Researchers at the University of Illinois, or more precisely the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, have discovered a process that can turn used plastic shopping bags into a compatible drop-in diesel fuel and a number of petroleum products. The recycling process also works to recover most of the initial manufacturing inputs that go into producing plastic shopping bags. Given that each year an estimated 100 billion shopping bags are thrown away in the US alone, this is great news indeed.
The firm ISI Technology of South Carolina will soon begin producing a smart water heater, which is designed to cut energy use by 40% over conventional water heaters. They have recently successfully met their funding goal of $125,000 through Kickstarter to begin the production. The Heatworks MODEL 1 compact water heater will measure 12.5 inches by 6.5 inches, meaning that it will fit in most spaces. The water heater will also have Wi-Fi connectivity, so that temperature, power levels and duration can all be monitored and controlled remotely.
The non-profit organization Habitat For Humanity has built another super-efficient house, which has received the highest LEED rating, LEED Platinum for homes. The 1,340 square foot, 3 bedroom and 2 bathroom, 1.5-story single family home, called the Westford House, is located in Westford, Massachusetts. The house has an estimated savings of roughly 40% over a similar more traditional home, which come to an estimated $1295 per year. The additional initial investment for making this home so efficient was $10,000.
The innovative company Ecovative recently “grew” their first tiny house. Or more precisely, after putting together the pine walls of the tiny house, they filled it with the so-called Mushroom Insulation. This insulation proceeded to literally grow in place inside the wall cavities, which already contained all the wiring and plumbing. In this way, the insulation actually glued together the pine boards used to build the framework of the house. The house measures around 62 square feet and is mounted on a trailer so it can be transported anywhere. The tiny house is a prototype and a test of Ecovative’s Mushroom Insulation and they are currently touring the country showing their creation.
Team Middlebury is one of the twenty teams chosen to compete in this year’s US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition and their entry is the design and building of a socially and environmentally sustainable house called the InSite house. The team is made up of more than 100 Middlebury College undergraduate students from over 25 different academic disciplines. The finished two bedroom and one bathroom house will measure 956 square feet, while the building costs are $250,000.