Much like hydro power, wind power has been a part of the human fabric for thousands of years. Windmills were used for pumping water and grinding wheat, and of course sailing had a large part in trade, transportation and exploration. Fairly recently, wind turbines have been popping up in large wind farms across the country side and are even being scattered throughout more crowded cities and towns. The challenge of harnessing, maintaining and storing the generated power has been largely overcome and now, improvements in the location and output of wind turbines are being sought.
One recent project outside of Norway involves floating turbines. Placed out in the sea, the turbines are less visually polluting, and, without any topographic impediments, the winds over water are stronger and steadier. Additionally, floating turbines can be much larger than their terrestrial counterparts and therefore are able to produce more energy. This particular installment outside of Norway has succeeded in producing 15MWh of energy since 2010. If it can continue to survive the winds and waves, this project will be considered a large success. Both coasts of the United States and the coasts of Japan could benefit from similar installments.
In addition to these floating wind farms, airborne wind farms are currently being developed. A German company called SkySails has begun development on a high altitude wind energy system that utilizes large kites and cables to generate power.
Posted in Energy & Fuels | Tagged airborne wind turbines, floating wind turbines, wind power | Leave a Comment »
Today, author of http://fmarquitv.tumblr.com and private contractor out of the East Hamptons, Sam Marquit dives into issues of sustainability by introducing a couple building materials that not only help improve the value of your home, but certainly reduce costs as well. To connect with Sam, follow him @fmarquitv. Thanks for your great post, Sam!
As a private contractor, I’ve worked on many New York City Apartments, as well as Hamptons rentals/homes, and know first-hand how much utility bills can cost with less efficient forms of heating and cooling materials. If you are someone who lives in the Hamptons, or has any real estate interest in the northeast, then you should know that installing tankless water heaters and radiant roof sheathing (barriers) could benefit you immensely.
Although somewhat costly up front, both of these products are highly energy efficient and have been known to improve the performance of the cooling and heating systems in your house, without increasing your energy bills. If you’re in the process of remodeling or building, perhaps you’ll want to first explore the possibility of using radiant barriers.
Radiant Roof Sheathing
I had the opportunity to help people in the Hamptons take care of their cooling and heating needs and I have seen that houses which used the radiant roof sheathing were not only cooler; homeowners were also able to cut down on their energy bills or costs. The barriers used in this system, which are made from high quality aluminum sheeting, are mostly placed within the roof. They effectively lower the temperature of the roof by reducing the amount of heat absorbed by it. As a result, the load of work required from air conditioners is dramatically reduced.
I have frequently recommended the use of these roof sheathings to all house owners. Those who have implemented the sheathings have benefitted from using them. These barriers can go a long way in regulating home temperatures so that the overall energy consumption is dramatically reduced.
Tankless Water Heaters
Here’s one more energy efficient tool, which is highly recommended. I have noticed that the houses that use these heaters not only save money on energy costs, but they also benefit from using fresh and healthy water. In traditional heaters, the water is first stored in a tank and then heated for people to use. This process of heating uses higher amounts of energy and the water is not fresh, as it remains stored in the tank for a while. With tankless heaters, the water is heated as it is needed and so remains fresh. Moreover, there is no heat loss, so the system is much more energy efficient.
You’d need to spend some extra cash for the initial installation of these heaters but in the long run, you will save a handsome amount of money on energy bills.
If you want to improve your home and make it energy efficient, then investing in radiant roof sheathing and tankless water heaters is worth some further exploration.
Posted in Energy & Fuels, Uncategorized | Tagged energy efficiency, home energy costs, home heating and cooling, Radiant Roof Sheathing, Tankless Water Heaters | 2 Comments »
Sustainability is not immune to the growing proliferation of gamification as a way to encourage desired behaviors through the allure of competition, rewards and fun. Cities, business organizations and product manufacturers, among others, have begun creating such games and incentives in order to more successfully meet their sustainability goals.
Here at EBSCO Publishing, we have all been given pedometers to track our daily steps. In addition to friendly competitions between co-workers to have the most steps, there is an additional incentive that involves earning up to $500 per year if we meet our daily step goals. The results (both personally and organizationally) have been positive with increased focus on our health and activity.
As highlighted in this article, car manufacturer Volkswagen created a contest called The Fun Theory which rests on the assertion that “fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.” Volkswagen set out to recognize those ideas that were the most successful at proving the fun theory. YouTube videos which presented the contest through successful (fun) innovations went viral and illustrate the types of efforts considered:
Gamification is not all fun and games, though. It is important that an organization clearly identify its goals, understand the motivation it is seeking to tap into, develop intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that encourage long term behavior changes, and consider working with vendors that assist with implementing the project.
Do you have any experience with gamification? I’d love to hear about it, or about your ideas!
Posted in Sustainability | Tagged Fun Theory, gamification, rewards, sustainable behavior, Volkswagen | 3 Comments »
Having lived in the northeastern United States my entire life, the winters of my past have been abundant with snow. From when I was a kid and we could build snow forts with walls that were taller than us, to college when we had numerous snow days that lent themselves only to sledding on lunch trays, the white stuff was everywhere. And this was the case from December through March. Sometimes, even later into the year.
Perhaps there is some nostalgic romance involved in these snowy memories, but as I drive to work in the morning these days; the road is clear, the ground is barely frozen, and we’ve had only one snow “storm” that I can remember. While it would be ignorant to say that this mild winter is alone a sign of climate change, my research and proximity of the subject makes it so that the impact and proximity of climate change is never far from mind. (In fact, even during the amusing polar bear Coca-Cola super bowl commercials, I couldn’t help but think about what would happen to the now famous ad campaign as polar bears continue to be threatened by the melting of their habitat.)
The truth is, extreme weather patterns have been noticed widely throughout the world this year. Extreme droughts in Texas, tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri, snow in Libya and extremely cold temperatures throughout Europe (among many other events) have led many to question the impact that climate change is having on our daily weather fluctuations and extremes.
While the link between our daily weather patterns and climate change is tenuous, meteorologists are speaking out more and more about the importance of reporting on the potential connections and the role that climate change plays, and will continue to play, in our weather patterns. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have created a website designed to educate citizens and meteorologists on these very topics. Ultimately, as explained by meteorologist Dan Satterfield in this article, despite the many unknowns, individuals are becoming more and more aware of climate change and our role in its proliferation. What has up until this point been mixed messages from meteorologists, scientist and politicians must instead become a steady stream of well-tested and well-articulated information.
Posted in Climate Change | Tagged atmospheric research, climate change, drought, extreme weather, meteorology, snow, weather | Leave a Comment »
I happened to stumble across this video today and it definitely opened my eyes to the level of thought I have put into my clothing purchase decisions.
I think it is fair to say that while getting dressed everyday, very few of us contemplate the source, materials, labor, and life-cycle of the clothing we have purchased and are sporting. That level of disconnect follows us to the store, as well, where the true price (environmental, human, and otherwise) of a pair of jeans, shirt or jacket is not transparent. The truth is, until an inflammatory journalistic expose, like those that continue to indict popular companies such as the Gap and Nike for their labor practices, very little focus is placed on the sustainability of such a large element of everyday life.
From the sourcing and production of raw materials to the chemicals being applied to the labor being utilized, there is a lot to be aware of when considering the clothing companies and products you choose to support. In an effort to bring more of these struggles into focus, there are several initiatives designed to promote sustainable practices on the production side, as well as sustainable purchases on the consumer side.
The UN Global Compact has recently joined with members of the fashion industry in an effort to address the ethical, environmental and social challenges inherent to the fashion and textile industries. The UN, along with the Nordic Initiative Clean & Ethical (NICE), hope to successfully launch the first global, sector-specific initiative of this type at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in May 2012.
Additionally, several manufacturers and consumer-facing organizations have begun making it easier to identify sustainable clothing at the time of purchase. Timberland Footwear has been extremely active in this arena, providing consumers with detailed information on the material makeup and production of their footwear and clothing products. And GoodGuide is an organization which consumers detailed health, environmental, and social impact information about a wide range of consumer products and companies via the GoodGuide website as well as through their mobile phone app.
The good news is that with a little bit of thought, consumers can make thoughtful purchasing decisions that encourage companies to become more sustainable. Conversely, with companies like Timberland and organizations like GoodGuide that support transparency, consumers are ever more aware. How will you make smarter purchasing decisions?
Posted in Eco-label | Tagged clothing, ethics, fashion, GoodGuide, labor practices, NICE, Sustainability, textiles, UN Global Compact | 1 Comment »
After years of struggle between automakers, environmentalists, regulators and consumer groups over new regulations for car efficiency, there is an odd sense of calm and consensus brewing in Detroit. At a public hearing Tuesday regarding the newly proposed efficiency standards, nearly all involved were confident that the higher mileage requirements would mean good things for the economy, environment and fuel consumption. The proposed standards would require automakers to increase the average, unadjusted fuel-economy rating of their vehicles to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 – up from the 27 miles per gallon requirements in place today.
There was some concern, from the National Automobile Dealers Association and a few other car dealers, regarding what they see as a need to better understand consumer demand and ability to pay for more efficient vehicles prior to making requirements so far into the future. Arguing that the cost of vehicles will rise and the related demand for those vehicles is unknown, some parties including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Volkswagen and Daimler have agreed to the standards only up until 2016, when the requirement is 36 mpg.
Still, there is overall agreement that these goals will succeed at creating jobs, reducing oil consumption, reducing air pollution, reducing costs for drivers throughout the lifetime of their vehicles and increasing profits for automakers. It is most definitely good news for Detroit, for the United States, and for the environment at large.
Posted in Energy & Fuels | Tagged Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Detroit, fuel-efficiency, mpg standards, National Automobile Dealers Association | Leave a Comment »