Lower bills and lower CO2 levels- Who doesn’t want those two things?

Hey everyone,

Since it’s finally getting colder, like myself, I’m sure that you all are probably trying to keep warm. Heating your whole house is expensive, so wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to keep warm and keep your bills more reasonable? Energy conscious engineers in Madrid may be able to help you out!

Many people have been using solar panels to heat the water in their bathroom for several years now, but the engineers at the Madrid University Carlos III and Politécnica say that they can also be used to heat in the winter and cool in the summer large inhabited spaces. They’ve incorporated solar panels into a gas-based system within a larger absorption machine. This would reduce both energy expenditure and CO2 emissions!

The gas engine within this system generates electricity and can in use the residual heat that is produced in the conversion process during winter months. Then, in summer when we are sweltering, the residual heat powers an absorption machine which cools the water to provide air conditioning.

Pedro A. Rodriguez, the primary author of the study, explained that although it is only compulsory for establishments in order to meet the demand for hot water, a very limited number of them escape this by not having either showers or kitchens. In order to make establishments utilize this new energy system, the energy needs of buildings, one must consider the temporal trends in a specific area.

Although at the moment only businesses, train stations such as the Atocha Station in Madrid, and shopping malls have been utilizing this new green technology, maybe someday soon we all will have the ability to use solar panels to reduce both our energy bills and our carbon footprint!

Source: http://www.uc3m.es/portal/page/portal/actualidad_cientifica/noticias/solar_panels

 

OnAir says: How can you stay green as it gets colder? Let us know your ideas in a comment below!

Climate, Keystone, and Controversial Documentaries

Documentaries are extremely important in that they give us some back story on things we might only kind of know about. A new documentary, Elemental, targets some issues that affect the environment, such as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, pollution in the Ganges River, and how a man faces the battles of a rapidly warming climate.

Pretty deep stuff.

Maybe you’ve heard about Keystone XL in the news, but you’re fuzzy on the details. If so, here are some of the facts:

  • TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. proposed to construct a 1,700 mile crude oil pipeline
  • The pipeline would run from Hardisty, Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, reducing the need for trains and trucks to get oil to the refineries. Canada to Texas. That’s a long pipeline.
  • The project has two phases: The first pipeline is the one under proposition, which runs from Alberta to Nebraska, while the second is under construction; it runs from Oklahoma to Texas. An existing pipeline will connect these two.

 

So it’s a project that covers a lot of ground and could possibly cause a good bit of disruption. Which means that there’s a pretty heated argument brewing between the the project’s supporters and its critics. Here’s where they stand:

The people FOR the pipeline claim that it will boost the economy, providing jobs for several people. Along with that, it is said that this cut America’s dependence on oil imported from Venezuela and the Middle East. This is because the oil will be imported from resources in Canada and other polar regions, and we will have easier access to it because of the pipeline.

The people AGAINST the pipeline claim that it will put the surrounding environment at risk of toxic spills and water pollution. Also, separating the crude oil from the sand, silt and clay it comes from requires huge amounts of water, a resource we can’t afford to waste. They also argue that we should be looking for ways to provide energy without oil, rather than making it easier for oil to get to us.

While Elemental tackles more issues than Keystone, the XL pipeline is such a complex issue that it helps to do a little extra reading.

Here’s a scene from Elemental which focuses on citizens speaking out against the pollution affecting their community:

And here’s a scene of a government official in India attempting to clean up the Ganges river.

What are your opinions on the pipeline controversy, the pollution in the Ganges, or just our ever-changing climate? Please leave a comment below and share your views with us!

For more info on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, click here.

For some of the arguments for it, click here.

For some of the arguments against, click here.

Summer Fever

Woohoo! School’s out! I know everyone is excited about what they are going to do over the summer. Maybe you’ll go camping with your family or go to the mall with your friends, and some of you guys might get a head start on all that summer homework.

Whatever it is, remember that helping the environment is still a main priority. No matter where you are, you are surrounded by air. Here are a few summer fever + helping the environment tips to keep in mind!

1. Keep hydrated! Instead of buying plastic bottles, get a reusable one!
2. Don’t want to hold onto your wrappers while camping? Don’t throw them on the ground–find a trash can!
3. Travel clean! Instead of taking the car for short distances, try the bike (you don’t need to pay for the gas!). Heck, you could even walk if you wanted to!
4. Going to the mall to meet up with friends? Try carpooling, it’s much more fun.
5. Plan your errands to avoid going around in circles to save gas and time.
6. Recycle all and everything you can! Trying to get rid of all the notes and tests from your classes? Recycle!
7. Improve energy efficiency. Instead of cranking up the AC, buy your own fan. Don’t turn on the lights in the morning and afternoon, there’s plenty of sunlight so pull up those curtains! And don’t forget to turn off and unplug stereos, radios, and televisions when leaving the house.
8. Don’t spend 1 hour in the shower. I repeat: no 1-hour showers! As tempting as it sounds to cool off in the summer, cut down the water usage to about 15 to 25 minutes.
9. For those who are doing summer homework on their computer, make sure to turn off and take off the power supply after work. And try using eBooks and soft copy versions of books before printing hundreds of pages out!
10. Plant a garden (or tree, which ever you prefer).
11. Collect rain water for use in garden and watering plants.
12. Not going anywhere special? Find local communities that are helping out with the environment (it’s a great way to get community service hours too).

 

OnAir says: So what’s your planet-saving list for the summer? Let us know in the comments! And whatever you do, don’t forget to log those AirCreds!

Leaf Fuel

For the past two weeks, I had a science project on biochemistry!

Discussing with my dad, he stated anything “bio” he knew. He mentioned biofuel, which interested me, so I Googled it. I searched to find out that there are actually scientists who research and try to create healthier environment since the current one is not that safe to live in.

One assignment that dragged me was the Leaf fuel. Of course, when one hears it, the first thing that comes to mind is: “THEY ARE CREATING FUEL OUT OF LEAVES?” So let me rephrase that. The scientists are working on a leaf that is actually genetically engineered to capture much as photosynthesis as possible to create energy which later turns into fuel.

Cool, isn’t it? Although, there are a few questions I wonder, what will be the price? Will there be consequences behind this? How long will it take?

For more info: http://www.planet-science.com/categories/over-11s/natural-world/2012/03/leaf-fuel-could-help-save-planet.aspx

[Image source]

Cleaner Cooking

Hello OnAir Readers!

This week I’d like to talk about something that I think is very important for our collective future, and is also very interesting.

Each and every one of us uses energy every single day, and I’m not just talking about physical energy which we have all learned about in biology. No, in this instance I am talking about the energy used in cooking and stoves. In a new study, universal access to modern energy (that is, modern sources of energy for everyone on the planet) can only be achieved if we invest between $65-86 billion a year, every single year until 2030. These estimates are much higher than those that came before this study found in “Environmental Research Letters.”

This amount may seem drastic, but readily available access to things like electricity, etc. seems to combat for approximately 4 million deaths annually from poor household air pollution, which is generally caused by traditional cooking practices. International research has shown that with more access to clean cooking fuels, we could easily avoid up to 1.8 million premature deaths as well as simply enhancing people’s well being. In order to do this, we would need to add between 21 and 28 gigawatts of energy in order to create the most modest amount of electricity for the average rural household.

In addition to the costs, there is a need for a new set of dedicated policies to help households ease into cooking in better and cleaner ways. However, this is no small project, and would involve over 40% of the entire world’s population.The estimated cost of this would be approximately $750-1000 billion within the next 20 years.

There are so many details and so much money involved, that even the head researcher Dr. Shonali Pachauri doesn’t fully believe that universal access to clean and modern energy is possible. In fact, she states in another interview that the scale of the investment is so enormous that it would probably require additional sources of finances from private companies. However, the benefits are equally enormous and thus we must all begin to consider whether or not these benefits out-weigh the bad.

In addition to this study with its program, the UN also declared 2012 as the “International Year of Sustainable Energy for All,” and has made their own promises for 2030. Even without the establishment of a full program, even the barest framework would bring cleaner energy to up to 810 million people around the world in rural or impoverished areas by 2030. However, millions more in rural Asia and sub-Saharan Africa would remain without access to these modern energy sources. So, the next time that you’re cooking a meal in your more-than-likely modern kitchen, be thankful!

For more information you can visit here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130502225855.htm

Garbage for Fuel, and What Happens When You Run Out

©Pavel Trebukov

Did you know that the city of Oslo, Norway is powered by garbage? Yes, guys. Garbage.

Okay, before anyone gets nauseous, let’s put this into context, shall we? Here’s Oslo’s reasoning: All garbage really does is fill landfills. Right? Plus, not everyone recycles (unfortunately). Right? So we just have a bunch of useless stuff that takes up a lot of space. So why don’t we put all that stuff into a giant incinerator and make some energy? It makes a whole lot of sense, right? The entire city of Oslo is occupied by over 650,000 residents, and they are all happy campers. What a sustainable way to have energy.

Just one problem though. They don’t have any more garbage.

Apparently this is because Europeans are so good at recycling and they tend not to waste so much. Alas, Oslo has created the seed to its own destruction. So what is Oslo doing now? Asking around for imported garbage. And the most valuable country for this is…

The United States of ‘Murica.

Sweden already imports garbage from us for their energy. So…should we be embarrassed that we have so much garbage or proud that we are helping out another country? Gosh, so much irony here. What are your thoughts and opinions? Let us know in a comment below!

Read more here.

What Hurricane Sandy Could Say About Global Warming

Hey everyone, so as you guys know, Hurricane Sandy has been all over the news, and for good reason. It’s been wreaking havoc in the New York and New Jersey areas, and has really established itself as one of the worst storms the U.S has faced in recent times.

One of the issues that has been raised in Sandy’s aftermath has been whether the storm was closely related to climate change, or global warming. One research scientist at The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Radley Horton has been studying the potential causes and conditions that resulted in Hurricane Sandy. In an interview with NPR Horton told them that while it couldn’t be stated that global warming was a direct cause of the powerful storm, connections between the two could be made.

The rising sea levels and temperatures of the world’s oceans were said to be connected to the storm. As the planet warms up, the oceans heat up as well, and warmer water strengthens the power of storms like Sandy. Increased flooding could be the result of higher sea levels in the future.
In a separate article, researchers at Beijing Normal University in China found that the frequency of large storm surges has increased since 1923, and that in warmer temperatures large storms are more likely.

With these recent studies and with America dealing with Sandy’s aftermath, I think we should all look for climate change discussion to increase and hopefully gain a more important place in government policy. While we can’t know for sure that global warming is putting us at bigger risk of large storms, we can’t look past the connections. The articles are below if you guys want to read them, they give more examples of possible causes of storms such as Sandy and how climate change plays in.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=hurricane-sandy-spins-up-climate-discussion

http://www.npr.org/2012/10/31/164043372/sandy-raises-questions-about-climate-and-the-future

City Cycling 101

In light of our Bike to School challenge, we want to offer up a few tips (courtesy of Intown Bicycles) to help make your clean commute easy, less stressful, and most importantly safe.

Now we know that it can be scary riding on roads alongside speeding cars, but if you use your head, stay focused, and be smart, you can avoid nearly all major issues.

Tip #1: Be Visible. Now this may seem like an obvious one, but you may be surprised at how many cyclists and pedestrians don’t follow this advice. Make sure that you are wearing bright colors, and that your bike has an appropriate number of lights and reflectors. When you’re on your bike, you want car drivers to notice you from as far away as possible, so that they can plan to safely pass you. This is especially important at night. Wear yellow, it is the most eye catching. Do not wear grey, it’s the color of the road.

Tip #2: Be Predictable. It’s important to be as predictable as possible so that other drivers can know what to do. Follow the rules of the road. Stop at all red lights and stop signs; signal when turning; yield to oncoming traffic; ride on the right-hand side of the road, and turn left from the left lane. Essentially, ride your bike as if you’re driving a car.

Tip #3: Beware of Hazards. A lot of things that are bad for cars (pot holes, road plates, construction zones) are bad for bicycles, but there are additional things to watch out for when biking in the city. Watch for cars making left turns in front of you, and look for cars pulling out from side streets and driveways.Watch for cars that pass you and then make a right turn in front of you.

Also watch for sewer grates, railroad tracks, and gravel or other road debris. These items can cause you to lose traction and fall, particularly if you hit them at high speeds or going around turns.

Be aware that drivers cannot see the holes, debris, and other hazards that you have to negotiate. Signal drivers, if possible, before making any unexpected moves to avoid hazards.

Tip #4: Plan Your Routes Ahead of Time. Putting a bit of time in to plan your route can pay off big time. Not only can you avoid the busiest roads, but you can find out which roads have bike paths, which traffic signals don’t recognize cyclists, etc. Make sure to utilize bike paths as much as possible. It is technically illegal to ride on the sidewalk (unless you’re under 13), however there are some situations where it is way safer – so use your best judgement.

Tip #5: Be Prepared. First off, you should always have the proper safety equipment. Always wear your helmet (even for short trips), and wear reflective or bright clothing, as we mentioned earlier. It’s also important to carry some tools and supplies in the event of a problem. We recommend a spare tube for your tires, a patch kit, and a multi-tool, to help fix general mechanical issues.

Tip #6: Pay Attention. This is another no-brainer. Make sure that you are constantly aware of your surroundings. Unfortunately this means no listening to music. It’s important to use all of your senses to be aware. Don’t even think about trying to text while riding your bike. Not only are your eyes not on the road, but your hands aren’t on the handlebars, and you have no way to avoid a problem. It’s not worth the injury or the broken phone.

For a full guide to bycicling in Georgia, see the DOT’s Georgia Bike Sense. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition also offers courses on city cycling, and bike maintenance.

 

 

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=312589

16 year-old makes big changes on a global scale…

…$78 million worth of big changes, to be exact.

16 year-old Azza Abdel Hamid Faias, an Egyptian student, has found a relatively cheap catalyst to help break down plastic waste and turn it into bio-fuel feedstock.

Azza at the 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists

Azza’s discovery was made when brainstorming on how to reduce Egypt’s trash consumption, nearly 100 million tons per year. The idea of breaking down plastic garbage to be used as a bio-fuel starter has been around for several years, however it’s Azza’s catalyst discovery that is the real breakthrough here. All other methods have been regarded as too costly to be efficient, but this newly discovered catalyst, aluminosicilate, has been proved to break down waste and simultaneously produce methane, propane, and ethane, which can be used to create ethanol.

According to Azza, the technology could “provide an economically efficient method for production of hydrocarbon fuel,” including 40,000 tons per year of cracked naptha and 138,000 tons of hydrocarbon gasses – the equivalent of $78 million in bio-fuel.

Azza’s proposal is already attracting loads of attention, including that of the Egyptian Petroleum Research Institute, as well as interest from major energy companies worldwide.

At only 16 years old, this teenager has made a discovery that could change the world. We know she has a bright future ahead. We also know that she is not the only young mind working towards a better planet.

Even ideas that seem small-scale at first can turn out to have a big impact. So we want to know, what things do you do make your part of the world better? Let us know in the comments!

Green Eating

We’re all looking for ways to improve air pollution, and one way to do it is by eating green.

The best way to “eat green” is to try to intake foods that have the least amount of impact on the environment.

Restaurants are notorious for being huge sources of excess waste, such as water, energy, and resources like paper and other materials for containers and packaging.

But there are tons of local, independent restaurants that buy organic and/or local food. Think of it this way: the average carrot travels around 1,800 miles to get to your dinner table, according to the Leopold Center. Imagine the amount of fuel that’s burned up along the way. Eating organic and/or locally can hugely cut down your impact on the environment.

Here’s a list of some great organic restaurants in Georgia: Best Organic Restaurants

Also, try checking out the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), an organization that certifies restaurants as “green” based on a 1 to 5 star rating. GRA also helps restaurants, manufacturers and distributors become more environmentally responsible in a convenient, cost-effective way.

If going to an organic restaurant isn’t an option, try these tips at any restaurant to make it a greener experience:

  • Drink water instead of soda. It can take up to 132 gallons of water to produce a 2-liter bottle of soda, according to the Wall Street Journal. Not to mention the amount of pollution generated to create sodas and have them shipped!
  • Bring your own reusable container for leftovers and let your waiter know that he doesn’t need to bring you a box. Think how much fresher your leftovers will be!
  • Order produce that is in season. Not sure which is which? Here’s a list of seasonal produce for the state of Georgia: Seasonal Produce
  • Order lower on the food chain. The Environmental Defense Fund has found that:
    – Chicken has a lower environmental impact than beef.
    – Seafood has a lower impact than chicken.
    – A vegetarian or vegan meal has the least impact of them all!

We know that some of these ideas sound extraordinary, but even trying just one at any restaurant you go to will make a more positive impact on the environment! These tips can also apply to your everyday eating habits. Encourage your parents to buy organic and local. And try packing a lunch and bringing it to school!

Remember to log your green eating habits on AirCreds for points and prizes!