People Making a Difference: Bob Hetherington of Earthtoys.com

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Today I’m very pleased to present an interview with the founder of Earthtoys.com, Bob Hetherington.

Earthtoys.com is a website devoted to the alternative energy industry. It features an e-magazine and web library, and also includes a news service updated hourly and an events calendar.

Bob founded the website in 2002. Since that time, it has served as a very popular resource for all those interested in alternative energy technologies. They have over 60,000 visits each month.

Bob says about the website,

“We provide an open and unbiased platform where new ideas, systems and solutions can be expressed, shared and cataloged for use by our readers.”

Enjoy the interview and make sure to visit Earthtoys.com! Thanks again to Bob Hetherington for taking the time out of his busy week to do this interview.

Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in the world of alternative energy.

I’m a mechanical engineer by profession and was in university in the early 70’s when the first gas crisis hit hard. Our faculty entered the Urban Car Competition at that time and we built the winning entry (beating out the likes of MIT and the US Army). It was a LNG (liquid natural gas) powered small sedan with many innovative features that made it not only energy efficient but safer, not polluting and very economical to operate.

I guess that’s when I got interested in alternative energy and I went on to do other projects at school such as studying the feasibility of using a flywheel to store energy in a car etc.

Unfortunately, I got busy paying mortgages and having kids after that. Reality sets in and some of our dreams must be delayed for a while. Unfortunately the alternative energy industry seemed to go into limbo too. The world went from economical small cars and practical living spaces to Hummers, SUV’s and monster homes while politicians and professors kept talking about how nice it would be to save energy and stop polluting the environment.

Too much talk and posturing … no practical products built and marketed.

How was the idea for the EarthToys website born?

The Daily Green is Up

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Ok, check it out. The Daily Green – “The consumer’s guide to the green revolution” is Hearst Magazines’ contribution to the world of Green Living. They just launched the beta version on Earth Day.

It looks like a pretty cool website so far. These are their highlights for the beta launch:

Exclusive Op-Ed from Presidential Candidate John Edwards – Encouraging Americans to take action now to stem the effects of climate change, Mr. Edwards outlines his environmental platform noting, “It is time for all of us to prove that patriotism is about more than supporting a war; it is about supporting the future.”

Robert Redford’s “The Heat is On” Video Short Debut – Urging the 2008 presidential candidates to make global warming a top priority, Redford’s video is part of the larger “The Heat is On” campaign by the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

Weird Weather Watch – This user-generated photoblog of climate change gives backyard environmentalists and camera phone climatologists a chance to share their wildest weather observations.

New Green Cuisine – The site is loaded with recipes developed by The Daily Green’s food editor as well as collected from various Hearst magazines, cookbooks and users, all based on healthy, organic, pesticide-free, or locally-grown ingredients.

The only feature that I found to be flawed is the Weird Weather Watch. Weird weather is interesting but not really compelling evidence of global warming or climate change. Occasional weird weather can be considered pretty normal and anomalous weather phenomena is something that has been going for thousands of years. Photo documentation over say 50-100 years of a melting glacier might serve as evidence, but not necessarily a few snap shots over a year or two. Some of the photos are interesting though, so it’s worth checking out. They are arranged in different catagories such as “Worth Preserving” and “Signs of the Times” (as in signs and billboards) so it’s not all about freaky weather as the name implies.

Other than that, the Daily Green is looking pretty good. I look forward especially to more of their eco-friendly tips.


Simple Ways you can help the Earth

 

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Clean Air Gardening created this PDF file with some terrific Earth Day tips that include simple, practical ways of helping the environment.

With their permission, we are reprinting the tips here. Please feel free to download the nicely designed PDF attachment if you’d like to keep a copy, or pass it around to anyone else you think might benefit from these tips.

It’s easier than you might think to contribute to ecological conservation. Minor efforts like the ones in the following list, practiced by millions of people just like you, can have an amazing effect on the health of our planet.

• Recycle paper, metal, and plastics wherever possible, and support recycling efforts by purchasing items made from recycled materials. A great deal of fleece clothing, for example, is made out of recycled plastic.

• Don’t throw away organic material; compost it. A significant proportion of the waste could be sustaining the earth instead of taxing its resources.

• Buy fruits and vegetables from a local farmer’s market, or grow some of your own. Since the produce doesn’t have to travel as far, it saves fuel and you’re supporting local farmers.

• Use manual or electrical tools instead of gas-powered ones. This cuts down on carbon emissions and other atmospheric pollutants.

• Use compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs, which are far more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs. Be sure to turn off these lights when you’re not using them, along with any unused electronics.

• If you’re a gardener (and we hope you are!) use organic rather than chemical and fossil fuel based fertilizers. The runoff from chemical fertilizers can contaminate water supplies and harm marine life, while properly applied organic fertilizers improve the soil and result in healthier plants.

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• Buy appliances, computers, and lighting fixtures marked with the Energy Star logo. These items meet the stringent energy-efficiency guidelines of the Energy Star program, a joint effort on the part of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to promote energy conservation.

• Is it nearby? Consider riding a bicycle or walking to your destination. It’s worth the extra effort and time, and most of use could use the exercise anyway. On days you can’t ride a bike, consider taking public transportation if it’s available to you.

• Plant a tree in your yard, or in a public area. Trees and other plants are instrumental in cleaning carbon dioxide out of the air; some can even filter out other pollutants. Every year, plant some flowers, too.

• Turn down your household thermostat in the winter, and turn it up in the summer. Use ceiling and floor fans more often to cool your home during warm weather. In addition to sacrificing for the good of the Earth, you’ll see significant savings in your monthly energy costs.

Thanks to Clean Air Gardening for sharing these tips and letting us reprint them.

What is your most practical environmental tip? Share it with a comment.

What are your Earth Day Plans?

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Today is your day to contribute your ideas to our readers!

We want to know the things that you’re doing this Earth Day to help improve the environment. Leave a comment below this post to tell us your Earth Day plans or any unique eco-friendly tips you may have. If you’re looking for an Earth Day event in your area, check out this website.

If you’d like, you can review our list of practical environmental solutions for some ideas on what to do, or check out our environmental resources page.

I plan on spending the day in the garden, and then heading over to a local Earth Day celebration here in New Mexico, where I’ll buy some organic veggies and check out alternative transportation booths.


Boeing recycles $60 million worth of stuff

With all the complaints you hear about how air travel is responsible for generating giant amounts of CO2, it’s nice to read something positive about Boeing.

Today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes about how Boeing earned $60 million in the process. Sounds like recycling paid off big time!

The aerospace company said it made more than $60 million last year as part of its massive recycling efforts, which included selling scrap metal and hawking used drill bits, safety glasses, wood containers and other excess goods at its six surplus stores in three states.

“It’s a sound business practice,” said Bob Jorgensen, a Boeing spokesman. “When we look at Earth Day, we don’t jump up and down and say, ‘Let’s get a campaign.’ Every day is Earth Day at Boeing. We do this for two reasons: It’s the smart thing to do from a business perspective, and it’s the right thing to do to be a good neighbor.”

Several other Puget Sound-area businesses echoed Jorgensen’s comments, saying that although Earth Day is Sunday, it’s important to have a green footprint all year. They say such practices help retain and recruit high-level employees who are environmentally conscious, and they say it helps their corporate images.

Anyone else out there have any good company efficiency / conservation / recycling stories they would like to share?