How Green Are Green Cars?

With the issue of global warming taking on international importance in recent years, unsurprisingly the focus has fallen on car drivers, with cars seen as one of the major contributors towards global warming. Green cars have been held up as a potential solution, one that motorists should be embracing.

But are green cars actually ‘green’?

Firstly, let’s take pure electric cars. Unfortunately these electric cars are anything but good for the environment. The electricity that they run on is produced in power stations, where only 30-40% of the energy is converted into electricity. Transferring this electricity along electric cables then results in a further 30% being lost to heat energy. So by the time this electricity reaches an electric car a huge amount of the energy has already been lost. Good for cutting down inner city pollution but efficient it certainly isn’t.

Recently hybrid cars have been preferred, cars that contain both an electric motor and a petrol engine. The battery for the motor is powered by the energy generated from braking. When it comes to being ‘green’ these cars in theory offer many more environmental benefits.

In practice this isn’t necessarily the case. Consumer magazine Which? tested four hybrid cars by driving them throughout London. The results were disappointing, as mentioned by George Marshall-Thornhill, senior researcher for Which?, Some of these should have performed much better. And this is all without mentioning how to dispose of troublesome electric batteries.

Then there’s the cost of hybrid cars. The Toyota Prius is the most popular hybrid car and can be purchased for around 17,000. However, with fuel economy claims in doubt and 55% of people believing that green cars are too expensive, there is still some way to go before green cars arrive on a large scale.

The facts are that green cars use more energy to produce, are harder to dispose of, their fuel economy claims have been doubted, and they are simply too expensive. The age of the green car has not arrived yet.

Ideas To Go Green – Going Green in Your Home

Canadian builders going green, read the headline, and it got me thinking about the cost of not just building ‘green’, but of converting to green in our existing homes. Being able to list your house as a ‘green’ home must still be a novelty these days. One reason is that it can be expensive to switch to green, but there are reasonable contributions that the average family can easily make toward green living.

Of course, people go green for different reasons for some of them it is just a common sense solution to allergies suffered in the family. But why do other people choose to put themselves through this hassle. It is not money, we know that much going green usually costs more, not less.

Many people seem to object to the idea that their home contains more chemicals than homes used to. What is more, we are paying for that privilege! It is strange to think that Vinyl linoleum gives off toxic gasses, but it is a fact. True linoleum does not, although it can be more difficult to find. (It is often a fact that the newer replacement product also brought with it toxicity.)

Another way of helping the environment is to follow your municipalities outline for re-cycling. Private re-cycle depots in your area will often pick up where the government leaves off. The trick is to get it organized at the home base with different containers that are easily accessed.

When you decorate the home, if you want to think green, use paint that has either no, or low, VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). Also if you plan on re-sealing sealing wood doors or floors etc, latex has no pollution factor to worry about.

If you decide to remodel, you will find many appliances on the market that will help you to go green. Most appliance companies now offer at least one green choice. Both washing machines and dish washers offer cycles which operate with less water. There are also toilets with the same feature, and all of these options will give you cheaper bills to pay, both on hydro and on water consumption.

If your remodeling or green choices are extending into your kitchen then when choosing a new stove or other kitchen appliance, look for the Energy Star rating. Many of these appliances are designed with a healthy environment in mind, and the stainless steel look of them will bring your kitchen up to the minute!

Switching into a green frame of mind can sometimes have a gradual escalation. Soon you may find yourself buying environment friendly soap powders and cleaners and then you can feel even more virtuous!

Ideas To Go Green – Green Living And Your Neighborhood

Green living is no longer a vague term known only by environmentalists. One of the ways we know that an important social trend has hit the big time is when major consumer providers adopt the term. Just about every major influencer in our society from Walmart to national broadcasting networks, are using the term to promote products and attract audiences. Green living is a welcome lifestyle that individuals, families and companies are choosing to ensure that the things they do and the products they use have as little an impact on the environment as possible. One of the best ways that you can build this thinking into your lifestyle is to live in a community that subscribes to green living.

If you are among the population of people who live a green lifestyle as a member of a rural community, you are in a good position. I would suggest, however, that you think about ways you can support a lifestyle movement that seeks to protect rural areas of our country (like your community), by making the more urban areas more livable, sustainable and green. This movement is here and it is strong and it is called new urbanism. New urbanism is a movement affecting areas where most of us live, including those in the suburbs and city centers.

One of the key threats to our beautiful rural areas and farming communities is the spread of urban development. New urbanism seeks to contain that spread by encouraging the development of communities that can accommodate more people. I’m not talking about increased high rises and ugly housing complexes. I’m referring to the development of lovely and affordable urban houses, town homes and condosapartments that reflect the beautiful architecture and unique detail of those neighborhoods that were created in America before World War II.

New urbanism neighborhoods are found in newly built developments and renovated communities both in the suburbs and older city centers. This new mindset has taken almost 20 years to take root in our national psyche. It is at its essence a straightforward, fundamental focus on changing where we live to improve our quality of life. We are tired of choosing or rating successful neighborhoods based on the largeness of the yard or house. Life is much more than that.

In the new urbanism mind set, quality of life is defined by how our environments affect our emotions and our ability to live a life according to sustainable, healthy values and core life priorities. New urbanists believe that if we can develop more communities that make it is easy to enjoy green living, working and socializing right in our own neighborhood we can make a positive impact on our environments.

Benefits of New urbanism communities:

New urbanism will contribute to less vehicular pollution by making it easier for people to find employment close to where they live or to establish their own businesses at or close to home. New urbanism communities, because of their location near or close to population centers, have the technological and business resources to support entrepreneurs and a wide range of businesses.

Communities that subscribe to new urbanism principles attract residents who want to live a green lifestyle so it will make it easier for you or your family to adopt green lifestyle practices.

The greenbelts surrounding your city or suburban area will be better protected if new urbanism communities in your region thrive since new urbanism encourages home buyers and renters to choose existing urban centers over new developments on large lots in shrinking rural regions.

New urbanism provides the structure needed to influence the largest percentage of our populations in North America and around the world.

Ideas To Go Green – Log Homes, the Natural Green Building Solution

Building and living Green is good for your health, conserves energy and protects the environment. Log homes are the original green building solution made directly from the earth’s natural resource. This abundant, beautiful and renewable natural resource is 100% green.

Building green is a hot topic among building professionals and consumers – for good reason. The exposure to toxic chemicals in our every day lives is resulting in significant increases in asthma and respiratory illnesses, skin problems, migraine headaches and any number of health related problems.

Since we spend much of our time indoors, it is critical that our indoor environment is healthy and safe. Many building products today are made of man-made chemicals and emit high levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Health experts are becoming increasingly aware and alarmed that these man-made chemicals are showing up in our blood and lungs.

Logs are 100% natural and don’t emit VOCs or other pollutants. Soil, water and air combined with the energy from the sun, in a miraculous process of photosynthesis, are everything needed to make a tree grow. From an ecological point of view, solid wood is the only building product that is renewable, biodegradable, recyclable, energy efficient and extremely beautiful. Logs and other solid wood, as basic building components, generate the least amount of air and water pollution, emission of greenhouse gases and solid waste. For example, steel and concrete require 2.4 times and 1.7 times more energy than wood to produce and 1.42 times and 1.67 times more airborne emissions with potential toxic or negative health effects. (The Canadian Wood Council – The Anhena Project).

Advances in forestry practices have steadily increased the supply and growth of plantation and private forests. In North America, the growth of new forests has outpaced the demand and can remain at a sustainable rate. In the long run, sustainable building products that are ecologically friendly are the only viable answer to a cleaner environment.

With energy costs on the rise and no end is sight, it makes good economic sense to design and build with conservation in mind. There is a great deal of documented evidence supporting the energy efficiency related to the construction of log homes. Studies conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other testing organizations have compared log homes to other types of construction such as conventionally framed and masonry. Test results prove the energy efficiency gained through the thermal mass of solid wood walls. Log walls better utilize the available energy in both summer cooling and winter heating. (The Log Home Council (www.loghomes.org), Documented Energy-Efficiency and Thermal Mass Benefits of Log Construction).

Most people building log homes plan to own and live in them for an extended period of time. Their log home may be a family retreat or a retirement home that they intend to own for the rest of their lives. The turnover rate of log homes is much lower than the average conventionally built house. With such a long term outlook, the decision to build and live in an energy efficient log home makes good sense for the health of the environment, you and your family.

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Ideas To Go Green – Home Lighting: Going Green with LED

More and more home, apartment and office owners are looking for ways to go green. The benefits not only improve the quality of our environment, but they also make for significant tax deductions at the end of the year. As energy efficiency is becoming more prevalent in household lighting and home lighting design is becoming more popular, it is no surprise that LED lights are coming to the forefront as a leading choice for illumination.

We are all familiar with the traditional incandescent light bulb. These bulbs are filled with a gas and then a filament is stretched across the inside. When electricity is run across the filament, it heats up to often very high temperatures. The bulb’s glow is a result of the filament heating up. The heat is a result of wasted energy. Incandescent bulbs also suffer from inherent fragility. These lights weaken over time as the heat separates atoms from the whole and causes thin spots in the filament. Eventually these thin spots will break and you will need to replace the bulb.

An alternative light to the incandescent is the halogen bulb. In a halogen bulb the envelope that holds the filament is a lot smaller, made of quartz and is filled with a halogen gas. These bulbs can burn a bit brighter and will last for longer periods of time. It is halogen lighting that is currently used quite often by movie theaters, television studios and movie sets. These bulbs are still heat inefficient, however. The most common halogen light used for indoor and outdoor home lighting is the twelve volt MR16 halogen light.

The LED, light-emitting diode, bulb is a culmination of the best of both the incandescent and halogen worlds but with the efficiency that neither can provide. In an LED bulb, the science on which it is based is completely different from the other two options. There is no filament and very little heat. The light source is a diode that emits light when electricity is applied. This mechanism for creating light allows for much lower energy use, brighter light, and longer lasting bulbs.

One of the most common LED home light bulbs available is the LED Lenser Leflector. These bulbs can replace any halogen bulb up to twenty watts. The leflector can burn continuously for more than 50,000 hours before needing to be replaced. That is more than five years of continuous use and over thirty years if the bulbs burn an average of four hours a day. LED home bulbs are over ninety percent more efficient than a halogen bulb and can be operated for pennies a year. These features make them perfect for moving your home – kitchen, living room, game room you name it – to a more environmentally conscious dwelling.

Outdoor applications for LED lights are many. They work well for outdoor accent lighting because of the many color options available and can be adjusted to be both spotlights and security flood lights.

Updating light fixtures in a home or office is an excellent way to reduce household costs, save energy and at the same time improve upon your home lighting design.

Ideas To Go Green – Digital Electronics and Renewable Energy Go Hand In Hand

Someone once said It takes money to make money, and that is mostly true. Today, we might add, It takes energy to make money, with reference to all the wondrous digital electronics we use every day to conduct business and create things. Problem is that it can take quite a lot of energy to run all the computers, peripherals, big screen display and multimedia installations in our homes and offices. And a bunch more to keep all those cell phones, digital cameras, GPS systems, iPods and handheld gaming systems charged and ready to go. So while the cost of energy keeps rising, and more and more people realize that climate changes, pollution and diminishing oil reserves demand a move towards renewable energy sources, we consume more and more with all of our beloved electronics.

Does that mean that the very progress that brought us the wonderful world of digital electronics is also digging us into a deeper and deeper hole of energy dependence and spiraling monetary and environmental costs? It doesn’t have to be that way. Business and the environment do not have to be at odds. There is, in fact, a green electronics movement that seeks to make our beloved electronics more energy efficient and environmentally friendlier. The movement covers the entire spectrum from huge international conglomerates pledging to recycle, reuse and conserve, all the way to electronics being more energy-efficient and either bio-degradable or easier to recycle, thus reducing what is now called e-waste from millions of tons of landfill to reused and recycled resources.

Saving energy and recycling makes perfect sense, and it’s no surprise that there are now companies devoting themselves to green electronics and energy sustainability. After all, it’s good PR and makes economic sense. But it goes farther than that. There are now even companies that sell both digital electronics AND renewable energy products. It’s easy to see how a firm belief in renewable energy, conservation and sound energy policies may drive an environmentally conscious business owner to sell items like solar and wind energy products as well as digital electronics made by companies that have realized that business and society are interdependent and thus embraced green technology.

What is green technology? It can be products certified for low emissions, products certified to be more energy-efficient (like the Energy Star pledge and standard), or products using solar chargers or other energy saving technologies. It can also mean support of companies that are actively going green by increasing recyclable content, removing environmentally harmful substances, using renewable energy in the production cycle, and supporting environmental conservation causes and projects.

Why would companies go green? Because it’s not only the right thing to do, but also because it’s an increasing competitive advantage to be seen as a green company that cares about the environment. Just like a lot of consumers reject pesticides and insist on organically grown food products, more and more consumers insist on buying green, energy-efficient technology from companies that care. It’s good to know that megahits like iPhones and Wii gaming consoles are made by such companies.

What we’re seeing here is really an inevitable, accelerating trend towards smarter, greener and more efficient and conscientious consumption. We all must fight waste and embrace clean, sustainable, renewable energy.

 

Ideas To Go Green – Global Warming and Building Green

Building green is one of the solutions to global warming that many people do not think about. Building green is designing and constructing buildings with the environment in mind. It is these practices that can have an impact on stopping global warming.

Houses give off a high percentage of a country’s total carbon dioxide emissions. In the United States, the figure is about 38%. Since carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases, houses contribute strongly to global warming.

One way to cut the greenhouse emissions of houses, and therefore help stop global warming, is to minimize the energy use needed to sustain comfortable living in a house. There are several ways to do this.

One way is to be careful about what building materials are used. Some building materials can be from quickly renewable sources. These include bamboo and straw. Also, building materials can be used that originates near the building site. This cuts down on transportation, and so cuts down on emissions of greenhouse gases and global warming. One example is stone houses built with local stone.

Buildings are also often built using recycled materials. Wood can be used from an older home that has been torn down. This will prevent the need to cut down other trees. Since the deforestation of the land contributes to global warming, this will help the situation.

Heating and cooling have a big effect on the amount of global warming caused by a house. Some ways to help this are very simple. One is to design the house to sit on the lot so that sunlight will come in through the windows and warm the house. It can also be oriented so that breezes will blow through the windows more naturally for cooling.

In this way, passive solar energy can be used to heat and cool the house. This will cut down on the greenhouse emissions from a house. Global warming will be lessened. Insulation is important to maximize on the cool or heat that is in the house. With good insulation, you will need a less intense heat or cooling source.

The main heating and cooling source in most green houses will be solar panels, wind power, or hydropower. Any of these sources will power a house with minimal effects on global warming. At the same time, these sources of energy will sustain a household in a comfortable style.

There are several organizations in the US that aid in the cause of stopping global warming by encouraging green building. One non-profit organization makes it their business to foster green building methods in both houses and commercial buildings. This group of people from the building industry is a part of the Green Building Initiative.

The state of Washington has required builders of buildings larger than 5000 square feet to use green building practices. Their law was enacted in 2005. It should help to keep a cap on global warming.

Green building is important for a number of reasons. One just happens to be that it can reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. If green building can help stop global warming, perhaps it is time for everyone to build green.