Thursday, June 16, 2011

Data Centers: The Next Sustainability Red-Zone?

So today I walked past two of my workplace's "data centers." I put these in quotes because to be honest, two closet sized server farms pale in comparison to the new-aged data centers that are being ramped up (I'm talking zettabyte centers, SON!).

However, despite their relatively small sizes, I could definitely feel a temperature change when being near these rooms. This isn't terribly surprising because electronics throw off a ton of heat and require large amounts of climate control measures to keep them from overheating and shutting down.

Combining seeing these rooms with the fact that I had WAY too much coffee this morning led to me thinking about the issues that data centers are going to present us in the very near future. Recently there was a study that showed that Netflix is the new majority holder of internet bandwidth usage in the United States due to video streaming.

Data Center Scaling

I am certainly guilty of abusing the hell out of Netflix streaming as I have watched all the episodes of Dexter and Scrubs multiple times over, and I am soon going to be moving on to Sponge Bob Square Pants (yes, I am a nerd).

However, video steaming is only the tip of an iceberg that is only going to get bigger. Google is placing a huge bet with its Chromebooks that computers are going to be cloud-based in the future, and more and more services are being migrated to the virtual world. This is all wonderfully convenient, and I wouldn't change a thing about it - but it is going to ultimately lead to the necessary scaling of data centers.

The Problem

This means that there is going to be an increase in energy consumption, and to make things worse, this energy consumption is going to come at night, which traditionally is when energy rates have been cheaper.

Why at night? People spend the most time online at night streaming television shows, stalking their exes on facebook, etc. This will end up putting a higher demand on the baseline energy producers and increasing the need to scale up our energy production.

I'm not saying that this will happen all at once, but it isn't too farfetched to see how these dominos can fall.

The Solution

One way to address this is to obviously build more clean energy sources. If data is going to increase at night, raising a demand for nighttime electricity, then it is logical to build more wind turbines seeing that they produce most of their energy at night.

This is why I believe Google is investing so much into clean energy sources, whether it is the offshore windfarm network they are investing in, the new deal they struck with SolarCity, or the EV charging network they penned with Coulomb. They recognize that there is going to be a larger demand on their data centers, and the best way to green-up their operations is to offset their energy usage with clean electricity.

Ultimately, our need for increased data supplies and speeds will correlate directly with energy consumption, and it would be irresponsible to scale up these centers without cleaner means of energy production.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Electric Vehicle Adoption: Ready Or Not - Here It Comes

I want to rant about something before I write this post... Why one earth did this person walk into the an essentially empty coffee shop and sit across the table facing me? Now whenever I let my mind wander and look away from my screen, I am forced to make awkward eye-contact with this creep.

Annoying... but I digress.

As if it a huge surprise, people seem to be talking more and more about electric vehicles these days. Lets recap if you are having trouble wrapping your brain around this phenomenon:
  1. Gas prices are ridiculously high and continue to be relatively volatile.
  2. The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have been rolled out to a highly demanded market.
  3. Ford and Toyota have announced their upcoming plugin vehicles respectively.
  4. President Obama is still aiming at the (relatively unachievable) goal of 1 million EV's on the road by 2015.
  5. Steven Chu has been sexing it up with Coulomb Technologies in California after they reached their 500th charging station in North America.
  6. Google announced the largest corporate charging infrastructure to date.
  7. Almost every day there is announcement on technology promising to make charging faster.
It would seem that there is a definite trend towards EV adoption, but there are still people that are resistent to the adoption of this technology. Putting aside the tired commentary that these people are the same as the crowd that was "against automobile adoption when horses are just fine," these people do bring up some fine points that I am going to systematically attac...I mean address now.

EV's Are More Carbon Intensive To Produce

I am not going to argue against this point mainly because there are 500 different environmental studies of what is actually going into the production of these batteries...mainly because the companies that are producing these batteries guard their intellectual property as if their lives depended on it.

However, the carbon emissions from vehicles is well documented and the numbers don't lie. They are terrible. I seriously find it hard to believe that the one time environmental impact expenditure of producing a battery for a EV is more damaging than the repeated beating of extracting, producing, and burning gasoline.

Electricity Is Just As Dirty As Gasoline

Coal is filthy. No doubt about that. However, this argument is assuming that going forward we are going to continue building more coal-fired electricity plants as we continue to maintain our infrastructure.

This simply isn't the case because the world is moving towards more renewable energy production, the most recent case being Boulder, CO who is aiming to get 90% of their electricity from clean sources. It is unrealistic that all of America is going to get all of their electricity from clean sources in the near future, but eventually we are going to have a much high percentage which will make this argument of electricity not being any cleaner than gasoline pointless.

EV's Don't Have Adequate Charging Times Or Driving Distances

I don't have a great argument here because the fact is that both of these points is true. Until EV's can get longer driving distances, there is going to be a need to charge your vehicles more frequently which is disappointing if you just think about the charging times.

However, by ramping up charging infrastructure, you can mitigate these concerns of charging because people don't drive super long distances very often and parking and charging your car while you go shopping or while you are at work becomes less of a big deal.

With that said, Steven Chu has been motivated to have cheaper, longer ranged EV's for consumers in the near future, and I am not one to bet against that guy.

Thats all for now... and you guessed it - I really just wrote this post so I could post my favorite photoshop of Steven Chu.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Site News: Back From Unofficial Hiatus

I would like to apologize for the lack of posting updates on this blog as of late. I have been really throwing myself into work because:
  1. I really love all the things I am doing in the office.
  2. My personal life has been moving at the pace of a snail so it is easier to just focus on the job.
In any event, I have received a few emails from people wondering why I haven’t been gracing the Internet with my witty-banter. My first reaction, as always, was wondering, “how the hell did they get my email,” but that reaction quickly faded when I received this heartwarming message:

“Are you dead?”

No. No I am not, but thanks for jumping to that conclusion.

So in an attempt to get you nerds to stop emailing me, I will try and update this blog more often, but I’m not going to make a promise on a set posting schedule, because let’s face it – I proved that I am not good at that.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Site News: Posting Restructure

I am going to only post articles on Monday and Friday (as well as comics on Sunday).

The reason for this is that I am just too busy with work to constantly be trying to research and properly write articles 3 times a week.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Electric Vehicles: Coulomb Charging Station

I maintain that one of the most exciting changes that is going to develop in the next 10 years is the continued introduction of electric vehicles.

Whether these vehicles are PHEV (plugin hybrid electric vehicles) or straight EV (electric vehicles), the issue of charging infrastructure is going to be one of the most important (and potentially lucrative) issues that will need to be addressed.

Coulomb Technologies has been on a mission to address this issue, and recently their name has been popping up more and more in the news. Recently, Steven Chu congratulated Coulomb Technologies on their 500th charging station in the United States.

Coulomb already has an international presence with nearly 4,000 stations shipped worldwide, but it is still impressive to see that there have already been 500 installed in the United States (most of which are meant for public use).

I am personally excited about plugin vehicles because it opens the door for the following:

  • New automotive innovations.
  • American jobs (if the big producers get ahead of the curve and begin ramping up EV production).
  • Clean energy production because people aren't going to want to expand the grid with traditionally dirty production to support this new clean transportation technology.
  • More sustainable city living because these cars are currently perfect for short driving distances, and city residents typically never drive more than the ranges that these cars have to offer.
Either way, it was good to see Coulomb in the news with Steven Chu because this signals that the technology is catching on, and lets face it, I always love to have an excuse to post this picture of Steven Chu.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

And We Are Back!

Sorry for the absence.

[insert excuse you don't care about]

Here is a comic to make up for it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Work has been demanding for the past week, so I have been taking a break. Posts will begin again this coming Monday (5/16).

I appreciate your patience, and as a reward, here is a picture of the most awesome dog ever.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

High-Speed Rail Is NOT Dead After Budget Fart

Twitter is great for a lot of things:
  • Kim Kardashian non-sequiturs.
  • Helping assholes make money even after everyone knows they are assholes (Charlie Sheen).
  • Spam.
  • Limited writing space.
  • A false sense of community.
Did I say great? My bad. Twitter is terrible.

I guess this is why it comes as no surprise that it is not a great source for accurate information about real-world issues. The most recent panic that Twitter has caused is through inaccurate reporting of what has been killed by the most recent Federal Budget nonsense.

Contrary to popular Tweets, highspeed rail is not dead in the water. In fact, the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) will soon be dealing out a cool $2 billion in federal HSR grants for projects around the nation.

So the money is definitely still there. The trick is making sure that local politicians don't go screwing the pooch and not pursuing the money in a cheap political ploy to give the illusion that they are pursuing other avenues of job creation, which is totally misguided, short-term thinking.

Lets not forget that fuel prices are going to continue to rise at a quicker pace in the coming years, and alternative forms of transportation will be necessary.

If all of my rambling above hasn't convinced you that high-speed rail is alive and necessary, then you leave me no choice but to pursuade you with a picture of Thomas the Train.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Texas Cities Get More Electric Vehicle Charging

NRG Energy (editors note: I get it!) has announced that they are going to be installing 70 EV charging stations in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area and 50 more in Houston by the end of next year, which is exciting considering Texas's traditional focus on oil.

NRG has holdings in wind, solar, and nuclear energy which is good considering one of the complaints about electric vehicles is that a majority of the electricity that will be used to power these vehicles is coming from dirty sources such as coal.

Yes, I realize that nuclear isn't completely clean and has risks which have become painfully apparent with the happenings in Japan, but I still maintain that it is a better technology than coal which essentially poisons everything it touches.

The only lame part of this story is the fact that NRG is planning on calling these stations "freedom stations." Nothing against freedom, but seriously? So weak.

In any event, the EV's success is going to be initially determined by the southern and western states which all have ideal climates for EV operation (warm, dryish, not too many hills). Because of this, it is good to see that cities are getting ahead of the curve and providing a charging infrastructure for the initial adopters of these vehicles.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Comics

Not quite a comic today, but this is my blog and I still found this comical, so deal with it, nerds.

For only $800 you could be the proud owner of a bike that is guaranteed to have hipsters everywhere telling you "I knew of this before you did."

Aside from the initial ridiculous look and about a 80% kill-rate when you hit a pothole, I kind of want one.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Finer Things: Solar-Powered Backpack

I spend a good amount of time talking about how renewable initiatives and sustainable lifestyles will ultimately save money, mainly because that is the only way that these things are going to take hold in mainstream America/R.O.W.

However, lets face it, I'm high maintenance and I like the finer things in life. Those of you that know me totally know this is true seeing that I dine exclusively at Subway and wear my ripped jeans whenever I can get away with it.

So OBVIOUSLY this new item that is hitting the market caught my eye:

Ralph Lauren solar-powered backpack.
For only $800 dollars, this little ditty can be yours. Finally, I can promote clean energy and my cutting edge fashion-sense all in one move.

What's that, you say? You are wondering how much power this provides? Enough for your iPad 2, suckah!
The bag zaps up a 3.45-watt current, which charges a small device in two to three hours when the sun is at full strength.
Did I say iPad? I meant iPhone, but Google's webcrawler doesn't pay as much attention to old products, and I like attracting all sorts of misguided webtraffic.

In all seriousness, having solar panels on your backpack, briefcase, or whatever is a cool idea and someday will definitely be a reality, but until panels are more efficient at extracting energy from the sun's rays, these things are pretty much worthless.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Best And Worst Of Each State

Lately I have been doing a lot of research on single-use bag reform and various renewable energy initiatives for work. I love trying to be an overachiever, so I have been doing a lot of work outside of the office, but an unintended result of that is I have been finding it difficult to find the time to really dive into a blog post.

Luckily, one of my readers submitted a link to me last night and I figured that this would be a fantastic opportunity for me to not do any outside research OR write original material!

A round of applause for procrastination, please.

The charts below come from the Mother Nature Network and outline each states most positive environmental statistic along with its most negative. You can click each picture to make them bigger, but I personally find the Texas statistics the most hilarious.

There is something ironic about a state having both the largest presence of clean wind power along with the most carbon dioxide emissions, but it is what it is.

It is probably safe to say that you shouldn't write any term papers on the correlations between these two charts, but if you do, pick Utah and title your paper "Breast Feeding Is Destroying Green Jobs."

You'll get an A just for creativity.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Guest Post: A Step Forward For Electric Cars?

Recently during my spring break I have been doing a lot of mindless browsing on the internet since contributing to society is so mainstream. Even though mostly what I was browsing through involved sports and websites that remind me that I still have the humor of a 13 year old, I stumbled upon something that prompted me to write another article for Sustainabili-City. BMW recently launched a program named BMW i that is focusing on designing and producing electric vehicles in the future. After spending twenty minutes reading through their website and watching their videos, they really caught my attention.

For the most part, what I read didn’t seem vastly different from other companies that are entering the electric car market. They promise to produce cars that are sustainable in every possible aspect. They promise to invest time and money to advance current sustainable technology and discover new ways to engineer their electric vehicles. They even have sexy, well-edited videos that make me wonder why my life doesn’t look as awesome as they portray it to be. What has my attention is frankly quite simple.

They’re BMW.

Now before I go any further, I can honestly say that I barely know anything about cars. You put some form of energy in and you drive to your desired destination. You can’t explain that. But what I do know is that BMW is a widely respected company that produces cars that people want. A major problem with electric cars right now is most people don’t desire to own them. As great as the Toyota Prius is, a lot of people are turned off by it’s physical appearance. I would know since my family owns a Prius. When I drove the Prius to tennis practice my friends made fun of our car by calling it ‘a box with wheels.’ I personally don’t mind how the Prius looks, but if BMW or some other well known company made a sexy electric car that was just as good or better than what is out now, then it would be hard to disagree with my friends.

Fact is people want to drive a car that they are proud to own and be seen in. With BMW planning to enter the market, I am fairly excited to see what the future holds for electric cars. It seems pretty reasonable why when thinking about it in economic terms: if people demand something then it will be supplied. In the past, electric cars have been seen almost as a downgrade when compared with the ordinary gas powered car. It’s exciting now that BMW can prove this false as long as they carry through with their plans and provide us with something such as the i8 or the i3.

But this isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. One problem that is most likely going to happen is the price range of these new vehicles. Even though it’s great that BMW, Lexus, and Chevy are coming out with electric cars, they are more likely going to be tailored for those whom are willing to write a hefty check for their products. But as we have seen in the past, there is typically an inverse relationship between the amount of time that passes by and the price of newly introduced products. It will be interesting to follow BMW i and see what happens in the coming years. You can learn more about BMW i at

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Comics

A little late in the day (9:30 PM is still counted as the daytime, right?), but here is your Sunday Comic!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Obama's Renewed Focus On Clean Energy: Why Did We Stop Again?

A few days ago, President Obama rekindled his focus on domestically produced clean energy.

My reaction: Why did we stop hammering this point in the first place?

Clean energy provides solutions to our current political issues:
  • Job Creation
  • Market Volatility
  • International Relations
  • Sexiness
President Obama has wanted a large reduction by 2035 since he was first elected, but you wouldn't know it considering that there has been little to no actual legislation helping this become a reality. However, there is still hope that this issue will be revived again:
Obama will veer into domestic issues today, when he will announce new goals to reduce the nation's dependency on foreign oil while increasing homegrown energy supplies, including cleaner electricity
"Tomorrow's speech will mark a transition in our public communications," a senior White House official told reporters yesterday, referring to Obama's energy speech today and others. "You will see a concerted focus on energy." 
The White House's role in developing the electricity standard is reassuring to supporters, some of whom criticized the president's casual effort to pass climate legislation last summer. Key experts in the administration, including economist Nat Keohane, special assistant to the president, and Dan Utech, senior adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, are working on the standard, according to sources.
Once this becomes a political issue, I believe that it will be hard for any politician to deny clean energy's need for growth. The NY Times makes a great point by saying "Republicans might suffer on Election Day if they're perceived as old-fashioned politicians supporting oil and gas companies while opposing alternative energies."

One can hope that things play out this way.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

China Is Winning The Clean Energy Race

You read that title correctly. China is winning, and no, I'm not defining winning the say way as Charlie Sheen.

Charlie Sheen... what a douche.
I won't bore you with the details (which you can find over at, but here is the important part of the story:
China's national action plan is helping the country use more hydro, wind, and solar power. The country has goals of 150 gigawatts of wind capacity by 2020 (it looks like they're going to meet this goal five years early) and 20 gigawatts of solar by 2020. For comparision, the U.S. currently has .6 gigawatts of solar and 33 gigawatts of wind.
It all comes down to national policy, and right now China has made it clear to investors that they want alternative energy as a large part of their infrastructure's future. America on the other hand is only in 3rd place, but is constantly sending mixed signals on how much investment they really want making it difficult for investors to jump on board.

The good news is that the industry in general is trending upwards, I just wish that America would quit playing games with my heart*.

*Sorry, couldn't resist a Backstreet Boys reference.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Guest Post: Sustainable Development at the University Of St. Andrews

Connor Brownell is a freshman at The University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

You know that old proverb that some wise person in your life would tell you after failing to achieve something at first, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again?” Well I am fairly certain that my brother – the usual writer for this blog – has brought that phrase to a whole new level. After what has seemed to be 37 years of him harassing me to write for his blog, I finally accepted the challenge to write a post for Sustainabili-City.

So you’re probably intrigued by the fact that there is a new face on this blog to write articles and are wondering what I have to offer. Well frankly Colin and I are alike in many ways and… WHOA THERE, don’t give up and click out of the page. What I mean to say is he and I are strongly interested in sustainable development and the impact it has on our lives. We also have a superior appreciation for humor, so one could say it’s a privilege to read what occurs in our brilliant minds.

Now let’s cut the cute intro and get to the point. I believe that there is a crucial role for sustainability that sadly most people neglect to realize. The cause of this misjudgment is a current issue brings all types of people together to have mature and professional debates on whether sustainability is truly a threat to our planet*.

I can vouch to this since I am currently studying sustainable development at the University of St. Andrews. Four days a week at I go to a 9 a.m. lecture to learn about sustainable development. So far I have experienced many different incidents where there is a lot of skepticism towards sustainable development. My personal favourite is when we got into small groups and reflected about a current lecture. One of my fellow students took the time to talk about sustainable development and how he believed that it’s a waste of a major to study. Before you get all concerned, I didn’t do anything drastic or stupid at the time to vent my rage towards him. I looked at my WWCSD bracelet and focused my anger into thinking about how bi-winning I am.

What’s great about this blog is it enables people like you and me to share what we find and think about important issues that are affecting us or will in the near future. I plan on posting articles that reflect what I am experiencing here at St. Andrews or what I find elsewhere. There needs to be a thorough push to promote the education of sustainable development and what it entails. I hope to help ignite the spread of sustainable development education by writing here and sharing my thoughts. In the next couple of weeks I am going to be working on a behavior change assignment and what it takes to make people act in a more sustainable manner.

It’s been pretty interesting writing my first little blog post for Sustainabili-City. Next time I plan on having a more focused topic, so hopefully this wasn’t too long and hard for you to read**.

*A screaming competition is a closer statement but I like to give society the benefit of the doubt.

** Successful sexual joke.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Comics

I love Futurama's take on global warming. Enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Future Is Now...(!)? Qatar's Vision Of An Artificial Cloud

I don't often report on highly speculative technological visions because there are about 500 floated onto the internet daily, but I had to make an exception for Qatar's Artificial Cloud being proposed for the 2022 World Cup.

I have recently become more and more interested in soccer (football), mainly because I have a brother going to school in the UK and I figured I should probably go ahead and pay attention to what is going on beyond this most recent World Cup (Team USA!).

Qatar winning the bid for the 2022 World Cup still stings because Chicago got robbed (I'm not biased or anything because I live in Chicago). With that said, a solar powered floating "cloud" could definitely make up for the hard feelings I am harboring:
Artificial cloud will move by remote control, made of 100 per cent light carbonic materials, fuelled by four solar-powered engines and it will fly high to protect direct and indirect sun rays to control temperatures at the open playgrounds.
Are you kidding me?!

Aside from the fact that I am 90% sure this technology does not exist yet and some pretty significant engineering and power transferring hurdles need to be solved, this would be awesome.

Just look at it. Hilariously awesome. I want to live on top of it.

Granted, if it got cloudy I suppose we would have to deal with a mechanical cloud massacring an entire stadium of soccer fans - but these are just details.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

(Don't) Blame Canada - Toronto's Bike Sharing Program

For those of you that have been steady readers since I first started this blog last year (there are about 150 of you from what I can tell… *internet high-five*), then you probably realize that I am somewhat obsessed with riding my bike even though it is a relatively crappy mountain bike that I treat like a road bike.

So, it probably comes as no surprise that I am going to keep on punching away on bike-sharing topics. The most recent development comes from Toronto where they are starting a new bike sharing program as an extension of their public transportation system.

I love these programs because they address two topics which I think everyone needs to take seriously:

  • Carbon Emissions
  • Personal Health

Here is how Toronto’s program will work:
In order to rent bicycles through BIXI’s program, users are encouraged to subscribe to an annual membership, however, occasional users are also welcome and can take out bicycles using credit cards. Similar to bike-sharing programs around the world, BIXI’s annual members can rent bicycles for free for the first half-hour, with additional charges for extra time of usage.
Bike sharing is awesome because instead of one person owning a bike and parking it for an entire day where it isn’t used, multiple people can enjoy a whole system of bikes. This alleviates traffic, carbon emissions, and fat people - all things I would like to see resolved in the near future.

Either way, take a look at the full article, it is good stuff: Full Article

Monday, March 21, 2011

Samsung's Solar Powered Television

With all the negative events happening in Libya and Japan, I found it pretty difficult to motivate myself to write something witty and meaningful about topics related to sustainability. Because of that, I gave myself a little bit of a break to research some interesting topics for the blog, so this week will be full of new material.

That brings us to today’s topic: Solar Powered Television

When I first saw this on twitter I thought to myself, “Wow, a television that is solar powered. That would be cool if it weren’t for the fact that the sun is outside and most televisions are inside.”

I was swiftly put in my place when I read on to discover that the televisions themselves did not actually require the sun to power them, but just ambient light in a room - much like calculators that we have been enjoying for the better part of 2.5 decades.

Samsung has been working on a prototype that operates almost completely independent from electrical outlets:
The 46″ prototype TV, shown at CeBit in Germany, includes solar panels that produce energy from the ambient light in a room – because it was engineered to use very little energy, no additional power sources are needed. Another major breakthrough behind the concept is that the thin screen can display images and information while allowing objects behind it to be visible.
This is fairly exciting because this technology will have applications that go far beyond televisions. Laptops, cellphones, car windshield HUDs, and anything else with a screen could benefit from this technology. Screens have classically been some of the most power hungry applications out there (just ask any smartphone), and with this technology, that level of electricity needed to power these devices can been sharply reduced.

Obviously, because this is a prototype, it is most likely a few years away from release, and even then the technology will probably be expensive - but like most new television releases, this price will drop and become more widespread after a short while.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Plastic Vs. Paper: A Gap In Logic

I've been doing a lot of reading about the pros and cons of both paper and plastic bags that you get at a grocery store, and the bottom line is they both suck.

Paper is bad because you are chopping down trees and it is more difficult to transport to end consumers, and plastic is bad because while it is less energy intensive to recycle, only 5% of plastic bags are ever turned in to be recycled, leaving 95% of the bags created to floats around the waste stream for 1000+ years.

One solution to this problem was to apply a bag tax on consumers in Washington, DC. This worked wonderfully for their situation because the money collected through these fees was turned around and used to clean up the Anacostia River. However, I realize that this isn't the solution for everywhere because you don't always have an environmental concern to apply the taxed money towards.

With that said, I still don't understand the gaps in logic displayed by some readers in the comments section of websites. Here is a truly inspired response from a person I will call Stubborn McAsshat:
"If a tax happens, I'll simply request paper...Additionally, I will probably visit grocery stores in other towns more frequently, get my stuff in the plastic bag and drive the bags to be recycled some time down the road."
Here is a person that knows that plastic bags are bad, but they are still so stubborn towards any form of a tax that they are willing to burn more gas just to avoid an additional plastic bag fee. Keep in mind that the tax they are referring to is a $0.05 fee for each plastic bag.

I truly do believe that incentive programs are the way to go so that you are rewarding consumers who use reusable bags instead of penalizing consumers with taxes, but when I see people acknowledge that their current habits are bad and still continue forward with them - it makes me angry.

But I digress! It is 60 Degrees outside and I'm going to ride my bike for the first time in forever!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Comics

I figured this comic was appropriate for the political climate that is developing around the EPA and the CAA. I probably won't comment again on it for a while, but this sums up my feelings on the matter.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday Comic: St. Paddy's Day Special

Well, since I missed Sunday's comic last week, I promised that I would post something on Saturday AND Sunday this week, so here we go!

There are few days I enjoy more than celebrating St. Paddy's Day in Chicago, but be safe out there!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

EPA Under Fire

Well, I suppose it is going to be impossible to avoid this topic, so why don't we dive into this whole EPA issue right now.

EPA: Evil Placebo Agency

Ammi' Right?! YEAH! Take THAT environmentalists! *High-fives a coal plant and skips away*

Recently, some Republicans in the House have decided to set their crosshairs directly on the EPA and their ability to adequately regulate GHG emissions. For those that are paying attention, it goes without saying that I think this is an absolutely terrible idea.

The following is a rundown of what the EPA will face, and I have bolded the things that are making my face melt off:
Republicans argue that the EPA’s plan to combat global warming is “bad economic policy” and could be the biggest threat to job creation the nation faces. The Houses spending bill proposes a 30% cut in the EPA’s budget, which would limit the agency’s ability to enact and enforce environmental protections in California and across the nation. [Editors Note: limit should read "break the agency's kneecaps"]
This is just another great example of private interests groups pressuring certain politicians to make bad long term decisions for short term gains. Sure, maybe some heavy polluting industries will be able to make a profit for a while, but a large part of the nation will never see this new influx of money and instead be subjected to dirtier air and a rapidly deteriorating global climate situation.

Also, by loosening up regulations on emissions, you are handicapping the adoption of cleaner technologies. Obviously I am against that, but the government should be as well. Every day I read an article about some other country investing in and advancing clean tech, a problem for America's desire to remain a leader in the global market place.

If you are like me and want to United States to advance its policies and not cut them off at the knees, I suggest you follow this link and voice your opinion: Contact Your Government

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Electric Vehicle Charging? There's An App For That.

First off, I am sorry that I missed Sunday Comics and Monday's post. I was sick and I probably would have just posted gibberish anyways seeing that I am the only writer for this blog, so it was probably for the best that I waited until today.

With that said, I am planning to have a post go out today (obviously), tomorrow, and then Friday - all of which will be followed by TWO comics over the weekend. I don't spoil you because I care, I just like the attention.

I've been looking for a way to weasel in a reference to the iPhone on this blog for a while now, but I haven't seen an opportunity until now.

There is a new addition to Apple's App Store that is promoting a sustainable lifestyle through EV Plug Sharing. It is called PlugShare, which has been released by California-based Xatori.
The New York Times screams:
“We want to break down that barrier in people’s minds about where it’s acceptable to charge,” said Armen Petrosian, Xatori’s co-founder and chief technology officer. “We think the infrastructure to charge is everywhere.”

Drivers can punch in their destination to see the availability of shared outlets as well as public charging stations along their route.
This is pretty cool because even if you don't own an electric car, you can still be part of the adoption movement of EV's by making your home available as a charging station. Why would you do that?


I started writing this article just so I could put this picture on the blog.
The way I see it, this is a great way to make some money off these EV suckers... I wish I could get one.

If you have a person that wants to plug into your charging station for an hour or so, this will cost you about 20 cents. Solution? Charge them a dollar.

This is Lemonade Stand 101. Granted, if you are running a Level 2 charging station, the 240 Volt AC you are distributing will be more expensive, but that is just when you scale your prices.

Are you going to become rich doing this? Probably not, but at least you are doing something to help inspire change. One of the biggest hurdles that EV's will face is the charging network that needs to be put in place.

However, Apps like this open up a world of possibility that isn't available with the traditional gasoline infrastructure, and this could end up being pretty cool if people embrace the technology.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Site News: 100 Posts!

Most people would celebrate their 100th post with a thoughtful article on this or that, but forget that noise. Instead, I will leave you with this animated picture from Peanuts.

Why? Because it is early and I am tired from my first week of work!

In any event, I just want to thank everyone for the warm reception this little blog has received. I would have never guessed that my rambling would attract 2000+ readers, but it has and I look forward to attracting more readers in the future.

Sidenote: If you play "I Whip My Hair Back & Forth" while watching that animated GIF, you'll notice that they perfectly sync up.

...Just kidding. That is a terrible song and I wouldn't put you through that mess.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chicago's Infrastructure Project: Electric Vehicle Charging

A faithful reader emailed me this article late Monday evening, and my first reaction was to write up an article right then and there because the subject matter was very exciting...

...then a voice popped up in the back of my head:
BUT WAIT! If I write an article now, that means that I will have to write 4 articles this week to maintain the Monday/Wednesday/Friday structure you have laid out. The HORROR.
So now thanks to my never failing rational/procrastinating side, you are getting this article a bit later, but I promise it is still good!

Some very exciting things have been happening lately. No, not the fact that Charlie Sheen has turned his failed career into one of the most exciting one-line quote factories to ever exist (I'm Bi-Winning!).

Chicago is going to start investing deeply into an Electric Vehicle charging network. Exelon has partnered with the city in an effort to roll out 280 charging stations throughout the Chicagoland area, including two sections that will be equipped with solar power!
“ComEd is preparing now for what may be a large influx of PHEVs in the market and managing its impact on the grid,” Kerry Kelly-Guiliano, the Exelon spokesperson, said in an email, referring to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. “And they are putting in place the charging infrastructure to demonstrate that Chicago is plug-in ready.

The locations for the charging stations have yet to be determined, but Kelly-Guiliano said they would most likely be deployed at places like shopping malls, Chicago’s two airports, and rest stops along the Illinois Tollway in the city.
This is exciting news because one of the biggest hurdles to EV adoption will be the availability of charging stations to help curb range anxiety. By getting ahead of the curve, Chicago is making strides to show early adopters that their investments will be supported.

The one thing I wish this article did say was what types of charging stations they will be rolling out and what the charging time stats are projected to be for these "electric pumps," but I suppose that information will become available shortly.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Transphorm: Google's Investment Shows The Direction Their Bets Are Aimed

Google is making more strides in the realm of alternative energy and energy efficiency with their most recent investment into Transphorm, a company that deals in cutting edge power-converting modules.

There are plenty of bold mission statements floating around there today, but Transphorm's claim that their technology could be compared to "taking the entire West Coast off the grid" strikes me as one of the strongest claims to date.

Here is the nerdy breakdown of what this technology that I assume only 3% of you will understand/care about:
Currently, conversion modules are based on silicon, which struggles to efficiently convert power at high voltages. An estimated ten percent of energy currently generated in the U.S. is lost as electricity is converted back and forth from alternating to direct current. Mishra claims that gallium nitride can do the same conversion without wasting power.
This reduction in power-loss during transmission means that there will be less burden placed on utilities, meaning that there would be a reduction in GHGs across the board. Coupling this with the continued pursuit of more efficient products being introduced to consumers and the increased development of cleaner energy sources, it becomes easier to see big reductions in emissions in the future.

Either way, Google has been doing a good job steering America towards more sustainable solutions with their investment in the Bloom Box, the Wind Power backbone, and now Transphorm.

You can bet that I'll be paying attention to what they do next.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Comics

I didn't have too much luck finding a good comic for today's segment, but I did find this comic that did a good job poking fun at the very searching process I was going through.

Ok, I'll be honest, I found this after 3 minutes of searching and then I stopped because this made me laugh. Enjoy the rest of you weekend!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Smart Design: Water Faucet Innovation

After a successful first meeting at my new job, I feel that I can finally concentrate long enough to write an article of substance, so here we go!

I was perusing through the other day and I came across a pretty ingenious design of a water faucet which I wouldn't mind investing in the near future.

This faucet is designed to distribute only 1 liter of water per use because, according to the designer, people will use up to 6 liters of water when only one liter is necessary. As you can see from the picture below, this design looks cool as well as serves an important function.

It may not come as a surprise to any of you that I am pretty aware of my environmental impact and I try to be as good as possible when it comes to consuming resources, but when it comes to water, I think we are all pretty guilty of overconsumption.

I know it is bad, but I really do enjoy taking long hot showers, and I have been known to leave the faucet running while brushing my teeth/doing dishes (even though I have been getting better).

With a design like this, I believe that many of those bad habits would be addressed out of functioning constraints and not conscious decisions. I know that leaving the faucet running is bad, but for whatever reason I am constantly forgetting to turn off the faucet.

Having a faucet that still works easily but keeps you using excessive amounts of water could be very useful for a person like me, and I suspect it would be well suited for the vast population of America/ROW.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Celebration Time!

I'm sorry to say that today I will not be posting anything of substance because I just got a job with the City of Evanston's Office of Sustainability and I'm still in celebration mode.

Not going to go into too much detail because:
  • For the most part I don't know the 500+ people that read this page.
  • You probably don't care
So instead of writing a lengthy article patting myself on the back, I'll just leave you with this animated picture of Kirby doing a victory dance.

Cheers until Friday!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Holy Renewable Energy Project, Batman: Norway and Jordan's Deal

I will be the first to admit that this blog focuses largely on the inner workings of America's alternative energy landscape, and a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that I live smack in the middle of the United States. However, this focus should not be mistaken for me being blind to the developments outside of America's scope.

Instead, it is more a nod that there is SO MUCH happening around the world in the realm of environmental energy that it would be impossible to cover it all in the three-post per week nature of this blog. Sure I could cover more if I didn't spend a ton of time researching my Sunday Comic segments, but lets face it, comics are awesome and I'm not going to cut a segment that creates 60% of this blogs traffic.

Putting all of that aside, there is an awesome development in the works between Norway and Jordan involving the Sahara Desert, water/food scarcity, and alternative energy: reports:
The chosen test site is a 200,000 square meter plot in Aqaba, a coastal town in the far south of Jordan, close to the shore of the Red Sea. The agreement also secured an additional 2 million square meters for later expansion. The Sahara Forest Project combines Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Seawater Greenhouses to provide a huge amount of renewable energy and sustainable agricultural solutions, essentially turning one of the world’s most inhospitable environments into a flourishing oasis.

Seawater Greenhouses use solar power to convert salt water into fresh water, which is then used to grow fresh vegetables and algae (to absorb CO2). CSP provides the energy to power the whole operation. CSP uses thousands of mirrors to direct sunlight upon a water boiler, heating it to over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The boiler produces steam, which moves a turbine to create energy.
If this project is completed, this will be a huge win for the alternative energy movement that can act as an example for the rest of the world. The following image is a conceptual representation of how this project could eventually look.

To read more about the agreement between Norway and Jordan, click here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Comics

Same method applies to acquiring cleaner air to breathe. Pollution solved!

Now go enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Short Comment Friday: Bike Path Edition

Welcome to Short Comment Friday!!! This is a new segment spawned purely out of laziness, because lets face it, I'm on vacation in Florida and the 80°F weather has destroyed any ounce of productivity I may have had before I went to the beach.

While I have been down here on Sanibel Island, I have fallen in love with bike riding all over again. This island has bike paths all over the island that allow you travel quicker than you would be able to in a car.

Long story short, I wish all areas were like this.

Now I'm off to have a staring contest with this guy!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

High-speed Rail: Florida Vacation Edition

Greetings from Sanibel Island! Right now it is 66°F and sunny, a nice change from the Chicago weather that I have been weathering (Editors Note: Word Play!) for the past few months.

Do you ever sit and watch television while traveling and enjoy how different the programming is when compared to your home's channels?
  • Why do the cheesy car dealership commercials seem even cheesier here?
  • Why do the Anchormen/women on the local news seem weird?
  • Where the hell is ESPN?
These are the questions I ask myself when I sleep in and wait until it is time to go to the beach. However, today I had to ask myself an even more serious question about the news...

Why the hell did Florida torpedo the high-speed rail that was planned between Tampa and Orlando?

The governor of Florida stated:
He also said if the project failed, the state would have to return the money to the federal government. Scott said he informed U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood of his decision earlier Wednesday.
I don't know enough about the finer workings of project funding, but here is the thing though: It wouldn't fail.

Orlando is essentially the hottest tourism spots in the nation, and the high-speed rail between Orlando and Tampa is just a piece of a larger rail system. High-speed rail WILL be implemented in other states which will lead to revenue streams that Florida will lag behind and ultimately have to play catchup.

In a state which is hurting for new sources of revenue due to the housing collapse and the generally undiversified economy, you would think that attracting more tourism and new markets would be high on the list of things to do.

And here is my final point, which is also more of a finishing blow. If federal funding is such a bad thing and the governor expects private industry to take the initiative on these projects, then where do you think Florida would be without the Federal-Aid Highway Act and I-75?

There is no way that private industry would have constructed any highway system, and this state would be completely different without the artery that is I-75.

I'm getting kind of preachy, but here are the points to take away from all this:
  • High-speed rail needs to be the future of America's transportation infrastructure.
  • This won't happen without federal assistance.
  • Florida's rejection won't stop other states from pursuing these systems.
  • This will lead to Florida falling further behind other states.
I'm off to lay on the beach!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sustainability: Bamboo Cases For Your iPhone Made By Grove

Today's blogpost is a little self-indulgent, but the topic at hand is so clearly awesome that I'm sure most of you won't really mind.

Many of you already have gotten a case for your phone for one of the following reasons:
  • Protect your phone from accidental drops (Angry Birds won't protect itself)
  • Protect your phone from not-so-accidental throws after a dropped call (Thanks, AT&T!)
  • Aesthetic value (These cases can sadly be yours for >$200)
  • Disguise your phone to prevent theft (This case may accidentally land your phone in the fridge.)
Historically I have never liked cases because they have always either looked ugly, been too expensive, or made the phone feel clunky. Additionally, I have never liked the idea of purchasing a case that I will most likely not have a use for in 3 years when I get a new phone... at least until now.

I have just received a new case for my phone that is both awesome looking AND sustainable for ~$70!

Unlike most cases which are made from some form of plastic that is typically unrecyclable, this case is made out of bamboo, one of the most versatile and replenishable natural resources available. Bamboo is a member of the grass family, which informs its rapid growth rate (39 inches per day in certain conditions), and because it is a perennial, you do not need to replant seeds after harvesting the bamboo.

These cases are made by Grove in Portland, Oregon where they offer tons of customization to your handmade bamboo case. I went with the tree design because I guess I kind of like nature, but there are tons of other options that you can choose from. Additionally, if none of those preset designs strike your fancy, you have the option to design your own case which they will engrave for a small additional fee.

The only downside is that it took about a month and a half to receive my case, but honestly it was worth the wait. I love the look of this case and it has quickly become apparent that others love it as well.

Thanks to this case, I have already gotten the following comments/questions:
  • "Where did you get this case?"
  • "What is it made out of?"
  • "Are you single?"
  • "Why are you in my house?"
  • "Stop showing me your case."
Honestly, I just like this product because it serves as another example of how sustainable products do not have to be a burden, and instead can look amazingly nice.

I'll stop patting myself on the back for now, but if you have an iPhone, I really do recommend you get one here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Comics

Sorry for only two posts this past week, I'll make it up this week by posting 4.

Anyways, here is your Sunday Comic, or as I like to call it, the day traffic spikes on this blog.

I don't think I ever moved past Stage 1... That or I skipped straight to Stage 7.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Boiling Water: Electric Vs. Stove Kettles

This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but apparently Blogger's posting schedule option still escapes me, so apologies for that. I've been thinking about getting my own domain so I can have more control over the entire site and not have to bend to Blogger's constraints, however that would require money being generated from a job that I am still searching for, but I digress...

I recently bought a French press to really kick my addiction to coffee into high gear. Along with the French press I also had to buy a kettle to boil the water, and this is where I had to make a decision. I could either buy an electric kettle or I could buy the traditional kettle which I would heat with my gas stove.

What the decision boiled down to [editors note: PUN!] was determining the least natural resource intensive kettle. Here is a break down of where Chicago's electricity comes from:
  • 53% from Nuclear Power
  • 36% from Coal Fired Power
  • 7% from Natural Gas
  • 3% from Wind, Biomass, or Hydro Power
  • 1% Other
It is safe to assume that in the morning when I am making my coffee, most of the electricity I would be using is demand-response, which would mean that my electricity would be coming from coal.

Coal is filthy, and while natural gas still takes a toll on the environment, it is still a cleaner alternative, so I ended up buying the traditional kettle that I will heat with my gas stove.

I know that my one kettle isn't going to save the world, but I do think that the act of thinking these decisions through is good practice. It doesn't take much effort to find out where your energy is coming from, and I hope that on some level you begin to think about these options as well.

Now that I'm done ranting, I'm going to go ahead and enjoy my coffee! Have a great day!

Monday, February 7, 2011

SunShot: Our Generation's Sputnik Moment?

Sometimes I read an article about Steven Chu and it makes me want to be best friends with him in a totally non-creepy way. All I'm saying is I wouldn't mind having him come meet some of my ex-girlfriends just so I can say that we are best pals now.

Nerdiest rap reference EVER.
The most recent example of badassery is him publicly coining the term "SunShot":
Just as President Kennedy pledged in 1961 that the United States would land an astronaut on the moon by the end of that decade — a moonshot — Dr. Chu said the United States should attempt a “sunshot” by aiming to cut the cost of solar power by about three-quarters by the end of this decade, to $1 a watt for utility-scale projects. That would translate to an end-user price of about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, he said. “That would make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies of any kind,’’ he said in a conference call with reporters on Friday.
By making solar cost competitive without subsidizing the technology, you are effectively changing the entire energy landscape of the United States along with the rest of the world. People want to have cleaner energy, but cost will always be a constraint to the adoption of cleaner technologies.

Admittedly this is not a terribly long article and the point is fairly straight forward, but it is important to recognize that this was not just some political statement that someone said in passing. Shortly after Chu dropped this statement, the Energy Department pledged $27 million towards solar initiatives - not something that the government would do lightly.

Now sit back, relax, and revel in how awesome my photoshopped picture of Steven Chu is.  I'll be here all week.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Comics

A Sunday Comic dedicated to the insane amount of snow Chicago got blasted with this past week. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to watch the Puppy Bowl.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gallup Poll: Highest Percentage Of Americans Interested In Alternative Energies

This morning I received an email from a regular reader concerning a recent Gallup Poll covering possible actions that Congress should pursue.

The long and short of it is that 83% of the population sampled was interested in incentivizing alternative forms of energy. This is impressive because it is the highest percentage produced from a poll that included:

  • Overhauling the federal tax code (76%)
  • Withdrawing from Afghanistan (72%)
  • Immigration issues (43% - 55%)
  • Oil exploration (non-specific average rating)

I find this interesting for a multitude of reasons, mainly because environmental issues are typically secondary to issues concerning war and tax. While I am excited at the possibility of more interest falling on energy innovation, I am curious to see how the questions were phrased and exactly who was polled (especially when they only surveyed 1,000 individuals over the phone).

Either way, I am going to not be skeptical of this poll and instead let it act as a catalyst for a good mood that I will hold on to throughout the weekend.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Global Warming My Ass!

Global warming is a MYTH! It snowed a LOT in Chicago yesterday, and if global warming was true, then that totally would not have happened... am I right?!

*high fives conspiracy theorist and walks out of the room fist pumping*

In all seriousness though, climate change is the driving force behind my interest in alternative energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable practices. The science is sound when it comes to studying the long-term trends of global temperatures rising in relationship to carbon emissions, but it is still surprising to see articles focusing on how easy it is to manipulate the public.
The New York Times states:
Now, new research suggests that people’s opinion on global warming can be influenced not just by the weather, but even by the temperature of the room they’re sitting in.
The study, by Jane Risen, a behavioral scientist at the University of Chicago, and Clayton Critcher, a marketing professor at the University of California, Berkeley, found that university students placed in a heated room expressed higher confidence that global warming was a proven fact than those placed in a neutral control room.
I just find this interesting because even though I would like to believe that today the public generally believes that there is a relationship between our consumption levels and the rise in global temperature, that simply is just not the case. The sheer fact that people can be manipulated into giving certain answers by adjusting a thermostat and feeding them salty food is surprising/upsetting.

So I apologize for the relatively unexciting post today on a topic that I hope you are already familiar with, but I feel it is good to touch on the subject of global warming to keep it in the public domain.

Now if you will excuse me, I was NOT joking about the amount of snow we got yesterday, and now I have to go dig my Jeep out of a 4' snow drift.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Internet Issues: Students Record Earth From Space On The Cheap

Well, it would appear that the post I tried submitting yesterday did not go through because my internet was apparently knocked out the entire time I wrote it.

It really is too bad because that post was destined to change the world, but it is lost now, never to be seen again. In lieu of this tragic loss, I am not going to spend too much time trying to make up for yesterday and instead point you in the direction of this cool article I found on BBC.

The entire article can be found here, but here is an excerpt from the article which pretty much sums up the coolness:
University of Sheffield PhD students Alex Baker and Chris Rose used a helium-filled balloon to send a foam box containing two small video cameras and a GPS tracker into the atmosphere.
The video they recorded can be found below, which cost them a little over £350.

On a related note, I too have recorded videos in the past. For example, this one time I recorded one of my friends hitting another friend in the face with a pillow.

It was hilarious, and just as cool as this video. Right?

...Right? Guys?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Comics

This is how I feel sometimes while researching topics for the blog. Happy Sunday!

Friday, January 28, 2011

LEED Design: ConAgra's Food Production

Not to long ago I went on a lengthy rant about how awesome Walgreens is being by rolling out a fleet of LEED certified pharmacies, which you can find here. The main point of my article was that the public benefits from Walgreens' initiative because they are indirectly educated by being surrounded with green initiatives.

Another form of indirect consumer education can be seen with ConAgra Foods. They are the proud owners of the first LEED Platinum certified frozen food manufacturing plant. This is impressive because manufacturing plants are resource intensive, but this proves that companies can still be efficient in their traditional practices while embracing more efficient and modern technologies.

It is a safe bet that ConAgra Foods will advertise their green practices on any products that come out of this plant, which will attract new customers while also turning consumers on to greener practices. This could place new pressure on ConAgra's competitors that could end up leading to more food manufacturers pursuing LEED certification.

This is the direction that I have expected the world to start head, but it is nice to actually observe it happen before my eyes. It may seem like a small deal right now, but down the road we could look back and point to this as the beginning of something big.

And guess who told you about it?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sustainability Inspired By Food-Coma

Today's blog is going to be a little on the short side for two reasons. The first reason is that the job search is just chugging along, if by "chugging along" I mean a full time job with minimal feedback...but I gotta keep on punching.

The second reason is I just had lunch and now I am slipping into a food-coma which will make it difficult for me to balance between blogging AND job searching, so I am going to have to focus all my energy on the search and sacrifice the blog for the day.

Since my lack of productivity can be linked to food, it probably comes as no surprise that I honed in on an article about cooking.  The entire article can be found here, but the excerpt below pretty much explains what the entire thing is about.
But recently my husband bought me a pan coated in textured ceramic. It is promoted as green because it is made completely without PFOAs or other toxic chemicals, according to the manufacturer. Fab.

But I also love the way the pan feels and performs. Not only does it easily wipe clean of even foods like scrambled eggs with American cheese (no, I don’t make this — my 9-year-old son does), but when I need to brown something, it leaves behind enough bits to make a nice sauce. The weight in my hand is very satisfying, too.
Yes. The New York Times actually published something with the word "Fab." Though I have never watched it, I am fairly certain that The Jersey Shore is to blame for this type of language.

Long story short, here is another example of sustainable products being better for you and the environment while not sacrificing function or style. Seriously. How FAB is this pan?!?!

...Now if you will excuse me, I need to find a job, or at least get an interview...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Electric Vehicles: The Charging Hurdle

Even though job searching and application submissions have reached a fever pitch for yours truly, I did get around to reading an interesting article on electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure that needs to be developed. The entire article can be found here, but I actually thought the most interesting part of the entire article was the comments section.

For those that read a lot of articles (or watch a lot of YouTube videos), you will know that the comments sections are typically plagued with misinformed ranting and multiple ad hominem attacks. While these are sometimes amusing to read, it is scary to think that there are actually people out there that are subscribing to these shallow points of view.

With this in mind, I was relieved to see a poster that went by the name of Garry G actually presenting interesting points of view. The most enjoyable part of this rather long commentary was when he said the following:
"I am a professional strategist w/ clients in the transportation/utility infrastructure world - and realize this is a multi-decade transition. But building fixed plug in infrastructure is a 20th century strategy to a 21st century problem. Portable fuels must be included in the EV media landscape."
I believe that this is a concept that many people are not ready to truly wrap their heads around. Most people are still trying to make EV's fit into the traditional vehicle model, which may prove to be similar to trying to pound a round peg into a square hole.

While Garry G doesn't present any concrete solutions, his comments provide readers a different way of thinking about how we should approach these issues. Even though I know the majority of people that read the article will probably not even read what he said, it was a breathe of fresh air in an otherwise hostile commentary environment.

On a not-so-related note, saying ad hominem made me think of a great Surviving The World that was just posted and I have linked to below. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Comics

Solar Power Explained.
Happy Sunday! Go Bears!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Label Recognition: Wind Washing?

I came across an interesting article on the NY Times Environmental Blog that was talking about a new label that people may start to come across more as they are shopping.

A few companies are hoping that this label will begin to appear on products in the near future:
Now, a group of companies and environmental organizations, including the wind turbine maker Vestas and the World Wildlife Fund, have unveiled a new label that they hope will tug at consumers’ heartstrings by detailing to what extent wind power was used to make various products. Called “WindMade,” the label will be run by a nonprofit foundation and will require participating companies to undergo certification.

Exactly how the certification process will work has not yet been decided, and further details will be announced this month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the group behind the initiative said.
I want alternative energy to play a bigger role in the world, for both social and economic reasons, but I hope that the requirements to apply this label to your products are strict.

If any corporation that incorporates a fraction of wind energy in their utility bill can slap this label on their products, then I believe that this is just another form of "green washing" which can be seen all over the place these days.

I can appreciate that wind energy has suffered recently due to cheap natural gas cannibalizing demand to switch to wind turbines, but mislabeling products to spark demand for more wind energy is not the answer. It may work in the short run, but ultimately it cheapens the entire concept of clean energy and distracts from the real issues that clean energy is attempting to address.

I remain confident that companies like Vestas and organizations like the WWF will not screw this up, but this is certainly opening the door for other companies to end up creating their own labels that may not have the same standards.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back To Basics: Bike Infrastructure

Living near Chicago, I have enjoyed the perks of having various bike paths throughout the city and along the lake. It is great exercise and provides and cheap way to get from point A to B without emitting any pollution or consuming fuel.

My Sweet Ride
This addresses two obvious issues that are very important to this country:
  • Weight Control
  • Energy Consumption
To my surprise though, job creation may be addressed through the expansion of a biking infrastructure. A study in Baltimore has shown that the investment into biking infrastructures creates more jobs when compared to a focus on traditional roadways:
Each $1 million spent creating on-street bike lanes directly creates 7.9 jobs and creates a total of 14.4 jobs when we include the indirect and induced effects,” the author, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, writes, “The two categories of road repairs have the lowest employment effects, with 3-4 direct jobs and approximately 7 total jobs created for each $1 million.
Obviously this interests me because biking reduces pollution and helps people lead a healthier life, all while being financially attractive to the government.

As I have said before, the only way any of these environmentally friendly projects will achieve staying power is if they make financially sound arguments, and as far as I can tell from this Baltimore study, a furthered investment into biking infrastructures seems like a no-brainer.