Bottle recycling in Oregon hits 90 percent record high

February 7, 2019 by  
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Oregon is seeing record-breaking recycling  rates for their progressive movement dating back to 1971. As the first state in the nation to initiate a bottle return bill, residents of the west coast state are long-accustomed to paying a bit more for their canned and bottled beverages. The idea is simple — pay a deposit when you purchase a six-pack and get that money back when you return the container to the store, but 48 years after the bill was introduced, the state is experiencing high recycling levels for the first time. The original bill, called the Oregon Bottle Bill, requires all beverage distributors, excepting alcohol, milk and a few other select beverages, to charge a minimum refundable amount on each container sold. From 1971 until 2017 that amount was five cents. So a six-pack of beer or soda would have cost 30 cents more at the store. That 30 cents was then refunded to the consumer when they took the cans back to the store. In 2017, the state supported a legislative increase to ten cents per container, with remarkable results. This change alone is credited with increasing return rates to 82 percent. The national average runs around 33 percent. While legislators likely would have directed policy towards the change eventually, the increase was triggered by a provision of state law enacted in 2011, which states that the increase must occur if return rates fall below 80 percent for two consecutive years. After 2014 clocked 68.3 percent and a 2015 return rate of 64.5 percent, 2016 got the ball rolling on the initiative. Related: Oregon initiates first modern statewide refillable glass bottle system in the US Since the recycling program’s initiation in Oregon, the state has seen promising results, especially in reductions of roadside waste and a dramatic increase in return rates. Reports state that at the time of the bill, bottles and cans were estimated to make up 40 percent of roadside waste. That estimate is now six percent. An even more impressive marker of success is the 2018 90 percent return rate. Put a different way, that represents two billion containers. Obviously the goal is to recycle every single recyclable bottle and can, not only to save on resources such as virgin aluminum, but to minimize waste. It’s easy to see that Oregon citizens have bought into the program with a 90 percent return rate. Oregon is known as a progressive state, especially when it comes to environmental issues, so it’s no surprise they’ve led the nation in this drive towards awareness of single-use containers and the importance of recycling. With this in mind, another major policy change contributed to the increase in recycling numbers. In January 2018, the bottle return policy expanded to include all plastic , aluminum and glass beverage containers such as energy drinks, juice, coffee, tea and others. To hit the 90 percent mark with all of those added containers is a testament to the efficiency of the system and dedication of Oregon’s consumers. The combination of the increased refund value, along with a wider variety of containers being accepted, is credited with a 35 percent increase in refund returns over just the last two years. While the legislation has remained relatively unchanged over the years, the process for returning bottles has evolved to accommodate those growing numbers. What once began as hand-counting returned containers later became automated, as return machines were installed in most major retail locations. The machines accept the different types of materials, read the barcode and keep an electronic tally of the return value. A printed slip is then taken to a cashier who exchanges it for cash. Many retailers in the state have pooled resources to initiate a centralized bottle return center known as BottleDrop. These return centers are located away from retail establishments, meaning that consumers have to make a special stop to return cans rather than being able to return them at the store where they shop. While it makes it somewhat less convenient, the fact that BottleDrop specializes in container returns means that the process is streamlined with hi-tech machines and staff available to help with any issues. Related: Hundreds of organisms hitch a ride from Japan to Oregon on waves of plastic trash Consumers have the option of feeding cans into the machine themselves or dropping them at the location and having staff count the cans for a small fee (around 40 cents per bag). Those that manually feed their cans receive a printed receipt. The receipt is then scanned into a nearby machine that dispenses payment. For those that choose to drop their bags, their account is credited after the cans and bottles are processed. The consumer can then cash out or even move those funds as a credit to a nearby participating retail grocery store . The convenience of this program has proved to be another valuable key in the success of the overall bottle return initiative. 2018 saw a 50 increase in BottleDrop accounts, needless to say, people are definitely taking advantage of it. With the high return rate and low waste rate, it seems shocking that the idea has not taken affect nationally. While most of Canada has now adopted the policy, only 11 states currently participate in a state- legislated bottle return plan. In addition to Oregon, those states are Vermont, Maine, Michigan, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Delaware, California and Hawaii. Via KPTV Images via Shutterstock

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Bottle recycling in Oregon hits 90 percent record high

Is a tiny home right for you?

February 4, 2019 by  
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Tiny house living is obviously more affordable compared to living in a traditional home, and it offers mobility and a smaller carbon footprint. The visible drawbacks are lack of storage space and fewer amenities, but there are more pros and cons to tiny house living that you might not have thought of. And what is a good thing today might end up being a negative down the road. Here are some expected — and not so expected — pros and cons to tiny house living that you should know if you are considering joining the tiny house community. Pros Less to clean Of course, less space means fewer things for you to clean in your tiny home . So, you can do everything you need to do in just minutes to make sure your home is clean and organized. Even a deep clean will only take you a couple of hours. Mobility Tiny house living combines the best parts of living in a traditional house with the best of living in a travel trailer or camper. You can have those must-have comforts like a washer and dryer or heat and AC, but you are also able to easily travel at the same time. You can place them on a trailer and go wherever you want, whenever you want — especially when your tiny home is custom built for travel. You can work from home and be on the road at the same time. Money The rate of home ownership in the tiny house community is 78 percent, compared to 65 percent for traditional homeownership. On top of that, 68 percent of tiny homeowners don’t have a mortgage, and that can free up a lot of cash. One out of three tiny house owners have at least $10,000 saved for retirement. Maintenance and utility costs are low, and renting a spot at an RV park or campground is much cheaper than paying rent for an apartment. Another pro is that you can splurge on upgrades in your home since you are building such a small space. Think hardwood or bamboo floors or exotic interior woods. Related: This countertop dishwasher promises to wash your dishes in just 10 minutes Less consumption When you only have about 300 square feet to work with, you are forced to consume less. If you can’t fit things into your cupboards and closets, you will have to buy fewer items when you go to the grocery store — and that means less waste. Also, since you can’t store food, you will buy fresh veggies, fruits, and seafood, which means healthier cooking . Energy efficiency Heating and cooling a small space can be done with a small window unit and propane tanks, or you can opt for solar panels. So, tiny house living automatically means built-in energy efficiency. But depending on where you live, the summer heat might be tough competition for a small window AC unit. No septic system required If you build a tiny home in the city, you can connect to a sewer system to enjoy modern plumbing. Remote tiny houses don’t require a septic system because you can use a composting toilet that will need cleaned about once every six weeks. You could also install a black water tank and plumbing for traditional flushing on a portable home if a composting toilet doesn’t sound like an attractive option. Cons The legal gray areas With tiny house living still being relatively new, you can find yourself in a legal gray area in many parts of the country. Some places might classify you as an RV, so you will need to park your tiny home in an RV park . But some places don’t consider tiny homes RVs, and instead, classify them as a house. And, depending on if you are traveling or looking for a permanent spot, you can end up in a legal black hole or have a lot of red tape to deal with. If you are wanting to build a tiny home in a permanent location, some communities and neighborhoods have building codes that dictate the minimum size of a home, so a tiny home might not be approved. Cleaning more often There might not be a lot to clean, which saves you time. But, the tiniest bit of disorganization can feel like a disaster in 250 square feet. So, you will need to clean your tiny home more often if you want to avoid a constant mess. Related: Potato peels offer a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials Unsustainable packaging Living in a tiny home makes it extremely difficult to buy items in bulk and use sustainable packaging. If you have zero storage space for those items, or if you are parked in a location that doesn’t have easy access to sustainable products, this means you might have to buy more items in unsustainable packaging. Towing challenges If you want to move to a tiny house so you can easily travel, that means that you will need to buy a large truck for towing. This will mean lower gas mileage and the smaller carbon footprint from your tiny house will be offset by the emissions from your big pickup truck. Accessible storage You can design your tiny home to have more storage than most people would expect. The problem is that those areas might not be very easy to reach. You can’t put everything in dressers or on counters. So, if you need to access things that are in those built-in storage spaces, it can be difficult or frustrating. Images via WinnieC , Shutterstock

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Why Wells Fargo’s cleantech incubator is a hit

March 26, 2018 by  
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The bank’s Innovation Incubator has a secret weapon: a national laboratory.

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Why Wells Fargo’s cleantech incubator is a hit

More companies prefer green bonds, carbon taxes

February 7, 2018 by  
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Experts from Citi, Microsoft and Bank of America weigh in on the latest corporate efforts to reach dramatic emissions targets.

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Scientists just created green solar cells – and they’re working on white, red and additional colors

August 17, 2017 by  
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Do you love solar panels , but hate the color blue? You’re in luck – researchers in the Netherlands have developed a process for making conventional solar panels bright green, and they’re working on developing other colors as well. By making the panels more appealing, they hope to entice more people and businesses to invest in clean energy. Researchers at AMOLF devised a method of imprinting solar panels with silicon nanopatterns that make them appear green. Though the process decreases the efficiency by 10 percent, it’s considered to be an acceptable trade-off if the panels are installed on more buildings. Said Verena Neder, lead author of the paper and researcher at AMOLF, “The black appearance of the [conventional] solar panels is not attractive for many people and a reason to not put solar panels on their rooftop. Making solar cells colored makes it possible to integrate them in an architectural design of houses and full cities, but also to merge them in the landscape.” CleanTechnica reports that to turn the panels green , researchers “use soft imprint lithography to apply a dense array of silicon nanotubes onto the surface of solar cells.” At approximately 100 nanometers wide, each nanotube is carefully shaped to scatter a certain wavelength of light. The cells appear green to observers, and the color is constant regardless of where one is standing. “The structure we made is not very sensitive to the angle of observation, so even if you look at it from a wide angle, it still appears green,” said Neder. Related: Revolutionary glass building blocks generate their own solar energy Because the color can be adjusted by altering the geometry of the nanotubes , the researchers have started planning imprints that create red and blue solar colors. After the three primary colors of light are developed, they will be able to create any color — including white. “You have to combine different nanoparticles, and if they get very close to each other they can interact and that will affect the color,” said Albert Polman, a scientific group leader at AMOLF. “Going to white is a really big step.” The technology could make it possible to create tandem solar cells which are stacked in layers. Each layer would be fine tuned to absorb certain portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Theoretically, this could result in sunlight conversion efficiencies of 30 percent more. Considering commercially available solar cells are about 20 percent efficient, this could be a game-changer for the renewable energy industry. Affirmed Neder, “The new method to change the color of the panels is not only easy to apply but also attractive as an architectural design element and has the potential to widen their use.” + AIP Applied Physics Letters + AMOLF Via Clean Technica Images via Pixabay and Depositphotos

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INFOGRAPHIC: How smart cities are creating a greener future

December 3, 2015 by  
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Advances in technology are quickly paving the way for smart cities. A smart city is an urban center that harnesses technologies, such as IT, to improve the quality of life of residents, manage available resources such as roads and water in economically sustainable manner, and reduce environmental pollution . According to figures published by the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), smart city technologies will grow to an industry worth $27.5 billion by 2023. In addition, the world will be home to about 88 smart cities by 2025. To learn more about smart cities of the future and how big data will play a role in improving the efficiency and sustainability of urban living, checkout the infographic below created by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online Masters in Computer Science program . Read the rest of INFOGRAPHIC: How smart cities are creating a greener future

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INFOGRAPHIC: How smart cities are creating a greener future

Pioneering new urban design for Stockholm includes a soaring green sky walk park

December 3, 2015 by  
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From Energy Star to Tenant Star: The next frontier in building efficiency

July 10, 2015 by  
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Tenant Star, a tenant-focused version of EPA’s successful Energy Star building program, could have big implications for the efficiency of commercial spaces.

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From Energy Star to Tenant Star: The next frontier in building efficiency

Superhydrophobic Coating Makes Better Solar Panels

June 2, 2015 by  
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Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a coating for glass that is superhydrophobic, making it so that it will literally bounce water off the surface. This coating also decreases the amount of light that reflects away from the glass. The benefits for solar collectors are immediately evident. The ability to be self-cleaning would be an enormous benefit for solar panels, even without the additional conversion efficiency benefits. Although many of the best locations for solar panel farms are in dusty desert climates with very little rainfall, even there, the ability to clean the solar panels with just a small amount of water and the self-cleaning ability of the panels would be a benefit, and a savings in labor and in water use. The coating can be applied to glass in a number of different categories, including architectural purposes, and military applications, but the use of superhydrophobic coating for solar panels could be particularly beneficial: “Where solar panels are concerned, the suppression of reflected light translates into a 3-6 percent relative increase in light-to-electricity conversion efficiency and power output of the cells. Coupled with the superhydrophobic self-cleaning ability, this could also substantially reduce maintenance and operating costs of solar panels. In addition, the coating is highly effective at blocking ultraviolet light.” According to the ORNL press release , the coating is also highly durable, unlike other hydrophobic and self-cleaning technologies. The process to make this coating is also cost-effective, and it “can be fabricated through industry standard techniques mak[ing] it easy and inexpensive to scale up and apply to a wide variety of glass platforms.” via: Oak Ridge National Laboratory press release image via: ORNL

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Korean researchers develop most efficient solar cell to date

January 13, 2015 by  
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A Korean research team has achieved record level efficiency in solar cells, using a new formula for mixing perovskite structures. Perovskite is an inexpensive, abundant mineral, and the researchers have found ways to make it even more efficient for solar power applications. The new solar cells are measured at 17.9 percent efficiency, which could mean very big things for this clean alternative energy source. Read the rest of Korean researchers develop most efficient solar cell to date Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “solar energy” , advancements , alternative energy , Alternative Fuel , best , cheap energy , cheap solar , clean , cleanest , efficiency , korea , Korean , minerals , perovskite , power , records , renewable energy , research , science , scientific , solar , Solar cells , Solar Power , solar technology

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Korean researchers develop most efficient solar cell to date

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