Solar Panel Tents

illustration of the sun

The US Army has developed portable tents that have flexible solar panels built into them. The solar cells are based on thin-film amorphous silicon, giving them durability and flexibility. Three models have currently been created and are known as the Power Shade, The TEMPER Fly, and the QUADrant. Each solar tent has a different energy generating capacity depending on the size of the tent and thus the actual number of solar panels that have been installed. “The Power Shade can generate about 3KW of electricity (the largest quantity of the three), the TEMPER Fly outputs about 800W, and the QUADrant generates around 200W of power.” This energy is used to power the high tech communication devices that have become standard for the military. The ability to gain energy from renewable and sustainable sources should greatly decrease their dependence on fuel as well as make the units far more portable.

Nowhere are solar panels more efficient than in the middle of the desert. The cloudless skies and long days will enable the solar panels to generate electricity to the best of their potential. I cannot really think of anyone else that would want to have tents like these. Most campers aren’t going to travel with enough electronic equipment to make such a system necessary, but I certainly cannot speak for everyone.

Source U.S. Army via ElectricTreeHouse

Ring Socket Timer

earth with recycling symbol

Energy conservation should be on the minds of everyone who has an electrical bill to pay. Vampire energy is the electrical power consumed by electronic devices while they are turned off and unused. Most people fail to appreciate how much power is simply wasted in modern homes. By taking the time to turn of surge protectors when you are not using your computer or entertainment system can have a significant effect on the energy consumption of your home and help to make your lifestyle more environmentally friendly.

Shown here is the Ring Socket, featured on Yanko Design’s website. The Ring Socket is a fairly simple idea that builds a timer into an electrical outlet. This functionality forces the user to determine how long they plan on using their electronic device and thus consider home much electricity they are going to consume. Most importantly, the socket isn’t an energy-saving device that relies on the user to turn it off. Even if you forget, the Ring Socket shuts off once the time has expired. The light-up ring would also have an indicator built-in, as shown below. If put into use, I really doubt anyone would ever pay to have a Ring Socket installed on every outlet in their home, but the design addresses an important point in the push for energy efficiency and conservation. People get distracted and even the most energy-conscious person can let their habits slip. The Ring Socket eliminates even the potential to waste power by automatically cutting off electrical devices when the time has run out.

Portable Solar-Powered Insect Killer

solar powered insect killer

Created by Gotcha, the Solar Powered Insect Killer is a simple and portable little device that would be perfect for any outdoor activities. Sitting around outside when the mosquitoes are out is perhaps one of the most uncomfortable things imaginable. Plus, since there is no need for batteries or to keep the device plugged in, you can take it anywhere. As long as it has been left in the direct sunlight for several hours, the fully charged unit will continue to operate for about 5 hours. That means up to 5 hours of enjoying the night, comfortable and insect-free.

This Solar Powered Insect Killer works by attracting the insects and bugs to the extra bright LEDs. And just like the classic insect killer, the bugs are drawn closer and closer to the light until they are zapped by the high voltage grid that surrounds it. All the power for the LED light and the high voltage grid is created by the two mounted solar panels and stored in a rechargeable battery. For even more convenience, the unit switches from solar powered to running off the battery automatically when the sun goes down, so you don’t even need to think about it. The special LED light attracts mosquitos, midges, and biting flies into a high voltage grid. The pests are killed instantly. The built-in handle and included stand make the Solar Powered Insect Killer an easy and portable device that will greatly improve people’s enjoyment of the outdoors.

The Scoop on Sulfates in Shampoo

empty shampoo bottles

You may already buy healthy shampoo. By healthy I mean shampoo that does not contain harmful chemicals, parabens, or sulfates, and that is not tested on animals. No matter what the product claims, look closely at the ingredients because it may, for example, not contain parabens, but it still could contain other chemicals and the company may test on animals.

You may have heard that shampoo that is “sulfate-free” can be great for color-treated hair and for individuals with an allergy or sensitivity to sulfates. This is very true and it is also ideal for anyone looking to eliminate unhealthy ingredients from their daily cleansing routine…

Many of the hand soaps, shower gels, bath bubbles, and facial cleansers on the market today are made with “surfactants” rather than natural soaps. Sulfactants is a group of chemicals known as “sulfates”, along with the bad-for-you trio of related chemicals diethanolamine (DEA), monoethanolamine (MEA), and triethanolamine (TEA).
Similar to soap, surfactants make washing with water more effective by suspending dirt and oil in the water to wash off of you more easily. They also help create that thick foamy lather Mr.Bubble showed some of us when we were kids. That does not mean that they are good for you. The most common sulfates are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLES) which is a milder, chemically altered version of SLS. Keep an eye out for this ingredient in shampoo and liquid soaps so you can avoid it if possible. In addition, avoid other sulfates such as sodium myreth sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate. These ingredients may cause soapy lather but they can cause dry skin, scalp irritation, and hair loss! Even worse, the process of converting SLS into SLES can contaminate the shampoo with dioxane, a human carcinogen. Read labels — just because a shampoo says “SLS-free” does not mean that it is sulfate-free.
Sulfates can cause irritated skin because the sulfates are incredibly harsh. They can also cause a depleted layer of oil on skin and hair which makes the skin prone to dryness and environmental damage. In addition, surfactants can react with other ingredients in the formula to create other carcinogenic compounds.
It can be an adjustment to switch to less foamy, not-so-bubbly shampoos and liquid soaps. Remember that suds are not what cleans away dirt and oil. Try switching to low sudsing formulas that are free of sulfates, DEA, TEA, and MEA. Look for cleansers that contain gentler ingredients instead, like Cocamidopropyl betaine, sorbitan laurate, sorbitan palmitate, and sorbitan stearate. Your skin and body will thank you.
Two of my favorite brands are Aubrey Organics and Avalon Organics.
Source: Green Guide

Wal-Mart Goes Green

walmart store front

Guest Post By Jim Fitzgerald

Watching baseball’s first quadruple-play was strange. Seeing Wal-Mart go green
is stranger still.

First the baseball: The scene was a game of T-Ball, where everyone bats every
inning, regardless of the number of outs.

The bases were loaded when a line drive ended up in the glove of the pitcher.
While he wondered how it got there, all the runners took off without tagging
up. The pitcher ran to third, then second, then first.

We kept counting the number of outs and they did not add up. First in our heads:
That doesn’t make sense. Then on our hand: That’s crazy. Then our other hand:
It kept adding up to four outs.

It took us a while to believe what we saw right in front of us.

And now Wal-Mart, the original Black Hat, is going green. Or better said, sustainable.
Let that sink in because it is true. Big time.

So much so that says It “could end up being one of the biggest
motivators to make truly ‘green’ products ever.”

As in the history of the world.

Wal-Mart has made believers out of not just the biggest environmental organizations
in the world — like the Environmental Defense Fund and the World Wildlife Federation
– but also Wal-Mart’s suppliers.

It started five years ago when Wal-Mart announced three goals: 1) 100 percent
renewable energy; 2) Zero waste; 3) Sustainable products.

Wal-Mart stores have already gone sustainable on dozens of fronts from shipping
to selling to storing to recycling. Last year, Wal-Mart saved 4.8 billion plastic
shopping bags.

That’s how they roll in Bentonville: Big.

Even the combined efforts of 8400 stores with two million associates doing $400
billion in sales every year was not enough: Wal-Mart figured out 90 percent of
the carbon was coming from its supply chain. So it reached down to all its 100,000
vendors — and their vendors and their vendors — and told them that reducing
carbon footprints — reducing energy — will save money.

Everyone knows that is what Wal-Mart is all about.

“And vendors are listening,” said Tom Rooney, CEO of SPG Solar in Novato, California,
one of the largest solar installers in the country. “We are seeing renewed and
intense interest in industrial- and commercial-scale solar because of Wal-Mart
and Proctor and Gamble and other companies are showing their suppliers how to
change their shipping, packaging, storing, selling, heating, cooling, disposing of,
recycling and other practices to squeeze energy out of the supply chain and save
money. And solar is a big part of that.”

Not that many need much coaxing: Financial incentives for solar today are so
strong that many companies are essentially getting free energy — and more –
by buying a new solar array from the money they will save from lower energy bills.
And having a big chunk left over.

Now on top of that, the largest companies in the world are saying solar and other
renewables have to be a part of their supply chain. By some estimates, 1 in 3
dollars worldwide is associated with a company that does business with Walmart.
So, if you shift Walmart and its suppliers, the global economy shifts with it,
says R. Paul Herman at Or as the New York Times puts it: “because
of its size and power, Wal-Mart usually gets what it wants.”

And Wal-Mart wants renewable energy.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart sent its vendors a 15 part questionnaire to determine
what their companies were doing to become more sustainable. Also leading the
effort is Wal-Mart’s “Sustainability Index.”

Scholars from around the world are gathering at the Universities of Arizona and
Arkansas to create this new measure of the energy created — and wasted — during
the life cycle of a product found at Wal-Mart.

It won’t be ready for at least another year.

“But that doesn’t matter,” says Rooney. “No one is fighting Wal-Mart or complaining
about the reporting that this new index requires. Just the opposite: They are
racing to outdo each other, and surpass Wal-Mart’s expectations. Right now.
Not next year. “

And why not:

In May, the world’s largest consumer product company, Proctor and Gamble, announced
its own, similar, sustainability program for its vendors. Joining IBM, GE, and
other corporate giants on the sustainability train.

The results are already showing up on the bottom line:

“Perhaps more than any other company, Wal-Mart has pursued this approach,” said
the Harvard Business Review of Wal-Mart’s new vision of sustainability. “The
payoffs are already showing up: One of the Sustainable Value Networks, tasked
with fleet logistics, came up with a transportation strategy that improved efficiency
by 38%, saving Wal-Mart more than $200 million annually and cutting its greenhouse
gas emissions by 200,000 tons per year.”

Wal-Mart: Not just for beating up anymore. Or maybe we are just seeing the world’s
first quintuple play.

Keep America Beautiful Month

Great American Cleanup logo

In 1953 a group of individuals formed an organization called “Keep America Beautiful” aimed at reducing the amount of littering on public lands, highways, and waterways encouraging Americans to take pride in America. It is the nations largest volunteer-based community action and education, group. Since it’s conception it really has grown in leaps and bounds with campaigns and promotions such as

  • Canine TV star Lassie appears as a mascot for an anti-litter campaign.
  • “Crying Indian” PSA campaign, the iconic symbol of environmental responsibility and one of the most successful PSA campaigns in history.
  • President Reagan endorses the Clean Community System.
  • Take Pride in America program, created to promote the wise use of public lands, begins with federal agencies.
  • “Close the Loop, Buy Recycled” U.S. EPA partnership
  • Web-based educational tools, including Clean Sweep U.S.A “Back By Popular Neglect” PSA campaign

Each April is Keep America Beautiful month drawing attention to the campaigns and research done by Keep America Beautiful and their three primary areas of focus: litter reduction, waste minimization, and beautification.

The only way to make a difference is to get involved. Keep America Beautiful invites you to join the millions of volunteers who participate in Keep America Beautiful programs nationwide. Get active with your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Connect with local businesses and government. However you take part, you will help transform your local environment into a cleaner, safer and healthier community.

  • There are 565 Keep America Beautiful affiliates throughout the country. If you want to help keep your community clean and beautiful please volunteer!
  • Join the Keep America Beautiful mailing list for emails on national programs, events, and good news network.
  • Donate to Keep America Beautiful to provide much-needed support for Keep America Beautiful educational and community programs.
  • Become a sponsoring business by supporting local community initiatives or nation programs
  • Volunteer for the Great American Cleanup

Great America Cleanup Campaign
Throughout the months of March, April and May, an anticipated 1,200 KAB affiliates and participating organizations nationwide will rally an estimated 3 million volunteers to hold litter and debris cleanups on public lands and waterways, host recycling drives, spruce up community amenities like parks and playgrounds, remove graffiti, plant trees, and community gardens, and host many more activities designed to improve the living environments that we all call “home.” The 2010 theme, “Green Starts Here,” is a rallying call that encourages volunteer groups, community leaders, and people of all ages and walks of life to begin creating more sustainable communities through their efforts as volunteers, and through their daily choices and actions. It also reflects Keep America Beautiful’s long legacy of community improvement activities. You can find volunteer locations at the Keep America Beautiful website


Eco friendly Eggs

three eggs of different colors

Around Easter, many eggs are consumed without a thought as to their origin, how the chickens are treated and how healthy the eggs from these farms are for us. Thankfully more people are becoming aware of the plight of caged chickens and the cruelty that lies behind the commercial factory farming egg production.

Battery Farmed Eggs
Eggs from conventional battery farms are produced from hens raised in small crowded cages, usually with multiple hens per cage. These cramped conditions prevent the chickens from engaging in natural behaviors such as wing-flapping, dust-bathing,
scratching, pecking, perching, and nest-building. Due to the cramped conditions and scarce food, fights are inevitable and so the birds are de-beaked to prevent the birds from harming each other during fights. This is a cruel barbaric practice that causes great stress to the birds and in some cases interferes with their ability to eat. There are also many other complications of keeping so many birds in confined conditions such as diseases (antibiotic use), mass culling of male chicks as they can’t lay eggs, laying hens may be forced to molt to increase egg quality (molting can be induced by extended feed withdrawal, water withdrawal or controlled lighting programs). The European Union will introduce an EU-wide ban on the use of conventional battery cages for egg-laying hens. This ban is expected to come into effect from 1 January 2012, hopefully, the US won’t be too far behind!

An alternative to battery farmed eggs is free-range eggs which are given outdoor access instead of being contained in
crowded cages. There have however been questions concerning the actual living conditions of free-range hens have been raised, as there is no legal definition or regulations for eggs labeled as free-range in the US. Many of the free-range hens are simply kept in barns, they are allowed limited outdoor access and there are still health concerns. Some free-range hens are given lots of outside access though so you just can’t be sure what you’re paying for.

Cage-Free, natural, organic and humane
Other standards of egg production include “Cage Free”, “Natural”, “Certified Humane”, and “Certified Organic.” Of these standards, “Certified Humane”, which carries requirements for stocking density and cage-free keeping, among others, and “Certified Organic”, which requires hens have outdoor access and are fed only organic, vegetarian feed, among other requirements, are the most stringent so look for these on your next trip to the grocery store. Be aware though that these eggs do cost more, personally for our household it’s worth it for peace of mind on how the hens were raised and treated to produce the eggs.


Instead of looking at commercially farmed eggs why not look for a local farm in your area that sells eggs? Even some suburban households have small backyard henhouses these days and have an egg surplus. Check out your local resources like Craigslist and farmers markets for locally produced and humanely produced eggs.

One other thing to remember when looking for eggs in your supermarket is packaging. Instead of opting for the eggs wrapped in Styrofoam cartons look for ones in cardboard. Some manufacturers even use recycled products to produce their packaging to be sure to look for eco-friendly alternatives. If you buy your eggs at a farm or farmers market remember to save the cartons to return them the following week!

Sources: Image by pieceoflace at Flickr

Shopping for Eco-Friendly Clothing and Accessories

rack of clothing
Here are some tips for shopping green, eco-friendly, and responsible for clothing and accessories:
Select basic clothing and accessories made from organic cotton and wool. Look for fabrics like hemp and linen which come from naturally pest-resistant plants. Check with the manufacturer or retailer to determine how mush post-treatment was done to the fabrics. Bamboo has been grouped into the natural textile category with hemp, organic cotton and linen however a recent Wall Street Journal article indicates that bamboo is actually less “eco” and “sustainable” than it seems. The bamboo used in textiles has been heavy manipulated — they actually use the same process that recycles wood scraps into viscose or rayon (the journalist hints that bamboo fabric is actually rayon). Actually, the FTC sued some of the bamboo-clothing manufacturers in 2009 for false labeling.
Seek out wildcrafted silk. Naturally harvested silk is much more humane than the standard process. Poor silkworms…
Avoid synthetics all together like polyester and nylon. They don’t breathe and are made from non-renewable sources.
When possible, select unbleached clothing with low-impact dyes. Many clothing and accessory companies are starting to introduce more natural processing. Some companies to check out our Live Life Organics, Recycleatee, Kasper Organics, 3 Clothing Company.
Avoid fabrics treated with stain guards, water repellents, and anti-wrinkle agents.
Take your clothing to a greener cleaner for wet cleaning or CO2 cleaning.
Select vintage leather, recycled materials, faux leather, and cloth handbags.
Choose high-quality, long-lasting leather items if you wanted to choose leather. Avoid leather made from skins of endangered species (or all species if you’re dressing vegan). Try to avoid PVC accessories although the faux leather products available are often made from this material.
Do your research to find out which retailers use sweatshop labor and stop shopping there. Maybe even let them know why. Companies try to keep this information private so it is difficult to find out if they use sweatshop labor or not. Do keep in mind that even clothing “Made in the U.S.A” may not guarantee that workers were paid at least minimum wage in decent conditions. The U.S. Department of Labor found that 67% of garment factories in Los Angeles and 63% in New York violate wage and overtime laws. 98% of garment factories in Los Angeles have workplace health and safety problems serious enough to lead to severe injuries or death.
Select jewelry made from conflict-free, recycled, and sustainable materials.
And…  always bring your cotton tote to carry your purchases.
(Sources: Green Guide, Wall Street Journal, Vegan Peace)

Going green with USPS

Living in the United States and recently visiting my local post office I noticed an inconspicuous box on the far left of the counter. I’m not quite sure what drew me to looking at it more closely, because it really wasn’t anything special to look at, no large slogans or fancy advertising just a rather ordinary looking box with colorful images on it. On closer inspection whilst waiting for the USPS clerk to finish my transaction I noticed the words recycling and that the box contained a large supply of what looked like small plastic bags.

Looking closer still at exactly what the USPS was offering, I was stunned! Free mail in recycling for small electronics! The envelope is USPS approved for the transport of cell phones, PDSAs, smart phones, MP3 players, digital camera or up to four ink-jet printer cartridges. Well the last part really drew my attention! I had used printer cartridges at home awaiting recycling, but the nearest collection point is the far side of town and I don’t go that way often, if I used this bag all I had to do was walk to the mailbox! The best part is that this service is FREE. No cost to the consumer! Awesome news indeed. The USPS website stats that these envelopes are available in select locations. Regarding this recycling scheme, state that they are:

Making recycling easy by mail. The mail is an easy and efficient way to recycle items so they don’t cause environmental harm.

We’re piloting a mail-it-back program consumers can use to mail their used electronic items such as PDA’s, cell phones and ink cartridges.

We are working with OSRAM SYLVANIA and Veolia Environmental Services to help consumers properly recycle used compact fluorescent lamps.

And Hewlett Packard, Dell, and Sprint are helping customers return empty ink cartridges, cell phones and other wireless devices, old computers and computer equipment through the mail.

This scheme follows closely with their green initiative. The USPS was the first mailing or shipping company to achieve Cradle to CradleSM certification for their packaging. Many of the containers in the USPS system are made from recycled
materials, and so are the stamped envelopes, post cards, stamp booklet
covers, and packaging materials they provide. Also their online click’n’ship service eliminates the need for customers to travel to the post office to mail letters and parcels. And as their website states “When you order a product on online, choose the Postal Service to
deliver it. We are already coming to your house 6 days a week so it’s
not an extra trip for us. Make the switch-have your packages delivered
by the Postal Service.”

It all makes perfect sense really! After visiting their website and seeing everything they are doing to help lower their global footprint and help me lower mine. I really wish that they’d make more of a big deal out of this service though as the in store promotion really isn’t that enticing, and if I hadn’t been right next to the envelope box I really wouldn’t have given it a second glance. So get the word out there, get to your post office and get recycling!





Natural Air Fresheners

image of pink flowers

Whether you’re trying to freshen up your house for guests or if you’d like to cancel out strong food odors from that delicious meal you just made, there are quite a few natural air fresheners you can use instead of chemical-laden commercial air fresheners.

Live or cut, a bunch of flowers can add beauty to your space as well as purifying the air. They have been known to neutralize the air by removing the formaldehyde given off by furniture or kitchen cabinets made with fiberboard. Live rubber plants, azaleas, and bamboo palms are also thought to be able to do this. Some flowers are so fragrant that their scent will fill the air while they are in bloom. Gardenias, lilacs, lilies, and some organic roses smell lovely and linger.
If you’re cooking vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, or cabbage or fish, all which give off sulfur orders, use lemon to reduce the smell. Slice about six lemons and simmer them in a handful of cloves in a pan of water for ten minutes. Much better!
You can make your own sweet-smelling rose water by placing a few drops of rose oil in a small bowl of water and add a solubilizer (available in the cosmetics section of health food stores) one drop at a time. Float fresh rose waters on top and replace them as they brown.
To add a natural fragrance to your closets and drawers stud oranges with whole cloves, spaced evenly and as close together as possible. Don’t forget about it once you put it in there and when you’re through with it, compost it.
Aside from using natural chemical-free soaps for washing, they make excellent drawer fresheners too. Place them in with your socks, undergarments, pajamas for a clean fresh smell.
Eucalyptus appears in many products, from deodorants to shower gels to cold remedies. It is known for its sinus-clearing power. Simmer eucalyptus leaves on the stove in water to freshen the air and clear the sinuses. Put a sprig of eucalyptus in a room to freshen it for a couple of weeks.
Vinegar can neutralize stinky smells, such as cigarette, strong cooking odors, and musty smells. Fill a glass dish with 1/2 inch of white vinegar and place in musty drawers or cabinets until the smell goes away. Make ice cubes out of vinegar and run them through your garbage disposer to eliminate odors.
This non-toxic, odorless volcanic rock is known to remove pet odors, cooking, and smoke smells, You can buy it at hardware stores in pouches or shakers. Hang the pouches in closets or basements or use the powder on spot odors.
(Ref: Martha Stewart, Home Keeping Handbook)