Black is the New Green: 10 Energy Saving Search Sites

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Black is the New Green.

At least, that’s the message of a movement sometimes referred to as Black Google.

The idea first appeared in a January 20th blog post by Mark Ontkush, where he examines how much energy could potentially be saved if Google’s background was black instead of white.

His findings? If Google, and only Google, were to change their background color to black, the world could save somewhere around 3,000 Megawatt-hours per year!

The post eventually rose to the top of Digg, and was followed up with another, and more complete, article that explains the science and the numbers behind the
idea.

How Does It Work?

Basically, computer monitors, especially the big clunky CRT monitors that take up most of your desk, consume more energy when the screen is white than when the screen is black. This has been shown to be true of CRT’s, LCD’s, and plasma displays, although the different technologies vary in power consumption.

As Ontkush points out, the savings is “a goodly amount of energy and dollars for changing a few color codes.”

So Why Aren’t All Websites Black?

So why don’t web designers just do it and save us all that energy and money? It’s been shown that people will spend more time at a site done up in warm and welcoming colors than they will one that is primarily dark. What it comes down to is changing peoples’ expectations about how their screen should look.

Adjusting peoples’ expectations is always a difficult thing, but what if we began in the office instead of on he web? In the world of corporate and government organizations, where most of us sit at least 40 hours a week, we use the computer on ‘their’ terms. What would happen if these organizations simply started defaulting the screen to black instead of white?

What You Can Do NOW.

So what do we do while we’re waiting for the corporate IT guru’s to make our screens more environmentally friendly? We can begin changing our own expectations. As with anything habit forming, we’re best off starting small. Several alternative Google search pages use Google’s search technology on a dark screen. Personalized search site, Blacklys.com, even offers a Firefox search add-on.

Social Networking sites now offer the ability change your preferences; why not change your color scheme? Sites like Twitter and MySpace, and Facebook actually encourage customization.

These are little things when we compare our impact to that of Google, but little things add up. The only way to save the energy, the money, and the environmental impact, is if we each make the choice.

Alternative Google search sites:

[via ecoIron blog]

  1. Darkoogle, uses a black background with green text.
  2. Earthle
  3. GreenerGle
  4. Greygle, uses a grey background.
  5. Google Black, is a website hosted by the Google-owned blogspot, however the search results are not in black.
  6. Jabago, uses a black background and allows for searching in many languages.
  7. Ninja
  8. Power Google
  9. Searchincolor.com, an older site that supports Google colored searches since its onset. The default color is black.
  10. Trek Black

Next Actions:

Are Your Attitudes Toward Global Warming Changing?

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A recent Poll by Gallup and Yale University is suggesting that the attitude of Americans toward Global Warming is changing — and changing fast.



For example:

  • 72% are either ‘Completely Convinced’ or ‘Mostly Convinced’ that “global warming is happening”.
  • 69% are convinced that Global Warming is caused either completely or partially by human activities. (57% believe that human activities are directly to blame.)
  • 67% Strongly favor “Requiring automakers to increase the fuel efficiency of cars, trucks, and SUVs to 35 miles per gallon, even if it meant a new car would cost up to $500 more to buy.” An additional 12% “somewhat favor” this step.
  • 82% either ‘strongly favor’ or ‘somewhat favor’ “Requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources, even if it cost the average household an extra $100 a year.”

What do you think?

[poll=4]

Another interesting thing about this poll was how people believe they personally can impact Global Warming. Only 69% disagreed with the statement: “The actions of a single person won’t make any difference in reducing global warming.”

That is — about 70% of Americans believe that their personal actions can make a difference with regard to global warming.

What do you believe? Can your personal actions make a difference? Yes or no?

[poll=3]

If you answered no — please leave a comment telling us why you feel that way. If you answered Yes, tell us some of the steps your taking — and what you’d like to find more information on.

Next Actions:

Global Warming and Personal Leadership: A Picture Essay

Our world is changing. The results of our consumption and over-population of the planet are being felt in many ways — and one the most dramatic and dangerous is that our world is getting warmer.

For example, one way to tell is that glaciers all over the world are melting…

The Glaciers are disappearing
While many of them have been melting as long as anyone can remember, now they’re melting much faster than they ever have…

Speaking of melting, so are our polar ice caps…

The Earth is Melting!
If this keeps up, we could find our oceans overflowing their shorelines. Cities that are now near the oceans could find themselves underwater. This could really happen.

So why don’t we all do something about it? Why do some people joke about global warming…

Some try to make light of the situation
Well, a lot of people are profiting from things as they are. They own corporations (or stock in corporations) that would lose lots of money if they were forced to confront all the issues. These people don’t want to lose money! Some of them could literally lose millions! (Or Billions!).

Since they have so much money they can influence the government and influence public opinion.

But even so, there are things you can do. There are steps you can take…

Your Bike is a Global Warming Solution!
It may not be too late to make a difference. People who read blogs like this one have to be leaders — we’ve researched the issues and we’re learning what to do. More than that, WE CARE! We Care! We care enough to make a difference.

And when we take steps to change our habits, we inspire those around us. That’s the definition of leadership — and responsibility.And if we don’t do anything….

Before it's too late
The world may change around us more than we can handle. The changes may come too far and too fast for us to handle. If the changes are too dramatic, who knows how bad things might get? No one knows.

But what’s the most important reason to change?

Because in the end, our future depends on it.
The most important reason to change is for the next and future generations. There are children in our care today that need us to act. They need us to protect them and make sure the world is safe for them.

If things get bad, and it turns out we could’ve made a difference — what will you tell them when they ask? What will you say? Will you be able to tell them you did your best?

Think about it. Then do something about it. Lead by example, and others will follow.

The Role of Government, Part II

In an earlier post, we asked the question “What is Government’s role?” when it comes to forcing the behavior changes that will be required to get people to conserve resources. The discussion threads on that post debated whether government should reward good behavior, or punish poor behavior.

As a follow up, I thought it would be interesting to explore examples of government working to encourage good behavior. (I’m sure we’ll get to examples of government punishing bad behavior as well.)

To begin with, here’s an example of what seems to me to be a great example of government working to encourage industry in a positive way.

In Singapore, the government put out a Challenge Call to industry to submit “breakthrough / disruptive technologies” in the area of Seawater Desalination.

One of the major impacts from global climate change is its expected impact on water supplies around the world. The blog A New Green Earth has been documenting how these issues are already impacting certain areas of Australia. The government in Singapore has has challenged industry to respond with proposals, and it’s offering real money to those with the best ideas.

Challenge Call For Innovative Technologies In The Domain Of Seawater Desalination

The Environment and Water Industry Development Council (EWI), under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), Singapore, was set up to spearhead the growth of the environmental and water industry in Singapore. With the support of agencies like the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the PUB, EWI is committed to invest in research & development in the areas of environment and water.

EWI is now calling for PRELIMINARY research proposals with breakthrough / disruptive technologies to meet the following challenges:

* Production of drinking water that meets World Health Organisation (WHO) Drinking Water Guidelines
* Total energy consumption of 1.5 kWh/cu.m or less

Closing Date: 2 November 2007 (noon, 1200h, Singapore Time)

Note: This is a live challenge. It will be interesting to see what the results are.

Another example of the government encouraging good behavior was the recently completed Federal Electronics Challenge. This challenge gave awards recognizing government agencies which helped “improve its sustainable practices when purchasing, managing and disposing of their electronics assets”.

Finally, let’s look at how government can work to directly impact the behavior of individuals. Here’s a good example of two ways to approach a problem.

The City of San Diego, California has a problem sourcing water for its citizens. It responded by issuing a challenge to them to reduce their water use. They asked San Diegans to reduce their water consumption by 20 gallons per day and provided information to help them do so.

Now compare this to the situation in Australia where the government is sending letters to individuals who are using too much water and threatening fines if they don’t change their behaviors.

What do you make of these issues/approaches? How much should government get involved?

Futurama Global Warming Episodes

We get a lot of people coming to the site searching for links to Futurama’s episodes on Global Warming. In order to make it easier for those people to find what they’re looking for, here’s a page that contains links to the episodes we could find:

Continue reading

How to Clean up a Broken Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulb

Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulb


One of the simplest activities that anyone can undertake to reduce their energy use (and their electricity bills!) is to switch out their traditional light bulbs with the newer, Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs. They save money, last longer, and are better for the environment.

Our regular readers may remember that we covered all this in our Ultimate Guide to Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulbs.

But they have one downside — they contain small amounts of Mercury.

The Mercury is used inside the bulbs to increase their efficiency. Only a small amount is used, but you should still be careful. (A CFL bulb contains only 1/100th of the mercury in old-style mercury thermometers.)

The main issues with Mercury are:

  1. If they break, the mercury can escape into your home, and
  2. They should not be disposed of into your normal trash.

If a CFL bulb breaks in your home, the amount of mercury released isn’t much — but you should use caution if this happens.

According to the U.S. EPA, here are directions to clean up a CFL bulb that has broken. [PDF] Here are their directions:

How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?

EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:

1. Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes.

2. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner. Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands). Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.

3. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it. If your state permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the CFL in two plastic bags and put into the outside trash (if no other disposal or recycling options are available). Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.

4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

Newer CFL bulbs are now being made that use about half of the mercury that older ones used.

So Eating Local Food is Worse Than Flying Grapes in From Chile?

There’s an opinion piece in the NY Times today that argues against local food production being the most environmentally friendly way to get food to your table.

As regular readers know, this is a subject that’s dear to us here at 21st Century Citizen. We believe that supporting local agriculture has many benefits — including promoting biodiversity, giving people more of a stake in their personal food supply chain, promoting local economic growth, and getting better tasting food.

But certainly, reducing the distance your food travels should have an impact on the amount of energy required to produce, package and get it to your table? Shouldn’t it?

Well, today’s NY Times presents an argument for the opposite. Here’s a snippet:

But is reducing food miles necessarily good for the environment? Researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand, no doubt responding to Europe’s push for “food miles labeling,” recently published a study challenging the premise that more food miles automatically mean greater fossil fuel consumption. Other scientific studies have undertaken similar investigations. According to this peer-reviewed research, compelling evidence suggests that there is more — or less — to food miles than meets the eye.

The article is worth reading completely, so I recommend you do so.

But in the end, it seems to say that localfood in and of itself is not a cure-all. It’s simply one part of what needs to be a coordinated approach to create a sustainable food supply that will support us as we move forward into the 21st Century.

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Love to travel? Here’s how to offset your personal impact.

Love to travel? Now you can offset your carbon impact.

While it’s arguable that the best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to simply consume less, there are many things that people just don’t want to give up. The ability to travel is one of them.

But if you’re going to travel, how do you do so in the most sustainable way? One way is to purchase carbon credits to offset the amount of CO2 your trip generates.

Sustainable Travel International
can help you do this. Their carbon calculator will help you determine how much carbon your trip will generate, then they allow you to directly purchase carbon offsets to turn your tip into one that’s net carbon free.

For example, I used their calculator to determine that a round trip air flight between San Francisco to Boston generates almost 2 tons of carbon emissions for a single passenger (I had no way to verify this — maybe one of our readers can help out?). That was for airfare only, but the calculator lets you add hotel, auto travel and other activities as well.

The cost to offset just the airfare I calculated was about $29 USD.

If you work for a company, it may be appropriate to forward this post to the person in charge of travel at your company with the suggestion that the company consider offsetting the corporate travel it requires its employees to undertake. If your job is making you travel, it’s arguable that they should offer to offset the carbon impact of your trip.

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New California “low carbon fuel standards” expected to “transform energy industries”

The University of California today released a blueprint today that will fight global warming by forcing reductions in the amount of carbon released when fuels are burned.

The new “low carbon fuel standard” is expected to be a model for future laws adopted in other states and around the world. The new standard was commissioned in January by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“It will likely transform the energy industries. And the 10 percent reduction is just the beginning. We anticipate much greater reductions after 2020,” said Daniel Sperling, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. “This new policy is hugely important, and has never been done before.”

Some of the highlights of this report are:

All gasoline and diesel fuel providers would be required to track the life-cycle global warming intensity (GWI) of their products and reduce this value over time. (The term “life cycle” refers to all activities included in the production, transport, storage and use of the fuel.)

The report recommends that gasoline and diesel fuel providers reduce their carbon footprint both by blending lower-carbon biofuels with gasoline, as well as through purchasing emissions credits from other producers. They will also be able to get credit for purchasing energy to run their refineries from low-carbon, alternative energy sources.

It’s expected that electricity, natural gas and hydrogen-based energy providers will get involved by earning and selling emissions credits to refineries.

For car owners, it’s expected that the new standard will increase their options for fueling their cars — from biofuels to hydrogen to electric vehicle charging stations.

The new standard also recommends the state of California work to make sure sensitive lands aren’t converted to biofuel production.

Information on the new report can be found on U Cal Berkeley’s news and media site.

Presidential Candidate Barak Obama recently recommended that the US adopt a national law based on this new standard and recently introduced legislation to establish a National Low-Carbon Fuel Standard.

Here’s a link to the original report in PDF format. [PDF]

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Steve Loo is Changing the World

Steve Loo rides his bike even in the Winter up in Calgary

Steve Loo is a passionate guy.

When he heard about Wheels for Change, a 1000 kilometer bike ride across British Columbia in Western Canada to raise awareness of global climate change, it seemed like a perfect fit for him. He had vacation time planned already, so he decided to join the ride.

He had already helped organize a 140 km bike ride to the Trails to Sustainability Conference earlier this year, and in 2005 he rode from Calgary to Yorkton (approximately 1200 km) to, in his words, “do environmental and social justice presentations and workshops in schools, community halls, churches and people’s living rooms.”

Not bad for a college student who’s passionate about climate change.

One of the differences between being concerned about climate change and actually doing something about it is taking action. Steve takes action.

According to Steve, “I am part of the problem and therefore must be part of the change.”

Steve’s passion for the environment really awoke after a hike in the desert in Australia a few years ago.

“When your life depends on all the water you’re carrying on your back, you gain a whole new perspective on this liquid that most people take for granted every day. I also learned a great deal about the importance of planning and preparation. I finished my long dry hike with roughly 200 mL of water and one extremely dry throat. I quickly rethought my attitudes and behaviors towards water.

After returning to Calgary, during a process over 3 or 4 years, I had to rethink much of my life – not just water consumption, but also transportation, food, clothes, media, government and our education system. As a result, it gradually changed to one involving better health and environment, greater creative and organizational skills, and more critical thinking.”

The only way we can collectively address the challenges we face together, is for each of us to change as individuals. Our values have to change first, and then our behaviors will follow.

For Steve, this has meant some personal changes as well:

“For example, now I am:

1. Using my bike as my main form of transportation including winter time (I still drive once a week through carsharing)

2. Using less paper (in fact, I haven’t bought any new paper in 3 years);

3. Having not just shorter showers but also having staggered and fewer showers; recently we bought a dual flush toilet. Woohoo!

4. Creating my own artistic notebooks reusing old materials

5. Becoming more integrated with my local economy – not just local foods but also locally made products and services (yay Calgary Dollars)

6. Organizing and promoting documentary screenings focusing on social justice and environmental issues, and showcasing local activists working on local causes

7. Gardening (with mixed success but still trying)

8. Questioning and challenging our politicians, journalists, teachers and other “professionals” (along with fellow students) regarding government policy and media portrayal of all the issues

9. Encouraging my friends to take up more sustainable lifestyles while emphasizing that this is progression rather than perfection.

Steve is changing things by changing his own behaviors and by working to encourage others to change theirs as well. He’s talking about his concerns and he’s taking action.

in this way, Steve Loo is changing the world — one person at a time.

Are you?

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