Category Archives: Energy

Lighting Up Holidays the Green Way

Brightening the Holiday Spirit 

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I have started to decorate for Christmas. I love lights, and could never imagine a holiday without them. I know this is not very environmental, so I have researched ways to make it as environmental as possible. This year I have started my own collection of Christmas lights of my own. I decided that on short notice and low budget LED lights are my best option.

Holiday lights have become quite the tradition all over the United States. It goes along with the capitalistic/materialistic view of the holidays, which we have all been trapped into believing, me included. Lights are not only expensive to purchase, but all those lights on at all hours of the night take a toll on your electricity bill, as well as your environment.

LED, Your Gift for the Planet

  • According to the Department of Energy, Holiday lights account for more than 6 terawatt-hours per year, the total electricity consumption of 500,000 homes.  (The majority of lights being incandescent).
  • Incandescent lights burn out quicker than LED lights which last as much as 10 times longer.
  • LED lights have significantly less risk to cause a fire. LEDs also don’t contain mercury.
  • When LED lights started they were often not as bright or attractive as incandescent lights, but with the increase of technology, they are almost identical in my opinion, that is if you find the right brands.
  • LEDs use 80% less energy then incandescent lights.

Throw Away Those Old Lights? 

If you have large incandescence replace them now with LED lights. But if you have mini-incandesent lights you should keep your old lights (if they are still safe to use), until they burn out. Then I recommend switching to LED lights. . If you throw out all your perfectly good christmas lights it creates a huge amount of waste and pollutes the environment.

When you are done with your lights don’t throw them away! Find a local recycling program.

Home Depot offers a trade in where you can get a discount on LED lights. (Although this program has passed for this year watch for it next year). Similar programs can be found with discounts on LED lights such as on Holiday LEDs

Greenest way to Brighten Your Home? 

Solar LED lights have the least environmental impact of all the possible lights that you can use. Solar lights use the solar panel, (photovoltaic cell) which collects sun’s energy and converts it to electric current. The battery is used to store electricity until it is used. LED bulbs turn on when it is dark. Being a new technology they do have some differences in brightness and availability. There are mixed reviews depending on weather, so before buying them make sure your yard would be able to have adequate light.

Pros

  • Easy to setup: don’t have to worry about outlets and cords
  • Convenient: turn on automatically.
  • Safety: No extension cords, lights stay cooler.
  • Free Energy: solar powered

Cons

  • Initial Price: is expensive, but less electrical bills.
  • Sunlight dependent: Without adequate sunlight they won’t shine as long
  • Weather: snow, rain, cold/cloudy can prevent adequate sunlight.

What You Can Do to Keep the Holiday Spirit  

  • Instead of putting up every strand of lights you own, do a smaller presentation of lights.
  • Use LED lights instead of regular lights.
  • Use mini-lights instead of full-sized lights.
  • Turn lights off once you go to sleep.
  • If you live in a place where solar lights are functional use them instead.

What lights will you be using this year? Do you think LED or LED solar is a better option for you?

Those Christmas lights, Light up the street, Down where the sea and city meet, May all your troubles soon be gone, Oh Christmas Lights Keep Shining on

~Coldplay

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Is City Living Greener?

A City Can Be Green? 

When someone says a “city,” one thinks about dirty, and unhealthy. No one thinks that city living is the way to be more green. David Owen, the author of Green Metropolis proposes that living in the city is greener.

How David Owen thinks Cities are Green

Transportation

    • Everything is condensed so people either take public transportation, walk, or bike.
    • Only half of the population has cars, most are rarely used.

Energy

    • City dwellers use almost half the amount than people who live outside cities..
    • Less big appliances.

Living Space

    • Living space is very small, which does not allow for the accumulation of things.

How not living in the city creates more pollution 

People have sprawled out over a large area, in order to get anything they have to drive there cars. They have more space in their cars. They have more space in their homes so they accumulate more.

Owen Claims that Solar encourages people to consume more energy and that the more green energy and cleaner energy for cars just continues to encourage the environmentally damaging behavior.

How to change?

In order to change the car-dependent lifestyle he claims that driving has to be unpleasant so no one wants to do so. He also says that HOV lanes only allow for a better flow of traffic. In order for them to really work environmentally they need to eliminate regular lanes and charge single-occupant cars. I would have to argue that carpooling is not always a realistic expectation. My mother, for example, is a doctor who has very different shifts than anyone else, she can not realistically carpool with someone, I do not think it’s fair to punish these people when there is no way they can carpool and no public transportation that is available and efficient.

Is it really greener?

While I do agree all these things make city dwellers have less of a direct environmental impact, I do not think that its impact is much less. Cities have a dense population leading to a dense concentration of pollution. Also what about all of the resources it takes to get goods and services to cities? Is that factored into his pollution equation? I think if this is factored in we might find that fossil fueled trucks, trains, and other forms of transportation are being used to supply these resources.

Health Risks

New York has the third highest cancer risk caused by airborne chemicals. Cities concentrate pollution that contributes to many health problems. Cities also have very high amounts of particulate pollution. With such a large population there is a large amount of garbage that needs to be disposed of. Although I realize that they would have a similar amount if they lived in the suburbs, cities do not have adequate plans for their garbage disposal. They often send it to other land fills in other states. Urban air pollution causes around 1.3 million deaths worldwide per year.

Long term exposure to air pollutants:

  • Increase the risk of respiratory illnesses they include: 
    • Allergies
    • Asthma
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
    • Lung Cancer
    • Cardiovascular disease
  • Children and the Elderly are especially susceptible to Health Effects of Ozone, fine particles, and other airborne toxicants.
  • The more polluted cities are with pollutants and smog, the more someone is at risk for hospitalization and early death.

I think that Owen makes good points but, there are many things he does not take into consideration that make the city solution appear less green. I think all communities need to have more self-sustaining practices, rather then relying on outside sources to bring in many of their goods. There will always be a portion of the population that wants to live in the city and a portion that wants to live in a rural setting. Irregardless of where one is living the use of public transportation, biking and walking should be encouraged. Communities should be as self-sustaining as possible utilizing local resources whenever possible. How will we get to a green world? Maybe a combination of ideas that Americans can adapt to and accept.

Should you read Green Metropolis? 

I highly recommend that you read the book, it contains some excellent ideas and is very insightful. Although, I do not think it is the all answer to our environmental problems it does bring up some very good points. I highly recommend the reading to broaden your look at environmental issues and some possible solutions. I find Owen’s writing to be very opinionated and his model for an environmental world to be very unrealistic.

What do you think? Is city living the way towards an environmentally friendly future?

“Cities all over the world are getting bigger as more and more people move from rural to urban sites, but that has created enormous problems with respect to the environmental pollution and  general quality of life.”

~Alan Dundes

Damn the big dams

Energy is needed

  • Increased power is needed in the rapid developing world we have today.
  • The need for electric power will continue to grow with the spread of urbanization and rising population
  • Many World Organizations and the World Bank got behind the idea of hydropower as a ‘sustainable’ way of producing energy.
  • Large Scale Hydropower does not benefit the local population and environment.
Some large dams include: 
Warragamba (Australia)
Chapeton (Argentina)
There are over 450,000 dams that are over 5 stories high.
Large scale dams have been built all over the world.
Countries with large dams include; the United States, Canada, Argentina, South Africa, China, India, and Australia.
Displacement of people
  • Displaced people are often not given the appropriate housing and living conditions (their cultural beliefs are not considered).
  • Displaced people are never given the compensation they were promised.
  • Those living downstream no longer have fisheries and water to support themselves.
  • Cultural artifacts and Archeological sites are lost.
  • Building dams destroys the land nearby through earthquakes created because of the pressure of the water collected by the dam.
Habitat destruction
  • Fish are unable to migrate upstream to spawn, decreasing the amount of fish available for food.
  • Huge amounts of habitat is filled with water.
  • Animals are disoriented by the sudden amount of water in their migration path, and they drown while trying to pursue their migration paths.
  • Downstream less water is flowing, which endangers the ecosystems.
  • Ecosystems are disrupted because many animals rely on the size, timing, and other seasonal changes to the water flow survive.
  • Wildlife living downstream can go extinct.

Water quality

  • In warmer climates dams create a breading ground for diseases such as Malaria and Schistosomiasis.
  • Increase in Salinization can occur. This causes natural salt to rise to the surface. Elevated groundwater and increased salt content has killed many trees and wetlands have been eliminated.
  • Sedimentation also occurs in large dams.
  • Hypoxia, a reduced oxygen content is damaging to aquatic life.
The picture below shows what Salinization does to the land.

I would highly recommend reading Jacques Leslie’s book Deep Water it is very educational and shows the consequences of dams in different places all over the world. I would warn you that the book is dry at sometimes, but the benefit from reading it is well worth it.

China admits Three Georges Dam has ‘problems’

Large dams will affect the community living near the dam in the long-term. Take for example the Three Gorges Dam, as the above video stated, it has had a significant effect on the drought in China.

Lesson learned

World Organizations, as well as the countries themselves, need to take into account the large impact building a big dam has on wildlife, culture, people, and weather. To be clear I am not against all dams, but there has to be a balance between energy demand and environmental consequences.

Did you know of the millions of people that have been displaced by dams? Do you think there is an equivalent compensation to them? There are many large scale dams being built in China, will anything be done to help the people who live there?

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.

~Thomas Fuller