A gymnasium in northern England has become the first in the country to generate its own power supply from energy produced by members during exercise sessions.
The Spectrum Leisure Centre based in Willington, County Durham, has purchased a range of machines called The Green System, which turn exercise into electricity and cost the same as regular gym machines.
The new pieces of equipment include exercise bikes, elliptical trainers and upright bikes capable of producing up to 2,000 watts per hour.
Mark Turner, managing director of Sports Art Fitness, the company that designed and built the machines, said: “We have spent ten years developing this technology and have already seen it installed in the United States, Canada and Holland. Now The Spectrum has become the first leisure venue in the UK to recognise the environmental benefits of the machines.”
Mr Turner estimates that if the machines are used for 60% of the time the gym is open, the centre could save up to £10,000 on its energy bills over the next five years.
Ian Hirst, chairman of Slam Community Development Trust, the charity that runs the centre, said: “This is a very exciting development for us. Currently our monthly energy charges amount to the same as 50 members’ fees. The savings provided by these machines means we can potentially use 30 of those fees to fund other environmental initiatives. It’s a big boost to what the centre can offer.
“The biggest cost to any leisure-related venue is electricity: these new machines are the perfect way of tackling our energy costs.”
The centre also has energy efficient LED lights throughout the building and plans to install 400 solar panels, which will slash its electricity bills by a further 65% and make a major reduction in its carbon footprint.
Ebisu East Gallery (by ykanazawa1999)
Kenyan Susan Oguya created an app to help farmers in her homeland. Shown here in the office of her company, M-Farm, she also belongs to the group Akirachix, which seeks to bring more Kenyan women into the tech world.Kenyan Women Create Their Own ‘Geek Culture’
When a collective of female computer programmers in Kenya needed a name for their ladies-only club, they took their inspiration from the Japanese cult film Akira.
“So akira is a Japanese word. It means energy and intelligence. And we are energetic and intelligent chicks,” says Judith Owigar, the president of Akirachix.
A group like Akirachix would have been unthinkable even five years ago. But Kenya is making a big push toward IT — part of a plan to create a middle-class country by the year 2030.
Kenya has laid hundreds of miles of fiber optic cable. Google and IBM set up shop here. The city even has plans for a $7 billion technology hub just outside the capital, Nairobi.
But you need more than tech giants and broadband and even money to launch a local tech industry. You also need a culture of computer geeks. That’s where Owigar and her collective Akirachix come in. They want to make sure that the girl geeks are encouraged as much as the guys.
Bridging The Gender Gap
“You know you’re the oddball just because of your gender,” Owigar says.
It turns out that in Kenya, exactly as in Silicon Valley, the problem with getting more women in tech is that there aren’t more women in tech.
“There are probably other women in tech who are alone, and they think they’re the weird ones, but if enough of us meet together, you know, it won’t be so weird anymore,” Owigar says.
Susan Oguya is also an Akirachick. She grew up on a farm in western Kenya without a computer. But she was lucky enough to have an uncle who worked in Nairobi.
When he came home for the holidays, he would haul his entire workstation in the car back with him — the monitor, the CPU, the keyboard, the mouse — and set it up in Oguya’s living room. Oguya was 15.
“So he’d bring it over, we’d use it, and then he would go back with it,” Oguya says. “So in the times when I didn’t have a computer, there were books that he left. Books about what is a computer, parts of a computer, what is a ROM, what is a RAM. It’s really basic.”
When she got to a university, she majored in IT. She had an idea for a mobile phone app that would help farmers like her parents.
One of the striking things about Kenya is that even impoverished farmers have cellphones. For decades, Kenya was too poor to lay copper telephone wire in the ground, so the vast majority of Kenyans use cellphones as their primary phone.
Now, all those Kenyan cellphone users are set to take advantage of an increasingly mobile world. Oguya’s app would allow farmers to check the crop prices with text messaging, skipping the middleman.
“Yeah, corrupt middleman,” Oguya says. “Let’s say skipping the corrupt middleman.”
But Oguya was one of only 10 women in her department of 80 — about the same ratio you’d find in a computer science class at Stanford. Her teachers doubted her ability to actually program this app she’d thought up.
“In my culture, it’s like men can only communicate with men. And I was like, ‘OK.’ Then if I could share this passion, like try and explain to the person, this is what I want to do? It’s only a woman who could understand me better,” Oguya says.
It wasn’t until her third year that she met a computer researcher at the same university, Jessica Colaco, who says she bumped into Oguya in the hallway. “I remember when I met her in the corridor, Susan was really shy. She was like, ‘Excuse me, are you Jessica Colaco?’ ” she says.
“So she invited me and was like, ‘Come meet other women who also have a passion like you, but they want to relate to other women who don’t know that this exists,’ ” Oguya says.
Oguya started spending some Saturday mornings with Colaco and other women, snipping code and poring through hacker cookbooks. These informal gatherings became the Akirachix.
Oguya graduated and turned her mobile phone idea into a company called M-Farm. At 25 years old, she now has a staff of 18. And 7,000 African farmers use her app.
Solving Local Problems
One floor up from Oguya’s office is a kind of oasis of geekdom — a gathering space for Nairobi’s tech community called the iHub. It feels like any sort of hacker space in Silicon Valley or New York, with comfy couches, fast Wi-Fi and cappuccinos served by a barista named Miss Rose.
But the techies you meet here aren’t trying to come up with the next Facebook or another app to share your photos. They’re solving local problems.
There’s one app that brings math and reading help by cellphone to village schools.
There’s an app that lets Kenyans who don’t have computers do their online shopping by cellphone.
There’s a micro-insurance product that measures the rainfall at cellphone towers and automatically distributes money to farmers in drought.
These are all applications started by women. Akirachix’s Owigar says they’re sending a message to the next wave of girl geeks. “We need them to see that we are doing it and we enjoy it. You know, you don’t find many African women looking for the spotlight. Most of them tend to hide their awesomeness,” Owigar says.
The best time to carve a spot for women in geek culture, she says, is when there isn’t much geek culture yet.
Great read on corporations adapting to climate change by World Resources Institute. You’d be surprised by how many corporations are adapting - even big oil is adapting to climate change. Blame the media’s obsession with showing “the other side” of the debate. When 97% of climate scientists agree on something (a first) there is no other side to debate.
Now, businesses are finding they’ll also need to “adapt” to more volatile conditions and help vulnerable communities become more resilient. Adaptation means recognizing and preparing for impacts like water stress, coastal flooding, community health issues, or supply chain disruptions, among other issues.
WRI discussed why businesses need to embrace mitigation AND adaptation strategies at the recent Net Impact conference, where I sat on a panel entitled: “Climate Change Adaptation: Mitigating Risk and Building Resilience.” Dr. David Evans, Director of the Center for Sustainability at Noblis, moderated the panel. Other panelists included Gabriela Burian, Director for Sustainable Agriculture Ecosystems at Monsanto, and John Schulz, Director of Sustainability Operations at AT&T.
Why Adaptation Is So Important
Each panelist pointed to reasons why adapting to climate change is becoming increasingly important to their own companies. For example:
At AT&T, potential disruptions to IT networks pose real threats to the company and its customers. Drawing lessons from disasters like Hurricane Katrina, AT&T has started locating critical equipment on the 2nd floor of a building—rather than the ground floor—to avoid future floods.
At Monsanto, the focus is on meeting the future food needs of a growing global population. Global warming means new challenges for farmers, who must adjust to changing growing seasons and water availability.
Critical Issues for Corporate Climate Leaders
AT&T and Monsanto shared stories about their own experiences with climate change adaptation, but it’s important to note that this issue will increasingly impact all companies—from small, mom-and-pop shops to global corporations. Companies like Coca-Cola are publicly acknowledging climate risks as part of their financial reporting. More leadership is needed, as businesses start to look at their own climate risks as well as impacts on their customers and local communities.
In the course of the Q&A, the Net Impact session highlighted five important topics that corporate leaders will need to keep in mind:
Managing diverse climate change impacts across global operations: Companies that operate in multiple regions may face very different climate change impacts (for example, sea level rise, increasing temperatures, drought, or floods) in different locations. Corporate strategies must be developed locally and in partnership with departments across the organization’s various locations.
Finding and creating better decision-making tools: Companies will need information to help them factor potential climate risks into future investments and strategies. Experts in the audience and on the panel pointed to WRI tools like the Aqueduct global water risk maps and the forthcoming Sustainability SWOT (sSWOT) as examples of the type of resources needed to guide forward-looking, smart business decisions.
Recognizing underlying drivers of vulnerability: A changing climate is just one of several variables that contribute to business and community vulnerability. For example, population growth and mass consumption are two of the underlying drivers that came up in discussion as places to focus when seeking to increase community resiliency.
Taking a broad view of risks and opportunities by engaging stakeholders: A narrow view of climate impacts may unintentionally increase a company’s (or its customers’ or surrounding communities’) vulnerability to climate change. Looking just at the company’s own facilities along the coastline, for example, ignores risks in the supply chain. Similarly, the potential health impacts of climate change—like an increasing threat of water-borne disease—might not seem immediately relevant to some businesses, but it may impact employees or communities in future growth markets. Proactive stakeholder engagement is essential for identifying such risks, which for some companies, may also be opportunities to provide new solutions.
Reaching out to new partners: Effective strategies for adapting to climate change may in some cases be a source of competitive advantage (for example, in developing a new product or service). However, in other cases, adaptation measures can be pre-competitive, meaning that even bitter rivals (think Coca-Cola and Pepsi) could collaborate to create better information tools or share water resource management techniques.
Corporations Must Act Quickly
The list above is a partial one. Corporate action to adapt to climate change will certainly involve many more ideas and strategies—many of which are still being developed. More action is needed, and the important take-away from the discussion at the Net Impact conference is that action must start now.
~ divine chocolate wrapper designed with adinkra symbols.
divine, the first ever fairtrade chocolate bar from the cocoa beans farmed by Kuapa Kokoo a cooperative of over 45,000 small scale farmers in Ghana, West Africa.
A small British company has developed a way to create petrol from air and water, technology it hopes may one day contribute to large-scale production of green fuels.
Engineers at Air Fuel Synthesis (AFS) in Teeside, northern England, say they have produced 5 liters of synthetic petrol over a period of three months.
The technique involves extracting carbon dioxide from air and hydrogen from water, and combining them in a reactor with a catalyst to make methanol. The methanol is then converted into petrol.
By using renewable energy to power the process, it is possible to create carbon-neutral fuel that can be used in an identical way to standard petrol, scientists behind the technology say.
“It’s actually cleaner because it’s synthetic,” Peter Harrison, chief executive officer of AFS, said in an interview.
“You just make what you need to make in terms of the contents of it, so it doesn’t contain what might be seen as pollutants, like sulphur,” he said.
The work is part of a two-year project that has so far cost around 1 million pounds ($1.6 million).
The green petrol will not appear on forecourts any time soon, though.
“We can’t make (the petrol) at pump prices, but we will do eventually,” Harrison said. “All we need is renewable energy to make it, and so when oil becomes a problem we will be able to make a contribution to keep cars moving or to keep aeroplanes moving.”
AFS said it was confident the technology could be scaled up to refinery size in the future. Each of the processes that go into making the fuel already take place separately on an industrial scale.
For now, however, AFS plans to build a commercial plant in the next two years that will produce around 1,200 liters a day of specialist fuels for the motorsports sector, Harrison said.
First Solar finds love in India
It’s been nearly two years since First Solar announced its first deal in India. The company has made good progress in this emerging market, and it announced another, 50MW deal Monday. What it really wants to do, though, is to develop projects in India.
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PICTURED ABOVE: Bosleav farmers in front of the commune’s first solar-powered water pump.
Cambodia: Water management goes solar
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Bamboo bikes hit the pavement in Ghana
In Ghana, a country burgeoning with traffic congestion, increasing economic growth, and a stark urban-rural divide, making frames of bicycles out of bamboo could be the key to promoting sustainable development. It also makes stronger, longer-lasting bikes.
This is according to Bernice Dapaah, the executive director of Bamboo Bikes Initiative, which trains young Ghanaians to build, fix, and market bamboo-framed bicycles.
“We are into women, children, and youth’s empowerment. And the project reduces carbon emissions and contributes to traffic decongestion, so using it is also a form of reducing climate change,” she said in an interview with IPS.
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