It’s nice to know there’s a watchdog out there trying to correct
the growing problem of e-waste. Environmental group Greenpeace just
released the latest edition of their Guide to Greener Electronics,
which more or less calls out the leading manufacturers that aren’t
taking the measures necessary to eliminate harmful chemical
The Greenpeace guide ranks the top producers of mobile phones,
computers, TVs, and game consoles on a 0-10 scale. Scoring is based
on the elimination of hazardous substances and the take-back and
recycling of products once they become obsolete.
The results proved generally encouraging, though it appears a
few companies have yet to see the light. Due to a lack of any type
of public policy on toxics elimination or recycling, Nintendo
earned last place, registering a pathetic score of 0.3. It seems
like quite a black mark to be rated the worst of all the companies
on the list. Hopefully all the unflattering attention will spark a
bit more environmental concern from the thriving Wii manufacturer
when the next report comes out in June. Notably, Microsoft also
scored in the unsatisfactory red zone, due to a poor takeback
policy and practice.
This is a great 30 minute video featuring Sir Norman Foster, one
of the preeminent architects of our age, that brings us up to speed
on many of the intertwining issues within the ecological agenda,
the defining issue of our generation. From the perspective of the
design process, Foster discusses how green design is producing the
iconic products of our age. He takes it a step further by
discussing the interconnection of buildings, cities, and
It nicely summarizes the problems we face today coupled with
potential solutions, by one of the greatest designers of our time.
Showing how technology and computers can assist in green design,
Foster describes how we must look to technology to move forward the
most important work of our age. (cont.)
There was once a color deemed so dull, and expensive that no artist would touch it. It produced weak colors. It looked bad. And, soon it was forgotten.
That is, until, one day, over two hundred years later, when a group of researchers at the University of Washington found something that would change Cobalt Green’s legacy forever. The discovery? Cobalt Green has the potential to revolutionize the way we use computers. Imagine turning on your computer and within seconds getting immediate access to your hard drive instead of having to wait on end for everything to boot up. Imagine a hard drive with almost infinite storage. Imagine that all this would only leave a footprint the size of a pea.
It’s simply a matter of color.
So, how does work?
Swedish chemist Sven Rinmann invented Cobalt Green in 1780. Also known as Rinmann’s Green, it was originally produced by using a mixture of zinc oxide and cobalt. What makes it so valuable to scientists today is its unique magnetic properties and what they mean for the emerging field of spintronics.
Current technology relies on the movement and accumulation of electrons. Spintronics, on the other hand, exploits the spin of electrons to increase computational power in a device. More power means a faster and efficient machine.
Thus far, researchers have run into problems with temperature. Most materials work well only in extremely cold temperatures. Cobalt Green, however, can be used at room temperature.
According to a June 15 analysis published in the French bi-monthly magazine L’Auto-Journal, a long-standing car magazine, the European Union will soon no longer be on the short list of the top 3 contributors of greenhouse gases. The French-originated NAC (Nouvelle Affaire de Carburant) program, widely known as the New Fuel Deal by the English-speaking world, was initially criticized by citizens of nearly every European nation for being an economic fiasco.
The brainchild of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who served a six month stint as EU president, has certainly paid off for the environment, despite the widespread criticism and dire predictions. The Affaire was created by the members of the EU’s French-led APRE Summit (Automobile-fabricants pour la Protection et la Régénération de l’Environment, or ACRE – Auto-makers for the Conservation and Regenration of the Environment) in 2011, which formed an impressive international think-tank consisting of automobile manufacturers, leaders in the alternative fuel industry, financial wizards and various government officials. Despite initial opposition from such countries as the Czech Republic and Ireland, the plan was consensually ratified in February, 2010.
Many people will say that pursuing aspace-based solar powerenergy campaign is too ambitious, that there are more immediate solutions to get us through our economic/energy crisis until a time when spaced-aged, science fiction-inspired future tech can be safely explored further. They might say that we already have a head start with nuclear, oil and coal, as well as other greener alternatives like wind, water and Earthbound solar. They would be dead wrong.The truth is...
I wouldn't have predicted ABC News going all bleak futurist, but they did. Earth 2100 is a massive online roleplaying game that starts out with global turmoil and devastation. And they're going prime time with it.
The project is pretty ambitious, but considering the recent popularity of games like Superstruct and Second Life, there should be no doubt that participation will be high. To participate you need to record a short fictional video depicting something in 2015, then, based on those submissions, the ABC News people will design a scenario for 2050, then 2070 and finally 2100.
Going green is a noble cause. Both corporations and consumers are picking up on the trend due to market pressure. There’s no question about it, buyers like me feel warm and fuzzy when they purchase a product that is truly both sustainable and Eco-friendly.
But although this movement has grand intentions, it is not without its demons. After all, how can you tell if a product is really Eco-friendly or if the manufacturer just wants to make a quick buck? Enter Greenwashing, the practice of tricking consumers into believing a product to be green.
Examples of this practice include slapping a nice palm tree on a bottle of corrosive chemicals or being ambiguous about their environmental claims. Increasingly, greenwashing is a growing trend that any informed consumer must watch out for.
In the GE Ecomagination commercial below, the company portrays a mining operation with sexy and slender miners having fun with the pick-axes and drilling machines. The message is that energy from coal is getting more beautiful because of GE’s emissions reducing technology. It is an abundant resource that’s for sure, with an estimated supply of 250 years.
But many of us know that coal is the dirtiest burning fossil fuel, releasing hefty amounts of sulfur-oxides that produces acid rain and greenhouse emissions. Coal extraction is also a brutal process that severely scars the environment from strip mining and unthinkable amounts of toxic sludge (read: Thousands of tons). So what does a company like GE have in their bag of tricks that would make coal a viable candidate for all our future power needs?
The vision of 'Green Chemisty' is to create the basic components used in making materials, energy, food and pharmaceuticals using sustainable practices, often without the use of petroleum based feedstocks.
The team led by Chemistry professor Chao-Jun (C.J.) Li discovered an entirely new way of synthesizing peptides by using simple reagents that will enable a lower cost method for building larger molecules.
Peptides are short polymer chains that Mother Nature uses as a foundation for building proteins and other bio-materials.
Creating a Simple, Low Cost Process “Currently, to generate peptides you must use a peptide synthesizer, an expensive piece of high-tech equipment,” explained Li, Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry. “You need to purchase every single separate amino acid unit that makes up the peptide, and feed them into the machine one by one, which then assembles them. Every time you need a new peptide, you need to synthesize it individually from scratch.”
The team's process is based on 'a single, simple “skeleton” peptide which can be modified into any other peptide needed with the addition of a simple reagent.'
Open Innovation, Access to All Not only has the team announced the process breakthrough, but it is taking the high road to advancing global efforts by opening the information to anyone.
“This is really an enabling new technology,” he added, “and since McGill has decided not to patent it, we’re making our method available to everyone. We are paying the journal’s open access fee, so anyone in the world can access the paper.”
[Ok, this is a snarky post, but I'm leaving it up. It seems reasonable to assume that CNN would have a Producer, Writer or Intern make a stronger connection between 'hydrocarbons' like coal and oil that originated from biomass (plants and diatoms). Instead CNN frames algae like a space alien recipe.]
The CNN correspondents are clueless to the biological origins of oil and the basics of energy science- namely that everytime we drive our car we are breaking apart hydrogen-carbon bonds formed by ancient algae. So tapping the power of algae to bind molecules for energy feedstocks is not 'science fiction', it is Mother Nature.
[Peaking in snarky tone right there...] The clip shows how disconnected we are from understanding even the basics of energy systems and where energy comes from. (It's scary how many people I meet that still think 'fossil fuels' are ancient dinosaurs.) And it is not a surprise that shallow 'consuming green' strategies dominate public conversations, despite falling flat in terms of offering global solutions.
Could we get science back into the conversaton? How about teaching our children and news reporters the most basic '101' energy science. Oil is not pixie dust, it comes from somewhere.
CNN should educate its reporter on what they fill up in their gas tank. Because it's ancient algae.
Rethinking the Problem: Think Small, not Big Our current 'crisis' around energy and climate change has less to do with our relationship with the Planet, than it does our relationship with molecules.
To change our footprint on the Planet, we have to change our relationship with nature at the molecular level.
We are still living in an Industrial Age where we extract carbon-hydrogen bonds assembled by ancient plants and algae to power our world and to make plastic-based products. To stay within the Planet's carrying capacity, we have to change this relationship with molecules.
This is the next, yet to be written, chapter: The Nanoscale Era of Materials Engineering.
Industrial Age Part Two: Green Chemistry Why be hopeful? Scientists continue to move us closer to a new era of Industrial manufacturing based on a vision of 'Green Chemisty' in which we create the basic components used in making materials, energy, food and pharmaceuticals using more sustainable practices, often without the use of petroleum based feedstocks. Now we have another step forward.
“Using platinum clusters, we have devised a way to catalyze propane not only in a more environmentally friendly way, but also using far less energy than previous methods,” said Argonne scientist Stefan Vajda.
Researchers believe that this 'new class of catalysts may lead to energy-efficient and environmentally friendly synthesis strategies and the possible replacement of petrochemical feedstocks by abundant small alkanes.'
(Alkane? There's another funny word. But honestly, it's just a different arrangement of carbon and hydrogen! Whether you say 'ethelyne', 'human being' or 'breathing' it is just another funny way of saying carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.)
Geeks look at the Big Grid and it reminds them of the old main frame computer days. They look at the auto industry and and see rust. So, they'll change it themselves. Through their RE<C program, Google is funding renewable energy companies with the goal of generating 1 gigawatt of energy at a price less than coal. Applied Materials has joined Google as high tech leaders that are covering their rooftops and parking garages with solar panels. Former Intel CEO Andy Grove challenges his old company to get into batteries for electric vehicles. Silicon Valley VC legends Vinod Khosla and John Doer fund cleantech companies.
Can these hi-tech leaders find success that scales in a business where there's no Moore's Law?