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10 green ideas that will change the world

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Articles - June 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012


0612 10Transformative 04“Reinvent the car.”

That’s the 21st century transportation mantra, says Jeff Allen, executive director of Drive Oregon, a public-private partnership supporting the electric vehicle industry. The idea is to move away from the form of a car — four wheels, internal combustion engine, personal ownership — and instead embrace its function of “mostly trying to get around without getting wet or sweaty or carry a bag of groceries.”

On the tech side are Oregon electric vehicle companies Arcimoto, BOXX and Green Lite Motors. These startups are building small-scale motorized scooters or three-wheel vehicles with hybrid or electric engines. The Green Lite system also includes 100 mpg capability and a hydraulic balancing system.

Meanwhile, second-generation (post-Zipcar) car-sharing companies continue to deconstruct car ownership. San Francisco-based Getaround, a peer-to-peer service, allows individual car owners to rent out their own car. Austin-based Car2Go, a smart car-based service, doesn’t require reservations or round trips. Both operate in Portland. Then there is the yet-to-be named vendor for Portland’s bike-sharing program, approved by city council this spring.

Most cars are too big, too expensive and too polluting for the average driver’s needs, car reinvention proponents say. “The transformation you’re seeing is about giving people more reasonable choices for how they travel,” says Jennifer Dill, a PSU urban studies professor and director of the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium.

Even drivers who want a regular old car, just the electrified version, are in for some changes — namely, the kind of battery that will charge that car. “There’s a perpetual race between the things we want our electronics to do and the batteries we have to power them,” says Allen. “It’s a huge driver for the electric vehicle industry.”

One runner in this race is ReVolt, a Portland company developing a zinc air battery that is reusable, recyclable — and energy dense. The goal is to develop a longer lasting more eco-friendly alternative to the commonly used lithium battery, which is susceptible to explosions, depends on toxic metals and lacks sufficient storage capacity to charge a car for long distances.

“Whether it’s a completely new kind of battery or a dramatically better lithium battery,” says Allen, “there’s going to be some kind of a radical transformation.”


0612 10Transformative 05The United States is home to about 125 biogas plants that convert organic waste to fuel. The majority are in rural areas and rely on animal or plant waste as fuel. John McKinney of Columbia Biogas is developing a $55 million plant in Portland’s Cully Neighborhood, the first in the country to be sited in the center of a metro area. It is expected to be up and running by December 2013.

“This facility is specially designed to handle solid and liquid organic waste streams generated by commercial and industrial waste streams: grocery stores, restaurants, food processors, and beverage manufacturers. Historically a lot of that ended up in landfill, because of plastic or glass or metal packaging. The anaerobic process produces a fuel that will initially power 3,000 homes, and then ramp up to 5,000 homes. What’s unique is the facility also produces fertilizer on the back end. Hauling waste long distances doesn’t make sense.”

-John McKinney founder and president of Columbia Biogas


0612 10Transformative 06A growing body of evidence links light-filled environmentally friendly schools to improved learning outcomes. The typical portable classroom — there are 129 in the Portland Public School District alone — doesn’t meet the grade, featuring inefficient heating and cooling systems, limited natural light and toxic building materials.

Portland State University architecture professors Margarette Leite and Sergio Palleroni, who are married and are partners in the architecture firm PLDP, aim to create “a healthier greener alternative” to the conventional portable at a cost cash-strapped school districts can afford.

There are other environmentally friendly modular classrooms on the market, says Leite. But most feature expensive technologies. By contrast, their Green Portable Classroom targets simple, cost-effective strategies such as passive ventilation, better window placement and steel frames to eliminate the need for expensive concrete foundations.

Leite says the prototype, which will debut at a Chehalis school this fall, will cost about the same as a conventional structure, about $150,000. It will also cut portable energy use by half, saving schools on electricity costs. “We want to set a basic standard for what we should be providing our kids,” Leite says.



-1 #1 VP, Castagra ProductsTats 2012-05-29 23:59:08
Great list. I'm excited to see how these trends progress.
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John A. Ward
-2 #2 10 Green IdeasJohn A. Ward 2012-05-30 05:53:18
Great Article, in the first 4 points I learn that Solar is the most Expensive way to generate electricity, That LEDs Save 195 million in electricity while COSTING the USERS 1 BILLION EXTRA for the same light, that smart phones will allow for more information flow, while an old netbook would provide more access for less money, and the electric car is an expensive FLOP! do you people ever wonder how your ideas will fare, when the bankrupt Federal Govt. STOPS giving you money for your hair brained ideas!!?
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kiel johnson
0 #3 business ownerkiel johnson 2012-05-30 17:24:45
I wish that bicycles had made the list. It seems to fit in perfectly with the quote at the end,

"For whatever reason in our culture we are always looking for that magic technology to save us..."

Bicycles have been around for 150 years. Portland has shown that not only are there lots of positive benefits to bicycling but that it is also great for business. In the last 10 years I can't think of any other technology which has transformed businesses in Portland more except maybe the iPhone. From cargo bikes, to encouragement programs, to how we design apartments and parking. And there is plenty more opportunity.
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Linda Baker
-1 #4 managing editorLinda Baker 2012-05-30 17:57:20

Bikes did make the list. See number 4, "The Mobility Revolution."
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Jonathan Maus
-1 #5 Publisher of BikePortland.or gJonathan Maus 2012-05-30 18:07:58
Thanks Linda for pointing out that bikes do get a mention. It was such a minor mention — and stuffed in between all the excitement about cars — that I actually missed it the first few times I read the list.
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0 #6 CEO, Bright Neighbor, LLCArnold 2012-06-01 20:18:51
We are so proud to be considered one of the top ten green ideas that will change the world. Come join four other Portland-based social innovations and Bright Neighbor as we launch at the Portland State University Social innovation Incubator Pitchfest on June 29th. We look forward to seeing you there!

Maximize Your Neighbors, with Bright Neighbor!

Arnold Strong
CEO, Bright Neighbor, LLC
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Bonita Steers
-1 #7 Home Energy RX, PrincipalBonita Steers 2012-06-04 03:42:16
I specially want to emphasize #10 improved building standards, such as those used in Passiv Haus and other passive designs which can save up to 90% of energy used for heating and cooling. In other countries, new construction is required to meet new standards of construction. Also, Energy Audits as part of Real Estate transaction disclosures would give home buyers a better idea of what they are purchasing related to energy consumption.
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