Saturday, July 29, 2017

Panda Power Plant

Cute goes a long way. China Merchants New Energy Group used that fundamental philosophy when it comes to building their 248-acre solar power plant in Datong, China. The regular grid/array is what people typically picture when it comes to solar farms. That design may be becoming a thing of the past when people start seeing that cute can work.
Artist rendering from Panda Green Ener

Datong's design? A giant panda.  

What else would they have in China?

And what should we call it?  Why, the Panda Power Plant, of course!

The first phase was completed less than a month ago on June 30th & is officially connected to the grid. As the design prints indicate, a 2nd panda is planned for phase 2. When at full construction, it is projected to be able to produce 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours over a 25 year time period. That  was billion with a B! Of course, in doing so, it will also eliminate a significant amount of coal-produced electricity. The estimate: about a million tons of coal! Overall, that will reduce carbon emissions by a projected 2.74 million tons. That's significant!

So why go cute? To raise awareness about clean energy. 
Especially among young people.

I'd call that brilliant. Based on how this one goes, China Merchants New Energy Group has plans to build more panda-shaped solar plants over the next 5 years. 

To read more about the specifics of the PowerPlant, check out the Panda Green Energy Group's press release.

Images from

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Global Weirding

Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist at Texas Tech. 2017 has proven to be a rough year for climate scientists. The turnout at the People's Climate March in DC in April this year definitely illustrated that!

Katharine Hayhoe is also the creator of a 12 episode video series called "Global Weirding." I told my husband, that the series title speaks to me. Of course, he always teases me for being weird with my #eco & #edtech obsessions, so this didn't surprise him at all. 😊 

The series, produced in coordination with her local PBS station & as part of the PBS Digital Studios, first aired Sept. 28, 2016. They are released every-other-Wednesday. Checking out Katharine's bio, you'll see that she's quite involved with a lot of projects and committees! You can also follow her blog on her website too.

It was on her Facebook page where I learned of the "Global Weirding" episode that she shares with those she knows who are "anti-climate change." She shares that the facts & science alone won't serve your goal since those people counter the idea view it as an innate part of "who they are." Hmmm... I'd guess that serves for other political beliefs as well, which also sounds a little bit like dogmatic American politics this year!

Need even more climate science to feed your soul? Here's Katharine Hayhoe's TEDx Talk from 2015. Of course, it was 2 years ago... and the warming data over the last 2 years has indicated that 2016 was the warmest year on record. And 2017 is tracking the same way. So it is still very relevant. In it, she details the fact that climate scientists have found 26,500 indicators around the world of planetary warming. Additionally, Texas has "enough solar potential to power the entire world two times over." Just think of what we all could do!


To check out or subscribe to Global Weirding, go to which will take you to her YouTube channel. She's working away on Season 2 of Global Weirding, so stay tuned for new episodes to air every-other-Wednesday starting this September.

Global Weirding episode from and; TEDx Video from; Global Weirding logo from

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Jack Black's "Earth To America"

Because humor is what makes the world go round, and because few do it better than Jack Black, here's a little environmental "blast from the past." (Thank you Facebook "On This Day" for sharing this memory with me and reminding me of this post I shared 8 years ago.) Even though it was originally published on YouTube 10 years ago this July, Jack Black's "Earth to America" is still just as timely as every before!


Video from

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Turning Tires & Trash into Outdoor Furniture in Senegal

My dad worked his entire career, 39 years, as a chemical engineer at the Firestone Tire & Rubber Plant in Decatur, Illinois--even before it was incorporated with Bridgestone. Knowing my dad was involved in the tire making process was a big pride and part of my childhood.
We even had a little "Ta duh da duh da duh" cheer we used to do in the car when driving by the plant.

But, anyone who owns 
(or leases) a car knows
that tires do not last 
forever. They wear out & 
need to be replaced. 

While that was what buttered the bread in my house growing up (given it was my dad's livelihood), that does create a bit of an environmental challenge when it comes to what to do with them at end-of-life. The bulk alone can be a problem, as can the fact that they are made from a multitude of materials. And certainly they aren't biodegradable. Their fumes are hazardous when incinerated, and they leach toxic materials due to their chemical construction which then can contaminate local waters. They also can create additional methane gas issues. Given that, a majority of the states in America ban whole tires from landfills.

Luckily, though, tires can sometimes be put to good use in their afterlife. They can be shredded for playground ground cover or rubber mulch (called "crumb rubber"), made into rubberized asphalt or roadfill... or even floor mats, dock bumpers, or carpet padding. This is the good news, but even with that, there's only about a 35% recycled rate. Probably less in other countries than the US!

All of this creates a challenge, and where there's a challenge, there's a call for innovation.  Insert Senegal here! This video shows how these Senegalese students repurposed 900 tires and 60 tons of garbage to make 400 recycled tables and benches! With over 50 projects like this in Senegal alone, the French Company 3000 Ecomen has put more than 16,000 tires and 17,000 tons of waste to good use. What a wonderful way to educate others on the importance of waste management and recycling. May we all follow suit and be inspired to be as creative as 3000 Ecomen.


Video from; Tire statistics from and; Firestone image from; benches picture from; waste tire pic from

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Living in the World of Over-Packaging

This was the scene on my kitchen floor the other morning, upon tidying up my pantry and fridge. Near-empty boxes that got emptied, items rearranged where they lived on the shelves, and nicely organized. Of course, this is a mere fraction of the food items that live in my pantry. But this is a lot of grocery store, consumer waste.

I've said it before: I'm NOT a fan of packaging. Over-packing, more like it. (My particular pet peeve are plastic wrapped fruit... if only they came in their own natural packaging.  Oh wait, they do!)

I've been writing about over-packaging (and other environmental issues) for almost 10 years now.  And my last post was on how plastic that ends up in the ocean is one of my biggest pet peeves. Yet, we're still here. *Sigh.* There's a frustration that comes with that for me personally.

There's also a false sense of security that we all grasp hold of: "At least I'm recycling all of that over-packaging." Yes... but, it is indeed false. The mantra: "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle" is in that order for a reason. Recycling is purposely last--but, we hang our hat on that as though we are Superman, saving our planet. I've written about "wishcycling"before, which certainly falls in the same department.

So what can we do, aside from pulling our hair out and taking yet another bag of Costco-aftermath to the recycle bin??

I think the biggest, most important place to start is at the "Rethink" stage. By starting there, and framing everything else around that, we can begin to make the changes.

Additionally, we vote everyday with our shopping dollars. Like my friend did when she bought me the 4Ocean bracelet. Her hard earned dollars were going for the eco good! By rethinking how we spend our hard-earned money, we will make a difference over time. That can start with us turning our focus toward buying items that are packed in post-consumer waste and boxes made of recycled materials. Likewise, it can also help to offset some of the ways we have created the problems in the first place, like 4Ocean does.

Plus, we can always go forward as eco-activists, bringing our bags and cups, containers, stainless steel straws, and more.

Of equal importance: we can be educating our youth (and the not-so-young), on ways to follow suit. With a growing population of common and shared knowledge toward being sustainability-focused, we can do it... even if it takes 10+ more years to make it happen!

Packaging image from my camera; Rethink images from and

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A 4Ocean Bracelet 4 Me!

I love my friends! They know me, they get me! They know what I'd love, and they are thoughtful gift givers.
This was the note and the package that arrived in my mailbox this spring from a very good buddy and pal and former colleague.

The bracelet is really not just a bracelet. It's everything that is behind it as well. From 4Ocean, the bracelet is made of 100% recycled materials. The beads: from recycled glass bottles. The cord: from recycled plastic water bottles. The vision: every $20 bracelet purchase helps to fund the removal of a pound of marine debris--trash in the ocean that harms the aquatic wildlife. Visit 4Ocean's YouTube channel for a wealth of videos explaining what 4Oceans is all about!

This also just so happens to be one of the environmental issues that truly speaks to me. Perhaps it's because I live near the Chesapeake Bay. Perhaps because I'm a beachy-kind-of-gal. Perhaps because I enjoy eating seafood and don't want my food to be contaminated. Perhaps because I was inspired by the 2010 journey of David de Rothschild's Plastiki to investigate the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Or perhaps because it's just senseless and wasteful to use the ocean as a great big dumping ground. I sense it's a little in the "all of the above" category. This infographic, from the 4Ocean Beach Clean Up Handbook, shows just some of what gets me fired up...

...and which is why I'm so inspired by the innovation and activism of companies like 4Oceans. It's also why I smile every time I wear my 4Ocean bracelet and am grateful for the dear friends I have!

Not to mention, this image shows one heck of a great success story:

To follow 4Ocean's blog & get inspired about how to make a difference, click here.

To get information about doing your own beach cleanup, check out 4Ocean's "Ocean Clean Up Handbook."

Video from; my bracelet photo from my camera; infographic from 4Ocean's Beach Clean up handbook; 4Ocean logo from; statistics from

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Little Known Eco Innovations Leading the Way

I've said it before, and I say it often:  It is through innovation that we will arrive at solutions to our environmental issues.

This video from TechnoNerds shows us 4 innovative ways that people have seen an eco-need, and gone forward to do something about it. It's the heart of today's educational trends of #STEM and the maker movement!

May we all be inspired to go forward, thinking outside the box, being problem solvers to innovate, create, and invent!

Video from; Art created at

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July 2017

A birthday is a personal and special day. In part because of it's "one-a-year-ness." But also due to it's significance to our growth and individual history.

The same holds true for our country's birthday--which for me, of course, is the United States of America. Today's America's 241st birthday. A significant day based on heritage, ideals, beliefs, and pride.

I ran across this John Cena video the other day, and despite the fact that it was released last year, it seems even more relevant than ever before.
My favorite part:
"To our motto: 'e pluribus unim;' 'From many, one.' It's even in our country's name. The United States. This year, patriotism shouldn't be just about pride of country. It should be about beyond age, disability, sexuality, race, religion, or any other labels. Because the second any of us judge people based on those labels, we're not really being patriotic, are we?...Remember, that to love America, is to love all Americans. Because love has no labels."
May your 4th of July be safe, wonderful, 
meaningful, fun, festive, and full of love for all.

Video from; image from

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Where Art, "Repurposing" & a Church All Collide

In the category of "green buildings," it's been said that the greenest building is one that's already standing. This is particularly true if that building is not currently being used. By adapting and reusing a building, you give it new life. (Hence it's common name: "adaptive reuse!"

Here's where art, repurposing, & a church collide.

Picture a 100-year old church in Llanera, Asturias in Spain. Abandoned, it could have been just as easy to tear it down. But instead, it was transformed in a unique & unusual way: into a colorful indoor skatepark. Artist "Okuda" San Miguel added geometric shapes & color to transform the church into the newly named "The Kaos Temple" with strong messages of nature:
"In general, for the last few years my work talks a bit about the war between nature's forces and the human being; between modernity and roots. Self-destruction, existentialism, things like that....I like using contradictions which invite people to reflection."

I can only imagine what the experience of skateboarding would be like in this setting!

Other buildings have come about by way of adaptive reuse.  Check them out here:

Images from and; Video from