Signs of a Changing Climate – ‘Science has spoken’
The aims of the IPCC are to assess scientific information relevant to:
- Human-induced climate change,
- The impacts of human-induced climate change,
- Options for adaptation and mitigation.
The aims of the IPCC are to assess scientific information relevant to:
Original article: treehugger.com//how-to-go-green-babies
A new baby entering your life can create an enormous number of unexpected changes. Along with the little one comes a whole new category of things to purchase — not only the obvious large items like furniture and diapers, but also all the unforeseen extras that seem to accumulate. While having a baby is consumer heaven, the key is to not be gulled into an unnecessary buying frenzy. In truth, a baby has very minimal needs. On the flip side, there is more to a sustainable life with your baby than cloth diapers, organic baby food, and fair-trade clothing…read on for more.
Cloth diapers: Reusable diapers aren’t what they used to be and the days of diaper pins are all but bygone. Go for fitted cloth diapers with Velcro or snap closures for convenience, made from an eco-friendly material such as hemp, bamboo, or organic cotton. Use an organic wool cover that is both warm and breathable, minimizing diaper rash and cold bottoms at night. Use either removable or flushable liners and when washing either use a laundering service or wash at home at lower temperatures. With a new baby around you’ll probably notice a lot more laundry piling up, so make sure you’ve optimized your setup with an efficient machine and non-toxic detergent. If you can line-dry, that is ideal, but don’t bother ironing.
Biodegradable diapers: Made with plant-based plastics (also known as bioplastics), these diapers are non-petroleum based and are compostable. While these have been found not to break down under landfill conditions, there are other options to compost them such as using a composting toilet, an earthworm system, or a highly active and properly conditioned composting area. Hybrid diapers, like gDiapers, have removable inserts that can safely biodegrade when flushed. But be careful, some so-called ‘green’ diapers, like Seventh Generation, can contain petroleum gels,so make sure to do your research first!
Toxic chemicals can have great impact in babies’ lives since they do so much growing and developing early in life, so it can be more important to keep them out of our youngsters’ systems. Here are some of the worst:
Bisphenol a is an endocrine disruptor — meaning it mimics hormones in our bodies, upsetting the delicate natural balance and changing the way babies develop — used often in polycarbonate plastic water bottles. When it’s done in baby’s body, it enters the water system, where it effects the hormonal development of fish and other aquatic life. TheFDA acknowledges it’s risky for youngsters.
Lead, which was used in paint for many years, and still pops up in some kids toys even today (yikes!), is a banned neurotoxin that can disrupt your child’s brain development. Learn more about getting the lead out of your home.
Attachment parenting, involving sleeping with and wearing your baby, while not for everyone, is said to promote a strong bond leading to a sensitive, emotionally aware child. It is based on the theory developed by Dr. William Sears that babies are born with a need for nurturing. Attachment parenting has been a controversial parenting method in the media and the extent to which it can be considered ‘green’ is debatable. Many parents who are opposed to attachment parenting feel that letting the baby sleep alone or not responding every time it cries teach a baby independence. Find out what feels most natural and go with it. Trust your parenting instincts.
Elimination communication is a technique of timing, signals, cues, and intuition to help baby/infant express his or her poo-related needs; using it may help you not use diapers at all. This is best begun before six months of age, and while it is most commonly used in third-world countries where parents are in constant contact with their children, it has been used in the West with some success.
With reporting by Manon Verchot
A Natural Swimming Pool That Works for You
By John Robb (Resilient Communities). http://www.resilientcommunities.com/?inf_contact_key=284fdcfb53503b6d362a75d5644c49bb571874cfb5a179fc85273259247b692e
Robb writes on all sorts of interesting topics – here he teams up with Shlok Vaidya as contributer
When I was a pilot, I spent years surveying the built environment from above.
One thing that amazed me is how many people own swimming pools. In some areas of the country, it seems that nearly everyone has a pool (in some cases, the pool is almost as big as the footprint of the home itself).
But things have changed. We don’t have the luxury of allocating that much space to a sterile, unproductive pool of water that requires constant attention and financial support?
We need to put that space to work.
But are there any other options? Is it possible to build a pool that does more than just support our playtime?
I believe there is. It’s called a natural pool.
The natural pool, doesn’t fight nature tooth and nail. It embraces it in a very tangible way.
Instead of engaging in chemical warfare, the natural pool uses an ecosystem of plants to cleanse and filter your swimming water. To do this, designers create a wetland in a shallow and distinct area of a pool to act as a biological filter.
This include the following components:
In practice, the shallow water of the wetland area is circulated into the deeper water of the swimming pool.
This circulation enables your bio-filter to cleanse the water as it goes. Upkeep is minimal – one simply has to trim the plants as necessary and remove fallen leaves.
There are no chemicals to buy, minimal electricity costs (one pump), and no PH level monitoring. If needed, the bio-filter can be supplemented with an automated skimmer or UV sanitizer.
As an added bonus, because the wetland is a distinct area, it can be added to an existing pool in a retrofit with minimal additional digging.
JOHN ROBB;- Resilient communities.
PS: Because the pool is designed for circulating water, the threat of mosquitoes is minimized. Additionally, wildlife (frogs, dragonflies) will be attracted to the vegetation-filled part of the pool you don’t swim in. They’ll provide a free pest management service. In contrast, when a chemically treated pool isn’t maintained, it can quickly collapse into a cesspool of larva (as we saw during the foreclosure tsunami a couple of years ago).
PPS: I’ve been experimenting with aquascaped environments over the last couple of months, and I can attest that these systems can take care of themselves if you build the system correctly.
Resilient communities editor, Shlok Vaidya, contributed to this letter.
Natural swimming pools provide all of the fun of a standard swimming pool, but without the chemicals and the maintenance. As you can see below, a natural pool system can turn a recreational pool into a productive asset rather than merely a chemically laced cost center.
The secret to a natural pools is something called a biofilter. To clean the pool, you pump water through the biofilter (images via Gartenart).
What is a biofilter? It’s usually made with porous rocks or gravel. Essentially, any material that has nooks and crannies that bacteria can breed in. With a biofilter, you actually want the bacteria to grow because they eat the pollutants in the water, cleansing it in the process.
Make a solar garden lamp out of a jam jar; http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/gadgets/make-solar-garden-lamp-jam-jar/#slide-top
Instructable user Ugifer put together this DIY project for a solar garden lamp for a science experiment that he was doing with his daughter and her friends and he’s given us permission to share it with you all. The skills and lessons taught would make it great for parents and educators to share with kids as an introduction to green tech, but it would also be a great beginner level project for those just getting into making their own electronics.
Ugifer says, “It’s simple and fairly quick to do so although it does involve some soldering I don’t expect that we will have trouble doing this with our small group of carefully supervised 7-year-olds.
The idea for this project was inspired by this article over at Evil Mad Scientist although the circuit is modified to be a little more efficient. Because it’s made up from a simple set of parts it would make an ideal beginner’s electronics kit.
This is a nice, sustainable-energy kit, with all the power for the lamp being sourced from renewable solar energy. It uses scavenged jam-jars as the enclosure but could also use some scavenged parts such as toroids from old CFLs.”
What you’ll need
The parts that you will need are:
5V 70 mA Solar pannel (around 60x60mm)
Twin AAA-size battery holder
2 AAA-size NiMH rechargable batteries (around 1000 mAh works well)
Circuit board (see last step for Eagle files)
2N3906 general purpose PNP transistor (or equivalent)
2N3904 general purpose NPN transistor (or equivalent)
1N5817 low forward voltage schottky diode (general purpose – e.g. 1N914 – diode would probably work)
Ferrite bead/toroid (scavenge from an old compact fluorescent lamp if you only need a few)
LED (high brightness – diffused ideally but I only had water-clear so scratch it up with sandpaper)
1nf ceramic capacitor (some parts of this ‘ible refer to a 2n2. Either seems to work fine)
30 cm 22-guage solid copper wire (from an old ethernet or telephone cable works well)
Old (empty) jam or pickle jar to house your circuit (we will assume you are using this).
Sparkly things (e.g. acrylic jewels) for the bottom of the jar (makes it look pretty)
Glass paints (could be included in kit)
Small double-sided sticky pad (optional but useful)
Soldering iron & solder
Drill press or punch
Hot glue gun & glue (epoxy would be fine but slower). I use low-temp hot glue with the kids.
A little tape to hold things in place
Medium grade sandpaper (tiny bit)
Helping-hands type tool also very useful
* These resistors may need adjusting depending upon the performance of your solar cell and LED. The 4K7 and 22K make a voltage divider that controls the light level at which your LED comes on. Increase or leave out the 22K for darkest switch-point. Decrease the to switch on when it’s lighter. But be careful – depending on your solar cell you may need a pull-down to make the PNP switch on fully. A 100K trim-pot would probably work well if you wanted to control this.
As indicated, the circuit was inspired by this article at Evil Mad Scientist. Thanks to Windell et al. for that.
The schematic is shown in the picture.
Essentially, the circuit can be divided into the charging part to the left, the light sensing part in the middle and the LED lighting part on the right.
During the day, the voltage across the solar cell is high and current flows through the diode to charge the NiMH battery. Charging at up to C/10h amps (where C is the capacity of the battery in amp-hours) is supposedly safe for continuous trickle-charge. So with 1000 mAh batteries we should be able to handle 100 mA. Our 70 mA solar cell in practice generates 50-55 mA in UK direct summer sunlight so we are safe by a factor of 2 there – pretty much ideal for fairly quick charging but keeping the battery pack in good condition.
When it gets dark, the voltage across the panel drops. This can consume significant current from the battery (so-called “dark current”, which sounds like the evil side of the force to me). Hence the diode. I have used a low vF diode to reduce how much of or energy we burn getting past it. We can tap into this voltage drop to turn on the light when it gets dark. That’s where the PNP transistor comes in.
By making a voltage divider between the solar panel and ground and attaching this to the base of the PNP, we sink a very small emitter-base current when the solar panel stops pulling a voltage. This allows a larger emitter-collector current to flow. The voltage divider between the solar cell and ground can control the switch-point voltage and thus the light level at which our lamp comes on.
Once our PNP turns on, a current flows to the lamp circuit on the right of the diagram (and board).
From here we have a “joule thief” circuit for the LED light. Explanation of this is rather beyond this summary but, once again, Evil Mad Scientist comes to our rescue: see here for a great Joule-thief articleand here on Wikipedia for a more in-depth explanation. The overall effect is that we light a 3V white LED from a 2.4 V rechargeable battery and can continue to use the battery as its voltage drops. The capacitor is not an essential part of the circuit but it’s great for efficiency. Without it I was finding 100mA being drawn from the battery! With a 1nf capacitor that drops to around 18mA but the LED is just as bright.
Finally, the switch isolates the joule-thief part so that we can continue to charge the battery but have the lamp turned off. If you turn this off then the 5-10 mA that are generated in the shade might just allow you to charge the battery in the winter to give you light about one night a week!
Add the panel to the jar lid
As a first step, we need to attach the solar panel to the lid of the jar and pass the connecting leads through. We want to do this in a way that will seal the hole so that we can leave our lamp outside without it filling with water or bugs!
We are starting by putting a hole in the jar lid. To do this, I’m using a small drill-press but that’s as much to get small girls comfortable with using power-tools as for any real need. A punch into a block of wood would work well too, I’m sure. However you do it, you’ll want to clean up the hole with a file and thread the wires from the solar panel through.
Next, cover the solder points on the panel with hot-glue or epoxy and then glue the panel to the jar. I’m using blue-sparkly glue so that you can see it but normal glue is fine!
Finally, make sure you fill the hole with glue to keep out those bugs!
Lay down some components
Next, we want to start populating the board.*
Since my group will be taking turns at the solder station, we’ll do several components at a time. On your own you might prefer to add them individually:
The resistors are easiest and can go in first – either way round. Bend the legs out a little to hold them. I am not using the 22K resistor to ground but if you include it then your light will come on at slightly higher light levels.
The diode is equally easy but needs to go with the stripe at the end shown on the board.
Then add the two transistors. The PNP (marked 3906) goes to the top left and the NPN (marked 3904) goes to the bottom right. Make sure the case goes the same way around as marked on the board (flat edge towards the bottom).
Finally for this step, add the LED. You can leave as little or as much lead length as you wish but the longer lead (positive / anode side) goes nearest the right hand edge of the board. I was expecting that to be marked on the boards but it didn’t come out. It’s on the current version.
Now, for each component, carefully solder the leads to the bottom side of the board and clip them close with side-cutters.
*Throughout this ‘ible, the pictures of the board are of my first “proof of concept” board which had a track missing (long story) and lacked the 1 nf capacitor. The final board design is shown in a later step and is very similar but I haven’t actually had them fab’ed yet.
The Toroidal transformer
The Joule Thief part of the circuit requires a small hand-wound toroidal transformer that we will make and add in this step.
I’m using ferrite beads around 9.8mm wide by 7.5mm deep with an 6.5mm diameter hole. Whatever the size you use, you’ll want enough wire for 6-8 turns. For beads the size of mine, take about 20-30 cm of a pair of insulated 22-gauge solid copper wire (I use wire from an old 3-pair telephone cable). Contrasting colours make life easier. Push the wires through your torus leaving around an inch (2.5 cm) sticking out at one end. Now loop the long ends round until you have made 6-8 loops spread evenly round your bead. My beads are pretty much full after 8 turns of this wire.
I have made a few joule thieves and in my experience the ferrite bead is the most likely part to cause a problem. Some types of beads work and some don’t and I have not yet devised a way to tell before trying them.
Cut down the leads to an inch at most (say 2cm-ish) and strip the ends. At this point it’s handy to use a small sticky-pad to hold the torus in place.
Now take a wire of one colour from one end of the torus and the other colour from the other end and put them into holes 1 and 2. The other ends go into holes 3 and 4 so that the hole in the torus now points across the board. It should fall naturally so that the wires connect from holes 1 to 4 and 2 to 3, but check or it won’t work! Bend the wires out a little to hold them, turn the board over and solder it.
All that is left to attach is the power switch, the battery and the solar cell. These go in the marked spots towards the edges of the board.
Place the switch in its holes and hold in place with a little tape. Turn over the board and solder. The switch has much more thermal capacity than anything else we have soldered in this project so the solder tabs will take a moment to heat up – don’t panic!
Same with the two power sources: Red to the + terminal, black to the -, tape in place and solder.
You now have the complete circuit. If you insert charged batteries and cover the solar cell you should see the LED light up.
Finally, hot-glue the board to the back of the battery holder with the LED pointing as you wish. For a very wide-necked jar you could glue the battery holder flat to the underside of the lid and leave the LED sticking “up” (really down) from the board (not pictured).
For most jars you will have to bend the LED past the end of the battery holder and glue the end of the holder to the lid of the jar (as shown).
If you used a water-clear LED you may wish to scratch it up with some medium grade sandpaper at this point to diffuse the light a little.
You can put some acrylic jems, pieces of metal, shiny plastic or glass (or indeed 10 carat flawless diamonds if you wish) into the bottom of the jar to scatter some of the light and give a pleasant effect. Once they are inside, screw up the jar.
Finally, take some glass paints and paint a stained-glass effect onto the jar. Or have your 6-year old do it.
A day of full UK sunshine should provide more than enough charge for one night’s light, and a full battery should hold enough charge for several nights, so in summer you might keep alight every night. In winter that’s not so likely, at least in the UK. There is a surprising difference between the charge developed in shade (5-10 mA) and in full sun (50 mA+) so find a sunny spot if you can.
You now have a pretty, self-charging, LED garden light.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
GET Local is a new platform to help small businesses tap into nearby resources, says Oliver Moore
FOUR ‘green’ entrepreneurs are empowering communities racked by austerity to start new businesses. Their initiative is called ‘GET’Local (Generate Enterprise Together).
Launched last year, GETLocal has had an impact in Borrisokane and Lower Ormond, in Tipperary, with more places due soon. The idea is simple: provide a platform to help communities develop new local enterprises in crucial areas.
“Our mission is to reverse the outflow of wealth from the Irish economy, which will reduce energy, food and transport costs, and redirect spending power for the benefit of the local community,” they say.
GETLocal focuses on the localised, low-carbon economy. They aim to help unemployed people create their own enterprises, by sharing information, coaching, niche skills, start-up capital, back office services, and customers.
The focus has been on food, energy and transport. The GETLocal social franchise is the brainchild of Aidan O’Brien and Ross Rabette, who live in what is fast becoming Ireland’s eco-business hub, Cloughjordan.
Rabette, 37, wanted to set up bioenergy villages in Ireland. “I moved to Cloughjordan, knowing that I would meet like-minded people to work with there. Aidan O’Brien brought a distinct jobs focus.”
O’Brien specialises in construction with natural materials, and has built many of the houses in Cloughjordan’s eco-village. The two have been joined by Alice D’Arcy and Dave McDonnell. D’Arcy supports food enterprises, while McDonnell fund-raises.
D’Arcy has a PhD in environmental science, specialising in the environmental impact of food and farming.
“My work in ecology, environmental sustainability, and research made GETLocal attractive to me. I like the fact that it has joined up a lot of economic areas, and that empowering communities to run things themselves, using their own resources, is a key part of it. The ethos of collaboration is important,” she says.
McDonnell is fundraising in the US, capital which GETLocal will make available to new enterprises, in partnership with a lending institution. Rabette is a biosystems engineer, and has designed and installed district heating systems and renewable energy technologies.
Cloughjordan’s eco-village has a district heating system powered, each year, by 200 tonnes of woodchip, while eco-villagers and residents of Cloughjordan own and operate a community farm.
Rabette said of his experiences in Germany: “The bioenergy villages in Germany were certainly inspirational,” he says. “In Juhnde, for example, they use fermented energy crops and farm slurry for gas capture, which provides heat and electricity. The community ownership model is key to the success of over 50 bio-energy villages there.”
Rabette says there are sustainability issues with bioenergy villages — many plant and then cut the growth to generate energy. He says it’s possible to take the best of the energy-capture technology without destroying the locale. “With, for example, food waste composting for energy capture, or more sustainable woodland management practices, to thin, rather than clear-fell, the forests.”
Community ownership of resources is growing in Germany, where 50% of renewable energy is owned by individuals or communities. This provides one fifth of all of Germany’s electricity.
Rabette cites the sharing economy. How often does anyone use all their power tools? Pooling those tools into an easy-access library would be savvy.
Rabette says communities import massive amounts of energy through their food, transport and houses. Energy is money. “The average household consumes about 90,000kw hours of imported energy, and food is the biggest category of fossil-fuel dependence, at over 40,000. Transport is second, and in-house costs, such as heat and electricity, are third,” he says.
Borrisokane, a few miles from Cloughjordan, is the first town to which many of these eco-business ideas have diffused.
There was resistance to the idea initially. “Because of the potential green agenda. But most of the best business opportunities lie in the green economy anyway, so money talks.
“We mapped resources, found gaps, helped develop business models and sought out the right kind of people to deliver them. We put on collaborative start-your-own-business courses, which created lots of synergies”.
Rabette says people interested in retro-fitting can use materials sourced from the materials bank, to also make chicken coups, or wood-log stores. “So just by putting on these courses, we supported people, but they also supported each other.”
At the GETLocal office in the town, they have built back-of-house supports, including developing software systems for purchasing products and services, a database of customers, training, contracts, sites and innovative fundraising techniques.
The latter, spearheaded by McDonnell, is vital in an economy where banks are not lending significantly. These services are part of how GETLocal will generate its own income, after the start-up phase.
Concurrently, a range of connected, nascent businesses is developing. These include libraries — tools, arts and materials — and a community food compost service.
Is there space for such initiatives to blossom? Maybe it all comes back to the price of potatoes, as Rabette says. “Borrisokane is a big potato-growing area. Middle-men pay farmers here €200 a tonne. After the potatoes are driven to Belfast and then Dublin, for processing and packaging, the consumer, even in Borrisokane, pays €1,300 a tonne. Why not form a consumer hub and approach farmers with a price just over €200 a tonne? Or, approach a hub member to start growing potatoes for that price?”
D’Arcy says: “A lot of friends and colleagues have emigrated, there aren’t huge opportunities in my area. After my PhD, I was unemployed. I’m hoping to help create employment, to help people establish businesses, so people who don’t want to leave the country don’t have to.”
The reason we will put a pellet stove in our new home and not a traditional stove that burns wood, is simple. It’s easier to use. We are fed up stoking the fire and cleaning the ashes from the grate – AND ashes from everwhere else in the room.
Most of that comes from the simple automation that is built into the stove. Plus unlike a standard wood stove, a pellet stove allows one to set the temperature necessary to maintain comfort using a standard thermostat.
Using the stove means we use 1/2 tank LPG in 18 months.
There’s a company called Nest that has built a smart thermostat. What makes it interesting is that it learns from how you use it. Over time, it anticipates your needs (like turning down the temperature at 10 pm every night) and does it automatically.
Further, since it is Internet aware and wireless, you can control if from anywhere (i.e. from your smart phone).
Now, although this tech looks pretty simple, I suspect this device and others like it are the start of a big market for home automation. Essentially, smart systems connected to sensors around your home that makes running a home at peak efficiency, easier than ever.
Nest, with it’s ergonomic/simple approach to design, is certainly going to try to become a leader in this market.
The Ross’ family-owned business, Ross Electric Co., was chosen to connect Powerhouse below the rooftop. The family was able to see the installation hands-on, and decided to be one of the first in the country to install this total residential roofing solution that not only protects like a standard asphalt roof but also generates solar electricity, turning the roof into a source of value and savings. Said Ross: “I am proud to invest in my home with such an innovative and good-looking product. I expect that my Powerhouse roof will reduce my utility bills by about 40 percent and will increase my home value overall.”
Newswise — PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 21, 2012 — With enough sunlight falling on home roofs to supply at least half of America’s electricity, scientists today described advances toward the less-expensive solar energy technology needed to roof many of those homes with shingles that generate electricity.
James C. Stevens, Ph.D., helped develop Dow’s PowerHouse Solar Shingle, introduced in October 2011, which generates electricity and nevertheless can be installed like traditional roofing. The shingles use copper indium gallium diselenide photovoltaic technology. His team now is eyeing incorporation of sustainable earth-abundant materials into PowerHouse shingles, making them more widely available.
“The United States alone has about 69 billion square feet of appropriate residential rooftops that could be generating electricity from the sun,” Stevens said. “The sunlight falling on those roofs could generate at least 50 percent of the nation’s electricity, and some estimates put that number closer to 100 percent. With earth-abundant technology, that energy could be harvested, at an enormous benefit to consumers and the environment.”
Image text: “The solar tiles can generate a potential 500 watts per 100 square feet, and they’re basically ready to go from the day they’re installed.”