New Light Bulb Packaging Coming 2011

Starting in the middle of 2011, light bulbs are going to have new packaging required by the federal government. The new packaging design will feature “Lighting Facts”, modeled after the “Nutrition Facts” label that has been on food packages for decades. The reason for change is to further educate consumers about their efficiencies.

Currently, light bulb packaging only gives consumers watt measurements which make it difficult to compare traditional incandescent bulbs to more efficient ones, such as compact fluorescents. A compact fluorescent bulb may be able to produce the same amount of brightness as a traditional bulb, using significantly less wattage.

In addition to wattage, the new labels will report lumens, the basic unit for measuring the flow of light. The labels also will offer estimated yearly energy costs, life expectancy of the bulb (based on three hours of daily use), and inform consumers if the bulb contains mercury.

Essentially, the new light bulb labeling will allow consumers to save money by purchasing the most efficient bulbs based on the information that is now required to be included on the packaging.

Federal Trade Commission Press Release

General Mills To Use Cheerios For Alternative Energy

General Mills, the MN-based food giant, is doing more with their oats than making Cheerios. This Spring, they began construction on a biomass steam boiler at the company’s milling plant in Fridley, MN where it produces oat flour for Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and other cereals. The boiler will be ready next year to burn oat hulls left over from the milling process and convert them into energy, reducing the mill’s carbon footprint by 21%.

The hulls release the same carbon they absorbed from the atmosphere as plants, making the process essentially carbon neutral. General Mills produces 90,000 tons of oat hulls per year from its two mills in Fridley, MN and northeast Minneapolis. It will use about 10% of that to power its Fridley plant. General Mills also sells its oat hulls to the Koda Energy plant in Shakopee, MN. The plant is 100% biomass-powered and produces malt for brewing.

This project is just one example of how food manufacturers are getting creative and discovering new value is the very old energy technology of biomass. The Fridley oat hull burner is General Mills’ first endeavor into using a food waste product as an energy substitute. Companies can save 20-30% on their fuel costs by switching from purchased fuel to waste fuel.

The decision was not as easy as it sounds however. Converting from a gas to a solid-fuel burner that can burn oat hulls is complex and not necessarily cost effective. Natural gas is cheaper than oat hulls today but the prices for natural gas are expected to be greater than oat hulls by the end of 2012 and beyond.

More info:
General Mills Sustainability

Universal Love of Soccer + Need for Energy = sOccket!

Four young women met in a Harvard engineering class in 2008. Having all spent time in Africa as well as other developing countries, they saw the need for energy. In fact, 95% of the population in most African countries is living with no access to electricity. Further, breathing the fumes created from burning kerosene indoors equals the harmful effects of smoking two packs of cigarettes per day (According to World Bank Millennium Goals Report, 2006). The women’s travels also revealed the deep love of soccer around the globe. They decided to fuse the need for energy with the universal love of soccer to create….sOccket.

sOccket is a soccer ball that captures the energy during game play to charge LEDs and batteries. After playing with the ball, the child can return home and use the ball to connect a LED lamp to read, study, or illuminate the home. The ball uses an inductive coil mechanism to generate energy.

sOccket is still in prototyping stage, where 15 minutes of play can light 3 hours of LED light. The ladies will continue beta testing throughout Africa this summer- home of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

More info:
Visit sOccket

Green Up Your Business And Save Money

I was recently inspired by an article I read about how much money Ford saved just by implementing a power management strategy in their offices. The headline read:

“Ford Saves $1.2 Million and Reduces CO2 Emissions by Around 20,000 Tons by Turning Computers Off”

The cost savings and reduced carbon footprint are obtained by developing “Power Profiles” for each PC in the company. When the power profiles are enabled, each PC monitors its usage patterns and determines when the unit can be turned off. Additionally, the PC can detect when a Microsoft Office product is active and is able to save open documents before shutting down.

Why don’t more companies do this? I’m not sure. Everybody wins. The company saves money on their electric bill and less pollution is produced by power plants.

Here’s a few other simple ways to green your business:

1. Recycle: A great place to start. I know it might sound unbelievable but there are companies out there who still do not recycle. Please, find it in your budgets to do so.

2. Reduce Paper: The average office worker uses approximately 10,000 sheets of copy paper per year. Go electronic. Route faxes, memos, and newsletters via email. Set your printer to print double-sided. Make double-sided copies when possible. Preview documents before printing. Only print the pages you need. For more paper reduction tips click here.

3. Carpool: Start a carpooling program or encourage employees to take public transportation when possible.

4. Buy Plants: Plants not only make your office look nicer but as they absorb airborne pollutants and negative ions from computers, whilst emitting oxygen. Plant waste like bark and leaves can also be recycled and used as garden mulch.

5. Lights: Besides turning off lights around the office that are not being used, buy the efficient ones. Use Energy Star-rated lightbulbs and fixtures, which use at least two-thirds less energy than regular lighting.

More on Ford via Treehugger

AT&T Announces ZERO Draw Charger

Did you know that leaving your phone charger plugged into the wall, regardless if your phone is plugged in or not, draws electricity? I didn’t. In fact, most mobile users are unaware of this. In the U.S., it’s enough to power 24,000 homes per year, or brew three to four million cups of coffee each day*.

Introducing AT&T’s Global First Automatic ZERO Draw Charger. Available only in AT&T stores in May 2010, the charger does not waste any power when left plugged in. Additionally, it improves charging efficiency when powering a device. It also features a “block and cable” design for maximum interchangeability, allowing customers to use the same charger for future handsets. Over time this will cut the number of chargers being produced, thus reducing future landfill waste.

How does it work? The Zero Charger works by automatically sensing when a mobile phone is not plugged up to the charger and cutting the power supply from the wall socket. Pretty nifty!

The cost of the unit will be the same as existing replacement chargers which is great news for customers and more reason to change to a greener solution. The charger will be sold in packaging with 100% recycled paper. AT&T recently announced a transition to smaller and more eco-friendly packaging for the wireless device accessories. The change means elimination of more than 60% of the paper and more than 30% of the plastic previously used for AT&T’s accessory products.

*Energy saving calculations based on the following assumptions by AT&T: 277 million wireless users in U.S., minimum one phone per user; user charges device 3 to 4 times per week for 8 hours; 80% of users leave charger plugged in wall socket; average charger wastes 170 mW (0.17 watts) when idle.

View the press release here