Thoughtful Human makes zero-waste cards for every occasion

November 11, 2021 by  
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Ali O’Grady’s business  Thoughtful Human  is different from other greeting card companies. First, it’s  zero waste . You can plant the cards and grow wildflowers. And these cards don’t celebrate typical holidays. Thoughtful Human’s greetings are appropriate for when you find out your loved one has cancer, or is in rehab, or just suffered a miscarriage. The cards have caught on, and now you can buy them in Cost Plus World Markets across the United States. O’Grady talked to Inhabitat about how she started this unusual  business  and why people have responded in such an overwhelmingly positive way. Related: The high environmental cost of popular holiday gifts Inhabitat: How did you start drawing? O’Grady: Spoiler alert — I didn’t! I write all of our cards and come up with concepts for the  designs , but this hand simply cannot draw. Fortunately, I found our amazing illustrator, Summer Ortiz Ross, back in 2017 and have worked with her since day one of Thoughtful Human. She has a really unique ability to create lettering and graphics that are whimsical and fun, but also lend a certain tenderness, vulnerability and weight to them. I searched through many, many designers to find someone special who could deliver that! Inhabitat: Tell us a little bit about how the idea for your card company first hit you. O’Grady: I lost my dad in 2011 after a 10-year battle with colon  cancer . It left me with a lot of time to reflect on that experience and the things I wasn’t able to ask or say. After he passed, I started to notice more and more communication issues all around me — lots of well-meaning friends and family struggling to talk to me and my family about grief and depression, while I myself was struggling to find words to address addiction and other challenges within my circle. It just became really clear that so many of us wanted to show up but didn’t have the words or tools to navigate challenging conversations, and that a lot of people were left feeling isolated and alone as a result. I wanted to help change that. As far as defining moments, I was on a long drive home from the funeral of a  family  member who sadly passed of an overdose. It was a really somber day, and I was having a lot of racing thoughts about mortality, family and showing up. Among them, I was thinking about how I had just dropped the ball on my grandma’s birthday. Despite thinking about it so many times as it was approaching, I had done nothing and was really disappointed in myself. I remember thinking,  how could I have had the thought so many times and done nothing?  The answer was as simple as not having a stamp or finding a card/gift that resonated with me. I distinctly remember thinking,  it shouldn’t be so hard to be a thoughtful human,  and it just kind of clicked. I wanted to help remove barriers for people who wanted to show up, but for whatever reason weren’t getting there. And that was it — I went home and claimed the Thoughtful Human domain name that night and started to doodle our first logo. Inhabitat: How did you decide on your more unusual categories, like depression, miscarriage, rehab, cancer, etcetera? O’Grady: It was less of a decision than it was a response to the circumstances within my family and a desperation to find meaningful ways to connect. Many of the subjects we cover are perhaps unusual for mainstream cards and retailers, but they certainly aren’t uncommon issues. In fact, 1 in 7 people face a substance addiction, 1 in 5 people face an episode of  mental illness  each year, and 2 in 5 people will be diagnosed with cancer within their lifetimes. It’s  a lot  of individuals and families and, of course, these are just three particular issues that have impacted my family directly, but we’re really talking about content that opens up a dialogue around  any  sensitive or stigmatized issue. We want to make people — both the card buyer and card recipient — feel seen. We want to shift the model from platitudes and niceties to encouraging people to show up honestly and consistently in tough moments — to build the kind of trust that fosters vulnerability and allows for real connection and healing. Inhabitat: What kind of feedback have your customers given you on your cards? Any special stories you can share? O’Grady: People have been so receptive and supportive! From traveling around and speaking with all kinds of people, it’s really clear how desperate so many of us are to communicate around our pain and struggles. And when you give people that space, it’s the coolest thing — it creates palpable connections, and you can almost feel the relief. Inhabitat: Tell us about the sustainability aspect of your cards. O’Grady: I have been really passionate about  sustainability  since high school where I first started advocating around climate change and waste, so I knew starting my own business that it had to be low-to-no waste. All of our cards are printed on seed paper that can be planted to grow wildflowers. The paper is made from post-consumer recycled content and printed with water-based inks. All of our products, packaging and shipping materials are totally plastic-free and made with either recyclable, compostable, or plantable materials. Inhabitat: Congratulations on getting into some giant markets, as well as lots of cool smaller places. Do you have any tips for other entrepreneurs? O’Grady: Thank you! My best advice is to be authentic and make people feel something. I spend so much more time talking about mental  health , addiction, etc. than I do talking about my actual products. So much more time being vulnerable myself and listening to others’ challenges than I do trying to sell anything. I feel strongly that it has been this approach — the process of extending and evoking empathy — and our vision for communication that has opened so many doors for Thoughtful Human. We’ve also been uncompromising in our commitment to our mission and sustainability, and I think people — from buyers to customers and everyone in between — can see that it is authentic. It’s not CSR [corporate social responsibility], it  is  the brand. Any time we get a platform you bet we’re going to use it to blast an organization we care about relevant resources. That’s because we actually care. It’s never been about cards , it’s about genuinely trying to help guide people who are facing very real situations towards the support they need. Of course, this advice is going to look different for other  entrepreneurs  and categories, but whether it’s a pickle, a shirt, an app, literally anything — be authentic and make people feel something! Inhabitat: What else would you like readers to know about you, your cards and your mission? O’Grady: I’d love to remind people that whatever that thing is — the one you find the most painful, shameful, humiliating — is so much more common than you think it is, and there are so many  communities  and tools available to support! I started a podcast this year to help normalize a lot of stigmatized subjects and bring people more tools and vocabulary to approach uncomfortable conversations — from colons and colostomy bags to herpes, grief, addiction, incarceration, race, and beyond. It’s okay to talk about this stuff, it’s okay to stumble through or “mess up,” it’s okay to have questions, it’s okay to ask for help. You are not alone! + Ali O’Grady / Thoughtful Human Images via Thoughtful Human

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Thoughtful Human makes zero-waste cards for every occasion

Renewable energy is growing too slow to stop climate change

October 26, 2021 by  
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A new study published in  Nature Energy  shows that the growth rate for wind and solar power is lower than required to stop climate change. The study, conducted by the Chalmers University of Technology, Lund University in Sweden, and Central European University in Austria, has found that no country is moving fast enough to curb global warming from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. The study found that the production of renewable energy has been increasing at a dismal rate.  The researchers reviewed renewable energy production in 60 countries and found that the growth rate for wind and solar was lower than required in almost all countries. According to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a 1.4-3% yearly growth rate for renewables is needed to keep global warming below 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius. Related: Wind is the leading source of renewable energy “This is the first time that the maximum growth rate in individual countries has been accurately measured, and it shows the enormous scale of the challenge of replacing traditional energy sources with renewables , as well as the need to explore diverse technologies and scenarios,” said Jessica Jewell, Associate Professor of Energy Transitions at the Chalmers University of Technology. In an analysis of the 60 largest countries, researchers found that the maximum growth rate for onshore wind power averages 0.8% of total electricity supply per year and 0.6% for solar. These figures are far lower than IPCC predictions. Among the countries reviewed, only smaller ones such as Portugal, Chile and Ireland managed significant growth rates above 2% for wind and 1.5% for solar. Aleh Cherp, professor of Environmental Sciences and Policy at Central European University and Lund University, says that the whole world is now behind schedule. According to the Paris Climate Accord , the world must keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius based on pre-industrial levels to prevent hazardous climatic occurrences. Unfortunately, sluggish progress has remained a stumbling block across the world. “Among larger countries, only Germany has so far been able to sustain growth of onshore wind power comparable with median climate stabilization scenarios. In other words, to stay on track for climate targets, the whole world should build wind power as fast as Germany built recently,” said Cherp. + Nature Energy Lead image via Pixabay

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Renewable energy is growing too slow to stop climate change

Casa Numa is built out of 50-year-old coconut palm wood

October 15, 2021 by  
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At a first glance, you might not believe that Casa Numa is entirely built out of coconut palm wood over 50 years old. The 160 square meters of living space is a beauty to behold both inside and out. Casa Numa is located on Holbox Island, Quintana Roo, where it functions as a vacation rental. According to Susana López, the chief architect behind the project, the idea behind the building was to integrate sustainability and nature in a modern living space. López is an architect with a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Design and Development for the City from the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. She is recognized for her exemplary work creating modern, sustainable designs. Related: This collapsible cooler is insulated with upcycled coconut fiber This project is built out of old coconut tree wood. At first glance, the striking front lattice of coconut palm wood stands out. You can’t ignore the beauty of the pattern amid a sunny, warm environment. This lattice offers privacy by obscuring the view into the home. The coconut palm wood used in the building is supported on sapote tree piles. All the materials are sustainably sourced from local jungles . Some may argue that such a design is wasteful for using too much wood, but it is important to note that all the wood used is over 50 years old. In other words, the designers used wood that would have otherwise ended up in flames, contributing to carbon emissions. Additionally, using locally sourced wood minimized the introduction of foreign materials to the island. The materials used in this project also benefit the home. Palm wood insulation minimizes heating needs and helps keep the house comfortable in both hot and cold conditions. The effectiveness of the materials also stands out in terms of the time needed for construction. Casa Numa’s structure was completed in only three months. Casa Numa shows how nature can provide everything we need to live a comfortable life. With efficient, local materials , this project creates a sustainable, original living space. + RED Arquitectos Photography by Miguel Calanchini

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Casa Numa is built out of 50-year-old coconut palm wood

5 standout brands from Vegan Fashion Week 2021

October 15, 2021 by  
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As more consumers prioritize sustainability, the days of fast fashion are numbered. This year’s Vegan Fashion Week in Los Angeles highlighted brands that are stepping up to meet the demand for ethical products by offering fashionable creations free of animal products.  In 2021, vegan fashion has moved beyond the simple aesthetics from its days as a niche market. Now, you can find clothes you have an affinity for in a variety of styles. Curious about what the vegan fashion world has to offer? Check out these five standout brands from Vegan Fashion Week 2021. Related: Get your vegan jewelry fix with KEVA’s cactus leather line Vegan Tiger Vegan Tiger kicked off Vegan Fashion Week’s Friday fashion show. As Korea’s first vegan fashion brand, Vegan Tiger wants to “end fur animal suffering and give consumers wider choices,” according to their mission statement. To this end, Vegan Tiger creates cruelty-free clothing, including faux fur outerwear and GRS-certified recycled polyester jackets. While these high-fashion items come with high prices, the brand puts some of its proceeds toward donations for animals and the environment. Lunar Method Cactus leather has been having its moment in the fashion industry, and Lunar Method puts it to use in luxurious, functional bags. Accentuated with colorful fabrics sourced from Mexican artisans, these bags are made of durable, PETA-certified cactus leather. A relatively new brand, Lunar Method began researching animal leather alternatives in December 2020 and launched a Kickstarter in July 2021. One of the brand’s collections is already sold out, showing the high demand for sustainable, vegan leather products. Fleur & Bee Looking for a more affordable vegan brand? All of Fleur & Bee’s clean skincare products are under $30. From facial cleanser and toner, to vitamin C serum and eye cream, Fleur & Bee has everything you need for a natural, vegan beauty regimen. Its products are also free of sulfates, parabens and artificial fragrances. Solios For a timeless accessory, check out these solar -powered watches from Solios . Started by university friends Samuel Leroux and Alexandre Desabrais, Solios creates sustainable watches powered by clean, renewable energy. The brand does not use any single-use plastic in its supply chain, favoring instead for recycled and recyclable paper packaging. Solios also donates to the Rainforest Trust and has committed to protecting one acre of rainforest for each watch sold. Shoes 53045 Complete your outfit with stylish shoes from Shoes 53045 . While working to become more sustainable, this vegan brand strives to source renewable and recycled materials. Currently, Shoes 53045 uses Better Cotton Initiative certified canvas and GRS-certified recycled cotton for some of its shoes. It’s also sourcing a corn-based leather alternative, finding ways to minimize shipping emissions and planting one tree for each pair of shoes sold. So far, the company has planted 22,550 trees as part of its program. While the vegan fashion world still has room to grow in terms of prioritizing eco-friendly materials and making products accessible to a wider range of consumers, these brands show the potential in cruelty-free clothing. Photography by Delaney Tran and Grae Gleason / Inhabitat

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Hermit crab study shows microplastic’s affect on marine life

October 15, 2021 by  
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A new study published in the journal  Royal Society Open Science  has found that microplastics affect the behavior of hermit crabs, a key part of the ocean ecosystem. The study, conducted by Queen’s University, highlights how microplastics impact hermit crabs’ growth and reproduction. In a press release, researchers explained the study’s methodology, saying, “The research involved keeping hermit crabs in two tanks: one which contained polyethylene spheres (a common microplastic pollutant ) and one without plastic (control) for five days. The team simulated the environment to encourage a hermit crab contest through placing pairs of hermit crabs in an arena, giving the larger crab a shell that was too small and the smaller crab a shell that was too big.” Related: Global warming driving mass migration of marine life Shell fights are crucial to the survival of hermit crabs. During shell fights, the crabs have to fight each other in contests over larger shells to occupy as their home. During their growth, crabs move from smaller shells and find new homes by fighting each other. According to the latest study, hermit crabs exposed to microplastics had impaired attacking and defending behavior. As a result, the researchers say that the crabs’ ability to grow and survive is weakened. Hermit crabs are vital to the entire ocean ecosystem. As scavengers, these tiny animals help recycle energy back into the ecosystem. They feed on decomposed sea life and bacteria , helping rebalance the ecosystem.  One of the lead researchers on the paper, Manus Cunningham from Queen’s University, said, “These findings are hugely significant as they illustrate how both the information-gathering and shell evaluations were impaired when exposed to microplastics.” According to Cunningham, there is not a significant amount of information available on how microplastics impact sea life . This is one of the first studies to show the exact threats microplastics pose for specific species. “Although 10% of global plastic production ends up in the ocean, there is very limited research on how this can disrupt animal behaviour and cognition. This study shows how the microplastic pollution crisis is threatening biodiversity more than is currently recognised,” said Cunningham. Via Newswise Lead image via Pixabay

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Hermit crab study shows microplastic’s affect on marine life

Greta Thunberg slams global leaders for their "blah, blah, blah"

September 29, 2021 by  
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Eighteen-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg has condemned global leaders for their lack of action to address the climate crisis . The outspoken activist has dismissed their words as empty talk.  Thunberg quoted U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson , saying, “This is not some expensive, politically correct, green act of bunny hugging.” She argues that global leaders have failed to live up to promises they made. Related: Rainn Wilson launches climate change web series featuring Greta Thunberg At the Youth4Climate summit in Milan on Tuesday, Thunberg called on world leaders to issue and commit to more stringent pledges. She also highlighted that carbon emissions continue to rise, despite many countries pledging to cut emissions. According to the U.N., carbon emissions are  on track to rise by 16% by 2030 . This is contrary to global environmental goals of reducing emissions to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius.  “Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy . Blah blah blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah,” Thunberg said in a speech. “This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but so far have not led to action. Our hopes and ambitions drown in their empty promises.” Her speech comes as global leaders prepare for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on Oct. 31. High polluting countries such as the U.S. and China have been challenged to deliver tougher pledges to stop global temperatures from rising. While Thunberg agrees that there is a need for dialogue among global citizens, she has expressed her worries about the lack of action . She notes that, for over 30 years, global leaders have issued climate reform pledges without any meaningful action. “Of course we need constructive dialogue,” said Thunberg. “But they’ve now had 30 years of blah, blah, blah and where has that led us? We can still turn this around – it is entirely possible. It will take immediate, drastic annual emission reductions. But not if things go on like today. Our leaders’ intentional lack of action is a betrayal toward all present and future generations.” Via The Guardian Lead image via Anthony Quintano

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Greta Thunberg slams global leaders for their "blah, blah, blah"

Greta Thunberg slams global leaders for their "blah, blah, blah"

September 29, 2021 by  
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Eighteen-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg has condemned global leaders for their lack of action to address the climate crisis . The outspoken activist has dismissed their words as empty talk.  Thunberg quoted U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson , saying, “This is not some expensive, politically correct, green act of bunny hugging.” She argues that global leaders have failed to live up to promises they made. Related: Rainn Wilson launches climate change web series featuring Greta Thunberg At the Youth4Climate summit in Milan on Tuesday, Thunberg called on world leaders to issue and commit to more stringent pledges. She also highlighted that carbon emissions continue to rise, despite many countries pledging to cut emissions. According to the U.N., carbon emissions are  on track to rise by 16% by 2030 . This is contrary to global environmental goals of reducing emissions to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius.  “Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy . Blah blah blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah,” Thunberg said in a speech. “This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but so far have not led to action. Our hopes and ambitions drown in their empty promises.” Her speech comes as global leaders prepare for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on Oct. 31. High polluting countries such as the U.S. and China have been challenged to deliver tougher pledges to stop global temperatures from rising. While Thunberg agrees that there is a need for dialogue among global citizens, she has expressed her worries about the lack of action . She notes that, for over 30 years, global leaders have issued climate reform pledges without any meaningful action. “Of course we need constructive dialogue,” said Thunberg. “But they’ve now had 30 years of blah, blah, blah and where has that led us? We can still turn this around – it is entirely possible. It will take immediate, drastic annual emission reductions. But not if things go on like today. Our leaders’ intentional lack of action is a betrayal toward all present and future generations.” Via The Guardian Lead image via Anthony Quintano

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Greta Thunberg slams global leaders for their "blah, blah, blah"

mySUN combines human energy and solar for a renewable solution

August 20, 2021 by  
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Solving the climate crisis requires smart energy solutions that will reduce the need for fossil fuels and create sustainable options. This is exactly what WZMH Architects is focused on. It wants to design buildings with reduced energy consumption that are fueled by renewable energy . But buildings that run on renewable energy need a renewable energy source to draw from. How about a combination of human energy, the sun and a great idea? Together with Ryerson University, WZMH has created a microgrid in a box. It’s a personal green energy-producing machine. Dubbed mySUN, it can be used to power LED lighting, mobile devices, heating systems and air conditioning units, among others. Related: DC Microgrids, building infrastructure for energy’s future This solar-powered design uses a plug-and-play system. The system works with the Sunrider bike , so users can generate their own energy, which can then be stored. Energy is generated through biomechanical power, otherwise known as the power of biological movement. You create energy every time you move. The average person creates 100 to 150 watts of power while riding a stationary bike. Adding a motor to a stationary bike can produce enough energy to run the lights in a 300-square-foot space for an entire day. This system harnesses that power. And because the mySUN box is so small, it can be put right into the walls of apartments . This creates power easily for individual units. The implications of such a device are enormous. With a device like this, apartment buildings could be erected with no copper wiring whatsoever. Each unit would have its own power source. In the words of Zenon Radewych, Principal at WZMH, “Think of the mySUN box as your own personal and portable green energy producing utility. It is a low-voltage, direct current device, making connectivity to a DC microgrid very simple. The mySUN can be integrated into a community of buildings that are DC-based, all feeding from the same DC microgrid. Green energy is then created through the use of solar panels, wind turbines or energy bikes, and is stored in battery packs that are part of mySUN. Instead of large and complex electrical plants in buildings, hundreds or thousands of mySUN units can share energy with multiple users through a DC microgrid.” DC Microgrids is a large-scale project WZMH Architects has been involved in where multiple energy sources are explored so their power can be harnessed. Ultimately, the plan is to use wind and solar power, among other renewable energy sources, to power entire communities and buildings. “At WZMH, we truly believe that people today want to make a difference in reducing their carbon footprint , and hope innovations like the mySUN provide cost-effective and sustainable solutions to our world’s energy problems,” Radewych added. + WZMH Images via Idea Workshop

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Dragonflies are losing their color due to climate change

July 13, 2021 by  
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A  new study  published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows that dragonflies are losing key features due to climate change . The study has established that global warming is causing male dragonflies to lose their color, a feature used to attract mates. The study was lead and co-authored by Michael Moore, an evolutionary biologist at Washington University in St. Louis. In the study, researchers analyzed over 300 dragonfly species from across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. They also cross-referenced wing colors between about 2,700 individual dragonflies from different locations and climates. It was found that male dragonflies were losing their wing colors due to increasing global temperatures.  Related: Global warming driving mass migration of marine life “Our research shows that males and females of these dragonfly species are going to shift in pretty different ways as the climate changes,” Moore said in an interview. “These changes are going to happen likely on a much faster timescale than the evolutionary changes in these species have ever occurred before.” A  different study  done in 2019 found that male dragonflies with darker wing patterns thrive in colder conditions. The darker pigmentation absorbs more heat and is likely to increase their body temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. In contrast, they tend to give away their color to adapt to higher temperatures.  “Evolutionary changes and wing coloration are a really consistent way that dragonflies adapt to their climates ,” Moore said. “This got us wondering what the role of evolutionary changes in wing coloration might be as dragonflies respond to the rise in global temperatures.” While the study raises serious concerns about the future of dragonflies and mating, the researchers are unable to explain the changes experienced in female dragonflies. According to Moore, female dragonflies usually do not show drastic changes to climate change, and when they do, it is the opposite of what happens to male dragonflies. In other words, female dragonflies may get darker as temperatures rise. “We don’t yet know what’s driving these evolutionary changes in female wing coloration,” Moore said. “But one of the very important things that this indicates is that we shouldn’t assume that males and females are going to respond to climatic conditions in exactly the same way.” Via CNN Lead image via Pixabay

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Dragonflies are losing their color due to climate change

New EV charging system lets Nissan Leaf owners sell power back to the grid

October 11, 2017 by  
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UK residents who plan to purchase an electric vehicle (EV) next year should hold out for a Nissan Leaf. Energy company Ovo has partnered with the automaker to allow anyone with a garage to receive a special charger that facilitates a “vehicle-to-grid” energy exchange. During off-peak hours, when electricity costs are low, the charger will power up batteries, and switch back to charging up a home or even selling energy back to the grid during peak hours. Essentially, this means EV owners may never have to pay to charge their eco-friendly car. In off-peak hours in the UK, electricity costs approximately 5 cents a kilowatt ($0.07). At peak hours, that increases to as much as 25 cents. “In other words, the value of the electricity that’s stored in the battery goes up by a factor of five,” said Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO of Ovo. “It provides an economic benefit for electric vehicle owners, so they get more use of out of the vehicle that they’ve got parked in the driveway.” By no means is the Nissan Leaf inexpensive. The brand-new car costs £26,490, or $35,064. However, by taking advantage of Ovo’s new program, car owners could save thousands of dollars in energy costs in the long-term. According to Fitzpatrick, the “vehicle-to-grid” technology is not complicated, which is why “other electric car manufacturers are looking at this.” He said, “If it lowers the cost of vehicle ownership, if it lowers the cost of driving the vehicle per mile, I think there will be a lot of consumer demand for it, and that will translate into agreement on technical standards with other car manufacturers.” As FastCompany reports, using the battery automatically in this way — instead of leaving it plugged in, is also better for its battery life. Related: 2018 Nissan Leaf debuts with 150-mile driving range for just 30k By 2021, there will be approximately 1 million electric cars on the road in the UK. If every single vehicle were to be plugged in at the same time, there would be a demand for seven gigawatts of power — or the equivalent of 10 power stations. On the contrary, if the cars were plugged in and charging at a peak time, the power stations would be obsolete. Clearly, technology such as this is needed. And, not only will “vehicle-to-grid” tech help solve the challenge of providing enough electricity to the growing number of EVs, it will also save vehicle owners money. “The flexible use of car batteries is a perfect complement for renewable generation,” said Fitzpatrick. “You can imagine as we see more electric vehicles on the road, we can have more and more renewable generation without compromising the grid stability…renewable energy and electric vehicles are the perfect complement, just like oil and the internal combustion engine.” Via FastCompany Images via Pixabay , Nissan Leaf

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New EV charging system lets Nissan Leaf owners sell power back to the grid

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