Is The U.S. Making Real Progress On Climate Change?

Recently the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its annual report on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and the news was relatively good for advocates of green living. What was particularly positive about the report is that the decline wasn't the result of a shrinking economy, as had been the case in 2009. In fact, U.S. GDP grew 2.8 percent in 2012, while CO2 emissions were down 3.8 percent.

Does this mean that the catastrophe of climate change has been averted and we have nothing to worry about? Not really. As environmental news site Grist notes, there's still quite a bit of action required on the part of both the U.S. and the globe to bring down emissions and make our economies more efficient. This is complicated by three factors:

  • CO2 isn't the only greenhouse gas. Methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases all contribute to climate change, so they must also be the target of reduction efforts.
  • The U.S. has to continue this decline in CO2 pollution for many years to reduce the effects of anthropogenic climate change. According to Grist, global emissions would have to be cut 60 percent by 2050 in order for the atmosphere to stabilize at 450 parts per million of CO2, which is considered a pretty optimistic, and unrealistic, goal.
  • U.S. politicians don't control the actions of other governments, which means that even if we succeed in cutting emissions significantly, it won't mean much if other developing countries don't make similar efforts of their own accord.

Hopefully, the EIA's report will serve as motivation for environmental advocates and policy makers to continue those programs and efforts that are responsible for the progress that has been made.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide green energy news and information, so keep visiting!

Team Austria Wins The 2013 U.S. Solar Decathlon

Team Austria, featuring students from the Vienna University of Technology, won the sixth U.S. Solar Decathlon earlier this month, defeating teams from all over the world in designing a house that is environmentally friendly, relies on solar power, is affordable and is aesthetically pleasing. Their house, called Living Inspired by Sustainable Innovation (LISI), incorporated all these features and scored highly in the ten categories used to judge entrants.

The Solar Decathlon is a competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, which challenges groups of students from several universities to build homes that demonstrate the economic viability of green housing. This year's competition took place at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, from October 3 to 13, and featured 19 teams from schools as diverse as Stanford University and Czech Technical University.

The LISI house includes many great eco-friendly features, including:

  • A subfloor heating system that regulates heating and cooling
  • An herb garden that is irrigated with a rainwater basin
  • Photovoltaic panels that produce a net surplus of electricity for the house
  • Occupant ability to control temperatures and lighting from a tablet computer.

"LISI will be used by everyone – not just architects, engineers and technicians," Stefan Bachl, a member of Team Vienna, said on the team's website. "Therefore, we strived to understand the needs of its users and build an app which fits into the overall user experience LISI is providing to its habitants. The result is a both well designed and easy to use tablet app that is simple yet feature complete."

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide news and information on ways to save energy, so stay tuned for more!

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!

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.