January 31st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
A farmer may have more than 1,000 cows on his land, which create a steady stream of revenue—and manure.
In fact, a dairy cow typically produces 150 pounds of manure per day. Multiply this by scores of cattle, and you get a large—and odoriferous—waste situation.
Concerned about groundwater contamination and fecal-borne disease, farmers are continually on the lookout for ways to ensure safety and make cleanup easier.
One approach involves methane digesters, which operate on an old technology and handle cleanup effectively. As an added bonus, they produce electric energy.
By definition, a methane digester is a wastewater and solids treatment technology, according to Sustainable Conservation, a San Francisco-based environmental advocacy organization. When used on a farm, a digester processes animal waste under anaerobic conditions, yielding methane gas and reducing the volume of solids and treated liquids. The methane can be sold or used to generate electricity on the farm. The solid matter left behind is a valuable soil amendment. And the liquids become an easily applied fertilizer, with plant-available nutrients and low pathogen levels.
Typically, large farms will store liquid and solid manure produced by livestock in large waste ponds. The manure is later pumped back onto fields as a source of fertilizer.
But this type of storage scenario poses a host of problems, including strong odors, pathogens in the manure, and flooding of ponds and land when heavy rains or storms occur (allowing manure to reach local water sources). A methane digester provides a workaround solution, and harnessing the methane—a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide—benefits the environment.
To offset costs, the U.S. government has started giving subsidies to farmers who wish to install methane digesters. Some, however, believe digesters may not be the best solution for small farms. Other communities fight large-scale digester installation because of their industrial appearance and added traffic from waste haulers.
Nonetheless, many environmentalists say the positives outweigh the negatives.
- Organic Dairy Powered by Methane Digester (Straus Family Creamery)
- Manure Power: Dairies Harness Methane to Create Renewable Energy (Checkbiotech)
- Idaho Energy Czar Aims to Harness Cow Pie Power (Associated Press)
- A Refreshing Idea for Barnyard Odor (Boston Globe)
- A German Town Embraces Manure Energy (Fast Company)
- Introduction to Methane Digesters (Oregon Department of Agriculture)
- Energy Savers: Anaerobic Digesters for Farms and Ranches (U.S. Department of Energy)
- Anaerobic Digestion of Animal Wastes: Factors to Consider (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service)
Read More:A Possible Solution to the Methane Menace
December 31st, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
When the Times Square Ball descended last New Year’s Eve, it was 20% more energy-efficient, courtesy of new LED lights that replaced incandescent and halogen bulbs.
Philips Lighting North America has completed the makeover for tonight’s celebration, adding LED technology to the ball’s numbers (2-0-1-0).
The custom-designed scalloped flood bulbs now use only 9 watts each—a dramatic decrease from the 40 watts consumed by the old bulbs.
About 1 million people are expected to show up in Times Square, freezing their asses off under a canopy of rain and snow. If they want to warm up and break a sweat, they can head over to the Duracell Power Lab (1540 Broadway), where volunteers will pedal six power rovers that help light the ball’s numbers.
Enjoy the show, and have a safe New Year’s Eve!
Photo courtesy of Philips
Read More:A Greener Times Square Ball
September 3rd, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
No. Ronald McDonald isn’t making biodiesel in his cellar, but some fast food restaurants are seeking ways to go greener.
One fast food proprietor, with restaurants in Texas and Louisiana, gets texts messages every time a freezer door is left open.
The dude owns 34 places, so it must get annoying, but it’s worth it. Lighting and temperature control account for 25% to 40% of electricity spending.
And many pizza parlors are getting special sensors too. Usually, pizza ovens are left constantly hot. Who knows when you’ll get that massive rush of hungry construction workers? So they burn up a lot of gas.
That’s why some systems keep a single pizza oven running hot at all times but regulates other ovens to stay warm until the restaurant starts to fill up. One pizza guy claims its saving him 50% on gas bills.
Sounds great, but the only green my old school Italian pizza parlor owning uncles know, are the peppers on a pizza with the works.
Via Green Idea.
Read More:Fast Food Joints Getting More Energy Efficient
September 2nd, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
People love ice cream. It’s at ballparks, barbecues, street fairs, carnivals and every other slice of Americana.
But ice cream isn’t exactly easy on the environment, even if you only eat soy ice cream, like me.
It takes a lot of electricity to power the huge web of refrigeration required to produce and transport the frozen treat.
That’s why Unilever, maker of Ben & Jerry’s, hopes to invent ice cream that doesn’t require refrigeration.
So, just how much nuclear fissile will it take? It sounds very science-fiction! But it might not be. Unilever is rumored to be developing “ambient” ice cream, which can be shipped and sold at room temperature.
Customers freeze it at home. Obviously, slashing all this refrigeration will reduce energy costs and lower carbon footprints, but will it taste good?
Plus, how the heck do you market warm ice cream! Okay then, time for a little experiment. Would you buy so-called “ambient” ice cream?
Via Environmental Capital.
Read More:It’s Low-Carbon “Cherry Garcia” Ice Cream, Man
July 30th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that the average American family washes close to 400 loads of laundry each year.
But unlike clothes washers, dryers do not carry ENERGY STAR ratings. Each model uses a similar amount of energy, “which means there is little difference in energy use between models,” the DOE notes.
You can, however, do your part to conserve energy when drying clothes:
- Dry only full loads.
- Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
- Don’t over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
- Clean the dryer’s lint filter after every load to improve air circulation.
- Use the cool-down cycle to allow clothes to finish drying with the machine’s residual heat.
- Periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it’s not blocked. Not only will this save energy, but it may prevent a fire. Manufacturers recommend using rigid venting material—not plastic vents that may collapse and cause blockages.
- Consider air-drying clothes on clothes lines or drying racks. Clothes will last longer.
- When shopping for a new clothes dryer, look for one with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry. This saves energy and helps minimize wear and tear on your clothes caused by over-drying.
- Dryer sheets contain artificial fragrances and carcinogenic chemicals ranging from ethanol to formaldehyde, so avoid using them. In addition to posing health hazards, they can leave a film on your dryer’s filter that reduces air flow. Over time, this can impair the motor’s performance.
- Some dryers have eco-conscious settings, such as the Whirlpool Duet WGD9450WL (pictured above). They offer faster drying times.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Naturally Clean: The Seventh Generation Guide to Safe & Healthy, Non-Toxic Cleaning
Photo courtesy of Whirlpool
Read More:A Partner in Grime
May 15th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
New York City was built up a long, long time ago when energy efficiency wasn’t part of the plan. So nowadays buildings consume a lot of power, costing owners millions of dollars each year.
That’s why New York is all set to retrofit skyscrapers to help reduce carbon emissions, most notably the Empire State Building, which is slated to get a $20 million green makeover:
On the outside, the building will get 6500 windows refurbished into triple-glazed insulated modules, dramatically improving summer and winter efficiency. On the inside, the 78 year-old building is getting upgraded lighting, lighting controls and lighting design; upgraded or overhauled furnaces, chillers, and air-handlers. There will also be an emphasis put on demand-side management systems, allowing tenants to use their energy efficiently.
“Commercial and residential buildings account for the majority of the total carbon footprint of cities around the world – over 70 percent in New York City,” said Anthony E. Malkin of building owner, Empire State Building Company. “Most new buildings are built with the environment in mind, but the real key to substantial progress is reducing existing building energy consumption and carbon footprint.”
Actually, New York has been very active in the green revolution, such as instituting a statewide recycling program for plastic bags, subway rides that donate money to environmental programs and an apartment building in Brooklyn just got a solar roof.
Read More:Empire State Building to Slash Energy Consumption
May 13th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
I wonder if seawater is quiet, because my window units sound like Boeing 747’s! Companies are now experimenting with turning ocean water into air-conditioning.
Using cold water, the technology could provide cheaper and greener cool air, especially for areas like Hawaii that need it year-round:
The technology, called “ocean thermal,” uses the temperature difference between warm surface water in the tropics and the ocean’s chilly depths to make power.
One important (and expensive) requirement is a giant pipe to pump the frigid water up from deep below the surface. But once the cold water is brought up, there are additional uses for it, as several experts explained to me.
At around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, chilly seawater can be used to air-condition buildings. The seawater “can chill fresh water in a heat exchanger or flow directly into a cooling system,” according to the Department of Energy.
With roughly 70 to 75% of the earth’s surface covered by water, a lot of that ocean, it’s certainly an untapped resource. That’s why the United States military is giving wave energy a whirl. It uses ocean waves to generate power.
Via Green Inc.
Read More:Seawater Turned into Air-Conditioning
May 8th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Everything is bigger in Texas, same goes green power. Officials from Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, believe solar technology, all by itself, could supply electricity for the entire state.
But the solar panels are no small order. To feed Texas’s energy needs, the photovoltaic plants would need to cover an area of 30 miles by 30 miles.
In the study, researchers found Texas has the potential to generate 148,000 megawatts of juice from solar technology. Currently, the total solar capacity of the United States is only about 9,000 megawatts.
The types of solar engineering include parabolic troughs, parabolic dishes/sterling engines, central receivers, linear fresnel reflectors and solar water heaters. All sorts of complicated stuff, but it sure sounds impressive!
Luckily, things like photovoltaic are quick to produce and cheap. Other contraptions, such as setting up mirrors can increase energy intensity and superheat liquid that can be used to produce power even on cloudy days and at night.
Read More:Texas Could Be 100% Powered By Solar
March 2nd, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Last year, its estimated 50 million people around the world took part in Earth Hour. It’s a “little” idea that started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia. The plan was simple. All of Sydney would kill the lights for 1 hour. Imagine the energy-saving, earth-saving impact!
It’s not such a little idea anymore. In 2008 cities all over the world took part, from New York City, Los Angeles, London and Rome to Moscow, Toronto, Manila and Hong Kong, and many more, but this year, Earth Hour 2009 could be even bigger.
Earth Hour is sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund and goes down at 8:30 PM on Saturday, March 28, 2009, visit EarthHour.org for more. So, will you go dark? I am.
Read More:Preparing for Earth Hour 2009
January 1st, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
It looks like an intergalactic super brain, but it’s actually the ball that dropped last night during New York City’s New Year’s Eve celebration. And, it’s a marvel of green engineering!
For starters, all the lights are LED. It’s covered with 2,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs and at 12-feet wide, weighs nearly 12,000 pounds.
And the green innovation doesn’t stop there. Despite being twice the size of any other ball ever dropped in Times Square, this LED masterpiece is 20% more energy efficient than last year’s ball.
Here’s the cool part. All the lights can make 10 million different colors and generate billions of unique patterns. Check out this video in case you missed it.
Now, since the ball is so awesome, the city will leave it up year-round. So it’s bound to attract tourists from all over the country.
Read More:New York City’s LED Ball Drop