Energy Savers Don’t Wear Cardigans?

A New York Times article says that market forces can make an impact on energy efficiency.

There are reasons for optimism. One is that market forces can help provide solutions: higher prices, on their own, can make people cut back. Just how responsive consumers are to price changes – what economists call the elasticity of demand – has been the focus of much research. Today, economists believe that they have developed a pretty good rule of thumb for energy use. In the case of electricity, which is relatively easy to measure, they have found that when the price rises 10 percent, electricity use falls roughly 3 percent. At the gas pump, a 10 percent increase in price leads to a decline of around 2 percent in demand.

Here is my favorite part of the article:

How much more energy-efficient can we become? Amory B. Lovins, chief executive of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit energy research group in Snowmass, Colo., says that a barrel of oil today already does twice as much work as it did in 1975.

Energy efficiency makes a difference! And technology can help increase energy efficiency by substantial amounts.

Now I guess we’ll see if today’s high energy prices will result in another giant leap forward in efficiency, like the energy crisis in the 70s helped create.

Environmental Cattle Ranching with the Quivira Coalition

Home on the Eco-Ranch

Ranching in the western U.S. is a time honored tradition, but if done incorrectly, ranching can severely damage the environment. Ranchers and environmentalists have been at odds for years, scrapping and fighting over issues such as public lands and water rights. Some of the disputes have gotten so heated that guns have been drawn and Forest Service cars burned to the ground. Environmentalist Courtney White finally decided enough was enough and started communicating with ranchers to find some common ground. Thus, the Quivira Coalition was born. The Coalition is now working on what they call “The New Ranch,” which involves restoring and protecting wetlands, land health assessment, and ranchland monitoring. They focus on education and try and involve as many stakeholders as possible to keep the dialogue going. They produce an excellent newsletter which is available on-line.

Good work, guys! Ride ’em on home!

Step on the Gas?

car exhaust.bmp

Cars are great, and conserving energy is “perverse,” according to this recent Wall Street Journal editorial.

Similarly, there is now a nearly maniacal obsession among policy makers and the Greens to conserve energy rather than to produce it. Even many of the oil companies are running ad campaigns on the virtues of using less energy (do the shareholders know about this?) — which would be like McDonald’s advising Americans to eat fewer hamburgers because a cow is a terrible thing to lose. A perverse logic has taken hold among the intelligentsia that progress can be measured by how much of the earth’s fuels we save, when in fact the history of human economic advancement, dating back to the invention of the wheel, has been defined by our ability to substitute technology and energy use for the planet’s one truly finite resource: human energy.

Ultra-efficient Greenhouses

Growing Spaces is a family-owned business that produces what they call “The Greenhouse of the Future.” The Growing Dome Greenhouse is a fantastic concept in greenhouse gardening that uses an ultra-efficient dome shape to create an ideal year-round microclimate.

The Growing Dome is extra sturdy and comes in a variety of sizes, from 12 feet to 51 feet in diameter. Support environmentally friendly small businesses by checking out their products! Need more convincing? Toyota Manufacturing Company likes their product so much that they’re actually planning on using one of their greenhouses for a pilot organic waste recycling project!

See the full article here: New Visions.

Bioneers, Revolution from the Heart of Nature

Bioneers, Revolution from the Heart of Nature.”

What a great catchphrase! This amazing group of people also goes by the name of “The Collective Heritage Institute.” Just what do they do? Just about anything that involves helping the environment, helping critters and plants, and helping us lead healthier lives with less impact on the environment. They emphasize “restoration” rather “sustainability” and look towards technologies that are inspired by nature.

As environmentalists, we’ve been hearing a lot about the whole “sustainability” thang these days. However, most of us know that we’re not working with a healthy planet to begin with. According to the Bioneers, restoring the environment is a much better way to have an impact than simple conservation. While conservation of course is critical, if we can work to restore land, habitat, etc. that is not completely lost yet, we’ll be doing the planet a huge favor.

The Bioneers have a radio show, a conference, a newsletter, a bookstore,and they emphasize working with youth. Wow! Looks like they’ve got it all covered.

Electric Tankless Water Heater

Electric tankless water heater? What the heck is that? For your information, these little gadgets are great for the practical environmentalist. They heat your water, only when you need hot water! This avoids the added energy spent in maintaining a constant supply of hot water ready for use. A typical water heater looses energy through heat radiated from the walls of the tank. Why waste this energy? Even the feds have some useful info on these products. See this EERE review of tankless water heaters.

This company seems to carry the best products out there: Tankless Water Heater.

New for 2006: Wacky Biodegradable Socks!

Japanese and American manufactures plan on producing a biodegradable sock for early 2006. They’ll be made from corn-derived fiber and produced in the U.S. They will first appear in clothing stores in Japan. The U.S. Grains Council seems to be behind this unusual sock, in an attempt to create new markets for U.S. corn.

Fox River Mills Inc. of Iowa, W.Y. Shugart & Sons Inc. of Alabama, and Harriss & Covington Hosiery Mills and Twin City Knitting, of North Carolina will be the primary factories responsible for reproducing the socks. They’ll cost about 20% more than regular socks, by the way, but are a supposedly an “eco-friendly” alternative to petroleum-based socks, which, in addition to cotton and wool, are quite common and take more time to degrade.

See the full article here: Biodegradable Corn Socks

Eco-friendly companies: Green Roof Projects

There’s no doubt that urban environments lack green spaces, especially in the largest cities. However, thanks to human creativity, people are now coming up with unusual ways to add green to the city.

Where? Look up! Green roofs are becoming more and more common in cities such as Chicago, Toronto, and Philadelphia. Roofscapes, Inc. is a company that specializes in building green roofs in big cities. They’re based in Philadelphia and have worked on dozens of green roofs projects such as the Fencing Academy of Philadelphia, and Chicago’s City Hall.

Some of these spaces are actually open to the public (or at least to employees working in the building) and function like a park. Suddenly, life in the city doesn’t look as gray and bleak and gray as it once did!

ABC Australia, the Animated Adventures of Greena, SuperHippie!

I don’t know where I found this site, but it is perfect for anyone who thinks environmentalists at times take themselves too seriously. Produced by ABC Television and Radio Australia, the Adventures of Greena is an animated on-line comic strip that details the life, times, and adventures of super-hippie Greena as she tries to save the world. An example of what you’ll find: In an episode entitled “the Whale Whisperer,” Greena tries to save a beached whale. After several failed attempts, she raises he hand to her head in exasperation and releases a powerful dose of body odor, finally causing the whale to run away to avoid the stink. Not for everyone, especially if you’re an environmentalist who takes themselves too seriously.

Alternatives to Gift Wrapping

As Christmas approaches, I’m beginning to get the image in my mind of the mountains of wrapping paper that my family throws out every year. (Ok, we’re not that close to Christmas yet!, still…..) Yeah, it was great to hear the rip of paper as you opened up your new G.I. Joe toy. It’s still pretty great to tear into those presents, but “White, Eco-Guilt” has gotten the better of me this year. I started looking for an alternative to the wasteful practice of using wrapping paper. Here it is, folks! TaDa! EarthEasy’s Gift Wrapping Alternative Guide. Yep, do it yourself instructions on making reusable cloth wrappers, recycled wrapping materials, etc. Good stuff!

Help Preserve Native American Gardening with Native Seeds/SEARCH

Native Seeds/SEARCH is a non-profit organization based in Arizona that works to collect and preserve seeds from Native America communities in the American West. They in turn sell many of these unusual seeds, which include heirloom squash, colorful corn varieties, amaranth, and hot peppers.

They also sell books, videos, gift cards, prepared food products, and arts and crafts. You’re sure to find an excellent gift for the serious gardener on their webiste, and by purchasing their products, you’ll also be helping to preserve Native American cultures!

Ecotourism in Australia

We like the idea of “ecotourism,” even though it’s a flawed concept. At its best, you get a community-based tourism project that is actually run by the community, benefits the community, and helps the environment. Unfortunately, you see a lot of big companies or people who aren’t locals who slap on the name of “ecotourism” when they really don’t benefit anybody but themselves, and their services are hardly environmental.

And so, that brings us to the topic of Australia! Yep, Australia! We love Australia, and we like the idea of ecotourism, so we wanted to find a way to promote real community-based ecotourism in this amazing country. Ecotourism Australia runs the Eco Certification Program, which is a great way to check to see if your destination is really going to benefit the environment and the local economy. While their published mission statement doesn’t say much about “community-based” tourism, they seem to have the right idea.

Kids in Action for Nature

My unofficial motto for this group would be: “Start ’em young. That way they’ll actually give a damn!” So many adults in our world get to the point where they say “yeah, but there’s no point, what can I do about it?!” Action for Nature (AFN) is an organization that gives out “International Young Eco-Hero Awards” to girls and boys around the world, 8 to 16 years of age. Celebrating youth and eco-heroes is where to look for more info.

Energy Star, A Government Program That Works

Sure, our government has a reputation of coming up with lots of inefficient ideas, but occasionally something beautiful pops up out of all that messy bureaucracy. ENERGY STAR is one of those things of beauty. This is a government-sponsored program that works to improve energy efficiency and protect the environment at the local level. They work with businesses and individuals and have a certification program that selects household products for high energy efficiency standards and then recommends them on their site. They also certify new homes if you’re looking to purchase a home. They even help with advice on home improvements.

Wonderwash – Hand Crank Powered Washing Machine

This hand crank powered washing machine requires no electricity.
This hand crank powered washing machine requires no electricity.

Millions of people throughout the world wash their clothes by hand and hang it out to dry. In developed countries, we use tons of energy in washing and drying our clothes in machines. We need to ask ourselves, are washing machines a necessity, or a luxury? There is no doubt about it, washing clothes by hand is a pain in the butt. Who has the time and energy these days?

Well, here is a happy alternative, the Wonder Wash hand powered compact washer. This is a hand cranked washer that uses high pressure to get your clothes super clean. In the process, you use up to 90% less water and detergent. It takes about 2 minutes to wash a 5 pound load, and requires no electricity. You may even find you’ll be spending a little less time at the gym!

You can also use organic bio-degrabable detergents with the Wonder Wash. Additionally this machine reduces the amount of lint produced by washing.

PLEASE NOTE: We are linking to a different source for this product now, and not the company complained about in the comments., an Environmentally Friendly Company

Building Green

Building Green is an eco-friendly company that works to provide information for the residential and commercial building community. They publish the excellent Environmental Building News which is chock full of great information. The magazine is not cheap, but it’s worth it.

They also offer a number of books including GreenSpec, which has tons of information on green building products, listed in over 200 categories.

Get busy and Build Green!

Good News about Global Warming: Healthier Salmon!

Salmon: A Delicious More-Than-Likely Non-Toxic Fish

Norwegians, especially Norwegian salmon, may actually benefit from the effects of global warming.

How? In a weird twist of “mankind as evil contaminator,” more rains in Norway due to global warming may help dilute pollutants that blow into Norwegian rivers from other European countries.

Before, these rivers relied mostly on winter snow runoff to wash out contaminates. These days, Norway is getting an increasing amount of rain rather than snow, so this translates to a more prolonged cleansing of their rivers. The Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) is responsible for the study.


Unfortunately for these poor fish, this might just mean that we’ll gobble them up quicker. No complaining, though.

Depleted ozone leads to cleaner rivers. Weird stuff! Well, that’s what we’re here for, looking for that eternal silver lining! See this article from ENN for more info.

Garden Tools for Arthritic or Disabled Gardeners — or Just Those Who Want Cool Ergo Tools

Garden Tools for All Seasons offers a wide selection of gardening tools for gardeners with arthritis, weak grips, or who are wheelchair bound. They carry pruners and loppers, bulb planters, and composters.

This is an excellent resource for folks who working in Gardening and Horticulture Therapy. These tools also make great gifts for your arthitic or disabled friends who enjoy gardening.