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Friday, August 15, 2014


The Future of Green Vehicles

electric car charging Some look back at car history with rose-colored glasses, but looking forward offers a greener perspective. Without doubt, the future of cars comes framed with a more environmental conscience. Here’s a glimpse into what the future of fuel-efficient, energy-saving cars has in store.

One out of Two Cars Will Be a Hybrid by 2040
According to Exxon Mobile, by 2040 one out of every two cars will likely fall under the hybrid or alternative fuel category. That’s a startling contrast compared to today’s estimated one percent hybrid ownership.

Since the automobile world agreed to upping gas mileage requirements in 2011, predictions lean toward increased hybrid sales. That’s not to say oil won’t stay the top supplier, but certainly many buyers will consider the savings as those mileage standards increase. President Obama’s administration set off to double average fuel efficiency by 2025, translating to around 54 miles per gallon (MPG). As natural gas, wind, nuclear power, and battery technologies improve and become more popular, you can certainly expect more green cars on the streets.

Expect Good Looks and Good Gas Mileage

honda hybrid

Hybrid and green vehicles often earn a bad reputation for neglecting style. However, many of the top brands in cars, from the commercial, affordable brands to luxury and sports names, already create models that bridge the gap between pedestrian and sophisticated. Not surprisingly, many families benefit from these widened hybrid choices, since initial models neglected storage and family transporting capabilities. Now, among the top twelve KBB family cars listed, many offer a hybrid version, such as the roomy and classic 2014 Honda Accord, priced just below $30,000.

Still, people with all lifestyles and car preferences look at a future of green options. Concept electrical cars for possible future release include BMW’s Concept ActiveE, which runs on battery-power and essentially mimics the BMW 1 Series Coupe in styling, and Audi’s sleek, fast, battery-powered coupe, the e-tron for luxury lovers. On the other hand, more practical models include the Hyundai’s plug-in Blue-Will Concept vehicle, which largely inspired the Sonata hybrid and offers aerodynamics, original stylistic choices, and solar panels. Another, the Volkswagen New Compact Coupe Concept model offers European appeal and sporty performance for a hybrid engine. As hybrids gain favor on the market, prices will decline, but even now models offer a reasonable MSRP with savings in the long-run.

The Rise of Supercapacitors

supercapacitor Toyota graphic
While new, spiffy, green brand Tesla operates with the lithium-ion battery and major brands opt for the NiMH battery, they don’t completely solve the environmental impact issue. Yet, lithium-ion definitely offers a major improvement over NiMH, with zero heavy metals or metal toxins and huge potential in capacity and costs.

But supercapacitors, or hypercapacitors, truly have developers’ attention. These electricity storers do not have memory like batteries, meaning unlimited charging without any degradation. Plus, they charge and discharge far quicker than batteries, offering benefits for drivers at charging stations. The current issue lies in power. But certainly universities like MIT and the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ team believe their Electrical Energy Storage Units (EESU) approach the solution. Once power storage reaches that of chemical batteries, and the cost comes down to a realistic consumer range, these supercapacitors will likely takeover the green car movement.

Introducing Energy Storing Panels
One special advancement occurring in the green world is energy storing vehicle body panels. These panels store energy and charge faster than the aforementioned alternative car batteries. In addition, they take much of the heavy battery weight out of the equation, possibly reducing a car’s weight by fifteen percent. Volvo, the leader of this body panel research, is looking into polymer fiber and carbon resin panels that regenerate energy through braking or overnight plugging-in. Meanwhile, Toyota also started panel research, but geared toward capturing solar energy and storing it in a lightweight panel.

With powerful and attractive electric and hybrid models available already, the future of green vehicles is fast-approaching, with only more innovative and exciting ideas to come. Expect your family, friends, and co-workers to ditch the gas-guzzlers for an eco-friendly ride.

Electric car charging symbol via

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gidgi solar charging smartphone case – a green Kickstarter project

gidgi smartphone solar charger

Why not tap into solar energy to keep your ravenous iPhone charged at all times? Smartphones are constantly in use, guzzling energy and demanding more juice. Many companies have tried and few (if any) have succeeded, in creating a one-size-fits-all solar charging case for the ubiquitous smartphone.

gidgi solar charging phone case

A little Minneapolis start-up, Solar Surge, has designed a solution, a versatile smartphone solar charging case – the Gidgi – that can accommodate a wide variety smartphones – keeping your phone charged via free solar energy – indoors or out. The idea of a group of young college grads who are seeking crowdfunding via their recently launched Kickstarter project.

iphone gidgi solar charger

The Gidgi features a case made out of durable, good looking components that are intended to have a long lifespan. The life cycle of the Gidgi is further extended by its ability to charge (more…)

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Monday, August 4, 2014

New Green Site: UpcyclePost Gallery

upcyclepost gallery

Artisans and consumers are finding inspiration in the recently launched UpcyclePost Gallery, a place for uploading and sharing ideas for upcycled, recycled, repurposed and reused materials.

Old radio to new by Jon Almeda

The gallery features over a thousand images of products including artwork, jewelry, fashion, furniture and toys that have been manufactured using recycled materials, saving thousands of tons of waste going to overcrowded landfills, and creating value for consumers where previously none existed (old radio to new by Jon Almeda above).

upcycled wire woma

The online gallery is the first step to becoming a fully functional marketplace for upcyclers. The company is committed to becoming the focal point on the Internet for all things upcycled. With the launch of the gallery the company is now moving rapidly down a path that will lead to a feature-rich collaborative community that caters to artisans who manufacture products from recycled materials, and to consumers who want to add their own content to an inspiring site promoting sustainability.

recycled textile artwork by Dawna

The convergence of climate change, resource constraints and economic shifts, combined with collaborative community technology, are creating an opportunity to accelerate the process of bringing upcycling to the mainstream. The vision of UpcyclePost is to encourage a less wasteful society by creating an online platform that fulfills the needs of a community of small and home-based businesses, and consumers who are seeking to purchase sustainable products.

Users are invited to share their inspirations, browse more than 22 categories and share their findings.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Feng Shui: On Land and At Sea

EcoChi Super Yacht

In Feng Shui and Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that health for an individual occurs when chi flows freely through the body nourishing every cell. The same is true for a space- whether it is your home, office, public environment or even a ship!

Compass School, teaches us to go into a space with what is called a “Lao Pan” Compass. This compass is used to determine the directional influences on a property in relation to the universe. Since boats, ships and yachts are perpetually in motion, this school of Feng Shui is not relevant for this kind of project.

The most well-known school of Feng Shui is called Form School. The flow of energy in a space is enhanced by intentional selection and assignment of furniture, or by specific placement of a decorative item. This school is appropriate for any interior design project including boats and yachts.

Feng Shui Tips for boats, ships, yachts and SuperYachts:

  1. Proper door alignment is critical for good Feng Shui.  An oversized door opening into a small space like a bathroom (head) means guests will be in there very often with indigestion or sea-sickness. A remedy would be to hang a mirror or beautiful art on the outside of the door.
  2. Any boat is already rich with Water energy so stay away from dark colors like black or navy blue and uneven patterns or shapes. This creates too much water energy which can result in very uncomfortable journeys.
  3. Avoid spiral staircases without risers. This causes chi to escape, acting like a hole in the center of the ship. A Feng Shui cure for this scenario? Glue 5 lucky Chinese coins under the first and last stair.
  4. Position your bed against a solid wall so you can see the door to your room but be sure not to be in line with it.  The wall symbolically protects you, your dreams and goals. The sightline to the door keeps you in control and in the power position.
  5. Looking for passion onboard? Red fresh flowers are sure to spice things up! Be sure to change the water every day and discard the flowers as soon as they start to wilt.

Prince Albert II of Monaco’s Wood Forever Pact promotes the use of wood on SuperYachts from well-managed forests and sustainable sources. Green and sustainable choices make for good Feng Shui and a better world. EcoChi® designs utilize wood from managed forests whenever possible. Taking care of our natural environment nurtures us-it is the circle of life that the 5 Feng Shui elements are based on.

Debra Duneier is a Feng Shui Master Practitioner, Certified Eco-Designer, accredited LEED® Green Associate and award winning Author of EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience.

related: more Feng Shui tips from The Alternative Consumer

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

kickstarter green find: yoloha cork yoga mats

cork yoga mat yoloha

We love yoga and we love renewable cork  — Yoloha is currently raising funds via a Kickstarter campaign for the manufacture of their innovative cork yoga mat. The top surface of Yoloha mats utilize a natural cork surface. Each mat is hand-built and features an unmatched grip that increases the more you sweat.

handmade yoloha yoga mat

The mat is also self cleaning – cork is naturally hypoallergenic and antimicrobial, naturally eliminating bad smells, bacteria, and mold. No need to wipe these mats clean.

cork yoga mat girl

Yoholo has been working with cork for many years on surfboards and other products and have a deep understanding of cork.

Eco-friendly features:

  • The mat is 100% recyclable with eco-friendly materials that contain no PVC’s or harmful chemicals.
  • Cork and rubber are some of the most durable and resilient materials on the planet.
  • Cork is a 100% natural, renewable and recyclable material.
  • The cork used in the mat’s construction is obtained through an environmentally friendly harvesting process. Trees are not cut down to harvest the cork, rather, the bark is peeled off by hand every 9 years. Cork oak trees can live up to 300 years.
  • Backing of the yoga mat is comprised of 90% domestically produced recycled rubber tires.
  • The entire mat is recyclable and all of the leftover scrap from producing Yoloha mats are reground to be used in new products.

yoloha cork yoga mat

The Yoloha Kickstarter campaign will be on-going for another 10 days. They are offering pledgers a variety of neat Yoloha associated stuff. Pledge $140 and you can get one of the first Yoloha cork yoga mats available – sometime in August. Due to cork’s inherent durability Yoholo guarantees the mat for a lifetime. Made entirely in the USA.

related: more eco-friendly health and beauty product reviews from The Alternative Consumer

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Friday, July 18, 2014

5 of the Best Companies That Use Alternative Energy

solar panel and sun

Alternative energy sources reduce carbon emissions and offer a sustainable solution for power use. By using renewable energies, these companies are helping the country shift away from its dependence on fossil fuels. This is a major environmental movement, and several big names are leading the way.

Intel Corporation: Massive Purchases of Energy Credits
The Intel Corporation has an annual usage of more than three million kilowatt-hours (kWh), 100% of which is sourced from green power resources. Intel uses biogas, biomass, small-hydro, solar, and wind power. It purchases the majority of its power through renewable energy certificates. However, Intel also generates some green power of its own through 18 solar plants with a capacity of about 7,000 kilowatts (kW). Altogether, the company’s use of green energy has the equivalent impact of taking more than 455,000 passenger cars off the road annually.

Kohl’s Department Stores: On-Site Renewable Energy
Kohl’s uses more than 1.5 million kWh annually, but manages to get 105% of its energy from renewable sources. By producing more green energy than it uses, this company is able to actually put excess renewable energy back onto the grid. Kohl’s purchases renewable energy credits that offset 100% of its power usage. On top of that, the company uses solar panels on select stores. These panels can provide up to 40% of the store’s power in 156 locations across 12 states.

Kohl’s also activated wind turbines on two sites. Vertical turbines outside a store in Findlay, Ohio generate approximately 40,000 kWh a year. Horizontal turbines in Corpus Christi, Texas provide 14,000 kWh annually. Wind turbines are an innovative option that are often powered by the same transformers used for more traditional forms of energy, which allows companies like Solomon Corporation to gradually enter the green market with wind turbine projects.

Whole Foods Market: Energy Efficient Stores
Nearly everything about Whole Foods Market is designed to create a greener environment, so it’s no surprise that this company supplies 107% of its energy usage through renewable resources. A recently constructed Whole Foods store in Brooklyn showcases the extreme lengths to which this company goes to create a green environment. The store uses energy-efficient lighting, refrigeration, and heating systems. Solar canopies in the parking lot supply 20% of the store’s energy, and the lot’s street lights are powered by small-scale wind and solar power systems.

Whole Foods has regularly purchased renewable energy credits to offset its power usage since 2006. The company’s trucks are gradually converting to biodiesel fuels as well.

Staples: Hitting Impressively High Goals
Staples has lofty goals when it comes to its green vision. The company aims to offer only sustainable products, recycle 100% of the technology that it sells, and produce zero waste in its operations. Though it hasn’t hit these goals yet, it’s come particularly far in its attempt to maximize renewable energy use. The company gets 106% of its annual power use of more than 630,000,000 kWh from renewable sources.

Not only does Staples buy energy from renewable sources, it has solar panels on the roofs of many stores to provide additional green power. Staples has also partnered with companies that are pioneering sustainable business practices, such as Rainforest Alliance SmartSource, the GreenBlue Sustainable Packaging Coalition, and CarbonFund.

Unilever: Shifting Energy Usage
Unilever, like the other companies on this list, offsets 100% of its energy use through the purchase of renewable energy credits. While this goes a long way toward supporting the use of renewable energy, it doesn’t actually reduce the amount of non-renewable energy that the company uses upfront. Unilever is taking its energy campaign a step further by striving to cut down on the total non-renewable energy that it consumes.

The company reports that by the end of 2013, renewable energy made up 27% of the company’s total upfront energy use. This is a marked improvement over 15.8% from 2008. Unilever’s goal is to get 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Consumers who want to support green energy initiatives can do so easily by shopping at retailers who are part of this movement.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Conscious Consuming – be a better consumer

green shopping cart

Has your daily grind forced you to take the easy way out, making you a victim of deceptive ad campaigns, cynical pricing scams and a mindless recruit in the corporate consumer army? Maybe it’s time to insert your values back into your shopping and consuming equation. What and where you buy something can have a tremendous impact on those around you – and around the world. By supporting products, companies and individuals who share your values, companies that invest in creating products that are earth-friendly, people-friendly, and ethically made and manufactured, you can make a profound difference. Here are just a few of the things you may want to consider before purchasing an item:

  • Do I really need this? Avoid impulse buys, redundant purchases and wasteful behaviors. The landfill is filled with junk that at one time someone thought they really needed. Sometimes your best decision is to just keep your wallet in your pocket… or purse.
  • Buy local. Keeping your local stores, farms or artisans gainfully employed will help support your local economy and your community’s social fabric – all important stuff. Before you head for the local big box store consider whether or not, you might find the same product or service closer to home from a neighborhood store. Help keep small town America alive.
  • Buy from ethical and Fair Trade Certified sources. You should always consider how a company, particularly those who manufacture products overseas, treats and compensates its workers. Search out products that pay their workers a living wage and that support the communities that make their products. is good place to start researching.
  • Buy organic. We know it can sometimes cost a little more, but buying organic fruits and veggies can keep all manner of fertilizers, GMOs, pesticides and additives out of you and your family’s bodies as well as the greater ecosystem.
  • Buy from real people. Don’t purchase a piece of crap furniture item made from engineered wood when you can bop over to Etsy or a local shop and find something handmade and original, made by a craftsman, for the the same price. Jewelry, art and clothing are also items that can be bought from artisans who have created them with style, vision and skill.
  • Avoid trendy fashion items made from living creatures. Do you know how the rabbit that provided the collar for your ski parka met his death? Think about it.
  • Keep it green and sustainable. Avoid buying disposable junk when sustainable, or reusable alternatives are available. Consider whether a company supports the same green and sustainable values and initiatives that you do before ringing up that purchase.
  • Stop ingesting dangerous chemicals. Thousands of chemicals in our food and everyday products have never been fully tested for their health, safety and environmental impact. Do your research and base your food, cosmetics and consumer products buying decisions on more than just price. Visit the Environmental Working Group for info and ratings on many consumer products. Big food companies want to maximize profits by mass-producing products filled with high fructose corn syrup, sugar and salt – check the label to see what’s in there – your kids will thank you. Additionally, many crops are now genetically modified to be disease and pest-free and you’ll be consuming those same pesticides and chemicals when you eat them at your dinner table – support GMO labeling initiatives in your state and municipality – the info can help you make an informed choice.
  • Ignore the noise of the mass marketing machine. Don’t fall victim to cute commercials and catchy marketing and advertising campaigns. Make your buying decisions based on facts, research and thoughtful consideration – not a jingle, celebrity endorsement, bikini-clad spokes model, or cute and cuddly animal actor. (more…)
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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Have a Happy, Green Fourth of July!

reclaimed wood american flag

Cheers to a nice, long Fourth of July weekend! Here are a few tips for keeping it green:

  • If you’re hosting a cookout, avoid disposable serving items – use those reusable plates and utensils.
  • If you’re contemplating blowing up some fireworks for the kids and framily – remember that dogs, cats and wildlife may not enjoy your propensity to blow up stuff.
  • Heading for the beach? Bring a trash bag and pick up some of the junk you’ll undoubtedly run into.
  • Keep car driving to a minimum. Walk, jog, bike, hike, skate – get some exercise and enjoy the fresh air.
  • Stay safe and party responsibly as you celebrate our Nation’s birth!

photo: reclaimed wooden U.S. flag by Chris Knight Creations

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