How to Have a “Green” Halloween

Plastic decorations, candy wrappers, and costumes can lead to a significant increase in household waste at this time of year. Next to christmas halloween is the second biggest holiday for retailers. We dont think that you should skip out on the fun of Halloween but here are some helpful tips on how to keep your halloween green.

Green Decorations:

Try to re-use Halloween decorations in the same way that Christmas ornaments are used from year-to-year, instead of throwing them away each November first. Natural decorations with gourds, pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns can be a great replacement for commerically bought plastic decorations! You can also lower your emissions on Halloween by buying locally grown pumpkins, and then lower your waste by composting them after Halloween is over.

Green Trick-or-Treating

Send your children trick-or-treating with reusable buckets, canvas bags or pillow cases. Lower emissions by trick-or-treating in your neighborhood. Pass out healthy, fair-trade candy to the trick-or-treaters that come knocking on your door.

Green Costumes:

Consider reusing or recycling costumes from previous years to make new costumes, or recycling old clothing into new costumes. Set yourself up for next year by making a Halloween costume box and throughout the year throw old clothes, interesting props and recyclable materials into it by the time halloween rolls around again you’ll have a box full of eco friendly materials to repurpose. Planning ahead helps you to avoid those last minute stops at the big box retailer.


How to Double the Power of Solar Panels

Solar collectors:
A micrograph shows silicon nanowires produced by
Bandgap Engineering. They can help a solar cell absorb more light.

In an attempt to further drop the cost of solar power, Bandgap Engineering, a startup in Woburn, Massachusetts, is developing a nanowire-based solar cell that could eventually generate twice as much power as conventional solar cells.

That’s a long-term project, but meanwhile the company is about to start selling a simpler version of the technology, using silicon nanowires that can improve the performance and lower the cost of conventional silicon solar cells. Bandgap says its nanowires, which can be built using existing manufacturing tools, boost the power output of solar cells by increasing the amount of light the cells can absorb.

Right now most solar-panel manufacturers aren’t building new factories because the market for their product is glutted. But if market conditions improve and manufacturers do start building, they’ll be able to introduce larger changes to production lines. In that case the Bandgap technology could make it possible to change solar cells more significantly. For example, by increasing light absorption, it could allow manufacturers to use far thinner wafers of silicon, reducing the largest part of a solar cell’s cost. It could also enable manufacturers to use copper wires instead of more expensive silver wires to collect charge from the solar panels.

These changes could lead to Read more »

Samsung Supplies Solar Powered Internet Schools For South Africa

Samsung/Promo image

Samsung is supplying solar powered internet schools, and the kids are excited, calling it “purely greatness, happily madness.” Samsung describes it as” exclusively solar-powered, mobile and completely independent classroom that is geared towards increasing accessibility to education and connectivity across Africa“. Designboom shows this one is in Phomolong, near Johannesburg. It was the “African solar project of the year” and supports 21 students. According to ITWeb, Samsung had to ensure the container could be used even when things didn’t go to plan. The solar panels on the roof and sides are made of a rubber-like material, rather than conventional panels, so it can be transported without them breaking. He adds that the unusual technology would also make it easy to track the panels if they were stolen. The batteries inside the unit have been modified so they use a lead-acid gel instead of separate acid and water, so there’s no risk of leakage during transit.

It also had to be secure. The presence of a tech-packed container with access to power in the middle of a rural area is not going to go unnoticed. This formed part of the ‘sustainability’ considerations. “All the power supplies are locked into the bottom of the unit, so there’s no temptation to plug things like TVs or heaters in,” Boulanger notes. If an opportunist were to try plug in an appliance that’s not on the network, the system sends a signal to whoever is monitoring the unit that there’s an unusual power discharge.

The container has four inches of insulation and extraction fans to keep it cooler (and 21 kids inside warming it up). The solar panels will probably act a bit like sunshades and help keep it cooler.


Generate Your Own Power with a Ground Source Heat Pump

Guest Post

Just as the nations of the world are increasingly turning to renewable sources as a way to secure energy dependence, faced with huge price hikes from the energy companies, homeowners are more willing than ever to explore ways of going green and getting off the grid.

Whilst solar panels already adorn the roofs of houses all over the country, ground source heat pumps are a relatively new alternative to traditional sources of energy. However, they are becoming incredibly popular within new developments and offer a number of benefits.

The Key Benefits of a Ground Source Heat Pump

The introduction of a heat pump will greatly reduce the need for direct electric heating within homes and businesses. A ground source heat pump is also a far more environmentally friendly option than traditional sources of energy such as gas, oil and LPG. The system will require a source of electricity to operate; however, the installation of solar panels in conjunction with a ground pump will provide a completely carbon-neutral source of renewable energy.

Many people are put off the idea of having their own source of energy because of the size and unsightly nature of large storage tanks. People also wrestle with the concern of having to store large amounts of combustible substances close to a home or business; as is the case with oil and LPG. Ground pumps sit below the surface and require absolutely no potentially dangerous fuels as part of their operation. They also have few moving parts, so the potential for breakdown or injury is extremely low.

How the System Works

The technology used in these systems is based on the principles used in domestic refrigerators. A liquid refrigeration compound moves through external evaporator coils at a low temperature. Liquid from the ground section then passes through the unit and the heat from it is transferred to the refrigeration compound; this process causes the compound to boil and evaporate. A compressor then takes in the vapour and increases the temperature further. The vapour continues on to a heat-exchange system where its heat is transferred to coils before being converted back to a liquid; a process which involves the release of a significant amount of latent heat into the air around the heat-exchange system. The refrigeration agent is then sent back to the start and the process starts all over again. The heat created is transferred to the property’s heating and hot water systems.

Which Properties are Suitable?

Installing a ground source heat pump will benefit the environment immediately, but will usually more than a decade to pay for itself through savings alone. This investment is definitely only for people who are thinking about the long-term financial benefits on offer. The most efficient systems will require a large garden for installation. People with smaller gardens will still be able to take advantage of these systems; however, a deeper excavation will be necessary in order to bury all of the coils vertically. This process of installation will usually be far more expensive and may make the investment an unsound one.

It is also worth asking an independent expert to check the suitability of a property for this type of heating system. The levels of heat it produces are constant but will be far lower than those possible with traditional radiators. Homes should be well insulated and have alternative heating arrangements for the coldest periods of the year. These systems work extremely well with underfloor heating which people often choose to install at the same time as a ground source heat pump.

Steve Waller writes about a wide range of environmental issues, from alternative energy to conservation. For more, be sure to visit his blog,

Solar-powered Lamps Envisioned to Light up Banaue Rice Terraces

MANILA – Solar-powered street lamps and homes will soon light up the Banaue Rice Terraces under a government plan to improve electricity access in the area.

Energy Undersecretary Josefina Patricia M. Asirit said talks are afoot among the Departments of Energy and of Tourism, Ifugao‘s local government unit and its electric cooperative for the installation of solar lighting systems along the pathways, streets and homes of the so-called wonder of the world.

“Isa sa mga tinitignan natin is how to light up the Banaue Rice Terraces area without destroying the landscape,” she said.

Based on the proposal, the DOE will fund the construction of the solar-powered streetlights and home systems, while the DOT will take charge of the “aesthetic inputs” of such facilities.

The Ifugao LGU and electric cooperative, on the other hand, will be tasked with the maintenance and operations of the solar lighting systems, which are charged during the day and used at night.

Asirit said the DOE has yet to identify the scale and cost of the project, but these should be ironed out during ongoing talks among the parties.

The government expects the project to draw more tourists to the Banaue Rice Terraces.

“Kasi ang pagtatanim pala nila dun inaabot sila ng hapon, at siyempre maglalakad lang sila hanggang gabi na. [Also, by lighting] up the pathway going to town, you can have evening treks and walks,” Asirit said.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency earlier agreed to fund a mini-hydro power facility in the tourist hub.

The facility will be able to provide 800 kilowatts of power generating capacity or nearly half of Ifugao’s two-megawatt demand.

On top of this, proceeds from the mini-hydro plant, once up and running, will partially fund the construction of irrigation systems and the preservation of the Banaue Rice Terraces.