- Decorations. Instead of buying materials for decorations, gather supplies, arts and crafts throughout the year. Examples include:
- Turn stockings with runs into spider-webbing
- Paint foam peanuts (packing materials) and turn them into worms
- Clean Styrofoam and make Halloween masks
- Turn cardboard boxes into tombstones
- Make other creative decorations from netting from bags of oranges, cotton balls, leaves and branches from the yard, etc
- Reuse your decorations from the previous year
- Costumes. Make your own!
- Keep old clothes that can be used as good pieces or parts of costumes, like worn t-shirts, black pants/shorts, etc.
- If necessary, shop at thrift shops, consignment stores and yard sales, instead of buying retail
- Let your kids’ imaginations run wild! Make a game of turning old clothes into costumes
- Thinking of dressing up as an animal this Halloween?
- Parties. When having a party, cut down on waste by avoiding disposable cups, plates and cutlery. Use regular dishes or buy biodegradable ones, and use a marker (or apply cute labels) to identify cups so party-goers can keep track of theirs.
- Treats. Buy locally produced foods, candies and treats. Look for goodies with minimal packaging and/or those made packaged in recycled materials.
- Check labels to see that chocolate and sugar are from sustainable sources.
- Trick-or-Treat Bags. Use (and decorate) household items to collect candy in. A bucket, pillowcase, or old even an old bag can be decorated inexpensively at home – and reused year after year.
- Pumpkins. Buy pumpkins from local farms or farmers’ markets. Better yet, grow your own — kids love to watch them grow!
- Jack-o-lanterns. Don’t throw away all the goodies from inside your pumpkin. Toast the seeds for tasty treats. Make pumpkin pie or muffins with the fruit – or compost it.
- Transportation. Trick or Treat by walking around your neighborhood instead of driving to another destination. Get to know your neighbors, reduce your carbon emissions and help keep the streets safe for other walkers.
- Compost and Recycle. From party food to treats to pumpkins, consider composting all organic matter and recycling other items.
- Reuse! Reuse as much as you can from year to year. Instead of throwing away an old box or bag, use it to gather all your decorations and keep for next year. Plus, you can surprise your family and friends by quickly pulling out your box and throwing an impromptu Halloween party any time of year!
By Chris Tomlinson
Worries that wind and solar power would destabilize power grids unproven
The International Energy Agency says the world will generate much more renewable energy than previously expected in the next five years, disproving worries that relying more on wind and solar power would destabilize electricity grids.
About 28 percent of the world’s electricity will come from renewable sources in 2021, the agency said, a bump up from the previous forecast of 25 percent. The increase comes from developing nations making greater commitments to wind and solar projects, which have seen costs plummet.
“We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables and, as is the case with other fields, the center of gravity for renewable growth is moving to emerging markets,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.
The global installed capacity of wind and solar plants also surpassed that of coal-fired plants this year, even though coal still generates more electricity because it is not intermittent. Coal power has also been on the decline because of low prices for natural gas, making it a more attractive option.
Texas still generates more power from wind than any other state, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says, but when it comes to wind and solar as a percentage of what we consume, the Lone Star State is a laggard. Wind makes up about 10 percent of the electricity we use, while Iowa’s share of wind power is 31 percent, and South Dakota’s is 25.5 percent.
Even in Kansas, wind supplies 23.9 percent of the states electricity. Wind power now exceed 10 percent in 11 states.
(Full disclosure, my wife develops wind and solar projects across the United States, and she’s having a very busy year.)
The rate at which the world is adopting wind and solar energy is accelerating much faster than anyone predicted. And I’m reminded of critics who claim that there is a limit on how much the grid can rely on renewable energy sources because they are intermittent.
The increased adoption of renewable sources, however, has been possible through the slow evolution of the grid and the adoption of new technologies. Grid operators are using huge batteries to stabilize the grid as weather shifts, and while one region may suffer from a cloudy, windless day, another part of the country can make up for it.
Energy retailers are also becoming adept at convincing customers to shift their demand away from peak demand periods and toward peak generation periods.New fast-start natural gas power plants also provide back-up when necessary.
The electric power industry is evolving more quickly than we thought, and operators are developing new technologies that address the problems we were expecting. The lesson is to never underestimate an industry’s ability to innovate.
The potential of solar power is significant, with the International Energy Agency previously stating that the sun could be the planet’s biggest source of electricity by 2050.
In the U.K., the appetite for solar among some is becoming increasingly stronger. “We’re in the middle of what you can only describe as an energy revolution in the U.K.,” Alan Whitehead, member of parliament for the opposition Labour Party, told CNBC.
“Solar power is now becoming increasingly central to U.K. power production,” Whitehead added. “The deployment of solar is racing way ahead of what was thought was going to be the curve, and it’s now making a real impact on energy systems.”
The U.K. is home to what is claimed to be the largest floating solar panel array in Europe. The array, based in the south of England, was installed by Lightsource Renewable Energy. The array is set to generate 5.8 million kilowatt hours in its first year of operation.
Commenting on the benefits of solar in general Nick Boyle, founder and CEO of Lightsource Renewable Energy, said the business was, “now in a position for the first time – and it’s a really interesting inflection point – where I can go to large electricity users and offer to undercut what they’re paying today.”
Boyle went on to explain that the predictable nature of solar meant that it also generated a predictable revenue stream, making it an attractive investment product.
For Lightsource, there are several plus points to floating solar arrays. “One of the major benefits to floating solar is that there is all this space in areas of London or other cities, where you have a large area on top of the reservoir that’s not being used,” Liv Harder, senior development manager at the company, said.
“It has definitely become more affordable to do projects like these over the last few years,” Harder added. “The cost of panels has gone down nine times in the last five (years) alone, and the floats themselves also continue to go down in price as more and more installations go up.”
In the U.S., the solar industry seems to be in good health. At the beginning of this year it was revealed that the U.S. solar industry installed 7,286 megawatts of solar power in 2015, according to data from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The figures represent an increase of over 1,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic installations compared to 2014. Photovoltaic technology is able to directly convert sunlight into electrical energy.
According to the data, solar beat natural gas capacity additions for the first time ever, with 29.5 percent of all new electric generating capacity met by solar power in 2015.
Back in the U.K., Alan Whitehead was also confident about solar’s prospects. “The future of solar power is incredibly bright,” he said. “Solar has a wonderful future I think, it’s one of those technologies that is absolutely game changing.”
Following the European Union directive to reduce European carbon emissions, Energy Performance Certificates or EPCs were introduced in 2007 as a necessary requirement for the selling or letting of any property in England or Wales. In order to obtain an EPC certificate in London, a local Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA) or Home Inspector (HI) must be commissioned. Click epc in London for more information.
Local DEAs can be found either through the EPC Register online or by contacting your local council or community for details of EPC providers in your area. Once an EPC assessor has been commissioned, a review will be conducted of the property during which the assessor will examine various aspects of the property such as the presence or absence of cavity insulation, radiators, windows, double glazing, light fixtures and fittings etc. These parameters will then be used by the EPC assessor to calculate the energy efficiency rating of the building, providing the property owner with a graded rating of which ‘A’ is the highest energy efficiency. In addition, the EPC assessor will provide a report on the potential alternations that can be made to the property to improve the rating and an estimation of the environmental impact.
Although providing an EPC rating is necessary in order to sell or let a property, it is also an important consideration for property owners to make especially if their property is in London.
Prospective buyers and tenants are becoming increasingly interested in the energy efficiency of the properties, both because an environmental awareness and also for avoiding paying expensive energy bills. This is particularly true of London where EPC rates may be paid attention to most as a result of expensive housing prices. Thus, displaying a good EPC rating in London may be the different between a fast or slow sell/let.
Of further interest to property owners in London is that in some cases where an EPC survey produces a poor rating, the government have introduced grants and/or funding that are awarded to applicants who require help in improving their EPC rating. Local London councils can provide more details on how to obtain EPC rating improvement funding. Importantly, new regulations to be brought in the April 2018 state that all buildings must be brought up to at least an EPC rating of ‘E’. In London, where competition for funding to do this may be at it’s highest, early application for EPC funding may be important.
Thanks to epc for you for providing us with this insight.
By: Tegan Taylor
A team of scientists has turned a waste product — carbon dioxide — into a fuel — ethanol — in a relatively simple process. And it happened almost by accident.
The US Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists were running a solution of carbon dioxide dissolved in water over a charged surface in the hopes of describing a reaction when they made their serendipitous discovery.
“We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked,” study lead author Adam Rondinone said.
“We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realised that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.”
The catalyst in question was nanoscopic spikes of carbon, studded with copper nanoparticles, that was electrified to essentially reverse the combustion process.
“They are like 50-nanometer lightning rods that concentrate electrochemical reactivity at the tip of the spike,” Dr Rondinone said.
The solution of carbon dioxide dissolved in water turned into ethanol with a yield of 63 per cent. This type of reaction typically results in a mix of several different products in small amounts.
Study a step towards closed-loop, carbon-neutral energy future
Monash University energy conversion expert Shannon Bonke, who was not involved in the research, said there were several exciting elements to the US study.
First, the end result of ethanol — a relatively complex molecule, with two carbon atoms, and a ready-to-use fuel — is considered to be difficult to achieve.
“Carbon dioxide has one carbon in it but ethanol has two carbons, so we’re sort of assembling the Lego blocks to get to the carbon molecules,” Mr Bonke said.
Second, the US team used low-cost copper, nitrogen and carbon, rather than the precious metals, such as platinum, that are usually necessary for these kinds of reactions.
Finally, Mr Bonke said a pure fuel made in a lab was cleaner in many ways than fossil fuels.
“Carbon dioxide [the by-product of burning ethanol] is odourless and colourless — and that’s not the words we would use to describe emissions on a city street,” he said.
“That’s a side benefit of going towards [these] fuels because the air’s going to be cleaner because what you’re burning is cleaner.”
Mr Bonke said science was inching towards closed-loop, carbon-neutral systems based around solar energy being stored as carbon-based fuels. Sound complicated? That’s how plants work.
“If you look out the window, 3 billion years of evolution has decided that this is the best way of storing energy. And if that’s the decision that’s been reached, it’s probably the right one,” he said.
The technique’s reliance on low-cost materials and an ability to operate at room temperature in water leads the US researchers to believe the approach could be scaled up for industrial applications.