Tuesday, May 27, 2008

button ideas

C.A.R.E. (campus animal rights educators) gives out vegan/animal rights related buttons. I decided to make a couple of designs this time around. Going on the "animals are my friends; I don't eat my friends" idea I came up with this button, which Max thinks is sexual...

This is my favorite phrase, because I think it really captures the idea of veganism, although the image isn't terribly cute or pretty. I saved the image in layers, so I might go back and change the background. Playing around with distortion effects I stumbled upon the lower design. Both are kinda cool.

This is by far my favorite based on how they turned out. From the last time we made buttons, my favorite said "veggies are dope." I tried to expand on that idea.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Searching for the Holy Grail of Alternative Energies

This is an assignment I did from my Creating a Sustainable Society class.

Imagine twenty-foot tornados attached to nuclear power plants, fields of corn and sugarcane produced not as food but as ethanol, ever more complicated devices to trap sun beams, tidal motion and wind currents, methane captured from the melting ice caps… The list of fantastic new sources of clean energy goes on, but which one should we invest in?

The answer may be more complicated than we think, and it might not just be producing energy. Three important principles shape the future of energy: negawatts, diversity, and regionally specific energy plans.


As it turns out, not using the energy in the first place is the cheapest and cleanest ‘source’ of energy. Negawatts is the term used to describe a unit of saved energy, and it’s not a new idea. Energy efficient technologies already exist across the line: everything from cars with better gas mileage to programmable thermostats. People and companies tend to shy away from these technologies because of long return times on initial investments, but solutions to this problem may be just around the corner.

While buying a new and more efficient water heater may be an investment that is unfavorable for a homeowner due to budget constraints, the government sees it differently. Just last year the US Department of Energy awarded $574 million in financial assistance to business, industry, universities, and others for energy conservation projects. Some utilities are considering offering similar financial assistance instead of building new power plants. As it turns out, investing in energy efficiency costs an estimated 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, whereas building and operating a nuclear power plant costs 5.2 cents per kilowatt-hour.


Surprisingly, the best answer to renewable energy isn’t one source but several. Many great ideas for producing clean energy are not feasible at a large scale, such as using exercise equipment to generate electricity, because they don’t produce enough. Even solar panels cannot replace fossil fuels because they do not provide a constant baseline of power. Despite these disadvantages, many such ideas should still be implemented because the combination of technologies is cheaper and cleaner than any one energy source.

Localized power plants send electricity through several transformers and many miles of wire before it reaches your home, and during this process some amount of energy is lost. Micro energy systems, which produce small amounts of energy at many non-localized areas, avoid this problem reducing the overall energy demand without changing consumption at all. And a diverse portfolio of energy sources reduces potential damage from unforeseen side effects by limiting the amount of harm any one technology can cause.

Regionally Specific

Available natural resources differ between regions, so it would make sense to implement different methods of generating power. While this concept seems obvious, it may be tricky to know what all of the energy opportunities in a region are. Did you know that energy can be produced from cow manure? States need to think creatively about their options when implementing energy plans.

These energy principles can be applied to homes as well. When something around the house needs to be replaced, we can make the choice to spend that little bit more for the efficient option. I would also highly suggest taking advantage of the government’s willingness to help finance energy conserving improvements. And if for those us ready to take the investment plunge, such as installing solar panels on the roof, we think about regionally appropriate micro energy systems.