Friday, 27 April 2012

Eco-Friendly Packaging

Polystyrene, commonly referred to as "Styrofoam", takes decades to hundreds of years to dissolve and is one of the world's most considerable environmental problems. Polystyrene is a thermoplastic material made from petroleum-derived styrene and is non-biodegradable. It is difficult to estimate how much polystyrene there is in the world, however, the Earth Resource Foundation reports that Styrofoam manufacturers were the fifth largest producer of toxic waste in 1986. Unfortunately Styrofoam is still widely used across the world, from cups and plates to packaging and more, as it is typically less expensive than other products and weighs significantly less which aids in reduced shipping costs. Thankfully there are several companies around the world working on finding eco-friendly, cost-effective substitutions to replace this harmful product.

Ecovative Design

Ecovative Design, a New York-based company, has created a biodegradable alternative to conventional polystyrene (or Styrofoam) using inedible by-products of agricultural crops like seed husks.  The material is grown using these by-products and mycelium which is a fungal network of threadlike cells, like the "roots" of mushrooms. In 5 – 7 days, in the dark with no watering and no petrochemical inputs, the mycelium digests the agricultural by-products binding them into a structural material. The mycelium acts like a natural, self-assembling glue. The material can then be grown into any shape needed. Every cubic inch of material contains a matrix of 8 miles of tiny mycelial fibers, and at the end of the process the materials are heat treated to stop the growth and ensure there will never be any spores or allergen concerns. From beginning to end, the mushroom material fits into nature’s recycling system. Composting, mulching, or throwing away are all environmentally sound options of disposal because the product is made of natural materials that belong in a healthy ecosystem.


Naturpack, an Ontario-based company, has created a loose fill packing product that is very similar to the polystyrene pellets (or "peanuts" or "beans") found in many shipments. Corn is the primary product used in creating their product, which boasts anti-vibration and shock absorbing qualities. Naturpak is reusable and recycled, is manufactured without chemicals, and is environmentally friendly when disposed. To make the loose fill, first the corn must be crushed and the germ removed by sifting.  The corn  is then ground to a powder so the pulverized corn can then be put directly into the plant.  The corn is heated in a pressure chamber and released in a way that produces and creates uniform pieces of loose fill.  The process is based on unmodified starch in a pure mechanical production process without additives.  The process can be altered by the addition of specific additives to achieve desired results. 


EnviroPak, a Missouri-based company, has utilized recycled products to create their eco-friendly packaging. Molded pulp is made from 100% recycled newspaper and is 100% recyclable and 100% biodegradable. It has been used to package delicate items such as eggs and light bulbs for years, however, recently has become more prominent in the shipping industry. Molded pulp can be shaped to fit any product and is highly shock resistant. The stock preparation process is closely related to that of a small paper mill. For full details on how the molded pulp is made please visit

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Unique Ways to Harness Kinetic Energy

Many of us know the traditional ways of generating renewable energy through wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, biomass, and even ocean - but what about the non-traditional methods that are available? In a creative world there are countless ways to generate and harness energy, even through human movement!


Eco-friendly nightclubs are slowly becoming a trend all over the world.  For example, Temple Nightclub in San Francisco generates energy through the floor which compresses by 10 millimetres when stepped on and produces roughly 35 watts per module.


An increasing number of fitness centers are incorporating equipment that store energy produced through exercise. Exercise is a great way to create kinetic energy and is very convenient since it is such a common daily activity that many people engage in. The Green Microgym in Portland Oregon “generates as much as 40 percent of its own electricity from solar panels and exercise machines like stationary bikes”.

With golf being one of the most popular sports on Earth, it's not surprising that inventors are looking for ways to "go green" on the green. Mac Funamizu has designed a device that allows you to practice your golf swing and also charge your smart phone by harnessing the kinetic energy of the swing!


Walking is perhaps one of the simplest and easiest ways to generate energy and the nPower Peg helps to capture and use this energy.  The device has two sliders which move side to side as you walk which causes the spring to generate kinetic energy which can be used to power your electronic devices.

Monday, 16 April 2012

What is a "carbon footprint", and what does it mean to be "carbon neutral" or "carbon negative"?

A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment, and in particular climate change. It relates to the amount of carbon emissions produced in our day-to-day lives through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating, transportation, etc.

Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to an organization or individual that has reduced the net climate impact of their operations or activities to zero, usually after purchasing offsets in a quantity equal to their total emissions after reduction efforts.

Carbon negative, therefore, is further offsetting the amount of carbon emissions to a level that is greater than the amount of carbon emissions the operation produces itself. A carbon negative operation is not only taking responsibility for its own carbon emissions but is also reducing the total carbon emissions produced by the rest of the world.

TD Bank for example, who has attained carbon neutral status over a year ago, has opened what its says is the first bank branch in the U.S. that generates as much energy as it uses. By installing solar panels on the roof that will be connected to the utility gird, the branch expects to produce more clean energy than it will use.
Steps to becoming Carbon Negative

It is becoming increasingly popular for companies to claim that specific parts or their entire operation is carbon neutral. There are a number of ways for companies to become carbon neutral and most require the use of carbon offsets. Carbon offsets are the “currency” for offsetting. They are quantified in metric tonnes of CO2 reduction, i.e. one carbon offset equals one tonne of emissions reduction made through selected and verified carbon projects. Carbon offsets can be purchased on a voluntary basis or to meet regulatory requirements. By purchasing carbon offsets, a company is able to make the significant leap from being “energy efficient” or “environmentally conscious”, to being carbon neutral or even carbon negative. There are a number of carbon offset venders established around the world that offer carbon offsets for companies interested in the voluntary carbon offset market. Carbon offset venders generally recommend a similar method for achieving carbon neutrality.

Less Emissions Inc. (the top ranked carbon offset vender for Canadian companies according to the 2009 survey by the David Suzuki foundation) suggests these three steps:

1. Conserve
Reduce your environmental impact through direct efforts to reduce energy consumption (eg limiting night lighting) and increase energy efficiency (eg lighting retrofits); reduce transportation- related emissions (eg. Implementing anti-idling policies for fleet vehicles, and choosing videoconferencing to connect remote employees rather than traveling by air)

2. Switch to green
For those products and services that must be consumed, select environmentally lower-impact alternatives where available. These could include green power for electricity requirements, green cleaning products, and FSC-certified paper.

3. Offset
When best efforts have been made in the preceding areas, offset only those unavoidable emissions that remain, for example, those associated with necessary air travel or ground transportation.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Why You Should Invest in Energy Saving Products

The market is filled with energy saving products that make it easier for you to save power and use renewable energy sources.  There is a wide range of products which can help you save money on your electricity bill, here are a few worth checking out!

1. Solar Chargers

Foldable Solar Charger
The solar charger is a device that makes use of the sun’s energy to charge the electrical devices that are present in your house. You can charge many electrical devices like digital cameras, PDAs and iPods. You just need to leave the batteries in the charger in the morning and by afternoon the gadget will be completely charged. The energy saving bulb is the second product that will help you save energy. Try not to use incandescent bulbs because it is known that around 90% of the electricity is required just to heat the tungsten metal filament – and is wasted.

2. Energy Saving Plugs

Eco Universal
It is a great energy saving device which lets you save lot of energy.  You just need to plug the devices that you are using in this plug and it does the rest. For example if you plug your PC into the master socket energy will be saved. The plug automatically shuts down if your PC is switched off or on standby position – which helps you save electricity. 

3. Electricity Monitors

PowerCost Monitor
By making use of the electricity monitor you can get to see the amount of electricity you are using, how much the electricity is costing and how much carbon dioxide emissions you are releasing to the environment. By using of the electricity monitor you can get information on how much you need to save in order to lower your power bill.

4. Solar Panels

By using solar panels you can harness the power of the sun to generate electricity for your home, and use a renewable energy source that does not harm the environment. Solar panels cost between $2,000 to $5,000, depending on the size and technology used, however this is an investment that you will return in 3-8 years.

Blue Planet Solar Panel
Energy saving products help you become aware of the energy you are using (or wasting), and help you lower your electricity bill by preserving energy. Moreover, by using renewable energy sources like the sun you help preserving the environment and making earth a greener place. Start making use of energy saving products and make a difference.

Check out more home energy tips at!

Written by Dan Vanter & edited by Kim Gillett

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Top 10 Technology Advances in Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished). Approximately 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewable sources, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, and 3.4% from hydroelectricity. New renewable sources (small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and bio-fuels) accounted for another 3% and are growing very rapidly.

Climate change concerns, coupled with high oil prices, peak oil, and increasing government support, are driving increasing renewable energy legislation, incentives and commercialization. New government spending, regulation and policies helped the industry weather the global financial crisis better than many other sectors. Below is the list of top 10 technological advances made in renewable energy in the last decade-

Solar Energy

When we talk about the renewable sources which have the potential to power the world, wind and sun are the foremost options that strike the mind. To date we have not been able to develop techniques that fully exploit these sources of unlimited energy, however, we have fortunately found some amazing techniques that have changed the expensive and non-efficient face of solar power to something which has the potential for improvement.

June 24, 2009
Paint-on Solar Cells

Thinner solar cells mean that they can be embedded in places where no one ever thought of having them - this is what researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology thought when they developed solar cells so thin that they can be painted on flexible plastic sheets, which can then take up the place of your normal glossy paints. These cells are based on the combination of carbon nanotubes and carbon Buckyball molecules to create a series of snake-like patterns which can conduct electricity. Researchers also expect that the technique will be much cheaper than what is being used today.
Learn more about paint-on solar cells here

October, 2008
Spherical Solar Cells

Spherical Silicon Solar Arrays is the brainchild of Japan's Clean Venture 21. The technology is up to five times cheaper, uses up to five times less material, and consumes half the energy to reproduce. With good optical properties these 1 millimeter (mm) silicon cells are put into little reactors, measuring 2.2 to 2.7 mm in width. Since the cells are spherical and not rectangular, the sunlight is absorbed from all possible angles for generating power with better efficiency and flexibility.

Domed rest house with solar power generation system at Toyako Town

Learn more about Spherical Solar Cells here

November 26, 2007 Reflective dishes

The demand of solar energy has increased the demand for silicon, this has made researchers think of alternatives to silicon. A team of researchers at Israel’s Ben Gurion University has found what they are calling a better alternative to silicon. The team has used gallium arsenide instead of silicon in their solar cells, which becomes more efficient when used with reflective dishes. This makes the system expensive than silicon solar panels, but the cost per watt is made comparable to that of a conventional power plant. The team has designed a reflector made of mirrors that collects and intensifies the light a thousand times over. A solar energy system built on 4.6 square miles in the Negev would produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity.

Learn more about Reflective dishes at Sustainabilitank
Wind Energy
Wind energy is among the world’s fastest-growing sources of energy. During the last decade, wind energy growth rates worldwide averaged about 30 percent annually. In the last three years, the U.S. and Texas wind energy markets also have experienced a rapid expansion of capacity. In 2007, for example, U.S. wind power capacity grew by 43 percent, while Texas’ rose by 57 percent.

This growth has been driven by a variety of factors including government subsidies and tax incentives, improved technology, higher fossil fuel prices and investor concerns about potential federal action to reduce carbon emissions, which could make electricity from fossil fuels more expensive. Over the past decade, wind turbine use has increased at more than 25 percent a year. Still, it only provides a small fraction of the world's energy.

April 29, 2009

Leviathan Energy

Leviathan Energy is an ideal way to increase the efficiency of a wind turbine. The best part is that there is no need to increase the size of the turbine. This innovation is developed by Daniel Farb, the CEO of Leviathan Energy. He has named this innovation “Wind Energizer” which is capable of increasing wind energy output by 30 percent. The idea was to modify the environment around the turbine to ensure that highest velocity winds hits the blade rather than increasing the blade size of the turbine. So a donut shape structure was formed in such shape and dimensions such that highest velocity wind hits the blade. The break even for erecting this structure has been estimated to be around four to five years, thus, making it an irresistible deal.

Learn more about Leviathan Energy at

Tower Height   

Advance Turbine System (ATS) has come up with an innovative technique to increase the output of a wind turbine by increasing its height. Conventionally people used to increase the blade size to increase the turbine efficiency which soon turned out to be an expensive option with limited availability of space. However, with this technique one can boost the efficiency of the turbine by 20 percent. This is surely a cost-effective method that will continue to offer its benefits for a longer period of time without incurring considerable amount of money.

Learn more about Tower Height at Renewable Energy World

May 18, 2010 

Bladeless Wind Turbine 

A research company in New Hampshire recently patented its bladeless wind turbine, which is based on a patent issued to Nikola Tesla in 1913. This wind turbine is christened as the Fuller Wind Turbine. This turbine is developed by Solar Aero. The specialty of Fuller Wind Turbine is it has only one rotating part, known as the turbine-driveshaft. The entire machinery is assembled inside housing. Wind turbines are often disliked by environmentalists because they kill birds and bats and often generate noise for the residents living nearby.

The wind industry is trying to find a solution to the problem by working with environmental groups, federal regulators, and other interested parties. They are trying to develop methods of measuring and mitigating wind energy’s effect on birds. The Fuller Wind Turbine offers hope to bird lovers and environmentalists.

Fuller Wind Turbine has several advantages over the traditional ones having blades. Fuller Wind Turbine has a screened inlet and outlet. If you try to get a closer look at this wind turbine you can see the only movement visible is as it adjusts to track the wind. This wind turbine can be utilized by the military surveillance and radar installations because there are no moving blades to cause difficulties.

Another plus attached to this wind turbine is that it won’t cost a heaven when you get its power. According to manufacturers this turbine is expected to deliver power at a cost at par with the coal-fired power plants. If you want to probe deeper, its good news that total operating costs over the lifetime of the unit are expected to be about $0.12/kWh.

If we take the maintenance angle it won’t cause much headache because it’s a bladeless turbine. The turbine maintenance requirements are not colossal and it would result in lower lifetime operating costs. The turbine is mainly supported on magnetic bearings. Another advantage is all of the generating equipments are kept at ground level. This will lead towards easy maintenance of equipments. The company comes out with encouraging figures and proclaims “final costs will be about $1.50/watt rated output, or roughly 2/3 the cost of comparable bladed units.”

If we take a look at the Tesla turbine patented in 1913, it operates using the viscous flow of a fluid to move the turbine and as a result generates energy. The Tesla turbine has a set of smooth disks fitted with nozzles that send out a moving gas to the edge of the disk. The gases drag on the disk by following the principle of viscosity and the adhesion of the surface layer of the gas. As the gas slows and adds force to the disks, it twirls in to the center exhaust. Because the rotor has no projections, it is very strong and sturdy. One has to be careful about the disk space because disks in the turbine need to be closely spaced so that they can trap the viscous flow. The Tesla turbine has extremely thin disks to reduce turbulence at the edges and that makes them effective. In 1913, Tesla was unable to find metals of adequate quality to make this work effectively. But now almost a century later, those limitations have been surmounted.

Solar Aero’s current prototype is a modest trailer-mounted unit. But inventor says that their other models “should be capable of 10kW output with no problem.” If this technology takes off smoothly it would remove many hurdles attached with conventional wind turbines and more environment-friendly.

 Learn more about the Bladeless Wind Turbine at Solar Aero and Eco Geek

Biomass Power

July 31, 2008

Green crude

Perhaps one of the most promising innovations in recent years is clean energy derived from algae. The slimy green stuff that collects on surface water is filled with fuel potential: Some kinds of algae are comprised of more than 50% oil and contribute zero emissions to greenhouse gases.
According to the World Watch Institute, an average acre of algae grown today for pharmaceutical industries can produce 5,000 gallons (19,000 liters) of biodiesel each year. In contrast, an average acre of corn produces 420 gallons (1,600 liters) of ethanol per year, and an acre of soybeans yields just 70 gallons (265 liters) of biodiesel per year.

With just water, carbon dioxide and sunlight, algae can quadruple in mass in just one day.

Algae is encouraging not only because it’s quickly renewable, but because it’s carbon-neutral. It’s a living, single-celled organism that performs photosynthesis, so it takes the same amount of carbon out of the atmosphere to create itself as it puts back in when it’s burned. Additionally, it removes nitrogen from wastewater. Algae have an application in water treatment facilities, as well.

The primary U.S Company cultivating this green-colored fuel is Sapphire Energy in San Diego. According to the company, they have created green crude that is identical to the light, sweet crude oil used to manufacture gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, and heating oil.

Another benefit to mass-production of green crude is that it is identical to fossil-based crude. That means it can be used in the existing refining infrastructure. None of the factories and refining facilities currently making oil products out of fossil-based crude will have to replace any of their expensive equipment.

The only thing keeping us from moving forward with “green crude” is the cost of production. Currently, it is still cheaper to drill for crude than to put the proper algae-cultivating infrastructure in place.

Learn more about Green Crude at Sapphire Energy and Treehugger


December 30, 2008

Biofuels (e.g. Jatropha oil, Switchgrass)

Asia Cleantech
When corn and sugarcane first popped up as viable alternative to fuels, hopefulness ensued. But we soon learned that first generation biofuels came with too many setbacks, namely, their interference with food crops and their inability to be cost-competitive with traditional fuels.

Fortunately, second and third generation biofuels are far more promising.
Though almost any crop these days seems fair game as a biofuel material, there are some that are more effective than others. Jatropha oil and switchgrass – both inedible crops – are among them.

The jatropha plant has emerged as one of the best options for airline biofuel because of its resilience and low water needs. In December 2008, Air New Zealand ran a test flight using a blend of kerosene and oil from the jatropha plant. Its success led Air New Zealand to set a goal of using 10% biofuels by 2013.

Today’s biofuels must be sustainable and not compete with food crops for resources, and they must be cost-competitive with fuel oil. Though biofuel made by switchgrass isn’t as energy intensive as algae-based green crude, it is more energy intensive than corn ethanol. In areas where there is plenty of room for these crops to grow, the technology can support the surrounding community.

Because of the vast improvements in utilizing these renewable resources, commercial viability of second and third generation biofuels may be closer than we originally thought.

How close are these technologies to reaching to US consumer market? And which has the most potential to change our energy landscape?
2008 marked the first time that global investment in renewable energy sources surpassed investment in fossil fuel technologies.

According to research firm New Energy Finance, last year’s investment in alternative energy quadrupled the amount in 2004 and topped the record-breaking year of 2007 by 5 percent.

Clearly, this indicates that there is a shift away from expensive oil fossil fuel excavation technology, and toward the vast landscape of renewable energy.

The innovative methods described above – in addition to the old standbys such as wind, solar, nuclear, and geothermal power – are already in existence in pilot programs. It is only a matter of investment and education before the public accepts them as mainstream alternatives to crude oil. Each has its pros and cons, and none may be the panacea for our country’s immense energy needs.

However, a smart combination of renewable energy technologies will perhaps be the best bet in moving forward. For example, power from poultry litter is perfect for any community with a large poultry industry, and green crude will work well where there is already access to algae-rich water.

The future of energy is already here. As we refine these technologies, approach peak oil, and tweak our lifestyle habits, we’ll most likely see wide-scale implementation of renewable energy.

Learn More about Biofuels at and Ode Wire

Geothermal Power


Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS)

Enhanced Geothermal System
Ten years ago, Marcellus, Barnett and Haynesville were merely considered to be interesting rock formations that contained natural gas in very small pockets.

But that changed when the natural-gas industry successfully commercialized the technique of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

This simple process involves drilling a hole down to the shale rock, which contains the natural gas. The drill bit then continues through the rock for as much as several miles. The bit is then withdrawn when the hole is pressurized enough, and the rock is hydraulically fractured. This process releases the gas, which then flows to the surface.

This is what has created boom times for the natural gas industry.

Today, geothermal scientists are experimenting with a modified version of the natural gas technique for geothermal energy - known as an Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS).

Simply put, this technique involves pumping cold water down one well, which the underground rock then heats as the water flows through. The water then returns to the surface via a second well. The rest of the process is the same as conventional geothermal.

So how much power could be generated using this technique?

According to a 2006 report from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the amount of EGS resources in the United States could provide 140,000 times the total annual energy use in the country.

Using technology available today, MIT scientists further estimated that the total recoverable power from EGS resources could be as much as 12,200 Gigawatts. That's 15 times higher than the largest peak summertime electrical load in the United States.

Learn more about EGS here

Ocean Tidal Power

Alternative Energy News
Some of the oldest ocean energy technologies use tidal power. All coastal areas consistently experience two high and two low tides over a period of slightly greater than 24 hours. For those tidal differences to be harnessed into electricity, the difference between high and low tides must be at least five meters, or more than 16 feet. There are only about 40 sites on the Earth with tidal ranges of this magnitude.

Currently, there are no tidal power plants in the United States. However, conditions are good for tidal power generation in both the Pacific Northwest and the Atlantic Northeast regions of the country.

Learn more about Tidal Power here

October 11, 2005

Direct Energy Conversion Method

Trident Energy announces breakthrough in sea wave renewable energy technology. Milestone tests at UK’s New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) demonstrate viability of Direct Energy Conversion Method. London: Trident Energy Ltd announced a further major step towards cost effective, flexible and uncomplicated production of energy from sea wave power. Trident Energy Ltd, based in Southend on Sea, Essex, UK, reports that its patented Direct Energy Conversion Method (DECM) has successfully completed testing at the UK’s New and Renewable Energy Centre NaREC) at Blyth, Northumberland. Trident Energy’s technology differs fundamentally from that of all other existing wave energy devices. Rather than using air or hydraulics as part of the conversion train, it converts wave energy directly to electricity through a unique and patented form of low cost linear generator.

Learn more about Direct Energy Conversion Method at Trident Energy