Tag Archives: Environment

Can’t Be Recycled? Upcycle It!

We try so hard to be responsible and only buy things that come in recyclable containers and packaging.   But what do you do with the hard to recycle stuff or the things no one will take?

I found this great company, Terracycle, that is trying to eliminate the whole idea of waste.   They are signing people up to collect anything from pens to juice boxes to candy wrappers to cork to cell phones to key boards and back again.   They pay for you to ship it to them and then they “upcycle it” (turn it into a cool new product or material).

Here’s an example of a cool upcycling project.   Terracycle created the Drink Pouch Brigade.   They collected over 50 million drink pouches and turned them into upscale items like tote bags and Christmas tree skirts.  Over a million dollars from the sale of those items went to schools, charities, and nonprofits.   Not bad.

The Terracycle Tree-Skirt

In 2010 Terracycle set up what they called a “pop shop” in New York City’s Port Authority – a place where anyone could drop off hard to recycle items and buy upcycled items.  That is spreading some goodwill!

Pop-Up Shop in NYC Port Authority

-Dan

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Filed under Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Environment, Innovation, Recycled Materials, Supply Chain Management, Sustainable Businiess, Upcycle

The Big “Green” Apple

My recent trip to the Big Apple led to some very unexpected discoveries along the way. Having never visited New York I had no idea what to expect and frankly, I was not expecting good things in the realm of sustainability. I immediately think of mass consumption, millions of cars, old inefficient buildings, and a mindset of profit over the good of the surroundings.
Just to let you know, I was not seeking out the so-called “green” places in the city nor did I do any research prior to my visit. I also know and have learned that New York and the Northeast is leading the way when it comes to sustainability. I was just a plain old tourist checking out the city. Here are some things I found that impressed me along the way.
First off, the public transportation system is in a class of its own. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority “MTA subways, buses, and railroads provide 2.6 billion trips each year to New Yorkers.” You can get wherever you want in the city without ever needing a car.
Another thing I noticed was the importance of public green space and the unique way some people have created a beautiful landscape out of a so-called concrete jungle. Everyone knows about Central Park but we discovered a relatively new creation called the High Line.

High Line water feature

It’s a stunningly designed piece of art/urban park. Basically, it is an old elevated rain line that has been inoperable since 1980. In 2009, Friends of the High Line in a partnership with the City of New York opened the elevated public park. They have preserved the sense of the old rail line by keeping much of the old track and designing the landscape around it. “It features an integrated landscape, designed by landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, combining meandering concrete pathways with naturalistic plantings. Fixed and movable seating, lighting, and
special features are also included in the park.”

High Line

I also ran across a few businesses that seem to be leading their peers by making their surrounding environment a priority. We stopped in the  Brooklyn Brewery for some tastings and a tour. They recently expanded their brewing operations and were operating a very impressive business in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. We tried a few different beers and even though I am turned off by odd flavors in beer I was very happy with the Pumpkin Ale. During our tasting I noticed that they advertised these cool compostable cups. This lead me to do some more research and I also found out that “the company’s brewery and headquarters in Brooklyn are 100% powered by Newwind Energy.”

Cool Cups at the Brewery

Brooklyn Brewery New Expansion

Finally, we went to a very cool burger joint called Shake Shack. I had a burger and shake and they were excellent but what really stood out was a wall explaining their history and dedication to “going green.” They purchase wind power credits to offset 100% of their electricity and they also practice on-site composting and they recycle used cooking oil. In the construction of the building they used a plethora of sustainable building materials: walls made of fiberboard, wheat board tabletops and trash cans, ceiling tiles made from renewable wood, LED low voltage light fixtures, and they “introduced a green wall(recyclable modular unit and pre-grown living system) that will remain in bloom year round.”
Overall, I was very impressed with the dedication to sustainability shown by the people of New York – keep up the good work!

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Filed under Buy Local, Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Gardening, Green Technology, Innovation, NAHB, Outdoor Adventure, Parks, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Responsible Materials, Solar, Sustainable Businiess, Uncategorized, USGBC, Water conservation

Small Scale Homebuilding

My interest in modular eco-friendly homes grew when I ran across some modular home companies at West Coast Green last year in San Francisco. That interest was pushed to the back of my mind until I ran across this story of a 16 year old building a self-contained “tiny green home” in his parents backyard because he, like most teenagers, “wanted to move out.”

That is not his only reason however. In this short video showcasing his house, the young man sites all sorts of economical and environmental reasons behind starting his project. 

He was happy about owning a home but not worrying about paying a mortgage. The small size also limits the amount of electricity and other utilities, saving money in the process. He was able to greatly reduce the amount of waste produced during construction due to the small scale of construction(he only had two trash cans of waste from one year of construction). Almost all of the materials used in construction have been reclaimed from salvage yards or donated from friends, the framing lumber was the only material purchased new as it was needed for the structure of the house. He estimates the total project costing $12,000.

This led me to asking the question: who is doing this on a larger scale? I rummaged through the internet and discovered many cool companies involved in the modular home business, and nearly all of them are focused on making their homes as efficient and eco-friendly as possible while keeping the associated costs for the consumer down(sections of the home are built in factories and loaded on a truck then assembled in a few days at the site – this allows the builder to reduce the cost of construction). Keywords and phrases that keep popping up when I search modular homes include: smart design, passive solar, simplify, healthy, water conservation, cheaper, solar, wind, thermal, easier, and flexible just to name a few. All of these terms are related to conservation and efficiency; Everyday we are told to be conservative with our resources in order to be more sustainable so why not become more conservative, economical, and efficient while building our homes. Here are some of the companies I discovered that are doing just that:

  • Alchemy Architects have designed the Weehouse using an ultra modern modular home that can be constructed fast and easy. They just developed a “net-zero” WeeHouse in Moab, Utah that will produce as much energy as it uses.
  • The modular homes featured at tinygreencabins.comcan be built on a trailer bed so that if you would like to take your home with you, you could hitch up the trailer and be on your way. They also offer non-toxic options, organic certified material, locally harvested lumber, steel framing, and recycled products. The cabins can also be customized with solar panels and solar hot water heaters.

    Wildfire Tiny House

  • Green Pod Development builds compact custom modular homes built for energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and sustainability. The SoloPod “features innovative designs and artful furnishings.”
  • And finally, Bluhomes, they claim that their “highly efficient, innovative steel-framed homes cost on average 50-70 percent less to operate on a monthly basis than conventional homes.”

    My personal favorite - The Glidehouse Bluhome

-T

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Filed under Buy Local, Carbon Footprint, Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, NAHB, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Responsible Materials, Solar, Sustainable Businiess, Uncategorized, USGBC, Water conservation, Weatherization, Window Coverings

Brand New Display for Dwell on Design

Here is a sneak peak of our new trade show display. Come see the full display in action at Dwell on Design, June 24-26 at the LA Convention Center. We will also be featuring our Emergency Power Kit for portable back-up energy when you need it most. http://plugnsaveenergyproducts.com/

 

Golden Brown PV Solar Cells in a Natural Basswood Shutter

Turkish Blue PV Solar Cells in an Arctic White Shutter

Army Green PV Solar Cells in an Oak Finished Shutter

Exterior PV Solar Shutter with an interior PV Solar Shutter in the window - A complete set-up!

Standard white PV Solar Shutter in our display piece

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Filed under Buy Local, Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Green Technology, Innovation, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Responsible Materials, Solar, Weatherization, Window Coverings

The National Parks Service focus on sustainability: encouraging news and positive moves

We have been looking into historic restoration and preservation, and it’s encouraging to see that the National Parks Service has focused energy toward sustainability. Our Government’s influence on building standards, the environment, and renewable technology has continued to grow every day.

New Sustainability And Historic Preservation Guidelines Out

With all of the innovative green technology available, it’s promising to see them being applied to our historic buildings; energy efficient upgrades while remaining focused on preserving historical integrity. These buildings will not only represent where we came from, but who we are today and our goals for the future.

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Filed under Conservation, Hiking, Parks, Responsible Materials

When it Comes to Solar, We Now Have Choices

Golden Brown, Tile Red, Army Green, Turkish Blue, Stone Elegance, and True Steel… are these choices for your kitchen tile remodel or the latest options you have when producing solar energy?

One of the many perks of working in the renewable energy industry is that we are exposed to all sorts of new technology, like these awesome looking colored solar cells.

Clockwise from upper left: Golden Brown, Tile Red, Army Green, and Turkish Blue

As most of you know, our main product offering is the PV Solar Shutter – an interior plantation shutter that we outfit with PV solar cells in order to produce renewable energy (if you don’t know, now you know).

We have shown our shutter to many consumers and industry professionals and out of all the questions we hear, these two stand out: “how do those shiny blue solar cells look through the window?” and “Won’t these be an eyesore to people walking by the house?”

In order to put the consumers mind at ease we started looking at the Color Solar Cell or C-Cell from Lof Solar. They offer many different color options while still maintaining a high efficiency rating. The initial cells we received were rated between 14.3% – 15.7% efficiency. Lof states that their “colorized solar cells do not hamper conversion efficiency, and its design can be combined with exterior hues of buildings and houses, to enhance color coordination.”

This is exactly what we wanted to offer as an option for our PV Solar Shutter so consumers can match the color of their Solar Shutter with the exterior colors of their building. Until now, silicon solar cells are deep blue because it boasts the highest efficiency and is the most economical, but these new C-Cells do not hurt the conversion efficiency and the price is getting very close to being competitive with similar deep blue cells.

The Tile Red cells installed in some mahogany red shutter louvers

The main thing I’ve learned is that new solar cell technology is rolled out nearly everyday…just today I found a release stating that SunPower Corporation boasts cells that can achieve efficiency of 20% or more. This sets the world record for highest efficiency for commercially available solar cells.

Anyways, let us know if you stumble upon any other cool or interesting renewable energy news and happy power production!

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Filed under Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, Renewable Energy, Solar, Supply Chain Management, Weatherization, Window Coverings

Introducing Plug ‘N Save’s Discussion Forum

Do you like to express your opinion via the internet? Do you want to be involved in conversations discussing the important issues affecting the state of renewable energy? Do you want to have a place to ask your questions? Well then it is my pleasure to introduce to you the Plug ‘N Save Discussion Forum!

Join the discussion by visiting our Home page and clicking the Forum button on the top menu bar or through the link below. We currently have two discussion topics up, one about how buying responsibly can lead to a more sustainable life and the other about the future of renewable energy industries after the end of government stimulus. Voice your thoughts or start a new topic!

http://plugnsaveenergyproducts.com/forums/forum/general-topics/

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