Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Guaranteed market for renewables in China

What could it do for renewables if our governments mandated a market like China is doing?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Go GREEN this year for the Holidays!

You can still decorate with other festive Holiday colors such as red, white, silver, and gold if you’d like. I don’t mean you should surround yourself in only a green hue nor do I mean you should spend excessive amounts of green. Instead, I’m hoping all of us holiday enthusiasts can think of creative ways to be less wasteful and more environmentally conscious this year.

I’ve come up with a few relatively easy and creative ways to rethink our traditional holiday habits. It’s just a start, but I hope it encourages us all to remember Mother Nature as we celebrate the Season of Giving.

· Purchase a recyclable reusable mug for the coffee or tea lover in your family, especially for the one who frequently purchases their caffeinated beverages on the go.
· Stuff the student’s stocking with eco-friendly school supplies such as pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, folders, and binders made from recycled and recyclable materials.
· Dress the fashion queen with some hip and trendy clothing made from all natural fibers that are made at shops that respect the environment and its employees.
· Treat someone’s feet to a new pair of shoes or slippers made from either all natural and/or recycled materials.
· Buy the book worms you know a “like new” slightly used copy of their favorite readings from a local bookstore. Better yet, unless you are personally attached, give away your books to those you feel will most enjoy them.
· Restock the beauty queen’s supply of makeup and other cosmetics or toiletries with environmentally friendly products.
· Purchase (or make) the pooches you know and love a new bed, blanket, toys, or treats using all natural materials or ingredients.

· Instead of wrapping paper, use a decorative or personalized (monogrammed) blanket or towel to wrap a gift. Tie it up with a pretty ribbon that can be saved and reused for another gift or purpose.
· Instead of paper or plastic gift bags, put someone’s present in a reusable bag of some sort: tote bag, grocery bag, duffel bag, etc.
· Pack the school supplies in an eco-friendly backpack.
· Place the books in a personalized book tote bag.
· Put the cosmetics in a travel makeup bag.
· Pack clothing items in a piece of luggage or duffel bag.
· Choose a decorative basket or bowl to load up someone’s gifts and goodies.
· Place a new set of towels, sheets, etc inside a nice laundry hamper.
· Use a large mixing bowl or popcorn bowl as the basis for a gift
· Pick out an oversized tub made from recycled plastic to fill with toys or pet gifts. The tub can then be used to store the toys in the future.
· Use a trash can or mop bucket to fill with house or car cleaning needs. Buy environmentally cleaning products as well as a recycled can or bucket if possible.
· Choose decorative storage containers such as canisters for coffee or tea or jars for cookies or dog treats.
· And if you prefer regular wrapping paper, choose a recycled paper product. And try to use string, bows, and tags that can saved and reused.

And just because you rethink your gifts and wrapping this year doesn’t mean those giving you gifts will. Try to be an example this year, by saving or recycling what excess holiday trash you can. Save trashed wrapping paper to insulate the next fragile gift you wrap. Save what bows and ribbons you can. Take the time to separate recyclables from trash and be sure to encourage your friends and families to do the same. The Holidays can still be merry and fun without so much excess waste. As an eco supporter, do your part to be conscious and creative during the holidays and then use the festive get togethers as times to be the example of what being green really means. Happy Holidays to all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ethical Consumerism as Opportunity

Ethical consumerism is the practice of consumers deliberately purchasing goods or products produced “responsibly” so they eliminate or reduce environmental and/or social harm. Each time someone purchases a product, he or she is not only supporting the proliferation of that product, but all that goes into the creation of that product. Each product is considered a vote – for inhumane working conditions or fair trade, for further environmental degradation or conservation. Ethical consumerism appears to be on the rise; one can find evidence at any grocery store. A wider availability of organic produce, fair-trade coffee, and free range eggs are some obvious examples. Many products tout their eco-friendly characteristics – how they were made, ingredients, packaging, and so on. Providing information to the consumer is a great opportunity for businesses to market their product. Of course, many companies disingenously market their products to look like something they're not, as with “greenwashing.” This can make it difficult for preferences to be shown for genuine products. Seeking certification is one way for genuine progressive companies to stand above the rest. Fairtrade, the Organic Trade Association, the Forest Stewardship Council, and Cradle to Cradle certification are just a small sampling of different certification programs various companies can apply to that may boost their marketability and image. The standards and benefits of various programs are debatable, but in the days of information overload, they seem a step in the right direction.

For more information on ethical consumerism, see Ethical Consumer, a U.K. - based magazine that provides free buyers' guides and information.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Solar Heated Hot Tubs!

Looking for a hot tub? Consider a solar tub!

Using the sun to create hot water for pools and hot tubs is now a reality. “With the increased efficiency of solar vacuum tubes, heating hot tubs has become more and more popular using solar. The basic principle of a solar hot tub is to use the solar collectors during the day to heat the tub." Solar powered hot tubs use tube pressurized collector panels. In these panels, water is heated by the sun and then transferred to the hot tub by a 12-volt water pump, which also runs on solar power.

Traditional water heaters and especially pool heaters are bulky, require regular maintenance, and are quite expensive to operate and service. Modern solar water heaters are better than traditional hot water heaters, because they are smaller in size and more efficient to operate. Ultimately, solar water heating offers more efficiency and long term savings.

From an environmental standpoint, many are interested in solar water heaters simply to utilize the sun’s energy. There is a large movement of consumers looking to take advantage of money saving solar technology. And for many green consumers, solar water heating is a major step to reduce your carbon footprint.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Geothermal Heating

Many people spend hundreds of dollars a year on heating and air conditioning for their homes. Especially people that live in places where temperatures get below freezing. Traditional heating methods include gas furnaces, oil furnaces, electric furnaces, and hot water heating systems. All of these methods use a lot of energy and cost a lot of money. In today's world there is a trend toward "going green" and conserving energy. Can this ideology be applied to heating our homes? Yes it can!! Geothermal energy provides people with a cheaper, more energy efficient alternative. Geothermal energy comes from the heat of our planet which has been there since its formation. A geothermal heat pump allows us to capture heat even from cold ground. Since there is no energy conversion necesarry, thermal efficiency is high. I got to witness this great idea when my family rented a mountain house in PA over Thanksgiving. The house was architecturally beautiful and I never would have guessed that there was an alternative energy heating system. It felt as warm and comfortable as any home with modern technology. Hopefully, geothermal energy will become more popular in the near future.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Liquid Wood

With the growing price of crude oil and concerns over the safety of everyday products it is no surprise that new alternatives are being explored in the world of plastics. Plastics are petroleum based and are linked to  heavy metals and softeners known as phthalates which is cause for concern when it is being used for everything from food containers to baby toys. Plastics are also non-renewable and some are not recyclable leading to greater amounts of trash that remain in a landfill forever. When burned, plastics release toxic fumes into the atmosphere. A growing alternative to petroleum based plastics is a bio-plastic called Arboform.

Arboform is a non-toxic bio-plastic composed of wood pulp based lignin, which can be mixed with other natural fibers along with wax to make a strong waterproof plastic alternative. Lignin, is an idyllic raw material because tens of millions of tons are often discarded as a byproduct of the papermaking process. Most commonly, lignin is separated from the cellulose and hemicellulose used to make high quality paper, by means of a sulfite or sulfate pulping process. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology in Germany have found a way to was to use high-pressure hydrolysis (with nothing more than water, high temperature and high pressure) to yield water insoluble lignin that does not need to be separated out by chemical means. With scares about the safety of children's toys Arboform seems like a perfect alternative being lower in chemicals and able to retain its stability even against saliva. When under high pressure conditions, Arboform can be injected into molds and behave just like plastic. Its versatility and renewability makes Arboform a very attractive prospect to manufacturers. When the life of the product is over it can be broken down and recycled as filler or can be burned just like wood without any additional toxic fumes.
This technology is relatively new in the United States but Arboform could be a real solution to reducing dependence on oil. Since the raw materials are renewable and can be grown in the country, the security of the resource is exponentially greater than that of crude oil. Paper manufacturing companies could easily incorporate the production of Arboform along with their products making them more efficient and allowing them to earn greater profits from their raw materials. Arboform is attractive to health conscious consumers that demand non-toxic products for themselves and their families. Even though it is more popular in Europe manufacturers hope that with the green movement Arboform will gain popularity in the U.S. More testing is needed for the safety of the product but overall the outlook is very positive.

By: Stephanie Berry
MSNBC "A greener alternative to plastics: liquid wood" By: Bryn Nelson

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Will Hydrogen be the Fuel of the Future?

For decades byproducts of petroleum have fueled our industries and vehicles. Though the burning of these fuels has been the backbone of our economy they have had an adverse effect on our environment. As the fear of global warming rises; governments, entrepreneurs, and industries are spending millions to find what will replace oil byproducts. Hydrogen, one of the most abundant elements on earth, has become one of the fuels to challenge oil’s supremacy, but will it be the fuel to power the green revolution?
There are many pros to hydrogen fuel cells. In the fuel cells hydrogen is mixed with oxygen to create electricity to power a vehicle. Fuel cell vehicles emit no noxious gases; the byproducts of a fuel cell are water vapor and heat. The abundance of hydrogen makes it a perfect substitute from oil, which is a finite resource. Hydrogen can also be produced in large quantities domestically by using water from the great lakes, lessening our dependence on foreign sources of energy and creating jobs that cannot be outsourced. Currently hydrogen fuel is also being used in a variety of prototype vehicles from cars, buses, airplanes, rockets, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Even with all of hydrogen’s benefits there are some major problems with hydrogen.
A major problem with hydrogen is that it does not occur naturally by itself in nature. Hydrogen is usually bonded to other elements due to the fact that it only has one electron that orbits its atomic structure. Hydrogen can be separated from water by using electrolysis, but this method is very expensive and power intensive. Most hydrogen now is processed from natural gas because of the high cost of the separation process. Another problem is the cost of the fuel cell within the car. Even though fuel cells have been in use for over fifteen years engineers have not found an innovative way to make fuel cells cheaper. These high cost make the hydrogen powered car to expensive for most consumers and not cost effective for companies to mass produce. At the present time there are only a few hydrogen fueling stations scattered around the country and for hydrogen to overtake gasoline a distribution system has to be built which would cost billions and would take decades to build and get running efficiently to satisfy the consumer s fuel needs.
Besides the problems that hydrogen has the industry has fierce competitors like electric cars and plug in hybrids that seemed poised to knock hydrogen down the list for alternatives. In 2009 US energy secretary Steven Chu eliminated public funding for hydrogen fuel cell research, but Congress rejected the idea and approved 300 million to continue research on hydrogen fuel cells. There are some in Congress that think that hydrogen will be the vital to repowering how America will travel in the future. As for an entrepreneur wanting to get in the hydrogen fuel cell industry it seems that without drastic innovation to bring down cost and the political will to start building distribution infrastructure, hydrogen fuel will not be the fuel to replace oil.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Green Patent Acceleration

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently announced it will be starting a program to accelerate the review of clean technology patents. Under the current system, patents going through the USPTO can take over 40 months to be passed. This places a great burden on the spread of new technology throughout our country because people do not want to release their technology to the market until it is protected by patents. By accelerating the patent process, this gives America the potential to have an increased spread of clean technologys which have the ability to aid green ventures in all realms of the economy. In addition, compared to economic stimulus, this is a relatively low cost way of moving towards making America more competitive in the clean tech race.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Green Energy in South Carolina

Last week, I was reading Clean Tech Revolution and discovered that Austin Energy is the nation's leader in selling green power. Curious to see how they pulled this off, I logged on to Austin Energy's website, and found that they offer a Greenchoice energy program in which their customers pay an additional 2.05 cents per kilowatt hour to be supplied with local, clean energy. This made me wonder, does South Carolina have a program like this set up? The answer is yes they have a program, but not an identical one. As of April 2008, SCE&G, Duke Energy Corp., and Progress Energy Inc. are all offering to sell green energy to their 1.3 million South Carolina customers.

So why have South Carolina’s programs not been as successful as Austin Energy, who’s Greenchoice program often has a waiting list? The answer may lie in the fact that South Carolina’s energy companies charge a 4 cent premium for green energy while Austin Energy only charges a 2 cent premium. Also, Austin Energy offers a 5 year green energy contract. This binding agreement is popular because many customers believe that it will save them money in the long run, as regular energy prices continue to rise. If South Carolina energy companies enacted similar programs, demand for green energy would rise, as would local green energy production. Currently, South Carolina’s energy companies are supplied with green energy from several landfill methane projects and one solar project. If demand for green energy rises as much as it has in Austin (up 400million kwh since 2007), South Carolina would see a large amount of growth in the green energy industry, especially wind and solar. This would create more jobs in South Carolina, and put this state on the map as a mecca for green energy production.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Greener miles traveled

It is holiday season and many of us will be traveling to see family and friends in the upcoming weeks. For some like myself, that means flying. Flying is convenient and if you're going outside of the North American Continent, it is the only feasible option.

In a time when most of us are concerned with greenhouse gases, it is important to make notice that air transportation accounts for 3.5% of global annual emissions. And although that number may not seem that significant, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculates that number will jump to almost 15% by 2050. Emissions from airplanes are of greater concern because of their elevation. There hasn't been much research done to understand how long those emissions remain in the atmosphere, and how quickly they have an effect on global climate change (regular emissions are calculated to last up to 300 years in the atmosphere, scary isn't it?). What if airplanes could harvest their own emissions and use carbon sinks to deposit them? It wouldn't be a long-term solution but it could help reduce emissions in the short-term.

On the positive side, there are indications that some development is taking place to reduce emissions. NASA is working on lighter materials and engines. Some researchers are attempting to create bio jet fuel to reduce the emissions from oil based jet fuels. Is it time for creativity to take place and a completely new and efficient design of airplane to take place? One that uses the natural world for inspiration (bio mimicry).

To all I wish Safe and if possible Green travels!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Solar-Powered Recording Studios

**Click on picture for website link**

After perusing this blog, the Off The Grid party and Green Salons articles caught my eye and they got me thinking of other studios and services that could adopt a sustainable spin. The notion of green recording studios came to my mind as a fun and interesting industry that could reduce their carbon footprint while simultaneously providing premium recording services to musical artists. I came across a professional recording studio located in the UK that is apparently the first or one of the first fully solar-powered professional recording studio in the UK. The studio "was built using recycled materials where this was possible, and the electronics right down to the air conditioning is adapted to managing with a low energy demand". The studio manager commented that the sound quality is very high and the efficient use of alternative energy is always a plus! I feel that the arts/culture scene is a demographic that has a potentially high interest in sustainability and this also stems back to the Off The Grid party - using alternative energy to "fuel" a musical industry
Ian Amundson

Organic Cotton

Today, I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt, neither of which are made from organic cotton. The environmental implications of my simple jeans and a t-shirt are much more significant than I imagined. According to the November 2009 US Cotton Market Monthly Economic Letter, the United States will produce 19.2 million pounds of cotton t his year alone. The world’s cotton production is about 120 million pounds. Of all of the cotton in the United States, 3.2 million pounds are organically grown. The 16 million pounds of cotton that is not grown organically in the United States are full of pesticides. 10 percent of the world’s pesticide use is just for cotton, and 25 percent of the world’s insecticides are sprayed on cotton fields. That means right now I’m wearing roughly one pound of chemicals just from a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

Some of the sprays used on cotton are among the most toxic in the world and have been linked to immune issues, birth defects and reproductive disorders. The insecticides and pesticides used on “traditional” cotton crops are not the only environmental concern. The majority of the world’s cotton is still picked by hand. Any harmful effects caused by the insecticides and pesticides directly affect those harvesting the cotton. The chemicals seep into the soil, also possibly effecting water supply. Cottonseed oil is also a common ingredient in baked goods and salad dressings. We all come into contact with the contaminants in cotton. Irrigation for cotton is also extensive, as cotton uses the most water of all agricultural crops. Organic cotton farmers, besides helping the environment, also produce arguably a better product. Organic cotton fabrics are softer and better for the skin. Also, smaller organic farmers supply a less expensive product as they do not have to buy copious amounts of pesticides and insecticides.

The demand for organic cotton has increased along with its popularity. Patagonia, among other brands and smaller boutiques are incorporating organic cotton clothing into their lines. Patagonia, after researching where their cotton originated, made the switch to using only organic cotton for their clothing, “[Organic] methods support biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, improve the quality of soil and often use less water. Growing organically takes more time, requires more knowledge and skill, and, for now, costs more. But it's worth it.”

Buy Local

This week in Charleston was Buy Local, Be Local week, November 30th- December 6th. Some of the events included "Eat Local Night", "Holiday Stroll", and "Buy Local, Be Local Bash". The campaign is a grassroots campaign designed to educate residents the think more local when they make purchases. There are a lot of opportunities around Charleston to buy local and support the local businesses that keep the community unique. The campaign wants to increase market share to independent, locally owned businesses by increasing awareness about the benefits of choosing local. The campaign has made it easier to identify the local businesses with the Lowcountry Local First logo window decal.
Lowcountry Local First "is committed to building a network of small businesses that allows all business owners to participate on the same level. Retail, manufacturing and agricultural businesses will unite with the same mission - to promote and preserve their local economy through the promotion of their goods and services."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Off the Grid Party

I have recently made friends with a few local DJ's in town and we have come up with the idea to throw an OFF THE GRID party at the beginning of 2010. What we want to do is build at least 3 bikes that would be hooked up to all of the DJ equipment via batteries that will power everything. At the party the fans will be able to participate by peddling during the party and to keep peoples interest we plan on having a projector set up with racing backgrounds behind the cyclers so that it looks and feels like you are in a bike race while the music is playing. Right now we are still in the building and planning process. We have gotten all of the watt information from the equipment and see that we will need to create roughly 1500-2000 watts of power to keep everything going. Right now we are looking for sponsors or anyone who would want to help and take part in the planning process. We need to find a warehouse in or near downtown where we can throw the party. We would love any bike donations and are planning to use marine batteries to store the energy created by the bikes. We have gotten a lot of positive feedback on this idea and feel like we can make it happen! Right now if anyone would like to donate, sponsor or help in any way you can contact me on this blog or through!
Nicole Seyle

Green Salon

**picture courtesy of; click on their picture to go to site**

As the semester progressed I began thinking of ideas that would interest me and at the same time enhance the green movement. The other day while I was at the hair salon I overhead some hair stylist discussing a green salon so I began doing research on the idea. It turns out there are many "green"salons worldwide. The products used in these salons are organic products and the furniture is recyclable. You can locate a green spa/salon near you at: Green salons include products such as organic shampoo, organic nail polish, recyclable furniture and materials, plastic material, etc. I found this idea to be quite interesting being such a girly girl. If there was a green salon near I would definitely support it because after all they are contributing to your carbon You can also visit to see a real green salon. Some of their green updates include:
  • Reclaimed wood when rebuilding each station
  • All paper goods were printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink.
  • Styling chairs were upholstered in Eco-friendly PVC-free material.
  • Low VOC paint was used to paint every surface inside the building.
  • Cotton denim insulation was used wherever new insulation was needed.
  • Use Energy Star appliances
  • Use earth-friendly cleaning products.
  • Use Davine products; Davines is a company that produce products with all natural ingredients. They also only use renewable energy sources in their laboratories. For more information on their products visit:

The Green Roof Wave has hit Charleston!

GRO (Green Roof Outfitters) is based in the Charleston area and services any and all who are interested in green roofing. There are many locations throughout the U.S. but it is nice to know that we have one right here in Charleston as well! Through this company even a Wal Mart in America now has a green roof! GRO provides the following services to its customers: consultation on scope of green roof project, provide cost estimation, propagation of vegetated modules, delivery to site (if needed), installation (if needed), 1 year warranty & maintenance included, and an ongoing maintenance plan (if needed). The GRO Modular green roof system can assist a building in achieving over 50% of the points needed to attain LEED Certification! The LEED Credits associated with GRO include sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy &atmosphere, materials & resources, and innovation & design process. They are even helping to organize an environmentally friendly 5K race in Mt. Pleasant! The race is called Catch the Leprechaun 5K and it takes place at 6:30pm on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at the Memorial Waterfront Park. There will be Irish music, a great post race party, a pot of gold for the winners and there will even be a Leprechaun, and if you finish before the Leprechaun you win a prize! Be sure to check out GRO and the race details at