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. 

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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.

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

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.

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.

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.