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36 posts from September 2008

September 30, 2008

Green Your Rental -- Eco Furnishings

Retrofurniture_2 With home ownership climbing out of reach, going green at home increasingly means finding ways to conserve resources that won't get tenants in hot water with property owners. Want to green your rental? Here's how to get started.

Tip #2: Opt for vintage and second-hand furnishings over big-box buys

You've signed your lease, packed your boxes (recycled, of course), and maybe pulled a muscle or two moving into your new place. Now, Ikea! With so many of your apartment dweller's needs housed under the Scandinavian superstore's roof, it's certainly tempting. But despite Ikea's conservation efforts, thrift shops, Craigslist, estate and garage sales, and the rest of the second-hand furniture world offer far greener options.

Continue reading "Green Your Rental -- Eco Furnishings" »

September 29, 2008

Green Your Rental -- Reduce Heat Waste

With home ownership climbing out of reach, going green at home increasingly means finding ways to conserve resources that won't get tenants in hot water with property owners. Want to green your rental? Here's how to get started.

Tip #1: Heat your home--not walls and furniture

Before you crank up the thermostat this fall, check around air registers to make sure heat can flow freely. Poorly placed furniture and drapes can block them and keep your living space from getting toasty. For homes with radiators, Energy Star recommends placing heat-resistant reflectors between radiators and exterior walls to keep warmth coming into the room instead of seeping outside. If you have a fireplace, closing the flue and tempered-glass doors when you don't have a fire going will help keep heat from escaping up the chimney.

Share your tips: How do you keep your rental green?

September 26, 2008

Ecology and Economy at West Coast Green

"We've got to put the 'eco' back into economics." That was the thrust of David Suzuki's keynote address today at the West Coast Green conference in San Jose, California. If we don't understand where our resources come from and where our waste goes, he said, "it becomes easy to accept what our so-called leaders tell us." What are we told? That it's the economy--not the earth--that sustains us. "Trees take carbon dioxide out of the air and turn it into oxygen. That's not a bad service for an animal like us." 

Fast forward 20 minutes or so to a keynote by Hunter Lovins, president and founder of Natural Capitalism, Inc. "It is the economy," she said, before presenting a series of companies (Wal-Mart and DuPont among them) that have begun conserving energy, improving efficiency, reducing waste, and generally shrinking their environmental impact with an eye trained squarely on the bottom line. "The economy is going to drive the sorts of changes we need f we have even a little of that foresight," she said, referring to insight that helps you recognize "predictable surprises," or what bestselling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls black swans.

Continue reading "Ecology and Economy at West Coast Green" »

Chrysler Revs Up to Join Green Car Race

Chrysler revealed prototypes for three electric cars Tuesday--an SUV, minivan, and coupe--and announced plans to roll one of the models out to showrooms by 2010. The move, which caught many industry observers by surprise, enters the financially strapped company in the high stakes race for a mass market alternative-fuel vehicle. It may also position the smallest of the Big Three for a larger chunk of a $25 billion federal loan package meant to help U.S. automakers start churning out hybrids and electric cars instead of unwanted trucks and SUVs. Originally authorized in last year's energy bill, the loan program passed in the House of Representatives Wednesday and now awaits Senate approval.

Continue reading "Chrysler Revs Up to Join Green Car Race" »

Movie Review Friday -- Quicksilver

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Friday selections. Each week we review a film with environmentally or socially-responsible themes that’s currently in theaters or available on DVD.

Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a review of 100 words or less and look for your review in the next Movie Friday!

Quicksilver (1986)

Available on DVD

When hotshot stockbroker Jack Casey (Kevin Bacon) loses everything in a harsh market, he turns to a low-impact life as a San Francisco bike messenger. Let me be clear--this cheese-oozing movie falls into the "so bad it's good" category. Watch it with a group of friends; count the bad '80s movie tropes or hone your prowess at the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. Nevertheless, the flick's wild rides and impressive bike tricks will entertain pedal power proponents. While the plucky bike messengers don't wear helmets, and they certainly don't stay in the bike lane, Casey's enthusiasm for life on two wheels is contagious.

--Review by Della Watson

September 25, 2008

Stolen Solar Panels: Green Crime on the Rise

Greenhouse Thinking about adding solar panels to you roof to cut back on energy costs (and carbon emissions, of course)? Don’t forget to bolt them down--tightly. The New York Times reported yesterday a rash of solar panel thefts in California, the country's largest market for solar power. The panels aren’t disappearing completely, however. Many are showing up for sale on websites like Craigslist and Ebay. Glenda Hoffman, a homeowner of Desert Hot Springs, California, who recently lost 16 solar panels to thieves, told the Times that she has resorted to sleeping with a shotgun by her bed, and a .22 under her pillow.

Continue reading "Stolen Solar Panels: Green Crime on the Rise" »

Green Your Gadgets -- Power Down

Last week, congressional watchdog agency GAO published a report on high-tech toxic trash exports and Greenpeace released its ninth annual Guide to Greener Electronics. This week's tips cover ways to keep consumer electronics from harming human health and the environment.

Tip #4: Eliminate excess energy use

It's easy to grab your menagerie of mobile devices and leave chargers plugged in when you dash off to work. But chargers and gizmos left on standby pull electricity even when they seem to be turned off. This vampire power accounts for as much as $2.7 billion-worth of electricity use every year in the U.S., according to Power Management DesignLine. In a typical household, it represents about 5 percent of annual electricity costs, with plasma TVs, computers, and game consoles being some of the thirstiest offenders. If you want to reduce your contribution to the phantom load, you no longer have to run around pulling plugs: smart power strips like APC's Power-Saving Surge Arrest cut the juice automatically, and energy monitors help you figure out where to target your efforts for the biggest results.

Share your tips: Have you slayed vampire power in your home? Tell us how.

September 24, 2008

Green Patrol

Police_refueling_istock_000002105_2From campus cops to royal guards, we've rounded up recent green trends in law enforcement. Read on to find out how police officers are cutting back on carbon.

Segway to a Secure Campus We're not sure that the graceful glide of a Segway helps campus cops maintain an authoritarian image, but it can't hurt efforts to cut their carbon footprints. How does the two-wheeled electric transporter hold up in a hot pursuit? Assuming these officers aren't trailing an Olympic sprinter, the Segway's maximum speed of 12.5 mph should suffice. The University of Nebraska and the University of New Hampshire are using Segways, while campus security at Colorado State University drive T3 transporters, three-wheeled electric vehicles that can reach 25 mph.

After the break: Beyond the Police Cruiser and The Queen's Guard Goes Green

Continue reading "Green Patrol" »

Green Your Gadgets -- Disposal

Last week, congressional watchdog agency GAO published a report on high-tech toxic trash exports and Greenpeace released its ninth annual Guide to Greener Electronics. This week's tips cover ways to keep consumer electronics from harming human health and the environment.

Tip #3: Sell or donate unwanted gear

What's the easiest way to avoid sending e-waste to irresponsible recyclers? Give your old gadgets new life in the hands of students and families who can't afford the latest electronics. Sites like eBay and Craigslist make it easy to sell unwanted items, while freecycle.org lets you find people in your city or neighborhood to pick up giveaways. If you'd like help assessing value, erasing personal data, creating a listing, and shipping or trading in an old device, you can turn to the Rethink Initiative. Hosted on eBay, the site represents a coalition of tech companies, anti-toxics groups, philanthropies, the EPA, and other groups working to manage e-waste (and generate business, in some cases) by connecting buyers, sellers and charities--so you can get that PC-o-saurus or old-school boombox out of your basement and back to work.

Share your tips: Have you sold, donated, or bought used electronics? What advice can you share with others thinking about doing the same?

September 23, 2008

Green Your Gadgets -- Batteries 101

Last week, congressional watchdog agency GAO published a report on high-tech toxic trash exports and Greenpeace released its ninth annual Guide to Greener Electronics. This week's tips cover ways to keep consumer electronics from harming human health and the environment.

Tip #2: Extend battery life

Later this week, European Union officials will begin enforcing new restrictions on rechargeable batteries--a move that the research firm Cleantech Group reports could nudge the market away from toxic components and non-replaceable, built-in batteries. In the meantime, Americans still buy more than 350 million of the pricey, heavy metal-packed capsules every year. With smart maintenance practices, they can be replaced less frequently. For example, lithium-ion batteries, one of the most common types used in laptops and mobile devices, last longer when kept from running below a 40-percent charge. If you have an iPod, you'll get the most bang for your battery buck (make that bucks--at least 49 of them for a replacement battery) if you take it out of the case before charging. Carrying cases can trap heat and compromise battery capacity--making you plug in more frequently and burn through the battery's limited number of charges sooner. For any device, it's a good idea to keep batteries away from extreme temperatures, allow plenty of circulation, shut off juice-draining non-essential functions, and use a low-power mode whenever possible.


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