cheap green

How Do You "Green" Your Dorm?

Here in the next few weeks freshman and college students will be moving into their dorm rooms anticipating the start of their college adventure. Parents and their kids have now spent a lot of time in stores looking for what is needed for the dorm room, but two questions still linger...did I buy too much and do I really need it?
But lets back up and start with the basics of college dorms. The standard dorm room is around 228 square feet. How in the world can we spend so much time searching for the right items to bring and buy? Maybe we should be looking at minimizing clutter and going "green" this time around. It might just save parents and kids a lot of money and stress.   
"Greening" of dorm rooms is becoming a very large trend in the larger universities within the United States. Many common items that you would buy for a dorm room come in a "green" form. Those items can include: organic sheets, bed set, biodegradable laundry detergent and cleaning products. 
Besides the many items that come in "green" form schools are actually taking it one step further. Schools are now tailoring dorms to those that would like to live in a sustainable environment. Such universities as Duke, Brown and Stanford have paved the way on this initiative. Duke University set's up a green dorm room for visual teaching during the summer months when prospective students are visiting the campus. These new dorms feature LED lighting, smart power strips, energy efficient appliances and drying racks. Some universities have even go so far as to place composting toilets and geothermal heating in dorm rooms.
After universities starting converting dorm rooms to be more sustainable students thought it may be a good idea to continue the green theme and have a green dorm checklist. For this green dorm checklist each student would go through their daily behaviors and check the boxes that applied. Once it was completed they would discuss the habits with a Dorm Eco-Rep and see where they can improve. 
Some universities have shared their energy saving statistics so we would like to share them with you and show how the dorms are making a difference. 
  • 20% Estimated reduction in energy use at Stanford's green dorms.
  • 968,073 Pounds of CO2 Tulane could save annually by creating green dorms across the whole campus.
  • 30% Estimated reduction in energy and water at Tufts University green dorm room building.
Green dorms may not be for everyone and the universities know that, but if you are an eco fan and heading to college do some online searching. You may be very surprised that the university you are interested in has a green dorm building.

Efforts increase to drive down solar costs

Add another voice to the call for cheap solar.

SunRun, a San Francisco-based solar installer, has released a report that says simplifying permitting would drop costs another notch.

"Our research identifies inconsistencies in local permitting as one of the most critical roadblocks to a sustainable, subsidy-free solar industry,” said SunRun CEO and co-founder Edward Fenster in a statement.

The report, "The Impact of Local Permitting on the Cost of Solar Power," said a federal effort to create consistency among the multiple regulatory levels could make getting solar power affordable for half U.S. homeowners.

The U.S. Department of Energy already launched its SunShot Initiative, a challenge meant to transform the marketplace. The agency wants applicants for the $12.5 million available to achieve "measurable improvements in market conditions for rooftop photovoltaic across the United States" through streamlined and standardized permitting and interconnection processes.

And in California, San Jose Mercury News reporter Dana Hull says the nickname Governor Sunbeam better suits Gov. Jerry Brown (as opposed to Governor Moonbeam during his last stint in office) after he announced his policy to get the state "to produce 20,000 new megawatts of renewable electricity -- enough to power 20 cities the size of San Francisco."

Commercial scale projects, meanwhile, are in the wings. In the sun-drenched San Joaquin Valley, about 94 projects spanning about 64,000 acres have received a clean bill of health from wildlife regulators.

And at the same time, manufacturing costs have fallen to about $1.50 per watt and are expected to continue that descent into the $1 range. The Snowmass, Colo.-based Rocky Mountain Institute says costs could be further reduced to between 60 and 90 cents per watt if its recommendations are followed.

The institute also listed an uneven permitting landscape. Solar installers say that and interconnect fees, the requirement by utilities to hook up more remote solar sites to the grid, also can be expensive and variable.

Gov. Brown's intent is to generate 60 percent of his target through "localized electricity," Hull writes. Those would be systems like rooftop solar or others that don't require new power lines -- and thus no interconnect fees.

The SunRun report says Germany, France and Japan have eliminated permitting for basic residential installations with Germany's installed costs the lowest in the world and 40 percent lower than the United States.

The report estimates local governments can save $1 billion over the next five years. It says solar installers nationwide identify local permitting as the most stubborn cost they face and say it adds 50 cents per watt, or $2,516 per residential install. Reasons are due to wide variations in processes, excessive fees and slow submittal and inspection processes.