A new whey to make energy?

Greek yogurt is almost magical.

It’s delicious.

It’s healthy.

My kids will even eat it.

And now, some of its byproduct can be used to ...

Tagged: biofuel, greek yogurt, alternative energy

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A new whey to make energy?

A bowl of creamy Greek yogurt and a wooden spoon full of the stuff

Although the discovery is a winner, it’s not automatically a slam dunk for business; to replace affordable petroleum or natural gas, the new bio-fuel needs to be cost competitive.

Key Points

  • Greek yogurt could help make energy.
  • A byproduct in the production process can be converted into biofuel.
  • Researchers are now determining if it’s commercially viable. 

Greek yogurt is almost magical.

It’s delicious.

It’s healthy.

My kids will even eat it.

And now, some of its byproduct can be used to make biofuel.

The Greek variety of yogurt is so creamy because much of the liquid is strained out of the milk protein. This leftover yogurt whey was once considered garbage.

But a team of researchers from Cornell University and the University of Tübingen in Germany figured out a way to turn the discarded byproduct into a biofuel.

Turns out, the lactic acid in the unwanted whey leftovers can be converted into bio-oil.

The researchers are exploring if this process makes commercial sense. If so, they hope to have it in use by 2020 in vehicles and even planes.

Although the discovery is a winner, it’s not automatically a slam dunk for business; to replace affordable petroleum or natural gas, the new bio-fuel needs to be cost competitive.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, there is a significant supply of yogurt whey available to convert. For every cup of Greek yogurt in your fridge, there were two to three times that amount of whey leftovers created to get it there.

America produces more than 770,000 metric tons of yogurt a year. Multiply that by two or three, and you have some waste to work with.

Even so, it’s not easy to establish a new fuel. In the wake of corn ethanol’s challenges like displacing crops, the race is on to find another biofuel source. Here’s a summary from Smithsonian of some of the other research in the works:

“Researchers have been turning to other potential biofuel sources. Some are looking at plants such as hemp and switchgrass that are less resource-intensive than corn or soybeans. Sugar beets, termed ‘energy beets,’ by their supporters, is another crop with fuel potential and has the added benefit of remediating phosphorous in the soil, helping to keep nearby watersheds healthy. This past summer, ExxonMobil announced the creation of a strain of genetically modified algae they say produces twice as much oil as regular algae. One company is beginning to process household garbage like eggshells and coffee grounds into jet fuel. In late 2016, Alaska Airlines powered a cross-country flight with a new biofuel produced by wood scraps. Like the yogurt whey, the wood has the benefit of being a waste product that would otherwise present a disposal challenge; many of the most promising potential biofuel materials are waste products or ‘co-products’ of other processes.” 

Whether you’re betting on beets, algae or whey, we’ll all win with new, affordable and reliable resource options.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Some surprising tips for your 2018 health resolutions

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to get healthy. And the general game plan to do that usually includes working out more, eating healthier and getting more sleep.

But ...

Tagged: weatherization, saving energy, health

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Some surprising tips for your 2018 health resolutions

Graphic shows how weatherization can improve your health.

According to a Department of Energy poll, residents who received weatherization services reported sleeping better and demonstrated increased levels of energy.

Key Points

  • Weatherizing your home does more than reduce your energy bills.
  • It can also improve your health and safety.
  • 40 million U.S. families may qualify for weatherization assistance. 

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to get healthy. And the general game plan to do that usually includes working out more, eating healthier and getting more sleep.

But you might be surprised to hear that weatherizing your house can help you reach your 2018 health goals.

According to the Department of Energy, weatherizing your home can improve your health and safety. Here’s how:

Weatherization can help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be lethal in certain doses. Weatherization crews test furnaces and stoves for gas leaks and install alarms for smoke and carbon monoxide in the home.

Weatherization reduces stress

Making ends meet is stressful. Lowering your energy bill can help. According to a Department of Energy poll, residents who received weatherization services reported sleeping better and demonstrated increased levels of energy.

Weatherization can help your asthma

Asthma is the leading cause for children to miss school. But weatherization improvements like air sealing, insulation, and improved heating and cooling equipment can reduce asthma triggers in the home.

How to apply for Weatherization Assistance

According to the Department of Energy, more than 40 million U.S. families may be eligible for weatherization services nationwide. Energy services are provided by each states’ local weatherization agencies.

If you receive Supplemental Security Income or help to pay your utility bills from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, you are automatically eligible to receive weatherization services. To learn more about the application process and eligibility in your area, contact your state’s administrator. A full listing of state-by-state contact information is available here.

If you don’t qualify for this service, there are many ways you can weatherize your home on your own. Check out these step by step guides to get the job done.

Hope you have a happy, healthy and safe 2018!


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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All aboard the Solar Express!

The Polar Express is great and all, with its magical trip to the North Pole, hot chocolate and enchanting nudge to believe in the season.

But it could use an upgrade.

The ...

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All aboard the Solar Express!

Stamp that read

Far from the North Pole, the world’s first fully solar train recently hit the tracks in Australia.

Key Points

  • The world’s first fully solar train hit the tracks this year.
  • Maybe by next year, the Polar Express could run on solar too.
  • Hopefully, 2018 will bring advancements in energy storage to make it happen. 

The Polar Express is great and all, with its magical trip to the North Pole, hot chocolate and enchanting nudge to believe in the season.

But it could use an upgrade.

The original coal-powered train could maybe one day run on solar power.

Far from the North Pole, the world’s first fully solar train recently hit the tracks in Australia. The train in Byron Bay has curved solar panels on its roof. It also generates electricity when it brakes and can plug in at the train station to get energy from the station’s solar panels. And if no solar power is available, it can pull power from the grid.

The project was completed without government support or funding. A nonprofit group spearheaded the solar train project using volunteers to restore a vintage train. Tickets to ride are an affordable $3 a trip.

The solar train works well for the sunny beach town’s 2-mile route where the sun almost always shines, the tracks are flat and the train cars are made of lightweight aluminum.

The Polar Express — with its heavy loads of Christmas toys, treacherous mountain passes, and dusk-to-dawn schedule — will certainly need to innovate to make solar power work for it.

But with advancements in energy-storage solutions, maybe the Polar Express will be able to have a little fun in the sun.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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But wait! There’s more! EVs might make your electricity cheaper

Who doesn’t love a good infomercial?

You mean I just slap that thing and all my veggies are chopped? Free shipping too?!

Just when I thought it couldn’t get ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, evs, Grid

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But wait! There’s more! EVs might make your electricity cheaper

TV pitchman grins while presenting product

Electric vehicles hook up to the grid when there’s lots of energy but not much demand for it. That energy is stored in the vehicle and then put back on the grid when energy demand is high.

Key Points

  • Electric vehicles could save us money by storing energy for the grid.
  • When supply is high, energy would be stored in your car battery.
  • That energy could then be returned to the grid when it’s needed. 

Who doesn’t love a good infomercial?

You mean I just slap that thing and all my veggies are chopped? Free shipping too?!

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, my expectations are totally exceeded.

I had similar emotions when I read an article in Forbes about electric vehicles recently. Like any good infomercial, first, I was reminded that electric vehicles can improve air quality, are getting more affordable and are evolving to have a longer range.

But wait! There’s more!

Electric vehicles could make everyone’s electricity cheaper and more reliable.

See? Even better than free shipping!

Pacific Gas & Electric and BMW recently completed a pilot program that used electric vehicles as flexible grid storage. Electric vehicles hook up to the grid when there’s lots of energy but not much demand for it. That energy is stored in the vehicle and then put back on the grid when energy demand is high.

This kind of energy storage would be great for renewables — like wind or solar — that might be generating power when no one needs it and idling when folks need energy.

It could also save money.

Investments to keep the grid balanced are really expensive. The need for the grid would remain. But if your energy company could avoid making investments on equipment like transformers and re-conductoring distribution lines to keep the grid balanced, our bills might reflect it.

There’s more work that needs to be done before this can become a widespread reality.

We still need more vehicle-to-grid technology that would help energy flow between the power lines and your car.

But, it could be a real solution to save money and make the grid more reliable someday.

I hear it also slices and dices.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Scheming ways to outwit your smart building? You’re not alone

Smart buildings may have artificial intelligence, but they’re no match for a cold woman on a mission to turn up the heat.

A new study found that occupants of energy-efficient ...

Tagged: Energy Efficiency, smart buildings

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Scheming ways to outwit your smart building? You’re not alone

Woman bundled up in a scarf and sweater tries to stay warm at work.

A new study found that occupants of energy-efficient buildings aren’t above using a Popsicle to raise the heat or a children’s toy to trick motion detection lights into staying on.

Key Points

  • Many high-efficiency buildings don’t see the energy savings the designers anticipated.
  • A study found that many occupants work around inefficient designs.
  • Researchers hope designers can keep people and numbers in mind to maximize energy savings. 

Smart buildings may have artificial intelligence, but they’re no match for a cold woman on a mission to turn up the heat.

A new study found that occupants of energy-efficient buildings aren’t above using a Popsicle to raise the heat or a children’s toy to trick motion detection lights into staying on.

The study in the journal “Energy Research and Social Science” examined how people are living in high-efficiency buildings and why these buildings’ energy savings are often less than anticipated.

The researchers discovered that many energy-efficient designs are circumvented by unhappy inhabitants.

Motion sensor lights were the subject of many complaints, with people confessing to using a toy drinking bird to keep the lights on all the time.

Temperature also caused discomfort.

Occupants fessed up to taping a coin to a windowsill to reflect light and force the A/C on. Others held Popsicles up to the thermostat to trick it into raising the heat.  

The study concluded that designers need to keep people — not just numbers — in mind during the building process. The researchers hope to look into more ways energy=efficient design can better serve energy=savings goals and the people who use the buildings.

In the end, that will hopefully lead to more energy savings and more comfortable people.

What are some ways building designers could make your efficient building more comfortable? Have you ever tried to work around your building’s efficient design? Tell us below.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Your entertainment system could save you money during your next Netflix binge

It’s cold outside.

It’s dark at 4:30 p.m.

And Netflix created an entire section of cheesy holiday content.

No one will judge you if you opt to put ...

Tagged: energy star, entertainment, holiday specials, saving energy

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Your entertainment system could save you money during your next Netflix binge

No one will judge you if you opt to put on your Christmas pajamas and stay in for a merry motion picture marathon. But before you do, check to see if your entertainment system is costing you unnecessary dollars.

Key Points

  • It’s Christmas special time!
  • Before you claim the couch for a holiday show marathon, check your entertainment system for energy savings.
  • Your streaming device, TV and sound bar all have settings that can help you save energy. 

It’s cold outside.

It’s dark at 4:30 p.m.

And Netflix created an entire section of cheesy holiday content.

No one will judge you if you opt to put on your Christmas pajamas and stay in for a merry motion picture marathon.

But before you do, check to see if your entertainment system is costing you unnecessary dollars.

According to Energy Star, a home equipped with TVs, set-top boxes, a Blu Ray player and a sound system that have earned the Energy Star label can save consumers nearly $140 over the life of the products.

According to Energy Star, there are some simple hacks to save energy on your Netflix bender:

  • Stream smarter. If your home entertainment system has a game console and a digital media player as streaming device options, always use the digital media player because game consoles use considerably more energy for streaming.
  • Adjust the brightness. Brighter TVs use more energy. Automatic Brightness Control automatically adjusts TV brightness relative to room brightness and reduces power consumption.
  • Use your sound bar’s volume leveling technology. Sound bars can ensure commercials are not louder than show soundtracks. This feature is good for late-night watching, as loud sound effects won't wake sleeping family members. In addition, the lower volumes will save energy.
  • Tell your digital media player to sleep sooner. Some Energy Star certified DMPs, if inactive for a period of time, automatically enter a low-power sleep mode. To maximize savings, you can lower the amount of time it takes for an inactive DMP to go to sleep. If your DMP is not capable of entering sleep mode automatically, manually turn your DMP off whenever you can to maximize your energy savings.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy your Netflix binge. "White Christmas" is a good place to start. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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How to find LED Christmas lights that aren’t ugly

I know I should like LED holiday lights.

They save energy. They help save on power bills during the holiday months. They’re safer and last longer than the old incandescent ...

Tagged: leds, Christmas, Christmas lights

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How to find LED Christmas lights that aren’t ugly

DJ Santa wears snow-encrusted glasses so as not to be blinded by LED lights

[I]t’s hard to get excited about hanging the LED lights when they make my house look more like something off the Vegas strip than the Norman Rockwell painting vibe I was going for.

Key Points

  • LED lights save energy and money.
  • They’re also safer and last longer.
  • The latest versions are pretty, too. 

I know I should like LED holiday lights.

They save energy. They help save on power bills during the holiday months. They’re safer and last longer than the old incandescent ones.

But it’s hard to get excited about hanging the LED lights when they make my house look more like something off the Vegas strip than the Norman Rockwell painting vibe I was going for.

Thankfully, LED Christmas light options have greatly improved since they lit up the Capitol Christmas tree back in 2006.

Gone are the days of the icy-blue tone and burn-your-retina intensity. We can now get versions with soft light that don’t hurt to look at.

Here’s what to look for to get LED lights with a warm, soft glow.

Check the color temperature

Christmas light labels have a lot of information, but here’s the good news: According to Popular Mechanics, you can ignore the lumen and watts and focus on the color temperature instead. If you want a softer glow, look for an LED bulb with a color temperature of 2,700 to 3,000 K. These lights will look more like an old-fashioned incandescent light. The harsh LED lights usually have a color temperature of 4,500 K.

Then look at the color accuracy

If you want to avoid that blueish hue, then you need to check the color accuracy. Some packages include a color accuracy score. You’ll want a CRI score that’s in the 90s. If it’s in the 80s or below, then the light will be harsher.

When all else fails, don’t be afraid to be that high-maintenance shopper who opens the package and plugs them in to make sure they’re just right. You’re making an investment that will hopefully hang on your tree or house for many holiday seasons, so it’s worth the extra hassle.

Still not convinced to make the LED switch? Check out this lesson from the Griswolds.

No, their house isn’t on fire, those are just the Christmas lights.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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New school bus is pure magic … and electricity

Sure, the Magic School Bus is pretty cool. It can travel through space, shrink to fit in Ralphie’s blood stream and withstand heat when baked into a cake.

But have you ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, electric school bus, magic school bus

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New school bus is pure magic … and electricity

Graphic of a school bus surrounded by stars

We spend $3,184,457,143 on school bus fuel annually, according to the American School Bus Council. But a new bus on the road might change that.

Key Points

  • There’s a new magic school bus.
  • Its magical power is that it’s electric.
  • This could mean lower maintenance and fuel costs for school districts. 

Sure, the Magic School Bus is pretty cool. It can travel through space, shrink to fit in Ralphie’s blood stream and withstand heat when baked into a cake.

But have you ever wondered what fuel it runs on?

If it’s like the majority of the buses in the U.S., it probably runs on diesel. We spend $3,184,457,143 on school bus fuel annually, according to the American School Bus Council.

But a new bus on the road might change that.

The Jouley, named after the joule unit of energy, is Thomas Built Buses’ latest school bus model. It has a 100-mile, all-electric range and offers an option to add a battery pack for more range.

The company anticipates that the bus’s lower maintenance and fuel costs will make it affordable for school districts in the long-term.

Thomas Built believes communities will value the Jouley’s benefits beyond cost savings — like no noise pollution and no emissions. Jouley’s battery could even serve as a backup power source for schools or neighborhoods during power outages. And students will like its 120-volt and USB-charging ports for laptops and cellphones.

So, don’t freak out, Arnold, but you might want to consider staying home from your next field trip. It’s sure to be electric. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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New world record a tall order

How tall things are is a big deal to toddlers.

My daughters ask almost every day if we can put a new marker on our door-jam height ruler. When we play blocks, the towers ...

Tagged: wind turbines, germany, tall turbines

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New world record a tall order

Cute toddler builds tall tower of blocks

In addition to some pretty great bragging rights (our tower is taller than yours!), the tall towers have energy benefits. The wind is generally stronger and more consistent higher in the sky. That means a tall tower can produce more energy than its shorter counterparts.

Key Points

  • Germany built the world’s tallest wind turbine.
  • The tall towers take advantage of stronger, more-consistent wind higher in the sky.
  • The towers also have water reservoirs to store electricity. 

How tall things are is a big deal to toddlers.

My daughters ask almost every day if we can put a new marker on our door-jam height ruler. When we play blocks, the towers are built to be beautiful, and, of course, tallest in the whole kingdom. And I’m frequently asked if someday “I’ll be taller than you.”

It seems even engineering professionals are in on the height intrigue.

A team in Germany recently built the world’s largest wind turbines. I’m sure my little ones would approve of its impressive 809-foot height from base to tip of the blade.

In addition to some pretty great bragging rights (our tower is taller than yours!), the tall towers have energy benefits. The wind is generally stronger and more consistent higher in the sky. That means a tall tower can produce more energy than its shorter counterparts.

The new towers are more than tall and beautiful. They’re smart too.

They’re part of a pilot project that aims to solve wind’s reliability challenge.

Since we need energy even when the wind isn’t blowing, wind farms usually require some sort of back-up power. And building extra power plants just to kick in when the wind dies down makes wind less affordable.

The technology in these towers could help solve that.

They have water tanks built into them. When the turbines are making more power than people need, some of that energy is used to pump water from a reservoir up into the tanks. Then, when the wind isn’t blowing, or there’s a larger than normal demand for energy, the water can be released back down into the reservoir. As the water pours downhill, it goes through its own turbine that spins and makes electricity.

Whether building with blocks in your living room — or state-of-the art wind turbines in Germany — it seems taller really is better.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Energy Tip

KEEP THE AIR CIRCULATING.

Install an attic ventilator. An attic ventilating system draws cool air up through the house and may provide as much comfort as an air conditioner at a much lower cost. Use the system to "pump in" cool air during summer evenings.

Time change got you down? This will perk you up. … Maybe.

This weekend marked the end of Daylight Saving Time. We now enter that period of the year when it gets dark at 4 p.m., and we start popping extra vitamin D.

Let’s be ...

Tagged: Daylight Saving Time, energy savings

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Time change got you down? This will perk you up. … Maybe.

Small chalkboard says

Let’s be honest: This transition can kind of be a bummer. Bed times are thrown off for your kids, and your only chance of seeing the light of day is if you sneak outside over your lunch break.

Key Points

  • Most states recognized the end of Daylight Saving Time this weekend.
  • It’s the start of the dark season, but there is a bright side — like cozy evenings by the fire.
  • Time changes have a long history, and the jury is still out about if they save energy. 

This weekend marked the end of Daylight Saving Time. We now enter that period of the year when it gets dark at 4 p.m., and we start popping extra vitamin D.

Let’s be honest: This transition can kind of be a bummer. Bed times are thrown off for your kids, and your only chance of seeing the light of day is if you sneak outside over your lunch break.

But there’s a silver lining to the dreary early afternoon dusk. Here are a few things to help you out of your time-change funk:

  1. Mornings are brighter. It won’t be quite so dark when you get up, and at 6:30 it will feel like 7:30. Win!
  2. It’s easier to put the kids to bed. In the summer, it’s really hard to argue with a 5-year-old who won’t go to sleep because the sun is still brightly shining at 8 p.m. Not the case anymore. When it’s dark at 4 p.m., you can easily trick your kids into going to bed at 7 p.m. because it’s “soooooo late.”
  3. Dark evenings are cozy. Light a fire (after making sure you fireplace is running efficiently and safely, of course), make some hot tea and get out the board games. It can be nice to snuggle in on a long, cold evening.
  4. It saves energy. This whole spring forward/fall back thing helps us all use less electricity. Maybe. I’m pretty sure. Or maybe not. Here’s the history on that:
  • 1784 — Ben Franklin writes an essay that suggests adjusting the clocks in the spring could be a good way to save on candles.
  • 1895 — George Vernon Hudson unsuccessfully proposes an annual two-hour time shift to the Royal Society of New Zealand. His goal was to match daylight hours to the times when most people are awake, helping conserve energy.
  • 1905 — A British construction magnate named William Willett tries to convince the United Kingdom Parliament that citizens should adjust their clocks each spring and fall to allow more time for recreation in daylight hours. It, too, fails to get any traction.
  • 1916 — Germany and Austria implement a one-hour clock shift to help conserve electricity needed for the war effort.
  • 1918 — United States first observes Daylight Saving Time, also as a wartime effort to conserve electricity.
  • 1919 — United States repeals Daylight Saving Time as wartime efforts end.
  • 1942 — United States reinstitutes Daylight Saving Time during World War II. This time, several states decide to keep the adjusted hours after the war.
  • 1966 — Congress passes the Uniform Time Act, standardizing the time change as starting in April and ending in October.
  • 2005 — The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extends DST by two months. It now starts each year in March and ends in November.

Some studies have shown that there really isn’t any energy savings associated with DST. In fact, this report by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that in some regions, the extra hour of light in the evening can actually lead to increased electric consumption.

In 2008, the Department of Energy analyzed the theory that DST could save energy and concluded that it could save some electricity but might indirectly add to people’s overall energy consumption.

Overall, it looks like the jury is still out about DST’s energy savings.

Either way, it will help if we all focus on the bright side, even if it’s really, really dark out. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Bring on the burritos: Food trucks just got even better

There’s something about food trucks.

Maybe it’s that it gets you outside to enjoy a meal.

Or maybe it’s the novelty of hunting down your favorite meal on ...

Tagged: food trucks, Energy Efficiency, Green Energy

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Bring on the burritos: Food trucks just got even better

Customers stand outside the windows of a food truck.

A group of students recently collaborated with a chef to come up with a better food truck design. They named it the Synergy Truck. And we’ll forgive them for the name in light of the innovative solutions they brought to the food truck scene.

Key Points

  • Food trucks are fun and yummy but not very energy efficient.
  • A group of students designed a better food truck.
  • The truck generates energy from customers’ footsteps, has solar panels and wind turbines, and even generates light from the power of gravity. 

There’s something about food trucks.

Maybe it’s that it gets you outside to enjoy a meal.

Or maybe it’s the novelty of hunting down your favorite meal on wheels’ current location.

Or maybe it’s the fact that for some reason, having fried cheese layered around your taco seems like a perfectly reasonable option when it’s prepared by a hipster with a van.

Whatever the reason, there’s something fun about heading out for a good food truck meal.

But food trucks have a downside. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the birds chirping over the humming of diesel generators lined up behind the trucks. Transportable restaurants aren’t designed to be energy efficient.

Until now.

A group of students recently collaborated with a chef to come up with a better food truck design. They named it the Synergy Truck.

And we’ll forgive them for the name in light of the innovative solutions they brought to the food truck scene.

Here are a few of the Synergy Truck’s features:

Pavegen

A walkway along the length of the truck window, generating potential energy from consumers’ footsteps as they order their food.

GravityLight

Two GravityLights hanging to generate light from the power of gravity.

Insolar

Two Insolar umbrellas around the truck fitted with solar technology to enable phones and other USB devices to be charged, as well as solar panels on the roof of the truck to help power the kitchen appliances.

Capture Mobility

A Capture Mobility turbine on top of the truck to generate power from wind energy to help power the kitchen appliances.

Bio-bean

A grill unit using bio-bean’s carbon neutral Coffee Log briquettes to cook the food and bio-bean capture unit indicating the potential energy of the coffee waste collected.

MotionECO

A MotionECO capture unit indicating the potential energy of the waste cooking oil collected.

Check out this video for more details.

So when you need a reason to eat more fried-cheese-wrapped tacos, just remind yourself: Eating from food trucks tastes good and saves energy.

Green (salsa) never tasted so good.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Is this the best trick-or-treating town ever?

Your kids are probably starting to plan their Halloween costumes.

My daughters have opted to be princesses (shocking, I know).

One princess will be prim and proper.

The ...

Tagged: halloween, master planned community, sustainable energy

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Is this the best trick-or-treating town ever?

Illustration of a couple handing out candy during Halloween.

Babcock Ranch is a new, master-planned community with the goal to be the most sustainable town in the United States.

Key Points

  • The key to successful trick-or-treating is choosing a neighborhood with the best steps-to-treats ratio.
  • One new town in Florida is entirely walkable, making it a great place to max out treat potential.
  • The town aims to be the most sustainable town in the country by using solar and natural gas power and providing options for residents to walk or use autonomous solar-powered shuttles to get around. 

Your kids are probably starting to plan their Halloween costumes.

My daughters have opted to be princesses (shocking, I know).

One princess will be prim and proper.

The other will probably use her crown as a weapon.

Both will melt my heart.

Our neighborhood is pretty great for trick-or-treating, complete with an annual kids’ parade to kick off the sugar high.

But one town in Florida really takes the candy corn.

Babcock Ranch is a new, master-planned community with the goal to be the most sustainable town in the United States.

To achieve that, the town uses solar power when the sun is shining and energy provided by a Florida Power & Light natural gas-fired power plant at night. City developers say this combination of energy will make the town the greenest in the country.

Come Halloween, the ghosts, goblins and princesses who eventually live there will appreciate that the entire town is walkable. In fact, it’s designed with walkers in mind, making it the best place to really max out a neighborhood’s treat potential.

City planners hope that one day, residents in this community won’t even own cars.

To get around in daily life, residents can walk, use a solar-powered driverless electric car or hop on an autonomous shuttle — the first network of its kind in the country. Eventually, the town’s fleet of autonomous solar-powered vehicles will include pods for up to two people or larger buses, and they’ll all be accessible from an app.

The town also hopes to be a place where new energy solutions can be tried out, like innovative ways to store energy. City planners believe things tested there can one day be replicated in other communities nationwide.

According to Fast Company, residents will starting moving into their new homes in Babcock Ranch at the end of this year.

As for this Halloween, if you see a 3-year-old princess with a wild look in her eye and a sharp sparkly crown in her hand, run.

Trust me.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: halloween, master planned community, sustainable energy