July 13, 2015 Solar

Rainbows Could Double Solar Energy Output!

Increasing the amount of electricity a solar panel produces is one of the most effective ways to reduce the cost of solar power.

MIT’s Technology Review reports on a new $2.4 million project funded by the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy aims to greatly increase the amount of sunlight that becomes electricity.

Harry Atwater, a professor of applied physics and materials science at Caltech, is working on cells to sort sunlight into eight to 10 different colors (a rainbow!) and direct those to a second layer that contains an array of solar cells matched to each color. Light is absorbed more efficiently, and more energy is converted to electricity, rather than heat.

Most solar panels convert less than 20 percent of the energy of the sunlight that falls on them into electricity.  Atwater’s goal is a conversion efficiency of more than 50 percent, which would double the amount of power generated by solar panels of any size.

Rainbow solar power!  This technology will make solar more affordable for homeowners and industries, alike.

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UpCycle

Save the Landfill – AND Your Sanity

“We all hate it. We’ve all complained about it.  After a vacation away, we dread it – Junk Mail.  In... Read

“We all hate it. We’ve all complained about it.  After a vacation away, we dread it – Junk Mail.  In fact, we spend about 8 months of our lives opening junk mail.

So what do you do about all of those credit card offers and catalogs? Sure, we can recycle them – but there’s got to be a way to get to the source, right?

There are several services out there whose main goal is to reduce junk mail, including DMAchoice.org, who can help you opt out of catalogs, donation requests and magazine offers.  There’s also OptOutPrescreen.com, who can help you opt out of all of those annoying credit card offers.

Not comfortable giving out even more personal information? Then consider this neat upcycling idea from CraftingAGreenWorld.com, which demonstrates how to make a notebook out of junk mail!”

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Family

Ways to Reuse that Expired Interior Paint

So you painted your bedroom last year and have some leftover interior paint.  Now it’s expired, and won’t mix well... Read

So you painted your bedroom last year and have some leftover interior paint.  Now it’s expired, and won’t mix well enough to use in any other rooms. What to do?  If you throw out your expired interior paint, it will end up in the landfill and some runoff will probably end up in the water.  No good for mother Earth. It’s not recyclable, even though the can is – but first, we have to figure out what to do with the paint inside!

-Make Art!  Grab a piece of canvas or reclaimed wood and slather it in your expired paint. Use masking tape to parse out lines for styling, or add in some sand for texture. Then, you brag to all of your friends that you made it.

-Do some last minute touch-ups. Chances are you’ve missed a spot or scratched the wall at some point.

-Paint some furniture. You can buy unfinished furniture at a fraction of the cost of finished furniture, and while we think stains and lacquers look great, consider making a great accent piece with your leftover paint.

Not only will you have a fun project for the weekend with all of your leftover paint, but you’ll also make some space in the garage.  Up next: How to upcycle that old paint can!

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Solar

Retailers – The Quest to go Solar

“Many retailers today – large and small – are looking for ways to be sustainable, and also do things that... Read

“Many retailers today – large and small – are looking for ways to be sustainable, and also do things that make sense for the business.  Going Solar has been one of those things that make sense for both goals.  With growing frequency, companies from Apple to Walmart have been making this a reality.  Below are a few examples of companies who are utilizing renewable energy and paving the road to an energy-efficient world.

IKEA
IKEA, the largest home furnishing store in the world, is up to 30 solar installations in its stores across the US including Tampa, Florida (July 2012) with the one of the latest in Frisco, Texas (August 2012). The company has made a serious commitment to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic technology.

IKEA owns and operates each of its solar power systems atop its buildings.  Drawing from its Swedish heritage, the company believes that Solar can be a good business while aiming for its operations to minimize impacts on the environment.

WALMART
Walmart has installed more than 150 solar projects across the US.  The company currently has 62 megawatts of solar panels installed, while operating fuel cells and wind turbines at other locations.  Walmart has plans to have 1,000 solar-powered locations by 2020.

APPLE INC.
By the end of 2012, Apple will meet the energy needs of their Maiden, North Carolina datacenter by generating onsite renewable energy.  They are building two solar array installations which use high-efficiency solar cells and an advanced solar tracking system.

Apple plans to buy solar panels from SunPower for the huge solar farm, and the projects should be completed by the end of the 2012.

MACY’S
In 2010, the Macy’s solar installation in Goodyear, AZ claimed the title for the largest single-rooftop system in the US.  Most of Macy’s efforts have been focused in California, installing solar panels on 26 stores.”

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Housewares

Green Rim Recycled Tumbler Glass

$7.00

A tale of transformation from trash to sparkling treasure—reclaiming what was once thrown away and giving it stunning new purpose.... Read

A tale of transformation from trash to sparkling treasure—reclaiming what was once thrown away and giving it stunning new purpose. Sparkling with bright, leafy green, evoking summer days and cool drinks with friends. These incomparable pieces are handcrafted by skilled artisans using traditional techniques passed down from generation to generation.

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Doing A Bit Better

There’s a BETTER App for That

“With the increase of smartphone ownership in the U.S., there really is an app for pretty much everything you could... Read

“With the increase of smartphone ownership in the U.S., there really is an app for pretty much everything you could think of.  So there’s no surprise that there are dozens (if not hundreds) of apps out there to help you Do A bit Better every day! From local green-business maps to energy consumption meters to carbon footprint calculators, there really is something for every aspect of living green.  Here’s a few apps we suggest for your day-to-day living.

Meter Readings: This app is great for monitoring your home’s monthly energy usage, water usage, and costs.  After enough data has been entered, this app will start plotting graphs so that you can visualize trends.  See how low you can get your energy bill!

Ecobee Smart Thermostat: With this app, you can control your home thermostat through WiFi to heat, cool and ventilate your home.  Note that this app is free but is used in conjunction with the Thermostat hardware that you install in your home. Manage your daily heating profiles, vacation settings and more from anywhere you go, and decrease your home’s energy / gas usage.

Yoink: Rather than taking that old couch to the landfill, find someone who can use it! List/find local, free items and avoid an exhausting trip to the thrift store.

Carticipate: If you’re the kind of person who likes to live life in the fast-lane (the carpool lane), then this app is for you. Coordinate carpools with local drivers and riders, and get to work more quickly while reducing CO2 emissions!

Of course this is just a short list of many green apps, so look around! Whether you’re managing your utilities, cleaning out the garage, or getting to work, there’s plenty of information literally at your fingertips to help you Do A bit Better.”

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Environment

Line Drying

Before dryers were invented, how did people get their clothes dry after washing them? They used a technique called line... Read

Before dryers were invented, how did people get their clothes dry after washing them? They used a technique called line drying outside. Not only did it effectively dry clothes, but it gave you the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. So, why not adopt this practice again? You will become more eco-friendly and on top of that, save on your energy bill!

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Recycle

Doing Better Than Your Next Door Neighbor

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans throw out nearly 5.5 billion pounds of electronics a year—such as TVs,... Read

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans throw out nearly 5.5 billion pounds of electronics a year—such as TVs, stereos, cell phones and even computers.  As a results, million of pounds of chemicals and heavy metals end up in the ground.  Despite local agencies making it rather clear how easy it is to recycle electronics, our neighbors have yet to catch on.  So the next time you are at your next block party and you overhear someone talking about how much they hate their blender tell them to go to www.mygreenelectronics.org to find a local recycling center in their area.  The site also provides a list of electronics, from laptops to baby monitors, that are easier on the environment  and your energy bill.

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Housewares

Quick Fix to Stop the Drip

“An average American consumer uses about 100 gallons of water per day- or 1,600 glasses.  Household water consumption has increased... Read

“An average American consumer uses about 100 gallons of water per day- or 1,600 glasses.  Household water consumption has increased by 200% since 1950, despite our population having only grown by 90%.  As a result, more than 36 states are expected to face water shortages in the next six years.  Stemming the flow is as easy as fixing a leaky faucet or toilet.  A dripping faucet can waste up to 74 gallons of water a day and a leaking toilet up to 200 gallons per day.

In repairing a leaky toilet you can save $30 a year, which may not sound like much, however, it’s also saving 73,00 gallons of water.”

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Solar

Solar 101

“We are often asked the following questions:  What is solar energy?  How do the sun’s rays become electricity?  And can... Read

“We are often asked the following questions:  What is solar energy?  How do the sun’s rays become electricity?  And can you please explain both in common English?

That being said.  Welcome to Solar 101.

Solar terms defined
The solar cells that you see on calculators are called photovoltaic (PV) cells.  Photovoltaic combines two words: “photo” meaning “”light”” and “voltaic” meaning electricity. A solar panel is simply an array of many joined photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic cells are most often made from silicon semiconductors.

So how does sunlight become electricity?
Now, remember back in 8th grade science when we learned that light is a form of energy?  When sunlight strikes the cell, a certain portion of light is absorbed within the semiconductor.  When the sunlight is absorbed the semiconductor knocks a portion of the lights electrons loose.  (Again, remember that all matter basically has protons and electrons).

PV cells all have an electric field that forces the free electrons to move in one direction. This flow of electrons creates an electrical current.  To light up your living room, your solar wiring simply taps into this current.

And now you can wow your neighbors at the next block party.  Kudos.”

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Recycle

The Princess Project

“ Pink, Yellow, Peach, Sea Foam oh my!  Not quite colors of the rainbow, but of the pretty bridesmaids dresses... Read

Pink, Yellow, Peach, Sea Foam oh my!  Not quite colors of the rainbow, but of the pretty bridesmaids dresses you still have hanging in your closet from the last 5 years.  So what to do next? RECYCLE of course!

We recently heard about a fantastic organization called The Princess Project that accepts donations of new or gently used gowns in excellent condition in all fabrics, sizes and colors.  The Princess Project provides free prom dresses and accessories to high school girls who cannot otherwise afford them. All of this is made possible through volunteer, donor and community support (people like you and me).

This organization is for California residents, but if you live elsewhere, please Do A bit Better and contact another organization that does the same in your state (See the Events Near You page)

Have fun cleaning out your closet!”

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Housewares

Recycled Glass Votive- 5 Pk Green

$20.00

5 Pack Green is an exercise in simplicity and sustainability. Handcut from reclaimed wine cooler bottles, these charming votive candleholders... Read

5 Pack Green is an exercise in simplicity and sustainability. Handcut from reclaimed wine cooler bottles, these charming votive candleholders are ideal for wherever you want to add the sparkle of candle light.

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Food

Put a Cork In It

“Nothing says “Sonoma Countryside” like an abundant collection of wine corks filling a tall glass floor-vase in the corner. What... Read

“Nothing says “Sonoma Countryside” like an abundant collection of wine corks filling a tall glass floor-vase in the corner. What happens, though, when corks (inevitably) overflow? What do you start to do with all of those extra corks?  Well we found these inspirations for DIY projects that will make you regret any of those corks you’ve ever thrown out.  Sorry, we don’t have any DIY projects lined up for boxed wine (no judgement!)

The first place our minds went was to the material – cork – traditionally used for wine, insulation, and… corkboards! So how does the cork make it from your Pinot Grigio to the wall? Check out these instructions from Wineintro.com. The hardest part will be finding corks that are exactly the same size. After not much work, you’ll have a great looking corkboard for the office or the kid’s room, or for recipes in the kitchen.

A similar but less expected way to reuse those same-size corks is to make a DIY bath-mat, which will add a touch of elegance and spa glamour to your bathroom. Freshhomeideas.com published this great step-by-step guide for creating such a luxury for your home.

Now that we’ve covered the office, the kid’s room and the bathroom, what about the kitchen?  One of the great properties of cork is its ability to diffuse heat – which makes it perfect for a Trivet and will be sure to impress your friends during the next dinner party. While you can use the same square-frame concept as the corkboard or the bath-mat, but if you want to step outside the box (get it?), try a circular pattern instead, and for about $3 you can have one like this one from greenluv.org.

Interested, but not a drinker? Corks are often available from wineries if you ask – they may charge a small premium or shipping on the used ones from the tasting room, but it’s still a lot cheaper than buying them from the craft store!

There you have it – now you can empty out that trophy-jar of corks and start over again, but with a few neat accessories around the house – accessories that you made yourself – and accessories that helped you Do A bit Better!”

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Housewares

Quick Home Tip – Let Your Dishwasher do the Work

“And by dishwasher, we don’t mean your husband. Today’s dishwashers aren’t like the avocado green one you grew up with. ... Read

And by dishwasher, we don’t mean your husband.

Today’s dishwashers aren’t like the avocado green one you grew up with.  They are highly powerful, so you can skip rinsing dishes before using your dishwasher.  In doing so, you can save up to 20 gallons of water each load. You save time, money, and avoid dishpan hands!”

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Housewares

Monday Tip of the Week – Green light!

“If every household in the United State replaced one regular light bulb with one of the new compact fluorescent bulbs,... Read

“If every household in the United State replaced one regular light bulb with one of the new compact fluorescent bulbs, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road.

Don’t like the color of the light? Use these bulbs for closets, laundry rooms and other obscure places where the light is less likely to bother you.  Or try changing your lampshade and light covers where it makes sense. A clear cover or light colored lampshade increases the amount of light that’s distributed.”

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Food

If Your Carrot has Traveled More Than You…That is a Problem

Did you know the average piece of produce we Americans eat each night has traveled nearly 1,500 miles before ending... Read

Did you know the average piece of produce we Americans eat each night has traveled nearly 1,500 miles before ending up on a plate?  This means the amount of fossil fuels consumed and the amount of carbon emissions is doing more harm to the environment than the broccoli is doing good for your liver.   Buying locally farmed produce does not mean you have to go to a Farmers Market (although it clearly is a great way!).  Simply log on to localharvest.org, sustainabletable.org or even the U.S. Department of Agriculture at ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/map to find out where local produce is sold in your area.  Not only will you be doing better for you and your family, but supporting your local farms and community as well.

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Food

Quick Tips for a Better Pregnancy

“Pregnancy can be one of the most special and amazing times in a woman’s life.  But there’s no question that... Read

“Pregnancy can be one of the most special and amazing times in a woman’s life.  But there’s no question that it can also be incredibly difficult, too.  On top of major bodily changes, there is the constant need to make sure you are keeping yourself and your future baby healthy!  So here are a few tips to help you make your pregnancy a bit healthier.

The No-Brainers – While these tips may be obvious, they are still very important.  Cut out alcohol, caffeine, and stop smoking.  And when taking your prenatal vitamins, be sure to opt for the types that contain natural ingredients with fewer dyes and ingredients.

Water – It is important to increase your water intake while pregnant.  In addition to keeping you vitally hydrated and your skin glowing, water carries nutrients through your blood to your baby.  Water also helps prevent common bladder and digestion pregnancy problems.  And contrary to popular belief, the more fluids you drink during pregnancy, the less your body retains.  So if your feet and ankles are swollen, drinking more water actually helps!  Just remember to use a water filter (like Britta or PUR) and drink out of a glass, not plastic, when possible.

Cleaning Products – During your pregnancy, opt for all natural brands that are free of harmful chemicals such as bleach and ammonia.  And when possible, enlist a friend to help with the cleaning – you’ll avoid inhaling any chemicals and give you a chance to kick your feet up and rest!

Looking Glamorous – The natural pregnancy ‘glow’ is a real thing of beauty.  But if you still want to continue using makeup, be sure do a quick inventory of your beauty products.  Much of your current makeup may be loaded with chemicals that can unsafe for your baby.  Additionally, old makeup can be loaded with bacteria which can clog pores and cause breakouts.  Since no makeup is FDA certified as organic, look for credible sources to buy from such as our friends at Organic Beauty Now, Skincare By Alana and Yves Rocher.

Eating Right – Organic foods are the way to go while pregnant.  You’ll be avoiding harmful pesticides and preservatives used to treat the foods.  If money is tight or you can’t find organic foods, opt for fruits and veggies that traditionally contain the lowest levels of pesticides:  asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapple, sweet peas.  And for the carnivores, look for fish low in mercury, and avoid unpasteurized foods or cheeses.”

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UpCycle

Green Gift Wrapping? Try Furoshiki!

The holidays mean something a little different to everyone, but one thing is almost universal: wrapping paper piles as far... Read

The holidays mean something a little different to everyone, but one thing is almost universal: wrapping paper piles as far as the eye can see. This year, instead of wrapping gifts in paper that will end up in the trash, consider the Japanese technique of Furoshiki. Using a single piece of fabric with no extra tape or materials, you can wrap gifts of any shape or size. It’s a fun project and the result is a beautifully wrapped gift that your friend or family member won’t soon forget.

 

Watch the YouTube tutorial here!

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UpCycle

Upcycle Your Old Neck-tie Into a Curtain Tie

Recently, a team member here at DAbB remodeled their bedroom, painted it blue, and bought translucent white curtains.  The problem?... Read

Recently, a team member here at DAbB remodeled their bedroom, painted it blue, and bought translucent white curtains.  The problem?  What to use for curtain ties!  She tried jute rope, she tried denim, and she tried

 

 the scraps of the curtains themselves after being hemmed, but nothing was looking quite right.

 

Then the idea came – we’re all bound to have old neck-ties that we don’t wear anymore – so why not upcycle them into something actually usable?
The steps were pretty easy.
1. Measure out 2 equal lengths of the neck-tie, preferably parts of the same width (a skinny tie works really well)

 

2. Sew the ends of the lengths.  We got lazy and used white thread, which stands out – but it’s in the back of the curtain, so who cares?
3a. If you don’t have a snap setting kit, you can glue two pieces of velcro onto each end3. Add a snap using a hole-punch and a snap-setting kit
4. Take a picture and send it into DAbB!
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Housewares

Baja Recycled Wine Glass- Set of 2

$20.00

It’s fiesta time! Our Baja Wine Glass is hand-crafted from 100% recycled glass. Bold lines of blue and green bring... Read

It’s fiesta time! Our Baja Wine Glass is hand-crafted from 100% recycled glass. Bold lines of blue and green bring a simple, elegant style that’s perfect for every day or party time. These are made from thick, durable hand-blown glass that won’t break or tip over as easily as traditional glassware

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Solar

Help your CA neighbors Do a Bit Better

Are you up on your California state law? Trees that are tall enough to block solar panels can cost the... Read

Are you up on your California state law?

Trees that are tall enough to block solar panels can cost the tree owners up to $1,000 fines (daily!). State Law requires homeowners to keep their trees, or other plant-life, from shading neighbor’s solar panels between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is at it’s strongest.

Help your neighbors Do a Bit Better, it’s the law!

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