Category Archives: recycling/trash

Andrew Maynard’s Suburb-Eating Robots

You all most definitely must go check out ArchitectureMNP‘s recent feature of Andrew Maynard Architects‘ silly/crazy/ingenious Suburb-Eating Robots:

Andrew Maynard has what some may consider to be a peculiar vision for the future of the Australian suburb – lush forest wilderness, or otherwise natural untouched land devoid of cookie-cutter human settlements. And it would all be thanks [if he had his way, perhaps?] to something resembling the image above.

That’s right, my ninjas – Maynard has developed a proposal for giant suburb-devouring robots, that will both consume the existing suburbs as they pass AND do a little terraforming while there at it. Who could ask for more?

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[Image: Andrew Maynard Architects’ CV08]

The CV08 is like a late night infomercial on steroids: it slices, it dices, it consumes entire towns – and it even cleans up after itself. The satirical hexapod will descend upon the suburbs, gathering the abandoned homes and cars through it’s front legs [dubbed ‘demo legs’, seen below] – crushing everything in its path and packaging it neatly for recycling. The CV08 then releases new flora+fauna through the middle legs [which are kept, obviously, in carbonite freeze until deployment] – immediately populating the newly reclaimed land.

Lastly, the rear legs of the CV08 will serve as a means of power-collection: they pull chubby Australian suburbanite stragglers up into a liposuction chamber, which draws out all of their excess fat [which then powers the CV08]. The now trim Aussies are then shot out of the backside [read: ass] of the robot, parachuting down to safety – along with a brand new bicycle constructed from recycled suburbs.

Read the rest, including an exclusive interview with Maynard himself, at ArchitectureMNP.

PopSci’s Top 50 Greenest US Cities

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I am a little behind the times, but at the beginning of February Popular Science Magazine came out with their list of America’s 50 Greenest Cities. They compiled the list based on four criteria – electricity (10 points), transportation (10 points), green living (5 points) and recycling & green perspective (5 points). Here are the top 20:

1. Portland, Ore. 23.1
2. San Francisco, Calif. 23.0
3. Boston, Mass. 22.7
4. Oakland, Calif. 22.5
5. Eugene, Ore. 22.4
6. Cambridge, Mass. 22.2
7. Berkeley, Calif. 22.2
8. Seattle, Wash. 22.1
9. Chicago, Ill. 21.3
10. Austin, Tex. 21.0
11. Minneapolis, Minn. 20.3
12. St. Paul, Minn. 20.2
13. Sunnyvale, Calif. 19.9
14. Honolulu, Hawaii 19.9
15. Fort Worth, Tex. 19.7
16. Albuquerque, N.M. 19.1
17. Syracuse, N.Y. 18.9
18. Huntsville, Ala. 18.4
19. Denver, Colo. 18.2
20. New York, N.Y. 18.2

Check the PopSci site for the full list and all the details. They also highlight 6 case studies of cities making concerted efforts to green themselves.

Oakland: Zero Emission Bus
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Chicago: Make Power, Save the Heat
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San Francisco: Sunroofs in Fog City
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Santa Rosa: Tapping Geysers for Watts
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Salt Lake City: Heating Homes from Waste
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New York City: Turning the Tides into Electricity
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Another interesting analysis of green spots in the US was listed by a PopSci reader in the comments. Check the site for an interesting interactive state-by-state look at green stat’s across the country.

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[popsci.com]

Stop Flushing Your Drugs – the Fish are Overdosing!!

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And going sterile:

NO ONE EVER planned for fish to take birth control pills. But they are. As treated wastewater flows into rivers and streams every day, fish all over the world get a tiny dose of 17α-ethinylestradiol, a synthetic steroidal estrogen that’s used in birth control pills. They also get a little sip of the anticonvulsant carbamazepine, a nip of the antidepressant fluoxetine, and a taste of hundreds of other drugs that we take to make our lives better.

Let’s face it – we are a society obsessed with drugs, pharmaceutical and otherwise. Also, increasingly so, we are a society obsessed with keeping our bodies free of toxins. Conflict of interest much? The fish think so. Male fish inhabiting waters near water treatment plants, for example, are becoming feminized (aka growing eggs in their testes) as a result of our habits.

By far, the most dramatic example of this kind of pharmaceutical pollution has been the effect of estrogenic compounds on fish. In the 1990s, scientists working in the U.K. noted that male fish living downstream from wastewater treatment plants were becoming feminized. They were making proteins associated with egg production in female fish, and they were developing early-stage eggs in their testes. Feminized male fish have now been observed in rivers and streams in the U.S. and Europe.

Recent studies done by John Sumpter, an ecotoxicologist at England’s Brunel University and Karen A. Kidd, a biology professor at the Canadian Rivers Institute, University of New Brunswick, confirm that the level of pharmaceutical drug contamination in the waters is affecting the fish. The drugs are getting there via several paths (see image below) – in our bodily excretions, and through our drains (I know all you ninjas have flushed a little something down your toilets at some time or another). The levels are low – as low as the parts per trillion (ppt) range, but because drugs are specifically formulated to be effective at low levels, even the ppt range can affect the water populations.

FOR THREE SUMMERS, Kidd and her colleagues spiked a lake in Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area with 17α-ethinylestradiol at a concentration of 5 ppt—a concentration that has been measured in municipal wastewaters and in river waters downstream of discharges. During the autumn that followed the first addition of the estrogenic compound, the researchers observed delayed sperm cell development in male fathead minnows—the freshwater equivalent of a canary in a coal mine. A year later, the male fathead minnows were producing eggs and had largely stopped reproducing. The minnow population began to plummet. The decline continued for an additional three years until the fish had all but disappeared from the lake.

And as the circle of life goes, the loss of one species ripples through the food chain:

The fathead minnow wasn’t the only fish to feel the effects of the trace amounts of birth control. The population of lake trout, which feed on smaller fish, fell by about 30%. “The numbers of lake trout dropped not because of direct exposure to the estrogens but because they lost their food supply,” Kidd says.

But Kidd’s story is not all doom and gloom. In 2006, three years after her team stopped adding 17α-ethinylestradiol to the lake, the fathead minnow population rebounded. “So given enough time, once you remove the estrogens from a system, the fish can recover to their original population size,” Kidd notes.

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People and animals excrete pharmaceuticals and their metabolites, which then find their way into the environment through a variety of routes—treated wastewater, agricultural runoff, and biosolids and manure that are used as fertilizers. Pharmaceuticals also enter the environment when people dispose of medications by flushing them down the toilet or pouring them down the drain.

We cannot avoid the bodily excretion of drugs that make it through our systems, but we can use other means of disposing of unused drugs. C&EN recommends:

Getting people to stop flushing away their unwanted medication is one easy way to cut down on pharmaceutical pollution. So last year, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) issued new federal guidelines for the proper disposal of prescription drugs. According to the guidelines, unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs should be removed from their original containers and thrown in the trash.

To prevent accidental poisonings or potential drug abuse, ONDCP recommends mixing meds with an undesirable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. The mix should be placed into impermeable, nondescript containers, such as empty cans or sealable plastic bags, before being tossed in the trash.

In some cases, the risk of poisoning or abuse outweighs the potential environmental impact. The Food & Drug Administration recommends that certain controlled substances, such as the painkillers OxyContin and Percocet, are best disposed of down the drain. A full list is available at ONDCP’s website (whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/drugfact/factsht/proper_disposal.html).

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Moral of the story: stop flushing your goods. And check C&EN for more details.

[Chemical & Engineering News]

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Compost

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The Automatic Composter by NatureMill:

…recycles its weight in waste every 10 days, diverting more than two tons of waste from landfills over its lifetime. Using just 10W of power, the odor-free unit is made from recycled and recyclable materials.

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[Image: NatureMill Automatic Composter]

So in short[er], the Automatic Composter by NatureMill helps the environment by reducing national waste going into landfills [or New Jersey. I can say that cause i have a lot of family from there]. So for all you green-thumbs out there, go get one [or three, save some money] and help save the rest of us from future-living-earth stink pile.

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[Image: NatureMill Automatic Composter 02]

Quoted information from K+BB magazine [December 2007]. Images from the NatureMill website.

Bonus video of Automatic Composter in action:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch2KKtiFiLM[/youtube]

[[Post by DUBS]]

MMM Chocolate

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So gentlemen, the big V day is coming up, and though personally, we here at green.mnp cannot stand this ridiculous holiday, we do love chocolate. Chances are, so does your lady. As such, let us recommend IgnaFire Chocolates a rad new chocolate company based in Austin, TX. They make ‘environmentally-friendly unprocessed chocolates’ that come as morsels or powder (good for making hot cocoa) and are available in 4 flavors: genuine cacao, vanilla, moka (read: mocha) and, my favorite, cinnamon.

Why unprocessed chocolate? Cacao beans, the source of chocolate, have wonderfully rich flavors that don’t need taming. Most commercial chocolate makers tamper extensively with the original flavors and natural proportions of cacao butter of the cacao bean. This is true even for very high end, specialty chocolates. To the contrary, we believe the proportion of cacao butter naturally present in a cacao bean is just right. There is no need to add or subtract from it. So we have devised the simplest recipes possible. Of course no industrial equipment is required and we have no on-staff chemists in research labs.

What is more, the chocolates are packaged in reusable, biodegradable…flushable materials – nothing to throw away.

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YUM!  AND, if you do not trust that the chocolates will be delicious, IgnaFire will send you a free sample!
[ecospace.cc]

Madrid’s ‘Air Tree’

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Winner of the 2004 ‘Eco Boulevard‘ competition held by the Madrid Municipal Housing Corporations Residential Innovation Office [that's a mouthful], Urban Ecosystems’Air Tree‘ project consists of 3 pavilions situated within a 500 meter by 50 meter boulevard.

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Designed as the initial ‘attraction’ for the site, the pavilions have been conceptualized as a ‘prosthesis’ – around which social interaction/revitalization, plant life, and future spaces can grow. The structures are therefore temporary – acting merely as a magnet to draw new life to the site. The boulevard will be gradually filled with trees and plant-life, until such a time when ‘air-conditioned spaces are no longer needed, when the area becomes fixed’. The pavilions will then be dismantled – leaving behind a void in the new growth [images above].

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A light, easily assembled/dismantled [and recyclable!] structure, the ‘Air Tree‘ is energy self-sufficient – using only the power it can capture through a number of photovoltaic panels. Any energy not used by the pavilions themselves is sold back to the grid, the proceeds from which go to maintain this new urban park.

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While the boulevard will eventually grow into a park – these ‘Air Trees‘ will work to do the same job as the trees will in the future. Along with providing a defined, shaded place to congregate [like the base of a tree], the pavilions will actually condition the air. Within the metallic screen/skin of the ‘Air Trees‘ is a layer of plantings – small trees running around the perimeter of the pavilions.

…[there are] simple air conditioning systems installed in the air tree. They are evapotranspirators. This is a natural way to air condition a space, not a part of commercial strategy. Rather, it creates naturally conditioned spaces between 8-10°C cooler than the surrounding streets where the residents can take active part in the public domain [via].

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And oh yeah – they look pretty ill too. They should build some of these bad-boys here in the Bean, on that no-man’s-land the Big Dig has left us…

::For more interesting/provocative ‘green‘ projects, visit ecosistema urbano – additional information for this post via Greenline::

Video Sundays: Building Green

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSqfLPUqiCg[/youtube]

Watch JD and her husband Steve turn a house from the 1920′s into a ‘green’ home – and learn how you could do the same! The material that most grabbed my attention – the roof shingles made from recycled rubber tires, that are made to look just like slate. Crazy. Not sure that ‘fake’ slate shingles are all that cool, but shingles from recycled tires [which, are gross], is pretty awesome.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMlg0lJ3emA[/youtube]

::Video Sundays is a weekly feature here on Green.MNP. For more ‘green’ videos, click on any Sunday in the sidebar calendar – or on the ‘YouTube’ category in the ‘save the planet’ section. Additional videos that have been featured on any of the MNP sites can be found here on our YouTube page::

Happy New Year Ninjas!

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Welcome to the Year of the Ock (or Rat, depending on which particular calendar you follow). In case any of you are the resolution making types, here are a few green ideas from the folks at Plenty Magazine:

Only a little more than a month remains until that special time of the year when you make your annual New Year’s resolutions – lose 50 pounds in two days, organize entire life, write daily letters of love and appreciation to parents, exercise twice daily, read three books per week, give up chocolate – and then promptly break them. But these green leaders are tougher than your average resoluter: They go to the office everyday and stand up against climate change, Big Oil, environmental illiteracy in America, and the full force of our generally wasteful culture. So we’re confident that they’ll stick to their outside-the-box eco resolutions this New Year. Here’s what they vow to do in 2008:

Some serious and some hilarious, read the green ‘eco-lutions’ at Plenty Mag’s site. Here’s a sample:

I’m going to stop making fun of crunchy, Birkenstock-wearing hippies driving their holier-than-thou Priuses and figure out how to retro-fit my bro’s 1984 VW vanagon for biofuel so I can drive cross country guilt-free. I’m going to start carrying a travel mug for my thrice-daily caffeine injections. And even though I may cringe in embarrassment purchasing condoms from my local CVS (beacon-hill biddies be damned!) I’m NOT going to let them give me a plastic bag because damn it, sea turtles are cool and that shit’s never gonna biodegrade. Although now that I think about it… condoms probably aren’t much better. Do they make biodegradable condoms? Would that even work?

The Plenty Magazine greenies also have put together a list of ideas for ‘Recycling Christmas,’ including ways to deal with the mounds of wrapping paper, boxes and holiday cards you may have acquired, as well as what to do with your Christmas tree and the presents you got that you didn’t really want.  Classic re-gifting.

Savage Worms: Weeks 8 & 9

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Brrrrr! Welcome to winter (or is it still Fall?). Whatever the official season, it is getting cold outside and in our laundry room too. As you may or may not remember, we have been keeping Andrea’s worms out in the laundry room because we had an outbreak of fruit flies (sidenote – it was brought to my attention by a certain h.n.i.c. that the fruit fly invasion was Mass-wide, and may not have been purely rotten-food-bin driven). So, how are the vermies handling the sub-tropical temperatures? Well, they are a little chilly. And sadly, we’ve had a few casualties. But for the most part, they are thriving and eating like fiends. The bin has been licked clean the past couple of times we have checked it, save for the monsterly acidic tomato and bits of twigs from our plants. Also, the castings (poo) continue to pile up. Interestingly though, Andrea noticed that the castings look rather different from the castings showed to her at her vermicomposting workshop. They are grayer and less moist. Most likely, the worms have been grubbin up all the nasty food we’ve been feeding them and then continuing to feast on the newspaper bedding. Not sure if you tell from the photo below, but it’s pretty clear, looking in the bin, that this is the case. So, what can we do but try to satiate them with more nitrogen-rich nastiness. Equipped with nose plugs, Andrea left the worms three juicy piles of grub, about a cupful each, which is quite a step up from the two 1/2 cup piles we had been feeding them. The flies should be less of a problem now that it is colder out, and so far, the smell has not permeated outside of the worm bin (thank god. have i mentioned how bad it smells??).
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On another note, I was doing a bit of vermi-blog reading (who knew this was such a popular endeavor?) and came across a post by Canadian vermi-ninja Bentley who has set up an outdoor WINTER worm bin. In CANADA. If we think our worms are roughing it in our 50-degree laundry room, these Canadian worms are straight igloo-ing it. I will be interested to check up on Bentley’s worms as we get deeper into the season. This is his second attempt at winter-worming; the first one did not end too well. Our Savage Worms will be sending warm thoughts to their vermi-brethren up north!

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Yikes!

Check in next Monday, and until then, read up on the Savage Worms archives. Actually, you should probably just stop in at green.mnp every day for more green goodness.