College Professor Teaches Class in a Dumpster to Inspire Green Living

Jeffrey Wilson, an environmental scientist at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, is taking green living to the extreme. According to FastCoExist, the professor will live in a 33 square-foot metal box, similar to a garbage dumpster, for the next 12 months. His plan is part of a larger movement to raise awareness of eco-friendly lifestyles and environmental consciousness.

The tiny residence will be transformed into a place of learning. Both Wilson and his students will help add features to the small space, including energy efficient light bulbs, nano-insulation and even an energy producing toilet. So where will Wilson sleep, you ask? Since the dumpster doesn't boast enough room for a full-sized bed, the scientist plans on curling up in a sleeping bag on the floor of the trash bin, a method he calls "dumpster camping."

"What we are talking about right now is to start a green movement within historically black colleges and universities [of which Huston-Tillotson is one], and become the flagship school of that, under an initiative called 'Green is the New Black," Wilson said.

The students will use their knowledge about green living to develop eco-friendly features for their dorm rooms. In the future, Wilson may also travel to elementary schools to educate children about the importance of helping protect the environment.

Even if you aren't as extreme as Wilson, taking small steps to living green, including recycling and carpooling, can help contribute to the preservation of the environment. What are you waiting for? Start going green today by checking out LifeIsGreen.com!

Number of Energy Patents Increase

The prominence of "green living" has risen in recent years and we have evidence to prove it. According to a peer-reviewed publication in plosone.org which takes a look at the factors that contribute to energy advancement; innovation in energy technology is on the rise. Today, inventors are filing more energy-related patents than in previous years.

"Patents reveal early stages of technology development, as they tell of the nature of innovative activity, and who's doing what where," Jessika Trancik, SFI external professor at MIT and co-author of the report, said in a statement. She worked with graduate student Jasleen Kaur of the University of Indiana Bloomington to write and research the paper.

The study attributes the boom in innovation to investment in research and development, as well as market growth for green products. Researchers studied data from delphion,com, which included more than 73,000 energy-related patents filed from 1970 to 2009. The patents were issued in over 100 countries across the time period. 

Key findings include:

• Energy patents have increased significantly in the past 30 years.
• Emphasis has been placed on solar and wind technology.
• China has recently surpassed Europe in annual energy patents. It files the most coal patents in the world.
• Research and market growth work together to help promote innovation.

This analysis provides important insight onto the world of energy-efficient products. Most importantly, it shows us that our commitment to a green world is a crucial investment that can effect succeeding generations. Check out LifeIsGreen.com for more pertinent information about energy efficiency and green technology.

Concentrated Solar Power Can Provide Electricity After The Sun Goes Down

A new solar plant in Arizona will significantly increase that state's alternative energy portfolio. The Solana Generating Station. operated by the Arizona Public Service, is the first solar power plant able to produce electricity at night using heat storage technology.

With a 280 megawatt (MW) capacity, Solana is one of the largest solar installations in the country. It uses solar thermal technology rather than the photovoltaic panels that are normally associated with the term "solar power." What this means is that Solana generates electricity by using the sun's heat to create steam and spin turbines connected to an electrical generator.

"Solana is a monumental step forward in solar energy production," Don Brandt, APS president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. "Solana delivers important value to APS customers by generating power when the sun isn't shining. It also increases our solar energy portfolio by nearly 50 percent."

The Solana plant uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight and heat up a synthetic oil, which is sent to a steam boiler, where it heats up water to create the aforementioned steam. The plant will generate enough electricity to power 70,000 homes and prevent 475,000 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere every year.

Although this project is a major step forward for renewable energy, more states need to invest in similar efforts if the country is to make a significant dent in its greenhouse gas emissions. Hopefully the success of the Solana plant will convince residents of Arizona and other states of the viability of solar power.

Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for more information on green technology.

Enerplex Solar-Powered Phone Cases Now Available On E-Commerce Sites

Enerplex Solar Phone Charging Case

One of the ways that consumers can integrate renewable energy solutions into their lives is by purchasing consumer products and accessories that can divert some of the electricity needs away from the grid and toward the sun, particularly as photovoltaic thin-film solar cells become more affordable.

Ascent Solar, a company that makes consumer-level solar products, will now be selling its line of solar-powered charger smartphone cases on many popular e-commerce sites, including Amazon. Customers who own the Samsung Galaxy SIII and Apple iPhone 4 and 4s models will be able to purchase cases specifically tailored to the designs of those phones. In addition, they’ll also be able to buy solar chargers that can plug into any smartphone with a USB connection.

“The growth of ecommerce as the preferred method of shopping by most American consumers is a trend which EnerPlex is perfectly positioned to take advantage of.”Victor Lee, President & CEO of Ascent Solar, said in a news release.

Ascent also makes thin film solar modules that can be used in other applications, such as construction and industrial processes. The goal of the company is to create off-grid solar products that are easily adaptable into a variety of situations. These products would be particularly useful to customers who are camping or operating in remote areas and need electricity to charge their handheld appliances, or in industrial applications when a wireless charging device would be needed.

One iPhone case by itself isn’t going to offset carbon emissions drastically. But if millions of consumer goods are fueled with sunlight rather than conventional grid power, the effect on emissions and electricity use wouldn’t be trivial.

Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for more information on environmentally friendly products.

Palo Alto To Require Electric Car Charging Station On New Homes

Palo Alto, California, will now require new homes be built with electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the city council unanimously voted to pass a new ordinance that makes 240 volt level 2 charging stations mandatory for new home construction, due to the reduced costs associated with incorporating this feature at the time of building rather than after a home is finished.

Palo Alto has been a leader in the state when it comes to adopting green ideas as a matter of public policy. The city has a very friendly climate for solar power and other renewable energy technologies, and this latest ordinance is a continuation of that progressive approach.

"Let's figure out as a council what we can do to remove the obstacles to owning electric vehicles in Palo Alto," Mayor Greg Scharff told the source. "I think what we really need to do is make it convenient, easy and economical… The thing that caught me is how simple and easy and fairly inexpensive it is to rough-in the wiring."

The price of adding a charging station during construction can be as little as $200, which is about 25 percent of what it would cost to add once the home is completed. The challenge for the city going forward is to reduce the permitting fee for adding charging stations. One church had to pay $459 for their EV charging station permit.

This policy is a great way to encourage more consumers to purchase green vehicles, as one of the obstacles to wider integration of these products into the marketplace is that charging station infrastructure is still in a nascent stage in most areas of the country. Hopefully, more communities will follow Palo Alto's example.

Keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com for more information on environmentally friendly products.

Old CDs Can Be Used For Water Purification

Scientists at the National Taiwan University, National Applied Research Laboratories in Taiwan, and the Research Center for Applied Sciences in Taiwan have developed a system that uses old optical discs, such as CDs and DVDs, to clean contaminants from water. If successful, the process could provide impoverished communities with access to potable drinking water where none had previously been available.

The system, which will be presented at the Optical Society's Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, this week, uses the flat side of discs to grow zinc oxide nanorods, thin structures that resemble hairs. Afterward, the scientists ran water from a hose over the surface and placed them discs under UV light. They found that the nanorods broke down 95 percent of the contaminants in the water, making it consumable again.

"Optical disks are cheap, readily available, and very commonly used," Din Ping Tsai, a physicist at National Taiwan University, said in a news release.

According to the researchers involved in the project, about 20 billion CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays are produced every year, and 100,000 tons of these end up in landfills. When optical discs compose, the produce chemicals that can lead to brain damage and other harmful effects. Therefore, developing a system that recycles these discs not only helps those areas lacking safe drinking water, it also removes dangerous compounds from dumps that could eventually leak underground and contaminate water supplies. 

The optical disc water filtration system will also be cheap to produce and distribute, which is especially important given how difficult it often is for residents of impoverished countries to purchase life saving equipment and technologies.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide news and information about green living.

States Celebrate National Plug In Day

States across the country celebrated National Plug In Day last weekend, drawing attention to the growing market segment of electric plug in vehicles (EV), both all-electric models such as the Nissan Leaf and hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt. Over 35,000 people attended events in 98 cities where they could test drive these vehicles and learn about the benefits of switching to cleaner operating automobiles.

National Plug In Day wasn't just about marketing, however. EarthTechling, an environmental news site, reports that several governors signed legislation meant to encourage the purchase of such vehicles, particularly in California, where Governor Jerry Brown has been supportive of green living and renewable energy programs.

Among the many bills that were signed into law in California were a renewal of the white and green sticker programs, which allow the owners of hybrid vehicles to use the HOV lanes on highways. Governor Brown also signed the Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Open Access Act, which allows for the expansion of the state's network of EV charging stations and making these more accessible.

Additionally, the governor of Vermont announced new incentives for installing charging stations at an event in Burlington, Vermont, and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee celebrated the opening of 50 stations in that state.

The growth of the EV industry continues to depend on subsidies from the federal government and the expansion of charging networks Events like Plug In Day are essential to promoting clean automobile technology and raising awareness about the ways they can help improve the environment and mitigate the threat of anthropogenic climate change.

Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for more information about environmentally friendly products.

Intel Prioritizes Sustainability With Water Recycling Program

Intel, the world's biggest manufacturer of semiconductors and computer chips, needs a lot of water. The company's Chandler, Arizona, facility specifically uses millions of gallons every day to wash the silicon wafers that are eventually made into the processors that can be found in laptops, servers and other computing devices. Once they do this, the water contains a great deal of salt that would make it undrinkable for humans, but the company purifies the water and sends it back to the aquifer where it originally came from.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Intel recycles 5 million of the 9 million gallons it uses daily. This is important given that Arizona is currently experiencing a 14 year drought that is the worst it has dealt with in 100 years. 

Efforts like this are important because often, business advocates cite environmental sustainability efforts as an impediment to economic growth. Making companies operate with environmental responsibility, they say, puts an undue burden on those firms that are "creating jobs" for the rest of us. But Intel has as much to lose from a dwindling water supply as do residents of Chandler and other areas of the Sonoran desert. If it cannot maintain a stable water supply, the company would have to close up shop and move somewhere else, an expensive undertaking that would harm its productivity and public image – not to mention the community that depends on its facility for jobs.

Other major corporations, such as PepsiCo and SABMiller Plc, have also implemented water recycling programs, further proving that this isn't just a trend limited to small firms, but a major effort by the world's biggest companies to make sustainability a priority.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide news and updates related to environmentally friendly products.

Student Movement Aims To Divest Colleges From Oil Companies

There is a growing movement within college communities that aims to force university endowment programs to divest their interests in oil and gas companies. Student groups at 300 schools across the country are behind an effort to encourage divestment due to the harmful effects of fossil fuels on climate change and the environment. 

The movement is being led by Bill McKibben, a veteran activist who has spent his career promoting environmental causes. A recent article in tech publication FastCoExist details the efforts at Harvard University. Harvard's endowment is the largest in the country at $34 billion, but its investments in fossil fuels only total about $34 million, a pittance compared to the profits earned by the world's biggest oil companies.

However, the goal of the students involved in the protests and activism is less to about causing economic pain for energy companies and more about the message it sends.

"We're basically saying that it is no longer socially acceptable to be investing in fossil fuel companies," Alyssa Chan, the lead protestor at Harvard who had previously been skeptical of environmental activism, told the source. "I saw divestment as a tactic that has real potential to change this equation."

University endowments are instrumental in financing college operations, particularly during rough economic times. They're typically managed by professional investors who are tasked with earning as much of a return as possible, which easier to do when buying shares of oil companies. But colleges also serve as a place where forward thinking, progressive individuals can demonstrate technologies and concepts that will make the world a better place. Hopefully these activists at Harvard and elsewhere can successfully convince the rest of the public that the future is in renewable energy, not in fossil fuels.

For more news and information about going green, keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com.