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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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Designer Spotlight: Joining Wood and Metal – Hilla Shamia


Hilla Shamia bench 2

Designers have always sought out wood for its natural beauty and warm organic feel. A designer turning out a new twist on wood furniture is Hilla Shamia. Shamia’s work is a beautiful example of contrasting materials that work together. Shamia developed her technique while studying for her B.Des. in the Department of Industrial Design at Holon Institute of Technology, Israel.

Hilla Shamia casting

Shamia’s stunning pieces come in a range of tables, stools and benches. They are made by first positioning the wood into a mold. Molten aluminum is then poured into the mold filling in the cracks and crevasses of the wood. Because wood has a burning point around 250 degrees Celsius (482 degree Fahrenheit) and aluminum has a melting point of about 660 degrees Celsius (1220 degree Fahrenheit); where the molten metal touches the wood, charcoal forms.
Hilla Shamia benches

The layer of charcoal creates a transitioning barrier between metal and wood. The process preserves the natural form of the wood while joining it to the metal. Shamia calls this process wood casting. Because no two trees are the same and you can never predict the final outcome; each piece is one of a kind. Being one of a kind means you won’t be finding one in your local furniture store, however some pieces are listed on Discover Deliver, price upon request. The current pieces listed are composed of cypress and aluminum.

Hilla Shamia table

You can check out Hilla Shamia’s Facebook page for posts about availability, article mentions and more. But aside from the natural beauty of these pieces they are keeping it sustainable as well. Her metal of choice aluminum is recyclable. And although some designs are made with Cyprus the designer also works with Eucalyptus which is a fast growing sustainable wood.

related: more innovative design featured on The Alternative Consumer

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Off the Grid Solar: Sustainable Energy Meets Sensible Design


lumi solar (original at night)

One of the obstacles hindering the growth of solar power is that it is still connected to the grid. Because solar in some cases is connected to and supplemented by the grid; it is not self-efficient. The people against solar make this argument, arguing that solar is not a viable option because it cannot work on its own. Lumi Solair, a New York based company, addresses this concern and specializes in off-grid self-efficient products. Lumi Solair has three different lights designed to light streets, parking lots and both private and public space. The three models are the Original, Swan and Classic; all of which are stylish.

lumi solar

1. Original is an off the grid solar and wind powered lighting unit that provides reliable lighting in the most demanding of environments.

  • The structure stands 25 feet tall, is composed of aluminum and can stand winds up to 110 mph.
  • The solar panels are a 200 W polycrystalline panel.
  • Has its own energy management system, a lithium Iron phosphate battery, a 10 year lifetime and is 100% recyclable.
  • The light is an LED and dark sky rated.
  • Its additional turbine is 250 W at 10 m/s and has power generation below 5 mph.

swan solar light

2.  Swan is strictly an off-the-grid solar lighting unit. Installing the Lumi Solair swan can save you more than 45% when compared to conventional lights.

  • The structure stands 25 feet tall, is composed of aluminum and rated for winds up to 150 MPH.
  • The solar panels are a 320 W polycrystalline.
  • Has its own energy management system, a lithium Iron phosphate battery, a 10 year lifetime and is 100% recyclable.
  • The light is an LED and is dark sky rated.   (more…)
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Online education: How e-learning makes being eco-friendly easy


green laptop

Earth Day may be celebrated each year on April 22, but for many people, living green and being eco-conscious is a way of life all year long. Yet no one is perfect, and there are times when you can’t be as respectful to the environment as you’d like. That’s why targeting the areas of your life where eliminating waste and pollution will have the biggest impact is the most important thing you can do to protect our precious planet today and for generations to come.

For some people, that might mean taking quicker showers and installing low-flow appliances in their houses. For others, it might mean biking to work rather than taking the city bus. Still others try to visit the local farmers market rather than the big grocer in their town. While these are all great ideas, there’s another area of life where people can choose to make a big impact for Mother Earth: their educational choices.

It’s no secret that college students are busy and require a lot of resources to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom. No one argues the benefits of getting a college degree, but the massive piles of printouts and constant commuting back and forth definitely do not benefit the planet from an environmental perspective. Now, thanks to the changing educational landscape and substantial growth of online higher education, more students are learning that getting a college degree and being green can indeed go hand in hand. Consider these main environmental benefits of attending college online.

No commuting
Driving to and from class at traditional college institutions is time consuming. Depending on class schedules, some students might make the trek several times a day. This travel is a massive source of pollution due to the carbon footprint that vehicles put out while on the road. In fact, today’s on-road vehicles produce over a third of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in our atmosphere and over 20 percent of the global-warming pollution, according to Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The flexibility of online college allows students to study from anywhere. That means they can take classes at their convenience from their home, workplace, local library, or community center, etc. It requires absolutely no commuting – just a computer of some kind and an Internet connection. Students love that they no longer have to sit in traffic, spend countless hours per week commuting, and pay increasingly high prices for gasoline, as well as parking fees in many cases.

In addition to all the above benefits, eliminating the requirement for driving means one less vehicle on the road. Keep in mind, UCS states that for every gallon of gas burned, 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases are emitted into the atmosphere. When you don’t have to commute in order to complete your college education, you are helping to lessen the massive vehicle-emissions problem our world faces.

ecological footprintDigital books
In traditional college, you’ll receive handout after handout from teachers in addition to being required to purchase some pretty hefty books. Most online colleges take a different approach, eliminating the need for hard copies of books and the piles of paperwork you’d need in a brick-and-mortar classroom.

This news is welcome considering that in the United States alone, 71.6 million tons of paper go in the trash every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s significantly more than the combined totals of plastics (14.4 million tons), metals (15.3 million tons) and glass (12.5 million tons).

Clearly, paper waste is a big problem, and online study is just one way to reduce your use and waste of paper. Ashford University is one example of a thriving online college that is proud to reduce paper waste by offering online students electronic alternatives for things like handouts, tests, course curriculum documents, and much more. Plus, many times there will be no need to purchase a hardcover book. You will be able to purchase digital materials, if required by an instructor. This alternative is a great way to reduce waste, live green, and save money, too.

Fewer temptations = less waste
Let’s face it, when you’re out and about, there are numerous temptations looming. Are you a little hungry? Stop and grab a quick snack at a fast-food restaurant. Feeling a little sleepy? Get a jolt of energy when you swing by the local coffee shop for a latte. Not only do these habits add up quickly and diminish your budget, they also produce a surprisingly large amount of waste.

From the coffee cup that ends up in the trash to the packaging your sandwich comes in, the convenient foods you select produce a huge amount of waste. That treat might taste good for a moment, but the plastic wrapper it came in will take hundreds, maybe even thousands of years to decompose.

When you attend class online, you won’t be out around town with these temptations so close. You’ll likely be at home or at another comfortable place where you can focus on your studies. If you get hungry or thirsty, you can take a look in your cupboards for a snack, make your own cup of coffee from your home brew, or whip up a quick sandwich with ingredients from the fridge. There will be much less waste, you’ll save a lot of money and, most likely, you’ll be eating a lot healthier as well.

Bottom line: online college is good for Mother Earth
No matter what aspect of online education you analyze, it’s a much greener option than traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. You’ll start by cutting your carbon footprint dramatically – something everyone should try to do whether they are attending college or not. Then you will reduce your paper use and help save a plethora of trees that provide necessary oxygen and clean air for us to breathe. Finally, you’ll reduce packaging waste and save lots of money because you won’t be tempted to buy things you otherwise would not need. When you look at the big picture, getting an education online is an eco-friendly endeavor – no matter what type of degree you are pursuing.

Author Bio
Lizzie Wann is the Content Director for Bridgepoint Education. She oversees all website content and works closely with New Media, Career Services, and Student Services for Ashford University.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015 – Get Your Green On


get your green on

The onset of the new year provides an opportunity to recharge our philosophical batteries and re-focus our energies on ourselves, our lifestyle and the environment. The past few year’s economic and political turmoil has created a phenomenon I’ll call “green fatigue” – a war of attrition against all things green that can sap your time, energy and enthusiasm for acting on environmental issues and lifestyle choices. Upon reflection, I’ve found that at many social events in the recent past I have concentrated my attention on the shrimp salad and cheese platter while consciously avoiding the discussion of topics like organic food, global warming (there I said it), environmental regulations and sustainable development in an effort to avoid confrontation and social disruption.

But now, the changing of the year provides us “greenies” – in all our various shades – the chance to rededicate ourselves to investing our time and energy in support earth-friendly choices that hold tremendous potential benefit for our local communities, families, the environment and future generations.

One big hurdle obstructing real change on environmental and consumer issues is the corporately funded, massive campaign to promote climate change denial and oppose any-and-all forms of environmental regulation, a campaign designed to obfuscate the issues, confuse the public and undermine the fight against climate change (special thanks goes out to Fox News). On a state and local level, big money special interest groups, funded by processed food companies, giant agribusinesses (we’re looking at you Monsanto), local power companies and the fossil fuel industry are protecting profits and their own corporate self interest by fighting planet and people-friendly initiatives. Vast sums of corporate cash are being invested in fighting things like the enforcement of water quality standards, the regulation of emissions, conservation efforts, residential solar projects, plastic bags laws, fracking regulation, medical marijuana, animal rights, GMO and consumer products labeling and all-manner of environmental regulations and consumer protections.

We little guys, who still dream of a functioning social ecosystem, friendly to man, beast, consumers and our communities need to crank up our passion and return to making some noise and fighting the good fight. Here are few of my personal tips for getting our ‘green’ back on:

  • Think before you buy. Consumers hold the ultimate power in the marketplace. Purchasing decisions should be based on a few simple criteria: do I really need this product? Does this manufacturer support ethical, animal-friendly, environmentally sound processes? Is there an affordable green, or ethical alternative? What’s in this stuff? Has this product been bathed in pesticides and genetically modified. Has this product sucked-up a disproportionate quantity of water, fertilizer, precious raw materials and destroyed essential habitat in its creation? Will eating this item potentially impact my family’s long term health. How will I ever get rid of this piece of disposable junk? Read those labels, and if something doesn’t meet your criteria, take a pass.
  • Every vote counts. Vote your conscience and beliefs. If properly organized (or even improperly organized), the green movement can wield a lot of political clout (the Keystone Pipeline is still a pipe dream). Both local  and national elections count. Stayed informed on issues and candidate’s positions – particularly those affecting the environment – and above all, vote early and often :). Keep your friends and family informed on the issues and encourage them to vote and vote enthusiastically. If you have the time and energy join a chapter of a local green org. (more…)
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Toast the New Year with Green Champagne in Biodegradable Packaging


naturally clicquot group

For New Year’s many people will be toasting champagne at midnight. For 2015 you can drink to the new year out of a bottle kept chilled inside packaging made from potatoes. French designer Cédric Ragot has developed an innovative packaging for Veuve Clicquot that is completely biodegradable. Called Naturally Clicquot, the isothermal design can keep a chilled bottle cool for up to 2 hours.

naturally clicquot open

The packaging is made from potato starch and paper and because of this, Naturally Clicquot’s packaging is 100% biodegradable. Even the label is made using recycled paper. A promotional video about the design that addresses the problem of packaging waste can be viewed on the Veuve Clicquot website. This innovatively packaged champagne will cost about $58 but is a unique, eco-friendly buy.

vineard grapes

If looking for other tasty, eco-friendly champagnes to toast to the new year here are a few “greener” options.

  • Vranken Pommery: obtained environmental certification for their practices of waste management, sustainable growing, water conservation and energy conservation.
  • Domaine Carneros: certified by California certified organic farmers in 2008. This vineyard uses photovoltaic solar power for energy.
  • Leclerc Briant: this biodynamic winemaker uses only natural products for repellents and compost for fertilizers.
  • Champagne Fleury: a biodynamic winery using compost as fertilizer since the 1970’s. Organically grown grapes and no pesticides.

Pommery POP rosePommery, my first pick, can be found online at BevMo.com and its Brut Royal champagne will cost about $40 if you’re a club member otherwise it’s about $60. Pommery can also be found on wine.com prices vary from $130 for a vintage bottle to $54 for POP. Perhaps Pommery’s “greenest” bottle would be POP Earth, but it is sold out on wine.com. The Earth champagne reflects the brand’s commitment to using sustainable practices. Earth’s bottle used lighter glass, 1.85 lbs. instead of 2 lbs., reducing energy cost during shipping. Earth’s label is also made from recycled materials and printed with water soluble ink.

So welcome in the new year with an alternative champagne and toast to a greener year. Cheers!

related: more eco-friendly libations reviewed on The Alternative Consumer

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Monday, December 22, 2014

5 International “Green” Businesses That Are Doing It Right


green conservation

Going green has been a buzzword in the corporate world for the first decade of the 21st century. Determining which international companies are serious about the process as opposed to the ones who are simply paying lip service to the concept is important. The businesses that go green are better investments long term, simply because they will have lower overall expenses. Here is a list of five international businesses that are going green to make more green.

Samsung
The television and smart device manufacturer ranks 13th on the Global Fortune 500 list, but what differentiates them from their peers is their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. Samsung has spared no expense in eliminating hazardous products from its best-selling electronic devices.
They also still have room for growth as home appliances have not been part of their major green initiative yet. In addition, their use of clean electricity has been minimal thus far. The company can save a fortune in future years when it follows up on its stated plan to employ solar power with many of its generators.

Apple

phone in phone image

The two smart device titans are competing in the green-friendly corporation challenge just as much as they do in cell phone sales. Apple is slightly behind Samsung in worldwide business ranking, as it is number 15 on the Global Fortune 500 list. With regards to the environment, Apple has a slight edge of terms of announced performance. With regards to transparency, they need improvement.

Apple has listened to criticism about their shy reporting, which explains the hiring of Mike Taylor as their new Director of Renewable Energy. Taylor exited his job as the Solar Electric Power Association’s Director of Research to work for Apple. This is particularly notable, because SEPA had been one of the company’s foremost critics. Apple turned an enemy into a friend in anticipation of turning the company’s former transparency weakness into a newfound strength.

The Vanguard Group
This investment company bears the responsibility of investing $3 trillion in assets. As part of their green initiative, they have financed a series of community gardens to create sustainable food ecosystems in populous areas.

Wal-Mart
Yes, they were once the most hated company in the world with regards to environmental awareness. However, Wal-Mart has spent the past decade walking the walk while most of their competitors waste time talking the talk. Their green-friendly strategy has proven so successful that other corporations feel compelled to study their tactics in order to better implement their own plans.

Key to Wal-Mart’s strategy has been a focus upon aggressive goals. Appreciating that they were far behind the curve at the start of the 21st century, the company leveraged their tremendous financial resources as a kind of international money transfer. Revenue attained from non-American properties was funneled into their actionable areas of growth.

Whereas most companies are satisfied with slow, incremental progress over decades, Wal-Mart reduced its carbon footprint dramatically in an extremely short period of time. The number one company in the world on the Global Fortune 500 list worked hand in hand with their formal mortal enemies, the Environmental Defense Fund, to reduce their emissions. By deciding to employ safer chemicals for all of its store-brand products, they met the high standards of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for Environment.

ABB Group
You may not be as familiar with this Swiss corporation, as they are ranked only 273 on the Global Fortune 500 list. They are, however, industry leaders with regards to eco-friendly policies. ABB employs 124,000 people worldwide, and the majority of the jobs involve electricity and robotics. Other companies follow their lead with regards to energy efficiency.

What ABB understands is a key part of all green initiatives. The easiest way for a corporation to save money on environmental issues is to use less power. ABB is in the business of electricity, and so they have mastered the art of providing the same power output while reducing actual energy use. Such high-efficiency products save millions of dollars when used in volume.

Being environmentally friendly is a positive step for a major corporation not just with regards to social responsibility but also potential revenue gains. Paying less money for the same energy output has proven extremely lucrative to the bottom line of all of these companies.

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