Respect Biodiversity and Biosafety

These pictures are part of a WWF campaign focused on environmental justice for ecosystems and respect for the species that live there. The images speak for themselves.

The images are of course photoshoped and anyone who complains that “graffiti is art and personal identity” should shove it; tagging other people’s property is disrespectful and costly to remove. These images refer to the disrespect and disregard show toward wildlife through habitat degradation. Society treats animals like inanimate objects. It’s quite sad.

Of all the animals pictured, polar bears are perhaps under the most serious and immediate threat due to climate change and the melting of the polar ice caps. Before the end of this century, they may very well be extinct.

I find the images pretty powerful. It is a very poetic and socially translatable way of showing disrespect. The most challenging aspect of wildlife and natural resource conservation is simply convincing people that it is worthwhile. That is made even more challenging by fact that wildlife conservation is primarily a moral argument and so most people simply don’t respond. I can only hope that will change in the future.

Earthships 101, Inspirational :)

This clip is more or less just a promotional video and not so much a tutorial, but it is fun nonetheless. The video, in two part, does explain the functionality of these homes with some sense of completeness. The homes’ method of water resource management is one of the most intriguing part of the homes. I’m pretty interested in designing a gray water system of my own. I am certainly a green house enthusiast. The creators and designers of Earthships have an internship program. Naturally, it is unpaid, but I feel like it would be an amazing experience to take part in.

Recycled Plastic Furniture

Recycled plastic materials represent a large quantity of cheap raw material ready to be reused. One such use is the creation of Poly-Wood, a synthetic material that can be used in much the same manner as wooden board. It is resistance to moisture, corrosive substances, insect, and other environmental stresses (obviously since it’s plastic and not wood). Because Poly-wood is stain and water resistant, it is perfect for use outdoors.

These Adirondack chairs are a perfect example of how recyclable materials can be diverted from land filling and put to better use. Plus they are great to lounge in on a sunny afternoon. Nowadays you can find poly-wood furniture at most hardwood stores, but do your part and support the companies that use recycled plastics. It isn’t the cheapest way of manufacturing poly-wood, but it is more environmentally responsible.

The Poor Little Fish Sink

The pictures here are pretty explanatory of what this sink is all about, but don’t worry, it is just an illusion. As a result of some clever plumbing, the water level in the fish bowl drops as someone washes their hands in the sink basin. The design is intended to promote water conservation with a simple but poignant message: the more water you use, the more water is taken from the fish.

Of course this isn’t literally the case. The water from the fish bowl is moved to a storage container while the sink is in use and then moved back once the sink is turned off. Also, the water level is only lowered to a point. Once that level is reached, the water level stops falling and the fish is safe (It really wouldn’t make much sense to wash your hands in water that a fish has been swimming around in anyway). But hopefully the visual illusion is enough for people to get the larger point that wasting water is taking water away from ecosystems that rely it.

Belkin’s SmartAV Power Strip

Belkin’s new power strip is certainly more intelligent than your average. The unit is designed to conserve energy and save money by addressing and preventing  the consumption of vampire energy from electronics that are no being used by their owners. No longer will your stereo continue to use up power while it is not even making a sound.

The power strip works as a kind of simple tier system. For example, if you plug your television into the yellow spot, the SmartAV unit can tell if the television is on or not. If it is off, then the next five outlets on the unit will have no power delivered to them. If you plug you stereo system, video game console, or DVD player into these outlets then the they will waste no electricity while the TV is turned off. The last two outlets are traditional independent ones, presumable for a lamp or such.

The Belkin SmartAV power strip is an easy and efficient way to cut down on unnecessary power consumption or vampire energy. You can purchase the unit for around $30 at major electronics stores. At that price, it should pay for itself in a year or too.

Lamp Powered by Dog Poop

This just made me laugh. As this article’s title suggests, the system converts doggy doodoo into electricity that is then used by the attached lamp. The novelty of the idea is pretty cool.

The units in the pictures are located in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is called the Park Spark. The system operates as follows: the pet owner picks up the dog poop with a biodegradable bag and places it inside the Park Spark. He or she then rotates that crank which transfers the bag into a digester. There the bag and poop slowly break down (through natural anaerobic decomposition), releasing methane. This methane is the burned in the lamp. It reality, the lamp isn’t so much a special feature as a necessity. Methane is the worst of all the greenhouse gases and burning it (also called flaring) is the only real means of destroying the gas.

Park Spark’s creators intend to implement the technology into other systems that burn regular amounts of fuel each day like tea houses or popcorn stands. Maybe they could put together an incentive system or pay costumers for they’re doggy droppings. Now that would be a brave new world.

350.org Simple Video with Important Message

Though there are no spoken world in this very short clip, the message is clear. Reduce CO2 emissions and do your part in preventing climate change. Everything we do plays a part it is beyond foolish to think we can just ignore the problems we face and continue on. There is always a breaking point and we will reach that if we don’t change our behavior.

Foldable Solar Panels

Given the necessary amount of direct sunlight, this solar panel set can generate the same amount of power as your typical car’s dc outlet. Available in 6.5-watt, 12-watt, and 25-watt versions, these solar panels are tough, flexible, and very portable. They are perfect for recharging hand-held devices when you are on the go or leave then in a window sill and decrease the power consumption of your home.

Made with powerFLEX technology, the panels are lightweight, weatherproff and built to last. So take them camping in case of emergency or use them at home or work to keep your phone juiced up. The solar panels are made from CIGS (copper indium gallium diselenide), making then more efficient than similar foldable solar cell technologies.

Plus, it’s not a concept, it’s an actual product you can purchase here for $46 to $399 (depending on the capacity of the unit you want). Not exactly cheap, but these things are the real deal.

Portable Wind Energy

This portable wind turbine is designed with the intent of providing emergency power in a time of need. Of course it is only a concept and one turbine alone doesn’t tend to produce enough energy for any substantial use. Nonetheless, an army of such portable wind energy resources could make the difference for a community that has lost access to power all together due to some natural disaster. It is an interesting concept and a cool design.

Automatic Indoor Composter

When I first saw NatureMills automatic composter, I couldn’t decide if it was a really cool and innovative idea or just another means for wealthier individuals to jumps on the Green Tech bandwagon. Then I realized that it really doesn’t matter either way if it gets people to use more responsible means of waste disposal. Plus, I’m probably just jealous that I don’t have one of the systems myself.

Ultimately, I think NatureMills composter is a beneficial and environmentally conscious gadget that will improve the sustainability of homes and I hope the company has a lot of success. Judging by the message on their website reading “Due to high demand, some stores may be SOLD OUT. Please CALL AHEAD to check availability!” I’m going to say they are doing OK.

If you don’t have three hundred dollars for your very own indoor composter, it is pretty easy to build a composter. If you want to go to the hassle of building a rotisserie arm to overturn the compost, be my guest but complexity is unnecessary. You can pretty easily find instructions for a tumbling composter, usually a plastic barrel with a hatch door for loading and unloading of materials. Even that seems like overkill to me. If you want an easy composter, all you need is a plastic storage container with a lid (you’ll want to keep animals out). Use a drill to make holes spaced throughout the container (sides, bottom, and lid) to allow for airflow and water drainage. Make sure the holes aren’t large enough for rodents, otherwise the size is insignificant. Place the compost bin in a convenient spot, realize that it will begin to smell a little and fluids will leak from the bottom. Fill the bin with garden cuttings, weeds, and kitchen scraps (I don’t recommend anything with meat or dairy as the smell will be pretty strong). Give it some time and you will have nutrient rich compost.

I’m quite satisfied with the plastic storage container I’ve riddled with holes and filled with banana peals and apple cores. It does get pretty ant infested in the summer but that is nature’s way.

Simple Water Desalination and Purification

It is amazing when some of the world’s greatest problems have such simple solution. Water availability is going to present an increasing critical issue in the coming decades as the world’s population rises and the natural supply of freshwater continues to diminish.

Villa Vals

Designed by Bjarne Mastenbroek and Christian Müller of SeARCH and CMA, the Villa Vals is masterfully built into the mountainside of the Swiss Alps at the end of the Valsertal Valley. The villa is built near the famous Therme Vals of Peter Zumthor and on the edge of a small Swiss village.

Photograph by Iwan Baan

The driving focus of the design was to create a living space that neither intruded on nor distracted from the surrounding landscapes and scenic views. Completed in 2009 and outfitted with an interior of Dutch design and style, the Villa Vals is truly a beautiful and unique approach to integrated design and environmental consciousness.

I was pretty taken aback when I first came across pictures of this villa. The beautiful home with its mix of rustic, modern, and natural styling and materials looks like something out of a classic children’s story. I could easily imagine this house to be the home of Mrs. Frisby or Mr. Fox. All it needs is wall decorations made out of buttons, furniture built from thimbles, and a cupboard full of grain and berries, and this home would make real the daydreams of my childhood.

Photographed by Iwan Baan

I was a little disappointed to find that the villa is not “as one with nature” as it may first appear; built among several hotels and villas, the villa is not the romanticized natural experience that sprang into my mind. Nonetheless (seriously, nonetheless, who could really complain about such a beautiful building and the sprawling mountainsides that surround it), the Villa Vals is one of the most beautiful homes I have ever seen.

For more details and pictures of the interior, visit VillaVals.ch, House-Inside-a-Hill and Iwan Baan’s Page.

Make Any Water Safe to Drink

There is nothing fun about hiking to a campsite with two gallons of water in your pack. Not to mention the idea of hauling around packs of environmentally-unfriendly plastic water bottles for the duration of the trip. Fortunately there are some great alternatives that can turn any stream into safe, potable drinking water that is sure to quench your thirst.
One noteworthy new product is SteriPEN’s Sidewinder, a portable water purifier that utilizes a crank-powered UV light to create a full liter of perfectly potable water. UV light is able to sterilise water with no harmful residuals. In other words, the UV light kills all organisms in the water, not just pathogens and since no chemical reaction is taking place, there is no worry about toxic compounds forming (as is the case if too much chlorine is added to water). UV light is a safe and effective bacteria-killer. Simple, lightweight, and practical, the Sidewinder is the perfect alternative for anyone on the move.
SteriPen has a range of addition products and information about the technology incorporated. I highly recommend checking them out.

via SteriPen

Urban Farmers Unite

As a rule of thumb, the 8th floor of an urban apartment complex isn’t the best place to grow a vegatable garden. Despite the less than ideal setting, members of The Windowfarms Project are making the most of limited space and light resources with interesting new designs. Through innovation and creative thinking, people are turning their windows into productive hydroponic gardens.

The Project’s website, WindowFarms.org, is filled with different kits, informative step-by-step DIY manuals, and plenty of suggestion and shared experiences. All this information makes it possible for urban farmers to grow healthy foods indoors all year long. Most people living in an urban environment simply don’t have access to good (unpolluted) soil in order to start a garden. The Windowfarms Project is making this social and economic change possible for people around the country. The mission of The Windowfarms Project is to promote environmentally sustainable lifestyles in urban spaces. This goal is being achieved by empowering individuals with the knowledge to grow product in their own homes and apartment. People are then encouraged to share the knowledge and experience they have gained in the process through a web-based platform that the project has created.
The Windowfarms Project is a truely altruistic mission. The group is not simply trying to sell a new product to the pub
An importanlic, per se. Some complete kits can be found on the website but these are intended for individuals without the power tool or handyman experience to create a complete system of their own. Not everyone has the time or experience to start a design from scratch and turn it into a fully functional window garden. But the true essence of the project can be found on the website and the abundance of shared information. People show the plans they have created, discuss the issues they had to adress, hear suggests from other project participants, and so on. It really is group projress through individual effort.

The Windowfarms Project presents their intent for member participation as a 6 part process:
Join our.windowfarms.org
Download DIY instructions
Build a window farm of your own
Improve/Troubleshoot your assembly while posting problems and ideas on the project website
Test solutions and ideas with others in the online community
Contribute to improving designs and instructions to further the work of the Windowfarms Project.

The Windowfarms Project is, at first glance, a very simple concept (show people how to start a vegetable and herb garden in their apartment windows), but it is the underlying mission that is so important and inspiring. The project connects people all across the country with a shared goal of improving the sustainability of how they live. The message you should take away from the Windowfarms Project is this: Don’t just wait for others to figure how to save the environment, get your hands dirty and do your part to create a sustainable lifestyle.

Eat Your Dinner and the Plate Too

I recently stumbled upon a great little site dedicated to biodegradable products. The company is called Potatopak and their online store, PotatoPlates.com, offers a range of compostable dishware, trays, cutlery, and bags. These environmentally-friendly products provide a welcome alternative to the “disposable” paper and plastic products that currently flood the market. I find the term “disposable” quite irritating because it removes all sense of responsibility from the consumer.  When people are given plastic utensils at a diner or plastic cups at a fast food restaurant, there is a disconnection between the act of throwing away the materials and where they end up. The plastics end up in landfills where they are buried under the continuous flow of garbage or burned, releasing fumes into the air. What I find most irritating about this process is that energy and material are consumed so that one person can eat one meal. After that, the plastic forks are never used again because they are deemed disposable.

Compostable products provide the convenience without the irrational material waste. In other words, these disposable products are sustainable.

Potatopak puts it: “Unlike the manufacturing process that is used to create plastics and polystyrene, our patented manufacturing process emits no noxious fumes to the atmosphere or toxic liquid waste. Plastics and Polystyrene unfortunately have bi-sphenols and styrene which are carciogenic and are not good for mankind.  And, while plastics come from oil — a limited natural resource — we use a renewable resource – potatoes – in our manufacturing process.”

All the waste that Potatopak produces in the manufacturing process is fed to livestock, fish, or worms. They even have a video clip of pigs eating material scrapes on their site. In the coming decades, I hope to see sustainable products like this gain a stronger foothold in our consumer society. You cannot get much eco-friendlier than this!