Furnace Made Out Of Soda Cans Saves Energy

When it comes to green living, eco-friendly individuals across the world are thinking outside of the box. Metropolitan State University of Denver professor Aaron Brown has recently built water heaters made out of empty soda cans for his Colorado community. These furnaces cost only $30 dollars to make and will save you about the same amount of money in energy costs.

"You have to be really creative," Richard Anderson, a Metro State senior who's part of the project team, told DailyLocal.com. "Right now, the unit will last for about a winter without any maintenance. If you bumped up the cost to about $100, it would last three or four times longer. But you're talking about soda cans and computer fans that you can buy six for $10 on eBay and you're supplying heat to an entire house."

The electricity bill used by the fans costs only about two cents a day. The design mechanism is simple: Cool air becomes trapped in the unit's base and then heats up as it moves up drilled holes within the 144 aluminum cans that have been heated up by the sun. A unit that was installed in a room in November heated a room from 60 degrees to 90 degrees within a matter of 20 minutes! More installations are expected to happen during this month.

Even if you aren't as extreme as Brown, taking small steps to live 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!

Drought Leads To Public Health Problems In California

California has been dealing with record levels of drought, so much so that it has begun to cause public health problems in both the Los Angeles and San Francisco regions. A lack of rain has resulted in the accumulation of fine particle matter near the surface, resulting in increasing reports of breathing problems, particularly for those afflicted with asthma and other respiratory conditions.

The Los Angeles Times reports that public health officials have advised residents not to burn wood fires, and conditions have gotten so bad in some areas that schools have had to cancel sporting events in order to prevent athletes from becoming ill.

Typically, pollution conditions improve in the winter when precipitation effectively washes particles from the air. Doctors will usually see a decrease in the number of patients reporting allergy problems as a result. However, these specialists have seen no such drop in the number of cases walking through their doors.

In the San Joaquin Valley, the average concentration of particles in the air has been around 35 micrograms per cubic meter, about three times as high as federal air standards recommend. Furthermore, weather forecasters aren't predicting any rainstorms will reach the state by the end of the month.

Crises such as the drought in California are a reminder that climate change isn't a problem that we'll have to deal with in the future. In fact, it's a very real threat that is already having dire consequences for the region which will only be exacerbated as we continue to adjust to the situation too slowly. Hopefully, policymakers will see these problems and begin to act with more expediency to switch to green technology for energy production and reduce carbon emissions.

For more information on environmental issues and the benefits of going green, keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com.

Is Big Oil Coming Around On Climate Change?

Historically, the most aggressive opponents of green energy solutions and public policy aimed at curbing climate change have been oil companies, particularly the biggest firms such as ExxonMobil and Shell. In addition, Koch Industries, owned by Charles and David Koch, has been a major sponsor of advocacy groups that seek to undermine any legislative attempt to tax greenhouse gas emissions.

However, a recent New York Times article seems to call into question the assumption that the oil industry will always be opposed to any attempts to implement climate change legislation. The Times reports that five of the biggest oil companies, as well as many corporations outside the energy industry such as Microsoft and Google, have begun to factor into their financial projects the prospect of a carbon tax, as a way of hedging against a future in which the U.S. Congress actually passes climate legislation.

"It's climate change as a line item," Tom Carnac, North American president of the Carbon Disclosure Project, told the source. "They're looking at it from a rational perspective, making a profit. It drives internal decision-making."

Koch Industries, which has funded many campaigns to unseat lawmakers who support climate legislation, remains a strong opponent of such efforts and in some ways has pitted itself against the rest of the oil industry. But the article speculates that the other firms could eventually come around to support efforts at mitigating the effects of global warming, such as carbon taxing or cap-and-trade.

Does this mean that Big Oil has suddenly become altruistic? Not exactly. The main goal of these financial plans seems to be maintaining supremacy in the industry rather than making the world a cleaner, safer place. Additionally, it should be noted that these companies have received a lot of pressure from investors and regulators to revisit the evidence on global warming and assess their position in a world where temperatures rise, ice caps melt and widespread destruction of coast lines threatens world security. As noted in a recent piece by UK news source The Guardian, these companies are finally hearing criticism from the only people whose opinions they truly care about: Shareholders.

"Companies across the economy and institutional investors are among those recognizing the need to transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources," notes The Guardian. "As part of this effort, 70 global investors with collective assets totaling $3 trillion made the first ever joint request to the world's 45 largest oil, coal and power companies… to assess the financial risks that climate change and these other trends pose to your business plans."

It's going to take many years to reverse the effects of decades of lobbying and investment on behalf of climate skepticism, however. According to Pew Research, only 40 percent of Americans believe that climate change is a major threat, much lower than the percentages of Europeans and Latin American residents who believe it is a significant concern. Convincing the public of something that they have long been told to disbelieve is going to require extended, vigorous efforts on the part of all stakeholders, including Big Oil.

However, the fact that oil companies are finally coming around on climate change, even if it's cynically motivated, is a spark of positive news from an industry that has had such a negative influence on world events over the last several decades.

For more news on green business, check back with LifeIsGreen.com regularly.

New Report Shows That Climate Change Increasingly A Global Problem

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released a new report which states that developing countries will account for 65 percent of the world's energy consumption by 2040. This is an increase of 20 percent overall from 2010, when developing countries, or those not belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), accounted for 54 percent of worldwide energy use.

OECD countries will continue to see a growth in energy consumption, but only at a rate of 0.5 percent per year, which aligns roughly with population growth. Non-OECD countries, particularly China and India, will see a much higher rate of growth at 2.2 percent. The main reason for this expansion is the fact that developing nations have the largest section of the world's population, and will continue to grow much faster than OECD countries.

At the same time, both developing and non-developing nations will become more efficient, requiring less energy to produce the same GDP over time. In 2005, the world used about 8 British thermal units (BTU) of energy for ever dollar of GDP. By 2040, the EIA predicts that only 4 BTUs will be used for each dollar.

What the new data shows is that climate change is much more of a global problem than many people realize, and that it won't be enough for the United States to become more efficient and switch to renewable energy sources. While doing so would certainly be a positive step, it is evident that reliance on coal power in China and India is going to have drastic consequences for the environment if alternatives are not quickly identified and deployed in those countries.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide you with news about the challenges and benefits of going green, so keep visiting!

A Brief Guide To Winterizing Your Home

For most of the country, temperatures are definitely dropping and winter weather is finally settling in. It's a good idea at this point to do what you can to weatherize your home and make it more efficient, as the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that heating costs this winter will rise 13 percent for homeowners using natural gas and 2 percent for those with electric heating systems.

There are tons of energy saving tips we could give you, but today we'll focus on three of the most important:

  • Have your furnace cleaned: Over time, your furnace can develop large deposits of ash and carbon that need to be cleaned out. Doing so will make your heating system perform more efficiently, while also reducing the risk of corrosion.
  • Install triple-paned glass: You often hear about the benefits of double-paned glass when compared to conventional single-paned windows. But the energy savings only increase if you invest in windows with a third pane of glass. Triple-paned windows can help you increase energy efficiency 20 percent over double-paned glass, and they also provide better soundproofing capabilities.
  • Reverse your fan direction: If you have ceiling fans, have the direction they spin reversed so that warm air is forced downward. 

We tend to focus a lot on the financial benefits of becoming more energy efficient, but it's important to remember that reducing fossil fuel consumption is hugely important if we are to avoid a climate catastrophe. Following these tips will help you save energy at home while doing your part to save the planet.

Keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com for more information on green living.

Energy Efficiency On The Agenda This Week For Congress

Despite the recent surge in sales for environmentally friendly cars and other eco friendly products, the United States isn't necessarily in a position to brag about its energy efficiency. According to a recent study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), out of the twelve largest economies in the world, America ranks ninth in efficiency. The report analyzed energy use and conservation in a number of areas, including transportation, building codes and power distribution, and found that the United States lags behind the UK, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, the European Union, Australia and China.

In an effort to move the country to the top of that list, U.S. Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire have proposed new legislation that would address the problem by having the federal government adopt energy conservation practices, while also encouraging the manufacturing industry to become more efficient as well.

This legislation will be the subject of a Congressional briefing this week, at which representatives from the ACEEE will discuss the advantages to the economy of reducing energy consumption and promoting green technology.

"There's always more to do," Ross Eisenberg, vice president of energy and resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, said in an interview with Bloomberg News. "Our economy is doing well while we're also saving energy and reducing emissions."

Although the country has its work cut out for it in the years ahead, one positive note is that the United States has made huge strides in this area over the last 40 years. The ACEEE says that it takes half of the energy used in 1973 to produce the same level of gross domestic product in 2013. This contradicts the oft-repeated claim that efforts to protect the environment necessitate a slowdown in economic growth.

LifeIsGreen.com is your number one source for renewable energy facts, so keep visiting!

Asia And Middle East Play Central Role In Energy Future

On November 12, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its annual World Energy Outlook report in London, where it spelled out the current energy supply situation. The report revealed that Asia and the Middle East are slated to become the world's major energy consumers in the next two decades, and that in order to make a serious dent in carbon emissions, the world will need to do a better job creating new green energy solutions.

Overall, global energy demand is predicted to grow by 33 percent by 2035. India and Southeast Asia will play a major role in that growth while China's consumption will tail off somewhat. The report highlighted what the IEA called a difficult "trilemma": The need to balance energy security, sustainability and economic vitality.

To demonstrate this problem, one needs to consider that those areas where energy consumption will grow the fastest are also countries experiencing significant economic expansion. Countries such as India and Brazil have created relatively enormous wealth for their citizens in the last decade and should continue to see such returns for many more years. However, as their economies grow, so will their demand for energy. This presents two problems:

  • If this energy demand is met with conventional fossil fuels, it will result in an increase in emissions that will accelerate warming trends and create ecological disaster
  • The rise in demand will also raise energy prices, thereby slowing growth in other countries and inhibiting their ability to address the consequences of climate change.

The IEA's report demonstrates the difficult decisions and challenges that the world faces as more of its citizens come to rely on oil and gas. It also reinforces the point made by advocates of green technology that countries should continue investing heavily in renewable sources that can be scaled up and commercialized in the developing world.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue providing news and information on environmental issues, so keep checking back for updates!

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Decline In 2012

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have declined for the third year in a row, sinking to their lowest levels since 1994. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its annual report on CO2 production on October 21, and the data showed some promising signs that the country‚Äč is moving in a more sustainable direction. While this is certainly good news for the environment, there are a few caveats to the news that should be noted.

The first is that the main reason we are experiencing lower emissions is due to increasing reliance on natural gas for electricity production. The report states that production from coal plants declined by 215.2 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2012, but natural gas electrical generation increased by 211.8 billion kWh. Natural gas is a much cleaner fossil fuel than coal, but it still produces a substantial amount of carbon dioxide.

The second caveat to keep in mind is that much of the decline from when carbon dioxide emissions reached their peak in 2007 is due to the fact that the United States was experiencing a significant recession. The more economic activity that is taking place, the more energy is needed to fuel that activity. So more planes fly, more shipments are sent and more Xerox machines are operated.

However, none of this should take away from the fact that America is beginning to make great strides toward reducing its carbon footprint. As the EIA notes in its report, GDP was up 2.8 percent in 2012, but CO2 emissions were down 2.4 percent. So although the declines seen in 2008 and 2009 were mostly due to a shrinking economy, the country has figured out how to spur growth without an accompanying spike in emissions.

Check back with LifeIsGreen.com for news and energy conservation tips.

CCSE Receives $1.3 Million From DOE For Solar Standardization Efforts

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday that will be used to help streamline and standardize the solar energy industry in the Golden State.

CCSE plans to launch efforts that are meant to bring together solar installers, local governments and utility companies and reduce inefficiencies in the industry such as differences in permitting rules between cities. The goal of the program is to reduce the soft costs of solar, which include permitting, design and grid connection expenses that contribute significantly to the overall price of solar installations.

"There remain considerable ongoing barriers to scaling up solar in California, in large part resulting from inconsistencies among jurisdictions for project planning, permitting and utility interconnection," Len Hering, CCSE's Executive Director, said in a press release. "CCSE is proud to support the development of greater consistency and efficiency in the deployment of clean solar energy in California."

Solar panel prices have dropped significantly in the last ten years, and some industry observers believe that they could bottom out eventually. This means that any further reductions in the cost of going solar must come from somewhere else. Experts often point to the fact that neighboring localities will have different processes for obtaining permits, as well as differences in regulations, which make the cost of installations more expensive as contractors must navigate a complex web of rules depending on where they've been hired.

The hope is that CCSE can use its new grant money to iron out these inefficiencies, which would have positive long term effects on the price of solar power and the expansion of renewable energy in general.

LifeIsGreen.com is the number one source for green ideas, information and news, so keep visiting!

Could The DCSEU Be A Model For Other Cities?

On November 5, the Washington, D.C., City Council honored the D.C. Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), an administration that has helped D.C. residents and businesses improve their energy usage and save millions of dollars in utility expenses. Overall, the DCSEU has helped families and companies avoid 50,000 megawatt-hours of electricity use, enough power to run 6,000 homes every year. This has helped the community offset 45,000 tons of greenhouse gases and allowed D.C. to move closer to its goal of cutting citywide energy use in half by 2032.

What is the DCSEU, and how has it helped the DC community?

The DCSEU was founded in 2008 after the D.C. City Council passed the Clean and Affordable Energy Act. This law created a trust fund to help residents cut their energy usage and retrofit buildings to be more efficient. The DCSEU is the body that administers that fund. Contractors can become DCSEU-certified, and if homeowners hire them to make improvements to their property that would reduce their electricity and heat consumption, they can apply for forgivable federal loans that make the process free or low-cost.

The DCSEU also provides technical information and resources to educate members of the community on how they can easily cut their energy usage, holding various programs and events that are designed to raise awareness in the community about the benefits of green energy solutions.

Can other communities benefit from DCSEU-like organizations?

Absolutely, and in fact, many cities have similar programs that encourage residents to reduce their energy usage. The main problem seems to be that many citizens, particularly in low-income areas, are unaware that these resources are available, but with better promotion and media attention, they can more effectively distribute funding and support for efficiency retrofitting projects.

Keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com for more information on green housing and building.