First "Green My School" Contest Makeover

Recycling for Fashionistas BigWardrobe.com Debuts in the US

Smart Appliances Help Consumers Get "Smart" About Energy Costs

Eco-Entertaining for Summer

Made By Hand: Searching For Meaning In A Throwaway World

nature conserve

friendship bag

First "Green My School" Contest Makeover at Rosa Parks Elementary School In
San Francisco

As pictures of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf dominate the news, it’s heartening to see young local children doing their part to lessen their impact on the environment.

The CBS & EcoZone Green My School Contest has completed green makeovers at three grand prize winning schools, one in each of the San Francisco, Miami, Chicago regions. In addition to the three makeovers, the program provides a sustainable environmental program for all participating schools within each region. In total, 45 schools participated in the contest. Each participating school submitted a short standard submission form and a creative response exploring what being green means to them and why their school should receive a green makeover. The three winning schools are Rosa Parks Elementary School in San Francisco; Everett M. Dirksen Middle School in Chicagoland; and Miami Northwestern High School in Miami.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this month marked the first public example in San Francisco of CBS’s environmental outreach through the acquisition of EcoMedia, LLC.

PG&E, O Organics and TCP Lighting lead this school ‘green’ makeover worth over $250,000 in goods and services. This project improves the overall sustainability of the facility while also adding ‘green’ tools and elements to the school’s learning spaces and curriculum. Many companies rallied to support this worthwhile project. For more information about the project and the sponsors, visit www.ecomediacbs.com/greenmyschool/

Watch the video, click here.

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Recycling for Fashionistas
BigWardrobe.com Debuts in US

British website BigWardrobe.com, the Internet’s No. 1 clothes swapping website–lovingly nicknamed “the world’s largest closet”—has now opened a U.S. office. The website brims with a huge mix of labels, including Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Vivienne DKNY, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Diesel, demonstrating that you don’t have to travel to a fashion capital – or even spend a cent – to be 100% on-trend.

Bigwardrobe.com is at the forefront of the worldwide movement to recycle clothes. The continuing global recession means it’s now fashionable to be thrifty, using your clothing as credit-crunch currency to swap for other people’s pre-loved fashion. As soon as you add your items to Bigwardrobe.com, you start to receive offers from other members to swap unwanted clothes, bags, shoes and accessories for others, sell them, or use a combination of the two.

“Even a global fashion icon like Michelle Obama is clothes swapping,” says Jamie Hutchinson, co-founder of Bigwardrobe.com, referring to a swap party the First Lady organized in New York City during her husband’s presidential campaign. “Based on our success in the UK, we are certain the US consumer will embrace this new and fun way to shop – and save money at the same time.” The average US consumer has $300 worth of unused clothing sitting in their wardrobe.

Launched in the UK in May 2008, Bigwardrobe.com has in two years gained 35,000 members (and 35,000 new wardrobes for them to plunder), over 80,000 listed items, 5,000 new items added per week, and 300 swap offers per day – offering the convenience of swapping things you don’t wear for things you will, or turning your unwanted clothes back to cash. In these cost-conscious times, Bigwardrobe.com is an affordable substitute for shopping and entertainment.

The ‘Bottom Drawer’ section of the site allows entertainment items – such as books, DVD’s, toys, iPods, mobile phones, cameras, and CDs – that may be lurking unloved in your wardrobe (or under the bed) to be redistributed online instead of thrown away. Bigwardrobe.com’s popularity with celebrities means that if you fancy owning a pair of Russell Brand’s skinny jeans, you can buy celebrity threads on the site for a cause. There’s even a vintage area for those whose style transcends time.

New members to Bigwardrobe.com can avail of two options: they can join for free with limited functionality, or they can pay a small annual subscription of $18 to become a ‘Friend of Bigwardrobe’ and benefit from many extra features. Bigwardrobe.com is not aimed only at people with premium brands or vintage items, nor is it just aimed just at women. Men, women and kids alike can find a new home for their unwanted clothing on Bigwardrobe.com, and find apparel for all ages, shapes, and sizes there. www.Bigwardrobe.com.

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Smart Appliances Help Consumers Get "Smart" About Energy Costs
New generation of appliances give consumers more choices and greater control over home energy costs, while reducing the need for more power plants

Imagine if your power company offered lower electricity rates at certain times of day, similar to what's offered by most cell phone companies. Now, imagine having smart appliances and other devices in the home that can help you save money by automatically adjusting electricity consumption in response to pricing signals from the utility.

This scenario is quickly becoming a reality, as many utilities are actively piloting rate structures that more closely mirror their actual cost to produce power — with lower prices during periods of lower electricity demand and higher prices during peaks. These rates are then communicated to consumers in near real-time through "smart" electricity meters and in-home displays to help consumers make smarter energy choices and help utilities manage skyrocketing "peak" demand.

In response to this smart grid movement, GE has developed a line of "smart" appliances that automatically react to pricing signals from the utility and delay or reduce wattage of high-consumption tasks until lower-cost, off-peak periods. In addition to helping consumers manage their bills, these appliances also help utilities manage peak demand and reduce the need for building more power plants.

Home appliances — including heating and cooling — account for a combined 85 percent of total energy consumption in the home, making appliances an attractive target for improved energy management, especially during high-demand periods.

Visualize: a refrigerator that automatically delays the defrost cycle until utility rates are at their lowest, a clothes dryer that reduces its wattage when operating during peak hours, and a water heater that operates only in its highest efficiency mode during periods of high demand. These are just a few examples of the next generation of consumer home appliances in production at GE.

GE's new "smart" appliances are a key to the success of a smarter grid, which will not only help utilities deliver electricity more efficiently and reliably, but that will provide information to help consumers and utilities more wisely manage our existing electrical resources.

Why smart grid, why now?
The answers to these questions are found in the increasing challenges confronting the United States' energy future. Reliability and weather issues affecting the nation's current electric grid cost U.S. business more than $150 billion per year from power disruptions and outages, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. [1] Compounding these problems: the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that global energy consumption will triple by 2050. [2] Additionally, these and other strains are adding costs to the price of electricity for consumers — with average residential rates increasing 44 percent between 2000 and 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The good news — a year-long study by the U.S. Department of Energy showed that real-time pricing information provided by a smart meter helped consumers reduce their electricity costs 10 percent on average and helped reduce their peak consumption by 15 percent. [3]

How do smart appliances work?
Through enhanced communications delivered through "smart" electrical meters on the home, the utility can communicate price signals to GE's smart appliances. During high-cost periods, the appliances, which are set to customer preferences, will avoid energy usage or operate on a lower wattage, potentially reducing a consumer's electricity bill. Without denying customers control, GE has programmed appliances so participants can override any of the smart appliance functionalities at any time. This element of consumer control separates GE's in-home solutions from other offerings in the past.

"Smart appliances provide consumers with additional choice and control in how they manage their energy usage * without compromising their lifestyles," said Kevin Nolan, VP of Technology, GE Appliances & Lighting. "With smart appliances, consumers can set their preferences and walk away, letting the technology work for them. This 'set-it-and forget it' functionality is good for both the utility and the customer and will be critical for ensuring long-term engagement and smart grid success."

Several utilities are currently working with GE on residential smart appliance pilots to test energy savings potential. Among the pilot programs underway are:

  • Reliant Energy — As one of the largest competitive retail electric providers serving customers across Texas, Reliant Energy has chosen to test GE's smart appliances as part of a home-based smart energy program.
  • The Vineyard Energy Project — As part of this project, GE's smart appliances will be piloted on Martha's Vineyard.
  • Masdar City — GE designed and manufactured the appliances and networks for a pilot in Masdar City, which is targeted to be the world's first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city being built in the UAE's capital of Abu Dhabi. The first building to be completed will be the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.
  • Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) — GE has had a smart appliance pilot program in place with LG&E for more than a year. Program participants, also GE employees, have reported that by slightly modifying their behavior and using smart appliance features, they've saved on their utility bills during peak pricing periods, including a report of as much as a 20 percent savings.

"Most pilot program participants in the LG&E pilot liked the control provided by their 'smart' appliances," explained Nolan. "They noticed little need to change their everyday routines when using their refrigerators, microwave ovens or ranges."

How will you save?
GE's "smart" refrigerators, ranges, microwaves, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, and the new GE GeoSpring™ hybrid water heater provide many opportunities for saving:

  • The refrigerator delays the defrost cycle from occurring during peak hours and goes into energy-saving mode. One LG&E participant's energy-efficiency efforts with refrigerator usage over 10 weekdays showed more than a 20 percent reduction of energy usage during peak hours.
  • Microwave ovens power down slightly by reducing wattage during peak hours.
  • The "smart" dishwasher can delay starting the cycle to off peak times.
  • Delaying laundry to off-peak time can help consumers meet their own energy-efficiency targets.
  • The new GE GeoSpring hybrid water heater operates only in heat pump mode during periods of peak costs, reducing wattage by over 80 percent compared to a standard electric tank water heater.

Through industry collaborations, GE will deliver one of the broadest portfolio offerings of carbon-smart technologies in the industry to modernize electrical systems from the power plant to the consumer. From smarter appliances and technologies for plug-in hybrid vehicles, to providing renewable technologies and smart meters, GE's innovation and leadership is delivering integrated, large-scale smart grid deployments, leveraging technology synergies and delivering results. www.itsyoursmartgrid.com.

* In areas where dynamic pricing rates apply. Dynamic pricing and time-of-use (TOU) programs provide for variable pricing of energy based on the time of day. Dynamic pricing and TOU programs are provided by the utility and may or may not be available in your area. Availability of dynamic pricing programs in a particular market is dependent upon the utility serving that market.

Sources:
1.www.energy.gov/news2009/8216.htm (01/06/2010)
2. U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, 2005 (www.itsyoursmartgrid.com)
3. DOE Pacific Northwest Laboratory, GridWise project. "Department of Energy Putting Power in the Hands of Consumers Through Technology." January 9, 2008.

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Eco-Entertaining for Summer

Greener Country’s Compostable Eco-Party Pack:

The supply will serve approximately 50 people and includes 50 each of:

  • 9" Plates made from wheat straw or sugarcane (depends on availability)
  • Salad or Soup Bowls made from wheat straw or sugarcane (depends on availability)
  • Cold Cups 12 oz. made from corn starch
  • Hot Cups 12 oz. made from corn starch
  • Forks made from cornstarch
  • Spoons made from cornstarch
  • Knives made from cornstarch

Plus, one package of 100% recycled content Napkins (500 ct.) and a box of 13 gallon kitchen bio-bags for the cleanup (may be replaced with 12-16 gallon oxo-biodegradable kitchen bags depending on availability). $55 www.greenercountry.com

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MADE BY HAND:
Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World
By Mark Frauenfelder

"This is a must-read book. Mark has lovingly and candidly documented the complex, myriad, intangible and often very tangible rewards of grabbing the world with both of your hands, and learning how it works." -- Adam Savage, Mythbusters

From his unique vantage point as editor-in-chief of MAKE magazine, the hub of the newly invigorated do-it-yourself movement, Mark Frauenfelder takes readers on an inspiring and surprising tour of the vibrant world of DIY. The Internet has brought together large communities of people who share ideas, tips, and blueprints for making everything from unmanned aerial vehicles to pedal-powered iPhone chargers to an automatic cat feeder jury-rigged from a VCR.

DIY is a direct reflection of our basic human desire to invent and improve, long suppressed by the availability of cheap, mass-produced products that have drowned us in bland convenience and cultivated our most wasteful habits.

Frauenfelder spent a year trying a variety of offbeat projects such as keeping chickens and bees, tricking out his espresso machine, whittling wooden spoons, making guitars out of cigar boxes, and doing citizen science with his daughters in the garage. His whole family found that DIY helped them take control of their lives, offering a path that was simple, direct, and clear. Working with their hands and minds helped them feel more engaged with the world around them.

Frauenfelder also reveals how DIY is changing our culture for the better. He profiles fascinating “alpha makers” leading various DIY movements and grills them for their best tips and insights.

Beginning his journey with hands as smooth as those of a typical geek, Frauenfelder offers a unique perspective on how earning a few calluses can be far more rewarding and satisfying than another trip to the mall.

Published by Penguin Group USA. May 2010. Hardcover. 256 pages. $25.95. For more information or to purchase, www.bn.com, or visit your local bookstore.