Have you ever heard of the concept of an “Earthship“? I was introduced to the concept by my brother-in-law about 14 years ago and was blown away. What is an Earthship then? In a nutshell, an Earthship is an Eco-friendly home, made predominantly from recycled materials, designed to be as close to “off-grid” as possible.
The concept of Earthships arose in the halcyon flower-power days of the 1970s in various states in the southern USA. The concept seems to have developed by Michael Reynolds, an architect from New Mexico. As you can see in the linked Wikipedia article, his idea was not without problems, but it was, none-the-less revolutionary. Michael has a website where he educates about, demonstrates and promotes the Earthship technology. The site has designs for a number of systems that an Earthship needs if it is to meet code (see figure 2, below). Continue reading What the heck is an Earthship? … maybe an idea whose time has come!→
As a follow-on to my earlier article about various technologies for lighting your home, I wanted to post this link. As the date for conversion of all light bulbs from incandescent looms near there is a lot more is being said about the safety of CF bulbs. Scientific American, known as a source of reliable information that is accessible to the common citizen, has written an article that describes the dangers associated with disposal of broken fluorescent bulbs.
I am constantly looking for good environmental blogs and have been following a really good one lately named “Environmental world for all”. The site is authored by a university student in peace studies with minor in environmental studies. One of the author’s recent posts discusses the benefits of solar LEDs for use as Christmas lights. It is a really well thougth out article and in it the author discusses the pros and cons around this issue.
When I left a comment and asked him about the ability to recycle these devices he brought my attention to this site (Solar Lights Recycling | Your Solar Link) in the US that is trying to set up a recycling program for these products.
If you are interested in environmental issues I think a few minutes browsing these two sites would be time well spent.
Back in 2009, my family bought a 2010 model year Honda Civic Hybrid. The chart in the dealership, which was produced by an independent tester, gave the Civic a rating of 60 miles per imperial gallon (mpg) in the city and 66 mpg on the highway. A review of the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) website seems to confirm this rating.
NRCan’s site gives the “mileage” of every car sold in Canada by year. It is supposed to be based on testing that simulates a fuel economy for a car that is driven 20,000 km per year. Presumably the test would simulate real-life conditions including the number of occupants, and a variety of weather and geographical conditions, but it isn’t clear from their web site. The mileage for my car the 2010 Honda Civic Hybrid is given here: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/transportation/tools/compare/compare-results.cfm and it confirms the 60/66 rating given at the dealer.
My question is, what drugs were the testers on when they came up with these figures? We have been using the Civic for almost two years now and we have never come close to those figures. I grant you, that the test figures are likely for the “average” driver, but even so, we have rarely got better than 6.1 l/100km. That works out to about 46.3 mpg. This is a far cry from the 63 mpg (combined city and highway) that we were supposed to get.
When I look at the United States government website I their numbers are closer to my results. they show 40 miles per US gallon (mpgUS) city and 45 mpgUS highway which is about 43mpgUS combined. That equates to about 51 miles per imperial gallon (or only 85% of the NRCan mileage estimates) which is getting better, but it still ends up being about 5 mpg high by my experience.
So what are these testers doing. I assume that they must have only a single driver, and that they must be always on a flat road, with no head-wind and they must be accelerating at a snail’s pace. If I want to approximate these ratings, I would need to get an 100 pound driver driving downhill with a tailwind and the car in neutral.
While I never really expected to get 60 mpg, I did expect better than the 43 mpg that we are getting. Am I expecting too much to ask for mileage approximating the promised rating? I don’t think so. I would likely have bought the car anyway, given that I am interested in the environment, but I don’t like being lied to. If the “independent” tests were to be even remotely useful they should be achievable by the majority of the drivers under normal conditions.
Now, I know I have ignored things like the benefits to the environment, but I have also ignored things like the total cost of ownership (maintenance of the batteries over time) and the cradle to grave costs of the car in terms of cost of building, cost of transportation, use by the consumer and cost of disposal.
But when it comes to strictly the way the cars are advertised, where is the truth of the situation? I sure don’t know? I do know that I feel ripped off! What about you?
I just ran across a wonderful innovationthat seems to have been around for a few years but just now seems to be garnering widespread attention. The innovation seems to be the brainchild either the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or of Mr. Illac Diaz of the Philippines. It is as brilliant in its simplicity as it is as a light bulb. I am going to leave the description of the “bulbs” and how they are used to the foundation (and to two interesting YouTube videos (describing the why and how). One of the linked videos below describes this as an idea out of MIT and that makes sense because that institution seems to focus on a lot of simple projects to help the poor (see my earlier blog about solar powered water desalinators that were developed by MIT folks).
The City of Ottawa has a nice new web page that acknowledges the existence of solar energy, and in particular solar domestic hot water (SDHW). The site, which can be found on ottawa.ca gives information about two different types of SDHW systems: a CSA approved factory packaged system and not factory packaged system. Both types of installation need a building permit.
Both installation types must be installed by a qualified installer (CanSIA certified) but non-factory packaged installations must be certified compliant with CSA F379.1-09 (the reference standard for SDHW) and with the Ontario Building Code by a professional engineer licensed in the Province of Ontario.
This doesn’t sound like a lot of help, but when I had my solar system installed, there were no guidelines or standards available and we had to slog through a morass of bureaucracy to get our installation approved, so that guidance is very welcome.
This information should make the process of installing SDHW more transparent and it should really reduce some of the risks to the homeowners and installers. Good job Ottawa!
One thing that has always bothered me about being an environmentalist is that there is never enough good information available to the consumer allowing them to make intelligent decisions. Case in point … what kind of lightbulbs to use in the house to reduce the total carbon footprint and to be generally green.