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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Solar

Solar in the Tampa Community

Tampa Electric is showing the local community how they invest in renewable energy sources by supporting what they call the... Read

Tampa Electric is showing the local community how they invest in renewable energy sources by supporting what they call the Renewable Energy Program. Solar panels produce electricity from the sun’s rays, and installing solar panels is one example of how Tampa Electric is doing just that. They are working with various community-based businesses to provide a portion of the electricity used to support this program.  The following are a few of those highly visible, family-friendly locals.

The Florida Aquarium
In Tampa’s Channelside District, the Florida Aquarium’s Explore-A-Shore pavilion hosts a 10,000-watt solar array that helps support Tampa Electric’s Renewable Energy Program. In addition to the solar installation, Tampa Electric and the Florida Aquarium installed an interactive display to teach children about the benefits of solar energy.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
Tampa Electric joined with Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and the University of South Florida’s Power Center for Utility Explorations on a 15,000-watt solar panel system at the zoo. The solar panels are installed atop an elephant shade structure and an adjacent maintenance building. The project includes a Renewable Energy Learning Center that provides research opportunities for USF and Tampa Electric to study the technical, economic and environmental benefits of a renewable, grid-connected photovoltaic system for Smart Grid electric power production.

Museum of Science and Industry
Explore Tampa Electric’s first solar panel system at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, Florida. This system is directly connected to the same electrical system that sends electricity to your home or business. The entire system consists of 60 solar panels, each containing 216 crystalline silicone cells, with a total rating of 18,000 watts of electricity.

Manatee Viewing Center
Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, Florida (near Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station) is home to the company’s largest solar panel system, rated at 23,800-watts. A 40-panel system is installed atop the Manatee Viewing Center’s education building and eight pole-mounted panels are located throughout the parking area.

Solar in Tampa is one way that the city of Tampa is taking care of its citizens and its environment.  To hear more about Tampa Electric and renewable energy, please visit www.tampaelectric.com/environmental

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Environment

Monday Tip of the Week: Get yourself an old fashioned rain barrel

“This weekend, we saw our first rain of the season–and it was a big reminder of all the great uses... Read

“This weekend, we saw our first rain of the season–and it was a big reminder of all the great uses for rain water. Rain water is great to use to keep your garden growing and healthy, why? Because rain water does not have any of the additives found in tap water. It’s also great for your wallet–last we checked, rain water was free!

Learn how to install your rain barrel with this handy step by step, here.

 “

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Garden

Use Solar Lanterns to Light your Garden

As we are nearing the end of September (yikes!), it’s always nice to do a little sprucing up to the... Read

As we are nearing the end of September (yikes!), it’s always nice to do a little sprucing up to the yard as the weather starts turning. One things that we love about the fall are the early nights, and what better way to take advantage of them than by installing solar lanterns on a walk way or flower bed. They will be powered all day by the sun, and shine brightly as the sun goes down–you never have to worry about batteries or burying miles of extension cords. With solar lanterns you simply put them in your garden and let the sun do the work for you. Plus (and it’s a big plus) you’re doing a bit better for the earth, and your wallet–bye bye higher electric bills.

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Family

Monday Tip of the week: Send your kids to school with a waste-free lunch

Did you know that you can adopt an endangered species? There are a lot of animal lovers out there who... Read

Did you know that you can adopt an endangered species? There are a lot of animal lovers out there who just don’t have time to take care of a pet. A great way to help animals if you don’t have a lot of time is by adopting an endangered species. There are quite a few programs out there, but we love the World Wildlife Foundation (or WWF). There are a variety of animals and price ranges to choose from, so no matter how much (or little) you can spend, you’ll still be helping keep these animals alive and well. This is also a great project to do if you have kids–it’s never to early to teach them the importance of taking care of our world. Check out the WWF website for more information here.”We can’t believe it’s that time of year again–back to school! This year, pledge with your kids to have waste-free lunches. It is estimated that school lunches produce 67 pounds of waste per school year per child. Not only is a waste-free lunch great for the environment, but packing your child fresh foods instead of prepackaged is good for their bodies! A waste-free lunch requires the following:

  • Reusable lunch box (preferably bento style so you can easily say goodbye to plastic baggies)
  • Reusable utensils, napkin, water bottle
  • No prepackaged food–buy in bulk and section snacks off in the lunch box

Learn more about waste-free lunches at wastefreelunches.org so you can start Doing a Bit Better.

 “

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Doing A Bit Better

Groupon Gives Back

We love finding good deals as much as the next person.  So when we found out that Groupon launched a... Read

We love finding good deals as much as the next person.  So when we found out that Groupon launched a group action fundraising program called Groupon Grassroots, you can only imagine our excitement.

 

According to Groupon, the new program (which just launched in April, 2012) is “a new way to discover local causes, rally together, and lend a helping hand”.

We did some digging and found out that Groupon Grassroots isn’t just a good idea on paper – it’s actually working.  On this year’s Earth Day, the donations through Grassroots resulted in some pretty impressive numbers!  Here are some of the highlights:

-$126,000 in cause-related donations were made
-4,400 trees planted across US and Haiti
-443 bike light sets and helmets sent to locals in Austin & Portland
-1,400 attendees to environmentally focused programs
-40 volunteers traveling to Zambia
-18 vacant lots in Cincinnati were filled with over 25 raised garden beds
-5 cities were treated to improve water quality through trash removal and training volunteers  to test water

And that was all in 1 day!

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Pets

Squeaky AND Sustainable?

“We love our dogs, and even though we shouldn’t, it’s too hard to resist buying him new toys. That said,... Read

“We love our dogs, and even though we shouldn’t, it’s too hard to resist buying him new toys. That said, we can buy eco-and-dog-friendly toys.

What defines an eco-friendly toy?  For the most part, eco- friendly products are manufactured from raw materials that have been grown or developed without the use of chemicals or pesticides. You have to depend on the manufacturer’s label for the most part, but here are some additional guidelines to help you make your selections.

Avoid
-Toys containing polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
-Toys that use chemical dyes that may contain heavy metals

Do look for
– Toys made from unbleached fabrics
-Toys made from organically-grown cotton or hemp
-Toys colored using natural botanical dyes

Note that no toy should be assumed organic unless it is certified so (check the label)

Finally, there are many sellers of eco/dog-friendly toys which are made here in the USA.  Some of our favorites are Dog Toys and PurfectPlay.”

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Pets

Do a Bit Better by Adopting an Endangered Species!

Did you know that you can adopt an endangered species? There are a lot of animal lovers out there who... Read

Did you know that you can adopt an endangered species? There are a lot of animal lovers out there who just don’t have time to take care of a pet. A great way to help animals if you don’t have a lot of time is by adopting an endangered species. There are quite a few programs out there, but we love the World Wildlife Foundation (or WWF). There are a variety of animals and price ranges to choose from, so no matter how much (or little) you can spend, you’ll still be helping keep these animals alive and well. This is also a great project to do if you have kids–it’s never to early to teach them the importance of taking care of our world. Check out the WWF website for more information here.

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Twitter
Family

Earth Day Ideas for Everyone

“Before you start planning your Mother’s day festivities, it’s time to say “Thanks!” to your OTHER mom.  You know, Mother... Read

“Before you start planning your Mother’s day festivities, it’s time to say “Thanks!” to your OTHER mom.  You know, Mother Earth!  She’s been great and she’s done a lot for you.  Sure, she has temper tantrums once in a while, but if we don’t take care of her now, she won’t be around for too long (relatively speaking).

Okay, innuendo aside, it’s time to consider how you’ll celebrate Earth Day this Sunday!  Here are a few ideas (and just to prove we walk the walk, we’ll be doing these as well).

Walk, don’t drive
Plan ahead so that you don’t have to drive anywhere on Sunday. Spare the air your carbon emissions, just for one day!  If you have stores or coffee shops within walking distance, consider those instead.

Lose the Appliances
We rarely think about the chain of events that goes into something as simple as turning on the television – but chances are that at least some of your electricity comes from fossil fuels.  You’ll be surprised at everything you can get done without running appliances.

-Eat raw so that you don’t have to cook
-Use candles for lights (it’s romantic, and kind of like camping!)
-Skip the TV and read a book.  Storytelling is a great way to entertain even the little ones

Plant something
We understand that planting a tree doesn’t work for everyone (especially us urbanites).  That said, planting SOMETHING is still feasible.  Plants add much needed Oxygen to the atmosphere, and attract your friendly neighborhood bee for local pollination.

Now get out there and show “mom” (the older one) how much you love her!”

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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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Solar

Vermont’s PUP program is helping people Do A Bit Better!

Recently, the local clean energy advocacy group, Energize Vermont,  announced the “Power Up Program” which is an unique partnership with... Read

Recently, the local clean energy advocacy group, Energize Vermont,  announced the “Power Up Program” which is an unique partnership with American Clean Energy Supply, LLC. Together, they are bringing affordable, high quality solar installations to Vermonters all over the state!

Way to go Energize Vermont! Thanks to your PUP program, you truly are Doing A Bit Better.

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Solar

Benicia, California is Doing a Bit Better!

Thanks to a new residential solar incentive program, Benicia residents can get  rebates up to $3,000 for installing a solar... Read

Thanks to a new residential solar incentive program, Benicia residents can get  rebates up to $3,000 for installing a solar system! The rebates  will be available until funds run out. Hurry up Benicia! Time to go Solar!

Three  East Bay solar companies are also offering incentives of matching discounts ($0.60 per watt, up to $3,000). Check out Diablo Solar Services of Martinez, Ally Electric & Solar of Richmond, and Verengo, Inc. of Concord.

Come on Bay Area! Join the Solar revolution and start Doing a Bit Better!

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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

UpCycling 101 – What Is It?

“A term that’s popping up more and more in the green world is “upcycling”. But what is it, and who... Read

“A term that’s popping up more and more in the green world is “upcycling”. But what is it, and who does it benefit?  More importantly, who’s leading this movement and what are they doing?

Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials into something that’s usable and “new”. It’s like recycling but not in the sense of turning glass bottles back into glass bottles.  It’s more like turning old soda cans into jewelry, or old barn wood into a coffee table.  While people have been upcycling for years, the movement has lately grown – it’s no longer just for the hardcore DIY’ers – in fact, anyone can do it.

Instead of ending up in a landfill or being processed through a recycling center (which does waste energy and water), our waste products gain new life through upcycling at home. These projects make great gifts, and are sold through various outlets such as Etsy.

Alchemy Goods is another leader in the space of upcycling, and produces messenger bags, wallets and totes using old tarps, banners, seatbelts and tire tubing.

Another company, Terracycle, has made its sole purpose to upcycle all of those things that can’t necessarily be recycled or are difficult to recycle (such as Capri Sun packages). Their products are made from crowd-sourced materials and donors are credited for future purchases.

These aren’t the only games in town, and you should certainly explore some home-friendly upcycling crafts on your own or with your family! It’s one more way that you can do a bit better!

 

 “

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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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Housewares

One Man’s Concussion is Another Man’s Treasure!

“Here at DAbB, we are always thinking about ways to recycle objects we no longer use (or our kids have... Read

“Here at DAbB, we are always thinking about ways to recycle objects we no longer use (or our kids have grown out of) and use them in new ways. Well, if your home is like ours, you have more than one old skateboard that is no longer being used.  There are so many great ways to turn old and unused skateboards into something fun and new – and one of our favorites is the wall mounted skateboard clock.  It’s perfect for any skateboard loving child (or let’s face it, some adults) at home.

Directions

You will need:

A drill
An old skateboard
A clock kit (see below)
Picture hooks
Picture wire
Paint (optional)
Epoxy

  1. Make sure the skateboard you are about to drill a hole in does not have some sort of deep emotional connection to the user that you are unaware of.  No one wants to spend the next week trying to overcome any deep “trauma” your child may sustain from the loss of their childhood relic.
  2. Mark where you want the clockwork shaft to be.
    1. Your decision on where you want the hole to be will be dependent on the look you’re going for, as well as, the length of the clock’s arms.
    2. Next, decide if you want to paint the board, or leave it as is.
      1. If you are going to paint underneath, mark the wheel hardware with tape to protect it from the paint.
      2. Clean the board.  Yes it is true.  You may want to shine up the board using your favorite beeswax.  Any organic beeswax will work.
      3. Now follow the clockwork manufacturer’s directions to attach movement to top of skateboard and hands to underside of skateboard.
        1. We like the clock kits available at Clockkit.com or Klockit.com (yes, both are close)
        2. At either of these sites you will find different style of arms, numbers and even templates to make sure you place the numbers in the right location.  Very easy.
        3. If the installation doesn’t fit correctly, you can use epoxy in the hole to hold the kit in place
        4. Attach sturdy picture hooks to top of skateboard at the upper corners. Stretch and tie wire between hooks. Mount on wall.

Done!”

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UpCycle

Getting Creative After Your Coffee

As the weather gets warmer and the coffee shops roll out their newest frozen-mochajavachino (or something like that), it means... Read

As the weather gets warmer and the coffee shops roll out their newest frozen-mochajavachino (or something like that), it means there’s going to be a lot of iced-coffee cups coming your way.  Assuming you don’t take your own reusable cup every time you get coffee, you’re going to have to make a decision on what to do with those cups.  Recycle them? Sure, that’s an option.  But what else can we do with those clear plastic cups?

-Reuse them.  They’re usually sturdier than you think, and make great spare glasses for around the house.  Use them at your next party for cocktails or beer.

-Plant in them. They make great planters, and there’s something nice about being able to see all of the soil. Drill some holes in the bottom to allow for drainage – and keep it elevated enough to allow water to drain out. Alternatively, flip them over and use them as a terrarium to keep your plants warm and moist in the cool night air.

-Get crafty! There are plenty of things you could do with them, and don’t forget that they’re already circles!  Consider cutting them into bracelets and wrapping them in fabric or spray paint to make flashy bracelets for the kids.

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Pets

Keep Fido Flea-Free

“While we think it’s important to protect your furry friends all year ‘round, the warmer temperatures of Spring often signal... Read

“While we think it’s important to protect your furry friends all year ‘round, the warmer temperatures of Spring often signal the official start to flea & tick season.  More than just a tough itch to scratch, these blood-sucking parasites can transmit pathogens and diseases to your pet and you.  But rather than subject your pet to a chemical plunge, here are a few tips to keeping the fleas & ticks away naturally.

–          For starters, regularly bathe your pet.  When doing so, be sure to use a gentle, all natural shampoo to avoid irritating your pet’s skin & eyes.  For flea & tick treatment, we like Only Natural Pet Herbal Defense Conditioner.  And be sure to rinse your pet’s coat thoroughly to remove all the suds!

–          Gently brush your pet daily with a fine tooth comb.  This will both help comb out the critters and also allow you to see any ticks lurking in the fur.  Check out the GripSoft Flea Comb. When you do find a flea, drop it in a bucket of soapy water to kill it and stop the spread of eggs.

–          Clean where your pet snoozes.  Vacuum the areas where your pet sleeps and the fleas and their eggs may be living.  Also, wash your pet’s bed at least once a week in hot soapy water to help further kill off the eggs.

–          If the problem persists, use an herbal flea collar.  Made with essential oils to repel fleas & ticks, these cheap, easy solutions knock out the problem, and don’t smell too bad either!  We recommend the Natural Research People Herbal Collar.”

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Celebrity

Hayden Panettiere and Matt Damon are Doing a Bit Better!

Congratulations to two of our favorite stars! Hayden Panettiere and Matt Damon are being honored by the Environmental Media Association... Read

Congratulations to two of our favorite stars! Hayden Panettiere and Matt Damon are being honored by the Environmental Media Association for their commitment to promoting green living.

Damon will be receiving the Ongoing Commitment Award for his organization, Water.org, which provides safe water and sanitation to people who don’t have easy access to it.

Panettiere will be accepting the Futures Award which honors young stars for their work as environmental activists. She is very involved in Whaleman Foundation, working to protect the oceans and their inhabitants.

Way to go Matt and Hayden! You are Doing a Bit Better!

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UpCycle

Monday Tip of the Week: Back-to-School Notebooks

This year, my nephew enters “big boy” school, Kindergarten. While babysitting last weekend, we worked on an upcycling project that... Read

This year, my nephew enters “big boy” school, Kindergarten. While babysitting last weekend, we worked on an upcycling project that not only kept his very active little self completely absorbed, but also better prepared him for his start to a new class and school-year.

Themed -Notebooks from Cereal Boxes

My nephew loves all things Star Wars related. Now that he’ll be learning to read and write, what better way to equip him than with his own, Star Wars themed notebooks?

Here’s all you need:

  • Cereal box
  • Paper for the inside pages (college ruled for school)
  • A piece of decorative paper (we used Star Wars wrapping paper)
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pen
  • Glue stick, tape runner or double-sided tape
  • Needle and dental floss
  • A button

Here’s how we did it:

  • Cut out the cereal box to create the cover for your notebook (we cut ours to  5.5″” x 8″”)
  • Fold it in half with the blank side out
  • Run Thread a needle with dental floss and sew the button to the front of the notebook. Leave about enough of the thread hanging to wrap around the notebook twice
  • If you want to cover the images of the cereal box, just glue a piece of paper to the inside
  • Take your 8 ½” by 11” paper and trim about 1/4” inch
  • Stitch the paper to the notebook with the dental floss down the spine
  • Cut your themed paper (we did 2 ½” by 8”) and glue to the flattened notebook

 

That’s it!

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