greatgreengadgets.com http://greatgreengadgets.com/gadgets Gadgets for the eco-conscious consumer Fri, 08 Dec 2017 20:31:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 133477084 Latest Research: Climate Change Robs Food Crops of Nutrition?!?! http://greatgreengadgets.com/gadgets/2017/09/19/latest-research-climate-change-robs-food-crops-nutrition/ Tue, 19 Sep 2017 14:09:46 +0000 http://greatgreengadgets.com/gadgets/?p=3185 Ruh-roh… This deeply disturbing report on how climate change fuels a decline in nutrition in our food, from Politico: IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH, it’s been understood for some time that many of our most important foods have been getting less nutritious. Measurements of fruits and vegetables show that their minerals, vitamin and protein content has measurably dropped over...

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Ruh-roh… This deeply disturbing report on how climate change fuels a decline in nutrition in our food, from Politico:

IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH, it’s been understood for some time that many of our most important foods have been getting less nutritious. Measurements of fruits and vegetables show that their minerals, vitamin and protein content has measurably dropped over the past 50 to 70 years. Researchers have generally assumed the reason is fairly straightforward: We’ve been breeding and choosing crops for higher yields, rather than nutrition, and higher-yielding crops—whether broccoli, tomatoes, or wheat—tend to be less nutrient-packed.

See, here’s the thing about rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere: plants LOVE carbon dioxide! They use it, along with water and sunlight, to manufacture cellulose and sugars and, well, the anchor cables of the web of life that feeds the entire planet (and produces good ol’ O2, that’s “oxygen” to you, as a by-product). In fact, many climate change deniers have tried to spin rising CO2 levels as a boon to agriculture:

“A higher concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would aid photosynthesis, which in turn contributes to increased plant growth,” [Rep. Lamar Smith, a Republican who chairs the House Committee on Science,] wrote. “This correlates to a greater volume of food production and better quality food.”

Well, yes and no. Turns out plants react to too much food the same way rats and people do: they overeat. Rising CO2 gives plants a greater ability to produce carbohydrates, including glucose (yum!) — instead of micronutrients like zinc and iron needed to stay healthy. And when our crops don’t store those micronutrients, animals and people who EAT those crops don’t get them either.

That’s bad news.

Here’s the really big story, though: could an increase in the available carbohydrates in our food crops be (partially) responsible for the global obesity epidemic?

…Marion Nestle, a nutrition policy professor at New York University who’s one of the best-known nutrition experts in the country, initially expressed skepticism about the whole concept but offered to dig into a file she keeps on climate issues.

After reviewing the evidence, she changed her tune. “I’m convinced,” she said, in an email, while also urging caution: It wasn’t clear whether CO2-driven nutrient depletion would have a meaningful impact on public health. We need to know a whole lot more, she said.

Yikes, this is a freaking nightmare. Please take a look at the full story, The Great Nutrient Collapse, share it widely, and make sure you’re using LED light bulbs in your house. (Every little bit helps!)

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Save Energy at Home? You’re Less Likely to Vote for the Environment http://greatgreengadgets.com/gadgets/2017/08/31/save-energy-home-youre-less-likely-vote-environment/ Thu, 31 Aug 2017 16:38:47 +0000 http://greatgreengadgets.com/gadgets/?p=3182 The good news is, we know we’re using less electricity than we used to! Install a smart thermometer? Check. Use hyper-efficient LED light bulbs throughout your home? Check. Sort and bin your curbside recycling? Check. Vote for climate-friendly government policies? Uh-oh. The bad news, via Scientific American: after people unplug appliances and turn down the A-C, they...

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The good news is, we know we’re using less electricity than we used to!

  • Install a smart thermometer? Check.
  • Use hyper-efficient LED light bulbs throughout your home? Check.
  • Sort and bin your curbside recycling? Check.
  • Vote for climate-friendly government policies? Uh-oh.

The bad news, via Scientific American:

after people unplug appliances and turn down the A-C, they are more resistant to nationwide climate change measures…

tl;dr version:

After people make small changes at home, they’re less likely to support environmentally-friendly laws, regulations, and policies at the national level.

Which sort of makes sense. We all know that guy who bought a hybrid and now drives like a freaking maniac, right? Or the lady who composts and gardens with monastic dedication, yet leaves her lawn sprinklers on even in the rain?

The scientists who authored this study speculate that, as humans, we have a finite amount of political will. By making changes at home, we deplete that political will. When the tank’s at zero, we just don’t care anymore.

Is this sad? Sure. Is it real? I’m afraid so. It’s like the old story of the church-goer who spends his Sunday morning in a pew so he can enjoy the rest of the week’s debauchery, sin, and degradation.

We’re bringing this to your attention so YOU can be aware of your propensity so think, “I did my part – so why do I have to _____?” That blank? Yeah, that’s important too. We have to do both — all of us — if we’re going to win.

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Eco Desk Throwdown: Top Eco-Friendly Desks for Your Green Office http://greatgreengadgets.com/gadgets/2017/08/28/eco-desk-throwdown-top-eco-friendly-desks/ Mon, 28 Aug 2017 15:49:05 +0000 http://greatgreengadgets.com/gadgets/?p=3177 Confession time: here at Great Green Gadgets, we spend a ton of time at our desks. Because we don’t want to shorten our lifespans by sitting too much, we prefer standing desks. Because those aren’t always practical, we also have traditional type sitting desks (our preferred office chair is a yoga ball — they’re inexpensive, help to...

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Confession time: here at Great Green Gadgets, we spend a ton of time at our desks. Because we don’t want to shorten our lifespans by sitting too much, we prefer standing desks. Because those aren’t always practical, we also have traditional type sitting desks (our preferred office chair is a yoga ball — they’re inexpensive, help to improve your posture, and even strengthen core muscles while you work). We work hard to find the most ecologically-friendly products from the most environmentally-responsible manufacturers.

After doing our own research and evaluations, we thought, “Hey – if we’re spending so much time to find the perfect eco desk, wouldn’t our readers be interested?” To that end, we’ve collected our evaluations and recommendations for the top eco desks, based on our own experience. Hopefully this guide will help you save time and money, and shorten your quest for the best desk!

Our Eco Desk Criteria

Here’s how we analyzed all the available eco-friendly work desks before selecting a few for test-drives:

  • Desks must be sourced from sustainable resources (bamboo strongly preferred)
  • The desk manufacturer must be a good citizen of the planet, actively engaged in eco-conscious activities
  • Desks must be a good value for the money
  • Smaller desks preferred
  • Convertible (standing or sitting) desks preferred

With that in mind, here are the eco desks we loved the most!

Top Convertible Desk: Halter ED-258 Adjustable Elevating Desktop

Halter ED-258 adjustable desktop

The first thing you’ll notice about the Halter elevating desktop is, it isn’t a desk. Well, not exactly. See, this nifty gadget sits on top of your desk and serves as a platform for your keyboard and monitor. Need a break from sitting? Squeeze the handles on the sides and give a gentle pull to raise the desktop to exactly where you want it!

Even when fully raised, the work surfaces are sturdy and solid., You won’t have to worry about your monitor trembling while you pound away on your keyboard.

Here’s what we love the most about this eco desk:

  • Affordable (costs less than half of what you’d pay for a new convertible desk)
  • Easy to use and adjust
  • Ample work surface

Maybe you aren’t certain whether to make the jump to a full-on standing desk? Using this adjustable desktop for a few weeks will help you decide whether sitting, or standing (or both!) work best for you. Better still, you can figure this out at a fraction of the price and hassle of buying and building a convertible desk.

GreenGadgets recommendation: Highly recommended.

Top Traditional Office Eco Desk: Legare Configurable Craft Desk

Legare configurable bamboo craft desk

Legare continues to make top-quality office furniture from sustainable, kiln-dried bamboo that’s rugged, durable, and easy to assemble. This isn’t IKEA stuff – Legare’s products are designed to be assembled without the help of tools, and disassembled without damage. If you move home or office often, it’s worth a look…

Legare’s configurable craft desk doesn’t look like your traditional work surface. We like that. We love the exposed end shelves, which keep supplies and reference material at hand without hiding them away where we tend to forget they exist. This desk’s width is adjustable from 48″ to 60″ up to 72″ wide (that’s 4, 5, and 6 feet for the numerically disadvantaged). This is another feature we really like. The Legare craft desk would be a great gift for a college student going out on their own who’s likely to be moving regularly, and might not know in advance how their living and working space might be arranged.

Here’s what we like:

  • Easy to assemble (no tools, only about 20 minutes from pieces to finished desk)
  • Beautiful, natural look
  • Adjustable width
  • Extremely tough and durable materials

GreenGadgets recommendation: Recommended.

 

Do you have a great desk you love? Let us know in the comments!

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Hot Composting: Get Down & Dirty http://greatgreengadgets.com/gadgets/2017/08/16/hot-composting-get-dirty/ Wed, 16 Aug 2017 13:56:19 +0000 http://greatgreengadgets.com/gadgets/?p=3164 The love affair, between you and the compost, always start with being love struck by the new novelty of the method. The relationship very quickly becomes one sided, and you end up shouting “you stink.” Then starts the argument of what is that best way to make the compost- either fast and hot, or slowly,...

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The love affair, between you and the compost, always start with being love struck by the new novelty of the method. The relationship very quickly becomes one sided, and you end up shouting “you stink.” Then starts the argument of what is that best way to make the compost- either fast and hot, or slowly, patiently, and with less effort?

Well, why don’t you and I, have this kind of penetrating man-to-man conversation. If you want to compost in a hurry; a hot, active, or fast compost pile that is working extra hard on decomposing the raw material, is the one that suits your style. The word ‘compost’ conjures up a vague picture of leaves, sticks, and soil, sitting there, doing something.

Let’s find out. . .

Where to get hot

You can compost in a compost bin-hot, sleek and sexy, or a compost tumbler (rolling around in the hay!), compost piles, compost pits, or just about anywhere it’ll fit. Natural processes take over with or without your interference. I’m here to encourage you to get off your butt and start taking an active role in making your compost smokin’ hot.

How to get hot

The finer point of the process is the addition of the ‘greens’ (nitrogen rich) and ‘browns’ (carbon rich) materials in an equal amount. You can start with a thin layer of carbon-rich leaves such as corn stalks so that the air can reach the bum of the pile.

Like foreplay, some active humus and some good soil are a must-add, pretty much like source of heat generating bacteria, which kick-starts the decomposition. Then, slowly and gently, insert the green ingredient like the kitchen scraps in alternation with brown materials.

Hot + wet = 😉

The heat generating bacteria needs some moisture and warmth and some air to perform correctly, like, well, you know. So, you should keep your pile moist, but not soaking wet, and turn it to aerate. Prodding the huge pile will move the cooler materials on the edges to the center, where they can heat up.

Remember: hot, wet, and moving.

Keep it moving

Do not forget to “poke-turn-poke-and-turn” with a stiff rod…

Need a thermometer? Nope. You’ll know when it’s hot enough, steamy and humid as a thong on South Beach.

The smell at the beginning may be unpleasant, but as decomposition continues, you’ll find the odor to become stale and musty. Call it an acquired taste if you must. Presences of a faint sulfurous smell show a lot of anaerobic activity, and so it may need aeration.

When things cool off

For the experienced composter, it never takes long for the pile to reach the required temperature-hot enough to kill most of the weed seed and organisms. With time the temperature reduces, just as expected — after every high, there is a low. Time to cuddle and whisper. When the pile no longer gets hot at the center, let it cure for a few days, and your clean and new compost ready for use.

Sure, it’s a little melancholy to move on after you’ve spent so much time together. Life, however, is motion – action – and you must move on. Other compost piles require your attention. Believe me, regardless of where your path leads, memories of your first hot compost pile will last long after the warmth fades.

Now you know – ready to get busy?

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Charcoal briquettes made from human poop http://greatgreengadgets.com/gadgets/2017/08/14/charcoal-briquettes-made-human-poop/ Mon, 14 Aug 2017 15:34:30 +0000 http://greatgreengadgets.com/gadgets/?p=3162 “Reduce, recycle, reuse.” We’ve heard it a zillion times. Interestingly, repurposing sewage as fuel ticks all three of these boxes! Today from Quartz: A Kenyan company is taking the excess fecal waste from residents in Nakuru and transforming it into a usable fuel source for cooking and heating. Human waste contains, on average, about 30%...

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“Reduce, recycle, reuse.” We’ve heard it a zillion times. Interestingly, repurposing sewage as fuel ticks all three of these boxes!

Today from Quartz:

A Kenyan company is taking the excess fecal waste from residents in Nakuru and transforming it into a usable fuel source for cooking and heating.

Human waste contains, on average, about 30% combustible solids. Here’s how it works: solid waste is dried in vats, then baked in a kiln at extreme temperatures to eliminate potentially harmful volatile compounds, and carbonize the remaining material. Those potentially harmful volatiles? They’re what makes poop stink – so after this step, poop is indistinguishable from charcoal.

The next step grinds the waste into a fine powder and blends it with molasses as a binding agent. (We had NO IDEA molasses was used to make charcoal briquettes, so we had to look it up…  Seems like molasses makes a better binder than some toxic alternatives, like tar. Why not use it as food instead?) The finished product looks like round fist-sized lumps of coal and sell for $.50 per kilo.

How do they work? Quartz reports, “Customers say that the fuel burns longer and with less smoke than charcoal and firewood.”

Using human waste as a fuel source isn’t a new idea (see phys.org’s discussion of waste gas recovery and the vast energy value of human waste). We can transmute poop into charcoal, as described above – AND collect the biogas (mostly methane) produced during the bacterial decomposition of poop and other organic matter in an anaerobic system.

Here’s why this matters: about 2.5 billion people, about 1/3 of the world’s population, don’t have access to bathrooms and modern sanitation facilities. One billion people don’t have toilets at all. Lack of sanitation contributes to diseases like cholera (this is what can happen when you don’t use proper sanitation), typhoid fever, and parasites like hookworms or roundworms. That’s one of the reasons the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent so much time working on recycling sewage.

We applaud the initiative of the Kenyan company in repurposing what might otherwise become a source of sickness in their community. Check out the video below to see the process at work.

(There’s no green gadget here today – just what we hope is an inspiring and hopeful story!)

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