At a time when surging population levels and steadily rising standards of living demand ever-increasing quantities of energy, the sources of cheap energy are dwindling. For instance, global production of oil peaked several years ago; natural gas reservoirs worldwide are running out; coal production is on the decline; rivers that power hydroelectric dams are running dry; and uranium deposits are being used up, even before all of the planned nuclear power plants come online. All signs indicate that the current energy crisis will only worsen in the years ahead. Yet energy production is not the only component of the energy equation upon which all modern civilization depends: Transmission of that energy is also critical, because energy that cannot be delivered to where it is needed, may as well not exist. Just as all conventional energy sources are declining, so too is our energy transmission infrastructure — from rusting oil pipelines to broken electrical transmission towers.
Wind energy is one of the green energy sources that proponents argue may be the most promising alternative to conventional sources. But it faces a number of significant hurdles: Where can we locate the wind turbines so as not to disrupt migrating birds and (non-migratory) humans? How do we bring the generated electricity into a nation's electrical grid, without incurring the financial and environmental costs of running new power lines from the wind turbines to the nearest electrical substations? The alert reader will have seen the connection between these problems and the unused transmission towers mentioned earlier.
A French design team — composed of Nicola Delon, Julien Choppin, and Raphael Menard — certainly saw the connection, and turned it into a project, named Wind-it. They propose the installation of large rectangular blades, rotating around the central vertical axis of each transmission tower. The design is available in three sizes, depending upon the size and shape of the given tower. The team has calculated that the energy generated by a single tower's turbines could provide enough electricity for one house, at a minimum, and up to 20 houses, assuming optimal turbine size and wind speeds. On a national level, if a third of France’s transmission towers were outfitted with Wind-it turbines, then the total electricity generated would be equal to that of two nuclear reactors, which is equivalent to five percent of France's total electricity usage.
The team submitted their ideas to Metropolis Magazine, and consequently won the 2009 Next Generation prize. The project is designed for deployment in France, which plans on quintupling its wind power capacity by 2020. Yet Wind-it could be used equally well in any developed nation that contains an appreciable number of such transmission towers. One can only hope that the publicity generated by this prize will prompt energy industry and governmental decision makers throughout the world to consider this excellent idea.
As the home to Detroit and its auto industry, Michigan would probably not be at the top of any environmentalist's list of favorite states. Yet it is home to a significant number of engineers, including Rich Altherr of Chrysler, who got started in the green business arena when he began searching for methods for reducing household energy consumption. The more he learned, the more he began making significant lifestyle changes to reduce his environmental impact, and is now an avid proponent of renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and biodiesel. Like so many in the PristinePlanet.com community, he has consciously reduced his consumption levels, and seeks out organic and eco-friendly goods manufactured by socially responsible companies, as local as possible. He realized that countless other online consumers are seeking green products that are both functional and attractive, and would appreciate all of those items being consolidated on a single e-commerce website. Thus was born Eco Home Gear, in September 2006, temporarily headquartered in Portland, Oregon (recently ranked the greenest city in the United States). Before adding a product to his catalog, Rich tries to maximize the following characteristics: manufactured using pre- and post-consumer recycled plastic or paper waste, or reclaimed wood from a separate manufacturing process; conserves energy and natural resources; made from natural materials that are grown with minimum environmental impact, including minimum pollution; made in the United States; sourced from small and/or fair trade businesses, such as co-ops; and ecologically packaged. His site offers products for every part of the home, as well as the outdoors, and also products especially for pets. Stop by Eco Home Gear and discover the possibilities when Yankee ingenuity goes green.
There are countless potential factors that could motivate someone to develop their own green, home-based business — such as loss of a full-time job, dissatisfaction with the traditional corporate rat race, an overwhelming interest in furthering ecology, or a desire to work from home in order to be there for a newborn or homeschooled kids. For Penny Schafer, it was a combination of several reasons; but foremost was a driving interest in creating her own ethical business — something of which she could be rightfully proud and happy, and would give her independence from day jobs, many of which are dominated by people who care little for the environment or even their employees. Despite the initial challenges of getting a new business off the ground, Penny — residing in Eureka, California — quit a very stressful job in 2005, and less than a month later had founded Taraluna. Her online store features an incredible variety of unique products — all of them green in some manner, such as organic, safe, carefully screened for quality, produced ethically, and certified by the Fair Trade Federation (FTF). Taraluna offers women's accessories (handbags, purses, totes, scarves, shawls, and hats), cosmetics, organic chocolates, jewelry, pet toys, natural spa items (bath teas and salts, scrubs, lotions, balms, and bath sets), teas and tea sets, children's toys, and a large number of items for picnics, gardens, bathrooms, and kitchens. As a natural extension of her interest in caring for the planet, Penny also cares deeply about her customers, who are delighted with the level and responsiveness of service they receive — oftentimes prompting them to provide enthusiastic feedback.
Every individual can take his or her own unique path when climbing upwards to a greater understanding of how to live in harmony with nature, and in turn maximizing the health of one's own body. Sometimes these disparate paths will cross, bringing people together in a common understanding — and possibly joint enterprises. An excellent example of this is Wild Natural Beauty, which was founded in 2008, in Austin, Texas. The company is a family business, comprising four women: Faye, Lisa, Amy, and Kelly. Faye had found that nutrition and food preparation are key ingredients to lifelong health. Lisa began developing her interest in aromatherapy first by creating various scents from essential oils, and later by learning how those oils can be used to promote one's overall well-being, and not just skin health. Amy, a new mom, was alerted by the increasing number of warnings related to toxic chemicals in plastics, paint, and food. Kelly sought out soaps that would not irritate her sensitive skin, and discovered that truly safe products are far less available than many green retailers might claim. These four ladies then combined their expertise to offer a wide variety of healthful skin care products — organic soaps, shower gels, lotions, facial cleansers, toners, astringents, cremes, and serums. All of these items are made in the United States, and never contain any parabens, sulfates, phthalates, or other toxic substances. Only the highest quality natural ingredients are used, without ever being watered down. Visit their website, where you will also find samples, gift certificates, beauty tips, and issues of their newsletter.
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