Archive for the ‘Green’ Category

Cool Thing

January 27, 2008

Here is a cool thing. I’m not going to buy it for myself. In fact, I’m not really sure I want it. However, after spending way too much time and money recently trying to get a solar charger that would work with my phone (still no luck…), I love the idea of this having the charger built right in. I really hope we start to see this sort of design on more products. I can imagine a future with lots of backpacks and satchels with transparent pockets for your Gameboy, cell phone, iPod, etc; showy consumerism, meet solar energy.

Is It Just Me

December 10, 2007

Or is this little device pretty cool? It’s a newspaper brick maker. Apparently, the idea is to use recycled paper pressed into little bricks to fuel your fires. It’s relatively cheap, and I get the feeling it wouldn’t be too hard to make if you are handy.

From my little bit of googling, it seems there are a few points the site leaves out (whether or not the product’s instructions include this I don’t know).

  • The device was originally designed for (and by?) people in third world countries who need the material to fuel wood stoves, etc.
  • The paper needs to be more then just wet – it needs to soak for at least two days, four is better (longer then seven and mold sets in). A few drops of bleach hep the process along, but the idea is to break the paper down into pulpy material. So if you’re going to do it, soak up a big load of paper and make a bunch.
  • Failing to do that will produce bricks which only smolder, not really burn.
  • They also burn much better if other scrap fuel (wood chips, grass clippings, coal dust) is added.

Still, seems like it would be fun to play with.

Reclaiming Public Space

September 24, 2007

The No Impact Man has an article up today about his participation in Park(ing) Day. The whole concept is interesting, and I wish I had been in New York to participate, but I was especially interested in the way people responded to the event. As he says, he felt as if her were going to a rally – until he got there. Once the mini-park was set up, it felt like a block party.

I suppose I find this especially cool because it ties in with my recent post about public art.  Today, one of my art class canvased the sidewalk outside the art building with chalk designs. It was really fun, spending a few hours in the sun to beautify the area. More important, though, was the response we got. People stopped to talk to us while we work. Everyone who drove or walked by was entranced by the designs.

Both of these cases beg a simple question: why don’t we as a society do more to make our surroundings beautiful. New York is built around cars. My campus is, sometimes, designed more around efficiency then aesthetics. Most often, it wouldn’t take much – apparently as little as some chalk or a 12 x 8 foot patch of turf, to make everyone able t enjoy their living space that much more.

Kooky Kolleges

September 8, 2007

So, my school has, in the past, caused major problems because of it’s water usage. Most local folks use wells, but the population density on campus is a bit high for that, so in drought season, the stuff gets scarce. Apparently, in the past we tapped into our emergency source (read: a river) so intensely it went dry. So don’t misunderstand, the university needs to do something.

However, their solution has been to switch to paper plates and plastic utensils in the dining halls. In other words, we’ll just bury the river with trash instead.

To put some perspective on the situation, they water the Astroturf here too. No lie.

Not Unsustainable, Exactly

August 23, 2007

Today I was thinking about the myriad of weird things people do that are not necessarily unsustainable (I’m not talking about environmental issues), but very difficult to sustain. Part of this, I’m sure, is related to starting to read Walden, but in large part too it is because of nosing around the promotional site for The World Without Us, another book I’d like to read soon. I especially recommend the “Did you know?” section, although it makes me wonder what is left to be written about in the book.

The page points out how many of our human activities are dependent on extremely complex systems. Without people, it would take only two days for the New York subway system to flood completely. Two days! It amazes me to imagine the amount of work that goes into keeping the trains underground.

Walden hits on similar themes. Thoreau points out the way in which, as man became more “civilized,” his comforts increased gradually while the work necessary to maintain them increased drastically. I’ve heard the same in an anthropology course; We “developed” nations are slightly more comfortable then hunting and gathering tribes (and in some ways much worse off), but they only work something like the equivilent of two days a week.

Frankly, it seems to me to be a bum deal. Foraging might be better, if any of us knew how to do it anymore. That said, I couldn’t be writing this if things were different, so, I wont complain too much.

Also, I can only begin to guess how this might work, but it is apparently a NASA concept for a new “rover,” if it can be called that. Anyway, very cool. Here is a video of an actual prototype, albeit a much simpler one.

Wanting To Push Myself

August 22, 2007

I wrote a while back that, having done a fair job on most of my New Years/Birthday-to-Birthday resolutions, and still with almost half a year (now more like a quarter) to go, I was considering adding to my list. I didn’t for a long time though simply for not knowing what I wanted to do. Well, I think I now know.

I was actually inspired by the artist (group? not sure…) Packard Jennings(nsfw, sort of). The idea, you can gather pretty quickly by the site, is to create art that can be distributed to the public for free and will hopefully change some things for the better. Well, it just so happens that lately I’ve felt an odd desire to make a big impact on the world. At least, to try to.

So, today I am beginning two public art projects I hope will make a big splash. The first will, hopefully, start tomorrow, but the second will probably start at the end of my resolution.

The first idea is to release a series of blank books into the world, with instructions to add to them and then pass them on. Of course, instructions for how to return them once filled, as well. My goal would be to then scan the work and share it on-line, as well as, if it gets really big, find a publisher to print the books too. Of course, not having written the books, I don’t feel like it would be right to profit from them; my plan would be that any proceeds would go to charity, probably something that reflected the content of the book, which of course I can’t control. In short, it’s exciting.

The second would be something like a direct mailing idea. My goal would be to encourage personal change towards improving the future (as opposed to supporting just legislative, large scale change) and emphasizing not the dangerous consequences of not changing but the potential benefits of changing. That is to say, not “If you keep driving your car Manhattan will be under water in three decades” but “Bike more and watch the pounds drop from your waist while you help the Earth.” Of course, the messages would have to be more moving then that, and I’d like to illustrate the postcard with my own images, so they will take time to prepare. That is why it is my plan to mail the first ones out on my birthday next January after I’ve had time to prepare a website and such to go along with it.

That, at least, is the plan, but these things are always messy. I can say that my first two books will hopefully be mailed out tomorrow. Three more will follow soon.

Here’s to believing in the populace!

The Wind Generator

August 7, 2007

Well, yesterday I was enthusiastic about the wind generator kit from Wind Stuff Now. Today, I had to deal with a little disappointment.

I finished putting it all together, and it didn’t work.


Tomorrow, I set about rebuilding it, fixing everything I can, and finding the problem. I can believe I have bad luck sometimes, but the laws of physics themselves wont change just to spite me.

Also, I have added Wind Stuff Now to my links because I am really impressed by the quality of the customer service. As far as I can tell, he is a one man show, and still he was able to ship my order very quickly and responded in less then half a day with helpful suggestions about my problem. If (or maybe I should say when) I break down and order one of his minigen generators, I’ll be happy that my money is going to someone who worked so hard to deserve it.

Well… Again

August 6, 2007

It would seem all I need to do is write a short emo post once in a while and everyone reads the blog. Sixteen hits yesterday. Weird.

Anyway, nothing emo about today! I got my mini VAWT (Vertical Axis Wind Turbine) kit from Ed Lenz today. It went together beautifully, even with my rather shoddy construction skills. It’s not quite finished; tomorrow I put together the base and wire it up to a few LEDs to make sure it actually is working right, but everything looks good. The stator (the piece wound in copper coil in the generator) was the most difficult part, and with the pre-slotted plastic piece, that was even pretty easy once I got the hang of it.

The kit isn’t going to win any prizes soon for power output, but as a way to learn the ropes a bit and experiment it works out pretty well. Maybe a  slightly bigger one is in my future, if I can think of something worth building it for. Perhaps next summer, instead.

Updates and maybe some pictures tomorrow. Ciao!

Gadget Goodies

August 1, 2007

I suppose everyone has them, and some people worse then others; those little things that can just ruin your best laid financial plans. For me, those are often gadgets, and more often ones I don’t need.

Today, I shot myself int he foot, money saving wise. In my defense, it wasn’t entirely consumerism. I have lofty motives.

The two things I broke down and bought are as follows:

  •  A Solar Cell Phone Charger, from Silicon Solar Inc. It’s a very small solar cell that has plugs for your cell phone.
  • A Educational Wind Turbine Kit, from Wind Stuff Now (run by a man named Ed Lenz), which doesn’t exactly kick out a ton of juice, but should help me get acquainted with the construction process.

So, why don’t I feel awful for indulging here? In both cases, I am reminded of something my mom said about my paternal grandparents and being ecologically friendly. “Maybe they couldn’t always do a lot, but they did what they could.” To me, that seems like a good attitude to take.

My cell phone, after my laptop and television, is the biggest power hog. It’s also the easiest to switch to free, renewable energy. Not bad.

The wind turbine kit I got because the idea of a do it yourself power solution has been on my mind. I’d love to tackle those two bigger power hogs, but at present, I have almost no construction knowledge and definitely no electrician knowledge. So, I view this kit as a first step towards a time when I can do something, even if it’s not much.

The financial downside: With shipping, the two gadgets set me back about $75, and I still have to go get a drill set for my  power screwdriver. Luckily, I was probably going to need that for another household project soon anyway, so, I’ll get twice the value for the same price. Sort of.

Now then, I need to go work eight hours to pay for my little splurge and get back on track for my saving resolution.

Five Easy Ways To Help The Planet And Your Wallet

July 31, 2007

Today I’d like to take a moment to point out a few easy ways to help the planet and yourself at the same time. I’ll define easy as taking less then half an hour, and I promise all of these will save you money. Check them out after the jump.