Green Ideas

Yes, of course you should use energy-saving light bulbs, but that's not what this page is really about. These are larger-scale ideas, some of which need to be embraced by governments.

No junk stryrofoam
Everyone gets things packed in styrofoam peanuts, and things that come packed in molded styrofoam because maybe they've been travelling thousands of miles. There's no method of recycling that styrofoam in many places. It burns in most cases so it can't be used as building insulation.

Require that all styrofoam not intended for direct contact with food be treated with the same fire retardants as styrofoam used in building construction. So you get some eBay purchase in peanuts or some new whiz-bang gadget with custom styrofoam packing, and after you get it unpacked, you take the packing materials up to the attic and spread them under the eaves. This would take an international agreement to be widespread, but for now the fire retardant styrofoam could have the usual yellow dye or some new color. It could be tested outdoors with a match to see if it complies.

Up to a couple feet could be useful. If your attic has all you need put them out with the recycling or give them to somebody. If they can be used they probably will be used. Insulation saves money, and these are nicer to deal with than the usual fiberglass. This way they're not a disposal problem, they're actually being used to save energy. Of course as styrofoam peanuts for packing they can still be collected and reused.

This shouldn't be done with most current white styrofam because it does burn, and it's not easily extinguished with water. It also puts out some nasty gases while it's burning. If you don't believe it, take a piece outdoors, hold it with pliers, and light it.

Cylinder Tax
People need to be discouraged from driving big cars with big engines. If you've got a need to haul half a ton that's one thing, but you don't need a V8 to run to the corner convenience store. Here in Massachusetts at least every vehicle registration already has on it the number of cylinders in the engine. Anything over 4 should cost extra.

Not enough extra so it's a hardship, just a nuisance. Businesses will write this off as a business expense, but they shouldn't be exempt. Average people for average cars might be inclined to think twice. The tax money collected should be used in some way that benefits the environment.

Energy from old tires
(R. M. idea, not mine) Every tire takes about a barrel of crude oil to produce. Yet after they're worn out they're a disposal problem, sometimes costing money to get rid of, sometimes ending up thrown in rivers or lakes.

Find a way to burn them cleanly or decompose them by a chemical reaction and reclaim that energy in the process. It shouldn't cost the consumer anything and the energy can be used to heat buildings, generate electricity or whatever. This should be done on a small enough scale so it's available to anyone with an old tire to get rid of, maybe another category in existing recycling facilities. If it costs the consumer money, we're still going to be digging them out of lakes.

Earth sheltered homes
(again, not my idea, already gaining in popularity) If you dig down far enough into the ground, the temperature approaches the annual average air temperature. Basements don't freeze and they're always cool in the summer, with no energy expended to make them that way.

Dig a hole for a basement, maybe a foot or two deeper than normal if convenient. Put in the normal poured concrete walls with drainage around the footings, do the landscaping so you don't get flooded. On top of the walls put ceiling joists, then build up a couple feet and put floor joists. On top of that put a normal roof with an old-fashioned high ceiling attic, maybe with a ridgepole instead of trusses so the space is usable.

Fill the 2 foot space below the attic with insulation and put about as much insulation on the concrete walls as you'd normally use on an outside wall. Heat loss is porportional to the square of the temperature differences. If you've got 40° F outside your walls, you're going to lose a lot less heat than if it's 0°, and of course there's no wind underground. In the summer it will still be cool. Put in some (insulated) skylights. If you really miss having windows to outdoors, do the landscaping such that one (short) wall isn't underground and put a table in front of it. Or trick yourself by putting in a large screen LCD TV with a camera outdoors that can be turned on when you don't want to watch TV. Multiple cameras with a switch isn't a bad idea from a security standpoint. Microphones outdoors bringing in bird sounds to speakers indoors might be a nice touch. The electronic wizardry will run for a fraction of what an air conditioner will cost to run. You can always turn it off.

The attic can have windows, or dormers with windows. Don't try to heat it, use it just for storage or seasonal living space when the temperature happens to be right. Provide adequate ventilation to vent accumulated summer attic heat. Orient the house so the long side faces south and cover at least part of the roof with solar panels.

Nature's Carbon Sink
I've seen ideas for contrived carbon sinks, electromechanical and/or chemical gadgets designed to pull carbon from the atmoshere. Absurd. Plant trees.

All plants, even grass, live on carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Pavement, that nasty black asphalt stuff that hurts to walk across barefoot in the summer, does just about nothing for us. The sunlight that it absorbs is re-radiated as heat, and does anyone really enjoy the smell of hot tar? Who knows really what gases are being given off.

After a few years it mostly stops outgasing, or at least slows down. Just about then somebody decides a fresh layer would look better. Dig it all up, use it for fill, and put down gravel (or cinders in coal country). At least they let rain sink into the ground.

Trees generally smell nice (if at all), block wind, produce oxygen, and if they fall over can be used as firewood. So what if they're not convenient on a corporate level. Hire people to care for them. And of course if they get really big and they're really in the way cut some down and build something out of them. But replant.

These are just a few ideas posted on a free web site because I could. If you've got ideas you think should be here, email them to me. If I like them I'll add them. Can we cool the earth down? Possibly not for a few decades. But we'd better try, or do you like hurricanes, tornadoes and floods? They'll get worse.

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