What is…Cloud Computing?

November 18, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Green, Guest Posts, Quick Saving Tips

So there has been a buzz for quite some time about the green thing called “Cloud Computing” yet all of the literature is pretty cloudy (excuse the bad pun) for the average non-techie geek. Here is a basic and brief overview of this mysterious cloud computing (please note that its simplification may leave out some things that are beloved and important to techies, but this is for us non-techie types just trying to “get it” as best we can).

So typically your computer has a home base (server) that store your information and keeps you up and running. Sometimes you need a lot of energy and memory (kind of) to run your website and sometimes, you don’t. So what is up with all of this wasted time where the full capacity of your home base isn’t being used?

This is where cloud computing steps in to help out. It is kind of like sharing all of that extra energy. There are these common places for the servers to all sit and play nicely with one another. Then you and your website neighbors all store and put your information into these shared areas. So when you don’t need extra energy, your neighbor might, and vice versa. This helps use the potential of these home bases more efficiently.

Think of a shared basketball. Sometimes you and the neighbors all play together at the Recreation Center, and sometimes you just go in to shoot some hoops. But either way, having a shared basketball instead of one for every person helps get the best use out of that one basketball.

So who uses this kind of stuff? Well major cloud computing “providers” like your phone-provider are: Salesforce, Google, and Amazon among others. Microsoft, HP, Dell, IBM, and other large computing companies are very actively involved with cloud computing.

So what’s with all of this chit chat about it being “green”? Well as you can imagine, this can make the process a lot more efficient. There has been a lot of concern over companies going “paperless” which would in turn result in more electronic waste (a very toxic alternative to the highly recyclable paper) through the need of more servers. When we have paper waste, we can see it, we can feel in infringe on our space, and we feel the urge to clean it up or get rid of it. Since the same information can also be stored electronically, we often forget about it and electronic file build-up requires a great deal of energy and electronics to keep it stored and accessible. This is an ongoing debate, so keeping your inbox cleaned up and your computer free from unnecessary files. That said the emissions cut by investing in cloud computing as opposed to older versions on dedicated servers can reduce emissions and energy usage quite a bit.

Learn more about emissions cutting through cloud computing from this study.

Photo Credit.

Organic Wines Vs. Organic Grapes

September 1, 2010 · Filed Under Green, Health, Pop Culture, Quick Saving Tips

Organic Wine

Photo by {link:http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahfelicity/83112974/}sarahfelicity{/link}.

Organic wines have been produced for centuries, but only recently have they become certified as organic.  It’s often a confusing topic as many people do not know what goes into making an organic wine. There is also a huge debate as to the difference between a wine that is certified organic as opposed to one that just contains organic grapes.

Organic Grapes

Any wine that claims to be organic must at minimum use grapes that have been grown organically.  That means we are not drinking harmful chemicals along with our wine.  Pretty straightforward, so whenever you see a wine that has organic grapes, you know that it was grown with you and the environment in mind.

Organic Wines

Here is where the debate gets interesting.  A wine can say that it uses organic grapes but not be certified as an organic wine.  Organic wines use organic grapes, but also do not contain any added sulfites in the wine.  I emphasis the word added as the production of wine causes a natural formation of sulfites.

What are Sulfites?

Sulfites do occur naturally in winemaking, but many winemakers add it during the process to get a product that will last longer.  They act as a  preservative in order to prevent oxidation and produce a better end product.  Doesn’t seem like a big deal, or is it?

Many people have various problems when consuming products in which sulfites were added.  The most common are difficulty of breathing and headaches.  If you get bad headaches after drinking wines, this could be the reason.

How to buy?

The next time you go to buy wine, be sure to check the labels appropriately.  Some wines may display large text of organic, but may just use organic grapes.  If you want to buy a truly organic wine, some cautious must be taken with foreign wines as some claim to be organic, but only use organic grapes.

Also be sure to check into the vineyard and winemaker.  There are still some vineyards that grown grapes organically or don’t add additional sulfites to their product and just don’t want to go through the process of getting certified organic.

Unplugging Your Electronics With Power Strip

July 21, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Green, Products, Quick Saving Tips

One of the most wasteful things in our home is to leave electronic devices plugged in while they are not in use.  Commonly referred to as Vampire Power, this type of waste increases so many people’s electric bills unnecessarily.  Unplugging each individual electronic device can be tedious and make it difficult to remember that all of your electronic devices are unplugged.

Using a simple power strip for your most popular electronic devices can make the task much less painful.  All you have to do is switch off the power on the strip and each device is as good as unplugged.  There are even power strips like the Smart Strip that even will automatically stop the current from going to electronics when they are turned off.   By making the small investment, you can probably recoup the cost within a few months of use.

Test your Greenie Knowledge!

July 14, 2010 · Filed Under Green, Guest Posts, Quick Saving Tips, Save and Go Green

Want to see just how much of a greenie you truly are? Take the Practically Green Quiz online to find out just what shade of green you may be!

Benefits
You get your quiz results, and while taking the quiz you find out ways to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. You can also share your results on Facebook with friends and family and see who can become the ‘greenest of them all’. They also offer specialized tips that apply to where you are in your personal green journey sent right to your email!

Part of the results offer you comparisons, tips for how to improve, and the option to “Ask an Expert”. Not too bad for a 5 minute quiz.

Cons
If you want additional information you have to sign-up and provide your gender, year of birth, and area code. For those concerned with identity theft or being on “one more list” you might want to just take the test and learn as you go!

To take the Practically Green Quiz, Click Here!

The Benefits of Green IT

June 24, 2010 · Filed Under Quick Saving Tips, Technology

By switching over to Green IT solutions, companies are savings tons of money, reducing the amount of space need for servers and most importantly helping minimize their environmental impact.  Virtulization is a large part of that, but there are other solutions that businesses are implementing that helps green up their servers.

Many people get scared when people start talking overly technical, but Green IT doesn’t have to be  difficult to understand nor it’s benefits.  This video filmed by VMWare gives a great overview of some green IT solutions in plain English.

Many companies can implement many of the mentioned methods and save lots of money and reduce their environmental impact. The concept of reducing costs alone will entice any company into implementing these methods. Try proposing many of these ideas to your company, you might be surprised how receptive most companies are to changes like these.

B.Y.O.G.: Bring Your Own Growler

June 2, 2010 · Filed Under News, Quick Saving Tips

Growlers are making a comeback. These reusable half-gallon bottles used to transport beer from pub or brewery to home date back at least to the late-19th Century and are reentering the modern vernacular as beer consumers become more cost-, quality-, and environmentally-conscious.

Growler
Photo by mrjoro.

According to The New York Times, beer-to-go is both legal and growing in popularity. National chains such as Whole Foods are getting in on the action, and beer aficionados everywhere are rejoicing. At a cost of roughly $4 to $12 per half gallon (and a even a bit more for true specialty beers), a full growler beats the price of a six-pack any day.

If you live in a city – like Boston, Portland (Oregon), New York, San Francisco, or St. Louis – known for its craft beers, then you may very well live in a mecca for growlers without even knowing it! Run a Google search or ask your favorite craft beer bar owner where you can obtain and use a growler … and then drink up! (And, of course, drink responsibly.)

Where do I recycle my….

May 28, 2010 · Filed Under Quick Saving Tips

Have you ever found yourself ready to toss an old household appliance or other random item into the trash but then found yourself wondering if doing so could be harmful to the environment?  Well, I have….many times!  But often this was because I just did not know where to bring these items so they could be recycled.  For example, who knew it would be so hard to find a new home for a retired mini-fridge?  Goodwill would not take it, as it is against their policy, and my town recycling center didn’t want it either.  Finally, I found a recycling station that would take it off my hands…for a fee.  While this did not make much sense to me at first, the woman on the other end of the phone explained to me that any remaining freon would have to be removed from the fridge and then the metal is crushed into scrap.  What about some of the other stuff we all want to get rid of in an eco-responsible way?   Here is a list of some of the more obscure items that we use up but do not want to throw away…

Recycle
Photo by chrissatchwell.

Batteries

Batteries should not be thrown into the trash because they contain chemicals that can leak out into the ground.  There are usually one or more battery collection stations in every town.  In my town, batteries can be disposed of at the local hardware store.  There are also a number of major retailers that have battery collection boxes set up through the Call2Recycle program, a free battery collection service.  Call2Recycle boxes can be found at most Best Buy, Home Depot and Radio Shack stores.  There is even a location finder on the Call2Recycle website that allows one to search for a battery recycling station by zip code (www.call2recycle.com).

Cell Phones

Like batteries, cell phones also contain harmful chemicals that can be released into the environment when thrown in the trash.  Fortunately, there are many programs available that collect used cell phones for charitable causes or for recycling.  Cell Phones for Soldiers (www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com) is one such program.  Also, there are bins set up at Whole Foods stores.  Another option is to return your old phone to your service provider, as most have a recycling program of their own.

Ink Cartridges

Empty ink cartridges can actually be refilled at many computer stores, for a fraction of what a new cartridge would cost.  If you are looking for a project, you can even purchase an ink refilling kit and do-it-yourself at home.  Staples also has a program where you can receive credits for dropping off used ink cartridges at their retail stores.  These credits can then be applied toward your future purchases.  According to the Staples website, this program has allowed them to recycle 22 million cartridges in 2008 alone.

Fabric/Clothes

When my daughter ripped the knee out on a pair of her black leggings, I placed the garment in my recycling bin and placed it out on the curb, thinking that surely, cotton cloth could be recycled, right?  At the end of the day when I was pulling my bin back into the garage, I saw that the leggings were still inside.  Thinking that they must have been overlooked, I placed them in the bin again the following week.  When I pulled my car out onto the street later that day, however, I realized that my recycling person (if that is the correct term) had sent me a clearer message this time – the leggings were now strewn upon my lawn.  Frustrated, I started doing a little research.

This recycling dilemma turned out to be a lot trickier than the others.  Apparently many cities and towns have developed their own textile recycling programs, but my community has not.  Textile banks, as they are called in the United Kingdom, are quite popular abroad and are often designed to provide recycled cloth to underdeveloped nations.  While certainly not as convenient as curbside recycling,  many town recycling and transfer stations will accept fabric scraps.

Light Bulbs

Used light bulbs (regular or CFL) can be packed into a cardboard box so they will not shatter and dropped off at your nearest Home Depot store.  You can also visit www.earth911.com and type in whatever it is you want to recycle, in this case “CFL lightbulbs,” along with your zip code, for a list of appropriate recycling centers.  Easy peasy.  I wonder what would happen if I typed in “black leggings?”

<div style=”margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px;”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4047/4516175267_c262801f97.jpg” alt=”Meatless Mondays” width=”401″ height=”267″ />
<em><span style=”font-size: xx-small;”>Photo by <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/iampeas/4516175267/”>iampeas</a>.</span></em></div>

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