Relevant.Green: Clean Energy from the Ocean

Posted: August 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

turbine

Whoa, look at the size of that thing

(Yes, I know, that’s what she said. I heard her)

Back to business though, that is one gigantic, beast of energy potential.

Soon to be installed on the ocean floor at the European Marine Energy Centre near Orkney in Northern Scotland, this one turbine can sit quietly on the ocean floor and generate enough power to fuel 1,000 homes continuously.

So why are we still buying oil and even buying it in record amounts WHILE complaining about the gulf spill, when we have proven tech like this that could easily do the job with little downside?

From TreeHugger:

Atlantis Resources chief executive Tim Cornelius noted that due to the slow speed at which the blades rotate, marine life is at little risk: ” The turbines turn at six to eight revolutions per minute, so are incredibly slow turning and will have zero impact on the surrounding environment.”


The impact of our choices

Posted: June 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

It’s great that everyone is up in arms about the massive oil hemorrhage taking place in the Gulf of Mexico, and clearly, I agree that BP, and the rest of their industry needs to be held accountable for the ridiculous lack-of-action they took that led up to this.

However, this is just something that we’re talking about because it’s news-worthy. In comparison, I can’t really say this is the worst thing we Americans have done to the ocean this decade even.

I know that sounds radical, and probably insensitive, to say.  I also know that until a few months ago, I was also largely ignornant to the harm we are causing our oceans.

For one, take a look at the Great Pacific Garbage Float.  Estimated to be twice the size of the US, and upward of 100 feet deep, a near island made of the solid bits of floating plastic trash, surrounded by miles of “plasic soup”, smaller pieces of plastic that are photodegrading.

We all know that plastic doesn’t biodegrade, but it DOES photodegrade.  Exposure to the water & sun makes the plastic split up into smaller & smaller pieces of plastic.  Considering that a large amount of the plastic soup started out at industrial grade plastic pellets, you can imagine it doesn’t take long for this stuff to break down to the point that it looks like a goldfish pellet.

As the plastic flotsam photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces, it concentrates in the upper water column. As it disintegrates, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms which reside near the ocean’s surface.

Once the plastic is broken down small enough, the marine life mistakes it for food (remember, a lot of animals get by eating plankton), and then the plastic, along with the chemicals it bears, are passed up the food chain.

From Discover magazine:
Fish and seabirds mistake plastic for food. Plastic debris releases chemical additives and plasticizers into the ocean. Plastic also adsorbs hydrophobic pollutants like PCBs and pesticides like DDT. These pollutants bioaccumulate in the tissues of marine organisms, biomagnify up the food chain, and find their way into the foods we eat.”

The worst part, or perhaps the most convenient part, is that nobody can say for sure where the plastic comes from.  Current estimates say 80% of the float originated from land, between North America & Asia.

So, while I don’t drive a car, and can remain relatively conscience free about the Texas Tea that the gulf is being turned into, I do certainly use a lot of plastic.  I’m typing to you on a keyboard made of plastic, sitting on a chair with plastic bits, waiting for my plastic-cased phone to charge.

I don’t know that any of what I dispose of is responsibly disposed of or recycled.   Really THAT should be the next step.  Find out what happens after I’m done with something, instead of just believing someone else puts it in the best place possible.


Great Idea, Let's Make it Happen

Posted: June 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Was just reading on INHABITAT about the proposal put forth by Japanese company Shimizu Corp to turn the moon into a solar power plant.

Lots of people have called this idea crazy, and INHABITAT adds,

If we can’t get robots to fix an oil spill 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, how can we possibly expect them to build a gigantic solar power plant on the moon?

But I say, the plan isn’t ambitious enough.

Yes, folks, you just read that.  I may have just hit a milestone in ridiculousness, but I really don’t think robots on the moon is an ambitious enough plan.

Why just put a belt around it?   Why not try to cover as much of one side as you can?

I have to say, I love the idea of bountiful, cheap electrical power, especially if it can easily be shared to far reaching parts of the globe.

But let’s take it one step farther…

Why not couple this with the Wireless Power invented by MIT a couple years ago, and just beam free power to the world?

THAT is how I’d like the government to spend my tax dollars.

And, I bet THAT would get a lot more people to switch to electrical or solar-power automobiles.

Free power in AZ in the summer would mean at least $100 per month I’d have available, and I’m sure my home is on the small-end of that scale.

(I just checked, and APS.com confirmed that I used 7,885 kWh of power over the last 12 months, with 56% of that use coming from June – October. Average energy spending per month: $90.  Energy spending for the average AZ home: waaaay more than that.)

Sure, I get that money paid to the power company is still money going into the economy, and by no means to I think APS is an evil company. (Though the many coal-fired power plants in the East & Southeast are…)

However, if I had that extra money available, I could support more local businesses, such as through the 3/50 Project, or hell, even save the money for a big ticket purchase, like a down payment on a house (sub-prime hell nah).

Benefits of “free power”:

  • Solar & EV cars take over
  • Light Rail could run almost entirely for free   (not that they couldn’t pull this off if they installed solar on the existing line, though….)
  • More money to stimulate the local economy, instead of landing as profits for the electrical utility.
  • Storm-proof power.  Monsoons now longer a worry.
  • Less utilities means less costs for government in terms of facilities maintenance and entitlement payouts, and thus better funding for relevant projects and/or less taxes for us, further leading to more stimulus of the local economy.
  • No power plants endlessly burning coal, adding SO2 to the air, causing respiratory diseases and deaths.

I’m sure there are countless other benefits I just haven’t thought of right now….


One Solution to the BP #oilspill

Posted: June 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

via Wooster Collective, art by Priest:


Xkcd wins again: #oilspill

Posted: June 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »


Something we could use in Phoenix

Posted: June 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

I stumbled across Transportation Alternatives as they were being discussed on a design blog I read, and as I dug in, I thought “this is a pretty good idea, why don’t we have a strong group for this here?”.

Our Mission is to reclaim New York City’s streets from the automobile, and to advocate for bicycling, walking and public transit as the best transportation alternatives.

Transportation Alternatives was founded in 1973 during the explosion of environmental consciousness that also produced the Clean Air and Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency. Since our founding, T.A. has helped win numerous improvements for cyclists and pedestrians and has been the leading voice for reducing car use in the city. T.A.’s roots are in bicycling, and many of our members are everyday cyclists. But winning a cycling-friendly city means changing the overall transportation system, which, even in mass transit-centered New York City, is still dominated by the private automobile.

T.A. seeks to change New York City’s transportation priorities to encourage and increase non-polluting, quiet, city-friendly travel and decrease–not ban–private car use. We seek a rational transportation system based on a “Green Transportation Hierarchy,” which gives preference to modes of travel based on their benefits and costs to society. To achieve our goals, T.A. works in five areas: Bicycling, Walking and Traffic Calming, Car-Free Parks, Safe Streets and Sensible Transportation.

Green Transportation Hierarchy

Of course, lately I’ve heard positive things about more and more people riding their bikes, and I’ve certainly seen an increased number of bike riders, and Light Rail commuters, this year.  Perhaps I’m completely ignorant to a local organization that is already responsible for all of this.

But it never hurts to get the word out.


Sometimes I just feel like including a crazy picture

Posted: May 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

“This is one of those times” said Capt Obvious.


Vacation like a Hobbit?

Posted: May 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

or

“6 days 7 nights in your own personal Bag End”

Tell me that’s not what you think of when you see this:

As INHABITAT says:

Architect Matteo Thun has designed this striking eco-friendly hotel to be located on a mountainside in the National Park of Stelvio in the Italian Alps. Composed of a series of underground buildings linked by undulating green roofs, the complex takes advantage of passive design principles and ground-source heat pumps to conserve energy. In addition, the construction of the units, the way the units are situated on the site, and the materials used have all been carefully considered to minimize the complex’ impact upon the environment.

So that all sounds good, but one has to remember what Tolkien said about living in such a place:

In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
– The Hobbit, “An Unexpected Party

Great Idea we need here

Posted: May 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

I first heard about Seedbombs when Jeff from @truckingoodfood mentioned them a few days ago.

Then low and behold what I found in my RSS reader today, from INHABITAT:

Guerrilla gardeners in San Francisco have some new ammunition with the recent installation of the city’s first seedbomb vending machine! Designed by L.A.’s Common Studio, the re-purposed gum-ball machine is set up in front of Bi-Rite Market in the Mission District, where it vends “bombs” containing seeds and compost encased in clay. All they need is a little bit of water and they will sprout – toss one into an abandoned lot or even a pothole, and voila: green space.

This is a pretty genius idea.  If there were a mix that could survive unassisted in our city, I’d scoop that up right away.


Earth Day: Congrats, Now Do More!

Posted: April 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

(image from GOOD.is)

There we are, Phoenix.  Number 12 on the survey for Least Wasteful Cities.

Not too bad.  Let’s see some of the details:

Ranked 12th in the nation as America’s Least Wasteful City
Ranked 20th in 2009

Phoenix’s high rankings:

  • 5th Never driving their car for trips that are less than one mile from home
  • 7th Participating in their city’s sustainability/environmental programs
  • 7th Turning off the water when brushing their teeth

Phoenix’s low rankings:

  • 23rd Shutting the lights off when not in the room
  • 23rd Hanging their clothes out to dry when possible
  • 24th Buying locally grown/produced foods

So oddly we’re good at walking for short trips, which I’d expect us to be awful at because of the heat, and we’re awful at hanging clothes to dry, even though it only takes 0.8342 seconds to dry off here.

But here’s the part I loved best:

Efforts/Decisions to more environmentally friendly

  • 84 percent recycle
  • 78 percent use energy efficient bulbs
  • 75 percent shop locally

Hooray for shopping local!

So we moved up from 20th to 12th in one year.  No reason we cannot crack the top 10 next year.

To learn more about Phoenix’s environmental and sustainability efforts, visit http://phoenix.gov/greenphoenix/index.html

(This is Day 29 of the 30 Day Blog Challenge, be sure to check out the other participants at #30DayBC)