How Do Green Cars Hold Up In Crashes?

Eco-friendly cars will enable you to reduce your carbon footprint, and you will also save a significant amount of money on gasoline each year. However, it is essential for consumers to carefully analyze every aspect of a vehicle before they purchase it. For example, you need to place your safety ahead of most other concerns. After all, if a vehicle does not perform well during an accident, it could cause you to suffer or even become a traffic fatality.

Many states, including New York, have in place the New Car Lemon Law for example, which allows for any new car buyer or lessee to have legal recourse for vehicles that do not perform according to warranty terms. The owner may be entitled to a refund or a replacement if repeated attempts within the first 18,000 miles or two years (whichever one comes first) were made for the car to be repaired but without satisfactory correction. With this law, New York residents could be assured of having a properly working vehicle that should not cause continued issues or be the reason for an accident.

Fortunately, most hybrid cars have a very high safety ranking, so you should be able to meet your safety and environmental needs with one of these vehicles.

Hybrid Safety Rankings

U.S. News and World Report compiled a list of 22 hybrids that were released in 2013 and 2014, and they were ranked according to five different points, including safety. The 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid and the 2014 Ford Focus Electric both scored a perfect 10 for safety, while the 2013 Toyota Prius-c had the worst safety results with an 8.3. This indicates that a big emphasis is placed on creating these vehicles with the same attention to driver and passenger safety as anything else on the road today. In fact, many of these hybrid vehicles rank higher than cars that are not eco-friendly.

The 2013 Tesla Model S was ranked #1 in Luxury Hybrid and #2 in Super Luxury Cars by U.S. News and World Report2. The Tesla S has garnered 5-star safety ratings in front, side, and side pole crash tests administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The design of the car itself helps its performance in crashes. There is no engine in the front end of the car, just crumple zones. And in the back, there is no fuel tank. The forward thinking car company also has in place protocols for vehicle owners, first responders and fire departments on how to handle an emergency.

What About Smart Cars?

It is natural for people to be concerned about the safety of riding in a Smart car because they are much smaller than what consumers are used to. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) decided to put these cars to the test in 2008 in order to determine whether or not the safety concerns that these vehicles elicit from consumers are actually warranted. Surprisingly, this eco-friendly option received the highest ratings3 in the side impact and front end categories.

It is important to note that these tests were conducted with a simulated 40 mile-per-hour crash, and the IIHS indicated that Smart cars are best suited for accidents in an urban environment where people drive more slowly, such as in the more heavily populated areas of New York.

Battery Concerns

One of the main concerns regarding electric car batteries is the fact that they can leak flammable fluids as a result of an accident. Fortunately, automobile manufacturers have begun addressing this issue by putting additional safeguards in place. For example, the Toyota Prius’s NiMH HV battery pack contains sealed batteries, and this design helps ensure that the potentially dangerous electrolyte does not leak.

However, Toyota has conceded that even this safety measure cannot provide a 100 percent guarantee that leakage will never occur, but they have stated that this fluid can be neutralized easily by using vinegar or a diluted boric acid solution. Like Tesla, Toyota has also created a guide4 for the Prius to help educate emergency responders about the best way to deal with any incidents.

As you can see, the majority of hybrid and other eco-friendly vehicles perform admirably when it comes to safety tests, and newer versions of these cars minimize the risk of any battery fluid leakage. Therefore, if you are in the market for a green car, you should apply the same research criteria that you would to any other vehicle. Although generally as safe as most other vehicles on the road, there is the equal possibility for them to be involved in accidents. This attorney youtube video, may be helpful as it emphasizes what those injured in accidents should do to get help – regardless of the vehicle type.

To put it simply, it is always important for consumers to review safety ratings and industry expert reviews to help ensure that they make an informed decision. However, if you do end up dealing with injuries as a result of an accident that is caused by a defective vehicle or another motorist, you should contact a personal injury attorney for assistance.

  1. “Car Rankings: Hybrid Cars,” U.S. News, accessed March 20, 2014
  2. “Tesla Model S Review,” U.S. News, accessed May 18, 2014
  3. “Smart car gets highest score in crash test,” NBC News, accessed March 20, 2014
  4. “Toyota Prius: Emergency Response Guide,” Toyota, accessed March 20, 2014

Professor Honored For Creating Eco-Leather From Chicken Feathers

A University of Delaware professor has been honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for creating a leather substitute out of chicken feathers.

A University of Delaware professor has been honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for creating a leather substitute out of chicken feathers, which could lead to the production of many different eco friendly products in the fashion industry. Dr. Richard Wool's Eco-leather is made without the use of destructive chemicals that are typically involved in the manufacture of cowhide and leather items.

Eco-leather is made by compressing chicken feathers with plant oils under extreme amounts of heat and pressure to create a soft, pliable but strong texture. The process was developed from techniques previously used in the aerospace industry. According to Wool, there's plenty of the base material lying around to make this substance commercially viable.

"There [are] about 6 billion tons of these chicken feather fibers that are a waste stream material, and a bit of a nuisance to the chicken processing companies," Wool tells FastCoexist.com. "They're either sent to a landfill–burning them isn't a very good option for them–or they're rendered down to make certain kinds of animal feed, because the current protein can have some food value."

Conventional leather production requires the use of chemicals and heavy metals that can cause severe public health problems, including cancer and respiratory diseases. And while the fashion industry has attracted negative attention for clinging to use of furs, it has largely evaded responsibility for clinging to leather as a material.

Wool has already worked on developing prototypes of new Eco-leather sneakers with Nike and Puma, so hopefully you'll one day be able to purchase shoes made from this material in any department store. 

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

Are Ebooks More Environmentally Friendly Than Old-Fashioned Print?

Ebooks are becoming increasingly more ubiquitous as customers buy e-reading devices such as the iPad and Kindle.

Ebooks are becoming increasingly more ubiquitous as customers buy e-reading devices such as the iPad and Kindle. Advocates for environmentally friendly products may see this as good news, as it means fewer trees are being sacrificed for the production of paper books.

However, e-readers still have to run on electricity, which, unless it comes from a renewable source like solar or wind power, produces carbon dioxide, thus slowly contributing to climate change. Paper books are not without their own carbon footprint, so this all begs the question of which format ends up being more sustainable when you tally up all greenhouse gas emissions.

The answer is complicated. Essentially, the conclusion of most studies on the subject is that the more books you read, the more carbon you save with ebooks. One study detailed by Terrapass.com, however, found that readers would need to read an average of 23 books every year in order for digital books to be more environmentally friendly. That's a very high total for the average reader. Another study, as reported by the New York Times, stated that readers would offset the carbon footprint of switching to e​-readers by reading three to four books every month for four years. Again, not an entirely realistic number, even for a bookworm.

As noted by environmental living site SCGH.com, probably the most environmentally responsible way to read would be to walk to the library, borrow a few books at a time, finish them and return them the next time you're in the area. In terms of reducing your carbon footprint, simply sharing already existing materials is a much more efficient method than buying new items, digital or not.

For more information on energy saving tips and ideas, keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com.

Massachusetts Close To Passing Fracking Ban

A bill is currently making its way through the Massachusetts state legislature that would put in place a 10-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

A bill is currently making its way through the Massachusetts state legislature that would put in place a 10-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a natural gas extraction process that has been extremely controversial among environmental activists. Having been approved by the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the bill will now go before lawmakers for a vote, after which it will need to be signed by Governor Deval Patrick to go into effect, according to CBS Boston.

Fracking has led to a boom in natural gas production in the United States, but many view it as a threat to both the environment and public health. The practice involves injecting highly pressurized, chemical-laden water into the ground to separate natural gas deposits from rock. Many believe that this method contaminates ground water supplies and despoils natural landscapes. It's also viewed as a perpetuating the country's reliance on fossil fuels for energy, thus leading to more carbon emissions and accelerating warming trends.

Massachusetts itself is not seen as having much potential for producing great quantities of natural gas. The only areas where fracking is being considered are in the western parts of the state, including Pioneer Valley. However, passing the ban would make Massachusetts the second state in the country to do so, following Vermont, which also possesses limited natural gas resources.

Despite the Bay State's relatively small natural gas deposits, the ban shows that the legislature there is committed to developing its renewable portfolio and increasing the availability of clean energy technology, rather than relying on sources that pollute the environment and endanger public health.

For more information on green technology, keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com.

Can Design Save The World?

Most people know Kanye West for his music and highly public personal life, but many are unaware that the famous rapper is also a product designer.

Most people know Kanye West for his music and highly public personal life, but many are unaware that the famous rapper is also a product designer. He founded his own firm called DONDA that aims to create new products and architecture that are both beautiful and utilitarian. However, West said he feels that his work in these areas has been marginalized by the design community due to his race and public persona.

So on a recent visit to Boston, West stopped by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (HUGSD) to speak about these issues with the HUGSD's African American Student Union. He told them that he believes better design can help create utopia, but that politics often stands in the way. His brief lecture has sparked a lot of interest in the subject of design and its importance to the lives of everyday people.

In a recent interview with Grist.org, several students of the HUGSD spoke about West's comments and their connection to issues such as climate change and green living. They provide some powerful insight into the need for better urban planning and design if humanity is to be able to avert global warming crisis.

"In New York City, [Hurricane] Sandy showed you can no longer just ignore these questions, like how it can operate without its subway system, or how do you design a new subway and switch system that can accommodate that kind of density without compromising the health of all those people," said HUGSD student Héctor Tarrido-Picart. "When Kanye said he wanted a utopia, I personally didn't read that as utopia in the literary sense, but rather him saying that the future has to be thought out."

West's efforts in design and his outreach to minority students of the field is important because it can help encourage more underrepresented populations to pursue this discipline. The effect of that will be more manpower devoted to solving humanity's biggest problems, including how best to implement green business ideas and create better environmentally friendly products.

Check back with LifeIsGreen.com for more news and information about green living.

Honda Accord Wins “Green Car Of The Year” at LA Auto Show

The 2014 Honda Accord won “Green Car of the Year” honors at last week’s L.A. Auto Show in Los Angeles.

The 2014 Honda Accord won "Green Car of the Year" honors at last week's L.A. Auto Show in Los Angeles. Honda beat out competing vehicles from Mazda, BMW, Audi and Toyota to take the prize, the second time in three years that it has won the award. The 2012 natural gas-powered Honda Civic won the same title in 2011.

"Mainstream buyers have long found the Accord a popular choice because of its efficiency, functionality, safety, and value," Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and Carsofchange.com, said in a news release. "With the addition of exceptional hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions to the already-fuel efficient Accord line, Honda's Accord becomes an even more compelling choice."

So what makes the Accord such a great car? To begin with, it's relatively affordable compared to other models. The four-cylinder version starts at about $22,000, with the higher-end versions, featuring plug-in hybrid engines as well as conventional gasoline hybrid 6-cylinder motors, retail for about $40,000. In addition to improved fuel efficiency, the Accord offers all of the modern amenities that you would expect to find in a luxury car package, yet it comes at a much lower price than competing models from companies like Mercedes and BMW.

One of the features that makes the plug-in hybrid version of the Accord one of the most environmentally friendly cars is that it can travel up to 12 miles on its battery without engaging the gasoline engine, making short trips and errands much more efficient. Plug-in hybrids have been experiencing tremendous growth over the last two years, and the 2014 Accord is likely to accelerate that trend even further.

LifeIsGreen.com is your number one source for news and information about green vehicles, so keep checking back!

Efficiency software maker plans IPO

Analysts looking for an investment in green energy solutions that could pay big dividends down the road may want to take a look at Opower, Inc.

Right now, the biggest story on Wall Street is the initial public offering (IPO) of social media site Twitter. But analysts looking for an investment in green energy solutions that could pay big dividends down the road may want to take a look at Opower, Inc., a software developer that is planning to do its own IPO sometime in the near future according to the Wall Street Journal.

Opower designs computer programs that help utility companies promote energy efficiency with their customers. Electric companies contract with Opower to use its software to monitor customers' power usage, then send text messages, emails or phone calls to let rate payers know how much energy they're using compared with their neighbors.

The company's applications have already been used by 90 power companies, representing 22 million customers all over the world. Opower estimates that its software has helped these energy users save 3 terawatt-hours of electricity, the same amount of power it would take to run Las Vegas for a year.

Opower was founded in 2007. It's unclear what its valuation will be, but the company's CEO stated in 2010 that he had signed two contracts worth $30 million. It has also saved customers about $350 million in energy expenses, so it's clear that the product provides considerable value to both utilities and rate-payers.

Investment opportunities in green technology don't always get as much airplay as those offered by companies like Google and Facebook. However, given that the United States' energy priorities are moving in the direction of renewables while moving away from oil and fossil fuels, the savvy investor may want to consider putting some money in companies that are taking advantage of those markets early, before the rest of the financial industry takes notice.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide you with news and information about green business ideas, so keep visiting!

Will Smart Lighting Revolutionize Energy Consumption?

In the past, we’ve written many alternative energy articles about the growth of renewable sources such as solar and wind, and how these technologies can eventually replace fossil fuels as our principle sources of electricity.

In the past, we've written many alternative energy articles about the growth of renewable sources such as solar and wind, and how these technologies can eventually replace fossil fuels as our principle sources of electricity. However, it may be many years before they become both cheap and widespread enough to make a serious dent in our oil addiction. In the meantime, by making homes and businesses more energy efficient with current technology and practical habits, we can cut our fossil fuel consumption immediately and reduce greenhouse gas emissions considerably.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to integrate smart lighting solutions into more buildings. Similar to smart thermostats, which we've covered before, smart lighting uses web-enabled light emitting diodes (LED) and fixtures to make lighting more efficient. As a recent Christian Science Monitor piece points out, smart lighting can cut energy usage by over 90 percent when it is properly incorporated into a structure's design.

Relying on an array of sensors that collect data about when the building is occupied and in what rooms people spend the most time, smart lighting networks anticipate when light is needed and when it can be shut off. They can also adjust brightness and other features of the light, providing occupants with more dynamic and flexible illumination, and internet connectivity means that lighting can be controlled remotely.

Probably the most promising aspect of smart lighting is that it hardly requires a massive technological revolution and market readjustment for anyone to take advantage of it. These days, most middle class homes are equipped with broadband internet connections, and LED technology has become much more affordable in recent years, so with more aggressive outreach programs, policy makers and manufacturers can spread the word that sharply reducing energy consumption can be fairly easily accomplished.

Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for more on the benefits of going green!

New York Switching To LED Streetlights

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is continuing his aggressive efforts to make New York City more environmentally friendly by switching all of the city’s streetlights to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, replacing its high-pressure sodium lights, which are less efficient and have shorter life spans.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is continuing his aggressive efforts to make New York City more environmentally friendly by switching all of the city’s streetlights to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, replacing its high-pressure sodium lights, which are less efficient and have shorter life spans. The project was announced at a news conference in Brooklyn on October 24, where Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner, showed off the knew “cobra-headed” streetlights.

The program is expected to save the city $14 million annually in electricity costs and maintenance. LED bulbs can last up to 20 years, more than three times the lifespan of a typical sodium light. The project has a budget of $76.5 million, meaning that it will pay for itself within a 6-year period.

Ms. Sadik-Khan told reporters that the lights will produce a better quality of illumination than the amber, yellowish glow of the bulbs they are replacing.

“People tend to like them,” she told The New York Times. “It’s clear. It’s bright. It really does a good job in providing fresher light.”

The project received funding through New York’s Accelerated Conservation and Efficiency initiative (ACE), which provides financing for clean technology and efficiency projects through a fast-tracked, streamlined bidding process. Such programs are common for environmental efforts, as litigation from interest groups can often bog down the procurement process for municipal improvement projects. While it’s important that such efforts adversely effect as few citizens as possible, there are times when green business ideas such as solar and wind installations are indefinitely suspended due to endless lawsuits and complaints from parties with frivolous claims.

Keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com as we continue to provide news and information about green technology.

Wizard Gadgetry Tree Hugging for Greener Driving

Tech innovation that looks like pipe dreams at the moment may one day help lower your carbon footprint — not to mention save you some money. Welcome to the age of tree hugging through technology.

Learning From NASCAR

Electric vehicles (EVs) that charge wirelessly, remote-controlled commuter convoys, and other tantalizing technical concepts down the road bring fresh ideas to taming the second-largest source of carbon-dioxide emissions on the planet — transportation.

Racing fans should think of NASCAR drivers “drafting” bumper-to-bumper at hundreds of miles an hour around a track. They’re cutting turbulence and save precious fuel, sure, but they’re also shrinking their carbon footprint. The European Union (EU) is testing a computer-controlled highway convoy that wirelessly links up to seven vehicles in tight formation behind a professional driver, according to CNet. The phenomenon called “platooning” works like this:

  1. You enter the highway, signaling a convoy headed your way.
  2. You relinquish control of your vehicle to a professional driver at the head of the convoy, who…
  3. …guides your vehicle into line, and then operates it remotely.

You then sit back, phoning, texting, or simply relaxing until you see your exit. According to the brains behind the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) concept, this approach could save 20 percent on fuel, cutting commute time and congestion.

We’ll have to wait for their results to see how such a thing might be applied in the U.S. The reason you can’t just try it yourself, of course, is that it’s illegal. To be ready for the change when it comes you could always get yourself a 2014 Mercedes-Benz S class luxo-cruiser. Just take a glimpse into Car and Driver website, and you’ll see how it’s all wired up for the future.

Charge Your EV Wirelessly

Electric cars are our automotive future, they keep telling us, but all that charging hassle keeps prospective buyers from trying them out. It turns out magnetic induction — the same technology used in electric toothbrushes, pacemakers, and other consumer devices — can charge EV batteries wirelessly, too. Nissan, maker of the fully-electric car, the Leaf, has demonstrated a system that charges a parked car that way. The Japanese automaker wants to implant induction charging strips right into the road surface so cars can get their juice on the go.

To try this wireless EV charging for yourself, AutoGuide.com suggests putting a deposit down on a 2015 Toyota Prius which will offer the new technology.

High Tech Curbs Urban Carbon Footprint

The high-tech ideas for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the city just keep coming. Consider the following:

  • Stackable CityCar — The CityCar is a proposal from the Smart Cities program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a 2-passenger EV available as-needed. Micro cars parked tip-to-tail in special racks, they’d have a jointed driveshaft for scrunching up even more.
  • All Meshed Up — GoLoco is a high-tech mashup of social networking and carpooling from the co-founder of Zipcar. This distributed mesh network will enable America’s millions of cars to share up-to-the-second information making them “radically more efficient.”

These two urban concepts could show up anywhere from Sacramento to your hometown, where you can take part. Meanwhile, to go green when driving in Indianapolis while saving gas, you can browse through used cars with the SmartWay leaf signature on them at a nearby DriveTime location. It may be tempting to give in to your emotions when shopping for a car, and just start drooling over your favorite brands, leather interior options or car stereo hookups. However, doing your part to stay green is not only good karma, but will make you look hip in the process.