House Boats on Gowanus Canal

Four houseboats currently docked in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, one of the country’s most-polluted waterways have so far shirked inspection from the city agencies who monitor safety regulations.

Three of these boats are occupied by “hipster twenty-somethings“, known in the neighborhood for throwing wild canal parties late into the night, and by “pretty girls sunbathing on the decks.”

The fourth houseboat, docked a little further South on the canal, is the abode of one Adam Katzman, an environmentalist who has been living in the 350 square foot “Jerko” for the past two years.

Katzman bought the boat for $1, before souping it up with a homemade rain harvesting and filtration system, solar panels and a “humanure” composting toilet; all in an experiment to live autonomously and without the aid of common modern technologies.

Katzman and his water-bound neighbors’ future remains unknown. While all the canal houseboaters have received permission to dock from the local property owners, none have yet to pass city Buildings and Fire department safety inspections to be considered legal.

The What? The Plant! That’s What!

For many years, Jesse and Samuel Edwin Evans brewed beer at an independent brewery in Northern California. Now they’ve come to Chicago.

Part of a massive vertical farm in an old South Side warehouse, the location of the new brewery will house one of the most sustainable beer-making processes in the world.

Summer before last, John Edel and Bubbly Dynamics LLC purchased the former Peer Foods meat processing plant in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The Plant, is a true green machine, a combination of biological and technological innovations of self-sustaining, off-the-grid food production system.

The Plant gives the following diagram to summarize its inner workings on its website:

The “brewery” portion on the bottom-right is where the Evans brothers come in. Their New Chicago Brewing Company will use some of the facility’s resources, and provide its waste products as fuel.

Jesse told the Huffington Post:

“In the beer-making process, there’s an amazing amount of spent grain that’s produced…At most breweries, around 50 percent of that goes to the landfill…In the beer-making process, there’s an amazing amount of spent grain that’s produced…At most breweries, around 50 percent of that goes to the landfill.”

The steam will be especially helpful to the Evans brothers.

“If you put it in perspective, we’re going to be using a 3,000-gallon pot that we boil for two, three hours.” Instead of having to burn gas for the boil, the steam will do the trick. “So that’s a huge cost savings…Microbrewing is usually a closed-door thing…Here, beer nerds are going to get to be a part of the process.”

Greenpeace says, “Facebook, Quit Coal!”

Vice President of marketing and sales at Verne Global, an Icelandic data center company, Lisa Rhodes recently said that:

“According to the Environmental Protection Agency, data centers now account for 1.5 percent of all electricity consumption in the U.S. and by 2020, carbon emissions will have quadrupled to 680 million tons per year, which will account for more than the aviation industry.”

Greenpeace says that when companies do not choose environmentally friendly energy sources to fuel their servers, a huge environmental threat is posed. So who did Greenpeace contact, in order to get the ball rolling onto greener ground? Facebook’s Mr. Zuckerberg!

Greenpeace International communications manager, Daniel Kessler did compliment the social networking juggernaut for its energy-efficient data center, however, he called the choice of power supplier “terrible.”

Kessler, in a telephone interview with the New York Times said:

“Facebook is emblematic of a sector that is increasingly thirsty for energy but is satisfying that thirst with dirty fuels…Facebook and other I.T. firms can help to make the Internet green, but first they need to move away from coal.”

Facebook recently built a data center in Prineville, Oregon – powered by PacifiCorp, a company which gets 58 percent of its energy from burning coal.

According to Greenpeace advocate, Kate Ross:

“Storing and transmitting messages, pictures and other information through Facebook uses a vast and rapidly increasing amount of energy, as the network continues to expand. Its membership passed the 500 million mark in July this year.”

Well, Greenpeace told Zuckerberg, he will lose 500,000 of his “friends” (the number of Facebookers who support the Greenpeace campaign), if he continues to power the social networking site using coal. The campaign is encouraging Zuckerberg to switch to wind energy.

Is Your Bathroom Green

fairy canKeeping it green at home? We certainly hope you are. In case you are stumped about what you can do to get along with the environment in the bathroom, here are some good tips!

Wiping It:
Well I don’t know about you guys, but when I get into the bathroom, and I know I am going to be there for at least a few minutes, besides reading material, I am going to be checking for crucial supplies. On this thought, I urge you to do away with the two-ply designer toilet paper! Switch to recycled. It is less expensive for both you and Mother Earth. Every ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 4,000 kilowatts of electricity, 7,000 gallons of water, and 3 disgusting cubic yards of landfill. Also, look for toilet paper which is unbleached and chlorine-free.

Washing It:
Did you know that showers are the biggest resource spenders in the home? Well you do now! Replace your old showerhead with a WaterSense or another energy-efficient model. By doing this you can save up to 3 gallons of water a minute. Listen to this: if just one out of every 100 homes was retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, we would avoid 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year. Amazing!

toilet houseSteaming It:
While almost everybody has an exhaust fan in their bathroom to reduce mold, we shall not forget that the fan is not a friend of the environment. Make the switch to exhaust fans which are thermostatically controlled and not connected to the light switch – this way they will not become over used.

Draining It:
Remember not to let the faucet run. Using a cup of water when brushing your teeth, is one way to conserve water. Use the drain stop when washing your face or shaving – and make sure the drain stop works efficiently, and is not actually swallowing water.

Flush It:
Did you know that flushing the toilet is responsible for about 30% of all water used by the average American household – in other words almost 44,000 gallons of quality water is lost per family every year. YIKES! Make the switch to a high-efficiencytoilet, so you can use 1.3 gallons or less per flesh, as opposed to the 3.5 to 7 gallons of good water which you were using with your old throne.

The Problem With Getting Everyone To Go Green

environmental-awarenessThought that only kids can be tree huggers? Think again! ICOM Information and Communications, conducted a recent study which found that:

“consumers over the age of 55 are the most prolific users of environmentally friendly household products. Females ages 55 to 59 are the greenest, more than twice as likely as the average consumer to use sustainable products. Men ages 65 to 69 weren’t far behind at 1.7 times as likely to use sustainable products as the average American.”

According to the study, both men and women ages 25 to 34 were “the least likely to use” environmentally sound products. Strange indeed. Is our society not doing a good enough job educating our youth on the importance of keeping it green? Or is the economy at the root of the problem?

Out of those who do not buy eco-friendly products, 50% claim it is because the prices are too high; and an odd 17% said that it was because they were not convinced about how exactly these particular products were supposed to be good for the environment.

The ‘Baby-Boomer’ generation, who became the ‘flower-children’ of the 60’s and 70’s are the ones that made environmental awareness hip. It is no surprise that this generation, now in their 50’s and 60’s, are the backbone of the green product industry.

Solar Powered Air Conditioning

A company located in Denver Colorado has developed one of the most practical solar powered air conditioning systems made to date. Named the Coolerado, the device is manufactured in the mountain state where it was also developed by its originator Coolerado Corporation. Company CEO, Mike Luby, says that Coolerado is a

“portable completely environmental friendly unit that utilizes both the power of the sun, water, and a clean form of energy from the atmosphere known as psychometric energy, which deals with the heat transfer of water vapor which results in a virtual cooling process of the air itself”


The unit include a set of solar panels which create the electricity used to power the unit. Fresh air is drawn into the unit by means of a special fan, which then passes through a specially made filter to remove any impurities. The air then enters special chambers known as HMX’s for heat and mass exchanges. Since the air that enters the exchanges contain quantities of water, this water is retuned to the outside atmosphere, and the “conditioned” or cooled air is then sent to the structure to be cooled by means of air ducts. To give more efficiency to the solar panels themselves, who lose part of their ability to produce electricity due to overheating, cooled air can be sent to cool the panels from the back side.

Compared to a standard air conditioning system, a Coolerado AC unit is sufficient enough to cool a building of 3,000 sq. feet (sufficient for 20 people) and only needs 600 watts of power (about 1/3 the amount needed to operate a standard hair dryer) to run it. This is compared to a standard AC unit which needs around 6,000 watts to operate it. Coolerado units can be located in the empty attic space of a standard house, and the panels can be integrated with the roofing tiles ( like solar plates for water boilers are). They can also be placed on the roof of a flat topped building, with the solar panels positioned to face the sun.

The uniqueness of the Coolerado unit’s design has resulted in articles about it being published in a number of environmental and business publications, including The Green Hour, and Earth Times (which noted Coolerado receiving a Renewable Energy Award from the State of Colorado in January 2009), the Denver Business Journal, and the Appliance Design Magazine.

The units are currently available in a number of states in the USA, as well as overseas in Europe, Australia, and Singapore. The units carry a 5 year limited warranty and require very low maintenance. And most of all, they use all natural cooling elements and absolutely no CFC refrigeration gasses.

With summer now upon us, using a Coolerado AC unit will not only keep you and your family cool, but will help our environment by not needing electricity generated from fossil fuels.

Bamboo Clothing Makes Good Environmental Sense

Clothing worn by many people is often made from cotton, wool, flax, and other fibers, including animal hair, may either be allergenic or made from crops which require a great deal of effort and expense to grow. While some fabrics have been traditionally used for centuries, there is now an excellent alternative which is not only more friendly for health and environmental reasons, but is from a plant which could create extra income for farmers, and with very little expense on their part.

It be hard to believe, but a green plant many people have growing as a decorative addition to their garden may one day be one of main fibers for manufacturing clothing, linens, curtains, and other fabrics that are presently being made from cotton (a very wasteful pant) and various synthetic fibers. Presently a number of fashion designers and manufacturers are becoming interested in this plant that can grow in many types of climates and needs little or no attention. And that green plant is bamboo.

bambooBamboo is actually a type of grass, coming from the biological family poaceae. Although usually found in tropical and sub-tropical regions, it is also found in certain parts of the USA, and as far south as Chile and South Africa. Some types of bamboo grow as fast as a meter per day in tropical areas. An extremely environmental friendly plant (they absorb about 5 times the amount of carbon dioxide, a primary greenhouse gas, and produces about 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees) bamboo has been used for centuries for making a number items, ranging from baskets and other utility items, curtains, sleeping mats and paper. It has been used in China for centuries, even for food. It’s only been more recently that bamboo fiber and cellulose has become so much in demand, that a number of clothing manufacturers are giving it increased attention. Some of these include Linda Loudermilk and Kate O’Connor, who use Bamboo fabric as a replacement for silk, rayon and other fabrics. After processing, bamboo fabric is found to be as soft and supple as silk and cashmere, and is preferable to many people since no animals or animal products are used in its manufacture.

While the plant itself is an ecological wonder, there are some aspects of the processing of various parts of the bamboo plant that should be noted, however. There are basically two ways to process the plant: mechanically or chemically: Mechanical processing involves crushing the bamboo stalks and using natural enzymes to break down the fiber into a pliable substance from which the fibers can be combed out and spun in yarn. Chemical processing is much more questionable from an environmental sake; as it involved using a number of chemicals and solvents such as sodium hydroxide (also known as caustic soda) and carbon disulfide, both of which can cause serious health problems.

Taking this into overall consideration, using bamboo fiber over petroleum based ones, fibers made from animal products, and cotton which requires a lot of water, fertilizers and human attention. The use of bamboo for making clothing and other fabrics will become more acceptable as newer, more eco-friendly manufacturing technologies such as the “lyocell process” which uses N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide to dissolve the bamboo cellulose into a viscose solution. Known as “weak alkaloids” these chemicals are more environmentally friendly than those such as sodium hydroxide.

Besides having an amazing softness, processed bamboo fabrics have a number of environmental and health benefits. They are 100% biodegradable, and are hypo-allergenic, making them wonderful for people allergic to wool and other animal fibers. The bamboo plant itself does not need chemical fertilizers, and by using photosynthesis, helps reduce carbon dioxide levels. The plant’s extensive root system also helps hold soil together, preventing soil erosion.