One of the key principles of green energy, is the reuse of energy that would otherwise be lost using conventional methods. A current example of this, employed in some hybrid gasoline/electric vehicles, is regenerative braking — the recapturing of energy used to slow down the vehicle. To witness a second example of this, at least in the future, we may only have to go as far as the closest freeway, if some proposed energy capture concepts successfully move from the drawing boards to the freeway billboards — more correctly, the freeway barriers themselves.
According to an article in Engadget published 30 April 2007, a number of recent student designs have suggested that freeways and other major roadways could be retrofitted with turbines designed to capture the wind energy generated by passing vehicles. These designs include turbines built into any of the three planes defined by a roadway: the crash barrier that separates opposing traffic, the sound barrier separating the roadway from the adjacent community, and the overhead area that up until now has only been utilized for freeway overpasses, walkways, elevated rail crossings, and navigation signs. Small wind turbines built into a crash barrier, would be primarily powered by vehicles in the fast lane, whereas turbines built into a sound barrier, would be closest to the slow lane. Overhead wind turbines would be powered primarily by large trucks.
The idea is that the wind energy captured would be transmitted into the local power grid, for use by the community, light rail system, and "intelligent billboards". However, one question that can only be answered by computer simulation or actual aerodynamic testing, is whether or not these wind turbines would perhaps increase air turbulence through which the vehicles must power themselves, thereby negating any wind energy captured. (An analogy would be a bicycle light that draws power from the movement of the corresponding bicycle wheel, and slows down the rider a bit.) But intuitively this does not appear to be a problem, since the turbines would not be generating any sort of headwind. So where does the lost energy currently go? It takes the form of faster air speeds close to roadways, i.e., air molecules moving at greater velocities, a.k.a., heat.
While this innovative thinking is commendable, and the amount of wind energy currently lost is likely quite considerable, the future of these projects will face some barriers (no pun intended), including fabrication costs, installation costs, and, especially for turbines built into crash barriers, repair costs — for whenever a motorist becomes excessively distracted by a so-called intelligent billboard.
We can only hope that the system planners and designers are intelligent enough to skip the billboards and use all of the energy for more critical purposes. Or, even better, leverage the enthusiasm and creativity of this next generation of green industrial designers, and have them figure out how to completely do away with the freeway, and go straight to light rail or other, far more efficient transportation methods.
Some of the most significant sources of pollutants in the modern home, are chemical cleaning products, such as detergents, bleaches, and disinfectants. Even personal care items, such as soaps and shampoos, can contain high levels of unhealthy substances. Chris MacKinnon, a resident of Torrington, Connecticut, is well aware of this problem, and decided to do something about it. In the spring of 2007, Chris founded a new company, Natural Galaxy, to make it easy for people to find home and personal care products that are friendly to people, pets, and the planet. The items are personally selected and tested by Chris, and chosen to be high-quality and yet still affordable. They include organic-based cleaners, natural baby care products, organic shampoos and soaps, Himalayan salt lamps, hats, bags, nature CDs, and more. In addition to featuring products made in the United States — including Connecticut and Vermont — Natural Galaxy has foreign items from co-ops and other fair trade organizations. Chris invites everyone to return to a chemical-free environment, one home at a time.
The Gambia, a country in Western Africa, may be the smallest one on the African continent, but like so many of its neighbors, it faces sizable challenges — including economic hardship. Its impoverished residents oftentimes struggle to raise enough money for their families' food and medical needs. Fortunately, the Gambian people are gaining both help and hope from caring organizations, such as Worldgoods Fair Trade, whose mission is to promote fair and long-term sustainable development for impoverished artisans, as well as stimulate cultural awareness and diversity education. Based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Worldgoods is a fair trade global marketplace that was founded in 2007 by husband-and-wife team Baptiste and Miranda Paul. Having grown up, lived, and taught in several countries — many quite impoverished — they know firsthand the positive changes that poor people can make in their own lives when given a chance through creating and selling handcrafted items free of child labor and sweatshops. Their wonderful products are not only more sustainable, but in this age of plastic junk sold out of huge retail outlets, Worldgoods customers appreciate that Baptiste and Miranda know exactly where, how, and of what all of their products are made. People will be even more delighted when they learn how their purchases are literally saving the lives of Gambian children, who would otherwise go without food or medical care. In addition, if you represent an organization looking to raise funds, consider partnering with Worldgoods, which has experience hosting fundraisers throughout the United States, and can offer custom-made items which would be ideal as corporate gifts or other special mementos. Back in 2003, Baptiste and Miranda made a promise to the people of Gambia, and they are fulfilling that promise. Join them in their efforts, and explore the intriguing products made by the Gambian people, and available from Worldgoods Fair Trade — "Shop the World Without Leaving Your Principles Behind".
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