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50 posts from September 2011

September 19, 2011

Green Acts of Kindness: Hold the Door

Elevator doors Making the world a better place isn’t limited to protecting Earth’s physical resources: We’ve got to improve the person-to-person environment too. This week’s tips are about how to treat your fellow humans a little bit better with actions that just so happen to help the planet too.

Tip #1: Hold the elevator door.

Isn’t it the worst when you’re walking toward an elevator full of people only to see its door shut just when you’re close enough to get on? Decide to be the person who gallantly holds the door open for someone — it’ll improve morale and save electricity and hydraulic fluid: Why should the elevator have to use the energy to make two trips when it can make just one?

Tip #2: Give excess away.

Tip #3: Let it grow.

Tip #4: Be creative.

Tell us: What’s your favorite act of kindness?

September 16, 2011

Undergrads the Underdogs in a Green-Flight Contest. But They May Win.

Embry-Riddle's Eco Eagle Think 50 miles per gallon in your Prius is good? How about more than 200 mpg in an airplane?

The engineers participating in the Green Flight Challenge must clear that hurdle for a chance to win a chunk of $1.65 million, the biggest civil-aviation prize ever offered.

The contest, created by the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency Foundation and sponsored by NASA and Google, requires that the planes go at least 100 mph during a 200-mile flight and average more than 200 mpg. The planes are powered by gasoline, biodiesel, hydrogen, and electricity. The first-place team will get $1.35 million; second place takes home $120,000.

In addition to speed and fuel-efficiency requirements, qualifying planes must be able to clear a 50-foot barrier on a 2,000-foot runway during takeoff and landing, be able to fly at less than 52 mph without stalling, meet community noise requirements of less than 78 dBA, and weigh less than 6,500 pounds.

Of the 14 original contestants, just five are still in the running, and just one of those is from a university. Unlike the other teams, the one from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University consists almost entirely of student volunteers. Around 200 students and one faculty adviser created the Eco Eagle (pictured), a two-passenger hybrid plane that runs on gas and electricity.

"They’re not employees for a company," said Bob Ross, the university's spokesperson. "It’s kind of a David-Goliath thing." Ross also explained that Embry-Riddle's team achieved a first in aviation history by creating and flying the first plane with a propulsion system that seamlessly transitions from gas to electric power while in flight.

The competition begins at the Charles M. Schulz airport in Santa Rosa, California, on Sept. 25 and ends on Oct. 3 at Moffett Field in Mountain View, where the winners will be announced.

The public may register to attend the free Oct. 3 exhibition, which will be hosted by NASA and feature demonstrations and fly-bys.

--Avni Nijhawan

Green Your Workplace: Reduce Pollution

Office plants can clean the air You spend most of your time at work, so help make sure your office is green by following this week's tips. 

Tip #5: Create a healthy office environment.

Make it a habit to use nontoxic cleaning products. Brighten up your cubicle with plants, which absorb indoor pollution. If you're a business owner, make it a policy to buy furniture, carpeting, and paint that are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and won't off-gas toxic chemicals.

Tell us: How do you reduce indoor pollution at work?


September 15, 2011

PARK(ing) Day is Sept. 16. Have You Got a Spot?

There may be fewer available parking spots in cities around the world this Friday, but don’t be alarmed. It’s for a good cause.

Sept. 16 is PARK(ing) Day, an annual grassroots event that encourages urban dwellers to celebrate public spaces and to convert, if only for a day, parking spaces into mini parks. The goal is to get people taking about how public space is created and allocated.

PARK(ing) Day began in 2005 with one parking space. The brains at Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, thought it up but the event has since evolved into a global movement. Last year's event saw 850 "parks" in 183 cities spread over 30 countries and six continents.

While you noodle on what your PARK(ing) Day creation will be, enjoy the above video, which is of Rebar’s original 2005 project.

--Joshua Marx

Green Your Workplace: Food for Thought

Reusable dishware You spend most of your time at work, so help make sure your office is green by following this week's tips.

Tip #4: Chew on this.

Much of your munching happens at the office, so keep your own mug, dishware, and flatware at your desk. This will fend off the temptation to use the paper and plastic disposables that are easy to grab in the lunchroom. If you're a workplace manager, provide reusable dishes, silverware, and glasses. Switch to eco-friendly coffees and teas, and buy organic and local food for parties and other events. And remember: Water fountains are always better than bottled water.

Tell us: How do you keep office lunches green?

September 14, 2011

Al Gore Strikes Back

Earth faces climate change Wish you could watch a different version of An Inconvenient Truth every hour for an entire day? Today you can — kind of. Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project will showcase 24 speakers in 24 time zones and 13 languages, all discussing their local reality of climate change.

In a fresh effort to reject claims that climate change is harmless or nonexistent, the project will connect the constellation of recent natural disasters around the world, including New York's floods, London's drought, and Rio's landslides. Other issues to be highlighted: reindeer food and tree-eating beetles.

Some of the presenters are big names: Al Gore, of course, and Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation. But others possess quirkier credentials. Sigurður Eyberg is an actor and recording artist turned environmental researcher; he likes Lord of the Rings and has witnessed some frighteningly hot days in his native Iceland. Asif Iqbal, advocacy designer and photography hobbyist, came of age in the rugged mountains of Pakistan, where recent flooding and earthquakes have done serious damage.

Gore's project's website invites you to plan a viewing party. So grab your reusable cups, huddle around the greenest laptop you can find, and enjoy the show at 7 p.m. your time.

--Jake Abrahamson

Green Your Workplace: Print Smarter

Office printer You spend most of your time at work, so help make sure your office is green by following this week's tips.

Tip #3: Print smarter (or not at all).

The average U.S. office worker can use 10,000 pieces of copy paper per year. To reduce your number, print double-sided whenever possible. Avoid color printing (hues are more likely to be toxic) and consider downloading Ecofont to save ink. Better yet, really think about whether you need that information down on sheets of dead trees, or whether having it on your computer is good enough.

Tell us: Do you print double-sided?

September 13, 2011

Green Your Workplace: Shut Down That PC

Turn off computer You spend most of your time at work, so help make sure your office is green by following this week's tips.

Tip #2: Maximize computer efficiency.

Computers in the business sector waste $1 billion worth of electricity per year, so make it a habit to turn off your computer — and the power strip it's plugged into — when you leave work for the day. Otherwise you'll still be burning energy even if you're not burning the midnight oil. During the day, setting your computer to go to sleep during short breaks can cut energy use 70%. Remember, screen savers don't save energy.

Tell us: Do you turn off your computer at the end of your workday?

September 12, 2011

Green Your Workplace: Bright Ideas

Green lightbulb You spend most of your time at work, so help make sure your office is green by following this week's tips.

Tip #1: Be bright about light

Artificial lighting accounts for nearly half of the electricity use in office buildings, so make sure that lights are turned off whenever no one's in a room — and invite in natural light wherever possible. Make it a policy, too, to buy Energy Star-rated lightbulbs and fixtures, which use at least two-thirds less energy than regular lighting, and install timers or motion sensors that automatically shut off lights when they're not needed.

Tip #2: Shut down that PC.

Tip #3: Print smarter.

Tip #4: Rethink office lunches.

Tell us: How do you green your workplace?

September 09, 2011

Daily Roundup: September 9, 2011

The Sky is Falling: NASA expects debris from a research satellite to fall to Earth sometime in the next few weeks. There is a 1-in-3,200 chance that anyone will be hit, say scientists. MSNBC

Sound of Music: Scientists have learned how hummingbirds make their feathers hum. Wired

Shake Up: A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck Vancouver Island, Canada. San Francisco Chronicle

The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: Human DNA found on the carcasses of illegally hunted animals could be used to track poachers. BBC

Lush: An elk that was drunk on fermented apples got stuck in a tree in Sweden. Treehugger

--Della Watson

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