Traditionally, the fuel of choice for human beings has been carbon based. According to the EPA, over 5,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere every year. However, this pollution may also be the driving force behind global warming and climate change. If human beings are going to fend off challenges like climate change and pollution, we must engineer new sources of renewable energy. Here are a few examples of how engineering is leading to a more eco-friendly future.
Infrared Radiation as a Power Source
One recent discovery has been the possibility of using the earth’s own infrared radiation as a sustainable power source. According to mic.com, the earth releases over 100 million gigawatts of infrared radiation originating from the sun back into the atmosphere every day. Engineers believe that antennas placed into orbit may be able to harvest this radiation as a renewable energy source.
Nuclear Fusion Is the Power of the Future
While once a thing only explored in speculative science fiction, nuclear fusion as a high tech power source will soon be a reality. The first nuclear fusion power generator is in fact currently being constructed in France at the Cadarache scientific research center. The power will be generated by fusing two different kinds of hydrogen, tritium and deuterium, together. When finally activated, this fusion generator should be able to produce much more power than a traditional nuclear generator. In fact, it will produce ten times the energy that is required to operate the power plant.
Transparent Solar Panels
While solar panels are a renewable energy source that has been with us for many decades now, the tech is about to receive a significant boost that may greatly increase its use by consumers. Transparent solar panels that can be seen through exactly like glass are currently being developed by engineers and scientists. No longer will ugly solar panels have to be placed on a home’s roof. Instead, they could exist as its windows. The possibilities are great indeed.
Engineering Better Energy Usage Techniques
Engineers are constantly looking for new ways to improve technologies. Recently, a big push has been made towards increased energy efficiency in industrial equipment as well as consumer products. Appliances that use the Energy Star label, for example, consume far less energy than their predecessors. New exciting techniques are constantly being employed to get more than ever before out of far less energy.
Overall, the possibility of achieving an energy independent future free of fossil fuels is a distinct possibility. Thanks to the hard work of engineers and scientists, many different alternative fuels and energy efficient methods for powering devices will soon hit the market.
This guest post submitted by Rachelle Wilber, a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Rachelle recommends that those interested in engineering better energy usage, click here to get more information.
A naturally grown wreath or Christmas tree is the perfect backdrop for the holiday season. Sadly, your fresh pine decor doesn’t stay fresh forever. When the needles start browning and dropping, give some thought into how you will get rid of your naturally-grown decor. There are many easy ways you can reuse your natural decorations. Your pine decor can be used to “spruce” up your yard (pun intended) with borders and mulch, or become a piece of backyard habitat for wintering birds and cuddly critters. If you prefer an easy alternative, simply find out how and when your city or county will accept Christmas trees for collection. In most cases, naturally-grown Christmas trees and wreaths collected by your locality are mulched or composted to reduce landfill contributions. The mulch or compost material created from the trees is a low cost way for your city or county to maintain parks and shared green spaces right in your community. Some localities are even able to sell excess mulch or compost back to the public. Talk about buying local…your spring mulch could be made from your Christmas tree!
But before you send off your Christmas tree or wreath, remember to remove all lights, tree stands and decorations including tinsel, ornaments and wires. Painted trees or those that are flocked (aka covered in fake snow) can’t be recycled either. Only the natural parts of your trees and wreaths can be accepted for mulching and composting.
And don’t forget! Christmas lights and most decorations do NOT belong in your curbside recycling container. Consider donating unwanted but working ornaments and decorations to a local school or secondhand store instead. For a complete list of materials you should be recycling at home this holiday season, you can review this handy holiday recycling guide.
So now that you know its time to make sure all of our holiday waste ends up in the proper place this year! Happy Holidays from askHRgreen.org!
As of this date, the following cities and counties have announced their natural Christmas tree recycling/pick-up schedules.
Chesapeake | Gloucester | Hampton | Isle of Wight | James City County | Newport News | Norfolk | Poquoson | Portsmouth | Smithfield | Suffolk | Surry County | Virginia Beach | Williamsburg | York County
When: Dec. 27–Jan. 13
Where: Trees will be picked up on the regular trash collection day. Trees placed at the curb between January 3 and 13 will be recycled.
What to know: Remove all ornaments, tinsel and the stand. Place it separately from bulk waste and regular trash so it can be easily collected. Please do not put in a bag or put netting around it.
Where: Residents may place Christmas trees in the brush container at any Gloucester County Convenience Center during regular hours. See the list below for locations.
- Middle Peninsula Landfill and Recycling Center – 3714 Waste Management Way (Entrance on Route 17). The Convenience Center at the Landfill operates on the same schedule as the other County Convenience Centers: Monday – Friday 8 AM to 7 PM and Saturday 7 AM to 7 PM.
- Belroi – 5122 Hickory Ford Road
- Dutton – 10430 Burke’s Pond Road
- Court House – 6550 Beehive Drive
- Hayes – 7599 Guinea Road
What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights. Trees will be mulched along with other yard debris. Mulch is provided free of charge to county residents from the main landfill location. However, residents are strongly encouraged to call ahead to ensure mulch is available for pickup.
Where: Trees will be picked up at curbside on regular trash collection day. Residents can also bring naturally grown trees to be recycled at the Yard Waste Transfer Site, 100 N. Park Lane (off Big Bethel Road at entrance to Bethel Landfill) from 8 AM to 3 PM. Monday – Saturday (closed city holidays).
What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights. Place natural trees separate from bulk waste and regular trash. Do not put in a bag or put netting around it. Artificial trees should not be placed with leaves, grass or tree branches. Trees will be mulched or composted at the VPPSA Composting Facility. Mulch and compost are available for purchase by the public at the composting facility.
Isle of Wight
Where: Natural Christmas trees can be recycled at any of Isle of Wight’s Refuse & Recycling Centers.
What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights. Trees will be composted.
James City County
Information coming soon
Where: Natural trees are recyclable as regular brush, and may be placed on the curb as brush collection.
What to know: Please remove the root ball and any non-natural decorations including tinsel and lights. Place tree in a brush pile separate from any bulk being set out. Christmas trees (live or artificial) may also be brought to the Recovery Operations Center located at 550 Atkinson Way. Trees will be composted or mulched.
Where: Natural trees are collected for composting on regular trash day as part of Norfolk’s yard waste collection service. In addition, residents can bring natural trees, holiday lights and artificial trees to the City’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center – 1176 Pineridge Road, Monday through Saturday, 10 AM – 2 PM. Artificial trees may also be scheduled for bulk waste collection by calling the Norfolk Cares IMPACT Center at (757) 664-6510, or by completing a request online at www.norfolk.gov/BulkWasteForm
What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights.
When: Dec. 25–Jan. 20
Where: Residents can drop off natural trees to be composted at the Municipal Pool Parking Lot (16 Municipal Drive, Poquoson)
What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights. Trees will be mulched or composted at the VPPSA Composting Facility. Christmas trees and yard waste are accepted year-round at the VPPSA Compost Facility (located at 145 Goodwin Neck Road, York County), Monday – Saturday, 8 AM – 4 PM. Mulch and compost are available for purchase by the public at the composting facility.
Information coming soon
When: Through Jan. 12
What to know: You must contact Kathy Bew-Jones at 365-4200 or firstname.lastname@example.org and provide your address if you have a Christmas tree to be picked up. Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel, garland and lights. Trees will be composted.
Information coming soon
When: Jan. 1-Jan. 31
Where: Surry County Collection Centers (listed below)
- Goodson Path Solid Waste Station – 409 Goodson Path, Dendron
- Pineview Solid Waste Station – 101 Pineview Road, Waverly
- Mantura Road Solid Waste Station – 60 Mantura Road, Surry
What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel and lights. Please ask attendants for assistance to ensure that your tree is placed in the designated container.
When: Normal trash collection day
Where: Curbside or the Virginia Beach Landfill and Resource Recovery Center at 1989 Jake Sears Road with proof of residency.
What to know: Christmas trees will be handled as normal yard debris and need to be free of any decorations or tinsel. All trees and yard debris will be mulched.
When: Jan. 3 and Jan. 9
What to know: The City Crews will be collecting Christmas trees on Tuesday, January 3 and Monday, January 9. Trees must be placed at the curb before 7 AM and should be free of the stand, ornaments and lights. Please place separately from bulk waste and regular trash. Trees will be mulched.
When: Jan. 2-Jan. 6
Where: Curbside – tree must be at curb by 7 AM on January 4 for collection that week
What to know: Tree should be free of the stand, ornaments, tinsel, lights and should be no bigger than six feet in length. For all York County residents, including non-subscribers, Christmas trees are accepted throughout January at the VPPSA Compost Facility (located at 145 Goodwin Neck Road, York County), Monday – Saturday, 8 AM – 4 PM. York County residents who subscribe to the trash program may bring yard waste to the VPPSA Compost Facility year-round.
If you have tried to supplement your home’s heating system by building a roaring fire in an open masonry fireplace, you might have been doing more harm than good. About 70 to 90 percent of heat energy in the wood you burned disappeared up the chimney. To keep burning, the fire consumed the oxygen in the room—the air that was heated by your furnace or boiler. Plus, the smoke that spilled from your chimney contained noxious gases and particulates that contribute to air pollution.
Inserts are sealed fireboxes that fit into the opening of your fireplace, usually with glass fronts so that you can watch the flames. They convert 75 to 85 percent of the fuel they consume into heat. They can burn wood like a traditional fireplace, but gas and electrical inserts are also available. Some are purely decorative, but others can provide a significant amount of heat. Products list their heat output in British Thermal Units (Btu). As a general rule, the Department of Energy says that an insert rated at 60,000 Btu can heat a 2,000-square foot home; one rated at 42,000 Btu can heat a 1,300-square foot space.
- Wood-Burning Inserts. These are the closest inserts to the traditional fireplace experience. They burn cleaner than traditional fireplaces, thanks to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations passed in 2015 that restrict particle emissions to 4.5 grams per hour. Good units have a blower fan that heats room air and recirculates it back into the room. Installation may require a new flue liner that runs from the insert to the top of the chimney.
- Gas-Burning Inserts. These are the most popular types of inserts. They are powered by natural gas or propane, so you will need a gas line in the fireplace. Most models work with remotes for easy start up, and you can adjust the height of the flames. Gas inserts have non-burning ceramic logs to give the impression of a roaring fire. Traditional gas inserts are vented through the masonry chimney, but direct-vent models are also available. In this type, a vent pipe goes out the back of the unit and directly through a wall. This eliminates the need for a traditional masonry chimney.
- Pellet Inserts. These are fueled by pellets made from compressed wood waste and other materials. The pellets are placed into a hopper and then automatically fed into the fire. As with wood-burning inserts, pellet inserts are certified by the EPA for emission control.
- Electric Inserts. These are mainly used for decorative purposes. Some produce heat, but heating with electricity is an expensive option.
If you’re concerned about conserving energy and lowering your home’s energy bill, you may want to consider a fireplace insert in place of the traditional option. It’s an environmentally-friendly way to add warmth or style to your home during the winter months.
Fran Donegan writes on home heating topics for The Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY writer, and is the author of the book Paint Your Home.