Green Halloween Tips 2013

When it comes to the holidays the majority of people aren’t really concerned about the costs and they don’t mind spending on items that they will never use again. However, if you would like to make sure that you will have a green Halloween, there are some tips that you could try.


It is believed that people spend more than $1.2 million on children’s costumes and just as much on adults’ costumes. In order to reduce waste and costs, you might want to come up with a DIY costume. There are a lot of costumes that you can create at home with the items that you already have.


People buy a lot of plastic decorations of Halloween that they throw away after the holidays. It might be a good idea to go for natural decorations, such as leaves, pumpkins, and apples. The best thing about them is that these can be composted so there will be zero waste.
Trick or Treat Candy

Although this is something that children don’t really tolerate, there are some things that you can substitute candy with. You should offer items like friendship bracelets, seashells, or temporary tattoos. It is even better to buy organic products which don’t have an impact on the environment.


Nanotech roundup: electricity from sewage, and self-cleaning solar panels

This month’s roundup includes a device for squeezing energy from wastewater, and a coating to keep solar panels clean

Poopy Power

One resource we are never short of is wastewater. It contains plenty of organic matter that could still produce useful energy, but the challenge is to do this efficiently.

An attractive way is to enlist the help of microbes, which have already been optimised by natural selection over millions of years to extract energy from waste products. Researchers at Stanford have designed a microbial energy-harvesting device that looks like a battery, where the positive (anode) electrode consists of carbon nanomaterial coated with microorganisms and the negative (cathode) electrode contains silver oxide.

The microbes extract electrons from biomass in wastewater at the anode, and at the cathode silver oxide is converted into silver. As a result, an electrical current flows through a circuit connecting the electrodes.

Like a conventional rechargeable battery, the cathode needs to be refreshed periodically to change silver back into silver oxide. Nevertheless, even after taking this energy loss into account, a promising net energy efficiency of around 30% has been demonstrated.

Arrested Development

Scientists using fluorescent carbon nanoparticles to study the life cycle of different types of mosquito made a remarkable discovery. At low concentrations in water, the nanoparticles interfere with the growth of mosquito larvae, which die after remaining in suspended animation for four weeks.

Diseases carried by mosquitoes, such as malaria, kill around two million people worldwide every year, so a novel insecticide that curbs their breeding – particularly in stagnant pools of water – without harming the environment could save many lives.

The nanoparticles, which are thought to be environmentally benign, are made by an inexpensive process that involves burning wood wool and could be easily distributed at a wide scale.

Sun Clean

Solar cells have become of wide consumer interest, attested by Ikea’s plans to sell solar panels in the UK, in addition to their famous flat-packed furniture.

An essential part of solar cells is the anti-reflection coating, which ensures that as much sunlight as possible is captured. Nanoporous thin films have ideal optical properties for such coatings, but they are not robust in outdoor conditions and quickly become contaminated.

Now researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Stanford have designed an antireflection coating that can keep itself clean. It is made of a porous network of silica and contains titanium dioxide nanocrystals, which are the cleaners. The nanocrystals are chemically reactive when activated by sunlight and decompose organic contaminants.

Although the nanocrystals would normally cause high reflections, they are completely hidden within the silica network so they do not interfere with the panels’ optical properties. In a first test of the technology, researchers have shown that fingerprints left on silicon coated with the new material are completely removed after two hours under a solar lamp.

The coating is scratch-resistant and could be of particular interest for solar panels covering large areas.

Light Speed

Computers could run a lot faster if they used light, in addition to electrical currents, to handle data – especially in links between chips. However, while light is perfectly suited for transmitting data fast over long distances via optical fibres, it is not easy to control and manipulate within the confines of a silicon chip. Essential but difficult to design components for this task are photodetectors that convert light signals into electrical currents.

Graphene – the wondrous ultrathin sheets made from carbon – can help out. It is easily manufactured and transferred onto silicon, absorbs light from a wide range of wavelengths and has high electrical conductivity. A problem so far has been that graphene absorbs light only weakly, but this has now been solved simultaneously by three different research groups, who have developed graphene photodetectors integrated in silicon optical waveguides.

The new graphene devices come close in performance to existing photodetectors, but offer some particular advantages: graphene’s exceptionally fast-moving electrons make high-speed signal processing possible and, in addition, the devices operate over a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum, from visible light to telecommunications wavelengths and beyond.


Make it a Green Halloween

Have you ever thought about how much we waste during Halloween? Purchasing costumes that our kids will only wear once, individually wrapped candies that are thrown in the trash, and those poor pumpkins that are tossed in the bin after their big night is over.

Let’s remember that Halloween isn’t really about the candy. Kids have fun when their parents, family, and friends get involved. Since part of being green is focusing on people rather than things, this year try and decrease the amount of ‘things’ you incorporate into your Halloween and increase the focus on fun.

How exactly can you do that? Glad you asked!

Here are some of Stan’s ideas for turning your Halloween from orange to green:

Try to use old materials to make your child’s costume. Old cardboard boxes can be turned into virtually anything, like a robot, a car, or a roll of dice. Get creative with scrap fabrics, pipe cleaners, and even old wrapping paper. You’ll be surprised at just how easy (and cheap!) costumes can be.

Make a big deal out of your child’s costume – getting dressed, taking pictures, etc. Make the focus on getting ready for the event, rather than collecting candy (good for your dentist bill too!).
Give kids a full, healthy meal before they go out trick-or-treating so they are not hungry.

Talk to your kids about what is in candy and why it is not healthy. Ask them to come up with creative, Earth-friendly alternatives that your own family can hand out and feel good about, like these:

Model healthy choices. Remember that your children look to you for cues. When you take good care of yourself, others and the planet, your child is bound to follow in your footsteps.
Compost your pumpkin! Show your kids how to rid of the orange guys in a sustainable way.

Hand out something alternative to candy that kids will love and be able to use over and over again.Some ideas of treats to hand out instead:
Crayons or Felts
Small toys

If your child does collect candy:

Do something good: You may consider letting your child keep a small amount of candy and donate the rest to a charity.
Have a candy trade: let your kids trade their candy towards other little gifts or give them a “pumpkin point” for each piece of candy they collect. Use pumpkin points to “buy” a toy or do a special activity with your child.
Let them choose a limited amount of candy to eat (for example, one piece for each year your child is old). Many Dentists do a candy trade program, to keep candy out of the mouths of kids.

If you follow these tips, and remember to have fun, you’ll make this Halloween a fun and healthy time for you and the environment.


Coin-sized Retrievor solar-powered GPS tracking device

If you’ve ever wondered where you left the laptop or how your dog came home smelling like a frog pond, then a GPS tracking device might seem like a good idea. The trick is to find one small enough to be practical and doesn’t need its batteries replaced every day. The Retrievor RET-100 is a self-contained, solar-powered GPS tracker no wider than a US quarter that is looking to find a way to market via a crowdfunding campaign.

According to its creators, the Retrievor tracker uses the smallest, fully integrated GPS module with on?board antenna available. Measuring only 28 mm (1.1 in) wide with a thickness of 10 mm (0.3 in), it weighs only 12 g (0.4 oz) and tracks objects using a combination of GSM, GPRS, and GPS to provide redundancy and locate objects with an accuracy of to within 1.5 m (5 ft).

Retrievor is powered by a SiRFstarIV GPS processor, which allows the unit to work in areas that are often difficult for GPS to reach, such as indoors, thanks to firmware that detects changes in temperature and satellite signals, and updates its internal parameters to aid near-continuous navigation availability.

The unit is waterproof to a depth of 3 m (10 ft) and power for the Retrievor comes from an integrated solar panel and motion charger feeding a 3.7 V lithium-ion battery, which can also be charged via micro USB.

The Retrievor works with free Android, iPhone and web apps that allow users to set “Geo-Zones” and have the device send a text, email or ringtone once it moves out of a predesignated area. The app also maps the Retrievor’s location, including speed, distance traveled, and route taken, and can track several units at one time. There’s also a multi-purpose attachment clip that hooks the tracker to things, such as pet collars.

A $169 pledge to the indiegogo campaign that is running through November 14 is the minimum to reserve a Retrievor device. Deliveries are expected to begin in January, provided the campaign reaches its goal. If the campaign is successful, the retail price will be set at $299.

Use of Retrievor will require a US$1.79 monthly subscription fee charged annually in advance, with tracking of additional units to cost $1.59 a month. However, supporters of the indiegogo campaign will have their subscription fee waived for the first year.


Dubai’s 13MW Solar Power Plant Goes Live

The plant, which will generate around 24 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year, is the region’s largest photovoltaic facility.

A 13 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) power plant, marking the first phase of Dubai’s Dhs12 billion Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, has gone live, it was announced on Tuesday.

The facility is now the largest operating solar PV plant in the region.

The plant was connected to the emirate’s electricity grid 195 days after breaking ground in March 2013. Spread across an area of 238,764 square meters, it is designed to operate for over 25 years.

Developed by First Solar, the plant will generate approximately 24 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year.

The electricity generated by the plant is expected to displace around 15,000 metric tons of CO2 annually, equivalent to removing about 2,000 cars from the road every year, First Solar said in a statement.

“This plant represents an important step in the implementation of the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030 to diversify Dubai’s energy mix, said Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, vice chairman of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy.

“For the first time, we are harnessing the sun to power growth and prosperity in the emirate, which is a significant achievement,” he added.

Jim Hughes, First Solar’s CEO, said: “Solar PV, with its price and operational efficiencies, is the right fit for the Middle East’s energy generation needs.”

Dubai’s massive Solar Park is expected to eventually cover 40 square kilometers and produce 1,000MW of clean energy for the national grid using both PV and solar thermal technology.

The emirate is actively seeking to diversify its energy sources, and by 2030, aims to generate five per cent of total power output from solar energy and 24 per cent from nuclear and clean coal sources.