Green is not just the color of money, it is the color of social-responsibility

Monday, August 30, 2010

Alternative Energy: The Bloom Box

 Large corporations in California have been testing a new device that can generate power on the spot, without being connected to the electric grid. They're saying it's efficient, clean, and saves them money.    Will we have one in every home someday?

Silicon Valley startup Bloom Energy has invented what some are calling the power plant in a box, a little square shape device which is about the size of a brick is said to be able to power an entire home.

With the Bloom Box You'll generate your own electricity wirelessly with out the need for addition equipment in the home, Bloom Energy ultimate goal with the box is to get rid of the need for big power plants and transmission line grids. Co-founder and chief executive, K.R. Sridhar, while working as a director of the Space Technologies Laboratory at the University of Arizona, was approached by NASA and asked him to find a way to make life sustainable on Mars. The first project his lab came up with was a device that would use solar power and Martian water to drive a reactor cell that generated oxygen to breathe and hydrogen to power vehicles, from that came the Bloom Box.
Breakthrough technology that will revolutionize the way we think of energy

The Bloom Box is a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) that uses liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons (such as gasoline, diesel or propane produced from fossil or bio sources) to generate electricity on the site where it will be used, According to the company, a single cell (one 100mm × 100mm metal alloy plate between two ceramic layers) generates 25 watts.

In an interview with CBS, company co-founder K.R. Sridhar was asked about whether the box is intended to replace the utility companies he responded by saying, "The Bloom box is intended to replace the grid…for its customers. It's cheaper than the grid, it's cleaner than the grid." So far the small startup claims to have 20 large corporations as customers testing Bloom boxes in California. FedEx, Walmart, Google to name a few are all on board.

Watch CBS Video

Many skeptics would point out the fact that fuel cells have underdelivered on their promise over the years but the company is worried and is very confident about their device. "Our system can use fossil fuels like natural gas. Our system can use renewable fuels like landfill gas, bio-gas," Sridhar said in an interview, Bloom's corporate boxes cost about $700,000 to $800,000 and have a three- to five-year payback period, the company estimates. As the device begins the mass production phase each home sized Bloom device will cost under $3000, "We are twice as efficient as the U.S. national grid, which means we can produce the same amount of electricity for half the fuel and half the carbon footprint," Sridhar says.

Many Analyst are predicting that Bloom could do very well in U.S. states that subsidize alternative energy technologies, such as California, New York, and Connecticut. We have to wait and see what impact the Bloom Box will have on our ever growing need for energy. Bloom boxes will power not just our richest companies, but remote villages in Africa and all our houses said Sridhar.  Source

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Friday, August 20, 2010

U.S. Urges Global Cooperation

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) has established six international initiatives that will bring climate change adaptation, national security, sustainable development and public health at the forefront of pressing global concerns.

Lisa Jackson, the agency’s administrator, announced these priorities at a conference of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation in Mexico. She urged for international collaboration to tackle global environmental issues in the next few years.

The agency aims to create strong environmental institutions and legal structures to highlight environment protection in current regulatory and enforcement systems. It will collaborate with countries such as India, Ghana, Kenya and Brazil to spur the stringent enforcement of effective environmental protection regulatory systems.

E.P.A. already set out a trade and environmental partnership with Chile through a cooperation agreement that will promote the development and implementation of environmental practices and technologies, especially in the business sector.

The agency will also team up with national governments to limit climate change pollutants, such as methane from landfills and black carbon from stoves. Such pollutants are damaging, especially in vulnerable regions such as the Himalayan glaciers and the Artic.

In line with this, the agency will strive to improve air quality in rapidly developing urban areas to reduce pollutants that aggravate asthma and other respiratory diseases.

E.P.A. will also work with the United Nations Environmental Programme to reduce the effects of pesticides and other toxic chemicals, as well as collaborate with the United States Congress to strengthen chemical laws.

To ensure the availability of clean drinking water to the local population, the agency will install wastewater treatment and sanitation systems, particularly in overburdened and underserved areas such as those along the United States-Mexican border.

Lastly, the agency will deal with electronic waste by focusing on ways to improve the design, production, handling, recycling and proper disposal of electronic products.

“Pollution doesn’t stop at international borders, and neither can our environmental and health protections. The local and national environmental issues of the past are now global challenges,” Ms. Jackson stressed.

“These priorities will guide the E.P.A.’s work on our shared goals of facilitating commerce, promoting sustainable development, protecting vulnerable populations and engaging diplomatically around the world,”      Source : Ecoseed

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Empire State Building Goes Green, One Window at a Time

How does a Depression-era skyscraper go green? For the Empire State Building, which is in the middle of $550 million renovation that includes about $100 million in energy-efficient upgrades, all 6,514 windows must be replaced. And that’s no easy task.

As The Journal’s Anton Troianovski reports, the greening of the iconic 79-year-old tower has become a platform for Anthony Malkin, the real-estate scion who runs the building, to criticize as insufficient popular programs for assessing the environmental sustainability of buildings. If the world follows the U.S. lead on energy use, he told the audience at a real-estate panel earlier this summer, “We’re all going to die and we’ll go to war along the way.”

For the Empire State Building’s windows, Malkin brought in Serious Materials to handle a pane-by-pane upgrade. The Silicon Valley-based building materials company is transforming the old, inefficient windows into “super-insulating” units, a sort of glass sandwich that combines the existing panes with a mixture of inert gases and film. The finished product is a window anywhere from 250% to 400% more efficient than the windows they replace, according to the company.

“Dirty little secret: double-pane windows aren’t all that efficient,” says Serious Materials CEO Kevin Surace.

The replacement windows, which use what Surace calls a “suspended film system,” break up the convection current between the inside and outside of a building. That means less heat sneaks in through the windows on hot days when the air-conditioning is running, and warm air from inside has a harder time leaking out when it’s cold outside.

The team of workers tasked with the window upgrade spend their days removing, cleaning and re-fabricating the building’s 12-year-old double-pane windows. The process, which began in March and is expected to run until October, is projected to reduce solar heat gain by more than half and save $400,000 each year in energy costs.

The window work is being done on site, in an office-turned-workshop on the Empire State Building’s fifth floor. Malkin estimates that keeping the process in-house saves $2,300 per window. The Serious Materials workspace buzzes between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m., processing 75 windows per day in a space roughly the size of a Manhattan apartment. The room is so snug that engineers for the project had to shrink some of their equipment to fit in the space.

Keeping the workshop on site ensures the windows are out of their frames for just about 20 hours before the upgraded window is ready. The process is designed to keep waste at a minimum: just 4% of the building’s existing windows are being discarded, and only the gasket surrounding the original windows winds up in the trash.

Workers remove the windows from office spaces at night and bring them downstairs to the workshop. Once there, the windows are removed from their frames and peeled apart like Oreo cookies before being cleaned. The first cleaning is manual, using razor blades and pumices, followed by a wash with a chemical solution and finally water.

The deconstructed windows are then fitted with new steel spacers, treated with a metallized film and baked flat in an oven at 205 degrees. The windows are then sealed with a mixture of Kyrpton and Argon gas. Finally, the upgraded windows are put back — with the help of careful but firm malleting — into their original aluminum frames.

The on-site re-use and refabrication of the Empire State Building’s windows is unprecedented on a project of this size. But Paul Rode, the project executive from Johnson Controls Inc. who is overseeing the retrofit, believes it could become a popular model in the industry. “I’m never waiting for product. If a problem ever comes up, we don’t have to call someplace that’s 500 miles away,” he says. “Logistically, that’s just what you want in the construction business.”   Source:  Wall Street Journal

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Solar Panel Site Dedicated in Hopes of Creating New Jobs

More than one megawatt worth of solar panels spread across a hillside in East Knox County was touted as a demonstration of the potential of the power of the sun, both as clean-energy source and economic engine, during an event Thursday dedicating the installation.

Set on a five-acre lot on Andrew Johnson Highway, the 4,608 solar panels can produce nearly 1.2 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 125 homes. The system was built by the Natural Energy Group in partnership with Efficient Energy of Tennessee, and more than 150 representatives from industry, education, government and research institutions attended the event.

“A couple of years ago, there probably weren’t a lot of people who would have envisioned this built here,” said Chad Duty, solar technologies manager at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of a number of local officials who spoke at the dedication.

Tennessee has seen unprecedented growth in the solar business with the introduction of state and federal incentives for solar power generation and an expansion of TVA’s buy-back program for the power generated by solar and other renewable technologies. Tennessee also has attracted a couple of large solar manufacturers to the state, adding to existing companies that include Sharp Electronics, which built the panels for the local megawatt array at its plant in Memphis.

“Not only is this project healthy for the environment … together we are helping create new, clean jobs for the state of Tennessee and for the nation,” Michael Lasky, director of reseller channel sales for Sharp’s solar energy solutions group, told the crowd.

Tennessee is among several states quickly adopting solar, said Lasky, and Sharp’s Memphis plant recently increased its employment by 50 percent to accommodate the new demand.

“Back in February of this year is when you saw this uptick and it’s never looked back,” he said in an interview following the event, during which the company unveiled its 2 millionth panel manufactured in Tennessee.

Natural Energy Group, a startup investment firm focused on the solar market, backed construction of the system in an effort to attract customers willing to invest in similar-sized systems. Natural Energy Group will offer those customers financing for the projects, and several are in the works, said Robbie Thomas, president of Efficient Energy of Tennessee and an owner of Natural Energy Group.

But the site will be a resource for local research and educational organizations as well, he said. A building on the property is outfitted with classroom space for school tours, and Thomas said the company is working with Cleveland State Community College and Pellissippi State Community College to use the site as part of solar installer training programs.

Researchers at TVA and ORNL also will use the installation as a measure of the potential for solar technology in this region of the country, Duty said, adding that it will help the state lure more solar business.

“It gives us important data to talk to companies about coming to Tennessee,” he said. “The Southeast is really going to be one of the next hot spots for solar.”

Speakers were quick to point out Tennessee’s first megawatt solar project is somewhat diminutive compared with solar deployment in other states such as California and New Jersey. One of Sharp’s recent customers is building an 18-megawatt solar system in Ontario, Canada, with plans to expand to 40 megawatts of generation.

“This is kind of an interesting peek into the future,” said Rudy Shankar, TVA vice president for technology innovation. “This is the proverbial ‘one small step.’ ”

Mintha Roach, president and CEO of KUB, related a story to the crowd about a conversation she had on a recent vacation to California with someone who immediately recognized Tennessee’s solar accomplishments and said he’d read about the project.

She said the man, upon learning the size of the system, assured her, “ ‘It’s a start, but you’re going to get there.’ ” 
From Knoxvillebiz

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Green Truck Convoy Carries Message

The Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation (SBIDC) launched the first ever Green Truck Convoy Tuesday aimed at promoting the use of sustainable fuels and cleaner, more efficient hybrid engines among companies using trucks or buses in the New York area.

The convoy, which rolled through the streets of South Brooklyn, included trucks from several Brooklyn businesses utilizing green technologies and practices — including Quadrozzi Concrete, Greg’s Express, Metro Fuel and Movers Not Shakers.

The convoy started from the SBIDC’s Red Hook office, at 402 Van Brunt St., and ended at Sahadi Fine Foods, at 43rd and 1st Avenue in Sunset Park.

Local supporting not-for-profits on board for the ride included EWVIDCO, South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation (SBLDC), and UPROSE, an organization promoting environmental justice and sustainable practices, which drove its own highly decorated hybrid tour bus in the procession.

“Most residents aren’t aware of local businesses’ pro-active stance when it comes to the environment,” says John Quadrozzi, Jr., president of Quadrozzi Concrete and the board member of SBIDC who envisioned and helped organize the convoy. “This is a fun way to demonstrate our commitment to providing essential services in the cleanest, most eco- and neighborhood-friendly way possible.”

Interestingly, these companies have initiated green agendas on their own, without prompting from legislation or enforcement.  Read Full Story

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Friday, August 6, 2010

The Three R's

The Three R's and I don't mean  Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic.

I am talking about The Three R's of the Environment.

Every year, Americans throw away 50 billion food and drink cans, 27 billion glass bottles and jars, and 65 million plastic and metal jar and can covers. More than 30% of our waste is packaging materials.

Where does it all go? Some 85% of our garbage is sent to a dump, or landfill, where it can take from 100 to 400 years for things like cloth and aluminum to decompose. Glass has been found in perfect condition after 4,000 years in the earth!

We are quickly running out of space. It's time to learn the three R's of the environment: reduce, reuse, recycle. Then practice what you preach: don't buy things you don't need or items that come in wasteful packaging or that cannot be recycled. Reuse and recycle whatever you can.

Do you know what reduce, reuse, and recycle stands for or what even it is suppose to do for the environment? Some people think that it is just a simple thing that you do when you bring in the aluminum cans and plastic bottles to recycling centers but you have to do a little more than that if you want to truly understand what this phrase really means. The three R's can bring some money to your household and peace of mind because you are helping out the environment. There are some other things that you can do in order to reduce, reuse, and recycle that will benefit you and your surroundings.

When you think of the phrase reduce, reuse, and recycle, it brings many thoughts to your head because there are so many things that you can do to use these three little words to make an impact on the environment.

Fortunately, going green also goes hand-in-hand with saving money.  Here is some advice for doing your part for the environment - and your pocketbook year-round: 

The word reduce means to cut down or slowdown on the material or items that you use in everyday life that could be harmful to the environment. If you think of things that you can cut back on in everyday life you will be doing what the phrase says.


Reducing the amount of waste you produce is the best way to help the environment. There are lots of ways to do this. For example:
  • Buy products that don't have a lot of packaging. Some products are wrapped in many layers of plastic and paperboard even though they don't need to be. You can also look for things that are packed in materials that don't require a lot of energy or resources to produce. Some products will put that information right on their labels.
  • Instead of buying something you're not going to use very often, see if you can borrow it from someone you know.
  • Cars use up energy and cause pollution. Some ways to reduce the environmental damage caused by cars include carpooling with friends, walking, taking the bus, or riding your bike instead of driving.
  • Start a compost bin. Some people set aside a place in their yard where they can dispose of certain food and plant materials. Over time, the materials will break down through a natural process called decomposition. The compost is good for the soil in your yard and means that less garbage will go to the landfill.
  • You can reduce waste by using a computer! Many newspapers and magazines are online now. Instead of buying the paper versions, you can find them on the Internet. Also remember that you should print out only what you need. Everything you print that you don't really need is a waste of paper.
  • Save energy by turning off lights that you are not using.
  • Save water by turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth.

 * Save money and reduce the eco-impact of your housework by creating and using your own furniture polish. Mix 1 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon each of orange and lemon essential oils in a measuring cup and pour the polish into a small squirt bottle. You can reuse an old shampoo or conditioner bottle with a flip top.

Now let us take the second word in the phrase reuse. In order to reuse as something you must have a container that you can use over and over again. This means you do not throw it away just because you used what was contained inside the container. If people can start reusing things on a regular basis, it will cut down on the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. This will be a good thing for all the parties involved and the earth because it would be cutting down on the amount of waste along the roadsides and in people's homes.


Instead of throwing things away, try to find ways to use them again! For example:

  • Bring cloth sacks to the store with you instead of taking home new paper or plastic bags. You can use these sacks again and again. You'll be saving some trees!
  • Plastic containers and reusable lunch bags are great ways to take your lunch to school without creating waste.
  • Coffee cans, shoe boxes, margarine containers, and other types of containers people throw away can be used to store things or can become fun arts and crafts projects. Use your imagination!
  • Don't throw out clothes, toys, furniture, and other things that you don't want anymore. Somebody else can probably use them. You can bring them to a center that collects donations, give them to friends, or even have a yard sale.
  • Use all writing paper on both sides.
  • Use paper grocery bags to make book covers rather than buying new ones.
  • Use silverware and dishes instead of disposable plastic utensils and plates.
  • Store food in reusable plastic containers.

Now the last word in that phrase is recycle. Recycling materials can be the best thing because it can cut down on the amount of garbage that ends up in the world's landfills; it can also mean that it can cut down on the amount of money you spend in your home. If you are a person that does recycle then you know the benefits that come along with recycling.


Many of the things we use every day, like paper bags, soda cans, and milk cartons, are made out of materials that can be recycled. Recycled items are put through a process that makes it possible to create new products out of the materials from the old ones.

In addition to recycling the things you buy, you can help the environment by buying products that contain recycled materials. Many brands of paper towels, garbage bags, greeting cards, and toilet paper, to name a few examples, will tell you on their labels if they are made from recycled materials.

In some towns you can leave your recyclables in bins outside your home, and a truck will come and collect them regularly. Other towns have recycling centers where you can drop off the materials you've collected. Things like paper and plastic grocery bags, and plastic and aluminum cans and bottles can often be brought to the grocery store for recycling. Whatever your system is, it's important to remember to rinse out and sort your recyclables!

Get creative with your recycling. Find new ways to use items that you might otherwise throw out. For example, instead of disposing of the cardboard tube once the roll of paper towels is done, why not use it to store and protect your child's homework assignments or artwork? Simply roll up the papers, slip them inside the tube, and label the tube according to subject.

If you put all three of these words together you get the phrase reduce, reuse and recycle that can save you money as well as a real good feeling because you are doing something for the environment.

Recycling helps to protect the environment
to say it different:
Recycling helps to protect all of us!

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Going Green and Being Eco-Friendly to Cut Your Home Expenses

Everyone wants to cut costs these days and trim their household budgets. And recent events such as the oil spill in the Gulf Coast also remind us of the importance of protecting the environment.

Fortunately, these two goals are not mutually exclusively. There are numerous simple, yet environmentally-sound, things you can do at home which will also save money.

Become More Energy Efficient

The average U.S. home spends about $1,900 a year on energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Heating and cooling our homes and apartments often is the single largest expense on Americans' energy bills. Yet, plenty of energy can be wasted around the house - costing hundreds of dollars per year. To shave your energy costs, try these strategies:

* Lower your thermostat one degree (This simple step can save as much as 10% of your heating bill)
* Take shorter showers (This will cut your water and heating bills).
* Install a low-flow showerhead (These are cheap to buy and the energy and water savings you'll reap will quickly outmatch what you paid for the showerhead).
* Put a faucet aerator on each faucet (These are inexpensive to buy, yet do a great job of conserving heat and water, while simultaneously keeping water pressure high).
* Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (These often last longer and use less wattage than incandescent bulbs)
* Unplug appliances that aren't in use (Most people don't realize that just because you turn an appliance off, doesn't mean it's not still using power)

Use the 3 R's: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse

If you want to go green and save green, one way to accomplish both objectives is by remembering
                                          "The 3 R's: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse."

This concept is all about diminishing our consumption of things we don't truly need - by using these we already have or finding alternative methods to satisfy our needs.

The point of "recycle, reduce, reuse" is to get all of us - individuals, businesses, municipalities and others - to use goods that are already manufactured rather than to keep using up the world's limited raw materials to make new or replacement goods.

So if I asked you whether you recycle, chances are those newspapers or plastic bottles in your home might spring to mind. But think beyond that. Consider also anything you might buy and bring home - from books to power tools - and then, consider borrowing instead of buying to reduce your consumption.

For instance, borrow reading materials from the library instead of buying books will not only save you money, it will also cut down on the ink and paper needed to print new books.

Also, instead of spending hundreds of dollars on big-ticket power tools, think about sharing these items or borrowing them from a neighbor, or perhaps renting such tools as needed from a local hardware store.

Speaking of power tools, let's say you cut your grass or you happen to be a gardener. You probably already know that composting helps improve soil so it holds more water and encourages plants to thrive.

But did you also know you could easily save big bucks on fertilizers and other additives? Just try this simple trick: Instead of throwing out food scraps and kitchen waste, toss them into a heap of compost - along with those grass clippings you cut. Just be careful to avoid composting things that can attract unwanted pests, such as meat, raw rice, bread or milk products, and cooking oil.

Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions

It's not just big businesses that should be concerned about greenhouse gas emissions. So should individuals and families.

Sure, your household isn't some manufacturing plant that may be letting off gobs of emissions, but you may be unwittingly releasing more toxins into the environment than you realize - and costing yourself money in the process.

According to Columbia University, just tightening your windows you can tighten up your budget too. Experts from Columbia say that by having energy efficient windows, the average household would save $150 annually, and would reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by about 4,300 pounds per year.

Can't afford to replace those old drafty windows? A cheaper, easier tactic is to simply insulate your windows during the colder months using transparent film that keeps the heat in and the cold out.

Additionally, what about those heating ducts in your house? Experts estimate that if just one in 10 households used current technology to upgrade their inefficient heating systems, we could keep 17 billions pounds of pollution out of the air.

Another low-cost alternative here can provide a quick fix: Just get your heating vents and ducts cleaned regularly - and that will save you money and do your part for the environment too.

Whether you take small steps or big ones, realize that each one of us can help benefit the environment on a day-to-day basis. Doing so will not only make things better for future generations, it will also help your bank account today.  Source

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Living a Sustainable Lifestyle

 As back to school begins young students are looking to go to a school where they can spend four years living a sustainable lifestyle.
With its Georgian architecture and Old Virginia bricks, South Hall looks a lot like other buildings on the Wake Forest University campus.

But the new residence hall, which will open to freshmen on Aug. 19, is a showpiece that was built using modern ideas on sustainability.

And it's been outfitted with the latest in green technology, from energy-efficient appliances to flat-screen TVs that will show students how much water and electricity is being consumed on each of the building's four floors.

The 67,000-square-foot building on the southern tip of campus reflects the university's mission to become more sustainable, said Donna McGalliard, the dean of residence life and housing.

"The university's philosophy has really been focused on sustainability," McGalliard said. "And that it's not just a fad or a trend."

For the past few years, the university has added things such as more efficient washers and recycling centers at its residence halls, but South Hall is the first building that was planned, designed and constructed with LEED-certification in mind. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a certification system used for green building.

Wake Forest will not know whether South Hall meets LEED certification for several months.

Jim Alty, the associate vice president for facilities and campus services, said the university has started a number of programs to get faculty, staff and students to recycle, reuse food trays and share cars.

"This is the first time that Wake has had a chance to demonstrate in a physical way our commitment to sustainability," he said.

A new welcome center also is being built following green-building standards.

South Hall, one of six freshmen residence halls that form a cluster on the south end of campus, was built to accommodate the growing number of freshmen attending Wake. It will house 201 students, most of whom will live in a double room that averages about 220 square feet. Freshmen will be randomly chosen to live there.

The residence hall is the first to be built at Wake since 1998, when an apartment-style hall was built on the north end of campus. The new dorm cost $18 million to build. The green features did not add to the price, Alty said.

The building's environmentally friendly features will be a draw for this generation of college students, McGalliard said. "I would not say the same thing of students five years ago. This follows naturally with what they've been learning." Green dorms are showing up all over the country, said Alexandra Adler, the assistant director of Sustainable Endowments Institute, which promotes sustainability on college campuses. About 44 percent of 332 colleges surveyed have either a "green" residence hall or one that is devoted to sustainable living, according to a report the institute issued last year.

A recent report that looked at sustainability at 332 universities showed that about 44 percent have either a "green" residence hall or one that is devoted to sustainable living.

"Young students are looking to go to a school where they can spend four years living a sustainable lifestyle," Adler said. "When you're in a dorm, you don't have control over how much water is being used, so to live in a dorm with those kinds of facilities would be attractive."

One of South Hall's features is the amount of natural light that filters through its many windows. The windows, which are double-pane and framed in aluminum, not only bring in natural light but offer good views of the campus and the surrounding green space.

Ryan Swanson, the university architect, said the connection to the outside world is part of sustainable design. "Part of being sustainable is satisfying the occupant," he said.

Those occupants can study in rooms with individual thermostats, lean back in chairs made of recycled seat belts, and fix popcorn in a microwave-refrigerator-freezer combo that uses just one plug.

"This is going to help students understand what it means to live in a sustainable environment," McGalliard said.   See Full Story

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