Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Solution to the Dirty Diaper Problem

Bringing a baby into the world generally comes at a huge environmental cost, and in the first few years, a big portion of that cost is in terms of the waste created by disposable diapers, which take centuries to biodegrade in our landfills. It’s bad enough to make any eco-minded parent feel guilty every time he/she clips a coupon for another pack of Huggies.

Well, despair no more. You can now put your dirty diapers to use in that oyster mushroom garden you know you’ve always wanted.

The Economist just published an article about a new development in bioremediation: Alethia Vázquez-Morillas of the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico City has discovered that diapers can be decomposed completely in 4 months when fed to oyster mushrooms. And the kicker? You can still use those oyster mushrooms for dinner! (Assuming you sterilized the diapers (with, in their case, steam) before they became mushroom feed.) Of course, if you don’t want to eat the dirty diaper mushrooms, you could also just let them live out their lives before becoming fertilizer for something else. It’s a far better alternative to the unremovable accumulation of hundreds of thousands of tons of diapers in our landfills every year.

It’s not really news that fungi and bacteria can be used to clean up waste (see mycoremediation), but it’s the first time you’ve heard it used to clean up diapers, isn’t it?

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Offsetting the Largest Carbon Emitter of All Time

I think most people who try to protect our environment from the bottom up are used to hearing people say that there’s no point for us to put in the effort if the biggest polluters will still continue to pollute the planet in their exponential ways. Well, that’s an excuse that won’t work anymore….

The US military has the largest carbon footprint on the planet (apparently, the military accounts for almost 80% of US energy use… yikes), and they know it, which is why they’re now doing a fairly good job shrinking it. Yes, my friends. As with all addictions, the first step is always admitting that you have a problem.

From ClimateBiz:
“The DOD’s long-term energy goal calls for a quarter of energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. Specific examples of how the military is pursuing clean energy and reducing its impacts include:

• The Nellis Air Force Base has a solar power installation that satisfies more than a quarter of its energy, saving $1 million annually.

• The Army’s Fort Irwin, Calif., base has been designated a “net-zero plus” installation that will end its reliance on the public electric grid within 10 years. A 500-megawatt solar power plant is currently being installed.

• The U.S. Navy will launch a strike group called the “Great Green Fleet that will only use alternative fuels by 2016.”

You can also watch a video on other ways that the US military have been going green here.

A True Garden of Lights

From Big Think:

“How about a lamp that provides you with free and environmentally friendly energy.. forever! All you have to do is water it. Literally.

Soil Lamp is an invention of the Dutch designer Marieke Staps and it consists of an LED bulb planted in.. mud. The mud is enclosed in cells which contain zinc and copper that conduct electricity generated by the metabolism of biological life.”

Living Walls, Not As Creepy As They Sound

This is a picture of a living wall commissioned by the California Academy of Sciences, built by Habitat Horticulture.

Californian company Habitat Horticulture is designing living walls that “reduce energy costs for heating and cooling, improve the air quality, diminish annoying street noise or echoes in large rooms and reduce stress.” Elements that every single office building in America could improve on.

And no, those aren’t just vines on the wall in the picture. The plants are rooted directly into a porous, mold-free, geo-textile medium attached to the wall. And because the system doesn’t use soil, you can use 75% less water for upkeep. The system gets extra extra brownie point for being built from 100% recycled and recyclable materials.

Why Not Have Solar Everything?

Solar Carparks

A 10 megawatt photovoltaic carport system is being built at the North Park offices of Saudi Aramco in Dhahran and is expected to be finished and connected to the public grid by the end of 2011. I believe it will be the world’s largest solar carport system? Read about it at PV Magazine.

You can also find more news about solar carparks around the world here.

Solar Roadways
This is old news, but it’s awesome eco-techie news, so obviously it deserves a place in this blog! The Federal Highway Administration commissioned Solar Roadways to build a solar road prototype in 2009, and they just completed it in February.

Here’s a taste of the good future:
“In addition to the prototype Solar Road Panel and the prototype stormwater redistribution system, we built a 3′ by 3′ crosswalk panel. We don’t really discuss it, but in the video, you’ll see two children run onto the crosswalk panel. The crosswalk panel contains embedded load cells to determine when a weight (such as a pedestrian or some form of wildlife) is on its surface. The crosswalk panel begins to flash when a weight is detected. It also sends a signal to the Solar Road Panel, which instructs the oncoming drivers to “SLOW DOWN”. This demonstrates the ability of the road panels to communicate with one another along with any drivers traveling across their surfaces.”

You can check out their brilliant videos, pictures, and information here.

Solar Windows, Coming to a Building Near You?

Myth no more: Windows that keep your work or living area shaded and cool while harnessing sunlight for energy.

Pythagoras Energy is pushing its exceptionally well-designed solar windows to market. There have been whispers about solar window developments for at least 5 years now, so it’s nice to finally lay eyes on the design. Sadly, still no news about buildings that actually have solar windows…. if only Pythagoras Energy would put examples of their work on their website! Imagine if the Burj Khalifa was built with solar windows.

Here’s a video on how solar windows work:


Would you spend the $120/sq. foot to lower your emissions?