Friday, December 14, 2012

What's even better than recycling? This.

Are you upgrading your iGadget this holiday season?  You can sell the old one on one of these websites:  it's greener than recycling it AND you get money!

But even before that, try to fix it:

I bought one of these iFixit kits to fix my old classic iPod when it died last year.  The kit included all the tools and YouTube video instructions for deconstructing it and replacing the battery… very easy to follow, but alas, my iPod was really most sincerely dead.  Perhaps others will fare better - maybe your iThing is only mostly dead?  At any rate, the iFixit kit cost me less than $20, but the enginerdy joy of taking something apart and putting it back together, combined with the glee I experienced from the idea of sticking it to the purveyors of planned obsolescence?  Priceless.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Electricity strikes back!

The American Automobile Association (AAA) magazine ran an article with this title recently, and suggested that the American car buyer's mantra should be "It's the gas prices, stupid!" No doubt this year's high gas prices have caused many American drivers to rethink their vehicle choice, and auto manufacturers are responding to the shift. One data source shows that the price point of $3.75/gallon caused purchases to shift almost 32% away from SUVs and almost 35% into more fuel-efficient vehicles. Electric vehicles (EVs) may be coming to a dealer near you sooner than you think!
Updated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards first passed in 1975 are now pushing for double the current fuel efficiency in passenger cars by 2025: that means average MPG should rise to 54.5 in just over a decade, which is a huge change considering slow development to date.
Did you know that many of the first American-made cars were electric? In 1900, 28% of vehicles on the road were powered by electricity. To illustrate how slowly EV technology has improved: consider that early models covered up to 60-75 miles per charge - ever heard of Milburn Electric cars from the 1920s or Commuta-cars from the 1970s? - and the current Nissan Leaf only covers 100 miles per charge.
Development in the field slowed when gasoline-powered engines dominated the market, but . The hybrid gas-electric Toyota Prius is increasingly popular, and a plug-in hybrid model has joined the growing family. Tiny Daimler Smart Cars have gone electric too. More and more automakers are jumping into the market.

Watch for these new EVs on a road near you:
2011 Alfa Romeo Giulietta, with up to 70mpg thanks to a turbocharger by Honeywell
CODA EV with a 100,000-mile battery guarantee, 150-mile range, $30k pricetag after incentives
Renault Fluence first production vehicle to use battery-swapping infrastructure

Monday, November 5, 2012

Post-hurricane cleanup info

Thinking of those impacted by Hurricane Sandy:  find helpful EPA and FEMA info here.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has created a webpage for updates and information about FEMA's work with communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  On this site you will find news releases, answers to frequently-asked questions about post-flooding cleanup issues, and contact information for your state emergency office.

A few general tips:
-Bring drinking water to a rolling boil for one minute to kill water-borne bacterial pathogens
-Remove and discard anything that has been wet for more than 24-48 hours to avoid mold issues

Read more about mold, disaster debris, and how flooding could affect your household well or septic system on EPA's website here: 

Visit the main hurricane response website here:

Residents of certain counties in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York can register for assistance on the website here:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Best butternut squash soup

Yes, I know it was 80 degrees today, which hardly constitutes soup weather... but this squash had been sitting around for over a week, just waiting to become soup.  And what a soup it was!  So when this Indian summer finally turns to winter, give this one a go.

This recipe is quick, simple, and delicious, and even more so if you bake the squash with maple syrup before adding it to the soup like I did.


Butternut Squash Soup
Total time:  30 minutes
Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
kosher salt and pepper
2 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 medium butternut squash (about 1.5lb), cut into 1/4" pieces
6 cups water or chicken broth (I used 4 cups chicken broth and got a nice thick consistency)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onion, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and cook, covered, for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add carrots and squash and cook, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add liquid and rosemary and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer about 12 to 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Remove and discard rosemary.  Puree the soup and serve with good bread.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book: How to Read Bridges

Looking for a holiday gift for that special engineer in your life?  Check out this book.

How to Read Bridges: A Crash Course In Engineering and Architecture was recently reviewed in Structure magazine, and sounds like a worthy addition to bookshelves of engineers, educators, and bridge aficionados alike.  It covers bridge materials, types, uses, and the famous engineers (Roebling, Maillart, Calatrava, Eiffel...) who have designed them.  Also included are case studies of various bridge types such as beam, arch, truss, opening & moving, cantilever, suspension, and cable-stayed.  A combination of historic photographs and sketches, as well as an engineering terminology glossary and recommended book/website list add to the mix.

While looking for this book on Amazon, my search also turned up How to Read Buildings: A Crash Course in Architectural Styles.  In case you have a special architect in your life too...

Monday, October 8, 2012

USGBC v. AHBC: a hazy future for LEED?

Modern Steel Construction magazine ran an article this month entitled "Green Mudslinging" describing the tensions between US Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC).  The ACC is driving the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition (AHBC), which represents building product manufacturers, many of whom are being edged out of the green building game by LEED's discouragement of certain chemicals' use in building materials.

The issue is this:  should green building rating systems be determined by the green community or by building product manufacturers?

AHBC includes US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, American Architectural Manufacturers Association, Southern Forest Products Association, and many chemical / plastic / vinyl groups.  Their strategy appears to be to pressure the General Services Administration (USGBC's largest client) to drop LEED on the basis that it was not developed in accordance with an ANSI-based consensus process.

The article's author (a Vice President of the American Institute of Steel Construction, which publishes this magazine) suggests that the steel industry has decreased its environmental footprint by 60% while increasing its market share by 10 points by focusing on a triple bottom line approach similar to the one espoused by the USGBC.  He makes a good case for collaboration and consensus between all members of the building construction community, suggesting that since LEED is not going to go away, the rating system would be strengthened - not diminished - by adopting a consensus ANSI process.

May all involved heed this voice of reason!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An ode to eggplant

The end of summer brings tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant... and sometimes all at the same time!  Tonight I cooked up the very last zucchini and picked a few of the tomatoes brave enough to survive the increasingly chilly nights.  But most importantly:  the eggplants are getting their second wind.  Here are my latest favorite eggplant recipes, starting with the amazing pasta concoction Ansu posted this week...

Best eggplant sauce to hit pasta.  Ever.  And this blogger's writeup is really entertaining, too.

A delicious garlicky Melitzanosalata.  Thanks Julie and Laura!

My old standby ratatouille recipe from Simply in Season is tasty, but only earns an honorable mention next to these beauties.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cherry tomatoes: roasted

Is your August garden all red?  Try roasting the little guys like this:

Light bulbs to bring home

Looking for CFLs or LED bulbs that will cast the most aesthetically pleasing light?  Here are two recommended by professional lighting designers:

Philips EnergySaver Twister Warm White 13W

Philips AmbientLED 25W A19

Remember that although LED bulbs are more expensive, they also last significantly longer; therefore they are more economical over the long run.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Guerilla Gardening: Holes of Happiness

Today's moment of zen:  this guerilla gardener creates tiny aesthetic interventions in London potholes.  Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, July 30, 2012

El Loco de la Catedral

Can you build a cathedral with nothing but recycled materials and faith?  Yes, but it's taken this crazy Spaniard 50 years and counting, God bless him!

Watch the film here:

Lifehacker article roundup

More random and interesting stuff from the folks at Lifehacker...

Can you freeze avocado?  wine?  cake?  and what the heck is mirepoix?  Find the answers here: 

Build a bookcase-in-the-round with a repurposed cable spool:

And for those of us who love mason jars, here's how to turn one into a soap dispenser.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Energy metabolism: The Very Hungry City

Today's interview with author Austin Troy about his book The Very Hungry City... on WYPR today:

"How will Baltimore fare in the future as the global demand for energy grows and prices rise? Austin Troy, an expert in urban environmental management at the University of Vermont, looks at cities with "high energy metabolisms" and what they need to do about the problems of energy consumption. Troy is the author of The Very Hungry City: Will Your City Thrive or Wither in and Energy-Strapped Future?"

This author mentioned a strong statistical correlation between trees and crime:  the numbers show that neighborhoods with more trees experience lower crime rates.  So... go plant trees!

Also:  people who live in places with extensive bicycle infrastructure are happier about where they live.  Copenhagen and the Nordic countries were mentioned in this context.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Green events in March

Spring is coming:  shake off the bleak midwinter blues and check out these local events...

DC Environmental Film Festival, March 13-25

National Facilities Management and Technology conference, March 13-15 

Eco-ball, March 16, sponsored by Baltimore Green Works

Earth Hour, March 31 

View more coming events like these here: 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I want this car

Last summer it was the Honda CR-Z sport hybrid.
Now it's the baby Prius c!

Quick statistics:
Available in spring 2012
Designed to be the most affordable prius
Designed to achieve a higher mpg rating than the 3rd generation prius
Stylish design

Read about it here:

View the rest of the growing Prius family: