Stories tagged sustainable

It's not every day that I agree with the NYTimes' John Tierney. But today, I do. He offers up seven rules for a new breed of environmentalist: the "Turq."

"No, that’s not a misspelling. The word is derived from Turquoise, which is Stewart Brand’s term for a new breed of environmentalist combining traditional green with a shade of blue, as in blue-sky open-minded thinking. A Turq, he hopes, will be an environmentalist guided by science, not nostalgia or technophobia."

Check out the rules. Are you a Turq? Does any of Tierney's advice surprise you?

Earth Day
Earth DayCourtesy Cornelia Kopp

Jon Foley, of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, has similar advice. "There are no silver bullets," he says. "But there is silver buckshot."

Human activities, rather than nature, are now the driving force of change on the planet. And experts say that there will be nine billion of us on the planet by 2050. Making sure that we all have the chance to survive and thrive will require a lot of innovation, and a lot of blue-sky thinking. Who's up for the challenge?

It's Friday, so it's time for a new Science Friday video.

Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday

How would you describe the size of a wind turbine? There's no right answer. Turbines come in different varieties tuned for different uses. Compare the 256-foot-tall Gamesa G87 turbines, found at Bear Creek Wind Park in Penn., with the mini turbines developed by Bergey Windpower in Norman, Okla. The scale of both may surprise you.

Jul
27
2009

Green energy? What about trying a little blue energy for a change? Blue seems just as wholesome and non-threatening, right?

In a similar vane to my last post on algae the geniuses of the world have come up with another truly brilliant "why didn't I think of that" kind of idea. It seems to make so much sense! It's so big ... and powerful ... and blue ...
We Have Come A Long Way: Now, just imagine that...but under water!
We Have Come A Long Way: Now, just imagine that...but under water!Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Engineers at Blue Energy have developed, with support from the Army Corps of Engineers a turbine for the ocean. No no, not a wind turbine ON the ocean (my mom just made that mistake) but an underwater turbine that will harness the powerful ocean currents to create possibly the most sustainable energy source we know of!

Here is what we know: Water turbines will be placed in the Gulf Stream near Florida and they will work much like land wind turbines (using a rotater blade, which when made to spin by wind or water, creates energy!).

There is still a considerable amount of work to do before water turbines can be utilized. Frederick Driscoll, director of Florida Atlantic University's Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology strives to be realistic about the future of water turbines. A resource assessment of the Gulf Stream is underway to help understand exactly how much energy can be safely extracted from the ocean, where exactly it should be extracted from and how to get the energy safely and efficiently to our homes without disrupting the ocean environment. So much to think about!
Always Something There: The strength of the Gulf Stream has been evident for hundreds of years.
Always Something There: The strength of the Gulf Stream has been evident for hundreds of years.Courtesy Library of Congress

Florida is the fourth largest state in the U.S. and the third largest consumer of energy. They are in dire need of a new energy source as many experts insist that Florida is on the brink of a very serious energy crisis. Much still needs to be done in the way of turbine technology in order to move ahead with incorperating them into the fleet of renewable energy sources. This past spring four acoustic Doppler current profilers were lauched off the coast of Florida to gather information about the currents, mainly to learn about the speed of the ocean currents. Ocean energy may become the crown jewel of the fleet.

Jul
20
2009

A Forest of Fuel: Coming soon, to your gas tank!
A Forest of Fuel: Coming soon, to your gas tank!Courtesy Stef Maruch

Move over, old, lame bio-fuels!

Algae! The wondrous plants that can grow easily in controlled conditions and whose needs are very basic for rapid growth is now being tested for use in bio-fuels. ExxonMobil, looking to expand and diversify their alternative fuel options will team up with Venter's Synthetic Genomics Inc. to conduct research on different types of algae to test their effectiveness as biofuels.

The so-called "first generation" bio-fuels caused problems globally when the price of corn (for corn ethanol) sky rocketed when it was being used for food and fuel . Though a small percent of corn (or other) ethanol is added to gasoline, it still has a huge effect on the market, and is therefore not the best long term solution to eliminating our addiction to oil.

The Future?: Someday...someday. Let's keep 'em crossed for a day when all houses are like this!
The Future?: Someday...someday. Let's keep 'em crossed for a day when all houses are like this!Courtesy Bjorn Appel

Many view bio-fuels as only a transitionary solution to the oil problem, hoping that a sustainable energy type (like solar or wind) may soon be widely available. Algae if successful as a bio fuel, it may be used for a longer period than the "first-generation" bio fuels because of how fast it can grow and how easy it can be to care for. It also isn't used for much else, not like corn anyway. Engineers are hoping to develop artificial environments for algae to grow in knowing that this is the only way to produce enough of the green slime to sustain our needs.

It is encouraging, in some ways, that a big business like ExxonMobil is getting involved because research will not be short funded. If there is a will, there is some green slime that can't wait to get in your car!

(Disclaimer: I stole the title of this post from the original article. Hey, if imitation is a sincere form of flattery...) Anyway, the Italian town of Torraca (population 1,200) is the first place on Earth to be entirely illuminated with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of incandescent lighting. Lots of other cities around the world are following suit.

Though they're more expensive to buy up front, LEDs are much more energy efficient than old-school light bulbs, and they last a LOT longer.

"Potential energy savings, however, appear to hold more sway with cities and building owners than cost. After all, some 22 percent of all electricity use in the U.S. is devoted to lighting, according to the U.S. Department of Energy—and switching to LEDs could save $280 billion by 2028. In fact, researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., estimate that replacing incandescents with LEDs could save $1.83 trillion in energy costs globally over the next decade and eliminate the need for 280 1,000-megawatt power plants."

Mar
20
2007

Eco Model Haus open meeting and Green Institute tour
Thursday, March 29th
Tour: 5:30-6:30; meeting to follow
The Green Institute, 2801 21st Ave S, Minneapolis

There are many green buildings built from the ground up, but there are not any options for showing what residents can do with their existing homes to live more sustainably. The Eco Model Haus will be an existing home that will be remodeled into a green model home. It will display ways that residents can make changes to their homes from very easy and affordable actions such as a display of fluorescent or LED lights and information on how they are more efficient and what they cost (i.e. Science Museum signage) to more expensive or technical actions such as solar panels. We are working towards finding a location off of the Greenway (bike trails) and/or Lightrail to make the connection to alternative transportation as well and easy to access. This will be a space for homeowners, apartment dwellers and students to tour with hands-on and interactive displays.

Rain barrel (top detail): Rain barrels like this one collect rain so you can use it to water your garden later. The screens keep children, pets, and mosquitos out, while letting water in. (Photo by chrisdigo)
Rain barrel (top detail): Rain barrels like this one collect rain so you can use it to water your garden later. The screens keep children, pets, and mosquitos out, while letting water in. (Photo by chrisdigo)

Other examples of what could be displayed in the Eco Model Haus include:

  • Permeable surface options
  • Compost bin displays with plexi glass showing the decomposition
  • Green rooftop with stairs to view it
  • Rain barrels and options for children to water a nearby garden with the rain barrel water
  • Hybrid (HOURCAR) parking spot
  • Rain garden and native plants
  • Recycling and composting set up inside the home
  • Non-toxic cleaning samples and station to make your own to take home with a recipe
  • The Sustainable Living Resource Center will offer a library, product sample displays, experts on hand, a meeting/workshop space and the Twin Cities Green Guide™'s office. The Eco Model Haus will offer a green model home to Minnesotans to tour, attend workshops, lectures, and do research.

    * For the next six months they will be offering open meetings to the public and professionals to offer opinions on what this space will look like and to assist in the planning and execution of the Eco Model Haus. They hope to obtain a space in 2007, begin planning and creating the space in 2008 and open to the public for tours in 2009 or 2010. And they anticipate a large portion of the project will be planned and installed by volunteers (community members and professionals in the field).