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Category Archives: Sustainability

Thoughts and (some) essays on sustainability.

Earth warming – some thoughts

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Signs of a Changing Climate – ‘Science has spoken’

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The aims of the IPCC are to assess scientific information relevant to:

  1. Human-induced climate change,
  2. The impacts of human-induced climate change,
  3. Options for adaptation and mitigation.

See: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Intergovernmental+Panel+on+Climate+Change

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From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

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From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

Original article: treehugger.com//how-to-go-green-babies

From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

tiny baby foot photo

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.

Top Green Baby Tips

    1. Choose the right diapers
      Studies are divided on the subject of environmental impact of disposables vs. cloth. But knowing that your baby will use approx 6,000 diapers before toilet training, and that disposable diapers take 200-500 years to decompose, this is certainly a key issue to ponder. Washing cloth diapers takes water and energy (not to mention time), but it’s a great way to avoid chemicals. Use natural laundry detergent then set it out in the sun to bleach out any stains. You could also consider the benefits of a laundering service. One study has found that home-washing cloth diapers has only 53 percent of the ecological footprint of disposables, and if you use a diaper laundering service that impact is halved again. Another plus is that the same cloth diapers can be passed down to future babies.

       

      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!

    1. Feed your little one: From breast or bottle?
      This one’s a no-brainer: breastfeeding is best. It’s free, has health benefits for mother and baby, has no environmental impact, and is a precious bonding experience. However, in our commerce-driven society there are products for everything, and breastfeeding is no exception. For breast pads, ditch disposables and try re-usable organic cotton or wool felt pads. While there are many great, organic nipple creams available, some locally produced olive oil or organic lanolin does a great job. If bottle feeding becomes a necessity, pumping your own is the first choice. Beyond that, using a fair-trade organic infant formula is preferable. If this is neither affordable nor accessible, then the next best thing is to ensure the brand of formula you buy is from a company not profiteering from marketing their product to developing countries. These companies disregard or try to get around the marketing code set by The World Health Assembly.

    1. Chow down on solid foods
      At about six months, babies starts to eat real food. Rice cereal and mushy veggies turn to combinations of fish, meat, eggs, legumes, and vegetables–yep, a regular person’s diet. Buying jars of food is sure convenient, but as an adult you don’t live out of jars, so why should your baby? For those occasional situations,purchase organic or fresh frozen baby foods. Otherwise, make your own. Cook up veggies, casseroles, or tofu and lentils, whatever is your thing, and freeze it in tiny containers or ice cube trays ready to take out and defrost when needed. (Be sure you discuss any concerns over dietary requirements with your health professional)

    1. Dress your baby in smart green clothing
      All those designer baby clothes are cute and oh so hard to resist in their fruity colors. But be careful. Not only does a baby grow out of clothes amazingly fast, they are constantly sending bodily fluids flying onto those precious outfits. The baby couture might be better replaced with convenient one-piece suits in practical white terry cloth. Choosing organic hemp or cotton, bamboo or wool fabrics made without toxic chemicals are best against a baby’s sensitive skin and last longer with the constant washing. Second-hand clothing is the cheapest and most sustainable option. Get hand-me-downs from friends and family or look in thrift shops, Craigslist, or Freecycle.

    1. Lather up with natural skin care
      It’s very easy to get sucked into the constant advertising of baby powders, creams, and lotions, but avoid soap on a baby’s delicate skin – less is more for their skin care. The best baby lotion is plain old olive oil or coconut oil–cheap, natural, and un-perfumed. As for other products, keep it as natural, organic, and fragrance-free as possible. Weleda diaper creams and lotions are great. For more on this, take a look at our guides for How to Go Green: Women’s Personal Care and Everything you need to know about natural skin care.

    1. Wash up: Green laundry and washing
      It’s quite possible that our war on germs is actually making things worse. Studies have shown that children brought up in over-cleaned houses are more likely to develop allergies, asthma, or eczema. The best thing you can do for sensitive baby skin is not to cover it with synthetic chemicals. Wash nappies with pure soap and warm water. Make your own non-toxic cleansers with simple ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar. For more, see How to green your cleaning routine.

    1. Make play-time green-time with greener toys
      Get back to basics and try old fashioned wooden toys and organic cotton or homemade teddies. Because babies put most things in their mouths, go as natural as possible, then when baby is a little older, get hold of second-hand toys. Also aim for toys that help build a child’s bond with nature and the natural world. The sad truth is that the average American kindergartener can identify several hundred logos and only a few leaves from plants and trees.

    1. Rest easy with green furniture and accessories
      Babies don’t need much–a secure place to sleep, a car seat, a high chair, and a way to be trundled around. Go for second-hand furniture, everything except cot mattresses (some research suggests a link between second-hand cot mattresses and sudden infant death syndrome) and car seats, (which can have invisible accident damage). If you buy new furniture, purchase high quality, durable pieces made of sustainable, low-toxicity materials. Think about some alternatives to the regular old wooden baby bed; try using an organic cotton baby hammock or a cot that extends into a bed and lasts 6-7 years. The most ethical option for stroller (pram) is recycled. For more on furniture, see our guide for How to choose green furniture.

    1. Improve your indoor air quality and maintain a healthy household environment
      It goes without saying that alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking while pregnant are bad for a baby. But it is also very important to avoid exposure to the synthetic chemicals contained in everyday products such as paints, carpet, furniture, bedding, and pesticides which make up Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)in the air you and your baby breath. When decorating the nursery, use natural and low-VOC paints and don’t lay new carpet before the baby is born. Suspicious new items should at least be left outside to off-gas for a few days before bringing inside.

  1. Wipe out chemical cleaners and disposable liners
    Diaper wipes and liners commonly include propylene glycol (a binder also found in antifreeze), parabens (a family of compounds commonly used as preservatives) and perfume, which can be made from up to 600 different chemicals. Try using good natural organic cotton wool and water and avoid disposable changing mats and perfumed diaper bags.

 

Babies use A LOT of diapers every day by Sean Dreilinger/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Babies: By The Numbers

    • 6000: The number of diapers the average baby uses before potty training.

    • 200 to 500: Years it takes petroleum-based disposable diapers to decompose.

    • 49 million: The estimated number of disposable diapers used per day in the United States; Australia uses 2.2 million, Japan uses 6.7 million, and the U.K. uses 9 million.

    • 53 percent: A home-washed cloth diaper has only 53 percent of the ecological footprint of disposables, and a diaper laundry service has a mere 37 percent of that footprint.

  • $1.4 billion per year: The estimated amount of money Americans spend on complicated births due to smoking while pregnant.

 

Josh Dubya/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Babies: Getting Techie

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

Swimming pool – au natural

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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.

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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.

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This include the following components:

  • Microorganisms. For example, zooplankton eat algae to keep your water clear.
  • Aquatic plants. They absorb the nutrients that the bacteria break down. Indigenous plants are used as much as possible. You can also grow edible plants, for example, rice, watercress, or wasabi.
  • An inert substrate. This way the plants are forced to draw their nutrients from the water itself, thereby keeping the water clean.
  • Retaining wall. Enables water flow between the two areas but prevents the plants from doing so.

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.

Resiliently Yours,

 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.

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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.

Planted ponds

The secret to a natural pools is something called a biofilter.  To clean the pool, you pump water through the biofilter (images via Gartenart).

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

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Make a solar garden lamp out of a jam jar; http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/gadgets/make-solar-garden-lamp-jam-jar/#slide-top

Megan Treacy
Technology / Gadgets
March 26, 2013

Intro

solar garden lamp

credit: Ugifer

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

solar garden lamp kit

credit: Ugifer

The parts that you will need are:

Kit:

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)
Slide switch
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)
22K resistor*
4K7 resistor*
1K resistor
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)

Optional items::

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)

Tools:

Soldering iron & solder
Side-cutters
Drill press or punch
Hot glue gun & glue (epoxy would be fine but slower). I use low-temp hot glue with the kids.
Metal file
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.

The circuit

 solar garden circuit

credit: Ugifer

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

 solar garden lid

credit: Ugifer

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

 solar garden board

credit: Ugifer

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

solar garden toroidal

credit: Ugifer

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.

Power connectionssolar garden power

credit: Ugifer

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.

Final assembly

solar garden final assembly

credit: Ugifer

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.

ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL – GET local.

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All for one and one for all

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

GET Local is a new platform to help small businesses tap into nearby resources, says Oliver Moore

By 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.”

Home Thermostat – that learns your lifestyle.

Posted on

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.

Nest_front_official

 

San Antonio Family First In Texas With Dow Powerhouse Solar Roof

Posted on
PV tilesYale Environment 360: U.S. scientists say that emerging photovoltaic technologies will enable the production of solar shingles made from abundantly available elementsrather than rare-earth metals, an innovation that would make solar energy cheaper and more sustainable.<br />
http://bit.ly/Px7bv7</p>
<p>San Antonio Family First In Texas With Dow Powerhouse Solar Roof</p>
<p>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.”<br />
http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2012/06/19/local-san-antonio-family-first-in-texas-with-dow-powerhouse-solar-roof/</p>
<p>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.</p>
<p>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.</p>
<p>“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.”<br />
http://bit.ly/NlGWJF</p>
<p>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."
Yale Environment 360: U.S. scientists say that emerging photovoltaic technologies will enable the production of solar shingles made from abundantly available elements rather than rare-earth metals, an innovation that would make solar energy cheaper and more sustainable.
http://bit.ly/Px7bv7San Antonio Family First In Texas With Dow Powerhouse Solar Roof

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.”
http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2012/06/19/local-san-antonio-family-first-in-texas-with-dow-powerhouse-solar-roof/

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.”
http://bit.ly/NlGWJF

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.”