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Design Inspirations







Entries in energy independence (5)


The cost of the Cloud

I learned and interesting fact the other day.  10% of all the electricity consumed in the United States is consumed by data centers.* That’s a lot!  If you are like me, you have been using software that you do not purchase and install on your computer, rather you pay a monthly fee and sign onto it through the internet (the cloud), with the software company providing backups of your information at their data center.**  Recently, I have been moving all my working files onto another server ‘on the cloud’.  This way, I can access all of my information from any laptop or telephone in any part of the world, as long as I have internet access.  Besides saving on paper and printing supplies, I no longer have to update/replace my ‘server’ computer or my network software, or the separate back up drive that I have to support my now one person office.  In other words, I am gaining a lot of flexibility and computing power while saving lots of money on hardware and software.  (Dropbox offers 2MG for FREE)*** 

In one of our Green Lunches, I was intrigued by Scott Hammond’s demonstration of a LED dimmer  that did not have to be wired into the wall or use batteries.****  ‘How can that be?’  Kinetic energy.  Simply the energy created by flipping the rocker switch creates enough energy to communicate to the receiver to turn the light on.  ‘Wow,’ how can we harness that kind of energy for other things?

So, what I learned, is that even as we are reducing our energy use via conservation, recycling, and mass transit, we are increasing our energy use through the use of cloud technology.  I also learned that there some ‘old fashioned’ renewable sources of energy that we can explore.  We have delved into wind power, hydro power and solar power, but this is the first I have heard of kinetic energy.  Am I behind the times or are we missing a simple free source of energy?  Now about harnessing gravity......

 Keeping Green,



Is Sustinable Green Energy the key to our nation's defense?

“The next time we want to go to war, maybe we wouldn’t even need to bomb a country.  We could just, you know, turn off its power.’  Liam O’Murchu, Symantec Security Response

War, civil disobedience, and politics have all been significantly affected by technology.  It seems that the more dependent we are on technology, and/or our grid of energy, the more vulnerable we are.  It also follows that as we get ‘more efficient’ we tend to centralize the power source, build large power plants, etc.  If ‘one’ could stop all communications by taking out cell towers, if ‘one’ could starve a country by stopping transportation, if one could win a war by cutting off all energy….

Our latest snow/ice storm reminded us how dependent we are on electricity for light, heating, and cooking.  Electricity is a big part of our daily existence.  When the grid goes down, we all go down.  (Gas stations closed due to the power outage)

‘Alternative’ energy sources in individual homes or buildings such as solar, rain water harvesting , geo thermal, etc are one way to de-centralize our energy use.  When the grid goes down, we are still functioning, we still have water, electricity, heat and cooling.  After reading the quotation by O’Murchu, I began to wonder if our government had thought about our centralized energy vulnerability.  Probably.  Then I wondered if that vulnerability had been behind our country’s recent Green Energy push.  Probably.   And here I thought that program was to help ‘save the world.’  Oh well!

Keeping Green!



My Peace - My Space - My Energy Savings

Sometimes you cannot be the person who invents new energy sources or figures out how to take wheat board and make it into edible salad croutons.  Sometimes you are just the person who follows the mandatory recycling/composting rules, watches documentaries on global warming and takes walking vacations in Spain (my father said, you call that a Vacation?)

How can I still make a difference?

My Peace – meditate for inner peace.

My Space– it is suggested that low-tech actions such as weatherizing homes and installing more-efficient water heaters could reduce household carbon emissions by 20% within 10 years.

Appliances – BIG energy savings can come by replacing old appliances with energy efficient EnergyStar appliances. (dishwashers, washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc)

Toilets– need I tell you again? Replace the old water wasters with HET (High Efficiency Toilets) and watch your savings on your utility bill.  Installing a HET can save up to 22,000 gallons of water per year. 

Water Heaters – install more efficient water heaters

Insulate – my home, like many other older home had NO INSULATION in the exterior walls. When remodeling, add insulation and watch your heating bill dwindle.

Windows – replace old windows with the double paned variety, no more drafts!

Plumbing Fixtures– look for the WaterSense label to curb your water usage.

Leaking pipes & faucets– can waste as much as 7 liters a day.

Yard – selecting plants that coordinate with our weather will reduce watering costs

Rainwater harvesting – collecting rainwater, primarily from your roof, can offset your irrigation/yard watering costs.  If you want to go further, you can install a filtration system and plumb the water back into your home to be used to flush your toilets.

New Habits – turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, use the dishwasher only when you have a full load, thaw frozen food in the microwave

My Energy Savings – makes me happy and brings me full circle to my inner peace…..I am just ‘me’ and that is okay.


Green Talk - Grid or No Grid

No matter what we say (in the US), we really appreciate our GRID.  GRID provides us with instant electricity, clean water for our homes and natural gas for heating.  It also provides us with telephone lines and cable tv.  GRID is like a parent that we have a love/hate relationship with.  When we dream about going 'off the grid' we are usually just wanting to conserve our use of energy and reduce our dependency on GRID.    GRID understands our desire for privacy from the 'invasive' reaches into our homes.  GRID likes to live in the big cities.  You don't have to go too far away to experience homes with wells, septic tanks, and generators and no GRID. Actually, if governments make no change to existing policies, 1.3 billion people, or 16% of the world's population, will still lack access to electricity in 2030.  (Did you ever experience Ray Anderson's Global Village presentation? If so, you remember the shock of how few people have clean drinking water in the world.)

GRID understands our struggle for independence.  GRID helps us break away by providing energy to factories that make solar panels, hydro pumps and cell phones.  Ironically, it is the power of new technology (powered by GRID) that allows developing nations leapfrog GRID.  In countries like Niger, where expensive infrastructures like telephone lines are lacking, cell phones are changing and improving lives.  In the past, farmers would travel from market to market to learn prices, wasting time.  Now, they call around on cell phones and obtain prevailing prices for their harvest.  In the case of emergencies, people can call for help from neighboring villages.  There is even a new form of commerce, called mobile money that allows rural people without access to banks to transfer money across long distances by phone.  The local cell phone provider began allowing people to transfer phone time that they had purchased to other customers.  This has become a de facto form of currency; people transfer phone time to pay their debts. 

So, GRID, I thank you for making our lives easier and safer, but I've been thinking that I would try to break a couple ties and try promoting housing with net zero energy use.  It's been nice, and believe me, it is me, not you.

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Green Talk - Nature's Free Energy

Can I ask a dumb question? Since we are YET AGAIN in an crisis over the cost of ENERGY, both in dollars and in the effect on our environment, (nuclear radiation, oil spills), why are we not maximizing the FREE energy of the sun and rain? 

Yes, I know, solar panels are expensive and rainwater harvesting systems can also be pricey.   Plus, I have been informed that our electrical bills are 'too cheap,' and our water and sewage bills are 'too low' to make it worthwhile to conserve water and electricity.    Correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't we built big damns to generate this cheap energy?  Damns that destroy our wildlife and block salmon and other fish upstream to spawn?  Also, we (taxpayers of King County),  have built a new sewage treatment plant so 'we need to use it' since we have already paid to have it constructed.  That's like saying we 'can't afford' to recycle because we built a new landfill and we have to fill it up. What is wrong with this?Rainwater storage tanks that will be buried

I'd rather invest in solar energy and rainwater harvesting at my home than pay for a bigger sewage plant.  How can a regular home owner afford solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems?  Our government could offer heavy tax credits for the installation of these systems into homes.   The home owner would benefit by receiving an energy harvesting installation (sun and water) along with ETERNAL SAVINGS on utility bills.  Germany does it. That's why Germany is so energy independent.  Why can't we do it?  What, you say? Our government can't afford to give us tax credits?  Then why are we currently giving $35 BILLION in tax breaks to the oil companies?  Just tell me why.  I'd really like to know.

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Stormwater - Stormwater is a big polluter in our area.  Stormwater is rain and snow melt that runs off surfaces such as rooftops, paved streets, highways, and parking lots. As water runs off these surfaces, it can pick up pollution such as: oil, fertilizers, pesticides, soil, trash, and animal waste. When stormwater goes into a storm drain, it is not treated. It goes directly into Washington waters. Rainwater harvesting and treatment reduces stormwater pollution.