15 Hot Tips for a Cool Summer / Save money, water, and energy

Tips for a safe and enjoyable summer:

1. Energy Star savings for your home: The average home spends almost 20 percent of its utility bill on cooling. These cooling bills can be lowered by simply changing out incandescent light bulbs with EPA’s Energy Star qualified lighting, which use less energy and produce approximately 75 percent less heat. Raising your thermostat by only two degrees and using your ceiling fan can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent too.http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.es_at_home

2. Increase your gas mileage: Obey the speed limit; go easy on the breaks and avoid hard accelerations; reduce your time idling; and unload unnecessary items in your trunk to reduce weight. If you’re not using your removable roof rack take it off to improve your fuel economy. http://www.fueleconomy.gov

3. Prevent skin cancer and be SunWise: Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and is the most common cancer among 20 to 30-year-olds. Remember to practice safe sun habits.http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/actionsteps.html

4. Heading to the beach? Check the water: Americans take almost two billion trips to the beach every year. Beaches are a place to play, watch wildlife, fish, and swim. Learn more on how to plan a safe trip to the beach and check out state specific beach advisory and closing notifications.http://water.epa.gov/type/oceb/beaches/whereyoulive_state.cfm

5. Take EPA’s apps with you on your smartphone: The AirNow app gives location-specific current air quality information to use to protect your health when planning daily activities and the Ultraviolet (UV) Index app provides daily and hourly forecast of the UV radiation levels from the sun so you can better prevent overexposure to the sun. http://m.epa.gov/apps/index.html

6. Enjoy the outdoors and capture the State of the Environment: Almost 40 years ago, EPA’s Documerica project captured thousands of images across the nation as EPA’s work was just beginning. Now it’s your chance to mark the progress and submit environmental photos to EPA’s State of the Environment photo project.http://blog.epa.gov/epplocations/about/

7. Protect yourself with insect repellents: Mosquitoes and ticks can carry diseases but you can protect yourself by choosing the right repellent and using it correctly. Read the product label before using; apply just enough to cover exposed skin and clothing; and look for the protection time that meets your needs. Children can use the same repellents as adults unless there is a restriction on the label.http://epa.gov/pesticides/insect/safe.htm

8. Water wisely: A large percentage of water we use at home is used outdoors. As much as 30 percent of that outdoor water use can be wasted due to evaporation by watering in the middle of the day. Water in the morning when winds are calm and temperatures are cool. Look for the new WaterSense labeled weather-based irrigation controller that uses local weather data to determine whether your sprinkler system should turn on.http://www.epa.gov/watersense

9. Clean greener: If you’re going to wash the car, deck, boat, or RV– be sure to look for the Design for the Environment (DfE) label to quickly identify and choose cleaning products that are safer for families and also help protect the environment. Look for the DfE label on grill cleaners as well. http://www.epa.gov/dfe

10. Improve your indoor air: About 90 percent of people’s time is spent indoors. While inside this summer, make sure to free your house of mold, test your home for radon, check your carbon monoxide detector and ask those who smoke to go outdoors. http://www.epa.gov/iaq

11. Check into an Energy Star hotel: On average, America’s 47,000 hotels spend more than $2,000 per available room each year on energy. Look for an Energy Star certified hotel–they perform in the top 25 percent of hotels nationwide, use an average of 35 percent less energy and emit an average of 35 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than peers. http://www.energystar.gov/buildinglist

12. Waste less and remember to recycle: Each year, Americans generate millions of tons of waste in homes and communities but it’s easy to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Recycled items such as glass can be used in roadway asphalt (glassphalt) and recovered plastic can be used in carpeting and park benches. Learn what you can do to waste less. http://www.epa.gov/waste/wycd/summer.htm

13. Season firewood: Summer is a great time to season firewood in preparation for fall and winter. Remember to split firewood to the proper size for your wood stove or fireplace, but no larger than 6 inches in diameter; stack firewood to allow air to circulate around it; cover the top of the stack to protect it from the rain; and store your firewood for at least 6 months before using it. http://www.epa.gov/burnwise

14. Looking for a summer project and tired of the heat? Try composting: Composting can be a fun and educational summer project that saves landfill space, helps feed the soil and prevents methane, a potent greenhouse gas. http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/rrr/composting/basic.htm

15. Let summer inspire you and submit Six Words for the Planet: Keep the creativity flowing beyond the school year and into the summer by submitting a meaningful story or idea in just six words.http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2012/04/sixwords/

Source – EPA


Shell to build CNG stations at TravelCenters of Americas stops

Shell Oil Products U.S. will add compressed natural gas filling stations at some of the travel centers that a northeast Ohio company operates along major interstates, primarily in the Midwest and eastern U.S.

Shell will install at least 200 of the filling stations at a minimum of 100 Westlake-based TravelCenters of America facilities, according to a newspaper report. TravelCenters has 238 locations.

The company, which has about 3,000 repair technicians, plans to train those workers to work on vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, the newspaper reports. TravelCenters expects the first station to be operational next year.

Source- Petro Plaza

On Building & Driving a Solar Car…

Someone representing Stanford’s Solar Car team recently reached out and shared the interview featured below with me. It’s and interview with a multi-year member of the team. I thought it was interesting enough to post here on CleanTechnica, so here it is (reposted from CJEnvironmental):

Stanford’s Solar Car, Xenith, cost about $480,000 in parts to build. Photo courtesy of Stanford Solar Car Project.

Stanford senior and Club Business Manager Wesley Ford spoke with CJ Environmental about the project, Xenith’s last race, and driving down California’s Ventura Highway in a carbon-fiber solar car that weighs only 375 lbs – less than half the weight of the world’s fattest man (Xenith is street legal). As the business manager and member of the Stanford Solar Car Club since his freshman year, Ford has been involved in almost every aspect of the car’s production: from contributing to the manifacturing of the car during his freshman year to acting as the team’s financial manager. The Project is almost entirely student-run.

When the school year ends in mid-June, Ford and some other members of the squad will head to North Carolina to perform wind-testing on Xenith, in which they hope to gather data that will help them develop even better technologies for the next iteration of the solar car. Here’s what Wesley had to say:


CJ: When did you join the Stanford Solar Car Project?

WF: I joined just after my freshman year. It’s the largest student engineering project on campus, and it looked like a lot of fun.


CJ: So the club is between solar cars right now?

WF: Xenith raced in October, so we’re starting a brand-new cycle. We’re designing the car through this coming summer. Next fall, winter and spring we’ll be building the car, and the following October (2013) we’ll be racing it. So we’re trying to improve the current design, see how well our computer models matched the real world performance of the car.


CJ: So how does the car itself work compared to a normal car?

WF: There are three big subsystems: The solar panels on top that convert solar energy into electrical energy that we can use, a battery pack that either charges or receives power from the solar panels directly, and a motor that propels the car forward on the highway.

Most of the other systems are the same (as a regular car). Same steering system, hydraulic brakes. It’s street legal, but it’s a little bit hard to see when you’re in the car. But there are no worries about merging in traffic. Driving it isn’t bad. It can go highway speeds. It’s a bit loud on the side and the compartment’s tight, and the car only fits one driver.


CJ: What’s the fastest you’ve taken it?

WF: About 80 miles an hour using the battery pack to pass a car on the highway. But if we’re cruising on solar power, we target speeds of 45 to 55 mph.


CJ: How long does the battery pack last for?

WF: Throughout the day you’ll be charging or recharging the battery pack. Midday you’re probably burning the pack more. One charge can go 150 to 200 miles with just the battery alone.


CJ: That’s crazy. Who developed the battery?

WF: We developed it ourselves. The actual cells we sourced from Panasonic.


CJ: Doesn’t the Nissan Leaf only go 100 miles on a single charge?

WF: We make compromises that most car makers wouldn’t want to make. Our biggest motivations in designing a car are making it aerodynamic and light weight, with low power consumption. A normal car would be much heavier with a lot of different amenities and luxuries. Our intention is to get the best components we can to make it as efficient as possible. We build with no limits.


CJ: So what technologies can be taken to the real world?

WF: The solar panels we developed are being tested for how their efficiency ranks compared to those produced by the world record holders. Some of our battery monitoring systems are unique and new, as well.

We don’t do a lot in terms of licensing technologies directly, but our alumni leave to use their expertise in their professional careers. JB Straubel (Chief Technology Officer of Tesla) worked on the solar car, and he presumably took some of the ideas he developed at Stanford to design the Tesla Roadster.


CJ: Since you can’t reuse Xenith for the next race, what are you going to do with the car?

WF: Right now we’re hoping to put it in a museum. Otherwise it’ll be housed at an alumni’s home. It’s also good to use as a training tool for new members, and we also do a lot of outreach events with Xenith. We’re going to visit schools, trying to show the connection between green technology and the automotive (world). We do a lot of outreach work to show the community what’s possible.


CJ: Any big scares when you guys have taken Xenith on the road?

WF: Nothing too big. It’s nice in the fact that we have escort vans in front of and behind the solar car that act as its eyes and ears. The one thing that does freak out other drivers is that the car can turn all three wheels in different directions to optimize airflow. All of a sudden a car on the other side of the highway will notice that the solar panels are pointed towards them (even though it’s staying in its lane), and they’ll suddenly veer off the road thinking it’s going to hit them.

Stanford’s Solar Car, Xenith, may look like it’s heading right for the big rig, but it’s three wheels are actually pointed parallel to the road. Three-wheel steering helps the car optimize windflow efficiency. Photo courtesy of Stanford Solar Car Project.


CJ: Tell me more about the last race.

WF: We place fourth in the production class (editors note: in the group of cars that were street legal) and 11th overall out of 40 cars. We had higher aspirations, but we had a breakdown on the first day and a bunch of flat tires. We fell to 17th after the first day but rallied back to 11th.


CJ: How long did it take?

WF: Five to six days. It varies from year to year. Last race was a slow year because there were thunderstorms. You do get some power production through the solar panels but it’s much less than if there were clear blue skies.


CJ: Must be a fun experience, though.

WF: It’s definitely exciting. We go down a few weeks before the race and do the press work, ship the car by ocean freight, test it in the Outback. The race itself is 3,000 km from coast to coast from Darwin to Darwin to Adelaide. You start at 8 or 9 am each day and you stop the race at 5 pm each day. Wherever you are, you just pull off the road and spend the night there. Hopefully you have your tents and water supplies ready. There aren’t many towns in the outback, so you’re setting up a tent and cooking in the dark.


CJ: So do you make the freshmen trek to towns for supply runs? 

WF: Not really (small laugh). By the time you get to Australia after two years of building a car you’re going to be pretty good friends.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1e26u)