean annual temperature in equatorial South America 60 million years ago would have been 30-34 degrees Celsius, or 86-93 degrees Fahrenheit. That makes it around 3-4 C (5.5-7.2 F) hotter than tropical rainforests today.
UPDATE: One last day to enter! Send me your pics today for a chance to win! (see contest rules below)
Time for a great giveaway at Groovy Green. Home Depot is showcasing its energy saving products, and now is your chance to upgrade your old thermostat. This Ritetemp 7-day programmable thermostat mounts flush to your wall, is mercury free, and can save you up to $150 per year on your heating and cooling costs.
Here’s the contest rules:
Since the nation has entered the recession to end all recessions, it’s time to do a little self-reflection on what we’ve been spending our money on over the past decade… Joel Stein of the L.A. Times has come out with his list of the “relics of the good old days“. I heard about this on a radio program (I won’t say which one) and had to look it up. Some of the best and snarkiest commentary on our society…
In the clear recessionary morning, all that stuff we’ve been binge buying suddenly looks gaudy and ridiculous. It’s been a 25-year blur of fluorescent Frankie Sez shirts, logo handbags, Hummers and ring tones. We need to have one giant national garage sale and invite the world.
If there are pictures of you with any of the things listed below on Facebook, immediately remove them. Replace them with one of those stately, unsmiling group portraits our grandparents and great-grandparents took that made us feel like we came from important stock. You don’t want your descendants to lose all hope when they realize that Great-Grandpa Jaden was flashing fake gang signs at Treasure Island while downing a Grey Goose and Red Bull before his “American Idol” audition.
Tasting menus: The idea that an appetizer, entree and dessert wasn’t enough — that you had to taste everything — was a pretty clear sign we were on our way toward being a fat, indebted nation. If Morgan Spurlock had tried to follow up “Super Size Me” with a movie in which he had to go 30 days eating only tasting menus — and accept the wine pairings if they were offered — he would have died by Week 2. I went with four people to Per Se in New York, and two of them barfed as soon as we got home. To be fair, it was the most delicious barf they’d ever had.
Cliff Hunt on the Huffington Post recently mentioned that it was time for the music business to get more green. Hell, he makes a convincing argument for ways they can both save money, and save the planet.
In a process that hasn’t changed much in decades, record labels send out CDs packaged with printed promotional materials to what are hoped to be the right influencers at radio stations. Radio station personnel, bombarded by these packages, end up not having the time to go through them all and many end up in the trash. Not only are those CDs extremely difficult to recycle, but it has been estimated that getting them to the stations consumes about 0.7 pounds of fossil fuel per CD, from production to shipping.
Ebillplace.com released a video recently discussing some of the environmental impact of replacing your paper bills with electronic bills. I was surprised by the impact and just had to share.
· Eliminating the mail Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes.
· Every year, producing and transporting paper checks has the same environmental impact as burning 674 million gallons of fuel. That’s 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools full of gas, oil and diesel fuel.
· If every American turned off just one paper bill, it would save enough paper to stack as tall as 1,000 Empire State buildings.
Could it be that the alien invasion promised in the film The Day The Earth Stood Still is underway? In the flick, if humans didn’t clean up their act with regards to the planet, a can of whoop-ass was going to be opened on them. According to some locals living in Lincolnshire, UK, such world ending promises are being carried out — on wind turbines of all things. From the article,
An investigation was under way today into how a 65ft blade was mysteriously torn off a wind turbine amid reports of “strange lights” in the sky. The 300ft turbine at Conisholme in Lincolnshire was left wrecked after the incident. The Sun quoted residents speculating that the damage could have been caused by a UFO. The Sun said flashing orange-yellow spheres had been seen by dozens of people in the area, including by Dorothy Willows, who lives half a mile from the scene of the incident. Ms Willows was in her car when she saw the lights. “She said: “The lights were moving across the sky towards the wind farm. Then I saw a low flying object. It was skimming across the sky towards the turbines.” The blade was ripped off hours later, at 4am.
Just one look at the above photo gives you a sense of just how large a 3.6MW wind turbine really is. The image comes to us from Eurocopter — who were just contracted to be used exclusively for wind farm maintenance in the UK. Apparently, these 3.6MW monsters are so tall that it’s a bit quicker to get up there via helicopter and make emergency repairs than to try and scale ‘em through the internal ladder system.
Called the “Greater Gabbard wind farm” near the East Anglia coast — the 140 turbines will be located 20 miles from land in the North Sea. When completed in 2010, it will be the largest wind farm in the world.
Back in Summer 2007, I gushed over wireless hardware provider Meraki and their announcement of a solar-powered repeater. There are several scenarios — from college campuses to farms — where expanding wireless coverage is limited based on access to electrical outlets. Unfortunately, Meraki’s product wasn’t quite ready for prime time and I was left wondering if it would ever see the light of day.
Well, never underestimate a company partially backed by Google. Their new solar-powered repeaters are now for sale and look more robust and ready for Mother Nature than ever before. From the site,
“Each unit is completely self-contained and ready to mount on roofs, poles, or anywhere else the sun shines. The Solar is completely energy independent and runs on its own state-of-the-art solar-charged battery.”
EDAR (Everyone Deserves A Roof) is a 501(c)(3) charity that provides unique mobile shelters to those living on the streets all around us. Each EDAR is a four-wheeled mobile unit which carries belongings and facilitates recycling during the day and which unfolds into a special, framed tent-like sleeping enclosure with a bed at night.
With enough abandoned lots to fill the city of San Francisco, Motown is 138 square miles divided between expanses of decay and emptiness and tracts of still-functioning communities and commercial areas. Close to six barren acres of an estimated 17,000 have already been turned into 500 “mini- farms,” demonstrating the lengths to which planners will go to make land productive.
I have a question. How much bailout money will the gardeners and farmers of urban Detroit receive? As it turns out I have more than one question. When will this country recognize that we must make a fundamental shift in our way of life to continue as a society. When will we face facts and realize that throwing good money after bad is stupid? Consumers are turning back into citizens. It’s becoming harder to make them buy stuff they don’t really need. This is a good thing in the long run but in the short run it will derail our consumer-based growth economy. The big question we should be asking ourselves is how much longer are we going to continue wasting our wealth on a failed reality and when will we wake up? It’s time for real, fundamental change; whether we like it or not.
I had a chance to look through two books focused on Stevia, one about growing the plant and another about using the plant to replace sugar when you are cooking. I found them to be quite interesting. While I can’t follow along with everything in the books, I can follow along with the idea that we should grow and harvest our own sweeteners, if we can. Honey, molasses, sorghum would be three good options. Planting these is a great option.
Stevia can be added to the list of plants that can be grown in your backyard and used as a sweetener. These two books will show you how. If you live in the southern part of our country this plant is one that you should be able to leave outside. If you live in the northern part you could put in a planter or two and carry them back and forth. Either way, it wouldn’t be too hard to grow some of this for yourself and remove your dependence on cane sugar. You could even go so far as to add local honey and maple syrup and have all your sweeteners be local.
If this sounds interesting to you I would check out these two books. One will give you information on growing it and the other is full of recipes. Good stuff.
I enjoyed reading this book quite a bit, but I can’t say it has a whole lot of “green-ness” to it, other than the subject and author realizing he needed to change his life, making those changes, and following them up with actual cash investments. I have a business background, and I’ve read a lot of business books. Some good, some bad. This book from a business standpoint certainly has merit and has useful information and tips. I love reading about past successes and what made that person successful. Using these same traits would make you successful whatever you decide to do.
The website has a snippet which gives a great summation of this book, which is one that is hard to pin down to one subject.
Continental Airlines will test a Boeing 737-800 fueled partially by biofuel on Janurary 7th. This test flight will be powered with a mix of traditional jet fuel and a biofuel made from algae and jatropha plants. This will be the first biofuel-powered demonstration flight of a U.S. commercial airliner.
Not sure what jatropha is? Check out Michael’s post on jatropha here.