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Vu1 Light Bulbs Go Beyond CFLs and LEDs

vu1 light bulb, r30 esl (electron stimulated luminescence)

When I was researching the Green Lighting book with my coauthors Seth Leitman and Bill Brinsky, we heard about a whole new lighting technology that was reportedly in development. Details were scarce, and repeated calls and emails to the Seattle-based Vu1 Corporation were never returned. So we were only able to write a few paragraphs, based on press releases.

Now, however, Vu1 is providing a lot more information. The other day, William B. Smith dropped by The Daily Green's office to tell us about the product. Smith is president of New York-based SAM Advisors, which has been funding Vu1 and controls two seats on its board. He admitted that the company had been going through a reorganizing period while we were working on our book.

Smith's message was clear: he hopes Vu1 bulbs will become the dominant lighting technology in the next couple of years. He pulled no punches when describing the competition. "CFLs are garbage," Smith said. He described their light as "horrible" and "bluish," and repeated widespread concerns over the toxic mercury they contain (I've written before about how many of these fears are way overblown, and are not a good reason to avoid CFLs in most cases.)

"On the high end, you have LEDs (light emitting diodes), which still have power issues, light issues, and are expensive, although our government has gotten behind them," said Smith. "The LED industry doesn't have a good product now. They say they do, but they don't. It will be four to five years before they have something people will want in their homes," he said.

(In Green Lighting, we disagree with Smith, and feel that the newest LEDs can be a great choice for many applications right now. Certainly for early adopters and those interested in saving money long term, they can be a smart buy. For the rest of us, we think they will become the dominant technology within two to three years, not four to five. Check out TDG's recent lighting tests, and see for yourself how today's LEDs provide excellent light quality compared to CFLs and traditional incandescents.)


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New WindMade Label to Certify Products Made with Wind Energy

windmade label, for products made with wind energy

"The world needs more wind energy," Morten Albaek explained when he stopped by The Daily Green's office the other day. In town from Copenhagen, Denmark, Albaek has been on a whirlwind mission to promote renewable energy and the forthcoming WindMade global consumer label, which he says was his idea.

Albaek is senior vice president for global marketing of Denmark's Vestas, the largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world. Youthful, stylish and good-looking, Albaek makes a memorable ambassador for wind power. He was trained as a philosopher, so he's accustomed to thinking big.

Albaek told us that, with improvements in the grid and the right incentives, wind energy could provide 20% of the world's needs in the foreseeable future. "To protect the planet we live on, we need that," he explained.

The WindMade label is a bold attempt to spur along his industry. It's a kind of global "trustmark," similar to Fair Trade or Organic, and not unlike the iconic "chasing arrows" recycling symbol. Products that are made with a significant amount of wind energy can be certified to carry the seal. Eventually, whole businesses, organizations and even countries may qualify.

The WindMade program is being administered by an independent foundation (WindMade.org), which Vestas helped establish with starter funding. The Danish turbine maker controls one seat on the board, and other stakeholders include Lego (yes, the toy block maker), Bloomberg media, the World Wildlife Fund, the UN Global Compact and the Global Wind Energy Council. PricewaterhouseCoopers will serve as the auditor.


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Today Is National Swap Day

messy room at remy chevalier's house

Clothing swaps are a great way to get a fresh new look without spending any money, plus give away gently used items you aren't using anymore. Same thing goes for swaps of books, CDs, DVDs and many other items. What could be greener? Today, January 22nd, is being promoted as National Swap Day by Swap.com.

At least eight swap events are scheduled for National Swap Day, plus several more happening all over the country between now and February. Swap's founder Jeff Bennett blogged about it in the Huffington Post. Fox News also recently covered the associated Swapaholics.

Users of Swap.com have reportedly participated in some 1.8 million exchanges, saving $11.6 million and reducing a carbon footprint by 10.5 million pounds.


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8 Reasons Why Fear over Hybrid and Electric Car Batteries Is Overblown

better place nissan rogue electric converted car in japan

It's been true for a while that advancing battery technology is a critical part of the development of cleaner cars. As Tony Posawetz, vehicle line director for the Chevy Volt said at the recent Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards, "We will electrify the future. Batteries have gotten better but consumers have gotten more demanding."

While some experts have projected that the batteries of the near future may be literally assembled from dirt, it's true that today's devices have some amount of toxicity to them, and some environmental concerns. Still, widely circulated concerns over the impact of batteries are overblown.

The Daily Green recently received an email from Kathryn Mayer, a reader who said she is considering buying a 2011 hybrid Hyundai Sonata. However, she had second thoughts after a friend asked her: what would happen to the battery at the end of its life? The friend's argument was that, because hybrids (and electric cars) have bigger batteries than conventional gas cars, shouldn't that mean the batteries are more toxic? Shouldn't that mean the environmental benefits of driving a hybrid are canceled out?

Well, there are a number of things Kathryn's friend should know:

1. Hybrid and electric car batteries come with long warranties.

In the case of the Chevy Volt, that's eight years, and in the case of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, the warranty is 10 years. In contrast, the warranty on an ACDelco conventional car battery is three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.

What this means is that you would likely go through about three conventional car batteries for every hybrid or electric battery. That takes us to the next point.


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New Green Blog Counters "Eco Snobbery" with Humor and Inclusiveness

eco snobbery sucks website

My friend Jeffrey Davis is a veteran of Web publishing, having put in years building up the Fun Times Guide to Living Green, and recently having written for MNN and elsewhere. Jeffrey is based in Tennessee, and it's no exaggeration to say that he's one of the nicest, most helpful guys in the green blogosphere.

Jeffrey's newest project is a quirky green site called Eco-Snobbery Sucks. It's a memorable title in a field that is getting increasingly crowded with various plays on the word "green," and it hints at the site's laid-back style and casual tone, much like Jeffrey, who is as all-inclusive, welcoming, and non-judgmental as anyone I've met who self identifies as green. Though the word "sucks" was banned from my house when I was a kid, it seems pretty tame by today's standards, to quote Bart Simpson.

According to Jeffrey, the reason he founded Eco-Snobbery Sucks is to bring attention to the oft-forgotten truth that every step taken towards green matters, big or small. According to the site's faq, eco-snobbery could also play out when:


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Last Minute Gifts: Green Books by TDG Writers and Friends

A lot happened in 2010, with the oil spill in the Gulf, flooding in Pakistan, an earthquake in Haiti and a great deal of political and economic unrest around the world. At times, the environment seemed to take center stage, while at others, other priorities seemed to steal the limelight. Books are generally a relatively slow medium compared to 24-7 TV and Internet coverage, although this year has already seen several tomes on the BP disaster.

Still, we're taking this opportunity to reflect back on some of the environmental books that came out in 2010 and that were authored by staff, contributors and friends of The Daily Green. As it turns out, our relatively small circle is relatively prolific, and these recent works span a pretty broad range of topics and styles, from natural health to food, tech and even sex.

Tell us which are your favorites!

geothermal hvac book cover by jay egg and brian clark howard

Geothermal HVAC

I was recently fortunate to team up with Jay Egg to co-write a new book on geothermal heating and cooling. Jay has more than 20 years of experience in the field, and he studied with modern geothermal HVAC inventor Dr. Jim Bose of Oklahoma State University. Jay's company, Egg Geothermal, has done many successful installations throughout Florida and Georgia, and beyond, to the Bahamas and soon maybe even the Middle East.

As I learned from researching the topic with Jay, geothermal heating and cooling can be applied almost anywhere on the planet. It uses heat pump technology, similar to what's in a refrigerator, to take advantage of the stable temperatures of the Earth, rear-round. Geothermal systems, also called "earth-coupled systems" or "ground loop systems," provide exceptionally even, perfectly tempered heating and cooling. They are very low maintenance and last much longer than conventional systems.

Geothermal heating and cooling takes advantage of the clean heat beneath our feet. It is renewable and home grown, and it is increasingly affordable. Excellent federal tax credits, good until at least 2016, can often be paired with state and local incentives. As we show in the book, Jay has seen payback periods for his real world customers as low as one year for large commercial installations, and as low as three to four years for homes. That's much quicker than solar or wind power, and it increases the value of your property.

Geothermal HVAC is a fairly technical book, but it is written for the lay person, as well as professionals in the field. We tried to write in an engaging style, with lots of real-world examples and case studies. We included numerous photos and dozens of original illustrations, which clearly explain the concepts, show you how to understand contractor proposals, and show the many applications of the technology.

B&N price: $48




green lighting book cover

Green Lighting

Another book I worked on that came out in 2010 is Green Lighting, about energy-saving light solutions and strategies you can start using today to save money and help you live smarter and more comfortably. I recently highlighted seven things about lighting people should know, from the book, and you can read what others are saying about it here.

Although the book has a pioneering LED (light emitting diode) on the cover, it isn't just about the emerging technology, or even "light bulbs." Although my coauthors and I went into depth about the debate over mercury in CFLs, the impending lighting efficiency standards and the versatility of new designs, we also covered the benefits of daylighting, dimmers and sensors, recycled fixtures and lighting strategies. For example, did you know that having a single ceiling light is actually a terrible way to illuminate a room?

B&N price: $22.45


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Green Lighting Spreads Around the Web

green lighting book cover

The recent book Green Lighting by yours truly, Seth Leitman and Bill Brinsky continues to gain steam, and the three of us had a great conversation with Remy C. of Rock The Reactors last night in Westchester, New York, taking many questions from the audience. One woman said she is "terrified of CFLs because of the mercury," and we reassured her that much of the fear is overblown. There were many questions about light emitting diodes, dimmers and what to do with spent or unwanted bulbs (lamprecycle.org!).

Follow some of the links below to learn more about energy efficient lighting, and see what folks are saying about Green Lighting.


Web:

Seven Things You Didn't Know About Light Bulbs (But should) (Yahoo! Green)
(Reprinted by Yahoo News, GetwithGreen.com, Greenwala, and Scotts Contracting)

Home Lighting: 7 Things You Didn't Know But Should (PHOTOS) (Huffington Post)

7 (Different!) Things About Energy Efficient Light Bulbs (GOOD)

How to Shop for Low-Energy Lightbulbs (Rodale News)

Greenlighted (Review) (E Magazine)

5 Green Living Books That Would Make Great Christmas Gifts! (GHC Health)

Green Lighting Review (Constantly Conflicted)

Green Lighting: How to Cut Your Electric Bill & Carbon Emissions (Sustainablog)
(Reprinted by Green Building Pro)

The Phase-Out of Incandescent Light Bulbs: What You Need To Know (Earth911)

Light Well: Indoor and Outdoor Lighting Ideas for the Home (Natural Home)

Seven Things You Don't Know (ledtube)


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Get TDG's Free Green Gift Ideas on Your Phone

young adults texting

The holiday gift-procuring season is in full swing. If you're looking to spend less money but get more meaning this year, The Green Cheapskate has some suggestions for you. Or head over to our green gift guide for more than a hundred great suggestions, from bar glasses made from recycled windshields to a stylish bag made from reclaimed coffee pouches.

Or, if you need some green giving inspiration on the go, sign up for our free tips via SMS. That's right, for the 2/3 of Americans who don't yet have a smart phone (including 1/3 of TDG's staff), here's an easy solution to keep you connected. Sign up and you'll get a one-time burst of 10 green gift tips, which we curated from the best of our holiday content.

The text messages are tiny in terms of bytes, but you'll have them everywhere you go, so you can take some bites out of your holiday shopping list. And if you do have a smart phone, the tips are hyperlinked for more info.

All you have to do is text TDGGIFT to 542542. (If you change your mind, you can stop the balance of 10 tips from arriving by texting STOP to 542542. If you need help, text HELP.)

You can also sign up for 10 free winterization tips from The Daily Green. Just text TDGWINT to 542542. Stay warm!

We thought we'd give this free service a try, so let us know what you think. It's powered by kgb free text alerts. Note that standard text messaging rates may apply, depending on your phone plan.

Also get more great green gift suggestions


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TDG Readers Get Exclusive Invites to Ecopetts, a New Green Social Service

ecopetts monkey by formative labs, green virtual pets

Were you hooked on Tamagotchi in the mid or late 90s? If you missed that craze, a Tamagotchi is a small, inexpensive electronic toy that asks the user to care for a "virtual pet." The handheld devices first appeared in Japan in 1996, and some 70 million have been sold around the world since.

The word Tamagotchi is a clever multi-lingual portmanteau that combines the Japanese word for egg, tamago, and the English word for watch. The concept is pretty simple: a player is asked to "care" for his or her virtual pet by regularly pushing buttons for feeding, watering and entertaining it, while removing waste and providing medicine as needed.

Virtual pets tend to be demanding little buggers, just like real living things. The better cared for the Tamagotchi, the stronger and healthier it becomes, and it will evolve through several life stages. One person's virtual pet can interact with another player's pet, through sharing, gift giving and even mating. Ignore your virtual pet at your peril, as it quickly gets unruly, sick and will even die. This aspect has made the concept controversial at times, with some parents complaining that a constantly nagging Tamagotchi distracts their kids from more productive pursuits, and many schools banning them over fears of distractions.

Technology has long surpassed the novelty of the Tamagotchi, though newer versions are still being produced, complete with wireless connectivity. However, the concept of a virtual pet endures. Three dimensional, lifelike artificial pets were predicted as status symbols in Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner), and Zynga has made millions enticing Facebook users to sow virtual crops in the hit game Farmville.


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Santa's New Home?

House Hunting: A Global Warming PSA from Dan Kowalski on Vimeo.


Have you done your part to reduce carbon emissions, or are you using up too many lumps of coal still?

Check out more green holiday content, and get our gift ideas on the go, by texting TDGGIFT to 542542. Powered by kgb free text alerts. (Standard text messaging rates apply)


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7 Places You Shouldn't Put a CFL

lit cfl

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) have received a lot of support from environmentalists over the past few years, and for good reason. The now-iconic "swirly" bulbs are roughly 75% more efficient than standard incandescent bulbs, and they last up to 10 times longer, saving users money, hassle and reducing our environmental impact. At the same time, much has been said about the drawbacks of CFLs. What is less discussed is where CFLs don't make as much sense, and where you would do well to consider alternatives.

First, it's true CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury, which is toxic, though that amount has been steadily dropping, and there are reasons why you shouldn't over-worry about this issue, including a lack of evidence of harm and safe handling strategies. Still, my coauthors of the new book Green Lighting and I recognize that some people are concerned. In addition, there are cases when CFLs might be avoided in favor of LEDs or halogens.

LEDs (light emitting diodes) last for thousands of hours and are even more efficient than fluorescents, and they tend to produce crowd-pleasing, adaptable light, as our recent tests showed. LED bulbs are becoming widely available, with prices that have plummeted (Home Depot's EcoSmart line starts at $20 each). Halogens are less efficient than CFLs and LEDs, but they are 10 to 40% more efficient than standard incandescents and they last two to three times longer. They also work well with dimmers.

So here are some areas where we would recommend considering LEDs or halogens over CFLs:


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Join TDG and the Authors of Green Lighting for a Westchester, NY Book Event

green lighting book

Join me and my coauthors of our recent book Green Lighting next week in Ossining, New York in Westchester County, as we discuss the book, take questions, and explain how you can save energy and live smarter.

Here's the details:

Tuesday, December 14th
6pm at the
Ossining Public Library
53 Croton Avenue
Ossining, NY

Meet and greet the authors of Green Lighting:
Brian Clark Howard, The Daily Green
Seth Leitman, Green Living Guy
William Brinsky, Envirolite Systems

20% of the electricity we produce goes to lighting our homes and businesses. Green Lighting can dramatically reduce electrical consumption making dirty coal and old nuclear a thing of the past. Come and join us at Ossining’s LEED-certified public library to discuss all the new emerging green lighting technologies, like LEDs, improved efficiency halogen, CFL, and day lighting.


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1,000 Volunteers Help 50 Displaced New Orleans Families Rebuild Their Homes, in 5 Days


Onaje Lombard hammered, scraped and painted as long as he could, before torrential rains drove him inside his house in the Gentilly section of New Orleans. More than a dozen people crowded into the small living room, panchos dripping on the linoleum.

These people were all volunteers, who were in town from all over the country to support Rebuilding Together's Fifty for Five week, with the goal of getting 50 Gentilly families who had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina back into single-family homes.


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Pepsi Refresh Project Inspires Kids to Eat Veggies and Puts Solar Panels in New Orleans

rick delashmit in corn hat for tastebuds project, belleville farmers market

"If we want kids to eat more fresh foods, let's take fresh foods to them," Rick Delashmit explained at a recent press lunch for Pepsi Refresh Project.

Delashmit's group, the Belleville Farmer's Market, recently won a $25,000 grant from Pepsi Refresh to support their Taste Buds program. The grant is one of roughly 200 that have so far been made, with the ultimate goal giving away millions of dollars.

Pepsi Refresh is a bold new take on corporate philanthropy, moving more of the grantmaking process online and in the open. Anyone can submit project ideas and vote on their favorites at refresheverything.com, a colorful, dynamic destination curated by the talented folks of pioneering GOOD magazine. My friend Ben Jervey of GOOD (and author of Big Green Apple is the "ambassador" for The Planet section. Pepsi Refresh has a big leaderboard of ideas getting votes, building on the social success of sites like Digg (social news), Kickstarter (indy project funding), Kiva (microloans), and My Starbucks Idea (corporate innovation).

Pepsi Refresh has tons of green projects seeking funding, such as a GREENevada high school sustainability competition, a raptor rehab center, and a program to reduce nonessential use of antibiotics in livestock.

One green project that has already received funding is One Block Off the Grid, which has raised awareness of solar power in rebuilding New Orleans, and has helped solarize communities there (see TDG's own recent trip to New Orleans). Check out the video from One Block Off the Grid below.

But back to that corn hat...The Belleville Farmer's Market has been operating since 1982, but like many people, farmers' market worker Rick Delashmit noticed that the kids in his area weren't benefiting as much as they could from fresh fruits and vegetables. Delashmit watched obesity and diabetes rates climb, while parents told him they just couldn't get their kids to eat veggies in a world overrun with junk food.


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Animal Camp Shares Heartwarming Stories of Rescued Farm Animals

animal camp book cover by kathy stevens

"The message here is really quite simple: I believe in ways that count we're all the same," the soft-spoken Kathy Stevens told the fashionable crowd in a rented NYC loft, marking the launch party of her new book Animal Camp. As guests nibbled vegan treats, Stevens told quirky and heartwarming stories about Rambo the sheep, his friend Barbie the chicken and other residents of the Catskills Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties, New York.

Steven's message was one of simplicity and inclusiveness. She talked about her own long journey, of becoming a vegetarian in middle age, and a vegan just a few years ago. She said her message to vegans is to "don't be so angry. We gotta give people some room, and invite them." Stevens lamented that only two percent of people are vegetarians, with a smaller percent vegan.

"There are all kinds of reasons why; denial, compartmentalization," said Stevens. "But the concept I'd like to leave is kindness as a universal value. We don't say, 'I'll be kind to this neighbor and not to that one.' Yet every time we pick up a fork, we subject someone -- not something -- to a level of unkindness we wouldn't wish on a rapist."

Stevens then outlined some of the major motivations for her own switch to veganism. "Animals are tortured from birth to death," she said. Stevens dismissed "free range," saying, "that term is misused, and in any case it's only a tiny percentage." Stevens also touched on human health concerns over meat consumption (obesity, diabetes), and pointed out "what agribusiness is doing to the planet."

Stevens' central message was one of compassion. "If we know it about dogs and cats, why is it such a stretch to chickens and pigs, who have emotional lives, and feel pain and suffering?" Stevens asked. As she read a few passages from Animal Camp about the unlikely bonds and complex behavior of the sheep, pigs, goats and others at the sanctuary, the theme was clear: we're all more similar than different, and we all want the same things in life -- food, water, a place to lie down at night, dignity and companionship.


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URTH Guy is a blog about green Urban Style, Recycling and Reuse, Technology and E-Culture, and (hopefully) Humor. read more.
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Brian Clark Howard

Brian Clark Howard

Brian Clark Howard is The Daily Green's home and tips editor. read full bio.
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Green Lighting: How Energy-Efficient Lighting Can Save You Energy and Money and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.
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