One Trashcan Per Year: You Can Too!

Living and not producing any waste is pretty impressive. A family in the UK set out to demonstrate that they can easily live life and only make a trashcan’s worth of rubbish in a year. Guess what? They did it.

“Our vision is for a zero waste UK; a country where we rethink our rubbish and start to view it as a resource rather than a waste product,” the Strausses write on their website, MyZeroWaste. “Our belief is that a zero waste Britain is possible if more energy, money and care is put into education, innovative product design and recycling facilities.”

OK, so that’s the why. But what about the how? How does a three-person household cuts its trash footprint so dramatically while still keeping up a typical British living standard?

The Strausses go into great detail on their website. Step one, obviously: Reduce, for which they recommend everything from buying in bulk to simply removing the kitchen bin (“The out of sight out of mind approach … “). Step two: Reuse (turning used coffee grounds into snail and slug repellant, taking their own food containers to the butcher’s shop, wrapping gifts with junk mail). Step three: Recycle (even sending their empty crisp packets to a Philippine charity that turns them into wallets, bags and purses).

Keep reading at greenbang

Rebuilding Haiti: Solar Power Essential

Repairs and rebuilding has been going on in Haiti after the powerful earthquake hit the country about two weeks ago. They aid teams have run into a problem around energy – there’s not enough diesel. Things that rely on solar power are still working – bizarrely the traffic lights are on such thing. The good news that comes from all of this is the revived interest in renewable power for disaster recovery.

We can all benefit from this research into renewable energy sources for disaster recovery.

Solar setups are quick to install, mobile, and relatively inexpensive compared to the price of rebuilding a damaged electricity grid. They can also be incredibly robust. Alan Doyle, a science editor at MSNBC, recently wrote that a single solar water purification system, recovered from the rubble by the Red Cross, is now purifying 30,000 gallons (over 110,000 liters) of water a day.

Sol Inc, a US-based solar street lighting company, has sent a first shipment of lights for roadways, food distribution, and triage sites. This may sound mundane, until you imagine trying to perform street-side surgery or find family members in the dark. The LED lights can also withstand hurricane force winds – no small thing in a country that has also recently been hit by tropical cyclones. Sol Inc has promised to match donations for people wanting to contribute to the program.

Communications are another crucial need being met by solar. China’s ZTE corporation has donated 1,500 solar cellphones and 300 digital trunking base stations. The same technology was used in China when an earthquake hit the Sichuan Province in May of 2008. A similar project is being set up by a group from Holland.

Renewable energy in Haiti is not a new. Walt Ratterman, CEO of non-profit SunEnergy Power International was working on the electrification of Haitian hospitals at the time of the quake. He is currently still missing.

Keep reading at WorldChanging.

The Race is On! Speed Composting is a Go!

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Or in reality, our waste from consuming can be repurposed and turned into useful resources.

If anyone knows that there’s value in trash, it’s Waste Management — the big waste hauler collects 66 million tons of it every year. So the company has teamed up with a small venture-backed company that has developed a system that can break down some of that trash fast and turn it into natural gas, electricity, compost or all of the above, making some of that trash even more valuable.

Waste Management announced today it has invested in Harvest Power and will develop projects with the company. Harvest builds giant digesters — think of them as cow stomachs — that speed up the composting process. By creating conditions that the bugs that break down organic matter thrive in — a little warmth, a little moisture — and mixing it up to keep the process going, Havest can speed the natural composting process to six to eight weeks from double that. The output? No hamburgers, milk or leather, but otherwise the same as what you’d get from a cow: natural gas and good fertilizer.

Keep reading at Forbes.

Soy Habitats for Humanity

A company built a house to show off soy products and other environmentally friendly building techniques for the modern home and they have chosen to donate their model home to Habitat for Humanity.

The Soy House was built to showcase environmentally friendly, soy-based products used in home construction. It includes products such as spray foam insulation, soy board cabinets, soy-based adhesives, low-VOC paint, carpet backing, bathroom fixtures and foam for mattresses and furniture.

Dale Petrie, director of Strategic Development and Innovation, Grain Farmers of Ontario, says his group staged an exhibit of 101 uses for soy in December 2008 at the Toronto Stock Exchange and decided to showcase an entire home at the Royal. Because there would not have been time to construct a home from scratch, the province’s soy farmers approached modular builder Quality Homes Inc., which agreed to build the house in its factory and ship it to the fair.

“We don’t mind taking on a challenge like this at all,” says Howard Sher, executive vice-president of Quality Homes.

“And we weren’t concerned about the quality of the soy products at all. We are using the soy rigid insulation in our homes now.”

“But after the fair, the next step was, what are we going to do with this house?” says Petrie. The decision was made to offer it to a Habitat Canada affiliate.

Read the rest of the article.

Thanks Kathryn!

Perhaps Your Pennies Can Clear the Air

Apparently copper can be used to scrub pollutants out of the air. Maybe one day a penny can help clean your house.

An easy way to get carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is to find a chemical that combines easily with it, similar to the way that some metals oxidize. For example, compounds involving copper will usually combine with oxygen in the atmosphere voluntarily without catalysts, covering the surface of the copper material with a green patina, like the Statue of Liberty.

Unlike oxygen, carbon dioxide cannot combine so easily with other materials. It is possible to remove one electron from the molecule to facilitate its integration into other molecules, but that removal requires an electric potential of -1.97 volts, which is unreasonably high for the purpose of processing a single molecule.

One group of scientists found a certain dinuclear copper (I) complex that turns green when exposed to air under a slight electric potential (-0.03 volts). At first, they assumed it was from the exposure to oxygen, but upon closer inspection they learned that this particular form of copper was reacting with carbon dioxide.

Keep reading at Ars

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