As the world's supplies of readily-available oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium continue to be depleted, there is greater urgency to find clean and sustainable sources of alternative energy. Currently the most favored candidates are solar and wind, but they have still-unresolved weaknesses: In most parts of the world, sunshine and wind are intermittent; solar panels require considerable surface areas, and have yet to reach high levels of efficiency; wind turbines are even larger in length, expensive to build and maintain, prone to failure, and blamed for killing birds. Moving these energy collectors offshore can solve many of these problems, but would end up creating new ones.
Perhaps we should be looking offshore, but in a different manner. Any surfer or sea captain can attest to the awe-inspiring power of the ocean's waves, and energy researchers have for ages dreamed of harnessing that power to generate untold amounts of electricity — nonpolluting, continuous, and unquestionably superior to burning petroleum-based fuels. The ocean, even at its calmest, has powerful swells. Water is far more dense than air or ultraviolet radiation, and thus provides far more energy in the same space — thus allowing correspondingly smaller energy collection devices versus those needed for wind and solar. A recent article http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Catching-a-Wave.html published by Smithsonian.com details some of the key issues. It is estimated that, for the United States, wave power could provide roughly 6.5 percent of present electricity needs, according to Roger Bedard of the Electric Power Research Institute of Palo Alto, California. It would equal approximately the same amount of power currently produced by all US hydroelectric dams, or 150 million barrels of oil — what is consumed by 23 million average American homes annually.
Yet over the years, the technical challenges of developing viable wave-energy converters, have proven daunting, largely because of the number and complexity of the converters' components: tubes, hoses, couplings, bearings, valves, filters, switches, gauges, meters, sensors, and more. The failure of just a single component could easily mean the failure of the entire device. Engineers have long known that a much simpler design was needed. Annette von Jouanne, an electrical engineer at Oregon State University, is working with colleagues at the Wallace Energy Systems & Renewables Facility (WESRF) to develop and eventually perfect just such a design, with only two major components. The first, shaped like a large post, contains a thick coil of copper wire, and is anchored to the seabed. The other is a large magnetic ring, encircling the first, attached to a float that moves vertically, driven by the waves. The motion of the two components relative to one another generates electricity. In fact, the current prototype can generate three kilowatts — enough to power two homes.
This pioneering and promising research is just the beginning, and we may one day look to the oceans as our primary source of electrical energy.
There are countless different paths by which an individual or a team may end up creating an online green business. For some people, it is simply a matter of gradually learning more about the dangers of carcinogenic chemicals and other toxic components of the mainstream American lifestyle, and then learning how to reduce or even completely eliminate them from the household, by choosing organic and vegan products. This is the path taken by JD and Evelyn Guinn — residents of Indianapolis, Indiana — when they began using less toxic cleaning products in their home, in addition to switching to organic baby food, meats, milk, and, of course, celery! Then they stopped using pesticides on their lawn, and began giving their dog healthier food. In early 2008, their creative thinking resulted in the idea of founding an eco-friendly online store, Celery Street, where they could make available all sorts of delightful items, including clothing and accessories for adults and children, soaps and other personal care products, candles, colorful purses made from recycled materials, lunch bags, water bottles, and handcrafted jewelry. They also offer a range of household items, including tableware, serving ware, chef's supplies, rugs, office supplies, storage containers, pet toys, and decorative pieces for both indoors and out. Their site went live in August 2008, and includes a fun blog with some really colorful pictures and ideas. Feel free to contact JD and Evelyn, whether you are a customer in search of the perfect gift idea, or you represent a company looking to purchase a large number of gifts for a conference, or you are a talented artisan with some unique handcrafted items to offer. JD and Evelyn truly enjoy building relationships with their vendors and their customers, and making a difference in their lives.
Most Americans, if they were to give any thought to the matter, would assume that any clothing and fabrics labeled "100% Cotton" would be free of chemical residues. But this misconception is the result not of a lack of concern over harsh chemicals, but rather the effectiveness of the marketing efforts of the big cotton growers in this country. Mainstream cotton is grown using insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides; it can contain traces of softeners, detergents, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, formaldehyde, sulfonamides, bromines, halogens, and urea resins — to say nothing of additional chemicals used for bleaching, sizing, straightening, shrink reduction, fireproofing, mothproofing, stain and odor resistance, static- and wrinkle-reduction, and dying. All of these poisons can cause skin rashes, irritation, or other problems. Laurie Rasch, a 20-year veteran of the clothing industry, is well aware of these dangers, and this is one of the reasons why she teamed up with her husband, a computer whiz, to create their own business, LAPSAKY — named using the first letters of everyone in her family (Laurie, Phil, Sabrina, and Kyle). Located in Richland, Washington, LAPSAKY sells organic cotton baby and children's clothing — designed by Laurie, made from fabric manufactured in the USA, using organic "color grown" cotton from North Carolina and Texas, as well as Turkey, a country that Laurie assures us has the same high standards of quality and ethical organic production methods as domestic growers. Unlike the big corporate apparel companies that moved their operations overseas, to leverage cheaper labor, Laurie has always employed Americans to do the production cutting and sewing — oftentimes work-at-home-moms (WAHMs), who, like Laurie herself, enjoy being able to raise children at home while still pursuing their professional interests. LAPSAKY offers clothing from preemie to size 8, all designed with comfort and room to grow — just like her business!
For anyone who is ecologically minded, the search for Earth-friendly office supplies can be a futile and discouraging experience. Such an individual can venture into the aisle of their local office supply superstore, view with alarm the shelves of non-recyclable plastic binders, and feel saddened by what humans are doing to the planet. Fortunately, some office-supply manufacturers are trying to improve the situation. A terrific example of this is Naked Binder, which has designed and now sells what are perhaps the most environmentally friendly binders in the world: Made from 100% recycled board and 97% post-consumer waste (PCW), they contain absolutely no plastics, vinyl, acids, or printing — and thus are 100% recyclable. The firm, located in Des Moines, Iowa, is an offshoot of Library Binding Service, a family-run business with a tradition of manufacturing book components. Ken James, a longtime proponent of ecologically better ideas, originally conceived of the product, and moved with his family to Des Moines in order to get Naked Binder up and running. As is to be expected of a company run by someone who read Mother Earth News as a child, Naked Binder has a philosophy of "leave no trace" in all their business practices, and is a member of "1% For The Planet". So if you are in the market for binders that are eco-friendly and completely recyclable, and yet durable and attractive, then say hello to Naked Binder, and say goodbye to the petroleum-based, landfill-bound cheapies lurking in the office supply stores.
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