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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Pets

Lets Talk About #2

“So, not the most fun topic, but when thinking of all of the ways to do a bit better, you... Read

“So, not the most fun topic, but when thinking of all of the ways to do a bit better, you cannot forget about the Fidos and Fluffies in your life.  That’s right, we have some helpful hints on how to reduce your pet’s “pawprint”.

Cat Fact
According to the EPA, approximately 10 million tons of pet waste sits in our landfills, with nearly 2 million tons non-biodegradable cat litter. Clay-based cat litter-the largest selling type of litter-is just not pet nor eco-friendly.

Cat Solution
An easy solution is to choose a biodegradable and organic litter made from plant-based material. Today’s eco-friendly litters are made from products such as corn, recycled newspapers and even tea leaves.  Brands we like are:  World’s Best Cat Litter and Shweet Scoop.  From what we can tell, cats really like the organic/natural litters a great deal.  The natural litters tend to be soft and lack the smell of typical litters.

Dog Fact
We have all seen it…and are maybe even guilty of it… picking up Fido’s “presents” in a plastic bag.  We have actually seen people drop their dog’s “presents” in a storm drain.  Although the owner may think they are doing what is best, they are actually doing far more harm than good.  In most communities, storm drains empty directly into lakes or streams; and therefore, it pollutes these important water sources.

Dog Solution
So so so easy.  Use biodegradable bags.  Some parks actually have these bags for free.  However, if your town does not provide such a service, we recommend Bags on Board and BioBags. 

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Housewares

A Better Way to Refresh Your Bedroom

“If you’re looking to do a refresh of your master bedroom this spring, may we suggest a few green tips?... Read

“If you’re looking to do a refresh of your master bedroom this spring, may we suggest a few green tips? Having a green bedroom has never been easier, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or break the bank. Using sustainable materials, upcycled DIY projects and a little bit of elbow grease will help you Do A bit Better.

We spend 8-10 hours (if we’re lucky) in this room daily. That’s why it should be a place that inspires relaxation and serenity. This means different things to different people, so experiment!

A fresh coat of paint is a great place to start and will be the defining characteristic of the room. If you want to go the full green route, there are brands of entirely-natural paint which are made of things like milk, minerals, clay, and marble. If not, then at least go for a VOC-free (Volatile Organic Compound) paint, which is better for the ozone and better for your health.  Light, airy colors promote calmness and rest – and wallpapers are making a huge comeback with patterns and textures.

Chances are that with the new color of your walls, you will also need new coordinating bed linens. Go with 100% organic cotton, which are generally sewn in U.S.A.

Natural elements brought in from outside will accompany your new style, such as sticks, rocks, and freshly picked flowers. A variety of matching vases & bowls can be sourced online from sustainable materials, such as jute, bamboo, or mango wood.

Give these tips a try, and you’ll be instantly amazed with how clean and green your “new” bedroom looks.”

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Housewares

Eco-Alternatives to a New Headboard

“There’s something about a headboard that just ties a bedroom together – it’s like wearing a belt.  It breaks up... Read

“There’s something about a headboard that just ties a bedroom together – it’s like wearing a belt.  It breaks up the room while adding depth and style to it.  The only problem is that headboards are expensive and can easily run upwards of $400.

Here’s the thing – we live in a time of great (and abundant) design.  There are plenty of alternatives to a traditional headboard out there with minimal waste.

For less than $40, you can achieve the great style of a traditional headboard with the modern style of a silhouette decal.  This particular decal from Dezign with a Z comes in a variety of colors, and they’ll even let you select your wall color to see how it will look.

Not interested in the traditional looking decals?  Try something a little non-traditional, like branches or grass:

 

Wall Flats have traditionally been used for adding some architectural depth and texture to walls in living spaces, dining rooms, and bedrooms – and they’re incredibly eco-friendly (often made from post-consumer material or renewable sources such as bagasse).  But they’re affordable (about $80-90 for a 10-pack from InhabitLiving.com) and will not only add color to your bedroom or guestroom, but depth and texture as well.

When in doubt, do something simple!  A large piece of solid-colored canvas or a canvas-framed photograph will give your bed the frame that you’re looking for, and can be done for cheap.  If you’re feeling particularly creative, you can stretch a patterned fabric over the canvas and staple it on the sides.

There are plenty of ways to do something unexpected and chic without spending a fortune, and all while being green.”

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Food

The PB&J Campaign is Doing a Bit Better!

Ready to save the world one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a time? The PB&J campaign is all about... Read

Ready to save the world one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a time? The PB&J campaign is all about pledging how ever many meals a week you can to a plant based meal. Every time you choose a plant based meal, you reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. You conserve 133 gallons of water–5 PB&J lunches a month saves more water than switching to a low-flow shower head! You also save 24 square feet of land each time you have a plant based meal.

Read more about how you can Do a Bit Better with the PB&J campaign here.

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Solar

PV Local History 101: California History of Solar

At times we like to fly our “Nerd Flag”.   Go Solar California has a great history of solar in the... Read

At times we like to fly our “Nerd Flag”.   Go Solar California has a great history of solar in the Golden State.  Here are just a few fun facts we enjoyed:

-The origins of the PV Cell are found in the work done by Chapin, Fuller and Pearson from Bell Laboratory in 1954

-In 1978, the US Congress passed the “Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act”.  This law established the right for independent power producers to interconnect with the local utility distribution systems.  So for people who today get a nice monthly check from their local energy company can thank the efforts made by Congress nearly 35 years ago.

-In early 1979 the world’s largest PV manufacturing facility in Camarillo, California started producing more than a megawatt of PV modules in one year.

-The Sacramento Municipal Utility District generated 1.0 MW of photovoltaic power in 1984.

Go to Go Solar California to read the entire history.

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Recycle

Do a Bit Better with Homemade Dryer Sheets

We love this eco-friendly project from Pinning Gals. Save money and the planet by creating your own reusable natural dryer... Read

We love this eco-friendly project from Pinning Gals. Save money and the planet by creating your own reusable natural dryer sheets. Commercially produced dryer sheets are made with lots of chemicals, but you can use an eco-friendly liquid fabric softener and upcycled fabric from old clothes to create homemade dryer sheets that can be used again and again. Check out the step-by-step instructions here.

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Family

A Greener Lunchbox

“How do you green your kid’s lunch box, but still make them happy?  Although there’s a huge selection of cute,... Read

“How do you green your kid’s lunch box, but still make them happy?  Although there’s a huge selection of cute, eco-friendly lunch boxes out there, finding one that suits you little one’s latest superhero craze may be difficult.  Let’s face it: you’re going to be hard pressed to make your little guy take a nicely decorated, eco-friendly Alien Bento Box to school when all he really wants is Batman!

Luckily, we’ve done some digging and found a number of creative people out there who have developed lunch bags and boxes to make your little one squeal with delight.  Take a peak at what we found:

Canvas Kids Lunch Bag Superhero

From our friends at Etsy, we’ve found the Canvas Kids Lunch Bag Superhero. The natural, reusable canvas bag is eco-friendly, and sports Batman, Superman or any superhero your kid might adore.  Your child’s name can even be added for a personal touch.

   

Superhero Blue Personalized Lunch Box

Another great find from Sweet Mady, these plastic lunchboxes are covered in superhero graphics, while still being lead and BPA free.  The faceplates are removable, interchangeable and can be personalized as well. So when you’re little one wants to be addressed as “Super-Ben”, you can swap the faceplate out in a flash.  Additional reusable containers and ice pack are also available.

Thermos Dual Compartment Superman Lunch Kit with Cape

Your little Clark Kent will love this Superman lunchbox with built-in cape. This insulated lunch box is PVC-free and lined with PEVA material. It cleans up easily and has two compartments to separate lunch items. They’re available through numerous sellers on Amazon.com.

Now send your child off to school sporting a special lunch box that only you know is good for the environment!”

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Solar

Maryland comes out on top!

The Ecotech Institute recently released the very first “Clean Jobs Index” (there are over 3,000,000 jobs across the county!). Something... Read

The Ecotech Institute recently released the very first “Clean Jobs Index” (there are over 3,000,000 jobs across the county!). Something that we are really interested over here at Doing a Bit Better are LEED Projects. For those who need some catching up, LEED Projects stand for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Projects. This could be anything from a building installing solar panels, to conserving water in the work place. And you all know how we feel about solar (it’s the future!). We would like to congratulate Maryland for coming out on top as the state who has the highest number of LEED projects per capita! Way to go, we hope the other 49 states follow your lead–no pun intended. To read about other states rankings, click here.

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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

3 Green Gadgets We Love

“Alright guys, Father’s Day is approaching, and unless you want another tie or “100% Beef” apron, we suggest you start... Read

“Alright guys, Father’s Day is approaching, and unless you want another tie or “100% Beef” apron, we suggest you start dropping hints for what you really want this year.  So here are three great gadgets we think you should ask for from your Greenster Wife/Girlfriend.

Numbers LED Alarm Clock by Jonas Damon for Areaware
Highly stylish and frankly a huge departure from what you probably have next to your bed, the Jonas Damon’s Numbers LED Alarm Clock is made from eco-friendly materials.  The clock’s four, 2-inch tall cubes display an LED digit and can be stacked in any manner of your choosing.  Don’t have room on your bedside table?  Take them to work for an immediate talking point at your office/desk.

See more: areaware.com

Vers 2X Hand-crafted Sound Systems for iPod
This system has it all:  great sound, great looks and is eco-friendly.  The Vers 2X iPod sound system features a powerful, energy-efficient class D amplifier and speakers are housed in a wood cabinet handcrafted from sustainably harvested plantation hardwoods or rapidly renewable bamboo. And for every tree that Vers uses in production, 100 more are planted via a partnership with The Arbor Day Foundation.

See more: versaudio.com

The Scorpion
This is not your dad’s Swiss Army Knife.  Etón’s crank and solar-powered Scorpion “multi-function unit” has got it all: AM/FM radio, weather band, LED flashlight, aluminum carabiner, USB cell phone charger and a bottle opener, you know…when you need a cold one when being one with nature…or tailgating.

See more: etoncorp.com

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Food

No Tear Formula!

“While it doesn’t come in a designer bottle with a made-up French name, homemade shampoo is surprisingly great for your... Read

“While it doesn’t come in a designer bottle with a made-up French name, homemade shampoo is surprisingly great for your noggin, and is incredibly easy to make. In fact, most of the ingredients are probably in your house already.  Many recipes include organic castile soap – which is a good cleansing and sudsing base for a natural shampoo.  Note, though, that this won’t moisturize your scalp and might even leave it a little dry. Other ingredients you can include for healthy hair:

Avocados

  • Essential oils and nutrients moisturize and treat damaged follicles. We promise you won’t smell like guacamole.

Bananas

  • Vitamins in bananas are shown to improve strength of hair, as well as increase shine. They’re also great for controlling dandruff.  Did we mention they smell nice?

Green Papaya

  • Green Papaya contains an enzyme known as Papain, which is also a natural skin exfoliant.

Raw Egg

  • The same way it gives your pets a strong, healthy coat of fur, these will make your hair stronger, shinier and softer when left in for several minutes. Don’t worry, you don’t have to mix it into kibble (you know, unless you wanted to). Make sure to use cool water to rinse so as not to cook the egg!

Beer

  • If you’re like us, there’s plenty of this in your house leftover from parties. That or you have trouble keeping this in your house. Either way, the sugars in beer will tighten your hair’s follicles to make it shinier, while the proteins in the hops will boost overall strength and body. Did we mention you’ll smell like beer?

Miss that freshly-washed-hair smell? You’ll likely find many other household scents far more pleasant than “perfumes” or “fragrance”.  Vanilla extract, fresh lavender, concentrated tea, lime, rosewater, or orange will be a nice change of scenery that we’re sure you’ll welcome.”

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Recycle

Monday Tip of the Week – Electronics Recycling

Recycling isn’t just about plastics, glass and paper. Some of the biggest potential hazards to the environment are electronics that... Read

Recycling isn’t just about plastics, glass and paper. Some of the biggest potential hazards to the environment are electronics that end up in landfills. Those old computers, monitors, or cell phones can contain toxic chemicals and pollutants. The good news is that when you upgrade, it’s easy to recycle! Use this handy tool at greenergadgets.org to search by zip code for places you can safely recycle those old devices.

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Men

Summer is here guys-and your lawn is waiting.

It is that time of year again when your weekend “honey-do” list contains “mowing the lawn”.  But if you are... Read

It is that time of year again when your weekend “honey-do” list contains “mowing the lawn”.  But if you are looking to get out of this chore, here are our recommendations for eco-friendly grasses.  These attractive grasses  require less watering, less mowing, and less fertilizer, all of which helps cut down on your carbon foot print-and give you more time on the weekends.

  • Ecolawn: This blend of fine fescue grasses is highly drought-tolerant and requires less fertilization than traditional grass. It can be grown anywhere in the United States.
  • Buffalograss: As the native grass of the Western Plains, this variety thrives in drier areas of the country such as California and Nevada. It only needs to be mowed once a month.
  • Seashore paspalum: This is an eco-friendly grass for Southern states with warm climates. It doesn’t even like fertilizer, and it tolerates recycled water, or even salty water.
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Recycle

Monday Tip of the Week – Shut Down, Save Up!

“Turn off your computer & printer every night instead of leaving it in sleep mode, and you can save 40... Read

“Turn off your computer & printer every night instead of leaving it in sleep mode, and you can save 40 watt-hours per day. That adds up to 4 cents a day, or $14 per year. If you don’t want to wait for your computer to start up, set it to turn on automatically a few minutes before you get to work, or boot up while you’re pouring your morning cup ‘o joe.

Don’t forget about those wireless mouses!  Leaving those on could mean replacing your batteries once a month (and we all know how expensive batteries are).”

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Solar

Peel-and-Stick Solar Cells – So Fun!

The Scientific Journal Reports that Stanford University scientists have developed a thin “peel-and-stick” solar cell that can be attached to... Read

The Scientific Journal Reports that Stanford University scientists have developed a thin “peel-and-stick” solar cell that can be attached to almost any surface.

The fabrication process included a wafer of silicon, silicon dioxide, sandwiched metal and a film of nickel on which the thin-film solar cells are placed, and then attaching a layer of thermal release tape.  After being dipped in water, the target surface was coated with adhesives and the thin-film solar cells were attached to the sticky surface and the thermal release tape was removed.

These thin solar cells can be placed on a wide range of surfaces, and could someday be used commercially to generate solar power.

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Family

Monday Tip of the Week: Make Story Magnets from old children’s books

Our friends over at Sun Hat & Wellie Boots have some great tips for green living. One of our favorites... Read

Our friends over at Sun Hat & Wellie Boots have some great tips for green living. One of our favorites is upcycled children’s books turned into story book magnets.

The steps are simple. Take an old book (a great place to pick these up would be your local library’s book sales–you can usually get children’s books for $.25 a piece!), you cut the images you would like, use a thicker card stock or old manila folder for backing, laminate, and attach some magnetic tape.

This is a great way to teach your children the importance of re-using, and will help their imaginations grow!

 

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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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Garden

Letting the Lawn Lay is the Best Way

“We all want the best looking lawn on the block- but it may be surprising that spending less time on... Read

“We all want the best looking lawn on the block- but it may be surprising that spending less time on your lawn will actually make it greener.  Most grass species are best kept at least 2.5 inches tall.  At this length, the lawn is able to absorb more sunlight into it’s overall surface than that with a shorter length.  With more sunlight absorption, you will get a thicker turf and deeper roots which also means you don’t have to water as often.

Another little lawn tip is let the lawn clippings lay.  Lawn clippings actually add nitrogen to the soil, and discourages weeds from germinating.  You will therefore use less fertilizer and herbicide.

So the next time you see “”Cut the Lawn”” on your honey-do list, you can tell your significant other that you’re Doing A bit Better by not cutting it.  You’re welcome!”

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Doing A Bit Better

The Little Bamboo, Doing a Bit Better

A Sanford, FL based company, The Little Bamboo, has just made everyone a little bit happier. The environmentally conscious company,... Read

A Sanford, FL based company, The Little Bamboo, has just made everyone a little bit happier. The environmentally conscious company, which prides itself on making a multitude of products out of bamboo, has just tapped into the hand-soap market and is currently setting itself apart from the competition. Their newest product, Bamboo Charcoal Soap, is not only a major crowd pleaser, well a very, very small crowd pleaser (5 stars on Amazon.com, out of 17 reviews), it is also eco-friendly. The hand soap is handcrafted by master soap makers in Thailand, ensuring the highest quality of product. And when bought, the product comes with a list of all the ingredients involved in making the soap. Besides that, the product is also good for you. It is environmentally friendly and doubles as a skin treatment. The product acts to treat skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, by using all-natural ingredients like moringa and turmeric that help exfoliate your skin. This company’s transparency with their products is great, and really makes you feel like you’re buying products from those that really care about what they make and how they make it. Make sure to grab a three pack of charcoal bamboo soap at your local Amazon retailer. Bonus, The Little Bamboo make socks out of bamboo too!

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Solar

The White House is Doing a Bit Better!

It was announced in October 2010 that the White House would be installing solar panels to its historic rooftops–we understand... Read

It was announced in October 2010 that the White House would be installing solar panels to its historic rooftops–we understand the delay, Mr. President. You’ve had a lot on your plate.

The big day is finally here! Solar installers have begun their work this week. We’re excited to hear that one of the most famous addresses in the world will soon be home to clean energy. Good on you 1600 Penn Ave! We hope this will inspire everyone to Do a Bit Better.

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