Archive for July, 2011

July 29, 2011

How The ‘Crowd’ Can Save Energy by Collaboration

One of the trends of the Web 2.0 era is crowdsourcing, enabling the development of new technologies, to pool knowledge (e.g. Wikipedia) or to solve issues with the power of the public (for example when BP was crowdsourcing ideas from the public on how to address the oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon rig ). Furthermore, ’crowdfunding’ enables the financing of various objectives, such as support for disaster victims, political campaigns or even enthusiastic entrepreneurs in developing countries (e.g. Kiva.org) by collecting money from the public, the crowd.

Green crowdsourcing examples

Crowdsourcing is spreading and there are already several green ideas

Green Watch for instance provides ozone level and noise pollution data updates sent from mobile phones of users in Paris, while The Urban Forest Map is an inventory for trees living in San Francisco, also providing some information of CO2 saved or the amount of rainwater filtered by them. Corporations are also finding ways to engage people; Sony’s Open Planet competition gathers green technology ideas from anyone.

A renewable energy-related example is the One Block Off the Grid initiative, which enables potential buyers of solar panels to ‘meet’ and install these devices, which would otherwise be unaffordable for them.

Carrotmob organizes shopping sprees for users at specific shops, which allocate a certain percentage of the purchases on the selected day to become more environmentally friendly, for instance by reducing refrigeration costs through improving existing systems.

The potential of green crowdsourcing for energy efficiency

Besides several renewable energy-related crowdsourcing initiatives, dozens of new projects are launched all the time, thus there is a vast potential for solving everyday issues of energy efficiency in this simple way.

One of the latest examples include over a hundred of energy-saving ideas collected by Slate magazine last year from its readers, offering ideas for easy changes.

Crowdfunding also has some great case studies in this area. A café owner for example asked for small donations from its customers to be able to set up energy-efficient lighting, and managed to collect the necessary amount only in six months.

Another crowdfunding project is Solarmosaic in Oakland, California, where the organization collects money for local solar projects from the public rather than banks, by selling them solar tiles.

Hence there is a significant potential for further crowdsourcing projects and initiatives for saving energy with the help of us and the people around us.

 

Written for Energy Saving Warehouse

 

 

July 24, 2011

Gamble Green!

While a Scottish couple has just won Europe’s largest ever jackpot of GBP 161 million at the Euromillions, a lesser known lottery scheme has been emerging alongside: The Carbon Lottery.

What is the Carbon Lottery and how does it work?

The Carbon Lottery is just like any other lottery game, where players have to pick six numbers out of 49 for winning the weekly jackpot of EUR 4 million (GBP 3.5 million). Participants should select the numbers online at http://www.thecarbonlottery.com, for only GBP 2 – just like playing for the Euromillions. There is however an add-on.

Why is it green?

Each ‘lottery ticket’ offsets 100 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions, thus lowering one’s carbon footprint.

More than half of the price of the tickets goes to the prize pool but a significant ratio is used to buy carbon offset credits by the Voluntary Offset Fund (operating in the frame of the Carbon Lottery scheme) linked to each ticket. This means that while hoping to become a multi-millionaire, green-minded players also lower global carbon dioxide emissions and support various projects all over the world, amongst others a wind farm in Turkey, a geothermal development in Guatemala or a biogas facility in Thailand.

As a helpful tool for assessing one’s carbon footprint, each country has a listed average emission, and players only have to select where they are from to know how many carbon lottery tickets it is equal to. For those who want a more accurate measure, a detailed calculator is also available counting based on their personal living, travelling and eating habits.

The Carbon Lottery was launched in April 2011 and currently only operates in the UK with the draw broadcast on the website and YouTube from Malta. After a successful initial period it may be extended to other European countries.

At the time of writing the Carbon Lottery has offset 2109 tonnes of carbon dioxide – the same as the annual emissions of two hundred average people living in the UK.

Written for Energy Saving Warehouse

July 19, 2011

Can Clouds Save Energy?

Cloud computing is latest buzzword in the IT industry and also more and more mass-market companies are introducing their so-called ‘cloud services’, including Google, Microsoft and now Apple. 

 

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing enables both businesses and individuals to access software, infrastructure or storage space over the Internet. Thus there is no need for clunky home PCs, servers or vast IT infrastructure at companies. Instead, large data centres serve customers from a distance, offering only as much as customers wish or need at any given moment, on demand.

Such cloud computing services include online email systems (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.), as well as online document-handling services like Google Docs or online storage, like Rackspace, besides numerous business applications.

How could cloud computing save energy?

Besides several other advantages of cloud computing, such as scalability, customizability, and cost efficiency through paying for only what one uses, these services also create an opportunity to save energy.

A great number of hardware, which performance is not entirely used and eventually becomes e-waste, can be avoided, while overall energy consumption and so carbon emissions can be lowered both at private users and businesses.

A good example is Google, which is well-known to apply innovative solutions and invest into green energy developments. It claims that its data centres use only a half of the energy of a typical data centre, and Google Energy LLC has been founded to purchase renewable (mainly wind) energy for the company’s operations.

Similarly, Microsoft uses a significant ratio of renewable energy and is also located in ‘sustainable buildings’. Furthermore, Microsoft recently commissioned a study, according to which cloud computing solutions at large firms could decrease energy consumption by thirty to sixty per cent, while this could reach even ninety per cent at smaller companies.

Challenges

While cloud computing can be promising for energy reductions at IT operations, there are also some challenges to overcome.

According to Greenpeace, global data usage is expected to grow significantly in the coming years and decades, which means increased load for data centres, as well as growing emissions.

Answers to this issue can include portable-size, new-generation data centres for more efficient operation, or renewables (wind, hydro, solar) as energy sources at these facilities. Cloud service providers are already addressing these issues, and hopefully will achieve significant results in the near future.

Sources:

July 16, 2011

How can individuals and businesses lower their carbon footprint through the voluntary carbon market

Carbon offsetting is a controversial topic with many supporters and opponents, but the basic system is much more complex than it sounds.

Criticism mainly originates in this complexity, as it is rather a bazaar with the various ‘mechanisms’, ‘standards’ and ‘markets’ (which can vary from continent to continent or from project to project) than a marketplace for carbon emissions. If the underlying principles are understood however, individuals and also businesses can easily use these systems for lowering their carbon footprint.

What is the voluntary carbon market and how does it work?

The carbon offset market covers two main trading areas, the ‘compliance’ and the ‘voluntary’ carbon markets.

The so-called ‘compliance market’ is the arena for compulsory offsetting by companies and governments for meeting their pre-set targets.

The ‘voluntary carbon market’ meanwhile allows firms and individuals to lower their carbon footprints, while engaging in supporting carbon offset projects all over the world.

These specific projects create ‘voluntary carbon emission reduction units’ (VERs), which are equal to one tonne of CO2 that has not been emitted. On the contrary to the compliance market, the price of these units here can vary significantly, and may be even different for the same project at various providers, due to the lack of regulations.

What are the motivations of business and individuals to participating in the voluntary carbon offsetting trade?

Companies usually enter the voluntary market with the aim to make their operations carbon neutral, which objective is often linked to their corporate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme. They then provide their assistance to projects that can decrease the worldwide carbon emissions and can promote their ‘carbon-neutrality’ and commitment through marketing activities or customer promotions, like loyalty programmes or games.

Businesses tend to buy the units either for retirement or for re-sale to third parties, including their customers.

Individuals generally become involved due to the feeling of guilt, as they want to reduce their carbon footprint, while supporting projects decreasing global carbon emissions.

How important is the voluntary carbon market?

The voluntary carbon offset market is small compared to the global emissions trading market but in 2010 it has grown by 34 per cent compared to 2009, achieving a trading volume of 131.2 MtCO2e.

Most projects are now located in North America, followed by Latin America and Asia, while purchasing parties not only include for-profit businesses but also NGOs and individuals.

Key areas are forestry and renewable energy programmes, including also wind, hydro, or biomass projects. [1]

Where are these units available?

Shopping for ‘voluntary emission reduction units’ is relatively easy. It is possible directly from project developers, brokers who aggregate several projects, while they are also available through customer promotions by companies who purchased them with the aim of re-sale.

References
[1] “Introduction to the Emissions Markets”, Barclays Capital

[2] “Back to the Future: State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets, 2011”, Ecosystem Marketplace, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2011

Written for Energy Saving Warehouse

 

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