Tesla Begins Regular Production

Steve Puma | Tuesday March 18th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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Tesla President and CEO Ze’ev Drori wrote in his blog today that regular production of the Tesla Roadster has begun. This is a big step for the electric-car manufacturer.
I personally can’t wait for the first time I spot a Tesla on the road, but I am even more excited that I might get to tour the factory very soon.
Congratulations to Tesla on their achievement.

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The International Year of Sanitation

| Tuesday March 18th, 2008 | 2 Comments

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While sanitation is said to be the greatest medical advance in the past 150 years, some 2.6 billion people around the world – some 40 percent of total population – lack access to basic sanitation, according to the United Nations. That’s something that the U.N. has been trying to change for the better. One of its Millennium Development Goals is to halve this number by 2015.
It’s been hard going thus far, however. The U.N. estimates that the annual cost of doing so would require a relatively small US$9.5 billion yet this is the U.N. Millennium Development Goal furthest from being achieved.
Responding to what it has called a global scandal, the U.N. has designated 2008 as the “International Year of Sanitation”. It’s also recently launched the Global Sanitation Fund, the first global financing mechanism aimed at addressing the problem and is organizing World Water Day events in Geneva and New York City for March 20.
“Over the past 10 years diarrhoea has killed more children than all the people lost in armed conflicts since the Second World War,” according to the U.N.’s Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), which launched the Fund. “Clean toilets save lives. Healthy people can go to school and go to work. “Research indicates that meeting the sanitation MDG target would yield economic benefits of $63 billion each year, and universal access would yield $225 billion. In other words, clean toilets contribute to economic development.”

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Buy Local. Buy Beautiful. Etsy: Truly Social Entrepreneurship

| Monday March 17th, 2008 | 1 Comment

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If you’re like many others these days, you know the value of buying local. Buying non mass produced. Supporting the creator of something directly. Or perhaps you yourself make something by hand, whether it’s clothing, jewelry, or perhaps some amazing deserts. You want the world to know about and have an opportunity to buy them, but don’t want or have the desire to have a full store for your wares. Where do you go?
Etsy is a great solution to all of the above. Though it does place an emphasis on the hand crafted, it’s by no means a crunchy, wan effort. Quite the opposite, this site provides an attractive, interactive presentation of people’s products, creating a user friendly hub for connecting those who make with those who buy. Etsy gives a whole different twist to the term “social entrepreneur.”
Etsy does a stellar job providing a range of intriguing ways to find what you’re seeking, or didn’t even know you were seeking. Other retailers, take note!

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Greening a Computer Store at KU (Guest Post)

3p Contributor | Monday March 17th, 2008 | 29 Comments

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This is a guest post was written by Bobby Grace, a student in Professor Simran Sethi’s Media and the Environment course at the University of Kansas originally published this to the course blog on March 9, 2008.

Photo: Gerard Lemos, flickr
I work the computer store on campus, The Tech Shop. I can sell two or three computers in a day and a lot more during back-to-school times. For a long time, I was satisfied by simply providing useful technology to students at great prices.
Sales schtick aside, people want computers. That is, people need computers. E-mail is a valid form of communication at KU and papers are expected to be submitted electronically. Around finals time, it can be a pain to find a computer in one of our computer labs. People need computers.
Following Moore’s Law, a computer three years in age will be four times as slow as a new computer. This is theoretical of course, but as computers become more affordable, more people are replacing their old ones. The stack of out-of-use computers adds up.

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Kite-Driven Beluga Skysail Completes 12,000 Mile Journey and Proves Concept

| Friday March 14th, 2008 | 10 Comments

Beluga Skysails completes 12,000 mile voyage“We can once again actually ‘sail’ with cargo ships, thus opening a new chapter in the history of commercial shipping”

Thus is the verdict from MV Beluga Skysails captain Lutz Heldt upon completion of the vessel’s 12,000 mile round-trip maiden voyage. The crew and vessel were at sea for nearly two months, giving the “skysail” concept ample opportunity for testing and tweaking.

The journey took the ship from Germany to Venezuela, the United States, and then to Norway, arriving on March 13.

We’ve been keeping an eye on the ship’s progress here at Triple Pundit, from initial concept, sea trials, and now the round-trip completion of her first commercial voyage using the hybrid auxiliary power kite system installed on the Beluga Skysails.

Deployment of the 160–square-meter towing kite offset up to 20% of the engine’s power (and carbon emissions), saving an initial $1000 per day in fuel costs.

Future testing and plans for the system will focus on extending flight times and performance of the sail, as well as implementing a sail twice the size of the current one deployed on the Skysails. With the larger sail, savings of up to $2000 per day is possible, as well as further reduction in carbon emissions.

If all continues to go as well as it has, the Skysail concept will help usher in a new and innovative chapter in shipping.

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DoT releases study of climate change and effects on Gulf Coast transportation

| Friday March 14th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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The U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DoT) on Wednesday released a study of the potential impacts climate change and land subsidence could have on the Gulf Coast region’s transportation infrastructure.
Examining an area that includes 48 contiguous counties in four states – from Galveston, Texas to Mobile, Alabama – the DoT has undertaken the study to provide valuable information to regional transportation planners and government. The report is the first of a three-phase study on a region of particular concern given its geography, ecology and vulnerability, as well as the central role it plays in the nation’s oil and gas infrastructure.
“The Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure: Gulf Coast Study, Phase I,” assesses regional transportation systems’ vulnerabilities to potential changes in weather patterns and related impacts, as well as the effect of natural land subsidence and other environmental factors, according to a DoT media release.
Potential climate changes in the next 50 to 100 years could disrupt transportation services across the region, according to the study, which made use of 21 simulation models and a range of emissions scenarios. “Twenty-seven percent of major roads, 9 percent of rail lines, and 72 percent of area ports are at or below 4 feet in elevation, and could be vulnerable to flooding due to future sea level rise and natural sinking of the area’s land mass,” according to the media release.
The study is being carried out by the DoT in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey and state and local researchers as one of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program’s 21 “synthesis and assessment” reports. Subsequent phases of the study are meant to develop risks and adaptation strategies that can be used for planning, investment, design and operational decision making related to infrastructure in the Gulf Coast region and nationwide.

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“Crowdsourcing” and Democratic Filmmaking

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday March 13th, 2008 | 6 Comments

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“Crowdsourcing” is an innovative approach towards getting fresh ideas tested, funded, produced, and distributed into the market. CambrianHouse is the central hub on the net for crowdsourcing. Through their “IdeaWarz” competition, anyone can post ideas, instantly receive feedback, secure funding, and/or build a team of supporters to get the idea launched.
One of the ideas to come out of this competition is FilmRiot.com. On FilmRiot, you can watch trailers of independent films that are currently seeking funding. If you like what you see, you can become a supporter for as little as $10. Once the movie reaches its financial goal, filmmakers receive the money to complete the rest of the feature. Supporters can submit feedback during the production process, receive a digital copy once the project is finished, and join an affiliate program to receive further monetary benefit through referrals. Most importantly, supporters get to watch movies they want to see made. It’s democratic filmmaking at it’s finest!
This afternoon, I spoke with Don Holmsten, founder of FilmRiot, to find out more about how this model works.

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Green Footing Part 1: Much Ado About the Shoe (Guest Post)

| Thursday March 13th, 2008 | 2 Comments

PhotobucketThis is a guest post was written by Travis Brown, a student in Professor Simran Sethi’s Media and the Environment course at the University of Kansas originally published this to the course blog on March 10, 2008.
America has a shoe problem.
2,286,472,000 shoes were purchased in the U.S. in 2005 according to the American Apparel & Footwear Association. There were 297,821,175 Americans alive at the end of 2005. That’s 7.67 shoes per person. Now I realize that I am a man and therefore do not understand the true glory of shoes, but this seems a little absurd. Think of all the different materials that go into making shoes and their packaging. Think of all the different places that those materials come from. Then think of where the shoes are made and how far they travel. In 2005, only 1.4% of consumed shoes were manufactured in America. 84.2% of American bought shoes that were made in China.
Just take a gander at this trend throughout the past few decades…

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A Brilliantly Simple Way to Recharge Your Batteries

| Wednesday March 12th, 2008 | 4 Comments

Ask yourself this: How many devices in your house use batteries? How often do they need to get replaced? How often have you thought of getting rechargeable batteries? How often have you actually done it? If your answers are many, often, every time, and never, you’re not alone.
According to Earth911.org, every year in the US, we throw out 180,000 tons of batteries. Personally I think a number of batteries would have even more impact, but the point is clear: We go through a lot of batteries. Batteries which contain a lot of materials that we’d all rather not see making their way into our environment, and many of which are actually recyclable
I recently faced this very dilemma: We bought a hand crank powered flashlight, which you would think would diverge cleanly from the battery habit, but for one thing: The noise of the gyro inside while cranking drove my wife bananas. She demanded that we get another, crank free flashlight.

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Green Buildings Get Boost in L.A.

Shannon Arvizu | Wednesday March 12th, 2008 | 0 Comments

laresized.jpg Los Angeles is the latest (and largest) city in the nation to adopt a green building ordinance. Last month, the L.A. Times reported that two City Council committees voted to enact regulations that would require privately built projects over 50,000 square feet to meet LEED certification. Considering that there are over 200 such buildings constructed annually in the city, this move is a major boost to the green building industry.

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Nano-Threat: Risk and Reality

| Wednesday March 12th, 2008 | 2 Comments

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Broadly considered, there’s probably no field of applied scientific research and development with implications as profound and far-reaching as nanotechnology. Governments and industry are pumping billions into developing nano-engineered materials that may one day in the not to distant future completely overturn the manufacturing of an incredibly wide range of products, from semiconductors and solar cells through weapons and drug delivery systems to everyday food, health and cosmetics products.
While fears of self-replicating, communicative nano-materials a billionth of a meter in size running amok and threatening our environment, health and safety have proven rich ground for science fiction, the broad public appears to be relatively uninformed and unconcerned about the potential threats. That’s not the case among scientists and public interest groups, however.
Based on a national telephone survey of American households and 363 leading nanotechnology scientists and engineers, a November 2007 report by the University of Wisconsin’s professor of life sciences communication and journalism Dietram A. Scheufele and Arizona State University’s Elizabeth Corley of Arizona State University’s Center for Nanotechnology indicates that research into the potential threats nanotech poses to the environment, health and safety is so sparse that research community itself doesn’t know, much less can be certain of, the risks involved.
“It’s starting to emerge on the policy agenda, but with the public, it’s not on their radar,” Scheufele said of the findings. “That’s where we have the largest communication gap…Scientists aren’t saying there are problems. “They’re saying, ‘We don’t know. The research hasn’t been done.'”
In the meantime, hundreds of nano-engineered materials, such as nano-titanium dioxide, are literally entering our food chain. Friends of the Earth Australia just released a new report entitled, Out of the laboratory and on to our plates: Nanotechnology in food and agriculture” that reveals “that at least 104 food, food packaging and agricultural products containing nano-ingredients are now on sale internationally,” including “diet replacement milkshakes, cooking oil, tea and fortified fruit juice; food additives sold for use in processed meats, soft drinks, bakery and dairy products; long-life and antibacterial food packaging; and antibacterial kitchenware. FoE is calling for a halt to the introduction and sale of nanomaterials given the unknown toxic risks they pose to environmental and human health until they can be shown to be safe.

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A New American Dream – From Sub-Prime Crisis to Livable Communities: McMansions Revisited

| Tuesday March 11th, 2008 | 1 Comment

A shift toward walkable urbanismBack in November I commented on an Atlantic Monthly article about the hardest hit areas of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown: the large-lot “McMansion” subdivisions built far from urban centers, gobbling up once arable land and forcing residents of these communities (if they could really be called “communities” at all) into their cars for hours a day to get to where they need to go to maintain their McMansion-style lives. 

I suggested that if the American Dream is buying unsustainable housing with unsustainable financing then perhaps the dream has turned into something of a nightmare for some and that out of the the sub-prime mess might come the motivation to do better – to re-imagine the American Dream.

Christopher Leinberger writes this month in the Atlantic Monthly an article simply entitled The Next Slum that talks of such a shift toward sustainable communities and development.

Leinberger’s proposes that what is reflected in the mass foreclosures, abandoned track houses, and surging crime rates in many suburban developments is from much more than our current financial situation. While bad loans certainly help fuel the fire, it is not its ultimate source.

A fundamental shift is afoot in America, according to Leinberger, and that shift is toward a more integrated, walkable, urban-centered lifestyle.  

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AskPablo: Shoulf I have a second child?

| Monday March 10th, 2008 | 0 Comments

I am trying to decide whether to have a second child. I am wondering about the environmental impact that an American/U.S. person will have over the course of his/her life. Our home is very green: veggie oil car, organic foods, mostly used items are purchased — but I am wondering if you can possibly give me an answer. Sometimes I think that it would be wonderful for my son to have a sibling when the oceans are rising, and they can be in it together, but then I wonder if, by having a second, I am contributing to the oceans’ rising?

So, are you somehow complicit in the coming climate apocalypse if you bring one more child into the world? In fact, your question is more philosophical in nature and does not lend itself to a black-and-white analysis. The answer is both yes and no.
On the one hand, the little one would be entering a model household in environmental consciousness. The fact that you are asking me this question is evidence enough for me. The upbringing of your child would, no doubt, be less environmentally harmful than that of his or her American peers. Large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions would be spared by your veggie-fueled cars, agricultural lands would be enriched, not degraded, by your consumption of organic produce, and the biodegradable diapers would harmlessly decompose in the landfill or compost pile. Maybe your progressive-thinking household would raise the next Nobel Prize-winning climate change crusader, or the scientist responsible for a breakthrough in cold fusion technology.
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/03/10/ask_pablo_kids/index.html

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Fuel Cells: Japanese harness the power of hydrogen for electricity and hot water

| Monday March 10th, 2008 | 5 Comments

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2200 Japanese home owners draw their power and heat their hot water from hydrogen fuel cells. The technology, which extracts energy from the chemical reaction when hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water, is more commonly found as an application for automobiles rather than homes.
Developers claim that fuel cells cause one-third less of the pollution that causes global warming than conventional electricity generation does. The flat grey fuel cell is about the size of a suitcase and is generally positioned next to the hot water heater tank, also on the outside of these homes. In the process of producing electricity, the fuel cell gives off enough warmth to heat water for the home.
The oxygen that the fuel cell uses comes from the air and the hydrogen is extracted from natural gas by a device called a reformer, it is found in the same box as the fuel cell. A byproduct of that process is poisonous carbon monoxide which is handled via another process. Another machine in the gray box adds oxygen to the carbon monoxide to create carbon dioxide, which, although it possibly contributes to global warming, it is not poisonous.

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Corporate Calls for Global Competence: Rhetoric vs. Action

| Sunday March 9th, 2008 | 2 Comments

planet444.jpegI have an educational exercise for you. Embark on a tour through your closets and dresser drawers. It will be an inexpensive trip. Everyone, especially fellow citizens of the famously inward-looking USA, should give this inventory project a try. The targets I have in mind are tags saying “Made in Mexico” or “Made in Jordan.” At this point, “Made in China” may be a given. Once you have completed the tour, even the most worldly readers of triplepundit.com may be surprised at the extent of their unavoidable, everyday connections to the rest of the world. You will have experienced a common tool for educating students of all ages about the phenomenon of globalization. Wrapped up in that simple exercise, and in those items from various shores, are complicated issues that mirror the “greyness” of our world. Human rights, the global environment, cultural traditions, political concerns – so much complexity, so little black and white. The process of making, packaging, shipping, selling, purchasing, and eventually disposing of any given product exudes the greyness that is globalization.
This is not rocket science, but I worry that the next generation of leaders in business, government, and other sectors may not fully understand these concepts or have the global awareness and experience to act on them appropriately. Just as attention to environmental and social concerns has become a measure of visionary corporate performance, excellence in education is not achieved without a significant infusion of global perspectives, at all levels and across disciplines. If we can agree on that, maybe we can agree that the corporate world should seek more ways to partner with the world of education toward global competence outcomes wanted by all.

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