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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One Square Inch

It's not everyday that a book actually changes the way you perceive the world, but this week, I finished reading One Square Inch of Silence by Gordon Hempton and John Grossmann and I am changed. As I write, I am acutely aware of the periodic traffic passing outside; the whir of the laptop's fan; the roar of the crowd at the Olympic hockey game in Vancouver. I almost expect to sense parenthetical dBA measurements around me.

One Square Inch of Silence chronicles Hempton's journey from Olympic National Park, Washington state to Washington, D.C. in order to campaign for the protection of naturally quiet places in America. Along the way, he meets with a few like-minded experts and crusaders and reveals a vast, decentralized network of individuals who have come to same conclusion... quiet places at are risk. Additionally, armed with his professional sound recording and noise measuring equipment, Hempton draws attention to the wide variety of human produced noise that impinges on silence everywhere, from railways and interstate highways, to coal mines and high-flying airplanes.

As one might expect, some of the quietest places to be found are deep in national parks around the country, but surprisingly, the natural quiet is very often interrupted by jets far overhead or worse, air tours by small plane or helicopter. Apparently, the Grand Canyon is impacted by over 90,000 air tours per year, reducing the number of quiet moments to mere seconds at a time.

My favorite part of the book was reading about Hempton's visit to a secret location within the Canyonlands National Park in Utah. I visited a different, but very similar part of that park a few years ago and was struck by the remoteness, yet even miles off of the closest highway, oil rigs pumped away in solitude. I'm sure that now I'd be completely aware of their impact on the surrounding aural landscape, despite their small geographic footprint.

I highly recommend this book for all of you who are concerned about environmental issues... I suspect you will be looking at a whole new type of pollution around you, one that may not be exactly novel or unknown to you, but one that you will be more conscious of in the days to come. Treasure your quiet places and if you desire to help Hempton's cause (or for more information), be sure to visit his website, onesquareinch.org.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Recycling and Building It Yourself

I've always enjoyed tinkering in the workshop whenever I get a chance. In the past, I've built a giant table from reclaimed oak planks and just recently finished a quilting rack made from a little bit of local wood and some reclaimed electrical conduit. Even my pop can solar furnaces were mostly made from re-used and reclaimed wood and pieces.

Sustainable living can include a lot of do-it-yourself attitudes, so rather than purchasing your next at-home item (and perhaps having it shipped cross-country), why not consider building it yourself? The Free Woodworking Plans website features over 9,000 plans of various levels of complexity that you can look at or download for free! Need a cabinet for the garage? Want a rolling dock? How about a wishing well or mantle clock?

Obviously, you'll need a little bit of carpentry skill to start creating anything, but some of the projects are so simple, you might just have everything you need already. Even if you don't save the planet, you might just find that you're a little bit handy... that's not a bad thing!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Solar Powered Fans (continued)

I've done some research and found that my current panel will put out about 5.5W of power. That's pretty small, but luckily, so are the fans with which I'm working.

My memories of my old electronics courses in junior high are pretty sketchy, but after playing around a little bit, I found that I could easily wire the fans in a circuit. The trick now is to gather a few more and incorporate them into the design of the next pop can solar furnace panel. I have a few fans that also have LED lights in them, so they will be a nice touch, indicating when the panel is operational. I don't expect I'll need anything else in terms of wiring. If there's enough sun to run the fans, there should be enough to heat up the solar furnace as well.

The idea now is to build a third panel with the fans built in. Each column of cans will have their tops and bottoms removed and a fan will be put at either the top or bottom of the column. I may need some sealant to get good airflow through the column. We'll see.

[A little while later...]

Having played with an additional fan, I'm less thrilled with the airflow from the case fan that I tried out. Looks like some decent processor fans will be the way to go.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Solar Powered Fans

I've been planning for a while to incorporate some solar powered fans into my pop can solar furnace. They should help to draw air through the panel and thus circulate the air better. Today, I was able to get started on this part of the process.

I found a few old computer fans kicking around the house. Each is surprisingly quiet and draws a little less than a Watt of power. I also happen to have a small PV solar panel that puts out a couple of watts, but I will test that further as the design goes on.

Today, I simply trimmed the wires on the fans and connected them to the solar panel. Sure enough, they worked! I'm going to gather a few more and test how much air flow I can get before building a new panel with the fans built in. Ideally, I'd also use a PV collector that is just big enough to run the fans, but I will play with that next.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Two Years of Lower Footprint

We're rapidly approaching our second anniversary! I started this blog as part of my new year's resolution for 2008 and it is still going strong. Lots more to do, but here are some numbers:

  • Over 10,000 unique visitors!
  • Visits from 90 countries, including all 13 Canadian provinces and territories, plus every state in the USA.
  • Thinking local means something as about 1 in 10 visitors are from Halifax, NS.
  • We've had visitors from every European country except Albania, Latvia, and Belarus.
  • Almost 70% find us by search engines, but 10% know to come here directly!

    So here are some of the challenges I want to tackle in the next little while:

  • Start using a re-usable mug for my daily coffee! Do you use one? How did you get the habit going well?
  • Start taking the bus more often... maybe one day a week to start out! I was doing well before, but I'm way out of practice.
  • STOP EATING FAST FOOD. It's terrible. You'll see more about this soon.
  • Lots more projects around the house!

    More to come! Thank you for a great two years!