Christy Perera: April 2012 Archives

SAGE Advice: Trash or treasure?

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When first arriving in India for study abroad in Fall 2010, students met with the program directors to discuss living at the hotel. At this meeting, a simple question was asked: “Does the hotel recycle?” The room burst into laughter. The answer, in case any naysayers are wondering, was yes—but there was much more to the answer than that. Indians define recycling in a completely different way than we Americans do—they repurpose, recreate, reuse, and upcycle. At our hotel, cleaning fluids were kept in reused water bottles (compared to the U.S. where cleaning fluids are purchased in bottles that are used once and then disposed of) and surplus food from the restaurant was sent home with the employees at the end of the day. In a country of ten billion, where trash pickup is infrequent, reusing becomes the rule, not the exception. I think we have a lot to learn from how Indians perceive trash and how they seem to always think of ways to repurpose things Americans would easily throw away. Here are some lessons from my inner-Indian:

  • Check yourself before your wreck yourself/the environment: Before you buy something, consider whether you really need it. Also, think about alternative products—instead of purchasing disposable plastic sandwich bags, invest in a reusable sandwich bag, such as a snack taxi.
  • Think ahead:

    • As you dash out the door in the morning, grab your reusable coffee mug. Many java shops even offer discounts to those who BYOMug Over 16 billion single-use cups are tossed in the trash each year*. The process to make this massive amount of cups wastes enough water to fill 6,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
    • Stay hydrated by bringing your reusable water bottle with you, everywhere. Not only will you decrease your carbon footprint, you’ll also save a large chunk of change considering that gallon-per-gallon, bottled water is more expensive than gasoline.
    • Keep reusable bags in your purse or in your car so they travel with you. Use them if you drop by the grocery or need to transport your Tupperware.
  • Think outside the box, literally: Take packaging into consideration when you purchase something and when you’re unpacking something new. Keep packaging materials for use later down the line or use things you already have to package items. For gifts, invest in some reusable bags. The website even allows you to track where these bags travel!

  • Repurpose: Before you throw something away, or even recycle it, consider its possibilities! In my apartment, we have started a quirky compilation of glass jars as an addition to our drinking glass collection. I also have a couple of plastic truffle trays I use to sort my earrings. Before you chuck it, check it. There’s potential in almost everything!

In the end, it’s best to consider if what you’re tossing in the trash really is trash. Help celebrate the Earth by taking a second to tap into your creative side before throwing something away, because it never really goes “away.”

*source here

UChicago Innovation: Soaking up the sun in Chicago

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Solar Panels Sun small.jpg

What would campus look like if our laptops and smart phones all ran on solar power? A company called Solarmer Energy, Inc. has taken up this challenge and is currently implementing technology developed at the University of Chicago to design plastic solar cell prototypes for portable electronic devices.

Luping Yu, a professor in the Chemistry department, and Yongye Liang, a PhD student, invented the material, called PTB1. Prototypes of the product will be about eight square inches and are predicted to last for three years, operating on 8% efficiency. These cells are made of polymers that are much simpler than comparable products. While labs at other universities have created polymers that have similar efficiencies, these require more engineering and multiple devices. Thus far, the greatest efficiency reported has been 6.5%, yet Yu and Liang’s technology is expected to reach 8% efficiency and require only one device.

Solarmer is utilizing this innovation to develop flexible, translucent plastic cells that transform solar energy into electricity. The company, based in Los Angeles, was founded in 2006 and aims to reduce the cost of solar energy to make it comparable to the price of fossil fuel-generated electricity. Currently, silicon-based solar cells dominate the field, however the industry will likely begin to rely on low-cost, flexible cells like Yu and Liang’s innovation.

Click here for the full article.

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This page is a archive of recent entries written by Christy Perera in April 2012.

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