Solar powered plane completes cross-country flight

Solar Powered Plane Sets Off on US Coast to Coast Trip by tvnportal

A solar powered plane has completed an historic flight across the United States, landing at JFK airport in New York. Events and milestones like this are critical for alternative fuel development, as people can see real progress.

It will be fascinating to see how solar technology can be incorporated into aviation to possibly save jet fuel, or at the very least power many internal and backup power needs.

One Simple Thing: Reconsider Your Toilet

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If we are going to make it as a society, we are going to have to make some tough, potentially gross decisions. One of those decisions centers around the toilet. A standard toilet in the average American household uses five gallons of water per flush and is flushed four times per day per person; that comes out to an average of 30 thousand gallons of water per year for a family of four.

If you want to reduce the water used by your toilet, you have four options.

Option 1: Get a low flow toilet.
Total potential water savings: 18, 500 gallons per year

There are a variety of low flow toilets on the market, and they way better than you think. Sure, some of them may have flushing problems for bigger “loads,” but with a little research, you can find the right one for you. Additionally, many of these models use different amounts of water for solid and liquid waste.

Option 2: Try to flush half as often.
Total potential water savings: 15,000 gallons per year
Total savings if combined with a low flow toilet: 20,000 gallons per year

If you have a standard toilet you would be saving around 15,000 gallons. With a low flow toilet, you would save around 5,000 additional gallons per year.

Option 3: Flush only for solid waste:
Total potential water savings: 22,800 gallons per year
Total potential water savings with a low flow toilet: 27,700 gallons per year
If you want to save even more water, you can try to only flush your toilet for solid waste. Sure, things may get a little grosser, but if you close your toilet seat every time, things shouldn’t get too bad.

Option 4: Compost that crap!
Total potential water savings: 30,000 gallons per year (Everything!)

If you want to almost completely eliminate the water that passes through your toilet each year, you could consider a composting toilet. With a composting toilet you take what normally passes through your toilet and simply bury it, or even use it to fertilize your flowers. Contrary to what you may think, composting toilets can be rater sophisticated and do not smell if properly maintained (as with any toilet). However, it is entirely understandable if you don’t want to go quite that far. However, if you are interested in this option, you could check it out here .

However you choose to save water, just be sure it works for you. Good luck!

One Simple Way: Turn Off the Lights!

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If you are reading this blog, chances are pretty good you are concerned with the environment. Unfortunately, many of us don’t do as much as we can as far as conservation goes. Most typically, this is because we either don’t know what we could do, or we think measures are overly difficult or expensive. These inhibitions are not completely unfounded. Installing solar panels can be quite expensive, and gray water systems can be quite an ordeal. There are a plethora of simple changes that we each can make that are simple, inexpensive, and can positively impact the environment. This is the first of a series of articles that provide you with such solutions.

Today’s topic is reducing or eliminating unneeded lighting. In less sophisticated circles, this is known as ‘turning off the freaking lights when you leave the room.” I know I may sound like your parents when you were a kid, but I am going to put you on the spot. Are there any unneeded lights on in your house right now? If you are anything like me, the answer is probably yes. However, if you have more than just a few lights on, don’t feel too bad. Energy use is often overlooked because, unlike physical waste, it does not sit around our house until we take it out. In the United States, approximately 50 percent of electricity is produced by coal-fired power plants. These plants emit sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, and heavy metals (including mercury).

Turning off unneeded lights is simple and free. In fact, it is better than free; it can save you money. It is simply a matter of changing habits. While the exact level of energy conservation depends on the type of bulbs you are currently using, your region, and the size of your dwelling, it is a reliable rule that if you are not using a light, you should turn it off.

If the environmental benefits are not enough to entice you, energy conservation through lighting can be a very frugal option. A very nice breakdown can be found here. Using natural lighting may also have health benefits. Many people find transitioning to natural light from artificial calming. This calming effect may be caused by renewed exposure to full spectrum lighting, which is very difficult to recreate via artificial light sources.

Helpful Tips

The hardest thing about turning off lights is breaking bad habits. Here are a few tips to help you change your behavior and save money.
*Try putting reminders next to switches or room exits/doors.
*Try going without artificial light during the day. You will be surprised how much energy you waste simply because you are in the habit of turning on switches when you enter certain rooms.
*At night, consider using task lighting instead of lighting the whole room. For example, if you are writing, use a desk lamp instead of lighting your entire office.
*If you have outdoor lighting, consider putting it on a timer or switching to solar powered lamps.

I hope you found these suggestions helpful. Check out the site next week for your next Simple Way to be a little more green.

Fish Endanger Great Lakes

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To those unfamiliar with lake ecology, a fish does not seem like the kind of thing that could endanger the Great Lakes; however, Asian Carp are doing just that. The set of species known collectively as Asian Carp were brought to North America in the 1970s for aquacultural and sewage treatment purposes. As with many such experiments, the introduction did not go according to plan. Since introduction, Asian Carp have spread the entire length of the Mississippi River, to a number of its tributaries, and now threaten to take hold in the Great Lakes. In 2007, the species were declared invasive by the United States Department of the Interior and are now being monitored by other United States and Canadian agencies.

The two primary aspects that make Asian Carp so dangerous to their non-native ecosystems are their mobility and diet. The Asian Carp’s ability to leap out of the water give them a distinct advantage when it comes to expanding territory. This ability allows them to not only leap over natural barriers, but also man-made ones. In 2010, Asian Carp penetrated an underwater electric fence that was put in place to keep them from spreading from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. They have also injured recreational boaters as flying fish collide with passengers on fast boats.

Without their appetite, the spread of these fish would not be of such great concern. Asian carp are veracious eaters, and their food of choice are the plankton that are at the base of the food chain. Asian Carp can grow to be 80 to 100 pounds and consume 40 percent of their body weight each day. This, in turn, is harmful to less aggressive native species, namely smaller fish and the young of larger fish.

Luckily, biologist report that most invasive species fail to take hold. We may be at an advantage against the Asian Carp since they have been detected before establishing a reproducing population. While not completely successful, the electric barrier between the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan has contributed significantly to their containment. Those who enjoy fishing are being encouraged to focus their efforts on Asian Carp. The fish are reported to have a good taste and produce a substantial amount of meat. Food and Water Watch, which as traditionally been very critical of the fishing industry, also backs focusing on the Asian Carp as a food source.

More information on this issue is available through the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

Legal issues and shale gas boom

The shale gas boom and fracking revolution are having a significant impact on the economies of states like Ohio. Some environmentalists are also seeing the positive side despite the drinking water controversy as natural gas burns much cleaner that coal.

But many legal issues remain and loom on the horizon.

Ohio’s anticipated energy boom from hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits has oil and gas companies, investors and property owners scrambling for a piece of the action.

On the way to digging up the expected treasure, though, are legal sand traps that could slow or even stop production. They go well beyond the basic issue of who owns the buried oil and gas rights, disputes hashed out in courts since the start of the Utica shale rush in 2010.

Emerging battles concern possible threats to endangered species, Clean Air Act violations and claims that oil and gas drilling in Ohio is abnormally dangerous.

The Utica shale layer, centered in Ohio but stretching from Quebec to Tennessee, has been touted as holding hydrocarbons worth tens of billions of dollars — maybe $500 billion worth, if you believe the prediction of Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp., the top driller in Ohio.

The Ohio Shale Coalition estimates that almost 2,000 fracking wells will be drilled in the state by the end of 2014.
Recent fracking-law discussions at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and the McDonald Hopkins law firm in Cleveland, as well as interviews with energy-sector attorneys, suggest a boom of another sort — in legal questions that riddle the shale play.

Stay tuned as this issue develops.

The Standard for Fuel Efficiency

Modern technology has come a long way to produce vehicles with better fuel economy, and with new government regulations, auto manufacturers could be facing drastic changes. You have seen some of those changes with smaller and safer cars with higher MPGs. There has been a demand for greener alternatives for some time now, but it’s only recently that the government has had to step in.

American Fuel Efficiency

If you’ve been around for long enough or have purchased a newer car, you’ll have noticed a steep increase in the number of fuel efficient cars. The government has set updated regulations that aim to set forth a plan that would increase fuel efficiency for all newly manufactured vehicles. The popularity of larger cars in America will not stop the government’s attempt to raise the bar.

Average MPG standards for cars and trucks in the U.S. combined is as follows:

2012 29.7
2013 30.5
2014 31.3
2015 32.6
2016 34.1


Gas Price

If you’re out today, you’ll notice gas prices fluctuating, though more than likely not in a direction you’re fond of. Then you probably won’t be surprised to discover that 63 percent of Americans have trouble with their pocketbooks as a result of rising gas prices. Around $2,000 a year is invested in gas alone by the average U.S. citizen.

Above American Standards

Despite Europe struggling financially, they have managed to consistently keep their fuel efficiency standards well above the United States. As far back as 2006, Europeans have set regulations for newly manufactured vehicles to 40 mpg and beyond. Their projected average in 2012 is around 48 mpg, while Japan is only slightly behind them with roughly 46 mpg for new passenger vehicles.

Recent efforts by President Obama have led to an increase in fuel economy of new vehicles, which are projected to be running at 54.5 mpg by 2025.


It may have impacted you a great deal to fill up at the gas pump, and hopefully these standards will lessen the blow in the future. The good news is, analysts predict the price of gas to drop soon. Until then, you might be paying more than $4 per gallon in some areas, which could eventually account for 5% of your total expenditures a year.

Blow to climate change deniers

This is pretty interesting, as all of the global warming skeptics will now have to face this study from a former skeptic.

Climate change deniers thought they had an ally in Richard Muller, a popular physics professor at UC Berkeley.

Muller didn’t reject climate science per se, but he was a skeptic, and a convenient one for big polluters and conservative anti-environmentalists — until Muller put their money where his mouth was, and launched the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, in part with a grant from the Charles G. Koch foundation.

After extensive study, he’s concluded that the existing science was right all along — that the earth’s surface is warming, at an accelerating rate. But instead of second-guessing themselves, his erstwhile allies of convenience are now abandoning him.

“When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find,” Muller wrote in a Friday Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections. Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate.”

This does not speak to the issue of whether humans are causing the warming, but it’s another persuasive set of data on this issue of warming itself.

How Classifieds are Saving the Planet

Online classified ads are the best thing to happen to the Earth since the hybrid. With a classified ad, resources can be reduced, reused, and recycled with minimal fuss or difficulty. Let’s look at how online classifieds are saving the planet in more detail.

The average item’s lifecycle consists of many stages:
1. Gathering raw materials
2. Shipping materials to a factory
3. Producing a new item
4. Shipping item to stores
5. People taking the item home
6. The item’s usage
7. Item disposal
8. The item being shipped to a junkyard
9. If the item is not biodegradable (think plastic or metal), it will sit in the junkyard indefinitely

When items are sold in classifieds online, or ‘reused,’ their lifecycle is different:
1. Gathering raw materials
2. Shipping materials to a factory
3. Producing a new item
4. Shipping item to stores
5. People taking the item home
6. The items usage
7. Item given to new owner
8. The items usage
9. Item given to new owner
10. The items usage
11. Repeat

The joy and excitement people feel when they crack open the packaging of a new electronic device or open the box that contains a new bed frame is often the only reason people are willing to pay much more to be the first to own an item. Pragmatically, is there a reason to pay 100% more for something ‘new,’ when gently used electronics or furniture serve the same purpose?
Here are some great points to consider before you go to a store to buy something that could be obtained from a website like eBay. Remember: you can always package your gently used item in plastic wrap and open it like a ‘new’ item.

Reducing Waste
Classified ads save tons of waste every single day, literally. Every time someone decides to sell or give away a piece of technology, a bicycle, or an article of clothing, more space in a landfill stays open. While it might not seem like a few sweaters and a laptop computer or two will make any difference, the small things in life add up.

Cutting Down Paper Usage

Paper usage.

Paper takes up a lot of space in a landfill (about 28 percent!), and paper production kills trees. Because the factories and other equipment used in harvesting and processing wood into paper use petroleum-based fuel, using paper is bad for the environment. When you use online classified ads, you save a lot of paper-production pollution.

Saving Fuel
Raw materials have to be delivered, items are produced in pollutant-expelling factories, and then items are shipped to stores (often across the globe) for consumption. That’s a lot of fuel usage for your new iPod!

In Conclusion
The online classified ad is a beautiful thing. With it, you can make friends in the forest by saving paper, and you can save a lot of fuel that’s wasted in the production of new goods. Overall, online classified ads are good for the environment in every possible way. Rather than adding to a landfill when you’re done with an item, pass it on to the next owner who will love it, and find yourself something affordable and gently used in turn!

3 Ways to Go Green without Even Trying

Do you sigh when you think about all of the lifestyle changes that you would need to make in order to truly go green? There’s no reason to fret, though. In fact, these three ways to go green without even trying will make the world a better place without even forcing you to make huge changes in your lifestyle. That’s something worth exploring.

Reduce Your Office’s Paper Use

Offices can waste a lot of paper. All of those receipts, faxes, and printouts eventually have to go somewhere. Even when you take care to recycle your office’s paper waste, you still place a burden on the environment. It does, after all, take a lot of energy to recycle that paper.

You can reduce your office’s impact on the environment by using the new MetroFax mobile app. This app lets you receive faxes on your mobile phone. That means you don’t have to print out the fax to read it. The app is even more convenient than printing faxes because it allows you to search the last 200 documents that you received.

Make Walking Easier Than Driving

Motor vehicles often seem too tempting to avoid. The tendency is to hop in your car for every errand, even if you’re just going down the street to pick up lunch for your colleagues.
The PedNav app appeals to the lazy part of every person by providing the most time efficient way to get from point A to point B without using your car. When you make walking easier by finding the best route, you could find that the car becomes an unnecessary burden, especially when you consider all of the time that you spend looking for parking spots and sitting at red lights.

Find the Greenest Route for Your Vehicle

Motor vehicles spew a lot of carbon into the air. Reducing the amount that you drive could simultaneously reduce your carbon footprint. The truth, however, gets a little more complicated than choosing the shortest route. You have to consider traffic congestion, speed limits, and other factors to choose the greenest route for your vehicle.

Ecorio does all of that for you. This smart phone app uses GPS technology to keep track of how much carbon your vehicle emits. It does more than just make you feel guilty, though. You can also use Ecorio to find routes that will result in decreased carbon emissions. You don’t have to do anything but ask the app to tell you the best route to take. You can even keep track of your daily habits to make long-lasting changes in behaviors that might harm the environment.

These three apps represent some of the latest technologies that can help you go green without even trying. Sure, you could stop using the fax machine or give up your car, but you don’t have to become an extremist to make positive changes in the world. What are some of ways that you have gone green without doing much more than lifting a finger and touching your smart phone?

5 Alternative Energy Methods to Save the Planet

Wind Power.

How do we know that sustainable energy, also known as alternative energy, is necessary? It’s right there in the description – it’s endlessly available. Fossil fuels, and any fuels provided by a process that takes a very long time, are finite. That means they will run out.

Long before anyone pumps the last gallon of oil-based power, humans need to find, and implement, energy that will outlast the species. Perhaps in the long distant future, people will utilize a method of power production that has not yet been discovered.

In the meantime, several options for sustainable energy already exist; like those provided by As a bonus, most options emit less pollution during their usable lifespan than present power generation methods. Following is a smattering of what is available today.

1. Wind power

Harnessing the strength of the wind is something that’s been done for centuries. The concept has been enlarged in the modern era to the point that entire tracts of land are used to hold vast fields of enormous windmills.

These are visible from roads across the country, and many proposals have been put forth to locate even larger wind farms in ocean waters. Many power companies offer a wind subsidy option, whereby people merely pay a bit extra to offset the higher cost of wind power.
But that’s large scale stuff. Did you know that you can purchase, install, and benefit from a ‘personal sized’ windmill also? These mini-mills easily compliment an environmentally friendly home, harnessing the wind’s energy when appropriate.

2. Solar Power

Solar has been viewed for generations almost as poorly as a proverbial black sheep. That has been due in large part to its low power output compared to its cost. In an age of cheap electricity and power, people frown upon anything that costs extra. But solar is poised for a major comeback in coming years.

With per watt prices dropping at the same time that conventional power prices are wobbling, but generally increasing, the two will intersect at price equilibrium in the near future. In the meantime, it’s easy to start building a private solar array by building the battery storage infrastructure and wiring.

The genius of a panel display is that it can be begun with just one panel and expanded as funds become available. This ensures participation in future panel price drops, too. Solar may come with a high cost, but it’s not difficult to participate in future price decreases. In fact, as power consuming children are added to a household, it’s easy to expand a solar power system.  Read the rest of this entry »

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