Why Electric Driving is an Affordable Reality in Britain

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Ford, Renault-Nissan, and Daimler have announced that they are joining their knowledge, technology and resources to create the world’s first mass-produced, affordable fuel cell car. The big three have set themselves a deadline of 2017 to have the model and its technology up to scratch and ready for the market.

This news brings with it the proof that the auto industry are finally becoming more environmentally aware, working with governments and scientists to create a green driving experience that doesn’t have its revolution lodged firmly in a space-age future.

Fuel cell cars work by replacing petrol with hydrogen. The fuel cells convert the chemical energy produced from combining hydrogen and oxygen in the engine to electrical energy to power the motor. You may be surprised to learn that fuel cell cars are not a new concept. In fact, the first fuel cell car came about in 1959. Unfortunately, due to the cost of developing the technology, fuel cell cars have never really become much more than a distant ideal…

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Smart Meters: Money Savers or Security Zappers?

January 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Energy, Energy Audits, Front Page, Slideshow

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Remember reading 1984? Big Brother watched everyone, 24/7. Even people’s thoughts were monitored. Orwell’s novel painted a chilling portrait of a dystopian world no reader (I think that’s pretty safe to say) wanted to inhabit. As writer Sean Derrick points out, we’re currently on that slippery slope where monitoring people’s minute-by-minute activities is presented as […]

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3 DIY Ways to Save Energy Dollars in the New Year

January 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Energy, Front Page, Slideshow, Tips, Weatherizing

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  While the products you read about below will save energy and money, some contain highly toxic materials. Be sure to look for the most environmentally friendly brands you can find. — Julia Wasson, Publisher Want to make some room in your budget for next year’s holiday shopping? Here are three steps to earning up […]

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5 Surprising Energy Drains in Your Home – and What You Can Do about Them

December 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Energy, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow, Tips

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Friends of ours just bought a home and were more than a little shocked after receiving their first set of utility bills. Whether you’re looking to save money or just want to reduce your environmental impact, there are easy do-it-yourself fixes that can make your home leaner and greener in a matter of minutes….

Lots of energy-saving tips focus on your hot water heater, or your heating and cooling systems, but the kitchen can also be a huge source of energy loss. Refrigerators are the biggest energy hogs, since they run constantly — if you have an
older model refrigerator and aren’t afraid of a unique look, cover it in shag carpet to keep it insulated.

Your oven and stovetop are the second largest energy users, but you can make small changes to save energy, like using appropriately sized pots on each burner and only boiling just as much water as you need. If you’re not cooking multiple things on your range at one time, consider using a toaster oven instead for smaller items. And, if you use the self-cleaning feature on your large oven, try using it once you’ve just completed cooking a meal, so the temperature is already high….

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Solar in the Community – Creating a Greener Britain

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Grey skies, wind, rain and no sign of the sun. That’s the British Winter, most of the Autumn, much of the Spring, and a good deal of the Summer too! But, regardless of the climate, there is clearly enough sunshine for solar energy to thrive, and in recent years the UK has witnessed an unprecedented […]

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Install a Dimmer Switch: DIY for Earth-Friendly Savings

November 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, DIY, Electricity, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow

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Remember the “clap on, clap off” jingle for clap-sensitive lights? For years, we’ve been honing and perfecting our lighting systems, including finding ways to control a room’s brightness from bed.

These days, the truly devoted can hook all of their lighting (and even the coffee maker, for that matter) into remote systems controllable from a smartphone. Apart from switching to more efficient bulbs, however, the simplest and most affordable way to take a big bite out of your lighting energy usage is simply to install motion-sensitive light switches.

Who hasn’t opened a closet, bathroom, or guest room door to discover that a light has been left burning unnecessarily for hours, days, or even weeks? That wasted power costs us on our monthly bill, and it unnecessarily draws from an electric grid that, depending on where you live, may still rely on carbon-generating coal as its source.

Automatic sensor switches turn on when a person enters a room and off soon after they depart. Many are programmable to allow a manual override or to set the amount of time without motion before turning dim. These switches range in cost from around $20 to $50 models with elaborate programmable settings.

Making the ‘switch’ will require a small upfront investment, but you’ll end up saving money in the long run through the power you save. …

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Even Rolling Stone Gets It — Why Don’t We?

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Once upon a time we had a concept called global warming. Then we had something called climate change — we called it climate change to make it easier to digest, although that didn’t seem to help the many conservatives in government who refuse to admit such a thing is even possible.

With the name change, there’s an added benefit that the temperature can go up or down, hurricanes can blow, and freak weather patterns can appear all under the same broad category of description. But even with melting ice caps, record droughts and any number of outrageous weather patterns, some individuals and organizations are still dragging their feet about climate change. Others are turning an absolutely blind eye….

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Understanding the Implications of Biofuels Doesn’t Require a Biology Degree

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Following years of extensive research and product trials, biofuels are today considered a viable fuel source for vehicles. Proponents of these alternative fuels tout their sustainability, ability to lower carbon emission levels and comparable (if not superior) vehicular performance — though some major oil companies have been slow to embrace the movement.

Here’s a look at some of the major renewable fuel alternatives, including a few many consumers may not be aware of….

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Expiring Eco-Friendly Tax Credits Can Help with 2011 Taxes

January 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Eco-Friendly, Energy, Front Page, Slideshow, Tax Credits, Tips

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The clock is ticking. If you haven’t filed your 2011 taxes yet, you still have time to take advantages of some home energy tax credits that you may have made during the year. But, come April 15th, Many of the incentives set forth by federal and state government will no longer assist you with your taxes as many expired with the change of the calendar.

According to ENERGY STAR, if you’ve made any of the following improvements to your primary residence during 2011, you’re eligible take advantage of the Federal Tax breaks offered on your 2011 returns:

Biomass Stoves: These stoves, which use biomass fuels to heat your home and hot water, are eligible for a $300 tax credit, as long as they carry a thermal efficiency rating of at least 75 percent….

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Top-Rated Eco-Friendly Cars

December 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Car, Eco-Friendly, Front Page, Hybrid, Natural Gas, Slideshow

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Between rising gas prices and the ever-present issue of climate change, there’s never been a better time to consider environmentally friendly cars. Once relegated to only a small sliver of the population, improved technology means eco-friendly cars are beginning to overcome many of the typical stereotypes they’re associated with. Here are three of the best choices to help you minimize your impact on the environment.

Honda Civic GX

Although hybrid and electric vehicles garner most of the public’s attention, Honda’s natural-gas-powered Civic GX leads the pack in emission standards. The Civic GX has won the American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy’s “Greenest Vehicle of the Year” award for eight consecutive years. Since it is fueled entirely by natural gas, the GX is the cleanest internal combustion vehicle ever tested by the EPA, and meets federal zero evaporative emissions standards….

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Notes from Iowa: The Downside to Biofuels

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Fully 58 percent of Iowa’s 2010 corn crop was used to make ethanol. So, it is not just “surplus” corn that is going into ethanol, as is claimed by the ethanol industry. Even the livestock industry does not believe the ethanol industry’s claim that this much corn going for ethanol does not affect prices. That is why the livestock commodity groups for hogs, cattle and poultry are all lobbying against ethanol subsidies in Washington, D.C.

A recent Iowa State University analysis indicated that ethanol subsidies are no longer needed to keep the ethanol industry profitable. It’s time to end the $0.45 per gallon ethanol subsidy, which cost taxpayers nearly $6 billion in 2010….

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Green Cooking – Kitchen Efficiency Tips and Tricks

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Many of us spend a lot of time in our kitchens, but at what costs? Consider this:

* The kitchen uses the most energy of any room in the home.
* It can cost a lot of energy, time, and money just to make one meal, depending on how you make it.
* Outdated kitchen appliances can waste a lot of water and power; they can also produce large amounts of CO2 emissions….

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Energy-Wise Landscape Design – This Book Will Save You Money

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In the depths of winter, it’s always good to remember that spring is just around the corner. After the holiday rush ends, it will be a great time to start planning and dreaming about your yard. And if you’re planning to build or renovate this coming year, you’ll want to be sure you incorporate landscaping ideas that not only look pretty, but that are also energy efficient.

Careful landscaping can be much more effective at saving energy than many of the other efforts we make each day, like turning off lights and turning down the heat. Having the right plantings outside your home will not only save you money, it will also help you live more comfortably in an esthetically pleasing environment.

That’s the essence of the message embedded in every page of Energy-Wise Landscape Design: A New Approach for your Home and Garden by Sue Reed….

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Breeze Dryer – Eco-Friendly Solutions for Drying Your Laundry

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“Why do you care about drying clothes outside?” Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Gary Sutterlin, President and CEO of Breeze Dryer. “Do you have a passion for this, or is it just a business?

“For us, it goes beyond that,” Sutterlin said. “It really was a life lesson for our children. I’m a pharmacist by training, my wife’s a Ph.D. by training. I was doing very well in the pharmaceutical industry as an executive and pretty much walked away overnight. Our passion was to make a difference in this world. We found that medium through clotheslines.”

The clotheslines that Sutterlin and his wife, Gayle, sell are made by Hills, an Australian manufacturer known for quality and reliability. We interviewed Sutterlin by phone from his home in Pennsylvania….

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Enviro-Log – Cleaner Burning with Recycled Waxed Cardboard Logs

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Have you ever wondered what happens to the waxed cardboard boxes that vegetables are transported in? Most of the time, they’re dumped in landfills. But that’s changing, as they are now being reclaimed and turned into Enviro-Logs, clean-burning logs for your fireplace, campfire, or woodstove. Today, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with Ross McRoy, the founder of Enviro-Log, to find out his take on why Enviro-Log is a better choice as an alternative to wood. It’s too hot in Iowa to light a fire this month, so we aren’t able to review Enviro-Log for its quality of fire or length of burn — we’ll get to that in a month or two, when the nights cool down….

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Sustainability – A Personal Journey… by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D.

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When I started reading Sustainability by Stuart W. Rose, Ph.D., I expected to learn about the innovative community he and his wife, Trina, had designed and built in Poquoson, Virginia. And I did. But I also learned many more things about sustainable communities and futurism that I hadn’t expected.

The book is an easy read, but also sort of quirky. Rose has a habit of ending one thought with ellipses and trailing off into a new paragraph. He has an interesting idea about where to place commas (e.g., as the last character before closing parentheses) — not exactly standard English composition. But it’s kind of charming in its literary naiveté.

Rose, however, is far from naive. As readers learn at the beginning of the book, “Dr. Rose is a registered architect, and a graduate structural engineer. He holds a doctorate in organizational development, has been a professor at three major universities, and has worked for several decades as an educator and a consultant to architects, consulting engineers, and other design professionals. Sustainability is arranged in chronological chapters, beginning “Circa 1985″ with the author’s professional and personal concerns about global sustainability.

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Wolf Trap Foundation Inspires Green Living through Theatre

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The “3 Rs” of Readin’, ’Ritin’, and ’Rithmetic have been replaced by the “4 Rs”: Reuse, Repair, Recycle, and Reduce.

For the past two years, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, based in Washington, D.C., has been teaching children these lessons through its musical puppet show, Junkyard Pirates.

“We thought, what can 3, 4, 5 year-olds understand?” says Mimi Flaherty Willis, Senior Director of Education at Wolf Trap Foundation. The organization commissioned some of their artists to create a show for children to teach the importance of recycling. All puppets are made out of recycled materials and pirates are the “good guys.” Their leader, Captain Spare Tire, is up against his nemesis, Land Fill….

“The arts are very powerful for children and adults,” says Flaherty Willis, speaking about why it’s so beneficial to teach lessons through musical performances. “As children, important messages are taught through games and songs — like the alphabet. We did the same thing to teach recycling.” …

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Striving for Sustainable Design

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Eco-friendly, or “green,” design options are better for everyone involved, from the builders and painters to the people who use the completed structure. The new norm is sustainable design, and “green is the new black” in building and decorating homes, offices, and other buildings.

The primary purpose of sustainable design, according to Wikipedia, is to “eliminate negative environmental impact completely through skillful, sensitive design.” Sustainable design includes green building materials, paint/stain, flooring, counter tops, furniture, hardware/fixtures, lighting, and even decorative accents.

It may sound easy, then, to choose sustainable products and materials when you are building, renovating, or improving a home. Yet, there’s still much to learn in this relatively new field, and the importance of doing things right is overwhelmingly obvious. After all, the more resources we use right now without acknowledging the necessity of sustainability, the less we will have to work with later….

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What’s Your Steel IQ?

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When artist Alli ReauVeau talks about steel, the medium on which she paints, she gets passionate. And one look at the gorgeous artworks she creates convinces us that steel is a perfect “canvas,” indeed. But there’s much more about steel that ReauVeau admires from a construction and architectural viewpoint — and she knows whereof she speaks.

ReauVeau is co-owner, along with her husband, Alan Bendawald, of Steel IQ™, suppliers of an environmentally friendly construction product called Bare Naked Steel™. ReauVeau serves as Education Specialist for the company, sharing the message that Bare Naked Steel is the best steel for construction, for architectural design, and for the planet….

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Investment Options in the Greentech Industry

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In my last two posts, I wrote about how attractive stocks in the Green sector have become for investors and how to prevent investment fraud from spoiling a Greentech investing experience. Now it’s time to discuss an investment strategy and where to invest precious capital.

Perhaps we can learn from one of the world’s richest men and most renowned investors. Warren Buffett once wrote that to invest successfully over a lifetime does not require a stratospheric IQ, unusual business insights, or inside information. What is needed is a sound intellectual framework for making decisions and the ability to keep emotions from corroding that framework. Our goal now is to design our own “intellectual framework.” …

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