Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Celebrate Earth Hour

Earth Hour is celebrated on 31st March to raise awareness of energy use and environmental issues. All around the world people switch off all unnecessary lights and appliances between 8.30 and 9.30 pm.

Having a romantic candle-lit dinner, or just chatting with friends around the kitchen table takes us back to the pre-electricity days of social entertainment just for one hour at least. Hopefully more people will be inspired to do this more than just once a year and change their energy consumption habits just a little.

Of course no-one is expected to sit at home in the dark – while ordinary paraffin wax candles may well be just as damaging to the environment as electricity use, we like the idea of using solar lanterns for illumination during Earth Hour, and for the rest of the year. Totally clean, totally free energy and much safer for use in the home than candles and kerosene lamps, they bring an element of the future to that traditional pastime of talking for hours with friends and family with television and radio switched off!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Solar Panels and the Fibonacci Sequence

Thinking of putting in solar panels?

Before you install them flat on your roof, consider this cutting edge solar research by 13 yr old Aidan from New York... he studied the way trees use the Fibonacci sequence to arrange their branches.  Experimenting with his own models, he discovered that solar panels mounted in a ‘tree’ pattern set up collect 50% more electricity in the middle of winter than flat mounted panels.

Who knows whether this research, which won him a Young Naturalist Award,will take off, but it is great food for thought!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

3 Simple Energy Saving Tips That Don’t Cost A Thing

© Frank Farrell |

With rising energy costs, it’s not just the green living devotees that are looking to save energy. When it makes a difference to your pocket it is worth doing, whether you care about the environment or  not ... ironic really that soaring energy prices may turn out to be a good thing for the planet after all!

Whatever your reasons for wanting to save energy, there are several ways you can do so quite easily without having to invest in installing solar panels (although if you can afford it that would be the way to go). A lot of energy saving is just a question of changing you daily habits. Maybe you are already doing these things, but if not try to adopt one a week, so that it’s not too painful, and see whether you can adapt to a more earth friendly lifestyle.

1.    Line dry your laundry
A tumble dryer uses a huge amount of energy per load, all of which can be saved in dry weather by hanging your laundry out on a good old fashioned clothes line. Not everybody has the space and climate to do this all the time, but you’d be surprised how well clothes will dry even on cooler blustery days in autumn and winter. In fact they often come up beautifully soft even without fabric conditioner when it’s windy, so that’s another thing you could save on.

2.  Switch off appliances
Most appliances use energy when on standby. It may only be a small amount, but over the year it all adds up. Make sure you switch TVs and computer right off when not in use, rather than just letting them go to sleep. Switch off all your other appliances when not in use or just at night, to prevent any passive electricity drain.

3. Switch off lights
Train your family to switch off lights when they leave a room. So often bathroom lights and bedroom lights get left on even when no-one is using them, all of which add up  in terms of wasted energy over time. Of course it also makes sense to invest in energy efficient light bulbs for lamps that do get left on for long periods of time, such as hall lights or kitchen lights, but as LED light bulbs are still fairly expensive this will cost you something initially even though it will save you in teh long run in saved energy costs.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Energy Saving Light Bulbs – Are They Really Green?

© Apttone |
Until recently I thought energy saving light bulbs were a totally green option. Surely they had to be a good thing, reducing energy usage and lasting so much longer than traditional light bulbs. Except of course when the cat knocks the lamp off the table and the bulb shatters, its ungainly long shape no longer protected by the lampshade... but still they save energy so they must be good, right?

Unfortunately when you look into it, CFLs(compact fluorescent light bulbs), the coiled energy saving light bulbs that we’ve all been changing over to, aren’t really all that green. In fact they are fairly toxic. That broken light bulb scenario, every time it is repeated, which in a household with cats and toddlers can be quite often, exposes us to the mercury which is inside the bulb. Mercury... euggh. Read up about it and you find that it isn’t something you want rolling about on the floor where kids will be sitting and playing or pets lying around on. A neurotoxin that builds up in the body, mercury is especially dangerous for children and pregnant women.

The other drawback comes at the end of the bulb’s life. How do you dispose of it safely? Landfill sites can quickly reach really dangerous levels of mercury if everyone is using CFLs and then throwing them in the trash. Land contaminated with mercury is no longer safe to grow any food crops on. Recycling programs for CFLs are still hard to find and you have to be a dedicated recycler to seek them out.

So now we are looking for alternatives to CFL energy saving light bulbs. So far the best option seems to be LED light bulbs, which use even less energy and last much longer. They don’t have mercury in, but further research shows that they do contain other heavy metals, so even these aren’t perfectly green. And they are still very expensive, though their energy savings should make them pay for themselves in two years, after which they should last another 8-10 years. Sounds better already.

But to be truly green, the only option currently available seems to be to go to bed when the sun does and get up at dawn.....