Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Last Blog Entry (after thoughts on EF) -UNFINISHED

Ever since I have taken this course, I have definitely reduced my ecological footprints to a great extend. To be honest, I didn't even care about the environment when I first walked into the classroom. It was just another class in my major for me. But now, I even feel like I am becoming a different person.

The videos we watched in class, the articles we read, and the ugly truth we found out after long hours of researching and digging all changed my perspective of the world. I started thinking differently with every decision I make, not in dollars terms, but in terms of the environmental impact I produce.

I started unplugging every appliances after use, turning off my laptop every night, composting and recycling everything possible, and even becoming a Recycling Nazi myself(preaching to my friends and yelling at them when they fail to recycle), people that I used to hate myself. I went as far as calling the Puget Sound Energy and switching to green renewable energy completely for my apartment, and I now have a green sticker that reads "I Support Green Energy" proudly stuck to my window.

I also have hugely reduced the amount of red meat that I eat, which action I was not even planning to take. I now eat a lot of sustainably farmed seafood instead and for my protein sources. I also switched from drinking whole milk to soy milk, and I now eat mainly tofu, fruits, and vegetables for my new healthy and sustainable diet. (And guess what? I've lost weight, too! = u =)

Looking back at my journey, it has been a tremendously inspirational experience this quarter, and I'm just so grateful to have been given an opportunity to be in this class. My growth shows, even to my friends and families. The three goals I set at the beginning of this quarter was:

"1. Use less of the water heater that stays at 95℃ at all times and switch to the water boiler that needs to be turned on to boil every time, and always unplug it after use.

2. Never ever forget to turn off the heater when leaving the room!

3. From now on choose foods (and products) with less packaging to reduce waste."

and I also wrote this in my first blog:
"Hopefully I will be able to make a small difference by treating the environment better and better because otherwise there will be no way to protect "Ilha Formosa". (the "beautiful island" in Portuguese. "Ilha Formosa" is what a sailor said in the 16th c. when their ship was sailing by the green island they have never seen, which it is now called Taiwan.)'

But now, OH MY GOD, I've grown so much more than the minimal goals I set at the start of this journey.
And you know, as crazy as it sounds, I think might have even found a purpose and a incredibly meaningful way to serve God and his people.

Thanks to this course, really really really thanks to this course.

NEW Ecological Footprint Results!

And there's been improvement!

If everyone on the planet lived my lifestyle, we would need:

= 3.07 Earths

Average Per Capita Footprint By Consumption Category
Average Per Capita Footprint By Biome


November 19, 2009 – Vol.14 No.35

by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News

It could be that some high-tech wizardry will provide an endless source of clean energy for the future. Maybe electric cars will wean us off of oil. Maybe solar panels will let us walk away from coal. I don’t know. But I do know that when we’re looking for energy solutions we shouldn’t ignore the low-tech basic solutions like incorporating passive sources of energy into our new homes and insulating the dickens out of all of them, new and old.

We may also find that low-tech is not so low after all. High-technology and serious science is put into the research and development of something as simple and energy saving as a tube of caulking. It’s hard to image a sheet of wallboard as high technology, but it can be.

It’s well known that having a large thermal mass inside a building can regulate its temperature and thus reduce the load on its heating and air conditioning system. The thermal mass, like an interior brick or adobe wall, a concrete floor, a stone fireplace or even heavy plaster walls can moderate the temperature of a room making it easier to heat or cool, saving money and energy.

But it’s not always easy to incorporate a thermal mass into new building design and very difficult to add it afterwards. However, a phase-change material can perform a similar function as a thermal mass. A phase change material is one that goes from a solid to a liquid or gas without a change in its chemical composition: ice to liquid water to steam for example.

A new product from National Gypsum that is now being tested by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) could bring the temperature moderating qualities of a thermal mass to any new home as well as those being remodeled.

National Gypsum describes the new product: “ThermalCORE is unlike traditional gypsum board in that its core contains Micronal PCM, a microencapsulated high-purity paraffin wax phase change material from BASF. This material changes phase from solid to liquid when it reaches 73ƒ F, absorbing thermal energy to help moderate a room’s temperature, similar to an ice cube melting and absorbing heat to keep a drink cool. Micronal PCM is unlike ice, however, in that it melts at a much higher temperature and is contained within virtually indestructible microscopic acrylic capsules that prevent the wax from leaking as it changes phase. When temperatures fall, the wax solidifies and releases heat. This alternating process of melting and solidifying allows ThermalCORE to absorb daytime temperature peaks, ideally providing a more consistent room temperature.”

With the new wallboard the walls and ceiling of a room could be a source of heat in the cooler hours of the day, or help remove heat in the hottest periods. Either way the demand on the buildings heating or air conditioning system will be reduced – possibly reduced down to zero.

it will take a year or so for ThermalCore to be fully tested so don’t ask your retailer for it quite yet.

Making sure that a thermal mass or phase change product is optimized will mean a heavy layer of insulation on every exterior surface of the home or commercial building. Thanks to research and development folks at Dow chemical, the task of insulating a structure is in the process of becoming much more pleasant: The company has an itch-free alternative to fiberglass insulation, arguably the most popular type of insulation.

Some fiberglass insulation is incapsulated and glass fibers spun differently to keep the itch at bay. Dow’s alternative to glass fiber insulation is dubbed SAFETOUCH (tm) and is made from polyester fiber like that used in clothing and bedding. There is no need to wear gloves, goggles and masks to install it. There is no glass dust. (The protective clothing you might wear would be for protection against existing insulation.)

It can be installed in the same places and in the same way as itchy fiberglass including a home's exterior stud walls, sound deadening interior walls, basement walls and ceiling, attic floors, and crawl spaces. It can be torn to fit with bare hands without gloves and masks.

The company has announced that SAFETOUCH is now available in 53 demographic market areas, including my local Lowes home improvement store. (I looked. It’s there.)

Under the new American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, homeowners who purchase SAFETOUCH may be eligible for a tax credit of up to 30% of the amount paid for the qualified energy efficiency improvements.

I wonder if itch free polyester insulation could someday be manufactured with recycled plastics. I’m guessing the high-tech, green-leaning folks at Dow are thinking about this.



National Gypsum


Dow Chemical


November 15, 2009 – Vol.14 No.35

by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News

It has always been hoped that as more products were developed using recycled plastics, more demand would be created for recycled plastic material thus increasing its value and, in the end, increasing collection and recycling efforts.

So far plastic appears to be one of the least recycled materials. Perhaps that’s ready to change.

One example of a new use of recycled plastic comes from Axion International Holdings of New Providence, New Jersey. That company has won a $957,000 contract from the U.S. Army for the construction of two railroad bridges designed from nearly 100 percent recycled plastics. The main structural components of the bridges to be built at Fort Eustis, Virginia,home of the US Army Transportation Corps, will be made from recycled consumer and industrial plastics using Axion’s proprietary immiscible blending. Axion calls its products Recycled Structural Composites (RSC).

With load rating capacities of 130 tons, these bridges will reach a new milestone in thermoplastic load bearing capacity, surpassing the current record held by Axion’s bridges at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Those bridges are able to support loads more than 73 tons for tracked vehicles and 88 tons for wheeled vehicles. The new short span bridges at Fort Eustis will extend approximately 40 feet and 80 feet respectively and will use two of the company’s core infrastructure products - bridges and railroad cross ties.


Axion's tank and truck carrying recycled plastic bridge.

Lots of infrastructure projects using high volume of maintenance-free recycled plastic would certainly create more demand for ready-for-manufacture recycled material. Another possibility is for the process of plastic recycling to become more technically sophisticated to the point where raw recycled plastic material can compete with virgin plastics: that is become a new material in itself.

Now that seems possible with the development of a new technology from Plastinum, a plastics recycling research and development company based in The Netherlands with operations in the US and Switzerland.

The company has provided a wealth of fascinating material about plastics and plastics recycling.

The global production and consumption of plastics has increased by about 10 percent each year since 1950 from less than 5.5 million tons per year then to nearly 300 million tons in 2007. Over a third of all plastics now produced are used for packaging (such as bottles) and a quarter is used in construction materials like pipes.

As a raw material, plastic production has increased dramatically over the past three decades: more than 500 percent. Comparatively steel production has increased globally only about 60 percent in the same period.

Despite an often bad reputation plastics have some fine qualities. A huge variety of products can be made with plastic that couldn’t be before it was invented. Plastic products are light compared with other materials, saving energy in their transport. Used in vehicles such as cars, plastics have made them lighter, saving fuel. Plastics are durable and resistant to many chemicals and water. When used as a building product, such a Axion’s Army bridges, plastic will not rot.)

That’s some of the good stuff about plastic. There’s lots of bad.

Plastic is a consumer of oil, though arguably it’s put to better use as a material than as a fuel. Plastinum says that it is estimated that 8 percent of the world’s annual production of oil is consumed in the production of plastics with 4 percent as raw material and 4 percent used as energy during manufacture.

There are of course problems of emissions in the production of plastics as well as potentially harmful chemicals that have leaked into the environment from its production.

Plastic waste is a mountainous problem worldwide. The global total of plastic waste is estimated at 100 million tons per year and growing. Unfortunately, only 2 percent of that is actually recycled. Most of the plastic that is recycled is those ever-present plastic bottles made of PET or HDPE polymers. Those products are recycled because they are easily identified and separated from other plastic types.

The problem of plastics recycling is that there are so many different formulas that are difficult to identify and when possible to identify, expensive to separate. A glut of e-waste (or WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment)) such as old televisions, computer monitors, cell phones and the like, are a significant source of plastics that are nearly impossible to recycle.

Recycling electronics is growing through electronics manufacturers and retailers, but all too often only the metals, glass and electronic bits are salvaged with the plastic cases sent to the landfill or incinerated.)

It’s recycling mixed-plastic waste streams that Plastinum has an answer to. The company has developed a technology process it calls BLENDYMER which can convert any combination of plastic from water bottles and car bumpers and broken resin chairs into a new plastic material which it calls Infinymer. The product has characteristics comparable to thermoplastics such as Polypropylene, Polyethylene and ABS Polystyrene. Infinymer (tm) pellets can be used in standard plastics manufacturing processes such as injection, extrusion, blow and compression molding. Infinymer is not considered a waste product but new product, a new thermoplastic material.

There are ways to put plastic waste to work such as converting it to an oil product that can be refined into fuels or back into to same chemicals used to make plastic in the first place. All together, with conventional plastics recycling, Plastinum’s process, or plastic-to-oil processes it appears as though plastic no longer has to end up buried under a layer of dirt or incinerated. Who knows, in a decade or so plastic waste will be a valuable resource and one environmental problem that can be mostly eliminated.


Axion International


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tighter Belts Mean Thicker Waists

Wallets may have gotten thinner during this recession, but waistlines have expanded.

As the unemployment rate inches toward 10% and U.S. consumers continue to find themselves strapped for cash, many are turning to cheaper fare to better balance their budgets. That often means fast food and canned and frozen processed foods that are higher in fat and calories and are made with refined grains and sugars.

Tim Foley

The result: More Americans are getting fatter and becoming more at risk of getting illnesses such as diabetes.

"Eating healthy has been one of the big casualties of this economic downturn," says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at NPD Group and author of the research firm's annual "Eating Patterns in America" report. "Last year, consumers cut back on eating 'better-for-you' and organic foods."

In an online survey this summer of 1,200 people about food affordability, conducted by food-industry research firm Technomic, 70% of respondents said healthier foods are increasingly difficult to afford.

"Value is what counts to consumers right now," says Bob Goldin, executive vice president at Technomic. "And, unfortunately, in the minds of many consumers, a lot of these lower-priced options are just not as healthy, but they're still buying them."

A Nation of Snackers

Consumers are turning to more affordable grab-and-go alternatives such as chips, cookies, candy, snack wraps and mini-burgers in between meals -- and often in lieu of a formal meal -- according to a number of industry studies, including one by NPD Group.

Market-research firm Mintel sees double-digit sales gains in the U.S. this year for salty snacks, popcorn and cheese snacks. Potato-chip sales are on a path to increase 22% this year, compared with all of 2007, according to Mintel. Tortilla-chip sales are up 18%.

"Snacks are less and less the hunger-soothing bridge between formal meals," says Kimberly Egan, chief executive of the Center for Culinary Development, an industry development and research company that tracks consumer trends. "They have become valuable gastronomical events in their own right."

Not From Scratch

And as the struggling restaurant industry can attest, more consumers are eating at home. But that doesn't mean they are making things from scratch. More people are microwaving frozen pizza or bringing home fast food, according to NPD Group.

"Approximately 20% of all meals prepared in our homes from 1990 to 2007 involved the use of a microwave," says Mr. Balzer. But in 2008, microwave usage rose to 30%. NPD Group, which has been following the microwaving habits of American consumers for nearly two decades, attributes that gain to the troubled economy.

Not surprising, then, are the rising rates of obesity and diabetes. The obesity rate climbed more than one percentage point to 26.4% in September from a year earlier, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a measure of U.S. health compiled by the Gallup research firm and wellness-program provider Healthways.

Better Options

It's not impossible to be both budget- and health-conscious when it comes to food, however. Here are some tips:

Think ahead. Planning out your meals and snacks in advance forces you to think more about the types of foods you are eating.

Make a shopping list. Studies show that people who make shopping lists -- and stick to them -- are less likely to make impulsive purchases of things like candy, chips or a box of donuts.

Buy in bulk. Buying 32 ounces of yogurt can cost less than buying four eight-ounce containers. In some cases, the savings of buying in bulk versus the premium-preportioned packages can run upward of 50%, according to grocery-store price surveys.

Make it yourself. You can find a multitude of 10-minute recipes online that use healthy and affordable ingredients. And you can be both time- and budget-conscious by making a few larger meals early in the week and freezing smaller portions for later use.

Pack a lunch. Take leftovers for lunch and bring your own snacks to work. This will save you money and keep you from binging on vending-machine fare when hunger strikes.

Cut down on sugary drinks. Water is cheaper -- and better for you. If you still crave some flavor, squeeze the juice of a lime or lemon into the water.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Speed Of Sound

Songwriters: Berryman, Guy; Buckland, Jon; Champion, Will; Martin, Chris;

How long before I get in?
Before it starts, before I begin
How long before you decide?
Before I know what it feels like

Where to? Where do I go?
If you've never tried then you'll never know
How long do I have to climb
Up on the side of this mountain of mine?

Look up, I look up at night
Planets are moving at the speed of light
Climb up, up in the trees
Every chance that you get is a chance you seize

How long am I gonna stand
With my head stuck under the sand?
I'll stop before I can stop
Or before I see things the right way up

All that noise and all that sound
All those places I got found

And birds go flying at the speed of sound
To show you how it all began
Birds came flying from the underground
If you could see it then you'd understand

Ideas that you'll never find
Or the inventors could never design
The buildings that you put up
Or Japan and China, all lit up

The sign that I couldn't read
Or a light that I couldn't see
Some things you have to believe
But others are puzzles, puzzling me

All that noise and all that sound
All those places I got found

And birds go flying at the speed of sound
To show you how it all began
Birds came flying from the underground
If you could see it then you'd understand
Oh, when you see it then you'll understand

All those signs I knew what they meant
Some things you can't invent
Some get made and some get sent, ooh

Birds go flying at the speed of sound
To show you how it all began
Birds came flying from the underground
If you could see it then you'd understand
Oh, when you see it then you'll understand

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News

Does it matter whether a car has two, three or four wheels? A car is an enclosed vehicle designed to carry a few people, but not many. Does it matter how many wheels and tires it rolls on?

Aptera Motors submission to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program (ATVMIP) was rejected on December 31, 2008 because the program was initially drafted to only include passenger vehicles, which, by federal definition then, have four wheels.

Aptera’s all-electric 2e has no need for the redundant fourth wheel: It gets in the way, adds weight and aerodynamic drag. Three wheels help the 2e deliver the equivalent of up to 250 miles per gallon.


Aptera could accelerate national introduction of its 2e with federal loans.

With a signature by President Obama, Aptera will reapply for a federal loan under the ATVMIP. And it should get it. Possibly millions. The law, approved as a part of an energy and water appropriations bill, was originally sponsored by Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and received overwhelming bipartisan approval in the House and Senate. It stipulates that any manufacturer of enclosed two- or three-wheeled vehicles that carry at least two people and get 75 miles per gallon are now eligible for DOE funding. The 2e meets those requirements.

Other manufacturers already have loan approval from DOE.

Tesla has $465 million to accelerate the production of affordable, fuel-efficient electric vehicles. Of that $365 million is for production engineering and assembly of the Model S.

Fisker Automotive was recently approved for a conditional loan of $528 million by DOE in the ATVMIP program. The company must meet certain very specific milestones before DOE gives the go ahead for Treasury to write checks to the company. Fisker has announced it will buy an idle GM Saturn plant near Newport, Delaware to build an as yet undeveloped car dubbed NINA. It will use $18 million of the conditional loan to buy the facility and another $175 million to refurbish the plant to build that car by 2012. Fisker expects 75,000 to 100,000 NINAs per year to come off the Delaware assembly line by 2014, with half of those put on boats for overseas delivery.

Ford has a whopping $5.6 billion in the same program to be used for a variety of greener cars and Nissan has been approved for $1.6 billion for the production of the all-electric Leaf and its battery packs.

Aptera plans to enter full production in 2010 of the two-passenger Aptera 2e. The company expects to directly employ 3000 people and create thousands of support roles for American workers from auto parts and components companies.

The 2e, with a planned price range of $25,000 - $40,000 (the lower price for the all-electric version) will require no unique charging infrastructure, traveling 100 miles on batteries charged through a conventional 110 volt or 220 volt household outlet.

Of all the hyper energy efficient offerings by many manufacturers Aptera stands out for good reason. One, with a shape akin to an airplane it looks like a car of the future. (The others look dated beside it.) And, if Aptera can come through on its promised pricing it should be affordable to many. (Maybe me.) While at this time Aptera hasn’t said whether the 2e will be eligible for the $7500 federal tax credit that electric vehicles from other manufacturers will be getting, but the new ruling should allow buyers of the 2e to get the credit. We’ll see. If the credit is possible the effective price for the 2e will be $17,500. That’s a price that should attract many.

The new ruling may begin to open doors for the introduction of many varieties of futuristic,energy efficient automotive designs. Aptera isn’t the only company that thinks that four wheels are too many.


Aptera Motors

Tesla Motors


Nissan Leaf