Energy conservation? There’s an app for that

This iPhone app could do for energy conservation what the MacIntosh did for computing. It’s a FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Camera) device that clips onto the phone like a case. With it, you can see a thermal image of anything, and while that might be cool for night vision or wildlife tracking, it’s an amazing step forward in energy conservation. Thermal imaging of your doors, windows, roof and walls can tell you a lot about where your precious heat is leaking out of your home. 

It wasn’t long ago that a FLIR camera cost thousands of dollars, meaning only professionals could access the technology. The FLIR One is expected to cost less than $350, putting it within reach of homeowners. Granted, it will take a lot of energy savings to achieve the payback on $350, but the harsh winter much of North America’s been experiencing means your investment could start paying back quickly. 

There’s consensus that a home energy audit is the best step you can take to lower your energy bills, and now you can do it yourself. And besides, what could be more fun than taking thermal images of everything? 


Seventy years of smog: Is the future any brighter?

One of the most urgent problems we face today is whether or not global climate change is a solvable problem. Is it too big? Are we doing too little too late? Or will we be able to change fast enough to mitigate the worst of its effects? Fortunately, there are precedents for solving global environmental challenges. The 1989 Montreal Protocol was one. It brought a near halt to the production of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, within seven years of its enactment. CFCs posed a serious threat to the ozone layer of the atmosphere that protects life on earth, and failure to act quickly and globally could have been disastrous. Another, less well-known success story began as a mystery more than 70 years ago.

Back in 1943, Americans had almost no idea about the connection between cars and air pollution. And when a choking fog settled over Los Angeles on July 26 of that year, residents initially thought they were under attack by the Japanese. Then they blamed a local factory, even forcing it to close. But when the gray-brown haze continued, they began a more thorough scientific investigation. The answer would elude them for almost ten years—ten years of increasing “smog”.

In 1948, a chemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology named Arie Haagen-Smit began testing a wide range of potential culprits, from backyard trash-burning to factory smokestack exhaust. But while these sources appeared to contribute to the problem, they were clearly not its prime cause. As Haagen-Smit and his assistant, Margaret Brunelle, searched for answers, the city’s air pollution problem grew worse. Brunelle recalls of her drives down the Pasadena Freeway to Haagen-Smit’s lab, "I'd have to pull over by the side of the road because my eyes were tearing so badly I couldn't see to drive."

After three years of work, the pair still couldn’t determine the source of the city’s smog. But when they tested air samples from several L.A. oil refineries, the pieces began to come together. Smog, they determined, was caused by hydrocarbons from gasoline in open oil refinery tanks and unburned auto exhaust evaporating into the atmosphere where it reacted with nitrogen oxides and sunlight. Haagen-Smit and Brunelle released their findings in 1952, and a subsequent investigation by county officials found that nearly a quarter-million gallons of gasoline were evaporating from open refinery tanks every day.

L.A. wasn’t the only city with a smog problem. The same year, a “killer smog” gripped London, killing more than 4,000 people in just six days. As the decade unfolded, more cities around the world would face the nightmare of toxic air. But today there is less smog over L.A. than there was seventy years ago. Air pollution is still a serious problem, to be sure, but considering the growth of the city since 1943, that reduction is quite an accomplishment.

Can we repeat that success at the global scale? Skeptics point across the Pacific. As much as a quarter of L.A.’s sulfate pollution is emitted by Chinese factories, according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And the problem is much worse for the Chinese, with smog levels in some cities reaching 25 times those considered dangerous by the World Health Organization this year.

But pollution isn’t a Chinese problem, it’s a global problem. Those Chinese factories polluting the air in L.A., for instance, are mostly making products to export to the U.S. Global pollution requires global solutions, like the Montreal Protocol. Can we agree? Today, China, the U.S. and the world have the opportunity to write their own success stories so that, seventy years from now, we can look back and feel good about the steps we took in time.


Government subsidies to fossil fuel companies reach nearly $2 trillion per year

The International Monetary Fund has released a new report on the global cost of energy subsidies, and it isn’t pretty. Their research shows that post-tax subsidies to fossil fuel companies from world governments reached $1.9 trillion in 2011. Researchers found that post-tax subsidies in some countries exceed spending on education and healthcare by as much as 700%. According to the report, Energy Subsidy Reform – Lessons and Implications:

On a pre-tax basis, subsidies for petroleum products, electricity, natural gas, and coal reached $480 billion in 2011. The cost of subsidies is especially acute in oil exporters, which account for about two-thirds of the total. On a post-tax basis—which also factors in the negative externalities from energy consumption—subsidies are much higher at $1.9 trillion.

While aimed at protecting consumers, subsidies aggravate fiscal imbalances, crowd-out priority public spending, and depress private investment, including in the energy sector. Subsidies also distort resource allocation by encouraging excessive energy consumption, artificially promoting capital-intensive industries, reducing incentives for investment in renewable energy, and accelerating the depletion of natural resources. Most subsidy benefits are captured by higher-income households, reinforcing inequality. Even future generations are affected through the damaging effects of increased energy consumption on global warming.

The report shows that nearly half of all fossil fuel subsidies go to petroleum companies. Its findings are consistent with their earlier report, Petroleum Product Subsidies: Costly, Inequitable, and Rising, which concluded that:

Halving tax-inclusive subsidies could reduce projected fiscal deficits by one-sixth in subsidizing countries and could reduce greenhouse emissions by around 15 percent over the long run.


Waste doesn’t have to be wasted

When I give talks on Post-Petroleum Design I’m often asked what I think will become of the one million tons of plastic we put into our landfills each year. Plastics need light to break down, and even then they break down very slowly, so left undisturbed they will be there for hundreds of thousands of years. And while burying millions of tons of plastics, many of which contain dioxin, phthalates, cadmium and other toxins, is a terrible legacy to leave to future generations, I believe that by the end of this century we will be able to mine our landfills and use their contents to generate power.

Currently, waste-to-energy processing can be difficult and expensive, but it’s already happening in a few cases.  One of the most promising is UK-based Energy Works, which just received a $31 million grant to produce sustainable electricity and biomethane with a renewable energy power plant to be built in Hull, England.

The plant will use a combination of fluidized bed gasification, in-vessel composting and anaerobic digestion to sort, pre- treat and process different types of waste. When fully operational, it will produce enough electricity to power 25,000 homes.

The project even has an intriguing social component by creating an “Energy Academy” on the site to work in partnership with the University of Hull. The academy will be an educational resource center offering local small businesses and members of the public opportunities to learn about the importance of sustainable and renewable electricity generation.

While this plant will use waste before it reaches the landfill, its in-vessel composting and anaerobic digestion processes point to the future of bio-based waste-to-energy techniques that could one day enable us to convert our landfilled garbage into power. Incinerating plastics can release those toxins that are slowly leaching into our soil and water into the air instead. Bio-based waste-to-energy conversion will be safer, it will just take time for the technology to mature.

Love and business

I'm so grateful to our customers for our perfect 5.0 rating on Amazon. We must be doing something right, but I wanted to dig deeper and figure out exactly what it is our customers love about the Greensleeve Case for iPad. So I went through all eight reviews looking for keywords to see what I could learn. 

Of course "green" was a big hit (tied for number one,) since the Greensleeve is made with zero plastic, zero waste, and zero electricity. But do you know what it tied with? Love. In eight reviews, the word "love" appeared nine times. I don't know of very many products out there can claim to be so well-loved, and it's very inspiring! Digging deeper into the reviews, I see that people love the Greensleeve because it's environmentally friendly, stylish, well-made, and it protects their iPads well. 

I know the Greensleeve isn't perfect, but at the end of our first year in business it's nice to look back and feel so much appreciation for what we've done. It's humbling and challenging to be helping people live greener, and I appreciate everything our customers are doing, which our products are just a small part of. Ultimately, that's what they're expressing--love for the Earth--and I'm honored to be part of that.

Great case for all ages!

My 13-year-old daughter loved getting this iPad case for Christmas. It is so unlike any other case out there and that is perfect for her. When she read the product information she loved it even more. I'd say she is the most "green" person in our family, and owning this case makes her proud. The texture (wool felt) and color (lime green) are also a unique combination that make it stand apart from the other cases out there. Her iPad fits inside the case comfortably -- even with her cover on it -- and it is a good amount of protection in her duffel bag with everything else. She is excited to go back to school and "sport" her stylish case and tell everyone how it was made in such an eco-friendly way. For the price, you can't go wrong.

- Vicki B.

Easy being green!

Love the bright green and wool texture of the envelope. Has enough room for phone, cord, hotel key, etc. Doesn't close completely at the top (see photo) but thick enough to protect during a fall. Music reference name makes it fun.

- Linda W.

Wonderful product

I bought this case because it seemed like a very green product that was durable and protective. I am a bike commuter and was looking for something that protected my iPad (within my bike bag from all of the bumps on the road and my bike lock), easy to find in my bag (love the bright color), and green. It has met all of my expectations (plus protected my iPad from my leaky water bottle). Great product.

- Mush S.

Beautiful, functional, and green-squared!

The greensleeve showed up quickly and in perfect condition! It is so beautifully made and you just have to feel environmentally conscious about buying one. I believe I may have to get one in charcoal also, just to be more versatile. Love it, the best cover for an iPad out there!!

- Janet S.

Great, chic case

I got this case for my husband for Christmas, but it was so loved that it has since been passed on to my son who got an iPad for Christmas. I ordered another one for my husband. I was concerned that they'd get their iPads confused in the same cases, but my 11-year-old son has put some of his favorite "pins" on the case to distinguish it from his dad's. I got my daughter the kiwi green one, so you could say we like this case. This case is very well-made and stylish, and to think that it was done so in such an eco-friendly way only it endears it to my whole family even more. We're not eco "freaks" but we are concerned and care... and this is one small thing we can use that shows that. And it certainly catches people's attention -- we were on vacation recently and people were asking us about our cases in the airport. "Wow, this is unique!" "Where did you find this case?" For the price, I don't think you'll find a better all-around case for such a great price.

- Vicki B. 

LOVE this case for travel protection

I did a lot of research for our ipad accessories since it seems silly to leave a six hundred dollar item around without protection... We generally keep our ipad out around the house with a twenty dollar INVELLOP case cover on the expensive-but-worth-it thought out stabile pivoting stand or charging on the JBL on stage dock... I was pretty sure I would like this Greensleeve case but when it first arrived I wasn't sure if it would fit around the ipad without taking it out of the invellop case. At first it was pretty tight, but since it is wool, it stretched to the perfect size after the first use. This case is very "high end crafty" looking and provides the perfect amount of protection in my bag without too much bulk or adding another layer of plastics.

- Rachel J.

I have green love for a gray case

I am SO happy I found this case. What's not to love about a product that is environmentally good for the earth and yet is aesthetically so lovely? It's a win/win. It fits my new iPad (yes, the 3rd gen) with the front wakeup cover on it, nice & snug - but easy to get in and out. The extra room on top to access the speaker jack is a smart design feature. The felt is thick enough to provide lots of cushioning. I am looking forward to using this for a long time.

- Gay I.

Great Green Item!!

Love this product! The iPad case is sturdy and repels water well. I purchased it because of its "green" factor. No plastics at all. I would recommend this case and buy as a gift!!

- O'Toole O.