EcoScraps To Be Made Available At Target Nationwide

By relying on environmentally friendly products like this, you can do your part to make the United States a truly green nation.

The makers of EcoScraps, an all-organic planting material that is free from chemical fertilizers or other treated products, announced on February 26 that Target, the major American retailer, will now be carrying this useful potting soil. A press release from the organization, released in conjunction with Target, highlights the fact that more consumers are being drawn to eco-friendly home care items.

EcoScraps is derived from a number of recycled sources. The aim, officials from the business say, is to reduce consumer reliance on soil products that are potentially harmful for the environment. By doing so, EcoScraps have helped offset nearly 15.2 million pounds of food waste, reducing the country's methane output by 9 million pounds.

The three-year-old company, which has slowly but surely been gaining market share since its inception, hailed the move as critical for both its own success and the wider green living movement. Companies like Target now have the opportunity to take food waste that their stores create and turn it into an environmentally helpful way to resell previously unusable resources. 

"There is no way to overstate what a big milestone this is for us," EcoScraps CEO Dan Blake said in a statement. "This partnership with Target underscores the drive for consumers to find simple, easy ways to use sustainable, high-quality products, and we are excited to be a part of that."

If you're someone who loves to garden or supports their household's food supply by growing crops, EcoScraps is a perfect addition to your tool set. It's now available at more than 1,700 Target locations throughout the country, so give your local outlet a call to see if they have this handy potting soil in stock. By relying on environmentally friendly products like this, you can do your part to make the United States a truly green nation. 

Scientists On The Verge Of Revolutionizing The Battery Market

A team of engineers and researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles is working to combine the technology behind superconductors and energy-efficient batteries to create a design that, if fully realized, may change the way that we store and use electricity.

A team of engineers and researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is working to combine the technology behind superconductors and energy-efficient batteries to create a design that, if fully realized, may change the way that we store and use electricity.

According to a press release from the college, the new technology is known as an electrochemical capacitor (EC). Using graphene, a from of carbon often employed in nano-engineering, the scientists were able to make a compact disc-sized EC that reportedly is capable of transferring energy efficiently while also maintaining its integrity and shape. Richard Kaner, who led the group of professors and graduate students, stated that the design exceeds the storage potential of any batteries created thus far. 

"Our study demonstrates that our new graphene-based super capacitors store as much charge as conventional batteries, but can be charged and discharged a hundred to a thousand times faster," Kaner said in a statement.

The engineering professor went on to explain the the press release that up until now, ECs have been too difficult to manufacture efficiently. However, the device created by the UCLA team appears to be free from this issues thanks to a novel process that causes the graphene to shift when it receives a charge, thereby allowing the energy to transfer without being interrupted.

Like other experimental technologies we've covered on the LifeIsGreen.com blog, this work is probably years away from reaching any kind of commercial-scale operation. However, ECs could one day be used for next-generation batteries connected to renewable energy networks. Similarly, these kinds of conductors might enable automakers to create electric cars and other types of vehicles that rely on costly batteries to operate. 

Federal Renewable Energy Funding Threatened By Government Sequester

Clean power advocates and government officials are urging both Congress and the Obama administration to offset or delay cuts to the Department of Energy that they say will be costly for the nascent green tech industry in the United States.

Clean power advocates and government officials are urging both Congress and the Obama administration to offset or delay cuts to the Department of Energy that they say will be costly for the nascent green tech industry in the United States.

According to a letter sent by Energy Secretary Steven Chu to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the spending reductions will lead to serious delays in certain programs and outright cancelations in other important initiatives. In the letter, Chu rejected the notion that renewable energy does not play a pivotal role in the U.S. economy. He pointed to specific undertakings by the Department of Energy that will significantly impair the nation's infrastructure. 

"The effects of sequestration are particularly damaging because, by law, they apply equally to each program, project, and activity Within an account, thereby severely constraining our ability to prioritize and make tradeoffs among activities under reduced funding scenarios," Chu wrote in the letter dated February 1, 2013. 

The Energy secretary stated clearly that up to 25,000 research and development positions could be furloughed or cut as a result of the across-the-board spending reductions, many of which would take place at the U.S. government's various national laboratories. Similarly, the sequestration could create "schedule delays and increased costs" for projects already green-lit by federal officials, including improvements and expansions on existing facilities. 

Environmental rehabilitation efforts conducted by the Department of Energy, especially those related to nuclear clean-up programs in various states, will also feel the pinch from sequestration. Chu said that regions affected by Cold War-era nuclear testing and are still being treated would lose millions of dollars in necessary funds. 

At this time, it's tough to predict how the green economy will suffer as a result of government spending reductions. Stay with the LifeIsGreen.com blog for more updates on this controversial and still-developing issue. 

Solar-Powered Cell Towers Could Soon Bring Signals To Rural Communities

Treehugger, a renewable energy and green living media source, reported earlier this week that several companies are developing and installing solar panels especially designed for placement on cell phone signal towers.

Treehugger, a renewable energy and green living media source, reported earlier this week that several companies are developing and installing solar panels especially designed for placement on cell phone signal towers. These installations, implemented on a wide scale, could provide wireless signals to previously unreachable places, which would be a big step toward a more inclusive civil infrastructure in both the United States and abroad.

In 2008, a program known as the Green Power for Mobile was launched by Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSM), a European conglomerate of communication firms. This initiative, now in its fifth year of operation, seeks to spread the use of solar-powered towers to impoverished rural areas around the world. According to its website, there are nearly 34,000 of these projects being run or completed by the GSM.

The expressed goal of this program is "extending the coverage, reducing the cost and minimizing the environmental impact of mobile networks by championing renewable energy," the organization states on its official website. There are other firms around the world, including one in India, that is also focusing on developing this kind of technology.

Treehugger stated on February 25 that one of the biggest drawbacks of traditional cell phone towers is that they can consume a significant amount of fuel annually. Additionally, the wear-and-tear incurred during operation can lead to additional costs, especially in hard-to-reach areas. By incorporating green power sources into cell phone towers, owners and administrators can devote resources more effectively and reduce the amount of money spent on maintaining these important structures.

It could be some time before Americans see solar-powered cell towers near their neighborhood. However, given the fact that the U.S. government recently renewed its green development subsidy program, communities from around the nation might turn to this unique source of power to help connect their citizens more efficiently. 

Online Electric Vehicles Could Revolutionize The Green Car Market

One of the greatest challenges facing the electric vehicle (EV) market has been the mainstream car industry’s insistence that EVs are “inconvenient” because they need to be plugged into an outlet to charge, and otherwise have had a somewhat limited range.

One of the greatest challenges facing the electric vehicle (EV) market has been the mainstream car industry's insistence that EVs are "inconvenient" because they need to be plugged into an outlet to charge, and otherwise have had a somewhat limited range. Despite the fact that EVs' mileage is more than adequate for over 90 percent of Americans based on the average number of miles traveled per day, this perception persists.

However, a recent invention may soon change all that and help consumers finally feel confident that they can enjoy all the same freedoms with an EV that they can in a traditional gas guzzler.

The World Economic Forum recently named the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology's (KAIST) online electric vehicle one of the most promising technologies of 2013, according to green news source EarthTechling.

Online electric vehicles, or OLEVs, are enabled with electromagnetic technology that allows them to recharge their batteries while on the road, through simple cables buried beneath the surface. This means that they can reduce the number of batteries necessary to power a vehicle and don't need the regular plug-in that a typical EV requires.

KAIST OLEV trams are in operation at the Seoul Amusement Park, where they transport passengers between attractions, as well as in Germany and the United States. If you happen to be in West Covina, California, check out the OLEV currently running the Foothill Transit Line 291. The technology was originally designed by the organization in 2009.

Though individuals can only experience OLEVs in a limited number of cities at present, this promising technology could one day become our primary method of transportation. Stay tuned for more green industry updates from LifeIsGreen.com.

Virgina-Based Nonprofit Set To Unveil New Long-Lasting Water Filter For Developing Nations

An invention created by a nonprofit organization based at the University of Virginia could change the way that millions of impoverished families purify their water supplies.

An invention created by a nonprofit organization based at the University of Virginia (UVA) could change the way that millions of impoverished families purify their water supplies. Known simply as the MadiDrop, this small ceramic tablet is reportedly capable of providing years of service at a relatively low cost.

According to a press release from UVA Today, the college's media outlet, the design has been in development for several years. It was created in a partnership with PureMadi, a nonprofit with a focus on resource access in poor nations. The source reported on February 5 that the leadership team at PureMadi has already been working on a manufacturing facility in South Africa, where local residents were employed to make another kind of water filtration system. James Smith, a UVA engineer who was involved with the project, hopes that this and other sites will begin producing the MadiDrop within the next two years.

"Eventually that factory will be capable of producing about 500 to 1,000 filters per month, and our 10-year plan is to build 10 to 12 factories in South Africa and other countries," Smith said in an interview. "Each filter can serve a family of five or six for two to five years, so we plan to eventually serve at least 500,000 people per year with new filters."

Made of clay, sawdust and water, the MadiDrop works by slowly processing an untreated source of water. During operation, the design yields approximately two liters per hour. In regions where it's difficult to come by any amount of potable water, this breakthrough will surely be welcome.

For more updates on this and other important advances in the environmentally friendly products industry, keep on reading the LifeIsGreen.com blog. 

MIT Team’s Liquid Metal Batteries Could Provide Huge Boost For Clean Power

One of the biggest hurdles facing the green power industry is the creation of a quality battery capable of holding a charge received from a renewable energy technology source.

One of the biggest hurdles facing the green power industry is the creation of a quality battery capable of holding a charge received from a renewable energy technology source. Products such as lithium-ion batteries have been on the market for some time, but these are not the most efficient options and, as such, researchers have continued to search for this elusive goal.

Now, a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may be working on a new form of batteries that could fundamentally change the U.S. energy market. Known as grid-scale liquid batteries, this technology, reports green news source Treehugger, could offer electricity providers a simple way to store power. However, the company behind the project, known as Ambri, acknowledged in an interview with the MIT Technology Review that some hurdles remain before the initiative is commercially viable. 

A liquid metal battery works by heating up and melting power cells. The advantage here, Ambri told the source, is that a liquid conductor retains is ability to hold a charge for far longer than a traditional solid-state cell. While still in the experiential phase, this technology would be beneficial because the U.S. power industry doesn't have a capability quite like it.

"The ability to bring in stored power when needed would mean that some of those fossil-fuel power plants could be closed and new ones wouldn't have to be built. But so far we have no good all-purpose way to store energy for the grid," Martin LaMonica wrote for the Technology Review on February 18.

With its aging electrical infrastructure, the United States could benefit greatly from this kind of technology. Liquid metal batteries would enable towns and cities to store power in a more economically viable way, which could reduce energy consumption on fossil fuels and help them become greener communities.

Researchers Developing Heavy Metal-Free LEDs

A new design for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) could fundamentally change the way that these useful technologies are utilized.

A new design for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) could fundamentally change the way that these useful technologies are utilized. Known as silicon-based LEDs (SiLEDs), these light sources don't require the use of environmentally dangerous heavy metals that are currently used to manufacture the devices. 

The SiLED was developed by a team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany and Canada's University of Toronto, according to green news source EarthTechhling. The collaboration was detailed in a report published by Nano Letters, a nanotechnology journal, earlier this year. 

There are two primary benefits awarded by the use of SiLEDS. First and foremost, substances such as arsenic and cadmium selenide, which pose a significant risk to the environment during production, are completely avoided. Instead, the designers turned to silicon for its high conductivity. Similarly, the new materials enable the devices to be far more energy efficient than ever before, as well as less expensive.

"With the liquid-processed silicon LEDs that may potentially be produced on large areas as well as at low costs, the nano particle community enters new territory, the associated potentials of which can hardly be estimated today. But presumably, textbooks about semiconductor components have to be rewritten," Geoffrey Ozin, a KIT professor and co-author of the SiLED study.

Florian Maier-Flaig, another researcher at the KIT, said in a press release that the design also affords more durability, meaning that these devices could one day be utilized in outdoor lighting fixtures that have to withstand inclement weather.

Due to the fact that this product is still in the testing phase, it may be some time before you are able to purchase an SiLED off the shelf at your local home improvement store. However, this development shows that the technology that powers and lights our world is capable of changing every day. 

Is The U.S. On The Verge Of Enacting A Carbon Tax?

Several countries already have similar schemes, which place a levy on the amount of carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel consumption.

During the State of the Union address earlier this week, President Barack Obama urged Congress to act on climate change before the effects begin to truly take hold and have an adverse effect on the nation. While some critics dismissed these statements as mere pandering to liberal interests, statements by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Barbara Boxer of California on February 12 confirm that legislation is pending that would tackle these problems directly. While the details are being withheld until they are unveiled on February 14, some green advocates are suggesting that a carbon tax may be part of the deal.

“Under the legislation, a fee on carbon pollution emissions would fund historic investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. The proposal also would provide rebates to consumers to offset any efforts by oil, coal or gas companies to raise prices,” read a statement from Senator Sanders’ office on Tuesday. 

Several countries already have similar schemes, which place a levy on the amount of carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel consumption. For example, Australia is instituting an idea that would charge $23 per ton for emissions produced by polluters. This figure is set to change, according to the Australian government, when a trading exchange is established for companies to buy and sell “carbon credits” that allow them emit certain amounts of pollution without being taxed. A similar program was explored during the early days of the Obama administration in 2009, but resistance from Democrats in fossil fuel-rich states effectively scuttled the proposal.

When the details regarding the proposed legislation emerge, LifeIsGreen.com will cover the specifics. Given the divided political climate currently prevailing in Washington, D.C. only time will tell how this important battle will play out. 

President Obama Pushes Green Technology, Climate Change In State Of The Union Address

Green advocates hoping for some serious words out of President Obama's 2013 State of the Union address were not disappointed, as the president hammered home the goal of his administration to champion renewable energy and other eco-friendly initiatives.

Green advocates hoping for some serious words out of President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address were not disappointed, as the president hammered home the goal of his administration to champion renewable energy and other eco-friendly initiatives. He urged both chambers of Congress to continue pursuing policies that support innovation and cost-effectiveness, saying that Americans can’t afford to miss out on the 21st-century green revolution.

There were several intriguing proposals and calls to action that came out of the speech. The president advocated creating an “Energy Security Trust” that would allow the government to help fund new breakthroughs in clean power technology. He suggested that the country’s business community was firmly behind this proposition, and said that states with the right ideas would be able to access these funds.

President Obama also called upon state and local leaders to institute measures that would cut household energy waste by half before the end of the decade. This ambitious goal would require a lot of work, but the president argued that consumer solutions exist that would help accomplish this feat within the timeframe he proposed.

The president also took on the topic of climate change directly, saying that severe droughts, bigger storms and higher temperatures were more than enough evidence for the U.S. government to take sincere and proactive measures.

“Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend,” President Obama said. “But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”

We’ll be looking to the Obama administration to roll out some of these efforts in the coming months. To learn more, stay with the LifeIsGreen.com blog.