I Invested 100€ In My Room When I Moved In (And Here’s What Happened)

SMLXL
Whenever I move in a new flat there are a couple of things I need to have in my room, not only to feel comfortable, but also to minimize the impact of my new environment on my health. Not only did this changes made me happier and healthier but these small upgrades saved me in the past 2 years around 200 Euros in heating and electricity bills (compared with the average energy consumption assumed by the landlord). Not a bad ROI.
1. Thick, Heavy, Dark Drapes
Having a great mattress is one of the keys to a good night sleep. However, if I do not have drapes to block the noise and the light coming from the street, I always wake up tired the next day, even if I sleep for more than 8 hours. That’s because light and noise are two of the most common sleep disruptors, especially if you live in a crowded city. When closed during hot summer days, they can reduce inside temperature with up to 3-5 degrees. A set of drapes can cost as little as 40 Euros, and it’s an investment that will pay out ten folds in energy savings (by keeping more of the heat inside during winter and outside during summer). If there is one thing I would not want to live without, this would be my drapes.
SMXLL

2. Windows sealings
Another easy and inexpensive way to improve the energy efficiency and the comfort of your flat is to change your windows sealings. They tend to wear out after a year or two, so even if you have efficient windows, they could be letting air and noise in due to poor maintenance. If you do it yourself, it will cost you around 10-20 Euros to change the seals on one window. Again a small investment that pays for itself in short time.
SMXLL

3. Plants
I like to have plants in my room, to reduce indoor air pollution and associated eye irritations and respiratory problems. You can check out more about the top air purifying plants in one of the previous articles.
For my room I choose a spider plant that filters air during the night, and a dracaena for filtering air during the day. Both plants cost me, on sale, around 15 Euros, a very cheap, automated and low maintenance air filter.
SMXLL

4. Extension cord with a switch
Laptops and other appliances still use electricity even if they are shut down. An easy and inexpensive way to prevent this is to buy an extension cord with a switch so when you leave home or you go to bad you can simply flip a switch and prevent all the little light inside your room from affecting your sleep. Plus you will reduce your energy bill with 5 to 10%. I bought mine for 5 Euros so this is an investment that anyone can afford.
SMXLL

5. Aluminum foil behind the radiator
Have you noticed that half of our radiators are facing the wall? That means that almost half of the heat is going into a large heat absorber, instead of your room. Modern houses have an extra layer of insulation behind the radiators, but most old buildings don’t. An easy way to reduce this loss if to place an aluminum foil insulator behind the radiator. This will force part of the heat back into your room and increase the thermal comfort of your flat. You can get one of this for less than 5 Euros and start feeling warm even with the radiators turned down.
SMXLL

 
What is the first thing you change in your room?

Latest Developments in Energy Storage

Energy storage

   A recent article on Harvard Business Review, suggested that in order to increase our productivity we should shift our focus from managing our time to managing our energy, emphasizing the importance of conserving energy for when you most need it.

  Although we have gotten better and better over the years at coming up with more efficient ways to produce energy, we haven’t gotten any better at storing that energy. Yes we might have more efficient engines, solar panels and wind turbines, but during peak hours most of the energy is wasted due to a lack of efficient energy storage solutions.

  The same is true on a personal level, we have access to power bars, energy drinks, coffee at every corner and more sugar than our bodies can handle, but all this easily available energy has hindered our bodies abilities to recover the energy it stores as fat. In this post I will not go into details about how to recover energy from your body by burning fat (there are other people better qualified to give you advice on that) Instead I will present the basics of electrical, mechanical and thermal energy storage and the most revolutionary devices available on the market today.

  Energy can be stored in many forms: thermal energy, compressed air, using a flywheel, in pumped hydro-power plants, in solid batteries or in flow batteries. In this article I will go into details about the pro’s and con’s of each option. And if you stay with me until the end of the article you will discover also the latest technological developments in energy storage solutions, including some surprising tech like liquid metal batteries or batteries made from food waste.

Continue reading “Latest Developments in Energy Storage”

How competition is slowly killing us

goats-692660_640

Healthy competition is at the heart of economic development. Ever since the idea was put forward by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations, it led to innovations, great technological improvements and lower prices for the consumers.

On the other side, too much competition can have damaging effects on the economy and on individuals, in the long term. In a highly competitive market, companies and people are pushed to constantly lower their prices while delivering more and more value. This is good for the consumer but for the companies it quickly becomes unsustainable because it leads to lower margins, and budget cuts especially in research and employees salaries.

Take for example the car industry, a highly competitive market, where some of the top companies resorted to unethical practices, or lower quality materials in an effort to keep up with the increasing expectations of the markets and governments, in terms of profit, innovation and prices. Or the construction industry which saw a massive drop in 2008, due to high competition and the ridiculously low prices that had to be accepted by the companies wanting to remain in business at all cost. And, probably, for one of the best examples on how extreme competition is bad for business, we can have a look at one of the most competitive markets in the world: the bar’s and restaurants sector. More than 80% of the business in this sector fail in the first 3 years, competition is fierce and a lot of the newcomers drive the price down while serving bigger portions. That means somewhere expenses have to be cut: either on personnel, food quality or health & safety regulations. I’m not saying all restaurants are like this, in fact some owners manage to maintain a good quality of service and a high morale among employees, even when pushed by competition, and they are usually the 20% that remain in business. However, most of the times, extreme competition in the long term can lead to profit loss, reducing cost on R&D and personnel, less innovation, lower quality and at the end businesses closing down and people losing their jobs.

On a personal side, we are always competing with our rivals, our peers, our neighbors or the status quo, and usually this competition makes us achieve more, be more and have more. But when we take competition too serious, it leads also to unethical behavior like lying, cheating, bullying, bribing and all the other nasty things people due in the effort to get in front of others. Another effect of the pressure competition puts on us is overworking, which leads to stress and exhaustion and in a more severe case even to death.

So why do we value competition at all costs? Why, in a time when we talk about moving towards a society of abundance, are we still competing heavily with everyone else, until the point of collapse? I am not suggesting that we should not have any competition, I am simply implying that we would be maybe better off if we follow Aristotle’s advice and strive to achieve the Golden mean, especially in the most important competition of all: our life. If you go to bed 1% better every day, in the long term you will become a great person; If you are always in a rush and want 200% improvements every day, like many of the investors wish for, it might work for a short while but there is a high chance that you will collapse with exhaustion, and lose everything you gained, just like the stock market crashes every 5 to 10 years.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject: What are the areas in your life where you are or have been maybe over competitive, and what was the impact of this competition on your health, happiness, family and friends? Where was your tipping point, between healthy and unhealthy competition? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Recommended reading:

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations

Peter Thiel – Zero to One

 

Is our food is killing the planet?

How much food Have you wasteD this WeeK- (2)

One of the habits that has the biggest impact on our health, our finances, and our environment is the way we eat. This is a subject on which a lot of research has been made in the last years, and the one thing that the researcher agree on is that nutrition should be tailored to the individual. So please consult your doctor or nutritionist for a solution that works especially for you before applying anything in this article. Here we will not go in detail about the macronutrients, carbs, protein and calories of the food we eat. Instead we will look at how it affects our energy levels and especially how food, as it is grown today, affects our environment.

We all heard that eating processed food, sugar or a lot of carbs might be not so good for us, but how often do we think about the impact that our overconsumption and our food system has on the planet?

Introducing Michael Pollan, author and activist for sustainable food, who was curious about where is his burger coming from. So he went to a cow farm where he thought he might find the answer. But of course cows are raised with plants so he had to go a step backwards and find out where the plants are coming from. And since plants use a lot of fertilizer and pesticides to grow bigger, he ended up searching for the answer in Middle East. And what he found out was pretty surprising: to produce one burger we use approximately 750 ml or 28 ounces of oil, for fertilizers, pesticides, transport and processing. If we scale this up to the total food produced we can see that the food system accounts for 20% of the fossil fuel use, 500 billion dollars in medical bills for food related diseases, and 1/3 of the total greenhouse gas emissions. It seems that from the saying: you can choose to pay your doctor or your farmer, we have chosen to pay the doctor.

The impact on the water consumption is even higher. It is estimated that around 50% of the water consumption is used for irrigation making the food industry the larger consumer of water on the planet. For instance, wheat requires 500 liters or 132 gallons of water per 0,45 kg or 1 pound. The same amount of cheese requires 2271 liters or 600 gallons of water. A glass of milk? 378 liters or 100 gallons of water, similar for a glass of wine or beer. It is just mind-boggling the amount of water and oil we use to produce our food. If you want to find out more you can go to http://www.gracelinks.org/ and find all the data regarding the impact of food on water, and other interesting information.

Unfortunately the bad news don’t stop there. Every person in the E.U. and U.S. wastes on average enough food to feed one more person. So not only are we over consuming and polluting the environment, but half of this is wasted in vain, it doesn’t bring us any satisfaction whatsoever. Looking at the numbers, an average person throws away 76 kg/167 pounds of food per year in Romania, 149 kg/328 pounds in Germany and 226 kg/ 498 pounds in UK and in the US even more.

This is all very alarming but there is also hope and we as individuals can change this system for the better. Let’s look at the problem true the 80/20 Pareto principle: What changes in our eating habits would bring the most value to us and the Planet? Looking at the data, the first change that we should make would have to be reducing the food waste. If we could reduce or even eliminate it, we could not only stop wasting money but also ofset the impact we have on the environment.

But how should we do it?

1. Being aware of the unconscious behaviors that might make us by more food

For instance if you are hungry when you go shopping you are far more likely to overbuy food. If you go shopping after a meal the chances to overstock on produce are reduced, so before heading to the grocery store have a small bite. After you come back from the shop, and got only what you needed, reward yourself with something you just bought. This will help you create a habit out of buying only what is necessary for you and your family, avoiding waste while saving money and the planet.

2. Eating a small variety of products during the week

Based on a diet plan I avoid stocking up the fridge with easily degradable products, instead I buy fresh food every day on my way from work. This will take around 5 min of your time, but if you have the possibilities, and have a shop nearby, you should give it a try.

One advantage of doing this is that we increase the quality of our food, since most of us do not store food properly and risk to spoil it. The second reason is you only buy what you need for one or 2 meals so you are far less likely to overestimate, and 3rd, if you have a sudden craving, you can decide on a day to day basis what to eat.

However if you do not have a food store nearby you can record your food consumption over one week, taking into account also how much food you waste, and use that as a bench mark for your weekly shopping. And if you are worried that you will run out of food, you could buy some canned products. Usually canned food has a long expiration date so it is far less likely to go to waste. But keep it only as a back-up solution because some research shows that large quantities of aluminum absorbed by food are related to a number of brain diseases like Alzheimer for example.

If you absolutely hate canned food and have to store foods for long periods of time, here are some

 3. Basics for storing food:

Bacteria are everywhere, some of them are good for us like the ones in our gut, and some of them can cause infections. Although we can’t get rid of all the bacteria in our homes, we can control the number, by not creating an environment where they can easily develop – food, humidity, heat and time.

  a. Cover your food.

Bacteria love raw fish, raw meet, dairy, and cooked food like soups, sauces rice, pasta or legumes. If you cover the food, the bacteria from the air can’t reach the food, that is why everything you buy from the butcher has to be rapt, and the cooked food has to be covered as soon as it is cold.

  b. Keep the meat in the fridge.

Bacteria need a certain range to grow, so do not leave for long fish or meet at room temperature and try to store them as soon as possible in the fridge. Bacteria usually prefer a temperature range from 8° Celsius (46° F) to 75° Celsius (167° F), so you can keep your cooked food over 75° for a long period of time outside, but soon as it is cold it’s good to store it in the fridge.

  c. Keep your fridge well organized.

In order to avoid possible contamination is good to store meat and fish on the bottom shelf, and the other products like salads or legumes on the top shelf. This way you avoid contamination from the raw food.

4. Support your local bio farmers.

Instead of encouraging big producers to continue the mass production.

We always complain that corporations are evil and they only want our money, but instead of complaining we can use this to our advantage, by not giving them our hard earned cash for products that are not bringing benefits to us or the environment we can directly influence their behavior. A great sales guy told me when I was starting in my career: ‘Florin don’t forget that in business your money (salary) is in the customer pocket, he decides what he gets, without him you have no money and no power.’ This made me realize that our spending habits have much more impact on companies then we realize.

5. Read the labels

Not only for the expiration date, but also look for clues about how to store it, where the food is coming from or how much sugar and fat it contains. You will be surprised how much sugar there is in products that are presented as low fat or healthy, for instance I was shocked to find out that my low fat yogurt contains half the quantity of sugar as a Coca-Cola. So be vigilant, you only need to do this once per product until you find the ones that are best for you, but this little check can make the difference between eating something healthy or buying something that is only advertised as being so. Also, like this you can choose to buy the products that are produced near your region, instead of being shipped across the globe.

To find out more about the importance of reading the labels, you can follow the story of two identical twins, Alexander and Chris, both doctors, who tested out two of the most popular and debated diets while observing the results.

In a one month unique experiment for BBC’s Horizon one of them went on a low-carb diet, and the other had a low-fat diet. What they found out was pretty amazing. Both diets had their ups and downs, the low-fat one performed better at brain tests, while the low-carb diet won the weight loss competition, but also broke down muscle tissue in the process. So after a month of testing in similar conditions, it was really hard to say which of the two diets is best, and that lead Alexander and Chris to ask a different question. Which foods make us eat more and gain weight, and why?

They realized that it’s not sugar or fat making us eat more and consequently gaining weight, but is the combination between the two. By themselves, neither sugar nor fat are very addictive. However when they are put together, like in ice-cream, the effect on the brain is similar to having cocaine, according to some scientists. The food industry knows this and that is why you’re rarely sold the two separately. That is why it is crucial you read the labels, and keep an eye on what you are putting in your body. It might be one of the most important things you can do for yourself and the planet.

Let us know which of this tips worked best for you in the comment box bellow.

F.M.B.

 

The surprising link between money and CO2

Money_green

Ever wondered what is the correlation between money, in terms of product value, and CO2 emissions? Or formulated in another way, how our spending habits affect our environment?

It seems that a 1000 $ in total production is equivalent to an increase of oil equivalent energy use of around 190 kg, based on the current world energy mix. Every 1 tone of oil equivalent energy equals to 2,4 tones of CO2 in the atmosphere. So for every 5000 $ in production we are releasing, on average, 2,4 tones of CO2 into the atmosphere, and almost half of this remains in the air. Putting this in perspective, 2,4 tones is the weight of a normal SUV, and half of this can’t be absorbed by nature.

– Definition: The tonne of oil equivalent (toe) is a unit of energy defined as the amount of energy released by burning one tonne of crude oil. It is approximately 42 gigajoules, although as different crude oils have different calorific values, the exact value is defined by convention; several slightly different definitions exist. The toe is sometimes used for large amounts of energy. Wikipedia. –

Keep in mind that this release is only related to production, it does not take into consideration the effects of agriculture, deforestation, water pollution or population growth, which are even more devastating to the environment and affect also other sustainability boundaries of our planet. You can read more about these on: http://reconstructromania.ro/global-warning/

To get a feeling about how bad the situation is, take a look at the graphic bellow made by the U.N., it shows the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere in the last 800 000 years. Just watch what happened in the last 100 years! We did not only reach the maximum level of CO2 in the atmosphere, but we have almost doubled it, with no sign of a decrease to normal levels. We must Green UP now, and one way to do it is by adjusting our spending habits!

More about this in the next article, until then Green UP!

CO2_concentration

More data at: https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/

4 Easy DYIs that will keep your plants green for longer

Plants in Balcony
Plants in Balcony

Spring is just around the corner and that means is the perfect time to add more plants and optimism to your life. 

Why should you have more plants in your home you wonder?

Let’s start searching for answers in the existing research. A 15 year study at a New Delhi office building, with 300 occupants and over 1200 plants inside, has discovered that eye irritation, respiratory problems, headaches and asthma were significantly reduced after plants have been placed indoors. The study showed also that productivity has increased with over 20% and energy consumption was reduced with 15%. Of course 1200 plants seem like a lot but that is only 4 plants per person meaning even with just a few plants in our home we can have amazing health benefits. And there are even more reasons to have more plants in your home.

plants
plants
http://www.ted.com/talks/kamal_meattle_on_how_to_grow_your_own_fresh_air
  1. First of all, plants take out CO2 from the atmosphere and release Oxygen, providing a healthy environment in your home.
  2. Green is the most relaxing color for the eye so plants will make you calmer.
  3. Plants, especially flowers, can increase your home vibration, helping to  create a more positive atmosphere.
  4. In addition to this you can grow your own food and avoid spending money on plants grown with chemicals. Or if you are a fan of cooking you can keep some fresh spices around the house. Rosemary and Basil are not only great for flavor but can also help nasty mosquitoes out. And since mosquitoes are the most dangerous creatures out there, it’s better to keep them out. http://www.gatesnotes.com/

One of the downsides of having many plants in your home is that it increases humidity levels, but with proper ventilation this problem can easily be fixed. Another problem is that plants use allot of water and according to a study by the United Nations, the water supply per capita will drop in the next 20 years with 1/3. The last inconvenience is that they take up quite allot of space. But for every problem there is at least one solution and today we will share with you some clever ways of watering your plants while minimizing waste. I have tested number 3 and the herbs that I use for cooking are still fresh even after 2 weeks without adding extra water.

So what can we do to avoid water waste when growing plants at home?

  1. Using a common PVC bucket and your old towels. This system work especially well for larger plants like tomatoes, ficus or dracaena. Using soaked towels can be an effective solution also for keeping your plants green when you have to leave home for a week and you don’t have anyone to water your plants. Simply place one end of the towel in water and place the rest of the towel on the root of the plant. The water will keep the towel and the root of the plant moist for at least a couple of days.

  1. Rain gutter system. Another option that seems to work well if you have a garden and want to forget about watering your plants is the rain gutter grow system, which uses rain gutters placed at the bottom of the plants, to feed them with nutrients and water. You will need a rain gutter, a floating valve that will keep the liquid level constant, and a water pump. The video bellow has a step by step explanation on how to make yourself a similar system.

  1. Water retention gel. The system that I have tested is explained in the video bellow. By using water retention gel (like the ones used in diapers) mixed with normal soil, 1 part soil 1 part gel, we have a self-watering system that can last up to 2 weeks without adding more water.

  1. A clay pot filled with water and buried near the plant might be also a good idea for your garden. This will create moisture in the ground and release slowly water to your plants.

I hope you are inspired to test some of this techniques. Let us know which of the watering options works best for you in the comments box bellow.

Until next time, green up!

F.M.B.

http://simpleorganiclife.org/9-houseplants/

GreenUp – Climate change stops with you!

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Picture © Liz Orfao / Attribution-ShareAlike / 2007-01-07 05:40:23

Since more than 90% of new year resolutions are forgotten by 15th of January we decided to announce our own agenda for 2015 after this date.

Last year was the hottest year on record so the main goal for this year is to take massive action in preventing 2015 from being even worse. If you want to find out more about global warming you can check out the article ‘Global warning!

You are probably wondering how do we plan to do that?

Focusing like always on this site on what can we improve in our life and our home that can impact climate in a positive way. And this year the main problems we want to address are reducing carbon emissions by using energy more efficiently and increasing carbon storage with the help of easy to grow plants.

As this is a super important task we need all the help we can get. So if you are a green enthusiast, you are full of energy and ideas and you can spare half an hour of your time that can be dedicated to saving our planet write us your ideas at reconstructromania@gmail.com and join us on the journey of improving the world starting with ourselves and our home. All ideas are welcomed so be confident and send us an email.

For the GreenUp part of the project we will focus on creating step by step easy to follow brochures, focusing on 2 main directions:

-GreenUp your Apartment:

*Green walls

*Growing food indoor

*Sustainable and automated irrigation

*Regrow plants from food waste.

-GreenUp your House and Garden:

*Plant a small forest anywhere

*Maximize your space and food production

*Sustainable irrigation

*Green roofs

If you have any information about these topics or any other ideas join our project by contacting reconstructromania@gmail.com . As we would like to get to know you better please send us also a few lines about your passions and what drives you to improve.

At the end of the article you will find some links for inspiration.

Have a green year.

F.M.B.

http://www.diyncrafts.com/5350/home/40-genius-space-savvy-small-garden-ideas-solution

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_wall

https://reconstructromania.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/the-green-roof/

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/happier-houseplants-how-to-keep-indoor-plants-healthy-apartment-therapys-home-remedies-217100

 

Global warning about climate change!

Global warning?

Dr Adam Scaife, head of long range forecasting at the Met Office, said: “The 3 leading global temperature datasets show that 2010 is clearly warmer than 2009. They also show that 2010 is the warmest or second warmest year on record as suggested in the Met Office’s annual forecast of global temperature issued in December 2009.” (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2011/2010-global-temperature)

If you are a green enthusiast and agree with the data from Met office, you are probably already taken steps to reduce your carbon footprint and preserve the planet for your children and grandchildren, convinced that we are part of the cause for the extreme climatic conditions we have seen in the last decade. Considering that more than 26% of total energy in the EU is consumed by private households it is easy to see that each of us must take action and become more careful on how we consume energy and how much CO2 we put in the atmosphere, in order to not melt in the future.

On the other hand you could be skeptical about global warming and find that scientific data is not conclusive. According to Nate Silver author of “The Signal and the Noise” : “statistical forecasting methods suggest that if you measure temperature trend one decade at a time in any given decade there is a warming trend 75% of the time since 1900 but a cooling trend the other 25% of the time”. On the other hand a steady increase in global temperature of about 1dg C has occurred over the last century. Also we can’t ignore the increase in extreme heat waves that we see and feel everywhere in the last years.

hot

https://www.coursera.org/learn/sustainabledevelopment1

Although a large number of scientists believe that carbon dioxide is not the only major cause of global warming, in 2010, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties 16 (COP 16) approved a non-legally binding commitment to cap global average temperature rises to 2°C. A 2°C rise is considered consistent with capping atmospheric CO2 equivalent (CO2-e) concentration levels to 450 parts per million (ppm) by 2050 (IPCC 2007). On current projections, by 2050 CO2 emissions must reduce significantly below not only ‘business as usual’ levels, but also current levels in order to reach the cap of 450ppm. This particularly applies to emissions of CO2 resulting from the use of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas.http://www.globalccsinstitute.com/

Scientist have agreed that climate change is due to man made action and that we have already crossed many of the sustainability boundaries that keep our planet in balance. Some of these boundaries are shown in the infographic bellow by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs from a longer course, “The Age of Sustainable Development.” An introduction to this course can be found on Courserra. https://www.coursera.org/learn/sustainabledevelopment1

Beyond the boundry

The decision about what to believe is only yours, but the evidence point in only one direction, and we have to start taking responsability for our actions and start working togheter on the solution.

Regardless of what you choose to believe it will not hurt you or anyone else if you reduce your carbon foot print.

If you need some easy to implement ideas on how to do that you can find a small list below.

Use your car less.

Our ancestors used to go everywhere by foot, now we do not even walk for 30 min. each day. Not only driving less will help the environment it will also help your health, posture, looks, self-esteem and wallet.

Don’t waste energy on unnecessary lights or idle appliances. 

You can install sensors that automatically close the light when you are not in a room or have a fancy smart-home system installed, if you are forgetful about this kind of things. Or just use a post-it note above your light switch. In the long term you would be helping the environment and saving also money on electricity bills.

Eat more local and BIO food.

This will reduce the pollution related to growing the plants, especially the release of nitrogen used as fertilizer in land and water, the use of pesticides, and the pollution related to transporting food on long distances.

Not only you will cut pollution but you will also improve your health since most of nutritionist agree that having a diversified diet, based on seasonal foods, can bring major improvements to your overall well-being. Except from making you beautiful eating only how much you need will also save you money and reduce the waste you produce, I think it is safe to say that this can also make you happier.

Michael Pollan tracked how much oil we use to produce a Hamburger. If this doesn’t change your mind about how much our eating habits affect us I do not know what will.

How food affects our environment

Use less water.

70% of our water is used for irrigations. If you have a lawn that requires allot of water for maintenance in the summer you should consider replacing it with small bushes that are fit for arid conditions. This will save water, be just as pretty and will also save you money. If you have a garden where you grow vegetables you could implement a drip irrigation system that uses significantly less water.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drip_irrigation

If you do not have a garden you can reduce water and energy use by taking cold or colder showers. In my personal experience this has proved great for burning fat, increasing testosterone and adapting better to extreme temperature changes. Although we are not always fully aware of it our body has to deal with these changes every day- for example going from 20 degrees in a car or office to 40 degrees outside in the summer.

Another easy way to save some time, energy and water is by using a dish washer.

Plant more trees.

They do not produce WIFI but they produce Oxygen, fruits and a cool place for a swing if you have kids. Also when they are close to buildings they can reduce the energy loads by providing shadow in the summer, and protection against wind in the winter, meaning you will need less energy to heat your home.

As you can see sustainability is not hard, or expensive as many would want us to believe. It just needs a little will power applied in the right direction every day. And since will power is hard to find this days with so many choices around us take consume it, small reminders like post-its above the light switch, an inspirational quote or a picture with your baby, to remind you why this is important, or sharing this article can be good all good motivators for taking action now.

These are just few ideas so I would love to get allot more thoughts on how we can achieve sustainability from you. Share with us your ideas and also tell us what keeps you motivated to be sustainable?

FMB
reconstructromania@gmail.com

About People, Roads and SAFETY

It will take you 2 minutes to read the hole article but at the end it will change the way you look at everyday traffic.

Transfagarasan_twisty_road

 

Transfagarasan picture from Wikipedia

We have one of the most beautiful roads in the world (picture above) according to Jeremy Clarkson and everyone who has been there can probably confirm this.

We also have according to statistics from www.worldlifeexpectancy.com one of the highest death rates related to car accidents from the E.U. countries. From every 100 000  people approx. 13 die in car accidents every year in our country. That means that more than 2000 people die every year just because they took a chance to go somewhere, twice as much as the average in E.U. This number does not include the ones who are badly injured and have to suffer all their life the consequences of a terrible accident. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road traffic accidents kill more people around the world than malaria, and are the leading cause of death for young people aged five to 29 – especially in developing countries.

In order to better understand this worrying phenomenon, I would like to look a little bit about what seem to be the main causes of car accidents.

According to official reports excessive speeding or speed unsuited to road conditions (25 %) pedestrians crossing the street in unmarked places (18%) and vehicles hitting pedestrians on crossings (12 %) are the main factors that lead to accidents.

In my opinion speeding and speed unsuited to road conditions are 2 different things, because the first one is caused mainly by irresponsible people who either want to show off thinking they are Fernando Alonso driving at the Monaco Grand-Prix or by people who are late for something, most of the times because of poor infrastructure or because they left too late in the first place. Off course this 2 situations can easily be avoided if we know that we are not Fernando Alonso, Monaco is not in Romania and that in average we will get every morning to work in approximately the same time so if we include a 10 min buffer into our program we will be never be late.

However for the second category, speed unsuited to road conditions, the answer is not so simple because most of the times this conditions are not known by the drivers, yes we can see it is cold or raining outside, but we can’t see how big is a hole filled with water or the thin ice formed on the surface of the road at night. On the same note it is hard to say that pedestrians and drivers that hit them are the only ones responsible for these accidents if they do not have sufficient crossings or the ones that exist are not clearly marked. Off course they should have been more careful but maybe it is also our job to make them aware of the dangers they face.

So what actions are being taken around the world to reduce this number?

The UN launched in 2011 its “decade for action” on road safety to cut the 1.3 million deaths on the road each year. The European Commission lunched last year a public debate concerning the future strategy for road safety. The Romanian Government will also lunch this year new driving regulations with increased fines and penalties especially for speeding and not stopping at pedestrian crossings.

This are all good actions and I fully agree that penalties should be applied to those who drive irresponsibly and put their life an others at great risk. I am also confident that some improvement will come out of this actions however I don’t think that the improvement will be significant or sustainable.

The reason for my skepticism is the research in behavioral psychology. As Daniel Kahneman, winner of Nobel prize, said in his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, it has been proven in years of research that rewards for improved performance work better every time than punishment of mistake. The explanation why punishment SEEMS to get results it’s because, most of the times, when we punish someone the person who has been punished was already doing something very bad so whatever he does after that will seem like an improvement to us. In fact this improvement is not dew to the punishment but it is just a regression to the mean, a normal part of life that would have happened without our intervention.

Another statistic that supports my skepticism towards penalties is the correlation between the fines amount, speed limits and number of deaths per year.  As an example we can take Germany (5,7 Deaths/100k), Denmark (5,4 Deaths/100k) France (6,6 Deaths/100k) Holland (4 Deaths/100k) and Romania (13 Deaths/100k) (Data from 2011). The speed limits in this countries are almost the same with Germany as an exception because on many highways it has no speed limits. Since Germany is the only exception we cannot conclude with 100% certainty that in fact speed limits alone do not make the road safer and are required only in certain driving conditions but it sure seems that way.

So if speed limits are not the main reasons maybe the difference is in the amount of the fines: All countries have relatively high fines, compared to average income in that country, with Denmark and France fining more drastically speeding, however the difference in the fine amount is not reflected in the number of deaths as Germany has almost the same rate of mortality as Denmark. Also if we look at Netherlands, which has one of the busiest traffic networks in Europe and average fines, it’s one of the safest place to drive according to statistics, similar to Switzerland with (3,8 deaths/100k).

This long list of statistical data can give us a clue about the results of higher fines and increased punishment. But if punishment is not the main solution what other things are the West E.U. countries doing better than us to get almost 3 times less fatalities on their roads? While driving in many different countries across Europe I noticed 2 main differences and I would like, with your help, to raise awareness about this things so in the future we can all drive on SAFER roads. This differences are related in my opinion to infrastructure and public awareness about safety.

Road surface quality plays a big role in a safe driving environment but also the lack of road signs can have an equally important role. The missing road markings create so many near misses and dangerous situations which I am sure you are all familiar with. For instance when you try to avoid an obstacle on the road and almost hit the incoming traffic, because of a missing triangle to show the obstacle, when the lines on the road do not exist and you realize suddenly you are too close to the edge, when there is someone crossing the street on a place where used to be a road crossing but now the signs on the tarmac are not visible and you have to break suddenly forcing the cars behind you to do the same and the list can go on…All the West European countries have very good road markings especially on dangerous area because if nothing is there to warn us about an upcoming dangerous situation how can we prepare for it?

We don not have good road markings but we can look on the bright side and be happy that we have the chance to install the newest and safest technologies available.

1. Glow in the dark paint for the roads. In Britain Pro-Teq has developed Starpath which is a sprayable coating of light-absorbing particles that harvests ultra-violet rays from the sun during the day and dramatically lights up like a starry sky at night. The veneer is non-reflective, anti-slip and waterproof, and can be applied to cement, wood, tarmac or other solid surfaces. In Holland designers at the Dutch firm Studio Roosegaarde are the architects behind the country’s new transportation redesign. Their first measure is to paint roadway lines over with photo-luminescent powder, making lanes glow brightly in the dark.

2. Traffic signs that can absorb shock from a crash where developed in Britain and road signs for pedestrians crossing  powered by solar energy are already being installed in many parts of our country, signs that can be easily produced in Romania also and that make the crossing much more visible and safer.

This are just a few examples but the other part that needs to be improved in order to reduce the number of people dying is public awareness. We have deep in our culture routed the true belief that health is the most important asset we have however we seem to forget this every time we get behind the wheel of a car. We always wish someone for good health on special occasions and we always pray for it for our self and for our family but we still drive irresponsibly and we put in danger not only our health but also others people health. God can only help us to a certain extent.

So how can we be the change we want to see in the world, next time we drive?

1. Leave 10 min earlier so you don’t have to rush.

2. Remind your colleague who is running late, stuck in traffic, that the world will not end if he is 5 min late and he should take his time to get to you safe rather than fast.

3. Call 112 when we see a dangerous situation on the road with no marking, so that the road authorities can take action, even if it will take them months to do it think about how many people will avoid a crash because you placed a phone call.

4. Remind people that are driving irresponsibly they have someone waiting for them at home.

5. If you are receiving a fine remind yourself that if the fine is the only thing that makes you drive slower in a dangerous area, the fine is preferable instead of a large bill for an expensive car repair, or for hospital care.

We cannot build highways without the Government but we can make the roads a little safer for us, for our children and for others by being just a little more careful next time we drive.

Please help us raise awareness about this topic by sharing with us your suggestions on how can we increase safety on roads and by talking about it with friends, family and officials.

LIFE and HEALTH are the greatest gifts we have and it’s a shame to lose them on the road.

The choice is always yours.

Until next time drive safe,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com

 

For interesting comparisons between countries you can check:

http://www.maki-car-rental.com/rent-a-car/international-car-fatality.html

 

 

 

 

Why should we believe in renewable energy?

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  A very intense debate about the future of renewable energy in Romania has started at the beginning of this year, with numerous voices claiming that it only brings cost not value to our country.

  Before we decide if renewable energy is good or bad let’s first see WHY the EU ( European Union) and IEA (International Energy Association) care so much about this type of energy?

  So WHY are these organizations promoting renewable energy an WHY should we believe in it ?

  1. Does it bring value to the economy?

   According to the debaters from our country it seems that renewable energy is only increasing the cost of energy, so economic growth is not the reason, but IEA seems to disagree, so let’s have a look at some facts about energy subsidies.

   IEA (International Energy Agency) in the WORLD ENERGY OUTLOOK 2011 FACTSHEET :

  Fossil-fuel consumption subsidies worldwide amounted to $409 billion in 2010 while global renewable-energy subsidies increased from $39 billion in 2007 to $66 billion in 2010, in line with rising production of biofuels and electricity from renewable sources. In a global survey covering 37 countries where subsidies exist, at least 15 have taken steps to phase them out since the start of 2010. Without further reform, the cost of fossil-fuel consumption subsidies is set to reach $660 billion in 2020, or 0.7% of global GDP while phasing them out completely by 2020 would result in savings in oil demand in 2035 of 4.4mb/d. Global primary energy demand would be cut by nearly 5% and CO2 emissions by 5.8%. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions. “

   I agree that the subsidies for renewable energy are now bared by the population and that leads to an increase in the energy bill but no one speaks about the subsidies for fossil-fuel generation?  As we can see from the IEA report these are far more expensive world wide then the subsidies for the renewable energy and in the long term they will only increase so we might be saving 1 Euro now but it will cost us 4 Euros in the future. 

After looking at the facts it seems that one reason for investing in cleaner technology might be that it brings economic value.

  2. Does it create more jobs?

  According to the debaters the answer is again No. Renewable energy leads to job losses in coal industry, steel industry and does nothing in return but IRENA seems to think differently so lets again look at some facts :

  According to IRENA ( International Renewable Energy Agency)”Renewable Energy Jobs: Status, Prospects & Policies” when we look at the job market for renewable energy there are 3 types of jobs:

“Direct jobs are relatively easy to measure and understand. These are jobs related to a sector’s core activities, such as feedstock conversion, manufacturing, project development (including site preparation and installation) and operations and maintenance.

 Indirect jobs include all those involved in supplying the renewable energy industry. these are jobs in the industrial input sectors in the production and the operation and maintenance of renewable energy technologies. Examples might include the labour required to extract and process raw materials, such as steel for wind turbine towers as well as positions in government ministries, regulatory bodies, consultancy firms and research organisations working on renewables. 

Induced jobs are created when wealth generated by the renewable energy industry, directly or indirectly, is spent elsewhere in the economy, thus stimulating demand in industries that may be entirely unrelated. Renewable energy technicians, for example, may spend part of their wages on a holiday, thus inducing jobs in the tourism industry.”

  It seems that actually renewable energy creates a variety of jobs across all sectors of the economy. Also according to the same study it creates better jobs also.

“Many essential jobs in the renewable energy industry require a skilled workforce. Industry surveys in Germany have suggested that on average renewable energy jobs are relatively high-skilled, across both fuel-free and fuel-based technologies: 82% of employees in the industry have vocational qualifications and almost 40% of these have a university degree, compared to an average for the whole industrial sector of 70% and 10%, respectively (Lehr et al., 2011).”

After seeing these facts maybe the better question to ask is:  Do we really want to keep doing jobs that have a low income, high accident rate and provide bad health after a few years of activity, for example coal mining, or we want to have jobs that are safer, provide more income and require more qualification?

3. Does it make us independent?

 To answer the question lets look again at some facts:

   In 2007, the EU was importing 82% of its oil and 57% of its gas, which then made it the world’s leading importer of these fuels. 

   The EU Treaty of Lisbon of 2007 legally includes solidarity in matters of energy supply and changes to the energy policy within the EU. The European Commission has proposed in its Renewable Energy Roadmap a binding target of increasing the level of renewable energy in the EU’s overall mix from less than 7% today to 20% by 2020 and a minimum target of 10% for the use of biofuels by 2020.

  Romania produces now in average more then 45 % of its power from fossil fuels. If we achieve the target of 20 % renewable energy by 2020 that means we will only have space for 25 % fossil fuels left in the energy mix making us almost independent of imports from other countries. 

    So maybe we can become independent by using renewable energy.

4. Does it make the grid better?

At the present moment no. The wind and the sun cannot be controlled and that provides challenges to the grid. This has been the problem at the heart of many sustainable-energy systems: How to store power so it can be delivered to the grid all the time, day and night, even when the wind’s not blowing and the sun’s not shining? 

One example is the use of large water reservoirs that can be filled by pumping water when there is excess energy from the renewable sources, water that can be used to produce energy when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining.

Another example is the use of high capacity batteries developed at MIT, where Donald Sadoway has been working on a grid-size battery system that stores energy using a three-layer liquid-metal core. 

So it is only a meter of time until the renewable energy will become also grid friendly.

5. Are we doing it to create a better, cleaner, safer world?

The EU Treaty of Lisbon of 2007 also includes some other proposal like :

A cut of up to 95% in carbon emissions from primary energy sources by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

A cut of at least 20% in greenhouse gas emissions from all primary energy sources by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels), while pushing for an international agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol aimed at achieving a 30% cut by all developed nations by 2020 this means limiting temperature increase to 2⁰ Celsius which would require the long-term atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to be limited to 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalent.

 IEA (International Energy Agency) states in the WORLD ENERGY OUTLOOK 2011 FACTSHEET: 

 ” If internationally co-ordinated action is not taken by 2017, we project that all permissible emissions in the 450 Scenario would come from the infrastructure then existing, so that all new infrastructure from then until 2035 would need to be zero-carbon, unless emitting infrastructure is retired before the end of its economic lifetime to make headroom for new investment. This would theoretically be possible at very high cost, but is probably not practicable politically”

So it seems that in order to not increase the global temperature with more then 2 degrees Celsius all the investments in energy from 2017 need to be 100% green.

Maybe 2 degrees Celsius does not seem like allot but think about the damages that would bring to wildlife, crops, climate and even landscape. Desertification is happening as we speak, Alan Savoy addressed the problem and provided a proven solution to reverse this, but it must be collaborated with the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Renewable energy is at a starting point, it has problems and is expensive but when we ask WHY do we believe in renewable energy and the facts lead us to answers like:

 “Because it brings economic value, because it provides better jobs, because it makes us independent and because it makes the world a better place where we can actually live and not melt” maybe these are things worth paying extra for…

  Spread the word and ask WHY?

 Sincerely yours,

F.M.B.

reconstructromania@gmail.com