Link roundup. Interesting eco news stories.


Photo courtesy of
Anthony L. Solis at Flickr.com.

Here at the Practical Environmentalist, we’re green news junkies. We keep an eagle eye out for the latest science, social, and environmental developments and try to sum up the big picture here. This week, a lot of exciting things are going on.

The cost of airfare has gotten a lot of newsprint. Even though oil prices seem to have stabilized, ticket prices are still going up. When air travel gets so expensive that even P Diddy scales back his private jet flights, well, we’ve officially reached the tipping point. Cheap airfare is history, and soon we may all be flying like it’s 1955.

Sailing is a green alternative to air travel, but it can be awfully slow. A group raising awareness of plastic pollution decided to sail across the Pacific in a boat made from plastic junk? Believe it or not, they survived the trip and made it to Honolulu. Things got a bit dicey along the way, because they ran low on food. When they tried to catch some fish to supplement their provisions, they were (ironically) foiled by plastic pollution:

One day, said Paschal, they caught a fish after watching it grow for five weeks. They were going to eat it, but when they cut it open they found its stomach was full of plastic confetti.

Monitoring pollution in the ocean may become easier in the next couple of years. Scientists have found a new way to measure water pollution using algae. The method is a bit bizarre – just shine a special light on the algae and ‘listen’ to the sounds of the light striking the water. Healthy algae will absorb more of the light, and unhealthy algae will be unable to absorb certain wavelengths that due to the pollutants in the water. Algae reacts strongly to even small amounts of water contamination, and algae is widely available. As this method is developed further, the hope is that tests using algae will cost a fraction of what conventional tests cost.

Wind energy continues to make the news too. Wind turbines are going up at a phenomenal rate, and the production capacity of wind power doubled between 2006 and 2008. Even though wind power still makes up a tiny portion of total power, wind turbines accounted for more than a third of all new electrical production built last year.

The U.S. Department of Energy in May forecast that wind power could reach 20 percent of the nation’s power supply by 2030.

Earthtoys.com June Ezine is Up!

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As always, the new edition Earthtoys.com ezine is reason for excitement. The June version features some great info about the world of alternative energy.

It also has lots of in-depth articles on earth-friendly technologies. For example, this time around there are some interesting articles on Algae.

“WHY AREN’T ALGAE GETTING THE ATTENTION THEY DESERVE?”

“MICRO-ALGAE PRODUCES OMEGA-3 BIO-LIPID OIL”

Are two articles that you can enjoy if you love that green stuff! There’s also some cost comparisons with different photovoltaics, and a guide to practical solar energy for the home if you like the sunshine.

And as always, you’ll find articles on alternative fuels and transportation.

Enjoy!


Wind Power in the News Plus Jay Leno’s Wind (Power)!

The U.S. seems to me to underuse wind power. Wind power has become a very important source of renewable energy throughout the world. So why doesn’t it “fly” here in the States?

Popular Mechanics covers the controversy with a list of the three biggest causes of the lack of investment and possible solutions to help us get on board. You can read this story on PopularMechanics.com.

Popular Mechanics is also working with Tonight Show host Jay Leno, who is going to to install a state-of-the-art turbine on top of his “green garage shop.” That gas guzzling car crazy junkie better do something green!

You can see more about Jay’s wind power projects on the Popular Mechanics website as well.


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.