Netflix Pricing Hike Could Mean Greener Viewing

When Netflix recently announced they would be upping the price for their services this coming September, loyal subscribers and movie watchers became upset. How can Netflix justify changing the price without changing the service? Although the increase in pricing may not be popular, the hike in pricing could significantly change the carbon footprint of the popular internet company. With the higher pricing, unlimited streaming and unlimited DVD’s in the mail will each be $7.99 per month starting September 1st. According to research done last year by University of Massachusetts, Amherst, streaming movies uses 78% less energy than shipping. If more users opt out of DVD delivery and use only the streaming service, Netflix could see a dramatic decrease in the demand for shipping DVDs.

Previously, Netflix subscribers would get unlimited streaming automatically with DVD shipments. Now, unlimited DVD’s and unlimited streaming together will cost $15.98 per month ($7.99 plus $7.99). This new cost equals a six-dollar price hike from before. It is not much of a stretch to suggest that many users will chose the service that they take advantage of most and drop the other. While Netflix, which takes advantage of the USPS, is already more earth-friendly than driving to the store to pick up a DVD in your car, video streaming is the least energy demanding option of all.

With a couple of changes, we could reduce our total DVD watching carbon emissions, according to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Researchers point out that streaming could use 1/3 less energy and just 65% of the carbon that shipping does if servers in the Netflix network were updated with the latest energy efficient technology. I cannot say that I am happy to see Netflix raising the price of a service I really enjoy, but perhaps some good can come out of the change.


In the Desert Mesa of Taos, New Mexico

I recently spent a couple weeks as an intern with Earthship Biotecture in the mesa of Taos, New Mexico. Earthship Biotecture (or, as the builders refer to it, “the company”) is a group that builds environmentally friendly and off-the-grid homes and have been doing so for over 40 years now. The homes focus on innovative use of sunlight, water, and reused construction materials. While the project it based out of Taos, homes have been built in all 50 United States.

As an intern, I had the opportunity to get my hands dirt and actively take part in the construction of a home. During my time, we put in the grey water planters in the front of the home, built a retention wall out of glass bottles and cement, installed metal flashing on the corners of the roof, and applied adobe to the interior of the tire wall. All this work was more or less done without construction equipment, with the exception of a little cement mixer powered by the solar panels, a dump truck to haul dirt, and a backhoe to bury the back side of the house. The construction of the homes intentionally relies on manual labor so that the techniques can be replicated in places with limited access to power, heavy machinery, or developed infrastructure. One of the builders told me about a project in China where all the materials for the entire house had to be carried, by hand, a half-mile up a steep hill to the construction site. The road was too narrow for a truck and even too rocky for a mule.

The coolest part of the experience, aside from the mountain views and a 7-hour hike into the Rio Grande gorge, was the chance to see some of the different homes that have been built over the years and the unique character that each develops. While I do not see the Earthship model as the perfect solution to the energy and housing problems we face, the model does attempt to address the many questions of sustainability that the modern city and suburban sprawl continue to ignore. The homes use water and energy far more efficiently than most homes in the U.S. and at a comparable cost to the buyer. Though built in the desert mesa, not a single Earthship home has air conditioning, and they do not need it. Even when it was 90 degrees outside, it still felt like 70 in the interior room of the homes. The character and utility of the Earthships gives them lasting value. The Earthship design may not be able to eliminate utility bills around the world, but it will lessen the stress that human development places on the planet. At this point, that alone is a monumental achievement.

Dirty Air at Factory Farms

Researchers at Purdue University have found that the air quality at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is often dirtier than the most polluted cities in the United States. The researchers measured concentrations and emissions of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulates, and volatile organic compounds—all pollutants known to have health risks—at 15 livestock-confinement sites, nine livestock waste lagoons, and one dairy corral in nine states. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency supervised the study.

According to the research, 11 of the sites tested in the study emitted more than 100 pounds of ammonia on an average day – an amount that would require EPA pollution-reporting in non-livestock industries. Furthermore, six of the farms released fine-particle pollution that was higher than the federal 24-hour exposure limit. Data showed that hydrogen-sulfide emissions exceeded 100 pounds per day at several of the large hog and dairy CAFOs, which must be reported under federal right-to-know laws in other industries.

Tarah Heinzen, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates the effective enforcement of environmental laws, says, “No other industry in the country would be allowed to pollute at these levels without triggering EPA emissions reporting laws that have applied to other large industries for decades.”

While the data shows that CAFOs are a significant source of pollution, these operations are not subjected to the same environmental regulations that other agencies see. This is due to a deal that was brokered by the Bush administration in 2008, which exempted CAFOs from federal pollution reporting rules.

The EIP has released a report, comparing air pollution levels at CAFOs with established health standards and reporting rules. Their report, released in March, is called “Hazardous Pollution from Factory Farms: An Analysis of EPA’s National Air Emissions Monitoring Study Data.” In this report, the EIP recommends several steps to fix the CAFO pollution problems, including establishing an independent committee to oversee the emission-estimating methodology process and creating regulations necessary to use the Clean Air Act to protect public health from ammonia, volatile organic compounds, and other factory-farm pollution.

There are no current plans to conduct future studies using non-CAFO farms. Furthermore, there is currently no push for legislation requiring small-scale farms to follow the same EPA emissions reporting guidelines that the EIP believes should be mandatory for all factory farms.

Heinzen already believes that smaller, more diversified farms are already doing the right thing when it comes to being stewards of the environment.

Source: Hobby Farms

Singing Bridge Adorned with Wind Chimes

Mark Nixon of London studio CZWG has turned a bridge in Aarhus, Denmark, into a gorgeous musical instrument by hanging metal pipes from its underside. A grand total of 600 gold-anodized aluminum pipes, which vary in length from 120 mm to 3750mm,  move freely in the passing breeze, sounding like a traditional wind chime when they collide. The only difference is that this is a church-organ-sized wind chime.

The sculpture, called Chimecco, is a part of this year’s Sculpture by the Sea exhibition, which takes place entirely outdoors. Nixon’s design for a large interactive wind chime was selected as one of the winners of an open competition of over 350 submissions. Visitors are welcome to climb under the bridge and help make your own music with the giant wind chimes.

The brilliant design is based upon three conceptual ideas. The first is the concept of music and interaction as a catalyst for conversation and play. The second is the idea of a non-visual object. The sculpture is ‘hidden’ beneath the bridge. The constant variance in wind conditions on the site cause the sculpture to hide, but also reveal itself through the creation of sound when the wind chooses to blow. The use of interactive nodes on the top creates another interesting effect, allowing passerby’s to become performers and audience members. People visiting the bridge can touch the interactive nodes on its surface to activate the chimes in a controlled order, in essence, ‘playing’ the instrument. The final idea behind the sculpture is the concept of creation through the combined interactions of human movement and natural movement.This is certainly one of those times when concept and creation come together to in a beautiful and engaging piece of artwork.

Via Dezeen

Recycled Cardboard Lamp

The Beute Lamps, created by German designer Michael Wolke, combine both recycling and sculpture, cardboard and light.  The lamps are made from repurposed cardboard and appear modern in their design.

Recycling is certainly a worthwhile cause that we must dedicate our discarded bottles and papers to, however, reusing is a more efficient practice that requires less energy.  By reusing materials, rather than recycling them, we can find new purposes for old objects and perhaps even have a chance to showcase our creativity.  Wolke’s Beute Lamps do just that.  By cutting, folding, and rearranging the corrugated cardboard, this designer creates a useful household object that can be used for years to come.

While making household objects out of discarded materials is by new means a new concept, Wolke’s lamps are still innovative.  His design is a modern one and could certainly be found and displayed in upscale homes and businesses as well as in the common man’s apartment.  The corrugated cardboard, rather than appearing broken down and dirty, is transformed into a lampshade that is at once both rustic and beautiful.

Wolke’s design, and those of other artists who reuse old materials in their work, reminds us that items that we might discard in the recycling bin can serve a more innovative function.

Reduce, repurpose, recycle.

Source: Herrwolke via Contemporist

Vase and Lamp: A Living Table Lamp

This table lamp concept by Miriam Aust beautifully joins the functionality of a lamp and a vase. Known as the “Vase & Leuchte” (which translated from German to Vase and Lamp), the design is an eye-catching yet simple centerpiece. Composed of a clear glass vase, the lamp is filled with water, aquatic plants, and a waterproof light bulb. The effect of the aquatic plants being lit up from below the water’s surface has a curious appeal. I would not be too surprised if the light is intense enough to damage the plant roots, but perhaps they are hardy enough to handle the exposure.

Miriam Aust and fellow designer Hanna Krüger work together at Wird-Etwas, a group that follows a motto that reminds me a lot of my high school physics classes:“Something emerges from something” or in German: “Aus etwas wird etwas“. The designers write: “Everything new that we create as acting people in a certain social context refers to existing materials, objects, and ideas of this world….The emerging is always reference to the existing.”

The next question is naturally, how does the “Vase and Leuchte” relate to the Wird-Etwas motto. Well, the aquatic plants growing inside the vase are warmed by the lamp’s light while still allowing some of the light to disperse into the surroundings. The contrast of the light with the shadow of the roots acts to highlight the plant’s appearance. The form and fragility of the plant is clear to the viewer. I believe the lamp asks passers by to look at the plant and its slow growth. The plant becomes the center of attention rather than a decoration in the corner. Then again, my affinity for plants makes me a pretty biased observer.


Lunar Lamp: Moon in your Hand

Hold the moon in your hand with this amazing lamp. Created by the Japanese designer Nosigner, this little orb is a beautiful spherical lamp that gives its surrounding a distinctly lunar feel. The lamp was inspired by the super moon that shined on the night of March 19th, 2011. The lamp is even topographically-accurate, making use of data provided by the Japaneese lunar orbiter, Kaguya. The soft glow of the lamp comes from the LED lights inside.

Nosigner created the lamp to be a symbol of hope as the devastated Japanese people continue to rebuild their country. “Every one of [the] Japanese who [was] wounded by the earthquake prayed to the super moon,” said Nosigner in a newsletter. Now, Nosigner can carry the moon with him and bring hope to those around him through his art.

Nosigner (NEWSLETTER) via Spoon & Tamago

The Decline of the Amazon River Dolphin

It is a story retold all around the world; humanity competing with nature’s greatest species for now dwindling resources. Not surprising, people tend to dominate the competition. The same is true along the waters of the Amazon river basin where pink dolphins compete with local fishermen for the day’s catch. Despite legal protections on the freshwater dolphins, the Amazon is far too expansive to protect and convincing fishermen to respect their rivals is a difficult prospect.

There are 40 species of dolphin around the world, and while the U.S. tends to view the species as a playful aquatic neighbor, the same cannot be said elsewhere. Many Japanese fishermen view schools of dolphin that pass through their fishing grounds as genuine pests. Fisherman in Taiji, Japan and the Faroe Islands still hunt and eat dolphins, despite the high mercury levels known to be found in dolphin meat. The Chinese more or less disregarded the Yangtze river dolphin as they dammed, polluted, and over-fished the waterway, driving the dolphin into extinction in the wild. The Ganges river dolphin is not far behind. The pink dolphins of the Amazon river find themselves in an similar predicament: they are competing with locals for food and the locals are not particularly inclined to share.

To make matters worse, the dolphins are harpooned and used as bait to catch catfish. Supposedly, in just on day of fishing, two dead dolphins can provide enough bait to yield $2,400 in catfish sales. The prospect of such substantial returns coupled with the always pressuring need to catch enough to feed and provide for their families makes the fishermen of the Amazon anything but allies of the pink dolphins.

The illegal dolphin hunting is on the rise in the Amazon and clearly demonstrates the great challenges of policing environmental law in a protected land. The wild and untouched character of the Amazon basin reflects the immeasurable ecological value as well as the near impossible task of patrolling the territory. Researchers believe that hundreds, if not thousands, of the estimated 30,000 remaining pink dolphins are killed each year by people. When you realize that 1,300 Brazilian environmental protection agents are responsible for looking after a territory larger than India, it is no surprise that the future of the Amazonian river dolphin is in the hands of the local fishermen that travel the waters each day.

The root cause of the dolphin’s decline in the Brazilian Amazon is the indifference of the people living along side them toward their killing. Jars of oil from dolphin fat can regularly be found in open-air markets. Dolphin genitals are sold as good luck charms for sex and love. There is no need to hide these illegally acquired products when the vendors know that no one from the environmental protection agency is coming to arrest them. People know they are not allowed to kill the dolphins, but protecting them is simply not a priority.

The pink Amazonian river dolphin, an iconic character in local lore, is in a state of decline. The species may very well find itself on the verge of extinction faster than anyone can predict. As has been the story time and time again, human indifference proves to be one of the most destructive forces the planet has ever seen.

Source: NYTimes

New Batteries Developed at MIT

Researchers at MIT have developed a new approach to the design of batteries, which could provide a lightweight and inexpensive alternative to existing batteries for electric vehicles and the power grid. Some believe that this technology could even make the “refueling” of such batteries as quick and easy as pumping gas into a conventional car.

The new battery relies on an innovative architecture known as a semi-solid flow cell. Within this cell, solid particles are suspended in a carrier liquid and pumped through the system. In the design, the battery’s active components –the positive and negative electrodes, or cathodes and anodes—are composed of particles suspended in an electrolyte. The two different suspensions are pumped throughout the systems, separated by a filter, such as a thin porous membrane.

The work was carried out by Mihai Duduta ’10 and graduate student Bryan Ho, under the supervision of professors of materials science W. Craig Carter and Yet-Ming Chiang. The battery description was published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials on May 20. The publishing was co-authored by visiting research scientist Pimpa Limthongkul ’02, postdoc Vanessa Wood ’10, and graduate student Victor Brunini ’08.

Although flow batteries have existed for some time, they have used liquids with very low energy density (the amount of energy that can be stored in a given volume). Because of this, existing flow batteries take up more space than fuel cells and require rapid pumping of their fluid, reducing their efficiency.

One unique characteristic of the new design is that it separates the two functions of the battery 0storing energy until it is needed, and discharging that energy when it’s required—into separate physical structures. The new design makes it possible to reduce the size and the cost of a complete battery system to about half the current levels. This dramatic reduction could be the key to making electric vehicles fully competitive with conventional gas- or diesel-powered vehicles.

The development of the technology was partly funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The goal of the team’s ongoing work is to have, by the end of the grant period, “a fully-functioning, reduced scale prototype system,” says Chiang. Then, hopefully, the batteries will be ready to be engineered for production as a replacement for existing electric-car batteries.

Source: MIT


Environmentally Friendly Paint

When renovating a room or a piece of furniture, you want to pay attention to the potential environmental impact of the paint. While the carbon footprint of the product is important, in this case I am talking about choosing a less-toxic paint to allow for fresh, clean indoor air. Here are some tips and things to look for when choosing an eco-friendly paint:

Ideally, you’ll want to use paints which meet all three better health requirements—low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), low biocides, and natural pigments. Many paints are labeled “low-VOC” to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s minimum requirements—which call for no more than 250 grams per liter (gm/l) of VOCs in “low-VOC” latex paints and no more than 380 gm/l for “low-VOC” oil-based paints. Some paints are available with even lower VOC levels (0-100 gm/l). To locate the VOC level, check the pain can label or call the company to request a material safety data sheet.

You’ll also need to base your eco-requirements on whether you’re searching for an exterior or an interior paint.

Exterior paint: All exterior paints contain fungicides, and low-biocide paints are not available for exteriors. The best choice for an exterior paint is one which contains zinc oxide as the fungicide. The next best choice would be a zero- to very low- VOC paints, acrylic or latex paints, and recycled water-based paint. Try to avoid all oil-based paints because of their high VOC content. Furthermore, oil-based paints may come from old cans which contain mercury or lead.

Interior paint: The first choice for interior paint should be a milk paint or a natural paint. Natural paints come from substances such as citrus and balsam, as well as minerals. Though these paints are made with natural materials and are petroleum-free, they still contain terpenes, which are VOCs derived from plants.

Milk paint, made with lime and a milk protein called casein, is excellent for interiors and gives wood a rich, deep color, allowing the grain to show through.

While latex paint can contain low biocide and VOC levels, it is much safer for the environment than oil-based paint. Still, latex paint needs to be used with great care due to the strong terpenes. Other acceptable paints include acrylic and recycled latex paints, assuming they don’t contain mercury or lead. Try to avoid all oil- and solvent-based paints.

No matter which type of paint you choose to use, remember to keep the room well-ventilated. Never use old pain which may contain lead, which are extremely toxic to children or pets who may eat dry paint chips. Call a certified professional to inspect your home if you suspect that your home contains lead-based paint.

Source: GreenAmerica

One-Third of Global Food Supply Is Never Eaten

While global populations may be edging closer to a food crisis, it is not due to a lack of food. According to a study conducted by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, one-third of all the food produced around the world, approximately 1.3 billion tons a year, is never eaten. That is, one-third of the global food supply is lost or thrown away. The report indicated that the food waste is roughly split between developed and developing countries, though it is important to recognize that rich countries account for a small portion of the world’s population yet an equal share of the waste.

In developed countries, food waste is disproportionately the result of retailers and consumers who throw away “perfectly edible food.” This behavior can be described as nothing but wasteful. In developing countries, food waste is, for the most part, the unavoidable outcome of “poor infrastructure and low levels of technology in harvesting, processing and distribution.” The impacts of food scarcity on the developing world could be substantially reduced if the essential infrastructure were put into place to prevent this unnecessary waste.

In many ways, heightened food prices are more to blame for the prevalence of starvation than a scarcity of food. But even as food riots ignite throughout Africa, consumers in the world’s wealthiest countries continue to throw away a comparable quantity of food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).

Food waste represents not only the squandering of produce but the meaningless loss of valuable natural resources. Food production relies heavily on water resources, land, labor, and capital. Not to mention the enormous quantity of fossil fuels burned during planting, harvesting, and post-harvest transportation, adding unnecessary tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

It is sad to consider how different these stats would be if Americans were willing to eat a bruised apple. I believe our migration away from the farm has distorted our understanding of the environment and disconnected us from where our food comes from. Changing consumer attitudes will be an uphill struggle in a culture so preoccupied with convenience. Our disposable society, begun by the consumer boom of the 1950s and 60s, will inevitably be the force that destabilizes the natural world.

Source: FAO via NYTimes

The Energy Costs of Modern Living

While turning off the lights when you’re leaving the room and using energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs may help lower the cost of energy bills, it hardly saves anything in your monthly energy bill. Due to higher fuel and energy costs, the average household will spend $2,350 on electricity and gas this year, up from $2,100 in 2007, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.

In order to make these bills more manageable and to cut down on the impacts of vampire energy, try going after the five biggest energy guzzlers in the home. Here are the five worst appliances and how to lower their costs:

1. HVAC System:

Your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is probably the home’s worst offender, says Maria Vargas, a spokeswoman for the government’s Energy Star Program. This should come as no surprise, seeing as most households use some sort of climate control nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout both the hottest and coldest parts of the year. In reality, heating and cooling account for 50% of the average household’s annual energy bill.

How to cut your bill: Try programming the thermostat so that the HVAC system doesn’t work so hard while you are at work or asleep. By reducing the temperature by just two degrees during the winter or adjusting the air-conditioner two degrees higher during the summer, Energy Star estimates you’ll save $180 annually.

2. Water Heater:

The water heather works around the clock to provide enough hot water for showers, laundry, and dishes, among other things. The water heater represents nearly 13% –the second-biggest amount—of your annual energy bill.

How to cut your bill: By dialing down the heater’s temperature to 120 degrees from the standard 140 degrees, you’ll reduce your annual bill by 6% to 10%. You can also opt to wash your clothing in cold water only, which can cut the energy bill by $73 a year, while keeping clothing just as clean.

3. Refrigerator:

The refrigerator runs at all hours of the day. It periodically cycles up to draw maximum watts and keep the temperature consistent. Each time the refrigerator door is opened for an extended period of time, the appliance must work harder to maintain the desired temperature. The fridge accounts for 5% of the annual energy bill. Using an ancient, inefficient model for spare food storage in the garage or basement, then you can expect to pay twice that amount.

How to cut your bill: Keep your machine clean. A refrigerator cycles on less frequently if the coils beneath and behind the unit remain clean and dust free. Also, by keeping the fridge at a moderate temperature (36-38 degrees, not lower), the refrigerator won’t have to use so much energy. You should regularly defrost the freezer to eliminate ice buildup on the interior coils. If you’ve got a second refrigerator that’s been around for more than a decade, you should look into recycling it. One bigger fridge is more efficient than two smaller ones.

4. Clothes dryer

Here’s an indication on how inefficient a clothes dryer really is: “A dryer can’t earn the Energy Star label right now,” says Vargas. While it’s unknown what makes an appliance more or less efficient than another, one thing is certain: they’re all energy hogs. Clothes washers and dryers collectively account for 6% of the annual energy bill, with the bulk of that coming from the dryer.

How to cut your bill: Spend money on the most energy-efficient clothes washer you can afford, which will wring out more water from your clothes, cutting the drying time in half. If you can’t afford a new major appliance, be sure to use your dryer’s moisture sensor settings. Also, consider hang drying your clothes to virtually eliminate the cost of using a dryer.

5. Dishwasher

While using the dishwasher may be more efficient than hand-scrubbing dishes, it comes with a heavy convenience fee. Dishwasher use accounts for 2% of our annual energy bill.

How to cut your bill: If you must use the dishwasher, make sure to run the dishwasher only when it is full. Try letting the dishes air dry instead of using the drying feature, which doubles the appliance’s power draw.

Source: WalletPop

Easy Guide to Vermiculture

Vermiculture, or worm composting, allows you to compost your food rapidly, while also producing high quality compost and fertilizing liquid. Here are six easy steps to follow to create a compost system with worms:

1. Obtain a worm bin

This can be done by purchasing a bin from online venders or hardware stores; however, you can build your own compost bin using storage totes, galvanized tubs, wood, or plastic.

Material: Rubber is cheap, easy to use, and durable. Galvanized tubs cost more but will outlast rubber totes. If you choose to use wood, make sure the wood has not been chemically-treated. This can be harmful and dangerous to the worms, and potentially leach harmful chemicals into the compost. Five-gallon plastic buckets, sold at most hardware stores, can be used. Make sure to clean the bucket thoroughly and let it sit for at least a day before using it as a worm bin.

Ventilation: Your bin should be well-ventilated. Several 1/8 inch holes 4 inches from the bottom should be drilled into the bin; otherwise the worms will stay at the bottom of the bin and potentially drown.

Size: The larger the container, the more worms it can hold. Follow this equation for determining how many worms should be in your container: 1 pound of worms for every square foot of surface area. The maximum productive depth for the bin should be 24 inches deep, because composting worms will not go further down than that.

Cover: It is important to have a cover on the composting bin to prevent light from getting in and drying out the compost. The lid should be removable in case the compost gets too wet.

2. Prepare the bin for worms

Fill your compost bin with thin strips of unbleached corrugated cardboard or shredded newspaper, straw, dry grass, or the like. This material will provide a source of fiber to the worms, while also keeping the bin well-ventilated. Place a handful of dirt on top of the material and thoroughly moisten. Allow the water to soak in for a day or so before adding the worms.

3. Obtain the worms

There are several varieties of worms that are bred and sold for vermicomposting and it is not recommended to dig up earthworms from your own backyard. Try searching the internet or a local gardening club for finding a worm vender. The most common used worm, Eisenia foetida (Red Wigglers), grows to be about 4 inches long, are mainly red, and have a yellow tail. Another variety of worm is known as the “European Night crawlers,” with their latin name being Eisenia hortensis. This variety does not reproduce at the same rate as the red wigglers, but they grow to be larger, eat coarser paper and cardboard better, and seem to be heartier overall. Remember: if you are bringing in non-native species, it is imperative to not let them reach the wild.

4. Maintain your compost bin

Try keeping the compost bin elevated off the ground, which will help speed up composting and keep the worms content. If the worms are kept fed and the compost is kept properly damp, the worms will not try to escape.

Sprinkle the surface of the compost with water each day. Try feeding the worms vegetable scraps at least once per week. About once a month, add more cardboard, shredded newspaper, hay, or other fibrous material.

5. Harvest the compost

There are a variety of techniques used to harvest your compost:

One technique involves moving any large un-composted vegetable matter to one side, and gently scooping a section of worms and compost mixture onto a brightly lit piece of newspaper or plastic wrap. Slowly scrape off the compost in layers, giving the worms time to burrow into the center of the mound. Eventually, a pile of compost will form next to a pile of worms. Return the worms to the bin.

If you prefer not to take on a hands-on approach to gathering the compost, you could use a separator. Barrel separators may be expensive and can be bought on the internet. It is also possible to make your own home-made shaker box.

6. Make use of your compost

You now have your own compost to be used on plants, in gardens, or wherever you choose!

Source: WikiHow

Recycled Suitcase Vanity

This recycled suitcase is bound to add a lot a character to your bathroom or bedroom. The suitcase stirs up images in my head from old movies and classic Hollywood actresses hoping around the globe via movie sets. The style just looks so charming and well-made, characteristics that have been since replaced by cheap and practical. Not to say I would trade in my suitcase with wheels, but I do enjoy the romanticism images of traveling the world with a leather suitcase.

These suitcase vanities are made by lovenostalgicwhimsy, an absolutely perfect name, and are composed of worn out and recycled leather luggage. These pieces are turned into simple medicine cabinets that can be quite easily mounted on a wall. The fabric interior of the luggage also adds a nice touch. The size of the suitcases make them quite perfect for holding the odds and ends that clutter most vanities.

Via Lost at E Minor

Biofuel Plane Takes Flight

Elektra One, a biofuel-powered plane designed through PC-Aero, has just successfully completed its first and second test run flights in Augsburg, Germany. The plane, developed by Calin Gologan, endured a 30 minute emission-free flight. The Elektra One climbed to a height of 1,640 feet at 400 feet per minute. According to the test pilots Jon Karkow and Robert Lorenzen, the plane handled the ascent very well. The plane expended three kilowatt-hours of the total storage of six available kilowatt-hours.

©Jean-Marie Urlacher

Gologan created the Elektra One as a part of a zero emissions flight plan. Gologan also designed the solar-powered hangar used to house the aircraft, which has a 28 foot wingspan is covered with 215 feet of solar cells. The hanger has been dubbed the Green Village Airfield. With the combination of solar and electric power, the Elektra One can fly around 300 hours a year.

The plane is ultra light, weighing just 220 pounds, plus an additional 220 pound battery pack. The plane has a 660 pound weight capacity, allowing room for more than just a pilot.

©PC Aero

Furthermore, Gologan developed the Elektra One with noise restrictions in mind. The plane is almost completely silent-its propeller spins at only 1,400 RPM at cruising altitudes.

Once the Elektra is fully tested and perfected, Gologan plans to develop two and four seat models. The Elektra One, hanger, and power pack will sell for around $140,000 for the entire package.

PC-Aero via Inhabitat

Germany and Italy Rethink Nuclear Power

In the wake of the nuclear crisis in Japan, the German government announced this week that it is accelerating plans to close down its nuclear power plants. Italy is following suit with a one year moratorium. These announcements have shown how quickly political views on nuclear energy have shifted. Italy had planned on pushing nuclear power by referendum, while Germany currently has 17 reactors which it plans to replace completely with renewable energy.

Italian Premier Silvio Berusconi’s Cabinet issued the one year moratorium after pushing for nuclear energy as a way to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuel imports.

German Chancellor’s Angela Merkel has declared the situation in Japan a “catastrophe of apocalyptic dimensions.” The German government has already shut down 7 of its older nuclear reactors for extensive inspections. Now, the government plans to take all of its plants offline. Originally, Germany planned to extend the plants’ life for another 12 years. The plants produce 23% of the country’s power. By cutting out nuclear energy, pressure has been placed on Germany to accelerate its renewable energy and smart grid technologies.

Germany has put forth the most aggressive effort when it comes to adopting renewable energy. It aims to run 40% of its grid using clean energy within 10 years. The cost of conversion are as low as .5 cents a kilowatt, but it is too early to have any realistic estimate of the ultimate cost of conversion due to the complexity of predicting equipment cost and upgrading the grid.

The cost of nuclear energy is much higher now than the original estimates for the construction alone. Japan’s 40 year old Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant reactor was still in operation due to the cost of building a new plant. However, all concerns about cost go out the window when serious accidents, such as the recent one in Japan, occur.