Crazy Weather Week for the East Coast

28 08 2011

Image via The New Yorker

Between earthquakes, tornado warnings, and a hurricane-turned-tropical storm, the US’s east coast has had a tough week in weather. A common question associated with major weather events is whether or not they are caused, or exacerbated, by global warming.

Take a look at this excerpt from The New Yorker for a preliminary answer:

Are more events like Irene what you would expect in a warming world? Here the answer is a straightforward “yes.” In fact, experts have been warning for years that New York will become increasingly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding as the planet heats up. In 2009, the New York City Panel on Climate Change, appointed by Mayor Bloomberg, concluded that, as a result of global warming, “more frequent and enhanced coastal flooding” was “very likely” and that “shortened 100-year flood recurrence period” was also “very likely.” Much of the problem simply has to do with sea levels—as these rise, any storm or storm surge becomes more dangerous. Marcus Bowman, an oceanography professor at Stony Brook University, has warned that the city could one day have “flood days,” the way it now has snow days.

Meanwhile, rising temperatures make other risks worse as well. Warm air holds more moisture, so as temperatures rise there is more water available to the system. And warmer ocean temperatures mean there is more energy available to fuel severe storms like Irene. As Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, explained recently on the blog Climate Progress, “Owing to higher SSTs [sea surface temperatures] from human activities, the increased water vapor in the atmosphere leads to 5 to 10% more rainfall and increases the risk of flooding.” Also, “because water vapor and higher ocean temperatures help fuel the storm, it is likely to be more intense and bigger as well.”

When we add all of these risk factors together, we can say with a great deal of confidence that in the future, there will be more and more events like Irene. We can comfort ourselves by saying that this particular storm was not necessarily caused by global warming. Or we can acknowledge the truth, which is that we are making the world a more dangerous place and, what’s more, that we know it.

, The New Yorker

We hope you all had a safe and happy weekend, with or without these weather occurrences!

Environmental News: ‘The Efficiency Opportunity Roadmap’

25 08 2011
The Efficiency Opportunity Roadmap

The Efficiency Opportunity Roadmap

Most people don’t instantly associate technology and computers with ‘green living.’ However, these electronic devices are an incredibly integral part of most people’s lives… making them more energy efficient is an important development.

Microsoft has begun development on making the pieces that go into our technology more environmentally-friendly. Take a look at the excerpt from the article below, as well as the following video, to learn more about how major companies will be developing green technology in the coming years.

Starting at the Silicon level, certain components, such as “green” RAM and disk drives, can use less power at normal operational loads through lower voltage or other low power designs (e.g., solid-state drives instead of hard disk drives). Additionally, certain components, such as the CPU and hard disk drives, can dynamically lower their power needs when less busy or idle, typically in conjunction with the operating system.

The operating system can employ some very sophisticated power management capabilities. By monitoring system operation, it can understand and respond to usage patterns, thereby allowing the hardware reduce its energy use.

As we have shown previously, applications can help reduce energy consumption in a number of ways. If they are designed to work well with power management, by providing utilization information back to the OS and having the ability to respond to  variable system availability, they can ensure that servers and PCs are able to save energy when idle and that user productivity is not affected by displays or systems powering off when critical tasks are running. Server applications that are designed to use IT resources dynamically and be tolerant to sudden equipment failure can dramatically improve server utilization by reducing the number of servers or virtual machines assigned to a given application. Finally, applications should be able to suspend or postpone noncritical operations when resources (IT resources or electric power) are constrained.

Microsoft, The Triple Pundit

Fair Promotes Green Living for Everyone

21 08 2011

We love hearing about local communities finding interesting and fun ways to get people excited about green living. What better way to accomplish this task than with a “green” country fair?

A community in London has done just that:

An event to promote practical, cost-effective ideas for green living will be run in a south-east London park next month.

Brockwell Park in Herne Hill will be home to the Urban Green Fair for a fifth year on Sunday, September 4.

The free event will offer more than 40 speakers, films, poets, workshops, children’s activities, food stalls and BMX races.

Organisers plan to use only solar and wind energy to power the day, which will give it one of the lowest carbon footprints of any festival in the country.

The event is being run by the Urban Green Fair Community Interest Company (CIC) which is dedicated to positive change on global and local levels.

Fair director Shane Collins said: “As well as being a fun day out, whatever your age, the Urban Green Fair is a chance to learn about the changes coming to our society and how best to navigate them together.

He said the fair aimed to educate the public on green initiatives and to stimulate support through shared knowledge.

The Press Association

What kinds of environmentally-friendly events does your community hold? Have you ever been to a green fair? If you’re active in your hometown, think about suggesting an event like this for your annual country fair or Earth Day celebrations. While it obviously makes for an educational event, it also promotes the idea that a green lifestyle is fun!

An Exciting New Discovery for Solar Energy

18 08 2011

Image via NASA

Great strides for solar energy have been made in recent months, and it is exciting to follow the story as it develops. Each discovery is another step towards making greener living simpler and more affordable.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have made a scientific discovery that  is intriguing all on its own but it is the breakthrough’s potential applications in solar power generation that have them excited. According to Stephen Rand, a professor at the university and author of the paper that discusses his team’s discovery in the “Journal of Applied Physics”, the researchers found a way to make an “optical battery” which harnesses the magnetic attributes in light that, until now, scientists didn’t think amounted to much of anything.

The report explains that  light has both electric and magnetic components but, until now, scientists believed the magnetic field effects were weak enough that they could be ignored. Rand and his fellow researchers, however,  found that at the right intensity, when light is traveling through a material that does not conduct electricity, the light field can generate magnetic effects that are 100 million times stronger than thought possible. Under these circumstances, says Rand, the magnetic fields become similar in strength to a strong electric effect.

William Fisher, a doctoral student in applied physics, says that what makes this possible is “a previously undetected brand of “optical rectification.”  In traditional optical rectification, light’s electric field causes positive and negative charges to be pulled apart in a material. That sets up voltage, similar to battery. Before, this effect had only been observed in crystalline materials that possessed a certain symmetry. This process works with materials such as glass, but presently requires light that surpasses the sun’s natural intensity Fisher indicated they were working on finding materials that would at lower light intensity.

The research team believes that this discovery could lead to a solar cell that requires no semi-conductor. Since semi-conductors constitute a bulk of a solar cell’s processing, eliminating it represents an opportunity for a considerable reduction in costs. Fisher notes that a solar cell using this new energy harvesting technique would only require lenses to focus the light and fiber to carry it. “Glass works for both,” said Fisher,  ”it’s already made in bulk, and it doesn’t require as much processing. Transparent ceramics might be even better.”

Caleb Denison, Earth Techling

Fantastic findings!

At Green Printer, we strive to keep up with all of the latest news in environmental preservation and technology. Is there a recent study or article about green living that grabbed your attention? Are you working in your local community to create environmental change? We’d love to hear from you in the comments! You might even find yourself or your findings featured in our weekly blog posts!

Green News: Can Organic Farming Reduce Antibiotic Resistance?

13 08 2011

Those of us who ascribe to a green lifestyle already know that this choice is in the interest of a wide variety of concerns, not strictly environmental ones. Living green also has a huge impact on our health. It is vitally important to pay attention to these matters, as so often the general public isn’t informed of developments surrounding their own health.

A recent study has shown that purchasing organic meats and other products can decrease the risk of resistance to antibiotics. From The Examiner:

Organic poultry farms that don’t use antibiotics have significantly lower levels of drug-resistant bacteria that can potentially spread to humans. That’s according to a new study which is the first to demonstrate lower levels of drug-resistant bacteria on newly organic farms. The research adds to the growing concern among health experts about germs becoming resistant to many commonly used antibiotics.

More than 100,000 people die every year from bacterial infections, 70 percent of which are resistant to antibiotics. The Food and Drug Administration estimates farmers use 29 million pounds of antibiotics every year on food producing animals, that’s 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. Bacteria resistant to antibiotics can reach humans through food and the environment, like water contaminated with runoff.

The new study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, measured the impact of removing antibiotics from poultry farms by looking at 10 conventional and 10 newly organic large-scale poultry houses. They tested for the presence of enterococci bacteria in poultry litter, feed and water and tested its resistance to 17 common antimicrobials. Researchers say 67 percent of the bacteria recovered at conventional farms were resistant to erythromycin, a commonly used drug used to treat infections in humans. That compares to just 18 percent from the organic farms.

How important is it to you to be a green grocery shopper? If you aren’t already choosing organic products, what is the reason? Do you have any ideas for readers who may struggle to find organic products in their locals stores?

Green Homes Catching On!

10 08 2011

No place is more indicative of our priorities than the home we live in. For those of us for whom green living is a major issue, having a home that supports that choice is very important. It looks like the environmental push is spreading, as a new study has shown that green homes in Portland, OR have been far outselling non-green homes in the same area:

For the fourth straight year in a row, green certified homes have outperformed non-certified homes in the Portland metro region, according to a study by the Earth Advantage Institute.

The annual study found that existing homes with a sustainable certification sold for 30 percent more than homes without one, according to sales data provided by the Portland Regional Multiple Listing Service. This finding is based on the sales of existing homes between May 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011 in Multnomah, Clackamas, Columbia, and Washington Counties in Oregon and Clark County in Washington.

The study also examined how newly constructed homes built to sustainable certifications performed, and found that they sold for 8 percent more than new non-certified homes in the same six-county area.

– Matt Smith, Environmental News Network

Is your own home green or are you considering moving to a home with more environmentally-friendly qualities? Even if moving or doing major reconstruction isn’t an option for you at this time, you can always make small changes to your lifestyle to assist the environment!  

Have you made changes to your home in the interest of green living? We’d love to hear about it in the comments! Share your tips & tricks!

The Potential for ‘Zero Emissions’

5 08 2011

One of the latest pieces of environmental technology news to hit the press is the creation of solar powered vehicle chargers. This new development takes the concept of “zero emissions” a step beyond hybrid cars, it actually allows the entire vehicle to be run off of solar energy. This is a major stride forward in creating transportation that is 100% environmentally friendly, as well as making travel without the reliance on gas a reality.

“Zero emissions” is a tricky phrase. Electric vehicles produce zero emissions at the tailpipe, but more often than not there are emissions at the power plant. The only way to have a truly zero-emissions EV is to get your power from a renewable source like the sun.

SolarCity is making it a whole lot easier to do that. The California company has started offering solar EV chargers to customers in 11 states and Washington, D.C., allowing people to drive their cars purely on sunshine.

“It allows for the carbon-free lifestyle. You can go EV and PV and drive on sunshine power,” Ben Tarbell, vp of products, told us. “There are a lot of environmental and economic benefits for our customers.”

The company, fresh off a $280 million investment from Google, makes it easy for people to embrace solar power by leasing them complete photovoltaic packages. It’s been dabbling in solar chargers for awhile, and it installed solar EV charging stations along highway 101 between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2009.

But the arrival of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, not to mention the plethora of EVs and plug-in hybrids automakers promise to deliver by 2015, makes it time to go all-in, Tarbell said.

– Alexander George, Environmental News Network

Green News: New Green Book Helps Students Live Sustainably at Duke

3 08 2011

It is always nice to see institutions moving towards greener living, especially those that influence a large number of young adults. Duke University is doing just that by providing incoming students with a Green Book to assist them in conducting their time at the school, as well as their lives in general, with environmental interests as a high priority.

The book itself is a great start—it is printed on recycled paper!

From the University’s website:

Allison Donnelly is a rising sophomore at Duke and the leader of the project to create the Green Book, which was an effort of the undergraduate environmental group, the Environmental Alliance.

“The first few weeks of college can be overwhelming, so we wanted to make it easy to live green at Duke right from the start,” said Donnelly, speaking of her inspiration for the project.

Students will find information about dining, recycling, alternative transportation, and other aspects of green living. The Green Book also provides information that is useful to students before they arrive on campus, such as a shopping list for a green dorm room and ways to get around Duke and Durham without bringing a car to campus.

According to Donnelly, “Students don’t always hear about all the ways they can live green and get involved in sustainability on campus.  The Green Book gives them all of that information in one place.”

Casey Roe, Duke Today