|Eco Gadgets & Innovations
The Learning Thermostat
Ah, winter. Steaming cups of hot cocoa, snuggly blankets, blazing fires and of course, sky-high heating bills. Am I right? Or perhaps you've got your heating bills under control with a programmable thermostat, set to turn on and off and change temperature at various times throughout the day? If so, kudos to you.
But if you're like most Americans, you probably don't bother programming your thermostat. Programming's for programmers, right? But what if you could buy a thermostat so smart that it could cut your heating and cooling bills by 20%, with no programming at all? Thanks to Silicon Valley start-up, Nest Labs, you can. The Nest Learning Thermostat
learns your schedule and your preferences to program itself.
After installing Nest, which the company claims can be done by anyone who can install a light fixture, all you have to do to "teach" it is adjust the temperature for a few days. It takes about one week for Nest Sense™ to learn about you and your home and start activating features to save energy and money.
Nest features include Auto-Away™, which automatically adjusts the temperature when you leave the house, and System Match, which activates custom energy-saving features depending on the type of heating system you have. You can also change the temperature while away from home by using the Nest Mobile app, which allows you to connect to your Nest from a smartphone.
Nest will also send you a monthly Energy Report to answer questions like why you used more or less energy one month than you did the month before, or how your energy use compared to others using Nest. Oh, and when summer arrives? Nest will begin building a new schedule to cut AC use up to 30%.
The second generation of Nest was just released in October of this year. The price? $249. But like so many eco-gadgets and innovations, this one is guaranteed to pay for itself. For a thorough review of this innovative product, check out reviews.cnet.com
Learn more at www.nest.com
| Frontline, USA
|A Coal Nightmare Looms in the American NorthwestAn interview Bellingham WA Locals Anne & Mike Botwin
Have you heard about the plans to ship millions of tons of American coal from Northwest ports to China? If Arch Coal, Peabody Energy, and other coal giants get their way, coal will be strip-mined from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming, transported on trains to ports along the Pacific Northwest, and shipped across the Pacific to be burned in unregulated Chinese power plants.
The United States holds the world's largest coal reserves, and about 40 percent of U.S. coal comes from the Powder River Basin, so we are talking about a lot of coal being shipped to
China: some 150 million tons or more per year. That's enough to fill more than 10,000 trains per year, each roughly 1.5 miles long. That's 1.5 miles of uncovered, open train cars running through sensitive ecological areas (think Columbia River Gorge and Glacier National Park) some 27 times per day!
This plan presents so many potentially devastating impacts to human health, the global climate and ecosystems (from the Powder River Basin all the way to China), that it's hard to get your head around it. In all, five coal export terminals have been proposed along the Washington and Oregon coastline. The largest, Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) at Cherry Point, WA, will be the first to be studied in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington State Department of Ecology. If the final EIS is approved by these agencies and then by the Whatcom County Council in Washington, the huge Gateway Pacific Terminal will be built, and the other four smaller terminals will likely be rubber-stamped.The Green Graze
reader Anne Botwin, and her husband Mike, live in the Puget Sound town of Bellingham, WA, just south of Cherry Point. To say that they are concerned about potential impacts to their town, their health, the Sound and the climate would be an understatement. They are fighting this plan with everything they've got: letters to elected officials, several letters to the editor, attendance at "pre-Scoping" meetings, speaking in person at the first public Scoping Meeting in Bellingham, and spreading the word any way they can.
Here, they share their concerns and experiences and suggest ways we can all help stop this nightmare from coming true.Q: You live about 200 yards from the train tracks. How many trains pass on average per day now and how much do you expect the traffic to increase?
Our best guess is we have about 10-11 trains per day now if you include two Amtrak passenger trains. If GPT is built, we are told train traffic would gradually increase to 18
additional trains a day, for a total of about 28-29 trains every 24 hours. We also live beyond an "at-grade" RR crossing, so when a train is passing, there is no access in or out of our neighborhood. All vehicles would be blocked for approximately 2-3 hours each day, 365 days per year. Engineers are required to sound their horns a minimum of four times at crossings, though we have counted up to 14 times. The combined noise from the horns and the wheels of the trains screeching on the rails, conversation outside our home (and sometimes, inside) comes to a stop till they pass. Q: What is the prevailing mood in town with respect to GPT?
Local people in Bellingham are extremely concerned. Elected officials from Seattle and even Portland are expressing their opposition. Several Indian Tribes have joined in the outcry. The Sierra Club and hundreds of environmental activists...Continue Reading...
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
REDUCECut your heating bills with ceiling fans
Most people think of a ceiling fan as something to be used only during hot summer months and would balk at the idea of using one during the winter. But have you ever noticed that there are two Ceiling fansettings on your ceiling fan(s)? One setting rotates the blades such that they push air downward (to cool you during the summer) and the other switches the direction of rotation to pull air upward (to warm you during the winter).
Why does this work, exactly? It's one of the
most basic principles of physics: cold, dense air sinks, and hot, less dense air rises. Anyone with a two-story house is very familiar with this principle, which serves us well during the hottest months of the year, and not so well during the coldest months. A ceiling fan, when switched to the winter setting, warms the air beneath it by circulating the air around it. The warm air that would otherwise remain trapped near the ceiling is forced downward by cooler air that is pulled upward by the fan.
How much can you save on your heating bills by using ceiling fans during the winter? It depends on how cold it is, how many fans you have, the height of your ceilings, where your heating vents are located, etc. But by circulating the air around it, a ceiling fan should allow you to turn your thermostat down a bit, saving energy and reducing your heating bills. One small caveat: in order for this to work, you need to circulate the air without creating a wind chill effect. You can do this by keeping your fan(s) on the lowest setting possible.REUSEBatteries that can be used over and over again
Each year, Americans burn through some 2.5 billion disposable batteries, most of which are thrown in a landfill despite the fact that they are hazardous waste. If you're still using disposable batteries, take a bite out of this waste and save yourself some money by making the switch to rechargeable batteries.
Yes, this is another gadget that has a higher upfront cost than it's wasteful, polluting counterpart.True, the batteries themselves cost more than disposable batteries, and yes, you will need to purchase a charger. But rechargeable batteries can be charged hundreds of times, at just pennies per charge. After a couple of years, your batteries will essentially be free.
Another thought: this holiday, if you give a gift that requires batteries, why not include some rechargeable batteries and a charger with the gift? You'll be giving a gift that keeps on giving and possibly create a convert in the process.
Rechargeable batteries come in AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt, and you can also buy converters
to convert AA-size batteries into C or D-sized batteries. For a clear, comprehensive cost comparison of disposable vs. rechargeable batteries, visit www.thesimpledollar.com
. RECYCLE 'Tis the season to become an savvy recycler
As much as I enjoy the holidays, there's no getting around it: it's a time of massive waste production. Wrapping paper, ribbon, shipping materials, holiday cards, packaging, party supplies...the list goes on. With the season of consumption upon us, there's no time like the present to take the guesswork out of recycling. If you haven't done it lately, take a minute today to find out just what can and cannot be recycled in your community.
There are many things to love about recycling: it replaces virgin materials with recycled materials in the manufacturing process, saves energy and water, reduces pollution, and is a relatively effortless thing that anyone with curbside
recycling can do to protect the environment. But as easy as it may seem, recycling is not as straight-forward as we may like to think.
For example, do you know exactly what type of plastics your waste hauler accepts for recycling? All plastics marked with a number, or just #1 and #2 plastics? If you don't periodically check to see what you should be recycling and what you should be trashing, there's a good chance you are contaminating your recyclable items with non-recyclable items, while throwing away materials that your hauler does in fact accept for recycling.
The problem, you see, is that recycling is not universal. Accepted materials vary from hauler to hauler, and they change over time as well. Styrofoam, for example, is currently accepted in some communities and not in others. And what's accepted in your community today may change down the road, as manufacturers switch up what they are buying from recycling companies.
The easiest way to find out what goes in the recycling bin and what stays out is to check with your city's public works department. Check their website or call them up. Or if you live in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, go to www.teachinggreen.org/Recycle
for a handy list of links to recycling information for all 15 South Bay cities.
| Holiday Shopping for the Eco-conscious|
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