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Monday, December 14, 2009

Pop Can Solar Furnace 2.0 - Update

We're well into the cold season now. Lots to update over the next few weeks, but first a few quick updates on the latest addition to the pop can solar furnace!

First, I added a bit of tilt using a little bit of string to allow a bit better air flow and to give it a slightly better angle to the sun. I'll be watching this carefully over the next week, which is the shortest (sun-wise) of the year!

This photo was taken on October 30th, when the outside temperature was still well above zero. Regardless, we had quite a bit of nice warmth coming from the solarium during this time. I'll post a follow-up pic soon, but today was a crisp, cold, but sunny day. The solarium quickly reached 15C without issue. Not bad since that's what my programmable thermostats are set for during the day anyway!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Plants Plants Plants

Even as the days grow darker and the quality of sunlight begins to fade, we're still thinking about things solar around here. The new pop can solar furnace is working quite well, but I need to find some time to write a real post about it and get some more pictures up.

In the meantime, I wanted to share this link with you about some plants that can dramatically improve your indoor air quality. Any idea if these are available around Halifax? I'm obviously no gardener, but this could be a good use of window space!

Plants for a healthier home!

Thanks to @thegoodhuman for the tip on this one!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pop Can Solar Furnace 2.0 - Part 3

I've now shown you how assemble your frame, place and paint your cans, now it's time to place the Pop Can Solar Furnace.

Obviously, you need a window that faces South and gets a lot of direct sun, especially in the cold winter months. This is the window in which you place your panel, but you knew that already when you measured your wood for a custom fitting frame.

Placing the Pop Can Solar Furnace

Since you've already measured your window, custom built your frame AND checked to make sure everything fit before placing your cans, there should be no issue with this step. Simply line up your panel at the bottom of the window. Make sure your haven't mixed up your top and bottom. The worst thing that could happen at this point is to have your cans all fall out as you reach the end. Go gently and you should have no issues if your cans are snugly fit. If not, go back and shim them further!

Simply lift the panel in place. In my case, it was a snug and perfect fit, so I didn't need to tack it or anything. Do whatever you need to do to ensure it doesn't fall out! You will likely want to remove the entire panel next summer, so don't permanently attach it to your window frame.

Just in case you're concerned, this is what your neighbours see when they see the pop can solar furnace from the outside of the house! As you can see, I just missed the last few minutes of direct sun today. Hopefully, tomorrow will be sunny and I'll be able to report how it works!

(See the results!)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pop Can Solar Furnace 2.0 - Part 2

Yesterday, I showed you how to assemble the frame for the Pop Can Solar Furnace 2.0. Today, I'll show you how to place and paint the cans.

The reason this solar furnace works as well as it does has to do with the particular properties of the aluminium cans. When coated with high-heat black paint, it heats up very quickly and it transfers that heat into the surrounding air quite easily. I'm sure other materials would work well, and some would work even better, but aluminium is cheap and easy!

Placing the cans

I don't use any special adhesive or anything, so you simply place the cans end to end in your frame. The ridges of the cans fit nicely together and I was lucky in that my frame had 13 cans fit nicely in.

This time, I didn't punch the bottoms out of the cans, but I may have to if the panel doesn't perform well enough.

Once all of the vertical cans are placed, I squeezed a few more into the top to fill that space. In my next design, I may use another piece of wood to create an air gap at the top and bottom, but this time, I maxed out on cans that could be fit in. I even crushed a few of the mini cans so they'd fit in even better. (Incidentally, Coke Zero is not yet a sponsor of this project, but they are welcome to contribute! I figure 25k would go a long way in other solar equipment!)

Once in, there was still a touch of room, so I used a little cardboard to shim the bottom of the cans so they wouldn't all fall out the minute I moved the panel.

Finally, using the left overs from last year's panel, I started to paint the cans a very flat black.Of course, any painting like this should be done outside or in a well ventilated location. I ended up running out of paint about halfway through, so I needed a quick trip to Canadian Tire to get another one. It should do for another panel after this one.

Half of the cans painted.

All of the cans painted.

Now, just allow the cans to dry, and you're ready to place it in your window!

Next, placement and ventilation! (Go to Step 3.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pop Can Solar Furnace 2.0 - Part 1

I finally found time to assemble my second Pop Can Solar Furnace! I'll be posting step by step instructions this week, as well as reporting on it's output as the week goes by. Here's hoping for sunshine!

What makes this pop can solar furnace different from the last one is pretty simple: it's stronger, more stable, and has a custom fit in a vertical window.


  • 1 piece 1/4" thick pressboard, cut to fit your window
  • 4 pieces pf 1x3 or 1x4 cut to fit the dimensions of your window
  • approximately 100 pop or soda cans made from aluminium
  • 1 can high-heat black bbq paint
  • a handful of finishing nails

    Assembling the box

    First, cut all the wood to build a frame that will snugly fit into your South-facing window. In this case, I used a mitre saw to create nice 45 degree corners, but you could use a simple butt-joint if you didn't have a fancy saw. Using the finishing nails, tack it together and test your fit before moving on to the next step.

    The goal here is to create a light weight frame for your furnace that will look attractive from the inside of the house.

    Of course, I recommend you use recycled materials whenever possible for a project like this.

    Next up, place and painting the cans. (Go to step 2.)
  • Friday, October 23, 2009

    Enviromental Weekend

    So it's Friday and that means it's time to get back home and get a few more things done around the house before the cold winter heating season is fully upon us.

    In addition to the 350 event in Halifax tomorrow, there was also the launch of Dalhousie's ReThink initiative today at the SUB. I'll post some additional details about that very soon.

    So what's on at the house? Here's a quick update:

  • I've got 3 programmable thermostats left to install; 6 done last weekend!
  • I have a number of outlet and light switch insulation pads to install. This will be a quick one!
  • I have a new shower head for the downstairs bathroom
  • I have some foam insulation to put on the garage ceiling. Looks to be about R10, but I'm not yet sure if I have enough to cover the whole ceiling.
  • I have the parts and intention to build another 1-4 pop can solar furnaces.

    More on all of these updates soon!
  • Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Oct 24 Climate Day of Action!

    Five months is forever to be gone from a blog, so it's time to get started again! You'll be seeing a lot more in the next while. But to get you up to speed very quickly, here's an event happening this Saturday in Halifax, as well as around the world!

    350 Halifax is organizing an event on the commons at 3pm. Get there early to get instructions and have time to make (or bring) a plackard!

    More information about the Global 350 initiative can be found at www.350.org. Check it out!

    Monday, June 1, 2009

    Power Meter Follow Up!

    As we first reported back in February, Google has now started rolling out PowerMeter technology to a number of electric supply partners. Note that Toronto is included! Let me know if you get to use this new technology!

    Friday, May 29, 2009

    Reverse Vending

    Here's a neat idea: Vending machines that collect your cans and bottles and refund you on the spot!

    I like the fact that they are roughly the size and shape of a traditional vending machine and thus would probably fit in with existing machines quite easily... Nice job!

    Thursday, May 28, 2009

    Go Big, or Go Home: Building an Inground Rainwater Cistern

    Check out this video of an inground rainwater cistern... huge. Probably not necessary in Nova Scotia, but for long term planning, this would be pretty cool.

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Roofdrain to Toilet Tank Project

    I would love to try this project out. One of the benefits of a flat roof is that I could conceivably set this up and connect it to all of the toilets in the house, not just the one in the basement.

    Still have the issue of how to collect the water though!

    Monday, May 25, 2009

    Rainwater Collection

    I spent the weekend working in the yard, planting some seeds, transplanting a few ornamentals, trimming branches. I'm now interested in finding out more about rainwater collection for use in my garden and around the property. Here's one overview that I found helpful so far.

    I have a flat roof, so now I'm trying to figure out where my roof drains go, and how hard it is going to be to divert them...

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Sunday, March 29, 2009

    Earth Hour around the world (via the BBC)

    This video post may not be visible on RSS feeds. Please visit http://lowerfootprint.blogspot.com to view it!

    Saturday, March 28, 2009

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Guest Blog: A Green Girl's Best Friend?

    Guest blogger Flaxen Curls takes over for today. I'm still working on the thesis but thought this was an interesting idea...

    We've all heard about the human rights issues surrounding conflict diamonds, and we know that their price is inflated by the De Beers company that hoardes them so tightly. Canadian diamonds are being touted as the magic conflict-free solution, but what about their environmental impact? Diamond mining is still a very destructive process - lakes and rivers are drained and destroyed, animal habitats are lost, the mines are fuelled with millions of litres of diesel each year, roads and airstrips and power plants are built, and in the end you're still left with a big empty pit.

    Synthetic stones are a great alternative because they bypass the mines altogether. A few companies have managed to create real, compositionally authentic diamonds with energy supplied almost entirely by the force of gravity! Unfortunately, these lab created diamonds will set you back just as much as a mined one, so you're not going to save any money with this option. Cubic Zirconia is another common diamond simulant but it's cheap and not meant to last.

    A much more enticing option that I've recently stumbled upon is moissanite. Moissanite is a naturally occurring stone but you won't find it in the Earth's crust - it was first discovered in a meteor in Arizona. Only recently has one company been able to perfect its production in a lab. Don't think of it as a diamond replacement (even though it is almost as strong, with more fire and brilliance, and available in near-colourless varieties) - think of it as a diamond alternative. One that doesn't leave a trail of destruction behind it and costs one tenth the price!

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Wanna be a guest blogger?

    My thesis is due in a little over two weeks... that means there will be little to no time for my friends here at Lower Footprint, let alone much else, in the next 15 days or so.

    Anyone interested in writing a few guest posts? Share what you do to be green with the world, or at least the modest and dedicated viewers on this humble site.

    Drop me a note and we'll get your ideas on the blog!

    In the meantime, have a happy St. Patrick's Day! The Greenest day of the year!

    Monday, March 9, 2009

    LFP Monday Video - Garbage!

    This is on my list of movies to see very soon. Please comment below if you've had a chance to see it!

    Here's an interview with the director.

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    CFL-Timer Update

    So my little experiment in the tv room was for not... the timer-cfl combination resulted in one burnt out cfl. Probably too much juice when the timer kicked in or something.

    A handy reminder then:

    • Not all CFLs will work with timers or dimmers. Look for a bulb specifically designed for this purpose.

    • Disposal of CFLs requires special attention. I now have to start a box in the garage until my next trip to the recycling centre. That one little drop of mercury shouldn't end up in the regular garbage.

    More on garbage soon...

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    Time to Do My Taxes

    Actually, I'm still working on the thesis this week, so the taxes will have to wait for a little while. I did pick up my tax software package tonight and while I did feel bad about using any packaging (I should have downloaded it!), I was very happy to recognize the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo on the side of the box.

    This is the first time I've seen the logo out in the real world since I first learned about it in Ecoholic.

    Way to go QuickTax!

    Monday, March 2, 2009

    A Smile for Monday II

    Here's another great little video... "Nope, just naked."

    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    Jackson Browne Sues John McCain

    It's bad enough that John McCain was blissfully unaware of what was going on behind the scenes during his recent presidential bid and that the RNC has no respect for artists' rights, but the biggest insult of all was to use the music of a green friend, Jackson Browne to criticize Obama's energy policy!

    Dirty pool.

    The video has since been pulled from YouTube.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    How do you calculate the cost of a CFL?

    In the last post, I quickly calculated the cost of running a CFL for 8 hours and knew how much a comparable incandescent bulb would cost. How did I do the math?

    I used an online CFL cost calculator.

    Do you have an interesting situation that saves a ton by using a CFL? Let me know!

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    Timers and CFLs

    I don't get frustrated easily, but when there are three people living in one house, I'm never sure if I'm the last one going to bed or not. With my studies, I sometimes disappear into my room at a relatively early hour and simply go to bed without coming out again.

    So when I get up in the morning and find a living room light still burning, part of my eco-heart dies.

    The fix? Another timer and a CFL bulb. I set the timer to come on at 6pm and go off at midnight. That about matches the current sunset (I'll adjust it as spring creeps in) and most of us are in bed by midnight. While having a light on for six hours even if no one is home seems wasteful, the reality is that most nights the light is on from before midnight until I turn it off around 8am. So, I've just saved 8 hours of usage a day.

    Do the math: This immediately saves me about $4 per year (almost $18 if it had been an incandescent bulb!). This clearly pays for the timer and the bulb.

    This makes me think about the outdoor lights which also sometimes get left on (mostly by me!). A simple replacement of the wall switch should do the trick and actually improve security. A see a trip to the hardware store!

    Monday, February 23, 2009

    Speak for Our Rivers

    I'm posting tomorrow's post a little early because this is action you should take right away:

    More than a million MEC members use Canada's lakes, rivers, and streams to pursue their passion for canoeing and kayaking. For over 100 years, access to and protection of Canada's waterways has been upheld by the federal Navigable Waters Protection Act.

    Now our waterways are under threat from proposed amendments to the Act, which are included within the budget bill that's before the House of Commons. If enacted, the changes will limit Canadians' right to navigate and access our waterways and subject many of them to development without review or public consultation.

    MEC has voiced our concerns to federal MPs. We encourage you to do the same.
    Time is short though. MPs will vote on the budget bill early next week.

    A Smile for Monday

    Thing are super busy with my thesis work this week, so the posts will be short and snappy. I am hoping to carve out an afternoon to finally build the second Pop Can Furnace. Stay tuned.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Penguins Threatened by Climate Change

    A report on the Discovery Channel website points to some dire news, or good evidence if you still need convincing, about climate change and the plight of penguins.It appears that as the ocean and surrounding environment change, the penguins are forced to move further and further to find food.

    Here's an excerpt that I found most illuminating:

    It's as if the penguins had bought homes in suburban Chicago, only to have their jobs moved from the city to Des Moines, Boersma explained. A longer commute requires extra energy that they need to recoup with extra food. "The cost of living has gone up," she said.

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Big Solar Plans for California

    In a deal announced last week, California's energy utility, Southern California Edison, has made arrangements with BrightSource, a privately-held company, to provide over a gigawatt of power to the electricity market.

    These seven projects, the first of which will come online in 2013, represent a major move toward meeting California's target of having 20% renewable energy.

    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    You can put a little green in with all those red hearts today. Send a David Suzuki e-Card!

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Home Electricity Monitoring... by Google?

    I just read an interesting note on Forbes.com. It appears as though Google is testing a home-electricity monitoring system, with 20 employees currently using the system and plans to take it bigger as the year rolls on.

    The product is purportedly called "PowerMeter" and is part of the Google.org set of energy conservation projects. More info to follow in the weeks to come!

    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    Some Serious Recycling

    The decommissioned French aircraft carrier, known simply as Q790, has finally found a home - in a recycling operation in the northeast of England.

    This "toxic ship" created a lot of controversy over the past few years as it highlighted some of the issues of the West offloading it's toxic waste to the rest of the world. After high levels of asbestos were found, it was rejected in both Greece and Turkey and later rejected in India when Greenpeace got involved.

    This new recycling project, in Europe, will create about 200 jobs and, provided proper protocols are followed, should meet with much higher safety and disposal criteria than had it been done on the cheap.

    Full story at CNN.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Earth Hour 2009 - on Facebook

    I will probably feature a lot more about Earth Hour 2009 as the date of March 28 gets closer.

    For now, show your support and join the Facebook group to help spread the word!

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Do CFLs pose a UV risk?

    There have been a number of reports lately that the amount of UV given off by our compact fluorescent bulbs may be posing a significant health risk. Word is that prolonged exposure, especially at distances of less than 30cm (1 foot), can cause sunburn!

    According the GE's website, CFLs produce less UV than natural sunlight. They also make a lower UV bulb that is also shatter-resistant (good if you're worried about mercury spills as well!). Other sites [pdf] talk about a double-envelope bulb which emits no UV at all.

    Let's cut through the hype and take the WWF as the final word on the matter:

    • Don't spend 1 hour at less than 2cm distance from these bulbs.

    • Don't spend 8 hours at 20cm or less from your CFL.

    • If you have Lupus or other skin conditions, consult your doctor about your lighting choices.

    Otherwise, keep your CFLs! Don't lose sight of the fact that these are serious reducers of your energy consumption!

    Seriously, other than the concerns for the pre-existing skin conditions, under what circumstances would someone need to spend that kind of time that close to any bulb? With appropriate brightness, one could easily stay a reasonable distance from the bulb and still get the appropriate level of light for whatever task is needed.

    Monday, February 9, 2009

    The Eco Font

    Here's an interesting way to go green while still using black ink - the Eco Font!

    It's basically taking an open source font design and filling it with as many holes as possible without degrading the recognizability of the print. Reports suggest that it uses 21% less ink than the comparable base font. I think that's pretty cool.

    Cheers to the gang at CBC's Spark for bringing this to my attention!

    Friday, February 6, 2009

    Because Statistics Are Important

    Missed my post tonight, so I thought I'd just put up a reminder of how important the understanding of statistics is for all of us who want to avoid being green washed or simply bamboozled.

    If you're not familiar with XKCD web comics, you've been missing out. Thank me later.

    Wednesday, February 4, 2009

    The Fall of Green Travel?

    This article was recently posted on CNN's website.

    Have a read and let me know what you think. After reading it over twice, I think I get the author's point, but the tone is so back-handed that I'm not sure he gets it. Is this simply a difference in understanding green issues and how they get presented to a mainly American audience? Or is there a bit of something that is supposed to make a right-wing, anti-environmentalist cheer?

    Green practices should become standard behaviour for the world's better companies. We should not be charged extra for efforts that they should be doing anyway. But they shouldn't hide these accomplishments either! Only by full transparency can we as consumers decide who is making real change and who is simply trying to green wash us...

    Rest assured, green travel is here to stay. Or rather, we still have a lot to do before our regular travel could even be considered remotely green. Offsets are not a bad idea.

    Tuesday, February 3, 2009

    More Road Widening for Halifax

    Listening to the CBC, I heard the plan is now afoot to start widening Bayer's Road to accommodate more traffic into the downtown core. After last year's battle for Chebucto Road was won by the road-addicted city council, they are ready to widen another main approach to the peninsula.

    I have nothing more to add to this debacle, except that Halifax seems to know no other solution than to widen roads. We haven't tried car pool lanes or car pool hours. Car after car going downtown are virtually empty - just the driver and no passengers. We also don't even know what rushhour is really about... sitting in traffic for twenty minutes is bad for the environment, but it's nothing compared to sitting on the 401 for two hours each day.

    Read more on Bayer's Road in the Coast and the Herald.

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    Looking for Green in the 2009 Canadian Budget

    It's taken me a few days to sink my teeth into the new budget brought down by the Harper government on Tuesday. If I was going to dig through and insist on finding a lot of green, I might be at this for a while longer.

    Different news sources have played the report one way or the other, but the general consensus is that the budget either falls very short or seems to miss the point. Perhaps all that face time with Elizabeth May didn't do Stephen Harper much good after all.

    On the side of falling short, there was little or no new funding for research into climate change. Unlike Obama's ideas for the future, less than 5% of Canada's stimulus spending was directed at anything related to clean energy. In a large country that is sparsely populated, we should be seeing (or failing to notice due said large area) hundreds and thousands of wind farms all across our country. I'd like to see the math that shows how a pipeline from Northern Alberta is more cost-effective than a power line from a turbine farm in as remote a location. (Don't get me started on the cost-effectiveness of Alberta's tar sands...)

    On the side of missing the point, Harper's team points to two items in particular as being the best options for Canada: nuclear power and carbon sequestration.

    Harper must have a renewed faith in AECL or just doesn't care about the long term. Either way, I don't disagree that nuclear power is an option that should be considered over continuing our blind dependence on oil, but let's see some options and plans for dealing with the resulting waste. Maybe this is the "shovels in the ground" people are talking about.

    Carbon sequestration is also a good idea, but compelling businesses to account for their carbon emissions through long term storage is only a small part of what we have to do. It doesn't address the emissions themselves. We should be looking at alternative energy sources that don't produce carbon to be captured then sequestration technology can be used to reduce the mess that is already there.

    Consider this simple analogy: You hire a painter to paint your dining room. It's a four day job. On the afternoon of the fourth day, you notice that he's slopped paint all over your hardwood floor except for one corner which is yet to be painted. Thus you put a drop cloth down in that corner.

    When all is said and done, that corner won't have any paint spill, but the rest of the room is a mess and the painter still has an awful technique.

    The drop cloth is carbon sequestration for new emissions.

    The one point that I will give the 2009 budget is the home renovation stimulus package. As you know, my whole project is about making my home more energy efficient and cost-effective. With about a year left to take advantage of my ener-guide retrofits, this stacking incentive could help out a lot. I just hope it is used by most for this very purpose and not for installing fancy new water-sucking bathrooms or pesticide-sucking lawns.

    Friday, January 30, 2009

    Climate Wars

    I'm a regular listener to the CBC radio program Ideas. If I may use a grossly elitist and self-serving description, Ideas is the thinking man's prime time entertainment.

    The past few weeks, the program has been featuring a series called Climate Wars. This is must-listen-radio! If you're a reader of this humble blog, then you will be thrilled to listen to a serious, considered investigation of the world's climate issue.

    I have to listen to it again, but at this point, I'm not sure I 100% agree with Gwynne Dyer's final conclusion. I'd really like to, but... you'll have to listen for yourself to decide.

    The podcast (running 3 hours) is available here.

    Despite the proliferation of mini-posts in the last few weeks, I really don't have the time to blog much these days. Thus, I'm putting down things as soon as they strike me and using a handy feature of blogspot to publish these stories in the future.

    Thursday, January 29, 2009

    Light at the End of a Very Long Tunnel

    I just saw this report on the net: Solar cells can now boast 41.1 percent efficiency!

    While this is a very small incremental increase, it is nonetheless an improvement.

    Don't be discouraged, materials scientists! We're still cheering for every 1/10 of a percent you get!

    Assuming I could watch 60 minutes of television with a 2007 set of panels, I could now watch more than one whole commercial more (35.38 seconds) with these new ones! But which commercial would it be?

    And before you get all technical on me, I know I'm assuming a lot in that the entire 0.9% would have no losses through the rest of this hypothetical system. Can't a guy dream?

    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    What To Do When You Can't Use Public Transit

    The city of Ottawa is currently in the throes of a transit strike. While I am not at all educated about this particular labour disruption, I was struck when watching the national news at the effect that it is having on commuters. Many more cars are clogging the streets, rush hour starts earlier and earlier every day, and downtown parking lots are completely full. All in all, it was nearly complete chaos.

    Here in Halifax, we were very close to having a school bus strike of our own over the past few weeks. While that appears to be averted, a simple accident (or was it a water main break?) on Monday morning sent traffic into a panic.

    Obviously, we are at the very edge of being able to manage our current transportation system. Our needs and wants have become completely unrealistic. We choose to live in suburban sprawl and have become dependent on our vehicles for getting to work. Those who use public transit obviously go a long way to help the situation as evidenced by how much worse Ottawa is today.

    So... what to do?

    First, where public transit is available, we should all endeavour to use it as much as possible. It saves wear and tear on your personal vehicle and helps a lot with GHG.

    Second, we should choose to live in more appropriate locales. Walk to work if it is at all possible. If you work urban, you should attempt to live urban. (I know, this is complete impractical and unaffordable for most of us. But we need to examine why this is so.)

    Third, investigate ride-share programs in your city or neighbourhood.

    Fourth, explore the option of working from home whenever possible. It's a very short commute and uses no gasoline. That's better than riding the bus!

    Fifth, communicate with others. Lobby for more effective public transit. Champion tele-commuting in your office.

    And finally, petition the powers that be to come to a fair and equitable end to the current transit strike in Ottawa.

    Do you live in Ottawa? Tell me about the effect the transit strike has had on you!

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    A Water Use Check Up

    I mentioned some time ago that I'd changed my habits and basically now avoid flushing when it is only liquid waste. This has been working quite well and there have been no negative side-effects. I'm saving roughly 3 tanks of water a day.

    Now I'm wondering if I can go a step further. Recognizing that the squeamish among you have already stopped reading, it's not what you think.

    Each morning when I run the sink to shave and the shower to bathe, I have to run the tap for about 30 seconds or so before the water is warm. I want to try to capture that water so it's not just going down the drain. Obviously, some improved insulation will help with the amount of water that cools in the pipes overnight, but in the meantime...

    There are a few things you need to know about me. I'm barely functional when I am preparing to shave in the morning. The idea of stockpiling jugs of water around my bathroom also doesn't appeal to me. For this to work, it has to be easier than simple and actually make a difference.

    I put it to you for ideas.

    I have this idea that I might be able to modify the lid to my toilet to make for an easy transfer, but if the tank is full, then it would just spill into the overflow and be wasted anyway. Oh, and I don't have a garden or house plants to speak of.

    Monday, January 26, 2009

    A Bit More on Google

    Recent reports have suggested that two google searches produce as much CO2 as boiling a kettle of water. Seem just a touch high to you? Read this Scientific American note with the story and Google's response.

    Not convinced of Google's innocence? Here's one (humourous) way that Google could single-handedly destroy the planet.

    Friday, January 23, 2009

    Does Black Screen Searching Save Power?

    Every few months, an idea circulates around the net. I heard it again this week... The Google webpage, as one of the world's busiest websites, uses more energy with a white background than it would if the background were black. This results in a lot of fresh traffic to a site called Blackle.com and a number of similar sites around the world.

    This myth grew out of two good ideas. The first was that any minuscule positive change, when repeated on the scale of millions and billions, would result in a great positive change. The second was that black screens use less energy than white screens, hence the source of the minuscule energy difference.

    Unfortunately, this doesn't work for most of us. On modern LCD monitors, the energy difference is at best negligible, and according to some reports, black may actually consume more energy than white. On older CRT monitors, there may be some gain, but it is very small compared to the savings by switching to an LCD monitor which uses 1/2 to 2/3 as much energy. Secondly, the savings purportedly measured to date is far less than the original promise suggested. In this case, the small bits that add up don't actually add up to much.

    If you find the dark background easier on the eyes, by all means switch. But don't do it for the environmental benefit!

    Thursday, January 22, 2009

    Stop Global Warming

    Over the last twenty years or so, I've been quietly hooked on a number of building style games... SimCity, Civilization, Caesar III, and so on. These days, I don't have the time for such trivialities but still need to get a fix now and then. That's where Facebook usually comes through.

    Stop Global Warming is just such a game, albeit very stripped down and very simple, but it's played on the web through Facebook. In the game, you support other players on a daily basis, earn cash and impact points, and build structures that will eventually reduce a country's CO2 emissions. As you work through the game, you have to balance your environmental and your economic needs. Once a country is on its way to a NIL footprint, you can then tackle a bigger country. In each area, you have to be careful to tailor your response to the local climate and conditions. For example, Canada gets a pretty good return for installing wind turbines, but solar panels don't perform as well as they would in more equatorial countries.

    A simple, yet fun game that captures the essence of the building game style, with a well thought-out environmental education delivery.

    Feel free to add me as a friend on Facebook and then in the game. Mutual support is much more lucrative.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Dalhousie Versus Acadia

    A quick update on the CBC's Millions Acts of Green campaign:

    Last week, Dalhousie University (where I am both staff and student) challenged Acadia University to the CBC's Million Acts of Green. The idea was simple, each university had to sign up members who would then record their total number of individuals acts of green, things like using cold water for a load of laundry or carrying a refillable mug to the coffee shop. The first university to record acts equal to the number its students (16,000 for Dal, 3000 for Acadia) would be the winner. The challenge started on January 15th and was scheduled to end on April 15th.


    By 6:55pm, Dalhousie had registered over 400 members, with an average of 40 acts each, easily surpassing the challenge goal in a single day! To be fair, Acadia met its target later the same evening.

    With over 24,000 acts of green a week later, the Dalhousie group is now leading the nation and is trying to sort out the details for a bigger challenge against an even more progressive university. Stay tuned.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    A Day of Change

    It's been a while since I've had a chance to update the blog, but the best way to get back in is simply to do it!

    I just wanted to mark today and join in the crowd of well-wishers on the occasion of Obama's inauguration. The environmentally-minded and alternative energy supporters hold a lot of hope for the new president's promise to invest heavily in solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources. It's our job to educate, facilitate, and support these initiatives.

    And it's our job to hold him accountable.

    In time.

    Let's see what the first hundred days has to bring first.

    If anyone follows the US political system closely, you can help me report on things like motions in the Senate, bills that are passed, and items that relate to alternative energy and conservation issues. Just drop me a note!

    Coming soon: Stop Global Warming and more Dalhousie Million Acts of Green info.