Friday, June 11, 2010

Straw Bale Along the Coast to Slow the Oil

Interesting article by Andrew Morrison about using straw bales for helping slow the oil coming into the Gulf shores.
Read on:

As some of you may know, straw bales are used as erosion control all the time during construction projects. They are used to form silt traps, like the one shown here. The concept is that the water is slowed down, but still flows through the bale. The straw which is netted in a web within the bale, traps the silt and doesn’t allow it to move through. I believe the same system could work for the oil that is floating along the surface of the water. If bales were set all along the coast line, they would act like silt traps or sponges and soak up the oil. If they didn’t actually soak up the oil, they would certainly slow down the water and cause the oil to accumulate at the face of the bales. This would make it thicker and easier to collect, as one of the big issues with this spill is the fact that the oil itself is thin and does not collect easily.

I hope that somebody reading this can get it in front of the right people. The woman who originally asked the question has contacted the National Geographic Society, and as I said earlier, I’ve asked my friend who lives in New Orleans to contact people locally who may be interested in the idea. Please help us get the word out and create a line of defense along our coast lines in the South. Remember, you can still go to certain areas around Valdez, Alaska and find oil 6″ to 12″ down in hand dug holes. That’s a long term disaster I’d like to not see repeated.

About the Author
Andrew Morison is a specialist in straw bale and green construction. He has shown thousands of people how to build their own straw bale projects through his comprehensive series of instructional straw bale, concrete foundation, and plastering DVDs. You can check these out at

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Straw Bale Home for Sale

A friend of mine is selling her straw bale home in Winchester, CA. This is a wonderful home that she put a lot of love and passion into building. Anyone would be lucky to have it. This a very unique opportunity to purchase a completed straw bale home.

Here is the info from the MLS:

Built in 2004, this Wonderfully Unique and Custom Built Straw Bale Home rests on 4.82 Acres. This is a one of a kind opportunity to own an extremely energy efficient, country home with all the conveniences of the city just minutes away (Menifee Marketplace Shopping Center and Loma Linda Hospital). This Santa Fe style home makes use of a solar water heater and a solar wall heater. Two additional Solar panels generate electricity and significantly reduce electric bills. Property includes a permitted 12X32 workshop with a 35 AMP electrical outlet. Horses and/or other livestock are allowed. Live affordably in a house with some real character. See it today!

More Info:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recycle Wine Corks at Whole Foods logoDid you know that you can recycle corks at Whole Foods?
Why recycle cork? Cork is a 100% natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable material that is obtained through an environmentally friendly harvesting process. It can be reused in numerous processes: Besides corks, cork is used in everything from shoes, to dart and bulletin boards, furniture, insulation, craft materials, buoys, instruments, fishing rods, tiles flooring, sports equipment and even to create a composite concrete. There is no need for them to end up in landfills.

Cork Tree Fact: Trees are not cut down to harvest cork, rather, the bark is stripped by hand every 9-12 years. Cork oak trees can live up to 300 years!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Earth Day 2010

April 22, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day 2010. How do you plan to celebrate?

Find an event that fits you:

* Global Days of Service - April 17-18 - Join millions around the globe to make your community and the world cleaner and more sustainable.
* The Climate Rally - National Mall, Washington DC - April 25th, 2010
* Environmental Arts
* Athletes for the Earth
* EarthFair 2010, April 18, San Diego, CA - EarthFair in Balboa Park is the largest free annual environmental fair in the world
* Earth Day Crafts for kids and families
* Find an event in your community

What do you plan on doing to celebrate Earth Day 2010?

Article © Lisa A. Swan, Design Forward

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Earth Hour 2010: Millions Turn off Lights for Earth Hour

Earth Hour, organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), saw millions of people switch off their lights for an hour this weekend.

Some of the world's best known landmarks -- including the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and Rome's Colosseum -- participated on March 27, 2010 at 8:30pm local time, following Sydney's Opera House and Beijing's Forbidden City. In the United States, the lights went out at the Empire State Building in New York, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, among many other sites in the Eastern time zone.

Earth Hour was considered success on west coast. Symbolic lights turned off on Las Vegas Strip and LAX entrance.

Anyone who has been to Los Angeles International Airport in the evening knows about the pillars of light that stand at the beginning of the property. These lights normally portray the different colors and give the passing people something interesting to view. On Saturday for an hour, in a symbolic gesture, the lights were turned off for 'Earth Hour.'

In Las Vegas, many of the lights on the Strip were flipped off at 8:30 too. Again showing the power of shutting down the lights for 60 minutes to stress conservation and participate in the 'Earth Hour.'

In the end, it is not about the energy saved during that hour. It's about the message of awareness that will be spread. From a child asking why the lights are off, to leaders who read the message loud and clear. As more and more people join the effort, the awareness grows... and hopefully people will continue to understand that energy saving measures can be made by each and every one of us.

The image above shows the Empire State Building (L) in New York, Big Ben (C) in London and the Eiffel Tower (R) in Paris with lights turned off during "Earth Hour". -Photo by AFP

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Solar Roads: The Greatest Pipe Dream Yet

Over 5.7 million miles of highway stretch across America alone. The carbon footprint produced by the machinery needed for salting and snow removal of these paved roads is almost immeasurable. With the world's attention focused on the climate crisis industry has shifted toward developments in renewable resources.

The sun, which is an unequivocal provider of all life energy, is now the inspiration behind an ambitious project one small Idaho company hopes will someday be responsible for cutting greenhouse gases in half. The project, which is already in phase I of its development is to create "a series of structurally-engineered solar panels that are driven upon", or ‘solar-roadways', as creators Scott and Julie Brusaw have dubbed them.

The idea is to replace all current petroleum-based asphalt roads, parking lots, and driveways with Solar Road Panels that collect and store solar energy to be used by our homes and businesses. This renewable energy replaces the need for the current fossil fuels used by the generation of electricity. Getting the project off the ground was no easy task and securing funding, even for Phase I of production was a challenge. "Getting the Phase I contract was mainly about physically writing the proposals to get it approved for funding; to prove that these panels were feasible. When I first came up with the idea, my team was invited by the Department of Transportation in Virginia to come out and present for them, and so we did. They were excited about the project and asked a lot of questions, soon after we applied for funding", says co-creator, Scott Brusaw. The funding they received was a $100,000 grant from the Dept of Transportation to build a prototype, "I'm madly ordering parts as fast as I can," says Scott.

As asphalt and tar have never been credited as unparalleled engineering it is easy to understand that solar panel highways will require a level of complexity not yet considered for roadways. The panels are said to consist of three layers. The base will contain power and data lines and is overlaid with the electronics strata that contain solar cells, LEDs and super-capacitors which would produce and store electricity.

The LED's would provide ‘paint' for the highways and be able to communicate messages such as ‘slow' or ‘detour ahead' with the use of lights brought to the surface. The top layer will be made of glass that would provide the same traction as asphalt.

Even more impressive would be their ability to heat up, melting ice from the road, "Our target date to finish Phase I is February 12, 2010. During this demonstration the snow should be falling where we are, allowing us to demonstrate how the panels' heating elements can melt snow or ice. We will videotape everything and put it up on our website."

Though entirely ingenious the project has some obvious flaws, for which solutions are being furiously researched. Solar panels are notoriously fragile and would not be able to withstand the weight of even light vehicles. "We are trying to work on developing a type of glass that would be able to withstand the pressure of trucks and other vehicles driving over it daily. This glass that we're going to be layering over the panels needs to have enough grip and not be slippery, especially in rain or snow. We have partnered with Pennsylvania State University to develop the glass surface for our panels, and they're going to be testing it using 80,000-lb. trucks."

Though the price tag for implanting solar roads throughout the country is estimated at an unworldly $35 trillion, the Brusaw's hope that funding from Phase II of their contract will allow them to start implementing solar panels in parking lots of businesses, and possibly begin mass-producing them shortly after.

The product has received widespread interest globally from countries wanting to build plants. "We're getting requests from all around the world, from countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. The Czech Republic contacted us just last week about possibly having some of their people visit our site, and once this project here gets off the ground, and we have plants that are mass-producing the panels for the roads, they would like to have some of their employees come over here for 2-3 years and see how everything works, and to gain confidence in getting the project off the ground over there as well."

Sure they will be ploughing the snow from our roads this year, but keep in mind they laughed at the light bulb and said man was never meant to fly.

Jennifer Maclellan is the Senior Writer for the Green Guide Network. You can contact her at


Interview with Scott Brusaw conducted by Danielli Marfori, Creative Intern for the Green Guide Network.

Article & Picture ©

Tree Selection Guide

The Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has a tree selection application available on the web:

SelecTree for California is an interactive tree selection program designed to match specific trees to specific applications such as Max Height, Flower Color, Longevity, Disease Resistance, Attracts Wildlife, etc. The Tree Selection Guide listis 1,481 trees with up to 49 attributes and over 6,050 photos for 1,068 trees available from tree detail records. Search by tree attribute or by name.

Article © Lisa A. Swan, Design Forward