Viridian Note 00473: Treehugger 02006
Source: Independent of London, Sept 4, 02006
"The world's greatest green inventions
"We all want the latest cars, the grooviest clothes and the shiniest gadgets. (((You bet!))) But what of the price to the planet? Is it possible to go shopping with a clear conscience? Can environmentally sound products still be objects of desire? The cutting-edge environmental website treehugger.com thinks so. (((And they're dead right, too!))) Here, its editor, Michael Richard, shows Josh Sims how a new breed of inventors is coming up with the goods == and they don't cost the earth.
"04 September 2006
"THE ECO KETTLE
"It is estimated that, on average, we boil twice
the volume of water needed every time we use our
kettles. With a 3kW kettle that's the same as wasting
the energy of around 50 light bulbs. And standard
kettles are often highly inefficient == a stove-top
kettle, for instance, requires energy to heat the
handle and shell in addition to the water. But
British designer Brian Hartley's Eco Kettle solves
these problems at a stroke. You fill it up, and
then use the measuring button to release the exact
amount of water you require == from a single cup to
a full jug == into a separate chamber for boiling.
It is also insulated to keep the water hot. The
result is an energy saving of up to 30 per cent.
(((And thanks to climate change, soon they'll be able to GROW TEA in tropical Britain instead of flying it in from Ceylon!)))
"Cities may be losing their green spaces to development, but all is not lost. Look up to the roofs of buildings, especially office blocks, and there, where once there was dead space, you could now find a 'sky garden' (Barclays' HQ in Canary Wharf, London, has one).
"They could be used as community spaces, chill-out
areas for hassled workers, or even to grow food.
But there are other advantages for the bottom line, too:
they reduce run-off in periods of heavy rain,
and they cut back on the heat that gets trapped in
built-up areas, thus reducing the need for air
conditioning. They could even improve air quality
in congested cities.
"FRICTIONLESS WIND TURBINES
"The problem with wind turbines? Often, it's just not windy enough to get them turning. It's not really the lack of wind that is the problem, but the friction in the turbines themselves.
"Chinese scientists may have cracked this problem with the first 'magnetic levitation' (or MagLev) wind turbines, which replace ball-bearings with the technology used in advanced monorails, making a frictionless turbine that can generate electricity from winds as low as 1.5m per second. They're ideal for low wind areas, such as mountain regions and small islands. The MagLev wind turbines could also use the airflow caused by passing cars to generate roadside lighting.
(((It might even generate power from foreigners wringing their hands over Chinese environmentalism!)))
"Germany's Fraunhofer Institute, an alliance of 50
technology research organisations, is looking at how
to integrate solar cells into mobile phones, allowing
them to be powered continuously on just two hours of
sunlight a day. The big manufacturers are interested,
as the more software that's packed into mobiles, the
bigger batteries they need.
(((Yeah, and all you have to do is leave your cellie on the windowsill like a freshly-baked pie!)))
"Air conditioning can be a huge drain on electricity
supplies. Enter Ice Energy's Ice Bear, which integrates
with a standard AC unit. The water in the Ice Bear is
frozen overnight when temperatures are lower and
electricity, in many countries, is cheaper, and the
ice then cools the AC unit's refridgerant during the
day. This results in a 30 per cent saving in energy
use. An AC unit should last 15 years, by which time
the Ice Bear will have paid for itself several times.
(((Might even save actual ice bears from drowning in the molten Arctic!)))
"Conventional airliners are heavy, thirsty, noisy and polluting, despite aeronautical designers' best efforts. But in the future we may be travelling in a flying wing or batwing (in which the entire fuselage becomes the means of lift) == an idea first suggested by Frederick Handley Page in 1961. Made of plastic and with areas of the surface punctured with tiny holes to reduce drag, the wings would be much lighter and so more fuel efficient, and the engines would be mounted on top to deflect noise away from the ground. And they would be flown differently, too: in formation perhaps, which would reduce fuel consumption, and at different altitudes to prevent the formation of polluting condensation trails. The result could bring aircraft emissions below today's levels by 2025, despite an expected doubling in the amount of passenger air traffic. Both Boeing and Airbus are already working on flying-wing projects.
(((A formation of flying wings accompanied by
a fighter squadron of "robot frisbees of death!")))
"It's ironic that in our bid to become healthier by drinking more water, our conviction that only bottled water will do is causing increasingly precious plastics to be thrown away (oil being an essential component in plastic's manufacture). Fashion designer Pierre Cardin may have the solution. He has just distributed 30,000 of his Eau de Paris designer carafes for free in a bid to convince Parisians that the local tap water is just as healthy.
"The idea is that many people buy bottled water in response to marketing, so getting them to drink tap water requires a similar strategy. It's a simple idea that, if it spread around the world, could keep millions of plastic bottles out of landfills.
(((Mais oui, there's many a layer of irony here, but I'll leave the excavation to the reader.)))
"THE SUPER-POWERED ELECTRIC CAR
"Electric cars: they're rather slow, aren't they?
They whir a bit and then run out of juice on the
motorway? Not Tesla Motors' first car. This will be
a clutchless, Lotus-inspired roadster capable of
going from 0 to 60mph in just four seconds, with
a top speed of 130mph. That's electricity with
attitude. And it does the equivalent of 135mpg.
The real benefit? This car (named after the
electrical engineer Nikola Tesla) will generate
one-third the CO2 and one-tenth the pollution of
hybrid cars == and, as Richard notes, as electricity
supplies get cleaner, so will the car. It can drive
for a respectable 250 miles before its lithium-ion
battery needs recharging and will be available for
delivery from autumn of next year. Tesla Motors is
new in terms of its business model as well as
engineering; it's backed by the founders of eBay,
Google and PayPal.
(((And at its 130mph top speed, it'll run almost but not quite two hours!)))
"If ever you thought people wobbling around on in-line skates looked silly, you'll be tickled pink by the Poweriser. Essentially, these are springy stilts that strap on to your calves and, once you've got the hang of the correct rocking motion, allow you to leap forward around five metres with a single bound, leap vertically about two metres, and generally upset the animals.
"With practice, this mode of transport is just as green as skates, but faster. And a few stunts (of the kind used in The Lion King stage production) will impress the doubters: there is already a 'scene' developing around the device in Germany, where the idea was first developed.
"'This one is a bit out there,' admits Richard, 'but
as far as alternative transportation goes, this has
got to be the coolest.'
(((And if you think ski injuries and skateboard burns make you look dashing, imagine jumping five meters onto a fire hydrant!)))
"Picture a world in which the kids have to stop reading because the sun has set. Or where you have to burn dangerous, dirty and expensive kerosene to see what you're doing. The Indian government hopes to remedy this sutuation, which affects 112,000 rural villages across the country, over the next decade.
"The solution is a combination of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and solar power. The former are more efficient than lightbulbs == the power required to light one conventional 100w bulb can now light an entire village == and the latter allows electricity to be stored in batteries and provides lighting where there is no grid supply.
"Both LEDs and solar panels can also take the rough and tumble of village life: having few moving parts, they are very durable. 'People in the West often take electricity for granted, but in some places just being able to see once the sun is gone is a big deal,' says Richard.
(((Plus, with ample wattage, Indian kids can give up reading schoolbooks and play with GameBoys just like other kids!)))
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