Sunday, March 30, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
This is next generation water heating system for residential use.
What's so revolutionary about this product???
It collects ambient heat in the air. Then with the aid of electricity, 1 unit of electricity input achieves 3-6 output to heat water. Or, 1 electricity + 2 ambient heat = 3 unit capacity to heat water.
At least three times more energy efficient than just using electricity!
"Heat collector" along with water tank is installed outside the house to provide hot water for bath, kitchen and so on.
Collecting ambient heat sounds like a great idea. I didn't have chance to ask a question to the researchers, but Eco-cute can collect waste heat, even better. For example, if it can collect the waste heat from air conditioner, that is almost like a closed loop system!
Another breakthrough about this product is that it uses CO2 as coolant. It substitutes other common coolants such as CFC...which are ozone depleting agents. Eco-cute uses "waste CO2" from production process.
Okay. I am still not very impressed with the name, but the technology looks very promising. Right now, it is offered about $5000-6000 per unit (per house). Price might go down if gains more market share. Not sure if it is offered in US.
Unfortunately, no video in English. This animation might help understand the technology.
Friday, March 28, 2008
There are some alternatives to using your feet.
Or other types of hangers.
Be creative and please let me know if you found better way to do it!
Established in 1996, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is charged with the planning, designing, constructing and operating a state of the art high-speed train system.
Their mission is to introduce effective train system in California that will solve the problem of projected population growth in CA and global warming (and other environmental issues).
There will be pros and cons, but I like the idea that the train system, with the stations that will generate a lot of people, will help re-develop the urban areas; more mixed use. denser communities that are highly pedestrian-friendly. It could be possible to live without owning a car! There is some images on how the cities like Anaheim or Fresno will change with the railroad system. With the help of the train system, the urban areas will sprawl upward which will reduce both ecological and carbon footprint.
According to the plan, downtown San Franciso to downtown LA will only take 2.5 hours. Wow.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The closest grocery store from my home is almost 1 hour away by foot. There is a park about 10 min away, but no grocery store.
This strikes me when I think "What if we cannot use our cars all of a sudden? Should we starve or what??" For example, what if we have a severe storm that stops gas supply for a few days? Is this totally impossible scenario? I don't think so. Obviously I won't starve, but the life would be very difficult in that situation.
Walking is so helpless here. You don't get anything by walking. You need wheels to survive.
I've always been wondering why community planning is so strict about use permit in residential area.
As far as I saw, in most of California's residential areas, there is no businesses. No corner stores, no Seven Elevens, no Starbucks, no post offices, no markets, no anything.
But if you have those in walking distance, you don't need wheels. I hate to drive just to pick up some milk or a cup of coffee. I would love to walk for small errands, but nothing is accessible. Poor my little feet.
Is it because of traffic and security concern? Does anybody know the answer? I am eager to know why.
Anyway, if you build a small community with mixed use (residential and commercial), then it is going to be a heaven for pedestrians and bikers. Shops don't need to have parking lots on their own, and don't have to worry about CEQA traffic element because it won't generate much traffic. As to security, I don't know. Would it generate a lot of crimes in the neighbourhood? I hope not.
Live small and give our feet more opportunities to demonstrate their capacities. This will definitely reduce our carbon footprint.
photo by sheila steele
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
Estimated MPG --- 70???? ( I took the info from Japanese news source that says 30 KPL (kilometers per litre) )
CO2 emission /mile -- estimated to be less than 160 grams (Prius is 166 grams)
Projected to be released end this year in Japan, next year in Europe.
Given that, Toyota might not introduce iQ in North American market?? I don't know. But gas price is very high now, so there must be increasing demand for smaller, super-efficient and affordable cars in US? Probably??
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
My previous "wanna-be-sandal"s didn't make it to be worn by me because I wasn't very impressed with the finish. So I am redoing them.
But I can wear this one!
For those who didn't read the previous posts, this sandal is called Nuno-zori. You can make them with your old cloths (T-shirts, towels, pretty much anything you want). It is really between reuse and recycle; EoL cloths change their forms physically, but not biologically or chemically. But probably I should call it "recycled" because the old cloths transformed to something else.
This is very easy to make, and definately revive the old cloths in a very useful way. I think it deserves a nice translation.
Nuno-zori simply means cloths sandal, but it's not just that. It uses recycled cloths and can be easily hand-knitten by anyone. even kids. Keep your room and toes clean. Washable.
Nuno-zori --- eco-zori, eco sandal, recycled hand made sandal, recycled sandal.....
What do you think is a nice translation to the inspiring nuno zori??
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
No explanation is needed....icon of energy-efficient, eco-friendly product.
Made the green the new black.
But where does it come from? I mean, why did Prius have to come from Toyota, Japan?
Japan has no oil and very little coal or natural gas. Almost all the oil import comes from Middle-East. Clearly, energy security has always been a major issue.
In Japan, gas price has always been high. It was around $3.5o -$4.00 for the last several years, and now it's gone up to $5.5!!
In US, when the gas hit $3.5o - $4.00 level recently, I heard people saying "this can't be possible....this isn't right...... Hey I can't drive my truck anymore!"
But wait a minute.
Japanese car makers started to develop tremendous energy efficiency technology and skills in reaction to the "oil crisis" in 1973 (Middle East oil producers sharply raised the price of the oil due to political issues). The crisis triggered a panic and fear in Japanese society; people raided grocery stores to buy all the toilet papers they could find on the shelves! (why toilet paper, I don't know....)
Faced with the high energy price, Japanese businesses desperately sought the way to be super-efficient....to survive! It was a matter of whether they could overcome the high price, or go out of business. Over the course of variety of efforts, cars became one the most successful efficient products that made Japanese brands so strong. After decades, Prius now is sweeping the world in greening the industry.
Even when faced with hardship, people always have strength and power to come up with improvements/innovation to address issues. In a sense, oil crisis helped Prius come to the world.
I am sure many creative businesses/people will come out of today's high gas price to offer product/services that maximize output with minimized input. Efficiency and down-sizing is the key to survive low-carbon society toward sustainability.
Now is the time to Priu-size world, and Priu-size life.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Edo era (1603 - 1868) is often referred as a successful closed-loop & sustainable society.
Check out those brooms (since 1830) that are made of highly-skilled, distinguished broom artisan.
Price ---- $500!!!!!
The price is because it only uses domestically-grown broom materials and is hand-made by the skilled artisans.
Green/LOHAS consumers didn't miss them. The highest price model ($700) is currently out of stock because of the high demand! It is especially nice to hear after the decades where they were almost forgotten.
Going sustainable can mean investing in new technology, alternative energy or innovative concept.
But it can also mean investing in people's knowledge, skills and wisdom that have been quietly accumulated for centuries and centuries. We need to capture them before they quietly die away.
Products by: Shirokiya
Monday, March 17, 2008
Well, can I bring it to gas station for recycling????:
Yes you can, if you live in this little town of Toyosato, Shiga, Japan.
Here is how the business works.
1) Gas station collects used vegetable oil (pick-up and drop-off) from households and restaurants
2) Gas station refines collected oil on-site
3) Refined diesel is sold to contracted businesses (bus services for elderly day care, package delivery company....)
This project turned to be effective in many ways.
* Gas station generated more customers because of the variety of collection boxes available on-site, including vegetable oils (in Japan, garbage source-separation is strictly enforced).
* One of the first users of refined diesel, bus services for elderly day care, placed a "eco-friendly energy" sticker on a bus, which worked as an ad and generated more diesel-users.
* Gas station got an offer from a major electronics factory (2500 employees)
-- it is to collect and refine used vegetable oil that comes from factory's cafeteria, and then deliver it back to the factory. Factory will use the oil for their trucks.
Previously, the owner of the station had been struggling to survive the price war, but now found the way to add value, differentiate his station from competitors making it so unique, and run a business sustainably.
Now that the gas price is so high, used vegetable oil can possibly charge so many cars I guess!
Sunday, March 16, 2008
* quality of post-consumer materials (feedstock): homogeneous versus heterogeneous, paint on the paper, new versus already recycled....
* mixture ratio of virgin material versus post-consumer material
* employed process and its input (energy, chemicals, water....)
* quality of the final product (recycled paper)
LCA (life cycle assessment), in principle, is a tool to compare environmental impacts of two or more different methods that achieve the same goal. For example, you can compare cloths diaper and disposable diaper to assess which has less environmental impact. What I want to know here, is the comparison of arrays of "recycled paper products" that employ different system.
In this picture it is very hard to tell the difference, but the left hand side is the recycled paper used at the university in the Netherlands. Right hand side is the recycled paper used here in US. Netherlands version is with lower quality. It's not pure white, thin, and weak. After some years, the color already changed a bit. But I assume that it is with less environmental/economic impact compared to the right hand side paper, if you look at the whole system. Am I right?
The specs for "recycled paper" is different from place to place. I would like to find which one is the best.....if you know anything about recycled paper, please help me.
Friday, March 14, 2008
I sometimes go to little local Korean grocery stores in town. They are all very friendly and nice. Unfortunately, they don't know what reusable bag is for.
I place it on the cashier when checking out. Sometimes I get luckey to have someone who asks "what is this?" Then I can explain. But this does not happen often. Today I got someone who was very nice and customer-oriented, but didn't speak English at all. I don't speak Korean at all. I couldn't explain what I wanted.
And this is what happened. As is the case with many Asian countries I guess, service is good. A lot of service is very good. She placed my grocery in so many plastic bags, and then placed them so nicely in my reusable bag.
.........I can't blame her! No I don't want to.
When you are checking out at grocery stores, you don't want to spend 10 minutes to explain what reusable bag is for. You might have so many people standing behind you, or you are with the kids running around, or you are simply in a hurry.
Atop of these, there could be the gap on environmental awareness, coupled with language barrier.
Everybody should remember "I'm not a plastic bag" by Anya Hindmarch.
I wish if someone could come up with self-talking resuable bag; everybody can read what's written on the bag and understand what it is for. And it still can be cool, isn't it?
It will facilitate using reusable bags, and at the same time will educate people who are not aware of what's going on. I guess I'm not the only one who struggle with the checkers who do not know about reusable bags.
Well I guess everybody - not only green folks - is thinking about an alternative to driving. Does your community have good public transportation? If not, probably only available alternative is motorbike or bike.
How about a bike? Honestly, I am not physically competitive. I get scared to ride a bike on a bike path because I go too slow, and everybody else goes really fast. I can be a bottleneck on a bike path, blocking others.....
I just wonder if I can ride an easy-going, electric bike like this... This model is for moms who want to carry a child in the basket on the front.
Those are rather slow, easy-going, grocery-shopping bikes which you wouldn't need a helmet. Since it is electricity-powered, it doesn't eliminate me because I am not physically strong.
There are so many different kinds of electric bikes offered in Japan.
I don't want to drive my car to go to the grocery stores in my neighborhood. But I am not physically strong and cannot ride a fast-track bike. Can this be an alternative? Would it encourage more people to choose a bike, or would it add more mess on the road?
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Typical North-American style home does not have many partitions between rooms. I can't stop feeling guilty to central-heat the house that ends up heating/cooling the space that nobody is occupying.
I don't mind living in rather a small house with doors in each room with localized heating equipments, because it is an easy way to reduce my carbon/ecological footprint. But I have never seen such a house, at least here in California. This idea wouldn't sell, I know.
So......what is the middle ground?
Japanese old style house uses fusuma (pic) and shoji for door/wall. Basically, it is a wall made of 4 to 6 panels that slide on the rail. If you wanted, you can leave 2-4 panels open, or close them all, or take them out all, depending on the weather, and the number of people you are accommodating. (With this old Japanese style, you can take the fusumas out and use two or three rooms altogether for gathering)Most Japanese no longer live in such a traditional old style house. But I just wonder if this concept of "adjustable wall/door", hand in hand with localized heating/air conditioning system, somehow, can be Incorporated in eco-housing or energy-efficient home design.
Any views from professionals?
photo above by: yo kelley yo
photo below by: yuki yaginuma
Monday, March 10, 2008
I have been trying to figure out what went wrong with mine. One of major problems with mine was that the form of sole was pretty ugly.
Obviously, the right hand side is the previous one, the left hand side is the new one. The form is much better with the new one. I realized that the first few rows (toes) are very important.....it really determines the stability of the entire form.
Once you are in the second row, try to widen the widths as much as you can. Unless you quickly expand the widths, you will have trouble allowing enough widths to fit your foot. (That's what happened with my previous one).
Use this technique each and every row; tightly knit horizontally. You might notice that the picture (what I did with my previous sole) shows that the toe was too narrow. It's not a good example. It has to be much wider for the second row and onward.
Compare with the blue/green sole......and what's neat about making Nuno-zori is you can easily improve your skill!
I have no intention to support those companies that betrayed the consumers. But this case reminded me of my lingering question again: Honestly, is recycling so environmentally beneficial and economically feasible?
Well before it's been found that these companies were cheating, one of them, Nippon Paper Group had posted their policy on recycled paper on the website. According to that information,
1) Nippon Paper found that post-consumer paper that has been mixed was affecting the yield of final product (recycled paper) because of its deteriorated quality. As they mixed more post consumer paper, they got lower yield.
2) Due to the quality, using post-consumer paper could result in increased amount of energy use during manufacturing process, thus leading to more CO2 emission.
I interpret this to: Post-consumer paper is of low quality. You cannot really produce good quality stuff from bad quality stuff. If you want to do this, you will have to: 1) dilute bad quality material with virgin material so as it's not a problem anymore (which will inevitably lower the mixture ratio of post-consumer paper!) 2) use more energy along the process to compensate the low quality (more costly and bigger carbon footprints!), or 3) lie and cheat! (worst solution you could ever think of!!!)
Is my interpretation true? Were the companies not creative enough to overcome those obstacles? If not, why did so many companies have to lie?
In 2005, I did short-term research in Netherlands. Their recycled paper was not pure-white and much thinner than normal paper. (I mean, looked like of"recycled" quality!) But it is totally acceptable with me. I have no problem in using those papers......a bit worse quality than that is still okay, as long as it is environmentally beneficial!
I really want to define "recycled paper". What is the input to the system, what is added (virgin material, energy, chemicals.....compared to using 100% virgin material), and what is the output. If the output is much worse than normal paper, what is the acceptable level?
Unfortunately, when we say promote "recycling", it's moslty about how to raise collection rate. Not much discussion is made about the recycling process itself among consumers. This is one part because recycling process is highly technical, and part because recycling often happens in the third countries where you cannot really track the final destination.
But I am very interested in knowing what's actually going on. I am curious to know more about the recycle paper in the Netherlands.
"Mottainai" is translated into "what a waste" or "don't be wasteful". Until re-discovered by Dr. Maathai, Mottainai was rather a grandma's saying or one of those old-fashioned virtues. If you were to toss the food you couldn't finish, your grandma would say "Mottainai, you still can eat it or your cat will!" If you are throwing your cloths away because they are totally out of fashion, she would say "Mottainai, we still can wear it or use it!". If you keep your tap water running while chatting, she would come and say "Mottainai, shut it off!" Basically, "Mottainai" was the word to remind you that what you are wasting still retain some residual value which needed to be used again.
Mottainai, in one sense, is a symbolic word that describes Japan's poor days (probably up until 1950) where people couldn't afford to waste anything. Food, fossil fuel, textile, metals......nothing was abundantly available.
When Japan started see a tremendous economic growth after 1950, we rapidly started to forget about "Mottainai" because we were suddenly surrounded by plenty of stuff. We no longer needed to feel "Mottainai". We were free to toss anything that were once recovered....and now considered waste.
Then, why can one country once poor be now so rich in materials?
Japan does not have much resources on its soil. When we used to live with whatever we had, we were materially poor. Just simply, economic growth made it possible to import huge amount of resources from other countries. What makes our lives rich now mostly come from other regions! If, for some reason, we have to go back to the situation where no import is available, "Mottainai", once again, will be a call to survive.
Import is as if we are borrowing resources from other countries or from environment, especially when those countries are suffering from poverty, or we are degrading environment. If we try to re-distribute the resources fairly (such as fair-trade or conservation), resource flow would be totally different from what we see today.
Mottainai reminds me how unfairly or unsustainably the resources are distributed right now. If the resources are fairly or sustainably distributed, no one on earth would have luxury not feel Mottainai.....
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Waste water from kitchen can include a lot of putrecsibles (small pieces of food, other organics) or any kind of tiny litte garbage that end up being washed away.
Catch whatever you can... and it will make your waste water probably much cleaner.
I found this at local Japanese grocery store. Since the package is in English, it might have already been marketed outside Japan, but I have no idea how much penetration it's earned.
The product is named "Aqua Top" and it says "water tool". Well....I don't know what it means, but.....
By the way, this product had Japanese eco-label on it.
Friday, March 7, 2008
You've got a Nuno-zori!
Repeat the same process for the other foot!
Mine doen't look great...Next one should be better!
All other ends can be finished in the same manner.
You use your feet throughout the knitting process. Assume that the rope is hooked on to your feet as shown in Step 4.
1) Loosely tie the rope for sole. Hook the loop to your toe as shown in the picture. Pull the knot toward your body, under the loop.
2) Follow the picture. Be sure to twist the rope in between your toes.
3) Clip the point where you twisted the rope.
4) Start knitting. Knot the edge of the strip to the rope as shown. Leave the left edge about 2-3 inches. It should look like below.
5) Once you tighten the knot, let the edges go under the rope that you knotted loosely.
6) It should look like this. those four strings (1-4) are the basis for the sole. Make them even before starting.