Tag Archives: Sustainability

Planting the Seeds of Intent for Sustainable Smart Cities

City of Tampa in full bloom.

In the late 1990s, Americans dreamed of a fully automated smart house. They smiled at the idea of turning lights on and off with a universal remote or voice command, they chuckled at the thought of a house regulating its own temperature, and their mouths watered at the notion of a house making breakfast.

Now in 2014, having actually built many things that were only dreams at the end of the century, visionaries are broadening their ambitions from smart homes to smart cities.

“What is a ‘smart city’?” you might be wondering. “What can it do now, and what might it be able to do in the future?” Excellent questions. Here are three examples of smart city technology that existtoday, and some thoughts about where they might go.

1. Smart Grids

According to energy.gov, the growth in peak energy usage has exceeded the growth in transmission capability by 25 percent every year since 1982. Given this staggering statistic, is it any wonder that over the past forty years America has endured five enormous blackouts (three of which happened within the last nine years)?

Until recently, utility companies tried to combat this problem by expanding (not improving) the current grid. This is no longer a viable option. However, smart grid technologies are part of the solution.

Currently, the most wide-spread form of smart grid technology is Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). AMI replaces the traditional electric meter with a smart meter that gives both the homeowner and the utility information about power usage in real-time.

This information helps homeowners regulate their energy usage and demonstrates the value of energy-saving appliances. In the event of a power outage or other problem, smart meters also help utility companies pinpoint the issue, allowing them to resolve it more quickly while keeping the problem from spreading.

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Deepak Chopra: Music & Art on a Path to World Peace

What role do art, music, and creativity play in creating a peaceful, sustainable globe? To consider that question, we might first examine the crucial role artists and creators have in our communities and in our own lives.

In this address to the members of the World Peace Orchestra, Deepak Chopra discusses the role of music and art on creating a path to world peace.

Are you an artist? What role do you think art plays on the path toward world peace?

For more about the World Peace Orchestra, click here.

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Tips to Avoid Harmful Chemicals and Make Your Home a Healing Space

Δ†In the naturopathic profession, often one of the first challenges a doctor will tackle in working with a new patient is to determine and remove the “barriers to cure” – things that are interfering with the body’s ability to heal. In the past, I’ve written about treatments for common barriers to cure such as insufficient sleep, food sensitivities and seasonal allergies. I’ve learned through many patient experiences that no matter how amazing a medical treatment or how hard I work, a patient will be hard-pressed to truly heal as long as barriers stand in the way.

Often, some of the toughest barriers to remove are allergens and irritants in the home.  Chemical usage in home products has skyrocketed in the past few decades. Everything from laundry detergent to stain-resistant carpets, air-freshener sprays and synthetic-fiber bedding is a source of chemicals that put stress on our livers and immune systems. If you’re not aware of what I’m talking about, here’s a touching video from Healthy Child Healthy World that puts this issue into focus, especially as it impacts children (who are even more susceptible to the negative impacts of these chemicals than most adults).

My mother happens to be a Seattle-based interior designer with a fluency in eco-design and hypo-allergenic products for the home. While visiting her recently, I took some time to ask her for resources and tips she could share for those of us who are looking for ways to create a healthier home environment. The following are highlights from our conversation:

Q: What kinds of materials and treated fabrics are best to avoid in order to minimize chemical exposure?

A: Ideally, avoid anything synthetic. Synthetic materials, such as polyesters and acrylics, contain chemicals that can be harmful.  In addition to the material itself, these types of products are often treated with other chemicals to make them stain-resistant or otherwise “low-maintenance”. Unfortunately, buying convenience can also mean having to live with toxins that can be harmful to health. Terms like “easy care”, “water-repellant”, “no iron”, “anti-cling”, “static-free” and “flame retardant” are all signs that the product may be treated with harmful chemicals.

Q: What are some of the healthiest and least allergenic fibers to look for when choosing fabrics and floor coverings for a home?

A: The easiest rule of thumb is to stick with natural fibers. Linen, hemp, ramie, and abaca are all natural fibers that are hypo-allergenic and tend to be free from additional chemical treatments. When possible, look for organic textiles, not just organically grown materials, but products that are processed using organic-compliant compounds. Sometime a material will be organic, but then it’s processed with a harsh, non-organic dye and that can defeat the health benefits of sourcing the original organic material.

Q: In general terms, how to you suggest approaching the design of an eco-friendly and hypo-allergenic space?

A: Keep the space free of clutter where dust and allergens can accumulate. Opt for wood or tile floors and avoid carpet. Use natural fibers for window coverings, like wood-based plantation shutters instead of heavy fabric curtains. Optimize air circulation by strategically placing doors and windows to optimize air flow and utilize the air-filtering mechanisms of plants to improve air quality.

Q: Are there certain products, brands and resources you can suggest for people who are looking for products or just want more information on how to make smart choices when it comes to creating a health-promoting space?

A: The following are all great resources to check out:

  • O Ecotextiles is a Seattle-based textile company that creates luxurious fabrics that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable. Not only do I love their products, but they are leading experts on this topic and their website has an incredible amount of information for how to make smart choices for the home.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful chemicals often found in paint and other home-based textiles. This site does a great job of explaining the dangers of VOCs, what products typically contain them and how they can be avoided.
  • Unique Carpets, Ltd. sells eco-friendly floor coverings made from natural fibers that are treated in an environmentally-safe way. If you are looking for floor coverings to soften a space, this brand is a great option to check out.

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10 Moving Photos of the Black Rhino, Now Extinct in Western Africa

Credit: NagWolf

Rhinos are some of the most strange and beautiful creatures to inhabit this planet of ours. With its sturdy, two-humped body, a head like a hippo, and horns that conjure tales of unicorns, the rhinoceros is an animal who should inspire awe and respect. Why, then, does it consistently make the “critically endangered” list on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species?

The answer: Poaching. These majestic creatures have been mercilessly pursued by poachers for their precious horns, used both in traditional Chinese medicine as well as for personal adornment in various parts of the world. The population of Black Rhinos, in particular, declined over 97% between 1960 and 1995, and they have been listed as critically endangered since 1996. They are now believed to be entirely extinct in western Africa, with three remaining subspecies tenuously populating eastern and southern parts of the continent.

The natural life expectancy for the Black Rhino ranges from 35 to 50 years, which is fairly long considering their immense size (2,000-3,000 lbs at full maturity.) Despite the intimidating horns, Black Rhinos are herbivores and use their strength primarily in fighting one another. Intra-species violence aside, they have no natural predators and have been pushed to the extinction and near-extinction by human practices, alone.

Here are 10 awe-inspiring photos of the powerful Black Rhino, whose compromised existence is no one’s fault by our own:

 

Photo credits: NagWolf, Joachim S. Müller, Vincent Catt

8 Things You Didn’t Know About Electric Cars

Tesla Model SAdvocates of the gasoline engine point to the high costs, low speeds and the unproven track record of the electric car as its caveats. However, the facts are clear: electric cars are drastically falling in price, are competing with ordinary driver vehicles for speed, entail far less maintenance and are proving even more reliable than cars using petrol. Bet you didn’t know these astounding facts.

1. Electric Cars Aren’t New Kids on the Block

In fact, electric cars have been around for more than 170 years. Robert Anderson of Scotland is credited with creating the first electric carriage in 1832. Electric cars have, of course, progressed significantly since then, as the technology has improved by leaps and bounds. You now have the option of controlling many of car’s functions from your smartphone. So if it’s cold outside, use your smartphone to start up your car and save yourself some freezing discomfort. Some of the best cell phones of 2013 now have the technology to seamlessly interact with your smart car.

2. Once Upon a Time, Electric Cars Were More Popular than Petrol Cars

Before the twentieth century, there were more electric cars on the road than gas-powered ones. Until the Model T was invented and petrol became readily available, that is. In 1897, all New York City taxis were electric-powered, built by Electric Carriage and Wagon Company in Chicago.

3. Ironically, Electricity Made Petrol More PopularKarma at speed in the fog

At first, petrol cars were less popular because they had to be hand cranked. When the electric starter was installed, it made starting petrol engines easier. So, electricity is what bolstered gasoline engines into popularity.

4. Electric Cars Need Almost No Maintenance

Other than replacing windshield wipers and buying tires, there is virtually no maintenance in owning an electric car. Even the brakes last longer due to the design of electric cars. The Mars Rovers have worked continually for over seven years with no mechanical issues at all.

5. Electric Cars are Speed Demons!

In 1899, the world speed record on land was made by an electric car from Belgium called La Janais Contante. It made history at 68 mph (109 km/h). Today, the world’s fastest electric car reaches speeds of 305 km/h and accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in a mere 2.8 seconds.

6. Electric Cars are More Available, Less Costly All the Time

In 2009, a consumer paid £21,334 for an electric car. Today that price has fallen to £10,990. By 2015, consumers are expected to pay a mere £6,500. Not only are the prices falling, but more vehicles are becoming available. Almost every major auto manufacturer in the world is expected to offer an electric vehicle within two years. Thirteen models are currently available, with 18 to come. The Tesla Roadster, Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are just a few of the currently available electric cars to choose from.

7. Charging An Electric Car is Easy

Many consumers fear that charging the car will be difficult, expensive, time-consuming or impossible. However, charging electric cars is cheaper than buying petrol at today’s prices and most owners charge their cars overnight and lose no time at all out of their busy schedules. In fact, as your smartphone charges, so can your car! Increasingly, petrol stations are offering fueling stations for electric cars to meet customer demands.

8. Electric Cars are More Efficient With Less Pollutants

Eighty percent of the energy in an electric car goes toward powering the vehicle, while only 14-26 percent of the energy used by a petrol car does so. Additionally, electric cars introduce no pollutants, while petrol vehicles produce nitrous oxide, particulates and many other air pollutants.

Clearly, there is much we can learn about electric cars. Are you in the market?

 

Image via Flickr by Al Abut

Image via Flickr by Fisker Auto

Deepak Chopra: Does Climate Change Threaten The Survival Of The Human Race?

We’ve all heard the terrifying statistics that predict the fall of civilization with the progressing decline of the environment. At times we might feel too doomed to even change our ways and work toward sustainability.

In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra addresses climate change and social action. Joined by David Gershon, founder and president of the Empowerment Institute, the two argue that by taking collective action, we can make an impact on the world and on our environment for the better. Gershon addresses some of the key components of social change, which include protest, personal growth, and education.

What do you think? Do you feel inspired or hopeless about the environment? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

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4 Green Technologies That Are Actually Selling

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 1.25.51 PM

People are becoming increasingly concerned about their carbon footprint. However, just because we are concerned about this as a society does not mean that all green technologies are selling as well as they should be. In fact, too many of them have gone by the wayside. Luckily, there are still green technologies that are actually selling.

Hybrid Cars

The price of hybrid cars keeps coming down, and the demand keeps going up. As the price comes down, more people can afford them. When buying new cars, one of the biggest things families look at is the gas mileage. The next thing they look at is the overall price of the car. So, if they can get a car that is relatively inexpensive but will give them great gas mileage, they are going to jump on it. This is the biggest reason that these vehicles are selling extremely well.

Cleaning Supplies

Have you walked down the cleaning supplies aisle at the grocery store lately? Take a look around; you’ll see that there’s a lot of “green” products. That’s because these things sell like crazy. No one wants to clean their home with harsh chemicals. Instead, they want to get things clean, but do it as environmentally friendly as possible. Companies that create cleaning products have noticed this and now make green cleaning products that fly off the shelves.

Home Solar Panels

As the solar panel technology is getting smaller and more easily available for home use, it’s also becoming more popular. People are buying solar panels to put on their roofs to power their homes. Some use these to supplement their power, while others bring in so much from their solar panels that they are able to sell back to the power company in their town. In addition, many new homes come pre-installed with solar panels. This is a technology that is becoming almost as common as high-speed Internet in homes – it’s not quite there yet, but give it a few years.

Windmill Farms

One of the biggest sellers for cities and states is the wind technology. In fact, many areas are setting up windmill farms. These expanses of land literally have windmills set up on them, and that’s it. They harvest the power of the wind and use it to produce power. That power takes the place of more traditional power creation methods, lowering the carbon footprint of the city. Plus, many cities that do this are able to sell the excess power they create to other cities or even other states. In addition to larger entities doing this, some individuals are able to set up windmills on their own land. Sometimes the land is rented to larger organizations for the power creation.

There are a lot of green technologies out there. Some have come and gone without much stir in the community. Other technologies have yet to be tested on a larger scale. What are your thoughts on the green tech industry? Do you see potential for economic growth and job creation through these endeavors?

Deepak Chopra: A Message to the Future Leaders of the World (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2013-06-03 at 4.04.31 PMBy Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP

From my commencement speech at Hartwick College

Today as you celebrate this major milestone in your life and commence a new stage of your life journey, I ask you to reflect on the gift of life itself. And life, in essence, is nothing but awareness. Furthermore human life, considered the pinnacle of biological evolution, is not just awareness, but self-awareness. Amongst creatures on this planet, we human beings are not only aware; we have the capacity to be aware that we are aware, to be conscious of our consciousness. In that self-awareness lies our potential and power to direct our own future evolution and the future evolution of civilization.

Biological evolution has been summed up in the phrase of “survival of the fittest,” but with overpopulation and over-consumption of resources, the future belongs to “survival of the wisest”. It is imperative for the future of humanity that wisdom becomes the new criterion for sustainable life on this planet. And wisdom is that knowledge that nurtures life in all its dimensions not only for us but also for the generations that follow us.

Today’s age is frequently referred to as the Information Age. The hallmarks of this age are the gifts of science and technology that have created the miracles of molecular medicine, real-time imaging of cellular function, instant accessibility of global knowledge, and social networks. Yet despite this emerging global brain, paradoxically we are beset with the same scourges of war and terrorism, radical poverty in 50% of the world’s population, irreversible climate change, along with deepening social and economic injustice! Furthermore, humanity suffers from massive malnutrition in which half the world suffers from hunger and the other half from obesity leading to inflammatory disorders, increasing the risk of chronic illnesses including many types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases while the hungry die from compromised immune function and infectious diseases. The information revolution has not led to the wisdom needed to solve our world crisis in health and well-being.

If ever humanity had the power of mass self-extinction on planet earth, it is today. And if it happens it will be because we allowed our emotional and spiritual evolution to be outpaced by the evolution of our science and technology. Nuclear proliferation, biological warfare, eco destruction, the extinction of species and the poisoning of our atmosphere, our rivers and waters and the very food that sustains our life and all life loom before us as imminent threats. But just as in other critical phases of transformation, while there is disaster looming on one hand, there is on the other hand the potential to create a radical reorganization into something much greater than was conceived of before.

Today, I ask you my young friends, you who are the future hope of humanity, you who are the future leaders of the world; today, I ask you what Mahatma Gandhi once asked, “Can you be the change you want to see in the world?”

In fact, there can be no social or world transformation unless there is your own inner transformation. Today, I ask you to face a fundamental truth. Today, I ask you to consider that there is no ‘you’ that is separate from the world. The gift of life, your own self-consciousness is your key to inner transformation and wisdom, and that in turn is how you will transform the world. Today, I ask you to acknowledge that you are the world and that your transformation of consciousness will be the future of the word. This self-transformation is the wisdom for our planet’s survival.

As I enter the autumn of my life and you the springtime of yours, I want to leave you with seven skills in self-awareness that I have learned and that I hope will serve you well no matter what profession you choose, or where your life and destiny take you.

 Stay tuned for Part 2 in which I outline the seven skills of self-awareness!

 

www.deepakchopra.com

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6 Creative Ways to Green Your Life in Time for Summer

First out of the trapThere’s a lot of pressure these days to be sustainable superheroes with canteen-packing totes, perfectly organic diets, and pricey hybrid cars. Most people are lucky to have access to a grocery store that even stocks local, organic foods, let alone at a price that’s amenable to the average income. These issues aside, sustainability and environmental decline are real issues that every individual should feel it within their power to combat with simple measures in their daily lives. That’s why we’ve collected 6 online resources that will hopefully inspire you to green your home, live healthier, and feel confident in the contribution you are able to make toward a sustainable world. Have fun!

  1. Start composting: An oldie but goodie, if you haven’t joined the compost bandwagon yet then now is your chance! It requires a bit of effort in the set up, but once your compost is up and running, sustaining it will be a breeze. And you don’t need a big backyard or garden to make it happen. Here is the ultimate guide to urban composting.
  2. Make an alternative energy source: You probably never even thought it within your power to create your own alternative energy. But think again! Here is a super simple, efficient DIY video on how to make your own backyard wind turbine. Even if you don’t feel like building a whole wind power generator, consider the ways you can reduce electricity – make use of natural light, look into energy-efficient shower heads, etc.
  3. Try backyard farming: Please don’t buy a $1,300 chicken coop (unless that’s what you’re into.) But do let this fascinating article on chic backyard farming inspire you to try your hand at raising chickens, growing vegetables, making preserves, or whatever you have the time and energy for. You don’t need to spend exorbitant amounts on boutique tools and tailor made gardening gear – a bit of space, time, and love are the most important ingredients.
  4. Recycle creatively: Recycling isn’t just about throwing bottles and cans in the proper bin. Explore ways to get creative with your recycling, like by making gifts and household products out of broken bike chains, old clothes, empty jars, and more.
  5. Make your own clothes: You don’t need a degree in fashion to start making your own clothes, but let this new sustainable fashion program, recently launched by Buckinghamshire New University, inspire you to work good eco-habits into your wardrobe. Thrifting is a great place to start, or have a clothing exchange party with your friends!
  6. Green your office: Whether you work from home or in a big office, there are lots of ways to reduce your footprint (and save money) at work. This can include switching entirely to Googledocs and electronic files to cut back on printing, using recycled paper, instituting communal office lunches, and more.

We hope you feel inspired and empowered to incorporate some green practices into your home and work environment! Summer is a particularly great time to get outside and plant those backyard gardens, start biking to work, take a thrift store outing, and the like. What tips do you have for green living? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below!

How Many Insects Do We Eat Everyday Without Knowing It?

It’s kind of hard to practice mindful living and healthy eating when you discover that even seemingly benign products like canned mushrooms and chocolate contain…wait for it…certain accepted levels of insects! Gross, right?

BuzzFeedFood released this video which gives us some perspective on just how many creepy crawlies we may be ingesting everyday without even knowing it:

Pretty distressing, indeed. But according to Food Service Warehouse, it may behoove us to eat more insects, anyways. It takes 2,850 grams of carbon dioxide (measured in grams per kilogram of mass gain) to produce beef, compared with 1.57 grams to harvest crickets. Teriyaki crickets for lunch, anyone? This is no laughing matter, though, and some current research is seriously looking into harvesting insects as a sustainable alternative to animal meat as a protein source. Here is a portion of an infographic published by Food Service Warehouse that goes into further depth on this topic. Click the image for the full graphic:

Would you be willing to switch out hamburgers and club sandwiches for locust kabobs and grilled crickets? And what about those trace amounts of maggots and other insect fragments in our chocolate, spices, apple butter, and other food products? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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