Tag Archives: sustainability

A Lamp that Requires a Sacrifice

-Laura Lundberg

There are some very interesting gadgets and gizmos out there that are meant to help keep the world sustainable and reduce the amount of energy humans consume. One of the most interesting new gadgets on the market is something that is 100% sustainable, emits cool colors, and requires just a bit of a sacrifice that really gets people thinking twice about how much energy they use. What’s this item? It’s called the Blood Lamp.

Invented by Mike Thomspon, an English designer based in the Netherlands, Thomspon wanted to make people stop and think  before simply wasting energy. He came up with the idea of this somewhat disturbing green gadget when he was studying for his masters at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. He was researching chemical energy for a project when he discovered the Blood Lamp’s chemical component – luminol.

Luminol is a chemical that forensic scientists use to find traces of blood at crime scenes. Luminol works by reacting with red blood cells, turning the red blood cells a bright, neon blue that glows. While the chemical used to make the lamp work seem simple enough, it’ll be more work to actually get yourself to light it. The lamp works by someone mixing in an activating powder into the glass. Then, all you do is break the top of the glass, cut yourself and a few drops of blood into the glass. Sounds simple enough, but is also extremely daunting and will make you think twice before using this type of lamp.

Thinking twice is exactly what Thompson wanted too. He said in an article for LiveScience that, “It kind of triggered this thought in my mind, that if energy somehow came at a cost to us, then maybe it would make us think differently about the way we use it,” and that the lamp “forces the user to‘rethink how wasteful they are with energy, and how precious it is.” He explained. If you want to see a video of the Blood Lamp in action, you can check it out on YouTube, although we warn you, there is blood.

While the Blood Lamp is a cool idea, and a great way to get people to start really thinking about how much energy they use, one has to think that there is an easier and just as green way to get light – and light that isn’t a weird neon blue color either. Still, I guess if worst comes to worst (perhaps in a post-apocalyptic world) one might be all too willing to cut their fingers to get a little light.

Harnessing the Waves

– Laura Lundberg

Many inventions of renewable technologies are on the rise while a great number of organizations are working towards finding a clean source of energy that will sustain our way of life after our coal and oil resources deplete. There is one power that has been tapped into that could sustain us far longer than coal and oil, and it too harnesses a natural source of energy. This is the natural power of the ocean and its waves.

Harnessing the waves energy is something that has only recently been invested in. While there have been attempts to capture this energy dating back as early as 1890, it was in 2008 that the very first wave power farm opened on the coast of Portugal. While wave power is not as efficient as wind energy, it is something that is open to scientific research and has much room for improvement.

Here in the Northwest, Ocean Power Technologies has bought into the idea. The company deploys buoys into the ocean, which then capture the energy of the oceanic currents and convert the current energy into low cost electricity. The energy is then transmitted via an underwater cable and the electricity from the waves is delivered to a power grid onshore.

There is another project in the works, also by Ocean Power Technologies, to build the first commercial wave farm in the US, harvesting energy off of the Pacific Ocean’s currents. This wave farm will be based in Reedsport, Oregon, and could potentially generate enough electricity to power several hundred homes in the state.  The wave farm is still in the process of being constructed, and although it is in the first stages of development as far as scientific research goes, Ocean Power Technologies hopes that this wave farm can open the door to more discoveries about wave power harvesting to make it more productive and cost efficient in the future.

Stairway to Sustainability

– Laura Lundberg

By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the world will be living in urban areas. This means that the amount of arable land for farming is rapidly shrinking. With the population growing, more people are moving out of cities and into open areas. We could soon reach a total population of three billion people residing in these urban areas, and an estimated two billion acres of farming land needed in order to feed everyone. Therefore, the implementation a new method of farming shouldn’t be horizontal. It should be vertical.

Vertical farming has become a popular idea, and it’ simple: create a completely self-sustainable skyscraper in an urban area that will house and grow agriculture crops. Through this method, all the water will be recycled, and a different crop will be grown on each floor of the building.  There are several benefits to vertical farming starting with crops being able to grow year round, eliminating the seasonal harvest schedule. Also, because the crops would be grown in a controlled environment, much healthier fruits and vegetables will be produced, meaning fewer pesticides. Vertical farming will also create more jobs as crops will be grown in a shorter amount of time. Finally, this method would let all the current farmland return to its natural state, healing the ecosystem at large. Essentially, this method of farming would yield more benefits than it would obstacles. While it will change the way we have traditionally farmed for centuries, it will provide a better, more sustainable future.

Dickson Despommier, a professor at Columbia University, is one of the many supporters of vertical farming. Despommier recently created a video for GOOD Magazine where he walks the audience through the process of vertical farming, and explains how important it is to consider investing in the idea. Watch the video here!

BIG IDEAS: Dickson Despommier’s Vertical Farming

Building a Green Future

– Laura Lundberg

In the downtown area of Eugene, just east of University of Oregon is a house under construction. However, this isn’t just any house. It a renovation project by a student run group the Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Living, otherwise known as CASL. Their Moss Street home will serve as a low impact living-learning center that will aim to educate students, faculty, as well as the community on the benefits of sustainable living.

There are several student organizers that have been planning the renovations on the house, and then they work with volunteers on the weekend to implement the weekly renovations. CASL has had possession of the Moss house since January of 2009 when the UO donated the house to the group. Rebecca Seward, one of the student co-directors for CASL, told me a bit about how the renovations of the Moss house are coming along. “We have currently completed the demolition phase of the renovation and are beginning to move forward on the interior renovation.  This term we are really focused on completing the front porch renovation and working on the exterior of the house,” She explained.

CASL was first imagined when Jo Rodgers came up with the idea to build a low-impact house that uses technology and sustainability to function. What began as a senior thesis project in 2003 has become one of the most innovative environmental groups on campus. CASL offers architecture students the chance to design a house that is functional and completely sustainable. “I chose to get involved with CASL because it represented a lot of the lifestyle choices I strive to include in my life every day.  As an architecture student, CASL is an amazing opportunity for me to work on a real project while completing my degree,” Seward explained.

When asked what one of the best things about sustainable living and the Moss house were, Seward responded,

“One of the main intentions for the Moss Street house is to be a resource to the community and help provide guidance to those looking to integrate more sustainability into their lives.  We envision the house as being a place where we can honestly tell people about the successes and failures of the decisions we made in all aspects of the house, including materials, technologies, affordability, and feasibility.   While we are major advocates for large scale green technologies, like alternative energy and greywater purification, we recognize that those are not the only sustainable changes people can make in their lives.  Moving toward a sustainable lifestyle often begins with a few small changes and we want to be as helpful as we can in helping to guide those looking to take those steps.”

Check out the website here to learn more about CASL’s history, mission, and the project’s progression. For those who are interested in getting involved with CASL, you only need to attend one of the organizational meetings that are held every Wednesday at 7pm in Lawrence hall in room 100.

Good Earth: Home, Garden & Living Show Promotes Sustainable Living with Fun, Interesting Exhibits

– Mike Munoz


Two weekends back, residents from all over the Northwest visited the Lane Events Center to learn about sustainable living, organic foods and chicken farming.

For the 6th year in a row, the Good Earth: Home, Garden & Living Show came to the Eugene to teach residents how to lead more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyles. The show featured over 250 exhibits and 65 seminars as well as live entertainment and art. The event center was broken into several sections, including home improvement, gardening, food, and recycling.

The south side of the event center featured the home and gardening sections, where companies introduced eco-friendly home improvement tools, varying from window installations to recycled yard furniture. The companies Rexius and Willamette Graystone had large models on site that showed off their environmentally friendly landscapes. Another company, named By the Yard, displayed lawn chairs and tables made entirely out of recycled milk jugs.

The gardening section was also home to one of the more unique displays of the show. An exhibit, simply titled “Chicken Farmer, had custom chicken coops and garden beds on display with live hens and rosters. With the roosters making their presence known to the entire convention center every 10 minutes, the display certainly drew a crowd. The purpose of the exhibit was to raise awareness about some of the advantages of raising chickens in an urban environment, including free eggs and free fertilizer.

The show also featured a fairly large food section, in which vendors displayed dozens of organic coffees, spices and wines. A local Eugene company, The Divine Cupcake, offered featured tower displays of their organic and vegan cupcakes. This cupcake café offers a delivery service as well as custom options for their cupcakes such as gluten free or soy free. The Divine Cupcake is home to some strange and unique flavors such as the “Thai Me Up” cupcake, where they use peanut curry for flavoring the cake. Or try the “Swizzle Stick” which is topped with cayenne pepper.

Finally, the north section of the event center included art, live entertainment and food. Children and parents flocked to the Cascades Raptor Center’s (see a FLUX article on the center here) exhibit on birds of prey, where kids had the opportunity to get up close and personal with hawks and falcons.  The north hall also featured various art exhibits, including large sculptures made out of scrap metal by Ian Beyer Metals.

With hundreds of helpful exhibits on sustainable living and entertainment for all ages, the Good Earth: Home, Garden & Living Show proved to be a success for the 6th consecutive year.

Coming Soon: Free Water

– Laura Lundberg

With the issues of climate change, Global Warming, and the ocean’s acidity level on the rise, sustainability seems to be a growing issue and a fast-paced trend. The University of Oregon is ranked as one of the top green colleges in the United States, and students have been continuing to try and make their campus even more sustainable in the past years.

As of mid-November, the proposal for a new Student Sustainability Center to be created in the new EMU was passed, offering the various sustainability groups on campus a hub for their campaigns. The Climate Justice League is one of the groups that brought up the proposal for a new student sustainability center. The Climate Justice League is a relatively new group to campus. It was started fall of 2009 and has made its presence known on campus with their innovative campaigns for environmental change on campus.

One of the Climate Justice League’s most prevalent campaigns is the “Take Back the Tap” campaign. Rachel Lytton, a campaign coordinator for the “Take Back the Tap” told me a bit about the campaign.

“Take Back the Tap’s ultimate goal is to discontinue the sales and distribution of bottled water on the University of Oregon campus,” she explained. They’ve made a decent amount of progress on this campaign in the past year, getting ever closer to their goal. “Take Back the Tap recently gained the support of the ASUO, which was a big win for Take Back the Tap and the Climate Justice League because it gets the campaign closer to being passed by the University of Oregon Senate,” she said. She also told me that the campus will hopefully be bottled water free by the end of the Spring 2011 term. Once this passes,  water bottles will no longer be in vending machines on campus, which will reduce the University’s waste considerably. “Currently, the housing department at the University of Oregon throws away about 175,000 water bottles every two months and the Food Service sells 3 – 4 kinds of bottled water. All this waste will be significantly reduced – if not eliminated – if Take Back the Tap passes,” she said.

Still, if Take Back the Tap passes, it will not be an overnight change. “The Climate Justice League supplies reusable water bottles to students who don’t have their own reusable water bottles. We’ve also installed around 30 – 40 water spigots throughout campus for students to refill their water bottles,” Rachel explained. The Climate Justice League is also creating maps to place around campus to direct students to the spigots.

Take Back the Tap has also written a petition for students and faculty to sign in order to show the University of Oregon Senate that the campus community supports the removal of water bottles on campus.

“Gaining support from the community is one of the most important things to making the Take Back the Tap’s goal a reality,” Rachel said. With the idea of sustainability becoming more present on campus, the Climate Justice League hopes to make more changes to the campus in order to make it more environmental.

The Climate Justice League welcomes new members every Tuesday in Straub 146 at 7 pm.