Posts filed under ‘Green Health’
The trend began with deals between energy companies and various large companies and local municipalities to install solar panels on large premises in return for a fee. One example is ProLogis, a large distributor in California, getting solar energy from systems installed and run by outside energy companies. The first such deal was when General Motors got solar panels installed on the roofs of its Spain production facilities. (more…)
Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo are reportedly readying their manufacturing units to replace artificial sweeteners in their beverages with an all natural sweetener called Stevia. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to give thumbs up this week to Stevia, a natural plant extract which has been in use for hundreds of years already in Latin America.
Cokes enriched with Stevia, also known as sweet leaf or sugar leaf, will have all the sweetness of sugar but none of the calories or carbohydrates, and a zero glycemic index. The plant, which already has holy grail status in the industry, will likely be adopted in many fizzy drinks and other beverages if it gets approved.
Ever thought about how a visit to a restaurant impacts your carbon footprint? Recent research shows that food served in over 40 London restaurants is not just slightly CO2 intensive, but that in many cases restaurant food produces over 100 times more CO2 than locally bought ingredients.
The research was carried out by Will Brookes, a Bsc student at the University of Nottingham (UK) and a graduate chef cook from the prestigious Leith School of Food and Wine. Brookes was so shocked at his findings that he called on the government to conduct a full environmental audit of British restaurants.
An organization called the European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST) invites scientists from around the globe to submit proposals for projects contributing to the scientific, technological, economic, cultural or societal development of Europe. Proposals playing a precursor role for other European programmes and plans initiated by early-stage researchers are especially welcome.
The deadline for preliminary proposals is 26 September 2008 and reviewing the material takes around six months, the organizers say. COST aims to bring together researchers and experts in different countries by setting up networks of nationally funded research projects. COST financially supports the networking activities (not the research itself). For more information, visit the organization’s website.
A Welsh eco community have been granted permission to build a settlement of nine eco-smallholdings on a plot of 76 acres close to the village of Glandwr. The community submitted plans for five detached houses as well as a row of four dwellings built from straw bale, mud and timber. Water will be collected from an existing spring and rain captured from turf-made rooftops.
The community, made up of the low-impact lifestyle group calling themselves Lammas will build their off-grid, earthy homes using renewable energy derived in part from a water turbine system. They will also capture bio gas from composting all organic waste through compost toilets, compost heaps and wormeries.
The nine families plan to create fuel from coppiced willow and elephant grass which they are going to grow in the community. For their daily needs they will depend on small scale farming by producing goods such as flax-made linen shawls, compost worms and vegetables and fruits that they will sell on site and via local shops.
“We plan to be largely self-sufficient, growing most of our food. We will keep cows, geese, chickens, ducks and bees. We plan to grow hazelnuts, apples, plums and strawberries as an income. All our fuel will be grown on the plot using a willow short rotation coppice. We intend to supplement our income by continuing to work one day a week,” the village’s co-founder Paul Wimbush, told a Welsh newspaper. He added that the nine families will be 75% self sustainable.
The Lammas’ eco community is the first to be granted official approval in the UK, where thus far only two local authorities have legislation in place that promotes ecological living. After submitting their plans for the first time, the Lammas were rejected because of lack of detail and Pembrokeshire county council planning authorities’ worries that some of the building materials used and the potential graffic generation of the plans were not low impact. The group then took five months to draw up a second batch of plans, which were approved. “We made the whole application electronic and we had the idea of putting it on our website so that people can see what we are talking about,” Wimbush was quoted as saying on NewBuilder.co.uk.
Organic photoelectrochemical, dye-sensitized cells, a new type of solar energy, is expected to hit the market this Summer. The technology, which is easy and cheap to use, will be embedded in hundreds of day-to-day consumer products. The dye cells can be used for windows, building facades, gadgets and even in clothing. The pioneer behind the technology is a Swiss professor named Michael Gratzel, who claims that his invention is more robust than regular photovoltaic panel solutions.
Dye based solar cells are made of titanium oxide nanochrystals. These are coated with light absorbing dye that can be used in various materials including glass and plastic. The dye is immersed in an electrolyte solution. When light reaches the surface, the dye sets free electrons which in turn create ‘holes’ – positive charges as a result of ‘lost electrons’. The titanium dioxide semiconducts and transfers electricity to an electrical circuit and energy is created.
The solar cells convert light to electricity with an efficiency of 7.2 percent, which is a record for this type of cell. Solar panels typically convert 16 percent to 20 percent of light into energy. But the advantage of the organic dye cells is that they also convert low light and that they can be ‘tuned’ for specific wavelengths.
The first company manufacturing dye sensitized solar cells is Konarka, which is based in Lowell, MA. This company announced it had successfully conducted the first-ever demonstration of manufacturing solar cells by highly efficient inkjet printing ten days ago. Konarka is focusing on getting the technology embedded in hundreds of day to day products. In the Summer Konarka is planning on shipping out its first products, mainly gadgets, lights and smart cards.
One drawback of the solution’s first editions was that the electrolyte could start to leak in cases of high temperatures. This has been redressed by altering the electrolyte liquids. Grätzel and his team refined this original design by optimising the sensitiser and using organic dyes based on indoline. This allows the titanium oxide to be thinner, which reduces the electron path length.
Michael Gratzel explained in a recent scientific paper published in Inderscience’s Angewandte Chemie how he’s sophisticated his technology.
The director of the Environmental Defense Fund, Fred Krupp, and Miriam Horn, a journalist, have just published Earth, The Sequel, a book that´s a tad more optimistic than most environmental publications. The writers argue the case for capitalism as the driving factor that will get us out of the mess we´re in.
The subtitle of Krupp and Horn´s book reads The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming and this isn´t misleading. The authors have a firm belief that a creativity campaign by the government can lead to a shift to cleaner energy. “What we are waiting for is the government to pull the trigger and unleash a cascade of creativity and innovation,” they say.
Krupp has been instrumental in the quite successful acid rain reduction plan (part of the clean air act) in the 1990s. He believes that currently, first-mover advantages are to be had in capping carbon emissions and proposes a legal limit to slash 20% from current emission levels by 2020 and up to 80 percent by 2050.
The first mover advantage is all tied up with developing good technology. Krupp and Horn say that by going first, the US stands a chance to export, rather than import, the cleanest and best technology. “The real question is, do we want to import clean tech from Germany, Japan, and China or export it to the rest of the world?”, Krupp is quoted as saying in an interview with Wired.com. That sounds attractive and it´s possibly one of the more believable claims that science might bail us out; you´d expect business plans to evolve from this.
If you read the daily news articles outlining scientific discoveries you´ll agree that there is no lack of really groundbreaking scientific work. Perhaps Krupp has a point in saying that the leading edge technology will also provide leading edge competitive strength. But would it be naive to think that the greed element won´t take over our battle to cool the real elements?
What is certain is that there are a number of pleasant surprises in the book. One reviewer on Amazon comments; “I follow environmental and energy issues closely, but a lot in here was new to me. I had no idea that solar technology is getting so sophisticated. And people are finding so many ways to make energy — from algae and plants, from wind, from waste. Imagining a world without oil and coal is a lot easier for me after reading this.”
Even if you don´t believe in the free market theories of the writers, the book is going to inform you about things you didn´t know. Issues like those outlined in Krupp´s book are going to be a major part of the public agenda in the next few years no doubt, so to get a close insight into the mind of a man who knows the ropes is valuable.
All of the runners up in the Presidential races have made firm pledges to environmental matters and Americans don´t know any better than to approach the new challenge in ways that won´t be anything other than capitalist anyway.