By on December 20th, 2018

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By on February 26th, 2009

navy20showersdf1Several better-read (but not better-written!) online green-news destinations (HuffPo Green, Planet Green) have lately discussed a new way — based on a decades-old way — to save water.  It’s called the Navy Shower.

Due to an obvious shortage of freshwater on Navy ships (at least in the past), dirty sailors would get in their tiny shower stalls, run enough water to get wet, then shut the water off and soap up all over.  Then they would turn the water back on, rinse off, get dressed and it’s man your battle stations!

This technique can also be used by us hardy souls looking to help out with the Earth’s short supply of fresh water.  A regular shower can consume up to 60 gallons of water, while a navy shower can use as little as 3 gallons.  That’s a lot of saved water — up to 15,000 gallons a year.  Not enough to fill an average backyard pool, but nonetheless quite a bit.

Still, there probably aren’t many people who are willing to give up their 10 minutes of hot spray in the morning.  For some, it’s the difference between a good day and a bad one.  I myself have not tried this yet.  And we can’t forget the minute-or-so it takes to heat my water up in the morning.

But I promise to try the old maritime shower routine and see how it goes.  Perhaps I’ll ask the wife to join, to try and make it more fun.  Maybe I’ll report back.  Anyone else?

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By on February 5th, 2009

efuel1_450x600_270x360I recycle my beer bottles, but I thought that was the full extent of any possible beer-related environmentally friendly activities.

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But oh how wrong I was.

The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, already on the forefront of many ecological efforts such as fuel cell power plants and solar panels on top of its new parking lot, has found a new way to help mother Earth: make ethanol out of beer by-products!

The company is testing coke-machine sized portable refineries (see above) made by a company called E-Fuel, which can take the leftover yeast from the beermaking process (currently sold as feed for livestock) and turn it into ethanol. Sierra Nevada can then use this fuel to power, at least partially, its fleet of vehicles! The company even expects, if all goes well, to end up with a surplus of ethanol that can be provided to employees.

So, if you ever think you smell beer coming out of a passing car or truck, you’re not crazy. And if you want to support this kind of effort, head for your local adult beverage store and pick up a six-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I plan to!

(from cnet)

By on January 2nd, 2009

pouring-concrete1When my mind wanders, which is fairly often, I sometimes wonder about ways to green-ify the world.  But I must admit I have never given any particular thought to building materials, much less one of the most basic: cement.

But a British company has embarked on a government-sponsored, 1.5 million pound experiment to construct a plant to produce what is supposedly carbon-negative cement.  Carbon-negative, you say?  You read me right.  We’ve all been conditioned, myself included, to think of “carbon-neutral” as the apotheosis of ecological manufacture.  But now we have a new goal — carbon negative!

Standard cement, also known as Portland Cement, uses limestone as its basic element.  As part of the production process, it is heated to 1500 degrees centigrade (which of course uses lots of carbon-producing energy).  Then, once water is added for its use in buildings, it absorbs some carbon as it dries and hardens — but not nearly enough to compensate for the energy used in its manufacture.

The new carbon-hungry cement, which uses magnesium silicates instead of limestone, need only be heated to 650 degrees centigrade — consuming less than half the energy of regular cement.  Then, when drying and hardening, it absorbs more than twice the amount of carbon dioxide.  Making it significantly carbon-negative!  Jackpot!

Many questions remain, of course.  Are there enough raw materials for lots of this new type of cement to be manufactured?  (Advocates say yes.)  Can a new type of cement prove itself just as reliable and strong as the old standby, Portland?  (Hard to say.)  Will this potentially paradigm-shifting product ever see the light of day, unlike so many other good environmental ideas.  (Experience says no, but let’s hope for the best.)

–from the Guardian UK

By on December 8th, 2008

After much too long a hiatus, I have again begun scouring the web for the latest in weird and wonderful green tech gadgets.  All for you, the talkgreen reader.

The above is not a still from an X-rated remake of “The Sound of Music.”  It’s actually a promotional pic for a wood-fired hot tub.  Of course your backyard scenery may not be as spectacular, but the darned thing supposedly will get the water up to 100 degrees in two short hours, depending on the outside temperature.  And all without using anything but renewable energy.  And it’s lightweight and portable too!

Still — a few questions.  I wonder what the carbon footprint of this thing is?  And, does it come in any colors besides nuclear orange?

By on November 2nd, 2008

I haven”t posted for a while, and it”s mostly due to sloth.  But it”s also due to my previous mindset about talkgreen: I really like posting about new energy-saving gadgets or new green technology.  So, if in searching the web for weeks at a time, nothing really “pops” to me, like a new type of dog-powered lawnmower (I am working on this) or a way to heat your pool geothermally (probably only feasible if you live near a volcano), then I nod off at my computer and don”t post.

But today I started feeling guilty about my absence from the talkgreen community.  So I decided simply to post about something that”s been on my mind, something that hits me where I live.

The laziness factor.  I”ve got it bad, and it often makes me a poor environmentalist.

For instance: this plagues me when I go to the supermarket.  I keep old shopping bags in the hatchback of my Prius, the old paper-inside-plastic-with-handles deal, with the intent to re-use them until they online slots literally fall apart.  I have proudly pointed them out to the odd automotive passenger as evidence of my holier-than-thou love of the Earth.

The problem is, at least 50% of the time I go food shopping, I arrive at the check-out counter and it hits me – I have left them in the car.  I”m an idiot, I think to myself.  I of course have the option of getting out of line and going to the car to get them — it would only take a minute or two.  But I”d have to give up my place in line, and often I”d have to put a few items back in my cart, the ones I had already loaded onto the unforgiving black conveyer belt.  Or I would have to make everyone behind me wait while I run out to the car, which I would find mortifying.  So although I usually berate myself for being lazy, I guess it is a combination of forgetfulness, embarrassment, and laziness, to be exact.  But, inevitably, I just slouch my shoulders, answer “plastic” and skulk out of the store, loading the groceries into my car on top of the saved bags, which silently mock me.

Now, reader, please understand, when I get home and put away my purchased items, I recycle the plastic bags.  I”m not a barbarian.

But neither am I the conscientious earth-first tree-hugger that I”d like to think I am.

I promise to work on it, and perhaps I”ll keep you posted.

By on October 6th, 2008

This is my second post about eco-friendly ways to deal with, ah, shall we say, solid human waste products. Some of you might think that I’m obsessed — stuck in some pseudo-Freudian childhood phase.  But really, I just tend to focus on the unusual “green” topics, on the arcane, rather than the mundane “how to get more miles per gallon” type of stuff.

Anyway, several years ago I travelled to Sydney Australia, a lovely trip full of delightful restaurant meals and beautiful garden tours.  But one thing always stuck in my mind — their toilets.  Down under, each toilet has two buttons — half-flush, for exclusively liquid flushes, and full-flush for more substiantial matters. Or, to put it another way, one for number one, one for number two.  Even that many years ago, I loved this idea and the resulting water savings.  It only added to my enjoyment of Oz.

And now, for quite awhile, these toilets have been available in the good ol’ USA.  For instance, the Toto Aquia Dual-Flush:

At only .9 gallons per 1/2 flush (as opposed to 1.6 gallons for normal, man-sized flush), apparently this baby can save one household up to 7000 gallons of (otherwise clean drinkable) water a year.  How great is that!

If I ever remodel my bathrooms, this will be my commode of choice.

By on September 15th, 2008

Here’s an invention that manages to be environmentally conscious and ridiculous at the same time.

Figure 1, above, may look like a lovely work of art meant to evoke little wavelets formed by raindrops on a serene body of water.  But actually it’s the Eco-Drop shower floor.  You turn on the shower and step in, the concentric circles gently massaging your feet and helping make the surface non-slip.

But the floor is made of a special expanding material, and the longer you stay in the shower, the more pronounced the droplet designs get.  It’s not too long before, as you can see in Figure 4, they become downright uncomfortable on your feet and you have to get out!  Voila — no one takes very long showers!

Still, there must be a better way.  I’m picturing a bunch of angry people with sore feet and sudsy hair returning this thing to their local hardware store.