June 2nd, 2009
By Jerry James Stone, courtesy of Gas2.o
At the Eco-Aviation Conference in Washington, Air New Zealand’s Chief Pilot Captain David Morgan announced the company’s findings on a test flight from last December. Powered by a combination of biofuel and jet fuel, the test resulted in a fuel savings of 1.2%. It also cut CO2 emissions by over 60%!
While a 1.2% fuel savings doesn’t seem like much, that is over 1 ton of fuel!
The test was conducted using a commercial 747-400 fitted with Rolls Royce engines. Rolls Royce had certified the fuel — a 50:50 blend of standard Jet A1 fuel and synthetic paraffinic kerosene derived from jatropha oil.
“We’ve proven the technical capability of biofuel as a drop-in replacement,” said Bill Glover, Managing Director of Environmental Strategy for Boeing. “It meets all jet fuel requirements and then some.”
The biofuel was produced from Jatropha seeds grown on “environmentally sustainable farms.” A second generation biofuel, jatropha is grown on land that doesn’t compete with food. It requires almost no care and very little water. Another major benefit of jatropha is that, due to its ability to take hold in harsh wastelands, it can be used to help stop erosion in these areas and reclaim them for agricultural production.
Popularity: 6% [?]
March 18th, 2009
We’re happy to announce that we’ve recently added two new projects to the Low Impact Living Environmental Impact Calculator that show the benefits of air-drying your laundry or installing a solar hot water heater.
First, we’ve added a project that shows how much money, energy and carbon dioxide you can cut by replacing a few dryer loads of laundry a week by air drying. Simply fill in your current number of dryer loads (and your dryer fuel) in the “calculate impacts” section of the calculator, and then go to the “select projects” page. There you’ll find a project titled “Air dry your laundry” (it’s about five or six rows down). Click the “Project Description” link to see all of the details on how much you’ll save. The calculations assume that you air dry 75% of your existing dryer loads. We also show a couple of great drying racks/lines if you’re looking for something a bit better than the standard clothesline.
Second, we’ve added a solar hot water heater option to our list of renewable energy projects. This project takes your estimated hot water use (calculated based on your specific inputs) and the solar resources in your area and estimates how much a solar hot water system would save and cost for your home. Right now it takes into account the recently improved 30% federal tax credit for SHW systems, but not your local or state incentives (we’ll be adding those soon). Our friends at Green Made Simple have an up-to-date listing of renewable energy incentives near you.
This project has also been built so that it is a special “cumulative” project, which means that the project details change as you select other projects on the list. Why is this useful? Because it can help you understand how much LESS you have to spend on a solar hot water system if you make less expensive upgrades such as installing low-flow showerheads or buying an Energy Star clotheswasher first.
As an example, the calculator shows that a solar hot water system would cost about $4,900 (payback period of 16 years) in our home assuming no water fixture improvements - pretty ugly! But if I check off the “low-flow showerheads” and “sink aerators” projects, the cost goes down to $2,500 (payback of 10 years). Our $40 worth of showerheads and $5 worth of sink aerators cut the estimated cost of a system by $2,400 by reducing our system size by one panel and reducing the storage tank size. By the way, the solar PV, graywater and total carbon offset projects work in the same way - they adjust each time you select a project that reduces electricity, wastewater or your carbon footprint respectively.
Last, we’ve made some additional improvements “under the hood.” One that you might notice is that we’ve modified the calculator so that you can’t enter overlapping projects. For example, once you select any one of the water heater insulation, tankless hot water heater, high efficiency hot water heater or solar hot water heater projects, the other three projects will be deactivated. This eliminates the double-counting that was possible by selecting overlapping projects before.
We’ll be making other additions soon (including wind power and using wood as heating fuel), so check back soon!
(Note: Our calculator is meant to be a preliminary planning tool for your green improvements. Before starting any of the more expensive projects, make sure you get a detailed estimate from your local green service providers … which you can easily find using LIL’s green services directory).
Popularity: 5% [?]
February 27th, 2009
We often write about the many ways to cut your utility bills and carbon footprints. From Energy Star appliances to low-flow showerheads to new efficient lightbulbs, there’s a project for every budget and skill level.
These types of projects, though, are at the end of the efficiency pipeline. This means that if your heating/cooling system, electricity generation or hot water heater is inefficient, you’ll still be using much more energy after these projects than you could be. As an example, nearly 70% of the energy contained in fuels for powerplants is wasted BEFORE the electricity makes it into our homes (due to generator inefficiences and transmission losses). Replacing an incandescent bulb with LEDs does nothing to get this 70% back - it just makes sure that the remaining 30% is used more efficiently! The same is true of heating/cooling and hot water. If your furnace, air conditioner or hot water heater is inefficient, then your duct sealing projects or low-flow fixtures are fighting against these upstream inefficiencies.
Replacing any of these core systems can be expensive - we just wrote about better hot water heater options, and the cheapest of those will probably set you back $600 or more after installation. But a number of companies are coming up with innovative products that package these different systems together - boosting overall efficiencies to levels not seen before AND potentially saving on installation costs. If you have to replace a furnace or AC unit, there are some real interesting options. Here are some of the latest and greatest.
The NTI Matrix Total Home System combines a very high efficiency boiler, furnace, tankless hot water heater and heat recovery ventilator all in one package. All of the standalone pieces are high efficiency (would likely qualify for Energy Star status), but the system gets even more efficiency out of the combined package. The Matrix is best in homes that use forced hot air, hydronic heating (such as radiant heat or pool heating) and normal water heating together. And the heat recovery ventilator also helps to cool a house in the summer. The Matrix system was one of BuildingGreen’s Top 10 Green Products in 2008.
The freewatt is what is called a “combined heat and power”, or CHP system. It combines an efficient natural gas or propane generator with an Energy Star gas furnace or boiler. The furnace/boiler makes use of the hot waste gas from the generator, so you are generating BOTH electricity and hot air/water from the same fuel source. The 1.2 kilowatt generator can produce up to 5,000 kWh of electricity per year, AND can cut your carbon footprint by up to three tons of carbon dioxide as compared to using electricity from your utility. Oh, and in certain areas you can even tie the system into your electricity grid and run your meter backwards, much the same as you would with solar panels or a wind turbine. The company that makes the freewatt system is one of two vendors recognized by the EPA’s Climate Choice program, which recognizes advanced technologies that protect the climate.
These technologies are still pretty new, so you might have some trouble finding them near you (but definitely check each manufacturer’s website for local installers). With the coming transformation of our electric grid and energy efficiency policies, you’re likely to start seeing them in a home or building near you.
Popularity: 2% [?]
February 12th, 2009
Written by Sean Sullivan, courtesy of Sustainablog.org
Cut out cut flowers this Valentine’s Day, and you’ll do you part in cutting out carbon.
The cut flower industry is among those that raise the ire of the thoughtful environmentalist. Nearly three of every four cut flowers sold in the US are imported, and a large chunk of those come from South America. Colombia and Ecuador are large growers and exporters of roses, and flowers can be flown in from as far as Europe.
Following those flowers leads one to the unhappy knowledge of all that’s involved in their life cycle, from seed to vase. It’s symbolic of our throw away society that many don’t consider the tremendous waste that’s part and parcel of bringing those flowers to market.
Because cut flowers are especially perishable, they must be flown in over long distances to avoid spoilage. That’s quite a carbon footprint for a product that under best conditions will last a week or so.
The US government has some say in what pesticides can be sprayed on food crops. Not so with flowers, as they’re not a particularly popular food product. One can also safely assume that spraying habits and controls concerning chemical pesticides and fertilizers are somewhat less stringent in developing countries.
The health of the environment in these growing areas often takes a back seat to the potential profits gleaned from flower sales, with workers and waterways assuming the brunt effects of pesticide and fertilizer spraying.
Yet as always, the choice isn’t whether to give or not to give, to do harm or do without. Rather, it’s the diligence required to discover and decide how we can satisfy wants and needs in a way that won’t mean murder on our ecosystem.
If you have an allergic aversion to wasting dirty fuels and using harmful chemicals, adopt an idea listed below to give Valentine’s Day flowers that show you’ve a crush on the planet as well.
The greenhouse is a centuries-old method of growing in colder or adverse climates, and there’s likely one near you. Doesn’t get more local than that.
Need further selling? Giving live and local is also a potential source of brownie points, Romeo(a). Tell him or her that, like your relationship, you wanted the flowers you give to last and grow.
Note also that you are not adopting a dog that will pee on your rug and beg to be walked at dawn. Just plop your live and locals near a window and add water every few days. They’ll clean and sweeten your air supply, and excrete only useful oxygen.
Directing your hard earned dollars toward more eco responsible flowers is a powerful statement you can make for the environment, as you’re speaking the universal language of profit. As long as flowers flown from faraway foreign lands are profitable, the practice will continue.
There will surely come a time in the near future when the growing scarcity of oil drives fuel prices so high as to make flower flights prohibitive, but that time is not now. So it falls to us to speak with our wallets on behalf of the planet.
Yet don’t stop there. Communicate with your voice as well as your greenbacks. Ask your local florist (the owner or manager) before you buy for your Valentine whether they sell flowers still among the living. This can be an interesting and informative exercise.
Live flowers growing in soil may in fact turn out to be an outlandish and eccentric concept to those who sell flowers for a living. Kindly inform them that the natural tendency and desire of flowers is, in fact, to live and grow, and that you wished they had live and locally grown flowers to sell.
Politely inform them that your search for live flowers must therefore take you elsewhere. Few things motivate a business person like the idea of needlessly lost sales. Our desire here is not to put a flower shop out of business, but to motivate its operator to offer a more sustainable alternative.
One wishes concern for the environment was equally as compelling as profit, but alas. Yet the savvy environmentalist uses all available implements within one’s garden tool bag. Happy V-Day
Photo Credit (Flowers) http://flickr.com/photos/indy138/2667297356/
Popularity: 2% [?]
January 22nd, 2009
Since so many people have embraced our first piece on How to Green Your Office, we’ve come up with another 10 important steps you can take to make your office more eco-friendly. Let’s get to it!
1. Enlist a Green Team. If you’re interested in greening your office, chances are there are some other like-minded folks in your workplace. Round ‘em up, and enlist their ideas and support for changes. A team made up from different departments will ensure that everyone buys in to changes, and can help rally support company-wide.
2. Collect and recycle your e-waste. Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, includes printers, monitors, computers, and anything else with an on/off switch. E-waste should never go in the trash as it may contain toxic chemicals that can leach into the groundwater under landfills. Instead of just chucking it, take it to your local hazardous waste center, or contact one of the many recycling companies operating around the country. Since there’s value in the recycled components, look for one that doesn’t charge a fee for pick-up. You can find local resources for disposing of e-waste here.
3. Stop the flow of junk mail. We wrote a post awhile back about how to stop junk mail at home, but this applies to the office as well. Since catalogs and other mail sent to ex-employees tends to generate a lot of this annoying waste, check out the Ecological Mail Coalition, a nonprofit that maintains a database of terminated or transferred employees. Marketers, looking to save money by eliminating misdirected mail, compare their lists to the database and voila - junk mail reduced!
4. Contact your utilities for free audits. Many energy and water companies offer free audits of your facilities, leaving you with specific recommendations for conservation. Some even offer rebates or flat-out free items, like energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs or faucet aerators. You can also find professional energy auditors near you here.
5. Add power strips, and use them. You already know to turn off computers, monitors and other equipment at night, but don’t forget about the power they use while you’re snug in your bed. So-called “vampire” power can account for 10% of total energy use, according to the U.S. EPA. Stop the sucking by installing power strips under each desk and around other equipment, plug everything into them, and then turn the strips off at night after powering down.
6. Clean out the toxic chemicals. A common complaint of many office workers is poor indoor air quality. Using strong, toxic chemicals for cleaning and other office needs contributes to this problem, so switch to natural cleaners, and do a little spring cleaning under sinks, in cabinets and anywhere else chemicals may be stored. Dispose of expired, leaking, or obsolete chemicals. Adding a few green plants to help clean the air won’t hurt either.
7. Cut down on business travel. Video conferencing and web-based conferencing have really come into their own. Services like Skype are now widely used, often replacing the need for business travel – even Oprah’s on-board! If you absolutely, positively have to be there in person, offset your travel with carbon offsets. Look for certified projects, like those listed by the Environmental Defense Fund that would not be funded without contributions like yours (a concept called “additionality”).
8. Reduce the use of self-adhesives. If you’ve set up an office recycling program, good for you! To make sure that you’re contributing the best quality materials to the recycling stream, reduce or eliminate the use of self-adhesives or “peel-and-stick” items (yes, that includes “sticky notes”!) The adhesive is generally not recyclable and can gum up the works of recyclers. Go old school with paper clips and “lick ‘em and stick ‘em” envelopes and stamps instead.
9. Measure your company’s carbon footprint. Just like you can measure your household carbon footprint here on Low Impact Living.com, you can measure the footprint of your company. Some simple calculators are available, like the one at the EPA’s Wastewise site, or you can work towards a detailed analysis with tools and guidance from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
10. Want to learn more? Check out The Green Office Handbook. Created by our LIL’s very own contributor Cassie Walker, it’s a one-stop resource for companies looking to green their offices. With checklists for paper, energy, transportation, and more, it offers hundreds of individual steps. Pick the sections and steps that make sense for your office, but know that you’ve covered all of the bases. It even comes with a CD with Excel® templates for tracking your results. It makes the whole process clear and easy!
Popularity: 3% [?]