Solar panels already appear on buildings, street signs and even buses. The sidewalk may be one place you would never expect to find them. However, two companies in Spain are working to change that. Solar sidewalks could eventually become a common sight in major cities.
These sidewalks consist of photovoltaic panels embedded in other durable materials. Spanish tile manufacturer Butech and solar panel maker Onyx have developed paving tiles made of glass and ceramic. A possible alternative is to embed thin-film panels in the sidewalk.
Questions remain about the durability of these tiles. The Butech/Onyx paving tiles use very strong glass to protect the photovoltaics. This glass can support the weight of humans and furniture, according to Inspiration Green. Their ability to survive a wintry climate remains unclear.
These sidewalks will benefit the environment by decreasing the amount of energy that power plants must generate by burning coal, oil and natural gas. This limits air pollution and curtails the environmental damage caused by fossil fuel extraction.
Such walkways will also help the environment by reducing the need for petroleum-based sidewalk materials. The manufacturing process for Butech/Onyx paving tiles will cause less harm to the environment than pavement production, according to Inhabit.com.
An additional advantage of photovoltaic sidewalks is that they can generate power near homes and businesses that use electricity. When transmitting power across many miles, transmission lines lose a portion of the energy. Such sidewalks would help to counteract this problem.
As of early 2012, no sidewalks of this type have been installed. They are still not available for purchase in the United States. A few years ago, IBM predicted that photovoltaic sidewalks would become affordable by late 2013. For now, the future of this technology remains uncertain.
Lunch trucks, often referred to as roach coaches, are popping up all over many American cities. They’re popular with new bohemians, hipsters and anyone who wants to grab a quick bite to eat but wants to avoid the typical burgers and fries of fast-food chains. The impression these food trucks give is that they focus on green living, recycling and a devotion to the environment and the local community. However, is a lunch truck really more environmentally friendly than a traditional restaurant? For the most part, the answer is yes.
A lunch truck doesn’t use as much energy as a traditional restaurant. Restaurants have to keep their dining rooms well lit and comfortable, which often means compensating for the heat given off from the kitchen. Although food trucks use energy for cooking and fuel to get around, they don’t have to maintain large kitchens, bathrooms or dining spaces.
When it comes to mileage, you might think that a food truck obviously consumes more energy than a restaurant. However, a restaurant’s customers often drive in for their meals. A lunch truck can park at busy locations like office buildings or mall parking lots, eliminating the need for individuals to waste gas. In addition, food trucks tend to focus on providing locally produced food, which requires less transportation to get from the grower to the consumer.
Because lunch trucks provide meals to on-the-go diners, they usually serve their food on disposable dinnerware. However, many food trucks offer recycling or compost bins, reducing the amount of waste they create. Restaurants that serve food on reusable dinnerware don’t create as much waste, but more energy is wasted in the dish washing process. In sum, lunch trucks do tend to be more green than restaurants. They use less energy, take up less space and best of all, they come to you. Next time you’re hungry, walk over to the food truck and order lunch for the whole office. You’ll save gas and help the environment.
Gone are the days when college campuses and aging hippies had a virtual monopoly on dedication to the environment. Another, perhaps unexpected, segment of society has recently begun to embrace vital strategies for protecting the earth.
Prison facilities throughout the United States are increasingly showing their commitment to environmentally conscious operations by instituting a variety of recycling programs and other green initiatives largely staffed by inmates. Glass and plastic recycling, composting, organic farming and land conservation projects are just some of the ways in which prisons across the country are embracing a more earth-friendly philosophy while simultaneously providing enhanced rehabilitation opportunities and skills acquisition assistance for incarcerated individuals.
A prime example of the trend toward these environmentally responsible facilities is that of Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Washington State. Inmates there raise thousands of pounds of organic vegetables each year, turn discarded shoes into artificial turf that can be used on children’s playscapes, and compost the majority of the prison’s food waste. The green initiatives being launched at prisons nationwide also extend to clean energy projects focused on harnessing wind and solar power. The Ironwood State Prison in California recently utilized over 6,000 solar panels placed at the facility to generate energy sufficient to power over 4,000 homes for a period of 12 months.
Wind turbines have sprouted up at an Indiana prison, where wood chip powered water boilers are also in use. Prisoners in North Carolina correctional facilities have regularly been tasked with converting large food shipping containers into cisterns capable of collecting rainwater. Changing their lives and the environment for the better. Great job.
The benefits of these types of green initiatives and recycling programs can be quite substantial, given the enormous amount of resources and energy typically consumed by correctional facilities. However, the positive impact may go well beyond the achievement of lower operating costs and reductions in environmental damage. The life skills gained by inmates who participate in such initiatives and the public-spirited nature of the work in which they are engaged may ultimately help trim the number of re-offenders and encourage a greater sense of personal responsibility among prisoners upon release.