From the Depths: Can you harness the power of the earth to heat and cool your home?

With such high-profile institutions and individuals as the Philadelphia Zoo, Friends Center and even Phillies reliever Ryan Madson all going gaga for geothermal, it looks like there may be a trend in the making for the future of heating and cooling in Philadelphia. Geothermal systems, designed to exploit the fact that the Earth maintains a near-constant temperature throughout the year, offer high efficiencies and big energy savings, but with price tags to match.
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Little Green Giants: The Sheridan Street Houses are changing the face of affordable housing

The 1800 Block of Sheridan Street in North Philadelphia defies the expectations of what affordable housing looks like. The homes aren’t suburban style, semi-detached houses, or the 1950s high-rises they replaced.  Instead, you’ll find a block of sleekly designed, eco-friendly homes.
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Recycling Challenge: Yard Waste

FACT

Yard waste, consisting of grass, leaves and other garden debris, comprises an estimated 18 percent of the annual municipal waste stream.

PROBLEM

Sending yard waste to the landfill puts an unnecessary seasonal burden on the municipal garbage collection system.  Leaf waste can account for as much as 60 percent to 80 percent of the waste stream in the fall, and grass clippings can make up 50 percent.

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Get the LEDs Out: Is this blossoming technology the future of lighting?

Last may, 500 exhibitors and 24,000 visitors descended upon Philadelphia for Lightfair, the annual international trade show for the $30 billion lighting industry.  The hot topic? Which new energy-efficient lighting technology will keep our homes bright once 2007’s Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) takes effect in 2012. It’s a race to win the hearts and minds of consumers who are disillusioned by the shortcomings of compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, which were supposed to dethrone incandescent bulbs, but instead turned some consumers off with their light quality, lack of dimmability and mercury concerns.
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Recycling Challenge: Construction Waste

FACT

Building-related construction and demolition waste totals approximately 170 million tons per year, roughly two-thirds of all non-industrial solid waste generation in the U.S.

PROBLEM

Total annual construction and demolition waste (“C&D waste” in the biz) equates to 3.2 pounds of building-related materials per person in the U.S., per day. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 52 percent of this ends up in a landfill. Sources of building-related C&D debris in the waste stream include demolition (approximately 48 percent of the annual waste stream), renovation (44 percent) and new construction (8 percent). It is economically viable to recycle the majority of this waste, as the cost to transport and dispose of C&D waste can be more than 2 percent of a project’s cost.

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No Such Thing?: Believe it or not, electric vehicles are coming to Philadelphia

For years, the electric vehicle has been mentioned in hushed tones, believed to be the second coming of sorts for our car-dependent society, a clean-running innovation that would allow us to keep up our driving habit without that messy foreign-oil guilt. Yet electric cars have seemed as mythical as Sasquatch—often spoken of, but rarely, if ever, seen in the wild. That’s about to change for Philadelphians. In October, 16 of these lean, green driving machines will be hitting Philadelphia streets thanks to PhillyCarShare (PCS), the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP).
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Recycling Challenge: Eyeglasses

FACT: More than 4 million pairs of eyeglasses are thrown away each year in North America.

According to the World Health Organization, 1 billion people who need glasses lack access to them. In developing countries, and here in the U.S., inaccessibility means that these people are losing educational opportunities because they can’t see clearly to read, and they are excluded from productive working lives, thus suffering economic and social consequences. The cost of glasses in developing nations is high, frequently exceeding three months’ salary. Most bespectacled Americans have at least one old pair of glasses sitting in a drawer in their house. Instead of becoming a dust magnet—or worse, going to a landfill—those specs could have a second life improving someone else’s.

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Recycling Challenge: Cell Phone Chargers

FACT: Globally, 51,000 to 82,000 tons of cell phone charger waste is generated per year.

PROBLEM: One hundred million cell phones become obsolete each year and, in most cases, so do their chargers. The European Commission has recently solved this problem for residents of the European Union by persuading 10 major cell phone manufacturers to sign an agreement that takes effect this year to make a universal charger for all phones. Unfortunately for those of us living on this side of the Atlantic, without governmental pressure to change, cell phone manufacturers are in no rush to provide the same waste-reducing technology to the American market.

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Recycling Challenge: Metal Clothes Hangers

FACT: 3.5 billion metal hangers, the equivalent of 200 million pounds of steel, are used each year by the dry cleaning industry alone.

Problem: Metal (or wire) hangers are the scourge of the recycling industry. In addition to the low percentage of steel reclaimed per hanger, they can catch on recycling equipment and cause jams and damage.

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