Archive for July, 2009

Solar-powered Air Conditioner Aims To Reduce Your Electricity Bills

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Eco Factor: Concept air conditioner powered by solar energy.

With the summer sun getting hotter each year due to global warming and the rise in pollution, it gets really tough to stand all that heat without turning on the air conditioner. However, like most energy-eating appliances, cooling your interiors using an air conditioner shows its end impact on your electricity bills. Industrial designer Philip Stankard has tried to prove that you can remain comfortable during the summer months without exactly worrying about the utility bills. Philip has designed a concept air conditioner, dubbed Frost, which works by converting solar energy into electricity and using it to keep your home’s interiors cool.

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July 27, 2009 at 3:50 pm Leave a comment

DIY Energy-efficient Air Conditioner Made From Salvaged Materials

diy ac_1

Eco Factor: Car air conditioner made from recycled materials.

While Toyota’s Prius will sport on-board solar panels that will take care of the car’s air conditioning and ventilation needs, Instructables user CameronSS has tried to find a way everybody can flaunt a green AC in their vehicles. CameronSS has made an air conditioner that works on a 12V DC supply from materials that might be present in your garage.

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July 27, 2009 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Bleach

While I am finishing up my vacation, hope you find this post from 2007 helpful in your “green” quests!

By now I am sure that most of you know that bleach is incredibly toxic to both you and the environment around you. As I have mentioned before, chlorine bleach releases dioxin, furans and other organochlorines into the air, can cause sore throats, coughs, wheezing, shortness of breath, fluid in the lungs and studies have shown a relationship between dioxin exposure and cancer, birth defects, and developmental/reproductive disorders. Sounds like something you should be using to wash your clothes in, right? And although the above is all true, bleach is still the chemical of choice for whiter whites…but there are alternatives that are much safer for your family that you could be using. Let’s take a look.

First up, you should look at the ingredients in whatever product you use. The following ingredients can be used in varying amounts to whiten and clean your clothes: vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, oxygen, borax, washing soda, sodium hydrosulfite (salt & water). Do not combine them all together…who knows what would happen! I just wanted to let you know that these ingredients are much safer alternatives to chlorine bleach. Hydrogen peroxide, which sounds the most dangerous of all the above, breaks down into water and oxygen in the wastewater.

Besides making your own versions of whiteners from lemon or vinegar or borax, there are several brands available that come pre-made and ready to use. They are proven to be very effective in getting your clothes whiter while being safe for use around your family.

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Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Bleach – Is color safe, non-toxic, biodegradable, phosphate-free, safe for septic systems and is not tested on animals. Consists of natural oxygen safe bleach, oxygen bleach stabilizer, deionized water.

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Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach – No chlorine or optical brighteners, completely biodegradable, not tested on animals and is even approved by the Vegan Society. Consists of 100% percarbonate, which is composed of salt, limestone and oxygenated water.

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Bi-O-Kleen Oxygen Bleach Plus – No chemical cold-water activators or optical brighteners, no metasilicates, borax, or caustics, chlorine and borine free.

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Earth Friendly Oxo Brite Non-Chlorine Bleach – Ingredients are sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate. Free of enzymes, phosphates, chlorine, DEA and petroleum ingredients.

Of course, this post is mostly about bleach alternatives for washing your clothes, but the same type of ingredients can be used to clean your kitchen and/or bathroom. Bon Ami makes a great safe scrubber and vinegar makes a real good mold killer. So the next time you are about to pick up a bottle of bleach, do yourself a favor and try out a bleach alternative…your family and the environment will thank you!

Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Bleach. | The Good Human

July 25, 2009 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

DNA Of Ancient Lost Barley Could Help Modern Crops Cope With Water Stress

ScienceDaily (July 24, 2009) — Researchers at the University of Warwick have recovered significant DNA information from a lost form of ancient barley that triumphed for over 3000 years seeing off: 5 changes in civilisation, water shortages and a much more popular form of barley that produces more grains. This discovery offers a real insight into the couture of ancient farming and could assist the development of new varieties of crops to face today’s climate change challenges.

The researchers, led by Dr Robin Allaby from the University of Warwick’s plant research arm Warwick HRI, examined Archaeobotanical remains of ancient barley at Qasr Ibrim in Egypt’s Upper Nile. This is a site that was occupied for over 3000 years by 5 successive cultures: Napatan, Roman, Meoitic, Christian and Islamic.

The first surprise for the researchers was that throughout that period every culture seemed to be growing a two rowed form of barley. While natural wild barley tends to be two rowed most farmers prefer to grow a much higher yield 6 row version which produces up to 3 times as many grains. That 6 row version has grown for over 8000 years and that was certainly grown in the lower Nile over the same period as Qasr Ibrim was occupied. It was thought that despite the fact that the rest of Egypt used 6 row barley that the farmers of Qasr Ibrim were perhaps deliberately choosing to import 2 rowed barley but the researchers could not understand why that would be so.

The plant scientists were pleased to find that the very dry conditions at Qasr Ibrim meant that they were able to extract a great deal of DNA information from barley samples from the site that dated back 2900 years. This was far better than would normally be expected from barley samples of that age. This led to the researchers to a second and much bigger surprise. They found that the DNA evidence showed that the two rowed barley at the site wasn’t the normal wild two eared barley but a mutation of the more normally cultivated six rowed barley that had changed into a two ear form that had continued to be cultivated for around three millennia.

Dr Robin Allaby said: “The consistency of the two-row phenotype throughout all the strata spanning three millennia indicates that the reason for the reappearance of the two row form is more likely to be genetic, not environmental. Consequently, the two-row condition has probably resulted from a gain of a function mutation at another point in the plants DNA that has also reasserted the two-row condition from a six-row ancestor”

“There may have been a natural selection pressure that strongly favoured the two-row condition. One such possible cause we are currently investigating is water stress. Qasr Ibrim is located in the upper Nile which is very arid relative to the lower Nile where six-row remains are found, and studies have shown that two-row can survive water stress better than six-row”

He concluded that: “This finding has two important implications. Such strong selection pressure is likely to have affected many genes in terms of adaptation. Archaeogenetic study of the DNA of such previously lost ancient crops could confirm the nature of the selection pressure and be very valuable in the development of new varieties of crops to help with today’s climate change challenges. Secondly this crop’s rediscovery adds to our respect for the methods and thinking of ancient farmers. These ancient cultures utilized crops best suited to their environmental situation for centuries, rather than the much more popular six rowed barley they used a successful low grain number yield crop which could cope far better with water stress.”


Journal reference:

  1. Dr Robin Allaby, Sarah A. Palmer, Jonathan D. Moore, Alan J. Clapham and Pamela Rose. Archaeogenetic Evidence of Ancient Nubian Barley Evolution from Six to Two-Row Indicates Local Adaptation. PLoS One, (in press)

DNA Of Ancient Lost Barley Could Help Modern Crops Cope With Water Stress

July 25, 2009 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

Cash for Clunkers: Get the Best Car for Your Money with New Calculator

Magnify your government check by buying a fuel-efficient car, truck or SUV that will save you over time.

var isBlog = false; var imageUrl = “/cm/thedailygreen/images/Wl/Cash-for-clunkers-md.jpg”; var path = “/environmental-news/latest/”; var pathArray = new Array(); pathArray = path.split(‘/’); for( i = 1; i < pathArray.length; i++){ if(pathArray[i] == 'blogs'){ isBlog = true; } } if(isBlog == false && imageUrl != ""){ document.write('‘); } <!–A Cash for Clunkers program envisioned by Congress would pay up to $4,500 for scrapping a gas-guzzler like an SUV or truck, and buying a new car that isn't all that fuel-efficient. Here's how to magnify your savings.–>

When Congress approved hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out Wall Street by buying subprime mortgage derivatives and other “toxic” assets, economists and moralists worried over the “moral hazard.” Do you encourage bad behavior by saving those who have made bad decisions, and lost because of them?

When Congress passed a smaller-scale bailout for regular Americans who made a bad choice by buying a gas-guzzling SUV, truck or sports car that they don’t need, lawmakers rewarded the bad decision with a check for as much as $4,500. The reason, ostensibly, was to improve fuel economy by getting old cars off the road, but the law was written so weakly that it will still subsidize the purchase of new clunkers that get as little as 15 mpg (for a truck, 18 mpg for an SUV and 22 mpg for a car).

Granted, there are barely a dozen 2009 cars and SUVs that get 30 mpg or better, and only two (the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic hybrid) that get better than 40 mpg — a sad enough fact. But why not subsidize those vehicles, to the exclusion of gas-guzzlers? Ford — remember Ford? that other, healthier member of the Big Three? — even makes three SUVs that get better than 30 mpg (the hybrid Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner and the Mazda Tribute).

All in all, Cash for Clunkers is clearly another bailout for automakers — who need to sell more vehicles, particularly those gas guzzlers sitting on the lot. It’s not really designed to limit pollution or gas consumption.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t trade in a clunker for a fuel-efficient vehicle, and still cash in on the government check. Now, the Sierra Club has helpfully created a Cash for Clunkers Calculator shows how to magnify your savings by simply quantifying the savings you can enjoy every year with a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Aim for the top, with a 2010 Toyota Prius, for instance, and you’ll save almost $1,500 a year on fuel costs, compared to buying a car with the minimum qualifying fuel economy (18 mpg).

First, see if your junker is clunky enough to qualify for the Cash for Clunkers program at the government’s cars.gov site.

Then, use this Kelly Blue Book calculator to see if your car is worth more as a trade-in.

Then, use the Cash for Clunkers Calculator to determine the best fuel-efficient vehicle to purchase, and find dealers that sell it.

The Sierra Club adds these two nifty little bits of negotiating advice that should help you get the best deal:

  1. Talk to multiple dealers before you mention you have a guzzler to trade in. Find out which offers the best deal for your vehicle, and work with that dealership.
  2. Your guzzler will be crushed and recycled, not resold, and you will get a voucher toward the purchase of your new car. Be sure to talk to your dealer about the scrap value of your guzzler — you can apply some of the scrap value toward your purchase.

Do You Think a $4,500 Trade-in Credit for Gas Guzzlers Is a Good Idea?

Tell us by commenting below, or take the poll.

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Print Cash for Clunkers: Get the Best Car for Your Money with New Calculator

July 25, 2009 at 2:31 pm Leave a comment

From Skins of Onions, Farmers Develop Promising Biogas

22 Jul 2009:

A large onion processor in California is taking 300,000 pounds of onion waste a day — skins, tails, and tops — and converting much of it into a biogas that he uses to power his operation. Steven Gill, a partner in Gills Onions — which dices, slices, and purees onion for wholesale and retail customers — has worked with Southern California Gas Company to create an energy recovery system that produces 600 kilowatts per day, which meets up to 40 percent of the electricity needs of his processing plant. The onion waste is shredded and pressed to squeeze out the juice, which is then diverted to an anaerobic digester. Workers add microbes that convert the juice into methane gas, which helps power Gill’s facility. Gill used to spread the onion waste on fields but soon ran out of room. Southern California Gas provided $2.7 million in incentives for the $9.5 million energy recovery system. Gill estimates that converting the onion waste to biogas will save him $700,000 a year in electricity costs and $400,000 in waste disposal costs, meaning the plant will pay for itself in about six years. Nearby carrot and wine producers are interested in installing similar systems.

Yale Environment 360: From Skins of Onions, Farmers Develop Promising Biogas

July 24, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Permaculture in Palestine: Bustan Qaraaqa Greens the Hills Outside Bethlehem

by Jesse Fox, Tel Aviv, Israel

bustan qaraaqa house photo

For a group of British ecologists working in development organizations in the West Bank, researching the sorry state of the Palestinian environment became, at some point, rather unsatisfying. “We wanted to move from writing reports on environmental destruction and stagnating development to actually doing something about it,” says Alice Gray. Over two years later, the group, along with a handful of volunteers, is creating an ecological oasis in almost impossible conditions. Bustan Qaraaqa (literally “Tortoise Garden”) is a Permaculture paradise in the making.

bustan qaraaqa solar oven photo
Building a solar oven.

“When we first started building this place, a little over a year ago, everyone around here told us we were crazy,” says Tom, another resident ecologist. “How are you going to grow anything here without water, they asked us. But for us that’s exactly the point – using what we have to show other people what can be done here.”

Founded in April 2008, Bustan Qaraaqa sits in a quiet valley on the outskirts of Beit Sahour, a town near Bethlehem. Alice, Tom and a handful of foreign and local volunteers live here in a century-old stone house (the oldest house in the valley, according to their landlord, whose father built it), surrounded by 14 dunams of land.

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Greywater system: water from the sinks and shower are filtered, then reused to water a vegetable garden.

It may sound idyllic, but the challenges are immense. Sparse rainfall, creeping desertification, lousy soils and rocky, sloping land, just to name a few. Making matters worse, the region is in the middle of a prolonged drought, and the past couple of years have seen record low rainfall here (although, to my astonishment, I woke up one morning to a light drizzle falling on the farm – quite an unusual experience during the dry Middle Eastern summer).

After just over a year of work on the farm, the place is beginning to take shape. A water cistern, meant to collect the winter rains for use irrigating trees in the summer, sits half-full at the bottom of the valley. Soon it will host a school of tilapia. Swales have been dug in preparation for trees and vegetable gardens on the slopes. A composting toilet, greywater system, and a compost heap are all functional. There was even a chicken coop for a while, until a pack of dogs managed to break into it and eat all the fowl.

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The tree nursery.

In the dry heat of the late afternoon, I find Tom, a tall, lanky Brit, lovingly tending to his pet project. The farm’s tree nursery, nestled under a burlap overhang, contains some 120 species of native trees, as well as a few exotic species. Tom collected all of the seeds himself, during his travels through seven different countries.

Kneeling down to pick out a weed, Tom lists the benefits that the trees will eventually provide: improved soils, a home for wildlife, a source of animal feed, reduced erosion, medicinal uses, and the list goes on. The trees, among them oaks, carob, acacia, pecan and pistachio, are destined to be planted on the farm’s terraces, and on neighboring farms.

One of the project’s primary goals is to empower the surrounding community. “Individuals and communities have more power than they believe,” says Alice. “The idea here is to turn our lives into an experiment, to explore what people can achieve using simple methods and the basic resources at hand.”

bustan qaraaqa swales photo
Swales follow the contour lines of terraces. Trees from the nursery will be planted in the thin lines, just below canals where water will collect. In between the rows of trees, vegetable gardens will grow. The circles lined with stones are “keyholes” from which the gardeners can access the plants.

One way of connecting with the community has been through the trees. Bustan Qaraaqa’s inhabitants conduct tree-planting workshops, help local farmers during the olive harvest and are constantly seeking out other farmers interested in planting some of their seedlings.

They are also interested in working in a more urban setting. One potential project would involve setting up roof gardens and greywater systems in refugee camps, where food security is a serious issue.

Another big plan is to build constructed wetlands for sewage treatment. As in most of the West Bank, sewage in Bethlehem is not treated. Instead, raw sewage flows into valleys, eventually making their way to the Dead Sea – contaminating the land and destroying the ecosystem along the way.

Bethlehem’s sewage happens to be dumped into two valleys not far from the farm. Using little more than a clever combination of purifying plants and graded terraces, Tom envisions a method of treating the city’s sewage without the need for treatment plants.

While Alice hopes a local farmer will eventually take over the farm, she adds that this is not essential. “The project is much bigger than this site,” she says. “Bustan Qaraaqa’s role is to serve as a demonstration site and to pass on knowledge.” From the look of things, they are off to a very promising start.

All photos by Jesse Fox.

Permaculture in Palestine: Bustan Qaraaqa Greens the Hills Outside Bethlehem : TreeHugger

July 19, 2009 at 8:02 pm Leave a comment

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