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,
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Vampire power is a big problem, even though you hit power off on that remote it doesn’t mean your television isn’t still sucking energy from the grid. Electronic appliances in standby mode can add up to 10% of your electric bill.
Good for You, Good for the Planet, a company based in Madrid, Spain, has developed a product to bring an end to the wasted electricity of standby mode. When the user desires to power the system up again it will power it up again without having to send the appliance through its start-up sequence again.
NH Hoteles SA of Spain has been testing a prototype of Mr. García’s gadget at some of the chain’s 350 hotels in 22 countries. It hopes to install the device in its 50,000 rooms as part of a drive to cut energy use by 20% by 2012.
“We’re very interested in this product and are seeing how we can implement it in the short or medium term,” says Luis Ortega, the chain’s director of environment and engineering. “That small saving, multiplied by 24 hours, 365 days a year, makes quite a big difference — especially when you’re talking about 50,000 television sets.”
Until technology like this becomes mainstream, you can kill vampire power in your home or office simply by unplugging or switching off your plug-strips.
I had a chance recently to review a DVD called Garbage Warrior (trailer above) which is about the gentleman who started the Earthship movement and some of the trials and tribulations he experienced while building his houses. It focuses too on his ideas and techniques for using trash materials (aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles) to create low cost energy efficient housing.
This is a guest post by Kevin Wilhelm. Kevin is the Chair of the Seattle Chamber’s Sustainability Committee, an Advisory Board Member to the Center for Sustainable Business, and is an adjunct faculty at Antioch University-Seattle where he teaches Sustainable Business Finance. He is a former advisor to both the Corporate Climate Protection Agreement and the Executive Service Corps of Washington. You can learn more at Sustainable Business Consulting.
In these uncertain economic times, companies often gravitate towards budget cuts and to scale back sustainability or “green” programs because of the notion that they take away from the bottom-line.
In reality, this thinking is the exact opposite of what business leaders need to do. Sustainability may actually be the best defense against market volatility during uncertain economic times.
There’s something to be said for the creative pursuit of modular home furniture. Nobody likes being “boxed” in when it comes to accessorizing — and surfing the web or burning fuel to find something that fits just right is more often than not a giant pain in the ass.
That’s why it was refreshing to come across Way Basic’s zBoards this morning. Not only are they made from 99% recycled materials (and recyclable) but they also require no tools to put together — just stick and build. From the website,
While I won’t portend to be quite as well spoken as Wendy from the previous article, I will attempt in this edition to display my chicken coop and enclosure as well as discuss some aspects of it for your information.
Homeowners Associations have got to be one of the more inane aspects of American society. A friend of mine moved into a neighborhood with one, completely unprepared for the mess she was getting into. Now, no toys can be left outside, all cars must be kept in the garage at all times, the grass must be a certain height and color, and every change to the home must first be approved by a “board”. It’s both a hilarious and sad way that some choose to live — all for the sake of homogeneity in aesthetics.
In March of 2007, we reported on an incident where the town of Scarsdale denied a family the opportunity to put up solar panels — on the basis that they were ugly and “not in keeping with the character of the community”. It was BS then — and it’s still BS. Now, another homeowners association in California is denying one man’s quest to reduce his electric bill by installing solar panels on his roof. Their reason? They do not believe the technology fits in with their rules and guidelines of a community with “restrained elegance.”
I’ve always wanted a rain barrel. In fact, back in June,I wrote a post declaring as much and announcing my quest to pick something up that was both eye pleasing and practical. Living in Ithaca, NY, I don’t have many problems with drought — but watching all that water roll off my roof, I figured it was a waste to simply see it hit my lawn and disappear. Besides, why pay that much more for municipal water for my garden when I could capture that which fell from the sky?
I’ll admit that writing about water issues in the southwest U.S. and visiting friends in Arizona also made me curious why water conservation tactics (like rain barrels) weren’t used more. Was it because they’re still relatively unknown? Were they a pain to setup and use? I was curious and therefore wanted one. Thankfully, the folks at Garden Supermart heard my cry and hooked me up with one of their Cascata Rain Barrels. After playing around with it (I use that term loosely) for two weeks, I can sum up my reaction in one sentence: Everyone should have one.
The NY Times has an article up on their site recently discussing how a small town in Vermont is using local foods to save the local economy of their small town.
“Across the country a lot of people are doing it individually but it’s rare when you see the kind of collective they are pursuing,” said Mr. Fried, whose firm considers social and environmental issues when investing. “The bottom line is they are providing jobs and making it possible for others to have their own business.”
This is interesing to me because they are essentially building the entire local food infrastructure. They are moving past the idea of just supplying beef or vegetables to consumers at the farmer’s market. They are actually moving into producing local food products. They are preparing the town for the future where food will need to be more local. And even better, they are recirculating those food dollars in their town to be reused over and over.
Check out the article and let me know what you think.
Vote La Cense! That is the motto of the cattle ranchers of La Cense cattle ranchers. They are trying to educate the public in the benefits of grass-fed beef, and Angus La Cense is their (fictional?) candidate in the Grass-Fed Party…
Who is Angus La Cense?
Angus La Cense is a cow from the La Cense Ranch who is representing the Grass-fed Party in the upcoming election. He is an advocate of grass-fed practices that produce happier cows, healthier people, stronger rural communities, and healthy grasslands.
What is the Grass-fed Party?
The Grass-fed Party is an organization of people who support grass-fed foods and sustainable ranching and believe that America can hold higher standards to its cattle industry. The Grass-fed Party empowers citizens with the knowledge necessary to make the best choices, whether their role is the feed a family or help make new policies that work. The Grass-fed Party supports putting traditional ranching practices back in rural America to help the smaller communities thrive, to help preserve and enrich ranchlands, and to help cows eat according to their natural diets and have access to clean air and water.
With the worldwide economy in the trash — and people cutting back for the impending recession — we can’t help but glance sadly at the Ovetto Recycling Egg and wonder ‘what might have been?’. You see, sorting recycling can be something of a chore for people; though I’m not sure why. If I gave my parents this egg, it would probably increase their efforts to recycle beyond the guilt and shame I shower on them every time I find a bottle in the garbage.
Problem is, this little egg of wonder costs $250. I mean, it’s the garbage can of the future, but I think I’ll wait until prices drop a bit. Here’s the full description:
“Interior Architect and Designer Gianluca Soldi has designed Ovetto differenziato, or recycling egg, “an object that meets the needs of domestic waste separation in order to educate the population to correctly dispose of waste in order to be able to consequently recycle it. Ovetto fits easily in modern homes and offices and is a great gift for anyone who wants to show off their “green” engagement.” Of course, it is made of recycled polypropylene
What do you think — want one?