Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Making it Easy to be Energy Efficient

I ran across an article today on a movement that Seattle is experiencing right now.

Read it here

The utility company there is offering energy audits to home-owners at a huge discount, from over $600 per audit to only $95. This makes it affordable for people to investigate where their home is losing energy. Of course, the next hurdle would be the ability for people to pay for changes that make their homes more energy efficient.

Seattle is using a stimulus package to provide loans of up to $20,000 to help home-owners to make the changes that are recommended during the energy audit.

I think this is a really effective way to stimulate the economy AND help mitigate climate change. Certainly a worthwhile read.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

President Pledges Clean Energy Education Opportunities to Inspire the Next Generation of Scientists & Engineers

April 27, 2009

During a speech at the National Academy of Sciences on April 27, 2009, President Obama announced a National Science Foundation/Department of Energy collaboration that addresses the need to "spark a sense of wonder and excitement" in the nation's young people to pursue careers in science and engineering.

As part of President Obama's "New Energy for America" plan, the Administration will provide the opportunity for thousands of American students to pursue careers in science, engineering, and entrepreneurship related to clean energy. These young men and women will invent and help commercialize advanced energy technologies such as efficient and cost effective methods for converting sunlight to electricity and fuel, carbon capture and sequestration, stationary and portable advanced batteries for plug-in electric cars, advanced energy storage concepts that will enable sustained energy supply from solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources, high-efficiency deployment of power across the so-called "smart grid" and carbon neutral commercial and residential buildings.

The National Science Foundation is joining the Department of Energy and other government agencies to educate students at all levels in fields contributing to fundamental understanding of energy science and engineering systems, while educating the public about energy choices and challenging our educational institutions to develop innovative ways to enhance science and technology instruction and learning. NSF is uniquely poised to spearhead part of this multi-faceted collaboration via its portfolio of programs.

Individual Fellowships to Graduate Students involved in Clean Energy Research: Building upon one of NSF's oldest and most successful programs, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, established in 1952, will provide highly flexible three-year fellowships for American graduate students pursuing the Ph.D. degree in topics related to clean energy research and development. These fellowships provide an annual stipend for room, board, and living expenses with a cost-of-education allowance to the Fellow's institution of choice for partial tuition and fees.

Integrative Graduate Training Programs involving Clean Energy: NSF will invest in new flagship projects proposed by universities that work across academic disciplines to provide highly structured training for American graduate students pursuing their Ph.D. These new interdisciplinary programs will consider energy topics from a high-level systems perspective, including science, engineering, design, environmental impact, economics, social aspects of adoption and use, and public policy. Traineeships include internships in industry, government, and international research centers. This will produce young investigators fully prepared to become leaders in clean energy science and policy, and will also spark new and sustained collaborations between university departments and research centers.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Energy: to provide new courses and research opportunities for undergraduate students to learn about clean energy and gain experience in active research projects. Funding would be available for universities, labs, and industry to develop curriculum and Research Experience for Undergraduate sites, with supplements provided to existing research awards to provide stipends for college students to participate directly in a research experience.

Technician Education: to improve education for young Americans who will become technicians in clean energy fields, focusing on two- and four-year college programs. These projects will study aspects of technician education, concentrating on curriculum development, teacher and faculty training, partnering relationships with industry and regional alliances, and fostering career pathways from secondary schools into community colleges. This program will also involve students preparing to become teachers focusing on math, science and technical education in primary and secondary schools, and facilitate partnerships between certificate programs and potential employers of energy-focused technicians and instructors.

Focused Research in K-12 Science Education Strategies and Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers: will address how students learn about science and technology, evaluating immediate challenges in primary and secondary schools and envisioning science education as it could be in future decades. It will assess what works and why, enable enhanced learning in the K-12 setting on topics relating to clean energy, and consider new and innovative ways to communicate the challenges and promise of clean energy; for example, incorporating currently popular ubiquitous social communication platforms. This will include projects to design and evaluate educational strategies and assess how to scale them up to reach large numbers of students. This will also include innovative technology experiences for students and their teachers that address how to effectively interest and prepare students to participate in the clean energy workforce of the future.

Public Awareness and Action: will engage and inform the public about how science and technology are addressing the nation's energy challenge and transforming our energy future. A broadly-designed outreach program, highly leveraged through media providers, and using innovative and popular cyberlearning technologies, IMAX©films, television and radio programs, as well as local science museums and youth and community education programs. This project will raise public awareness about our need to meet the clean energy challenge and related environmental mitigation benefits, understand the implications of our energy choices, and adopt clean energy lifestyles. It will also capture young people's interest in "green technology" and inspire them to pursue careers that find solutions to our future energy needs.

Graduate Post Doctorate Education: energy research to educate graduate students and postdocs on frontier energy research that has high transformative potential. These students and postdocs will become the future academic leaders and industrial innovators to advance the creation and adoption of advanced clean energy technologies.

Specialized Energy Centers: small number of new forward-looking centers located at America's colleges and universities. These specialized centers will focus the regional and institutional strengths of science and engineering schools around aspects of clean energy research while building partnerships with their state governments, regional industries, and local school districts to infuse expertise into the communities in which they are based. In addition to center-specific projects, Centers will include many aspects of the program elements described above, tailored to their regional or specialty (e.g. solar conversion; materials research; wind engineering) context. These centers will initially build upon existing NSF funded centers devoted to energy research; however, in future budget years, specialized energy centers will be separately designed and solicited.

Education in Complex Interrelationships: to enable education in computationally-enabled modeling of complex interrelationships among energy systems, environmental and economic impacts, and human factors.These group-funded efforts will be co-located at university high-end computational facilities to foster cyber-enabled learning skills for conducting complex modeling and analyses.


Media Contacts
Dana Topousis, National Science Foundation (703) 292-7750

Related Websites
National Academy of Sciences Press Release:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2009, its budget is $9.5 billion, which includes $3.0 billion provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to over 1,900 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 44,400 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I love my paper cups...

I'm a Starbucks fan. I love going in, ordering my venti non-fat misto, with three ice-cubes and coffee filled to the "shots" box on the paper cup. There's something about that cup that resonates with me. It's part of the experience, and that's why many of us fork over the three dollars for a cup of joe --- for the experience. That said, I feel forever guilty about all the paper cups I use. It's not the same feeling with my reusable mug. That is until today.

I found this little item on Alexis Stewart's blog (Her mother is THE Martha Stewart, and Alexis hosts her own radio show -- Whatever! on Sirius Radio):



Thursday, April 23, 2009

What's your resolution?

I just read an interesting article about making resolutions on Earth Day, and I thought what a great idea! It doesn't have to be hard, or anything that will radically change the quality of your life to have an impact. What's mine you ask -- I'm going to keep my tires inflated. By keeping your tires properly inflated you can save 5% on gas mileage and it makes your vehicle more efficient!

Not sure what your tires psi is? Watch this video:


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

In honor of Earth Day we thought we would share some tips on how to become a "greener" consumer. Here's what you can do:

At a coffee shop -- Many of us stop at a coffee shop on the way into work to get a jumpstart to the day. But what happens to that Styrofoam or waxed paper cup that housed the coffee you just purchased? Bring an insulated cup or thermos with a lid next time, and ask your barista to fill it up instead of a disposable cup. Even if the cup is recyclable, it’s still a resource that has to be produced and then recycled. So, bring your own cup and drink up!

At a Winery -- Wineries are a big part of the culture around the world, and they bring tourists and locals, alike. Whether you are in Australia or the Finger Lakes region of New York there are little things that you can do on your next trip to help limit the amount of waste being produced and still enjoy yourself. Some wineries provide samples of their wine in small plastic containers with labeled lids, and if you’re at one of them, ask if you can be served the wines in a wine glass, instead.

At the bookstore -- Buy your textbooks used -- if you are in Ithaca, NY stop by The Bookery for a used book. Acquaint yourself with IthacaFreecycle, where Ithacans give away their unneeded property or ask for something they need. The options are fantastic! You will find similar stores and organizations around the country. Check Craigslist or other swap sites to see if they have what you are looking for!

At the grocery store -- Stick to the outer edge of the grocery store where products are healthy, fresh, and full of delicious flavor. Many of us already bring our own bags to take home our groceries, but still put our fresh veggies in plastic bags. Use your reusable bags for that, too! Spend some time at the deli counter instead of buying the pre-packaged or frozen meats and cheeses. If you’re in a hurry, grab products in packaging that you can re-use! A package of turkey in a plastic container means that you can re-use the plastic container to pack a lunch or store leftovers instead of buying fancy container products. Then, if that container has held a few too many macaroni and cheese leftovers, you can throw it in your recycling bin instead of the trash.

For the products you need in the center of the grocery store, check to see that the packaging is recyclable, or if it came from recycled materials. Many packaging products can first become excellent kid’s crafts and can then be recycled when your child outgrows them. If your household buys pop (soda) or juice often, try choosing 2 liter or quart bottles instead of individual servings. You can reuse these jugs for water, lemonade, or iced tea instead of purchasing a pitcher, and then recycle them. You can also fill ¾ of the bottle with water and freeze instead of using a store-bought ice pack. If you already have 20 ounce bottles, fill them with water and take them to the gym! Then, after multiple reuses, recycle them as well. And your health concerns regarding reuse of plastic bottles leading to the breakdown of the plastics into carcinogens? Both the American Cancer Society and researchers like Dr. Rolf Halden of Johns Hopkins say this is untrue. So, reuse away!!!
Finally, those plastic bags your food is placed in at the checkout line can be recycled, too. Check and see if your grocery store has a bin for clean and dry bags.

We hope these tips help you be a little greener today and everyday. Happy Earthday!

-BK & TS

Monday, April 20, 2009

New York Receives Economic Recovery Funding from U.S. EPA to Reduce Diesel Emissions, Create Jobs

(New York, N.Y.) In a move that stands to create jobs, boost local economies, reduce diesel emissions and protect human health and the environment for the people in the State of New York, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $1.73 million to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. The funding can be used to support clean diesel projects and loan programs to address the nation’s existing fleet of over 11 million diesel engines.

“These grants, coupled with money being given out competitively, will allow us to get New Yorkers back to work while reducing one of the most prevalent sources of pollution in the country - diesel exhaust," said EPA Acting Region 2 Administrator George Pavlou. “The Recovery Act will help bolster New York's economy and improve air quality for everyone."

The funds provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009 will go to the state's program to retrofit vehicles that are owned by four eligible regional transportation authorities.

In addition to helping to create and retain jobs, the clean diesel projects would reduce premature deaths, asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments, lost work days, and many other health impacts every year.

Under ARRA’s State clean diesel funding program, $88.2 million is divided equally through a noncompetitive allocation process, meaning that all 50 states and the District of Columbia will receive $1.73 million.

States, local governments, non-profits and tribal agencies can also compete for a portion of $206 million under ARRA’s National clean diesel funding program.

President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on February 17, 2009 and has directed that the Recovery Act be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability. To that end, the American people can see how every dollar is being invested at

For information on EPA’s implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in New York, visit

For information about EPA’s clean diesel initiatives, visit

Friday, April 17, 2009

Earth Day!

Saturday, April 18th 11am-3pm

Join us for a day of fun Earth-centric activities to celebrate our planet! We'll have games and activities for the whole family from 11am-3pm plus lectures, presentations, and prizes!

Noon - "Energy and Climate: Flip Sides of the Same Crisis " by Richard W. Allmendinger, Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University

Talk Description: The global climate crisis and rapidly approaching energy challenges are inexorably linked and must be treated as a single problem if we are to solve either one. Humans' voracious demand for energy means that hydrocarbons will continue to be our primary energy source through mid-century. Burning hydrocarbons produces atmospheric carbon dioxide, a well known and understood greenhouse gas. Prior to the industrial age and going back at least 650,000 years, atmospheric CO2 was never higher than 300 ppm. In just the last 50 years it has increased from ~315 to 380 ppm; even the most optimistic projections suggest that the concentration will increase to at least 500 - 700 ppm by the end of this century. The warming associated with such a rise in CO2 is difficult to quantify because of positive feedbacks and lag times. The results of significant warming could be profound just as the impact of failing to meet global energy needs would be enormous.

Presentations/activities from Roots and Shoots and Dilmun Farms.

Win "Green" prizes at trivia before and after the lecture.

Learn about resources to measure your ecological footprint and help end world hunger.

This event made possible with support from Wegmans

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New, Subtle Innovations in Car Technology that Lower Carbon Footprints

Innovative Car Design

The above site has an article about what car manufacturers are doing in California to lower the carbon footprints of their vehicles. There are some really great things in here that even I hadn't thought about much before now.

They are working on technology to improve the quality of glass on car windshields and windows that reflects the Sun's rays, which would help to keep your car from turning into a greenhouse when you stop at the grocery store in the summer. This would decrease the need for A/C use in our cars, which are more fuel efficient when the A/C isn't running.

Another thing they are currently working on is changing the chemical makeup of the paint used on cars to make it more reflective. We're all familiar with the "albedo effect" even if we don't know the term. It is the idea that has us wearing light colored shirts in the summer, because they keep us cooler than dark colored shirts.

Albedo is the reflectivity of a surface; a high albedo means a lot of the Sun's rays reflect off the surface and are not absorbed into the surface (a light colored t-shirt, for example), a low albedo means very few of the Sun's rays are reflected off the surface, and most are absorbed (as in a dark colored t-shirt).

Right now, those of us with white colored cars can use less A/C than our dark car driving counterparts, because less of the Sun's rays are absorbed into our cars to heat us up. So, perhaps our cars need a few more washes to look spiffy? We're equipped to be more carbon efficient than those with darker colored cars.

If you're in the market for a car right now, the new windshield and paint technology isn't available, but perhaps you'll consider purchasing a lighter colored car, to do what you can for the environment until technology catches up!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Museum of the Earth Celebrates Earth Day

In the 21st century, nothing may be more important than understanding how our planet works, which is why it's essential that the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) and its Museum of the Earth focus on global change education and celebrate Earth Day annually.

In honor of this year's Earth Day, the Museum of the Earth will be celebrating our planet on Saturday, April 18th from 11 am - 3 pm, with fun Earth-centric activities! There will be games and activities for the whole family plus lectures, presentations, and prizes! At noon we'll have a lecture; "Energy and Climate: Flip Sides of the Same Crisis," by Richard W. Allmendinger, professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University. Allmendinger's talk will focus on the global climate crisis and the rapidly approaching energy challenges that are facing society today. There will also be presentations and activities from Roots and Shoots and Dilmun Farms. Museum visitors will also be able to learn about resources to measure their ecological footprint and help end world hunger. This year's Earth Day is again generously supported by Wegmans.
Earth Day celebrations at Museum of the Earth are part of the Institution's ongoing Global Change Project (GCP), which was developed to increase public understanding of how the Earth is changing and what role humans are playing in it. The GCP consists of a museum exhibit, comprehensive web site, lecture series, educational programming, and research projects. PRI staff collects and synthesizes available information on global change and presents it in a straightforward, unbiased, easily-accessed format for educators, students, and members of the public through its exhibit and website.

As part of the GCP, PRI and its Museum of the Earth was awarded a two-year, $36K grant, on April 1, 2009 to bring informal education on the topics of climate and energy to rural parts of Tompkins County. These issues are expected to affect the future livelihoods of many in rural areas, including climate-sensitive industries such as agriculture and tourism. There may also be new economic opportunities for others in renewable energy from biofuels and wind.

Through this grant, a team from PRI will spend two years undertaking a project during which time a survey of rural public opinion and understanding of climate change will be conducted to understand more thoroughly the current conceptions and motivations of rural audiences. After completion of this survey, an exhibit will be created that uses "green" materials, is modular, and is adaptable to a wide variety of rural venues such as libraries, post offices, fairs, markets, and other public areas. These exhibits will also foster ongoing learning through web-based resources and on-line social networking, bringing state-of-the-art science on local and regional impacts of climate change, as well as practical information on mitigating carbon emissions and reacting to climate change to a broader audience.

"The project will reach under served rural audiences in Tompkins County with information and opportunities for discussion of one of the most important topics of the 21st century," stated Rob Ross, associate director for outreach at PRI. “The Museum of the Earth is all about the history of Earth systems and how they work. We think one of the most important things we can do is increase public awareness about the remarkable rate of today’s human-induced Earth system change.”

For more information on the Global Change Project please visit our website at


Friday, April 10, 2009

PRI's Global Change Project Makes the Nightly News

Trisha Smercak, Global Change Project Manager was just interviewed for ICTV's NewsWatch 16 nightly news cast on April 9. The show will eventually be archived on their site. Check it out here:

In the mean time here's a video of the complete interview:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Green Sneakers?

If you do a lot of cardio (running, walking, etc.) you should change out your new sneakers every three to six months, and over the course of a lifetime the number of sneakers you are throwing away gets to be a pretty big number. I know that every time I have to get new sneaks I feel guilty about throwing the old ones away. So, I was excited to learn that I could make greener choices about the sneaks I buy!

Follow this link to learn how you can be just a bit greener when your going to spend the green on an expensive pair of sneaks: