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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.