Bacteria Key in Solar Power Breakthrough

The deep sea is taking a page from the eco-friendly intern book it would seem! Scientists are currently studying green sulfur bacteria, an eco-conscious source for modern power and technology. Green sulfur bacteria, which live nearly a mile under the ocean’s surface, use minute amounts of solar power efficiently. So efficiently that in some cases these bacteria are able to convert 100% of the solar power they absorb into electricity.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge are researching the bacteria’s light harvesting proteins to see what advances they could offer the field of solar energy. The green sulfur bacteria is able to move electrons through their system of photosynthesis until harvest without losing energy along the way, unlike other known organisms that engage in photosynthesis. Unraveling the mystery could be groundbreaking in clean energy, opening the door to the most efficient solar panels possible. Currently, “innovative” panels are able to convert approximately 28% of solar power into electricity and are much more expensive than the standard panels.

So, what’s next for these little buggers? After saving the planet and developing energy to efficiently power our homes, where will their next mission begin? Perhaps, and this is only speculation, they may make their way to powering our smartphones, tablets and more. Solar power is already being adopted into city infrastructure goals on streetlights, parking meters, and more, why not make solar power mobile and make the battery a back-up?

That step is further down the line, but maybe not as far away as we think. After all, as all eco-friendly interns at this digital marketing agency know, technology and eco-awareness go hand in hand.

Commute, Don’t Pollute

The most common tip for “being green” is to carpool or take some sort of public transit to work. There are lots of obvious benefits – saving gas (a savings of roughly 223 gallons per year, or $865 at Ann Arbor’s gas prices today – 3.88/gallon), paying less for car maintenance, and reducing your carbon footprint by 4800 pounds of CO2 per year! (Source: GreenPerl)

I’ve been greening up my commute since I began the eco-friendly internship, and so far, it’s been a pretty wonderful experience. Ann Arbor is very fortunate to have the Ann Arbor Transit Authority, the local bus system, which is, for a smaller city like ours, very thoughtfully planned, thorough, and easy to navigate. There are stops almost everywhere around Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and you can go almost everywhere; both universities, both downtowns, and lots of shopping and recreation.

There are a few other benefits, too. I drive a lot to my other job, but I notice driving is stressful, especially around rush hour. When I take The Ride downtown, I don’t have to worry about fighting Ann Arbor rush hour traffic or the sometimes-confusing one-way streets, and where I can and can’t park.

And speaking of parking, not having to figure out where the cheapest parking is or how much it costs is a big plus. I’m told there is a $4-per-day lot somewhere, but if it happens to be out, I’d have to pay 1.50/hr in most of the lots, even more in the decks!

AATA lets me enjoy the commute to work (and have more time to beat Angry Birds…) instead of stressing out on my commute. Plus, it’s cheaper, and most importantly, greener.

A Taste of Ann Arbor – Seva

It’s restaurant week here in Ann Arbor! That means gourmet food at phenomenal prices. Megan and Lauren are both on vacation, so Eric Rodriguez (our Client Services Manager) and I decided to take on A Taste of Ann Arbor.

Seva is nestled into the heart of downtown on E. Liberty St. As a fully vegetarian restaurant, Seva takes pride in creating new, tasty, and organic dishes. Eric chose the Burrito con Elote stuffed with butternut squash, corn, beans, and cheese (which can be modified into a Vegan dish) while I munched on a Quinoa-Spinach Salad. Both were served by friendly staff that smiled as they passed and never let our water glasses go dry. 

Seva offers as many organic and local products as possible. In keeping with the eco-friendly theme, the restaurant offers biodegradable items, such as little paper cups of salsa and guacamole instead of plastic. If you are looking for a natural pep, try one of their juiced drinks. I decided to order a Ginger Shot. The ingredients are simple: ginger, which is known for its healing properties.

The vegetarian hot spot offers reasonable prices, but during Ann Arbor’s Restaurant Week, Eric and I enjoyed our entrees for $12 and found a new place to frequent.

Video Conferencing the Eco-Friendly way?

Video conferencing seems to be a GREAT idea when having to commute long distances for meetings each week. Not only is it expensive, but it’s not very Green… The Ingenex interns looked around for alternative methods… I happened to stumble upon Oovoo, which is very similar to the platform Skype.

images-1What makes this platform so unique is the multiple group chat function capabilities. Oovoo states that you can chat up to 6 different people at the same time. This makes video conferencing very convenient. You can also upgrade your account, which enables you to use your phone through Oovoo for long distance calls. You’d think with these types of services the phone providers would be making long distance calls cheaper…(??)

oovoo-6way-even-smallerThe plus about using Oovoo? I really enjoyed the user interface to it. It’s much edgier and easier to navigate around than other platforms. There isn’t a delay in the video chat, even when using 3 people at the same time. This is much more convenient than having to drive an hour for a meeting, when most of the work can be done through a video chat platform and Google docs!

The negatives, if you’re using a low bandwidth, it drops the video chat very easily.

Look into Oovoo, it might be something worth mentioning to your business who is trying to be Green considerate…

Go Green Without Breaking the Bank

The 2010 Honda Insight will be a catalyst that has the potential to make owning a hybrid an affordable option for Main Street, with price tags below $20,000. The past two years at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is exemplary of  the green trend, all of the auto companies presented new models on a green platform, only Honda has been able to make it affordable, for now at least.

There are three elements consistent in hybrid engine design that contributes to better fuel economy.

1) Having both an electric engine and gasoline engine that shuts down during peak power usage.

2)A battery capable of storing large amounts of energy

3) The ability to recapture energy during braking

These are the staples for hybrid design that the automobile industry is working towards as a whole to make the most efficient and affordable. But what about those potential hybrid consumers on a budget? More importantly, what about those consumers that are about to get pink slipped? What options do they have to drive a fuel efficient vehicle while not falling into debt?

There are a variety of options to change transportation behavior: buy a hybrid, carpool, ride a bike, ride a bus, teleconference, all of which require a change in behavior. Aftermarket computer chips are an option that does not require any change whatsoever. A variety of companies offer performance grade computer chips that are installed on the electronic control unit(ECU) of an engine and will optimize an engine’s performance to create higher horsepower and torque and can be utilized for higher fuel efficieny, up to 5 mpg. Once installed, the programmer’s smart system immediately recognizes vital information of the vehicle’s engine, powertrain and transmission, and can be adjusted without having a deep understanding of computer programming. Hypertech offers a Max Energy E-con Programmer, specifically designed to imporve fuel economy, it retails at $329.99 and is available on 22 different car models.

The question is: why are you only able to find these on automobile supply websites, trade publications, and AutoZone? Why aren’t these things at Meijers’, Sears and Target? Buying a performance chip is less expensive with a little les R-O-MPG in the long-term. So when are after-marker computer chips going to break out of the gearhead market and into the green market?

The decline in auto sales over the past few years creates even more opportunity for such a product to thrive in the market. Aftermarket companies such as Hypertech could reach those consumers who want to go green but can’t afford a $26,000 or even a $20,000 hybrid. Sure, ponying up for the Hybrid is the most eco-friendly and will give you more eco-bragging ammo, but let’s face it, people are strapped for cash and not in the new car market, sales volumes over the past few years have shown that. Spending $3,000-$4,000 more for a hybrid, that gets 10-12 more mpg, whereas an E-con Programmer is 1/10 the price increase opposed to buying a hybrid and saves 1/2 as much in fuel economy. Cheaper short-term, comprable long-term.

However, there are some barriers to entry dependant on the success of aftermarket chips. Installing a computer chip is in violation of most car’s warranties that disqualifies an eligibility for engine repair. This is a contractual agreement with the auto companies that aftermarket companies will struggle to overcome, given that the auto companies have tenfold the bargaining power.

So, maybe that is why aftermarket chips are not part of the mass market, there could be other reasons. They could just be slouches for marketers. Regardless, there is an opportunity for a company to introduce a product into the market that is aligned with current trends and nothing is being done about it. Tsk Tsk.

Make your business Green!

 

Going green is a constant subject that most companies are trying to be involved with. But where does one start? What are some of the little things that can be done to make a big difference? And are these choices healthy for your company regarding profits, maintenance of programs and successes?

gogreen

According to Fortune Small Business, here are a couple easy steps to follow to get on track with being Eco-Friendly!

Get smart about recycling.

Look at what your company consumes and find ways to recycle, reduce and reuse.

Little things like recycling paper and introducing less-toxic supplies and materials can make a huge difference. Companies such as Green Earth Office Supply sell recycled-paper products to businesses. Another good source is The Green Office, an online retailer of recycled, environmentally friendly, and sustainable business products, school supplies, and paper- and for not a huge price difference than the stuff most non-green friendly suppliers sell.

You can also refill computer ink cartridges rather than add them to the landfill. The same goes for obsolete computers. There are companies, such as California-based Ecohaul, that will, for a fee, remove, refurbish and, short of that, properly dispose of old office equipment and supplies.

Although this may not be the most important thing to be concerned about- but you also might want to check to see if you qualify for any applicable tax credits…

Think outside the gas tank.

Transportation can have a huge impact on the bottom line for businesses large and small. If you need a company car, consider going hybrid. As consumers continue to embrace automotive alternatives, more models are entering the market and incentives continue. In fact, the IRS just announced the 2009 hybrid Saturn Aura was recently certified for an alternative motor vehicle credit. There’s plenty of information on the latest in alternative transportation at car-centric websites such as Edmunds.com and carmax.com too.

Do your research.

Co-op America, a green advocacy organization and eco-driven online catalog, has earned a Business Seal of Approval award for its product assortment as well as offering an inspiring assortment of hints and tips on how to go green. And there are strong resources outside of the United States, such as Friends of the Earth Scotland, an organization that offers a useful online audit to assist in the greening of your office.

Just a little food for thought… There are a lot of companies that make going green much easier now (just look at some of the links included here!)

Eco-Friendly or just good marketing?

Is Apple the most Eco-Friendly company? At least, and according to a survey from Enviromental Leader, Apple is considered the most Eco-Friendly company for most consumers, closely followed by HP and Microsoft. But is this perception based on real facts, or is only due to Apple marketing strategy?

According to Greenpeace’s last “Guide to Greener Electronics”, in a 1 to 10 scale Apple’s score is only 4.1, ranking 13th on the list, far behind from the highest score company, the Finnish company Nokia.

Apple was just an example and it is a company that is currently improving in being more eco-friendly. Actually the last Ipod Nano is the most eco-friendly mp3 player that Apple had ever produced, reducing some of its more contaminant components like the batteries.

So how much of ecofriendlyness is real and how much is just pure marketing? Nowadays many products and companies claim to be “green”, but many times that is only a way of attracting the consumer and means nothing. In fact, about two thirds (66%) of the US citizens that participated in the Environmental Leader survey were willing to pay a certain premium (up to 5%) for a green product.

It is proven that in todays world eco-friendly and green products sell. However, if you care about this matter, do some research before buying a new laptop or a new cellphone. Maybe you will change your mind.

Shock and Empowerment

I started my journalism program at Michigan State thinking that I would focus mostly on environmental reporting. As I progressed in the program, I realized that it wasn’t such a good fit. Most news organizations are dissolving their teams of environmental reporters, if not removing science from their coverage altogether. The New York Times does an excellent job at it, but – as a privately owned paper – they operate much differently than newspapers and television stations that are part of huge corporations.

The second reason I strayed is because environmental journalism is almost always about large-scale problems and disasters that seem irresolvable. For example, global warming has become one of the top concerns of the human race. But even if there is a multinational effort to reduce the amount of carbon emissions and take other necessary precautions, the effects of human pollution might already be too pervasive.

This presents a problem for the journalism industry, because the audience has a tendency to become desensitized when it is presented with overwhelmingly negative news on a regular basis. People do need a shock in order to change their habits and, say, stop throwing those pop cans in the trash (this is a common act in states where you don’t get the 10 cent deposit back). But when faced with too much shock, people just reel in terror.

People also need to feel that they can make a difference (i.e. – self-efficacy), and that any behavior changes won’t harm their lifestyle or priorities. I think that a combination of shock and empowerment have led to some significant improvements over the past few years. If everyone switches from incandescent bulbs to the twisty fluorescent ones, that could mean a drastic reduction in electric bills and, therefore, usage of coal at power plants. It’s a small step, but a beneficial one.

The other danger is that words, ideas, and actions that were once revolutionary can become watered-down clichés. Many businesses these days advertise “green” or “eco-friendly” practices, without actually living up to or providing any credible evidence for their claims. How do we pick apart the honest companies from the fraudulent ones?

In our first meeting at Ingenex Digital Marketing, we were given the tasks of finding out how to increase the size and scope of the internship, and how to make the internship more eco-friendly. I think I’ll come up with more ideas once I get a better understanding of what digital marketing actually entails (during my two tours in a university, I never had a class in marketing, advertising, or business). However, as I think of ideas to make the internship more eco-friendly, I will keep in mind the necessity of combining shock and self-efficacy to produce real results in the target audience. (Please visit my personal Digital Marketing Blog for updates on my Eco-Friendly Internship experience.)