Posts Tagged Green And Eco Friendly

Solar Decathlon 2

Continuing in our series, we have two new videos of houses from the solar decathlon.  The first is from Indiana which is a great example of how a very traditional looking home can utilize these approaches. Next up is a house that severs as a contrast to the first, this is a very modern looking home that will be sure to stand out.

Solar Decathlon

Every 2 years there is an event in Washington DC called the solar decathlon.  This is a competition of 92 universities that come together and create 92 different off the grid houses.  I have been wanting to go for a long time, but this year isn’t my year.  However, they make some really awesome videos for it, so this week I am going to highlight many of them.

Forget Sustainability

That’s right, I said it!  Sustainability is a thing of the past, not to mention a huge marketing buzz-word.  We need to move on, grow up, and realize we need to see sustainability as a failure.  What is better than sustainable?  Regenerative of course!

If you think about sustainability, what does it mean?  It means that we achieve an approach that allows us to continue on our current path indefinitely.  It is to maintain the status quo, it is to do no more harm, but make no improvements. It is helpful to think of this on a continuum, currently we are operating in a destructive pattern, we are striving for a sustainable one, but ultimately we need to be regenerative existence.  When we think about this, we quickly realize that to maintain our current way of life is actually a failure, because I think we can all agree… we can do better.  So what does regenerative even mean?  Essentially what we are gunning for here is to move beyond sustainability on the continuum, to encourage a positive impact, one where the earth begins to heal.  It means that how we live will allow the earth to start to heal the damage we have inflicted upon it.  This means reforestation, reduction of green house gases, allowing endangered species to return to normal, the end of producing waste/smog/trash/etc.  Think of it like this, if humans disappeared tomorrow, the earth would begin to revert back to its natural state, we should pursue initiatives to promote that restoration.

By setting our sites on regenerative approaches, we not only allow us to continue humanity indefinitely, but we improve the quality of our life and the earth.  By doing this we are able to ensure a future for generations, we realize our full potential, we live fuller and happier lives in connection with nature, not working against it.

I know I have had a difficult time changing my vernacular to that of a regenerative approach, but I think it is something we need to start doing.  Heck it might be useful to copy right it now so marketers can’t get a hold of it.

At this point a lot of you are likely thinking “that’s swell Ryan, it sounds good on paper, but how do we go about achieving it?”  Glad you asked!

There are two major things that I see as a barrier to achieving a regenerative society.  Population size and life style.  Both need to change in a dramatic way and I know it isn’t a popular notion.

The point is our world population is too large, true there are many who feel that we can actually handle more if we have our ducks in a row, but we don’t.  Those studies are also going for sustainability, not regrowth.  In reality we need to drop the world population below a billion, ideally a lot less.  We want to make sure to preserve cultural heritage, genetic diversity, knowledge and other key aspects, but in the end, we need a smaller population.

How do we get to this lower population?  A good first step is controlling the population growth now through sex education, availability of contraceptives and programs like that.  But that will only level off population growth, we need to reduce it.  The scary fact is that people of this world (maybe not those in super power nations) are at some point in the future are going to have food shortages.  Our food system is not sustainable and it is also very weak to shocks.  Another factor that could come into play is a large scale pandemic.  This is Mother Earth’s way of maintaining populations and we have been able to stay ahead of the curve for a long time now.  In the end, we can’t out innovate Mother Nature and she will come back with a vengeance.

The next thing is life style, we do need to adjust how we live, how we consume, change our expectations, and yes, make sacrifices.  Many people are quick to say “do you want us to revert back to the stone age”  or “an agrarian life” and in part, yes we do.  However, it is a much more advanced version of these lives.  One that marries technology where appropriate, where we leverage knowledge and information freely and expertly, where the bottom line includes externalities.  This is very difficult to swallow, people are often very against this notion, hostile even.  But it is a reality.

Once we get past these two hurtles there are some other higher level things we can do.

  • Approach things from a holistic standpoint
  • Remove materialism; focus on what is truly important
  • Evaluate our success by our least fortunate members
  • View nature as an ally; work with her, not against her
  • Be accountable to your fellow man
  • Become a citizen, not a consumer
  • Value the resources you have
  • View recycling as a failure, waste as a travesty
  • Integrate systems rather than segregate
  • Value and embrace diversity
  • Take only your fair share
  • Seek resiliency


Ways To Stop Wasting Water

I found this neat infographic today about how conserve water, though I felt they left out some things.  The addition of aerators or low flow nozzles to your sinks, low flow shower heads, dual flushing toilets, a tank-less water heater, and buying a front load washer will reduce you water consumption by at least half, if not more.

Monitoring Your Energy Usage

I am, by my nature, a very analytical person.  I like things that can be objectively quantified, measured, or categorized.  The other thing I know is that by simply measuring things, we become aware of them better, which means we use less.  Studies have shown that the simple act of tracking calories, will psychologically cut your intake in half in many cases.  So today I wanted to share some things on how to monitor your energy usage.  This will hopefully reduce your impact and help you get an idea of your biggest consuming appliances.  It will also be useful for those of you who are wanting to size up how many solar panels you’ll need.

The first one is the easiest and the cheapest, which means you are more likely to use it.  These will run you about $25.00 (for the 4600 version, they have a cheap 4400 for $18) and allow you to plug an appliance into it and then the Kill-a-Watt into the wall.  It will track your usage, allow you to input the cost per KW and will calculate the cost of running that item.  What is really useful is that it will track usage over time, then extrapolate how much it will cost you for a day, a week, a month or a year.  You will quickly come to realize that certain things take next to no power (cell phone costs me $2 a year), where as a computer could cost you $100 a year.  I really like this option because of its simplicity and ability to put the energy usage into dollar amounts;  The number one way to make someone an environmentalist…. have an effect on their wallet!



Next up is a the Black and Decker energy monitor.  What this does is monitors your whole house usage easily.  You place this sensor on your power box and it will display the usage on your monitoring device.  Simply place it in a place you look often to get a sense of your usage.  The only thing I don’t like about this one is that it isn’t able to provide info on what is using power, just that it is.  Things in your home click on and off all the time.  Your fridge compressor turns on and off, the water heater fires up, etc.  This unit is good to help you know what to expect when the bill does come, for that, it is great.  This will run you about $40.

Finally the best of both worlds, able to monitor the whole house, but also able to break down individual appliances.  It is also a lot more accurate, outputs to the web and has a host of analytical tools.  Basically a statistics nerd’s dream!  The system is called the energy detective (TED) and it ties into your electrical box using these clamp monitors to sense usage, then it is transmitted to a wireless router, which then can be monitored on a desktop monitor, your computer or even your iphone.  It is also scalable, allowing you to by more clamps and individually monitor certain systems.  The data is the outputed to a a dashboard on your computer that can even be viewed online from anywhere. This option really starts at $250 with an additional $60 per set of clamps.