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Composting Toilets: Large Scale Systems

Composting toilets can be a practical solution even for large businesses. We recently visited the Philip Merrill Environment Center, which is the headquarters for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. It has a Platinum rating for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council. After taking a tour of their offices (about a hundred people work there), …

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Micro and Pico Hydropower

If you own property that has access to a stream or river, and want to produce your own electricity, then Hydropower should be your first choice. The cost of equipment is lower, and the kilowatt per dollar return is much better than any other alternative energy source. The most important element to have when producing hydropower is what is called …

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Lead-Free Garden Hoses

Some garden hoses leach lead and other chemicals into the water. The problem is that they are made of PVC, which uses lead as a stabilizer. Consumer Reports tested 16 brands of garden hose sold at national chains and on the internet. In some hoses they measured 10 to 100 times more lead than the EPA considers safe coming out …

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Solar Heated Outdoor Shower

This looks interesting — it’s a solar shower that heats 5 1/2 gallons of water with a built-in solar collector. Created in Europe, the imported shower is able to heat water to 140°F in 1-2 hours in sunny weather. The manufacturer claims that the shower is capable of capturing heat from the ambient temperature in the air on hot, but …

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Human Powered Snow Thrower

This new snow throwing tool, called a “Whovel”, uses your body weight to lift and throw snow and slush. After suffering repeated back injuries, the company founder began working on snow removal designs that could reduce back injuries, while avoiding the many problems associated with gas-powered snow blowers.

Red Juice: Eco-Intelligent Degreaser & Cleaner

Red juice is a powerful but odor-free cleaner and degreaser. It is made from seaweed, soybean extracts, palm kernels, and palm oils. It can be used around food because it is pH neutral, non-toxic and completely biodegradable. Because of its biodegradability, it can sprayed on surfaces and wiped off without rinsing. Available from: Clean Team ($10)

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Japanese Interiors: Minimalist: Adaptable: Renewable

Traditional Japanese houses are built with bamboo, paper, straw and other kinds of light weight wood, all of which are renewable. The houses are also made with components such as tatami mats, shoji screens and tansu cabinets. The components are fitted together without nails, and are often rearranged. For example, in the bedroom, futons are rolled up and stored away, …

MetaEfficient In the News: LA Times Review

We’re in the news again, with a recent review from the Los Angeles Times: The Reactual Institute, which tries to highlight ecologically sound products, sets a lofty goal on the home page of Meta-Efficient, billing it as a “guide to the most efficient things in the world.” That means products are reviewed based on how well they meet consumer needs …

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Fungi Perfecti: Growing Useful Mushrooms

Fungi Perfecti is the web site of Paul Stamets, author of “Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms“. Stamets has a long history of discovering and cultivating edible and medicinal mushrooms. He researches useful aspects of fungi such as their antiviral properties and their potential for “mycoremediation” (restoring polluted or damaged habitats with fungi). Through the Fungi Perfecti web site you can …

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EnviroGLAS™ Terrazzo: 100% Recycled Glass Flooring

EnviroGLAS™ Terrazzo is flooring made of 100% post-consumer recycled glass. Recycled glass bottles are crushed, mixed with an epoxy, and poured to form a very appealing surface. Terrazzo, from the Italian word for terraces, was created several hundred years ago in Europe when Venetian workers discovered a new use for discarded marble remnants. EnviroGLAS™ Terrazzo is the latest Terrazzo innovation …

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Self-Regulating Aeroponics System: AeroGrow

We don’t usually feature products that are prototypes or not yet on the market, but this aeroponics system looks quite intriguing. It is due to be released in the next month of so, and it is aimed to take aeroponics to the mass consumer market. Aeroponics is similar to hydroponics, but the roots of the plants are exposed to the …

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Carfree Cities

Imagine life in a city free from the noise, stench, and danger of cars, trucks, and buses. Imagine that all basic needs, from groceries to child care, lie within a five-minute walk of every doorstep. Imagine that no commute takes more than 35 minutes from door to door, and that service is provided by a fast, cheap, safe, comfortable public …

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Transefficient: Porous Pavers

Porous pavers are permeable replacements for concrete or other hard surfaces. They reduce rain water runoff by 90% thus avoiding erosion. Less pollution reaches the waterways because the rain water penetrates the underlying ground more effectively. Permeable pavement is slightly different — it looks like concrete but is structured to be porous so that rain water seeps through it. See …

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Non-Toxic Infant Toys and Teethers

Infants absorb chemicals more easily than adults — their bodies run at a higher metabolic rate, and their skin is ten times thinner. Infant toys and teether made of PVC plastic often leak phthalates (pronounced “thay-lates”) and other toxic substances (see more details in this report on 2003 PVC Report Card on Kid’s Toys Manufacturers).

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Grapefruit Seed Extract: Efficient Disinfectant

Grapefruit Seed Extract is a powerful disinfectant. It can be used to disinfect wounds, sterilize fruit and vegetables, purify drinking water, sanitize dishes, countertops and cutting boards and inhibit bacteria growth in pools and spas. The active ingredient of grapefruit seed extract is synthesized from the seed and pulp of certified organically grown grapefruit. The process converts the grapefruit bioflavonoids …

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Water Saving Shower Head: “Earth Massage”

This was my first low-flow showerhead, and it’s still one of my favorites. The Earth Massage showerhead produces a fine spray or pulsing jet but only uses 1.75 gallons per minute. It works consistently in both low and high water pressures. A “soak and soap” button reduces the flow rate to 1.0 gpm for soaping up and allows for the …

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Non-Toxic Adhesives, Caulks and Sealants

When building, adhesives are often overlooked and considered at the last minute. However, adhesives are often more toxic than the flooring and other products they are made to adhere. Most adhesives are still based on SB latex, which releases large quantities of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The volatile solvents are used to emulsify (or liquefy) the resin that acts …

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Renewable, Modular Carpet Tiles: FLOR

“Interface FLOR” carpet tiles are made from renewable materials that can recycled easily. They are also built to be modular: if an accident happens, you can clean them in the sink put them back on the floor. They are held down by “low tack” adhesive dots. You can also create new designs by rearranging the tiles.

American Clay: Natural Earth Plasters

American Clay natural interior plasters resist mold growth, do not outgas, are easily repaired, and are available in twelve earth inspired colors. Here is an article explaining the advantages of earth plasters. Available from: American Clay

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Sewage In, Clean Water Out: “Living Machines”

The people in the photo above are walking through the coils of a “Living Machine” in Emmen Zoo, Netherlands. It is a machine that filters and cleans 260,000 gallons of wastewater per day using nothing but plants. The water that comes out is drinkable.