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  • Mark Piazzalunga

    DESERTEC project, Sahara Sun could power Europe by 2050

    By Mark Piazzalunga

    Sahara desert climate is hot and arid, everybody knows it. So how can this simple and well-known fact become the idea to power a continent like Europe? Let’s start from the principle: renewable energy is the future of energy; we assume that this sentence is true since all facts gets to this point. Second principle: European territory is restricted and allows the construction of a few plants that could use renewable energy. Paradoxically, countries like Africa have renewable sources, particularly solar, in abundance but scarce funds to make the best of these resources. Now find the connection. Is it possible to produce huge amounts of solar energy in Africa and transport them to Europe through energy infrastructures? Apparently yes, according to DESERTEC project developers and supporters. And what is DESERTEC? It’s an initiative of the Club of Rome (a global think tank that has its headquarters in Switzerland) started in 2009. Directly from the official website of the project (Desertec.org): "The DESERTEC concept was developed by a network of politicians, scientists and economists from around the Mediterranean, from which was born the DESERTEC Foundation. Demonstrates a way to provide climate protection, energy security and the development of sustainable energy generation from sites where renewable energy sources are at their most plentiful." In practical terms? Connect renewable energy power plants in Africa to Europe through a network of HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) systems. The Foundation target is to build several renewable power plants of various types (mainly wind, photovoltaic and solar concentration) throughout North Africa. To support the project financially, the Foundation and other 12 companies (including Deutsche Bank, E.ON, RWE and ABB) created an industrial initiative: Dii GmbH. The construction project would continue until 2050 and for that date, the cost is estimated at € 400 billion, which means $ 546,720,000,000, approximately seven times Bill Gates’ fortune. It’s little bit expensive (life on Mars seems cheaper) but the entire network could provide Europe with the 15-20% of electricity that it needs. We must also consider the drastic decrease of pollution, direct effect of the project. This project isn’t just an idea but it seems an accurate and long-term plan. This could be an opportunity to connect two continents and to give them economic opportunities and jobs. There could be some problems like the wars and the instability of some of North Africa countries or how to get all 40 nations to agree to an arrangement for subsidizing the green electricity. There’s also the possibility to build the plants in Europe, just $ 54 billion more, and doing some math it brings to a shocking number: €2 per citizen per year to keep tens of thousands of jobs in Europe -- and to prevent Europe from becoming dependent on foreign countries for its electricity. Well, the project just started and it has the funds to go forward. We can't wait to see the results. Photo from Desertec.org
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  • Megan Bonetti

    Conferencing Climate Change: Teamwork or Tug-of-war?

    By Megan Bonetti

    India. Culture, cows and rubbish. As an Aussie living for a short time in India it is such an intriguing country. Indians love their diverse nation yet they use the streets like rubbish dumps. Even my friends here tell me it’s ok to throw my paddle-pop wrapper out the car window. I can’t… so I just hold it tight and wait till I get home. Growing up in Australia, those ‘emu hunts’ in primary school have willed my littering days away. Yet I suspect that even my household trash bin will just be dumped across the road for the cows to eat or worse still, burnt on the street…for the cows to eat. This is India. Love it or hate it. (#tii) As an Australian social worker volunteering with an NGO in Southern India I witness the large divide between the rich and poor of this incredibly colourful nation. I work with many children whose whole families have had to migrate from various parts of India due to the rapid effects of drought on their land and the significant urbanisation of major cities in the last 10 years. It turns out India has seen a boom in it’s industrial and technological trades a little later than it’s western neighbours and they are loving it. But India’s urban boom is threatened with westerners telling them they have to stop producing and polluting. The earth doesn’t like it. Sorry India…We made our big capitalist bucks, but you don’t get that chance. Just when things are getting good and you’re developing astronomically, your main source of energy is being taken away. It turns out fossil fuels are the cheapest form of energy for the developing world, especially as they try in earnest to develop the same standard of living as we have. So as one the most formidable countries in the developing world, India not only has the pressures of navigating a massive population but also has to figure out how to go green on the cheap. It’s interesting that the Turnbull government has reluctantly agreed on a 5% reduction in carbon emissions in the next five years. “Phew! Glad we got through that one boys.” They wipe their sweaty brows while developing countries are drowning, burning and trying to survive on scant resources. These countries are just trying to make a crust, while Eurocentric nations are slowly turning a baguette into organic multigrain sourdough (and throwing the crusts to their hobby cows). If the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris is truly the last attempt for international cooperation, leaders cannot just show and tell their contribution and sit back with folded arms. But how can mere human individuals promote serious teamwork? This brings me back to the children I work with here in India. Every day their parent’s lives are tied to corrupt building associations. They are bonded labourers—gypsies moving from construction to construction. These families have no hope of returning to their now desolate homeland and are not provided social security measures that protect their livelihood. Then there is India’s neighbour, low-lying Bangladesh, experiencing saltwater intrusion that poisons whole water supplies for entire villages. In our own backyard we see Australian farmers shooting all their cattle only to turn the gun on themselves under the shadow of unprecedented drought. This is human impact. Global warming is not just about penguins and polar bears. Climate change is a social justice issue. We live in a globalised world. The industrial revolution brought us here; and climate change is the consequence. No longer do we just neighbour cities, we neighbour nations. The leaders of Australia must be held accountable to all their neighbours including the ones just trying to keep their head above water. It simply won’t do for wealthy nations, such as Australia, to show the world their own country’s carbon reductions and sit back down. This summit can’t work as a set menu; it has to be a potluck dinner, a time for sharing, understanding and safeguarding. For the sake of our beautiful earth and the many diverse cultures of the human race, this time I hope and pray that the leaders of the world provide a resounding voice for the marginalised. This summit and our government must not stop at figures, but uphold the basic democratic and human rights principles that cradle modern society. The United Nations was created so that man-made and worldwide calamities could no longer grasp our world with such authority. Well, it turns out a world war with Mother Nature is knocking on our doorstep. Will we listen and respond? I hope so.   For more information please visit the below links. They offer great insights into climate change realities and are positive and accessible resources for engaging the conversation. The reality of climate change | David Puttnam | TEDxDublin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBjtO-0tbKU India: Climate Change Impacts http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/06/19/india-climate-change-impacts Climate Change and the End of Australia http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/climate-change-and-the-end-of-australia-20111003 The Critical Decade: Climate Change and Health (Australia) http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/uploads/1bb6887d6f8cacd5d844fc30b0857931.pdf GoPro: Climate Change and the Optimistic Future https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sT6jtTtsG_M Paris Climate Conference: COP21 Explained https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-qd8YCaoQ4 Why is the Paris UN climate summit important? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnztR5JllA4 Adam asks new PM Malcolm Turnbull on climate change in Question Time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqXtKt-Is54 Morgan Freeman's Powerful Climate Change Short Film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YQIaOldDU8  
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    • 2,014 views
  • Joseph Ramondeli

    Black Friday Promotes Over-Consumption and Waste

    By Joseph Ramondeli

    Black Friday Promotes Over-Consumption and Waste               Every year Thanksgiving weekend is overshadowed by Black Friday and in recent years Cyber Monday as well. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time when families can get together, even if it’s just for a day or dinner, to talk and reconnect. However every year more American’s are focused on shopping. Stores are now open by 8:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day resulting in people sitting at the dinner table with their families while browsing on their phones for the best deals that they hope to buy in a few hours.  This is just another example of how our modern, technologically advanced society is constantly becoming more materialistic. Aside from Black Friday overshadowing an American holiday and tradition, it is an annual example of how Americans over-consume and by doing so are very wasteful.  A huge fraction of purchased goods during Black Friday and Cyber Monday are things that people don’t need, they are things they think they need. Advertisements and social trends play a big role in the impact of this event (I refuse to call it a holiday) and in our consumption behavior in general.             Companies are tricking and forcing us to buy un-needed goods through the use of planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence.  Planned obsolescence is disappointing because it refers to how companies purposely make products to only last a few years and by doing so force consumers to by new products from them every couple of years. The most common example of this is electronic devices. Apple creates a new IPhone every year so that once yours break “accidentally” there’s a brand new, more expensive one to purchase as a replacement. Not to mention that such companies stop making old models, forcing you to buy the newest model. On the other hand, perceived obsolescence is promoted by companies but ultimately results from our own social actions. Companies, through advertisements, constantly throw the promotion of new goods in our face. It’s almost impossible to go anywhere or do anything without seeing an advertisement of some sort. These advertisements tend to increase around the holiday season, hence the origin of Black Friday. The main reason such advertisements work is due to the social pressure we put on each other and ourselves. Everyone wants the next new model or brand and once a friend or family member purchases something then we are pressured and attracted to buying it as well. The biggest example of this is the fashion industry, where new trends come and go each season resulting in constant purchasing of new, unnecessary clothing. These companies are clearly getting the better of us based on the success of such events as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.             So why is over-consumption such a bad thing, why should we care if people waste there money on unnecessary goods? It’s simple: overconsumption leads to waste! One of the downfalls to the technological advancements of today’s world is that we create materials that cannot be found in our natural world. This means that when we throw something out in the garbage it will never decompose. Purchasing many of today’s consumer goods is bad enough because most cannot be recycled and will sit in landfills, but over-consumption takes this once step further in that we buy more than we need! We buy new clothes or new phones before our old ones are worn our or broken. By doing so we are creating more waste because we constantly thrown away products that are still functional and contribute the ever-growing amount of waste humanity has created on this planet. In order to help reduce the waste we create of course we should recycle and reuse as much as possible. However, I believe that the creation of waste should be stopped at its source, and that’s our consumer purchasing. Buying less and using goods to there fullest is a sure way to decrease waste. Resisting social pressure and advertisements is key to getting this accomplished. So next year put the phones away and turn the TV off at the dinner table during Thanksgiving, you don’t need them. Joseph Ramondelli  
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Our community blogs

  1. Chemokines are small protein families that play a central role in inflammation. During the inflammatory process, chemokines are locally produced at the site of noxious stimuli and act as central agents to recruit immune cells expressing their cognate receptors, 7 transmembrane G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). CCL20, an alternatively named liver and activation-regulated chemokine, is a soluble chemokine expressed by epithelial cells. Epithelial keratinocytes and synovial-lining cells are known to produce large amounts of CCL20 during homeostatic as well as inflammatory and pathological conditions such as cancer, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. The homologous receptor for CCL20 is CC chemokine receptor 6; CCL20 antibody is the only chemokine known to interact with CCR6. In response to CCL20 signaling, immune cells with CCR6, such as immature dendritic cells, effector/memory T-cells, and B cells, migrate and infiltrate surrounding tissues, thereby activating the inflammatory cascade.

     

    Because ccl20 cancer expression is significantly enhanced in inflammation induced by inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor alpha, CCL20-CCR6 interaction is thought to be pathologically inflammatory. The process plays a role.

     

    Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common autoimmune diseases. The first sign of RA is often synovitis, which appears as a swollen, painful joint. Although specific factors that initiate synovitis are not known, synovial lining epithelial cells and synovial fibroblasts are considered to be major inducers of the inflammatory response. Synovial fluid from RA patients is effective chemistries - attracting human monocytes and pro-inflammatory T helper 17 cells, which then induce and worsen the RA inflammatory process. Because reactive synoviocytes produce large amounts of CCL20, and CCR6 is the major receptor for Th17 cells, the CCL20-CCR6 interaction is thought to play during the inflammatory process. play a key role in.

     

    The CCL20-CCR6 interaction can also play an important role in certain types of dermatitis. Psoriasis, for example, a harmful psoriasis event that begins in the skin is followed by infiltration of Th17 cells. Because CCR6 is expressed on the surface of Thl7 cells, B cells, dendritic cells, and tissue damage effector T cells, CCL20 can represent the major chemoattractant of these cell types in psoriasis. Further evidence for the importance of the CCL20-CCR6 interaction can be found in the study of the psoriasis mouse model induced by interleukin 23. In this model, injection of IL-23 resulted in inflammation of interleukin 22 (IL-22)-dependent psoriasis. However, Ccre+ mice did not present psoriasis-like symptoms when injected with IL-23, indicating that CCR6 requires the development of psoriasis.

     

    Human keratinocytes produce large amounts of CCL20, particularly under the influence of the cytokine interleukin-17, IL-22 and TNF-α derived from Th17. While CCL20 and CCR6 are rarely detected in normal skin, both present increased expression levels in atopic dermatitis and pustular psoriasis. Strong induction of CCL20 and accumulation of CCR6+ cells can be observed in microscopic immunohistochemical analysis of human dermatitis lesions. These observations provide additional evidence for the role of CCL20 and CCR6 in the inflammatory process of dermatitis.

     

    MAb biologics currently available for the treatment of immune disorders can be roughly divided into three groups: immunostimulatory cytokine inhibitors, immune cell depletion, and A subsidiary molecular blocker. These biological products may be useful for treating inflammatory diseases; however, due to the gradual decrease in the rate of non-response or response to these treatments, for patients with new mechanisms of action to cater for, for example, CCL20/CCR6-mediated disorders There is an urgent need for alternative biological products for medical needs. The antibodies of the subject invention represent the alternative biological product.

  2. When cleaning the household, we often don’t place as much emphasis as we should on our product selections. What does it matter anyway? Cleaning is cleaning, right?

    What if I told you that the emissions from the various chemicals used within a multitude of household products are at the equivalent level of automobile emissions when it comes to air quality? It is a discomforting fact unless you enjoy simulating what it is like to huff exhaust fumes. Product selection should be important to you. Keep reading as the experts at Safe Green Cleaning educate more.

    Making the Right Choice


    So how do we go about making the safest choice for cleaning the home? The trick is to keep an eye out for volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s. VOC’s are tiny particles that can travel and take force themselves inside your lungs. These same microbial chemicals cause a plethora of nasty issues, such as eye irritation, nose irritation, wheezing, asthma attacks and respiratory infections. Even more disturbingly, there exists a link to possible long-term effects to kidneys, liver, the central nervous system and cancer.


    With all these hazards, it is imperative to make the correct selection. Sadly, it is not as easy as taking a quick glance at the back of the product container. In many cases, the label on the product is devoid of such a list. Federal law does not require companies to provide such a warning.


    Fortunately, California legislated SB 258: The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act. This law did create a nationwide directive that forced the organizations manufacturing cleaning supplies to provide ingredients contained within the fragrance.

    Deciphering the Bad Labels


    It doesn’t take a specialized degree to filter through the nuance surrounding the complicated language referencing the ingredients printed on the labels. We’re going to teach you what terms to look out for when making a selection. Listed below are common terms you’ll find on cleaning supplies.

    Active Ingredients


    These are actively bad for your health. Generally, these are antibacterial pesticides used to kill bacteria, viruses and mold. There are far safer alternatives to utilize. Anything with the above listing is not required to clean your house.

    Enzymes


    These are proteins, often mixed in with cleaners to break down soils and stains. These are natural, so it is easy to disregard them as safe. For example, a toxigenic chemical, boric acid, is commonly added to stabilize the enzymes. This combo is most hazardous when the reproductive system is exposed to it.

    Optical Brightener


    As the name implies, it can make fabrics appear brighter to the naked eye. Laundry detergent will utilize optical brightener. It can blanket the clothing being run through the washing machine. Optical brightener can also cling to the clothing even after a rinsing. This fact is relevant because the brightener chemical can also cause skin irritation.

    Organic


    Okay, something labelled organic has to be a safe pick, right? Sadly, this idea is not foolproof. Given there are no legal restrictions regarding the term organic, it pays to be skeptical. It is a loaded term which can mean a whole lot of nothing; a USDA Organic logo is the only safeguard to go off of when making a selection. The logo does create a legal imperative that makes the company bound to honor their claim of the item being organic. If the logo is absent, pick the product at your own risk.

    Surfactant


    A surfactant is a chemical compound used to loosen dirt and grease. They are necessary for cleaning. It is also true that some surfactants are safer than others. Certain surfactants are toxic to aquatic life, like nonylphenol ethoxylates, and are slow to decompose.

    What Labels are Safe?


    Given the list has been all negative, this question is inevitable. Fortunately, there exist safe selections. The terms you want to look for will say biodegradable, Green Seal / Ecologo, essential oils and free and clear of perfumes and dyes. Looking for these labels will help you make a safe selection for your household cleaning and avoid hazardous VOC’s.

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    Having solar panels installed at your home is a great first step towards being more energy-efficient. It can really help to cut down on your energy costs as well. Here are four of our best tips to help ensure you get the most out of your home solar panels things year.

    Keep Them Clean

    This can sound like a very simple feat. However, keeping up with regular maintenance can sometimes be tricky. When it comes to your solar panels, they need to remain clean to work effectively. When debris gets stuck on top of the solar panels, it can prevent them from in-taking the UV light. This will make your panels less effective at manufacturing solar energy.

    Cut Down Shading Branches

    For your solar panels to work at their optimal state, you need to have them in the direct sunlight. When your trees mature, the branches will grow further out, and they can create shading over the panels. You should take a look at your shrubbery every few weeks and trim any branches that are shading your panels. This will help to assure they stay effective throughout the day.

    Ensure They Stay Cool

    Your solar panels have semiconductors inside of them that transfer the UV rays into usable solar energy. As the semiconductors heat up, they become less efficient at their job. Therefore, it’s important to consider ways to keep your solar panels cool throughout the day. The most effective is to have at least a seven-inch cushion between your roof and the panels. This allows for proper circulation that cools down the panels throughout the daytime.

    Ensure Your Batteries Are Efficient

    You can do everything possible to make your solar panels as efficient as can be. However, you must consider where the energy is going. Your system doesn’t use all the solar energy as it’s created by your solar panels. Rather, your system stores unused energy in batteries. If your batteries are outdated or ineffective, it can really wreak havoc on the amount of solar energy that your system maintains for your use. You should be updating your batteries and ensuring they’re just as optimal as your system to get the most out of it.

    Installing solar panels is a great first step towards being greener. Getting your system to run effectively should be one of your top concerns. The more effective your system is, the less you’ll have to spend on energy costs each month.

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    Energy consumption without a doubt is a hot topic in this day and age. It’s been a big topic for quite some time now, too, and with good reason. People are becoming more and more thoughtful with regard to their approaches to energy use. If you want to minimize your consumption of energy in a big way, there are all sorts of intelligent things that you can try right now.

    Unplug, Unplug, Unplug

    Unplugging may seem like a simple thing. It can actually be a game-changing strategy for people who are passionate about decreasing their energy consumption substantially, however. If you want to do the planet a massive favor, you should take the time to unplug your household appliances any time you do not require them. Doing so only takes a couple of seconds or so.

    Learn All About Electric Water Heating

    Electric water heating is often the answer for people who want to lower energy consumption dramatically. You can work with a capable electrician who can point you into the right direction regarding electric water heater selection. Try to find out about electric water heaters that are known for superior energy efficiency. Your electrician should be able to provide you with fantastic recommendations.

    Take Advantage of the Gift of Daylight

    Lighting should be one of your focal points. If you want to take charge of your use of energy, you should contemplate your lighting strategy at home in great detail. It can be a wonderful idea to buy lighting products that are associated with energy efficiency. It can be just as wonderful an idea to prioritize daylight. Skylights and windows make taking advantage of daylight a possibility. They’re both highly energy-efficient as well.

    Invest in Residential Insulation

    Residential insulation can go an incredibly long way for all households that are keen on the concept of lowering energy consumption significantly. If you insulate your living space well, then you can stop the frustrating loss of heat from taking place. Basement, attic and wall insulation can all do a lot to lower wintertime electricity use dramatically. Don’t forget that insulation can even aid you in times of higher temperatures.

    People these days have more concerns about the world than ever before. If you’re in that camp, then you don’t have to feel helpless in any sense. If you want to aid the planet, you can do your part by minimizing your energy consumption.

  6. Learning to take care of the environment outside is something that should be passed down to your children. There’s no one right way to institute this knowledge. Each family will be a bit different in how they show their love for the environment. If you’re not sure where to start, here are four eco-friendly activities that you can do with the family.

    Composting

    There are many guides out there on how to make compost bins at home. You can make this project as small as a Rubbermaid container or as large as a trash container in your backyard. You and your family can decide on what size compost pile works best for you. Balanced compost piles should have browns, such as wood chips and dead leaves, greens, such as fruit and vegetable scraps and lawn clippings, and water. Aside from that, how you compost is completely up to you and your family. Your family will have fun building your compost area and taking care of it regularly.

    Opt for Reusable Items

    The convenience of throw-away items tends to get the attention of many families. However, by opting for reusable items that require a little bit of cleaning from time to time, you and your family can do your part to save the environment. The best part about this strategy is that it’s one that you can continue to employ well into the future. Make it a regular activity to find ways to replace throw-away items with reusable ones. Some popular examples are lunch bags, water bottles, and shopping bags.

    Replace Incandescent Bulbs

    One really cool way to visually show your children how little things can make a difference is changing out the incandescent bulbs in your home. When you replace these with CFL lights, they use significantly less energy. Allow your kids to read the labeling to see how much each CFL bulb is saving in energy costs compared to your old incandescent bulbs.

    Teach the Off When Not in Use Policy

    Conserving energy and reducing your family’s carbon footprint is as easy as just remembering to turn off items when you’re not using them. This is an important habit to teach your children to help them conserve energy in the future. Start with items like lights and televisions. When they get into the habit of turning those off whenever they’re not using them or when they leave the room, you can move on to bigger things. Next teach them to turn off and unplug appliances and other items once the most-used ones become a habit. Not only will this decrease your family’s carbon footprint, it will safe you on your power bill. Your kid might not appreciate that now, but if they get the habit down, they’ll appreciate it when they’re older and paying the bill.

    Teaching your children the importance of being eco-friendly is a priceless trait. While there are many ways to do so, you may find that some tactics work better for your family than others. The above are just four activities you can try out with your family.

  7. It is time for humanity to bid farewell to one of its oldest friends -- petroleum based energy. Surely, it has served us well over the course of centuries, but it has become too great a source of political turmoil and adverse environmental effects. It is high-time that humanity found a suitable alternative.

    But of course it’s all easier said than done -- the break-up is going to be anything but pretty. Oil has been used by humans since ancient times, with one of the earliest documented references to it made by ancient Greek historian Herodotus. In the olden days, oil was primarily used in medications. In the area that is now Western Pennsylvania, for instance, Seneca Indians collected oil from natural springs and used it in many medicines. The first oil well was drilled in that region by Edwin Drake in 1859, was 69 feet deep and produced 15 barrels a day. The area quickly boomed and the modern oil industry was born. Later, Texas and Oklahoma became the centers of US oil production, and then following World War II, the Middle East became a major oil supplier for the US. In Texas today, there are also concerns about deregulation, and of course petroleum remains the backbone of the economy and main source of energy in Humble, Texas and other oil towns, but thinking long-term, getting away from oil is a major concern.

    In the 18th Century, oil became commonly used as a fuel was for various lighting apparatuses, thus replacing the animal, vegetable and coal oils that had been used previously. It also came to be used in furnaces. Its biggest use, however, came with the development of the automobile in 1886. Today, almost all forms of locomotion -- cars, trucks, buses, trains, ships and airplanes -- are fueled by oil, diesel or gasoline. Fuel oil has also been burned to produce electricity, although coal was traditionally used for this purpose.

    Traditionally helpful, oil is now more of a hinderance than anything else, considering its devastating ecological and political consequences. Humanity has developed a dangerous dependency on oil and other fossil fuels. In order to keep thriving as a society humanity needs to consider alternative fuels that are renewable, and thus, more sustainable. Researchers and scientists are actively pursuing several alternatives, with front-runners including: hydropower, solar power, and geothermal power.

    Hydropower

    Hydropower uses water to generate electricity. Water is the most common renewable source of energy in the United States today. The kinetic energy of falling or running water can be used to generate power via turbines, which rotate axles when water rotates the blades or propellers of a turbine. The axle has a coil which is placed between the magnets. The coil and magnets work together using electromagnetic induction to convert the kinetic energy of flowing water into electrical energy.

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    It is a fascinating process which has been around far longer than the modern applications of oil. In early Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, water power was used in irrigation, starting in the 4th millenium BC. Water clocks had been in use since the early 2nd millenium BC. Despite the amazing benefits of hydropower, it fell out of favor during the late 20th century due to the disruptive ecological and social effects of large amounts of water control. Hydropower is enjoying a slight comeback in 2013 as international institutions try to find solutions to economic development that avoid emitting substantial quantities of carbon to the atmosphere.

    Solar Power

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    Solar power harnesses sunlight and converts it into electrical power. There are a couple of ways that this can be accomplished. Energy from sunlight can either be converted into electricity directly using photovoltaics, or indirectly using concentrated solar power. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaics convert light into electric current using the photoelectric effect. Both have been used in large commercial solar power plants since the 1980s. With solar power becoming more and more ubiquitous, it is clear that this form of renewable energy is quickly becoming one of the most viable alternatives.

    Geothermal Energy

    800px-Krafla_geothermal_power_station_wi

    Geothermal energy is another resource which humanity has been utilizing for much longer than oil. During Paleolithic times, the hot springs were used for bathing, and in ancient Rome it was used for space heating. Today it is better put to use for electricity generation. Among the many renewable power options out there geothermal power is one of the most cost effective, environmentally friendly, and reliable. Its major drawback is its limitation in terms of location. Historically it has been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries. Recent technology has been able to expand the range of use somewhat. Forecasts for the future of geothermal power depend on assumptions about technology, energy prices, subsidies, and interest rates.

    Alternative and renewable energy sources offer a means of producing energy that reduce the amount of pollution that is typically a by-product of more conventional energy sources. Renewable and alternative energy sources promise to be a low cost, effective and safe way to power the industrial and residential needs of the modern world. And we must always bear in mind that there are several variables to consider; with each region of the world possessing different resource advantages and greater or lesser access to the materials needed to make use of these sources of power, the best source of alternative energy needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. With new advances and breakthroughs into renewable technology, the opportunities to make use of it are only increasing. Renewable energy is playing an increasingly important role in our lives, the future promises to be one that will see even greater use of these power sources.

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    Renewable energy companies have been in a tough situation for more than twenty years (since the beginning of renewables' sector). Two fires, two enemies to fight, the first is the entire fossil fuels' sector, the second is the internal competition in its own sector. The first is a strong, old and rich institution, with thousands of billion of dollars and has exponents like Shell, BP, Total, Exxon and Chevron. The second is also strong and in a long-term can monopolize the entire energy market, it's the internal competition in renewable energy sector, where companies double their profits in less than a year (like First Solar or SunPower) and hydroelectric sector growth rises every year of 3.1%.

    The slow but inevitable ascent of renewables in the energy market can't be stopped although it can be delayed and this delay can represent a high environmental price and the Earth (and also us) will pay it. We're talking about the deadly consequences of climate change, triggered by an abudance of fossil fuels usage. It's vital, for our lives and for our environment, that fossil fuels leave the market in the fastest way as possible and to do that alternatives are required, strong alternatives. To improve and strengthen remewable energy market one of the two enemies must be fought: fossil fuels (already happening) and internal competition. How can renewable energy companies overpass this obstacle and become a strong, united market? Joint ventures.

    Someone already thought about that, like Solar Power Inc. The company, which 71% is owned by China's LDK Solar Co., has formed a partnership with Wircon GmbH to build projects in the U.K. The joint venture intends to own and sell the projects it develops in the U.K., Roseville, California-based Solar Power said today in a statement. The company initially intends to build about 55 megawatts of capacity. This will go to reach U.K. goal of the 30% of the country's power from renewable sources by 2020. In Japan the lack of land territory brought Kyocera Corp. and Century Tokyo Leasing Corp. to build two solar power stations designed to float on the surface of reservoirs.

    I've mentioned it already before but it's here again: DESERTEC project, building renewable power plants in territories with an abundance of solar and wind energy and connecting three continents with energy infrastructures. The consortium which administrates the project is one of the biggest companies union in the world. The Dii GmbH is composed by E.ON, ABB, Siemens, Enel Green Power, Terna, State Grid Croporation of China, Deutsche Bank, Flagsol, Abengoa Solar, Schott Solar and RWE. This consortium administrates more than $500 billion and operates in three continents.

    Another consortium focused on energy infrastructures is Medgrid (focused more on Middle East) and formed by Abengoa, GDF Suez, EDF and other companies. Between the many examples of joint ventures in the world there's the cooperation between First Solar and BELECTRIC for the construction of PV power plants or 3SUN, the biggest solar power joint venture in Europe including Enel Green Power, Sharp and STMicroelectronics.

    Joint ventures help new companies to invest in foreign countries and strengthen relationships between companies increasing the profits and the total capacity of renewable energy power plants all over the world. But if we want to accelerate the process the number of joint ventures and consortia have to double. The final target? A global renewble energy network, connecting all the companies of the sector. In fact, a renewable energy OPEC doesn't exist, it must be created. In a world where everything is connected it's unthinkable that renewable energy companies are isolated and under the pressure of fossil fuels companies. Like oil is transported from Middle East to the U.S. so renewable energy must be an international fuel to power a clean and green future.

  9. Under en presskonferens på Gotland meddelande klimat- och miljöminister Åsa Romson att Ojnare blir ett naturskyddsområde – vilket troligtvis sätter stopp för den planerade stenbrytningen i området.

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    Klimat- och miljöminister Åsa Romson meddelade i förmiddags att regeringen kommer att utnämna området kring Bästeträsk till ett Natura-2000 område. Beslutet betyder att det blir näst intill omöjligt för bolagen Nordkalk och SMA Mineral att få tillstånd till storskalig stenbrytning i området då de i sådana fall måste förhålla sig till betydligt tuffare lagar.

    – Området kring Bästeträsk är ett världsunikt och omistligt naturområde. Dagens beslut visar att regeringen tar skyddet av Sveriges natur på stort allvar, säger Åsa Romson i ett pressmeddelande.

    Beslutet är början på slutet för den långvariga och segslitna domstolsprocess kring Ojnareskogen som har pågått i tio år och ställt miljöintressen – främst en oro över stenbrytningens påverkan på Gotlands grundvatten – mot nya industrijobb.

    Världsnaturfonden WWF, som tillsammans med andra miljöorganisationer har arbetat länge för att stoppa planerna på kalkstensbrytning i Ojnare, välkomnar regeringens beslut.

    – För WWF är det självklart att detta unika område ska skyddas både för sin unika natur och dess betydelse för vattenförsörjning för både människor, djur och natur. Vi hoppas nu att Naturvårdsverket och Länsstyrelsen går vidare och gör nationalpark av området som planerat, säger Håkan Wirtén, generalsekreterare på WWF.

    Men på Nordkalk och SMA Mineral är man idag besvikna på regeringens beslut.

    – Jobben, det gotländska samhället och nordisk industri kommer också konkret att lida av detta beslut, säger Nordkalks VD Jarkko Kaplin i ett pressmeddelande.

    – Jag känner djupt för de medarbetare och entreprenörer som vi tvingats varsla. Jobb växer ju inte på träd på Gotland som alla vet, säger Daniel Juvél, vd för SMA Mineral, i en kommentar till SVT Nyheter.

    Regeringen meddelade samtidigt att ett näringslivspaket för Gotland om 100 miljoner kronor ska tas fram i samråd med regionen, näringslivet och facket.

    – Regeringen anser att det är viktigt att Gotland fortsatt har en livskraftig industri och näringsliv. Därför kommer vi tillsammans med regionen att ta fram ett näringslivspaket som särskilt fokuserar på framtida industriell utveckling, säger Åsa Romson.

    Förslag på nya Natura 2000-områden:

    Regeringen föreslår följande nya områden på Gotland att ingå i Natura 2000-nätverket: Bruten, Stenstugu skog, Jusarve skog, Hajdhagen, Sajgs, Sigfride, Suderbys hällar, Kyllahajdar, Ormhällar-Bromyr, Pärkhagen, Stora Vikers, Stadshagen, Slättflis, Törrvesklint och Jungfrun.

    Områden som föreslås utökas: Bungenäs, Asunden, Herrgårdsklint, Fide prästänge, Hässle klint, Bojsvätar, Storsund, Uppstaig, Danbo och Bästeträsk (inklusive området vid Ojnare). 

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    My family and I recently moved from Darwin to Caulfield, a Melbourne suburb in Victoria. I wanted to be close to my job, I work as an acupuncturist in one Melbourne clinic; and my wife and I were beginning a new phase of our lives with the birth of our third child. Of course the question of what to use for energy source came up during the planning stages.

    We wanted to minimise the cost of heating for our home. With energy rates going up, standard baseboard heating for the cold and wet winters in Caulfield would leave a dent in our ability to support the growing family. We also didn't want to depend on carbon-spewing brown coal that the majority of Victoria households use.

    So my wife and I did a little bit of research and consulted our builders. With their help, we came to our final decision, that the best option for our home would be geothermal heating. Our builders told us that Victoria has a rich source of from several natural underground geothermal bores and other artificial ones. Some have been used to power towns, but direct heating to homes is also available from several companies that are developing Sedimentary Geothermal Systems (from existing reservoirs) and Engineered Geothermal Systems (artificially created reservoirs).

    The System Installation

    Once we'd decided we were going with geothermal water for heating, the construction guys helped us with getting the permits. If you're a landholder, you will need to obtain an Exploration Permit from the authorities if you want to extract geothermal energy from land that belongs to the Crown. The company that installs your system should also have an Extraction License.

    Our builders were a great help throughout the process. They also got us in touch with a company that had already installed 20 such geothermal units in Victoria in the last 10 years and were licensed to use the technology.

    Next, the building process had already begun and it was time for the pipelines to be laid. Our land had the perfect layout to let us easily bury the plastic tubing about 1.8 meters to 2.4 meters into the ground. Ours is a typical horizontal system. But you can also install a vertical system, in which the pipes are laid through holes that are about 40 meters to 60 meters deep. A mixture of antifreeze and water is circulated through the system and the home is heated. The building company helped us through each step of the way, explaining our options and being completely transparent all throughout. (Thanks guys!)

    The Cost

    While the initial cost is a little hefty, at around $20,000, I believe the operational costs more than make up for it. We've been using ours for a while and each month I pay only $200 towards energy costs monthly. That is at least half of any other major household energy source. The initial capital will certainly pay back down the line in 10 or 20 years when energy becomes more expensive.

    The Advantages of Geothermal Heating

    The direct heat obtained from geothermal energy can be used for heating water, forced air conditioning and for hydronic slab heating, among other things. The technology uses the fact that the hot water in underground reservoirs remains within a constant range of temperatures. Heat is transferred from these reservoirs to the house with a very high efficiency.

    We've been using our two 14 kW heat pumps for a while now with their two fan coil units. They heat water to about 40 degrees C for our domestic hot water and the floor heating. Inside our home the temperature is a comfortable 22 to 24 degrees C, but we can change cooling or heating requirements.

    Our heating providers worked with the builders and gave us a choice between indoor and outdoor units. We chose an indoor one, as no ventilation is required. The system is very safe to use and incredibly quiet as well, so I'm immensely pleased with it. It remains to be seen if it is the same a few years down the line!

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    Our members regularly publish good and interesting blog posts here in our community. And we often feature some of the best posts. Featured blog posts gets highly visible on both the Green Blog frontpage and the Community Blogs page, as well as next to all our regular environment news. Simply put: if your blog post gets featured it will be seen by a lot of people.

    We tend to feature posts that are topical, interesting and thought-provoking. Here are some friendly tips on how you can make your post even better, and more likely to get featured:

    We cannot stress this enough. References are important! Add links to news sites, Wikipedia entries, blog posts, etc., that supports the claims you make in your blog post.

    Everyone likes photos! So add an Entry image on your next blog post. You can also upload and add individual images as well as photo albums to your blog post using our Green Blog Gallery.

    Label you post with a category and tags, tags, and more tags! Different categories for your posts are also useful. While you can use several tags that are relevant to your blog post's content, we recommend you to only use one category per post.

    Good luck and maybe we'll feature your blog post next time! :)

  12. Maintaining a house is a great responsibility, and that list of chores only builds up when you have a garden to take care of as well. However, like with anything else, you only need some practice until you create a routine that can fit into your regular daily schedule. In order to help you get this done faster and more efficiently, I created the next five steps which I’m sure you’ll find helpful.

     

    Regular Mowing Is a Must

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    If you want to get anything done, you need to have a clean slate. This is why you need to start with cleaning your lawn thoroughly, especially if it has been covered with snow until recently. After you get rid of all that clutter, it’s mowing time! If you want your grass consistency to be tick and healthy, you should set your blade on 2 cm, and maintain that height for a while. Afterwards, you may lower it down a bit if you want to deal with mowing less often, but you should leave it at 2 cm at least for a month. When you’re done with mowing, you’ll want to apply a layer of moss and some weed killer.

    Don’t Forget about Constant Watering

    If you don’t pay attention to watering, all previous efforts will be in vain. There’s another shortcut here – if you want your chores regarding gardening to be minimized, and you still want to create a peaceful environment that you can relax in, you should water your lawn once per week, but water it deep. By investing some additional time into making small holes that are only a couple of inches deep, you’ll enable your grass to breathe properly, and your watering treatment will definitely be more efficient.

    Deal with Pests on Time

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    The minute you start noticing holes in your yard or if your plants get damaged with no reason whatsoever, you obviously have a pest problem. Now, it’s quite important to deal with them as soon as possible – right after you determine which unwanted species is invading your home. If you don’t, you’ll just give them more time to multiply and develop, which will directly affect your overall billing to increase. So, don’t waste any time and call an experienced professional to deal with your problem.

    Flowerbeds or Garden Pots?

    This is the next dilemma that needs to be solved. Flowerbeds are recommended for larger gardens, because then you can fit your outdoors furniture and other garden items as well. However, if you only frame your garden with flowerbeds or make neat lines on the surface, it’ll work for a smaller garden. On the other hand, remodeling your garden afterwards may take too much time, which is exactly why I prefer pots. It may take some time to transfer from flowerbeds to pots, but I’m sure you’ll find it more practical, no matter if you plan on using your garden for vegetables or flowers only. There’s an appropriate size of outdoor planters for any type of plant you might have in mind, so you don’t have to worry about that.

    Enjoy Your Summer Hideout!

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    The only thing left is to pick out your outdoors furniture set. The size of your garden is the most important factor here, obviously. If you’re dealing with a smaller one, you should definitely go with a set that’s lighter, and that’s simple to storage. Besides, it doesn’t have to be a set at all – make things interesting and pick out different pieces in order to create a set of your own! When it comes to large gardens, the only thing to worry about is your budget, perhaps. You should also consider building a summer house, or some kind of storing facility, where you can place all your gardening tools.

    Although it might seem like it, this won’t take too much of your time after you’re done with heavy work. One last piece of advice – make some plans and sketches before you start rearranging your garden, so you know exactly what you’re doing. I’m sure it will look amazing!

     
  13. If you have recently decided to install solar panels, then you need to start thinking about some ways that you can make the most out of that technology. Even though modern solar panels require very little maintenance, quite a bit can be done to improve their efficiency and prevent unnecessary damage. Here is a look at a few tips and tricks that will take your solar energy system to the next level. 

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    Feed Less Energy Back Into the Grid
    Using the energy as it is being produced is going to reduce waste and lower your overall bills. That is why many experts suggest using high-consumption devices during the middle of the day. That includes your dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer. You should also consider upgrading to an electric water heater to further improve the efficiency of your home and reduce your monthly expenses. 

    Install a Backup Battery 
    In addition to being more affordable than ever, residential lithium batteries are also exceedingly efficient. With a high-quality battery system, you might be able to use almost 100 percent of the energy that your solar panels produce. If your local power company increases the cost of electricity during certain hours of the day, then you can simply switch over to the battery during those hours and save some money. Installing a backup battery is a relatively simple project, and an experienced contractor should be able to finish the job in a single day. 

    Maintain the Panels Themselves 
    As a general rule, you should carefully inspect all of your solar panels at least two or three times a week. You want to be absolutely sure that the panels aren’t caked in mud, covered in leaves, or under thick branches. Depending on where you live, you might need to clean the panels once or twice a month as well. Most dirty panels can easily be cleaned with a hose, but you might need to use a sponge and some warm water with a little bit of soap in it if there is quite a bit of grime. 

    Upgrade Your Roof 
    Before your panels are installed, you should consider contacting a company such as Landmark Roofing to upgrade your roof. A roofing company can replace your old tiles with metal sheets and improve the angle of the roof itself. In most locations, solar panels work best when the roof is between 30 and 45 degrees. Panels that are perfectly flat will be exposed to sunlight for longer stretches of time, but the energy production is going to be much lower. 

    Once your panels have been installed, you need to keep a close eye on your energy consumption each and every day. Sudden changes to your input or output could be the result of a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

  14. Going eco-friendly seems to be the next big trend. Big companies, small businesses and individuals altogether have teamed up to reduce the impact that human life has on the planet. Sustainable homes have increased in popularity, not only because they leave a much smaller footprint on the environment, but because they are a far better investment in the long run.

    The list of benefits you get by living in a green house is long and constantly updated, but the most important ones still remain the same:

    Low maintenance costs

    The main purpose of eco-friendly homes is to be built from materials that are both less invasive for the environment, but also more durable, so that you don’t have to constantly fix or rebuild things and waste more resources. This way, even though some green materials cost more than traditional ones, you will end up saving more in the future.

    When you buy or build a new house, don’t think only about the initial investment, but also about the impact it will have on your wallet in the next 10 or 15 years. For example, building a house that has lots of big windows, which allow sunlight to pass through, will help you save tremendously on energy costs.

    At the same time, the materials used have a much smaller impact on your health. Conventional construction materials give off chemical emissions that, although small, can affect the air you breathe. This is why lots of people recur to humidifiers or other appliances to help get rid of the dry, unbreathable air. Eco-friendly materials are not only safer, but help with air circulation and ventilation.

    Energy efficiency

    Possibly one of the first reasons people decide to move into eco-friendly houses is that they are extremely energy efficient, which means you utility bills will be much lower. One of the prime sources for energy is coal. But coal is a non-renewable resource, not to mention that mining coal is extremely polluting for the environment.

    A sustainable home is designed is such way that it takes advantage of as many natural resources as possible. For example, when setting up the layout of the house, rooms that are the most used, such as kitchen or living room are placed on the side of the house that receives the most natural light throughout the day, to avoid having to use artificial light. Big windows are also a part of the design, for the same reason.

    On top of that, green building constructors also recommend installing solar panels, so you can make use of the energy from the sun as much as possible.

    It makes for a good long-term investment

    The popularity of green buildings is increasing tremendously, which means that, in 10 years, traditional homes are going to become less and less desirable. Investing in an eco-friendly home now means staying ahead of the market and laying the ground for profit in the future. Even owners of luxurious homes are looking to make adjustments so that their houses are more environmentally friendly.

    Those adjustments help increase house value and turn their properties into mines of gold. The reason that people are looking to spend more on a sustainable home precisely because they will get more out of it in the future. Eco-friendly houses are also easier to sell and retail for more than traditional ones.

    Better living conditions

    Less invasive materials and more use of natural resources are what make a sustainable house better to live in. When you take advantage of natural light all day long, you are more prone to be productive, feel relaxed and enjoy living in your house.

    The materials used have a lower emission of chemicals, lowering the risks for asthma or allergies that may occur due to mold. Thus, the air inside is more breathable and makes for a healthier indoor environment.

    Temperature regulation is also one of the key elements that constructors take into consideration when building eco-friendly homes. Eco-friendly materials are designed in such way that they help with insulation and temperature fluctuation much more than traditional ones.

    Smaller environmental footprint

    Last, but not least, you will help the planet. By using materials that are not damaging the environment, you will become an active part of the movement that is trying to make Earth a better place. Meeting your needs does not mean you have to endanger the world around you and it is entirely possible to live comfortably, while at the same time thinking about nature.

    All processes of traditional building are affecting the environment in one way or another. Be it because constructors are not disposing of materials in a conscious way, or because traditional energy systems are leaving a huge carbon footprint. Green buildings contribute to reducing the greenhouse effect and lay out a better world for future generations to live in.

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    Who would have thought that from the simplest and the most basic things would pave the way to the introduction of much more comprehensive and convenient concepts of machines and equipment that most often than not, help people in accommodating their day-to-day routines ensuring the best outputs later on?

    Construction, with the advancement of technology, has incredibly experienced staggering developments aiming to improve quality of lives.

    Starting from the drawing up of blueprints up to acquiring environmentally and healthy designs of infrastructures, it has now been touched by technology and innovation.

    If one would care to look deeper into this, they’ would be surely introduced to the concept of LEED certification.

    The LEED Certification Concept

    LEED, which basically stands for Leadership Energy and Environment Design, is a certification program for third-party clients. This initiative has started in the year 2000 by the US Green Building Council or USGCB aiming to offer standards and concepts for designs, operations and the overall construction of high performance buildings tailored to the specifics of the environment.

    The LEED encompasses a whole lot more objectives as opposed to what it may seem since it does not only focus on ensuring that buildings are designed with compatibility to the health of the environment but also for business and company owners to have an infrastructure that is profitable.

    Ask why profitability? Well, that is simply because acquiring the LEED certification would allow one to have the means and the knowledge to practically and successfully cut down the operational costs from the ever increasing bills for electric and water consumption.

    Yes, as you have realized by now, any kind of infrastructure is often packaged with all sorts of machines that consume a lot more energy and water than you can imagine. This then equates to overwhelming energy and water bills that cut a huge chunk from the company’s earnings.

    With the great performance of buildings that have acquired this certification, LEEDhas been awarded with points thus acknowledging its edge for sustainability and energy efficiency. Going Green with LEED and Its Notable Advantages

    At the surface, one could simply read that acquiring certification would help in cost cutting of utility bills. However, looking closer into it would surface more convenience and advantage than just simply lowering your operational costs.

    With such certification, one could simply achieve and experience the following benefits:

    • Ensured cooled and heated infrastructures as needed with minimal energy usage
    • Tested to minimized duct-work and envelope leakage
    • Minimized indoor and outdoor water usage
    • Predicted to only utilize approximately 30% to 60% less energy compared to other established buildings without the LEED Certification.
    • Recycling materials that can be used for building constructions
    • Supplying power and energy via renewable and unharmful methods
    • Reduced and minimized environmental impacts during construction as well as maintenance as with this certification emission of greenhouse gases and other substances and elements that often occur with just the traditional design of buildings

    The LEED Tiers

    Since we have already tackled about the basics of LEED, let us get to more detailed and important elements about it such as the Tiers. There are 4 known tiers of the certification. This tiers indicate the increasing sustainability of building practices among clients.

    The first tier is the Certified equating to 40 to 49 points, the Silver for 50 to 59 points, the Gold for 60 to 79 points and the platinum, which pertains to 80 points and above.

    While it is true that the higher levels of LEED can be quite challenging to achieve, there are still efforts that one could do to achieve it. After all, nobody knew before that we could have things we have right now, right?

    Achieving higher levels would surely provide one with much overwhelming benefits, which they could later on take advantage.

    An example of which is a high LEED certification level making a great selling point that are often used by corporations to court environmentally aware and conscious consumers as well as investors toward their business.

    Aside from this, it has also been noted that there are respective incentives in the form of local and federal tax benefits or other subsidies that are made available for high level certified LEED infrastructures. Some Well Known Buildings with LEED Certification

    To give you more facts about the incredibility of this program, let us make a quick list of some of the known buildings that are certified with LEED. One of the latest most buzzing names when it comes to this is the Serbian IT park. Its known as the first infrastructure which is certified with LEED in the region.

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    This has greatly affected their operations making the management more productive while having the means to save money and to have a healthy and comfortable workplace for the whole team.

    Another LEED certified building is the Hearst Tower in New York City. With its continued efforts to live green, this building has now gained Gold level with over 90% of its steel used for structure that came from recycled durable materials.

    David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh is known, on the other hand, as a gold and platinum level holder being the first convention center in the globe to acquire the LEED.

    The Connecticut avenue building in Washington D.C. also has a LEED platinum status and is known as the first redeveloped office building on the US East Coast to acquire the LEED certification.

    University of Texas at Dallas, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens as well as the Yale University are proud infrastructures having the LEED certification, which they acquired through thick and strict efforts to go green and live a practical and energy-efficient office lifestyle.

    Be among them now and start making a lot of profits than you can imagine without posing harm to the environment. LEED Certification would also enable you to provide the best working environment to your clients, partners as well as business investors pushing them to be more productive.

    Invest in this venture now and harvest the fruitful and unimaginable benefits it could provide, not just to you but to the people and the community surrounding you as well.

  16. Amazon is one of the largest online retailers in the world. With an estimated net worth of nearly $20 billion dollars, this massive portal has changed the ways in which online shopping occurs. It is therefore understandable that the recent announcement of Amazon entering into the Australian marketplace and the intention to use Melbourne as their base for operations has turned quite a few heads. Why is this movement so important and what could it potentially mean for the average Melbourne business? Let's take a closer look at the answers to both of these questions, as the face of the retail industry could be forever transformed.

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    The Potential Winners

    The answer to the first question, primarily depends upon the type of business. For example, it is predicted that online sellers within Melbourne will reap the greatest number of benefits. As they will soon be presented with an entirely new venue to digitally promote their items, their overall ROI should dramatically increase.

    This same observation can be made for international sellers who have been looking to tap into the lucrative Australian marketplace. As they can ship their products directly to the consumer, these sellers will likely enjoy a greater amount of business. However, we should keep in mind that this relationship will partially depend upon the strength of the Australian dollar in relation with other major currencies such as the pound and the euro. 

    The Possible Losers

    The bad news is that traditional retailers might not fare so well. When Amazon does indeed enter into the Australian marketplace, consumers may opt for cheaper goods from international sources as opposed to purchasing similar items from a local business. This is particularly the case in terms of Melbourne-based electronics firms, as Amazon has always had a strong market share within this industry. The only possible trade-off is that those businesses which are able to translate their operations into the e-commerce sector will likely enjoy success over time. Still, these predictions have yet to materialise. 

    The Employment Sector

    Many are rightfully concerned as to whether the introduction of Amazon will bolster or deflate the job market. Robert Bruce,
    Amazon’s director of operations for Australia attempts to alleviate concerns stating “Over time, we will bring thousands of new jobs to Australia and millions of dollars of investment as well as opening up the opportunity for thousands of Australian businesses to sell at home and abroad through Amazon Marketplace.”

    Those businesses within Melbourne (and throughout the entire country) which are able to adapt to the online retail community could very well see their businesses expand at a rapid pace.

    Thanks to the new warehouse to be located in Dandenong East, local trades such as sales, customer service, HR, Operations Managers and warehouse operatives will all be in high demand.

    However, the verdict is still out as to whether traditional retail businesses will be forced to downsize. 

    The Real Estate Impact

    We should also expect to see some changes within the real estate market. As The
    Financial Review highlights, dropping brick-and-mortar sales may impact the number of commercial leases being renewed throughout Melbourne. However, there is a potential bright side as well. Businesses centred around the field of e-commerce could very well experience increased sales. Thus, they might require more office space to store and ship goods to the end user. This will particularly impact the Melbourne metropolitan area thanks to the looming presence of a truly gargantuan Amazon warehouse. 

    The entrance of this giant online retailer into the Australian marketplace will certainly shake things up a bit. However, few analysts are surprised at such a move and it only makes sense in a world increasingly defined by digital purchases. The main question is how Melbourne businesses will adapt to this shift and if they will be able to capitalise upon such a profound move into the future. 


     

  17. Fox facts ! Learn about our flame haired friends. Foxes are a common site in the British countryside and gardens this is a fantastic infographic that helps educate us about these amazing animals. Also touches on the fact they are used across culture. Thanks DrVegas who have a fantastic fox based game 'Foxin Wins!'.

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    As more and more people continue to move to cities, the need for more effective management of resources continues to rise. It is projected that approximately six out of ten people will be populating urban areas by the year 2030, and this calls for major changes in the way that cities function. An increase in the number of city dwellers means an increase in the use of natural resources, and for countries with more developed economies, this means taking a smarter, more sustainable approach to meeting the basic needs of the urban citizens. Here are some of the examples of smart city solutions that are slowly, but surely, shaping the future.

    Improved traffic flow

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    When it comes to dense urban areas, one of the priorities is finding ways to improve traffic flow. Major cities such as New York make use of electric buses as a means of reducing traffic. Sensors are installed in both buses and at traffic lights, and the way this works is when the bus nears the traffic lights, they either extend the green light so that the bus passes or in case of red light, it changes to green so as to prioritize buses and reduce the time spent commuting. In Oslo, we’re seeing attempts at reducing the carbon footprint of cars. The way they’re cutting down the emissions is they’re banning the circulation of passenger cars as well as reconstructing transportation network.

    Traffic management for improved air quality

    Another big issue that urban areas are facing is the low quality of air, especially in densely populated areas. Not only is air pollution having a detrimental effect on the environment, but it’s also responsible for a number of health problems city dwellers are experiencing. One of the ways cities are trying to improve air quality is through efficient traffic management. Copenhagen is one of the cities that are conducting an experiment that has the goal of acquiring data about traffic and air quality at the intersections, and the results they yield should improve traffic management. By closely monitoring the intersections experts are able to establish a connection between air pollution and the regulation of traffic, thus providing a better understanding of health benefits that data-driven traffic management would bring.

    Public lighting solutions

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    Speaking of the high frequency of people and vehicles in urban areas, public lighting is another aspect of city design that requires a modern approach. Because they operate non-stop, public spaces need to be well-lit at all times, which calls for durable, energy-efficient public lighting solutions that require little to no maintenance. From streets and intersections to metro, airport, and railway stations, a quality LED street lights manufacturer could be the answer to the increased need for optimal visibility and low energy consumption, two important aspects of sustainable public lighting solutions. Once integrated, these installations will enhance the flow of passengers and vehicles while ensuring a smarter, eco-friendlier approach to illuminating public spaces.

    Smart healthcare system

    As technology progresses, we’re seeing its effect on a wide range of systems, and healthcare is no exception. This is especially true for Asia, where the healthcare system is witnessing a revolution. HOSPI is one of the innovations in the Changi General Hospital located in Singapore. This transport robot is able to autonomously navigate through the hospital, carrying medications, documents, and specimens, operating throughout four buildings this hospital consists of. Robots are also transforming the healthcare industry of Japan, where robotic nursing care is replacing the need for human nurses, thus saving hospitals’ time and money.

    Better control of electricity consumption

    As the electricity expenditure continues to grow, many countries are trying to gain better control over the electrical energy that is being distributed. While this notion is still just a goal for countries in the European Union, Britain has already managed to achieve real-time electricity consumption control. Numerous homes across England, Scotland, and Wales are currently making use of smart meters, and the citizens are given an insight into the light and gas consumption in their household, and the plan is to install these devices in all the homes on the island by the year 2020.

    While the number of urban citizens continues to rise at a rapid pace, cities are facing an array of challenges brought by urbanization and a significant inflow of people. Improving the quality of life of city dwellers is one of the guiding principles of smart cities, with sustainability as their top priority. These five smart city solutions offer a green, eco-friendly approach to the environment, and are a prime example of what we can expect to see in urban cities of tomorrow.

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    Owning an older home can be a wonderful way to enjoy some unique character that simply can’t be found in a newer home. At the same time, it’s rare to find an older home that can operate as efficiently as a newer home, specifically in the area of water conservation. Fortunately, though, while you might not be able to implement every last water-saving device, there are several great and easy ways to save water in your older home.

    New Fixtures

    If you have an older home, it’s likely that it’s equipped with older plumbing fixtures, as well. Unfortunately, these older fixtures do very little to conserve water. In order to save water, then, you can replace these fixtures, whether it’s a shower head, bathroom faucet, or kitchen faucet, with low-flow models to start seeing savings right away. Just be sure your home’s plumbing can adapt to these newer fixtures, as many have special water pressure requirements that your home may not be equipped for.

    Find Leaks

    The materials in pipes of any kind inevitably break down over time due to the different substances found in water. Over time, this can lead to leaky pipes, which can waste a lot of water. If your water bill is higher than expected, or if you have a visible leak somewhere, it’s important to call a plumber to complete these plumbing repairs as soon as possible to ensure the water doesn’t cause any damage and you don’t waste any money.

    Collect Rainwater

    If local ordinances allow, collecting rainwater can be a great way to reduce your water bill. Especially if you can’t install a water-saving irrigation system due to the older construction, collecting rainwater allows you to keep your landscaping well-watered without having to depend on the city water supply. Plus, diverting rainwater in this way helps prevent erosion on your property since the water is being prevented from continuing on to the sewer.

    Install a New Toilet

    In addition to new plumbing fixtures, a new toilet can be a great water-saving investment for your older home. If your toilet has been around since before 1994, it’s using almost two gallons more per flush than a modern toilet. If you consider how many times a day you use the bathroom, that can add up quickly. Installing a new toilet is a fairly easy and quick process that will more than pay for itself over time.

    Be Water Smart

    Whether your home is old or new, you can save water using other methods, as well. Turning off the water while brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, and watering your lawn in the morning or evening to prevent evaporation are all great ways to save water. Ultimately, it’s important to treat water as a precious resource that is worth working to save. With a few easy fixes, it’s an effort that is totally accessible

  20. If you’re anything like me, your hunt for perfect Christmas gifts for your friends and family must have started weeks ago. I like to put in a lot of thought into my gifts, so I can make them as meaningful as possible and you’ll agree with me that last minute scramble for gifts is not the best way to do it.

    But that’s just me. I know there are a whole lot of people out there who thrive on the pressure of last minute shopping. They not only manage to buy gifts at the last moment, but are able to do a fine job of it too. Kudos to them!

    Anyway, my point is not to talk about merits and demerits of your shopping behavior. This post is to appeal to the environmentalist in you to consider gifting your loved ones Eco-friendly Christmas presents this year.

    Why gift green?

    Gifting is one of the most endearing Christmas traditions. As a kid, I remember waking up early Christmas morning to find my stocking filled with goodies and bright colored gift boxes piled under the tree. The sweet anticipation of finding what’s inside has stayed with me for all these years.

    Young or old, we all love giving and receiving gifts on Christmas. Imagine how you’d feel when you get or give a gift that gives back. That’s exactly what Eco-friendly gifts do – they give back to the environment because they've been made using green practices and/or materials. Eco-friendly gifts can truly make Christmas extra special for you and the people you love.

    And don’t worry, green gifting doesn't mean you’re stuck with buying things like solar panels or energy efficient light bulbs (I know that’s an exaggeration, but I am trying to make a point here). There are a wide variety of Eco-friendly gifts that are both stylish and sophisticated and the best part is that you’ll find them in all budgets. Here are some Eco-friendly gift ideas I found interesting:

    Organic Wine: Who doesn't like a fine bottle of wine? A bottle of wine corked open and shared with loved ones to mark a special occasion makes the whole thing even more memorable. Gifting someone a bottle of wine is as classy as it can get, but gifting someone organic wine takes it to a whole new level altogether.

    Vegan cosmetics: All of us have heard horror stories about our everyday makeup containing ingredients that are derived from animals. What’s more horrifying is the practice of testing these cosmetics on innocent animals. Vegan cosmetics are an effort to offer natural, eco-friendly, and cruelty free cosmetics to people who care about animals and the environment. There are a whole range of brands that offer this line of cosmetics for the compassionate buyer.

    E-books: The romantics still swear by the joys of holding a paper book in their hands when they read. As much as I like the idea of turning the pages to a book, the environmentalist in me just can’t ignore the fact that many trees are felled to make that book. That’s why I switched to the more Eco-friendly e-books when the option arrived. A lot of online booksellers such as ebooks.com have now made it possible to gift e-book vouchers for devices like Kindle and iPad.

    Recycled jewelry: A woman can never have too much jewelry. Take it from one who loves her jewelry, has loads of it, and still never misses an opportunity to buy some more. If you’re stuck for ideas on what to buy for the women in your life, jewelry is your answer. You just cannot go wrong with it. However, make sure that you buy jewelry made from recycled precious metals. That’s the only way to fight dirty gold mining practices.

    Awakening tour: Okay, this one is for the parents who want to introduce their children to the concept of recycling and awaken their environmental consciousness. In addition to all the goodies and expensive gifts you intend to shower your kids with this Christmas, bring them on a tour to a recycling facility where they can see for themselves how waste is turned into useful material. It will probably take a couple of hours of your Holiday time, but will leave a lasting impression on them.

    You can check with private recyclers like SIMS Metal Management if they give a tour of their facilities. From NYC to Richmond, Virginia, SIMS Metal Management owns recycling facilities in many parts of the country.

    These are just a few Eco-friendly gift ideas. Invest some more time and you’ll be able to find thousands of such ideas to make your Christmas more special, more memorable, and more meaningful. Let’s shop, then!

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    For eco-conscious homeowners, choosing the right floor is a balancing act of looks, longevity, eco-friendliness and budget. Options used to be thin, but with the market for green goods heating up, there has been an explosion of amazing options. These five flooring choices are the crème de la crème of green building.

    1. Ceramic Wood

    Hardwood floors are all the rage, but sustainably-produced hardwood is hard to come by. Hardwood enthusiasts have found an unlikely replacement in the form of ceramic tile. Through a process of staining and stamping, ceramic composed of recycled material is made to mimic the texture and color variation of natural wood. Ceramic wood is also easier to care for than hardwood, and the colors will not fade when exposed to sunlight.

    2. Wool Carpeting

    Wool was one of the first materials to be used to make carpets, and green homeowners are returning to carpets' roots to find eco-friendly flooring choices. Wool carpeting is spun from natural fibers, does not require any of the dangerous chemicals traditional carpets are treated with and can be dyed almost any color. Wool fibers are comfortable and can last for centuries. If someone in your household has a wool allergy, cotton and jute are ideal natural fiber alternatives.

    3. Polished Concrete

    When you think of concrete, you may think of the dull, uninspiring slab that makes up your garage floor. Banish the thought, for new concrete polishing, staining and stamping techniques have rocketed concrete to gorgeous heights. In addition to concrete polishing, the floor can be given glass inlays and other intriguing details to jazz it up. Concrete is the most durable and easy-to-clean flooring option, and it never needs to be replaced.

    4. Recycled Fiber Carpeting

    Oceans of plastic bottles, frozen dinner trays and more can be shredded, spun and turned into brand new carpeting. Also known as P.E.T. carpeting, recycled fiber carpet is durable, stain-resistant and is often the most economical choice. P.E.T. carpeting once had a reputation for being scratchy, but the latest weaves are quite soft.

    5. Cork

    Cork flooring was one of the first green flooring options available, and it has a few unexpected tricks up its sleeve. Cork is a sustainable resource with natural anti-microbial, anti-insect and flame retardant properties. It is surprisingly durable and can be painted or stained like wood.

    Whether you choose cork, ceramic or polished concrete flooring, green flooring is more beautiful and affordable than ever. Take advantage of the booming market and make the padding beneath your family's toes a good choice for the environment.

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    It’s almost that time of year again- cue the mince pies, tinsel, personalised gifts, chirpy carolling, and most importantly, the endless string of decorated Christmas trees.
    But at what a cost? In an age where we have the appropriate knowledge and technology to investigate the real impact of nationwide gorging and extravagance, shouldn’t we care about what the festive season does to our environment?

    Hundreds of thousands of Christmas trees are cut down each year, each to fulfil their destinies of being draped in tinsel, adorned with the angel or star of your choice, and housing the piles of gifts kids each year. Many opt for an artificial festive symbol instead, all with the misconception that Christmas trees are leading to deforestation and further negative environmental impacts. In actual fact, Gary Chastegner, professor of plant pathology at Washington State University has stated that "most Christmas trees are grown as crop and replanted, so it is really no different than harvesting corn".  Chastagner goes on to explain that a natural reseeding takes place in forests, and permits are distributed in areas where the trees need to be thinned.

    The National Christmas Tree Association have stressed that using real pine and fir trees is actually a more green thing to do than purchasing an artificial Christmas tree for your living room.  According to research, most fake Christmas trees are only used for 6-9 years and then disposed of. Keeping the plastic tree for longer than this period would eventually be thrown away into a landfill. These trees, unlike real trees, are not recyclable or biodegradable. In addition to this, in 2010, The New York Times reported that fake trees usually contain a harmful chemical called polyvinyl chloride or PVC. Essentially, just manufacturing these trees can be harmful to the environment.

    Recent years have introduced the most ethical choice of all. You can now ‘rent’ your Christmas tree for the festive period. This means that you can choose the Christmas tree of your choice, which comes with its own sustainable root system. This tree is delivered to your door (which saves you time and money on travelling to purchase the tree yourself), and then picked up at a date which suits you, early in the New Year. The tree is then returned to the soil, and grown on for the new year.

    If you really are trying to limit your carbon footprint this Christmas, don’t let your efforts stop at your choice of tree. Make sure you opt for LED fairy lights for example. These new style lights help save energy and money. What is more, their relatively cool heat will make your tree less of a fire hazard too.

    This may sound like stating the obvious, but don’t forget to recycle after you’re done with celebrating for the year. Figures suggest that a mere 10% of Christmas trees are recycled for wood chipping and compost each year in the UK. In our capital alone, almost 1 million trees are just thrown away each January.

     

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    With so many housing developments today, forests are slowly dying. Forest serves as the natural habitat to a lot of animal species. What will happen if the forests are gone? First possibility is that animals will dwell with human in cities or towns. Can you imagine sleeping soundly then you realize that a python is next to you? Or a big bear is sitting in your veranda? Second possibility is that wild animals will die, which eventually affects the food chain.

    Dead forest is sure to have negative impact to the next generation. There will be no more forest to hike or trek.Lush green environment will become limited. Needless to say, many other detrimental effects will likely happen. This is why it is critical to help save the forest. In our own little ways, there are things we can do. If you cut trees, be sure to replace it new seedlings. For instance if you want to cut 1 old tree, you should plant 5 new trees. If all people share the same mission, our forest will stay until the next generation and the next.

    Image from sxc.hu

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    Keeping your neighborhood clean can be good for aesthetic purposes. It can also be good for keeping the planet happy and safe for all for generations and generations to come. If you want to do your part in helping the planet, you should think about setting up a trash cleanup project in your community.

    Set a Great Example

    If you want your neighbors to follow suit, you should begin by setting a great example. Pick up trash around your neighborhood in the middle of the day when other people can easily see you. You may just motivate others to do the same exact thing. If people ask you what you’re doing, tell them proudly.

    Reach out to Your Neighbors

    Don’t hesitate to reach out to neighbors who are friendly and cooperative. You may want to call or email them to ask them if they’d be interested in joining forces with you in your cleanup effort. They may not be able to resist taking part. If you make your cleanup project sound fun and interesting, it may encourage more and more people to team up with you.

    Post a Listing on the Internet

    Word gets around rapidly on the Internet. If you want to spread the word about your neighborhood cleanup effort, you can choose to post a free listing on a classified website. Look for a classified website that caters to your specific neighborhood. It’s critical to mention your community name in the header for the listing, too. If people learn about your project on the Internet, it may persuade them to reach out to you to lend a helping hand.

    Rent a Dumpster

    You can simplify your neighborhood garbage cleanup project by getting your hands on a sizable dumpster for disposal purposes. There are trustworthy companies that offer durable skips for rent. If you rent a roomy dumpster or two, you can get rid of significant levels of garbage. This can spare you a lot of frustration. Dumpsters can make doing away with trash straightforward and speedy.

    Trash and a gorgeous planet simply do not go hand in hand. If you want your neighborhood to be immaculate and lovely, then you need to prioritize cleanup work. You can make prioritizing a clean community a lot easier by getting help from other people who live near you. Remember, doing things in groups can be fun. It can also be a lot more efficient.

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