Browsing the "Books" Tag

Book Provides Green Options for Home Improvement

September 11th, 2008 | by Dawn Killough

RSMeans new book, "Green Home Improvement," provides ideas for owners and contractors on ways to "green up" an existing building. It provides cost and savings information that make selecting a project easy

Weekly DIY: Solar Phone Charger

September 12th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

This project is a bit more technically oriented than most of the other projects we have featured so far. It comes from the book Solar Energy Projects for the Evil Genius by Gavin D. J. Harper. These projects demonstrate a wide range of topics that are related to solar energy. The book has 50 projects in it ranging from the practical, such as the solar powered cell phone charger we have excerpted here, to the educational, like one demonstrating concepts connected to solar energy such as a crystal growing (using a sugar solution) which illustrates the concept of growing silicon crystals for manufacturing solar cells, to the esoteric, with an ammonia-based solar-powered ice maker.

Gavin also shared his thoughts about Evil Geniuses, solar power, and more in an interview with as part of the EcoGeek of the Week series, which was also presented here on Green Options. The following project is an excerpt from this book:

It’s the same old story—just when you want to talk on your cellphone, the battery goes flat and the conversation is irretrievably lost! Invariably, you haven’t got your phone charger on you, and even if you did have it wouldn’t be an awful lot of help as the chances are there is no power for miles around . . . At the Centre for Alternative Technology, U.K., there is a solar-powered phone (see picture at right); while this is powered by clean green energy, it can’t claim to be very portable!

In this project, we are going to build a circuit that will provide a supply capable of powering either a cellphone or PDA charger. A PDA is about the limit of what you can charge using small cells, a laptop charger is probably a bit ambitious.

Weekend Book Review: The Rough Guide to Shopping with a Conscience

June 16th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

<p><img src="/files/images/rough_0.jpg" border="0" width="240" height="369" />There are layers upon layers of complex issues to be faced when one deals with a question of grave importance such as, &quot;What coffee should I buy this morning?&quot; Ethics are hard to keep straight when so much of the information about a product is a mix of marketing, spin, and carefully crafted image. The truth is often well concealed (and usually deliberately so). To be a conscientious consumer is not easy, with the marketplace stacked against any revelation of the truth the way that it is.</p><p><em><a href=";;tag=greeopti-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325">The Rough Guide to Shopping with a Conscience</a><img src=";l=ur2&amp;o=1" border="0" width="1" height="1" /></em> looks to provide some guidance for getting behind the layers of obfuscation and presents the issues that need to be considered in many of these decisions. The book is divided into three parts. Part I: <em>Issues</em> lays out the alternatives and some of the standards for ethical decisions. Part II: <em>Products &amp; companies</em> goes through different categories in more detail. And Part III: <em>Find out more</em> deals briefly with sources for further information.<br /><br />The <em>Issues</em> section looks at five approaches to ethical decisionmaking: Going green, Fair trade, Boycotts, Selective shopping, and Buying locally. The authors recognize the complexities in all of these issues, and point out the (sometimes conflicting and contradictory) arguments that can be made about deciding one way or another. In most circumstances, they lay out the different viewpoints, but do not offer any definitive answer, because no such solution exists.</p>

What About Your Corn Footprint?

June 6th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

USDA/Wikimedia CommonsImage Credit: USDA/Wikimedia CommonsAmericans eat a lot of corn. Sure there's cooked corn and corn chips and corn flakes and cornbread and the myriad other varieties found in the average American market. And, with the arrival of summer, there is now corn-on-the-cob (though here in the upper midwest: the sweet corn at the local supermarket right now is trucked in from Florida, not locally grown).

But in addition to its recognizable forms, where the corn is recognizable as corn, there are untold numbers of additional places where we don't recognize it, but where corn forms the substance of our diet. And most of that has been highly processed.

I've been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan recently, and it has been a very enlightening read. One of the most shocking things to discover was just how much corn is suffused throughout the typical American diet.

Save the Books

May 30th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

Kansas City StarPhoto Credit: Kansas City StarA bookstore in Kansas City has a huge glut of books in its warehouse. There are books that have gone unsold for more than a decade. Copies of books that had huge print runs, but now no one wants. Books that are decades old. Books that are in foreign languages. And, unfortunately for the store's owner, books that are not selling.

The owner has decided that the best way of dealing with this problem is to burn the books. So he loaded up a cauldron in front of his store and burned a pile of books in what he saw as a protest against what he sees as, "society's diminishing support for the printed word." But this isn't necessary at all, there are a number of online services that facilitate the exchange of books (as well as a range of other things). One of these, Paperback Swap, has begun an online petition to save the books and is offering to collect all the books from the store's warehouse, and then distribute them to people for free on a road trip from Kansas City to the company's hometown of Atlanta. This seems to be a much greener way of dealing with the glut.

FSC Printing

May 21st, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

You are most likely already aware of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and know that FSC certified lumber is preferred for use in green construction because it is sustainably managed and harvested. It also has a chain of custody reporting system that ensures that everyone in the processing chain is following the correct procedures with their materials sourcing and their handling of the material. However, construction is not the only place where you will find FSC certified products.

The printing industry is another huge user of wood and forest products. And, as with construction uses, FSC is heavily involved in promoting sustainable practices for printing and paper-making uses. In order to use the FSC trademark on a product, the producer must be a member of FSC. Every step of the way, from the management of the forest and the cutting of the trees, through the pulping of the wood and the manufacture of the paper must meet FSC guidelines, and the product produced carries a certificate that has been independently verified by a third-party source. For a printer to use the FSC trademark on a catalog, for example, they need to be certified themselves as FSC chain-of-custody certificate holders.

Weekend Review: The Renewable Energy Handbook and Smart Power

May 19th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

William H. Kemp, The Renewable Energy Handbook (2005) and $mart Power (2004): Aztext Press

Wiliam Kemp has written two books on renewable power and off-grid systems for homes, $mart Power (2004) and The Renewable Energy Handbook (2005). (Smart Power actually uses a dollar sign for the S in the title.) These two books are largely a first and second edition of the same text, with the second edition being expanded with several new chapters and additional information.

Both of Kemp's books are comprehensive volumes. He addresses a range of alternate power generating options. There are chapters on photovoltaic (PV), wind, biomass, and micro hydro. More than just discussing the technical aspects of the generating systems, he also covers efficiency, interconection, "Heating and Cooling with Renewable Energy," "Living with Renewable Energy," and the other issues surrounding having a home with renewable systems. He also has a section about making biodiesel and another section about eco-pools (naturally-, rather than chemically-filtered swimming pool systems) and solar heated pools and hot tubs.

The Renewable Energy Handbook and $mart Power both go into some depth about renewable energy systems. Kemp shows all aspects of the various systems, dealing with hardware installation, electrical connection, and the range of what is necessary to install any of the systems he discusses. While I would not rely solely on these books for direction about installing a PV system or a wind turbine, it does provide a greater depth of information. A homeowner can get a better sense of the scope of work required for installing a renewable system, and have a better idea about what is involved, and whether or not it is something they want to take on.

Green Building Tour: Ten Shades of Green — Book Review

April 11th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock

Architectural LeaguePhoto Credit: Architectural LeagueThe book Ten Shades of Green: Architecture and the Natural World documents the exhibition of the same name assembled by Peter Buchanan at the Architectural League of New York in early 2000. The book was published in 2005, after the exhibition had traveled widely across the country.

With the buildings assembled here, the book could be construed as a small, self-contained Green Building Tour all its own.

The projects contained in the exhibition and the book all were built in the 1990s. All but one (an Australian housing project) are from Europe. There are also four residential projects - single family houses - at the end, and all of these are North American examples (though widely drawn from Nova Scotia, Texas, California, and Arizona). The projects include a museum in Switzerland, a skyscraper bank headquarters in Germany, and academic buildings in the Netherlands and England

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