Companies That Care, Coming Soon! A new series highlighting the companies that are doing the most to incorporate sustainability into their business practices, in addition to helping to raise global awareness about climate change and the importance of reducing one's impact on the environment.
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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review: Nest Learning Thermostat (2nd Generation)

     Are you tired of wasting money due to your old thermostat?  If you are ready to make the move to a more sustainable solution to your home thermostat, the Nest Learning Thermostat (2nd Generation) may be for you.  Since its launch a few years ago, the Nest Learning Thermostat has become a leader in home energy management.  The Nest is an innovative, aesthetically appealing, and highly functional system designed to control your home's temperature, while reducing unnecessary heating and cooling.  By learning the homeowner's personal preferences, the system can shut off or on to minimizes costs to your electric bill, while simultaneously conserving energy and protecting the planet.

     The Nest Learning Thermostat stands alone in the home energy industry by revolutionizing the emerging market for smart thermostats.  Approximately half of your home's energy consumption is controlled through your thermostat, of which 89% of thermostats waste energy, on average $173 a year worth of energy.  Nest eliminates much of this concern by learning your heating and cooling preferences.  After about a week, the thermostat will begin to formulate a schedule based on when you leave for work, arrive home, desire a warmer house upon waking up, and any other preferences you may have.  Thus, the thermostat prevents wasted energy when you are not around, resulting in as much as a 20% reduction on your heating and cooling bill.  In addition, the Nest Learning Thermostat allows you to tell the system what type of heating system you have, unlike many traditional systems that are merely set for forced-air systems (ex: True Radiant, Heat Pump, etc.).  The system will even remind you when it's time to change your heating/cooling filters, potentially saving an extra 5% on your bills.

    Whether at home or work, you can control the temperature, should you desire, from any location via the Nest mobile application.  All you need to do to control your Nest Learning Thermostat from your phone, tablet, or computer, is to connect the system to your Wi-Fi.  Thus, if you decide that you want your home warmer than your typical setting, changing the temperature is easily achieved via your mobile device.  Nest also provides an Energy History report so that you can see when you are using the most energy, which will help you to make further reductions to reduce your monthly electricity bill and protect the planet. Other unique features such as Early-On, begin heating or cooling early so that when you wake up, for example, the temperature is at the desired setting, rather than first beginning to heat or cool.  The auto-schedule setting allows Nest to remember the temperatures you like and programs itself, while the auto-away setting saves energy by automatically turning down your system when you're away.

     As the market for smart technologies that promote a sustainable lifestyle continues to grow, Nest is certainly becoming a leader in the industry.  The Nest Learning Thermostat provides both tremendous functionality and savings, in addition to an excellent unique design that has made the product known as "the Apple version" of thermostats.  If Apple made a thermostat, it would likely look like the Nest (it turns out, Apple sells the Nest in their stores and online).  Perhaps that's because it is the work of former Apple and Google engineers!  It's round shape, varied colors based on temperature, and leafs to depict your savings, redefine the traditional thermostat.  While any technological product such as this may have occasional problems, Nest provides customer support over the phone and the product is very easy to install on your own, in just a few minutes time.  According to Nest, three out of four customers install their product in 30 minutes or less.  Despite the initial cost which may seem somewhat steep, the system will likely pay for itself over a short period of time and provide a positive value to the owners' pocketbook and the environment.

Check out the innovative Nest Learning Thermostat at Amazon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: MPowerd's Luci Inflatable Solar LED Lantern

Photo Courtesy of MPowerd.
    While large solar arrays and wind farms may lead the discussion of renewable energy these days, there is a new small yet powerful way to light your world with MPowerd's Luci Inflatable Solar LED Lantern.  The Luci Lantern was recently revealed at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and is gathering a lot of praise for its practicality, affordability, and efficiency. The inflatable lantern's innovative design packs a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and weighs a tremendously light 4 ounces. Thus it is easy to travel with, as it collapses and is quite compact (when open, it is 5" high). The durable product is also waterproof and good for severe weather conditions, not to mention it can be attached to a wall or ceiling, making it even more practical for those long stormy nights without electricity. This sustainable energy solution is excellent for emergencies, camping, and locations where electricity is rare or nonexistent.

     Despite it's compact size and affordable price at a mere $29.95 (for every Luci Lantern purchased, you can register, for free, to give a Luci Lantern to someone in the developing world, through MPowerd's Buy One Give One program), the Luci Solar Lantern produces an impressive 1200 lumens of bright light from its ten LED's, through the use of solar power. The lantern charges in a mere six hours of sunlight (or incandescent light) and will then provide six to twelve hours of light from a single charge. In addition, there are three modes, low, high, and distress (flashing). The Luci Lantern serves as a task light, flash light, and diffused lantern. The product provides fifteen square feet of light and has a minimum lifespan of one year. The lifespan limitation appears to be the only main drawback of the lantern, but at its low cost and versatility, the lifespan doesn't appear to be too much of a concern.

Photo Courtesy of MPowerd.
     While MPowerd's Luci Lantern is a highly useful item to have around your house, it is also unique in that it is the "little solar lantern with a big impact." Luci is a great low cost option for developing nations where electricity is scarce or nonexistent. Thus the product could serve as a highly practical source of efficient and safe lighting for regions where energy poverty remains a pressing issue. According to MPowerd, "Luci was created to empower the developing world through solar power, providing greater equity to those without access to electricity. The true promise of solar-powered lighting as a solution to energy poverty lies in the opportunities Luci will create for individuals and their communities." The company proclaims that the lantern, "increases productivity and promotes job-creation, lengthens study time and improves conditions, reduces incidents of pulmonary diseases, kerosene burns and risk of gender based violence, increases community relations and reduces community violence, decreases CO2 emissions which damage the environment, and saves money ordinarily spent on kerosene which in turn stimulates the economy," particularly in the developing world.

Check out the affordable MPowerd Luci Inflatable Solar LED Lantern at Amazon.

For every Luci Lantern purchased, you can register (for free) to give a Luci Lantern to someone in the developing world, through MPowerd's Buy One Give One program!

Photo Courtesy of MPowerd.

New York City Engulfed in Carbon Dioxide Emissions

     As cities across the world continue to release tremendous quantities of carbon dioxide emissions, the New York Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability released a eye-opening video depicting the pollution New York City faces on a typical basis.  In 2010, New York City, despite its continued efforts to become a greener city, contributed 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere (75% of the emissions came from buildings).  This video depicts the magnitude of the release of emissions for an hour, day, and finally a year.  Let's just say, you wouldn't want to be stuck under the pile of carbon dioxide depicted in the video.  While cities contribute extensively to the world's pollution, in many areas the suburbs emit even greater amounts of pollution.  Cities tend to be more energy efficient, for people who live in the suburbs frequently have large detached houses, drive long distances, and rely on power that is from sources such as coal and gas.  As you watch the video, remember that every little reduction in emissions makes a difference and please, don't worry, there won't be a massive mountain of carbon dioxide spheres pilling up to the top of the Empire State Building when you head to work tomorrow.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Climate Change Creates Bleak Outlook for Winter Sports Enthusiasts

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol/
     A recent report by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Protect Our Winters (POW) has winter sports enthusiasts on edge.  Although there may be some time before we see potential dramatic reductions in the length of ski season across the United States, climate change is beginning to take its toll on the $12.2 billion winter U.S. snow sports industry.  Across the country, winter temperatures (from December to February) have been rising since 1970 by an average of 2.2  degrees Fahrenheit.  Furthermore, temperatures are projected to rise from 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.  This significant warming trend will be accompanied by a decrease in snowfall, snow cover area, and shorter snow seasons.  Currently, the most dramatic winter warming trends have been observed in the northern part of the United States, yet it is believed that in the future, the snowpack could fall across the west by anywhere from 25 to 100 percent. For those in the Northeast, ski season could be cut in half, creating unhappy skiers and snowboarders, along with significant impacts to the economy.  For ski resorts in the Northeast, a mere 4 in 14 resorts may remain profitable by 2100, under an elevated emissions scenario.

     The snow sports industry has played a crucial role in boosting the economy during the winter months, as 38 states combine to add an estimated 211,900 jobs.  Researchers at the University of New Hampshire report that based on data from 1999 to 2010, the downhill ski industry succumbs to a $1.07 billion decrease in revenue during poor snow seasons, and 13,000 to 27,000 fewer jobs are to be had during such downfalls.  Clearly a lack of snow will not only frustrate boarders and skiers alike, but its effect on the economy is significant.  In response to the bleak projections for the industry, many ski resorts have taken action to curb emissions, join alliances in an effort to combat climate change, and begun to raise additional awareness regarding the changing climate.   According to Elizabeth Burakowski, a co-author with Matt Magnusson of the report from the University of New Hampshire, “winter as we know it is on borrowed time.”  While many industry leaders are concerned about the future projections for winter sports, some people feel that not enough is being done.  Auden Schendler, Vice President of Sustainability for the Aspen Skiing Company resort explained that he is not happy with the snow sports industry’s response to climate change.  “The industry hasn’t done a good job on educating leaders on the raw science and hasn’t made enough of a public statement on climate.”  Many snow sports professionals, including popular industry icons such as Gretchen Bleiler, have joined various riders’ alliances in supporting efforts to combat climate change.

     Unfortunately, climate change will hit the winter sports industry just as hard as many other aspects of our everyday lives.  Thankfully many ski resorts are working to increase their amount of sustainable operations and are doing their part to curb emissions.  While some may think we will have to resort to increased snowmaking if Mother Nature stops producing high quantities of snow each winter, such an option will not be sufficient as it will require additional water which is already becoming increasingly scarce, and doing so would cut a greater hole in resort profits.  Next time you hit the slopes or hop on a snowmobile, remember to do your part to help the environment and understand potential future impacts if we fail to implement strong enough changes to preserve the planet.   

Protect Our Winters:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Time-Lapse of Central Park Fall Leaves

This video entitled Fall, by Jamie Scott, is an incredible time-lapse of Central Park, taken over a six month period.  The changing of the leaves is a great example of nature's amazing beauty and capabilities, yet another reason why protecting these natural wonders is so important.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Introducing the Eco Tech Planet Green Car Guide!

Eco Tech Planet is proud to announce the release of the new Eco Tech Planet Green Car Guide.  The guide is one of the most comprehensive guides to electric cars currently available on the Internet.  It provides information on a wide range of electric vehicles that are either available or will be released in the near future.  To learn more about these electric cars, visit the Green Car Guide page on the Eco Tech Planet website or click here Green Car Guide.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Durban Climate Conference Concludes with Few Advances

     Representatives from 194 nations wrapped up the most recent U.N. Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa on Sunday, after the meetings continued longer than scheduled due to intense negotiations.  In the end, a tentative agreement was made to begin negotiating a new global climate change protocol within the next few years.  Some people see this as a significant step in the right direction, yet the fact that an agreement was needed simply to begin establishing a new climate “agreement” to curb the emission of greenhouse gases, left others frustrated and increasingly concerned.  The lack of significant progress towards a new climate agreement angered some, especially delegates from poor countries that are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.  Director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, Alden Meyer, explained, “the good news is we avoided a train wreck.  The bad news is that we did very little here to affect the emissions curve.”  The goal remains to prevent global temperatures from increasing by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) above current levels by 2020.  According to the U.N. Environment Programme, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2020, in order for the world to have a chance at meeting this goal.  Many scientists believe that there will soon be a tipping point in which there will be no turning back on the damage done to the environment.  Thus the conference left many people increasingly concerned that a deal will not be reached in time to significantly fend off the potential severe consequences of global climate change.

     Leaders from many of the world’s most polluting nations butted heads over wording to be used in the future climate protocol.  Diplomats from India and China argued that industrialized nations have not lived up to their promises for curbing emissions, and thus they desired an agreement that eased their nation’s liability.  Chinese delegates heatedly blamed other nations by explaining “we [China] are doing whatever we should do.  We are doing things that you are not doing.”  The European Union strongly argued that even major developing countries, such as China and India, must accept future emissions targets with equal legal accountability.  In the end there were a few initial documents that were agreed upon, which will serve as building blocks for future meetings when an official climate protocol is developed.  The developing countries of China and India, two of the biggest polluters in the world (China ranks #1, India ranks #3), will be legally bound to future emissions goals.  The documents plan on countries to finalize a new climate treaty within the next four years, which will take the place of the Kyoto Protocol.  It is believed that it will require another five years for the treaty to be ratified, and thus a new agreement will likely not take effect until roughly 2020.  A last minute change in the wording of the document from “a protocol, another legal instrument, or a legal outcome” sparked objections from the European Union, until the phrase was changed to “an agreed outcome with legal force,” thus assuring countries would not be able to escape legal accountability.  In addition, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that was due to expire next year was extended by five years.  The Kyoto Protocol only places emissions limits on some of the world’s biggest polluters, but not China or the United States.

     You may be wondering about the opinion of the United States regarding the discussion of a new global climate treaty, especially considering the fact that the United States ranks 2nd on the list of biggest polluting countries, and is not a member of the Kyoto Protocol.   This is what United States Climate Envoy Todd Stern had to say, “this is a very significant package.  None of us likes everything in it.  Believe me, there is plenty the United States is not thrilled about.”  What is your opinion on the position of United States in regards to the reluctant support that is being given?  You might think that the United States’ lack of support for the Kyoto Protocol, in addition to the significant scientific findings that continue to support climate change, would finally result in the United States giving strong encouragement for a new climate agreement.  Unfortunately, the fears of the effects of political retaliation by politician’s constituents lurk too strongly in the back of the minds of members of Congress.  There is constant pressure on politicians to do what they believe will get themselves re-elected, even if it means failing to support an issue that is ethical or follows their beliefs.  For now the United States will seemingly back a new global climate treaty due to pressure from other industrialized and developing nations, but will sadly due so only because of the demands from leaders of other countries.