Posts Tagged Green And Eco Friendly

How Green Is The Next National Security Plan

So I have been kicking around this idea for a week or two now and it certainly isn’t a entirely new concept, but it is the concept that by taking actions on the green front, will actually enhance our security.  Now before we get into this, I would like to steer clear of political aspect of this discussion, with the side note those who focus on Green initiatives are sometimes seen as the polar opposites to those who focus on National Security.  I think many would disagree with this view and those who didn’t could be brought to the table and see both sides.    The other thing that I would assert is that this concept isn’t exclusive to America, I speak generally about the world.  So here are a few examples of the threats I see and their solutions.

To expand on what I consider national security I think it is important to note that national security extends beyond terrorism and nuclear armaments.  It includes anything from any source that can threaten our safety, well being and long term livability.  This includes drought, blight, natural disaster, war, terrorism, etc.

Food

If you have ever seen the documentary Food Inc. (which I highly recommend) talks about how 90% of the corn and 60% of all soy beans come from one company that are one strain.  This means that a blight, whether engineered or natural, were to hit our country, we would loose 90% of all our corn in one fell swoop.  This is pretty concerning when you truly understand how much of our food comes form corn and in really unexpected forms.  If you look at how many individual strains of food we actually grow for the majority of our food, we are talking 22 types of plants with a specific strain make up 80% of our food.  Can we afford to lose 80% of our food?

So how to fix it.  We first need to encourage a larger diversity of plants, the idea being that some blights will effect some strains of plants and not others.  We then need to decentralize our food production, moving food production closer to the people.  This will take time, money and in all honesty could turn out to be more expensive as economies of scale decreases, but we also need to put a price on sleeping soundly at night.

Energy

I don’t think it takes any stretch of the imagination to see how us depending on other countries  for oil is a bad thing.  Especially when you consider that most sources of this oil are in politically unstable areas.  One thing we see as an option is to drill off shore, which as of late, we have seen how bad that has turned out to be.  The fact is that there may be a large volume of oil out there, but it is still a finite resource and it is getting harder and harder to get to.  With increased difficulty comes increased risk and while innovations can mitigate those risks, I am still left doubting it.

So the solution, I say save what we have in our country and lets focus on sustainable technologies.  While people talk about nuclear, I have to remind them of the heavy subsidies they get every year.  Nuclear is a pretty mature technology, I assert that if we took these subsidies and used them to develop solar/wind into mature technologies that we could come out on top.  The added benefit to this is that we can then decentralize power production to avoid 50 well place bombs to take out most of our power production.

To sum up I think that we are beginning to see how Green is better for everyone in many ways.  I found this video done by Pew which is pretty interesting.

Climate Patriots from Laura Lightbody on Vimeo.

Tree Museum

I came upon an article talking about Switzerland’s new tree museum, at first I had this wide range of negative reactions.  What have we come to?  Are we already at a place where we have to house these trees because we have damaged the earth so much?  etc etc.  The song Pave Paradise by Joni Mitchell (popularized by Counting Crows)

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
They took all the trees, and put em in a tree museum
And they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone
They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot

But as I was thinking about this whole concept while taking a shower, which is where I do my best thinking, I realized a few things.  First off, Switzerland is generally a pretty low impact place, not great, but not bad.  The second thing, the more important thing was thing: A museum is a structure that holds a culture’s/nation’s/etc best achievements.  The objects found in museams are held in a very high esteem, they are symbolic of humanity in a way, we find great value in them.  They inspire, they drive introspection, they ask questions that many are afraid to ask.

So as I come along this thought line I realize what this Tree Museam stands for.  A deep reverence for nature.   We are holding these plant, this earth in the highest esteem, we are saying that of everything that man has created, those things in the natural world we hold high on a pedestal.  I always wonder if aliens form another world where to come to our planet and look at us after we are gone, what would they think?  I think examples like this speak highly for us.  That regardless of our innovations, plants are seen as culturally important.

Maybe I am reading into it too much. What do you think?]

Tree Museum

9 Green Home DIY Projects You Can Do Now!

Great tips on some quick things you can do right now to help green your home and make your green go a bit further.

1. Change your light bulbs already! How many environmentalists does it take to change a light bulb? There are several answers to this joke (none of them that funny), but the real answer is: “all of them.” In your home, lighting accounts for nearly 30 percent of all electricity use. By using compact fluorescent bulbs, you can cut lighting costs by 30 to 60 percent, while improving the quality of the light and reducing environmental impact at the same time.
2. Convince your toilet to use less water. More water is consumed per person in the United States than in any other country. More than a quarter of all of the water used inside the home is flushed down the toilet, which is, literally, a waste. The toilet is the single largest user of clean drinking water inside the home, and it is also the easiest place to conserve water. Before you run out and replace your existing toilets, there are simple and effective things you can do to trick your old toilet to use less water, from flush adapters to flusher adjustments and tank tricks. And when the time comes to replace your working toilets, make sure you buy a low-flow or dual-flush model.
3. Use less water in the shower. Showers add up to nearly 20 percent of all indoor water usage and are the largest users of hot water. By simply installing a low-flow showerhead, you can save up to 4,000 gallons of water annually, and for every gallon of hot water you save, that’s gas or electricity you don’t need to use to heat it. If your average shower is 10 minutes long, upgrading your old showerheads to a low-flow model will save 25 to 55 gallons of water for every shower you take, and potentially shave 30 percent off utility bills!
4. Keep vampires at bay. In the average home, 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics—cable boxes, DVD players, video games, stereos—is consumed while the products are turned off. That’s money that could stay in your pocket. If something is plugged into the wall—a TV, a cellphone charger, an appliance- even if it’s not on, it draws electricity. We call this demand of energy “phantom loads” or, more appropriately, “vampire loads,” since they suck energy. While the amount of power used is relatively small, they can add up to more than 10 percent of your electricity bill.
Read the full article here

Ecospace – Tiny House

Here is a Tiny House that comes from the Designers at Ecospace.  They design a full range of building from small office pods and bigger.  Using SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) these houses can be put together fairly quickly.  At only a few hundred feet, they pack a ton into this thing.  At around $55,000 this is a premium house, but I feel it serves to provide good inspirations for your own design.

outside

Made from sustainable cedar wood with an optional plant covered roof, low-energy heating, lighting and insulation, it’s right at home with the environment as well as your garden. Use it as your office and the garden commute will do wonders for your carbon footprint too.

 

shelf

 

 

Future Of Batteries

With many Tiny Houses wanting to live off the grid, many of us dream of all electric cars charged by green energy sources, we get frustrated when our devices only last a scant few hours.  What does all this have in common?  Batteries.  Technology has allowed us to do so many interesting things in today’s world, but batteries are still from the stone age, or so they seem.  They are inefficient, heave, expensive, and have a low mass/volume to power ratio.  I have said to friends many times, want to make millions, make a better battery.

Living off the grid is one of the biggest benefactors of improvements in batteries.  While solar cells aren’t quite there yet, they have made some big strides in making them cheaper and more efficient.   The point is, they are on there way.  The second component to a solar array is storing that energy to have on had at night or when you are in some heavy  usage.  Better batteries will allow us to do this.  Here is a good article from Good.

header-ev-batteries

For those who didn’t pay attention in class: Batteries are typically comprised of three main parts: a cathode (positive electrode), an anode (negative electrode), and an electrolyte (an ion-rich liquid that separates the electrodes). The movement of metal ions between the cathode and the anode through the electrolyte (and back) releases electrons, generating electricity

Lead-acid batteries, found in conventional automobiles, have a low ratio of energy to weight, which means it takes a lot of battery to provide just a little juice. Nickel-metal hydride batteries, the ones powering today’s hybrids like the Toyota Prius, are significantly lighter, but offer only a slight improvement in efficiency. Neither can compete with gasoline-fueled internal combustion.

Several technologies are competing to fuel the next generation of EVs. All of them, however, have serious weaknesses that researchers are still attempting to address. “People are betting on different horses at this point in time,” says Matt Keyser, a senior engineer in energy storage systems at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. “Which one is going to come out and win is anyone’s guess.”

Here’s a look at some of the technologies vying to corner the EV market:

Lithium-Ion

lithium-ion-smallThese batteries use lithium ions as the electrolyte. A battery pack made of these cells, while more powerful than lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries, is still 10 times weaker than an internal combustion engine of the same weight. Versions of these batteries are already used in in both the Tesla Roadster and Chevy Volt, as well as many electronic devices, such as laptops and cell phones. The knock on current lithium ion technology: It dispenses its stored energy slowly, so acceleration may be slow, and the batteries take several hours to charge. Also, while lithium is plentiful, it’s not extensively mined, so it’s expensive to obtain. It may take up to 10 years for supply to catch up to projected demand.

 

Ultracapacitors

ultracapacitor-smallUltracapacitors charge quickly and dispense their charge speedily (curing the slow acceleration problem that plagues some electric cars). They also last much longer than batteries—they can be recharged over and over again, whereas batteries eventually will not recharge. That’s because ultracapacitors use electric fields, instead of slowly depleting chemicals, to get charges. They are already in use in short-run electric buses in Russia and garbage trucks in the United States. The downside: They only hold their charge for a limited time, so it’s unlikely that ultracapacitors will become a viable option for powering a car alone. “I think ultracapacitors are a technology that’s going to work with [battery] systems,” says Savinell. However, one Texas-based company called EEStor says it has solved the storage problem, claiming its ultracapacitors will enable a small car to travel 250 miles on a single charge that only takes five minutes to complete.

Fuel Cells

hydrogen-fuel-cell-2-smallLike batteries, fuel cells have cathodes and anodes and involve a chemical reaction, specifically making water and electrons (and thus electricity) by combining hydrogen with oxygen. The technology is simple enough, but the safety issues are the drag: The transport and onboard storage of highly explosive (remember the Hindenburg?) hydrogen gas could keep fuel cells from catching on. In addition, the catalysts needed to split hydrogen atoms into protons and electrons (like platinum, palladium, rhodium, nickel) are very expensive.”Fuel cells from a mobile standpoint are difficult,” says NREL’s Keyser. “Maybe in twenty five or thirty years down the road, we may be able to deal with all the storage issues, the transport issues, the infrastructure issues, the catalyst itself.” Seemingly agreeing with Keyser’s skepticism is the Obama administration, which cut $100 million from the federal hydrogen fuel cell program in 2009.

Redox Flow

vanadium-redox-flow-smallSimilar to fuel cells, redox flow batteries would require filling stations rather than plug-in capability. In this case, a charged electrolyte flows through the battery, producing electrons. After a while, the electrolyte loses its charge and needs to be pumped out and replaced. The electrolyte is typically made with vanadium, which is the 22nd most abundant element in the world. It’s also very safe. “If you were to spill this on the road and light a cigarette near it, it’s not going to go off like hydrogen,” says Keyser. “The big thing with [redox flow batteries] is: Are you going to get the energy density or power density that you need for the car itself?” Right now, even lithium ion cells are several times more powerful than redox flow cells. German researchers, however, claim they have a method to increase the distance redox flow batteries can power a car by four to five times, rendering them roughly equal to lithium ion batteries.

Metal Air

metal-air-battery-smallSavinell and Keyser both point to metal air batteries as the technology of the future. This battery uses the oxygen in the air as its cathode, which means it doesn’t need as much material and gets more energy for its weight. Depending on what material is used for the anode, metal air batteries could be anywhere from three times more powerful than lithium ion batteries of the same weight to as powerful as an internal combustion engine. IBM intends to bring these to market in five years for smaller electronics. “For lithium air, I think that’s more ten to fifteen years down the road [to power a car],” says Keyser. “We’re just starting to really look at that and understand all the benefits and the costs associated with lithium air batteries.” One major barrier remains: When the oxygen reacts with the electrolyte to form ions, it also creates a solid that can gunk up the air intake, blocking the battery’s function. Researchers are searching for an electrolyte that will produce the necessary ions but avoid the formation of this solid.