Saturday, August 28, 2010

Atlantic Garbage Path

It only seems logical that the Pacific Gyre (Largest Garbage Patch) would have a twin in the Atlantic Ocean, right? The swirl and splashing of ropes, diapers and plastic bins is likely to make any fish hungry for more plastic pellets. The new patch located closer to Portugal's Azore Islands is really a sore sight as well as other larger concentrations between 22 to 38 degrees North Latitude equivalent to the area between Cuba and Washington, D.C.

With no true realistic, technological means of cleaning up our one-an-only ocean, the goal by oceanographers and scientists is to raise awareness to challenge our dirty culture to switch to biodegradable products which are often more expensive for common, everyday products. As the plastic counter continues to click, landfills and oceans also continue to overflow and overstock on with some of the most disgusting, leaky junk imaginable.

To learn more about the 6,000+ plastic samples pulled for research, be sure to check out the Algalita Marine Research Foundation based in Long Beach, CA, or the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

GINA - BMW's Concept Car

Our human skin is designed to be light, flexible and functional. It is our largest organ of the body designed with a purpose. What if that purpose was integrated into design for everyday products? Essentially, biomimicry is shifting from applying nature’s design to solve problems to now applying human elements to design, form and function. As for BMW, see how this company is integrating design on a whole new radical scale when it comes to industrial design, sustainability and more with a concept car called GINA. GINA, which stands for Geometry In “N” (infinite number) of Adaptations.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

80 Days Around the World on Renewable Energy

Is it possible to make a tour around the world in 80 days with emission-free vehicles? Five teams from four continents are taking up the challenge. The Zero Emissions Race event aims to generate popular enthusiasm for the use of renewable energy sources for vehicles and set the highest environmental standards for the future. An enthusiastic event focused on sustainability, mobility and transport. More interestingly, the requirement for each team is to produce their own electricity using renewable sources such as solar, wind, wave and or geothermal. This electricity must be then fed into the grid system in the home country of each team, so that during the race, the equivalent can be harnessed to power the vehicles along the worldwide journey.

As of August 16th, they hit the road! It's the Swiss team in the Zerotracer come in tight behind South Korea's Power Plaza EV. Followed by the Australians as they pass up the German's Vectrix motorcycle. Day after day...the blog entries are recorded and shared with laughter and excitement as the teams' journey starts in Geneva (Switerland), takes them across 16 countries with stops in approximately 150 major cities, and the event is planned to be completed in 80 days (excluding ocean crossings). To learn more about the race, click here.

The Wind Blows at Night

It is no surprise that the mid-section of the U.S. is really the ideal hot spot for wind activity. Most of us Sustainos know that the best time to harvest the wind is at night (or perhaps during storms). Yet, there is good news on the horizon that our government entities might have underestimated our nation's wind potential. After reworking the numbers, The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) highlights that onshore wind could generate 37 million gigawatts per year.
A hard number to grasp, right? Put it like this, 10 megawatts (MW) can power 64,000 homes. Thus 1 gigawatt (GW) can power several large cities or one large space station. So, 37 million GW is a huge potential for the U.S.

The only thing that I would like to see is the measurement of off shore wind (e.g. Great Lakes). And we know it is possible as is the case of The Horns Rev 2 Project, Denmark's largest off shore wind project (photo above). It has 91 beautiful beasts that supports 200,000 homes. Of course on the Great Lakes our measurement could be based on wind censors placed on test turbines, buildings near the lake, buoys and other locations. Advancements have already been made by Cleveland State University (turbines on the water tower) and Case Western Reserve University, but I feel we are still far away until ordinances and regulations catch up to our modern day progressive thinking! When is the last time you saw a working on shore or off shore wind turbine?

Image Source: Recharge and Fast Company 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Quick Charge

There is nothing more beautiful to us Sustainos than seeing more renewable, sustainable technologies integrated into our infrastructure. The race continues with more investments and competition unfolding in the EV market. It seems like only yesterday (actually it was May 15), when Nissan LEAF, a zero-emission, all-electric vehicle opened reservations to the general public. Now, our nation is seeing more cities open quick charging stations for electric vehicles like this week in in Portland, Oregon. Operated by Portland General Electric (GE), the station is capable of recharging an electric vehicle in 20 to 30 minutes. It was the lucky Governor Ted Kulongoski, who was the first man to charge a Nissan Leaf from the new station. Portland has been tagged as one of the top markets for the first wave of EVs, and I'm sure we will be seeing more communities revisiting their green initiatives to bring in federal funds, keep citizens happy and promote viable healthy living.

But what about the competition when it comes to healthy living and working? With the launch of the WattStation, GE continues to push hard with strong innovation and design of electrical distribution systems. GE’s WattStation enables fast level 2 charging at home and on the road. This is important because...

Level 1 is your standard household current (120Volt) and charges at a rate of 4-6 miles per hour of charging. Level 2 is like a dryer plug and charges at 240V 30 amps up to 90A. That's a range of from 18 miles to as much as 80 miles per hour of charge. Level 1 & 2 have been standardized in the U.S. under something called SAE J1772. Level 3 has not been standardized. (as per EV expert, and Plug in America board member, Paul Scott)

So, what is cool to me is this modular design crafted by famous industrial designer Yves Behar, who I was fortunate enough to meet at the Opportunity Green conference at UCLA. He (and GE) make each station future proof, allowing customers to easily upgrade as more communication options become available. This allows citizens to stay current with the latest technology in a rapidly changing space, while providing the ability for commercial property owners to qualify for LEED points. A great compliment to both!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Giant Ivanpah

California's Mojave Desert just turned up the heat. US DoE had approved a $1.37B loan guarantee to BrightSource Energy for the construction of the 392-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. The plan is to build next to a flat, dry, ancient lakebed about 4.5 miles from the gambling resort of Primm, Nev.

This massive solar thermal facility has been recommended for approval by the California Energy Commission. Reportedly, it will generate enough electricity to power 140,000 homes. This massive collection of mirrors, each measured at 7 feet by 10.5 feet, form a circular pattern totaling over 300,000. At its core are power towers, where the mirrors on the arrays reflect the sun's energy to a dedicated tower. This iconic tower boils water to steam that travels through long pipes to provide power to a turbine. See the video showcasing BrightSource Energy's research work in Israel's Negev Desert.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gasland - Free Film

Join in for a free community screening of GASLAND, an eye-opening film about the controversial form of gas drilling called "fracking."

Time: 6pm
Date: August 5th
Location: 518 Foreland Street, Pittsburgh, PA

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," is a process to extract oil and natural gas deep within the earth. Drillers blast water, sand and chemicals 8,000 feet into the ground. The natural gas industry says fracking will create jobs and provide cheap energy for decades. But the truth is that fracking poses a serious threat to clean air and water, biodiversity, and the health of our communities. Companies are now drilling, or seeking to drill, all throughout the Marcellus Shale: a region in the Appalachian Basin that includes large chunks of Pennsylvania which contain largely untapped natural gas reserves. And Halliburton is building a huge outpost in Williamsport, PA to service decades of drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

The PA Department of Environmental Protection has granted five permits for fracking sites in Allegheny County. They list two of those sites as "active."

About GASLAND - When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination. A recently drilled nearby Pennsylvania town reports that residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. This is just one of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND. Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown."

Gasland website -

Marcellus Shale Info -

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Window Farms

You can grow up to 25 fresh live vegetable plants - lettuce, herbs, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, peppers, kale, small squash, edible flowers, and many more in a normal 4'x 6' window in your home. That could be a salad a week. What if you had a kit to help you during those days you forget to water? Or what if you want a plant that you can’t kill because you don’t have a green thumb?

That was the exact idea that entrepreneurs, Britta Riley and
Rebecca Bray, had in mind when the Window Farm Project was born. The goal is to empower urban dwellers to grow some of their own food inside year-round. Many neighborhoods (particularly low income ones) in cities around the world are considered food deserts, meaning little fresh food is easily accessible. Residents tend to consume processed, packaged, and canned food having depleted nutrients. It is estimated that with current US industrial food production, it takes 7-10 calories of fossil fuels to produce 1 calorie of food. Furthermore, many of the vegetables we get at the store have lost a good deal of their nutritional value in transit.

Since the pub
lic launch last year, the community of window farmers have contributed innovations from the perspective of end uses that helped evolve the Window Farms designs through more than 12 sub-versions. Today, that community has grown to more than 13,000 members around the world. The project has been featured on NPR's Weekend Edition, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and in dozens of publications. Get your starter kit and being growing!

Source: and Design Boom